Susannah Mary Chewning

title.none: Studies in Spirituality, Vol. 3

identifier.other: baj9928.9406.001 94.06.01

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Susannah Mary Chewning, Department of English, Drew University,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 1994

identifier.citation: Studies in Spirituality. Vol. 3. Nijmegen, The Netherlands: Titus Brandsma Institut, 1993.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: Bryn Mawr Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 94.06.01

Studies in Spirituality. Vol. 3. Nijmegen, The Netherlands: Titus Brandsma Institut, 1993.

Reviewed by:

Susannah Mary Chewning
Department of English, Drew University

Studies in Spirituality 3 is a particularly useful and interesting resource for anyone involved in the study of the development of spirituality, particularly with regard to mysticism, throughout the Christian tradition. In this issue, spirituality and mysticism are considered using texts such as the Psalms, the works of Dionysius the Areopagite, several female medieval mystics, St. John of the Cross, Thomas Merton, and even the spiritual philosophy associated with Zen. This journal, as has been shown by the first two volumes, is extremely helpful in its scope and attention to current issues within the study of spirituality.

On the page which lists the "editorial formula," the editors write that the purpose of the journal is to "publish scientific and specialist articles on spirituality and mysticism, and to promote spirituality as a science." The editors further argue that spirituality must be studied from a "multi-disciplinary approach," and this approach is exactly what makes Studies in Spirituality such a practical forum for scholars interested in spirituality and mysticism, whether it is from the perspective of literature, history, philosophy, theology or art. The contributors present different perspectives of these issues and do so with sensitivity and excellent scholarship.

The focus of the journal is the Judeo-Christian spiritual tradition, although as with volumes one and two it is Catholic spirituality that gets the most attention. The journal would be well served by contributions from scholars who would address spirituality in the Americas, or from a Protestant background, as well as from less conventional perspectives, such as feminist, post-modern, or otherwise non-traditional positions. That said, what the journal currently does it does very well, and it will be up to future contributors to broaden its scope and perspective.

Another quality which makes this journal such a welcome addition to the fields of mysticism and Western spirituality is its focus on what seem to be some of the major issues currently facing scholars across the disciplines. For example, the growth of interest in mysticism as a genre certainly warrants an examination of the kind offered by Joseph Dan in his article, "In quest of a historical definition of mysticism"; the increased attention to medieval and early modern female authors can only be enhanced by the kinds of questions being posed by Peter Dinzelbacher, Paul Verdeyen, Juan Morilla Delgado, and Helene Dalbet in their articles on "minor" female German mystics, Marguerite Porete, Teresa of Avila, and Therese de Lisieux, respectively.

In looking at particular articles, one is immediately impressed and grateful for Kees Waaijman's "Toward a phenomenological definition of spirituality" in which the author characterizes a "scientific articulation of spirituality" and lists, over seventeen pages, a chronological series of "introductions to spirituality," beginning with Thomas Gallus in 1241 and ending with recent introductions published in 1992. Waaijman's final "constitutive" definition of the field of spirituality—"the ongoing transformation which occurs in involved rationality with the Unconditional" (57)—is determined through a careful reading of what the author calls the "changing profiles of the phenomenon of spirituality" (57). This definition offers the reader a working introduction to what recent scholarship has contributed to our understanding of spirituality, not just in the historical sense, but also in a very current and contemporary sense, as well.

The article that follows Waaijman's, "In quest of a historical definition of mysticism: the contingental approach," written by Joseph Dan, offers a reading of mysticism that differs from one given by literary and theological scholars. One particularly interesting section of the article addresses the notion of the "quest for the beginning" (89) that characterizes the historical, philological, and contingent approach to mysticism, as such an approach addresses not "absolute, unchanging truth," but the creative and intellectual sources of mysticism and those who experience it. This is a very well- written essay, sympathetic, as the editors of the journal appear to be, to the many disciplines that intersect in the study of mysticism and spirituality as genres.

Peter Dinzelbacher's article, "A plea for the study of the minor female mystics in late medieval Germany" is limited by its subject-matter, but is very provocative in the sense that it reminds scholars of mysticism (of feminine mysticism in particular) that as we examine and re-discover the female mystics of the medieval and early modern periods, we must be concerned to re-discover all we can about as many women as we can find. Current scholarship focusing on female mysticism represents only the first stage of what might be discovered as the genre develops. This point-of-view is underscored by the fact that of twelve articles in this issue, four focus exclusively on female mystical writers—clearly there is much more to be found concerning these women writers, and Studies in Spirituality seems an excellent forum for such research.

There is much more to be said about the contents of this issue; there is not, however, space enough for me to go on at length. The other articles range in topic from the theology of St. Francis of Assisi, to Giovanni Pico della Mirandola and the patristic tradition, to two articles on St. John of the Cross, to Merton's view of contemplation, to an intriguing final article comparing and validating the spirituality of Zen against that of the Western Christian tradition. The authors, as I have said, are multi-disciplinary, but are also multi-national—the articles in this issue appear in English, Spanish, French, and German and are all followed by summaries and brief introductions in English.

Studies in Spirituality 3 presents, like the two earlier volumes, an excellent beginning in its pursuit of a multi-faceted study of the fields of mysticism and spirituality. What it lacks in theoretical and non-traditional readings of its subjects it makes up for in the sensitivity and close attention it brings to spirituality in a broad sense. The journal thus far has proven to be an extremely valuable resource, and its future issues can only improve upon the excellent start made in the first three.