Living Mysticism

Interspiritual Mystics

Living Mysticism
Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Mysticism is a special consciousness of the presence of God that by definition exceeds description and results in a transformation of the subject who receives it. —Bernard McGinn [1]

It’s not enough to have wonderful theories about God. Authentic mystical encounter radically changes us and our way of living—our politics, relationships, economics. Otherwise so-called mysticism is just metaphysical rumination. Beverly Lanzetta, a contemporary theologian and monk within universal spirituality, shares the practical implications of mysticism:

We may imagine mysticism or contemplation to be the privilege of monks and mystics, saints and prophets, and of the cloistered and the devout. But, to this I add: you are made both of and for contemplation. It is the secret longing of your being. And because this is so, each and every one of you contains the seed consciousness and the archetypal reality of its hidden ways. . . . It is in the wilderness of your heart that you discover a reality beyond every religious form.

In the world’s religions, mysticism is variously described as an experience of Divine Presence that is accessible to us in the fully actualized depths of consciousness itself. It is spontaneous awe at the sacredness of life and the infused presence of Mystery in one’s inner depth. In fact, mysticism is defined more truly as the intrinsic capacity of each self to touch and be touched by the Source—to know the Source through certitude too deep for words or images. This touching is the mystical heart of the monk, and every aspect of his or her journey is directed toward this inner discovery.

And then living its truth.

Mysticism also refers to a universal and unifying view of the world. One of the quintessential insights of the mystics through the centuries is that the entire cosmos is intersubjective—all beings are embedded in webs of relationship that are interconnected, interdependent, and constantly being co-created and reinvented. Today, mystical awareness expands to incorporate our relationships, and also our collective religious and spiritual inheritance, the whole of humanity, creation, and the cosmos. It extends to the suffering of the planet, wounding of the soul, and violence caused by religious superiority, national self-interest, poverty, homelessness, starvation, and war. The theme of oneness is so common in mystical literature that I consider it to be a fundamental attribute of consciousness.

Mysticism, however, is not merely a shift in perception or how one knows. It is not disembodied or relegated to rarefied states of being. Instead, mystical consciousness affects the whole of one’s life by opening the heart to the Divine Presence in all realities. Further—in contemporary thought—mysticism is in service of and the means by which we discover the unification of spirit and matter, male and female, intuition and reason, mercy and justice. It is not a goal to be reached at the endpoint of the religious life. Rather, mystical perception is the starting point, the power that un-forms and then reforms knowledge, love, and perception.

References:
[1] Bernard McGinn, The Flowering of Mysticism: Men and Women in the New Mysticism, 1200–1350 (Crossroad: 1998), 26.

Beverly Lanzetta, The Monk Within: Embracing a Sacred Way of Life (Blue Sapphire Books: 2018), 49-50.

Image credit: Sacred Heart (detail), Odilon Redon, 1910, Musée d’Orsay, Paris, France.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: Mysticism . . . is not merely a shift in perception or how one knows. It is not disembodied or relegated to rarefied states of being. Instead, mystical consciousness affects the whole of one’s life by opening the heart to the Divine Presence in all realities. —Beverly Lanzetta
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