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The Big Book of Christian Mysticism: The Essential Guide to Contemplative Spirituality

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  259 ratings  ·  24 reviews
In popular usage, "mysticism" typically refers to New Age or Eastern forms of spirituality. However, the mystical tradition is also an important component of the Christian tradition. At its heart--and much like its expression in other faith traditions--Christian mysticism is an ancient practice that incorporates meditation, contemplation, worship, philosophy, the quest for ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published August 1st 2010 by Hampton Roads Publishing
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David Huff
Sep 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Mysticism does not change the gospel. But it does shine an entirely new light on it that can help you see what has always been there in powerful and exciting new ways." -- Carl McColman

The very term "mysticism" to some may sound ... well .... mysterious, or even a little spooky. If that was your reaction, then this thorough and well-written book will bring helpful clarity and perspective in understanding a facet of Christian spirituality that has deep roots in church history. This "
Deacon Tom ✝️ Frankenfield
Superb in Every Way

I absolutely loved this book. It is actually a reference book for those who want to go beyond recited and rote prayers (no judgement from me).

Give this a try. It is a good blend of theological and practical.
Jessica Manning
Mar 28, 2012 is currently reading it
There was time about 7 years ago when I was dabbling with the idea of Christian Mysticism and embarking on a journey towards being a contemplative myself. There is definitely something about that way of life that I am undeniably attracted to. I started reading everything I could get my hands onto from St.John of the Cross, Thomas Merton, Evelyn Underhill, Madame Guyon and so many others. Carl McColman had commented on a blog I had written in regards to the practice of Lectio Devina at that time ...more
Joey Dye
Dec 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. Many may come to this book expecting either biographies of famous Christian mystics or a how-to guide for starting on the path. This is not such a book, although there are cameos of mystics and guidelines for how to engage certain practices as lectio and contemplative prayer. Rather this book reads like an overview and manifesto for Christian mysticism as it is lived, embodied, and experienced in the faith as it is lived today. Carl McColman does an excell ...more
Brett Folkman
Mar 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I absolutely LOVED this book!! I'm a big fan of the historic mystical writers, Julian being my favorite. Carl's book is very well written, accessible to the average person who might or might not know much about Christian Mysticism. He isn't preachy or dogmatic and allows the reader to keep a very open mind about topics covered. It's very non-judgmental and the key messages of love and seeking unity with the Divine hits the mark! I'll be reading some of his other books now - a big fan!!
Meade Adams
Feb 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was a good book. A very thorough examination of Christian Mysticism, what it is and what it isn’t. It also provides an entire section on the practicality of it for current seekers or practitioners. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in Mysticism
Oct 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I’ve been studying mysticism for a little over a year now. This book brought all my thoughts together in an orderly fashion. The reading lists were particularly helpful - showing me I’ve read a lot of mystical writings in the past. I guess I’m already a mystic.
Christopher Wisener
May 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: religion
This was a long read for me as it took a while to digest all that McColman shares. He opens up the reader to understand Christian Mysticism in all of its complexities. For many, this book will open up Christianity in a new way. I highly recommend this book for anyone interesting Christianity.
joe leal
Sep 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Fabulous, essential very important book like no other very comprehensive highly recommended
Jared Walker
Sep 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I feel really blessed to have found this. Carl is a great writer, and this book left me really inspired.
Julie Girardi
Jan 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Loved. Use this book for reference from time to time.
Feb 17, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: spirituality
This book is a mix of good and bad. McColman covers his topic well, offering readers a clear picture of what contemplative spirituality is like and the practices it involves. But he leans too much into paradox, in my view, to the point of making unbiblical assertions and blatant contradictions. For example, his statements about kenosis suggest that Jesus emptied himself of the divine nature itself, while his statements about theosis and deification suggest an ontological blurring of distinctions ...more
Caroline Mathews
Nov 15, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although not really essential to one's library, mine represented as it is with similar books, this is indeed a BIG book. The thing about mysticism is that there is really no guide, history doesn't help, and the person who "chooses" to become a mystic has to work infinitely harder than the one born to it. The subject is indeed a challenge and one worth learning about.

