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Walter Hilton (c. 1340–45 – 24 March 1396) was an English Augustinian mystic, whose works became influential in the 15th century.
The term Augustinians, named after Augustine of Hippo (354–430), applies to two distinct types of Catholic religious orders, dating back to the first millennium but formally created in the 13th century, and some Anglican religious orders, created in the 19th century, though technically there is no "Order of St. Augustine" in Anglicanism. Within Anglicanism the Rule of St. Augustine is followed only by women, who form several different communities of Augustinian nuns in the Anglican Communion.
Mysticism is the practice of religious ecstasies, together with whatever ideologies, ethics, rites, myths, legends, and magic may be related to them. It may also refer to the attainment of insight in ultimate or hidden truths, and to human transformation supported by various practices and experiences.
Walter Hilton was born around 1340–45. Writing centuries later, an early 16th-century Carthusian, James Grenehalgh, from Lancashire, referred to Hilton as a mystic coming "from the same region".
There is some presumptive evidence that Hilton received some education at the University of Cambridge, [ citation needed ] Walter de Hilton, Bachelor of Civil Law, clerk of Lincoln Diocese, was granted the reservation of a canonry and prebend of Abergwili, Carmarthen, in January 1371. In January 1371 Hilton was a bachelor of law attached to the diocesan court of Ely. Some manuscripts describe Hilton as a commensor or inceptor decretorum, i. e. he may have completed the studies and examinations that would have entitled him to become a master of canon law, but he did not undertake the regency that would have given him the title.This would have occurred at some time between about 1360 and 1382.
The University of Cambridge is a collegiate public research university in Cambridge, United Kingdom. Founded in 1209 and granted a Royal Charter by King Henry III in 1231, Cambridge is the second-oldest university in the English-speaking world and the world's fourth-oldest surviving university. The university grew out of an association of scholars who left the University of Oxford after a dispute with the townspeople. The two 'ancient universities' share many common features and are often referred to jointly as 'Oxbridge'. The history and influence of the University of Cambridge has made it one of the most prestigious universities in the world.
Abergwili is a village and community in Carmarthenshire, Wales, near the confluence of the rivers Towy and Gwili. It is also an electoral ward.
In the early 1380s, Hilton turned away from the world and became a solitary, as he mentions in his earliest extant work, the Latin letter De Imagine Peccati (On the Image of Sin). Not long after (perhaps in 1384), Hilton states in a Latin epistle of spiritual counsel, De Utilitate et Prerogativis Religionis (On the Usefulness and Prerogatives of Religion), a.k.a. Epistola aurea addressed to his friend Adam Horsley, a former officer of the Exchequer, who was about to enter the Carthusian Order, that he is himself open to the possibility of joining a religious community, but is not yet certain of his vocation. [ citation needed ] it seems likely that it was around this date when Hilton joined a community – 1386 is often suggested as the date of his entry as an Augustinian Canon Regular into Thurgarton Priory in Nottinghamshire.Given that Horsley entered the Community of Beauvale in 1386,
Beauvale Priory was a Carthusian monastery in Beauvale, Nottinghamshire. It is a scheduled ancient monument.
Thurgarton is a small village in rural Nottinghamshire. The village is close to Southwell, and Newark on Trent, with a medium length commuting distance to Nottingham. It is served by Thurgarton railway station. According to the 2001 census it had a population of 412, increasing to 440 at the 2011 census.
Between around 1386 and 1390, Hilton was probably the author of Epistola de Leccione, Intencione, Oracione, Meditacione et Allis (Letter on Reading, Intention, Prayer, and Meditation), a brief treatise in English Of Angels' Song, which criticizes one aspect of Richard Rolle's spirituality, and The Epistle on the Mixed Life which instructs a devout layman concerning wealth and household responsibility, advising him not to give up his active life to become a contemplative, but to mix the two. Because of strong echoes between the Mixed Life and the first of the two books of Hilton's major work, The Scale of Perfection, both were probably written about the same time, in the late 1380s. Hilton may also have translated The Prickynge of Love (also known as Stimulus Amoris, an expanded version of a book originally by the 13th-century Franciscan James of Milan, which by that time was passing under the name of Bonaventure), though this remains a matter of dispute.
Richard Rolle was an English hermit, mystic, and religious writer. He is also known as Richard Rolle of Hampole or de Hampole, since at the end of his life he lived near a Cistercian nunnery in Hampole, Yorkshire. In the words of Nicholas Watson, scholarly research has shown that "[d]uring the fifteenth century he was one of the most widely read of English writers, whose works survive in nearly four hundred English...and at least seventy Continental manuscripts, almost all written between 1390 and 1500."
Saint Bonaventure, born Giovanni di Fidanza, was an Italian medieval Franciscan, scholastic theologian and philosopher. The seventh Minister General of the Order of Friars Minor, he was also Cardinal Bishop of Albano. He was canonised on 14 April 1482 by Pope Sixtus IV and declared a Doctor of the Church in the year 1588 by Pope Sixtus V. He is known as the "Seraphic Doctor". Many writings believed in the Middle Ages to be his are now collected under the name Pseudo-Bonaventure.
