Completely revised and significantly expanded, The New Big Book of Christian Mysticism offers a beautiful vision of mystical Christianity as a radically inclusive, egalitarian and embodied contemplative wisdom tradition.
Note: this book will be published in August 2023. If you pre-order it today, your autographed copy will be shipped to you upon publication.
Carl McColman’s The Big Book of Christian Mysticism was a bestseller upon its publication in 2010, and has remained one of the most popular books on its topic ever since. Now, Carl McColman returns with a completely revised and significantly expanded new version of this book that has been called “a masterpiece of scholarship and wisdom” (Carolyn Myss).
Almost sixty years ago, the renowned Jesuit theologian Karl Rahner famously predicted “the Christian of the future will be a mystic or will not exist.” Are we now living in Rahner’s “future”? Many people have given up on Christianity, frustrated at how sexist, homophobic, and narrow-minded the institutional church is. Others find the idea of an angry patriarchal god to be toxic. Yet even many people who have given up on Christianity still find value in the wisdom teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, who preached a simple but challenging message of love, mercy, forgiveness, compassion and mutual caring. Could mysticism — spirituality which emphasizes personal experience instead of dogma and doctrine — be the key to keeping those wisdom teachings relevant for today and the future?
If you’d like to learn more about mysticism — its history, key ideas, and essential spiritual practices — then The New Big Book of Christian Mysticism is for you. Written by an award-winning contemplative author, retreat leader and spiritual director, this book weaves together wisdom teachings from 2000 years of Christian history with a contemporary understanding that spirituality for today must be inclusive, egalitarian, justice-centered, deeply contemplative, interfaith-friendly, and optimistic. This is the vision of Christian mysticism — and it’s available to everyone.
Historically, mysticism primarily flourished among Christian monks and nuns. But Carl McColman (who himself studied for years with Trappist monks, the same order to which Thomas Merton and Thomas Keating belonged) presents a vision of mysticism that is accessible to everyone — monks, nuns, and householders alike. And while this book’s center of gravity is the Christian tradition of mysticism, it’s written in an open and inviting way for people of any and all faith traditions or spiritual paths.
The New Big Book of Christian Mysticism has been completely revised and features five new chapters, covering topics such as the Jewish background of Christian mysticism, mysticism and community/social justice, the erotic dimension of mysticism, and much more! Furthermore, this new edition makes a point to amplify stories and voices of Christian mystics and contemplatives who are women (Julian of Norwich), Black (Howard Thurman), queer (Pauli Murray), and non-European (Anthony De Mello, Desmond Tutu).
Advance Praise for The New Big Book of Christian Mysticism:
“Fine dining here, divine nutrition, a feast of good flavors, each dish more than satisfying and yet seducing you on to the whole grand buffet. Carl McColman has gathered into one place the salty, the savory, the sweet, and the sensuous of the mystical Tradition. He cooks with all the ingredients of the collective unconscious– which is the One Holy Spirit. Taste and be very well fed!” — Fr.Richard Rohr, O.F.M., author of The Universal Christ and The Naked Now
“The New Big Book of Christian Mysticism is a guidebook for going deeper on the mystical path. This revised and expanded edition remains thoughtful, insightful and grounded in scholarship; as before, what really makes it sing is the authenticity of the author’s own contemplative journey.” —The Rev. Cynthia Bourgeault, Ph.D., author of The Heart of Centering Prayer and The Corner of Fourth and Nondual
“Mainstream religion, highjacked to a dualistic and zero-sum worldview pitting us against one another and against the planet, is poisoning the human soul. The antidote isn’t reason or secular humanism or even liberal religion, but mysticism: the direct seeing into the nondual Divine happening as all reality. Carl McColman’s The New Big Book of Christian Mysticism provides this antidote for anyone who dares to read it. If you identify as Christian, make this book a new Gospel. If you are not, read it as a catalyst to finding the mystic heart of your own spiritual identity.” — Rabbi Rami Shapiro, author of Perennial Wisdom for the Spiritually Independent
“Comprehensive, accessible, and dynamic, Carl McColman’s New Big Book of Christian Mysticism is a masterpiece! Chock-full of everything you need to know about mysticism, it’s practical, too. When we read books on spirituality, we want to sense that the author is a practicing contemplative and writing from experience. This meaningfully revised and expanded edition of McColman’s acclaimed classic shows that it transformed during the last decade and more in the author’s own walk along the contemplative path. Offering us a rich mix of history, clear explanation, expertise, practical application, attention to the social dimension, inclusivity, community, and resources for further learning, the New Big Book of Christian Mysticism helps us realize: “If your heart is truly open, it will change your life.” For these chaotic days, this wisdom leads us gently into the deeply ordinary, very human, keenly subversive, and joyful activity we simply call contemplation. McColman’s treasure helps us know more presence, silence, self-compassion, compassion for others, hope, and peace. A must for every spiritual seeker!” — Carmen Acevedo Butcher, PhD, translator of The Cloud of Unknowing, Practice of the Presence by Brother Lawrence, and Hildegard of Bingen
“The New Big Book of Christian Mysticism is the right book by the right author at the right time. It is accessible to experienced contemplatives and curious not-yet-beginners alike, and it will guide you to the most fruitful pathways in what Carl McColman rightly calls the best-kept secret of the Christian tradition. I’m so glad that I can recommend this book to many of my friends!” — Brian D. McLaren, author of Do I Stay Christian? and Faith After Doubt
“Carl McColman’s The New Big Book of Christian Mysticism is accessible for those brand new to mysticism and a deep dive for those who have been studying it a lifetime. In this new edition, McColman explores mysticism’s direct connection to topics like embodiment, social justice, eroticism, and sexuality, inviting the reader into mysticism’s aliveness.” — Cassidy Hall, MDiv, MTS, MA, award-winning filmmaker, podcaster, and author of Notes on Silence
