Saturday, July 10, 2010

Carl McColman: Blogger, Author

Every few months, I like to take some time to pause, and devote a blog article to some of the major writers of Celtic Spirituality today. This morning I want to share an interview I conducted with Carl McColman, who is a well known blogger and writer on the Celtic tradition.

I was first introduced to Carl through his blog "Anamchara, The Website of Unknowing" which is linked here. "Anamchara" (which is Gaelic for "soulfriend") is one of my favorite blogs and has the robust task of covering the great mystical writers in the Celtic and Christian traditions. A tall order if there was ever one. The blog is a gem, and I can assure you that once you visit "Anamchara"  you will soon find yourself adding it to your favorite list, and stopping by several times a week as I do.

Carl is not just a blogger, but he is also a serious writer of spiritual topics and has something important to say. The mission of the blog is "to explore the spiritual life". Anamchara tackles many different issues related to Christian mysticism and to the emerging church. For example, you will find page after page dedicated to specific Celtic and Christian saints, with pithy and delicious quotes. Many a morning, I have sat with a cup of Hawaiian coffee in hand, music in the background, or better yet in silence, reading, reflecting and praying over some of the best that has been thought and said by the Christian mystics. You find yourself reading quotes and stories from mystics that are household names such as Evelyn Underhill, and learning about others you don't know such as Walter Hilton. Either way, you'll find yourself coming back for more of these mindwakers, again, again and again.

Carl has had an interesting spiritual journey, with some pretty unique credentials. His own path has taken him through a variety of spiritualities and along the way Carl has written books on Wicca, Druidism, Paganism, and most recently on Christian Mysticism. I've read two of those books, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Paganism (2002), and The Complete Idiot's Guide to Celtic Wisdom (2003) and found both to be great introductions to difficult subjects. Carl is imminently qualified and "experienced" to be writing on these issues. Along the way, Carl was a leader of a druid grove. Now, Carl works in a bookstore in a Cistercian monastery where he is a "monastic associate". How cool is that!

As a fellow blogger, I had to ask Carl about his blogging habits. He responded, "I try to live a regular life. I work, I have a family. I spend time in silence and contemplation. I like to write best in the morning. And when I haven't been able to write or blog, like today, I feel the same way as when I haven't showered or brushed my teeth". Not sure I'm at that point yet, but I know exactly what he means.

Our discussion then turned to the Celtic tradition and why it is so popular today. Carl noted "The Celtic or Insular tradition has many things to offer today. It's use of language, the storytelling tradition, devotion to the natural world, beauty...and by beauty I mean art...the high crosses at the monasteries, the Books of Kells, the Ardagh Chalice. It was a great flowering of both saints and culture. Some have tried to construct Celtic spirituality into something romantic and something it never was. Like all spiritual traditions, the Insural traditon was a mixture of light and shadow...even so, a wonderful tradition". Favorite Celtic saints include Kevin, Brigit, and George MacLeod, the founder of the Iona Community. A side bar was a discussion of what Celtic Christianity looks like in the world today. Carl spoke of the inner city work in Glasgow that the Iona Community is doing.

Part of Carl's personal call, is to help spread the message that Christian mysticism is for everyone. He remarked, "I call myself an aspiring mystic, and live as a Christian who tries to conduct my life by following the mystical path. Many Christians aren't familiar with the Christian mystical tradition or think it's reserved for the few, like the Marines. Part of my work is to bring more people into the conversation". And reading Carl's blog and books will do just that. You will find yourself gently brought in and welcomed as guests in true Celtic fashion.

Carl's most recent book, just hitting bookstores now, is The Big Book of Christian Mysticism (2010). I've provided the link to  Amazon here so you can check it out and hopefully purchase it. The Big Book took three years to write and I can tell you that it will be the best $15 you will spend this year. If you don't know anything about the long Christian mystical tradition, the book will provide you with an wonderful and inspiring introduction. It may change your world as well as your Christian experience. Carl rightly calls, Christian mysticism "the best kept secret of the Christian Church" and who better to tell that story than one who has been living and writing about it, both in blog and book, for nearly a decade.


  1. Good article. I also believe that Christian Mysticism explains how our actions and thoughts within and without resolve themselves in the simplicity of the whole experience, when we focus on our simple unity in God's pure consciousness and have become acquainted with God's unity.

  2. Andy - Carl is going to be doing a short lecture and a book signing at a bookstore down in Atlanta this Thursday (8/5). My wife and I were first introduced to Christian Mysticism through the writings of Richard Rohr and I think I'm going to try to get downtown Thursday night to listen to Carl - and buy his book of course. (Scott Matthews)