What's So Mystical About "Christian Mysticism" ...
and How Do You Practice Christian Meditation?
What's so mystical about Christian mysticism? Nothing!
There's nothing mystical about it to me. It's standard cultivation -- the same old thing. It's just got "Christianity" wrapped around it, that's all. And "Christian meditation" is just regular meditation with Christianity wrapped around it.
I'm finishing up a book on Christian meditation where I'll be able to introduce things in detail, including lots of quotes, stories and practices, but here's the general gist of things.
First, every cultivation school refers to the same spiritual end target. I have a mystical Christianity book in front of me right now as I'm writing this and the very last sentence of the book is that we should strive for "direct apprehension of the Absolute."
What do you know ... same old end target no matter what the cultivation school!
Some schools call that "Absolute" our original nature, fundamental nature or ground state of being.
In Hinduism it's called Brahman.
In Zen it's called our original nature or fundamental face.
In Islam it's called Allah.
In Buddhism, we have the terms Buddha nature or Tathagatagarbha and a dozen other terms as well.
Taoism calls it the Tao.
In Christianity, it's simply called "God," but all these schools are referring to the very same exact thing. After all, we all have only one original nature. We all share in that same Absolute nature.
Call it God, Allah, Brahman, First Principle, Emptiness, whatever, ... they are simply different terms for the very same original essence. Don't get hung up on it because you come from a certain religion. Use your logic and wisdom.
Now here's the big point -- this original nature is NOT a person. Allah is not a person, Brahman is not a person and neither is God. In Christian mysticism, the saints all take special pains to point this out, but we've all been poisoned by pictures on the Sistine Chapel and think of God as a person, entity or being even though every religion says the original nature, the Absolute State, is above being and non-being. It's not a form so don't think of it as a form or in terms of form (with an image). If you do, you'll never reach it. You'll also be violating the commandments (make no image of the divine).
Religion after religion, the Absolute nature is described as formless, which is why you are told not to make and worship any images of the divine. We won't go into that here -- the big thing is to get rid of the idea or image that God is a person.
There's nothing mystical about that. Every cultivation school says that.
Second, the way you cultivate to become one with God, to see God's face, to practice the presence of God, and so forth is always emptiness meditation.
Whether it's this spiritual school or that school, the true spiritual cultivation methods have to do with absence of discriminative thought and various ways to free oneself of the passions or thoughts that prevent that accomplishment.
That original nature of ours cannot be realized by thought or by intellectualization. Hence you need cultivation practice to clear your consciousness so you can realize it.
You can recite prayers, or mantras, until your mind quiets to realize emptiness. Or you can do visualizations to quiet it and then let it go when your mind is finally pacified. You can follow your breath until thoughts and breath both calm down so you realize emptiness, too.
You can use all sorts of methods from the East or West. A hundred methods, a thousand methods, ten-thousand methods exist -- It doesn't matter. Use what's virtuous, nonharmful and works for you. Usually the cultivation schools use common methods and simply adapt them for their religion.
Makes perfect sense -- find something that works in getting to the same end point, and appropriate it as one's own. Today we'd simply call that "benchmarking," or borrowing from the best and making it work.
The end point or process of spiritual practice is to detach from thoughts so that they naturally calm down and then experience a deep mental silence where there is no barrier, no ego, no intermediary between you and your original nature.
Now if you want to wrap extraneous religious coloring and emotions around that spiritual practice, as happens in mystical Christianity and quite a few other religions, then fine and dandy. Nevertheless, water is water no matter what name you give it, and the methods you use to cultivate the divine are all based on emptiness cultivation.
Third, when you spiritually cultivate correctly, in time you will experience gong-fu. That's why the Christian saints would experience internal heat phenomenon (kundalini arising) just as in the East, which Christians called the manifestations of divine love or incendium amoris.
Once again, same thing, just different names. In Buddhism it's simply called the Stage of warming, or purification of the fire element.
Now with gong-fu comes samadhi and with samadhi comes superpowers such as bi-location (yang shen doubles), levitation, healing, prophecy, clairvoyance and so on. All these special powers and phenomena and physical changes come with gong-fu, which is progress on the spiritual path. Gong-fu is nondenominational, so these special abilities are nondenominational, too.
There's no mystery here. What's so mystical about that?
Gong-fu (kung-fu) is a common phenomena.
