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Mystical Christianity and Contemplative Spirituality

Carl McColman
The list author says: "Karl Rahner said 'The Christian of the future will be a mystic or will not exist at all.' But what is mysticism, and what difference does it make to Christians of the twenty-first century? Here are a number of interesting books to assist you in exploring Christian mysticism, both as a tradition of wisdom and as a living contemplative practice. The list includes general introductions to Christian mysticism, books which explore ways to live the contemplative life today, anthologies of mystical writings, and some of the greatest books by the most renowned mystics of the Christian tradition."
The Big Book of Christian Mysticism: The Essential Guide to Contemplative Spirituality
The Big Book of Christian Mysticism: The Essential Guide to Contemplative Spirituality
"An introduction to mysticism, exploring what it is, why it is such a key element in Christian spirituality, and how to integrate contemplative practices into our lives as Christians today."
Why The Mystics Matter Now
Why The Mystics Matter Now
"Accessible and insightful introduction to several of the great mystics, exploring how their ideas and writings remain relevant to Christian spirituality in our time."
Christian Mystics: Their Lives and Legacies Throughout the Ages
Christian Mystics: Their Lives and Legacies Throughout the Ages
"This chronological introduction to the great mystics explains the development of Christian mysticism as seen through the lives and writings of the key figures in the tradition."
Mysticism: A Study in the Nature and Development of Spiritual Consciousness
Mysticism: A Study in the Nature and Development of Spiritual Consciousness
"First published in 1911, this is the grandmother of books on western mysticism. Primarily, although not exclusively, Christian in its focus. Underhill explores both a general theory of mysticism and provides a map of the developmental stages of the mystical life."
The Inner Experience: Notes on Contemplation
The Inner Experience: Notes on Contemplation
"Written by arguably the greatest Christian mystic of the twentieth century, this book is an invitation for all people to enter more fully into an intentional spirituality oriented toward the longing for intimacy with God."
The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See
The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See
"Richard Rohr (b. 1943) is one of the most vibrant and visionary of contemporary Christian contemplatives. This book invites the reader to embrace mystical wisdom as a doorway to a transformed, loving consciousness."
Toward God: The Ancient Wisdom of Western Prayer
Toward God: The Ancient Wisdom of Western Prayer
"Mysticism is all about prayer, and this book, by an Australian Trappist monk, is a wonderful and concise introduction to the splendors of a sustained, deep practice of Christian prayer."
Practical Mysticism: A Little Book for Normal People and Abba: Meditations Based on the Lord's Prayer (Vintage Spiritual Classics)
Practical Mysticism: A Little Book for Normal People and Abba: Meditations Based on the Lord's Prayer (Vintage Spiritual Classics)
"This short book by Evelyn Underhill provides a step by step guide to entering into contemplative practice, written for the average person. The language is a bit dated, but the wisdom presented here is universal."
The Wisdom Way of Knowing: Reclaiming An Ancient Tradition to Awaken the Heart
The Wisdom Way of Knowing: Reclaiming An Ancient Tradition to Awaken the Heart
"Cynthia Bourgeault has a clear understanding of how Christianity is not just a system of moral principles, but rather a living wisdom tradition geared toward inner transformation; this book is a concise introduction to her teaching."
Will and Spirit: A Contemplative Psychology
Will and Spirit: A Contemplative Psychology
"Gerald May provides here a thoughtful and informed overview of the interface between Christian spirituality and psychology."
Experiencing God: Theology as Spirituality
Experiencing God: Theology as Spirituality
"Traditionally, theology and spirituality were not considered separate disciplines, but rather two sides of the same coin. Anglican theologian Ken Leech seeks to re-integrate the way we think about God with the things we do to foster intimacy with God."
New Seeds of Contemplation
New Seeds of Contemplation
"Another classic from Merton, this book consists of a series of meditative writings designed to inspire prayer and meditation."
The Essential Writings of Christian Mysticism (Modern Library Classics)
The Essential Writings of Christian Mysticism (Modern Library Classics)
"This excellent anthology of mystical writings is arranged topically, rather than chronologically, so it serves as a fine introduction to the breadth and depth of contemplative writing. McGinn's introductions to the various selections are helpful and informative."
An Anthology of Christian Mysticism (Pueblo Books)
An Anthology of Christian Mysticism (Pueblo Books)
"Excellent and thorough collection of classic mystical writings, arranged chronologically. Egan provides concise biographical introductions to each of the mystics featured here."
Light from Light: An Anthology of Christian Mysticism (Second Edition)
Light from Light: An Anthology of Christian Mysticism (Second Edition)
"Another useful chronological anthology of mystical writings."
Revelation of Love
Revelation of Love
"If you read one classical work of mysticism, may it be this one. Julian of Norwich was a fourteenth-century visionary, a woman steeped in prayer, who received splendid revelations of God's passionate love for us. Her writing is poetic and her theology is so far ahead of its time that we still haven't caught up with her."
John Ruusbroec: The Spiritual Espousals, The Sparkling Stones, and Other Works (Classics of Western Spirituality)
John Ruusbroec: The Spiritual Espousals, The Sparkling Stones, and Other Works (Classics of Western Spirituality)
"Ruusbroec offers keen insights into the contemplative life as an ecstatic experience of encountering God in love and light, beyond the limits of mere human thought and comprehension."
The Cloud of Unknowing: With the Book of Privy Counsel
The Cloud of Unknowing: With the Book of Privy Counsel
"If Julian of Norwich and John Ruusbroec are theologians of the mystical life, this little gem (also from the fourteenth century) is a much more practical manual of contemplative prayer: How to do it, how to keep doing it, and how to let it transform your life by the grace of God."
