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Mystiek > Over mystiek > Geschiedenis > Christelijk

Appendix (19)

Middeleeuwen: Engelse mystiek

English mysticism seems to have its roots in the religious revival which arose during Stephen's reign. It was then, and throughout its course, closely linked with the solitary life. Its earliest literary monument, the "Ancren Riwle," was written early in the twelfth century for the use of three anchoresses. So too the "Meditations" of St. Aldred (Abbot of Rievaulx 1146-1166), and the Rule he wrote for his anchoress sister, presuppose the desire for the mystical life. But the first English mystic we can name with certainty is Margery Kempe (probably writing c. 1290), the anchoress of Lynn. Even so, we know nothing of this woman's life; and only a fragment of her "Contemplations" has survived. It is with the next name, Richard Rolle of Hampole (c. 1300-1349), that the short but brilliant procession of English mystics begins. Rolle, educated at Oxford and perhaps at Paris, and widely read in theology, became a hermit in order to live in perfection that mystic life of "Heat, Sweetness, and Song," to which he felt himself to be called. Richard of St. Victor, St. Bernard, and St. Bonaventura are the authors who have influenced him most; but he remains, in spite of this, one of the most individual of all writers on mysticism. A voluminous author, his chief works are still in MS., and he seems to have combined the careers of writer and wandering preacher with that of recluse. He laid claim to direct inspiration, was outspoken in his criticisms of religious and secular life, and in the next generation the Lollards were found to appeal to his authority. Rolle already shows the practical temper characteristic of the English school. His interest was not philosophy, but spiritual life; and especially his own experience of it. There is a touch of Franciscan poetry in his descriptions of his communion with Divine Love, and the "heavenly song" in which it was expressed; of Franciscan ardour in his zeal for souls. His works greatly influenced succeeding English mystics.

He was followed in the second half of the fourteenth century by the unknown author of "The Cloud of Unknowing" and its companion treatises, and by the gracious spirit of Walter Hilton (ob. 1396). With "The Cloud of Unknowing," the spirit of Dionysius first appears in English literature. It is the work of an advanced contemplative, deeply influenced by the Areopagite and the Victorines, who was also an acute psychologist. From the hand that wrote it came the first English translation of the "Theologia Mystica," "Dionise Hid Divinite": a work which, says an old writer, "ran across England at deere rates," so ready was the religious consciousness of the time for the reception of mystical truth.

Hilton, though also influenced by Dionysius and Richard of St. Victor, addresses a wider audience. He is pre-eminently a spiritual director, the practical teacher of interior ways, not a metaphysician; and his great work "The Scale of Perfection" quickly took rank among the classics of the spiritual life. The moment of his death coincides with the completion of the most beautiful of all English mystical works, the "Revelations of Love" of the anchoress Julian of Norwich (1343 - died after 1413), "theodidacta, profunda, ecstatica," whose unique personality closes and crowns the history of English medieval mysticism. In her the best gifts of Rolle and Hilton are transmuted by a "genius for the infinite" of a peculiarly beautiful and individual type. She was a seer, a lover, and a poet. Though considerable theological knowledge underlies her teaching, it is in essence the result of a direct and personal vision of singular intensity.

Gods enige echte stem is de stilte.
- Angelus Silesius -

Underhill, Evelyn: Mysticism
A study in the nature and development of Man's spiritual consciousness
Cover van Evelyn Underhill: MysticismDit boek van Evelyn Underhill is een onbetwistbare klassieker t.a.v. het onderwerp mystiek. Ook al is het in 1910 voor het eerst gepubliceerd, Underhills boek
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