In his final years (from c. 1390 until c. 1396), Hilton probably wrote his Latin letter Epistola ad Quemdam Seculo Renunciare Volentem (To Someone Wanting to Renounce the World), and a brief piece on scruples entitled Firmissime crede. He produced the English version of Eight Chapters on Perfection, a translation of a now lost Latin work by the Franciscan Lluis de Font (or Luis de Fontibus), an Aragonese Franciscan who had a regency in theology at Cambridge in either 1391–3 or 1392–4. [ citation needed ] Hilton died on 24 March 1396 as an Augustinian Canon Regular at Thurgarton Priory. However, this manuscript was written much later than the history it reports, and it contains a number of historical mistakes.[ citation needed ]Also in this period, Hilton produced the second book of The Scale of Perfection. According to manuscript tradition,
The first book of The Scale of Perfection (the title is editorial, appearing only on half the manuscripts of Book One of the Scale)is addressed to a woman recently enclosed as an anchoress, providing her with appropriate spiritual exercises; the bulk of its 93 chapters deal with the extirpation of the "foul image of sin" in the soul – the perversion of the image of the Trinity in the three spiritual powers of Mind, Reason and Will (reflecting the Father, Son and Holy Spirit respectively, according to a tradition drawn from St Augustine) – through a series of meditations on the seven deadly sins. The second book, which opens by addressing itself to Hilton's former reader, who, he says, has further questions, seems from its style and content rather to be addressed to a larger, perhaps more sophisticated audience; its major themes are reformation of the soul in faith alone and in both faith and feeling. The latter is described in an extended metaphor as a spiritual journey to Jerusalem, or "peace" in meditation, a gift which is also its own giver, Christ. The first book of the Scale was apparently written some time before the second and was circulated independently.
The Mixed Life occasionally appears with the Scale in fifteenth-century manuscripts, and was printed by de Worde in 1494 as a 'third book' of the Scale, possibly at the desire of Lady Margaret, although the Mixed Life occurs in only half of the surviving copies of that printing. All later printings of the Scale also included the Mixed Life.
Hilton also wrote three other Latin letters of spiritual guidance, the Epistola de Leccione, Intencione, Oracione, Meditacione et Allis, the Epistola ad Quemdam Seculo Renunciare Volentem and Firmissime crede, as well as a scholastic quodlibet on the appropriateness of reverence shown to images in churches, a practice criticised by Lollards. He also wrote commentaries on the Psalm texts Qui Habitat and Bonum Est (Psalms 90.1 and 91.2), and perhaps on the Canticle Benedictus (Luke 1.68) as well.
Hilton's spiritual writings were influential during the 15th century in England. They were used extensively shortly after his death in the Speculum spiritualium . The most famous was the Scale of Perfection, which survives in some 62 manuscripts, including 14 of a Latin translation (the Liber de nobilitate anime) made around 1400 by Hilton's contemporary in Cambridge and Ely, the Carmelite friar Thomas Fishlake (or Fyslake). In this translation the Scale became the first work written originally in English to circulate on the European continent. The Scale and Mixed Life were printed by Wynkyn de Worde in Westminster in 1494, at the request of Lady Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond and Derby, mother of King Henry VII, and five more times before the English Reformation of the 1530s.
With the revival of the Roman Catholic Church in England in the 19th century, a modernised version of a 1659 edition was issued by Fr J. B. Dalgairns in 1870. Evelyn Underhill published an edition of the Scale in 1923.
Hilton is honoured in the Church of England on 24 March and in the Episcopal Church (USA) on 28 September, together with Richard Rolle and Margery Kempe.
Richard of Saint Victor, C.R.S.A. was a Medieval Scottish philosopher and theologian and one of the most influential religious thinkers of his time. A canon regular, he was a prominent mystical theologian, and was prior of the famous Augustinian Abbey of Saint Victor in Paris from 1162 until his death in 1173.
Julianof Norwich, also known as Dame Julian or Mother Julian was the greatest of all the English anchorites of the Middle Ages. She wrote the earliest surviving book in the English language to be written by a woman, Revelations of Divine Love.
An anchorite or anchoret is someone who, for religious reasons, withdraws from secular society so as to be able to lead an intensely prayer-oriented, ascetic, or Eucharist-focused life. Whilst anchorites are frequently considered to be a type of religious hermit, unlike hermits they were required to take a vow of stability of place, opting instead for permanent enclosure in cells often attached to churches. Also unlike hermits, anchorites were subject to a religious rite of consecration that closely resembled the funeral rite, following which they would be considered dead to the world, a type of living saint. Anchorites had a certain autonomy, as they did not answer to any ecclesiastical authority other than the bishop.
The Old English Bible translations are the partial translations of the Bible prepared in medieval England into the Old English language. The translations are from Latin texts, not the original languages.
