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Mysticism and Sacred Scripture$

Steven T. Katz

Print publication date: 2000

Print ISBN-13: 9780195097030

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195097030.001.0001

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The Fourfold Sense of Scripture in Christian Mysticism

The Fourfold Sense of Scripture in Christian Mysticism

(p.118) 5 The Fourfold Sense of Scripture in Christian Mysticism
Mysticism and Sacred Scripture

Ewert Cousins

Oxford University Press

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter explores several aspects of the relationship between mysticism and scripture in Christianity, focusing chiefly on the patristic and medieval periods. It begins with an exposition of the patristic worldview derived from scripture, since the early fathers of the church saw scripture as providing an all-encompassing environment. In such a context, it is not surprising to find that they identified theology with scripture. Such an understanding of scripture differs sharply from the perceptions of later periods. In this context, the chapter gives examples of how the patristic and medieval writers explored the mystical dimensions of this all-encompassing worldview. It focuses on the emergence of the fourfold sense of scripture, beginning with the literal level and moving into the three mystical levels. To bring this to its completion, the five spiritual senses of the soul are examined, which are activated as one progresses in the spiritual journey and which are often awakened by reading scripture.

Keywords:   Christianity, mysticism, scripture, soul, spiritual senses, spiritual journey

Through the twenty centuries of Christian history, theologians and spiritual writers have drawn diverse resources from their scriptures. For example, they have gathered formulas for their creeds and doctrinal statements; they have forged concepts for their theologies and verbal weapons for their debates with those they considered heretics and schismatics. They have mined the scriptures for use in their liturgies and in their communal and private prayers. Readings from scripture have played an essential role in the liturgy of the Mass, in the monastic chanting of the divine office, and in the administration of the rites of the sacraments.

From the early centuries the scriptures have been central in Christian spirituality. Saints and spiritual teachers drew mystical texts from scripture; developed methods of meditation on scripture; and, through the symbolic interpretation of texts, penetrated beyond the literal level to explore the deeper mystical meaning of their scriptures. In doing this, they believed that their explorations were not mere flights of fancy but the discovery of meanings that God had implanted in the texts and that could be brought to light by the devout soul who allowed the text, with God's grace, to penetrate and illumine his or her soul.

Different periods of history have produced different approaches to scripture. In the era of the early councils, scriptural texts were marshaled to define and defend doctrines. This polemic use of scripture emerged again with vigor at the time of the Reformation. With the rise of science and the Enlightenment, much effort was expended to relate and reconcile the scientific and scriptural worldviews. Out of this ferment emerged the historical-critical method of interpreting scripture, which flourished in the twentieth century. The pervasiveness of this method in academic circles has overshadowed the classical symbolic and mystical reading of scripture. However, with the widespread awakening of spirituality since the 1960s, along with the parallel discovery (p.119) of the spiritual practices of the world's religions and the growing interest in the academic study of mysticism, fresh attention has been given to scripture and mysticism.

In this study, I explore several aspects of the relationship between mysticism and scripture in Christianity, focusing chiefly on the patristic and medieval periods. It is necessary to begin with an exposition of the patristic worldview derived from scripture, since the early fathers of the church saw scripture as providing an all-encompassing environment. In such a context, it is not surprising to find that they identified theology with scripture. Such an understanding of scripture differs sharply from the perceptions of later periods. In this context, I give examples of how the patristic and medieval writers explored the mystical dimensions of this all-encompassing worldview. I focus on the emergence of the fourfold sense of scripture, beginning with the literal level and moving into the three mystical levels. To bring this to its completion, I examine the five spiritual senses of the soul, which are activated as one progresses in the spiritual journey and which are often awakened by reading scripture.

Scripture as a Worldview

Although in later doctrinal controversies, individual texts, phrases, and even words were the focus of theological debate, scripture played a much more organic role in the earlier periods. Taken as a whole, the canonical books of scripture provided a holistic vision of the spiritual universe in which Christians lived and participated in the mysteries revealed by God. This vision encompassed the Trinity; creation; the fall; the incarnation of Christ; his death, resurrection, and ascension; the sending of the Holy Spirit; and the life of the church. It was this vision, which was both cosmic and personal, that was articulated in scripture and ritually enacted in the cycle of the liturgical year. And within these larger horizons of scripture, Christian mysticism was evoked and then flourished.

The major scripture scholar in early Christianity was Origen, who flourished in the first half of the third century C.E. His contribution to the study of scripture was monumental in its scope and depth and in its pervasive presence in the other areas in which he excelled—in speculative theology and in spiritual and mystical teachings. For example, he wrote the first Christian mystical commentary on the Song of Songs and contributed in a foundational way to the allegorical interpretation of scripture, which opened a broad spectrum of mystical meanings. Basing himself on scripture, Origen also formulated the doctrine of the spiritual senses of the soul, which has played a significant role in the history of Christian mysticism. According to this doctrine, in addition to their five external senses, human beings also have five internal senses—for example, the spiritual sense of sight and touch. In a person's spiritual journey, one or another of these spiritual senses may be awakened, providing an immediate mystical experience of God.

Building on the work of Origen, later patristic writers made their own distinctive contributions toward creating a common comprehensive vision of the spiritual universe of scripture that was typical of the patristic era and that flowed into the High Middle Ages. It is not surprising, then, to see that Bonaventure, in the thirteenth century, identified scripture and theology and wrote a short treatise on scripture as a prologue to his abbreviated summa of scholastic theology.

(p.120) In his study for a doctorate in theology at the University of Paris, Bonaventure was required to write commentaries on several books of scripture, to produce a massive commentary on the four books of The Sentences of Peter Lombard, and to successfully defend sets of disputed questions. Overwhelmed by the quantity of this material, his students asked him to write a brief summary, which he entitled Breviloquium (literally, a brief statement). As he explains in its prologue, “Beginners in the study of theology, in fact, often dread the scripture itself, feeling it to be as confusing, order-less, and uncharted as some impenetrable forest.”1 What follows his prologue to the Breviloquium is a summary of theology that runs the length of a modern book of some three hundred pages; it has the extraordinary density and clarity that only the emerging scholastic method at the University of Paris could produce—a method which, ironically, eventually separated theology as a discipline from the integral view of scripture of the patristic era.