Every person who cultivates will achieve it and whether you're from this religion or that one, at the same stage of cultivation you'll have the same stage of gong-fu as someone else at that same stage. So what's the big deal? If you don't have the described gong-fu, it means you're simply not at that stage of cultivation.
That may be a bruise to your ego, especially to religious scholars, but you won't find God through intellectualization. Plenty of saints, from every tradition, will tell you that. Ceremonies are worthless, too. You have to cultivate mental emptiness, or "being in God's presence" and then gong-fu will arise. Here or there, the human body is the same so the descriptions of spiritual experiences will match across religions. The only thing that changes is the outskirts of the religious coloring.
Fourth, there are definite stages and degrees of accomplishment to the spiritual path. There are definite ranks of achievement and some people reach higher stages than others. Make no mistake about that!
All sages are created equal (we all have the same original nature - you are essentially, fundamentally, inherently the same as a Buddha), but not all sages have the same stage of realization. There are the greater and the lesser in spiritual achievements- but how high you go is not a function of religion. It is simply a function of someone's efforts at spiritual cultivation practice, as the stages are nondenominational.
First there are the pre-samadhi stages of spiritual purification. Then there are the four dhyana, or stages of form-based samadhi. There are also the formless absorptions, or formless samadhi not based on form. Then there's those who have seen the Tao, and they have stages of attainment, too. There are stages of achievement for people who have seen the Tao all the way up until someone becomes a fully enlightened being, a Buddha, a 100% God-realization, original nature realized individual. That's what I go over in my STAGES course, and the details are too complicated to list here.
East or West, if you cultivate to the same level of attainment, you will have achieved an equivalent level of spiritual accomplishment regardless of your religion. Call the guy a saint, sage, guru, rishi, master, initiate, prophet, mystic, true man, perfect man, righteous man, and so forth, they achieve these same stages in various degrees, and these are the true masters and guides of spiritual practice.
Don't think the prophets of the Bible were any different than the Taoist sages or Christian saints. They achieved the same stages of cultivation as everyone else -- they were NOT unique -- and simply wrapped their teachings in dogma pertinent to the region, culture, religion they found themselves in.
If you grew up in America, you'll give your loyalty to America; if you grow up black you'll help the blacks; if you grew up Chinese you'll identify with the Chinese. How is it any different than sages born into various spiritual streams? But that doesn't mean that one religion is greater than another!
Fifth, whatever a realized individual teaches others about the path depends on expedient means, or skillful means. That means the Christian saints, like everyone else, adapted their teachings to the crowd and only revealed what could be revealed without getting into too much trouble themselves. They did what could be done to the limits of what society could accept.
"Expedient means" means that if your audience cannot lift 10 pound weights, you give them lighter weights they can handle and spiritual teachings that will lift them up a bit so that they create merit and have it a little better in the future.
You can't make people grow faster than their own wisdom allows, and if you look around at people today, even with mass education you can find the majority lack wisdom and have quite strange notions in all sorts of areas.
If people have such strange notions about ordinary things, think how difficult it is to teach them about the invisible, formless, supersensible, supernal realms and paths to those realms. You have to simplify things, and then later ... along comes intellectuals without any realization at all, and then organizations and politics and you name it. Boy oh boy do your teachings get warped from those involvements!
In short, spiritual masters teach according to the situation at hand. Also, they can only teach up to the stage of your own cultivation realization and kung-fu, which is another reason why all the religions get polluted with teachings at various levels of attainment.
Let's go through a Biblical example. If people are not too advanced, I'd teach them the world was created in 6 days, or something similar they could handle. If science was more advanced at the time, I would teach them something different again. Wouldn't you? History shows politicians don't always reveal the whole truth and when you lead the masses through politics or religion, the same principle holds. A simple story is better than a complicated truth.
What Christian saints teach is all a function of expedient means. Clothe findings in the vocabulary of the time! Don't give people more than they can handle. If a strong dogma already exists, try to reinterpret it in such a way as to lift it up a little higher and make it come closer to the truth ... and hope that your efforts take hold.
So when it comes to Christian mysticism, saints clothed the kung-fu of the path in descriptions pertinent to Christianity. They phrased emptiness cultivation in terms pertinent to Christian doctrine and dogma.
There's no secret there. Every religion does that even though they're all talking about the same thing.
That's how it's done, so what's the big deal about Christian mysticism? There's no mystery at all.
It has the same cultivation path, same practices, same stages, same end results as the Eastern cultivation schools. It's simply that Christian adepts achieved some results and the intelligentsia just don't get it.
But now YOU do.