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The meaning of mystical ‘darkness’



Arguments by W. T. Stace and C. J. Insole show that metaphorical descriptions of God presuppose literal descriptions of God. This poses a problem for the metaphor of darkness which has often been used, for instance by Pseudo-Dionysius, in the context of negative theology and apophatic mysticism. Three strategies of dealing with the problem are discussed in this article. The negative, apophatic approach can be seen either as subverting itself, or as being restricted to certain properties, or as resting on a self-excluding principle. Whereas the first two strategies have their difficulties, self-exclusion is linguistically founded and adequate to the purposes of negative theology.


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Religious Studies
  • ISSN: 0034-4125
  • EISSN: 1469-901X
  • URL: /core/journals/religious-studies
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