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Pour une histoire de l’expérience : le laboratoire médiéval

The experience of monastic meditation in the eleventh and twelfth centuries

Lauren Mancia

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  • 1 I would like to thank the participants in the Séminaire de recherche en ligne, Pour une histoire de (...)
  • 2 See, for instance, A. Obermeier and R. Kennison, « The Privileging of Visio over Vox in the Mystica (...)
  • 3 W. James, The Varieties of Religious Experience, New York, Random House, 1994.
  • 4 See, for instance, G. Althoff, Rules and Rituals in Medieval Power Games, Leiden, Brill, 2020.

1When considering the category of religious « experience » in the Middle Ages1, many medievalists and scholars of religion reach directly for their collections of late medieval mystical writings, equating religious « experience » with mystical « vision »2. Medievalists, and scholars of religion more generally, have often associated « religious experience » with rapture, deeming ineffability and passivity to be the only signs of religious experience’s « genuineness » or « inwardness ». The passivity of such religious experience was particularly important to William James, who famously described « religious experience » as an encounter with the divine that happens to a subject, rather than one instigated by them. James’ idea exposes a bias against the cultivation and instigation of religious experiences – a bias that seems to have infiltrated modern scholarship as well3. The regulated and prescribed nature of the medieval liturgy, for instance, or of other devotional celebrations externally imposed top-down by the medieval Church, are regularly seen by scholars as dogmatic, or manipulative, or as a kind of institutional mind control (as opposed to « genuine » experience) of the devotee4.

  • 5 See, for instance, T. Asad, « On ritual and discipline in medieval Christian monasticism », Economy (...)
  • 6 J. Arnold, « Histories and historiographies of medieval Christianity », The Oxford Handbook of Medi (...)
  • 7 S. Katajala-Peltomaa and R. Toivo, Lived Religion and Gender in Late Medieval and Early Modern Euro (...)
  • 8 A. Hollywood, « Gender, Agency, and the Divine in Religious Historiography », The Journal of Religi (...)

2Moreover, apart from a few key figures like Augustine or Bernard of Clairvaux, some of the authorities doing the prescribing of devotional practice and the writing of devotional scripts in medieval society – clerics, theologians, and, most important for our purposes, abbots and monks – are consequently questioned as « experiencers » of religion themselves. Part of this is because abbots and monks are sometimes depicted by scholars as either unfeeling instructors or, more often than not, manipulative authoritarians, more interested in controlling their audiences with their regulations than feeling genuinely connected to their own ideas5. Yet it is also because, with the influence of the Annales school, medieval historians interested in « lived religion » further distinguished sources for religious experience from theology and other products of the institutional Church, characterizing experience as the domain of the layman, the heretic, the woman, or other « popular », extra-institutional individuals in medieval society6. As Sari Katajala-Peltomaa and Raisa Toivo have said in their recent book, « trying to get at popular conceptions of religion and faith as separate from what theologians taught or thought – to shift the focus from what a few men thought to what many people did – has led to a dichotomous still-life picture with often inherently judgmental or devaluative underpinnings »7. The study of « religious experience » was therefore often left to theologians, who were often themselves monks, nuns, or clerics, and were therefore increasingly discredited as objective scholars by the humanist academy, as opposed to historians of philosophy, who were seemingly more rational and less personally invested in their analyses. With the work of Caroline Walker Bynum in the late twentieth century, the study of women’s religious experience became legitimized again as a legitimate subject for « objective » scholars of the secular academy – but the religious experiences of monastic men, and powerful orthodox Benedictine abbots especially, remained neglected8.

3The study of monastic devotional experience – especially male Benedictine experience before the twelfth century – has thus been deeply affected by all these historiographical forces. Eleventh- and twelfth-century Benedictine monks, often explicitly members of the institutional Church as papal advisors, Church Fathers, persecutors of heretics, and educated theologians, are not regularly upheld as practitioners of « lived religion » – such practitioners are exclusively considered to be Cistercians and Franciscans in the historiography. Benedictines are instead depicted as chained to the Rule of Saint Benedict, as going through the liturgical motions, as brainwashed religious automatons. Additionally, according to the sources, the experience of God in the Jamesian sense – i.e. union with God – was actually one of the most elusive tasks for these elite, privileged medieval monks and nuns in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. Especially in this period, monastics took great care to describe their efforts to experience God not as satisfying, but rather as a complete struggle. Indeed, according to Benedictine writers, their attempts to reach God were so regularly thwarted that we should actually characterize our notion of monastic religious « experience » in meditation not as an experience of union, but as an experience of God’s absence, and an experience of feeble humanity, filled with strife, frailty, and inadequacy. The experience of monastic meditation in the eleventh- and twelfth-century was confusing, disheartening, and frustrating, particularly in contrast with later devotional texts. In fact, « experience » in this period was something that medieval monks and nuns themselves distinguished as a thing that they did, something embodied and internalized, separate from acquiring divine « knowledge ». In the monastic conception, God could not be completely understood without both knowledge – book learning and experience of God – two distinct ways of knowing for monastic writers. And the latter way – experience – was the more elusive of the two, no matter how powerful, educated, and privileged the monastic devotee might have been.

  • 9 Bernard of Clairvaux, Sermones super Cantica Canticorum, sermo 3, par. 1 : « in libro experientiae  (...)

4In one of his most famous sermons on the Song of Songs, Bernard of Clairvaux called this second way of knowing the « book of experience »9. This article will investigate the features of that « book » in the eleventh- and twelfth-century medieval monastery: namely, that it was understood as practiced, not intellectualized; that it was sought internally, not performed externally; and that it was filled with inadequacy and uncertainty on the part of the monastic devotees.

1. Meditative experience as practiced action

  • 10 J. Leclercq, The Love of Learning and the Desire for God, New York, Fordham University Press, 1982.
  • 11 Guigo II, Epistola de vita contemplativa (Scala Claustralium). II, De quatuor gradibus: « Meditatio (...)

5Medieval monks and nuns thought of the foundational stage in meditative ascent as lectio, or reading, namely, the acquisition of knowledge, the consumption of the prescription of what should be done10. To the Carthusian Guigo II, who wrote the Scala claustralium in the second half of the twelfth century, reading was the spiritual exercise of collecting ideas, knowledge, and theories. But ultimately, meditatio, Guigo II says, was considered to be a different stage from lectio. Meditation was the « busy application of the mind to seek with the help of one’s reason for knowledge of hidden truth »11. Meditation was considered knowledge applied to practice, knowledge internalized « in the heart », practice based on what lectio had prescribed, practice seeking hidden understanding. Complete knowledge was considered a marriage of learning and doing, and therefore could not be fully acquired by monks and nuns simply by reading, but also by applying and experiencing knowledge internally, through feeling. The reading was the easy part. It was the application of what was read to the experience of meditation that was difficult to achieve (even for monks and nuns who dedicated their lives to achieving it).

