On Quietism

In my earliest days of looking for truth, I formulated an idea that said: if you want to be morally perfect (ie act perfectly), start by doing NOTHING AT ALL, and watch what happens. Miraculously, I became a gentle person with self control, but with all my healthy reflexes intact.

This led to the idea that if you want perfect speech, start by saying nothing at all, and listen to what happens. (This is easily achieved btw by using duck tape, literal or metaphorical). Miraculously, I began to speak with the silver tongue of a diplomat, and the wit of a witterer.

Continuing along this ‘pilgrimage’, I realised that perfect thought could be achieved by thinking nothing at all, and see what happens.

This is where the logical progression began to fail. You see, when you shut down your thoughts, WHO will oversee what happens?

This is something that I still struggle to answer. Any help from the cloud of witnesses, (with internet access), please?

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60 Responses to On Quietism

  1. toadspittle says:

    Burruguru,

    This may help. Unlikely, but..

    Thomas Carlyle was once seated at a dinner party beside a man whom he did not know, and who smiled silently (and ironically, so it seemed to Carlyle) at him throughout the meal.
    Carlyle conversed doggedly and one-sidedly away, becoming increasingly convinced that the man regarded him merely as a loquacious idiot.
    Finally, the pudding arrived and the man spoke: “Aah! Apple dumplin’s! Them’s the Johnnies for me!”

    Nope. Didn’t help, did it?

    Like

  2. joyfulpapist says:

    Ah BB, I’m of no use. I have a grasshopper mind, and a jackdaw memory. I set out to make my mind still, and find myself thinking about a hem that needs sewing, a garden that needs hoeing, a sentence that needs untangling, a client that needs phoning, or a birthday that has already passed and that I forgot about at the time.

    Like

  3. yoda says:

    Burrito,

    You can bang on about silence all you want, but it doesn’t seem to stop your snoring!

    It keeps the whole street awake, and I’ve had the noise abatement people round too.

    Get a tracheostomy, or something.

    Like

  4. Gregory the Eremite says:

    Brother Burrito,

    Surely the logical progression fails before it gets started. It assumes an incorrect notion of “perfection”, which must surely be taken as the ordering of all faculties towards our final end, rather than an ordering towards some natural perfection in this life.

    The end of man is, indeed, the supernatural end of the beatific vision of God that redounds in this life with love of God and of fellow man. Inaction may remove from us the faults of commission (and perhaps it provides a fertile bed for the growth of positive acts of charity); silence may remove faults of speech (and perhaps provides a fertile bed for the growth of the praise of God and of fellow man) but positive cooperation with grace is also needed in the growth of a positive orientation of these faculties. Neither is guaranteed and self delusion may be the result.

    Finally, as the ultimate end of man lies in the intellectual contemplation of the Divine essence, the very idea that this might be (fully) achieved through the emptying of mind (alone) is self-contradictory; the mind is led to the vision of God by the contemplation of God and by those actions that scripture enjoins of us for this purpose.

    Perhaps a reflection upon the Church’s condemnation of Molinos’s erroneous ideas might prove fruitful?

    Like

  5. toadspittle says:

    Must get my eyes looked at. I thought I read, in Joyful’s offering here above , that she had a ‘hen that needs sewing.’

    Gave me quite a turn.

    Like

  6. Gregory the Eremite says:

    Teresa,

    There is no doubt that one component of a true mystical encounter with God may involve the emptying of mind. The subtlety comes in distinguishing between a true mystical experience of God and self delusion (perhaps with a Pelagian flavour thrown in) – which is why I suggest referring to the case of Molinos, who gives us an example of where various Quietist approaches to mysticism fall into error.

    Perhaps I have been harsh and premature in implying that what Brother Burrito describes is a mistaking of a natural end of man for the supernatural – what he has described is under-described as far as reaching that conclusion for definite is concerned – but the fact that he asked his question suggests to me that it does.

    “You see, when you shut down your thoughts, WHO will oversee what happens?”

    If the emptying of mind occurs in the co-operation of the intellect with grace, then the straightforward answer is: “The person of the Holy Spirit oversees what happens”.

