Union and the Mystics

Union and the Mystics

By Fred Pruitt

(With Postscript by Linda Bunting)

The catalyst for this below, including the postscript, originally started from a conversation with one particular person. But the issue brought up is almost universal, and touches everyone I believe. So this much edited and expanded version is to/for us all.

………………………..

Thank you for writing, and I am glad you are being edified by things you are reading from my friends and me.

I have also read many of the mystics and gleaned much from them, but I am sure I am not as versed in them as you probably are. But you are right as far as I can see, the standard Catholic or Orthodox view to finding “union,” was the “striving after it” that you found also. Most thought union was an “experience” available to members of religious orders only, i.e., priests, monks and nuns. The prevailing view was that a lay person who had to tend to worldly business every day could not “attain” it, because in their systems it took long years of prayer, fasting and contemplation to come to it, if they ever did. It was not even something for the average parish priest, because their duties likewise concerned “worldly things,” things concerned with his congregation, which took up the “time” required to seek “union.” So it was mainly the business of monks and cloistered nuns.

That can be disheartening if one believed it. For a time, I was tempted to believe it. After all, I am a married man, and have to tend to “worldly things” all the time. When would such as I find time for all that prayer, self-denial and contemplation?

But in 1980 the Spirit caused me to run into a man who told me for the first time that I already was in union with Christ!

I had never heard that before! Every “system,” from evangelical “sanctification,” to the “Rule of St. Benedict,” stresses “acquiring” union or spirituality through various programs or exercises that supposedly deny the flesh, and fill one’s conscious mind with prayers and thoughts of God in every waking moment. Take Benedict’s “Rule” and change it up a little bit (and don’t mention anything Catholic) and you could stick it in pretty much any evangelical environment, because all those systems offer “procedures” that will get the diligent student and practitioner all the way there. Improved behavior and attitudes for the evangelical, and metanoia and contemplation for the Benedictines. It’s all the same thing, whether genuflecting and crossing oneself, adoring the Host, or prayer and Bible study for the evangelical. If those activities or any other are in our minds prerequisite for God’s grace and favor, or done with an attitude that considers our offerings barter for our continued growth or favor, it’s just Cain trying to be Abel.

I am glad you asked me to speak in plain understandable terms, and give, in a nutshell, what union is to me. I think I might also hear in your question another question, which I think we all ask from time to time. What does union “look like?” What does it “feel like?” Is there some “definable” experience that we must have?

I know you know these scriptures, and probably have come to many of the same conclusions as I have as well as many many others. Like Paul’s statement, after describing sex with a harlot as “becoming one flesh” with her and the consequences of that, then “he that is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him.” When one thinks about the act of becoming one in the flesh with the prostitute, taking in effect the “baggage” that comes with it automatically, he is saying that it is exactly the same in the Spirit, when we are one spirit with God. In THAT union, we get Him and HIS baggage – which is eternal Life inward in us! We become one person with Him. Now out of US, out of OUR innermost being, rivers of Living Water flow, says Jesus of those who believe.

You obviously know Jesus prayed in John 17 that we would be “one” even as He and the Father are one. He had said earlier, “I and My Father are one,” as well as, “the Father that dwells in Me, He does the works,” and again, “Whatever the Son sees the Father do, the Son does, and is always pleasing to the Father.” It floored me to realize that the same exact oneness, which inspired Him to make the previous statements, was the oneness with Him and the Father in the Spirit that Christ Himself had. It is the PRAYER OF JESUS that we would be one even as He and the Father are one, and that we would share experience and be of the same GLORY that eternally exists in the Godhead. Again, this is Jesus’ prayer! Dare we fail to believe it has not been answered? That what appears not to be, behold, it IS!!??

And it is on those facts, given by the Spirit and enlightened within me by the Spirit, that my “union” with Christ is a fact in my life, and the Spirit has given the witness in me that it is as God has said, “Ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them;  and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” (2 Cor 6:16b).

It took a while to settle in. There is an initial euphoria in discovering this great truth about ourselves. We begin to sense the great liberation we have almost just “stumbled into!” It is rest. It is a sigh of relief, after being tossed by storms at sea, to finally find moorings in a safe harbor, and friendly strangers who have also found what we have found.

