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BR 45

.B35

1899

Bampton lectures

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

THE BAMPTON LECTURES,

1899

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
CONSIDERED IN EIGHT LECTURES

DELIVERED BEFORE THE UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD

WILLIAM RALPH

INGE, M.A.

FELLOW AND TUTOR OF HERTFORD COLLEGE, OXFORD FORMERLY FF.LLOW OF KING'S


COLLEGE, CAMBRIDGE, AND ASSISTANT MASTER AT ETON COLLEGE
;

NEW YORK

CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS


153, 15s.

AND

157

FIFTH AVENUE

LONDON: METHUEN &

CO.

EXTRACT
FROM THE LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT
OF THE LATE

JOHN BAMPTON,

REV.

CANON OF SALISBURY.
" I give and bequeath

my Lands and

Estates to the

Chancellor, Masters, and Scholars of the University of Oxford

have and to hold

and

Lands
and purposes herethat is to say, I will and appoint that the
Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford for the time being
shall take and receive all the rents, issues, and profits thereof,
and (after all taxes, reparations, and necessary deductions
made) that he pay all the remainder to the endowment of
for ever, to

and Estates upon


inafter mentioned

trust,

and

all

singular the said

to the intents

eight Divinity Lecture Sermons, to be established for ever in

the

said

following

University,

and

to

be performed

in

the

manner

" I direct and appoint that upon the first Tuesday in Easter
Term, a Lecturer be yearly chosen by the Heads of Colleges
only, and by no others, in the room adjoining to the PrintingHouse, between the hours of ten in the morning and two in

the afternoon, to preach eight Divinity Lecture Sermons, the

year following, at

mencement
the third

St.

of the last

week

in

Mary's in Oxford, between the com-

month

Act Term.

in

Lent Term, and the end of

EXTRACT

VI

" Also

direct

Sermons

shall

and appoint,

that the eight Divinity Lecture

be preached upon either of

the

following

and establish the Christian Faith, and


upon the Divine
to confute all heretics and schismatics
upon the authority of the
authority of the Holy Scriptures
writings of the primitive Fathers, as to the faith and practice
upon the Divinity of our Lord and
of the primitive Church
Saviour Jesus Christ upon the Divinity of the Holy Ghost
upon the Articles of the Christian Faith, as comprehended in
the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds.
"Also I direct that thirty copies of the eight Divinity
Lecture Sermons shall be always printed within two months
and one copy shall be given to the
after they are preached
Chancellor of the University, and one copy to the head of
every College, and one copy to the Mayor of the City of Oxford,
and one copy to be put into the Bodleian Library and the
expense of printing them shall be paid out of the revenue of
Subjects

to confirm

the

Land

Sermons

or Estates given for establishing the Divinity Lecture


;

and the Preacher

shall

not be paid, nor entitled to

the revenue, before they are printed.


" Also I direct and appoint, that no person shall be qualified
to preach the Divinity Lecture Sermons, unless

he hath taken

the degree of Master of Arts at least, in one of the two Universities of


shall

Oxford or Cambridge

and

that

tlTe

same person

never preach the Divinity Lecture Sermons twice."

PREFACE
The

of the subjects which, according to the will of

first

Canon Bampton,

are prescribed for the Lecturers

his foundation,

the confirmation and establishment of

is

This

the Christian faith.

kept

in

wish

my

view

in

is

the

Mysticism.

say

this'

adopt

to

because

a historical

Lectures, and this arrangement

misunderstood.

It

should

some

decided, after

framework

may

cause

the

for

my

object

seemed to me that the

instructiveness of tracing the


tion

have

than as a historical sketch of Christian


I

hesitation,

be

and

book to be judged as a contribution to apolo-

getics, rather

to

aim which

preparing this volume

upon

development and opera-

of mystical ideas, in the forms which they have

assumed as active

forces

outweighed

history,

in

the

disadvantage of appearing to waver between apology

and

narrative.

series

of historical essays would, of

course, have been quite unsuitable in the University


pulpit, and,

from that

moreover,

did not approach the subject

Until

began

side.

to prepare the Lectures,

about a year and a half before they were delivered,

my

study of the mystical writers had been directed solely

by

my own

attracted

to

intellectual

them

in

and
the

spiritual

needs.

hope of finding

writings a philosophy and a rule of

life

in

was
their

which would

PREFACE

viii

my mind

satisfy

disappointed

and conscience.

In this

was not

and thinking that others might perhaps

by following the same path,


together and publish the results of
reading.
In such a scheme historical
profit

out of place or of secondary value

wished to put

my

thought and

details are either

and

be remembered by any historians who

will

my

the trouble to read

The

of view

done

my

subject

my

from

is

have

ancient and modern, which

in

that what

Mysticism, and also to

to speculative

my own

out

succeeded

and

take

best to acquire an adequate knowledge of

most akin

think

may

greater importance.

philosophies, both

those
are

much

of

this

book.

side of the

philosophical

point

hope

position.

my

indicating

may

have written

intelligible

but

hope that

have

have

standpoint, and

general

prove

fairly consistent

keenly the disad-

felt

vantage of having missed the systematic training


metaphysics

given

by the Oxford school of

Huinaniores, and also the difficulty (perhaps

say

presumption)

the

arguments

to

an

addressing

of

audience

eminent philosophers.

which

in

LitercB

should

metaphysical

included

wish also that

several

had had

time for a more thorough study of Fechner's works


for his system, so far as

have

to

give

understand

a great interest and value

Mysticism

philosophical

modern

which

it,

seems to

as a

me

scheme of

does not clash with

science.

have spoken with a plainness which


of the

offence

usurps the

name

countries.

of

debased

insult

probably

supernaturalism

Mysticism

desire to

will

in

Roman

which

Catholic

no man's convictions

PREFACE
and

my

reason that

this

for

is

it

print

analysis of Ribet's

distinguh

des

my

some of

of

between

ism

though

travesty.

but

with

there

such

Roman

"

author

this
"

Catholic

mincing matters.

and wonders of

signs

in

think

science

my

but

faith-

the appearance of a malicious

all

to

in

edification

that

intended to

Roman Church and

regard

no use

is

which

have therefore suppressed

Nouvelle

would have opened the eyes

translated and summarised

Mystique Divine,

readers to the irreconcilable antagon-

the

the result had

fully,

{^La

diaboliques.

vols.),

3
It

have decided not to

work

Contrefa<^ons

Edition, Paris, 1895,


form an Appendix.

ix

Appendix

Those who

find

kind,

and

this

phenomena," even

supernatural

Mysticism

if

they were well authenticated instead of being ridiculous


could

fables,

find

these

possibly establish

spiritual

truths,

will

nothing to please or interest them

or

little

in

But those who reverence Nature and

pages.

Reason, and have no wish to hear of either of them


being
with

"

overruled

me

"

or " suspended," will,

hope, agree

valuing highly the later developments of

in

mystical thought in Northern Europe.

There
have but
"

little

sympathy

Psychical research

science

"

another class of

is

but when

" is,

its

mystics

"

with

whom

the dabblers in occultism.

no doubt, a perfectly legitimate

professors invite us to watch the

breaking down of the middle wall of partition between

matter and

be

spirit,

scientific,

they have,

and are

in

in

my

reality

opinion, ceased to

hankering after the

beggarly elements of the later Neoplatonism.

The charge

of

"

pantheistic

hope, be brought against

me

tendency

"

will

not,

without due considera-

PREFACE

X
tion.

have

show how the Johannine Logos-

tried to

which

doctrine,

the

is

basis

of Christian

Mysticism,

from Asiatic Pantheism, from Acosmism, and

differs

from (one kind

Of

evolutionary IdeaHsm.

of)

speculative Mysticism

is

course,

nearer to Pantheism than to

Deism but I think it is possible heartily to eschew


Deism without falling into the opposite error.
;

have received much help from

many

kind friends

and though some of them would not wish to be


sociated with

all

of

my

opinions,

the pleasure of thanking

Mr.

have received

cannot deny myself

From my

them by name.

mother and other members of


especially

my

as-

family,

and

relations,

W. W. How, Fellow of Merton, I


many useful suggestions. Three past

or present colleagues have read and criticised parts of

my

work

College

the Rev. H. Rashdall,

now Fellow

of

New

Mr. H. A. Prichard, now Fellow of Trinity

and Mr. H. H. Williams, Fellow of Hertford.

Mr.

G. L. Dickinson, Fellow of King's College, Cambridge,


lent

me an

unpublished dissertation on Plotinus.

The

Rev. C. Bigg, D.D., whose Bampton Lectures on the


Christian Platonists are

known

all

over Europe, did

me

the kindness to read the whole of the eight Lectures,

and so added
for

his

to the great debt

The Rev.

books.

J.

which

M.

Scholar of Trinity, Cambridge, lent

from

his

fine

library,

Louvain enabled
cism

me

and

owe

Heald,

to

him

formerly

me many books
for me at

by inquiring

to procure the

books on Mysti-

now studied in Roman Catholic


The Rev. Dr. Lindsay, who has made
study of the German mystics, read my

which

are

Universities.

special

Lectures on that period, and wrote

me

a very useful

PREFACE

Miss G. H. Warrack of Edinburgh

upon them.

letter

me

kindly allowed

xi

modernised version of

to use her

Julian of Norwich.

have ventured to say

my

earnest conviction

my last

in

Lecture
and it is
more general acquaint-

that a

ance with mystical theology and philosophy

Church

desirable in the interests of the English

present time.

am

who

not one? of those

very

is

at the

think that

the points at issue between Anglo-Catholics and Anglo-

Protestants
Aristotle's

are trivial

famous dictum about parties

/u,eyaXo3v

Trepl

aW

ov irepl fxcKpwv

(7rdac<;

but

confirmed

history has always

e'/c

cnaaid^ovat he

fXLKpwv,

do not so

^'uyvoviaL al

despair of our

far

Church, or of Christianity, as to doubt that a recon-

must and

ciling principle

me

do
to

what quarter

these Lectures

look for a mediator,

Those who

be found.

will

the honour to read

will

see

very short

study would be sufficient to dispel some of the prejudices which

e.g:,

that

still

its

hang round the name of Mysticism


and

professors are unpractical dreamers,

that this type of religion

As

mind.

a matter of

been energetic and


city

is

their business

For instance, Plotinus was often

guardian

gifts

the great mystics have

and

influential,

specially noted in a curiously large

cases.

antagonistic to the English

is

fact, all

as

and trustee

an organiser

St.

Bernard

Teresa,

St.

as

in

capa-

number

of

request as

showed great
a

founder

of

convents and administrator, gave evidence of extraordinary practical ability; even St. Juan of the Cross
displayed the same qualities
lent bursar of his college

extremely well

and

John Smith was an excel-

Fenelon ruled

Madame Guyon

his diocese

surprised those

PREFACE

xii

who had deahngs with her by her great


Henry More was offered posts
affairs.
and

sponsibiHty

mystic

is

he often shows incapacity


mingle

to

sents

declined

but

dignity,

not as a rule ambitious, but

in

for practical

And

it.

so far

is

aptitude for
of high

re-

The

them.

do not think
life, if
it

he con-

from being

true that Great Britain has produced but few mystics,


that

am

inclined to think

the subject might be ade-

On

quately studied from English writers alone.

more

intellectual

the

side we have (without going back to

Scotus Erigena) the Cambridge Platonists,

Law and

we have

attractive

Coleridge

examples

of devotional mystics

Hilton and Julian of Norwich

in

verse the lofty idealism

and strong

while in

religious bent of

our race have produced a series of poet-mystics such as

no other country can


in

these

Vaughan
who have

rival.

It

has not been possible

Lectures to do justice to
" the
all

Silurist,"

Quarles, Crashaw, and others,

drunk of the same

say that the student who

George Herbert,

well.

Let

it

suffice to

desires to master the history

of Mysticism in Britain will find plenty to occupy his


for the religious public in general the

most

time.

But

useful

thing would be a judicious selection from the

mystical writers of different times and countries.

who

are

more

interested in

tional than the speculative side


'

It is really

time that

we

Those

the practical and devo-

may

study with great

took to burning that travesty of the British

the John Bull whom our comic papers represent " guarding his
pudding" instead of Guy Fawkes. Even in the nineteenth century,

character

all the sordid materialism bred of commercial ascendancy, this


country has produced a richer crop of imaginative literature than any
other ; and it is significant that, while in Germany philosophy is falling

amid

more and more


are nearly

all

into the

staunch

hands of the empirical school, our own thinkers

idealists.

PREFACE
some

profit

Tauler,

the

of St. Augustine, the

parts

Genna?iica,

TJieologia

the

Perfection,

xiii

Life of

Sales and Fenelon, the

sermons of
Sca/e

Hilton's

of

Henry Suso, St. Francis de


Sermons of John Smith and

Whichcote's ApJiorisnis, and the later works of William

Law, not forgetting the poets who have been mencan think of no course of study more

tioned.

for those

who wish

to revive in themselves

fitting

and others

the practical idealism of the primitive Church, which

gained for
I

greatest triumphs.

Preface

this

Law on

William
"

it its

conclude

letter to

Dr. Trapp,

"

from

quotation

value of the mystical

the

Writers like those

with

writers.

have mentioned," he says


there have been in

all

in a

ages of

the Church, but as they served not the ends of popular


learning, as

they helped no people to figure or pre-

ferment in the world, and were useless to scholastic


controversial writers, so they dropt

"^out

of public uses,

and were only known, or rather unknown, under the

name

of mystical writers,

till

hardly heard of that very

were to be told what

is

some people have

at last

name

though,

if

meant by a mystical

man

divine,

he must be told of something as heavenly, as great, as


desirable, as if

he was told what

member

is

of the

meant by a

real,

mystical body of

regenerate,

living

Christ

they were thus called for no other reason

for

than as Moses and the prophets, and the saints of


the Old Testament,

may

be called the spiritual

or the true mystical Jews.


office of

Israel,

These writers began

their-

teaching as John the Baptist did, after they

had passed through every kind of mortification and


self-denial,

every kind of

trial

and

purification,

both

PREFACE

xiv

They were deeply learned in


kingdom of God, not through the

inward and outward.


the mysteries of the

use of lexicons, or meditating upon

critics,

they had passed from death unto

life.

but because

They highly

reverence and excellently direct the true use of every-

thing that

is

outward

in religion

daughter, they are

king's

but, like the Psalmist's

glorious within.

all

are truly sons of thunder, and sons of

they break open the whited sepulchres


the heart, and

show

but they leave


raised

up within

it

it its

not

it.

filth

till

If a

kingdom of heaven

life

in Christ a

and

new

spirit

all

that renova-

which alone can make him

creature,

it

is

is

has no desire but to be

of the spirit of the gospel, to obtain


tion of

they awaken

and rottenness of death

the

man

They

consolation

to be

a great unhappiness to

him to be unacquainted with these writers, or to pass


a day without reading something of what they wrote."

CONTENTS
LF.CTURtt
I.

II.

General Characteristics of Mysticism

The

Mystical Element in the Bible

.....
.....

III. Christian Platonism and Speculative Mysticism

(i) In the

(2)

East

39

In the

West

125

V. Practical and Devotional Mysticism


VI. Practical and Devotional Mysticism

continued

.167
.

.....
......

VII. Nature- Mysticism and Symbolism

VIII. Nature-Mysticism

continued

of

Definitions

" Mysticism "

and

249
299

335

Appendix

B.

The Greek

Appendix

C.

The Doctrine

Appendix D. The

213

" Mystical

Theology"

Index

77

IV. Christian Platonism and Speculative Mysticism

Appendix A,

PACK

Mysteries and Christian Mysticism


of Deification

.....

349

Solomon

369

Mystical Interpretation of the Song of

356

373

LECTURE

"'H.iJ.'ti>

fiavla

Sk diroSeiKT^ov ws

SWoraf

rj

8^

dij

^tt'

iarai

beivdls

^^"^n"

" Thoas.

Tapa OeQp

evrvxlq^ rji /xeylffrji

awdSei^ts

fi^v

dTncrros,

Plato, Phadrus,
Es

Iphigenia.

spricht kein Gott

toio.'utt)

(XOKpoh

p. 245.

es spricht dein eignes Herz.

Sie reden nur durch unser

Herz zu uns."

Goethe,
"Si

ii

Iphigenie.

notre vie est moins qu'une journ^e

En

r^ternel;

si

I'an qui fait le tour

Chasse nos jours sans espoir de retour;


Si p^rissable est toute chose nt^e;

Que

songes-tu,

mon ^me

emprisonnt^e

Pourquoi te plait I'obscur de notre jour,


Si, pour voler en un plus clair s^jour,
Tu as au dos I'aile bien empenn^e
L4 est le bien que tout esprit d^sire,
!

Li,

Li

le

Li, 6

Tu
De

repos ou tout

le

monde

est I'amour, la le plaisir

mon ame,

aspire,

encore

au plus haut

ciel

guid^e,

y pourras reconnaitre I'id^e


la beautt^ qu'en ce monde j'adore

Old Poet.

di

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
LECTURE

General Characteristics of Mysticism


" Beloved, now are we children of God, and
what we

Him

like

No

We

shall be.
;

for

word

we

know

Him

shall see

in

that, if

even

our language

it

is

not yet

manifest

be

iii.

not

"

even

has been employed more loosely than

Sometimes

made

He shall be manifested, we shall


as He is." i John
2, 3.
Socialism "
"

Mysticism."

used as an equivalent for symbolism or

it is

allegorism, sometimes for theosophy or occult science

and sometimes

merely suggests the mental state of

it

a dreamer, or vague and fantastic opinions about

and the world.

Roman

In

God

Catholic writers, " mystical

phenomena" mean supernatural suspensions of physEven those writers who have made a special
ical law.
study of the subject, show by their definitions of the
word how uncertain
necessary that

is its

should

connotation.^

make

It is therefore

clear at the outset

what

understand by the term, and what aspects of religious

and thought

life

intend

to

deal

with

in

these

Lectures.

The
^

history of the

See Appendix

for

word begins

definitions

logy.
3

in

of Mysticism

close connexion
and Mystical Thea-

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

with the Greek mysteries.^

mystic

(/aucttt?'?)

is

one

some esoteric
who
knowledge of Divine things, about which he must keep
or, possibly, he is one whose
his mouth shut (ixveiv)
The
eyes are still shut, one who is not yet an eVoTTT?;?.'-^
has been, or

is

being, initiated into

word was taken over, with other technical terms of


the mysteries, by the Neoplatonists, who found in the
existing mysteriosophy a discipline, worship, and rule
of

But as the

congenial to their speculative views.

life

tendency towards quietism and introspection increased

among them,
found

it

all

how this

external things.^
later

"

was

We

shall see in the

Neoplatonism passed almost entire

Christianity, and, while

into

Mysticism

was explained to mean deliberately shutting

the eyes to
sequel

for "

another derivation

forming

the

basis

of

mediaeval Mysticism, caused a false association to cling

word even down to the Reformation.'*


The phase of thought or feeling which we

to the

call

See Appendix B for a discussion of the influence of the Greek mysteries


upon Christian Mysticism.
' Tholuck accepts the former derivation (cf. Suidas, /xva-r-^pia sKX-qd-qaav
1

fiveip rb (TTd/xa Kal fiyjdivi ravra i^yjyeladai) ;


There is no doubt that fivrja-is was opposed to
but it was also
iiroTrrda, and in this sense denoted incomplete initiation
made to include the whole process. The prevailing use of the adjective
/ai;(rrifc6s is of something seen "through a glass darkly," some knowledge
purposely wrapped up in symbols.
^ So Hesychius says, Miycrrat, airb
yap ras ala-drjaeis Kal ^^w
fj.6(j}, fivovres
tQv aapKiKLOv (ppovrlSuiv yeu6fjLevoL, ouru) rds Oeias dva\dfM\peis edexovro.
Plotinus and Proclus both use /mvu of the "closed eye" of rapt con-

irapa

rb

tovs

a.KoiovTO.'i

Petersen, the latter.

templation.

I cannot agree with Lasson (in his book on Meister Eckhart) that "the
connexion with the Greek mysteries throws no light on the subject." No
writer had more influence upon the growth of Mysticism in the Church

than Dionysius the Areopagite, whose main object is to present ChrisThe same purpose is
tianity in the light of a Platonic mysteriosophy.
evident in Clement, and in other Christian Platonists between Clement and
Dionysius.

See Appendix B.

CHARACTERISTICS OF MYSTICISM
Mysticism

has

material of

all

and

which

that

in

and perhaps of

is

Men have given

part of our nature as

different

names

to these

tionings of sense and outward things."

we

if

will,

philosophy

"

human

the frontier of consciousness

the voice of

obstinate ques-

We may call them,

or an extension of

or, in religious

God speaking

may

Mysticism

to us.

arises

Religious

be defined as the attempt to realise the

presence of the living


or,

language,

higher consciousness into

try to bring this

relation with the other contents of our minds.

Mysticism

beings.

a sort of higher instinct, perhaps an anticipa-

tion of the evolutionary process

when we

raw

the

is

all

namely, that dim consciousness of the

art as well,

beyond, which

origin

its

religion,

more generally,

God

in

the soul and in nature,

as the attempt to realise, in thought

and feeling, the immanence of the temporal in the eternal,


and of the eternal in the temporal. Our consciousness
of the beyond

is,

say, the

But, being itself formless,

raw material of

it

all religion.

cannot be brought directly

into relation with the forms of our thought. Accordingly,

has to express

it

itself

by symbols, which are

the flesh and bones of ideas.

as

it

were

the tendency of

all

symbols to petrify or evaporate, and either process

is

They soon repudiate their mystical

to them.

fatal

origin,

and forthwith

comes a return

It is

lose their religious content.

to the fresh springs of the inner

Then
life

a revival of spirituality in the midst of formalism or


unbelief.

it

This

is

the historical function of Mysticism

appears as an independent active principle, the

spirit

ments,

But since every

of reformations and revivals.

active principle

must

Mysticism

find for itself appropriate instru-

has

developed

speculative

and

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

practical system
"

the

In

feelings."

sider

of

this

As Goethe

own.

its

of

scholastic

the

way

the

heart,

be remembered that

becoming such

in

ated elements which do not belong to

As

it

is

the

of

becomes possible

it

as a type of religion, though

it

says,

dialectic

con-

to

must always

it

has incorpor-

it

inmost being.^

its

a type of religion, then. Mysticism seems to rest on

the following propositions or articles of faith


the

First,

perceive

We

soul (as well

eVrt 8e

'^v-^]<^

the body)

as

aia6t](jl^ re?, as

have an organ or faculty

for

and

Proclus says.

the discernment of

proper sphere,

spiritual truth, which, in its

see

ca7i

is

much

as

to be trusted as the organs of sensation in theirs.

The second proposition is that, since we can only


know what is akin to ourselves,^ inan, in order to know
God, must be a partaker of the Divine nature.
^

It

"

What

should also be borne in mind that every historical example of a

movement may be expected to exhibit characteristics which are


determined by the particular forms of religious deadness in opposition

mystical

to

which

it

arises.

think that

is

it

generally easy to separate these

secondary, accidental chaiacteristics from

we

those which are

primary and

which

integral,

and

may be

regarded as the essence of Mysticism as a type of religion,

that

shall then find that the underlying substance,

is

strikingly uniform.

The analogy used by Plotinus [Ennead i. 6. 9) was often quoted and


" Even as the eye could not behold the sun unless it were itself
sunlike, so neither could the soul behold God if it were not Godlike."
"

imitated

Lotze (Microcosmus, and

cf.

severed from our senses.

