This article is a case study in the methodology of “neurohistory,” combining a traditional cultural historical approach to anchoritic guidance writing with the discipline of modern neuroscience. It focuses on the guide De Institutione Inclusarum (ca. 1160) by the Cistercian Aelred of Rievaulx. The essay begins with an explanation of “devotional reading,” in which texts provide meditative scripts for the reader. Following an overview of the text, one meditation on caritas prescribed by Aelred is examined in detail and compared with the meditations used in modern neuroscientific studies of compassion and empathy. The article then addresses the drawbacks and common criticisms of this methodology, before indicating possible areas of future research.

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