Monday, 24 September 2018

Library Generation Tables: Christian Mystical

Christian mysticism is an intense spiritually philosophical stream of Christian thought stemming from ecstatic revelations deriving from visions, powerful transformative experiences, or simply quiet contemplation of the Divine. Much Christian mystic thought comes from the earliest writings of the Church and many of these tracts owe a debt in some form to Platonic (and later, Neo-Platonic) thinking. A feature of Christian philosophy is that it tends to build upon itself through a system of citation and, occasionally, it can be selective in its application; however, it is hallmarked by a stringency of scholastic perusal, and so texts that are accepted as Christian mystical works come with a gold-plated guarantee.

The book collections of Christian mystical aficionados which Investigators might discover during their researches will contain little that will excite much supernatural interest. Most collections will contain Bibles in several editions or languages, a Concordance, some prayer books and possibly a nice edition of the “Song of Songs”, or Jonathan Livingston Seagull as a basis; the rest can be generated from the following table. Christian mystics tend to be scrupulous about what goes on their bookshelves so anything that seems a bit “iffy” will be there only under sufferance – the works of canon Abelard, for example, or a copy of the Apocrypha – and will most likely be tucked away from view.

Some results call upon the Keeper to roll a D10 to choose between two options on the table: this offers a selection of authors, some of whom might fall outside the period for the Keeper’s adventure (a Gaslight adventure wouldn’t showcase the writings of Thomas Merton, for example). In other cases, the options are for biographies of various mystical individuals whose lives have informed the ideas of mystic Christianity. The Keeper is referred to the details below to discover which biographical subject is the most appropriate for their setting. Keep in mind too, that a collection which emphasises “Stigmatics” and “Visionaries” over “Notable Nuns” or “Missionaries”, reveals a certain outré penchant in the mind of the collector.

This may seem like dry tilth for a Call of Cthulhu game, but be aware that there are unusual treasures to be found within such an apparently staid assemblage of material, and some Mythos connexions are highlighted along the way. This is a list for subtle adventurers!

Beatus Methodivo
1-5: Rudolf Steiner
6-10: Bonaventure
Lives - 1-5: Notable Nuns
Lives - 6-10: Stigmatics
1-5: St. Thomas Aquinas
6-10: Thomas Merton
1-5: Hildegard of Bingen
6-10: St. John of the Cross
1-5: St. Augustine of Hippo
6-10: Gregory of Nyssa
Plato’s Republic
1-5: Bernard of Clairvaux
6-10: St. Teresa of Avila
1-5: Catherine of Siena
6-10: Meister Eckhart
1-5: Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite
6-10: St. Francis of Assisi
Lives – 1-5: Visionaries
Lives - 6-10: Missionaries
1-5: Emanuel Swedenborg
6-10: Simone Weil
Malleus Maleficarum

Beatus Methodivo

This work is more generally known as the Bea Methodius, which is a contraction of its full name, Beatus Methodivo. It was also misprinted as “Bermechobus” at one point, and that name appears occasionally too. The authorship is unclear and is usually attributed to either St. Methodius of Olympus (martyred in 311 AD), or the St. Methodius who was patriarch of Constantinople and who died in 846 AD. There is, however, nothing specific in the work to link it to either of these figures. In essence, this work is a vision of the Apocalypse, not unlike the Revelation of St. John and outlines the fate of the world.

The book details how Seth journeyed to the east to find a new country in which to settle and tells of how the children of Cain went to India and established a culture dominated by black magic. It goes on to reveal how the Ishmaelites were the real tribes who overthrew the Roman Empire. It speaks of a powerful Northern people who will one day be conquered by the Antichrist, or his machinations, and how afterwards, a worldwide kingdom under a ruler of French descent will institute a reign of peace and justice.

For most Christian mystical readers, this is heavy stuff, right up there with the Apocrypha, and won’t be blatantly taking up space on the bookshelf; rather it will be tucked away somewhere where it won’t be immediately noticed.

Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925)

Born in Austria, Steiner was a well-known literary critic who later turned his hand to various other fields in architecture, social reform and esotericism. In the early years of the Twentieth Century he created the Anthroposophical movement, a system of philosophy founded in German Idealist thinking with elements of Theosophy, Goethean Science and Rosicrucianism, including a bunch of Grail Lore. Starting with his early work, The Philosophy of Freedom, he spent much of his time trying to codify a “science of spirituality” and to describe the mystical experience. His take on Christian thought is an intensely personal one and he claimed that all deities were manifestations of the Christ ideal. He claimed that all religions were valid at the time of their establishment but that true spirituality involved an evolutionary process. Notable works include (roll 1D10 for random determination):

1-3: Intuitive Thinking as a Spiritual Path (aka. The Philosophy of Freedom and The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity) (1899)
4-5: Mysticism at the Dawn of a Modern Age (1901)
6-7: Christianity as Mystical Fact (1902)
8-10: Cosmic Memory: Prehistory of Earth and Man (aka. The Submerged Continents of Atlantis and Lemuria) (1904)

Mythos angle: Steiner fell in with the Theosophical crowd early on in his career and obviously came into contact with such works as Isis Unveiled and the Mythos tome The Book of Dzyan. His later offshoot religion - Anthroposophy - was seen as a rejection of Blavatsky's ideologies - and what lay behind them as well?

Thomas Merton (1915-1968) 

Merton was born in France to two itinerant artists, his father from New Zealand and his mother from America. He was raised on either side of the Atlantic, schooled in boarding schools and later overseen by a guardian after the deaths of his parents. For most of his upbringing he was openly critical of faith, and Catholicism in particular, but in later years after going off the rails for a period in Cambridge and New York, determined to become a Catholic priest, eventually choosing the life of a Trappist monk. Initially set to work translating and transcribing Catholic texts, he began to write of his own experiences – as a daily two-hour exercise in his personal time – and produced his influential autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain. The book resonated widely through its generation, inspiring many spiritually abandoned people to explore simpler forms of life or even to become monks themselves. Merton’s writings and influence were crucial in the '60s, with figures such as Martin Luther King Jr. referencing his work. He established the first notions of inter-faith dialogue, opening up discussions with the Dalai Lama and other Buddhist luminaries – spending much time trying to reconcile Zen Buddhism and Catholic thought - and was pointedly outspoken against the Vietnam War and nuclear proliferation.

He died mysteriously at a seminar in Thailand after giving a speech, and his murder is generally seen as retaliation by the CIA for his negative views of their administration. Many of his later works were prevented under the terms of his will from being published for twenty-five years after his death, which explains the revival of interest in him that took place at the end of last century. Books likely to be encountered are:

1-4: The Seven Storey Mountain (1948) (Published under the title Elected Silence in Britain in 1949)
5: “What Is Contemplation?” (1948)
6: Seeds of Contemplation (1949) (reissued as New Seeds of Contemplation in 1962)
7: The Tears of Blind Lions (1949)
8: The Waters of Siloe (1949)
9-10: Zen and the Birds of Appetite (1959)

Mythos angle: One for the Delta Green crowd. Was Merton killed by the CIA? And was it just due to his opposition to nuclear proliferation? The place of his death puts him rather close to the Plateau of Tsang - was he rather working for the CIA against Tcho-tcho incursions?

Lives of Notable Nuns

Much Christian mysticism is based upon the principle of leading by example. As such, many noteworthy women who have taken the veil to become “Brides of Christ” have led exemplary lives in following this tradition. Christian mystics like to keep biographies of such women and the following are representative (roll 1D10 for random selection):

1-3: Marie of St. Peter (1816-1848): Originating from Tours in France, Marie initiated a prayer of reparation for blasphemy involving the Lord’s name (“The Golden Arrow Prayer”) and was instrumental in starting the Catholic devotion of the Holy Face of Jesus
4-6: Mary of the Divine Heart, Drost zu Vischering (1863-1899): A former German countess, Sister Mary was instrumental in convincing Pope Leo XIII to consecrate the world and all humanity to the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ; her sanctity is such that her body remains incorrupt in her grave in Portugal
7-10: Sister Lúcia (1907-2005): Also known as Lúcia of Fátima, she was one of the three children who witnessed the Marian miracles in Fátima, Portugal, in 1917, later becoming a nun and writing the story of her life and experiences.

