Friday, May 31, 2013

The Passion According to G.H.


As I’m writing at the moment about mysticism and animals, I read the book with a question constantly appearing in the back of my mind.* I wondered what this book would look like if written by an author who wasn’t raised in Jewish and Christian cultures. Like Erich Fromm’s, Lispector’s mysticism can be seen to challenge and even reject religion. At the same time, though, religion has shaped the mystical experience itself. In order to understand it fully, we have to appreciate how these beliefs also constitute and limit the challenging vision, the rejection.

What would her mysticism look like if Lispector lived in a Buddhist or animist culture? More to the point, what would it look like if she lived in an atheist and scientific culture? What if the mystical experience – the encounter with nonhuman life – occurred within or grew from scientific knowledge about natural history? How does the mystical experience differ if G.H. is an evolutionary biologist?

I suppose some people would argue that the religious beliefs, while they might to some extent distort the mystical experience, are necessary to it. In this prejudiced view, mystical experience is the child of religion, and a genuinely atheistic-scientific mysticism is impossible by definition or destined to be shallow and constricted. I don’t believe this is true, and I’ll have more to say about it in future posts.

* To be clear, this is a question occasioned by the book - not a criticism.

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