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Archive for September 3rd, 2006

Corrected and updated. The Ascent of Mount Carmel continues, and St. John of the Cross explains that just because you’ve started contemplation, you can still occasionally get good use out of meditation. You don’t just drop it like a hot rock; you drop it when it’s not helping.
He then moves on to explain that visions and images imposed on the inner senses and imagination aren’t anything more to get worked up about than visions shown to the bodily senses.  Ignore ‘em and keep moving, basically.

Chs. 15-16: Wherein is explained how it is sometimes well for progressives who are beginning to enter upon this general knowledge of contemplation to make use of natural reasoning and the work of the natural faculties; Which treats of the imaginary apprehensions that are supernaturally represented in the fancy. Describes how they cannot serve the soul as a proximate means to union with God.
28:34.

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Updated and corrected. The Ascent of Mount Carmel continues, as St. John of the Cross explains the signs which mean it’s time to move on from meditation and into contemplation.

Chs. 13-14: Wherein are set down the signs which the spiritual person will find in himself whereby he may know at what season it behoves him to leave meditation and reasoning and pass to the state of contemplation; Wherein is proved the fitness of these signs, and the reason is given why that which has been said in speaking of them is necessary to progress.

30:51.

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Updated and corrected. The Ascent of Mount Carmel continues, as John talks about the use of imagination in meditation.

Please understand that he isn’t saying that meditation is bad, or that imagining pictures in your head is bad. (Considering that St. Ignatius of Loyola had a whole system of prayer based on using your imagination and senses, this would result in some inter-order fights!) He’s saying that meditation is good for beginners in prayer, but his book isn’t really written for folks at the beginning of the road.

What he’s saying is that, if you meditate and pray diligently enough for long enough, you will eventually be ready to move to the next stage — contemplating instead of meditating. When that time comes, you shouldn’t try to make the old ways keep working; you should move on, ’cause that kind of natural growth is good.
(He’s also not saying that you can skip Mass now. Think about it. His order went to Mass, prayed the Liturgy of the Hours, studied the Bible, and otherwise did huge amounts of liturgical and organized religion type stuff every day. Got up in the middle of the night to do it, in fact. And he was one of the guys who wanted to do it all in sandals in the middle of winter, so no sympathy for missing Mass from him. Anyhow, if you’re really being all mystical, you should appreciate the Sacraments and the church time more.)

Ch. 12: Which treats of natural imaginary apprehensions. Describes their nature and proves that they cannot be a proportionate means of attainment to union with God. Shows the harm which results from inability to detach oneself from them.


14:00.

(I should probably point out that I’m not even near the points either of these two chapters describe, but for those of you that are, I’m sure this is valuable advice!) :)

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Corrected and updated. The Ascent of Mount Carmel continues, with advice about visions that appear to the outward, bodily senses.

This is when your expectations of mysticism will probably acquire a big bump. It’s not that having visions is bad; plenty of visions are good and useful and from God. It’s just that wanting to have them, or being particularly interested in them when you do, is… irrelevant. Distracting from the task at hand. Otherwise, not a big deal.

It’s a little like we feel about dreams. (Yes, I know visions are nothing like dreams. Bear with.) Dreams are part of life and necessary for good cerebral health, and so they have their place. But in most cultures, if you should have a good dream, that’s nice but not relevant. If you should have a bad dream, or a dream enticing you to do wicked things, that’s not so nice but also not very important. (People who get into dream interpretation are often heading down a path into weirdness, and if they find nothing worse than weirdness, they’re lucky.)

You don’t blame yourself for a dream, you don’t desire to have a dream. You sure don’t get worked up and announce to the whole world on a satellite hookup that you dream. It’s just not that big a deal; it happens every night.

St. John of the Cross isn’t all that excited over visions either, because they’re common to a particular stage of mysticism but not all that big a deal. He wants you not to get stuck at the side of the road, staring at and obsessing over weeny little visions (or thinking you’re a Great Mystic while exposing yourself to danger from bad visions), when a nice straight road to God Himself lies before you.

Ch. 11: Of the hindrance and harm that may be caused by apprehensions of the understanding which proceed from that which is supernaturally represented to the outward bodily senses; and how the soul is to conduct itself therein

20:28.

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