Mysticism

MYSTICISM: Why Mysticism Matters by Carl McColman

October 18, 2017

From The Big Book of Christian Mysticism You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. (John 15:3) All mystic charisms are worthless compared to the love of God. They are as a string of pearls adorning a hungry infant who does not heed the pearls but only wants his mother’s breast. (Macarius the Egyptian) For those who have a sense of God’s presence in their lives, who enjoy a natural bent toward spirituality or a strong commitment to religion, or who simply enjoy the history of ideas, mysticism is a fascinating subject in its own right.  Others without an innate attraction to the topic, however, may be asking themselves: “What’s the point?  Does mysticism really make a difference?  How can it make life [...]

MYSTICISM: Simone Weil—Encounters With Christ

October 11, 2017

From Waiting for God and The Notebooks of Simone Weil In 1938 I spent ten days at Solesmes, from Palm Sunday to Easter Tuesday, following all the liturgical services.  I was suffering from splitting headaches; each sound hurt me like a blow; by an extreme effort of concentration I was able to rise above this wretched flesh, to leave it to suffer by itself, heaped up in a corner, and to find a perfect and pure joy in the unimaginable beauty of the chanting and the words.  This experience by analogy enabled me to get a better understanding of the possibility of divine love in the midst of affliction.  It goes without saying that in the course of these services the thought of the passion of Christ entered into my being once and for all. [...]

MYSTICISM: John Ruysbroeck—The Little Book of Enlightenment

October 4, 2017

From The Essential Writings of Christian Mysticism John Ruysbroeck is the most famous of Dutch mystics.  His long life (1293–1381) spanned one of the most troubled centuries of the Middle Ages, but he does not dwell on the contemporary problems of church and society.  Rather, Ruysbroeck concentrates on the soul’s progress toward the “common life,” that is, our sharing in the interaction of the divine persons in the Trinity.  Ruysbroeck’s mysticism was set forth during an era in which there were many debates about mysticism and mystical union.  He was aware of at least some of Eckhart’s writings, and he was careful to qualify and even to criticize, what he thought were some of Eckhart’s excesses. [...]

POETRY: The Inward Stirring by John Ruysbroeck

October 4, 2017

The inward stirring and touching of God makes us hungry and yearning; for the Spirit of God hunts our spirit; and the more it touches it, the greater our hunger and our craving. And this is the life of love in its highest working, above reason and above understanding; for reason can here neither give nor take away from love, for our love is touched by the Divine [...]

MYSTICISM: Christian Mysticism And World Mysticism by Carl McColman

September 27, 2017

From The Big Book of Christian Mysticism Anyone who loves God is known by him. (1 Corinthians 8:3) Christians need to think “Nothing” when they call God, “Love.” Buddhists need to think “Love” when they say, “Emptiness.” This will at least wake us up to the fact that words must always fall short of the ineffable. (David Steindl-Rast) What makes Christian mysticism so, well, Christian?  What is the difference between it and all the other mysticisms out there – including Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism, Sufism (Islamic mysticism), Vedanta (Hindu mysticism), Zen (Buddhist mysticism), and shamanism (indigenous mysticism)? On the surface, it’s an easy enough question to answer: Christian [...]

POETRY: The Darkness by Angela of Foligno

September 27, 2017

When I enter that darkness I cannot recall a bit about anything human, or about the God-man, or anything owning specific form. Nonetheless, I see all and I see nothing. As this that I have spoken of withdraws—though not completely, as it seems to stay with me—I see the God-man. He draws my soul with utmost gentleness and maybe He whispers You are I and I am you. I see, then, those eyes and that face go gracious and attractive as He leans to draw me to Himself. In short, what proceeds from those eyes and what descends from that face is what I said I saw in that previous darkness rising from within, and which delights me so that I can say nothing much about it. When I am in the God-man, then my soul is alive. And I am in the God-man much [...]

MYSTICISM: The Mysticism Of Richard Rolle by Evelyn Underhill

September 20, 2017

Introduction from Fire of Love The four great English mystics of the fourteenth century – Richard Rolle, Walter Hilton, Julian of Norwich, and the anonymous author of The Cloud of Unknowing – though in doctrine as in time they are closely related to one another, yet exhibit in their surviving works strongly marked and deeply interesting diversities of temperament.  Rolle, the romantic and impassioned hermit; his great successor, that nameless contemplative, acute psychologist, and humorous critic of manners, who wrote The Cloud of Unknowing and its companion works; Hilton, the gentle and spiritual Canon of Throgmorton; and Julian, the exquisitely human yet profoundly meditative anchoress, whose Revelations of Divine Love are perhaps [...]

MYSTICISM: A Homegrown Mystic—Catherine of Siena by John Michael Talbot

September 13, 2017

From The Way of Mystics Giacomo Benicasa was a practical, hard-working man who made his living as a wool dyer in Siena’s bustling textile market.  His wife, Lapa, was a simple woman who was well acquainted with heartbreak.  She gave birth to twenty-five children, only twelve of whom survived infancy.  All Lapa wanted for Catherine – her next-to-last child – was a normal childhood, an early marriage to a good husband, and a happy, predictable life. But Catherine had other plans, none of them “normal” (for example, she lavished care on lepers and plague victims) or predictable (for example, after sensing God wanted her to live a more simple life, she began giving away her family’s possessions).  Her life was [...]

