What do Brian McLaren and Carolyn Myss have in common?

What do Brian McLaren and Carolyn Myss have in common? And, for that matter, Phyllis Tickle, Cynthia Bourgeault, and Richard Rohr? They have all endorsed The Big Book of Christian Mysticism.

Over the last few weeks, while I’ve been proofreading the manuscript, the publisher and I have sent it out to a number of authors, college professors, and clergypersons, for feedback and potential endorsements. Now, to God be the glory in all of this: to date we have received the following responses, all of which simply blow me away with their praise and enthusiasm for the book.

So please indulge me for a minute as I switch from “blogger” to “marketing” mode, and list here the wonderful things that folks are saying about the Big Book. To make this extra fun, I’m providing images and links to books written by these folks themselves.

Praise for The Big Book of Christian Mysticism:

Mysticism is not mystifying at all, but simple, always available, and utterly clarifying.  Carl McColman’s much needed book will allow you to experience this for yourself.  Christians and all Seekers will find both meat and dessert in such a full meal.

Richard Rohr, author of Things Hidden:
Scripture as Spirituality

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

Before I heard about The Big Book of Christian Mysticism, I had been thinking about how such a book has been needed for a long time. Now, having read it, I’m glad we waited for Carl McColman to come along to write it. It’s accessible, human, well-informed, balanced, broad … just what we needed.

Brian D. McLaren, author of A New Kind of Christianity:
Ten Questions That Are Transforming the Faith

A wise and supportive guidebook for those going deeper on the Christian mystical path, The Big Book of Christian Mysticism is grounded in sound scholarship and thoughtful reflection (often surprisingly fresh and insightful!), but what makes it sing is the authenticity of the author’s own contemplative journey.

Cynthia Bourgeault, author of The Wisdom Jesus:
Transforming Heart and Mind — A New
Perspective on Christ and His Message

The Big Book of Christian Mysticism 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 introduction to what Carl himself calls “this ancient wisdom tradition.”

Edward C. Sellner, author of
Wisdom of the Celtic Saints

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 The Big Book of 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

With his Big Book, Carl 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.

Robert Davis Hughes III, 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, 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 book 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

The Big Book of Christian Mysticism is a masterpiece of scholarship and wisdom. Carl McColman 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.

Carolyn Myss, author of Entering the Castle:
Finding the Inner Path to God
and Your Soul’ Purpose

The Big Book of Christian Mysticism 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 Cloister Talks:
Learning from My Friends the Monks

Meanwhile… if you haven’t done so already, please take a moment and pre-order the book here: The Big Book of Christian Mysticism.

Five Things I learned from Phyllis Tickle
Why Trappists Make Great Spiritual Guides
Talking about "Befriending Silence"
Busting the "Goody Two Shoes" Stereotype of Saints
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.

  • Cindy

    Wow Carl! Those are some heavy-hitters! Some of my favorite authors, too!

    I’ve got your book on pre-order and I’m so glad you’ve finished the proofing.

    Now, the waiting! I suggest TS Eliot: “And I said to my soul, be still… for the faith and the hope and the love are in the waiting…”

  • oakabbey

    Congratulations Carl! You must be at least a little giddy with such endorsements. You are deserving of the company you have found yourself in at this time. Your work is being blessed, and I can’t wait to be blessed by it!
    Rejoicing with you!
    Cheryl Anne

  • Shadwynn


    As a published author, I can relate to your good feelings when reading comments by other authors about your own manuscript. There is both a feeling of accomplishment and humility that you have composed something which others think worthy of respect and literary adulation. Hey, it doesn’t happen every day, so savour the moment while it is here! Congratulations!


  • Tana

    Carl, That is so wonderful! Congratulations on such well-received feedback. I can’t wait to get my copy and maybe one day I can get your autograph in it.


  • episcopalifem

    Teh awesome Carl! Richard Rohr! Wow!! Impressive – I’ve got your book pre-ordered!

  • http://viereckschanze.blogspot.com trev


    Pre-ordered. :)

  • Kevin P. McManus

    Brilliant stuff Carl! Whenever I remember to check in on your blog I always come away nourished and inspired. I pray that your book reaches a wide audience and sheds a light amid the angst and confusion of these turbulent times. God bless you.

  • http://www.outoftherainmusic.net Carol

    Wow and congrats…am really looking forward to reading it. It sounds really substantive and gently inclusive at the same time, no mean feat.