  • 12 W. Christian, « Provoked Religious Weeping in Early Modern Spain », Religion and Emotion: Approache (...)
  • 13 M. B. Pranger, The Artificiality of Christianity, Stanford, Stanford University Press, 2003, p. 23- (...)
  • 14 E. Underhill, Mysticism, New York, Bantam, 1990, p. 22-28 and 40-42.
  • 15 P. Nagy and D. Boquet, Medieval Sensibilities: A History of Emotions in the Middle Ages, Medford, P (...)

6Therefore, in the eleventh- and twelfth-century monastery in particular, religious « experience » was aggressively solicited and cultivated by monks and nuns12. There were several ways by which such practice was encouraged. First, through the monastic environment: M. B. Pranger describes the whole monastic landscape as « artificial », constructed precisely in order to create an intense religious experience through the sharp contrast between monastic life and society outside the monastery. By stripping one’s life of secular pleasures through the monastic contemptus mundi, a monk entered a rigorous setting in which he could more easily feel situationally-conditioned religious emotion13. Evelyn Underhill similarly notes that corporate monastic life bred religious experience specifically because the rigor and discipline of the monastic world nurtured it14. The atmosphere of penitential asceticism in the monastery, and the regulation of the monk’s physical environment (daily rituals, and practices, and even his clothing and food) served as a stimulus to condition monastic behavior, and the affective intensity of such an environment likely better encouraged not only learning, but also practiced experience as well15.

7The expectations that monks would attend to their « experiences » were not just set by their stark environment, however. From the earliest days of monasticism, such attentiveness was explicitly instructed as essential to monastic life by, for instance, early monks like John Cassian. In his Conferences, Cassian distinguishes between two kinds of knowledge, much as I described above: there was the knowledge of biblical texts, sung or written down (i.e. that which is acquired by lectio), and the knowledge of « experience » (i.e. that which was cultivated through meditatio). For Cassian, these two types of knowledge were not in opposition to each other: reasonable lectio was not distinct from more affective meditatio. That which was known from reading and that which was known from experience were part of a progression, one that moved from reading to experience, and then, eventually, from experience to more meaningful proof of what was read. Cassian says:

  • 16 John Cassian, Conlationes, X, xi, 5 : « Tunc enim Scripturae divinae nobis clarius perpatescunt, et (...)

8For divine Scripture is clearer and its inmost organs, so to speak, are revealed to us when our experience (experientia) not only perceives but even anticipates its thought, and the meaning of the words are disclosed to us not by exegesis but by proof. When we have the same disposition (affectum) in our heart with which each psalm was sung or written down, then we shall become like its author, grasping the significance beforehand rather than afterward. That is, we first take in the power of what is said, rather than the knowledge of it, recalling what has taken place or what does not take place in us in daily assaults whenever we reflect on them16.

9Here, a monk’s experience of Scripture is a kind of disposition and power that leads to a meaning that overwhelms mere « recall[ed] » knowledge. To Cassian, a monk should not just rationally understand a Scriptural text, but rather, through reading, become that text, viscerally knowing it through experience « in [the] heart », » in daily assaults » – in other words, in the proof of the body, rather than just in the head. Here, experience is the movement from reading Scripture, experiencing the power of Scripture, and then feeling the proof of Scripture in one’s heart’s disposition.

  • 17 M. Scheer, Enthusiasm: Emotional Practices of Conviction in Modern Germany, Oxford, Oxford Universi (...)

10Cassian further clarifies his own ideas on the importance of « experience » as something cultivated to be authentically lived, meaningful and « inborn ». This might seem a contradiction in terms to the modern reader, who might see authenticity as something spontaneous and « natural » or unlearned17. But Cassian explains that this is not the way monastic thinkers understood experience. Instead, knowledge was acquired through reading, but grasped and internalized by experience, which then « led the way » to further navigating the meanings sought. Cassian says:

  • 18 John Cassian, Conlationes, X, xi, 5 : « magistrantibus effectibus erudii, non ut audia, sed tamquam (...)

11Having been instructed in this way, with dispositions as our teachers, [monks] shall grasp this as something seen rather than heard, and from the inner disposition of the heart we shall bring forth not what has been committed to memory but what is inborn in the very nature of things. Thus, we shall penetrate its meaning not through the written text but with experience leading the way18.

  • 19 John Cassian, Conlationes, X, ix : « de efficacia intellectus, qui per experientiam colligitur » (J (...)

12Here we see again that the monastic mind believed that one cultivated a practice of the « disposition » « dispositio » of the heart. Knowledge might have been more passively acquired by reading, but only experience allowed it to be truly, deeply, actively understood. As Cassian puts it elsewhere in the Conferences, the « efficacy of understanding [to a monk] is gained by experience »19. In the monastic estimation, it was only once divine learning was actively lived daily that it could be truly comprehended.

  • 20 S. Sønnesyn, « Word, example, and practice: learning and the learner in twelfth-century thought », (...)
  • 21 Ibid., p. 517.
  • 22 Bernard of Clairvaux, De gradibus humilitatis et superbiae, XXII, 57 : « Quos ascendendo melius tu (...)
  • 23 Bernard of Clairvaux, De conversione ad clericos, 25 : « Solus spiritus est qui revelat : sine caus (...)

13Following Cassian, eleventh- and twelfth-century monastic scholars likewise asserted that one could not really acquire « understanding » without practice – they were inseparable. Sigbjørn Sønnesyn has shown that this principle was embraced by the twelfth- century thinkers Bernard of Clairvaux, John of Salisbury, and Hugh of Saint Victor, who all agreed that it was from the practiced « encounter » – with arguments, through their embodiment and experience, that textual knowledge could become concrete20. In his Metalogicon (1159), philosopher and bishop John of Salisbury determined that « constancy of practice » was key to understanding philosophy and virtue21. In this way, theology was not separated from affect or feeling – practice was a part of acquiring (what moderns would term) rational knowledge. Building on insights gleaned from Augustine’s De magistro and Confessions, John emphasized that, just as infants learned language by imitation and practice, monks should use the practice of meditatio to climb to lofty insights. The Cistercian Bernard reiterated this same point, saying that experience taught monks at a deeper level than book learning did. He says in his On the Steps of Humility and Pride that it is only through the action of climbing – not just by reading how to climb – that one really comes to know and understand humility: « As you climb up », Bernard says directly to his reader, « you will read [these ideas] better in your heart than in this book »22. In On Conversion, Bernard similarly says that « you do not need to look [conversion] up in the pages of a book. Look to experience instead »23. Practiced experience was key to acquiring knowledge in these monastic texts, even to the point that the book of experience was privileged over the book of knowledge.

