The Monistic Theory

by Nhân Tử Nguyễn Văn Thọ

TOC | Preface | Chapters: 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10 11 12  13  14  15  16  17  18  19

Chapter 6

Catholicism and the Monistic Theory


In order to have a right opinion on this subject, a clear distinction between the masses and Catholicism as publicly taught and Christian Mystics should be established.

From the standpoint of the masses and the Catholic doctrine as publicly taught, one can say that those of the Catholic faith have never admitted the Emanation Theory. Catholic Doctrine professes that all creatures are created by God "ex nihilo" (from nothing); and God is completely separated from the world.

But according to Albert Pike, God cannot be severed from the world, and Monotheism seems to derive from the Monistic Theory. He wrote: "Timaeus of Locria and Plato his Commentator wrote of the Soul of the World, developing the doctrine of Pythagoras, who thought, says Cicero, that God is the Universal Soul, resident everywhere in nature, and of which our Souls are but emanations, "God is One", says Pythagoras, as cited by Justin Martyr: "He is not, as some think, without the world, but within it, and entire in it, and entire in its entirety..."

God, in the view of Pythagoras, was One, a single substance, whose continuous parts extended through all the Universe, without separation, difference or inequality, like the soul in the human body. He denied the doctrine of the spiritualists, who had severed the Divinity from the Universe, making Him exist apart from the Universe, which thus became no more than a material world, on which acted the Abstract Cause, a God, isolated from it. The Ancient Theology did not so separate God from the Universe. This Eusebius attests, in saying that but a small number of wise men, like Moses, had sought for God or the Cause of all, outside of the All; while the philosophers of Egypt and Phoenecia, real authors of all the old Cosmogonies, had placed the Supreme Cause in the Universe itself, and in its parts, so that, in their view, the World and all its parts are in God. [1]

In any case, we know for sure, that Catholicism is against the Emanation Theory, and never avers that All is One, and One is All.

It condemned these two propositions of modern pantheistic tenets:

"There is no supreme, all-wise, and all-provident Godhead distinct from this universe. God is identical with nature and consequently, subject to change. God is actually in the process of becoming, in man and in the world. All things are God and have the very substance of God himself. God and the world are one and the same thing. In like manner spirit is identical with matter, necessity with liberty, truth with falsity, good with evil, and justice with injustice.

Any action of God upon man and the world must be denied." [2]

It said: "If anyone denies that there is one true God, creator and lord of things visible and invisible: let him be anathema.

If anyone says that God and all things possess one and the same substance and essence: let him be anathema.

If anyone says that finite things, both corporeal and spiritual, or at least spiritual, emanated from the divine substance;

Or that the divine essence, becomes all things by a manifestation or evolution of itself;

Or, finally, that God is universal or indefinite being, which by determining itself makes up the universe, which is diversified into genera, species, and individuals: let him be anathema." [3]

"If anyone believes that human souls or angels are composed of the substance of God, as Manes and Prescillians said: let him be anathema." [4]

So according to Catholicism, the Essence of God is completely different from the essence of creatures. We can say also that the essence of each creature is different from each other, or everything has no essence at all, because everything is created out of nothing. "the soul is created from nothing, immaterial, incorruptible, immortal, and gifted with intelligence and free will. This rational soul is essentially different from the human body, but it is truly, of its own nature, and essentially the form of that body, so that together with the body it constitutes human nature truly and really one." [5]

"When God willed, in his goodness, he created all creatures spiritual and corporeal. These creatures are good because they were made by the Supreme Good, but they are changeable because they were made from nothing." [6]

Catholicism affirms that only the Trinity has the same substance.

"The Holy Roman Church, founded by the decree of our Lord and Savor firmly believes, professes and teaches: There is one true God, all powerful, unchangeable, and eternal, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, one in essence, but three in persons... these three persons are one God, not three gods, for the three persons have one substance, one essence, one nature, one divinity, one immensity, one eternity." [7]

It claims also that only Jesus Christ had two natures: God's nature and Man's nature. Every man has only Man's nature, therefore every man is imperfect, save Jesus Christ. Catholicism never admits that man can be united to God and participate in the nature of God. Man then, can be sanctified but not deified. It said: "But if they do not want to deviate from the true doctrine and from the legitimate teaching authority of the Church, they must accept the following general and indisputable principle: to reject every explanation of this mystic union according to which the faithful would in any way so pass beyond the sphere of creatures and sacrilegiously encroach upon the divine, that even a single attribute of the eternal Godhead could be predicated of them as their own..." [8]

The Catholic Church, in its public teaching never teaches introversion, or finding God in our self. The famous teaching of Jesus Christ: The Kingdom of God is within you (Luke, 17, 21) is mostly rendered as the Kingdom of God is among you. (See La Sainte Bible, » Ecole Biblique de Jerusalem, p. 1356). It condemns metempsychosis, or the transmigration of souls, in the fourth Lateran Council (November, 1215). It considers itself as the true and unique holder of the truth. It declared: "Furthermore, it is a dogma of faith that no one can be saved outside the Church." [9]

It condemns everyone who says that:

"Everyone is free to follow and to profess the religion which the light of reason leads him to judge to be the true religion. Men can find the way to eternal salvation, and they can attain eternal salvation in the practice of any religion whatever. There is good reason at least to hope for the eternal salvation of all those who are in no way in the true Church of Christ. Protestantism is simply another form of the same true Christian religion, and it is possible to please God just as much in it as in the Catholic Church." [10]. In that case, all people, outside the Catholic Church are damned to Hell.

In sum, it considers itself as a revealed religion made known to the creature by God. Man has to accept it. The act of acceptance is called Faith. Revelation and Faith are supernatural. It said: "The Church has always found it necessary to insist on the supernaturalness of revelation and of faith." [11]

It insists also on the reasonableness of faith. But, for many people, things are natural (commandments of God) or artificial (commandments of men). Everything that is not natural is artificial. And there is nothing supernatural. Jesus said: "Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandments of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do." (King James version, The Holy Bible, Mark, 7: 7, 8).

