Truth is elusive. The more we search for truth, the more it leads us to questions. The closer we get to it, the more it seems to move further away from us. Yet, it is preternatural for human beings to go all-out to find it.
How do we search for a phenomenon that is hard to grasp? Moreover, Truth is a requisite even for basic prayers, “The true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and Truth” (John 4:23-24).
In a polarized world that evolved for thousands of years in the principles of dualities; we expect the truth to be of material origins, such as facts and hard evidence. Even when we search for God, we expect Him to be of material origin. Jesus Christ is accepted as God in Christianity to the extent that He was a historical person. His words have a material origin since they came from a person. The feasts of the Catholic Church celebrate the person-Christ or a person-Saint. Even the feast of Christ’s Ascension into Heaven is celebrated as He ascended into Heaven in His body. There is the truth about Christ beyond these material origins. However, what it takes to find this truth is already within us.
This book journals the testimonies and knowledge about my relationship with the in-abiding God. It makes efforts to convey a message that such a relationship is natural for all of us. We are invited to His wedding feast. If we notice, the ministry of Jesus on Earth started at a wedding in Cana and all the guests drank the best wine of Christ and thoroughly enjoyed the feast.
When I decided to write a book, it seemed appropriate to produce a biography about my experiences and testimonies during my fifty-year journey in search of truth. I realized that the book lacked credibility, as it was more about me and less about Christ.
Since leaving the Church in my early twenties, after studying the Vedas, Vedanta, and scriptures of other Eastern religions, the more I reflected on the words in other religions, the more the Bible made sense to me. Nonetheless in Hinduism, certain concepts, prayers, and rituals are entrenched in the normal activities of people’s everyday lives, even without a structured institution and hierarchy. That intrigued me. I could write a book that integrates all these ideas and make a spiritual case for Christianity. That book lacked authenticity.
I, then, thought I could reflect on the works of a few Saints of the Church with whom I am captivated and integrate their works with my reflections on Eastern religions and make an empirical case in interfaith spirituality. That book turned out to be redundant and without purpose.
It did not take long for me to realize that the book I was supposed to write had nothing to do with my ideas. At the same time, I was also clueless about how it would turn out. The more I thought about it, the more I discerned that the logical answer was “about God,” of course. But what about God? Theology was not a topic that is high on the subjects I subscribe to, for it was the theologians who did not understand the “Theo” when He was right in front of them. They orchestrated the murder of Jesus Christ.
Consequently, I asked myself if Lord Jesus Christ were here now, in front of me in person, what would I do? How would I know if it was Him? Even with all my realized experiences, testimonies, and knowledge about other religions, it became abundantly clear to me that I knew nothing about Him. Why was I so ignorant about my creator, the One who assuredly says that He loves me?
Love and knowledge are mutually inclusive; we cannot separate them. The more God loves us, the more He desires that we grow our knowledge about Him. If we were to gain knowledge about God by reading books and the Bible, that still would not give us the entire answer. We need to leverage and employ all His likeness within us to know Him.
Thinking requires certain freedom, which is also a likeness of God. I have heard theologians in the Catholic Church propose that the mysteries in the Bible must be left alone and accepted as mysteries. Other Christian denominations believe that the Bible is as perfect as it can be, and exegeses of the words is the only extent of inquiry. The moral theologians enforce that scientists must be governed by Christian morality and ethics in exploration. How can we possibly regulate innovation? If we are as constrained, how do we exercise the freedom to inquire and think? When I was reflecting on these limitations, I started praying for help to think with freedom. It was then that I came across the last words St. John the Apostle wrote in his Gospel. It says, “But there are also many other things that Jesus did; if every one of them were written down, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written” (John 21:25). It was then that my curiosity went into high gear as I really wanted to learn about the unwritten parts of His life.
There is a significant difference between the Bible and the number of books the “world itself could not contain.” Clearly, the entire knowledge of God is not in the Book I hold in my hand; it is in the unwritten words in the number of Books this world would not contain. Relatively, the Bible is merely an invitation card to the Wedding Feast (Matthew 22:1-14). Yet, we are ignorant, belligerent and clueless about the Wedding Feast, as Jesus described in the parable. If God’s chosen people, the Christians, had any knowledge about the Wedding Feast, would they have treated the invitation with indifference?
