Between the Lines: A Conversation with David Benner – Part 2

This is the second of a four-part interview we had with Dr. David Benner – author of the recent Brazos book Spirituality and the Awakening Self: The Sacred Journey of Transformation.

David’s book is currently a part of the Book Club at Patheos.com. Be sure to check it out.

In Part 1, Dr. Benner discussed his purpose for writing Spirituality and the Awakening Self.

In today’s post, David discusses what Christian mysticism has to offer for one’s journey of transformation.

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One unique aspect of this book is your incorporation of Christian mysticism in your discussion of the transformational journey. Why did you feel this so important? What can we learn from this tradition?

The mystics provide our most helpful understanding of the map of the journey into God.  That is why they are so central to what I am doing in this book.  Easily misunderstood and usually marginalized, the mystics offer us a number of valuable gifts that I think are tremendously important to contemporary Christians.  This is why Karl Rahner argues that “Tomorrow’s devout person will either be a mystic—someone who has experienced something—or else they will not be devout at all.”

The Christian mystics offer us a number of immensely valuable gifts.  Central among these, I would suggest, is that they encourage us to trust in the darkness rather than simply try to eliminate it, they remind us of the importance of the alignment of head and heart in the process of transformation, and teach a way of unifying a divided consciousness.  But perhaps more basic than any of these is the understanding offered by the mystics of the fact that all of life is returning to God.  Life, they point out, is the continuous outflow of the very life of God – a flow that if we follow it, returns us to our Source, the Ground of our Being.  All human becoming involves, therefore, a fuller engagement with this outflowing life of God.  The map of human developmental possibilities sketched by the mystics is a map that includes possibilities that developmental psychologists could never imagine because it maps our journey toward union with God.  It is a map that shows us the contours of a life that is lived increasingly awake and fully conscious. Or, put in language I use in this book, it is a map of the expansion of consciousness.

You may wonder, however, if what the mystics have to offer is practical. Actually, it is profoundly practical.  It is relevant to anyone who seeks to become more than they are and who is open to authentic transformation, not merely the small incremental steps of growth. Once mysticism is demystified what we discover is that, unlike theologians, mystics are not interested in ideas and concepts but real life.  This is why they serve as such helpful guides for anyone seeking to live fully immersed in the flow of the river of transformational becoming that I would call the Life of God.

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