Explore the Mystical Life


Explore the Mystical Life

Articles and Essays on Christian and World Mysticism by Carl McColman

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In Every Heart There Is A Place Of Infinite Longing.

Mysticism. Christian mysticism. Mystical Christianity. The mystical life. Mystical theology, mystical prayer, mystical experience...

If we take the renowned 20th century theologian Karl Rahner seriously, mysticism — the contemplative dimension of Christian spirituality and discipleship — is a topic we should all be taking seriously. For Christians, the mystical dimension of our faith may be the key to personal spiritual growth, and also a means to more fully embody the wisdom teachings of Jesus in today's world, teachings that have social as well as personal implications.

Even if you're not a Christian, this topic will give you a new way of understanding both Christianity and spirituality. As the key to Christianity's future, mysticism is also the key to making Christianity a renewed force for good in the world, that even people who don't follow Jesus can respect and maybe even admire.

Follow any of the links on this page to get started, or enter your question or keywords into the search box above. Or submit your question using one of the feedback forms at the bottom of every article. Such questions often are used to develop new articles for this website.

It takes time to explore the depth and beauty of Christian mystical spirituality. It's time well spent.

We live in an age when many people say, "I'd rather be spiritual than religious." But what if there were a path where you could integrate the best of both worlds - the best wisdom and practices of a truly life-transforming spirituality, combined with the rituals, practices, and ethical aspirations of religion at its best?

Welcome to the path of Christian mysticism.

Christian mysticism is a dimension of spirituality which stresses a teaching that goes all the way back to Christ himself: "The kingdom of God is within you" (Luke 17:21) - and, connected to that, even further back to the beautiful wisdom of the Psalms: "Be still and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10).

Every century since the time of Christ has been blessed with people who truly embody that "reign of God" in their hearts, and who have left behind poetry, wisdom, and teachings to help ordinary Christians to find their own path to the presence of God within - the "via mystica."

The content on this website is designed to help you learn more about the mystics - and to apply their wisdom to your life.


What is Mysticism?

Who are the Mystics?

      • John of the Cross
      • Meister Eckhart
      • Howard Thurman
      • Teresa of Ávila
      • Julian of Norwich
      • Francis of Assisi
      • Margery Kempe
      • The Cloud of Unknowing
      • Thomas Merton
      • Evelyn Underhill
      • Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
      • John Ruusbroec
      • Hildegard of Bingen
      • Walter Hilton

What do mystics believe?

      • Mysticism and Individual Well-Being (Happiness/Holiness)
      • Mysticism and Social Justice
      • Mysticism as a Way of Life
      • Mysticism and the Fruit of the Spirit
      • Mysticism and the Embodiment of Christ
      • Why mysticism isn’t afraid of the dark
      • Understanding Mystical Union and Nonduality
      • Discerning the Mystical Sense of the Bible
      • The Characteristics of a Mystic
      • Three Dimensions of the Contemplative Life
      • The Heart of Mysticism is Contemplation
      • The relationship between mysticism and faith
      • Why Mysticism Matters/The Significance of Mysticism
      • The Relationship between mysticism and (institutional) religion
      • Mysticism and Enchantment (riff on Richard Beck, Thomas Moore)

How does one become a mystic?

      • The Seven Dimensions of Relationship with God
      • The Seven Core Mystical Practices
      • Making and Keeping a Rule of Life
      • The Gift of Spiritual Accompaniment
      • Why “Becoming a Mystic” isn’t What Matters
      • Centering Prayer
      • Dimensions of Prayer
      • Lectio Divina
      • Praying with Icons
      • Spiritual Direction
      • The Jesus Prayer/Prayer of the Heart
      • Ignatian Prayer
      • Liturgy of the Hours
      • Rule of Life
      • Fasting/Asceticism/Abandonment
      • Retreats and Retreat Days, Spiritual Exercises, etc.
      • Hospitality/Almsgiving/Generosity
      • The Examen
      • Keeping a Journal

When has Mysticism Flourished?

      • Mysticism in the New Testament and Early Church
      • Mysticism in the Desert/Wilderness
      • The Monastic Tradition
      • The Golden Age
      • Mysticism Since the Reformation
      • Mysticism through 1800 (by Evelyn Underhill)
      • Mysticism since 1800
      • The Evolution of the Concept of “Mysticism”
      • The Old Testament
      • The New Testament
      • The Desert Mothers and Fathers
      • The Celtic Church
      • The Orthodox East
      • The Monastic West
      • The 14th Century
      • The 16th Century
      • The 20th Century
      • The 21st Century

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Where does Mysticism take place?

