Seven Ways to Read a Mystical Book


Reading the writings of the great mystics — of figures like St. John of the Cross, St. Teresa of Ávila, Meister Eckhart, Julian of Norwich, or even modern writers like Pierre Teilhard de Chardin or Bernadette Roberts — is not always easy. Many mystics use dense or figurative or poetic language in their attempts to express the inexpressible. Others rely on highly technical philosophical or...

“Do I stay Christian?” A Conversation with Brian D. McLaren on a Significant Question for Our Time


Last Wednesday I had the distinct honor of being part of a group interview with leading Christian theologian Brian D. McLaren. The occasion was in celebration of Brian’s latest book, Do I Stay Christian? A Guide for the Doubters, the Disappointed, and the Disillusioned. It’s a provocative title and, indeed, a provocative book. Brian is aiming to have a balanced but honest engagement...

Putting the “Christian” into “Christian Mysticism”


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...

The Problem with Christianity in a Nutshell


We all know that so many people today prefer to remain spiritually independent, intentional about cultivating their interior life but unencumbered by affiliation to a faith community. In other words: “spiritual but not religious.” We know that this annoys some religious people, while others seem to roll with it. Even though I remain engaged with Christianity-as-religion, I also try to...

Hunting Magic Eels: the Quest for a Re-Enchanted Christianity


Richard Beck, professor of psychology at Abilene Christian University in Texas, has just released a book that will certainly be a finalist for “most whimsical title.” Hunting Magic Eels: Recovering an Enchanted Faith in a Skeptical Age covers a lot of ground that I love: looking at sacramentalism, Celtic spirituality, mysticism, contemplation, and even a sprinkling of Tolkien and C.S...

Why Do So Many Christians (and Christian Churches) Reject Esotericism and Occultism?


The following question arrived in my email inbox the other day… Why is there such a condemnation in the Christian churches for esotericism/occultism? I have my entire adult life ( I am now 63) been living and working in Anthroposophical circles, I have friends in the Rosicrucian movement and I am impressed with the wisdom of some Theosophical writers. I can say with my hand on my heart that...

Video: Mysticism and the Bible — Three Contemplative Verses


“Is mysticism in the Bible?” It’s a question I get asked from time to time. And while the word mysticism itself is not found in scripture, the elements of mysticism are very much part of the Biblical story. In the first of what I imagine will be multiple videos on this topic, I begin to explore mysticism in the Bible by focusing on three verses that speak of silence — in a...

Christianity and “Other” Philosophies — Discerning Boundaries (and When to Cross Them)


A question came to me recently from a reader named Allen: I am reading some stoic philosophy.  Can we learn from other philosophies or is all we need to know about how to live found in church teaching and our faith? Surely there must be other approaches to daily living that are not incompatible with Christianity but not explicitly talked about in our tradition? Thanks, Allen. This is a great...

Seven Mystical Affirmations


Currently I’m reading two classic self-help books, both for my personal edification and as research for a project I’m working on. The books are Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way and John Bradshaw’s Healing the Shame that Binds You. If you’re not familiar with these books, they have long been perennial bestsellers in the self-help market: Cameron’s book is...

Less than 12% of the Catholic Catechism is devoted to spirituality. That, in a nutshell, is what’s wrong with the church today.


Over the years I have discovered that there are three types of people interested in Christian mysticism and contemplative spirituality: Some are practicing Christians, active in their local parish or church but frustrated by what they see as the lack of spiritual nurture that takes place in such settings; Others are people who may have been raised in the church, but really have no connection to...

Gatekeeping and Contemplation: Is the Church Its Own Worst Enemy?


A friend of mine posted the following fascinating observation recently on Facebook: I am easing out of parish ministry because there are too many gatekeepers and not much interest in contemplative prayer. The writer is a Catholic lay minister — but I have heard or read similar words from Protestants as well as Catholics, from clergy as well as laypersons. I think this points to a serious problem...

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