The Concept of the Absurd and Its Theological Reception in Christian Monasticism (Roman Catholic Studies v. 24)

The Concept of the Absurd and Its Theological Reception in Christian Monasticism (Roman Catholic Studies v. 24)

By: Bernard Sawicki (author)Hardback

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The goal of this study is to compare the theoretical vision of monasticism with some aspects of modern philosophical thought. Here the form of presentation is as important as the material presented, and their mutual dependence and correlation defines the character of the work. This is a study entirely out of the common run, yet in its own way attractive and approachable. It comes forth as an ardent challenge from a profound perspective that is profoundly unsettling: the absurdity of the world and the stance that sees it all as absurd may find their salvation in the still greater absurdity of Christianity, that is, in the abyss of its mysteries and the message of the Cross; in the mystical theology of penetrating perceptions and radically inverted insights; in the extravagant practices of an archetypal and anonymous monasticism that finds its model in the Desert Fathers and its realization in so many self-consciously marginal figures of twentieth century spirituality. But what is the absurd? Does it really exist and, if so, how does it manifest itself on the scene of our existence? Obviously, it does not appear by itself in pure form, but as a fissure, a disturbance, a ferment in the midst of human experience. The absurd, even at its most imposing, shows up in the futility and brokenness of life as lived. But how to get a hold on it? How to circumscribe it? In this context, the structures devised by our author are highly original and of great help. His table of categories, schematics and focal points serve to individuate the absurd against the background noise of existence: of human feeling, perception and language that situate the absurd in the structure of a cosmos lived in by persons. It is as if the categories invented by philosophers from Aristotle to Kant, and Husserl to provide a conceptual framework for human cognition are redeployed in the work of our author to the task of comprehending the incomprehensible: the absurd. His approach allows the absurd to be distinguished clearly from some experiences that approximate it, such as the tragic, the grotesque, madness, paradox, thus giving the absurd its own unmistakable physiognomy. What would the absurd, not to speak of faith, be without the flesh and spirit of the lived life? Recognizing this, the author sets before himself eight witnesses well-chosen for their styles of living and writing, all of whom oscillate between the absurd experience of the absurd and the courageous attempt to insert it into theory and practice, into a commitment of belief and ethics, all the while haunted by doubt and often succumbing under burdens of the task. The chapters on Camus, Cioran, Schneider, Quinzio, Blondel, Weil, Hillesum and Bonhoeffer are profiles with remarkable efficacy for elucidating the individuality of each personage from the inside and out, giving each of them a unique physiognomy. There emerge the diverse strategies and attitudes that allowed these writers to confront the absurd in a fruitful way: the seriousness and ethical severity, irony and mysticism, blindly crossing the tragic abyss, the apocalyptic pull, hope in the eschaton, while demonstrating courage and the casual air that results from a genuine indifference toward oneself, a conscious self-forgetting that is open to the Absolute, to trust in a God who might save your and my freedom and dignity. Finally, there is monasticism, appearing anonymously and explicitly as the figure and hidden filigree of existence: each one of us is and leads a life that is solitary and vulnerable, expropriated, that is situated in a deep sympathy with the lives of others, so to lay itself open to the word and prompting of the Absolute. With, as traveling companions, unconventional churchmen the likes of Merton, de Certeau, Panikkar, Dossetti we move closer to a new rereading of the Desert Fathers, discovering in them our allies in the experience of the absurd and in overcoming it with mirth, effort and courage, on behalf of a new intuition of the Christian faith which in our age needs to be rediscovered and re-explored. This is a study, yes, but still more a map of a journey in the infinite landscape of existence and of the mystery of living and believing.

