Excerpted from a post at The Notion Club Papers blog...
I have a strong, and still increasing, conviction that we ought to move away-from the kind of impersonal abstraction that has been characteristic of spiritual, mystical, meditative and prayer life for many centuries - so much so that the two are often regarded as synonymous.
Christian mystics have, for instance, often been Neoplatonic in their rationale and experience, and mysticism is often asserted to be a negative state of indescribable, inexpressible experience.
What I mean is that the ultimate is often supposed to be an experience and a 'subject' that is beyond the personal.
On the other hand, personal experience of the spiritual - that is, when there is some kind of contact with a Christian personage - whether Jesus Christ, Blessed Virgin Mary, a saint of angel, or any other individual of higher spiritual stature - have also often been reported.
But typically such an interaction has been conversational...
An experience of meeting-together perhaps, and conversing. Such experiences as as talking-with a statue or crucifix, an icon, or at a shrine; speaking oneself and hearing replies in the mind...
Maybe meeting with another person in a dream-like state (or an actual dream), accompanied by vivid visions. Perhaps writing questions and then being dictated answers; or automatic writing.
These two seem like the options - either, on the one hand, a sophisticated and intellectual kind of abstraction and negation; or else, on the other hand, a rather child-like interaction with a personage that operates rather like a mundane conversation. This tends to encourage adult (and educated) Christians to abandon the personal and embrace the abstract.
But there is at least one other option, which is something I have at times experienced. An example is when I was immersively reading and thinking about the Fourth Gospel - but an earlier instance relates to more recent historical people who I came to regard as spiritual teachers: William Arkle and JRR Tolkien.
** Read the whole thing at my Notion Club Papers blog **