Category: Mysticism

Jesus Christ, the Bearer of the Water of Life: A Christian reflection on the “New Age”

This official text of the Catholic Church on New Age movement is the result of a six-year study on the New Age movement. It was published in 2003, and is critical of the movement. The Vatican theologians consider New Age philosophies to be based on “weak thought” and highlight the differences between Catholic thought and the New Age paradigms. The Vatican wants to warn Catholics against mixing Christian meditation with Eastern approaches to spirituality. The document also discusses the encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well, which it characterizes as “a paradigm for our engagement with truth”. The document concludes that “..there is never...

No Room for Form

The Zen teacher says, “The secret is in you.  You are the secret.” What does it mean? The truth offered in these two short sentences is cryptic, and almost tautological. The meaning of my search for truth is in me. If I have found myself, the secret is gone, because I have realized that it was in me all along. In order to find it, however, I need someone to help me, and in this case it is the Zen teacher. Furthermore: The truth is not conceptual. the secret is not a thing, and it is never something that can be found. It is right here,...

The Message of Jesus

During the Fall of 2015,  I was teaching a class on mysticism, and the question was raised, what are the central teachings of Jesus? Is Jesus a mystic? What are the ingredients for a genuine Christian life? These questions are important because one cannot claim to be Christian and at the same time ignore the examples set by the life of Jesus. It is not enough to proclaim that “Jesus saved me and will save you” in order to be a true Christian, despite  the claim that salvation occurs through faith alone. What are the central teachings of Jesus, and what are...

What is Zen?

Thomas Merton describes in his 1961 book “Mystics and Zen Masters” how the tradition of Zen resonates and overlaps with mystical traditions worldwide. He also examines various Christian monastic traditions in order to show us the similarities and differences in the search for mystical experience across cultures and religions. The following comments, based on quotes from his book, illustrate that he understands the Zen insight as a direct grasp of being in itself, not an intuition of the nature of being. It is not an intellectual act, and also not the result of contemplation or other meditation practices. Merton also...

Western Mysticism – A Timeline

This page covers people and movements in the tradition of Western mysticism, from the early Greek period to about 1700. It is arranged chronologically, and it’s purpose is to give a short overview of Western mysticism with links to other websites. As much as possible, I try to link to the etexts for the mystical writings of these authors. The original version of this page was created a while ago by Bruce B. Janz from the University of Central Florida “for the free use of scholars and students of mysticism.” I could not find his original version on the Internet anymore, but the credit for...

Thomas Merton

 “Thomas Merton (1915-1968) is arguably the most influential American Catholic author of the twentieth century. His autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain, has sold over one million copies and has been translated into over fifteen languages. He wrote over sixty other books and hundreds of poems and articles on topics ranging from monastic spirituality to civil rights, nonviolence, and the nuclear arms race. His Life (Quoted from the website www.merton.org) “Thomas Merton was born in Prades, France. His New Zealand-born father, Owen Merton, and his American-born mother, Ruth Jenkins, were both artists. They had met at painting school in Paris, were...

Meister Eckhart – Predigt 52

Sermon 52 on  Blessed are the Poor (Matthew 5,3) is from Eckhart’s last period in life. I found the German text, and here it is: Beati pauperes spiritu, quoniam ipsorum est regnum caelorum. “Die Seligkeit selbst öffnete den Mund der Weisheit und sprach: „Selig, die arm sind an Geist, denn ihnen gehört das Himmelreich“. Alle Engel, alle Heiligen und alles, was geboren wurde, alle müssen sie schweigen, sobald die Weisheit des Vaters spricht. Ist doch allle Weisheit der Engel und aller Geschöpfe reine Torheit vor der unergründlichen Weisheit Gottes. Und sie hat behauptet, die Armen seien selig. Nun gibt es...

