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Rescuing the Mystics

True Christian mysticism versus false New Age ideas

Christian mysticism seeks to transcend the self, losing it in a sea of love, all the way in adoration of God. However, false mysticism seeks to transcend the self, supposedly “losing it in divinity”, as if we were God or to become God.

Many New Age proponents will use the Christian mystics to try to show that their form of mysticism is the same. However, their plan crumbles with this: The Christian mystics lose themselves in adoration of God.

Many will quote the mystics and leave out that full context. For the next few chapters, I will show that that this foundational context underlined is built into the works of all the true mystics.

Rescuing John Ruysbroeck

“When a man is bare and imageless in his senses and empty and idle in his higher powers, he enters into a rest through mere nature . . . without the grace of God. These people err gravely. They immerse themselves in an absolute silence that is purely natural, and a false liberty of spirit is born from this. Having drawn the body in upon itself, they are mute, unmoving. . . . They mistake these types of simplicity for those which are reached through God. In reality they have lost God…

“And in this natural rest one cannot find God, but it certainly leads a man into a bare vacancy, which may be found by Pagans and Jews and all men, how wicked soever they may be, if they can live in their sins without the reproach of their conscience, and can empty themselves of every image and of all activity. In this bare vacancy the rest is pleasant and great. This rest is in itself no sin; for it exists in all men by nature, whenever they make themselves empty. But when a man wishes to practise and possess it without acts of virtue, he falls into spiritual pride and a self-complacency, from which he seldom recovers. And he sometimes fancies himself to have and to be that to which he shall never attain. When a man thus possesses this rest in false quietude, and all loving adherence seems a hindrance to him, he clings to himself in his rest, and lives contrary to the first way in which man is united with God: and this is the beginning of all ghostly error.” (Adornment of the Spiritual Marriage, chapter 66)

Rescuing Jean-Pierre de Caussade, Author of Abandonment to Divine Providence

“I must not, like the quietists, reduce all religion to a denial of any specific action, despising all other means, since what makes perfection is God's order, and the means he ordains is best for the soul.” (The Sacrament of the Present Moment)

Rescuing Julian of Norwhich

“The goodness of God is the highest object of prayer and it reaches down to our lowest need.” (Revelations of Divine Love)

“Prayer is a new, gracious, lasting will of the soul united and fast-bound to the will of God by the precious and mysterious working of the Holy Ghost.” (Revelations of Divine Love)

Rescuing St. Teresa of Avilia

“For it to be prayer at all, the mind must take part in it” (Interior Castle, Part I).

Rescuing The Cloud of Unknowing

“Lift up your heart towards God with a humble stirring of love; and think of Himself … refuse to think of anything but Him.” (Chapter 3)

“For a love that is pure and perfect, though it admits that the body is sustained and consoled when such sweet feelings or tears are present, does not complain when they are missing, but is really pleased not to have them, if it is the will of God.”

“The madness I speak of is effected like this: they read and hear it said that they should stop the ' exterior' working with their mind, and work interiorly. And because they do not know what this ' interior ' work means, they do it wrong. (...) And at once the devil is able to deceive them with false lights and sounds, sweet odours and wonderful tastes, glowing and burning in their hearts or stomachs, backs or loins or limbs. In all this make-believe they imagine they are peacefully contemplating their God, unhindered by vain thoughts.

“The expressions and gestures which this counterfeit contemplation (or anything similar) produces in those that are led astray are wonderful to behold, much more so than those of God's true disciples, for these latter are always most proper in their behaviour, physical or spiritual. But not so with these others! Whoever cares to look at them as they sit at such a time, will see them staring (if their eyes are open) as though they were mad, and sniggering as if they saw the devil. (It is good for them to beware, for the fiend truly is not far away!) Some squint as though they were silly sheep that have been banged on the head, and were going soon to die. Some hang their heads on one side as if they had got a worm in their ear. Some squeak when they should speak, as if they had no spirit - the proper condition for a hypocrite! Some cry and whine, because they are in such an anxious hurry to say what they think - heretics are like this, and all who with presumptuous and ingenious minds maintain error. If a man saw everything they did he would see much disorderly and unseemly behaviour. Yet there are some clever enough to restrain themselves in general before the people. But if they could be seen at home, I reckon there would be no hiding them. And I also reckon that whoever directly contradicted their opinion would soon see them burst out somewhere or other ... and yet they think that all they do is done for the love of God, and to maintain truth! I really believe that unless God works a miracle of mercy to make them stop, they will 'love God' like this for so long that they will end by going to the devil, raving mad.