Metaphysics, ist ed.,

" The

Plotinus for this argument.

It is

p.

109) falls foul of

reality of the external

world

vain to call the eye sunlike, as

a special occult power to copy what

it

has

itself

produced

is

utterly

if it

needed

fruitless are all

mystic efforts to restore to the intuitions of sense, by means of a secret


Whether the
identity of mind with things, a reality outside ourselves."
subjective idealism

of this

sentence

is

consistent

with the subsequent

animated throughout," it is not my


province to determine.
The latter doctrine is held by a large school of
mystics
the acosmistic tendency of the former has had only too much

dogmatic assertion that "nature

is

attraction for mystics of another school.

CHARACTERISTICS OF MYSTICISM
we

we behold

are, that

are," says

and what we behold, that we

The

Ruysbroek,

find in the mystics of the


" the

apex of the mind

"

own

our
us^

salvation

It is

The

We

for.

a spark

which

is

is

at

consub-

ground of the Deity,

is

thus

could not even begin to work out

if

God were

" in

always

we

curious doctrine which

Middle Ages, that there

stantial with the uncreated

accounted

doctrine has been

not already working in

light " that "

His
felt

we

see light."

to be a necessary postulate

by most philosophers who hold that knowledge of God


is possible to man.
For instance, Krause says, " From
finite

reason as

thought of

itself,

finite

we might

possibly explain the

but not the thought of something that

outside finite reasonable beings, far less the absolute

is

idea, in its contents infinite, of

of

God

use

freer

God.

To become aware

knowledge we require certainly to make a

in

finite

power of thought, but the

itself is

primarily and essentially an

of our

thought of God

eternal operation of the eternal revelation of


finite

But though we are made

mind."

God, our likeness to

Him

God

to the

image of

in the

The

only exists potentially.^

Divine spark already shines within

us,

but

has to be

it

searched for in the innermost depths of our personality,

and

its

light diffused over our

whole being.

This brings us to the third proposition


holiness no

pressed
"

man may

positively

in

Lord" or,
Sermon on

see the

the

Blessed are the pure in heart

for

"

as

the

Without
it

is

ex-

Mount,

they shall see God."

Sensuality and selfishness are absolute disqualifications


for
^

knowing

"

the things of the Spirit of God."

This distinction

writers.

is

drawn by Origen, and accepted by

all

the mystical

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

These fundamental doctrines are very

down

in

clearly laid

the passage from St. John which

The

the text of this Lecture.

already claimed, but the

Him, which

likeness to
is

only to be

is

pure."

won by

read

as

God

relation to

filial

vision

is

inseparable from

is

a hope, not a possession, and

is

" purifying ourselves,

He

even as

There is one more fundamental doctrine which we


must not omit. Purification removes the obstacles to
our union with God, but our guide on the upward path,
the true hierophant

of the mysteries of God,

has been defined as

said that "

while others have

to be disinterested."

The two

one.

" interest

The

definitions

The

goal.

it is

its

mark
"

is

Love

love}

of the essence of love


is

merely a verbal

different starting-points,

should bring us to the

possibility of disinterested love, in the

ordinary sense, ought never to have been called


"

question.

Love

reward.

Nor

He who

tries

is

is

not

Germanica,

good because

be holy

So long
it

love

the love of

to

assuredly be neither.
"

"

highest power

contradiction

but the two " ways of love

same

in

is

"

man
in

M'hen
to

asks

it

God any

in

for a

exception.

order to be happy will

In the words of the Theologia


as a

his,

man

he

seeketh his

will

own

never find

highest

it."

The

Faith goes so closely hand in hand with love that the mystics seldom

try to separate

them, and indeed they need not be separated.

Law's account of

their operation

is

characteristic.

"When

William

the seed of the

new birth, called the inward man, has faith awakened in it, its faith is not
a notion, but a real strong essential hunger, an attracting or magnetic
desire of Christ,

which as it proceeds from a seed of the Divine nature in


and unites with its like it lays hold on Christ, puts on
the Divine nature, and in a living and real manner grows powerful over
all our sins, and effectually works out our salvation" {Grounds and
Reasons of Christian Regeneration).
^ R. L. Nettleship, Remains.
us, so

it

attracts

CHARACTERISTICS OF MYSTICISM
mystics

here

are

unanimous, though

some, like

St.

God can ever


while we are in

Bernard, doubt whether perfect love of

be attained, pure and without


this

alloy,

and

The controversy between Fenelon

life.^

Bossuet on this subject

deny that Fenelon was mainly


he had an easy task

known, and few

well

is

Certainly

in the right.

in justifying his

will

statements from

But we need not trouble


mystic paradox," that it would be

the writings of the saints.


ourselves with the

"

better to be with Christ in hell than without

heaven

Christ

is,

there

is

in his

heaven

happiness as anything distinct from

above law

He could not
To believe

miserable."

The

"

a true conjunc-

"

otherwise

we have

seen,

He

created.*

man

makes

his

it

Him

in

whose

loves to figure his path

must

This scala perfectionis

step.

generally divided into three stages.


si

aim

life's

as a ladder reaching from earth to heaven, which

be climbed step by

"Nescio

or

to suppose an

is

to be transformed into the likeness of

or

in.

mystic, as

image he was

eternal

one thing which a rational

irrational universe, the

cannot believe

we regard

God is not without


make men either sinful

mind with God."

tion of the

For wherever

manuscript.

nor should

in

a Kempis once

Thomas

a statement which

wrote and then erased

Him

The

first is

is

called

a quoquam homine quartus (gradus) in hac vita perfecte


homo tantum propter Deum. Asserant

apprehenditur, ut se scilicet diligat

hoc

si

qui experti sunt: mihi (fateor) impossibile videtur " {De diligendo

Deo, XV.; Epist.


"^

xi. 8).

From a sermon by Smith,

the Cambridge Platonist.

says well, ef rts dXXo eZSos

rjdovTJs

airovhcuov ^lov ^TjTet {En?iead

\.

"*

From

Pindar's yipoio

4.

irepi

Plotinus, too,

tov crTrovdaTov ^Lov ^tjtu, ov rbv

12).

Smith's sermons.
olos iaai /xaOuif is

a fine mystical

maxim.

[Pyth.

2.

131-)

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

lo

the purgative

the second the illuminative, while

life,

the third, which


of the journey,

the unitive

called

is

rather than a part

really the goal

is

We

perfect contemplation.^

find, as

or state of

life,

we should

expect,

some differences in the classification, but this tripartite


scheme is generally accepted.
The steps of the upward path constitute the ethical
system, the rule of
the purgative

life,

we

The

of the mystics.

life,

stage,

first

read in the Theologia Gennanica,

brought about by contrition, by confession, by hearty

is

amendment
intended
include

and

the

is

the usual language in treatises

But

and

civic

They occupy
means

this

monks.

for

it

social

the lowest place,

is

it is

in

true

must be acquired by

that they

intended

really

virtues
;

this

to

stage.^

but this only

though

all,

all

are not called to the higher flights of contemplation.

Their chief value, according to Plotinus,

meaning of

the

which are
This

is

oj'dej'-

qualities

and limitation

distinctions

the

in

When Ewald
^

Cf.

De

iripa'i),

as

the

abyss

contradicts that

it

God

Indefinite,

bare

of

the Infinite,

dissolving

withdraws

road {via) leads to the contemplative

Servoruin Dei

beaiijic.,

all

indetermination.

says, " the true mystic never

Strictly, the unitive

Benedict, xiv.,

and

(rd^L'i

aberration of Mysticism which calls

Him

to teach us

belonging to the Divine nature.

a very valuable thought, for

and thinks of

is

26,

iii.

life

(vita).

" Perfecta

hsec

mystica unio reperitur regulariter in perfecto contemplativo qui in vita


purgativa et illuniinativa, id est meditativa, et contemplativa diu versatus,

ex speciali Dei favore ad infusam contemplativam evectus est." On the


three ways, Suarez says, " Distinguere solent mystici tres vias, purgativam,
illuminativani, et unitivam."

teaching that there


position
-

is

Molinos was quite a heterodox mystic in

but a "unica via, scilicet interna," and this pro-

was condemned by a Bull of Innocent XI.

In Plotinus the civic virtues precede the cathartic

with some perverse mystics, considered to

lie

but they are not, as

outside the path of ascent.

CHARACTERISTICS OF MYSTICISM
himself wilfully from the business of

life,

from the smallest business," he

any

at

is,

no, not even

saying

rate,

nothing which conflicts with the principles of Mysticism.^

The purgative
does

asceticism

as

life

necessarily includes self-discipline

necessarily include

it

would

It

what
be

commonly known

is

easy

to

answer that

means nothing but ti'aining, as men train


for a race, or more broadly still, that it means simply
" the acquisition of some greater power by practice." ^
But when people speak of " asceticism," they have in
their minds such severe " buffeting " of the body as
was practised by many ancient hermits and mediaeval
asceticism

monks.
"

Is

that,

while

an

this

upward path
a

integral

We

" ?

shall

degree

certain

characterises the outward

life

and while an almost morbid


in

many

to

encourage

of them, there

men

enjoins a dying
asceticism,

is

of nearly

is

the system itself

in

us,

as a virtue or duty in

itself,

and concentrates our attention on


This

contrary to

is

the

of Mysticism, which aims at realising unity and

Tauler

is

Holy;Ghost.

Monkish asceticism

careful to put social service

I tell

was able

its

true basis.

all

"One

can

these are gifts of the

were not a priest, I should esteem it a great


shoes, and would try to make them so well

you,

if I

to

make

as to be a pattern to all."

on

make shoes; and

(so far as

unstained under

live

In a later Lecture

I shall revert to

the charge

of indolent neglect of duties, so often preferred against the mystics.


^

found

Moreover,

spin,'^he says, "another can


gift that

the mystics,

desire to suffer

goes beyond the struggle to

all

simplicity

not a living death.

life,

solidarity everywhere.
it

austere

Mysticism

our separate individuality.


spirit

of

nothing

mystic's

reason to conclude

to maltreat their bodies.

when regarded

tends to isolate

of the

part

find

R. L. Nettleship, Remains,

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

12

unnatural conditions) rests on a dualistic view of the

world which does not belong to the essence of Mysticism.


the religious

It infected all

of the Middle Ages, not

life

Mysticism only.^

The second

stage, the illuminative

centration of

all

the faculties,

upon God.

It

differs

perform them, as Fenelon says,


that

to say, willingly

is

struggle

The

is

now

high calling,

Him.

no longer

transferred to the inner

the

is

religion, the

contemplative

in

or

and

face to face,

life,

joined to

is

the ideal limit of

is

attainment of which would be at once


annihilation.

unending approximation

We

subsists.^

to

the

that

it

though, as

its

counsel of God, there

is

life

must therefore beware of


end

a sense in which

a fact, and not merely a thing desired.


^

In a

Roman

Catholic manual

find:

it

is

of
re-

infinite

of the

part

is

its

the continual

It is in

garding the union as anything more than an


process,

The

life.

its

Complete union with God

religion

as virtues,"

and gains the prize of

unitive

God

beholds

consummation and
but

not in

having come to

in

stage of the journey, in which the soul

last

man

"

feeling,

life,

and almost spontaneously.

presses towards the mark,

which

and

will, intellect,

from the purgative

having discarded good works, but

the con-

life, is

eternal

already

But the word

" Non

raro

theologire mysticse intelligitur etiam ascesis, sed immerito.

sub

Nam

nomine
ascesis

consuetas tantum et tritas perfectionis semitas ostendit, mystica autem

adhuc excellentiorem viam demonstrat."

This
theology " with the higher rungs of the ladder.

curious

manner from

comme

science speciale,

namely,

"dans

lequel

souveraine de Dieu."

the
fait

Middle Ages.

is

to identify

It

"mystical

has been used in this

Ribet says,

" La mystique,

partie de la theologie ascetique"; that part,

I'homme est reduit a la passivite par Taction


"L'ascese" is defined as "I'ascension de I'ame

vers Dieu."
-

Cf. Professor

W.

Wallace's collected Lectures

and Essays,

p. 276.

CHARACTERISTICS OF MYSTICISM
deification holds a very large place in

among

the Fathers, and not only

We

called mystics.

Clement,
St.

in

find

is

who have been

those

Athanasius as well as

Augustine

the writings of

Irenaeus as well as in

in

it

in

Gregory of Nyssa.

" deificari " in

no more afraid of

one of primary importance to

The
anyone who

understand mystical theology

but

than Origen of deoTroieladat

Greek.

in

13

it

Latin

subject

is

wishes to

is difficult

for us

minds of the ancients who used these


expressions, both because 0e6<; was a very fluid concept
to enter into the

in

the early centuries, and

because

On

have more to say presently


belief in " deification,"

Middle Ages,

is

body of these

and

this

latter

continuance through the

its

Let

Lectures.^

Origen

very impious
"

shall

too voluminous to be given in the

theology at least

Clement and
or

it

suffice

to say

here

God became man,

we might become God," were commonplaces

doctrinal

"

point

but the evidence for the

that though such bold phrases as "


that

"

of

from those which were

personality are very different

prevalent in antiquity.

our notions

man

God."

with

after Augustine,

strongly

protest

heresy that

consubstantial

till

against

is " a part

The

of

even
the

of God,"

attribute

of

Divinity which was chiefly in the minds of the Greek

Fathers when they

made

these statements, was that of

imperishableness.

As

to the

means by which

to the consciousness, there


^

See Appendix

is

this

union

is

manifested

no doubt that very many

on the Doctrine of Deification.

So Fenelon, after asserting the truth of mystical " transformation,"


adds: "It is false to say that transformation is a deification of the real
and natural soul, or a hypostatic union, or an unalterable conformity with
God."
-

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

14

mystics believed

and looked

in,

for, ecstatic revelations,

This, again,

trances, or visions.

is

one of the crucial

questions of Mysticism.

Ecstasy or vision begins when thought ceases,


consciousness,

from

from

proceed

to

dreaming, because

differs

the

ourselves.

subject

disturbance

it

our

differs

awake.

is

from hallucination, because there

It

to

is

It

no organic

or claims to be, a temporary en-

is,

hancement, not a partial disintegration, of the mental


faculties.

Lastly,

differs

it

because the imagination

from poetical inspiration,


passive.

is

That perfectly sane people often experience such


there

visions

no manner of doubt.

is

into a trance at his conversion,

Paul

St.

and again

fell

at a later

when he seemed to be caught up into the third


The most sober and practical of the mediaeval
mystics speak of them as common phenomena.
And
in modern times two of the sanest of our poets have
period,

heaven.

recorded their experiences in words which

may be worth

quoting.

Wordsworth,

his

in

well-known

Lines composed

"

above Tintern Abbey," speaks of


"

In which

That serene and blessed mood,

the breath of this corporeal frame,

And even

the motion of our human blood,


Almost suspended, we are laid asleep
In body, and become a living soul
While with an eye made quiet by the power
Of harmony, and the deep power of joy,
:

We

see into the

And Tennyson
^

says,^ "

Life of Tennyson, vol.

repetition of his

of things."

life

i.

p.

320.

own name induced

kind of waking trance


The

curious experience, that the

a kind of trance,

is

used by the poet

CHARACTERISTICS OF MYSTICISM
have often had, quite from boyhood, when
This has generally come upon

alone.

all

my own name

repeating
silently,

all

till

and

to dissolve

have been

me

through

two or three times to myself


out of the intensity of the

at once,

of

consciousness

seemed

15

individuality,

the

and fade away

into boundless being

individual

itself

not a confused state, but the clearest of the

this

and the surest of the

clearest,

surest, the weirdest of

the weirdest, utterly beyond words, where death was

an almost laughable impossibility, the


so

(if

it

loss of personality

were) seeming no extinction, but the only true

life."

Admitting, then, that these


actually occur,

we have

psychical

to consider

phenomena

whether ecstasy and

kindred states are an integral part of Mysticism.

In

attempting to answer this question, we shall find


convenient

between

distinguish

to

vision of the super-essential

enjoyed

Plotinus
once,

and

reported

the

in

several

times,

and

times

people have not been

One, the Absolute, which


"

and

visions

all

and

Porphyry only

locutions

places,

trained

in

which

"

especially

scientific

The former was

thought and observation.

it

Neoplatonic

the

are

where

habits

of

held to be

an exceedingly rare privilege, the culminating point of


the contemplative

Lecture

and

life.

shall

there

shall

the essence of Mysticism, and

but

to

the

Asiatic

speak of

show that

leaven

it

in

my

third

it

belongs, not to

still less

to Christianity,

which

was mixed

with

Alexandrian thought, and thence passed into Catholicin his beautiful mystical poem, " The Ancient Sage."
It would, indeed,
have been equally easy to illustrate this topic from Wordsworth's prose
and Tennyson's poetry.

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

i6

As

ism.

regards

visions

general,

in

they were no

invention of the mystics.

They played

important part

of the early Church than

many

the

in

Tertullian,

men

are

willing

instance, says calmly, "

God from

admit.

to

The

majority,

Such

implicit

was placed on the Divine authority of

visions,

almost, of
reliance

for

life

historians

ecclesiastical

much more

learn

visions."

that on one occasion an ignorant peasant and a married

man was made

of Alexandria against his

Patriarch

will,

because his dying predecessor had a vision that

the

man who

should bring him a present of grapes

on the next day should be


of time

visions

continued

And

became

his successor

rarer

among

frequent

the

In course

among the laity, but


monks and clergy.

so the class which furnished most of the shining

lights of

Mysticism was that

in

which these experiences

were most common.

But we do not
life

find that the masters of the spiritual

much importance

attached very

appealed to them as aids to

were regarded as

special

to them, or often

As

faith.^

by the
and especially

bestowed

rewards

goodness of God on the struggling

a rule, visions

saint,

on the beginner, to refresh him and strengthen him

in

Very earnest cautions were issued


must be made to induce them artificially,

the hour of need.


that no efforts

and aspirants were exhorted neither


nor to

feel

to desire them,

The

pride in having seen them.

See the very interesting note

The Abbe Migne

in

says truly,

Harnack, History of Dogma, vol.

" Ceux qui

traitent les

visionnaires seraient fort etonnes de voir quel peu de cas

en elles-memes." And
sanctum nee ostendunt
vidit

Angelum."

St.
:

Bonaventura says of

alioquin

spiritual

Balaam sanctus

ils

visions,
esset,

i.

p. 53.

mystiques de

font des visions

"Nee
et

faciunt

asiua, qua;

CHARACTERISTICS OF MYSTICISM

17

guides of the Middle Ages were well aware that such

experiences

come

often

weakened digestion

Richard of

sometimes delusions of Satan.

As

"

says,

and

nerves

disordered

of

they believed also that they are

Christ attested

Victor

St.

His transfiguration by the

presence of Moses and Elias, so visions should not be


believed unless they have the authority of Scripture."

Magnus

Albertus

attaches

little

element are always

a sensuous

Eckhart

dangerous.

is still

value

and says that

to classify them,

tries

those which contain

more

them.

to

cautious,

and Tauler
Spanish

the

Avila,

mystic, says that only those visions which minister to

our spiritual necessities, and


Self-induced

genuine.

and do

us more humble, are

falls

my

within

mine what these visions

with pride,

us

inflate

irreparable injury to health of

hardly

It

make

visions

mind and body.^

task to attempt to deter-

The

really are.

subject

one upon which psychological and medical science

some day throw more

light.

make my own

say, to

But

this

position clear

much
I

is

may
must

regard these

experiences as neither more nor less "supernatural"

than other mental phenomena.


tainly pathological

Many of them
may feel

about others we

are cer-

doubts;

is much to the same


" Les philosophes mesmes ont
recogneu certaines especes d'extascs naturelles faictes par la vehemente
Une marque
application de I'esprit a la consideration des choses relevees.
de la bonne et saincte extase est qu'elle ne se prend ny attache jamais
^

The

effect

following passage from St. Francis de Sales

as those referred to in the text:

tant a I'entendement qu'a la volonte, laquelle elle esmeut, eschauffe, et

remplit d'une puissante affection envers Dieu

que bonne, plus lumineuse


digne de soupfon."

est plus belle

douteuse et
-

Some

of

my

readers

may

de maniere que

qu'affective, elle est

si

I'extase

grandement

find satisfaction in the following passage of

Jeremy Taylor: "Indeed, when persons have long been softened with
the continual droppings of religion, and their spirits made timorous and
2

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

r.8

but some have every right to be considered as real


irradiations

" for

from the light that

of the soul

ever

harmony that " is in immortal


of this, we may appeal to three

shines," real notes of the

In illustration

souls."

places in the Bible where revelations of the profoundest

and counsels of God are

truths concerning the nature

recorded to have been

Moses

made during

Mount Horeb

at

ecstatic visions.

heard, during the vision of

the burning bush, a proclamation of

am
in

the

"

the Eternal
"

the words

who

is

God

the

as

exalted above time.

Holy, Holy,

Isaiah,

Holy," perceived

mystery of the Trinity.

And

vision of the sheet, learned that

God

dimly

Peter, in

St.

" I

the

no respecter of

is

In such cases the highest

persons or of nationalities.

which the soul can

in its best

moments just receive, but cannot yet grasp


make a language for themselves, as it

or account

intuitions or revelations,

for,

claim

mind
less

sanction

the
is

of

external

elevated so far as to feel the authority not

Divine, but no longer

fairly

were, and

authority, until the

We may

external.

close analogies in other forms of

madness," which Plato says


chiefest blessings granted to

" the

is

men

"

that "

source

such

find

Divine
of

the

as the rapture

apt for impression by the assiduity of prayer, and the continual dyings of
the fancy, which is a very great instrument of devotion, is
mortification

kept continually warm, and in a disposition and aptitude to take fire, and
and when they suffer transportations beyond
to flame out in great ascents
;

the burdens and support of reason, they suffer they know not what, and
Henry More, too, says that those who would
call it what they please."

"make

their

find only

whole nature desolate of all animal figurations whatever,"


waste, silent solitude, and one uniform parchedness and

"a
And

man fancies himself thus wholly Divine, he is


even then held down by his animal nature and that
it is nothing but the stillness and fixedness of melancholy that thus abuses
him, instead of the true Divine principle."
vacuity.

not aware

yet, while a

how he

is

CHARACTERISTICS OF MYSTICISM
of the poet, or (as Plato adds) of

man

even the philosopher or

some such

19

And

the lover.^

of science

may

be sur-

by a sudden realisation of
the sublimity of his subject.
So at least Lacordaire
"
All at once, as if by chance,
believed when he wrote,
prised into

the

and a cold sword

Even
when

sublime

the

is

breath

stands up, the

hair

contracts,
It

state

skin

the

caught,

pierces to the very soul.

which

where there

in cases

is

manifested

has

itself!"^

evident hallucination,

is

e.g:

the visionary sees an angel or devil sitting on

his book, or feels

an arrow thrust into his heart, there

need be no insanity.
such

believed that

In periods

when

it is

may and do

things

commonly

happen, the

imagination, instead of being corrected by experience,


is

misled by

it.

miracles will

Those who honestly expect


them, without

generally see

to see

detriment

either to their truthfulness or sanity in other matters.

