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The Cell of Self-Knowledge : seven early English mystical treatises printed by Henry Pepwell in 1521   By: (-1540)

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The Cell of Self Knowledge:

Seven Early English Mystical Treatises

Printed by Henry Pepwell


Edited with an introduction and notes by

Edmund G. Gardner M.A.


The Frontispiece is taken from B.M. MS. Faustina, B. VI.

"Stiamo nella cella del cognoscimento di noi; cognoscendo, noi per noi non essere, e la bonta di Dio in noi; ricognoscendo l'essere, e ogni grazia che e posta sopra l'essere, da lui." St. Catherine of Siena.

"Tergat ergo speculum suum, mundet spiritum suum, quisquis sitit videre Deum suum. Exterso autem speculo et diu diligenter inspecto, incipit ei quaedam divini luminis claritas interlucere, et immensus quidam insolitae visionis radius oculis ejus apparere. Hoc lumen oculos ejus irradiaverat, qui dicebat: Signatum est super nos lumen vultus tui, Domine; dedisti laetitiam in corde meo. Ex hujus igitur luminis visione quam admiratur in se, mirum in modum accenditur animus, et animatur ad videndum lumen, quod est supra se." Richard of St. Victor.


I. A very Devout Treatise, named Benjamin, of the Mights and Virtues of Man's Soul, and of the Way to True Contemplation, compiled by a Noble and Famous Doctor, a man of great holiness and devotion, named Richard of Saint Victor

The Prologue

Cap. I. How the Virtue of Dread riseth in the Affection

Cap. II. How Sorrow riseth in the Affection

Cap. III. How Hope riseth in the Affection

Cap. IV. How Love riseth in the Affection

Cap. V. How the Double Sight of Pain and Joy riseth in the Imagination

Cap. VI. How the Virtues of Abstinence and Patience rise in the Sensuality

Cap. VII. How Joy of Inward Sweetness riseth in the Affection

Cap. VIII. How Perfect Hatred of Sin riseth in the Affection

Cap. IX. How Ordained Shame riseth and groweth in the Affection

Cap. X. How Discretion and Contemplation rise in the Reason

II. Divers Doctrines Devout and Fruitful, taken out of the Life of that Glorious Virgin and Spouse of Our Lord, Saint Katherin of Seenes

III. A Short Treatise of Contemplation taught by Our Lord Jesu Christ, or taken out of the Book of Margery Kempe, Ancress of Lynn

IV. A Devout Treatise compiled by Master Walter Hylton of the Song of Angels

V. A Devout Treatise called the Epistle of Prayer

VI. A very necessary Epistle of Discretion in Stirrings of the Soul

VII. A Devout Treatise of Discerning of Spirits, very necessary for Ghostly Livers


FROM the end of the thirteenth to the beginning of the fifteenth century may be called the golden age of mystical literature in the vernacular. In Germany, we find Mechthild of Magdeburg (d. 1277), Meister Eckhart (d. 1327), Johannes Tauler (d. 1361), and Heinrich Suso (d. 1365); in Flanders, Jan Ruysbroek (d. 1381); in Italy, Dante Alighieri himself (d. 1321), Jacopone da Todi (d. 1306), St. Catherine of Siena (d. 1380), and many lesser writers who strove, in prose or in poetry, to express the hidden things of the spirit, the secret intercourse of the human soul with the Divine, no longer in the official Latin of the Church, but in the language of their own people, "a man's own vernacular," which "is nearest to him, inasmuch as it is most closely united to him."[1] In England, the great names of Richard Rolle, the Hermit of Hampole (d. 1349), of Walter Hilton (d. 1396), and of Mother Juliana of Norwich, whose Revelation of Divine Love professedly date from 1373, speak for themselves.

The seven tracts or treatises before us were published in 1521 in a little quarto volume: "Imprynted at London in Poules chyrchyarde at the sygne of the Trynyte, by Henry Pepwell. In the yere of our lorde God, M.CCCCC.XXI., the xvi. daye of Nouembre." They may, somewhat loosely speaking, be regarded as belonging to the fourteenth century, though the first and longest of them professes to be but a translation of the work of the great Augustinian mystic of an earlier age... Continue reading book >>

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