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Pass the Salt 28 January 2015

» Posted on 13 Feb 2015 • Pass the Salt

Are you a mystic?

“The day is coming when you are either a mystic or an unbeliever.”

At least, that’s what a chap named Karl Rahner thought. Rahner was a prominent theologian and Jesuit priest who lived through most of last century. In his time he saw the dying of western civilization as being essentially Christian, and the birth of today’s agnostic, unbelieving generation.

What he observed was a shift from an age when people all saw the presence of God in their lives, to an age when God was absent if he existed at all.

When he speaks of being a mystic, he is speaking of that age when people were alive to the presence of God in all things, and anyone who becomes a mystic today enters that world again. Such a person does more than attend a church; they enter the vision of reality the church has inherited, lives out and passes on. That itself sounds a bit mystical but is anything but.

To desire to feel better by wearing certain clothes or driving a certain car or living in a certain suburb is a mystical quest which we call ‘consumerism’. Consumerism is the modern-day equivalent to the quest for the Holy Grail: seeking an object considered to be of great significance, believing that if we obtain it, it will confer on us significance too. What no one stops to ask is whether that is really true. Is a cup that Jesus drank from actually precious, and does getting it make us precious in turn?

Apparently we think so. A classic example is the case of Ford versus Holden. These are now two distinct tribes, with badges, mottos, uniforms, and a distinct dislike for one another. And yet, they are merely cars. In a consumerist society, it is natural to expect to see people forming their identity around the things they buy (or don’t buy), and where they shop (or don’t shop), and indeed what they use when they buy - platinum card anyone? But who stops to ask whether any of these things have the power to truly bring us the significance we desire?

A mystic quite naturally does not form their identity around such things. A mystic has embraced the church’s vision of reality, believing that identity flows from a person, Jesus Christ. We are his. We are ‘little Christs’. He is our picture of reality. That’s why mystical people seem strange today (not all strange people, and not all people who do strange things, are mystical by the way - sometimes people are just strange and do strange things). And it’s not true, I don’t think, that being mystical is strange at all - the thesis would be that the mystic is in their right mind, seeing life as it really is: governed by God, flowing from God, flowing back to God, and a gift to be enjoyed, not a project to be completed...among other important things.

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