Category

Unknowing

This curated selection of posts provide an in-depth exploration of the mystical life.

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Gnosis and Mysticism

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A reader of this blog named Brian writes: Carl, How would you compare and contrast mysticism with gnosticism? Thanks! I suppose there are three ways to answer this question. First we’ll look at the historical sense of mysticism and gnosticism in the history of Christianity. Then, to bring it closer to the present day, we’ll consider how these words were used by a twentieth century...

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

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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 referring to the Song of Songs, also known as the Song of Solomon or the Canticle of...

“Contemplative Prayer is Dangerous — the Way Jesus is Dangerous”

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A regular reader of this blog recently named Peter wrote to me: Carl, I’ve been reading about the Jesus Prayer. On the Orthodox sites they stress that if you haven’t had any experience with this prayer that you should get guidance and that it’s dangerous to try it on your own. When reading about the Jesus Prayer on other Christian sites like the Catholic ones then this advice is...

A Great Mystical Book — With a Surprising Title

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I’ve recently been re-reading one of the most fascinating and unusual books of mystical wisdom to have been written within the last 100 years. This is actually my third time through the book, and I know I will read it again, certainly more than once. It’s one of those rare books that rewards multiple readings, each new journey through it yielding new insights. I’m not the only...

The Most Common Criticism of Centering Prayer — and Why It’s a Fallacy

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Sigh. Last night I stumbled across yet another website from a well-meaning, but obviously misinformed, Catholic blogger who attacks Centering Prayer as “un-Catholic.” Not only has she spilled a lot of ink on her blog about this topic, but she has written an e-book filled with her denunciations of Centering Prayer that you can buy on Amazon for just a few books. Forgive me for not...

Putting the “Christian” into “Christian Mysticism”

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Mysticism crosses all religious and spiritual boundaries. In other words, mysticism — like prayer or meditation or worship or sacrifice — is a universal spiritual/religious concept, not something that is limited to just one religious or wisdom tradition. What Baron Friedrich von Hugel called “the mystical element of religion” can be found in all the world’s great traditions...

Twelve Ways to Approach Christian Mystical Spirituality

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I cannot nail down a Christian understanding of mysticism in a single session of a class (or in a simple blog post), but hopefully I can offer some lines of thinking that can help readers and students to think about Christian mysticism in a manner that is consistent with how mysticism has been understood by Christian theologians, contemplatives and visionaries.

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