    Like

  7. Gregory the Eremite says:

    Teresa,

    For Quietism and Molinos, the easiest starting point is the Catholic Encyclopaedia:

    http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12608c.htm
    http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/10441a.htm

    If you’re able to lay your hands on Garrigou-Lagrange’s “Three ages of the Spiritual Life” (for example http://www.christianperfection.info/index.php), he considers the errors of Quietism in much more depth than I am able .

    Illumination goes back to Augustine (and possibly further back) but Bonaventure is certainly the author of it’s most developed form in the middle ages. I steal all my ideas from St. Thomas.

    Like

  8. kathleen says:

    Gregory the Eremite and Teresa:
    Thank you for your beautiful and interesting contributions above. I had to read up about Miguel de Molinos’s heresies which I hadn’t heard about before. What a lot I’m learning from all the commenters on CP&S!

    Hoping this is not off-topic, and jolted by Joyful’s comment at 7:19 on distractions in prayer, reminded me of St. Teresa of Avila’s problem once.
    She had gone into the chapel for meditation one day, to find that some workmen were repairing a part of the chapel; however she decided to stay. For the whole hour, time and again, she kept trying to concentrate on her prayers as the continual hammering and banging of the workmen kept interfering and distracting her by their noise. She began to feel impatient, then brought herself up sharply, and once again tried to get back to fixing her mind on God. And so it went on…….
    Only after she left the chapel did she realise she had earned more spiritual grace and merit from this effort of hers to “stick at it”, than if her prayers had flowed easily and without difficulty towards her Lord and Saviour.

    A good lesson for us strugglers methinks!

    Like

  9. golden chersonnese says:

    Gregory the Eremite says:
    Finally, as the ultimate end of man lies in the intellectual contemplation of the Divine essence . . . .
    ________________________________________
    Venerable Gregory, may I ask what this might mean?

    When you say “intellectual contemplation”, you do not mean the merely rational mind, do you? Toads are unsurpassably rational, it seems.

    What then do you mean by “intellectual contemplation”?

    Like

  10. golden chersonnese says:

    Kathleen says:
    A good lesson for us strugglers methinks!
    _________________

    Kathleen, you are such a good soul.

    Like

  11. Gregory the Eremite says:

    golden chersonnese,

    You are quite right, “intellectual” contemplation involves much more than just the rational.

    When we say that the ultimate end of man lies in the beatific vision, inquiring minds will wish to know what sort of “vision” this is. God is not simply a material body that we see by means of the senses – indeed after death and before the general resurrection the blessed will “see” God totally without the aid of their bodies and their bodily senses.

    The vision of God that the blessed will enjoy is an illumination of their minds granted, as it were, as a final grace by God. In the rational soul of man, intellect is considered as the highest faculty of the mind, prior to will. When we say that the vision of God is an “intellectual” vision, we are merely affirming that the vision that God grants us of His essence is granted to the mind’s highest faculty. Thus granted, the effects percolate down through the lesser faculties of the soul.

    Like

  12. golden chersonnese says:

    The intellect is more than just the rational mind, Venerable Gregory?

    How so?

    Like

  13. Gregory the Eremite says:

    golden chersonnese,

    We have, perhaps, a confusion of ancient and modern terminology – and I apologize if I’ve contributed to the confusion. In modern times we’re used to using the word “rational” in describing a particular aspect or property of mind – as when we talk of considering a situation “rationally” and oppose that to the idea of considering a situation through “intuition” or “emotional intelligence”. We also tend to limit the meaning of the word “intellect” to correspond to this notion of the rational. So in this way of thinking, it would not be inconsistent to think of the intellect as simply being the rational component of the mind.

    However, in Catholic theology, the words “rational” and “intellect” retain much wider meanings than in modern usage; “rational” describes the “reasoning” property of souls (in the widest sense) that makes us specifically human, differentiating us from non-human animals. Roughly speaking, the rationality of the rational soul is made up of the way that the various faculties of the soul are put together and would include what we (modernly speaking) might call emotional faculties. Similarly, in this system, the “intellect” is more than just a cold calculating part of the mind; rather it is considered the “highest” of the faculties, weaving them all together in the whole human person.

