Rituals of knowing: rejection and relation in disability theology and Meister Eckhart

04 Jun 2018

One of the most powerful claims of disability theology is that the rejection of persons with disabilities somehow correlates with a rejection of God. This ‘correlative rejection’ is, however, frequently just stated rather than explored in detail, something this paper therefore seeks to remedy by examining one example of the correlative rejection that draws together the ethical concerns of theologians writing on intellectual disability with Meister Eckhart’s teaching on the human relationship with God. Here the correlative rejection is exposed as an inevitable result of the narrow emphasis on autonomy and rationality in human self-perception which shape the habituated, even ritualised ways that we try to know persons with intellectual disabilities and God. By contrast, truly knowing and relating to persons with intellectual disabilities, God, and finally also ourselves, relies on a reconciliation with the dependence, vulnerability, and non-rational forms of exchange that a narrow attachment to autonomy and rationality seems directly to occlude. The correlative rejection thus signals both a practical and epistemological problem which results from how we view ourselves and how we subsequently relate to and try to know others, the harmful effects of which are both ethical and spiritual.