I have a friend who grew up in Fallujah, Iraq. He has lived in the United States for a little more than six months.
The other day I asked him if he knew about Sufism. He said he had heard of it.
“Heard of it?” I responded. What? That’s it? Have you heard of Rumi?” We looked up Rumi and he pronounced his name in Arabic - it sounded cool.
I continued, “Rumi was the man! He was an Islamic scholar and theologian. Sufis are the Islamic mystics. How can you not know about them?”
My friend said, “Why do you know so much about these mystics?”
I told him I was one. He asked if Christians had mystics and I said yes. He said what is a mystic?
This whole problem is not just an Islamic problem. It’s Christian, Jewish and all faiths.
I think part of the reason many struggle with Christianity is because they don’t believe in the Christian religion anymore. Many would, and do, believe in Christian mysticism.
This all makes for some conflicts in language and thought.
But, I think I’m in good hands. I don’t think Jesus was a fan of religion either. I think he was a mystic. Crazy how different it makes the gospels if you think of Jesus as a mystic. They make so much more sense.
So what are mystics? Well all kinds of things but maybe the best definition I’ve heard is from a Jewish mystic, Rabbi Kushner: “A mystic is anyone who has the gnawing suspicion that the apparent discord, brokenness, contradictions, and discontinuities that assault us every day might conceal a hidden unity.”
They value experience over belief.
Knowledge and experience matters more than logic and belief.
We’re all connected matters more than we’re all individuals.
Peace matters more than violence.
God is everywhere in every thing. Every is a key word.
If you don’t get love of God, than it’s not worth going anywhere else. Love. Love. Love.
You can see a sunset, you can understand a sunset, and you can actually be present in a sunset. Yeah that last one.
Mystery matters. Paradox too. Not understanding is understanding. Awareness.
Now. It’s all that matters. The past is a memory and the future is imagination. This is where God lives. Right now.
If I imagine a bunch of religious people in a room, they are arguing.
If I imagine a bunch of mystics in a room (no matter what religious language or culture they come from) I imagine them talking about experiences and where they’ve seen God and where God is in each of them.
Christianity is my language and culture and ritual to get me to what matters: experiencing God.
Others have different language that can help.
Some might say, again, where is Jesus in that? I would answer, again, everywhere. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life... and Jesus got something beyond religion and encouraged others to do the same.
But, the road is narrow. The mystic road has been narrow for centuries in every faith. Just ask my friend from Iraq. And most Christians. And most Jews. But the narrow road is the best at evolving. Or the evolving road. The seeking, knocking, asking road, unafraid of questions.
Others are now saying mysticism is becoming more accessible than ever before. Diana Butler Bass uses the metaphor of the mystics storming the elevator shaft to Heaven (and tearing it down because that elevator shaft is a primitive view of the universe with God up there and us down here.) And I agree. Good things are happening. A spiritual revolution - or evolution - of sorts.
Some names? I would call all of these people mystics, I don’t know if they would call themselves that. But read books and listen to these people.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
Jean-Pierre de Caussade