This article considers the complicated relationship between mysticism, repetition, and critique, saying and unsaying. It counters the figuration of mysticism as critical insofar as it is understood to solely consist in negation of the forms, language, and structures of religious practice and community. Such a view, it argues, hierarchizes the apophatic (negation) and cataphatic (affirmation), sequestering them from each other, rendering the “mystical” disembodied and ahistorical, unbound by negation from the theological and ritual traditions from which it arises. In the late ancient and medieval periods, it shows, those seeking God undertake ritualized repetition of prayers, reading, and bodily mortification. In texts teaching apophasis, students learn within the context of a personal relationship to the teacher, as students seek to repeat the practices, stances, aspirations, and techniques of the teacher who is exemplar.

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