Reason turned into sense: John Smith on spiritual sensation
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John Smith (1618-1652), the 17th century Cambridge Platonist, employed the traditional language of the spiritual senses of the soul to develop an early modern theological aesthetic central to his religious epistemology and thus to his philosophy of religion and systematic theology. Smith's place in this tradition has been under-appreciated by scholars working on the Cambridge Platonists and the spiritual senses. However, as a Christian Platonist, Smith advocated intellectual intuition of Divine Goodness as the key to theological knowledge and spiritual practice. Furthermore, Smith's theory of prophecy rests on the reception of sensible images in the imagination. In order to demonstrate this the dissertation first presents an interpretive summary of the spiritual senses tradition and proposes a functional typology that registers three uses of non-corporeal perception throughout the history of Christian theology: (1) accounts of the origin and methods of theological knowledge, (2) descriptions of spirituality, and (3) attempts to systematically present or defend Christian theology. Additionally, Smith's historical and intellectual context in early seventeenth century England is discussed with particular attention to how his education prepared him to contribute to the mystical tradition of the spiritual senses of the soul. Through a close reading of his extant writings it is shown that Smith's theories of theological knowledge, method, and prophecy rest on his development of the spiritual senses tradition, combining intellectual intuition and imaginative perception. Likewise, the role of spiritual aesthetics in Smith's prescriptive account of Christian piety is presented. Here the spiritual senses are both means and reward in the spiritual life through the process of deification (theosis). Moreover, it is shown how Smith's theology forms a coherent system with intellectual intuition informing natural theology and revelation being supplemented by spiritual perception via the imagination. The central uniting feature therefore is the spiritual perception of theological truth. Finally, the dissertation closes with a summary of Smith's various uses of the spiritual senses and proposes future research on his influence upon later figures including Jonathan Edwards, John Wesley, and suggests future constructive work inspired by Smith's combination of reason and experience in religion.