  • brad riddle

    If mysticism is so great, why does the Bible condemn it? Now you know something that is not true, that contemplative prayer is a good way to prosper spiritually. You know it so you don’t question it. But it is not true! What is true is Jesus is God and we (who were made by His work and word) are not God. We are His sheep and beloved children. The consequences of your error are tragic and huge. Please repent of this occultic and evil practice. Please don’t suffer eternal hell. Please, please, please trust Jesus the only begotten Son of God.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/carlmccolman/ Carl McColman

      Brad, if you are going to make a sweeping statement (“the Bible condemns mysticism”) I think you had better be prepared to cite your source. Please cite exactly which passages in the sacred scripture you believe provides such condemnation.

  • brad riddle

    Message Bible Leviticus 19:31 “Don’t dabble in the occult or traffic with mediums; you’ll pollute your souls. I am God, your God.
    KJV 2 Chronicals 33:6 And he caused his children to pass through the fire in the valley of the son of Hinnom: also he observed times, and used enchantments, and used witchcraft, and dealt with a familiar spirit, and with wizards: he wrought much evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger.
    Deuteronomy 18:9 When thou art come into the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of those nations.
    10There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch.
    11Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer.
    12For all that do these things are an abomination unto the LORD: and because of these abominations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee.

    There are more passages besides these I’ll cite if you like. Not only is it clearly forbidden, there is no example of anyone initiating it as part of their worship of God. God does direct us to do certain things but nothing like “emptying the mind” or “entering the stillness”, etc.

    I hope you are spiritually reachable; I know you are still profiting from your other books and that is one lure that must surely hook you. But I’m praying God will show you how short life is and yet critically important to your eternal future.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/carlmccolman/ Carl McColman

    The passages you cite specifically forbid mediumship, not mysticism or contemplation. You need to do your homework. There is a difference. The fact that you settle for sloppy scholarship does not mean that you have a lock on the truth. I would suggest that you need a bit more humility and a bit less eagerness to tell other people that they are offending God. Matthew 7:1-5 might be helpful for you.

  • brad riddle

    Matthew 7:1-5 is referring to personal shortcomings and flaws, not theological perspectives, ie., Paul on Mars Hill Acts 17:23 calls the people of Athens ignorant of their own gods.
    Thank you for taking the time to hear me. I have a few questions for you about your new book.
    1. Why would Myss a medium who talks to spirit guides, endorse your book on the front cover?
    2. How can Christian mystics and non-Christian mystics have unity (your book page 63) when according to the Bible (Eph 1:13) only Christians have the Holy Spirit?
    I’m trying to understand your dynamics of your point of view.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/carlmccolman/ Carl McColman

    Nowhere in my book do I state, or imply, that “Christian mystics and non-Christian mystics have unity.” For that matter, I can find nothing in the first chapter of Ephesians that definitively states “only Christians have the Holy Spirit.” I have known on the one hand so many Christians who manifest a spirituality of arrogance, hostility, judgment and contempt even for other Christians (consider how virulently anti-Catholic the Lighthouse Trails website is), and on the other hand so many non-Christians who are profoundly humble, compassionate, committed to justice and whose lives manifest the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23), that I think any argument that “only Christians have the Holy Spirit” points to only the narrowest of parochial thinking.

    As for Carolyn Myss, I did not solicit her endorsement (my publisher did), but I am pleased that it will commend my book to many who might otherwise be afraid to read it, because they are understandably wary of anything purporting to be “Christian” thanks to the shrill, harping rhetoric of judgmental, narrow-minded, self-righteous bluster by which so many Christians relate to anything outside of their constricted concept of the church. If you would bother to actually read my book rather than relying on how it has been smeared by a “Christian” hate site, you will find that it has an apologetic dimension to it. And given this, it is highly appropriate, and even felicitous, that the book has been endorsed by such a prominent “new age” celebrity.

  • brad riddle

    If I misunderstood your meaning about unity on page 63 of your book, please correct my interpretation.

    Ephesians 1:13 The word “after” shows it is necessary to 1. trust 2. hear, then 3. believe and 4. be sealed with the Holy Spirit in that order. It infers other people are not sealed with the Holy Spirit who have not believed the gospel.

