I do often find the books written by mystics as mystifying! And so put them down quick; and I don’t think I’m the only one. For mysticism is often viewed as confused, irrational thinking.
Sometimes I feel such writing intentionally obscures the meaning of something to make it more difficult to grasp and that’s when I long for the clear albeit doctrinaire statements of orthodox religion or for that matter the dogmas of materialistic science. At least they do not so obviously contain contradiction and paradox. Yet occasionally I do get glimpses of something in the writing of mystics that I can only describe as giving me sudden deep moments of intuition.
Still keen to get a handle on the mystics, I recently started reading Hymn of the Universe by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. What could I learn from someone whose words are said to be part of the treasury of mystical literature.
Here I sensed here a heavenly perception of the warmth and light of the creative Spirit
“Over there, on the horizon, the sun has
just touched with light, the outermost fringe of the eastern sky.
Once again, beneath this moving sheet of fire, the living surface of the earth wakes and trembles”
In his writing there seems to me to be a love and respect for so many people trying to fulfil what he calls the creative Energy.
“The whole vast anonymous army of living mystical teachings humanity; those who surround me and support me though I do not know them… who today will take up again their impassioned pursuit of the light.”
I felt a universal humanity with all its separate parts working together complementing each other to bring about heaven on earth.
As well as those “despite their error”, “confused or orderly”. “All of them, Lord, I will try to gather into my arms”
Is this not a love for his fellow man whom he asks God to “receive” and with whom he asks “Lord make us one”?
Mystics come from different religious backgrounds and there are mystic traditions which form sub-currents such as Kabbalah within Judaism, Sufism within Islam, Vedanta within Hinduism, and Christian mysticism within Christianity.Teilhard de Chardin comes from a Roman Catholic background and demonstrates the basic Christian attitude that of ourselves we are lifeless but that we can be in-filled with the divine Life if we turn to it.
“As for us creatures, of ourselves we are but emptiness and obscurity. But you, my God, are the inmost depths, the stability of that eternal milieu, without duration or space.”
Here we have the characteristic of mystical writing – poetry disguised as prose. Little or no attempt to provide rational coherence and structure but rather we get a subjective expression of devotional emotion.
Nevertheless in other of his writing he was a leading proponent of the idea that evolution occurs in a directional, goal driven way rather than due to the accidents of natural selection. Trained as a paleontologist and geologist as well as a Jesuit priest, he had a reverence for the natural world and a continual awareness of the spiritual.