(1902 – 1970)

 The spiritual life is an event in the interior of the spirit. Seen from the outside, it easily lends itself to misunderstandings and to frequent confusion with psychism. Thus psychologism formulates this classic question, which is beside the point, namely: “Does there exist a correspondence between the subjectivity of religious experience and the objectivity of its object?”

Thus propounded, the question prejudges its solution: the object of the experience – God – is only an aspect immanent in the soul, esse in anima. The human being enters into dialogue with the elements of his own psyche, romanticises them and makes them a mythology.

The error is to introduce a speculative distance between the experience and its object; religious experience is at once the manifestation of its object.

It is not a question of conformity between the experience and the spiritual reality, for the experience is this reality. The experience of the saints and mystics is the coming of the Spirit. The idea of God is not anthropomorphic: man does not create God according to his own image; he does not invent him.  Rather, the idea of man is theomorphic: God has created him in his image. Everything comes from God. The experience of God also comes from God because God is closer to man than man is to himself.  As soon as God manifests his presence, man sees it. That is why nothing can be proved one way or another, but one who denies the reality of experience can at most only prove that he has not lived it. The person of Christ is the place where once for all the experience of man by God and that of God by man have converged. It is this Christic reality that precedes every religious experience and actualises it in Christ: “You are in me and I am in you.” This reality interiorises religious experience even to the point of divine intimacy.

One could almost say that the nuptial possession of man by God attains a kind of reciprocal substitution. The Holy Spirit utters in us and with us, as a single being: “Abba, Father.” At his crucifixion Al Hallaj said: “I am the one whom I love and the one whom I love has become me.”  “It is no longer I that live but Christ lives in me,” St. Paul declared.  Master Eckhart and Symeon the New Theologian describe in an identical manner this nuptial and eucharistic transmutation: “You become a single spirit with me, without confusion, without alteration.”

God cannot be made an object, and consequently is radically interior. “God is the more invisible the more his burning intimacy radiates in the human spirit.” The spiritual life and religious experience are likewise incapable of being made objects. The very artificial psychological question, nevertheless, disturbs us and arouses a useless battle of words which is not fought on the level of evidence. It takes place on the exterior…. L. Lavelle who wrote: “The word takes from the thought its purity and its secret”; on the other hand: “Silence does not differ at all from the inward word.”  The more this interior thought-word matures in its silent depths the more it becomes inexpressible, ineffable. It is transformed into evidence that is all the more unprovable as it is irrefutable. The final logic of all revelation is evidence. The God of the Bible is before all else self-evident. 
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In their many different idioms the classical spiritual writers have attempted to throw light on the eternal question of union with God. 
Every month we give you a brief passage from a spiritual classic.