Mysticism And Faith

I was recently discussing in another thread here about the relationship between Mysticism and Faith. I think the subject deserves its own thread, and I would like to start a more extensive discussion on this.

Here are a bunch of questions that this thread aims to investigate:

  1. How is mysticism related to faith?
  2. Does mystical experience lead to greater faith?
  3. Is mystical experience necessary to give rise to faith?
  4. If the answer to (3) is a no, then what gives rise to faith?

Personally, I see faith as one’s personal response and acceptance of God’s revelation. I pretty much agree with the view summed up by Vladimir Lossky in the first chapter of this book called “Faith and Theology”:

Outside of faith, theology has no sense: it can only be based on interior evidence of the truth in the Spirit, on the teaching of the truth by the truth itself. The regula fidei is the first actuation of this evidence. It is this interior evidence that is stressed by St. Augustine in his treatise on the biterior Master: I have spoken to all. However, those in whom anointing does not speak, those who are not taught inwardly by the Holy Spirit always departed indocti. “The flesh of Him Who teaches is found in the heavens: I speak of the Lord. . …” “Only the action of Christ in the heart allows the heart not to remain in solitude. Only the Interior Master teaches. Where His anointing is absent, external words assail the ears to no purpose.”

So I agree with the view that faith is this “interior evidence” of the truth of Revelation. As such, I see that a minimum of mystical experience is absolutely necessary for someone to come to faith. I don’t mean that one must engage in contemplative prayer and such - no - but rather that a minimum of mystical experience through the Holy Spirit is necessary.

I’m open to hear other views and to be corrected if necessary! :slight_smile:

When is grace not mysticism? And is mysticism ever not grace.

Lossky is talking about grace or the Holy Spirit when he says “the action of Christ in the heart”, and “His anointing“.

“Only the Interior Master teaches.“ To me this is a way to refer to the Holy Spirit. But also “the action of Christ in the heart” could be referring to the Holy Spirit.

IDK if any of those things can necessarily be called mysticism. When I think of mysticism, I think of it as being something more like a special grace, like an ability to channel grace to others.

I recently had an experience where I felt I could not go further of my own doing and turned things over, the success or failure to God. I find it hard to do what seems to be obvious at times. And these are not new things, I know. But afterward I had a thought come to me that this was the beginning of faith. I had never thought of it this way. I saw it as a kind of beginning where God/Christ comes and demonstrates divine and sacred matters to the soul or in the life because at this juncture the human in us moves aside for something more. I came across this post because I am looking for more information on faith and what it is.

If faith is a gift of grace or of the holy spirit perhaps faith is an action? I am not sure.

While faith is a human act, it’s also a supernatural gift at the same time, a mystical experience itself even if a relatively dim one:
CCC184 “Faith is a foretaste of the knowledge that will make us blessed in the life to come” (St. Thomas Aquinas. Comp. theol . 1, 2).

“For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” 1 Cor 13:12

And, yes, more direct and proud experiences only serve to bolster that faith of course. But they aren’t necessary; God gives sufficient grace for us to believe without them. Faith grows as it is exercised, or “invested”, faith leading to more faith, along with the other virtues or markers of righteousness or holiness, grace leading to more grace as we cooperate with God in His work within us.

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  1. Mysticism comes from the Greek word for conceal or hide.
    Faith is about what is not seen, what is not known.
    The two have a common subject, what is not seen, what is hidden.

  2. “Mystical experience” is generally about gaining some type of knowledge about what is hidden. It is about the opposite of concealing, revealing. One would think faith should decrease because knowledge increases, but the reality is different. The more one learns about the divine mystery, the more mystery there is. Faith increases as acquaintance with the mystery increases.

  3. Faith is a mystical experience, a way of “knowing the unknown.” It probably starts by discovering the unknown, so yes.

  4. Mystical experience as a term may be used in different ways. To the extent that is about techniques for achieving mystical experience, like ecstacies, ouija boards, asceticism, etc., it is not needed. Some practices may prepare you to experience the unseen, like closing your eyes or opening them, but to require them is the start of trying to tame the unseen and turning it into a nonmystical experience. They can too easily become distractions, something known that substitutes for the unknown. Mystical experience can mean other things too, so a more precise definition is needed to answer your question.

Faith is the most important way to engage the unknown, which is why it is called a gift from God. It comes from the greatest Unknown, the One hidden beyond eternity.

@Dovekin Interesting answers! How would you define faith then? What would you say faith is or consists in?

Faith is a gift from God, it is revelation to the person, however that may happen.

Mysticism is the product of the faith experience.

Religion is the response to faith.

A follow up question! I hardly see those around here. Thank you.

I usually think of the description from Hebrews 11:1 Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. it is not so much a definition as a description, but it is followed by a series of examples from the Hebrew scriptures thta fill out what is meant.

Then I move on to 1 Cor 13:13 faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love. These are the Theological virtues when they are oriented primarily to God. Faith is like love, a turning to God, whom I love though I know little of him. Faith is a knowledge that I do not quite know, can always learn more of, always delight more in. It is knowing that what I do not know will be filled in if needed.

And the there is Peguy’s wonderful reflections on Hope. Little sister Hope running beside BIG sisters Love and Faith. Faith is not surprising Hope is surprising! Hope reaches out toward the unknown, but faith is already there, constantly grateful.

What do you say faith is? Where do you find it?

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