UNDISCOVERED GENIUS

A commentary on the history, contexts, and meanings of the word "genius."

Sunday, June 29, 2014

11-Holy Ghost III- Modern Slant

11-Holy Ghost III- Modern Slant


For the past six weeks we have been exploring the subject of “ecstasy”; it is a spiritual experience I am recommending. Eventually, our discussion worked its way around to a concept the Holy Ghost as the motivator of the ecstatic experience. Last week we studied writings, by Boethius and St. Thomas Aquinas, concerned with establishing without doubt the nature of the Holy Trinity. This week, beginning with Martin Luther, we will be looking at what a group of more modern philosophers have to say about the Holy Ghost. Eventually, we hope to tie all these thoughts in with some of our previously espoused ideas about ecstasy.

From the Boethius/St. Thomas Aquinas excerpts we sampled last week, we can come to one general conclusion about the neo-Platonist Christians: they love to play word games. I do not wish to trivialize the effort that went into creating these magnificently complex and insightful rational structures, but sometimes the delight these philosophers take, in creating long flawless trains of thought, is lost on me. I know, a lot of the time, I do the same thing, but, for me, after an hour of testing the strength of a subtle semantic distinction, the radiance fades from it, and I welcome some good old Martin Luther charisma.

[Sidebar: Just to be clear, here is a dictionary definition of “charismatic” as it pertains to certain aspects of Christianity;

":  a member of a religious group or movement that stresses the seeking of direct divine inspiration and charisms (as glossolalia or healing)"

What is Charismatic Spirituality?
"We are familiar with many different spiritualities: Benedictine, Carmelite, Dominican, Franciscan, Holy Cross, Jesuit, Marian, Pauline, Vincentian. There are spiritualities for priests, religious, contemplatives, families, singles for Christ, missionaries, social ministries, various professions, and the like. These various spiritualities provide scriptural norms for spiritual maturity in these specialized lifestyles. We are grateful to the Holy Spirit for these spiritualities which are approved and are embraced by many disciples.

We must keep in mind that these various spiritualities presuppose and are built on the sacraments of initiation and the spirituality of the Christian life. A Christian's life, like the life of Christ, is led and empowered by the Holy Spirit. "Charismatic" means something initiated by the Holy Spirit or someone cooperating with the Holy Spirit. A "charismatic" spirituality is the Pentecostal spirituality initiated by the Holy Spirit for all Christians."]

As I have said many times, the index of truth in spiritual matters is DIRECT experience. We need language to give us a leg up in thought and meditation, but there is no substitute for direct experience. Clearly, no matter how dogmatic Luther may be, however tough-guy unsentimental he is, however GERMAN he is, his beliefs spring from a deep well of personal experience—through his sermons we can see that he truly knows Jesus; and, yet,even if he sometimes indulges in conclusions that are culture-driven, or, as I am fond of saying, “religion-driven”, there can be no doubt, from his writing, that he has personal knowledge of Jesus, which is to say knowledge of Jesus as manifested in the mundane world, which is to say, as the Holy Spirit.

The following is from an online article published by the Lutheran Church.

“Martin Luther wrote; "I believe that by my own reason or strength I cannot believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to him, but the Holy Spirit has called me through the Gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, and sanctified and preserved me in the true faith."”

[Sidebar: This sentence is chock full of nuggets of meaningful significance:

1.   The statement,“I believe that by my own reason or strength I cannot believe in Jesus Christ,” puts Jesus beyond the reach of rational thought or mundane commitment. Luther emphasizes the fact that spiritual knowledge gained through ecstasies self-consciously triggered by concentration on divine symbols, is still ultimately a gift of grace. Furthermore there is the glaring implication that rational belief is inferior to direct personal experience.
2.   The phrase, “the Holy Spirit has called me,” makes it clear, again, that it is not by our own efforts that we peek around the corner of the physical into infinity, but through a WILL greater than and beyond our own. This expression also impugns the Catholic idea of salvation through good works; Luther thinks that no matter how hard we try, we cannot achieve sainthood without the aid and consent of the Holy Spirit.
3.   Lastly, this comment on the gifts of spirit, “enlightened me with his gifts, and sanctified and preserved me in the true faith,” makes it perfectly clear that the Christian life in quintessentially inspired, at it source, by the Holy Spirit—thus “no one may come to the Father but by me.” Also, it is clear that the “true faith” is, once again, inspired, nay, DEFINED by the imprint of the Holy Spirit on the devotee.

Now, the problem with this, again, comes down to “RELIGION” with a capital R. The Holy Spirit may, transform the heart of the devotee, but when translated into the verbal language of dogma, mistakes of a social or strategic nature may seriously flaw the behaviors of followers who are not so generously blessed with insight. Remember, this is why Jesus spoke in parables: He did not want His meanings misconstrued by people who are apt at interpreting the letter but not the spirit of the Word.

Back to the Luther article:]

“For Lutherans, the Holy Spirit “as person” teaches that the Holy Spirit is one of God’s "three revealed faces." These faces are God the Creator, Jesus Christ the Redeemer, and The Holy Spirit. The center of God’s divine activity is the Son of God, Jesus Christ. Yet, just as the Son performed the work of the Father who sent him, so the Spirit performs the work of the Son in the believer, whom Christ “sends” into the world just as Jesus was sent into the world. In carrying on Jesus’ earthly ministry, the Spirit’s ongoing work is to reveal truth, give life and strengthen faith."

[Sidebar: At this point, I would like to interject this idea: I feel strongly that that the Will and the Word of the Holy Ghost are made manifest, in the soul of Man, via the activities of the Angels--that it is the Angels who are the mechanism through which the work of the Holy Spirit is performed. Indeed, there are several concepts that link the Holy Spirit and Angels in my mind. For one thing, remember that the Holy Ghost is often symbolized by a faceless WIND. Keywords are "FACELESS", (that is, lacking a personal identity of its own), and WIND (an amorphous, indiscrete, yet potent, cloud of invisibility). Both of these designations may be appropriately applied to Angels.

I’m just spit-balling here, but I have always had the intuitive impression that the work of the Holy Spirit is done by the so-called "angles of God", the purely impersonal thought forms of God. Angels are lower than Man because they have no personal identity--they exist in the purely abstract realm of thought, and convey their meanings to the Human souls, innocent of all carnal context. (Steiner says the angels IMPRINT the divine truth on the astral body of the devotee.) Since Angels are pure thought, AND pure energy, the logical consequence of injecting pure thought into the sequential stream of time and material, is movement--it is not the MATERIALITY but the ENERGY of the Angelic touch that imprints itself upon the devotee's spiritual body, creating a thought form, i.e., a coherent sequence of images which synergistically convey a holistic meaning, from a string of partial meanings, and which refer to an Eternal Truth unencumbered by the fetters of Time.

Let us examine the word "Form" more closely, especially as it pertains to the expression "Thought Form". A reasonable definition of the term, FORM, might run thus: the sequential creation of a continuum of variously weighted values, whose impact on the physical is capable of:
1. making an imprint on the soul of, and
2. initiating change in, the subjective reality of the devotee. 

In other words, a thought form is an ACTIVE thought, an entity originating in the lofty stratosphere of the abstract, but which is capable of descending into the physical and exerting a TANGIBLE effect on the material plane. The FORM is the sequence as it is played out in time, and recorded into MEMORY. In memory the thought form may be repeated again and again like a favorite TV episode; thus, the thought form's positive benefits may be reinforced with each repetition. Divine Truth is imperceptible to the rational mind, but these angelic thought Forms act kind of like the carrier waves of the Divine Truth--Truth imparted to us from the Will of the Father, through the personal affection of Jesus, into the abstract notes of Gabriel's trumpet (so to speak).

Steiner talks about angels IMPRINTING divine images on the soul; indeed, I have always kind of suspected that these images were transmitted to the devotee from the Father by way of the angel, the, you might say, MOUTHPIECE of the Holy Ghost. It’s just a thought. This is one of the subtleties of spiritual mechanism I fear we are destined to understand only much later.

Back to the Luther article:]

"Much of our understanding of “the work” of the Holy spirit comes from the New Testament book of John – specifically verses 14:26:

“But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.”

John 15:26,
“But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me:”

and John 16:7-15:
“7 But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.
8 When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment:
9 about sin, because people do not believe in me;
10 about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer;
11 and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.
12 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear.
13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you.
15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”


According to the New Testament the “new life in Christ” from beginning to end is solely the work of the Spirit. The Spirit’s essential work of bestowing God’s grace of forgiveness is pure gift, renewing us so that Christ may dwell in us.”

[Sidebar: And here is the kicker:]

“For Christians, the Spirit makes the living and lifechanging Christ a personally experienced reality."
[Sidebar: PERSONALLY EXPERIENCED REALITY.]
"In John 14:16 we are told by Jesus that the Spirit is our Advocate which is given to dwell with us forever. John goes on to say, 
John 14:17:
"You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you."
Thus the Spirit, equal in time, power and glory, comes to humanity from both Father and Son. The Spirit not only creates faith, but also sustains the church in the “one true faith” passed on from the first disciples.”

I wish to emphasize the point made here that the CHURCH is not a building, nor an institution, nor a constitution of dogmatic guidelines--it is a mystical structure of interlocking personal experiences and angelic transmissions from the Holy Ghost. It is the commonality of Spirit, not anything else, that makes the church holy and indestructible.

In line with this thinking  Dietrich Bonhoeffer, says in The Cost of Discipleship:
“The temple of God is the holy people in Jesus Christ. The Body of Christ is the living temple of God and of the new humanity.”

C.S. Lewis describes the essence of THE CHURCH in this back-handed report from The Screwtape Letters:

" . . . the Church as we see her spread out through all time and space and rooted in eternity, terrible as an army with banners. That, I confess, is a spectacle which makes our boldest tempters uneasy."

I could not resist throwing in a few more quotes from various philosophers and poets to round out our perspective:



 William Blake:

“I myself do nothing. The Holy Spirit accomplishes all through me.”

Rudolf Steiner from Le Mystere Chretien et les Mysteres Antiques:
        “In the early days of Christianity there sprang up in the old Pagan world, systems of the universe which seemed to be a prolongation of the philosophy of Plato, but which could be understood also as a spiritualisation of the wisdom of the Mysteries. All these systems had their starting-point in Philo, the Jewish philosopher of Alexandria, who said : `It is necessary for the soul to come out of the ordinary ” I.” Then it enters into a state of spiritual ecstasy, of illumination, when it ceases to know, to think, and to recognise in the ordinary sense of the words. For it has identified itself with the divine, they have become one.”

Edgar Cayce:
"Jesus Christ and His comforting spirit -- the Holy Spirit -- are a powerful force for helping us to forgive. Cayce identifies the Holy Spirit as “the motivating force of man’s relationship to God and to the fellow man.” He identifies the mind as “the Christ-Way,” saying that the mind “becomes the channel through which there is builded the greater understanding with ourselves, others, and God” (1947-1). Therefore, we need to evoke the motivating force (the Holy Spirit) and channel it through our thoughts about ourselves and others each day. When negative thoughts come, clear them away with the higher motivation of the Holy Spirit and the rebuilding power of the Christ Consciousness."

Joseph Campbell in A Joseph Campbell Companion: Reflections on the Art of Living:
"The key to understanding the problem that’s solved with the symbolic idea of the Trinity is the Tantric saying,
'To worship a god, one must become a god.'
That is to say, you must hit that level of consciousness within yourself that is equivalent to the deity to whom you are addressing your attention.

"In the Trinity, the Father is the deity your attention is addressed to; you are the Son, knower of the Father; and the Holy Spirit represents the relationship between the two.

It seems to me you cannot have the notion of a god without having implicit the notion of a Trinity: a god, the knower of the god, and the relationship between the two, a progressive knowing that brings you closer and closer to the divine.
"The divine lives within you."


Jack London from The Call of the Wild:
“There is an ecstasy that marks the summit of life, and beyond which life cannot rise. And such is the paradox of living, this ecstasy comes when one is most alive, and it comes as a complete forgetfulness that one is alive.