In the prologue to the Breviloquium, Bonaventure identifies scripture with theology and produces what is considered a classical description of the integral patristic view of scripture. He begins his prologue with a text from Paul (Ephesians 3: 14–19) that closes with the following statement: “Being rooted and grounded in love, you may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know Christ's love, which surpasses knowledge, in order that you may be filled unto all the fulness of God.” He continues, “In these words, the origin, development and end of holy scripture, which is called theology [emphasis mine], are exposed by the great teacher of nations and preacher of truth.”2

Bonaventure then develops the four aspects of scripture: its breadth, length, height, and depth. He is clearly using the image of the four dimensions as an archetypal symbol for totality, thus affirming the all-inclusive nature of the patristic vision of scripture. The breadth of scripture consists of the Old and New Testaments and the four kinds of writing found in both Testaments: “legal, historical, sapiential, and prophetical.” “Holy Scripture,” Bonaventure observes, “is like an immense river: the farther it flows, the greater it grows by the addition of many waters.”3 He states that “in holy scripture we find also length, for scripture describes all times, and periods from the beginning of the world until the day of judgment.”4 He divides the history of the world into seven stages and compares the stages of history to “a beautifully composed poem” in which we can discover the beauty and rectitude of “God's wisdom ruling the universe. But as no one can appreciate the beauty of a poem unless his vision embraces it as a whole, … the Holy Spirit has given us the book of Scriptures whose length corresponds to the whole duration of God's governing action in the universe.”5

Bonaventure then explores the height of scripture, which reveals the nature of the angelic hierarchies and leads us to Christ as the Word and the Eternal Art of the Father, through whom all things are made. Elsewhere, he speaks of two books: the book written within the Trinity, namely, the Son, Word, and Art of the Father; and a second book, written without, namely, creation, which externalizes the eternal ideas generated within the Son as an expression of the Father's fecundity. In another text, Bonaventure speaks of scripture as a third book, which can lead us to see creation as an outer expression of the Son, who draws us up to union with the Father.6

Bonaventure next turns to the depth of scripture. Here mysticism and scripture connect most intimately. Following the patristic and medieval tradition, he distinguishes (p.121) between the literal and the three spiritual, symbolic, or mystical senses of Scripture. Since I explore these mystical senses in some detail in following discussions, I do not examine them further here. Bonaventure concludes his prologue on the breadth, length, height, and depth of scripture with a powerful archetypal Christocentric image. “Scripture, then,” he claims, “deals with the whole universe, the high and the low, the first and the last, and all things in between. It is, in a sense, an intelligible cross in which the whole organism of the universe is described and made to be seen in the light of the mind.”7

Moses and the Cloud

Within this rich and complex view of scripture, theologians and spiritual writers in the patristic and medieval periods drew from scripture narratives, images, and dynamics in charting the spiritual journey and in describing mystical states of consciousness. For example, the narrative in Exodus that describes Moses' ascent of Mount Sinai was used as a classical symbol of the ascent of the soul to mystical consciousness. In the fourth century, Gregory of Nyssa wrote a treatise entitled The Life of Moses, in which he presents the biblical account of the life of Moses as a model of virtue and a paradigm for the mystical ascent. He describes Moses at the summit of Mount Sinai: “Since he was alone, by having been stripped as it were of the people's fear, he boldly approached the very darkness itself and entered the invisible things where he was no longer seen by those watching.”8 Having gone through a process of purgation and separation, Moses, at the summit of the mountain, enters into the “inner sanctuary of the divine mystical doctrine,” and

there, while not being seen, he was in company with the Invisible. He teaches, I think, by the things he did that the one who is going to associate intimately with God must go beyond all that is visible and (lifting up his own mind, as to a mountaintop, to the invisible and incomprehensible) believe that the divine is there where the understanding does not reach.9

The biblical narrative of Moses' ascent of Mount Sinai became the major source for the Christian ascent to apophatic mystical consciousness through the via negativa. The Pseudo-Dionysius made it the central image in his Mystical Theology, one of the most influential texts in the history of Christian mysticism. It is important to note here that the term mystical in the ancient Greek mystery religions, and in the Christian patristic and medieval periods, merely meant “hidden” or “secret.” It did not denote or connote “rapture” or “ecstasy,” as it began to do in the late-medieval and into the modern periods.

Like Gregory of Nyssa, the Pseudo-Dionysius presents the narrative of Moses' ascent of Mount Sinai as a path to apophatic mystical experience, where those who make this ascent “leave behind them every divine light, every voice, every word from heaven, and who plunge into the darkness where, as scripture proclaims, there dwells the One who is beyond all things.” The author says that “it is not for nothing that the blessed Moses is commanded to submit first to purification” and then he leaves behind those who have not been purified. After this he hears the blasts of trumpets and he sees many lights streaming abundantly. He then stands apart from the crowd, and with chosen (p.122) priests, “he pushes ahead to the summit of the divine ascents. And yet he does not meet God himself, but contemplates, not him who is invisible, but rather where he dwells.” Then Moses breaks free from all that is perceived with the eye of the body and the mind, from what sees and is seen:

And he plunges into the truly mysterious darkness of unknowing. Here, renouncing all that the mind may conceive, wrapped entirely in the intangible and the invisible, he belongs completely to him who is beyond everything. Here, being neither oneself nor someone else, one is supremely united by a completely unknowing inactivity of all knowledge, and knows beyond the mind by knowing nothing.10

The Pseudo-Dionysius has had an enormous influence on the mystical and theological writings of both the Greek East and the Latin West. For example, he has influenced Maximus the Confessor and Gregorius Palamas in the East, along with John Scotus Erigena, the Victorines, Bonaventure, and Thomas Aquinas in the West. His Mystical Theology, with the image of Moses at its center, has become the locus classicus for apophatic mysticism in Christianity. His direct influence on the West reached a high-water mark with the writing of the fourteenth-century anonymous handbook of practical spiritual guidance entitled The Cloud of Unknowing. The English author of this handbook had translated The Mystical Theology of the Pseudo-Dionysius from Latin to Middle English. It is not surprising, then, that he would develop a form of apophatic spirituality based explicitly on the image of the darkness of the cloud that envelops Moses (“the darkness of unknowing”) in his mystical ascent, as described in The Mystical Theology by the Pseudo-Dionysius. In his key passage, the author of The Cloud claims that no one can reach God by thinking. He continues: “Therefore, it is my wish to leave everything that I can think of and choose for my love the thing that I cannot think [of]. Because he can certainly be, but not thought. He can be taken and held by love but not by thought.”11

He admits that at times it is good to think of God's kindness and worthiness. However, in the exercise he is teaching in his book, he says firmly that this must be cast down and covered over with a cloud of forgetting. He continues: “You are to step above it stalwartly but lovingly, and with a devout, pleasing impulsive love strive to pierce that darkness above you. You are to smite upon that thick could of unknowing with a sharp dark of longing love.”12 In this passage the author of The Cloud is proposing a type of apophatic mysticism that is not identical with that of The Mystical Theology of the Pseudo-Dionysius. The latter merely suppresses the mind, whereas the former, while suppressing the mind, awakens love to penetrate the darkness of the cloud of unknowing. This is not original with him; for both Thomas Gallus and Bonaventure, who base their apophatic mysticism on The Mystical Theology of the Pseudo-Dionysius, awaken ecstatic love within the darkness of unknowing.

