Converging and Convincing Proof of God: Mystical Encounters with the Absolute
notoriously subjective. One may sensibly object: what's in the mind of the mystic does not translate to what is reality, and it is a mistake to go from an internal state to an external reality. Against this we might argue that, though subjective in the sense of witnessed only within, the Church's mystics obviously experience something, an intense experience of the presence and union with the transcendent God himself, and we may consider this experience--despite the dangers of confusing such authentic experience with emotionalism or a misguided enthusiasm or even insanity--as a basis beginning a reasonable inquiry into whether God exists.
The reason for this is that the experience is a subjective experience about something objective, the transcendent Object. It may be reasonable for a blind man to believe what someone with eyes tells him about the world he sees, if he believes that the other person has eyes.
A third objection is that it is most difficult, perhaps impossible, to have a common perception of this mystical experience. Mystical experience is not something like a loaf of bread, something which is outside of us, and the concept of which and the language to identity that concept, is shared in common. And yet, by trying to imagine ourselves in the mystic's place, we might sufficiently understand the subjective state of mystic confronting the transcendent Object identified as God. The experience is not altogether foreign. It is a human experience of the divine.
A fourth problem arises from the inexpressible nature of the experience. The mundane loaf of bread is not ineffable, but isn't the mystic's experience by definition ineffable? Yet we see that despite the ineffable nature of the experience, mystics can describe their experience. So it is not that one can say absolutely nothing about God or the mystical encounter with Him, but rather that one can say nothing absolutely about God and that mystical encounter.
Another difficulty is that we must willing to scrap the empirical reason used in the physical, biological, psychological, and empirical sciences and rely on a broader illative sense or what the medieval theologians called intellectus. If we insist on attributing mystical experiences to chemical effluvia in the brain, or self-induced hypnotic states, or a "God gene," or some such natural explanation, similar to what Henry James did in his famous Varieties of Religious Experience, this proof will yield nothing at all.
We have to be willing to expand our way of thinking beyond that of the materialistic Horatio and least accept the possibility that "there are more things in heaven and earth . . . than are dreamt of in your philosophy," as Shakespeare put in the mouth of Hamlet.
Finally, how can a mystic's experience be evidence of God if the mystic, at least if a Catholic mystic is at issue, already believes in the reality of God? In other words, the mystic's faith cannot be the basis of reasonable evidence because the experience is already informed and interpreted by faith, and so is not a naked experience.
But this last problem can be surmounted by what Aidan Nichols in his A Grammar of Consent calls "two moves." The first is to recognize that the mystic's experience is, to some degree, autonomous or in "creative rupture" with the religious tradition, and so give rise to and "additional experience." This "additional experience" of the mystic can provide a basis and demand a response even from those who do not (yet) believe.
When it comes to this "proof," the believer is at an advantage apologetically. A mystic, such as St. John of the Cross, will have an "additional experience" of God's existence. There is no analogous experience available to an agnostic or an atheist. An agnostic or atheist can never point to a mystical experience of God's nonexistence as a real object that draws him into an intense love and bliss.
Importantly, St. John of the Cross's mystical encounter with God was something that seemed completely unattached to his external world and his internal world, wherein all evidence indicated God's absence. All external evidence of God's existence, of God's providence, was absent to St. John when he was imprisoned in the darkness of a dank, foul, dark 6 X 10 foot prison cell in Toledo, suffering from dysentery, lice, and under the threat of being executed. Internally, St. John of the Cross suffered from a tremendous dryness. Emotionally, he felt the emptiness of nada, nothingness. For him it was dark within and dark without.
It was in these absolutely ...
- - -
Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: existence of God, proofs of God, mysticism, St. John of the Cross, Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.
Rate This Article
Leave a Comment
More Year of Faith News
- MONDAY HOMILY: I Do Believe, Help My Unbelief!
- SUNDAY HOMILY: The Happy Priest - Come Holy Spirit
- We Need a New Pentecost: Come Holy Spirit, Come With Your Fire!
- Peter and John, Two Pillars and Two Paths
- FRIDAY HOMILY: Follow Me
- THURSDAY HOMILY: Father, May they Be One. Do We Pray and Work for Christian Unity?
- TUESDAY HOMILY: The Response of Faith to Scandalous Infidelity
- WEDNESDAY HOMILY: The Holy Spirit Coaches our Interior to Fight
- Toward Pentecost: St Cyril of Jerusalem on The Living Water of the Holy Spirit
- Fr. Paul Schenck: Finding Living Faith on Catechetical Sunday
- The Movie Yellow: Incest as 'Normal' and Cassavates's Slides Into the World of Woes
- The Chicago School Teachers Strike Reveals the Need For School Choice
- The Sexual Barbarians and the Dissolution of Culture
- The Happy Priest Challenges Us to Ask: Who is Jesus to Me?
- Michael Coren on Canadian Public Schools: Teachers, leave those kids alone
- We Cannot Ignore Our Consciences: Cardinal Dolan On Religious Liberty
- In the Face of Danger, Successor of Peter Travels to Lebanon as a Messenger of Peace
- Reflections on the Dignity and Vocation of Women: Who or What?