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Mystical Insights
Dr. Orville Boyd Jenkins
A review of the book by Julian of Norwich (trans. Elizabeth Spearing)
Revelations of Divine Love (London:  Penguin Books, 1998.  193p, plus 42p of front matter)

Currently available in an edition from D.S.Brewer, 1998, 102 pages.

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This volume includes 2 versions of this medieval author's work, a long text and short text from the period; Front matter includes a substantial introduction by A. C. Shearing, and a translator's preface, as well as a reading list of related materials.  Three appendices provide additional material on Julian.

The First
Julian is thought to be the first writer in the English language known to be a woman, and one of the few in any European language.  She was a mystic, writing in the late 1300s or early 1400s.  It is thought this book was written in 1373.  The book reports a series of 15 revelations - visions she received in a trance state.  She reports on the encounters with Deity and the insights, teachings or instructions she received in each one.

She reports that these visions came as a result of her conscious prayer expressing her desire to become totally devoted to God and to love God more deeply.  She received the visions, which she calls "showings," during a deathly illness, which she also says she requested, in order to complete her detachment of focus from selfish cares, to become totally dependent on God.  This is characteristic of the extreme measures taken by many mystics to experience oneness with the Ultimate.

Feminine Characteristics of God
One of the unique perspectives she contributes is a strong focus on the "feminine" characteristics of God.  One notable feature of her creative theological reflection [unusual in mystics] appears in her presentation of the mother role of God.  She reflects on God, the Saviour Jesus and even the Holy Spirit, as mother.  She wrestles with the traditional terminology of the simplistic, scholastic theology of the patriarchal medieval world, reinterpreting it in terms of her personal experiences of mystical faith.

Julian seems to break with the popular cult of Mariolatry which grew from the 200s or 300s [some say from the early decades of the new movement] and was rampant and deep in European devotion in the Middle Ages.  While nominally acknowledging or accommodating the adoration of Mary, Julian ignores the patriarchal requirements of standard European thought of the time.

Julian instead presents the nurturing mother-role of God or Jesus in direct terms as inherent characteristics of the nature of the Deity.  She addresses prayers and devotion to the Godhead as mother - NOT to Mary as Mother of God.

See related reviews and articles on this site:
[review] God, Heaven and Human Knowledge
[Review] Mysticism, the Wound of Knowledge
Quantum Physics Experiment Searches for the Soul
[review] Souls from Science
How "Souls" Came Into Existence in Human Evolution, from a Hindu Worldview Perspective

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First review notes made 28 September 2006
Finalized and Posted on Thoughts and Resources 16 October 2007
Reviewed on Amazon 4 March 2009
Last edited 31 December 2013

Orville Boyd Jenkins, EdD, PhD
Copyright © 2007 Orville Boyd Jenkins
Permission granted for free download and transmission for personal or educational use.  Please give credit and link back.  Other rights reserved.

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