Chapter 4

T he spiritual history of man reveals two distinct and fundamental attitudes
towards the unseen; and two methods whereby he has sought to get in touch
with it. For our present purpose I will call these methods the “way of
magic” and the “way of mysticism.” Having said this, we must at once add
that although in their extreme forms these methods are sharply contrasted,
their frontiers are far from being clearly defined: that, starting from the
same point, they often confuse the inquirer by using the same language,
instruments, and methods. Hence, much which is really magic is loosely and
popularly described as mysticism. They represent as a matter of fact the
opposite poles of the same thing: the transcendental consciousness of
humanity. Between them lie the great religions, which might be described
under this metaphor as representing the ordinarily habitable regions of that
consciousness. Thus, at one end of the scale, pure mysticism “shades off”
into religion—from some points of view seems to grow out of it. No deeply
religious man is without a touch of mysticism; and no mystic can be other
than religious, in the psychological if not in the theological sense of the
word. At the other end of the scale, as we shall see later, religion, no
less surely, shades off into magic.

The fundamental difference between the two is this: magic wants to get,
mysticism wants to give—immortal and antagonistic attitudes, which turn up
under one disguise or another in every age of thought. Both magic and
mysticism in their full development bring the whole mental machinery,
conscious and unconscious, to bear on their undertaking: both claim that
they give their initiates powers unknown to ordinary men. But the centre
round which that machinery is grouped, the reasons of that undertaking, and
the ends to which those powers are applied differ enormously. In mysticism
the will is united with the emotions in an impassioned desire to transcend
the sense-world, in order that the self may be joined by love to the one
eternal and ultimate Object of love; whose existence is intuitively
perceived by that which we used to call the soul, but now find it easier to
refer to as the “cosmic” or “transcendental” sense. This is the poetic and
religious temperament acting upon the plane of reality. In magic, the will
unites with the intellect in an impassioned desire for supersensible
knowledge. This is the intellectual, aggressive, and scientific temperament
trying to extend its field of consciousness, until it includes the
supersensual world: obviously the antithesis of mysticism, though often
adopting its title and style.

It will be our business later to consider in more detail the characteristics
and significance of magic. Now it is enough to say that we may class broadly
as magical all forms of self-seeking transcendentalism. It matters little
whether the apparatus which they use be the incantations of the old
magicians, the congregational prayer for rain of orthodox Churchmen, or the
consciously self-hypnotizing devices of “New Thought”: whether the end
proposed be the evocation of an angel, the power of transcending
circumstance, or the healing of disease. The object is always the same: the
deliberate exaltation of the will, till it transcends its usual limitations
and obtains for the self or group of selves something which it or they did
not previously possess. It is an individualistic and acquisitive science: in
all its forms an activity of the intellect, seeking Reality for its own
purposes, or for those of humanity at large.

Mysticism, whose great name is too often given to these supersensual
activities, has nothing in common with this. It is non-individualistic. It
implies, indeed, the abolition of individuality; of that hard separateness,
that “I, Me, Mine” which makes of man a finite isolated thing. It is
essentially a movement of the heart, seeking to transcend the limitations of
the individual standpoint and to surrender itself to ultimate Reality; for
no personal gain, to satisfy no transcendental curiosity, to obtain no
other-worldly joys, but purely from an instinct of love. By the word heart,
of course we here mean not merely “the seat of the affections,” “the organ
of tender emotion,” and the like: but rather the inmost sanctuary of
personal being, the deep root of its love and will, the very source of its
energy and life. The mystic is “in love with the Absolute” not in any idle
or sentimental manner, but in that vital sense which presses at all costs
and through all dangers towards union with the object beloved. Hence, whilst
the practice of magic—like the practice of science—does not necessarily
entail passionate emotion, though of course it does and must entail interest
of some kind, mysticism, like art, cannot exist without it. We must feel,
and feel acutely, before we want to act on this hard and heroic scale.

We see, then, that these two activities correspond to the two eternal
passions of the self, the desire of love and the desire of knowledge:
severally representing the hunger of heart and intellect for ultimate truth.
The third attitude towards the supersensual world, that of transcendental
philosophy, hardly comes within the scope of the present inquiry; since it
is purely academic, whilst both magic and mysticism are practical and
empirical. Such philosophy is often wrongly called mysticism, because it
tries to make maps of the countries which the mystic explores. Its
performances are useful, as diagrams are useful, so long as they do not ape
finality; remembering that the only final thing is personal experience—the
personal and costly exploration of the exalted and truth-loving soul.

What then do we really mean by mysticism? A word which is impartially
applied to the performances of mediums and the ecstasies of the saints, to
“menticulture” and sorcery, dreamy poetry and mediaeval art, to prayer and
palmistry, the doctrinal excesses of Gnosticism, and the tepid speculations
of the Cambridge Platonists—even, according to William James, to the higher
branches of intoxication [111] —soon ceases to have any useful meaning. Its
employment merely confuses the inexperienced student, who ends with a vague
idea that every kind of supersensual theory and practice is somehow
“mystical.” Hence the need of fixing, if possible, its true characteristics:
and restating the fact that Mysticism, in its pure form, is the science of
ultimates, the science of union with the Absolute, and nothing else, and
that the mystic is the person who attains to this union, not the person who
talks about it. Not to know about but to Be, is the mark of the real

The difficulty lies in determining the point at which supersensual
experience ceases to be merely a practical and interesting extension of
sensual experience—an enlarging, so to speak, of the boundaries of
existence—and passes over into that boundless life where Subject and Object,
desirous and desired, are one. No sharp line, but rather an infinite series
of gradations separate the two states. Hence we must look carefully at all
the pilgrims on the road; discover, if we can, the motive of their travels,
the maps which they use, the luggage which they take, the end which they

Now we have said that the end which the mystic sets before him is conscious
union with a living Absolute. That Divine Dark, that Abyss of the Godhead,
of which he sometimes speaks as the goal of his quest, is just this
Absolute, the Uncreated Light in which the Universe is bathed, and
which—transcending, as it does, all human powers of expression—he can only
describe to us as dark. But there is—must be—contact “in an intelligible
where” between every individual self and this Supreme Self, this Ultimate.
In the mystic this union is conscious, personal, and complete. “He
enjoys,” says St. John of the Cross, “a certain contact of the soul with the
Divinity; and it is God Himself who is then felt and tasted.” [112] More or
less according to his measure, he has touched—or better, been touched by—the
substantial Being of Deity, not merely its manifestation in life. This it is
which distinguishes him from the best and most brilliant of other men, and
makes his science, in Patmore’s words, “the science of self-evident
Reality.” Gazing with him into that unsearchable ground whence the World of
Becoming comes forth “eternally generated in an eternal Now,” we may see
only the icy darkness of perpetual negations: but he, beyond the coincidence
of opposites, looks upon the face of Perfect Love.

As genius in any of the arts is—humanly speaking—the final term of a power
of which each individual possesses the rudiments, so mysticism may be looked
upon as the final term, the active expression, of a power latent in the
whole race: the power, that is to say, of so perceiving transcendent
reality. Few people pass through life without knowing what it is to be at
least touched by this mystical feeling. He who falls in love with a woman
and perceives—as the lover really does perceive—that the categorical term
“girl” veils a wondrous and unspeakable reality: he who, falling in love
with nature, sees the landscape “touched with light divine,”—a charming
phrase to those who have not seen it, but a scientific statement to the
rest—he who falls in love with the Holy, or as we say “undergoes
conversion”: all these have truly known for an instant something of the
secret of the world. [113]

“. . . Ever and anon a trumpet sounds

From the hid battlement of Eternity,

Those shaken mists a space unsettle, then

Round the half-glimpsèd turrets slowly wash again.”

