In my view this paper is not just an examination of a powerful poem about the mystical experience, it is also a valuable summary of science and academia’s current interest in the historical and contemporary experience of the Silence of the mystical experience of mysticism (MER).
The full text is available through Academia.net
Silence as Cognition in San Juan de la Cruz’ Coplas del Mismo Hechas Sobre Una Alta Extasis de Contemplación
By Michael Mcglynn, Professor at National University, Taiwan.
“This essay is an expansive (non-reductive) treatment of one poem of the Early Modern Spanish mystic San Juan de SILENCE AND INEFFABILITY AS COGNITION IN SAN JUAN DE LA CRUZ’ “COPLAS DEL MISMO HECHAS SOBRE UN ÉXTASIS DE ALTA CONTEMPLACIÓN”
“This essay is an expansive (non-reductive) treatment of one poem of the Early Modern Spanish mystic San Juan de la Cruz, namely, Coplas del Mismo Hechas sobre un Éxtasis de Alta Contemplación.
“The refrain of this poem is a claim to transcend all knowledge through an ineffable experience. As disciplinary walls tumble. this ineffable experience bears re-evaluation with evidence from experts in pertinent fields, such as cognitive science. A case is made that Juan’s claim to know by unknowing is a feature of ordinary cognition, though perhaps his experience was an extreme case. As a corollary conclusion, it is observed that twentieth-century approaches to texts are quickly giving way to approaches that match the ‘holistic’, networked culture that characterizes contemporary society from Toledo to Taipei.
“The sixteenth-century Spanish Carmelite priest Juan de la Cruz is famous for his poetry about the mystical union. The refrain of Juan de la Cruz’ 1578 poem about the mystical union, Coplas del Mismo Hechas sobre un Éxtasis de Alta Contemplación, expresses the ineffability of the mystical union with these words: y quédeme no sabiendo, / toda ciencia trascendiendo (2-3: ‘I remained unknowing while transcending all knowledge’).
“This ‘unknowing’, or ineffability, is a common trope in both European and World mystical traditions. The experience of transcendent divinity, whether one believes in divinity or not, is by definition beyond expression. As a poetic trope, the ineffability of such experience is not uncommon, even in secular poetry. San Juan’s more unique claim is that he came into practical knowledge directly by means of this ineffable experience.
“This is a handbook definition of cognition: ‘all the mental processes by which people become aware of and gain knowledge of the world’ (D.A. Statt, The concise dictionary of psychology, London-New York, Routledge, 1990). Juan uses the terms conociemiento, inteligencia and noticia.
St. John of the Cross is now a ‘Doctor of the Church’ a title given by the Catholic Church to saints recognized as having made a significant contribution to theology or doctrine. During his lifetime, however, he was considered an heretic. He was imprisoned for nine months in dreadful conditions and whipped daily by his fellow monks.