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Talk at St Columba's RC Church on 27 October 2018.
Series:Talks
Mysticism & the Abrahamic Faiths
 
This talk was given in St Columba’s Catholic Church, Edinburgh on Saturday 27 October, 2018.  

I’m absolutely delighted to be asked to speak on mysticism and, in particular, mysticism within the Abrahamic tradition.    I am not offering an academically rigorous paper but a brief presentation on my own journey and the increasing importance of mysticism to me.   Themes which I shall touch on include darkness, ineffability, silence, spiritual intimacy and scriptural interpretation.
 
Definition
 
The scholar Bernard McGinn states that within the Christian tradition the ‘Father’ or ‘Prince of Mystics’ is St Augustine.   Augustine, he said, was:
 
a doctrinal and speculative theologian, an educational
theorist, a church leader, a monastic founder, a
preacher and polemicist – but he was also an author
who gave considerable attention to the mystical
element in Christianity and to whom almost all later
Western mystics appealed. 
Augustine has elsewhere been described as ‘the Father of Christian Mysticism’.   Using quasi physical synesthesia, Augustine wrote of ‘the eye of the mind’ or ‘the ear of the heart’.[1]    We find intensity in his writing together with an emphasis on the inner life; on experiences the physical world, the world of sense, cannot give.    Augustine practised silent, private reading:  he sat alone in God’s presence.[2]   In Confessions (X, 6), Augustine wrote:
 
I do have a kind of light, melody, fragrance, food,
embracement when I love my God; for he is the light,
the melody, the fragrance, the food, the embracement of my inner self – where there is a brilliance that
space cannot contain, a sound that time cannot carry
away, a perfume that no breeze disperses, a taste
undiminished by eating, a clinging together that no
satiety will sunder.
Writing in 1856, in his book Hours with the Mystics, Robert Alfred Vaughan described mysticism as ‘everywhere synonymous with what is most visionary in religion and most obscure in speculation.’[3]   In stark contrast to the ‘long conflicts of creeds’, Vaughan pointed to the ‘unconscious unity of mystical temperaments in every communion.’[4]
 
Mysticism is ineffable:  mystical states defy definition; they are more akin to feeling than the intellect.   The noetic quality of mystical experiences means that the mystic is unable to clearly articulate in detail the meaning of a mystical illumination or revelation.   By their nature, mystical experiences are transient and cannot be sustained for more than half an hour or, at the very most, an hour or two.   Mystical experiences engender passivity:  the mystic enters a consciousness in which ‘his own will [is] in abeyance, and indeed sometimes as if he [is] grasped and held by a superior power.’[5]   Mystics speak of the ‘Real Presence’ and being ‘immersed in the infinite ocean of God.’[6]  
 
Often through visions, dreams or voices, mystics experience a direct relationship with God.   We see this in the Buddha, Confucius, Moses, Jesus, Paul and Mohammed.   Christian mysticism is most often Christ-mysticism, in which the mystics encounter the Holy through the mediation of Jesus.   That said, some, like Meister Eckhart, have sought ‘a direct relation to God that bypasses the persons of the Trinity.’[7]   Mystics focus on inwardness, the spiritual, and the personal experience in religion.  
 
I am drawn to mysticism because, as a general rule, mystics are cautious about the claims that they make about the Divine.   Most often, mysticism offers an apophatic theology; a theology which affirms what God is not.  Perhaps my favourite quote for this is from Eckhart.   In the liturgy, Eckhart said to the congregation, ‘God is light’; and the people would reply, ‘God is not light’.   Everything, every word, concept and doctrine is a metaphor, a reaching out for the Holy.    In a piece of beautiful writing, The Case of Contradictories, Simone Weil, a twentieth century mystic whom T S Eliot described as, ‘a woman of genius, a kind of genius akin to that of the saints’, said:
 
A case of contradictories, both of them true.
There is a God.   There is no God.
Where is the problem?   I am quite sure that
 there is a God in the sense that I am
sure my love is no illusion.   I am quite sure
there is no God, in the sense that I am sure
there is nothing which resembles what
I can conceive when I say that word.
 
Like many mystics, I am careful about my use of the word ‘God’.   Too readily, it implies something or someone separate, up there, out there.   I much prefer such terms as Eternal, Sacred, Holy, Absolute, Mystery, Silence, Breath.  
 
