Saturday, November 17, 2012

Friday, November 16, 2012 - Litany Lane Blog: Faith, Second John 1:4-9, Psalms 119, Luke 17:26-37, St Gertrude the Great, Christian Mysticism and Mystical Theology

Friday, November 16, 2012 - Litany Lane Blog:
Faith, Second John 1:4-9, Psalms 119, Luke 17:26-37, St Gertrude the Great, Christian Mysticism and Mystical Theology

Good Day Bloggers! 
Wishing everyone a Blessed Week!
Year of Faith - October 11, 2012 - November 24, 2013

P.U.S.H. (Pray Until Serenity Happens). It has a remarkable way of producing solace, peace, patience and tranquility and of course resolution...God's always available 24/7.

We are all human. We all experience birth, life and death. We all have flaws but we also all have the gift knowledge and free will as well, make the most of it. Life on earth is a stepping to our eternal home in Heaven. Its your choice whether to rise towards eternal light or lost to eternal darkness. Material items, though needed for sustenance and survival on earth are of earthly value only. The only thing that passes from this earth to Purgatory and/or Heaven is our Soul, our's God's perpetual gift to us...Embrace it, treasure it, nurture it, protect it...

"Raise not a hand to another unless it is to offer in peace and goodwill." ~ Zarya Parx 2012


November 02, 2012 Message From Our Lady of Medjugorje to World:

"Dear children, as a mother I implore you to persevere as my apostles. I am praying to my Son to give you Divine wisdom and strength. I am praying that you may discern everything around you according to God’s truth and to strongly resist everything that wants to distance you from my Son. I am praying that you may witness the love of the Heavenly Father according to my Son. My children, great grace has been given to you to be witnesses of God’s love. Do not take the given responsibility lightly. Do not sadden my motherly heart. As a mother I desire to rely on my children, on my apostles. Through fasting and prayer you are opening the way for me to pray to my Son for Him to be beside you and for His name to be holy through you. Pray for the shepherds because none of this would be possible without them. Thank you."

October 25, 2012 Message From Our Lady of Medjugorje to World:

"Dear children! Today I call you to pray for my intentions. Renew fasting and prayer because Satan is cunning and attracts many hearts to sin and perdition. I call you, little children, to holiness and to live in grace. Adore my Son so that He may fill you with His peace and love for which you yearn. Thank you for having responded to my call." ~ Blessed Virgin Mary

October 02, 2012 Message From Our Lady of Medjugorje to World:

"Dear children; I am calling you and am coming among you because I need you. I need apostles with a pure heart. I am praying, and you should also pray, that the Holy Spirit may enable and lead you, that He may illuminate you and fill you with love and humility. Pray that He may fill you with grace and mercy. Only then will you understand me, my children. Only then will you understand my pain because of those who have not come to know the love of God. Then you will be able to help me. You will be my light-bearers of God’s love. You will illuminate the way for those who have been given eyes but do not want to see. I desire for all of my children to see my Son. I desire for all of my children to experience His Kingdom. Again I call you and implore you to pray for those whom my Son has called. Thank you."
~ Blessed Virgin Mary


Today's Word:  Faith  faith  [feyth]

Origin:  1200–50; Middle English feith  < Anglo-French fed, Old French feid, feit  < Latin fidem,  accusative of fidēs  trust, akin to fīdere  to trust.   

1. confidence or trust in a person or thing: faith in another's ability.
2. belief that is not based on proof: He had faith that the hypothesis would be substantiated by fact.
3. belief in God or in the doctrines or teachings of religion: the firm faith of the Pilgrims.
4. belief in anything, as a code of ethics, standards of merit, etc.: to be of the same faith with someone concerning honesty.
5. a system of religious belief: the Christian faith; the Jewish faith.
6. the obligation of loyalty or fidelity to a person, promise, engagement, etc.: Failure to appear would be breaking faith.
7. the observance of this obligation; fidelity to one's promise, oath, allegiance, etc.: He was the only one who proved his faith during our recent troubles.
8. Christian Theology . the trust in God and in His promises as made through Christ and the Scriptures by which humans are justified or saved.


Today's Old Testament Reading -  Psalms 119

1 How blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the Law of Yahweh!
2 Blessed are those who observe his instructions, who seek him with all their hearts,
10 With all my heart I seek you, do not let me stray from your commandments.
11 In my heart I treasure your promises, to avoid sinning against you.
17 Be generous to your servant and I shall live, and shall keep your words.
18 Open my eyes and I shall fix my gaze on the wonders of your Law.


Today's Epistle -  Second John 1:4-9

4 It has given me great joy to find that children of yours have been living the life of truth as we were commanded by the Father.
5 And now I am asking you -- dear lady, not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but only the one which we have had from the beginning -- that we should love one another.
6 To love is to live according to his commandments: this is the commandment which you have heard since the beginning, to live a life of love.
7 There are many deceivers at large in the world, refusing to acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in human nature. They are the Deceiver; they are the Antichrist.
8 Watch yourselves, or all our work will be lost and you will forfeit your full reward.
9 If anybody does not remain in the teaching of Christ but goes beyond it, he does not have God with him: only those who remain in what he taught can have the Father and the Son with them.


Today's Gospel Reading - Luke 17:26-37

Jesus said to his disciples: 'As it was in Noah's day, so will it also be in the days of the Son of man. People were eating and drinking, marrying wives and husbands, right up to the day Noah went into the ark, and the Flood came and destroyed them all. It will be the same as it was in Lot's day: people were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but the day Lot left Sodom, it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and it destroyed them all. It will be the same when the day comes for the Son of man to be revealed. 'When that Day comes, no one on the housetop, with his possessions in the house, must come down to collect them, nor must anyone in the fields turn back. Remember Lot's wife. Anyone who tries to preserve his life will lose it; and anyone who loses it will keep it safe. I tell you, on that night, when two are in one bed, one will be taken, the other left; when two women are grinding corn together, one will be taken, the other left.' The disciples spoke up and asked, 'Where, Lord?' He said, 'Where the body is, there too will the vultures gather.'

• Today’s Gospel continues the reflection on the coming of the end of time and presents to us the words of Jesus about how to prepare ourselves for the coming of the Kingdom. This was an affair which produced much discussion at that time. God is the one who determines the hour of the coming of the end of time. But the time of God (kairós) is not measured according to the time of our clock (chronos). For God one day can be equal to one thousand years, and one thousand years equal to one day (Ps 90, 4; 2 P 3, ­8). The time of God goes by invisibly in our time, but independently of us and of our time. We cannot interfere in time, but we have to be prepared for the moment in which the hour of God becomes present in our time. It could be today, it could be in one thousand years. What gives us security is not to know the hour of the end of the world, but the certainty of the presence of the Words of Jesus present in our life. The world will pass, but the word of God will never pass (cf. Is 40, 7-8).

• Luke 17, 26-29: “As it was in the day of Noah and of Lot. Life goes by normally: eating, drinking, getting married, buying, selling, sowing, harvesting. Routine can include so much that we do not succeed to think about anything else. And the consumerism of the neo-liberal system contributes to increase in many of us that total lack of attention to the more profound dimensions of life. We allow the moths to enter into the beam of faith which holds up the more profound dimensions of life. When the storm destroys the house, many of us blame the carpenter: “It was badly made!” In reality, it crumbled down due to our continual lack of attention. The reference to the destruction of Sodom, as a figure of what will happen at the end of time, is a reference to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in the years 70’s AD (cf. Mk 13, 14).

• Luke 17, 30-32: So it will also be in the days of the Son of Man. “So it will be in the days when the Son of Man will reveal himself”. It is difficult for us to imagine the suffering and the trauma that the destruction of Jerusalem caused in the communities, both of the Jews and of the Christians. In order to help them to understand and to face this suffering Jesus uses a comparison taken from life: “When that Day comes, no one on the housetop, with his possessions in the house, must come down to collect them, nor must anyone in the fields turn back”. The destruction will take place so rapidly that it is not worth while to go down to look for something in the house (Mk 13, 15-16). “Remember Lot’s wife” (cf. Gn 19, 26), that is do not look back, do not lose time, decide and advance, go ahead: it is a question of life or death.

• Luke 17, 33: To lose one’s life in order to save it. “Anyone who tries to preserve his life will lose it, and anyone who loses it will keep it safe”. Only the person who has been capable of giving himself/herself completely to others will feel totally fulfilled in life. Anyone who preserves life for self alone loses it. This advice of Jesus is the confirmation of the most profound human experience: the source of life is found in the gift of life. In giving one receives. “In all truth I tell you: unless a wheat grain falls into the earth and dies, it remains only a single grain, but if it dies it yields a rich harvest”. (Jn 12, 24). The motivation which Mark’s Gospel adds is important: “for my sake and for the sake of the Gospel” (Mk 8, 35). Saying that no one is capable of preserving his life by his own efforts, Jesus recalls the Psalm in which it is said that nobody is capable of paying the price for the ransom of his life: “No one can redeem himself or pay his own ransom to God. The price for himself is too high, it can never be that he will live on for ever and avoid the sight of the abyss”. (Ps 49, 8-10).

