Traherne’s Technique of Repetition

In preparing his readers for a tour through Traherne’s Centuries, Professor Louis Martz dedicates twelve pages of The Paradise Within to Traherne’s (and Augustine’s) “technique of repetition.” Traherne’s overall approach is most cogently defended in the following assessment:

“The Centuries, although we may sometimes lay them aside in weariness or bewilderment, leave behind a tantalizing sense of some determined purpose underlying and created through those massive repetitions.” (The Paradise Within [TPW], p. 44)

In his exploration of the ways that both Augustine and Traherne use repetition to draw us “toward an inward understanding of the good,” Professor Martz offers us statements about this method that are in themselves worthy of a commonplace book:

“Repetition is a mode of assuring the seeker that he is on his way, and is not merely wandering blindly through the chaos from which all form arises.” (TPW, p. 48)

“Repetitions are, we might say, stepping stones that rise above the heaving mass of unformed matter in the mind.” (TPW, p. 48)

“By repetition the mind gradually brings forward into the light of the Divine Idea that knowledge which lies, unformed, within the mind’s unconscious and subconscious depths.” (TPW, p. 48)

The following conclusion about both Augustine and Traherne is a valuable encouragement for anyone who wants to work their way through Traherne’s Centuries:

“Such, I think is the effect of continuous reading in the Confessions or in the Centuries, for these writings proceed through a ‘darting movement of passage,’ working through short segments of thought that often seem, in themselves, inchoate, obscure, aimlessly wandering; and yet, after a series of such darting, exploratory movements, the process finds its form in a perfect meditation, ‘fully made, fully apparent, fully found’”. (TPW, p. 49)

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