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For the mystics, Jesus was a living embodiment of the possibility of union with God, who could lead them to the same spiritual realization


The Complete Guide to World Mysticism
The Complete Guide to
World Mysticism
“The teaching of the Christian religion has generally been that Jesus was God made flesh, who suffered and died for the sins of the world, and that by believing in this a Christian is freed from sin and will go to heaven when he dies. Up until the Reformation in the sixteenth century, ordinary Christians were expected to accept such dogmas and the Inquisition even forbade them to read the Bible for themselves. For the mystics, however, Jesus' message was one of personal salvation through the direct experience of God. In the words of Angelus Silesius, a seventeenth-century Protestant poet who in four days of ecstatic illumination wrote the 302 verses of the mystic masterpiece The Cherubinic Wanderer: Christ could be born a thousand times in Galilee — But all in vain, until he is born in me.'"- Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy

"Jesus was a Jewish heretic who was put to death by the religious status quo of his day. He preached a radical mysticism that emphasized a complete surrender of the self to God, through love, forgiveness and humility — a message that he embodied in his life and death. An extraordinary influential figure whose nature is shrouded in mystery and overlaid with myth, he is pictured in many different ways by the different Christian sects which claim him as their inspiration. Like the great yogis of India, he was not confined by the 'laws' of nature that so tightly bind the rest of us. He walked on water, turned water into wine and raised the dead. For most of his followers he is an incarnation of God, comparable to the avatars of India. Whatever else Jesus may or may not have been, his wisdom shows him to have been a remarkable sage who taught with the simple authority that comes from direct knowledge of God.

From its roots in the teachings of an enlightened Jewish carpenter from Galilee, Christianity expanded via St. Paul, who had previously been a prosecutor of the new heretical Jewish sect but was converted by a mystical vision of divine light. By the fourth century Christianity had become the official religion of the Roman empire, which focused on making it a dogmatic faith capable of holding an empire together rather than a personal path to knowledge of God. The Romans ruthlessly suppressed all the other forms of Christianity that still flourished at this time, such as the Gnostics, a highly mystical sect of mainly Jewish Christians largely based in Egypt...

In the fifth century the Roman Church split into a more mystical Eastern Church based in Constantinople, and an authoritarian Western Church based in Rome — both of which proceeded to excommunicate each other. In the West, Christian mystics existed always on the edge of acceptability, often persecuted and excommunicated for their individualistic ways and heretical ideas. Despite this many great mystics still emerged, for instance the thirteen-century Italian ascetic St. Francis of Assisi. As the authoritarianism and corruption of the official Church became more and more unbearable, many groups of mystic Christians began breaking away from the suffocating power of religious dogma, to find their own direct relationship with Christ and God...

Later, however, when Protestantism itself became a religious orthodoxy, mystical ideas were once again seen as heretical and unacceptable. Protestant mystics such as the sixteenth-century German Jacob Boehm found the new religious establishment as intolerant as its precursor.

The mystics claim a direct relationship with God, which the leaders of the Christian religion have always feared as a threat to their position as the sole repositories of divine knowledge. Because of this, much of Christian mysticism has existed outside the mainstream of the Church. To find the real mystical riches of the Christian tradition we have to look to its hidden history, which has been deliberately obscured by the establishment. Some of its greatest mystics are hardly known. Meister Eckhart, for example, an extraordinarily clear spokesman for the perennial mystic philosophy, was generally unheard of until a few decades ago. Whether they existed within the official Church or in the many heretical groups, however, the great Christian mystics have all pointed to the same essential mystic truths. Today, despite an upsurge in Christian fundamentalism, the spirit of mysticism is re-emerging. Christians such as William Johnson, Thomas Merton and Bede Griffiths have sought to incorporate elements of Eastern mysticism into the Christian faith, both to enhance their own tradition, and to find a common, multicultural understanding of God.

The teaching of the Christian religion has generally been that Jesus was God made flesh, who suffered and died for the sins of the world, and that by believing in this a Christian is freed from sin and will go to heaven when he dies. Up until the Reformation in the sixteenth century, ordinary Christians were expected to accept such dogmas and the Inquisition even forbade them to read the Bible for themselves. For the mystics, however, Jesus' message was one of personal salvation through the direct experience of God. In the words of Angelus Silesius, a seventeenth-century Protestant poet who in four days of ecstatic illumination wrote the 302 verses of the mystic masterpiece The Cherubinic Wanderer:

Christ could be born a thousand times in Galilee —
But all in vain, until he is born in me.


For the mystics, Jesus was a living embodiment of the possibility of union with God, who could lead them to the same spiritual realization. In the Gnostic scripture called the Gospel of Thomas, Jesus tells his disciples: 'I am not your master. Because you have drunk, you have become drunk from the bubbling stream which I have measured out. He who will drink out of my mouth will become as I am; I myself shall become he, and the things that are hidden will be revealed to him.'"

The Complete Guide to World Mysticism (Paperback)
by Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy, page 86-90
Publisher: Piatkus Books; New Ed edition (October 1998)





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