Meister Eckhart – Outward and Inward Morality

 I Cor. xv. 10.—“The Grace of God.” Grace is from God, and works in the depth of the soul whose powers it employs. It is a light which issues forth to do service under the guidance of the Spirit. The Divine Light permeates the soul, and lifts it above the turmoil of temporal things to rest in God. The soul cannot progress except with the light which God has given it as a nuptial gift; love works the likeness of God into the soul. The peace, freedom and blessedness of all souls consist in their abiding in God’s will. Towards...

Meister Eckhart – Self-Communication of God

St John xiv. 23.—“If a man loves me, he will keep my words; and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.” We read in the Gospels that Our Lord fed many people with five loaves and two fishes. Speaking parabolically, we may say that the first loaf was—that we should know ourselves, what we have been everlastingly to God, and what we now are to Him. The second—that we should pity our fellow Christian who is blinded; his loss should grieve us as much as our own. The third—that we...

Meister Eckhart – Sermon on True Hearing

ECCLESIASTICUS xxiv. 30.—”Whoso heareth Me shall not be confounded.” THE everlasting and paternal wisdom saith, “Whoso heareth Me is not ashamed.” If he is ashamed of anything he is ashamed of being ashamed. Whoso worketh in Me sineth not. Whoso confesseth Me and feareth Me, shall have eternal life. Whoso will hear the wisdom of the Father must dwell deep, and abide at home, and be at unity with himself. Three things hinder us from hearing the everlasting Word. The first is fleshliness, the second is distraction, the third is the illusion of time. If a man could get free...

Merton: Life, Death, and Zen.

Tomas Merton writes in the foreword to his book [amazon text=Zen and the Birds of Appetite&asin=081120104X], 1968, shortly before his own death: “Where there is carrion lying, meat-eating birds circle and descend. Life and death are two. The living attack the dead. to their own profit. The dead lose nothing by it. They gain too, by being disposed of. Or they seem to, if you must think in terms of gain and loss. Do you then approach the study of Zen with the idea that there is something to be gained by it? This question is not intended as an implicit...

Walter Benjamin: Theological-Political Fragment

Quoted from: “Reflections: Essays, Aphorisms, Autobiographical Writings.” Translated by Peter Demetz. P. 312. “Only the Messiah himself consummates all history, in the sense that he alone redeems, completes, creates its relation to the Messianic. For this reason nothing historical can relate itself on its own account to anything Messianic. Therefore the Kingdom of God is not the telos of the historical dynamic: it cannot be set as a goal. From the standpoint of history it is not the goal but the end. Therefore the order of the profane cannot be built up on the idea of the Divine Kingdom, and...

Al-Hallaj

Al-Hallaj(c. 858 – March 26, 922) was a Persian writer and teacher of Sufism. His full name was Abu al-Mughith al-Husayn ibnMansur al-Hallaj. Biography He was born around 858 in Tur, Iran to a wool seller. Al-Hallaj’s grandfather may have been a Zoroastrian. His father lived a simple life, and this form of lifestyle greatly interested the young al-Hallaj. As a youngster he memorized the Quran and would often retreat from worldly pursuits to join other mystics in study. Al-Hallaj would later marry and make a pilgrammige to Mecca. After his trip to the holy city, he traveled extensively and...

Meister Eckhart

Meister Eckhart is a frequently-quoted German medieval theologian and mystic. He is popular in new-age environments and among spiritual seekers, but some of his statements can be interpreted as pantheistic, and therefore the Catholic Church always had some problems with him. His Life The following biographaphy is quoted from the Eckhart Society Webpage: “While there is no evidence as to the exact date of Meister Eckhart’s birth, scholars generally agree that he was born around 1260, in or near Erfurt which lies midway between Munich and Hamburg and north-east of Frankfurt, probably in a village called Tambach. He is thought...

Mysticism

You are made in the image of what you desire. To unify your life unify your desires. To spiritualize your life, spiritualize your desires. To spiritualize your desires, desire to be without desire. Thomas Merton, Firewatch, p. 55