The Metaphysics of Mysticsm

a Commentary on the Mystical Philosophy of St. John of the Cross

By

Geoffrey K. Mondello

Dedicated to Mary, Mother of God

 

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Preface to the Philosophy of St. John of the Cross
Foreword to the Philosophy of St. John of the Cross
An Introduction to the Philosophy of St. John of the Cross
The Mystical Tradition and St. John of the Cross
The Presuppositions of the Philosophy of St. John of the Cross
The Role of the Will in the Philosophy of St. John of the Cross
The Role of Understanding in the Philosophy of St. John of the Cross
The Role of Memory in the Philosophy of St. John of the Cross
The Metaphysics of the Dark Night of the Soul
The Metaphysics of the Night of the Spirit
The Problem of Induction as Pseudo-Problematic
Prolepsis: Objections to the Mystical Experience
Being, Becoming, and Eternity
A Biography of St. John of the Cross
Epilogue to the Metaphysics of Mysticism

© Copyright 2011-2017 by Geoffrey K. Mondello. All rights reserved
author@johnofthecross.com

 

An Introduction to the Philosophy of St. John of the Cross

The Epistemological Paradox:
the Knower, Unknowing, and the Unknown

Any study of St. John’s mystical philosophy must first come to terms with the nature of mystical theology itself; what its object is, what its limits are: in short, what particular universe of discourse we are addressing in our attempt to understand the mystical experience described by St. John of the Cross. A good definition, it appears to me, must be broad enough to subsume the many interpretations we encounter outside any specific tradition. The advantages of this are at once obvious, for such an approach, broadly chronological in its purview, provides us with a much needed sense of historical continuity inasmuch as many of the doctrines found in the writings of St. John have very clear historical antecedents that are not, in fact, rooted in Christianity at all. Some precede it. Indeed, some are deeply inimical to it. On the other hand, it is equally clear that our definition must be sufficiently specific to the tradition to which St. John so clearly belongs and in light of which alone his mystical doctrine becomes coherent. One extremely useful definition, a definition embracing what is both specific and general, would construe mystical theology as essentially the consummate theology. Why consummate? Because it is the cognitive apex of an otherwise largely speculative theological enterprise. Mystical theology, in short, is concerned with the direct intuition – experience, if you will – of God 1; the immediate and unmodified apprehension of the Absolute through what has come to be understood as ‘unio mystica’, or mystical union.

Perhaps the clearest, certainly the most concise, definition offered is, I think, summarized in the words of the great fourteenth century theologian and mystic, Jean Gerson:

“Theologia mystica est experimentalis cognitio habita de Deo per amoris unitivi complexum” 2

Natural Theology, by contrast, concerns itself exclusively with the knowledge of God arrived at through natural, or discursive reason: that is to say, in Natural Theology an understanding of God is abstractly achieved through a rational process much in the way that a logical argument is constructed through a sorites. St. Anselm’s famous ‘Ontological Argument’ is a fine example of this type of theological reasoning. The God it broaches upon, however, remains as abstract as the syllogistic reasoning that deduced him, and, practically speaking, few people undergo conversion experiences as a result of this line of reasoning, however impeccable.

Dogmatic Theology, on the other hand, takes a somewhat different tack: it is primarily concerned with the knowledge of God obtained through divine revelation principally embodied in Sacred Scripture, and has come to assume a rather monolithic architectonic through a long-standing and erudite tradition of Patristic exegesis. The force of reason and the appeal to authority (Scriptural, patristic, and philosophical) which typically characterizes dogmatic theology is a powerful combination, a combination so effective, in fact, that it is arguably the single most vital element in any individual’s – including the mystic’s – orthodox religious formation. It is, in a sense, the springboard off which the mystic leaps into less certain waters. St. Thomas Aquinas is an eminent example of both disciplines, artfully incorporating elements of the Natural and the Dogmatic into that remarkable synthesis culminating in his Summa Theologica, considered by many to be the greatest theological treatise ever written.

