Strange Mystical Bedfellows

Oscar Wilde


Oscar Wilde said, “To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.”

Paradoxically, he too, together with Thomas More, a vehement persecutor of heretics (Protestants), who was canonized as a saint by Pope Pius XI in 1935, and declared the patron saint of statesmen and politicians in 2000 by Pope John Paul II, loved to read “The Imitation of Christ.”

Presumably, the central message of Thomas à Kempis’ book is “dying to self” which hardly exemplifies Oscar Wilde’s lifelong romance with oneself.

His attitude seems to have taken a turn when he wrote, “I am now off to bed after reading a chapter of St. Thomas à Kempis,” I think half ­an­ hour’s warping of the inner man daily is greatly conducive to holiness.”

What was it about Thomas à Kempis that influenced Oscar Wild and so many other enemies of the cross to fall in love with “The Imitation of Christ”?

In the latest biography of Oscar Wilde, “The Fall of the House of Wilde,” Emer O’Sullivan wrote, “Wilde was drawn ‘to Roman ritual and the sensuous mysticism it fostered.’”[1] It proves that the maxim “Birds of a feather flock together” is still so very true.

For Wilde the allurement of “The Imitation of Christ” seems to have been that it seamlessly echoes his own definition of the ultimate masterpiece, which is that the ideal, the ultimate, the apex can only be achieved by making it unattainable.

It boggles the mind that a homosexual who was jailed for indecent public behavior was able to discern the unattainable, suggesting, I assume, that it requires the mystic to set off on a journey of rigid mystical practices to maintain an ongoing feeling and experience of God’s presence, his love, and his grace (viz. the spiritual practices of Ignatius of Loyola).

Interestingly, a quick google search shows that just about every mystical, occult, and meditation site uses Oscar Wilde’s sayings to meditate on.[2]

The apparent unattainability of imitating Christ’s awesome divine perfections was also something Andrew Murray grappled with when he began to read the English mystic, William Law’s book “Wholly for God.” He wrote,


The word ” Wholly for God,” which recurs unceasingly, is the keynote of the book.

As I have read and re-read the first ten chapters of the book and felt how difficult it is to realize, even intellectually, this absolute devotion to God, I have more than once thought that if a minister were to try and reproduce in his preaching their substance, the result would in more than one way be a surprise to him.

He would be surprised to find how difficult it is to get a clear and full grasp of that high standard of living, which he cannot but admit is nothing more than what Christ demands.

He would be surprised at his own want of success in conveying to his hearers the same impression of intense and entire devotion to God’s will and pleasure as the one object of life.

He would probably be surprised at discovering how, while he thought he had preached holiness and the imitation of Jesus Christ, he had given but a very faint impression of the unworldly, the heavenly life, which it is the duty of every Christian to lead.

He would possibly be most of all surprised at finding how little his own life had really aimed at, not to say had attained, the true ideal, set before us in Christ Jesus.[3]

Before we jump a little deeper into Andrew Murray’s mysticism, it would be a good thing to remind ourselves of what the essence of mysticism is. A good definition of mysticism is that of Robert G. Tuttle.

Perhaps as good a definition as any could begin with the statement that mysticism is anything that gets one in touch with reality beyond the physical senses.

Furthermore, mysticism embraces a “right brain” awareness of God and all mystics stress (more or less) the essential unity of God, nature, and humankind; therefore, union with God can be achieved (more or less) through the mystical contemplation of the unity.

More specifically, mysticism is in essence that “deep sense of union with God in the inmost depths of the soul,” an immediate awareness of a unique relationship with God. “It is religion in its most acute, intense, and living state.

Several characteristics have been listed as common to all mystical experiences. First of all, mysticism defies expression, and its ineffable character makes it virtually impossible for mystics to describe their experiences adequately.

Another characteristic of mysticism lies in its “noetic quality.” To understand mysticism, one must experience mysticism.

Its thoroughly esoteric nature plunges the soul into depths of truth unplumbed by the discursive intellect.

The mystical experience is also transitory because the mystical heights cannot be sustained for long, but this is not to imply that no growth has taken place.

Ideally, after each experience, the mystic returns to a level of devotion even higher than before.