At such moments “Transcendental Feeling, welling up from another ‘Part of
the Soul’ whispers to Understanding and Sense that they are leaving out
something. What? Nothing less than the secret plan of the Universe. And what
is that secret plan? The other ‘Part of the Soul’ indeed comprehends it in
silence as it is, but can explain it to the Understanding only in the
symbolical language of the interpreter, Imagination—in Vision.” [114]

Here, in this spark or “part of the soul” where the spirit, as religion
says, “rests in God who made it,” is the fountain alike of the creative
imagination and the mystic life. Now and again something stings it into
consciousness, and man is caught up to the spiritual level, catches a
glimpse of the “secret plan.” Then hints of a marvellous truth, a unity
whose note is ineffable peace, shine in created things; awakening in the
self a sentiment of love, adoration, and awe. Its life is enhanced, the
barrier of personality is broken, man escapes the sense-world, ascends to
the apex of his spirit, and enters for a brief period into the more extended
life of the All.

This intuition of the Real lying at the root of the visible world and
sustaining its life, is present in a modified form in the arts: perhaps it
were better to say, must be present if these arts are so justify themselves
as heightened forms of experience. It is this which gives to them that
peculiar vitality, that strange power of communicating a poignant emotion,
half torment and half joy, which baffle their more rational interpreters. We
know that the picture which is “like a photograph,” the building which is at
once handsome and commodious, the novel which is a perfect transcript of
life, fail to satisfy us. It is difficult to say why this should be so,
unless it were because these things have neglected their true business;
which was not to reproduce the illusions of ordinary men but to catch and
translate for us something of that “secret plan,” that reality which the
artistic consciousness is able, in a measure, to perceive. “Painting as well
as music and poetry exists and exults in immortal thoughts,” says Blake.
[115] That “life-enhancing power” which has been recognized as the supreme
quality of good painting, [116] has its origin in this contact of the
artistic mind with the archetypal—or, if you like, the transcendental—world:
the underlying verity of things.

A critic, in whom poetic genius has brought about the unusual alliance of
intuition with scholarship, testifies to this same truth when he says of the
ideals which governed early Chinese painting, “In this theory every work of
art is thought of as an incarnation of the genius of rhythm, manifesting the
living spirit of things with a clearer beauty and intenser power than the
gross impediments of complex matter allow to be transmitted to, our senses
in the visible world around us. A picture is conceived as a sort of
apparition from a more real world of essential life.” [117]

That “more real world of essential life” is the world in which the “free
soul” of the great mystic dwells; hovering like the six-winged seraph before
the face of the Absolute. [118] The artist too may cross its boundaries in
his brief moments of creation: but he cannot stay. He comes back to us,
bearing its tidings, with Dante’s cry upon his lips—

“. . . Non eran da ciò le proprie penne

se non che la mia mente fu percossa

da un fulgore, in che sua voglia venne.” [119]

The mystic may say—is indeed bound to say—with St. Bernard, “My secret to
myself.” Try how he will, his stammering and awestruck reports can hardly be
understood but by those who are already in the way. But the artist cannot
act thus. On him has been laid the duty of expressing something of that
which he perceives. He is bound to tell his love. In his worship of Perfect
Beauty faith must be balanced by works. By means of veils and symbols he
must interpret his free vision, his glimpse of the burning bush, to other
men. He is the mediator between his brethren and the divine, for art is the
link between appearance and reality. [120]

But we do not call every one who has these partial and artistic intuitions
of reality a mystic, any more than we call every one a musician who has
learnt to play the piano. The true mystic is the person in whom such powers
transcend the merely artistic and visionary stage, and are exalted to the
point of genius: in whom the transcendental consciousness can dominate the
normal consciousness, and who has definitely surrendered himself to the
embrace of Reality. As artists stand in a peculiar relation to the
phenomenal world, receiving rhythms and discovering truths and beauties
which are hidden from other men, so this true mystic stands in a peculiar
relation to the transcendental world, there experiencing actual, but to us
unimaginable tension and delight. His consciousness is transfigured in a
particular way, he lives at different levels of experience from other
people: and this of course means that he sees a different world, since the
world as we know it is the product of certain scraps or aspects of reality
acting upon a normal and untransfigured consciousness. Hence his mysticism
is no isolated vision, no fugitive glimpse of reality, but a complete system
of life carrying its own guarantees and obligations. As other men are
immersed in and react to natural or intellectual life, so the mystic is
immersed in and reacts to spiritual life. He moves towards that utter
identification with its interests which he calls “Union with God.” He has
been called a lonely soul. He might more properly be described as a lonely
body: for his soul, peculiarly responsive, sends out and receives
communications upon every side.

The earthly artist, because perception brings with it the imperative longing
for expression, tries to give us in colour, sound or words a hint of his
ecstasy, his glimpse of truth. Only those who have tried, know how small a
fraction of his vision he can, under the most favourable circumstance,
contrive to represent. The mystic, too, tries very hard to tell an unwilling
world his secret. But in his case, the difficulties are enormously
increased. First, there is the huge disparity between his unspeakable
experience and the language which will most nearly suggest it. Next, there
is the great gulf fixed between his mind and the mind of the world. His
audience must be bewitched as well as addressed, caught up to something of
his state, before they can be made to understand.

Were he a musician, it is probable that the mystic could give his message to
other musicians in the terms of that art, far more accurately than language
will allow him to do: for we must remember that there is no excuse but that
of convenience for the pre-eminence amongst modes of expression which we
accord to words. These correspond so well to the physical plane and its
adventures, that we forget that they have but the faintest of relations with
transcendental things. Even the artist, before he can make use of them, is
bound to re-arrange them in accordance with the laws of rhythm: obeying
unconsciously the rule by which all arts “tend to approach the condition of

So too the mystic. Mysticism, the most romantic of adventures, from one
point of view the art of arts, their source and also their end, finds
naturally enough its closest correspondences in the most purely artistic and
most deeply significant of all forms of expression. The mystery of music is
seldom realized by those who so easily accept its gifts. Yet of all the arts
music alone shares with great mystical literature the power of waking in us
a response to the life-movement of the universe: brings us—we know not
how—news of its exultant passions and its incomparable peace. Beethoven
heard the very voice of Reality, and little of it escaped when he translated
it for our ears. [121]

The mediaeval mind, more naturally mystical than ours, and therefore more
sharply aware of the part which rhythmic harmony plays in the worlds of
nature and of grace, gave to music a cosmic importance, discerning its
operation in many phenomena which we now attribute to that dismal figment,
Law. “There are three kinds of music,” says Hugh of St. Victor, “the music
of the worlds, the music of humanity, the music of instruments. Of the music
of the worlds, one is of the elements, another of the planets, another of
Time. Of that which is of the elements, one is of number, another of
weights, another of measure. Of that which is of the planets, one is of
place, another of motion, another of nature. Of that which is of Time, one
is of the days and the vicissitudes of light and darkness; another of the
months and the waxing and waning of the moon; another of the years and the
changes of spring, summer, autumn and winter. Of the music of humanity, one
is of the body, another of the soul, another in the connexion that is
between them.” [122] Thus the life of the visible and invisible universe
consists in a supernal fugue.