Mother had her angels and her angelic-related experiences, Grandmother listened to and with her heart which was full of the Holy S
Mar 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Having studied mysticism in a secular, academic setting, I can attest to the difficulty of writing about something that truly is ineffable. Carl does a terrific job of attempting to express the inexpressible. Some may not like that this is not a How-To guide, but as the author makes clear, there is no such thing as a How-To guide to mysticism. He points us in the right direction and gives us plenty of resources in the back of the book to continue in your own, unique quest.
Apr 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
By his own admission, Carl McColman sets out to revisit the initial efforts of Evelyn Underhill in bringing the "Ivory Tower" distance of mysticism to the life of everyday Christians. I think Carl does a great job of "hand-holding" (and I mean that in the best sense) and in that sense is more verbose and repetitive than Evelyn's style. Those finding the somewhat aged work of Underhill a bit inaccessible will most certainly enjoy Carl's approach.
Oct 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful book written by a lay associate of the Cistercian Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, Georgia. It is the book that I would have read when I was twenty years old and that I enjoyed so much when I read at 48. A very good reading for everybody, I mean open minded christian of all confessions interested in deepening the knowledge of their religion and non christian and atheist curious about the great tradition of christian mysticism. Religion is good when it has no boundaries.
Jim George
May 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
It is safe to summarize; All the contemplative life asks of us is that we be willing to move forward in faith, one step at a time. Christian mysticism is a path without a destination, for the point behind the journey is not to reach a goal, but rather to be reached - by God. This book is very well written, simplistic and progressive, lots of How to Get There Spirituality.
Mar 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
So, turns out I'm a Christian mystic...who knew?! What I love about mysticism is it honors & empowers a lot of how I experience the presence of Christ: in unknowing mystery, silence, & surrender. I very much liked the explanation of & guidance around the Lectio Divina, so much so I have begun doing it. Thanks to Carl McColman for writing this book.
Sister Pam
As the title claims, this is big book that offers a guide to contemplative spirituality.
The book is partly historical, partly Biblical and partly "how to manual." This is a good reference book for those beginning a serious exploration of mysticism.
Catherine Casey
I really appreciated Carl Mc Colman's writing, as he delves into a very understandable explanation of what Contemplation really is and the fact that it can be very much part of the daily life of a person.
Jamin Bradley
Oct 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is a great book on this subject and has many applications to today's world and life. The beginning is a bit dry, repetitive and hits on eastern religions which I didn't really are to read about, but after a few chapters, it really does pick up.
Sep 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is a good book for people who are interested in Christian mysticism. While I don't agree with some of the author's theology, it is well written and offers a good explanation of the basics of mysticism. In addition, it has an excellent resource section for further exploration.
Pat Loughery
Carl McColman's Big Book of Christian Mysticism is a readable and engaging introduction to Christian contemplative spirituality. It is well written and well researched, and will be helpful on the bookshelf of any who wish to experience God in prayer.
Daniel Bates
Apr 14, 2013 rated it liked it
A good book on christian mysticism, a little hard to get into and somewhat long.
Jeffery Payne
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Carl McColman writes about the spiritual life, covering topics like mysticism (The Big Book of Christian Mysticism), contemplative prayer (Carl McColman writes about the spiritual life, covering topics like mysticism (The Big Book of Christian Mysticism), contemplative prayer (Answering the Contemplative Call), monastic spirituality (Befriending Silence), Celtic traditions (An Invitation to Celtic Wisdom), Paganism (The Complete Idiot's Guide to Paganism), and Wicca (When Someone You Love is Wiccan).

He is also a blogger ( and podcaster( .

Why did Carl McColman, a Catholic author, write books about Paganism? Read the answer here:
“The Christian mystic therefore is one for whom God and Christ are not merely objects of belief, but living facts experimentally known first hand; and mysticism for him becomes, in so far as he responds to its demands, a life based on this conscious communion with God” 2 likes
“The point behind mysticism is not to dazzle the mind with ecstatic wonders or heady feelings, but to foster real and lasting changes, for the purpose of becoming more like Christ, which is to say, more compassionate, more forgiving, more committed to serving others and making the world a better place.” 2 likes
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