About Author

Elmar Salmann, Benedictine monk of Gerleve (Germany), is Professor of Theology and Philosophy at the Gregorian University and Athenaeum of Sant'Anselmo, Rome; author of Neuzeit und Offenbarung (Pontificio Ateneo S. Anselmo, Rome, 1986), Der Geteilte Logos (Pontificio Ateneo S. Anselmo, Rome, 1992), Presenza di Spirito (Edizioni Messaggero Padova, 2000), Zwischenzeit. Postmoderne Gedanken zum Christsein Heute (Schnell Warendorf, 2004).


Table of Contents, v; Preface, xi; Introduction, 1; Part One: A Phenomenology of the Absurd, 7; 1. The Structure of the Absurd, 7; A Tentative Hermeneusis of Antoine de Saint-Exupery's "The Little Prince": A Foreground for the Idea of the Absurd, 11; a) "In the Landscapes of the Worlds": The Different Levels of Human Life as the Place Where the Absurd Arises, 16; Logic, 17; Language, 22; GLOSSA No. 1 - The First Distinction between the Absurd and Paradox, 23; Cognition, 26; Perception, 27; GLOSSA No. 2 - The First Debate with C. Hober, 31; Aesthetics, 34; Existence, 36; b) "On the Edges of Worlds": Towards a Definition of the Absurd, 39; Logic, 40; Language, 42; Cognition, 44; Perception, 47; Aesthetic, 50; Existence, 52; GLOSSA No. 3 - The Absurd and Foolishness, 56; GLOSSA No. 4 - The Absurd and Grenzsituationen, 59; GLOSSA No. 5 - The Second Debate with C.Hober, 61; c) "A Horizon that Shines through": the Dialectical Character of the Absurd, 63; Logic, 66; Language, 71; Cognition, 74; Perception, 75; Aesthetic, 81. Existence, 86; GLOSSA No. 6 - The Second Approach to the Relation Absurd-Paradox. The Absurd and Mystery, 88; GLOSSA No. 7 - The Absurd and the Tragic, 99; d) "Intimacy of Transcendence": Towards an Anthropological and Theological Perspective of the Absurd, 105; Logic, 106; Language, 108; Cognition, 109; Perception, 111; Aesthetics, 113; Existence, 122; A Tentative Hermeneusis of Antoine de Saint-Exupery's "The Little Prince" -, 127; Part II: A Highlight on the Idea of the Absurd, 127; The Planets, 127; The Flower, 131; 2. The Dynamics of the Absurd, 142; a) The Exile from "Inside" that Leads "Outside", 144; b) "Outside" that Unites "Inside" with "Above", 162; 3. The Personal Undertone of the Absurd, 171; a) "Towards Faith": A Constructive Perspective of Death, 172; b) "Towards Mysticism": The Immediate Medium of Intimacy, 189; Part Two: Experience of the Absurd, 203; Intermezzo I: The Absurd in Literature: Stories by Slawomir Mrozek as a Description of the Absurdity of the Totalitarian System, 203; The Situation of the Absurd, the Detail, 207;...and the Horizon, 209; Person, 212; Freedom, 214; The Witnesses of the Absurd: Implicit Monasticism, 219; a) Between Life and Faith, 222; "Inside" that Leads "Outside", 222; Albert Camus: The Necessity of Something More Than Merely "Outside", 222; Point of Departure, 224; Foreigner "inside" of the Borders, 227; Retrieval of the Horizon, 230; The problematic Transcendence, 234; Emil Cioran: Impossibility and Inevitability of Life, 241; "Inside" of the Contradictions, 242; A Shining-Through Perspective of Withdrawal, 246; Horizon of Solitude, 250. Yearning for Transcendence and Monasticism, 253; "Above" that is "Outside", 258; Reinhold Schneider: The Life-Evading Frailty of the Faith, 258; The Cracked Worlds, 260; Outsider, 262; Towards "Inside", 266; Faith as the Grace of the Horizon, 268; Sergio Quinzio: Life under the Lacerated Horizon of Faith, 276; The Universe of Inconsistencies, 277; Between Exile and Revolt, 281; The Horizon of Powerlessness, 283; Faith as an Embracing of Nothingness, 286; b) Between Life and Mysticism, 