But eventually, a battle ensues. Everything must tested in a trial by fire, in order to prove the validity of this Life that now flows into and out of us. This is where the Spirit trains us in the ways of faith. It is a time when the Spirit proves to us that He in us and as us never fails us. He is not looking for our faithfulness, because we do not have any. He is continually demonstrating that He IS the faithful One, despite our often doubtful thoughts and contrary emotions. He shows daily that He is steadfast, unmovable, and that “He who keeps Israel neither sleeps nor slumbers.” In short, we learn we are safe in Him, no matter what comes our way.

As we are taught and led of the Spirit, we learn to live in that steadfast, unmovable God and we learn that He is All in all. We also come to know that because of Who He is, He manifests Himself in, through and as our human lives in the world. People often object to our using the word “as” when we say “Christ AS us.” But that is exactly what this inner spirit union produces, the “new man” fashioned after Him, which is not just a new “me;” it is new because it is He joined to me in a oneness of everything. (See Union Is In The AS article on the blog, to further explore Him “AS” us.)

Paul told the Galatians that he “labored” that Christ might be formed in them. He was meaning their maturity, their possessing their possessions. Because one day in ourselves it almost seems as if we are Jesus coming to the Baptism of John. It is the Day we stand up and realize Who we are. The first time we came there (metaphorically), we saw Who He was/is. He is the Door, and by Him we enter into the fellowship of the Father and the Son. It was our beginning in Christ.

But this is another Day, a Day of Great Importance, because when we realize, by the Spirit in whatever way He makes it known, that we have been joined to God in oneness, (Jn 17:11; 20-23), THAT is the Day we also clearly hear, “This is My Beloved Son, In Whom I Am Well-Pleased,” and “Hear ye Him,” spoken not to Jesus, separate from us out in the middle of the Jordan River, but spoken directly to us, you and me. This is our rising (“Arise, shine, thy light IS Come!”), and in taking the identity of Christ and being a branch of the True Vine, trimmed perfectly for bearing fruit, we see that His Commission has now fallen to us. And we see that in its true sense, not as something “we” have to live up to or produce, but as that which He has already done, is doing, and will continue to do in us, which is continually “both to will and to do of His good pleasure.”

“In the Name of,” takes on much more meaning, than the right words one is supposed to say at the end of “correct” prayers. It means much more! “In the Name of” means I am speaking with the same authority as the Name I am naming, and that everything I do “in that Name,” means what I am saying and doing is from His Mind, His Authority, His Love-Being, in other words, to echo Jesus’ words: “The Father that dwells in Me, He does the works!” We do not “see” the Father, except as He has come to us in His Son form!

And now it is the same with us. We say the same as Jesus, because it is not just our “right” but it is our responsibility by Him to be Him in our world.  Again, this can only happen because HE MAKES it happen, and we trust Him to do so, since in ourselves alone we have “nothing” to add to His Person in us. Inwardly there is a “mixing” in Spirit — “He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him” is talking about this inner “mixing” (God’s Spirit, our human spirit) which comes out as “one.” Or as John put it, “Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the Day of Judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.” (1 John 4:17).

When we saw Jesus, we saw the Father. When people see us, they are seeing Christ. That is what “union” means.

When we approach it that we already ARE in union life as a result of our spiritual birth, which I believe the scripture overwhelmingly proclaims in the New Testament, with many ‘types’ pointing to the same in the Old Testament, we are living from a position of “I AM,” not, “One day I will be.” We have joined with God in the present moment, and every present moment we, who Jesus called the “light of the world” in the Sermon on the Mount, shine with His Light! It is not our “own” light, because we have none. We shine with His Light, because that is His Gift of Himself to express the will of God from the Father through Christ in us, which the Holy Spirit activates in every part of our being.

We approach it from faith, and simply practice Mark 11:24 – “Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.”

That is “how” I have lived for the past 34 years, since the Spirit showed me union through meeting that man who told me I already was in union, though I did not know it. Everything changed for me in a little one hour meeting with that man, who was Norman Grubb. When he said to me, “HE is IN YOU!” everything changed. It was a life-changing Word from the Spirit, and from that point on everything in my consciousness and understanding began a massive shift, from outer to inner.

