ABSTRACT

The practices of the suffering mystic provide an opposition to the theory that religion is the alienation of the individual from the self. In this article, I argue that the spiritual autobiography of Elisabeth of Schönau affords us the opportunity to challenge notions of religious self-alienation. By examining the self-inflicted suffering described in Elisabeth's visions, I propose that imitations of the Passion of Christ illustrate a practice that allowed the mystic to (re)gain what I call the “absolute essence” of the self—the rejection of any sort of self-alienation, a place where the subject and object are one. As interest in the Passion grew in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, the narratives of Elisabeth's mystical experiences appropriately demonstrate how self-mortification was a means to self-representation.

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