“PRAYERS* have three veils, whereof the first is prayers uttered only by the tongue; the second is when the mind, by hard endeavour and by firmest resolve, reaches a point at which, being untroubled by evil suggestions, it is able to concentrate itself on divine matters; the third veil is when the mind can with difficulty be diverted from dwelling on divine matters. But the marrow of prayer is seen when He who is invoked by prayer takes possession of the mind of him who prays, and the mind of the latter is absorbed in God whom he addresses, his prayers ceasing and no self-consciousness abiding in him, even to this extent that a mere thought about his prayers appears to him a veil and a hindrance. This state is called “absorption” by the doctors of mystical lore, when a man is so utterly absorbed that he perceives nothing of his bodily members, nothing of what is passing without, nothing of what occurs to his mind—yea, when he is, as it were, absent from all these things whatsoever, journeying first to his Lord, then in his Lord. But if the thought occurs to him that he is totally absorbed, that is a blot; for only that absorption is worthy of the name which is unconscious of absorption.

“I know these words of mine will be called an insipid discourse by narrow theologians, but they are by no means devoid of sense. Why? The condition of which I speak is similar to the condition of the man who loves any other things—e.g. wealth, honour, pleasures; and, just as we see some engrossed by love, we see others overpowered by anger so that they do not hear one who speaks, or see one who passes, and are so absorbed by their overwhelming passion that they are not even conscious of being thus absorbed. For so far as you attend to the absorption of your mind, you must necessarily be diverted from Him who is the cause of your absorption…

“And now, being well instructed as to the nature of ‘absorption’, and casting aside doubts, do not brand as false what you are unable to comprehend. God most high saith in the Koran: ‘They brand as false what they do not comprehend.’ The meaning of ‘absorption’ having been made clear, you must know that the beginning of the path is the journey to God and that the journey in God is its goal, for in this latter, absorption in God takes place. At the outset this glides by like a flash of light, barely striking the eye; but thereafter, becoming habitual, it lifts the mind into a higher world, wherein the most pure essential Reality is manifested, and the human mind is imbued with the form of the spiritual world, whilst the majesty of the Deity evolves and discloses itself. Now, what first appears is the substance of angels, spirits, prophets, and saints, for a while under the veil of I know not what beautiful forms, wherefrom certain particular verities are disclosed; but by degrees, as the way is opened out, the Divine Verity begins to uncover His face. Can anyone, I ask, who attains a glimpse of such visions, wherefrom he returns to the lower world disgusted with the vileness of all earthly things, fail to marvel at those who, resting content with the deceits of the world, never strive to ascend to sublimer heights?”

A very similar doctrine is taught by the writer calling himself Dionysius the Areopagite, who has been recently identified with Stephen bar Sudaili, a Syrian monk.*

He says the soul, following what he calls “the negative way” or method of abstraction, “after completing its ascent into that region of being which, from its very sublimity, is to the impotent human intellect a region of obscurity, becomes completely passive, the voice is stilled, and man becomes united with the Ineffable Being.”* “Then is he delivered from all seeing and being seen, and passes into the truly mystical darkness of ignorance, where he excludes all intellectual apprehensions and abides in the utterly Impalpable and Invisible; being wholly His who is above all, with no other dependence, either on himself or any other; and is made one, as to his nobler part, with the utterly Unknown, by the cessation of all knowing; and at the same time, in that very knowing nothing, He knows what transcends the mind of man.”* This is simply a restatement of the doctrine of Plotinus.*