By Denys Turner

For the medieval mystical culture, the Christian soul meets God in a "cloud of unknowing," a divine darkness of lack of understanding. This assembly with God is past all figuring out and past all experiencing. Mysticisms of the fashionable interval, to the contrary, position "mystical event" on the heart, and modern readers are likely to misunderstand the medieval culture in "experientialist" phrases. Denys Turner argues that the uniqueness and modern relevance of medieval mysticism lies accurately in its rejection of "mystical experience," and locates the magical firmly in the grab of the normal and the standard. The argument covers a few vital experts within the interval from Augustine to John of the move.

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From the lowest category when it involves a denial', and this is because 'we have to start by denying the qualities which differ most from the goal we hope to attain'. 35 In the last section I set out the case for saying that the apophatic in theology is simply the product of a properly understood cataphaticism and that we reach the point at which the apophatic begins by the means of the comprehensiveness of our affirmations, whose combined and mutually cancelling forces crack open the surface of language; and that it is through the fissures in our discourse that the darkness of the apophatic is glimpsed.

Exactly right is the expression such imagery gives to the underpinning ontology of degrees of reality, hence also to the relation of that scale to degrees of 'proximity* to the creating cause; equally, at the level of language, the imagery captures aptly the downward descent of affirmations. Exactly wrong is the failure of that imagery to give expression to that immediacy of the relation between Creator and created which is entailed by the doctrine of creation ex nihilo. For the imaging of creation as a laval flow is implicitly 'emanationist' and implies that the lower degrees on the hierarchical scale flow from those which precede them and are not in any immediate relation of ontological dependence on the One 'Cause of all'.

33 34 Two sources and a synthesis of God. First it denies the 'dissimilar' images, then the most similar, denying each affirmation in turn before denying the next. There is no contradiction between these two ways of representing the strategy of the apophatic, though they did tend to generate two quite different theological and mystical traditions in subsequent Western Christianity. The device of embodying the transcendent primarily in negative theological language is characteristic, we may say, of that tradition to which Eckhart, the Cloud Author and John of the Cross belong.

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