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.
In his book, Simone Weil in the Twenty-First Century, Eric Springsted–pioneering Weil–specialist in the USA as well as co-founder and long-time president of the American Weil society–-reveals his thorough knowledge and deep understanding of this French philosopher and mystic. In dialogue with thinkers such as Ludwig Wittgenstein, Michael Foster, Gabriel Marcel, Henri de Luba, and Jacques Maritain, he covers much ground in his book’s fourteen chapters, focusing in the first part on Weil’ philosophical and theological thought before turning to her social and political thinking.
The themes range from the place of mystery and the supernatural in Weil’s philosophy to her understanding of obligations, the need for roots, the role of culture, and the relationship between religion and politics. Though there is no central argument holding these different chapters together–-indeed, eleven of the fourteen chapters were published in earlier versions in various journals– the book does justice to Weil’s diverse interests . . . .
Theology Today, vol. 79, no. 3, p. 352 (2022)
This article examines biblical allusions in Simone Weil’s “On the Right Use of School Studies,” in which she argues that study can train our attention to God and neighbor. Focusing on Weil’s use of Jesus’ teachings that mention bread, meals, and table service, this article reveals an underlying theme of Eucharist (communion) in Weil’s essay on studying. Together with Weil’s comment that school studies are “like a sacrament,” this analysis suggests that Weil offers a “eucharistic pedagogy” shaped by her mystical theology of Eucharist, a theology itself shaped by George Herbert’s English-language poem “Love.” Throughout, the article compares Weil’s original French with its English translation, noting where the translation obscures her use of the Bible or her theology, and it also examines the Greek biblical text, since Weil read the New Testament in its Greek original. The article concludes with a critique of Weil’s educational vision, which relies on a dyadic vision of the eucharist, and suggests that a communal vision of the eucharist can support a social vision of education.
Horizons, vol. 49, no. 1 (May 30, 2022)
Christy Lang Hearlson is a professor in the Theology and Religious Studies department at Villanova University.
Abi Doukhan is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Queens College of the City University of New York (CUNY), and holds the Pearl and Nathan Halegua Family Initiative in Ethics and Tolerance. She holds a Masters in philosophy from the Sorbonne and a Ph.D in philosophy from the University of Nanterre, Paris, France. Her recent publications include Emmanuel Levinas: A Philosophy of Exile (Bloomsbury, October 2012), and Biblical Portraits of Exile (Routledge, June 2016).
YouTube class lecture (May 13, 2o22)