Lib. Xtianity, Mysticism & hyphenated faiths, revisited.

I must include a disclaimer right off the bat - the term "Xtianity"was used for the sake of space, being that, contrary to popular belief, its origin is compatible w. our religion. Also, the title of this thread is extremely broad and my intention here was not to fully develop the three items mentioned.
In other threads in this forum we usually bombard those we disagree with. There are other ways of communicating without outright condemnation. We instead build a barrier, a wall through which no communication can flow, because we are attacking. The person we are trying to educate then shifts to a defending and shielding mode rather than listening to what the other party is trying to convey.
What is mysticism? do we even know? Do we know how much our own mysticism has in common with that of other religons? Do we know mysticism has been known to transcend religion? Do we know how much the Sufis are persecuted inside their own Islam because they’re mystics? Do we know how much St. John of the Cross suffered because of it? How about Origen, Meister Eckhart and others? Do we know St. Teresa of Avila had a gift of words, therefore avoiding that same persecution? Have we ever heard of a guy named Thomas Merton? All that beig said, there is more than one kind of mystic. After all, no one would dump Meister Eckhart together with Ignatius of Loyola or Origen with Augustine.
Besides the onces mentioned above, the following were also mystics: Clement of Alexandria, Gregory of Nyssa, Dionysius the Areopagite, Bernard of Clairvaux, Francis of Assisi, Bonaventure, Hildegard of Bingen, Catherine of Siena, and many others.
In regards to hyphenated faiths - what is important to understand is that guys and gals like Thomas Merton only enhanced their Christianity with elements of other faiths that were helpful and that Chrsitianity is not incomplete and neither do we purport to assume that. Merton cooperated beautifully with Buddhist monks and they both learned from each other. I didn’t see him crucifying Buddhists because they disagreed with him as we tend to always do here. :frowning:

I agree that there is something in what you say here, although I am a bit wary of your wording. I think the way you are saying these things, if not necessarily the point you are trying to make, probably sets off alarm bells. For example, to say that mysticism transcends religion to me seems to somehow say that mysticism gives knowledge or experience beyond not only just what particular believers may obtain by non-mystic means, but beyond and above the truths of all religions themselves.

Likewise, to say that they “enhanced their Christianity with elements of other faiths that were helpful” seems to imply that Christianity itself was insufficient for them, rather than that what they learned from Christian sources was not complete. Now I know you are explicitly not saying this (and in fact explicitly saying that you are not saying this), but I think there is a subtlety or two that may not be being expressed.

Perhaps if we phrased it like this:

Christianity (Catholicism in particular) has the fullness of revealed truth. Other religions have pieces of truth. Some members of those religions may focus on parts of the truth that they have to the point where those members are more familiar with that part of the truth than some Christians. It may then be worth while for a Christian, who knows his faith and will not be confused by other parts of the other religion, to study how those members of the other religions approach those things which they approach rightly to strengthen his understanding of those things.

But this person is not in fact incorporating elements of other religions into his religion in the sense of taking something that is outside of Christianity and adding it to his religion. Christianity is the fullness of truth, ergo anything that is true is part of Christianity (in a broad sense here). So such a person would in fact be taking a piece of Christianity that is already in Christianity and learning more about it from someone who understands that particular piece but who is wrong about other things.

So there is no hyphenated religion going on here at all. The Christian is just a Christian, pure and simple. A Christian who recognizes whatever truth lays in Buddhism and accepts it is not accepting anything outside of Christianity, and so is not a Christian-Buddhist, but just a Christian.

Or to put it in slightly different terms: Suppose Christianity says A and B are true, and I recognize this but don’t quiet understand A. I then, without changing my mind about B or anything else, go and learn about A from someone, a Buddhist say, who really really understands A but thinks B is false. Then I have not become a Buddhist-Christian. I have remained a Christian and personally learned something from this other person.

Such learning is possible (though perhaps not always wise, depending on the individual’s grounding in the faith). I don’t think you’ll get much opposition to the idea that we can learn from others.

As a final kind of summary note: I would guess you’d get a lot less opposition to the phrase “Christians can learn a lot from other faiths” than the phrase “Christianity can learn a lot from other faiths.” The faith is perfect, the followers not so much. The people following it may fall into a habit of neglecting one aspect or another, but the faith itself is simply true.

This is a very narrow response to a very broad OP, but the only context in which I have seen “Xtianity” is in writing by pagans and heathens (Odinists and the like), who avoid writing the word “Christ” out if distaste or contempt.

Joke’s on them then. X is simply the English letter that looks like the Greek letter chi, first letter of Χριστός, which is Christ.

Yeah, I know. I can read NT Greek, with a dictionary at one hand and a grammar at the other :stuck_out_tongue: I don’t think they care about that, tho (as in, “Don’t confuse me with the facts.”). Their only interest is in trying to dishonor Christianity.

“Their only interest is in trying to dishonor Christianity.” ~ How do you know this? I am, as a matter of fact, assuming that you’re still talking about “them.” I thought that I was clear about this. The other brother was right on the money when he said the joke was on them - I’m not “them” though.

