MYSTICS

iENAISSANCt
aMIDOI-F steiner

(*

DEC 12

1911

*

jn."t

BV 5075 .S83 1911
Steiner, Rudolf, 1861-1925
Mystics of the renaissance
and their relation to

MYSTICS OF THE
RENAISSANCE
AND

THEIR RELATION TO MODERN

THOUGHT

INCLUDING

MEISTER ECKHART, TAULER, PARACELSUS,
JACOB BOEHME, GIORDANO BRUNO,

t^X

AND OTHERS
BY

*

RUDOLF STEINER

OF Ff\lxcc

DEC 12

Ph.D. (Vienna)

'isiski

AUTHORISED TRANSLATION FROM THE GERMAN BY
BERTRAM KEIGHTLEY, M.A. (Cantab.)

P. PUTNAM'S SONS
NEW YORK AND LONDON

G.

^be

Iknfcftcrbocftcr
1911

press

1911

list:^

*

Copyright, igii
BY

MAX

MAX
'

GYSI

GYSI,

Editor,

Adyar," Park Drive,
London, N. W.

Ube

ftnlcberbocfier press, Tlevp

^ovk

CONTENTS
Foreword

....

PAGE

V

Introduction

Meister Eckhart

52

Friendship with God
AND RuYSBROECK]

[Tauler, Suso
81

.

Cardinal Nicholas of Cusa

133

Agrippa von Nettesheim and TheoPHRASTUs Paracelsus

182

Valentine Weigel and Jacob Boehme

223

Giordano Bruno and Angelus Silesius

246

Afterword

269

.

.

Ill

FOREWORD
The
the

matter which
public

in

am

I

laying before

book formed

this

content of lectures which

I

the

delivered

during last winter at the Theosophical
Library in Berlin.

I

had been requested

by Grafin and Graf Brockdorff to speak
upon Mysticism before an audience for

whom
stitute

the matters thus dealt with con-

a vital question of the utmost

importance.

Ten years

not have ventured to

earlier I

fulfil

could

such a re-

Not that the realm of ideas, to
which I now give expression, did not

quest.

even then

live actively

within me.

For

these ideas are already fully contained
in

my

1894.

Philosophy

Emil

of

Felber).

Freedom

But

(Berlin,

to give ex-

FOREWORD

vi

pression to this world of ideas in such

wise as
basis of

I

do to-day, and to make

an exposition as

following

pages

—to

the

done on the

is

do

it

requires

this

something quite other than merely to
be immovably convinced of the
lectual truth of these ideas.

It

an intimate acquaintance with
of ideas, such as only

can give.

many

Only now,

intel-

demands

this

realm

years of

life

after having en-

joyed that intimacy, do

speak in such wise as

I

will

venture to

be found in

this book.

Any one who
world of
is

does not approach

my

ideas without preconceptions

sure to discover therein contradiction

after

contradiction.

cently (Berlin, 1900.

I

have quite

S.

Cronbach) dedi-

re-

cated a book upon the world conceptions
of the nineteenth century to that great

naturalist,

Ernst Haeckel, and closed

it

FOREWORD

vii

with a defence of his thought- world.
In the following expositions,

speak

I

about the Mystics, from Master Eckhart
to Angelus Silesius, with a full measure of

devotion and acquiescence.
tradictions,"

may

which one

further count

not mention at

me

Other "con-

critic or

another

up against me,

all.

It does

I shall

not surprise

condemned from one side as a
"Mystic" and from the other as a
to be

"Materialist."

When

I

find

that the

Jesuit Father Miiller has solved a
cult chemical problem,

and

I

diffi-

therefore in

him
unreservedly, one can hardly condemn
this

me

particular matter agree with

as

an adherent of Jesuitism without

being reckoned a fool by those

who have

insight.

Whoever goes his own road, as I do,
must needs allow many a misunderstanding about himself to pass.

That,

FOREWORD

viii

however, he can

put

For such

enough.

are, in the

up

with

easily

misunderstandings

main, inevitable in his eyes,

when he recalls the mental type of those
who misjudge him. I look back, not
upon many
judgment that I have suf-

without htmiorous
a

''critical"

feelings,

fered in the course of

At the
I

my

outset, matters

literary career.

went

fairly well.

wrote about Goethe and his philosophy.

What

I said

there appeared to

many to be

of such a nature that they could
in their

mental pigeon-holes.

file it

This they

did by saying: ''A work such as Rudolf
Steiner's Introduction to Goethe s Writings

upon Natural Science may, without hesitation, be described as the best that has
been written upon

When,

later,

bit

published

an

inde-

had already grown a
more stupid. For now a well

pendent work,

good

I

this question."

I

FOREWORD
meaning

critic offered

ix

the advice: "Before

he goes on reforming further and gives

Freedom to the world,

his Philosophy of

he should be pressingly advised first to
work himself through to an understanding
of these
.

Kant] "
only so
in

two philosophers [Htmie and
The critic imfortunately knows

much

is

himself able to read

Kant and Hume;

fore,

me

to learn to see

in these thinkers

than he him-

When

self sees.

be

will

practically, there-

he simply advises

no more

my

as he

satisfied

I

have attained that, he

Then when

with me.

Philosophy and Freedom appeared,

was found

to be as

much

in

I

need of cor-

most ignorant beginner.
received from a gentleman who

rection as the

This

I

probably nothing

else

impelled to the

writing of books except that he had not

understood

He gravely

innimierable

informs

me that

foreign
I

ones.

should have

FOREWORD

X

noticed

my

mistakes

if

I

had *'made

more thorough studies in psychology,
logic, and the theory of knowledge";
and he enumerates forthwith the books
ought to read to become as wise as

I

himself:

"Mill, Sigwart,

Paulsen, B.

Erdmann."

Wundt, Riehl,
What amused

me especially was this advice from a
man who was so "impressed" with the
way he "understood" Kant that he
could not even imagine how any man
could have read Kant and yet judge
otherwise

than himself.

indicates to

me

He

therefore

the exact chapters in

question in Kant's writings from which
I

may be able to

of

Kant

his

own.

I

as

deep and as thorough as

have cited here a couple of typical

criticisms of
in

obtain an understanding

my

themselves

world of ideas.
unimportant,

Though
yet

they

FOREWORD

XI

seem to me to point, as symptoms, to
facts which present themselves to-day
as serious obstacles in the path of any
one aiming at literary activity in regard
to the higher problems of knowledge.

Thus

I

must go on

whether one

man

my

gives

way,

me

indifferent,

the good ad-

vice to read Kant, or another hunts

as a heretic because

And

I

agree with Haeckel.

have also written upon Mysti-

so I

cism, wholly indifferent as to
ful

me

how a faith-

and believing materialist may judge

of me.

I

would only

like

—so that prin-

ink

may

not be wasted wholly with-

out need

—to

inform any one

ters'

me

perchance advise

who may,

to read Haeckel's

Riddle of the Universe, that during the
last

few months

I

have delivered about

upon the said work.
have shown in this book

thirty lectures
I

hope to

that one

may

be a faithful adherent of

FOREWORD

xii

the scientific conception

and yet be able
to

the

rightly

to seek out those paths

along

Soul

the world

of

understood,

which

Mysticism,

leads.

I

even go

further and say: Only he

who knows

Spirit, in the sense of true

Mysticism, can

the

attain a full understanding of the facts
of Nature.

But one must not confuse

true Mysticism with the ''pseudo-mys-

How Mysshown in my

ticism" of ill-ordered minds.
ticism

can

Philosophy

err,

of

I

have

Freedom

(page

131

seq.).

Rudolf Steiner.
Berlin, September, 1901.

et

MYSTICS OF

THE RENAISSANCE

Mystics of the Renaissance
INTRODUCTION
There

magical

certain

are

formulae

which operate throughout the centuries
of

Man's mental history
In

ways.

Greece

was regarded as an
runs:

"Know

one

new

in ever

such

formula

oracle of Apollo.

Thyself.*'

It

Such sentences

seem to conceal within them an unending

life.

One comes upon them when

fol-

lowing the most diverse roads in mental
life.

The

further one advances, the

more

one penetrates into the knowledge of
things, the deeper appears the significance

of these formulae.
of our brooding

In

many

a

moment

and thinking, they

flash

!

2

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

out like lightning, illuminating our whole

moments

such

In

inner being.

quickens within us a feeling as

there
if

we

heard the heart-beat of the evolution of

How

mankind.

close

do we not
of

ourselves to personalities

when the

feeling

comes over

feel

the past,

through

us,

one of their winged words, that they are

had had

revealing to us that they, too,

such moments!

We

feel

ourselves

then brought into

intimate touch with these personalities.

For instance, we learn to know Hegel
intimately when, in the third volume
of

Lectures

his

History

"Such

on

we come
one

stuff,

the

Philosophy

across

may

the

of

words:

say, the abstrac-

we contemplate when we

tions

that

allovvT

the philosophers to quarrel and

battle in our study,

be thus or

so^

and make

it

out to

—mere verbal abstractions

INTRODUCTION

3

No! No! These are deeds of the worldTherein
spirit and therefore of destiny.
the Philosophers are nearer to the Master
than are those who feed themselves with
the crumbs of the spirit; they read or
write the Cabinet Orders in the original
at once; they are constrained to write

them out along with Him.

The

Philoso-

phers are the Mystae who, at the

crisis

inmost shrine, were there and took
When Hegel said this, he had
part."

in the

experienced one of those

spoken
in

of.

moments

just

He uttered the phrases when,

the course of his remarks, he had

reached the close of Greek philosophy;

and through them he showed that once,
like a gleam of lightning, the meaning
of the Neoplatonic philosophy, of which
he was just treating, had flashed upon
him. In the instant of this flash, he had

become intimate with minds

like Plotinus

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

4

and Proklus; and we become intimate
with him when we read his words.

We

become intimate,

with that

too,

solitary thinker, the Pastor of Zschopau,

M.

Valentin Weigel,

opening words of his

when we read

wise

men

*

"We read

of old the useful saying,

Thyself,* which, though

used

book Know

little

Thyself, written in 1578:

it

the

in the

'Know

be right well

about worldly manners, as thus:

regard well thyself, what thou art, seek

in thine

own bosom, judge

lay no blame on

others,'

thyself

and

a saying,

repeat, which, though thus used of

I

human

and manners, may well and appropriately be applied by us to the natural
life

and supernatural knowing

man;

so indeed, that

man

of the

shall not only

consider himself and thereby

how he

whole

remember

should bear himself before people,

but that he

shall

also

know

his

own

INTRODUCTION

5

nature, inner and outer, in spirit and in

Nature; whence he cometh and whereof

he

is

So,
self,

made, to what end he

is

ordained.'*

from points of view pecuHar to himValentin Weigel attained to insight

which

in his

mind summed

itself

up

in

this oracle of Apollo.

A

similar path to insight

lation to the saying

be ascribed to a

like re-

''Know Thyself*' may

series of

deep-natured

Master Eckhart

thinkers, beginning with
(1

and a

250-1 327), and ending with Angelus

Silesius (i 624-1 677),

among whom may

be found also Valentin Weigel himself.
All these thinkers have in

common

a

strong sense of the fact that in man's

knowing

of himself

there rises

which illuminates something very

a

sun

differ-

ent from the mere accidental, separated
personality of the beholder.

noza became conscious of

What

Spi-

in the ethereal


MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

6

heights of pure thought,

human

soul possesses

viz.,

that ''the

an adequate know-

ledge of the Eternal and Infinite Being
of

God,"

—that same consciousness lived

in

them

as immediate feeling; and

self-

knowledge was to them the path leading
to this Eternal

was

clear to

and

Infinite Being.

them that self-knowledge

man

true form enriched

its

sense,

which unlocked

for

It

in

with a new

him a world

standing in relation to the world accessible

to

him without

this

new

sense as

does the world of one possessing physical
sight to that of a blind
It

would be

man.

difficult to find

description of the import of this

than the one given by

J.

a better

new sense

G. Fichte in his

Berlin Lectures (1813):

''Imagine a world of
to

are

whom

all

objects

men born

and

known only through

blind,

their relations

the sense

of

INTRODUCTION

Go amongst them and

touch.

them

.

of

and other

colours

which are rendered

7

speak to
relations,

visible only

through

Either you are talking to them

light.

of nothing,

—and

if

they say

this,

is

it

the luckier, for thus you will soon see

your mistake, and,
their eyes, cease
for

or,

if

you cannot open

your useless

some reason or

talking,^

other, they will

upon giving some meaning or other
what you say; then they can only

insist

to

interpret

it

know by
feel,

they

light

and

dents

in

relation to

They

touch.
will

imagine

colour,

of

what they

will

they

seek

do

and the other

visibility,

they

will

to
feel

inci-

invent

something for themselves, deceive themselves with
of

touch,

Then they

something within the world

which they
will

and misinterpret

will

call

colour.

misunderstand, distort,
it."

8

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

The same thing appHes to what the
thinkers we are speaking of sought after.
They beheld a new sense opening in selfknowledge,

and

this sense yielded, ac-

cording to their experiences,

which

things
for

one

what

simply

are

who does not

distinguishes

One

of knowing.

it

in

views of

non-existent

see in self-knowledge

from

all

other kinds

whom this new sense

has not been opened, believes that

knowing, or

self -perception,

the same

is

thing as perception through
senses,

or

through

acting from without.
ing

is

Only

any

in the

the outer

means

other

He thinks

knowing, perceiving

is

self-

:

'
'

Know-

perceiving."

one case the object

is

some-

thing lying in the world outside, in the

other this object
finds

is

his

words merely, or at

own

soul.

best, abstract

thoughts, in that which for those

more deeply

is

He

who

see

the very foundation of

INTRODUCTION
their inner

life;

that

sition:

in

9

namely, in the propoevery

kind

other

of

knowing or perception we have the object perceived outside of ourselves, while

in self-knowledge or

self-perception

we

we

see

stand within that object; that

every other object coming to us already
complete and finished off, while in ourselves we, as actors

ing that which

This

may

and creators, are weav-

we

observe within us.

appear to be nothing but a

merely verbal explanation, perhaps even
a

triviality; it

may

appear, on the other

hand, as a higher light which illuminates
every other cognition.
appears in the
sition of

there

is

first

One

way,

is

whom

it

in the po-

whom one says:
He hears the
object.

a blind man, to

a gHttering

words, but for him the glitter

He might
of

to

is

not there.

unite in himself the whole

knowledge of his time; but

sum

if

he

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

10

does not

and

feel

realise the significance

of self-knowledge, then

it

in the

all,

is

higher sense, a blind knowledge.

The world,
of us,

outside of and independent

exists for us

by communicating

What

to our consciousness.

itself

made known must needs be

thus

is

expressed in

A

the language peculiar to ourselves.

book, the contents of which were offered
in a language

unknown

to us,

us be without meaning.

would

for

Similarly, the

world would be meaningless for us did
it

not speak to us in our

the

own tongue and
;

same language which reaches us

from things, we also hear from within
ourselves.
selves

who

point

is

But

in that case,

we

our-

The

really important

we should

correctly appre-

speak.

that

it is

hend the transposition which occurs when

we

close our perception against external

things and listen only to that wnich then

;

INTRODUCTION

ii

But

speaks from within.

needs this new sense.

If it

to

do

this

has not been

awakened, we beHeve that in what
thus told us about ourselves

we

is

are hear-

ing only about something external to us

we fancy

that somewhere there

something which

same way

is

is

hidden

speaking to us in the

as external things speak.

new

But

then we

we
know

that these perceptions differ essen-

tially

from those relating to external

possess this

if

Then we

things.

realise that this

what

sense does not leave

outside of
object
its

it

itself,

sees;

but that

If I see

then

ception.

more

I

perceives

it

it

can take up

itself,

leaving no

a thing, that thing

remains outside of me;
self,

if I

perceive

my-

my

per-

myself enter into

Whoever

of himself

new

as the eye leaves the

object wholly into

remainder.

sense,

seeks for something

than what

is

perceived,

12

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

shows thereby that

for

him the

real con-

come

tent in the perception has not

Johannes Tauler

Hght.

(i 300-1361),

to

has

expressed this truth in the apt words:

"If I were a king and

should

I

be no king.

if

then for myself

for myself I

sess

If I

do not

I

do shine

myself also in

own most deeply

my

my
J.

not, then

self -percep-

But

exist.

out, then I pos-

perception, in

original being.

remains no residue of myself
of

it

do not shine

my own

forth for myself in
tion,

knew

left

my

There
outside

perception.'*

G. Fichte, in the following words,

vigorously points to the difference be-

tween

self -percept ion

kind of perception:

men

and every other
''The majority of

could be more easily brought to be-

lieve themselves a

lump of lava
moon than an 'ego.' Whoever

in the
is

at one with himself as to this,

under-

not

INTRODUCTION

13

stands no thorough-going philosophy and

Nature, whose ma-

has need of none.
chine he

is,

him

will guide

in

the

all

things he has to do without any sort of

added help from him. For philosophising,
self-reliance is needed, and this one can

We

only give to oneself.

want

ought not to

to see without the eye; but also

ought not to maintain that

which

it is

we

the eye

sees."

Thus the perception

of oneself is also

the awakening of oneself.

In our cog-

we combine the being of things
with our own being. The communications, which things make to us in our
own language, become members of our
nition

own
is

selves.

An

object in front of

not separated from me, once

known

it.

What

I

am

I

me

have

able to receive

becomes part and parcel of my
own being. If-, now, I awaken my own

from

it

THE RENAISSANCE

AIYSTICS OF

14

self, if I

become aware

my own

inner being, then

mode

to a higher

from without

own

me

my

whatever

I

also

awaken
which

have made part of

I

that

falls

upon

awakening

falls

also

upon

have made

my own

of

springs

up within me and

the

me

world.

outside

that

all

from the

A

light

iiltmiines

me,

have cognised of

I

Whatever I might know would

the world.

remain blind knowledge, did not
light fall

my

light

things

and with

I

of being, that

The

being.
at

of the content of

upon

I

it.

this

might search the

my

world through

and through with

perception;

the world would not be

still

that which in

me

must become, unless
that perception were awakened in me to
it

a higher mode of being.

That which
this

awakening

an enrichment

add to things through

I
is

not a new idea,

of

the

content

is

of

not

my

INTRODUCTION
knowing;

an uplifting

it is

15

of the

know-

ledge, of the cognition, to a higher level,

where everything
sciousness to this

new

do not raise my conlevel, all knowledge con-

So long as

glory.

suffused with a

is

I

tinues to be for me, in the higher sense,
valueless.

my

The

things are there without

They have

presence.

in themselves.

What

my

could there be in

their

possible

meaning

linking with their

being, which they have outside

from me, another

being

and apart

spiritual existence in

addition, which repeats the things over

again within

me?

If

only a mere repeti-

tion of things were involved,
senseless to carry

mere repetition
I

is

it

out.

it

would be

But, really, a

only involved so long as

have not awakened, along with

self,

the mental content of these things

upon a higher
then

my own

I

level.

When

this occurs,

have not merely repeated within

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

i6

myself the being of things, but

brought

to a

new

birth on a higher

With the awakening

level.

there

it

is

have

I

my

of

self,

accomplished a spiritual re-birth

of the things of the world.

What

the things reveal in this re-birth

did not previously belong to them. There,
without, stands the tree.
to

my

consciousness.

I

take

throw

I

it

up

my

in-

inner

upon that which I have thus conceived.
The tree becomes in me more
than it is outside. That in it which finds
light

entrance through the gate of the senses

taken up into a conscious content.
ideal replica of the tree

is

is

An

within me, and

that has infinitely more to say about the
tree than
tell

me.

what the

tree

itself,

Then, for the

first

outside,

can

time there

shines out from within me, towards the
tree,

what the

no longer the

tree

is.

The

tree

isolated being that

is
it is

now
out

INTRODUCTION
becomes a link

It

there in space.

17
in

the entire conscious world that lives in

me.

It links its content

that are in me.

It

with other ideas

becomes a member of

the whole world of ideas that embraces

kingdom;

vegetable

the

takes

it

its

place, fiirther, in the series of all that
lives.

Another example:

I

throw a stone

away from me.
a curved line and after some

in a horizontal direction
It

moves

time

in

falls

to

the ground.

in

I see it

moments of time in different
Through observation and re-

successive
places.

flection I acquire the following:
its

motion the stone

influences.

If

it

is

During

subject to different

were subject only to

the influence of the impulse which

parted to

it,

it

would go on

ever in a straight
its velocity.

line,

I

im-

flying for

without altering

But now the earth

exerts

an

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

i8

influence

upon

towards

itself.

and

its

instead

If,

ing the stone, I

would have

It attracts the stone

it.

had simply

fallen

throw-

of

let it go, it

vertically to

earth;

velocity in doing so would have

From

constantly increased.
interaction of these

two

the mutual

influences arises

that which I actually see.

Let us assume that

I

could not in

thought separate the two influences, and

from

this

orderly combination put to-

gether again in thought what I see: in
that case, the matter would end with the
actual happening.

It

would be mentally

a blind staring at what happened; a perception of the successive positions which

the stone occupies.

But

in actual fact,

matters do not stop there.
occurrence takes place twice.
side,

and then

my

eye sees

The whole
Once outit;

then

mind causes the whole happening

my
to

INTRODUCTION
repeat

19

again, in a mental or con-

itself

My

scious manner.

must be

inner sense

upon the mental occurrence,
which my eye does not see, and then it
becomes clear to that sense that I, by

directed

my own

awaken that

inner power,

occur-

rence as a mental one.

another

Again,
Fichte's
this

may

sentence

new

''Thus the

J.

G.

be quoted which brings

clearly

fact

of

the

before

sense

is

mind.

the sense for

the spirit; that for which there exists

only spirit and absolutely nothing

and

for

which also the

itself

into spirit, for which

therefore being in its

has

actually

has

been

the

all

that

is

own proper form

disappeared.
faculty

this sense ever since

and

'other,' the given

the form of spirit and

being, assumes

transforms

else,

of

.

.

.

There

seeing with

men have

existed,

great and excellent in the

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

20

world, which alone upholds humanity,
originates in

what has been seen by means

of this sense.

It

is,

however, not the

case that this sense has been perceived
or

known

trast

and

in its difference

its

con-

with that other, ordinary sense.

The impressions

of the

into one another,

two senses melted

life fell

apart into these

two halves without a bond

The bond

of imion

is

of union."

by the

created

fact that the inner sense grasps in its

which

spirituality the spiritual element
it

awakens

in

outer world.

our

into

things

its

intercourse with the

That which we take up

consciousness

thereby ceases

mere meaningless
as something

to

from

appear as a

repetition.

new over

outside

It

appears

against that which

only external perception can give.

The

simple occurrence of throwing the stone,

and

my

perception thereof, appear in a

INTRODUCTION
when

higher light

make

I

clear to myself

my

the kind of task which

si

inner sense

has to perform in regard to the whole

In order to

thing.

the two

fit

influences

together in thought

and

their

modes

of

action, an amount of mental content is
needed which I must already have acquired when I cognise the flying stone.
I

apply a spiritual content

therefore

already stored up within
that confronts

And

this

world

fits itself

me

in the external world.

occurrence

in

the

external

into the spiritual content

already present.

own

me to something

It reveals itself in its

special individuality as

an expres-

sion of this content.

Through
inner

me

sense,

the

obtains
sense

the

understanding

there

nature

between

my

thus disclosed to

is

of

of

the

the

and the things

relation

content
of

of

that
this

the external

22

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE
Fichte would say that without

world.

the

understanding

world

falls

of

this

me

into

apart for

into things outside of me,

the

sense,

two halves:

and into

pic-

The

tures of these things within me.

two halves become united when
inner self understands

itself

the

and con-

sequently recognises clearly what sort of
illumination

throws upon things in

it

And

the cognitive process.

Fichte could

also venture to say that this inner sense
sees only Spirit.

For

it

perceives

how

the Spirit enlightens the sense-world by

making
world.

it

part and parcel of the spiritual

The

inner sense causes the outer

sense-world to arise within
spiritual being

ternal object

there

is

on a higher

a

level.

as a

An

ex-

completely known when

is

no part

undergone

itself

of

it

which has not thus

spiritual

every external object

re-birth.
fits

itself

Thus
into a

INTRODUCTION
when

which,

content,

spiritual

23

has

it

been grasped by the inner sense, shares
the destiny of self-knowledge.

The

tual content, which belongs to

an object

through

merges

illumination

its

itself

spiri-

from within,

wholly, like the very

into the world of ideas, leaving

self,

no

re-

mainder behind.

These developments contain nothing
which is susceptible or even in need of
logical

proof.

They

nothing

are

the results of inner experience.

ever

calls

into

experience.

dispute with him;

lacking in this

is

It

as

impossible

is

must

man.

not, however, be contended

that this inner experience
sible only

to

could one

little

discuss colour with a blind
It

Who-

question this content,

shows only that he
inner

but

is

through the special

of a few chosen people.

made posendowment

It is

a

common

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

24

property.

Every one can enter upon

the path to

not of his

this experience

own

who does

will shut himself against

This closing up of oneself against

it.

it, is,

however,

common

And

enough.

in

dealing with objections raised in this direction,
is

it

one always has the feeling that

not so

much a matter

of people

being unable to attain this inner
perience, as of their

ex-

having hopelessly

blocked the entrance to

it

of logical spiders' webs.

with

It

is

all

kinds

almost as

some one looking through a telescope

if

and discovering a new
yet deny
lations

its

planet

should

existence because his calcu-

have shown that there can be no

planet in that position.

But with

all this

there

is still

in

most

people the clearly marked feeling that
all

that really

lies in

the being of things

cannot be completely given in what the

INTRODUCTION

25

outer senses and the analysing under-

They then believe that the remainder so left over must
be just as much in the external world as
standing can cognise.

are the things of our perceptions themselves.

They think

that there must be

something which remains unknown to

What

cognition.

they ought to attain

by again perceiving with the inner

sense,

on a higher plane, the very object which
they have already cognised and grasped
with the understanding,
fer as

—this they trans-

something inaccessible and unknown

into the external world.

Then they

knowledge which prevent

of the limits of

our reaching the ''thing -in -itself."
talk of the

That

this

unknown "being"

not

They

of things.

very ''being" of things shines

out when the inner sense
fall

talk

upon the
recognise.

things,

The

lets its

light

what they will
famous "Ignora-

is

26

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

bimus" speech

Reymond,

of the scientist,

in the year

Du

Bois-

furnished

1876,

a particularly blatant example of this
We are supposed to be able to
error.
get in every direction only so far as to
in all natural processes

be able to see

What

the manifestations of "matter."

''matter"

itself is,

we

are supposed

to

Du Bois-Reymond

be unable to know.

contends that we shall never succeed in
penetrating to wherever

ter" leads

reason

its

ghostly

why we

it

life

is

that "mat-

in space.

cannot get there

however, in the fact that there

is

The
lies,

nothing

whatsoever to be looked for there.

Who-

ever speaks like

Du

have a

that the knowledge of

feeling

Nature yields

Bois-Reymond must

results

which point to a

something further and other which NaBut
ture-knowledge itself cannot give.

he refuses to follow the road,— the road

INTRODUCTION

27

which leads to

of inner experience,

this

Therefore he stands at a com-

other.

"mat-

plete loss before the question of

In him

ter" as before a dark riddle.

who

treads the path of inner experience, objects attain to a

new

and that

birth;

them which remains unknown

in

to outer

experience then shines forth.

In such wise the inner being of
obtains light not only as regards

man
itself

but also as regards external things. From
this

point

of

view

Within him shines a

illiunination

which

is

lights

up

makes

endless

is

not

all reality

light

restricted

within him.

its

per-

before man's know-

spective opens out
ledge.

an

It is a

at once.

to

whose
that

sun which

Something

appearance in us which links

us with the whole world.

No

we simply

isolated,

human

no longer

this or that individual.

chance

longer are
beings,

The

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

28

entire world reveals itself in us.
veils

to us

own coherence; and it
how we ourselves as inbound up with it. From

its

unveils to us

dividuals are

out of self-knowledge
the

of

It un-

world.

