Divine Light

Divine Light: The Theology of Denys the Areopagite By William Riordan San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2008 Review by Carl McColmanTo fully grasp the beauty and complexity (and some would say, the challenge) of Christian mysticism, sooner or later you will contend with the elusive sixth-century figure known variously as Denys, Dionysius, or Pseudo-Dionysius, the Areopagite. We don't know his real name. In his own writings, he passes himself off as a figure briefly mentioned in the New Testament … [Read more...]

Quote for the Day

Let all my world be silent in your presence, Lord, so that I may hear what the Lord God may say in my heart. Your words are so softly spoken that no one can hear them except in a deep silence. But to hear them lifts him who sits alone and in silence completely above his natural powers, because he who humbles himself will be lifted up. He who sits alone and listens will be raised above himself. — Guigo II, The Ladder Monks … [Read more...]

A Recap of my Upcoming Events

One of the fun things about having a book come out is that there will be a number of events coming up related to the book (i.e., concerning Christian mysticism). So, here's a quick preview of events that are on the calendar, as well as a few that don't have dates pinned down yet, but will probably be firmed up in the near future. Some of these events (like the Portland weekend) have already been announced, but I'm putting them all here for the sake of being comprehensive.June 3-5: Writing … [Read more...]

As Old as John of the Cross When He Died

Here's a bit of useless information. Today, to the day, I am as old as John of the Cross was when he died.I figured this out earlier this week. I was thinking about John, and realized he was 49 when he died, and I'm 49 now. So I looked at his dates, and figured his age at death (49 years, 5 months, 20 days) and compared it to me (today I'm 49 years, 5 months, 22 days, but the slight discrepancy is because I have a February in there). So to the day, I'm as old as he was when he died.Aside … [Read more...]

Into the Region of Awe

Into the Region of Awe: Mysticism in C. S. Lewis By David C. Downing Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005 Review by Carl McColmanIn his last book, Letters to Malcolm, C. S. Lewis all but declares that he is not a mystic. Comparing mystics to those who climb mountains, Lewis tells Malcolm, "You and I are people of the foothills." Of course, one of the paradoxes of mysticism is that the true mystic is humble, and a humble person is far less likely to think of himself or herself as a … [Read more...]

Mapping the Journey

A reader of this blog writes: Do you assess yourself at what point you are on the mystical mountain.  Do the three stages and with them the two dark nights have any bearing on growth in love of man and God?  It seems at times that over self-analysis is like watching your feet while dancing.  The dancing becomes forced and clumsy. On the other hand, there might be a need for a ladder of ascent for novices.  Do most folks spend their life in the purgative stage with some moments in the unitive and … [Read more...]

Three Dimensions of Prayer

Consider this tasty morsel from The Cloud of Unknowing (Carmen Butcher translation): Just as the meditations of those skilled in contemplation come suddenly and directly, so do their prayers. I mean their personal prayers, not the liturgical prayers used in worship at church. True contemplatives value these community prayers above all others and participate in them as ordained by the Church and its earliest holy fathers. A contemplative's personal prayers, however, rise unrehearsed to God, with … [Read more...]