The Life of a Mystic
When many people hear that someone is a mystic, images of a holy person such as a monk or nun living a life of deep introspection and philosophical contemplation come to mind. In this second talk of her series Sacred Earth, Sacred Work, Rev. Joanne tells us that all that is needed to live the life of a mystic is the willingness to stay open in any given moment to the awareness that God’s presence and power is here.
Using a framework outlined by Matthew Fox (b. 1940) in his book Original Blessing, A Primer in Creation Spirituality1, Rev. Joanne explains the idea that there are four paths in creating a spiritual life: via positiva, via negativa, via creativa, and via transformativa. An important way we can help ourselves to follow these paths is through spiritual practices, because doing so reminds us that the Divine is present no matter what is occurring.
Unity embraces the idea of positiva. It has been described as “positive practical Christianity,” which includes remaining open to awe, wonder, and beauty. We read from Truth Unity Correspondence, series 2, lesson 7:
The true source of joy is God, and only as we enter into the consciousness of our oneness with the Father can we find real joy. True joy takes hold of man's consciousness when he awakens to the realization of his divine nature and the blessings that accompany that realization.2
In many ways, the via positiva is the simplest of the four paths to walk. Afterall, happiness and joy are what we are all seeking, no? Seeing God in everything when things are going well is relatively easy. It is more challenging to walk the next path, the via negativa.
Rev. Joanne explains that the via negativa are those aspects of life that are difficult and challenging. There is nothing new about the idea that it is easy to see God when everything is going well, and more difficult when things are less wonderful. She quotes Psalm 30:
I will exalt you, Lord,
for you lifted me out of the depths
and did not let my enemies gloat over me.
Lord my God, I called to you for help,
and you healed me.
You, Lord, brought me up from the realm of the dead;
you spared me from going down to the pit.
Sing the praises of the Lord, you his faithful people;
praise his holy name.
For his anger lasts only a moment,
but his favor lasts a lifetime;
weeping may stay for the night,
but rejoicing comes in the morning.
When I felt secure, I said,
“I will never be shaken.”
Lord, when you favored me,
you made my royal mountain[c] stand firm;
but when you hid your face, I was dismayed.
To you, Lord, I called;
to the Lord I cried for mercy:
“What is gained if I am silenced,
if I go down to the pit?
Will the dust praise you?
Will it proclaim your faithfulness?
Hear, Lord, and be merciful to me;
Lord, be my help.”
You turned my wailing into dancing;
you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent.
Lord my God, I will praise you forever.
It is in the darkness of the via negativa when everything has gone awry, she tells us, that it feels like God has abandoned us. When everything was going well, we thought that God would never abandon us, but now we ask “where is God in this situation?”
We have all experienced such a shift in our thinking at times, perhaps during a health challenge, a relationship failure, or financial difficulties. It is during such times that we may reach out to God as the psalmist did and say, “Here I am God, please help me.” How do we feel the Divine presence in difficult moments? Rev. Joanne asks. Because what we want to do is to say to God, “take this situation and make things normal again.” When we do that, she explains, we miss the opportunity to know that God is within us and within our lives.
The via negativa, invites us to release the thoughts and ideas that are getting in the way of experiencing God fully and completely in the moment, Rev. Joanne explains, even in the midst of challenges. She tells us that Unity has been teaching about our ability to consciously release our negative thoughts for many years. Unity co-founder Charles Fillmore (1854-1948) wrote in The Twelve Powers of Man”:
Thoughts are things; they occupy space in the mental field. A healthy state of mind is attained and continued when the thinker willingly lets go the old thoughts and takes on the new.3
This is the Power of Renunciation, also called Elimination or Release. It is the invitation, Rev. Joanne says, to release the ideas that keep us from fully experiencing God’s power, and letting go of the idea that we are separate from God. As we move through our community transition, we can cling to what was, and what we would like things to be like, or we can ask, “Who are we in this situation?”
It is in asking this question that we engage the via creativa. Unity teaches, Rev. Joanne reminds us, that we are all creating our lives through the thoughts that we hold, the words that we use, and the actions that we take. Because of this we are automatically empowered to change our lives.
We sometimes think that creativity is expressed only in art, music, literature or some other similar activity. But we we think this, Rev. Joanne tells us, we may forget that we we have the power to “create” our lives, and that in using that power to creating our lives, our entire life becomes our art form.
When we ask ourselves, “how will I express love in this world in my own unique way, allowing God to use me,” Rev. Joanne says, we are walking the path of a mystic. We know that Divine Mind holds perfect Divine Ideas for any given moment when we are open to and aware that we are one with God and bring it forth into expression. This is walking the path via creativa.
In his book, In the Flow of Life, Unity author Eric Butterworth (1916-2003) explains divine creativity:
The free flow of ideas and creativity is your inheritance. You can dip into the flow at any time, as fast as you can snap your fingers. The answer can come in the form of the completed plan and the means for its fulfillment. Whenever you feel the pressure of time and something that requires a creative idea, just snap your fingers light heartedly as a symbolic reminder that in one instant the answer can come.4
It is when we are open to Divine Ideas and that we are one with the Divine no matter what is occurring, Rev. Joanne tells us, that transformation occurs. This is walking the path of via transformativa. Transformation is occurring in our community right now, as it has for the ninety five years since the creation of Unity Spiritual Center. That transformation will continue to occur now and into the future in marvelous ways when each of us becomes still and discerns what is ours to do. When we walk the path of the mystic, we are together co-creating a world that works for all, both individually and collectively.
Now Go and Be the Light.
For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. Romans 8:14
The spiritual journey can be understood as a dance moving in and out of four mystical paths, each with their own gifts: awe and wonder; letting go; creativity; compassion and justice. These "cycles of life" are born out of the seasons of the planet and remind us that there is a time for everything and that fluctuations of the spirit are part of being human. Can you accept the Holy invitation to move fully into all the rhythms of life? Choose one of the four mystical paths to focus on this week. As you place your focus there, be aware of how you can best express that path.
1Fox, Matthew, Original Blessing: A Primer in Creation Spirituality (1983), Bear & Company revised ed. 1996
3Fillmore, Charles, The Twelve Powers of Man, Unity Press, 1930.
4Butterworth, Eric, In the Flow of Life, Unity Press, 1994.