• Luke 17, 34-36: Vigilance. “I tell you, on that night, when two are in one bed, one will be taken, the other left; when two women are grinding corn together one will be taken, the other left”. This recalls the parable of the ten Virgins. Five were prudent and five were foolish (Mt 25, 1-11). What is important is to be prepared. The words “One will be taken and the other left” recall the words of Paul to the Thessalonians (1Th 4, 13-17), when he says that with the coming of the Son of Man, we will be taken to Heaven at the side of Jesus. These words “left behind” furnished the title of a terrible and dangerous romance of the fundamentalist extreme right of the United States: “Left Behind! This is a romance which has nothing to do with the real sense of the words of Jesus.

• Luke 17, 37: Where and when? “The disciples asked: Where, Lord?” “And Jesus answered: Where the body is, there too will the vultures gather”. This is an enigmatic response. Some think that Jesus recalled the prophecy of Ezekiel, taken up in the Apocalypse, in which the prophet refers to the final victorious battle against the force of evil. The birds of prey or the vultures will be invited to eat the flesh of the bodies (Ez 39, 4. 17-20; Rv 19, 17-18). Others think that it is a question of the Valley of Jehoshaphat, where the final judgment will take place according to the prophecy of Joel (Ga 4, 2.12). Others think that it is simply a question of a popular proverb which meant more or less what our proverb says: “Where there is smoke, there is also fire!”

Personal questions
• Am I from the time of Noah or from the time of Lot?
• A Romance of the extreme right. How do I place myself before this political manipulation of the faith in Jesus?

Reference: Courtesy of Order of Carmelites,


Featured Item of the Day from Litany Lane


Saint of the Day:  Saint Gertrude the Great

Feast Day:  November 16
Patron Saint:  souls in purgatory, sinners

Gertrude the Great (or Saint Gertrude of Helfta) (Italian: Santa Gertrude) (January 6, 1256 – ca. 1302) was a German Benedictine, mystic, and theologian. She is recognized as a saint by the Roman Catholic Church, and is inscribed in the General Roman Calendar, for celebration throughout the Latin Rite on November 16.

Gertrude was born January 6, 1256, in Eisleben, Thuringia (within the Holy Roman Empire). Nothing is known of her parents, so she was probably an orphan. As a young girl, she joined the Benedictine monastery of St. Mary at Helfta, under the direction of its abbess, Gertrude of Hackeborn. She is sometimes confused with her abbess, which is why she is often incorrectly depicted in art holding a crosier. Some scholars refer to the monastery as Cistercian, since it was founded by seven sisters from the Cistercian community of Halberstadt. However, it could not have had this status officially since it was founded in 1229, the year after the Cistercian men decided they would sponsor no more convents. She dedicated herself to her studies, becoming an expert in literature and philosophy. She later experienced a conversion to God and began to strive for perfection in her religious life, turning her scholarly talents to scripture and theology. Gertrude produced numerous writings, but only the Herald of God's Loving-Kindness, partly written by other nuns and formerly known as her Life and Revelations, and the Spiritual Exercises remain today. She had various mystical experiences, including a vision of Jesus, who invited her to rest her head on his breast to hear the beating of his heart, and the piercing of her heart with divine love.

Gertrude died at Helfta, near Eisleben, Saxony, around 1302. Her feastday is celebrated on November 16, but the exact date of her death is unknown; the November date stems from a confusion with Abbess Gertrude of Hackeborn. Though Gertrude was never formally canonized, nevertheless she received equipotent canonization, and a universal feast day was declared in the year 1677 by Pope Clement XII.

Gertrude showed "tender sympathy towards the souls in purgatory" and urged prayers for them. She is therefore invoked for souls in purgatory. Perhaps for that reason, to her name has been attached a prayer that, according to a legend of uncertain origin and date, Christ promised to release a thousand souls from purgatory each time it was said. The prayer was extended to include living sinners as well.

Eternal Father, I offer Thee the most Precious Blood of Thy Divine Son, Jesus Christ, in union with the Masses said throughout the world today, for all the Holy Souls in Purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the Universal Church, for those in my own home and within my family. Amen.


    • This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "St. Albertus Magnus". Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company.
    • Attwater, Donald and Catherine Rachel John. The Penguin Dictionary of Saints. 3rd edition. New York: Penguin Books, 1993. ISBN 0-14-051312-4.
    • Collins, David J. "Albertus, Magnus or Magus?: Magic, Natural Philosophy, and Religious Reform in the Late Middle Ages." Renaissance Quarterly 63, no. 1 (2010): 1–44.
    • Miteva, Evelina. "The Soul between Body and Immortality: The 13th Century Debate on the Definition of the Human Rational Soul as Form and Substance", in: Philosophia: E-Journal of Philosophy and Culture, 1/2012. ISSN: 1314-5606
    • Wallace, William A. (1970). "Albertus Magnus, Saint". In Gillispie, Charles. Dictionary of Scientific Biography. 1. New York: Scribner & American Council of Learned Societies. pp. 99–103. ISBN 978-0-684-10114-9. 
    • Kennedy, D.J. (1913). "St. Albertus Magnus". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.


        Featured Items Panel from Litany Lane


        Today's  Snippet  I:   Christian Mysticism

        Christianity(from Ancient Greek: Χριστιανός Christianos and the Latin suffix -itas) is a monotheistic and Abrahamic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings. It also considers the Hebrew Bible, which is known as the Old Testament, to be canonical. Adherents of the Christian faith are known as Christians.

        The mainstream Christian belief is that Jesus is the Son of God, fully divine and fully human and the savior of humanity. Because of this, Christians commonly refer to Jesus as Christ or Messiah. Jesus' ministry, sacrificial death, and subsequent resurrection are often referred to as the Gospel, meaning "Good News" (from the Greek: εὐαγγέλιον euangélion). In short, the Gospel is news of God the Father's eternal victory over evil, and the promise of salvation and eternal life for all people, through divine grace.[6]

        Worldwide, the three largest groups of Christianity are the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, and the various denominations of Protestantism. The Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox patriarchates split from one another in the East–West Schism of 1054 AD, and Protestantism came into existence during the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century, splitting from the Roman Catholic Church.

        Christianity began as a Jewish sect in the mid-1st century. Originating in the Levant region of the Middle East (modern Israel and Palestine), it quickly spread to Syria, Mesopotamia, Asia Minor and Egypt. It grew in size and influence over a few decades, and by the end of the 4th century had become the official state church of the Roman Empire, replacing other forms of religion practiced under Roman rule. During the Middle Ages, most of the remainder of Europe was Christianized, with Christians also being a sometimes large religious minority in the Middle East, North Africa, Ethiopia and parts of India. Following the Age of Discovery, through missionary work and colonization, Christianity spread to the Americas, Australasia, sub-Saharan Africa, and the rest of the world.

        Christians believe that Jesus is the Messiah prophesied in the Hebrew Bible, referred to as the "Old Testament" in Christianity. The foundation of Christian theology is expressed in the early Christian ecumenical creeds which contain claims predominantly accepted by followers of the Christian faith. These professions state that Jesus suffered, died, was buried, and was resurrected from the dead in order to grant eternal life to those who believe in him and trust him for the remission of their sins (salvation). They further maintain that Jesus bodily ascended into heaven where he rules and reigns with God the Father. Most denominations teach that Jesus will return to judge all humans, living and dead, and grant eternal life to his followers. He is considered the model of a virtuous life, and both the revealer and physical incarnation of God.

        Christian mysticism

        Christian mysticism refers to the development of mystical practices and theory within Christianity. It has often been connected to mystical theology, especially in the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions. The attributes and means by which Christian mysticism is studied and practiced are varied and range from ecstatic visions of the soul's mystical union with God to simple prayerful contemplation of Holy Scripture (i.e., Lectio Divina). This article addresses the practice of the inner, spiritual life within the Christian tradition.


        As described by scholar Bernard McGinn, Christian mysticism would be "that part, or element, of Christian belief and practice that concerns the preparation for, the consciousness of, and the effect of [...] a direct and transformative presence of [the Christian] God". The idea of mystical realities has been widely held in Christianity since the second century AD, referring not simply to spiritual practices, but also to the belief that their rituals and even their scriptures have hidden ("mystical") meanings.

        McGinn raises several points about his choice of words: He argues that "presence" is more accurate than "union", since not all mystics spoke of union with God, and since many visions, miracles, etc., were not necessarily related to union. He also argues that we should speak of "consciousness" of God's presence, rather than of "experience", since mystical activity is not simply about the sensation of God as an external object, but more broadly about "new ways of knowing and loving based on states of awareness in which God becomes present in our inner acts". Related to this idea is his emphasis on the transformation that occurs through mystical activity: "This is why the only test that Christianity has known for determining the authenticity of a mystic and her or his message has been that of personal transformation, both on the mystic's part and—especially—on the part of those whom the mystic has affected."

