Medieval Vision

Have you ever had a supernatural experience?

It could have been something you dreamed was going to occur that, later, seemed to really happen.  Or maybe you saw something that you were pretty sure couldn’t really exist in the world as we know it.  Or, as you sat contemplating things a message from beyond seemed to pop up out of nowhere, maybe from an incorporeal being.

Apparently this sort of thing happened to people living in medieval times pretty regularly; the difference for them was they had a more fluid idea of what constituted the real world then we do today.

I was reading the journal of three 12th century monks who set out to find the ‘terrestrial paradise.’  As they traveled to the east they encountered little people ‘no more than two feet high’ and went through a mountain region where there were basilisks, unicorns and dragons.  They passed through a region of constant darkness where ‘mournful shrieking came from sinners drowning in a sea of serpents’ and ‘a giant chained between two boulders’ was being tortured with fire…..  Well, the account goes on and on, one extraordinary event after another.

In my rationalistic way of thinking it all seems very imaginative.  They simply were encountering things they had never seen before and were interpreting them in terms of the magical world in which they lived.

I don’t know if I should be happy in my understanding of the natural world or sad in my inability to realize a truly magical kingdom.

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