Mysticism or mental illness…..

“Mysticism (from the Greek μυστικός (mystikos) “an initiate” , μυστήρια (mysteria) meaning “initiation” is the pursuit of achieving communion identity with, or conscious awareness of, ultimate reality, the divine, spiritual truth, or God through direct experience, intuition, or insight. Traditions may include a belief in the literal existence of dimensional realities beyond empirical perception, or a belief that a true human perception of the world goes beyond logical reasoning or intellectual comprehension. A person delving in these areas may be called a Mystic.
In many cases, the purpose of mysticism and mystical disciplines, such as meditation, is to reach a state of return or re-integration with the Godhead. A common theme in mysticism is that the mystic and all of reality are One. The purpose of mystical practices is to achieve that oneness in experience, to achieve a larger identity and re-identify with the all that is. The state of oneness has many names depending on the mystical system: Illumination, Union (Christianity), Irfan(Islam),Nirvana (Buddism), Moksha (Jainism), Samadhi (Hinduism), to name a few.”

This quick definition of mysticism is from Wikipedia and serves adequately for the purpose of this brief discussion. In 1997, when I was “experiencing”, as I called my psychosis, my pastor at the time, Dr. Jim Claunch, recommended a book to me by Evelyn Underhill entitled “Mysticism”. At the time I was in no condition to read it, but later I did. It was enormously helpful in getting some perspective on the “religiosity psychosis” I’d experienced.

Sometime later I would come to think of that period of my life as an “inoculation”, however I like Wikipedia’s word, “initiation”, better. It seemed to me that God had allowed me to experience the bizarre phenomena of psychosis to teach me that my five physical senses- sight, hearing, voice, touch, and smelling- and my own mental ability to interpret what those senses perceive are not reliable when it comes to defining what is real and true. They are helpful, but they are limited. I learned that I have to defer to a greater power within me, the perceptiveness of the Holy Spirit, to discern what is really true. Sights, sounds, even tastes and smells can be deceiving. In fact, they can be appealed to with out and out deceptions used by satan in an attempt to distort the Word or God’s will for our lives. I am less naive now about Truth. I know that it must first and foremost be rooted in what God says it is, not what I say it is. That has made me a little less cocksure about myself and my own intellect, much more willing to listen to others and especially attentive to the Scriptures.

Recently our church has been involved in a capital campaign to build a proposed community life center. On Wednesday, October 31, as a staff member arrived at the church, there was a beautiful rainbow arching over our church. She immediately went inside, got the digital camera and took a photo of the scene. When the pastor arrived later in the morning, she showed it to him. He told her that just that evening before he had, oddly enough, dreamed about a rainbow in some context, which his wife said was unusual for him. So, a few days later, his wife sent out the picture of the rainbow over the church by email to many of us and noted his having dreamed of a rainbow the night before. In her email she said, “We’re not really mystical over such things as these, but just thought that you would appreciate seeing this.” I responded back to her that I, for one, am really mystical over things like this. I believe God does use such things as dreams and rainbows (and shooting stars, and anything else He chooses) to get our attention and speak to us.

Some of us are “initiated” into this reality, having God speak to us in less obvious and expected ways, through a jarring and disconcerting process like what I experienced, I believe. I sometimes imagine that it is somewhat like what Watchman Nee referred to as “The Release of the Spirit”. Deep within our subconsciousness is a switch that God flips, according to His timing and for His purpose. That switching process then gives us the ability to “see” in ways spiritually that transcend our physical senses. It is very disconcerting at first and we have to learn the difference between what is coming from God and what might be coming from other sources. But as one depends on God to lead, it becomes easier to live with and not so distracting. Thankfully, too, through modern medicine, God has provided some assistance with the disconcerting aspects of this “initiation”.

Now, that’s my story….. and I’m sticking to it!