Agnosis: Thinking God in the Void

  • George Pattison


Arising out of the heart of everyday self-experience comes an experience in which nothingness is disclosed to us in the modes of createdness, temporality and fallermess as the possibility of our own possibility. Yet, because this comes to us in the form of experience, it does not mean that such a possibility is reduced to the self-assertion of pure subjectivity. As the place at which self-representation occurs, it is also the site of an originary communication, such that we come to ourselves, in actuality and in representation, only in and through the grace of the other. At the same time, through the concretization of such grace in the neighbour who requires my love, the founding experience of nothingness releases me from the egotistical abstraction and closure of being towards the possibility of vital selfhood. Such an experience is of a kind that may well be called ‘religious’, although it does not, thus far, demand the specificity of any particular religious credo. To the extent that it is nonetheless precisely the void of modern nihilism that has led us to such an experience of nothingness, we are brought to the paradox that nihilism itself, supposedly the harbinger of the end of religion, has opened up the way to a new beginning of religion. Nor is this new beginning that of a religion stripped down to the anthropocentric specifications of Feuerbach and his twentieth-century heirs (including his theologian heirs). It is rather the new beginning of a religion that is shaped from the ground up as the cry for redemption, a summoning in fear and trembling and in emptiness of spirit, of that which is not ourselves though taking form in the mutual mediation of creaturely existence.


Religious Experience Extreme Limit Mystical Experience Fundamental Ontology Negative Theology 
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Copyright information

© George Pattison 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • George Pattison
    • 1
  1. 1.King’s CollegeCambridgeUK

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