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Gregory Barhebraeus' Mystical Hermeneutics of the Love of God in Dialogue with Islam

This book is an inquiry into the mystical thought of Gregory Barhebraeus (1226-1286CE) and its contemporary relevance, to offer a reading of Barhebraeus’ mystical texts by bringing them into conversation with critical religious studies and the hermeneutical tradition of philosophy. The methodological focus of my thesis has led me to pay particular attention to the language used for the study of mysticism, and I lay emphasis on finding a new language that avoids the phenomenological assumptions concerning ‘mysticism’ to attend to the particularity of ‘mystic’ traditions, such as that of the Syriac mystic tradition inherited by Barhebraeus.
Publisher: Gorgias Press LLC
SKU (ISBN): 978-1-4632-4247-3
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Publication Status: Forthcoming
Publication Date: Aug 11,2022
Interior Color: Black
Trim Size: 6 x 9
Page Count: 374
Language: English
ISBN: 978-1-4632-4247-3
$133.00

This book explores the mystical thought of Gregory Barhebraeus (1226–1286CE) and its contemporary relevance, to offer a reading of Barhebraeus’ mystical texts by bringing them into conversation with critical religious studies and the hermeneutical tradition of philosophy. Griggs emphasises the problem of conceptual categories for the academic study of mysticism, seeking to avoid traditional assumptions concerning ‘mysticism’ and attend to the particularity of ‘mystic’ traditions. Through this approach, she examines the mystical hermeneutics of the love of God developed by Barhebraeus, as a response to the elaboration of this theme by the Islamic theologian Abu Hamid al-Ghazālī (1058–1111CE), and as a resolution of the tensions between scholastics and ascetics within his own Syriac tradition.

This book explores the mystical thought of Gregory Barhebraeus (1226–1286CE) and its contemporary relevance, to offer a reading of Barhebraeus’ mystical texts by bringing them into conversation with critical religious studies and the hermeneutical tradition of philosophy. Griggs emphasises the problem of conceptual categories for the academic study of mysticism, seeking to avoid traditional assumptions concerning ‘mysticism’ and attend to the particularity of ‘mystic’ traditions. Through this approach, she examines the mystical hermeneutics of the love of God developed by Barhebraeus, as a response to the elaboration of this theme by the Islamic theologian Abu Hamid al-Ghazālī (1058–1111CE), and as a resolution of the tensions between scholastics and ascetics within his own Syriac tradition.

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ContributorBiography

Jennifer Griggs

Dr Jennifer Griggs pursued her doctoral research on Eastern Christian mysticism at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London. As part of her postdoctoral work, Jennifer has worked on the interaction of Syriac Christianity with the late Avicennan tradition of philosophy in the Islamic East. She was a Visiting Fellow with the Centre for Religious Studies (CERES) in 2018, at the Ruhr Universität Bochum in Germany, and a Postdoctoral Fellow until 2021, with the Research Training Group Shaping Religious Difference: Pluralism in Christianity and Islam, at the University of Osnabrück, Germany. Jennifer is currently an occasional lecturer in interreligious and intercultural studies at the University of Osnabrück and works freelance for the British Institute for the Study of Iraq in London.

Table of Contents (v)
Acknowledgments (ix)

Chapter 1. Introduction (1)
   Overview of the Chapters (2)

Chapter 2. Locating Barhebraeus in Graeco-Syriac Tradition (7)
   Introduction (7) 
      Biographical Sources for Barhebraeus (9)
      Ecumenical Relations with the East Syrians (16)
   Barhebraeus’ Contribution to a Syriac Revival (21)
      The Revival of Philosophy and the Notion of a ‘Renaissance’ (24) 
      Rationale to Barhebraeus’ Literary Activities (28)
   Barhebraeus’ Engagement with Greek Philosophy (31)
      Barhebraeus’ Philosophical Works (31)
      The Problem with the Aristotelian Physics and the Metaphysics (36) 
   Neoplatonic and Aristotelian Cosmology (41)
      Eternity of the Cosmos and the Doctrine of Creation (44)

