Medieval Mysticism, Julian of Norwich
Kaylin Soeder

I think that I want to try to look into Mysticism in Medieval Christianity. I want to know what they thought was mystical or a mystery based on what they knew. I think that mysticism is going to be an interesting topic to research and I hope to find some mysterious findings.

Research: I have decided to look into Mysticism and do research on Julian of Worwich and her major accomplishments during the middle ages.I have looked through Galileo and JSTOR and found some many interesting articles that could be very interesting and full of information.

Julian of Norwich, Women of Medieval Christianity

A typical view of a woman during medieval Christianity would have resembled more of mime than a preaching woman like we see today. Women did not speak and for women that experienced mysticism during the medieval ages, it was hard for them to keep those visions secret. However, for God's love they kept it to themselves because if men knew that women were seeing visions of God than they must be heretics. Heretics were labeled as women that went against the normal standards of Christianity and the theology that they believed in was wrong. Heretics could have been labeled from the visions and claims that they had and if they were so far out there that men believed it couldn't have happened, like Na Prous Boneta whom said that she had rested her head against the body of Christ (Petroff 284). She was labeled a heretic and sentenced to death. Women who shared their amazing visions of God should have been more appreciated during the time instead of being labeled and executed. Women should not have been labeled as they were nor should they have been sentenced to execution for what God had shown to them. Women should have been shown greater gratitude for their immense love for God and their willingness to share what had been bestowed upon them.
Not all women shared their claims and visions. As for Julian of Norwich, she kept her visions in her writings.
Julian of Norwich was born in 1342 and much of her youth is unknown to scholars. Julian became an Anchoress to the St. Julian Church of Norwich, which is probably how she got her name because no record is known of her real name. Julian lived in a cell attached to the church where she devoted her life to contemplative prayer. When Julian was in her thirties she received three gifts from God that she had prayed for in time past. Her first request was to become sick at the age of thirty; this was also the same age as Jesus when he began his first ministry. Julian also asked to have a consistent recollection of Christ’s passion and her third wish was to have three wounds, one of loving compassion, longing for God, and true contrition.
Julian received her request to become sick at the age of thirty. Julian became very sick to the point that she was visited by a priest because she was thought to be on her death bed. While she was sick, Julian experiences her first showings or revelations of God. Julian meditated on these revelations for many years after she had first had them. She wanted to understand the meaning behind what she envisioned and why God had called on her to experience his divine Glory, by showing himself to her.
It wasn’t until fifteen years later that Julian decided to write down her revelations. She wrote down what was called the “Short Text” for many years. She wanted to make sure that she wrote what she remembered so that she would not forget and could make more sense of what God had done for her. Julian began to see that people who sinned were not evil people. Julian’s theology began to embark on a new perspective after she had experienced her revelations of God. Julian of Norwich began to look at people with a new thought process. Julian believed that people that had sinned were able to be forgiven because sin would lead people to the acceptance of God in one’s life and would greater a person’s self-knowledge. One of my favorite views of Julian’s theology was that failure was not bad because you could learn from your sins.
Julian of Norwich had one of the most unique theology belief systems of anyone. There are three main aspects about Julian’s theology that makes her such a unique English mystic of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Julian believed firmly that Christ was mother and father. Her views of sin also made her a very unique and that she believed that God was all loving and no wrath. With all of her intellectual views of Christ and how sin should not have been taken so harshly but merely more understood would have made more sense during the time of turmoil that she had lived in. Because women during her time period were expected to live the life of silence, it was hard and almost frightening for your life to express what God had revealed to you.
Because women during these time periods were considered such non-existent and unimportant, it was hard for men of the clergy to believe that women whom had had these amazing visions of God were truly blessed. To them they were heretics whom had gone over the top with their claims of visions that they were thought to have been lying. However, Julian was not viewed as a heretic or a mystic because of her role as an anchoress of a church. It is almost as if it were a cover up to what she really had been experiencing.
Julian took her experiences as learning tools to express to others how powerful and loving their God was. The church during the middle ages would have said that a person whom sins is acting out because they are filled with evil spirits, but Julian taught that people that sin are only ignorant and naïve and that God will forgive those that sin. Julian also preached to those that were dying. She taught that their pain should be thought of as joy and compassion. The light at the gates of heaven would be much worth their pain and giving their life to God would be their most joyful composure during their time death. Women whom believed in ways such as Julian were those that were truly living for God because he had revealed his love to them and asked them to take of his people on earth as he would. There should have been no reason that the women, who had taken on these roles as teachers of God, should have been doubted. Their meanings behind their stories are what make them great followers and leaders through Christ.
Not only was Julian one of these teachers of Christ that had had visions of God in which he had empowered her to love and go forth to serve him, but she was also lucky enough that she able to write and read English literature. Her abilities to read and write made it easier for her to reflect on what the revelations meant and after many years of meditation and prayer Julian of Norwich wrote a longer, more theological version of her first book “The Short Text.” Her new book was called “The Sixteen Revelations of Divine Love.” She finished the book in her cell in which she locked herself in for many years before her death. Her book would make her one of the most influential women writers of her time period. Although her book was not published until many years after her death by scholars, it is said that her writing and thought process was none short of rhetorically effective and clearly understandable.
Her book “Sixteen revelations of Divine Love,” represent the sixteen revelations of God that she had while she was ill. All sixteen revelations are described and detail that she uses to describe what she saw and how it meant to her was truly remarkable in the passion that she had towards seeing these visions. All of her claims were very structured and it seemed to me that they happened back to back and they were spread out. When reading her book she writes as if she was sleeping for days upon days and relating her visions to questions she had had that had gone unanswered. In her first revelation she begins by describing the crowning of the thorns which I found very moving as I read the words she had written. In her third revelation is when she begins to develop her views on sin as God is revealing that all things happen through him and she wonders “What is Sin.” All of her revelations are not only very mystical but they also have deep meaning to how she develops her theology.
Once Julian finished her book of revelations she remained in her cell from 1394, when the book was completed, until her death in 1416. Her existence however was an important one because as a woman she proved to be a major change in medieval mysticism. Julian of Norwich was not alone on her belief that women could teach beliefs and knowledge of Christ. She was a woman who took great pride in herself and did provide many attributes into the changing of medieval mysticism. Julian would prove to be a major contributor in the ways in which women were seen in the church for years and centuries to come. Julian’s contribution of her book to the world of mysticism for women can be seen as a guide for other women, whom have had visions of God and who have not had visions, to use as a hopeful reference that their claims of the revelations of god may be accepted. Although Julian of Norwich’s book was not accepted for many years after her death, nor by many religious groups, today she is known as one of the most influential spiritual leaders of her time and has been referenced in modern times for people whom are trying to find their way into the spirit of Christ.

