If you care to scroll down towards the bottom of this page you can see how an experience I had in Brazil gave me an insight into the visions of Saint Teresa of Avila
The position of the man—upside down, head below, hanging by one foot in a porch, with his free leg folded back at the knee and his arms bound behind his back—at first naturally evokes ideas of gravitation and of the torture that conflict can inflict on man.
What religion if not the manifestation of spiritual gravitation towards God, i.e. towards the centre of spiritual gravitation of the world? It is significant that the term “the Fall”—chosen for the primordial event which brought about the change of man’s state from “paradise” to the terrestrial state of toil, suffering and death—is borrowed from the domain of gravitation
The history of the human race bears witness to the reality of attraction from above. The exodus into Egyptian, Palestinian, Syrian and other deserts inaugurated by St. Paul of Thebes and St. Anthony the Great were nothing other than the manifestation of irresistible attraction from above. The desert fathers, pioneers of this exodus, had no programme or plan to found any communities or schools of Christian spirituality comparable to the schools of yoga in India. Theirs was the irresistible appeal from above to solitude and a life given up entirely to spiritual reality. Thus, St. Anthony the Great said:
“As fish who remain on dry land die, so do monks who linger outside of the cell, or who pass time with people of the world, slacken the tension of solitude. Therefore it is necessary—as fish do to the sea—that we return to the cell, so as not to forget, through dallying outside, our interior vigil.”
This form of life was later adapted and perfected by St. Basil in the East, and by St. Augustine, St. Cassian and St. Benedict in the West.
Although this subsequent development was present in germ in the solitary lives of St. Paul of Thebes and St. Anthony the Great, this was not the conscious motive for their retreat into the desert. Their motive was solely the desire for solitude caused by the irresistible attraction of heaven.
The attraction of heaven is so real that it can take hold of not only the soul but also the physical body. Then the body is carried up and no longer touches the ground. St. Teresa of Avila, who had this experience, wrote in her “Life”
When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark. The sea rose because a strong wind was blowing. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and drawing near to the boat. They were frightened, but he said to them: I am; do not be afraid.
Fear is due to the menace of being engulfed by elemental forces of gravitation of a lower order, i.e. of being carried away by the play of blind forces from the agitated “sea” of the “electrical field” of death. “I am; do not be afraid” is therefore the message of the Master, of celestial gravitation, demonstrated by the action of saving Peter.
Initially Peter had been born up by ecstasy similar to that of Saint Teresa. However Jesus Christ walked on the water not by virtue of ecstasy — not by going out of his Humanity — but rather by virtue of enstasy, i.e. centering in himself, by the divine I of the Son of the eternal Father present in itself.
There are other forms of levitation that might appear to be celestial; but are not. They are due to will power. Legend attributes to Simon Magus that he could elevate himself physically in the air. Also in modern time we should distingush the rapture of saints from the “levitation of mediums”. They have raised themselves in the air several feet and hovered for some time without any means of support.
There are actually three categories of levitation of the human body: rapture due to “celestial gravitation”, levitation due to a current of human electricity emitted wilfully (arbitrary magic), or involuntarily (mediumistic levitation), due to the will power of a third party.
According to tradition, Simon Magus—whom St. Peter, through prayer, caused to fall—is attributed with levitation achieved through arbitrary magic.
In Estonia (where Valentin Tomberg lived as a young man) it is said witches and sorcerers make use of “broomsticks” to levitate. The repulsing current emanating from the centre at the base of the spine certainly produces the impression of a beam in the form of a broomstick; sorcerers, when splitting themselves off from, and leaving behind, their physical body, move after the fashion of modern rocket reactions. Thus Estonians in the countryside possess a special term for this phenomenon which is more adequate than “broomstick”, namely tulehant which means to say “beam of fire”.
The soul seems to me to be in this state when no comfort comes to it from heaven and it is not there itself, and when it desires none from the earth and is not there either. Then it is as if crucified between heaven and earth, suffering and receiving no help from either.
This is the “zero point” between the fields of terrestrial and celestial gravitation. It is from there that the soul either is elevated in contemplation of divine and celestial things, or descends to act in the human and terrestrial domain.