I have fully demonstrated that the Catholic Church has banned all the propositions of the Emanation theory. It did not declare that everything proceeds from the One (Monistic Theory), but from God (Monotheism).

It is rare, anyhow, to find, in the West, someone declaring that God was the Prima Materia like David de Dinant, or that creatures are but modifications of God like Spinoza. [12]

Now, if we read books of Christian mystics, we can find that they profess:

1. That God is the Essence of everything. (Monistic Theory)

2. That from God everything has emanated. (Emanation Theory)

3. That God is the kernel of everything. (Immanence Theory)

4. That we must find God in our self. (Introversion)

5. Man can be united with God. (The return to the One)


Before demonstrating these points, I must say that no Catholic mystic professes all these propositions in full. They are not Emanationists in full term, but rather only mystics in some ways.

I.- God is the essence of everything

In the Theologica Germanica, a mystical book, written around the thirteenth or the fourteenth century, by an unknown author, we read: "St Paul says: "When that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away." (I.Cor.13.10)- Now mark what is "that which is perfect" and "that which is in part".

"That which is perfect" is a Being who has comprehended and included all things in Himself and His own substance, and in whom all things have their substance. For he is the substance of all things, and is in Himself unchangeable and immovable, and changes and moves all things else. but "that which is in part", or the imperfect, is that which has its source in or springs from the Perfect; - just as a brightness or a visible appearance flows out from the sun or a candle and appears to be somewhat this or that. And it is called a creature,- and of all these "things which are in part", none is the Perfect. So also the Perfect is none of the things which are in part. The things which are in part can be apprehended, known, and expressed. But the Perfect cannot be apprehended, known, or expressed by any creature as creature. Therefore we do not give a name to the Perfect, for it is none of these. The creature as creature cannot know or apprehend it, name or conceive it. [13]

The Book wrote again that the Soul, which likes to know the Perfect, should empty itself from all the contingencies, and be raised above all that is imperfect. It wrote: "For one might say: "Now since the Perfect cannot be known or apprehended by any creature, but the soul is a creature, how can it be known by the soul?" answer: This is why we say "by the soul as a creature". We mean it is impossible to the creature by virtue of its creature- nature and qualities - that by which it says I and myself. For in whatever creature the Perfect shall be known, therein creature-nature, qualities, the I and self, and the like must all be lost and done away. This is the meaning of the saying of St. Paul; 'When that which is Perfect is come, "(that is when it is known), "then that which is in part" (to wit, creature-nature, qualities, the I, the self, the mine) will be despised and counted for naught. So long as we think much of these things and cleave to them with love, joy, pleasure or desire, so long the Perfect remains unknown to us." [14]

Christian mystic profess that "God is in all and all are in God" [15]

St. John of the Cross sustains that God is the Essence of every soul. He wrote: "We must know that God resides in every soul, even in the soul of the greatest sinner, and he is present there in substance. And this manner of union is always between God and all creatures, according to which God keeps them in their essence, so that if it happens to be deficient, creatures will be annihilated and are no more. Therefore when we speak about union with God, we don't talk about this substantial union of God, which is always in all creatures, but about the union and the transformation of the soul into God, which is not always done, but happens only when there is similitude, like the other is called substantial or essential union. The former is natural, the latter is supernatural which happens when the two wills, that is the will of the soul and the will of God will be shaped in one, having nothing in the one that is contrary to the other. So when the soul gets rid completely off everything contrary and not in conformity with the will of God, she will be transformed into God by love. [16]

These phrases reminds us the words of the monk Dao Sheng (Dao Sinh): "The greatest sinners in the world have in themselves the Buddha-nature and can become a Buddha."

St. Bernard wrote: "What is God?" "Length, breadth, height and depth. 'What,' you say, 'you do after all profess to believe in the fourfold Godhead which was an abomination to you?' Not in the least... God is designated One to suit our comprehension, not to describe his character. His character is capable of division, He Himself is not. The words are different, the paths are many, but one thing is signified: the paths lead to one Person." [17]

Meister Eckart says: "God is nearer to me than I am to myself; He is just as near to wood and stone, but they do not know it" So too, we read in the Oxyrhyncus Papyri "raise the stone and there thou shalt find Me. Cleave the wood and there am I." [18]

This reminds us of a similar assertion of Plotinus, a pagan mystic (c. 205-270): "God" says Plotinus, "is not external to anyone, but is present with all things, though they are ignorant that He is so." (Mysticism, p. 99). St. Catherine of Genoa declared: "My Being is God, not by simple participation, but by a true transformation of my Being." [19]

2. From God, everything emanates

From this Primordial Essence, or Prima Materia, everything irradiates like rays from the Sun, or from a candle. St. Thomas Aquinas virtually accepts the doctrine of Emanations when he writes: "As all the perfections of Creatures descend in order from God, who is the height of perfection, man should begin from the lower creatures and ascend by degrees, and so advance to the knowledge of God...And because in that roof and crown of all things, God, we find the most perfect unity, and everything is stronger and more excellent the more thoroughly it is one; it follows that diversity and variety increases in things, the further they are removed from Him who is the first principle of all. [20]

So to attain God, we must go "from the less to the more Divine", we must go forth from our normal self and from our normal universe, to the cosmic Self. As said St. Augustine, "we must ascend the ways that are in our heart, and sing a song of degrees; we glow inwardly with the Fire of God, and we go upwards to the peace of Jerusalem." [21]

We know that the Theory of Emanation, and the view that God is at the Apex of our souls appears early in the history of Greek philosophy. It is developed by Dionysius, by the Kabalists, by Dante ; and is implied in the language of Rulman Merswin, St. John of the Cross and many other Christian ecstatics. [22]

3. God is at the kernel, in the Center of everything (Doctrine of Immanence.)

The discovery of a "divine" essence or substance, dwelling, as Ruysbroeck says, at the apex of man's soul is that fundamental experience, found in some form or degree in all genuine mystical religion, which provides the basis of the New Testament doctrine of the indwelling spirit. It is variously interpreted, the "spark of the soul" of Eckhart, the "ground" of Tauler, the Inward Light of the Quakers, the "Divine Principle" of some modern transcendentalists; the fount and source of all true life... It is here that the mystic encounters Absolute Being. Here is his guarantee of God's immediate presence in the human heart, then in that universe of which man's soul resumes in miniature the essential characteristic. [23]

Many Christian mystics sustain that God is immanent in our soul.