Suddenly I saw it! Why am I trying to “bring God down here to me,” or pray, fast or meditate, hoping to receive a ray of approval from Him? I had come to the meeting with Norman straight out of Pentecostalism, and still thought in terms of “praying, praising, confessing, etc.” to become pleasing or acceptable to God, but never was able to get there and remain. I had plenty of euphoric times in the Spirit, and I do not discount them. But it always went away. I thought the “euphoria” was what it was all about, so to me, these things (gifts from God) occurred because of our “efforts” in “seeking God.”

But when I saw that He was IN me, for the purpose of being a bubbling spring that flowed out of me, I saw the permanence of it, how God’s gift of Himself in me was flowing out of the Eternal, and I was not the cause of the flow. He IS!

What I had sought for so long, thinking it was apart from me and probably unattainable, since “it” was He Himself, suddenly I knew had been fulfilled in me. It was only in seed form at the beginning, but even in that seed form I could already sense that I had “found” what I had sought, that I had received that for which I had asked, and the door had been flung permanently open, so there was no further need of knocking!

That was the first thing I saw in my new sight! No more pep rally to get God on our side, nor to get us on His side!! We are one. I do not instigate God: HE instigates ME! I do not have to beg Him to come down from heaven and bless me, because I have a spring of water inside me that is an eternal river, and I do not have to prime the pump in any way to get it to flow. It is a spring of living water that comes bubbling up to the surface of itself, and not by my instigation, but by the Spirit.

When I began to see that, by the Spirit, it shifted my thinking into another direction. The direction that my life this present moment is Christ, “He Is,” instead of, “maybe one day.” More and more I saw that it is the inner living reality of everyone who is born of the Spirit. Even Jesus’ oft quoted statement to Nicodemus bears this out: “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth:  so is every one that is born of the Spirit.”

The little word “is” in the last sentence tells it all. Jesus says “SO IS EVERYONE who is born of the Spirit.” He did not say, “Should or ought to be,” or should “strive” to be, or “one day will be.” No, Jesus said, “SO IS …!”

When we settle into these truths in simple faith (which is simply receiving from God, believing Him that He has performed His Promises toward us  – Heb 11:6; John 6:29), we begin to find the witness within us of His Life being poured out of US!

What does it look like? What does it feel like? How are you looking and how do you feel right now, in this moment? You are in union with Christ. My answer to “how does it look” or “how does it feel” is in your answer to that question, because right now, this moment, He is living as you! It seems like you, feels like you, and it IS you, but hidden in “you” is Christ. You are your own answer. It is IN YOU! The Pearl of Great Price!

One More Time for Emphasis

(For every one of us, every day, the temptation is to believe there is something we should do or should not do, in order to “better” our situation in Christ and/or the world. Some hidden secret, some way to hold our mouth, some pearl of wisdom given to the most earnest seekers, which places a “lock” onto this spiritual life, and will put us on spiritual “easy street.”)

… You say to me you only know this “conceptually,” but that it hasn’t become fully yours in heart, and I understand that. But let us get our understanding straight here, so we are not mixed up. First of all, when Christ comes into us and us into Him, the very nature of the new birth is Christ in us, which from the beginning is a “union” of spirits. Deity Spirit with human spirit together becomes “one spirit.” 1 Cor 6:17 is true for everyone who is born of the Spirit of God from the first moment.

Therefore we all start out in Christ in this new union, He and I as one, but we do not yet realize it. The main reason we do not yet see it is that we are still in our old thinking until the Spirit begins to bring us to enlightenment. And the “old thinking” is that there is something for US to do to make it work.  For instance, we might think if we memorize scripture that might make some difference in our manifesting Christ in our lives. I am not denigrating learning or memorizing scripture, but we do not do that to “get God to come down and bless us,” “or to make these things real in our lives.” They already ARE! The Spirit is bringing us to the knowledge and faith that these things already are true in us. There is nothing we can do to add to God’s Life in us. “Which of you by taking thought can add one inch to his height?” Jesus asked. It is not a matter of human effort, of human understanding. It comes in “a way we know not of.”

