Of mysticism, cooking and them goose bumps

Teresa of Ávila, Ulm, Germany

St. Francis of Assisi (circa 1182-1220)
St. Francis of Assisi (circa 1182-1220) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This morning, a good friend, whom I haven’t seen for more than 20 years, phoned me from Belgium. I asked a variation of my pet question, which I used to ask a phalange of friends my daughter used to bring home from school: “Have you read any good books lately.” The insult – not that her friends were aware of the insult (there I go; another insult) – was double: not merely books, any books, but good books. I would, of course, never ask my friend – or an adult, unless I was very mad, or mad at him or her – such a double-barbed question; not even the single barb alternative (Have you read any books lately?). Besides I know he loves books. So, I simply asked, “What are reading?

He said St Francis of Assisi, especially the classic biography. “The Little Flowers of St. Francis of Assisi” by Mary Roberts Rinehart. Hang on a mo….there, click, click, I’ve downloaded a free pdf into Goodreader on my ipad.

Also Teresa of Avila and a few others were mentioned. In my “Catholic” days, I loved reading how the arrows of divine love pierced Teresa’s heart and made her swoon. There’s nothing wrong, indeed there can be everything right about swooning. I’m not the typical Calvinist who advises you, if you show symptoms of “mysticemia” or any kind of religious experience, to repent or see your doctor.

One atypical Calvinist is Martyn Lloyd Jones – respected by all Calvinists – who in the early part of his sermon series on Ephesians (somewhere between Ephesians 1 – 3, I forget) says that it’s silly (my word for what he respectfully said) to imagine that if God comes to live in those born of God that the regenerated person cannot, indeed should not, feel a thing.

I want to specifically address my Calvinist brethren: There’s a TV advert for shampoo or whatever where a pretty girl says, “It’s all about feeling – AND feeling.” She is, if course, not distinguishing between two kinds of feelings, but merely emphasising that it’s all about feeling; life is all about feeling – “Let’s get physical, physical, I wanna get physical, let’s get into physical, Let me hear your body talk, your body talk, let me hear your body talk.” In the spiritual domain, there are also two kinds of feeling, which requires discernment. There’s goose bumps AND good bumps. The one kind will cook your goose, whereas the other may provide deep insights into what’s cooking. Mysticism does not necessarily, as someone said, begin in a mist and end in schism.

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