Holy and Peculiar People: Mysticks and Mystical Theology in England, 1605-1705

Temple, Liam Peter (2015) Holy and Peculiar People: Mysticks and Mystical Theology in England, 1605-1705. Doctoral thesis, Northumbria University.

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Abstract

This thesis addresses attitudes towards mystical theology in seventeenth-century England. While current historiography on mystical theology tends to stress its Catholic and medieval contexts, it has so far overlooked the ways in which Protestants continued to assimilate it in the early modern period. By exploring how Catholics and Protestants engaged with each other when discussing mystical theology, this thesis traces both irenic and intolerant responses to the debate. In many cases the confessional stance of the author of mystical works was seen as secondary to the spiritual benefits derived from them.

Drawing on substantial archival material as well as printed works, this thesis shows that both Catholics and Protestants claimed mystical theology as their own through references to ‘mysticks’ and ‘mystical theology’. Tracing such references generates new insights into the role mystical theology played in the religious beliefs of a diverse range of groups including the English Benedictines, Familists, antinomians, Cambridge Platonists and Philadelphians. By exploring the beliefs of these diverse groups through a semantic approach we can use mystical theology to understand religious debates across the seventeenth century more broadly. As the mystical ‘way of knowing’ became associated with both Catholic and radical ‘enthusiasm’ by those seeking to discredit it, it is argued that the Philadelphian Society failed to survive largely due to their attempts to assimilate both Catholic and radical uses of mystical theology into their beliefs.

This thesis rejects attempts to define or label a form of ‘mysticism’ in the period as subjective, preferring instead to understand exactly what ‘mystical theology’ and ‘mysticks’ meant to contemporaries. By showing that the identification of authors as ‘mysticks’ for the first time in the English language had its origins in the seventeenth century within diverse contexts, it also questions the usefulness of some twenty-first century labels.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: V300 History by topic
V600 Theology and Religious studies
Department: Faculties > Arts, Design and Social Sciences > Humanities
Depositing User: Paul Burns
Date Deposited: 01 Aug 2018 12:23
Last Modified: 26 Oct 2019 08:18
URI: http://nrl.northumbria.ac.uk/id/eprint/35177

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