And

is

born knowledge

our

own

limited

individuality merges itself spiritually into

the

interconnected

great

world-whole,

because in us something has come to
life

that

reaches

dividuality,
it

out beyond

this

in-

that embraces along with

everything of which this individuality

forms a part.

Thinking which does not block up

own road

its

to inner experience with logical

preconceptions

always

comes,

in

the

long run, to a recognition of the entity

that rules in us and connects us with the
entire world, because through this entity

we overcome
and ''outer"

the opposition of ''inner"
in regard to

man.

Paul

;;

INTRODUCTION

29

Asmus, the keen-sighted philosopher, who
died young, expressed himself as follows
about this position {cp. his book Das Ich

und das Ding an
''Let us

make

it

Sich, p. 14 et seq.):

clear

by an example:

imagine a piece of sugar;

it

is

square,

sweet, impenetrable, etc., etc., these are

one and

all

which we under-

qualities

stand; one thing, however, hovers before us as something totally

that

it

so

without losing ourselves

from the mere surface
starts

is

from ourselves that we cannot

penetrate into

the

that

we do not understand,

different

different,

back

imknown

afraid.

of

which thought

This one thing

bearer of

all

is

these qualities

the thing-in-itself, which constitutes the

inmost

self of

the object.

Thus Hegel

rightly says that the entire content of

our perception

is

related as

mere

acci-

dent to this obscure subject, while we,

30

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

without

penetrating

into

depths,

its

merely attach determinations to what
it

is

in

itself,

—which

we do not know

ultimately, since

the thing

remain
merely subjective and have no objective
itself,

Conceptual thought, on the other

value.

hand, has no such unknowable subject,

whose determinations might be mere
accidents, but the objective subject falls
within the concept.
thing,

then

fulness in

it

my

is

cognise any-

If I

present in

conception; I

its

am

at

entire

home

in the inmost shrine of its being,

because
of its

it

has no proper being-in-itself

own, but because

re-think

not

its

it

compels

me

to

concept, in virtue of that

necessity of the concept which hovers

over us both and appears subjectively
in

me and

itself.

objectively in the concept

Through

this

re-thinking

reveals itself to us at the

there

same time,

as

:

INTRODUCTION

—just as this
activity — the true

Hegel says,
jective

is

31

our

able to illuminate the

sub-

nature of the

So can speak only a

object."

own

man who

thought

of

life

is

with the light of inner experience.
In

my

Philosophy of Freedom (Berlin,

1894, Verlag

Emil

Felber), starting

from

other points of view, I have also pointed

out the root-fact of the inner
*'It is

life (p.

46)

therefore unquestionable: in our

we hold

thinking

by

the world-process

one corner, where we must be present,

come about

to

if

it is

is

just the very thing

cerned with.

why

things

That

at

we

is

And

all.

are here con-

just

the reason

seem to confront

mysteriously: that

I

am

that

me

so without

so

any

share in their coming into existence.

simply

find

however,

I

them

there;

know how

it is

in

I

thinking,

done.

Hence

one can find no more original starting

32

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

point for a consideration of the worldprocess than that of thought."

For one who looks thus upon the inner
life of man, it is also obvious what is the

meaning

of

human

cognition within the

a mere

whole world-process.

It is not

empty accompaniment

to the rest of the

world happenings.

would be such

it

of

It

if

represented merely an ideal repetition

what

is

outwardly

in cognition something

which accomplishes

present.
is

But

accomplished

itself

nowhere

in

the outer world: the world -process sets
before

itself its

own

spiritual being.

world-process would be to

a mere half -thing,
this

if it

confrontation.

all

The

eternity

did not attain to

Therewithal man's

inner experience finds

its

place in the

objective world-process; and without

it

that process would be incomplete.
It is 'apparent that

only the

life

which

INTRODUCTION
is

ruled

by the inner

spiritual life in its
this

is

man's highest

most proper

sense,

For only

himself.

it

in this life

does the being of things unveil
before

only which can thus raise

life

man above

sense,

33

The matter

itself.

lies

itself

quite

differently in regard to the lower per-

For instance, the eye

ceptive power.

which meditates the seeing of an object
is

the theatre of a process which, in con-

trast to the inner

life, is

exactly like

My

other external process.

members
things,

of the spacial

and

world

any

others.

their being only appears

sunk into the inner
other

life;

the

objects,

life

life.

of

which

own embodiment and
its

organs are
like other

their perceptions are pro-

cesses in time like

double

any

organs what

lies

Further,

when they
I

are

thus live a

an object among
lives

within

its

perceives through

outside this embodi-

34

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

ment; and above

this life a higher

knows no such

that

and

outside,

and bridging

stretching

extends,

that

inside

over both the outside world and
I shall therefore

time

I

am

itself.

be forced to say: at one

an individual, a limited "self*;

at another time I
''Self."

life,

am

a general, universal

This, too, Paul

Asmus has

ex-

pressed in excellent words {cp. his book:

Die indogermanischen Religionen in den

Hauptpunkten

Hirer Entwickelung, p. 29

of Vol. I.):

''The

activity

in something else,
ing'; in thinking,
its

concept,

a single

do we

it

thing;

of
is

merging ourselves

what we

call

the ego has

has given
therefore,

find ourselves in a sphere

alike for

all,

ness which

think-

fulfilled

itself

in

'

up

as

thinking

which

is

for the principle of separate-

is

involved in the relation of

our 'self to that which

is

other than

INTRODUCTION
has vanished in

itself

the

self-cancening of

35

the activity of

the

single

and there remains then only
hood'

common

*self/

the_* Self-

to all."

Spinoza has exactly the same thing in

view when he describes, as the highest
activity of knowing, that which'' advances
from an adequate conception of the
natiire of

some

of the attributes of

real

God

to an adequate knowledge of the nature

This advancing

of things."

is

no other

than the illimiination of things with the
light

Spinoza de-

of inner experience.

scribes in glowing colours the life in this

"The highest virtue of
know God, or to obtain in-

inner experience:

the soul

is

to

sight into things in the third

—mode of

knowing.

—the highest

This virtue

is

the

more the soul knows things
by this method of knowing thus he who
can grasp things in this mode of knowing
greater, the

;

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

36

human

highest

the

attains

and consequently becomes

perfection

filled

with the

by

highest joy, accompanied, moreover,

the conceptions of himself and of virtue.

Thus

there

from

arises

mode

this

knowing the highest peace

of

of soul that

possible."

is

He who knows

things in

this

way,

transforms himself within himself;
his

single

at such

separated

''self"

moments absorbed by

for

becomes
the uni-

versal "Self"; all beings appear not to

a single limited individual in subordinated importance, they appear to ''themselves."

On

difference

this level there

remains no

between Plato and me; what

separated us belongs to a lower level of
cognition.

We

are

separated

only as

individuals; the individual which works

one and the same.

But

this fact it is impossible to

argue

within us

about

is

INTRODUCTION
who has no

with one

He

That

and you are two.
in

all multiplicity,

the outbursting

level

experience of

it.

everlastingly emphasise: Plato

will

that

37

duality,

reborn as unity

is

of

life

knowledge:

of

this

the highest

proved, that must be experienced.
doxical as

it

may

sound,

be

cannot

that

it is

Para-

the truth:

the idea which Plato conceived and the
like idea

It

ideas.

which
is

conceive are not two

I

one and the same idea.

there are not two ideas: one

in.

And

Plato's

head and one in mine but in the higher
;

sense Plato's head and mine interpenetrate each other; all heads interpenetrate

which grasp one and the same idea; and
this idea is

only once there as a single

idea.

there;

It

to one

have

is

and the heads

and the same place

this idea in

all

go

in order to

them.

The transformation

that

is

brought

38

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

about

in the

whole being of

learns to see things thus,

beautiful words

ful to the fate

live long

about

which Wilhelm

was thankwhich had allowed him to

enough to become acquainted

light declares:

in

indicated in

said that he

In this poem, the inner

with this work.

self,

is

he

by the Hindu poem, the

Bhagavad-Gita,

von Humboldt

man when

"An

eternal ray from

my-

having attained a distinct existence
world

the

around

itself

personal

of

life,

draws

the five senses and the in-

dividual soul, which belong to nature.

When

the

bodies
it

spirit,

itself in

quits

shining from above, em-

space and time, or

embodiment,

things and carries

it

seizes

when
upon

them away with

it,

as the zephyr seizes the perfumes of the
flowers

The
taste

and bears them away with

inner

and

light

rules

the

ear,

it.

touch,

smell, as also the emotions:

INTRODUCTION
it

knits together the

and the objects
ignorant

of

39

Hnk between
the

know not when

itself

The

senses.

the inner light

when
it is married to objects; only he who
partakes of the inner light can know
shines forth or

is

extinguished, nor

thereof."

So strongly does the Bhagavad-Gita
insist

upon the transformation

man, that

it

says of the wise

he can no longer
he

apparently,

must illuminate

err,

errs

man

no longer
or

sins,

the

of

that

sin.

If,

then

he

his thoughts or his ac-

tions with a light wherein that

no longer

appears as error or as sin which to the
ordinary consciousness appears as such.

"He who
knowledge
not,

has raised himself and whose
is

of the purest kind, he kills

nor does he

stain

though he should have

himself,
slain

even

another."

This points only to the same basic

mood

40

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

of

the

from the highest

flowing

soul

knowledge, of which Spinoza, after having
described it in his Ethics, breaks out into

"Here

passionate words:

the

cluded that which

ward

aimed to bring

I

in regard to the

over

its affections

dom

of the soul.

is

power

confor-

of the soul

or in regard to the free-

Hence

it is

clear

how

man is superior to
and how much more power-

very greatly the wise
the ignorant,
ful

than he who

is

ruled only

For the ignorant

is

by

his lusts.

not merely driven

and thither by external causes in
many ways and never attains to the

hither

true peace of soul, but he also lives in

ignorance

of

himself,

and when

of

God and

of

suffering

ceases,

his existence ceases also; while

on the

things,

his

other hand, the wise man, as such, feels

hardly any disturbance in his

spirit

and

ever enjoys the true peace of the soul.

INTRODUCTION
Even

if

the road which

I

41

have outlined

as leading thereto appears very difficult,
still it

be

And

can be found.
because

difficult,

For how could
lay close at

it

it is

is

noble

be possible,

as difficult as

form the point

of

should be

it

it is

in

rare/'

monumental

in the words: "If I

myself

that

all

view of the highest

know my

and to the outer

relation

to

world,

call it truth.

I

salvation

Yet

all?

Goethe has indicated
knowledge

if

hand and could be found

by almost

is

And

thus every

one can have his own truth, and yet
is

always one and the

has his

own

individual,

same."

truth: because each

it

Each
is

an

separate being, beside and

along with others.
act

it

so seldom found.

without great trouble, that
neglected

may

well

These other beings

upon him through

his organs.

From

the individual standpoint at which he

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

42

placed,

is

and according to the

consti-

tution of his power of perception,

up

builds

own

his

he

truth for himself in

intercourse with the things around him.

He

acquires his relation to things.

If,

he enters into self-knowledge,

then,

if

he learns to know his relation to himself,
then his special separate truth
in

is

merged

the universal Truth; and this uni-

versal

Truth

is

in all the

The understanding

same.

of the raising of

the individual, of the single

self,

into the

Universal Self in the personality,

is

re-

garded by deeper natures as the secret

which reveals
of

man

itself in

the inmost heart

as the root-mystery of

life.

And

Goethe has found an apt expression
this:

"And

for

so long as thou hast not that,

Then thou art
but a melancholy guest upon this dark
this:

Die and Become!

earth."

INTRODUCTION

43

repetition in thought, but

Not a mere

a real part of the world-process,

which goes on

man's inner

in

it is if

belonging thereto in the

human

its part.

highest which

And

if

the factor

one

soul did
calls

the

by man the

attainable

is

The

life.

world would not be what

not play

that

is

then one must say that this

Divine,

is

not present as something ex-

ternal, to

be repeated pictorially in the

Divine

human mind, but
awakened
found

know

in

the

man.
right

that without

instant;

if

I

Angelus

words

for

me God

can

has
*'I

live

no

worm:

if

then

must straightway

he can make

such

that

in

''With-

single smallest

I do not sustain

presupposes

this:

up the ghost."

me God may make no
it

Silesius

is

become nothing, He must

of necessity give

out

that this Divine

it

with Him,

perish."

Only

an assertion who

man

something

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

44

comes to

light,

being cannot
taining to the

without which external

exist.

If

everything per-

"worm" were

there present

without man, then one could not possibly
say that
sustain

it

must

if

man

comes to

life

knowledge.

kernel

of

the world

as spiritual content in self-

The experience of self-know-

means for man working and weaving

within the kernel of the world.
is

did not

it.

The innermost

ledge

perish

He who

permeated with self-knowledge natur-

ally carries out his

own

action in the

Himian action
determined by motives.

light of self-knowledge.
is

—in

general

Robert Hamerling, the poet-philosopher,
has rightly said {Atomistik des Willens,
p. 213):

"A man

^but

he

can indeed do what he
cannot

pleases, because his

will
will

whatever
is

wills

he

determined

INTRODUCTION
by

motives.

He

more

sensible

closely.

meaning

in

Is

them?

what-

will

Look again

ever he pleases?

words

cannot

45

at these

there

any

Freedom

of

the will ought then to consist in being
able to will something without reason,

But what does

without motive.

mean

other than the 'having a reason*

preferring

for

willing

to

do or endeavour to

To

attain this, rather than that?

will

something without reason, without motive, would mean to will something 'without willing
is

it.'

The concept

of

motive

inseparably bound up with that of will-

ing.

Without a

definite

motive the

will

an empty potentiality: only through
a motive does it become active and real.
It is therefore quite correct that man's

is

will is in so far not free as its direction
is

always determined by the strongest

motive."

46

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE
For

action that

all

the

in

light

motive,

felt

not accomplished
the

self-knowledge,

of

reason

the

needs be

is

for

must
But the

action,

as a constraint.

when the reason

matter

is

otherwise

motive

is

taken up into self-knowledge.

Then

this reason

self.

The

mined;

it

becomes a part

willing

of the

no longer deter-

is

determines

itself.

The law-

abidingness, the motives of willing,

no longer

rule over the one

who

now
wills,

but are one and the same with
willing.

To

or

this

illuminate the laws of one's

action with the light of self -observation

means
motive.

to

overcome

By

constraint

all

of

so doing, will transfers itself

into the realm of freedom.

human

action which bears

the marks of freedom.

Only such action

It

is

is

not

all

free action

lighted

which

in its every part

up with the glow

is

of self-observa-

INTRODUCTION
tion.

And because

the individual

self

47

self -observation raises

up

therefore free action

to the Universal Self,
is

that which flows

from the Universal Self. The old controversy whether man's will is free or subject to

a universal law, to an unalterable

a problem wrongly stated.
All action is bound which is done by
necessity,

a

man

is

as an individual;

all

action free

is

accomplished after his spiritual

re-birth.

Man, therefore, is not, in general,

which

either free or

He

bound.

He

is

both the one

bound before his
re-birth and he can become free through
The individual upward
this re-birth.

and the

other.

is

;

development

of

transformation

man
of

consists

unfree

willing

will possessing the character of

The man who has

in

the
into

freedom.

realised the law-abid-

ingness of his action as his own, has

overcome the constraint

of

this

law-

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

48

abidingness and therewith of un-freedom.

Freedom
of

not from the outset a fact

is

himian existence, but a goal thereof.

With the attainment

man

of free action,

a contradiction between

resolves

His own deeds

the world and himself.

become deeds

of universal

feels himself in the fullest

this

universal

being.

He

being.

harmony with

He

feels

every

discord between himself and another as

the outcome of a not yet fully awakened

But such

self.

that

only

whole can

in
it

its

off as

from everything

himself

out

self,

from the

else;

and

again

It belongs

if

he

an individual

self

but also he

not

in the highest sense

as such a shut-off

Self.

separation

would not be man

were not shut

man

the fate of the

find its contact with this

Man

whole.

is

if

isolated

into

is

he does not,

the

self,

widen

Universal

through and through to

INTRODUCTION
the nature of

come

man

that

it

49

should over-

an inherent contradiction which has

lain therein

from the beginning.

Any one who

regards spirit as, in the

may

main, logical understanding,
feel his

well

blood run cold at the idea that

objects should be supposed to undergo
their re-birth in spirit.

He

will

compare

the fresh, living flower, outside there in
its

fulness of coloiir, with the cold, faded,

schematic thought of the flower.
feel

himself particularly

the conception that the
his motives

ill

He will

at ease with

man who draws

from the solitude of his own

self-consciousness

is

more

free

than the

original,

naive personality which acts

from

immediate impulses, from the

its

fulness of its

own

nature.

To one who

sees only one-sided logic, another

who

sinks himself

into

his

own

man
inner

being will appear like a mere walking

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

50

scheme

of concepts,

in contrast with the

his

own

a mere ghost

like

man who

remains in

natural individuality.

Such objections to the re-birth

of things

be heard from

in spirit are especially to

those whose power of perception

fails in

the presence of things with a purely
spiritual content; although they are well

provided with healthy organs of senseperception and with impulses and passions
full of life.

As soon

as they are called

upon to perceive the purely spiritual, the
power to do so fails them they can deal
only with mere conceptual husks, when
even they are not limited to empty
words. They remain, therefore, in what
;

concerns spiritual content,

men

abstract understanding."

But the man

who
a

of "dry,

in things purely spiritual possesses

gift of

perception like that in things

of the senses, finds

life

assuredly not the

INTRODUCTION
poorer

51

when he has enriched

spiritual content.

flower,

why

If I

should

it

with

its

look out upon a
colours lose

its rich

aught whatever of their freshness, because
not only does

my

my eye

see the colours,

inner sense also perceives the spiritual

Why

being of the flower?
life

but

of

because

my
I

become poorer,

personality

do not follow

should the

my

passions and

impulses in spiritual blindness, but

il-

luminate them throughout with the light

Not

of higher knowledge?
fuller, richer, is

back again

that

life

in the spirit.

poorer,

which

is

but

given

MEISTER ECKHART
The

world of Meister Eckhart's con-

ceptions

is

aglow through and through

with the feeling that things become

born as higher entities in the

man.

re-

spirit of

Like the greatest Christian theo-

logian of the Middle Ages, St.

Aquinas,

who

lived

from 1225

Thomas
till

1274,

Meister Eckhart belonged to the Dominican Order.

Eckhart was an unqualified

admirer of St. Thomas; and this will

when we fix
our gaze upon Eckhart's whole manner

seem the more

intelligible

of conceiving things.
self to

He

believed him-

be as completely in hannony with

the teachings of the Christian Church as

he assumed a

like

agreement on the part
52

MEISTER ECKHART

53

Thomas.

Eckhart had neither
the desire to take aught away from the
of

St.

content of Christianity, nor the wish to

add anything to

it;

but he desired to

bring forward this content

own way.

It

forms no part

spiritual needs of

he was to

set

anew

in his

of

the

a personaHty such as

up new truths

of this or

the other kind in the place of old ones.

Such a personality has grown completely
intertwined with the content which

has received from tradition; but
to give to this content

it

it

craves

a new form, a new

life.

Eckhart desired, without doubt, to
remain an orthodox Christian.
The
Christian truths were his own; only he
desired to regard these truths in another

way from that, for instance, in which
St.
Thomas Aquinas had done. St.
Thomas accepted two sources of know-

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

54

in matters of faith,

ledge: Revelation,

and Reason,

in those of research.

Reason

recognises the laws of things, that

Reason can

spiritual in nature.

above nature and grasp

self

is,

the

raise it-

in the spirit

from one side the Divine Being underlying nature.
this

way

But

it

does not attain in

to merging itself in the full be-

ing of God.

A

still

higher truth-content

must come to meet it. That is given
in the Holy Scripture, which reveals
what man cannot
self.

The

attain to through him-

truth-content of the Scripture

must be accepted by man; Reason can
defend it. Reason can seek to understand
it

as well as possible through

of knowing; but never can

its

powers

Reason en-

gender that truth from within the
of
is

man.

Not what

spirit

the spirit perceives

the highest truth, but what has

to this spirit from without.

come

MEISTER ECKHART
St.

55

Augustine declares himself unable

to find within himself the source for that

He

says: "I

which he should

believe.

would not believe

in the Gospel, did not

the authority of the Catholic Church
move me thereto.'' That is in the same
spirit as

who

the Evangelist,

points to

"That
which we have heard, which we have
seen with our eyes, which we have looked
the

external

testimony:

.

.

.

upon, and our hands have handled, of
the

Word

of Life;

.

.

.

that which

we

have seen and heard declare we unto you,
that ye also may have fellowship with
us." But Meister Eckhart would rather
impress upon
''It is

man

the words of Christ:

expedient for you that

I

go away:

go not away, the Comforter will
not come unto you"; and he explains
these words by saying: ''Ji^st as if he
for

had

if I

said:

Ye have

set

too

much

joy

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

56

my

Upon
the

full

come

present appearance, therefore

joy of the Holy Ghost cannot

to you."

Eckhart thinks that he
of

speaking

is

of

whom

Evangelist,

and

no God other than that God

and

Augustine,

the

Thomas, speak, and yet

God

as to

witness
to see

is

is

not

this testimony

not his testimony, their
his.

God with

''Some people want

the same eyes they see

a cow withal, and want to love God as
they would love a cow.

God

of outer riches

and

comfort; but such folk do

not

for the

inner

love

rightly

sake

God.

.

.

.

fancy they should behold

He
is

of

So they love

Simple

God

as though

stood there and they here.

not

so.

God and

I

mouth

such
is

But

it

are one in the act

knowing {im Erkennen).'"

derlies

folk

expressions

in

What

un-

Eckhart's

nothing else than the experience

MEISTER ECKHART
and

of the inner sense;

shows him things
therefore beUeves

57

this experience

He

in a higher Hght.

himself to have no

need of an external light in order to attain to the highest insight:

*'A Master

God became man, whereby the
whole hiiman race is uplifted and made
worthy. Thereof may we be glad that
Christ our brother of His own strength
says:

rose above all the choirs of angels
sitteth at the right

hand

and

of the Father.

That Master spake well; but, in truth,
What would it
I would give little for it.
help me, had I a brother who was a rich
man, and

I

What would
who was a
fool?

.

getteth

therewithal a poor
it

help me, had

wise man,

and

I

man?

a brother
I

were a

The Heavenly Father beHis Only-Begotten Son in Him.

.

self

and

and

in

in

me?

me.
I

Wherefore in Himself

am

one with Him; and

58

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

He

has no power to shut

self -same

me

In the

out.

work, the Holy Ghost receives

being and proceeds from me, as from

its

Wherefore?

God.

I

am

the Holy Ghost takes not

me, neither does

am

no wise

When

shut

Eckhart

St. Paul:

means

I

it

take

it

God, and

in

if

being from

its

In

from God.

out.**

saying of

recalls the

"Put ye on Jesus

Christ," he

to imply in this saying the

mean-

ing: Sink yourselves into yourselves, dive

into self -contemplation

down

:

out the depths of your being,
shine forth to meet you;

He

and from

God

will

illumines

you have found Him
within you; you have become united
with God's Being. *'God became man,
all

things for you;

that

I

might become God.**

In his booklet upon Loneliness, Eckhart
expresses himself as follows
lation

of

the

outer

upon the

re-

perception to the

MEISTER ECKHART
inner:

59

"Here thou must know that the

Masters say that in every man there
called
are two kinds of man: the one is
the outer man, and yet he acts through
is
the power of the soul. The other man
called the inner
is

within

know

man, that

the man.

that every

Now

man who

maketh no more use
the soul in the outer

that which

is,

thou must
loveth

powers of

of the

man

God

than so far as

the five senses absolutely require; and
that which is within turns not itself to
the five senses, save in so far as it is the
guide and conductor of the five senses, and

shepherds them, so that they follow not
after their craving to bestiality.*'

who

speaks in such wise of

One

the inner man

can no longer direct his gaze upon a Being
sees
of things lying outside himself for he
;

from no kind or species of the
outer world can this Being come to him.

clearly that

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

6o

An

objector might urge:

What can

it

matter to the things of the outer world,

what you add to them out of your own
mind? Do but rely upon your own

They alone

senses.

give

tion of the outer world.
terate,

senses

by a mental
give you in

you informa-

Do

addition,

not adul-

what your

purity, without ad-

mixture, as the image of the outer world.

Your eye tells you what
your mind knows about
there
itself.

nothing

is

To

this,

colour

is;

what

colour, of that

whatever

in

colour

from Meister Eckhart's

standpoint, the answer would have to
be:

The

senses are a physical apparatus;

therefore

what they have

to tell us about

objects can concern only that which

physical in the objects.
sical factor in
itself to

me

And

this

is

phy-

the objects communicates

in such wise that in myself

a physical process

is

set going.

MEISTER ECKHART

6l

Colour, as a physical process of the
outer world, sets up a physical process
in

my

Thereby

eye and brain.

But

ceive colour.

in this

per-

I

manner

I

can

is
perceive of colour only so much as
cuts
physical, sensuous. Sense-perception

out

everything non-sensuous from ob-

jects.

Objects are thus by sense-percep-

tion stripped of everything about

which

non-sensuous.

is

vance to the
I

If

I

them

then ad-

spiritual, the ideal content,

objects
in fact only reinstate in the

what sense-perception has shut out thereThus sense-perception does not
from.
the deepest Being of obrather separates me from that

exhibit to
jects,

being.

it

me

But the

ception, seizing

me

spiritual, the ideal con-

upon them

with that being.

It

again, unites

shows

me

that

same
objects are inwardly of exactly the
myself.
spiritual (geistigen) nature as I

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

62

The

myself and the

barrier between

outer world

falls

through this spiritual

am

separated

conception of things.

I

from the external world

in so far as I

am

a thing of the senses among other things
of the senses.

two

Colour and

different entities.

My

my

eye are

brain and a

plant are two different things.

But the

and

of colour

ideal content of the plant

belong together with the ideal content
of

my

brain and eye alike to a single

ideal entity.

This

way

of looking at things

must not

be confused with the very widespread

anthropomorphising conception of the
grasps the

world, which imagines that

it

objects of the outer world

by

to

them

which

qualities of a physical nature,

are

supposed

to

resemble

the

human soul. This view
When we meet another human

qualities of the
asserts:

ascribing

MEISTER ECKHART
we

being,

fellow-man's

what

his

life,

inner

anything which
I

from

infer

I

life.

of him, his inner

Thus the

soul.

my

cannot see into

I

and hear

see

I

him only sensuous

perceive in

characteristics.

63

soul

never

is

can directly perceive;

I

perceive a soul only within myself.

My

thoughts,

ings,

no

man

such an inner

my

imaginations,

Now

sees.

my

just as I

feel-

have

alongside of the

life

which can be outwardly perceived,

so,

life,

too, all other beings

inner

must have such an

life.

Thus concludes one who occupies the
standpoint of

the

anthropomorphising

conception of the world.

What

ceive externally in the plant,

must equally

I

per-

be the outer side of something inward, of a
soul,

which

to

what

for

me

I

I

must add

in

my imagination

actually perceive.

And

since

there exists but one single inner

.

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

64

my

world, namely,

own, therefore

I

can

conceive of the inner world of other
beings only as resembling

Along

world.

comes to a
all

this line of

my own

inner

argument one

sort of universal ensouling of

nature (Pan-psychism)

This view depends,

what the awakened

failure to recognise

inner sense really gives us.
{geistig)

The

spiritual

content of an external object,

which reveals
self,

to

itself

me

in

my

inner

not anything added in or by

is

thought to the outer perception.
just as little this as

man.

on a

however,

I

is

It is

the spirit of another

perceive this spiritual content

through the inner sense just in the same

way

as I perceive

physical content

its

And what

through the external senses.
I call
{i.e.,

all in

my

inner

life

in the

thoughts, feelings,
the higher sense,

above sense

etc.),

my

is

not at

spirit {Geist).

