Sunday, September 23, 2007


This weekend I read a very intriguing chapter from Evelyn Underhill's Essentials of Mysticism (1920) on the medieval English mystic, Julian of Norwich. Even though I've been told that I have a rather wide mystical streak, I really don't know that much about mysticism, but reading this little chapter has increased my desire to learn more about it, and especially about Julian.

Why does this medieval woman intrigue me so? Partially it's because of her illness (something I can relate to). Partially it's because I love medieval writers, especially medieval WOMEN writers. Partially it's because Julian speaks some real truth despite (or perhaps because of) her cloistered life. Partially it's her refusal to worry and her joyfulness of heart, something I strive for (most imperfectly) to imitate. And partially it's because I've experienced God talking to me, although not with the visual visions she experienced which I consider well in the realm of possibility for every Christian.

I have a Norton Critical edition of Julian's main work, her Showings (Revelations) sitting in my tall and teetering reading stack, along with another Norton edition of the works of Margery of Kempe, a contemporary of Julian as well as another female mystic. I have yet to break open Julian's work, mostly because I have so many books started, plus library books I'm doing research from that need to be returned soon (like this week!). Once I get a few more theology books finished, I'll pick up Julian and thoroughly engulf myself in her writings. I have a feeling that if I ever get back into grad school to pursue my doctorate, I will end up studying my medieval women mystics, especially Julian.

This little chapter, from which I took copious notes as always, has whetted my appetite to study my medieval mystics, especially Julian and Margery. I plan to be picking them up later this fall and immerse myself in my favorite literary time period, one I feel drawn to for the same reasons I feel drawn to more liturgical faith practices: the reality of God is soooooo tangible. Curled up under my olive-green velour throw on our sofa, studying a little bit about Julian of Norwich, was an excellent way to spend a cool and windy weekend.

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