Christian Mystics and Jhānas

Here are some references a student sent to me:

Francisco de Orsuna - “The Third Spiritual Alphabet”

The evolution from the Christian desert fathers into the Carmelite tradition is nicely summarised in Peter Tyler’s book:
“Christian Mindfulness - Theology & Practice”

He somewhat overlooks the Cistercian and Benedictine traditions where I have found some Jhana-like references:

St Bernard of Clairveux
“Sermons on the Song of Songs”

    Manageable excerpt:
    Full source:

I think the kisses of the feet, hands and mouth might respectively be: access concentration, the first Jhana and some other Jhana, but I do not see sufficient detail to say which one.

A more obscure reference, and a lot earlier, is St Gregory the Great (c540 - 604) who also wrote on the Song of Songs but I have not been able to read that.
However, I did read much of his “Moralia on Job”:
And I am assuming his position on The Song is consistent with what he writes about it in Book XXVII viz. 34 et 45 of the Moralia.

(Of course, these need to be read in conjunction with The Song of Songs (aka Cant.) and the book of Job).

Then much later in the Benedictine tradition there’s Augustine Baker, who, when he was not hiding in ‘priest holes’ in Elizabethan manor houses, amazingly managed to pen the “Sancta Sophia” on the hoof. This is a complete guide comparable with the gradual training. There’s a complete copy of the work in the library at Douai Abbey which I have dipped into.
A highlights version can be found online:

Strictly Benedictine monks are supposed to meditate in this way, which seems to me to be a bit like Zazen.
I read it before I did much Jhana work so I would have to go back and read it again now! One of my friends is a monk at Douai Abbey and an expert on Baker so I could ask him to point me in the right direction I suppose.

Interestingly, Baker’s great mindfulness practice is awareness by place. He instructs the monks to practice awareness according to the rooms in the monastery. Presumably for the recusant families of Tudor England, to whom Baker ministered, he advised them to use the rooms of their manor houses. Since their servants were generally included in Spiritual activities, this possibly included the kitchens etc.

Finally I had mentioned the Meister Eckhart translation by Maurice Walshe. Eckhart is strong on ‘no-self’ and on ‘no-thing-ness’; definitely of the ‘via negativa’ or apophatic way of thinking, so despised by the Inquisition. I think this may be why John of the Cross and Theresa of Avila’s works are so cryptic and also they probably assumed readers had access to Orsuna’s or some other ’Spiritual Alphabet’. Btw, the few meditation instructions Theresa gives are to be found in “The Way of Perfection” Chapters 28 though 34, not the Interior Castle.

The inquisition had a lot to answer for but, of course, nowadays nobody expects them! Or do they?!

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Leigh Brasington / EmailAddr / Revised 29 Aug 22