The

mystic, then,

is

such, a visionary

not, as

has he any interest in appealing to a


reason,"

if

reason

logic of the

is

used

natural

"

nor

above

The

desire

to

find

an authority wholly external

and independent of

revelation,

proper sense, as the

its

whole personality.

for our highest intuitions

to reason

in

faculty "

has, as

it,

a " purely super-

Recejac says,

"

been the

cause of the longest and the most dangerous of the


aberrations from which Mysticism has suffered."

kind of supernaturalism
ideas of God, the world,
slur

on the

faculties

is

This

destructive of unity in our

and ourselves

and

it

casts a

which are the appointed organs

of communication between

God and man.


Ion, 534.

Plato, Plucdrus, 244, 245

Lacordaire, Conferences, xxxvii.

revela-

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

20

absolutely transcending

tion

no

such

reason

The supremacy

throne of the Godhead."


the favourite theme of

the

is

the

of the reason

Cambridge

the

In

human mind

striking phrase of Macarius, " the

is

an absurdity

made.

be

could ever

revelation

is

Platonists,

two of whom, Whichcote and Culverwel, are never


" Sir,

candle of the Lord."

Whichcote

spiritual," writes

most

is

"

of quoting the text,

tired

And

rational."

governor of man's

What we

life

to

is

Reason

the

the Divine

is

the very voice of God."

that shallow rationalism which

we would make

if

Divine knowledge,

in

is

" for spiritual

Tuckney,

can and must transcend,

any progress

man

of

spirit

oppose not rational to

again, "
it

The

not reason, but

is

regards the data on

which we can reason as a fixed quantity, known to


all,

and which bases

itself

on a formal

logic, utterly

Language can
misleading, and wholly

unsuited to a spiritual view of things.

only furnish

with

us

poor,

inadequate images of spiritual facts

it

supplies us

with abstractions and metaphors, which do not really


represent what

human

we know

personality.

inadequacy by a
live,

yet not

am

'

I "

series

Compare,

or believe

Paul

am

God and

about
attention

calls

to

this

of formal contradictions

dying, and behold

"

weak, then

of the group

St.

strong,"

we

live "

and so forth

"
;

"lie

reason in things that

when

and we

words of Henry More, the most mystical


and lays aside clear and cautious
under the discussion of reason, upon the pretence

that misbelieves
fall

some higher

principle (which, a thousand to one, proves

but the infatuation of melancholy, and a superstitious hallucination),


object

till

if

he would not use his natural eyes about

the presence of

pair of spectacles
to

hang upon

too, the vigorous


:

of hankering after
ridiculous as

"

made

some supernatural

light, or

till

their

is

as

proper

he had got a

of the crystalline heaven, or of the ca:luni evipyreuvi,

his nose for

him

to look through."

CHARACTERISTICS OF MYSTICISM
find exactly

same expedient

the

Plotinus,

in

very fond of thus showing his contempt


of
"

When,

identity.

Mysticism

is

it

rationalism."

that

"

reason applied to a sphere above

For Reason

still "

is

king."

spirit "

or inspiration

Religion must not be

command to " try


condemns all attempts to make emotion
independent of reason.
Those who thus

a matter oi feeling only.

St.

John's

blindly follow the inner light find

the Lord," but an ignis fatuus

The

are well aware of this.

no

it

"

candle

of

and the great mystics

fact is that the

tendency

separate and half personify the different faculties

to

says

nothing else than rationalism applied

is

say that

every

is

above reason," he would have done better

to a sphere

to

who

for the logic

Harnack

therefore,

21

intellect,

will,

feeling

is

Our

a mischievous one.

object should be so to tmify our personality, that our

may

eye

We

be single, and our whole body

have considered

full

of light.

briefly the three stages of the

upward path.
The scheme of life therein
forth was no doubt determined empirically, and

mystic's
set

there

nothing to prevent

is

unlettered

saint

Many

principles.

the

of the

There

reason."

is,

entire

most

had no

they accepted on

body of Church

dogma,

of course, a sense in which any strong feehng Hfts us


this is using "reason " in a loose manner.

and

'
'

above

But

6 vo\J% jSaertXei/s, says Plotinus.

Roman

Catholic writers can assert that "la plupart des contemplatifs

etaient depourvus de toute culture litteraire."

templation"
subject

and

medieval mystics

taste for speculation or philosophy

authority the

simplest

from framing his conduct on these

more

is

But

their notion of

the passive reception of "supernatural favours,"

will

be said in Lectures IV. and VII.

"con-

on which

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

22

devoted their whole attention to the perfecting of the


spiritual
this

the knowledge and love of God.

in

life

cannot be said of the leaders.

appears

an intellectual movement,

in history largely as

the foster-child of Platonic idealism


time,

forgot

it

to bring

" its old loving

back to

it

philosophy."

It

and

my

be

will

ever, for a

if

men were soon found

early history,

its

nurse the Platonic

task, in

fourth Lectures of this course, to

the

show how

and

third

speculative

Christian Mysticism grew out of Neoplatonism


shall not

But

Christian Mysticism

we

but

be allowed to forget the Platonists even


"

the later Lectures.

The

fire

still

in

burns on the altars

of Plotinus," as Eunapius said.

Mysticism
is

it

itself

been called

not

is

itself

a religion.
"

a philosophyf-any

On

intellectual side

its

formless speculation."

tions or intuitions

more than

But

has

it

until specula-

have entered into the forms of our

thought, they are not current coin even for the thinker.

The

by Mysticism in philosophy
the part played by it in religion.
As in

to

part played

appears

in

revolt

against

dry formalism

rationalism, so in philosophy

materialism

and

it

scepticism.-

takes the
It

is

parallel

religion

and

field

against

thus possible

is

it

cold

to

speak of speculative Mysticism, and even to indicate


certain idealistic lines of thought, which
entire falsity be called

In this introductory Lecture


at these

And
^

p.

it

in

the

ist

without

can, of course, only hint

barest and most

must be remembered that

"Die Mystik

may

the philosophy of Mysticism.

summary manner.
I

have undertaken

formlose Speculation," Noack, Christliche Mystik,

8.

The

Atomists, from Epicurus downwards, have been especially odious

to the mystics.

CHARACTERISTICS OF MYSTICISM
to-day

general

the

delineate

to

am

trying,

moreover, in this Lecture to confine myself to

excluding
shall

is

in

numerous

the

encounter

The

aberrant

in the course of

by the thought and

created

mind.

and

types

It

is

those

genuine,

which we

our survey.

according to thinkers of

real world,

His

consider normal

of

characteristics

Mysticism, not of Christian Mysticism.

developments which

23

will of

therefore

this school,

God, and exists

spiritual,

and above

space and time, which are only the forms under which
reality

set out as a process.

is

When we

try to represent to our

distinguished from the

spiritual world, as

reality, the

world of appearance,

we

minds the highest

are obliged to form images

and we can hardly avoid choosing one of the following

We may

three images.

regard the spiritual world as

endless duration opposed to transitoriness, as infinite

extension opposed to limitation in space, or as sub-

opposed

stance

shadow.

to

All

these are, strictly

speaking, symbols or metaphors,^ for

any of them

as

nature of reality

we can

literally
;

true

we cannot regard

statements about the

but they are as near the truth as

get in words.

But when we think of time as

a piece cut off from the beginning of eternity, so that


eternity

is

only

in

the future and not in the present

when we think of heaven


^

The

culties.

theory that time


It

is

the

root

is

real,

of the

optimism, which forgets, in the


progress in time

is

destiny of the world

as

a place somewhere

but not space, leads us into grave


least
first

satisfactory

place, that the idea of perpetual

we know

of the

and, in the second place, that a mere progressus

Every created thing has its fixed goal


the idea which was immanent in it from the first.
meaningless.

diffi-

kind of evolutionary

hopelessly at variance with what


;

else,

is

in the realisation of

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

24

and therefore not here


ideal world

that

when we think of an upper

which has sucked

we now walk

paying the penalty

the

all

life

a vain shadow,

in

for

out of

then

this,

we

so
are

our symbolical representative

methods of thought, and must go to philosophy to help


us out of the doubts and difficulties in which our error

has involved

One

us.

test

Whatever

infallible.

is

view of reality deepens our sense of the tremendous


issues of

life

world wherein we move,

in the

is

for us

nearer the truth than any view which diminishes that

The

sense.
life,

and have

The world
we see it.

as

truth

is

it

Our

The more we can


more

will

is,

is

the world as

vision

is

by

sin

raise ourselves in

sees

it,

not

much by

and ignorance.

the scale of being,

God and the world


Such as men themselves

our ideas about


reality.

"

God Himself seem

such will

God

distorted, not so

finitude, as

correspond to the
are,

we may have

more abundantly.

it

as

the limitations of

the

revealed to us that

John Smith, the English

to

Platonist.

them

to be," says

Origen, too, says

whom Judas led to seize Jesus did not


know who He was, for the darkness of their own souls
was projected on His features.^ And Dante, in a very

that

those

beautiful passage, says that he felt that he


into a

higher

becoming more

circle,

Origen

in

because he saw Beatrice's face

reality,

as a vista

Matth., Com. Series, lOO

which

Contra Celsum,

ii.

to by Bigg, Christian Flatonists of Alexandria, p. 191.


-

Paradiso

viii.

rising

beautiful.^

This view of
^

was

13

" lo non m'accorsi del salire in ella


Ma d'esserv' entro mi fece assai fede
La donna mia ch'io vidi far piu bella."

is

opened

64.

Referred

CHARACTERISTICS OF MYSTICISM

25

gradually to the eyes of the climber up the holy mount,

very near to the heart of Mysticism.

is

It

real.

on

rests

It

the faith that the ideal not only ought to be, but

the

is

has been applied by some, notably by that

earnest but fantastic thinker,

James Hinton,

a solution of the problem of

evil.

attempts to deal with

We

as offering

shall

encounter

this great difficulty in several of

The problem among

the Christian mystics.

the specu-

was how to reconcile the Absolute of


who is above all distinctions,^ with the God
who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity.

lative writers

philosophy,

of religion,

They

could not allow that evil has a substantial exist-

ence apart from God, for fear of being entangled

But

insoluble Dualism.

how can God be good


"

There

falls

was

view

vailing

is

if evil

We

"

that

nothing," says

is

in

an

derived from God,

shall find that the pre-

has

Evil

no

substance."

Gregory of Nyssa,

"

which

outside of the Divine nature, except moral evil

And

alone.

being

this,

we may say

Divine nature,

in other

The

nature of the good."

the

is

words,

its

evil is

That which, properly

simply the privation of being.^


speaking, exists,

paradoxically, has

For the genesis of moral

in not-being.

is

that which excludes

nothing, and contradicts nothing, except those attri-

butes which are contrary to the nature of reality

it is

that which harmonises everything except discord, which


loves

except

everything

except
ugliness.

falsehood,

Thus

and

that

hatred,
beautifies

which

falls

verifies

everything

everything

except

outside the notion

" Deo nihil opponitur," says Erigena.


Compare Bradley, Appearance and Reality, where it is shown
essential attributes of Reality are harmony and inchisiveness.
^

that tlie

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

26

God, proves

of

unreal, but

unreality

Absolute

evil to the

our

examination

on

as

merely

not

But the relation of

such.

To

not a religious problem.

is

experience, evil

be

to

as

exists

positive

not

force

subject to the law of God, though constantly overruled

On

and made an instrument of good.

we

this subject

must say more later. Here I need only add that a


sunny confidence in the ultimate triumph of good
from

shines

especially,

the

writings

think,

Cambridge Platonists are


but

beautiful

little

Norwich, we find
"

All shall be well"

be

and

well,

all

Sin

manner

Since the universe

mystics,

optimistic

The

and

the

in

Revelations of Juliana

page
"

of the

own countrymen.

all

known
in

most

of

our

in

page the

after

behovable,^ but

is

of

refrain

of

all shall

of thing shall be well."

is

God

the thought and will of

expressed under the forms of time and space, everything in

reflects the

it

The

purest mirror in the world

of created things

And
falls

this

the

human

is

the highest

soul unclouded

divides

higher stages of the spiritual


of the nature of
of

God by

the

visible

by

sin.

Mysticism

classes.

question which

observation

Every

brings us to a point at which

asunder into two

The

Creator, though in

theophany or appearance of

invisible creature is a

God."

its

finely, "

Erigena says

different degrees.

and

nature of

world

them

life,

close,

is

shall

this

we

In

learn

the

most

sympathetic, reverent

around

us,

including

our

fellow-men, or by sinking into the depths of our inner


consciousness, and aspiring after direct and

communion with God


^

I.e.

constant

Each method may claim the

"necessary" or "expedient."

CHARACTERISTICS OF MYSTICISM
The

support of weighty names.

my

form the subject of

former, which will

seventh and eighth Lectures,

very happily described by Charles Kingsley in an

is

early

letter.^

belief

which

that

all

"
is

The

great Mysticism," he says, "

symmetrical natural objects

spiritual

seems

to be full of God's reflex

Oh, to

truth

see, if

or

but for

of the great system

me,

feel

seems

On

the

feel that

existence.

are types of

Everything

we could but see it.


a moment, the whole harmony
if

to hear once the

whole universe makes as

When

is

becoming every day stronger with me,

some

27

music which the

performs

it

His

sense of the mystery that

bidding

around

is

a gush of enthusiasm towards God, which

inseparable effect."

its

the other side stand the majority of the earlier

Believing that

mystics.

God

" closer

is

us than

to

breathing, and nearer than hands and feet," they are

impatient of any intermediaries.

His footprints

for

face in ourselves,^

in
is

Nature,
their

"

We

answer to

fine expression that all things

need not search

when we can behold His


St.

Augustine's

bright and beautiful in

the world are " footprints of the uncreated Wisdom."

Coleridge has expressed their feeling in his "


"

It

were a vain endeavour.

Though

should gaze for ever

On that green light that Hngers in the West


I may not hope from outward forms to win
"

to

"

Dejection

The

Ode

passion and the Hfe whose fountains are within."

Grace works from within outwards," says Ruysbroek,


^

Life, vol.

i.

p. 55.

v.
So Bernard says {De Consid.
" quid opus est scalis tenenti iam solium ?"
* Aug. De Libera Arbitrio, ii. 16,
17.
^

J.

Smith, Select Discourses,

v.

l),

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

28

God

for
it

own

nearer to us than our

is

faculties.

Hence

cannot come from images and sensible forms."

"If

thou wishest to search out the deep things of God,"


"

says Richard of St. Victor,

own spirit."
The truth is

search out the depths of

thine

and

systole

life,

The tendency has

and a concentration.
to

an expansion

two movements,

there are

that

diastole of the spiritual

generally been

emphasise one at the expense of the other; but they

must work together,

As Shakespeare

other.

"

each

for

says

Nor doth

That most pure


Not going from

helpless without the

is

the eye

itself,

behold itself.
itself, but eye to eye opposed,
Salutes each other with each other's form
spirit of sense,

For speculation turns not


Till it hath travelled, and

Where

Nature

it

may

see

to itself

mirrored there.

is

itself."

dumb, and our own hearts

is

are

will

until

speak to us of God.

Speculative

Mysticism

has occupied

the

of

human

with these two great subjects


in

dumb,

Then both

they are allowed to speak to each other.

nature,

Divine.

and the

relation

few words must be

itself

immanence

largely

of

God

personality to

said, before

conclude,

on both these matters.

The Unity
of Mysticism.
centre

is

of

existence

all

God

is

in all,

a fundamental doctrine
all is in

God.

"

His

everywhere, and His circumference nowhere,"

as St. Bonaventura puts

Mysticism
^

is

Troilus

It

it.

this doctrine leads direct to

lative

is

and

is

often arguerd that

Pantheism, and that specu-

always and necessarily pantheistic.


and

Cressida^

Act ni. Scene

3.

CHARACTERISTICS OF MYSTICISM
This

is,

It

in

is

29

of course, a question of primary importance.


the hope of dealing with

adequately that

it

have selected three writers who have been frequently


called pantheists, for discussion in these Lectures.

mean Dionysius

would be impossible even

Eckhart.

But

my

argument

line of

the Areopagite, Scotus Erigena, and

it

in

the few minutes

to indicate

me

left

this

morning.

The mystics

much

are

adopt,

to

inclined

of an

anima

modified form, the old

notion

When

well assured that the

Erigena says,

"

Be

the second Person of the Trinity


things," he

means

Logos

that the

is

is

in

inundi.

Word

the Nature of

all

a cosmic principle,

the Personality of which the universe

is

the external

expression or appearance.^

We
lations,

are not

now concerned

but

bearing

personality

the

is

obvious.

as an all-embracing

with cosmological specu-

of this

If the

on

theory

Son of God

is

and all-pervading cosmic

human

regarded
principle,

the " mystic union " of the believer with Christ becomes

something much closer than an ethical harmony of

two

mutually

exclusive

wills.

The question which

^ This idea of the world


and
as a living being is found in Plotinus
Origen definitely teaches that "as our body, while consisting of many
members, is yet an organism which is held together by one soul, so the
universe is to be thought of as an immense living being which is upheld by
the power and the Word of God."
He also holds that the sun and stars
:

are spiritual beings.

St.

Augustine, too [De Civitate Dei,

regards the universe as a living organism

iv.

12, vii. 5),

and the doctrine reappears much

Giordano Bruno. According to this theory, we are subsidiary


members, of an all-embracing organism, and there may be intermediate
Among
will-centres between our own and that of the universal Ego.
modern systems, that of Fechner is the one which seems to be most in

later in

accordance with these speculations.

number
circle

of concentric

He

views

circles of consciousness,

which represents the consciousness of God.

life

under the figure of a

within an all-embracing

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

30

exercises the mystics

not whether such a thing as

is

fusion of personalities

is

the soul has attained union with


longer conscious of a

We

Word.

human

any

is

it

from that of the

some of the

They

this point.

Divine for

tion of the

that

find

shall

went astray on

Lord,

its

distinct

life

when

but whether,

possible,

best mystics

teach a real substitu-

nature, thus depersonalising

man, and running into great danger of a perilous


The mistake is a fatal one even from the

arrogance.

speculative side, for

of

ality

God

Personality

which creates

But

it

is

is

garding the

not only the strictest

is

we have any experience

unity of which

philosophy

conceive of the perfect person-

and without personality the universe

to pieces.

falls

postulate

the

human

able,

all

monad, independent

mark of

distinction,

according

as

unity on which

of

as

spirit

the

is

separation, not

to

the

consciousness

regarding

the fact

possible to save personality without re-

not separation,

personality.

is

it

based.

and sharply separated from other

error,

human

only on the analogy of

it is

we can

personality that

The depths

Heraclitus

Distinction,

spirits.

personality

that

but

psychology,
the

of self as

it

is

The

union.

forbids

mystic's

is

in

measure of

of personality are unfathom-

already

knew

the

light

of

consciousness only plays on the surface of the waters.

Jean Paul Richter


istic

doctrine

is

when he

a true exponent of this charactersays, "

We

attribute far too small

dimensions to the rich empire of ourself, if we omit


from it the unconscious region which resembles a
^

V'X'?^ Treipara ovk


^xf'i ^''^^- 7^-

\6yov

h.v

e^evpoio Tracrav iirnropevdfj.ei'Oi

odoV ovtu ^adiiv

CHARACTERISTICS OF MYSTICISM

31

great dark continent.

The world which our memory

peoples only reveals, in

its

points at a time, while

remains

shade.

in

immense and teeming mass

its

We

revolution, a few luminous

daily see the

into unconsciousness

passing

conscious

and take no notice of

the bass accompaniment which our fingers continue to


play, while our attention
effects."

So

far

is

directed to fresh musical

from being true that the

is it

our immediate consciousness

we can only

that

by passing beyond the

mark us

off as

separate individuals.

viduality,

we may

say,

Separate indi-

the bar which prevents us

is

the mystic interprets very literally that

many have found

secret of Christianity

his soul, his personality

must

life

die

for

My

And

infinite

expansion

tute,

affinities

our true

shall lose

life

limit to

of realising
affinities

and

as persons.
Compare,

J. P. Richter, 6'^/ma.

in particular phases

it

it

it."

to such a

of our

fundamental
life

and he that

The

It is a

it.

with the not-ourselves,


in

conditioning consti-

The paradox

is

offensive

too, Lotze, Microcosnius

"Within

imperfectly apprehend, and whose working,


comes under our notice, surprises us with foreitself the

to

condi-

complete per-

or rather, since personality belongs unconditionally only to

attainment of

is

process of

we

measure of personality as

else than the

will

false self

new correspondences,

shadowings of unknown depths in our being."


^ As Lotze says, "The finite being does not contain in
tions of its own existence."
It must struggle to attain
sonality

so

die daily," for the process

condition,

us lurks a world whose form

when

"

no

is

new sympathies and


which

maxim

the

that will save his

sake shall find

nay, must

gradual, and there

He

"

which

limits

from realising our true privileges as persons.^

lose his

and

attain personality, as spiritual

rational beings,

Lord, in which

self of

our true personality,

is

full

is

allotted to us.

Eternal

life is

personality, a conscious existence in

God,

nothing

God.

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

32

only to formal
one,

As

logic.

a matter of experience, no

imagine, would maintain that the

man who

has

practically realised, to the fullest possible extent, the

common

which he draws from

life

shares with

mean, as

other created beings,

all

his

Creator, and

so realised

it,

draw from that consciousness all the


upon him from outside,

to

influences which can play

has thereby dissipated and lost his personality, and

become

less of a

wall round

the

life

of a

We may
that

person than another


individuality,

his

and

who has

built a

lived, as Plato says,

shell-fish.-^

same conclusion by analysing


unconditioned sense of duty which we call con-

science.

arrive at the

This

implanted

in

moral

sense cannot

be a fixed

our consciousness, for then

we

code

could not

explain either the variations of moral opinion, or the


feeling of obligation (as distinguished from necessity)

which impels us to obey

it.

It

cannot be the product

of the existing moral code of society, for then

we

could

not explain either the genesis of that public opinion or


^
Mystery of Matter, p. 356) puts the matter well
J. A. I'icton ( The
Mysticism consists in the spiritual realisation of a grander and a boundless
It
unity, that humbles all self-assertion by dissolving it in a wider glory.
does not follow that the sense of individuality is necessarily weakened.
'

'

But habitual contemplation of the Divine unity impresses men with the
Hence the paradox of
individuality is phenomenal only.
Mysticism.
For apart from this phenomenal individuality, we should not
know our own nothingness, and personal life is good only through the

feeling that

bliss of

being

lost in

God.
which

[Rather,

should say, through the bliss of

True religious
worship doth not consist in the acknowledgment of a greatness which is
estimated by comparison, but rather in the sense of a Being who surpasses
all comparison, because He gives to phenomenal existences the only reality
finding our true

life,

is

hid with Christ in God,]

Hence the deepest religious feeling necessarily shrinks


they can know.
from thinking of God as a kind of gigantic Self amidst a host of minor
The very thought of such a thing is a mockery of the profoundest
selves.
devotion."

CHARACTERISTICS OF MYSTICISM
the persistent revolt against
find

The only hypothesis


we feel

minds.

greatest

the

in

which explains the

facts

which we

limitations

its

33

that in conscience

is

the motions of the universal Reason which strives to

human organism

convert the

a belief which

saying that

and

is

it

expressed

into an organ of

God who worketh

in

itself,

language by

religious

in

us both to will

do of His good pleasure.

to

If

is

Which

be further asked,

it

shifting

moi

(as

F^nelon

end or the developing

calls

states

our personality, the

is

or the ideal

it),

we must answer

self,

that

the
it is

both and neither, and that the root of mystical religion


is in

the conviction that

The moi
counted

thereby

and

at once both

no process can reach

infinite one,
"

it is

neither.^

end being an
Those who have

strives to realise its end, but the

themselves

left

it.

apprehended

have

to

the mystical faith

the notion of a progressus

ad

have

"

and those who from

infinitum

come

to the

pessimistic conclusion, are equally false to the mystical

which teaches us that we are already potenti-

creed,
ally

what God intends us

to become.

