Growing up in a Christian household, tuning in to Christian television was the norm. There was a specific program that stood out, featuring guests who claimed to have all kinds of supernatural experiences from God on a regular basis. These encounters ranged from glimpses of angels and visions of Jesus to claims of visiting heaven and even time travel.

I must admit that while the stories were fascinating, they still intimidated the socks off of me. I couldn’t help but wonder why I wasn’t having similar experiences as a young Christian. I thought there must be something wrong with me.

It was only after delving into the study of the Bible that I came to the realization that what would be referred to as ‘mystical encounters’ isn’t exactly commanded or taught as an example to follow. I will even go as far as to argue that they weren’t normative in the Bible either.

This is why I believe that the pursuit of special revelation through mystical encounters, as if it should constitute a regular facet of the Christian experience, is not only unbiblical but also dangerous. Hence, this post.

What is Mysticism?

For a long time, scholars have found it challenging to give a definition of mysticism that adequately covers the practice. However, I think the quote below by a mystic will suffice:

“The mystic believes that there is an absolute (God) and that he or she can enjoy an unmediated link to this absolute (God) in a super-rational experience”

-Georgia Harkness

In essence, mysticism involves the pursuit of a spiritual union with God, wherein a mystic seeks to attain a level of spiritual knowledge that transcends intellectual understanding.

Although the term might be unfamiliar to some, mysticism is far from new; it has been a practice throughout history, notably within various religious traditions such as Roman Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and some sections of Judaism and Islam.

In contemporary times, mysticism has found a prominent place within the New Age movement. This comes as no surprise since New Age spirituality borrows a tone from Eastern religions. It’s also associated with the occult which by definition is using mystical, supernatural, or magical powers to attain secret/hidden knowledge.

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The three stages of Mysticism

For a mystic to achieve union with God, They must go through the following stages:

  • Purgation

This is the process of emptying the mind, the heart, and the soul.  It involves getting rid of any thoughts or emotions with the aim of going completely blank.

  • Illumination

After emptying oneself, the subsequent step is to fill that void through a process known as illumination. The goal of illumination is to know genuine spiritual truth.

To be considered a true mystic, one must arrive at the realization that human reason alone is insufficient for comprehending the hidden, secret, and profound aspects of God. This can only be truly grasped through illumination.

Mystics often employ various spiritual disciplines to achieve this heightened state of understanding. Fasting, engaging in extended periods of focused prayer commonly referred to as contemplative prayers, and adhering to other spiritual practices are the avenues through which mystics seek and attain illumination.

  • Union

The ultimate goal of the mystic is union; an unmediated, direct connection with God.

During this mystical ecstasy, one experiences a profound encounter where the ordinary boundaries of human understanding and perception are momentarily lifted, allowing for a direct communion with the divine. It is in this transcendent state that fresh knowledge is supernaturally bestowed upon the mystic.

Mysticism Within the Charismatic Church

For quite some time now, mystical experiences have become a counterfeit replacement for the Gospel, especially among the charismatic/pentecostal folks. In a sincere attempt to hear from God, Christians are often encouraged to seek truth through subjective means.

These include: hearing God’s voice, interpreting dreams, experiencing visions, relying on feelings, claiming angelic visitations, engaging in so-called heaven tourism, or even exploring the concept of time travel. All while claiming these experiences come from the Holy Spirit.

Regrettably, these experiences often take precedence over the authority of scripture.

As a result, there is no shortage of sermons, courses, schools, and books that teach Christians how to get into the other ‘dimension’ or ‘paradigm’ of the supernatural (forgive my effort to use mystic lingo). All with the aim of achieving special revelation from God.

“The mystic disdains rational understanding and seeks truth instead through the feelings, the imagination, personal visions, inner voices, private illumination, or other purely subjective means.”
John MacArthur

This has since contributed to an unhealthy appetite for spiritual experiences in the church. Consequently, what was once orthodox Christianity has given way to nothing short of New Age mysticism in some segments of the Charismatic church.

To understand this better, here are some of the characteristics of mysticism within the church:

a) It emphasizes a direct and personal experience with God.

The shift away from relying solely on Bible reading and preaching has led to an elevation of experiential knowledge. As a result, a belief has emerged that true intimacy with God can only be attained through seeking special revelation directly.

