The Metaphysics of Mysticism (Part 6)

going deeper

Gentle readers,

I do hope that you enjoy the subject under discussion which perhaps for my longtime readers is not so much of a stretch as you new ones. However bear with me as I promise it will be worth the ride.

We are considering a deeper subject than some are use to, similar to your first Algebra class when you were taught the 2 +2 does not always equal 4. I called these studies or as my dear readers like to call them "conversations". Thinking about things beyond what is day to day conversation. We Irish tend to on the mystical side in our thinking. I wrote a wee monograph on "Thin places" where in Ireland one can come closer to God. And now that we are here in America I find that we have also have thin places, but not a location but an attitude. A way of seeing, but not with the eyes, but with the mind. The Tomorrow people, saints and sinners, known and unknown, famous and not so much, are just these types who walk among us. Maybe next to you, on the desk two rows over. C. G. Jung may have been s stretch for some but I wanted to start with a well known intellectual in the modern society that at least some might recognize. That famous philosopher baseball great Yogi Berra once said "When you come to a fork in the road, take it!" And I will modify that quote a wee bit by saying "when you come to a fork in the road, go straight ahead"!

St. John of the Cross stands as one of the most important mystical philosophers in Christian history. It has been recorded that during his studies St. John particularly relished psychology; this is amply borne out by his writings. He was not what one would term a scholar, but he was intimately acquainted with the "Summa" of St. Thomas Aquinas, as almost every page of his works proves. Holy Scripture he seems to have known by heart, yet he evidently obtained his knowledge more by meditation than in the lecture room.

He left the following works, which for the first time appeared at Barcelona in 1619.

1."The Ascent of Mount Carmel", an explanation of some verses beginning: "In a dark night with anxious love inflamed". This work was to have comprised four books, but breaks off in the middle of the third.

2."The Dark Night of the Soul", another explanation of the same verses, breaking off in the second book. Both these works were written soon after his escape from prison, and, though incomplete, supplement each other, forming a full treatise on mystic theology.

3.An explanation of the "Spiritual Canticle", (a paraphrase of the Canticle of Canticles) beginning "Where hast Thou hidden Thyself?" composed part during his imprisonment, and completed and commented upon some years later at the request of Venerable Anne of Jesus.

4.An explanation of a poem beginning: "O Living Flame of Love", written about 1584 at the bidding of Doña Ana de Penalosa.

5.Some instructions and precautions on matters spiritual.

6.Some twenty letters, chiefly to his penitents. Unfortunately the bulk of his correspondence, including numerous letters to and from St. Teresa, was destroyed, partly by himself, partly during the persecutions to which he fell a victim.

7."Poems", of which twenty-six have been hitherto published, viz., twenty in the older editions, and recently six more, discovered partly at the National Library at Madrid, and partly at the convent of Carmelite nuns at Pamplona.

8."A Collection of Spiritual Maxims" (in some editions to the number of one hundred, and in others three hundred and sixty-five) can scarcely count as an independent work, as they are culled from his writings.

While you may not see a connection between Jung and saint John of the cross. Keep reading as they are both mystics each in their own way.

And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: (Acts 2:17)

Jung was an example of dreaming (although not pleasant, within himself)

And John of the cross who wrote The Dark Night of the Soul (about the experience of spiritual desolation, of feeling abandoned and rejected by God, and why this is for some Christians a means by which God increases our faith in Him; about the Christian walk, the life of prayer and contemplation, and growing in love and grace)

John engaged in the work of reform, and came to experience the price of reform: increasing opposition, misunderstanding, persecution, imprisonment. He came to know the cross acutely—to experience the dying of Jesus—as he sat month after month in his dark, damp, narrow cell with only his God! Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. (Matthew 16:24)

Yet, the paradox! In this dying of imprisonment John came to life, uttering poetry. In the darkness of the dungeon, John’s spirit came into the Light. There are many mystics, many poets; John is unique as mystic-poet, expressing in his prison-cross the ecstasy of mystical union with God in the Spiritual Canticle.

But as agony leads to ecstasy, so John had his Ascent to Mt. Carmel, as he named it in his prose masterpiece. As man-Christian-Carmelite, he experienced in himself this purifying ascent; as spiritual director, he sensed it in others; as psychologist-theologian, he described and analyzed it in his prose writings. His prose works are outstanding in underscoring the cost of discipleship, the path of union with God: rigorous discipline, abandonment, purification. Uniquely and strongly John underlines the gospel paradox: The cross leads to resurrection, agony to ecstasy, darkness to light, abandonment to possession, denial to self to union with God. If you want to save your life, you must lose it. John is truly "of the Cross." He died at 49—a life short, but full.

John in his life and writings has a crucial word for us today. We tend to be rich, soft, comfortable. We shrink even from words like self-denial, mortification, purification, asceticism, discipline. We run from the cross. John’s message—like the gospel—is loud and clear: Don’t—if you really want to live!

Thomas Merton said of John: "Just as we can never separate asceticism from mysticism, so in St. John of the Cross we find darkness and light, suffering and joy, sacrifice and love united together so closely that they seem at times to be identified."

The first two of our "tomorrow people"

To Be continued ...



  • Dr. Denis,

         I have heard of these people in the past.  There names have popped out in Theoretical service at a church I used to attend once upon a time.  They were mentioned with the intention of giving us a warning against these people and what they wrote because they are not in the Bible.  So, we never really read or studied their works.  We were taught that if isn't in the Bible it should not be used to learn God inspired truth.  This is the most I've ever read on the lives and works of these people and I do appreciate knowing about them and what they were all about.  It has given me the freedom to compare the feelings and study of those that were not that close to Jesus in time.  The closer someone is to you in time and relationship, for some reason, the more real they seem to be.  Don't get me wrong, I do know Jesus is real and the Apostles, too.  But, its closer in culture that connects us to these writers, I guess.  They shouldn't be banned but taught to back up the Bible, right?  But should they be taught as going to a service in church?  Where I went to church all those many years ago, that was part of the curriculum and was to be attended as part of being a member.  It also was must before baptism.  I've not been baptized in that church although I attended for 20 some odd years or more(with a vacation in between, I actually went back,lol), but, I'm happy now because Jesus has set me free!  I now learn from God himself.  Don't get me wrong, I learn from people who God has placed in my path but, mainly I learn from the Holy Spirit who God has sent and I obey Him not any church,organization or society.  I'm sort of like St John of the Cross only I have a whole house I live in.  I know the Bible teaches not to isolate yourself from society and I have, do to physical and mental illnesses.  But, I'm not completely isolated, I'm communicating with you aren't I?  I have other outlets with family,friends,and brother & sisters in the body of Christ, so I am not totally isolated.  Thank you for these "tomorrow people" studies. 

  • Thank you Becky,

    It's my hope to expand ones understanding, in order that they may think outside the box. Glad you enjoying this walk.

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