The truth is, it is preternatural for us to know Him, for we are His children. His Kingdom on Earth depends on our realization of this truth. Invariably, I must delve into the unwritten and unknown if I am to know God. There are plenty of books written about the historical person-Christ but how many are there written about His divinity?
At this juncture, it became abundantly clear that I am about to start a journey to know God, and my writing has to do with testimonies and knowledge gained along my journey.
At this point in time I read the works of a few Christian mystics, the Bible a few times, and the Gospel a few more times. As I read, I was getting more questions than answers. It was then that I decided to put aside my writing and approach a few thought leaders I knew, in hopes they would enlighten me or point me in the direction of enlightenment. Every one of them categorically failed my expectations. My curiosity to learn about God, however, was not subsiding. Rather, it was gaining newer heights by every disappointment I encountered.
One day, while I was searching the Gospel for no particular reason, I came across the words Jesus spoke, “You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am” (John 13:13). Previously, I had success in getting answers to my questions from Jesus. Why couldn’t I get these answers this time around? This relationship with Christ, as my Guru, is the cornerstone of my being and the basis of this book. This book is not a literary contribution, but the fruition of a journal written regularly about an unusual journey.
In Matthew 19:5, Jesus says,“ A man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” The same words were spoken by our Father in Heaven in Genesis and by St. Paul in his letter to the Ephesians. I have come across several exegeses for these words, all of which lacked wisdom as far as I could tell. I believed in these words wholeheartedly. I wanted to realize this “oneness of flesh” literally, but that never happened. After a few weeks of imploring, an insight slowly evolved, the answer must be there in science. I reflected on all the scientific modalities I learned fifty years ago and consulted with a few professors who taught science. They were just as confused about their answers as I was with my questions.
One morning I got up to pray, but this time my thoughts focused relentlessly on going to a library sensing that He was somehow going to point me to the book I needed to read. Within minutes of standing in the science section, I came across a book about quantum physics. I was unaware that this field of science even existed. I pulled that book out only to get an idea as to what it was about.
From then on, Jesus was not giving me straight answers to my questions but inspiring me to research modern theoretical physics and cosmology for enlightenment. I began to recognize the divine origin of these inspirations. These inspirations always involved a willful component that required me to do something in relation to them. I also began to faithfully do my utmost to exercise those willful components. That is how the writing of this book gained momentum.
I am not a scientist by any standards, but by some streak of inspiration, I was quickly learning and searching for the truth in science, theology, philosophy, psychology, and even medicine. The answers were unfolding so naturally, and I could only bask in the joy of gratefulness. From then on, this book evolved as I faithfully approached Jesus with questions, clarifications and doubts. The answers started arriving as wholesome insights and inspirations. Then, the wholesomeness of insights began to fragment themselves as I delved into the books to make an empirical case of the knowledge I received. Unsurprisingly, Misiha Das, a professor in a major seminary in India, reflected after reviewing this book, “There are fifteen years of scholastic work here.”
I never imagined myself writing a book on mysticism. I still do not believe that a wholesome phenomenon that is so incredibly deep, transcended, far removed from space and time, full of wisdom and creativity, profoundly energized with life-transforming emotions and magnanimity, such as the Consciousness of God, could be fragmented.
I felt, however, that there was an audience whom I deeply care about, who would profoundly benefit from a book on Christian mysticism. I met over a thousand Christian men and women who subscribed to self-elevated Indian mystics in Hinduism and Buddhism. These mystics claimed themselves to be incarnations of God. Their audience, as I described, is like me. I wanted to reach out to them and say, “What you search for is in Christianity itself.”
