Apophatic Scholarship:
When the Pen Breaks and the Ink Leaves but a Blot

By Ismael Velasco

First presented at the Irfan Colloquia Session #28
London School of Economics: London, England
July 14–16, 2000
(see list of papers from #28)

published in Lights of Irfan, volume 2, pages 119-134
under new title
""What I Want to Say is Wordless": Mystical Language, Revelation and Scholarship"
© 2001, ‘Irfán Colloquia

    If God is beyond the description of aught except Himself; if the Word of God transcends words and letters; if true Understanding shatters discourse, what point is there to Scripture, let alone to scholarship. If knowledge is but a point which the ignorant have multiplied, is discourse an exercise in ignorance? This presentation will explore the relationship between mysticism and language in both the Bahá'í scriptures and some classics of mystical literature from previous religious traditions. It will highlight, and try to understand, the paradox of a history of writers penning volumes on a subject which they assert cannot be grasped by language. It will finally suggest that the relationship between mysticism and language lies at the root of the Universal House of Justice's call for a religiously inspired reorientation of scholarship.

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