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November 13, 2016

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Before continuing with things of a more scholastic nature, I would like to interject a few on the experiential nature of faith, the mystical experience of the divine, prayer, contemplation and so forth. The point being that scholarly work is very needed, for a better understanding of theology, history and scriptural exegesis, but has its limits when it comes to constructing real faith. The academia can advance our rational, intellectual understanding and dispel the myths of some popular, yet unfounded or superstitious beliefs; on the other hand, it lacks the instruments to ground us on a true experience of divine, and true faith cannot rest on cerebral notions, but only in the power of God (1 Cor 2:5).

Considering our own experience on the matter, from our early days until recently; considering the multitude of writings, spiritual revelations, encounters, experiences, etc. even if we were to reconsider and discard some, there is no denial that the mystical and its experiential dimension of faith was at the heart of our movement, rather than an intellectual or theological belief system. Building on this I would then recommend studying the works of other mystics in history, who complement our own experience. Some of them we already know, such as Madame Guyon, Joan of Arch, Francis of Assisi, Rasputin, the Apostle Paul, but there are many others, such as Julian of Norwich, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, etc. Reading their works can be extremely enlightening but I must also warn that they were the product of their time and age, therefore their experience of the divine is often framed in the language and understanding of their time. As such it is not that simple to read and benefit from it, and one may have to wade through lots that is dated, unnecessary or hard to comprehend, before getting to the jewels he’s searching for. For this reason I am recommending some contemporary folks, who may help us make better sense of it.

I will start with some You Tube links, since these are easier to start from than books. In most cases the links lead to a general index of all videos from a specific person, rather than the specific subject at hand. You might need wade through some unrelated material to get to the pertinent one:

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=Phileena+Heuertz

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=richard+rohr

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=cynthia+bourgeault

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=thomas+keating+centering+prayer

Then some books:

The Naked Now: Learning To See As the Mystics See – by Richard Rohr

https://www.amazon.com/Naked-Now-Learning-See-Mystics/dp/0824525434

Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening – by Cynthia Bourgeault

https://www.amazon.com/Centering-Prayer-Awakening-Cynthia-Bourgeault/dp/1561012629/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1478956883&sr=1-1&keywords=centering+prayer

Then a book that I hesitate mentioning but which is helpful, yet with a word of caution:

The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment – by Eckhart Tolle

https://www.amazon.com/Power-Now-Guide-Spiritual-Enlightenment/dp/1577314808/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1478957196&sr=1-1&keywords=the+power+of+now

Available for free download at:

http://www.baytallaah.com/bookspdf/51.pdf

The word of caution about this book is that it is usually grouped with other New Age literature, thus causing some concerns. Of course we are no strangers to such characterization, and in this case it is probably due to Eckhart Tolle quoting not only from the Bible but also from eastern traditions. His language, also, is not that usually adopted by Christian clergy. The thing to keep in mind, here, is that the practices he describes, so succinctly and in contemporary language, are the same as were known and practiced by the desert fathers and mothers of early centuries, as well as mystics and contemplatives throughout Christian history. These, have recently been reintroduced, within larger Christianity, through the work of some monastic orders. In our case, we already knew about some of it, but as the monastic orders were also bound by some medieval concepts, we were equally bound by some mistaken assumptions, first and foremost that intimacy with God was conditional, a bit of a works trip, needing this or that key to work, etc. Sure, we had our crystal ball through which we saw our fortunes, while others had theirs. It’s a bit like the prayer of the heart of Eastern Orthodox, the rosary of Catholics or the slain in the Spirit or tongues of Pentecostals, it comes down to whatever works for you within your tradition. Eckhart Tolle, however, seems to speak to the modern man and to cut through unnecessary traditions. What he shares has enabled me to live and experience intimacy with God in a way that is much simpler and not as effected by doctrinal or traditional issues, much less varying emotions and circumstances. Perhaps this is due to our particular experience, which has grounded me on what God tastes, feels and smells like. Perhaps, a person who has not had this same experience could be confused by it, I don’t know, but this is why I first recommended the other two books. Being rooted on Christian tradition and theology, they furnish the necessary discernment on the issue of mystical experiences. In her book about centering prayer, Cynthia Bourgeault, specifically mentions Eckhart Tolle and gives additional Christian framing for it.

In any case, to address the New Age accusations that often comes up when dealing with a particular branch of Christianity, there is excellent advice in ML 73A (He stands in the gap). It was written at a time when we were accused of the same, though the New Age term hadn‘t yet been coined.

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