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Archive for the ‘mysticism’ Category

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re-posted from Dr. Taylor Marshall’s Canterbury Tales

The great saints and masters of the mystical life in the Catholic tradition often speak of the three ages of the spiritual life. These stages correspond to the three areas of Solomon’s Temple:

1) Purgative (outer court)
2) Illuminative (holy place)
3) Unitive (holy of holies)

1) The purgative way is when a Christian truly examines his life and seeks to root out sin and seek personal sanctity. This entails frequenting the sacraments (especially Holy Communion and Penance), beginning a life of penance and charitable deeds, a growing hatred for venial sins, a love for Scripture (particularly the Psalms), an awareness of predominant faults, a purification of the intellect and will.

2) The illuminative way begins with a “dark night of the senses” (not the dark night of the soul), which leads to a passive purification of the senses. This journey includes a growth in the virtues, particularly the virtues of humility and charity. The soul has great confidence and hope in God. True devotion to Mary develops. Infused prayer begins.

3) The unitive way is the stage of Christian perfection and begins with the dark night of the soul. The soul now willingly suffers for God and loves God in all circumstances. The soul delights in spiritual childhood and simplicity as we see in St Therese and other great saints. These souls practice heroic virtue, which are the kind of virtues that we find in the canonized saints. Those in the unitive way accept divine abandonment and love Christ crucified. They practice reparation for the sins of others that wound Christ. They experience mystical union and other mysteries that cannot be explained.

These three ages of the mystical life are found in Solomon’s temple.

1) The stage of purification is the outer court where the altar of fire is found and also the basin for cleansing. Here, water and fire purify those who approach the temple of God’s presence.

2) The stage of illumination is the holy place within the Temple were the hallowed lamp stands giving light. Also present there is the altar of incense representing true and fruitful mental prayer and infused prayer. There is found the bread of presence which signifies a love for the Eucharist.

3) The stage of union is the holy of holies which is dark, black cubic room cut off from the eyes of most men. There is the ark of the covenant and the propitiatory. Here is the presence of God. Here is divine intimacy.

As Catholics, we should seek to be near to God. The old temple gives a simple plan. Begin with years of purification. Prayer. Penance. Daily examination of conscience.

PS: According to Saint Isidore and Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, a priest must be in the unitive way before he should allow himself to be consecrated as a bishop. Also a man must first be in the illuminative way before being ordained a priest. You will find similar things said by the Saint Denys the Areopagite.

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I encourage anyone interested in learning more about these subjects, to check out the blog of Dr. Taylor Marshall Canterbury Tales. Theology can be exciting, eh?! lol.

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re-posted from Dr. Taylor Marshall’s blog Canterbury Tales
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The Dark Night of the Soul

According to Saint Paul and Saint John of the Cross and the masters of Mystical Theology, such as John Tauler, the spiritual life consists in three ages:

Beginners (Purgative Way)
Proficients (Illuminative Way)
Perfect (Unitive Way)

Incidentally, by Perfect we mean not absolute perfection (like the saints in Heaven) but relative perfection. These three ages mirror natural human life: Childhood, Adolescence, Adulthood.

Just as these three stages are transitioned by a crisis, so also progress in the spiritual life is marked by crisis.

St. Jean de la Croix

Saint John of the Cross, the Doctor of the Church with regard to Mystical Theology, teaches that the transition from the Purgative to the Illuminative is occasioned by the “Dark Night of the Senses” and the transition from the Illuminative to the Unitive is occasioned by the Dark Night of the Spirit.

Beginners (Purgative Way) Dark Night – Senses
Proficients (Illuminative Way) Dark Night – Spirit
Perfect (Unitive Way)

The Dark Night of the Senses is the crisis in which God purposefully withdraws consolations of the senses. Warm fuzzies in prayer. Discursive pictorial visions in the imagination, physical comfort, lack of external distraction.

