Mystics: Presence and Aporia

By Molleur, Joseph | Anglican Theological Review, Winter 2006 | Go to article overview

Mystics: Presence and Aporia


Molleur, Joseph, Anglican Theological Review


Mystics: Presence and Aporia. Edited by Michael Kessler and Christian Sheppard. Religion and Postmodernism Series. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2003. xiv + 254 pp. $49.00 (cloth); $21.00 (paper).

This edited volume is the outgrowth of a 1999 conference, "Mystics," held at the University of Chicago Divinity School. In good postmodern style (note the series title in the bibliographical heading), the editors explain that the title "Mystics" was chosen rather than "Mysticism" because they "wantfed] to avoid the totalizing connotations of the suffix 'ism'" (p. vii). They also emphasize that "mystics" refers not only to "mystical personages and their mystical experiences but also [to] what is called mystical theology, negative theology, mystical union, mystery, and mysticism as well as any or all of the many ways of critically reflecting on any or all of the above" (p. vii). In other words, "mystics" is here conceived as a field, analogous to such other theological fields as systematic^ and ethics. As for the subtitle, "Presence and Aporia," the editors explain that "although mystics often refers to experiences of a 'sense of presence' . . .,it also refers to experiences of aporia, what can perhaps helpfully be understood as a sense of a conspicuous lack of presence" (p. viii). We later learn that the notion of aporia was the focus of a study by one of postmodernism s most influential thinkers, Jacques Derrida (p. 201).

In addition to the editors, contributors include Thomas A. Carlson, Alexander Golitzin, Kevin Hart, Amy Hollywood, Jean-Luc Marion, Bernard McGinn, Françoise Meltzer, Susan Schreiner, Regina M. Schwartz, and David Tracy (eight of the twelve are affiliated with the University of Chicago). The "mystical personages" who form the basis of the study are Dionysius the Areopagite, Thomas Aquinas, Joan of Arc, Nicholas of Cusa, Martin Luther, Teresa of Avila, George Herbert, Georges Bataille, and Maurice Blanchot. Since it is not possible in the confines of a brief review to consider all of these authors and figures, remarks here will be limited to the chapter that is presumably of greatest interest to the ATRs readership: Schwartz's treatment of Anglican poet-priest-mystic George Herbert. …

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