Landscape of the soul : a metaphorical model of Christian mysticism
What would happen if Christian spiritual life is seen, not as a pilgrimage through a landscape, but as the landscape itself? In order to explore this question, this thesis expands the metaphor of the 'landscape of the soul' into a model of Christian spiritual life. The 'landscape of the soul' is treated as a system; with its input being God's self-revelation of love through Jesus Christ; its transformational process being the re-creation of a person through the love of God; and its output being union with God. In a representational mapping of the model, three interrelated networks of systems are identified: a geology representing physical and psychological processes relating to human experiencing; a geomorphology connected with human growth and development; and an ecology depicting the flow of God's love through various interrelationships present in the 'landscape of the soul'. These systems are considered with reference to three characteristics of landscape: matrix, the area that is most prominent; patches, areas that are different from the common matrix; and corridors, areas that facilitate the flow of information, energy or materials. The 'landscape of the soul' is also thematically mapped using different types of understandings that are associated with mysticism. The geological network is seen as analogous to those discourses that interpret mysticism as a distinct type of altered state of consciousness; the geomorphological network, with those understandings that link mysticism with stages in prayer or psycho-spiritual development; and the ecological network, with those understandings that associate mysticism with the encounter and relationship with God in Christ. From this thematic exploration, the model proposes that the altered state of consciousness in the geology of experiencing be likened to being-in-love with God; that the process represented by stages in the geomorphology of growing be seen as the deepening and honing of attention to God; and the relationship depicted in the ecology of relating be perceived as a mutual selfgiving between God and a person in an exchange of love. The model is tested in an individual case study of the life and writings of Clare of Assisi and through a survey of spiritual directors and therapists. A model of Christian life based upon the metaphor of the 'landscape of the soul' emphasises an encounter with Christ in the present moment and provides a framework in which some different understandings of mysticism can be situated. Moreover, what emerges is a distinctly Christian understanding of a mysticism of everyday in which the apophatic and transformational encounter with God is grounded in Christ.