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Law becomes a Mystic.
ON MYSTICISM AND MYSTICS.
A vast interval in point of thought separates those writings of Law which we have been hitherto considering from those which subsequently came from his pen. The *Case of Reason,' and 'Letters to a Lady inclined to enter the Church of Rome,' were written between 1731 and 1733; his next work was not published until 1737. Almost immediately after the former date he became acquainted with the writings of Jacob Behmen ; and before the latter date he had virtually embraced, though not yet, perhaps, in all their fulness, those views which made him known as emphatically. The English mystic.' The occasion, causes, and results of this transformation in Law's mind will be noticed presently. Before doing so, it seems necessary to say a few words on the subject of mysticism generally.
And, first of all, let us not be frightened by the name. The term 'mysticism' implies something vague, obscure, impalpable, something, in short, which English people, of all people, from their natural love of clearness, specially abhor. Whether its original reference be to the initiation of the privileged into that which is veiled from common eyes, or whether it refer, as the literal derivation of the word seems to imply, to the closing of the avenues of the senses, that the mind may be susceptible of supra-sensuous impressions, or whether we adopt any other of the
numerous definitions of the word,' the name 'mysticism'. certainly has to many an evil sound. But we must not be misled by a name. We must remember at the outset that the appellation of 'mystic' was not chosen by the mystics themselves. They called themselves the spiritual,' or the “illuminated,' if they called themselves by any special name at all, which they rarely did. But they seldom, as a rule, called themselves mystics. That is simply a term of reproach applied to them by their enemies, and applied most loosely and indeterminately to men who held the utmost variety of opinions. In order, therefore, to do common justice to the heterogeneous mass of writers who are lumped together under the opprobrious appellation on 'mystics,' we must divest ourselves of all sinister associations connected with the name, and strive to look at them as they really were.
Again, we must beware of taking exaggerated forms of mysticism as its normal type. No form of thought that ever existed in the world could bear to be judged by such a test; and as mysticism is specially liable to exaggeration, it would be specially unfair to mystics to judge them by such a standard.
" It his been defined or described in the following ways :
• Theologica mystica est sapientia experimentalis, Dei affectione divinitùs infusa, quæ mentem ab omni inordinatione puram, per actus supernaturales fidei, spei, et charitatis cum Deo intime conjungit.' . ...Mystica theologia, si vim nominis attendas, designat quamdam sacram et arcanam de Deo divi. nisque rebus notitiam.' [He then explains the well-known classical usage of the term uvorhpov.] - Isagoge Balthasaris Corderii Soc. Jesu Theologi ad Mysticam Theologiam S. Dionysii Areopagitæ.
• La mystique est la science de l'état surnaturel de l'âme humaine manifesté dans le corps et dans l'ordre des choses visibles par des effets également surnaturels.' Dictionnaire de Mystique Chrétienne, par l'Abbé Migne.
* Le mysticisme consiste à substituer l'illumination directe à la révélation indirecte, l'exstase à la raison, l'éblouissement à la philosophie.'--Victor Cousin, “Religion, Mysticism, Stoicism.'
Mystische Theologie entstand, als die Menschen von Gott abgefallen waren, und sich Wiedervereinigung mit ihm sehnten.'—J. L. Ewald, “Briefe über die alte Mystik und den neuen Mysticismus,' p. 20.
What Mysticism is.
And, once more, we must beware of confounding the accidents with the essence of mysticism. For not only is mysticism peculiarly liable to be pushed to extremes, it is also apt to gather around it a number of accretions which are really no part of itself. We must in this connexion beware of the old post hoc ergo propter hoc'fallacy. Many mystics have advanced from mysticism pure and simple to build up wild theories for which mysticism has no right to bear the blame.
Bearing these cautions in mind, let us now examine what this much-abused system really is.
* The Divine Word (Logos) is instilled into all men. In all something Godlike has been breathed. You bear the image of God.' This is the starting-point, one might almost say the postulate, of all mysticism.
