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Carl McColman a spiritual director, retreat leader, and internationally known speaker and teacher on mystical spirituality and contemplative living. He is the author of many books, including The Big Book of Christian Mysticism, Eternal Heart: The Mystical Path to a Joyful Life, and Unteachable Lessons: Why Wisdom Can't Be Taught and Why That's Okay. He is one of the co-hosts of the Encountering Silence podcast, and blogs regularly at Patheos, Medium, and his own website, www.anamchara.com. Although he himself is a practicing Christian, his approach to contemplation and mysticism is inclusive and expansive, and he is dedicated to exploring the common ground between faith traditions; he is particularly interested in the connecting points between Christian, Buddhist and Pagan wisdom. Carl lives with his wife, artist Fran McColman, in Clarkston, Georgia, near Atlanta.

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Christian Mysticism: The Way of Divine Union

The Contemplative Study of Mystical Writings


About Carl

Carl McColman is a contemplative writer, speaker, teacher, soul friend, and storyteller.

He is the author of numerous books, including The Big Book of Christian MysticismAnswering the Contemplative CallAn Invitation to Celtic Wisdom and Unteachable Lessons. His latest book, Eternal Heart, was published in the summer of 2021. He is now writing a book on finding the mystical wisdom in the Bible.

Several of Carl’s books have won awards or recognition, notably Befriending Silence which won the 2015 “Georgia Author of the Year” award in the field of inspirational/religious writing. His work has been warmly endorsed by many leading voices in the field of Christian spirituality, such as bestselling author Brian D. McLaren who said, “If you don’t know about Carl McColman and his work, you should.”

Carl studied at James Madison University (BA, English) and George Mason University (MA, Professional Writing and Editing). His formation in the spiritual life includes training with the Shalem Institute in Washington, DC; the Institute for Pastoral Studies in Atlanta; and the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, GA; where Carl is a Life-Professed Lay Cistercian: a layperson under formal spiritual guidance with the Trappist monks.

After a career as a bookseller, he entered into full-time lay ministry as a retreat director, writer and speaker. Since 2016 he and his wife have served as adult catechists, co-directing the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation) process at their parish. He is a commissioned Centering Prayer presenter with Contemplative Outreach of North Georgia, and a spiritual director serving individuals both in metro Atlanta and online.

Carl’s writing appears on numerous websites, including Patheos, the Huffington Post, Day One, Contemplative Life, and Medium. He regularly posts new content to his personal blog at www.anamchara.com/blog on topics such as Christian mysticism, contemplative practice, Celtic spirituality, and interspirituality (interreligious dialogue).

Carl co-hosts the Encountering Silence podcast with filmmaker Cassidy Hall and theologian Kevin Johnson. He also creates video and audio content for his website.

Carl and his wife, artist Fran McColman, live near Atlanta in a small house filled with cats, books, icons and love. Their daughter, Rhiannon, passed away after a long illness at age 29 in 2014. When they take a break from their creative work, you may find Carl and Fran wandering around the mountains of western North Carolina or taking long walks along the Emerald Coast of Florida.

A Word from Carl

(Because writing about yourself in the third person is awkward)

Hi, I'm Carl. Thanks for visiting my website, www.anamchara.com.

I created this website way back in 1996. Over the years, it has taken on many forms: it's been an advertisement for my books and other offerings; it's been a blog; and it's been an ongoing project devoted to a simple idea: my desire to provide a place where anyone interested in Christian mysticism (and related topics like Celtic wisdom, contemplative prayer and interspirituality) can come to explore, learn, and hopefully be inspired. I hope you'll take some time to see what's available.

This "About Me" page is the least important part of this site. Nevertheless, here you are, so I hope you enjoy the pictures, links to my books and blog, and information about my upcoming events. No matter what brought you to this website, I hope you can join with me on one of life's greatest adventures: responding to the yearning in our hearts for Divine Love.

