MYSTICISM: Stepping Into The Silence

January 7, 2016

The last handful of years have seen my Advents becoming an experience very unique to me, and to my mysticism. They have become purposeful, directed, month-long visions of an intensity that is truly impossible to describe. I remember one year actually feeling as though I were going into shock during one of the visions. So intense.  So real.  So overwhelming. But, until this year, following the path that God has laid out for me has never caused any conflict.  Obedience is one of my best traits.  God points – like one of Scrooge’s ghosts of Christmas – and I follow.  There is no flinching.  No doubt.  No hesitation. I just go. But this year was different.  I was told to let go of what I was doing, what I was feeling; and I [...]

MYSTICISM: Stripped Naked

December 18, 2014

Like today where I live, it was a time that wrapped itself close in darkness; night falling in the afternoon, morning blinking itself awake. And so, for me, it was a time of wrapping myself in the darkness of the nave, letting the music fill me, the words caress me. Advent. It was a year, however, that had given me a significant study: a study of evil that I could almost touch.  I could sense it, surely, but I had never encountered a force of evil that dominated an entire space.  It, too, liked being wrapped in the darkness of a church.  Safe and warm.  Hidden. I had to define it.  I had to track it.  I had to find it. And I did. All this meant to me was that I was in flight, in that realm that lies between Earth and God, where my [...]

MYSTICISM: The Remarkable Lack Of Edges In The Unseen World

August 26, 2014

We define ourselves by running into things. We begin our lives by feeling hunger.  Then discomfort.  Then the shock of separation. It’s all new.  And very quickly, it becomes who I am. There is a cat in the house at this time – not mine, none of them are mine, but they are here nevertheless – who must have been sadly treated before he was adopted.  It has taken quite a bit of time, but he has discovered that he can actually communicate with me. So he has begun a routine: he jumps out of the open window and walks quickly to the door, scratches on it, and waits excitedly for me to come and open it, give him a great, big, friendly welcome, and pet him a bunch.  And then he does it all over again. And again. We shape our [...]

MYSTICISM: Dancing In The Shadows

July 10, 2014

There was an extended period of time, fairly close to the beginning of my induction into The Serious Work Of Being A Mystic – serious, in spite of having visions (working visions) throughout my childhood – that will perhaps be difficult for anyone else to understand. In the visions, I was standing in the wings of a stage.  Down at the edge of the stage stood Jesus.  All the spotlights were on him, and he stood there, in every single vision, with his arms open wide to the vast audience before him.  He looked down at them.  He knew every single one of them.  And he addressed them as they addressed him. And for each and every different person who petitioned him, he answered the person with a unique answer.  Sometimes he was [...]

MYSTICISM: Sameness And Distinction In Religion

February 10, 2014

In mystic states we both become one with the Absolute and we become aware of our oneness.  This is the everlasting and triumphant mystical tradition, hardly altered by differences of clime or creed.  In Hinduism, in Neoplatonism, in Sufism, in Christian mysticism we find the same recurring note, so that there is about mystical utterance an eternal unanimity which ought to make a critic stop and think, and which brings it about that the mystical classics have, as has been said, neither birthday nor native land.  Perpetually telling of the unity of man with God, their speech antedates languages, and they do not grow old.  (William James, Varieties of Religious Experience) It’s funny how certain concepts come down to just one fat [...]

MYSTICISM: Connecting With Divine Energy

January 30, 2014

Oddly, twice in the last couple weeks I have seen and mostly read two articles about ecstatic experiences arrived at through sexuality.  Even odder, the author of the first one I read claims that this touching of the divine put her off sex altogether. I didn’t read through the second one. An odd fashion in journalism, it seems to me.  Perhaps one editor read the first one, liked the subject matter and went off to find her own sufferer of sexual ecstasy. Or perhaps it was just an editorial coincidence.  Simultaneous creation, as it were. Then, even more recently, reading a short article, a list really, over on David Virtue’s blog (Virtue Online), I noted that the reasons given for ardent churchgoers leaving the church were [...]

