Archives For Mysticism

 

Meeting Ourselves in the Mystics
 
A Feature Review of

Mystics and Misfits:
Meeting God through St. Francis and Other Unlikely Saints

Christiana Peterson

Paperback: Herald Press, 2018.
Buy Now:  [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]
 
Reviewed by Tammy Perlmutter
 
 

“Maybe simplicity, as it turns out,
is both boringly simple and searingly difficult.”

-Christiana Peterson

 

The first time Christiana Peterson encountered a saint or “mystic” was while cleaning out her grandmother’s house after she had been settled into assisted living. She fell in love with a worn, wooden garden statue of St. Francis carved out of a log she had spotted through the patio door.

Paired with the coloring pages of saints her daughter was bringing home from Catholic school, Christiana met other mystics, “devout human beings who lived on the edges, who longed for unity with God.” Little did she know it would bring her into an experience that would have a profound impact on her life and faith.

Mystics and Misfits: Meeting God through St. Francis and Other Unlikely Saints is not your typical book about saints you can never hope to emulate or otherworldly mystics. Mystics and Misfits feels like an unexpected, personal gift, a friend sitting you down to tell their story with complete openness, trembling but present, offering you their world-weary soul.

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Monastics, Mystics, and More

A Review of

A Course in Christian Mysticism
Thomas Merton

 
Paperback: Liturgical Press, 2017
Buy Now:
Amazon ] [ Kindle ]

Reviewed by Alexander Steward
 
 
 

If you have never had the pleasure of visiting Gethsemani Abbey in Kentucky, I would recommend you take the time to do so. My visit to Gethsemani several years ago was one of my first true encounters with the work of Thomas Merton. Staying for a week at the Abbey allows one to hear Merton’s lectures during meal time. His voice coming through the speakers with an air of authority yet a playfulness that exudes an openness.

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Evelyn UnderhillSunday Dec. 6 marks the birthday of Evelyn Underhill…

Evelyn Underhill (6 December 1875 – 15 June 1941) was an English Anglo-Catholic writer and pacifist known for her numerous works on religion and spiritual practice, in particular Christian mysticism.

In the English-speaking world, she was one of the most widely read writers on such matters in the first half of the 20th century. No other book of its type—until the appearance in 1946 of Aldous Huxley’s The Perennial Philosophy—met with success to match that of her best-known work, Mysticism, published in 1911. (via Wikipedia)

Mysticism was a central focus of Underhill’s work. She defines it:

Mysticism is the art of union with Reality. The mystic is a person who has attained that union in greater or less degree; or who aims at and believes in such attainment.

Her book Practical Mysticism is available for FREE…

[ Kindle Edition – Via Amazon ]

A Variety of Formats for Almost any E-reader ]

 
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Practical Theology

This is the latest post in a series that will, in effect, create a library of classics that are available as free ebooks.

Check out the full library to date here….

This week we focus on works of practical theology from the early twentieth century. We have selected the following books as recommended reading.

 

We are encouraging our readers to mix up their reading habits, and read (or re-read) classics in addition to new books, such as the ones we review here in the ERB.

Broadly speaking, a classic is any book that is not a new book, or in other words that is worth reading five, ten or even one hundred years after its initial publication. ERB Editor Chris Smith has an article on The Huffington Post website arguing for reading a mix of classics and new books.

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The Years that Lie Ahead

A Brief Review of

The Sun at Midnight: Monastic Experience of the Christian Mystery

Bernardo Olivera

Paperback: Cistercian Publications, 2012
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]

Reviewed by Danny Wright

 

In The Sun at Midnight, Bernardo Olivera, a Cistercian monk, examines the history of mysticism as it has been experienced through the Cistercian tradition and posits that mysticism is what we need in order to move forward in our relationships with God and our fellow man.  He believes that the West is not only experiencing a change of era, but an era of change, and that every era of change has its moment of religious awakening.  Religion is paramount, because it pushes us to discover our ultimate meaning and answers the basic existential questions of life.  He encourages the reader to understand that mystery is the most intricate and integral level of reality and that it gives meaning to everything that exists, and that mysticism itself gives birth to religion.  The author purports that every baptized believer is a mystic and that we should follow the example of the greatest mystic of all, Jesus of Nazareth.  As we experience God and his mystery, we will continually see the need to grow and develop because we will forever be dumbstruck in the presence of an Almighty God that reminds us that everything we know is a mere approximation and that our best descriptions of the mess in this sin-ravaged world are simply gibberish.

 

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Evelyn UnderhillToday is the Birthday of Evelyn Underhill (born 1875)…

And in commemoration, we are offering a free download of an ebook edition of her PRACTICAL MYSTICISM, which explores how mysticism — which she defines as “the art of union with Reality. The mystic is a person who has attained that union in greater or less degree; or who aims at and believes in such attainment” — gets worked out in the world.