In his obedience, Abraham’s head followed his feet; his feet were then “above”, in so far as they experienced the commandment of heaven, and his head obeyed them and was turned “below”, in so far as it saw nothing but the privations, risks and perils of the enterprise. Abraham found himself in the condition of the Hanged Man.
The will is an active force. To transform my will into thy will is the inner act of love. This transformation affected by love is worth one calls obedience
“I can only say that the soul conceives itself to be near God, and that it is left with such a conviction that it cannot possibly help believing.
However with time the gap between the certainty of faith and that of knowledge becomes narrower and narrower. Thought and imagination become more and more capable of participating in the revelation of faith to the will — until the day arrives when they participate in it on equal footing with the will.
We can contrast the modesty of a scientist like Emile Dubois Reymond with a somewhat rigid faith of priest like Cardinal Billon. Reymond wrote: We do not know and we shall never know:
Whereas Cardinal Louis Billot wrote: “At its departure from the body, the soul is no longer in a position to change its moral orientation, nor to go back on its previous adherence to sin but, on the contrary, it fixes itself “in the disposition of will found at the precise instant of death; it becomes henceforth inflexible, and rebels against every idea of retraction, conversion or repentance.
“Eternal punishment exists only in the perverse disposition of unrepentants on departing from the present life.”
Whereas Our Lord said: “If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go in search of the one that went astray?…So it is the will of my Father who is in heaven that not one of these little ones should perish.” (Matthew xviii, 12, 14)”
“Moral logic” introduces warmth into the light of thought, so that the latter becomes solar, instead of lunar, which is what it is when it has only light alone and is cold, without warmth.
Saint Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, wrote in his Life of Saint Anthony:
Here we have a clear comparison of the certainty due to “active faith” and that due to the demonstration by reasoning. The difference between them is the same as that between a photograph of a person and a meeting with this person. It is the difference that there is between image and reality, between an idea that one makes of the truth and the truth itself.
The certainty of faith springs from the actual meeting with truth and its persuasive and transforming action, whilst that of certainty due to reasoning depends on the validity of our reasoning and anew item of information can turn the whole edifice of our reasoning upside down. This is why all conviction founded on reasoning is intrinsically hypothetical.
The Pope finds himself in the condition of the Hanged Man when he makes a declaration ex cathedra.
It is the condition in which the apostle Peter was when he was able to say, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” and of which the Lord said in reply, “Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew xvi, 16-17).
And just as a stone does not have its own motion, and can only be a moved object, so is the will of he who is found in the condition of the Hanged Man deprived of its own movement and can only be moved from above.
To date there have only been these two ex cathedra teachings.
One day when I was at prayer I saw Christ at my side — or, to put it better, I was conscious of Him, for I saw nothing with the eyes of the body. He seemed quite close to me. I was very much afraid at first, and could do nothing but weep, though as soon as He spoke His first word of assurance to me, I regained my usual calm, and became cheerful and free from fear. All the time Jesus Christ seemed to be at my side, but as this was not an imaginary vision I could not see in what form. But I most clearly felt that He was all the time on my right, and He was witness of everything that I was doing.
Afterwards Friar Peter of Alcantara, a holy man of great spirituality, told me that of all the kinds of vision, this is the one with which the devil can least interfere.
Our Lord appears to the soul by a knowledge brighter than the sun. I do not mean any sun that is seen, but there is a light which, though unseen, illumines the understanding so that the soul may enjoy this great blessing.
Later my confessor asked me: Who said that it was Jesus Christ? I answered: He often tells me so Himself, but before ever He said it, it was impressed on my understanding that it was He… The Lord is pleased to engrave it so deeply on the understanding that one can no more doubt it than one can doubt the evidence of one’s eyes.
In these experiences the soul has certainty, as if it had seen, without having seen, and as if it had heard, without having heard. It is the spirit which projects certainty into it. It is the spirit which “sees”, “hears” and “touches” in its own way and which infuses the soul with the fruits of its experience — a certainty equal to, or even higher than, that which the soul would have if it had “seen”, “heard” and “touched” itself.
No, just as there is hysteria due to illusion and hysteria based on truth — as, for example, is the case with stigmatas and wounds from the crown of thorns, which manifest themselves on the bodies of people who have had spiritual experience of the Lord’s Passion — so also there are illusory hallucinations, due to fears or immoderate desires, and revelatory hallucinations, i.e. “hallucinations of the truth”.