  • 24 C. Straw, « Job’s Sin in the Moralia of Gregory the Great », A Companion to Job in the Middle Ages, (...)
  • 25 Ibid., p. 100.
  • 26 Aelred of Rievaulx, De institutione inclusarium, par. 9 : « Nunquam te improvidam, nunquam te spiri (...)
  • 27 Aelred of Rievaulx, De institutione inclusarium, par. 20 : « Te, soror, nunquam volo esse securam; (...)

14There was trepidation about the dangerous stasis that could come with avoiding experience and not putting understanding into practice. Many monastic authors warned against monks who believed they were done with active practice because they felt they « understood » religious principles. A confidence in one’s own achieved understanding of the religious life could lead to lazy sinfulness. By stressing experience, monks required heightened awareness and constant striving for all, even the most learned of monks. Classic monastic texts like Gregory the Great’s Moralia in Job prescribed monks constantly engage in « self-examination and self-restraint »24. Gregory insisted that a monk « must always scrutinize the soul for hidden sins and repent of them, even if one does not know what they are »25. To Gregory, novices did not have to scrutinize as much as « expert » monks; in fact, the more advanced a monk, the more diligent he needed to be with his self-scrutiny. Following Gregory, twelfth-century monks like the Cistercian Aelred of Rievaulx gave similar advice to their readers. To a female acolyte, Aelred says: « in this life we are all prey to inconstancy, as we never remain long in the same state of mind, we will best avoid idleness by the alternation of exercises and safeguard our peace by varying our occupations »26. He later warns: « I would have you never rest secure but always be afraid »27. By stressing practiced experience as an important route in the religious life whether you were a novice or an abbot, monastic texts ensured that monks would not grow overly confident and stale in their divine pursuits, abandoning actively engaged experience simply because they « understood ».

2. Meditative experience as inward

  • 28 John Cassian, Conlationes, X, ix, 2 : « sed ipsis quodammodo experientiae minibus penetralia eius e (...)
  • 29 Augustine, Confessiones, VIII, vii, 18 : « intus » (Augustine, Confessions, ed. J. O’Donnell, Oxfor (...)
  • 30 Augustine, Confessions, VII, xxi, 27 : « non tantum cernendam sed habitandam » (Augustine, Confessi (...)

15When monks referred to « experience », they were not by and large referring to their bodily actions and exterior involvements, however. While it was cultivated by their exterior environment, « experience » mostly took place internally, inside the monk’s self. Cassian, Benedict, and Bernard thus all say that a monk reads the book of experience not with his eyes and lips, but « in [his] heart ». It seems to have been Augustine who first most extensively described this inner life of Christians. In his Confessions, Augustine modeled how a Christian might touch the heart’s « inner chambers and inward parts as it were with the hands of experience »28. Similarly, to Cassian, Augustine discards knowledge and embraces this inner life. Knowledge, he says, « puff[s] up » the Christian believer – is superficially and vainly acquired, not virtuously internalized. Experience, in contrast, imprints in the believer’s « inner self »29, allowing the believer to deeply adopt God « not merely as an end to be perceived [superficially] but as a realm to live in »30.

  • 31 B. Stock, Augustine the Reader: Meditation, Self-Knowledge, and the Ethics of Interpretation, New Y (...)
  • 32 N. Largier, « The Art of Prayer: Conversions of Interiority and Exteriority in Medieval Contemplati (...)
  • 33 John of Fécamp, Confessio theologica: « […] interioribus sensibus animae meae » (Un Maître de la vi (...)
  • 34 Petrus Cellensis, De conscientia, 21: « cordis scientia » (Petrus Cellensis, Opera Omnia, ed. J. P. (...)
  • 35 Petrus Cellensis, De conscientia, 2 : « Scalpello autem instantiae quaerentis quid sit conscientia, (...)
  • 36 Petrus Cellensis, De conscientia, 33: « Inchoatur autem conscientia a timore, producitur et dedicit (...)
  • 37 B. McGinn, « Mystical Consciousness: A Modest Proposal », Spiritus, 8/1, 2008, p. 44-63, esp. p. 50
  • 38 P. Dailey, « The Body and its Senses », The Cambridge Companion to Christian Mysticism, ed. A. Holl (...)

16Augustine’s language of the heart became part and parcel with the medieval monastic descriptions of the « interiorization » of meditative experience31. As a result, many manuals for monastic contemplation and meditation spoke in these terms32. Using Augustine as an explicit model, eleventh-century abbot John of Fécamp likewise described this path to religious « experience » as a move from exterior praise of God to the « interior senses of [one’s own] soul »33. Peter of Celle wrote a twelfth-century essay about the « knowledge of the heart »34. He equated monastic meditation with an interior experience specifically, calling it « conscience »: « Having cut open the veins of the heart with the scalpel of persistent inquiry into the nature of conscience, I have called upon the vital blood of the veins of a complete meditation, so that from the blood of purified contemplation, the heart may with a stylus commend or adapt what is sufficient for the writer and retain for itself what it needs to live »35. Peter emphasized that such consciousness was not an intellectual knowledge, but was instead emotional, « originat[ing] from fear, advance[ing] and proceed[ing] by submission, and…perfected and completed in love »36. It was in the heart where the spiritual senses are located, according to Peter, Bernard, William of Saint Thierry, and others, and thus there where God can be perceived37. Divine experience therefore could only be found in what Patricia Dailey calls the « inner human »38.

  • 39 M. Scheer, « Are Emotions a Kind of Practice (And is that What Makes them Have a History)? A Bourdi (...)
  • 40 See note 35 above.
  • 41 B. Stock, Augustine the Reader…, op. cit. n. 31, p. 116-117.
  • 42 The Rule of St. Benedict, chapter 7, lines 67-69 : « Ergo, his omnibus humilitatis gradibus ascensi (...)
  • 43 A. Heschel, Man is Not Alone: A Philosophy of Religion, New York, FSG, 1976, p. 217.

