Corpus mysticum, Stefan Rossbach essay

Anti-Humanism: Reflections on Social Systems Theory

Stefan Rossbach has a wonderful chapter in Observing International Relations: Niklas Luhmann and World Politics, edited by Mathias Albert & Lena Hilkermeir, 2004. The essay is titled “‘Corpus mysticum’: Niklas Luhmann’s Evocation of World Society.”

Rossbach, in discussing Luhmann’s links to early mystics and Gnosticism, has helped me realize why (despite the difficult, often dry reading) I felt an immediate affinity for Luhmannian theory. Back in the early 1980s, I was reading things like the Meister EckhartThe Cloud of Unknowing, and St John of the Cross, as well as Zen Buddhism and other Eastern mysticisms.  As a 20-year-old, I found St. John of the Cross‘s negative theology, or via negativa, particularly fascinating.

Rossbach links Luhmann to mystics such as Jakob Boehme and Nicholas of Cusa. Here is one passage from Rossbach’s essay:

Contemplating the history of Western philosophy, Luhmann noted that 2,000 years of searching for “essence” had…

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