Iron Donkey, I don’t have much of a problem with your analysis of my post. After all, Thomas Merton was not looking in Eastern Thought and its monks for something that he did not find in Christianity. He believed in the equal cooperation between them and himself. They learned from him as such as he from them, both being into contemplation and mysticism. But, you do seem to overlook or ignore something; I don’t know which, since you come through like a knowledgable person. Why do you suppose the Sufis have things in common with eastern philosophies that Christian mystics also seemed and seem to have? Why did St John of the Cross, Origen and other mystics got in trouble inside their own Church just like the Sufis do inside their own Islam? Are Christian mystics all the same? Absolutely not. I mentioned that here and/or elsewhere. Loyola and Eckhart could not be more different. But, they had some mysticism in common. Anyone can learn mysticism; it’s not necessarily something closed to the very few as in ancient times. It is not for everyone though. It is up to you. And it is not necessary for being a complete Christian.

Mysticism does not transcend religion, but works hand in hand with religion by realization of our faith. God wants us all to become mystics. And, we must all be mystics to expect salvation, because mysticism is simply, as it applies to Catholicism, a personal relationship with God either intuitively or existentially. The existential mystic sees Jesus in the “now”. So, if we are true believers in the real presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, we are true (existential) mystics.

Peace and all things good!

A wonderful thread - Thanks for starting this…

We in the Western Church often forget that ours is an “Eastern” faith…The Orthodox seem to embrace a much more “mystical” view than we do in the west…

I’m not knowledgeable enough to know why that is…:hmmm:…Something to do with the “Thomist” school and “rational” thought or ???..
Perhaps the fact that the Western Church was more - - - need the right word here - - - politically involved(?) over the centuries tended to move it away from the more mystical aspects…toward a more rational, logical, and (dare I say it) legal(?) approach.
(Please forgive any error or clumsiness of expression in the above…:blushing: Correction/clarification cheerfully excepted)

In any event - while the general church in the west, in education and civic life, embraced this rationalist approach, there were still those who embraced and, by their exemplary lives and writings, kept alive and promoted the mystical aspects of the faith.
The fact that these men and women are Saints - and even Doctors of the Church - speaks to the validity of their lives and work, and to the great blessings we may derive from emulating them…

As you might gather from the above, as well as from the book in my signature, I am drawn toward the mystical aspects of the faith…and frankly do not feel it is necessary to go outside of the faith acquire anything significant in this respect. These wonderful saints provide more than enough guidance.

That said, I agree with the OP that we should readily embrace the similarities seen in the other faith traditions even as we discuss the differences.
However - one needs to be careful when looking into such things…as already pointed out by others, one should be well grounded in the fundamental principles of the faith AND, I think, in the writings of Catholic (and EO) mystics, before one looks at mysticism outside of the Christian tradition.



Don Jackson, mysticism, when one refers to the broader term and not only to Christianity, does indeed transcend religion. I thought it was clear in the examples I gave. But, perhaps that was elsewhere that I did. If mysticism did not transcend religion, then the Christian mystics, the Sufis, the Hindu mystics and Buddhist ones would not have anything in common. I think that it is perfectly clear that they do. Why do some of the things Meister Eckhart and other Christian mystics said sound so akin to what the Sufis and the Buddhists and Hindus believe, if it wasn’t because mysticism transcends religion? Why did St. John of the Cross get in trouble with the Church and with his own Order and put in jail for his beliefs, if it wasn’t for misinterpretations and what sounded like non-Christian to his critics? And yes, I know that he was also put in prison for wanting to reform the Carmelites. Despite his prowess with words, which he was known for, he lacked Teresa of Avila’s ability in a more clever way. She was also a mystic and did not suffer the brutal persecution that he did. And of course, there is more than one kind of mystic even withing the Church. One can be a Christian mystic and sound nothing or believe almost nothing a Buddhist does, for instance. On the other hand, many Christian mystics, whether they know it or not, whether they like it or not, have much in common with their Sufi and eastern philosophy counterparts.

I wasn’t critiquing your hypothesis, for I agree all religions have mystics, and the common thread is a personal relationship with divinity. All I was doing was pointing out that mysticism is alive and well, and revelant in Catholicism, and the typcial Catholic is, whether he realizes it or not a mystic.

As a Catholic, I could relate the Eucharist to mysticism. I cannot, and would not attempt to relate it to any other world religion, for I lack the exposure and the academic credentials.

Peace and all good!

Well, then we have no quarrel.

That is not what transcend means. If mysticism transcended religion, that would mean that mysticism itself was above and beyond religion, that mysticism revealed things that religion couldn’t know, and that mysticism was sufficient by itself for all things that religion does and more. But this is false.

As I mentioned before, there is some amount of truth in every religion, every belief system. The fact that mystics in general find similar pieces of the truth is not surprising - if two people search for truth in similar ways, they are likely to find similar pieces of it. Thus a Muslim mystic may find some of the same things that a Christian mystic does in the same way that a Creationist and a Evolutionist might both agree on the age of a particular fossil they dated the same way while disagreeing on nearly everything else. But to say that the dating method transcends science would be an error - it is part of science that those who disagree on other matters agree on at least to some extent.

So with mysticism. It is a part of religion. A Muslim mystic may discover some truth through his mysticism, but the fact that he believes Mohammed to be a prophet etc and that his mysticism confirms him in these wrong beliefs means that his mysticism most definitely does not transcend religion.

It would be better to say that there are common elements in religion that many mystics recognize and find through their mysticism than to say that mysticism somehow transcends religion.

There are common elements in religion that many mystic recognize and find in their relgion.

I’ve been on their forums and read their blogs (refering to the pagans who spell it Xtianity). Actually, I overstated the issue when I said that their only interest is in trying to dishonor Christianity. I should have stated it that this is their only interest when they spell it “Xtianity,” not in the entirety of their belief system.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit