8325Re: Spanish mystics
- Sep 17, 2003PMCV, you asked:
One, it appears
> to me that perhaps you are equating "Gnosis" with the "Mysticalstate
> experience". You do seem to retract this at one point when you
> that you feel Gnostics are looking for the true self, wheras theYou're right, I should clarify my post. The article to which I was
> mystics are seeking the "other". Perhaps you could clarify this for
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,and
> if that effects the soteriology in any way. I ask this because ofthe
> way you have connected the mystical experience to the pneumatic. Iam
> not saying it is not related, I am only attempting to gain clerityon
> 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
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
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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