Open Secret: Henry Corbin, Elliot Wolfson, and the Mystical Poetics of Deification
Kripal, Jeffrey J.
Doctor of Philosophy
This dissertation seeks to answer two fundamental questions. First, what is theosis or deification? And second, given that mystics in the three Abrahamic faiths have written experientially of deification, what might be some of the phenomenological and anthropological lessons that we can learn today from their insights into the nature of reality and from those of the scholars who study them? To answer these questions, a working definition of theosis or deification from the Christian tradition is offered that is then refracted through the lens of what is essentially a history of religions or reflexively comparative approach to a deep reading of the same theme in some representative texts of two major authors in the modern study of Islamic and Jewish mysticism, namely, Henry Corbin and Elliot Wolfson, respectively. This exploration is done in the service of gaining greater insight into the phenomenological and anthropological significance of the specific mystical category of deification via the “academic esotericism” (to borrow Jeffrey Kripal’s designation) of these two authors. The goal of undertaking such a dialogical study of each author’s treatment of deification is to journey toward a more mystical, poetic, and, hence, constructive understanding of what it means to be human. The fundamental argument of the dissertation is that, when viewed in the dialogical light of Corbin’s and Wolfson’s esoteric works, deification can be seen to be pointing to a relatively common cross-cultural mystical experience that bears witness to the essential and paradoxical oneness of humanity and divinity.
Henry Corbin; Elliot Wolfson; mysticism; poetics; deification