The 2015 Teilhard de Chardin, SJ Lecture: Violence, Mysticism, and Rene Girard by Prof. Ann Astell
Wednesday, 30 September 2015
4:00PM - 5:30PM
McComick Lounge, Coffey Hall
Lake Shore Campus, LUC
This event is free and open to the public!
Although the Church is often called the “Mystical Body of Christ,” “mysticism” and “mystical experience” are seldom associated in modern thought with social life and its historical violence. Rather, “mysticism,” narrowly defined, regularly designates the mysterious, transformative experiences of individual persons in their encounters with the Transcendent.
When modern psychologists engage the conjoined topics of mysticism and violence, therefore, they focus almost exclusively on the pathological experiences of unusual individuals, featuring case studies that involve eroticized violence, fear, psychological regression, internalized aggression, and/or demonic projection. Historians of asceticism, by contrast, often see a positive value in individual and communal practices of religiously motivated self-denial—reformist practices with social impact—but, following Max Weber, they separate asceticism from mysticism, opposing the two.
Reacting against William James’s emphasis on the mystic individual in Varieties of Religious Experience (1917), sociologist Émile Durkheim explicitly rejected the mysticism of religion in favor of his own scientific approach, which nevertheless has often seemed to his readers to be quasi-mystical in its analysis of the sacred and the profane, its unveiling of their hidden inter-connection. Following Durkheim’s impulse toward what might be called a scientific mysticism of the social life, René Girard offers a mimetic theory of the origins of social violence, culture, and religion that retains and indeed necessitates a place for personal and communal mysticism, for grace and conversion, for asceticism and sanctity.
In this he revives for a postmodern age the mysticism of the Bible, of Augustine’s Confessions and City of God, of Dostoevsky’s Brothers Karamazov, of Simone Weil’s Poem of Force, and of Peguy’s “Political Mysticism.” Girard does so, moreover, as a mystic among mystics, anticipating a universal apocalypse.