    We must also be sealed with the Holy Spirit in order to be blessed with the fruits of the Spirit. They are the Spirit’s fruits, not ours. Luke 17:9-10

    Thank you for your answer on Myss. As you know, your book touches a nerve with many ODM’s who I trust to be relevant. So, I do have your book and have read some of it. I can find whatever you refer to answer my questions. I agree it does have an apologetic dimension to it, but it’s contemplative apologetics reaching out to Christians to embrace mysticism not Christian apologetics reaching out to the lost. That’s a mistake. What’s wrong is any aspect of mysticism that denies any aspect of the Bible. That is what pagans, and all other religions do until they are sealed with the Holy Spirit. To say people of other cultures and religions are enjoyable to be around for their virtue is not to say they are sealed with the Holy Spirit which is far more important than their niceties in polite company.

    In 2 Thess 2, Paul spoke of the mystery of iniquity. The man of sin who shows himself to be God. I believe this will be in the mode of the higher self view. What do you think of this passage?

    What is the Gospel and what is the mission of the church?

    I sincerely appreciate your time. I’m impressed with your attention to me and by your picture, you look like a nice guy.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/carlmccolman/ Carl McColman

    Thank you for a pacific response to my admittedly rather snarky reply to your last comment. I try to be a nice guy, but like most of us, I have my good days and my bad days. :-)

    Believe it or not, “ODM” was new to me, I had to look it up. Sigh. It reminds me that one of the snares of oppositional discourse is that both “sides” of a conflict tend to fall into it. If you are persuaded that bloggers like Ken Silva or the Lighthouse Trails folks (I have no idea who they are) are more faithful to the Gospel than are the advocates of Christian mysticism and contemplative spirituality, then nothing I say to you will be able to convince you otherwise. I rather freely admit on this blog that I lack the kind of theological training to be able to argue with the masters of propositional theology. This conversation with you lends weight to something I have been pondering for some time now: whether it would make sense for me, at almost 50 years of age, to pursue a theological education. I have no sense of call to ordained ministry, but I would be very interested in examining both the historical and theological roots of contemplation — roots which I believe are grounded in the New Testament, and have a clear literary presence in the church tradition beginning right after the end of the Roman persecution.

    We can argue Ephesians 1:13 all day long, and then that would only lead to a larger conversation about ecclesiology and soteriology. Suffice to say that I do not subscribe to the idea that outside the church there is no salvation. Your reading suggests that the seal of the Holy Spirit necessarily follows only the process of hearing the word of truth, then believing in Christ. But since the text does not say that this is the only means by which one may receive the Holy Spirit, I’m not prepared to accept your reading. And even if I were, that would only lead to larger and longer debates about what constitutes “the word of truth” (the Bible only, as most Protestants claim? Or the magisterial teaching authority of the Church, as Catholics affirm?) and, indeed, what “believing in him” ultimately entails (once again, Catholics see this quite differently than do most Protestants). Forgive me for copping out, but I’d rather spend my time in silent prayer than in propositional quibbling. I’m quite content to recognize that we foundationally and fundamentally disagree, and if you think I am bound for hell, that is your prerogative.

  • brad riddle

    Carl, I appreciate your candor. Hopefully, I’ll be able to discourse with you later when you feel like it. Your last comment surprised me in a couple of ways: about ODM and theological training. It’s not salvation outside the church, that is the question, rather by it’s very nature, there is no salvation outside of Jesus. It’s important to get that one thing right, because it means the difference between being saved and not saved. If you think God loves you, you’re right. But if you think God will make another way, another chance or another time and place for you to be saved you’re wrong and that is really all I want to say. There is no salvation in contemplative prayer, or mantra meditation or churches or traditions, or anything else, only Jesus the one true Christ.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/carlmccolman/ Carl McColman

    Brad, that’s the Catholic talking! Remember that Catholicism has long held the doctrine of Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus. The conservative interpretation of this is “outside the Catholic Church, no one will be saved.” A more liberal interpretation holds that “all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body.” I am bothered by Christians who use this type of theology to treat non-Christians as sub-human, as not real persons in themselves but only targets for evangelization. I think it’s natural and lovely to share the joy one finds in one’s faith with others. But when that devolves into some sort of alienated marketing plan — “I have to witness to you because I’m commanded to do so and furthermore, you’re going to hell otherwise” — I think it does the Body of Christ more harm than good, in that it causes non-Christians to see believers as more concerned about their own ego-gratification than the real, human, needs of others.

    But certainly you are right in saying “There is no salvation in contemplative prayer, or mantra meditation or churches or traditions, or anything else…” — I agree wholeheartedly. Orthodox Christian mystical theology holds that mysticism occurs in grateful response for the free gift of grace through Christ, and is not something we do to try to earn salvation.