Christian mysticism is not a strange phenomenon. Mystical Theology is as old as Christianity itself. Apostles of Christ were mystics. Early Christians were mystics. Mysticism is still being practiced in Christian Orthodox Churches of Eastern traditions. Even into the mid-twentieth century, there were several religious communities who were practicing mystics. After the Second Vatican, however, the school of Mystical Theology was sidelined and Moral Theology took center stage. Vocations dwindled in mystical communities and numerous convents and monasteries were closing down.
For early Christians, mysticism remained a practicing form of prayer and holiness in a few religious communities. Nowadays, since those communities have been closing, it is time for the emergence of a secular version of mysticism that searches for truth beyond material origins and investigates the Divinity of Christ in mystical origins. Seculars should embrace His revelation of mysteries in any form, especially science. That is what this book attempts to achieve.
Karl Rahner said that the Christian of the future would be a mystic or nothing.”Rahner was considered one of the most influential Roman Catholic theologians of the twentieth century. We would be blind not to see the effect of his prophecy in the number of people who have ceased actively participating in the activities of the Church and worse, the number of whom have left the Church altogether. If we brand a person who has left the Church as a faithless recalcitrant, we deny the realities of the problem at hand. The reality is that Christians are in the process of becoming “nothing.”
The truth is, every institution formed from the core values of “good and evil shall surely die.” Let us pause a moment and question our Lord Jesus, what is the “knowledge of good and evil”? And why would such knowledge lead to death?
Fifty years ago, I asked Him these questions. I am grateful that He never gave me a monolithic answer; instead, put me through fifty years of living to realize the answer. He protected and guided me as I left the Church to seek answers elsewhere in other religions. I went through a myriad of trials and tribulations. He kept me unaffected but gently pointed me to the truth as He faithfully kept me on track for my realization of this phenomenal truth.
Karen Zeznik reviewed this book and reflected, “It is a book of several inoculations and how they beautifully unfold themselves into profound answers as we continue to read.” These inoculations are consistent with the questions I asked Christ. The unfolding of knowledge reflects mystical realizations, as this book and I evolved at the same time.
Mysticism is not a qualification. It is a state of being that we can practice when we learn the truth about the divinity of our Lord Jesus. Mysticism is opposite to an intellectual journey. It is a journey in which we come to realize what we are, as material, emotional and intellectual beings. The more we gain self-knowledge, the more we realize that there is nothing compared to the emotional and intellectual content of the divinity of Christ. When we realize His divinity within us, we also witness and realize His divinity is the image and likeness of our Father in Heaven. Invariably, Jesus was His son, created in His image and likeness as are we. It is because of this witness and realization that we also strive to realize His likeness in our being. Therefore, mysticism is what we unfold into as we realize our own divinity and mature into our own image and likeness of God.
There are a few recommendations I wish to make about how to read this book. It is best to fast-read initially to get a good idea of what I’m talking about. Then read this all over again, slowly and critically. The more critical we become, the more we should pray. He who helped me has better answers than I could possibly ever come up with. Always question with prayers; what if there could be an element of truth in what is written in this book?
As I wrote this, I struggled all along with fragmenting and making an empirical case of wholesome phenomena. Therefore, there are several issues in this book with insufficient fragmentation. These are areas the reader is invited to contemplate.
There are instances in this book where words in the Bible are quoted and repeated literally in entirety. Contextually, these words may be relevant, but these are words I contemplated before writing. I was also inspired often to quote a word while I wrote; I am not sure if those words are contextually relevant. Nonetheless, I invite the reader to pause shortly and contemplate on the words written in italics in this book.
Other than these, I assure you that God our Lord is waiting patiently and eagerly, searching in a faraway land to catch a glimpse of His children returning to Him. His assured relationship and a guaranteed feast in celebration of the return are ours to enjoy. God can’t wait to embrace us and lift us in His arms.
Thank you for Corina Ambrose and Karen Szudzik for your editing services and Leslie Taylor for the typesetting and cover design for this book.
With gratitude to my brother Thaen, and Kiruba his wife, for their kindness and enduring support without which this book would have taken many more years to complete.
— Anthony Nayagan
Harvey D. Egan: The Mystical Theology of Karl Rahner