Darkness
 
In Scripture, some of the most dramatic and familiar stories are in the darkness.   It is under the stars that Abraham is promised many descendants.   In Genesis, we read how God took Abram outside:
 
And He took him outside and said, ‘Now look
toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you
are able to count them.’   And He said to him,
‘So shall your descendants be.’
 
Similarly, in the Gospel of St Matthew, the Magi follow the star to find the Christ-Child; their encounter with the Sacred is in the darkness.   In the Gospel of St John, the life-changing encounter for Nicodemus was at night, in the dark.   These are spiritual texts and are to be read spiritually.   The story of Bartimaeus, of the blind-seer, is one of encounter with Jesus in the dark.   And what of the Resurrection and the empty tomb?    Many mystics, John of the Cross and Mother Teresa, spoke of darkness as the desert in which they encountered the Holy.   I shall return to darkness later but alongside darkness in mysticism there is a central place for silence.   In the second century Protogospel of James there is a story about the moment of Christ’s birth: Joseph has gone off to find a midwife; Mary is still in the cave.   And as Joseph is walking into the village, suddenly everything stops.   Josephhimself relates how he sees a shepherd in the field dipping his bread into the pot and his hand
arrested halfway to his mouth; a bird in mid-heaven halted as it flies.   For a moment everything standsstill, then movement begins again and Josephknows that the birth has happened in that moment of absolute silence.
 
I think if we read sensitively many stories in Scripture, listen to them with the ear of the heart, we will discover moments of silence, albeit fleeting and unnamed.   In the story of the rich man, there is a moment, almost unnoticed, in which amidst the dialogue we are told that Jesus looked at the man, and loved him.   It was a moment of intimate spiritual encounter.   Mary of Bethany sat at the feet of Jesus and, surely, looked into the face of Jesus:  what is that gazing if not an unspoken, silent, gazing into the face of God?

The Syriac Orthodox Church, like the Coptic Church, claims to trace its origin right back to the very beginning of the Early Church.   According to the Syriac Church, there were twelve magi.   In a second century text called the Revelation of the Magi, they are described as an Order of Mystics; they are defined as ‘those who pray in silence.’   They came from the mythical land of Shir, the extreme eastern edge of the known world.   In this text, the star is the Christ Himself, who leads them to the cave in Bethlehem.   Once there, the star transforms into a luminous infant.   After their visit, the Magi return to Shir and tell the people that they too can experience the Presence of Christ, if they receive the food which the Christ offers.   A story from the Syriac Church about silence, darkness and light.
 
In the Church of Scotland, standing in the Reformed and Presbyterian tradition of Christianity, not a branch of the vine typically known for its mystical fruits, nevertheless, the blind minister of Innellan in the late Victorian period, George Matheson, wrote of light and darkness.   To his congregation, he said:
 
We pray, ‘Enlighten our eyes!’ but often we can only
get our inner eye enlightened by having the outer eye
shaded.   Is the soul never to get moments for repose –
for meditation, self-reflection!   Is it never to have an
hour all to itself – and hour when its doors are shut,
when its windows are covered, when its outside voices
are hushed, when it is untouched by the heat of the
day!   God says, ‘Yes, it shall have such moments’; and
He prepares a place for it in the wilderness.    He stops
me midway in the race.   He lays His hand upon me, and
I fall.   He bears me into the silence, into the solitude.  
He puts the multitude all out, and locks the door.   He
closes the shutters of the casement.   He interrupts the
music in the street; He forbids the dancing in the hall.
He says, ‘Your nerves are weary with excitement; in
this desert place you shall rest awhile.’
  
The Sufi mystic, Rumi, said, ‘The quieter you become, the more you are able to hear’.  
  
Inner life
 
There is a story told of Sarapion the Sindonite who went on pilgrimage to Rome.   He had heard of a recluse, a woman, who lived there in a single room.   As a traveller, he could not imagine such inactivity.   When he met her, Sarapion asked, ‘Why do you just sit here?   She replied, ‘I’m not sitting.   I’m on a journey.’  
 
The story of the Passover has been interpreted by Jewish mystics.   For them, the narrative is lived out in the soul.   The Hebrew word for Egypt is Mitzrayim, which means a tight place, a place of constriction.   If we feel the story, perhaps we can begin to think of aspects of our own life which are constricted, in which we are confined, suppressed, oppressed, suffering and in need of hope and freedom.   Part of us will always want to stay with the old, in our comfort zone, but part of us will want growth, freedom and change.
 
