CHAPTER 13 - Creativity and Mysticism
Through all human history, mysticism has reveled the world of the inner man, in contrast to the world of the outward man. Mystical submersion in oneself always means going out of oneself, a breaking-through beyond boundaries.
All mysticism teaches that the depths of man are more than human, that in them there lurks a mysterious contact with God and with the world.
The mystical element is spiritual: it is more profound and more primordial than the intellectual element. The man who is described in psychology is, after all, the outward rather than the inner man. The inward man is spiritual rather than intellectual.
In mysticism there is a spiritual audacity and initiative of the inward man, of the deepest depths of the spirit.
Mysticism is the essential basis of all religious consciousness, the hidden source of religion in the world. Everyday religiosity and everyday dogmatism are of enormous historical importance: they educate man at various stages of his development. But to turn religion entirely into external living and external authority is to cause it to fade and degenerate.
In Christianity two elements are always in conflict: the inward-mystical and the outward-everyday; the aristocratic and the democratic; the spiritual and the intellectual; the intimately-secret and that which is adapted to the average level of human society. Only thus can we understand the tragic duality of Christianity in history. Mystically, Christianity has followed the line of greatest resistance, the line of foolishness for the wisdom of this world. Historically, Christianity has followed the line of least resistance, the line of adaptation to reason and the reckoning of this world—life.
Christ’s beloved disciple was John, and from him comes the mystical tradition. The mystical church, which because of man’s low estate has not yet been fully revealed, is the Johannine Church. The saints and the mystics have been the living bearer of the Johannine tradition: St. Francis is of the spirit of John rather than Peter. The Church of Peter has been the Church of obedience and adaptation rather than of creativity. Religious creativity can proceed only from the Johannine tradition. The Church of Peter and the Church of John are one single Church of Christ, but seen from different sides, directed towards different aims which are subordinate to one sole purpose.
Mysticism contains a foretaste of the creative religious epoch. Mysticism should become the transfigured life of the world.
Sinful man desires to be dissolved in Divinity and, in complete abnegation of everything human and personal, to quench his sin and its bitter consequences. Pantheistic mysticism renounced human nature altogether and dissolved man in divine being. We find no truly creative effort on the part of man in either ordinary religiosity or pantheistic mysticism. Pantheistic mysticism does not know the original creative energy of man; it is not anthropological; for this type of mysticism man’s individuality is a sin and a falling away, and every human attainment is the action of Divinity itself, in renunciation of everything human. This type of mysticism has no place for man’s originality or his uniqueness; there is no justification for the plurality of being. This ancient mysticism did not recognize man as himself, as an image of the divine, or man’s creativity as a divine process. This is mysticism without form or face.
Mysticism bore the burden of submission by means of renunciation of human existence through man’s extinction in God. The old mysticism corresponded to the moment of sacrifice, the moment of Golgotha in the life of the inward man. It was a though the resurrection had taken place not for man, but rather for Divinity, itself, in which man disappears.
We must look more closely at certain different types of mysticism. The mysticism of India is all impersonal: it does not perceive human personality in its metaphysical individuality and its value to the very life of God himself: it is before the revelation of Man in God, the revelation of personality through the Son of God. Yoga does not know the grace of love, the overflowing love of God’s heart for man and the world, and the answering love towards God in the heart of man and the world.
Likewise, in neoplatonic mysticism neither plurality nor individuality have metaphysical reality. Man disappears in Divinity. The consciousness of Plotinus is the exact opposite of that antinomic Christian revelation by which the whole plurality of being is not quenched but rather confirmed in the One, and God is not the denial of man and of the cosmos but rather there affirmation.
Neoplatonic mysticism and the negative theology connected with it by-pass completely the Christian revelation of God-manhood, of the profound relationship and even the merging of human nature and Divine nature, a merging which does not destroy man but rather confirms him in absolute life.
Of the two great Churches, Catholic and Orthodox, east and west, each has its own official mysticism. There is a profound difference in the primary attitudes towards God and Christ. For the Catholic west, Christ is object: He is the object of all striving, of love and of imitation. For the Orthodox east, Christ is subject: He is within the human soul: the soul receives Christ into itself, into the depths of the heart. There is an official Orthodox and an official Catholic mysticism, but the true nature of mysticism is super-confessional. Mysticism is something deeper than confessional disputes and ecclesiastical divisions.
Only a deepening of mysticism can revive the life of the Church, counteract the present-day slowing-down in the life of the visible Church. The vital roots of Church life are in mysticism. Everyday life in the Church is always on the surface, at the edge of things. The Church as it is incarnate in the plane of history is always peripheral. We must go into the depths of mysticism. There is one kind of mysticism which would like to return to the original state of rest in the bosom of God, which refuses all movement, all creative dynamic. This is to refuse the very meaning of divine development in the world. Hitherto mysticism has been the product of separate individuals: it has remained incidental and secret. Now the time has come for a universal, objective mysticism, openly manifest.
At the very beginning of the Christian religious way is the unreasoning surrender of oneself to Christ, without any reserve, up to the crucifixion of truth itself—the consent to receive everything from Him, and through Him, alone.
It is a strange and terrible thing to say, but Christianity is becoming more foreign and less acceptable to the modern mind of Christian Europe than Buddhism. In eastern (mysticism) there is no revelation about “I,” no revelation of either individual or pluralistic being. In this (idea) of man, we recognize only with great difficulty the unique and integral face of man the creator, the image and likeness of God the Creator which was in God before all world and before all being. The question remains—does the prevailing consciousness recognize the first-man Adam as proceeding from God rather than from the evolution of the world, or does it consider man as only the complex result of world-evolution?
Behind all man’s complexity and all the traces left upon him by world-evolution there still remains the primordial, integral man, the image and likeness of God, derived from nothing else and under no circumstances divisible into parts. Behind the external and evolutionary man is concealed the inner and absolute man.
Occultism knows the mystery of the cosmos, but without the mystery of God or of Christ, without the Logos, without primordial meaningfulness. God is very far off in occultism, more distant even than in churchly Christianity.
In the prevailing forms of both theosophical and occult consciousness there is the same danger of denying creativity. It is as though the purpose of life were reduced to the acquisition of ancient wisdom. For this consciousness the purpose of life is acquisition rather than creativeness, the passive acceptance into oneself of what was given once and for all in antiquity. As the opposite of this we have the other consciousness which admits the possibility of a revelation of wisdom unknown to antiquity, surpassing everything which was revealed in previous world-epochs. A new revelation is possible, a new epoch of the world. The wisdom of antiquity did not have a genuine anthropological revelation. The anthropological revelation is the expectation of a new, future world-epoch. The purpose of life is not pedagogical, not acquisitory but creative, forward-looking.
Strictly speaking, occultism is outside religious revelation and religious grace. Occultism remains wholly in the sphere of man’s relationship to man and man’s relationship to nature. Occultism does not touch the higher mysticism of world-epochs of revelation.
In the creative world-epoch, mysticism—which is communion with God rather than with nature, which is spiritual rather than corporeal—can be only creative and active. The mystical way to God will be transformed into a way to creation, to the plurality of being, to man, himself.