This ecstasy, this forgetfulness of living, comes to the artist, caught up and out of himself in a sheet of flame; it comes to the soldier, war-mad in a stricken field and refusing quarter; and it came to Buck, leading the pack, sounding the old wolf-cry, straining after the food that was alive and that fled swiftly before him through the moonlight.”

David A. Bednar:
"Revelation is communication from God to His children on the earth and one of the great blessings associated with the gift and constant companionship of the Holy Ghost."

Dallin Oaks:
“The Spirit of God speaking to the spirit of man has power to impart truth with greater effect and understanding than the truth can be imparted by personal contact even with heavenly beings. Through the Holy Ghost the truth is woven into the very fibre and sinews of the body so that it cannot be forgotten”.

Watchman Nee: from The Normal Christian Life:
“There is nothing stereotyped about God's dealings with His children. Therefore, we must not by our prejudices and preconceptions make watertight compartments for the working out His Spirit, either in our own lives or in the lives of others. We must leave God free to work as He wills and to leave what evidence He pleases of the work He does.”

[Sidebar: I like this quote a lot because it emphasizes the vital spiritual technique of letting go. As rational beings, we want desperately for the universe to make sense, but whatever "sense" we stumble on to will be ultimately inadequate to satisfy our minds. Only when we rebuke the tyranny of the mind on our attitudes and let the heart lead us into abstruse and foreign terrains, will we be engulfed by the Cloud of Unknowing and be free.

It also touches on a point we made about prophecy: that prophecy is a BY-PRODUCT of ecstasy, not the object of ecstasy. Thus, the divine truths, delivered down to us from on high, are never complete, never definitive, always ambiguous because, as stated above:
"We must leave God free to work as He wills and to leave what evidence He pleases of the work He does.”]


Martin Luther King Jr.:
“Occasionally in life there are those moments of unutterable fulfillment which cannot be completely explained by those symbols called words. Their meanings can only be articulated by the inaudible language of the heart.”

[Sidebar: We have heard these words many times--that words can't convey true meaning. But I wonder about the term MEMORY. How do we remember? Is it always in words, or images, OR is it in the "inaudible language of the heart" that our best memories are expressed?]


Arthur Rimbaud: Sensation
“On the blue summer evenings, I will go along the paths,
And walk over the short grass, as I am pricked by the wheat:
Daydreaming I will feel the coolness on my feet.
I will let the wind bathe my bare head. I will not speak,
I will have no thoughts: But infinite love will mount in my soul;
And I will go far, far off, like a gypsy,
through the countryside - as happy as if I were a woman."


Virginia Woolf, from Orlando:
“A toy boat, a toy boat, a toy boat,’ she repeated, thus enforcing upon herself the fact that it is not articles by Nick Greene on John Donne nor eight-hour bills nor covenants nor factory acts that matter; it’s something useless, sudden, violent; something that costs a life; red, blue, purple; a spirit; a splash; like those hyacinths (she was passing a fine bed of them); free from taint, dependence, soilure of humanity or care for one’s kind; something rash, ridiculous, like my hyacinth, husband I mean, Bonthrop: that’s what it is — a toy boat on the Serpentine, ecstasy — it’s ecstasy that matters.”


 T.S. Eliot, from Four Quartets:


“The dove descending breaks the air
With flame of incandescent terror
Of which the tongues declare
The one discharge from sin and error.
The only hope, or else despair
Lies in the choice of pyre or pyre-
To be redeemed from fire by fire.

Who then devised the torment? Love.
Love is the unfamiliar Name
Behind the hands that wove
The intolerable shirt of flame
Which human power cannot remove.
We only live, only suspire
Consumed by either fire or fire.”



Rabindranth Tagore:
"There the whole sky is filled with sound,
and there that music is made without fingers and without strings;
There the game of pleasure and pain does not cease.
If you merge your life in the Ocean of Life,
you will find your life in the Supreme Land of Bliss.

What a frenzy of ecstasy there is in every hour!
and the worshipper is pressing out and drinking the essence of the hours.
I speak truth, for I have accepted truth in life;
I am now attached to truth, I have swept all tinsel away.
Thus is the worshipper set free from fear;
thus have all errors of life and of death left him."


Thus endeth this lengthy discourse on ecstasy and the Holy Spirit. If I have learned anything from this series, it has been to sharpen my will to acquire Divine Sight, because my thirst for living water has grown incrementally.

To conclude, here, once again, is St.Augustine from his Confessions:

“We are inflamed, by Thy Gift we are kindled; and are carried upwards; we glow inwardly, and go forwards. We ascend Thy ways that be in our heart, and sing a song of degrees; we glow inwardly with Thy fire, with Thy good fire, and we go; because we go upwards to the peace of Jerusalem: for gladdened was I in those who said unto me, We will go up to the house of the Lord. There hath Thy good pleasure placed us, that we may desire nothing else, but to abide there for ever.”

Let us pray: Jesus, we thank You for the blessings of the Holy Ghost which rain upon us unceasingly. We pray that, in striving for perfect understanding, we may be blessed with that which passeth understanding. We pray the Holy Ghost may visit our community here and now, and abide in our hearts no matter where our bodies are. Amen.

Monday, June 23, 2014

10-Holy Ghost II - Pre-Modern Slant

10-Holy Ghost II - Pre-Modern Slant

Call to worship:

PRAYER TO THE HOLY SPIRIT
Saint Augustine of Hippo

Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit,
    that my thoughts may all be holy.
Act in me, O Holy Spirit,
    that my work, too, may be holy.
Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit,
    that I love but what is holy.
Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit,
    to defend all that is holy.
Guard me, then, O Holy Spirit,
    that I always may be holy.
Amen.

For the past six weeks we have been exploring the subject of “ecstasy”; it is a spiritual experience I am recommending. Eventually, our discussion worked its way around to a concept the Holy Ghost as the motivator of the ecstatic experience. Last week we reviewed a lot of conventional wisdom concerning the Holy Ghost, including some general definitions and connections to other concepts we have been bandying about. Next week, we will look at what a group of more modern philosophers, beginning with Martin Luther, have to say about the Holy Ghost. Eventually, we hope to tie all these thoughts in with some of our previously espoused ideas about ecstasy.

Today, we will get to hear from two of the great, old, pre-modern grandfathers of the church: Boethius and St. Thomas Aquinas. They both have much to say about the Holy Ghost, or, more generally, the Holy Trinity. Last week we saw that the Bible amply supplies precedents for the ceremonial passion for God which I am recommending. Today, Boethius and St. Thomas Aquinas will supply us with food for thought. These men, both of whom we have studied before, have proclaimed the power of the spirit in their daily lives, and have contributed meaningfully to the spiritual literature. The lessons they teach encourage soberness of mind, and openness of heart.

In previous sermons, we have upheld Boethius (ca. 500 AD) as a very wise Roman, a harbinger of the eventual Christian domination of European philosophy. Here is his commentary on the Holy trinity, a gateway to the subject of the Holy Spirit. This monograph, The Trinity is One God not Three Gods occupies itself entirely with proving that Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are “three in one”. It is very clever how he demonstrates that if you say the same thing three times, it is the “Sameness” not the “Threeness” that is operative. The article barely mentions the Holy Spirit at all, as a distinct entity, but the Boethius repeatedly affirms the principle that all three are one. This is important if we are to proceed to this crucial question: is an ecstasy inspired by the Holy Spirit the same thing as an ecstasy inspired by God?

Let me emphasize this: is an ecstasy, inspired by the Holy Spirit, the same thing as an ecstasy inspired by God? Are the sweet words of wisdom and encouragement we receive in ecstasy--are they REALLY from God? In answering this question we must base all our a priori concepts on scripture--writing unequivocally inspired by God. It is important to establish a firm Biblical and Historic connection between the ecstatic experience and the truest forms of Christianity; because the subjects we have been discussing lately, fall well outside the philosophical circumference of most "Normal" Christians, it is ethically compulsory that we generate our dogma from the most uncompromised Biblical precedents. We have discussed several qualities of ecstasy, and have found that those ecstatic transports, which are inspired by material things, are of less benefit than those ecstasies inspired by spiritual things. If this is true, then the NAME of the Holy Spirit, and the ORIGIN of the Holy Spirit is relevant.

Furthermore, we know that unfamiliar material is always greeted with suspicion by those who do not understand. The shadow of "false prophet" lurks on many pages of the Bible; thus the greatest philosophical feat of all is to be able to distinguish something that is true from something that is Satanic in character. Is something Satanic because you never heard of it before? Or is something new, also true, because we are eternally directed to "Sing unto the Lord a new song!"?

The following discussion is a linguistic exercise attempting to prove through reasonable trains of thought that an incomprehensible concept like the TRINITY is actually possible--that the universe is unified in ONE.

Boethius On the trinity:
“But God differs from no God, neither are [Gods] separate in accidents or in substantial differences which have been posited in a subject. But where there is no difference, there is no plurality at all therefore no [plural] number, and thus unity alone. For even though 'God' is thrice repeated when Father, Son and Holy Ghost are named, the three unities do not produce a plurality of number in respect to that which they truly are, if we turn to countable things and not to the number itself. For in the latter case, the repetition of unities produces a plural number."

[Sidebar: Notice he specifies "countable things"!]

"But in the number which corresponds to countable things, the repetition of unities and the resultant plurality in no way produce a numerical diversity of countable things. For number is of two varieties: the one by which we count, the other which corresponds to countable things. Moreover a thing is one, but unity is that by which we call a thing one. Again there are two in the realm of things, e.g. men and stones; but duality is nothing but that by which there are two men or two stones.

And the same holds for other numbers. When it comes to the number by which we count, therefore, the repetition of unities produces plurality; but when it comes to the number of things, the repetition of unities does not produce plurality."

[Sidebar: This is the point: “, the repetition of unities does not produce plurality”. A lot of the same thing is still just one thing--whereas, a lot of different things are countable, and constitute a plurality. What Boethius is saying, in this discussion of numbers, is that the numbers exist on two planes: they exist in the abstract realm of a priori knowledge, a plane which is pure rationality, and they correspond to things in the physical world. So many things are like that.


Back to Boethius:]
"For instance, if I were to say, concerning the same thing, 'one sword, one blade, one brand.' - since one sword can be known by so many terms- this is an iteration of unities, not an enumeration. For instance, if we were to say, 'brand, blade, sword.' this is, so to speak, a repetition of the same thing, not an enumeration of different things. Or if I were to say, 'sun, sun, sun’ I would not have produced three suns, but I would have predicated of one sun so many times.

Therefore, if 'God’ is predicated thrice of Father, Son and Holy Ghost, it does not follow that this triple predication produces a plural number. For, as has been said, this is a threat to those who impose distance between these [three] according to their merits, but for Catholics, who
[a] assign nothing in the way of difference,
[b] consider the form itself to be as it is, and
[c] hold the opinion that His essence is not any other,
it rightly seems to be a repetition of the same thing, rather than an enumeration of different things. When it is said, "God the Father, God the Son. God the Holy Ghost and this Trinity are one God," just as "blade and brand are one sword." or "sun, sun and sun are one sun."

But for now, let what has been said be a signification and a demonstration by which it is shown that not every repetition of unities produces number and plurality. But it does not follow that "Father, Son and Holy Ghost" is said as though of some synonymous thing; for blade and brand are identical and the same, but Father, Son and Holy Ghost are indeed the same, but not identical. This matter will be looked into shortly. For to those asking, "is the Father identical to the Son?" they (i.e. Catholics) say, "not at all." Again, to the question, "is the one the same as the other?" the answer is no. For there is not lack of difference amongst them in every respect, and thus number slipped in, which was brought about by diversity of subjects, as was explained above. About this point we shall make a brief consideration, once we have said how each and every thing is predicated of God.

There are in all ten traditional categories, which are universally predicated of all things: substance, quality, quantity, relation, location, time, condition, situation, active and passive. And these are such as their subjects will permit; for part of them refer to predicates in reference to the substance of other things, and part of them refer to a number of accidents.

But when one applies these to divine predication, everything that can be predicated is changed. Relation is not at all able to be predicated, for the substance in question is not a true substance, but beyond substance; the same holds for quality and all the rest which can arise. That our understanding may be greater, examples are given as follows."
 
