I think all Christians will agree that Jesus, the Son of God and the Second Person of the Trinity is the Center of the Christian Faith. More than that, I think all Christians will agree that the historical arrival of Jesus on Earth and His mission, passion and resurrection is the central aspect of the faith, and what distinguishes us as Christians from other religions.
Given this fact why are more and more Christians becoming interested in contemplative practice, contemplative prayer and mysticism as the “height” of Christianity?
I am well aware of the high number of saints who were mystics. St. John of the Cross, Theresa of Avila, Meister Eckhart, etc.
But it seems to me that this orientation towards mysticism is actually an orientation away from Christ and what He did for us on Earth. It is an orientation away from this world and our brethren, towards spiritual fulfilment for ourselves. It is a retreat into our own selves in many ways.
And while many of Christianity’s mystics would portray mysticism as the apex of Christianity, I think it is merely a diversion.
Salvation is achieved by grace. No amount of contemplative prayer, centering, etc. can bring about contact with God. Contact with God cannot be forced by one’s own will through a series of contemplative activities. Rather it is freely given, when and how God wants.
So aren’t Christians better served by being engaged with their world, regular prayer, and being active in the world, participating in God’s creation? Aren’t Christians better served by staying away from mysticism, which seems to me to be driven by a desire for self-mastery, and a desire to be like God?
In Christianity, if we take away all contemplative practice, we leave the core of the faith unaffected. But take away contemplative practice from, say, Buddhism, and you’ve taken away the whole of the religion.
What do you think?