Ailsa has suggested ‘mystical’ as a prompt for a travel photograph this week.  It is a word that sent me to the dictionary, as I had a feeling that it is one for which the meaning has subtly changed in recent years.  My Concise Oxford dates from 1976, when I received it for Christmas, so I knew would give me a base definition against which to test my supposition.

For mystical, its definition is ‘of mystics or mysticism; having direct spiritual significance’.

As an adjective it denotes spiritually allegorical or symbolic; occult, esoteric, or of hidden meaning.  A mystic, is one who seeks by contemplation and self surrender to obtain union with or absorption into the Deity, or who believes in spiritual apprehension of truths beyond the understanding.  Hence mysticism (often derogatory).

For some reason, I like that ‘often derogatory’.

There is little mention of the mysterious or atmospheric with which we might associate the word today, although the allegorical, occult or the idea of hidden meaning, gives a hint of the trend in usage.

Focusing on the idea of spirituality, here is a head in St Margaret’s church in the grounds of Felbrigg Hall in Norfolk.  I don’t know who it is or why it’s on the wall in the church, but there is something satisfying about the simple lines and the smooth shapes, even if his flat head might only be for resting a candle on.

Rereading ‘one who believes in spiritual apprehension of truths beyond understanding‘ has a certain unexpected synchronicity in the wake of the discriminatory decision by the Church of England yesterday not to allow women to become bishops.  Mysticism in action?

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  1. It kills me that they can actually get away with it! It’s so…so…RETRO.


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