Silent Music: The Life, Work, and Thought of Saint John of the Cross

Silent Music: The Life, Work, and Thought of Saint John of the Cross

Silent Music: The Life, Work, and Thought of Saint John of the Cross

Silent Music: The Life, Work, and Thought of Saint John of the Cross

Synopsis

R. A. Herrera discusses the life, writings, and legendary mystical experiences of one of the church's most cherished figures.

Excerpt

Mysticism is a protean term used to signify a variety of disparate phenomena from the sublime to the trivial, from the effusions of the Godintoxicated saint to the babblings of the hallucinogen-intoxicated addict. It runs the gamut from St. Teresa’s mansions of the soul to Timothy Leary’s neural cocoon. Discrimination is required to distinguish between the genuine and the spurious article.

Mystical states and their counterfeits have been produced in a multiplicity of ways: prayer, meditation, speculation, logic, numbers, letters, music, bodily postures, drugs, breathing techniques. Perhaps because of this very breadth, ‘mysticism’ has been used as a term of reproach for opinions considered vague, vast, eccentric, or bizarre; without basis in either fact or reason. William James, in his Varieties of Religious Experience, catalogues a veritable menagerie of mystical and mystical-like phenomena. As he maintained that the unconscious — in his vocabulary the ‘transmarginal’ — provides the ‘door’ to the mysti-

1. William James, Varieties of Religious Experience (New York: Modern Library, 1922), 370-71.

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