The Age of Discovery is over. In 2010 there are no new continents and few new islands left to be explored, the poles have been reached and Everest has been scaled. Few opportunities remain for those hungering for the Thrill of the New. Not, however, in the world of scholarship. The world's libraries - even the most obscure ones - have been pretty well combed through, it's true. But every once in a while something Old and Lost comes to light, and revolution can rock an entire field of human learning.
One excellent example is Thomas Traherne (1636-1674). An obscure 17th century Anglican priest, he had long been dismissed as a second-rate poet and a slightly goopy (perhaps even heretical) writer of spiritual devotions. Then, in a story right out of a Dan Brown novel, several lost manuscripts were discovered in the late 20th century - one of them literally rescued from a burning rubbish bin! These finds put Traherne back on the map, and turned that map completely upside down. The mediocre poet and devotional writer is now recognized as one of the three or four most creative and profound theologians ever to write in the English language.
New editions, introductions and studies are coming fast, now. One of the best brief introductions is Thomas Traherne: Poetry and Prose, edited by Denise Inge (one of the world's leading Traherne scholars) and published by SPCK as part of its Golden Age of Spiritual Writing series. Ms. Inge provides a brief but informative introduction to Traherne's life, writings and thought, followed by extensive selections from his works. She wisely leads off with excerpts from his previously known writings (like the Centuries of Meditations and the Poems), followed by samples from the newly-discovered works (Christian Ethicks, for example, and The Kingdom of God). This enables the reader to see how the new discoveries make possible a much fuller and deeper picture of Traherne the theologian.
Pick up a copy of this little (116 page) book and you'll be introduced to a most congenial Christian thinker. In an era when many theologians pictured humanity as hopelessly depraved and steeped in sin, Traherne taught a joyful, positive view of human nature. Deeply learned in ancient theology and philosophy, he was also unusually open to the scientific discoveries of his age - discoveries that many other Christians saw as a threat to Biblical Truth. Most of all, he was passionately in love with a God whom he saw as absolute Beauty and absolute Graciousness, a God who shines in and through every aspect of creation.
I recommend that you make his acquaintance at your earliest opportunity.