“A mystic is one whose eyes are open to seeing the Eternal in every fleeting moment of human life on this Earth, and whose heart is open to the Love that permeates through each and everything in this universe. This new volume lays out more of the rich treasures of the Christian tradition for those aspiring to awaken their mystic heart.” — Ruben L.F. Habito, Author of Be Still and Know: Zen and the Bible and Living Zen, Loving God
“An amazing resource! If you want to have a sense of the varieties of the Christian spiritual life and insight into the Mystical way; this is a necessary read. You can spend hours wandering through this amazing book. I have.” — James Ishmael Ford, author of If You’re Lucky, Your Heart Will Break: Field Notes from a Zen Life and co-editor of The Book of Mu: Essential Writings on Zen’s Most Famous Koan
“In this generous theoretical and practical exploration of Christian Mysticism, we are offered a compelling Christ-shaped vision of how each of us can live uniquely in the mystery of God’s love. In his usual accessible and down-to-earth writing style, Carl McColman both deepens our longing to know this Great Love for ourselves and to make it more real where we live and work. This labor of love will be a treasured gift for God’s children from all backgrounds.” — Trevor Hudson, Minister of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa and author of Seeking God: Finding Another Kind of Life with St Ignatius and Dallas Willard
Praise for the first edition:
“Carl McColman’s book on Christian mysticism is a masterpiece of scholarship and wisdom. This author 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.” —Caroline Myss, author of Entering the Castle and Anatomy of the Spirit
“Carl McColman has both studied and practiced the Christian mystical tradition, stressing its earthiness and ‘ordinariness.’ Like Thomas Merton, Michael Ramsey, and others, he holds that mysticism is not an esoteric realm reserved for the very holy, but is what all Christian life is about. I strongly commend this book.” —Kenneth Leech, author of Soul Friend and Prayer and Prophecy
“Charmingly and conversationally written, but also rich in nuance and thorough in its coverage and its attention to detail, The Big Book is, as its name suggests, a big—even an enormous—contribution to our current literature on the subject. Highly recommended.” —Phyllis Tickle, author of The Great Emergence: How Christianity is Changing and Why and God-Talk in America
“With his “Big Book” McColman has pulled off a tour de force: a work on Christian mysticism that is broadly accessible, but deep; scholarly but not pedantic; reverent, but judicious; thorough, but a good read; an excellent introduction to the subject for the general reader, but with plenty of meat for the specialist. Highly recommended for the neophyte, the informed, and the expert alike.” —The Rev. Robert D. Hughes, III. Ph.D., author of Beloved Dust: Tides of the Spirit in the Christian Life
“In The Big Book of Christian Mysticism, Carl McColman offers us a thorough and engaging exploration of Christian mysticism which he defines as a form of alchemy – that is, transformation through the Source of all Love. His wise and clear writing takes us on a wide journey through both classical and contemporary mystic guides. Ultimately he invites us to catch a glimpse of the heart of Mystery through concrete suggestions for mystical practice and be transformed ourselves.” —Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, author of Water, Wind, Earth, & Fire: The Christian Practice of Praying with the Elements
“If you are looking for both a primer on Christian mysticism as well as an in-depth treatment of this oft-misunderstood aspect of the spiritual life, here is your book. Readable, useful, well-researched, Carl McColman’s Big Book of Christian Mysticism helps both the novice and those already well along on the journey toward a deeper relationship with God to see that mysticism is ultimately not at all a mysterious quest, but a human— and possible—one.” —Paul Wilkes, author of Beyond the Walls: Monastic Wisdom for Everyday Life
“A brilliant contribution from a clear, concise and articulate author! Carl McColman’s Big Book deepens the conversation as he explores the paradoxes of the mystical/traditional approaches, outlines the bias against cultivating an interior life and illuminates the reader on practices to embrace in order to relate to a dynamic Living God. — Lauren Artress, author of Walking a Sacred Path
“McColman’s book is wise and wonderful, deceptively simple! Are you interested in having a relationship with something that’s ultimately unknowable? Me too. It’s not easy, but dig in, here!” —Jon M. Sweeney, author of Almost Catholic and The St. Francis Prayer Book
“In this delightfully accessible book, Carl McColman dispels the notion that Christian mysticism exists somewhere in the ether, and reveals its solid, earthy roots. If you want a rich, nourishing life of faith, and virtues that flourish like wildflowers, read Christian Mysticism, and let the good news in it transform you.” —Claudia Mair Burney, author of God Alone is Enough: A Spirited Pilgrimage with St. Teresa of Avila
“Mysticism is at the heart of faith, whatever religious or denominational flag we raise. Thoughtful, well-written doorways into these mysteries, such as this one, matter a great deal to all of us who seek communion with the Mystery Itself.” — Robert Benson, author of In Constant Prayer
“Carl McColman’s new book is truly a work of art as well as a spiritual guide for those who want to know more about Christian mysticism. Writing for a broad audience of readers, Carl wants everyone to become aware of that rich history and its potential meaning for today. He writes in a lively, engaging style, but his work comes out of deep wells of spiritual wisdom. Appealing to both head and heart, his book not only makes the history of Christian mysticism accessible, but also provides for readers guidance in prayer, contemplation, and transformation itself. For Carl, the great mystics are not just people specially gifted, but soul friends and spiritual mentors for anyone who seeks to live today with some degree of interiority, integrity, and joy. I highly recommend this book not only for general readers interested in mysticism and spirituality, but also for undergraduate or graduate students who need an introduc- tion to what Carl himself calls “this ancient wisdom tradition.” —Ed Sellner, author of Wisdom of the Celtic Saints and Finding the Monk Within: Great Monastic Values for Today