(This continues a series of posts about reconstructing the Mormon/Christian narrative. Please read this introductory post first, if you haven’t already, before continuing.)
Mormonism traces back its history in modern times to its founding prophet, Joseph Smith Jr., and his “First Vision.” Joseph was a young farmer boy who lived in western New York, born in the early nineteenth century. This was the time of what’s known as the Second Great Awakening, and where Joseph lived is known as the “burned-over district.” It was a time of much Protestant religious excitement, revivals, reforms, and the formation of new religious movements and denominations (which eventually included Mormonism). A Restoration Movement grew in popularity in the area, which involved ideas of “restoring” a pure, primitive, uncorrupted, and original form of Christian faith.
This weekend I had the fortunate opportunity to go to Fairfax, Virginia, to attend a seminar hosted by the Shalem Institute, an organization that fosters contemplative living and leadership. Their invited guest to present for their annual Gerald May Seminar was Bernard McGinn, who is Professor Emeritus of Historical Theology and of the History of Christianity in the Divinity School at the University of Chicago. McGinn is an American Roman Catholic Theologian and is considered one of the world’s foremost expert scholars on the history of Christian mysticism. He has written seven volumes outlining the history of Christian mysticism, and may write two more, bringing the history up to the present time. This series is known as The Presence of God. Continue reading “Notes on Christian Mysticism from a Seminar with Bernard McGinn”
I am not fond of much of the New Age movement. Sometimes my thoughts about mysticism may seem like the New Age, but I think that is because the New Age has adopted a lot of mystical language and concepts, not that classical mysticism inherently belongs to the New Age. They are two different fields, which have some overlap. The New Age developed just in the 1970s. Mysticism has been around for millennia, indeed, for all of human history, in every part of the world.
Many ancient texts, including the Bible, note that seeing God brings death to the person (Exodus 19:21; Exodus 33:20; Judges 13:22; Moses 1:5, 11; D&C 84:22). But then we also read of some who claim they saw God and lived to tell about it (see especially Genesis 32:30; Exodus 33:11; Moses 1:2). What’s going on? Which is it?Continue reading “Does Seeing God Cause Death to the Person?”