Some of the methods employed to achieve this deep connection include solitude, contemplative prayer, meditation, fasting, and silence. These practices are considered to produce knowledge and understanding that is thought to be divine.

b) It emphasizes finding spiritual knowledge beyond scripture.

Those who practice mysticism hold that in order to truly understand the God of the Bible, one must look beyond doctrine and theological boundaries.

As a result, they are open to spiritual revelations that aren’t supported by sound biblical doctrine. As a matter of fact, it’s likely that some of these so-called revelations aren’t even mentioned in the Bible.  

c) It accepts extra-biblical revelations assuming they are from God.

More often than not, special revelations go unquestioned, lest you are accused of having a spirit of religion. It’s assumed that they cannot come from one’s own thinking, confirmation bias, or imagination because they are received while one is in a meditative or contemplative state.

In this context, simply claiming that you have direct divine revelation earns you respect as one who has a heightened spiritual connection with God. Therefore, your “divine” messages as accepted as Gospel truth.

The Dangers of Mysticism

1. It denies the sufficiency of Scripture

More often than not, in the quest for special revelation from God, people tend to place their spiritual experiences on a pedestal at the expense of scripture. I mean, it’s more spiritual, isn’t it? 

However, this worldview fails to consider that the canon of the Bible is closed (Rev 22:18) and that God has already spoken through His son (Heb 1:2).

No, I don’t deny the authenticity of some of these experiences. Nonetheless, it’s important to keep in mind that spiritual experiences can be very subjective; easily influenced by our emotions, feelings, biases, and whatnot. 

On the contrary, the Bible provides absolute truth and it is sufficient (2 Tim 3:16-17). That’s why we must always remember to examine every spiritual experience through Biblical lenses.

Sadly, seeking spiritual experiences has led some to believe that the objective revelation found in scripture is no longer necessary. It’s sacrificed in favor of a direct, unmediated connection with God. 

“The Christian who seeks a deeper experience of God by ignoring the hard sayings of Scripture gets nowhere. The full nourishment of the soul requires feeding on the whole counsel of God.”
R.C Sproul

The desire to have an unmediated connection may seem noble. But the best way to experience God is in accordance with his predetermined will. Which is through Jesus Christ who was sent by the Father to serve as our mediator. 

In 1 Timothy 2:5-6, the Bible says “…there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all“. In John 14:6 it says. “ I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Furthermore, Hebrews 7:24-25 says, “but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them”. This shows Jesus plays an irreplaceable role in our union with God as our mediator (1 John 2:1). More than that, He is God’s word made flesh (John 1:14; Heb 1:2).

Therefore, it makes no sense to seek God as if He is separate from His word. It is also wrong to ignore Christ’s role as our mediator. Ignoring these Biblical truths is a severe error that invites beliefs and practices that go against God’s commands.

Here is a quote by a mystic confirming this:

“Set into the context of the New Testament, this aspect of the mystical experience becomes problematic. For it would entail that mystical experience becomes a source of revelation, a private avenue of insight into God and his workings. If so, as Arthur L. Johnson points out, the evangelical commitment to Scripture as the sole source of revelation becomes undermined. The Scriptures nowhere teach that God gives us any knowledge through ‘spiritual experience.’ Knowledge of spiritual matters is always linked to God’s propositional revelation, the written Word.”
Winfried Corduan

2. It denies the use of the mind

In pursuing spiritual experiences, there is one practice that cuts across all religions; circumventing the mind. In fact, it is believed that special revelation from God can only be received when the mind is disengaged. Thinking is thrown out of the window because it is viewed as carnal and a hindrance to achieving union with God. 

However, the Scripture encourages meditating on God’s word for divine revelation. Contrary to emptying the mind, Biblical meditation engages the mind. And that’s the pattern we see throughout the scriptures.

For example, in Joshua, God commanded the following:

"This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success." Joshua 1:8 ESV

Meditating on God’s law is also a prevalent theme in the book of Psalms (Psalm1:2; 119:27). Nowhere is clearing the mind in an effort to achieve some extra-spiritual oneness with God commanded in Scripture.

3. It’s pagan

Much of the wisdom the church has from mysticism is borrowed from pagan religions such as Hinduism. For instance, the practice of contemplative prayer (quieting the mind in order to hear God’s voice) in Christianity takes its cues from the Hindu practice of transcendental meditation.