One contemplative at least, Richard Rolle of Hampole, “the father of English
mysticism,” was acutely aware of this music of the soul, discerning in it a
correspondence with the measured harmonies of the spiritual universe. In
those enraptured descriptions of his inward experience which are among the
jewels of mystical literature, nothing is more remarkable than his constant
and deliberate employment of musical imagery. This alone, it seems, could
catch and translate for him the character of his experience of Reality. The
condition of joyous and awakened love to which the mystic passes when his
purification is at an end is to him, above all else, the state of Song. He
does not “see” the spiritual world: he “hears” it. For him, as for St.
Francis of Assisi, it is a “heavenly melody, intolerably sweet.” [123]

“Song I call,” he says, “when in a plenteous soul the sweetness of eternal
love with burning is taken, and thought into song is turned, and the mind
into full sweet sound is changed.” [124] He who experiences this joyous
exaltation “says not his prayers like other righteous men” but “is taken
into marvellous mirth: and, goodly sound being descended into him, as it
were with notes his prayers he sings.” [125] So Gertrude More—“O lett me
sitt alone, silent to all the world and it to me, that I may learn the song
of Love.” [126]

Rolle’s own experience of mystic joy seems actually to have come to him in
this form: the perceptions of his exalted consciousness presenting
themselves to his understanding under musical conditions, as other mystics
have received them in the form of pictures or words. I give in his own words
the classic description of his passage from the first state of “burning
love” to the second state of “songful love”—from Calor to Canor— when “into
song of joy meditation is turned.” “In the night, before supper, as I my
psalms sung, as it were the sound of readers or rather singers about me I
beheld. Whilst, also praying, to heaven with all desire I took heed,
suddenly, in what manner I wot not, in me the sound of song I felt; and
likeliest heavenly melody I took, with me dwelling in mind. Forsooth my
thought continually to mirth of song was changed, and my meditation to
praise turned; and my prayers and psalm-saying, in sound I showed.” [127]

The song, however, is a mystic melody having little in common with its
clumsy image, earthly music. Bodily song “lets it”; and “noise of janglers
makes it turn again to thought,” “for sweet ghostly song accords not with
outward song, the which in churches and elsewhere is used. It discords much:
for all that is man’s voice is formed with bodily ears to be heard; but
among angels’ tunes it has an acceptable melody, and with marvel it is
commended of them that have known it.” To others it is incommunicable.
“Worldly lovers soothly words or ditties of our song may know, for the words
they read: but the tone and sweetness of that song they may not learn.”

Such symbolism as this—a living symbolism of experience and action, as well
as of statement—seems almost essential to mystical expression. The mind must
employ some device of the kind if its transcendental perceptions—wholly
unrelated as they are to the phenomena with which intellect is able to
deal—are ever to be grasped by the surface consciousness. Sometimes the
symbol and the perception which it represents become fused in that
consciousness; and the mystic’s experience then presents itself to him as
“visions” or “voices” which we must look upon as the garment he has himself
provided to veil that Reality upon which no man may look and live. The
nature of this garment will be largely conditioned by his temperament—as in
Rolle’s evident bias towards music, St. Catherine of Genoa’s leaning towards
the abstract conceptions of fire and light—and also by his theological
education and environment. Cases in point are the highly dogmatic visions
and auditions of St. Gertrude, Suso, St. Catherine of Siena, the Blessed
Angela of Foligno; above all of St. Teresa, whose marvellous self-analyses
provide the classic account of these attempts of the mind to translate
transcendental intuitions into concepts with which it can deal.

The greatest mystics, however—Ruysbroeck, St. John of the Cross, and St.
Teresa herself in her later stages—distinguish clearly between the ineffable
Reality which they perceive and the image under which they describe it.
Again and again they tell us with Dionysius and Eckhart, that the Object of
their contemplation “hath no image”: or with St. John of the Cross that “the
soul can never attain to the height of the divine union, so far as it is
possible in this life, through the medium of any forms or figures.” [129]
Therefore the attempt which has sometimes been made to identify mysticism
with such forms and figures—with visions, voices, “supernatural favours” and
other abnormal phenomena—is clearly wrong.

“The highest and most divine things which it is given us to see and to
know,” says Dionysius the Areopagite plainly, “are but the symbolic language
of things subordinate to Him who Himself transcendeth them all: through
which things His incomprehensible Presence is shown, walking on those
heights of His Holy Places which are perceived by the mind. [130]

The mystic, as a rule, cannot wholly do without symbol and image, inadequate
to his vision though they must always be: for his experience must be
expressed if it is to be communicated, and its actuality is inexpressible
except in some side-long way, some hint or parallel which will stimulate the
dormant intuition of the reader, and convey, as all poetic language does,
something beyond its surface sense. Hence the large part which is played in
all mystical writings by symbolism and imagery; and also by that rhythmic
and exalted language which induces in sensitive persons something of the
languid ecstasy of dream. The close connection between rhythm and heightened
states of consciousness is as yet little understood. Its further
investigation will probably throw much light on ontological as well as
psychological problems. Mystical, no less than musical and poetic
perception, tends naturally—we know not why—to present itself in rhythmical
periods: a feature which is also strongly marked in writings obtained in the
automatic state. So constant is this law in some subjects that Baron von
Hügel adopted the presence or absence of rhythm as a test whereby to
distinguish the genuine utterances of St. Catherine of Genoa from those
wrongly attributed to her by successive editors of her legend. [131]

All kinds of symbolic language come naturally to the articulate mystic, who
is often a literary artist as well: so naturally, that he sometimes forgets
to explain that his utterance is but symbolic—a desperate attempt to
translate the truth of that world into the beauty of this. It is here that
mysticism joins hands with music and poetry: had this fact always been
recognized by its critics, they would have been saved from many regrettable
and some ludicrous misconceptions. Symbol—the clothing which the spiritual
borrows from the material plane—is a form of artistic expression. That is to
say, it is not literal but suggestive: though the artist who uses it may
sometimes lose sight of this distinction. Hence the persons who imagine that
the “Spiritual Marriage” of St. Catherine or St. Teresa veils a perverted
sexuality, that the vision of the Sacred Heart involved an incredible
anatomical experience, or that the divine inebriation of the Sufis is the
apotheosis of drunkenness, do but advertise their ignorance of the mechanism
of the arts: like the lady who thought that Blake must be mad because he
said that he had touched the sky with his finger.

Further, the study of the mystics, the keeping company however humbly with
their minds, brings with it as music or poetry does—but in a far greater
degree—a strange exhilaration, as if we were brought near to some mighty
source of Being, were at last on the verge of the secret which all seek. The
symbols displayed, the actual words employed, when we analyse them, are not
enough to account for such effect. It is rather that these messages from the
waking transcendental self of another, stir our own deeper selves in their
sleep. It were hardly an extravagance to say, that those writings which are
the outcome of true and first-hand mystical experience may be known by this
power of imparting to the reader the sense of exalted and extended life.
“All mystics,” says Saint-Martin, “speak the same language, for they come
from the same country.” The deep undying life within us came from that
country too: and it recognizes the accents of home, though it cannot always
understand what they would say.

