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Love Burning in the Soul: The Story of Christian Mystics, from Saint Paul to Thomas Merton Paperback – October 11, 2005


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: New Seeds; First Edition edition (October 11, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590301129
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590301128
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,093,210 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

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Harpur's popular introduction to 2,000 years of Christian mysticism sets particular mystics in historical context. Defining a mystic as someone who has direct experience or awareness of God, he turns first to Jesus' mystical experiences in the Gospels and to the writings of Paul and John. Subsequent discussions cover the twelfth-century greats Bernard of Clairvaux, Francis of Assisi, and Meister Eckhart; England's Richard Rolle, Julian of Norwich, and the anonymous author of The Cloud of Unknowing; the continental saints Catherine of Siena and Catherine of Genoa; the Protestant Jacob Boehme; Quaker founder George Fox; the Counter--Reformation Spaniards Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross; the quietist Madame Guyon and Francois Fenelon; mystical English Romantic poets Blake and Wordsworth; and from the twentieth century, Teilhard de Chardin and Thomas Merton. One chapter is devoted to the Orthodox tradition, and the epilogue mentions the recent growth spurt in Christian spirituality in Taize, France, and Iona, Scotland; the retreat movement; and the Creation Spirituality of Matthew Fox. Altogether useful. June Sawyers
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Review

"James Harpur has written an excellent historical overview of the Christian mystical tradition for those who want to dip their toes into that vast ocean. He presents the mystics as human beings immersed in the stream of human history, which makes it easier to sort them out and remember them. I salute him for including some important figures often left out of the usual surveys."—Tessa Bielecki, author of Teresa of Ávila: Ecstasy and Common Sense

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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Rick Rowland on September 3, 2006
Format: Paperback
In the preface to this book, the author states that, "This book is intended as a short introduction to the tradition of Christian mysticism over the last two thousand years. It is not aimed at theologians or other specialists but at those who have little or no knowledge of the subject matter and who wish to dip their toes into the vast ocean of mysticism." Further, "The approach I have taken is a historical one." James Harpur delivers on both of these objectives. In the introduction, he discusses the terms mystic/mysticism and contemplative/contemplation. His coverage is broad: He starts with New Testament Times and ends with The Modern Age, and he addresses 49 mystics (from Jesus Chris to Thomas Merton; Therese de Lisieux is a notable exclusion). The information he presents provides a good overview of each mystic's approach to Christian spirituality. In addition, he describes the historical times and context in which they lived (providing a history, albeit a very short one, of Christianity). In the epilogue, the author briefly addresses the future of both Christianity and mysticism, as well as some of the more recent Christian spiritual movements, e.g., Taize. This book is a great introduction to this subject and a good reference source.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Richard G. Petty on March 4, 2007
Format: Paperback
Psychologists, philosophers and the clergy have all had their own views and definitions of the mystical experience. Is it no more than a dissociative experience in which the boundaries of the ego dissolve like so much fairy gold? Is it another word for a form psychotic breakdown? Is it a profound sense of empathy with all living things? Is it a state in which we can unlock the most profound secrets of the universe? Or is it a God-given state of ultimate Union?

In this fascinating book, James Harpur focuses on the last of these possibilities. He defines the mystic as someone who has a direct and intimate experience of God from within. As implied in the title, his focus is on the two thousand year old tradition of Christian mysticism. He takes both an historical and ecclesiastical approach beginning first with the mystical experiences revealed through the writers of the Gospels, before going on to cover some of the personal accounts of a few of the better known saints, religious and spiritual leaders, as well as some of the English Romantic poets.

This book provides some extraordinary insights into the path of the human soul toward union with God, through the lives of and recorded words of Jesus, Meister Eckhart, Jacob Boehme, Saint Teresa of Avila, Saint John of the Cross, William Blake and Teilhard de Chardin and many others.

Though some of this material is available elsewhere, James Harpur provides us with many new insights. But it is in the epilogue that the book really shines.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Gary Sprandel on August 2, 2009
Format: Paperback
James Harpur should be congratulated for his introduction to those men and women, Catholics and Protestants who have direct encounter with God. Although It cannot be experienced by reading, Harpur at least gives an understanding of the breadth of those experiencing it, arranging brief chapters chronologically from Jesus to Thomas Merton. He provokes important questions like "Is Jesus a Mystic?" and were the poets William Blake and Wordsworth mystic? Reading a survey like this, one sees that for some knowledge is important (Eckhart) where for others it is love (e.g. The Cloud of Unknowing). There is a tension between the esoteric and exoteric traditions, between the mystic and the mainstream. I used this to accompany the Teaching Company class on Western Mysticism.

Perhaps the book was short on actual readings or quotes from the mystics themselves, though I appreciated Eckhart's paradoxical "The eye with which I see God is exactly the same eye with which God sees me". In such a broad survey, some readers will find some favorites missing (e.g., Thomas a' Kempis), but I hope that some of the mystics will spark the readers to read new authors; I know I will seek some Tauler and Boehme.
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Format: Paperback
Pretty good historical survey. Generally quite accurate. Suffers from the typical problems of the field - that is, overemphasizing medieval Catholicism and neglecting both ancient and eastern sources of Christian spirituality. It is questionable whether certain figures surveyed in the modern era are truly "mystics", but the book does generally maintain an authentically Christian outlook, acknowledging the historical, ecclesiastical and theological settings of the figures surveyed. Great preparation for further reading.
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His desire to be comprehensive limits the amount he can say about the individual mystics. He ranges wide in the Christian tradition to include Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox representatives of the mystical path. I would have preferred fewer persons and a more developed look at mystics through the ages. For those who think mysticism is something that comes only rarely and perhaps questionably, it's a good introduction. For those who want a deeper understanding of mysticism, I think it is weak.
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