Dame Julian

Revelations of Divine Love

INTRODUCTION

 ‘This is a Revelation of love that Jesus Christ, our endless blisse, made in sixteen Sheweings or Revelations particular.’

Revelations of Divine Love by Dame Julian of Norwich is a remarkable book; probably the first in English by a woman. Some of its themes ran counter to the church’s teaching – dangerous in the troubled century in which she lived. Her calm and compassionate writing, visionary and mystical, came from sixteen visions or ‘shewings’ in 1373 during a severe, paralysing illness, so severe that she received the last rites.

In Middle-English language, she called them shewings (showings) and revelations. Others have called them visions but they were sometimes visual, and other times intellectual, auditory or spiritual. I use showings to keep the sound and intent of the original.

She describes them as personal revelations to herself by God that she was to pass on to her fellow Christians. She reviewed the first 14 showings with twenty in-depth chapters of comment, preparing the way for the dangerous ground in her 15th and 16th showings.

Her Middle-English is hard to read today. Most translations are  readable but use much original wording and phrasing to keep the mediaeval colour. I have tried to avoid this. Words then can have different meanings to the same words today. In my modern renderings of Julian’s visions I have used Georgia Ronan Crampton’s excellent version of her later, longer book here. This is probably the closest to the original Middle-English but uses our modern alphabet. Another more comfortably modernised version is in the Christian Classics Ethereal library here.

Beware: you may find yourself on a beautiful but long road. Sometimes the meanings of words have changed, sometimes it is our understanding of what underlies those words. For instance, fear in Julian’s day carried far more sense of awe than it does today. Now it has been simplified to mean fright. We use the same word but a sense of wondering caution has given way to one of cowering. To fear God has lost something in the process. Dread carried a combined sense of respect and awe rather than horror.

14th Century Background

Continue reading

Eddies

How long had I been roaming through
cloud-misted lanes that run
where fog-dripped tree and dew-dropped flower
and path behind and path before
glow in an unseen sun?

When my way led me where a bridge
arched a broad dark stream,
a flow from source to unknown sea,
ran dark and wide and strong and free;
dark energy, extreme.

The bridge curved high above the flood,
where I stood gazing down,
its ends stretched misting into cloud,
the stream-banks melting in a shroud,
the arching bridge rose high and proud;
the dark stream pouring on.

Below, above a stream-bed rock,
rose eddies in a spin
the handrail melting into mist,
one eddy rose with twirl and twist
and grew, and drew me in.

I found myself within its swirl,
a turning, whirling world,
where, spinning within spinning,
eddies in eddies, singing,
small within smaller, swirled.

And all beyond, more powerful yet,
the stream rolled fast along,
dark and wide, and strong and free,
and though the eddies seemed to be
a mad-cap whirl that I could see,
the dark stream drew them on.

Eddies spun within themselves,
spin within spin in spin.
Each eddy spread from each, to go
turning faster in the flow,
whirled without, within.

I turned and walked on as the mist,
clearing, showed the sky,
and trees and flowers and flowing stream
were no longer what they seem,
but planet, star and galaxies,
spreading in the run
of darker faster energy
beneath another Sun.

Sorry to have been out of touch

We are more or less out of all our new house problems and I am desperate to get back to writing again. That is the good news. The difficulty now is that I find myself deeply involved with a huge study of Paul Davies’ book The Mind of God, in which I have made so many marginal notes over the past few years that, trying to expand them, they nearly make a book of their own. At the same time my work on Dame Julian of Norwich’s fourteenth century Revelations of Love is so absorbing it takes up much more of my time than I had expected.

Here is a promise: I will be back

within two weeks.

Beginning

I have written little poetry for a year or so but I feel things begin to return. The following lines are a somewhat mystical view of creation.