Now, returning to our original undertaking, that of defining if we can the
characteristics of true mysticism, I think that we have already reached a
point at which William James’s celebrated “four marks” of the mystic state,
Ineffability, Noetic Quality, Transiency, and Passivity, [132] will fail to
satisfy us. In their place I propose to set out, illustrate and, I hope,
justify four other rules or notes which may be applied as tests to any given
case which claims to take rank amongst the mystics.

1. True mysticism is active and practical, not passive and theoretical. It
is an organic life-process, a something which the whole self does; not
something as to which its intellect holds an opinion.

2. Its aims are wholly transcendental and spiritual. It is in no way
concerned with adding to, exploring, re-arranging, or improving anything in
the visible universe. The mystic brushes aside that universe, even in its
supernormal manifestations. Though he does not, as his enemies declare,
neglect his duty to the many, his heart is always set upon the changeless

3. This One is for the mystic, not merely the Reality of all that is, but
also a living and personal Object of Love; never an object of exploration.
It draws his whole being homeward, but always under the guidance of the

4. Living union with this One—which is the term of his adventure—is a
definite state or form of enhanced life. It is obtained neither from an
intellectual realization of its delights, nor from the most acute emotional
longings. Though these must be present they are not enough. It is arrived at
by an arduous psychological and spiritual process—the so-called Mystic
Way—entailing the complete remaking of character and the liberation of a
new, or rather latent, form of consciousness; which imposes on the self the
condition which is sometimes inaccurately called “ecstasy,” but is better
named the Unitive State.

Mysticism, then, is not an opinion: it is not a philosophy. It has nothing
in common with the pursuit of occult knowledge. On the one hand it is not
merely the power of contemplating Eternity: on the other, it is not to be
identified with any kind of religious queerness. It is the name of that
organic process which involves the perfect consummation of the Love of God:
the achievement here and now of the immortal heritage of man. Or, if you
like it better—for this means exactly the same thing—it is the art of
establishing his conscious relation with the Absolute.

The movement of the mystic consciousness towards this consummation, is not
merely the sudden admission to an overwhelming vision of Truth: though such
dazzling glimpses may from time to time be vouchsafed to the soul. It is
rather an ordered movement towards ever higher levels of reality, ever
closer identification with the Infinite. “The mystic experience,” says
Récéjac, “ends with the words, ‘I live, yet not I, but God in me.’ This
feeling of identification, which is the term of mystical activity, has a
very important significance. In its early stages the mystic consciousness
feels the Absolute in opposition to the Self . . . as mystic activity goes
on, it tends to abolish this opposition. . . . When it has reached its term
the consciousness finds itself possessed by the sense of a Being at one and
the same time greater than the Self and identical with it: great enough to
be God, intimate enough to be me.” [133]

This is that mystic union which is the only possible fulfilment of mystic
love: since

“All that is not One must ever

Suffer with the wound of Absence

And whoever in Love’s city

Enters, finds but room for One

And but in One-ness, Union.” [134]

The history of mysticism is the history of the demonstration of this law
upon the plane of reality.

Now, how do these statements square with the practice of the great mystics;
and with the various forms of activity which have been classified at one
time or another as mystical?

(1) Mysticism is practical, not theoretical.

This statement, taken alone, is not, of course, enough to identify
mysticism; since it is equally true of magic, which also proposes to itself
something to be done rather than something to be believed. It at once comes
into collision, however, with the opinions of those who believe mysticism to
be “the reaction of the born Platonist upon religion.”

The difference between such devout philosophers and the true mystic, is the
difference which George Tyrrell held to distinguish revelation from
theology. [135] Mysticism, like revelation, is final and personal. It is not
merely a beautiful and suggestive diagram but experience in its most intense
form. That experience, in the words of Plotinus, is the soul’s solitary
adventure: “the flight of the Alone to the Alone.” [136] It provides the
material, the substance, upon which mystical philosophy cogitates; as
theologians cogitate upon the revelation which forms the basis of faith.
Hence those whom we are to accept as mystics must have received, and acted
upon, intuitions of a Truth which is for them absolute. If we are to
acknowledge that they “knew the doctrine” they must have “lived the life”;
submitted to the interior travail of the Mystic Way, not merely have
reasoned about the mystical experiences of others. We could not well
dispense with our Christian Platonists and mystical philosophers. They are
our stepping-stones to higher things; interpret to our dull minds, entangled
in the sense-world, the ardent vision of those who speak to us from the
dimension of Reality. But they are no more mystics than the milestones on
the Dover Road are travellers to Calais. Sometimes their words—the wistful
words of those who know but cannot be—produce mystics; as the sudden sight
of a signpost pointing to the sea will rouse the spirit of adventure in a
boy. Also there are many instances of true mystics, such as Eckhart, who
have philosophized upon their own experiences, greatly to the advantage of
the world; and others—Plotinus is the most characteristic example—of
Platonic philosophers who have passed far beyond the limits of their own
philosophy, and abandoned the making of diagrams for an experience, however
imperfect, of the reality at which these diagrams hint. It were more
accurate to reverse the epigram above stated, and say, that Platonism is the
reaction of the intellectualist upon mystical truth.

Over and over again the great mystics tell us, not how they speculated, but
how they acted. To them, the transition from the life of sense to the life
of spirit is a formidable undertaking, which demands effort and constancy.
The paradoxical “quiet” of the contemplative is but the outward stillness
essential to inward work. Their favourite symbols are those of action:
battle, search, and pilgrimage.

“In an obscure night

Fevered with love’s anxiety

(O hapless, happy plight!)

I went , none seeing me

Forth from my house, where all things quiet be,” [137]

said St. John of the Cross, in his poem of the mystic quest.

“It became evident to me,” says Al Ghazzali of his own search for mystic
truth, “that the Sufis are men of intuition and not men of words. I
recognized that I had learnt all that can be learnt of Sufiism by study, and
that the rest could not be learnt by study or by speech.” [138] “Let no one
suppose,” says the “Theologia Germanica,” “that we may attain to this true
light and perfect knowledge . . . by hearsay, or by reading and study, nor
yet by high skill and great learning.” [139] “It is not enough,” says Gerlac
Petersen, “to know by estimation merely: but we must know by experience.”
[140] So Mechthild of Magdeburg says of her revelations, “The writing of
this book was seen, heard, and experienced in every limb. . . . I see it
with the eyes of my soul, and hear it with the ears of my eternal spirit.”

Those who suppose mystical experience to be merely a pleasing consciousness
of the Divine in the world, a sense of the “otherness” of things, a basking
in the beams of the Uncreated Light, are only playing with Reality. True
mystical achievement is the most complete and most difficult expression of
life which is as yet possible to man. It is at once an act of love, an act
of surrender, and an act of supreme perception; a trinity of experiences
which meets and satisfies the three activities of the self. Religion might
give us the first and metaphysics the third of these processes. Only
Mysticism can offer the middle term of the series; the essential link which
binds the three in one. “Secrets,” says St. Catherine of Siena, “are
revealed to a friend who has become one thing with his friend and not to a
servant.” [142]

(2) Mysticism is an entirely Spiritual Activity.

