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Heightened Consciousness: The Mystical Difference.

This excellent book succeeds partially in transposing mystical theology into a contemporary framework by using Lonergan's cognitional theory and Rahner's transcendental Thomism. As a critical realist, Granfield understands mysticism as consciousness of the mediated immediacy of the human spirit's unrestricted desire to know and love God. To G., positive kataphatics appreciates creaturely beauty as the highest manifestation of divine glory. Nevertheless, the precariousness of our possession of creaturely beauty highlights our insatiable desire for God. Negative kataphatics affirms God's wisdom in the face of suffering and evil. Moreover, G. insists that positive apophatics, engendered by self-transcending love, results in a fecund nothingness, which gives the most intimate, connatural, awareness of the divine presence. It also reveals the sterility of negative apophatics.

However, G. does not understand Ignatian prayer (18 ff.). Pace G., spirit, not only matter, makes persons unique (22). Is the mystical life one of temporal progression, as G.'s kataphatic-apophatic-anaphatic scheme implies? The requisite signs calling a person to the apophatic way are not mentioned. One might agree with Rahner and G. concerning the natural distinction between acquired and infused contemplation, but still disagree with G. that a graced distinction would be miraculous. In saying, "it is not clear that all holy people are mystics or that mystics are always the holiest of holy people" (142-43), G. seemingly contradicts his own description of mystical consciousness. If "the crucial act of the mystic is not in emptying the mind but in loving God" (133), how can G. assert that only positive apophatics gives perfect knowledge of God? The apophatic tradition insists that God is beyond both knowing and unknowing. I maintain that only a Christian elite can profit from G.'s call to use one's own alpha waves as a mantra in prayer (131). If consciousness is always both intentional and self-conscious, how is it possible psychologically to replace intentionality by a self-consciousness of one's unrestricted openness? Does G.'s overemphasis upon positive apophatics ultimately undermine the historical, incarnational foundations of Christian heightened consciousness?
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Author:Egan, Harvey D.
Publication:Theological Studies
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 1, 1993
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