The Four Senses of Scripture

With these mystical texts as a background, I now explore the fourfold sense of scripture. This approach opens the door to the symbolic interpretation that reveals the many levels of scripture and their correlation with mysticism. Found in scripture itself, in (p.123) both the Old and New Testaments, this symbolic interpretation was developed during the patristic period in the East and in the West, and it reached its fullest articulation in the High Middle Ages. Taking their point of departure from the literal meaning, patristic and medieval theologians proceeded to interpret the text on three other levels: the moral (or tropological), the allegorical, and the anagogic. These three latter senses were called spiritual, symbolic, mystical, or allegorical in a generic sense of allegory. In this usage, as just indicated, the term mystical meant “hidden or secret,” and not “ecstatic,” as it came to mean later. In the early centuries the senses of scripture were not yet divided into the fourfold pattern that was to become standard in the later periods. For example, Origen used a threefold division: “For just as a human being,” he writes, “is said to be made up of body, soul, and spirit, so also is sacred scripture, which has been granted by God's gracious dispensation for man's salvation.”13 Hence, according to Origen, there are three senses of scripture: the somatic, the psychic, and the pneumatic—that is, the literal, the moral, and the spiritual. Gregory the Great is regarded as the principal initiator of the medieval division into four senses. In a homily on Ezekiel, he compared the words of scripture to a square stone, which can stand on each of four sides because there are no rough spots on any side. This image is not unlike that evoked by Bonaventure (noted above), of the breadth, length, height, and depth of scripture. While retaining the literal and moral sense of Origen, later medieval theologians divided his spiritual sense into the allegorical and the anagogic. This division is summed up in the celebrated distich by the Dominican, Augustine of Dacia (d. 1282):

  • Littera gesta docet, quid credis allegoria,
  • Quid agis moralis, quo tendis anagogia.14
  • (The literal sense teaches historical events,
  • Allegory what you believe, the moral sense
  • What you should do, and the anagogic sense
  • That toward which you are striving.)

It would be wise here to give in full the classical source in Dante of the meaning of the four senses of scripture. Writing to Can Grande della Scala, Dante claims that his Commedia should be read according to the allegory of the theologians—that is, according to the fourfold sense of scripture:

For the clarity of what will be said, it is to be understood that the meaning of this work is not simple, but rather it is polysemous. that is, having many meanings. For the first meaning is that which one derives from the letter, another is that which one derives from the things signified by the letter. The first is called “literal” and the second “allegorical,” or “mystical.” So that this method of exposition may be clearer, one may consider it in these lines: ‘When Israel went out of Egypt, the house of Jacob from people of strange language, Judah was his sanctuary and Israel his dominion’ [Psalm 114:1–2]. If we look only at the letter, this signifies that the children of Isreal went out of Egypt in the time of Moses; if we look at the allegory, it signifies our redemption through Christ; if we look at the moral sense, it signifies the turning of the soul from the sorrow and misery of sin to a state of grace; if we look at the anagogical sense, it signifies the passage of the blessed soul from the slavery of this corruption to the freedom of eternal glory.15

The position of Dante was shared by the theologians of the scholastic period of the Middle Ages. For example, Thomas Aquinas describes the four senses of scripture as (p.124) follows: “Therefore that first signification whereby words signify things belongs to the first sense, the historical or literal. That signification whereby things signified by words have themselves also a signification is called the spiritual sense, which is based on the literal, and presupposes it.” He continues by citing the other senses. “Now this spiritual sense has a threefold division. … So far as the things of the Old Law signify the things of the New Law, there is the allegorical sense; so far as the things done in Christ, or so far as the things which signify Christ, are signs of what we ought to do, there is the moral sense. But so far as they signify what relates to eternal glory, there is the anagogical sense.”16

In the same vein, Bonaventure writes in his prologue to the Breviloquium: “Many scriptural passages have, besides the direct sense, three other significations: the allegorical, the moral, and the anagogical.” He goes on to describe the specific meaning of each of these senses.” Allegory consists in this: that one thing signifies another thing which is in the realm of faith; moral teaching, or tropology, [consists] in this: that from something done, we learn another thing that we must do; anagogy, or lifting up, [consists] in this: that we are given to know what to desire, that is, the eternal happiness of the elect.”17

Medieval exegetes interpreted a number of central symbols on four levels. For example, in addition to the Exodus as treated in Dante, Jerusalem was interpreted literally as the city of David; morally, as the soul adorned with virtue; allegorically, as the church on earth redeemed by Christ; anagogically, as the heavenly Jerusalem or the souls of the saved enjoying the beatific vision. In a similar fashion the words in Genesis, “Let there be light,” describing God's creation of light, were interpreted as referring literally to corporeal light; morally, to the illumination of the soul by virtue; allegorically, to the illumination of the church by Christ; anagogicially, to the illumination of the blessed in heaven by the beatific vision. Not all such symbols were interpreted on four levels. At times a literal sense would yield chiefly a moral meaning, as, for example, in Richard of St. Victor's interpretation of the Mercy Seat in the tabernacle as a symbol of the contemplative self.18 This same symbol was interpreted allegorically in Bonaventure as a symbol of Christ in his Soul's Journey into God.19

Lectio Divina

The fourfold interpretation of scripture was nourished by lectio divina, a method of prayerful reading that has been practiced in the Christian monastic tradition for centuries. Lectio divina, which in Latin means “divine reading,” was part of the daily schedule of the monastery. Each day the monks would spend an hour or two, or more, privately reading scripture or some spiritual book in a prayerful manner. The key to the method was its pace—the monks read very slowly, sometimes aloud, sometimes in silence or by forming the words silently with their lips. Their goal was not to finish a passage, but to enter prayerfully into its depths by dwelling on a sentence, a phrase, or even a word—mulling over it, ruminating on it, allowing it to sink into their being and resonate on many levels of meaning. The monks were instructed that if something struck them, they were to pursue it, moving from the text into meditation, affective prayer, and contemplation—in the Latin terms: meditatio, oratio, contemplatio.

(p.125) As this method has been practiced since the early centuries, it has not been directed to one prayerful attitude alone—for example, meditation. Rather, it has provided a gateway to many such attitudes evoked spontaneously in the course of the reading. For example, the reader might move from the text to meditate on a specific point, which would lead to a spontaneous affective prayer of praise, gratitude, or petition. This in turn might lead to a contemplative attitude: a wondrous gaze, a loving response, or a silent dwelling in the divine presence. After this, the reader might return to the text, letting a word or a phrase draw him directly into the silent presence.

