The Dogmatic and Mystical Theology of John Donne

By Itrat Husain | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VII JOHN DONNE AND MYSTICAL THEOLOGY
IT is not my purpose in this chapter to deal in detail with the mystical theology of John Donne, for the contents of mystical theology are doctrinal as well as experimental; it not only records the mystical experience of the soul, but also enunciates the rules for its guidance, which are based on the Scriptures, the lives of the Saints, and the teachings of the Fathers; there is not enough material available for such an exhaustive survey either in his Sermons or other prose-works of John Donne. Mystical theology has been defined as a "Science which treats of acts and experiences or states of the soul which cannot be produced by human effort or industry even with the ordinary aid of Divine grace."1 It mainly comprises of:
1. Various forms of prayer.
2. Purification.
3. Illumination.
4. The dark night of the Soul and
5. The Mystical Union.

PRAYER

Donne does not deal with the various forms of prayer, their method, or their practical and mystical import.

There are mainly four forms of Prayer, vocal,2 mental, affective, and Prayer of simplicity. The vocal prayer denotes verbal expression of the internal act which is implied in every prayer.

Mental Prayer is really a form of meditation in which the various faculties of the soul, memory, intellect, imagination and will are concentrated on some principle, truth or fact as

____________________
1
The Catholic Encyclopædia, Vol. XIV.
2
This form of prayer was declared to be unnecessary by Wyclifites and the Quietists. The former objected to it because the soul does not require any words to commune with God, the latter regarded language as a hindrance in the attainment of that passive state of the soul, in which alone the soul could pray. There are, however, several examples of such prayer in the Bible; the Prayer of Israelites in captivity ( Exod. ii. 23), the Lord's Prayer ( S. Matt. vi. 9) and Christ's own prayer after the raising of Lazarus ( S. John xi. 41). Catholic Encyclo., Vol. XII.

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