A selection of recommended books on Mysticism for anyone on the path to awakening and self-knowledge. These are either classics or books I’ve found particularly helpful over the years. There are longer reviews attached via links, and more to come…
Andrew Harvey – The Way of Passion
This is an ecstatic exploration of Rumi and his message of divine love and union which penetrates to the heart of the spiritual crisis of our culture. If you want to understand the real meaning of mysticism, this is the book to read. It grew from a series of lectures given by Andrew Harvey at the California Institute of Integral Studies in 1993. Before giving the lectures, Harvey had a dream where he asked an old man in a mosque how he should approach talking about Rumi for a modern audience. The man replied: “Be passionate and precise, drunken and perfectly sober.” This book is a glorious, burning gem that will set your mind and heart alight. It perfectly captures the true meaning of love and the mystic’s vision of unity. A call to abandon our self-absorption and narcissism, and embrace the way of the lover, the wild holy madman drunk on the wine of truth…
Andrew Harvey – Radical Passion
This is a collection of Andrew Harvey’s previously published works plus new interviews, all channelled into an argument for Sacred Activism. Building on his last book, The Hope, Sacred Activism combines the mystic’s vision of unity and compassion with the activist’s passion for bringing about radical change in the world. Harvey believes we need a revolution in the way we tackle the many problems now facing us and Radical Passion is his prescription.
He identifies three truths of this time: (1) We’re in an unprecedented and destined evolutionary crisis – a global dark night; (2) This dark night could be the birth canal for a new, embodied divine humanity, humbled by tragedy and awakened by grace; and (3) The force behind this birth is the Motherhood of God expressed in evolutionary mysticism and radical action.
More Andrew Harvey books worth reading:
Dialogues with a Modern Mystic
A collection of conversations between Andrew Harvey and Mark Matousek discussing all aspects of life as a modern mystic. Passionate and fascinating.
The Direct Path
Using Tibetan, Hindu, Taoist, Christian and Kabbalistic traditions, Harvey shows why we need a direct path (i.e. mystical) to the divine and the Sacred Feminine. Practical and passionate.
A guide to Sacred Activism which details the seven laws necessary for spiritual practice to transform anger into passion and service to your community in these troubling times.
Caroline Myss – Entering the Castle
This is a contemporary interpretation of a classic mystical text The Interior Castle by Teresa of Avila. St Teresa used her vision of the soul as a crystal castle with seven interior mansions to explain the mystic’s journey towards God. Caroline Myss interprets this as a road map for our own inner path to self-knowledge.
Following the spiritual path in the modern world is quite different to Teresa’s time. Most mystics now are ‘mystics without a monastery’ – they don’t have a place to retreat into silence and contemplation. Modern mystics must travel their path to cosmic consciousness at the same time as working in the world, holding down a job, and raising a family. Entering the Castle shows how you can adapt spiritual practices and methods to work with your life, using prayer, contemplation, and intuition to ascend through the seven levels of your soul. A comprehensive guidebook for all modern mystics.
>Christian Classics Ethereal Library: full text The Interior Castle (Teresa of Avila)
>Sacred Texts: The Interior Castle
St John of the Cross – Dark Night of the Soul
(trans. Mirabai Starr) This is an inspirational classic from the Catholic mystic who coined the term: Dark Night of the Soul. There are translations of this text available free online, but this is the first by a scholar from outside the Catholic Church. It includes the poem and John’s commentary but much of the extreme religious language has been toned down. All references to evil, sin, hell and the devil have been replaced with more psychological terms that reflect our false sense of separation from God. This makes following the text much easier on our modern sensibilities and brings the reality that John speaks of closer to home.
If you find yourself struggling with a Dark Night of the Soul, this book will provide welcome support and inspiration. You don’t need to be Catholic or Christian, or even to believe in God, to benefit from John’s timeless wisdom.
>Christian Classics Ethereal Library: full text Dark Night of the Soul
Wayne Teasdale – The Mystic Heart
This lucid and open-minded book seeks to discover the universal spirituality to be found at the heart of the world’s religions. Wayne Teasdale was a Catholic monk and mystic who devoted himself to spreading interfaith understanding with the aim of bringing about what he called the Interspiritual Age. He recognised that mysticism enhances and accelerates the evolution of consciousness, and that we need these mystical truths in order to transform our culture and survive the challenges of the 21st century.
Every religion has a similar origin: a spiritual awakening experienced by its founders. This is the mystic heart and the foundation for a new universal religion. In talking about a universal religion, Brother Wayne doesn’t mean all religions will blend into an homogenous mush. He advocates a multifaith collaboration built on mutual respect and a shared vision.
Evelyn Underhill – Mysticism
This is the classic text on mysticism. It explores the subject in depth, and although Underhill focuses mostly on mystical Christianity, she also looks at Sufism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and others. Part 1 explains how mysticism relates to psychology, theology, symbolism, vitalism, and magic. Then Part 2 explores awakening, and the purification and illumination of the self, and looks at some of the manifestations of the path, such as voices, visions, ecstasy, and the dark night of the soul. She also compares the mysticism of various historical figures.
Despite being published over a century ago, it’s still a relevant and useful guide to those on the mystical path. Full review here.
>Christian Classics Ethereal Library: full text Mysticism
>Sacred Texts: Mysticism
The Cloud of Unknowing (Anonymous)
We don’t know who wrote this classic mystical text but the anonymous English monk takes an agnostic approach. His central belief is that God is ultimately unknowable and incomprehensible to the human mind, so if we want to ‘know God’, we have to let go of all our ideas about whatever it is we call ‘God.’ Although this is a Christian text, it leads the reader beyond belief into the cloud of unknowing and the mysterious art of contemplation.
“For anyone who reads or hears about this work and imagines that it can be achieved by intellectual effort and so sits down and tries to work it out cerebrally is barking up the wrong tree…”
>Christian Classics Ethereal Library: full text The Cloud of Unknowing
>Sacred Texts: The Cloud of Unknowing
Missed a good one? Recommend a book in the comments below…