What Is Contemplative Spirituality?

Quotations from spiritual masters and famous writers

Christ filling the hearing, sight, touch, taste, and every sense


Hanging by Godís thread of pure Love

Catherine of Genoa

Seeing through exterior things, and seeing God in them

Thomas Merton

A blind feeling of oneís own being, stretching unto God

The Cloud of Unknowing

The pure, loving gaze that finds God everywhere

Brother Lawrence

The mindís loving, unmixed, permanent attention to the things of God

Francis de Sales

Finding God in all things

Ignatius of Loyola

A continual condition of prayerful sensitivity to what is really going on

Douglas Steere

Seeing God in everything and everything in God
with completely extraordinary clearness and delicacy

Marie of the Incarnation

The window of the soul cleansed perfectly
and made completely transparent by the divine light

John of the Cross

Awareness, absorbed and amazed

Teresa of Avila

The enlightening of the understanding, joined to the joys of Godís love

Walter Hilton

Continual communion through all things
by quite simply doing everything in the presence of the Holy Trinity

Elizabeth of the Trinity

The mind, gazing upon the universe of Godís handiwork,
rapt by the divine and infinite light

Maximus the Confessor

The mind stolen from itself by the ineffable sweetness of the Word

Bernard of Clairvaux

Divine wakefulness with pure and naked intuition

Gregory of Nyssa

With the flash of one trembling glance, my mind arrived at THAT WHICH IS, but I could not fix my gaze thereon.


The alertness which finds everything plain and grasps it clearly with entire comprehension

Hugh of St. Victor

Receiving the clarity of God without any means; a single nakedness that embraces all things

Jan Van Ruysbroek

Right understanding, with true longing, absolute trust, and sweet grace-giving mindfulness

Julian of Norwich

Awakening to the presence of God in the human heart and in the universe which is around us... knowledge by love

Dom Bede Griffiths

The world becoming luminous from within
as one plunges breathlessly into human activity

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Just as in earthly life lovers long for the moment when they are able to breathe forth their love for each other, to let their souls blend in a soft whisper, so the mystic longs for the moment when in prayer he can, as it were, creep into God.

SÝren Kierkegaard (1813-55), Danish philosopher. Either/Or, vol. 2, "Balance between Esthetic and Ethical" (1843; tr. 1987).

Mysticism has been in the past & probably ever will be one of the great powers of the world & it is bad scholarship to pretend the contrary. You may argue against it but you should no more treat it with disrespect than a perfectly cultivated writer would treat (say) the Catholic Church or the Church of Luther no matter how much he disliked them.

W. B. Yeats (1865-1939), Irish poet, playwright. Letter, 10 Oct. 1893, to author Laurence Housman (published in Collected Letters, vol. 1, ed. by John Kelly, 1986). In an earlier letter (23 July 1892), Yeats had written: "The mystical life is the centre of all that I do & all that I think & all that I write. . . . I have always considered myself a voice of what I believe to be a greater renaissance- the revolt of the soul against the intellect."

Uncontrolled, the hunger and thirst after God may become an obstacle, cutting off the soul from what it desires. If a man would travel far along the mystic road, he must learn to desire God intensely but in stillness, passively and yet with all his heart and mind and strength.

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963), British author. Grey Eminence, ch. 9 (1941).

The most beautiful emotion we can experience is the mystical. It is the power of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead. To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty, which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their most primitive forms - this knowledge, this feeling, is at the center of true religiousness. In this sense, and in this sense only, I belong to the rank of devoutly religious men.

Albert Einstein (1879-1955), German-born U.S. theoretical physicist. Quoted in: Philipp Frank, Einstein: His Life and Times, ch. 12, sct. 5 (1947).

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