Your support is helping expand Progressive Christianity. We are one of the largest sources for progressive theological perspectives, as well as our thousands of resources. It is hard to overstate their value – every time you donate it expands our ability to do all those essential offerings even better. DONATE NOW!

Worship Materials: Mystery, Mysticism

From the Celebrating Mystery collection

THEME                  The limitless presence

THOUGHTS FOR REFLECTION

  1. To look into the eyes of your beloved is to experience a mystery which the eye cannot discern.
  2. There is no second hand mystery. Descriptions of it are a poor substitute for the experience.
  3. Through the empting out comes the fullness.
  4. Those who claim to know all about mystery have probably never experienced its speechless ecstasy.
  5. The best way to destroy mystery is to attempt to define it.
  6. Images can enhance our sense of mystery or undermine it.
    To limit the mystery to one image can be destructive since God is far greater than any image. That is the inherent weakness of monotheism. To have a multitude of images as in Polytheism can become an obstacle to moving into the imageless mystery.
  7. The experience of the ecstasy of the mystery is a boundary dissolving experience. So how inappropriate is it to conceive of life after death in terms of boundary defining individuality.
  8. The supreme baptism into spirituality is to be immersed into the river of mystery and in loving trust allow it to take you where it will.
  9. The experience of the Presence of God cannot be programmed and is perhaps best described by Gerard Manley Hopkins who said
    “On the days I meet you I greet you and I bless when I understand”
  10. Mystery is the cornerstone of spirituality. Without it the whole structure of religion can collapse into being no more than a social convention and/or an intellectual exercise.
  11. From the speechless mystery first emerges not a sermon but a song.
  12. From silence springs wisdom.
    From resting springs dancing.
  13. Our fear of the mystery can spring from a fear of absorption into it. But the mystics speak of finding their self in a fuller way through letting go of their preoccupation with the surface self.
  14. What is the nature of the experience of the mystery of God? It is an experience of belonging and connectedness.
  15. You cannot embrace the mystery but you can allow yourself to be embraced by it.
  16. I looked into my grandson’s eyes and saw God. God smiled and I was blessed.
  17. Except for God and the Cosmos itself, there is no greater mystery than a human being.
  18. Mystery like darkness touches those who stop long enough to allow it to enfold them.
  19. The beginning of the process of enlightenment is the dawn of awareness. The goal of the process is immersion in mystery.
  20. Instead of giving access to mystery, words are capable of destroying it for only silence can unlock mystery’s doors.
  21. The mind can deliver us from magic and spirits but only the wonder can access the mystery.
  22. When words prevail whether they are fundamentalist literalism or liberal abstractions mystery recedes to the deep center and to beyond the boundaries of the church. Mystery will survive but without it the church has very little future as an agent of spirituality.
  23. Behind everything is the nothingness and in that nothingness we find everything in a new and reinvigorated way for the nothingness is the quintessential abode of the mystery.
  24. Intuition gives access to mystery and thinking provides the way to communicate it.
  25. The sparkling human being comes out of the darkness and the stillness of the mystery.
  26. The everything and the nothing are two faces of the same reality.
  27. Enter the mystery with nothing and you will come out with everything.
  28. Rest in the imageless mystery where nothing disturbs.
  29. Solitude is never empty.
  30. Mystical enlightenment is like emergence from an egg.
  31. Our sense of wonder is the foundation upon which our religion and our creativity rest- for without it we cannot become whole people.

 

PRAYER

O God, who is more to be found in the mystery of darkness than in the illumination of light, may we walk with courage into the unknown, look with trust into the darkness and in all things find our security in your love which indwells the heart of everything.

 

HYMNS

There’s no two-ness in God. (BL)

We believe in a mystery we call God. (BL)

God is the rock. (BL)

In the letting go. (BL)

Behind the world of images. (BL)

Call of the songbird rising to heaven. (BL)

You are the process God. (BL)

O golden cup of life. (BL)

O golden doors. (BL)

 

O God the great all-knowing One.

www.methodist.org.nz/resources/hymns/boundlesslife

The right time has come.

www.methodist.org.nz/resources/hymns/boundlesslife

“The first are losers.”

www.methodist.org.nz/resources/hymns/boundlesslife

You do not need to come, O God.

http://www.methodist.org.nz/resources/hymns/the_mystery_telling

Darkness is my mother.

http://www.methodist.org.nz/resources/hymns/the_mystery_telling

Why has God forsaken me.

http://www.methodist.org.nz/resources/hymns/the_mystery_telling

Buried in my being.

http://www.methodist.org.nz/resources/hymns/the_mystery_telling

Come let us dwell.

http://www.methodist.org.nz/resources/hymns/the_mystery_telling

Christ the tent.

http://www.methodist.org.nz/resources/hymns/the_mystery_telling

In the first stage of seeking.

http://www.methodist.org.nz/resources/hymns/the_mystery_telling

 

Live like Jesus in the moment. (STS1)

On top of the mountain. (STS1)

Out of the stillness. (STS1)

Rejoice, rejoice at Christmas time. (STS1)

When the temple veil is torn in two. (STS1)

Epiphany of wisdom’s dawn. (STS1)

Empty lay the tomb. (STS1)

Your mystery, O God. (STS1)

God is beyond all words. (STS1)

Enter the stillness. (STS1)

That of God within us all. (STS2)

Singing the Sacred Vol 1 2011, Vol 2 2014 World Library Publications

 

POEMS AND REFLECTIONS

GOLDEN INCANDESCENCE

Beyond the temples of correctness

my spirit journeys

to imagination’s unfenced fields

where boundaries dance the circle

and horizon is now.

