The Way of the Mystics. By H. C. Ciraef. (Mercier Press, 10s. 6d.).
Reviewed by FR. ANSELM, O.D.C.
IN our day, " mysticism " has come to mean almost anything : but, as implying a funda
mental attitude to Reality, Bloy's description remains reasonably exact : " To be a mystic is to possess a sense of the mysterious ; to understand that beyond this visible world another world exists
not less real, and that this other world is the true home a our soul."
The present work sets out to give U s panoramically some view of that other world, in so far as it can be known through the utterances of those who have been there. Here are studies of various mystics from the twelfth to the twentieth century, including most of the great figures: Saints Bernard and Bonaventure, Gertrude, Teresa and John of the
Cross. If it is felt that such figures
are too splendid and isolated either in time, in the trappings of their lives or in the quality of their ex perience; there are other figures nearer to our day and to our com mon lot; a proof that mystical experience is not confined to any class or age.
Indeed, the leitmotiv of the whole book, sounding with peculiar insist
ence in the Introduction and Epilo gue, is that mystical experience is theoretically within the reach of everyone, and that the rareness of its incidence is chiefly attributable to lack of courage or generosity on the part of the individual. This is one of the most debatable points in the whole range of Mystical Theology: and, though the thesis adopted by the author has behind it the intrinsic authority of perfectly sound theolo gians like Maitre Garrigou-Lag range as well as the intrinsic support of many excellent reasons, the opposition, if such it can be called. can justly claim the support of equally good names and sound rea sons. Not the least of these is that acceptance of the opposite theory tends to reduce the spiritual life to the dimensions of a Procustean beds while there are certain texts of St. Teresa which make such acceptance difficult.
It must be said that the author appears to give undue prominence
to the extraordinary phenomena in the lives of the mystics here studied, though pointing out that such phenomena are non-essential.
Any wrong impression caused by undue prominence, however, will disappear in view of the sane and straightforward judgments expressed throughout the book, especially the salutary reminder in our day, of the need for self-denial. For this sinful age, sackcloth and ashes are indicated; should the prospect appal, there is the alternative of ashes and sackcloth.