Beware of those Eastern Mystical Labyrinths!

Sigh. The folks at Lighthouse Trails Research (one of the Internet's more visible anti-mysticism websites) are getting goofier and goofier (or, perhaps, more and more paranoid). Yesterday they posted a blog entry in which they listed over thirty terms that they describe as "the 'inside language' of contemplative spirituality." They go on to issue this dire warning: that all these "point to one thing ... eastern mysticism." The list includes such terms as: Labyrinths The Jesus Prayer Lectio … [Read more...]

Mysticism and Gnosis

The more I think about it, the more convinced I am that there is an essential difference between mysticism and gnosis. On the surface, both deal with the phenomenology of spiritual experience — direct encounter with the Divine Other, and/or the experience of Union with the Divine. But then there seems to be an essential ingredient that differentiates mysticism from gnosis, or vice versa. Gnostic spirituality seems to imply that direct personal experience always trumps the received wisdom … [Read more...]

Redeeming Gnosis

Can gnosis be redeemed? Today I began reading Richard Smoley's Forbidden Faith: The Secret History of Gnosticism. Right away he sets up a tension that I don't buy into: a conflict between the gnostics — those who have direct mystical experience — and the religionists, those who are the custodians of doctrine and dogma and therefore tend to be suspicious of gnosis. Oh, I suppose it's a fair assessment of a real tension between those at the center of religious power, and those whose "power" … [Read more...]

Green Cemetary in Business Week

Business Week has just published an article about Honey Creek Woodlands, the green cemetary that is opening at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, GA. Follow this link to read it. Green cemetaries are designed to be ecologically sustainable and include not only environmentally responsible funeral practices, but also manage the land so that only indigenous plants, trees, etc. are cultivated. It's a great concept: a way to have a low-impact funeral and to help preserve a place of natural … [Read more...]

Catholic Anarchy

A reader of this blog named James D B sent me this link — — which he describes as a "good quality synthesis of the punk-anarcho-Catholic subculture." I just glanced at it, and it looks well worth checking out... … [Read more...]

The Year of Living Biblically

The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible By A. J. Jacobs New York: Simon & Schuster, 2007 Review by Carl McColman Basically a one-joke book, this amusing but by turns insightful and surprisingly heartfelt memoir traces the efforts of A. J. Jacobs, a thoroughly secular and agnostic New York writer, to devote an entire year to adhering to Biblical teachings, mandates, and laws, as fully as possible. Anyone with even a casual knowledge … [Read more...]

The Charter of Christian Mysticism

Mysticism's detractors often accuse it of being "un-biblical" or "extra-biblical." Mysticism cannot be an authentic element of Christian spirituality, so their reasoning goes, since it is not found in the Bible. True, the word mysticism does not occur in the Bible. But it is related to the Greek word mysterion, translated in most English versions as "mystery." If we think of mysticism as the spirituality of the Christian mystery, we are much closer to finding its scriptural … [Read more...]

On the Margins

The other night my friend Cliff and I were talking about a series of Sunday School Classes we're doing for his church. We're looking at how the mystics within Christianity are the both the heirs of the prophetic tradition and the custodians of theophany. Part of our conversation involved figuring out the best way to present the mystical tradition to adults who may have been devout churchgoers for a lifetime, but who may know little or nothing about Christian mysticism. Wouldn't such an adult … [Read more...]

The Spirituality of Not

This past Sunday I went to church with my father — to Gloria Dei, the Lutheran Church I was a member of during my adolescent years. It was the site of my Lutheran first communion and Lutheran confirmation; the community where I first learned how to "do" church, and the church I returned to after that world-shattering weekend in 1977 when I, attending a statewide youth group weekend in the Shenandoah Valley, experienced an unexpected, un-anticipated encounter with the mystery of all-pervading … [Read more...]


Since a few days ago I wrote about how mysticism is like a snail, I thought readers of this blog might find this video amusing. … [Read more...]