Mystical Languages of Unsaying
This book includes readings of the most rigorously apophatic texts of Plotinus, John the Scot Eriugena, Ibn Arabi, Marguerite Porete, and Meister Eckhart, with comparative reference to important apophatic writers in the Jewish tradition, such as Abraham Abulafia and Moses de Leon. Sells reveals essential common features in the writings of these authors, despite their
wide-ranging differences in era, tradition, and theology.
By showing how apophasis works as a mode of discourse rather than as a negative theology, this work opens a rich heritage to reevaluation. Sells demonstrates that the more radical claims of apophatic writers—claims that critics have often dismissed as hyperbolic or condemned as pantheistic or nihilistic—are vital to an adequate account of the mystical languages of unsaying. This work also has important implications for the relationship of classical apophasis to contemporary languages of the unsayable. Sells challenges many widely circulated characterizations of apophasis among deconstructionists as well as a number of common notions about medieval thought and gender relations in medieval mysticism.
Note to the Reader
1: Awakening without Awakener: Apophasis in Plotinus
2: The Nothingness of God in John the Scot Eriugena
3: Ibn Arabi's Polished Mirror: Identity Shift and Meaning Event
4: Ibn Arabi's Garden among the Flames: The Heart Receptive of Every Form
5: Apophasis of Desire and the Burning of Marguerite Porete
6: Meister Eckhart: Birth and Self-Birth
7: Porete and Eckhart: The Apophasis of Gender
American Academy of Religion: AAR Best First Book in the History of Religions