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Carl's style of writing is so down-to-earth, so honest, human, and normal... If you don't know about Carl McColman and his work, you should. — Brian McLaren

Carl McColman leads us to the brink of lessons no book can teach, then frees us to go forward to learn them, trusting the God who meets us at every step of the unknown way. — Barbara Brown Taylor

Carl McColman gives you much wise direction and broad understanding of the field of contemplative theory and practice. Here is your teacher!  — Richard Rohr

Carl McColman presents the classic precepts and practices of the Christian contemplative path in a clear and helpful way. 
— Cynthia Bourgeault

Carl McColman masterfully maps out for the serious spiritual seeker the nature of the mystical experience and outlines a clear and accessible pathway on how to get there. — Kyriacos C. Markides

Carl McColman obviously earned his understanding of mysticism through years of research as well as his own personal spiritual journey and there is no more powerful combination for inspired writing. — Carolyn Myss

Carl McColman leads us further into our hearts as sleuths in the mystery of life. What joy! 
— Zenju Earthlyn Manuel

Contemplation begins with Wonder.
What Are you Wondering About Today?

Upcoming Events

A New Initiative for 2022: The Contemplative Study of Mystical Writings

Friends, I want to invite you to a special online meeting on Thursday, January 13 to talk about my new initiative, which I am calling “The Contemplative Study of Mystical Writings.” Hope to see you there — to register, click here. This is an outgrowth of conversations I have been having through social media as …

A New Initiative for 2022: The Contemplative Study of Mystical Writings Read More »

In Person Event: Praying with the Desert Mothers and Fathers (July 8-10, 2022)

I am SO excited to be returning to Holy Cross Monastery in West Park, NY! I was honored to lead several online retreats for this monastic community during the pandemic; now, God willing, it will be a joy to return to the beautiful monastery on the Hudson River to lead a weekend of prayerful reflection …

In Person Event: Praying with the Desert Mothers and Fathers (July 8-10, 2022) Read More »

In-Person Event: Praying with Thomas Merton and Ignatius of Loyola (July 15-17, 2022)

I’m so pleased to be returning to Ignatius House for my first in-person retreat since before the pandemic! I’ve been asked to revisit one of my most popular retreats, which pairs the spiritual wisdom of St. Ignatius of Loyola with the twentieth century mystic, Thomas Merton! Come to Ignatius House, a truly beautiful and restful …

In-Person Event: Praying with Thomas Merton and Ignatius of Loyola (July 15-17, 2022) Read More »

Free Online Event: Carl McColman, Brian McLaren and others talk about Brian’s New Book (May 25, 2022)

Even the most committed Christian sometimes wonders if it’s worth it to participate in the institutional church. Religion can be a huge commitment of time and resources, and especially in our day, more and more people are saying “no thanks.” It’s an honest question that we all face sooner or later: “Do I stay Christian?” …

Free Online Event: Carl McColman, Brian McLaren and others talk about Brian’s New Book (May 25, 2022) Read More »

Latest Blog Posts

“It Cracks Up the Archangels Every Time!” (“Because They Have No Taste in Comedy!”)

May 20, 2022

I read lots of serious books: books about Christian theology, spiritual direction, the history of mysticism, and the psychology of meditation… that sort of thing. I’m not complaining — I love pretty much everything I read (actually, at this point in my life and career, if I don’t love it, I quickly stop reading it, because there’s …

“It Cracks Up the Archangels Every Time!” (“Because They Have No Taste in Comedy!”) Read More »

Read a Book About Silence (and support “Encountering Silence”)

May 9, 2022

Friends, many of you know the podcast I co-host, Encountering Silence (and if you don’t know it, check it out!). The following list of books represents some of my co-hosts’ and my favorite books on the topic of silence. We offer it here for your browsing and reading pleasure. The titles are linked to the books’ pages …

Read a Book About Silence (and support “Encountering Silence”) Read More »

The Erotic Dimension of Mystical Spirituality (or, Why Do Mystics Love the Song of Songs?)

