Moltmann on Mysticism

Moltmann articulates a new Christian mysticism of the future, which I find very helpful. He contrasts it with an older type of mysticism that has been influenced by Platonism.

In platonically inspired mysticism, the contrast between time and eternity plays a determinative role. Time is transitory, and eternity, by contrast, is timeless and non-transient. Applied to God, the idea of a timeless eternity makes God into a non-living being without relationships. It follows that mystics, on this view, try to escape this transitory life and experience something of God’s eternity in a way that takes them out of ordinary life and ordinary relationships.

Moltmann doesn’t think very highly of this type of mysticism. The God of the biblical tradition is a living God who enters into living relationships with God’s temporal creatures. Instead of thinking of the basic dynamic as one between time and eternity, Moltmann thinks we ought rather to think in terms of promise and fulfillment. This is the biblical pattern. So, instead of a mysticism that tries to flee this world for a timeless eternity, Moltmann’s new mysticism leans forward into God’s promised future. Christian hope is not a hope for a timeless, platonic heaven, but rather for the fulfillment of God’s future kingdom, a new heaven and a new earth.

In a rather lovely passage, Moltmann says the following about a mysticism of the future: “The new Christian mysticism is turned towards the future, and with its hope for God awakens all the senses for the future of God’s world. Those who have found God in their innermost beings can forget themselves, go out of themselves, and do their utmost without losing themselves. The person who senses in himself the nearness of the risen Christ will be filled with a joy that embraces the world. He sees this disputed and suffering world as already in the daybreak glory of its eternal beauty.”

Moltmann, I think quite rightly, shows the inadequacy of a certain type of platonically inspired mysticism that is escapist, cut off from the senses, and unconcerned with the transformation of the world. A new Christian mysticism of the future is actively engaged with the world, seeks to transform present life where it can in anticipation of God’s promised future reign of justice and peace, uses all our senses because redeemed life is resurrection life, and rejoices in the world even now in light of the daybreak of God’s messianic kingdom.






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