Mysticism

MYSTICISM: How Mysticism Became Christian by Carl McColman

August 16, 2017

From The Big Book of Christian Mysticism But anyone united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. (1 Corinthians 6:17) The Christian religion is primarily about a transformation of consciousness.  This takes spiritual practice and the cultivation of wisdom.  In another time, this was called cultivating the supernatural organism, what Paul called “a new creation.”  So the main thing is to be transformed into God, what the early church called deification, theosis, divinization. (Thomas Keating) As useful as Wilber’s orienting generalizations are, they are not the only tools we have to explore the complex mystery of mysticism.  History and etymology also provide important clues to the understanding this recondite [...]

MYSTICISM: Clare Of Assisi by Bernard McGinn

August 9, 2017

From The Flowering of Mysticism The theme of finding Christ in and through Francis of Assisi was central to all later Franciscan piety and mysticism.  No more perfect example of this is to be found than in Clare of Assisi (1193–1253), Francis’s first female convert to the evangelical way of life and the founder of the “Poor Ladies of San Damiano,” the source of all the later groups of women who identify themselves as Franciscan.  As she put it in the Testament that she wrote late in life in imitation of that left by Francis: “The Son of God became our way, which our most holy father Francis, his true lover and imitator, showed and taught us by word and example.” Francis’s special love for Clare, whom [...]

MYSTICISM: The Way Of Joy — Francis of Assisi by John Michael Talbot

August 2, 2017

From The Way of the Mystics Late one moonlit night, the citizens of Assisi, Italy, were awakened from their slumber by a frightful commotion.  The cause of the disturbance was a local youth named Francis, but none of the townspeople realized that yet.  All they knew was that the bells of their town church were clanging chaotically in the middle of the night. These were the same bells that sounded throughout the daylight hours, chiming out familiar tones at morning, noon, and dusk.  But this wasn’t daylight, and this noise was no pretty melody.  It sounded like a pack of hyenas had been let loose in the bell tower. When a few droopy-eyed town fathers made their way to the central square in their nightshirts and slippers, they were [...]

MYSTICISM: The Living Flame Of Love — Stanza 2 by John of the Cross

July 26, 2017

From The Living Flame of Love Stanza II O sweet burn! O delicious wound! O tender hand! O gentle touch That savors of eternal life, And pays every debt! In slaying you have changed death into life. EXPOSITION We learn here that it is the three persons of the Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who accomplish the divine work of union in the soul.  The “hand,” the “burn,” and the “touch” are in substance one and the same; and the three terms are employed because they express effects peculiar to each.  The “burn” is the Holy Spirit; the “hand” is the Father, and the “touch” is the Son.  Thus the soul magnifies the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, [...]

MYSTICISM: Defining Mysticism by Carl McColman

July 19, 2017

From The Big Book of Christian Mysticism For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. (Isaiah 55:8) What, then, is time? I know well enough what it is, provided that nobody asks me; but if I am asked what it is and try to explain, I am baffled. (Augustine) Some people think mysticism means having powerful spiritual experiences, like seeing Heavenly visions, or hearing supernatural voices, or feeling a sense of communion with God, or undergoing profound shifts in consciousness.  Others see it as a spiritual dimension to (and beyond) religion, in which the cultural, ethical, and theological differences between religions are somehow resolved in a trans-verbal state of unity.  Still others dismiss it as [...]

MYSTICISM: The Need Of Retreat by Evelyn Underhill

July 12, 2017

From Light of Christ A first retreatant lately told me that when she confessed to her husband what she intended to do, he took his pipe from his mouth and said earnestly: “Go my dear.  Go, by all means!  You’re just about due for a spot of re-birth.”  That man, it seems to me, had a very clear idea of one function of a retreat: its power of causing the re-birth of our spiritual sense, quickening that which has grown dull and dead in us, calling it out into light and air, giving it another chance. Most of us are bitterly conscious of the extent in which we are at the mercy of our surroundings: which grow ever more and more insistent in their pressure, their demands on our attention and time; less and less suggestive of [...]