        Another consideration to be made is that mystical experience is not simply a matter between the mystic and God, but is often shaped by cultural issues. For instance, Carolyn Walker Bynum has shown how, in the late Middle Ages, miracles attending the taking of the eucharist were not simply symbolic of the Passion story, but served as vindication of the mystics' theological orthodoxy by proving that the mystic had not fallen prey to heretical ideas, such as the Cathar rejection of the material world as evil, contrary to orthodox teaching that God took on human flesh and remained sinless. Thus, the nature of mystical experience could be tailored to the particular cultural and theological issues of the time.


        Christ's disciples have been considered by some to be the first Christian mystics. They were called disciples because, as with mystics of other religions (such as the stoics and sramanic traditions), they followed a discipline prescribed by their teacher—in this case Jesus himself. Jesus' disciples lived their lives in accordance with Jesus' doctrine of the Kingdom. This doctrine was explained in terms of parables and similes concerning the manner in which a human being should live their life in order to achieve spiritual perfection and inherit eternal life with God. Jesus referred to himself as the Way, the Truth and the Life,described himself as the bread of heaven and as the true vine (both of which suggest types of union with Christ), and, in his "farewell discourse", prayed that the disciples may be one with each other and with him just as he was one with the Father. Asked by a disciple how he would reveal himself to them and not to the world, Jesus answers: "If a man loves me, he will keep my Word, and my Father will love him, and We will come to him, and make our home with him." (Jn 14,23)" This describes a mystical way of life, not just a limited mystical experience. Other scriptural texts testify to mystical experiences, if not actual mystical union: the apostle Paul mentions the mystical experience of a person who was caught up into the Third Heaven, and John the Revelator describes a vision he had of the end times.

        In subsequent centuries, especially as Christian apologetics began to use Greek philosophy to explain Christian ideas, Neoplatonism became an influence on Christian mystical thought and practice via such authors as Augustine of Hippo and Origen.

        Jewish antecedents

        Jewish spirituality in the period before Jesus was highly corporate and public, based mostly on the worship services of the synagogues, which included the reading and interpretation of the Hebrew Scriptures and the recitation of prayers, and on the major festivals. Thus, private spirituality was strongly influenced by the liturgies and by the scriptures (e.g., the use of the Psalms for prayer), and individual prayers often recalled historical events just as much as they recalled their own immediate needs.

        Of special importance are the following concepts:
        • Da'at (knowledge) and Chokhmah (wisdom), which come from years of reading, praying and meditating the scriptures;
        • Shekhinah, the presence of God in our daily lives, the superiority of that presence to earthly wealth, and the pain and longing that come when God is absent;
        • the hiddenness of God, which comes from our inability to survive the full revelation of God's glory and which forces us to seek to know God through faith and obedience;
        • "Torah-mysticism", a view of God's laws as the central expression of God's will and therefore as worthy object not only of obedience but also of loving meditation and Torah study; and
        • poverty, an ascetic value, based on the apocalyptic expectation of God's impending arrival, that characterized the Jewish people's reaction to being oppressed by a series of foreign empires.

        In Christian mysticism, Shekhinah became mystery, Da'at became gnosis, and poverty became an important component of monasticism.  Philo of Alexandria was a Jewish Hellenistic philosopher who was important for connecting the Hebrew Scriptures to Greek thought, and thereby to Greek Christians, who struggled to understand their connection to Jewish history. In particular, Philo taught that allegorical interpretations of the Hebrew Scriptures provides access to the real meanings of the texts. Philo also taught the need to bring together the contemplative focus of the Stoics and Essenes with the active lives of virtue and community worship found in Platonism and the Therapeutae. Using terms reminiscent of the Platonists, Philo described the intellectual component of faith as a sort of spiritual ecstasy in which our nous (mind) is suspended and God's Spirit takes its place. Philo's ideas influenced the Alexandrian Christians, Clement and Origen and through them, Gregory of Nyssa.

        Jesus and the Apostles

        The Christian scriptures, insofar as they are the founding narrative of the Christian church, provide many key stories and concepts that become important for Christian mystics in all later generations: practices such as the Eucharist, baptism and the Lord's Prayer all become activities that take on importance for both their ritual and symbolic values. Other scriptural narratives present scenes that become the focus of meditation: the Crucifixion of Jesus and his appearances after his Resurrection are two of the most central to Christian theology; but Jesus' conception, in which the Holy Spirit overshadows Mary, and his Transfiguration, in which he is briefly revealed in his heavenly glory, also become important images for meditation. Moreover, many of the Christian texts build off of Jewish spiritual foundations, such as chokhmah, shekhinah.

        But different writers present different images and ideas. The Synoptic Gospels (in spite of their many differences) introduce several important ideas, two of which are related to Greco-Judaic notions of knowledge/gnosis by virtue of being mental acts: purity of heart, in which we will to see in God's light; and repentance, which involves allowing God to judge and then transform us. Another key idea presented by the Synoptics is the desert, which is used as a metaphor for the place where we meet God in the poverty of our spirit.

        The Gospel of John focuses on God's glory in his use of light imagery and in his presentation of the Cross as a moment of exaltation; he also sees the Cross as the example of agape love, a love which is not so much an emotion as a willingness to serve and care for others. But in stressing love, John shifts the goal of spiritual growth away from knowledge/gnosis, which he presents more in terms of Stoic ideas about the role of reason as being the underlying principle of the universe and as the spiritual principle within all people. Although John does not follow up on the Stoic notion that this principle makes union with the divine possible for humanity, it is an idea that later Christian writers develop. Later generations will also shift back and forth between whether to follow the Synoptics in stressing knowledge or John in stressing love.

        In his letters, Paul also focuses on mental activities, but not in the same way as the Synoptics, which equate renewing the mind with repentance. Instead, Paul sees the renewal of our minds as happening as we contemplate what Jesus did on the Cross, which then opens us to grace and to the movement of the Holy Spirit into our hearts. Like John, Paul is less interested in knowledge, preferring to emphasize the hiddenness, the "mystery" of God's plan as revealed through Christ. But Paul's discussion of the Cross differs from John's in being less about how it reveals God's glory and more about how it becomes the stumbling block that turns our minds back to God. Paul also describes the Christian life as that of an athlete, demanding practice and training for the sake of the prize; later writers will see in this image a call to ascetical practices.

        Eastern Christianity

        Inspired by Christ's teaching and example men and women withdrew from life in the Mediterranean cities and withdrew to the deserts of Sketes where either as solitary individuals or communities lived lives of austere simplicity oriented towards contemplative prayer. These communities formed the basis for what later would become known as Christian monasticism. Mysticism is integral to Christian monasticism because the goal of practice for the monastic is union with God. Eastern Christianity has especially preserved a mystical emphasis in its theology and retains a tradition of mystical prayer dating back to Christianity's beginnings.


        The practice of Lectio Divina, a form of prayer that centers on scripture reading, was developed in its best-known form in the sixth century, through the work of Benedict of Nursia and Pope Gregory I, and described and promoted more widely in the 12th century by Guigo II. The 9th century saw the development of mystical theology through the introduction of the works of sixth-century theologian Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, such as On Mystical Theology. His discussion of the via negativa was especially influential.

        Early church

        The texts attributed to the Apostolic Fathers, the earliest post-Biblical texts we have, share several key themes, particularly the call to unity in the face of persecution and internal divisions, the reality of the charisms, especially prophecy, visions and Christian gnosis, which is understood as "a gift of the Holy Spirit that enables us to know Christ" through meditating on the scriptures and on the Cross of Christ. (This understanding of gnosis is not the same as that developed by the Gnostics, who focused on esoteric knowledge that is available only to a few people but that allows them to free themselves from the evil world.) These authors also discuss the notion of the "two ways", that is, the way of life and the way of death; this idea has biblical roots, being found in both the Sermon on the Mount and the Torah. The two ways are then related to the notion of purity of heart, which is developed by contrasting it against the divided or duplicitous heart and by linking it to the need for asceticism, which keeps the heart whole/pure. Purity of heart was especially important given the real threat of martyrdom, which many writers discussed in theological terms, seeing it not as an evil but as an opportunity to truly die for the sake of God—the ultimate example of ascetic practice. Martyrdom could also be seen as symbolic in its connections with the Eucharist and with baptism.

        The Alexandrian contribution to Christian mysticism centers around Origen and Clement of Alexandria. Clement was an early Christian humanist who argued that reason is the most important aspect of human existence and that gnosis (not something we can attain by ourselves, but the gift of Christ) helps us find the spiritual realities that are hidden behind the natural world and within the scriptures. Given the importance of reason, Clement stresses apatheia as a reasonable ordering of our passions in order to live within God's love, which is seen as a form of truth. Origen, who had a lasting influence on Eastern Christian thought, further develops the idea that the spiritual realities can be found through allegorical readings of the scriptures (along the lines of Jewish aggadah tradition), but he focuses his attention on the Cross and on the importance of imitating Christ through the Cross, especially through spiritual combat and asceticism. Origen stresses the importance of combining intellect and virtue (theoria and praxis) in our spiritual exercises, drawing on the image of Moses and Aaron leading the Israelites through the wilderness, and he describes our union with God as the marriage of our souls with Christ the Logos, using the wedding imagery from the Song of Songs. Alexandrian mysticism developed alongside Hermeticism and Neoplatonism and therefore share some of the same ideas, images, etc. in spite of their differences.

