Our Ideas of God Are Not God

The ideas we have about God are not God.

Any idea, thought, or concept never was and never will be God. They may be helpful symbols that point to God, metaphors, analogies, allegories, images, but they are not God as God is. They will inevitably conflict with one another and are fallible, as every symbol eventually fails at actually being the thing it is supposed to represent. The symbol is never the thing-in-itself. Continue reading “Our Ideas of God Are Not God”

John van Ruysbroeck’s “First Vision” Accounts

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John van Ruysbroeck (1293-1381)

John van Ruysbroeck (1293-1381) was a Flemish mystic and writer. He was raised in the Catholic faith, becoming a priest. He is now venerated in the Catholic Church. He was beatified in 1903 by Pope Pius X.

The following quote comes from his treatise The Sparkling Stone. Another well-known modern mystic, Evelyn Underhill, described this passage thus: “The old Mystic, sitting under his friendly tree, seems here to be gazing at, and reporting to us the final secrets of that Eternal World.” Continue reading “John van Ruysbroeck’s “First Vision” Accounts”

Are Mystics Atheists?

In an interview with John Gray about his book Seven Types of Atheism, this exchange took place:

[Questioner:] You finish with the mystical kind of atheism. It sounds almost like people who have a big drug experience and talk about the oneness of everything.

[Gray:] Well, it’s a radical kind of atheism that asserts that the nature of reality is ineffable—it can’t be embodied in words. Schopenhauer thought the ultimate reality of things was spiritual, but we couldn’t really grasp it with our reasoning. He didn’t have any need for a creator God, but actually, he isn’t so far from certain traditions in mysticism and different religions. Some types of mystical religion come close to atheism in their understanding of God as unimaginable.

What did he mean that some “mystical religion is close to atheism”? Aren’t mystics supposed to be people who find union with God, who become one with God? How could that possibly be “atheistic”? Here is my interpretation.

Continue reading “Are Mystics Atheists?”

Armella Nicolas’s “First Vision” Account

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Portrait of Armella Nicolas, known as “the good Armella” (17th century)
Armella Nicolas (1606-1671) was a serving-maid who lived in France in the 17th century, who came to be held in high veneration in the Catholic church. She could not read or write, but told friends of her spiritual experiences, including sister Jeanne de la Nativite, who wrote down her experiences. The following is one of her recorded experiences: Continue reading “Armella Nicolas’s “First Vision” Account”