Georgetown Professor Explores Reality and Appearance in New Book

Mar 20, 2018

A new book by Georgetown University in Qatar (GU-Q) Professor Patrick Laude delves into the concepts of Reality and Appearance and their relevance to contemporary religious consciousness. Shimmering Mirrors: Reality and Appearance in Contemplative Metaphysics East and West is a study of comparative metaphysics that considers how these concepts are represented across a broad range of religions.

“In a sense, this book is a complement to my previous book Apocalypse des religions (Apocalypse of Religions) published two years ago in Paris,” explained Laude. “It follows up on a critique of contemporary religion, or religions, as being largely characterized by a reduction of religious phenomena to ideology and psychology, and focuses on the positive complement of this critique, by arguing that the ideological and psychological flattening down of religions has been largely a consequence of the neglect or forgetting of their metaphysical and spiritual core.”

Laude explained how the book calls for a return to metaphysics, to avoid this reductionist tendency that has been introduced to oversimplify religious concepts and reduce them to matters of collective and individual identity.

“Metaphysics, a word that tends to either frighten or amuse, can be most simply defined as a discernment between Reality and Appearance,” he explained. “In traditions as diverse as Neo-Platonism and Hindu Advaita it is intrinsically connected to, and fulfilled in, ethical and contemplative practices.” “In the book, I study the manners in which some major schools of world spirituality from East and West modulate the various aspects of the relationship between Reality and Appearance. I analyze some of the ways in which they differ in their understanding of this relationship, as well as the common grounds non-dual metaphysics may afford.”

The title of the book, Shimmering Mirrors, was chosen as it suggests that the two concepts are intertwined. As Laude explained, “Reality is mirrored in Appearance and Appearance in Reality.”

“What I'd like the readers to get from this book, which is sometimes conceptually complex, is that metaphysics is not just an abstraction but the very core of religious realities without which the latter become mere ‘appearances’.”

Laude, a former student of École Normale Supérieure who holds a Ph.D. from Indiana University, teaches theology at GU-Q and is the author of a dozen books, including Pathways to an Inner Islam: Massignon, Corbin, Guénon, and Schuon and Louis Massignon: The Vow and the Oath.

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