It was somewhat cryptic, particularly to a ten-year-old (or was I eleven?). Either way, I was completely fascinated by this description of my birth sign—Pisces. I found this “definition” of myself on a colorful book of matches and never forgot it. I liked the idea of being mystic (whatever that actually meant) and a mourner and magnetic and even strange. It is true that I am not sadistic but I never really liked the rhymey-ness of that second line.
As the years passed, I continued to be drawn to the mystic aspect of my sign, and, eventually, to the mystics themselves: Saint John and Saint Paul, Hildegard von Bingen and Teresa of Avila, Julian of Norwich and needless to say, Saint Francis.
Evelyn Underhill, in her book, Mysticism, wrote: “Of all those forms of life and thought which humanity has fed its craving for truth, mysticism alone postulates, and in the persons of its great initiates proves, not only the existence of the Absolute, but also this link: this possibility first of knowing, finally of attaining it.
Attaining knowledge of, and finally, union with, the Absolute is a journey along a different wilderness road. It is a long, and often arduous, pilgrimage and not everyone who undertakes it will reach their final destination.
“Quid es ergo, Deus meus?” asked Saint Augustine.
What art Thou, then, my God? He proceeded to answer with both the vision of the mystic and the genius of the philosopher, which, according to Underhill “combined to hint something at least of the paradox of the intimacy and majesty in that all-embracing, all-transcending One.”
“Highest, best, most potent [dynamic], most omnipotent [transcendent], most merciful and most just, most deeply hid and yet most near. Fairest, yet strongest: steadfast yet unseizable; unchangeable yet changing all things; never new, yet never old. . . . Ever busy yet ever at rest; gathering yet needing not: bearing, filling, guarding; creating, nourishing and perfecting; seeking though Thou hast no wants. . . . What can I say, my God, my life, my holy joy? Or what can any say who speaks of Thee?”
Underhill said that the mystic knows his task to be the attainment of Union with God; that is, the Unitive Life, which, while it is often lived in the world, is never of it. The self is remade, transformed and has finally unified itself. As Carl Jung might say, the process of transforming one’s psyche by bringing the personal and collective unconscious into conscious being has been completed.
This is clearly not an easy task yet one infinitely worth aspiring to.