The Rush to Witness to the Mystery Leads to Spiritual Pride


Think about the last time you ate at a restaurant and were overcome with how tasty the food was.  All you wanted to do was savor that experience, again and again, telling everyone you know how delightful it was.  The flavor of the food, how it smelled, and the lovely setting in which you dined makes you want to gather your friends together for what you tell them is the most wonderful dining experience they could ever have.  You’ve become an evangelist for this particular restaurant! You’ve embarked on a personal crusade to let everyone know this is the place to eat. 

Sometimes people experiencing God in a mystical and charismatic way do the same thing.  They have a profound experience of God and the first thing they do is tell everyone how God touched them in a special way.  While there is a place for sharing our experiences of God with others, the beginning mystic needs to be cautious of this desire to share.  It’s an understandable impulse, you just experienced God in the most profound way, but it’s often better to step back and explore the experience with more mature Christians before sharing it more broadly.  In fact, Rossetti states: 

“Launching out on a personal spiritual crusade at the beginning of one’s mystical journey is almost always a sign of spiritual pride.” 

The new mystic and the new Charismatic Christian often believes what they’ve experienced and the knowledge that comes from that experience is some new revelation God has tasked them to share with the “less spiritual” members of the church.  This is a dangerous idea because what God shares in these mystical and charismatic experiences is nothing new. There is no new revelation one is compelled to share with other people. All we need to know about God is already revealed in Christ.  The mystical experience is not a new revelation God has never shared before, rather it’s a new experience of the person of Christ who has been revealing himself to the world since time eternal. Again, we read this in Rossetti’s book: 

“What the beginner embarks on is not so much learning new ideas about God…the mystical journey imparts a different kind of knowing.” 

The mystic is not experiencing a new knowledge about God rather he or she is experiencing the same revealed truths about God in a new way; a mystical way.  What the mystic experiences is Christ, the complete revelation of God, in a profoundly different way. The mystical experience, as well as the charismatic experience of Christ, is not a way to acquire hidden knowledge about God, but rather it is a grace-filled experience of Christ that changes how we know him, not what we know about him. 

 It’s good we remain humble in our walk with Christ, even in that mystical and charismatic walk.  We must not be so quick as to try and convince others of the “rightness” of our experience or that they need to drink from the same stream of his grace as we do in order to know more about divine things.  All of us already drink from the same stream of God’s word. Some of us experience that water differently because God intends us to have unique experiences, but the water we all drink is the same water from the same stream.  It’s best for the new mystic to dwell in that experience and discuss it with those more mature in their faith walk. By doing this, God will distill the fruits of the Spirit in us so that when he is ready for us to share our experiences we do so as a conduit of his grace and not as a means to feed our own spiritual egos. 


Author: Dominick D. Hankle PhD

Dr. Hankle has 20 years of experience in pastoral counseling and pastoral ministry. He is founder of the organization “From Emmaus to Jerusalem,” that promotes sacramental healing, spiritual direction, and counseling. His publication and presentation topics include spiritual discernment, the use of the psalms in therapy, and healing from a holistic perspective. He has also written about the use of psychology in priestly formation and other faith topics. Dr. Hankle serves as a priest in the Communion of Evangelical Episcopal Churches, a convergence community and pastors a community in Virginia Beach called Emmaus Fellowship.

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