Reason as Propadeutic: the Ex Hypothesi

Mystical theology approaches God quite differently. Its path lies neither through the narrow corridors of reason, nor through the rigid architectonics of dogmatic exegesis. It either leaps off at the point where the scholar is left stammering, or may prescind altogether from the cumbersome intellectual impedimenta that becomes effectively superfluous in the ecstatic momentum that impels the soul to union with God. This, of course, is to disparage neither reason nor dogma. Each in measure is an indispensable tributary to the depth of that inexorable movement toward God, as we shall later see. It remains, nevertheless, that even a scholar of the caliber of St. Thomas Aquinas had subsequently come to view all that he had written, and this was considerable to say the least, as “so much straw” in light of the direct experience of God which he briefly encountered in a moment of ecstatic union. So overwhelming, so all embracing, so utterly definitive was this experience that St. Thomas immediately ceased writing.

Shall we then toss aside the Summa? It is clear that St. John did not. Neither, in fact, did Tauler, Suso, or Eckhardt. And for good reason: Mystical Theology, properly understood, neither compromises nor invalidates its Rational and Dogmatic counterparts. Rather, it surpasses them in the way that the act of seeing surpasses the most definitive description of sight. The description itself remains true; it is entirely accurate inasmuch as words signify, and in signifying attempt to communicate, what is essentially an experience. But the disproportion between the experience itself and any description subsequent to it remains nearly irreconcilable. To one who is color-deficient (to carry the analogy a little further) and who has never seen the color purple, the most precise and detailed description of this absolutely unique chromatic phenomenon called purple, even when coupled with appeals to extrapolate from colors with which one is familiar, yields at best only a vague conception, and in the end brings that person no closer to the experience of the color itself. In short, we must come to terms with limitations inherent in language, especially descriptive language; limitations that are radicated in shared experiences outside of which the power of language reaches a cognitive terminus. No more can meaningfully be said. And this is precisely the plight of the mystic, and, therefore, that of mystical theology itself.

But let us take this a little further. While each of the several branches of theology take God as their cognitive object, something of a sense of theological fragmentation inevitably occurs. Somehow a universal and unitary comprehension of God is not so much lost, as never quite achieved. If a synthesis is obtained, however comprehensive and integrated, it only leaves us in the vestibule of the Divine, and the antechamber is yet obscure and unoccupied. Each discipline within theology, in other words, is possessed of quite definite and intrinsic limitations in addressing the Absolute; insuperable limitations, we shall find, that derive from a metaphysical finitude inextricably bound up with nature as subsuming under itself everything created in opposition to the Uncreated Absolute. Each approach to God is irremediably limited; hence the extent of the possibility of its cognition of God is determined a priori. In other words, the knowledge of God we acquire through Natural Theology is mediated, and therefore limited, by reason. It addresses the inexhaustible Absolute strictly as the object of rational inquiry. On the other hand, the knowledge acquired through Dogmatic Theology, while not prescinding from reason, is nevertheless itself equally mediated, and therefore limited, by revelation, pertaining to the infinite God only insofar as he has revealed some aspect of his infinite being in finite human history. Our acquaintance, our cognition of God through reason and revelation, then, is necessarily incomplete. The contributions of traditional theological disciplines are not, for that reason, understood to be irrelevant. To the contrary, St. John was well schooled in scholasticism at the University of Salamanca and relies a great deal on Dogmatic Theology as a propadeutic to the mystical journey. As a journey of faith, it is Dogmatic Theology which enables us to the reach the vestibule safely; it is the compass whose unchanging ordinals, divinely illumined, give us bearing in the dark night of the soul. Constituting, as it does, an index of truth in the form of dogmatic certainties, it provides essential definition in the face of gathering obscurity, and so disabuses us of error, which St. John sees as constituting one of the principal impediments to the soul in its journey to union with God.