      • The Body
      • Nature/Wilderness/The Desert
      • The “Inner Room”
      • Churches, Retreat Centers, Monasteries
      • The Home
      • The City/the Marketplace
      • Overview
      • The Body
      • The Cloister
      • The Desert/Wilderness
      • The Church/Parish
      • The Home
      • The Marketplace
      • The Studio
      • The Garden
      • The Imagination
      • Hospital/Hospice (anywhere there’s a chaplain)
      • Silence

Recommended Authors and Resources


      • Union/Theosis/Deification)
      • Purgation/Purification)
      • Dark Night of the Soul
      • Illumination
      • Mysticism
      • Deification and Theosis
      • Contemplation
      • Experience
      • Silence
      • Kataphatic
      • Apophatic
      • Nonduality
      • Kenosis
      • Metanoia
      • Illumination, Theoria
      • Dark Night of the Soul
      • Purgation, Katharsis
      • Visions, Voices, Locutions
      • Ecstasy, Rapture
      • Nepsis, Watchfulness
      • Henosis, Union (Unitive Life?)

Audio and Video Resources

      • Encountering Silence
      • Via Mystica
      • Schola Mystica
      • Youtube
      • Recommended DVDs
      • Video: What is Mysticism?
      • Podcast Episodes (TBD)
      • Videos (TBD)

Special Topics

      • Christian Mysticism and Interspirituality
      • Celtic Spirituality
      • Mysticism and Creativity/the Arts
      • Mysticism and Gender
      • Mysticism in dialogue with Atheism and Agnosticism
      • Interspirituality
      • Spiritual But Not Religious
      • Celtic Spirituality
      • Deification and Nonduality
      • Ecumenism
      • The Erotic Dimension of Mystical Spirituality
      • Study/Academics
      • Social Justice
      • Monasticism/Monastic Spirituality
      • Fostering a Contemplative Church
      • Reading the Bible as a Mystical Text
      • Art, writing, creativity
      • Elaine Heath/Evangelism
      • Neo-monasticism
      • Mistaken Criticism of Centering Prayer

Community Resources

      • The Shalem Institute
      • The Living School
      • Contemplative Outreach
      • World Community for Christian Meditation
      • Verbum
      • Shalem
      • Contemplative Outreach
      • SDI
      • Verbum/Logos
      • WCCM
      • Lay Cistercians
      • Lay Carmelites
      • Third Order Franciscans
      • Benedictine Oblates
      • Quakers
      • Ignatian Spirituality/Spiritual Exercises
      • The Living School
      • Esoteric and “Interior” Orders

