I am finishing André Vauchez’s ‘La spiritualité du Moyen Age occidental’, which gives an account of the development of western spirituality from the 8th to the 13th century (There is an English translation, which like the original French edition, covers only till the 12th century, the part on the 13th – perhaps the most interesting –being a later addition.)
For me, Vauchez documents well the move from a church essentially rooted in the liturgy, with heavily decorated churches, with rites attended by people who had very little idea of what was really happening and a spirituality which bordered on the magic, to the starts of a ‘modern’ spiritual consciousness, with the laity beginning to demand to understand what was going on, to have a genuine religious experience and express it their own language, often to the horror of the church authorities.
No prizes for guessing the parallel going through my mind….Two other points:
The more I read about the spirituality of this time, the more I sense that it is very similar to what was happening in the Eastern church, an strengthens my suspicion that the idea of two separate spiritual worlds, East and Western Christianity, from 1054 onwards is a figment of an Orthodox purist’s imagination.
Vauchez also writes well on female (semi-) monastic spirituality of this period: I have read nothing about this on the Orthodox side: were there any Orthodox equivalents of Hildegard of Bingen, Hadewych of Antwerp, Marie of Oignies, Margaret Porete or (later) Julian of Norwich and Teresa of Avila?