SERMON: Mystical Vineyards And The Prudence Of The Flesh by Bernard of Clairvaux

July 9, 2017

“They made me the keeper of the vineyards.” (Song of Solomon 1:6)  Who are they? Do you mean those opponents to whom you recently referred? Listen and understand. Perhaps she is saying that she has been given this charge by the very people who persecuted her. No need to wonder at this if she was attacked for the purpose of correcting her. Everybody knows that lots of people are frequently opposed in a well-intentioned way for their good. Every day we meet with people whose ideals are purified, who advance to perfection through the friendly corrections of their superiors. Therefore let us rather show, if we can, hew her mother’s sons fight against the church with hostile purpose and with a loss that is her gain. This is [...]

MYSTICISM: Bernard Of Clairvaux, by Louis Dupré and James A. Wiseman

July 5, 2017

From Light From Light Bernard of Clairvaux (1090–1153): Abbot, ecclesiastical statesmen, mediator between warring armies, counselor of popes and kings, champion of orthodoxy, Bernard of Clairvaux was unquestionably the most influential person in Europe in the first half of the twelfth century.  But it is perhaps in the stamp he left on Christian spirituality that his most enduring influence is to be found.  At one point in the history of Western Christianity love became equated with the very essence of the spiritual life, and if we had to assign the beginning of that movement to one person, that person would have to be Bernard.  The passages from his writings below are intended above all to illustrate this centrality of love in his [...]

MYSTICISM: Hidden In Plain Sight by Carl McColman

June 28, 2017

From The Big Book of Christian Mysticism For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (II Corinthians 4:6) For the sages say that it is impossible for rational knowledge of God to coexist with the direct experience of God, or for conceptual knowledge of God to coexist with immediate perception of God. (Maximus the Confessor) Mysticism is a vague word that is used in a variety of ways to mean different things.  This is not just because human beings are sloppy and like to use words in imprecise ways – although, granted, that’s part of the problem.  Rather, mysticism as a word or concept is [...]

MYSTICISM: Hadewijch Of Antwerp by Harvey Egan

June 21, 2017

From An Anthology of Christian Mysticism The Flemish Beguine, Hadewijch, is perhaps the most sublime exponent of love mysticism in the Western tradition.  Love mysticism contends that God allows himself to be experienced as Love by a person who ardently desires to love and to be united with God in this life. In addition, this love is usually deeply emotional, ecstatic, visionary, and bridal.  So traumatic is this madness at times that the visionary’s physical well-being and even life are endangered. Hadewijch was a Beguine, that is, a woman who lived a semi-religious community life, but without vows.  The Beguines were pious women who seem to have rejected both a woman’s constructed life at court and the stricter obligations [...]

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM: An Introduction by Bernard McGinn

June 14, 2017

From Comparative Mysticism The term” mysticism” is a modern one.  It first appeared in the seventeenth century in French as “la mystique” (literally “mystics”), indicating a separate branch of theology akin to that which treated of Christian doctrine (i.e., “dogmatics”).  Mysticism does not seem to have been widely used, either academically or popularly, before the nineteenth century.  The appropriateness of the word to describe aspects of Christian belief and practice prior to 1600 is defensible, but by no means as simple as sometimes supposed. One of the reasons why the task is not easy is because contemporary readers often understand “mysticism” as a special form of [...]

SOUL STRUCTURE: Islam, ISIS, And The Confusion That Lies Therein

April 21, 2017

This is not going to go well. That’s my prediction anyway. But I hereby restate my primary assertion about spiritual warfare: If you don’t know what you are dealing with, you don’t know how to address the problem. It’s as simple as that. A doctor is going to be much more effective with his patient if he already knows both what the disease is and what the best methods are to treat it. Otherwise he is swinging about in the dark. Which pretty much sums my opinion of most writing about spiritual warfare. In my humble opinion. Well, maybe not so humble. So let’s begin. I began studying the Muslim soul structure around about the time that Princess Diana died.  I remember this because I found the soul-structure [...]

