The Monistic Theory
by Nhân Tử Nguyễn Văn Thọ
10 11 12
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
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
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..."
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
In any case, we know for sure, that
Catholicism is against the Emanation Theory, and never avers that All is
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
Any action of God upon man and the world
must be denied."
It said: "If anyone denies that there is
one true God, creator and lord of things visible and invisible: let him
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
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
"If anyone believes that human souls or
angels are composed of the substance of God, as Manes
and Prescillians said: let him be anathema."
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."
"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."
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
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..."
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."
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."
. 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.
and Faith are supernatural. It said: "The
Church has always found it necessary to insist on the supernaturalness
of revelation and of faith."
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
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.
Now, if we read books of Christian
mystics, we can find that they profess:
1. That God is the Essence of everything.
2. That from God everything has emanated. (Emanation
3. That God is the kernel of everything.
4. That we must find God in our self.
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
I.- God is the essence of
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.
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."
Christian mystic profess that "God is in
all and all are in God"
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.
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."
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."
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."
2. From God,
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.
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."
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.
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 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.
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.
"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.
"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."
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.
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."
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,
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.
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."
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."
Since the Absolute God is for mystics
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.
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"
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
stirring to be awakened, to become the soul we clothe in earthly form
and action, and he is within us all.
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
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...
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 Quakers are instances of this.
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."
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.
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."
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)
"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."
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 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
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."
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.
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
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
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."
Mencius, the Chinese philosopher has said
"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...
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."
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."
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."
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.
"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.'"
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."
"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.
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.
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
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
(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...
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...
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,
; 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..."
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."
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
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).
Trans. from Pfeiffer's edition; edited by Susanna Winkworth, with a
preface by Charles Kingsley. 4th Edition. (Golden Treasury Series.)
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,
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,
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."
In conclusion, I will borrow some words of
"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."
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).
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.
Ibid. p. 143.
Ibid. p. 80.
Sagesse chinoise et philosophie chrétienne, p. 161.
Listening to the Saints, pp. 31-32.
Everlyn Underhill, Mysticism, p. 15.
La Montée du Carmel, Les oeuvres spirituelles du Bienheureux
Père Jean de la Croix, Desclee and Brower, p. 133-134.
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.)
Evelyn Underhill, Mysticism, A Meridian Book, New American
Library, New York and Scarborough, Ontario, 1974, p.113.
Ibid. p. 101.
Ibid. p. 97.
Ibid. p. 100.
Ibid. p. 99.
Ibid. p. 99.
Ibid. p. 100.
Ibid. pp. 99-100.
Listening to the Saints, p. 110.
Mysticism, p. 104.
Ibid. p. 41.
Ibid. p. 99.
Ibid. p. 304.
Ibid. p. 304.
The Church Teaches, p. 147.
Henri Serouya, La Kaballe, Grasset, pp. 406-407.
John Dillenberger, Claude Welch, Protestant Christianity,
Charles Schribner's Sons, New York, 1954, pp. 5-6.
Mysticism. p. 43.
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