Many Protestant Christians are highly suspicious of anything “mystical” – and rightly so. Mysticism has been used to abuse the faithful for centuries. So, how does one tell the difference between a true mystic and a false mystic?
Mysticism is best correlated with a personality type. That is why mysticism is found in every spiritual tradition. Myers Briggs personality tests are commonplace now days. The true mystic will typically have dominant INTUITION (Ni, Ne) in their functional stack in an introverted way. Therefore, the most common personality types for the mystic are INFJ and INFP along with the INTP and INTJ. These individuals are content with a rather hermitlike lifestyle. It is only when these individuals become more confident and productive in a healthy way do we start to notice their presence.
Now for the false mystics. Any personality type can be a false mystic. The centuries old tradition of “Spiritual Marriage” has been used by powerful clergy to rationalize the sexual abuse of vulnerable adults and children. The Catholic diocese that I grew up in was seeped in a culture of false mysticism. Bishops were raping innocent young seminarians. Priests were using the sacristy wine to intoxicate young adolescences and groom them for sexual abuse. The Catholic concept of “suffering” for our Lord was twisted to oppress the faithful. As a result there were victims of spiritual, sexual, psychological, and emotional abuse in every church. Mobbing by an entire congregation was justified to “test” the mystic/victim. For many years, lay Catholic women were not allowed to be educated or read the bible.
Educated women are powerful women. Powerful women are not oppressed women. Women who are not oppressed are not victims. When women are educated and empowered, their children do not become victims. Some Catholic mothers actually believed in the 1980’s that they were called to “offer their children as sacrifices to Christ” (a.k.a. the poor celibate parish priest). Some women really believed that they were called to allow the “loving” presence of Christ/clergy to embrace them. Today we call this sexual harassment, spiritual abuse, and sexual abuse.
The true mystics have the ability to read their surroundings and extrapolate a future outcome. Mystics are creative visionaries. There are many mystics in the fields of science. Jane Goodall is an excellent example of a mystic in science, as well as Albert Einstein. Mysticism in its truest sense brings new life, new ideas, and new inspirations into the world. Many writers are mystics. Virginia Woolf, Meredith Monk, and Bob Dylan are mystics. Many painters are mystics such as Vincent van Gogh. Not all mystics are Catholic Saints like St. John of the Cross.
Catholicism recognizes that Christians have various personality types and spiritual gifts that are given differently to different people. Catholicism does not have all the mystics in the world. Every Catholic is NOT a mystic. Mysticism is related to the personality make-up of an individual person.
Mysticism has been used as a conduit to justify inflicting a great deal of abuse inside the Catholic Church. This kind of abuse flourishes in the midst of ignorance and blind faith. The true mystics of the world will always be around in some way shape or form: quietly writing, inventing, painting, and studying somewhere. False and abusive mysticism in every spiritual tradition needs to end. This abuse of mysticism can take place in yoga studios, during New Age healing retreats, in Buddhist temples, during a therapeutic massage, at any Christian charismatic healing event, while meeting with a spiritual director, and inside a Catholic confessional. Now, that’s the truth behind mysticism.