This question came up in a conversation with a friend recently. Valid question. I’ll do some more thinking on this one – and probably use a phone-a-friend line (or two) to contact some devout followers of Christ more aligned with that tradition. For the moment however – I have to say off the cuff these two things do not feel like the same thing at all. In the years I attended a charismatic church I learned much – but not regarding mysticism or anything that felt like that. It was at that church that I first learned of the Jesus prayer and “breath prayers”.
The spiritual gifts as practiced in most charismatic and/or pentecostal bodies are for the benefit of the larger body – and seem to be more corporate in their orientation, development, and practice – whereas mysticism seems to be a largely solitary pursuit – though it is also for the edification and benefit of the larger body. If a group of mystics gathered and “got all up in your grill and mystical” – I’m not sure you’d actually see anything. The charismatics and pentecostals though … well … you know that you’d notice.
More than any stereotyping though – what really draws me to the mystical tradition is the rigor and self-discipline they applied to their pursuit of God. They were the real deal through and through – and their motives – because they were solitary – didn’t pose the same questions. The accounts of their self-denial and self-discipline are so pervasive – that even as a critical modern reader – it can’t be dismissed out-right as medieval exaggeration. They had something different going on than is readily found anywhere today. If it is to be found still today – and I truly hope it is – you’d need a whole different set of skills to find it … some sort of other-worldly radar as it were – to detect a level of rigor and devotion at the root of a major drive and longing for God.
‘Course – this discussion begs the question – at least for me – what if these two things could be blended in a synergistic fashion? What would that look like?