Minimalism and Mysticism

When it comes to a blog with a primary focus upon the spiritual life, it may come to a surprise that the first post that I am writing is on the topic of minimalism.  Minimalism, which is also referred to as simple living or voluntary simplicity at times, is normally thought of in terms of material possessions and responsibilities.  The purpose is not to coast on through life as a slacker that puts in the minimal effort to just get by, but to cut the fat off of the shallow things that ultimately do not matter in life in order to be able to focus as much of one’s time and resources upon the things that matter most.  I actually seriously considered starting a blog on minimalism from a Christian perspective.  The reason why I ultimately decided against doing so is that I came to realize that minimalism to some extent is an essential part of mysticism.  Sure I realize that many people turn to minimalism as a way to get rid of the mountain of unneeded stuff that is weighing them down.  The truth of the matter is that simply getting rid of stuff for the sake of being free is not a long-term solution.  Much like a hoarder that simply gets more stuff for the sake of feeling secure is also not a long-term solution.  Minimalism is a tool, and like any tool it is important to understand not only what it can do but also what it can not do.  As lets face it regardless of how high quality of a hammer that one has, a hammer is useless when it comes to fixing a clogged toilet.  As a tool minimalism can be useful to help one regain and maintain control over runaway amounts of material possessions, although minimalism alone cannot change anything deeper than the surface.  The materialist can focus upon how much stuff that they have just like the minimalist can focus upon how little stuff they have.  Likewise the frugal minimalist can focus upon how little money they spend on stuff, just like the only the best minimalism can focus upon the quality of the few things that they own.  Although in the end all of the above are still slaves to their stuff, as their obsession over their stuff demonstrates that their material possessions own them.  The real problem is not with minimalism.  The real problem is that the deeper problems are ultimately spiritual in nature.  Many of us have even been duped into thinking that we can treat the spiritual with the material.  Without a higher spiritual purpose and meaningful life goals even the radical minimalist living out of a single bag can be equally spiritually malnourished as the hoarder that has most of the rooms in their house literally filled wall to wall, floor to ceiling with stuff.  Without a healthy level of detachment from physical objects it is much harder if not impossible to make spiritual progress on one’s spiritual journey.  I am not saying that one has to go to the extreme of getting rid of everything and forsake personal ownership of any material object through a vow of poverty.  Just realize that true spiritual grown can be hindered and stunted until one is able to put physical objects in their proper place as tools to help you accomplish things, as compared to physical objects being a source of meaning and purpose in life.

The Mercersburg Mystic

While we use the terms knowledge and wisdom almost interchangeably, in the eyes of God they are two very different things. Hence in God’s eyes it is possible to be a very stupid genius or a very wise mentally challenged individual. That is because knowledge is simply what one knows as compared to wisdom which is how one applies what one knows to help them live well. Therefore as a Christian I believe that God wants us to live well. To live a life filled with value and passion for things that are worth being passionate about. When it comes to living well I believe that both Christian Mysticism and Mercersburg Theology have a lot to teach us. While I do not believe that they are the only sources that can guide us in living well in my experience they have been more unique. A Christian mystic is in the best sense a person who highly values and pursues an intimate relationship with God. The Mercersburg Theology movement grew up out of the German Reformed Church in Pennsylvania during the mid-nineteenth century which was unfortunately too far ahead of its time to make an impact upon the wider American Church. Yet ultimately what matters most is not where the ideas come from or which ideas that one uses but that one makes use of what they have in how one lives their life.