[Sidebar: I find this to be a fascinating point, that: “Relation is not at all able to be predicated, for the substance in question is not a true substance, but beyond substance”, that is to say, a RELATION is beyond substance, a RELATION enters the world of the abstract, the proper context of spiritual things.

Back to Boethius:]

"For when we say 'God' we indeed seem to signify a substance, but the sort that is beyond substance: yet when we say 'just' we indeed signify a quality: not an accident, but rather a quality which is a substance, again of the beyond substance sort. For 'to be' is not one thing and 'to be just' something else, but indeed for God to be and to be just are the same. Likewise, when he is called ‘great' or 'best' we seem to signify a quantity, one that is the same as a substance, of the sort we said was beyond substance; for to be God is the same as to be great. And concerning his form, it was demonstrated above how he is form and truly one and no plurality at all.

[Sidebar: Notice the use of the word "form"; the Trinity seen as some sort of coherent shape, and the term "shape", we move to the term "idea". We will come back to this.

Back to Boethius:]

"But these categories are such that they make whatever they are in to be the same as that which they signify', in a diverse way for most things, but for God in this linked and joined way: for when we say 'substance’, e.g. man or God. it [substance] is said as though that of which it is predicated is itself a substance, e.g. the substance man or the substance God. But there is a difference, for a man is not simply and entirely man, and because of this, man is not [simply and entirely] a substance either; for he owes that which he is to things other than man. But God is the same in this way [simply and entirely], for he is nothing other than what He is, and thus He is simply God. Again 'just’, which is a quality, is thus said as though it were the very thing of which it is predicated, i.e. if we say, ‘a man is just', or ‘God is just’, we declare a particular man or God to be just: but there is a difference, since a man and a just man are two things, but God is the same as that which is just. And again 'great’ is said of man or God, as if a particular man were himself great or if God were great: but man is merely great, whereas God exists as greatness itself."

[Sidebar: I believe the sense of this paragraph resides in an understanding of spiritual reality as a continuum of greater to lesser material resolutions, infinitely great to infinitely small; in this sense: a man may assume the quality of greatness as an aspect of himself, which he shares in common with the Father; but it is the Father who PERSONIFIES the essence of every possible quality, greatness et al.

Back to Boethius:]

"But the remaining categories are predicated neither of God nor of other things [in reference to substance]. For location can be predicated of either man or God: of a man, such as 'in the forum:' of God, such as 'everywhere’ but such that the thing spoken of is not the same as that which is predicated of it. For man is not thus said to be in the forum in the way that he is said to be white or tall, nor is he encompassed and determined by some property by which he can be designated according to himself, but all that is pointed out by this predicate is that a thing has been described by other circumstances.

But it is not so concerning God, for it seems to be said that He is everywhere, not because He is in every place (for he is unable to be in a place at all) but because every place is present to him insofar as it holds Him, although He Himself is not contained in any place: and therefore He is said to be nowhere in a place, for He is everywhere but not in any place.

Time is predicated in the same way, as concerning man, ‘yesterday he came' or concerning God, ‘He always is’. And He, whose yesterday arrival was mentioned, is said to be such, not as though this amounted to something, but merely that which has befallen Him in respect to time is predicated. But the fact that it is said of God, ‘He always is’, indeed signifies one thing, as if for all the past. "He was," in every present, -whatever that means- "He is,' and for every future time, "He will be." But that which according to Philosophers can be said of Heaven and other immortal bodies cannot be said of God in the same way. For He always is, since 'always' belongs to the present in a point of time, and there is so great a difference between the present of our affairs, which is now, and the present of divine affairs, because our 'now,’ as though running time, produces a sempiternity, but the divine 'now’, being quite fixed, not moving itself and enduring, produces eternity; and if you were to attach 'always' to this name, you would make the course of our now into something continual and untiring and therefore perpetual, i.e. 'sempiternity.'”

[Sidebar: I looked up sempiternity just to be sure; it is an interesting word:
sempiternity (uncountable)

1.   (philosophy) existence within time but infinitely into the future; as opposed to eternity, understood as existing outside time

I believe that Joseph Campbell would equate the word sempiternity with the word “everlasting”. In one of his conversations with Bill Moyers, Campbell makes the distinction between everlasting and eternal. Most people have an image of Heaven as an everlasting sequence of moments, whereas the concept of eternity is outside sequential time, and has no beginning or end, (or middle for that matter). It is interesting that this concept has come up in a discussion centered around ecstasy, because the ecstatic is said to enter an “eternal moment” that exists outside time. And yet, not all experiences that we designate as "ecstatic" are without sequential definition--some ecstatics pass through discrete levels of consciousness, as in, say, any other journey from one place to another. Thus, it may be suggested that some ecstatics pass through the gates of Heaven and visit there for awhile, and other ecstatics touch and eternal moment for NO WHILE.]

Now, having tasted of Boethius' cosmic take on the Trinity, we now turn, about 700 years down the road, to St. Thomas Aquinas, who will discuss, in his The Summa Theologica, matters concerning the origin of the Son and Holy Ghost as the progress from the Father. The importance of The Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas as a philosophical breakthrough cannot be overestimated. In ca. 1250, with the renewed interest in the neo-Platonist Humanism that led to the scientific (and not to mention godless) modern age, it is admirable indeed how he took the mechanics of Platonic philosophy and applied them to religious dogmatic thought.

What that means, specifically, can be best exemplified by a review of the FORM of the articles in The Summa Theologica. Each article is based on a proposition, a question to be argued, such as:

“Whether this name "Holy Ghost" is the proper name of one divine person?”

The proposition is then followed by a series of plausible objections, then some contraries, replies to the objections, (this is where St. Thomas, excuse the expression, plays devil's advocate with himself, and argues the point from several sides), and then, finally, a definitive resolution of the question. For our purposes here, it would be only of didactic interest to give the articles in their completeness; but, as you will see, in context, Saint Thomas makes some discerning comments about the Holy Spirit. Notice that we take up the subject about where we left off with Boethius—the question of plurality in regard to the Trinity must have been difficult for the people of this time, because the precision with which the idea is expressed is of extreme importance to the philosophers of this period. The question we begin with, “Whether this name "Holy Ghost" is the proper name of one divine person?” addresses, implicitly, the same issue, the plurality of the Trinity, that occupied Boethius.


The Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas

Second and Revised Edition, 1920
Article 1. Whether this name "Holy Ghost" is the proper name of one divine person?

Objection 1. It would seem that this name, "Holy Ghost," is not the proper name of one divine person. For no name which is common to the three persons is the proper name of any one person. But this name of 'Holy Ghost'---

[It should be borne in mind that the word "ghost" is the old English equivalent for the Latin "spiritus," whether in the sense of "breath" or "blast," or in the sense of "spirit," as an immaterial substance. Thus, we read in the former sense:

(Hampole, Psalter x, 7), "The Gost of Storms" [spiritus procellarum],
and in the latter
"Trubled gost is sacrifice of God" (Prose Psalter, A.D. 1325), and
"Oure wrestlynge is . . . against the spiritual wicked gostes of the ayre" (More, "Comfort against Tribulation");

and in our modern expression of "giving up the ghost."

As applied to God, and not specially to the third Holy Person, we have an example from Maunder,

"Jhesu Criste was the worde and the goste of Good."]

But this name of 'Holy Ghost' is common to the three persons; for Hilary (De Trin. viii) shows that the "Spirit of God" sometimes means the Father, as in the words of Isaiah 61:1: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me;" and sometimes the Son, as when the Son says: "In the Spirit of God I cast out devils" (Matthew 12:28), showing that He cast out devils by His own natural power; and that sometimes it means the Holy Ghost, as in the words of Joel 2:28: "I will pour out of My Spirit over all flesh." Therefore this name 'Holy Ghost' is not the proper name of a divine person.

On the contrary, It is said (1 John 5:7): "There are three who bear witness in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost." As Augustine says (De Trin. vii, 4): "When we ask, Three what? we say, Three persons." Therefore the Holy Ghost is the name of a divine person.

I answer that, While there are two processions in God, one of these, the procession of love, has no proper name of its own, as stated above (27, 4, ad 3). Hence the relations also which follow from this procession are without a name (28, 4): for which reason the Person proceeding in that manner has not a proper name. But as some names are accommodated by the usual mode of speaking to signify the aforesaid relations, as when we use the names of procession and spiration, which in the strict sense more fittingly signify the notional acts than the relations;

[Sidebar: This discussion of the NAME of the Holy Spirit is in basic agreement with my objection to calling Jesus, by the name "Christ". As you have heard me complain many times, Christ is not a name but a title: "The Christ", "The Anointed One". Similarly, the Holy Sprit is not referred to by who He IS, but by what He DOES.

Notice also the phrase, "the procession of love, has no proper name of its own". Is this, perhaps, merely so that the absence of a name might facilitate the subject's ascent into a non-verbal reality?

Back to Aquinas:]

"so to signify the divine Person, Who proceeds by way of love, this name "Holy Ghost" is by the use of scriptural speech accommodated to Him.

The appropriateness of this name may be shown in two ways.

Firstly, from the fact that the person who is called "Holy Ghost" has something in common with the other Persons. For, as Augustine says (De Trin. xv, 17; v, 11),

"Because the Holy Ghost is common to both, He Himself is called that properly which both are called in common. For the Father also is a spirit, and the Son is a spirit; and the Father is holy, and the Son is holy."

Secondly, from the proper signification of the name. For the name spirit in things corporeal seems to signify impulse and motion; for we call the breath and the wind by the term spirit. Now it is a property of love to move and impel the will of the lover towards the object loved. Further, holiness is attributed to whatever is ordered to God. Therefore because the divine person proceeds by way of the love whereby God is loved, that person is most properly named "The Holy Ghost."

[Sidebar: More and more often, we are seeing the Holy Spirit spoken of as a PREDICATE, in language consistent with the the idea of movement from one consciousness state to another; statements like, "the name spirit in things corporeal seems to signify impulse and motion," and, "it is a property of love to move and impel the will of the lover towards the object loved,"; these expressions appear routinely in descriptions of ecstatic experiences. In ecstasy, the saint's consciousness is drawn upward, in love, closer and closer to the object of its desire, that is to say, God.

Back to St. Thomas:]

"Reply to Objection 2. Although this name "Holy Ghost" does not indicate a relation, still it takes the place of a relative term, inasmuch as it is accommodated to signify a Person distinct from the others by relation only. Yet this name may be understood as including a relation, if we understand the Holy Spirit as being breathed [spiratus].

Article 2. Whether the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Son?
Objection 7. Further "the actual and the possible do not differ in things perpetual" (Phys. iii, text 32), and much less so in God. But it is possible for the Holy Ghost to be distinguished from the Son, even if He did not proceed from Him. For Anselm says (De Process. Spir. Sancti, ii):

"The Son and the Holy Ghost have their Being from the Father; but each in a different way; one by Birth, the other by Procession, so that they are thus distinct from one another."

And further on he says:

"For even if for no other reason were the Son and the Holy Ghost distinct, this alone would suffice."

Therefore the Holy Spirit is distinct from the Son, without proceeding from Him.

On the contrary, Athanasius says: "The Holy Ghost is from the Father and the Son; not made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding."

I answer that, It must be said that the Holy Ghost is from the Son. For if He were not from Him, He could in no wise be personally distinguished from Him; as appears from what has been said above. For it cannot be said that the divine Persons are distinguished from each other in any absolute sense; for it would follow that there would not be one essence of the three persons: since everything that is spoken of God in an absolute sense, belongs to the unity of essence. Therefore it must be said that the divine persons are distinguished from each other only by the relations. Now the relations cannot distinguish the persons except forasmuch as they are opposite relations; which appears from the fact that the Father has two relations, by one of which He is related to the Son, and by the other to the Holy Ghost; but these are not opposite relations, and therefore they do not make two persons, but belong only to the one person of the Father. If therefore in the Son and the Holy Ghost there were two relations only, whereby each of them were related to the Father, these relations would not be opposite to each other, as neither would be the two relations whereby the Father is related to them. Hence, as the person of the Father is one, it would follow that the person of the Son and of the Holy Ghost would be one, having two relations opposed to the two relations of the Father. But this is heretical since it destroys the Faith in the Trinity. Therefore the Son and the Holy Ghost must be related to each other by opposite relations.