Teresa of Avila: Interior Castle (Classics of Western Spirituality)
Teresa of Avila: Interior Castle (Classics of Western Spirituality)
"One of the most colorful of mystics, Teresa of Avila's writing is entertaining and insightful in its psychological depth and uncompromising commitment to holiness."
The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross
The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross
"Best known for this masterpiece "The Dark Night of the Soul," this anthology includes St. John's poetry and all of his major mystical writings."
The Complete Mystical Works of Meister Eckhart
The Complete Mystical Works of Meister Eckhart
"Considered one of the world's greatest mystics (even by non-Christians), Eckhart is both controversial and provocative. Here are his mystical writings collected in one volume."
Story of a Soul: The Autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux, Third Edition
Story of a Soul: The Autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux, Third Edition
"Mysticism isn't just about being heroic or "great." St. Therese of Lisieux, who died while still in her twenties, has become the patron saint of contemplation as a humble, down to earth spiritual practice which anyone can explore."
Pseudo-Dionysius: The Complete Works (Classics of Western Spirituality)
Pseudo-Dionysius: The Complete Works (Classics of Western Spirituality)
"This mysterious fifth century monk provides a brilliant synthesis of pagan and Christian philosophy, and laid the foundation for the theology of God as a mystery who can never be fully grasped by a mere, mortal human mind."
The Desert Fathers: Sayings of the Early Christian Monks (Penguin Classics)
The Desert Fathers: Sayings of the Early Christian Monks (Penguin Classics)
"The headwaters of Christian mysticism are found in the writings of the fourth century desert fathers (and mothers), who lived in the wilderness and the desert to give their lives fully to God."
The Way of a Pilgrim and The Pilgrim Continues His Way
The Way of a Pilgrim and The Pilgrim Continues His Way
"Nineteenth century manual of Russian Orthodox mysticism, advocating the use of the Jesus Prayer, also known as the Prayer of the Heart. Fans of J.D. Salinger will have heard of this book."
Mechthild of Magdeburg: The Flowing Light of the Godhead (Classics of Western Spirituality)
Mechthild of Magdeburg: The Flowing Light of the Godhead (Classics of Western Spirituality)
"Visionary, passionate writings from a medieval woman mystic."
Abandonment to Divine Providence (Image Classics)
Abandonment to Divine Providence (Image Classics)
"Eighteenth century French Jesuit advocates a spirituality of resting in God's grace as found in the present moment."
Gregory of Nyssa: The Life of Moses (Classics of Western Spirituality)
Gregory of Nyssa: The Life of Moses (Classics of Western Spirituality)
"This ancient theologian is considered one of the first great Christian contemplatives. In this work he interprets the life of Moses as an allegory for the mystical life."
Richard of St. Victor: The Book of the Patriarchs, The Mystical Ark, Book Three of the Trinity (Classics of Western Spirituality)
Richard of St. Victor: The Book of the Patriarchs, The Mystical Ark, Book Three of the Trinity (Classics of Western Spirituality)
"This medieval theologian wrote about the contemplative life in a systematic way."
On the Cosmic Mystery of Jesus Christ
On the Cosmic Mystery of Jesus Christ
"Key mystical writer from the Christian east who lived in the seventh century."
Honey and Salt: Selected Spiritual Writings of Bernard of Clairvaux
Honey and Salt: Selected Spiritual Writings of Bernard of Clairvaux
"Elegant and eloquent, the greatest of the Cistercian mystics had a keen devotion to Mary and a strong sense of spirituality as the experience of passionate love between human and God."
The Practice of the Presence of God
The Practice of the Presence of God
"Another classic of mysticism as an ordinary experience, this work celebrates the possibility of recognizing God's presence even in the most humble of circumstances."
Nicholas of Cusa: Selected Spiritual Writings (Classics of Western Spirituality)
Nicholas of Cusa: Selected Spiritual Writings (Classics of Western Spirituality)
"Writings from a great 15th century bishop, philosopher and contemplative."
Walter Hilton: The Scale of Perfection (Classics of Western Spirituality)
Walter Hilton: The Scale of Perfection (Classics of Western Spirituality)
"Hilton lived in England at the same time as Julian of Norwich; his writings are intended for anyone seeking to reform their life according to contemplative principles."
Gregory Palamas: The Triads (Classics of Western Spirituality)
Gregory Palamas: The Triads (Classics of Western Spirituality)
"Renowned theologian of the Orthodox tradition, who championed the use of the Jesus prayer."
Writings from the Philokalia: On Prayer of the Heart
Writings from the Philokalia: On Prayer of the Heart
"Anthology of contemplative writings from the Orthodox tradition."
Symeon the New Theologian: The Discourses (Classics of Western Spirituality)
Symeon the New Theologian: The Discourses (Classics of Western Spirituality)
"Eleventh century contemplative whose work reflects a charismatic experience of God as fire and light."
Catherine of Genoa: Purgation and Purgatory, The Spiritual Dialogue (Classics of Western Spirituality)
Catherine of Genoa: Purgation and Purgatory, The Spiritual Dialogue (Classics of Western Spirituality)
"Fifteenth century Italian mystic who understood the relationship between ecstatic experience and care for the sick and the poor."
Personal Writings (Penguin Classics)
Personal Writings (Penguin Classics)
"The founder of the Jesuits and a master of the art of spiritual discernment."
Bonaventure: The Soul's Journey into God, the Tree of Life, the Life of St. Francis (The Classics of Western Spirituality)
Bonaventure: The Soul's Journey into God, the Tree of Life, the Life of St. Francis (The Classics of Western Spirituality)
"This collection of writings by a great Franciscan theologian explore the deep mystical dimension of Franciscan spirituality."