The High Mysticism of Faith

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The High Mysticism of Faith

Post by Admin on Thu Sep 14, 2017 12:42 pm

The High Mysticism of Faith
by Joe Conti, Ph.D.

Many of us who left Christianity in the late 1960‘s and ‘70‘s to ‘go East’ did so because the yogic literature promised a transcendence of a non-experiential “faith” in God, to vivid “experience” of God-- a personal realization of omnipresent Sat-Chit-Ananda. This was rightly exciting and deeply meaningful to many of us. So we began to sharply contrast “experience” and “faith”, more or less in this way:
-religious “faith”= memorized belief in God
-spiritual “experience” = personal, immediate contact with God.

The effect of this turn from “mere faith” to the quest for “experience” was fruitful, leading us to the “practice of the Presence of God”, and to the experience of interior silence by which we apperceived the divine as Being Itself, the support of all created being. What a fantastic discovery! Perhaps you can recall the blessed moment when for the first time you intuited God in the Silence.

Many of us resonated, in those years, with J. Krishnamurti’s brash, relentless critique of “faith” as “conditioning.” The more we came to trust God in the experience of Silence and deep inner Peace, the less significance did we give to the faint ‘voice’ in our heads that simply said, “God Exists!” We regarded it as nothing more than an interiorization of a conventional view of God’s existence, an echo of our culture’s general affirmation of God’s existence. That internal ‘voice’ had no mystical significance, we were certain-- it was as mechanical as a looped message on a recording device, as in the pleasantly droning airport announcements, “Smoking inside the terminal is prohibited,” and “Unattended baggage will be removed immediately.”

How ironic, then, for those of us who returned to Christianity (having, one way or another, come to see its true mystical essence), found that the literature of Christian mysticism was hardly rife with dismissals of “faith.” Rather, we commonly found statements like this one:

“And just as God is darkness to our intellect,
so faith dazzles and blinds us.
Only by means of faith,
in divine light exceeding all understanding,
does God manifest himself to the soul”.
-St. John of the Cross

This didn’t sounds like the “faith” we had sniffed at as ‘memorized belief’, or second-hand hearsay about God. So we wondered, “What is ‘faith’ in Christian contemplative understanding?”
Some time ago on our spinning mote, a man went in quest for God-- accompanied by his companion named Faith. Faith was an unobtrusive and gentle friend, and he sometimes found curious comfort in a phrase she would whisper to him, “All is well. God is here.”

Other times he hardly heard these words, so absorbed was he in his quest for exciting experiences of God.

As the years continued, he indeed had a number of vivid supernatural experiences. When he would tell Faith about them, she would smile and
gently say, “All is well. God is here.” Even as long spells passed without such experiences, and he began to despair, Faith would say, “All is well--”

“Yes, yes, I know-- God is here,” he would sigh, in frustration.

Finally, he passes beyond death-- his companion by his side. As he nears heaven, he hears Faith saying once again, “All is well. God is here!”-- but now in a strangely new voice, beyond that of a whisper, a voice exquisite, roiling with majesty.

He turns to her, puzzled. And as his glance falls on her, Faith flings off the veil that veiled her from him. It is God! Faith has been God with him, all along!


As John of the Cross wrote: “faith”, rightly understood, is none other than clothed Divinity.

That ‘still voice’ in our heads, then, is not merely a remnant of religious “conditioning,” or a “memorized belief,” or even a neurological “God-center” in the brain.

Rather, faith, mystically apprehended, has been the Presence of God in us all along! It is a KNOWING, an intuition, deep in our bones-- literally.

What is the Trinitarian significance of this? In the fourth century, Gregory of Nazianzus:

“One is the might of my Trinity,
one the knowledge,
one the glory, one the power.
The unity cannot be dissolved.”

That is, the Trinity is:
GOD as ABSOLUTE KNOWING (“one is the knowledge”-- the omnipresent “Son”);

GOD as ABSOLUTE TRANSCENDENCE (“one is the glory”-- the “Father”);

GOD as ABSOLUTE IMMANENCE (“one is the power”-- the Holy Spirit.)

We surely live (in the apt phrase of Christian philosopher Dallas Willard) in a “God-bathed universe.” As the very fiber of our being resonates with God’s LOGOS by “all things have come to be” (John 1:2) including our bodies and minds, why should it surprise us that intuit a subtle whisper from within, “God EXISTS!” ?

This KNOWING within us is the very “Mind of Christ” (I Cor. 2:16), the LOGOS of God. The very fiber of our human being resonates with God’s own Knowing-- it cannot be otherwise.

We might picture a pencil in a glass of water. We see its straight form distorted by refraction. Likewise, in us, God’s own Knowing, the LOGOS, is refracted through human consciousness, and comes to us reconstituted as the intuition, “All is well! God exists!”

This view has practical consequences for the journey. John of the Cross asks us to see our “experiences” of God as of less significance than the non-experiential character of Faith-as-the-way-ahead, when God ceases to show up as experience, and all appears “dark” within.

In this vein, Fr. Thomas Keating wrote: “What is the essence of contemplative prayer? The way of pure faith. Nothing else You do not have to feel it, but you have to practice it” (Open MInd, Open Heart, Amity House, p. 11).

Faith, so understood, is hardly the abc’s of a naive religion, to be contrasted with vivid divine “experience”-- rather, faith is high mysticism. Along these lines, Thomas Merton wrote: “One has begun to know the meaning of contemplation when he intuitively and spontaneously seeks the dark and unknown path of aridity in preference to every other way” (Contemplative Prayer, Image Books, p. 89).

Could it be that the Divine Vision presses against our consciousness even now as non-experiential Faith, like the rearing of a band of pale horses on a moonless night?

We might consider this the next time the quiet intuition rises in us...
“God IS!”


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