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The Origins of the Christian Mystical Tradition: From Plato to Denys Reprint Edition

4.7 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0198266686
ISBN-10: 0198266685
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

One reviewer of this book wrote, "it is not often that we chance to meet with a book so rich that it would be impossible to discuss it in full without writing another one at least as long." Originally given as a series of lectures in the Faculty of Theology at the Oxford University, The Origins of the Christian Mystical Tradition is a superb introduction to the sometimes fog-filled subject of Christian mysticism. Focusing on the early centuries of the faith, Louth first explores the influence of Plato and Platonism on Christian writers, and then devotes individual chapters to key theologians: Athanasius and Gregory of Nyssa, Augustine, and Denys the Areopagite, also known as Pseudo-Dionysius. In his final two chapters he looks at the relationship between the mysticism of the early church fathers and that of St. John of the Cross, perhaps the most influential mystic in the history of the church, and he explores the distinctive character of Christian mysticism.

While challenging reading, Louth is a clear and straightforward thinker and writer. The Origins of the Christian Mystical Tradition will lead the discerning reader onto a path through some of the most exciting and ecstatic spiritual writing in any tradition. --Doug Thorpe

Review


"Great summary. Fine insights."--Jill Raitt, University of Missouri, Columbia


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 232 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; Reprint edition (August 4, 1983)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0198266685
  • ISBN-13: 978-0198266686
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 0.5 x 5.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.7 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,557,151 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Andrew Louth's should be read by everyone with an interest in the Christian mystical tradition. Louth is not only a brilliant scholar and professor of theology, he is himself also an Orthodox Christian. In this book he gives a brilliant exposition of central parts of the Christian mystical tradition. Many Christian thinkers have been Platonists. Its is thus interesting that Louth starts his book with Plato. He then goes on to covering Philo and Plotinus. Then the Christian mystics are presented. Origen and his contemplative, cognitivist mysticism is important. The Nicene Orthodox thinkers like Athansius and Gregory of Nyssa are presented. Louth's exposition of Evagrius of Pontus is also interesting. Evagrius was a hermit in the Syrian desert for 16 years. He was an intellectualist mystic, believing that the highest goal was to contemplate the divine Trinity -Theologia. Also significant are the treatments of Augustine and Denys. It is clear that Augustine was a mystic and reported experiences of an infusion of grace. Reading Augustine's The Teacher in combination with Louth's volume will give you a good picture of Augustine's views on religious experiences and the role of direct perceptions of metaphysical realities in theology. This book is a good one, no doubt. It shows you the role of experience in mysticism and in much of the canonical Christian theology. It deals with cataphatic versus apophatic theology. It shows the reader how much of the premodern Christian theology was more than an academic dicipline -it was connected to living a pious and spiritual life. Although some of the mystics here were far too fanatic, they were special personalities and great thinkers. The book also contains many passages from the original texts, and I certainly do recommend it.
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Format: Paperback
Prof. Louth dicusses the origins of Christian theology, especially the "mystical" theology. He doesn't limit himself to the latin west, thankfully, but rather embraces the eastern perspective as well. He works through Plato, Philo, Plotinus, Origen, Nicene Orthodoxy (Athanasius and Gregory of Nyssa), the monastic contrabution (Evagrius of Pontus, the Marcian homilies, and Diadochus of Photice), Augustine (of course), Denys the Areopagite, Patristic Mysticism and Joh of the Cross (divine darkness and the Dark Night), the mystical life and the mystical body (Platonism and mysticism, the communion of saints).
Like his other works, this is exhaustive and articulate. A strong dose of the texts themselves, in translation, helps us meet the minds of these influential thinkers at firsthand (almost).
I would strongly recommend the works of Vladimir Lossky in this regard, especially his "Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church". There are many great books on this subject, but this is a great place to start! Enjoy!
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Format: Paperback
Fr. Louth dicusses the origins of Christian theology, especially the "mystical" theology. He doesn't limit himself to the Latin West, thankfully, but rather embraces the Eastern perspective as well. He works through Plato, Philo, Plotinus, Origen, Nicene Orthodoxy (Athanasius and Gregory of Nyssa), the monastic contribution (Evagrius of Pontus, the Marcian homilies, and Diadochus of Photice), Augustine (of course), Denys the Areopagite, Patristic Mysticism and John of the Cross (divine darkness and the Dark Night), the mystical life and the mystical body (Platonism and mysticism, the communion of saints).

Like his other works, this is exhaustive and articulate. A strong dose of the texts themselves, in translation, helps us meet the minds of these influential thinkers at firsthand (almost).

I find his treatment of neo-Platonism most useful. Following Pelikan, Lossky and Florovsky, Louth shows that the Eastern Orthodox tradition was not Hellenized, but that the Hellenic framwork was "baptized" so to speak, but not on a wholesale scale. It was tweaked to fit the revelation of God in Christ.

I would strongly recommend the works of Vladimir Lossky in this regard, especially his The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church. There are many great books on this subject, but this is a great place to start! Enjoy!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Andrew Louth writes well and nicely contextualises both the underlying platonic influences of Christianity, but also the transformative nature of the Christian tradition's use of platonism & pays particular attention to the Eastern/mystical lens of Christian praxis and its rational framework. I felt he treated both Plotinus & Origen fairly & recognises their ongoing influence. I didn't read this book word for word, but it is an easy read and a good reference work that is nicely referenced. Great chapters on Plotinus, Origen & Nicene Orthodoxy in particular. His work on the discussion of creatio ex nihilo in Nicene Orthodoxy was inspired & he takes an excellent perspective in the debate between Athanasius & Arius.
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Cannot say enough good about this book. Give's the reader an excellent foundation for understanding early Christianity, it's experience, thought and the dogma thereby resulting from that lived experience and conversation. I resisted buying it because of the price and the fact that it is a paperback, but very, very good value and worth the price.

It should have been one of the first books assigned me in the seminary. Absolutely, necessary volume in anyone's theological library.
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