17This is not to say that the « interior realm » is an immaterial one, uninfluenced by embodied practices. As Monique Scheer has written, the « inner » emotions are very much cultivated by embodied practices, habituated processes called habitus by Pierre Bourdieu39. Scheer outlines this process of emotional refinement in four phases: (1) shaping, such as through a penitential ritual, for instance; (2) naming, following William Reddy’s idea of » emotives », which recognized that simply saying « I am sorry and I am wretched » actually makes one perform sadness more acutely than when one does not articulate the feeling; (3) communicating to an audience, such as in a public display of penitential self-flagellation; and finally (4) regulating, or establishing an emotional norm, such as when people come to expect that a flagellant will be crying when he is properly penitent. While monks and nuns certainly instigated meditative experience through textual and material tools and ritual practices, we can see that sometimes even medieval textual sources record processes of experiential habitus activation through words. If we revisit Peter of Celle’s comments above, for instance, we see Scheer’s stages on display. Monastic meditators are first shaped by « persistent inquiry » (which Peter describes as a wounding: « Having cut open the veins of the heart with the scalpel of persistent inquiry into the nature of conscience »); then they name their experiential process, « call[ing] » it in a prayerful solicitation (« I have called upon the vital blood of the veins of a complete meditation »); then they communicate these ideas between the feeling heart and the contemplative mind (« so that from the blood of purified contemplation, the heart may with a stylus commend or adapt what is sufficient for the writer and retain for itself what it needs to live »)40. Scheer’s fourth stage, regulation, is even found in the very dissemination of Peter’s text, when it then could serve as a script to prompt and shape the norms of other monks’ and nuns’ meditative practices and experiences, cultivating their habitus through reading41. While some might see Peter’s text as a kind of mind control-script for his fellow monastics, Scheer (and medieval monks and nuns) likely would not see such structure as confining, but rather as part-and-parcel with the way emotions are shaped. Monks and nuns would also have seen it as a natural part of monastic discipline; as the Rule of Saint Benedict stated, the goal of such discipline was ultimately to create a habitus that would yield devotional openness: « to [eventually] observe without effort, as though naturally, from habit, no longer out of fear of hell, but out of love for Christ, good habit, and delight in virtue »42. As Abraham Joshua Heschel says much later, « unfree men are horrified by the suggestion of accepting a spiritual regimen. Associating inner control with external tyranny, they would rather suffer than be subject to spiritual authority. Only free men, ready to abandon caprice do not equate self-restraint with self-surrender »43. Surrendering to meditative discipline, to the regimented script of spiritual regulation, was the chief route to spiritual experience in the medieval monastery. Nothing was spontaneous about it: it was shaped and learned.

3. Meditative experience as dynamic, fleeting, and filled with struggle

  • 44 Aelred of Rievaulx, De institutione inclusarium, par. 28 : « Agnosce conditionem tuam, charissima » (...)
  • 45 P. King, « Two Conceptions of Experience », Medieval Philosophy and Theology, 11, 2003, p. 203-226, (...)
  • 46 R. Boddice and M. Smith, Emotion, Sense, Experience, New York, Cambridge University Press, 2020, p. (...)

18As tapped into the inner senses as a monk might have been, however, practice did not regularly make perfect. The monks and nuns of the eleventh and twelfth centuries knew that introspection and a cultivated habitus did not necessarily mean a satisfying encounter with God. At its base, the experience of spiritual introspection yielded an awareness of one’s own human inadequacy and imperfection more than anything else. « Recognize the state in which you are », Aelred of Rievaulx advises a female recluse, as his first step in his guide to meditation44. Since it was performed by an imperfect human practitioner, experience was dynamic, ever-changing, and some days more successful than others. While knowledge was seen as complete, whole, and perfect – truth belonging to an unchanging God – experience was seen as a transient state, as imperfect as the ever-changing humans who felt it. This distinction between the stasis of knowledge and the dynamism of experience is parallel to descriptions in Aristotle, where experience is about particulars (constructed by human memory and imagination), and reason is about universals45. This also jibes well with Rob Boddice and Marc Smith’s point about experience being in « dynamic relation with the world in which it is situated »46.

  • 47 Anselm, Prosologion, XVIII : « Conabar assurgere ad lucem dei, et recidi in tenebras meas » (S. Ans (...)
  • 48 Anselm, Prosologion, XVII : « Gustat, et non cognoscit saporem tuum. Palpat, et non sentit lentatem (...)
  • 49 Gregory the Great, Homiliae in Ezechielem prophetam, 2, 2, 12 : « Et aliquando quidem uincit et rel (...)

19This is the chief way in which meditative texts outlining theory and meditative texts recording experience differ: meditative « experience » is recorded in monastic texts through grappling and struggle, not achievement; its essence is humans striving against their own laxity and inadequacy. The monk most famous for exploring this quality of experience is Anselm of Canterbury. Throughout many of his meditative texts, especially the Prayers and Meditations and the Prosologion, Anselm repeatedly « trie[s] to rise up to the light of God, [but discovers he] ha[s] fallen back into the darkness of [him]self »47. What is this darkness that stands in his way? It is human frailty, what Anselm calls sin, that keeps monastic attempts at mystical ascent from being satisfying: « I taste, but do not know your savor. I touch, but do not feel your yielding…The senses of my soul have been hardened, dulled, and blocked by the ancient sickness of sin »48. Darkness, dullness – these are the perceptions of one trying to reach God, but unable to do so. But these are not perceptions of failed religious experience and failed union – instead, failure is the essence of monastic experience in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. Monastic meditative experience was not satisfied, ecstatic, or complete – it was instead filled with inadequacy, absence, and strife. Gregory the Great calls this experience reverberatio – a reverberating cycle being briefly elevated towards union and then falling back into darkness49.

  • 50 Anselm, Oratio ad Christum, cum mens vult eius amore fervere : « Converte, misericordissime, meum t (...)
  • 51 Anselm, Oratio ad sanctam Mariam pro impetrando eius et Christi amore : « ut illuminentur tenebrae (...)
  • 52 Anselm, Oratio ad sanctum Iohannem Baptistam : « obduratus » (S. Anselmi…, ed. cit. n. 47, t. 3, p. (...)
  • 53 Anselm, Oratio ad sanctam Mariam pro impetrando eius et Christi amore : « langueat cor meum, liquef (...)
  • 54 Anselm, Oratio ad Christum, cum mens vult eius amore fervere : « Te sitio, te esurio, te desidero, (...)
  • 55 Anselm, Oratio ad sanctum Iohannem Baptistam : « iam emortuo sensu vix se dolens » (S. Anselmi…, ed (...)
  • 56 Anselm, Oratio ad sanctum Benedictum : « Perversum namque cor meum ad deploranda perpetrate peccata (...)
  • 57 Anselm, Oratio ad Christum, cum mens vult eius amore fervere : « Quid dicam ? Quid faciam ? Quo vad (...)