(...) “There are some who, though they do not fall into the error I have just mentioned, yet because of their pride, their natural ingenuity of mind, and their erudition, give up the doctrine and counsel of Holy Church as generally held. These men and their supporters lean too much on their own learning. And because they were never grounded in this humble, 'blind', experience, and in virtuous living, they deserve to have a false experience, counterfeited and produced by their spiritual enemy. So that at last they burst out and blaspheme all the saints, sacraments, statutes, and ordinances of Holy Church. Gross worldlings, who think that the statutes of Holy Church are too hard to help them amend their lives, go over to these heretics too soon and too readily, and vigorously support them; all because they think that they lead them by a more comfortable way than that laid down by Holy Church. Now I really believe that those who will not go the hard way to heaven will go the comfortable way to hell.”

“Whenever you feel your mind engaged, not in any physical or spiritual matter, but solely with God as he is (as the working out of the teaching of this book would prove) then you can be said to be ' above ' yourself, and 'beneath' God. Certainly you are above yourself, because you have succeeded in reaching by grace what you could not achieve by nature. And that is that you are united with God, in spirit, in love, and in harmony of will. You are beneath God, of course; for though in a manner of speaking you and God could be said at this time not to be two spiritually but one - so that you or whoever it is that perfectly contemplates may, because of this unity, truthfully be called 'a God' as the Bible says, you are nonetheless beneath God. For he is God by nature and without beginning; and you once were nothing at all. And when afterwards you, by his power and love, were made something, you by your deliberate act of will made yourself less than nothing. And it is only by his wholly undeserved mercy that you are made a god by grace, inseparably united to him in spirit, here and hereafter in the bliss of heaven, world without end! So though you may be wholly one with him in grace, you are still infinitely beneath him in nature. My spiritual friend, now you may understand a little how it is that a man who does not know how the faculties of his soul operate, or what they are, may very easily be deceived as to the meaning of words written with spiritual intent.

(...) “If they want to test the origin of their urge they can test it in this way if they like. In the first place let them see whether they have done everything possible in the way of preliminaries, preparing for it by cleansing their conscience according to the law of Holy Church.”

From the prologue, to the student, about the work: "Do not willingly and deliberately read it, copy it, speak of it, or allow it to be read, copied, or spoken of, by anyone or to anyone, except by or to a person who, in your opinion, has undertaken truly and without reservation to be a perfect follower of Christ."

Further Errors

Early Errors

The Euchites, late 4th centurty: “Only such sensible revelations of God confer perfection upon the Christian. (...) The state of perfection, freedom from the world and passion, is therefore attained solely by prayer, not through the church, baptism and or any of the sacraments.”

New Advent states: The Neoplatonists held that the One gives rise to the Nous or Intellect, this to the world-soul, and this again to individual souls. These, in consequence of their union with matter, have forgotten their Divine origin. Hence the fundamental principle of morality is the return of the soul to its source. The supreme destiny of man and his highest happiness consists in rising to the contemplation of the One, not by thought but by ecstasy.”

Meister Eckhart

A condemnation against some of Meister Eckhart’s ideas: “A good man ought so to conform his will to the divine will that he himself wishes whatever God wishes; because God wishes me to have sinned in some way, I would not wish that I had not committed sins, and this is true repentance.” (Pope John XXII’s edict “In agro dominico,” Mar. 27, 1329)

Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on Some Aspects of Christian Meditation: “Meister Eckhart speaks of an immersion "in the indeterminate abyss of the divinity" which is a "darkness in which the light of the Trinity never shines." (Cf. Sermo "Ave Gratia Plena).


Beghards/ Beguines, early 14th century: “At the elevation of the body of Jesus Christ, they ought not to rise or show reverence to it; it would be an imperfection for them to come down from the purity and height of their contemplation so far as to think about the ministry or sacrament of the eucharist, or about the passion of Christ as man.”


Miguel de Molinos (the founder of Quietism), early 17th century: “Man must annihilate his powers and this is the inward way; in fact, the desire to do anything actively is offensive to God and hence one must abandon oneself entirely to God and therefore remain as a lifeless body.” (Dux Spiritualis)

Bl. Pope Innocent XI’s Coelestis Pastor, Condemning the Errors of Miguel de Molinos/Quietism:

—“It is necessary that man reduce his own powers to nothingness, and this is the interior way”

—“To wish to operate actively is to offend God, who wishes to be himself the sole agent; and therefore it is necessary to abandon oneself wholly in God and thereafter to continue in existence as an inanimate body.”