This is very difficult because the Christian begins to worry that he is regressing or has done something to lose God’s favor. Instead, God is preparing him to enter more deeply in the love of God. The soul learns to seek the God of consolation, but not merely the consolations of God. Perhaps this Dark Night of the Senses is one of the most misunderstood elements of daily Christian living.

Padre Pio with stigmata

The Dark Night of the Soul is a crushing desolation where the soul learns to love the cross of Christ. With a desire to be more like Christ and to share in His life, the perfect learn to love persecution, humiliations, disgrace, and other problems in life since they see in them a perfect conformity to God. Two well known modern examples are Saint Pio and Saint Therese.

We also see this is a state of perfection in the Apostles:

“And calling in the apostles, after they had scourged them, they charged them that they should not speak at all in the name of Jesus. And they dismissed them. And they indeed went from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were accounted worthy to suffer reproach for the name of Jesus.” (Acts 5:40–41, D-R)

Saints Peter and John rejoiced in their sufferings. This is not something naturally, but something utterly supernatural – it is a sign of the unitive way. The Apostles, we might say, went through the Dark Night of the Senses from Good Friday till Easter, [during which their Master Jesus was still with them in physical person, even though scourged and lying dead] and the Dark Night of the Spirit from the Ascension to Pentecost [after which Jesus physically left this earthly plane and only the Holy Spirit communicated through the disciples hearts and faith]. This, at least, is the position of Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange.

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I encourage anyone interested in learning more about these subjects, to check out the informative blog of Catholic author Dr. Taylor Marshall Canterbury Tales.

However, sometimes it’s easy to get lost in the dialectical polemics, and to lose sight of the original heart of the issue, which is that deep pit of despair, which is often one of the experiences of the human condition.

Tour guide Mara Vaughan in Luxor, Egypt has shared her discovery of Eckhart Tolle’s words on “The Dark Night of the Soul”. Let me repeat them:

Eckhart Tolle on the Dark Night of the Soul

Q: Have you ever experienced the dark night of the soul?

A: The “dark night of the soul” is a term that goes back a long time. Yes, I have also experienced it. It is a term used to describe what one could call a collapse of a perceived meaning in life…an eruption into your life of a deep sense of meaninglessness. The inner state in some cases is very close to what is conventionally called depression. Nothing makes sense anymore, there’s no purpose to anything. Sometimes it’s triggered by some external event, some disaster perhaps, on an external level. The death of someone close to you could trigger it, especially premature death, for example if your child dies. Or you had built up your life, and given it meaning – and the meaning that you had given your life, your activities, your achievements, where you are going, what is considered important, and the meaning that you had given your life for some reason collapses.

It can happen if something happens that you can’t explain away anymore, some disaster which seems to invalidate the meaning that your life had before. Really what has collapsed then is the whole conceptual framework for your life, the meaning that your mind had given it. So that results in a dark place. But people have gone into that, and then there is the possibility that you emerge out of that into a transformed state of consciousness. Life has meaning again, but it’s no longer a conceptual meaning that you can necessarily explain. Quite often it’s from there that people awaken out of their conceptual sense of reality, which has collapsed.

They awaken into something deeper, which is no longer based on concepts in your mind. A deeper sense of purpose or connectedness with a greater life that is not dependent on explanations or anything conceptual any longer. It’s a kind of re-birth. The dark night of the soul is a kind of death that you die. What dies is the egoic sense of self. Of course, death is always painful, but nothing real has actually died there – only an illusory identity. Now it is probably the case that some people who have gone through this transformation realized that they had to go through that, in order to bring about a spiritual awakening. Often it is part of the awakening process, the death of the old self and the birth of the true self.

Theology can be exciting, eh?! lol.

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excerpt from the YouTube post:

A LOVE STORY
In what was called, the belly of the beast, John of the
Cross
wisely more silent than the prophet Jonah,
dealt not with men but with God alone, waiting
patiently for a divine answer that would end the dark
night of his soul.