We find also that the Gospels profess the same thing, for instance: "The Kingdom of God is within you" (Luc, 17:21) or "The Spirit of God is within you" (I. Cor. 3:16). The spirit of God is within you. The Absolute Whom all seek does not hold Himself aloof from an imperfect material work, but dwells within the flux of things: stands as it were at the very threshold of consciousness and knocks, awaiting the self's slow discovery of her treasures. [24]

"He is not far from any one of us, for in Him we live and move and have our being," (Acts, 17:27-29) is the pure doctrine of Immanence. The truth that "God and man initially meet where man is most inward" i.e. in the spark or ground of the soul is the cardinal fact in their experience of the transcendental world. [25]

"According to the doctrine of Immanence, creation, the universe, could we see it as it is, would be perceived as the self-development, the self- revelation of this indwelling Deity. The world is not projected from the Absolute, but immersed in God. "I understood," says St. Teresa, how the Lord was in all things, and how he was in the soul; and the illustration of a sponge filled with water was suggested to me. The world-process, then, is the slow coming to fruition of that Divine Spark which is latent alike in the Cosmos and in man. "If", says Boehme, "thou conceivest a small minute circle, as small as a grain of mustard seed, yet the Heart of God is wholly and perfectly therein: and if thou art born in God, then there is in thyself (in the circle of thy life) the whole Heart of God undivided." [26]

Therefore, the Absolute, that everyone endeavors to reach, is not far from us, and not far from our World of Becoming, but is in fact, already, in our heart. "Our world of Becoming rests on the bosom of that Pure Being which has ever been the final object of man's quest: The "river in which we cannot bathe twice" is the stormy flood of life flowing toward that divine sea, "How glorious", says the Voice of the Eternal to St. Catherine of Sienna, "is that soul which has indeed been able to pass from the stormy ocean to me, the Sea Pacific, and in that Sea, which is Myself, to fill the pitcher of her heart"... 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 to justify themselves as heightened forms of experience. [27]

Eucken called the Pure Being as the transcendental principle in man, or the core of personality. Eucken declares that: "there is a definite transcendental principle in man. He calls it the Gemuth, the heart or the core of personality, - and there, he says, "God and man initially meet". He invites us, as we have seen, to distinguish in man two separate grades of being, - "the narrower and the larger life, the life that is straitened and finite, and can never transcend itself, and an infinite life through which he enjoys communion with the immensity and the truth of the universe." [28]

When mystics see this Transcendental Principle in man - what Buddhist Mystics called "To see the Nature" (Kiến tinh), they become non-plussed, because they witness something very strange, what they called by Union with God, because in themselves they see something great enough to be God, and small enough to be them.

The Emanation Theory truly understood, leads us to find God in our self. Our pilgrimage is "not outward bound but rather on the journey to its center." St Teresa showed us the habitations of the Inner Castle through which she leads us to that hidden chamber which is the sanctuary of the indwelling God. (Mysticism, p. 103).

It is called Going back to our Origin. Rulman Merswin says: "All men are called to their origin" and he compares us to salmons impelling to struggle, "against nature" uphill from pools to pools towards their source. [29]

The Theory of Immanence can lead us to the doctrine of deification in which the mystic holds his transfigured self to be identical with the Indwelling God. Since God is in all - and in a sense is all - may be found within our self. Ruysbroeck claims that "by a simple introspection in fruitful love" mystics "meet God without intermediary." They hear the Father of Lights "saying eternally, without intermediary or interruption, in the most secret part of the spirit, the one, unique, and abysmal Word." [30]

We know that Jewish mystics (Kabalists) and Islamic mystics (Sufis) profess also the Immanence Theory. According to the Zohar "God is considered as immanent in all that has been created or emanated, and yet is transcendent to all." So too the Sufis (Islamic mystics), God, they say, is to be contemplated a) outwardly in the imperfect beauties of the earth; b) inwardly, by meditation. Further, since He is One, and in all things, "to conceive one's self as separate from God is an error; yet only when one sees oneself as separate from God, can one reach out to God." [31]

Since the Absolute God is for mystics substance, ground or underlying Reality of all that is, and is already as truly immanent in the human soul as in the universe, the Mystic Way will then be described, not as a journey, but as an alteration of personality, the transmuting of "earthly" into "heavenly" man. (Mysticism, p. 127). In that case, we can forget all the intervening "worlds" or "planes" between the soul and the Absolute. Everything that God does is very simple. Complications come from men only. (Mysticism, p. 99 and 101).