    When I said that “intellectual contemplation involves much more than just the rational”, I’m afraid that I’ve used “intellectual” in the ancient sense and “rational” in the modern! What I’m trying to get across is that what is involved in the beatific vision is not simply the “rational” (modern sense) part of us, but the “highest” part of us.

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  14. golden chersonnese says:

    Thank you, Gregory.

    I suppose why Iasked is that the reasoning faculty does not seem, in myself at least, to be the sum of my conscious self; rather just quite a small part of it.

    I see so much more there such as my imagination, my imaginative understanding of things, my conscious desire for seeing, understanding and knowing (not with the reasoning faculty only) what is above or behind.

    I’d better stop there (some people may think I’m potty), but the faculty of reasoning within me, although great, has never seemed the full monty of what is there.

    Like

  15. Gregory the Eremite says:

    golden chersonnese,

    Again, the idea of intellect that catholic theology uses would encompass things like imagination and imaginative understanding – and the word “reasoning” when applied to this notion of intellect has a much wider range of meaning than I think you’re using!

    Like

  16. golden chersonnese says:

    Yes, very possibly, thank you.

    But it does seem to ne the idea of “reasoning” which is held up today by so many as all we need to concern ourselves with.

    Like

  17. rebrites says:

    At the risk of being held up to contumely, I will reply to Burrito´s query by quoting from a source not yet heard from. A non-Catholic source, even.

    Burro, you being a guru, you probably know of the very wise man who considered your ongoing quandary several thousand years ago, and wrote:

    Those who know don´t talk.
    Those who talk don´t know.

    Close your mouth.
    Block off your senses,
    blunt your sharpness,
    untie your knots,
    soften your glare,
    settle your dust.
    This is the primal identity.

    Be like the Tao.
    It can´t be approached, or withdrawn-from,
    benefitted or harmed,
    honored or brought into disgrace.
    It gives itself up continually.
    This is why it endures.

    Lao Tsu, The Tao te Ching 56

    (I think he was saying stop trying to analyze what´s going on in your head, because that´s just more thinking. Or as St. John of the Cross put it, “Callar y Obrar!”)

    Like

  18. Frere Rabit says:

    I don’t think San Juan de la Cruz would take too kindly to being quoted as a sobriquet to some primitive Chinese obscurantist fortune telling, and if CP&S is going to be a message board for any old mix of spirituality, it has lost its way.

    Hexagram 23: The dark lines are about to mount upward and overthrow the last firm, light line by exerting a disintegrating influence on it. The inferior, dark forces overcome what is superior and strong, not by direct mens, but by undermining it gradually and imperceptibly, so that it finally collapses. This pictures a time when inferior people are pushing forward and are about to crowd out the few remaining strong and superior men. Under these circumstances, which are due to the time, it is not favorable for the superior man to undertake anything.

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  19. toadspittle says:

    Frere Rabit says:
    “I don’t think San Juan de la Cruz would take too kindly to being quoted as a sobriquet to some primitive Chinese obscurantist fortune telling, …”

    Well, Brother Bunnyboy, when it comes to opining what Saint John of the Cross would, or wouldn’t, take kindly to – my guess is as good as yours.

    And, my excellent ‘Hello!’ sub-editors’ dictionary states that a ‘sobriquet’ is ‘an affectionate or humorous nickname, or assumed name’ – such as Frere Rabit, or Yoda, or even Omvendt, for example.
    Therefore, we would all be obliged if you would lift your head out of the clover long enough to explain its significance in the context of your even more than usually bizarre comments above.
    Dark lines indeed!

    (And lots of good luck in your new career! Teaching English, isn’t it?)

    Like

  20. golden chersonnese says:

    Yes rebrites, classical Daoism is rather quietist, real “go with the flow” sort of stuff.

    I have mentioned in an earlier post that I read up a bit from Zhuangzi following a lead from Thomas Merton, who himself wrote a work on Zhuangzi called “The Way of Chuang Tzu” (same name, different romanised spelling).

