Why do Mystics Love the Church?

For a long time now, I've been fascinated by people who self-define as "spiritual but not religious" (or "spiritually independent," or "none" or some variation thereof) — in other words, people who see the Church or "institutional religion" as overly legalistic, spiritually stifling, hidebound, more concerned with enforcing morality than seeking enlightenment. I don't speak out of judgment, for at times in my life, I've been there myself.Part of what fascinates me is how many SBNR folks, de … [Read more...]

How to Think About Angels

Here is a wonderful description of angels from the anonymous Syrian monk who is now called "Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite." The angel is an image of God...... a manifestation of the hidden light...... a mirror, pure, bright, untarnished, unspotted, receiving, if one may say so, the full loveliness of the divine goodness and purely enlightening within itself as far as possible the goodness of the silence in the inner sanctuaries. This is from the treatise The Divine Names, as t … [Read more...]

A Christian Mystics Bibliography

In my books The Big Book of Christian Mysticism and Christian Mystics: 108 Seers, Saints and Sages, I suggest a number of books that anyone interested in learning more about Christian mysticism might enjoy.On this page I've gathered together those books (and a few audio recordings). For good measure, I've thrown in a few other important titles, and will continue to add useful books to this page as they come to my attention.I believe this list represents a comprehensive library of Chri … [Read more...]

Preliminary Practices for Christian Contemplatives

Tibetan Buddhists have a series of spiritual exercises that are seen as foundational to their spiritual practice: a sort of "spiritual boot camp." They are called ngöndro or in English, "preliminary practices."The aspirant who wishes to attain enlightenment begins with these preliminary exercises, which include a series of 100,000 prostrations and a variety of chants designed to purify the individual of impediments such as jealousy, attachment, or delusion. According to Thubten Chodron, "The … [Read more...]

Is Mysticism Genetic?

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...]

Entering the Year of Mercy: Are You Willing to Take the “Rahner Challenge”?

So today is the fiftieth anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican Council.It's also the beginning of the Jubilee Year of Mercy as declared by Pope Francis. Which is a wonderful way to honor Vatican II — a year devoted not only to seeking God's mercy, but to reflecting on how the Body of Christ can be mercy, can bring mercy to a world that seems increasingly fraught by violence, fear, and injustice.What does it mean to be God's mercy, to bring's God mercy to a world where mass sho … [Read more...]

Happy St. Hildegard’s Day!

One of the most colorful and remarkable of mystics, of any age, is the irrepressible twelfth century Abbess, Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179). Today (September 17) is her feast day.Hildegard was a Renaissance woman who lived several centuries before the Renaissance: not only was she a mystic and visionary, but she was also an accomplished musician, an artist (or, at least, an art director), a preacher, an herbalist, a prophet, and a respected leader in the church of her day. She lived at a … [Read more...]