In fact, these “mystical heights” are nonessential to mysticism and can be justified only if the mystic returns to the senses with a higher level of devotion.[4]

There are several words and phrases in Murray’s introduction to “Wholly for God” by William Law that outline the steps mystics usually take to attain holiness and perfection.


The awakening takes place when the so-called aha-moment dawns on a person.

This is usually accompanied by a surprise that religion is more than its mere outward intellectual (doctrinal) trappings.

Hence Murray’s statement, “I have more than once thought that if a minister were to try and reproduce in his preaching their substance, the result would in more than one way be a surprise to him. He would be surprised to find how difficult it is to get a clear and full grasp of that high standard of living, which he cannot but admit is nothing more than what Christ demands.”

No wonder Murray also said, “There is the need of justification by faith, to restore man to the favour of God. But there is more needed.”

It is here, at the “more,” where mysticism rears its ugly head when “ordinary” saints are encouraged to experience mysticism to understand mysticism — “the deep sense of union with God in the inmost depths of the soul.”

The “awakening” may be summed up as a moment of enlightenment that something is amiss in one’s spiritual life and that only an experiential illumination can, by means of daily spiritual practices, fill the vacuum.


A reader of the blog “ANAMCHARA” (a phrase that refers to the Celtic concept of the “soul friend” in religion and spirituality) asked the question, “Why do mystics talk about “purgation” and “purification?” The author of the blog answered as follows:

Traditionally, the mystical (or contemplative) life within Christian spirituality has been understood as involving three developmental stages: Purgation, Illumination, and Union.

This three-step model of the mystical life goes all the way back to the earliest centuries of Christian history.

In his wonderful book The Origins of the Christian Mystical Tradition, Andrew Louth points out that the third-century theologian/mystic, Origen of Alexandria, draws on three books of Jewish wisdom literature, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs, to provide a metaphorical “map” of the spiritual life.

Like Proverbs, with its emphasis on right living and moral conduct, Origen saw the first stage of the mystical life as involving purgation or purification of all that impedes our search for God.

The second stage, corresponding to Ecclesiastes, marks the illumination that comes as we learn to access the wisdom of the Holy Spirit within.

Finally, the joyful eroticism of the Song of Songs represents the union with God that is the promise of the contemplative life.[5]

The Encyclopaedia Britannica defines “purgation” in terms of an ecstatic experience involving four stages: (1) purgation (of bodily desire); (2) purification (of the will); (3) illumination (of the mind); and (4) unification (of one’s being or will with the divine).

Other methods are: dancing (as used by the Mawlawiyyah, or whirling dervishes, a Muslim Sufi sect); the use of sedatives…[6]

Whether it is by contemplation, twirl dancing, slain-in-the-spirit, visions, dreams, or any out-of-body experiences such as astral projection, they all have one thing in common; it is to trigger an altered state of consciousness which is the fertile ground for demons to whisper into the soul their own wicked doctrines. (1 Timothy 4:1).

It is a well-documented fact that extraordinary mystical and ecstatic events took place in Murray’s ministry.[7]

What the nature of these events was, is not known, or shall I rather say, a mystery (no pun intended).

However, Murray’s aptitude for mysticism gives one a pretty good idea of what could have happened at these events.

In his academic research on Andrew Murray’s mysticism, Pieter G.R. de Villers makes the point that Murray practiced a“sober mysticism.”

In the abstract of his paper, “The Sober Mysticism of Andrew Murray,” he quotes Karl Rahner who said, “that the Christianity of the future will be mystical or cease to exist.”


Whatever de Villiers means by “sober” in his endeavor to differentiate between at least two kinds of mysticism, the one sober (that of Murray) and the other inebriated, frivolous, immoderate, and irrational, is difficult to establish.

Whatever he had in mind to attribute to Murray a mysticism of sobriety is rather difficult to connect with Karl Rahner’s mystical claim to fame.

Or, perhaps Rahner was a little intoxicated by too much joie de mystique so that he completely forgot what Jesus Christ said, the One with whom mystics allegedly want to experience an esoteric union,

“I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18).