Focus: Through the changing centuries during the medieval time period, Bernard focuses on the changes of different interactive ideas of mysticism and how their ideas where carried down through traditions and beliefs. Although mysticism was something that monastic mystics had turned to the bible for the 1200’s brought about a new growth of how to express visionary experiences of mysticism and not only were their new ways of acknowledging these experiences but they were also being documented and women began to take on a large role in the “Changing Shape of Late Medieval Mysticism.”

Contributions to “new” mysticism
World and Cloister
Lady Poverty and her journey to a hill, which was presented to her as a cloister. (199)
The world, Heaven, and a set apart Cloister were faraway places that were not thought of as a unit of life.(199)
Catherine of Siena also had her views of the world and union with God.(200)
The experience of Lady Poverty was one that brought about a new relation of the world, cloister, and heaven as one.
Towards the end of the thirteenth century and beginning of fourteenth century, Meister Eckhart insisted that everyone could see God anywhere and in any circumstance. His view would be argued by many.
Catherines’ views would be resembled as capable fusion of God and World.
Men and Women
Women began to translate their thoughts of mysticism into writing of their own or from a male. (202)
The issues of allowing relation between men and women in the expressing of mystic experiences was thought about but never argued or confronted. (203)
Women were able to right their own experiences down and males began to admire what women were contributing to mysticism.
Men and women were now working together to share experiences and ideas of mysticism.
Language and Modes of Representation
Before the 1200’s, modes of languages of representation of mystic experiences were limited to only men and the language that they spoke, usually Latin.(205)
Beginning to use experiences as visuals. (205)
During the 1200’s representation became more universal with not only having men, but also women, different texts, and languages to provide visuals.
Visuals provided detail, and flamboyant pictures that became more controversial through-out the world.
Implications: Through-out the twelfth century more and more ideas of how to express your experiences of mysticism were thought to be expressed freely. My issue with this is that what if some of these mystic experiences were not true. Could it be that we have visuals and writings of examples of mysticism that could have been false? I know the rules to becoming a saint and it makes me wonder if the experiences of some of these “apostolas,” as Catherine of Siena calls herself, were allowing themselves to become important in the twelfth century by fiction stories.

