If you’ve known me for very long, you’ve probably figured out that I’m a mystic. I came to this not as a matter of choice, because I decided to follow a path through the Cloud of Unknowing, into the realms of symbol and metaphor. Rather, I seem to have been wired this way. One might paraphrase Shakespeare (Twelfth Night, Act II Scene V), and say that some are born mystics, some achieve mysticism, and some have mysticism thrust upon them; I’m not sure whether mine is inborn or was thrust upon me, but it appears to be here to stay.
One of the things this has meant to me over the years is that I have found myself in experiences of the spirit that I cannot explain in any words other than those of mysticism. The word most often used for these is visions, and I find myself hesitating to use this word because of its connotations and implications. It is well known that there’s a fine line between mysticism and madness, and I’m not sure whether anyone knows exactly where that line is; indeed, perhaps the line is not fine but rather broad and vague and irregular, so that what may be a mystic vision to one would be a hallucination to another. I don’t know, and I think that one of the things that makes mysticism threatening to some people is that none of us really can know.
It was on Ash Wednesday in 2000 when my confessor named these experiences as visions for me, and he bade me write them down. He told me that it was important to record these, to make them as real as possible, because they are real and they are important. I’ve mostly kept these visions to myself, rarely sharing them because I didn’t want the strange looks and knowing nods, because I could see the index finger slowly rotating about the ear as a friend or family member regarded me with concern.
Somehow, I know that the time has come to begin sharing these. I don’t know exactly how I know this, but I know it, down to my bones. Some of these came on unexpected, and others came as part of a guided imaging exercise with my spiritual director. A couple have recurred, but most are one-time experiences. This sharing makes me vulnerable, and I feel exposed when I speak of these deeply personal visions that have formed me at a basic level. I hope that when you read of them, you will remember this and be kind. At their heart, these visions are not about me. They are about God, about God’s work in this world, about God’s kingdom coming to be.
I’ve been looking through older posts here, because I know I’d shared a couple of these experiences. I did add a new category (mysticism), which I will apply to new posts where I share these visions, as well as to older posts I come across. In the meantime, here are a couple I’ve found…
- With angels and archangels and all the company of heaven
- … and a new post, Memory of a vision: puddle-jumping with Jesus