A distinction was made between meditation and contemplation by Richard of St. Victor, in The Mystical Ark. One of the most highly esteemed psychologists of the spiritual life, Richard claims that meditation examines an object and contemplation marvels at it. He defines the terms as follows: “Contemplation is a penetrating and free gaze of a soul extended everywhere in perceiving things; but meditation is a zealous attention of the mind, earnestly pursuing an investigation concerning something. Or thus: Meditation is the careful gaze of the soul employed ardently in a search for truth.” Meditation is goal oriented and proceeds with energy and focus toward what it seeks, for as Richard says, “Meditation presses forward with great activity of soul, often through arduous and rough places, to the end of the way it is going. Contemplation, in free flight, circles around with marvelous quickness wherever impulse moves it.”20

In lectio divina one is drawn ever more deeply into contemplation through the symbolic interpretation of scripture. From the literal and historical level one can be led into the moral and allegorical level and ultimately into the anagogical or mystical realm, where God is experienced in ecstatic immediacy. This can be seen in a number of examples. Returning to Dante's text on the Exodus, we can cite a graphic description that, through symbolism, draws one from the literal to the moral level. In The Life of Moses (cited above), Gregory of Nyssa, referring to the army of the Egyptians, states: “For who does not know that the Egyptian army—those horses, chariots and their drivers, archers, slingers, heavily armed soldiers, and the rest of the crowd in the enemies' line of battle—are the various passions of the soul by which man is enslaved?” He goes on to specify his symbolic meaning: “For the undisciplined intellectual drives and the sensual impulses to pleasure, sorrow, and covetousness are indistinguishable from the aforementioned army. Reviling is a stone straight from the sling and the spirited impulse is the quivering spear point. The passion for pleasures is to be seen in the horses who themselves with irresistible drive pull the chariot.”21

Gregory's entire treatise is a symbolic interpretation of scripture. He first summarizes the life of Moses as recorded in scripture; then he seeks out “the spiritual understanding which corresponds to the history in order to obtain suggestions of virtue.”22 He presents Moses as an example for us, drawing rich symbolic meaning about the life of virtue, such as we saw above. Although his symbolic interpretation is chiefly on the moral level, he deals as well with the other two levels: the allegorical and anagogic.

Echoing Gregory's treatment of Moses, Richard of St. Victor, in his treatise The Twelve Patriarchs, gives a moral interpretation of the account of the sons of Jacob. For example, he treats Joseph as a symbol of discretion and Benjamin as a symbol of contemplation. In his companion treatise, entitled The Mystical Ark, he continues the moral interpretation through the symbol of the ark of the covenant. At the outset, he (p.126) indicates that he is following the moral interpretation, not the allegorical: “The mystical meaning of the ark in the allegorical sense, that is, as it represents Christ, has been articulated by learned persons and investigated by more penetrating minds before. Despite this, we do not presume to be guilty of carelessness by now saying something about it in the moral sense.”23 By “moral” here he intends not the virtues he had examined in The Twelve Patriarchs, but the stages of contemplation, which he sees symbolized in the building of the ark.

One of the most cultivated examples of the symbolic approach is found in the interpretation of the Song of Songs. As already mentioned, in the third century Origen laid the foundation for this tradition in his Commentary on the Song of Songs, in which he interpreted the bridegroom symbolically as Christ, the Word. He interpreted the bride in two ways: as symbolizing the individual soul and as symbolizing the church. In the prologue he states. “This book seems to me an epithalamium, that is, a wedding song, written by Solomon in the form of a play, which he recited in the character of a bride who was being married and burned with a heavenly love for her bridegroom, who is the Word of God.” He then indicates the two symbolic meanings of the bride. “For whether she is the soul made after his image or the church, she has fallen deeply in love with him.”24

Through the centuries many spiritual writers followed Origen's symbolic interpretation in their own commentaries on the Song of Songs. In the twelfth century, Bernard of Clairvaux made this the theme of his Sermons on the Song of Songs, which is considered one of the masterpieces of the commentary genre. In the hands of a great spiritual master like Bernard, the symbolic interpretation becomes a framework for an exploration of the entire spiritual life. He traces the movement of the soul through the phases of growth to the final stage of union with Christ, which he designates as the “kiss of the mouth.”25

This mystical symbolism is found richly developed in John of the Cross and in Teresa of Ávila. In The Interior Castle, Teresa blends the scriptural symbolism with her own. She bids us to “consider our soul to be like a castle made entirely out of a diamond or of very clear crystal, in which there are many rooms, just as in heaven there are many dwelling places.” She then leads us through the castle of the soul until we come to the seventh area, which is the dwelling place of Christ, the spouse of the soul. It is here that the mystical marriage is consummated. “When our Lord is pleased,” she says, “to have pity on this soul that he has already taken spiritually as his spouse, because of what it suffers and has suffered through its desires, he brings it, before the spiritual marriage is consummated, into his dwelling place, which is the seventh.”26 Note here that the distinction between the moral, the allegorical, and the anagogic is not so sharply drawn, for the soul and Christ as bridegroom are part of an integral narrative that depicts the growth of the soul toward ecstatic union with the Beloved.

Meditations on the Life of Christ

In the High Middle Ages, meditation on the life of Christ was developed as a distinct form of prayer that involved considerable precision of method. In the Franciscan milieu of the thirteenth century, a devotion to the humanity of Christ flourished. (p.127) This produced a desire to meditate on the concrete historical details of the life of Christ in order that one might draw out a moral lesson. Although this form of prayer differs from contemplation and the use of the symbolic imagination in the interpretation of scripture, it deserves mention here because it is based in scripture and can be the object of lectio divina, which leads one to move into the more mystical levels of consciousness. Because of its power to bring one into the events of Christ's life, I have called it elsewhere “the mysticism of the historical event.”27

A classic example of this type of meditation is found in Bonaventure's The Tree of Life. With a symbol drawn from scripture, Bonaventure presents the life of Christ as the Tree of Life, on whose branches twelve fruits blossom, including such virtues as humility, piety, patience, and constancy, which are presented to us for imitation.

In his meditation on the birth of Christ, Bonaventure summarizes the Gospel accounts of the nativity, choosing details that draw into focus the virtues of poverty and humility: “Although he was great and rich, he became small and poor for us. He chose to be born away from a home in a stable, to be wrapped in swaddling clothes, to be nourished by virginal milk, and to lie in a manger between an ox and an ass.”28 Through vivid details, Bonaventure paints a graphic scene and even draws us as participants into the drama of the event. In the following passage, note how he evokes a response of love for the infant, then elicits contemplative admiration at the host of angels and calls forth a prayer of praise: Glory to God in the highest (Luke 2:14). Thus he passes over from meditation to prayer—blending in the classic method of lectio divina the three prayerful attitudes summed up in the Latin terms meditatio, contemplatio, oratio:

  • Now, then, my soul,
  • embrace that divine manger;
  • press your lips upon and kiss the boy's feet.
  • Then in your mind
  • keep the shepherds' watch,
  • marvel at the assembling host of angels,
  • join in the heavenly melody,
  • singing with your voice and heart:
  • Glory to God in the highest
  • and on earth peace
  • to men of good will.29

This method was given another expression in the work entitled Meditations on the Life of Christ, which grew out of the early Franciscan tradition and which was erroneously attributed to Bonaventure. These meditations were incorporated into the work of Ludolf of Saxony, which was read by Ignatius of Loyola, who in turn built this form of meditation into his Spiritual Exercises. In the hands of Ignatius, meditation was worked into a formal method. He applied the three faculties of memory, understanding, and will, especially to scenes from the life of Christ, from which moral lessons would be derived. As in the case of Bonaventure, this method also led to contemplative wonder and to spontaneous affective prayer. In fact, Ignatius used the term contemplation for his meditations on the life of Christ, which were less sharply focused on a specific goal.

