The Daily Logos XI
“Some persons talk about mysticism, but misunderstand it and abuse it. These persons must be enlightened by the sound teaching of theology. Others, far greater in number, are altogether ignorant of mysticism and apparently wish to remain so. They rely only on their own efforts, aided by ordinary grace; consequently they aim only at common virtues, and do not tend to perfection which they consider too lofty. Hence religious and priestly lives, which might be very fruitful, do not pass beyond a certain mediocrity that is often due, at least in part, to their early imperfect training and to inexact ideas about the union with God to which every Christian can and must aspire.
“Some, who should be well acquainted with the writings of the great saints, rarely consult them, under the pretext that their teaching on mysticism is beyond reach, that it leads to divergent interpretations, and that according to several theologians it is not possible as yet to determine what their teaching consists, even along broad lines, and in particular on this fundamental question: Is the contemplation, which they speak of, in the normal way of sanctity or not?
“Consequently in the matter of mystical theology a certain agnosticism exists, just as there is an agnosticism which maintains that true miracles cannot be discerned because not all the laws of nature are known, and that one cannot rely on the Scriptures because certain obscure passages of the Old and new Testaments have not been fully elucidated. We believe that this agnosticism about mystical theology is false, that it can do no good, and that it ends disastrously.
“The teachings of St. Thomas and of St. John of the Cross on this problem seem very clear to us. If these great masters had left this important problem unsolved, the very elements of mystical theology would still have to be constituted.”
-Rev. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, Christian Perfection and Contemplation
Not too many words can be said about this, without saying far too many: Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange, in his lovable pre-Vatican II style, speaks authoritatively about what mystical theology is not, namely unattainable. Much as people often forsake difficult intellectual endeavors, saying that they are too hard or not for a regular person, so too do people forsake the pursuit of spiritual perfection and improvement on the basis that they could never be saintly enough; indeed, with such an attitude, they cannot.