        The Eastern church then saw the development of monasticism and the mystical contributions of Gregory of Nyssa, Evagrius Ponticus and Pseudo-Dionysius. Monasticism, also known as anchoritism (meaning "to withdraw") was seen as an alternative to martyrdom, and was less about escaping the world than about fighting demons (who were thought to live in the desert) and about gaining liberation from our bodily passions in order to be open to the Word of God. Anchorites practiced continuous meditation on the scriptures as a means of climbing the ladder of perfection—a common religious image in the Mediterranean world and one found in Christianity through the story of Jacob's ladder—and sought to fend off the demon of acedia ("un-caring"), a boredom or apathy that prevents us from continuing on in our spiritual training. Anchorites could live in total solitude ("hermits", from the word erēmitēs, "of the desert") or in loose communities ("cenobites", meaning "common life").

        Monasticism eventually made its way to the West and was established by the work of John Cassian and Benedict of Nursia. Meanwhile, Western spiritual writing was deeply influenced by the works of such men as Jerome and Augustine of Hippo.

        Middle ages

        The Early Middle Ages in the West includes the work of Gregory the Great and Bede, as well as developments in Celtic Christianity and Anglo-Saxon Christianity, and comes to fulfillment in the work of Johannes Scotus Eriugena and the Carolingian Renaissance.

        The High Middle Ages saw a flourishing of mystical practice and theorization corresponding to the flourishing of new monastic orders, with such figures as Guigo II, Hildegard of Bingen, Bernard of Clairvaux, the Victorines, and Bonaventure, all coming from different orders, as well as the first real flowering of popular piety among the laypeople.

        The Late Middle Ages saw the growth of groups of mystics centered around geographic regions: the Beguines, such as Mechthild of Magdeburg and Hadewijch (among others); the Rhineland mystics Meister Eckhart, Johannes Tauler and Henry Suso; and the English mystics Richard Rolle, Walter Hilton and Julian of Norwich. This period also saw such individuals as John of Ruysbroeck, Catherine of Siena and Catherine of Genoa, the Devotio Moderna, and such books as the Theologia Germanica, The Cloud of Unknowing and The Imitation of Christ.


        With the Renaissance came the Protestant Reformation, which in many ways downplayed mysticism, although it still produced a fair amount of spiritual literature. Even the most active reformers can be linked to Medieval mystical traditions. Martin Luther, for instance, was a monk who was influenced by the German Dominican mystical tradition of Eckhart and Tauler as well by the Dionysian-influenced Wesonmystik ("essence mysticism") tradition. He also published the Theologia Germanica, which he claimed was the most important book after the Bible and Augustine for teaching him about God, Christ, and humanity. Even John Calvin, who rejected many Medieval ascetic practices and who favored doctrinal knowledge of God over affective experience, has Medieval influences, namely, Jean Gerson and the Devotio moderna, with its emphasis on piety as the method of spiritual growth in which the individual practices dependence on God by imitating Christ and the son-father relationship. Meanwhile, his notion that we can begin to enjoy our eternal salvation through our earthly successes leads in later generations to "a mysticism of consolation".

        But the Reformation brought about the Counter-Reformation and, with it, a new flowering of mystical literature, often grouped by nationality:

        • The Spanish had Ignatius Loyola, whose Spiritual Exercises were designed to open people to a receptive mode of consciousness in which they can experience God through careful spiritual direction and through understanding how the mind connects to the will and how to weather the experiences of spiritual consolation and desolation; Teresa of Avila, who used the metaphors of watering a garden and walking through the rooms of a castle to explain how meditation leads to union with God; and John of the Cross, who used a wide range of biblical and spiritual influences both to rewrite the traditional "three ways" of mysticism after the manner of bridal mysticism and to present the two "dark nights": the dark night of the senses and the dark night of the soul, during which the individual renounces everything that might become an obstacle between the soul and God and then experiences the pain of feeling separated from God, unable to carry on normal spiritual exercises, as it encounters the enormous gap between its human nature and God's divine wisdom and light and moves up the 10-step ladder of ascent towards God. Another prominent mystic was Miguel de Molinos, the chief apostle of the religious revival known as Quietism. No breath of suspicion arose against Molinos until 1681, when the Jesuit preacher Paolo Segneri, attacked his views, though without mentioning his name, in his Concordia tra la fatica e la quiete nell' orazione. The matter was referred to the Inquisition. A report got abroad that Molinos had been convicted of moral enormities, as well as of heretical doctrines; and it was seen that he was doomed. On September 3, 1687 he made public profession of his errors, and was sentenced to imprisonment for life. Contemporary Protestants saw in the fate of Molinos nothing more than a persecution by the Jesuits of a wise and enlightened man, who had dared to withstand the petty ceremonialism of the Italian piety of the day. Molinos died in prison in 1696 or 1697.
        • The Italians had Lorenzo Scupoli;
        • The French had Francis de Sales, Jeanne Guyon, François Fénelon, Brother Lawrence and Blaise Pascal.
        Meanwhile, the English had a denominational mix, from Catholic Augustine Baker to Anglicans William Law, John Donne and Lancelot Andrewes, to Puritans Richard Baxter and John Bunyan (The Pilgrim's Progress), to the first "Quaker", George Fox and the first "Methodist", John Wesley, who was well-versed in the continental mystics.

        Similarly well-versed in the mystic tradition was the German Johann Arndt, who, along with the English Puritans, influenced such continental Pietists as Philipp Jakob Spener, Gottfried Arnold, Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf of the Moravians, and the hymnodist Gerhard Tersteegen. Arndt, whose book True Christianity was popular among Protestants, Catholics and Anglicans alike, combined influences from Bernard of Clarivaux, John Tauler and the Devotio moderna into a spirituality that focused its attention away from the theological squabbles of contemporary Lutheranism and onto the development of the new life in the heart and mind of the believer. Arndt influenced Spener, who formed a group known as the collegia pietatis ("college of piety") that stressed the role of spiritual direction among lay-people—a practice with a long tradition going back to Aelred of Rievaulx and known in Spener's own time from the work of Francis de Sales. Pietism as known through Spener's formation of it tended not just to reject the theological debates of the time, but to reject both intellectualism and organized religious practice in favor of a personalized, sentimentalized spirituality.

        This sentimental, anti-intellectual form of pietism is seen in the thought and teaching of Zinzendorf, founder of the Moravians; but more intellectually rigorous forms of pietism are seen in the teachings of John Wesley, which were themselves influenced by Zinzendorf, and in the teachings of American preachers Jonathan Edwards, who restored to pietism Gerson's focus on obedience and borrowed from early church teachers Origen and Gregory of Nyssa the notion that humans yearn for God, and John Woolman, who combined a mystical view of the world with a deep concern for social issues; like Wesley, Woolman was influenced by Jakob Boehme, William Law and The Imitation of Christ. The combination of pietistic devotion and mystical experiences that are found in Woolman and Wesley are also found in their Dutch contemporary Tersteegen, who brings back the notion of the nous ("mind") as the site of God's interaction with our souls; through the work of the Spirit, our mind is able to intuitively recognize the immediate presence of God in our midst.


        Historically, Christian mysticism has taught that for Christians the major emphasis of mysticism concerns a spiritual transformation of the egoic self, the following of a path designed to produce more fully realized human persons, "created in the Image and Likeness of God" and as such, living in harmonious communion with God, the Church, the rest of world, and all creation, including oneself. For Christians, this human potential is realized most perfectly in Jesus, precisely because he is both God and human, and is manifested in others through their association with him, whether conscious, as in the case of Christian mystics, or unconscious, with regard to spiritual persons who follow other traditions, such as Gandhi. The Eastern Christian tradition speaks of this transformation in terms of theosis or divinization, perhaps best summed up by an ancient aphorism usually attributed to Athanasius of Alexandria: "God became human so that man might become god."

        Threefold path

        Going back to Evagrius Ponticus, Christian mystics have been described as pursuing a threefold path corresponding to body, mind, and soul (or spirit). The three aspects later became purgative, illuminative, and unitive in the western churches and prayer of the lips, the mind, the heart in the eastern churches. The first, purification is where aspiring traditionally Christian mystics start. This aspect focuses on discipline, particularly in terms of the human body; thus, it emphasizes prayer at certain times, either alone or with others, and in certain postures, often standing or kneeling. It also emphasizes the other disciplines of fasting and alms-giving, the latter including those activities called "the works of mercy," both spiritual and corporal, such as feeding the hungry and sheltering the homeless.

