Bruce Grindal's Hidden Theology, Kabbalah, and the Need for a Humanistic Theodicy


Cook School of Intercultural Studies

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While Bruce Grindal never explicitly disclosed his own religious outlook in print, in the epilogue of the draft prospectus for his unpublished book on religious life in North Florida, he professed a “spiritual” impulsion to “admit to being one of the many” and implied that he fit a category he dubbed “quasi‐religious.” I would not be the first to observe that even the most secular, allegedly impartial anthropology has a spiritual dimension. I believe that Dr. Grindal's anthropology—perhaps owing to decades of quiet reflection upon his experience of mysterious happenings during his sojourn among the Sisala—was particularly spiritual in this manner, even if not expressly so. Grindal himself likened humanistic inquiry to “a spiritual quest” and the classroom give and take to “listening to a myth and participating in a ritual.” While his published works are elusive on the matter, in graduate seminars and undergraduate lectures, office hours conversations and impromptu bull sessions, there were occasional flashes of disclosure and candid exposition of his personal convictions about the sacral mysteries of the universe. In this essay, I endeavor to demonstrate how a bricolage of such noncanonical remarks permits us to descry the underlying influence of a somewhat patchwork secret theology in Bruce Grindal's writings on synergetic consciousness and his lectures on normative anthropology and ethics. Further, I enter into dialogue with Bruce's reconstituted theology and humbly attempt to offer emendations to one area he left underdeveloped by bringing it into conversation with the Jewish mystical tradition of Kabbalah: the problem of suffering and evil.


Theodicy; Suffering

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Anthropology and Humanism Quarterly





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