    I must admit that it affected me somewhat radically for a while even to the point of thinking about abandoning my university studies, which seemed all too “intellectual” for a good disciple of the Sage. I didn’t give them up but my performance was affected for a couple of years.

    I think too in the end I saw it made me unhappy overall, and such emptying of the mind and striving to have no desires had to be coupled with intellectual pursuits and interests for it to be a good thing. Daoism a.m. followed by something like a normal 20th century p.m.

    Your quote from the Daode Jing (Tao Te Ching) got me reaching for the original Classical Chinese version here:

    http://www.chinapage.com/laotze2n.html#22

    It looks to be different in ways from the translation you found.

    Like

  21. golden chersonnese says:

    Still most interesting however.

    Did you know that the Daoism of Laozi and Zhuangzi led to the emphasis on landscape painting in classical Chinese art, gardens and also to bonsai potted plants?

    Like

  22. golden chersonnese says:

    Sorry, last link above doesn’t work:

    Like

  23. golden chersonnese says:

    Chapter 57 is interesting, rebrites too. Benevolent anarchy?

    http://www.chinapage.com/laotze2n.html#57

    (you see there’s the English translation button there too?)

    Like

  24. Frere Rabit says:

    “And lots of good luck in your new career! Teaching English, isn’t it?”

    Thanks Toad. Not so much a ‘new’ career. Actually, I’ve no idea what I’m teaching until I get my timetable, but I thinks it will be mostly A-Level Drama and PSHE/Citizenship, since you asks. I is improvine my English just in case I gets to teach that two.

    BTW, the good Carmelite’s name is a sobriquet because his real name was Juan de Yepes Alvarez, and in my muddled and anarchic rabit mind I always tend toconfuse him with Cervantes anyway, on account of them both being in prison at more or less the same time. You won’t make much sense of rabits, but thanks for your efforts.

    Like

  25. Brother Burrito says:

    GC and Rebs,

    No. 74 caught my eye,
    Like a London bus, up the road,
    in the distance.
    It won’t be long now,
    ’til I’m out of the rain,
    and on my way.
    If the driver lets me on.

    I should have read that bus map, years ago. Thanks.
    ALL ABOARD!

    Like

  26. Brother Burrito says:

    I go off for one day, and what happens?
    The comments stream gushes mightily.
    A lesson in that, surely.
    I must bugur off now, and have me apple dumplin’s, Them’s the Johnnies for me!

    Hahahahaha. Byeee!

    Like

  27. yoda says:

    “Sitting quietly, doing nothing, the Spring comes and the grass grows.”

    or:

    “Sitting quietly, doing nothing, the Sun explodes, and the Earth is vaporised.”

    HINT: Don’t enter the contemplation chamber, if you are wearing any articles made of ‘sin’.

    Do also check out today’s Mass readings: Do they make more sense before or after silent contemplation? 😉

    Like

  28. toadspittle says:

    To be taught Drama by Rabit. There’s a thought.

    Like

  29. Gertrude says:

    Yoda: Are you contemplating the one “The reasonings of mortals are unsure and our intentions unstable; for a perishable body presses down the soul, and this tent of clay weighs down on the teeming mind..” If so, be consoled by “Thus have the paths of those on earth been straightened and men have been taught what pleases you, and saved by wisdom”. If it was ‘the other’ one – don’t be intimidated by the thought of dispossessing yourself! 😉

    Like

  30. toadspittle says:

    Gertrude.

    “This tent of clay.” Superb! Who said it?

    Right up there with “This little pot of blood,” which, I believe, is Epictetus, or maybe Epicurus. Epi-something, anyway. (Probably not Epi-stein.)

    Like

  31. golden chersonnese says:

    Solomon, I believe, dear Toad, Solomon.

