His Hiding Place is Darkness 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.
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.
"Clooney's book is rich in covering a number of topics in relatively few pages while remaining eminently readable. Its engaging quality is brought about, in part, by a structure that echoes its central argument: theology must wait upon and be generated from the experience of a poetic and dramatic encounter . . . It is a proposal of and a propaedeutic to a particular mode of doing theology; it pleads for patient waiting, slow reading across traditions, and attention to the dramatic and poetic. As such, it is a worthwhile addition to the perennial debates—especially in the context of Catholic theology in North America—about what theology is and how it should be done."
—Jennifer L. Benedict, Theological Studies
"In his latest book His Hiding Place Is Darkness: A Hindu-Catholic Theopoetics of Divine Absence, Francis X. Clooney takes his comparative work in exciting new directions. The book marks a continuation of Clooney's significant contributions toward developing comparative theology as a robust and active subfield in religious studies, and Clooney's extended exposition on the theme of 'divine absence' across two texts from the Christian and Hindu traditions is his most intensely personal and remarkably poetic work to date. Reading closely across these historically disparate yet thematically intertwined texts, His Hiding Place Is Darkness offers a remarkably lucid analysis that both showcases the interpretive acumen of an accomplished comparative theologian and opens up new possibilities for the field of comparative theology . . . Ultimately, Clooney offers a compelling comparative reading of the Song of Songs and the Tiruvaymoli based on his own finely-honed interpretive abilities as well as insights from the commentarial tradition of each text. The result of this effort is a beautifully-written manuscript that blends the grinding work of translation and textual analysis with the imaginative possibilities opened up through poetry . . . This book marks an important point in Clooney's own 'continuous forward striving' as an accomplished scholar and writer, and it is one that should be taken seriously by scholars in a variety of subfields across religious studies and especially by scholars in comparative theology."
—Jason W. Smith, Journal of Comparative Theology
"Clooney's work therefore offers a challenge to Christian theologians to overcome their sometimes parochial engagements with biblical horizons and to seek out the Spirit, which blows where it wills, through gardens other than Gethsemane and on hills other than Golgotha. As we follow the travails of the two women, we become aware of a few common themes that emerge from his detailed textual readings . . . One of the great merits of His Hiding Place Is Darkness is that it highlights the human predicament, in a world of religious pluralism, of searching for the beloved who constantly upsets all human certainties."
—Ankur Barua, H-Catholic
"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