- Paperback: 480 pages
- Publisher: Paulist Press; 2 edition (May 1, 2001)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0809140136
- ISBN-13: 978-0809140138
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 8.7 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 10 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #441,608 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Light from Light: An Anthology of Christian Mysticism (Second Edition) Paperback – May 1, 2001
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A valuable supplementary source. --Spiritus: A Journal of Christian Spirituality
In the twenty-fifth anniversary of The Classics of Western Spirituality this is a major contribution. --Spiritus: A Journal of Christian Spirituality
About the Author
Louis Dupré, who holds a PhD from the University of Louvain, was before his retirement the T. Lawrason Riggs Professor in Philosophy of Religious Studies at Yale University. His books include The Other Dimension, Passage to Modernity, Religious Mystery and Rational Reflection, Symbols of the Sacred, and several studies in the area of Philosophy.
James A. Wiseman, OSB, who holds an S.T.D. from The Catholic University of America, is associate professor of theology there. In addition, he serves as prior of his monastic community in Washington, DC.
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(1) It covers virtually the entire span of Christian times, beginning with Origen, whose writings date to the first half of the 3rd century AD, to Thomas Merton, whose writings date the 20th century. In total, 23 figures are represented, including some from outside the Catholic tradition. As such, the reader gets a good feel for how later thinkers built on or react against earlier schools of thought. This gives some value-added to the book, above and beyond the content of the selected writings it contains.
(2) It is academically very solid. There are concise but still information-rich introductions to each author, which frame his/her thinking and offer a brief biographical sketch. Importantly, each and every one of the introductions is accompanied by a bibliography, which instills confidence that the editors have done their due diligence, gives the reader the chance to double check what the editors' claims (if so motivated), and offers avenues for further reading and study.
(3) The selected writings themselves are very rewarding. Despite the need to pick relatively short entries to fit the limits of a single volume, I felt that every selection was substantive enough to meaningfully communicate some aspects of each figure's theology and philosophy.
(4) I'll repeat a point the previous reviewer made, because I think it is important. The writers eschewed (correctly, in my view) the position that mysticism represents some sort of fundamental essence of religions ("perennial philophy"). One great benefit of this approach is that the volume gives a very good sense of each writers' position within the Christian tradition, thereby communicating (in an admittedly limited way, due to the inherent limitations of an anthology) the writers' contributions to the development of Christian thought. This is quite useful for anyone interested in the development of doctrine or in the history of Christianity writ large.
Perhaps the most important thing I can say is that I was quite satisfied with the volume when I finished it. Several of selections sufficiently moved me that I have re-read them, which I believe is a testament to the fact that the editors did a fine job of selecting the works they included, and I plan to buy complete--or at least more complete--publications of some of the excerpts in the volume. So I can recommend this book to anyone interested in Christianity generally, Christian mysticism, or mysticism generally. It's a very rewarding read.
The General Introduction is concise, clear and well-balanced. It notably rejects the perspective that sees mysticism as the essence of all religion (the "perennial philosophy" or "universal mystical religion" view) while, at the same time, affirming that a mystical element belongs to the very essence of religion, along with other elements (one is reminded of Friedrich von Hugel's masterpiece on mysticism). Christianity is recognized as distinct from other theistic and non-theistic (pagan) religions. Yet, it is noted that interaction between the various belief systems has influenced Christian theology in general and Christian mysticism in particular.
This is an excellent, one-of-a-kind anthology. Each spiritual writer is given a fine introduction, followed by an extended excerpt or two from one or more of their literary masterpieces. Many of the excerpts are taken from Paulist Press' The Classics of Western Spirituality series. Each spiritual writer is given a separate Selected Bibliography, divided into Texts (Edition Used, Other Sources) and Studies. For a general introduction to other Christian mystics, see Ursula King's Christian Mystics. Bernard McGinn's The Presence of God series on Western Christian mysticism provides a more in-depth analysis. See especially his first book, The Foundations of Mysticism. McGinn considers Sidney Spencer's Mysticism in World Religions (OP) as one of the more successful overviews of mysticism in the various world religions. Less successful anthologies include Happold's Mysticism and Huxley's The Perennial Philosophy. Huxley's book assumes that there is only one true universal mystical religion that underlies all the various religions. Again, the editors of this anthology, among many others, reject this reductionistic view which has more in common with the monistic or pantheistic/panentheistic religions than the theistic ones, including the unique Trinitarian theism of Biblical Christianity.