I’ve gotten really bad about thinking of good topics for this blog–which is not a good thing. A really good blog shouldn’t feel forced, I think. But the main topics in my life right now are either “recovering from surgery” which is boring and not really tasteful, and “renewed focus on Bible Study” which is sometimes too personal and too much inside baseball.
The other day Sharon asked a very good question that I was going to leave in a comment, but then I realised–hey! It’s a whole blog entry.
Do you study from the ancient Celtic perspective? I know you’ve studied Judaism, did you ever study Zohar and Kabbalah? …
Anyhow, I don’t think I could relate to Judaism if I didn’t study it with a strong emphasis on the mysticism parts.
Et tu, regarding Christianity?
The short answer is yes, and yes and yes and yes. The longer answer is, well, longer for many reasons.
I was born into Christianity, with Christian parents and grandparents and cousins and aunts and uncles. My grandmother even had three pomeranians one time called Shirley, Goodness and Mercy. (Psalm 23:6 says “Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life” and since her dogs followed her everywhere…) I went to Christian schools and learned the Common Christianity of the middle class Midwest. That’s a beautiful religion in its matter-of-factness. There is no official catechism, but the unwritten foundation is “Life is hard; our sin nature makes it so. Christ redeemed us through his death and resurrection, so we muddle through this hard world with God’s help and hope for heaven after death.” When you’re farmers, you have a very good understanding of God’s curse in Genesis that man shall till the soil with the sweat of his brow to earn food.
Two strange events happened in my early years that shaped the course of my study into something slightly different. Firstly, when I was eight months old I got pneumonia and was near death, with my heart stopping several times, I think. (I need to get better details from my parents because my memory of this event is non-existent to say the least.) Secondly, when I was eight years old my parents were late picking me up from church camp, so I went home with my grandmother. She was the doctor who adopted my father and his brother, but she was always their “real parent”. Right around that time, though, my father’s birth mother had apparently started to contact Grandma Doc to get information about the sons she gave away. I think this was on my grandmother’s mind, so she talked to me a bit about the blood parentage of my father. What was actually said is the matter of some debate in my family, but I did come away from that conversation with the understanding that my father’s birth parents were Jewish. So I spent years–literally YEARS–studying Hebrew and Judaic theologies, including Kabbalah and the Zohar. (I beat Madonna’s interest in Kabbalah–or, in her case, “Kabbalahish Lite”–by a good decade and a half.)
In my Senior year of High School I decided that I had been spared death as a baby for some sort of reason as yet undetermined. When I got to college I had a philosophy professor who was born in Germany, reborn in Christ and literally wrote the book on Mysticism in Evangelical Christianity. At his suggestion I began to read various mystical texts from a foundational World View (Weltangschaung) of Evangelical Christianity, specifically Mennonism. I’ve read pretty much everything from Crowley to Zwingli, and stranger bedfellows you will not find.
I’m not unusual. Most Christians are mystical to a degree, conversing with the Holy Spirit during their private devotional times. However, because this is such a foundational part of Christianity we don’t think of it as mysticism per se. We’re a funny people who think of Mysticism as the province of Maharishis and Yogis, yet still talk to the spirit of God on a daily basis. Studying mysticism is sort of like trying to see the wind. It’s still a beautiful experience, though, and one which wholly enriches my life.