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Dionysian Mysticism and Deification (REVIEW ESSAY)

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Duluth, Minnesota (OpEdNews) July 3, 2015: During my undergraduate education (1962-1966) at Jesuit institutions of higher education in the United States, the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) in the Roman Catholic Church took place in Rome.

Vatican II is often described as a watershed in the Roman Catholic Church.

(Disclosure: I come from a Roman Catholic background. However, for many years now, I have not been a practicing Catholic. Today I would describe myself as a theistic humanist, as distinct from a secular humanist.)


Approximately 50 years after Vatican II, the Catholic University of America Press published Bernhard Blankenhorn's new book MYSTERY OF UNION WITH GOD: DIONYSIAN MYSTICISM IN ALBERT THE GREAT AND THOMAS AQUINAS (2015).

Even though the multi-national Thomistic Revival was still alive and well during my undergraduate education, as it had been for decades, I cannot imagine that any Dominican theologian or other Roman Catholic author would have ever dared to use the term "Dionysian," as Blankenhorn does, to describe the psycho-spiritual process involved in working through the mystery of union with God.

Dionysian mysticism involves profound mystical experiences. For Example, St. Ignatius Loyola (1491-1556), the founder of the Jesuit religious order in the Roman Catholic Church, had profound mystical experiences. He eventually wrote up a guide-book known as the SPIRITUAL EXERCISES, based on so-called spiritual exercises that worked for him. Spiritual exercises are forms of meditation and contemplation involving the imagination. The book titled the SPIRITUAL EXERCISES contains detailed instructions about how to proceed to engage one's imagination in meditation and contemplation. However, there is no guarantee that engaging in meditation and contemplation will result in one's having profound mystical experiences, as St. Ignatius Loyola did. In other words, Dionysian mysticism is not a frequent experience.

Concerning St. Ignatius Loyola, see W. W. Meissner's book IGNATIUS OF LOYOLA: THE PSYCHOLOGY OF A SAINT (Yale University Press, 1992).

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Thomas James Farrell is professor emeritus of writing studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). He started teaching at UMD in Fall 1987, and he retired from UMD at the end of May 2009. He was born in 1944. He holds three degrees from Saint Louis University (SLU): B.A. in English, 1966; M.A.(T) in English 1968; higher education, 1974. On May 16, 1969, the editors of the SLU student newspaper named him Man of the Year, an honor customarily conferred on an administrator or a faculty member, not on a graduate student -- nor on a woman up to that time. He is the proud author of the book (more...)

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