Mysticism [or Apocalypticism] 101

You and I cannot understand God directly, in his full and direct Being. We know him through images, memories, mysteries, and emanations.

Images (shepherd, father, king, maker, the one above, source, rock, fortress, the beautiful, etc.).

Memories (the fathers, exodus, covenant, land, signs, wonders, words, incarnation, etc.).

Mysteries (the sublime, vastness, mystery of being, mystery of light, the sense of the veiled, awe, fear, hope, etc.).

Emanations (the word of creation, the image in humans, the Presence in the wilderness, the Glory in the sanctuary, the Name in Jerusalem, the Dwelling among his people, the Spirit, the Word, the Son, etc.).


About Derek Leman

IT guy working in the associations industry. Formerly a congregational rabbi. Dad of 8. Nerd.
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7 Responses to Mysticism [or Apocalypticism] 101

  1. I have had a few requests for more information on mysticism. One of my congregants who is away at college in another state came home for winter break and said she was sad when I took down my Bible of Unknowing site. It will, someday hopefully in the next two years, be a book.

    A group in Texas is arranging for a Skype conference and of all the topics I advertise that I can present to groups, they skipped right over them and asked if I would lead an informal talk about reading scripture with an eye for the mystical.

    I’m interested to know what misgivings or interests people might have about mysticism (Christian or Jewish).

    It is no problem if you have a misgiving. It is always helpful when disagreeing with people, though, if you state your misgiving without attributing bad motives to others (just a word about politeness). There are legitimate misgivings about mysticism. But often these are concerns about misuse of mystical ideas, lack of balance, esoteric and invented “truths,” and so on.

    Let me hear from you.

    Derek Leman

  2. James says:

    I’m only peripherally aware of kabbalah and didn’t actually know that Christianity also had a “mystic” tradition. I am curious about your opinion of whether or not Jewish mysticism can be reconcilled with Messianic Judaism and/or Christianity.

    That said (and as I’m sure you know), I have my hands full just exploring “simple faith”, so the topic of mysticism, while interesting, may be something that exceeds my grasp.

  3. Christian mysticism (often said to begin in 2 Corinthians 12 with Paul’s experience in the third heaven) is a large tradition. My favorites are Augustine and the unknown writer of Cloud of Unknowing.

    Kabbalah does not have to be accepted as an entirety. It has much esoteric, invented baggage. I read it as a slightly misguided but nonetheless well-founded exploration of mystery. I am no expert in either kabbalah or Christian mysticism.

    But also remember Jewish mysticism goes back a long way, into the apocalypticism of some Second Temple Jewish literature and the mystical sections of the rabbinic writings. There is the chariot mysticism (merkavah) and palace mysticism (heichalot) of the ancient rabbis with much Ezekiel in the background.

    Anyway, as you investigate simple faith, you will need to deal with God’s hiddenness, enigma, the problem of suffering, the reality of the world to come, and so on. Mysticism has much to say about all of these.


  4. James says:

    Anyway, as you investigate simple faith, you will need to deal with God’s hiddenness, enigma, the problem of suffering, the reality of the world to come, and so on. Mysticism has much to say about all of these.

    One step at a time, tiger. ;-)

    On a related note, I found an article at Jewish Ideas Daily that discusses Jewish mysticism and spirituality. Thought it was interesting.

  5. Jeff Allen says:


    I really enjoy looking into the Mystical side of the faith. Levertoff’s Love in the Messianic Age was an eye-opener for me (as apparently it was for you) on this whole subject.

    I was also similarly impacted by Christian David Ginsburg’s essay The Essenes: Their History and Doctrines which is typically bundled with his essay on Kabbalah. I’ve included a link to the Google Books copy in case you’re never read it.

  6. Pingback: Missing Mysticism in the Bible | Messianic Jewish Musings

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