The entire narrative is about life.   In our mother’s womb, we thrived and then it became a tight place.   If we can free ourselves from literalism, the story of the Exodus and the Passover is about our inner journey.   Rabbi Hanoch of Alexander said, ‘It was easier to take the Jews out of Egypt than take Egypt out of the Jews’.   Sometimes, even when we change our external circumstances, all that hinders us, diminishes us, remains alive within.   Often in life, we need to wrestle with and change the deep-seated images of ourselves.   It is the soul that needs healing.   One mystic suggests that we need to move from the bondage of the ego, from Pharaoh, to the higher self, to Moses; from a narrow, constricted consciousness, into a wider, fuller humanity, a more inclusive consciousness.  
 
The teacher of Jewish mysticism, Estelle Frankel, says that each morning she wakes to herself.   After a moment’s meditation, a moment in which she is still, prays, is open to the Spirit, she wakes a second time with an expanded identity, an awareness that she embodies the Divine.   The more she is at peace in the Sacred, the more she feels drawn into eternity.   Frankel says, ‘This is the goal of spiritual practice.   This is the goal of the Passover’.   The Passover is a leaving behind of all that constricts, diminishes and dehumanises us.   On the inner journey, God sets us free.   From the Passover to the fourth century monk and hermit, Macarius of Egypt, known as ‘The Lamp of the Desert’; Marcarius said:
 
The heart is itself but a small vessel, yet dragons are there, and there are also lions; there are poisonous beasts and all the treasures of evil.   There are also rough and uneven roads; there are precipices.   But there too is God, the angels, the life and the Kingdom, the light and the apostles, the heavenly cities and the treasures of grace – all things are there.

Mysticism has an intense focus on the inner journey:  the facing down of our own demons and our pilgrimage of sanctification.   For me, we must step away from the interventionist god, with the god who crudely intervenes in history, and discover the Divine within.   After the Jewish Holocaust, we can say that the God of the Exodus is dead.  
 
The life of the Divine, the Eternal, is the inner life.   After the mythology of the creation narratives - the first eleven chapters of Genesis - a new and distinct section of the book begins.   We read:
 
          Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go from your country
          and your kindred and your father’s house to the land
          that I will show you.  I will make of you a great nation,
          and I will bless you…… in you all the families of the
          earth shall be blessed.’   So Abram      went, as the Lord
          had told him.
 
It was after Abraham’s father died that Abraham encountered God.   Abraham’s encounter began with the word ‘Go’, which in Hebrew is lekh lekha.   ‘Go from your country’ God told Abraham.   Lekh lekha had never appeared in Genesis before this point.   God’s relationship with Abraham is intensely personal:  ‘I will show you, I will make of you, I will bless you.’   Abraham sets out for a land that God will show him, a land he had never seen.  
 
What is most striking about what God said to Abraham is the first word used - ‘go’:  lekh lekha.   It means ‘Go towards yourself.’   It is an invitation to journey to a new land, a piece of physical land surely, but it is also and more deeply an invitation to journey within.   After the creation narratives and long before the appearance of Moses or Joseph, God’s first word is to Abraham, to the father of Judaism, Christianity and Islam is ‘Go towards yourself.’  
 
For St Paul, we are the temple of the Living God.   We are one with Christ.   Jesus said, ‘Abide in Me as I abide in you.’   The shekinah dwells within us; the soul is the dwelling-place of God.   The Pharisee Nicodemus is told that no one can see the Kingdom of God without being born from above.   The Spirit, the shekinah, needs to be born within us.   Lekh lekha, ‘Go towards yourself’, means embark on the adventure; let the Spirit be born afresh in you.   Take to heart the wisdom of Jesus:  ‘Abide in Me as I abide in you.’    The story of Abraham may be one of the oldest told in human history but it is about you and me, now in the 21st century.  
 
Rumi died on 17 December 1273.   On his tomb the epitaph reads, ‘When we are dead, seek not our tomb in the earth, but find it in the hearts of men.’
 
