mysticism

MYSTICISM: First Vision—On The Oright Of Life (6) by Hildegard of Bingen

February 22, 2019

From: Hildegard of Bingen’s Book of Divine Works, With Letters and Songs On the topmost part of the right wing’s curve you can see the head of an eagle with fiery eyes.  In those eyes a choir of angels shines as in a mirror: When people subject themselves to God on the height of triumphant subservience and overcome Satan, they will advance and enjoy the bliss of divine protection.  And if they are inflamed by the Holy Spirit and lift up their hearts and turn their eyes to God, the blessed spirits will appear within them in total brightness and carry up to God the surrender of those individuals’ hearts.  For spiritual people, who in the devotion of their hearts often gaze at God like the angels, are marked with an eagle.  [...]

MYSTICISM: First Vision—On The Oright Of Life (5) by Hildegard of Bingen

February 15, 2019

From: Hildegard of Bingen’s Book of Divine Works, With Letters and Songs A wing emerges from each side of the figure’s neck. Both wings rise above the ring and are joined there because the love of God and the love of our neighbor – if they proceed through the divine power of love in the unity of faith and embrace this faith with the greatest longing – cannot be separated as long as the holy Godhead conceals the immeasurable splendor of its glory from human beings and as long as human beings abide in the shadow of death.  For they are bereft of the Heavenly garment they lost through [...]

MYSTICISM: First Vision—On The Oright Of Life (4) by Hildegard of Bingen

February 8, 2019

From: Hildegard of Bingen’s Book of Divine Works, With Letters and Songs Another golden ring surrounds the head of this appearance, for the Roman Catholic faith, which has spread throughout the entire globe, began out of the most brilliant glow of the first dawn. Only faith grasps in deepest reverence the abundance of this love, which exceeds all understanding: the fact that God through the Incarnation of the Divine Son redeemed humanity and strengthened it through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  Thus the one God is known in the Trinity – God who was God in the Godhead eternally and without any beginning.  In this circular image you see above the head also another head, which is like that of an elderly man.  This signifies that [...]

MYSTICISM: First Vision—On The Oright Of Life (3) by Hildegard of Bingen

February 1, 2019

From: Hildegard of Bingen’s Book of Divine Works, With Letters and Songs And again I heard a voice from Heaven saying to me: God, who created everything, has formed humanity according to the divine image and likeness, and marked in human beings both the higher and the lower creatures.  God loved humanity so much that God designated for it the place from which the fallen angel was ejected, intending for human beings all the splendor and honor which that angel lost along with his bliss.  The countenance you are gazing at is an indication of this fact. For what you see as a marvelously beautiful figure in God’s mystery and in the midst of southern breezes – a figure similar to a human being – signifies the Love of our Heavenly [...]

MYSTICISM: First Vision—On The Oright Of Life (2) by Hildegard of Bingen

January 18, 2019

From: Hildegard of Bingen’s Book of Divine Works, With Letters and Songs I, the highest and fiery power, have kindled every spark of life, and I emit nothing that is deadly.  I decide on all reality.  With my lofty wings I fly above the globe: With wisdom I have rightly put the universe in order.  I, the fiery life of divine essence, am aflame beyond the beauty of the meadows, I gleam in the waters, and I burn in the sun, moon, and stars.  With every breeze, as with invisible life that contains everything, I awaken everything to life.  The air lives by turning green and being in bloom.  The waters flow as if they were alive.  The sun lives in its light, and the moon is enkindled, after its disappearance, once again by the light of [...]

MYSTICISM: First Vision—On The Oright Of Life (1) by Hildegard of Bingen

January 11, 2019

From: Hildegard of Bingen’s Book of Divine Works, With Letters and Songs And I saw within the mystery of God, in the midst of the southern breezes, a wondrously beautiful image.  It had a human form, and its countenance was of such beauty and radiance that I could have more easily gazed at the sun than at that face.  A broad golden ring circled its head.  In this ring above the head there appeared a second countenance, like that of an elderly man, its chin and beard resting on the crown of the first head.  On both sides of the figure a wing grew out of the shoulders.  The wings rose above the above-mentioned ring and were joined there.  At the topmost part of the right wing’s curve appeared an eagle’s head.  Its eyes were like [...]

JESUS CHRIST: A Battle Worth Fighting

October 16, 2018

We can wander into Renaissance Festivals and see people all made up to be people of that time. We can watch the news and see how a group of people have assembled to recreate an historical battle, complete with swords and drums and even working muskets. There was a time when young people liked to dress up as druids and demons just to play a game. And so the list can go on:  People who put themselves into a Sherlock Holmes story; people who dress up as Antony and Cleopatra; even children in a Christmas play, miniature wise men and a pregnant lady. In a way I am one of those people.  Except without a costume. When I am in visions of being back with Jesus, in his time, I am not there physically.  I am not part of the scene. I am just breath [...]

TALES FROM BEYOND THE HORIZON: Orange, Chocolate, Milk

March 18, 2018

It was the first time I received that command: Eat orange, chocolate, milk. I was a young woman.  With long hair.  A car of my own. I had graduated from Berkeley.  Was working somewhere. I lived in a few rooms in an apartment, with my canoe tied up out back, in the little waterway that meandered through that neighborhood. My life, on the outside, at least, was most ordinary. Inside, it was a different story. For a few years, I studied a woman who led a church that followed the philosophy of Ralph Waldo Emerson. Transcendentalism, it was called. Nothing outrageous.  Nothing strikingly heretical. Just a general softening of the gospels. It was a system of thought that I was well aware of. Even though I was living in California, Emerson [...]

MYSTICISM: The Nature Of Mysticism—A Heuristic Sketch (Part Two) by Bernard McGinn

November 29, 2017

From The Foundations of Mysticism The Nature Of Mysticism—A Heuristic Sketch (Part One) Inspired in part by the seminal work of Joseph Maréchal, but especially by my reading of the texts that have been accepted as mystical classics in the history of Christianity, both East and West, I have come to find the term “presence” a more central and more useful category for grasping the unifying note in the varieties of Christian mysticism.  Thus we can say that the mystical element in Christianity is that part of its belief and practices that concerns the preparation for, the consciousness of, and the reaction to what can be described as the immediate or direct presence of God. The ways in which this special form of encounter with God have [...]

POETRY: Immersion by Denise Levertov

November 29, 2017

There is anger abroad in the world, a numb thunder, because of God’s silence. But how naïve, to keep wanting words we could speak ourselves, English, Urdu, Tagalog, the French of Tours, the French of Haiti… Yes, that was one way omnipotence chose to address us—Hebrew, Aramaic, or whatever the patriarchs chose in their turn to call what they heard. Moses demanded the word, spoken and written. But perfect freedom assured other ways of speech. God is surely patiently trying to immerse us in a different language, events of grace, horrifying scrolls of history and the unearned retrieval of blessings lost for ever, the poor grass returning after drought, timid, persistent. God’s abstention is only from human dialects. The holy voice [...]

POETRY: Thirst by Mary Oliver

November 22, 2017

Another morning and I wake with thirst for the goodness I do not have. I walk out to the pond and all the way God has given us such beautiful lessons. Oh Lord, I was never a quick scholar but sulked and hunched over my books past the hour and the bell; grant me, in your mercy, a little more time. Love for the earth and love for you are having such a long conversation in my heart. Who knows what will finally happen or where I will be sent, yet already I have given a great many things away, expecting to be told to pack nothing, except the prayers which, with this thirst, I am slowly [...]

GOD 101: The Shape Of Change

November 17, 2017

I have had periods in my life when I feel perfectly comfortable with a concept God has given me to study, but don’t know how to express it in ordinary English language.  It feels, sometimes, as though I think in one language, but speak in another. This is one of those times. If we go to church, or read the Bible to the point of knowing it, or even if we listen to sermons on television, sooner or later we run up against the wall that is God’s final day for us.  The Day of Judgment.  We might also start to wonder why or how there is going to be a “New Heaven” and a “New Earth.” So we might be able to find a kind of theme facing us down: I’m going to come and sort you all out.  Those who pass my [...]

MYSTICISM: Caryll Houselander—An Appreciation by Robin Maas

November 15, 2017

From Crisis Magazine In the midst of all the shouting it can be extremely difficult to hear the voices of spiritually powerful women who have come to terms with Holy Mother Church. Such women have found in the church, in their own femininity as well as in hers, a deep and satisfying sacramentality. One such voice is that of the lay spiritual theologian Caryll Houselander. Both her substantial corpus of writing and the particulars of her personal history provide a rich source of hope and encouragement for all who struggle with flawed family relationships, unfulfilled dreams, and personal disappointment – for these were her legacy. She became perhaps the most popular spiritual writer of her day, sought out for her guidance, and dearly [...]

MYSTICISM: The Nature Of Mysticism—A Heuristic Sketch (Part One) by Bernard McGinn

November 8, 2017

From The Foundations of Mysticism According to the great mystical Doctor of the Church, Saint Teresa of Ávila: I used sometimes, as I have said, to experience in an elementary form, and very fleetingly, what I shall now describe.  When picturing Christ in the way I have mentioned, and sometimes even when reading, I used unexpectedly to experience a consciousness of the presence of God of such a kind that I could not possibly doubt that he was within me or that I was wholly engulfed in him.  This was in no sense a vision: I believe that it is called mystical theology. This quotation from Teresa’s Vida, or, Life, introduces some of the major issues that govern the account of mysticism to be presented in these volumes, especially the [...]

POETRY: The Invisible Seen by Saint Athanasios

November 8, 2017

When our dull wits had so declined as to set us mid the squalor of the merely sensible creation, the Very God consented to become a body of His own, that He as one among us might gather our dim senses to Himself, and manifest through such incommensurate occasion that He is not simply man, but also God, the Word and Wisdom of the One. Thereafter, He remained His body, and thus allowed Himself to be observed. His becoming joined to us performed two appalling works in our behalf: He banished death from these our tendered frames, and made of them something new and (take note here) [...]

MYSTICISM: Meditation And Recollection by Evelyn Underhill

November 1, 2017

From Practical Mysticism Recollection, the art which the practical man is now invited to learn, is in essence no more and no less than the subjection of the attention to the control of the will.  It is not, therefore, a purely mystical activity.  In one form or another it is demanded of all who would get control of their own mental processes, and does or should represent the first great step in the education of the human consciousness.  So slothful, however, is man in all that concerns his higher faculties, that few deliberately undertake their education at all.  They are content to make their contacts with things by a vague, unregulated power, ever apt to play truant, ever apt to fail them.  Unless they be spurred to it by that [...]

EVIL: Love And Inadequacy

October 23, 2017

A little while ago, during a vision, I happened upon something.  Not intentionally.  Or, at least, I don’t think it was intentionally. I raised my eyebrows at it and decided that I didn’t want to know this. I’m not sure why.  But I decided I wanted to keep it a secret. Even from myself. But last night, not realizing I was on the same path that would lead to the same answer, I happened upon it again. So the secret was officially “out.” Everything that exists has a seen side and an unseen side. Pretty much every minute of the day we are unaware of this. That the good has a tangled side. That the bad have a confused and weak side. That what appears before us and convinces us it is what we see is not, [...]

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. [...]

POETRY: Daydreaming by Simone Weil

October 11, 2017

I believe that the root of evil, in everybody perhaps, but certainly in those whom affliction has touched, is daydreaming. It is the sole consolation, the unique resource of the afflicted; the one solace that helps them bear the fearful burden of time; and a very innocent one, besides being indispensable. So how could it be possible to renounce it? It has only one disadvantage, which is that it is unreal. To renounce it for the love of truth is really to abandon all one’s possessions in a mad excess of love and to follow Him who is the personification of Truth. And it is really to bear the cross; because time is the cross. In all its forms without exception, daydreaming is falsehood. It excludes love. Love is [...]

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 [...]

POETRY: Invitation To The God by Richard Rolle

September 20, 2017

Sear my inmost being with Your fire, and my heart will burn on Your altar forever. Come, I beg You, O sweet and true glory! Come, O most desired sweetness! Come, my Beloved, Who are my whole consolation, to my soul—now languishing for Your sake and inclined to You— and slip into it with most sweetly flowing love. Set ablaze with Your heat every penetrable place of my heart and, by filling its inmost places with Your light, feed the whole with the honey-flowing joy of Your love, in order to snatch up in new, noetic union this mind and [...]

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 [...]

POETRY: Inebriated Soul In Love by Catherine of Siena

September 13, 2017

Then that soul, even as one drunk, appeared to be beside herself, parted from her bodily senses due to union with her Creator. She raised her spiritual eyes, her nous, and gazed into eternal Truth. As she now came to know the Truth, she knew herself to be in love with it. She said aloud: O high eternal Goodness, O my God! What am I—the wretched one—to You, O soaring, everlasting Father, that You have shown Your truth to me? that You have shown the snares the evil one has set? the snares my own selfish heart lays out for me? What moved in You to do such things for us? Love alone, love unreturned, You have poured out Your love without my answering love! O fire of love Who burns [...]

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 [...]