From Finding the Mystic Within You
“I prayed, and understanding was given me. . . . Wisdom is quicker to move than any motion: she is so pure, she pervades and permeates all things. She is a breath of the power of God, pure emanation of the glory of the Almighty, a reflection of the eternal light, untarnished mirror of God’s active power, image of his goodness. Although alone, she can do all: herself unchanging, she makes all things new. In each generation she passes into holy souls, she makes them friends of God and prophets.” (Wisdom 7:7, 24)
“Mysticism – doctrine that knowledge of spiritual truth may be attained intuitively.”
“Intuition – the immediate knowing or learning of something without the conscious use of reasoning.”
There are two kinds of knowledge – “rational” knowledge and “mystical” knowledge. “Rational” knowledge is gained through our conscious effort; it is the work of the created intellect. Through the use of our senses; reading, studying, and hearing talks, facts, or information “about” God is gathered and stored in the memory.
“Mystical” knowledge is not knowledge “about” God, but God himself that is apprehended intuitively. Through the activity of God in our deepest center, mystical knowledge is absorbed from within, by-passing the created senses.
“He who would go to God relying upon natural ability and reasoning will not be very spiritual. There are some who think that by pure force and the activity of the senses, which of itself is lowly and no more than natural, they can reach the strength and height of the supernatural spirit. One does not attain to this peak without suppressing and leaving aside the activity of the senses.
“Pure contemplation lies in receiving. It is impossible for this highest wisdom and language of God, which is contemplation, to be received in anything less than a spirit that is silent and detached from discursive knowledge and gratification.
“This wisdom is loving, tranquil, solitary, peaceful, mild, and an inebriator of the spirit, by which the soul feels tenderly and gently wounded and carried away, without knowing by whom, nor from where, nor how. The reason is that this wisdom is communicated without the soul’s own activity,” (Living Flame of Love, Saint John of the Cross).
Through a kind of “spiritual osmosis” the soul is gradually absorbing God, by silent time spent in each other’s presence.
“Osmosis – Gr. osmos – impulse; the tendency of fluids to pass through a somewhat porous membrane so as to equalize concentrations on both sides.”
In spiritual osmosis the concentration of divine life, love, and knowledge, through the impulse of God, gradually becomes absorbed, equalized, and fully balanced in the divine/human spirit.
This divine activity is far beyond the capacity of the created human intellect to observe or evaluate, and proceeds regardless of whether or not the created senses or feelings are involved.
“Contemplation is also termed mystical theology, meaning the secret or hidden knowledge of God. In contemplation God teaches the soul very quietly and secretly, without its knowing how, without the sound of words, and without the help of any bodily or spiritual faculty, in silence and quietude, in darkness to all sensory and natural things. Some spiritual persons call this contemplation knowing by unknowing,” (Spiritual Canticle, Saint John of the Cross).
“It is written in the prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God,’” (John 6:45).
To be taught by God, and not through our own conscious efforts may be for us a completely new approach to spiritual growth. It is the reason for the spiritual emphasis on becoming a “little child,” and allowing God to lead and form the soul, remaining passively receptive and not interfering with this delicate work.
In the beginning of the spiritual journey, this is often difficult for people to become accustomed to, especially those who are “take charge” types. Even those who are not often resist the idea of giving up control. We hesitate on the brink of this mysterious unknown, for we are used to proceeding through blocks of time schedules, semesters or years, during which our “performance” is graded or evaluated, and in which we are able to observe our progress and achievements, and thereby enjoy a sense of satisfaction and pride of “accomplishment.”
But our human “measuring rods” are useless in the spiritual world where “the last is first”; the “greatest among you is the servant of all”; the “weak confound the strong”; and “a little child shall lead them.” In this spiritual land it is necessary to let that spiritual, eternal child, which is in each one of us, lead us to the Father.
“To reach a new and unknown land and travel unknown roads, a man cannot be guided by his own knowledge, rather he has doubts about his own knowledge and seeks the guidance of others. Obviously he cannot reach new territory nor attain this added knowledge if he does not take these new and unknown roads and abandon those familiar ones. The soul, too, when it advances, walks in darkness and unknowing. Since God, as we said, is the master and guide of the soul, this blind man, it can truly rejoice,” (The Dark Night, Saint John of the Cross).
If, through self-knowledge, we know ourselves, and have gained some idea of the omnipotence of God, it will come as no surprise that we cannot immediately comprehend divine wisdom.
“How rich are the depths of God – how deep his wisdom and knowledge – and how impossible to penetrate his motives or understand his methods! Who could ever know the mind of the Lord?” (Romans 11:33).
