Document Type


Date of Degree

Fall 2011

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Religious Studies

First Advisor

Klemm, David E.

First Committee Member

Jasper, David

Second Committee Member

Mentzer, Raymond A.

Third Committee Member

Merrill, Christopher

Fourth Committee Member

Peters, John Durham


The practice of contemplative silence, in its manifestation as a mode of capable being, is a self-consciously spiritual and ethical activity that aims at a transformation of reflexive consciousness. I assert that contemplative silence manifests a mode of capable being in which we have an awareness of the awareness of the awareness of being with being whereby we can constitute and create a shared world of meaning(s) through poetically presencing our being as being with others. The doubling and tripling of the term "awareness" refers to five contextual levels of awareness, which are analyzed, including immediate self-awareness, immediate objective awareness, reflective awareness, reflexive awareness, and contemplative awareness. The analysis culminates with the claim that contemplative silence manifests a mode of capable being, one which creates the conditions of the possibility for contemplative awareness. A hermeneutics of contemplative silence manifests a deeper level of awareness--contemplative awareness--as a poetics of presencing our human solidarity. Contemplative awareness includes both an experience and an understanding of the proper ordering of our relational realities. My claim is that contemplative awareness can and should accompany the practice of contemplative silence in order to appropriate the meaning of a silence embodied in the here and now, through the hermeneutical endeavor. Contemplative awareness elicits movement in thinking, and involves the ongoing exercise of rethinking our relational realities in and for the world.

I join three moments in the hermeneutical process--description, explanation, and interpretation--with the three moments in the traditional religious journey to spiritual and ethical maturity--the purgative, the illuminative, and the unitive. I present a conceptual framework that opens to hermeneutics, and a way to think about ongoing appropriation of a mode of capable being as growth in the human capacity to make and carry meaning. The threefold way, as it is interpreted in this study, is a heuristic model of the invariant elements of the tradition of contemplative silence. There is reflexivity to the structure, because a study of the practice is an exemplification of the practice, which produces the very practice that it is talking about.


Carmelite tradition, Christian mysticism, contemplative silence, hermeneutical philosophy, Paul Ricoeur, silence


vii, 347 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 329-347).


Copyright 2011 Michele Therese Kueter Petersen

Included in

Religion Commons