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The Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit

Everyday Mysticism

Friday, June 10, 2022

The Rev. Dr. Barbara Holmes shares her experiences of the Holy Spirit and being an “everyday mystic”:

There is no template; there is no right way to encounter the spirit world. It can occur as a simple understanding of unity, the nonduality of an observer and the observed, oneness, feelings of sacredness, peace, bliss, transcendence, a feeling of changing and transforming time and space, or an intuitive conviction that the experience is a source of objective truth and ultimate reality. The ordinariness of my mystical experiences taught me that being an everyday mystic is not limited to ritual, visitation, and mysterious power. It also just broadens the scope of your personal identity. It includes normal gifts like healing, grounds us in faith, grounds us in our ancestral heritage.

Being an “everyday mystic” for Dr. Holmes is also connected with her time spent in Pentecostal churches. She draws upon what Jesuit theologian Karl Rahner (1904–1984) described as “mysticism of the masses”:

The mysticism of everyday life is an opportunity to deeply mine the depths of human experience, relationships with others, and our encounters with nature. Rahner says to be a mystic is to occupy the core of human experience. . . . Mystery is mysterious. It is! Sometimes it comes in stillness when you’re alone. Sometimes it comes without drama and fanfare. Sometimes it comes as an epiphany, an awakening. And sometimes, it comes while you’re practicing the gifts of the Spirit. . . .

The “mysticism of the masses” [1] that Rahner refers to is a manifestation of charisms, Pentecostalism, dramatic conversions, glossolalia (speaking in tongues), prophecy, being drunk in the Spirit or slain in the Spirit in the language of Pentecostalism. [2] Rahner calls this “noisy mysticism,” and he considers it just fine and real if it increases faith, love, and charity. [3] He urges adherents to self-examine their own enjoyment of the phenomena.

I have inhabited those spaces most of my life. If I had a choice between a tall steeple church and a pew in a storefront in the middle of an impoverished neighborhood, I’d pick the storefront, because I’d know that there’d be more happening in the storefront than in the tall steeple church. There’d be mysteries inside those walls. . . .

One of the reasons I was attracted to this “mysticism of the masses” is because it was a recovery of Africanism’s long-lost past—in the transport from Africa to the Americas that my ancestors made. We’re always looking for ways to reconnect and this type of worship was very, very stimulating, and given the fact that my profession lawyering and academic work was very cool and wintry, when I came home on weekends and wanted to visit faith spaces, I tried to find the most mysterious, strange, storefront, noisy mystics that I could. . . .

Perhaps I am not the embodiment that Karl Rahner imagined but I am a mystic all the same. . . . Every ordinary thing is infused with mystery.

I am an everyday mystic. So are you.

[1] Karl Rahner, “Religious Enthusiasm and the Experience of Grace,” in Theological Investigations, vol. 16, Experience of the Spirit: Source of Theology, trans. David Morland (New York: Crossroad Publishing, 1983), 47.

[2] Rahner, “Religious Enthusiasm,” 35.

[3] Harvey D. Egan, “The Mystical Theology of Karl Rahner,” The Way 52, no. 2 (April 2013): 49.

Adapted from Barbara A. Holmes, “Everyday Mysticism,” unpublished Living School curriculum (Albuquerque, NM: Center for Action and Contemplation), 2018.

Explore Further. . .

Image credit: Arthur Allen, Daily Meditation Spring 2022 Series (detail), 2022, photographs, France. Jenna Keiper, 2022, triptych art, United States. Click here to enlarge the image.

This year we invited a few photographers to share their vision with us in an artistic exploration for the Daily Meditations. The inspiration questions we asked each artist to create from were: How do you as an artist connect to and engage with (S)spirit and/or tradition(s)? How can we translate deeper truths through a lens? How can we show our inherent connectedness (of humans, nature, other creatures, etc.) through imagery? This week’s images by photographer Arthur Allen appear in a form inspired by early Christian/Catholic triptych art: a threefold form that tells a unified story. 

Image Inspiration: My point of departure for this project was a question: Do precious things Glow, or are we casting Light on them? I found no answer (in any philosophical sense) but I did notice in my searches that some images—some “strikes to the eye”—positively wanted me to look at them. They called to me as if I had been ignoring them unfairly, the way I might ignore children’s jokes while I am trying to finish taxes. My goal became to ignore them less. I was surprised by how many of these children can fill a day, how many stories they can tell, and just how dream-like their jokes are. —Arthur Allen

Story from Our Community:

I set aside attending Mass, even before Covid. It just happened, this feeling of “I can’t anymore.” I didn’t lose my faith in God. I didn’t set God aside. But what I set aside was the “outward” sign. I instead, went inward. I found the voice of God inside me, stronger, yet gentler than ever. I am deeply grateful. It blows my mind and heart the words I receive from within.
—Gerarda C.

Share your own story with us.

Prayer for our community:

God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough,  because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.

Listen to the prayer.


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