From the Grapevine

Little children, My path is one of continuous re-engagement. There is always something new to notice, a ray of light that you’ve never seen before. You are surrounded by eternal glory. Occasional awakenings give you only a hint as to what is possible. Your eyes stay closed unless you open them again. Every time you open them, you receive new eyes, which themselves must be opened. This is the meaning of glory—vision eternally renewed. Look to Me. I am constantly appearing before you.

To Christian idolaters

How I commend to you the Mystery!

You keep God afar by insisting that He’s near—by insisting that you know Him. You don’t know Him! You are fooling yourself! You are trading Him in for a lesser god, one that you can comprehend, one that you can predict and control. If you would but let go of what you know, you will find that there is more to be known.

Or if you refuse to let go, then hold on tighter, dig in with your fingernails until you draw blood. Insist that God must be the way you say that you know Him to be. Prove it to yourself. Do you have doubts? Do you have doubts?! Don’t ignore them like a good Christian. Don’t keep them at bay like a faithful follower. Wrestle them down to the ground. Don’t let them mock you anymore. Face the unknown territory, whatever it may be. Do you think that God cannot handle the revelations of science? The existence of other religions? What a weak, pathetic “god” you serve. To find God, you must go into what you fear. You must demand that God make Himself known to you, even if it means He must first die to you. Even if it means going through the darkness, losing your identity, going into the depths of hell.

How can you call yourself a Christian when you are unwilling to go all the way like Jesus did? Do you think that Jesus died so that you wouldn’t have to? How comforting, how convenient. The path to God is not comforting or convenient. So if you can’t bring yourself to let go, then demand comfort and convenience. Demand that God fit into your theology and then go see to it that He does. Force him into your box, fight Him to the death, regardless of which of you die. Weep, gnash your teeth, fall to the floor in desperation, get back up and fight some more.

Eventually, your “faith” will die, and He will win. But when He does, you will have received the keys to the Kingdom. For the first time, you will truly know yourself as a Son or Daughter. You will come to the end and find that it’s just the beginning. You will know wonder and awe for the first time. When you finally fall to the ground, you will find that the ground isn’t there to catch you. You were never meant to be on your feet. You were only meant to fall. You will never know in the way you thought you wanted to know, but you will know in the way you never knew you always wanted to know. You will be given your life.

But from where you stand now, do not be comforted by these words. For God’s sake, I don’t wish you comfort!

How I commend to you the Mystery!

What is a mystic? (part 2)

A mystic is one who has been cut to the heart.

A mystic is one who has tasted her own blood and kept it in her mouth long enough for it to start tasting delicious.

A mystic is one who has caught sight of something so raw and so holy that he threw all caution to the wind so he could run after it.

A mystic is one who has cursed God and survived.

A mystic has been gripped by her deepest fear and has been ravished in ecstasy by an invisible Pursuer.

A mystic has seen his own corpse and saw that it still moved.

A mystic knows both aching loneliness and blissful communion, sometimes feeling both at the same time.

A mystic craves the fires of hell that they might burn away from her heart what still does not beat for her Beloved.

What is a mystic?

The mystic is one who has experienced a depth in things that goes far beyond typical everyday experience. Having tasted God, the mystic is governed by one overarching desire: to reconnect with that depth and plumb even deeper depths. There is no arena of life or category of experience that does not fall under this desire.

The heavens declare the glory of God…There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.
— Psalm 19:1, 3

To the mystic, boredom is a farce. If anything seems drab or dreary, the mystic knows he is succumbing to a vicious lie. This does not mean that the mystic chases activity in order to become excited. On the contrary, the mystic knows that God is always active in the here and now, regardless of the external activity or setting. There is no time or place where God is not speaking.

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
— Hebrews 4:12

The mystic knows that all of life stems from this ever-present Activity. It thus doesn’t make any sense to put her hope in lower forms of salvation. There can be no deeper, no more powerful, no truer, no holier redemption than that found at the heart of Reality. And there is nothing and no one that is beyond this redemption. The most mundane chore can become the most glorious mission. Remembering this is the mystic’s task.

Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee.
— Isaiah 26:3

The mystic knows that there is always another way of seeing things, a deeper way of seeing things, which, when glimpsed, brings instant healing, joy, and appreciation of beauty. To the mystic, all matter is vibrantly alive and possessed by God. If he is failing to experience that aliveness, then his number-one priority, using whatever means possible, is to realign his thoughts and behaviors with the Presence to which he owes his life and in which he continues to live and move and have his being. Having once been led by this guiding, loving Presence, the mystic never wants to live in any other way.

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
    he refreshes my soul.
— Psalm 23:1-2

But even as she finds perfect peace in the presence of God, the mystic is continually caught by surprise. The novelty of God never wears off, because it is ever-changing, always unfolding in new colors, sensations, insights, and experiences.

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
— Lamentations 3:22-23

And although she finds great wisdom and richness in her own spiritual tradition, the mystic knows that God is always more wild and unpredictable than can ever be contained by tradition. She has given her life to that Power and that Presence, and no matter how wild things get, she is all in. The mystic knows that, however ineffable and elusive God may be, nothing is more real.

Ears to hear

When I “hit bottom,” it was also true that I “became empty.” In those moments lying on the couch in our family room in an empty house, every last ounce of hope, of knowledge, of faith—even of the drive to know or to believe—all of it drained out. That’s when the wailing cries came from deep within. It was like I had just appeared out of my mother’s womb. I had no idea who I was or what I was. I felt completely empty. Looking back, this seems to have been key to what happened next.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
— Matthew 5:3

I was so poor in those moments, I didn’t even know it. I had no definition for life, no presumption of knowledge. Then it was like God said, “Aha! Now you’re ready.” As Life unfolded before me that week, I gaped in awestruck wonder. Because I knew nothing, I was able to wonder.

Unless you become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
— Matthew 18:3

Young children do not presume to know. Yet this doesn’t stop them from enjoying life. On the contrary, they seem to be more alive than any of us.

Writing about this—writing about anything—is risky. It has a tendency to make one think one knows something, whether the writer or the reader. I always thought that what I most wanted was knowledge. But when my knowledge became worth nothing, I found out I didn’t really want knowledge of God; I just wanted God. There seems to be a different order of knowledge: direct experience. That’s what I really wanted. Notice that I didn’t say “knowledge based on direct experience”; as soon as it becomes a derivative, a codification, it’s no longer God; it’s theology. There’s nothing wrong with theology, but you shouldn’t confuse it with God. And there’s nothing wrong with knowledge, but it certainly is overrated. Why? Because as soon as you think you know, you’ve put a ceiling on your experience of God. You’ve closed off the possibility for wonder.

In practice, this means that when you read scriptures or hear spiritual teaching, if you are constantly comparing it to “what you already know,” you are potentially missing out on something entirely new. Jesus often said, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.” The only way we can have ears to hear is if we empty ourselves and become innocent. Innocent not just of bad deeds, but innocent of knowledge.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
— Matthew 5:8

Knowledge is inevitably about yesterday’s experience—or someone else’s experience. It can be quite useful. It can help reassure you that you’re not going down the completely wrong path. That’s why religion is useful. It’s a codification of and record of and community of practice for God-experiences. It’s a finger pointing to what is possible. But until you go down the path yourself, like Paul “resolving to know nothing” but Christ, until you allow yourself to be emptied, emptied of all your ideas about God, emptied of everything you think you know, you will not have become like a little child, and the kingdom of heaven will still elude you. That remains true for me today, and it’s the message I most need to hear. Book or no book, blog or no blog, I resolve to know nothing. I’d rather see God. In other words, I’d rather directly experience Life, Love, Spirit, That Which Cannot Be Named, That Which I Don’t Know And Never Really Will.