This is not to say, as we suggested earlier, that the mystic must first thoroughly acquaint himself with Dogmatic Theology if he hopes to arrive at union with God. God of his own predilection brings whom he wills to this exalted state, and makes no inquiries into the mystic’s theological credentials. However, the likelihood of achieving this state, given the many obstacles likely to be encountered on the journey, will in some measure be commensurable with the mystic’s certain grounding in fundamental dogmatic issues. One’s prospect of attaining to ecstatic union with the One, Most Holy, and Uncreated Absolute is considerably diminished if ones conception of God is grossly and fundamentally divergent from the Divine reality toward which one aspires. It is not unlike one attempting to find the solution to some complex algorithm by sorting out the entrails of owls. Some measure of correspondence is presumed between the objective and the means, and it is Dogmatic Theology which ensures this, not by delimiting the inexhaustible Absolute, but in defining certain irrefragable aspects of it. Unfortunately, or fortunately, the egalitarianism so dear to the human heart is shattered as much on the frontiers of heaven as it is on the formulas of mathematics. However dearly we would that two and two equal five, we strive for it in vain, or hold to a fiction, but never quite achieve true mathematics. This would appear to be no less true of the quest for God. However dearly we would that God conform his being to our wishes, our sensitivities, our inclinations, even our mistaken beliefs, the invincible reality will continue to elude us until we are prepared to settle upon terms not entirely of our own making and more in accord with the reality we pursue. Dogmatic Theology simply makes some of these terms clear.

A good deal more, however, must be said about reason. To begin with, inasmuch as reason mediates our approach to God, in so doing, it simultaneously modifies our perception of the Absolute; our apprehension of God is not, without stringent qualification, entirely veridical. Certainly it is not a perception of God in the plenitude of his being. Rather, it is a perception modified by, in being accommodated to, reason and revelation. God is essentially construed as a being upon whom rational categories are imposed, and who in himself, defined as infinite, transcends these intrinsically limiting and modifying categories. The nature of God, in other words, infinitely exceeds the narrow architectonics of reason, and while it is clearly arguable that the intelligibility of God requires at least a minimal availability to reason, it is no less clear that the divine essence is incapable of being exhausted by reason alone, for the rational availability of God is only, merely, one dimension of God’s infinite being. And this is really to say that we understand by God something more than the merely rational.

Transcendence through Immanence?

What emerges from all this is perhaps the most interesting question of all: is there in fact, beside reason, perhaps even above reason, some alternative mode of cognition which must be admitted into our epistemological account? One which, while not abrogating reason, somehow surpasses reason, much in the way that, to advert to our earlier analogy, seeing infinitely exceeds the description of sight – while in no way invalidating the description itself?

At the same time it is important to recognize that the deliverances of reason, however limited, nevertheless remain authentic. What reason predicates of God is not abolished in mystical experiences; such experiences, rather, are found to corroborate them. It is vitally important for us to understand this, for it means that those of us who stand outside this unique experience nevertheless have an understanding of God that is not in the end merely one of so many superlative fictions. In some albeit limited way our conception of God actually corresponds to the reality of the Absolute. Were this not so, the Christian understanding of salvific history would otherwise be emptied of meaning and our relationship to God would not so much be a matter of disproportion as one of utter incommensurability. In other words, if God cannot be known, in some sense meaningfully understood, then, practically speaking, he simply does not exist for us; no more so than we may hold anything to exist in any meaningful way about which we know nothing.

Nevertheless, it is precisely this genuine perceptual capacity within the mystic which undergoes a profound transformation in ecstatic union; a transformation in which the encounter with God is more accurately described as an intuition, that is, an immediate experience, one unconditioned by reason and sensibility – and if unconditioned, then totally unmodified. It is, for the mystic, a supernatural apprehension of God as he is in himself.

