Paperback: 182 pages, $
Trim Size: 9 x 5.9
Publication Date: May 2001
Rights: Contact SUNY Press
The Other Side of Nothingness
“The author has great depth, clarity, and appeals to all who desire a new mystical way to become radically new.”
From the mystic’s experience of nothingness and the desert, The Other Side of Nothingness offers a theology of humility sensitive to religious pluralism and to the pain of spiritual oppression. With a passionate concern for contemporary interreligious issues, Beverly J. Lanzetta provides insight into how mystical consciousness overturns claims of dogmatic truth and prepares the self to experience the radical openness of divinity.
Beginning with the mystic’s experience of nothingness and the desert, Lanzetta (Interfaith Theological Seminary) offers a theology of humility sensitive to religious pluralism and to the pain of spiritual oppression. She explores how mystical consciousness overturns claims of dogmatic truth and prepares the self to experience the radical openness of divinity. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
From the Publisher
The work draws on a variety of Christian mystical texts, including those of Meister Ekhart, Gregory of Nyssa, Pseudo-Dionysius, Saint Teresa of Avila, Saint Bonaventure, and the anonymous author of The Cloud of Unknowing while also making reference to Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, and Hinduism and the thought of contemporary social mystics such as Heschel, Gandhi, Merton, Thurman, and Day. Lanzetta illustrates how the annihilatory mystical experience draws the seeker to a place beyond a tradition’s self-understanding to new dimensions of the sacred and, in some cases, to new revelatory paradigms. It is here that she provokes our thought in her statement that the divine nature is itself pluralistic, non-absolute, and continually giving birth to new traditions. By showing how nothingness functions in mystical experience as a catalyst for the liberation of our hearts, we are brought to a vision of theology that is nonviolent and inclusive of all creation.
In THE OTHER SIDE OF NOTHINGNESS, Beverly Lanzetta tells a story, a love story. This is a love story between God and humankind, told for the new millenium. In it, she reflects on the divine encounter from the apophatic tradition of particular Christian mystics. She develops her story, in part, through a lucid witnessing of the writings of pseudo-Dionysius, the anonymous author of THE CLOUD OF UNKNOWING, and Meister Eckhart. Although these mystics are of western origin, she recognizes the experience to be a universal one. She knows, as do I, that the love story that occurs between man and God happens in the deepest parts of ourselves and is a treasure that can be found in any of us.
Key to her tale is the contemplative life. Dr. Lanzetta shows us, in her exploration of these writings, the ultimate ways we might embrace God and that God might embrace us. At the core are vulnerability, mercy and non-violence. At the core is a fluidity that cannot be named, trapped, or reached. But deeper and deeper we go, and our Beloved goes with us, the unnameable, the unreachable, the unknowable, into a Self-emptying nothingness and embrace. It is a love story that has no beginning or end because it is all Mystery. Spirit and matter embrace as One in the eternal present. It is always happening.
This story is retold for us today, that we as a global community, might know the plurality and the Oneness that is forever and eternally our heritage. Dr. Lanzetta reminds us of the twentieth-century prophets and social mystics, Mohandas K. Gandhi, Dorothy Day, Abraham Heschel, and Howard Thurman, whose desire to be transformed takes place in social climates with the marginalized and those who are materially and spiritually poor among us.
Dr. Lanzetta speaks about the unknowable in a manner that is masterful and eloquent. She is a visionary who writes on mystical openness “motivated by a desire to recover what has remained unheard in the history of theology, and to put it to use in overcoming religious exclusiveness and the violence associated with absolute truth claims.” She speaks from her heart for our hearts. Over and over, I am reminded: Be still and know that I am loved. Be still and know that I am God.
-Melanie Supan Sethney