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The second movement is that of the interpreter who anticipates the meaning which governs his understanding of the text. Understanding is the fusion of these horizons. The challenge is to integrate these insights in a design of spiritual hermeneutics.

Canterbury Studies in Spiritual Theology

Texts are connected with specific competencies and roles. In tradi- tional cultures writers or poets are supposed to be inspired by God. Particularly cal- ligraphy can be a spiritual exercise. In all these examples texts are evoking specific roles and competencies. His role was strongly focussed on the true content of the text, in this case the bib- lical text. Particularly in the protestant tradition this role concept was an essen- tial element in worship and ministry. Gadamer, Truth and method, New York Hartley, Spirituality explored with the help of calligraphy, Leek ; A.

Schimmel, Callig- raphy and Islamic culture, New York This facilitator should, of course, have some insights in the content, the background and the composition of the text. But most of all he or she should be equipped with the competency of listening and empathy, so that the reading community comes in contact with the Word of God, on a level of experience. From a literary perspective words unfold their meaning as a complex sys- tem of denotative and connotative signals.

Semantic research tries to decipher this complex reality. Denotative meanings are studied in semantic research, resulting in etymology and description of the basic meaning. The range of this category is enormous, including the movement of the spirit ruach and the inner dimension of the mind nous. Etymology in lived spirituality has the ten- dency to isolate itself from intertextual, co-textual and contextual meanings.


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Therefore the study of spirituality has to be critical on this point. Connotative meaning unfolds itself in a network of textual relationships. In the first place this meaning is produced by the direct co-text in which a word is used. Spiritual keywords like union with God, desert, prayer, soul, dark night etc.

For the meaning of a word within the works of a writer concordantic research remains indispensable. A second source of connotative meaning is the rich network of intertextual relationships and strategies: participation which seeks to keep texts alive by quotation, repetition, imitation, surpassing, fending off or destroying earlier texts; transformation which plays with and uses unfa- miliar texts.

To mention only one example, words in Jewish mystical texts are ununderstandable without the continuous presence of the Torah at the back- ground. Toon, The art of meditating on Scripture: Understanding your faith, renewing your mind, knowing your God, Grand Rapids Brown, Text and psyche: Experiencing Scripture today, London Kugel, Prayers that cite Scripture, London A visual fabric is optically so structured that the signs, differing in shape handwriting, print etc.

An auditive textual fabric is acoustically so shaped that signs manifest themselves in sound alliteration, assonance, rhyme etc. A tac- tile fabric demarcates itself by way of rises and dips, a more or less even back- ground. Written texts are made available by an agency publishing company, print shop, book store etc. Particularly the ways scrolls are written, books are edited and preserved, pages are illuminated, are important signs of spirituality.


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The study of spirituality has not paid systematic attention to the material dimensions of the literary traditions of texts. From the time on that spirituality and mysticism were challenged to develop their own language on behalf of the articulation of the process of spir- itual transformation, the best of their representatives used their language in an excellent way. They were exceptionally creative in forging the language appro- priate for the unique character of their experience.

Four aspects are to be men- tioned in the field of art and literature. First, the aspect of form. A literary approach profiles in sources of spiritual- ity their narrative beauty, their poetical splendour, their dramatic potential and their metaphysical depth. Thus, a sharpened eye will discover also the mystical dimension in poems.

On the one hand all literature speaks of the human condition and therefore touches on its spiritual dimension. Spiritual persons speak the same language as other people. On the other hand, spirituality creates its own alternative modes of language, each of which needs a grammar of See, for instance, the paradigmatic study of J. Spiritual writers use images and metaphors.

Ruusbroec uses the metaphor of the mirror to show spiritual reality, and how it works.

Christian Spirituality and Social Transformation

Fourth, the imaginative power. Every written text captivates the reader as long as she or he really reads.

At the centre of the interdisciplinarity of literary sciences and spirituality is the corpus of spiritual texts. This corpus contains different genres: sacred texts and the meditations and interpretations dedicated to them; ritual texts, and again the track of commentaries behind them; rules and constitutions of com- munities of dedicated life; biographies and autobiographies; mystical texts and their interpretations; spiritual writings as nourishment for the spiritual life; trea- tises providing some blueprint of the spiritual way.