        Purification, which grounds Christian spirituality in general, is primarily focused on efforts to, in the words of St. Paul, "put to death the deeds of the flesh by the Holy Spirit" (Romans 8:13). This is considered a result of the Spirit working in the person and is not a result of personal deeds. Also in the words of St. Paul, "...he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." (Epistle to the Philippians 1:6). The "deeds of the flesh" here include not only external behavior, but also those habits, attitudes, compulsions, addictions, etc. (sometimes called egoic passions) which oppose themselves to true being and living as a Christian not only exteriorly, but interiorly as well. Evelyn Underhill describes purification as an awareness of one's own imperfections and finiteness, followed by self-discipline and mortification. Because of its physical, disciplinary aspect, this phase, as well as the entire Christian spiritual path, is often referred to as "ascetic," a term which is derived from a Greek word which connotes athletic training. Because of this, in ancient Christian literature, prominent mystics are often called "spiritual athletes," an image which is also used several times in the New Testament to describe the Christian life. What is sought here is salvation in the original sense of the word, referring not only to one's eternal fate, but also to healing in all areas of life, including the restoration of spiritual, psychological, and physical health.

        It remains a paradox of the mystics that the passivity at which they appear to aim is really a state of the most intense activity: more, that where it is wholly absent no great creative action can take place. In it, the superficial self compels itself to be still, in order that it may liberate another more deep-seated power which is, in the ecstasy of the contemplative genius, raised to the highest pitch of efficiency.
        The second phase, the path of illumination, has to do with the activity of the Holy Spirit enlightening the mind, giving insights into truths not only explicit in scripture and the rest of the Christian tradition, but also those implicit in nature, not in the scientific sense, but rather in terms of an illumination of the "depth" aspects of reality and natural happenings, such that the working of God is perceived in all that one experiences. Underhill describes it as marked by a consciousness of a transcendent order and a vision of a new heaven and a new earth.

        The third phase, usually called contemplation (or Mystical Contemplative Prayer ) in the Western tradition, refers to the experience of oneself as in some way united with God. The experience of union varies, but it is first and foremost always associated with a reuniting with Divine love, the underlying theme being that God, the perfect goodness, is known or experienced at least as much by the heart as by the intellect since, in the words 1 John 4:16: "God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God and God in him." Some approaches to classical mysticism would consider the first two phases as preparatory to the third, explicitly mystical experience, but others state that these three phases overlap and intertwine.

        Mystical Contemplative Prayer is the blessing for which the Christian mystic hopes. No human effort can produce it. This form of prayer has three characteristics. (a)It is infused (i.e. filled with enthusiasm or desire.) (b) It is extraordinary (i.e. indicating that the intellect operates in new way). (c) Moreover, It is passive (i.e. showing that the soul receives something from God, and is conscious of receiving it.) It can manifest itself in one of four degrees. The four degrees are the prayer of quiet, the prayer of union, ecstatic union, and transforming deifying union.

        Underhill's five-stage path

        Author and mystic Evelyn Underhill recognizes two additional phases to the mystical path. First comes the awakening, the stage in which one begins to have some consciousness of absolute or divine reality. Purgation and illumination are followed by a fourth stage which Underhill, borrowing the language of St. John of the Cross, calls the dark night of the soul. This stage, experienced by the few, is one of final and complete purification and is marked by confusion, helplessness, stagnation of the will, and a sense of the withdrawal of God's presence. This dark night of the soul is not, in Underhill's conception, the Divine Darkness of the pseudo-Dionysius and German Christian mysticism. It is the period of final "unselfing" and the surrender to the hidden purposes of the divine will. Her fifth and final stage is union with the object of love, the one Reality, God. Here the self has been permanently established on a transcendental level and liberated for a new purpose.


        Another aspect of traditional Christian spirituality, or mysticism, has to do with its communal basis. Even for hermits, the Christian life is always lived in communion with the Church, the community of believers. Thus, participation in corporate worship, especially the Eucharist, is an essential part of Christian mysticism. Connected with this is the practice of having a spiritual director, confessor, or "soul friend" with which to discuss one's spiritual progress. This person, who may be clerical or lay, acts as a spiritual mentor.

        Types of meditation

        Within theistic mysticism two broad tendencies can be identified. One is a tendency to understand God by asserting what He is not and the other by asserting what He is. The former leads to what is called apophatic theology and the latter to cataphatic theology.
        1. Apophatic (imageless, stillness, and wordlessness) -- e.g., The Cloud of the Unknowing, Meister Eckhart; and
        2. Cataphatic (imaging God, imagination or words) -- e.g.,The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, Dame Julian, Francis of Assisi, This second type is considered by Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite
        Scholars such as Urban T. Holmes, III have also categorized mystical theology in terms of whether it focuses on illuminating the mind, which Holmes refers to as speculative practice, or the heart/emotions, which he calls affective practice. Combining the speculative/affective scale with the apophatic/cataphatic scale allows for a range of categories:
        • Rationalism = Cataphatic and speculative
        • Pietism = Cataphatic and affective
        • Encratism = Apophatic and speculative
        • Quietism = Apophatic and affective

        Ascetic practices

        Many mystics, following the model of Paul's metaphor of the athlete, as well as the story of the disciples sleeping while Jesus prayed, disciplined their bodies through activities ranging from fasting and sleep-deprivation to more extreme forms, such as self-flagellation.

        Sensory experiences

        Many mystics experience visions. But other sensory experiences are common as well. For instance, Richard Rolle heard heavenly music and felt a fire in his chest.


        Religious ecstasy is common for many mystics, such as Teresa of Avila, whose experience was immortalized in the sculpture Ecstasy of Saint Teresa by Bernini.

        Physical transformations

        One of the most familiar examples of mystical physical transformation is the appearance of stigmata on the body of the mystic, such as those received by Francis of Assisi. But other transformations are possible, such as the odour of sanctity that accompanies the body of the deceased mystic, such as Teresa of Avila and Therese of Liseaux.


        Some mystics are said to have been able to perform miracles. But for many mystics, the miracles occurred to them. In the Middle Ages, one common form of mystical miracle, especially for women, was the Eucharistic miracle, such as being able to eat nothing other than the communion host. Catherine of Genoa was an example of someone who experienced this type of miracle.

        Influential Christian mystics and texts

        Biblical influences

        Genesis 15 begins, "After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision:" but even the reference to Adam and Eve walking with God in the Garden of Eden is subject to an interpretation which includes the mystical encounter between flesh and blood and God: between God and his spoken word, between God and His wisdom, teachings, Self-revelation, and of His relation to us as His creatures.

        Numbers 12:6 includes the Lord speaking from a pillar of fire which had come down, "And he said, 'Hear my words: If there is a prophet among you, I the LORD make myself known to him in a vision; I speak with him in a dream.'" The Lord then goes on to state that with Moses, He speaks mouth to mouth, not in figures as with others who are present. This with many other examples expresses the various means by which God may be encountered by His creatures—not as an overwhelming union of absorption, but in a relationship which preserves the identity of each, while focusing upon the intimacy possible.

        The Christian mystical practices are rooted in the experiences of the Jewish patriarchs, prophets and other encounters found in the Jewish Canon of Scripture: Visions, dreams, angelic messengers, divine inspiration, miraculous events, and wisdom all are of the more profound examples. Just as Old Testament prophets seem rooted in a direct consciousness of the Divine Presence (e.g. Ezekiel), the less profound such as are to be found in several psalms (e.g. Psalm 73:23-26), none-the-less, suggest a similar mystical awareness.

        New Testament

        • 2 Peter 1:4 says that God enables Christians to be "partakers of the divine nature."
        • John 17:21 records Jesus' prayer for his followers during the last supper: "You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; [I pray] that they also may be one in Us."
        • The mystical experience of the apostles, Peter, John, and James, at the Transfiguration of Jesus, is confirmed in each of the Synoptic Gospels. See, e.g., Mark 9:2-8. Jesus led the three to the top of Mount Tabor. Before the eye of the disciples, he was transformed. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became brilliant white. Elijah and Moses appeared to them. Then “A cloud came, overshadowing them and a voice came out of the cloud, and said “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.""
        • In II Corinthians 12:2-6, St. Paul refers to what tradition says was his own mystical experience, when he speaks of a man who was "caught up to the third heaven."
        • In Galatians 2:20, Paul says "It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me."
        • In Ephesians 4:6, Paul writes "[There is] one God and Father of all who is above all and through all and in all.
        • 1 John 4:16: "He who abides in love abides in God, and God in him."
        • 1 Corinthians 6:19: "Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?"
        • 2 Timothy 1:14: "Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us."

        Greek influences

        The influences of Greek thought are apparent in the earliest Christian mystics and their writings. Plato (428–348 BCE) is considered the most important of ancient philosophers and his philosophical system provides the basis of most later mystical forms. Plotinus (c. 205 – 270 CE) provided the non-Christian, neo-Platonic basis for much Christian, and Jewish mysticism.