Encounter
 
I have touched on darkness, silence and the inner journey.   Another central part of mysticism is our non-literal interpretation of Scripture.   According to the Gospel of St John, at evening, under the cover of darkness, Jesus ‘appeared’ to the disciples.   The verb used for ‘appear’ is quite specific:  it means an apparition, an inner vision.   It is something that is experienced and ‘seen’ within the consciousness, in the mind and heart.   The ‘appearance’ of Jesus that night in that room in Jerusalem could not have been recorded on an iPhone.   There was nothing physical to see and the verb chosen by the writer tells us that.   In his conversion experience on the road to Damascus, Paul ‘saw’ Jesus, the Risen Christ, but what he saw was not seen by those who were with him.   Paul described what he saw as similar to that experienced by the apostles.   The ‘appearances’ are an inner experience, an intimate encounter with the Holy.  
 
When Jesus appeared a second time to the disciples Thomas was present.   Following His word of peace, Shalom, Jesus said to Thomas:  ‘Put your finger here and see My hands.   Reach out your hand and put it in My side.   Thomas answered, ‘My Lord and my God.’   It is not clear if Thomas does touch Jesus but, if we enter the story for ourselves, the physicality and closeness of Jesus make His presence overpowering.   Thomas said, ‘My Lord and my God.’    This is the sort of meditational intensity and intimacy we find in the writings of the mystics.   For me, Scripture is sacred mythology or spiritual writing, a faith narrative.   ‘Myth’, says Sara Maitland, ‘is the poetry of the soul.’   Or, in the words of Thomas Mann, ‘Myth is the way things never were, but always are.’   The ancients understood that God is mystery, elusive and beyond our comprehension or expression.    The sages preferred to describe God as ‘Nothing’ with a capital ‘N’ rather than let God be thought of as a being.
 
Scripture
         
 I have mentioned Abraham, and so now to Moses.   On the mountain, an angel of the LORD appeared to Moses in a flame of fire out of a bush.   Moses looked; the bush was blazing but not yet consumed.   He said, ‘I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up’.   Rabbi Lawrence Kushner has said that when Moses stood to behold the burning bush, it was a miracle but, asks Kushner, what was the miracle?   The rabbi replies that the miracle was not in the fire or in the bush or the fact that the bush was not consumed.   ‘The miracle at the burning bush was that Moses stopped and turned aside to notice’.[8]   In the scorching heat of the desert, a bush on fire was not so unusual.   It is only when Moses stops, turns aside he truly sees a great sight; it is only when he had stopped, when he was still, silent before this mystical vision, that he heard the voice of God address him.   He could so easily have failed to pay attention.   It was with the inner eye, the eye of the heart, that Moses encountered Eternity.   In sound and syllable unknown to the outer ear, Moses heard the voice of God.   Meister Eckhart said, ‘Nothing in all creation is so like God as stillness.’
 
Moses encountered God many times:  on mountain top and in the Tent of the Lord’s Presence.   Each time, God is represented as a cloud.   Why a cloud?   Perhaps because it is dark, visually impenetrable, and God always remains hidden and elusive.   This same mythological device is used in the Gospels in the story of the Transfiguration.   The only spot in the whole story which is darkness is the cloud; it is from the cloud we hear the voice of God.   The hiddenness of God is essential and central to mysticism.
 
From Abraham and Moses, there is the story of Elijah in the cave, in the darkness, and hearing the sheerest silence.   We might say that the theological progression in what we call the Old Testament is from the spoken word to Abraham and Moses to the silence encountered by Elijah.   But now to Jesus.   In a meditative reading of Scripture, in the story of Jesus calming the storm, what do we see?   The first thing we see is the darkness:  we are told that it is evening.   Again, this is not an incidental detail.    God dwells in darkness.   In this darkness, we see the power of the wind and the sea, the power of nature, the magnitude and destructive power of nature, and we see the smallness of the disciples, their helplessness and vulnerability.   At the centre, we see Jesus:  we sense His peace, His calm, His strength and we learn in our hearts that as great as the powers of nature and universe may be, these are as nothing compared to the sacred peace of God.   There is a deep peace, a stillness, an eternal silence, at the heart of God, which the trials and troubles and powers of this world and universe cannot disturb.   In a prayerful, meditative reading of Scripture, God in Jesus comes to us.
 
In Scripture, we are told many times that Jesus sought the solitude and silence of the hills.   His own spiritual practice was one of aloneness; He found it essential to sustain the ordinariness and burdens of everyday life.  
 
