Christian Mysticism: A study on Practical Applications
Mysticism is the art of union with Ultimate Reality. The mystic is a person who has attained that union in greater or less degree; or who aims at and believes in such attainment.
May the words we post here and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in Your sight, our Lord and our Redeemer. Amen.
We are presently studying Theologia Germanica, an anonymous work written probably just before the reformation.
This is a topical study and we have kept the threads of previous books that we have studied, for reference by latecomers. For convenience, the previous books we have studied are listed below.
Dark Night of the Soul, by Saint John of the Cross.
Fire of Love, by Richard Rolle of Hampole.
Little Flowers of St. Francis of Assisi, by Ugolino.
Cloud of Unknowing, by an anonymous early English author.
Scale (or Ladder) of Perfection, by Walter Hilton.
Practical Mysticism, by Evelyn Underhill.
If I may interject here. This last week I was on a Group Camp with our local church and the campfire conversation with a few Elders concentrated on CCEL and what is happening here. I tried to explain the resurgence of Christian Mysticism but when pressed could not come up with a good explanation of exactly what it is or how it differs from the western approach to developing a relationship with God.
Could you help me with this lack?
For have a man never so much ghostly understanding in knowing of all made ghostly things, yet may he never by the work of his understanding come to the knowing of an unmade ghostly thing: the which is nought but God.
Yea! think what he think will; for evermore he shall find it a cloud of unknowing, that is betwixt him and his God.
That nowhere bodily, is everywhere ghostly; and how our outer man calleth the word of this book nought.
We must quiet this outer man which "calleth it nought," if we are to pierce this cloud of unknowing.
That whoso knoweth not the powers of a soul and the manner of her working, may lightly be deceived in understanding of ghostly words and of ghostly working; and how a soul is made a God in grace.
A paragraph of this chapter could serve as a good summary of what we're about in the practice of the exercise described in The Cloud of Unknowing:
"The other secondary power, which is called sensuality; its activity and its obedience to the will, before and after original sin."
The quoted chapter heading is from the Paulist Press edition. In this chapter we read that since the fall, sensuality is no longer obedient to the will, "unless ruled by grace in the will." Thus, sensuality is what keeps us distracted from spiritual things by the attractions of the flesh, and the unattractiveness of spiritual things to the sensual power of our mind.
Of the first secondary power, Imagination by name; and of the works and the obedience of it unto Reason, before Sin and after.
In Chapter 63, our author called some powers of the mind principle and some secondary, and in Chapter 64 he discussed the principle ones. In this chapter he discusses the first secondary power of the mind, imagination.
"Of the other two principal powers Reason and Will; and of the work of them
before sin and after."
Our author continues his analysis of the mind, or soul. In this chapter he describes reason and will, which he calls principle powers, and by which we discern and make our choices. He describes the working of both these powers as they functioned before and after original sin.
Of the powers of a soul in general, and how Memory in special is a principal
power, comprehending in it all the other powers and all those things in the
which they work.
How a man may wit when his ghostly work is beneath him or without him, and when it is even with him or within him, and when it is above him and under his God.
This chapter seems to me to be an orientation in how the spiritual and physical realms relate. But I don't think it's so much to help us navigate between these realms - that seems to take care of itself somehow. His comment that the angels are even with us in nature is interesting. Other mystics have stated this as more a goal than a given fact. In the next few chapters, he's going to analyze how the mind functions.
That all bodily thing is subject unto ghostly thing, and is ruled thereafter by the course of nature and not contrariwise.
That the high and the next way to heaven is run by desires, and not by paces of feet.
"That a man shall not take ensample at the bodily ascension of Christ, for to strain his imagination upwards bodily in the time of prayer: and that time, place, and body, these three should be forgotten in all ghostly working."
That a man shall not take ensample of Saint Martin and of Saint Stephen, for to strain his imagination bodily upwards in the time of his prayer.
I think it's expected that at a change of management there should be some sort of statement from the new manager. Yet, I have relatively little to say about this change.
How these young presumptuous disciples misunderstand this other word “up”; and of the deceits that follow thereon.
NO more of these at this time now: but forth of our matter, how that these young presumptuous ghostly disciples misunderstand this other word up.
I will be stepping down as primary manager of this group.
Now truly I trow, that who that will not go the strait way to heaven, that they shall go the soft way to hell.
SOME men the fiend will deceive on this manner. Full wonderfully he will enflame their brains to maintain God’s law, and to destroy sin in all other men.