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8325Re: Spanish mystics

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  • apx0n
    Sep 17, 2003
      PMCV, you asked:

      One, it appears
      > to me that perhaps you are equating "Gnosis" with the "Mystical
      > experience". You do seem to retract this at one point when you
      > that you feel Gnostics are looking for the true self, wheras the
      > mystics are seeking the "other". Perhaps you could clarify this for
      > me.

      You're right, I should clarify my post. The article to which I was
      directed by Gerry states:

      "Faith corresponds to the intellectual/emotional aspect of religion
      while gnosis corresponds to the spiritual/experiential aspect.
      Valentinians linked the distinction between pistis and gnosis to the
      distinction they made between psyche and pneuma. The psyche (soul)
      was identified by them with cognitive/emotional aspect of the
      personality (the ego consciousness). The pneuma (spirit) was
      identified by them with the intuitive/unconscious level."

      In my last post, I was trying, in a confused and roundabout sort of
      way, to suggest that Teresa's 'mystical experience' is better
      understood as spiritual/experiential, and can therefore be ascribed
      a 'pneumatic' character. However, I also wanted to suggest that,
      however pneumatic her way of mysticism, she was not a gnostic.

      Let me take another try at this.

      First of all, Teresa wrote in large part to explain to her fellow
      nuns (and to the Church leadership) how she had come to such a state
      of profound, spiritual Union (as she and many other Catholics call
      (ed) it) with God. Union, we find upon further examination, is a
      state of awareness. And it is an awareness, not of a set of
      propositional facts, but of a Divine Presence with which the mystic
      communes. In other words, Teresa is not just saying 'believe that
      you might someday have Union', she is saying, 'act in this way that
      you might taste Union in this world'. That's experiential, not

      As Catholics, we believe that fullness of Union with the Divine is a
      state of being impossible in our present form. However, we also
      believe that Union can be realized to some undefined, but
      significant, degree here on Earth. Much is made of this distinction
      between gnosticism and orthodoxy - in my opinion, too much. That's
      not to say there isn't a real theological disparity here, but it
      remains true that Catholics, in Teresa's time, in Valentinus' time,
      and in our own, seek out Union during life on Earth.

      Second, Teresa recommends that we realize Union through interior
      reflection and contemplation, to free our minds of 'business' (she
      uses a spanish equivolent of this word frequently) and first
      realizing an emotional detachment, or detachment from the ego. This
      detachment, in turn, yields to an intuitive state of 'Quiet' in which
      the postulant is prepared for Union.

      I think that's enough to show, at least in the terms of the article I
      quote above, that Teresa's way of spiritual inquiry is pneumatic: it
      is experiential, and it involves restoration of an intuitive state,
      it requires ego-detachment.

      But that's about where the similarities between Teresa and gnosticism
      end! Because Teresa believes that in Quiet, she will be able to hear
      the ever-present call of the 'Other'. And as I said in my last post
      (probably poorly) Teresa will never, on Earth or in Heaven, claim
      that she 'knows God' in the sense of the Greek word gnosis - an
      orthdox understanding of the human spirit's trajectory is an
      acheivement of similarity with God, not equivolence.

      PMCV also asked:

      I would like to ask you to consider
      > what exactly is the cosmology in these orthodox mystical beliefs,
      > if that effects the soteriology in any way. I ask this because of
      > way you have connected the mystical experience to the pneumatic. I
      > not saying it is not related, I am only attempting to gain clerity
      > just how closely you relate them.

      Interesting - I draw a distinction here between what is 'pneumatic'
      and what is 'gnostic'. I wonder to what extent you would do the
      same? It all comes down to a defintion of 'pneumatic', doesn't it?
      Let's say we use the following words to describe pneumatic:


      I think you'll find that none of those words proves problematic for
      an orthodox understanding of cosmology, or soteriology. Catholics
      believe in the Fall - that we were endowed with a certain natural
      Union with God (intuitive, spiritual), and that this was lost due to
      human decisions (ego). We believe that God is ever calling us back
      to this Union (again intuitive, since the call is sub-concsious).

      In this sense, Christ is a unique event in Salvation History - the
      history of God's calling us back to (an experiential) Union. We say
      that Christ opened salvation to man, and in this we mean that he made
      re-Union possible.

      Now, that's where things get tricky. Can Teresa (or any other
      Catholic mystic) acheieve Union without first believeing (pistis) in
      Christ? In short, no. But we could overload Yahoo!'s servers trying
      to list the various things that are meant by 'believing in Christ'.
      Let it suffice to say that the Union proclaimed by the Church (and by
      Teresa) inovlves a fundamental, fraternal relationship with Christ.
      Since our Union with Divine is largely defined by our relationship
      with Christ, it is hard to see how that relationship is possible
      absent a belief, of some sort, in the reality of Christ's existence
      and Divinity!

      This is not all that is meant by 'belief in Christ', but it gets at
      how that belief relates to pneumatic orthodoxy. Because for Teresa,
      simply accepting that Jesus exists and that she'd get to meet him
      some day was not enough. She wanted to meet Him now. Hence, she
      pursues the Other, chooses to answer His call in a way that is
      pneumatic. Did not even some Valentinians say that belief was
      necessary as a first step? And clearly their next step was
      pneumatic. The difference here, perhaps, is that the eventual Union
      does not cause Teresa to reject what she first believed - the Union
      affirms her beliefs as a fundamental Truth.

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