The complete union of the soul with God- this is the goal of all mysticism ; and the Christian mystic would add, through a mediator, Jesus Christ.
The means by which this union is to be effected are faith and love, which to the mystic are hardly distinguishable, even in thought, and are quite inseparable, in fact, for love implies faith, and faith can only work by love.
As, according to this view, the soul is in itself a part of the Divine Nature, the mystic must seek this union by looking, not without, but within. God is within him, and he is only separated from God when he turns away from his own inner Divine nature. Not that the true mysticat any rate the true mystic of later days.--despised the world without ; that, too, spoke to him of God; but the true sanctuary of the Deity was within his own soul; his gaze therefore must be introverted if he would find true union with God.
In seeking this union with God, all thoughts of self must be entirely abandoned; he must be content, yea,
What Mysticism is.
happy, to sink into his own nothingness and see and know nothing but God; this is true humility, the cardinal virtue of Christian mysticism. Hence it follows that the love by which this union with God is to be brought about must be totally free from any thoughts of his own happiness; it must be pure and disinterested, without regard either to reward or punishment; in a word, it must be simply love.
The more this union with God is effected, the more the mystic learns to see God in all things, and all things in God. Hence this outer world and all that is in it, from the noblest work of creation down to the smallest insect or the commonest weed that grows in the field, is to the mystic a copy of the Deity ; everything visible is a type of the invisible, all outer matter a symbol of the inner ; and that not by any fanciful analogy, but in actual reality.
But to enter into all this there is need of a religious sense—not reason, not conscience, but something higher than either. This religious sense must be felt to be understood. To attempt to explain what it is to one who is destitute of it, would be like trying to point out the sunrise on the sea to a blind man, or to teach one who is born deaf and dumb to enjoy sweet music.
How is this religious sense to be acquired ? A man must enter into the holy place of his own heart, and he will find it there. Then he will gain a new birth, not in any figurative, but in the most literal sense of the term.
It must not, however, be supposed that, because he lays so much stress upon the Inner Light and the Inner Life, the true mystic depreciates the outward Written Word. On the contrary, the spiritual writers' (as Law generally calls them) brought out a depth of meaning from that Word which has never been so well brought out by others. In fact, to many well-read men, the very word 'mysticism' chiefly conveys the notion of a mode of interpreting Holy
144 Mysticism founded on plain Texts of.Scripture.
Scripture which is rightly called “the mystical interpretation': that is, the development of a latent, figurative sense over and above the literal sense, which shows, as S. Augustine says, that in the Old Testament the New was foreshadowed, and the New was nothing else than the revealing of the Old.' It was in this sense chiefly that the early Fathers of the Church were mystics, though many of them were also mystics in the other sense as well. Indeed, the two phases of mysticism are very closely connected together, for the same tone of mind which would attract a Christian to the one, would also, as a rule (Law was an exception on this point), attract him to the other. He who loved to trace a latent spiritual meaning throughout the Book of Nature would also love to trace a latent spiritual meaning in the Written Book of Revelation.'
At the same time, the true mystic would be the very last man in the world to allow the mystical meaning of Holy Scripture to take the place of the literal or historical sense. On the contrary, the very stronghold of mysticism is the extreme literalness of its interpretations of Scripture. The mystic contends that he has chapter and verse for every one of his fundamental tenets, and that it is not he but his opponents who have to explain away the plain letter of Scripture. He would ask, for example, how could language express more unmistakably that the Divine Word is instilled into all men,' than the text : “That is the True Light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world' (John i. 9); or, that the union of the soul with God is to be the Christian aim, than the prayer of our Lord, in John xvii. ; or, that this union is to be effected
| For modern specimens of this form of mysticism, see the Mystical Ser. mons of that good man, the late Rev. W. R. Wroth, of S. Philip's, Clerken. well, edited by the Rev. J. E. Vaux; also Dr. Littledale's Commentary on the Song of Songs; Dr. Neale On the Psalms, etc.