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These genres ask for an appro- priate interpretation. Apart from the genre differences, spiritual texts, as all texts, need a truthful presentation: the material object for literary-spiritual reflection. This contrast makes the signs readable.

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Gordan , Salzburg , Often the first pub- lishers were simultaneously interpreters who sought to escape condemnation from the side of orthodoxy. From Migne onward, editors attempted to produce critical editions of the sources of spirituality. In the 20th century important text-critical editions were provided, whether in a series e. As a rule text-critical editions limit themselves to the reconstruction of the so- called authentic text: the text that is as close as possible to the texture provided by the author him- or herself. The first ten- sion: texts are a dialectic, as we have seen, of fixed forms and open spaces gaps.

Second, texts are in a continual transition from surface into depth structure. Buursink, K. Hupperetz et al. Levinas, Otherwise than being or beyond essence, Pittsburgh There are three corpora of texts concerning spiritual processes, where literary studies and the study of spirituality meet one another. The first corpus is the collection of mystical texts. Mystical texts reflect, in many cases directly, mystical experiences and processes of mystical transforma- tion.

At the same time they create for the interested reader entrances into the field of mysticism.

Philip Sheldrake

In this process of initiation, which they mediate, they have a mystagogical function. Barone e. Floristan , New York-Edinburgh Sheldrake, Spirituality and history: Questions of interpretation and method, London , 58, , ; M. Vellekoop , Utrecht Chooi, A psychobiographical approach to interpreting hagiography: An exploratory case study of St. Edwards, Living in the presence: Spiritual exer- cises to open your life to the awareness of God, San Francisco ; Wyschogrod, Saints and post- modernism. Binfield , Sheffield See also J.

Evelyn Underhill - Her Life, Works, And Mysticism

The practice of spiritual reading provides a blueprint of a spiritual hermeneutic. Intensive reading of a text has such a transforma- tive influence on the reader, that she or he becomes a writer. In spiritual tradi- tions writers are mostly readers. The texts they loved have given them the inner language to articulate their experience. From this perspective spiritual texts are essentially intertextual.

Times have changed. Texts are more and more taken as a relational network, on different levels. Firstly, texts delineate themselves against the background of other, earlier texts. Every text is the re-weaving of a slumbering texture that is again made current in a writing. In one word: the reader is intimately and necessarily connected with the text. Scripture yearns for the being — personally — touched of the reading subject.

At this very moment, the person awakens in hearing the voice of God, which creates an immediate relation with the reader. The study of spirituality develops strategies for this cross-textual reading. Holder , Entering this field of research, one may be confronted by a lot of questions. What is the drive behind this enterprise? Is it politics, religion, or ethics: med- icine for the sick mind Livius? Or is it curiosity and entertainment: seeking to please the ear rather than to speak the truth Thucydides? In whose interests is the history contracted? How to gather a trustful documentation?

How to select in the enormous amount of data? All these questions are mutatis mutandis relevant for the history of spirituality. Is this kind of research aimed at nourishment, ori- entation, formation, or information? Is it to strengthen the main line and the power centre of a tradition or is it to give voice to the voiceless people margin- alized, oppressed, lay people, women etc. How to measure the difference between mainstream spirituality and dissidents? The Benedictine monks of the Congregation of St. At the same time the Bollandists wrote from on their Acta Sanctorum quotquot toto orbe coluntur, an impressive repository of spiritual biographies.

In the nineteenth century the source criticism of Ranke caused a complete transformation of the science of history. In the beginning a strong opposition was sometimes felt against the historical approach. Legends and myths were unmasked as products of a particular lived spirituality. Gradually in the 19th and the 20th century, spirituality has integrated historical research. One of the most important insights in the history of spirituality was the grow- ing awareness that the historical context itself belongs to lived spirituality. Spir- ituality does not exist on some ideal plane above and beyond history, as a pure form.

Spirituality is dialectically interwoven with the cultural context, in a field of tension between continuity and discontinuity.