Vulnerable embodiment : a critical analysis of Henri Nouwen’s spiritual formation theology and its possible value for the discourse on Gender and Health

Van der Merwe, Adriaan Ferreira (2015-03)

Thesis (MTh)--Stellenbosch University, 2015.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This study investigates whether the counter-cultural spiritual formation theology of Henri Nouwen could make a significant contribution to the discourse on an inclusive, gender-equitable, spirituality-based approach to holistic health. An analysis of Nouwen’s literary output reveals that three main relationships feature in the majority of his works: the relationship to self, the relationship to others and the relationship to God. This foundational framework of Nouwen is then used to structure the rest of the study to get an indication of the possible enduring value of certain core concepts that Nouwen developed within his triad of “movements” toward wholeness. In his thinking about the movement of Reaching out to our Fellow Human Beings, the concept of Vulnerability emerged as a key component of his theology. This forms the focus of investigation in Chapter 3 of this study. The movement of Reaching out to our Innermost Self led to an evaluation of the current usefulness of Nouwen’s seminal thinking on Embodiment, in chapter 4. In Chapter 5 the possible value of Nouwen’s lifelong engagement with Mystery as basis for his movement of Reaching Out to our God, is considered. In each of these chapters Nouwen’s possible contribution is brought into conversation with the current discourse in this field. This study then suggests that following the “downwardly mobile” way of Henri Nouwen’s spirituality of vulnerable embodiment could add a valuable contemplative dimension to the current conversation on global health and wellness. This approach may open up a range of important questions in the areas of vulnerability, embodiment and mysticism.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Hierdie studie stel ondersoek in na die vraag of die kontra-kulturele spiritualiteitsvorming-teologie van Henri Nouwen ’n betekenisvolle bydrae kan lewer tot die huidige diskoers rondom ’n geslagsgelyke, spiritualiteit-gebaseerde benadering tot holistiese gesondheid. ’n Analise van Nouwen se literere bydraes dui aan dat drie basiese verhoudinge ’n prominente rol speel in die meeste van sy werke: die verhouding tot self, die verhouding tot ander mense en die verhouding tot God. Hierdie grondliggende raamwerk van Nouwen word dan gebruik om die struktuur van die res van die studie te bepaal om daardeur ’n aanduiding te probeer kry oor die moontlike blywende waarde van sekere kernkonsepte wat Nouwen ontwikkel het binne sy drieledige stel “bewegings” na heelheid. Uit sy denke rondom die beweging wat hy Uitreik na ons Medemense noem, het die konsep kwesbaarheid na vore gekom as ’n sleutelbegrip in sy teologie. Dit is die navorsingsfokus van Hoofstuk 3 van hierdie studie. In Hoofstuk 4 word die moontlike bydrae van Nouwen se ontwikkelende denke rondom beliggaming ondersoek, na aanleiding van sy beskrywing van die beweging Uitreik na ons Diepste Self. In Hoofstuk 5 word ondersoek ingestel na die moontlike waarde wat Nouwen se lewenslange betrokkenheid by die mistiek mag inhou, na aanleiding van wat hy skryf oor die beweging van Uitreik na ons God. In elkeen van hierdie hoofstukke word Nouwen se moontlike waardetoevoeging in verband gebring met die huidige diskoers in hierdie area. Hierdie studie suggereer dan dat die “afwaartse beweging” van Henri Nouwen se spiritualiteit van kwesbare beliggaming ’n waardevolle kontemplatiewe dimensie mag toevoeg tot die huidige diskoers oor globale gesondheid en welwese. Hierdie benadering mag ’n verskeidenheid belangrike vrae na vore bring op die terreine van kwesbaarheid, beliggaming en mistiek.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/97011
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