4. To find God, one must go deep into the soul. (The Introversion way)

Mystics believe that if God is in our soul, to find Him we should go deep in our soul. St. Teresa said: "This performance is a retreat inwards to that "ground of the soul" where his Majesty awaits us"... It is a pilgrimage in which the soul is not outward bound, but rather on a journey to its center. [32]

Then, when man can go to the depths of his soul, he will see that all differences vanish, and everything will be fused in one point. St Teresa saw that in the deepest recess of her spirit, in that unplumbed abyss where selfhood ceases to have meaning, and the individual soul touches the life of the All, distinction vanished and she "saw God in a point" [33]

Thomas R. Kelly wrote: "Deep within us all, there is an amazing inner sanctuary of the soul, a holy place, a divine center, a speaking Voice, to which we may continuously return. Eternity is at our hearts, pressing upon our time-torn lives, warning us with intimations of an astounding destiny, calling us home unto Itself. Yielding to these persuasions, gladly committing our self in body and soul, utterly and completely to the light within, is the beginning of true life. It is a dynamic center... It is a Light within which illumines the face of God and cast new shadows and new glories upon the faces of men. It is a seed stirring to life if we do not choke it. It is the Shekinah of the soul, the Presence in the midst. Here is the Slumbering Christ, stirring to be awakened, to become the soul we clothe in earthly form and action, and he is within us all. [34]

According to Thomas R. Kelly, our soul seems to have two layers: a superficial layer dealing with external mundane affairs, and a profound layer concerning with the divine. He wrote: "There is a way of ordering our mental life on more than one levels at once. On one level, we may be thinking, discussing, seeing, calculating, meeting all the demands of external affairs. But deep within, behind the scenes, at a profounder level, we may also be in prayer and adoration, song and worship and a gentle receptiveness to divine breathings." [35]

A religious man is a total man. He cannot forget what is the best in him, and lives only for what is partial and superficial. The Listening to the Saints said: "The secular mind is an abbreviated, fragmentary mind, building only upon a part of man's nature and neglecting a part - the most glorious part - of man's nature, power and resources. The religious mind involves the whole of man, embraces his relations with time within their true ground and setting in the Eternal lover...[36]

The very heretics of Christianity have often owed their attraction almost wholly to the mystical element in their teaching. The Gnostics, the Fraticelli, the Brethen of the Free Spirit, the Quietists, the Quakers are instances of this. [37]

St Augustine wrote: "We ascend, thy ways that be in our heart, and sing a song of degrees; we glow inwardly with thy fire, with thy good fire, and we go, because we go upwards to the peace of Jerusalem." [38]

The Mystery of Being is now revealed to the traveler. He sees Nature's secret, and God in all things. It is the height of illumination. [39]

Nature's secret is then the Becoming in quest of the Being, the Time in quest of the Eternity, the Appearance in quest of the Reality, the Many in quest of the One. We see now what we mean by man and what we mean by God.

"Over and over again - as Being and Becoming, as Eternity and Time, as Transcendence and Immanence, Reality and Appearance, the One and the Many -these two dominant ideas, demands, imperious instincts of man's self will reappear; the warp and woof of his completed universe." [40]

To know that God is in our self is to know our Origin, is to know that from this origin comes forth our Small Self, and to this Ground our self will go back. This is the great Circle of becoming from Alpha to Omega Rev. 1-8, 1-17, 2-8) [41]

"For well we know," says Ruysbroeck, "that the bosom of the Father is our ground and our origin, wherein our life and being is begun."

"This Absolute is discerned by mystic intuition as the "End of Unity" in whom all diversities must cease, the Ocean to which that ceaseless and painful Becoming, that unresting river of live, in which we are immersed, tends to return." [42]

Great religions in the world have ascertained what is the everlasting value in man. Confucianism has four words: Zheng, Dai, Guang, Ming (Chính, Đại, Quang, Minh) Just, Great, Luminous, in opposition to Si, Xie (Tư, Tà) Private and Evil. Buddhism has also four words: "Chang, Le, Wo, Jing" (Thường, Lạc, Ngã, Tinh) Eternity, Happiness, Self, Purity, in opposition to Wu Chang, Ku, Wu wo, Hui Za (Vô Thường, Khổ, Vô Ngã, Uế Tập): Transiency, Misery, No-Self, Impurity. Brahmanism has a prayer:

From the unreal lead me to the real,

From darkness lead me to light.

From death lead me to immortality.

(Brihah Aranyaka Up. 1. 3. 28).

The Transient, the Non-self, the Evil, The Dark, the Unreal, the Death point to the Human Soul, or to the small Self, the Ego ; and the Eternal, the Luminous, the Self, the Right etc refer to the Great Self. Man must get rid of his Small self or the Human Self, and to put on the Great Self. This action is call Renunciation, and the changing from small self to Great Self is called the Rebirth.

"We have seen that the idea of the New Birth, the remaking of transmutation of the self,... runs through the whole of mysticism and much of theology. It is the mystic's subjective reading of those necessary psychological and moral changes which he observes within himself as his spiritual consciousness grows. His hard work of renunciation, of detachment from the things which that consciousness points out as illusory or impure, his purification and trials, all form part of it. If that which is whole or perfect is to come, then that which is in part must be done away: "for in what measure we put off the creature, in the same measure are we able to put on the Creator: neither more nor less." [43]

To sum up, the quest of the Absolute is no long journey, but a realization of something which is implicit in the self and in the universe: an opening of the eyes of the soul upon the Reality in which it is bathed. Earth is then literally crammed with heaven. 'Thou were I, but dark was my heart, I knew not the secret transcendent," says Tewekkul Beg, a Moslem mystic of the seventeenth century. [44]

The result of self-cultivation is to break the barrier between the Celestial heart (Tian Xin = Thiên Tâm) and the Human Heart (Ren Xin = Nhân Tâm), and to go deeper and deeper in the core of our self and to meet God there. "The more controllable ingoing experience, the breaking down the barrier between the surface-self and those deeper levels of personality where God is met and known "in our nothingness", and a mysterious fusion of divine and human lives take place." [45]

The soul then enjoys the greatest happiness, and there is no more distinction of distance, and of space. In that consummation of love with Ruysbroeck has called "the peace of the summit" they meet: Then distinction between inward and outward, near and far, cease to have any meaning, in "the dim silence where lovers lose themselves. [46]

St Albert the Great said: "To mount to God is to enter into one's self. For he who inwardly entereth and intimately penetrateth into himself, gets above and beyond himself and truly mounts up to God." [47]

Mencius, the Chinese philosopher has said something similar:

"He who has exhausted all his mental constitution knows his nature. Knowing his nature, he knows God". (The works of Mencius, Book seven, Tsin Sin, part I.)

