December 7th, 2017

Common Sense Mysticism: A Review of Underhill's Practical Mysticism (IV)



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First reading: interesting but confusihg.
Second reading: clearer and more interesting.
Third reading: OMG!  I must reread this until i have abserbed its content.
This is the best description i have seen of the first two steps on the 8-fold Path.

But wait.  I am just getting started.  There are two more chapters before i even begin to consider contemplation, which is the door to mystical vision.

Recollection is the seeing of ordinary things from a new perspective, more "cleansed" and open minded.  Meditation is the vehicle of recollection.  It is like "a halfway house between thinking in contemplation."  One continues to think, but one does so in a more disciplined, focused, spiritual way.  Meditation is not easy, the mind is quickly distracted, bored. unfocused.  But repeated regular efforts at this practice, following one of many different techniquies (Ramakrishna. Centering prayer, TM. etc., etc. none of which are mentioned by Underhill, who favors the method of St Theresa of  Avila which is well described here) will lead to an ability to see with  fresh eyes.
This chapter is worth multiple readings by the would be mystic.  I would have to quote almost every word to do it justice, but that is done in  the cut above.  It is barely four pages.

Early in the chapter Underhill opines, that we must go to religion for our information and inspiration.  She is probably right; but i would not recommend focusing on a single religious tradition.  Mystics of all cultures have found reality to have the  same essence, but they can differ in the "forms" in which that "essence" is expressed.  Sometimes the Sufi seems clearer than the Hindu, at other times vice versa.