Introduction to Christian Mysticism through Evening at Emory

I’ll be teaching Introduction to Christian Mysticism through Emory University’s Continuing Education Program. Classes meet on Monday evenings from November 5 through December 3. I hope I’ll see you there… and please tell your friends, share on Facebook, Twitter, etc.! Thank you.

To register: https://register.ece.emory.edu/modules/shop/index.html?action=section&OfferingID=3827&SectionID=17304

Course Description:

The renowned twentieth century German theologian Karl Rahner said, “The Christian of the future will be a mystic or will not exist at all.” What could he have meant by this? In the popular mind, mysticism is associated with eastern spirituality, like Yoga or Zen. But there is a little-known tradition of meditation and spiritual awakening even within Christianity. This non-sectarian class will survey the history of Christian mysticism from Biblical times to the present, explore the meaning of mysticism and why Christians often view it with suspicion, and consider the role that mysticism might play in Christianity of the present and future. Textbook not included.

What will be covered: 

Class 1: Introduction

  • Defining mysticism
  • How the concept of mysticism has evolved over time
  • Distinctive qualities of Christian mysticism
  • How mysticism differs from occultism, esotericism, gnosticism and piety

Class 2: History of Mysticism through 1200

  • Mysticism in the Bible
  • The Alexandrian Mystics
  • The Desert Fathers and Mothers
  • Pseudo-Dionysius, Augustine, and the Greek tradition

Class 3: History of Mysticism from 1200 to the present

  • High medieval mysticism: Cistercians, Franciscans, and Dominicans
  • Northern European Mysticism
  • Southern European Mysticism
  • Protestantism and Modern Mysticism

Class 4: What Mystics Do

  • Ascetical Practices: Monasticism, Celibacy, Austerity
  • Lectio Divina and Biblical study
  • Meditation and Contemplation
  • The Relationship Between Mysticism and Works of Mercy/Social Action

Class 5: Understanding Mysticism

  • Mysticism and Heresy: Why have so many mystics been rejected by the Christian mainstream
  • The Protestant Reformation and the Marginalization of Mysticism
  • The Twentieth Century Renaissance (Christianity encounters eastern mysticism)
  • Thoughts about how mysticism will evolve in the future
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  • Carol

    I would really love to see an online course like this since I live nowhere near Atlanta.

  • John Barton

    Would you ever consider an online course with this topic?

  • Carl McColman

    John and Carol, thanks for your comments. Emory knows that I’m eager to offer online courses, and there are other possibilities in the works as well. If you haven’t already done so, please subscribe to my blog so that you will be the first to learn of an online course when it is offered.

  • Corey A. Curtis

    Signed up for the class several weeks ago, and have been passing the news along to fellow friends. I am greatly looking forward to this. What textbook(s) will be utilized?

    • Carl McColman

      The course is based on my book, The Big Book of Christian Mysticism. Of course, I’ll be introducing the students to many of the writings of the great mystics, but those books are simply recommended titles for you to explore at your leisure. Glad you’ll be in the class. See you soon.


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