To go deep in the soul, is to practice introversion recollection and quiet. Mystics taught us abundantly on these things. In Eckhart' s writings, we are taught about the emptying on the field of consciousness, and the cleansing of all images. "The soul," he says, "with all its powers, has divided and scattered itself in outward things, each according to its functions: the power of sight in the eye, the power of hearing in the ear, the power of taste in the tongue, and thus they are the less able to work inwardly, for every power which is divided is imperfect. So the soul, if she would work inwardly, must call home all her powers and collect them from all divided things to one inward work... Eckhart' s view of the primary importance of "Quiet" as essentially the introverted state is shared by all those mediaeval mystics who lay stress on the psychological rather than the objective aspect of the spiritual life. They regard it as the necessary preliminary of all contemplation; and describe it as a normal phase of the inner experience...[48]

Eckhart also said: "God is near us, but we are far from Him, God is within, we are without, God is at home, we are in the far country." [49]

In sum, Christian mystics believe that God is not far from us, but is in us, and to find Him, we have only to be introverted. According to St. Bernard, "the normal and deliberate practice of introversion, on the contrary, is bound up with the sense of Divine Immanence. Its emphasis is on the indwelling God Who may be found "by a journey towards the center": on the conviction indeed that "angels and archangels are with us, but He is more truly our own who is not only with us but in us." [50]

So "the kingdom of God is within us." But whilst the contemplation of Nature entails an outgoing towards somewhat indubitably external to us, and has as its materials the world of sensible experience: the contemplation of Spirit, as it seems to those who practice it, requires a deliberate refusal of the messages of the senses, an ingoing or "introversion" of our faculties, a "journey towards the center." The Kingdom of God, they say, is within you: seek it, then, in the most secret habitations of the soul." [51]

5. Man can be united with God, can be transmuted in God.

Euckensays: "The wonder of wonders, whom no one can accuse of a conscious leaning towards mystic doctrine, "is the human made divine." The mystic life results in the transformation of personality: it abolishes the primitive consciousness of selfhood, and substitutes for a wider consciousness; the total disappearance of selfhood in the divine, the substitution of a Divine Self for a primitive self. [52]

"Some may ask," says the author of the Theologia Germanica, "What is it to be a partaker of the Divine Nature, or a Godlike (vergotted, literally deified) man? Answer: He who is imbued with or illuminated by the Eternal or Divine Light and inflamed or consumed with Eternal or Divine Love, he is a deified man and a partaker of the Divine Nature." (Mysticism, p. 418).

The Christian mystics justify this dogma of the deifying of man, by exhibiting it as the necessary corollary of the Incarnation - the humanizing of God. They can quote the authority of the Fathers in support of this argument. "He became man that we might be made God," says St. Athanasius. "I heard." says St. Augustine, speaking of his pre-converted period, "Thy voice from on high crying unto me, 'I am the Food of the full-grown: grow, and then thou shalt feed on Me. Nor shalt thou change Me into thy substance as thou changest the foot of thy flesh, but thou shalt be changed into Mine." Eckhartalso wrote: "Our Lord says to every living soul, 'I became man for you. If you do not become God for me, you do me wrong.'" [53]

Eckhart says also: "If I am to know God directly, I must become completely He and He I: so that this He and this I become and are one I." [54]

"When," says St. Augustine, "I cleave to Thee with all my being, then shall I in nothing have pain and labor; and my life shall be a real life, being "full of Thee."...The achievement of reality, and deification, are then one and the same thing: necessarily so, since we know that only the divine is the real. [55]

St. Paul said: "I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me." (Galatians, 2:20) and again: "But, he that is joined unto God, is one spirit." "Qui adhaeret Deo, unus spiritus est cum illo."(I. Cor. 6, 17).

As we have said before, declaring that man can be transformed into God, is blasphemous to the Catholic Church. Then how can it canonize people like Paul, who declares that man can be of the same Spirit as God (I. Cor. 6, 17), or St. John of the Cross who says that God is present in substance, in the soul of every man, even if he is the greatest sinner. (see note 16), or St. Catherine of Genoa who declares "My Being is God, not by simple participation, but by a true transformation of my Being" (see note 19), and St. Augustine St. Teresa of Avila etc?

Of all the mystics quoted above only Eckhart (1260-1327) were condemned by Pope John XXII, on March 27, 1329, (after his death). Many of his propositions were condemned as heretical. [56]

The mysticism of Eckhart is emanationist, and pantheistic. According to him, the divine Essence is in every one; each human soul contains a divine spark; by the knowledge and the mystical experience, the soul can be united with God, which is the ultimate finality for every man. (E. Royston Pike, PUF, 108, Bld Saint Germain, Paris, 1954, Dictionnaire des Religions, p. 114)

Even condemned, Eckhart is still considered as one of the greatest mystics in the West. He has two famous disciples, John Tauler (c. 1300-1361), and the Blessed Henry Suso (c. 1295-1365). They intend to bring life - the terribly corrupt and disordered religious life of the fourteenth century - back into relation with spiritual reality, to initiate their neighbors into the atmosphere of God.

