Musings on Mysticism

Here is a piece on mysticism written by my go-to writer and guide Fr. Richard Rohr.  This comes from one of Fr. Rohr’s email meditations on one of the great mystics of our world – Hildegard of Bingen.   More of his writings can be found at the Center for Contemplation & Action.  Enjoy and may it lead you deeper into God.

Hildegard of Bingen

Throughout the ages, the mystics have kept alive the awareness of our union with God and thus with everything. What some now call creation spirituality, deep salvation, or the holistic Gospel was voiced long ago by the Desert Fathers and Mothers, some Eastern Fathers, in the spirituality of the ancient Celts, by many of the Rhineland mystics, and surely by Francis of Assisi. [1] Many women mystics were not even noticed, I am sorry to say. Julian of Norwich (c. 1343–c. 1416) and Hildegard of Bingen (1098–1179) would be two major exceptions (though even they have often been overlooked).

Hildegard of Bingen communicated creation spirituality through music, art, poetry, medicine, gardening, and reflections on nature. She wrote in her famous book, Scivias: “You understand so little of what is around you because you do not use what is within you.” [2]

This is key to understanding Hildegard and is very similar to Teresa of Ávila’s view of the soul. Without using the word, Hildegard recognized that the human person is a microcosm with a natural affinity for or resonance with the macrocosm, which many of us would call God. Our little world reflects the big world. The key word here is resonance. Contemplative prayer allows your mind to resonate with what is visible and right in front of you. Contemplation is the end of all loneliness because it erases the separateness between the seer and the seen.

Hildegard spoke often of viriditas, the greening of things from within, analogous to what we now call photosynthesis. She saw that there was a readiness in plants to receive the sun and to transform it into energy and life. She recognized that there is also an inherent connection between the physical world and the divine Presence. This connection translates into inner energy that is the soul and seed of everything, an inner voice calling you to “Become who you are; become all that you are.” This is our “life wish” or “whole-making instinct.”

Hildegard is a wonderful example of someone who lives safely inside an entire cosmology, a universe where the inner shows itself in the outer, and the outer reflects the inner, where the individual reflects the cosmos, and the cosmos reflects the individual. Hildegard says, “O Holy Spirit, you are the mighty way in which every thing that is in the heavens, on the earth, and under the earth, is penetrated with connectedness, penetrated with relatedness.” [3] It is truly a Trinitarian universe, with all things whirling toward one another from orbits, to gravity, to ecosystems, to sexuality.


[1] See a timeline of Mystics and Non-Dual Thinkers throughout history (PDF).
[2] Hildegard of Bingen, Scivias 1.2.29. Translation supplied by Avis Clendenen, “Hildegard: ‘Trumpet of God’ and ‘Living Light’” in Chicago Theological Seminary Register 89 (2), Spring 1999, 25.
[3] Hildegard of Bingen, Meditations with Hildegard of Bingen, ed. Gabriele Uhlein (Santa Fe, NM: Bear & Co., 1982), 41.

3 Original Poems


A monk once said to me
your faith should be like tea

served Ch’an style – rough, warm,

and loosely wrapped;
your religion the same:
hopeful, warm to the touch,
& hewn on the edges of life.


# # #


Faith Like Jazz
If faith were like jazz
Well that would be Cool.
that would be tragically hip,
cool to the touch
hot to the heart.
Jazz: a space, a place, a thought, a word, a life, a lifestyle.
Faith and jazz…where
chaos is not feared but necessary.
There are no jam sessions without chaos.
The Jam Session is
where all the chaos flows
into one complex song.
Notes rising, crashing, colliding,
all the colors bleeding into One.
That would be Cool. That would be fly.
Oh that would be Real.
For God is cobalt Blue & Coltrane cool…
like Jazz


# # # 


I awoke from a dream…
feeling like a habit held together by
flesh & grace…
so filled with God even
the Emptiness brimmed over.


Some Space for Grace

“Gratitude prepares a space for grace to reside.”  – Jimmy, an A.A. old timer

We all need grace; some of us more than others.  Those of us in recovery (from drugs, alcohol and life) know this; we know that grace is the primary foundation of recovery.

I am a firm believer God sends grace to us through two primary ‘opportunities’ – one is through our wounds and the other is when (intentional empty) space has been prepared.

It has been my experience that God rarely if ever forces grace upon us, but that like an every-flowing river, it is always available to us if we but ask and seek it.  Grace comes when we create an empty space for it.

You see I know God is in the “Grace Business” for I am a wounded alcoholic/addict who has experienced divine grace more than I can even recall.  But I am learning ever so slowly that grace does not force its way in, but rather I must open myself up to it, empty myself of all that is ego, then and only then does grace come rushing in.

I must be intentional in preparing a space and for me that space is created most immediately through gratitude.  Gratitude is a reality that claims that God IS and because God IS therefore all is well.

Gratitude knows that all things, moments, and experiences are and can become blessings when seen through the whispered prayer of ‘thank You.’  Gratitude understands that nothing lies outside of God and God’s will for if anything did stand outside of God’s hands then God is neither omnipotent nor omnipresent.

Gratitude understands that in truth all things are present now, that I do not need to beg God for them, and that trust and thankfulness are the keys that open us up to the blessings of grace in all things.  Gratitude is about fleshing out my “thank You’s” to God.  It is about knowing I am only what and who I am because of God’s grace.  And let me tell you, I need grace, daily, sometimes minute by minute because the world wants to ensnare my heart, strangling it with fear and dread and my dis-ease wants to consume me.

I have to empty myself out and make some space for grace and the space I need to empty out is where the ego resides, for my ego takes up a great deal of space.  But empty I must if there is to be any room for grace.  I am to be like Mary, Jesus’ mom, who in order to be so full of grace had to be emptied of herself…as in when she said “be it done to me according to Your Will.”

I am rarely in the headspace for grace or gratitude for that matter.  But when I shift into gratitude I move into the ‘heart space’ and in that space grace comes – and it comes in ways unexpected, forthrightly, surprisingly, sometimes messily, always tenderly…but always, always does God’s grace faithfully come.