Revelations of Divine Love
Julian of Norwich
The great works of mystical meditation, from whatever
denomination or philosophy, show striking similarities as they
attempt to guide novices in the practice of metaphysical union
with higher orders of being.   It is possible to view this practice
from a sociological or anthropological perspective, as Mircea
Eliade does in his classic study of
Shamanism, or A.P. Elkin in his
remarkable work
Aboriginal Men of High Degree.   But biography
or autobiography is an even more immediate way of coming to
grips with this time-honored tradition.  We often associate
mysticism with the East, and certainly many of the greatest first
person accounts  -- from
Milarepa or  Paramahansa Yogananda
are well worth reading.  But the Western tradition of mystical
meditation is equally vibrant, if less known, and a few
documents from the Middle Ages offer an excellent starting
point for any appraisal of the subject.   The straight talking
pragmatism of the unknown British author of
The Cloud of
Unknowing from the 14nth century is especially appealing -- I
sometimes like to think of this anonymous figure as the
self-help guru of his day.  But my favorite Western classic of
mysticism is the contemporary of the latter, the celebrated
Julian of Norwich, whose
Revelations of Divine Love continue to
delight and astonish us some six hundred years after they were
written.  Julian tells us that she is a "simple creature
unlettered," but she describes her visionary experience with a
personal intensity that counters her modest claims for her
abilities as an author, and which is especially out of character
for religious or secular writers of the age.  Here was have all
the classic symptoms of mystical experience:  the profound
separation of body and soul, the mingling with cosmic forces,
the sensitivity to higher degrees of an almost
Platonic love.    
For those who believe that the classics of the Western canon
are solely about empiricism and rationalism, this work is an
excellent corrective and valuable guide to our homegrown

The Penguin edition
with translation from
A.C. Spearing is beautifully
rendered, and
accompanied by excellent
supporting material.