The Mystical Aesthetic: Howard Thurman and the Art of Meaning
Steele, Amy Elizabeth
This dissertation explores the ways in which religious experience is supported by aesthetic structures in the works of Howard Washington Thurman, twentieth century mystic, scholar of religion, poet and pastor. I theorize the mystical aesthetic and then show how it under-girds Thurman’s understanding of black expressive culture, namely in his interpretation of the spirituals and through his preaching. I explore the artistry of the mystical aesthetic and how it is reconstituted for public purposes. In sum, Thurman’s writing about mystical experience is no mere description, but intentional display. His work is an invitation to experience the religious. Thurman’s mystical aesthetic is not an escape from the ethical life but rather a compulsion toward it.