Resources for study of Christian mysticism?
October 27, 2009 11:43 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for citable print and online references about Christian mysticism.

I'm putting together a pathfinder document on Christian mysticism for an academic library. It would be used primarily by undergraduate students in a religious studies program. I want to give some references about the study of mysticism in general and then Christian mysticism in particular. I'd like to give some examples of both Catholic and orthodox mysticism and possibly some special topics like women mystics and modern perspectives.

So far, I've collected some articles and have looked at Evelyn Underhill's works on mysticism as well as some of Matthew Fox's writings for modern perspectives. Does anyone have any favorite resources for this topic? Anything you've read that you found useful? Any online databases (free or subscription) that would be particularly useful?
posted by pahool to Religion & Philosophy (9 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Bernard McGinn's current project, a five volume set on the history of Christian mysticism, would be a place to start. The appended bibliography should include enough references to get your project moving in the right direction.
posted by camneely at 12:27 AM on October 28, 2009

James Cutsinger has an interesting website and blog. That could be a good starting point.

I'm not sure if you're looking for books or journal articles. The essential work in Orthodox mysticism is The Philokalia (5 vols.). The Way of the Pilgrim is a popular and easy to read account of one pilgrim's experience with the Jesus Prayer. Kallistos Ware has written a fair bit on Orthodox mysticism; I believe there's a relevant chapter or two in The Orthodox Way.
posted by BigSky at 1:20 AM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: In my collection at least the definitive sourcebook for Christian Mysticism is Not Of This World: A Treasury Of Christian Mysticism, which was edited by James Cutsinger, one of the leading lights of the current crop of Perennialist school and a disciple and translator of Frithjof Schuon. All of that may sound sort of specific, but this fantastic book includes seventy-two extracts from nearly every major source in the Christian Mystical tradition and all sorts of very interesting sidelights. Leafing through it here right now, I find everything from the more ancient Christian writers like St Clement of Alexandria to interesting modern mystics like Swami Abhishiktananda (a Benedictine monk and adherent of Hindu Advaida-Vedanta), Hieromonk Damascene (a Russian Orthodox monk), Lilian Stavely (an Anglican writer), Bernadette Roberts (a Roman Catholic nun). I've mentioned several women because women are also very well represented in this volume. It's a handy book because the selections, which are well-introduced, are often from important texts; just picking through the authors and the texts represented would give a very good picture of Christian Mysticism in its Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant varieties.

Here are two good sample chapters:

  • Closing To A Bud Again, by Lilian Staveley (1878-1928)
  • A Single Unified Science, by Phillip Sherrard (1922-1995)

  • posted by koeselitz at 1:34 AM on October 28, 2009

    Of course BigSky is absolutely correct as far as the Philokalia is concerned. In fact, that Phillip Sherrard I linked to above, a mystic in his own right, is actually best known as the modern translator of the Philokalia.
    posted by koeselitz at 1:41 AM on October 28, 2009

    Seconding the recommendation for Bernard McGinn: his encyclopedic work is detailed, balanced, and easy to read (i.e., undergrad-friendly). It's a fairly recent publication, so the bibliography is up to date.
    posted by philokalia at 5:02 AM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

    William James' The Varieties of Religious Experience. Also, some primary sources would be good. Try Julian of Norwich, Meister Eckhart, Teresa of Avila, or Nicholas of Cusa to name a few.
    posted by reverend cuttle at 6:31 AM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

    I forgot, you also might want to cover negative theology, aka apophatic theology, as it is a fundamental feature of Christian mysticism. Moses Maimonides Guide for the Perplexed is where most textbook anthologies start. Also see the mystical theology of Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite
    posted by reverend cuttle at 7:24 AM on October 28, 2009

    Don't forget Swedenbourg's Heaven and Hell.
    posted by ServSci at 10:19 AM on October 28, 2009

    Response by poster: Thanks everyone. All of your posts were very helpful and I used several of them for my pathfinder. McGinn and Cutsinger's work looks particularly intriguing. I'm going to sit down and read them when I have some more time.
    posted by pahool at 5:59 PM on November 7, 2009

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