20Anselm’s most frequent metaphor for his experience of his own religious flailing is that of « lukewarmness »: « Turn my lukewarmness into fervent love of you! »50 Anselm longs after God: « Let my darkness be illuminated, my lukewarmness blaze up, my listlessness be stirred »51. Anselm pleads with God to grant him a heightened experience of fervor, in contrast with what his own « hardened heart » yields him, which is dullness52: « My soul melts in me, my flesh fails; if only my inmost being might be on fire with the sweet fervor of your love, so that my outer being of flesh might wither away »53. Here once again we see the inner/outer dichotomy of monastic experience at play: Anselm wants his heart and soul – his « inmost being » – to be softened, but his « outer being » – his sinful flesh – provides the contrast to direct him towards the inner being, and yet simultaneously prevents this from happening. Anselm’s only solution, then, is to call out to God in his frail state, aware of his own depravity. Exiled from God like an « orphan », Anselm calls out for his senses to be ignited: « I thirst for you, I hunger for you, I desire you, I sigh for you, I covet you »54, he cries; my « senses are almost dead with grief! »55. But Anselm acknowledges that his human frailty is here to stay: « my perverse heart is dry and cold as a stone when it comes to deploring the sins I have committed, but when it comes to resisting occasions of sin it is indeed pliant and soon defiled »56. Though he understands that he has brought such suffering upon himself, Anselm also feels how impossible it is for him not to sin. And so, his resulting experience is of God’s absence. It is a series of unanswered questions: « What shall I say? What shall I do? Whither shall I go? Where shall I seek him? Where and when shall I find him? Whom shall I ask? Who will tell me of my beloved? »57. Caught between the promise of union and his own inability to make that happen, Anselm longs for God’s presence, alone and unfulfilled.

  • 58 I. Irvine, « Acedia, Tristitia, and Sloth: Early Christian Forerunners to Chronic Ennui », Humanita (...)
  • 59 Ibid., p. 95.

21It is important to note that this unfulfilled longing is a necessary part of meditative experience, and a productive one. It is not an indication of sin – as ennui or sloth would be – on the part of the monastic worshipper. It is not indicated by the words tristitia (dejection) or pigritia (sloth) or acedia (a malevolent kind of boredom), all mortal sins. Acedia, the most popular of these, was discussed by early Christian monks and universalized by Gregory the Great in his Moralia on Job as a « noon-day demon » that threatened to tempt a meditating Christian away from his spiritual practice when he was bored and listless58, John Cassian describes it as such: « we lament that in all this while, living in the same spot, we have made no progress, we sigh and complain that bereft of sympathetic fellowship we have no spiritual fruit; and bewail ourselves as empty of all spiritual profit […] betaking ourselves elsewhere as quickly as possible […] vacant in every spiritual activity »59. The difference between the longing described by monastic meditators and the acedia described by Cassian is that monastic meditators are not lost, unfocused, or inconstant in their practice – they lament their lack of progress, but they do not then give up. Neither their expressions of self-inadequacy nor their overwhelming frailty is lethargic or distractable. These meditators are unfulfilled, to be sure, but they are not unfocused from the righteous goal of longing for God: they are uncertain of their capability of reaching him, but they keep yearning.

  • 60 D. Turner, The Darkness of God: Negativity in Christian Mysticism, New York, Cambridge University P (...)
  • 61 Ibid., p. 259.

22Religious « experience » then, for a monastic practitioner, is not close to the orgasmic, visionary « union » of late medieval mystics, but is rather one of unrelenting, focused « hunger ». It is close to the fervor Anselm desires, but instead of being a fervent, ecstatic consummation of religious desire, it is a fervent, desperate recognition of the absence of God. Moreover, a recognition and experience of one’s own darkness actually allows a monk to better perceive and experience the contours of God’s grace through contrast. This religious experience, then, is actually what Denys Turner has called an « anti-mysticism, » a negativity and apophatic spirituality that contrasts with the experientialism of James and others like him60. It is the experience of the deprivation of God and of the critique of the devotee’s self that a monk feels – not the « positivist » union promised by James’ interpretation of Christian spirituality61. And yet, through the experience of God’s absence, a monk would come to better know God by requiring so much of his strength. The pronounced effort of the monk’s experience, then, the unmistakable will of a monk to experience, is seen as essential in this context for connecting with God – and this stage of longing imperfection better reveals that will to the meditator himself.

4. Conclusion: from medieval experience to early modern certainty?

23In view of all this, I would like to use another word to describe monastic meditative experience: insecure. What is so remarkable about this monastic attention to « experience », and the contrast that monks drew between it and « knowledge », is that medieval monks, these eleventh- and twelfth-century devotional experts, took solace in and drew meaning from such insecurity – from their own sinfulness, from their failed grasps at God – alongside their more stable and extensive intellectual learning, from the more confident program of meditative ascent outlined in their books.

  • 62 S. Justice, « Did the Middle Ages Believe in Their Miracles? », Representations, 103/1, 2008, p. 1- (...)
  • 63 S. Justice, « Did the Middle Ages… », art. cit. n. 62, p. 12 and 14.

24The medieval monastic reliance on struggle-filled, inconstant, dynamic, fluid experience trickles in bits and pieces into later theological history. Thomas Aquinas, for instance, defined faith ultimately as « assent » – something that needed to be actively engaged and known with one’s own will (cum assensu cogitare)62. Even as late as the seventeenth century, working off of medieval precedents, Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) saw faith as a « feedback loop to the mind », the tense oscillation between trust and doubt, and « a disposition to accept a content that remains opaque »63.

  • 64 S. Kramer, Sin, Interior, and Selfhood in the Twelfth-Century West, Toronto, Pontifical Institute o (...)
  • 65 S. Schreiner, Are You Alone Wise?: The Search for Certainty in the Early Modern Era, New York, Oxfo (...)
  • 66 Ibid., p. 57.
  • 67 Ibid., p. 68.
  • 68 Ibid., p. 223-226.
  • 69 M. Scheer, Enthusiasm…, op. cit. n. 17, p. 20.

25But, by the end of the twelfth century, this monastic version of experience as insecure and uncertain had become less widespread and less actively encouraged by Christian thinkers. After the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215, the idea that belief was firm and did not budge – firmiter credimus – became more widespread, especially as « heresies » became a greater concern; and the newly-formalized processes of confession began to police the interior landscape, as well as in exterior actions64. While Martin Luther initially embraced a monastic view of insecure « experience »65, by 1518, he revised his stance and claimed that faith needed to be secure and certain in order for « justification by faith » to work66. Calvin likewise deemed the monastic version of insecure « experience » untrustworthy. Such experience, to Calvin, could be the same for the elect and the reprobate – and therefore the best Christians only grappled with the « solid reality of faith », which, in Calvin’s estimation, was always secure67. Juan de Valdés, a Catholic in the early sixteenth century, followed his Protestant contemporaries, writing that valid Catholic experience was « immediate », and could only be stable godly « truth » which a believer « knew for certain »68. By the end of the early modern period, the use of the « book of experience » had therefore transformed from the monastic version, in which God’s absence and human frailty were accepted and even valued, to a more modern, more certain version69. One can imagine that, with the Scientific Revolution, such certainty was even more emphasized. By the modern age, religious experience had changed from a (medieval) grey landscape to a (modern) landscape of black and white, a slippery slope towards the Jamesean notion of spiritual experience as instantaneous, ineffable, passive, clarifying, and revelatory.