    Wisdom 9:13-18

    http://www.catholic.org/bible/book.php?id=27

    Like

  32. Frere Rabit says:

    Rabit cycled 20 kilometres down the road to see the riders in the Vuelta a España racing through , up to the Alto de Guadalest. As it happens, I was positioned on the section of road where the riders were given their feed bags. I could have sworn I heard one of the riders shout with glee, as he rode past reaching into his feed bag: “Oooh, drugs! Them’s los Johnnies para mi!”

    Like

  33. Gertrude says:

    Toad: It was from the 1st Reading for the Mass of 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time. The book of Wisdom.

    Like

  34. golden chersonnese says:

    Gertrude says
    Toad: It was from the 1st Reading for the Mass of 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time. The book of Wisdom
    _________________________

    Which you won’t find in no protestant Bible.

    Like

  35. Gertrude says:

    GC: I didn’t know that! The Greek book of Wisdom is one of the deutero-canonical books and was used by the Fathers of the Church from around the 2nd century, although there was some hesitation (and opposition) notably from St. Jerome regarding its recognition it was eventually recognised as inspired in the same way as the books from the Hebrew canon.
    You are probably right though, it is thought to have been written by Solomon, though he is not named, but insinuated, also, in Greek it is called The Wisdom of Solomon.
    I wonder why it isn’t in protestant bibles?

    Like

  36. golden chersonnese says:

    Gertrude says:
    I wonder why it isn’t in protestant bibles?
    ___________________

    Gertrude, I think one Catholic line is that Luther had either to throw out all the deuterocanonicals or lose the argument over Purgatory as indicated in Maccabees (even though many of the Deuterocanicals are referred to in the New Testament!).

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  37. Gertrude says:

    Further to the above, the Book of Wisdom is preserved in 4 major MSS – Vaticanus (4thC), Siniaticus (4thC), Codex Ephraemi rescriptus (5thC). The Vaticanus is probably considered by scholars to be the best, and was used as the translation in the New Jerusalem Bible by Dom Henry Wansbrough for the Book of Wisdom.

    Like

  38. rebrites says:

    how delightful to see there are people online who know their Lao Tsu from their Lo Mein! It was my college introduction to Taoism (taught by a venerable Benedictine brother, btw) that led me down the long and beautiful path to Japanese woodblock prints, meditative prayer, Thomas Merton, sushi, and Thich Nhat Hanh.

    … And just to mention the first great western Quietist: didn´t Zeno advocate such meditative and “not-do” approaches, too?

    Like

  39. Shakin' Lightshade says:

    Rebrites,

    Wisdom is wisdom is wisdom.

    The Holy Spirit (pneuma) caused waves to form on the waters before time begun. and still He/She does.

    Pre- Christian Wisdom and post-Christian Wisdom must be the same thing, as long as they are Wise.

    Like

  40. golden chersonnese says:

    rebrites says:
    how delightful to see there are people online who know their Lao Tsu from their Lo Mein!
    ____________________________

    rebrites,

    Those who know don’t blog,
    Those who blog don’t know . . .

    Like

  41. golden chersonnese says:

    It was my college introduction to Taoism (taught by a venerable Benedictine brother, btw) that led me down the long and beautiful path to Japanese woodblock prints, meditative prayer, Thomas Merton, sushi, and Thich Nhat Hanh.
    ___________________________________
    Hello rebrites, 🙂

    so could you tell us in what way you think a bit of Taoism could benefit a Christian in prayer?

    Like

  42. toadspittle says:

    golden chersonnese says:

    Those who blog don’t know . . .

    . . .and we don’t even know what it is that we don’t know.

    Like

  43. golden chersonnese says:

    How do you know that?

    Like

  44. golden chersonnese says:

    Where is Burrito? Off auditioning for a part in Man of La Mancha?

    Like

  45. toadspittle says:

    golden chersonnese says:

    How do you know that?

    Toad says: Dunno. Just do.

    golden chersonnese says:

    Where is Burrito? Off auditioning for a part in Man of La Mancha?

    Toad says. Dunno that either. Yoda does. Yoda knows everything, or so it seems.

    Possibly Burruguru is off punching some stubborn unbeliever in the stomach, while Omvendt holds his hat, or sets fire to him (to the unbeliever, that is, of course, not our bellicose Burro boy, he’s fireproof).