The command,

Be ye perfect," is, like all Divine commands, at the


same time a promise.
It is stating the same paradox in another form to
say that we can only achieve inner unity by transcend-

"

The independent, impervious

ing mere individuality.


self
It is

shows

its

unreality

by being inwardly discordant.

of no use to enlarge the circumference of our

if

the fixed centre

may

the

press

centres, in

always the

which we are
^

is

metaphor, other

See, further,

ego.

There

circles

vitally involved.

Appendix C, pp. 366-7.

life,

are, if

with

And

other

thus

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

34

sympathy, or
power,

The
onel'

as

sympathy

is

Pythagorean maxim, that


echoed by

is

God

in

highest

its

the great atoner^ within as well as without.

is

old
^

which

love,

and the world

one,

is

microcosm, a

the mystics.

all

mirror

living

is

of

man must be
He must be one
one for man is a
" a

the

Here,

universe.

once more, we have a characteristic mystical doctrine,

which

perhaps worked out most fully

is

in the

*'

Fo7is

Vitce" of Avicebron (Ibn Gebirol), a work which had

great

influence

say that

about the world

conclusions

all

which are not based

on

idea of

man

false or

meaning that one


intelligible,

every

side of his soul

that

is

Him

many

the

is

of God.

is

double,"

with the

Divine

the doctrine of

divides

potentially in possession of

Proclus tries

the parts

sorts of

Wholes

all

how

to explain

the

the second, composed

third, knitting into

Enn.

KciWos brav
^f Kal

is

Im-

Himself

the fulness

this

first,

can be.

anterior to

of the parts

the

one stuff the parts and the whole."^

Va yeviijBai rbv SLvQputrov Set: Pythagoras quoted by Clement.

Plotinus,

He

individuals, but that they partake of

There are three

man

in

according to their degrees of receptivity, so that

each one
"

own

of our

in contact

manence does not mean that God

among

us

meaningless.

the other with the sensible world.

explain

to

dare to

above

microcosm was developed

Plotinus said that "

two ways.

careful

as a

analogy

the

mental experiences, are either

The

doctrine

One might almost

of great importance.

is

The

Middle Ages.

the

in

the use of analogy in matters of religion, and

justifies

eh

t]

p.lat>

Proclus,

vi.

tov

9.

i,

fvi)s to. fxbpia

bfioXoyiav

]>i

koL iiyUia 8i, Sraf

iviofffj.

Titn. 83. 265.

KardaxV

4"^<^^^,

eh

Cf.

iv crvvTaxdrj t6 aw/xa, Kal

'*'"'

aperrj St

'/'I'XV*

^Tav

fi'y

CHARACTERISTICS OF MYSTICISM

35

In this third sense the whole resides in the parts, as


well as the parts in the whole.

same doctrine

the

seen at once

how

not

be

will

encourages that class of

" sink

into the depths of our

own souls " in order to find God.


The other development of the
is

It

this doctrine

Mysticism which bids us

microcosm

Augustine states

St.

language.^

clearer

in

less

theory that

man

important and interesting.

is

It is

a favourite doctrine of the mystics that man, in his


individual
race, in

recapitulates the spiritual history of the

life,

much

same way

the

process

of physical

evolution.

It

have

We

its

analogue

that

history,

the

must

experience of the individual.

in the

that this doctrine of the birth of an

find

shall

follows

human

Incarnation, the central fact of

infant Christ in the soul


in

which embryologists

in

us that the unborn infant recapitulates the whole

tell

is

one of immense importance

the systems of Eckhart, Tauler, and our Cambridge

Platonists.
shall see

but

somewhat

It is

one which,

it is

we

perilous doctrine, as

venture to think, has a

modern
analogies on

future as well as a past, for the progress of

science

has

which

rests.

it

strengthened

greatly

shall

strongly St. Paul

show

felt its

main

religion.

'Aug. Ep.

187.

" Deus

19:

totus

is

adesse

Jlin.

hoc

nienl.

alii

aniplius,

ad Deum,

alii
:

est sphaera intelligibilis,

nusquam,"

minus."

" Totum

More

intra

and

some

as repulsive to

rebus omnibus potest,

singulis totus, quamvis in quibus habitat habeant


diversitate,

theology

mystical

a type which

is

how

hope, have indicated

will, 1

of

characteristics
It

next Lecture

value.

This brief introduction


the

the

my

in

eum pro

et

suae capacitatis

still, Bonaventura,
totum extra ac per

clearly

omnia,

et

cuius centrum est ubique, et circumferentia

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

36
minds as

Coleridge has said

attractive to others.

is

it

that everyone

is

born a Platonist or an Aristotelian,

and one might perhaps adapt the epigram by saying


everyone

that

is

The

legalist.

naturally

does,

classification

correspond to a deep difference


it is

doubtful whether a

whom

let

one could
us say

much

or

seem

indeed,

human

in

to

characters

could be found anywhere

between

trust to hold the scales evenly

Fdnelon and

same

the

man

mystic

either

The cleavage

Bossuet.

is

as that which causes the eternal strife

between tradition and illumination, between priest and


prophet, which has produced the deepest tragedies in

human

and

history,

world

while the
of

ception

God

will

as

probably continue to do so

The

lasts.

the

legalist

righteous

rewards and punishments, the

"

"

the

new

law,"

con-

his

Judge dispensing

Great Taskmaster

whose vineyard we are ordered


Gospel as

with

to

labour

" in

of the

and of the sanction of duty

as a " categorical imperative "

will

never find

it

easy to

sympathise with those whose favourite words are


John's triad

light, life,

and

love,

and who

find

the most suitable names to express what they


the nature of God.

Gospel

is

But those to

whom

know

who can

enter into the real spirit of St. Paul's teaching,

some

development of ideas which


certainly built

interest in

in their

of

the Fourth

the brightest jewel in the Bible, and

hope, be able to take

St.

these

will,

the historical

Christian form are

upon those parts of the

New

Testament.

LECTURE

37

II

"To
Oib^

ev ^Tjv ioiSa^ev eTnipavds ws 5i5dffKa\os, iVa to del

"But

He

souls that of Ilis

loves as His

They

When
They

varepov ws

i'fjv

Clement ok Alexandria.

xopvywv-"

are to

own

Him

own good

He'll never

they shall die, then


live,

life

partake

dear as His eye

self:

them forsake

God Himself

shall die

they live in blest eternity."

Henry More.
" Amor Patris Filiique,
Par amborum, et utrique

Compar
Cuncta
Astra

et consimilis

reples, cuncta foves,

regis,

coelum moves,

Permanens immobilis

Te docente nil obscurum,


Te pr^esente nil impurum
Sub tua praesentia
Gloriatur mens iucunda
Per te Iceta, per te munda
;

Gaudet

conscientia.

Consolator et fundator,

Habitator et amator

Cordium humilium

Pelle mala, terge sordes,

Et discordes fac Concordes,


Et affer presidium."

Adam of

S8

St.

Victor

LECTURE

II

The Mystical Element


" That

may

Christ

dwell in your hearts by faith

being rooted and grounded in love,


the saints what

know
with

may be

task which

tried

God." Eph.

now

iii.

may be

Hes before

me

my

last

how

to consider

outline,

in

and sanctioned by Holy

devote most of

my

time to the

was

is

re-

Scripture.

New

Testament,

help us in the Old.


spite of

its

deeply

the

first

the religion of Israel, passing from what

has

Ireligious

bent,

to true

prophecy, which
period
is

the worship

In

national

of a

Monotheism, always maintained a

notion of individuality, both

Balaam

Mysticism.

alien to

Henotheism

been called

early

is

Lecture to depict

we shall not find very much to


The Jewish mind and character, in

filled

17-19.

for

place,

all

type of rehgion and rehgious philosophy, which


in

presented in
shall

end that ye,

to the

the breadth and length and height and depth, and to

the fulness of

far that

God

strong to apprehend with

the love of Christ which passeth knowledge, that ye

all

The
I

is

the Bible

in

is

human and

mystical in

conceived

as

its

Divine.

essence,

was

unmystically as

merely a mouthpiece of

God

his

rigid

Even
in

the

possible.

message

is

external to his personality, which remains antagonistic


to

it.

And, secondly, the Jewish doctrine of

different

from the Platonic.

the world,

The Jew

and the whole course of

ideas

was

believed that

history, existed

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

40
from
the

mind of God, but

eternity in the

all

realised purpose,

was unfurled.

of events

scroll

lacking

or

phases, after

in

reality.

had been

it

There was

Hellenised, Jewish

partially

idealism tended to crystallise as Chiliasm, or in "


calypses,"

and

no

way inferior to the


Even in its later

notion that the visible was in any


invisible,

as an un-

which was actualised by degrees as

Apo-

Platonism, in the dream of a

not, like

perfect world existing " yonder."

In

the Jewish

fact,

view of the external world was mainly that of naive


realism, but strongly pervaded

King and Judge.


of the Divine

i7i

by

belief in

an Almighty

Moreover, the Jew had


nature

it

little

sense

was the power of God over

nature which he was jealous to maintain.

The majesty

of the elemental forces was extolled in order to magnify


greater power of Him who made and could
unmake them, and whom the heaven of heavens cannot contain.
The weakness and insignificance of man,

the

as contrasted with the tremendous

power of God,

is

the reflection which the contemplation of nature gener-

produced

ally

in his

mind.

"

How

can a

man

be just

God
asks Job
which removeth the mountains,
and they know it not when He overturneth them in
His anger which shaketh the earth out of her place,
? "

with

"
;

and the

pillars

the sun, and

He

is

it

thereof tremble

riseth not,

not a man, as

which commandeth

and sealeth up the

am, that

stars.

should answer Him,

we should come together in judgment. There is


no daysman betwixt us, that might lay his hand upon
us both."
Nor does the answer that came to Job
"
out of the whirlwind give any hint of a " daysman

that

betwixt

man and God,

but only enlarges on the pre-

MYSTICAL ELEMENT

THE BIBLE

IN

41

sumption of man's wishing to understand the counsels


of the Almighty.

Absolute submission to a law which

entirely outside of us

is

sion,

is

the

final

and beyond our comprehen-

The

of the book.^

lesson

nation

On

exhibited the merits and defects of this type.

the

showed a deep sense of the supremacy of


the moral law, and of personal responsibility a stubborn independence and faith in its mission
and a
one hand,

it

strong national
viduality

spirit,

combined with vigorous

indi-

but with these virtues went a tendency to

externalise both religion and the ideal of well-being:

the former
the latter,
the

became a matter of forms and ceremonies


of worldly possessions.
It was only after
;

collapse of the national polity that these ideals

became transmuted and spiritualised. Those disasters,


which at first seemed to indicate a hopeless estrangement between God and His people, were the means of

We

a deeper reconciliation.

from the old proverb that


to

that

remarkable

can trace

" to see

passage in

God

the process,
death,"

is

down

Jeremiah where the

approaching advent, or rather restoration, of spiritual


religion, is

announced with

glorious a message.

Lord, that

will

**

make

all

the solemnity due to so

Behold, the days come, saith the


a

new covenant with

of Israel, and with the house of Judah.


days, saith the Lord,
parts,

and write

God, and they

it

in

shall

be

will

put

My

their hearts

My people.

law

and

And

the house

After those

in their
I

will

inward

be their

they shall teach

Book of Job, I rest nothing on any tlieory as


was written, it illustrates that view of the relation of man to God with which Mysticism can never be content.
But, of
course, the antagonism between our personal claims and the laws of the
universe must be done justice to before it can be surmounted.
^

In referring thus to the

to its date.

Whenever

it

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

42

no more every man


brother, saying.

Me, from the

his

Know

least of

saith the Lord."

neighbour, and every

the Lord

man his
know

all

them unto the greatest of them,


this knowledge of God, and the

That

assurance of blessedness which


of righteousness and purity,

is

brings,

it

is

the reward

the chief message of the

Who among
Who among

"

great prophets and psalmists.

dwell with the devouring fire?


everlasting burnings

dwell with

they shall

for

He

righteously, and speaketh uprightly

that

us shall
us shall

walketh

he that despiseth

the gain of oppressions, that shaketh his hands from

holding of bribes, that stoppeth his ears from hearing


of blood, and

shutteth his eyes from seeing

on high

shall dwell

munitions of rocks

Thine eyes

waters shall be sure.

beauty

King

shall see the

they shall behold the land that

be the

bread shall be given unto him

is

he

evil,

his place of defence shall

his

in

His

very far

off."

This passage of Isaiah bears a very close resemblance to the

many

15th and 24th Psalms; and there are

other psalms which have been dear to Christian


In

mystics.
"

derium

some of them we

find the " amoris desi-

the thirst of the soul for

God

characteristic note of mystical devotion

which

strife

of tongues, which drove so

Many

into the cloister.


in the

and there

desire beside Thee.

but

God

for ever."
^

is

My

men

saints

my

verses like, "

"Whom

my

and

heart,
will

fs

in

heart faileth

and

my

I
:

portion

hearken what the

^ Isa.

Jer. xxxi. 31-34.

have

none upon earth that

is

flesh

the strength of

And

all

many

a solitary ascetic has prayed

words of the 73rd Psalm:

heaven but Thee

the

in others, that

longing for a safe refuge from the provoking of

and the

is

xxxiii. 14-17.

MYSTICAL ELEMENT
Lord God

THE BIBLE

IN

43

say concerning me," have been only loo

will

Other familiar verses

attractive to quietists.

will

occur

most of us.
I will only add that the warm faith
and love which inspired these psalms is made more
to

by the reverence

precious

for

law which

is

part of the

older inheritance of the Israelites.

There are many,


element

in the

fear,

to

Old Testament"

whom

" the

mystical

suggest only the

will

Cabbalistic lore of types and allegories which has been

applied to

all

the canonical books, and with especial

persistency and boldness to the

my

shall give

Song

of Solomon.

opinion upon this class of allegorism in

the seventh Lecture of this course, which will deal with

symbolism as a branch of Mysticism.


impossible to treat of
discussion

of a

here without anticipating

it

principle

which

Song

of

Solomon,

Mysticism has been

romance

in

its

my

much wider
exegesis.
As to

has a

bearing than as a method of biblical


the

would be

It

upon Christian

influence

simply deplorable.

graceful

honour of true love was distorted into a

precedent and sanction for giving

way

to

hysterical

emotions, in which sexual imagery was freely used to

symbolise the relation between the soul and

its

Lord.

Such aberrations are as alien to sane Mysticism as


they are to sane exegesis.^
In Jewish writings of a later period,

Greek influence, we

find

pass into Mysticism.

does not

fall

composed under

plenty of Platonism ready to

But the Wisdom of Solomon

within our subject, and what

to be said about Philo

and Alexandria

is

will

necessary

be said in

the next Lecture.


'

See Appendix D, on the devotional use of the Song of Solomon.

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

44

New

In the

Testament,

be convenient to say

will

it

a very few words on the Synoptic Gospels

first,

and

afterwards to consider St. John and St. Paul, where

The

Gospels

three

first

religious

we

most of our material.

shall find

not

are

Mysticism.

of

dialect

written

It

the

in

more

the

all

is

important to notice that the fundamental doctrines on

which the system


are

found

all

who

those

for instance

The

are pure in heart.

of Christ, or of the
places

we may call it a system) rests,


The vision of God is promised

(if

them.

Sermon on the Mount, and promised only

the

in

in

Holy

Where two

"

Spirit,

to

indwelling presence
is

The kingdom

taught
of

several

in

God

is

within

you

"

My

name, there

am

with you alway, even to the end of the world."

"

am

or three are gathered together in


I

in

the midst of them

The unity of Christ and His members


words, " Inasmuch as ye have done
least of these

My

through

it

to

brethren, ye have done

corner-stone

"

St. John.

life

is

found

(or soul) shall lose

it

stand
if it
is

it,

calls

Lo,

one of the
unto Me."

it

which

the law of

many have

is

said,

the

of

the Synoptists as well as


shall seek

to gain his

but whosoever shall lose his

life
life

it."

of St. John

Clement already
Mysticism.

(and,
in

Whosoever

(or soul) shall preserve

The Gospel

through death,

mystical

of

Christian) ethics,
in

of

loss,

"

implied by the

is

Lastly, the great law of the moral world,


g^iin

"

it

is

the " spiritual Gospel," as


the charter of Christian

Indeed, Christian Mysticism, as

under-

might almost be called Johannine Christianity;

were not better to say that a Johannine Christianity

the

ideal

which the Christian

mystic sets before

MYSTICAL ELEMENT
For we cannot but

himself.

IN

THE BIBLE

feel that there are

truths in this wonderful Gospel than have yet

45

deeper

become

part of the religious consciousness of mankind.

Per-

haps, as Origen says, no one can fully understand

who has

not, like its author, lain

We

Jesus.

are on holy ground

upon the breast of

when we

must step

with St. John's Gospel, and

it

are dealing

fear and
But though the breadth and depth and

reverence.

in

height of those sublime discourses are for those only

who can mount up with wings


of the spiritual

summits

as eagles to the

so simple

life,

is

the language and so

scope, that even the wayfaring men, though

large

its

fools,

can hardly altogether err therein.

what we learn from


Gospel about the nature of God, and then its

Let us consider
this

briefly,

human

teaching upon

first,

salvation.

There are three notable expressions about God the


Father in the Gospel and First Epistle of St. John
"

God

Love

is

"

"

The form

Spirit."

God

is

Light

"
;

and

"

God

is

of the sentences teaches us that

these three qualities belong so intimately to the nature


of

God

We

that they usher us into His immediate presence.

need not try to get behind them, or to

them

into

for the

some more nebulous region

not,

is

in

in

"

that

Himself, and

And

observe that

St.

John

the slightest degree His personality.

Love, but

loved the world."

radiance

above

applying these semi-abstract words to

God, attenuate

God

rise

our search

Love, Light, and Spirit are for us

Absolute.

names of God Himself.


does

in

"

" for

send

He also exercises love. " God so


And He is not only the " white
ever shines " He can " draw " us to
;

"

His Son to bring us back to Him.

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

46

The word

"

The

discourses.
"

Word

"

"

or

does not occur

Reason

These

evangelist.

any of the

in

the
St.

is

the prologue are

in

own words

fall

with

Christ

philosophers

the

of

"

confirmed by our Lord's

by the

of

identification

But the statements

John's own.
all

"

Logos

as reported

under two heads, those

which deal with the relation of Christ to the Father,

and those which deal with His

relation to the world.

The pre-existence of Christ in glory at the right hand


of God is proved by several declarations " What if ye
:

Son of Man ascending where

shall see the

before

"

? "

Thine own

And

self,

now,

Father,

He
Me

glorify

with the glory which

was
with

had with Thee

before the world was."

His exaltation above time

shown by

statement,

was,
St.

solemn

the

am."

And

Before

with regard to the world,

is

Abraham
we find in

John the very important doctrine, which has never

made

its

way

into popular theology, that the

not merely the Instrument


"

"

by

Him

(or through)

all

central Life, the Being in

in

Word

is

the original creation,

things were made,"

whom

life

but the

existed and exists

as an indestructible attribute, an underived prerogative,^

the

Mind

Wisdom who upholds and

or

the universe without being lost in

which
stated

is

implied

in

explicitly

it.

other parts of St. John, seems to be

in

the prologue, though


"

have been otherwise interpreted.

come

into existence," says St. John,

(o ye'yovev, iv
is

avrw

animates

This doctrine,

^cor) rjv).

That

is

the words

That which has

"was

in

Him life"
Word

to say, the

the timeless Life, of which the temporal world

manifestation.
*

This doctrine was taught by

Leathes, T/ie Witness of St.

John

to

Christ, p. 244.

is

many

of

MYSTICAL ELEMENT

THE BIBLE

IN

47

the Greek Fathers, as well as by Scotus Erigena and

Even

other speculative mystics.

and

Antioch

transfer the

most of the

words

the world

world

Father

in

of the

as well as the light

life

Word

and by means of

it,

which God

the riches

all

the

St.

The

John.^

to the glory of the

it.

has

we

preceding sentence,

be proved from

can

poem

the

is

is

with the school of

commentators,

later

o yeyouev to the

the doctrine that Christ


of

if,

He

displays in time

eternally

put

within

Him.
In St. John, as in mystical theology generally, the
Incarnation, rather than the Cross,
Christianity.

'

The

"

is

the central fact of

The Word was made

flesh,

and taber-

now generally adopted was invented (probably) by the


who were afraid that the words " without Him was not any-

punctuation'

Antiochenes,

made " might,

thing

if unqualified, be taken to include the Holy Spirit.


comments on the older punctuation, but explains the
"The Word, as Life by nature, was in the things which

Cyril of Alexandria
verse wrongly.

have become, mingling Himself by participation in the things that are."


Bp. Westcott objects to this, that "the one life is regarded as dispersed."
Cyril, however, guards against this misconception (ov Kara fiepia/xdv rtva Kal

He says that created things share in " the one life as they are
But some of his expressions are objectionable, as they seem to
assume a material substratum, animated ad extra by an infusion of the
Logos.
Augustine's commentary on the verse is based on the well-known
passage of Plato's Republic about the " ideal bed."
"Area in opere non
dWoioiaiv).

able."

est vita

area in arte vita

est.

Sic Sapientia Dei, per

quam

facta sunt

omnia, secundum artem continet omnia antequam fabricat omnia.


Quse
foris corpora sunt, in arte vita sunt."
fiunt
Those who accept the
common authorship of the Gospel and the Apocalypse will find a confirma.

tion of the
iv.

II

{J]ijav

view that %v

"Thou

is

the

refers to ideal, extra-temporal existence, in

hast created

true

reading)

all

things,

and

for

This

is

apostle,

Hivra

rd yiyvbfxeva eyivero, ibawep

so near to the

words of

writing at Ephesus,

is

whom Clement

is

also a very

oStos &pa

'Hpct/iXetros

hv

rji>

d^Lucrete.

John's prologue as to suggest that the


here referring deliberately to the lofty
St.

whom Justin claims as a Christian


quotes several times with respect.

doctrine of the great Ephesian Idealist,


before Christ, and

Rev,

pleasure they were

and were created." There


Ev. xi. 19): *:ai

interesting passage in Eusebius {Pnvp.

\6yos Kad' 6v del

Thy

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

48

among

nacled

And

us,"

him the supreme dogma.

for

is

that the

Incarnation, and

"

That eternal

life,

which we

God

that

have heard of
Light, and in

is

In coming into

He

own."

This

is

Christ

re-

and

the message

you,
all."

came unto His


show to them what
"

Esaias, long before,

and spoken of Him."

glory,

"

had, in a sense, only to


:

is

light

Him and announce unto


Him is no darkness at

the world,

was there already

it,

and

part of the opening

is

Epistle.^

first

life

which was with the Father,

has been manifested unto us,"

sentence of the

doctrine,

that followed

all

garded primarily as a revelation of


truth.

Logos

follows necessarily from the

it

had

"

The mysterious

seen His
estrange-

ment, which had laid the world under the dominion of


the Prince of darkness, had obscured but not quenched
the light

which lighteth every

prerogative of

who

all

This central

of Righteousness.