At any rate, Karl Rahner had a union-united mysticism in mind when he elevated mysticism to the lofty position of protector and keeper of Christianity, and not a dualistic mysticism sporting two opposing factions, the one sober and the other frivolously inebriated.


The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “illumination” as spiritual or intellectual enlightenment.

The author of this article prefers to replace the word “or” with “and” in this definition because both the external source and the individual’s intellect, a God-given capacity to hear and understand, are vital ingredients for illumination.

A Proof text to corroborate this phenomenon is Romans 10:17, “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”

The ultimate objective is faith in God and his promises which comes when both intellect and biblical truth flawlessly come together to accomplish the miracle of regenerative salvation.

What kind of intellect (level of comprehension) are we talking about? — that of a politician, an orator, an artist, a writer, an academic, a professor, a doctor, or even a mystic who is fond of reading and studying profoundly complex books, like “Wholly for God” by William Law?

None of these can meet the exceptionally high standard Jesus set forth as the only requirement to enter his Kingdom and to enjoy his presence, comfort, and joy daily — CHILDLIKENESS. (Matthew 18:3).

Jesus once said that we should learn of Him because He is meek and lowly (humble) in heart. (Matthew 11:29).

If redeemed children’s acute and natural inclination is to heartily avoid pride, ambition, and haughtiness, then Jesus’ command is to look to and watch these little children because they are his prime example of how to enter his kingdom.

This is precisely why Jesus called a child to his side and placed him in their midst as if to say, “Keep your eyes focused on this little kid because he and others like him are my signposts showing you the way to my kingdom.”

Dag Hammarskjöld


A special note of interest is that “Dag Hammarskjöld, one of the great mystical writers of the twentieth century, always had this “The Imitation of Christ” with him and quoted from it on the day that he was chosen as secretary-general of the United Nations.”[8]

Dag Hammarskjöld did not know Jesus Christ as his personal Saviour. Richard P Hardy states:

Shortly after his death, those whose task it was to put his belongings in order, discovered in his night table a neatly typed manuscript entitled: Vermargen. (Markings). When it was finally published, his friends and his enemies found out something about the man they thought they knew perfectly well. They were astonished at what they read in these few pages.[9]

The one they had seen as strong and self-sufficient and successful had really been like them: one who lived through pain and sorrow and loneliness. Yet, they saw as well that he was different. For, through these signposts, he had written, he came through as someone who had reached Another or Something beyond himself. This made the whole process of life, his life meaningful and real. It was this relationship with the Transcendent which amazed everyone. And it was indeed a very special relationship. [10]

Dietrich Bonhoeffer


The Lutheran pastor and anti-Nazi dissident taught a course on “The Imitation of Christ” at the University of Berlin during the 1935-1936 academic year. In 1945, he had the book in his cell the night before the Nazis executed him.

Why did Bonhoeffer have a copy of “The Imitation of Christ” in his cell and not a Bible? Was he given a copy of Thomas á Kempis’ “Imitation of Christ” by his Nazi executors because he asked for one? If so, why did his presumable request favour Thomas á Kempis and not God’s infallibly true Word?

Like Karl Barth, Bonhoeffer believed that the Scripture is completely true. However, with a twist of ingenious insanity, they concluded that it was divided into two separate compartments of truth, a religious truth, and an empirical reality, which, of course, destroys the historicity of Scripture.

Here, in his own words, are the thoughts Bonhoeffer had about God’s Word. The one thing to note with dismay was his doublemindedness which fluctuated between conservative fundamentalism and extreme liberalism. He professed,

“I believe that the Bible alone is the answer to all our questions and that we need only to ask insistently and with some humility for us to receive the answer from it.”[11]

A closer inspection proves that its fundamentality is but a piece of driftwood washed up on the shore of contemplative meditation. With these often quoted words in his writings, especially Life Together, he encouraged Christians to meditate on Scripture in the Lectio Divina manner every day.

When he was an assistant pastor in Barcelona in 1928, Bonhoeffer told his congregation unequivocally that the Bible is filled with material that is historically unreliable. Even the life of Jesus is “overgrown with legends” and myths so that we have scant knowledge about the historical Jesus. Bonhoeffer concluded that “Vita Jesu scribe non potest” (the life of Jesus cannot be written).[12]

From this it is very clear that he did not believe that Jesus is God, he didn’t believe in the divinity of Christ, didn’t believe in the virgin birth, didn’t believe in the resurrection, and didn’t believe in salvation.

