“Canticle of the Sun,” by St. Francis of Assisi, and Joseph Smith’s “Olive Leaf”

One of the last things we did at the seminar with Bernard McGinn this past weekend was read through and discuss Saint Francis of Assisi’s poem and religious song Canticle of the Sun. McGinn considers this to be a very mystical text from Francis, as Francis seems to see God powerfully in and throughout the whole of creation, including in the sun, moon, stars, Earth, etc. McGinn noted that it is a kind of nature mysticism. Francis wrote most of it in the year 1224, and the last few lines in 1226 just before his death. Continue reading ““Canticle of the Sun,” by St. Francis of Assisi, and Joseph Smith’s “Olive Leaf””

Notes on Christian Mysticism from a Seminar with Bernard McGinn

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Bernard McGinn

This weekend I had the fortunate opportunity to go to Fairfax, Virginia, to attend a seminar hosted by the Shalem Institute, an organization that fosters contemplative living and leadership. Their invited guest to present for their annual Gerald May Seminar was Bernard McGinn, who is Professor Emeritus of Historical Theology and of the History of Christianity in the Divinity School at the University of Chicago. McGinn is an American Roman Catholic Theologian and is considered one of the world’s foremost expert scholars on the history of Christian mysticism. He has written seven volumes outlining the history of Christian mysticism, and may write two more, bringing the history up to the present time. This series is known as The Presence of God. Continue reading “Notes on Christian Mysticism from a Seminar with Bernard McGinn”

Are Mystics Atheists?

In an interview with John Gray about his book Seven Types of Atheism, this exchange took place:

[Questioner:] You finish with the mystical kind of atheism. It sounds almost like people who have a big drug experience and talk about the oneness of everything.

[Gray:] Well, it’s a radical kind of atheism that asserts that the nature of reality is ineffable—it can’t be embodied in words. Schopenhauer thought the ultimate reality of things was spiritual, but we couldn’t really grasp it with our reasoning. He didn’t have any need for a creator God, but actually, he isn’t so far from certain traditions in mysticism and different religions. Some types of mystical religion come close to atheism in their understanding of God as unimaginable.

What did he mean that some “mystical religion is close to atheism”? Aren’t mystics supposed to be people who find union with God, who become one with God? How could that possibly be “atheistic”? Here is my interpretation.

Continue reading “Are Mystics Atheists?”

Excerpts from Symeon’s Discourse on the “Mystical Resurrection of Christ”

The following are excerpts from a discourse given by the Byzantine Christian monk and poet, Symeon the New Theologian (949-1022 AD), to the monks of the Monastery of St. Mamas when he was the Abbot there. It is a combination of the translations from the Greek by Archbishop Basil Krivoshein, and Rev. C. J. De Catanzaro. I have added emphasis. Continue reading “Excerpts from Symeon’s Discourse on the “Mystical Resurrection of Christ””