(p.128) The Four Levels of the Psyche

We now turn from medieval exegesis to contemporary research into states of consciousness. I point out a correlation between the four levels of the psyche I discovered in the course of this research, and the four senses of scripture. From this correlation, I make a fundamental claim: the symbolic method of interpreting scripture is not arbitrary but is based on the very structure of the psyche. In actual fact, it is a method designed to allow a text to reveal its meaning on each of the four levels of the psyche. From this basic claim, a number of further claims are derived: In light of the correlation, a comprehensive hermeneutic can be determined with greater precision than was available to patristic and medieval theologians, for the rules of this hermeneutic can be ascertained from the structure and dynamics of each of the levels of the psyche. Once brought to light, this hermeneutic context can clarify the various types of symbolism used in the interpretation of scripture. I show that the levels of the psyche correspond to the three levels of the interpretation of scripture, whose very structure and dynamics follow a symbolic pattern that opens to mystical consciousness. This reveals that symbolic and mystical thinking is not alien or peripheral to the psyche, but a constitutive element of its most profound dimensions. Thus in light of contemporary psychological research, the symbolic interpretation of scripture can be seen rooted in the structure and dynamics of the psyche itself.

I base my discussion here chiefly on the research of Robert Masters and Jean Houston, which is reported in their book The Varieties of Psychedelic Experience.30 Although the cases studied in their book involved psychedelic drugs, the same patterns of consciousness were revealed by their later research, which was performed without the use of drugs. Similar patterns have emerged in the work of Stanislav Grof.31

The research of Masters and Houston has revealed that the psyche has four levels, which are described as follows: (1) the sensorium, or the level of heightened sense experience; (2) the ontogenetic, or recollective analytic level, where the subject recalls his or her personal history, and which corresponds to Freudian psychoanalysis; (3) the phylogenetic, or symbolic level, which corresponds to the collective unconscious of Jung, and where the subject relives the great myths and rituals of humankind; and (4) the level of integral consciousness, or the mysterium—the level of deep mystical consciousness, which is similar to that described by the mystics of the world.32 These levels are all markedly different, with their own horizons, structure, logic, and dynamics. Although there is a certain interpenetration of each in the other, they remain sufficiently distinct; yet one leads to the other.

After taking a dosage of a psychedelic drug, a subject usually first experienced heightened sensation. For example, having been handed an orange by a guide, the subject contemplated it for several minutes and said: “Magnificent. … I never really saw color before. … It's brighter than a thousand suns. … (Feels the whole surface of the orange with palms and fingertips.) But this is a pulsing thing, … a living, pulsing thing. … And all these years I've just taken it for granted.”33

After some time on the sensory level, the subject usually moved to the ontogenic, or recollective analytic level. For example, the subject experienced his deep emotions at the time of the death of his grandmother, when he was not quite four years old. (p.129) “Suddenly,” he said, “I felt as if some obstacle were coming up to me—something large, dark, and vague, but very powerful—as if it were knocking on the walls of consciousness. … It's Granny's death! I must examine Granny's death!” The subject then felt a surge of guilt that he had experienced years before over his grandmother's death, but which he had repressed. In the course of the session he was able to free himself from the burden of this unconscious guilt.34

Because of the importance of the third level, I cite at length the case of a subject who relived the rites of Dionysus:

The guide initiated the ritual process by suggesting to the subject the he was attending the rites of Dionysus and was carrying a thyrsus in his hand. When he asked for some details the subject [S] was told only that the thyrsus was a staff wreathed with ivy and vine leaves, terminating at the top in a pine cone, and was carried by the priests and attendants of Dionysus, a god of the ancient Greeks. To this S nodded, sat back in his chair with eyes closed, and then remained silent for several minutes. Then he began to stamp the floor, as if obeying some strange internal rhythm. He next proceeded to describe a phantasmagoria consisting of snakes and ivy, streaming hair, dappled fawn skins, and dances going faster and faster to the shrill high notes of the flute and accelerating drums. The frenzy mounted and culminated in the tearing apart of living animals.

The scene changed and S found himself in a large amphitheater witnessing some figures performing a rite or play. This changed into a scene of white-robed figures moving in the night towards an open cavern. In spite of her intention not to give further clues, the guide found herself asking the subject at this point: “Are you at Eleusis?” S seemed to nod “yes,” whereupon the guide suggested that he go into the great hall and witness the mystery. He responded: “I can't. It is forbidden. … I must confess. … I must confess …” (The candidate at Eleusis was rejected if he came with sinful hands to seek enlightenment. He must confess, make reparation, and be absolved. Then he received his instruction and then finally had his experience of enlightenment and was allowed to witness the mystery. How it happened that this subject was aware of the stages of the mystery seemed itself to be a mystery.) S then began to go through the motions of kneading and washing his hands and appeared to be in deep conversation with someone. Later, he told the guide that he had seemed to be standing before a priestly figure and had made a confession. The guide now urged the subject to go into the hall and witness the drama. This he did, and described seeing a “story” performed about a mother who looks the world over for her lost daughter and finally finds her in the world of the underground (the Demeter-Kore story which, in all likelihood, was performed at Eleusis).

This sequence dissolved and the subject spoke of seeing a kaleidoscopic pattern of many rites of the death and resurrection of a god who appeared to be bound up in some way with the processes of nature. S described several of the rites he was viewing, and from his descriptions the guide was able to recognize remarkable similarities to rites of Osiris, Attis, and Adonis. S was uncertain as to whether these rites occurred in a rapid succession or all at the same time. The rites disappeared and were replaced by the celebration of the Roman Catholic Mass. Seeking to restore the original setting, the guide again suggested the image of the thyrsus. S imaged the thyrsus, but almost immediately it “turned into” a man on a tree (the Christ archetype). The guide then said: “You are the thyrsus,” to which S responded: “I am the thyrsus. … I am the thyrsus. … I have labored in the vineyard of the world, have suffered, have died, and have been reborn for your sake and shall be exalted forevermore.”35

(p.130) Another remarkable experience is recorded by Grof in an LSD session, involving a clergyman, that also reveals the fundamental dynamic level of the psyche, which is the dynamic of transformation:

I began to experience the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ. I was Christ, but I was also everyone as Christ and all men died as we made our way in the dirgelike procession toward Golgotha. At this time in my experience there was no longer any confusion; the visions were perfectly clear. The pain was intense, and the sorrow was just, just agonizing. It was at this point that a blood tear from the face of God began to flow. I did not see the face of God, but his tear began to flow, and it began to flow out over the world as God himself participated in the death of all men and in the suffering of all men. The sorrow of this moment is still so intense that it is difficult for me to speak of it. We moved toward Golgotha, and there in agony greater than any I have ever experienced, I was crucified with Christ and all men on the cross. I was Christ, and I was crucified, and I died.