Lives of Stigmatics

Stigmatics are those mystically-pure individuals whose intensity of faith in Christ manifests by their taking on the wounds which He suffered while in the Cross. These wounds include bleeding from the hands and feet; wounds to the side of the torso; and marks, as from a crown of thorns, on the forehead and crown of the sufferer’s head. These outbreaks of bleeding occur spontaneously and often heal in moments leaving no trace. Libraries that contain biographies of such individuals will often include St. Francis of Assisi (the first known and documented stigmatic) along with some of the following:

1-3: Marie-Julie Jahenny (1850-1941): Also known as the “Mystic of la Fraudais”, Marie-Julie bore the stigmata from the age of 23; she also received regular visitations from Mary and Jesus and struggled occasionally with the Devil, while pronouncing many prophecies, mainly to do with the Church and France
4-7: Padre Pio of Pietrelcina (1887-1968): An Italian Capuchin monk, Padre Pio first exhibited the stigmata in 1918 and carried them all through the rest of his life; he was also known for episodes of bilocation, healing, levitation, miraculous fasting and the leaving of an incorruptible corpse.
8-10: Domenico da Cese (1905-1978): At the age of nine he correctly predicted an earthquake; thereafter he became a Capuchin monk and friend of Padre Pio and also exhibited the stigmata; he was run over by a Fiat in Turin in 1978 and died of his injuries.

St. Thomas Aquinas

“The same thing is true of those substances Empedocles said were produced at the beginning of the world, such as the 'ox-progeny', i.e., half ox and half man. For if such things were not able to arrive at some end and final state of nature so that they would be preserved in existence, this was not because nature did not intend this, but because they were not capable of being preserved. For they were not generated according to nature, but by the corruption of some natural principle, as it now also happens that some monstrous offspring are generated because of the corruption of seed.”

-St. Thomas Aquinas, Physica, Book 2, Lecture 14

Thomas Aquinas (“Thomas of Aquino”) was a Dominican friar, Catholic priest and Doctor of the Church notable for his efforts to prove that ‘God is Reason’. He spent much of his time trying to rationalise the Church’s doctrines with the teachings of Aristotle, whom he referred to as “The Philosopher”. His influence has stretched far beyond the realm of Church theology to impact such areas of thought as modern philosophy, ethics, natural law, metaphysics and political theory. While some modern philosophers question the legitimacy of some of his assertions (Bertrand Russell for example), others consider him to be one of the greatest Western philosophers of all time.

1-3: Disputed Questions on Truth (1256-59)
4-6: Summa contra Gentiles (1259-1265)
7-10: Summa Theologiae (1265-1274)

St. Bonaventure (1221-1274)

St. Bonaventure, the “Seraphic Teacher”, was born in Italy and studied for his degree in Paris. He rose to become the leader of the Franciscans and steered the order on a moderate and intellectual course surpassed only much later by the Jesuits. Like Thomas Aquinas, his theology demonstrates a marked attempt to integrate faith and reason. His output in terms of writing is copious, to the extent that many medieval theological texts identifiable only through stylistic markers have nowadays been attributed to “Pseudo-Bonaventure”. After being asked to speak at a prestigious clerical gathering in France, he was found dead under mysterious circumstances and was believed to have been poisoned

1-5: Itinerarium mentis in Deum (“The Mind’s Journey Into God”) (1259)
6-10: De Reductione Artium ad Theologiam (“Of the Reduction of Art and Theology”)

Mythos angle: Church reformers are merely a kind of latter-day Investigator, and we don't need to read Eco's The Name of the Rose to guess what kind of life they led. Was the Seraphic Teacher getting a little too close to some cultish incursions into the Church?

St. Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179)

Hildegard of Bingen entered a monastery at the age of eight. She entered under the guidance of an older woman named Jutta, since the community of women was attached to an all-male establishment. Jutta and Hildegard were both prone to visions but Hildegard went on to write about her experiences after hearing a mysterious voice telling her to write it all down. Hildegard became the leader of the small community of women and eventually was able to remove them all to their own circumstances over which she held sway. With the freedom that her position allowed her, Hildegard became a noted botanist, practitioner of medicine theologian and correspondent, writing books on all these subjects while creating an enormous collection of letters directed to the clerical and political leaders of the times. She was also a composer of music and wrote one of the earliest mystery plays known. As well she created her own written language and alphabet, which some feel she did to create a stronger bond between herself and the women whom she oversaw. Some have noted that her visions seem to have resulted from some chronic complaint, but the illustrations which accompany her works, attempting to portray these visual conundrums, bear a strong correspondence to images within the Voynich Manuscript. She is one of the 36 "Doctors of the Church".