Life, the

He

He

only.

Christ

at

is

man

the inalienable

derive their being from the

alone

is

the

Light

Way,

Christ,

is

Sun
and

the Truth, the

Door, the Living Bread, and the True Vine.

once the Revealer and the Revealed, the

Guide and the Way, the Enlightener and the Light.


No man cometh unto the Father but by Him.

The
Holy

teaching of this Gospel on the office of the

Spirit claims

The

inquiry.

plete

revelation of

attention

God

in

in

for Christianity the

the Spirit
It will

evangelist.

our

Christ

there can be no question that St.

present

was com-

John claims

position of the one eternally true

But without the gradual illumination of

revelation.

special

it

is

partly unintelligible and partly unob-

be seen that

assume that the

first

Epistle

is

the

work of the

MYSTICAL ELEMENT
The purpose

served.^

God

tJie

Father
In

Father."
"

said)

"

He

that hath seen

God

ment, and the Father

Me

hath seen the


(it

has been

receives an abiding

is

brought

reach of intelligent devotion."


of the Comforter

mission

49

of the Incarnation was to reveal

momentous words

these

the idea of

THE BIBLE

IN

embodi-

for ever within

The

to reveal the Son.

is

the

purpose of the

He

takes the place of the ascended Christ on earth as a

and active principle in the hearts of Christians.


it is to bring to remembrance the teachings of

living

His

office

Christ,

them.

and to help mankind gradually to understand


There were also many things, our Lord said,

which could not be said at the time to His

who were unable

These were

to bear them.

disciples,
left

to be

by the Holy
The doctrine of development had never before
Spirit.
and few could venture
received so clear an expression
communicated

to

future

generations

to record

it

who could not be


time when the teachings

so clearly as St. John,

suspected of contemplating a

human Christ might be superseded.


Let us now turn to the human side of salvation, and

of the

trace the

upward path of the Christian

to us in this Gospel.

First, then,

life

as presented

we have

the doctrine

Except a man be born anew (or,


from above), he cannot see the kingdom of God."

new

of the

This

is

birth

"

further explained as a being born " of water

and of the Spirit " words which are probably meant


to remind us of the birth of the world-order out of
chaos as described in Genesis, and also to suggest the
two ideas of purification and life, (Baptism, as a
symbol of
^

purification, was, of course, already familiar

Westcolt on John

xiv. 26.

Westcott.

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

50
to those

who

doctrine

oi faith which

deeper than that

is

Synoptists.

The very expression

believe on,"

common

shows that the word


John,

in St.

which

Christ.

man

favours

do His

to

no

material

those

His

The

appeal

who cannot
must

that they

It is

obstructions.

know

he shall

not

is

evidence;
tion

for

still

moves

a vicious

in

inward witness

the

to

is

believe,

which

doing.

But

less is

teeth

is

"

that

criticism

is

misses

Faith, for

upon

of a proposition

the acceptance of a proposi-

it

"

It

to stand or

in

is,

fall

the

?),

to

follow

Faith begins with

lead us.

"

an experiment, and ends with an experience.^

Him

that believeth in
that

is

Cf.

Theologia

believeth

which

possible to

know

it

make

the experiment

Germamca, chap. 48

cometh never

it is

before ye

hath the witness

in

to true

"

knowledge.

know by

by experience,

is

He

himself";

That

the verification which follows the venture.

even the power to

first

by the noblest

(may we not say

He may

Christ wherever

and

what they can

just

this

of evidence.

instance, the resolution

hypothesis

of the

objection has been raised that

acceptance

the

the

in

any

hear this inward witness are informed

first

no reason

" If

altogether the drift of St. John's teaching.

him,

Faith,

the "credo ut intelligam"

teaching about faith

John's

circle.

will,

the promise.

is

of later theology.

find

to

mountains

the

rather,

or,

must precede knowledge

It

willeth

teaching,"

St.

"

an act of the whole personality, a self-dedication

It is

to

new meaning.

taking a

is

of the
et'?,

John and rare elsewhere,

St.

remove are

can

it

in

Tnarevetv

no longer regarded chiefly as a condition

is

supernatural

of

Then we have a

heard the words.)

first

given from

He who

would know before he

speak of a certain truth

experience, but which ye must believe in


else

ye will never come to

know

it

truly."

MYSTICAL ELEMENT
above
ive,

and that the experience

learn

history,

in

these

two

are

The converse

afterwards.

51

not merely subject-

is

but an universal law which has had

vindication

we

THE BIBLE

IN

supreme

its

facts

which

process,

which

begins with a critical examination of documents, cannot establish what

we

strong the evidence

may

know, however

to

In this sense, and in this

be.

words

only, are Tennyson's

want

really

true, that "

nothing worthy

proving can be proven, nor yet disproven."


Faith, thus defined,

is

hardly distinguishable from

and love by which

that mixture of admiration, hope,

Wordsworth says that we

And

intimately connected with faith.


to be considered as,

life is

union

with

another,

Christ,

love

of

above

brethren

the

is

especially

is

as the Christian

things, a state of

all

members with one

and of His

So intimate

love of God.

Love

live.

is

this

from

inseparable

union, that hatred

human being cannot exist in


love to God.
The mystical union

towards any

the

heart as

is

same

indeed

rather a

bond between Christ and the Church, and

between

man and man

between

Christ

prayer

" that

is

they

all

Father, art in Me, and

be one

The

in us."

and Christ

is

as

members

and individual

may be
in

member

false

one, even as Thou,

may

personal relation between the soul

not to be denied

of a body.

the

than

Our Lord's

Thee, that they also

enjoyed when the person has

from

of Christ,

souls.

but

"come

it

can only be

to himself" as a

This involves an inward transit

isolated

self

to

the

larger

life

of

sympathy and love which alone makes us persons.


Those who are thus living according to their true
nature are rewarded with an intense unshakeable con-

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

52

makes them independent of external


man who was healed, they
"
can say,
One thing I know, that whereas I was
blind, now I see."
The words " we know " are repeated
again and again in the first Epistle, with an emphasis
which leaves no room for doubt that the evangelist
was willing to throw the main weight of his belief on
this inner assurance, and to attribute it without hesita-

viction

which

evidences.

Like the bHnd

tion to the

promised presence of the Comforter.

must observe, however, that


tion

is

This

progressive.

this

We

knowledge or illumina-

proved by the passages

is

already quoted about the work of the Holy Spirit.


is

also implied

by the words,

"

This

know Thee, the only


whom Thou hast sent."

they should
Christ
7i/wo-i9,

is life

Eternal

life

knowledge as a possession, but the

who

think, that St. John,

is

state

of progressive

not

is

of

state

It is significant,
"

so fond of the verb

know," never uses the substantive

The

eternal, that

true God, and Jesus

acquiring knowledge (tW f^v^v^cTKtoaiv).


I

It

to

'yvooai'^.

which we"*

unification, in

we

more and
more of the " fulness " of Christ, is called by the
evangelist, in the verse just quoted and elsewhere,
grace upon

receive

"

eternal

life.

This

grace,"

life

is

as

learn

generally spoken

present possession rather than a future


that believeth on the
is
is

true,

eternal

even Jesus Christ.


life."

transport

day

is

The

This

evangelist

is

is

are in

"
;

Him

the true God,

he

that

and

constantly trying to

us into that timeless region in which

as a thousand years,

one day.

"we

life "

He

"

hope.

Son hath everlasting

passed irom death unto life";

of as

one

and a thousand years as

MYSTICAL ELEMENT
John's Mysticism

St.

patent to

thus

is

THE BIBLE

IN

all

53
is

it

his very style, and pervades all his


Commentators who are in sympathy with
mode of thought have, as we might expect, made

stamped upon
teaching.
this

the most of this element in the Fourth Gospel,

some of them,

Indeed,

cannot but think, have interpreted

so completely in the terms of their

they have disregarded

it

own idealism, that


away the very

or explained

important qualifications which distinguish the Johannine


theology from some later mystical

systems.

Fichte,

example, claims St. John as a supporter of his

for

system

of subjective

description of

idealism

and

it),

that

(if

driven to

is

is

correct

some curious

Reuss

(to

ordinary
to

give one

example of

his

"

the

John cannot have used

St.

sense, "

state,

mystic,

who

and of eternal

no business

method) says that


last

day

likes

He

to

suppose,

as a present 'possession, has

life

is

means,

speak of heaven as a

to talk about future

help thinking that this

judgment.

cannot

There

a very grave mistake.

no doubt that those who believe space and

is

be only forms

to

traditional

the

in

"

because mystical theology has nothing

do with such a notion."

that the

bits

And

of exegesis in his attempt to justify this claim.

of our

time

thought, must regard the

eschatology as symbolical.

concerned to maintain that there

We

not

are

will be, literally, a

great assize, holden at a date and place which could

be announced

if

we knew

means, perhaps he

is

it.

If that is all that


"

right in saying that

Reuss

mystical

theology has nothing to do with such a notion."


*

iii.

On
2.

the second

coming of

Scholten goes so

cf. John v. 25,


expunge v. 25 and

Christ,

far as to

xxi.

23

John

But
ii.

28, 29 as spurious.

28,

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

54
if

he means that such expressions as those referred to

in

John, about eternal

St.

he

the fiiture,

life

judgment

now, imply that

is

something here and

as

now, and

therefore not in

attributing to the evangelist, and to

is

who have used

the whole array of religious thinkers


similar expressions, a view which

understand, but which


entirely

The

the

satisfy

to

fails

feeling of the contrast

and what

It

"

life

that

but

God's

life.

It

His heaven

in

everyone
it

it

between what ought to be


faith in

easy to say with

is
:

would

right with the

all's

world," or with Emerson, that justice

and

value, for

consciousness.

can only be ignored by shutting our

eyes to half the facts of

Browning,

any

religious

one of the deepest springs of

is, is

the unseen.

easy enough to

is

destitute of

is

not deferred,

is

gets exactly his deserts in this


require a robust confidence or a

hard heart to maintain these propositions while standing

among

the ruins of an

Armenian

deathbed of innocence betrayed.


a sense in which
actual

but only when


" is "

where

passes as

we

thought can

denotes, not

This

live

The

no doubt

risen in

is

the

thought to

the

moment which

is

not a region

in

Now

in

the

which human

and the symbolical eschatology of


it is

basis of the belief in future

possible

judgment

that deep conviction of the rationality of the world-

order, or, in
justice of
It

we have

supplies us with forms in which

to think.
is

is

be said that the ideal

speak, but the everlasting

mind of God.
religion

There

by the

above the antitheses of past, present, and

a region
future,

may

it

village, or

is

religious

language, of the wisdom

God, which we cannot and

will

and

not surrender.

authenticated by an instinctive assurance which

MYSTICAL ELEMENT
is

strongest

"

nothing to do with any desire for spurious


tions

"

it

is

have every reason to believe that


in

formless

is

consola-

we

part of the

is

This conviction,

our nature.

other mystical intuitions,

it

has

hope, and

a conviction, not merely a

Divine element

55

strongest minds, and which

the

in

THE BIBLE

IN

like

the forms

or

symbols under which we represent it are the best that


we can get. They are, as Plato says, " a raft " on
which we may navigate strange seas of thought far
out of our depth.

We may

were

only remembering their symbolical

literally true,

use them freely, as

if

they

when they bring us into conflict with natural


or when they tempt us to regard the world of

character
science,

experience as something undivine or unreal.


It

is

important to

extreme

difficulty

insist

on

this point,

because the
of deter-

rather impossibility)

(or

mining the true relations of becoming and being, of


time and eternity,

some

facile

two terms.

is

constantly tempting us to adopt

solution which really destroys one of the

The danger which

besets us

we

if

follow

the line of thought natural to speculative Mysticism,


that

we may think we have

one of two ways, neither of which

may

Either we

a solution at

is

sublimate our notion of

spirit to

an extent that our idealism becomes merely a

mental way of looking

down
^

The

because

at

the actual

the other term in the relation,

or,

is

the most comfortable belief to hold, seems

contemptible.
to shallow

all.

such

senti-

by paring

we may

allegation that the Christian persuades himself of a


it

is

solved the problem in

to

fall

into

future

me

life

utterly

Certain views about heaven and hell are no doubt traceable


but the belief in immortality is in itself rather awful
;

optimism

than consoling.

such a matter ?

Besides,

what sane man would wish

to

be deceived

in

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

56

that spurious idealism which reduces this world to a

shadow having no relation to reality. We shall


across a good deal of " acosmistic " philosophy
our survey of Christian Platonism and the senti-

vain

come
in

mental rationalist

is

with us in the nineteenth century

but neither of the two has any right to appeal to St.

Fond

John.

as he

of the present tense, he will not

is

allow us to blot from the page either

morrow

in

have seen that he


traditional language

What

is

even more important,

the strongest possible manner, at the

and

outset both of his Gospel

of

to-

We

about future judgment.

he asserts

unborn

by our Lord of the

or dead yesterday."

records the use

"

remembering

the

that

Epistle, the

Christian

necessity

was

revelation

The Word
and tabernacled among us, and we

conveyed by certain

historical

was made

flesh,

have seen

His glory."

beginning, that which

"

"

events.

That which was from the

we have

we

heard, that which

have seen with our eyes, that which we beheld, and


our hands handled, concerning the
that which

And

you."

Word

of Life

again in striking words he lays

it

whereby we may distinguish the

the test

we have seen and heard declare we unto


down
spirit

as

of

truth from Antichrist or the spirit of error, that the


latter " confesseth
flesh."

The

not that Jesus Christ

later history of

warning was very much needed.


mystic

is

to regard the

is

The tendency

who

is

in

the

way

recapitulates " the whole process of Christ

Law

calls

it)

in the

this

of the

Gospel history as only one

striking manifestation of an universal law.

that every Christian

come

Mysticism shows that

Pie believes

of salvation
" (as

William

that he has his miraculous birth, inward

MYSTICAL ELEMENT
death, and

becomes

resurrection

teaching

audacity

thatTthey can

heretical
rise

" Christ

crucified

Origen, with

startling

experience.^

babes,"

for

and

and so the Gospel history

more than a dramatisation of the

little

normal psychological
is

57

Gnostic (as Clement calls the Christian

for the

philosopher)

THE BIBLE

IN

says

have

mystics

often fancied

The

above the Son to the Father,

Gospel and Epistle of

St.

John stand

rock

like

have rightly discerned their

some German
supreme value to

"

"

against this fatal error, and in this feature


critics

mystical theology.^

In

all life,"

unity, but an

not an abstract

says Grau,

outward and inward, a bodily and

spiritual

This co-operation of the sensible and

and

of the

ideal,

maintained throughout by
mystical," says Grau,

and

life,

"

historical
St.

because

spiritual, of the

and

John.
all life is

"

eternal,

His

is

view

is

mystical."

It

true that the historical facts hold, for St. John, a

is

subordinate place as evidences.


I

is

what science and philosophy separate."

like love, unites

material

there

unity in plurality, an

have

of

God

tion,

without
for

is

in

is

think,

his

eyes an

do we

impossibility,

itself adrift

find

firm

as

Incarna-

and a Christianity

from the Galilean ministry

imposture.
so

is,

spiritual revelation

physical counterpart, an

its

him an

which has cut

His main proof

But a

said, experimental.

In

no other

grasp of the

writer,
"

psycho-

Henry More brings this charge against the Quakers. There are, he
many good and wholesome things in their teaching, but they
mingle with them a " slighting of the history of Christ, and making a mere
^

says,

allegory of

it

tending

to the utter

overthrow of that warrantable, though

more external frame of Christianity, which Scripture itself points out to


us" (Mastix, his letter to a Friend, p. 306).
* E.g. Strauss and Grau, quoted in Lilienfeld's Thoughts on the Social
Science of the Future,

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

58
physical
one,

if

view of

"

which we

life

only we could put

There

shows

is

another feature

his affinity to

all

an

in

to be the true

feel

intelligible form.^

Gospel which

in St. John's

Mysticism, though of a different

we have been

kind from that which

mean

it

considering.

fondness for using visible things and events

his

as symbols.

This objective

my

form the subject of

kind

Mysticism

of

two Lectures, and

last

will

will

here only anticipate so far as to say that the belief

which underlies
it

is

that " everything, in being

steeped in symbolism

is

eight miracles which St. John

of this

chosen for their symbolic value

indeed, he seems to

regard them mainly as acted parables.

word
^

miracles

for

The

is

o-T/^eta,

intense moral dualism of St.

discordant note

and though

"

it is

signs "

who

is

His favourite
or

John has been

felt

"

symbols."

by many as a

not closely connected with his Mysticism,

a few words should perhaps be added about


strange that the Logos,

obviously

are

selects

what

The Fourth
The
kind.

symbolic of something more."

is

is,

Gospel

it

the

life

of

all

it.

It

has been thought

things that are, should have

own kingdom to rescue it from its de facto ruler, the Prince


and stranger yet, that the bulk of mankind should seemingly
be "children of the devil," born of the flesh, and incapable of salvation.
The difficulty exists, but it has been exaggerated. St. John does not
touch either the metaphysical problem of the origin of evil, or predestination in the Calvinistic sense.
The vivid contrasts of light and shade in
his picture express his judgment on the tragic fate of the Jewish people.
to

invade His

of darkness

The Gospel

is

not a polemical treatise, but

show

it

bears traces of recent con-

that the rejection of Christ by the

Jews
was morally inevitable that their blindness and their ruin followed
naturally from their characters and principles.
Looking back on the
memories of a long life, he desires to trace the operation of uniform laws
in dividing the wheat of humanity from the chaff".
He is content to
observe how r\Bo% dj-^puiTry 5al/j,(i)v, without speculating on the reason why
characters differ.
In offering these remarks, I am assuming, what seems to
flicts.

St.

John wishes

to

me

quite certain, that St. John selected from our Lord's discourses those
which suited his particular object, and that in the setting and arrangement
he allowed himself a certain amount of liberty.

MYSTICAL ELEMENT
It

true that he also calls

is

THE BIBLE

IN

them

"

59

works," but this

not to distinguish them as supernatural.

As

actions are " works," as parts of His one " work."

evidences

of His Divinity, such " works

to His " words," being symbolic

those

and

who cannot

their

faith

echo

by the

in

" signs,"

may

But

miracles.

we

are inferior

Only

and external.

"

words

strengthen their weak

blessed

have not seen, and yet have believed."


these

"

believe on the evidence of the

the heart,

is

All Christ's

are

they

And

who

besides

have, in place of the Synoptic parables,

a wealth of allegories, in which Christ

is

symbolised as

Door
Way, and the
true Vine.
Wind and water are also made to play
their
part.
Moreover, there is much unobtrusive
symbolism in descriptive phrases, as when he says that
Nicodemus came by night, that Judas went out into
the Bread of Life, the Light of the World, the

of the Sheep, the good Shepherd, the

the night, and that blood and water flowed from our

Lord's side

and the washing of the

disciples' feet

was

a symbolic act which the disciples were to understand

Thus all things in the world may remind us


of Him who made them, and who is their sustaining life.
In treating of St. John, it was necessary to protest
against the tendency of some commentators to interpret him
simply as a speculative mystic of the
Alexandrian type.
But when we turn to St. Paul,
we find reason to think that this side of his theology

hereafter.

has

been

very

much

distinctive features of
in

him than

in

St.

underestimated, and

that

the

Mysticism are even more marked

John.

This

our blessed Lord's discourses,

in

John

is

doctrinal teaching of St.

is

not surprising, for

which nearly

all

contained, are for

the
all

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

6o
Christians

they

above

rise

which

oppositions

the

must always divide human thought and human

thinkers.

we
we may be allowed to see an example
of that particular type which we are considering.
St. Paul states in the clearest manner that Christ
In St. Paul, large-minded as he was, and inspired as

believe

him

to be,

him, and that

appeared to
foundation

man,"

me

Christianity

of his
"

mission.

Neither

did

he says, " nor was

and

apostolic

the

receive

taught

it,

first ^

with flesh and blood

"

think

it

com-

Gospel from

but

through revelation of Jesus Christ."

that he did not at

was the

revelation

this

came

it

It

necessary to

to

appears
"

confer

to collect evidence about our

Lord's ministry. His death and resurrection

he had

was
Him, and that was enough.
^
the good pleasure of God to reveal His Son in me," he

"seen" and

" It

felt

says simpl)^, using the favourite mystical phraseology.

The study
in

of " evidences," in the usual sense of the term

apologetics, he rejects with distrust

make

External revelation cannot

can put nothing new into him.


answering to

it

in his

mind,

will

it

and contempt.^

man

religious.

If there
profit

is

It

nothing

him nothing.

Nor can philosophy make a man religious. " Man's


wisdom," " the wisdom of the world," is of no avail
" God chose the foolish things
to find spiritual truth.
of the world, to put to shame them that are wise."
" The word of the Cross is, to them that are perishing,
foolishness."

mean
1

Gal.

By

this

language he, of course, does not

that Christianity
i.

is

irrational,

and therefore to

12.

Cor. XV. shows that he subsequently satisfied himself of the tnith of

the other Christophanies.


^

Gal.

i.

15, 16,

Cor.

i,

and

ii.

MYSTICAL ELEMENT

THE BIBLE

IN

That would be

be believed on authority.

6i

to lay

its

foundation upon external evidences, and nothing could

What

be further from the whole bent of his teaching.


he does mean, and say very clearly,

mind
"

is

is

that the carnal

disqualified from understanding Divine truths

know them, because they are spiritually


He who has not raised himself above " the
that is, the interests and ideals of human

cannot

it

discerned."

world,"

society as

organises itself apart from God, and above

it

" the flesh," that

is,

the things which seem desirable to

the "

average sensual man," does not possess

that

element

The

grace.

which
"

can

be

assimilated

wisdom of God is
Paul uses the word
very much the same sense which St.
mystery

"

of the

necessarily hidden from him.


"

mystery

" in

Chrysostom
tion

"

gives to

mystery

not

receive

it.

And

in all its fulness

nearly

in the following careful defini-

that which

is

so

It

we may

even to the

and

always

are freely

is

in

all

'

"
*

are able to

a mystery a secret

call

faithful

it is

not committed

In St. Paul the word

clearness."

found

by

not

revealed,

is

connexion

words

with

The preacher

of

a hierophant, but the Christian mysteries

communicated

to all

who can

For many ages these truths were

now

who

not understood by those

is

denoting revelation or publication.the Gospel

everywhere pro-

by the ,Holy Ghost, as we

{airopprjTov), for

is

St.

judgment.

right

cleverness, but

it

is

claimed, but which

have

himself

in

by Divine

men may be

"

"

hid in God,"

illuminated,"*

Chrysostom in i Cor., Horn. vii.


See Lightfoot on Col. i. 26.
2 Tim. i. 10 {(j}i))Ti{iiv)
cf. Eph.
;

receive them.

if

they

will

3.
*

i.

9.

Eph.

iii.

9.

but
fulfil

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

62
the
to

necessary

spirit,"

be
"

conditions

of

cleanse ourselves from

'

and

have

to

without which

love,

among

speak wisdom

grace,

in love, are so frequently

who

and

is

The

"

life.

" yea,

"

He

Spirit searcheth all things,"

the deep things of God."

has the Spirit dwelling

Christ."

that

him

in

frankly, a dangerous claim,

be subversive of
the Lord

is,

become a

all

there

cloak

"

liberty "

all

is,

things,"

Where

had

led

in

As

into grievous error.

such cases, his recoil from

easily

the Spirit of

The

" the

it

and

we must admit

but such liberty

of maliciousness.

