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October 17th, 2013

All Will Be Well: The Radical Optimism of Julian of Norwich
October 17, 2013
“All will be well and all will be well and every kind of thing shall be well.” (Julian of Norwich)

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This kind of corporeal identification with Christ is not unique to Julian. Other saints and mystics, known and unknown, have reported similar experiences. But what is unusual about Julian’s story is that Christ’s death was not dreadful to her. That is, he certainly suffered and she hated to see her beloved in such pain, but he also radiated warmth, sweetness, and a kind of ineffable joy. His countenance was “friendly and courteous.” And try as she might, Julian could not detect one iota of condemnation in him toward any member of the human family. She tried to line up the content of her visions with the “teachings of Holy Church” but sometimes they just didn’t mesh. Like the matter of our fallen nature.

Sin, says Julian, turns out to be “no thing.” This has been a controversial passage in Julian’s work. But she is quite clear: “Nowhere in all that was revealed to me did I see a trace of sin,” she writes. “And so I stopped looking for it and moved on, placing myself in God’s hand, allowing him to show me what he wanted me to see.” In Julian’s exceedingly practical view, “sin has no substance, not a particle of being, and can only be detected by the pain it causes.” When we make mistakes and create suffering, we humble ourselves and God loves us all the more. For those of us non-Christian and post-modern types, try substituting the word sin for shame, or blame, or even karma. In other words, we screw up, but that only opens the tender heart of the cosmos where we can find refuge and come back into wholeness.

The other startling thing about Julian’s homespun theology is her view of the feminine identity of God. Julian sees the Godhead in the Trinitarian context of Christianity, but with this radical twist: the Second Person (Christ) is actually the Mother (not the Son). “As truly as God is our Father,” she says, “just as truly is God our Mother.” Who else but a mother, she asks, would break herself open and pour herself out for her children? “Only God could ever perform such duty.” Not only that, but Julian’s God-as-Mother remains available at all times, especially present in our darkest hours–some kind of spiritual hybrid that encompasses the unconditional love of Mother Mary in the Catholic tradition, the infinite compassion of Tara in the Buddhist tradition, and the indwelling holiness of the Shekhinah in the Jewish tradition.

It baffles Julian that we don’t get this. When we miss the mark, we want to run away and hide. But “our courteous Mother doesn’t want us to flee,” Julian says. “Nothing would distress her more. She wants us to behave as a child would when he is upset or afraid: rush with all our might into the arms of the Mother.” For Julian, the good news is not merely the reward we will receive one day when we slough off this mortal coil and go home to God. Every moment is an opportunity to remember that we are perfectly loved and perfectly loveable, just as we are.

“And so when the final judgment comes,” Julian writes at the end of The Showings, “… we shall clearly see in God all the secrets that are hidden from us now. Then none of us will be moved in any way to say, ‘Lord, if only things had been different, all would have been well.’ Instead, we shall all proclaim in one voice, ‘Beloved One, may you be blessed, because it is so: ALL IS WELL.’”

Posted by mirabaistarr

Uncategorized | Mirabai Starr, author and speaker
The titles of the 21 discourses (Cora Lutz edition) are as follows:

That There is No Need of Giving Many Proofs for One Problem
That Man is Born with an Inclination Toward Virtue
That Women Too Should Study Philosophy
Should Daughters Receive the Same Education as Sons?
Which is more Effective, Theory or Practice?
On Training
That One Should Disdain Hardships
That Kings Also Should Study Philosophy
That Exile is not an Evil
Will the Philosopher Prosecute Anyone for Personal Injury?
What means of Livelihood is Appropriate for a Philosopher?
On Sexual Indulgence
What is the Chief End of Marriage
Is Marriage a Handicap for the Pursuit of Philosophy?
Should Every Child that is Born be Raised?
Must One Obey One's Parents under all Circumstances?
What is the Best Viaticum for Old Age?
On Food
On Clothing and Shelter
On Furnishings
On Cutting the Hair

His philosophy, which is in many respects identical with that of his pupil, Epictetus, is marked by its strong practical tendency. The philosophy he would have everyone cultivate is not a mere matter of words, of instruction, or of the school; but one that everyone by his own reflection and practice may pursue for himself.[12] Still, he considers it becoming in a philosopher to wear the philosopher's robe, to allow the hair to grow, and to retire from general society.[12] At the same time he is convinced of the power of philosophy over the minds of people; by it he hopes to heal all the corruption of the human mind.[13] His philosophy consists entirely of the rules for the conduct of life; all knowledge ought to be serviceable to action.[13] He does not reject logic: he regards it as a proof of a weak mind to decline to examine the fallacy which perplexes it;[14] yet at the same time he expresses his disgust at the multitude of dogmas which fed the vanity of the sophists.[15] He gives only a little attention to the physical doctrines of the Stoics; he asserts that the gods know all things without need of reasoning, since to them nothing can be obscure or unknown.[15] The human soul he considers to be akin to the gods,[15] and agrees with other Stoics that the soul is material, which after being corrupted by bodily influence, may be again purified and cleansed.[16] He strongly asserts the liberty of the rational soul (Greek: διάνοια).[16]

Musonius pays much more attention to ethics than logic or physics; for he holds that philosophy is nothing else than an investigation and practice of what is becoming and obligatory; and philosophy, he says, is merely the pursuit of a virtuous life. He requires that all people, both men and women, should cultivate philosophy as the only sure road to virtue.[16] He agrees that it is easy to follow one's own nature, and the only great impediment which he can find to a truly moral life is the prejudices with which the mind is filled from childhood, and the evil habits confirmed by practices.[17] Thus he regards philosophy as the mental art of healing, and lays great stress on the practice of virtue, preferring practice to precept.[17] He distinguishes two kinds of practice: the exercise of the mind in reflection and the adoption of good rules in life, and the endurance of bodily pains which affect both the soul and the body.[18]

A life lived according to nature consists in social, friendly sentiments and temper, and in contentment with what will simply alleviate the primary needs of nature.[18] He combats all selfishness, and regards marriage not merely as becoming and natural, but as the principle of the family and state, and the preservation of the whole human race.[18] He zealously protests against the exposure of children as an unnatural custom, and at every opportunity recommends the practice of benevolence.[18] His precepts for the simple life are carefully detailed, and he gives precise regulations for diet, the care of the body, clothing, and even furniture. Thus he recommends that the hair should be allowed to grow long and not cut too close; and he honours the beard on the basis that the hair was provided by nature for covering the body.[18] He forbids meat, and prefers food which is furnished and offered by nature to that which requires the art of cooking.[18]

Musonius expresses a progressive view of the role of women in philosophy, arguing that because men's and women's capacity to understand virtue is the same, both should be trained in philosophy.[19]

Gaius Musonius Rufus - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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