A friend asked me today how I define a “mystic”. Having spent the last few weeks reading a bunch of patristic and medieval mystics from St. Cassian to Julian of Norwich, I figured I could venture a definition.
I define a Christian mystic is one who values the power of the subconscious self enough to want to give credence to the subconscious and celebrate the union with Christ in one’s subconscious self.
Now, the aforementioned definition of the mystic needs some unpacking. The subconscious self is the “inner man” that needs to be strengthened which the Bible talks about in Ephesians 3:16. It is also the seat of the creativity, desires and anxieties which in Jungian psychology would be called the unconscious. The mystic realizes the centrality of the subconscious to the identity of the self and so takes time to care for the subconscious self.
Now, what does the phrase “celebrate union with Christ in one’s subconscious self” mean? The Gospel of John highlights on the Logos aspect of Christ and the mystical union the Christian has with Christ, especially in chapters 14-17. Romans 8:26 discusses the Spirit groaning from within in a language that is beyond the reckoning of the conscious mind, which is a key manifestation of the union with Christ. A mystic is one who is attuned to this. When 1 Thess 5:17 says pray continually, it is the subconscious self revels in the presence of God always, even as the conscious self is doing about its daily activities.
The one who is tuned to this deep presence of Christ in the subconscious self is the Christian mystic. The mystic does not have to be cloistered within the halls of the monastery. For the mystic the whole world is a monastery. For the Christian mystic the whole world is sacramentally held together by the Word of God (Heb 1:3) and God’s presence is manifest through it.