Date of Award


Document Type

M.A. Essay

First Advisor

Christopher MacEvitt

Second Advisor

Isabel Lozano-Renieblas


The neoliberal society we live in encourages a constant maximization of the “project of the self.” The tradition of Christian mysticism, centered on self-denial and passivity, provides an alternative understanding of the self. In this essay, I draw testimonial and theoretical accounts of mysticism from the autobiography of a 16th-century Spanish nun, Teresa of Ávila, and essays from a 20th-century French philosopher, Simone Weil. By bringing these two authors in conversation, I hope to illuminate three aspects of self-effacement in the Christian mystical tradition. I first start with discussing the idea of labor as a means to prepare for self-annihilation by rendering the self porous through trauma, which heightens the self’s awareness of its own limit and dependence. The second section argues that the crux of Teresa and Weil’s self-effacement lies in their understanding of Christ’s incarnation and a desire to imitate him. This is done through identifying with Christ’s suffering body or mirroring Christ’s relinquishment of divinity to descend into the human world. Lastly, I explore apophatic language as a suitable mode of representing self-effacement. Teresa and Weil’s use of apophatic language reflects an understanding of God as something beyond the capacity of human intellect and justifies their desire in passively receiving the divine. Throughout this essay, I critically examine the notion of passivity both as internalized by these two mystics as well as sometimes performative and constructed.