VISIONS: Face To Face

October 4, 2013

I want to use the word, conspiracy.  But conspiracy has the overtone of an unlawful act, of criminality. So I can’t use that word. There’s, schematic.  But that’s a very visual word.  And visions aren’t technically visual (unless they are).  And these aren’t visual visions. I’m referring now to words.  Words that come together like a dance, an elaborate, mimed expression. It’s that time again.  The time of “hearing” the cooing chant of God.  Of feeling the closing-in pressure in the spiritual air around me.  Of expectation. Of threatened change. That change. That change when I leave ordinary actions behind to be just ordinary, and find that I am stepping, somehow, between the [...]

MYSTICISM: Gazing On Jesus Unseen

November 13, 2012

In the church I am attending these days there are the most beautiful, Tiffany-made stained-glass windows all around the nave.  Above the altar is a triptych.  In the center stands Jesus.  His delicate feet are bare and pointed at us as though we could just reach up and touch them.  His arms are raised.  Are they saying, come to me?  Or are they telling us to praise God?  Or are they just telling us how happy he is to see us? The brilliant white and bright colors of his garments wrap around us as much as they do him. His head, his precious, delicate head, is tilted ever so slightly.  Is he thinking?  Or, again, happy to see us?  Or is he tired and wanting to rest? In the early morning service, the light from outside blasts [...]

MYSTICISM: A Time For Change

November 9, 2012

It’s as though my life is being reflected in the season these months.  Leaves are blowing around, no longer of any use.  The amount of sunlight is constrained.  Grey, heavy clouds cling to the sky. A time pointing at death, yet holding the secret of life deep in its belly. I can’t remember how long ago it was for me when the drops of God’s words hit my head and bounced off: You are in the first level of your learning.  When you give away what I have taught you, you will enter the second level of your learning. They were just raindrops, after all, disappearing into the night.  Because invariably my response was: That’s never going to happen. I was perfectly prepared to go through life never opening my mouth to [...]

MYSTICISM: The Stages Of Visions

October 30, 2012

It is somewhat of an overwhelming challenge to come out of there’s-a-storm-that-wants-to-get-into-my-house-can-I-keep-it-out mode and think about writing.  It is equally challenging to stop shaking with concern about my daughter’s well-being, she who sat in the middle of a tree-drop zone, where trees were crashing down into houses and onto cars like flower blossom petals in the springtime, and power lines swung about like jump ropes in action. So, a few thousand deep breaths later, and we’re off.  Well, I’m off. But that’s nothing new. In my extensive experience with visions, for me, the rhythm of them takes about four steps.  Not that every vision follows the same path.  Or even that all visions take the [...]

MYSTICISM: Distinguishing Between God And The Devil In Supernatural Locutions

August 14, 2012

The Greek word, diakrisis, refers to distinguishing, dividing and judging, and it is used for discerning the spirits, for evaluating whence comes a particular communication.  Paul speaks in 1 Corinthians 12:10 of a gift of recognizing spirits, and he lists it among sundry other charisms given to the faithful: preaching, faith, healing, working miracles, tongues and such like.  The community is admonished in 1 Corinthians 14:29 to test the origin of the alleged communications from the prophets. (Authenticity, Thomas Dubay) I went ahead and used John of the Cross’s term for communications from God, supernatural locutions.  It seems to be a nice, neat way to succinctly describe these kind of communications. On two extended [...]

MYSTICISM: John of the Cross’s Three Forms Of Communication From God

August 10, 2012

The following quotes are from The Ascent of Mount Carmel, Book 2, Chapters 28 through 31. When I categorize my visions, I do so in a most informal way, coming up with umbrellas that I think might cover some of the most obvious characteristics.  And then I give these groups really, really fancy and well thought names: names such as A, and B, and I even have a category that I call, weapons. But that’s another story altogether. But John of the Cross takes a whole lot deeper approach to categorizing communications from God.  He is limiting himself in this work to those communications that involve words.  And while emotions and even actions may result of these visions, for this effort, he is addressing how God communicates. Now I [...]