The Resurrection stories draw heavily on the Old Testament.   In the story of the Ten Commandments, it is on the third day that Moses ascended Mount Sinai.   Amidst the thunder, lightning and blast of a trumpet, Moses entered the thick darkness where God was.   Crucially, Moses encountered the Eternal on the third day.   In the Abraham story, Isaac is released from death on the third day.  
 
In the Gospel of John, two angels appear:  one at the head and one at the foot of where the body of Jesus had lain.   For a Jewish listener, this detail is suggestive of the cherubim which sat on the lid of the Ark of the Covenant.   The ark rested in the Holy of Holies in the temple, the most sacred place on earth for the Jews.   It is possible that the fourth evangelist wants us to see that the empty tomb, the rising of Jesus from the dead, is the new Holy of Holies, the dwelling-place of God.  
 
My favourite encounter in the Resurrection narratives is the story of the Beloved Disciple, the one whom Jesus loved especially; perhaps the one whose insight into Jesus was most profound.    We are told that, though he reached the tomb, the empty cave, the place of darkness, emptiness and silence, before Peter, it was Peter who entered first.   After Peter looked around, he left.   But the Beloved Disciple entered and believed.   We are to empty ourselves so that we will be filled by the emptiness of God.
 
Besides Abraham, Moses and Elijah, in Jewish mysticism we can turn to the story of Jonah.   In Hebrew, the name Jonah is Yonah.   The name Yonah means ‘dove’.   In the Old Testament book, The Song of Songs, the Jewish people are the dove because the dove is faithful to its partner.   In The Song of Songs, the Jewish people are God’s lovers:  they never leave God; they are Yonah.   Yonah means dove:  God’s lovers.   If we go one step further, in mystical Judaism, Yonah represents the soul, the soul which is a lover to the Sacred, to the Divine.   The very name Jonah or Yonah suggests the soul as a lover of God.   Jonah, Yonah, the soul, the Divine lover, is only aroused from slumber when the boat is about to sink.   The story of Jonah is one of spiritual awakening.  
 
And what of the fish, the whale, the sea monster?   Perhaps the story suggests that Jonah had died:  no one could survive the violent, destructive power of the sea.   In mystical Judaism, it is said that the fish is a symbol of reincarnation; reincarnation, not resurrection.   It is perhaps in his second life that Jonah makes his way to Nineveh as God called him to do.   It is in his second life that Jonah makes his way back to the presence of God.   The Franciscan Richard Rohr says that it is in the second half of life that we make our way to God.   It is only after we understand that the first half of life, the life of this world, does not satisfy, does not bring wholeness, that we enter upon the second half of life.   It is in Nineveh, the restored Nineveh, the Nineveh at one with God, that Jonah encounters the presence of God.
 
The second ones to be called are also fishermen, James and John.   James and John leave their father Zebedee.   The story is very similar to that of the call of Elisha:  Elisha leaves his father to follow Elijah.   At a moment’s notice, Elisha said, ‘I will follow you.’   In Hebrew, the name John is Johanan, which means Yahweh is gracious.   James, from the Hebrew Ya’aqov, can also be rendered Jacob.   In the Old Testament, Jacob was the father of the twelve founders of the twelve tribes of Israel.   Is it possible that in this faith narrative of the call of the first disciples we learn that God of Jesus is gracious and that in Christ the twelve tribes of Israel are reunited, restored, made one?   Is this why we are told their names in such apparently fanciful, strange stories?
 
The first century Jewish philosopher, Philo, said that the manna which the people of Israel received in the desert was the wisdom of God.   The people fed on the wisdom of God.   In Jewish mysticism, eating manna means transmuting holiness into matter.   Eating manna dissolved the divide between God and humanity.   John’s Gospel began by telling us that the Word or Wisdom of God was reflected in Jesus of Nazareth.   When Jesus said, ‘Eat My flesh; drink My blood’, He intended that we are to feed on the Wisdom of God; we are to feed on God, on the Presence, on the Shekinah.  
 
Mystics
         
The nineteenth century Carmelite nun, Thérèse of Lisieux described practising the Presence of Jesus.   She said:
         
I was like those who are blind or in darkness; they
speak with a person and see that that person is
with them because they know with certainty that
the other is there (I mean they understand and
believe this, but they do not see the other…
 
The practice and experience of clinging to Christ is nowhere more poignantly found than in the hours of her death.   After the agony of tuberculosis, a death which seemed to a friend like a crucifixion, Thérèse said, ‘I assure you, the chalice is filled to the brim!    But God is not going to abandon me….He never has abandoned me.’   She closed her eyes in complete trust.  
 
