Thank you for publishing Luke Timothy Johnson’s article on mysticism (“Dry Bones,” February 26). It is critically important, and I hope it will return readers to Friedrich von Hügel’s masterpiece: The Mystical Element in Religion.
I think Johnson makes a mistake, however, when he radically distinguishes the Thomas Merton ofThe Sign of Jonas from the Merton ofConfessions of a Guilty Bystander.By doing so, I think Johnson makes an unwarranted distinction between the mystical search for God and what he calls a “turn to the world” that “privileges the active over the contemplative.” I believe that real activism is rooted in contemplation. Both the Dominican and Jesuit traditions emphasize contemplata aliis tradere (handing over to others what one has contemplated). I call as further witness the profound theological work of the Sri Lankan Jesuit Alois Pieris. All his books testify to the connection I have suggested, especially The Mysticism of Service.