This claim, perhaps the most controversial, certainly the most central aspect of mystical experience, inevitably invites contradiction, and for good reason. Since Immanuel Kant, the notion of a perception of anything in itself (an sich) – the noumenal insight into unmodified being – has become epistemologically problematic. According to this line of reasoning, the presumably pristine data presented us in any possible encounter is modified in the very act of perceiving it: our perception, in other words, invests data with logical and aesthetic qualities that do not inhere in the data themselves, but which are present as a condition to the very possibility of their being perceived at all. And these qualities themselves are present as a result of our own epistemological activity which first conditions data in order to accommodate it. We can, therefore, never know anything in and of itself. We are acquainted merely with the phenomenal appearance, but never the noumenal substance, the unmodified reality forever concealed beneath a phenomenal framework of our own epistemological making. 3

Reason and sensibility, then, having largely defined the terms (and subsequently the limits) of any epistemological analysis since Kant, must in some way be cogently accounted for in mystical theology as well. At the same time, by its very nature mystical theology cannot be arbitrarily constrained to the scope limiting other types of epistemological pursuits since its objective is understood at the outset to transcend the phenomena legitimate to them. This, however, is latitude, not license; a latitude which must nevertheless hold to terms mutually recognized in any competent epistemological endeavor whatever. The problem is that the terms themselves become much more fluid precisely at the point where epistemology and mystical theology converge. Consequently, there is perpetual tension in this convergence, a tension fraught with misunderstanding. What is vitally needed from the outset, then, is a clarification of terms. And what I am suggesting is that much of the confusion surrounding mysticism itself results from the fact that mystical theology has, at this point, essentially redefined the terms.

It is equally important to understand that it has done so not by abolishing these terms, but by prescinding from them. Mystical theology does not contradict the terms which largely define other types of epistemological pursuits. It recognizes that they are, in fact, entirely valid within their own legitimate province. But while it does not contradict these terms, it is nevertheless ineluctably constrained to negate them. And this is quite another matter altogether. Recognizing that an epistemological analysis defined solely in terms of reason and sensibility is inherently inadequate to its own unique enterprise, mystical theology has not abrogated the terms – it has simply redefined them. And this is really the critical point of our departure. In redefining the terms it redefines the epistemological enterprise itself which is no longer understood so much as attaining to knowledge as attaining to being. Its objective is not the acquisition of an end, but a participating in it. Participation, in a word, becomes not simply an alternative to knowledge – it altogether supersedes it. At best, “knowing”, to the mystic, is penultimate to “being”. In a larger sense, within the concept of participation the implicit distinction between the “knower” and the “known”, a distinction otherwise constituting one of the most fundamental epistemological premises 4, becomes effectively superfluous. In the state of ecstatic union, the “knower” and the “known” are ultimately understood, in a carefully qualified sense, to in fact be one.

So crucial is the concept of participation, in fact, that it is fundamental to understanding the very possibility itself of the type of absolutely unconditioned and therefore veridical perception which the mystics claim to possess in ecstatic union. The epistemological margin between subject and object, the knower and the known, which gradually evanesces until it is totally transcended in the moment of the mystic’s apotheosis in God, only becomes coherent through an understanding of a metaphysics radicated in the notion of participation.

The Doctrine of Original Sin as an Epistemological Tangent

But we are getting ahead of ourselves. At this point it is probably best to address some of the other fundamental issues that inevitably influence our understanding of mysticism before venturing further into our account. One such issue concerns the doctrine of Original Sin. According to this doctrine, mankind in its first state of innocence (moral impeccability) enjoyed familiarity with God. This innocence, however, is held to have been lost, together with the intuitive apprehension of God which attended it, through an act of Original Sin. The consequences of this breach not only profoundly altered and vitiated our relationship with God, but our very cognition of the Divinity is held to have been subsequently impaired as well. From this perspective the task of mystical theology, at least implicitly, must be understood as restorative: somehow man must once again be reconciled to that state of innocence in which his relationship to God is once again consonant and, consequently, his apprehension of God immediate.

