In calling for a transformation of religious belief that would make it accessible to inhabitants of the postmodern world, the English philosopher of religion Don Cupitt, in his 1982 book The World to Come, suggested that such a transformation would involve looking ‘long enough into the Void to feel it turn our bones to water’. Cupitt described such a willed endurance of the Void in terms that recall the language of mysticism, stating that it requires of us an ‘inner transformation’ and ‘a discipline of selflessness’ until the Void itself is transformed into ‘the Ineffable’, arousing ‘(non-cognitive) worship’.1 Yet, if this seems to imply an understanding of the contemporary experience of the void as corresponding in some way to the moment of purgation or to ‘the dark night of the soul’ that various forms of ascetical theology have often described, Cupitt’s conception of the void is distinctively modern. For, as he understands it, the void is not simply some inner state, a subjective feeling of abandonment or dereliction. No: ‘the Void’ is a characterization of the religious situation of our time; it is that into which all the inherited concepts and categories, icons and images of God have collapsed. It is the situation left by that ‘death of God’ proclaimed by the madman of Nietzsche’s parable, a death that not only shakes the foundations of religious constructions of reality but also undermines all systems of social order, ethical existence and metaphysical speculation.
KeywordsReligious Thought Dark Night English Philosopher Christian Thought Metaphysical Speculation
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- 1.Don Cupitt, The World to Come (London: SCM, 1982) p. 66.Google Scholar
- 2.Robert Martin Adams, Nil. Episodes in the literary conquest of void during the nineteenth century (New York: Oxford University Press, 1966) p. 3.Google Scholar
- 3.Cupitt, The Long-Legged Fly (London: SCM, 1977) pp. 150ff.Google Scholar
- 4.Iris Murdoch, Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1992) pp. 498ff (Chapter 18: ‘The Void’).Google Scholar
- 5.J.-L. Marion, God Without Being (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991)Google Scholar
- 5.and Thomas J.J. Altizer, The Genesis of God (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1993). This is not to mention the ongoing enterprise of deconstructive a-theologies such as those of Cupitt himself or Mark C. Taylor.Google Scholar