Friends, I’m excited to announce a major new initiative on this website. Coming on February 1, 2021, I’m launching a Christian Mysticism (Un)Knowledge Base. (Update: it’s been launched! Visit the Unknowledge Base by clicking here)
What’s that? You might be wondering.
Think of it as a help desk for exploring the world of Christian mystical spirituality. If you develop websites, you know that a “knowledge base” is a collection of articles and resources to help someone learn about a particular topic, product, or service.
Let’s say you just purchased a new iPhone. As you begin to work with it, you discover you don’t understand a certain feature or you can’t find the steps to complete a basic task. So you go to Apple’s support page where you enter a question or a few key words into a search bar, and you find (hopefully) an article, or several, that walk you through the steps to answer your question. If you are not able to find an answer to your question, you can always post the question in the hopes that the support folks will either reply to you directly, or at the very least post a new article that addresses your issue.
A knowledge base: a database of information to help you gain knowledge about a particular topic or item. So the thought first occurred to me several years ago: Wouldn’t it be good to have a knowledge base for Christian contemplation and mystical spirituality?
You know the old saying, “be careful what you wish for.”
The idea stayed with me, and what I eventually realized was that this was something I could (slowly) develop myself.
I’ve been blogging off and on since 2003, and began to seriously write about Christian mysticism in 2007. Over the years I have published over 2000 posts to my blog. Not all of these concern contemplation and mysticism, but many do.
In a way, a blog is like a newspaper: once something is posted, it has a moment in the digital sun, but then it ends up in the archives section, where no one ever reads it unless they happen to stumble across it thanks to a random key-word search, either on Google or on my site.
I could see this at work, when relatively new readers to my blog would send me emails asking me questions that I had already addressed in a previous blog post, several years back.
What I soon came to see: my idea of a Mystical Help Desk would mean not just writing lots of new content, but also curating many of my old posts, and making them more visible/accessible to a person who is specifically interested in learning about Christian mysticism and contemplative living.
And so… during the past few months, as my work and activity slowed down thanks to the covid-19 pandemic, I began to research knowledge bases. I discovered that it would be easy and fairly inexpensive to create a knowledge base on a WordPress site (my blog is a WordPress blog). It could be set up both with a powerful search function, and a user-friendly table of contents where visitors could be given a summary overview of this compendium of information.
So I installed the necessary software on my blog, and am preparing it for launch on February 1.
Granted, the very notion of a knowledge base is rather ironic, given mystical theology’s emphasis on topics such as hiddenness, ineffability, darkness, and of course, mystery. So, borrowing from the beloved contemplative classicThe Cloud of Unknowing, I’ve decided that this new compendium should more properly be described as an Unknowledge Base!
The Topics Covered in the Unknowledge Base
Here’s the basic table of contents for the Unknowledge Base:
- Overview of Christian Mysticism
A few introductory articles for people who are new to mysticism or new to my website.
- Profiles of Christian Mystics
What’s the best way to explore Christian mysticism? By getting to know the lives and teachings of some of the great mystics, whom you can meet in this section.
- Mystical Theology
What do mystics believe? How do they understand God? What are the dynamics of the mystical life? This section helps to explain why mysticism matters.
- The Practice of Mystical Spirituality
What do mystics do? How does one become a mystic? The articles here provide inspiration and encouragement for those who want to embrace this path.
- The History of Mysticism
From its Jewish and Greek roots to the contemplative renaissance in our day, mysticism has had a long history within Christianity. This section will help to tell that story.
- Mystical Locations
Christian Mysticism is an embodied spirituality. This section celebrates this by looking at where mysticism thrives: from monasteries, to the desert, to the human heart.
- Miscellaneous Topics
Some topics are important but may not fit anywhere else in this Unknowledge Base. So they go here. Examples might include Celtic spirituality and interspiritual mysticism.
- Questions about the Mystical Life
I suspect this will be one of the largest sections, eventually. This will be the place where I will respond to specific questions posted by readers like you.
- Recommended Books and Authors
If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know that I love to post book reviews and recommendations of specific authors and titles. Those resources will live here.
Sometimes you just need to understand what words like kenosis or theosis or nonduality mean. Such definitions will be gathered here.
Contemplative videos, podcasts and/or images — both my own and curated from other authors and speakers — will be available through this section.
- Community Resources
Many organizations, websites, Facebook groups, etc. exist to help individuals and churches and other groups to foster a contemplative life. Find such resources here.
This is a Multi-Year Project!
I hope from the table of contents you can have a sense of how ambitious this project is. Rome wasn’t built in a day, so this Unknowledge Base will likewise take some time to assemble. It will include both “old” content (blog posts that I have already written, but that I will need to move over to, or link to, the Unknowledge Base), along with new content that I will be writing in the months and years to come, especially to make sure this is a well-rounded resource. While on launch date there will be at least one or two articles under each section, I’m anticipating 2-3 years of steady work before this truly becomes a comprehensive compendium. Of course, assuming people like it and use it, and support it (see below), I intend to continue adding both old and new content to this site, for the foreseeable future.
But all this is to say: it will be a modest resource at first, but keep coming back — and watch it grow!
How You Can Help
If this sounds like a resource that you will enjoy using, please help me in the ongoing work of developing it. There are four specific ways you can help out.
- Pray. This entire project is offered in love to Christ and the Body of Christ. It’s meant for the glory of God. So please, pray for it (and me), that the Holy Spirit may direct my work and my writing, to make this a truly useful, inviting, and inspirational resource.
- Ask Questions. At the bottom of every article in the Unknowledge Base will be a question box, where you can submit your questions or suggestions for me to review. I can’t promise that I will answer every single one that comes my way, but input from readers like you will help to ensure that this unknowledge base is truly a helpful site.
- Tell Others. I operate on a shoestring, and so I don’t have a big budget to promote this site. And that’s okay, because I think mysticism thrives best in small, intimate settings. But word of mouth matters — you can help make sure this site reaches everyone who needs it.
- Make a Pledge. I do not intend to run advertising or to charge admission for this Unknowledge Base (I’m also looking at creating online courses that will be tuition-based, but that’s a separate endeavor). The funding to support this project comes entire from my crowdfunding patrons, who support me through Patreon. Just a small monthly pledge can make a huge difference — because your pledge combines with everyone else’s to create meaningful support that allows me to keep working on this website. Patrons get early access to new writing and news from me (patrons have known for a while that I’ve been working on this). So please, join the circle, and be part of the effort to make writing about Christian contemplation and mysticism freely accessible online. Thank you!
A Final Word
You’ll notice that the featured image for today’s post is the new logo for my website. It’s designed around a URL that I’ve owned since 1996 but hadn’t used in a while: www.anamchara.com. Anamchara means “soul friend” in Gaelic. It’s a beautiful word that evokes several of my great loves: Celtic wisdom, spiritual direction/companionship, and of course, contemplative and mystical spirituality. I’m glad to be bringing it back to the foreground.