Now there cannot be in God any relations opposed to each other, except relations of origin. And opposite relations of origin are to be understood as of a "principle," and of what is "from the principle." Therefore we must conclude that it is necessary to say that either the Son is from the Holy Ghost; which no one says; or that the Holy Ghost is from the Son, as we confess.

Furthermore, the order of the procession of each one agrees with this conclusion. For it was said above, that the Son proceeds by the way of the intellect as Word, and the Holy Ghost by way of the will as Love. Now love must proceed from a word. For we do not love anything unless we apprehend it by a mental conception. Hence also in this way it is manifest that the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Son.

We derive a knowledge of the same truth from the very order of nature itself. For we nowhere find that several things proceed from one without order except in those which differ only by their matter; as for instance one smith produces many knives distinct from each other materially, with no order to each other; whereas in things in which there is not only a material distinction we always find that some order exists in the multitude produced. Hence also in the order of creatures produced, the beauty of the divine wisdom is displayed. So if from the one Person of the Father, two persons proceed, the Son and the Holy Ghost, there must be some order between them. Nor can any other be assigned except the order of their nature, whereby one is from the other. Therefore it cannot be said that the Son and the Holy Ghost proceed from the Father in such a way as that neither of them proceeds from the other, unless we admit in them a material distinction; which is impossible.

Hence also the Greeks themselves recognize that the procession of the Holy Ghost has some order to the Son. For they grant that the Holy Ghost is the Spirit "of the Son"; and that He is from the Father "through the Son." Some of them are said also to concede that "He is from the Son"; or that "He flows from the Son," but not that He proceeds; which seems to come from ignorance or obstinacy. For a just consideration of the truth will convince anyone that the word procession is the one most commonly applied to all that denotes origin of any kind. For we use the term to describe any kind of origin; as when we say that a line proceeds from a point, a ray from the sun, a stream from a source, and likewise in everything else. Hence, granted that the Holy Ghost originates in any way from the Son, we can conclude that the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Son." . . . .

Reply to Objection 4. When the Holy Ghost is said to rest or abide in the Son, it does not mean that He does not proceed from Him; for the Son also is said to abide in the Father, although He proceeds from the Father. Also the Holy Ghost is said to rest in the Son as the love of the lover abides in the beloved; or in reference to the human nature of Christ, by reason of what is written: "On whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, He it is who baptizes" (John 1:33).

Reply to Objection 7. The Holy Ghost is distinguished from the Son, inasmuch as the origin of one is distinguished from the origin of the other; but the difference itself of origin comes from the fact that the Son is only from the Father, whereas the Holy Ghost is from the Father and the Son; for otherwise the processions would not be distinguished from each other.

I answer that, Whenever one is said to act through another, this preposition "through" points out, in what is covered by it, some cause or principle of that act. But since action is a mean between the agent and the thing done, sometimes that which is covered by the preposition "through" is the cause of the action, as proceeding from the agent; and in that case it is the cause of why the agent acts, whether it be a final cause or a formal cause, whether it be effective or motive. It is a final cause when we say, for instance, that the artisan works through love of gain. It is a formal cause when we say that he works through his art. It is a motive cause when we say that he works through the command of another. Sometimes, however, that which is covered by this preposition "through" is the cause of the action regarded as terminated in the thing done; as, for instance, when we say, the artisan acts through the mallet, for this does not mean that the mallet is the cause why the artisan acts, but that it is the cause why the thing made proceeds from the artisan, and that it has even this effect from the artisan. This is why it is sometimes said that this preposition "through" sometimes denotes direct authority, as when we say, the king works through the bailiff; and sometimes indirect authority, as when we say, the bailiff works through the king."

[Sidebar: I find this section to be very clever, linguistically speaking: to say of a "preposition" that it "sometimes denotes direct authority . . . and sometimes indirect authority", gets right down there in the nitty-gritty of verbal nuance, and explores the utmost of what the literal mind can distinguish.

I would like to introduce a point which I will develop next week: I have long intuited that, in the case of the Son working "THROUGH" Holy Ghost, the MECHANISM of transmission, the materialization of the preposition, is the ANGEL. In this analogy, of the MALLET and the ARTISAN, the

ARTISAN = HOLY GHOST, and
MALLET = ANGEL.

Angels are the so-called "angles of God", the purely impersonal thought forms of God. Angels are lower than Man because they have no personal identity--they exist in the purely abstract realm of thought, and convey their meanings to the Human souls, innocent of all carnal context. (Steiner says the angels IMPRINT the divine truth on the astral body of the devotee.) Since Angels are pure thought, AND pure energy, a logical consequence of injecting pure thought into the sequential stream of time and material, is movement--it is not the MATERIALITY but the ENERGY of the Angelic touch that imprints itself upon the devotee's spiritual body, creating a thought form, i.e., a coherent sequence of images which synergistically convey a holistic meaning, from a string of partial meanings, and which refer to an Eternal Truth unencumbered by the fetters of Time. We will return to this next week.

Back to St. Thomas:]

"Therefore, because the Son receives from the Father that the Holy Ghost proceeds from Him, it can be said that the Father spirates the Holy Ghost through the Son, or that the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Father through the Son, which has the same meaning. . . . .

Reply to Objection 3. As the begetting of the Son is co-eternal with the begetter (and hence the Father does not exist before begetting the Son), so the procession of the Holy Ghost is co-eternal with His principle. Hence, the Son was not begotten before the Holy Ghost proceeded; but each of the operations is eternal.

I answer that, The Father and the Son are in everything one, wherever there is no distinction between them of opposite relation. Hence since there is no relative opposition between them as the principle of the Holy Ghost it follows that the Father and the Son are one principle of the Holy Ghost."

Thus doth St. Thomas affirm the unity of the Trinity.

In my own mind I try to imagine the unimaginable Trinity declension as, sort of, levels of ego resolution:
God the Father the densest resolution,
God the Son a medium resolution, as befits a mediator, and
God the Holy Ghost, the finest resolution.

Thus, the same essence appears in various levels of formal manifestation. Indeed, it is the FORM of the Trinity that distinguishes Its components as discrete entities within a continuum of Being. St. Thomas repeatedly referred to the RELATION of Father, to the Son, to the Holy Ghost, and made the point that Aspects of God may only bear an OPPOSITE RELATION in terms of ORIGIN; the elements of the Trinity PROGRESS one from the other. Thus, the term "Relation", in this context, creates "Form". We will go deeper into the subject of "Form" next week, but for now it will not hurt to project into the future a little bit; next week I will read the following paragraph again:

"Let us examine the word "Form" more closely: a reasonable definition of the term, FORM, might run thus: the sequential creation of a continuum of variously weighted values, whose impact on the physical is capable of making an imprint on the soul of, and to initiate change in the subjective reality of, the devotee.  In other words, a thought form is an ACTIVE thought, an entity originating in the lofty stratosphere of the abstract, but which is capable of descending into the physical and exerting a TANGIBLE effect on the material plane. The FORM is the sequence as it is played out in time, and recorded into MEMORY. In memory the thought form may be repeated again and again like a favorite TV episode; thus, the thought form's positive benefits may be reinforced with each repetition."

The bottom line is this: BEING is a VERB not a NOUN. The distinction between Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, is in HOW THEY AFFECT ME. Thus, Holy Spirit is not defined by WHO It is, but by what It does. Nevertheless, the miracle is that, in active manifestation, the power of the Holy Spirit comes FROM God, THROUGH Jesus. Thus the Fixed and Eternal effect movement in the material plane. Just as Dante, approaching the Changeless Face of God, sees the Face of God changing with every change in himself, so does the personality of God change with every graded manifestation of Himself.

We will close with another prayer of St. Augustine:
Let us pray:
"O Holy Spirit, descend plentifully into my heart. Enlighten the dark corners of this neglected dwelling and scatter there Thy cheerful beams." Amen.

Monday, June 16, 2014

9 The Holy Spirit I - (Christianity)

9  The Holy Spirit I - (Christianity)


We have just completed a sermon series on the subject of ecstasy. Our motivation for this series was to inspire us (me) to elevate our (my) level of consciousness during our (my) daily religious devotions, and to make the ecstatic state one of the goals of our (my) spiritual discipline. To be sure, every prayer we send to God, through Jesus the intermediary, is equally blessed by divine grace; and yet our discussions of ecstasy have indicated that we can get qualitatively more out of our devotions if we focus our contemplation, with heightened intensity, on certain divine realities, whether they be symbols, or scriptures, or sounds, or simply inner visions; we have learned that such concentration may trigger an acceleration of higher intelligence, an acceleration which may kick our state of mind into a higher-vibratory consciousness level.

Now, our study of the chapter on ecstasy from Evelyn Underhill’s book Mysticism was a very in-depth, albeit somewhat generic description of ecstatic rapture; but it can hardly escape our notice that Jesus does not figure prominently in her discussion. To Christians, who daily lean on Jesus, our Savior, for counsel and guidance, it just seems wrong to outline a spiritual discipline that does not include Jesus in the formula. This was of some concern to me, when I first began following this train of thought, but then I rediscovered a very important promise of Jesus’ which cleared up the controversy, and gave me language for talking and thinking about the divine component, the divine motivator of ecstasy—the Holy Spirit.

Today we will give a general description of the role the Holy Spirit plays in the ecstatic experience, focusing on references from the scriptures. Next week we will see what more modern saints have to say.

So far, we have learned that an ecstasy may be triggered by just about any obsessive process of contemplation, but we have also learned that the spiritual benefit of the ecstasy will be nil unless the object of contemplation is of divine origin. Why? Because the Holy Spirit bestows on these objects a divine radiance and resonance which the merely mundane objects do not enjoy. Thus, contemplation directed toward initiating a spiritual ecstasy must, at all times, be endorsed, validated, and blessed by the Holy Spirit--which, in a way, is to say that the object of contemplation must COME from the Holy Spirit.
In the upper room at His last supper, Jesus said:

John 14: 15-17:
"15If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. 16"I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Comforter, that He may be with you forever; 17that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.…"

Jesus knew that His mediation between Man and the Father was going to be a very personal experience for all, but He also knew that a higher impersonal element would be necessary in order for devotees to raise their personal consciousness join with the Mind and Heart of the Christ. Therefore, it was this ghostly dimension of Himself, quickened by super-personal abstraction, that He assigned to be with Man in his strivings toward godhood.

Now, what does the literature say about the Holy Ghost?
As usual, we will begin with Wikipedia:
The Holy Spirit (Christianity)
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
"For the large majority of Christians, the Holy Spirit (or Holy Ghost, from Old English gast, "spirit") is the third divine person of the Holy Trinity: the "Triune God" manifested as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; each person itself being God.
The New Testament includes over 90 references to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit plays a key role in the Pauline epistles. In the Johannine writings, three separate terms, "Holy Spirit", "Spirit of Truth", and "Paraclete" are used.

The New Testament details a close relationship between the Holy Spirit and Jesus during his earthly life and ministry. The Gospels of Luke and Matthew and the Nicene Creed state that Jesus was "conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary". The Holy Spirit descended on Jesus as a dove during his Baptism, and in his Farewell Discourse after the Last Supper Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit to his disciples after his departure.

The theology of the Holy Spirit is called pneumatology. The Holy Spirit is referred to as the Lord and Giver of Life in the Nicene Creed. The participation of the Holy Spirit in the tripartite nature of conversion is apparent in Jesus' final post-Resurrection instruction to his disciples at the end of the Gospel of Matthew (28:19):

"make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost".

Since the first century, Christians have also called upon God with the name "Father, Son and Holy Spirit" in prayer, absolution and benediction."