This rule provides us with a further limitation, which of course excludes
all the practisers of magic and of magical religion: even in their most
exalted and least materialistic forms. As we shall see when we come to
consider these persons, their object—not necessarily an illegitimate one—is
to improve and elucidate the visible by help of the invisible: to use the
supernormal powers of the self for the increase of power, virtue, happiness
or knowledge. The mystic never turns back on himself in this way, or tries
to combine the advantages of two worlds. At the term of his development he
knows God by communion, and this direct intuition of the Absolute kills all
lesser cravings. He possesses God, and needs nothing more. Though he will
spend himself unceasingly for other men, become “an agent of the Eternal
Goodness,” he is destitute of supersensual ambitions and craves no occult
knowledge or power. Having his eyes set on eternity, his consciousness
steeped in it, he can well afford to tolerate the entanglements of time.
“His spirit,” says Tauler, “is as it were sunk and lost in the Abyss of the
Deity, and loses the consciousness of all creature-distinctions. All things
are gathered together in one with the divine sweetness, and the man’s being
is so penetrated with the divine substance that he loses himself therein, as
a drop of water is lost in a cask of strong wine. And thus the man’s spirit
is so sunk in God in divine union, that he loses all sense of distinction .
. . and there remains a secret, still union, without cloud or colour.” [143]
“I wish not,” said St. Catherine of Genoa, “for anything that comes forth
from Thee, but only for Thee, oh sweetest Love!” [144] “Whatever share of
this world,” says Rabi’a, “Thou dost bestow on me, bestow it on Thine
enemies, and whatever share of the next world thou dost give me, give it to
Thy friends. Thou art enough for me!” [145] “The Soul,” says Plotinus in one
of his most profound passages, “having now arrived at the desired end, and
participating of Deity, will know that the Supplier of true life is then
present. She will likewise then require nothing farther; for, on the
contrary it will be requisite to lay aside other things, to stop in this
alone, amputating everything else with which she is surrounded.” [146]

(3) The business and method of Mysticism is Love.

Here is one of the distinctive notes of true mysticism; marking it off from
every other kind of transcendental theory and practice and providing the
answer to the question with which our last chapter closed. It is the eager,
outgoing activity whose driving power is generous love, not the absorbent,
indrawing activity which strives only for new knowledge, that is fruitful in
the spiritual as well as in the physical world.

Having said this, however, we must add—as we did when speaking of the
“heart”—that the word Love as applied to the mystics is to be understood in
its deepest, fullest sense; as the ultimate expression of the self’s most
vital tendencies, not as the superficial affection or emotion often
dignified by this name. Mystic Love is a total dedication of the will; the
deep-seated desire and tendency of the soul towards its Source. It is a
condition of humble access, a life-movement of the self: more direct in its
methods, more valid in its results—even in the hands of the least lettered
of its adepts—than the most piercing intellectual vision of the greatest
philosophic mind. Again and again the mystics insist upon this. “For silence
is not God, nor speaking is not God; fasting is not God nor eating is not
God; onliness is not God nor company is not God; nor yet any of all the
other two such quantities, He is hid between them, and may not be found by
any work of thy soul, but all only by love of thine heart. He may not be
known by reason, He may not be gotten by thought, nor concluded by
understanding; but he may be loved and chosen with the true lovely will of
thine heart. . . . Such a blind shot with the sharp dart of longing love may
never fail of the prick, the which is God.” [147]

“‘Come down quickly,’” says the Incomprehensible Godhead to the soul that
has struggled like Zaccheus to the topmost branches of the theological tree,
“‘for I would dwell with you to-day.’ And this hasty descent to which he is
summoned by God is simply a descent by love and desire in to that abyss of
the Godhead which the intellect cannot understand. But where intelligence
must rest without, love and desire can enter in.” [148]

Volumes of extracts might be compiled from the works of the mystics
illustrative of this rule, which is indeed their central principle. “Some
there are,” says Plotinus, “that for all their effort have not attained the
Vision; the soul in them has come to no sense of the splendour there. It has
not taken warmth; it has not felt burning within itself the flame of love
for what is there to know.” [149] “Love,” says Rolle, “truly suffers not a
loving soul to bide in itself, but ravishes it out to the Lover, that the
soul is more there where it loves, than where the body is that lives and
feels it.” “Oh singular joy of love everlasting,” he says again, “that
ravishes all his to heavens above all worlds, them binding with bands of
virtue! Oh dear charity, in earth that has thee not is nought wrought,
whatever it hath! He truly in thee that is busy, to joy above earthly is
soon lifted! Thou makest men contemplative, heaven-gate thou openest, mouths
of accusers thou dost shut, God thou makest to be seen and multitude of sins
thou hidest. We praise thee, we preach thee, by thee the world we quickly
overcome, by whom we joy and the heavenly ladder we ascend.” [150]

Love to the mystic, then, is (a) the active, conative, expression of his
will and desire for the Absolute; (b) his innate tendency to that Absolute,
his spiritual weight. He is only thoroughly natural, thoroughly alive, when
he is obeying its voice. For him it is the source of joy, the secret of the
universe, the vivifying principle of things. In the words of Récéjac,
“Mysticism claims to be able to know the Unknowable without any help from
dialectics; and believes that, by the way of love and will it reaches a
point to which thought alone is unable to attain.” Again, “It is the heart
and never the reason which leads us to the Absolute.” [151] Hence in St.
Catherine of Siena’s exquisite allegory it is the feet of the soul’s
affection which brings it first to the Bridge, “for the feet carry the body
as affection carries the soul.” [152]

The jewels of mystical literature glow with this intimate and impassioned
love of the Absolute; which transcends the dogmatic language in which it is
clothed and becomes applicable to mystics of every race and creed. There is
little difference in this between the extremes of Eastern and Western
thought: between A Kempis the Christian and Jalalu ‘d Din the Moslem saint.

“How great a thing is Love, great above all other goods: for alone it makes
all that is heavy light, and bears evenly all that is uneven. . . .

“Love would be aloft, nor will it be kept back by any lower thing. Love
would be free, and estranged from all worldly affection, that its inward
sight be not hindered: that it may not be entangled by any temporal comfort,
nor succumb to any tribulation.

“Nought is sweeter than love, nought stronger, nought higher, nought wider:
there is no more joyous, fuller, better thing in heaven or earth. For love
is born of God, and cannot rest save in God, above all created things.

“The lover flies, runs, and, rejoices: he is free, and cannot be restrained.
He gives all for all, and has all in all; for he rests in One Supreme above
all, from whom all good flows and proceeds.

“He looks not at the gift, but above all goods turns himself to the giver.

“. . . He who loves knows the cry of this voice. For this burning affection
of the soul is a loud cry in the ears of God when it saith ‘My God, My Love,
Thou art all mine, and I am all Thine.’” [153]

So much for the Christian. Now for the Persian mystic.

“While the thought of the Beloved fills our hearts

All our work is to do Him service and spend life for Him.

Wherever He kindles His destructive torch

Myriads of lovers’ souls are burnt therewith.

The lovers who dwell within the sanctuary

Are moths burnt with the torch of the Beloved’s face.

O heart, hasten thither! for God will shine upon you,

And seem to you a sweet garden instead of a terror.

He will infuse into your soul a new soul,

So as to fill you, like a goblet, with wine.