MEISTER ECKHART
This so-called inner

come

only the out-

life is

of purely sensuous processes,

belongs to

me

personality,

and

only as a purely individual

which

the result of

its

is

nothing more than

physical organisation.

If I transfer this inner life to
I

65

am, as a matter of

outer things,

fact, thinking in

the

air.

My

personal

soul -life,

my

thoughts,

memories, and feelings, are in me, because

I

am

a nature-being organised in

such and such a way, with a perfectly
definite sense-apparatus, with a perfectly
I

have no right

my human

soul to other

definite nervous system.

to transfer this

should only be entitled to do

things.

I

so

happened to

if

I

find

an3rwhere a

similarly organised nervous system.

my

individual soul

spiritual

is

not the highest

element in me.

spiritual element

must

But

first

This highest

be awakened

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

66

through the inner sense; and

ened spiritual element

in

and the same with the
in

spiritual

also one

element

The plant appears imits own proper spirituality

to this spiritual element,

endow

my

is

awak-

things.

all

mediately in

to

me

this

I

have no need

with a spirituality like unto

it

own.

All talk about the

unknown

''thing-in-

any kind of meaning with

itself" loses

this conception of the world; for

just

that very

reveals

itself

''thing-in-itself "

to

the

inner

it

is

which

sense.

All

such talk originates simply in the fact

who

that those
recognise
their

in

own

themselves
in their

and

talk thus are unable to

the

spiritual

inner being
. '

'

own

schemes

the

contents

of

''things-in-

They think that they know
inner selves mere shadows

without

being,

concepts and ideas" of things.

— ''mere
But as

MEISTER ECKHART
they

still

67

sort of premonition of

have a

the ''thing-in-itself," they therefore believe that this ''thing-in-itself"

is

conceal-

and that there are limits set
One cannot
to man's power of knowing.

ing

itself,

prove to such as are entangled in this

must grasp the

beHef, that they
in-itself"

even

if

in their

own

inner being, for

one were to put

they would

still

before them,

it

never recognise or admit

this ''thing-in-itself."

But

recognition with which

we

All

that

saturated

Meister

with

this take a

''thing-

this

it is

just this

are concerned.

Eckhart

says

recognition.

comparison:

A

and shuts upon a hinge.
compare the outer plank

is

"Of

door opens
If,

of this

now,

I

door to

must then compare the
hinge to the inner man. Now, when the
door opens and shuts, the outer plank

the outer man,

I

.

moves

to

and

fro,

while yet the hinge

!

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

68

remains constantly immovable and

is

in

no way changed thereby. In like manner
As an individual senseit is here also."
being, I can investigate things in all directions

—the door opens and

shuts,-

not spiritually give birth within

if I

me to the

perceptions of the senses, then do I

nothing of their nature

do

know

—the hinge does

move
The illumination brought about through

not

the inner sense

according

the entrance of

hart's view,

the soul.

is,

The

light of

to

Eck-

God

into

knowledge which

flames up through this entrance, he calls

the

"little

spark

the

of

soul."

The

point in man's inner being at which this

"spark" flames up

and so noble

is

"so pure, so

in itself, that

lofty,

no creature

can be therein, but only God alone dwells
therein with His purely Divine Nature."

Whosoever has kindled

this

"spark"

in

MEISTER ECKHART
himself,

no longer

ordinary

with

man

his

69

sees only as sees the

with his outer senses, and

logical

understanding

which

orders and classifies the impressions of

the senses, but he sees

The

themselves.
classifying

individual

make

how

things are in

outer senses and the

understanding

man from

separate

the

other things; they

him an individual in space and
time, who also perceives the other things
in space and time.
The man illuminated
by the "spark'* ceases to be a single
of

He

separated being.
arateness.
difference

All

brings

about the

between himself and things

ceases to be.
is

that

annihilates his sep-

That

he, as a single being,

that which perceives, no longer comes

into consideration.
self

are

Things and he him-

no longer separated.

and with them, God,
him.
"This spark is

Things,

see themselves in
in

very deed God,

70

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

in that

within

it

a single oneness and bears

is

it

the imagery of

creattires,

all

image without image, and image upon
image."

Eckhart proclaims
nificent

words the extinction

being:

lated

in the

''It

most magof the iso-

to

be

it is

one

therefore

is

known, that according to things

and the same to know God and

to be

known by God. Therein do we know
God and see, that He makes us to see

And

and to know.
enlighteneth,
it

is

enlightens;

because

know

it is

we

maketh us

to

builds

purely

this

up

air,

which

nothing other than what
for the

giveth light,

air

enlightened; even so do

that

On

the

as

are known, and that

know

we

He

Himself."

foundation Meister Eckhart
his relation to

spiritual

one,

God.

and

It

cannot

is

a

be

modelled according to any image bor-

MEISTER ECKHART

71

rowed from human individual experience.

Not

as one separated individual loves

another can

God

love his creation: not

as an architect builds a house can

have created

All such thoughts van-

it.

ish before the inner vision.

to God's very being that

A God who

the world.

God

not love at pleasure,

He

It belongs

should love

could love or

imagined ac-

is

cording to the likeness of the individual

man.

''I

speak in good truth and in

eternal truth

and

in everlasting truth,

God must needs ever pour Himself
forth in every man who has reached down
that

to his true root to the utmost of possibility, so

His

life

and

in

back;

wholly and completely that in

and

in

His Godhead,

He must

fruitful wise."

tion

His being, in His nature

is

He

keeps nothing

ever pour

And

all

forth in

the inner illumina-

something that the soul must

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

^2

necessarily find

when

it

sinks itself deep

into the basis of its being.

From

this it is already obvious that

God's communication to htmianity cannot be conceived after the fashion of
the revelation of one himian being

This communication

another.

be cut
off

off,

for

may

also

man can shut himself
but God must, by virtue

one

from another

;

of His very nature, reveal Himself.
is

a sure and certain truth, that

necessity for
if

to

God

''It

it is

a

to seek us, exactly as

His very Godhead depended upon

it.

we
with Him. Even though we turn away
from God, yet God can never turn away

God can

from
to

as

us.'*

little

dispense with us as

Consequently, man's relation

God cannot be

conceived of as though

something image-like, something taken

from the individual himian being, were
contained therein.

MEISTER ECKHART
Eckhart

73

thus conscious that

is

be-

it

longs to the perfectness of the Root-Being
of the world to find Itself in the

human

This Root -Being indeed would be

soul.

imperfect, incomplete,

part of

its

if

lacked that

it

unfoldment which comes to

What happens

light in the soul.

belongs to the Root-Being; and

in

man
did

if it

not happen, then the Root-Being would

be but a part of

man

can

In this sense,

Itself.

feel himself as

a necessary part

of the Being of the universe.

This Eck-

by describing

his feelings

hart expresses

towards God as follows:

God

that

He

''I

loveth me, for

do otherwise; whether

He

thank not

He may

will it or no,

His nature yet compelleth Him.
Therefore will

me

I

not pray to

God

anything, nor will I praise

that which

But

He hath

not

given me.

.

.

.

to give

Him

for

..."

this relationship of the soul to the

.

74

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

Root-Being must not be conceived of as
if the soul in its individual nature were
declared to be identical with this Root-

The

Being.

soul which

entangled in

is

the sense-world, and so in the
as such not yet got within
tent of the Root-Being.
first

finite,

itself

The

has

the con-

soul

develop that content within

must
itself.

must annihilate itself as an isolated
being; and Meister Eckhart most aptly
It

characterises

I

come

head, none ask

where

I

me, for

annihilation

(un-becoming

werdung

''When

this

or

as Ent-

involution)

to the root of the

me whence

I

God-

come and

have been, and none doth miss
here there is an E?itwerdung.''

Again, the following phrase speaks very
" I take a cup
clearly about this relation:
of
it

water and lay therein a mirror and set
The sun
under the disc of the sun.

casts out its shining light on the mirror

MEISTER ECKHART
The

and yet doth not pass away.
ing of the mirror in the sun

So

is.

is

sun in the

is

God

about God.

it

soul with His very nature

Godhead, and yet

The

He

which

The
inner

sotil

God,

is

still

is

God
that

it is."

which gives

soul

illimiination

which

this

knows

in itself not

soul
it

with

God

was before
knows
also

only

soul

became

^'We must

through this illimiination.
united

up to the

itself

but

illimiination;

that

in the

not the soul.

is

only what this same
its

is

it

and being and

reflecting of the soul in

God, and yet the

be

reflect-

and yet the mirror remains what

sun,

in

75

in

being;

we

God uniquely;
we must be united with God wholly.
How shall we be united with God

must be

in

being?

beholding

united

with

That must happen
and

not

in

the

in

the

Wesung.

'

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

76

His being

may

not become our being,

Not an already
existent life a Wesung is to be known
in the logical sense but the higher knowing the beholding shall itself become
life; the spiritual, the ideal must be so
felt by the beholder, as ordinary daily
life is felt by individual human nature.
but

it

shall

be our

life."

;

From

such

starting

Meister

points,

Eckhart also builds up a pure conception
of

Freedom.

soul

is

In

its

not free; for

ordinary

it is

life

the

interwoven with

the realm of lower causes, and accomplishes that to

which

these lower causes.
or "vision"

it is

of these causes,

it

But by

is

'
'

by

beholding

raised out of the

'

domain

and acts no longer as a

separated individual soul.

being

impelled

is

The

laid bare in this soul,

root of

and that

can be moved to action by naught save

by

itself.

''God does not compel the

MEISTER ECKHART
will; rather

wills

it

Himself

He

sets the will free, so that

and the

wills;

and

we

not

is

God

not otherwise than what

to will other than

that

77

spirit desires

what God

un-freedom:

its

wills:

and

it is its

true

For freedom

real freedom.

that

is

are not bound, but free and pure

unmixed, as we were in our
pouring, as

we were

not

and

first

out-

set free in the

Holy

Ghost."
It

man

may

be said of the illuminated

that he

from within

himself the being which

is

itself

good and what

determines what

is evil.

is

He can do naught

absolutely, but accomplish the good.

For

he does not serve the good, but the good
realises

and

righteous

lives itself out in

man

is

*'The

serveth neither God, nor

the creature; for he

he

him.

is free,

and the nearer

to righteousness, the

Freedom's very

self."

more he

What

is

then, for

78

THE RENAISSANCE

MYSTICvS OF

Meister Eckhart, can

be?

evil

It

can

be only action under the influence of the

mode

lower

—the

regarding

of

things;-

acting of a soul which has not passed

through the state of Entwerdung (un-

Such a soul

becoming).
sense that

wills only itself.

it

not bring

moral

in the

could

It

outwardly into

willing

its

with

accord

is selfish

The

ideals.

soul

having vision cannot in this sense be

Even

selfish.

could

will

ideal;

for

very

it

if

only
it

ideal.

has
It

willed

the

itself, it

lordship

made

itself

can no longer

ends of the lower nature, for
longer aught in
nature.
ideals

To

common

of

yet
the

into this
will
it

the

has no

with this lower

act in conformity with moral

implies for

the

soul

which has

no compulsion, no deprivation.
"The man who standeth in God's will

vision,

and

in

God's love, to him

it is

a craving

MEISTER ECKHART
to

do

good things that God

all

and leave undone

evil

all

And

are contrary to God.

him

sible for

that

God

walking

will

willeth,

things that
it

is

impos-

undone anything

to leave

Even

have done.

as

impossible to one whose legs

is

are bound, just so
for a

79

man who

it

would be impossible

standeth in God's will to

do aught unvirtuous."
Eckhart

moreover

guards

expressly

himself against the idea that, with this

view

of his, free license

is

given for any-

thing and everything that the individual

may
is

The man

will.

possessing vision

indeed to be recognised by the very

fact that as a separated individual

he

men

no longer

wills anything.

say:

If I

have God and God's freedom,

then

I

may

just

**

Certain

do whatever

Such understand wrongly

I please.

this saying.

long as thou canst do aught that

is

So
con-

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

8o

God and His commandment,

trary to

long thou

God's love;

hast not

so

even

though thou mayest well deceive the
world, as

thou

if

Eckhart

hadst."

is

convinced that to the soul which dives

down

own

root, the

most per-

fect morality will shine forth

from that

into its

root to meet

it

and

ception,

and an

human

"For
grasp,
is

and

life

makes

heavens.

and the

.

God.

order-

appearance.

Where understanding

which
.

it is

dark, there

There that power unfolds

.

bliss of

the righteous

is full

its

new

that desiring can desire,

all

shineth God.

is

entirely

desiring end, there

in the soul

con-

that the understanding can

all

verily not

and

all logical

acting in the ordinary

all

sense, ceases,

ing of

that there

;

of bliss.'*

is

wider than the wide

The bliss of the
God is one bliss
full of bliss,

righteous
;

for there

where God

THE FRIENDSHIP OF GOD
In Johannes Tauler
Suso

(1

( 1

300-1 36 i),Heinrich

295-1 365), and Johannes Ruys-

broeck (1293--1381), one makes acquaint-

ance with

men whose

Hfe

exhibit in a very striking

and work

manner those

''motions of the soul" to which such a
spiritual

hart
of

is

path as that of Meister Eck-

calculated to give rise in natures

depth and power.

seems

like

a

man

While Eckhart

who, in the

blissful

experiencing of spiritual re-birth, speaks
of

the nature of Knowledge

as

of

a

picture which he has succeeded in painting; these others, followers of his, appear

rather like pilgrims, to
re-birth has
6

whom

their inner

shown a new road which they
81

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

82

fain

would

to vanish before

them

into the illimitable

Eckhart dwells more upon the

distance.

his

of

glories

whose goal seems

tread, but

difficulties of

the

new

To understand
personalities

they upon the

picture;

path.

the difference between

Eckhart and Tauler,

like

one must see quite clearly how a

man

stands

towards his higher cognitions.

Man

interwoven with the sense- world

is

and the laws
sense-world

is

of nature

He
He

ruled.

product of that world.

and

by which that
is

himself a

lives

because

materials are at

work

its

forces

in

him; nay, he perceives this sense-

its

by

laws, according

to which both he himself

and that world

world and judges of

are alike built up.

it

If

he turns

his eyes

upon an

object, not only does the object,

present

itself

to

him

interacting forces, ruled

as a complex of

by

nature's laws,

THE FRIENDSHIP OF GOD

83

but the eye, with which he sees the object
is itself

a body built up according to just

such laws and of just such forces and the
;

seeing, too, takes place

and

forces.

of natural

by

similar laws

we had reached the goal
science, we should be able to
If

follow out this play of the forces of nature

according to natural laws right up into
the highest regions of thought -format ion,

—but

in the very act of doing this,

we

raise ourselves above this play of forces.

For do we not stand above and beyond
all

the "uniformities which

make up

the

when we over-see the
whole and recognise how we ourselves
laws of nature,"

fit

into nature?

We

see

with our eyes

according to laws of nature.

know also
we see.

We

But we

the laws, according to which

can take our stand upon a higher

siimmit

and

overlook

at

once

both

84

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

ourselves and the

outer world in their

mutual interplay.

a something working
higher than
sonality

the

in

here

not

there

Is

us,

which

is

sensuous-organic per-

working with Nature's forces

and according

to

Nature's

such activity does there

still

In

laws?

remain any

wall of division between our inner selves

and the outer world?
judges and gains for

That which here
itself insight is no

longer our separated personality;
rather

the general world -being,

has torn

down

alike.

As

is

which

the barrier between the

inner and outer worlds and

both

it

true as

now embraces

it is

that, judged

by the outer appearance, I still remain
the same separated individual when I
have thus torn down this barrier, so true
is

it

also that,

sential being, I

arated unit.

judged according to

am

no longer

Henceforth there

es-

this seplives in

THE FRIENDSHIP OF GOD

me

85

my

the feeling that there speaks in

soul the All -Being, which embraces both

myself and the entire world.

This

''Man

said:

men^

what Tauler

is

is

just as

—his animal man

if

when he

felt,

he were three

as he

according

is

to the senses; then his rational
lastly,

The one

man

;

highest,

his
is

is

.

his understanding

lit.

man

and

far this third

is

spirit,

emotional, feeling nature),

How

man

is

above the

first

words: ''The eye through which

God, that
sees me.
Cp.

W.

and

Eckhart has expressed in the

second,

'

.

rea-

the very highest part of the soul." ^

p. 161.

.

the inner, understanding

soning powers; the third
(Gemilth

man.

the outer, animal, sensuous

the other

man, with

godlike

man and

is

I

see

the same eye with which

God

My

eye and God's eye, that

Preger: Geschichte der Deutschen Mystik, vol.

iii,

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

86
is

one eye and one knowing and one

feeling."

But

Tauler another feeling

in

as well as this.

He

is

active

has fought his

through to a real vision of the

way

spiritual,

and does not constantly confuse, as
do the false materialists and the false
idealists,

the

spiritual.

If,

sensibly-natural with

with his disposition, Tauler

had become a
insisted upon

scientist,

he would have

explaining

all

natural, including the whole of

the

first

natural

that

is

man, both

and the second, purely upon
He would never have
lines.

transferred purely

nature

the

itself.

spiritual

He would

forces

never

into

have

talked of a " purposef ulness " in nature

conceived of according to men's notions.

He knew

that there, where

with our senses,
are to be found.

we

no "creative

perceive
ideas'*

Far rather he was most

THE FRIENDSHIP OF GOD
keenly conscious of the fact that

And

a purely natural being.

87

man

is

as he felt

himself to be, not a scientist, but a de-

votee of moral

he therefore

felt

most

keenly the contrast which reveals

itself

between

life,

this natural being of

that vision of

God which

arises naturally

and within nature, but as

And

spirituality.

just in that very contrast the

ing of

Man

life

presented

itself

finds himself as

reveal to

him anything

than that he

nature.

cannot

a

As a
get

is

natural creation.

In

And

life

yet his inner

and beyond

it.

single being, a

science can

else

about this

such a creature of

creature

outside

mean-

to his eyes.

And no

creature of nature.

life

man and

of
it

nature

of

the

sphere

he
of

he must remain.

leads

him outside

He must have

confi-

dence in that which no science of outer
nature can give him or show to him.

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

88

If

he

calls

'Hhat which
to reach

''that

is,"

then he must be able

out to the vision which
as

cognises

only this nature Being or

which

no God who

the higher,
is
is

not.**

re-

Non-being,

or

Tauler seeks for

present in the same sense

as a natural force; he seeks no

God who

has created the world in the sense of

human

creation.

In him lives the clear

insight that the conception of creation

even of the Fathers of the Church

is

only

human creating. It is clear
him that God is not to be found
idealised

to
as

nature's working and her laws are found,

by

science.

Tauler

we must not add
nature as God.

in

is

well aware that

thought anything to

He knows

that whoever

thinks God, in his sense, no longer thinks

thought-content, as does one

grasped nature in thought.

who has

Therefore,

Tauler seeks not to think God, but to

THE FRIENSDHIP OF GOD
think divinely, to think as

God

89
thinks.

The knowledge
by the knowledge of God, but transformed.
The knower of God does not know a
of nature is not enriched

different thing

from the knower of nature,

but he knows in a different way.
one single

letter

can the knower of

add to the knowledge

of

Not

God

nature; but

through his whole knowing of nature
there shines a

What
of

new

light.

root-feelings will take possession

a man's soul

who

contemplates the

world from this point of view,

will

depend

upon how he regards that experience
of the soul which brings about spiritual
re-birth.
is

Within

this

experience,

man

wholly a natural being, when he con-

siders

himself

in

his

interaction with

the rest of nature; and he
spiritual

is

wholly a

being when he considers the

conditions into which this re-birth has

90

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE
Thus we can say with

brought him.
equal truth,
soul

is still

the

inmost depth of the

natural; as also

it is

already

Tauler emphasised the former

divine.

with his own tendency of

in accordance

However far we may penetrate
our souls, we still remain separated

thought.
into

individual htiman beings, said he to himself.

But yet

in the very depths of the

soul of the individual being there gleams

forth the All-Being.

Tauler was dominated by the feeling:

Thou canst not free thyself from
ness,

nor purify thyself from

separate-

There-

it.

fore the All-Being in its purity can never

make

its

only shed
soul.

appearance within thee,
its light

Thus

reflection,

a

comes into

in its

it

can

into the depths of thy

depths only a mere

picture
existence.

of

the

Thou

All-Being
canst

so

transform thy separated personality that

\

;

THE FRIENDSHIP OF GOD

91

reproduces the All-Being as a picture;
but this All-Being itself does not shine
it

forth in thee.

Starting from such con-

came

ceptions, Tauler

to the idea of a

Godhead that never merges wholly

into

the himian world, never flows quite comMore, he attaches impletely into it.

portance to his not being confused with
those who maintain that man's inmost
being

is

itself

divine.

Union with God

is

in a fleshly sense,
shall

He

says:

''The

taken by fooHsh

men

and they say that they

be transformed into divine nature

but such

is false

and an

evil heresy.

For

even in the very highest, most inward
Union with God, God's nature and God's
being still remain lofty, yea, higher than
the loftiest; that passeth into a divine
abyss, where never yet was creature."

Tauler wishes, and rightly, to be called
a good Catholic in the sense of his age

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

92

and

desire to oppose

and

desires only to

spiritualise that Christianity

way

has no

any other conception to

He

Christianity.

his

He

of his priestly calling.

of looking at

He

it.

deepen
through

speaks as

a pious priest of the content of Holy Writ.

But

this

same scripture

still

becomes

in

means

for

the world of his conceptions a

the expression of the inmost experiences
of his soul.

y

in the soul

"God worketh

all his

works

and giveth them to the

soul;

and the Father begetteth His only begotten

Son

in the soul, as truly as

Him
What

born

when one

begetteth in the soul?
of

Is

it

of

God?

Nay:

it is

a likeness
is it

some-

neither picture

nor likeness of God, but the same

and the same Son

whom

less.

God

says:

God, or a picture of God, or

what

begetteth

more, nor

in eternity, neither
is

He

God

the Father be-

getteth in eternity and naught else than

THE FRIENDSHIP OF GOD
the blissful divine word, that

Him

person in the Trinity,
begetteth in the soul,
the

The

dignity."'
for

.

.

.

the second

the Father

and thereof

hath thus great and special

soul

come

is

93

stories of scripture be-

Tauler the garment in which he

clothes the happiness of the inner

who drove

''Herod,

sought to slay him,
world,

should and must
desire to

is

flee

kill

this

man, therefore one
therefrom, if we do
us,

but

and every man.'*
directs his gaze

the natural man, he

concerned to
the higher
^Cp. Preger:
219

a likeness of the

the enlightened believing soul

As Tauler

p.

is

keep that child alive in

that child
of each

out the child and

which yet seeketh to

child in a believing

life.

e^ seg_.

tell

man

is

mainly upon

comparatively

less

us what happens when
enters into the natural

History of German Mysticism, vol.

iii..

94

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

man, than

to discover the paths

which

the lower forces of the personaHty must
follow

if

they are to be transmuted into

the higher

moral

life,

As a devotee of the
he desires to show to men the
life.

roads to the All-Being.
ditional faith

and

shines forth in

if

his life that there shall

But

man

up

his

in

world:

a

off

man

shuts him-

mere natural separated

is

creature,

The more man

in

much

energies

member

of

the less can the All-

Being find place in him.
reality to

Tauler's

shuts himself

within this his being as a

the world, so

off

merely one member of the

single

language.

can

this All-Being

Such a man, separated

personality.
in himself,

will so order

be in him a shrine

never shine forth while
self

has uncon-

trust that the All-Being

man,

for the Divine.

He

''If

man

is

become one with God, then

and powers even

in
all

of the inner

THE FRIENDSHIP OF GOD

95

and become silent. The
will must turn away even from the Good
and from all willing, and become void
"Man must escape from
of willing."

man must

all

die

his senses

and turn inwards

his

all

powers, and come into a forgetting of

"For the true

things and of himself."

and eternal Word
in the desert,

of

God

is

uttered only

when the man hath gone

out from himself and from

and

is

all

all

things

quite untrammelled, desolate

and

alone."

When

Tauler stood at his zenith, the

problem which occupied the central point
of his

mental

overcome and

was:

life

kill

How

can

man

out in himself his

separated existence, so as to live in perfect unison

with the

All-life?

For one

in this position, all feelings towards the

All-Being
this

concentrate

one thing:

Awe

themselves

into

the

All-

before

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

96

Being as that which

higher perspectives,

Thus

possibilities.
is

him the

to

more exalted
and defined as

still

clear

direction in which he has

to turn his steps,

him

inexhaustible,

says to himself: whatever
thou hast reached, there remain

level
still

is

He

endless.

it

is

equally clear to

that he can never speak of a goal:

for a

new

new

path.

man

reaches a certain level of evolution:

but

evolution

goal

is

only the beginning of a

Through such a new goal
itself

continues

inimit-

And what that evolution may
upon some more distant level, it
can never know upon its present stage.
There is no knowing the final goal: only
ably.

attain

a trusting in the path, in evolution
self.

There

which

man

is

knowing

has

already

for everything

attained.

consists in the penetration of

present

object

it-

It

an already

by the powers

of

our

THE FRIENDSHIP OF GOD
spirit.

For the higher

inner being, there

is

hfe

97

man's

of

no such knowing.

Here the powers of our

spirit

must

first

transfer the object itself into the realm
of the existent; they

for

it

must

create

first

an existence, constituted as

is

natural existence.

Natural Science follows the evolution
of beings

from the simplest up to the

most perfected, to
evolution
pleted.
it

lies

man

himself.

This

before us as already com-

We know

it,

by penetrating

When
humanity, man

with the powers of our

evolution has reached

spirit.

then finds nothing further there before

him

as

its

accomplishes

He

continuation.

the

Henceforward he

further
lives

himself

unfoldment.

what

for earlier

stages he only knows.

He

cording to the object,

that which, for

what has gone

before,

creates, ac-

he only copies

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

98

in accordance

with

That truth

not one with the existent

is

spiritual nature.

its

but naturally embraces both

in nature,

the existent and the non-existent: of this

truth Tauler
all

his

down

feelings.

by

Friend of

We

It

has been handed

was

led to this

an illuminated

layman, a

to us that Tauler

fulfilling
**

to overflowing in

filled

is

God from

the Mountains."

have here a mysterious story.

God"

lived

there exist only conjectures; as to

who

As

to where this ''Friend of

he was, not even these.

He

seems to

have heard much of Tauler 's way

of

preaching, and to have resolved accordingly

to journey

to

Tauler,

who was

then working as a preacher in Strassburg, in order to

by him.
of

fulfil

a certain duty

Tauler's relation to the Friend

God, and the

latter exercised

influence which

the

upon the former, are to

THE FRIENSDHIP OF GOD

99

be found described in a text which

is

printed along with the oldest editions
of

sermons

Tauler's

Book

''The

of

a

ler himself.

title,

Therein

whom some

same who came

lations with Tauler, gives
" Master,"

the

the Master."

a Friend of God, in
recognise the

under

seek to
into re-

an account

of

whom some assert to be TauHe relates how a transfor-

mation, a spiritual re-birth, was brought

about in a certain

when he

latter,

*'

Master" and how the

felt

near, called his friend to

him

drawing

his death

him and begged

to write the story of his ''enlight-

enment," but yet to take care that no
one should ever learn of
speaks.

He

that

the knowledge

all

from him

is

whom

the book

asks this on the
that

ground
proceeds

yet not really from him.

"For know ye that God hath brought
all to pass through me, poor worm, and

100

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

that what

it

is,

is

not mine,

it

is

of

God."

A

learned controversy which has con-

nected

itself

with

the

occurrence

is

not of the very smallest importance for

An

the essence of the matter.

was made to prove on one
Friend of

God never

existence

his

was

side^ that the

but that

existed,

fiction

effort

and that the

books ascribed to him come from another hand (Rulman Merswin).