Paul had himself trusted

He

The man

has the mind of

and one which may

St.

him

It

discipline,
is

"

judgeth

spiritual

is

himself "judged of no man."

in

mean

knowledge,

thus in a sense the organ as well as the object

he says,

is

this

the work of the indwelling God,

lo\^e is itself

of the spiritual

who

But

in

mentioned

the apostle to

that they are almost inseparable.


grace,

still

knowledge, growth

in

we must understand

together, that

initiation.

but the carnal must

Growth

and growth

else will

all

the perfect," he says (the

reXeioi are the fully initiated)

be fed with milk.

are,

defilement of flesh and

But there are degrees of

unavailing.

We

These

initiation.

all

fact

is

may
that

Law," and

it

usually happens

was almost

violent.

exalts the inner light into an absolute criterion of

right

and wrong, that no corner of the moral

remain

in

bondage

to

The

Pharisaism.

life

may

crucifixion

of the Lord Jesus and the stoning of Stephen were


a

crushing

righteousness

condemnation
;

the

of

legal

law written

by the

or rather spoken there


^

2 Cor.

in

and

ceremonial

the heart of man,

living voice of the

vii.

I.

Holy

MYSTICAL ELEMENT

63

men as to make them


were doing God service by condemning

could never so mislead

Spirit,

think that they

and

THE BIBLE

IN

Such memories might well lead

killing the just.

St.

Paul to use language capable of giving encouragement

But

even to fanatical Anabaptists.

significant

is

it

that the boldest claims on behalf of liberty

occur

in

and revelations

is

all

the earlier Epistles.

The

subject of St. Paul's visions

one of great

In

difificulty.

accounts of the appearance

immediately

preceded,

the

in the

Acts we have

conversion.

his

full

sky which caused, or


*

clear that St. Paul himself regarded this as

It

quite

is

an appear-

ance of the same kind as the other Christophanies


granted to apostles and

kind

from

such

Christian.

him the

visions

" brethren,"

and of a

different

might

be seen

by any
upon

as

was an unique

It

favour, conferring

apostolic prerogatives of an eye-witness.

Other

passages in the Acts show that during his missionary

journeys

St.

Paul saw visions and heard voices, and

that he believed himself to be guided

of Jesus."

Lastly,

in

the

up

in

into the third

The form

in

Epistle

" Spirit

to

the

more than fourteen years


an ecstasy, in which he was " caught
heaven," and saw things unutterable.

Corinthians he records that

ago " he was

Second

by the

which

this

"

experience

is

narrated suggests

a recollection of Rabbinical pseudo-science; the substance of the vision St. Paul will not reveal, nor will

he claim

its

authority for any of his teaching.^

These

recorded experiences are of great psychological interest


he is attacked for this passage in the Pseudo-Clementine
where "Simon Magus" is asked, "Can anyone be
made wise to teach through a vision ? "
*

In spite of

Homilies

this,

(xvii, 19),

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

64
but, as

me

my

said in

last

to belong to the essence of Mysticism.

Another mystical

Lecture, they do not seem to

idea,

which

never absent from

is

mind of St. Paul, is that the individual Christian


must live through, and experience personally, the
The life, death, and
redemptive process of Christ.
resurrection of Christ were for him the revelation of
the

The

a law, the law of redemption through suffering.

and death was won for us

victory over sin

must also be won

in us.

not a mere

event

law,

exemplified in history,

The

process

the

in

which

now

also

at last

appear

in

made

is

St.

meaning of which

And

plain in Christ.-

human

each

with Him," says

been

has

It

a progressive unfurling

or revelation of a great mystery, the


is

it

an universal

is

past.^

but

"

life.

We

it

must

were buried

Paul to the Romans,^

"

through

baptism into death," " that like as Christ was raised


from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we
also

might walk

in

newness

of

And

life."

Him that raised up Jesus from


He that raised up Christ Jesus

again,*

" If the Spirit of

the dead

dwell in you.

from the

dead

shall

quicken also your mortal bodies through His

And,

Spirit that dwelleth in you."

" If

ye were raised

together with Christ, seek the things that are above."


^

is

Compare a

Lo die

beautiful passage in R. L. Nettleship's

into-somelhing more perfect.

God can

Remains:

only

live

make His work

be truly His work, by eternally dying, sacrificing what

to

"To

is

dearest to

Him."
- Col. i. 26, ii. 2, iv.
I have allowed myself to quote
3 Eph. iii. 2-9.
from these Epistles because I am myself a believer in their genuineness.
The Mysticism of St. Paul might be proved from the undisputed Epistles
only, but we should then lose some of the most striking illustrations of it.
;

"*

Rom.

* St.

to

vi. 4.

much

controversy.

On

Rom.

viii.

11.

and resurrection has given rise


the one hand, we have writers like Matthew

Paul's mystical language about death

MYSTICAL ELEMENT
The law

THE BIBLE

IN

65

of redemption, which St. Paul considers to

have been triumphantly

summed up by

the death and

resurrection of Christ/ would hardly be proved to be

an universal law
"

if

the Pauline Christ were only the

heavenly man," as some

have asserted.

critics

Paul's teaching about the Person of Christ

was

St.

really

almost identical with the Logos doctrine as we find


in St. John's prologue,

and as

it

mystical philosophy of a later period.


" in

pre-existence

He

the form of

"

Not only

is

His

clearly taught,^ but

upholding and pervading

"

The Son," we read

"

is

all

in the Epistle to the

that exists.
Colossians,^

the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of


who

tell

the other,

all

us that St. Paul unconsciously substitutes an ethical for

a physical resurrection

On

God

the agent in the creation of the universe, the

is

vital principle

Arnold,

it

was developed by the

we have

an eternal

here and

life

now

for a future reward.

writers like Kabisch {Eschatologie des Paulas),

who

argue that the apostle's whole conception was materialistic, his idea of a
"spiritual body" being that of a body composed of very fine atoms (like
those of Lucretius'

"a/wa"), which

Christian like a kernel within

its

inhabits

the

earthly

body of the

husk, and will one day (at the resurrec-

tion) slough off its muddy vesture of decay, and thenceforth exist in a
form which can defy the ravages of time. Of the two views, Matthew

Arnold's is much the truer, even though it should be proved that St. Paul
sometimes pictures the "spiritual body "in the way described. But the
key to the problem, in St. Paul as in St. John, is that pyscho-physical
theory which demands that the laws of the spiritual world shall have their
analogous manifestations in the world of phenomena.
Death must, somehow or other, be conquered in the visible as well as in the invisible sphere.
The law of life through death must be deemed to pervade every phase of
existence.
And as a mere prolongation of physical life under the same
conditions is impossible, and, moreover, would not fulfil the law in question, we are bound to have recourse to some such symbol as "spiritual
body." It will hardly be disputed that the Christian doctrine* of the
resurrection of the whole man has taken a far stronger hold of the religious
consciousness of mankind than the Greek doctrine of the immortality of the
soul, or that this doctrine is plainly taught by St. Paul.
All attempts to
turn his eschatology into a rationalistic (Arnold) or a materialistic (Kabisch)

theory must therefore be decisively rejected.


1

Col.

iii.

I.

Phil,

ii.

6.

Col.

i.

15-17.

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

66
creation

Him

for in

were

things created, in the

all

heavens and upon the earth;

"

and

things,

all

Him

in

and

He

things consist

all

been

have

things

all

Him, and unto Him

created through

is

before

(that

"

is,

hold together," as the margin of the Revised Version

explains

"

it),

"

he says to the Ephesians.^

we read again
and

difficult

summed up

All things are

Christ

all

is

And

the Colossians.^

in

in Christ,"

and

in all,"

that bold

in

passage of the 15th chapter of the First

Epistle to the Corinthians he speaks of the

"

reign

"

Father,"

portant, too,
Israelites in

kingdom

God may be

that

be subdued to good,

evil shall

all

Christ " will deliver up the

to

Very im-

all." ^

in

all

God, even the

the verse in which he says that

is

"

the wilderness

of

When

Christ as coextensive with the world's history.

time shall end, and

"

drank of that

the

spiritual

rock which followed them, and that rock was Christ."

reminds us of Clement's language about the Son as

It

the Light which broods over

The passage from

all

history.

the Colossians, which

quoted

just now, contains another mystical idea besides that

of Christ as the universal source and

He

is,

and

all

we

are told, " the

God

glory of
" to

Christ."

"

Man
^

the

essentially " the

is

" perfect

man

This

to
Eph.

life.

God,"

Cor.

"

is

image and
he who has

the measure of the stature of the fulness of


is

our nature^ in the Aristotelian sense

of completed normal development

have

centre of
invisible

created beings are, in their several capacities,

images of Him.

come

Image of the

slay

the

false

10.

"

X, 4.

i.

Col.
I

self,

iii.

Cor.

ii.

xi. 7,

but to reach

man, which

the old
^ i
I'

it

Cor. xv. 24-28.

Eph.

iv.

13.

we
is

MYSTICAL ELEMENT
by an

informed

which

to

" spirit."

man

from the

yet not

upward path

I,

possible to say, "

it is

but Christ liveth in me."

to

as an

of the natural

isolation

false

which

into a state in

" flesh

what we have

the description of the

is

inner transit

G-j

This latter conception

does not at present concern us


notice

agency,

actively maleficent

hostile

is

THE BIBLE

IN

live

In the Epistle

to the Galatians he uses the favourite mystical phrase,


" until Christ

be formed

in
^

Epistle to the Corinthians

you

"

and

in

the Second

he employs a most beautiful

expression in describing the process, reverting to the


figure of the

" mirror,"

had already used

in

dear to Mysticism, which he

the First Epistle

"

We

all

with

unveiled face reflecting as a mirror the glory of the

Lord, are transformed into the same image from glory


to glory."

Other passages, which

refer primarily to

the future state, are valuable as showing that St. Paul


lends no countenance to that abstract idea of eternal
as freedom from all earthly conditions,

so

many

Our hope, when

mystics.

of our tabernacle

is

unclothed, but that

heavenly habitation.
to be

changed and

And

which has misled

the earthly house

we may be
we may be clothed upon with our
The body of our humiliation is
dissolved,

glorified,

working whereby God


Himself.

life

is

is

not that

according to the mighty

able to subdue

therefore

our whole

all

things unto

spirit

and soul

and body must be preserved blameless for the body


is the temple of the Holy Ghost, not the prison-house
;

of a soul which will one day escape out of


fly

its

cage and

away.
St.
^

Paul's conception of Christ as the Life as well

Gal.

ii.

20.

Gal.

iv.

19.

^ Cor.

iji.

18.

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

68

as the Light of the world has

two consequences besides

those which have been already mentioned.


place,

it is

In the

first

The close
much a unity

religious individualism.

fatal to

unity which joins us to Christ

not so

is

of the individual soul with the heavenly Christ, as an

organic unity of

men,

all

or,

many

since

refuse their

" We,
and severally
There must be " no
members one of another." ^
schism in the body," ^ but each member must perform

privileges, of

Christians, with their Lord.

all

being many, are one body

allotted function.

its

agreement with

St.

in

Christ,

Augustine

St.

individual
tine,

so that

that

and the

individual

is

Not

He

cannot be

an error which

later mystics

cannot

reach

communion with
The second point

all

his

isolated unit, he cannot, as


full

interest

Christ

fully present to
St. Paul, St.

condemn

real

is

any

Augus-

but as the

personality as
unit, attain

an
to

Christ.
is

one which
it

may seem

will,

the future than

it

think,

to be of

awaken

has done in the

In the 8th chapter of the Epistle to the Romans,

past.
St.

in

that

an isolated

subordinate importance, but

more

in

Paul when he speaks of Christ and

the Church as " unus Christus."


" divided,"

thoroughly

is

Paul clearly teaches that the victory of Christ over

and death is of import, not only to humanity, but


to the whole of creation, which now groans and
travails in pain together, but which shall one day
sin

be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the


glorious liberty of the sons of God.

This recognition

of the spirituality of matter, and of the unity of

nature
1

in Christ, is

Rom,

xii.

5.

"

all

one which we ought to be thankful


-

Cor.

xii.

25.

MYSTICAL ELEMENT
New

to find in the

THE BIBLE

IN

Testament.

It will

two Lectures of

task, in the last

this

be

my

pleasant

Mysticism are to be found

two points

are also

But there

developments

mischievous

These two points

Mysticism,

which his authority has been

in

and

claimed for false

has,

the essentials of

all

his Epistles.

in

show

course, to

how the later school of mystics prized it.


The foregoing analysis of St. Paul's teaching
hope, justified the statement that

69

be well to con-

will

it

of

sider before leaving the subject.

The

a contempt for the historical framework

first is

We

of Christianity.
St.

have already seen how strongly

John warns us against


But

religion.

thinkers

perversion of spiritual

this

numerous

those

who have disregarded

sects

this

appealed to the authority of St.

Second Epistle to the Corinthians

we have known
know Him so no
admission
"

the

man

and then

that

Christ

flesh,

Here, they say,

more."

individual

who

the

in

Even though
yet now we
is

a distinct

worship of the historical Christ,

the

Christ Jesus,"
left

Paul,
says, "

the

after

and

warning, have often

a stage to be passed through

is

There

behind.

is

just this substratum of

truth in a very mischievous error, that St. Paul does


tell

us

that

he began to teach the Corinthians by

giving them in the simplest possible form the story of


*'

Jesus Christ and

of the

the

faith,

"

Him

wisdom

"

their

first

"

which only the

can understand, were deferred


learned

The

crucified."

till

But

lessons.

if

mysteries
" perfect

the converts

we

look

"

"

had

at

the

passage in question, which has shocked and perplexed

many good

Christians,
'

we
Cor.

shall
ii.

I,

2.

find

that St. Paul

is

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

70

not drawing a contrast between the earthly and the

heavenly Christ, bidding us worship the Second Person

same yesterday, to-day, and

of the Trinity, the

and

He

contemplate the Cross on

to cease to

distinguishing rather between the sensuous pre-

is

of the facts of Christ's

sentation

realisation of their import.

know no man

"

for ever,

Calvary.

after the

should try to think of

It

flesh "

human

life,

and a deeper

should be our aim to


;

that

we

to say,

is

beings as what they are,

spirits, sharers with us of a common life and


common hope, not as what they appear to our eyes.
And the same principle applies to our thoughts about
Christ.
To know Christ after the flesh is to know

immortal
a

Him, not as man, but as a man. St. Paul in this


verse condemns all religious materialism, whether it
take the form of hysterical meditation upon the
physical details of the passion, or of an over-curious
interest in

the

manner of the

no trace whatever

resurrection.

There

Paul of any aspiration to

in St.

above Christ to the contemplation of the Absolute

Him

treat

error of false Mysticism

Paul

in

Christ,

This

as only a step in the ladder.


;

is

rise

is

to

an

the true mystic follows St.

choosing as his ultimate goal the fulness of

and not the emptiness of the undifferentiated

Godhead.

The second

point in which St. Paul has been sup-

posed to sanction an exaggerated form of Mysticism,


is

his

extreme disparagement of external religion

forms and ceremonies and holy days and the


"
is

One man hath

faith

weak eateth

herbs."

to eat all things

"

Rom.

of

like.

but he that

One man esteemeth one


xiv.

THE BIBLE

71

every

day

that eateth, eateth unto the Lord,

and

MYSTICAL ELEMENT
day

above
"

alike."

God thanks

giveth

Lord he eateth

esteemeth

another

another,

He

IN

and he that eateth

and giveth God thanks."

not,

the

not, to

Why

"

ye back to the weak and beggarly rudiments,

turn

whereunto ye

bondage again

to be in

desire

Ye

observe days, and months, and seasons, and years.

am

afraid of you, lest

you

ordinances,

"

Why

handle

not,

vain."

in

have bestowed labour upon

do ye subject yourselves
nor

nor

taste,

touch,

to

after

These are
and doctrines of men ? " ^
strongly-worded passages, and I have no wish to
the precepts

attenuate

who

their

Any

significance.

human

puts the observance of

days, for example


duties

as

charity,

at all

which

Paul

St.

that

is

killed

again

in

almost

in

is

fast-

teaching,

Judaism against

every
these

more than

at

But

generation.^

we

denunciations

vigorous

a polemic against Judaism.

stamp of the time

the

purity,

as such

level

waged an unceasing polemic, and

must not forget that

perhaps

or

debased

priest

one of those dead religions which has to be

which

do occur

ordinances

on the same

generosity,

not Christianity, but

Christian

They bear

which they were written

any other

part

of

Paul's

St.

Epistles, except those thoughts which were connected

with his belief in the approaching end of the world.

Paul certainly did not intend his Christian con-

St.

verts
*

Gal.

to
iv.

be anarchists
9-1

1.

in

matters.

religious
^

Col.

ii.

There

20-22.
'

sancta
have been reminded that great tenderness is due to the
simplicitas" of the "anicula Christiana," whose reUgion is generally of
this type.
I should agree, if the " anicula" were not always so ready with
her faggot when a John Huss is to be burnt.
* I

'

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

72

the

evidence, in

is

that

his

The

showed

and

others

an

men

persons

had

Mysticism

degenerate

prophets,

were

there

own

to start sects of their

who

there
or

"

independence

arrogant

had

Christianity

disorderly licence.

for

There were

" spiritual

who wished

others

carried antinomianism into the sphere of morals

gifts."

who
As

prised

at

others

regards the

the

on various

themselves

prided

what reads

to

of

Corinth.

at

themselves

called

who

symptoms

usual

appeared

of

made an excuse

already been

to the Corinthians,

Epistle

First

presentation

spiritual

last

we

class,

which

half-sanction
like primitive

" spiritual

are rather sur-

the

Irvingism

apostle
^
;

gives

but he was

evidently prepared to enforce discipline with a strong

hand.

Still,

mainly to

his

may

it

be

said

fairly

that

he

trusts

personal ascendancy, and to his teach-

ing about the organic unity of the Christian body, to

preserve or restore due discipline and cohesion.

have been hardly any religious leaders,

George

Fox, the

founder

valued ceremonies so

of

little.

if

There

we except

Quakerism, who have


In

this,

again, he

is

it

is

genuine mystic.

Of
not

the

other

necessary

books of the
say

to

New

much.

Hebrews cannot be the work of


strong traces of Jewish
^

The

Testament
Epistle

St. Paul.

Alexandrianism

to
It

the

shows

indeed, the

Cor. xiv. 37.

have been two conceptions of the operations of the


time {a) He comes fitfully, with visible signs, and
puts men beside themselves
{i>) He is an abiding presence, enlightening,
guiding, and strengthening.
St. Paul lays weight on the latter view,
without repudiating the former.
See H. Gunkel, Die IVir/cutigen des
H. Geistes iiach der popitl. Anscliaiiting d. apostol. Zeit und d. Lehre der
'

There seem

to

Spirit in St. Paul's

Fauliis.

MYSTICAL ELEMENT
writer seems to have

Alexandrian ideal-

Philo.

always ready to pass into speculative Mysti-

is

can hardly be called mystical

the

way

which he combines

in

types

as

side

interesting

from our present point of view,

theology,

ordinances

the sense in which

in

The most

Paul was a mystic.

of his

Hebrews

to the

cism, but the author of the Epistle

St.

73

been well acquainted with the

Book of Wisdom and with


ism

THE BIBLE

IN

and

is

view of religious

his

adumbrations

higher

of

spiritual truths, with a comprehensive view of history

as

progressive

The keynote

of

realisation

Divine

scheme.

mankind has been


educated partly by ceremonial laws and partly by
" promises."
Systems of laws and ordinances, of which
the Jewish
in

Law

they

without

done, and mankind


the

same way, the

the old

deeper

"

is

more

teach

have

been

which they con-

husk of symbolism can be

disguise.

Then

their

task

no longer bound by them.

promises

dispensation

and

obedience until the

can

until the higher truths

ceal under the protecting

apprehended

claim

rightly

which

lessons

and

learned,

that

is

the chief example, have their place

is

They

history.

practical

of the book

"

is

In

which were made under

proved to be only symbols of


blessings,

spiritual

which

the

in

moral childhood of humanity would not have appeared


desirable

they

were

(not

delusions,

God having prepared some


their place.
The doctrine is one
"

far-reaching

but)

importance.

In

this

of

illusions^

to

take

profound

and

better thing

Epistle

"

it

is

cer-

tainly connected

with

visible things are

symbols, and that every truth appre-

hended by

intelligences

finite

the idealistic

thought that

all

must be only the husk

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

74
of a

deeper

Epistle

truth.

the

to

We may

Hebrews

as

claim

therefore

containing

the

outline

in

Christian philosophy of history, based upon a doctrine


of symbols
later

which has much

in

common

In the Apocalypse, whoever the author


find

with some

developments of Mysticism.

little

or

may

be,

we

nothing of the characteristic Johannine

Mysticism, and the influence of

its

vivid

allegorical

pictures has been less potent in this branch of theo-

logy than might perhaps have been expected.

LECTURE

76

III

"Alb

OiKaiws

dr]

eKeiyoLS del eari


5;

ToiovTois

ixovt}

/J-vvfJ-r]

TTTepovraL

Kara.

d.vrjp viro/jLv/i/xaffiv

riXeos 6i>tus

iJ,bvos

ij

tou (pi\oa6<pov didvoia'

dOva/jiii', irpbs

olcnrep 6ei)s

wp

yap

irphs

6ei6s eVrt.

tois di

dpOQs xpw/xevos, reXeovs del reXeras reXov/Mevoi,

Plato, Phcedrus,

ylyverai."

p. 249.

Light und Farbe


" Wohne, du ewiglich Eines,
Farbe, du wechselnde,

dort bei

komm'

dem

ewiglich Einen

freundlich

zum Menschen herab

Schiller.

" Nel suo profondo

vidi che s'interna,

Legato con amore in un volume,


Ci6 che per I'universo si squaderna
Sustanzia ed accidente, e lor costume,
Tutti conflati insieme par tal

Che

cio ch'io dice c

modo,

un semplice lume."

Dante,
" There

is

no sadder

Paradiso,

sight than the direct striving after the

in this thoroughly conditioned

world."

76

c.

t^I-

Unconditioned

Goethe.

LECTURE

III

Christian Platonism and Speculative


Mysticism

"That was
world."

the east

in

i.

i.

" He made darkness His hiding

HAVE

into the

9.

place,

His pavilion round about

darkness of waters, thick clouds of the skies."

man coming

the true Light, which lighteth every

^JOHN

Ps.

xviii.

called this Lecture " Christian Platonism

Admirers of Plato are

Speculative Mysticism."

to protest that Plato himself can

Him

11.

and

likely

hardly be called a

mystic, and that in

any case there

semblance between

the

very

is

little

re-

philosophy of his dialogues

and the semi-Oriental Mysticism of Pseudo-Dionysius


the Areopagite.

statements
the

in

and yet

title

Christianity

do not dispute

wish to keep the

The

of this Lecture.

and

Platonism

Martyr claims

Socrates)

Plato

as a Christian

name

affinity

of these

of Plato

between

was very strongly

throughout the period which we are


Justin

either

(with

before

now

to consider.

Heraclitus

Christ

felt

and

Athenagoras

The mention

of Pleraclitus is very interesting.


