ND   JMC : History of Medieval Philosophy / by Maurice De Wulf

198. Practical and Speculative Mysticism. -- It is not easy to give a good definition of Mysticism. The word is from the root mu, which suggests the notion of closed up, concealed, secret, and designates in general a tendency which urges man to an intimate, personal, hidden union with the Infinite. Practical mysticism springs directly from religion. It flourishes more and more, according as the religious sentiment is deeper and more universal. On the other hand, religious scepticism withers and kills mysticism.

Speculative mysticism we may describe as a science that rests on this unitive tendency and has for its object to describe the relations of direct communication between the soul and God, and to explain the universal order of things by the union thus effected.

The communication in question is taught in the first place to involve contemplation, which reveals to the intelligence the grandeur and majesty of the Infinite, and to culminate in an affective movement of the soul rejoicing in the peaceful possession of God. This state of calm security induces a sort of passivity which may assume various forms (apathy, quietism, annihilation of consciousness, etc.).

In the next place the communication is understood to be direct. That is to say, it is not based on an ordinary, analogical knowledge of God, such as we have from creatures; but on an immediate intuition. Hence all the mystics recognize, besides senses and reason, other modes of knowledge, all of which we may include under the general title of internal visions. They admit, moreover, corresponding movements in the affective or emotional part of the soul. It is not so much that man casts himself on God; rather he is sought by God; God takes possession of him.

Finally, this union becomes the culminating point of all psychic activity; all other pursuits, especially all philosophical studies, are subordinated to it.

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