Carl McColman on Mysticism and Contemplation
Received my autographed copy of The Big Book of Christian Mysticism from the post office. I appreciate Carl making the effort to post it to me. I am looking forward to reading it.
Carl in his blog post explains mysticism and contemplation
Mysticism signifies spirituality that is characterized by mystery: in Christian terms, this means the mystery of Christ, the mystery of the Trinity, the mystery of prayer, the sacraments, and salvation. The Mystical Body is the mystery in which we mere mortals find union with Christ, who in turn is one with God the Father (see John 10:30). So Christian mysticism is the spirituality of union with God in Christ.
Contemplation, by contrast, signifies the relational “gaze” or interaction between a creature and God (in Christ, if understood as Christian contemplation). Contemplation is not a process of thinking, but rather a process of seeing. “I see God, and God sees me.” In the seeing and being seen, we are invited into union. Thus, contemplation is a normal and perhaps even essential element of mysticism. Contemplation, or contemplative prayer, is the means by which union with God may be consciously experienced (I choose my words carefully: “may” be experienced, for the act of contemplation, particularly as initiated by human beings, does not guarantee or engineer any particular experience of God; all it does is dispose the contemplative to receiving whatever gift, in whatever form, it may please God to give). But just as mysticism arguably requires contemplation, so too I think we can make the case the contemplation leads to mysticism (or, at least, to “ordinary mysticism” as I defined it yesterday). Thus, I believe that contemplation and (ordinary) mysticism, while not identical, are certainly most intimately related. Read more.
Here is an interesting dilemma:
is mysticism a subset of contemplation
or contemplation a subset of mysticism
or are both an overlap of the process of 'deitification' or union with God?
My understanding of mysticism is that it is the state in which our being (mind,soul,spirit) perceive of being in contact with God. It is best explained by the analogy of a dance. As the Orthodox tradition best explains it, this dance is the perichoresis of the Truine God. We are invited to join in this dance. Mysticism is the ontological and episemiological awareness of being participant in this dance.
Contemplation is a more focused mysticism in that the attention is directed to one member of the Trinity. It is also an ontological and epistemological awareness but narrower in scope.
Both mysticism and contemplation comes under the process of union with God as we come into deeper relationship and interaction with the Truine God who is both immanent and transcendent.