Father Benedict, Sheikh Abdelsalam Mennasrah and Rabbi David Seidenberg
This two part series discusses the relationship between mysticism and religious leadership. The three monotheistic faiths are each represented by their respective leaders. Is mysticism a good quality for religious leadership and what are the tensions between the mystical dimension and other dimensions of authority in religion?
Father Benedict relates how in Christianity, G-d reveals himself, but does it veiled. Christ’s hidden truth or reality is experienced through mystical practices. This experience is beyond rational perception, which in turn forms a new consciousness for the one experiencing it. The mystic is confronted with a new reality-he/she becomes a tool in the hand of G-d.
In terms of authority, many people may have deep religious experiences but cannot guide others in that religious way. Spiritual leadership is a gift, a charisma from G-d, and not every mystic owns it; however every religious leader should be a mystic.
With regards to Islam, Sheikh Abdelsalam Mennasrah discusses various charismatic Muslim leaders throughout history and then speaks of several mystical components of Sufism.
Rabbi David Seidman discusses Kabbalah and charismatic authority in Judaism. Seidman notes that while Kabbalah is based on intellectual authority deriving from the capacity to read, Hasidism, in turn, favors charismatic authority. A Rebe, or spiritual leader, cannot be a Rebe without followers, and to have followers he must show charisma. Seidman also speaks of a new movement known as neo-Hasidism, which focuses on authority of charismatic figures. This final session is followed by a contentious question and answer session.