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Title: Mysticism and the Playful Slippage of Symbols
Subtitle: A Voegelinian Meditation on the Areopagite and his Heirs
Author(s): BAIRD, Marie L.
Journal: Studies in Spirituality
Volume: 19    Date: 2009   
Pages: 183-197
DOI: 10.2143/SIS.19.0.2043679

Abstract :
Utilizing the philosophy of Eric Voegelin, this essay delineates the contours of the various paradoxes that govern human existence. It does so in order to reveal the precise nature of the dilemma the mystic faces when attempting to symbolize his or her experience of apophatic participation in a divine Beyond within the available conceptual parameters. Then, after a brief discussion of the dangers attendant upon conceptual reification, the essay shows that one of the classical apophatic gestures of evading such reification consists in the ceaselessly playful oscillation of symbols that seem to bear within themselves the seeds of their own dissolution. The essay also argues that the play of symbols at the heart of apophatic mystical texts functions as a symbolization of the paradox that Voegelin calls ‘consciousness-reality-language’ – the central paradox that defines human existence. The essay argues, finally, that such play also functions as an actual invitation to the reader to enter into an experience of participation in the divine Beyond him or herself.

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