        Early Christians

        • Justin Martyr (c. 105-c. 165) used Greek philosophy as the stepping-stone to Christian theology. The mystical conclusions that some Greeks arrived at, pointed to Christ. He was Influenced by: Pythagoras, Plato, Plotinus, Aristotle as well as Stoicism.
        • Origen (c. 185 – 254): On Principles, Against Celsus. Studied under Clement of Alexandria, and probably also Ammonius Saccus (Plotinus' teacher). He Christianized and theologized neo-Platonism.
        • Athanasius - The Life of Antony (c. 360)
        • Gregory of Nyssa (c. 335 – after 394): Focused on the stages of spiritual growth, the need for constant progress, and the "divine darkness" as seen in the story of Moses.
        • Augustine (354–430): De Trinitate, Confessions. Important source for much mediaeval mysticism. He brings Platonism and Christianity together. Influenced by: Plato and Plotinus.
        • Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite (c. 500) - Mystical Theology

        Middle Ages and Renaissance

        • John Scotus Eriugena (c. 810 – c. 877): Periphyseon. Eriugena translated Pseudo-Dionysius from Greek into Latin. Influenced by: Plotinus, Augustine, Pseudo-Dionysius.
        • Bernard of Clairvaux (1090–1153): Cistercian theologian, author of The Steps of Humility and Pride, On Loving God, and Sermons on the Song of Songs; strong blend of scripture and personal experience.
        • Hildegard of Bingen (1098–1179): Benedictine and missionary, known for her visions, recorded in such works as Scivias (Know the Ways). Influenced by: Bernard of Clairvaux.
        • Victorines: fl. 11th century; stressed meditation and contemplation; helped popularize Pseudo-Dionysius; influenced by Augustine
          • Hugh of Saint Victor (d.1141): The Mysteries of the Christian Faith, Noah's Mystical Ark, etc.
          • Richard of Saint Victor (d.1173): The Twelve Patriarchs and The Mystical Ark (e.g. Benjamin Minor and Benjamin Major). Influenced Dante, Bonaventure, Cloud of Unknowing.
        • Franciscans:
          • Francis of Assisi (c.1182-1226): founder of the order, stressed simplicity and penitence; first documented case of stigmata
          • Bonaventure (c.1217-1274): The Soul's Journey into God, The Triple Way, The Tree of Life and others. Influenced by: Pseudo-Dionysius, Augustine, Bernard, Victorines.
          • Angela of Foligno (c.1248-1309): tertiary anchoress; focused on Christ's Passion; Memorial and Instructions.
        • Beguines (fl. 13th century):
          • Mechthild of Magdeburg (c.1212-c.1297): visions, bridal mysticism, reformist; The Flowing Light of the Godhead
          • Hadewijch of Antwerp (13th century): visions, bridal mysticism, essence mysticism; writings are mostly letters and poems. Influenced John of Ruysbroeck.
        • Rhineland mystics (fl. 14th century): sharp move towards speculation and apophasis; mostly Dominicans
          • Meister Eckhart (1260-1327): sermons
          • Johannes Tauler (d.1361): sermons
          • Henry Suso (c1295-1366): Life of the Servant, Little Book of Eternal Wisdom
          • Theologia Germanica (anon.): Influenced: Martin Luther
        • John of Ruysbroeck (1293–1381): Flemish, Augustinian; The Spiritual Espousals and many others. Similar themes as the Rhineland Mystics. Influenced by: Beguines, Cistercians. Influenced: Geert Groote and the Devotio Moderna.
        • Catherine of Siena (1347-1380) - Letters
        • The English Mystics (fl. 14th century):
          • Anonymous - The Cloud of the Unknowing (c. 1375) -- Intended by ascetic author as a means of instruction in the practice of mystic and contemplative prayer.
          • Richard Rolle (c.1300-1349): The Fire of Love, Mending of Life, Meditations on the Passion
          • Walter Hilton (c. 1340-1396) - The Ladder of Perfection (a.k.a., The Scale of Perfection) -- suggesting familiarity with the works of Pseudo-Dionysius (see above), the author provides an early English language seminal work for the beginner.
          • Julian of Norwich (1342- c. 1416) - Revelations of Divine Love (a.k.a. Showing of Love)

        Renaissance, Reformation and Counter Reformation

        • Ignatius of Loyola (1491–1556): St. Ignatius had a number of mystical experiences in his life, the most significant was an experience of enlightenment by the river Cardoner, in which, he later stated, he learnt more in that one occasion than he did in the rest of his life. Another significant mystical experience was in 1537, at a chapel in La Storta, outside Rome, in which he saw God the Father place him with the Son, who was carrying the Cross. This was after he had spent a year praying to Mary for her to place him with her Son (Jesus), and was one of the reasons why he insisted that the group that followed his 'way of proceeding' be called the Society of Jesus.
        • Teresa of Avila (1515–1582): Two of her works, The Interior Castle and The Way of Perfection were intended as instruction in (profoundly mystic) prayer based upon her experiences. Influenced by: Augustine.
        • St. John of the Cross (Juan de Yepes) (1542–1591): Wrote three related instructional works with The Ascent of Mount Carmel as a systematic approach to mystic prayer, together with The Spiritual Canticle, and The Dark Night of the Soul these provided poetic and literary language for the Christian Mystical practice and experience. Influenced by and collaborated with: Teresa of Avila.

        Modern era

        • Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich (1774-1824): Augustinian nun,mystic.
        • Sister Marie of St Peter (1816-1848): a Carmelite nun, mystic.
        • Saint Bernadette Soubirous (1844-1879): Lourdes visionary.
        • Venerable Marie Martha Chambon(1841-1907): Roman Catholic nun, mystic.
        • Saint Gemma Galgani (1878-1903), Mystic, stigmatic.
        • Saint Padre Pio of Pietrelcina (1887-1968): Franciscan priest, mystic,stigmatic.
        • Saint Faustina Kowalska (1905-1938): Roman Catholic nun, mystic, visionary.
        • Blessed Sister Maria Pierina De Micheli (1890-1945): Roman Catholic nun, mystic, visionary.
        • Maria Valtorta (1897-1961):  Roman Catholic Italian writer and poet, mystic.
        • Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta (1910-1997): Roman Catholic nun, locution.
        • Sister Agnes Katsuko Sasagawa (1930-): Roman Catholic nun,mystic,stigmatic.

        Mystical theology

        Mystical theology is a branch of theology which focuses on experiences or states of the soul which are experienced mystically and cannot be produced by human effort.

        Catholic tradition

        In Roman Catholic teaching, such states do not come about even with the ordinary aid of divine grace. Mystical theology, then, comprises among its subjects all extraordinary forms of prayer, the higher forms of contemplation in all their varieties or gradations, private revelations, visions, and the union growing out of these between God and the soul, known as the mystical union. As the science of all that is extraordinary in the relations between the Divinity and the human spirit, mystical theology is the complement of ascetical theology, which treats of Christian perfection and of its acquisition by the practice of virtue, particularly by the observance of the counsels.

        What strictly comes within the province of mystical theology is the study of the processes of active and passive purification through which a soul must pass to reach the mystical union. Although the active processes are also treated to some extent in ascetical theology, they require special study inasmuch as they lead to contemplation. They comprise: purity of conscience, or aversion even to the slightest sin; purity of heart, the heart being taken as the symbol of the affections, which to be pure must be free of attachments to anything that does not lead to God; purity of the spirit, i. e. of the imagination and memory; and purity of action. It is to these processes that the well-known term "night" is applied by Discalced Carmelite reformer St. John of the Cross, since they imply three things which are as night to the soul in so far as they are beyond or contrary to its own lights, viz., the privation of pleasure, faith as substituted for human knowledge, and God as incomprehensible, or darkness, to the unaided soul. Passive purifications are the trials encountered by souls in preparation for contemplation, known as desolation, or dryness, and weariness. As they proceed sometimes from God and sometimes may be produced by the Evil Spirit, rules for the discernment of spirits are set down to enable directors to determine their source and to apply proper means of relief, especially should it happen that the action of the Evil One tends to possession or obsession.

        These passive purifications affect the soul when every other object of contemplation is withdrawn from it, except its own sins, defects, frailties, which are revealed to it in all their enormity. They put the soul in the "obscure night", as St. John of the Cross calls it, or in the "great desolation", to use the phrase of Father Baker. In this state the soul experiences many trials and temptations, even to infidelity and despair, all of which are expressed in the peculiar terminology of writers on mystical theology, as well as the fruits derived from resisting them. Chief among these fruits is the purification of love, until the soul is so inflamed with love of God that it feels as if wounded and languishes with the desire to love Him still more intensely. The first difficulty mystical writers encounter in their treatises on contemplation is the proper terminology for its degrees, or the classification of the experiences of the soul as it advances in the mystical union with God effected by this extraordinary form of prayer. Ribet in "La Mystique Divine" has a chapter (x) on this subject, and the present writer treats it in chapter xxix of his "Grace of Interior Prayer" (tr. of the sixth edition). Giovanni Battista Scaramelli follows this order: the prayer of recollection; the prayer of spiritual silence; the prayer of quiet; the inebriation of love; the spiritual sleep; the anguish of love; the mystical union of love, and its degrees from simple to perfect union and spiritual marriage. In this union the soul experiences various spiritual impressions, which mystical writers try to describe in the terminology used to describe sense impressions, as if the soul could see, hear, touch, or enjoy the savour or odour of the Divinity. Ecstatic union with God is a further degree of prayer. This and the state of rapture require careful observation to be sure that the Evil One has no share in them. Here again mystical writers treat at length the deceits, snares, and other arts practised by the Evil One to lead souls astray in the quest for the mystical union. Finally, contemplation leads to a union so intimate and so strong that it can be expressed only by the terms "spiritual marriage". The article on contemplation describes the characteristics of the mystical union effected by contemplation. No treatise of mystical theology is complete without chapters on miracles, prophecies, revelations, visions, all of which have been treated under their respective headings.