On

the

other hand Wilhelm Preger has sought

with

many arguments

German Mysticism)

(in his

History of

to support the exist-

ence, the genuineness of the writings,

and

the correctness of the facts that relate
to Tauler.
I

am

light

here under no obligation to throw

by presumptuous investigation upon

a relationship as to which any one, who
^Denifle: Die Dictungen des GoUesjreu7ides itn Oherlande.

THE FRIENDSHIP OF GOD
understands

how

question,

will

in

remain a

loi

to read the writings^

know

that

should

it

secret.

one says of Tauler, that at a certain

If

stage of his

life

a transformation took

place in him, that will be

amply

sufficient.

Tauler 's personality need no longer be

any way considered

in

but only a personality "in general."

tion,

As regards Tauler, we
with the fact that
his

in this connec-

transformation

view

we must understand
from the point

what

follows.

his later activity

with his

forth in

set

compare

are only concerned

the fact of this transformation

without
'

The

further

search.

writings in question are,

I

among

is

we

earlier,

obvious

will
others

If

of

:

leave
Von eime

manne, der von eime heiligen weltpriestere gewiset wart life demuetige gehorsamme, 1338; Das
Buck von den zwei Mannen; Der gefangene Ritter, 1349;
Die geistliche stege, 1350; Von der geistlicJien Letter, 1357;

eigenwilligen weltwisen

Das Meisterbuch, 1369;
igen

Knaben.

Geschichte von zwei fimfzehnjahz-

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

102

aside all outer circumstances

and

relate

the inner occurrences in the soul of the

''Master" under

**the influence of the

What

layman."

my

reader

will

understand by the "layman" and the
''Master" depends entirely upon his
mentality; what

myself think about

a matter as to which

it is

for

I

whom

A

it is

Master

as to

is

of

I

cannot know

any weight.

instructing his disciples

the relationship of the soul to

the All-Being of things.
fact

own

that

when

man

He

speaks of the

plunges

into

the abysmal depths of his soul, he no
longer feels the natural, limited forces of

the separated personality working within

him.

Therein

the

separated

man no

longer speaks, therein speaks God.

man does
God

There

not see God, or the world; there

sees Himself.

with God.

Man

has become one

But the Master knows that

THE FRIENDSHIP OF GOD
this teaching has not yet
full life in

him.

He

103

awakened to

thinks

with his

it

understanding: but he does not yet live
in

with every fibre of his personality.

it

He

thus teaching about a state of

is

things which he has not yet completely
lived through in himself.

The

descrip-

tion of the condition corresponds to the

truth; yet this truth
it

does not gain

bring

itself

life,

no value

has
if

it

does

if

not

forth in reality as actually

existent.

The

''layman** or ''Friend

of

God**

hears of the Master and his teachings.

He

is

no

less

saturated with the truth

which the Master utters than the Master

But he possesses

himself.

this

truth

not as a matter of the understanding;

he has

it

as the whole force of his

life.

He knows that when this truth has come
to a man from outside, he can himself

I04

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

give utterance to

it,

without even in the

with

least living in accordance

it.

in that case he has nothing other in

But
him

than the natural knowledge of the un-

He

derstanding.

then

speaks

of

this

were the

natural

knowledge as

highest,

equivalent to the working of

the All-Being.

it

if

It is not so,

has not been acquired in a

because

life

it

that has

approached to this knowledge as a transformed, a reborn
only

quires

as

only

remains

life.

a

What one

natural

natural,

man, that

—even

one afterwards expresses

in

ac-

when

words the

fundamental characteristic of the higher
knowledge.

Outwards, from within the

very nature

itself,

must the transform-

ation be accomplished.

Nature, which by living has evolved
itself

to

a certain

further through

life

must evolve
something new must
level,

;

THE FRIENDSHIP OF GOD
come

105

into existence through this ftirther

evolution.

Man must

backwards upon

the

not

lies

highest

that

cording

thereto

which
in

look

evolution

which

—claim

as the

behind him

already

only

shapes
his

spirit

itself

ac-

—but

he

must look forward upon the uncreate:
his knowledge must be a beginning of a

new

content, not an end to the content

of evolution which already lies before

Nature advances from the worm to
the mammal, from the mammal to man,
it.

not in a conceptual but in an actual,
real

Man

process.

process not

in

has to repeat this

mind

his

mental repetition

is

alone.

The

only the beginning

of a fresh, real evolution, which, however,

despite its being spiritual,
then, does not merely

is real.

Man,

know what nature

has produced; he continues nature; he
translates his

knowledge into living ac-

io6

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

He

tion.

the

gives birth within himself to

and

spirit,

onwards from

advances thence

this spirit

level to level of evolution,

Spirit begins

as nature itself advances.

a natural process upon a higher

The

level.

God who contem-

talk about the

plates Himself in man's inner being, takes

on a

He

recognised this.

portance

to

the

attaches

fact

that

depths

the

of

All-Being;

spiritual nature acquires a
It

unfolds

itself

direction determined

Such a

man

differently

by

little

im-

an insight

him

already attained has led

ter.

who has

different character in one

into the

instead,

new

further

his

charac-

the

in

the All-Being.

not only looks at the world

from one who merely under-

stands: he lives his

life

He

otherwise.

does not talk of the meaning which

life

already has through the forces and laws
of the world: but he gives

anew a

fresh

THE FRIENDSHIP OF GOD
meaning to

his

As little as the
itself what makes

life.

has in

already

107
fish
its

appearance on a later level of evolution

mammal,

as the

man

standing

as

has the under-

little

already in himself what

be born from him as the higher

shall

man.

know

the fish could

If

the things around

it,

it

and

itself

would regard

the being-a-fish as the meaning of
It

would say: the All-Being

fish:

in the fish

Thus would the

long as

it

remained constant to

not

does

It

reaches

with

its activity.

and

later
it

its

under-

In reality

remain constant thereto.

out beyond

a

the

speak as

fish

standing kind of knowledge.

which

is like

the All-Being beholds

itself.

it

life.

It

its

knowledge

becomes a

mammal.

reptile

The meaning

gives to itself in reality reaches

out beyond the meaning which

contemplation gives

to

it.

mere

io8

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

man

must be so. He
gives himself a meaning in reality; he
In

also

this

does not halt and stand

meaning

he

already

contemplation
leaps out

stands

has,

shows him.

beyond

itself, if

itself aright.

at

the

which

his

still

Knowledge

only

it

under-

Knowledge cannot

deduce the world from a ready-made

God;

it

germ

in the direction

can only unfold

itself

from a

towards a God.

The man who has understood this will
not regard God as something that is outside of him he will deal with God as a being who wanders with him towards a goal,
which at the outset is just as unknown
as the nature of the mammal is unknown
;

to the

fish.

He

does not aim to be the

knower of the hidden, or of the self -revealing existent God, but to be the friend
of the divine doing
is

and working, which

exalted over both being and non-being.

THE FRIENDSHIP OF GOD
The layman, who came
was a "Friend

to the Master,

God"

of

109

in

this sense,

and through him the Master became
from a contemplator
God, one who

the being

of

of

''alive in the spirit,*'

is

one who not only contemplated, but
The Master
lived in the higher sense.

now no

longer brought forth concepts

and ideas

his inner nature,

ideas burst

actuahsed

but these concepts and

forth

from him as

He

spirit.

longer

of

their

being.

plunged

their

souls

inner being; he led

This

is

living,

no longer merely

he shook the very

edified his hearers;

foundations

from

understanding

the

of

them

He no
into

into a

their

new

life.

recounted to us symbolically:

about forty people
his preaching

H:

fell

and lay as
H<

down through
if

*

dead.

no MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE
As a guide

such a new

to

possess

a

book

nothing

is

known.

known

about

has

Pfeiffer,

whose

Luther

The

in print.

first

with

original

book

the

it

ac-

year

the

trans-

What

text.

indicates

it

Franz

modern German

a

lation facing the

precedes

made

printed

recently

we

author

philologist,

cording to a manuscript of
1497,

life,

its

pur-

"Here begins the
man from Frankfurt and saith many
very lofty and very beautiful things
pose and

its

goal:

about a perfect

life."

the ''Preface about the
furt":

Upon

this follows

man from

"Al-mighty, Eternal

uttered this

little

Frank-

God hath

book through a

wise,

understanding, truthful, righteous man,
his friend,

who

in former

days was a

German nobleman, a priest and a custodian in the German House of Nobles at
Frankfurt;

it

teacheth

many

a lovely

1

THE FRIENDSHIP OF GOD
insight

pecially

know
and

Divine Wisdom,

into

1 1

and

es-

how and whereby one may

the true, righteous friends of God,

the

also

thinkers,

who

unrighteous,

false,

free-

are very hurtful to

Holy

Church."

By

''free-thinkers" one

who

understand those
conceptual

world,

may

live in

like

the

perhaps

a merely

"Master"

described above before his transformation

by means of the "Friend of God," and
by the "true, righteous friends of God,"
such as possess the disposition of the

"layman."

One may

further ascribe to

the book the intention of so working

upon its readers as the "Friend of God
from the Mountains" did upon the
Master.

It

died,

not

known who the

But what does that mean?
not known when he was born and
or what he did in his outer life.

author was.
It is

is

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

112

That

the

author

aimed

preserve

to

eternal secrecy about these facts of his

outer

life,

which he desired to work.

in

the

"I"

way

belongs naturally to the

of this or the other

at a definite point of time,

speak to us, but

not

It is

man, born

who

is

to

the "I-ness" in the

depths whereof ''the separateness of individualities** (in the sense of

saying

must

first

unfold

Paul Asmus*

itself.

"If

God
who

men who are or
have ever been, and became man in them,
and they became God in Him, and it did
not happen to me also, then my fall and
my turning away would never be made
good, unless it also happened in me too.
And in this restoration and making good,
I neither can nor may nor should do anytook to Himself

all

thing thereto save a mere pure suffering,
so that
'

God

alone doeth and worketh

Vide ante, page 34.

THE FRIENDSHIP OF GOD
and

all

things in me,

all

His works and His divine
not submit to

will

if I

myself with egotism,
I,

suffer

I

this,

i.e.,

113

Him and
will.

But

but possess

with mine, and

to me, for me, and the like, that hinders

God

me

so that

He

cannot work His work in

purely alone and without hindrance.

remain

my

my

away
thus not made good." The

Therefore

fall

and

turning

^'man from Frankfurt" aims to speak
not as a separated individual; he desires
to let

God

this only as

speak.

a

That he yet can do

single, distinct personality

he naturally knows

full well;

but he

a "Friend of God," that means a

who aims not
of

life

pointing

is

man

at presenting the nature

through contemplation, but at
out the beginning of a

new

evolutionary pathway through the living
spirit.

The explanations
8

in

the

book

are

114

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

how one comes
The root-thought

various instructions as to
to

X

pathway.

this

strip

and

again

returns
off

man must

again:

everything that

connected

is

with that which makes him appear as a
single, separate personahty.

This thought

seems to be worked out only in respect
of the

moral

should be extended,

life; it

without further ado, to the higher
of

knowledge as

hilate

separateness

then

:

anni-

whatever appears as

oneself

in

One must

well.

life

separated

existence

We

ceases; the All-Life enters into us.

cannot master this All-Life by drawing
it

towards

we reduce
silence.
all

us.

the

We

comes into

separateness

when we

existence

already dwelt within

as
it.

when

us,

us

to

least

of

in

have the All-Life

just then,

separated

It

so regard our
if

the

This

Whole

first

to light in the separated existence

comes

when

THE FRIENDSHIP OF GOD
this separated existence

sion

no longer claims

be anything.

for itself to

115

This preten-

on the part of the separated existence

our text terms ''assumption."

Through
it

asstmiption " the self makes

'
'

impossible

versal
self

for

itself

that the Uni-

should enter into

Self

then puts

itself

it.

The

as a part, as some-

thing imperfect, in the place of the whole,

"The

of the perfect.

perfect

that in itself and in

its

and resolved

beings,

all

is

a being,

being has conceived

and without

which and apart from which there

is

no

true being, and in which all things have
their being;

things and

for

is

it

is

in itself

the being of

all

unchangeable and

immovable, and changes and moves

all

But the divided and the
that which has sprung from

other things.

imperfect

is

out of this perfect, or becomes, just as a
ray or a light that flows forth from the

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

ii6

sun or a light and shines upon something,
this

And

or that.

and

creature,

none

that

the

called

of all these divided things

Therefore also

the perfect.

is

is

the perfect none of the divided.

When

But when does

When

known,

so far as

felt,

is

sun

For just as the
whole world and

it

possible

.

is

come?

and not

I
is

it

is

But that

is

in

it.

the

illuminates

just as near to the

man

sees

of the

sun

one as to the other, yet a blind
not.

.

tasted in the soul; for the

defect lies wholly in us

it

.

the perfect cometh, the divided

despised.

say:

is

no defect

man. ... If my eye
to see anything, it must become
is
cleansed, or be already cleansed from all

but

of the blind

other things.

.

.

.

Now

one might be

inclined to say: In so far then as

unknowable and inconceivable
creatures,

and

since the soul

is

it

for

also

is

all

a

THE FRIENDSHIP OF GOD
how can

creature,

it

as

is

is

known as a

the creature shall be

This

known

then be

Answer: Therefore

the soul?

much

117

it

in

said,

creature.'"

as to say that

all

creatures shall be regarded as created

and creation and not regard themselves

and

I-ness

as

knowing

is

whereby

self-ness,

made

whatever creature
be known, there

impossible.

thing of the kind must be

fore

The

its

look within

from the

perfect.

it

Chap,

i.,

Book

it

therefinds

thereby cuts

itself off

If

If it regards its I-ness
it

were, and

will

be seized

as

it

in spirit,

oj the

must

remains

upon by the stream
^

be and

it

only as a thing lent to
annihilates

lost,

there

itself;

it

shall

and every-

soul

I-ness, its self-ness.

standing there,

one

creature-being, cre-

ated-being, I-ness, self-ness,

become naught."'

''For in

this perfect

all

this

it

of the All-Life, of

Man from

Frankfurt.

Ii8

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE
''When

Perfection.

sumes to

creature

the

somewhat

itself

as-

good, as

of

Being, Life, Knowledge, Power, in short,

aught of that which one
thinks that
to

it

much

calls

that, or that

it is

or comes from

good and
it

belongs

and so

so often

it,

as that happens, does the creature

"The created soul of man
The one is the possibiUty

turn away.'*

has two eyes.

of seeing in eternity; the other of seeing
in time

and

therefore stand
himself, that

me, mine,
he as

and what

is

for

little
is

"Man

in creation.''

and be quite
without

me and

seeks

free

should

without

self-ness, I-ness,

the

like,

and thinks

so that

of himself

his in all things as

if it

did

not exist; and he should therefore also
think

little of

and as

if

himself, as

another

if

he were not,

had done

deeds."'
'

Chap.

XV.,

Book of

the

Man from

Frankfurt.

all

his

THE FRIENDSHIP OF GOD
One must

also

fact in regard

the

writer of

these

thought-content,

to which he gives a direction

higher ideas

and feehngs,

by

We

his

that of a

is

believing priest in the spirit of his

time.

19

take account of the

to the

that

sentences,

1

own

are here concerned not with

the thought-content, but with the direction, not with the thoughts

the

way

of thinking.

but with

Any one who

does

not live as he does in Christian dogmas,

but in the conceptions of natural science,
finds

his

in

sentences other thoughts;

but with these other thoughts he points
in the

tion

is

same

direction.

And

this direc-

that which leads to the over-

coming

of the self -hood,

itself.

The

in his

Ego.

by the

Self -hood

highest light shines for

But

this

light

man

only then

imparts to his concept-world the right
reflection,

when he becomes aware that

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

I20

it

not

is

own

his

but the

self-light,

universal world- light.

Hence there

no more important

is

knowledge than self-knowledge and there
;

is

equally no knowledge which leads so

completely out beyond
''self"

knows

no longer a

When

itself.

itself aright, it is

own

In his

"self."

the

already

language,

the writer of the book in question expresses

as

this

'own-ness'
of self-ness

is

void of this

and

and own-ness

follows:

I-ness;

it

'this'

but the nature

of the creature

seeketh and willeth

and

"For God's
and that, void

and

and

does or leaves undone,

receive

its

own

benefit

"When, now, the
loseth his own-ness
himself,

God

it

and

that

own

in all

that

seeketh to
profit.

creature or the

and

his self-ness

and goeth out from

it

its

and

itself

'that';

is

man
and

himself, then

entereth in with His Own-ness, that

THE FRIENDSHIP OF GOD
is

with his Self -hood ."

Man

'

wards, from a view of his

makes the
very

soars up-

"Ego" which

appear to him as his

latter

being,

121

a

to

view

such

that

it

shows him his Ego as a mere organ, in
which the All-Being works upon itself.
In the concept-sphere of our text, this

means:

'*If

man

can attain thereto that

he belongeth unto

hand belongeth

God

just as a

to him,

then

man's

let

him

content himself and seek no further."^

That

is

not

intended

when man has reached a
of

his

there,

as

is

evolution

he

mean

to

that

certain stage

shall

stand

still

but that, when he has got as far
indicated in the above words, he

should not set on foot further investigations into the

rather

make

meaning

of the hand,

use of the hand, in order
/

^

^

but

Chap, xxiv, Book of
Ibid., Chap. liv.

the

Man

from Frankfurt.

z'

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

122

that

it

may

to which

it

render service to the body
belongs.

Heinrich Suso and Johannes RuysBROEK possessed a type of mind which

may be characterised as genius for feeHng.
Their feeHngs are drawn by something

Hke

instinct

in

the same direction in

which Eckhart's and Tauler's feeHngs
were guided by their higher thoughtHfe.

Suso's heart turns devoutly towards

that Root-Being which embraces the individual

man

just as

much

remaining world, and in

as the whole

whom

forgetting

himself, he yearns to lose himself as a

drop of water in the mighty ocean.

He

speaks of this his yearning towards the
All-Being, not as of something that he
desires to
of

it

embrace

in thought;

he speaks

as a natural impulse, that

makes

his

THE FRIENDSHIP OF GOD

123

drunken with desire

the

soul

annihilation

and

its

of

separated existence

its

re-awakening to
of

efficiency

the

being in

being.

its ptire

naked

thou mayest

that

alone,

with not-being; for
all

''Turn

let fall

Take
unmoved

manifold being.

that
itself

life.

endless

simplicity, so that

and

in the all-

life

thine eyes to this being in

this

for

all

is

not-being denies

A thing that is yet to become,

or that has been,

is

not

now

in actual

presence.'*

''Now, one cannot
or not-being except

know mixed being
by some mark of

For

being as a whole.

if

one

will under-

stand a thing, the reason

first

encounters

being,

and that

all things.

is

It is a divided being of this

or that creature,
all

a being that worketh

—for

divided being

is

mingled with something of other-ness,

with a possibility of receiving something.

MYSTICS OF THE RENALSSANCE

124

Therefore

must
it

the

nameless

divine

so be a whole being in

sustaineth

all

being

itself,

that

divided beings by

its

presence.'*

Thus speaks Suso in the autobiography
which he wrote in conjunction with his
pupil Elsbet Staglin.
priest

and

circle of
if it

He, too,

is

a pious

lives entirely in the Christian

He

thought.

lives therein as

were quite unthinkable that anybody

with his mental tendency could

any other world.

But

of

him

live in

also

it is

true that one can combine another con-

cept-content with his mental tendency.

This
in

/

is

clearly borne out

by the way

which the content of the

teaching

has

for

him actual

and

his

relation

inner experience,

become a
own spirit and the
Christ has

Christian

become

relation

to

between his

eternal truth in a

purely ideal, spiritual way.

THE FRIENDSHIP OF GOD
He composed a

''Little

Wisdom" speak

to

not?

How

its

servant, in

"Knowest thou

other words to himself:

me

of Eternal

In this he makes the "Eter-

Wisdom.''
nal

Book

125

art thou so cast

down, or

hast thou lost consciousness from agony
of heart,
is I,

my

merciful

Behold

tender child?

it

Wisdom, who have opened

wide the abyss of fathomless compassion which yet

hidden from

is

saints, tenderly to receive thee

repentant hearts;

it

is

I,

all

the

and

all

sweet Eternal

Wisdom, who was there poor and miserable, so as to bring thee to

who
might make
it is I,

thy worthiness;

suffered bitter death, that I

thee to live again!

I

stand

here pale and bleeding and lovely, as I

stood on the lofty gallows of the cross

between the stem judgment of

and

thee.

is I,

thy spouse!

It

is I,

I

my Father

thy brother; look,

it

have therefore wholly

126

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

forgotten
as

it

if

thou hast done against me,

all

had never been,

turnest wholly to
self

me and

if

only thou

separatest thy-

no more from me.'*

All that

bodily and temporal in the

is

become

has

conception

Christian

for

Suso, as one sees, a spiritual-ideal process

From some

in the recesses of his soul.

chapters of Suso's biography mentioned

above,

it

might appear as

himself be guided not
of his

own

through

revelations,

visions.

But he expresses

to

not

the

truth

through

about

his

One

this.

through

let

action

but through

spiritual power,

clearly

he had

by the mere

external

quite

if

ghostly

meaning
attains

reasonableness,

any kind

of

revelation.

''The difference between pure truth and

y

two-souled

knowledge

visions

in

the

I will also tell

matter

of

An

im-

you.

mediate beholding of the bare Godhead,

THE FRIENDSHIP OF GOD
that

Is

right

pure truth,

127

without

doubt; and every vision, so that

it

all

be

reasonable and without pictures and the

more

like it

be unto that bare beholding,

the purer and nobler

it

is."

Meister Eckhart, too, leaves no doubt
that he puts aside the view which seeks
to be

spiritual

in bodily-spacial forms,

in appearances

which one can perceive

by any senses. Minds of the type
Suso and Eckhart are thus opponents

of

of

such a view, as that which finds expression in the spiritualism which has devel-

oped during the nineteenth century.

Johannes Ruysbroek, the Belgian
mystic, trod the same path as Suso. His
spiritual way found an active opponent
in Johannes Gerson (born 1363), who
was for some time Chancellor of the

128

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

University of Paris and played a mo-

mentous

role at the Council of Constance.

Some

light is

of the

mysticism which was practised by

Tauler,

compares

Suso
it

thrown upon the nature

and

Ruysbroek,

if

one

with the mystic endeavours

of Gerson,

who had

Richard de

St. Victor,

his predecessors in

Bonaventura, and

others.

Ruysbroek himself fought against those
whom he reckoned among the heretical
mystics.

As such he considered

all

those

who, through an easy-going judgment of
the understanding, hold that

all

things

proceed from one Root-Being,

who

there-

fore see in the world only a manifoldness

God the unity of this manifoldness.
Ruysbroek does not count himself among
these, for he knew that one cannot attain
and

in

by the contemplation
but only by raising oneself from

to the Root-Being
of things,

.

THE FRIENDSHIP OF GOD
this lower

mode

129

of contemplation to a

higher one
Similarly, he turned against those

who

seek to see without further ado, in the
individual man, in his separated exist-

ence

(in

his creature-being),

He

nature also.

deplored not a

the error which confuses
in

the

his higher

sense- world,

and

all

little

differences

asserts

light-

mindedly that things are different only
but that in their being

in appearance,

they are

all alike.

This would amount,

for a

way of thinking like

the

same thing as saying:

fact that the trees in

Ruysbroek's, to

That the

an avenue seem to

our seeing to come together does not
In reality they are every-

concern us.

where equally

far apart,

therefore our

eyes ought to accustom themselves to
see correctly.

That the

But our eyes

trees

see aright.

run together depends

130

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

upon a necessary law of nature; and we
have nothing to reproach our seeing
with, but on the contrary to recognise in

why we

spirit

see

them

thus.

Moreover, the mystic does not turn

away from

the things of the senses.

As

them as
him that

things of the senses, he accepts

they

and

are,

standing
in

senses

is

clear to

no judgment

through

But

it

can
spirit

of

the

under-

become otherwise.
he passes beyond both

they

and understanding, and then only

does he find the unity.

His faith

is

unshakable that he can develop himself
to the beholding of this unity.

does he ascribe to the nature of

fore

man

the

divine

brought to shine
its

There-

own

spark which
in

can be

him, to shine by

light.

People of the
otherwise.

type of

Gerson think

They do not beheve

in this

THE FRIENDSHIP OF GOD
For them, what

self -shining.

131

man

can

behold remains always a something external, that

come

from some

them

to

side or other

Ruysbroek

externally.

believed that the highest

must

wisdom must

needs shine forth for mystic contem-

Gerson believed only that the

plation.

can illuminate the content of an

soul

external teaching (that of the Church).

For
else

Gerson,

faith,

that

For

teaching.

is

warm

but possessing a

everything

was

Mysticism

is

born

feeling for

revealed

Ruysbroek,

that the content of

also

in

nothing

the

all

clearness,

but that

there expresses
All-Being.

the

itself

in

Therefore

in that

All-Being
this

a

teaching

latter imagines that not only has

power to behold

this

was

it

soul.

Gerson blames Ruysbroek

in

the

he the
with

beholding

an activity

of the

Ruysbroek simply could not

132

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

be understood by Gerson.
of

two wholly

different

Both spoke
Ruys-

things.

broek has in his mind's eye the
the soul that lives

with

its

life

of

into

oneness

God; Gerson, only a

soul-life

itself

that seeks to love the

never actually live in

God whom
itself.

Like

it

can

many

others, Gerson fought against something

that was strange to

him only because he

could not grasp

in experience.

it

CARDINAL NICHOLAS OF CUSA

A

GLORIOUSLY shining

star in the

Middle Ages

of the thought-life of the
is

Chrysippus

Nicholas

He

Trevis, 1401-1464).

summit
In

of

Cusa

of

(at

stands upon the

the knowledge of his time.

mathematics

markable work.

may

sky

he

accomplished

re-

In natural science he

be described as the forerunner of

Copernicus, for he took up the standpoint that the earth

body

like others.

is

a moving celestial

He had

already broken

away from a view upon which even a
hundred years

later the great astronomer,

Tycho Brahe, based

himself,

when he

hurled against the teaching of Copernicus

the

sentence:
133

"The

earth

is

a

134

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

gross,

heavy mass inapt

how,

then,

star of

can

it

The same man who
braced

all

it

thus not only em-

further,

external

man

knowledge

this

so that

life,

a

about in the air?"

possessed

addition, in a high degree, the

awakening

make

the knowledge of his time, but

extended

also

movement;

Copernicus

and run

it

for

it

in

power

of

in the inner

not only illuminates the

world, but

that spiritual

also

life,

mediates

for

which from the

profounder depths of his soul he needs

must long

after.

we compare Nicholas with such
spirits as Eckhart or Tauler, we obtain
If

a remarkable

result.

Nicholas

is

the

scientific thinker, striving to lift himself

from research about the things

of the

world on to the level of a higher perception;
ful

Eckhart and Tauler are the

believers,

who

faith-

seek the higher

life

CARDINAL NICHOLAS OF CUSA
from within the content

135

of this faith.

Eventually Nicholas arrives at the same
inner

life

inner

life

of

as Meister Eckhart;

knowledge as

The

but the

of the former has a rich store
its

content.

full significance of this difference

becomes clear when we

reflect that for

the student of science the danger

lies

very near at hand of misunderstanding
the scope of

that

species

of

knowing

which enlightens us regarding the various
special departments of knowledge.

