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If an individual earnestly hungers for deep spirituality, including a desire for attaining a profound degree of sanctification and consecration, but also for a profound, mystical, supernatural relationship with God, which denominations would find this attitude commendable?

My educated guess is that at least Eastern Orthodoxy would.

I say this having in mind saints such as Porphyrios of Kafsokalyvia, of whom books have been written, including Elder Porphyrios Testimonies and Experiences:

"Elder, where can we find the solution to our problems?"

"Only holiness will solve your problems."

The realm of the sacred and the transcendent, as expressed by that child of God and true man, Elder Porphyrios, belongs to the category of the unbelievable. It can however become believable because, «sin does not prevail where grace abounds”. Elder Porphyrios was a person filled with grace, a bearer of the power of the Holy Spirit, a child of the Kingdom, a genuine and true tree of paradise.

Whoever wishes to speak about the inner spiritual life of a saint, must be a saint himself. We, the writers of this book, are not saints. We are confined to what we saw and what we heard. We are amongst those many others, who, as St. Luke the Evangelist says, have “taken in hand to set in order a narrative.” We are not trying, with our poor and futile speech, to describe the life of a contemporary saint, but rather we are falteringly trying to express our joy in having met a saint; our joy that Christ lives yesterday, today and forever; our joy that holiness is not a thing of the past, that grace can be felt next to us, that our hands touched a “little father” who really lived the expression “I no longer live, for Christ lives in me.”

Until the Lord reveals the servant who was Elder Porphyrios’ eye-witness, who observed him throughout his life and in all his works and will write about his life accurately and fully, we are forgiven. For we have only seen “in part.” We describe, write about and speak of the miraculous things that God did for us through His servant, Porphyrios.

Is my educated guess correct? Which other denominations share the same sentiment?


For a discussion of the meaning of Christian mysticism and its biblical basis, see What is the biblical basis for Christian Mysticism?. A closely related concept is Theosis: What is the biblical basis for Theosis?, How can one overcome the distractions of modern life to attain theosis and become a vessel for spiritual gifts?

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    Did you know that the Union with Christ that all Christians have is often called the "Mystical Union"? Perhaps the question should be which denominations don't consider our connection to God to be mystical. 😉
    – curiousdannii
    Dec 6, 2023 at 21:22
  • @curiousdannii What you say is quite enlightening, but puzzling at the same time. My impression was that Protestantism rejected the idea of "mysticism". Read the answers to this question.
    – Mark
    Dec 6, 2023 at 21:38
  • @curiousdannii In this question I cite answers from two Protestants expressing the same idea.
    – Mark
    Dec 6, 2023 at 21:51
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    This all depends on one's usage of the words 'mystic', 'mystical' and 'mysticism'. Different denominations use the word differently. The question needs to be much, much clearer as to what the question is actually seeking. At the moment the question is not possible to answer without total confusion resulting. This is often the case when people who have not actually experienced Christianity try to analyse it from the outside.
    – Nigel J
    Dec 6, 2023 at 22:08
  • @NigelJ Hopefully this follow-up question will help alleviate the confusion.
    – Mark
    Dec 7, 2023 at 10:14

2 Answers 2

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Which denominations consider it commendable to pursue a profound mystical connection with God?

The three major denominations of Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy and Oriental Orthodoxy all encourage a development of a profound mystical unity with God.

Christian mysticism is the tradition of mystical practices and mystical theology within Christianity which "concerns the preparation [of the person] for, the consciousness of, and the effect of [...] a direct and transformative presence of God" or Divine love. Until the sixth century the practice of what is now called mysticism was referred to by the term contemplatio, c.q. theoria, from contemplatio (Latin; Greek θεωρία, theoria), “looking at", "gazing at", "being aware of" God or the Divine. Christianity took up the use of both the Greek (theoria) and Latin (contemplatio, contemplation) terminology to describe various forms of prayer and the process of coming to know God.

Contemplative practices range from simple prayerful meditation of Holy Scripture (i.e. Lectio Divina) to contemplation on the presence of God, resulting in theosis (spiritual union with God) and ecstatic visions of the soul's mystical union with God. Three stages are discerned in contemplative practice, namely catharsis (purification), contemplation proper, and the vision of God.

Contemplative practices have a prominent place in the Eastern Orthodoxy and Oriental Orthodoxy, and have gained a renewed interest in western Christianity.

