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Imagination at the Uppermost Stages of Contemplation

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Chapter Summary

This chapter analyses the passages of Benjamin Major which review the operation of imagination and its significance for the uppermost level of contemplation. In his Benjamin Major, Richard of St. Victor divides the six kinds of contemplation into two grades: the three lowest kinds of contemplation may be defined as the realm of the operation of the imagination and reason, whereas the three uppermost kinds are characterized by various combinations of reason and understanding. Richard's ambiguous attitude towards imagination emerges immediately in the introduction to the analysis of the fourth kind of contemplation. The chapter discusses one of the most intriguing passages in Benjamin Major. Richard analyses the properties of imagination, arguing that this kind of knowledge may profit the fourth and fifth kinds of contemplation. In the final three kinds of contemplation, the soul prepares itself for the ecstatic union with God by examining its own depths.

Keywords: Benjamin Major; contemplation; imagination; Richard of St. Victor



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