Quote for the Day

Now if God is beyond distinctions, God is also beyond language. This explains the mystics’ playful use of language to subvert itself… Whichever way language is used, God is not named by it. It does not matter if language is used only to deny things of God for these denials always fall short of the mark and have themselves to be denied. Thus apophaticism creates room for a great deal of affirmative language about God (as long as it is remembered that these affirmations also fall short of the unknowable God)… Predictably, the mystics’ recognition that God ruptures language has been of great interest for postmodern philosophers. This is partly because of the mystics’ subversive playfulness with language, partly because they are nevertheless concerned with unsaying the foundation of language that is the foundation of all — God the creator who is outside the universe, indistinct from all that is, and therefore one with it.

— Ralph Norman, The Rediscovery of Mysticism, in
The Blackwell Companion to Modern Theology

Why Is "Mysticism" A Dirty Word?
Is Mysticism Genetic?
What Has Not Yet Been Revealed
Preliminary Practices for Christian Contemplatives
About Carl McColman

Author of Befriending Silence, The Big Book of Christian Mysticism, Answering the Contemplative Call, and other books. Retreat leader. Speaker. Professed Lay Cistercian.

  • http://christiannonduality.com/blog/ John Sobert Sylvest

    Thanks for sharing this, Carl, as well as your recent book recommendations.

    Because I was first immersed in the mystical literature of both the patristic and medieval periods and also Merton, when I did eventually encounter the postmodern critique, it did not seem entirely new. Dionysian logic and Scotistic semiotics, at least inchoately, recognized this language play.

    In some sense, modernism perverted the best of the modern with a radical kataphaticism, while postmodernism perverted the best of the postmodern with a radical apophaticism. Contrastingly, the best modern and postmodern insights thus seem to be in continuity with our early church mothers and fathers and medieval mystics. In my view, this is evident in those parts of an emerging Christianity that, in different ways, is also radically orthodox or properly rooted in our ancient tradition, which is why I advocate a radical emergence.

    While reality remains wholly incomprehensible, it is still partly apprehensible. We will fall short, but our falling short involves such a very tall reality. Thus our alternating apophatic negations and kataphatic affirmations, which tender very little knowledge of God’s nature, nevertheless provide us a great deal because to know very little about a reality that LARGE still amounts to an overwhelming amount of information for us as creatures. And this knowledge, which is more participatory & relational (nondual) than propositional & cognitive (dual), is of profound existential import insofar as it addresses our most insistent longings, our most urgent needs and our most pressing ultimate concerns. And this knowledge is accessible to us through simple common sense combined with a simple open heart.

    After studying epistemology in earnest, I came away with the distinct notion that all of the most egregious errors of modernism and postmodernism came from academics who’d over-thought, departing from common sense and a simple faith.

    So, I came to the eventual realization that my childhood formation in my Catholic faith had gifted me with all the competence I needed to realize life’s greatest values, even if my competence had been somewhat, so to speak, an unconscious competence. The worldly sophisticates, for their part, thus seemed to be consciously incompetent; this would include both the new atheists, with their scientism, the radical deconstructionists, with their nihilism, and the modern religious fundamentalisms, with their fideism.

    Like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, on my philosophical sojourns, I discovered there was no place like home.

  • http://nitecaravan.blogspot.com/ Green Monk

    I love it. It is as if God hides from all our best theological descriptions as if to lure us closer and closer only to find that God was not separate nor hidden from us all along. :)