Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Quixote and Kierkegaard as mystics

 Robert A. Herrera:

Though he himself was scarcely a mystic, it has been suggested that in an age of burgeoning secularism, Cervantes' Don Quixote can be said to exemplify the mystic spirit. Like the mystic he strives to vanquish, even to destroy, that which  fallen nature considers being most valuable, even life itself, to attain a life that is more real, intense and lasting, This entails, at least in spirit, regression to the Gothic, the medieval, and has been emulated by moderns and  been emulated by moderns and contemporaries, notably (but not solely) by the followers of St. Ignatius Loyola and St. Teresa of Avila. But even these have suffered greatly from the slough of despond that followed the Second Vatican Council.

In Protestantism...voices such as Soren Kierkegaard (+1855) were heard within the deadening correctness.  This hypersensitive aesthete came to the conclusion that Denmark's State-sponsored orthodoxy was merely cordial drivel served up sweet.
The corporate, he feared, was suffocating the individual. This was a real tragedy as the cause of Christ stands or falls with the individual. The task at hand is to become a unique self, to escape from the herd and its mentality.  Kierkegaard embraces the ascetic by his either/or: either God  or nothing!  He moves in the direction of the mystical by his advocacy of silence as the essence of inwardness. The imperatives of the monastic

 are reborn: "It is unbelievable what a person of prayer can achieve if he would but close the doors behind him"  It is interesting to note that a decade or so later the archetypal atheist Nietzsche (+1900) was also engaged in excoriating the masses and their herd mentality. 

 Both Don Quixote and Kierkegaard, the fictional character and the existent man (who can say which is the more real?) kicked against the  goad.  They were in frank opposition to that stultifying conformity that all too often passes for religion. Kierkegaard sacrificed his love for Regina; Don Quixote fought giants that to secular eyes were merely windmills. From a psychiatric point of view both were verging on the borderline or had passed the border into psychosis. Kierkegaard made the sacrifice necessary to make his vocation possible. Don Quixote fought against the windmills
of Criptana, as he knew through the eyes of faith that they were, are, and for all eternity will be, giants. In their realization  that the demands and lures of the world must be subordinated to a higher calling they were well on their way to an elevated spirituality.--Silent Music: The Life, Work, and Thought of St. John of the Cross. pp 15-16

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