In the end; The Religion that would Police him could
not disturb the ecstasy of one who had been carried
so far into the light that he was no longer troubled at
the thought of being rejected even by those who
would hold themselves up to the world as being Holy!

No one can become a saint without solving the
problem of suffering. No one who has ever written
anything, outside the pages of Scripture, and no one
has given us such a solution to the problem as St.
John of the Cross.

In the end they consciously did everything they could
to remove St. John of the Cross from a position in
which he would be able to defend what he knew to be
true.

While sanctity alone is perhaps the living solution of
the problem of suffering. Still suffering continues to
be suffering; But it can cease to be an obstacle in our
life, and to our mission or our happiness, in which we
can find refuge positively and concretely in faith, hope
and love.

John of the Cross does not reveal when or how his
answer came, but when John of the Cross made his
miraculous escape during the octave of the
Assumption, in 1578, he carried in his pocket the
manuscript of a poem which critics have declared to
be far superior to any other in the Spanish language,
if not the world. The writings of John of the Cross
during his dark night of the soul.

In total darkness John of the Cross finds only light, in
cold only warmth, in desperation only Hope, in Hope
only Faith, in Faith only Love. Love being greatest of
all. Stronger than Fear. Stronger than Evil. Love – The
ultimate Protector. Love – The ultimate Motivator.
Love – The ultimate Weapon.

*****

John of The Cross

O Living flame of love
That, burning, dost assail
My inmost soul with tenderness untold,
Since thou dost freely move,
Deign to consume the veil
Which sunders this sweet converse that we hold …
And O, ye lamps of fire,
In whose resplendent light
The deepest caverns where the senses meet,
Erst steeped in darkness dire,
Blaze with new glories bright
And to the loved one give both light and heat!

*****
The Christ of St John of The Cross is the first of two extraordinary crucifixions painted by Dali in the early 1950s. In a cosmic dream the secret of Christ is revealed. This later confirmed by a drawing of the crucified Christ by St John of the Cross, the 16th-century Spanish mystic, in which Dali discovers a triangle (Trinity) nested inside of a circle (of life).

*****
Music – Loreena McKenitt
Title – The Dark Night of the Soul
Lyrics – Loreena McKennitt – John of the Cross
Art – Salvidor Dali – “The Christ of Saint John of the
Cross”
Video – Clover Studio

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Salvador Dali, “Christ of St. John of the Cross”, 1951

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The Christ of St John of The Cross is the first of two extraordinary crucifixions painted by Dali in the early 1950s.It depicts Jesus Christ on the cross in a darkened sky floating over a body of water complete with a boat and fishermen. Although a crucifixion, it is devoid of nails, blood, and a crown of thorns, because, according to Dalí, he was convinced by a dream that these features would mar his depiction of Christ. His depiction of the crucified Christ, is later confirmed when Dali discovers a drawing

St. John’s sketch

by St John of the Cross, a 16th-century Spanish mystic, of a triangle (Trinity) nested inside of a circle (of life). Dali’s composition is also based on a triangle and circle (the triangle is formed by Christ’s arms; the circle is formed by Christ’s head). The triangle, since it has three sides, can be seen as a reference to the Trinity. Dali explained, “In the first place, in 1950, I had a ‘cosmic dream’ in which I saw this image in colour and which in my dream represented the ‘nucleus of the atom.’ This nucleus later took on a metaphysical sense; I considered it ‘the very unity of the universe,’ the Christ!”

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St. John of the Cross

Of all of the human conditions, it is probably hardest to explain why God would allow suffering. Yet it is often suffering, and not enjoyment, which brings the soul away from the distractions of life, to focus on it’s relationship to God.

Born in Spain in 1542, St. John of the Cross learned the importance of self-sacrificing love from his parents. His father gave up wealth, status, and comfort when he married a weaver’s daughter and was disowned by his noble family. After his father died, his mother kept the destitute family together as they wandered homeless in search of work. These were the examples of sacrifice that John followed with his own great love — God.

