Into the Mystics

Prof Bernard McGinn, the most preeminent scholar of mysticism in the Western Christian tradition, will lead a 10 talk series on his favourite mystics and why he believes they still speak to us today.

Special Series

Into the Mystics

What do the mystics, those who made the pursuit of the presence of God central to their lives, have to say to us today? Many of the mystics lived centuries ago in ages and circumstances so far different from ours that it is hard for us to understand their problems and their answers. Even those who lived during the past century did not experience the dizzying developments we struggle with today (no internet? no devices? no constant electronic impingement on life?) How did they live?

For contemporary searchers after God who believe that the pursuit of the divine mystery is still a crucial aspect of human life, this series of lectures and discussions is designed to help its participants to begin to plumb the wisdom that some of the greatest Christian mystics offer to the contemporary world. The course is an introduction, an opening, an invitation, to begin (or continue) reading, meditating on, and appropriating the teaching of major Christian mystics. The goal of these lectures and discussion is not to explain the mystics, but to facilitate how to learn to listen to them.

The Lectures will be collaborative ventures. Most of the presentations will be initiated by Bernard McGinn, who has written extensively on the history and theology of Christian mysticism. Prof. McGinn will lay out the main lines of the teaching of each of the mystics being considered, emphasizing aspects of their message that are not just of historical interest, but that speak to our contemporary search for God. McGinn’s presentations will be followed by comments and observations made by noted experts on the teaching of the figures under consideration. The final part of each session will open the discussion to members of the online audience.

...the Mystics convey to us that it is possible to live within the presence of God and to have an immediate sense of God's presence that can guide us.
Prof Bernard McGinn
Prof Bernard McGinn


Prof Bernard McGinn

Bernard McGinn is the Naomi Shenstone Donnelley Professor emeritus at the Divinity School of the University of Chicago, where he taught for thirty-four years before retiring in 2003. He has written extensively on spirituality and mysticism, including his nine-volume, The Presence of God: A History of Western Mysticism (1991-2021).

Register for the Full Series

£ 140
  • Register for full series (get 10 talks for the price of 7)
  • Opportunity to meditate at the start of each session
  • Time to interact with the speakers
  • Unlimited access to recordings
  • Registration form at bottom of page
  • Schedule of Dates & Speakers

23 January


Augustine of Hippo

Presenter: Bernard McGinn

Respondent: Margaret Lane

Augustine (354-430) was the dominant figure of the Latin Church in Late Antiquity. His masterpiece, the Confessions, is an unforgettable portrait of one person’s search for God. Later in his career, many of his sermons and treatises set down the main lines for the mystics of the West.

21 February

Bernard of Clairvaux

Bernard of Clairvaux

Presenter: Bernard McGinn

Respondent: Prof Mark S Burrows

The Cistercian Abbot, Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153), was among the most influential figures of the 12th century. Bernard’s mystical writings, especially his Sermons on the Song of Songs and treatise On Loving God, are among the highpoints of medieval mysticism.

19 March


Francis and Clare of Assisi

Presenter: Bernard McGinn

Respondent: Daniel Horan OFM, PhD

“The Little Poor Man” (Poverello), Francis of Assisi (1181-1226), was a new kind of saint and mystic. His convert, Clare of Assisi (1194-1253), sought to emulate his life of poverty and apostolic service by founding a female branch of the Franciscan order. Their writings and example formed one of the key traditions in Christian mysticism. 

23 April


Meister Eckhart

Presenter: Bernard McGinn

Respondent: Dr Rebecca Stephens

Meister Eckhart (ca. 1260-1328) was a Dominican theologian and preacher who was famous for his challenging mystical message of the oneness of the soul and God in the “ground” (grunt). Although Eckhart’s message was challenged by some, he remains among the most widely read mystics.

28 May


Teresa of Avila

Presenter: Bernard McGinn

Respondent: Dr Stefan G Reynolds

Teresa of Avila (1515-81), the founder of the Reformed branch of the Carmelite Order, was a “late-bloomer.” After years as a mediocre nun, a conversion she experienced about 1560 led her to write about her life (the Vida), initiate her reform, and also to write classic accounts of the mystical life, such as The Interior Castle.

25 June

Saint Francis of Sales (1567-1622) French theologian and mystic, one of the great figures of the Counter-Reformation. Archbishop of Geneva cooperated with Saint Frances Joan of Chantal to found the Order of the Salesians Nuns and Salesians. Devotional image, chromolithograph from a painting by Philippe de Champaigne, France, Paris approx. 1880. (Photo by Fototeca Gilardi/Getty Images)

Francis de Sales

Presenter: Bernard McGinn

Respondent: Dr Edward Howells

The 17th century was the “Golden Age” of French mysticism, especially as represented in the bishop Francis de Sales (1567-1622). In his efforts at Church reform, and especially in his two influential works, The Introduction to the Devout Life and Treatise on the Love of God, the genial figure of Francis set the stage for much of the mystical piety of modern Catholicism.

24 September


Pierre Teilhard the Chardin

Presenter: Bernard McGinn

Respondent: Gemma Simmonds CJ

The Jesuit scientist and mystic, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955), sought to bring together a Pan-Christic sense of mystical oneness with the modern view of evolution in works such as The Divine Milieu. Although he was often misunderstood and attacked, Teilhard’s life and writings have been treasured by modern mystics. 

23 October


Edith Stein

Presenter: Bernard McGinn

Respondent: Prof Peter Tyler

Edith Stein (1891-1942) was born in a Jewish family but abandoned her faith as an adolescent. After studying philosophy, she converted to Catholicism in 1922 and eventually became a Carmelite nun. The author of both spiritual and philosophical works, her conversion did not save her from Nazi persecution and she died at Auschwitz in 1942. She was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 1998. 

26 November


Etty Hillesum

Presenter: Bernard McGinn

Respondent: Liz Watson

The Dutch Jew, Etty (Edith) Hillesum (1914-1942), is an unlikely mystic. After a rather aimless youth, the pressure of the Nazi persecution of the Jews in Holland during 1940-42 moved Etty to a life of love and service for all humans, both the persecuted and even the persecutors. Her realization of the universal love of God, as reflected in her Diaries, is a remarkable witness to new forms of mysticism in the modern world. 

17 December

Father John Main

John Main

Presenter: Laurence Freeman OSB

Respondent: Bernard McGinn

The Irish-English lawyer and later monk, John Main (1926-82), developed a style of contemplative prayer that owed much to both Buddhist practices and the meditative traditions of Christianity (e.g., John Cassian, Meister Eckhart, the Cloud of Unknowing). Main wrote little during his lifetime, but his teaching on prayer and the mystical life have been enshrined in numerous posthumous works and recordings. 

  • What's Included
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Q&A with the Speakers

In each talk, you will have the opportunity to ask questions to the speaker

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Meet Fellow Meditators

Whatever the stage of your journey meet fellow meditators with whom to reflect and share your thoughts about this series in a safe environment

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Meditate Together

We offer the opportunity to meditate together at the start of each session

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