Take up your abode in His Soul!

Take up your abode in heaven, oh bright full moon!

Like the heavenly Scribe, He will open your heart’s book

That he may reveal mysteries unto you.” [154]

Well might Hilton say that “Perfect love maketh God and the soul to be as if
they both together were but one thing,” [155] and Tauler that “the well of
life is love, and he who dwelleth not in love is dead.” [156]

These, nevertheless, are objective and didactic utterances; though their
substance may be—probably is—personal, their form is not. But if we want to
see what it really means to be “in love with the Absolute,”—how intensely
actual to the mystic is the Object of his passion, how far removed from the
spheres of pious duty or philosophic speculation, how concrete, positive and
dominant such a passion may be—we must study the literature of
autobiography, not that of poetry or exhortation. I choose for this purpose,
rather than the well-known self-analyses of St. Augustine, St. Teresa or
Suso, which are accessible to every one, the more private confessions of
that remarkable mystic Dame Gertrude More, contained in her “Spiritual

This nun, great-great-granddaughter of Sir Thomas More, and favourite pupil
of the celebrated Benedictine contemplative, the Ven. Augustine Baker,
exhibits the romantic and personal side of mysticism more perfectly than
even St. Teresa, whose works were composed for her daughters’ edification.
She was an eager student of St. Augustine, “my deere deere Saint,” as she
calls him more than once. He had evidently influenced her language; but her
passion is her own.

Remember that Gertrude More’s confessions represent the most secret
conversations of her soul with God. They were not meant for publication;
but, written for the most part on blank leaves in her breviary, were
discovered and published after her death. “She called them,” says the
title-page with touching simplicity, “ Amor ordinem nescit: an Ideot’s
Devotions. Her only spiritual father and directour, Father Baker, styled
them Confessiones Amantis, A Lover’s Confessions. Amans Deum anima sub Deo
despicit universa. A soul that loveth God despiseth all things that be
inferiour unto God.” [157]

The spirit of her little book is summed up in two epigrams: epigrams of
which her contemporary, Crashaw, might have been proud. “To give all for
love is a most sweet bargain.” [158] “O let me love, or not live!” [159]
Love indeed was her life: and she writes of it with a rapture which recalls
at one moment the exuberant poetry of Jacopene da Todi, at another the love
songs of the Elizabethan poets.

“Never was there or can there be imagined such a Love, as is between an
humble soul and thee. Who can express what passeth between such a soul and
thee? Verily neither man nor Angell is able to do it sufficiently. . . . In
thy prayse I am only happy, in which, my Joy, I will exult with all that
love thee. For what can be a comfort while I live separated from thee, but
only to remember that my God, who is more myne than I am my owne, is
absolutely and infinitely happy? . . . Out of this true love between a soul
and thee, there ariseth such a knowledge in the soul that it loatheth all
that is an impediment to her further proceeding in the Love of thee. O Love,
Love, even by naming thee, my soul loseth itself in thee. . . . Nothing can
Satiate a reasonable soul but only thou: and having of thee, who art indeed
all, nothing could be said to be wanting to her. . . . Blessed are the
cleans of hart for they shall see God. O sight to be wished, desired, and
longed for; because once to have seen thee is to have learnt all things.
Nothing can bring us to this sight but love. But what love must it be? not a
sensible love only, a childish love, a love which seeketh itself more than
the beloved. No, no, but it must be an ardent love, a pure love, a
courageous love, a love of charity, an humble love, and a constant love, not
worn out with labours, not daunted with any difficulties. . . . For that
soul that hath set her whole love and desire on thee, can never find any
true satisfaction, but only in thee.” [160]

Who will not see that we have here no literary exercise, but the fruits of
an experience of peculiar intensity? It answers exactly to one of the best
modern definitions of mysticism as “in essence, the concentration of all the
forces of the soul upon a supernatural Object, conceived and loved as a
living Person.“ [161] “Love and desire,” says the same critic, “are the
fundamental necessities; and where they are absent man, even though he be a
visionary, cannot be called a mystic.” [162] Such a definition, of course,
is not complete. It is valuable however, because it emphasizes the fact that
all true mysticism is rooted in personality; and is therefore fundamentally
a science of the heart.

Attraction, desire, and union as the fulfilment of desire; this is the way
Life works, in the highest as in the lowest things. The mystic’s outlook,
indeed, is the lover’s outlook. It has the same element of wildness, the
same quality of selfless and quixotic devotion, the same combination of
rapture and humility. This parallel is more than a pretty fancy: for mystic
and lover, upon different planes, are alike responding to the call of the
Spirit of Life. The language of human passion is tepid and insignificant
beside the language in which the mystics try to tell the splendours of their
love. They force upon the unprejudiced reader the conviction that they are
dealing with an ardour far more burning for an Object far more real.

“This monk can give lessons to lovers!” exclaimed Arthur Symons in
astonishment of St. John of the Cross. [163] It would be strange if he could
not; since their finite passions are but the feeble images of his infinite
one, their beloved the imperfect symbol of his First and only Fair. “I saw
Him and sought Him: I had Him and I wanted Him,” says Julian of Norwich, in
a phrase which seems to sum up all the ecstasy and longing of man’s soul.
Only this mystic passion can lead us from our prison. Its brother, the
desire of knowledge, may enlarge and improve the premises to an extent as
yet undreamed of: but it can never unlock the doors.

(4) Mysticism entails a definite Psychological Experience.

That is to say, it shows itself not merely as an attitude of mind and heart,
but as a form of organic life. It is not only a theory of the intellect or a
hunger, however passionate, of the heart. It involves the organizing of the
whole self, conscious and unconscious, under the spur of such a hunger: a
remaking of the whole character on high levels in the interests of the
transcendental life. The mystics are emphatic in their statement that
spiritual desires are useless unless they initiate this costly movement of
the whole self towards the Real.

Thus in the visions of Mechthild of Magdeburg, “The soul spake thus to her
Desire, ‘Fare forth and see where my Love is. Say to him that I desire to
love.’ So Desire sped forth, for she is quick of her nature, and came to the
Empyrean and cried, ‘Great Lord, open and let me in!’ Then said the
Householder of that place: ‘What means this fiery eagerness?’ Desire
replied, ‘Lord I would have thee know that my lady can no longer bear to
live. If Thou wouldst flow forth to her, then might she swim: but the fish
cannot long exist that is left stranded on the shore.’ ‘Go back,’ said the
Lord, ‘I will not let thee in unless thou bring to me that hungry soul, for
it is in this alone that I take delight.’” [164]

We have said [165] that the full mystic consciousness is extended in two
distinct directions. So too there are two distinct sides to the full
mystical experience. (A) The vision or consciousness of Absolute Perfection.
(B) The inward transmutation to which that Vision compels the mystic, in
order that he may be to some extent worthy of that which he has beheld: may
take his place within the order of Reality. He has seen the Perfect; he
wants to be perfect too. The “third term,” the necessary bridge between the
Absolute and the Self, can only, he feels, be moral and spiritual
transcendence—in a word, Sanctity— for “the only means of attaining the
Absolute lies in adapting ourselves to It.” [166] The moral virtues are for
him, then, the obligatory “ornaments of the Spiritual Marriage” as
Ruysbroeck called them: though far more than their presence is needed to
bring that marriage about. Unless this impulse for moral perfection be born
in him, this travail of the inner life begun, he is no mystic: though he may
well be a visionary, a prophet, a “mystical” poet.