1-2: Scivias ("Know the Ways") (1142–1151)
3-6: Liber Vitae Meritorum ("Book of Life's Merits" or "Book of the Rewards of Life") (1158–1163)
7-10: Liber Divinorum Operum ("Book of Divine Works"; aka. De operatione Dei - "On God's Activity") (1163/4–1172 or 1174)

Mythos angle: Oliver Sacks claimed that Hildegard's art was a way to try and interpret the "coronal" visual effects which she experienced while suffering from migraines, but was there perhaps some other reason for her attempting to depict a seething nuclear chaos? And what about that mysterious language? Given that the Voynich Manuscript is regarded by some as a version of the Necronomicon, can we speculate about her real purpose here? 

St. John of the Cross (1542-1591)

St. John of the Cross was a Carmelite friar and priest and one of the 36 "Doctors of the Church". He was instrumental during the Counter-Reformation in the re-organising of the monasteries in Spain in the Sixteenth Century under the direction of St. Teresa of Ávila. He negotiated the delicate political landscape caused by this upheaval, not always successfully as his periods of imprisonment and torture attest. While undertaking this task he spent considerable time writing poetry and is considered to be the foremost mystic poet of Spain.

1-2: The Dark Night of the Soul (1578-91)
3-4: The Spiritual Canticle (1578; 1584; 1585-6)
5-6: The Ascent of Mount Carmel (1581-85)
7-8: The Living Flame of Love (1585-6; 1591)
9-10: Dichos de Luz y Amor ("Sayings of Light and Love")

St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430)

St. Augustine was a Roman African, early Christian theologian and philosopher from Numidia whose writings influenced the development of Western Christianity and Western philosophy. He was the bishop of Hippo Regius in North Africa and is viewed as one of the most important Church Fathers – and the pre-eminent "Doctor of the Faith" - in Western Christianity for his writings in the Patristic Era (the formative period of the Church post-dating the New Testament period). His thinking formalised much of the Church’s basic theology, including the notion of the Trinity and the idea of Original Sin. He thought of the Church as the “City of God” on earth as distinct from the earthly settlements of humanity. He is notable for bringing Platonic and Neo-Platonic thinking into the Church theology and for the dissemination of these philosophies through Western philosophy.

1-3: De Doctrina Christiana (“On Christian Doctrine”) (397-426)
4-6: De Civitate Dei (“The City of God”) (410)
7-8: De Trinitate (“On the Trinity”) (417)
9-10: De Libero Arbitrio (“On Free Choice of the Will”) (387-389; 391; 395)

St. Gregory of Nyssa (335-395)

Hailing from Cappadocia in Turkey, St. Gregory is notable for the formulation of the Nicene Creed (a Christian statement of belief) and for contributing to the early Christian notions of the Trinity. While seeming to base his theology on the writings of the early philosopher Origen and the tenets of Neo-Platonism, he often rejects elements of these ways of thinking for entirely original and deeply profound notions. Much of his theology concerns the creation of a just society (he explicitly rejected slavery, for example), the notion of the multiplicity of God and the nature of the soul. He is considered a saint by both the Eastern Orthodox and Catholic churches but is not ranked as a "Doctor of the Church" (although recent revivals of interest in his writings might change that fact).

The writings of Gregory are often found compiled in one work - Gregorii Nysseni Opera - usually in Greek and Latin; but individual works can be found as follows:

1-2: Contra Eunomium (“Against Eunomius")
3-4: Opera dogmatica minora
5-6: Opera exegetica In Genesim
7: In Inscriptiones Psalmorum: In Sextum Psalmum: In Ecclesiasten Homiliae
8: Opera exegetica In Exodum et Novum Testamentum
9: In Canticum Canticorum
10: Opera ascetica et Epistulae

Plato’s Republic

The Republic is a Socratic dialogue, written by Plato around 380 BC, concerning justice, the order and character of the just city-state, and the just man. It is Plato's best-known work, and has proven to be one of the world's most influential works of philosophy and political theory, both intellectually and historically.