It shows that the
had already recognised their affinity with the great speculative
mystic of Ephesus, whose fragments supply many mottoes for essays on
^

Christians

Mysticism.

The

identification of the

Johannine Logos appears also

in

Heraclitean

Euseb. Prap. Ev.


77

xi.

voOs-XSyos with the


19,

quoted above.

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

78
calls

Christianity,

him the best of the forerunners of

and Clement regards the Gospel as perfected Platonism.i


The Pagans repeated so persistently the charge
that Christ borrowed from Plato what was true in His
teaching,

Ambrose wrote a

that

confute

to

treatise

As a rule, the Christians did not deny the


them.
resemblance, but explained it by saying that Plato
had plagiarised from Moses a curious notion which

we

find

canonised

him, quaintly enough, as


Pfaffe)

and even

" divine,"

him

In

Philo.

in

first

mystics almost

and

in

*'

the

Plato

Middle

Ages the

Eckhart

speaks of

the great priest " {der grosse

Spain, Louis of Granada calls

finds in

parts of Christian wisdom,"

" the

him

most excellent

Lastly, in the seventeenth

century the English Platonists avowed their intention


of bringing back the Church to

the Platonic philosophy."

"

her old loving nurse

These English

Platonists

knew what they were talking of; but for the mediaeval
mystics Platonism meant the philosophy of Plotinus
adapted by Augustine, or that of Proclus adapted by
Dionysius,

or

the

curious

blend

of

Platonic,

Aris-

and Jewish philosophy which filtered through


Still, there
into the Church by means of the Arabs.

totelian,

justice underlying this superficial ignorance.

was
is,

after

all,

the father of European Mysticism.^

the great types of mystics

who

may

appeal to him

try to rise through the visible

through Nature to God, who find

the

to
in

Plato

Both
those

invisible,

earthly beauty

the truest symbol of the heavenly, and in the imagination

the image-making faculty

6 Ka.vTo. dpicrros

'

" Mysticism

nXdrwv

raft

olov 0O<popovfievos,

finds in Plato all its texts," says

he

whereon we
calls

him.

Emerson

truly.

PLATONISM AND MYSTICISM


may

79

navigate the shoreless ocean of the Infinite

who

those

" to

tending
starve,"

distrust

who

ment, upon

all

nourish

sensuous

as

we ought

to

which

appetites

look upon this earth as a place of banishmaterial

God's face from

things

as

veil

and who bid us

us,

may

hence as quickly as

be,"

hides

away from

"

yonder," in

seek

to

which

" flee

the realm of the ideas, the heart's true home.

may

much

find in the real Plato

good

that the highest

we should

that

is

seek

is

and harmony, while

that

it

may

not

it

for

God
God

the health of the

is

unity

rise

above the

and permanent.

to the invisible

some

is

and disintegration

our duty and happiness to

also be a pleasure to

the sake of

that goodness

evil is discord

and transitory

visible
It

is

disease

its

the vision of

is

holiness

external reward, but because


soul, while vice

Both

congenial teaching

the greatest likeness to

the greatest happiness

'that

and

representations

to trace the fortunes

of the positive and negative elements in Plato's teaching

of the humanist and the ascetic

gether in that large mind

to observe

who dwelt tohow the world-

renouncing element had to grow at the expense of


the

other,

claims
lenic

until

full

justice

and then how the

side

was able

had

done to its
more truly Hel-

been

brighter,

to assert itself

under due

safe-

guards, as a precious thing dearly purchased, a treasure

reserved for the pure and humble, and


tasted carefully, with reverence
is,

still

and godly

only to be

fear.

There

of course, no necessity for connecting this develop-

ment with the name of Plato. The way towards a


reconciliation of this and other differences is more
clearly

indicated

in

the

New

Testament;

indeed,

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

8o

nothing can strengthen our behef

how

as to observe

in inspiration so

much

the whole history of thought only

helps us to understand St. Paul and St. John better,

never to pass beyond their teaching.

tra-

connexion between Plato and Mysticism

ditional

so close that
ing,

the

Still,

we may,

Ficinus,

like

lamp

pardoned

think, be

burning

for

honour

his

in

is

keep-

throughout our present task.


It is

not

my

purpose

in these

historical survey of Christian


this,

Lectures to attempt a

To attempt

Mysticism.

within the narrow limits of eight Lectures, would

me

oblige

give

to

mere skeleton of the

which would be of no value, and of very

The aim which

have set before myself

clear presentation of
life

and thought,

us

in

way towards

which

subject,

little interest.

to give a

is

an important type of Christian

the hope that


the solution

at present agitate

it

suggest to

some difficulties
The path is

of

and divide

may

us.

beset with pitfalls on either side, as will be abundantly


clear

when we consider the

startling expressions

Mysticism has often found

for itself.

which

But though

have not attempted to give even an outline of the


history of Mysticism,

way
sider

it

in

the light of

of the forms which


I

feel

that the best and safest

of studying this or any type of religion

it

its

historical

work, and,

in

development, and

has actually assumed.

have tried to set these Lectures

to con-

is

And

in a historical

so

frame-

choosing prominent figures as represent-

atives of the chief kinds of Mysticism, to observe, so


far as possible, the

Lecture

will

chronological order.

carry us

down

The

present

to the Pseudo-Dionysius,

the influence of whose writings during the next thou-

PLATONISM AND MYSTICISM


But

sand years can hardly be overestimated.


are to understand
ticism, of

how

8i

a system of speculative

an Asiatic rather than European type,

to be accepted as the

work of a convert of

we
Myscame

if

St. Paul,

and invested with semi-apostolic authority, we must


pause

for a

few minutes to

phenomenon

let

our eyes rest on the

called Alexandrianism,

which

fills

a large

place in the history of the early Church.

We

have seen how

higher knowledge,

only to the

which can be taught with safety

" perfect "

by no means

rejects

(the

of the

totality

Paul speaks of a Gnosis or

St.

or " fully initiated "

and he

such expressions as the Pleroma


Divine

which

attributes),

technical terms of speculative theism.

St.

were

John, too,

prologue and other places, brings the Gospel

his

in

^
;

into relation with current speculation,


in philosophical

and interprets

The movement known

language.

it

as

Gnosticism, both within and without the Church, was

an

attempt

to

complete

this

reconciliation

between

speculative and revealed religion, by systematising the

The

symbols of transcendental mystical theosophy.-

movement can only be understood


unsuccessful attempt

Alexandria

The

to

victorious party

The

among

to be very

had thought

numerous,

doctrine of reserve in religious teaching, which

one to speak,

and one

in

it

doing.

the Gnostics

their writings

dishonest, rests on the self-evident proposition that


truth

premature and

afterwards partially succeeded

anticipations of Neoplatonism

would probably be found

as a

achieve what the school of

if

the

worth pre-

some have thought

takes two to

tell

the

to hear,

- " Man kann den Gnosticismus des zweiten Jahrhunderts als iheologischtranscendente Mystik, und die eigentliche Mystik ala .substantiell-immanente
Gnosis bezeichnen" (Noack).

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

82

But Gnosticism was rotten before

serving.

Dogma was

still

such a

in

was

ripe.

fluid state, that there

was

it

nothing to keep speculation within bounds


Oriental element, with

mythology and

tastic

the

shall find to

Not

Mysticism.

and the
fan-

its

was too strong

presents

the

all

for

features

be characteristic of degenerate

to speak of

its

and scandalous

fanatical austerities
in

insoluble dualism,

spiritualism,

Gnosticism

Hellenic.

which we

its

oscillations
licence,

and

between
its

belief

magic and other absurdities, we seem, when we read

Irenaeus' description of a Valentinian heretic, to hear

the voice of Luther venting his contempt upon

some

" Geistej'er"

Carl-

of the sixteenth
"

stadt or Sebastian Frank.


up,"

says

Irenaeus,

" that

century, such as

The

fellow

is

so puffed

he believes himself to be

neither in heaven nor on earth, but to have

entered

within the Divine Pleroma, and to have embraced his

On

guardian angel.

the strength of which he struts

about as proud as a cock.


'

spiritual

persons,'

The

perfection."
itself

These are the

who say they have


later

self-styled

already reached

Platonism could not even graft

upon any of these Gnostic systems, and Plotinus

rejects

them

as decisively as Origen.

Still closer is

which we
Paul.

the approximation to later speculation

find in Philo,

who was

a contemporary of St.

Philo and his Therapeutae were genuine mystics

of the monastic type.

Many

of them, however, had

monks all their life, but were retired men of


business, who wished to spend their old age in conThey were, of
templation, as many still do in India.
not been

course,

not Christians, but

Eusebius,

Jerome,

and

the

Hellenised

Middle

Jews,

though

Ages generally

PLATONISM AND MYSTICISM


thought

monks

Philo's object

in other

were

they

that

pleased to find

and philosophy
His method

words, Moses and Plato.^

make Platonism

to

and were well

Christians,

in the first century.^

to reconcile religion

is

83

is

a development of Mosaism, and

Mosaism an implicit Platonism. The claims of orthodoxy are satisfied by saying, rather audaciously, " All
this

His chief instru-

Moses' doctrine, not mine."

is

ment

this

in

hands

difficult

task

allegorism, which in his

is

a bad specimen of that pseudo-science which

is

much

has done so

to darken counsel in biblical exe-

His speculative system, however,

gesis.

is

exceedingly

interesting.

God, according to

Philo,

"

the

He

At

and

(aTToio?),
is

and pure

emphatically

is

wf,

am," and the most general (to yeviKMrarov) of

existences.

He

unqualified

is

Being, but not superessential.

the

seen."

what

is

as

it

was said

behind Me, but

best to contemplate

It is

is

without qualities

In His inmost nature

ineffable (app7}To^).

inaccessible

shalt see

same time He

to Moses, "

My

Thou

face shall not be

God

in silence, since

we can compare Him to nothing that we know.


our knowledge of God is really God dwelling in

He

us.

has breathed into us something of His nature, and

thus the archetype of what

is

All

He who

is

truly inspired "

is

highest in ourselves.

may

with good reason be

See Conybeare's interesting account of the Therapeutre in his edition


On the Contemplative Life, and his refutation of the theory of
Lucius, Zeller, etc., that the Therapeuta; belong to the end of the third
^

of Philo,

century.
"

Stoical influence

The Jewish

same argument
Philometor.

is

also strong in Philo.

writer Aristobulus (about 160 B.C.)


in

is said to have used the


an exposition of the Pentateuch addressed to Ptolemy

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

84

This blessed

God."

called

may, however, be

state

prepared for by such mediating agencies as the study


of God's laws in nature
class of saints

and

"

the souls

is

it

only the highest


"

born of God

exalted above the need of symbols.

It

that are

would be easy

show how Philo wavers between two conceptions

to

of the Divine nature

God

simply transcendent,

as

and God as immanent. But this


that make him most interesting.

is

allow him really to believe in

not

one of the things


His Judaism
a

God

"

will

without

qualities."

The Logos

Wisdom,

calls

the Logos).

He

Ideas

other

"

the

God

dwells with

sometimes he

which he controls

as

His

Wisdom

the " second God," the

is

Ideas
"

"

the Angels,"

as

he adds, sud-

The Logos

mind of God expressing

act

itself in

therefore, are the content of the

he anticipates Plotinus
to

logical

reasons.

By

also

is

the Ideas,

mind of God.

Here

but he does not reduce

His God

point.

Idea of

Powers are the forces

or

denly remembering his Judaism.


the

(or

figuratively, the rfiother of

is

self-conscious,

God
and

the agency of the Logos the worlds were

made: the intelligible world, the Koa-fMO'i 1^077x09, is the


Logos acting as Creator. Indeed, Philo calls the intelligible universe " the only and beloved Son of God "
just as Erigena says, " Be assured that the Word is the
The Son represents the world
Nature of all things."
before God as High Priest, Intercessor, and Paraclete.
He is the " divine Angel " that guides us He is the
;

"

bread of God," the

"

dew

of the soul," the

"

convincer

He

of sin

"

He

the eternal image of the Father, and we,

is

no

evil

can touch the soul

in

which

dwells

who

are

PLATONISM AND MYSTICISM


not yet

may

God,

to be called sons of

fit

85
ourselves

call

His sons,

system

ethical

Philo's

Knowledge and

templative Mysticism.

obtained only by renunciation of


is

"

a higher state than activity.


" It

off its right hand."


life,

finite

highest stage

standing

in

Him

virtue can

be

Contemplation

self.

The

soul should cut

man

leaves behind his

and sees God face to

self-consciousness,

con-

with the tip of a finger."

it

when

is

later

should shun the whirlpool of

and not even touch

The

of the

that

is

from henceforward, and knowing

not by reason, but by clear certainty.

Philo

face,

Him

makes no

attempt, to identify the

Logos with the Jewish Messiah,

and leaves no room

an Incarnation.

part

for

system

remarkable

This
of

is

greater

The

Pagan Neoplatonism.

and

Christian

astonishing thing

the

anticipates

that Philo's work exercised so

influence on the philosophy of the second century.

little

It

was probably regarded as an attempt to evolve Platonism out of the Pentateuch, and, as

who were

only to the Jews,

possibly

have

impaired

becoming

at this period

The same

more and more unpopular.^

interesting

such,

the

another semi-mystical thinker,

prejudice

who

in

Numenius,

of

influence

may

the age of the

Antonines evolved a kind of Trinity, consisting of God,

whom

he also

calls

world,

whom

he does not

world, the
affinities are

"

Mind

the Son, the


call

grandson," as he calls

shown by

maker of the
and the

the Logos
it.

his calling Plato "

His

Jewish

an Atticising

Moses."
^

Compare

Philo's

at Alexandria.

own

account

(/;;

Flaccunt) of the anti-Semitic outrages

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

86

was about one hundred and

It

years after Philo

fifty

that St. Clement of Alexandria tried to do for Christi-

His aim

anity what Philo had tried to do for Judaism.

nothing

less

than to construct a philosophy of religion

Gnosis, " knowledge," he calls

it

which

The Logos

his creed.

Christ

is

"

Faith

to

"

of

which

is

Reasoned

its full rights.

Knowledge," says Clement,

more than

" is

belief

the foundation.

is

faith."

summary knowledge of urgent truths,


people who are in a hurry but knowledge

suitable for
is

doctrine, according

the superstructure of which faith


"

mysteries

the universal Reason,^ the Light that lighteth

every man, here asserts


is

"
shall " initiate

"

the educated Christian into the higher

is

" If

scientific faith."

Christian)

had

God and

eternal

to

the Gnostic (the philosophical

choose between the knowledge of


salvation,

and

it

were possible to

separate two things so insepararbly connected, he would

choose without the slightest hesitation the knowledge

On

of God."
rises

above

"

the wings of this " knowledge


earthly passions and desires,

all

a calm disinterested love of God.

the soul

filled

with

In this state a

man

can distinguish truth from falsehood, pure gold from


base metal,

matters of belief; he can see the con-

in

nexion of the various dogmas, and their harmony with


reason

and

beneath the

in

reading

literal to

Scripture

he can penetrate

But when

the spiritual meaning.

Clement speaks of reason or knowledge, he does not

mean merely

intellectual

training.

enter the shrine must be pure," he


There is a very explicit
book of the Miscellanies :
^

He '?

says, "

identification of Christ with

"He

says,

Whoso

would

and purity

NoOs

in the

hath ears to hear,

second
let

him

Let Epicharmus answer Nous 6p^," etc.


See Bigg, Christian Platonists of Alexandria, especially pp. 92, 93.

hear.
-

And who

He who

"

is

'

PLATONISM AND MYSTICISM


is

And

think holy things."

to

man

more deeply does he penetrate

the

loves,

God."

and

Purity

that

all

is

ought to be a great

into

necessaiy to the

may

though mental cultivation

life,

which he adds diligent

to

love,

study of the Scriptures, are


highest

The more

"

again,

87

be and

help.^

History exhibits a progressive training of mankind

by the Logos.
"

"

There

is

one

river of truth,"

which receives tributaries from every


All

moral

evil

by weakness of

caused

is

The

will.

either

cure for

ledge, the cure for the other

side."

by ignorance or
the one is know-

is discipline.^

God we

In his doctrine of

he says,

find

that he has fallen

a victim to the unfortunate negative method, which he


calls

" analysis."

It

the method which starts with

is

the assertion that since

God

we cannot say what He

is,

is

but only what

Clement apparently objects to


above Being, but he
nothing

strips

exalted above Being,

saying

Him

of

this, too,

he would eliminate, for a point

unit,

shall

and God

is

encounter

is

this

argument

who allowed

far

in writers
it

to

too

often

more

dominate

not.
is

and
and

a numerical

We

above the idea of the Monad.

survey of Mysticism, and

Clement,

attributes

all

till

left

is

God

but a nameless point

qualities

is

He

that

in

logical

their

our

than

whole

theology and ethics.

The Son

is

the Consciousness of God.

only sees the world as reflected in the Son.


'

niiTTis is

here used in the familiar sense (which

The Father
This bold

falls far

short of the

Johannine) of assent to particular dogmas.


Yvdai^ welds these together
into a consistent whole, and at the same time confers a more immediate

apprehension of truth.
- Acricricns

or irpa^is.

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

88

and perhaps dangerous doctrine seems

to be Clement's

own.

Clement was not a deep or consistent


the task which he has set himself

and

thinker,

beyond

clearly

his

But he gathers up most of the religious and

strength.

and weaves

time,

his

system which

into

cultivated,

of

ideas

philosophical

together

is

is

them

permeated by

his

humane, and genial personality.

Especially interesting from the point of view of our

present task

the use of mystery-language which

is

everywhere

find

in

The

Clement.

we

Christian revelation

is

"

the Divine (or holy) mysteries," " the Divine secrets,"

"

the

secret

Jesus Christ

Word

"

the Teacher of the Divine mysteries

"

Word,"
is "

"

mysteries of the

the

Church

the ordinary teaching of the

mysteries "
ing to

He

is

"

the

lesser

the higher knowledge of the Gnostic, lead(eVoTrTeta), " the great mysteries."

full initiation

from a Neopythagorean docu-

borrows verbatim

ment a whole

sentence, to the effect

that "

it

not

is

lawful to reveal to profane persons the mysteries of the

Word "

the

"

Logos

taking

"

Greek mystery-worship, with


Christianity,

is

place

its

technical

Among

unfruitful.

direct

says categorically, to
is,

from the mysteries

yJi)

Mysticism.
^

ideas
is

the

Clement^

(pdetpeadai OeiorrjTo^ ^ere'^eiv

historically,

the

doctrine of " deification " found

of Christian

language,

other

notion of deification by the gift of immortality.

This

" the

very interesting, and the attempt

was by no means
which seem to come

iari.

of

This evident wish to claim the

Eleusinian goddesses."

for

the

The

its

way in which the


way into the scheme

idea of immortality as

Slfout, V. lo. 6;.

PLATONISM AND MYSTICISM


the attribute constituting

Greeks as

familiar to the

it

89

Godhead was, of course, as


was strange to the Jews.^

Origen supplies some valuable links

the history

in

mind was less inclined


to mystical modes of thought than was Clement's.
I can here only touch upon a few points which bear
of speculative Mysticism, but his

upon our

directly

Origen
religious

subject.

Clement

follows

life

into

two

He

and knowledge.

of

division

his

in

draws too hard a

between

line

them, and speaks with a professorial arrogance


"

popular,

which

faith "

irrational

opposed to the

Christianity," as

by

too clear that


that faith which

is

leads

" spiritual

conferred by Gnosis or Wisdom."


"

the

classes or stages, those of faith

to

"

the

of

somatic

Christianity

He makes

somatic Christianity

"

it

"

only

he means

Of

based on the gospel history.

teaching founded upon the historical narrative, he says,


"

What

masses

crucified

which

method could be devised

better

The Gnostic or Sage no


Christ.
The " eternal " or "

? "

is

possession,

his

"

shows

to assist the

longer needs the


spiritual " Gospel,

clearly

all

things

Son of God Himself, both the mysteries


shown by His words, and the things of which His acts

concerning the

were the

symbols."

It

is

not

that

he

denies

doubts the truth of the Gospel history, but he


that events which only

law,

feels

happened once can be of no

importance, and regards the


of Christ as

or

life,

death,

and resurrection

only one manifestation of an universal

which was

really enacted, not in this fleeting world

See, further, Appendices

In Origen, ao^La

is

B and

C.

a higher term than yvdai!.

"The Greek word is aiviy/xara, "riddles."


Harnack, History of Dogma, vol. i. p. 342.

On

the whole subject see

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

90

Most

of shadows, but in the eternal counsels of the

He

High.

convinced

considers
of

more

who

are thoroughly

revealed

truths

universal

the

Incarnation and

no

that those

by the

Atonement, need trouble themselves

about

manifestations

particular

their

in

time.

Origen, like the

above or beyond

Clement on
ness

and

require the

Also, since

Neoplatonists, says

Being

is

be approached by

that

God

sounder

is

is

than

God, who therefore does not

to

Second Person

God

he

he attributes self-conscious-

this point, for

reason

but

in order to

come

to Himself.

not wholly above reason,


reason,

and not only by

He

can

ecstatic

vision.

The Second Person


Origen, as by Clement,

of

the

" the

Trinity

by

called

is

He

Idea of Ideas."

is

the spiritual activity of God, the World-Principle, the

One who
have

is

through 'sin from their

fallen

Logos,

who became

to the state

every

Good

spiritual

must

alone exists

This

is

evil

Man, he expressly
with God, for

He

does not

man
see,

is

the

them

and therefore

Good.

For the

has no existence, no substance.

which we shall meet with again.


asserts,

cannot be consubstantial

can change, while

God

is

immutable.

apparently, that, from the point of

makes man's

view of the Platonist, his universalism

God, he says (Tbw. in Maith. xiii. 569), is not the absolutely unHis omnipotence
for then He could not have self-consciousness
limited by His goodness and wisdom (cf. Cels. iii. 493).
^

limited
is

souls

lost.

indestructible

at last return to the

a doctrine

union with

incarnate in order to restore

which they have

Everything
spirit

Human

the basis of the manifold.

PLATONISM AND MYSTICISM


freedom to change an
only and

91

belonging to time

illusion, as

not to eternity.

While Origen was working out

great system

his

dogmatic, his younger contemporary

of ecclesiastical

the

Plotinus, outside

Christian

pale,

was laying the

coping-stone on the edifice of Greek philosophy by a

scheme of idealism which must always remain one of

human

the greatest achievements of the

In

mind.^

the history of Mysticism he holds a more undisputed


place than Plato

some of the most

for

characteristic

doctrines of Mysticism, which in Plato are only thrown

out tentatively, are in Plotinus welded into a compact

Among

whole.

the

which

doctrines

receive

first

clear exposition in his writings are, his theory of the

Absolute,

whom

he

theory of the

for

Plato represents the

immanent

the

in

the One, or the

calls

Ideas, which

his

words,

other

the

mind

in the universal

world

real

he

(which

He

also,

his

in

calls

doctrine- of

centre of his system,

But

psychology

his

and

it

is

is

in

the

in the

is

attaches an importance to revelation which was

Greek philosophy.

as

Plotinus

world," the sphere of the Ideas)

mind of God.

and

mind of the World-Artist

Idea of the Good, while

makes the Ideas immanent


" intelligible

Good

from Plato's

differs

Vision,

new

in

really the

here that the Christian

Church and Christian Mysticism,

in

particular,

is

most

indebted to him.

