The poetic of the Cosmic Christ in Thomas Traherne's 'The Kingdom of God'

Alison Kershaw

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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[Truncated abstract] In this thesis I examine the poetics of Thomas Traherne’s often over-looked Christology through a reading of The Kingdom of God. This work, probably written in the early 1670s, was not discovered until 1997, and not published until 2005. To date, no extended studies of the work have been published. It is my argument that Traherne develops an expansive and energetic poetic expressive of the theme of the ‘Cosmic Christ’ in which Christ is understood to be the source, the sustaining life, cohesive bond, and redemptive goal, of the universe, and his body to encompass all things. While the term ‘Cosmic Christ’ is largely of 20th century origin, its application to Traherne is defended on the grounds that it describes not so much a modern theology, as an ancient theology rediscovered in the context of an expanding cosmology. Cosmic Christology lies, according to Joseph Sittler,“tightly enfolded in the Church’s innermost heart and memory,” and its unfolding in Traherne’s Kingdom of God is accomplished through the knitting together of an essentially Patristic and Pauline Christology with the discoveries and speculations of seventeenth century science: from the infinity of the universe to the workings of atoms. … The thesis concludes with a distillation of Traherne’s Christic poetic The Word Incarnate. The terms put forward by Cosmic Christology are used to explicate Traherne’s intrepid poetic. In his most remarkable passages, Traherne employs language not only as a rhetorical tool at the service of theological reasoning, but to directly body forth his sense of Christ at the centre of world and self. He promises to “rend the Vail” and to reveal “the secrets of the most holy place.” Scorning more “Timorous Spirits,” he undertakes to communicate and “consider it all.”
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Publication statusUnpublished - 2005


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