In the book's dialogue, Socrates discusses with various Athenians and foreigners about the meaning of justice and whether the just man is happier than the unjust man. They consider the natures of existing regimes and then propose a series of different, hypothetical cities in comparison, culminating in Kallipolis, a hypothetical city-state ruled by a philosopher king. They also discuss the theory of forms, the immortality of the soul, and the role of the philosopher and of poetry in society.

St. Bernard of Clairvaux

Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153) was a Church reformer, one of the “Doctors of the Church”, who was essential in reforming Benedictine monasticism and creating the Cistercian order. He preached a faith which held the Virgin Mary as the penitents’ direct intercessor with Heaven and he ratified the Order of the Templars, effectively helping to establish that knightly order. Upon the death of Pope Honorius II, a schism erupted as to who should be named as his replacement: Bernard was called in to heal the rift. Later under the rule of Pope Eugene III, he was called upon to expunge heresy within the Church, called out Peter Abelard and spent much time in the troubled factional regions of southern France. After the Christian defeat at the Siege of Edessa, he preached the Second Crusade and lived long enough to see the crushing of the Christian forces in that endeavour, responsibility for which was placed squarely on his shoulders.

A Christian Mystical library would most likely contain an omnibus collection of Bernard’s works but a collection with a deeper focus might have the following:

1: Liber ad milites templi de laude novae militia (“In Praise of the new knighthood”) (1129)
2: De gradibus humilitatis et superbiae (“The steps of humility and pride”) (c.1120)
3: De conversione ad clericos sermo seu liber (“On the conversion of clerics”) (1122)
4-5: De diligendo Dei (“On loving God”)
6: De consideration (“On consideration”) (c.1150)
7: De gratia et libero arbitrio (“On grace and free choice”) (c.1128)
8: De praecepto et dispensatione libri (“Book of precepts and dispensations”) (c.1144)

Mythos angle: The guy who ratified the Templars? Really? Need I say more?

St. Teresa of Avila

Saint Teresa of Avila (1515-1582) was a Carmelite nun working in Spain during the Counter-Reformation and was an associate of St. John of the Cross. She was crucial for re-organising the Carmelite Order and was named a "Doctor of the Church" - one of only four woman so-named - for her efforts. Born into a wealthy Spanish family of converted Jews, she embraced Christianity and strove towards the highest expressions of faith, at one time as a girl attempting to run away as a missionary to Morocco and die a martyr's death. She claimed to have been visited invisibly many times by Christ himself and, in her most famous vision, to have been speared through the heart by an invisible Seraph.

Her notable writings include:

1-2: El Camina de Perfeccion ("The Way of Perfection") (written before 1567)
3-4: El Castillo Interior ("The Interior Castle") (1577)
5-6: Autobiography (written before 1567)
7-8: "Meditations on the Song of Songs" (1567)

Mythos angle: Maybe an invisible seraph; maybe a Star Vampire after a midnight snack. Potato, pot-ah-to...

St. Catherine of Siena

Caterina di Giacomo di Benincasa (1347-1380) was born to a poor family in plague-ravaged Siena but rose to become a figure of major influence in the Church. She had visions of Christ and the Apostles all through her life, bore the stigmata and was “spiritually married” to Christ. She was prevented many times from entering the Church by her family but eventually was allowed to do so. She became an ambassador between the two Popes in Rome and Avignon and was instrumental in healing the schism and returning the Papacy to Rome. She ended her life after being afflicted by a spiritual “illness” which prevented her from eating anything other than the Eucharist: a massive stroke ensued. She was the first woman to be named a "Doctor of the Church". After her canonisation she became known as the patron saint of journalists.

