One of the leading figures today on the topic of contemplation and Christian mysticism is teacher and author James Finley. He has an easy way of articulating some of these paradoxical truths and ethereal notions we encounter on the contemplative path.
For some reason, I’ve always been interested in sources of inspiration and creativity – the guy behind the guy in a sense. So if someone is an influential musician, say, I want to know who had influenced them. In college I dug into some of the inspirations for artists like Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, and the Beatles, going back into the catalogue of early 20th century masters like Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, Woody Guthrie, and so on. I wanted to hear that originating source.
The book traces the Jungian idea of the archetype as manifested in different Christian saints and mystics over the centuries with exercises for personal reflection and transformation. Each chapter provides a brief overview of the particular figure and archetype, such as Catholic social worker and activist Dorothy Day as The Orphan, Mary as The Mother, and St. Francis as The Fool.
After some amount of contemplative practice, and maybe even a deeper awakening experience, we tend to notice how much of our energy is handed over to thoughts, to mind-stuff. After a while, we notice all of it, everything outside of the pure silence is mind stuff, thought forms of one level of another.
In some ways we can think of Dionysius the Areopagite as the Godfather of Christian mysticism. The strands of mystical theology had been there for some time, running through the gospel of John, the Cappadocian Fathers and others, but Dionysius is the first to formulate an explicitly Mystical Theology.
The Kingdom Of God Is Within You by Leo Tolstoy articulated a simple way of life, and the book served as a principle in the mission of Mahatma Gandhi. Originally, the phrase was taken from The Gospel Of Luke, a direct quote of Jesus, "The Kingdom Of God cometh not with outward show, nor shall ye say lo here or lo there, for behold: The Kingdom Of God Is Within You." Versions of this appear sometimes translate it as "The Kingdom Of God is in the midst of you," or even, "all around you."
An Experiential Meditation on Evelyn Underhill's 5 Stages Of Awakening. What is life like after awakening? What are some of the signposts of this process and the shifts of spirit that happen along the way? The stages, while laid out in the most helpful model I've seen, are still only that, a model. They are not set in stone, nor is it essential to locate yourself in the exact phase: growth is rarely linear.
Book Review: The St. Francis Holy Fool Prayer Book by Jon Sweeney
There’s a little book on St. Francis I’ve been dipping into lately. No, I don’t mean the Little Flowers of Saint Francis, but good guess!
I mean Jon Sweeney’s delightful The St. Francis Holy Fool Prayer Book that I’ve kept on my desk for the past couple weeks just to sample from like a candy box when I’m in between tasks or waiting for a response or some such.
Recently I went and spent a weekend on personal retreat at the Franciscan Centre in Dorset, England – Hilfield Friary. My purpose for going was to take a couple of days out of my work schedule as a writer, speaker and retreat leader to just go and ‘be’ in the Divine presence in a space created for stillness. I was, for all intents and purposes, practicing what I preach.