Mysticism

"Mysticism" is derived from the Greek μύω, meaning "to conceal," and its derivative μυστικός, mystikos, meaning "an initiate." In the Hellenistic world, a "mystikos" was an initiate of a mystery religion. "Mystical" referred to secret religious rituals and use of the word lacked any direct references to the transcendental.

In early Christianity the term mystikos referred to three dimensions, which soon became intertwined, namely the biblical, the liturgical and the spiritual or contemplative. The biblical dimension refers to "hidden" or allegorical interpretations of Scriptures. The liturgical dimension refers to the liturgical mystery of the Eucharist, the presence of Christ at the Eucharist. The third dimension is the contemplative or experiential knowledge of God.

Eastern Orthodox Christianity

Eastern Christianity has preserved a mystical emphasis in its theology and retains in hesychasm a tradition of mystical prayer dating back to Christianity's beginnings. Hesychasm concerns a spiritual transformation of the egoic self, the following of a path designed to produce more fully realized human persons, "created in the Image and Likeness of God" and as such, living in harmonious communion with God, the Church[citation needed], the rest of the world, and all creation, including oneself. The Eastern Christian tradition speaks of this transformation in terms of theosis or divinization, perhaps best summed up by an ancient aphorism usually attributed to Athanasius of Alexandria: "God became human so that man might become god."

According to John Romanides, in the teachings of Eastern Orthodox Christianity the quintessential purpose and goal of the Christian life is to attain theosis or 'deification', understood as 'likeness to' or 'union with' God. Theosis is expressed as "Being, union with God" and having a relationship or synergy between God and man. God is the Kingdom of Heaven.

Theosis or unity with God is obtained by engaging in contemplative prayer, the first stage of theoria, which results from the cultivation of watchfulness (Gk: nepsis). In theoria, one comes to see or "behold" God or "uncreated light," a grace which is "uncreated." In the Eastern Christian traditions, theoria is the most critical component needed for a person to be considered a theologian; however it is not necessary for one's salvation. An experience of God is necessary to the spiritual and mental health of every created thing, including human beings. Knowledge of God is not intellectual, but existential. According to eastern theologian Andrew Louth, the purpose of theology as a science is to prepare for contemplation, rather than theology being the purpose of contemplation.

Latin Catholic mysticism

Contemplatio

In the Latin Church terms derived from the Latin word contemplatio such as, in English, "contemplation" are generally used in languages largely derived from Latin, rather than the Greek term theoria. The equivalence of the Latin and Greek terms was noted by John Cassian, whose writings influenced the whole of Western monasticism, in his Conferences. However, Catholic writers do sometimes use the Greek term.

Middle Ages

The Early Middle Ages in the West includes the work of Gregory the Great and Bede, as well as developments in Celtic Christianity and Anglo-Saxon Christianity, and comes to fulfillment in the work of Johannes Scotus Eriugena and the Carolingian Renaissance.

The High Middle Ages saw a flourishing of mystical practice and theorization corresponding to the flourishing of new monastic orders, with such figures as Guigo II, Hildegard of Bingen, Bernard of Clairvaux, the Victorines, all coming from different orders, as well as the first real flowering of popular piety among the laypeople.

The Late Middle Ages saw the clash between the Dominican and Franciscan schools of thought, which was also a conflict between two different mystical theologies: on the one hand that of Dominic de Guzmán and on the other that of Francis of Assisi, Anthony of Padua, Bonaventure, Jacopone da Todi, Angela of Foligno. Moreover, there was the growth of groups of mystics centered on geographic regions: the Beguines, such as Mechthild of Magdeburg and Hadewijch (among others); the Rhenish-Flemish mystics Meister Eckhart, Johannes Tauler, Henry Suso, and John of Ruysbroeck; and the English mystics Richard Rolle, Walter Hilton and Julian of Norwich. This period also saw such individuals as Catherine of Siena and Catherine of Genoa, the Devotio Moderna, and such books as the Theologia Germanica, The Cloud of Unknowing and The Imitation of Christ.

The following articles may be of interest to some:

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Commendable to Attain a Profound Mystical Connection

It may be safe to say that The Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant branches of Christianity all respect the desire of their members who wish to have this spiritual connection with God! Saints in all these institutions are commended for their dedication and desire to have intimate relations with God resulting in mystical, spiritual experiences.