This was followed by a resurrection experience: “When all men died on the cross, there began the most heavenly music I have ever heard in my entire life; it was incredibly beautiful. It was the voice of angels singing, and we began slowly to rise.”36

Although a relatively large number of subjects reached the third level, only a small proportion attained the fourth—the level of integral consciousness, or the mysterium. Those who did reported experiences similar to those of the acknowledged mystics of the world's religions. For example, one subject reported:

I, who seemed to have no identity at all, yet experienced myself as filled with God, and then as (whatever this may mean) passing through God and into a Oneness wherein it seemed God, Being, and a mysterious unnameable One constituted together what I can only designate the ALL. What “I” experienced as this ALL so far transcends my powers of description that to speak, as I must, of an ineffably rapturous Sweetness is an approximation not less feeble than if I were to describe a candle and so hope to capture with my words all of the blazing glory of the sun.37

Correlation with Senses of Scripture

We now explore the correlation between the four levels of the psyche and the four sense of scripture. The sensorium corresponds to the literal sense, since the latter deals with the meaning of a text in its concrete, particular facticity, similar to our sense data. The second level, the ontogenetic or recollective analytic, corresponds to the moral sense, since this level of the psyche involves a consciousness of the individual subject in his or her personal history, affectivity, and personal commitments. The third level, the phylogenetic or symbolic, corresponds to the allegorical sense, for this level of the psyche links early historical ritual material with Christ. The fourth level—the mysterium, or the realm of integral consciousness—corresponds to the anagogical sense, for the latter deals with the ultimate union of the soul with God.

It would be especially interesting to explore the allegorical sense in light of the data drawn from the phylogenetic level of the psyche. The case from Masters and Houston that I just presented gives a striking example of the material from this level. It is highly symbolic, consisting of clusters of archetypal symbols and primitive rituals. Most strikingly, these rituals emerge in a temporal sequence that culminates, in the case cited, (p.131) in the image of Christ and the Mass. The very fabric and dynamic of this level reveal the logic of the process of allegorizing scripture. Christian theologians drew events and symbols from the Old Testament and saw them as culminating in Christ. From one point of view, this could be seen as an arbitrary procedure; but from the standpoint of the dynamics of the third level of the psyche, the logic is completely coherent. It is not by chance, then, that the early Christian community incorporated the Old Testament into their prayer, liturgy, and belief precisely by allegorizing—that is, by seeing this data as symbolically culminating in Christ. In fact, in light of the phylogenetic level of the psyche, it is possible to extend the procedure back beyond the Old Testament and into the entire context of primal religious ritual and symbol. As in the case cited, the many transformation rituals from the Greek world can be seen as culminating in the person of Christ and in the continuing transformation ritual of the Mass.

The Spiritual Senses of the Soul

After examining the fourfold sense of scripture, we should not close without including at least a brief treatment of the spiritual senses of the soul. In this phrase the term sense refers to a faculty of mystical perception or experience. According to this teaching, just as we have five physical senses, so we have five spiritual senses, which can be awakened in the spiritual journey, thereby enabling human beings to experience God in a variety of mystical ways.

Although the spiritual senses of the soul have played a significant role in the history of Christian mysticism, they have not been sufficiently tapped in recent times to throw light on the nature and varieties of mystical experience. Moreover, they can be easily confused with the spiritual or mystical senses of scripture that we have been studying. The ambiguous term here is sense. In the fourfold sense of scripture, as we saw, sense refers to meaning, usually the symbolic or mystical meaning of a text. It is important also to deal with the spiritual senses of the soul in the context of the overarching topic of this book: mysticism and scripture. The doctrine of the spiritual senses of the soul in Christianity originated in scripture. If we were to fail to acknowledge it, we would be ignoring one of the major factors in the practice of lectio divina, which also functioned significantly in the contemplative interpretation of scripture through the symbolic, spiritual, and mystical senses.

The teaching on the spiritual senses is very ancient, having been developed by Origen in the third century. In his history of Western Christian mysticism, Bernard McGinn calls Origen's doctrine of the spiritual senses of the soul “one of his most important contributions to the history of Christian mysticism.”38 This is indeed high praise in view of Origen's monumental influence on the entire subsequent tradition of the mystical reading of the Song of Songs. The doctrine of the spiritual senses has had a continuous history in Christianity—for example, flowing in the patristic period through Basil the Great, Gregory of Nyssa, and Evagrius Ponticus in the East and Augustine and Gregory the Great in the West; and in the twelfth century through Bernard of Clairvaux, William of St. Thierry, and Alcher of Clairvaux. After Origen, Bonaventure is considered its major exponent. In the twentieth century, Karl Rahner revived interest in the spiritual senses through a seminal article he wrote in 1932 on Origen's (p.132) doctrine of the spiritual senses, followed by another in 1934 on Bonaventure's doctrine of the spiritual senses.39 The spiritual senses also play a major role in the thought of Hans Urs von Balthasar.40 In 1996, Stephen Fields published an article in Theological Studies that was entitled “Balthasar and Rahner on the Spiritual Senses,” focusing on the way that von Balthasar and Rahner have given different interpretations of Bonaventure's ideas on the spiritual senses. Fields points out how these two different approaches to the spiritual senses found in Bonaventure reflect the differences in von Balthasar's and Rahner's systems.41 Rich though this focus is, I believe that the clarification of the doctrine of the spiritual senses, as launched by Origen—and then further elaborated upon by Bonaventure—can also enormously enhance the study of mystical experience as expressed in mystical texts. Although there has been an awakening of the doctrine of the spiritual senses of the soul, it has not had a major impact on the recent academic study of mysticism. Much attention has been paid to language and contemporary epistemology, but not enough has been paid to this s ancient position as espoused by the mystics themselves.