Questions about the Mystical Life




Assorted Mystical Topics

  1. Abba/Father
  2. Accidie
  3. Acquired Contemplation
  4. Addiction (cf. Gerald May, Addiction and Grace) and Letting Go
  5. Adoration
  6. Agape (Love, Community, Koinonia, Friends)
  7. Angels/Messengers/Nine Choirs
  8. Anointing of the Sick
  9. Anthropology (what mysticism says about human nature)
  10. Apatheia/Passionlessness
  11. Apophatic
  12. Aridity
  13. Asceticism
  14. Baptism
  15. Beatific Vision
  16. Beatitudes
  17. Bible
  18. Chanting
  19. Charismatic
  20. Christ/Messiah/Anointed
  21. Church/People of God/Koinonia/Body of Christ
  22. Cloister
  23. Communion (Eucharist, Beatifying Communion)
  24. Communion of Saints
  25. Community
  26. Compassion/Perfection/To Love as God Loves
  27. Confirmation
  28. Consciousness
  29. Consecration
  30. Consolation
  31. Contemplation
  32. Cosmos/Creation
  33. Creativity
  34. Belief/Creed
  35. Daily Office
  36. Darkness/Unknowing
  37. Death
  38. Deification/Divinization/Theosis
  39. Demons, Evil, Spirits who are not your friend
  40. Desire (Sacred and Profane)
  41. Desolation
  42. Detachment
  43. Devotion
  44. Discernment
  45. Disciple/Follower/Student/Friend/Lover/Beloved/Faithful
  46. Discipleship/Following Christ
  47. Distraction
  48. Dualism
  49. Dying (to Self)
  50. Earthiness
  51. Ecstasy
  52. Emergence
  53. Enthusiasm/Drunk on the Spirit
  54. Epiphany/Breakthrough
  55. Eros
  56. Eschatology
  57. Eternity/Eternal Life
  58. Ethics
  59. Eucharist
  60. Experience
  61. Expression/Storytelling
  62. Extraordinary Experiences/Supernatural
  63. Faith
  64. Fasting
  65. Forgiveness (also: Reconciliation)
  66. Fruit of the Spirit
  67. Gender
  68. God/Source/Font
  69. Grace
  70. Gratitude
  71. Ground Rules for Exploring Mysticism
  72. Healing (also see Salvation)
  73. Heart, Prayer of the Heart
  74. Heaven Consciousness
  75. Hell
  76. Hesychasm, Hesychia
  77. Holiness
  78. Holy Orders/Consecration/Religious Vocation
  79. Holy Spirit
  80. Holy Trinity
  81. Hope
  82. Hospitality
  83. How to think/act like a mystic (the Magic Eye painting effect)
  84. Humility
  85. Ikons
  86. Illumination
  87. Immanent
  88. Incarnation
  89. Infused Contemplation
  90. Inspiration/Insight
  91. Interiority/Interior Life (cf. Wilber’s four quadrants)
  92. Interreligious Dialogue
  93. Intimacy
  94. Introduction
  95. Jesus/Yeshua/"The Son"
  96. Jesus Prayer
  97. Joy
  98. Judgement
  99. Kataphatic
  100. Kenosis
  101. Knowledge/Gnosis
  102. Lectio Divina
  103. Light
  104. Logos/The Word
  105. Love (see Agape)
  106. Love of Neighbors/Love of Enemies
  107. Marriage/Mystical Marriage/Bridal Mysticism
  108. Mary/Blessed Mother/Divine Feminine
  109. Meditation
  110. Mercy/Works of Mercy
  111. Merkabah (Jewish Mysticism)
  112. Metaphors of Mysticism
  113. Miracles
  114. Misunderstandings/What Mysticism is Not
  115. Mixed Life
  116. Morality
  117. Mortification
  118. Mystery
  119. Mystical Body of Christ (also see Church)
  120. Myths of Mysticism
  121. Nature/Earthiness
  122. Negative Mysticism/Agnosis
  123. Nepsis/Watchfulness
  124. Nonduality
  125. Paschal Mystery
  126. Perseverance
  127. Pilgrimage/Mysticism as a Journey
  128. Poetry
  129. Praxis/Practice
  130. Prayer
  131. Presence
  132. Prophecy
  133. Providence/Daily Bread/God's Ongoing Care
  134. Purgation
  135. Purgatory
  136. Purity (as an aspect of holiness)
  137. Quietism
  138. Recollection
  139. Reconciliation (Sacrament)
  140. Redemption
  141. Reign of God/Kingdom of God
  142. Repentance
  143. Resurrection (of Jesus/of mortals–of the Body)
  144. Revelation
  145. Retreat
  146. Rule of Life
  147. Sacramental Principle
  148. Sacraments
  149. Sacramentals
  150. Sacrifice
  151. Salvation/Healing
  152. Sanctity, Sanctifying Grace
  153. Savior (Jesus's Role)
  154. Service (Diakonia)
  155. Seven Deadly Sins
  156. Seven Virtues
  157. Shekinah (Jewish Mysticism)
  158. Silence
  159. Simplicity
  160. Sin/Resistance to God
  161. Solitude
  162. Speculative-Affective Synthesis
  163. Spiritual Direction
  164. Spiritual Formation
  165. Spiritual Warfare
  166. Study
  167. Suffering
  168. Suffering Servant (Christ)
  169. Ten Commandments
  170. Theophanies
  171. Three Ways (Purgation, Illumination, Union)
  172. Tradition
  173. Transcendent
  174. Transfiguration
  175. Trust
  176. Understanding (Gift of the Holy Spirit, and “understanding mysticism”)
  177. Unitive Life
  178. Vision/Visionary Experiences/Apparitions
  179. Vocal Prayer
  180. Vocation/Call/Calling
  181. Voices/Locutions
  182. Vulnerability/Undefended Life
  183. Waiting (Irish concept: "the edge of waiting")
  184. Will, Willfulness, Willingness
  185. Will of God/Divine Will
  186. Wisdom
  187. Work (Ora et Labora), Chop Wood, Carry Water
  188. Works of Mercy (Corporal/Spiritual)
  189. World, Worldliness

Carl McColman

Soul Friend and Storyteller. Lay Cistercian, Centering Prayer Presenter, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Speaker, Teacher, Retreat Leader.

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