Carl McColman is a contemplative writer, speaker, retreat leader, and spiritual companion. He is the author of The Big Book of Christian Mysticism and Answering the Contemplative Call. As a life-professed Lay Cistercian, he is affiliated with the Trappist Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, Georgia. McColman first received formation in the practice of Christian spirituality and contemplative leadership through the Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation and learned the art of spiritual direction through the Institute of Pastoral Studies. He blogs about Christian spirituality and mysticism at www.carlmccoleman.net.
"The mystics are our masters, our teachers, our guides. Granted, we remain responsible for our own spiritual lives. But their insight, guidance, inspiration, and encouragement can help us go farther than we ever dreamed possible," McColman writes in this refreshing and adventuresome exploration of the lives and wisdom of 108 seers, saints, and sages.
Although early Christian mysticism flourished from the fifth to the fifteenth centuries in monasteries where individuals surrendered to God, contemporary theologians and many others would agree with Carmelite friar William McNamara who has stated: "The mystic is not a special kind of person: each person is a special kind of mystic."
McColman has organized the 108 mystics into 9 categories. Some of them are:
- Visionaries (George McDonald, Hildegard of Bingen, Julian of Norwich, Teresa of Avila, and others)
- Confessors (Augustine of Hippo, Dag Hammarskjold, George Fox, Mechthild of Magdeburg, and others)
- Poets (Angelus Silesius, C. S. Lewis, Evelyn Underhill, George Herbert, Thomas Traherne, and others)
- Soul Friends (Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection, Howard Thurman, Rufus Jones, Thomas R. Kelly, John Cassian, and others)
- Wisdom Keepers (Karl Rahner, Bonaventure, Nicholas of Cusa, Raimon Panikkar, William Law, and others).
He also profiles Lovers, Saints, and Heretics. The most enlightening category for Christian contemplatives is the "Unitives." From them we learn about the beauty and splendor of divine union which is received by grace. McColman shares his insights into the mysticism of Anthony de Mello, Bede Griffiths, John O'Donohue, Richard Rohr, Thomas Keating, Wayne Teasdale, and more.
McColman introduces these profiles with assessment of the hopeful and humbling benefits of union with God:
"Unitive consciousness is a gift; it's not something within human control. We can make ourselves ready for it by doing the slow and steady work of knowing ourselves better, accepting our imperfections, striving to let go of anything that impedes the flow of love in our lives, and then actively giving that love away to our friends, family, neighbors, and enemies. If we keep doing those down-to-earth things, then the heavenly joy of divine union will overtake us when we least expect it."