Mystic Poetry

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The “mystic” (see mysticism) is someone who has had experiences with God that are personal, transcendent, beyond mere thought, transformative and redemptive. Although normally associated with catholic medieval monastics (see monasticism) it is inherent in protestant tradition also: the “prototype” protestant mystical experience is the new birth. To say “I met Jesus” is to identify an experience that is not easily described. God Himself is personal, transcendent, beyond mere thought, transformative and redemptive.

         

Although the experience of the Christian mystic must be consistent with orthodox doctrine (see orthodoxy) it cannot be easily described by logical propositional statements. For this reason the writings of the mystics are often in the form of poetry, proverbs or allegory. (see also mystic proverbs and mystic allegory).

 

Here is an example of mystic poetry, the poem “The  Dark Night” by John of the Cross:

 

 

              One dark night,

              fired with love’s urgent longings

              – ah, the sheer grace! –

              I went out unseen,

              my house being now all stilled.

 

            In darkness, and secure,

              by the secret ladder, disguised,

              – ah, the sheer grace! –

              in darkness and concealment,

              my house being now all stilled.

 

            On that glad night

              in secret, for no one saw me,

              nor did I look at anything

              with no other light or guide

              than the One that burned in my heart.

 

            This guided me

              more surely than the light of noon

              to where he was awaiting me

              – him I knew so well –

              there in a place where no one appeared.

 

            O guiding night!

              O night more lovely than the dawn!

              O night that has united

              the Lover with his beloved,

              transforming the Beloved into his Lover.

 

            Upon my flowering breast,

              which I kept wholly for him alone,

              there he lay sleeping,

              and I caressing him

              there in a breeze from the fanning cedars.

 

            When the breeze blew from the turret,

              as I parted his hair,

              it wounded my neck

              with its gentle hand,

              suspending all my senses.

 

            I abandoned and forgot myself,

              laying my face on my Beloved;

              all things ceased; I went out from myself,

              leaving my cares

              forgotten among the lilies.

 

          John of the Cross, “The Dark Night of the Soul”