Evelyn Underhill tries to explain this fact as follows: "The greatest mystics, however, have not been heretics but Catholic saints. In Christianity the "natural mysticism" which, like "natural religion," is latent in humanity, and at a certain point of development breaks out in every race came to itself; and attributing for the first time true and distinct personality to its Object, brought into focus the confused and unconditioned God which Neoplatonism had constructed from the abstract concept of philosophy blended with the intuition of Indian ecstatics, and made the basis of its meditations on the Real... "Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, Him declare I unto You." [57]

The thesis of Evelyn Underhill is not solid. I agree that in our soul we must have a "natural religion" and "a natural mysticism". They can be found by every man of good will, and of determination. But Christian Mystics did not brought into focus the confused and unconditioned God that Mystics around the world has talked about. We see only that Mystics in the world have talked about something similar, and have reached something similar. This "something similar" must be then the truth that every one is longing. We see that Christian mystics must be complemented by mystics of other religions in the world, because they are mostly monotheists, and dare not say that the world comes from the One, and that the world returns to the One, and only some dare say that they are transformed by love into God.

We can see that Christian mystics are only about hundred at all. An incomplete list follows. First, we have St. Paul, and afterwards we have Clement of Alexandria (c. 160-220), St. Augustine (354-430), Dionysius the Areopagite (writing between 475 and 525), St. Macarius of Egypt (c. 295-386), St. Gregory the Great (540-604), John Scotus Erigena (around 850) St. Romuald (c. 950-1027), St. Peter Damian (1007-1072), St. Bruno (1032-1101), St. Anselm (1033-1109), St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1091-1153), St. Hildegarde of Bingen (1098-1179), Joachim of Flora (1132-1202), Richard of St. Victor (ob. c. 1173), Hugh (1097-1141), St. Elizabeth of Schonau (1138-1165), Nun Gertrude (Abbess 1251-1291), St Mechthild of Hackborn (ob. 1310), Mechthild of Magdeburg (1212-1299), St. Gertrude the Great (1256-1311), St. Francis of Assissi (1182-1226), St. Douceline (n. 1214), John of Parma (ob. 1288), John of La Verna, Jacopone da Todi (1228-1306), the Blessed Angela of Foligno (1248-1309), St. Bonaventura (1221-1274), St. Thomas Aquinas (1226- 1274), Ramon Lulli (ob. 1315), Dante (1265-1321), Meister Eckhart (1260-1327), John Tauler (c. 1300-1361), the Blessed Henry Suso (c. 1295-1365), Rulman Merswin (c. 1310-1382), the Blessed John Ruysbroeck (1293-1381), Thomas a Kempis (1380-1471), Nicolas of Cusa (1401-1464), Denis the Carthusian (1402- 1471), St. Aldred (1146-1166), Walter Hilton (ob. 1396), St. Bridget of Sweden (1303-1373), St. Catherine of Sienna (1347-1380), St. Colette of Corbie (1381-1447), St. Bernadino of Siena (1380-1444), St. Catherine of Bologna (1413-1463), St. Joan of Arc (1412-1431), St. Lydwine of Schiedam (1380-1432), St. Catherine of Genoa (1447-1510), the Venerable Battista Vernazza (1497-1587), St. Peter of Alcantara (1499-1562), St. Ignatius Loyola (1491-1556), St. Teresa (1515-1582), St. John of the Cross (1542-1591), St. Catherine dei Ricci (1522-1590), St. Maria Maddelena dei Pazzi (1566-1607), St. Francois de Sales (1567-1662) St. Rose of Lima (1586-1617), St. Jeanne Francoise de Chantal (1572-1641), Pascal (1623-1662), Madame Guyon (1638-1717), Echartshausen (1752- 1803) etc

In almost 2000 years, Catholicism can produce only around a hundred mystics; that is very little. And it is very amazing that these mystics have a language and a doctrine almost completely different from that of the Bible, but are similar to that of pagan mystics, that they ignore. Now, if we read books of pagan mystics such as Plotinus (205-c. 270), Proclus (412- c. 490), or of Musulmans mystics such as Rabi'a (719-801), Al-hallaj (ob. 922), Al Ghazzali (1058-1111), Attar (c. 1140-1234), Sadi (1184-1263), Jalalu'd Din (1207-1272), Hafiz (c. 1300-1388), Jami (1414-1492), or of Kabalists such as Sefer-ha-Bahir, Nahmanides, Abraham Abulafia, Moses de Leon, Cordovero (n. 1532) etc we marvel that their languages are similar.

Plotinus said: ' God is not external to any one, but is present with all things, though they are ignorant that He is so". (Mysticism, p. 99).

Jalalu'd Din describes in this way his unitive life with God:

"With Thy Sweet Soul, this soul of mine

Hath mixed as Water doth with Wine,

Who can the Wine and Water part,

Or me and Thee when we combine?

Thou art become my greater self;

Small bounds no more can me confine.

Thou hast on my being taken on,

And shall not I now take on Thine?

Me Thou for ever hast affirmed,

That I may ever know Thee mine... [58]

For Cordovero (a Kabbalist), God is the All, the Center from which everything emanates with a strict determinism, and in a perfect order. Man must conceive that there is only one God, without body, issuing from himself everything that exist. God is not an active agent submitted to the fluctuations of time which could be changed or become better. He is always the same before and after the existence of everything. He is eternal, immutable along all the modifications and renewals of beings. The pantheism of Cordovero is again more sensible in the following considerations. He explains that all that exists come from one essence: The spiritual is inseparable from the material, the high is in the low, and the low is in the high. Everything which exists has his reason of existing. Nothing can be separated from the En-Sof, because the all is a whole...[59]

Evelyn Underhill is right in saying that: "All records of mysticism in the West, then, are also the records of supreme human activity. Not only of 'wrestlers in the spirit" but also of great organizers, such as St. Teresa and St. John of the Cross ; of missionaries preaching life to the spiritually dead, such as St. Francis of Assisi, St. Ignatius Loyola, Eckhart, Suso, Tauler, Fox ; of philanthropists, such as St. Catherine of Genoa or St. Vincent de Paul ; poets and prophets, such as Mechthild of Magdeburg, Jacopone da Todi and Blake ; finally, of some immensely virile souls, whose participation in the Absolute Life has seemed to force on them a national destiny. Of this St. Bernard, St. Catherine of Siena, and St Joan of Arc are the supreme examples..." [60]

Starbuck said: "The individual learns to transfer himself from a center of self-activity into an organ of revelation of universal being, and to live a life of affection for and one-ness with, the larger life outside." [61]

It is very amazing to see that Christian Mystics have their own literature. And Mystic literature is voluminous, because many Christian Mystics such as St. Angustine, St. Thomas Aquinas were very learned men. I present now only some famous mystical books:

Anonymous works: The Cloud of Unknowing. Edited, from B. M. Harl, 674, by E. Underhill, London, 1912.