26The omission of eleventh- and twelfth-century monastic religious « experience » from the scholarly conversation about medieval monastic religiosity has distorted our view of medieval monasticism, to be sure. We have neglected the study of monastic devotion as they saw it, dismissing monks as either too conformist, too expert, too unfeeling, or too elite. An eye towards meditative « experience » as eleventh- and twelfth-century devotees understood it allows us to see these monastics for what they really were, not rigid, but in fact insecure, devoutly doubtful, and striving in their devotion. The reassertion of the monastic idea of religious experience can help us see how human these monks were. It can allow us to understand that, even in the medieval « age of faith », belief was still about wrestling, about restlessness, and about work – and that such a struggle was not sinful, even in the bastions of Christian orthodoxy in the medieval world.

  • 70 Ibid., p. 14.

27Even in the monastery, in the most sacred of medieval places, devotion was not about otherworldly union, or about religious exceptionalism, or about buying into the fantasy constructed by an authoritarian church. Monastic religiosity was not a blind or easy or automatic commitment on the part of the monks; it was not evidence of their submission to the institutional Church. What made it impressive was that it was likely a lived experience of constant struggle; of trying to really match one’s inner experience and practices to one’s knowledge; of humble uncertainty even at the highest levels of the most elite medieval Christian institutions. Monastic meditation was not about the potential for perfection, nor was it a guarantee of heaven on earth. It was instead about the monastic will to desire and seek God, knowing that they were never to find him in this lifetime. Likewise, monastic religious devotional emotion, and monastic belief, was not a « passive assent to a clear set of propositions », but rather an « active process of construing, negotiating »70. This active construction should not be discredited by our modern cynicism, that sees belief and religious practice as only « real » if it is certain, or black-and-white, or passive, or individual. Medieval monastic meditation – and the beliefs that undergirded it – needed to be activated by wrought experiences of emotional struggle, just as much as it needed to be rationally schematized and instructed. The medieval monastic integration of uncertainty into their daily religious experience was more flexible, realistic, sophisticated, and (perhaps) faith-full than even modern religious practitioners could fathom.

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Notes

1 I would like to thank the participants in the Séminaire de recherche en ligne, Pour une histoire de l’expérience : le laboratoire médiéval, at the Université du Québec à Montréal in fall 2020; the Medieval Studies Workshop at Stanford University (and Antonio Lenzo for that invitation) ; and Piroska Nagy and Xavier Biron-Ouellet, for their invaluable, insightful feedback and generous, inspiring leadership.

2 See, for instance, A. Obermeier and R. Kennison, « The Privileging of Visio over Vox in the Mystical Experiences of Hildegard of Bingen and Joan of Arc », Mystics Quarterly, 23/3, 1997, p. 137-167 and B. McGinn, « The Language of Inner Experience in Christian Mysticism », Spiritus, 1, 2001, p. 156-171.

3 W. James, The Varieties of Religious Experience, New York, Random House, 1994.

4 See, for instance, G. Althoff, Rules and Rituals in Medieval Power Games, Leiden, Brill, 2020.

5 See, for instance, T. Asad, « On ritual and discipline in medieval Christian monasticism », Economy and Society, 16/2, 1987, p. 159-203, or the historiography expertly refuted in I. Cochelin, « Community and Customs: Obedience or Agency ? », Oboedientia: Zu Formen und Grenzen von Macht und Unterordnung im mittelalterlichen Religiosentum, ed. S. Barret, Münster, Lit, 2005, p. 229-253.

6 J. Arnold, « Histories and historiographies of medieval Christianity », The Oxford Handbook of Medieval Christianity, ed. Id., Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2014, p. 23-41; K. Knibbe and H. Kupari, « Theorizing Lived Religion: Introduction », Journal of Contemporary Religion, 35/2, 2020, p. 157-176; R. Orsi, « Is the Study of Lived Religion Irrelevant to the World We Live in? Special Presidential Plenary Address », Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 42/2, 2003, p. 169-174.

7 S. Katajala-Peltomaa and R. Toivo, Lived Religion and Gender in Late Medieval and Early Modern Europe, New York, Routledge, 2021, p. 2.

8 A. Hollywood, « Gender, Agency, and the Divine in Religious Historiography », The Journal of Religion, 84/4, 2004, p. 514-528; L. Mancia, Emotional Monasticism: Affective Piety at the Eleventh-Century Monastery of John of Fécamp, Manchester, Manchester University Press, 2019, p. 193-195.

9 Bernard of Clairvaux, Sermones super Cantica Canticorum, sermo 3, par. 1 : « in libro experientiae » (Bernard de Clairvaux, Sermons sur le Cantique, ed. J. Leclercq et al., Paris, Éditions du Cerf, 1996, p. 156; Bernard of Clairvaux, Bernard of Clairvaux on the Song of Songs, Kalamazoo, Cistercian Publications, 1971, t. 1, p. 16.

10 J. Leclercq, The Love of Learning and the Desire for God, New York, Fordham University Press, 1982.

11 Guigo II, Epistola de vita contemplativa (Scala Claustralium). II, De quatuor gradibus: « Meditatio est studiosa mentis actio, occultae veritatis novitiam ductu propriae rationis investigans » (Guigues II le chartreux, Lettre sur la vie contemplative (L’échelle des moines ). Douze méditations, ed. E. Colledge et al., Paris, Éditions du Cerf, 1970, p. 84; Guigo II, The Ladder of Monks: A Letter on the Contemplative Life, Kalamazoo, Cistercian Publications, 1979, p. 68).

12 W. Christian, « Provoked Religious Weeping in Early Modern Spain », Religion and Emotion: Approaches and Interpretations, ed. J. Corrigan, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2004, p. 33-50.

13 M. B. Pranger, The Artificiality of Christianity, Stanford, Stanford University Press, 2003, p. 23-28, 115 and 122.

14 E. Underhill, Mysticism, New York, Bantam, 1990, p. 22-28 and 40-42.

15 P. Nagy and D. Boquet, Medieval Sensibilities: A History of Emotions in the Middle Ages, Medford, Polity, 2018, p. 76 and 83.

16 John Cassian, Conlationes, X, xi, 5 : « Tunc enim Scripturae divinae nobis clarius perpatescunt, et quodammodo earum venae medullaeque panduntur, quando experiential nostra earum non tantum percipit, sed etiam prevenit notionem, sensusque verborum non per expositionem nobis, sed per documenta reserantur. Eumdem namque recipients cordis affectum quo quisque decantus vel conscriptus est psalmus, velut auctores eius facti, praecedemus magis intellectum ipsius, quam sequemur; id est, ut prius dictorum virtutem quam notitiam colligentes » (Jean Cassien, Conférences. Tome II (VIII-XVII), ed. M. Petschenig, Paris, Éditions du Cerf, 1958, p. 174; John Cassian, Conferences, trans. B. Ramsey, New York, Newman Press, 1997, p. 384).

