Carl McColman's "The Big Book of Christian Mysticism" is NOT evangelical or fundamentalist in any way, contrary to the rather puzzling assessment of the only other review to be posted at this time; it is a highly competent and heartfelt (if somewhat didactic and prescriptive) overview of Christian mysticism/contemplative Christianity that is about as far from fundamentalist/evangelical thinking as is spiritually possible. To assert otherwise indicates that one simply does not know what the words "evangelical" and "fundamentalist" actually mean. (Medical intuitive and "Entering the Castle" author Caroline Myss wrote an endorsement for this book, if that helps clarify where the author is coming from.)
Authors or teachers from ANY spiritual/religious tradition are naturally going to quote/discuss the sacred texts and great spiritual masters of their faith. Quoting the Bible -- as a wisdom book in the "perennial tradition", not a literalist text -- and discussing Jesus, one of the greatest mystics and wisdom teachers of all time, is perfectly natural and appropriate for a Christian mystic or contemplative author to do, just as it would be normal for Pema Chodron to quote Tibetan Buddist texts or discuss the life of Siddhartha. (Does this really need to be said?) According to the standards of the previous review, everyone from Thomas Merton and Richard Rohr to Thich Nhat Hanh and Deepak Chopra (all of whom have quoted Christian scriptures and/or written extensively about Jesus at one time or another) would all be evangelicals or fundamentalists! Obviously, this is utter nonsense, as is any assertion that TBBoCM is coming from this perspective.
I can agree (in part) with one point that the previous review made, and that is regarding the narration. I don't know who at Audible is in charge of selecting/overseeing narrators for their self-produced titles, but they are doing a poor job, at least in the genres I listen to most often. While I am not going to attack this narrator for his southern twang -- evidently, not only are Christian writers not allowed to be Christian these days, but narrators are not allowed to have politically incorrect accents -- I am going to call him and (even more so) whoever produced this recording to task for some pretty inexcusable mistakes in pronunciation. For the narrator to mispronounce the word "contemplative" about a thousand times over the course of a book about contemplation, not to mention all of the other mistakes, and for this to go unnoticed and uncorrected in the recording studio...ugh. Personally, I'd pass on this audio and get the hard copy instead.
Based on some of the negative Audible reviews (the Amazon reviews were kinder and better informed, as per usual), I almost didn't purchase this book, but after listening to Father Rohr's previous book "Falling Upward" and being extremely impressed, I went ahead and downloaded "Immortal Diamond". I'm so glad I did, as this book is every bit as good (though different) and could possibly be Rohr's best work to date.
While not as focused as its predecessor, "Immortal Diamond" reads like the masterwork of a spiritual teacher at his peak. The main theme of the book is the nature of the true self, and here Rohr's message is nothing short of luminous. A secondary theme critiques (to devastating effect) the church for being, well, the church, i.e. promoting outwardly-focused, tribal "Churchianity" as opposed to substantive, transformational Christianity.
As another reviewer observed, this book is best read/understood in the context of some of Rohr's other writing, particularly his books on contemplation ("Everything Belongs" and "The Naked Now") or his two most recent titles, "Breathing Underwater" and "Falling Upward", both of which explore the process of inner transformation through Christian contemplative practice (the former from a 12 Step perspective and the latter based on Rohr's brilliant "two halves of life" developmental model).
A word about the narration: while Kevin Pierce has a commanding voice and speaks with passion (almost to the point that he sounds in places like he could be the author himself), I found his delivery a bit too forceful at times. I also got annoyed with his many mispronounced words and names -- he botches poor St. Irenaeus's name repeatedly, as well as terms like Taize (tay-zay) that anyone reading this sort of material should know or acquaint themselves with. (This is a common problem with a lot of non-author narration, I've noticed lately.)
This is another excellent addition to the catalog of work by Aramaic scholar, Sufi teacher, and mystic Neil Douglas-Klotz. For those unfamiliar with his work, Douglas-Klotz basically goes back to the original Aramaic words of Jesus and explains/elaborates on (often in great detail) their various levels of meaning, revealing a rich tapestry of mystical wisdom in the process. In "I Am" and Neil's other programs (The Hidden Gospel, Original Prayer, Healing Breath) we come to know Jesus as the real, Semitic, "Middle Eastern" person and teacher that he was -- deep, passionate (and compassionate), brilliant, creative, occasionally funny, and profoundly mystical. Christians and non-Christians alike stand to gain much from this reading of Jesus' teachings.
In all of his programs, Douglas-Klotz intersperses songs, chants, and meditations throughout the teaching, as a way to deepen, embody, and integrate the insights/knowledge being shared. This approach is consistent with Sufi teaching styles, and is also seen in the approaches of Judaic and Christian mystics. Multitasking listeners may find it distracting or frustrating, as you can't stop to perform the meditations while driving, exercising, or doing chores; other listeners will likely find it greatly enhances their learning.
A final note about Neil's performance as a reader/speaker. A previous reviewer complained that Neil's voice is "effeminate". Setting aside the implication that there is only one rigid, gender-based way for men in our culture to speak (not to mention the comment's not-so-subtle prejudicial overtones), I'm not sure how this listener defines "effeminate". Douglas-Klotz is a scholar, teacher, lecturer, and fluent speaker of English and Aramaic. As such, he clearly enunciates his words. He speaks kindly, deliberately, and intelligently; his tone is cheerful and encouraging. He does not sound like he just came from a NASCAR race, frat party, a night out with the guys at Hooters, or an event sponsored by the Southern Baptist Convention...maybe that equals "effeminate" in the minds of Americans these days, I don't know. To my non-southern, bi-national US/Canadian ears, Neil Douglas-Klotz simply sounds like a nice guy.
I actually didn't think I would enjoy it as much as I am, when I listened to the narration, I was not pleased with the voice. I thought it dry and unenthusiastic. But 10 hours in, I can say Mr. Stewart was an excellent choice. His pacing is excellent, his enunciation clear.
The Course can be daunting, and I truly believe being able to listen as well as read will be helpful to any serious Course student.