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New Scholarly Book to Explore A Hindu-Catholic Approach to Divine Absence

By: for ISKCON News on April 11, 2014
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The book's author professor Francis X. Clooney

His Hiding Place is Darkness: A Hindu-Catholic Theopoetics of Divine Absence by Harvard professor Francis X. Clooney explores the uncertainties of faith and love in a pluralistic age. In keeping with his conviction that studying multiple religious traditions intensifies rather than attenuates religious devotion, Francis Clooney's latest work of comparative theology seeks a way beyond today's religious and interreligious uncertainty by pairing a fresh reading of the absence of the beloved in the Biblical Song of Songs with a pioneering study of the same theme in the Holy Word of Mouth (9th century CE), a classic of Hindu mystical poetry rarely studied in the West. 

Remarkably, the pairing of these texts is grounded not in a general theory of religion, but in an engagement with two unexpected sources: the theopoetics, theodramatics, and theology of the 20th-century Catholic theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar, and the intensely perceived and written poetry of Pulitzer Prize winner Jorie Graham. How we read and write on religious matters is transformed by this rare combination of voices in what is surely a unique and important contribution to comparative studies and religious hermeneutics.


"Clooney's engaging style draws readers into two culturally, temporally, and linguistically different ancient poetic worlds. This humane and beautiful book is a work of great scholarship."—Gavin Flood, University of Oxford

"An unquenchable longing and passion of the lover in God's absence is observed, even intensely felt by the reader, when Clooney juxtaposes passages of the Song of Solomon with parallel passages of the Tiruvaymoli, or the Holy Word. The effect of this is as powerful as it is poignant: the reader not only observes lovers within these two traditions desperately seeking their divine beloved, but the reader is drawn ever more into this new community of divine mystery and secretiveness that Clooney so eloquently creates in his work. The reader is drawn into the theopoetics and theodrama that brings out a desperate and intense longing that lovers of God from both traditions share. Clooney's work contributes to a religious 'pluralism' that reveals something of a newer theological moment, a spark of revelational power that enters into fresh understandings of the intimate depths of divinity."—Graham M. Schweig, Christopher Newport University

About the Author

Francis X. Clooney, S.J. is Parkman Professor of Divinity and Professor of Comparative Theology at the Harvard Divinity School, where he also directs the Center for the Study of World Religions. A Roman Catholic priest and a member of the Society of Jesus, he is the author of numerous books, including Beyond Compare: St. Francis de Sales and Sri Vedanta Desika on Loving Surrender to God (2008) and Comparative Theology: Deep Learning across Religious Borders (2010). In 2010, Clooney was elected a Fellow of the British Academy. One of his main field of research is Vaishnavism. 

The book is available at

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