T̀o be God with God' : towards a new understanding of autotheistic experience

L'Ange, Iain Norman (1999) T̀o be God with God' : towards a new understanding of autotheistic experience. PhD thesis, Rhodes University.




Christian mystical literature contains language which has been described as autotheistic (Gr. Auto = self, theos = God); that is, language which sounds pantheistic because it is language which bespeaks a strict identification of oneself with God. The writings of the Flemish mystic John Ruusbroec (1293-1381) contain particularly perspicuous examples of autotheistic language. The orthodox ecclesiastical reaction to these experiences in the western tradition has been either to re-interpret them to fit the ontology of orthodox theism, which maintains the distinction between Creator and created at all costs; or to condemn them as heretical. Despite this reaction, the use of auto theistic language persists in mystical literature. Contemporary western religious scholarship, following the trend of postmodern constructivism, has tended to interpret such language as reflecting non-cognitive, subjective feelings at best; at worst, as hallucinatory projections. However, the emerging new paradigm signals that these orthodox interpretations do not do justice to the mystical experiences described in autotheistic language. The so-called 'new physics' indicates that reality is a combination of the laws of the physical world and the subjective viewpoint of the observer. This 'omnijective view' of the cosmos challenges not only our most deeply held scientific beliefs, but all aspects of Western thought. This omnijective view of reality gives this mystical language new significance. An alternative to the reductionism of the old paradigm is found in the non-dualistic epistemology of the philosopher-scientist Michael Polanyi, which provides a framework for interpreting the autotheistic language of the mystics as descriptions of noetic experiences of ultimate reality. This interpretation coheres significantly with quantum theorist David Bohm's ontological interpretation of quantum theory, which postulates that wholeness is ontologically prior to separation and distinction. Bohm's metaphysics is in turn markedly congruent with the existential-ontological theology of John Macquarrie, who re-defines God in tenns of Being. Using Ken Wilber's mapping of the strands of evolution into his 'Four Quadrants' model to synthesize these various approaches, it is proposed that the autotheistic experiences are experiences confinning that human beings do not stand in a master-servant, parent-child elationship with God, but are destined to be responsible co-creators. Human beings thus create and shape reality moment-by-moment, not only in their own lives, but in culture and society as well. The challenge confronting us is therefore the development of a spirituality which fosters the realisation of this co-creative destiny and responsibility. This, it is argued, will be facilitated by the incorporation of non-dualism into western metaphysics, theology and spirituality.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords:Mystical union, God
Subjects:B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BR Christianity
Divisions:Faculty > Faculty of Humanities
Supervisors:Edwards, Felicity
ID Code:3079
Deposited By: Mrs Carol Perold
Deposited On:04 Jul 2012 12:09
Last Modified:04 Jul 2012 12:09
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