JESUS: In That Moment Right Before

February 5, 2017

I would say that, most of the time, when I hear scripture read, or read it for myself, it feels like the wind to me.  Something blowing by me.  I recognize the elements that are in the wind, but it is something that is beyond me in terms of capturing it.  Or even being part of it. From time-to-time, some of it makes me wrench my neck around in an attempt to seize it.  Some combination of words that are just that tantalizing as to make me want to scrutinize them. Then there are those astounding times when I hear or read words that I have received in a vision.  Sometimes the words are exactly the same.  And a cathedral-sized bell rings inside me.  It is a confirmation of accuracy.  I know that my vision was from God.  Those are, as [...]

TALES FROM BEYOND THE HORIZON: A Child In The Light And Shadow Of God

January 22, 2017

I like straight corners. If I am standing at the counter of a bank, I stand there straightening the piles of various forms. I wonder if people wonder at what I am doing. But I do it nonetheless. And the other day I found myself wanting to straighten the corners of my spirituality.  Specifically my relationship with the rest of the world that I live in. This is because I go through life feeling like I run into skewed corners all the time, all over the place, but do nothing about it. One place it shows up is around the phrase, When I came to Jesus.  It’s like a club of people.  And when that phrase is uttered, they grin at each other. Like new mothers who have discovered that they will not kill their first child from neglect.  I [...]

SPIRITUAL WARFARE: A Rant

January 15, 2017

I am angry.  Very angry. Well, at least I was. I came to a boil when I read the words that generally said in an article on deliverance that fighting Satan is no harder than taking out the garbage. That it’s merely something you might not want to do, but it’s your responsibility, so go for it. Oh, and there’s nothing to be afraid of.  Because you know, Jesus something or other. The man who was nailed to a cross to bleed to death because of evil has your back. You know. So forget about it. On the evening of the day that I read this – I won’t stoop to calling it nonsense – I heard the same statement made in a lecture. It must be in the air. Nothing frightening about Satan.  Oh, no.  He’s a peach.  A [...]

ADVENT WITH EVELYN UNDERHILL: The Vision Of Love

December 24, 2016

From The School of Charity When we look out towards this Love that moves the stars and stirs in the child’s heart, and claims our total allegiance and remember that this alone is Reality and we are only real so far as we conform to its demands, we see our human situation from a fresh angle; and perceive that it is both more humble and dependent, and more splendid, than we had dreamed.  We are surrounded and penetrated by great spiritual forces, of which we hardly know anything.  Yet the outward events of our life cannot be understood, except in their relation to that unseen and intensely living world, the Infinite Charity which penetrates and supports us, the God whom we resist and yet for whom we thirst; who is ever at work, [...]

ADVENT WITH EVELYN UNDERHILL: Love Is An Orientation Toward God

December 23, 2016

From The Life of the Spirit and the Life of Today Christians, on the authority of their Master, declare that such love of God requires all that they have, not only of feeling, but also of intellect and of power; since he is to be loved with heart and mind and strength.  Thought and action on highest levels are involved in it, for it means, not religious emotionalism, but the unflickering orientation of the whole self towards him, ever seeking and finding the Eternal; the linking up of all behavior on that string, so that the apparently hard and always heroic choices which are demanded, are made at last because they are inevitable.  It is true that this dominant interest will give to our lives a special emotional color and a special [...]

ADVENT WITH EVELYN UNDERHILL: Love In Creation

December 22, 2016

From The School of Charity He shewed me a little thing, says Julian of Norwich, the quantity of a hazel nut in the palm of my hand; and it was as round as a ball.  I looked thereupon with the eye of my understanding and thought: “What may this be?”  And it was answered generally thus: “It is all that is made.”  In this Little Thing I saw three properties.  The first is that God made it, the second is that God loveth it, the third, that God keepeth it. That is a saint’s comment on the first article of her Creed.  It is a vision that takes much living-out in the world in which injustice and greed are everywhere manifest; full, too, to tendencies which we are able to recognize as evil, and of misery and [...]

