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Imitation of Christ, The

Imitation of Christ, The, Christian devotional book, of great popularity. It originated among the Brothers of the Common Life in the Netherlands and was written probably c.1425. Tradition (since c.1445) has ascribed it to Thomas à Kempis, whose name appears on an early Latin manuscript. A popular contemporary theory holds that Thomas copied out and edited The Imitation from manuscripts originating with Gerard Groote. The work encourages a life of mystical devotion to Christ and a distrust of the human intellect. The four books treat liberation from worldly inclinations, recollection as a preparation for prayer, the consolations of prayer, and the place of eucharistic communion in a devout life. The work is a summary of the spirit of Groote's movement, the devotio moderna. The English translation by Richard Whitford (c.1530) has long been standard. It has been revised into modern English (Harold Gardiner, ed., 1955). The Imitation has also been rendered as The Following of Christ (tr. 1941).

See J. E. G. De Montmorency, Thomas à Kempis: His Age and Book (1906, repr. 1970).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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