The Mystical Science of the Soul

The Mystical Science of the Soul: Medieval Cognition in Bernardino de Laredo's Recollection Method

JESSICA A. BOON
Series: Toronto Iberic
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 352
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/9781442699557
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  • Book Info
    The Mystical Science of the Soul
    Book Description:

    Building on recent research in medieval optics, physiology, and memory in relation to the devotional practices of the late Middle Ages, Jessica A. Boon probes the implications of an 'embodied soul' for the intellectual history of Spanish mysticism.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-9955-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-2)
  5. Introduction: Passion Spirituality and Cognitive Studies
    (pp. 3-26)

    Bernardino de Laredo’s directive that ‘the pupils of the eyes of the veins’ found in the ‘entrails’ of the devotee’s soul should become containers for Christ’s blood might well strike the modern reader as both physiologically and theologically incomprehensible. How could souls have entrails complete with veins, or veins have eyes? Even if they did, how could Renaissance Castilian readers turn their souls’ organs into reliquaries for first-century bodily fluid? Surely this phrasing is simply an elaborate rhetorical gesture, a forerunner to the baroque flourishes of Counter-Reformation piety that saturated southern Europe after the 1563 Council of Trent. In his...

  6. Part One: Rereading the Historical Context

    • 1 Renaissance Castilian Spirituality: An Embodied Christianity
      (pp. 29-59)

      It is imperative that the various ways that body was central to the spiritual landscape of early modern Castile be accounted for in any history of Spanish Christian thought. This chapter will reassess Renaissance Castilian spirituality, offering a corrective to the traditional view relayed by historians of Spanish mysticism that the era hierarchized soul over body, incorporeal spirituality over lay ritual and embodied meditation. It will become evident that the bodies of Christ and the believer were key concerns in the early decades following the religious unification of Castile, that is, the age of Cisneros’s reform of the Spanish church...

    • 2 Navigating an Inquisitorial Culture
      (pp. 60-82)

      While Inquisition trial transcripts have provided modern historians with an unparalleled record of daily religious life in sixteenth-century Spain,¹ the lives of those who did not run afoul of the inquisitors remain obscure. The archives of many convents were lost during the nineteenth-century ‘exclaustration,’ or closure of the monasteries, making it particularly challenging to find data concerning those housed in religious orders.² As a result, it is not possible to provide a traditional biography of Bernardino de Laredo, despite his dual fame as author of the first Castilian pharmaceutical treatises and as one of the primary mystical authors to influence...

  7. Part Two: A Scientific Close Reading

    • 3 Medical Bodies, Mystical Bodies
      (pp. 85-107)

      Of late, scholars have produced any number of excellent studies on the role of ‘body’ in late medieval religion, bringing to light aspects of ritual, popular religion, and cult about which we were previously unaware.¹ Yet historians of Christian mysticism, although attentive to the role of body in relation to such matters as visionary experience and to the role of gender in mysticism, have rarely taken into consideration the medieval or Renaissance body as a scientific reality according to the physiological models prevalent in those eras.² Whether the body was denied or exalted en route to mystical union, mystics, as...

    • 4 Mnemotechnical Mysticism
      (pp. 108-135)

      Research in medieval epistemology has shown that Aquinas, followed by other scholastic theologians, ‘insisted more completely than the Arabic commentators on the “embodiment” of all kinds of human knowledge,’¹ and reflected a familiarity with the scientific theory that mapped the five inner senses to brain ventricles. The intersection of the history of science with the study of medieval religion that produced the cognitive turn in medieval studies, however, has yet to yield any full-length treatments of mystical treatises² and has had no impact on studies of Spanish mysticism or devotional experience.³ This absolute disciplinary divide must be rectified in order...

    • 5 Optics, Pain, and Transformation into God
      (pp. 136-162)

      The most effective memory devices are those that depend on shock value or clever ornamentation. Many of the graphically violent or sexual images found in medieval literature and religious meditation were not formulated in order to appeal to the lowest common denominator; they were intended to be forceful enough to imprint on the memory like incisions on a wax tablet.³ Authors of mnemotechnical treatises insisted that sequences of violence, whether in a historical chronicle or in depictions of the Passion, not only stayed vividly in the mind’s eye but also drew the reader into visualizing the depicted scene, a necessary...

  8. Conclusion: Cognition in Recollected Union
    (pp. 163-178)

    Modern scholars are unanimous in declaring the stage of recollection, termed the ‘unitive way’ in the 1538 edition of Laredo’sSubida del Monte Sión,¹ to be the most important section of Laredo’s prescriptive guide to the mystical ascent. Not only does Andrés choose the third level ofrecogimientoas the primary focus of hissummaon the genre of recollection mysticism,² but Ros, in the sole comprehensive monograph on Laredo, turns to it with evident relief after complying with a sense of fair play that demanded at least a summary of the first two stages of theSubida.³ Given that...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 179-278)
  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 279-310)
  11. Index
    (pp. 311-330)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 331-331)