He

can very readily be misled into believing
that there really
or

mode

of

only one single kind

is

knowledge; and then he

either over- or under-rate this

which leads us to the goal
special
will

sciences.

knowledge

in the various

In the one case he

approach the subject-matter of the

highest spiritual

lem

will

in physics,

life

as he

would a prob-

and proceed to deal with

136

it

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

by means

he would

of concepts such as

apply to gravitation or

Thus,

electricity.

according as he believes himself to be

more

or less enlightened, the world will

appear to him as a blindly working
machine,

an organism,

or

or

as

God:

teleological structure of a personal

perhaps even as a form which

pervaded by a more or
ceived ''World-Soul.'*

is

the

ruled and

less clearly

con-

In the other case

he notes that the knowledge, of which
alone he has any experience,

is

adapted

only to the things of the sense-world;

and then he

will

become a

to himself:

We

can know nothing about

things which
senses.

lie

sceptic, saying

beyond the world

Our knowledge has

For the needs

of the higher life

a

of the
limit.

we have

no choice but to throw ourselves blindly
into

the

arms

knowledge.

of

And

faith
for

a

untouched by
learned

theo-

CARDINAL NICHOLAS OF CUSA

137

who was

logian like Nicholas of Cusa,

also a scientist, this second danger lay

peculiarly near at hand.

For he emerged,

along the lines of his learned training,

from Scholasticism, the way of conceiving things which was dominant in scientific life within the Mediaeval Church; a

mode of thought that St. Thomas Aquinas
(1227-1274), the ''Prince of Scholastics,"

had brought to its highest perfection.
We must take this mode of conceiving

when we

background,

things

as

the

desire

to

portray

the

personality

of

Nicholas of Cusa.
Scholasticism

a product of

is,

in the highest degree,

human

the logical capacity celebrated

triumphs.

and

sagacity;

Any one who

is

its

Scholastics

for

it

highest

striving to

work out concepts in their
most clear-cut outlines, ought
the

in

sharpest,

to go to

instruction.

They

138

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE
High School
They
thinking.

afford us the

nique

of

incomparable

skill in

of pure thinking.

for the tech-

possess

moving

an

in the field

It is easy to under-

value what they were able to achieve
in this field; for it is only with difficulty

accessible to

man

partments of knowledge.
rise to its level

numbers and
ing

most de-

as regards

The majority

only in the domains of

calculation,

upon the connection

and

in reflect-

of geometrical

figures.

We

can count by adding in thought a

unity to a number, without needing to
call

We

to our help sense-conceptions.

calculate
tions,

also,

in the

without

such

concep-

pure element of thought.

In regard to geometrical

figures,

we know

that they never perfectly coincide with

any

sensible

perception.

There

is

no

such thing within sensible reality as an

CARDINAL NICHOLAS OF CUSA
"ideal"
cerns

Yet our thinking con-

circle.

itself

139

with the purely ideal

circle.

For things and processes which are more
complicated than forms of number and
space,

it is

more

counterparts.

that

it

difficult to find

This has even led so far

has been contended, from various

sides, that in the

of

the ideal

separated departments

knowledge there

real science as there

is
is

only so

much

of

of

measuring and

is

that most

counting.

The

truth about this

are not capable

of

men

grasping the pure

thought-element where

it

is

no longer

concerned with what can be counted or

measured.
that for

But the man who cannot do
the higher realms of life and

knowledge, resembles in that respect a
child,

which has not yet learned to count

otherwise than by adding one pea to
another.

The thinker who

said

there

140

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

was

much

just so

any

science in

real

domain as there was mathematics in it,
was not very much at home in the matter.

One ought
thing

rather to

which

demand

cannot

that every-

measured

be

or

counted should be handled just as ideally
as the forms of

number and

And

space.

way did
They sought

the Scholastics in the fullest
justice

to

this

demand.

everywhere the thought-content of things,
just as the
field of

mathematician seeks

what

is

it

in the

measurable and countable.

In spite of this perfected logical

art,

the Scholastics attained only to a onesided

and

subordinate

Knowledge.

conception

Their conception

that in the act of knowing,

man

is

an image of what he

know.

is

obvious,

this:

creates

in himself
It

of

is

to

without further

discussion, that with such a conception
of the

knowing process

all reality

must

CARDINAL NICHOLAS OF CUSA

For

be located outside of the knowing.
one can grasp,
itself,

in

141

knowing, not the thing

but only an image of that thing.

knowing himself man cannot

Also, in

grasp himself, but again, what he does

know

himself

of

himself.

It

is

only an image of

is

from out

entirely

of the

spirit of

Scholasticism that an accurate

student

thereof^

time no

and

perception

ground of

hidden

says:

life,

... he

of
his

will

*^Man has

in

his ego, of the
spiritual

being

never attain to

beholding himself; for either, estranged
for ever

from God, he

will find in himself

only a fathomless, dark abyss, an endless
emptiness, or

he

else,

made

blessed in God,

on turning his gaze inwards

will find

just that very God, the sun of

mercy
^

is

whose

shining within him, whose image

K. Werner,

in his

book upon Frank Suarez and

Scholasticism of the Last Centuries, p. 122.

the

142

and

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE
likeness shapes itself in the spiritual

traits of his nature/^

Whoever thinks

like

this

about

all

knowing, has only such a conception of

knowing

as

The

things.

is

applicable

to

external

sensible factor in anything

always remains external for us; therefore

we can only take up

into our knowledge

pictures of whatever

When we

world.
stone,

we

is

sensible in the

perceive a colour or a

are unable, in order to

know

the being of the colour or the stone, to

become ourselves the colour or the
Just

as

little

stone transform

own

being.

It

stone.

can the colour or the
itself into

a part of our

may, however, be ques-

tioned whether the conception of such a

knowing-process, wholly directed to what
is

external in things,

is

For Scholasticism,

an exhaustive one.

all

human knowing

does certainly in the main coincide with

CARDINAL NICHOLAS OF CUSA

Another admi-

kind of knowing.

this

rable authority on Scholasticism'

which we are concerned
thought in the

direction of

manner:
life

*^Our

but

is

ordered

the

in

therein:

in this

following
earth-

in

primarily focussed

surrounding

the

spiritual

allied

spirit,

with the body,

upon

char-

conception of knowledge

acterises the

with

143

the

bodily

world,

direction

the

of

beings, natures,

forms of things, the elements of existence,

and

which are related to our
offer to

it

the rungs for

its

spirit

ascent

to the super-sensuous; the field of our
is

therefore the realm of ex-

perience, but

we must learn to understand

knowledge

what

it offers,

to penetrate to its

meaning

and thought, and thereby unlock

for

ourselves the world of thought.''
^Otto Willman, in
P- 395-

his

History of Idealism, vol.

ii.,

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

144

The Scholastic could not attain
any other conception of knowledge,
the dogmatic

content

prevented his doing

of his

so.

If

to
for

theology

he had

rected the gaze of his spiritual eye

di-

upon

that which he regards as an image only,

he would then have seen that the spiritual
content of things reveals

itself

in this

supposed image; he would then have

found that in his own inner being the

God

He

not alone images Himself, but that

lives therein, is present there in

own

He would have

nature.

gazing into his

own

His

beheld in

inner being, not a

dark abyss, an endless emptiness, but
also not merely

would have
him, which

and that

that a

life

pulses within

the very

life

of

felt
is

his

an image of God; he

own

life is

God

itself;

verily just

God's

life.

This the Scholastic dared not admit.

CARDINAL NICHOLAS OF CUSA
The God must not, in
into him and speak

God must

145

his opinion, enter

forth

from him;

only be in him as an image.

In reahty, the Godhead must be external
to the

Accordingly, also,

self.

not reveal

from within through

itself

the spiritual

life,

could

it

but must reveal

itself

from outside, through supernatural communication.
is

just exactly

thereby.

What
what

is
is

aimed at

in this,

least of all attained

sought to attain to the

It is

highest possible conception of the God-

head.

In reality, the Godhead

down and made a
things;

only

that

is

dragged

thing

among

these

other

other
things

reveal themselves to us naturally, through

experience; while the

posed to reveal
rally.

A

Godhead

Itself to

difference,

is

sup-

us supematu-

however, between

the knowledge of the divine and of the
created
10

is

attained in this way: that as

146

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

regards the created, the external thing

given in experience, so that

is

knowledge

of

while as regards the

it;

divine, the object

experience;

The

we have

is

not given to us in

we can reach

it

only in faith.

highest things, therefore, are for

the Scholastic not objects of knowledge,

but mainly of

faith.

It

is

true that

the relation of knowledge to faith must

not be so conceived, according to the
Scholastic view, as

that which
it, itself,

is,

in

and

only knowledge,
faith reigned.

if

a certain domain
in

another only

For "the knowledge
is

of

possible to us, because

springs from a creative element;

things are for the spirit, because they
are from the spirit

to

tell us,

;

they have something

because they have a meaning

which a higher intelligence has placed
Because God has created
in them.'"
'

Otto Willman, History of Idealism, vol.

ii.,

p. 383.

CARDINAL NICHOLAS OF CUSA

147

we

the world according to thoughts,

too

when we grasp the thoughts
the world, to seize also upon the

are able,
of

traces of the Divine in the world, through

But what God

scientific reflection.

according to His

own

being,

we can

only from that revelation which

is,

learn

He

has

given to us in supernatural ways, and

which we must

in

What we

believe.

ought to think about the highest things,

must be decided not by any himian
knowledge, but by faith; and "to faith
belongs

all

writings

of

that

the

is

contained

New and

of

in

the

the Old

Testament, and in the divine traditions."
It

is

^

not our task here to present and

establish

in

detail

the relation of the

content of faith to the content of knowledge.
^

In truth,

all

and every

Joseph Kleutgen, Die Theologie der

P- 39.

faith-

Vorzeit, vol.

i.,

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

148

content

some

from

originates

actual

inner himian experience that has once

Such an experience

been undergone.

then preserved, as far as

its

outer form

goes, without the consciousness of
it

And

was acquired.

in regard to

it

that

is

how

people maintain

came

it

into the

world by supernatural revelation.

The

content of the Christian faith was simply-

accepted by
inner

the

experience,

Scholastics.

had

Science,

no business to

claim any rights over

it.

As

little

science can create a tree, just so

as

little

dared Scholasticism to create a concep-

was bound to accept the
revealed one ready-made and complete,
tion of

just

as

God;

it

natural science has to accept

the tree ready-made.
itself

can shine forth

That the spiritual
and live in man's

inner nature, could never, never be ad-

mitted by the Scholastic.

He

therefore

CARDINAL NICHOLAS OF CUSA
drew the

149

power

frontier of the rightful

knowledge at the point where the

of

domain

Hu-

of outer experience ceases.

man knowledge must

not dare to beget

out of

itself

a conception of the higher

beings;

it is

bound to accept a revealed

one.

The

naturally

Scholastics

could

not admit that in doing so they were
accepting and proclaiming as ''revealed*'

a conception which in truth had really
been begotten at an

man's

spiritual

earlier

of

life.

Thus, in the course of
all

stage

its

development,

those ideas had vanished from Scholas-

ticism

which

indicated

the ways and

means by which man had begotten,

in

a

natural manner, his conceptions of the
divine.

In

development
of

the

doctrinal

the

of

the

of Christianity, at the

time

Church

first

centuries

Fathers,

we

see

the

content of theology growing

150

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

bit

by

by the

bit

In Johannes

experiences.

gena,
ian

Scotus

Eri-

stood at the summit of Christ-

who

theological

century,

assimilation of inner

we

culture

the

in

ninth

find this doctrinal content

being handled entirely as an inner
ing

experience.

of the

With the

liv-

Scholastics

following centuries, this charac-

teristic

of

an inner, living experience

disappears altogether: the old doctrinal

content

becomes transposed

content

of

an

external,

into

the

supernatural

revelation.

One might,
activity

of

therefore, understand the

the

mystical

theologians,

Eckhart, Tauler, Suso and their associates, in the following sense: they were
stimulated by the doctrines of the Church,

which were contained in its theology,
but had been misinterpreted, to bring
to birth afresh from within themselves,

CARDINAL NICHOLAS OF CUSA
as

inner

living

experience,

a

151

similar

content.

Nicholas of Cusa sets out to

mount

from the knowledge one acquires
isolated sciences

experiences.

up

in the

to the inner living

There can be no doubt that

the excellent logical technique which the
Scholastics

have developed, and

for

which

Nicholas himself was educated, forms a

most

effective

means

of

attaining

to

these inner experiences, even though the
Scholastics

themselves were held back

from this road by their positive

faith.

But one can only understand Nicholas
fully when one reflects that his calling as
a priest, which raised him to the dignity
of Cardinal, prevented him from coming
to a complete breach with the faith of

the Church, which found an expression

152

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

appropriate to the age in Scholasticism.

We
a

find

him

so far along the road, that

would necessarily

single step further

have carried him out

We

we complete

if

more which
then,

he

looking

the one step

not

did

backwards,

mental

ignorance/'
of

as

is

life

By

this

that

and

take;

throw

upon what he aimed at.
The most significant thought
las's

Church.

understand the Card-

shall therefore

inal best

the

of

of

in

light

Nicho-

"learned

he means a form

knowing which occupies a higher

level

compared with ordinary knowledge.

In the lower sense, knowledge

is

the

grasping of an object by the mind, or
spirit.

The most important

istic of

knowing

is

that

it

character-

gives us light

about something outside of the
that therefore

something

it

directs its gaze

different

from

itself.

spirit,

upon

The

CARDINAL NICHOLAS OF CUSA
spirit,

therefore,

concerned

is

in

153

the

knowing-process with things thought of
as outside

develops

Now

itself.

in

itself

what the

about things

The

being of those things.
spirit.

Man

enters

is

the

spirit.

If,

the

itself,

then

knowing

;

outside of

looking at
it

is

being of

of like nature with

is

not looking at anything

it is

itself,

thing which

the

can no longer talk of

it

for

things

then,

spirit turns its attention to this

the things, which

What

only this sensible

being of

the

into

the

sees the spirit so far only

outside the spirit

encasement;

is

things are

through the sensible encasement.
lies

spirit

but

is

part of

itself.

only looks upon

It

looking at someitself;

is,

indeed,

no longer knows;

itself.

It

is

no longer

concerned with a "knowing," but with

a ''not-knowing."

No

longer does

man

"grasp" something through the mind;

154

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

he

^'beholds

own

conceiving"

his

This highest stage of knowing

life.

comparison with the lower stages,

in

is,

without

a "not-knowing/'

But
being

is

it

obvious that the essential

things

of

can only be reached

Thus

through this stage of knowing.

Cusa

Nicholas of
''learned

not-knowing"

of nothing else but

new

in

birth, as

''

speaking
is

his

of

really speaking

knowing" come

to a

He

an inner experience.

how he came to this
'*I made many efforts
inner experience.
to unite the ideas of God and the world,

tells

us himself

and the Church, into a

of Christ

root-idea; but nothing satisfied

at last, on
sea,

my

my way

by an
from above, soared up

that perception in which
to

me

until

back from Greece by

mind's vision, as

Itmiination

me

single

as the

if

il-

to

God appeared

supreme Unity

of all con-

CARDINAL NICHOLAS OF CUSA
To

tradictions."

this illumination

a greater or

extent

less

was due to

155

influences

derived from the study of his prede-

One

cessors.

recognises in his

way

of

looking at things a peculiar revival of
the views which
writings

we meet with

in the

The

a certain Dionysius.

of

above-mentioned Scotus Erigena translated

these

writings

into

Latin,

and

speaks of their author as the ''great and
divine revealer.**

The works
tioned

in

century.

in question are first

the

first

half

They were

of

the

mensixth

ascribed to that

Dionysius, the Areopagite,

named

in the

Acts of the Apostles, who was converted
to Christianity

by

writings were really

be

left

When these
composed may here

St. Paul.

an open question.

Their con-

worked powerfully upon Nicholas
as they had already worked upon Scotus

tents

156

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

Erigena, and as they must also have

been in

way

of

many ways
thinking

colleagues.

This

of
'
'

stimulating for the

Eckhart and his

learned not-knowing

way preformed
writings.
Here we can only
the essential trait in the way
is

in a certain

ceiving

Man

things

primarily

sense- world.

things

in these

indicate
of con-

found in these works.

knows the things

of the

He forms thoughts about its

being and action.
all

*
'

The Primal Cause

of

must lie higher than these things

themselves.

Man therefore must not seek

to grasp this Primal Cause

by means of the

same concepts and ideas as

things.

If

he therefore ascribes to the Root-Being
(God) attributes which he has learned to

know

in lower things, such attributes

can

be at best auxiliary conceptions of his

weak

spirit,

Being to

which drags down the Root-

itself,

in order to conceive

it.

,

CARDINAL NICHOLAS OF CUSA

157

In truth, therefore, no attribute whatsoever which lower things possess can

be predicated of God.
be said that
is

God

a concept which

and

"being"

whom we

must not even
*

For

"

man

'

being

is

'

too

exalted above

The God

ascribe attributes,

We

God.

'

has formed from

"not-being."

fore not the true

true God,

is.

It

But God

lower things.

to

*'

when we think

is

there-

come

to the

of

an "Over-

God" above and beyond any God with
such attributes.

Of

this

we can know nothing

in the ordinary

In order to attain to

sense.

"Over-God"

Him

'
'

know-

ing" must merge into "not-knowing."

One
there

sees that at the root of such a

lies

the consciousness that

self is able to

which

is

man him-

develop a higher knowing,

no longer mere knowing

purely natural manner

what

view

—on

his various sciences

—in

a

the basis of

have yielded

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

158

The

him.

Scholastic

view

declared

knowledge to be impotent to such a
development; and, at the point where

knowledge
in

is

supposed to cease,

the help

to

basing

itself

of

it

called

knowledge a faith

upon external

revelation.

Nicholas of Cusa was thus upon the road
to develop out of knowledge itself that

which the Scholastics had declared to
be unattainable for knowledge.

We

thus see that, from Nicholas of

Cusa's point of view, there can be no
question of there being only one kind or

mode

of

knowing.

On

the contrary, for

him, knowing clearly divides
two,

first

into such

itself

into

knowing as mediates

our acquaintance with external objects,

and second into such as is itself the
object of which one gains knowledge.

The
in

first

mode

of

knowing

is

dominant

the sciences, which teach us about

CARDINAL NICHOLAS OF CUSA

159

the things and occurrences of the outer

when we ourthe knowledge we have

world; the second
in

selves live

acquired.

in us

is

This second kind of knowing

Now, however,
it is still one and the same world with
which both these modes of knowing are

grows out of the

concerned; and

same man who

first.

is

it

is

one and the

Hence
whence comes it

active in both.

the question must arise,

that one and the self-same

two

self-

different kinds of

man

develops

knowledge of one

and the same world.
connection with Tauler,

Already, in

the direction could be indicated in which

the answer to this question must be
sought.

Here

answer can be
lated.

still

In the

a separated

in Nicholas of

more

first

definitely

place,

(individual)

other separated beings.

Cusa

man

this

formu-

lives as

being amidst

In addition to

i6o

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

the effects which the other beings produce

on each other, there
the

arises in his case

Through

knowledge.

(lower)

his

senses he receives impressions from other
beings,

with

and works up these impressions
inner

his

spiritual

He

powers.

then turns his spiritual gaze away from
external things, and beholds himself as
well as his

own

self-knowledge

activity.

arises

in

In so doing
him.

But

long as he remains on this level of

so

self-

knowledge, he does not, in the true sense
of the word,
still

behold himself.

believe that

active within him,

He

can

some hidden being

is

whose manifestations

and effects are only that which appears
to him to be his own activities.
But

now

the

moment may come

in which,

through

an incontrovertible inner ex-

perience,

it

becomes clear to the

he experiences,

in whq,t

man

that

he perceives or

CARDINAL NICHOLAS OF CUSA
feels

i6i

within himself, not the manifestation

or effect of any hidden power or being,

but this very being
essential

itself

in

its

Then he
In a certain way I

and intimate form.

can say to himself:

find all other things ready given,

myself, standing apart from
of

them, add

spirit
I

most

has to

and

I

and outside

them whatever the
about them. But what

to

tell

thus creatively add to the things in

myself, therein do I myself live; that

myself,

my

very own being.

is

But what

is

that which speaks there in the depths

of

my

spirit?

It is the

knowledge which

have acquired of the things of the
world. But in this knowledge there
I

speaks no longer an

effect,

a manifest-

ation; that which speaks expresses itself

wholly,
it

holding back nothing of what

contains.

In this knowledge, there

speaks the world in
IX

all

its

immediacy.

i62

But

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE
have acquired

I

knowledge

this

of

among
From out my own being

things and of myself, as one thing

other things.
I

myself speak, and

the

things,

too,

speak.

Thus, in truth,

no longer only to

I

am

giving utterance

my own being

;

I

am also

giving utterance to the being of things

themselves.

My

"ego"

is

the form, the

organ in which the things express themselves about themselves.

I

the experience that in myself

my own

essential

perience

expands

have gained
I

experience

being; and this ex-

me

in

itself

to

the

further one that in myself and througn

myself

the

Itself, or
I

can

thing
feel

All-Being

in other words,

expresses

knows

Itself.

now no longer feel myself as a
among other things I can now only
;

myself as a form

Being

Itself

lives

out Its

in

own

which the

life.

All-

CARDINAL NICHOLAS OF CUSA
It is

thus only natural that one and

man

the same

he

is

should have two modes

Judging by the facts of the

of knowing.
senses,

163

a thing

and, in so far as he

among
is

other things,

that, he gains for

himself a knowledge of these things; but

any moment he can acquire the higher
experience that he is really the form in

at

which the All-Being beholds Itself.

Then

man

thing

transforms himself from a

among

other things into a form of the

All-Being

—and,

knowledge

along with himself, the
things

of

transforms

itself

into the expression of the very being of
things.

But as a matter

of fact

this

transformation can only be accomplished

That which

through man.
in the higher

is

mediated

knowledge does not

exist

as long as this higher knowledge itself
is

not present.

Man

becomes only a

real being in the creation of this higher

i64

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE
and

knowledge;

through

only

man's

higher knowledge can things also bring
their being forth into real existence.

therefore,

If,

we demand

that

man

add nothing to things through
inner knowledge, but merely give

shall

pression

his

ex-

to whatever already exists in

the things outside of himself, that would
really

amount

to a complete abnegation

From

of all higher knowledge.

the fact

that man, in respect of his sensible
is

life,

merely one thing among others, and

that he only attains to the higher knowledge

when he

himself,

himself accomplishes with

as a being

the senses, the

of

transformation into a higher being,

it

follows that he can never replace the

one kind of knowledge by the other.

His

spiritual life consists,

on the contrary,

in a ceaseless oscillation

two poles

of

knowledge

between these

—between know-

ing

CARDINAL NICHOLAS OF CUSA

165

and

off

seeing.

from the

If

seeing,

he abandons the real

nature of things:
himself

off

he shuts himself

from

if

he seeks to shut

he

sense-perception,

would shut out from himself the things

whose nature he seeks to know.

It is

same things which reveal
themselves alike in the lower knowing
these

very

and the higher

seeing; only in the

one

case they reveal themselves according
to their outer appearance; in the other

according to their inner being.
is

Thus

it

not due to the things themselves that,

at a certain stage, they appear only as

external things; but their doing so

due to the fact that
all

raise

level

man must

is

first of

and transform himself to the

upon which the things cease

to be

external and outside.

In the light of these considerations,

some

of the views

which natural science

i66

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

has developed

during

the

nineteenth

century appear for the

first

time in the

views

The supporters of these
us that we hear, see, and touch

Hght.

right

tell

the objects of the physical world through

The eye, for instance, transmits to us a phenomenon of light, a
colour.
Thus we say that a body emits
red light, when with the help of the
eye we experience the sensation "red."
But the eye can give us this same sen-

our senses.

sation in other cases also.
is

If

struck or pressed upon, or

spark

is

if

the eyeball

an

allowed to pass through the

head, the eye has a sensation of
It is thus

we have

a body emitting red
really

light.

evident that even in the

cases in which

may

electric

the sensation of
light,

be happening

something

in that

body

which has no sort of resemblance to the
colour

we

sensate.

Whatever may be

:

CARDINAL NICHOLAS OF CUSA

167

actually happening "outside of us" in
space, so long as
of

what happens

is

capable

making an impression on the

eye,

there arises in us the sensation of light.

Thus what we experience arises in us,
because we possess organs constituted
in a particular

manner.

What happens

outside in space, remains outside of us;

we know only

the

effects

external happenings call

mann Helmholtz
a

clearly

(i

up

which the
Her-

in us.

821-1893) has given

outlined

expression

to

this

thought

"Our

sensations

which are produced

are
in

simply

effects

our organs by

manner in which
such an effect will show itself depends,
naturally enough, altogether upon the
kind of apparatus upon which the action

external causes, and the

takes place.

In so far as the quality

of our sensation gives us information as

i68

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

to

the peculiar nature of the external

action which produces the sensation, so
far can the sensation be regarded as a

sign or

symbol

of this external action,

but not as an image or reproduction
it.

For we expect

in

of

a picture some

kind of resemblance to the object

it

represents; thus in a statue, resemblance
of form; in a drawing, resemblance in

the perspective projection of the

field

of view; in a painting, resemblance of

colour
ever,

in
is

addition.

symbol,

how-

not required to have any sort

of resemblance
bolises.

A

The

to

that which

it

sym-

necessary connection be-

tween the object and the symbol
limited

to

this:

is

that the same object

coming into action under the same conditions shall call

up the same symbol,

and

that

shall

always correspond to different ob-

therefore

different

symbols

CARDINAL NICHOLAS OF CUSA

When

jects.

in ripening

tion

169

berries of a certain kind

produce together red

coloiira-

and sugar, then red colour and a

sweet taste will always find themselves
together in our sensation of berries of
this form/*'

Let us follow out step by step the line

which

of thought

own.

It

me

of

produces an effect upon

my

I

is

brain.

brought

experience the sensation *^red."

is

Cp. Helmholtz, Die

in detail in

my

my

follows the assertion: therefore the

p. 12 et seq.

in

to

occurrence

sensation "red"
*

space; this

my sense-organs;

made

thus

There another

Now

in

nervous system conducts the

impression

about.

its

assumed that something

is

happens outside

and

view makes

this

1

not outside, not ex-

Thatsachen der Wahrnehmung,
this kind of conception

have characterised

my

Welt-

Philosophie der Freiheit, Berlin, 1894, and
und Lehensanschauungen im Neunzehntcn

Jahrhundert, vol.

ii.,

p.

i.,

etc.

170

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE
me;

ternal to
tions

All our sensa-

in me.

it is

merely symbols or signs of

are

external occurrences of whose real quality

we know

We

nothing.

live

and move

in

our sensations and know nothing of their
In

origin.

the

of

spirit

this

of

line

would thus be possible to
assert that if we had no eyes, colour
would not exist; for then there would be
thought,

it

this, to us,

nothing to translate

unknown

wholly

happening into the

external

sensation "red.'*

For many people
possesses

a

nevertheless

this line of

attraction;

curious
it

thought

but

originates in a complete

misconception of the facts under consideration.

(Were

it

not that

many

of

the present day scientists and philoso-

phers

by

are

blinded

even

this line of thought,

to say less about

it.

to

absurdity

one would need

But, as a matter

1

CARDINAL NICHOLAS OF CUSA
of fact, this blindness has ruined in

1

7

many

respects the thinking of the present day.)

man

In truth, since
thing

among

follows that
of

them

pression

if

is

but one object or

other things,

he

is

to have

naturally

it

any experience

make an imupon him somehow or other.

at

all,

they must

Something

that

man must

cause something to happen

within him,

if

sation "red"

happens

outside

the

in his visual field the senis

to

make

its

appearance.

The whole question turns upon this:
What is without? what within? Outside
of him something happens in space and
time.

But within there

is

For

a similar occurrence.

undoubtedly
in

the eye

there occurs such a process, which manifests itself to the brain

the colour "red.**

I

perceive

This process which

goes on "inside" me,
directly,

when

I

any more than

cannot perceive
I

can directly

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

172

wave

perceive the

which

the

motions "outside'*

physicist

conceives

But

answering

to

really

only in this sense that

it is

the

colour

as

of

''red/'
I

can

speak of an "inside" and an "outside"
at

Only on the plane

all.

ception

can

of sense-per-

opposition

the

between

"outside" and "inside" hold good.