The Mirror of Simple Souls. Edited [with some omissions] by Clare Kirschberger. (Orchard Books) London, 1928).

Theologia Germanica. Trans. from Pfeiffer's edition; edited by Susanna Winkworth, with a preface by Charles Kingsley. 4th Edition. (Golden Treasury Series.) London, 1907.

Thomas a Kempis. Trans. of the Imitation of Christ. Revised translation by Dr. C. Bigg. (Library of Devotion.) London, 1901.

Trans. Oeuvres de Sainte Therese, traduites par les Carmelites du Premier Monastere de Paris, 6 tomes. Paris, 1907-10.

The Interior Castle Translated from the autograph of St Teresa by the Benedictines of Standbrook Abbey. London, 1912.

John of the Cross, Saint. Trans. The Ascent of Mount Carmel, Trans. by David Lewis. New edition. London, 1906.

The Dark Night of the Soul. Trans. by D. Lewis. London. 1916,

The Flame of Living Love. by D. Lewis. London, 1911.

A spiritual Canticle of the Soul. Trans, by D. Lewis. London, 1911. etc

We know that the inspiration of these books is completely different from the Holy Bible. While the Bible is basically dualistic (God, the Transcendental Creator, the "wholly other", over against his creation") the Christian literature is monistically inclined (the essential unity of Man with God, or of all being, as such, with God.)

As for me, we cannot have two kinds of Inspirations or of Revelations radically different from each other. One must be false, one must be true. There is no middle ground.

As we have known the Monistic Theory of Christian Mystics, we can now go back to the Gospels to discover what they thought about the fate of man.

1. The Gospels called Jesus Christ, Son of God (Mat. 4, 3. I John, 3, 8), but called also saintly men, Sons of God (Rom. 8, 14. Rom. 8, 19).

2. Jesus teaches us how to pray to Our Father (Mat. 6, 9-15). In this prayer, he called us his brothers, because he addressed God as Our Father, meaning that God is the universal Father of him and of us. He never said that he had God's nature, but said my Father is greater than me. (John, 15, 28).

3. He called all men, gods. "Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods. If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken; Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest: because I said, I am the Son of God?" (John, 10, 34-36).

4. He declared that we can do greater works than him. "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do... (John, 14: 12).

5. He considers our neighbors, God. He declared: "For I was an hungered and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in. Naked and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me... Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethen, ye have done it unto me."(Mat. 25: 35-40).

6. He said that man never can be separated from him: "I am the wine, ye are the branches: He that abide in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing." (John, 15, 5).

7. St. Paul declared that man has the Spirit of God in himself. "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?" (1, Cor. 3:16).

8. In that case, the Kingdom of God is within us.(Luke, 17:21)

9. And true religion is, then, the transformation of the soul. The Proverbs said: "To do justice and judgment is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice." (Proverbs, 21, 3).

10. The wish of Jesus Christ is that man be united with God (Jn, 17: 21-25).

11. The final fate of man is that the righteous man can sit on the throne of God. "To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set with my Father in his throne." (Rev. 3: 21)

In this case, man is rather highly evaluated by the Gospels, and is not wholly sinful and corrupt, and the will of man is not necessarily in bondage.

That is to say that the Gospels don't talk about the Emanation Theory, and if it can teach some kind of Mysticism, this Mysticism is far different from that taught by Christian Mystics. John Dillenberger, author of Protestant Christianity, considered the Mystical movement in the Church as one of the forces leading to the dissolution of the Church. He wrote: "Common to the Christian mystics was the conviction that God could be directly experienced, though, in essence, he remained incomprehensible. Most of the mystic's time and energy were spent in preparation and discipline, with the aim that God might enter his soul and lift him to ecstatic heights. Such experiences made life livable since they introduced one into the very presence of God himself. Sometimes the experience was that of the presence of Christ, at other times of God apart from Christ. On the one hand, St. Bernard spoke with great warmth of the presence of the exalted Christ, nearer to himself than anything else, because Christ permeated and filled his being. On the other hand, Tauler's sermons describe God's direct presence almost without reference to the mediation of Christ.

Although the Church insisted that God was known and mediated through the sacramental system, mysticism was not initially considered a serious threat. Mystics were incorporated into the fold and they comprised one component, though a subordinate one, of the medieval synthesis. Even Dionysius the Areopagite, influenced more by Greek, than by Christian ideas, had been incorporated into the Christian framework because of his supposed connection with St. Paul. He was extensively quoted by Aquinas, the foremost theologian of the classical Middle ages. In any case, mystics were not sufficiently numerous to become a major problem. Only when the individual mystics were supplemented by communities of a mystical orientation, did the difficulty appear. Eckhartand Tauler in Strasburg, Ruysbreoek and A Kempis in Netherlands, and Rolle and Julian of Norwich in England were powerful figures. But without mass support the effectiveness even of powerful individuals is limited...But groups of a mystical bent who emphasized the directness of man's access to God did arise, such as the Brethen of the Common Life in Holland and the Friends of God in the Rhine Valley...