The return, so to speak, to this original state can only be achieved, or perhaps better yet, approximated by the mystic through what is essentially a purgative process in which the mystic strives to center consciousness entirely and exclusively upon God. This process, we will later see, basically consists in the categorical negation of all that is not God, both externally according to the senses, and internally according to the spirit. Mystical theology therefore employs a negative epistemology, proceeding through what is known as the via negativa (or the negative way) to arrive at a veridical cognition of God.

At the same time, we observe in the mystic an epistemological striving for centricity: as a result of our fallen state, our relationship to God has become, as it were, eccentric. That is to say, God is no longer central to ordinary consciousness, but rather exists on its periphery as only one of a multiplicity of notions competing to varying degrees for primacy in consciousness, and often entertained simultaneously – if indeed God occupies a place in consciousness at all. As long as a plurality of necessarily discrete, and often competing notions alternately occupy consciousness, just so long is man’s relationship to God eccentric. And it is precisely this type of epistemological diffusion which, for St. John, engenders what he calls “contrariety” to God in the soul. It is essentially a diffusion among incommensurable categories. If the soul, then, is to reestablish itself in its original state of consonance with God, it must in some way succeed in negating this plurality.

Let us attempt to sort this out for a moment. Assuming the intentionality of consciousness, that is to say, that consciousness itself presupposes as a condition of consciousness, an object or notion of which it is conscious – the soul in having but one item of consciousness is exclusively united with this object as the sole condition of its epistemological activity. We do not “know” in vacuo: the act of knowing, however vigorously abstracted and reduced, presupposes something being concurrently known, even if only the knower himself. Indeed, we understand the state of not knowing anything at all as unconsciousness. Consciousness, then, is not some dogmatically independent noesis apart from the data through which it is actualized. In this rigorously exclusive state of focused awareness, consciousness is contingent upon its solitary object – it is, in fact, united with this object as a consciousness of this object. And it is precisely this type of epistemological centricity toward which the via negativa moves. The via negativa, then, must be viewed not simply as inseparable from, but as intrinsic to the epistemological predisposition to mystical union, for it ultimately enables an epistemological union of the soul as the possibility, on the one hand, and the activity of God on the other, as the condition of any subsequent state of consciousness.

In the state of mystical union, however, we may be surprised to find that cognitive agency is not ascribable to the contemplative himself except insofar as he is engaged in the purely negative, if you will, the purgative process of eradicating within himself all that is not God preparatory to receiving the divine infusion. In the mystical experience of St. John, the notion of agency is directly ascribable to God only: the contemplative merely disposes himself to receive this infusion which God alone initiates and consummates, both according to his will, and that degree to which the soul has succeeded in eliminating within itself all the epistemological debris which effectively obstructs the clear and immediate vision of God. Mystical experience, then, is seen to consist in a dialectic between the passivity of the soul on the one hand, and the activity of God on the other. Given this dialectic, the soul appears to be — despite the fall — yet latently disposed to that authentic cognition of God which marked the ordinary awareness of man prior to his fall from the state of original justice. So we find that the very possibility of mystical experience presupposes the soul to be at least implicitly disposed to a veridical cognition of God. When actualized, when rendered explicit in the mystical experience, this cognition is, as it were, a dimension of the state of innocence re-achieved. This does not, however, mean that man is therefore rendered impeccable, as the Illuminist believed: while epistemological consonance may be re-established in mystical union, the contemplative is not for that reason abstracted from the penalty of original sin and therefore incapable of subsequently sinning. His nature, radicated in genealogy and inherited from Adam, remains intact – despite God’s predilection – and the invitation to union is apt to be viewed by the mystic not as a violation of nature, but as extraordinary testimony to the ability of God to work supernaturally in the soul.