Origen and Augustine

As far as scholars can determine, the creation of the doctrine of the spiritual senses originated with Origen. Although there is some anticipation of the doctrine in the ideas of Philo, of Clement of Alexandria, and of Tertullian, Origen's development of the doctrine of the spiritual senses flows out of his interest in psychology and principally out of his monumental work in scripture and in a special way from his own mystical interpretation of the Song of Songs. He formulates his position follows: “After thorough investigation one can say that there exists, according to the word of Scripture, a general sense or faculty for the divine. Only the blessed know how to find it, as we read in the Wisdom of Solomon, ‘You discover the divine faculty of perception’ (Prov. 2:5).” He describes how the spiritual sense unfolds:

This sense, however, unfolds in various individual faculties: sight for the contemplation of immaterial forms, as is evidently granted in the Cherubim and Seraphim, hearing for the discrimination of voices, which do not echo in the empty air, taste in order to savour the living bread which came down from heaven to bring life to the world (John 6:33), and even a sense of smell, with which Paul perceived those realities which caused him to describe himself as a sweet odour of Christ (2 Cor. 2:15), and finally touch, which possessed John when he states that he has touched with his own hands the Word of life (1 John 1:1).42

Origen claims that the prophets had discovered these two modes of sense perception—one mortal and the other immortal, spiritual, and divine.

We turn now to Augustine and the account of his mystical experience, which he describes in book 7 of the Confessions. This experience was decisive in his life—it was the turning point in his labyrinthine spiritual search and the catalyst for his conversion. Augustine had joined a group of Christian Neoplatonists who had gathered around Ambrose, the bishop of Milan. In this milieu, Augustine tells us, he read the books of the Platonists, where he found the Trinity but not the Incarnation, Although his primary focus was on the books of the Platonists, he read these with an eye on (p.133) Christian scripture. For he tells us how the Platonic writings called to his mind the prologue of the Gospel of John. He explicitly mentions “the light that shines in darkness”; he says that the Word of God is “the true light which enlightens every man that comes into this world.” It is not surprising that in recalling these verses of scripture, he has awakened his spiritual sense of sight in a mystical experience of God as light. He continues:

Being thus admonished to return to myself, under your leadership I entered into my inmost being. This I could do, for you became my helper. I entered there, and by my soul's eye, such as it was, I saw above that same eye of my soul, above my mind, an unchangeable light. It was not this common light, plain to all flesh, nor a greater light, as it were, of the same kind, as though that light would shine many, many times more bright, and by its great power fill the whole universe. Not such was that light, but different, far different from all other lights. Nor was it above my mind, as oil above water, or sky above earth. It was above my mind, because it made me, and I was beneath it, because I was made by it. He who knows truth, knows that light, and he who knows it knows eternity. Love knows it, O eternal truth, and true love, and beloved eternity! You are my God, and I sigh for you day and night!43

Note Augustine's own comments on the “unchangeable light.” “It was not this common light, plain to all flesh,” and therefore not a sense image symbolizing God. “Nor a greater light, as it were, of the same kind”; therefore, it was not ordinary light used analogously. It was, rather, on a different ontological plane, in fact, on the highest ontological plane—namely, the plane of divinity—because, as he says, “it made me.” Finally, he names the light: “You are my God.” He uses the strongest possible statement, saying equivalently: This light is God. It is not a symbol for God, an analogy for God—it is God.

This example, I believe, clearly reveals the nature of a spiritual sense. With his inner eye, Augustine saw an unchangeable light, but what he experienced was not primarily the light, but the reality of God.

Bonaventure on the Spiritual Senses

With this in mind, we now turn to Bonaventure's major text on spiritual senses, which is found in chapter 4 of the Itinerarium mentis in Deum. Its context is very important since Bonaventure situates his teaching on the spiritual senses at a stage of the spiritual journey. After describing, in chapter 3, the reflection of God in our memory, understanding, and will, he turns in chapter 4 to the transformation of the soul by grace: “The image of our soul, therefore, should be clothed with the three theological virtues, by which the soul is purified, illumined, and perfected. And so the image is reformed and made like the heavenly Jerusalem and a part of the Church militant which, according to the Apostle, is the offspring of the heavenly Jerusalem.” He then describes the spiritual senses:

When by faith the soul believes in Christ as the uncreated Word and Splendor of the Father, it recovers its spiritual hearing and sight: its hearing to receive the words of Christ and its sight to view the splendors of that Light. When it longs in hope to receive the inspired (p.134) Word, it recovers through desire and affection the spiritual sense of smell. When it embraces in love the Word incarnate, receiving delight from him and passing over into him through ecstatic love, it receives its senses of taste and touch.44

The soul can then encompass the Spouse:

Having recovered these senses, when it sees its Spouse and hears, smells, tastes, and embraces him, the soul can sing like the bride of the Canticle of Canticles, which was composed for the exercise of contemplation in this fourth state. No one grasps this except him who receives (Apoc. 2:17), since it is more a matter of affective experience than rational consideration. For in this stage, when the inner senses are restored to see the highest beauty, to hear the highest harmony, to smell the highest fragrance, to taste the highest sweetness, to apprehend the highest delight, the soul is prepared for spiritual ecstasy through devotion, admiration, and exultation.”45

One of the richest applications of Bona venture's doctrine of the spiritual senses is found in his treatment of Francis's nature mysticism as he describes it in his Legenda major (or major biography of St. Francis). This passage is sprinkled with phrases from scripture and reflects the many passages in scripture dealing with nature. Speaking of Francis, he says:

  • Aroused by all things
  • to the love of God, he
  • rejoiced in all the works
  • of the Lord's hands.
  • and from these joy-producing manifestations
  • he rose to their life-giving
  • principle and cause.
  • In beautiful things
  • he saw Beauty itself
  • and through his vestiges imprinted on creation
  • he followed his Beloved everywhere,
  • making from all things a ladder
  • by which he could climb up
  • and embrace him who is utterly desirable.
  • With a feeling of unprecedented devotion
  • he savored
  • in each and every creature—
  • as in so many rivulets—
  • that Goodness
  • which is their fountain-source.
  • And he perceived a heavenly harmony
  • in the consonance
  • of powers and activities
  • God has given them,
  • and like the prophet David
  • sweetly exhorted them to praise the Lord.46

In this remarkable passage, Bonaventure refers to the five senses in such a way that they abundantly suggest the spiritual senses of the soul. The passage occurs in his chapter on Francis's fervent love and on the way that creatures stimulated Francis's love of (p.135) God. Bonaventure speaks of creatures also awakening Francis's spiritual sense of sight so that in beautiful things he saw beauty itself—the kinesthetic sense through which he followed his beloved's footprints everywhere, climbing up the ladder of creation to embrace his beloved through the spiritual sense of touch. Next comes the spiritual sense of taste and smell through which he savored each and every creature, as flowing from the “fountain-source” of divine goodness. Finally, Bonaventure awakens the spiritual sense of hearing through the heavenly order of the universe, suggesting the tradition of perceiving the “harmony of the spheres.” At the climax of this passage, having awakened the five spiritual senses, Bonaventure obliquely refers to Francis's Canticle of Brother Sun, saying, “And like the prophet David sweetly exhorted them to praise the Lord.”47