—“Natural activity is the enemy of grace, and impedes the operations of God and true perfection, because God wishes to operate in us without us.”

—“By doing nothing the soul annihilates itself and returns to its beginning and to its origin, which is the essence of God, in which it remains transformed and divinized, and God then remains in himself, because then the two things are no more united, but are one alone, and in this manner God lives and reigns in us, and the soul annihilates itself in operative being.”

—“He who gives his own free will to God should care about nothing, neither about hell, nor about heaven; neither ought he to have a desire for his own perfection, nor for virtues, nor his own sanctity, nor his own salvation-the hope of which he ought to remove.”

—“He who in his prayer uses images, figures, pretension, and his own conceptions, does not adore God “in spirit and in truth.”

—“Even if one becomes sleepy and falls asleep, nevertheless there is prayer and actual contemplation, because prayer and resignation, resignation and prayer are the same, and while resignation endures, prayer also endures.”

—“On occasion of temptations, even violent ones, the soul ought not to elicit explicit acts of opposite virtues, but should persevere in the above mentioned love and resignation.”

New Age

Jesus Christ the Bearer of the Water of Life: “New Age has a marked preference for Eastern or pre-Christian religions, which are reckoned to be uncontaminated by Judaeo-Christian distorsions. Hence great respect is given to ancient agricultural rites and to fertility cults. “Gaia”, Mother Earth, is offered as an alternative to God the Father, whose image is seen to be linked to a patriarchal conception of male domination of women. There is talk of God, but it is not a personal God; the God of which New Age speaks is neither personal nor transcendent. Nor is it the Creator and sustainer of the universe, but an “impersonal energy” immanent in the world, with which it forms a “cosmic unity”: “All is one”. This unity is monistic, pantheistic or, more precisely, panentheistic. God is the “life-principle”, the “spirit or soul of the world”, the sum total of consciousness existing in the world. In a sense, everything is God. God's presence is clearest in the spiritual aspects of reality, so every mind/spirit is, in some sense, God.

“When it is consciously received by men and women, “divine energy” is often described as “Christic energy”. There is also talk of Christ, but this does not mean Jesus of Nazareth. “Christ” is a title applied to someone who has arrived at a state of consciousness where he or she perceives him- or herself to be divine and can thus claim to be a “universal Master”. Jesus of Nazareth was not the Christ, but simply one among many historical figures in whom this “Christic” nature is revealed, as is the case with Buddha and others. Every historical realisation of the Christ shows clearly that all human beings are heavenly and divine, and leads them towards this realisation.

“The innermost and most personal (“psychic”) level on which this “divine cosmic energy” is “heard” by human beings is also called “Holy Spirit”.”

Good and Evil

Jakob Böhme, early 17th century: “The being of all beings is but a single being, yet in giving birth to itself, it divides itself into two principles, into light and darkness, into joy and pain, into evil and good, into love and wrath, …Creation itself as his own love-play between the qualities of both eternal desires.” (Sämtliche Schriften ed. W. E. Peuckert, vol. 16 (Stuttgart: Frommann, 1957), p. 233.)

“Kabbalah considers the necessity of evil, theodicy, which, along with the Gnostics, equates with an imperfect God of creation who is not the final God. …. [that is to say] the doctrine of the Greeks called apokatastasis, that all creatures, including Cain and the Devil, will return, at the end of great transmigrations, to be mingled again with the Divinity from which they once emerged.”(OnePeterFive)

Friedrich Nietzsche: "Buddhism already has - and this distinguishes it profoundly from Christianity - the self-deception of moral concepts behind it - it stands, in my language, Beyond Good and Evil." (The Anti-Christ)

Carl Jung: “Christ and the devil appear as equal and opposite, thus conforming to the idea of the “adversary.” This opposition means conflict to the last; and it is the task of humanity to endure this conflict until the time or turning-point is reached where good and evil begin to relativise themselves, to doubt themselves, and the cry is roused for a morality ‘beyond good and evil’. (OnePeterFive, Ibid)

On the contrary: “For what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness, and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Beliel?” (2 Corinthians” 6:14,15)


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