ADVENT WITH EVELYN UNDERHILL: Contemplation

December 21, 2016

From Light of Christ Contemplation of Christ does not mean an emotional sort of pious daydream; it means entering by a deliberate, self-oblivious, and humble attention into the tremendous mysteries of his life – mysteries which each give us some deep truth about the life and will of God and the power and vocation of a soul that is given to God – mysteries which each one of us in particular is called to make part of our very lives.  They will break up, into colors we can deal with, that white light of God’s holiness at which we cannot look. You know sometimes how one goes to see a church which one is told has magnificent windows – and seen from outside they all look alike – dull, thick, grubby.  We probably say, Well! [...]

ADVENT WITH EVELYN UNDERHILL: The Focus Of Prayer

December 20, 2016

From The School of Charity These great objective truths are not very fashionable among modern Christians; yet how greatly we need them, if we are to escape pettiness, individualism, and emotional bias.  For that mysterious inner life which glows at the heart of Christianity, which we recognize with delight whenever we meet it, and which is the source of Christian power in the world, is fed through two channels.  Along one channel a certain limited knowledge of God and the things of God enters the mind; and asks of us that honest and humble thought about the mysteries of faith which is the source of Christian power in the world, is fed through two channels.  Along one channel a certain limited knowledge of God and the things of God [...]

ADVENT WITH EVELYN UNDERHILL: Life Of Prayer

December 19, 2016

From The School of Charity Think of the span and the depth which is required of a full Christian life of prayer.  For one part of prayer associates us with that creative and supporting Love, and requires us to give ourselves as open channels through which it can be poured out on all life; and the other part of prayer keeps us in humble awareness of our own complete dependence, plastic to the pressure of the molding Charity.  When we consider our situation like this, we realize that the very best we are likely to achieve in the world of prayer will be a small part in a mighty symphony; not a peculiarly interesting duet.  When our devotional life seems to us to have become a duet, we should listen more carefully.  Then we shall hear a [...]

ADVENT WITH EVELYN UNDERHILL: Prayer Gives Our Lives Focus

December 18, 2016

From The Spiritual Life When we lift our eyes from the crowded bypass to the eternal hills; then, how much the personal and practical things we have to deal with are enriched.  What meaning and coherence come into our scattered lives.  We mostly spend those lives conjugating three verbs: to Want, to Have, and to Do.  Craving, clutching, and fussing, on the material, political, social, emotional, intellectual – even on the religious – plane, we are kept in perpetual unrest: forgetting that none of these verbs have any ultimate significance, except so far as they are transcended by and included in, the fundamental verb, to Be; and that Being, not wanting, having, and doing, is the essence of a spiritual life.  But now, with this [...]

ADVENT WITH EVELYN UNDERHILL: Corporate Life And Mysticism

December 14, 2016

From Mystics of the Church As the life and growth of the church proceed, her corporate consciousness, enriched by all the discoveries of the saints, grows richer: so that she has more and more to give to each of her sons.  The beautiful interdependence of all Christian souls, living and dead, everything that is meant by the doctrine of the “Communion of Saints,” is here strongly illustrated, and refutes the common idea that mysticism is individualistic, and can nourish independently of history or tradition.  Thus all Christian mysticism is soaked in the language and ideas of the Bible; is perpetually taught and re-taught by Saint Paul and Saint John.  In addition to this, it reflects the special religious color of the period [...]

FAITH: Facing Reality As Baptized Christians by Evelyn Underhill

December 12, 2016

From Light of Christ You and I are committed, as baptized Christians, to what has been given his deep and touching Earthly revelation, to the steady loyal effort, in our own small place and way, towards bringing that mounting vision a little nearer completeness, bringing a little more of that Kingdom in.  Each faithful upward glance, each movement of trust, each act of selfless love, helps it on.  The Hallowing of the whole Universe, physical, mental, and spiritual, in all its grades, the infinitely great and the infinitely small, giving our lives at whatever cost to the helping of the fulfillment of their sacramental promise – we must take sides in some way for that, because we are the Children of God. Those thoughts kill all [...]

