The wedded soul : mystical marriage in late medieval female mysticism : a thesis presented in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in History at Massey University
KeywordsMiddle Ages 600-1500
History of doctrines
Marriage -- Religious aspects
Catholic Church -- History
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AbstractFrom its first days in the early Church onwards, mystical marriage between the soul and God was powerful, pervasive and malleable, both as a concept and as a lifestyle and belief system, and was increasingly used and developed by late medieval female mystics as their chosen form of exclusive holy life and individual expression of their own spirituality. At the root of its power and potential in the spiritual life of the mystic was the deep, intimate, unmediated and heightened relationship with God which mystical union encapsulated. This mystical relationship was considered the apex of holy and mystical life and brought with it all the attached privileges of a personal connection to God, mystical experiences and spiritual gifts and power. Mystical marriage or union came under the category of bridal mysticism, the mystical system which took its form and expression from the spiritualised concept of marriage. The range of experiences and nuanccs available through the metaphor of marriage made bridal mysticism a strongly expressive and sensory based alternative to the intellectual mysticism of the medieval Church, which female mystics were virtually cut off from. The expressive and mystical potential of bridal mysticism, and thus mystical marriage, was recognised by late medieval female mystics and brought union with God to the centre of female mysticism, at the same time as female mysticism and religious devotion itself was growing and flourishing (1), and holy life was becoming more publicly practiced and more popular with the laity (2).
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