Monday, 20 June 2011

Research Notes 1

Julian of Norwich

In what manner those who approach the order of anchorites ought to approach and to order themselves, that which follows according to the Use of Sarum will make clear. No one ought to be enclosed without the advice of the Bishop ; but let him be taught and warned by the Bishop or some other presbyter that he must devoutly examine his own conscience, and in particular whether he desires holiness with a good or bad purpose, if he desires it to please God or to attain wealth or the praise of men ; lastly whether he have strength and endurance of mind enough to avail against the crafts of the evil enemy, and against manifold mischiefs of that sort. When he shall have promised to bear such things for the kingdom of God, and to set his hope on God alone, let the Bishop, or a presbyter by command of the Bishop, enclose him. But let the one who is enclosed learn not to think highly of himself, as though he deserved to be set apart from the mass of mankind ; but let him rather believe that it is provided and appointed for his own weakness that he should be set far from the companionship of his neighbours, lest by more frequent sin he should both himself perish and do harm to those who dwell with him, and should thus fall into greater damnation. Let him therefore think that he is convicted of his sins and committed to solitary confinement as to a prison, and that on account of his own weakness he is unworthy of the fellowship of mankind. This rule must be observed with both sexes.

Clay, Rotha Mary., The Hermits and Anchorites of England. Methuen & Co., London. 1914.

The quote is a foreword to the office of the enclosing of anchorites according to the use of Sarum which was used in the Middle Ages. Since the vast majority of anchorites were women, I was thinking how close the role of the bishop was to a modern psychotherapist when confronted with a female client.

 Enclosure was first and foremost an intellectual acquiescence to a patriarchal world view where the woman is unworthy due to her original sin by virtue of her gender. The postulant is denied the validation of her beliefs and there is an intellectual coercion by an implied but not expressed notion of personal guilt for the failings of her community. Also note that the Black Death which was prevalent at the time was considered God’s punishment for sin and thus the sin of the prospective anchorite would cause the physical death of herself and her companions: therefore, exclusion and obedience to God as corporally manifested in the form of the Church was justified for the safety of society.

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