Beginning is a blossoming bud,
	the Spirit’s breath,
	the moment all moments begin.
Eddies spin in the flood,
	billowing, drifting, breathing, brooding
	over shifting uncertain waves,
Gathering, from grain to garden,
	from daisies to chains to garlands,
	as echoes roll into time,
Images of beauty and truth;
	of a stream that flows forever 
	from a Source, Other than this world,
New Earth from eternal Heaven;
	from the spring of being,
	from breathing, brooding, creating Spirit:
New, nothing into everything, 
	moving over the waves
	more than beauty of bud and blossom.
Imagined in that moment and known,
	that Allos, that other,
	that is both hope and home;
Named, I AM, sharing our nature,
Good, glowing, gathering all creation
		Into One.

 

Notes on meanings: Continue reading

The Words We Use

This is something of a ramble through my etymology hobby.

Eternal is from ancient Greek, aeon-ternus, meaning age-lasting. We often use eternal as meaning no more than this, going on for ages, or as long as the universe lasts, but things have changed.

The discovery of the Big Bang in which the cosmos came into being at a finite time in the past, brings the need for a much wider definition as it implies the existence of something other than space-time for which we have no words. This is nothing new; a wider definition has been necessary for some millenia since the earliest descriptions of a being outside, other than time and space, but also from the invention of an obscure, ancient, grammatical concept.

The past, the present and the future walked into a bar. It was tense.

But the aorist tense needs no companions – wherever it is, it is always tense. When God says, ‘I AM.’ it is a single, defining statement. The original is in the aorist tense, implies ‘I was, I am, I have always been and always will be.’ Or if you prefer, ‘I ETERNALLY AM’

This is far more than simply lasting forever; it is something other. It is more than time or space. It may give birth to time and space, but, Oh! Man! it is something else.

The Aorist does not walk into a bar, its spirit is suspended eternally in the optics.

So here is the problem. In an earlier post I wrote about something and nothing and came to the conclusion that we have no true word for nothing because nothing cannot exist. We see this in vacuum physics where it has been found that there is no such thing as the popular idea of a vacuum. Instead the more vacuous the space the more it teems with virtual particles or eddies popping in and out of existence, reacting and responding to each other. The word virtual, unlike its use in ‘virtual reality’ stems from vir, an Old Latin word for potency or Man.

To avoid confusion ‘Man’ above has  a capital letter to identify it as a species word rather than gender. The male of the species Man is homo-man in which homo is Old Latin for humus or earth , not the Old Greek for self.

World comes from the Anglo-Saxon wer-alt meaning the age of a man. we still use wer today to mean man in werewolf (man-wolf).

There is no word for this full meaning of eternal. Eternal simply means ‘lifelong’, but we seek for more, even if life is taken as the life of the universe it takes no account of that Other, the Allos, outwith space-time.

Universe is from unusversus ‘one turned’. It is tempting to think of this in terms of the universe seen as the turning stars, but it means turned into one in the sense, all there is, seen as one. And can we become one with that other One?

Cosmos comes from the Old Greek word for order. The reason I have not posted anything for so long is that for my wife and I the past year has been anything but cosmic. We have had a tough year. My posts will probably be monthly for a while.

 

A small Break in the Silence

It has been a long time, four months, since my last post because of the continuing effects of our moving house, but at last the worst is behind us and hopefully I shall return to the surface soon. My apologies for being so out of touch, not only because I have been unable to update this blog but because it means I have fallen out of touch with others that I follow. My aim is to be back in August.

Hasta la Vista!

 

Silence

The word is silent.
It has been a bad year:
new house, expensive problems,
workmen cause as many as they solve.

Snow sits thick outside.
It is tough for the birds:
birdfood, fatballs, hard with ice,
magpies wait to eat the ones that die.

I can hardly write.
It has been a bad year:
days numb into weeks and months,
prayers that I cannot pray, unanswered.

In Eastern Ghouta:
Jobar, Zamalka,
it has been a bad year.
Hamouria, Saqba,
it has been a bad year.
Kafr Batna, Douma,
it has been a bad year.

The birds and I weep,
it has been a bad year.
In the Eastern Ghouta,
of Damascus, where Paul regained his sight,
people die in hundreds every week,
war, starvation, disease and choking grief.

No words, the birds and I.
The word is silent.