This unit explores the history of contemplative practices in Western Christian spirituality. The unit begins with an investigation of key biblical passages and then moves to the early Church Fathers including Origen, Augustine of Hippo and Pseudo‐Dionysius. The unit analyses key texts of monastic traditions, including St Benedict, early Carthusian writings, St Bernard of Clairvaux, Richard of St Victor, and St. Francis. The unit then moves to major male and female spiritual authors of the High and Late Middle Ages who wrote in the vernacular, including John of Ruusbroec, Eckhart, Hadewijch, and the Modern Devotion. Important texts from the Early Modern and Modern Period will also be studied, including the Carmelite spirituality of St John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, St Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises. The unit concludes with a consideration contemporary contemplative practices and a critical reflection on the relevance of the contemplative tradition.

Unit Code: CH9199J

Points: 24.0

Unit Level: Postgraduate Elective

Unit Discipline: Church History

Delivery Mode: Online

Proposing College: Jesuit College of Spirituality

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Learning Outcomes


Articulate a detailed knowledge of the history, content and context of selected mystical texts


Analyse, critically interpret, research and develop a sustained argument about the history of Christian contemplation


Critically reflect on the history of contemplative practices in dialogue with contemporary theology and spirituality


Synthesise the knowledge of spiritual authors from the past with one’s personal experiences, values and beliefs and if applicable, one’s ministry as a spiritual director.

Unit sequence

Prohibited combinations DS9191J/ DS9199J CH9191J/ CH9199J

old code: DS9125J


Lectures, seminars, tutorials, facilitated interaction in small groups.


Type Description Wordcount Weight (%)

1000 word reflection

0 15.0

5000 word essay

0 85.0

Unit approved for the University of Divinity by John Capper on 1 Nov, 2016

Unit Record last updated: 2019-03-29 12:18:01 +1100