My concern is that we not get derailed by stereotypes.
I have led a fairly active prayer life over not a few decades.
I have read about this stuff, attended guidance sessions, listened to
I don't have any formal training as a spiritual director or anything like
and I make absolutely no claim on being a mystic, whatever that is.
One thing I feel very confident about is that if someone goes around saying
he or she is
a mystic, then one can be fairly certain that such a person is not a mystic,
mystic one means a person having a conscious, interpersonal relationship
with a spiritual entity.
Indeed there are reports of people having spiritual experiences on a regular
I believe something like 200 such experiences a year in the US alone get
attention by the proper authorities.
One bizarre little example, with which no one quarrels happened in a trailer
outside Portland, Oregon. The Virgn Mary appeared in the corner of a
It was witnessed by a whole lot (thousands) of people. It was not a hoax.
It just came and eventually went. A mystery.
At the other end of the spectrum are the visionaries of Medjugorje in
They were not nice little obedient, innocent peasant children who knew
Their parish priest said they were certainly not the people he would have
The only significant characteristic was that everyone knew these six
teenagers would not lie.
It started in communist times with the first two doing their favourite thing
sneaking out after supper to go smoke cigarettes and sing pop songs
by the communists. They saw lights which turned out to be the Virgin.
Then the manifestations came to four others and they collected as a group.
Put the spiritual dimension aside if you want. These six people have been
prodded, measured in and out of their visionary states, as well as being
by communist authorities and church authorities. The medical examinations
been done by all the leading authorities in Europe. Whatever it is, it is
not a hoax.
The visionaries have kept a careful record of everything they have
It seems that the Virgin was hoping they would join religious orders. None
of them did.
They are all raising families. The most articulate of them says that it is a
life, because once one has seen heaven, then it is agony not to be there.
previous and current Popes advocate that people go there. The phenomenon
has been accepted by Rome, just not officially (like sainthood, it takes a
time for the Church to commit itself). One interesting anomally was that
the visionaries were together in the apparition room ( in the local
church - later
she appeared separately to each of them - and apparently still does) before
apparitions happened, birds would swarm about the place, and then go still
during the visions.
So are these people mystics? Does it matter?
Mystical experience can be a manifestation of holiness, but there are cases
of people going on to lead very mediocre, worldy lives, totally unconcerned
All this is by way of preface to suggest that of course Eliot would deny
being a mystic,
if for no other reason than that he would lose credibility with a whole lot
and would look like a nutter to a whole lot of others. I personally find it
hard to believe that he could have created the kind of poetry he did in Ash
The Four Quartets without having had some intimate experience of
It may well not have been visions, &c as the stereotypes suggest; it
certainly is consistent with
"a deeper communion" as he put it in 4Q. He certainly had the sensibility
To me the following has the sura of mysticism:
"We must be still and still moving
Into another intensity
For a further union, a deeper communion
Through the dark cold and the empty desolation,"
questioned endlessly over about 20
----- Original Message -----
From: "Ken Armstrong" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Monday, March 22, 2010 7:59 AM
Subject: Re: signs and wonders
> Nancy Gish wrote:
> > Perhaps he did. I only reported what he did say, that he was not a
> > mystic. I no longer remember where I read it because it has been many
> > years since I researched Eliot and mysticism at great length, but I
> > remember it without doubt. I'm not sure it matters much if he
> > experienced it himself or experienced it through literature or
> > speaking with others. So much of his work is evoked by reading, which
> > is, after all, personal experience.
> At the risk of raising everyone's ire except Carrol's, let me
> hazard that reading and personal experience are very much not the same.
> Again, no professional line here, but a story that Ong repeats comes to
> mind about a ship's captain who learns by experience being a poor risk
> (so many things capable of wrecking/swamping a vessel). The conversation
> here about Eliot could go on and on with no positive conclusion, Eliot
> having never said whether he did or didn't have a mystical experience.
> For myself, I think mystical experiences are not so rare, even if
> mystics, relatively, are, and Eliot more than likely had such
> experiences, whether plural or singular. Don't know how that affects
> Gerontion or TWL.
> Ken A
> > So maybe he did have