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...]

Mysticism & Narcissism…

Here's a very interesting, and somewhat challenging, quote from a Jewish Blogger: It seems to me that [spiritualism] encourages self-involved people to become more self-involved. Spiritual types often talk about the “universe” in the same way that a certain kind of Christian or Jew sees the hand of God in every banal event, or a certain kind of New Yorker broadcasts every little conversation he’s had with his shrink. And while these examples may show that narcissists are drawn to whatever fee … [Read more...]

Is Christian Mysticism “Special”?

Yesterday morning I received quite an interesting comment, posted on my webpage about Walter Hilton, from a man who I believe has never commented on this blog or website before. It's the kind of comment that reveals just how much diversity there can be among people who share a common interest in mysticism — for this person's idea of what constitutes "real" mysticism differs significantly from my own views. His comments are rather provocative, and hopefully I'm not being too snarky in my r … [Read more...]

Centering Prayer, Narcissism and Relativism

In a comment to my Bhakti Jesus post yesterday, a reader writes: I do have one question Carl, if you don’t mind? What did you mean by: "One of my teachers insists that practitioners of centering prayer need to be immersed in the Daily Office as a safeguard against narcissism or relativism. I think he’s right." Being relatively new to centering prayer and meditation practices, I’m not sure I understand how either could lead to narcissism or relativism. Would you please say more about that? … [Read more...]


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