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Document Details :
Title: Who is a Layman?
Subtitle: Historical and Philosophical Perspectives on the 'Idiota'/'Laicus'
Author(s): BOCKEN, Inigo
Journal: Marriage, Families & Spirituality
Volume: 20 Issue: 2 Date: 2014
The figure of the 'layman' belongs to the most fundamental paradigms of modern culture but is characterized by a paradox. One the one side, the layman stands for emancipation from any kind of external authority and oppressive systems of power; on the other side, the increasing significance of expertise in today’s knowledge-based society renders the layman the non-specialist, the one who lacks the necessary capacities and competences for certain tasks or challenges. In order to show how the figure of the layman has influenced modernity in an ambivalent way, the author refers to the spiritual tradition of the Devotio Moderna, the Dutch religious reform movement in the 15th century and also to the 'lay philosophy' of Nicholas of Cusa of that same period. The central idea in both approaches is the experience of acting as if for the first time, and thereby to discover the divine light within practice. Against this background, lay spirituality is a way of seeing and acting. This means developing an eye for the fullness of meaning of the concrete and lived practice, and seeing its original creativity. As such, lay spirituality escapes the ecclesial dichotomy between clergy and laity. In this sense, lay spirituality is genuine Christian spirituality, finding its starting point in the experience of living reality.