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date: 02 June 2020

Abstract and Keywords

‘Prayer is nothing but an intimate sharing between friends’: so St Teresa of Avila describes the nature of Christian prayer from the perspective of the Western tradition of mystical theology. In this chapter two key aspects of this tradition are explored: the Neoplatonic and the Augustinian. The first, Neoplatonic tradition derives from the Platonic tradition of theosis which although never officially endorsed by the early church (and explicitly condemned in the writings of Origen) manages to survive in the Dionysian and Evagrian/monastic traditions. The second, deriving from St Augustine, develops the scriptural notion of the vision of the fallen soul in a broken world, subject to and entirely dependent upon God’s grace. These perspectives are mapped onto later developments in the tradition, in particular in the work of Teresa of Avila. The chapter finishes with some brief reflections on twentieth-century developments of the tradition as exemplified in the work of Edith Stein (St Teresa Benedicta a Cruce) and Thomas Merton that bring the key aspects of mystical prayer up to our present time.

Keywords: prayer, deification, Platonism, ecstasy, mindfulness, contemplation, phenomenology, Zen, transformation, Trinity

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