The figure of the “holy fool” is a quasi-universal phenomenon that manifests itself, in one form or another, in virtually every spiritual quarter of the world. Methodologically, it must, first of all, be highlighted that this type of phenomenon can be divided into subcategories that refer to widely different spiritual outlooks and vocations. The primary question is, in this respect, that of the reality or authenticity of foolishness. In other words, is the holy fool pretending to be a fool, or is he a fool for good? As we see, this distinction is meaningful when trying to circumscribe the phenomenon of holy folly, but is still in some ways problematic. Were it not problematic, the very meaning of the holy fool would be unthinkable, since this spiritual phenomenon is predicated on a kind of prestidigitation with this world and the other, normalcy and deviance, wisdom and folly.1 It bears stressing, moreover, that the basic meaning of the word “fool” carries in its semantic wake the double implication of lack of sense and ridicule. The nonsensical dimension of the fool may be related either to a lack of wits, a deficiency of the rational faculty, or else to sheer madness, and mere psychic imbalance. Even though phenomena of holy foolishness are virtually to be found in every spiritual climate, it is undoubtedly in Christianity that this very particular vocation manifested itself in accordance with a religious outlook that provided it with both a sound scriptural grounding and a conducive spiritual climate and perspective. This is likely due to two primary factors.


Winter Solstice Christian Society Spiritual Climate Spiritual Sensibility Spiritual Phenomenon 
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© Patrick Laude 2005

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  • Patrick Laude

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