The mystics is a cosmologist at heart

Humans have a longstanding love of the cosmos, the environment in which we live and wherein our earth finds its home. We have progressed from our earlier cosmology toward a contemporary cosmology through adopting technology enabling observation, modelling, and representation.

Back in 1493, this was the Christian Aristotelian understanding of the universe, which I found here:

Here the geocentric thinking of Artistotle and Ptolemy won out over the heliocentric thinking of Aristarchus of Samos. This set us back 1 300 to 1 700 years! Thankfully the Copernican Revolution set the ball rolling enabling us, relatively recently, to create a new and more accurate representation of the cosmos. Fortunately the thinking of modern detractors pushing back against the Copernican Revolution and later scientific contributors serves as a voice on the fringe to the mainstream. There’s simply no chance that modern detractors can set us back in our thinking. Hence we arrive at a new modelling and representation of the cosmos.

And now we have a similar representation, which I found here:

What’s remarkably similar within each is the perspective and the work of understanding the cosmos by integrating available knowledge. We (meaning humanity and the earth) are centred, roughly, in each artwork. This really brings home that our view of the world and view of the cosmos is really our view thereof – our world(view). It is a representation in our hearts and minds that’s communicable visually. Yet tons of in-depth thinking and numerous contributors guides the artist as aggregator in producing each. There is an interplay between talents of understanding and representation brought together in order to produce the maps above.

And though, in each case, the map is not the terrain, they are the vantage point wherefrom we are driven toward the Transcendent. It is here on this earth and within each of us that we discover our centre which serves as orientation on the mystery of the Transcendent and God.

The mystic is, really, a cosmologist at heart.

Deconstructing calling and spirituality

In episode 6 we deconstruct the notion of a calling and in episode 7 we deconstruct spirituality. This is a conversation between Steve Carter, my cohost, and myself. It is split into two parts. It was inspired by our conversations with Christopher Harrison and Dion Forster in Part 1 and Part 2. It was such a privilege to hear their stories and get to know them.

The first kind of deconstruction represented on the podcast of the urban mystic relates to the professional career in the ministry. Our first guest, Christopher Harrison, deconstructed his own career in ministry and now works as a missional coach enabling others to develop a broader, more creative and relevant approach to doing ministry. Our second guest, Dr. Dion Forster, likewise deconstructed his career in ministry and now serves as an academic for the church. Both conversations are richly layered with their experience in life and work.

Deconstructing with Dion Forster

Our guest for episode 3 and episode 4 is an academic for the church who holds two doctoral degrees – a PhD in Systematic Theology and a second PhD in New Testament Studies and Empirical Theology. He is the former Dean of John Wesley College, the seminary of the Methodist Church in South Africa. Dion now serves on the full time faculty of Stellenbosch University, as the Departmental Chair of the discipline of Systematic Theology and Ecclesiology, the Director of the Beyers Naude Centre for Public Theology, and as an Associate Professor in Systematic Theology and Ethics. 

His recent books are entitled “The (im)possibility of forgiveness?”, “Between Capital and Cathedral: Essays on Church and State relationships” (available here), “African public theology” (available here), and “Reconciliation, forgiveness and violence: biblical, pastoral and ethical perspectices” (available here). You can find out all about Dr. Dion Forster on http://dionforster.com/.

A snappy photo of Dion 🙂

Deconstructing with Christopher Harrison

Our guest for episode 1 is a retired Methodist Minister who now works as Missions Coordinator supporting churches to establish new forms of church for our changing culture and a missional coach enabling people to find new ways to grow disciples to make disciples. 

He is the director of Fresh Bread Ministries, Director of MyChurchIT (www.mychurchit.org), a minister in the Methodist Church of South Africa, an associate missionary with One Challenge Africa (www.ocafrica.net), a Mission Enabler with Fresh Africa (www.freshafrica.org.za) and a part-time lecturer in Church Planting in Contemporary Context with the Department of Religious Studies in the Faculty of Theology in the University of Pretoria.

Find out more about Christopher Harrison at https://www.facebook.com/freshbreadministriessouthafrica/.