17 M. Scheer, Enthusiasm: Emotional Practices of Conviction in Modern Germany, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2020, p. 55-62.

18 John Cassian, Conlationes, X, xi, 5 : « magistrantibus effectibus erudii, non ut audia, sed tamquam perfecta palpemus, nec tamquam memoriae commendata, sed velut ipsi rerum naturae insista, de interno cordis parturiamus affectu, ut eorum sensus non textu lectionis, sed experiential praecedente penetremus » (Jean Cassien, Conférences…, ed. cit. n. 16, p. 174; John Cassian, Conferences, trans. cit. n. 16, p. 385).

19 John Cassian, Conlationes, X, ix : « de efficacia intellectus, qui per experientiam colligitur » (Jean Cassien, Conférences…, ed. cit. n. 16, p. 174; John Cassian, Conferences, trans. cit. n. 16, p. 378).

20 S. Sønnesyn, « Word, example, and practice: learning and the learner in twelfth-century thought », Journal of Medieval History, 46/5, 2020, p. 513-535, esp. p. 513 and 514.

21 Ibid., p. 517.

22 Bernard of Clairvaux, De gradibus humilitatis et superbiae, XXII, 57 : « Quos ascendendo melius tu in tu corde, quam in nostro codice leges » (Bernard of Clairvaux, Opera omnia, ed. J. P. Migne, Paris, Garnier, 1879 [PL, 182], p. 559-582, here p. 942; Bernard of Clairvaux, Selected Works, trans. G. R. Evans, New York, Paulist Press, 1987, p. 143).

23 Bernard of Clairvaux, De conversione ad clericos, 25 : « Solus spiritus est qui revelat : sine causa paginam consulis; experientiam magis require » (Bernard de Clairvaux, Le Précepte et la Dispense; La Conversion, ed. F. Callerot et al., Paris, Éditions du Cerf, 2000, p. 382; Bernard of Clairvaux, Selected Works, trans. cit. n. 22, p. 85).

24 C. Straw, « Job’s Sin in the Moralia of Gregory the Great », A Companion to Job in the Middle Ages, ed. F. Harkins et al., Leyde, Brill, 2016, p. 71-100, esp. p. 72-73.

25 Ibid., p. 100.

26 Aelred of Rievaulx, De institutione inclusarium, par. 9 : « Nunquam te improvidam, nunquam te spiritus inveniat otiosam. Sed quia mens nostra, quae in hac vita subdita est vanitati, nunquam in eodem statu permanet; otiositas exercitiorum varietate fuganda est, et quies nostra quadam operum vicissitudine fulcienda » (Aelred de Rievaulx, La Vie de Recluse, ed. C. Dumont, Paris, Éditions du Cerf, 1961, p. 65; Aelred of Rievaulx, Rule of Life for a Recluse. Treatises & Pastoral Prayer, Kalamazoo, Cistercian Publications, 1971, p. 55).

27 Aelred of Rievaulx, De institutione inclusarium, par. 20 : « Te, soror, nunquam volo esse securam; sed timere » (Aelred de Rievaulx, La Vie de Recluse, ed. cit. n. 26, p. 93; Aelred of Rievaulx, Rule…, trans. cit. n. 26, p. 68).

28 John Cassian, Conlationes, X, ix, 2 : « sed ipsis quodammodo experientiae minibus penetralia eius et interiora palpare » (Jean Cassien, Conférences…, ed. cit. n. 16, p. 174; John Cassian, Conferences, trans. cit. n. 16, p. 378).

29 Augustine, Confessiones, VIII, vii, 18 : « intus » (Augustine, Confessions, ed. J. O’Donnell, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1992, p. 96; Augustine, Confessions, trans. H. Chadwick, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2009, p. 145).

30 Augustine, Confessions, VII, xxi, 27 : « non tantum cernendam sed habitandam » (Augustine, Confessions, ed. cit. n. 29, p. 86; Augustine, Confessions, trans. cit. n. 29, p. 130).

31 B. Stock, Augustine the Reader: Meditation, Self-Knowledge, and the Ethics of Interpretation, New York, Belknap Press, 1998.

32 N. Largier, « The Art of Prayer: Conversions of Interiority and Exteriority in Medieval Contemplative Practice », Rethinking Emotion: Interiority and Exteriority in Premodern, Modern, and Contemporary Thought, ed. R. Campe et al., Boston, De Gruyter, 2014, p. 58-71.

33 John of Fécamp, Confessio theologica: « […] interioribus sensibus animae meae » (Un Maître de la vie spirituelle au xie siècle : Jean de Fécamp, ed. J. Leclercq and J.-C. Bonne, Paris, Vrin, 1946, p. 179).

34 Petrus Cellensis, De conscientia, 21: « cordis scientia » (Petrus Cellensis, Opera Omnia, ed. J. P. Migne, Paris, Château d’Amboise, 1855 [PL, 202], col. 1091; Peter of Celle, Selected Works, trans. H. Feiss, Kalamazoo, Cistercian Publications, 1987, p. 150).

35 Petrus Cellensis, De conscientia, 2 : « Scalpello autem instantiae quaerentis quid sit conscientia, vena cordis incisa, undecunque vocavi vivum sanguinem venarum totius meditationis, ut de sanguine defaecatae contemplationis, et stylo commendaret seu commodaret cor quod sufficeret scribenti et sibi retineret unde viveret » (Petrus Cellensis, Opera Omnia, ed. cit. n. 34, col. 1094; Peter of Celle, Selected Works, trans. cit. n. 34, p. 143).

36 Petrus Cellensis, De conscientia, 33: « Inchoatur autem conscientia a timore, producitur et dedicitur a subjection, perficitur et consummatur in amore » (Petrus Cellensis, Opera Omnia, ed. cit. n. 34, col. 1084; Peter of Celle, Selected Works, trans. cit. n. 34, p. 156).

37 B. McGinn, « Mystical Consciousness: A Modest Proposal », Spiritus, 8/1, 2008, p. 44-63, esp. p. 50.

38 P. Dailey, « The Body and its Senses », The Cambridge Companion to Christian Mysticism, ed. A. Hollywood, New York, Cambridge University Press, 2012, p. 264-277.

39 M. Scheer, « Are Emotions a Kind of Practice (And is that What Makes them Have a History)? A Bourdieuian Approach to Understanding Emotion », History and Theory, 51, 2012, p. 193-220.

