Cynthia Bourgeault

I’m back from Birmingham and the weekend with Cynthia Bourgeault. She’s a wonderful speaker and provides an interesting insight into the nexus where Christian contemplation/centering prayer meets the great wisdom traditions of the world. I never thought I would be attending a workshop at an Episcopal Church in a room filled with mainstream Christian types where the speaker held forth on shifting one’s energy to precipitate a change of consciousness — yes, I know, it sounds eerily reminiscent of (the best elements of) neopaganism — and yet, it was thoroughly grounded in the Christian mystical tradition and the best insights of other traditions, particularly Sufism. Bourgeault remarked early on that it is the contemplatives (i.e., the wisdomkeepers) of all traditions who carry the best hope for humanity rising above sectarianism and fundamentalism and the violence that such levels of consciousness engender. In other words, it is the contemplatives and the wisdomkeepers who will not only break down the walls of hostility and fear and misunderstanding which separate Christianity from Islam or Islam from Judaism, but they are also the ones whose visionary consciousness will erase the boundaries that keep Chrsitianity and neopaganism so at odds.

I asked Bourgeault what her thoughts were regarding Ken Wilber. She noted that she knew him well and truly admired his work, but she also felt that at times his Buddhist categories prevented him from truly ‘getting’ mystical Christianity. I agree with her wholeheartedly, although I do think Wilber gets kudos for trying to integrate mystical Christianity into his overall theory, even if sometimes his perspectives seem a little overbroad and stereotypical.

Bourgeault recommended a few authors/books: the writings of Kabir Helminski, Michael Brown’s The Presence Process, and even Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now.

It was a wonderful weekend. Lots of meditation; Fran and I enjoyed having a vacation from the challenges of living with Rhiannon (hooray for our friend Roxanne, who stayed with Rhiannon so we could get away). Next year Contemplative Outreach Birmingham is bringing one of the founders of Centering Prayer, Fr. William Meninger OCSO, to Birmingham for their February conference. I hope to be there.

Mysticism and the Divine Feminine: An Interview with Mirabai Starr
Preliminary Practices for Christian Contemplatives
Pentecost and Ecstasy
In Memoriam: Kenneth Leech
About Carl McColman

Author of Befriending Silence, The Big Book of Christian Mysticism, Answering the Contemplative Call, and other books. Retreat leader. Speaker. Professed Lay Cistercian.

  • Peter

    Thanks for this!
    My very first introduction to Centering Prayer was Cynthia’s book on the subject, and I appreciate the clarity–even transparency–of her approach.
    I also appreciate her comments on Ken Wilber, stating something I have felt about him but have not been able to articulate. His attempts to integrate the Christian mystical tradition into his schemas are honorable but not totally successful; he is too highly focused on a general universalism to ‘get’ what even some of his favorites (such as Eckhart) are really saying. I enjoy Wilber best when he is at (what I feel is) his best, in the ontological and transpersonal and existential spheres; I particularly enjoy his comments on nondual traditions and what they have to teach us about the creativity of God and its expression among all us ‘holons’ down here. But his personal psychology (or psychology of religion) leaves out much of the main strength of the specifically Christian contribution to the mystical dialogue, namely, the individual identity of the mystic and his/her communion with Spirit. I will continue to read and enjoy Wilber, but I am glad to read someone who sees what I see in him.
    Blessings to all,

  • Mike Morrell

    I love CB! Her book “Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening” is the richest and most practical tome on the subject that I have read in years.

  • kay

    Ahhhh. I’m jealous. I love Cynthia’s work. Her CD series “Encountering the Wisdom Jesus” is awesome.

  • Stephan Pickering

    Shalom & good evening…my beloved wife, Faline, passed to the Other Side on 24 August 2008, and, being a post-Auschwitz Jewish anarchist, I found my be-ing and paradigms shifting and re-shifting…Richard Matheson’s WHAT DREAMS MAY COME, first published in 1978, provided me with a template of exploration…from there to Rabbi Elie Spitz…to George Anderson and James Van Praagh…to the Zohar and Sefer haBahir (as a boy, the Kabbalah provided me with foundations of the imagi-nation)…and, recently, Cynthia Bourgeault’s LOVE IS STRONGER THAN DEATH…she and I come from different, although intersecting worlds…I am convinced, after reading Michael Talbot, and Gary Schwartz’s THE AFTERLIFE EXPERIMENTS, that Faline is literally alive in a parallel universe; this has necessitated my re-defining myself and my belief systems…and Cynthia Bourgeault’s book has profoundly enriched my soul….For centuries (setting aside the exterminationst templates of churchianity, so to speak, toward my people), the suppression of the knowledge of the ‘after’-life (there is no such thing, in my mind, as un-life) has thwarted dialogues…G-d is non-denominational; so, too, is the Garden of Souls.
    Thank you, Cynthia Bourgeault.

  • Carl McColman

    Thank you for sharing this, Stephan. And let me go on record as one Christian who feels deep sorrow and sadness for the shameful way that many Christians throughout history have treated our Jewish brothers and sisters and cousins. Judaism is our mother faith, and I believe in “honoring our father and mother”!

    Deep blessings,


  • Payshun

    I read Mystical Hope, Centering Prayer and the Inner Awakening and I saw Cynthia a few months ago. I have to say all her books have had a huge impact on me especially Love is Stronger than Death. I can’t fully explain how profound that book is for me, at least not yet but I can begin to.

    LISTD has been a godsend because it is the first Christian book I have ever read that has explained my own personal experience. It has been awesome to read another person going through the same journey as me. Her story is a great and profound gift, a gift that is helping my beloved and I grow from his passing into the next life. It’s a beautiful picture to share that w/ someone in the hereafter. It’s even more beautiful to share that w/ the people here. Thanks for this. I am really grateful for this post.


  • Fred Delameilleure


  • Carl McColman

    Of course not. Many Christian contemplatives, including Bourgeault and Richard Rohr, teach that nonduality is at the heart of the Gospel.