Nathaniel Peters has a nice review as this week’s “Book of the Week” for Books and Culture . Here’s how John Wilson, the editor of B&C, describes it:
Our current Book of the Week is Mystics , by William Harmless, reviewed by Nathaniel Peters, who commends it as a lucid guide to a subject that has occasioned a good deal of muddle and flimflam. Nathaniel is a junior fellow at First Things, wherein addition to publishing a very fine magazinethey send a steady stream of interns and fellows (of both sexes) out into the public square.
And here are Nathaniel’s opening two paragraphs:
The word mystic does not bring to mind edifying images for most Christians these days. It smacks of a vapid, Southern California mindset, readily exploited by marketers of tea and juice and such. For the more historically minded, mystic might suggest the wild-haired, unwashed visionaries off in the wildernessnot, in other words, something of much concern to everyday believers as they balance their finances or play catch with their kids.
But true mystics are far from amorphously spiritual. As Bernard McGinn has put it, “no mystic (at least before the present century) believed in or practiced ‘mysticism.’ They believed in and practiced Christianity (or Judaism, or Islam, or Hinduism), that is, religions that contained mystical elements as part of a wider historical whole.” McGinn’s work serves as the starting point for William Harmless, a professor of theology at Creighton University, whose new book Mystics is a walk through the lives and teachings of eight great mystics: Thomas Merton, Bernard of Clairvaux, Hildegard of Bingen, Bonaventure, Meister Eckhart, and Evagrius Ponticus from the Christian tradition, as well as the Sufi poet Rumi and the Buddhist divine Dogen.