The Rare Handful? (Jean Leclercq’s Definition of Mystical Experience)

In the Classics of Western Spirituality edition of the Selected Works of Bernard of Clairvaux, Benedictine scholar Jean Leclercq, OSB offers the follow definition of "mystical experience":...those rare occasions when a handful of Christians may enjoy sublime states of prayer and union with God.What do you think? I have problems with the idea that mystical states are "rare" and only available to a "handful" of Christians. Perhaps Leclercq is trying to protect the integrity of the "sublime" … [Read more...]

Quote for the Day

It is a glorious destiny to be a member of the human race, though it is a race dedicated to many absurdities and one which makes many terrible mistakes: yet, with all that, God Himself gloried in becoming a member of the human race. ... As if the sorrows and stupidities of the human condition could overwhelm me, now I realize what we all are. And if only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people they are all walking around shining like the sun. … [Read more...]

Quote for the Day

Because ‘mystical experience’ lies far beyond description, it is sometimes assumed that all such experiences, in whatever context they occur, must be the same – a unity at the heart of all religions; but that remains an assumption: it clearly cannot be demonstrated. — The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions … [Read more...]

“Counterfeit” Mysticism and Oppositional Consciousness

The other day a woman named Diane Stranz posted a lengthy comment to my Contemporary Mystical Experience page, in which I quote the passage from my book The Aspiring Mystic describing an extraordinary experience I received as a teenager while attending a Lutheran youth weekend. In the passage, I go on to mention that, at a later date, I experimented with psychedelics. Ms. Stranz has some interesting thoughts in response to my experience, and I quote her in part: It is my belief, and the belief … [Read more...]

Fourth and Walnut

Plaque commemorating Merton's epiphany

The day before yesterday - March 18 - was the fiftieth anniversary of the epiphany Thomas Merton experienced at the corner of Fourth and Walnut street in Louisville, Kentucky. Merton immortalized that experience in his book Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander (and which I quote at length on my Thomas Merton page). Conjectures was published in 1966, eight years after the epiphany took place; here is what Merton initially wrote about it, in his journal on March 19, 1958: Yesterday, in Louisville, … [Read more...]

Until You Give it Away

I believe that mysticism is a lot like love. Consider these similarities:It's a free gift from God that we can neither earn nor deserve, yet God is eager to give it to us just the same. In this gift, all God is giving us is, well, God. In receiving the gift, it's the best feeling in the world — but it's more than just a feeling; indeed, it is a mistake to try to reduce this gift to a mere feeling. Expanding on the above: this gift heightens our consciousness (both in temporary and l … [Read more...]