I have written occasionally about the differences between magical methods and mystical methods. I personally use both, and think that one without the other falls flat, but thats just me. Well, me and a lot of other people, but certainly not most people.
Usually when I talk Christianity here I am talking about contemplative Christianity or mystical Christianity. There are many of us who see the future of Christianity (the real emergence of the Church of John) to be in the re-focus on meditative and contemplative methods such as Father Keatings Centering Prayer, Richard Rohrs Contemplative prayers and meditations, Lecto Divina, methods from the Cloud of Uknowing, Neo-Heschasym, etc.
These methods are starting to gain a lot of popularity in some of the more liberal Catholic communities as well as in the “Emergent Church” movement and even “Mainline Protestant” communities. I note that most of the participants in these movements within Christianity tend to be liberal intellectuals – what the right might call elitists. In almost all cases, while there may be an embrace of non-dual mind and other mystic states, the line gets drawn at outright supernatural phenomina, which the intellectual left tends to see as superstition. I recently had a conversation with Carl McColemen, author of the amazing “Big Book of Christian Mysticism”. who noted that the monks at the Monestary where he works tended to look down on “Novena Catholicism”, and that kind of magical spellwork that gets embraced by a lot of the Catholic populace.
In other words, for the left: mysticism is IN but magic is OUT.
Anyway, I was reading a piece by C Peter Wagner, who coined the term “New Apostolic Reformation”. This term that is getting a lot of attention recently because of candidates like Rick Perry, Michele Bachman, and pseudo-candidate Sarah Palin fall into this category as well as the so-called “Dominionists” who seek to instill Christianity directly into government. In his fascinating piece, he makes a fascinating observation about the types of work that you and I would call “magic”, but which the faithful just consider “gifts of the spirit:
9. New Power Orientation
I mentioned earlier that the New Apostolic Reformation seems to be combining the technical principles of church growth better than any similar grouping of churches I have observed. Even those new apostolic churches that do not consider themselves charismatic usually have a sincere openness to the work of the Holy Spirit and a consensus that all the New Testament spiritual gifts are in operation today.
The majority of the new apostolic churches not only believe in the work of the Holy Spirit, but they also regularly invite Him to come into their midst to bring supernatural power. It is commonplace, therefore, to observe active ministries of healing, demonic deliverance, spiritual warfare, prophecy, failing in the Spirit, spiritual mapping, prophetic acts, fervent intercession and travail, and so on in new apostolic churches.
A basic theological presupposition in new apostolic, as contrasted to traditional, churches is that supernatural power tends to open the way for applying truth, rather than vice versa. This is why visitors will frequently observe in these churches what seems to be more emphasis on the heart than on the mind. Some conclude from that that new apostolic churches are “too emotional.” – C. Peter wagner
The really interesting part here for me is that while these elements of exorcism, healing, prophesy, and intercession are embraced, anything mystical is rejected completely. There is no tolerence for union with god, or interpreting the Gospels as profound mystery texts. No room for union with god, or apophatic faith. The Theology is cut and dry: Jesus is out there, and you better believe in him or you will go to hell.
In other words for the right: magic is IN but mysticism is OUT
My biggest problem with both of these views is that it takes BOTH of them to really get at what Christianity is supposed to be about. I am utterly convinced that the essential message of Christianity is to realize The Kingdom Of God here and now, not after you are dead. And as it says in several gospels, cannonical and otherwise: The Kingdom of God is within you.
I am also utterly convinced that Christ meant for his disciples to heal in his name, cast out demons in his name, and perform magic in his name. “I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me* for anything, I will do it.” – John 14:13-14
In other words, both movements are missing out on an essential piece of the puzzle.