Friends, it’s a movement…

So what do Thomas Merton, Thich Nhat Hanh, Raimon Panikkar, Ken Wilber, Bede Griffiths, Ravi Ravindra and Henry Le Saux (aka Swami Abhishiktananda) have in common?They've all done work involving the question of Christian spirituality in conversation with one or more forms of eastern mysticism. Some of them are Christians, some not, and at least one of them seems to have radically blurred the line between the two. For some of these folks, the east-west conversation seems to be the central or … [Read more...]

Mysticism feels good

Back in the 1990s I saw a bumper sticker that declared, simply, "The Truth Feels Good." I've thought about that bumper sticker a lot since then. I think it's a fascinating declaration. Lately I've begun to wonder how it squares with Christian doctrine. Christianity certainly has an ethic of sufffering, victimization and martyrdom, none of which (in my experience) feel so great. But the point is, of course, to seek a higher good than merely one's own fleeing feelings. It is painful to devote … [Read more...]

Tita’s Catacomb

Google Alerts notifies me whenever a blogger mentions contemplative prayer (among several other topics I keep an eye on). This morning, it directed me to a reference to contemplation in a blog called Tita's Catacomb: Reclaiming Sexuality and Soul. Most bloggers write about contemplative prayer either to celebrate it or condemn it, but right away I saw that this blog belonged to a category all its own. Its description pretty much says it all: "A written commentary documenting my efforts to … [Read more...]

Take This Bread

Take This Bread: A Radical Conversion The Spiritual Memoir of a Twenty-First-Century Christian By Sara Miles New York: Ballantine Books, 2007 Review by Carl McColmanIf, like me, you love stories like Chocolat or Babette's Feast because of their eucharistic overtones, then you will simply adore Take This Bread, which is quite likely the most explicitly joyous eucharistic conversion story I've ever read. I'm struggling to avoid all the obvious gustatory puns: it's a feast, you'll eat it up, and … [Read more...]

Redeeming Gnosis

Can gnosis be redeemed?Today I began reading Richard Smoley's Forbidden Faith: The Secret History of Gnosticism. Right away he sets up a tension that I don't buy into: a conflict between the gnostics — those who have direct mystical experience — and the religionists, those who are the custodians of doctrine and dogma and therefore tend to be suspicious of gnosis. Oh, I suppose it's a fair assessment of a real tension between those at the center of religious power, and those whose "power" (i. … [Read more...]

Still Small Voice

Last night I had dinner with my friend Cliff who is coordinating an adult education program at his church. Currently they're studying theophanies (encounters with God) in the Bible. Cliff wants to follow this up with a series on the mystics; hence his picking my brain over chips and salsa at a noisy Mexican restaurant.We talked about the mystics who have had their own particular theophanies: Augustine in the garden; Julian of Norwich during her life-threatening illness; Thomas Merton on the … [Read more...]

The Tent of Abraham

The Tent of Abraham: Stories of Hope and Peace for Jews, Christians and Muslims By Joan Chittister, OSB, Murshid Saadi Shakur Chishti and Rabbi Arthur Waskow Forward by Karen Armstrong Boston, Massachusetts: Beacon Press, 2006 Given the insanity currently going on in southern Lebanon (not to mention similar, underreported violence in Gaza), this book could not be more timely. Three American authors — a Benedictine nun, a rabbi, and a Sufi — joined forces to write this hopeful book which te … [Read more...]