40 See note 35 above.

41 B. Stock, Augustine the Reader…, op. cit. n. 31, p. 116-117.

42 The Rule of St. Benedict, chapter 7, lines 67-69 : « Ergo, his omnibus humilitatis gradibus ascensis, monachus mox ad caritatem Dei perveniet illam quae perfecta foris mittit timorem, per quam universa quae prius non sine formidinem obserbabat absque ullo labore velut naturaliter ex consuetudine incipiet custodire, non iam timore gehennae sed amore Christi et consuetudine ipsa bona et dilectatione virtutum » (The Rule of Saint Benedict, ed. B. L. Venarde, Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 2011, p. 54-55).

43 A. Heschel, Man is Not Alone: A Philosophy of Religion, New York, FSG, 1976, p. 217.

44 Aelred of Rievaulx, De institutione inclusarium, par. 28 : « Agnosce conditionem tuam, charissima » (Aelred de Rievaulx, La Vie de Recluse, ed. cit. n. 26, p. 109; Aelred of Rievaulx, Rule…, trans. cit. n. 26, p. 75).

45 P. King, « Two Conceptions of Experience », Medieval Philosophy and Theology, 11, 2003, p. 203-226, esp. p. 203.

46 R. Boddice and M. Smith, Emotion, Sense, Experience, New York, Cambridge University Press, 2020, p. 48.

47 Anselm, Prosologion, XVIII : « Conabar assurgere ad lucem dei, et recidi in tenebras meas » (S. Anselmi Cantuariensis Archiepiscopi Opera omnia continens opera quae prior et abbas beccensis composuit, ed. F. Schmitt, Edinburgh, Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1946, t. 1, p. 114; Anselm, The Prayers and Meditations of Saint Anselm with the Prosologion, trans. B. Ward, New York, Penguin, 1973, p. 259).

48 Anselm, Prosologion, XVII : « Gustat, et non cognoscit saporem tuum. Palpat, et non sentit lentatem tuam…sed obriguerunt, sed obstupuerunt, sed obstructi sunt sensus animae meae vetusto languore peccati » (S. Anselmi…, ed. cit. n. 47, t. 1, p. 114; Anselm, The Prayers…, trans. cit. n. 47, p. 258).

49 Gregory the Great, Homiliae in Ezechielem prophetam, 2, 2, 12 : « Et aliquando quidem uincit et reluctantes tenebras suae caecitatis exsuperat, ut de in circumscripto lumine quid dam furtim et tenuiter attingat, sed tamen ad semetipsam protinus reuerberata reuertitur atque ab ea luce, ad quam respirando transit, ad suae caecitatis tenebras suspirando redit » (Grégoire le Grand, Homélies sur Ézéchiel. Tome II, ed. C. Morel, Paris, Éditions du Cerf, 1990, p. 114). Many thanks to Xavier Biron-Ouellet for this reference.

50 Anselm, Oratio ad Christum, cum mens vult eius amore fervere : « Converte, misericordissime, meum teporem in ferventissimum tui amorem » (S. Anselmi…, ed. cit. n. 47, t. 3, p. 6; Anselm, The Prayers…, trans. cit. n. 47, p. 94).

51 Anselm, Oratio ad sanctam Mariam pro impetrando eius et Christi amore : « ut illuminentur tenebrae meae, ut accendatur tepor meus, ut expergiscatur torpor meus » (S. Anselmi…, ed. cit. n. 47, t. 3, p. 18; Anselm, The Prayers…, trans. cit. n. 47, p. 116).

52 Anselm, Oratio ad sanctum Iohannem Baptistam : « obduratus » (S. Anselmi…, ed. cit. n. 47, t. 3, p. 27; Anselm, The Prayers…, trans. cit. n. 47, p. 129).

53 Anselm, Oratio ad sanctam Mariam pro impetrando eius et Christi amore : « langueat cor meum, liquefiat anima mea, deficia caro mea. Utinam sic viscera animae meae dulci fervore vestrae dilectionis exardescant ut viscera carnis meae exarsescant! » (S. Anselmi…, ed. cit. n. 47, t. 3, p. 18; Anselm, The Prayers…, trans. cit. n. 47, p. 124).

54 Anselm, Oratio ad Christum, cum mens vult eius amore fervere : « Te sitio, te esurio, te desidero, ad te suspiro, te concupisco » (S. Anselmi…, ed. cit. n. 47, t. 3, p. 6 ; Anselm, The Prayers…, trans. cit. n. 47, p. 94).

55 Anselm, Oratio ad sanctum Iohannem Baptistam : « iam emortuo sensu vix se dolens » (S. Anselmi…, ed. cit. n. 47, t. 3, p. 26 ; Anselm, The Prayers…, trans. cit. n. 47, p. 127).

56 Anselm, Oratio ad sanctum Benedictum : « Perversum namque cor meum ad deploranda perpetrate peccata lapideum est et aridum, ad resistendum vero instantibus mole et luteum » (S. Anselmi…, ed. cit. n. 47, t. 3, p. 62 ; Anselm, The Prayers…, trans. cit. n. 47, p. 197).

57 Anselm, Oratio ad Christum, cum mens vult eius amore fervere : « Quid dicam ? Quid faciam ? Quo vadam ? Ubi eum quaeram ? Ubi vel quando inveniam ? Quem rogabo ? Quis nuntiabit dilecto ? » (S. Anselmi…, ed. cit. n. 47, t. 3, p. 9 ; Anselm, The Prayers…, trans. cit. n. 47, p. 97).

58 I. Irvine, « Acedia, Tristitia, and Sloth: Early Christian Forerunners to Chronic Ennui », Humanitas, 12/1, 1999, p. 89-103.

59 Ibid., p. 95.

60 D. Turner, The Darkness of God: Negativity in Christian Mysticism, New York, Cambridge University Press, 1995, p. 4-5.

61 Ibid., p. 259.

62 S. Justice, « Did the Middle Ages Believe in Their Miracles? », Representations, 103/1, 2008, p. 1-29, esp. p. 12 and 13 ; E. Shagan, The Birth of Modern Belief: Faith and Judgment from the Middle Ages to the Enlightenment, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 2018, p. 24 and 62.

63 S. Justice, « Did the Middle Ages… », art. cit. n. 62, p. 12 and 14.

64 S. Kramer, Sin, Interior, and Selfhood in the Twelfth-Century West, Toronto, Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, 2015.

65 S. Schreiner, Are You Alone Wise?: The Search for Certainty in the Early Modern Era, New York, Oxford University Press, 2011, p. 49.

66 Ibid., p. 57.

67 Ibid., p. 68.

68 Ibid., p. 223-226.

69 M. Scheer, Enthusiasm…, op. cit. n. 17, p. 20.

70 Ibid., p. 14.

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Lauren Mancia, « The experience of monastic meditation in the eleventh and twelfth centuries »Memini [En ligne], 28 | 2022, mis en ligne le 26 décembre 2022, consulté le 22 mai 2024. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/memini/2206 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/memini.2206

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Lauren Mancia

Brooklyn College, City University of New York

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