At the point

of the marriage

of childhood’s fire and water

and the merging of

the motionless sea’s

unending rhythm

beginning becomes an ending

and inter-wovenness

new birth.

Yin is as yang,

reason nurtures the dreams

and intuition unbars

syllogistic bondage as

Artist, Sage and Clown

intermingle

in the

abandoning dance

and my ‘I am’

becomes part

of the shadows

at the molten heart

of the flame.

Note: The Yin and Yang of traditional Chinese philosophy symbolize the apparent opposites in life which are held together within the circle of the unity of all things

GOD’S EMBRACE

In the darkness we see no shapes

And are freed from their limitation.

In the silence we hear no sounds

And are liberated from their patterns.

In the stillness we feel no motion

And can dwell in the Sabbath of resting.

In the mystery we become part of everything

Without the constraints of sight, sound or motion

And in that mystery we experience God’s embrace.

 

MYSTERY

  1. The mystery comes in the cloud of unknowing.
  2. The mystery is both within and without.
  3. The mystery can be addressed.
  4. We can have dialogue with the mystery.
  5. The mystery is compassion.
  6. The mystery is one.

 

O MYSTERY

O mystery, O divinity

beyond all beyonds

center of all withins:

How my heart aches for you

and your oneness.

There is nothing on earth to compare with you

and yet I can through awareness

discern you in all things

and know you in all life’s multitudinous experiences.

 

THE AGONY AND THE ECSTACY

When with delight I enter the oneness of the mystery

I also encounter its grievous tears

for between its delight

and our ordinary living

lies a sea of sorrow filled tears

of injustice, oppression,

estrangement, guilt, manipulation

and separation.

It is this that makes life a costly, symphonic dance

between the agony and the ecstasy.

 

MYSTICISM AND SYNCRETISM

To its opponents mysticism can sometimes appear as a form of syncretism the attempt to borrow from all of the world religions in order to create a super religion. However since mystics have encountered a mystery that is beyond all institutions and beliefs syncretism is irrelevant for them. The mystic does not attempt with the rational mind to amalgamate things in order to gain a unitive vision. On the contrary the vision comes through the divinity of intuition. As a consequence the mystic can both live within a particular tradition while also living beyond it.

 

TWO TREES

Sitting in the garden of my mind

I perceived two trees –

One a cross, crucified, planed,

Simplified, dead;

The other mysteriously hosting

The Cosmos in its branches.

Perhaps the latter is an icon

Of mysticism’s inclusive sacredness.

 

ECSTASY AND MEDITATION

Ecstasy is a dissolution through the senses,

Meditation is a dissolution beyond the senses.

It is in the interaction between ecstasy and meditation

that heaven and earth are bound into one.

 

THE MISUSE OF MYSTICISM

Mysticism becomes destructive when it leads to a flight into the unitive reality in order to avoid the apparently divided reality in which we all live. The mystic and the activist are two sides of our personality. Without a healthy rhythm between the two we either burn out or relegate ourselves to an other worldly irrelevance which attempts to deny the reality of matter and the beauty of the impermanent forms which surround us. Part of the mystical awareness of interconnection is discernment of the manipulative techniques which the rich and powerful use in order to control the rest of the human race. If a person abandons their mysticism, the awareness they have gained can be used for personal gain and for the oppression of others.

 

WHEN I AM NOTHING

When I am nothing

I am everything

For when my walls collapse

All things are linked

All things are one

And I share both their joy

And their pain.

 

FOCUS FOR ACTION

  1. What endeavours should we make to create a genuinely Trinitarian worship of the mystery rather than only focusing on Jesus, i.e. should we be focusing on the mystery of creation and creativity and of spirit and empowerment as well as an anthropocentric view of God?
  2. If images can be a hindrance to our experiencing the mystery, would it be good to have church windows and church fabrics which were abstract in design, so that we could view the mystery in our own way, rather than being obliged to accept or reject literal images.
  3. Since God is the God of the cosmic mystery as well as the mystery of this earth, should the setting of our worship be cosmic rather than solely earthbound or anthropocentric?

Celebrating Mystery Logo

LOGO NOTE: At the heart of the mystery all the separate boxes disappear and all is one, all is love.

Text and graphic © William Livingstone Wallace but available for free use.

 

 

Review & Commentary