There is no tangible “experience” of union. It doesn’t “feel like” anything. How does one “feel” a person? We are just ourselves, and that “self” that we are, is He expressing Himself in the world, in our form, or as we say, He as us. But as long as we are trying some method to get “it,” “it” remains a separate “it.” Unattainable. But to accept as fact in the present moment, the Word as the Spirit speaks it in us, that my life (your life) in the current moment is Christ, just as Paul said, “To live is Christ,” and “I live, yet not I, but Christ,” and “as He is so are we in this world,” is as simple a faith statement to make as it is to say, “I do,” in a wedding ceremony, and even more pure and more binding.

And finally, I know you know this, but it isn’t “union” we seek, nor an “IT,” but The Person! We are upheld, not by a theology or a set of teachings, but by God Himself, Father, Son and Holy Spirit — kept by the power of God, and live of Him, by Him, for Him, in Him, as Him, every moment. There can only be One God, and that is why we can only express Him in His Love nature when we are in union with Him. Otherwise, that is, if we could order our behavior better, or emulate Him somehow, we would be left with trying “to be like God,” as if we were a separate god unto ourselves. That is the lie of self-improvement and pretty much the whole visible church of Christ is rampant with it.

That is why Paul had to discover in Romans 7 that, “I found no good thing in myself.” This echoes Jesus, “Why do you call Me good? There is no one good, except the Father.” Then he was taken into the safety of Romans 8:2, “For the law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.” But it is preceded by the realization by the Spirit that we cannot produce the “goodness” of God, that, in effect, we are “dead” as far as any ability to produce a divine life or to be “like” Christ. That enables us to see the liberty: that the lower law of sin and death is cancelled out by the higher law of the “Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus.” We have died to the former (law of sin and death) and now in resurrection live only in the latter! Hallelujah!

Those are the inner spiritual facts, but the end result is we just live as ourselves in the faith of all we have stated above. I’m just me, but that is He, and you are just you, but that is also He! He’s the one who did it, not me! Do you see?

Do you wear glasses? I do, and more than a few times I have looked for my glasses while I was wearing them.

It is really such a great simplicity. Christ in you, the hope of glory. As you! That is what “one with” means. Jesus said, “I and my Father are one,” and “when you see Me, you see the Father.” We are the image of God. Not the image of ourselves (we are impotent to produce anything), but the image of God. That is what it has been about from the beginning. Our forefathers took a detour, a necessary one as it has worked out for all of us, and the detour was, “I can produce my own good or evil, holiness or unholiness, and recognize no other god than myself and the gods of my own making.” In a nutshell, that is the fall and the fallen world.

But through the death and resurrection of Christ, we are transported in spirit out of the fallen world, from darkness to light, in a clean break. We remain “in” the fallen world, but no longer “of” the fallen world. We are now of the light, and never again the darkness! The hidden inner world into which we have been translated is some measure of heaven, because Paul says, “our conversation is in heaven.”  This is an archaic usage of the word conversation, but in this context it means that our manner of government, i.e., the laws under which we live, where we have our citizenship, is heaven. We live by the laws of that kingdom now, and no longer by the laws of the kingdom of the flesh. What that ends up meaning is that we walk around and spread the presence of heaven wherever we go, because it is Who we are.

We just become bold with Paul, and say, “We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak.”

PS from Linda Bunting

(Linda boiled my 3800+ words above down to just these! fp)

Dear ___________,

You wrote “I am steeped in striving for union.”

That is your problem. You cannot live from UNION. And I repeat ………… YOU CANNOT LIVE FROM UNION. Union is just another doctrine.

A person, THE HOLY SPIRIT, has taken you. You have taken a person, the living person of Christ.  Living now is HE living  ……… period, end of story.

Your problem is you. You must be wanting to see change in yourself before you can accept that the God of this universe has come to live in your common form. He was born in you when you were born again. Stop trying to be anything other than who YOU Are. He is YOU.

Reading, writing, thinking, etc, etc, will never get you there because you are already there. The place is HE.

Sincerely,

Linda Bunting

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12 thoughts on “Union and the Mystics

  1. Thank you for this detailed articulation of the heart of the Holy Tradition of the “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church.” It is, in fact, the faith once for all delivered. I must emphasize this to be what has been believed by all, at all times, and in all places.
    I believe it is true that men and women since the time of the apostles have misunderstood union as the gospel. However, I would like, in my humble way, to come to the defense of “the mystics” and St. Benedict and all the men and women you would include in their company in this post.