    All kinds of weird stuff afoot, e’en now. Where will it all end, knows God.

    Like

  46. Frere Rabit says:

    If he is, he’ll need more than a lampshade on his head. The heat is roasting my rabit ears, here on the mountains in view of the coast -where we at least have a cool breeze – but in La Mancha it will be that searing oven heat that takes your breath away.

    “To dream the impossible dream…”

    Aaaaaargh!!! CP&S blog loses four thousand readers immediately.

    Like

  47. golden chersonnese says:

    toadspittle says:

    Toad says: Dunno. Just do.

    Toad says. Dunno that either. Yoda does. Yoda knows everything, or so it seems.
    ___________________________________________________________

    The Toad of Unknowing

    Like

  48. toadspittle says:

    The Toad of Unknowing

    Wish I’d said that. I will, I will, I know.

    How cruel. How true.

    Still, Socrates would have like it.

    Like

  49. toadspittle says:

    ‘liked’
    Doh!

    Like

  50. golden chersonnese says:

    Toad says:
    Wish I’d said that. I will, I will, I know.
    How cruel. How true.
    Still, Socrates would have like it.
    ________________________

    “And our soul by virtue of this reforming grace is made sufficient to the full to comprehend all Him by love, the which is incomprehensible to all created knowledgeable powers, as is angel, or man’s soul; I mean, by their knowing, and not by their loving. And therefore I call them in this case knowledgeable powers. But yet all reasonable creatures, angel and man, have in them each one by himself, one principal working power, the which is called a knowledgeable power, and another principal working power, the which is called a loving power. Of the which two powers, to the first, the which is a knowledgeable power, God that is the maker of them is evermore incomprehensible; and to the second, the which is the loving power, in each one diversely He is all comprehensible to the full.”

    The Cloud of Unknowing Ch. 4

    Scheler would have liked it.

    Like

  51. Frere Rabit says:

    I have always had an idea that the author of The Cloud of Unknowing was a Carthusian, but I don’t think there’s any evidence is there? There’s a strong possibility also that Walter Hilton popped round one day and borrowed his ladder.

    Like

  52. Gertrude says:

    It would be an easy assumption Rabit, it has been thought that it was probably written by a Contemplative, but Carthusians weren’t the only Contemplatives around in the 14thC! I believe the author is unknown, but there were several writing in the realms of apophatic mysticism in the Middle Ages.

    Like

  53. toadspittle says:

    Rabit

    Mentioned Walter Hilton, with whom I was not familiar. He (Hilton, not Rabit) apparently used a image of a ladder, I imagine as an ascending scale of improvement. Is that the case?
    Reminded me of Wittgenstein in the Tractatus:

    6.54: “My propositions serve as elucidations in the following way: anyone who understands me eventually recognizes them as nonsensical, when he has used them – as steps – to climb beyond them. He must, so to speak, throw away the ladder after he has climbed up it.”

    Is it possible Ludwig had read Hilton?

    Like

  54. rebrites says:

    Golden asked: so could you tell us in what way you think a bit of Taoism could benefit a Christian in prayer?

    I am tempted to dodge this question, seeing as any answer would sound a bit like “Centering Prayer,” and that lot of heretics are already burned at the stake.

    But just off the top of my head, I´d say a bit of Taoism can help a Christian avoid the kind of “prayer” that´s a list read out to God, informing him what needs to be done, when, and how it ought to happen. It would help a Christian lay his prayers before the Lord, and leave them there. Way too many of us carry great burdens of worry around with us that are really best left in The Big Hands.

    But that´s just the start. Taoism is a great way to stop seeing yourself and God as two very distinct and seperate things, and by extension stop seeing the whole world in simplistic black/white, Good/Evil, Us/Them dualistic terms, with one´s Self at the center of the universe. (It´s helpful knowing you´re Of God, even you´re not quite All God!)

