Why Is “Mysticism” A Dirty Word?

Andrew Louth is one of numerous scholars who criticize "mysticism" as a controversial or useless category.

In the introduction to her book Writing the Icon of the Heart, Maggie Ross makes this rather in-your-face claim: The word 'mystic'... has, in my view, become entirely useless. It has acquired nuances of romanticism, exoticism and self-absorption. In addition, far too many studies of 'mysticism' and 'spirituality' are based on a modern and narcissistic notion of 'experience' as self-authenticating that corresponds neither to the way the brain works nor to notions of experience in the ancient and … [Read more...]

Not a Comfortable God

A God who is mystery, who is unpredictable, who disturbs the status quo, who conceals in the process of revealing, who demands not only that we choose whether or not to be in relationship but also to take responsibility for that relationship; a God who offers salvation as infinite, unpredetermined possibility — such a God is not a comfortable God. Such a God offers security in the form of risk and faith, and self-fulfillment in self-forgetfulness.— Maggie Ross, The Fountain & the Fur … [Read more...]

Carl’s and Fran’s Holiday Gift-Giving Guide for 2011

Here is a list of books for you to consider for the folks on your Nice List this holiday season. These are all books that either I, or in a few my cases my wife, have read over the past year and feel are worthy of our endorsement. Some of these are new books, and some are old; most are Christian, although a few are not; and most are "spiritual" although again, a few might not appear that way — on the surface. But they are all great reads and well worth your attention. As always, a click on the t … [Read more...]

Quote for the Day

Silence is not an absence of noise (though that sort of silence helps) but a limitless interior space. Silence is our natural state. Lack of silence erodes our humanity. ... Through intention we can teach our selves to default to silence; meditation is only a first and very minor step. — Maggie Ross, Writing the Icon of the Heart … [Read more...]

Concerning Merton, Spiritual Direction, and Lighting Candles

  I'm continuing the conversation with noted author and Anglican solitary Maggie Ross. If you're just joining the party now, read Maggie Ross on Scholarship and the Contemplative Life and Maggie Ross's Response to get the story thus far. What follows below is my response to her comments, as posted on my blog yesterday. ***** Dear Maggie,Once again I must say thank you — this time for leaving such a detailed and thoughtful response to my questions. I know you say you are o … [Read more...]

Maggie Ross’s Response

Here's what Maggie Ross posted on her blog, in response to the questions I posed to her yesterday.First, for those just joining the conversation, here is what I wrote to her: Dear Maggie Ross,First of all, I'm honored even to be mentioned in your blog. I read Pillars of Flame years ago and was impressed by its eloquence, the force of its argument, and its spiritual depth. I still consult both appendices regularly.Now, as to my unlikely appearance in your blog: I'm humbled by your … [Read more...]

Maggie Ross on Scholarship and the Contemplative Life

I am honored, although also humbled, to have been mentioned in the blog of Anglican solitary Maggie Ross, author of a truly wonderful book on the spirituality of priesthood, Pillars of Flame. Ross is taking me to task for recommending Carmen Butcher's translation of The Cloud of Unknowing. Although she is gracious in the tone of her criticism, her overall message is that anyone who seeks to learn from the great contemplatives of the past must be careful in his or her scholarship, or else the … [Read more...]


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