Why Mystics Read the Bible
Should we continue reading the Old Testament?
By Rev. Andrew Shykofsky
The short answer is that mystics read parts of the bible because contained within the stories and teachings are great mysteries. In our church, we focus almost exclusively on the Four Gospel Books. These books provide slightly different aspects of Jesus’ life but have a consistent feel to them.
The Gospel stories are essentially the keys that unlock the gates to the Kingdom of Heaven within. However just reading those pages will not necessarily lead to a quick transformation. The levels of teaching in Jesus’ parables and stories where we can see how He interacts with others is quite vast.
I’ve heard it said that the Gospels provide 7 distinct levels of teaching. I can’t say from my experience that I have been able to always identify 7 levels however as I grow on the path, I do find more depth contained in the very same words.
The most important aspects include learning how to meditate upon the biblical scripture and I feel, meeting regularly with other curious souls to contemplate passages in a group setting. The contemplation piece works because, mysteriously, as Jesus said when several are gathered in pursuit of Eternal Life, something is there to support the work.
Beginning a Bible contemplation with a sincere prayer requesting the Holy Spirit to guide the class is important. It is an acknowledgement that we need that mysterious presence to open our sight and calm the logical, problem solving mindset that can block the transmission of Truth. It’s just too rigid most of the time!
Contained in the Gospels is Truth. No doubt about it. The characters in those books perfectly represent aspects of our inner life. The worst characters that try to block Jesus from succeeding or even want to kill him are actually aspects inside of us, not yet transformed that are resistant to God.
Many people hate this idea, that within themselves are parts that don’t want God but we have to be willing to be more honest. If we read the Bible and just nod along and agree with all the good guys, we’ll feel better about ourselves but will the deeper transformation occur? Probably not.
Reading the New Testament provides a continual reminder of the path from worldly consciousness where ‘I’ am the focus and my success and wealth are paramount (an attitude that has led to tremendous hardness of heart and a revenge mentality globally) to the ‘Christ Mind’ focus. In the Christ Mind, we are re-Minded to care about all living souls. We are taught to stop worrying just about ourselves and the few precious friends and family we have but to consider all souls on Earth as brother and sisters.
Even more profoundly, we can learn how the parts that want God battle against the parts in us that want to control our lives and thus resent the presence of the Christ within. That Presence is Divine and unshakable so it doesn’t bend to the pressure of the ego. In order to fulfill the ego, we have to find fault with Christ which was what the Pharisees and Saducees in the Gospels did.
When you recognize that you have aspects of your mind that think just like those religious authorities, it is humbling for sure. But how liberating at the same time! Once you see it, you can begin to change it and pray for God to raise you out of that old resistant consciousness.
It is amazing when you recognize that all these major characters we know so well, like John the Baptist, Judas Iscariot, John, Peter, Mary of Magdala, Mother Mary, Pilate and so on, all represent aspects inside of us as we make our way along The Way.
Does this mean we should avoid the Old Testament and just focus on what Jesus taught? In essence, I would say this could be a good strategy. The Gospels are really mystical texts because they contain multiple levels of meaning that will be revealed through meditation and contemplation.
Personally,when I read the Old Testament, I cycle between being really intrigued at how bizarre the teachings are, bored by the many redundancies and kind of horrified at the depiction of God. My sense is that the energy and feel of God, the Lord in the Old Testament is not very helpful for people seeking liberation in today’s modern world.
It tells of peoples and ways of living that just aren’t relevant any more. It can seem incredibly harsh and unrealistic (for example, in Exodus and Leviticus, people who curse their mother or father are to be put to death!). Also the amount of room for misinterpretation is astronomical. I believe a lot of people who want to explore God and Christianity are deeply turned off because of the Old Testament.
At the Mystical Church of Christ, we are committing to contemplating a different Bible passage each week. Mostly we choose Gospel readings (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) and some of Paul’s writings but almost never Old Testament stuff. With regards to the Epistles that Paul wrote, there’s a ton of great wisdom in those. They can be an excellent compliment to studying Jesus’ life.
They aren’t as interesting to contemplate because Paul is more direct in what he writes which leaves less room for the mystical. Jesus demonstrated the Way as He lived which allows us a lot of room to interpret and find Truth from many different angles. It’s incredibly eye opening when you commit to seeking within the Bible. But once again, a caveat: focus on the New Testament. Find a group and be very discreet how much you focus on the Old Testament.
Tuesday Evening Bible Contemplation
Chicago: Tuesdays at 8 pm – 9:30 pm
Charleston: Tuesdays at 8 pm – 9:30 pm
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