this issue
previous article in this issuenext article in this issue

Document Details :

Title: Autistic Thought and the Modern Mysticism of Simone Weil and Emily Dickinson
Author(s): BOMBACI, Nancy
Journal: Studies in Spirituality
Volume: 23    Date: 2013   
Pages: 213-238
DOI: 10.2143/SIS.23.0.3007318

Abstract :
Throughout their oeuvres, Simone Weil and Emily Dickinson express their ideas in a manner which resembles autistic perseveration and nonlinear thinking. Regardless of whether or not these figures were on the autistic spectrum, the ‘autistic’ styles of their thought has resonance beyond autistic minds as they illuminate unconventional levels of awareness related to the Western mystical tradition. Both of these writers engaged aspects of autistic thought in order to conceive modern mystical paths towards spiritual evolution. Both seek spiritual and ethical authenticity outside of questionable social influences while they desire more essential connections based on ethics and spiritual love. Medicalized discourses often construct autism negatively in terms of ineffability, radical solipsism, and a lack of theory of mind. Yet the intensity of focus associated with autistic perseveration may well be an antidote to the multiple distracting forces which divert the modern subject from experiencing contemplative pursuits. Similarly, the ‘autistic’ ability to visualize from multiple perspectives may enable the modern subject to understand others without descending to the crass emotionality characteristic of false empathy. Granted, both Weil and Dickinson display a degree of spiritual intensity that few are capable of experiencing. Because or in spite of this extremity, both redefine a space for contemplation in the modern world – a space constantly under siege by forces that impose compulsory sociality.

Download article