[Sidebar: Notice this last sentence uses the expression:  “Christians have also called upon God with the name "Father, Son and Holy Spirit" in prayer, absolution and benediction.” It is interesting to consider the distinction between these three NAMES which Christians use to call on God. First comes the Father, too great, and vast, and incomprehensible to address; then Jesus, our friend and companion, who accepts us as we are in our frailty and inadequacy, and the Holy Ghost, the breath of God moving on the face of the deep, giving life to dry bones, enlightening the mind, transforming the heart, and raising the dead.

Back to Wikipedia:]
Old Testament
"What the Bible calls "Spirit of Yhwh" and "Spirit of Elohim" is called in the Talmud and Midrash "Holy Spirit" ("Ruaḥ ha-Ḳodesh). The expression "Holy Spirit" occurs in
Psalm 51:10-12:
"10Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11Do not cast me away from Your presence And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.
12Restore to me the joy of Your salvation And sustain me with a willing spirit.…"

and in Isaiah.63:11-14:

"11Then His people remembered the days of old, of Moses.
        Where is He who brought them up out of the sea with the shepherds of His     flock?
        Where is He who put His Holy Spirit in the midst of them,
12Who caused His glorious arm to go at the right hand of Moses,
        Who divided the waters before them to make for Himself an everlasting name,
13Who led them through the depths?
        Like the horse in the wilderness, they did not stumble;
14As the cattle which go down into the valley,
        The Spirit of the LORD gave them rest.
        So You led Your people,
        To make for Yourself a glorious name."

In these early times, the term Holy Spirit had not yet the definite meaning which was attached to it in rabbinical literature: in the latter it is equivalent to the expression "Spirit of the Lord". In Gen.1:2 God's spirit hovered over the form of lifeless matter, thereby making the Creation possible.

Although the Holy Spirit is often named instead of God, it was conceived as being something distinct. Though the nature of the Holy Spirit is really nowhere described, the name indicates that it was conceived as a kind of wind that became manifest through noise and light. The Holy Spirit, being of heavenly origin, is composed, like everything that comes from heaven, of light and fire. The spirit talks sometimes with a masculine and sometimes with a feminine voice; i.e., as the word "ruaḥ" is both masculine and feminine."

[Sidebar: Note that many reports of spiritual ecstasy include mention of blinding firy light, and overwhelmingly loud thunder. The sound of “Eck” according to Paul Twitchell, is that of a rushing wind. Of course these expressions, occurring in the supernatural dimensions, are merely similes for the actual experiences; and yet, the symbolic significance of these onomatopoetic images cannot be considered trivial. In ecstasy we will “hear” a wind, and “see” a light, without hearing or seeing, but this is how the experiences will be remembered. How could it be otherwise? In what other language than the literal could remembering be expressed?

Back to Wikipedia:]

"The most characteristic sign of the presence of the Holy Spirit is the gift of prophecy."

[Sidebar: Let’s think, for a moment, about the sentence,
“The most characteristic sign of the presence of the Holy Spirit is the gift of prophecy.”
Let us recall a sermon I gave some months ago concerning the fluidity of time when it comes to spiritual matters. We mentioned sehnsucht as the insatiable longing for God which is only satisfied through projection into the future; we mentioned that the soul’s journey up and down the continuum of mind states naturally resulted in prophetic visions, visions which are not the exclusive territory of the great saints, but, indeed, are the birthright of every spiritual devotee committed to elevating consciousness.

Prophecy was not a leading feature of the ecstasies of the saints we considered in the Underhill chapter, but transport out of sequential time characterized every ecstasy that was mentioned. The projection of visions of the future onto the face of the ecstatic now, are more or less trivial collateral effects of entering the spiritual domain. Nevertheless, little prophesies are as much a part of the Christian’s stock-in-trade, as are little miracles.

Furthermore, or perhaps conversely, Old Testament prophecy was usually a by-product of the prophet’s ecstatic experience. In other words, the Reason d'être of ecstasy was to achieve oneness with God in a Heavenly place, not to bring back pearls of wisdom. However, it cannot be denied that a very attractive by-product of this union with God was a fluidity in Time which enabled the prophets to speak meaningfully about the future; clearly, the prophets did not enter their ecstatic states motivated by the intention of prophesying, the prophesying was an EFFECT, not an EVENT. The same might be said of PREDESTINATION; that is to say, the choices made in the heart of the devotee are made outside time, but these choices result in temporal effects such as unity with the church, and gifts of Grace.

In 1st Peter 1:10-12 we read:

"10As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries,
11seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow.
12It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven-- things into which angels long to look."

In this scripture we read of Isaiah’s commission from God which, clearly came to him in an ecstatic vision:
Isaiah 6: 5-9:
“5 mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.
6 Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar:
7 And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.
8 Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.
9 And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not."

Here the idea of prophecy as a mystery, that will only come to be understood in later times, presents a theme immemorial of the ecstatic experience. Jesus couched His parables in just such language. Indeed, the Holy Ghost manifests in the most mysterious ways, and expresses itself in supernatural terms which are just barely intelligible by the minds of its witnesses.

Back to Wikipedia:]

"Mark 13:11 specifically refers to the power of the Holy Spirit to act and speak through the disciples of Jesus in time of need: "be not anxious beforehand what ye shall speak: but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye; for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Spirit." Matthew 10:20 refers to the same act of speaking through the disciples, but uses the term "Spirit of your Father".

Pauline Epistles
The Holy Spirit plays a key role in the Pauline epistles and Apostle Paul's pneumatology is closely connected to his theology and Christology, to the point of being almost inseparable from them.

The First Epistle to the Thessalonians, which was likely the first of Paul's letters, introduces a characterization of the Holy Spirit in 1:6 and 4:8 which persist throughout his epistles. In 1 Thessalonians 1:6 Paul refers to the imitation of Christ (and himself) and states:

"And ye became imitators of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit",

whose source is identified in 1 Thessalonians 4:8 as

"God, who giveth his Holy Spirit unto you".

These two themes of receiving the Spirit "like Christ" and God being the source of the Spirit persist in Pauline letters as the characterization of the relationship of Christians with God. For Paul the imitation of Christ involves readiness to be shaped by the Holy Spirit and as in Romans 8:4 and 8:11:

"But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwelleth in you, he that raised up Christ Jesus from the dead shall give life also to your mortal bodies through his Spirit that dwelleth in you."

Jesus and the Holy Spirit
Specific New Testament references to the interaction of Jesus and the Holy Spirit during his earthly life, and the enabling power of the Holy Spirit during his ministry are:
•      "Spirit without measure" having been given to Jesus in John 3:34, referring to the word spoken by Jesus (Rhema) being the words of God.
•      Baptism of Jesus, with the Holy Spirit descending on him as a dove in Matthew 3:13–17, Mark 1:9–11 and Luke 3:21–23
•      Temptation of Jesus, in Matthew 4:1 the Holy Spirit led Jesus to the desert to be tempted
•      The Spirit casting out demons (Matthew 12:28), in Exorcising the blind and mute man miracle
•      Rejoice the Spirit in Luke 10:21 where seventy disciples are sent out by Jesus
•      Acts 1:2 states that until his death and resurrection, Jesus "had given commandment through the Holy Spirit unto the apostles"
•      Referring to the sacrifice of Jesus to be crucified out of obedience to the father, the Epistle of Paul to the Hebrews 9:14 states that Jesus "through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish unto God"
In his Farewell Discourse to his disciples, Jesus promised that he would "send the Holy Spirit" to them after his departure, in John 15:26 stating: "whom I will send unto you from the Father, [even] the Spirit of truth... shall bear witness of me".

God the Holy Spirit
In Christian theology Holy Spirit is believed to perform specific divine functions in the life of the Christian or the church. The action of the Holy Spirit is seen as an essential part of the bringing of the person to the Christian faith. The new believer is "born again of the Spirit". The Holy Spirit enables Christian life by dwelling in the individual believers and enables them to live a righteous and faithful life. The Holy Spirit also acts as comforter or Paraclete, one who intercedes, or supports or acts as an advocate, particularly in times of trial. And it acts to convince the unredeemed person both of the sinfulness of their actions, and of their moral standing as sinners before God. Another faculty of the Holy Spirit is the inspiration and interpretation of scripture. The Holy Spirit both inspires the writing of the scriptures and interprets them to the Christian and/or church."

[Sidebar: The next section details various “fruits and gifts” of the Holy Spirit, permanent positive residue of the ecstatic experience.]

Fruit and Gifts of the Spirit
"The "fruit of the Holy Spirit" consists of "permanent dispositions" (in this similar to the permanent character of the sacraments), virtuous characteristics engendered in the Christian by the action of the Holy Spirit. Galatians 5:22-23 names 9 aspects and states:
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control; against such there is no law.”
In the Epistle to the Galatians these nine characteristics are in contrast to the "works of the flesh" and highlight the positive manifestations of the work of the Holy Spirit in believers.

The "gifts of the Holy Spirit" are distinct from the Fruit of the Spirit, and consist of specific abilities granted to the individual Christian. They are frequently known by the Greek word for gift, Charisma, from which the term charismatic derives. The "seven gifts of the Holy Spirit" pour out on a believer at baptism, and are traditionally derived from Isaiah 11:1–2, although the New Testament does not refer to Isaiah 11:1–2 regarding these gifts. These 7 gifts are: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude (strength), knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord."

[Sidebar: So it will be apparent from the preceding presentation that the Holy Spirit is the operative force in all Christian ecstasies. Now, let’s delve deeper into the history of this ecstasy as an article of faith in the Christian catechism:]

Pentecost
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

"Pentecost (Ancient Greek: Πεντηκοστή [ἡμέρα], Pentēkostē [hēmera], "the fiftieth [day]") is the Greek name for the Feast of Weeks, a prominent feast in the calendar of ancient Israel celebrating the giving of the Law on Sinai. This feast is still celebrated in Judaism as Shavuot. Later, in the Christian liturgical year, it became a feast commemorating the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and other followers of Jesus Christ (120 in all), as described in the Acts of the Apostles 2:1–31. For this reason, Pentecost is sometimes described by some Christians today as the "Birthday of the Church".

In the Eastern church, Pentecost can also refer to the whole fifty days between Easter and Pentecost, hence the book containing the liturgical texts for Paschaltide is called the Pentecostarion. The feast is also called White Sunday, or Whitsun, especially in England, where the following Monday was traditionally a public holiday. Pentecost is celebrated seven weeks (50 days) after Easter Sunday, hence its name. Pentecost falls on the tenth day after Ascension Thursday.

The Pentecostal movement of Christianity derives its name from the New Testament event. The biblical narrative of Pentecost is given in the second chapter of the Book of Acts. Present were about one hundred twenty followers of Christ (Acts 1:15), including his core group of twelve Disciples (Acts 1:13, 26), his mother Mary and various other women disciples (Acts 1:14). Their reception of Baptism in the Holy Spirit in the Upper Room is recounted in Acts 2:1–6:

“ And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other languages, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language."

While those on whom the Spirit had descended were speaking in many languages, the Apostle Peter stood up with the eleven and proclaimed to the crowd that this event was the fulfillment of the prophecy ("I will pour out my spirit"). In Acts 2:17, it reads: "'And in the last days,' God says, 'I will pour out my spirit upon every sort of flesh, and your sons and your daughters will prophesy and your young men will see visions and your old men will dream dreams." He also mentions (2:15) that it was the third hour of the day (about 9:00 AM). Acts 2:41 then reports: "Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls."
Peter stated that this event was the beginning of a continual outpouring that would be available to all believers from that point on, Jews and Gentiles alike.

Pneumatology is the study of spiritual beings and phenomena, especially the spiritual aspect of human beings and the interactions between humans and God. Pneuma (πνεῦμα) is Greek for "breath", which metaphorically describes a non-material being or influence. Pneumatology as the study of the spirit is to be distinguished from psychology, the study of the soul.

In Christian theology pneumatology refers to the study of the Holy Spirit. The English word comes from two Greek words: πνευμα (pneuma, spirit) and λογος (logos, teaching about). Pneumatology would normally include study of the person of the Holy Spirit, and the works of the Holy Spirit. This latter category would normally include Christian teachings on new birth, spiritual gifts (charismata), Spirit-baptism, sanctification, the inspiration of prophets, and the indwelling of the Holy Trinity (which in itself covers many different aspects).”