1: Libro della divina dottrina (“The Dialogue of Divine Providence”) (c.1377)
2: L'epistole della serafica vergine s. Caterina da Siena (“The Letters of St. Catherine of Siena”) (1721)
3: The Collected Prayers of St. Catherine of Siena (c.1379)

Meister Eckhart von Hochheim

Eckhart von Hochheim (c.1260 – c.1368) was a Dominican preacher who came to prominence during the schism of the Christian church in Europe and was brought up on charges of heresy by the Inquisition. Those charges were never heard in court due to the fact that he died before the hearing could be convened and the accusation remained unproven. A tireless preacher and writer during his life, his impact has only recently been re-assessed and his contribution to Western Christian mysticism has only been recognised since the mid Nineteenth Century. His writings have influenced not only Christianity, but Buddhism, Hinduism and Theosophy as well.

His most famous writing is an incomplete work entitled Opus Tripartitum or, the “Three-Part Work”. Of the first part, only the Prologue outlining the first of an intended one-thousand propositions remains; nothing survives of the second part. The third part consists of a Prologue, six commentaries and 56 sermons, and dates from around 1310. More commonly found works are as follows:

1-2: Reden der Unterweisung (“Talks of Instruction”) (c.1290)
3-4: Liber Benedictus (“Book 'Benedictus'”)
5-6: Von Abgescheidenheit (“On Detachment”) (No longer thought to be written by Eckhart)

Mythos angle: Anyone who beats the Inquisition by dying before their case is heard is going to be a focus for a Christian Investigator. What was he up to that got him in trouble?

Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite

Dionysius the Areopagite was a convert of Paul the Apostle’s mentioned in Acts 17:34. A major work of theology entitled the Corpus Areopagiticum or Corpus Dionysiacum in the 5th or 6th Century AD is attributed to this figure, however the attribution has been proven to be erroneous. No-one knows who the actual author of the Corpus is; thus the title “Pseudo-Dionysius”. The book was a major influence on many Christian mystics including Meister Eckhart von Hochheim. The false accreditation was discovered in the Fifteenth Century leading to a sudden loss of interest in the text; nowadays, the work has seen a return to favour.

The Corpus demonstrates a strong familiarity with Neoplatonic thought and glosses many tenets of the early Church fathers including a reference to the Nicene Creed. Although mostly serving as an influence to the Eastern Orthodoxy, the Corpus has had a strong influence in the West as well.

St. Francis of Assisi

Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone (nicknamed Francesco) (c.1182-1226) was a Catholic friar, deacon and preacher, founder of the Franciscan Order of monks. In 1219, he journeyed to the Middle East to petition the Islamic leaders to stop the Crusader conflict; when he returned, the nascent Order which he had founded was burgeoning and needed to be organised. He also established a female order – the Order of St. Clare. Once the Franciscan community had been authorised by the Pope, Francis increasingly withdrew from worldly affairs. While in an ecstatic vision he received the stigmata from a visitation of seraphim and became the first to bear such wounds. After his canonisation he became known as the patron of animals and the natural environment and traditionally animals are blessed on his feast day.

His main writings are as follows:

1-2: Admonitions
3-4: “Prayer before the Crucifix” (1205)
5-6: Regula non bullata (“The Earlier Rule”) (1221)
7-8: Canticum Fratris Solis or Laudes Creaturarum (”Canticle of the Sun”)
9-10: Regula bullata (“The Later Rule”) (1223)
11-12: Testament (1226)

Lives of Visionaries

Occasionally, insight comes to the faithful through intense, sudden and often inexplicable visions. These can be accompanied by fits, or paralysis, and often sceptics tend to assign more mundane, medical rationales to their occurrence - Oliver Sacks, for instance, claimed that Hildegard of Bingen’s visionary experiences all stemmed from her predisposition for migraines. Still, they form a mainstay for mystical Christian thought and a library along these lines will contain a life of St. Hildegard of Bingen along with some of the following (as appropriate):