        Major Contributors

        As for the history or development of mysticism, it is as difficult to record as a history of the experiences of the human soul. The most that can be done is to follow its literature, mindful that the most extraordinary mystical experiences defy expression in human speech, and that God, the Author of mystical states, acts upon souls when and as He wills, so that there can be no question of what we could consider a logical or chronological development of mysticism as a science. Still, it is possible to review what mystical writers have said at certain periods, and especially what the Carmelite saint, Teresa of Avila, did to treat for the first time mystical phenomena as a science. Before her, mystics were concerned principally with ecstasies, visions, and revelations; she was the first to attempt a scientific analysis of the process of mystical union brought about by contemplation. As the contribution to the science and history of mystical theology by each of the writers in the following list has been sufficiently noted in the articles on them, it will suffice here to mention the titles of some of their characteristic works.

        De Theologia Mystica is a treatise of Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, the 5th century mystic and theologian, discussing the transcendent nature of God. The writings of Dionysius the Pseudo-Areopagite did not reach the West until about 824, when they were sent to Louis the Pious by Michael the Stammerer, Emperor of Constantinople: "Opera" and translated into Latin by Johannes Scotus Eriugena (c. 815 – c. 877).

        A number of later works on the topic have the same title:
        • Hugh of Balma (d. 1305): Theologia mystica, De triplici via, Theologia mystica sive trivium sacrum, ed. A. Fr. De Monte (Abraham de Franckenberg d. 1652), Amsterdam (1647).
        • Maximilianus Sandaeus (d. 1656): Theologia mystica seu contemplatio divina religiosorum a calumniis vindicat (1627), Clavis theologiae mysticae (1630).
        • Christian Hoburg (d. 1675): Theologia Mystica, das ist Geheime Krafft-Theologia der Alten, Amsterdam (1655).
        • John Pordage (d. 1681): Theologia mystica, or, the mystic divinitie, London (1683)
        • St. Bonaventure, Minister General of the Friars Minor (b. at Bagnorea, 1221; d. at Lyons, 1274): "Journey of the Soul towards God". The "Seven Roads of Eternity", which has sometimes been attributed to him, is the work of a Friar Minor, Rudolph of Bibrach, of the fourteenth century.
        • St. Francis de Sales, Bishop of Geneva (b. at Thorens, near Annecy, 1567; d. at Lyons, 1622): "Treatise on the Love of God" (Lyons, 1616).
        • Philip of the Blessed Trinity, General of the Discalced Carmelites (b. at Malancène, near Avignon, 1603; d. at Naples, 1671): "Summa theologiæ mysticæ" (Lyons, 1656).
        • Joseph of the Holy Ghost, Definitor General of the Discalced Carmelites (d. 1639): "Cursus theologiæ mystico-scholasticæ" (6 vols., Seville, 1710–40).
        • Emmanuel de la Reguera, S.J. (b. at Aguilàr del Campo, 1668; d. at Rome, 1747): "Praxis theologiæ mysticæ" (2 vols., Rome, 1740–45), a development of the mystical theology of Wadding (Father Godinez).
        • Schram, O.S.B. (b. at Bamberg, 1722; d. at Bainz, 1797): "Institutiones theologiæ mysticæ (Augsburg, 1777), chiefly an abridgment of la Reguera.

        Major works since St. Teresa

        • 1588 – St. Teresa of Avila’s Works
        • 1702 – St. John of the Cross’ Works
        • 1754 – G. B. Scaramelli’s A Handbook of Mystical Theology
        • 1767 – Benedict XIV’s Heroic Virtue
        • 1876 – Augustine Baker’s Holy Wisdom
        • 1903 – Arthur Devine’s A Manual of Mystical Theology
        • 1910 – Augustin Poulain’s The Graces of Interior Prayer
        • 1917 – Savinien Louismet’s The Mystical Knowledge of God
        • 1922 – Cuthbert Butler's Western Mysticism
        • 1926 – Albert Farges’ Mystical Phenomena Compared with Their Human and Diabolical Counterfeits
        • 1930 – Adolphe Tanquerey’s The Spiritual Life
        • 1938 – Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange’s The Three Ages of the Interior Life
        • 1947 – Montague Summers’ The Physical Phenomena of Mysticism
        • 1952 – Herbert Thurston’s The Physical Phenomena of Mysticism
        • 1953 – Joseph de Guibert’s The Theology of the Spiritual Life
        • 1976 – Vladimir Lossky’s The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church
        • 1982 – Jordan Aumann’s Spiritual Theology
        • 1989 – Thomas Dubay’s Fire Within
        • 1993 – Benedict Groeschel’s A Still, Small Voice: A Practical Guide on Reported Revelations

        **An important consideration regarding mystics and visionaries that have been officially beatified or canonised by the Catholic church is that when the Church beatifies or canonizes a Saint, It is recognizing ONLY THE HEROIC VIRTUES OF THE PERSON. This understanding is absolutely key because the Church makes no pronouncements about the alleged mystical gifts that the person may have received, including spiritual gifts such as alleged heavenly messages, visions, stigmata, prophesies etc. The Church only concerns Herself with the heroic virtues of the person, and therefore leaves the faithful free to judge and discern the persons alleged mystical gifts and graces. With this in mind, when it comes to the extraordinary supernatural mystical gifts that have allegedly been given to many of the Saints and Blesseds on this website, the Church leaves us free to believe or disbelieve them, according to one's own opinion and discernment. This takes nothing away from the fact that the Saint or Blessed concerned had lived a extraordinarily holy life and practiced the divine virtues to a heroic degree, which is exactly what the Church has officially recognized in canonizing them, and therefore they are presented to us as a holy example for us to imitate and emulate.

        Article Mystic Obedience:

        Private Revelations and Obedience to the Catholic Church 

        by: Glenn Dallaire

        Obedience to the Catholic Church has always been the “litmus test” that that Church uses for discerning the authenticity of a mystic or visionary and their alleged private revelations. A true mystic or visionary will always obey the legitimate religious superiors and authorities in the Church. We can be sure that if a mystic or seer is in any way disobedient to the local Bishop or their religious Superiors, then the alleged revelations and messages cannot be authentic. God's graces flow through His Church in union with the legitimate authority (ie- Pope, Bishops, Religious Superiors) that He Himself has established.

        Jesus established the authority in the Catholic Church through the Apostles, with Peter as their Head. Through Apostolic and Papal succession, the Bishops are the successors to the Apostles, with the Pope (Peter) as the Head. And, as successors to the Apostles, it is the Bishops duty to safeguard and protect the faithful in the purity of the Catholic faith. The very real danger in following an alleged visionary is that one can very easily be led astray by the erroneous teachings and revelations of a false mystic or visionary. In fact, throughout the centuries, some Catholics have been led out of the Church by false visionaries and seers.

        The authority to judge, and the obligation of the faithful to obey

        “We belong to God, and anyone who knows God listens to us, while anyone who does not belong to God refuses to hear us. This is how we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of deceit.” (1 John 4:6)

        The “us” John is referring to is Peter and his fellow Apostles and their successors, that is, the Pope and the Bishops. Obedience to “us” is the key that John gives us to “knowing the spirit of truth and the spirit of deceit”. The Catholic Church, through the inspiration and guidance of the Holy Spirit given to the Pope and the Bishops alone has the authority to judge the private revelations of mystics and visionaries, and it is our obligation and duty to obey the judgment of the Church. Catholics should be aware that willful disobedience to the Church is a sin. Willful disobedience is when one knowingly and intentionally disobeys the legitimate authority and judgment of the Church. (ie- local Bishop). Even should the local Bishop mistakenly disapprove of a genuine revelation, obedience to the Church always remains paramount. It is a sin to propagate a private revelation disobediently, but it can never be a sin not to propagate one.

        While we are free to have an personal opinion regarding a private revelation, we must submit to the judgment of the Church with practical obedience. What this means is that while we are free to disagree privately with a Bishops decision, (the Bishop is not infallible these matters), we are obligated to obey with practical obedience, that is, we may not act against the Bishops decree or judgment; we may not propagate the private revelation or alleged messages that the Bishop has judged negatively, or continue to say publicly that you regard it as genuine. No private individual has the authority to judge definitively and officially which private revelations are true and which are not. The authority to rule on the authenticity of a private revelation rests solely with the local Bishop.