Middle English Bible translations (1066-1500) covers the age of Middle English, beginning with the Norman conquest and ending about 1500. Aside from Wycliffe's Bible, this was not a fertile time for Bible translation. English literature was limited because French was the preferred language of the elite, and Latin was the preferred literary language in Medieval Western Europe.
The Cloud of Unknowing is an anonymous work of Christian mysticism written in Middle English in the latter half of the 14th century. The text is a spiritual guide on contemplative prayer in the late Middle Ages. The underlying message of this work suggests that the way to know God is to abandon consideration of God's particular activities and attributes, and be courageous enough to surrender one's mind and ego to the realm of "unknowing", at which point one may begin to glimpse the nature of God.
The Blessed John van Ruysbroeck was one of the Flemish mystics. Some of his main literary works include The Kingdom of the Divine Lovers, The Twelve Beguines, The Spiritual Espousals, A Mirror of Eternal Blessedness, The Little Book of Enlightenment, and The Sparkling Stone. Some of his letters also survive, as well as several short sayings. He wrote in the Dutch vernacular, the language of the common people of the Low Countries, rather than in Latin, the language of the Church liturgy and official texts, in order to reach a wider audience.
Henry Suso, O.P., was a German Dominican friar and the most popular vernacular writer of the fourteenth century. Suso is thought to have been born on March 21, 1295. An important author in both Latin and Middle High German, he is also notable for defending Meister Eckhart's legacy after Eckhart was posthumously condemned for heresy in 1329. He died in Ulm on 25 January 1366, and was beatified by the Catholic Church in 1831.
In Roman Catholicism, the veneration Holy Name of Jesus developed as a separate type of devotion in the Early Modern period, in parallel to that of the Sacred Heart. The Litany of the Holy Name is a Roman Catholic Prayer, probably of the 15th century. The Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus was introduced in 1530.
Revelations of Divine Love is a medieval book of Christian mystical devotions. It was written by an anchoress called Dame Julian, now known as Julian of Norwich, about whom almost nothing is known. The book is remarkable for being the earliest surviving example of a book in the English language to have been written by a woman.
The Ladder of Divine Ascent, or Ladder of Paradise, is an important ascetical treatise for monasticism in Eastern Christianity written by John Climacus in ca. AD 600 at the request of John, Abbot of Raithu, a monastery situated on the shores of the Red Sea.
Life of Soul is a short anonymous prose tract written in the late Middle English of the English Midlands about 1400 or a little earlier.
The Lincoln Thornton Manuscript is a medieval manuscript compiled and copied by the fifteenth-century English scribe and landowner Robert Thornton, MS 91 in the library of Lincoln Cathedral. The manuscript is notable for containing single versions of important poems such as the Alliterative Morte Arthure and Sir Perceval of Galles, and gives evidence of the variegated literary culture of fifteenth-century England. The manuscript contains three main sections: the first one contains mainly narrative poems ; the second contains mainly religious poems and includes texts by Richard Rolle, giving evidence of works by that author which are now lost; and the third section contains a medical treatise, the Liber de diversis medicinis.
Margaret Kirkby, was an anchorite of Ravensworth in North Yorkshire, England. She was the principal disciple of the hermit Richard Rolle, and the recipient of much of his writings.
The Stimulus Amoris was written by the Franciscan James of Milan in the late thirteenth century. The text expanded after James’s death, growing from twenty-three to fifty-three chapters by the early fourteenth century, and growing yet again in its 1476 and 1596 printings. There are at least six forms of the Latin text in existence. In its original version, it survives in ninety manuscripts. The early fourteenth century version, however, often called the Stimulus maior or Forma longa, exists in complete form in 221 manuscripts and partially in another 147.
Wisdom is one of the earliest surviving medieval morality plays. Together with Mankind and The Castle of Perseverance, it forms a collection of early English moralities called "The Macro Plays". Wisdom enacts the struggle between good and evil; as an allegory, it depicts Christ and Lucifer battling over the Soul of Man, with Christ and goodness ultimately victorious. Dating between 1460-1463, the play is preserved in its complete form in the Macro Manuscript, currently a part of the collection of the Folger Shakespeare Library. A manuscript fragment of the first 754 lines also belongs to the Bodleian Library. Although the author of Wisdom remains anonymous, the manuscript was transcribed and signed by a monk named Thomas Hyngman. Some scholars have suggested that Hyngman also authored the play.
The Old English Boethius is an Old English translation/adaptation of the sixth-century Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius, dating from between c. 880 and 950. Boethius's work is prosimetrical, alternating between prose and verse, and one of the two surviving manuscripts of the Old English translation renders the poems as Old English alliterative verse: these verse translations are known as the Metres of Boethius.
Speculum spiritualium is an anonymous religious compilation written in Latin, made between 1400 and 1430. The work was relatively popular, known in at least a dozen manuscripts, and printed by Wynkyn de Worde in 1510.
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