What Can We Learn from the Mystics?

I just stumbled across this yesterday: an interview with scholar Bernard McGinn that originally appeared in The Christian Century in 2003. Sure it’s old, but it was new to me, so I figure it will be new to many of this blog’s readers, as well. So… enjoy…

What Can We Learn from the Mystics: An Interview with Bernard McGinn

Why Is "Mysticism" A Dirty Word?
Preliminary Practices for Christian Contemplatives
Is Mysticism Genetic?
Entering the Year of Mercy: Are You Willing to Take the "Rahner Challenge"?
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.

  • Phil Soucheray

    I have not taken time to read Eckhart yet. He may be a bit out of my league at this point, but I have to admit I’m drawn to him based on this article. It sounds as if he was a precursor to Sts. Francis de Sales and Jane de Chantal. He may have informed there own pursuit of faith.

  • mike

    ….this was an excellent interview..so many good points……its interesting..i was “charismatic” at one point in my life but back then (late 70s)we didnt think of it as mysticism..we just refered to it as being “spiritual” …….

  • Simon Whitney


    Who said that philosophers and scholastics cannot contribute to our understanding of the spiritual life?

    Maybe someone should do a piece entitled “What can we learn from the philosophers?”

    Perhaps such things as “To think that that mystics are engaged in a series of private, transcendent encounters with God betrays a superficial understanding, says Bernard McGinn. Christian mystics, in particular, are not breakaway contemplatives who find their own way to God. They are bearers and interpreters of a common tradition built upon a concrete revelation: God became human so that humans might become God. Christian mystics do not dabble in altered states. They seek radically altered lives.”

    I think that some modern spirituality needs a very strong dose of good philosophy. A bit like Elisha throwing some meal into the poisoned pot. 2 Kings 4:38-41