It would be well to remember that this discussion of the Holy Ghost began with a series of presentations on the ecstatic spiritual experience. We were led to the Holy Ghost as the SOURCE of power and the prime mover of the devotee in search of ecstasy. Thus, the Father is the ORIGIN of Divine Truth, the Son is the MEDIATOR of Divine Truth, Holy Ghost is the TRANSMITTER of Divine Truth, and the Angels are the MECHANISM for the transmission of Divine Truth. As mentioned at the outset of my series on ecstasy, such intense experiences tend to reside outside the framework of ‘normal” human experience, and are therefore thought of as suspect, by “normal” people. However, I have been steadfast in insisting that the Christian life should NOT BE NORMAL in any way; I have maintained that Christians who are able to fit their religion in between basketball practice and TV, are not on fire for God as should be anyone who has met the Holy Spirit face to face.

The preceding presentation has shown that the Bible amply supplies precedents for the passion for God which I am recommending. Next week we will look at the writing of two post-Biblical, pre-modern saints, Boethius and St. Thomas Aquinas. These men, both of whom we have studied before, have proclaimed the power of the spirit in their daily lives, and have contributed meaningfully to the spiritual literature. The lessons they teach encourage soberness of mind, and openness of heart. But that is next week.

For now, Let us pray:
Jesus, He whose Name is Holy, continue to provide a face for us to contemplate in our prayers, but do not deny us access to that faceless power, that holy wind that fills our sails and dries our tears. Amen.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

8 Ecstasy V


8 Ecstasy V


Today's presentation will be the third of three taken up entirely by a reading of and commentary on a chapter from Mysticism, by Evelyn Underhill, [1911]. The chapter divides itself into descriptions of ecstasy on a continuum from the "Physical" to the "Psychological" to the "Mystical". In the last two weeks we discussed the the "Physical" dimension and the "Psychological" dimension; this week we will cover the "Mystical".

It would be overstating the case that we are going to look at the EFFECTS of spiritual ecstasy on the saints who experience it, and yet the highest ecstatic experience is so inexpressible, and so private, the only thing left to talk about is what we see AFTER it is over. Here are some examples of the physical effects of ecstasy, described in the Bible:


  • Exodus 34:29-35
  • 29 When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord. 30 When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant, and they were afraid to come near him. 31 But Moses called to them; so Aaron and all the leaders of the community came back to him, and he spoke to them. 32 Afterward all the Israelites came near him, and he gave them all the commands the Lord had given him on Mount Sinai.
  • 33 When Moses finished speaking to them, he put a veil over his face. 34 But whenever he entered the Lord’s presence to speak with him, he removed the veil until he came out. And when he came out and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, 35 they saw that his face was radiant. Then Moses would put the veil back over his face until he went in to speak with the Lord."
Matt 17:1-3
"1Six days later Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John his brother, and led them up on a high mountain by themselves. 2And He was transfigured before them; and His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light. 3And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him.…"

The sermon next week will deal in detail with the relationship of the Holy Spirit to the ecstatic experience, but I can't resist prepping that message with the following preview from Saint Luke:
Acts 2:1-4
"When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

[Sidebar: So many reports of spiritual experiences include "a violent wind" in their scenarios. The sequence of wind followed by fire is not uncommon in the ecstasies of the saints. The business of tongues is not a crucial feature; in ecstasy, God reveals heavenly secrets in the language of heaven; so sometimes the ecstatic is moved to become a channel enabling the angelic voice to physically manifest; but whether the Spirit manifests outwardly or not, it cannot be denied that the INNER manifestation is abundantly glorious.]

Acts 10:44-46
"44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. 45 The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles. 46 For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God."
In this verse, the Holy Spirit definitely affirms that it cannot touch Man except through the Son. Hence, operationally speaking, the key, to the ecstatic experience, is the inter-locking synthetic action of Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

Luke 10:21-22
       "21At that very time He rejoiced greatly in the Holy Spirit, and said, "I praise You, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight. 22"All things have been handed over to Me by My Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.”

[Sidebar: The assumption I am making here is that Father Son and Holy Ghost all meet in one exalted moment. Thus all these Bibilical reports of sequences of miraculous events are, in a sense, metaphors for the ecstatic experience.

Now, on to chapter 8, from Mysticism, by Evelyn Underhill, [1911]:

"C. Therefore, whilst 
on its physical side ecstasy is an entrancement, 
on its mental side a complete unification of consciousness, 
on its mystical side it is an exalted act of perception. 

It represents the greatest possible extension of the spiritual consciousness in the direction of Pure Being: the “blind intent stretching” here receives its reward in a profound experience of Eternal Life. In this experience the departmental activities of thought and feeling the consciousness of I-hood, of space and time—all that belongs to the World of Becoming and our own place therein—are suspended. The vitality which we are accustomed to split amongst these various things, is gathered up to form a state of “pure apprehension”: a vivid intuition of—or if you like conjunction with—the Transcendent. For the time of his ecstasy the mystic is, for all practical purposes, as truly living in the supersensual world as the normal human animal is living in the sensual world. He is experiencing the highest and most joyous of those temporary and unstable states—those “passive unions”—in which his consciousness escapes the limitations of the senses, rises to freedom, and is united for an instant with the “great life of the All.”

Ecstasy, then, from the contemplative’s point of view, is the development and completion of the orison of union, and he is not always at pains to distinguish the two degrees, a fact which adds greatly to the difficulties of students. In both states—though he may, for want of better language, describe his experience in terms of sight—the Transcendent is perceived by contact, not by vision: as, enfolded in darkness with one whom we love, we obtain a knowledge far more complete than that conferred by the sharpest sight the most perfect mental analysis. In Ecstasy, the apprehension is perhaps more definitely “beatific” than in the orison of union. Such memory of his feeling-state as the ecstatic brings back with him is more often concerned with an exultant certainty—a conviction that he has known for once the Reality which hath no image, and solved the paradox of life—than with meek self-loss in that Cloud of Unknowing where the contemplative in union is content to meet his Beloved. The true note of ecstasy, however, its only valid distinction from infused contemplation, lies in entrancement; in “being ravished out of fleshly feeling,” as St. Paul caught up to the Third Heaven, not in “the lifting of mind unto God.” This, of course, is an outward distinction only, and a rough one at that, since entrancement has many degrees: but it will be found the only practical basis of classification."

[Sidebar: I am very grateful for this reference to  the "Cloud of Unknowing", because it means that Underhill and I are on the same page in terms of a favorite language, and a common background. We cannot calculate our debt to that anonymous Medieval monk who coined this beautiful phrase which explains so much with so little.
Back to Underhill:]

"Probably none but those who have experienced these states know the actual difference between them. Even St. Teresa’s psychological insight fails her here, and she is obliged to fall back on the difference between voluntary and involuntary absorption in the divine: a difference, not in spiritual values, but merely in the psycho-physical constitution of those who have perceived these values. 

“I wish I could explain with the help of God,” she says, “wherein union differs from rapture, or from transport, or from flight of the spirit, as they call it, or from trance, which are all one. I mean that all these are only different names for that one and the same thing, which is also called ecstasy. It is more excellent than union, the fruits of it are much greater, and its other operations more manifold, for union is uniform in the beginning, the middle, and the end, and is so also interiorly; but as raptures have ends of a much higher kind, they produce effects both within and without [ i.e. , both physical and psychical]. . . . A rapture is absolutely irresistible; whilst union, inasmuch as we are then on our own ground, may be hindered, though that resistance be painful and violent.”

From the point of view of mystical psychology, our interest in ecstasy will centre in two points. 
(1) What has the mystic to tell us of the Object of his ecstatic perception? 
(2) What is the nature of the peculiar consciousness which he enjoys in his trance? That is to say, what news does he bring us as to the Being of God and the powers of man?"


[Sidebar: Notice the focus on what we can learn from the mystics through anecdotal evidence; here, there is none of the New Age how-to tendency to give instruction in ecstasy, or astral projection, or psychic healing. The Catholic position, of the mystic upheld above the crowd, is still here upheld, although no mention is made of Christianity at all. This might be considered a subtle reminder that, since all of us are not chosen to have these higher psychic experiences, our faith must be that much stronger, and, as C.S. Lewis would have it, much more persuaded by rational thought. Here we see through a glass darkly, and yet our faith IS significantly bolstered by the reports of saints who have actually gone to heaven and come back.

On with Underhill:]

"It may be said generally that on both these points he bears out, amplifies, and expresses under formulae of greater splendour, with an accent of greater conviction, the general testimony of the contemplatives. In fact, we must never forget that an ecstatic is really nothing else than a contemplative of a special kind, with a special psycho-physical make-up. Moreover, we have seen that it is not always easy to determine the exact point at which entrancement takes place, and deep contemplation assumes the ecstatic form. The classification, like all classifications of mental states, is an arbitrary one. Whilst the extreme cases present no difficulty, there are others less complete, which form a graduated series between the deeps of the “Quiet” and the heights of “Rapture.” We shall never know, for instance, whether the ecstasies of Plotinus and of Pascal involved true bodily entrancement, or only a deep absorption of the “unitive” kind. So, too, the language of many Christian mystics when speaking of their “raptures” is so vague and metaphorical that it leaves us in great doubt as to whether they mean by Rapture the abrupt suspension of normal consciousness, or merely a sudden and agreeable elevation of soul.

“Ravishing,” says Rolle, “as it is showed, in two ways is to be understood. One manner, forsooth, in which a man is ravished out of fleshly feeling; so that for the time of his ravishing plainly he feels nought in flesh, nor what is done of his flesh, and yet he is not dead but quick, for yet the soul to the body gives life. And on this manner saints sometime are ravished, to their profit and other men’s learning; as Paul ravished to the third heaven. And on this manner sinners also in vision sometime are ravished, that they may see joys of saints and pains of damned for their correction.
And many other as we read of. Another manner of ravishing there is, that is lifting of mind into God by contemplation. And this manner of ravishing is in all that are perfect lovers of God, and in none of them but that love God. And as well this is called a ravishing as the other; for with a violence it is done, and as it were against nature.”

[Sidebar: Once again, the saints are upheld as examples: 
"And on this manner saints sometime are ravished, to their profit and other men’s learning; as Paul ravished to the third heaven."

One wonders what this learning consists of, and what is its overriding virtue?
Back to Underhill:]

"It is, however, very confusing to the anxious inquirer when—as too often—“lifting of mind by contemplation” is “as well called a ravishing as the other,” and ecstasy is used as a synonym for gladness of heart. Here, so far as is possible, these words will be confined to their strict meaning, and not applied generally to the description of all the outgoing and expansive states of the transcendental consciousness.

What does the mystic claim that he attains in this abnormal condition—this irresistible trance? The price that he pays is heavy, involving much psycho-physical wear and tear. He declares that his rapture or ecstasy includes a moment—often a very short, and always an indescribable moment—in which he enjoys a supreme knowledge of or participation in Divine Reality. He tells us under various metaphors that he then attains Pure Being, his Source, his Origin, his Beloved: “is engulphed in the very thing for which he longs, which is God.”

 “Oh, wonder of wonders,” cries Eckhart, “when I think of the union the soul has with God! He makes the enraptured soul to flee out of herself, for she is no more satisfied with anything that can be named. The spring of  Divine Love flows out of the soul and draws her out of herself into the unnamed Being, into her first source, which is God alone.”

This momentary attainment of the Source, the Origin, is the theme of all descriptions of mystic ecstasy. In Rulman Merswin’s “Book of the Nine Rocks,” that brief and overwhelming rapture is the end of the pilgrim’s long trials and ascents. 

“The vision of the Infinite lasted only for a moment: when he came to himself he felt inundated with life and joy. He asked, ‘Where have I been?’ and he was answered, ‘In the upper school of the Holy Spirit. There you were surrounded by the dazzling pages of the Book of Divine Wisdom. Your soul plunged therein with delight, and the Divine Master of the school has filled her with an exuberant love by which even your physical nature has been transfigured.’” 