The Problem with Language:
   the Limitations of the Intelligible

One of the most challenging issue to be addressed, and fundamental no less to the philosophy than the theology of mysticism, concerns the role of language in the mystical experience. It is a linguistic tradition – and problematic – the antecedents of which, at least for our purposes, go as far back as the Neoplatonists in the third century, and, arguably, earlier, to St. Paul himself. Within the tradition from which St. John writes, the works of Dionysius the Pseudo-Areopagite, particularly his treatise entitled De Divinis Nominibus (Concerning the Divine Names), are an eminent example of the difficulties language encounters in addressing the Absolute. This problem becomes critical in the often attenuated discourses of the mystic, so let us look at this issue a little more closely. For the contemplative, words characteristically fail to adequately express or convey his experience of the Absolute, and any linguistic description drawing its categories from experience is found to be inadequate to, and radically distinct from, that unique experience of God in mystical union. So entirely dissimilar is this experience to all others, that the mystic typically finds it difficult to establish any commensurability at all.

At best, God may only be spoken of analogically. But even this becomes problematic in St. John’s exposition, for any analogy at all presupposes at least some common categories between the analogized. To wit, in the first book of the Ascent of Mount Carmel, St. John outlines a cosmological relationship characterized by opposition between the created order and God. Each is possessed of ontological categories radically dissimilar in nature. How then, we must ask, is the role of analogy, which figures as largely in St. John’s poetry as in his philosophy, possible? For the answer, I think, we must look to the nature of St. John’s two principal analogies: the relationship of the Lover to the beloved, and that of the Bridegroom to the bride. Quite obviously, it is the notion of love that is fundamental to and essentially characterizes each relationship. And it is precisely this notion that, for St. John, becomes the common denominator between the contemplative and the Absolute. The analogy, we will find, is adequate precisely because commensurability is possible through man’s basic ontological status as the image of God. And this image of God in man is, for St. John, love, for God Himself is love.5

And yet the very nature of love itself is incapable of being adequately expressed. Words, however well chosen, and descriptions, however articulate and exhaustive, are found in the end to be profoundly impoverished. The essence remains ineffable, to be experienced immediately, intuitively. And so the analogy itself breaks down linguistically: our experience of God can only be analogized to our experience of love – and our experience of love is essentially recalcitrant to language. The experience of God in mystical union, like the experience of love between the bride and the bridegroom, remains intuitive and essentially unavailable to language. The experiences are comparable because they share common intuitions, and while certain subjective states attendant upon, and, as it were, accidental to, such experiences may in fact be vaguely described, the intuitive affinity itself evidently derives from some source in itself spontaneous, ever-immediate, and self-creating.

This serves to underscore yet another dimension of the persistent problem with language. Descriptive language purports to convey to us, or to signify, some aspect of reality typically not immediately available to us; it serves, then, to mediate or to approximate the reality. But it is only able to do so by presupposing an entire spectrum of shared experience necessary to intelligibility in any particular universe of discourse. In this sense, language may be viewed as an expedient in lieu of direct experience. And yet we have found that the nature of the mystical experience is essentially intuitive, immediate, direct. It is, in short, an experience – and any language endeavoring to describe this experience necessarily presupposes this experience as a condition to the intelligibility of the account it would render. Let us suppose an individual with a rare sensory dysfunction who has never experienced the sensation “hot”. No matter what linguistic categories we invoke, from the cup of hot tea to the arcana of thermodynamics, our attempts to communicate this sensation to that individual will be in vain until he has shared that experience with us, and only in light of that experience will the word “hot”, and all that attends our understanding of it, become intelligible, meaningful, to him. In other words, our admission into any meaningful universe of discourse presumes shared experiences upon which it is grounded. Apart from this essential condition, any description of mystical experience, however detailed and definitive, is necessarily emptied of intelligibility. Mystical union, then, or infused contemplation as it is often called, remains to be experienced, and when spoken of is only done so analogically. Coupled with the problem of absolute incommensurability deriving from any attempt to relate the finite to the Infinite, the created conditional to the Uncreated Absolute, the mystic who would attempt to relate his experience faces a redoubtable challenge indeed.

