England (1636? - 1674) Timeline
Christian : Protestant
Poems by Thomas Traherne
Books - Links
He was born in 1636 or 1637 in Hereford, England. His father was a shoemaker, but he and his brother received an excellent education, due probably to the help of a wealthy relative who was a tavern-owner and the local mayor.
Thomas twice attended Oxford, apparently an eager and inquisitive student. Some of his writings show a familiarity with Platonic and Hermetic mystical thought, which he probably first discovered during his Oxford years.
Thomas Traherne became rector of a church in the small town of Credenhill, not far from Hereford. During his time at Credenhill, the young clergyman went through a powerful mystical experience. As a student at Oxford, he had become something of an agnostic, but he now found himself transformed and sought to express his new "Felicity" through writing.
Traherene later became the private chaplain to Sir Orlando Bridgeman, who was to remain his benefactor for the rest of their lives, enabling him to continue in his spiritual search and his writings.
Religious conflict and controversy wracked England during this time. The Anglican Church, the Roman Catholic Church, and the rising Puritan movement all struggled against each other, leading to civil war and rippling out into all aspects of politics and social life before settling into the opulent and somewhat decadent Restoration of King Charles II.
Yet, through all this period, there were also quiet movements of esoteric study and spiritual reawakening, which included Thomas Traherne.
Traherne wrote his Centuries of Meditations, a collection of brief philosophical inspirations, as part of a correpsondence with Susanna Hopton. Her home also became a gathering place of students of the deep spirituality that Traherne was expressing.
Although Thomas Traherne's philosophical writings had a minor impact on the mystical circles of his day, the majority of his poetry was not published until more than 200 years after his death -- precipitating a rediscovery and deeper appreciation of his exhuberant mysticism. In 1896, two of his manuscripts of poetry were accidentally discovered in a tiny used book store in London. They were published as the Poetical Works in 1903. In 1910, another manuscript of his poetry was discovered in the British Museum, published as his Poems of Felicity. Even as recently as 1967, another manuscript of poems was salvaged from a fire at a garbage dump, and published in 1989 as Commentaries of Heaven: The Poems.
"But it is an happy loss to lose oneself in admiration at one's own Felicity: and to find GOD in exchange for oneself." -- Centuries
Poems by Thomas Traherne
Thomas Traherne: His Search for Felicity, by E.B. Titchenell
An extended article published by the Theosophical University Press.
Thomas Traherne - The Academy of American Poets
A brief biography.
Thomas Traherne's Concept of Felicity, the "Highest Bliss"
Article originally published in Modern Science and Vedic Science, comparing Traherne's descriptions of sacred states with those taught by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
Traherne - Life and Work
Biography and a selection of verses.
Centuries of Meditations
The complete text of Traherne's Centuries of Meditations online in HTML or PDF format.
KOR 18 - Thomas Traherne, 17th Century Mystic Poet and Philosopher
An exploration of the mysticism of Traherne.