Neither the individual mystic nor the mystical group wanted to undermine the witness of the Church. Communities developed in part as a reaction to formalization of life in the Church and directed their energies to revitalizing church life. But in point of fact, they helped to undermine the church whose life they intended to restore. Without wanting to do so, the new associations and communities did compete with the church. This was inevitable, for the emphasis upon the direct personal experience of God contradicted the notion that God was known and mediated exclusively or primarily through the church as the sacramental agent." [62]

In conclusion, I will borrow some words of Evelyn Underhill. "Come with us," they (mystics) say to the bewildered and entangled self, craving for finality and peace, "and we will show you a way out that shall not only be an issue from your prison, but also a pathway to your Home. True, you are immersed, fold upon fold, in the World of Becoming; worse, you are besieged on all sides by the persistent illusions of sense. But you too are a child of the Absolute. You bear within you the earnest of your inheritance. At the apex of your spirit there is a little door, so high up that only by hard climbing can you reach it. There the Object of your craving stands and knocks; thence came those persistent messages - faint echoes from the Truth eternally hammering at your gates- which disturbed the comfortable life of sense. Come up then by this pathway, to those higher levels of reality to which, in virtue of the eternal spark in you, you belong. Leave your ignoble ease, your clever prattle, your absurd attempts to solve the apparent contradictions of a Whole too great for your useful little mind to grasp. Trust your deep instincts: use your latent powers. Appropriate that divine, creative life which is the very substance of your being. Remake yourself in its interest, if you would know its beauty and its truth. You can only behold that which you are. Only the Real can know the Reality." [63]

[1] Albert Pike, Morals and Dogma, Charleston, a. M. 5632, 1871, p. 667.

[2] The Church Teaches,by Jesuit Fathers of St. Mary's College. St. Marys. Kansas, Tan Books and Publishers, Inc. Rochford, Illinois 61105, 1955, pp. 149, 150).

[3] The Church Teaches, by Jesuit Fathers of St.Mary College. St. Mary Kansas, Tan Books And Publishers, Inc. Rockfort, Illinois 61105, 1955. pp. 152-153.

[4] Ibid. p. 143.

[5] Ibid. p. 150.

[6] Ibid. p. 143.

[7] Ibid. pp. 135-136.

[8] Ibid. p. 139.

[9] Ibid. p. 91.

[10] Ibid. p. 80.

[11] Ibid. p. 11.

[12] Sagesse chinoise et philosophie chrétienne, p. 161.

[13] Listening to the Saints, pp. 31-32.

[14] Listening to the Saints, p. 35.

[15] Everlyn Underhill, Mysticism, p. 15.

[16] La Montée du Carmel, Les oeuvres spirituelles du Bienheureux Père Jean de la Croix, Desclee and Brower, p. 133-134.

(Il faut savoir que Dieu demeure en toutes les âmes, fut-ce celle du plus grand pécheur du monde et y est present en substance. Et cette manière d'union est toujours entre Dieu et toutes les créatures, selon laquelle il les conserve en leurs êtres, de sorte que si elle venait à leur manquer, elles s'anéantiraient et ne seraient plus. Ainsi quand nous parlerons de l'union de l'âme avec Dieu, ce ne sera pas de cette union substantielle de Dieu qui est toujours en toutes les créatures, mais de l'union et de la transformation de l'âme en Dieu qui n'est pas toujours faite mais qui se fait seulement quand il y a ressemblance, comme l'autre s'appelle l'union essentielle ou substantielle. Celle-là est naturelle, celle-ci surnaturelle, qui est quand les deux volontés, à savoir celle de l'âme et celle de Dieu, sont conformes en un n'y ayant aucune chose en l'une qui répugne à l'autre. Partant quand l'âme ôtera entièrement de soi ce qui répugne et n'est pas conforme à la volonté divine, elle demeurera transformée en Dieu par amour.)

[17] Evelyn Underhill, Mysticism, A Meridian Book, New American Library, New York and Scarborough, Ontario, 1974, p.113.

[18] Ibid. p. 101.

[19] Ibid. p. 129.

[20] Ibid. p. 97.

[21] Ibid. p. 98.

[22] Ibid..p. 97.

[23] Ibid. p. 100.

[24] Ibid. p. 99.

[25] Ibid. p. 99.

[26] Ibid. p. 100.

[27] Ibid. p. 37.

[28] Ibid. p. 64.

[29] Ibid. p. 132.

[30] Ibid. pp. 99-100.

[31] Ibid. p. 108.

[32] Ibid. pp. 102-103.

[33] Ibid. p. 109.

[34] Listening to the Saints, p. 109.

[35] Ibid. p. 110.

[36] Listening to the Saints, p. 110.

[37] Mysticism, p. 104.

[38] Mysticism, p. 98.

[39] Ibid. p. 131.

[40] Ibid. p. 41.

[41] Ibid.p. 115.

[42] Ibid. p. 116.

[43] Ibid. p. 141.

[44] Ibid. p. 99.

[45] Ibid. p. 304.

[46] Ibid. p. 304.

[47] Ibid. p. 304.

[48] Ibid. p. 319.

[49] Ibid. p. 305.

[50] Ibid. p. 304.

[51] Ibid. p. 302.

[52] Ibid. p. 417.

[53] Ibid. p. 419-420.

[54] Ibid. p. 420.

[55] Ibid. p. 420.

[56] The Church Teaches, p. 147.

[57] Ibid. p. 105.

[58] Ibid. p. 426.

[59] Henri Serouya, La Kaballe, Grasset, pp. 406-407.

[60] Ibid. p. 173.

[61] Ibid. p. 170.

[62] John Dillenberger, Claude Welch, Protestant Christianity, Charles Schribner's Sons, New York, 1954, pp. 5-6.

[63] Mysticism. p. 43.

TOC | Preface | Chapters: 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10 11 12  13  14  15  16  17  18  19