        Setting up Christ against His Church

        Authentic mystics, like Saint Pio of Pietrelcina, St Teresa of Avila, St Catherine of Siena and St Margaret Mary Alacoque are models of obedience. They never pretended to set up Christ against His Church through the revelations that they were given . In fact, there are countless occasions in the lives of the Saints where Our Lord gave them a directive, but then their religious superior or spiritual director forbade it. On every one of these occasions in the lives of the Saints, Jesus always instructed them to obey the directives of their religious superior, even when they were against His own directives or wishes.

        Concerning a Mystic or private revelation one might say "That Bishop is a bad Bishop. I think the Bishop is wrong and his judgement is incorrect".

        Such a sentiment or statement implies that God is not guiding His Church or those He has placed in authority over it. Even if the Bishop was a "bad Bishop", God still works through him, in respect to his Office as Bishop and Shepherd. Sinful or not, faulty or not, God ALWAYS has power over His creatures, especially the Shepherds who represent Him and His Church. Even if the Bishop is incorrect in his judgement of a mystic or private revelation, one is always correct in obeying his judgement.

        Those who disobey the negative judgement of the local Bishop concerning a mystic defend their disobedience to the Bishop by saying- "I would rather believe in God than man", which is really saying that God has no power over the very bishop that He commands us to obey, and that God, through the Holy Spirit, does not enlighten the Bishop, or influence him to make the proper judgment. This person, therefore, becomes their own bishop, judge and authority, apart from Christ's Church. In other words, such persons would rather believe in the mystic than the Church, and thereby set up Christ against His Church.

        Can a bishop make an error in discernement and judgement of a private revelation? Yes, if God permits it. The Church teaches us that private revelations are never to be held as the source or the basis of our faith, and as Catholics we are not required to believe in any of them, not even the Church approved ones such as Lourdes or Fatima. Only the doctrines and teachings of the Church are to be our sole guide and rule of our faith. And God, to emphasise this fact, and to test our humility and obedience to those He has placed in authority in His Church, can permit a Bishop to make an negative judgement concerning an authentic mystic or private revelation. But even if such is the case, one is always obligated to obey the judgement of the local Bishop in matters of faith and morals.

        The Example of the Saints

        On one occasion, the Sacred Heart of Jesus made a request to St Margaret Mary Alocoque, but when she told her Superior this request, her Superior did not approve. Soon afterwards, when Jesus came to her again, she asked Him about this, and He replied: "…not only do I desire that you should do what your Superior commands, but also that you should do nothing of all that I request of you without their consent. I love obedience, and without it no one can please Me" [Autobiography of St Margaret Mary].

        Elsewhere in her Autobiography, we read that St Margaret Mary was told by Our Lord: "Listen, My daughter, and do not lightly believe and trust every spirit, for Satan is angry and will try to deceive you. So do nothing without the approval of those who guide you. Being thus under the authority of obedience, his efforts against you will be in vain, for he has no power over the obedient" [cf. -Autobiography]

        In the life of St Pio of Pietrelcina (Padre Pio) we discover that his Bishop, Archbishop Gagliardi, falsely accused Padre Pio of various wrongdoings, and had unjust sanctions imposed upon him. When people would speak against the Bishop concerning these unjust sanctions, St. Pio would quickly respond “The will of the Bishop is the will of God.” Conscious of the importance of obedience, Padre Pio was always showing an example of true religious obedience and respect to his superiors. For him, the superior was the image of Christ, and obeying him was obeying Christ. But it happened that God used Padre Pio's superiors as instruments for him to suffer from the Church, and for the Church. And so we see that even if the Bishop may be wrong in his judgment, we are always doing God's will by obeying him.

        In the Diary of St Faustina Kowalska we read:

        "...Jesus says; 'Obedience. I have come to do My Father’s will. I obeyed my Parents, I obeyed My tormentors and now I obey the Priests' ...I understood that our efforts, no matter how great, are not pleasing to God if they do not bear the seal of obedience.... I understand, O Jesus, the spirit of obedience and in what it consists. It includes not only external actions, but also one’s reason, will and judgment. In obeying our superiors, we obey God.." -Diary of Saint Faustina Kowalska
        And elsewhere in her diary she writes: "Satan can even clothe himself in a cloak of humility, but he does not know how to wear the cloak of obedience." (Diary, par. 939).

        And St Catherine of Siena states- “Oh! How sweet and glorious is this virtue of obedience, which contains all the other virtues! Because it is born of charity, and on it the rock of the holy Faith is founded; it is a queen, and he who espouses it knows no evil, but only peace and rest.”

        The life of the false mystic Sr. Magdalena de la Cruz should be a very stark warning to all about the grave dangers of being misled by a false visionary or mystic. During her youth, Sr. Magdalena made a pact with the devil and eventually became a Franciscan nun, and then the mother Prioress of her convent. She became famous for her (false) mystical graces, prophesies, stigmata, visions etc, and ended up misleading many within the Church, along with numerous high dignitaries throughout Spain and abroad. Those interested can read an article on Sr. Magdalena of the Cross that I wrote here

        All that glitters is not necessarily gold, and the devil does not counterfeit tin or copper---he seeks to counterfeit gold. So, Catholics need to be very careful not to be misled by the false gold of phony visionaries and mystics.

        In closing, I highly recommend Father Peter Joseph’s excellent article concerning the discernment of apparitions and obedience to the local Bishop located here:

        Additionally, for those interested I have written another article on this subject entitled "Mystics and Visionaries in the world today" that includes a bit of my own personal experiences with mystics and also some more thoughts on judging and discernment.


        • This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company.
        • Catholic Encyclopedia "Mystical Theology"
        • Johann Auer, "Die Theologia Mystica des Kartäusers Jakob von Jüterbog († 1465)", Die Kartäuser in Österreich, Analecta Cartusiana LXXXIII, Band II (1981), 19-52
        • Kent Emery, Jr, "The Cloud of Unknowing and Mystica Theologia", in E. Rozanne Elder (ed.), The Roots of the Modern Christian Tradition, The Spirituality of Western Christendom, Cistercian Studies LIII, Kalamazoo 1984, 46-70
        • W. Höver, Theologia mystica in altbairischer Übertragung, Bernhard von Clairvaux, Bonaventura, Hugo von Balma, Jean Gerson, Bernhard von Waging und andere. Studien zur Übersetzungswerk eines Tegernseer Anonymus aus der Mitte des 15. Jahrhunderts, Münchener Texte und Untersuchungen zur deutschen Literatur XXXVI, München 1971;
        • LEJEUNE, Manuel de théologie mystique (Paris, 1897);
        • Thomas de Vallgornera, Mystica Theologia Divi Thomoe (Turin, 1891);
        • BAKER, Holy Wisdom (London, 1908);
        • CHANDLER, Ara Coeli Studies in Mystical Religion (London, 1908);
        • DALGAIRNS, The German Mystics of the Fourteenth Century (London, 1858);
        • DEVINE, A Manual of Mystical Theology (London, 1903):
        • GARDNER, The Cell of Self-Knowledge (London, 1910);
        • GÖRRES, Die Christliche Mystik (Ratisbon, 1836–42);
        • POIRET, Theologioe Mysticae idea generalis (Paris, 1702);
        • RIBET, La Mystique Divine (Paris, 1879); IDEM, L'Ascétique Chrétienne (Paris, 1888);
        • Bernard McGinn: The Foundations of Mysticism: Origins to the Fifth Century, 1991, reprint 1994, ISBN 0-8245-1404-1
        • Bernard McGinn: The Growth of Mysticism: Gregory the Great through the 12th Century, 1994, paperback ed. 1996, ISBN 0-8245-1628-1
        • Evelyn Underhill: Mysticism: A Study in Nature and Development of Spiritual Consciousness, 1911, reprint 1999, ISBN 1-85168-196-5 online edition
        • Tito Colliander: Way of the Ascetics, 1981, ISBN 0-06-061526-5
        • Charles J. Healey: Christian Spirituality: An Introduction to the Heritage, St. Paul's, 1999, ISBN 0-8189-0820-3
        • Urban T. Holmes, III: A History of Christian Spirituality: An Analytical Introduction, Seabury, 1980, ISBN 0-86683-890-2
        • Cheslyn Jones, Geoffrey Wainwright and Edward Yarnold, eds.: The Study of Spirituality, Oxford University Press, 1986, ISBN 0-19-504170-4
        • Tarjei Park, The English Mystics, SPCK, 1998, ISBN 0-281-05110-0
        • Thomas E. Powers: Invitation to a Great Experiment: Exploring the Possibility that God can be Known, 1979, ISBN 0-385-14187-4
        • Richard Foster: Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth, 1978, ISBN 0-06-062831-6
        • Dallaire, Glenn, Private Revelations and Obedience to the Catholic Church. Mystics of the Church.