291; "Outside" that is "Above", 291; Maurice Blondel: Dialectical Movement towards Mystical Intimacy with God, 292; Horizon of the Worlds, 293; Rupture, Dispossession and Exile, 298; Dialectical Access to the Transcendence, 305; Intimate Mediation of Christ, 308; Simone Weil: A Life "Inside" Thanks to a Mystical Perspective, 313; Dwelling in the rupture, 314; Retrieval of the "Inside", 318; God as the Interiorised "Outside", 323; Intimate Solidarity with God, 328; "Above" that is "Inside", 333; Etty Hillesum: Inside that Saves Above, 333; Among the Outside and Inside Lacerations, 334; "Inside" as a Shelter, 339; God as the "Horizon that Shines through", 342; "Above" as the Intimate Transcendence of Love, 345; Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Seeking the Sense of "Above" "Inside" Life, 352; Uncertainty and Concreteness of the Limits, 353; The Necessity and Presence of the Horizon, 356; Regaining the Transcendence, 360; The "Inside" Intimacy with "Above", 364; General Observations, 369; Part Three: Reception of the Absurd - Explicit Monasticism, 373; Intermezzo II: The Explorers of the Absurd: The Apophthegmata Patrum, 376; On the Margins of the Worlds, 380; Struggle in the Horizon of Faith, 386; "Outside" as an Inside Shelter, 392. Intimacy with God, 396; Intermezzo III: Towards a Theological Reception of the Absurd: Michel de Certeau, 400; Exile and Being Lost as the Anthropological Base, 401; Margins and Being Between as the Image of Life, 405; Dialectic as the Possibility of Faith in the Resurrection, 408; Intimacy and Reconciliation as the Space of Mysticism, 415; Christian Monasticism and/as Theological Reception, 422; Some Remarks about Reception, 423; A Kind of Background: R.Panikkar's Anthropological Vision of Monasticism, 428; The Universal and Archetypical Character of Monasticism, 431; The Monk as a Person Living in the Tension of Contradictions and of Being "Between", 437; Horizon and Transcendence, 441; Intimacy, Christology and Trinity, 444; Christian Monasticism and the Absurd: Encounter (and Analogies) in the Form of Theological Reception, 449; Reception of the Structure, 451; Identity in the Landscapes of the Worlds, 452; Some Confusions, 452; The Anthropological Direction, 456; The Sign-Value of the Monk, 458; Towards God, 461; Testimony on the Edges of the Worlds, 463; On the Margins, 463; Exile and Imprisonment, 467; Laceration, 469; Revolt and Fight, 472; Sign of the "Horizon that Shines through", 474; Two Horizons, 474; The Horizon of Human Meaning, 476; Dialectical Chiaroscuro, 481; Horizon as Grace, 484; In Intimacy with Transcendence, 486; Recognition of God, 486; God's Descent in Christ, 488; Personal Relation, 491; A Summarizing and Linking Glossa: A Particular Case of the Absurd in One Monk's Life, 493; Christological Dimension of Dialectical Dynamism of the Absurd, 500; Dialectical Correspondence with the Gospel, 501; Further Evangelical Implications, 503. Imitation and Solidarity with Christ, 505; The Absurd and the Cross, 509; The Trinitarian Dimension of the Personal Undertone of the Absurd, 516; Play, 518; Concreteness, 522; Liberation, 523; Intimacy, 526; Some Concluding Remarks, 533; Instead of a Conclusion, 537; Anonymous Monasticism, 537; Institution, 539; Attitude, 545; Farewell to the Little Prince, 552; A Look Backwards, 552; Perspectives, 554; Bibliography, 559; Index, 569.

Product Details

  • ISBN13: 9780773461994
  • Format: Hardback
  • Number Of Pages: 588
  • ID: 9780773461994
  • ISBN10: 077346199X

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