Pursuing Howard Thurman’s Mysticism

Rev. Denise Cawley

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In honor of Martin Luther King Day, we visit one of his most influential teachers and pastor of the civil rights movement, Rev. Howard Thurman. Thurman was known as the eminent Christian African American mystical and social gospel theologian, preacher, and prolific author. Offering a new view of Christianity, Thurman addressed how Jesus had far more in common with those who had been harmed by racism, classism, poverty and colonialism than with others of more power and means. Thurman was a student of Mahatma Gandhi as well as Quakerism. Thurman’s practice of direct experience of nature, meditation, and silence, created a experience of spirituality known as mysticism – observing life for divine truth. It was Thurman who regularly advised leaders of these organizations—including Martin Luther King, Jr., Pauli Murray, Vernon Jordan, James Farmer, Whitney Young, Jesse Jackson, Malcom X, and Bayard Rustin.