The

recognition of this leads

assume the existence "outside"

me

to

a

of

process in space and time, although

do not directly perceive

it

at

the same recognition further
to

postulate

I

ceive that either.
I

And
leads me

all.

a similar process within

myself, although

fact,

I

habitually

cannot directly perBut, as a matter of
postulate

analogous

occurrences in space and time in ordinary
life

which

I

do not directly perceive;

for instance,

when

I

as,

hear piano-playing

next door, and assume that a human being

CARDINAL NICHOLAS OF CUSA
in space

seated at the piano and

is

playing upon

when

And my

it.

173

is

conception,

speak of processes happening

I

and within me,

is

just the

outside

of,

same.

asstime that these processes have

I

quaUties analogous to those of the pro-

which do

cesses

my

of

senses,

within the province

fall

only

that,

because

my

certain reasons, they escape

of

direct

perception.
If

I

were to attempt to

these processes

my

senses

I

to

the qualities which

all

show me

space and time,

deny

in the

domains

of

should in reality and

be trying to think something
not unlike the famous knife without
in truth

a

Therefore,

time

was wanting.
can only say that space and

whose

handle,
I

processes

blade

take

place

''outside"

me; these bring about space and time
processes ''within" me; and both are

»

174

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

necessary

if

appear in

the sensation "red"

my

field

so far as this "red"

of vision.
is

time, I shall seek for
I

myself.

Those

it

For

find

it is

and

philoso-

"outside,

it

it

"inside

>>

J

not "inside," in exactly

the same sense in which

To

in

equally in vain,

ought not to want to find

side."

And,

not in space and

scientists

who cannot

either.

to

seek "without" or "within"

whether

phers

is

it is

not "out-

declare that the total content

of that

which the sense-world presents

to us

but an inner world of sensation

is

or feeling, and then to endeavour to tack

on something "external" or "outside"
to

it,

is

a wholly impossible conception.

Hence, we must not speak of "red,"
"sweet," "hot,"

etc.,

as being symbols, or

signs,

which as such are only aroused with-

in us,

and to which "outside "

of us some-

thing totally different corresponds.

For

CARDINAL NICHOLAS OF CUSA
that which

is

175

really set going within us,

some external happening,
something altogether other than what

as the effect of
is

appears in the
If

we want

field

of our sensations.

to call that which

us a symbol, then

we can

is

within

say:

These

symbols make their appearance within
our organism, in order to mediate to us
the perceptions which, as such, in their
immediacy, are neither within nor out-

but belong, on the contrary,
to that common world, of which my

side of us,

''external"

world and

world are only parts.
able to grasp this
it

is

true,

raise

my

"internal"

In order to be

common world, I

must,

myself to that higher

plane of knowledge, for which an "inner"

and an

know

"outer"

no longer

quite well that people

exist.

who

(I

pride

themselves on the gospel that our entire
world of experience builds itself up out

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

176

and

of sensations
origin

remarks;

unknown
upon

contemptously

look

will

these

feelings of

as,

Dr.

instance,

for

Erich Adikes in his book, Kant contra
Haeckel, observes condescendingly:

people like Haeckel and thousands

first

of

type

his

without

philosophise

knowledge

reflection."

inkling of

of

others.

how cheap
are.

critical

Let

about

critical

self-

Such gentlemen have no

knowledge

lack

or

away

gaily

themselves

troubling

theory of

of

^'At

us

their

They

own

to

the

suspect

self-reflection

leave

theories

only

them

in

their

''wisdom.")

Nicholas of Cusa expresses some very
telling

thoughts bearing directly upon this

very point.
in

The

clear

and

distinct

way

which he holds apart the lower and

the higher knowledge enables him, on
the one side, to arrive at a

full

and com-

CARDINAL NICHOLAS OF CUSA

177

man

plete recognition of the fact that

as a sense-being can only have in himself
processes which, as effects,
sarily

must

neces-

be altogether unlike the corres-

ponding external processes; while,
the other side,

it

on

guards him against

confusing the inner processes with the
facts

which make their appearance

in

the field of our perceptions, and which,
in their

immediacy, are neither outside

nor inside, but altogether transcend this
opposition of

*'in*'

and "out/*

But Nicholas was hampered

in

the

thorough carrying through of these ideas

by

his ''priestly

garments."

how he makes a

fine

So we see

beginning

with

knowing" to "notknowing." At the same time we must
also note that in the domain of the higher
the progress from

*'

knowledge, or "ignorance," he unfolds
practically nothing but the content of
12

178

MYSTICS OP THE RENAISSANCE

the theological teaching which the SchoCertainly he knows

lastics also give us.

how

to

in a

most able manner.

expound

this theological content

He

presents us

with teachings about Providence, Christ,
the creation of the world, man's salvation,
the moral

life,

which are kept thoroughly

in

harmony with dogmatic

It

would have been

his

Christianity.

in accordance with

mental starting point, to say:

confidence in

human

I

have

nature that after

having plunged deeply into the science
of things in all directions,
of transforming

it is

from within

"knowing** into a

capable

itself

"not-knowing,"

this
in

such wise that the highest insight shall
bring

satisfaction.

In

that

case,

he

would not simply have accepted the
traditional ideas of the soul, immortality,

Trinity,

salvation,

and so

God,
forth,

creation,

as he

the

actually

-

CARDINAL NICHOLAS OF CUSA

179

but he would have represented his

did,

own.

But Nicholas personally was, however,
saturated

so

with the conceptions

of

Christianity that he might well believe

himself to have awakened in himself a

"not-knowing** of his own, while yet

was merely bringing to light the
traditional views in which he was brought

he

up.

But he stood upon the verge
precipice

terrible

of

man.

He was

in

a

the

spiritual

scientific

man.

science, primarily, estranges us

innocent harmony in which
the world so long as

of a

we

life

Now

from the
live

with

we abandon

our-

selves to a purely naive attitude towards
life.

In such an attitude to

dimly

feel

life,

we

our connection with the world

whole.

We

are

beings

like

others,

forming

links in the chain of Nature's workings.

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

i8o

But with knowledge we separate ourselves
off from this whole; we create within us
a mental world, wherewith we stand
alone and isolated over against Nature.

We have become enriched
are a burden which
culty; for
selves

strength,

we

we bear with

diffi-

And we must now, by

again to Nature.
that

but our riches

weighs primarily upon our-

alone.

own

our

it

;

We

ourselves

way back

the

find

have to recognise

must now

fit

our

wealth into the stream of world activities,
just

as previously

our poverty.

fitted in
lie

Nature

in wait for

man

strength can easily

herself

All evil

demons

at this point.
fail

him.

had
His

Instead

of himself accomplishing this fitting in,

he

will,

if

his strength thus

fails,

seek

some revelation coming from
without, which frees him again from his
loneliness, which leads back once more
refuge in

CARDINAL NICHOLAS OF CUSA

i8i

the knowledge that he feels a burden,
into the very

Godhead.

womb

of being, into the

Like Nicholas of Cusa, he

will believe that

he

is

own

travelling his

road; and yet in reality he will be only
following the path which his

own

spiritual

evolution has pointed out for him.

Now

there are

in

the main

roads which one can follow,

—three

when once

one has reached the point at which
Nicholas had arrived the one
:

is

positive

faith, forcing itself

upon us from with-

out; the second

despair; one stands

is

alone with one*s burden, and feels the

whole universe tottering with oneself;
the third road
deepest,

is

the development of the

most inward powers

of

man.

Confidence, trust in the world must be

one

of

our guides upon this third path;

courage, to follow that confidence whither-

soever

it

may

lead us,

must be the

other.

AGRIPPA VON NETTESHEIM AND
THEOPHRASTUS PARACELSUS
Both

Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa von

Nettesheim

(1487 -1535)

phrastus Paracelsus

and

(i 493-1 541)

Theofollowed

the same road along which points Nicholas of

Cusa's

way

of conceiving things.

They devoted themselves
of Nature,

laws by

all

to the study

and sought to discover her
the means in their power and

as thoroughly as possible.

In this know-

ledge of Nature, they saw the true basis
of all higher knowledge.

They

strove

to develop this higher knowledge from

within the science or knowledge of Nature

by bringing that knowledge
birth in the spirit.
182

to a

new

NETTESHEIM AND PARACELSUS
Agrippa von Nettesheim led a
varied

He

life.

bom

in

medicine

studied

much

sprang from a noble

family and was
early

183

He

Cologne.

and law, and

sought to obtain clear insight into the

way which
was then customary within certain circles
and societies, or even among isolated
processes of Nature in the

investigators,

who

studiously kept secret

whatever of the knowledge of Nature
they

For

discovered.

he went repeatedly to
to England,

and

He

purposes

Paris, to Italy,

also visited the

Abbot Trithemius
burg.

these

of

Sponheim

and

famous

in Wiirz-

taught at various times in

learned institutions, and here and there

entered the service of rich and distin-

guished

people,

at

whose disposal he

placed his abilities as a statesman and a

man

of science.

If the services that

he

rendered are not always described by his

1

84

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

biographers as unobjectionable,
said that he

if

made money under the

it

is

pre-

tence of understanding secret arts and
conferring

on people thereby,

benefits

there stands against this his unmistakable,

unresting

impulse to acquire honestly

the entire knowledge of his age, and to

deepen this knowledge in the direction
of a higher cognition of the world.

We may

see

him very

in

plainly

the endeavour to attain to a clear and
definite attitude

towards natural science

on the one hand, and to the higher knowledge on the other. But he only can
attain to such

an attitude who

is

pos-

sessed of a clear insight as to the respective roads

which lead to one and to the

other kind of knowledge.
is

true as

it

on the one hand that natural science

must eventually be
of

As

the

spirit,

if

it

raised into the region
is

to pass over into

NETTESHEIM AND PARACELSUS
higher knowledge;

so, also, it is

185

true on

the other, that this natural science must,
to begin with, remain

ground,

is

it

if

upon its own

to yield the right basis

the attainment of a higher level.

for

The

Nature"

"spirit in

spirit.

exists only for

So surely as Nature

is spiritual,

so surely too

is

in this sense

there nothing

in Nature, of all that is perceived

bodily

which

organs,

There

spiritual.

Therefore,

I

is

my

interpret

the external world

spiritual;

immediately

must not seek for the spirit
;

I

my

eye as spiritual.

as such in Nature but that

doing when

by

nothing spiritual

exists

which can appear to

in

special

is

I

am

any occurrence
immediately as

when, for instance,

to a plant a soul which

what

is

I

ascribe

supposed to be

only remotely analogous to that of man.
Further,

I

again do the same

ascribe to spirit

itself

when

an existence

I

in

1

86

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

space and time;

as, for instance,

assert of the hiiman soul that

it

when

I

continues

to exist in time without the body, but

yet after the manner of a body; or again,

when

even go so far as to believe that,

I

under any sort of conditions or arrange-

ments perceivable by the

senses,

a dead person can show

spirit of

Spiritualism,

which makes

only shows thereby that

the

itself.

this mistake,

has not at-

it

tained to a true conception of the spirit
at

all,

but

is still

bent upon directly and

immediately ''seeing" the
thing

grossly

sensible.

spirit in

some-

mistakes

It

equally both the real nature of the sensible

and

also that

de-spiritualises

sense,

the

of

the

ordinary

spirit.

world

It

of

which hourly passes before our

eyes, in order to give the

immediately
prising,

to

name

something

uncommon.

of spirit

rare,

sur-

It fails to under-

NETTESHEIM AND PARACELSUS

187

stand that that which lives as the "spirit
in nature" reveals itself to

him who

is

able to perceive spirit in the collision
of

two

elastic balls, for instance;

and not

only in occurrences which are striking

from their
at

once

rarity,

and which cannot

be grasped

in

their

all

natural

sequence and connection.

But the

spiritist

down

spirit

further

drags the

into a lower sphere.

of explaining

Instead

something that happens in

and that he perceives through his
senses only, in terms of forces and beings
which in their turn are spacial and perspace,

ceptible

to

senses,

he resorts to

which he thereby places exactly

''spirits,"

on a

the

level

with the things of the senses.

At the very root

of such a

way

of viewing

things, there lies a lack of the
spiritual

apprehension.

We

power

of

are unable

to perceive spiritual things spiritually;

i88

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

we

therefore satisfy our craving for the

spiritual

with mere beings perceptible

Their own inner

to the senses.
reveals to such

men

and therefore they seek
through the senses.
flying

through the

spirit

nothing spiritual;
for the spiritual

As they

see clouds

so they would

air,

fain see spirits hastening along.

Agrippa

von Nettesheim fought

genuine

science

the

of Nature,

phenomena

for

which

a

shall

of Nature, not

explain

by means

of spirits phenomenalising in the world
of the senses, but by seeing in

Nature only

the natural, and in the spirit only the
spiritual.

Of course, Agrippa
misunderstood

if

will

be entirciy

one compares his natural

science with that of later centuries which

dispose of wholly different experiences.

In such a comparison,

seem that he was

it

still

might easily
actually

and

NETTESHEIAd AND PARACELSUS

189

entirely referring to the direct action of

things which only depend

spirits,

upon

natural connections or upon mistaken

Such a wrong

experience.

is

done to

him by Moriz Carriere when he

says,

not in any malicious sense,

true:

it

is

''Agrippa gives a huge list of things
which belong to the Sun, the Moon, the

Planets and the fixed stars, and receive
influences from

them;

for

instance:

to

the Sun are related Fire, Blood, Laurel,
Gold,

Chrysolite;

they confer the

of the Sun: Courage, Cheerfulness,

Light.

.

.

.

Animals

sense, which, higher

have

a

.

.

.

Men

and

natural

than himian under-

standing, approaches the spirit of

phecy.

gifts

pro-

can be bewitched to

love and hate, to sickness and health.

Thieves can be bewitched so that they
cannot steal at some particular place,
merchants, that they cannot do business,

190

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

mills, that
flashes, that

they cannot work, lightning

they cannot

strike.

This

is

brought about through drinks, salves, images, rings, incantations; the blood of hy-

enas or basilisks
purpose'

it

is

adapted to such a

reminds one of Shakespeare's

cauldron."

witches'

remind one

of that,

Agrippa aright.
without saying
his time

tionable.

No;
if

it

does

not

one understands

He believed-— it goes
in many facts which in

everybody regarded as unques-

But we

still

do the same to-day.

Or do we imagine that future centuries
will not relegate much of what we now regard as "undoubted fact*' to the lumberroom of "blind" superstition?
I

am

convinced that in our knowledge

of facts there has been a real progress.

When

once the "fact" that the earth

round had been discovered,

all

is

previous

conjectures were banished into the do-

NETTESHEIM AND PARACELSUS
main

of

191

"superstition"; and the same

holds"good of certain truths of astronomy,
biology,

The

etc.

doctrine of natural

evolution constitutes an advance, as com-

with

pared

all

previous

similar

creation,"

marked by

that

to

of

''theories

the recognition of the roundness of the
earth

contrasted with

as

speculations as to

am

less, I

learned

to be

is

which

will

works and

found

treatises

many a

"fact**

seem to future centuries to be

just as little of a fact as

celsus

Neverthe-

form.

vividly conscious that in our

scientific

there

its

previous

all

much

that Para-

and Agrippa maintain; but the

really important point

is

not what they

regarded as "fact," but hoWy in
spirit,

what

they interpreted their "facts."

In Agrippa 's time, there

understanding

or

sympathy

was
for

little

the

"natural magic" he represented, which

192

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

sought

Nature

in

spiritual only

to

the

in

the

natural

— the

men

clung

the spirit

"supernatural

;

magic,"

which

sought the spiritual in the realm of the

and which Agrippa combated.
Therefore the Abbot Trithemius of
Sponheim was right in giving him the
sensible,

advice to communicate his views only
as a secret teaching to a few chosen

who

pupils
of

could rise to a similar idea

Nature and

spirit,

because one ''gives

only hay to oxen and not sugar as to
singing birds.'*

himself

own

owed

correct

It

may

to this

point

of

be that Agrippa

same Abbot
view.

In

his
his

Steganography, Trithemius has produced

a book in which he handled with the

most subtle irony that mode of conceiving things which confuses nature with
spirit.

In this book he apparently speaks of

NETTESHEIM AND PARACELSUS
but

nothing

Any one

occurrences.

supernatural

reading

it

as

believe that the author

is

193

stands must

it

talking of conju-

rations of spirits, of spirits flying through

the

air,

and so on.

however, one

If,

drops certain words and letters under
the table,

remain

there

—as

Wolfgang

Ernst Heidel proved in the year 1676
letters

which, combined into words, de-

scribe purely natural occurrences.

one

case,

last

one must drop

words

entirely,

(In

a formula of

for instance, in

conjuration,

and

the

first

and then cancel

from the remainder the second, fourth,
sixth,

over,

and so on.
one must

In the words

again cancel the

third, fifth letters

and so

combines what

then

and the
itself

13

conjtiration

into a

cation.)

is

on.

left

left
first,

One next

into words;

formula

resolves

purely natural communi-

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

194

How

difficult

was

it

Agrippa to

for

work himself free from the prejudices of
his time and to rise to a pure perception
is

proved by the fact that he did not

allow his "Occult Philosophy" {Philoso-

phia Occulta), already written in 15 lo,
to appear before the year 1531, because

he considered

dence of this fact
' *

Further evi-

unripe.

it

is

given by his work

On the Vanity of the Sciences

tate

Scientiarum)

with

of

bitterness

the

'

difficulty

and

He

there

he has only with

wrenched himself

phantasy which beholds
tions

immediate

external

facts

speaks

scientific

other activities of his time.
states quite clearly that

{De Vani-

he

which

in

'

free

from the

in external ac-

spiritual

processes, in

prophetic indications of

the future, and so forth.

Agrippa advances to the higher knowledge in three stages.

He

treats as the

NETTESHEIM AND PARACELSUS
first

stage the world as

the senses, with

calls

on

and other

Nature, in so far as

this level,

is

it

given for
its

phy-

forces.

He

substances,

its

chemical

sical,

it

195

is

looked at

"elementary Nature."

On

the second stage, one contemplates the

world as a whole in
connection, as
to measure,

and so

its

natural inter-

orders things according

it

number, weight, harmony,

forth.

The

first

stage proceeds

from one thing to the next nearest.

It

seeks for the causes of an occurrence in
its

immediate surroimdings.

stage

regards

connection
It carries

thing

is

a

with

single

the

The second

occurrence

entire

in

universe.

through the idea that every-

subject to the influence of

all

other things in the entire world-whole.

In

its

eyes this world-whole appears as

a vast harmony,
item

is

in

which each individual

a member.

Agrippa terms the

196

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

world, regarded from this point of view,

the

'
'

astral " or " heavenly

third stage of

the

spirit,

knowing

'

is

world

'

.

The

that wherein

by plunging deep

into itself,

perceives immediately the spiritual, the

Root-Being of the world.

Agrippa here

speaks of the world, of soul and

spirit.

The views which Agrippa develops
about the world, and the relation of

man

to the world, present themselves to us
in the case of

in a similar

manner, only

fected form.

consider

Theophrastus Paracelsus,

them

more

in

per-

It is better, therefore, to

with

in connection

the

latter.

Paracelsus characterises himself aptly,

when he

writes

under

portrait:

his

''None shall be another's slave, who for
himself can remain alone.''
attitude towards knowledge

these words.

He

strives

His whole
is

given in

everywhere to

NETTESHEIM AND PARACELSUS

197

go back himself to the deepest foundations of natural knowledge, in order to

by

rise

own

his

strength to the loftiest

regions of cognition.

As Physician, he

will not, like his contemporaries,

simply

accept what the ancient investigators,

who then counted

as authorities,

—Galen

or Avicenna, for instance, asserted long

ago; he

is

resolved to read for himself

directly in the

book

of Nature.

**The

Physician must pass Nature's examination,

which

origins.

is

And

the

world,

and

the

very

same

all its

that

Nature teaches him, he must command
to his wisdom, but seek for nothing in
his

wisdom, only and alone in the light

of

Nature."

He

shrinks from nothing,

in order to learn to

her workings in

know Nature and

all directions.

For

this

purpose he made journeys to Sweden,

Hungary, Spain, Portugal, and the East.

198

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

He

can truly say of himself:

have

'*I

followed the Art at the risk of

my

life,

and have not been ashamed to learn
from wanderers, executioners and sheepMy doctrine was tested more
shearers.
severely than silver in poverty,

fears,

wars and hardships."

What has been handed down by ancient
authorities has for

him no

value, for he

believes that he can attain to the right

view only

upward

if

he himself experiences the

from

climb
the

Nature to

the knowledge of

highest

living, personal experience

mouth the proud
will

follow truth,

monarchy.

.

.

.

puts into his

utterance: ''He

must come

into

After me; not

you, Avicenna, Rhases, Galen,

After me; not

This

insight.

I after

you,

I

who

my
after

Mesur!

ye of Paris,

ye of Montpellier, ye of Swabia, ye of
Meissen, ye of Cologne, ye of Vienna and

NETTESHEIM AND PARACELSUS

199

on the Danube and the
Rhine; ye islands in the sea, thou Italy,
thou Dalmatia, thou Athens, thou Greek,

what

of

lies

thou Arab, thou
I

Israelite; after

me, not

the Monarchy."

after you!

Mine

It is easy to

misunderstand Paracelsus

because

of

his

is

rough

exterior,

which

sometimes conceals a deep earnestness
behind a jest. Does he not himself say:
''By nature I am not subtly woven, nor
brought up on

figs

and wheat-bread, but

on cheese, milk and rye-bread, wherefore
I may well be rude with the over-clean
and superfine for those who were brought
;

up

in

soft

clothing

and we who were

bred in pine needles do not easily understand one another. When in myself I

mean

to be kindly, I

be taken as rude.
strange to one
in the

sun?"

must

How

therefore often

can

I

not be

who has never wandered

200

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

In his book about Winkelmann, Goethe

man

has described the relation of

Nature

self

the following beautiful sen-

"When

tence:

man

in

to

nature

healthy

the

acts as a whole;

when he

feels

of

him-

as one with a great, beautiful, noble

and worthy whole; when the sense

of

harmonious well-being gives him a pure
then would the Universe,

and

free delight

if it

could be conscious of

;

its

own

feeling,

burst forth in joy at having attained
goal,

its

and contemplate with wondering

admiration the summit of

coming

and

With

being/'

own

its

a

be-

feeling

such as finds expression in these sentences,

From

Paracelsus

out of

its

is

simply saturated.

depths the riddle of

humanity takes shape for him. Let us
watch how this happens in Paracelsus's
sense.

At the

outset,

the

road

by which

NETTESHEIM AND PARACELSUS
Nature has travelled to attain her
altitude

hidden

is

of comprehension.

from

201

loftiest

man's power

She has climbed,

deed, to the stmimit; but the

does not proclaim:

whole of Nature;

I feel
it

in-

summit

myself as the

proclaims, on the

contrary: I feel myself as this single,

separated

human

reality

an achievement of the whole

is

universe,

feels

being.

itself

That which
a

as

separated,

isolated being, standing alone

This indeed
viz.,

is

that he

in

by

itself.

the true being of man,

must needs

feel

himself to

be something quite different from what,
in ultimate analysis,
if

he really

that be a contradiction,

man

is.

And

then must

be called a contradiction come to

life.

Man

is

particular

the

universe

way; he regards

in

his

own

his oneness

with the universe as a duality:

he

is

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

202

the very same that the universe

he

is

the universe

This

a single being.

which Paracelsus

as

is;

but

a repetition, as
is

feels as

the

contrast

the Microcosm

(Man) and the Macrocosm (Universe).
Man, for him, is the universe in miniaThat which makes man regard
ture.
his relationship to the world in this

that

his

is

This

spirit.

spirit

way,

appears

bound to a single being, to a single
organism: and this organism belongs, by

as

if

the very nature of

its

whole being, to the

mighty stream of the universe.

It

is

one member, one link in that whole,

having
with

its

all

thereof.

come of
and sees

very existence only in relation
the

other

But

spirit

links

members

appears as an out-

this single, separated organism,
itself

at the outset as

only with that organism.
this

or

bound up

It tears loose

organism from the mother earth

NETTESHEIM AND PARACELSUS
out

of

which

has grown.

it

203

So,

for

Paracelsus, a deep-seated connection be-

man and

tween
the

in

basic

the universe

foundations

connection which
presence of

**

is

hidden

lies

of

being,

a

hidden through the

That

spirit/*

spirit

which

by making

leads us to higher

insight

knowledge

and leads on

possible,

this

knowledge to a new birth on a higher

—this

level'

men, to

has, as its first result for us

veil

from us our own oneness

with the whole.

Thus the nature

of

man

resolves itself

for Paracelsus in the first place into three
factors:

our

sensuous-physical

nature,

our organism which appears to us as a
natural being

and

is

among

other natural beings

of like nature with all other natural

beings; our concealed or hidden nature,

which

is

universe,

a link in the chain of the whole

and therefore

is

not shut up

204

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

within the organism or limited to

it,

but radiates and receives the workings
of

upon and from the

energy

and our highest nature, our

universe;
spirit,

which

lives

its

man*s nature Paracelsus

a purely

in

life

The

manner.

spiritual

first

factor

calls

the

mentary body " the second, the
;

heavenly,

or

in

Paracelsus

the

''ele-

ethereal-

Soul.'*

"astral"

phenomena,

an

intermediate

recognises

stage between

in

body"; and the

''astral

names "the

third he

Thus

entire

the purely physical and

the properly spiritual or soul-phenomena.

Therefore these astral activities will come
into view
veils

when the

spirit or soul,

which

or conceals the natural basis

our being, suspends

its activity.

of

In the

dream-world we see the simplest phe-

nomena

of

this

realm.

which hover before us

in

The

pictures

dreams, with

NETTESHEIM AND PARACELSUS
their

remarkably

with

occurrences

and with

205

significant connection

in

environment

our

states of our inner nature, are

products of our natural basis or rootbeing, which are obscured
light of the soul.

by the

brighter

For example, when a

chair falls over beside

my

bed and

I

dream a whole drama ending with a shot
fired in a duel; or when I have palpitation of the heart and dream of a
boiling

cauldron,

we can

see

that

in

come
sense and

these dreams natural operations
to

light

which are

full

meaning, and disclose a

of
life

lying be-

tween the purely organic functions and
the

concept-forming activity which

carried on in the
of the spirit.

full,

is

clear consciousness

Connected with

this region

phenomena belonging to the
domain of hypnotism and suggestion;
and in the latter are we not compelled
are all the

2o6

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

to recognise an interaction between hu-

man

beings,

nection

which points to some con-

or relation

Nature, which

is

between beings

normally hidden by the

From

higher activity of the mind?
starting point

in

we can

this

reach an under-

standing of what Paracelsus meant by
the

*'

astral" body.

It is the simi total

of those natural operations

influence

we

stand,

or

under whose

may

in

special

circumstances come to stand, or which

proceed from us, without our souls or

minds coming into consideration

in con-

nection with them, but which yet cannot

be included under the concept of purely
physical

phenomena.

The

fact

that

Paracelsus reckons as truths in this do-

main things which we doubt to-day,
does not come into the question, from
the point of view which I have already
described.

NETTESHEIM AND PARACELSUS

207

Starting from the basis of these views
as

to

divides

man, Paracelsus

the

nature of

him

into seven factors or prin-

which are the same as those we

ciples,

wisdom of the ancient
Egyptians, among the Neoplatonists and

also find in the

in

Kabbalah.

the

man

a

is

In the

physical-bodily

therefore subject to the

He

every other body.

is,

place,

first

being,

and

same laws as
in this respect,

therefore, a purely ''elementary" body.

