SOME NOTES ON THE MYSTICAL SENSE:
AN ATTEMPT AT CLARIFICATION
Teilhard de Chardin
mystical sense is essentially a feeling for, a presentiment of, the
total and final
unity of the world, beyond its present sensibly apprehended
multiplicity: it is a cosmic sense of 'oneness'. This holds good for
the Hindu and the Sufi, no less than for the Christian. It enables us
to appreciate the mystical 'tenor' of a piece of literature or of a
man's life, but its expression varies greatly according to circumstances.
2. Both a priori and a posteriori, two principal ways (and only two - I wonder?) of realizing oneness suggest themselves and have been tried by mystics. (Two roads, or rather two components, that have hitherto to all intents and purposes been merged into one.)
a. The first road: to become one with all by coextension 'with the sphere': that is to say, by suppression of all internal and external determinants, to come together with a sort of common stuff which underlies the variety of concrete beings. Access to Aldous Huxley's 'common ground'.
This procedure leads ultimately to an identfication of each and all with the common ground - to an ineffable of de-dif-ferentiation and de-personalization.
Both by definition and by structure, this is mysticism without love.
b. The second road: to become one with all by access to the centre of the cosmic sphere, conceived as being in a state of (and possessing the power of) concentration upon itself with time. This access is no longer by 'dissolution' but though a peak of intensity arrived at by what is most incommunicable in each element.
This procedure leads ultimately to an ultra-personalizing, ultra-determining, and ultra-differentiating unification of the elements within a common focus; the specific effect of love.
In the first case, God (an impersonal 'God') was all. In the second, God (an ultra-personal, because 'centric', God) is 'all in all' (which is precisely as St Paul puts it).
3. It would appear that only the second road - a road not yet described in any 'book' (?!) (the 'road of the West', born from the Christianity-modern-world contact) - is the true path 'towards and for' oneness. Only this road of unification:
a. respects the facts and history (science and history), which shows us consciousness (spirit) as a process of differentiation and synthesis;
b. and at the same time retains in 'spiritual' man that intensity, that ardour, that 'drive', which are, for us, inseparable from the idea of true mysticism. - The road of tension, not of relaxation.
4. Structurally (theology) and practically (primacy of charity), Christianity follows (is) road 2.
At the same time, we have to recognize that, as a result of a certain excess of anthropomorphism (or primitive nationalism) the Judaeo-Christian mystical current has had some difficulty in getting rid of a point of view which sought oneness too exclusively in singleness, rather than in God's synthetic power. God loved above all things (rather than in and through all things). This accounts for a certain 'lack of richness' in the mysticism of the prophets and of many saints: it is too 'Jewish' or too 'human' in the narrow sense of the words - not sufficiently universalist and cosmic (there are exceptions, of course: Eckhart, Francis of Assisi, St John of the Cross ..
I need no more than mention one perverted way of seeking oneness:
'suppression of the multiple, in destruction and death, and so leaving only "God" subsisting.'
It is doubtful whether this morbid interpretation has ever fed a true religious and mystical current. But, in as much as it represents a distortion or perversion, it has to be guarded against; for it is a constant potential danger (suffering of annihilation being confused with suffering of transformation). Can we be quite certain that traces of this 'illusion' may not still be found in some interpretations of the meaning of the Cross? ...
Winter, 1951 (from Toward the Future, London 1975)