John of the Cross
 
I Cobbled their Boots
 
How could I love my fellow men who tortured me?
 
One night I was dragged into a room
and beaten near death with
their shoes
 
striking me hundreds of times
in the face, scarring me
forever.
 
I cried out for God to help, until I fainted.
 
That night in a dream, in a dream more real than this world,
a strap from the Christ’s sandal
fell from my bleeding
mouth
 
and I looked at Him and He
was weeping, and
spoke,
 
‘I cobbled their boots;
how sorry
I am.
 
What moves all things
is God.’     
 
Sufi 
         
Jesus said, ‘Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there I am in the midst of them’.   In the Jewish tradition, it is said that where two are sitting together and words of the Torah are spoken, the Divine Presence, the Shekinah, rests with them.   In Islam, the Sukainah, the Spirit of Tranquility, descended upon the Prophet Muhammed.   In Islamic mysticism, the Sakinah is sent into the heart of believers; it brings stillness.   It is the Divine Presence.  
 
Mystics stress the unknowability of God.   The sixth century writer, Dionysius, spoke of God as veiled in dazzling obscurity, in secret Silence, as the luminous Darkness, utterly incomprehensible.   Thomas Merton, described by the Dalai Lama as a spiritual brother, wrote many poems, including poems about the hiddenness or darkness of God:
 
My love is darkness!
Only in the Void
 Are all ways one:
Only in the night
Are all the lost
Found.
in my ending is my meaning…….
 
Closer and clearer
Than any wordy master
Thou inward Stranger
Whom I have never seen,
Deeper and cleaner
Than the clamorous ocean,
Seize up my silence
Hold me in Thy hand!
 
Listen to part of this Sufi poem:
 
In the market, in the cloister – only God I saw.
In the valley and on the mountain – only God I saw.
Him I have seen beside me oft in tribulation;
In favour and in fortune – only God I saw.
In prayer and fasting, in praise and contemplation,
In the religion of the Prophet – only God I saw.
 
There are a number of stories about Abraham (or Ibrahim) in the Qur’an.   There is the miracle of the four birds.   Ibrahim asks of God, ‘My Lord, show me how You give life to the dead.’   God said, ‘Do you not believe?’   He said, ‘I do!  But this is so my heart may be calm.’   God said, ‘Then take four birds and [cut them into pieces].    Then place a part of them on each mountain.   Then call them; they shall come to you in a rush.   And [seeing that] know that indeed Allah is overpowering, all-wise.’
 
Commentators say that when Abraham called to the birds, Allah caused their parts to be rejoined and refilled with pulse and life.   They then flew to Abraham with a speed that showed no sign of trauma—no sign that they had just been dismembered and scattered.    The point of the miracle, of the faith narrative, is to show that God gives life to the dead. 
 
Close
 
The historian, Karen Armstrong, says that ‘doctrine is self-indulgent guess work which makes people quarrelsome and [incredibly] sectarian’.   The truth to be discovered is Presence.   Our spiritual practice is to continually bring ourselves into God-consciousness.   God is a single Reality:  God is Being, Tao, Father, Allah, Mother, YHWH, Brahman, Great Spirit and many other names.   The Jewish mystical teacher Rabbi Rami Shapiro writes:
 
To me, religions are like languages: no language
is true or false; all languages are of human origin;
each language reflects and shapes the civilization
that speaks it; there are things you can say in one language that you cannot say as well in another;
and the more languages you speak, the more nuanced your understanding of life becomes.
Judaism is my mother tongue, yet in matters of the spirit I strive to be multilingual.
 
 


[1]  Margaret R Miles, Desire and Delight:  A New Reading of Augustine’s Confessions (New York:Crossroad, 1992), 36.
[2]Miles, Desire and Delight, 186.
[3]Robert Alfred Vaughan, Hours with the Mystics:  A Contribution to the History of Religious Opinion, Vol. I  (London:  John Slark, 1888), xxvi.
[4]ibid.
[5]William James, Varieties of Religious Experience:  A Study ion Human Nature (London:  Folio Society, 2008),  322.
[6]Ibid., 338.
[7]Ibid., 9.
[8]Rabbi Rachel Timoner   Breath of Life:  God as Spirit in Judaism   75
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MYSTICISM & THE ABRAHAMIC FAITHS - LECTURE

Mayfield Salisbury Church Memorials 1914-1918

  • Because God is both knowable and unknowable the tension of the symbol, the multilayers of the myth and the openness of the poetic are all vital to our desire to celebrate the Mystery to whom we relate and in whom we have our being.
    Mark Oakley

  • You must love him as he is: neither God, nor spirit, nor image; even more, the One without commingling, pure, luminous ...