Understanding personal mystical experience – Part 1

This post is in support of Understanding personal mystical experience Part 1 on our podcast. In the session I put forward a model of such experience. This covers a broad range of experiences that share similarities, allowing for an explanatory model.

In seeking to understand the experience we recognise a distinction between the way in which people experience the presence and activity of spiritual beings. There is an interplay between our consciousness and unconsciousness on one side. Here the individual is fully present and participating whether in a waking dream or sleeping vision. John Klimo speaks of this as open channelling. On the other end of the extreme, the individual is completely checked out and some-one/-thing else is in the driving seat of their body. Klimo speaks of this as closed channelling. In the first diagram we model two poles: the conscious and unconscious and, being present and being replaced.

Diagram 1: Open and closed channelling

Here we model the interplay between the experience as conscious and unconscious. Yet this includes intermediary spiritual beings who self-identify and lay claim to representing Godde and to a spiritual being self-identify as Godde .

Diagram 2: Self-revealing spiritual beings and un-/consciousness

References:

Klimo, J. 1998. Channeling: Investigations on receiving information from paranormal sources. North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, California.

The problem of God

This post goes together with S01E05 The problem of God at urbanmystic.podbean.com.

One of the key conversations we regularly share is that of the problem of God. This is not as classically conceived as the problem of God’s power, goodness, and the reality of evil. It is instead conceived as a problem of experiénce, as confirmed and validated only in and through experience as the pursuit of relational engagement with God. Here the notion of experiénce includes experimentation and relational engagement.

Here we begin with the recognition that our urban environment, which includes our religion and spirituality, is not about the experience of God. Yet it is within our urban desert, which serves as a rich environment for experiencing God, that we need to pursue and engage God. But how do we go about doing that? This is problematic as people are raised to believe on a God by faith and yet faith is not tied to experience while being strongly disconnected therefrom. And so, as many religions and their claims about God, we are not able to solve the problem through classical arguments as though there is somehow a proof for God in the historical roots and institutionalized traditions of religions. The religions make the problem of God a tremendously diverse and complex issue resulting in the-idea-of God as varied, nuanced, and not easily answered. The problem of God is not something we can meaningful solve apart from God’s availability in Person. How then do we understand the experience of God? In Part 1 we explore this as a broader phenomenon present in primal religions, contemporary spiritualism, and the three great monotheisms or Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

A common phenomenon

Exploring the Transcendent: our inner state-place

In the second episode of our podcast (link) we introduced the notion of the horizon coupled with the Transcendent. Anyone and everyone who has delved into ‘religious, spiritual and mystical experience‘ and ‘experience deemed religious, spiritual and mystical‘ (the difference is not just semantics but technically complex) understands that these are entirely natural experiences taking place within people in relation to the Transcendent. Here the horizon can be recognized as simultaneously enfolding everyone and everything in the outer world while also intersecting within the inner world of each and every individual and therewith every-one throughout past, present and future. The horizon encompasses space-time and intersects every-one, every-where and every-when.

Our podcast and the focus of this blog

A few weeks ago we published our first podcast (link) followed quickly by our second (third) and now our third (link). The first two had me flying solo to introduce Urban Mystic and the Transcendent. The third included a guest, Steve Carter, and we picked a conversation up from those first two podcasts. Turns out there’s a world of difference between blogging, podcasting and vlogging. I’ve not hit a natural flow when writing on the blog. This is largely because I’m not a natural writer. I believe the podcast is more of natural medium for exploring the key conversations I’m interested in. Moving forward I will invest more time in the podcast and publish there regularly. This blog will continue with occasional posts supporting what’s published there.

Living in the village

I met with one of the world’s forerunners concerning mysticism last week. Krüger is the author of Along Edges, Sounding Unsound, Metatheism, and Signposts to Silence. They’re seriously good books and I can’t recommend them highly enough. They are also incredibly challenging, so consider yourself forewarned.

While speaking to Krüger, he dropped a number of gems. One of them relates to the usual tension between (1) trying to establish something (like plant a church) and (2) withdrawing to live as a hermit (like the hermits and ascetics). Yet there is another option that isn’t often explored, which is that of (3) living in the village.