Focus: Mysticism has many views to people and people view Mysticism in many completely different ways. These ways in which people argue about what others believe is the start of Mysticism and the importance, and who made the largest contributions to the formation of modern Mysticism as we view it today. Lyman provides many out looks of many different scholars that have their own views of mysticism and how they argue about what eachother believes. Lymann argues that the philosophical views of mysticism are viewed from only two opposite ways. These ways may be true but with all of the beliefs that people have that differ in such wide areas, there have to be more than only two.

Comparison to Lymann
Gilbert Murray
Believes in the Graco-Roman characteristics because they were around during the beginning of the Christian era.
Graco-Romans were responsible for the flaring to the belief that relating spiritistic phenomena would turn towards the sadness of the wolrd.
Mystic moments do not only happen in time of need and Lymann would say that Mystic moments could happen at any moment, not just a sad or needing moment.
Havelock Ellis
Moderate and pervasive type of mystic believer.
Agrees with Ellis. The example that Lymann gives of a woman having a mystical experience realtes to Ellis’ view of moderate mysticism or “illumination.”
Professor Pratt
A normal phase of religious experiences.
Could occur to anyone at any time of need or love and could happen and can restart itself when one feels one-sidedly rationalistic, traditional or moralistic.
Lymann says these views result to sanity of mystic manners.
Msytic experiences are that of love and need for God and love.
Lymann does say that there are such wide aspects of mystic experiences that there can be many ways to interpret them.
Implications: I think that I would mostly agree with Professor Pratt. I believe his views are more to what I have believed for so many years as to what a mystical sight would be like and why I would have one happen. Pratt seems most reasonable to his ideas and Lymann believes that there were only two major differences. I see three. However, some of the ideas do share some of the same thoughts, but all three have major idea differences and I think that is what sets them apart from each other.

Julian of Norwich
"Julian of Norwich." Index of /. 03 June 2011. Web. 23 Apr. 2011. <>.

"Julian of Norwich." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 21 Apr. 2011. <>.
“Mysticism.” Michel de Certeau and Marsanne Brammer. Diacritics. Vol. 22, No. 2 (Summer, 1992), pp. 11-25. Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Article Stable URL:

“Mysticism, Reason, and Social Idealism.” Eugene W. Lyman. The Journal of Religion
Vol. 8, No. 2 (Apr., 1928), pp. 169-187. Published by: The University of Chicago Press
Article Stable URL:

“The Changing Shape of Late Medieval Mysticism.” Bernard McGinn,Church History
Vol. 65, No. 2 (Jun., 1996), pp. 197-219
Published by: Cambridge University Press on behalf of the American Society of Church History
Article Stable URL:

“Two Women Visionaries and Death: Catherine of Siena and Julian of Norwich.” Renée Neu Watkins. Numen. Vol. 30, Fasc. 2 (Dec., 1983), pp. 174-198 Published by: BRILL
Article Stable URL:
"Visions, Revelations or Showings, Lady Julian, St Julian's Church, Julian Shrine." The Shrine and Cell of the Lady Julian of Norwich, St Julian's Church. St. Julian's Church and Shrine, 30 Apr. 2011. Web. 21 Apr. 2011. <>.

If you are interested in reading the "Sixteen Revelations of Divine Love," this is a great website that allows you to view her entire book chapter by chapter.

Norwich, Julian Of. "Revelations of Divine Love | Christian Classics Ethereal Library." Welcome to the Christian Classics Ethereal Library! | Christian Classics Ethereal Library. Christian Classics Ethereal Library. Web. 20 Apr. 2011. <>.