June 20, 2019

In my forthcoming book Unteachable Lessons, I tell how I spent a period of time estranged from Christianity — the faith I was brought up in, and the faith I adhere to now. But for a number of years in my  middle adult years, I explored a variety of new religious movements that are inspired by the old pagan religions of Europe and other areas. These new movements go by a variety of names: Paganism, Neopaganism, Wicca, Goddess spirituality, Druidism, Celtic… Read more

June 13, 2019

A few months ago I wrote about smartphone apps that are designed to support a daily prayer practice. Most of the people who left comments on the post expressed how much they appreciated apps like the ones I wrote about, since they found that in today’s busy world, having words for prayer available on their phone simply made sense. But, predictably, one person came along and made a disparaging comment — quoting a conservative Catholic cardinal — that using a… Read more

June 4, 2019

I’m preparing for a retreat I’ll be leading in Scotland next month, and so I’m reading a book called Island Spirituality: Spiritual Values of Lewis and Harris by Alastair McIntosh. In the book, he tells of a conversation he had with a Free Church (Presbyterian) pastor named Rev. Calum MacDonald. We sat down over a cup of tea in their living room. Calum was in his rough and ready working clothes as the croft runs by the church. Suddenly, and for… Read more

May 23, 2019

Recently I led a Celtic spirituality retreat through the Copper Beech Institute in Connecticut. During the retreat we talked about such topics as the spirituality of holy wells, thin places, and the concept of “the edge of waiting” as a Celtic way of contemplating. One of the participants sent me an email after the retreat ended with a few questions that came to mind: How do thin places/experiences intersect with the para-normal? If a coincidence is “God being anonymous”, how… Read more

May 8, 2019

We know the first woman who wrote a book in the English language (at least, the first one that has been preserved for posterity). But there is a lot about that author, who lived in the fourteenth century, that we don’t know. We know she was a visionary based in Norwich, England. But we don’t know her name, where she was from or what her family life was like. We can only guess at her education or when she died. Even the… Read more

May 6, 2019

A reader named Dave recently sent this question to me: Hi Carl, could you please give me some suggestions on reading for the false self/ego? Just going through early chapters of New Seeds of Contemplation and it’s really gripped me to dive deeper. He didn’t specify what passage(s) in New Seeds of Contemplation were speaking to him, but it’s pretty easy to see where this topic — the “false self” — shows up in Merton’s work. Consider these quotes (page numbers… Read more

May 4, 2019

Today’s post is written by Lerita Coleman Brown, PhD, author of When the Heart Speaks, Listen: Discovering Inner Wisdom.  “Inner stillness offers the keys to the universe. The answers to any question or dilemma I encounter are revealed if I listen to the silence within.” As a spiritual director/companion and retreat leader I am often asked what drew me back to contemplative spirituality after leading a life as a driven college professor and administrator.   My love of silence, stillness and… Read more

May 2, 2019

One of the most attractive, although challenging, qualities of the Cistercian charism is simplicity. It’s a principle immediately apparent in Cistercian architecture: the monasteries and churches of the Cistercian order, whether built in the 12th century or the 20th, are typically remarkable for their aesthetic simplicity. There are few if any statues or other adornments, rarely even featuring stained glass, and even the most Gothic or Romanesque structures are remarkable for their elegant appearance, lack of superfluous ornamentation, and utilitarian… Read more

April 29, 2019

In response to a post I wrote last year — “What to Do When Prayer Gets Dull” — a reader recently left this comment on Facebook: Carl, I think it would be useful to guide folks about what to do if the dryness period persists….I find comfort in reading mystic poetry, coloring mandalas, exercising creativity and turning these activities into prayer….taking slow walks in the woods, dancing, etc. What do you think? Thanks for your comment, and here’s what I… Read more

April 24, 2019

What is the future of humanity? Will we ever evolve beyond our current identity of homo sapiens? After all, our ancestors weren’t always homo sapiens. Go back far enough and we find homo neanderthalensis or homo erectus in our past. We’ve evolved before, so doesn’t make sense to assume that we shall evolve again? Perhaps it’s not an entirely academic question. I’m reminded of a saying that gets attributed to Albert Einstein: “You cannot solve a problem from the same consciousness that created it…. Read more

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