Q & R: A burning desire ...
I received this email recently:
I must confess that I haven't read A New Kind of Christianity. But I do have a burning desire in my soul, and I feel like this is a safe outlet to bring it to the table. I was raised Christian, and after much questioning and rebellion, my awareness opened up several years ago, closed again a year and a half later (was convinced by christians that my new found awareness and mystical experiences were demonic), and now has bursted forth out of the box I have lived most of my life in. Things are making much more sense now, and I feel much more intune with the world and the people in it- what a relieving breath of fresh air.
I suddenly have desires to pursue disciplines of other faiths...namely, kundalini yoga and attending mystery school called nine gates. Why? Because I feel potentiality bursting forth from within me without the appropriate channel to pour out of....if that makes any sense at all.
There's part of me that feels so incredibly drawn to this. But then there is this caution...fear I have about pursuing these new horizons...mainly that I could be deceived or devoured spiritually or something. I don't know if that's God guarding my heart, or simply the manifestation of the systematic theology I was raised to hold absolute.
So I'm wondering....are these things dangerous in your opinion? I feel like there's so much more potential that Christianity is benign to at this time...is it wrong to pursue it in other traditions?
Here's the R:
Thanks for your note. There are so many people like you for whom Christian faith has been presented as an arid, rigid, restrictive, guilt-and-fear-inducing, and combative system of belief. There are others at the opposite end of the spectrum who have experienced Christian faith as a hyped-up, emotionally manipulative, intellectually shallow pep really that offers a quick rush and a long let-down. That's why so many people need exactly what you describe as "a relieving breath of fresh air."
People in both groups are dying of thirst inside that system for a real depth of real spiritual experience ... experience of life in its sacredness, experience of their own soul created in the image of God, of deep communion with other people in the goodness and joy of unity, of deep communion with creation as God's first language and artistic masterpiece, and most deeply, of personal contact and ongoing vital relationship with the living God. When they don't see Christian faith offering much of anything in this regard, it's no wonder they turn elsewhere.
That's why many of us have been helping people discover the wonderful tradition of contemplative Christianity. I did this in my book Finding Our Way Again, and Carl McColman offers a great resource in Big Book of Christian Mysticism.
Many of us are also trying to create resources to help people integrate the deep resources of the contemplative Christian tradition into their lives into today's world. That's why I wrote Naked Spirituality.
I don't know anything about the nine gates or kundalini yoga, so I'm not in a position to offer any guidance on them. But I can tell you that the Christians who told you that all mysticism is demonic were uninformed or misinformed about the contemplative Christian tradition. And yes, there is a danger of being deceived, but all of life is dangerous and I haven't found anyplace that is completely danger-free. Even retreating in fear and doing nothing creates its own dangers!
Like you, I have a burning desire not just to know about spirituality as an abstract subject, but also to experience the Holy Spirit, the living presence of the living God, in my daily life. I can't imagine what life would be without that fullness and joy. If you were to pick up three of my books as help in your search, I'd recommend Naked Spirituality and The Secret Message of Jesus and Finding Our Way Again. God bless and guide you in your search!