ADVENT WITH EVELYN UNDERHILL: Evil And Reality

December 11, 2016

From The Spiritual Life When we consider the evil, injustice, and misery existing in the world, how can we claim that the ultimate Reality at the heart of the universe is a Spirit of peace, harmony, and infinite love?  What evidence can we bring to support such a belief?  And how can we adore a God whose creation is marred by cruelty, suffering, and sin? This is, of course, the problem of evil; the crucial problem for all realistic religion.  It is no use to dodge this issue, and still less use to pretend that the church has a solution of the problem up her sleeve.  I would rather say with Baron von Hügel that Christian spirituality does not explain evil and suffering, which remain a mystery beyond the reach of the human mind, but [...]

ADVENT WITH EVELYN UNDERHILL: Centering

December 10, 2016

From The Spiritual Life Most of our conflicts and difficulties come from trying to deal with the spiritual and practical aspects of our life separately instead of realizing them as parts of one whole.  If our practical life is centered on our own interests, cluttered up by possessions, distracted by ambitions, passions, wants, and worries, beset by a sense of our own rights and importance, or anxieties for our own future, or longings for our own success, we need not expect that our spiritual life will be a contrast to all this.  The soul’s house is not built on such a convenient plan: there are few sound-proof partitions in it.  Only when the conviction – not merely the idea – that the demand of the Spirit, however [...]

ADVENT WITH EVELYN UNDERHILL: Spiritual Life

December 8, 2016

From The School of Charity A genuine inner life must make us more and more sensitive to that molding power, working upon his creation at every level, not at one alone: and especially to the constant small but expert touches, felt in and through very homely events, upon those half-made, unsteady souls which are each the subject of his detailed care.  A real artist will give as much time and trouble to a miniature two inches square, as to the fresco on the cathedral wall.  The true splendor and heart-searching beauty of the Divine Charity is not seen in those cosmic energies which dazzle and confound us; but in the transcendent power which stoops to an intimate and cherishing love, the grave and steadfast Divine action, sometimes painful [...]

ADVENT WITH EVELYN UNDERHILL: God’s Agents In The Real World

December 7, 2016

From The Spiritual Life We are the agents of the Creative Spirit in this world.  Real advance in the spiritual life, then, means accepting this vocation with all it involves.  Not merely turning over the pages of an engineering magazine and enjoying the pictures, but putting on overalls and getting on with the job.  The real spiritual life must be horizontal as well as vertical; spread more and more.  It must be larger, richer, fuller, more generous in its interests than the interests of the natural life alone can ever be; must invade and transform all homely activities and practical things.  For it means an offering of life to the Father of life, to whom it belongs; a willingness – an eager willingness – to take our small [...]

ADVENT WITH EVELYN UNDERHILL: Intimations Of Spiritual Depths

December 5, 2016

From The Spiritual Life Many Christians are like deaf people at a concert.  They study the program carefully, believe every statement made in it, speak respectfully of the quality of the music, but only really hear a phrase now and again.  So they have no notion at all of the mighty symphony which fills the universe, to which our lives are destined to make their tiny contribution, and which is the self-expression of the Eternal God. Yet there are plenty of things in our normal experience, which imply the existence of that world, that music, that life.  If, for instance, we consider the fact of prayer, the almost universal impulse to seek and appeal to a power beyond ourselves, and notice the heights to love – the power it exerts, [...]

ADVENT WITH EVELYN UNDERHILL: Humility

December 3, 2016

From The Fruits of the Spirit Humility and moderation at the heart of our prayer quiet the soul and protect us against the spiritual itch.  It sometimes comes into my head, says De Caussade, to wonder whether I have ever properly confessed my sins, whether God has ever forgiven me my sins, whether I am in a good or bad spiritual state.  What progress have I made in prayer or in the interior life?  When this happens I say to myself at once, God has chosen to hide all this from me, so that I may just blindly abandon myself to his mercy.  So I submit myself and adore his decision.  He is the Master: may all that he wills be accomplished in me; I want no grace, no merit, no perfection but that which shall please him.  His will alone [...]