Chapter 3. The Conflict of Thinking in Syrian Hermeneutics (51)
   Introduction (51) 
   The Centrality of Aristotelian logic (52) 
   The Epistemological Impasse within the Syrian Tradition (59)
      The West Syrian Monastic Curriculum (62) 
      The Syrian Orthodox Monastery of Qennešre (66) 
      The East Syrian Scholastic Tradition – the School versus the Monastery (70)
   The Problem of Conceptual Language for God (75) 
      Evagrianism and Imageless Prayer (81)
      The Idolatry of the Concept (84) 
      The Development of the Evagrian Tradition (88)

Chapter 4. Barhebraeus’ Mysticism of the Love of God (91)
   Introduction (91) 
   The Texts of Barhebraeus’ Mysticism (97)
      Classification of Barhebraeus’ Mystical Texts (97)
      An Overview of the Mystical Texts of Barhebraeus: Editions and Contents (99)
      The Monastic Sources for Barhebraeus’ Spiritual Works (108)
      The Syriac Dionysian Tradition (110)
   The Knowledge of God and Neoplatonic contemplation (113)
   The Ontology of the Love of God (118)
      The Divine Dwelling (121)
   The Divine Name of the Good (122)
      The Vision of the Divine Beauty (122)
      The Divine Fire of Love (127)
      Unification of the Mind with the Good (130)
      The Problem of the Unification of Substances (134)

Chapter 5. Barhebraeus’ Mysticism in Dialogue with Islamic Philosophy (145)
   Introduction: Rival Conceptual Schemas (145)
      Barhebraeus in Epistemological Crisis (145)
   From Epistemology to Ontology (154)
      Love as a Consequence of Sensory and Intellectual Perception (154)
      The Knowledge of God as a Cause of the Love of God (157)
      The Conception of God as the Love of God (160)
   The Five Causes of Love (163)
      From Love of Self to the Love of God (163)
      Love of the Good (167)
      Love of Inward and Outward Beauty (170)
      The Soul as the Image of God (172)
   Metaphysics and the Love of God (176)
      The Problem of Onto-theology in Syriac Scholasticism (176)
      The Necessary Existent and the Cause of all causes (183)
      The Ontological Love of the Avicennan Tradition (188)
      The Ontology of the Gift of Love (190)

Chapter 6. A Hermeneutical Approach for the Academic Study of Mysticism (197)
   Introduction (197)
      Mysticism and/or Sprituality (198) 
      Background to the Debate (202) 
   Enlightenment Objectivism (207)
      Sociology and Explanation (208) 
      Mysticism and the Psychology of Religion (210) 
      Experience of the Sacred (213)
      Perennialism and the Spiritual Consciousness (216)
      Descriptive Phenomenologies (219)
   Genealogical Critique of Objectivist Approaches (223)
      Constructivism and the Mediation of Experience (224)
      Epistemologies of Experience in Anglo-American Philosophy (227) 
   A Hermeneutical Approach for the Study of Mysticism (229) 
      The Linguistic Genealogy of la mystique (231)
      From Mystical Experience to Mystic Tradition (233)

Chapter 7. Syrian Hermeneutics and the Academic Study of Mysticism (237) 
   Introduction: The Epistemological Impasse in the Academy (237)
      Epistemology and the Intentionality of Consciousness (243)
   The Problem of ‘God’ in the Study of Mystical Experience (247)
      The Subject-Object Distinction in the Epistemology of Mystical Experience (248)
      The Metaphysical Critique in Mystic Discourse (253)
      Ineffability and the Problem of Language (257)
   The Contribution of Syrian Hermeneutics (261)
      A Similar Epistemological Impasse (262)
      Resolving the Impasse between Rival Epistemologies (267)
   Methodological Contributions to the Study of Mysticism (271)
      The Path to Thinking (276)
      Language and Metaphysical Thought (283)
      The Spirit Speaks in the Gift (293)

Chapter 8. Conclusion (303)

Appendix 1. Chronology of Barhebraeus’ works (309)
Appendix 2. Works cited of Barhebraeus (315)
Appendix 3. Glossary of Key Terms (317)
   Syriac Terms (317)
   Greek Terms (321) 
Bibliography (323) 
   Primary Sources (323) 
   Secondary Literature (329) 
Index (351)

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