Abstract: The mystical experience is generally understood as an affective one, made of love and union. The history of Christianity has been marked by this type of experience and owes to it some of its most luminous milestones and highlights. Christian mystics have been great founders, bright intellectuals, and paradigmatic figures in raising new issues for Theology and Philosophy theology, philosophy, social justice, and politics. In this article we wish to reflect and write about two issues in the vast area of mystical studies, focusing specifically on Christian mysticism:
(1) The link between mystical experience and knowledge; and
(2) Mystical experiences lived through by women as a pathway to and from knowledge. We will briefly highlight a few women mystics in order to set the stage for the topic to be further developed below.
Firstly, we will attempt to circumscribe the concept of mysticism by retrieving some of the main thoughts of scholars who have studied the mystical phenomenon and writings of individuals who experienced it. For this purpose, we will apply some elements from philosophy, but mostly from theology.
Secondly, we will pursue our reflection with the aid of thoughts by philosophers and theologians who thought and argued that mystical experience is and contains knowledge and bears not only affective and spiritual, but also intellectual, fruit. Thirdly, we will attempt to show how a significant group of women were the specific protagonists of this synthesis between experience and knowledge and how this allowed them to bring original contributions to their context and historical time.
We conclude with a detailed commentary and reflection on the French 20th-century mystic Simone Weil who, as both an intellectual and a mystic, was a pioneer in bringing a prophetic vision on some issues that would inspire society, the Church, and spiritual life many decades after her death. As such, she became a paradigmatic figure who demonstrated that intellectual ability does not entail only rational thinking, but consists in a great level of spiritual sensitivity, which brings altogether an enormous responsibility in leading humanity towards fulfilling its vocation to live fully. Our conclusions will be based on the countercultural benefits that mystical experience, as lived through by women, can bring to contemporary times.”
- Religions, vol. 14, no.2 (Jan. 2023), p. 230.
Maria Clara Bingemer (PhD, Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome) is a noted Brazilian theologian. A full professor at Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro (PUC), she focuses her research on systematic theology, mysticism, and in particular on Latin American and liberation theology. Bingemer’s current research project is on Mysticism and Testimony: a study of knowledge, language and praxis in contemporary mysticism.