Mystics

Mystics

Mystics

Mystics

Synopsis

Mystics are path-breaking religious practitioners who claim to have experienced the infinite, word-defying Mystery that is God. Many have been gifted writers with an uncanny ability to communicate the great realities of life with both a theologian's precision and a poet's lyricism. They use words to jolt us into recognizing ineffable mysteries surging beneath the surface of our lives and within the depths of our hearts and, by their artistry, can awaken us to see and savor fugitive glimpses of a God-drenched world. In Mystics, William Harmless, S.J., introduces readers to the scholarly study of mysticism. He explores both mystics' extraordinary lives and their no-less-extraordinary writings using a unique case-study method centered on detailed examinations of six major Christian mystics: Thomas Merton, Bernard of Clairvaux, Hildegard of Bingen, Bonaventure, Meister Eckhart, and Evagrius Ponticus. Rather than presenting mysticism as a subtle web of psychological or theological abstractions, Harmless's case-study approach brings things down to earth, restoring mystics to their historical context. Harmless highlights the pungent diversity of mystical experiences and mystical theologies. Stepping beyond Christianity he also explores mystical elements within Islam and Buddhism, offering a chapter on the popular Sufi poet, Rumi, and one on the famous Japanese Zen master, D?gen. Harmless concludes with an overview of the century-long scholarly conversation on mysticism and offers a unique, multifaceted optic for understanding mystics, their communities, and their writings. Geared toward a wide audience, Mystics balances state-of-the-art scholarship with accessible, lucid prose.

Excerpt

We teachers are privileged witnesses. Every now and then, in the swirl of this enterprise called education, we stumble upon these fragile, fleeting moments when the world suddenly stops in its tracks. It can happen during a lecture, as we struggle to pass on old things to new hearers. More often it happens when a student of ours speaks, eloquently on occasion, but more often haltingly, struggling to give voice to the newly glimpsed. Suddenly there is this silent, shared lightning flash of insight. Suddenly we see, and our students see—see things we thought we knew but see them now as if for the first time. If we could bottle such moments, if we could package them, we would. But there is no way to bottle or package epiphanies. In such moments, the classroom becomes sacred ground.

A moment like this happened several years ago when I was teaching a new undergraduate course on mysticism. We had been going along for a few weeks, reading a mystic a day. We began with a modern, Thomas Merton. From there we moved backward in time, back to two classic (and in many ways, opposite) figures: Teresa of Ávila and John of the Cross. We then began rummaging around the Middle Ages, with Bernard of Clairvaux and Aelred of Rievaulx, Francis of Assisi and Bonaventure. It was at this juncture in the semester when one of my students raised her hand. Class had just begun, and the other students were still settling into their seats. I called on her. She said, “I don’t want to sound arrogant or anything. But you know—when I read these people, I think that I’ve . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.