May 8, 2022

Almost from the beginning of the Christian era, mystics and saints and theologians and spiritual teachers have reflected on one of the most beautiful and poetic of the “wisdom writings” in the Bible to explore the mystery of the love of God and how that love seeks intimacy with us, God’s human creatures. I am …

The Erotic Dimension of Mystical Spirituality (or, Why Do Mystics Love the Song of Songs?) Read More »

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An Open Letter to a Priest Who Posts Hostile Political Posts on Social Media

April 27, 2022

With the news that Elon Musk is acquiring Twitter, once again the question of how social media functions (or ought to function) in our society is back on peoples’ minds. Ever since I saw the movie The Social Dilemma, I have been conscious of the challenges that social media brings to our common life. Chief …

An Open Letter to a Priest Who Posts Hostile Political Posts on Social Media Read More »

Divine Union is Embodied: Notes on the Incarnational Nature of Christian Mysticism

April 6, 2022

I’ve been working my way through Mystical Theology and Contemporary Spiritual Practice: Renewing the Contemplative Tradition, a book in Routledge’s “Contemporary Theological Explorations in Mysticism” series. There’s a delightful essay in it called “Unlikely Mystics” about the sense of wonder and numinous reality that people encounter when visiting medieval cathedrals. Based on her research at Durham Cathedral …

Divine Union is Embodied: Notes on the Incarnational Nature of Christian Mysticism Read More »

Mystical Minute II: The Book that Changed my Life

April 3, 2022

Here’s the second release in my new series of “Mystical Minute” videos. The topic of this one: “the book that changed my life.” This is a brief introduction to Mysticism by Evelyn Underhill. After acknowledging that my first copy of the book (given to me by a friend when I was 18) has a hideously …

Mystical Minute II: The Book that Changed my Life Read More »

I Love These Books with “Illuminated Manuscript” Cover Designs

March 22, 2022

Today’s post is just for fun. I was thinking this morning how much I love books that have cover art inspired by mediæval illuminated manuscript designs. So I decided to scan a few book covers from my library, and to grab a few tasty images from hither and yon online. I make no claim to …

I Love These Books with “Illuminated Manuscript” Cover Designs Read More »

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Concerning Contemplative Charismatics and Ecumenical Priests (Answers to Reader Questions)

March 12, 2022

The same reader asked me both of the following questions, in two separate social media posts. but since they’re from the same person, I’m putting them together in this one post. Questions Concerning Ordained Ministry First, a question in response to Do I Have to be a Member of a Christian Church to be a Mystic? … …

Concerning Contemplative Charismatics and Ecumenical Priests (Answers to Reader Questions) Read More »

“Eternal Heart” named one of the best spiritual books of 2021 by “Spirituality & Practice”!

March 9, 2022

Friends, just a quick note to share my excitement… I have just learned that Eternal Heart has been selected as one of the 50 best spiritual books of 2021 by the editors of the Spirituality and Practice website! Other books to have received this honor include titles by Diana Butler Bass, Brené Brown, Cynthia Bourgeault, Joy Harjo, Valarie …

“Eternal Heart” named one of the best spiritual books of 2021 by “Spirituality & Practice”! Read More »

Work with Carl

Carl McColman has a limited practice of spiritual direction — a one-on-one opportunity for Carl to accompany you as you seek to move more deeply into the life of prayer. Learn More »

Carl is also available to churches and other organizations, to lead retreats or classes (online or in person) related to contemplative spirituality. Make a Booking Inquiry »

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The Mystics show us a new way of being...

Silence. Love. Joy.

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Bernard

Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God…”

Julian of Norwich: just one of the many contemplative treasures in the Catholic tradition.

In every heart there is a place of infinite longing.

— Carl McColman

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Anamchara (Anam Ċara)

Gaelic for “Soul Friend”

We encounter God — the Ultimate Mystery — by weaving together silence, love, sacred stories, the capacity to wonder, to celebrate, to contemplate, to pray... and the care of companions along the way.

"Anyone without a soul friend is like a body without a head," proclaimed Saint Brigid.  Her words invite and challenge us to seek the Divine in and through the eyes of others. Mystics of every age have shared their wisdom: elder to seeker, mentor to aspirant, and even simply friend to friend. Today, we seek those who may bring God to us — and to whom we, in turn, bring God.

While the printed word can never replace the intimacy and compassion that meets us through a soul friend, may all who visit these electronic pages find stories that resonate, practices that inspire, and the kind of knowledge that leads to the threshold of unknowing.

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