Yet the Old Testament is chock-full of verses where God warns the Children of Israel against assimilating the pagan practices of the nations around them, For example:

“Thus says the Lord: “Learn not the way of the nations, nor be dismayed at the signs of the heavens because the nations are dismayed at them, for the customs of the peoples are vanity. A tree from the forest is cut down and worked with an axe by the hands of a craftsman. They decorate it with silver and gold; they fasten it with hammer and nails so that it cannot move. Their idols are like scarecrows in a cucumber field, and they cannot speak; they have to be carried, for they cannot walk. Do not be afraid of them, for they cannot do evil, neither is it in them to do good.” Jeremiah 10:2-5 ESV 
“When the Lord your God cuts off before you the nations whom you go in to dispossess, and you dispossess them and dwell in their land, take care that you be not ensnared to follow them, after they have been destroyed before you, and that you do not inquire about their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods?—that I also may do the same.’ You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way, for every abominable thing that the Lord hates they have done for their gods, for they even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods. “Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do. You shall not add to it or take from it. Deuteronomy 12:29-32 ESV

Similarly, as Christians, we are commanded not to be partakers of darkness but instead expose them (Eph 5:11). In 1 Corinthians, Paul says,

You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?  1 Cor 10:21-22 ESV

But this is exactly what the church is doing when they esteem mystical experiences at the expense of God’s Word and the truth. As the church, we need to realize that mysticism is a spiritual experience for the unsaved, Otherwise, why would pagan religions practice it? Why would people in the New Age embrace it?

The problem with what Christianity has to offer is that you must repent of your sin, and believe the gospel to have access to God. But these terms are repulsive to many. And since within every human is a desire to be connected with God somehow, many continue to buy the lie that mysticism offers just that. It’s no wonder we have many people claiming to be “spiritual but not religious”.

They are having real spiritual experiences alright, but from whom? Let’s see…

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4. It can open you up to the demonic.

Christian mysticism can be a very dangerous ground to tread on. Even mystics themselves admit it’s dangerous business.

On page 93 of The Other Side of Silence, Morton Kelsey wrote, 

“Learning to deal with the dangers within the spiritual world is one part of the preparation I am talking about. Those who enter this realm, then, are much like a soldier at night trying to avoid a stalking enemy”

Richard Foster confirms this on page 23 of Celebration of Discipline where he writes,

“… Dreams can be a key to unlocking the door to the inner world… At the same, it is wise to pray a prayer of protection, since to open ourselves to spiritual influence can be dangerous as well as profitable.”

In fact, it’s so dangerous that most mystics will advise you to consult a spirit guide when attempting to contact the spiritual realm. For example, on page 179 of Encounter with God, Morton Kelsey wrote”,

“Indeed I would suggest that everyone who is serious about relating to the spiritual realm find himself a spiritual director, if there were more men trained and experienced in this way.”

Why would you need a spirit guide for protection? Because God did not equip us to go roaming around in the spirit realm. Instead, he gave us a physical body, five physical senses, and a rational mind. Reveling in the mysterious is like going to a battle unarmed for a human being.

It can easily expose someone to demonic deception. Most of the time, evil spirits don’t come to terrify people but to fool them into thinking they are godly spirits. Once invited, they can give counterfeit experiences while deceiving someone that they are coming from God.

They are good at masquerading as angels of light (2 Cor 11:14). They will appear as angels or even Jesus and these experiences are not unique to Christians.

For instance, on page 110 of Seeing, Gregory Boyd, a non -Christian mystic wrote,

“And then, when I am focused, I sit up and see Jesus walking out of the forest, into the warm oval light, and up to me. He always has a peaceful countenance and loving smile, for he’s always happy to spend time with me.”

This is why we should bring into question these experiences. In this case, if the real Jesus visits Boyd as frequently as he claims, wouldn’t He have called him to repentance? Wouldn’t he have shared the Gospel?


“Mysticism is nothing, it’s nothing but sheer imagination at best, and at worst you are courting demons.” There is a good possibility that their insights and experiences are demonically inspired.”   
John MacArthur

There is no doubt that supernatural experiences can be very appealing. However,  the Bible warns,

“Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons” 1 Timothy 4:1 ESV

Mysticism is one way in which Christians are being tricked into devoting themselves to deceitful spirits. That’s why God doesn’t require us to go find him there.