Speaking specifically for the Protestant branch, while there are a few para-church organizations and some denominations that shy away from mysticism which instead prefer a purely Academic (biblical) approach to the Christian life, it can be said that many denominations are quite open to real mystical manifestations of sanctification and holiness.

Examples

  • George Fox initiated the Quaker movement that propounded interaction with the Inner Light which could be experienced by men and women. They still exist in Great Britain and the United States.

  • John Wesley began the Methodist denomination and advocated a "second work of grace", or Entire Sanctification. Many members experienced emotional outbreaks, as well as other mystical evidences of this Sanctification. (See the circuit preaching revivals of Peter Cartwright for manifestation of personal mystical experiences which were encouraged in the preaching.)

  • Another example of mystical connecting with God is found in the Assemblies of God denomination. A "baptism in the Holy Spirit" is a mainstay of their teaching. Individuals are encouraged to seek God beyond a mere intellectual assent to the usual Christin Creeds. A plethora of documented saintly lives resulting from seeking God is recorded in their publications.

  • This Pentecostal experience spilled over into practically every other Protestant denomination via the Charismatic movement! Baptist, Lutherans, Presbyterians, United Methodists, Mennonites, Anglicans, etc. all had groups within their churches that sought this mystical connection with God. While the Statements of Faith in each denomination may be silent concerning mysticism, nevertheless, these spiritual experiences had to be acknowledged and reckoned with! The lives of their members exuded a manifest holiness.

  • Along with formal denominations, there are many Independent churches and para-church groups that advocate a mystical experience availability—with resultant transformed lives—such as the Full Gospel Business Men's Organization, Vineyard Movement, Kansas City Prophets, World Map, along with hundreds of Pentecostal storefront congregations.

  • The Foursquare Church, started by Aimee S. McPherson, is another example of a denomination that teaches a mystical experience with the Holy Spirit of God. (Savior, Healer, Baptizer, Coming King)

  • The Afro-American churches, Church of God in Christ, also teach and experience the mystical connection with God through the Holy Spirit and charismatic gifts. They experience profound hope, endurance, and exuberant joy that overcomes adversity and oppression that only a connection with God can give.

Testimonials

Each of these denominations can produce many testimonials similar to the biographies related in the Catholic and Orthodox branches of Christianity. Saintly lives, transformed lives, altruistic lives, exemplary lives...all accredited to the power and glory of God.

Further Study

The writings of these Christians, though not as academic as those of Orthodoxy and Catholicism, nevertheless, have influenced Protestantism's mysticism:

  • Evelyn Underhill, William Law, Andrew Murray, Frank Laubach, Hannah Whitall Smith, A.W. Tozer, John Wimber. To these must be added for their influence on Protestantism, the Catholic mystics, Brother Lawrence, Madame Jeanne Guyon.

  • The Full Gospel Business Men's Association printed booklets of testimonies, each dealing with a different denomination. They may be out of print now, but it is worth searching eBay for them. (Demos Shakarian, founder)

  • Of previous centuries, the Autobiography of Peter Cartwright, the Methodist circuit rider in the early 1800s, and the writing of Jonathan Edwards, Religious Affections, dealing with the Great Awakening, are beneficial. Edwards tried to discern was was true and false mysticism.

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  • "Each of these denominations can produce many testimonials similar to the biographies related in the Catholic and Orthodox branches of Christianity. " Can you possibly link in a few examples into your post to support your claim?
    – Ken Graham
    Dec 6, 2023 at 22:58
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    Neither Brother Lawrence or Madame Jeanne Guyon are considered real Catholic mystics. In fact, Jeanne Guyon's works were placed on the Index and forbidden to be read by Catholics. St. John of the Cross and St. Theresa of Avila are examples of real genuine Catholic mystics.
    – Ken Graham
    Dec 7, 2023 at 4:30
  • Quakerism, Methodism and Pentecostalism : different manifestations of the same thing, just at different times since the Reformation.
    – Nigel J
    Dec 7, 2023 at 12:54
  • References Two more books of interest worth reading are: "Nine O'clock in the Morning" by the Episcopalian priest Dennis Bennett, and "Imitations of Christ" by Thomas A Kempis.
    – ray grant
    Dec 7, 2023 at 20:57

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