Introduction (mjd): The common denominator in countless writings that have interested me over many years is – put simply – silence: prayer as listening, not dictating to the Almighty. How we wish at times that communication of the richness of spiritual life was not circumscribed by words and language! Inevitably some verbal descriptions are assumed to be “categories” rather than limited attempts to convey a rich experience. One such word is “mysticism.” It tends to sound exotic, a “category” for historical figures – “mystics” – who wrote of inner experiences – some of which were bizarre. To be accurate, the ancients wrote of both positive and depressing periods, which should be included if one is interested in more comprehensive study. However, this short quotation emphasizes the rich rewards and practicality for those called to the inner search.
How refreshing it is to find recent writers who have the perspectives of distance, study, and their own lives that illuminate history, cultural and religious environments of bygone eras. They sort the wheat from the chaff, and help us understand our own inner life journey which is ever one of growth, learning and maturing. This discerning post is a brief quotation from What is Mysticism? A Study of Man’s Search for God (1923), by Episcopal clergyman Charles Morris Addison (1856 – 1947).
We have called (mysticism) Prayer at its highest and best. We can give it no higher name. It is the retirement into one’s self, the shutting out of the world’s interests, the cessation of the mind’s restless thinking, its doubts and fears; the silencing of even the soul’s constant loquacity; the distinct expectation of finding God within and hearing God speak, if only we can be empty and silent enough to give Him a chance; the perfect repose of the soul, what an old English writer has called “our fiduciary recumbency,” trusting the promises of God, that he who seeks finds, he who asks receives and that God is ready to meet us within. This is Mysticism and this is Prayer. Anyone who can succeed in reaching that state (for it is more a state than an act) removes the last barrier, pierces the last veil, may find his soul irradiated with the Vision of God, experience a sense of his presence, may almost reach to his goal of union with God and is lifted thereby into a joy which is inexpressible.
But however incomprehensible may be the joys of a Mystic to the ordinary Christian, it must be plain from what has been said, that the way to them is a way open to us all. It is the common road. There is nothing vague or unreal about it. If it has mystery, it is only because it reaches farther toward Infinity, toward the Being of God, the Source of our being. If we may not see to the bottom of the well, it is because it is deep and not because it is muddy. … Its knowledge comes by feeling, intuitively. Truth bears witness to itself and is its own authority. It is ready to reason upon the truth it feels but does not look to Reason for proof. It is not afraid of Reason but makes it the servant and helper of Faith.
– Charles Morris Addison, D.D. (1856 – 1947)
Rector St. John’s Church, Stamford, Connecticut
What is Mysticism: A Study of Man’s Search for God, 1923
I Samuel 3:1-10
Now the boy Samuel ministered to the Lord before Eli. And the word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no widespread revelation. And it came to pass at that time, while Eli was lying down in his place, and when his eyes had begun to grow so dim that he could not see, and before the lamp of God went out in the tabernacle of the Lord where the ark of God was, and while Samuel was lying down, that the Lord called Samuel. And he answered, “Here I am!”
So he ran to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.”
And he said, “I did not call; lie down again.” And he went and lay down.
Then the Lord called yet again, “Samuel!”
So Samuel arose and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” He answered, “I did not call, my son; lie down again.” (Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, nor was the word of the Lord yet revealed to him.)
And the Lord called Samuel again the third time.
So he arose and went to Eli, and said,
“Here I am, for you did call me.”
Then Eli perceived that the Lord had called the boy.
Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down; and it shall be, if He calls you, that you must say,
‘Speak, Lord, for Your servant hears.’
” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.
Now the Lord came and stood and called as at other times,
And Samuel answered,
“Speak, for Your servant hears.”