MYSTICISM: On Visions And Visionaries

On Visions And Visionaries

I don’t talk with people much about my visions.  For most of my life, I’ve kept very, very private about it all.  But, amazingly, the few times that the subject of visions has come up in a conversation and I have addressed it, there are people who respond to me by saying, you know, that’s not just the way it’s done.

And I agree wholeheartedly.

Most of the time, I don’t see things, like an apparition of Jesus, neither do I hear things like Joan of Arc.  My visions are like enlarged thoughts.  A thought that I have to purchase some more dish-washing detergent has a low vibration in my brain, a gentle hum.  But a vision about say, the lesson of silence, which I know from experience is not just a rumbling-around thought of my own but one given to me specifically by God, has a brighter burst, a stronger presence, its own magnificence.

But my visions are restricted, almost completely, to my thought process.

I label someone with these types of experiences as a “head.”  But all visionaries are not heads.  They may be the only type most people know about because they write and sometimes even teach people about their visions.

There are people who understand just what to do as a Christian expressing God in the world because of the way that they feel.  Perhaps they are not as good as others in articulating their “urges,” but when they trust their impulses and put their good works into practice, they can be as unswervingly accurate as any head can be.  I label these kinds of visionaries, “hearts.”

Then there are the people that I have come across from time-to-time who, at any given moment, will just get up and go do something amazing.  They will go check on a friend and find the friend in need of their assistance.  They will know the right action to take when faced with a problem.  I label these kinds of visionaries, “hands.”

I break down much of our differences in how we respond to the world and to God into these classifications, but there is in addition to heads, hearts, and hands, the category, feet.  I have often wondered where the feet of the world come into clarity as visionaries.  To me, feet represent understanding.  (Heads, thoughts; hearts, feelings; hands, action.)  Perhaps feet are those people who really understand a mystic’s musings, people like my two heroes in life, Evelyn Underhill, who wrote the book, Mysticism; and Bernard McGinn, who has written volumes on mystics and mysticism.  Perhaps it is through their understanding of this phenomenon that some people find their ability to touch the hand of God.

But as I consider someone such as Joan of Arc, a little girl, relatively, who is told to go and lead the army and drive the English out of France, I am able to articulate two of the different types of visions.

Joan took her visions to be absolutely real.  Real in that they occurred, and real in giving her a real assignment that she had to accomplish.  In other words, Joan held her visions to be prescriptive.  That is, she felt the visions were giving her information to be followed literally.

I, on the other hand, perhaps because of the nature of my visions, view them as descriptive.  That is, to me, my visions in general explain things rather than assigning certain tasks to be completed.  (Not that I haven’t had tasks to be completed, but they don’t come along very often.)

More on types of visions in later posts.


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