    I would contend that to say that “the mystics” and St. Benedict did not believe that all who have been baptized into Christ Jesus ARE IN UNION with Him is a misunderstanding of what they were (and are) attempting to communicate and facilitate.

    These men and women were and are attempting to communicate THE WAY that communicates the good news of union with God in Christ Jesus and facilitate the consummation of union, not the attainment of union.
    When they speak of attaining mystical union they are not speaking of attaining or experiencing something they do not already possess in the holy of holies of their heart. Rather, they are describing the experience of the fulfillment or consummation of what they already possess.

    Indeed, the New Testament in many places speaks of “growing up” and “being conformed.” Once again, this is not an attainment of what is not, namely union, but the fulfillment of what is, namely union.

    So, please point the finger of misunderstanding at the correct target. “The mystics” are not the guilty parties. The interpreters of the mystics are the ones who are attributing to them convictions they did not hold and an inadequacy in the church’s ministry that is not attributable to them.

    God Bless you and the great work you perform.

    • Thanks, Fr. Thomas. I appreciate what you are saying. When I was writing one of the thoughts that occurred to me but didn’t get written down, was to say that when they ended up “attaining” that which they sought, they found “grace,” and knew they had received not as a result of their spiritual labors, but God Himself as the gift of God. I am with you 100% when you say the misinterpretation is not the fault of the mystics, but of those who misinterpreted their works and openings. Thank you for pointing that out, because it needed to be said. And God bless you and the great work He performs by you!
      fred

  2. But doesn’t the very fact of our oneness with Christ include “the fulfillment or consummation” of it? What is there to be “fulfilled or consummated” if the oneness is a blessed fact? A fact is a fact that needs no “fulfilling or consummation”, otherwise it is not a fact. This may sound as if I’m splitting hairs, but Christ didn’t shout “It is finished, apart from its fulfillment/consummation!” Finland celebrated her independence day on 6th of December. As a Finn, my being “one with Finland”, ie. my “oneness with Finland” is a fully consummated/fulfilled fact as a result of Finland’s gaining her independence on December the 6th in 1917 and my being born in Finland several decades later. We Finns don’t ask each other, “Has your nationality become a consummated/fulfilled fact in your psyche?” Why? Because it makes no sense. Similarly, I find any discourse that finds terms such as “consummation” and “fulfillment” meaningful when dealing with facts (especially, when dealing with the Fact of all facts) as misleading.

    • Hi. I see your point on being a Finn. But sometimes we are not aware of facts as facts, and that is what I was addressing. If someone without my knowledge adds a million dollars to my bank account, as long as I believe I only have a thousand I will operate on that thousand level. When I become aware that I have a million instead of a thousand, that changes everything. Facts did not change, but my awareness of them did. Likewise, if my cousin came to town to see another relative, again without my knowledge, it would be a fact he was in my town, but I would not know it unless I ran into him or someone told me he was here. That is all I am talking about. I am talking about someone who says, “I once was blind, but now I see.” Same thing. Is there something wrong with finding out something we did not already know, and then being able to live from that new knowledge or understanding? I cannot see how anything would be wrong with that.
      Thanks for commenting.
      fred

  3. Hi. I didn’t so much criticize your text as the one from frthomas. You are almost always crystal clear about this truth (“Union Is in the As” being a perfect example of this). Perhaps I should have addressed frthomas directly or perhaps I should’ve simply shut up, now that I think about it in the light of Colossians 4:6. My apologies.

  4. Perhaps the word “consummation” is a stumbling block. If so, lets use a different term. The consummation is the same thing as “growing up in.” And, indeed, the growing up is an essential aspect of the union. There is a journey of living into the fullness of who I am that occurs as I grow up in Christ. Or, lets us the term “mature in.” Once again, the New Testament is clear that such a journey is, in fact, an essential element of our present union.

  5. Perhaps marriage is a way of talking about all of this. On our marriage day my wife and I were fully united as husband and wife. We have spent 23 years growing in the union. Make sense? Indeed, the New Testament uses the image of marriage to speak of our union with Christ.

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