By Eli Ayala
Understand Eastern Mysticism
Unlike religions like Islam or Mormonism, which have authoritative texts, Eastern Mysticism is more of a moving target. There is not one authoritative text to go to in order to clearly know what a proponent of such philosophy believes. This is why asking questions will be vitally important in engaging with them. This takes patience and strategy and we do not simply want to assume we know what their beliefs are. Allow the person the opportunity to explain themselves as you want to have an accurate picture of where they are coming from. Once you gather enough information you will be in a better position to engage their worldview and offer critiques that will move the discussion along, but you want to sufficiently understand Eastern Mysticism and some of the nuanced beliefs that go along with it.
Once you have gathered enough information on the particular person with whom you are speaking you will want to analyze the presuppositions inherent in the particular flavor of Eastern Mysticism you are engaging with. Again, asking specific worldview questions will be key. For example, Eastern Mysticism often posits the belief in an impersonal cosmic consciousness of sorts and that ultimate reality is beyond our comprehension. Ask the mystic if he or she holds to something like this. If they don’t, that will impact the direction you will go with your line of questioning and argumentation. If they do, that too will impact the direction you will go. For instance, if the mystic posits an ultimate impersonality (impersonal cosmic consciousness), that will have impact upon their epistemology (Theory of knowledge).
Epistemology deals with “how we know what we know?” It is one of the foundations of every worldview perspective. If you have read some of the other articles on this sight, you will remember that part of the presuppositional argumentation is to argue that only the Christian worldview can ground and justify knowledge. On the Christian worldview, there exists a God who reveals truth to us. An all-knowing creator and definer of all things has communicated to us through natural and special revelation. The mystic does not have to affirm this, but given the Christian worldview, it makes sense to say that we can know objective truth about reality. How does the mystic ascertain truth? How does the finite knower come into contact with knowledge in a world that on the big picture level, is shrouded in mystery? And if the big picture of reality is shrouded in mystery, then how can they claim to “know” objectively about the particulars of the world? We may even ask how they know that at base, there exists this impersonal cosmic consciousness? How do they know it’s impersonal? Did this impersonal cosmic consciousness reveal this to them? Does it even make sense to speak of a revelation from an impersonal cosmic consciousness? These sorts of questions are aimed at the fundamental presuppositions of the mystic and will prove useful in discussion and conversation. But remember, you must ask specific questions to make sure you are accurately conveying what they believe.
Pressing for Consistency
Once we have identified the key presuppositional commitments of the mystic, we will want to press for logical consistency. Now, we want to be careful here. Many forms of Eastern Mysticism will balk at the notion of logical consistency. Some will claim that to think in rigid logical categories is simply a western notion that one need not accept. However, simply because an adherent of Eastern Mysticism might not accept “western” logical categories doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t still press for logical consistency. If the mystic affirms the notion that we should think in logical categories, then press the tension between their professed beliefs and the laws of logic. Highlight whether some aspects of their beliefs are logically incoherent and therefore false. If the mystic denies the necessity of thinking and reasoning in logical categories, then simply demonstrate the absurdity of such a position.
One fun way to do this is to contradict every assertion or statement they make. Now, you are not doing this to be sarcastic or to make light of the discussion, but to demonstrate that if one denies the necessity of thinking and reasoning in logical categories, communication would be impossible. One would be free to construe the mystic’s own statements as meaning the opposite of what they are intending to convey, and they could not have a problem with it since to claim a contradiction is to think and reason in logical categories. Again, all of this is going to depend on the person you are speaking with. You want to remind yourself that Eastern Mysticism comes in varying forms so asking questions will be very important. Because there is great emphasis upon mystical experience, Eastern Mysticism will rely heavily upon one’s subjective experiences. From the standpoint of apologetics, you will want to exploit this point to show the problems with it. Explain how the Christian worldview allows for objectivity and provides a basis for knowing reality in an objective sense.
Pivoting to the Gospel
From here one could then strategically pivot to the gospel, proclaiming that because God exists, and he has revealed himself both in natural and special revelation, all will be judged and without excuse for rejecting the God that all men know exists. Press them on the fact that while they profess mysticism, mystery, and subjective experience, they do not consistently live that way and the reason for this is because they are made in the image of God and there is a knowledge of this God that He himself has provided to all men.
Remember, that the presuppositional approach helps uncover the foundational beliefs that shape a worldview. Strategically uncover the mystic’s foundational beliefs through thoughtful questioning and cross-examination. In like fashion, be open to cross-examination yourself and allow those moments to be opportunities to speak the truth in love. Just as God had mercy on you and saved you by his grace, pray that God uses your words through the working of the Holy Spirit to do the same for the mystic.