Is Mysticism Genetic?

A German monastic church (Photo credit: Shutterstock)

A reader of this blog named Chris writes: I have been studying the German medieval mystics and I am strangely drawn to them. My ancestry is strongly German and my historical spiritual roots are there. Does God encode us with a certain kind of spiritual mystical DNA? I can't help but wonder if Christian mysticism runs in my family and ancenstry? Chris, thank you for your question. For me it immediately brings to mind the Star Wars myth, where Luke Skywalker learns that his strength in The Force … [Read more...]

Three Video Clips: Speaking of Mysticism in Portland, OR

Here are three brief excerpts from a talk I gave in Portland, OR, in October 2010 on the topic of Christian mysticism. They were filmed and produced by Cathy Zheutlin of Holy Rascals — a media company that produces videos and webinars for the spiritually adventurous. In the first one, I tell an amusing story of one of my monastic mentors, Father Anthony, who gave me some grief about the difficulty of defining the word "mysticism"...So in this next video, I offer less of a "definition" of … [Read more...]

Plunging Thought Into Light

The Philokalia is an extensive anthology of writings on prayer by Eastern Orthodox contemplatives. The anthology was first compiled in the 18th century, and a number of editions have been published over the years, in Greek, Russian, and other languages; currently a four volume set is available in English (which does not include the entire anthology; I hope the editors plan on translating the rest!).If you want a more succinct introduction to The Philokalia, one option — which, unfortunately, … [Read more...]

Seven Books on Christianity and Nondualism

My friend Ellen recently asked me on Facebook to define nondualism for her. I referred her to a post I wrote on the subject last summer called Nonduality in the Bible... and Us. Not much to add to that post, but I though I'd offer a short list of books that explore nonduality within a Christian context. These books  come from a variety of perspectives, so read with a thinking mind and a discerning heart.Richard Rohr, The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See — Probably the single mo … [Read more...]

A shout out to Evelyn Underhill and her wonderful book

Over the next few weeks or so I'll be posting four new videos on Youtube.One will be an "about me" video, one in which I talk about my three most recent books, one in which I talk about an idea I first presented at the Patheos website on "compass points for the spiritual life," and finally, this short little segment on "the book that changed my life." Here you go, it's only a minute long: About two years ago I gave a paper on Evelyn Underhill's Mysticism at a conference on the … [Read more...]

The Ethics of Sharing Mystical Knowledge: Meister Eckhart and the Cloud Author

Pick up any edition of The Cloud of Unknowing, and you are likely to find the following language a bit intimidating:Whoever you are possessing this book, know that I charge you with a serious responsibility, to which I attach the sternest sanctions that the bonds of love can bear. It does not matter whether this book belongs to you, whether you are keeping it for someone else, whether you are  taking it to someone, or borrowing it; you are not to read it, write or speak of it, nor allow … [Read more...]

Purity

Purity does not lie in separation from but in deeper penetration into the universe.— Pierre Teilhard de ChardinI stumbled across this quote from Teilhard while reading an essay by Annie Dillard called "Flying in the Middle of Art." She doesn't provide the original source, and I googled it and couldn't find it that way either. So I'm not sure exactly where or when Teilhard said this. And I suppose it doesn't matter. It's one of those lovely "words" of wisdom, similar to what a Desert Father m … [Read more...]


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