Monday, November 9, 2015

Julian of Norwich

Julian of Norwich was a Christian mystic who lived (based on internal references in her writings) from about 1342 to 1415. We know little about her personal life: biography was not a common genre at the time. We are not even sure that he name is Julian; she is called that because she was an anchoress at the Church of St. Julian in Norwich, England.

Statue of Julian in Norwich Cathedral
She became deathly ill at the age of 30. While a priest held a crucifix over her while giving last rites, she began to experience visions. In her book Revelations of Divine Love, she describes the visions she had over the following 16 hours, after which she recovered from her illness. She wrote about the visions, starting immediately after her recovery. (This may be the first book written by a woman in the English language.) Many years later, she wrote her own explication of her visions in a much longer book, called The Long Text. (It was 63,500 words, whereas the Revelations was 11,000.)

This blog has previously discussed her metaphor of "God as Mother," but she was known for a couple other particular philosophies. She believed more in a God who loved and wanted to save everyone than a God who judged and condemned some to everlasting punishment. She felt that sin was the result of ignorance, not evil; people sinned through lack of knowledge, and through sinning gained the knowledge that God had a role in their lives. Sinning was failure, and through failure we learn; also, the pain that resulted from sinning mirrored the suffering that Christ endured, and therefore brought people closer to Christ.

Some of her ideas were very controversial; however, there is no evidence that she was criticized in her lifetime. This was not due to obscurity: she was very well-known in England and beyond. Copies of her texts were edited by well-known clerics of the day. It may be that the Church simply did not put much credence in her writings because of her sex. 

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