Bonhoeffer had a demonic distaste for conversion testimonies. Bethge observed that Bonhoeffer “was incensed by people who allowed themselves to be led full circle into reflecting upon their own beginnings, and was most strongly averse to any interpretation of The Cost of Discipleship or Life Together as special pleading on behalf of conversion.[13]

Allow me to remind my readers what God says of his Word.

Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him. Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar. (Proverbs 30:5-6).
And it came to pass, as he spake these things, a certain woman of the company lifted up her voice, and said unto him, Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked. But he said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it. (Luke 11:27-28). [So much for the idea of venerating the Roman Catholic Mother Mary.]
That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory. For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe. (1 Thessalonians 2:12-13).
LAMED. For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven. (Psalm 119:89).
For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book. (Revelation 22:18-19).

God hates double-mindedness (James 1:8; 4:8; Psalm 119:113-115). Bonhoeffer’s disdain and demonic aversion to the infallible historicity of the Bible, including Jesus Christ’s virgin birth, his death and resurrection, and concurrently his great admiration for Thomas á Kempis’ “The Imitation of Christ,” prove that the latter worshiped and followed another Jesus. (2 Corinthians 11:4).

In “The Cost of Discipleship” Bonhoeffer appeals to Christians to follow Christ with complete abandonment and calls upon them to be radical disciples. However, there is a demoniac trap in his pious plea when he separates Jesus’ teachings from his “radical discipleship” shenanigans. He wrote:

What is said [in the Scriptures] about the content of discipleship? Follow after me, run along behind me! That is all. To follow him is something completely void of content…. Again it [discipleship] is no universal law; rather it is the exact opposite of all legality. It is nothing other than bondage to Jesus Christ alone, i.e., the complete breaking of every program, every ideal, every legality. Thus, there is no further content possible, since Jesus is the only content.

The Bonhoeffer spirit is running rampant in the Emergent Church these days. Stephan Joubert also wrote a book using the word “radical” in its title while he too believes that “It is a way of life. It is not in propositions.” He could have said, “it is not in doctrines or dogmas but in following (copying, imitating Jesus Christ.”


Stephan Joubert “nogal” looks a lot like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, doesn’t he? A mystery . . .? No, not in the sense that they look alike but more in the spiritual sense of the word.


Noah Webster defined “mysticism” in his 1828 Dictionary as the obscurity of doctrine. No matter how revered and respected a person may be, whenever he or she manhandles biblical doctrine in the very slightest to misrepresent God and his Word via mysticism or in any other deceitful way, cannot be saved.

We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error. (1 John 4:6).

None of the twelve disciples and Paul of Tarsus practiced or promulgated mystical spiritual exercises such as apophatic or cataphatic prayers, Lectio Divina, contemplative prayer, the silence, etc. How do we know?

Paul, for instance, makes it very clear that anyone who preaches or practices another gospel different from his or the twelve disciples’ is bound for perdition and needs to repent. (Galatians 1:8-9).

The usual run-of-the-mill argument in an attempt to sanctify mysticism is, “The great plethora of different religions have caused most of the conflicts, wars, and human suffering throughout the centuries.”

Something of a universal nature had to be incorporated into all religions to enhance the alleged semblances within them all. The magical wand that accomplishes this wondrous union between the vast diversity of religions is mysticism.

Andrew Murray summed it up very well when he wrote: “In mysticism, as in everything human, there is an admixture of good and evil.”[14]

Could he have hinted at the evil of other religions and the good in Christianity in this benign camaraderie between good and evil?

Aleister Crowley


Aleister Crowley, a satanist par excellence who often referred to himself as “666” and “The Beast,” is regarded as one of the most famous mystics in history. Murray would definitely have dubbed him the evil in mysticism because “there is an admixture of good and evil” in mysticism “as in everything human.”

Helena Blavatsky



Here are a few quotes from the lips of Blavatsky and Alice Bailey on the Kingdom of God on earth. Whilst you read these quotes, please remember what Andrew Murray wrote about it in his book “The Kingdom of God is Within You.”

