Mystics in Spite of Themselves: Four Saints and the Worlds They Didn't Leave

Mystics in Spite of Themselves: Four Saints and the Worlds They Didn't Leave

Mystics in Spite of Themselves: Four Saints and the Worlds They Didn't Leave

Mystics in Spite of Themselves: Four Saints and the Worlds They Didn't Leave

Synopsis

Most people think that mystics pursue lives of solitude, sequestering themselves away from society in order to dwell solely on God without distraction. In fact, says R. A. Herrera, few who actively engage the world are found among the mystics. However, in Mystics in Spite of Themselves, he examines the lives of four prominent and historically relevant men who broke that rule: Augustine (354-430), Gregory (540-604), Anselm (1033-1109), and Ramon Llull (1233-1315). Though separated from the hermitage, desert, or cell that they may have craved, they are still rightly called mystics. / Herrera brings to life the tumultuous times in which these men lived, and explores what kind of challenges they faced -- the burdens of work, ill health, and the longing for a different kind of life. Nevertheless, these four men were thinkers and writers who had a powerful impact on their worlds as well as on the history of spirituality. They proved it was possible to be involved in the world without being immersed in it, to be engaged in earthly particulars while also keeping their minds and hearts on higher things.

Excerpt

This brief study attempts to show that active, politically engaged, religious men, separated by chance or circumstance from the solitary cell, hermitage, or desert that was their normal habitat, were nevertheless able to scale the heights of spirituality, and that they did so during periods of crisis. Having survived the twentieth century, contemporary man is all too familiar with crises, of which there have been a great number and variety. He is above all interested in the upset birthed by the nineteenth century, which found its métier in the twentieth.

About a century ago, Max Nordau in Entartung (Degeneration, 1895) spoke of the fin-de-siècle state of mind characterized by “emancipation from traditional discipline, unbridled lewdness, the unchaining of the beast in man … the end of the established order.” a few decades prior, Baudelaire published sections of a projected work

1. Cited in B. G. Brander, Staring into Chaos: Explorations into the Decline of Civilizations (Dallas: Spence Publishing, 1998), p. 23, n. 9.

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