Original Research - Special Collection: UP Faculty of Theology Centenary Volume One

Re-enchanted by beauty. On aesthetics and mysticism

Pieter G.R. de Villiers
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 72, No 4 | a3462 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v72i4.3462 | © 2016 Pieter G.R. de Villiers | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 06 May 2016 | Published: 31 August 2016

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Pieter G.R. de Villiers, Department of New Testament, University of the Free State, South Africa

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The article investigates the potential of mysticism to revitalise theology. It firstly traces howaesthetics was understood in theology and provides reasons for this view. It then investigateshow the predominant epistemological approach in theology privileged conceptual knowledgeand relativised aesthetics as being subjective and therefore unreliable. It gives special attentionto this epistemology by spelling out how the intellectualisation of contemporary theologyintensified the process of obfuscating and sidelining aesthetics. In a third part, the article spellsout the consequences of this position by analysing how theology is becoming a disenchantedenterprise. The article then investigates how aesthetics often is taking over the role of theologyand its formative role in social discourse. It focuses on the epistemological nature of this turntowards aesthetics, arguing that aesthetics with its profound notion of beauty (with goodnessand joy as its corollaries), is increasingly reappraised as a legitimate, but different kind andsource of knowledge. The article then argues how aesthetics can reinvigorate theology as asource of knowledge together with conceptual knowledge. It ends by investigating howtheology can be re-enchanted by learning from the prominent role and invigorating forms ofaesthetics in mysticism.


Aesthetics; Mysticism; Contemporary Aesthetics; Theological discourse; Revenge of the Aesthetic; Von Balthasar


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