Mystical Experience and the Apophatic Attitude

Sameer Yadav


Apophaticism in mainstream analytic theology and philosophy of religion has come to denote a metaphysical and semantic thesis: that, due to divine transcendence, God is ineffable, inconceivable, or incomprehensible.  But this conception fails to properly take account of the central claim of apophaticism as a special type of mystical theology.  As such, the apophatic commitments to divine ineffability (however understood) are instrumental. More fundamental is the function of theological ignorance to uniquely inform the task of theology and transform the theologian in union with God.  Taking Jonathan Jacobs’ recent account as a test case, I argue that reconstructions of apophaticism need to be supplemented by an account of this informational and personally transformative value that apophatic mysticism places on its commitment to divine incomprehensibility.   I supply the needed account of apophatic valuing in terms of wonder as the appropriate emotional attitude toward divine transcendence.

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The Journal of Analytic Theology is a joint publication of the Center for Philosophy of Religion at the University of Notre Dame and Baylor University.

ISSN 2330-2380 (online)