Another Friend of God, Ellina von Crevelsheim, who was of so abnormal a psychic constitution that her absorption in the Divine Love caused her to remain dumb for seven years, was “touched by the Hand of God” at the end of that period, and fell into a five-days’ ecstasy, in which “pure truth” was revealed to her, and she was lifted up to an immediate experience of the Absolute. There she “saw the interior of the Father’s heart,” and was “bound with chains of love, enveloped in light, and filled with peace and joy.”

[Sidebar: This next point discusses the question of consciousness during ecstasy. We have mentioned this paradoxical state of consciousness before, particularly  in regard to its pertinence to trance mediums; trance mediums usually are unconscious while they perform superhuman feats, or channel communications from supernatural beings. We have suggested that this type of trance is essentially different from an ecstatic trance. Perhaps the question is not so much, "Is the ecstatic conscious?" as it is, "What is the nature of the ecstatic consciousness?"

Back to Underhill:]

"In this transcendent act of union, the mystic sometimes says that he is “conscious of nothing.” But it is clear that this expression is figurative, for otherwise he would not have known that there had been an act of union: were his individuality abolished, it could not have been aware of its attainment of God. What he appears to mean is that consciousness so changes its form as to be no longer recognizable or describable in human speech. In the paradoxical language of Richard of St. Victor, 

“In a wondrous fashion remembering we do not remember, seeing we do not see, understanding we not understand, penetrating we do not penetrate.”  

In this indescribable but most actual state, the whole self, exalted and at white heat, is unified and poured out in one vivid act of impassioned perception, which leaves no room for reflection or self-observation. That aloof “somewhat” in us which watches all our actions, splits our consciousness, has been submerged. The mystic is attending exclusively to Eternity, not to his own perception of Eternity. That he can only consider when the ecstasy itself is at an end.

“All things I then forgot,
My cheek on Him Who for my coming came,
All ceased, and I was not,
Leaving my cares and shame
Among the lilies, and forgetting them.” 

[Sidebar: As I have hinted above, a lot of New Age material treats of spirituality without direct reference to Jesus, or Christianity per se. Some, like Edgar Cayce or Rudolf Steiner, definitely do. In any case, although some mystics prefer not to put a name on the Incomprehensible, the "Him" in the poem above, "Him Who for my coming came", is clearly Jesus, by any name--it can be No-One else.

Back to Uunderhill:]

"This is that perfect unity of consciousness, that utter concentration on an experience of love, which excludes all conceptual and analytic acts. Hence, when the mystic says that his faculties were suspended, that he “knew all and knew nought,” he really means that he was so concentrated on the Absolute that he ceased to consider his separate existence: so merged in it that he could not perceive it as an object of thought, as the bird cannot see the air which supports it, nor the fish the ocean in which it swims. He really “knows all” but “thinks” nought: “perceives all,” but “conceives nought.”

The ecstatic consciousness is not self-conscious: it is intuitive not discursive. Under the sway of a great passion, possessed by a great Idea, it has become “a single state of enormous intensity.”  In this state, it transcends our ordinary processes of knowledge, and plunges deep into the Heart of Reality. A fusion, which is the anticipation of the unitive life, takes place: and the ecstatic returns from this brief foretaste of freedom saying, “I know, as having known, the meaning of Existence; the sane centre of the universe—at once the wonder and the assurance of the soul.”  

“This utter transformation of the soul in God,” says St. Teresa, describing the same experience in the official language of theology, “continues only for an instant: yet while it continues no faculty of the soul is aware of it, or knows what is passing there. Nor can it be understood while we are living on the earth; at least God will not have us understand it, because we must be incapable of understanding it. I know is by experience. ” 

The utterances of those who know by experience are here of more worth than all the statements of psychology, which are concerned of necessity with the “outward signs” of this “inward and spiritual grace.” To these we must go if we would obtain some hint of that which ecstasy may mean to the ecstatic.

[Sidebar: And upon these utterances we found our faith.

This next section emphasizes self-forgetfulness, and how the ecstatic self takes on qualities of the divine.

Back to Underhill:]

“When the soul, forgetting itself, dwells in that radiant darkness,” says Suso, “it loses all its faculties and all its qualities, as St. Bernard has said. And this, more or less completely, according  to whether the soul—whether in the body or out of the body—is more or less united to God. This forgetfulness of self is, in a measure, a transformation in God; who then becomes, in a certain manner, all things for the soul, as Scripture saith. In this rapture the soul disappears, but not yet entirely. It acquires, it is true, certain qualities of divinity, but does not naturally become divine. . . . To speak in the common language, the soul is rapt, by the divine power of resplendent Being, above its natural faculties, into the nakedness of the Nothing.” 

Here Suso is trying to describe his rapturous attainment of God in the negative terms of Dionysian theology. It is probable that much of the language of that theology originated, not in the abstract philosophizings, but in the actual ecstatic experience, of the Neoplatonists, who—Christian and Pagan alike—believed in, and sometimes deliberately induced, this condition as the supreme method of attaining the One. The whole Christian doctrine of ecstasy, on its metaphysical side, really descends from that great practical transcendentalist Plotinus: who is known to have been an ecstatic, and has left in his Sixth Ennead a description of the mystical trance obviously based upon his own experiences. 

“Then,” he says, “the soul neither sees, nor distinguishes by seeing, nor imagines that there are two things; but becomes as it were another thing, ceases to be itself and belong to itself. It belongs to God and is one with Him, like two concentric circles: concurring they are One; but when they separate, they are two. . . . Since in this conjunction with Deity there were not two things, but the perceiver was one with the thing perceived, if a man could preserve the memory of what he was when he mingled with the Divine, he would have within himself an image of God. . . . For then nothing stirred within him, neither anger, nor desire, nor even reason, nor a certain intellectual perception nor, in short, was he himself moved, if we may assert this; but being in an ecstasy, tranquil and alone with God, he enjoyed an unbreakable calm.”

Ecstasy, says Plotinus in another part of the same treatise, is 
“another mode of seeing, a simplification and abandonment of oneself, a desire of contact, rest, and a striving after union.” 
All the phases of the contemplative experience seem to be summed up in this phrase.

[Sidebar: At this point, I though it important to insert some material on Plotinus taken from Wikipedia:

Plotinus
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Plotinus (/plɒˈtaɪnəs/; Greek: Πλωτνος; c. 204/5 – 270) was a major philosopher of the ancient world. In his philosophy there are three principles: the One, the Intellect, and the Soul. His teacher was Ammonius Saccas and he is of the Platonic tradition. Historians of the 19th century invented the term Neoplatonism and applied it to him and his philosophy which was influential in Late Antiquity. Much of the biographical information about Plotinus comes from Porphyry's preface to his edition of Plotinus' Enneads. His metaphysical writings have inspired centuries of Pagan, Christian, Jewish, Islamic and Gnostic metaphysicians and mystics.

Major ideas
One
Plotinus taught that there is a supreme, totally transcendent "One", containing no division, multiplicity or distinction; beyond all categories of being and non-being. His "One" "cannot be any existing thing", nor is it merely the sum of all things [compare the Stoic doctrine of disbelief in non-material existence], but "is prior to all existents". Plotinus identified his "One" with the concept of 'Good' and the principle of 'Beauty'. 

His "One" concept encompassed thinker and object (of thought alike dyad). Even the self-contemplating intelligence (the noesis of the nous) must contain duality. "Once you have uttered 'The Good,' add no further thought: by any addition, and in proportion to that addition, you introduce a deficiency." Plotinus denies sentience, self-awareness or any other action (ergon) to the One. Rather, if we insist on describing it further, we must call the One a sheer Dynamis or potentiality without which nothing could exist. As Plotinus explains in both places and elsewhere, it is impossible for the One to be Being or a self-aware Creator God. Plotinus compared the One to "light", the Divine Nous (first will towards Good) to the "Sun", and lastly the Soul to the "Moon" whose light is merely a "derivative conglomeration of light from the 'Sun'". The first light could exist without any celestial body.

The One, being beyond all attributes including being and non-being, is the source of the world—but not through any act of creation, willful or otherwise, since activity cannot be ascribed to the unchangeable, immutable One. Plotinus argues instead that the multiple cannot exist without the simple. The "less perfect" must, of necessity, "emanate", or issue forth, from the "perfect" or "more perfect". Thus, all of "creation" emanates from the One in succeeding stages of lesser and lesser perfection. These stages are not temporally isolated, but occur throughout time as a constant process. . . . 

The One is not just an intellectual conception but something that can be experienced, an experience where one goes beyond all multiplicity. Plotinus writes, "We ought not even to say that he will see, but he will be that which he sees, if indeed it is possible any longer to distinguish between seer and seen, and not boldly to affirm that the two are one."

It has been said by some critics that the ecstasy of Plotinus was different in kind from the ecstasy of the Christian saints: that it was a philosophic rhapsody, something like Plato’s “saving madness,” which is also regarded on somewhat insufficient evidence as being an affair of the head and entirely unconnected with the heart. At first sight the arid metaphysical language in which Plotinus tries to tell his love, offers some ground for this view. Nevertheless the ecstasy itself is a practical matter; and has its root, not in reason, but in a deep-seated passion for the Absolute which is far nearer to the mystic’s love of God than to any intellectual curiosity, however sublime. The few passages in which it is mentioned tell us what his mystical genius drove him to do: and not what his philosophical mind encouraged him to think or say." 

[Sidebar: We have often mentioned the delusive nature of verbal thinking and its detrimental influence on religion. The distinction made here between the "philosophical mind" and the "mystical genius" is significant. Among other things, it means that Jesus, the mediator between God and Man, is available as a Nameless Power to hearts that strive for knowledge of Him.

Back to Underhill:]
"At once when we come to these passages we notice a rise of temperature, an alteration of values. Plotinus the ecstatic is sure whatever Plotinus the metaphysician may think, that the union with God is a union of hearts: that “by love He may be gotten and holden, but by thought never.” He, no less than the mediaeval contemplatives, is convinced—to quote his own words—that the Vision is only for the desirous; for him who has that “loving passion” which “causes the lover to rest in the object of his love.”  The simile of marriage, of conjunction as the soul’s highest bliss, which we are sometimes told that we owe in part to the unfortunate popularity of the Song of Songs, in part to the sexual aberrations of celibate saints, is found in the work of this hardheaded Pagan philosopher: who was as celebrated for his practical kindness and robust common sense as for his transcendent intuitions of the One.

The greatest of the Pagan ecstatics then, when speaking from experience, anticipates the Christian contemplatives. His words, too, when compared with theirs, show how delicate are the shades which distinguish ecstasy such as this from the highest forms of orison. “Tranquil and alone with God”—mingled for an instant of time “like two concentric circles” with the Divine Life,” “perceiver and perceived made one”—this is as near as the subtle intellect of Alexandria can come to the reality of that experience in which the impassioned mono-ideism of great spiritual genius conquers the rebellious senses, and becomes, if only for a moment, operative on the highest levels accessible to the human soul. Self-mergence, then—that state of transcendence in which, the barriers of selfhood abolished, we “receive the communication of Life and of Beatitude, in which all things are consummated and all things are renewed”  —is the secret of ecstasy, as it was the secret of contemplation. On their spiritual side the two states cannot, save for convenience of description, be divided. Where contemplation becomes expansive, out-going, self-giving, and receives a definite fruition of the Absolute in return, its content is already ecstatic. Whether its outward form shall be so depends on the body of the mystic, not on his soul. 

"If the act of the mind, being kidnapped in God, 
Itself cannot think or say. 
In the middle of the sea, yes, in the abyss,
He can not get out;
Itself can not think or say, 
Has formed itself in other dress.
All I hear his well-noting 
Contemplating the beauty which has no color."

Thus sang Jacopone da Todi of the ecstatic soul: and here the descriptive powers of one who was both a poet and a mystic bring life and light to the dry theories of psychology.

