Characteristics of Mysticism….

Rohini Maps and Principles, Reflections, Uncategorized 2 Comments

From Mysticism, by Evelyn Underhill:

1.  True mysticism is active and practical, not passive and theoretical.  It is an organic life-process, a somthing which the whole self does; not something as to which its intellect holds an opinion.

2.  Its aims are wholly transcendental and spiritual.  It is  in no way concerned with adding to, exploring, re-arranging, or improving anything in the visible universe.  The mystic brushes aside that universe, even in its supernormal manifestations.  Though he does not, as his enemies declare, neglect his duty to the many, his heart is always set upon the changeless One.

3.  This One is for the mystic, not merely the Reality of all that is, but also a living and personal Object of Love; never an object of exploration.  It draws his whole being homeward, but always under the guidance of the heart.

4.  Living union with this One–which is the term of his adventure–is a definite state or form of enhanced life.  It is obtained neither from an intellectual realization of its delights, nor from the most acute emotional longings.  Though these must be present, they are not enough.  It is arrived at by an arduous psychological and spiritual process–the so-called Mystic Way–entailing the complete remaking of character and the liberation of a new, or rather latent, form of consciousness; which imposes on the self the condition which is sometimes inaccurately called “ecstasy,” but is better named the Unitive State.

Mysticism, then, is not an opinion: it is not a philosophy.  It has nothing in common with the pursuit of occult knowledge.  On the one hand it is not merely the power of contemplating Eternity: on the other, it is not to be identified with any kind of religious queerness.  It is the name of that organic process which involves the perfect consummation of the Love of God; the achievement here and now of the immortal heritage of man.  Or, if you like it better–for this means exactly the same thing–it is the art of establishing a conscious relation with the Absolute.

Underhill, Evelyn.  Mysticism.  1911.  Image Edition.  New York:  Doubleday, 1990, p. 81.

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  1. This is great, Rohini. A perfect summary not only of what Evelyn has to say about mysticism but also of what you are teaching us. No matter what the tradition, the path is the same. I especially like the first point, Mysticism is above all practical, something we live out 24/7. The treasure hunt, as you call it. Another one to print out!

  2. To lose thyself in some sort, as if thou wert not, and to have no consciousness of thyself at all – to be emptied of thyself and almost annihilated – such is heavenly conversation…. So to be affected is to become God.” ” As the little water-drop poured into a large measure of wine seems to lose its own nature entirely and to take on both the taste and the colour of the wine; or as iron heated red-hot loses its own appearance and glows like fire; or as air filled with sunlight is transformed into the same brightness so that it does not so much appear to be illuminated as to be itself light – so must all human feeling towards the Holy One be self-dissolved in unspeakable wise, and wholly transfused into the will of God. For how shall God be all in all if anything of man remains in man? The substance will indeed remain, but in another form, another glory , another power ” (De diligendo Deo, c. 10). These are the favourite similes of mysticism, wherever it is found.

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