The purely
into

physical-bodily laws combine

an organic

life-process,

and Para-

celsus denotes this organic sequence of

law by the terms

''

spiritus

Next, the organic rises into a

vitcey

region

''archceus'' or

of

phenomena resembling

the

spiritual,

but which are not yet properly

spiritual,

and these he

classifies as

From amidst

tral"

phenomena.

astral

phenomena, the functions

"asthese

of the

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

2o8

**

animal

Man

make

soul**

their appearance.

becomes a being of the

Then he connects

together his sense

impressions according to

by

comes

nature,

their

his understanding or mind,

"human

senses.

and the

soul" or ''reasoning soul" be-

He

alive in him.

sinks himself

deep into his own mental productions,

and

learns to recognise "spirit" as such,

and thus he has
level of

he

risen at length to the

the "spiritual soul."

must come

recognise

to

this spiritual soul

Finally,

he

is

that

in

experiencing the

ultimate basis of universal being; the
spiritual soul ceases to

be separated.
of

Then

be individual, to

arises the

knowledge

which Eckhart spoke when he

longer

that

he

was

himself, but that in

was uttering

Itself.

come about

in

speaking

felt

no

within

him the Root-Being
The condition has

which the

All-Spirit

in

NETTESHEIM AND PARACELSUS

man

beholds

stamped the

Itself.

Paracelsus

"And

that

thing whereon to dwell: there

heaven or upon earth that

also

With
nature,

is

a great

is

naught

is

not in

And God who dwelleth in Heaven,

Man.

He

has

feeling of this condition with

the simple words:

in

209

is

in Man.'*

these seven principles of htiman

Paracelsus

aims at expressing

nothing else than the facts of inner and
outer

The

experience.

unquestioned that, what for
perience subdivides
plicity

reality

of

itself

exists just for the

human

ex-

into a multi-

seven factors,

a unity.

remains

fact

in

higher

But the higher

insight

is

very purpose of exhibit-

ing the unity in all that appears as multiplicity to

man, owing to

spiritual organisation.

his bodily

On

and

the level of

the highest insight, Paracelsus strives to
the utmost to fuse the unitary Root-

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

210

Being of the world with his own

spirit.

But he knows that man can only cognise
Nature in its spirituality, when he enters
into

immediate intercourse with that

Man

Nature.

by peopling
arbitrarily

it

does not grasp Nature

from within himself with

assumed

cepting and valuing

entities;
it

as

it is,

but by acas Nature.

Paracelsus therefore does not seek for

God

or for spirit in Nature; but Nature,

just as

it

comes before

his eyes,

him wholly, immediately
one then

first

divine.

is

for

Must

ascribe to the plant a soul

after the kind of a himian soul, in order

to find the spiritual?

Hence Paracelsus explains

to himself

the development of things, so far as that

means

of

his age, altogether in such wise that

he

is

possible with the scientific

conceives this development as a sensible-

natural process.

He makes

all

things

to

NETTESHEIM AND PARACELSUS

211

proceed from the root-matter,

the

root-water (YHaster).

And he

regards

as a further natural process the separation of the root-matter (which he also

the great Limbus)

calls

into the four

elements: Water, Earth, Fire and Air.

Word"

When

he says that the ''Divine

called

forth the multiplicity of beings

from the root-matter, one must understand this also only in such wise as per-

haps

in

must
Force

more recent natural

understand
to

the

A

Matter.

matter-of-fact sense,
this stage.

is

science one

relationship
"Spirit,"

of

in

a

not yet present at

This "Spirit"

is

no matter-

of-fact basis of the natural process,

but

a matter-of-fact result of that process.
This Spirit does not create Nature,

but develops

itself

out of Nature.

Not

a few statements of Paracelsus might be
interpreted in the opposite sense.

Thus

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

212

when he

"There

says:

is

nothing which

does not possess and carry with

a

spirit

hidden

in

Also,

not

withal.

which

stirs itself

mals, the
in the

and that

it

only

has

it

lives

that

and moves, as men,

worms

also

not
life,

ani-

in the earth, the birds

sky and the

fishes in water,

but

bodily and actual things as well.'*

all

But

such sayings Paracelsus only

in

aims at warning us against that supercontemplation of Nature which
ficial
fancies

it

can exhaust the being of a

thing with a couple of "stuck-up" concepts, according to Goethe's apt expres-

He aims

sion.

things

not

at

putting

into

some imaginary being, but at

setting in

motion

all

the powers of

man

to bring out that which in actual fact
lies

in the thing.

What

matters

is

not to

let oneself

be

misled by the fact that Paracelsus ex-

NETTESHEIM AND PARACELSUS

213

presses himself in the spirit of his time.
It

is

far

more important

to recognise

what things really hovered before his
mind when, looking upon Nature, he
expresses his ideas in the forms of expression proper to his age.
to
is,

man,
a

He

ascribes

for instance, a dual flesh, that

dual

bodily constitution.

"The

must also be understood, that it is
of two kinds, namely the flesh that comes
from Adam and the flesh which is not
flesh

from Adam.

The

gross flesh, for
besides flesh,

flesh

it is

Adam

from

that can be

bound and

the

Adam,

it

The other
is

a subtle

and cannot be bound or grasped,

flesh

for

not from

a

earthly and nothing

grasped like wood and stone.
flesh is

is

it

is

flesh

not

made

that

everything that

is

What
from Adam? It

of earth."

is

is

man has received through

natural development, everything, there-

214

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

To

heredity.

man

on to him by

has passed

that

fore,

that

has acquired

is

added, whatever
himself

for

in

intercourse with the world around

his

him

in the course of time.

The modern

conceptions of

scientific

and those

inherited characteristics

ac-

quired by adaptation easily emerge from
the above- cited thought of Paracelsus.

The ''more

subtle flesh" that

makes man

capable of his intellectual activities, has

not existed from the beginning in man.

Man
a

was

''gross flesh" like the animal,

flesh that

like

"can be bound and grasped

wood and

In a

stone."

sense, therefore, the soul

is

scientific

also

an ac-

quired characteristic of the "gross flesh."

What

the

scientist

of

the

nineteenth

century has in his mind's eye when he
speaks of the factors inherited from the

animal world,

is

just

what Paracelsus

NETTESHEIM AND PARACELSUS

215

has in view when he uses the expression,

"the

Naturally
of

Adam."

that comes from

flesh

I

the

blurring

between a

have not the

least intention

that

difference

scientist of the sixteenth

one of the nineteenth century.
indeed, this latter century
first

exists

time was able to

scientific sense, the

and

It was,

which for the

see,

in the full

phenomena

of living

beings in such a connection that their
natural relationship and actual descent,
right

up

to

man, stood out

one*s eyes.

clearly before

Science sees only a natural

process where Linnaeus in the eighteenth

century

saw

a

characterised

it

are counted

as

spiritual

process

in the words:

many

species

and

"There
of living"

beings, as there were created different

forms

in

the beginning."

While thus

in Linnaeus's time, the Spirit

had

still

to be transferred into the spacial world

2i6

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

and have assigned to

it

the task of

ually generating the forms of
'*

creating*'

spirit-

or

life,

them: the natural science

the nineteenth

of

century could give to

Nature what belonged to Nature, and

what belonged

to Spirit

Nature

is

even assigned the task of exher

plaining

own

and the

creations;

Spirit can plunge into itself there,

alone
of

it is

To

to Spirit.

where

to be found, in the inner being

man.

But although

in

a certain sense Para-

celsus thinks according to the spirit of
his age, yet

ship of

he has grasped the relation-

man

to

Nature

manner, especially in

in

a profound

relation

idea of Evolution, of Becoming.

to

the

He

did

not see in the Root-Being of the universe

something which

in

any sense

is

there

as a finished thing, but he grasped the

Divine

in

the

process

of

Becoming.

NETTESHEIM AND PARACELSUS

217

Thereby he was enabled truly to ascribe
For
to man a self-creative activity.
if

the divine root of being

given once for

as

is,

it

were,

then there can be no

all,

question of any truly creative activity
in

man.

who then

It is

not man, living in time,

but

creates,

from Eternity, that
Paracelsus there
Eternity.

is

it

is

God, who

creates.

for

no such God from

For him there

eternal happening,

But

is

and man

in this eternal happening.

is
is

only

an

one link

What man

forms, was previously in no sense existent.

What man

creates,

is,

as he creates

new, original creation.
called divine,

it

If

it

is

it,

a

to be

can only be so-called in

the sense in which

it is

a

human

creation.

Therefore Paracelsus can assign to

man

a r61e in the building of the universe,

which makes him a co-architect
creation.

The

in its

divine root of beings

is

2i8

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

without man, not that which

it

is

with

man.
''For nature brings nothing to light,

which as such

make it perfect
ity of
is

man

perfect,

is
. '

This

'

but

man must

self -creative activ-

in the building of the universe

what Paracelsus

calls

Alchemy.

''This

Thus the Alchemist is the baker, when he bakes
bread, the vintager, when he makes wine,
the weaver, when he makes cloth."
perfecting

is

Alchemy.

Paracelsus aims at being an Alchemist
in

his

own domain

"Therefore

I

may

as

a

Physician.

well write so

here about Alchemy, that ye

understand
it is

it,

and how

much

may

well

and experience that which
it is

to be understood;

and

not find a stumbling-block therein that
neither Gold nor Silver shall

thee therefrom.

come

But have regard

to

there-

unto, that the Arcana [curative means]

NETTESHEIM AND PARACELSUS
be revealed unto thee.
pillar

of

medicine

preparation

come

to pass without

.

The

.

Alchemy,

is

medicines

the

of

.

219

third

for the

cannot

because Nature

it,

cannot be made use of without Art."
In the strictest sense, therefore, the
eyes of Paracelsus are directed to Nature,
in order to

overhear from herself what

she has to say about that which she

He

brings forth.

seeks to explore the

laws of chemistry, so that, in his sense,

he

may work

as

an Alchemist.

tures to himself all bodies as

He

pic-

compounded

out of three root -substances: Salt, Sul-

and

phur,

Mercury.

What he

thus

names, naturally does not coincide with
that which later chemistry solely and
strictly
little

calls

by

these names;

just

as

as that which Paracelsus conceives

of as the root-substance

is

such in the

sense of our later chemistry.

Different

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

220

by the same names

things are called

What

times.

different

the

at

ancients

called the four elements: Earth, Water,

and

Air,

But we

Fire,

call

we

have

still

to-day.

these four "elements"

no

longer "elements," but states of aggre-

gation and have for them the designations: solid, liquid, gaseous

The Earth,

for

and

was

instance,

etheric.

for

the

ancients not earth, but the "solid."

Again,

we can

recognise the

clearly

three root-substances

of

Paracelsus in

contemporary conceptions, though not
present

in

names

of

like

sound.

Paracelsus, dissolution in a liquid

For

and

burning are the two most important
chemical
If

processes

which

he

a body be dissolved or burnt,

up

into its parts.

utilises.
it

breaks

Something remains

behind as insoluble; something dissolves,
or

is

burnt.

What

is

left

behind

is

to

NETTESHEIM AND PARACELSUS
him

221

of the nature of Salt; the soluble

(liquid) of the

nature of Mercury; while

he terms Sulphur-like the part that can

be burnt.
All this, taken as relating to material

may

things,

man

the

leave

who

cold

cannot look out beyond such natural
processes;

grasp

whoever seeks at

the

spirit

all costs

will

with his senses,

people these processes with

all sorts

ensouling beings.

He, however, who

Paracelsus knows

how

in

connection

permits

its

the

with

secret to

to regard

to

of

like

them
which

whole,

become revealed

in

man's inner being,—he accepts them, as
the senses offer them; he does not first
re-interpret

them;

for

currences of Nature

lie

sensible reality, so too

own way,

reveal

existence.

That

to

just as the

oc-

before us in their

do they,

in their

us the riddle of

which

through

their

222

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

sensible

reality

have

they

to

unveil

from within the soul of man, stands,

him who

strives after the light of higher

knowledge,

higher than

far

natural

wonders that

or

revealed

get

suppositious
''Spirit of

man

all

super-

can invent

him about

to

There

''spirit."

their
is

^no

Nature," capable of uttering

loftier truths

Nature

for

than the mighty works of

herself,

when our

in friendship with that

soul links itself

Nature and

listens

to the revelations of her secrets in inti-

mate

and

tender

intercourse.

friendship with Nature
celsus sought.

Such

was what Para-

VALENTINE WEIGEL AND JACOB

BOEHME
In the view of Paracelsus, what mattered most was to acquire ideas about

Nature which should breathe the spirit
of the higher insight that he represented.

A

thinker related to him,

the same
his

mode

own nature

WEIGEL

(1

who

applied

of conceiving things to

especially,

533-1 588).

is

valentine

He grew up

out

of Protestant theology in a like sense to

that in which Eckhart, Tauler, and Suso

grew up out

of

Roman

Catholic theology.

has predecessors in Sebastian Frank
and Caspar Schwenckfeldt. These two,

He

as contrasted with the orthodox Church-

men

clinging

to

external
223

profession,

224

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

pointed downwards to the deepening of
the inner Hfe.

whom

Jesus

For them

become
lower

is

not that

the Gospels preach

of value, but the Christ

man

in every

it

who

is

who can be born

as his deeper nature,

and

him the Saviour from the
and the guide to ideal uplifting.

for

life

Weigel performed silently and humbly
the duties of his office as clergyman in

Zschopau.

he

left

It

was only from the writings

behind, printed

first in

the seven-

teenth century, that the world learned

anything of the significant ideas which

had come to him about the nature

of

man.^
Weigel

feels

himself driven to gain a

clear understanding of his relation to the
*

The

named:

following,

Der

from among

zu erkennen, vielen Ilochgelehrten
Menschen nothwendig zu wis sen;
Ort der Welt.

his

writings,

may

be

Ding oJme Irr thumb
unbekandt, and dock alien
Erkenne dich selbst; Vom

gulde?ie Griff, das ist alle

WEIGEL AND BOEHME

225

teaching of the Church; and that leads

him on

further to investigate the basic

foundations of

man

all

Whether

knowledge.

can know anything through a con-

fession of faith,

a question as to which

is

he can only give himself an account when
he knows how

man

knows.

from the lowest kind

How

asks himself:
object,

when

it

do

Weigel starts

of knowing.
I

presents

know
itself

He

a sensible

before

me?

Thence he hopes to be able to mount upwards to a point of view whence he can
give himself an account of the highest

knowledge.
In cognition through the senses, the

instrument

(the

object, the

"counterpart"

stand opposed.

sense-organ)

and the

{Gegenwurf)

''Since in natural per-

ception there must be two things, as the
object or 'counterpart,' which

known and

seen

is

to be

by the eye; and the

eye,

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

226

or the perceiver, which sees or

knows the

do thou hold over against each
other: whether the knowledge comes
object, so

object to the eye;

forth from the

or

whether the judgment, or the cognition,
flows out from the eye into the object/''

Weigel

now

cognition

says

himself:

to

knowledge)

(or

the "counterpart"

flowed

(or thing)

eye, then of necessity

If

the

from

into the

from one and the

same thing a similar and perfect cogniBut that
tion must come to all eyes.
not the case, for each

man

sees accord-

ing to the measure of his

own

eyes.

is

the

eyes,

not

the

''counterpart*'

Only
(or

object) can be in fault, in that various

and

different conceptions are possible of

one and the same thing. To clear up
the matter, Weigel compares seeing with
reading.
^

Der

If

the book were not there, I

giildene Griff, p.

26 et seq.

WEIGEL AND BOEHME
naturally could not read
still

in

be there, and yet

it,

if

reading.

I

The book

everything

ception.

I

it

If

can give

me

must draw

not

forth

'
'

counter-

can give the eye nothing

The eye must recogitself, what colour is.

itself.

as the content of the

the reader, just so
eye.

I

it

read from within myself.

from out of

little

must be

therefore

Colour is there as the

from out of

As

might

also the nature of sensible per-

part," but

nise,

it

did not understand the art of

the smallest thing;

is

but

could read nothing

I

there; but, from itself

That

it;

22^

little is

book

is

colour in the

the content of the book were in

the reader, he would not need to read

Yet

in

in reading,

this

it.

content does not

flow out from the book, but from the
reader.

So

is

it

also with the sensible

object.

What

him

that does not flow from outside

is;

the sensible thing before

228

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE
man, but from within out-

into the

wards.

from

Starting

might say:

from
not

man

If all

is

in

one

knowledge flows out

into the object, then one does

know what

what

thoughts,

these

is

in the object,

man.

The

but only

detailed working

out of this line of thought, brought about

Kant (1724-1804).^
Weigel says to himself: Even if the
knowledge flows out from man, it is still

the view of Immanuel

only the being of the "counterpart" (or
object) which
direct

comes to

light in this in-

way through man.

As

I

learn the

content of the book by reading

not

my own

by

content,

learn the colour of the
^The

and

also

I

"counterpart"

error in this line of thought will be found exbook, The Philosophy of Freedom, Berlin,

plained in
1894.

so

it,

my

Here

I

must

limit myself to mentioning that Val-

entine Weigel, with his simple, robust
things, stands far higher than Kant.

way

of conceiving

WEIGEL AND BOEHME

229

through the eye, not any colour to be

found

in the eye, or in

(Thus

myself.

Weigel arrives by a road of his own at a
result that

we have

in Nicholas of Cusa.

In this

way Weigel

already encountered

Cp. pages

1

51-160).

attained to clearness

He

as to the nature of sense-perception.

arrived at the conviction that everything

which external things have to

tell

us can

own inner nature
itself.
Man cannot remain passive when
he tries to know sensible objects and
only flow forth from our

seeks merely to allow

them

to act

upon

him; but he must assume an active
tude,

within

himself.

object) merely
in the spirit.

ledge

atti-

and bring forth the knowledge from

when

The counterpart

Man
his

''counterpart.'*

(or

awakens the knowledge
rises to

spirit

One

sensible cognition that

higher know-

becomes
can

its

see

own
from

no cognition can

230

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

flow into

man from

Therefore

outside.

there can be no such thing as an external

but only an inner awakening.

revelation,

As now the
till

external counterpart waits

there comes into

its

presence man, in

whom it can express its being,
man wait, when he seeks to

so too

be his own

''counterpart ** (or object) until the

ledge of his
in

him.

senses,

own

If,

in

know-

being shall be awakened

through the

cognition

man must

assimie an active atti-

tude in order that he
the "counterpart**
the higher knowing,
self

must

may

its

bring to meet

own

being, so in

man must

passive, because he

is

hold him-

himself

now

the ''counterpart.'*

He must admit

being into himself.

Therefore the cog-

nition of the spirit

appears to him as

enlightenment from above.

its

In contrast

to cognition through the senses, Weigel
therefore terms the higher cognition the

WEIGEL AND BOEHME
''Light

of

Mercy/'

Mercy"

is,

in reaHty,

This

231

"Light

of

nothing other than
spirit in

the self-knowledge of the

man,

or the re-birth of knowledge on the higher
level of beholding.

Now

just as Nicholas of Cusa, in fol-

lowing up his road from knowing to
beholding, does not really bring about
the re-birth of the knowledge he has
gained, on the higher level, but only the
faith of the

Church

in

which he was

brought up appears deceptively before

him as such a
with Weigel.

re-birth, so is it also the case

He

guides himself to the

right road, but loses

it

again in the very

moment in which he steps upon it. He
who will travel the road that Weigel
points

out,

his guide

can

the

regard

latter

as

only as far as the starting-

point.
*

*

*

;

232

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

What
works
Htz,

meet us from the

rings out to

Master-Shoemaker

of the

Jacob Boehme

(i 575-1624),

hke the joyous outburst
miring her

A man

sounds

Nature ad-

of

own being upon

of her evolution.

of Gor-

the summit

appears before

us whose words have wings,

woven out

of the inspiring feeHng of having seen

knowledge shining within him as Higher
Jacob Boehme describes his

Wisdom.

own

state as Piety

to be

which

strives only

Wisdom, and as a Wisdom that

seeks to live only in Piety:
wrestling

and

"As

I

was

fighting in God^s behalf, be-

hold a wondrous light shone into

my

soul,

such as was quite foreign to savage nature

knew what God and man
were, and what God had to do with men."
Jacob Boehme no longer feels himself

therein I

first

as a separated being expressing
sights;

he

feels himself as

its in-

an organ of

WEIGEL AND BOEHME
the

great

22,2>

speaking in him.

All-Spirit,

The limits of his personality do not appear
to him as the limits of the Spirit that
speaks from within him.
for

This Spirit

him present everywhere.

is

He knows

that "the Sophist will blame him"

when

he speaks of the beginning of the world
and its creation: *'the while I was not
thereby and did not myself see

him be

I

it.

said that in the essence of

and body, when

soul
'I,'

it

but when

I

was

I

still

To

my

was not yet the
Adam's essence,

was there present and myself squandered

away

my

Only

glory in Adam.'*

in

external similes

able to indicate

how

in his inner being.

is

Boehme

the light broke forth

When

once as a boy

he finds himself on the top of a mountain,

he sees above him a place where

seem to shut up the
mountain; the entrance is open and in
large red stones

:

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

234
its

depth he sees a vessel

full of gold.

shudder runs through him

;

A

and he goes

on his way without touching the treasure.
Later on he
in

apprenticed to a shoemaker

A

Gorlitz.

shop

is

stranger steps into the

and demands a pair

Boehme

is

not allowed to

absence of his master.

of

shoes.

them in the
The stranger

sell

departs, but after a while calls the ap-

prentice out of the shop

"Jacob, thou art

and says

little,

to

him

but thou wilt

some day become quite another man,

whom

over

wonder."

the world will break out into

In riper years, Jacob

Boehme

sees the reflection of the bright sun in a
tin vessel: the

view that thus presents

him seems to him to unveil a
profound secret. Even after the impres-

itself

to

sion of this appearance, he believes himself

to be in possession of the key to the

riddles of Nature.

WEIGEL AND BOEHME

He

235

a spiritual anchorite, hum-

lives as

bly earning his living by his trade, and

between

recollection,

in his inner being

The

the Spirit in himself.

makes

of priestly fervour

the

man;

own

his

he notes down the harmonies

which resound
feels

though for

whiles, as

he,

who

desires

life

when he
z ealotry

hard for

naught but to

read the Scripture which the light of
his inner nature illtmiinates for him, is

persecuted and tortured

whom

by those

only the external writ, the rigid,

dogmatic confession of

faith, is accessible.

One world -riddle remains
ing

presence in Jacob

driving

to

him on

lieves himself to
in a divine

as a disquiet-

Boehme's

He

to knowledge.

be in his

spirit

soul,

be-

enfolded

harmony; but when he looks

around him, he sees discord everywhere
in the divine workings.

the light of

To man

belongs

Wisdom and yet he is exposed
;

236

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

to error; in

him

lives the

impulse to the

good, and yet the discord of evil sounds

throughout the whole of
ment.

Nature

human

develop-

own

is

governed by

great laws; yet

its

harmony

by happenings

of

no purport, and the

warfare of the elements.

is

its

disturbed

How

is

this

discord in the harmonious world -whole to

be understood?

This question tortures

Jacob Boehme.

It strides into the centre

of the world of his thought.

He

strives

to gain a view of the world as a whole,

which

shall include the discordant.

how can a

For

conception which leaves the

actual present discord

The

plain the world?

unexplained exdiscord

must be

explained out of the harmony, the evil

out of the good

itself.

Let us restrict

ourselves, in speaking of these things, to

the good and the
of

harmony

in the

evil,

wherein the lack

narrower sense finds

WEIGEL AND BOEHME

For, fundamentally, Ja-

expression.

its

Boehme

cob

He

this.

237

also

can do

himself

restricts

so, for

Nature and

appear to him as a single entity.
purposeless seems to

him an

man

He sees
The

both similar laws and processes.

in

to

evil

some-

thing in Nature, just as evil seems to

him something purposeless
lar

and

in

man. Simi-

fundamental forces rule both here
there.

To one who has known

origin of evil in

man, the source

Nature

open and

also lies

Now, how can the

the

of evil in

clear.

evil as well as the

good flow forth from the very same RootBeing?
sense,

Speaking

in

Jacob

Boehme 's

one would give the following an-

The Root -Being does not live out
The multiplicity
its existence in itself.
As
of the world shares in this existence.
the human body lives its life, not as a
swer.

single

member, but as a multiplicity

of

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

238

members, so

human

as

life

multiplicity of

Being

is

is

poured out into this

members, so too the Root-

poured out into the manifoldness

As true

of the things of this world.

that the entire

it is

so true

life,

own

its

is it

life.

dicts the

man

that every

And

as

little

whole harmonious

it

own body and wound

as

has only one

that his hand should turn
his

And

also the Root-Being.

member has
as

it

life

of a

itself
it,

contra-

man,

against

so little

is

impossible that the things of the world,

which

live the life of the

own way, should turn themselves

their

against

each

other.

Being, in dividing
lives,

confers

is

forth,
lives.

Thus the Root-

itself

among

upon each such

capacity to turn
It

Root-Being in

itself

different
life

the

against the whole.

not from the good that evil streams

but from the way in which the good

As the

light

is

only able to shine

WEIGEL AND BOEHME
when

it

pierces the darkness, so the

can bring

meates

239

itself

its

to

only

life

From

opposite.

''fathomless

when

abyss'' of

darkness there

;

of

the

per-

out of the

streams forth the light from the
lessness"

it

good

indifferent

brought to birth the Good.

'
'

ground-

there

And

is

as in

the shadow only the brightening demands
a pointing to the Hght; but the darkness,
as a matter of course,

weakens the

is felt

as that which

light; so too in the world,

only the law-abiding character that
sought for in all things; and the evil,

it is
is

the purposeless,

is

accepted as a matter

of course, intelligible in itself.

Thus, in

Jacob Boehme
the All, still nothing

spite of the fact that for

the Root-Being

is

be understood, unless
one has an eye both to the Root-Being
and its opposite at once. ''The good

in the world can

has swallowed up into

itself

the evil or

240

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

the hideous.
itself

.

.

good and

ment, as

Every being has

.

and

evil,

becomes a contradiction
one seeks to overcome the

Hence

in its unfold-

passes over into division,

it

it

of qualities, as
other.'*

altogether in accordance

is

it

in

with Jacob Boehme's view to see in every-

and

thing,

in every process of the world,

both good and

evil

;

but

it is

not in accord

with his meaning, without more ado to
seek the Root-Being in the mingling of

good and

The Root-Being must

evil.

swallow up the

evil

;

but the

part of the Root-Being.

evil is

not a

Jacob Boehme

seeks the Root-Being of the world; but

the world

itself

has sprung forth from the

''fathomless abyss**

Being.

''The external world

and eternally
only

through the Root-

will

.

.

.

not God,

not be called God, but

a being wherein

Himself.

is

When

God

manifests

one says:

God

is

WEIGEL AND BOEHME

241

heaven and earth, and also
the outer world, so is that true: for from

God

all,

is

him and
rooted.

him all stands originally
But what am I to do with such
in

a saying, which

is

no

religion?**

With such a view in the background,
Jacob Boehme's conceptions as to the
being of the whole world built themselves

up

mind, so that he makes the

in his

orderly world emerge in a series of steps

from

''fathomless

the

world builds

itself

up

abyss/'

This

in seven natural

In dark astringency the Root-

forms.

Being receives form, dumbly shut up
within itself and motionless. This as-

Boehme

tringency

grasps

under

the

In

employing such

designations he leans

upon Paracelsus,

symbol

of

Salt.

who had borrowed from chemical
cesses

his

Nature.
16

names

By

for the

swallowing up

pro-

processes
its

of

opposite,

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

242

the

nature-form passes over into the

first

form

of the second; the astringent, the

movement; Power

motionless, takes on

and

Life enter into

cury)

the symbol for this second form.

is

Rest and Motion,

In the struggle of
of

Quicksilver (Mer-

it.

Death with

the third form of

Life,

Nature unveils

Life battling within

itself,

becomes mani-

thenceforward no

fest to itself; it lives

longer an outer battle of
there quivers through

unifying

up

its

form
living

glowing

own

of

battle

flash,

as

of

first,

there

On
is

it

were a
lighting

This fourth

in

this level,

as

present an inner

astringency and dumbness; only

not an absolute

rest,

opposites, but

an

the

fifth,

resting

parts

the

members;

itself

to the

rises

themselves (Water).

upon the

it

its

being (Fire).

