Temple, Liam Peter. "George Herbert". In Protestants and Mysticism in Reformation Europe, (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2019) doi: https://doi.org/10.1163/9789004393189_018
‘The fourteenth century has been rightly seen as the great age of English mysticism, but in some respects the seventeenth century does not lag far behind’. These concluding remarks in Bernard McGinn latest volume, Mysticism in the Reformation (1500-1650), hint at the rich vein of mysticism which emerged across a range of religious groups in seventeenth century England, both from those happily thriving within the ecclesia anglicana and those who sought further reform and adherence to stricter form of puritanical Calvinism. This chapter focuses on the ‘priest-poet-mystic’ George Herbert, undoubtedly one of the most studied and celebrated seventeenth century poets, as an example of a figure whose burgeoning spirituality was shaped by the doctrines of the Church of England and the Book of Common Prayer. As one modern commentator has noted, ‘to some people Herbert is an uncanonized saint, perhaps a mystic’. As a result, scholars have passionately disagreed over the nature of Herbert’s spirituality and his place in the broad continuum of identities that existed within English Protestantism. In broader terms, this chapter also aims to explore the currents of both pre- and post-Reformation mysticism at work in seventeenth-century England.
Protestants and Mysticism in Reformation Europe is intended as a handbook on the Protestant reception of medieval mysticism in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries (the “Reformation era”). Bringing together contributions from a leading group of international scholars, the edited collection will challenge the pervasive scholarly assumption that after Luther and a few early radicals, Protestants of the era largely disregarded and were little influenced by medieval mysticism and its literature. By making this challenge, the volume will encourage a substantial reassessment of the relationship between Reformation-era Protestantism and medieval Christianity. The addressed historical figures represent the diversity of Reformation-era Protestantism, including Lutheran, Reformed, Anglican, and radical protestants.
In recent decades, relevant studies—primarily of individual historical figures—have increasingly illuminated Protestants’ rich and varied reception of mysticism. This research, however, remains scattered throughout varied English, German, Dutch, and French publications, and there is need for a handbook to gather, evaluate, and, most importantly, draw connections between this research. Directed primarily toward scholars and graduate students, Protestants and Mysticism in Reformation Europe is intended to lay the foundation for future research on the topic.