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

  • by Carl McColman
  • Narrated by Brian Smith
  • 10 hrs and 5 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

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 personal enlightenment, and the experience of Divine presence.
This volume is a comprehensive introduction and guide to Christian mysticism. It is a big book about a big possibility: the hope of achieving real, blissful, experiential unison with God. Among the topics covered here are a general introduction to mysticism, the Bible and mysticism, the history and types of Christian mysticism, biographical sketches of leading Christian mystics, and practical instructions about practicing mysticism today. This is a breathtaking work that explores a form of spirituality that has changed lives over the course of 2,000 years. Learning about Christian mysticism and how it has been articulated through the centuries will prove inspirational for today's seekers, regardless of the faith tradition.
The mystic is not a special kind of person; every person is a special kind of mystic. (William McNamara)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Setting the record straight

Carl McColman's "The Big Book of Christian Mysticism" is NOT evangelical or fundamentalist in any way, contrary to the rather puzzling assessment of the only other review to be posted at this time; it is a highly competent and heartfelt (if somewhat didactic and prescriptive) overview of Christian mysticism/contemplative Christianity that is about as far from fundamentalist/evangelical thinking as is spiritually possible. To assert otherwise indicates that one simply does not know what the words "evangelical" and "fundamentalist" actually mean. (Medical intuitive and "Entering the Castle" author Caroline Myss wrote an endorsement for this book, if that helps clarify where the author is coming from.)

Authors or teachers from ANY spiritual/religious tradition are naturally going to quote/discuss the sacred texts and great spiritual masters of their faith. Quoting the Bible -- as a wisdom book in the "perennial tradition", not a literalist text -- and discussing Jesus, one of the greatest mystics and wisdom teachers of all time, is perfectly natural and appropriate for a Christian mystic or contemplative author to do, just as it would be normal for Pema Chodron to quote Tibetan Buddist texts or discuss the life of Siddhartha. (Does this really need to be said?) According to the standards of the previous review, everyone from Thomas Merton and Richard Rohr to Thich Nhat Hanh and Deepak Chopra (all of whom have quoted Christian scriptures and/or written extensively about Jesus at one time or another) would all be evangelicals or fundamentalists! Obviously, this is utter nonsense, as is any assertion that TBBoCM is coming from this perspective.

I can agree (in part) with one point that the previous review made, and that is regarding the narration. I don't know who at Audible is in charge of selecting/overseeing narrators for their self-produced titles, but they are doing a poor job, at least in the genres I listen to most often. While I am not going to attack this narrator for his southern twang -- evidently, not only are Christian writers not allowed to be Christian these days, but narrators are not allowed to have politically incorrect accents -- I am going to call him and (even more so) whoever produced this recording to task for some pretty inexcusable mistakes in pronunciation. For the narrator to mispronounce the word "contemplative" about a thousand times over the course of a book about contemplation, not to mention all of the other mistakes, and for this to go unnoticed and uncorrected in the recording studio...ugh. Personally, I'd pass on this audio and get the hard copy instead.
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- MJ "north-american-at-large"

Evangelical garbage!

What would have made The Big Book of Christian Mysticism: The Essential Guide to Contemplative Spirituality better?

It's being about mysticism, as advertised--quoting and discussing mystics rather than just dropping their names, and preaching.


What was most disappointing about Carl McColman’s story?

This is evangelical garbage, with endless Biblical quotations, citing chapter and verse in the fundagelical style, and the usual Jeeeeezus stories. It is not about mysticism. It is Evangelical, moralistic, Baptistical, Bible-thumping rubbish.


How did the narrator detract from the book?

The narrator was the worst of all. He has an R-full southern twang--the folksy accent affected by George W. Bush--and mispronounces words like 'contemplative' and 'tryst'. At first I wondered why whoever arranges to have books read for Audible would hire an illiterate hillbilly. Now I'm convinced that it was intentional. The assumption likely was that the audience for the book, Christians, were of course illiterate hillbillies and would feel at home with his accent and illiteracy. I suspect he's an excellent actor whose native language is full-bore RP, taking on the challenge of simulating a lower class Appalacian twang.


If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from The Big Book of Christian Mysticism: The Essential Guide to Contemplative Spirituality?

Everything. This is a book that doesn't deserve to live.


Any additional comments?

I was expecting something along the lines of William James _Varieties of Religious Experience_ or Evelyn Underhill _Mysticism_. This is in a completely different genre--devotional literature for Evangelicals.

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- H. Baber "LogicGuru"

Book Details

  • Release Date: 06-11-2013
  • Publisher: Audible Studios