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Mystical Theology is about you!

Mystical theology is the theology of religious experience. The experience of the Absolute – whom most of us call ‘God’ – but also the experience of your own consciousness and its origins. Mystical theologians keep themselves distracted by studying personal testimonies of concrete encounters with God. This makes mystical theology the only experiential (and sometimes even experimental) branch of divinity studies. The opposite of higher phantasmagoricology, one could say. 

Religious or not, we all wonder, from time to time, what we are supposed to be doing here, and where our consciousness roots. Also, there are those vexing mysteries like love and death. Our ancestors provided us with a religious tradition to deal with all of that, but somehow we managed to wreck it. It simply doesn’t function anymore. The Christian worldview our grandparents took for granted now seems more preposterous than even the most fanciful Star Trek-episode and, to make matters worse, the God of the Bible does not strike us as a very nice Person, to put it mildly (nor a very realistic one, at that.) All these negative impressions prevent us from realising that the attic of the Christian tradition is filled to the brink with unexpected treasure, free for the taking (and our birthright anyway.)

Mysticism – a branch of theology quite forgotten until recently – does not occupy itself with ideological pettiness or abstract speculation. It deals with real-life experiences of the Absolute, about Whom testimonies have reached us from history. Maybe from some 14th century monk, but also from a secretary-general of the United Nations writing just after the Second World War, or from a young woman in crinolines and a powdered wig. Some of those experiences can be quite comforting, others unsettling, but at least none of them will try to sell you something or try to convert you to some or other stifling religious or ideological construct. Most of them just want to share their wonderment.

The Senses of the Soul

Our main programme for the season of 2022/2023 is called The Senses of the Soul, and deals with sense perception in the spiritual life. What can we perceive directly from the reality that supports our existence? Along the tracks beaten by some of the great writers of our mystical tradition we search for the ground of our consciousness. Along the way, we learn to use the conceptual tools we need to read mystical texts with confidence, and make some sense of them without exotic misunderstandings.  It’s not necessary to have a lot of prior knowledge to take part in it. It is our custom to cover the basics again in every course (in such a way that some parts can easily be skipped by people who no longer need them). This will be our first venture into English, and we hope to let it start after the Dutch version has ended, in the autumn of 2023.

Our Lecturer

Father Hugo Beuker (1976) is a Roman Catholic priest of the diocese of Groningen-Leeuwarden in the Netherlands. He has been a hermit there since 2001. He studied Church History, with a specialisation in Mystical Theology, at the Catholic University of Louvain (KU Leuven) in Belgium. He has been lecturing on mystical theology for Sanctificium (formerly “School voor de Ziel”) since 2019. He is known for his ability to present quite complicated concepts in such a way that they not only become understandable, but even enjoyable. His sense of humour and unusual way of approaching things often show even the most well-trodden phenomena in a completely new light. In 2021 he presented a show on mystical theology on Dutch national television (Ziel en Zaligheid, KRO-NCRV). He is known for his deep veneration of the great tradition of the old Christian churches, but he can also be quite direct when it comes to matters he considers to be dishonest tyrannical constructs. Honesty commands us to say that if you like your theology to be vanilla without surprises, this is not your cup of tea. If, on the other hand, you appreciate dry wit and a bit of a thrill now and then, your time with Father Hugo will be well spent.  

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