1-3: Marie Lataste (1822-1899): A poor girl from Mimbaste near Dax in France, Marie claimed to have seen Jesus Christ on the altar of her local church on the day of Epiphany each year from 1839 to 1843; she devoted her life to becoming a nun and, at the age of 25 having just completed her vows, died from a severe illness.
4-7: Maria Martha Chambon (1841-1907): A French nun who claimed to see visions of Jesus covered in blood and bleeding from his crucifixion wounds leading her to initiate the Rosary of the Holy Wounds as an Act of Reparation
8-9: Berthe Petit (1870-1943): After receiving her first vision of the Virgin Mary at the age of four, Berthe Petit went on to devote her life to the Church, prompted by visions of Mary and Jesus to promote the Sorrowful Immaculate Heart of Mary; she lived through the two World Wars and made many accurate predictions concerning those events.
10: Maria Valtorta (1898-1963): Confined to her bed after being beaten by a youth with an iron bar, Maria Valtorta began writing at the insistence of a mysterious voice and composed a book of Jesus’s life entitled the Poem of the Man God between the years 1943 and 1947; the work was suppressed by the Vatican, but has become more accepted as the product of divine inspiration since.

Lives of Missionaries

“By their deeds shall ye know them” is an old chestnut, but one that holds much weight in Christian mystical circles. The lives and accomplishments of missionaries across the face of the planet in spreading the word of God is a source of great comfort for many devout followers of Christ. The following are representative:

1-4: Andrew Murray (1828-1917): Murray was a South African writer, teacher and Christian pastor. He considered missions to be “the chief end of the church” and to this end he wrote 240 books and tracts outlining his vision for South Africa.
5-7: Frank Laubach (1884-1970): An American missionary from Philadelphia whose main targets were poverty, injustice and illiteracy; he organised many worldwide movements to battle illiteracy with a particular focus on the Philippines.
8-10: Mother Teresa, St. Teresa of Calcutta (1910-1997): Mother Teresa built, over the course of her life, a worldwide medical charity - the Missionaries of Charity – with the aim of dispensing medical aid and counselling to the poorest of the poor; she was canonised in 2015.

Emanuel Swedenborg

A prolific theological writer, Swedenborg (1688-1772) is also a polarising figure in Christian thought – there are those who feel that his writings stem from certain psychological peculiarities rather than bona fide spiritual revelations. Beginning his adult life as a scientific researcher, Swedenborg became inspired to switch tack and become the chronicler of revelations which he claimed were transmitted to him directly by heavenly agents. He claimed that Jesus Christ appointed him as the director of a new, reformed Christianity which he outlined in his work The Heavenly Doctrine. He claimed that his eyes had been spiritually opened and that he could see Heaven and Hell at will and converse with angels, demons and other cosmic entities. Throughout his life he received visions and was privy to information that no other person should have known, including a secret that only the Queen of Sweden and her deceased brother had shared. In time, as outlined in The Heavenly Doctrine he established Swedenborgianism as a schismatic offshoot of the Protestant Christian faith.

He published many books, both on scientific and theological topics, and here again, there is conflicting opinion: there are those who claim that the books which Swedenborg published himself have greater weight than those which were edited and put into print from unpublished manuscripts after his death, while others believe that everything that came from his pen is gold. The most well-known of these is his treatise entitled Heaven and Hell.

1: “Apocalypse Revealed” (Apocalypsis Revelata, in quae detegunter Arcana quae ibi preedicta sunt) (1766)
2: “The New Jerusalem and Its Heavenly Doctrine” (De Nova Hierosolyma et Ejus Doctrina Coelesti) (1758)
3: “Doctrine of Life” (Doctrina Vitæ pro Nova Hierosolyma ex præceptis Decalogi) (1763)
4: “Doctrine of the Lord” (Doctrina Novæ Hierosolymæ de Domino) (1763)
5: “True Christian Religion” (Vera Christiana Religio, continens Universam Theologiam Novae Ecclesiae) (1771)
6: “Heaven and Hell” (De Caelo et Ejus Mirabilibus et de inferno. Ex Auditis et Visis) (1758)
7: “Doctrine of the Sacred Scripture” (Doctrina Novæ Hierosolymæ de Scriptura Sacra) (1763)
8: “Doctrine of Faith” (Doctrina Novæ Hierosolymæ de Fide) (1763)
9: “The Last Judgement” (De Ultimo Judicio) (1758)
10: Drömboken, Journalanteckningar (“Journal of Dreams”) (1859)

Mythos angle: Anyone who claims to be able to see into other realms at will, especially after training as a scientist, has 'Mythos agent' written all over them. Try reading HPL's "From Beyond" again and then re-read this short bio on Swedenborg...

