Mysticism or Misty-cism BY THE EDITOR
What is Mysticism? Is it forbidden by the Church? If not, is it of any help to the ordinary Catholic trying in his simple way to serve God?
SOMEONE has said that the word " Mysticism" has been so abused that it should now be spelt " Misty-cism."
Indeed it is quite extraordinary what a variety of absurdities have been called mysticism. Even Catholics use it to describe any sort of vague spiritual emotion or feeling. engendered perhaps by a particularly fine day or a particularly good meal, while others have included spiritualism, theosophy. wonders, and even devilworship under the term.
Evidently. Mysticism, used in this woolly sense, can cover all sorts of errors and delusions, and any confessor would warn h Catholic to have nothing to do with the idea that this sort of mysticism is a substitute for true religion or an aid to true religious life.
Unfortunately, the bad name which mysticism in this popular sense has got has tended to hide from Catholics the true meaning of Mysticism and makes them suspicious of something which, properly understood, might help them considerably in their prayer and worship.
Mysticism, .properly understood and in its full sense, is sonic direct, experienced, perception of God even in this world. That this is possible cannot be doubted, both from Scripture and the testimony of numberless saints and mystics whose experiences have been the subject of the closest investigation even by unbelievers who are forced to the conclusion that mere auto-suggestion or delusion cannot account for them.
Essentially these experiences are objective; not subjective.
Even after this description, the ordinary person may well say that even this seems frightfully remote and hardly of any use to an ordinary person like myself.
But here he may be wrong. In the first place, we are all bidden to be " perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect."
Now our full perfection will be attained with our enjoyrneut of the Beatific Vision which is itself the full Mystical State. That we should endeavour even in this world to come as near that perfection as possible is logical. True mystical experience itself comes wholly from God. It is a pure gift. We cannot earn it.
Whether God should give it to us or not, we canpot possibly tell. But there is every reason why we for our part should do what we can to make ready for God, should He so will it.
Mysticism, though it comes as a special gift of God, is not something tagged on to religion from outside, as it were. It is its crown or flower.
Indeed, so far as salvation is concerned, it is its end, since salvation is the Beatific Vision. Hence the mystical way is the religious way.
But caution is needed. The great classical Christian Mystics were spiritual geniuses, and usually, though by no means always, canonised saints. Hence their teaching about the highest level of the spiritual life tends to be difficult and easily misupderstood, unless carefully and wisely interpreted.
When we read about their wonderful mystical experiences we usually find them as enormously attractive, stimulating, satisfying. Naturally, since they had in some sense reached the very end and purpose of our spiritual nature!
But just because of this, there is a very real temptation for us to try to get the gilt without the ginger-bread. We imagine we can discover a shorter and very much easier cut. And from this temptation proceed all the delusions and auto-suggestions and absurdities which in fact have given Mysticism a bad name and led in practice to all the caution with which the whole subject Is usually surrounded.
But it does not seem to follow that these very real dangers should necessarily put the whole subject out of court for Ug ordinary people. It is surely possible that many souls would find great spiritual help in a "contemplative" spiritual approach which, however simple and far from the mystical insight, is directly related to it. But advice from a wise spiritual director is invaluable.