David Conduct, A Simpler Path via Julian of Norwich and Marcus Aurelius, printed by Amazon, 2021
Rev. Dr Luke Penkett, CJN, ObJN, writes:
At first glance Julian and Marcus Aurelius seem very strange bedfellows. Strange that is until we begin to scratch below the surface.
Julian is perhaps best known for her teaching that God is love, that ‘all shall be well’, that there is a mother’s heart as well as a father’s heart in the heart of God.
Marcus Aurelius, the philosopher king, is best known for his Meditations, one of the greatest works of Stoic philosophy and spirituality, written in Greek on campaign sometime between 170 and 180. It is worth recording that Justin Martyr includes in his First Apology, written between 140 and 150, a letter from Marcus Aurelius to the Roman senate describing a battle in which Marcus believed Christian prayer had saved his army from thirst when ‘water poured from heaven,’ and ‘immediately we recognized the presence of God.’ Marcus goes on to request the senate cease persecuting Christians.
Now we begin to see similarities springing up between Julian of Norwich and Marcus Aurelius. Both going against the prevailing flow of thought. For Julian, at a time of censure and misogyny, she taught that God is a God of love who loves each person for who, not what, they are. For Marcus Aurelius, at a time of persecution, was the last of the rulers titled by Machiavelli as the ‘Five Good Emperors’, and the last emperor of the Pax Romana.
Thanks to both Julian and Marcus Aurelius, both hailed in our own day, and especially to their writings which encapsulate their teaching – and from which Conduct draws his quotations – we can be aware of a different way of life. One less complicated and overburdened, one in which our spiritual growth need no longer be stunted. Perhaps Julian and Marcus Aurelius are not such strange bedfellows after all.