Simone Weil

Born in Paris to an upper class intellectual family Simone Weil (1909-1943) became a teacher after her graduation, although her career was punctuated by periods of intense political activism. She wrote many books on philosophy, mainly to do with political subjects, but gravitated towards mysticism as she aged. She initially embraced the Communist thinking of Marx but left the fold in favour of Anarchism after punching holes in its ideological armour that even Trotsky couldn’t refute.

Weil’s focus was the perceived inequalities between classes that human social constructs almost always created. She spent a year working in car factories in order to better understand the lives of the lower classes and, full of ideals of social equality, she joined an Anarchist brigade to serve in the Spanish Civil War, (she was invalided home due to her clumsiness and martial incompetence). She fled Europe with her family during the onset of World War Two but returned to England to work as a covert wireless operator with the SOE. She worked in this role until she collapsed and died from a heart-attack, caused by her refusal to eat, a decision she made in order to sympathise with the oppressed peoples of her home country.

Most of Weil’s works were published after her demise and they caused a wave of philosophical and theological interest in Europe and elsewhere. She had been gradually converted to a deep faith after being compelled to pray in a church consecrated to St. Francis in Assisi and, despite finding great affinity with Catholicism, declined to convert to that religion. She wrote widely on subjects of comparative theology but opposed any syncretism of belief, stating that she felt the idiosyncrasies of individual faiths needed to be retained. If anything could be taken as a general message from her work, it is a call for a resolute kindness to fellow human beings, to an extreme pitch, backed with an intense intellectual rigour.

A Christian Mystical library might simply include a ‘collected works’ of Simone Weil rather than individual writings; however, the following are representative:

1-2: Attente de Dieu (“Awaiting God”) (1950)
3-4: Oppression et liberté (“Oppression and Liberty”) (1955)
5-6: La Pesanteur et la grace (“Gravity and Grace”) (1947)
7-8: Lettre à un religieux (“Letter to a Priest”) (1951)
9-10: Réflexions sur la guerre (“Reflections on the War”) (1933)

Malleus Maleficarum

“Curiously, as soon as I opened the books, I had an uncanny conviction that I knew their contents. Yet I had never seen them before, nor, to the best of my knowledge, had I ever encountered such titles as Malleus Maleficarum and the Daemonialitas of Sinistrari. They dealt with witch-lore and wizardry, with all manner of spells and legends, with the destruction of witches and warlocks by fire...”

-August Derleth, “The Peabody Inheritance”

The Malleus Maleficarum (“Hammer of Witches”) is the best known and the most important treatise on witchcraft. It was written by the Catholic clergyman Heinrich Kramer (under his Latinized name Henricus Institoris) and first published in the German city of Speyer in 1487. Kramer wrote the Malleus following his expulsion from Innsbruck by the local bishop, after charges of illegal behaviour were laid against him, stemming from his obsession with the sexual habits of one of the accused in a trial - Helena Scheuberin - which led the other tribunal members to suspend proceedings. In 1519, Jacob Sprenger’s name was added as a second author, 33 years after the book’s publication and 24 years after Sprenger’s death. The work espouses extermination of witches, developing a detailed legal and theological theory on the issue, backed up by a reproduced Papal Bull and the facsimile signatures of the senior staff of the University of Cologne. It was a bestseller and second only in terms of sales to the Bible for almost 200 years.

The Malleus elevates sorcery to the criminal status of heresy and prescribes inquisitorial practices for secular courts in order to wipe out witchcraft. The recommended procedures include torture to effectively obtain confessions and the death penalty as the only sure remedy against the evils of witchcraft. Burning alive at the stake was seen at the time as the appropriate punishment for heretics and the Malleus encourages the same treatment for witches.

It was later used by royal courts during the Renaissance, and from then on contributed to the increasingly brutal prosecution of witchcraft throughout Europe during the 16th and 17th Centuries.

Most Christian mystical library collections would normally avoid such a grotesque tome as this; however, even the most beneficent theologians could get bloody-minded when it came to heresy. In a mystically-Christian book collection, this would undoubtedly be an oddity, a curiosity, or would be present due to some purely academic interest.

Next: Comparative Theology