The Gravity of Mystical Ascent


Hass AW (2020) The Gravity of Mystical Ascent. Space and Culture, 23 (4), pp. 343-356.

This article explores the way shifting notions of gravity within the development of Western imagination and thinking challenge both the above/below dichotomy and the spiritual/physical dualism that so often attend them. In moving from ancient conceptions of gravity and gravitas, particularly as informed by Aristotle, to modern conceptions based on scientific development since Galileo, Bacon, Newton, and Pascal, the article shows how gravity has always operated with a certain paradox of movement: inherent in moving down or up is its opposite. This paradox, influencing equally our physical and spiritual understandings of reality, becomes a mystical movement, as exemplified by Bonaventure’s 13th-century The Journey of the Mind to God. But as 20th-century writers as diverse as Hannah Arendt and Maurice Blanchot tell us, this mysticism does not necessarily diminish as modernity advances and can be invoked even in the modern scientific advancements, and disorientations, of space exploration.

gravity; mysticism; space; above/below

Space and Culture: Volume 23, Issue 4

Publication date30/11/2020
Publication date online24/07/2019
Date accepted by journal26/06/2019