What is the Kingdom of God?. . During the Old Testament times it had been spoken of, and promised, and hoped for, but it had not come. During the life of Christ on earth, there were mighty tokens of its coming and its nearness, but it had not yet come in power. What it would be Christ foretold when He once said, “the Kingdom of God is within you;” and another time, “There be some standing here who shall not see death, till they see the Kingdom of God come in power.” On the day of Pentecost, that word was fulfilled. The Holy Spirit brought down out of heaven the Kingdom of God into the hearts of the disciples, and they went forth and preached the Gospel of the Kingdom not as at hand or coming, but as come.

Blavatsky and Bailey wrote,

“Christ’s major task was the establishing of God’s kingdom upon earth. He showed us the way in which humanity could enter that kingdom …the way is found in service to our fellow men …[15]

“The true Church is the kingdom of God on earth … composed of all, regardless of race or creed, who live by the light within, who have discovered the fact of the mystical Christ in their hearts.”[16]

Blavatsky was arguably one of the most famous female mystics in history. She is most well-known for her book “The Secret Doctrine.” Note the word “secret” which is used ever so sumptuously by Masons and Murray. (Please see Part 4, “Andrew Murray’s Secrets”).

Mysticism is by all means the main doorway to a one-world religion and ultimately a one-world government under Antichrist. Even the great Andrew Murray admitted that mysticism is in all religions.

To end part 6 of this series, I would like to quote Carl McColman’s definition of Mysticism.

Mysticism is the dimension of spirituality that goes deeper than belief, doctrine or dogma. It recognizes that spiritual reality cannot ever be fully comprehended by the limitations of human thought, language or logic. This implies that intuition and especially love are the necessary gateways to the fullness of spiritual perception, experience, and meaning. Because language is inadequate to express and convey mysticism, it is often associated with concepts such as mystery, ecstasy, ineffability, illumination, and especially silence. And while “experience” is a problematic word, for lack of a better term, mysticism is experiential spirituality.[17]

In just 94 words McColman confirms to an exact jot and tittle the prophecy spoken by Paul in 2 Timothy 4:3, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” (MYSTICISM + IMAGINATION)



[3] Introduction to “Wholly for God” by William Law, xiii

[4] Robert G. Tuttle, Mysticism in the Wesleyan Tradition.



[7]  Lisel Joubert; Isabel MurrayRooted in Christ. Rooted in Wellington. Reflections on the contextual character of spirituality

[8] The use of Scripture in The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis by J. Huls

[9] Henry P van Dusen,  Dag Hammarskjöld. The Man and his Faith, (Colophon Books) New York, Harper and Row, 1969, p. 173-174.

[10] HAMMARSKJOLD, THE MYSTIC Ephemerides Carmeliticae 29 (1978/1) 266-277

[11] Bonhoeffer to Rudiger Schleicher, April 3, 1936, in Testament to Freedom: The Essential Writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer,ed. Geffrey B. Kelly and F. Burton Nelson (San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 1990), 448.

[12] Bonhoeffer, “Jesus Christus und vom Wesen des Christentums,” in Gesammelte Schriften,5:137–38

[13] Eberhard Bethge, Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Man of Vision, Man of Courage, trans. Eric Mosbacher (New York: Harper and Row, 1970), 388–89.

[14] Andrew Murray, “Introduction to “Wholly for God” by William Law, XX

[15] Helena P. Blavatsky, “The New Cycle,” La Revue Theosophique Magazine, March 21, 1889

[16] Alice Bailey, From Bethlehem to Calvary, Chapter Seven – Our Immediate Goal


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Tom Lessing (Discerning the World)

Tom Lessing is the author of the above article. Discerning the World is an internet Christian Ministry based in Johannesburg South Africa. Tom Lessing and Deborah Ellish both own Discerning the World. For more information see the About this Website page below the comments section.

2 Responses

  1. Jason Smal says:

    I appreciate your use of mystery form in this essay. You don’t speak of the fire baptism however. It’s a gap.

  2. Jason Smal

    Your “fire baptism” is a mystery. What do you personally mean by it?

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