This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

Mysticism integrates both love and knowledge

This brings us back to Christianity. Now it is undeniable that Christianity presents itself primarily as a way of love, but also maintains within itself a long tradition of knowledge or gnosis. We find this latter in Dionysius the Areopagite, Meister Eckhart, Albertus Magnus, and Angelus Silesius, to name a few. Because the latter type is no ‘in the main,’ however, it will always find itself somewhat at odds with popular teaching and common attitudes, hence the disruptions caused by the presence of each of these figures in the Church, even if their doctrines are, in the last resort, completely orthodox (it is acknowledged that St. Thomas Aquinas relied on Dionysius more than any non-scriptural source).

If we are correct in describing Christianity as the mystery religion par excellence, and as a result calling its spiritual way the mystical way, then we must admit that this way somehow integrates the two paths mentioned: the bhakti-marga and the jnana-marga.

If we ask: what becomes of the third path, karma-marga or the way of action, we can say that action is always involved in both knowledge and love, but is secondary in both. To further clarify how this is fitted into the Christian paradigm, we can refer to the Gospel scene involving Martha (the way of action) and Mary (seen as the synthetic expression of love-knowledge, rapt in the vision of the Divine Mystery).

This remark—regarding Mary as a synthesis of both love and knowledge—brings us to the notion of contemplation, which is somewhat unique to Christianity, necessarily so because it is concerned with the vision of the mysterion which is Christianity’s essence.

To summarize, Christianity offers one way, which is the mystical way, revolving entirely around Christ the Logos, leading, via contemplation, to union with the Divine. This path embraces both the jnana temperament and the bhakti temperament, and if these can be considered ‘modes of spiritual realization,’ we can easily see that, depending on the type of individual we are dealing with, the journey will be experienced (and therefore described) in very different ways, and will even involve the use of different means or spiritual methods.

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