Is the Cross a Christian Symbol?

Christian Mysticism

Mysticism is closely associated with religious and spiritual practice as it is the study of soul and God, and ultimately about their union. Its implied meaning is to concentrate the mind upon God, which is possible only by closing one’s physical eyes to the external phenomenal world. In other words, mind should be withdrawn from external objects in order to observe the fullness of the divine illumination.

It is a universal tendency of the soul to turn towards the origin through esoteric knowledge. The practice of mysticism is so wide that there is hardly any soil on this earth where mysticism has not been practiced. It is the eternal cry of the human soul to be one with God, whether the cry be that of a Brahmin sage or a Persian poet or a Christian quietist. Those who are aware of their soul consider mysticism as an inevitable process of life. It is the union of human will with divine. Therefore, the aim of the mystics is to establish a conscious relation with the Absolute, in which they find the personal object of love.

For mysticism along with faith and devotion, christian mysticism a sense of loyalty and benign submission is also essential to share with divinity. In other words, mysticism neither can be learnt nor can be attained without the third factor that is “grace” of God. It is not that knowledge and consciousness can be learnt by self-efforts, but by the grace of the Divine Power. The sense and attitude of grace is not only realized in the Western mystical context, but it is inevitable in the Eastern mystical practice too. It is only through the practice of mysticism, which one can inevitably attain redemption or absolute freedom. The moment one becomes a complete mystic, every form of vice and sin will be cleansed as the individual soul passes through realm of purgatory.

The mystical element enters into commoner forms of religious experience when religious feeling surpasses its rational content, that is, when the hidden, non-rational, unconscious elements predominate and determine the emotional life and the intellectual attitude. In the true there is an extension of normal consciousness, a release of latent powers and a widening of vision, so that aspects of truth unplumbed by the rational intellect are revealed to the mystic. Both in feeling and thought he apprehends an immanence of the temporal in the eternal and the eternal in the temporal. In the religious mystic, there is a direct experience of the presence of God, but he may not be able to describe it in words, he may not logically be able to demonstrate its validity, but he realizes it as more real than reality. This is the perennial philosophy.

According to The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy, “Mysticism is a doctrine or discipline maintaining that one can gain knowledge of reality that is not accessible to sense perception or to rational, conceptual thought”. Since it is associated with religion, we can’t analyze it with our human arguments, logic and rationality as divinity remains always far above reason. A religious tradition can take both theistic form as practiced in Jewish, Christian, Hindu and Islamic traditions and it can also take non-theistic form as practiced in Buddhism, Jainism, and Taoism.

The union between soul and God is the long awaited moment and the ultimate goal of mysticism. The mystics have interpreted this union with a number of metaphorical images.