    Like

  55. Mimi says:

    Rebrites said:

    “Taoism is a great way to stop seeing yourself and God as two very distinct and seperate things, and by extension stop seeing the whole world in simplistic black/white, Good/Evil, Us/Them dualistic terms, with one´s Self at the center of the universe. (It´s helpful knowing you´re Of God, even you´re not quite All God!)”

    I smell heresy! Burn the witch!! 🙂

    Like

  56. golden chersonnese says:

    Thanks, rebrites. I’m going to think about that and try to give you a response tomorrow that with a little luck will be worthy of you.

    I found that with emptying one’s thoughts and silencing one’s own desires and purposes in order to go with the way (“the flow”?) really did let you see clearly your own egoism and cares. You could see them in your mind’s eye sticking up like burrito’s ears.

    Losing even a bit of all that was very stress-relieving and made you feel very very well, at the same time opening up your mind and heart to God.

    Like

  57. Gertrude says:

    I have to say that this sounds a bit ‘new agey’ to me. Does not the Curch have a treasure chest of mysticism – enough to occupy one for a lifetime!

    Like

  58. Frere Rabit says:

    Of course the Carthusians weren’t the only contemplatives around in the 14th century, and indeed not even the only apophatic ones, but the anonymity – which is standard Carthusian practice – suggests that possibility. More than that, the author of The Cloud of Unknowing expresses many concepts with the nuances of Carthusian life. I had never bothered to check it out – oddly enough – but since this thread has gone off in all directions (!) I stayed with the author of The Cloud and have been exploring the question. It seems a widespread idea that he was a Carthusian, and the intuition I had back in 1985, while reading it for the first time, long before you could do a “Google” search, was spot on!

    As for Hilton’s ladder, like so many uses of that image, it begins with Jacob’s and goes upwards through the centuries. A well-worn monastic mystical image. Unfortunately, so many come tumbling down on the slippery snakes, having climbed up so far but then been tempted into other traditions.

    Hexagram 23 again: “A law of nature is at work here. Evil is not destructive to the good alone but inevitably destroys itself s well. For evil, which lives solely by negation, cannot continue to exist on its own strength alone. The inferior man himself fares best when held under control by a superior man.” A spiritual director?

    Time for confession of sins. Forgive me father but I have been obsessed by the number 23 since my last confession. It is also the number of the Fool in the Tarot pack and it’s amazing when you look at its relation to the Golden Section… Don’t you find that amazing, father…?

    Yes, OK I’ll be quiet now. (Gulp.) How many Hail Marys? Twenty three thousand?

    Like

  59. golden chersonnese says:

    Gertrude says:
    I have to say that this sounds a bit ‘new agey’ to me. Does not the Curch have a treasure chest of mysticism – enough to occupy one for a lifetime!
    _____________________________

    Hello Gertrude, I’d say Christian mysticism also has some oriental roots.

    This is from Evelyn Underhill:

    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 concepts of philosophy blended with the intuitions of Indian ecstatics, and made the basis of its meditations on the Real. It is a truism that the chief claim of Christian philosophy on our respect does not lie in its exclusiveness but in its Catholicity: in the fact that it finds truth in a hundred different systems, accepts and elucidates Greek, Jewish, and Indian thought, fuses them in a coherent theology, and says to speculative thinkers of every time and place, “Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, Him declare I unto you.”

    from “Mysticism: A Study in Nature and Development of Spiritual Consciousness
    Evelyn Underhill”

    http://www.ccel.org/ccel/underhill/mysticism.iii.v.html at paragraph 106

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  60. golden chersonnese says:

    Even Pope Benedict saw this (^) when talking about Pseudo-Dionysius, who was seminal in Christian mysticism.

    “Today, Dionysius the Areopagite has a new relevance: He is presented as a great mediator in the modern dialogue between Christianity and the mystical theologies of Asia, marked by the conviction that it is impossible to say who God is, that only negative expressions can be used to speak of him; that God can only be spoken of with “no,” and that it is only possible to reach him by entering into this experience of “no.” And here is seen a similarity between the thought of the Areopagite and that of the Asian religions. He can be today a mediator like he was between the Greek spirit and the Gospel.”

    http://www.zenit.org/article-22588?l=english

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