This newsletter is a publication of the Mystical Order of the White Rose, an emerging multi-faith, monastic cyber-community. We support and share information about mystical, monastic, contemplative and creative ways of living. We encourage prayer, meditation, lectio divina, journaling, fasting, hospitality, worship, spiritual and religious communities, simple living, creativity and service to others (including humans, animals, the environment and the planet). You can view past issues here and you can subscribe here if you are not already a subscriber.
Table of Contents
-- Introduction & Update
-- "Carl McColman -- A Modern Mystic Dancing With God" - interview and profile by Cynthia Kiteley Lee
-- Daily Devotionals -- taken from Carl McColman's book The Aspiring Mystic--Practical Steps for Spiritual Seekers
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Introduction & Update
This issue of the Mystical Order of the White Rose Newsletter is our second themes issue. The themes are: Carl McColman -- Mysticism -- and Christian Mysticism. Carl is a widely respected writer, blogger, and networker in the areas of mysticism and Christian mysticism.
It is also the first once-a-month issue of our newsletter. We are changing from a twice-a-month publication schedule to a once-a-month publication schedule. From here on out you will receive just one newsletter a month instead of two.
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Carl McColman--A Modern Mystic Dancing With God
by Cynthia Kiteley Lee - Copyright 2008 - All Rights Reserved
In a recent interview, Carl McColman, a contemporary Christian mystic and acclaimed writer and scholar of mysticism, compared mysticism to "a dance with God."
Ecumenical, eclectic and wide ranging in his study of mysticism, with a special fondness for the medieval mystics, Celtic spirituality and emergent theology, Carl has delved deeply into traditional and modern expressions of mysticism for decades. He brings great insight and authority to the subjects of mysticism in general and Christian mysticism in particular.
Learn more about Carl McColman’s life, books, activities and thoughts below. All quotations below are from an April 2008 interview with Cynthia Kiteley Lee unless otherwise indicated.
Carl says: "There’s nothing wrong with having an experience of God or thirsting for an experience of God. When we get in trouble is when we think we’re in charge. With mysticism, God’s always the one in charge. Think of it as a dance; God leads the dance, although the one who follows still has an important part to play."
He also notes that "mysticism has always danced between orthodoxy, or faithfulness to the traditional Christian message, and openess to the wisdom of other traditions. You could also say that mystics have always danced on the edge of heresy. Look at Meister Eckhart, a great medieval mystic whom the church didn't quite know how to handle, or Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a twentieth-century mystic who unfortunately has come under attack in the Catholic Church, even though he always considered himself a faithful son of the church. They are merely two examples of many great mystics who have literally lived on the edge of what is considered acceptable by the institutional church."
Carl’s first dance with God began when he was 16 years old, when he had a life-transforming mystical experience. He recalls that "it involved an unasked-for and unexpected shift in my awareness and perception. This experience filled me with joy and serenity, which felt unlike anything I had ever experienced before. It was not merely a fleeting moment of ecstasy, but something that lingered for quite some time, perhaps half an hour or more...My experience involved perceiving the presence of God. I saw God, I felt God, I knew God’s pulsating presence within all things." (p. 1 Aspiring Mystic).
Many people would describe mysticism as a personal experience of the Divine, or of God, in contrast to knowledge or beliefs about them derived from other sources, such as sacred texts, religious leaders and oral tradition. Carl cautions us: "Don’t reduce mysticism to experience. The root of the word mysticism is mystery. Mystics enter the Mystery. Part of the nature of sacred mystery is that it involves not only how God reveals God-self, but how God is hidden from us. Ultimately, mysticism is about elevating consciousness. Remember, no matter what you may see or experience, you’re only able to access a very small part of the Mystery. It’s like trying to empty the ocean with a teaspoon. There’s a vast ocean that we can never fully grasp and we should never lose sight of that."
Born in Louisiana, Carl was "an Air Force brat" who grew up on a large Air Force base in Hampton, Virginia. and enjoyed an unusually stable childhood and adolescence, free of the disruptions and stresses of frequent moves. He graduated from high school in Hampton and then attended college at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Carl completed graduate studies at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, earning a Master of Arts in English with specializations in non-fiction writing and editing.
The author of 11 non-fiction books relating to a wide range of mystical and spiritual experiences, beliefs, ideas and practices, Carl is currently working on a book about Christian mysticism slated for publication in 2009. A listing of Carl's books and a brief description of their themes and topics can be accessed here.
