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 [...]

POETRY: Eden by Thomas Traherne

September 6, 2017

A learnèd and a happy ignorance Divided me From all the vanity, From all the sloth, care, pain, and sorrow that advance The madness and the misery Of men. No error, no distraction I Saw soil the earth, or overcloud the sky. I knew not that there was a serpent’s sting, Whose poison shed On men, did overspread The world; nor did I dream of such a thing As sin, in which mankind lay dead. They all were brisk and living weights to me, Yea, pure and full of immortality. Joy, pleasure, beauty, kindness, glory, love, Sleep, day, life, light, Peace, melody, my sight, My ears and heart did fill and freely move. All that I saw did me delight. The Universe was then a world of treasure, To me an universal world of pleasure. Unwelcome penitence 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 [...]

POETRY: To Surrender To Love by Elizabeth of the Trinity

August 23, 2017

Oh how good it is in silence To listen to Him over and over, To enjoy the peace of His presence, and then to surrender wholly to His love. O Lamb, so pure and so meek, You my All, my only One, How well you know that your fiancée, Your little one, hungers greatly for You. She hungers to feed upon her Master, Above all to be consumed by Him, To surrender fully to Him her whole being So she may be totally taken. Oh, that I may be possessed by You; One who lives by You alone, Yours, your living host, Consumed by you on 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 [...]

POETRY: The Morning Watch by Henry Vaughn

August 16, 2017

O joys! Infinite sweetness! With what flowers And shoots of glory, my soul breaks and buds! All the long hours Of night and rest, Through the still shrouds Of sleep, and clouds, This dew fell on my breast; O how it bloods, And spirits all my earth! Hark! In what rings And hymning circulations the quick world Awakes, and sings! The rising winds, And falling springs, Birds, beasts, all things Adore Him in their kinds. Thus all is hurled In sacred hymns and order; the great chime And symphony of Nature. Prayer is The world in tune, A spirit-voice, And vocal joys, Whose echo is heaven’s bliss. O let me climb When I lie down! The pious soul by night Is like a clouded star, whose beams, though said To shed their light Under some cloud, Yet are [...]

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 [...]

POETRY: Paradox And Promise by Clare of Assisi

August 9, 2017

Look upon Him Who became contemptible for you, and— if you choose— follow His way, becoming contemptible to the world, so long as you do so for Him. More lovely than all things, He became the lowest, despised, struck, scourged countless times and raked across His perfect Body. And then, amid the sufferings of the horrid Cross, He died. For you. If you suffer with Him, you shall reign with Him. Weep with Him and you shall rejoice with Him. Die with Him upon the cross of wretchedness, and life is yours, And, yes, your dwelling forever in [...]

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 [...]

POETRY: The Sacraments by Francis of Assisi

August 2, 2017

I once spoke to my friend, an old squirrel, about the Sacraments— he got so excited and ran into a hollow in his tree and came back holding some acorns, an owl feather, and a ribbon he had found. And I just smiled and said, “Yes, dear, you understand: everything imparts His [...]

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, [...]

POETRY: The Living Flame Of Love by John of the Cross

July 26, 2017

1. O living flame of love that tenderly wounds my soul in its deepest center! Since now you are not oppressive, now consummate! if it be your will: tear through the veil of this sweet encounter! 2. O sweet cautery, O delightful wound! O gentle hand! O delicate touch that tastes of eternal life and pays every debt! In killing you changed death to life. 3. O lamps of fire! in whose splendors the deep caverns of feeling, once obscure and blind, now give forth, so rarely, so exquisitely, both warmth and light to their Beloved. 4. How gently and lovingly you wake in my heart, where in secret you dwell alone; and in your sweet breathing, filled with good and glory, how tenderly you swell my heart with [...]

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 [...]

POETRY: Light Of Splendor by Mechthild of Magdeburg

July 12, 2017

With the dull hearing of my misery— A light of utmost splendor Glows on the eyes of the soul. Therein have I seen the inexpressible ordering Of all things, and recognized God’s unspeakable glory— That incomprehensible wonder— The tender caress between God and the soul, The sufficiency in the Highest, Discipline in understanding, Realization with withdrawal, According to the power of the senses, The unmingled joy of union, The living love of Eternity As it now is and evermore shall [...]

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 [...]

POETRY: Jesu, Highest Heaven’s Completeness by Bernard of Clairvaux

July 5, 2017

Jesu, highest Heaven’s completeness, Name of music to the ear, To the lips surpassing sweetness, Wine the fainting heart to cheer. Eating Thee, the soul may hunger, Drinking, still athirst may be; But for Earthly food no longer, Nor for any steam but Thee. Jesu, all delight exceeding, Only hope of heart distrest; Weeping eyes and spirit mourning Find in Thee a place of rest. Stay, O Beauty uncreated, Ever ancient, ever new; Banish deeds of darkness hated, With Thy sweetness all bedew. Jesu, fairest blossom springing From a maiden ever pure, May our lips Thy praise be singing While eternal years [...]

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 [...]

POETRY: The Fervor Of Holy Desire by Jeanne Guyon

June 28, 2017

Still, still, without ceasing, I feel it increasing, This fervor of holy desire; And often exclaim, Let me die in the flame Of a love that can never expire! Had I words to explain, What she must sustain, Who dies to the world and its ways; How joy and affright, Distress and delight, Alternately checker her days; Thou, sweetly severe! I would make thee appear, In all thou art pleas’d to award, Not more in the sweet, Than the bitter I meet, My tender and merciful Lord. This Faith, in the dark Pursuing its mark, Through many sharp trials of Love, Is the sorrowful waste, That is to be pass’d, In the way to the Canaan [...]

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 [...]

POETRY: Hadewijch Of Antwerp—Five Poems on Love

June 21, 2017

Love’s Maturity In the beginning Love satisfies us. When Love first spoke to me of love— How I laughed at her in return! But then she made me like the hazel trees, Which blossom early in the season of darkness, And bear fruit slowly. Knowing Love In Herself I do not complain of suffering for Love, It is right that I should always obey her, For I can know her only as she is in herself, Whether she commands in storm or in stillness. This is a marvel beyond my understanding, Which fills my whole heart And makes me stray in a wild desert. Love’s Constancy Anyone who has waded Through Love’s turbulent waters, Now feeling hunger and now satiety, Is untouched by the season Of withering or blooming, For in the deepest And most [...]

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 [...]

POETRY: Mustard Seed by Meister Eckhart

June 14, 2017

I. In the Beginning High above understanding Is ever the Word. O rich treasure, There the Beginning always bore the Beginning. O Father’s Breast, From thy delight The Word ever flows! Yet the bosom Retains the Word, truly. II. From the two as one source, The fire of love. The bond of both, Known to both, Flows the All-Sweet Spirit Co-equal, Undivided The Three are One. Do you understand why? No. It best understands itself. III. The bond of three Causes deep fear. Of this circle There is no understanding. Here is a depth without ground. Check and mate To time, forms, place! The wondrous circle Is the Principle, Its point never moves. IV. The mountain of this point Ascend without activity. O intellect! The road leads you Into a [...]

POETRY: Descend From Your Head Into Your Heart by Theophan the Recluse

June 7, 2017

You must descend from your head into your heart. At present your thoughts of God are in your head. And God himself is, as it were, outside you, and so your prayer and other spiritual exercises remain exterior. Whilst you are still in your head, thoughts will not easily be subdued but will always be whirling about, like snow in winter or clouds of mosquitoes in [...]

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 [...]