This is part 4 of 5 of an essay originally published by EA, or Julius Evola, under the title “Esoterismo e Mistica Cristiana” from the third volume of Introduction to Magic. Here he discusses the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the tollhouses after death and the many correspondences between early Christianity and the mystery cults.
According to Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, the fundamental phases of Christian mysticism were the purgative, illuminative, and the unitive ways, a schema that in form can be also counted in the setting of the initiatic way. As a reality, however, things were quite different. Therefore, concerning the first phase, Guenon’s comment is absolutely correct, when he points out the confusion due to the use of the terms “union” and “unitive way” by mystics.
This union does not have the same meaning as Yoga or its equivalents, so that there is only a wholly outward similarity. It is not illegitimate to use the same word, because even in current language, one speaks of union between beings in many different cases where there is obviously no degree of identification between them, but it is necessary only to take the greatest care not to confuse different things under the pretense that a single word is used to designate them both.
Moreover, the frequency of the use of the symbolism of matrimony for the mystical union is significant. It does not mean a unity that maintains the distinction that occurs in uniting a man and a woman, in the same way that the relationship of an “I” and a “Thou” exists in prayer, even in its highest levels. Only by analogy can one speak of a cognitio Dei experimentalis—experiential knowledge of God—in Christian mysticism. A condition of “eccentricity” (in the sense of non-centrality) is essential, almost without exception. That, moreover, is indicated by the term “ecstasy” which means “to go out from oneself”. Initiatically, it is more about the opposite, i.e., of a coming back into oneself, of making oneself “central”, through which someone correctly spoke of enstasy, instead of “ecstasy” for the states of Yoga.
The phase of the illuminative way could induced by putting it in relation with the effects of the gifts of the intellect of the Holy Spirit that are six [sic] in the Thomist conception: to be able to discover
- the substance behind accidents;
- the inner meaning behind the words of sacred texts;
- the truth behind the symbol;
- the spiritual reality behind the sensible types, i.e., behind the phenomena which appear to common experience, and consequently also the hidden effects of a cause and the hidden cause of specific effects. [Joret, Op. cit., p 274]
Formally, it would be a question of powers of an effectively initiatic character, connected more or less to “intellectual intuition”. But it suffices to read the same examples made by St Thomas in order to see that there is none of that, or rather that is does not go beyond a theoretic framework.
Concerning the purgative way, again with the goal of indicating the reflections of initiatic views, let us reproduce this citation:
Many writers of Christian antiquity affirm that the souls, when leaving this world, must pass through various tollhouses of the demons of the aerial region. They examine the soul to see if they can find something in it that belongs to them … The soul is not able to continue its voyage before it has been purified from all its dross. At the same time, beyond purification, the soul is also instructed by good angels in every divine science, so that it is capable of understanding the Mysteries of God. This whole process of purification and instruction is repeated until the soul has arrived at perfect purity and the fullness of knowledge. [This gradual purification after death] generally is no longer admitted [by Catholic theologians] in all its particulars. It was however practical to the anticipation of our asceticism that is confirmed in the life of prayer, and in such applications, the aforementioned doctrine expresses some absolutely indisputable truth. [AC, 128-129]
Now, in all that, the reflection of the mystery doctrine is quite visible, such as the Mithraic, with the passage through the septenary or planetary hierarchy, which does not have to do with the world of prayer, but with that of initiation, in which, as the same “purifications”, were often distinguished by exactly seven grades.
Other “residues” not lacking interest are the views that, in the ancient Christian writings, were about the restoration of the Adamic state, understood as before the goal of Christian regeneration, because in patristics they insist exactly on the continuity on the fact that one must achieve the perfection characteristic of the primordial state, by embarking on the search for the lost terrestrial paradise. It was the ancient Christian idea, maintained moreover up until the 16th century, that this place, from which our first parents were driven away, still exists, in a higher region, inaccessible to men, unless they are helped by exceptional divine grace, as would have been the case for Elijah, Enoch, and even Saint Paul (II Cor 12:1-5). This inaccessibility was expressed with the symbolism of desolate and impassable places, equivalent to that of the angel on watch with his flaming sword or a fire zone that encircles paradise. That copies the initiatic doctrine of the “center” in its relation with the primordial state: always present from the metaphysical point of view. And the symbolism of passing through the wall of fire is not different from that of baptism of fire, referring in that way also to the theme of Hercules who achieved immortality (he ascends Olympus to marry Hebe, the perennial youth) only after the fire consumed his human nature on Mount Oeta: a theme that refers to still many others of initiatic origin, e.g., that of a virgin enclosed in a circle of fire, who will belong to whoever can pass through it without perishing. Obviously, in projecting it to an afterlife, the Catholic conception of “purgatory” reflects the most general theme of purification. Moreover, there is also an allusion to the initiatic idea that paradise and the kingdom of Heaven represent two distinct “places”.
In the ancient Christian views, there was always a mingling also with magic, when, once admitted that the adamic state can be re-achieved through the other levels of mystical contemplation, they indicate the prerogatives of that state. The first is the gift of knowledge, or gnosis–through which the fact is recalled that Adam had given the animals “their names”—the name, according to the ancient conception, expressing the very existence of a thing or a being. In relation to that, St. Thomas also writes:
This rectitude of man in his original and divine institution consisted in the fact that the lower part of his being was subjugated to the higher part and this was not obstructed by the other. Therefore the first man did not find in exterior things an obstacle to pure and steady contemplation of intelligible effects, perceived by means of an irradiation of the first truth. [TM, 89]
That, however, is also related to the second gift, which is apatheia in the most general sense of being undisturbed in respect to passion, of not being preoccupied by impulses, and of a natural sovereignty over instincts.
 Guenon, Rene: Direct contemplation and reflected contemplation, from “Initiation and Spiritual Realization”.
 It is said: Only who is purified through fire can enter paradise. St. Ambrose (In Ps. 118, serm. XX,12)
 TM, 25-6. Where this passage from St. Ambrose is cited: ‘Paradise is a permanent region of heaven, but it is, so to speak, the ground floor of the kingdom, the foundation on which the kingdom of heavens properly called is constructed at the summit; it is the lower region of the invisible heaven, from which the elect, each according to his own merits, will ascend sooner or later toward the different higher regions or heavens.” In Christian terms, the distinction is also expressed by saying that the grace of Christ is superior to the grace of Adam and leads to a perfection that is beyond the ordinary paradisiac state.
 St Augustine’s (De civ. Dei, XIV, 15) view is of interest, according to which at the very point in which the soul separated from the divine world, the body ceased in its turn to be subject to the soul and to obey it, and came under the state of passivity defined by concupiscence.