Sensuality and Spirituality: Julian Encourages Our Earthiness

We are meditating on Julian of Norwich’s teachings that support us in a time of plague (since she lived through the Black Death and its many waves that returned to England in her life time).

“Dance of soul” Photo by Ahmad Odeh, Unsplash

Today we arrive at her instruction to remain close to the earth and to our bodies in a time of plague. 

Like Aquinas who celebrates the “wonderful communion” of body and soul, Julian of Norwich celebrates the nondualism of body and soul and with it the holiness of matter and earthiness. 

She too sees the issue as one of relationship when she talks about “our sensuality” and God’s presence in it.

I understand that our sensuality is grounded in Nature, in Compassion, and in grace. I saw that God is our sensuality. For God is never out of the soul.

“The Kiss.” Photo by Vickson Santos from Pexels

Sensuality and human earthiness is not something to be feared in her spirituality but something to be embraced, since divinity itself operates there.

God is the ground in which our soul stands and God is the means whereby our Substance and our Sensuality are kept together so as to never be apart.

What incarnation means to Julian is the “oneing” of divinity and sensuality, of God and us. If God is the glue or means that keeps substance and sensuality together, then to explore either pole of our makeup is to explore God.

In a wonderful poem about both literal and psychic farming, Julian celebrates the struggle that gardening is all about.

There is a treasure in the earth that is a food tasty and pleasing to the Lord.

Be a gardener. Dig and ditch, toil and sweat.

Canggu, rice terrasse, Bali. Photo by Malorie Hibon on Unsplash

Turn the earth upside down and seek the deepness and water the plants in time.

Continue this labor and make sweet floods to run and noble and abundant fruits to spring.

Take this food and drink and carry it to God as your true worship.

Here Julian invites us to “go down” to find one’s deepest self, to engage in a kind of psychic geology and to enter into the fullness of Mother Earth and our truest selves.

Lest we be tempted to sublimate the true implications of her theology on sensuality or to sentimentalize it, Julian praises explicitly how going to the bathroom is holy.

Food is shut in within our bodies as in a well-made purse. When the time of our necessity comes the purse is opened and shut again in the most fitting way. And it is God who does this for I was shown that the Goodness of God permeates us even in our humblest needs.

The earthiness and the bodily cycles that channel this earthiness are godly. The word humility derives from the Latin word humus or earth.

 For Julian our earthiness is not an obstacle to divine energy but the very setting for it. Here lies a truly incarnational theology, one that celebrates the divinizing of the earth.

Translations from Brendan Doyle, Meditations with Julian of Norwich, pp. 95, 84, 28.

See Matthew Fox, Original Blessing, pp. 57-65.

Banner Image: “Horsewoman” Photo by Michael Walk on Unsplash

Queries for Contemplation

What do you derive from Julian’s poem on digging, ditching, toiling and sweating?  Is your gardening experience also a spiritual practice, an art as meditation?
What do you make of her honoring our bowel movements as God-in-action?

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10 thoughts on “Sensuality and Spirituality: Julian Encourages Our Earthiness”

  1. Avatar
    David Jackson

    Would it be possible to put the quotes from this video from Meister Eckhart and Hildegard of Bigen in this space?

    1. Gail Sofia Ransom

      Here are the quotes you requested:
      Meistert Eckhart
      The seed of God is in us. If the seed had a good, wise and industrious cultivator, it would thrive all the more and grow up to God whose seed it is. And the fruit would be equal to the nature of God. For the seed of a pear tree grows into a pear tree. A hazel seed grows into a hazel tree. The seed of God grows into God.

      Hildegard of Bingen
      Look into the field of your soul to root out the useless weeds and thorns and briars and see what grows there.

      Gail Sofia Ransom
      For the Daily Meditation Team

      1. Avatar

        Thank you for including the quotes I requested. I don’t know when you put them in, but I am so glad that today 5/12/2020, I went back to see and was wonderfully surprised to find them. They are gems.

  2. Avatar
    Patricia Ferrari

    I am greatly blessed by these daily readings. I learn, i grow, i become more as a result of these teachings. I especially enjoyed the closing remarks from Matthew, it makes me feel close like a friend. Much gratitude.

    1. Gail Sofia Ransom

      Thank you so much, Patricia, for writing to us and letting us know. We are grateful that you participate in these Daily Meditations.
      Gail Sofia Ransom
      For the Daily Meditation Team

  3. Avatar
    Thomas Ivan Dahlheimer

    Albert Einstein quote: Concerning matter, we have been all wrong. What we have called matter is really energy, whose vibration has been lowered as to be perceivable to the senses. There is no matter. There is only light and sound.  

    Excerpted from: Autobiography of a Yogi, by Paramhansa Yogananda: 

    “The stream of knowledge,” Sir James Jeans writes in The Mysterious Universe, “is heading towards a non-mechanical reality; the universe begins to look more like a great thought than like a great machine.”
    Twentieth-century science is thus sounding like a page from the hoary Vedas.

    From science, then, if it must be so, let man learn the philosophic truth that there is no material universe; its warp and woof is maya, illusion. Its mirages of reality all break down under analysis. As one by one the reassuring props of a physical cosmos crash beneath him, man dimly perceives his idolatrous reliance, his past transgression of the divine command: “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.”

  4. Avatar
    Margaret Rose Hess

    I’ve been thinking all day about this morning’s lesson, especially Julian’s vision of the purse. There are so many poetic levels to her image, such as the idea that in our humanness and humbleness we ought feel no shame, and by extension that we need to be careful not to judge ourselves and others. A question keeps coming to me in various ways: what if the whole world, even the universe, was a purse, where in the Beloved kept their most precious, dear, and deeply loved ones, allowing us to enter in and pass through?

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