"Religious Mysticism”[1]

Lawrence Clare, Church of the Messiah, Montreal, Canada

Summary of an Essay Read before the Ministerial Conference

May, 1930


Mr. Clare spoke upon Religious Mysticism. He began by pointing out how intensely abstract exact science is, since it deals only with things that are measurable. We must remember that awe, initiative, love, joy, beauty inspiration, moral effect and obligation, and the felt claim of truth upon allegiance are just as much knowledge of acquaintance as are direct sensations. In abstracting from these Science precludes herself from giving any comprehensive interpretation of life. Mysticism takes account of these and believes in the clarification of spiritual perception by purity of heart. It protests against the blind life within the brain, and asserts that we must approach reality with our whole being; alive to beauty; alive also to the dangers that come of vice which clouds the mind; and in the spirit of love. True mystics must not be confused with a mere dabbling in occult experiences. It seeks not to exploit the mysterious, but to be used by God, to be to Him as a man's hand is to himself. It aims at the fusion of the transcendental self with God through a process of purgation and illumination. The most magnificent description of this type of experience is to be found in the 33rd. Canto of Dante's "Paradise". Thenceforward life is lived from a new centre with spiritual passion, serenity, joy and energy.

Mr. Clare then faced the charge of Subjectivity directed against this position. He held that the test of these matters is that of richness, value, complexity and comprehensiveness. Now the experiences on which the Mystic builds are simply there. They are as real as any to which the Materialist can appeal. In interpreting these experiences Mystics of all races and times are in substantial agreement. Quieter forms of such experiences are common among ordinary men. This approach to life is uniquely favourable to soul-growth. It gives meaning and worth, and dignity, to life and it is the secret of ever increasing felicity.


[1] Berry Street Conference Records, bMS 136; Andover-Harvard Theological Library, Harvard Divinity School.  Tucked into the scribe’s record book for the year 1930.