Evelyn Underhill “was a prolific author and published over 30 books either under her maiden name, Underhill, or under the pseudonym “John Cordelier”, as was the case for the 1912 book The Spiral Way. Initially an agnostic, she gradually began to acquire an interest in Neoplatonism and from there became increasingly drawn to Catholicism against the objections of her husband, becoming eventually a prominent Anglo-Catholic. Her spiritual mentor from 1921 to 1924 was Baron Friedrich von Hügel, who was appreciative of her writing yet concerned with her focus on mysticism and who encouraged her to adopt a much more Christocentric view as opposed to the theistic and intellectual one she had previously held. She described him as “the most wonderful personality. ..so saintly, truthful, sane and tolerant” (Cropper, p. 44) and was influenced toward more charitable, down-to-earth activities. After his death in 1925, her writings became more focused on the Holy Spirit and she became prominent in the Anglican Church as a lay leader of spiritual retreats, a spiritual director for hundreds of individuals, guest speaker, radio lecturer and proponent of contemplative prayer.” (via Wikipedia)

*** Other Books by Evelyn Underhill

In remembrance of her birthday, we are pleased to offer PRACTICAL MYSTICISM as our Freebie of the week…

Download a FREE ebook of

Practical Mysticism
by Evelyn Underhill

[available in a variety of ebook formats –Kindle, epub for Nook, etc. — from Project Gutenberg ]

We intend to make the “Freebie of the Week” a regular column… So stay tuned in coming weeks for other free ebooks, downloads, etc.!

 

Journey to the Heart: Christian ContemplationA Brief Review of

Journey to the Heart: Christian Contemplation Through the Centuries.

edited by Kim Nataraja,

including contributions by Lawrence Freeman OSB, Esther de Waal, Kallistos Ware, Shirley du Boulay, Andrew Louth, and others
Paperback: Orbis Books, 2011.
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]

Reviewed by Greg Richardson.

Journey to the Heart is a solid, substantial book that presents a comprehensive and varied story. The chapters grow out of talks given over four years for a course that traced both the diversity and common thread of contemplative Christianity. It provides a context and perspective for understanding the story of Christian contemplation.

This new book describes the community of Christian contemplatives that stretched from Jesus, John, and Paul through our times. Each chapter fits its subject into the context of this tradition and explains how it contributes to the growth and development of the tradition.

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A Brief Review of

The Big Book of Christian Mysticism:
The Essential Guide to Contemplative Spirituality
.
Carl McColman.
Paperback: Hampton Roads, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Reviewed by Mary Bowling.

Carl McColman seems to have made a good decision in writing a big book of Christian mysticism. There’s a lot to cover under that topic, and any book other than a big one might not have been able to thoroughly deal with the task of exploring Christian mysticism; its roots and origins, its history, tenets, paradoxes and practices.  The book is written for a broad audience and assumes that the reader may be starting from scratch when it comes to mysticism, or possibly even Christianity. As such, the writing is very basic, but the coverage of the topic is quite thorough and serves as a very good introduction to Christian mysticism and contemplative practices.

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“Humanizing Prayer

A Review of
Mystically Wired: Exploring New Realms in Prayer
.
By Ken Wilson
.

Reviewed by Joshua Neds-Fox.


Mystically Wired: Exploring New Realms in Prayer.
Ken Wilson
.
Hardback: Thomas Nelson, 2010.
Buy now: [ ChristianBook.com ]

MYSTICALLY WIRED - Ken WilsonKen Wilson’s Mystically Wired: Exploring New Realms in Prayer is either a practical manual for mystic prayer or a mystical manual for practicing prayer, depending on whether you emphasize the ‘Wired’ or the ‘Mystically.’  Wendell Berry might argue that applying language like ‘wired’ to our biology is a bad idea, since equating human beings with electrical systems is, at the very least, dehumanizing, and probably not the best theology. But Wilson is the pastor of the Ann Arbor Vineyard, a community squarely in University of Michigan territory. For strong left-brain thinkers, mystical prayer looks a lot like a neuro/genetic coping mechanism for anxiety and stress.  It could use a bit of demystifying, and Wilson, a good pastor, is willing and able to extend grace to his community and see things through their eyes.  His message to them (and us) is that a receptivity to what we commonly think of as mystical prayer is actually strongly supported by our neurobiology.  He’s humanizing prayer—and by extension, faith—for the scientific set.

Wilson takes the ‘wired’ metaphor seriously: he places prayer in the Trinitarian reality, which he characterizes as a network of love:

“God is a connected and connecting Being. When we are brought into relationship with God through Jesus, we are, as Jesus said, grafted into a vine as branches are—an early network metaphor to describe the kingdom of heaven (John 15:1-17)… Prayer is a powerful way to put us in touch with the reality that we are profoundly connected, that to be alive is to be embedded in a network of connections.” (70, 82)

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“A Renewed Appreciation
of God’s Love for his People

A Review of
Julian of Norwich:
A Contemplative Biography.

By Amy Frykholm
.

Reviewed by Mary Bowling.

Julian of Norwich:
A Contemplative Biography.

Amy Frykholm
.
Paperback: Paraclete Press, 2010.
Buy now: [ ChristianBook.com ]

Julian of Norwich by Amy FrykhomWhy a “contemplative biography” instead of just a biography? Maybe just a biography of Julian of Norwich isn’t enough.  For one thing, so little of the actual person is known that to make a biography based only on the facts we have about Julian’s life would be a very short book indeed.  It would also, if it contained only facts about this woman‘s life, be somewhat of a lie in itself. Julian never intended her writing to be about herself or to point back to her in any way. She didn’t seek fame or recognition — quite the opposite. She spent the last many years of her life secluded in an anchorage essentially dead to the world.

So why then any biography at all, if she was an unknown, and such a recluse as to be dead to the world?  That we know almost nothing about her, is certainly as she wished, but we do know one thing. She received a series of revelations from God which she, despite many limitations, managed to write down in words and which became the first book written in the English language by a woman. It was a notable accomplishment, but not one that she sought.
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