“Society’s conventional image of a mystic is that of a person who withdraws from the world in order to journey inward. . . . The mystic is stereotyped as a guru sitting in splendid isolation on a mountaintop, utterly unconcerned with the world’s affairs. But theologian Dorothee Soelle, herself something of a mystic, argued that . . . the mystic is uniquely motivated and qualified to respond to social and economic injustices. Genuine mystics . . . says Soelle . . . have been liberated from the three powers that typically hold humans in bondage: ego, possession, and violence. . . . The genuine mystic understands that his or her connection with the divine is likewise a connection to all other humans and, indeed, to all of creation—a relationship, as Soelle said, that ‘borrows the eyes of God.’ Patterns of opposition and resistance bred by the division of I and not-I [therefore] collapse to be replaced by ones of mutuality and community. . . . [Soelle] grew up under the Nazi regime and, like many Germans of her generation, never got over the shame of belonging to a nation that willingly collaborated with mass murderers. She was especially worried by the acquiescence of so many people who claimed to be Christian, and eventually concluded that part of the explanation was that they had compartmentalized their faith, transforming it into a private and ‘otherworldly’ thing. Convinced that such privatization is a perversion of faith, Soelle worked as a theologian to demonstrate the social responsibility of religion and as an activist to put her theology into practice. She became one of the Cold War’s leading anti-nuclear voices, a dedicated opponent of both [U.S.] involvement in [the] Vietnam War and Soviet-style communism, and a proponent of liberation theology. The spiritual fuel of these activities was her conviction that the mystical worldview is revolutionary enough to resist ‘powerful but petrified institutions’ that trade in oppression and violence.” Kerry Walters and Robin Jarrell
” . . . a person is considered righteous
by what they do and not by faith alone.”
James 2:24 NIV
Moving From the Head to the Heart
- Does your version of Christianity address the powers of ego, possession, and violence?
- What powerful, petrified institutions trade in oppression and violence where you live?
- Imagine living with the guilt of “belonging to a nation that willingly collaborated with mass murderers.” Do you honestly face up to the shadow side of your country’s history?
Father, may I be a mystic who makes a difference in this world of people loved by you.
For More: The Silent Cry. Dorothee Soelle. Trans. Barbara and Martin Rumscheldt. Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2001.
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