MYSTICISM: The River Of Life

June 12, 2012

Evelyn Underhill writes that the mystic sees the world as sacramental. I like that image. A mystic experiences the world around him as a complete expression of the divine. In my book, there are three active forms of mystics.  (And one passive.)  The active forms are (1) the head, who experiences visions and other sensual Godly phenomenon; (2) the heart, who feels their way through their relationship with God; and (3) the hand, those people who, without articulation, know the right thing to do, the right time to do it, and has the courage to get up and do it. The metaphor I’ve been taught about a head’s relationship to life is that in the river, the head swims.  Uses his arms and legs, and makes his way down the current. [...]

MYSTICISM: The Beguines, with writings

March 2, 2012

The Beguinage, Bruques The high gate keeps, it seems, nobody in And the bridge leads contentedly out as well as within And yet, it is certain that each and everyone Is in the old Elm Court; they do not leave Their houses, except to walk the short way To church, in order that they may the better understand Why there should be such love in them. (Rainer Maria Rilke) Some women in the middle ages wanted to control their own lives.  They neither wanted to be married off by their families, nor did they want to submit to the authority that was wielded by convents.  Their hearts were filled with love for God, and, in what feels like a strange application, they took what was current in their culture — the idealism of chivalric [...]

MYSTICISM: Teresa of Ávila, or Love’s Madness

February 15, 2012

I have never been one to shake my fist at man and yell out, why don’t you believe in God, the almighty, the one who loves you absolutely?  To me it has always been fairly obvious – the causes of this near-to-complete divorce proceeding that our culture likes to keep in court, drawing out the litigation, airing the seemingly eternal complaints against God, the history, the agony. To me it’s simple: God is absolute; man is relative.  We are the ones, after all, who get to hear the ticking of the clock.  Who get to feel the streaking pain in our bodies.  Who get to know the shock of watching a loved one leave us. God, on the other hand, experiences nothing in terms of time.  Experiences nothing in terms of his own pain. [...]

MYSTICISM: The Thirst Of The Soul, with help from Evelyn Underhill

January 9, 2012

Psalm 42: As the hart pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; when will I come and appear before God?   Evelyn Underhill, the first woman to lecture at Oxford and the woman who gave retreats to Anglican priests, counseling them to start praying, has an expansive definition of what a mystic is.  My first post to this blog, one I wrote up quickly so that I could experiment with it in deciding how I wanted the blog to look, was a beginning to her definition of a mystic.  Here is a continuation of her thoughts about this: So the beginning of an answer to the question, ‘What is mysticism?’ must be this: mysticism is the passionate longing of the soul for God, the [...]

MYSTICISM: Christopher Hitchens Is Dead: A Tribute to Mother Teresa

January 6, 2012

I was traveling to Darjeeling by train when I heard the voice of God.  I was sure it was God’s voice.  I was certain that he was calling me.  The message was clear.  I must leave the convent to help the poor by living among them.  This was a command, something to be done, something definite.  I knew where I had to be.  But I did not know how to get there. At the time of Mother Teresa’s death, there were over six hundred missions of charity in 123 countries. These included her homes for the dying (hospices), homes for those suffering with AIDS/HIV, home for those with leprosy and tuberculosis, soup kitchens, orphanages, and schools. One day, Christopher Hitchens decided to make a documentary about Mother Teresa.  It was [...]

MYSTICISM: On Visions And Visionaries

December 16, 2011

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 [...]

MYSTICAL WOMEN: Joan of Arc—Breaking the Mold

December 14, 2011

This is the story of Joan of Arc’s first trial. No, it’s not what you think.  In fact, before Joan had to stand before the judges arguing for her very life, she was on trial twice.  And as I wrote, above, this is the tale of her first encounter with the forces of justice.  But, first, for better understanding of this trial, a glimpse into her youth. When Joan was thirteen, she had her first vision.  At the second public examination of Joan (The Trial) on Thursday, February 22, 1431, she described to the judges assembled before her her first mystical experiences: Asked if she received the sacrament of the Eucharist at other feasts than Easter, she told the interrogator to move on.  Then she confessed that when she was aged [...]