The relevance of Bernard Lonergan's notion of self-appropriation to a mystical-political theology

Ian Bell, Marquette University


The author argues in this dissertation that a mindset has become entrenched in the Western Christian tradition that mysticism has little or no contribution to make to the social institutions and structures that govern human communities. The root cause of this position is a lamentable division between the interior and exterior life of the human person named the 'mentality of the split soul,' which views faith as a personal matter to be kept separate from the public life of the individual. With particular regard to mysticism, the situation has been exacerbated by a focus on the mystical experience that has neglected the subject who encounters union with Divine Love. The nature of mystical experience, with its often strange and highly symbolic content seems especially distinct from our everyday experiences, and the divide between mystical experience and the practical matters of human living grows wider. In response to this situation, the author suggests that the work of Bernard Lonergan on the operations of the human subject stands to make three contributions. First, with an adequate appreciation of the human subject the theologian is better equipped to attend to the experience of mystical union and the wisdom contained therein. Secondly, the consistency with which human persons perform the operations of consciousness resists the mentality of split soul. According to Lonergan, the human subject attends to the data of experience, seeks to understand that data, passes judgment as to the veracity of that understanding, and then makes decisions based on that judgment. Regardless of the nature of the experience, the human person performs these operations and spiritual matters are no longer relegated to a distinct realm of human life away from everyday concerns. Thirdly, if we are called to live in love with one another, those who have experienced mystical union with the God who is love stand to make a decided contribution. With an adequate understanding of the human subject, the theologian is better able to approach the texts of the tradition, appropriate the wisdom contained therein, and apply it to the promotion of justice in human communities.

Recommended Citation

Bell, Ian, "The relevance of Bernard Lonergan's notion of self-appropriation to a mystical-political theology" (2005). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI3188541.