those dodgy heretics: mystic encounters of the third kind

The heretics who dodged the inconvenient texts of Scripture by allegory and symbolism relied ultimately on mysticism. Not all mystics of course were heretics; it seemed to depend on which texts they dodged. But the basic theory of mysticism was always heretical, for it implied that direct personal inspiration could undermine the literal meaning of the Bible.

This not only gave a dangerous latitude of interpretation, which might be misused; it also implied that the individual could have access to god without availing himself of the costly apparatus of the Church. Naturally, the Church looked askance at such ideas. In order to retain control of Biblical interpretation, it built up the concept of “tradition” – ie., the collected, mutually consistent body of its own reinterpretations- to which, in the end, it gave equal authority with the Bible, and in which, though always with some hesitation, it incorporated the visions of the more conservative mystics.

—According to Kemper, the esoteric import of Christian messianism cannot be fully appreciated unless one has a grasp on the history of rabbinic culture as expressed particularly in the mystical tradition….Kemper concludes that righteousness is linked to Christ (based on the play of words between neser and nosri). Hence, the mystical rationale for circumcision is to occasion the union of the soul with Jesus, the everlasting sign of the covenant that bears the ineffable name. …In the course of his writings, Kemper provides specific examples of Jewish ritual that demonstrates both the implict mystical (i.e., Christological) meaning of the rituals and the ignorance of Jews regarding the spiritual intent of their own tradition. Thus, in the section on the trinity (sha`ar ha-shilush) in his Matteh Mosheh, Kemper elaborates on a number of Jewish customs that allude symbolically to the trinitarian belief….Read More:

To the less conservative mystics, the Church showed no mercy. Alumbrados was burned in Catholic Spain, Pietists persecuted in Lutheran Germany. As a consequence, these sects became more radical. At certain times, extremists appeared who claimed that their direct relations with god exempted them from all common beliefs and justified them in the most outrageous actions. Such were the egomaniac messiahs who captured control of radical religious movements in the Middle Ages and in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

—In Biblical times, bands of prophets who claimed to have ecstatic visions would wander through the Israelite kingdoms. Prophets reached their visionary state through meditative practices and devotions….
In Mishnaic and Talmudic times, many of the key rabbinic teachers are described as engaging in mystical practices and study. The mystical tradition, ‘the act of creation’ and ‘the act of the chariot’, could only be passed on to small groups of one or two disciples who proved that they already understood on their own.
During the Middle Ages Jewish mysticism truly began to flourish. Kabbalah was prevalent in Egypt, Germany, and especially Provence and Spain, where modern scholars say the Zohar, the most famous and influential book of Jewish mysticism, was written. The word ‘kabbalah’ gained wide usage in the 13th century as a synonym for Jewish mysticism. Its literal meaning is ‘that which has been received’, which underlines the notion that mystical secrets are passed down through the generations. —Read More: image:

Such also were the adepts of “the Free Spirit,” who believed that “to the pure all things are pure” and scandalized the orthodox by behaving accordingly: Bohemian Adamites, French Libertines, German Anabaptists, and English Ranters.

—Sandro Botticelli, Mystic Nativity, National Gallery, London, 1501—Read More:


Matthew Fox:In the West, the modern age (meaning the 16th to mid-20th centuries) was not only ignorant of, but actually hostile to, mysticism. As Theodore Roszak has put it, “The Enlightenment held mysticism up for ridicule as the worst offense against science and reason.” Still today, both education and religion are often hostile to mysticism. Fundamentalism by definition is antimystical or distorts mysticism, and much of liberal theology and religion is so academic and left-brained that it numbs and ignores the right brain, which is our mystical brain. Seminaries teach few practices to access our mysticism. This is why many find religion so boring — it lacks the adventure and inner exploration that our souls yearn for. As St. John of the Cross said, “Launch out into the deep.”

This launching into the depths — into the deep ocean of the unconscious and of the Great Self, which is connected to all things and to the Creator — often gets stymied by Western religious dogma, guilt trips and institutional churchiness. The mystic gets starved. Patriarchal culture by itself is unable to tap into the deep feminine aspects of Divine Wisdom and Compassion and the heart. But the mystics, male and female, do not present a one-sided reality, as Patriarchy does. The yin/yang, female/male dialectic is alive and well in the mystical tradition. God as Mother is honored along with God as Father. Through this, mystics s

wisdom, not mere knowledge.

The West remains so out of touch with its own mystical tradition that many Westerners seeking mysticism still feel they have to go East to find it. …Read More:

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