Thursday, May 09, 2013

Punctuating Julian of Norwich: new insights revealed

Deeper research into various ancient mystical writings has revealed a new side to some of our favourite spiritual sayings.

Julian of Norwich, celebrated in various places yesterday, is famous for her visions and words of wisdom. Most quoted, perhaps, is "all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well."

But so much, of course, depends on context. As Julian was illiterate herself, there is the chance that the saying has been wrongly transcribed, especially with regard to punctuation. Instead, Mother Julian is newly revealed as patron saint of the vague and indecisive generalisation, a perfect role model for Anglicans everywhere:

"All manner of things shall be, well.... all manner of things shall be, well...... and all manner of things shall be, well......"

Meanwhile parallel research elsewhere in Europe uncovers more ancient truths. "Preach the gospel at all times, use words if necessary" is commonly ascribed to St. Francis. In other words, St. Francis never said it, but an otherwise questionable idea gains specious credibility and profundity by being linked with a dead mystic who can't answer back.

Again, there is suspicion of both a transcription error, and later additions the original text. Source critics, working on the accepted academic premise that modern scholars have a deeper insight into the message of historic figures than the historic figures themselves, suggest that the original saying was:

"Preach the gospel at all times. Use words."

The addition of 'if necessary' and revision of punctuation looks like a later textual addition by universalists and people who've lost confidence in speaking about Jesus, dateable to the late 20th and early 21st century.

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