Saturday, September 29, 2012

XIII Manchester Talk May 31, 2012

[NB Before you read this section, it would be a good idea to look again at the diagram at the beginning of this series. If you click on it, it will enlarge. Phil Chong has reminded me that 'The diagram is here: MONDAY, JULY 23, 2012, Manchester Talk May 31, 2012']


To cite another example: the Cloud of Unknowing centres on the word behold, which occurs thirty-five times. The Cloud-author's concern is that the reader not mistake lesser beholdings for the beholding, and to teach a method by which the seeker may come to attentive receptivity to this beholding.[1] The Cloud-author uses the word experience only once, to emphasize that what he is teaching is rooted in the body. In the text it is situated in a double affirmative that paradoxically reinforces an apophatic double negative. In spite of the Cloud-author's clarity, Walsh's translation in the Classics of Western Spirituality uses the word behold only once, in a pejorative way, while at the same time interpolating the word experience in its modern sense on 108 occasions, thus conveying the exact opposite meaning to what the Cloud-author intends. All of the other modern translations or paraphrases of this text, without exception, are equally problematic.
Again, Grover Zinn interpolates the word experience in the modern sense in his translation from the Latin of Richard of St Victor's Mystical Ark, where in IV:23, for example, in a discussion of the effects of excessus mentis, neither experientia nor experimentum occurs. Zinn translates 'Et quamvis inde aliquid in memoria teneamus,' as 'and although we may retain in memory something from that experience....' even though by definition excessus mentis cannot be an experience. This would better be translated as, 'although we may retain some residual effect in memory'. From this example alone it is not difficult to see that the term 'mystical experience' is nonsensical.
If, God forbid, I were forced to define the words mystic, mystical, and mysticism, mystic would simply be someone who has committed to re-centering their life in the deep mind, no matter what the cost; mystical would refer to beholding, when self-consciousness is effaced, and the effects that irrupt within beholding from the deep mind—which definition would exclude all interpretation, experience and phenomena, such as visions; and mysticism would refer to the effort, process, and effects of living the absolute primacy of re-centering in the deep mind so that one's daily life is informed by continual beholding. To return to my earlier definition: mysticism is living the ordinary through transfigured perception.[2]

[1] The repetition of a single word or a short phrase uses the self-consious mind's only means of attention to subvert itself.
[2] 'Apophatic Prayer as a Theological Model'


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