When the family finally found work, John still went hungry in the middle of the wealthiest city in Spain. At fourteen, John took a job caring for hospital patients who suffered from incurable diseases and madness. It was out of this poverty and suffering, that John learned to search for beauty and happiness not in the world, but in God.

After John joined the Carmelite order, Saint Teresa of Avila asked him to help her reform movement. John supported her belief that the order should return to its life of prayer. But many Carmelites felt threatened by this reform, and some members of John’s own order kidnapped him. He was locked in a cell six feet by ten feet and beaten three times a week by the monks. There was only one tiny window high up near the ceiling. Yet in that unbearable dark, cold, and desolation, his love and faith were like fireand light. He had nothing left but God — and God brought John his greatest joys in that tiny cell.

After nine months, John escaped by unscrewing the lock on his door and creeping past the guard. Taking only the mystical poetry he had written in his cell, he climbed out a window using a rope made of strips of blankets. With no idea where he was, he followed a dog to civilization. He hid from pursuers in a convent infirmary where he read his poetry to the nuns. From then on his life was devoted to sharing and explaining his experience of God’s love.

His life of poverty and persecution could have produced a bitter cynic. Instead it gave birth to a compassionate mystic, who lived by the beliefs that “Who has ever seen people persuaded to love God by harshness?” and “Where there is no love, put love — and you will find love.” — excerpt

In fact, the importance of the cross in the life of the true Christian disciple became St. John’s maxim: “Do not seek Christ without the cross.” For St. John, innocent and voluntary suffering embraced in the way of the cross becomes an avenue to sublime intimacy with the Risen Lord. Therefore, suffering with the Savior is one key to the lofty heights of contemplation, which opens the door to the loving embrace of the Holy Spirit, transforming pain into unheard-of joy. While such a concept is quite foreign to contemporary society, it is entirely compatible with the Gospel. – excerpt

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On her CD The mask and mirror, Loreena McKennitt sings a song entitled The dark night of the Soul. Loreena writes in the CD-booklet about this song:

May, 1993 – Stratford … have been reading through the poetry of 15th century Spain, and I find myself drawn to one by the mystic writer and visionary St. John of the Cross; the untitled work is an exquisite, richly metaphoric love poem between himself and his god. It could pass as a love poem between any two at any time … His approach seems more akin to early Islamic or Judaic works in its more direct route to communication to his god … I have gone over three different translations of the poem, and am struck by how much a translation can alter our interpretation. Am reminded that most holy scriptures come to us in translation, resulting in a diversity of views.

Here is the full English translation of this poem from the original Spanish:

St. John of the Cross On a dark night

On a dark night,
Kindled in love with yearnings
–oh, happy chance!–
I went forth without being observed,
My house being now at rest.

In darkness and secure,
By the secret ladder, disguised
–oh, happy chance!–
In darkness and in concealment,
My house being now at rest.

In the happy night,
In secret, when none saw me,
Nor I beheld aught,
Without light or guide,
save that which burned in my heart.

This light guided me
More surely than the light of noonday
To the place where he
(well I knew who!) was awaiting me
— A place where none appeared.

Oh, night that guided me,
Oh, night more lovely than the dawn,
Oh, night that joined
Beloved with lover,
Lover transformed in the Beloved!

Upon my flowery breast,
Kept wholly for himself alone,
There he stayed sleeping,
and I caressed him,
And the fanning of the cedars made a breeze.

The breeze blew from the turret
As I parted his locks;
With his gentle hand
He wounded my neck
And caused all my senses to be suspended.

I remained, lost in oblivion;
My face I reclined on the Beloved.
All ceased and I abandoned myself,
Leaving my cares
forgotten among the lilies.

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St. John of the Cross himself has written two books on this poem, explaining its meaning as a metaphor of a soul that unites with God. The books are “The Dark Night of the Soul”, the title Loreena chose for her song, and “Ascent of Mount Carmel“.

Loreena McKennitt’s official website

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