Bernard McGinn is widely regarded as the preeminent scholar of mysticism in the Western Christian tradition. He has also written extensively on Jewish mysticism, the history of apocalyptic thought, and medieval Christianity.
He graduated cum laude at St. Joseph’s Seminary and College in Yonkers and completed his doctorate studies in theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome in 1963 and a Ph.D. in history from Brandeis University in 1970. He became professor in the Chicago faculty in 1969 as an instructor in theology and the history of Christianity and was appointed a full professor nine years later. Dr. McGinn was named to the Donnelley chair in 1992. He retired in 2003.
The recent recipient of a Mellon Foundation Emeritus Grant, he also has held a Fulbright-Hays Research Fellowship, an American Association of Theological Schools research award, two research fellowships for work at the Institute for Advanced Study at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, a research fellowship at the Institute for Ecumenical and Culture Research at St. John’s University, and a Lily Foundation Senior Research Fellowship.
Dr. McGinn has delivered invited lectures at some one hundred colleges and universities in North America, Europe, and Israel. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the Medieval Academy of America. He is past-president of the International Society for the Promotion of Eriugenean Studies, the American Society of Church History, and the American Catholic Historical Association, he is member of the board of The Eckhart Society. He is also the immediate past president of the Society for the Study of Christian Spirituality.
He served as editor-in-chief of the Paulist Press series Classics of Western Spirituality and currently serves as a member of the editorial boards of Cistercian Publications, The Encyclopedia of World Spirituality, The Collected Works of Bernard Lonergan, and Spiritus. The author of some 150 articles in scholarly journals, he has been the editor or co-editor of ten books, including two volumes of the works of the German Dominican theologian and mystic Meister Eckhart and (with John J. Collins and Stephen J. Stein) The Continuum History of Apocalypticism (2003).
The most recent of his books are the five-volume series on Christian mysticism in the West,
- The foundations of mysticism. Men and Women in the New Mysticism, 1200-1350
- The growth of mysticism. Gregory the Great Through the 12 Century.
- The flowering of mysticism: men and women in the new mysticism (1200-1350).
- The harvest of mysticism in medieval Germany (1300-1500).
- The varieties of vernacular mysticism (1350-1550).
Other works include Meister Eckhart’s Mystical Thought: The Man from Whom God Hid Nothing (2001), and Early Christian Mystics: The Divine Vision of the Spiritual Masters, an introductory guide to selected mystics.
The following remarks of Lawrence S. Cunningham, John A. O’Brien Professor of Theology, The University of Notre Dame give an indication of the quality of McGinn’s work on mysticism:
The Harvest of Mysticism is a tour de force study of medieval German mysticism from Thomas Aquinas and his master, Albert the Great, to Cardinal Nicholas of Cusa. This volume’s importance rests not only in its comprehensive study of the fertile period which produced Meister Eckhart, John Tauler, and Henri Suso, but in its lucid discussion of the “problem” of mysticism as it comes to the fore in this era. A monumental achievement both in its historical sweep and for its conceptual rigor.