Static and Dynamic Mysticism

Mysticism comes in two basic types, static and dynamic. Static mysticism aims at a restoration of the static state: a realization of the Changeless. Dynamic mysticism aims at something more like the transformation or amorization of the changeable qua Changeless.

Both presuppose very different cosmologies. Static mysticism sees change as simply change. It is not really going anywhere. The Absolute is immobile, so the goal is to stabilize one’s consciousness in the immobile. Movement is finite and relative; it has nothing to do with the infinite and ultimate, save as a veil to be pierced. In this cosmology, the changeable is usually treated as an illusion, a dream, a conventional reality with no substance in itself. You find here the trope of escape, fleeing the world, essential detachment, and so on. The static mystic discovers the Supreme; why bother with the rest?

Dynamic mysticism, by contrast, sees the evolving cosmos as a substantial reality in itself—one with a clear trajectory of increasing union and communion with its Maker. It is not the shadow of anything else, but a genuine creation. Certainly, it is not the Absolute. Yet everything about it seems pointed toward contacting and realizing something of the Absolute. The dynamic mystic sees and senses that multiplicity is striving for a unity that will not cancel multiplicity and movement but “sanctify them in truth” (Jn 17:17), meaning place them in to active relation with the Source, so they may be informed and intensified by it, may draw ever vaster collections of elements into the one element of creative self-giving divine love—which suffuses itself into creation wherever creation loves.

Freud, responding to his friend Roman Rolland, theorized that the “oceanic consciousness” reported by mystics was driven by a desire to return to the inorganic. The inorganic state is, presumably, free of psychic tension, pain, craving, loss, and so on. It’s not a bad observation, but it can only account for static mysticism. Indeed, there are things about it which certainly give credence to that interpretation—that it means acquiescing to entropy, to inevitable death and non-selfness, to the cancelling of change in the immobile silence of uniform matter.

The dynamic mystic objects to this picture. Life is an authentic, not an incidental, advancement in the cosmos. So too is the Mind. Entropy is not the only, let alone the strongest, factor in the evolving universe. Fragile as they appear, there exists a steady complexification of structure and elevation to higher manifestations of conscious life. These evolutions are also *irreversible*. They reveal a universal line of development, namely, centration into higher more integral types, which better exemplify and radiate the Supermind or mind of Christ.

Here there is more than the desire to return to the inorganic or merge in the tranquility of the immobile. There is also the—much stronger—desire to create concentrated centers of energy and consciousness, which are moving toward the Mover, which *know* there is a Master with a master plan in all this. The desire is to be in the flow of a work of world-creation that would be, identically, the flow in/of the very being of God. The mystic masters himself and his potentialities for this sole purpose: to offer them up in consecration to this one task of God-manifestation on earth.

Call it an incarnate metaphysics: the divine principle is making itself flesh, it is dwelling in our midst, it is drawing everything to itself to reconcile everything in itself. It is pushing for an ever-grander and more beautiful synthesis between finite and infinite that does not leave the finite behind but transfigures it into a reality of divine life.

Dynamic mysticism means maximal participation in this “incarnation”—in the ongoing evolution and sanctification of the universe, which is not just petering out in dead matter but is advancing negentropically everywhere through the manifestation of persons.

That is why the dynamic mystic is not content with a cancellation of self, an annihilation of individuality, a disidentification with life leading to withdrawal, rejection, or repose, nor with a dismissal of the created universe as a secondary or illusory phenomenon compared to the Absolute. The cosmos is far too alive and animated to accept that, even on its own terms. It is spiritualized down to the least parcel of matter, which even the static mystic tacitly trusts. But the dynamic mystic has this further insight: everything, even unconscious matter, is striving to please and realize God. Evolution—organizing complex structures, blooming into life and mind, becoming conscious, learning to pray—is magnetized from the get-go by the Absolute, and it is *through* our work with it that we come closest to the Absolute: when evolution, entering its mystical phase, falls in love with everyone and everything: and the cosmos is amortized a communion of beings in love.

For the Absolute, who is love, wishes to be by us, within us, around us, divine. The mystic stretches out for that closeness and finds it wherever he surrenders to it, saving nothing back for himself but diving, soul-first, into its passionate movement—the cosmos become “the passion of Christ.”

by Timothy Lavenz
Dec 6, 2022

2 thoughts on “Static and Dynamic Mysticism

  1. JS

    Are there any resources/ theology you can point to that better illustrates this idea? I like this distinction very much as I think it points out differences between problematic or maybe even slightly incomplete mysticisms. I like the Buddhist emphasis on returning from the mountain in order to help the world and in the Christian understanding, this too is an act of mystical awareness because it binds us closer in love to God and the inhabitants of God, so to speak.

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    1. tmlavenz Post author

      Thanks for your comment, JS. Yes I would recommend first of all the work of Teilhard de Chardin, who inspired my thoughts here. I don’t know him thoroughly but would recommend _The Divine Milieu_ and the essays in _The Prayer of the Universe,_ _The Heart of Matter,_ and/or _Human Energy._ I also find a lot of confluence between his vision and that of Sri Aurobindo—it depends on your background where to start with him, but you can’t go wrong really; _Synthesis of Yoga_ and _Mind of Light_ are most excellent. He also taught the divinization of life (as union of Satchidananda-consciousness and the evolution of the cosmos). Thanks again for your inquiry! Let me know what you find and if I can be of any more help.
      P.S. In addition to the “Marian Weigh” Catholic YouTube channel, I also produce content for “Our Golden Change,” a channel with lots of readings from Sri Aurobindo.

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