Do Christian Mystics Actually Engage In This?
I’ve read Islamic tradition revealing that Mohammad, exactly like Moses, Abraham, and Jesus, was wont to go to a mountain. While there they would contemplate life and its meaning. This was not recreation, this was not “getting away from the crowds.” This was contemplation, a necessary element of the mystic traditions. And not just Christian mystics. All mysticism.
Let’s look at why just a little before we go any further:
“It is requisite for the good of the human community that there should be persons who devote themselves to the life of contemplation” – St. Thomas Aquinas.
St. Thomas Aquinas’s disciple, Peter Pieper wrote: “For it is contemplation which preserves in the midst of human society the truth which is at one and the same time useless and the yardstick of every possible use; so it is also contemplation which keeps the true end in sight, gives meaning to every practical act of life.”
Even Plato knew that a person could, through contemplation, ascend to the “form of God.”
In Christianity, contemplation refers to a content-free mind directed towards the awareness of God as a living reality. Think for a minute about that. A content-free mind. We’ll need to come back to that.
You should note that in Christian mysticism specifically, you have contemplative prayer (contemplation), which is a form of prayer distinct from vocal prayer as well as meditation.
You could call this a form of mystical union with God.
That sounds kind of heavy so let’s revert to exactly what it is we are talking about.
1. The act or state of contemplation.
2. Thoughtful observation or study.
3. Meditation on spiritual matters, especially as a form of devotion.
4. Intention or expectation (for example contemplation of an expected change.)
I have found four actual stages (or degrees) of contemplation depending on intention and experience of the person.
1. Incomplete mystical union, or what you would call quiet prayer. Don’t misunderstand me. There is not a thing wrong with this. This is the normal state of fairly religious people, especially if they are taught that deeper states are “dangerous” and the mortals must allow their local masters to understand spiritual matters and tell the people what they think the people need to know.
2. The full, or what you might call a semi-ecstatic state. This is what St. Teresa sometimes called the “prayer of union.” This may be done by acts of praise and thanksgiving, but it is principally an act of prayer.
3. Ecstatic Union, or ecstasy. Supernatural ecstasy would be what you would call a state which (while it lasts) where the mind rivets its attention on a religious subject. While this is happening the senses are suspended.
4. A union you can only call deifying. A spiritual marriage of your soul with God.
Please keep in mind that in mysticism, terms are often allegorical and used for the expressing of eternal realities. They things are, by design, only knowable through your own experience.
But why should you contemplate. Life is much easier if you don’t think about it and as a mystic, you must think deeply. Very deeply. All the knowledge is available, but you must reach for it. It will take a considerable amount of time. How long? As long as you live and then a lot more when you are not.
But contemplation is only the beginning. You have to get really really quiet with yourself. Really quiet and listen. Then contemplation will bring illumination. A mystic doesn’t use contemplation as an end-all. Contemplation brings knowledge. Then you must dwell on that knowledge and let it lead you into yourself even deeper.
In order to do this, it is requisite that you are able to clear your mind. This is easier said than done. It takes a lot of time and experience, but it must be done. You cannot learn about mystical matters as long as your mind is constantly distracted by all the little things that life is made up of. Even if you get away from phones and crowds, bodily functions and insects will constantly be at you for your attention.
That’s where a content-free mind comes in. You simply cannot listen to God when your side itches. When a fly buzzes your ear. When the kids need more chocolate milk. When your boss wants you to focus and hurry up.
Is it hard? You bet. But there is no other way.
Content-free mind of the mystic.
It is a requisite!
Contemplation–illumination–meditation–Your mystical destiny
Here is a nice poem I saw: Think about it! Dwell on it!
Poem: Enjoy This Season
Withering grass of this season with your abundance of green, take advantage of Today – Contribute to this Earthly scene.
Enjoy your present strength; ignore worries of the past. Let the distant failures fade and let sweeter memories last.
Be true to yourself always, standing tall and strong. Focus on your own meadows and… Learn to hum to Life’s song.
author Joseph J. Breunig 3rd,
Learn more about me and my poetry at: http://www.squidoo.com/book-isbn-1419650513/
Isn’t that thoughtful? You could dwell on that poem for a considerable amount of time. I included his site in case you would like to see what he is about.
Mystics beware! 2012 is here! You have a destiny! Mystics Awake!