MYSTICISM: The Evolution Of Christian Mysticism by Carl McColman

September 6, 2017

From The Big Book of Christian Mysticism So we have known and believe the love that God has for us.  God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. (1 John 4:16) I have found Heaven on Earth, since Heaven is God, and God is in my soul.  The day I understood this, everything became luminous in me, and I wish to tell this secret to those I love, discretely. (Elizabeth of the Trinity) The basics of Christian thought put forth in the New Testament are foundational to all subsequent Christian mysticism.  In their time, these interpretations of spirituality were the religious equivalent of dynamite.  They emerge out of the revolutionary concept that a flesh-and-blood human being, Jesus of Nazareth, was [...]

MYSTICISM: Angelus Silesius by Paul Carus

August 30, 2017

From The Open Court, Volume XXII Mysticism is, as it were, a short cut of sentiment to reach a truth otherwise inaccessible under given conditions, and since writing an article on the subject for a recent number of The Monist, I have devoted more time to a renewed perusal of one of the most prominent and interesting mystics of Germany, Johannes Scheffler, or as he is better known by his adopted name, Angelus Silesius, who was born in 1624 at Breslau, and died in 1677. While mystics of the type of Jacob Boehme and Swedenborg present their views in long essays of a philosophical nature which read like the dreams (or if you prefer, the vagaries) of a prophet, Angelus Silesius condenses his views in short apothegms, written in a somewhat [...]

MYSTICISM: Elizabeth Of The Trinity, An Introduction by Hans Urs Von Balthasar

August 23, 2017

From Elizabeth of Dijon, An Interpretation of Her Spiritual Mission The Carmelite Order seems to have been specially entrusted, in recent years, with the function of proclaiming to the church and the world certain truths strongly opposed to the spirit of the age.  We allow ourselves to be absorbed in external action, and measure values according to its visible effect; the Carmelite reminds us that contemplation is the “one thing necessary,” and that its effects are not to be measured by even the churchly statistician.  We are strongly influenced by the theories of the psychologist with his insistence on the untrammeled development of personality.  The Carmelite shows us where individual difference is of small account, in the [...]

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 [...]

POETRY: All Shall Be Well, by Julian of Norwich

November 30, 2016

(Adapted from Revelations of Divine Love) And so our good Lord answered to all the questions and doubts that I might make, saying comfortingly: I may make all thing well, I can make all thing well, I will make all thing well, and I shall make all thing well; and thou shall see thyself that all manner of thing shall be well. Where He says, I may, I understand it for the Father; and where He says, I can, I understand it for the Son; and where He says, I will, I understand it for the Holy Ghost; and where He says, I shall, I understand it for the unity of the blessed Trinity; three Persons and one Truth; and where He says, Thou shall see thy self, I understand the oneing of all mankind; that shall be saved unto the blessed Trinity. And in [...]

TALES FROM BEYOND THE HORIZON: Tell Lazarus, Arise

October 30, 2016

It was a time of flight. I used to define flight as a time when I had one foot in the seen world and the other in the unseen world. But recalling this time I think that it would be better defined as having both feet in the unseen world, while still being in this world. This flight was most profound.  So much so, that for the two years that it went on, I never needed my reading glasses to see. I thought, at the time, that this was an indication that I had received a healing to my eyes. But, no.  Over the years that followed the flight, my eyes gradually went back to being “normal.” My first miracle was when I touched the hand of a woman born deaf, and she was healed. And now I was beginning work on my second. When it was time, [...]

FOOLISHNESS: The Wisdom Of Holy Fools by Peter C. Phan

October 6, 2016

From Being Religious Interreligiously Folly as Virtue The archetypal wise fool is Socrates, who explicitly claimed that his wisdom was derived from his awareness of his ignorance and whose distinctive teaching method consisted in exposing the foolishness of the wise.  Jesus, whom Christian tradition proclaims to be the Logos and the Wisdom of God, was regarded during his life as insane by his family and was deemed by his opponents to be possessed by Beelzebul.  Not only was his behavior scandalous to the religious establishment but his teaching, from his beatitudes to his parables, challenged the sacred text and offended traditional wisdom.  Even Peter, who should have known better, was shocked by Jesus’s prediction of his [...]

POETRY: I Went In, I Knew Not Where by John of the Cross

September 16, 2016

I went in, I knew not where and stayed, not knowing, but going past the boundaries of knowing. I knew not the place around me, how I came there or where from, but seeing where then I found me, I sensed great things, and grew dumb— since no words for them would come— lacking all knowledge, but going past the boundaries of knowing. Of piety and of peace I had perfect comprehension; solitude without surcease showed the straight way, whose intention— too secret for me to mention— left me stammering, but going past the boundaries of knowing. So wholly rapt, so astonished was I, from myself divided, that my very senses vanished and left me there unprovided with knowledge, my spirit guided by learning unlearned, and going past the [...]