“Ironic, but one of the most intimate acts
of our body is
So beautiful appeared my death–knowing who then I would kiss,
I died a thousand times before I died.
‘Die before you die,’ said the Prophet
Have wings that feared ever
touched the Sun?
I was born when all I once
-Rabia (Sufi mystic)
Mystics have saved my spirituality these last 4 months. Their wild, pithy, and beautiful poetry has inspired me beyond measure to continue to re-center and reconnect with the divine. I am just learning about mystics. Does any YAR out there have more information about them, besides what I can Google? Has anyone being loved by the Beloved?
“God came to my house and asked for charity.
And I feel on my knees and
what may I
‘Just love,’ He said.
-St. Francis of Assisi (Christian mystic)
In the preface, the compiler and translator, Daniel Landinsky states, “To dismiss the possibility that the divine can speak through women and men is to limit God. As soon as we limit God’s ability to communicate with us, are we not then just reinforcing some unhealthy religious prejudice, superstition, neurosis, and fear that fragments society and the individual, and undermines and divides us rather than empower and unites? I think that all our perceptions of time and space and God are adolescent, so childish that we even go to war over them, or are at war within ourselves about some ideology; peace seems so rare these days.”
I resonate with the pattern. I wish I would have grown up with a wider understanding of the divine and how God relates to us, and how we relate to the divine…and, how we have the capacity to be divine…that God is as much in us as an external being.
“I think God gave us the wrong
Let’s take a poll: How enlightened have you been feeling?
I bet God keeps a private stash
of something that really
-Tukaram (Marathi linguist/mystic)
Is there any particular reason why you didn’t draw upon Biblical mystic literature? or why only Saint Francis from the Christian tradition? I’m not saying we have nothing to learn from Sufi mystics; nonetheless, Christians have a long tradition of mysticism dating back to the OT with the Song of Solomon, Ecclesiastes, Psalms, The Book of Daniel, Proverbs, and into the NT with the Gospel of John, the Epistles of James and John, and Revelation.
And then within the Christian canon, we have many works such as the Ladder of Divine Ascent by John Climacus or The Dark Night of the Soul by St. John of the Cross. That’s just to name two important ones.
I do not want to discourage you from reading outside the Christian tradition. In my early faith journey, I found it helpful to approach Christian teachings from an Eastern perspective via Sufism, Buddhism, and Hinduism.
Yet, the inclination toward reading this literature led me to think that Jesus’s message “didn’t cut it” and wasn’t mystical enough. Or that the only way to understand Jesus was to look at what he was saying as metaphorical and mystical. Or, even worse, that somehow the Word-made-flesh didn’t give us a fuller vision of God like the Buddha had, or the Lama has, or the yogis or Rumi had.
But I was dead wrong. I now think one can use the mystics as a way of better attuning oneself to the perfect message of Christ, but one should be careful not to think that they “got it” better than Christ did. They just used a different discourse to say the same things
Or that Christ wasn’t literal. Mystics mostly read the message of Jesus in an entirely metaphorical sense. I think this is dangerous to the oppression-smashing, class-destroying, poverty-breaking, kingdom-building message of Christ. Reading “give us this day our daily bread” metaphorically, I think, takes more away from the miraculous then if we were to read it literally. With a mystical gloss, it gets read as “give me what I need to become more divine today” or “nourish my soul”. Reading it literally is an affirmation on the absolute dependence on God to provide for us, a slap in the face to the sin of Greed, and an invitation to hospitality among the children of God to reach out to those in need. “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors” – a radical message of liberation for those oppressed and enslaved by past debts and a reminder of the sin of those who cannot forgive.
So, I make no assumption about where your thinking is on this ST, but will caution any way: Be careful not to depend on the message of the mystics to understand Christ. Use them as you can, but don’t get stuck on them. Depend on Christ and his perfect word – he is mystical, he is literal, metaphorical, practical; he is all of these things, and yet none of these things.
Hey, just stumbled across this blog – I love the name. I’m a young on-the-left Anabaptist myself – it’s great to see a website devoted to the idea.
I’ve found the Sufis very helpful. Their view of God is basically panentheistic: they interpret the supreme Islamic statement of faith, “there is no god but God”, to mean “nothing but God exists”.
They also recognize that the experience that mystics have had in other traditions is the same one they have had.
I am most challenged by their repudiation of a spirituality focused on rewards.
Here is a link to one recent post on my own blog where I mention the Sufis and their writings: