A Catholic Renewal

~ En radikal blogg ~

"Se, jag gör allting nytt..." (Upp 21:5)

onsdag, januari 02, 2008
Om mystik - about mysticism
Dagens gästskribent, som också heter John, är en kontemplativ eremit sedan 35 år tillbaka. Han är filosof och teolog och har hand om två maillistor - en för: monastic subjects - och en för: universalist discussions.

Jag bad honom skriva något om mystik som vi skulle kunna samtala utifrån, apropå samtalen om mirakel och andligt liv nyligen. Så passa på att ställa alla frågor ni har om detta nu!

Welcome, John, as a guest writer in my blog - I've presented you shortly above for the Swedish readers! And welcome, everyone to comment on his posting about mysticism below!


The subject of mysticism is so vast that I will be very selective in the areas covered.

What is mysticism?

The word 'mystic' has its origin in the Greek mysteries. A mystic was one who had been initiated into these mysteries, through which he had gained an esoteric knowledge of divine things and been 'reborn into eternity'. His object was to break through the world of history and time into that of eternity and timelessness. The method was through initiation ceremonies as described in The Golden Ass by Apuleius. Through the mysteries the initiated entered into something holy and numinous, a secret wisdom about which it was unlawful for him to speak. The word 'mystery' (mysterion) comes from the Greek word muo, to shut the lips or eyes. This is how F.C.Happold writes about the meaning of the word mysticism in his excellent introduction to the subject in his "Mysticism: a study and an anthology". His anthology covers mysticism from all world religions, many Christian mystics as well as the nature-mysticism (represented by poets, writers and other artists such as William Blake).

The meaning of the word mysticism came to be altered when Greek and Oriental philosophy were blended in the centuries before the birth of Jesus, as Neoplatonism. It came to mean a very specific approach in which human intellectual, and especially intuitive, faculties played a major part. The fusion of Christian and Neoplatonist ideas in the early centuries of the Christian era led to a system of mysticism called mystical theology.

Mysticism in general has its source from which springs the raw material of religion, the inspiration of philosophy, poetry, art, music, and all creativity, namely a consciousness of a beyond, of something beyond, although interwoven with, the external world of material phenomena; of something beyond that what is seen. In the developed mystic this consciousness is present in an intense and highly specialized form. It occurs in religion when religious feeling surpasses rational content, when the hidden, non-rational, unconscious elements become dominant and determine the emotional life and intellectual attitude.

Mystics can be found in all ages, in all cultures and all religious systems. The word mysticism has many different meanings. To some it means simply confused, irrational thinking; to others it means something like spiritualism and clairvoyance, hypnotism, and even occultism and magic, strange psychological states and pathological conditions; to others it is associated with visions and revelations; or other-worldliness; or an attitude that does not care about the externals of religious observance and dogma.

The use of the word in Christianity was due to the influence of Dionysius the Aeropagite, Pseudo-Dionysius. The term used by medieval Christian theologians was theologia mystica, by which they meant a particular type of insight and knowledge about God. In those days the word contemplation was used to refer to a rare and advanced form of spiritual experience, not found among ordinary, religious folk. To attain to a state of contemplation men and women withdrew from the world and followed a way of life different from that led by those who remained in the world.

Mysticism could be studied from at least three angles: as a certain type of experience, as a way of knowledge, and as a state of consciousness. Mystical states have certain characteristics: they are ineffable, difficult to express in words, because its is difficult to express the infinite and eternal in human spatio-temporally restricted concepts; they are more like states of feeling than knowledge; they cannot be sustained for long; it is possible to prepare oneself for mystical experience; they give the feeling of a state of presence of an awareness of the Oneness of everything; they give the sense of timelessness; associated with them is the feeling that my familiar ego is limited and not my real I or real Self.

The Mystic Way is always divided into different steps or stages. Catholic theologians and western thinkers usually divide these three stages as: the way of purgation or purification; of illumination, or proficiency or contemplation; and the way of union or the unitive life.

The mystical way is more like a slope than a staircase and in her Seventh Revelation Dame Julian of Norwich tells how she passed from one stage to another time after time. Compare these three stages to that of the Sufi farid al-din 'Attar in his book The Conference of the Birds. It is a journey of the mystic through seven valleys.

The Valley of the Quest, stripping away all encumbrances so that the heavenly light may enter (like Purgation).

The Valley of Love (like the first stage of Illumination).

The Valley of Enlightenment and Knowledge, entering into the state of contemplation when the soul partakes of the divine with glimpses of the mystery of Being, God is now seen in all things.

The Valley of Detachment, the soul becomes absorbed in the Divine Love.

The Valley of Unity, contemplating the naked Godhead directly stripped of and without the intermediary of images or concepts is realized.

The vision is transient and seems to disappear in the Valley of Bewilderment.

The light is too bright, the weak soul is dazzled until it enters the Valley of Annihilation where the self is completely merged in God (the theosis or deification of the Eastern Orthodox Church).

You may read more about mysticism here.

Etiketter: , , ,

postat av Charlotte Therese Björnström @ 09:29  
6 Kommentar/-er:
  • 03 januari, 2008 12:42 sa Anonymous David

    Glad you opened the topic of mysticism. I felt this movement going on in my own life years ago. The study of theology was never satisfying to me. There was something wrong with working with someone else's analytical path through my mind and claiming it as the best (or even ONLY) way to put the pieces of God together. I was trained first in the old Thomistic model where the instructors loved to tell the story about how Aquinas had some kind of profound mystical breakthrough in which he gave his work over to his assistant to finish. (One serious academic colleague says it was because Aquinas had a seizure and couldn't work any longer. Duh!)
    At least the Angelic Doctor had the good taste to keep a lot of what he learned to himself. Others, like the Beguines, weren't as fortunate and wound up feeding the fires of the Inquisition. (Ah, the glory that was Rome!)

    Religion only tolerates authorized mystical experiences. . .i.e., ones that don't upset its objectives and traditions. (Reformed bodies, by the way, largely have no knowledge of any of this. Anglican seminaries in the USA see teaching any of this kind of thing as "soft" and easy to ignore. Churches, after all, have a business to run. They can't be bothered with something as marginal as the spiritual life.)

    For the rest of us, Spirit is free to move and does. Spirit removes boundaries and turns them into horizons. Baptism becomes a true river of Life's flow and blessing. The Eucharist becomes the Table where all belong and are called to celebrate. Spirit sets theology aside and envelopes us all in the cloud of wonder and love that claimed Jesus on the mount. Spirit might even see women and married men as worthy enough to preside at these mysteries beyond the mere mind.

    The "opening" that engages us now, I believe, is far beyond our understanding and certainly far beyond our religious framework. Friends of mine are clearly captured by this experience without having or using religious language to describe it. For them it is the movement from the conditioned to the unconditioned. Simple. It's the future meeting us in our evolution.

    But here's the tough part: it's meeting us within our BODIES -- within the depths of our cells to use the language of Aurobindo. And our minds have no idea what to do with any of this because the mind is always behind the wave that is moving within. We are being flooded with new life. The mind is incapable of going forward and "reading" this: it always goes backward to form its frame of reference. This very threatening to any group that relies on a fixed cultural or religious framework. In order to change, there must we careful and conscious observation of just what we're defending because it's large t world of appearances created by the "self". . .a mere drama of projections that has no actual reality.

    All of our conventional maps and religious/scientific dramas are shifting to welcome a new paradigm. Our mystical (and often misunderstood) ancestors like Lady Julian, Meister and others await and enable our awakening from their heavenly shore.


  • 03 januari, 2008 13:12 sa Blogger Charlotte Therese


    Thanks for bringing so much of the essentials into one short posting!

    What you write about the Sufi path ressembles that of Teresa of Avila - her seven mansions...


    Thanks for sharing and bringing up so many important threads to discuss here!

    My favourite quote of Thomas Aquinas is what he said on his death bead or so - that everything he had written is just "straw" - since after writing it - he had finally discovered the truth, reality...

    I.e. he had EXPERIENCED it!

    YES - the Church is facing one of its largest challenges today - going from the head to the heart, from thinking to experiencing - and to where that may lead the teaching....

    But I wonder if there isn't too much that is too dear to the hierarchy which is standing in the way for a change according to God....?

    But then - the "authorized" Jesuit Karl Rahner said something like: in the future every Christian will have to be a mystic - or there will be no religion....

    Yesterday there was a very interesting tv program here - I happened to enter into it in the middle of it. It was about sufism - a bunch of "ordinary" people were sent to such a retreat place (with an extraordinary beautiful scenery), and the program showed how they reacted to it. (Think it's a follow up on the BBC documentaries about Catholic monasteries last year - where groups of "secular" women and men were sent to practice religious life.)

    They were taught how to pray by reciting the most famous muslim prayer words (like the Jesus prayer for Christians).

    They were also praying in a way that ressembles tounges and other charismatic prayer. For one Sufi woman it led to a kind of extasis - a oneness with God - an intense presence.

    There was a lapsed muslim man who was very touched by this woman Sufi singing the first sura in an intense way. It touched him in a way he wasn't prepared for - knocked him down interiorly. He suddenly saw what he hadn't ever seen as he grew up as a muslim. He recorded her reciting on his cell phone so he could listen to it whenever he may be on his way to stray again....

    And there was a "worldly" muslim, heavily attached to his cell phone and constant contacts with people. He was asked to use that external energy interiorly instead to go really deep... That made him realize something....and he decided to try, he saw how superficial things he had strived for.

    There was also a very narrowminded muslim woman who thought one couldn't do anything at all that it wasn't prooved that Muhammed did (like praying in a mystical way)- as he had shown the best way and nothing else should be added! She was very suspicious of the Sufis.

    There was an atheist man as well, who kept asking for proofs... He was shown to the fact that faith is beyond proof - which touched him.

    And there was an openminded woman, interested in religious things, probably not a muslim, she had "fled" from God during many years, although she knew that God had tried to reach her. She was drawn to what she met among these Sufis.

    It was VERY interesting to see the glimpse I got of this program as it was like seeing Christian clichées in a nutshell - from the outside for once. Since the patterns turned out to be exactly the same in Islam.

    Most interesting:

    The intellectual and dry faith which is anxious to follow all the rules.

    The mystics who experience God and are very free in their expressions.

    The Sufis have - as far as I can see - discovered the same things as Christian mystics - but just call it something else.


  • 04 januari, 2008 12:13 sa Anonymous Claudio

    Mystics cultivate the consciousness of the presence of God, and this is really praiseworthy; yet I believe when such practices lead to complete social isolation, they are objectionable. The contact of our mind/heart with the indwelling Spirit of the Father, while indeed favoured by devoted meditation, is aided by loving service, by unselfish ministry to humanity.

  • 04 januari, 2008 22:52 sa Anonymous Yossi

    One can view God in a non-anthropomorphic way or not at all and still transcend the Self.

    Methinks as time progresses,some of which we consider miraculous/mystical presently is actually quite natural, though we do not realize it yet. (We humans have abilities that we haven't even tapped yet, for example).

    Deep spiritual experiences can and do transcend particular religious traditions and belief in a personal god. Buddhism demonstrates this rather well. Many Buddhists have no problem with believing we live on in some way after death. Much evidence seems to support reincarnation at this point.

    In many ways, the agnostic or atheist has the greatest faith because he or she refuses to accept something just because it has been believed for millennia.

    The Buddha challenges us to experience for ourselves, not just accept the word of dead prophets written on crumbling parchment, even if the Buddha himself says it.

    Just some thoughts sent in love.


    aka Yossi
    Chicago IL

  • 04 januari, 2008 22:59 sa Anonymous Yossi aka BroYo

    Many dislike the term "mysticism," so I wanted to share this from Sam Harris' _The End of Faith_:

    "...mystics can consensually elucidate the date of their sphere. Thus, genuine mysticism can be "'objective'"--in the only normative sense of this word that is worth retaining--in that it need not be contaminated by dogma."

    Pir Hidayat Inayat Khan of the International Sufi Movement is fond of saying "No Dogma!"

    Also from Sam Harris:
    "Mysticism is a rational enterprise...The mystic has recognized something about the nature of consciousness prior to thought, and this recognition is susceptible to rational discussion. They mystic has reasons for what he believes, and these reasons are empirical."

    The Buddha would agree, undoubtedly!


  • 05 januari, 2008 13:25 sa Blogger ulrich

    I would require time to digest and then respond to the excellent, and lengthy replies, such as that of David and Br Yo, and the insights from Claudio.

    I will do it in the next day or so as I am busy setting up my computer, everything on it, emails, software etc were wiped out after an electricity blackout here when the computer was switche don.

    John (monk) who wrote the few words on mysticism.

Post a comment here: Skicka en kommentar
To the main page of this blog: Till bloggens första sida
Senaste kommentarer
My English blog posts
Min lilla hörna
Om bloggen
Tidigare inlägg
En salig bloggblandning
Etiketter - ett urval
Ekumenisk dialog

    "Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit." (okänd källa)

    "Where there is no love, put love and gather love."  Johannes av Korset

    "The soul of one who loves God, always swims in joy, always keeps holiday, and is always in the mood for singing." Johannes av Korset

    "To write is to pray."  Thomas Merton

    "In vino veritas!" (Det kan tolkas bokstavligen så - på ett djupt sätt - i eukaristin.)

    "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. I will not stand idly by when I see an unjust war taking place." Martin Luther King, Jr.

Smått och gott

Copyright: Charlotte Thérèse, 2007

Bloggtoppen.se BlogRankers.com Christianity Blogs - Blog Catalog Blog Directory Blogglista.se Bloggar Religion bloggar Blog Flux Directory Blogarama - The Blog Directory Add to Technorati Favorites
eXTReMe Tracker