December 5th, 2017

Common Sense Mysticism: A Revieew of Underhill's Practical Mysticism (IIIA)

" are already in fact a potential contemplative: for
this act, as St. Thomas Aquinas taught, is proper to all men--is,
indeed, the characteristic human activity.

More, it is probable that you are, or have been, an actual
contemplative too. Has it never happened to you to lose yourself for a
moment in a swift and satisfying experience for which you found no
name? When the world took on a strangeness, and you rushed out to meet
it, in a mood at once exultant and ashamed? Was there not an instant
when you took the lady who now orders your dinner into your arms, and
she suddenly interpreted to you the whole of the universe? a universe
so great, charged with so terrible an intensity, that you have hardly
dared to think of it since. Do you remember that horrid moment at the
concert, when you became wholly unaware of your comfortable
seven-and-sixpenny seat? Those were onsets of involuntary
contemplation; sudden partings of the conceptual veil. Dare you call
them the least significant moments of your life? Did you not then, like
the African saint, "thrill with love and dread," though you were not
provided with a label for that which you adored?

         -- Practical Mystticism, p.25

I ignore here Underhill's elistist tone and the fact that she draws fll her quotes from a single religion observed by less than one-third of humanity.  This description of a spontaneous conemplative (mystical?) moment perfectky describes a very few experiences i have had. She uses words that i would never have thought to use.  This probably enriches the experiences for anyone i might try to describe them to; but in the process the experiences become less mine and more Underhill's.  Does this make the experiences less real?