With the sixth number in its run, Studies in Spirituality continues to establish itself as one of the premiere journals in the study of mysticism and spirituality. The journal, published in the Netherlands, cites its mission as the publication of "scientific and specialist articles on spirituality and mysticism, and thus [to] promote spirituality as a science."
This number of the journal includes sixteen articles, most in English, ranging in subject from Kees Waaijman's piece on "The Soul as Spiritual Core Concept" (5-19) to Marinus van Ulden and Joseph Pieper's psycho/sociological examination of the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela (276-88). Throughout, the essays are clear, well-written and insightful. While most are for specialists in our field, some of the pieces are welcome introductions to their topics. Hein Blommestijn's piece on Gerard Zerbolt of Zutphen (73-102) is particularly noteworthy as an introduction not only to Zerbolt but the Devotio Moderna movement as a whole.
This review will touch on essays in brief. The volume opens with Waaijman's essay on "The Soul as Spiritual Core Concept" in which Waaijman sets out to "explore the multi-dimensionality of the soul as this emerges in Scripture" (5). Guided by the term nephesh which is the Hebrew equivalent of the English word "soul", Waaijman notes the word nephesh, in its 750 occurrences in Scripture, appears with divergent meaning. From Lev 5:21 where the one who mistreats his neighbor is said to violate his soul, to the interesting uses of the soul as a spatial term, Waaijman's analysis is insightful and expansive. Just which pronoun, Waaijman asks, should we use to describe the soul? I? You? And just how much of I is the soul?
The second essay is one of two German pieces in the volume. Geert Franzenburg studies the importance of the male and the female in the work of Gregory of Nyssa, particularly in the Life of Moses. Just how much of the Life of Moses is biography is brought into question, and Franzenburg suggests we read it as "double biography," following Origen's theory of Biblical exegesis, reading in both a spiritual and literal sense.
Joan Muller's essay on "Franciscan Reconciliation" (36-48) builds a bridge between the scholarly and the devotional. This is evident in the opening paragraph where not only the "purpose" and "SHIPPINGMETHOD" but the "mission" of the essay are presented: "for the service of contemporaries desiring spiritualities of peacemaking and reconciliation while engaging in a violent world" (36). Mueller explores the paradox inherent in the traditional Franciscan greeting "The Lord give you peace!" In successive sections, she addresses the idea of reconciliation, conversion and peace as they are evident in the life of Francis and in Franciscan theology.
Michael Plattig's essay in German, "Heinrich Seuse Als 'Christliche Erosgestalt'!" (49-72), appears on the seventh hundredth anniversary of Seuse's birth and the 630th anniversary of his death. The piece discusses the issue of erotics in Seuse's thought as well as the currently popular topic of the body and its implications.
Karen-Claire Voss writes on "Imagination in Mysticism and Esotericism" (103-130). The essay is particularly concerned with "Marisilio Ficino, Ignatius de Loyola, and Alchemy" and Voss suggests interesting issues related to the use of the imagination in the mystical experience. Though the essay is broken up into sometimes-too-small sections, ample footnotes provide the curious reader with further reading.
"Possessed by Pure Love: The Spirituality of Catherine of Genoa," by John Udris (131-44), begins with two interesting ideas. First, the essay's epigraph: "Love is thy beginning, thy middle, and ought to be thy end" from book three of Catherine's Spiritual Dialogue. Second, a statement many students of Catherine often forget: "Catherine herself wrote no books" (131). From here Udris develops a thorough discussion of love and the soul in Catherine's thought.
Macario Ofilada Mina's "Philosophy and Spirituality: Reflections from St. John of the Cross" (145-52) takes up the question "Do or can Philosophy and Spirituality coexist?"
Eulogio Pacho's "El 'Gemido Pacifico de la Esperanza'" (153-67), another examination of John of the Cross, addresses John's "spiritual plan" as present in his entire canon.
Like Voss' essay earlier in the volume, Charles Andre Bernard's "La Perception Mystique Visionnaire" (168-93) deals with the imagination and perception in the mystical experience. Beginning with a helpful reading of Augustine, Bernard discusses the importance of visions and visionary experience in the history of not only mysticism but Christian thought in general. An interesting graph (180) illustrates how visionary experience fits in with the faculty psychology of Augustine and other early Church Fathers.
Wendy M. Wright gives us "Salesian Spirituality and the Art of Spiritual Direction" (194-219). Wright has published several books on Francois de Sales, including Bond of Perfection: Jeanne de Chantal and Francois de Sales (Paulist Press, 1985). The essay is an excellent introduction to Salesian spirituality in addition to being an important discussion of a neglected figure--Jeanne de Chantal.
Gunnel Cleve's "A Query About William Law's Mysticism" (220-38) suggests the influence of earlier English mystics, particularly Walter Hilton, on Law's thought.
"Conversion as Turning, Conversion as Deepening" is James E. Royster's contribution to this volume. Royster examines the "classic" conversions of Paul, Augustine, Martin Luther, Teresa of Avila, John Welsey, and Thomas Merton in an attempt to discover universals in the conversion experience.
Philip F. Sheldrake's "The Sacredness of Place" (258-75) distinguishes between "space" and "place" and shows the importance of "place" in religious writers as diverse as Julian of Norwich and Gerard Manly Hopkins.
Veronica Brady offers "Towards an Australian Spirituality" (289-300). Noting that "Australia is essentially a society of migrants" (292), Brady suggests a distinctly Australian spirituality based partly on the literature of Australia. Those who are interested in more on this topic should consult Brady's published books.
Studies in Spirituality is certainly destined to be a major forum in the fields of spirituality and mysticism. It belongs on all of our bookshelves; failing that it belongs on the bookshelves of our universities' libraries.