In the silent absorption of contemplation we wait, experiencing God through love without attempting to analyze, question, or measure, as he fills us with his own divine life. In the stillness we train the mirror of our souls upon God, and the mirror-image becomes progressively clearer and more indelible.
Mystical knowledge is both love and wisdom. Love is of the “essence” of God, not of the created, and is therefore able to immediately unite with God; but Divine Wisdom is incomprehensible to the created mind and is not always fully understood at the moment that it is received. Part of the suffering of the “dark night” is that the faculties are not able to function in their accustomed manner. Love has to love, and reason has to reason. Both are proceeding according to their nature, but the created needs time to grasp and absorb the Divine, as the body needs time to digest and assimilate food.
Love IS God, of his very nature, and is able to surmount matter and merge with God in sameness, while the understanding lags behind. Love transcends the mere human way of proceeding, and goes out of itself to God in a kind of “quantum leap.” Love is like the rope of the mountain climber which grasps a new peak, then supports the struggling, created intellect while it “hangs suspended” for a time. When understanding “catches up,” the “rope of love” again flings higher. Created consciousness slowly assimilates the divine knowledge with which it has been filled, before it arrives at that place to which love, uncreated spirit, has effortlessly leaped.
Love effects change; information, without love, does not. Knowledge, even spiritual knowledge, of itself is not growth inducing. Divine transformation does not require knowledge equal to God’s, but it does require equal love. True spiritual growth is accomplished through humble openness to the Divine infusion. Love contains all that God is and, eventually, all that the soul is, as the soul’s capacity is strengthened and expanded to fulfill its divine destiny of being equal to God.
Spiritual writers have said that information plus experience equals wisdom.
“Experience must be restored to its rightful place in theology; doctrinal truth and a life of prayer must be wedded again. Theology begins with experience, and experience reflected upon produced theology.
“If we stop short of the deep inner stuff of religion, chances are we’ll become either fanatics or skeptics. The deep inner stuff of religion is called the mystical life. It consists primarily of the contemplation of truth. Contemplation is a supremely human and intuitive gaze on truth,” (The Human Adventure, Fr. William McNamara).
“You will learn the truth and the truth will make you free,” (John 8:32).
In every area of our lives, in order to communicate we must know the language. God’s language is “the silent language of love,” which requires the ability to listen with the heart. Learning the language of divine love puts us in touch not only with God, but with all those who are close to him, both in Heaven and on Earth. From time-to-time during our Earthly journey we may glimpse, at the edge of perception, the radiant beauty of another’s soul in the blinding flash of a “Transfiguration experience.” At the sudden recognition of Spirit and Spirit, an answering flame leaps up spontaneously form our depths.
“Master, it is wonderful for us to be here!” (Luke 9:33)
The moment your greeting reached my ears, the child in my womb leapt for joy!” (John 21:7).
Through the indwelling, Divinity smiles out at us from other eyes and speaks through their mouths, sometimes so directly and immediately that the encounter and its significance can neither be mistaken nor denied.
“Did not our hearts burn within us as he talked to us on the road?” (Luke 24:32).
Through the ever-growing intimacy of the prayer relationship, Christ becomes “familiar” to the soul, and is therefore more easily recognized regardless of the outward “disguise.” Contemplative awareness is necessary in order to recognize him for “Our God is a hidden God.” Because of obvious human weaknesses and failings, the clearer, deeper perception of the soul is needed to “see” the paradox of the Divine within the human, whether it be in ourselves, or in our sisters and brothers. The contemplative spirit keeps us open and receptive, with a sense of wonder and awe at the reality of the presence of God “shining diaphanously at the heart of creation,” (Pierre Teilhard de Chardin). The contemplative remains a spiritual child, young at heart, regardless of the passing years.
To the prayerful soul loving and generous enough to give God the time, and humble and willing enough to listen and change, Christ will come again. “I will not leave you orphans: I will come back to you,” (John 14:16).
In the depths of contemplation as we sense his gaze upon us, irresistibly drawing our souls to “Come, follow me,” we are moved to respond. From time-to-time we are called to temporarily leave our “nets,” the entanglements of the world, the trivia with which we have become so caught up, too many possessions that in time “own” us, prejudices not worthy of the divine intelligence that God shares with us, and false images of God or ourselves that tend to block out the Divine Light. To know (experience) the depths of God, we must first know (experience) the depths of ourselves, and the dark emptiness of the creature without God’s light and love. “The soul is like an empty vessel waiting to be filled,” (Spiritual Canticle, Saint John of the Cross).