Christian Mysticism eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 407 pages of information about Christian Mysticism.

But the scheme of ascent from [Greek:  katharsis] to [Greek:  myesis], and from [Greek:  myesis] to [Greek:  epopteia], is the great contribution of the Mysteries to Christian Mysticism.  Purification began, as we have seen, with confession of sin; it proceeded by means of fasting (with which was combined [Greek:  agneia apo synousias]) and meditation, till the second stage, that of illumination, was reached.  The majority were content with the partial illumination which belonged to this stage, just as in books of Roman Catholic divinity “mystical theology” is a summit of perfection to which “all are not called.”  The elect advance, after a year’s interval at least, to the full contemplation ([Greek:  epopteia]).  This highest truth was conveyed in various ways—­by visible symbols dramatically displayed, by solemn words of mysterious import; by explanations of enigmas and allegories and dark speeches (cf.  Orig. Cels. vii. 10), and perhaps by “visions and revelations.”  It is plain that this is one of the cases in which Christianity conquered Hellenism by borrowing from it all its best elements; and I do not see that a Christian need feel any reluctance to make this admission.


The Doctrine Of Deification

The conception of salvation as the acquisition by man of Divine attributes is common to many forms of religious thought.  It was widely diffused in the Roman Empire at the time of the Christian revelation, and was steadily growing in importance during the first centuries of our era.  The Orphic Mysteries had long taught the doctrine.  On tombstones erected by members of the Orphic brotherhoods we find such inscriptions as these:  “Happy and blessed one!  Thou shalt be a god instead of a mortal” ([Greek:  olbie kai makariste theos d’ ese anti brotoio]); “Thou art a god instead of a wretched man” ([Greek:  theos ei eleeinou ex anthropou]).  It has indeed been said that “deification was the idea of salvation taught in the Mysteries” (Harnack).

To modern ears the word “deification” sounds not only strange, but arrogant and shocking.  The Western consciousness has always tended to emphasise the distinctness of individuality, and has been suspicious of anything that looks like juggling with the rights of persons, human or Divine.  This is especially true of thought in the Latin countries. Deus has never been a fluid concept like [Greek:  theos].  St. Augustine no doubt gives us the current Alexandrian philosophy in a Latin dress; but this part of his Platonism never became acclimatised in the Latin-speaking countries.  The Teutonic genius is in this matter more in sympathy with the Greek; but we are Westerns, while the later “Greeks” were half Orientals, and there is much in their habits of thought which is strange and unintelligible to us.  Take, for instance, the apotheosis of the emperors.  This was a genuinely Eastern mode of homage, which to the

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Christian Mysticism from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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