Friend, you are invited to join with me (Carl McColman) in an on-going project of reading, studying, and praying with some of the great mystical writings in the Christian tradition.
Many great mystical writings are challenging and difficult to read—but these books are not meant to be “analyzed” or studied in a critical/scholarly sense so much as they are most beneficial when readers engage with these writings as a contemplative practice. In other words, to read them as invitations into prayer, meditation and contemplation, as inspirations for an imaginative exploration of the inner landscape and interior life.
Last year I gathered a circle of companions together and we read the anonymous classic Meditations on the Tarot (despite its esoteric title, it truly is a work of Christian mysticism). While it’s a wonderful book, it’s also very long and philosophically dense. So in 2023 we’re going to continue by exploring the wisdom of several shorter contemplative classics, including The Showings of Julian of Norwich, Meditations of the Heart by Howard Thurman, and Practical Mysticism and Abba by Evelyn Underhill. In the future, we’ll turn our attention to other mystical classics like the Selected Writings of Meister Eckhart, The Divine Milieu of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Interior Castle of Teresa of Ávila, and more!
Incidentally, when I launched this program I called it The Contemplative Study of Mystical Writings. But I began to chafe against using the word “study” — after all, this is not meant to be a college course or even just a book group! So in 2023 I’m re-branding it as Companions of the Mystery — since my hope is that we will be companions to each other as we seek to respond to the Mystery of Divine Love in our lives, through reading the mystics and supporting each other in our daily prayer practice.
As a program, Companions of the Mystery has two parts. First, I’ll be reading ahead and preparing study materials that I send out to course participants once or twice a month (as I’ve worked on this course, I’ve learned that creating these course materials require its own period of contemplative reflection, so I hesitate to establish firm deadlines here. Still, the intention is to have new material to you regularly). These course materials include chapter by chapter study guides, prompts for personal reflection and journaling, spiritual exercises and/or guided meditations, and quotations selected for devotional use. These materials will come to you via email and will also be archived here at anamchara.com.
The other element of the program is regular zoom calls where you get to interact with me and other course participants. These calls will occur approximately 1-2 times each month, at different dates and times to accommodate course participants from around the world. Each 90 minute meeting will include time for centering prayer or a spiritual exercise, a brief presentation from me, quotations or other material for group reflection in a lectio divina format, and time for interaction/discussion/questions and answers. The intention is to create a prayerful space similar to the experience of group spiritual direction. I’ll also be recording and archiving the presentation segments of each meeting, so you’ll have access to whatever meetings you miss. These videos, along with the written material, together form a meaningful program for a contemplative encounter with the classics we’ll be reading together.
We are all busy, and many people have indicated that they need to work at their own pace — especially with the rich and deeply spiritual texture of mystical writings. So our online meetings are designed to be friendly to participants who haven’t yet had a chance to read the book under discussion. Each session will feature quotations or excerpts that we will read and reflect on together, along with a topic related to the material that I will present to the group. Of course, with the videos being archived along with the study materials, you can use these resources at whatever pace works for you.
Here’s a video I created in January 2023 on Evelyn Underhill, one of the mystics we’ll be exploring this year:
Current and Future Mystical Writings We’re Exploring
Please note, these links are password protected. Please register for the course (see below) for access.
- Anonymous, Meditations on the Tarot (currently underway, to be completed in early 2023)
- Julian of Norwich, The Showings (currently underway, now through summer 2023)
- Howard Thurman, The Way of the Mystics (begins summer 2023)
- Evelyn Underhill, Practical Mysticism (begins fall 2023)
- Meister Eckhart, Selected Writings (begins winter 2023-4)
- More to come! Check back to see future offerings.
How to Register
There are two ways to sign up for Companions of the Mystery. The most economical option is to join Patreon — this course was originally designed as a benefit for Patreon members (Patreon is a website for people who choose to provide financial support to writers, artists, musicians and other creative professionals). When you join Patreon at $20/month, you will receive access to all the materials for this course from the Meditations on the Tarot study materials to the book we’re currently reading. You retain access for as long as you are a member of Patreon (charges recur on a monthly or annual basis, but you can cancel at any time). Current Patreon members get passwords to the archives of the course, new materials emailed to you as they are produced, and invitations to all Zoom meetings. Plus, you’ll have access to other features on Patreon, including writing I’ve posted there exclusively for Patreon members (often excerpts from whatever future book I’m working on at the moment). Annual membership saves you 15%.
The other option is specifically for anyone who doesn’t like recurring charges (even though it’s easy to cancel). On my website you have the option to purchase 12 months’ access to Companions of the Mystery for a one-time, non-recurring charge of $249.
Finally, no one is turned away for financial reasons. If you are on limited income or otherwise cannot afford the $20/month plan, please reach out to me and we can work out a partial scholarship to make the course accessible. Click here to request a scholarship.
Friends, I hope you’ll join me in this deep dive into some of the most imaginative, inspiration, and transformational writings of the western contemplative tradition! Not only will we read these wonderful books together, but we’ll have opportunities to pray together, share silence together, and support each other in the ongoing adventure of moving deeper into the mystery of divine love!