Moshe Idel and Bernard McGinn, editors

Mystical Union and Monotheism Faith, an Ecumenical Dialogue

The notion of mystical union with God, of being one with the divine, has seemed scandalous to some thinkers in the three monotheistic faiths of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. How can any individual human claim union with God without compromising divine transcendence and elevating the creature beyond its proper status? Are not claims to union inherently blasphemous?

Mystics who spoke of their union with God have come under suspicion in all three religious traditions, sometimes at least in Christianity and Islam, to the extent of condemnation and execution. Nevertheless, in all three religions the tradition of unio mystica is deep and long. Many of the spiritual giants of these three faiths have seen the attainment of mystical union as the heart of their beliefs and practices.

Despite its importance, mystical union has rarely been investigated in itself, apart from the wider study of mysticism, and even more rarely from the aspect of comparative studies, especially those based upon broad and expert knowledge of the inner life of the three related monotheistic faiths.

In order more fully to understand this central phenomenon in Western mysticism, Moshe Idel and Bernard McGinn bring together individual essays that respect the character of each tradition's understanding of unio mystica, while exploring the broader issues implied in union with a monotheistic god.

The book begins with a synoptic introduction to the mystical experience written by Louis Dupré. Moshe Idel then offers a discussion of two conceptions of mystical union in Jewish mysticism; Bernard McGinn examines love, knowledge, and unio mystica in the Western Christian tradition. Michael Sells writes on mystical union in Islam; and Daniel Merkur on the psychological and philosophical correlates of mystical union within the monotheistic traditions. Four brief responses follow.

About the editors

MOSHE IDEL teaches at Hebrew University, Jerusalem, and has written widely on Jewish mysticism. His most recent book is Kabbalah: New Perspectives.

BERNARD McGINN teaches at the Divinity School of the University of Chicago, where he is program coordinator of the Institute for the Advanced Study of Religion. His most recent book is The Calabrian Abbot: Joachim of Fiore in the History of Western Thought.

Répertoire bibliographique / Bibliographic Repertory