Mysticism: Holiness East and West

By Denise Lardner Carmody; John Tully Carmody | Go to book overview

missing of one another's intentions. Finally, we asked her what she did for a living. "I study cement, " she said. A light dawned. We were talking about movements of the contemplative spirit. Her world, with which she seemed fully content, focused on cement. We were students of religion, ultimate reality. She was an engineer, interested in laying down roads, putting in the foundations of office buildings. We found the situation amusing, but humor did not appear to play a large role in the study of cement. So, we bailed out of the exchange, judging it had no future.

You can work cement into many useful forms without venturing into paradox or poetry. If your view of the world, what you are brimming to say, forces you to speak paradoxically, you probably ought to stay out of civil engineering. The language of the mystic is sacramental, metaphorical, intent on showing how the revelations of ultimate reality come dazzling like light through a kaleidoscope. The mystic sees the world as a congeries of types and antitypes, archetypes in heaven and miniature versions on earth. Moreover, beyond this iconography lies darkness, silence, unlimitedness that sometimes seems more pregnant than any of the forms it inspires. Sometimes it seems like nothing less than a cosmic womb, the Buddhist Tathagatagarbha, or a cornucopia of beings streaming down, the illuminations of a great Being of lights.

If speech such as this means little to you, you have experienced little about mysticism. More significantly, if speech such as this puts you off, leaves you cold, then at the moment you have little aptitude for mystical studies. Mysticism aims at clarity but only through difficult unknowing. Mystics find themselves using speech to defeat speech, so that silence, wordless love, heart-to-heart communion, from the fine point of the soul through the pointless place where ultimacy infuses being, takes center stage and determines the play.

In the end, everything exits into mystery, as, mystics begin to suspect, everything entered mysteriously in the beginning. We are engaged with much more than we know or can appreciate. If such an engagement intrigues you, you may have a calling to try the mystical path. 3 Otherwise, go in peace, contenting yourself with doing justice, and loving kindness, and walking humbly with your God.


NOTES
1
See John *Carmody, "On Writing About God", Studies in Formative Spirituality 13, no. 1 ( February 1992): 85-91.
2
See Frederick Copleston, Religion and the One ( New York: Crossroad, 1982).
3
On the mystical outlook overall, see Huston Smith, Forgotten Truth ( New York: Harper & Row, 1976); Denise Lardner Carmody and John Tully Carmody, In the Path of the Masters ( New York: Paragon, 1994).

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Mysticism: Holiness East and West
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Preface *
  • Contents *
  • 1 - Introduction 3
  • Notes 26
  • 2 - Hinduism 28
  • Notes 57
  • 3 - Buddhism 60
  • Notes 98
  • 4 - Chinese and Japanese Traditions 101
  • Notes 135
  • 5 - Jewish Traditions 137
  • Notes 183
  • 6 - Christian Traditions 186
  • Notes 225
  • 7 - Muslim Traditions 226
  • Notes 269
  • 8 - Mysticism Among Oral Peoples 272
  • Notes 291
  • 9 - Conclusion 293
  • Notes 312
  • Index 313
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