Since 2004, Carl has been involved in a daily practice of Christian spirituality. He says that he feels "radically open to the blessings and grace of God" and does not see any contradiction "between being faithful to Christ and appreciating the wisdom and grace in other traditions and other paths."
In 2005, Carl entered the Catholic Church, and now works for a monastery-owned bookstore near his home in suburban Atlanta. At home, in between research and writing related to his latest book on Christian mysticism and family activities, Carl writes frequent posts on his Internet blog: Anam Chara–The Website of Unknowing www.Anamchara.com .
Described as: "One of the best spiritual blogs around" by John Skinner, the author of Hear Our Silence and translator of Revelation of Divine Love by the English medieval mystic Julian of Norwich, Carl’s blog is devoted to "Christian mysticism, interfaith spirituality, Celtic wisdom, emergent theology, and assorted other topics."
In contrast to Christian inspirational teachers and writers such as Rick Warren (Purpose Driven Life) and Joel Osteen, Carl stresses that Christian mysticism and mystics are not focused on helping Christians to become happier, more well adjusted or more purposeful.
He states that Christian mysticism is "about becoming one with Christ and one with God. We’ve got to remember that Christ was crucified. It’s a path that promises everything but will cost us everything. The gift of the mystical life is that it invites us in to an understanding of and experience of a holy, and wholly sacrificial life."
The idea of sacrifice has different levels, according to Carl. . "The popular idea of sacrifice is giving up something for God, or for your husband or wife or children. That is relinquishment and it is a form of sacrifice. But, for a Christian mystic, sacrifice is grounded in such a profound experience of love that it would be unthinkable not to give everything to the Beloved.
"It’s interesting; we talk about Christ as the sacrificial victim, yet our cultural myth about sacrifice is that being a victim is a bad thing that hurts and exploits us. Our culture has chosen to emphasize the painful aspects of sacrifice, but misses the truth that spiritual sacrifice is the response made to a limitless gift that has been given. Spiritual sacrifice is actually a wonderful thing because you are giving [of] yourself so fully. I have been given so much, and now I have been called to give back."
Carl explains that: "Christ is one with God; we are one with Christ, the mystical body, and so we become Christ in the world and we live as Christ among others. That is a profound gift and privilege. It’s a noble calling and is so much more than a feel-good way of life. God didn’t give us mysticism for our entertainment. We live in an entertainment-obsessed culture. What God has in store for us is so much more than that. Sometimes we have to get out of our own way to create the space for the Holy Spirit to do the mighty work of God in us and through us."
Salvation has nothing to do with mysticism, according to Carl. He specifies that "salvation is a free gift from God, whereas mysticism is a path that is followed by relatively few people. We are all called to accept the gift of God's love and grace, and I believe we are all called to at least be open to receiving the mystical experience of Divine Union. But it will be different for each one of us, and that's a beautiful thing."
Carl McColman may be emailed at: email@example.com. You can visit his blog at: http://www.anamchara.com .
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This article was written by Cynthia Kiteley Lee based on an interview with Carl McColman in April 2008. Copyright 2008 - All rights reserved. She can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org Cynthia is the administrator of the Mystical Order of the White Rose, www.mysticalwhiterose.com an emerging cyber-community of people interested in or involved with mystical, monastic and contemplative ways of living. This article may be copied and published only if this section re: author attribution and author contact information is included.
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This month's daily devotionals are drawn entirely from Carl McColman's book: The Aspiring Mystic --Practical Steps For Spiritual Seekers (copyright 2000) and are offered (for the first time) in PDF format. This makes them much easier to print out and read offline than the previous webpage formatting.
The Aspiring Mystic distills and presents the essence of mysticism in a clear and down to earth manner. It does not use and does not encourage readers to adopt a particular religious or spiritual tradition in connection with their mystical orientation and activities. The 30 quotations from the book serve as a short primer on the mystical journey. We encourage you to also use them as a springboard for journaling and meditative reflection.
Here's the link:
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Christian Classics Ethereal Library is sponsoring an online mysticism book group called Mysticism: Theory and History, facilitated by Carl McColman.
Participants of this book discussion group will explore the great tradition of Christian mystical wisdom, looking at its history, seeing how it developed, and identifying its key themes and teachings. We will do this by getting to know the Great Mystics of the past, by reading the words of the mystics themselves and prayerfully reflecting on their wisdom.
This discussion group started meeting online in May 2008 with Julian of Norwich's classic text, Revelations of Divine Love
. New members are welcome to join at any time.
To join the book group, click here. If you haven't done so already, you'll need to register a free user account with CCEL.