Moreover, this process of transmutation, this rebuilding of the self on
higher levels, will involve the establishment within the field of
consciousness, the making “central for life,” of those subconscious
spiritual perceptions which are the primary material of mystical experience.
The end and object of this “inward alchemy” will be the raising of the whole
self to the condition in which conscious and permanent union with the
Absolute takes place and man, ascending to the summit of his manhood, enters
into that greater life for which he was made. In its journey towards this
union, the subject commonly passes through certain well-marked phases, which
constitute what is known as the “Mystic Way.” This statement rules out from
the true mystic kingdom all merely sentimental and affective piety and
visionary poetry, no less than mystical philosophy. It brings us back to our
first proposition—the concrete and practical nature of the mystical act.

More than the apprehension of God, then, more than the passion for the
Absolute, is needed to make a mystic. These must be combined with an
appropriate psychological make-up, with a nature capable of extraordinary
concentration, an exalted moral emotion, a nervous organization of the
artistic type. All these are necessary to the successful development of the
mystic life process. In the experience of those mystics who have left us the
records of their own lives, the successive stages of this life process are
always traceable. In the second part of this book, they will be found worked
out at some length. Rolle, Suso, St. Teresa, and many others have left us
valuable self-analyses for comparison: and from them we see how arduous, how
definite, and how far removed from mere emotional or intellectual activity,
is that educational discipline by which “the eye which looks upon
Eternity” is able to come to its own. “One of the marks of the true
mystic,” says Leuba—by no means a favourable witness—“is the tenacious and
heroic energy with which he pursues a definite moral ideal.” [167] “He
is,” says Pacheu, “the pilgrim of an inward Odyssey.” [168] Though we may be
amazed and delighted by his adventures and discoveries on the way, to him
the voyage and the end are all. “The road on which we enter is a royal road
which leads to heaven,” says St. Teresa. “Is it strange that the conquest of
such a treasure should cost us rather dear?” [169]

It is one of the many indirect testimonies to the objective reality of
mysticism that the stages of this road, the psychology of the spiritual
ascent, as described to us by different schools of contemplatives, always
present practically the same sequence of states. The “school for saints” has
never found it necessary to bring its curriculum up to date. The
psychologist finds little difficulty, for instance, in reconciling the
“Degrees of Orison” described by St. Teresa [170] —Recollection, Quiet,
Union, Ecstasy, Rapt, the “Pain of God,” and the Spiritual Marriage of the
soul—with the four forms of contemplation enumerated by Hugh of St. Victor,
or the Sufi’s “Seven Stages” of the soul’s ascent to God, which begin in
adoration and end in spiritual marriage. [171] Though each wayfarer may
choose different landmarks, it is clear from their comparison that the road
is one.

(5) As a corollary to these four rules, it is perhaps well to reiterate the
statement already made, that True Mysticism is never self-seeking. It is
not, as many think, the pursuit of supernatural joys; the satisfaction of a
high ambition. The mystic does not enter on his quest because he desires the
happiness of the Beatific Vision, the ecstasy of union with the Absolute, or
any other personal reward. That noblest of all passions, the passion for
perfection for Love’s sake, far outweighs the desire for transcendental
satisfaction. “O Love,” said St. Catherine of Genoa, “I do not wish to
follow thee for sake of these delights, but solely from the motive of true
love.” [172] Those who do otherwise are only, in the plain words of St. John
of the Cross, “spiritual gluttons”: [173] or, in the milder metaphor here
adopted, magicians of the more high-minded sort. The true mystic claims no
promises and makes no demands. He goes because he must, as Galahad went
towards the Grail: knowing that for those who can live it, this alone is
life. He never rests in that search for God which he holds to be the
fulfilment of his highest duty; yet he seeks without any certainty of
success. He holds with St. Bernard that “He alone is God who can never be
sought in vain: not even when He cannot be found.” [174] With Mechthild of
Magdeburg, he hears the Absolute saying in his soul, “O soul, before the
world was I longed for thee: and I still long for thee, and thou for Me.
Therefore, when our two desires unite, Love shall be fulfilled.” [175]

Like his type, the “devout lover” of romance, then, the mystic serves
without hope of reward. By one of the many paradoxes of the spiritual life,
he obtains satisfaction because he does not seek it; completes his
personality because he gives it up. “Attainment,” says Dionysius the
Areopagite in words which are writ large on the annals of Christian ecstasy,
“comes only by means of this sincere, spontaneous, and entire surrender of
yourself and all things.” [176] Only with the annihilation of selfhood comes
the fulfilment of love. Were the mystic asked the cause of his often
extraordinary behaviour, his austere and steadfast quest, it is unlikely
that his reply would contain any reference to sublime illumination or
unspeakable delights. It is more probable that he would answer in some such
words as those of Jacob Boehme, “I am not come to this meaning, or to this
work and knowledge through my own reason or through my own will and purpose;
neither have I sought this knowledge, nor so much as to know anything
concerning it. I sought only for the heart of God, therein to hide
myself.” [177]

“Whether we live or whether we die,” said St. Paul, “we are the Lord’s.” The
mystic is a realist, to whom these words convey not a dogma but an
invitation: an invitation to the soul to attain that fullness of life for
which she was made, to “lose herself in That which can be neither seen nor
touched; giving herself entirely to this sovereign Object without belonging
either to herself or to others; united to the Unknown by the most noble part
of herself and because of her renouncement of knowledge; finally drawing
from this absolute ignorance a knowledge which the understanding knows not
how to attain. [178] Mysticism, then, is seen as the “one way out” for the
awakened spirit of man; healing that human incompleteness which is the
origin of our divine unrest. “I am sure,” says Eckhart, “that if a soul knew
the very least of all that Being means, it would never turn away from it.”
[179] The mystics have never turned away: to do so would have seemed to them
a self-destructive act. Here, in this world of illusion, they say, we have
no continuing city. This statement, to you a proposition, is to us the
central fact of life. “Therefore, it is necessary to hasten our departure
from hence, and detach ourselves in so far as we may from the body to which
we are fettered, in order that with the whole of our selves, we may fold
ourselves about Divinity, and have no part void of contact with Him.” [180]

To sum up. Mysticism is seen to be a highly specialized form of that search
for reality, for heightened and completed life, which we have found to be a
constant characteristic of human consciousness. It is largely prosecuted by
that “spiritual spark,” that transcendental faculty which, though the life
of our life, remains below the threshold in ordinary men. Emerging from its
hiddenness in the mystic, it gradually becomes the dominant factor in his
life; subduing to its service, and enhancing by its saving contact with
reality, those vital powers of love and will which we attribute to the
heart, rather than those of mere reason and perception, which we attribute
to the head. Under the spur of this love and will, the whole personality
rises in the acts of contemplation and ecstasy to a level of consciousness
at which it becomes aware of a new field of perception. By this awareness,
by this “loving sight,” it is stimulated to a new life in accordance with
the Reality which it has beheld. So strange and exalted is this life, that
it never fails to provoke either the anger or the admiration of other men.
“If the great Christian mystics,” says Leuba, “could by some miracle be all
brought together in the same place, each in his habitual environment, there
to live according to his manner, the world would soon perceive that they
constitute one of the most amazing and profound variations of which the
human race has yet been witness.” [181]

