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In his recent history of Christian mysticism, Bernard McGinn appeals to the model of conversation to characterize a new mysticism emerging during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. The transmission or manuscript circulation of mystical texts grows out of this conversation. Mystics have visions in which they converse with God, and, obeying his command or that of his priestly agent, they transmit his words to others. For example, Hildegard of Bingen (1098–1179) opens her Scivias (short for Scito Vias Domini [Know the Ways of God]) with a declaration in which she reports a voice from heaven telling her to “speak therefore of these wonders, and being so taught, write them and speak.” Hildegard’s contemporary, Elisabeth of Schonau (1129–64), was also graced with visions that a guiding angel explained to her andxsxs that her brother Ekbert recorded in a series of books. Ekbert reports that Elisabeth was “compelled by familial love and by order of the abbot to explain in intimate detail the whole thing to this cleric.” A century later, at the beginning of Mechthild of Magdeburg’s (ca. 1210–82) The Flowing Light of the Godhead, God is quoted as saying: “This book I hereby send as a messenger to all religious people, both the bad and the good.” Later in the book, Mechthild refers to her confessor having commanded her to write. Finally, Henry Suso (1295–1366) received a divine command to share his mystical path. In the preface to his “Life,” he reports that a nun in his spiritual care (Elsbeth Stagel, d. ca. 1360) had begun composing it without his knowledge. When he discovered this “theft,” he reproached her and burned the pages she had with her, but when about to burn a second batch of pages, “this was hindered by a celestial message from God which prevented it.”

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge Companion to Christian Mysticism
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)9781139020886
ISBN (Print)9780521863650
StatePublished - Jan 1 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Arts and Humanities


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