Anselm Essay, Research Paper
Anselm was born in 1033 to noble parents in a place called Aosta in Italy. He and his mother always had a strong relationship, but his relationship with his father was quite different. They never did get along well at all. Anselm knew at an early age that he wanted to be a monk. While a child, he imagined that heaven rested in the mountains of Jupiter high above his home and this possibly helped to foster that dream. Anselm later went through a brief period in which he no longer wanted to become a monk, but at the age of fifteen he tried to become a monk and failed. With the death of his mother and an ever-deteriorating relationship with his father, Anselm left home in 1056 to study with Lanfranc.
During the time that Anselm was under Lanfranc, he studied to the extent that the late nights and cold, and hunger that he endured were making him quite weak. In 1060, Anselm turned to corporate religion and became monk at Bec, and three years later
was elevated to the position of prior. These years were considered years of silence for Anselm. During this time he wrote nothing for the public but instead spent his time in devotion to teaching his pupils in the monastery, and immersing himself in the studies of St. Augustine and the Bible.
In 1070, Anselm began his writing. First came his letters and prayers, then earlier works such as Monologion and Proslogion, then in September of 1078, he was elected abbot of Bec. After the first of Anselm?s writings, his theology and writing style developed. While his earlier works were poetic and endearing, Anselm gradually matured in his thinking, leaving behind some of the poetic beauty, but picking up a sense of himself and how to deal with the religious issues that faced him. By the time of his death, Anselm was so devoted to his writings that on his deathbed he was still hoping that he would be able to write a book on the origin of the soul ? a book that would never be written,
With some prestige behind his writings, it came as a severe blow him when Roscelin, an intellect of this time, noted Anselm as a supporter of a heretodoxical understanding of the trinity that he had recently written. Anselm was able though to formally reject such teachings and a year after his consecration as Archbishop of Canterbury, he wrote an adherence to Christian creed. This was important because Anselm?s writings were known to have been lacking in scriptural quotations, even though they were laced with biblical thought. There is even an example Anselm?s vagueness when, over an issue of some of his writings in Monologion. Lanfranc wrote to ?challenge Anselm to name his sources? , but instead received as vague of an answer as what the text that was in question had been.
When introduced to the idea of becoming abbot, Anselm resisted. He was never interested in ambition. In fact, much of his later writings show that all along, Anselm was more suited and happier with a life of solitude and quiet contemplation. Even with this higher office, Anselm still reguarded himself a simple monk and often wrote of the attractiveness that drew him to that lifestyle. His heart was simply to ?strive with all one?s heart to seek God and to abandon the self will in loving obedience to God?. While Anselm is still at Bec, he begins his visits to England to visit Lanfranc, which leads to his becoming Archbishop of Canterbury.
Anselm became Archbishop of Canterbury in 1093. During this time he asked twice to be removed from office because he felt that he was not fit to do the job. Anselm was also in exile from England twice. The first time he left because of a conflict with the then king William Rufus, and a second time under king Henry I. Even with all that went on, Anselm remained in office and that is where he stayed until his death in 1109.
Anselm came to be known as a great thinker not only of his time period, but also of the realm of Christian thought in general. Katherin A. Rogers wrote in her book entitled The Neoplatonic Metaphysics and Epistemology of Anselm of Canterbury that Anselm ?is an original thinker whose proof of God and theory of the atonement assure him a lasting place in the history of western thought.? The proof of God that is referred to is the ontological argument for the existence of God.
Anselm is also noted for his many writings. He has written over thirteen works that have had lasting impact upon religious thought ranging in subjects from free will, to human redemption, the virgin birth, and the fall of the devil among others. Among the most popular of his works though were his prayers, which were imitated by many and greatly enjoyed by all who could read them.
Eadmer, The Life of St. Anselm, ed. R.W. Southern (London: Nelson, 1962
R.W. Southern, St Anselm and His Biographer (London: Cambridge, 1966
R.W. Southern, St Anselm (Cambridge: Cambridge, 1990
William H. Shannon, Anselm: The Joy of Faith. (New York: Crossroad, 1999
Marylou Ruud, ?Unworthy Servants: The Rhetoric of Resignation at Canterbury, 1070-1170,? Journal of Religious History 22, no. 1(Feb 1998
Katherin A. Rogers, The Neoplatonic Metaphysics and Epistemology of Anselm of Canterbury. (Lewiston: Mellin, 1997)