Anselm Stolz's basic definition of mysticism -- ''the experience of that process of being drawn into the stream of divine life, a process which is accomplished in the sacraments'' -- differs at a fundamental level from the psychologically-based studies of both William James and Evelyn Underhill. James treats mysticism as an isolated, though extraordinary, psychological phenomena that defies articulation and leaves the recipient temporarily passive during his experience of divine things. Underhill qualifies this view by placing the experience within the pattern of human development but still relies on a general theory of psychological consciousness to guide her work. Stolz contends both are radically disassociated from Christian doctrine and seeks to ground the mystic's psychological experience in theological understanding, drawing from St. Paul's second letter to the Corinthians, the early church fathers and Thomas Aquinas. His theory implies that mysticism is hardly a rare phenomenon. In fact, once extraordinary psychological experiences are removed as classifying criteria, one might discover mysticism to be the standard among devout Christians. Stolz does not deny mysticism its psychological content; instead he seeks to correct its imbalance by interpreting psychological experiences in light of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The sacramental life amplifies the virtues and allows the human consciousness a better understanding of divine things.
An Eighth Day View:
First published in 1938, this classic approaches the problems of mysticism from the theological angle adopted by the church fathers and medieval scholastics. Stolz began his study with an examination not of the psychological approach of John of the Cross or Teresa of Avila, but of St. Paul's account of his rapture. Stolz's analysis clarified the theological foundations of mysticism and its development in the ecclesiastical tradition.