It’s also why there are so many who claim direct revelation from God yet they give messages that are inconsistent with Scripture. It’s safe to say they are deceived by evil spirits because God cannot lie (Num 23:19) but the master of these spirits is the father of lies (John 8:44).

As such, be sure to test the spirit behind every revelation by the Word of God (1 John 4:1-6).  Because even satan himself is capable of using great signs with the objective of leading people astray (Rev 13:11-14).

The Bible says,

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. Colossians 2:8 ESV
Quote from

5. It can lead to Sin

The mystical form of Christianity being pushed today is essentially “Christian” divination; a ‘Christianized version of Eastern mysticism is what it is. Divination is any method used to communicate with the spirit world and here’s what the Bible says about it:

“When you come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominable practices of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord. And because of these abominations the Lord your God is driving them out before you. You shall be blameless before the Lord your God, … Deuteronomy 18:9-14 ESV
“Do not turn to mediums or necromancers; do not seek them out, and so make yourselves unclean by them: I am the Lord your God. Leviticus 19:31 ESV 

It’s sad that Christians are being instructed to participate in a practice that God strictly forbids. The reason people are lusting for personal experiences and special revelations from God is because they’ve been deceived that God honors these techniques. 

However, God doesn’t want us to have to travel to the spiritual world in order to find him. This is why He has ordained prayer as a means by which we can commune with Him.  In addition, we have the Word of God which is sufficient to equip us with the knowledge of God. 

The Apostle Peter says,

For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. 2 Peter 1:16-21 ESV

In other words, Peter is saying yes I had this legitimate experience from God. But we also have something more sure, something more reliable; the Word of God inspired by the Holy Spirit.

Related: Should Christians Look Outside the Bible to Discern God’s Will?

6. It puffs up

Mystical experiences may seem innocent but they can subtly lead to spiritual pride and a constant pursuit of new encounters. Christians who claim special knowledge from God,  more often than not, use it to attract attention to themselves. It often leads them into thinking they are more special or favored than others. 

That is why Paul warns against what fits the description of mysticism:

Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God, Colossians 2:18-19 ESV

It is one of the many cunning ways the enemy is using to disqualify Christians from their prize by disconnecting them from their Head; Jesus Christ. While these experiences seem ‘spiritual’ and captivating, they promote a man-centered understanding of God that only serves to gratify a sensuous mind that denies the sufficiency of scripture.

Moreover, it has given way to spiritual elitism. Spiritual elitism is the idea that believers are divided into spiritual classes; there are those who possess a higher spiritual status than others. In this case, those who claim special revelation are viewed as though they have a special place in God that other Christians don’t. 

Today’s church is fraught with preachers who start their sermons with “God told me…” citing special revelation. Many make bold claims regarding the frequency and depth of their revelatory experiences from these encounters with God.

As such, they are esteemed and revered as being more spiritual. Whatever they say goes even if it hardly lines up with Scripture. After all, they are hearing directly from God, aren’t they?

Consequently, they leave those who aren’t having these experiences feeling as though they are second-hand Christians. And that somehow they have to work their way up to spiritual superiority.

However, spiritual elitism has no Biblical foundation even Paul discredits this notion in 1 Corinthians 1:10-17. Furthermore, the Bible says that God is no respecter of persons nor does He show partiality. Elitism comes from pride and only serves to breed division within the body of Christ. And the fact that mysticism feeds this idea leaves a lot to be desired.

7. It undermines God’s salvation and grace

I think the attitude behind mysticism in the church is “ Thank you God for what you have provided but it’s not enough.”  The desire to be united directly with God isn’t bad. However, this pursuit is at the wrong time. We are supposed to have faith in the fact that we are already united with Christ and seated with Him in the heavenly places (Eph 2:7).

The Bible says that those who belong to Christ have died with Him and they believe that they live with Him (Rom 6:8-11; Gal 2:20). However, we should be aware that we will be united with God fully when Christ returns, and that’s why we eagerly await His second coming (Col. 3:3-4).