Perhaps in some small way we have already succeeded in understanding some of the very fundamental issues involved in the Western tradition of mysticism. It by now be reasonably clear, for example, that the relatively esoteric nature of mysticism, coupled with the mystic’s insistence upon the ineffability of the experience itself, derives from two closely related factors: the relatively small number of shared experiences upon which this tradition rests, and, of course, the limitations inherent in language itself. Experience, we find, inevitably outstrips language – it is the antecedent which language presupposes as a condition to the intelligibility of language at all. An alternative, then, must be sought beyond purely descriptive language. And while language clearly cannot be abandoned in any attempt to at least approximate meaning in the mystic’s account, it can, nevertheless be modified, articulated, inflected, to form a linguistic tangent on the Absolute – and this, I think, is what St. John strives to achieve in his poetry. It seems to me very significant that St. John treats of the mystical experience in poetic form, and then proceeds to comment on each line and stanza with an often involuted exposition on its theological or philosophic import. It appears to be of the very essence of poetry that the words of themselves are merely vehicles, often to non-verbalizable meanings. The meanings arise, hover as it were, enigmatically above the hard and fast signification of the words and often defy our most persistent efforts to impose some determinate form upon them. That one line of St. John’s verse may be followed by ten paragraphs of closely reasoned, discursive analysis merely brings to relief the fact that poetic form contains within itself a near infinitude of meaning which transcends the finite words. In short, the enigmatically communicative form of poetry demonstrates itself to be the only proximate means of communicating the mystical experience – while at once underscoring the inadequacy of words to describe it.

Why indeed, we must ask, given these extraordinary obstacles, does St. John, or any mystic, for that matter, endeavor to write of these experiences at all? The answer, I think – at least for St. John – is that while this experience is extraordinary and seldom encountered, it is not for a lack of predilection on the part of God. Indeed, St. John insists that ecstatic union in this life is merely the prelude to that everlasting and ecstatic union with God that is inaugurated in heaven as the culmination of our life on earth – and that it is God who ceaselessly calls us to this union. And while many, called to perfection, turn aside like the rich young man of the Gospels, either through an arrogance as ancient as the angels, or simply through a lack of perspicacity, there will always be generous souls quick to answer, and it is to these that St. John addresses his works. What remains obscure in the text will become at once luminously clear in the experience.

______________________________________

1 Although we shall eventually find that the notion of experience itself is inadequate to our understanding of the mystical experience.
2 Mystical theology is knowledge of God by experience arrived at through the embrace of unifying love. (De Mystica Theologia Speculativa ).
3 cf. Critique of Pure Reason (Immanuel Kant), Transcendental Doctrine of Elements, I, A20/B34 - A46/B73
4 This, incidentally, is no less true of Solipsism, or the epistemological theory which holds that we know only ourselves and modifications of that self. Every modification eventually constitutes a known datum contributing to, but no longer concurrent with, the personal continuity (identity) that remains (as the present knower) throughout these modifications.
5 1. Jn. 4.

 

The Mystical Tradition

 

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Home
Preface to the Philosophy of St. John of the Cross
Foreword to the Philosophy of St. John of the Cross
An Introduction to the Philosophy of St. John of the Cross
The Mystical Tradition and St. John of the Cross
The Presuppositions of the Philosophy of St. John of the Cross
The Role of the Will in the Philosophy of St. John of the Cross
The Role of Understanding in the Philosophy of St. John of the Cross
The Role of Memory in the Philosophy of St. John of the Cross
The Metaphysics of the Dark Night of the Soul
The Metaphysics of the Night of the Spirit
The Problem of Induction as Pseudo-Problematic
Prolepsis: Objections to the Mystical Experience
Being, Becoming, and Eternity
A Biography of St. John of the Cross
Epilogue to the Metaphysics of Mysticism

© Copyright 2011-2017 by Geoffrey K. Mondello. All rights reserved
author@johnofthecross.com