In the final stage of his Soul's Journey, Bonaventure evokes love and the spiritual sense of touch, quoting The Mystical Theology of the Pseudo-Dionysius, in order to bring about the transformation into ecstasy. However, unlike the Pseudo-Dionysius, he guides the reader into the darkness where mystical love is enkindled:

  • But if you wish to know how these things come about,
  • ask grace not instruction,
  • the groaning of prayer not diligent reading,
  • the Spouse not the teacher,
  • God not man,
  • darkness not clarity,
  • not light but the fire
  • that totally inflames and carries us into God
  • by ecstatic unctions and burning affections.
  • This fire is God,
  • and his furnace is in Jerusalem;
  • in the heat of his burning passion,
  • which only he truly perceives who says:
  • My soul chooses hanging and my bones death.48
Bonaventure reaches a climax and closes with images of darkness and death.

At this point I would like to make an observation about the spiritual senses that, to my knowledge, is not found articulated in the tradition but that, I think, is coherent and plausible. The level we have reached is above and beyond the kataphatic and even the apophatic. I believe that, here on the level of the highest spiritual senses, the negation of a spiritual sense such as sight or hearing, produces another spiritual sense—namely, darkness or silence—which I claim is positive, not negative. For on the level of our physical senses, in the case of sighted or hearing beings, to close one's eyes or one's ears produces not mere emptiness but the positive other side of sight and hearing. Thus the spiritual senses of the soul, even in darkness and silence, bring the soul into the immediate experience of God.


(1.) Bonaventure, Breviloquium, prologue 6, 5, trans. José de Vinck, in The Breviloquium (Paterson, N.J., 1963).

(2.) Ibid., 1.

(3.) Ibid., 1, 1; 1, 4.

(4.) Ibid., 2, 1.

(p.136) (5.) Ibid., 2, 4.

(6.) Ibid., 3, 1–3; Disputed Questions on the Mystery of the Trinity, q. 1, a. 2, corpus.

(7.) Ibid., 6, 4.

(8.) Gregory of Nyssa, The Life of Moses, trans. Abraham Malherbe and Everett Ferguson, in Gregory of Nyssa: The Life of Moses (New York, 1978), vol. 1, 46.

(9.) Ibid.

(10.) Pseudo-Dionysius, The Mystical Theology, trans. Colm Lubheid and Paul Rorem, in Pseudo-Dionysius: The Complete Works (New York, 1987), vol. 1, p. 3.

(11.) The Cloud of Unknowing, trans. James Walsh (New York, 1981), p. 6.

(12.) Ibid., p. 00.

(13.) Origen, On First Principles, trans. Rowan Greer, in Origen: An Exhortation to Martyrdom, Prayer, and Selected Works (New York, 1979), 4, 2, 4.

(14.) Augustine of Dacia, cited in the New Catholic Encyclopedia, s.v. “Exegesis, Medieval.”

(15.) Dante, “Epistle to Can Grande della Scala,” trans. Nancy Howe, in Mark Musa, ed., Essays on Dante (Bloomington, 1964), p. 37.

(16.) Thomas of Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, ed. Anton C. Pegis (New York, 1948), 1, q. 1, a. 10, corpus.

(17.) Bonaventure, Breviloquium, prologue, 4, 1.

(18.) Richard of St. Victor, The Mystical Ark, 1, 1; 4, 17–21.

(19.) Bonaventure, The Soul's Journey into God, 6, 4–7.

(20.) Richard of St. Victor, The Mystical Ark, trans. Grover Zinn, in Richard of St. Victor: The Twelve Patriarchs, The Mystical Ark, Book Three of the Trinity (New York, 1979), 1, 5.

(21.) Gregory of Nyssa, The Life of Moses, vol. 2, 122.

(22.) Ibid., vol. 1, 15.

(23.) Richard of St. Victor, The Mystical Ark, 1, 1.

(24.) Origen, Commentary on the Song of Songs, prologue, trans. Rowan Greer, in Origen: An Exhortation to Martyrdom, Prayer, and Selected Works (New York, 1979).

(25.) See Bernard of Clairvaux, Sermons on the Song of Songs, esp. sermon 7.

(26.) Teresa of Ávila, The Interior Castle, trans. Kieran Kavanaugh and Otilio Rodriguez, in Teresa of Ávila: The Interior Castle (New York, 1979), vol. 1, p. 1; vol. 7, pp. 1, 3.

(27.) See Cousins, “Francis of Assisi: Christian Mysticism at the Crossroads,” in Steven T. Katz, ed., Mysticism and Religious Traditions (New York, 1983), pp. 166–169.

(28.) Bonaventure, The Tree of Life, in Bonaventure: The Soul's Journey into God, The Tree of Life, The Life of St. Francis, trans. Ewert Cousins (New York, 1978), p. 4.

(30.) R. E. L. Masters and Jean Houston, The Varieties of Psychedelic Experience (New York, 1966).

(31.) Stanislav Grof, Realms of the Human Unconscious (New York, 1975).

(32.) Masters and Houston, The Varieties, p. 308.

(33.) Ibid., p. 181.

(34.) Ibid., p. 207.

(35.) Ibid., pp. 218–19.

(36.) Grof, Realms, p. 147.

(37.) Masters and Houston, The Varieties, p. 308.

(38.) Bernard McGinn, The Foundations of Mysticism: Origin to the Fifth Century (New York, 1991), p. 121.

(39.) Karl Rahner, “The ‘Spiritual Senses’ According to Origen,” Theological Investigations, vol. 16, pp. 81–103; see also “The Doctrine of the ‘Spiritual Senses’ in the Middle Ages,” pp. 104–134.

(p.137) (40.) Hans Urs von Balthasar, “Bonaventure,” Studies in Theological Style: Clerical Styles, The Glory of the Lord, vol. 2, pp. 260–362.

(41.) Stephen Fields, “Balthasar and Rahner on the Spiritual Senses,” Theological Studies 57 (1996), 224–241.

(42.) Origen, On First Principles, 1, lc, no. 9, trans, in Karl Rahner, Theological Investigations (Baltimore, 1949), vol. 16, p. 83.

(43.) Augustine, Confessions, 8, 10, trans. John Ryan (New York, 1960).

(44.) Bonaventure, The Soul's Journey into God, trans. Ewert Cousins, in Bonaventure: The Soul's Journey into God, The Tree of Life, The Life of St. Francis (New York, 1978), chap. 4, no. 3.

(46.) Bonaventure, Legenda maior (The life of St. Francis), chap. 9, no. 1.

(48.) Bonaventure, The Soul's Journey, chap. 7, no. 6.