Faculty Reflections

Richard Rohr, Cynthia Bourgeault, James Finley, and Carolyn Metzler write occasional meditations especially for Living School alumni. Read their latest reflection below. Explore the online archive by browsing the years and months listed to the right (at the bottom of the page on mobile devices).


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Reading the Mystics

I’d like to share with you some insights I’ve had lately that will hopefully help you in reading the classical texts of the mystics. For lack of space, I will offer a few bare threads that need to be fleshed out in further reflection. But I hope these intuitive tracings have evolved enough to help you enter more deeply into the intimate nature of reading mystical texts as a way to pray.

First of all, I think it is helpful in reading the teachings of the mystics to realize that the subject matter of the text is your own subjectivity. That is, the mystics’ offerings are intended to illumine your experiential self-knowledge. The focus being your experiential understanding of yourself in the midst of a graced transformation in which you are learning from God how to let go of and die to your dreaded and cherished illusions that anything less than infinite union with the infinite love of God has the authority to name who you are.

Secondly, it is helpful in reading the teachings of the mystics to realize the subject matter is the trans-subjective communion in which the interiority of your own subjectivity is accessing and is being accessed by the interiority of the mystic’s very subjectivity. This resonance between ourselves and the teacher is qualitatively deeper than a mutual affinity at the psychological level of our personality. The deepening communion moves in the interiority of our subjectivity born in sustained contemplative attentiveness infused with love. It is this deepening trans-subjective communion that enables you, at some point, to begin to intuit in advance what the mystic will say next because the interiority of your mind and heart is falling into such a deep empathic resonance with the interiority of the mystic’s mind and heart. It is this deepening familiarity that forms the profound sense of gratitude we feel for the mystic teacher, whose insights and clarity continue to illumine and sustain us day by day.

Thirdly, it is helpful in reading the teachings of the mystics to realize the subject matter is the trans-subjective communion of God’s intra-divine life as Father, Son, and Spirit that is radiating out and giving itself away in and as the mystic’s trans-subjective communion with God. In turn, the mystic’s trans-subjective communion with God radiates out and gives itself away in and through the cadences and rhythms of the mystic’s voice, becoming your deepening realization of your trans-subjective communion with God as being your very reality, your own deepest, God-given identity.

Fourthly, it is helpful in reading the teachings of the mystics to realize that this widening circle of trans-subjective communion occurs as we read, pause, reread, pause, pray, and then reread, as if for the first time, the words that convey and embody the unitive mystery that transcends what words can say. All of this ripens into the tender-hearted way we are learning to treat ourselves and each person we meet as we go through our day. Over time this widening circle of trans-subjective communion with infinite love draws our hearts toward its all-encompassing center, where we join the mystics in realizing that our lingering illusions are just that, illusions that do not have the power to name who we are and ever shall be in God who loves us so in the midst of our ongoing illusions whatever they may be.

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James Finley

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