Professor Martz’s Structural Study of Traherne’s Centuries

A. Leigh Deneef, in his important study, Traherne in Dialogue, noted that Louis Martz’s The Paradise Within, is one of the most important structural studies of Traherne’s Centuries. I would argue that it is probably the most helpful guide as one works his way through Traherne’s Centuries.

Although he emphasizes the similarities to Bonaventure’s subject matter and organization within Itinerarium Mentis in Deum (The Mind’s Road to God), the structure he assigns to the Centuries is valid in and of itself. It includes the following five parts:

  1. Preparation (First Century)
  2. Journey through the Creatures of the external world (Second Century)
  3. Journey through the Image of God in the “mind and Memory” (Third Century)
  4. Journey through the Principles of Being and Good “signed upon our minds” (Fourth Century)
  5. Repose: in which “all intellectual operations should be abandoned” (Fifth Century)

Martz starts his thesis with a bang when he makes his well-founded claim about the nature of Traherne’s Centuries being a “treatise of instruction.” He elaborates:

Traherne’s First Century is in every way a ‘Preparation’ of the kind advised in the seventeenth-century handbooks of meditation: it sets forth the topics and images to be considered; it cultivates the presence of God and invokes the assistance of God in the performance of the meditative action. Meanwhile, Traherne makes it plain that he has in mind the writing of a treatise of instruction, an introduction to the devout life.” (The Paradise Within, p. 58)

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