Nature

This

(Sulphur).

itself

it

is

a silence of the inner

interior

movement

of

WEIGEL AND BOEHME

It is not the motionless

the opposites.
resting in

itself,

but the moved, that

which has been kindled by the
of

the fourth

level,

Upon

stage.

the Root-Being

of itself as such inner

itself
life.

fire-flash

the

sixth

becomes aware
Living beings

endowed with senses represent
of Nature.

243

Jacob Boehme

this

form

calls it

the

"Clang*' or Call, and in so doing adopts
the

sense-perception

symbol

sound as the

for sense-perception in general.

The seventh form
raising itself

perceptions
self

of

of

Nature

is

on the basis of
(Wisdom).

He

the Spirit,
its

finds

sense-

him-

again as himself, as the Root-Being,

within the world that has grown up out
of the "fathomless abyss,*' shaping itself

out of the harmonious and the discordant.

"The Holy Ghost
this

brings the Glory of

Majesty into the being, wherein the

Godhead stands

revealed."

244

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

It

IS

Boehme

such

with
seeks

to

views

that

Jacob

fathom that world

which for him, according to the knowledge

was reckoned as the actual
For him all is fact which
fact.

of his time,

world of
is

by the natural science
time and by the Bible. His way

so regarded

his

conceiving things

is

of

of

one thing, his world

of facts quite another.

One can imagine

the former applied to a totally different

knowledge of

facts.

And

thus

appears before our eyes a Jacob

there

Boehme

as he might stand at the parting of the

nineteenth and the twentieth centuries.

Such a one would not saturate with

way

his

of conceiving things the six days'

creation

work

of the angels

of the Bible

and the

geological knowledge

and the

devils,

but Lyell's

and the

facts

Haeckel's The History of Creation.

who can

fight

of

He

penetrate into the spirit of Jacob

'

'

WEIGEL AND BOEHME

245

Boehme*s writings must arrive at

this

conviction.
^

We may

here

name

the most important of Boehme's

writings: Die Morgenrothe

im Aufgang; Die

drei Prinzi-

das dreifache Leben des
Menschen; Das umgewandte Auge; *' Signafura rerum"
oder von der Geburt und Bezeichnung aller Wesen; Das
pien gottlichen Lebens oder

' *

Mysterium Magnum.

'

iiher

GIORDANO BRUNO AND ANGELUS
SILESIUS
In the

first

decennium

of the sixteenth

century, the scientific genius of Nicholas

Copernicus

(1473-1543)

thinks

out in

the castle of Heilsberg, in Prussia, an

which compels the

intellectual structure

men

of subsequent epochs to look

up

to

the starry heavens with other conceptions than those
in antiquity

To them

which their forefathers

and the Middle Ages had.

the earth was their dwelling-

place, at rest in the centre of the Universe.

The

stars,

however, were for them beings

of a perfect nature,

whose motion took

place in circles because the circle
representative of perfection.
246

is

the

BRUNO AND

SILESIUS

247

In that which the stars showed to

human

senses they beheld something of

the nature of soul, something spiritual.

was one kind of speech that the things
and processes upon earth spoke to man;
It

quite another, that of the shining stars,

beyond the moon in the pure aether,
which seemed like some spiritual nature
filling

space.

Nicholas of Cusa had

al-

ready formed other ideas.

Through Copernicus, earth became

man

heavenly
others.

to

for

a brother-being in face of the other

show

bodies,

a

star

moving

like

All the difference that earth has
for

man

to this: that earth

He was no

he could now reduce
is

his dwelling-place.

longer forced to think differ-

ently about the events of this earth and

those of the rest of universal space.

The

world of his senses had expanded

itself

into the

most remote

spaces.

He was

248

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

compelled henceforth to allow that which
penetrated his eye from the aether to

count as sense-world just as
things

of

earth.

He

much

as the

could no longer

seek in the aether in sensuous fashion for
the Spirit.

Whoever,

henceforth,

strove

higher knowledge, must needs

an understanding with
world of the senses.
the brooding

come

to

expanded

In earlier centuries,
of

man

stood before

Now he was confronted
new task. No longer could the

a world of

with a

mind

this

after

facts.

things of earth only express this nature

from within man's inner being. This
inner nature of his was called on to embrace the spirit of a sense- world, which
fills

the All of Space everywhere alike.

The thinker of Nola, Philotheo Giordano Bruno (1548- 1600) found himself
faced by such a problem. The senses

;

BRUNO AND

SILESIUS

249

have conquered the universe of space;
henceforth the Spirit

found

in space.

is

no more to be

Thus man was

guided

from without to seek henceforward

for

the Spirit there alone where from out of

profound inner experiences those
ous thinkers sought

it,

glori-

whose ranks our

previous expositions have led before us.

These thinkers drew upon a view of the
world to which, later on, the advance of
nattiral

knowledge forces humanity.

The

sun of those ideas, which later should shine

upon a new view
still

of Nature, with

stands below the horizon

light already

at a time
itself still

The

;

but their

appears as the early

when men's thoughts

them

of

dawn

Nature

lay in the darkness of night.

sixteenth century gave the heav-

enly spaces to natural science for the

sense-world to which

by the end

it

rightfully belongs

of the nineteenth century, this

250

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

science

had advanced so

far that,

even

within the phenomena of plant, animal,

and human

life,

it

could assign to the

world of sensible facts that which belongs
to

it.

Neither, then, in the ^ther above,

nor in the development of living creatures,

can this natural science henceforth seek
for anything

but

sensible, matter-of-fact

As the thinker in the sixteenth century had to say: ''The earth
is a star among other stars, subject to the
same laws as other stars*'; so must the
processes.

thinker of the nineteenth century say:

"Man, whatever may be
his future,

is

mammal, and

his origin

and

for anthropology only a

further,

that

mammal

whose organisation, needs and diseases
are the most complex, whose brain, with
its

marvellous capacities, has reached the

highest level of development."'
^

Paul Topinard

:

Anthropologie, Leipzig, 1888, p. 528.

BRUNO AND
From such a

SILESIUS

251

attained

standpoint,

through natural science, there can no
longer occur any confusion between the

and the

spiritual

sensible,

provided

understands himself rightly.
natural science

makes

it

man

Developed

impossible to

seek in Nature for a Spirit conceived of
after the fashion of

something material,

just as healthy thinking

possible to seek

for

forward movement
not

in

makes

it

im-

the reason of the
the clock-hand,

of

mechanical laws (the Spirit of

inorganic

Nature), but

in

a

special

Daimon, supposed to bring about the

movements of the hands. Ernst Haeckel
was quite right in rejecting, as a scientist,
the gross conception of a
of in material fashion.

God

conceived

''In the higher

and more abstract forms of religion, the
bodily appearance is abandoned and God
is

worshipped as pure

Spirit,

devoid of

'

252

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE
'God

body.

is

a

Spirit,

and they that

worship him must worship him in

and

in

truth/

But,

spirit

the

nevertheless,

soul-activity of this pure Spirit remains

quite the

same as that

of the anthropo-

morphic personal God.

In

reality,

this immaterial Spirit is not

even

thought of

as bodiless, but as invisible, like a gas.

We

thus arrive at the paradoxical con-

ception of

In

God

reality,

as a gaseous vertebrate."

the matter-of-fact, sensible

existence of something spiritual

may

assumed only when immediate

sensible

be

experience shows something spiritual, and

only such a degree of the spiritual

may

be assumed as can be perceived in this

manner.

That

first

rate

thinker,

B.

Carneri, ventured to say (in his book:

Empfindung und Bewusstsein,

"The dictum:
^

No

spirit

Haeckel, Riddle of the Universe.

p.

15):

without matter,

BRUNO AND

SILESIUS

but also no matter without
entitle us to

253

spirit,

—would

extend the question to the

plant also, nay, even to any block of
stone taken at random, wherein there

seems very

little

to speak in favour of

these correlative conceptions.

*
'

Spiritual

occurrences as matters of fact are the
results of various doings of

the Spirit of the world

is

an organism;

not present in

the world in a material sense, but precisely
after a spiritual fashion.

Man's

soul

is

a sum of processes in which Spirit appears most immediately as fact. In the

form

of such a soul, however, Spirit is

man

present in

only.

And

it

implies

that one misunderstands Spirit, that one
commits the worst sin against Spirit, to
seek for Spirit in the form of Soul else-

where than

in

man, to imagine other

beings thus ensouled as

ever does

this,

man

is.

Who-

only shows that he has

254

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

not experienced Spirit within himself;

he has only experienced that outer form
of appearance of Spirit, the Soul,

reigns in him.

But that

is

same
drawn

just the

as though one regarded a circle

with a pencil as the
ideal circle.
self

real,

which

mathematically

Whoever experiences

in

him-

nothing other than the soul-form of

the Spirit, feels himself thereupon driven
to assume also such a soul-form in non-

human things,
may not need

in order that thereby

to remain rooted in the

materiality of the gross senses.
of thinking the

he

Instead

Root-Being of the world

as Spirit, he thinks of

it

as World-Soul,

and postulates a general ensoulment

of

Nature.

Giordano Bruno, upon

whom

the

Copernican view of Nature forced

new

itself,

could grasp Spirit in the world, from

which

it

had been expelled

in its old form,

BRUNO AND
in

On

SILESIUS

255

no other manner than as World-Soul.
plunging into Bruno's writings

pecially

deeply

his

De Rerum

Principiis

thoughtful
et

(es-

book:

Elementis

et

Causis) one gets the impression that he

thought of things as ensouled, although

He has not, in reality,

in varying degree.

experienced in himself the Spirit, therefore he conceives Spirit after the fashion
of the

human

encountered

soul,
it.

wherein alone he has

When

he

of

in the following

Spirit,

he conceives of

way:

''The universal reason

it

speaks

is

the in-

most, most effective and most special

and a potential part of the
World-Soul it is something one and iden-

capacity,

;

tical,

which

fills

the All, illuminates the

universe and instructs Nature

how

to

bring forth her species as they ought to
be."
is

In these sentences

Spirit, it is true,

not described as a "gaseous verte-

256

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

brate," but

it is

to the

is like

described as a being that

human

soul.

''Let

now a

thing be as small and tiny as you please,
it

yet has within

a portion of spiritual

it

substance, which,

when

it

stratum adapted thereto,

become a

to

plant,

finds a sub-

an animal, and

itself

that

ordinarily called ensouled.

is

Spirit is to

or-

any body you choose

ganises

to

out

reaches

be found in

For

all things,

there does not exist even the tiniest

and
little

body which does not embrace

in itself

such a share thereof as causes

to

it

come

to life."

Because

Giordano

Bruno

had

not

really experienced the Spirit, as Spirit,
in

the

himself,
life

he could therefore confuse

of the Spirit with the external

mechanical processes,

mond

wherewith Ray-

Lully (1235-13 1 5) wanted to unveil

the secrets of the Spirit in his so-called

BRUNO AND

SILESIUS

A

"Great Art*' (Ars Magna).
philosopher, Franz

257

recent

Brentano, describes

this ''Great Art'' thus: ''Concepts

to be inscribed

upon

rately revolving discs,

concentric,

were
sepa-

and then the most

varied combinations produced

by turning

them about." Whatever chance brings
up in the turning of these discs, was
shaped into a judgment about the highest

And Giordano Brimo, in his maniwanderings through Europe, made

truths.
fold
his

appearance at various seats of learning

as a teacher of this

"Great Art."

He

possessed the daring courage to think of

the stars as worlds, perfectly analogous
to our earth; he widened the outlook of
scientific

of

thinking beyond the confines

earth; he thought of the heavenly

bodies no longer as bodily spirits; but

he

still

spirits.
17

thought

of

them

as

soul-like

One must not be unjust towards

258

the

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

man whom

Church

Catholic

the

caused to pay with death the penalty for
his

advanced way

of thinking.

It re-

quired something gigantic to harness the

whole space of heaven in the same view
of the universe

which hitherto had been

applied only to things upon earth, even

though Bruno did

still

think of the sen-

sible as soul-like.
:{:

«

4:

In the seventeenth century there appeared Johann Scheffler, called Angelus
SiLESius

whom

624-1 677), a personality in

(1

more shone forth, in
mighty harmony of soul, what Tauler,
Weigel, Jacob Boehme, and others, had
there once

Gathered, as

prepared.

spiritual focus

light-giving

thinkers

were, into a

and shining with enhanced

power,

the

named make

in his book:

it

ideas

of

the

their appearance

" Cherubinischer

Wanders-

BRUNO AND
mann.

And

Silesius utters

259

und

Schluss-

Sinn-

Geistreiche

reime/'

SILESIUS

everything that Angelas

appears as such an im-

mediate, inevitable, natural revelation of
his personality, that

man had

it is

as though this

been called by a special provi-

dence to embody wisdom in a personal
form.

The

simple, matter-of-course

which he

in

expression

way

wisdom, attains

lives

by being

forth

set

in

its

say-

ings which, even in respect of their art

and

their form, are

worthy

of admiration.

He

hovers like some spiritual being over

all

earthly existence; and

is like

what he says

the breath of another world, freed

beforehand from

all

that

is

gross

and

impure, wherefrom htmian wisdom generally only toilsomely

He
of

only

Angelus

is

works

itself free.

truly a knower, in the sense

Silesius,

who

brings the eye

of the All to vision in himself;

he alone


MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

260

who

sees his action in the true Hght

that this action

wrought

is

"God

the hand of the All:

him by

in
is

feels

in

me

the

him the light; are we not
in most intimate communion one with
another?"— ''I am as rich as God; there
and

fire,

I in

can be no grain of dust that

me, man,
Him."-

—^have

— ''God

not in

loves

me

I

^believe

common

with

above Himself;

Him above myself I so give Him
as much as He gives me from Himself."

if I

love

:

''The bird

flies

on the earth;
spirit in

in the air, the stone rests

in

water

lives

the

fish,

my

God's own hand."— "Art thou

born of God, then bloometh God in thee;
and His Godhead is thy sap and thy

adornment."—' Halt
'

thou?

God

Heaven

is

!

whither

runnest

in thee: seekest

otherwhere, thou missest

Him

thou
ever

and ever."
For one who thus

feels himself in the

BRUNO AND
All,

SILESIUS

261

every separation ceases between

and another being; he no longer
himself

as.

does he

feel

all

that there

is

of

world,

it

that
so

thee,


bound." ''Man has

holds

strongly

is

all

things;

if

lacking to him, then in truth he

not his

As a

own

thee,

in

captive

never perfect

before that unity has swallowed

— "Man
ness."-

itself.

holds thee not; thou art

thyself the world

with

him

own proper

being, indeed, as that World- Whole

thee,

feels

a single individual; rather

as a part of the world, his

"The

self

up

bliss

other-

aught

is

knoweth

riches."

sense-being,

man

is

a thing among

other things, and his sense-organs bring
to him, as a sensible individuality, sense-

news

of the things in space

side of him;

and time out-

but when Spirit speaks in

man, then there remains no without and
no within; nothing is here and nothing

262

is

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE
that

there

earlier

is

spiritual;

and nothing

time have

is

later; space

vanished in the

of the All-Spirit.

nothing

Only so long as

there;

and

man

he here

is

and only so long as

he looks forth as an individual,
earlier,

and

contemplation

looks forth as an individual,

and the thing

is

this later.

**Man,

is
if

this

thou

swingest thy spirit over time and place,
so each


nity."

moment
''I

am

canst thou be in eter-

myself eternity when

I

self in

God and

that here thine outer eye doth

see, it so

leave time behind, and

God

in self


together grasp."' "The rose

hath bloomed in God from

— "In

all

eternity."

centre set thyself, so see'st thou

what then and now occurred,
here and in heaven's realm." "So long
for thee, my friend, in mind lies place

all

at once:

and time: so long graspest thou not
what 's God, nor what eternity. "^

BRUNO AND
"When man from

SILESIUS

263

manifoldness with-

draws, and inward turns to God, so Com-

The stmimit has thus

eth he to unity/*

man

been climbed, whereon

steps forth

**!'*

and abolishes
every opposition between the world and

beyond

his individual

A

himself.

higher

begins for him.

life

The inner experience that comes over
him appears to him as the death of the
old and a resurrection in a new life.
''When thou dost
self

and

spirit

lettest

happens

raise thyself

God

overrule;

ascenvsion

above thythen in thy

into heaven.**

— "The body in the spirit must
God:

spirit, too, in

man,

'I* in

decrease; so

the

thou in him,

my

ever

will live for

much mine

if

arise,

me

much

doth *minish and

therefore to power

Cometh the Lord's own

From such a
nises his

— "So
blessed."-

'I.'**

point of view,

man

recog-

meaning and the meaning

of all

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

264

things in the realm of eternal necessity.

natural All appears to

The

ately as the Divine Spirit.

him immediThe thought

who

of a divine All-Spirit,

could

still

have being and sub-existence over and
beside the things of the world, vanishes

away

All-Spirit

things, so

appears

all,

if

it

outpoured

so

becomes one

things, that

at

This

as a superseded conception.

into

in being with the

could no longer be thought

even one single member were

thought away from

its

being.

**

Naught

and thou; and if we twain were
not then is God no more God, and heaven

is

but

I

;

falleth

in."

—Man

feels

as

himself

a

His

necessary link in the world-chain.

doing has no longer aught of arbitrariness
or of individuality in it. What he does
is

necessary in the whole, in the world-

chain, which
his doing

would

were to

fall

fall

to pieces

out from

it.

if

this

"God


BRUNO AND
may

not

worm:

SILESIUS

make without me a

if

single little

with him uphold

I

straightway must

it

265

not,

it

burst asunder. '*^

know that without me God can no
moment live: if I come to naught, he
needs must give up the ghost." Upon
*'I

man

this height,

for the first time sees

things in their real being.

He no

longer

needs to ascribe from outside to the
smallest thing, to the grossly sensible, a

For just as

this

mi-

in all its smallness

and

spiritual entity.

nutest thing

is,

gross sensibility,

it is

''No grain of dust

is

a link in the Whole.
so vile, no

be so small: the wise

most gloriously
tard seed,
is

if

man

mote can

seeth


therein."- "In

God

a mus-

thou wilt imderstand

the image of

all

it,

things above and

beneath."

Man feels himself free upon this height.
For constraint

is

there only where a thing


MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

266

can constrain from without.
that

all

within,
<<

I
II

and

is

But when

without has flowed into the

when the

opposition

between

"Without and Within,'*

world,'*

Nature and Spirit," has disappeared,

man

then feels

own

impulse.

thou

wilt,

him as his
"Shut me, as strongly as

all

in a

that impels

thousand irons:

I

still

will

be quite free and unfettered.''

"So

far as

my

God do what

will is dead, so far

I will

;

I

him the pattern and the
point cease

all

must

myself prescribe to
goal."

—At this

moral obligations, coming

man becomes to himself
measure and goal. He is subject to no
from without:

law; for the law, too, has become his

"For the wicked is the law; were
there no command written, still would
being.

the pious love

God and

their neighbour."

Thus, on the higher level of knowledge,
the innocence of Nature is given back to

BRUNO AND
He

man.

SILESIUS

267

the tasks that are set

fulfils

him

in the feeling of

He

says to himself: Through this iron

necessity

it

is

withdraw from

an external necessity.

given into thy hand to

very iron necessity

this

the link which has been allotted to thee.

meadow

''Ye men, learn but from the
flower:

how ye

beautiful

without

shall please

well."

as

why and

—''The

God and be
rose

exists

because, she blooms

because she blooms; she takes no heed
of herself, asks not

man who has
feels

in

if

arisen

men

see her."

upon the higher

himself the eternal,

The
level

necessary

meadow
meadow flower

pressure of the All, as does the
flower; he acts, as the

The

blooms.
sibility

grows in

immeasurable.
not do

feeling of his

is

all

moral respon-

his doing into the

For that which he does

withdrawn from the

All, is

a

slaying of that All, so far as the possi-

268

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

bility of

^'What

such a slaying

is it,

lies

not to sin?

not question long: go, the
will tell
If

it

— "All
thee."

with him.

Thou

need'st

dumb

flowers

must be

slain.

thou slayest not thyself for God, then

at last eternal death shall slay thee for

the enemy."

AFTERWORD
Nearly two and a

half centuries

have

passed since Angelas Silesius gathered up

wisdom

the profound

of his predecessors

in his Cheruhinean Wanderer.

These cen-

have brought rich insights into

turies

Goethe

Nature.

opened

a

spective to natural science.
to follow

up the

eternal,

vast

He

per-

sought

unchangeable

laws of Nature's working, to that summit
where, with like necessity, they cause

man

to

come

into being, just as

on a

lower level they bring forth the stone. ^

Lamarck, Darwin, Haeckel, and others,

have laboured further
of this
'Cp.

my

way

of

in the direction

conceiving things.

The

book: Goethe's Weltanschauung^ Weimar, 1897.
269

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

270
*'

question

of

questions,"

all

regard to the natural

origin

found

the

century;

and

in

other

of

in

man,

nineteenth

related problems

realm of natural events have

the

in

answer

its

that

also found their solutions.

comprehend that

it

is

To-day men

not necessary to

step outside of the realm of the actual

and the

sensible in order to understand

the serial succession of beings, right

man,

to

in its

up

development in a purely

natural manner.

And,

further, J. G. Fichte's penetra-

tion has

the

thrown

human

man where

ego,

light into the being of

and shown the soul

to seek itself

and what

of

it is.'

Hegel has extended the realm of thought
over all the provinces of being, and striven
to grasp in thought the entire sensible
*

Cp. ante, and the section upon Fichte in my book:
und Lebens-anschauungen im neunzehnten Jahrhundert,

Weltvol.

i.,

Berlin, S. Cronbach.

AFTERWORD

271

existence of Nature, as also the loftiest
creations of the

How,

human

spirit.'

then, do those

men

of genius

whose thoughts have been traced

in the

preceding pages, appear in the light of a

world-conception which takes into ac-

count the

scientific

centuries

that

They

believed in a ''supernatural"

still

achievements of the

followed

their

epoch?

How do their thoughts

story of creation.

appear when confronted with a "natural '*
history of creation, which the science of

the nineteenth century has built up?

This natural

science

has

given

to

Nature naught that did not belong to
her;

it

has only taken from her what did

not belong to her.

Nature
but

is

all

that

is

It

has banished from

not to be sought in her,

to be found only in man's inner

^ Cp. my
presentation of Hegel in Welt- und Lebensanschauungen im neunzehnten Jahrhundert, vol. i.

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

2']2

being.

no longer any being

It sees

Nature that

is like

and that creates
It

unto the

after the

human

manner

man.

of

their

development

it

follows

in the sense-world

Meis-

according to purely natural laws.
ter Eckhart, as well as Tauler,

Jacob

Boehme with Angelus

would needs
in

soul,

no longer makes the organic forms to

be created by a man-like God;

up

in

feel

and

also

Silesius,

the deepest satisfaction

contemplating this natural science.

The

spirit in

which they desired to behold

the world has passed over in the fullest
sense to this view of Nature,
rightly
still

of

What

understood.

unable to do,

viz,\

when
they

it is

were

to bring the facts

Nature themselves into the light which

had risen for them, that, undoubtedly,
would have been their longing, if this

same natural
fore them.

science

had been

laid be-

They could not do

it;

for

AFTERWORD

273

no geology, no natural history of creation'* told them about the processes in
**

The Bible alone told them in
its own way about such processes. ThereNature.

fore they sought, so far as they could, for

the spiritual where alone

it

is

to be

found: in the inner nature of man.

At the present
quite other aids at
time, to
Spirit is

time, they would have

hand than

in their

own

show that an actually existing
They
to be found only in man.

would to-day agree unreservedly with
those

who

seek Spirit as a fact not in

the root of Nature, but in her

They would admit
ceivable

is

fruit.

that Spirit as per-

a result of evolution, and

that upon lower levels of evolution such

must not be sought for. They
would understand that no "creative
Spirit

thought" ruled
Spirit
18

in

in the

forthcoming of the

the organism, any more than

274

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

such a

*'

creative thought" caused the

ape to evolve from the marsupials.

Our present age cannot speak about
the facts of Nature as Jacob

spoke of them.

But there

Boehme

exists

a point

of view, even in this present day,

brings Jacob Boehme' s

way

which

of regarding

things near to a view of the world that

takes account of modern natural science.

There

is

no need to

one finds

Many

lose the Spirit,

Nature only the natural.

in

believe to-day that

indeed,

do,

when

one must needs lose oneself in a shallow

and prosaic materialism,
accepts the

ence
fully

ural

has

''facts''

upon the ground
I

one simply

which natural

discovered.

science.

if

I

myself

sci-

stand

same natand
through

of this

have,

through, the feeling that, in a view of

Nature such as Ernst Haeckel's, only he
can lose himself amid shallows who him-

AFTERWORD
approaches

self

world.
glorious,

with a shallow thought-

something higher, more

feel

I

it

275

when

I

let

the revelations of
.

the ''natural history of creation" work

upon me, than when the supernatural
miracle stories of the confessions of faith
force themselves

book" do

I

In no ''holy

upon me.

know aught

that unveils for

me

anything as lofty as the "sober"

fact,

that every

er's

womb

human germ

in the

moth-

repeats in brief, one after the

other, those animal types

which

its

animal

ancestors have passed through. If only we
fill

our hearts with the glory of the facts

that our senses behold, then
little

left

we shall have

over for "wonders" which do

not He in the course of Nature.
experience the Spirit in ourselves,

have no need
In
lin,

my
1894)

we
then we
If

of such in external Nature.

Philosophy of Freedom, (BerI

have described

my

view

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

276

which has no thought of

of the world,

driving out the Spirit, because

it

beholds

Nature as Darwin and Haeckel beheld

A

her.

me

for

my

if

I

people

''more

me

me

against

things of the
just

being of

in

it.

my

inner being

I believe

that the

sense- world are, in fact,

as they present themselves to us,

because

I see

that a right self-knowledge

leads us to this that in Nature
:

we should

seek nothing but natural processes.

seek no Spirit of
I

it,

believe that the insight which

shines forth for

guards

I

world for

soulful"

do not even assume

things; nay, I
I

information.

in the external

''deeper,"

because

with souls of which

it

me no

senses give

do not seek
a

an animal, gains nothing

plant,

God

in Nature,

I

because

believe that I perceive the nature of

the

human

admit

spirit

my animal

in myself.

I

calmly

ancestry, because I be-

AFTERWORD
lieve myself to

know

277

that there, where

these animal ancestors have their origin,

no spirit of

like

nature with soul can work.

can only agree with Ernst Haeckel when
he prefers the "eternal rest of the grave"
I

to an immortality such as

is

some

a dishonour-

religions/

For

I find

taught by

ing of Spirit, an ugly sin against the Spirit,
in the conception of
exist after the
I
tific

hear a

a soul continuing to

manner

shrill

of a sensible being.

discord

when the

facts in Haeckel's presentation

scien-

come

up against the "piety" of the confessions
of some of our contemporaries.
But
for

me

there rings out from confessions

facts,

which give a discord with natural
naught of the spirit of the higher

piety

which

of faith,

and Angelus

I

find

Silesius.

stands far more in
'

Cp. Haeckel's Riddle of

in

Jacob Boehme

This higher piety
full

harmony with

the Universe.

278

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

the working of the natural.

no contradiction

There

lies

in the fact of saturating

oneself with the knowledge of the

most

recent natural science, and at the

same

time

treading

the

path

which Jacob

Boehme and Angelus Silesius have sought.
He who enters on that path in the sense
of those thinkers

has no need to fear

losing himself in a shallow materialism

when he

lets

laid before

creation."

the secrets of Nature be

him by a natural history of
Whoever has grasped my
*'

thoughts in this sense
with

me

in like

will

manner the

understand
last

of the Cheruhinean Wanderer, with
also this

book

shall close:

saying

which

''Friend,

it is

even enough.

In case thou more wilt

read, go forth,

and thyself become the

book, thyself the reading.'*

THE END

ililStiliillKll

:iiT:FMl»7TFf?T7

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