Sunday with Ron Rolheiser
Don’t Be Mystically Tone-Deaf
…Mysticism is as real as science.
But that’s not easy to understand or believe. We live in a world where what is real is reduced to what is physical, to what can be empirically measured, seen, touched, tasted, smelled. Today the physical is what’s real, massively, imperialistically. We live in a world that’s mystically tone-deaf, where all the goods are in the store window.
For this reason, faith is a struggle, but so are a lot of other things. When the surface is all that there is, it’s hard to be enchanted by anything, to see the depth that’s uncovered by poetry, aesthetics, altruism, religion, faith, and love. And it’s especially difficult to understand community.
When the physical is all that there is, it becomes virtually impossible to conceive of the body of Christ and it becomes difficult even just to understand our real connection with each other.
As human beings, we are connected to each other in ways beyond the physical, beyond time, beyond separation by distance, and even beyond separation by death. But to understand this we need, as Wendy Wright points out, a mystical imagination. And this is not so much the capacity to imagine the world of Harry Potter or Alice in Wonderland, or the even the archetypal world of Lord of the Rings.
The mystical imagination is the other half of the scientific imagination and, like science, its purpose is to help us see, imagine, understand, speak about, and relate to reality in a way beyond fantasy and superstition. But the mystical imagination can show us something that science, wonderful though it is, cannot, namely, it can show us the many grace-drenched and spirit-laden layers of reality that are not perceived by our physical senses. The mystical imagination can show us how the Holy Spirit isn’t just inside our churches, but is also inside the law of gravity.
But how do we learn that? A saint might say: “Meditate and pray long enough and you will open yourself up to the other world!” A poet might say: “Stare at a rose long enough and you’ll see that there’s more there than meets the eye!” A romantic might say: “Just fall in love real deeply or let your heart get broken and you’ll soon know there’s more to reality than can be empirically measured.”
And the mystics of old would say: “Just honour fully what you meet each day and you will find it drenched with grace and divinity.”