Integral Mysticism in Bernard McGinn’s Approach

  • Mirosław Kiwka Pontifical Faculty of Theology in Wroclaw
Keywords: Bernard McGinn; mistyka; doświadczenie mistyczne; proces mistyczny; świadomość mistyczna


Bernard McGinn is widely considered the preeminent scholar of mysticism in the Western Christian tradition. He is a leading authority on the thought of the 14th-century mystic Meister Eckhart as well as on various issues concerning apocalypticism. His current long-range project is a six-volume history of Western Christian mysticism under the general title The Presence of God, five volumes of which have already been published. He is the Naomi Shenstone Donnelley professor emeritus of Historical Theology and professor of the History of Christianity at the University of Chicago Divinity School. This article aims to explain his understanding of mysticism, which has been described as integral. Instead of trying to define mysticism, B. McGinn prefers to discuss the term under three headings: mysticism as an element of religion, mysticism as a process and mysticism as an attempt to express a direct consciousness of the presence of God. In his theory of mysticism there appear four fundamental categories that organize the content of this paper, namely: context, process, presence and consciousness. Mysticism in his approach should be considered in its broad context as a part of a particular religion and fulfillment of a spirituality within the community of believers, as well as a developing spiritual process of individual existence. The term presence McGinn finds as most useful for grasping the unifying note in the varieties of Christian mysticism. On the other hand mystical consciousness has been found as a more precise and fruitful concept than the highly ambiguous term of mystical experience. Generally the essence of B. McGinn’s understanding of mysticism can be summarized in his own words as “Christian belief and practice that concerns the preparation for, the consciousness of, and the effect of what the mystics themselves have described as a direct and transformative presence of God.” Professor McGinn’s considerations on the mysticism covered in this presentation constitute a substantial contribution to a contemporary discussion on the nature of mysticism.


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