God has already determined how we should love Him best on this side of eternity. That is by communing with Him through the means of grace, and disciplines such as Bible reading, prayer, witnessing, and corporate worship. 

In contrast, great human effort has to be applied to mysticism. You have to follow certain rituals or practices such as fasting, solitude, clearing thoughts, and so on to connect with God. It places a huge burden on someone. One that is unnecessary and not commanded in the Bible. It sacrifices God’s grace of communing with Him through Christ at the altar of self-effort (John 1:16-17).

God’s grace is what separates Christianity from other religions.  We do not have to rely on works to be united with God. All we have to do is believe in the person and work of His son Jesus Christ (John 6:28-29). It’s that simple, yet like the Corinthian church, the church today is being led astray from the simplicity of our devotion to Christ (2 Cor 11:3).

Arguments in Favor of Mysticism

Counterfeit vs authentic

I’ve noticed that one of the justifications for these mystic practices in the church lies on the premise that all other practices are imitations. The logic goes that there is no authentic New Age spirituality. It actually belongs to God and the church, and the devil has simply stolen it.

This means that for every counterfeit experience such as speaking to angels or Jesus, time travel, psychic powers, and so on within the New Age and Eastern religions, there is a Christian equivalent.

If we apply the same logic to the moral law in scripture then it would mean that there is a sanctified version for murder or theft. Because similar to murder or theft, practices like witchcraft, divination, and necromancy are regarded as sins (Deut 18:10-12). 

It’s just not true that every new age practice has a sanctified version of it. These practices are not regarded as holy. These are blatant acts of disobedience and defiance; they are neither imitations nor perversions of anything admirable.

The devil cannot steal what is already his, nor should we seek to redeem that which is sinful and demonic. It’s sad that because of a hunger for supernatural experiences, many Christians are willing to step into forbidden territory to satisfy their desire.

Don’t put God in a box

Relying on the Bible to know God better, to learn His will, and to be transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit rather than looking for mystical encounters doesn’t mean you are putting God in a box as some would argue.

On the contrary, it’s God who put us in the box and made the rules within which we are to know Him.  The rules are defined in His Holy word and it would do us well to follow them. 

For the Bible says,

“The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law. Deuteronomy 29:29 ESV

This means we have no business trying to discern God’s secret will in pursuit of a special revelation. Mysticism violates the boundaries that God drew for our own good. That’s why Scripture has a negative take on divination. God isn’t being needlessly strict. 

Related: Bibliolatry: Should Christians Beware of Making the Bible an Idol?

Final Thoughts

God isn’t silent. Instead, He uses His Word, the Bible, to speak to people today. Now, I realize that some of the people who seek mystical encounters have a sincere desire to know God’s plan or hear from Him. 

Nonetheless, seeking special revelation can be a dangerous venture as we’ve already seen. Because the Bible contains all of God’s revelation both special and general, Christians don’t need to look outside of it.

The Word of God is sufficient for the growth of a believer both in faith and in practice.  A person’s connection with God will not be enriched by any other extra-biblical “spiritual” revelation or experience.

“If you want to hear God speak, read your Bible. If you want to hear God speak audibly, read your Bible out loud.”
Justin Peters

Please note that upholding the sufficiency of scripture doesn’t mean that we deny that He is able to manifest supernaturally. There are plenty of stories in scripture where God revealed Himself through what we would suffice as mystical experiences.

However, they were not sought after as taught today. God, in His sovereignty, chose to reveal Himself that way and all these revelations are recorded in Scripture for our edification. Furthermore, they fall under descriptive passages which are not intended to be interpreted as biblical commands.

Lastly, spiritual maturity isn’t measured by how clearly you can hear from God, or how many spiritual encounters you experience. Spiritual maturity is marked by obedience to God’s law and to know it you have to read God’s word. In the end, all roads lead to the Word of God.

Related: Bible Interpretation: Descriptive vs Prescriptive Passages

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  1. avatar
    Ivy Raph says:

    AMAZING article👌…important to also note, let’s always pray for the Holy Spirit to give us understanding of the scriptures…

    1. avatar
      Wanjiru Ng'ang'a says:

      Thank you Ivy… and I agree with you. We should always seek to understand the Scriptures through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Who better than the author Himself to help us understand what the Bible says?

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