    Meister Eckhart

  • The purpose of our life is God's glory. However lowly a life is, that is what makes it great.
    Oscar Romero

  • Faith may justify bigotry or fanaticism, as Church history tragically witnesses. It needs a safeguard. If it is not animated as it were by the greatest of the theological virtues (love), faith can become defective.
    Thomas Norris

  • Dry not, dry not, your tears of love eternal! Only to eyes that fail to weep does this world seem so dull and dead. Dry not, dry not, those long, sad tears of love.
    Johann von Goette

  • The post modern paradigm manifests itself as a unity which preserves diversity and diversity which strives after unity.
    David Bosch

  • There is only one assertion that requires no evidence. Children are a sacred trust...Unless we care properly for our children, we shall never build a better world.
    'A Good Childhood’ The Children’s Society

  • These are only hints and guesses, hints followed by guesses; and the rest is prayer.
    'The Dry Salvages' T.S.Eliot

  • According to strict truth, God is incomprehensible, and incapable of being measured.
    Origen

  • Myth is a story about the way things never were, but always are.
    Thomas Mann

  • In the darkness ...The child of your love - and now become as the most hated one - the one You have thrown away as unwanted - unloved ..... The darkness is so dark .... I have no faith.
    Mother Teresa

  • I love the Bible. I owe my faith and my life to the Bible and its liberating message. It is in the Bible that I first met Jesus ... I too am included in God's embrace.
    Gene Robinson

  • It is this great absence that is like a presence, that compels me to address it without hope of a reply ....
    R.S. Thomas

  • Faith is not a proud self-consistent philosophy. It involves maintaining oneself between contradictions that can't be solved by analysis. It is therefore a living response to the grace of God as revealed in fragile lives.
    Mark Oakley

  • Any religion which does not say that God is hidden is not true.
    Blaise Pascal

  • The contemporary Church is losing aspects of its wide and generous memory and therefore condemning itself to become a 'swimming pool Church' - one that has all the noise coming from the shallow end.
    Mark Oakley

  • For all your doctrinal headaches take Paradox.
    Mark Oakley

  • The true vision and the true knowledge of what we seek consists precisely in not seeing, in an awareness that our goal transcends all knowledge and is everywhere cut off from us by the darkness of incomprehensibility.
    St Gregory of Nyssa

  • Death, death be hanged, the Lord has promised me that I shall live. This I believe!
    Martin Luther

  • We feel that even when all possible scientific questions have been answered, the problems of life have not been put to rest.
    Wittgenstein

  • Religion is the flight of the alone to the Alone.
    Plotinus

  • Stupid clergymen appeal quite directly to a Bible passage directly understood ....
    Soren Kirkegaard

  • What is the point of the arts of reading and criticism as long as the ecclesiastical interpretation of the Bible, Protestant as well as Catholic, is cultivated as ever?
    Friedrich Nietzsche

  • A figure like Ecclesiast, rugged and luminous, chants in the dark a text that is the answer, although obscure.
    Wallace Stevens

  • Myth is the poetry of the soul.
    Sara Maitland

  • Our loss of the ability to think mythically, poetically, allegorically, creatively, theologically, and artfully is a greater threat to our religious experience than anything good scientists have to report ...
    Sara Maitland

  • In general, Zen attitude is that words and truth are incompatible, or at least that no words can capture truth.
    Douglas Hofstadter

  • 'God' is a one word poem
    Rowan Williams

  • What is today? Today is eternity.
    Meister Eckhart

  • Apprehend God in all things, for God is in all things.
    Meister Eckhart

  • The most powerful hunger we have, mostly suppressed and misdirected, is the hunger for God.
    Miroslav Volf

  • We frequently judge that things are as we wish them to be, for through personal feeling true perspective is easily lost.
    Thomas a Kempis

  • Faith is the bird that feels the light and sings when the dawn is still dark.
    Rabindranath Tagore

  • God is the beyond in our midst.
    Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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