Joy of writing
I’ve really been enjoying writing the blog lately. Feels like I may be near to making some kind of point. I do agree with Thomas Merton, Karl Rahner, Matthew Fox, Richard Rohr, and others who have issued an urgent call to create a culture of mysticism within present-day Christianity. In due course I’ll explain why I feel this is of crucial import given our present life conditions. First, I’d like to begin with two cataphatic (positive) spiritual practices that you may not be familiar with. The first relates to a question that came up this week. Perhaps you’ve wondered, too.
“God” is a three-letter poem
Why write G-d instead of God? By writing, “G-d,” I mean to indicate, or point to, what Pseudo Dionysius, Meister Eckhart, Paul Tillich, et al., have referred to as the “God beyond God”—by which they meant God beyond the God of theism. I write the term that way to pay homage to that, that which is beyond language, so the reader knows of my open appreciation/fondness for non-discursive (apophatic) spirituality.
In seminary we learned that there are, at least, a couple of ways to indicate non-discursive designations for God: writing “G-d” is one way, and writing “[ ]” is another. On the latter, yeah, those are empty brackets, an indication of the fact that no one knows/remembers how to pronounce G-d’s name—YHWH (Yahweh).
The book of Genesis tells us that through God’s “ruach,” or Spirit (or wind), God breathed everything into existence.
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the [ruach] Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. [Genesis 1.1-2, KJV]
Spirit as God breathing, creating.
Some rabbis—speculating regarding pronunciation—say that ‘Yah’ is the quiet song we sing when we inhale and ‘weh’ is the soft refrain we answer as we exhale. I really like that way of thinking about, and pronouncing God’s name. If one accepts this pronunciation, it means accepting the cataphatic mystical practice of uttering God’s name constantly, 24/7, all day and all night every day of one’s life.
Ready, breathe in: Yah, breathe out: weh; Yah, weh [in, out]; Yahweh….
With this understanding, simply becoming mindful of our breathing effectively ushers us back to awareness of G-d’s Presence. Saint Paul’s, “pray without ceasing.”
A herd of buffaloes?
Now, this one may sound/seem a bit strange/odd. Perhaps so, however, in my three experiences with it, this practice is powerfully illuminating. To my knowledge, I was the first to preach this simple variation on fasting as a transformative spiritual discipline. While it may seem like a nice little theological thought-experiment, seeing it that way completely misses the point. This is a mystical teaching, therefore it must be experienced. —I will leave it to your imagination as to how I may have personally discovered the transformative power embedded in actually doing/experiencing this.
This experience taps into the power money has on us in our society. Money holds various kinds/degrees of power over each of us, and, it also has power to influence and color our social interactions and business transactions. Perhaps it’s time for a quick reprise of a video we’ve seen in an earlier blog post:
OK, spelling out the practice. You’ll need $30 minimum [or, if that’s low for you, then enough budget for one entire day making your regular stops for coffee, newspaper, gum, transportation, lunch, dry cleaners, snacks, drinks, and so forth]. The idea is to go one whole day—or as many days as it takes to spend the budget.
The catch is the $30 minimum [or sufficient higher budget] is all in loose nickles. Yep. A bag of buffaloes. The only rule is you must make all your routine daily transactions using loose nickles.
Pay close attention to how you and those in the environment react to you/your business.
As you pay for something, try counting the coins onto the counter. Then switch and count the coins directly into the hand[s] of the cashier.
Be mindful and pay close attention as you pay for things with nothing but nickles.
Sounds crazy, maybe. Think, though, at worst some inconvenience/embarrassment, perhaps. Maybe a bit of a hassle allowing a little extra time for transactions. Try it out anyway. See for yourself. I’d really love to hear how it went for you, what you experienced.
Our urgent need for mysticism
Next week, “Second-hand religion?“ (Mysticism, so what? [pt. 2]) why I feel it’s so crucially important that we create a mystical movement within Christianity right now.
I never know what I’ve said till I hear the response. What did you hear me say?
3 thoughts on “‘Mysticism,’ so what?”
Michael, Thanks for the joyful writing. I can’t wait to read your next article because I agree with you whole-heartedly!
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Thanks, Connie! My practical theology will be showing on it as i feel our troubled life conditions are calling for a shift in epistemology at the ground-level. It may be too late for the extant American church to be of much help, but perhaps whatever comes next with American Christianity will help usher something in as the Church does have the tools [Matthew 13.52].