Infinite Love and the Limits of Neo-Scholasticism in the Poetry and Prose of Thomas Traherne

  • Paul Cefalu


While it is generally recognized that Thomas Traherne’s philosophical and theological outlook is informed by a range of classical and early Christian worldviews, most commentators have focused on the Neo-Platonic and mystical elements in his work, usually citing as evidence for Traherne’s Platonism the many excerpts in his Commonplace Book from Ficino, Henry More, and Hermes Trismegistus. For example, in a recent collection of essays focusing on the influence of Platonism in English Renaissance literature, Sara Hutton argues that “the rapturously rhapsodic character of Traherne’s writing, his visionary account of the mundane and his repeated use of dominant images, particularly of light and sight, invite a mystical interpretation.” 1 Traherne’s Platonism and mysticism, however, have proved difficult to reconcile with his Aristotelianism and scholasticism, particularly his preoccupation with such metaphysical concepts such as potency, act, form, matter, substance, and habit, all of which figure centrally in Christian Ethicks, the Centuries, and his most famous poems. Faced with integrating Traherne’s scholasticism with his Platonism, critics have often hedged by describing him as an eclectic in whose work Platonism predominates.


Substantial Form Creaturely World Perfect Actuality Divine Goodness Agent Intellect 
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  1. 1.
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© Paul Cefalu 2007

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