He continues—and here, in perhaps the finest of all poetic descriptions of ecstasy, he seems to echo at one point Plotinus, at another Richard of St. Victor: at once to veil and reveal the utmost secrets of the mystic life:—
"Open are the doors of age 
In possession of all that God hears; 
This not to see, to possesses not, 
Believe this, taste without knowing. 
But which has lost itself all without measure, 
Possesses, off shore, that other mixture --
Well without abundance."

"This ineffable “awareness,” en dio stando rapito , (in God being kidnapped) this union with the Imageless Good, is not the only—though it is the purest—form taken by ecstatic apprehension. Many of the visions and voices described in a previous chapter were experienced in the entranced or ecstatic state; generally when the first violence of the rapture was passed. St. Francis and St. Catherine of Siena both received the stigmata in ecstasy: almost all the entrancements of Suso and many of those of St. Teresa and Angela of Foligno, entailed symbolic vision, rather than pure perception of the Absolute. More and more, then, we are forced to the opinion that ecstasy, in so far as it is not a synonym for joyous and expansive contemplation, is really the name of the outward condition rather than of any one kind of inward experience.
Rapture
In all the cases which we have been considering—and they are characteristic of a large group—the onset of ecstasy has been seen as a gradual, though always involuntary process. Generally it has been the culminating point of a period of contemplation. The self, absorbed in the orison of quiet or of union, or some analogous concentration on its transcendental interests, has passed over the limit of these states; and slid into a still ecstatic trance, with its outward characteristics of rigid limbs, cold, and depressed respiration."

[Sidebar: We have here, again, the question of the self-generated ecstasy, versus something that may only be described as "Grace". We touched on this in one of our previous discussions when we mentioned the significance of the so-called ecstatic "trigger". Ecstasy as a triggered response, as opposed to ecstasy as a completely involuntary process, are slightly contradictory ideas. However, so as not to quibble, let us simply be reminded that there are certain things along the spiritual path that we are REQUIRED TO DO, and there are certain things that are always DONE TO US. Grace is the totally undeserved gift of Divine Love, which is bestowed, not according to our designs, but God's. My conversion trauma was not something I would ever have thought to inflict upon myself, (neither, I'm sure, was Saul's on the road to Damascus); but Jesus chose a specific time and place to reveal His Truth, Power, and Love to me, and, thank God, I have been operating off of His timetable ever since. 

I think the bottom line for the layman must be this: find a discipline, to get close to God, that is as much as you can handle, and leave the rest to "Grace". I hope this is enough.

Back to Underhill:]

"The ecstasy, however, instead of developing naturally from a state of intense absorption in the Divine Vision, may seize the subject abruptly and irresistibly, when in his normal state of consciousness. This is strictly what ascetic writers mean by Rapture. We have seen that the essence of the mystic life consists in the remaking of personality: its entrance into a conscious relation with the Absolute. 

This process is accompanied in the mystic by the development of an art expressive of his peculiar genius: the art of contemplation. His practice of this art, like the practice of poetry, music, or any other form of creation, may follow normal lines, at first amenable to the control of his will, and always dependent on his own deliberate attention to the supreme Object of his quest; that is to say, on his orison. His mystic states, however they may end, will owe their beginning to some voluntary act upon his part: a deliberate response to the invitation of God, a turning from the visible to the invisible world. 

Sometimes, however, his genius for the transcendent becomes too strong for the other elements of character, and manifests itself in psychic disturbances—abrupt and ungovernable invasions from the subliminal region—which make its exercise parallel to the “fine frenzy” of the prophet, the composer, or the poet. Such is Rapture: a violent and uncontrollable expression of genius for the Absolute, which temporarily disorganizes and may permanently injure the nervous system of the self. Often, but not necessarily, Rapture—like its poetic equivalent—yields results of great splendour and value for life. But it is an accident, not an implicit of mystical experience: an indication of disharmony between the subject’s psychophysical make-up and his transcendental powers."

[Sidebar: Sadly, I have known several people (including myself) whose spiritual evolutions have been accompanied by debilitating physical traumas. Perhaps this is why such emphasis is placed, among the Hindus, on a guru, whose function is to guide the devotee gently through the formative levels of spiritual growth. Clearly, everything that walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, is not a duck; spiritual awakening can bring with it severe penalties. We Christians must rely, firsthand, on Jesus for advice and counsel. The Shepherd does not spare the rod, but we may be sure that His guidance will keep us on the right path. Thank you, Jesus!

Back to Underhill:]

"Rapture, then, may accompany the whole development of selves of an appropriate type. We have seen that it is a common incident in mystical conversion. The violent uprush of subliminal intuitions by which such conversion is marked disorganizes the normal consciousness, overpowers the will and the senses, and entails a more or less complete entrancement. This was certainly the case with Suso and Rulman Merswin, and perhaps with Pascal: whose “Certitude, Peace, Joy” sums up the exalted intuition of Perfection and Reality—the conviction of a final and unforgettable knowledge—which is characteristic of all ecstatic perception.

In her Spiritual Relations, St. Teresa speaks in some detail of the different phases or forms of expression of these violent ecstatic states: trance, which in her system means that which we have called ecstasy, and transport, or “flight of the spirit,” which is the equivalent of rapture.

“The difference between trance and transport,” she says, “is this. In a trance the soul gradually dies to outward things, losing the senses and living unto God. But a transport comes on by one sole act of His Majesty, wrought in the innermost part of the soul with such swiftness that it is as if the higher part thereof were carried away, and the soul were leaving the body.” 

Rapture, says St. Teresa in another place, “comes in general as a shock, quick and sharp, before you can collect your thoughts, or help yourself in any way; and you see and feel it as a cloud, or a strong eagle rising upwards and carrying you away on its wings. I repeat it: you feel and see yourself carried away, you know not whither.” This carrying-away sensation may even assume the concrete form which is known as levitation: when the upward and outward sensations so dominate the conscious field that the subject is convinced that she is raised bodily from the ground. 

“It seemed to me, when I tried to make some resistance, as if a great force beneath my feet lifted me up. I know of nothing with which to compare it; but it was much more violent than the other spiritual visitations, and I was therefore as one ground to pieces . . . And further, I confess that it threw me into a great fear, very great indeed at first; for when I saw my body thus lifted up from the earth, how could I help it? Though the spirit draws it upwards after itself, and that with great sweetness if unresisted, the senses are not lost; at least I was so much myself as to be able to see that I was being lifted up .” 

So Rulman Merswin said that in the rapture which accompanied his conversion, he was carried round the garden with his feet off the ground: and St. Catherine of Siena, in a passage which I have already quoted, speaks of the strength of the spirit, which raises the body from the earth. 

The subjective nature of this feeling of levitation is practically acknowledged by St. Teresa when she says, “When the rapture was over, my body seemed frequently to be buoyant, as if all weight had departed from it; so much so, that now and then I scarcely knew that my feet touched the ground. But during the rapture the body is very often as it were dead, perfectly powerless. It continues in the position it was in when the rapture came upon it—if sitting, sitting.” Obviously here the outward conditions of physical immobility coexisted with the subjective sensation of being “lifted Up.” 

The self’s consciousness when in the condition of rapture may vary from the complete possession of her faculties claimed by St. Teresa to a complete entrancement. However abrupt the oncoming of the transport, it does not follow that the mystic instantly loses his surface-consciousness. “There remains the power of seeing and hearing; but it is as if the things heard and seen were at a great distance far away.” They have retreated, that is to say, to the fringe of the conscious field, but may still remain just within it. Though the senses may not be entirely entranced, however, it seems that the power of movement is always lost. As in ecstasy, breathing and circulation are much diminished.

“By the command of the Bridegroom when He intends ravishing the soul,” says St. Teresa, “the doors of the mansions and even those of the keep and of the whole castle are closed; for He takes away the power of speech, and although occasionally the other faculties are retained rather longer, no word can be uttered. Sometimes the person is at once deprived of all the senses, the hands and body becoming as cold as if the soul had fled; occasionally no breathing can be detected. This condition lasts but a short while, I mean in the same degree, for when this profound suspension diminishes the body seems to come to itself and gain strength to return again to this death which gives more vigorous life to the soul.”

[Sidebar: Only one phrase of the preceding paragraph inspires comment: 
". . .return again to this death which gives more vigorous life to the soul.”

Here we are presented with another affirmation that spiritual practice ought to include some kind of discipline which has a beneficial impact on the soul. The idea of ecstasy as a death implies that the ecstatic state is more real than the physical state; and that, furthermore, the return from this glorious death enriches the soul at both the mundane and the spiritual levels.

Back to Underhill:]

"This spiritual storm, then, in St. Teresa’s opinion, enhances the vitality of those who experience it: makes them “more living than before.” It initiates them into “heavenly secrets,” and if it does not do this it is no “true rapture,” but a “physical weakness such as women are prone to owing to their delicacy of constitution.” Its sharpness and violence, however, leave considerable mental disorder behind: 

“This supreme state of ecstasy never lasts long, but although it ceases, it leaves the will so inebriated, and the mind so transported out of itself that for a day, or sometimes for several days, such a person is incapable of attending to anything but what excites the will to the love of God; although wide awake enough to this, she seems asleep as regards all earthly matters.” 

But when equilibrium is re-established, the true effects of this violent and beatific intuition of the Absolute begin to invade the normal life. The self which has thus been caught up to awareness of new levels of Reality, is stimulated to fresh activity by the strength of its impressions. It now desires an eternal union with that which it has known; with which for a brief moment it seemed to be merged. The peculiar talent of the mystic—power of apprehending Reality which his contemplations have ordered and developed, and his ecstasies express—here reacts upon his life-process, his slow journey from the Many to the One. His nostalgia has been increased by a glimpse of the homeland. His intuitive apprehension of the Absolute, which assumes in ecstasy its most positive form, spurs him on towards that permanent union with the Divine which is his goal. “Such great graces,” says St. Teresa, “leave the soul avid of total possession of that Divine Bridegroom who has conferred them.” 

[Sidebar: Notice the use of the word "Grace". All the saints must have wondered, "Why me?"

Back to Underhill:]

"Hence the ecstatic states do not merely lift the self to an abnormal degree of knowledge: they enrich her life, contribute to the remaking of her consciousness, develop and uphold the “strong and stormy love which drives her home.” They give her the clearest vision she can have of that transcendent standard to which she must conform: entail her sharpest consciousness of the inflow of that Life on which her little striving life depends. Little wonder, then, that—though the violence of the onset may often try his body to the full—the mystic comes forth from a “good ecstasy” as Pascal from the experience of the Fire, humbled yet exultant, marvellously strengthened; and ready, not for any passive enjoyments, but rather for the struggles and hardships of the Way, the deliberate pain and sacrifice of love.

In the third Degree of Ardent Love, says Richard of St. Victor, love paralyses action. Union (copula) is the symbol of this state: ecstasy is its expression. The desirous soul, he says finely, no longer thirsts for God but into God. The pull of its desire draws it into the Infinite Sea. The mind is borne away into the abyss of Divine Light; and, wholly forgetful of exterior things, knows not even itself, but passes utterly into its God. In this state, all earthly desire is absorbed in the heavenly glory. “Whilst the mind is separated from itself, and whilst it is borne away into the secret place of the divine mystery and is surrounded on all sides by the fire of divine love, it is inwardly penetrated and inflamed by this fire, and utterly puts off itself and puts on a divine love: and being conformed to that Beauty which it has beheld, it passes utterly into that other glory.” 

Thus does the state of ecstasy contribute to the business of deification; of the remaking of the soul’s substance in conformity with the Goodness, Truth, and Beauty which is God, “Being conformed to that Beauty which it has beheld, it passes utterly into that other glory”; into the flaming heart of Reality, the deep but dazzling darkness of its home."

Thus concludes the reading of Chapter 8 of Mysticism, by Evelyn Underhill, [1911]. I hope this has been of interest. This review of the ecstasies of the saints has been inspiring to me, from a discipline point of view; plus, just a few weeks of contemplating ecstasy has brought me higher into the spiritual realms whose altitude I have always sought to attain.

Let us pray: Jesus, thank you for all the paths you have given us to find God. You are like the father who wrote to his estranged son, "Come back to me as far as you can, and I will come the rest of they way." Thank you Jesus. Amen.