A discussion of mysticism, regarded as a form of human life, will therefore
include two branches. First the life process of the mystic: the remaking of
his personality; the method by which his peculiar consciousness of the
Absolute is attained, and faculties which have been evolved to meet the
requirements of the phenomenal, are enabled to do work on the
transcendental, plane. This is the “Mystic Way” in which the self passes
through the states or stages of development which were codified by the
Neoplatonists, and after them by the mediaeval mystics, as Purgation,
Illumination, and Ecstasy. Secondly, the content of the mystical field of
perception; the revelation under which the contemplative becomes aware of
the Absolute. This will include a consideration of the so called doctrines
of mysticism: the attempts of the articulate mystic to sketch for us the
world into which he has looked, in language which is only adequate to the
world in which the rest of us dwell. Here the difficult question of
symbolism, and of symbolic theology, comes in: a point upon which many
promising expositions of the mystics have been wrecked. It will be our
business to strip off as far as may be the symbolic wrapping, and attempt a
synthesis of these doctrines; to resolve the apparent contradictions of
objective and subjective revelations, of the ways of negation and
affirmation, emanation and immanence, surrender and deification, the Divine
Dark and the Inward Light; and finally to exhibits if we can, the essential
unity of that experience in which the human soul enters consciously into the
Presence of God.

[111] See “Varieties of Religious Experience,” p. 387, “The Drunken
Consciousness is a bit of the Mystic Consciousness.”

[112] Llama de Amor Viva, II. 26.

[113] Compare above, pp. 24, 26, 57.

[114] J. A. Stewart, “The Myths of Plato,” p. 40.

[115] “Descriptive Catalogue.”

[116] See T. Rolleston, “Parallel Paths.”

[117] Laurence Binyon, “Painting in the Far East,” p. 9.

[118] “The Mirror of Simple Souls,” Pt. III, cap. 1.

[119] Par. xxxiii. 139. “Not for this were my wings fitted: save only that
my mind was smitten by a lightning flash wherein came to it its desire.”

[120] In this connexion Godfernaux ( Revue Philosophique, February, 1902)
has a highly significant remark to the effect that romanticism represents
the invasion of secular literature by mystic or religious emotion. It is, he
says, the secularization of the inner life. Compare also Bremond, “Prière et

[121] I take from Hebert’s monograph “Le Divin” two examples of the analogy
between mystical and musical emotion. First that of Gay, who had “the soul,
the heart, and the head full of music, of another beauty than that which is
formulated by sounds.” Next that of Ruysbroeck, who, in a passage that might
have been written by Keats, speaks of contemplation and Love as “two
heavenly pipes” which, blown upon by the Holy Spirit, play “ditties of no
tone” ( op. cit . p. 29).

[122] Hugh of St. Victor, “Didascalicon de Studio Legendi.”

[123] “Fioretti.” Delle Istimati. (Arnold’s translation.)

[124] Richard Rolle, ‘The Fire of Love” (Early English Text Society), bk. i.
cap. xv. In this and subsequent quotations from Rolle’s Incendium Amoris I
have usually adopted Misyn’s fifteenth-century translation; slightly
modernizing the spelling, and, where necessary, correcting from the Latin
his errors and obscurities.

[125] Op. cit., bk. i. cap. xxiii. Compare bk. ii. caps. v. and vi.

[126] “Spiritual Exercises,” p. 30.

[127] Op. cit., bk. i. cap. xv.

[128] Op. cit., bk. ii. caps, iii. and xii. Shelley is of the same
opinion:— “The world can hear not the sweet notes that move The Sphere whose
light is melody to lovers.” (“The Triumph of Life “)

[129] “Subida del Monte Carmelo,” I. ii. cap. xv.

[130] “De Mystica Theologia,” i. 3.

[131] Von Hügel, “The Mystical Element of Religion,” vol. i. p. 189.

[132] “Varieties of Religious Experience,” p. 380.

[133] “Les Fondements de la Connaissance Mystique,” p. 45.

[134] Jámí. Quoted in “Jalalu ‘d Din” (Wisdom of the East Series), p. 25.

[135] “Through Scylla and Charybdis,” p. 264.

[136] Ennead vi. 9.

[137] “En una Noche Escura,” Stanza 1. I quote from Arthur Symons’s
beautiful translation, which will be found in vol. ii. of his Collected

[138] Schmölders, “Les Écoles Philosophiques chez les Arabes,” p. 55.

[139] Cap. xix.

[140] “Ignitum cum Deo Soliloquium,” cap. xi.

[141] “Das Fliessende Licht der Gottheit,” pt. iv. cap, 13.

[142] Dialogo, cap. lx.

[143] Tauler, Sermon for Septuagesima Sunday (Winkworth’s translation, p.

[144] Vita e Dottrina, cap. vi.

[145] M. Smith, “Rabi’a the Mystic,” p. 30.

[146] Ennead vi. 9.

[147] “An Epistle of Discretion.” This beautiful old English tract, probably
by the author of “The Cloud of Unknowing,” is printed by E. Gardner, ‘ The
Cell of Self Knowledge,” p. 108.

[148] Ruysbroeck, “De Ornatu Spiritalium Nuptiarum,” I. i. cap. xxvi.

[149] Ennead, vi. 9.

[150] “The Mending of Life,” cap. xi.

[151] “Fondements de la Connaissance Mystique,” p. 7.

[152] Dialogo, cap. xxvi.

[153] “De Imitatione Christi,” I. ii. cap. v.

[154] Jalalu ‘d Din (Wisdom of the East Series), p. 79.

[155] Treatise to a Devout Man, cap. viii.

[156] Sermon for Thursday in Easter Week (Winkworth’s translation, p. 294).

[157] They were printed in 1658, “At Paris by Lewis de la Fosse in the Carme
Street at the Signe of the Looking Glass,” and have lately been republished.
I quote from the original edition.

[158] P. 138.

[159] P. 181.

[160] Op. cit. pp. 9, 16, 25, 35, 138, 175.

[161] Berger, “William Blake,” p. 72.

[162] Ibid ., p. 74.

[163] Contemporary Review, April, 1899.

[164] “Das Fliessende Licht der Gottheit,” pt. iii. cap. 1.

[165] Supra. p. 35.

[166] Récéjac, op. cit ., p. 35.

[167] Revue Philosophique, July, 1902.

[168] “Psychologie des Mystiques Chrétiens,” p 14.

[169] “Camino de Perfeccion,” cap. xxiii.

[170] In “El Castillo Interior.”

[171] See Palmer, “Oriental Mysticism,” pt. v. ch. v.

[172] Vita, p. 8.

[173] “Subida del Monte Carmelo,” I. ii. cap. vii.

[174] “De Consideratione,” I. v. cap. xi.

[175] “Das Fliessende Light der Gottheit,” pt. vii. cap. 16.

[176] “De Mystica Theologia,” i. 1.

[177] “Aurora,” English translation, 1764, p. 237.

[178] Dionysius the Areopagite. “De Mystica Theologia,” i. 3.

[179] “Mystische Schriften,” p. 137.

[180] Plotinus, Ennead vi. 9.

[181] Op. cit.