The
^

hope

soul
it

Plotinus in a

is

is

with

him the meeting-point of the

not necessary to apologise for devoting a few pages to

work on Christian Mysticism.

Every

treatise

on religious

thought in the early centuries of our era must take account of the parallel
developments of religious philosophy in the old and the new religions,

which

illustrate

and explain each

other.

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

92
intelligible

and the phenomenal.

It

diffused every-

is

Animals and vegetables participate

where.^

and the earth has a soul which sees and


soul

immaterial and immortal, for

is

The body is in
The soul

be,'*

body.

in the

form on matter, which

it

The

hears.^

belgngs to the

it

world of real existence, and nothing that


to

in

can cease

is

the soul, rather than the soul

body by imposing

creates the

No-thing, pure

itself is

in

in-

determination, and next door to absolute non-existence.'^

The

Space and time are only forms of our thought.

concepts formed by the soul, by classifying the things


of sense, are said to be " Ideas unrolled and separate,"
that

The

they are conceived as separate in space and

is,

time,

of existing

instead

nature of the soul

three

forms, which

is

are

triple

at

stages of perfection which

together

all

it

same time the three

can reach.^

and lowest the animal and sensual

bound up with the body


reasoning

the

soul,

lastly, there is the

man

"

presented under

is

it

the

eternity.

in

There

which

soul,

then there

human

distinctively

part

part, in

thinks himself according to the higher

gence, with which he has

become

closely

the logical,

is

superhuman stage or

is

is first

identified,

and,

which
intelli-

knowing

who has become

himself no longer as a man, but as one

altogether changed, and has transferred himself into the

The

higher region."
^

Enn.

i.

Etin.

iii.

Matter

(pdvracrfia

iwthing,

8.

14, ovhiv

2. 7

iv. 7.

i<XTi.v

14,

soul

is

thus

made one with

6 dfjioip6v iari ^ux'^s*

Enn,

iv. 4.

26.

Enn.

vi.

iii.

6.

7-

could not desire to be something;

it

is

is

&\oyos,

ctklo.

XSyov Kai

^xtttwctis,

6yKov Kal virodTaffeus i^eais, Enn.


it

*'

3.

Enn.
7

>

iv.

i,

etSuiXoi'

If matter

i.

kuI

were

only no-thing

dirtipia, aopiaria.

These three stages correspond to the three stages


which appear in nearly all the Christian mystics.
*"

in the mystical

ladder

PLATONISM AND MYSTICISM

93

Intelligence without losing herself; so that they two

both one and two."

are

This

exactly Eckhart's

is

we identify Plotinus* JV0O9


"
with Eckhart's
God," as we may fairly do.
The
soul is not altogether incarnate in the body
part of
doctrine of the funkelein,

if

remains above,

it

in

desires to return in

The world
itself

or

is

the intelligible world, whither

its

an image of the Divine Mind, which

a reflection of the One.


"

evil.

it

entirety.

What more

It

beautiful

is

is

therefore not bad

image of the Divine

could there be," he asks, " than this world, except the

And

? "

world yonder

so

it is

a great mistake to shut


us, "

our eyes to the world around


things."

way

The

up

and

all

love of beauty will lead us

beautiful

up a long

when the love of the Good is


ready to receive us.
Only we must not let ourselves
be entangled by sensuous beauty.
Those who do not
quickly rise beyond this first stage, to contemplate
'

to the point

form, the universal mould," share the

ideal

Hylas

they are engulfed

in

fate

of

swamp, from which

they never emerge.

The
being

universe resembles a vast chain, of which every

is

a link.

It

may

also be

compared

light

shed abroad from one centre.

from

this centre,

towards

and everything

God draws

it.

all

to rays of

Everything flowed
desires to flow back

men and

all

things towards

The passages in which Plotinus (following Plato) bids us mount by


means of the beauty of the external world, do not contradict those other
^

passages in which he bids us "turn from things without to look within"

(Enn.

iv. 8.

can only

i).

know

world by finding
the

mind

" (as

Remembering

that postulate of all Mysticism, that

a thing by beconiiug
it

in ourselves, that

Bacon

with the world-spirit.

says)

when we

it,

is,

we

see that

we can

only

know

we
the

by cherishing those " best hours of

are lifted above ourselves into union

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

94
Himself as

magnet draws

iron,

with a constant

This theory of emanation

unvarying attraction.

is

often sharply contrasted with that of evolution, and

supposed to be discredited by modern science

is

that

only true

is

the emanation

if

process in time, which for the Neoplatonist


In fact, Plotinus uses the word

"

but

regarded as a

is

evolution

it is

" to

not.^

explain

the process of nature.^

The whole

universe

one member

one vast organism,^ and

is

if

members suffer with


"
faint movement of sympathy " ^ stirs
This is why a
So
within us at the sight of any living creature.
Origen says,

members,
universe

suffer,

the

is

held together by one soul

Logos of God."

which

while consisting of

many

be thought of as an immense living

upwards towards God


tion,

it."*

yet held together by one soul, so the


to

being, which

and

As our body,

"

is
is

the

all

is

All

the power

existence

is

drawn

by a kind of centripetal attrac-

unconscious

in

the lower, half conscious

higher organisms.

in the

Christian Neoplatonism tended to identify the Logos,


as the

Mind

"

but

in

Second Person of the Trinity, with the Nov^,


"

or

" Intelligence,"

of Plotinus, and

rightly

word Logos has a less exalted


what we call law," regarded

Plotinus the

position, being practically

'*

as a vital force.^
^

Plotinus guards against this misconception of

6, iKTTodCov 8i
- f'WTj

ijfjuv

i^e\iTTo/j^v7],

^aro) yiveais

Enn.

See especially Enn.

Enn.

iraOdj/TOi

iv.

cvvMuOdveadaL to

meaning, Efin.

liis

v.

iv XP^^V-

4. i.

i.

iv. 4.

32, 45.

to

5- 3) cv/uLTraOes

ij

^'i'ov

To8e to wai> iavTw

iv. g,

I,

wore

efiov

irdv.

Enn.

See Bigg, Neoplatonism,

iv. 5- 2, crv/xirddeia dfji,vdpd.


jjp.

20j, 204.

lie shows that with the Stoics,

PLATONISM AND MYSTICISM


Plotinus' Trinity are the

One

or the

95

Good, who

is

above existence, God as the Absolute; the InteUigence,

who

occupies the sphere of real existence, organic unity

comprehending multiplicity
calls

or, as

it,

we might

the

call

One-Many,

God

it,

he

as

as thought,

existing in and for Himself; and the Soul, the

God
One

and Many, occupying the sphere of appearance or


imperfect reality

God

which only exists as a

by looking
zero, as "

The

logical abstraction,

the

the sphere of the

One who

Intelligible

not "

is

World

is

"
is

matter,

Soulless

action.

is

arrived at

and

at things " in disconnexion, dull

It is

less."

as

spirit-

merely many," and

is

Infinity.

timeless and spaceless, and

The
World is ou7' view of the Intelligible World.
When we say it does not exist, we mean that we shall
The " Ideas " are the
not always see it in this form.
ultimate form in which things are regarded by IntelliN0O9 is described as at once o-racri?
gence, or by God.

contains the archetypes of the Sensible World.


Sensible

and

KLV'qaL'i,

that

is,

it

is

whole cosmic process, which


present to
Evil

is

it

unchanging
is

but the

itself,

ever in flux,

eternally

is

as a process.

disintegration.^

In

its

merely unreal, but unreality as

essence
such.

It

it

is

not

can only

appear in conjunction with some low degree of goodness,

which suggests to Plotinus the

who were

fine

saying that

Logos was regarded as a first cause while with


the Neoplatonists, who were Theists and TranscendentaHsts, it was a
secondary cause.
In Plotinus, the Intelligence (NoOj) is "King" [Enn.
V. 3. 3), and "the law of Being" {Enti. v. 9. 5).
But the Johannine
Logos is both immanent and transcendent. When Erigena says, " Certius
cognoscas verbum Naturam omnium esse," he gives a true but incomplete
account of the Nature of the Second Person of the Trinity.
^ See especially the interesting passage, E/ut. i. 8.
3.
Pantheists, the

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

96
" vice

at

worst

its

something opposite to

The

"

human, being mixed with

still

is

itself."

lower virtues," as he

average

the duties of the

calls

are not only purgative, but teach us

citizen,'^

the principles of measure and ru/e, which are Divine

This

characteristics.

immensely important,

is

the point where Platonism and Asiatic

is

finally part

But

mystic

The

"

marching orders

See that thou make

showed

teaches

Plotinus

shadow of the

God

given by

those

are

pattern

the

Mysticism

Plotinus, as in his Christian imitators, they

in

Sinai, "

thee

so

intelligible,

mount."

the

the

as

that,

of the

Moses on

to

things according to

all

in

"

world

sensible

action

is

But

is

turning

good

the

earnest

Mysticism.

It

on the

tables

but

false

is

it

leads

to

man

man

This

of action

and

Platonism

"

false

public

calamities

only stage tragedies

or

are to

even stage

Enn. i. 8. 13, eVt audpioiriKov t/ KaKia, fj-eixir/fxiv-r} rivi fvavr'n^.


The " civil virtues " are the four cardinal virtues. Plotinus says

justice

is

mainly " minding one's business" (oU^ low pay La).

ing virtues " deliver us from sin

in

the heartless doctrine, quite

unworthy of the man, that


the wise

"

a shadow of

contemplation, suited to weak-minded persons.^


is

it

company.^

de not part company.


true

for

but

rj

<jirov5y}

"The

that

purify-

ovk t^u) ajxapria^ elvai,

dWa

6ebv elvai.
^

Compare Hegel's

criticism of Schelling, in the latter's Asiatic period

" This so-called wisdom, instead of being yielde^J up to the influence of


Divinity l>y its contempt of all proportion and dejiniteness, does really
Nothing was ever
nothing but give full play to accident and caprice.
produced by such a process better than mere dreams " ( Vorrede ::ur
Phdnomenologie, p. 6).
* Heb. viii.
5.

Enn,

iii.

T7]V irpa^iv

thought."

8. 4,

orav dadefijawcriv

TroiovvraL.

Cf. AiaiQVs

ety

r6 dewpeiv, aKiav Oeupias Kal X6yov

Journal^

p.

4,

"action

is

coarsened

PLATONISM AND MYSTICISM


The moral

comedies.!

of

results

individualism are exemplified

this

97

self-centred

by the mediaeval

saint

apd visionary, Angela of Foligno, who congratulates


herself on the deaths of her mother, husband, and
children, "

who were

great obstacles in the

way

of God."

few words must be said about the doctrine

ecstasy

He

Plotinus.

in

under which the vision

describes

the

of

conditions

granted in exactly the same

is

some of the Christian mystics, e.g. St. Juan


" The soul when possessed by intense
of the Cross.

manner

as

love of

Him

divests herself of

even of that which


is

impossible,

attribute, either

in

alone, she alone."

suddenly appears,

may

While she

"

it

must be neither good nor bad

soul

that she

else,

for

conscious possession of any other

behold or to be harmonised with

to

Thus the

Him.

nor aught

form which she has,

derived from Intelligence

is

when

all

receive
is in

Him

Him

only.

this state, the

One

with nothing between," " and they

more two but one; and the soul is no more


conscious of the body or of the mind, but knows that
she has what she desired, that she is where no decepare no

tion can come,

and that she would not exchange her

bliss for all the

heaven of heavens."

What

the source of this strange aspiration to rise

is

above Reason and Intelligence, which


the highest category of Being, and to

other side of Being

"

{iirkKuva

rrj<i

is

for Plotinus

come out
ovaia^)

"

on the

Plotinus

" he who would rise


above
and yet he regards it as the

says himself elsewhere that

Reason,
^

Enn.

falls

iii.

2.

outside
15,

Enn.
7

vi. 7.

34.

"

viroKpiam and Traiyvtov

of family and country,


-

it

and see

iv.

3.

32,

on love

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

98

highest reward

philosopher-saint

of the

with the hypostatised Abstraction

The

distinctions.

philosophy, but

his

"

though the

we

necessity,

depriving

the

a mischievous

is

superessential Absolute

make

cannot

transcendental
it

apprehended
"

vision of

manner, an
of

its

is

not

of

the

Indefinite.^

from

less

of

It

is

is

most

the

in

without
is

really

kind

of

not of the Infinite,

idea

who

For

be a logical

sense,

but

all

no part of

What

Absolute,

the

is

accretion.

even

it,

converse

to

transcends

may

Absoluteness.

distinguish " the One,"


distinctions,

"

object

form of formlessness," an

but

who
One

then
said

undifferentiated

impossible

to

above

all

to be

matter, the

form-

No-thing, which Plotinus puts at the lowest end

of the scale.
I

that

believe

place

in

the

First, there

the Neoplatonic " vision

system

was the

to

two very

owes

its

causes.

direct influence of Oriental philo-

sophy of the Indian type, which

by wiping out
particular, and to gain
universal

the world to zero.

"

different

Of

all

infinity
this

tries

to reach

the

the boundary-lines of the

we

by reducing
shall

self

and

say more when

^ It
would be an easy and rather amusing task to illustrate these
and other aberrations of speculative Mysticism from Herbert Spencer's
philosophy.
E.g., he says that, though we caimot know the Absolute, we
may have "an indefinite consciousness of it." "It is impossible to give
to this consciousness any qualitative or quantitative expression whatever,"
and yet it is quite certain that we have it. Herbert Spencer's Absolute is,
This would seem to identify it rather with
in fact, matter withotit form.

the

all

p. 199),

but non-existing "matter" of Plotinus (see Bigg, Neoplatonism,


than with the superessential " One" ; but the later Neoplatonists

Plotinus
found themselves compelled to call both extremes to /itj 6v.
struggles hard against this conclusion, which threatens to make shipwreck
" Hierotheus," whose sympathies are really with Indian
of his Platonism.
nihilism,

welcomes

it.

PLATONISM AND MYSTICISM


we come

And, secondly, the blank

Dionysius.

to

was

trance

different from

" visions "

the

Evidence

mentioned.

experience,

psychical

real

is

but

all

returns

it

my

past, all

my

away from

fall

my

reading,

hopes, have faded from

me

drop away from

like

feel

my
my

mind.

all

that

my

and

All

nothing.

projects,

my

the pleasure of

off,

myself return-

feel

my

faculties

a cloak that one takes

But Amiel, instead

One

of expecting the advent of " the

in

Like a

moment when

who remembers
studies,

ing into a more elementary form."

state, feels

we

myself then stripped

like the chrysalis case of a larva.

"

present, dissolve in me,

like a convalescent

travels,

"

glimmer of

dies at the first

consciousness at the

upon myself.

and empty,

My

my

content

will

In Amiel's Journal^

have the following record of such a trance

dream which trembles and

quite

which we have already

abundant

myself with one quotation.^

dawn,

99

it

is

"

while in this

deadly, inferior

respects to the joys of action, to the sweetness

of love, to the beauty of enthusiasm, or to the sacred

savour of accomplished duty."

We may
We find in

now

return

to

the

Christian

Platonists.

Methodius the interesting doctrine that

the indwelling Christ constantly repeats His


^

The

following advice to directors, quoted by Ribet,

" Director valde attendat ad personas languida;

passion

may be added

valetudinis.

Si tales per-

Deo in quamdam quietis orationem eleventur, contingit ut in omnibus exterioribus sensibus certum defectum ac speciem quamdam deliquii
experiantur cum magna interna suavitate, quod extasim aut raptum esse
sonse a

facillime putant.

Cum

Dei

tradunt, et per multas boras,

Spiritui resistere nolint, deliquio

cum gravissimo

illi

totas se

valetudinis prceiudicio in tali

persistunt."
Genuine ecstasy, according to these
seldom lasted more than half an hour, though one Spanish
writer speaks of an hour.
- Mrs. Humphry Ward's translation,
p. 72.

mentis

stupiditate

authorities,

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

100

" for

remembrance,

in

not otherwise could the Church

and bear them anew

continually conceive believers,

through the bath of regeneration, unless Christ were


repeatedly to

each

emptying Himself

die,

"

individual."

mentally

every individual," and each individual saint,

in

(vo7)Toi)'i)

participating in Christ, "

by

sake of

for the

must be born

Christ

is

born as a Christ."

This

is

exactly the language of Eckhart and Tauler, and

it

is

clearly heard

first

The new

immanence

and the

mouth of Methodius.^

the

in

features are the great

prominence given to

the mystical union as an opus opei-atum,

conception

individualistic

of the relation of

Christ to the soul.

Of

the Greek Fathers

who

followed Athanasius,

have only room to mention Gregory of Nyssa, who


defends
fashion
all

the

incarnation

historical

by an appeal

believe that the Divine

and embracing

men

is

in everything,

and dwelling

it,

in

We

then do

take offence at the dispensation of the mystery

now, outside of mankind


Divine presence

agreed that

all

"

pervading

Why

it.

who

taught by the Incarnation of God,

in

mystical

true

in

to spiritual experience.

is

the world then."

...

He

argues

other species of spiritual


of Christ;

Incarnations

their

is

not,

even

form of the
same, we are as much
If the

now the
among us to-day,

not

is

God

as that

He was

another place that

in

beings must

have

had

a doctrine which

was

^ But we should not forget that the author of the Epistle to Diognetus
In St.
speaks of the Logos as iravrore vios iv aylwv KapSiais yepvii/xevos.
Augustine we find it in a rather surprisingly bold form ; cf. injoh. tract.

21, n. 8
esse,

But

" Gratulemur

agamus non solum nos Christianos factos


Admiramini, gaudete
Christus facti sumus."
really quite different from saying, " Ego Christus factus sum."

sed Chiistum
this is

et grates
.

PLATONISM AND MYSTICISM


afterwards

condemned, but which

necessarily

from

Logos

the

ments show very clearly that


Christ

to

follow

These argu-

doctrine.

Greek theologians

for the

immanent in the world,


and that the scheme of

a cosmic principle,

is

though not confined by


salvation

is

it

regarded as part of the constitution of the

universe, which

animated and sustained by the same

is

Power who was

The

seems

loi

fully

manifested

question has been

much

in the Incarnation.

debated, whether the

influence of Persian and Indian thought can be traced

Neoplatonism, or whether that system was purely

in

Greek.^

It

a quite hopeless task to try to disen-

is

make up

tangle the various strands of thought which

web

the

But there

of Alexandrianism.

is

no doubt

that the philosophers of Asia were held in reverence at

Origen, in justifying an esoteric mystery-

this period.

religion

for

the educated, and a mythical religion for

the vulgar, appeals to the

And

and Indians,"
while

Philostratus, in his

of Tyana, says, or

lonius

all

wish to

live

in

makes

his

are

parts

of

life

hero say, that

Plotinus,

and

And

which strongly suggest Asiatic

When we

turn

Speculation

Syrian monks of the third, fourth, and


"Greek" must

among

fifth

to

find

the

centuries

here be taken to include the Hellenised Jews.

are best qualified

his

influences.-

from Alexandria to Syria, we

Orientalism more rampant.

certainly

more of

still

successors,

who

Persians
of Apol-

the presence of God, " the

Indians alone succeed in doing so."


there

"

example of the

Those

speak on Jewish philosophy believe that

it

exercised a strong influence at Alexandria,


^

in

Proclus used to say that a philosopher ought to show no exclusiveness


his

but to be the hierophant of the whole world.


was not confined to cultus.

worship,

eclecticism

This

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

102

was perhaps more unfettered and more audacious than


in any other branch of Christendom at any period.
Our knowledge of their theories is very Hmited, but
one strange specimen has survived

in

book of

the

Hierotheus/ which the canonised Dionysius praises

glowing terms as an inspired oracle


that

fesses

own

his

object

teaching

the

popularise

was merely

in writing

master,

of his

Dionysius the Areopagite.

made

named Stephen bar

fifth

will

Hierotheus on

Divinity

"

summary
of

Sudaili,
is

who

lived late in

correct, the date of

have to be moved somewhat

has been the custom to

holy

strong case has been

If this theory

century.

Dionysius
it

man

of the real

out for believing the real author to be a Syrian

mystic,

the

instructor

to

book

1*he

purports to be the work of Hierotheus, a holy

converted by St. Paul, and an

in

indeed, he pro-

"

the

fix

it.

hidden

later

than

The book

of the

mysteries

of the

has been but recently discovered, and only a


of

great

it

made

has as yet been

interest

and

public.

importance

for

But

it

is

our subject,

because the author has no fear of being accused of

Pantheism

any other heresy, but

or

particular form of Mysticism to

its

He

with unexampled boldness.

develops

his

logical conclusions

will

show

us better

even than his pupil Dionysius whither the method of


"

analysis " really leads us.

The system

of Hierotheus

but Pan-Nihilism.

is

Everything

not exactly Pantheism,


is

an emanation from

the Chaos of bare indetermination which he calls God,

and everything
^

will

return thither.

This account of " Hier(jtheus"

most interesting monograph.

is,

There are three

of course, taken from Frothingham's

PLATONISM AND MYSTICISM


periods of existence

and

characterised

is

with Christ,
rest;

who
The

Absolute.

(i) the present world,

by motion
all and in

period

the

(3)

is

103

which

is evil,

(2) the progressive union

all

of fusion

this

of

the period of

is

things in

all

the

three Persons of the Trinity, he dares

to say, will then

be swallowed up, and even the devils

same melting-pot.

are thrown into the

Consistently

with mystical principles, these three world-periods are


also phases in the

the

first

ciples

development of individual

mind

stage the

the second

in

aspires towards

becomes

it

In

souls.

its first

prin-

Christ, the universal

Mind in the third its personality is wholly merged.


The greater part of the book is taken up with the
adventures of the Mind in climbing the ladder of
perfection
it is a kind of theosophical romance, much
;

more elaborate and

fantastic than the " revelations " of

mediseval mystics.

The author

professes to have him-

enjoyed the ecstatic union more than once, and his


method of preparing for it is that of the Quietists
" To me it seems right to speak without words, and
self

understand without

knowledge, that which

words and knowledge

this

is

above

apprehend to be nothing

but the mysterious silence and mystical quiet which


destroys
therefore,

and

consciousness
silently

dissolves

Seek,

forms.

and mystically, that perfect and

primitive union with the Arch-Good."

We
its

"

cannot follow the

"

ascent of the

various transmutations.

At one

Mind

stage

it is

"

through
crucified,

with the soul on the right and the body on the

it

is

buried for three days

So Ruysbroek

says,

but must descend."

"We

it

left "

descends into Hades

^
;

must not remain on the top of the ladder,

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

I04
then

ascends again,

it

united to the tree of

life

it

reaches Paradise, and

then

it

descends below

is

all

and sees a formless luminous essence, and

essences,

marvels that

Now

high.

till

it

it

is

the

same

essence that

comprehends the

has seen on

it

truth,

God

that

is

consubstantial with the Universe, and that there are

no

real distinctions

" All

to angels, have

ceases to wander.

will

perish

be destroyed, but

sanctified, united,
in all."

Know,

be confused with the Father


or

"

which are

my

disclosed to thee,

"

(Dionysius, probably).

"

nature
will

it

these doctrines," concludes the seer,

unknown even
son

So

anywhere.

all

then, that

that

return, be

will

Thus God

and confused.

all

nothing

be

will

all

There can be no

difficulty in classifying this

philosophy of religion.

It

is

Syrian

the ancient religion of

the Brahmins, masquerading in clothes borrowed from

Jewish

allegorists, half-Christian

Gnostics, Manicheans,

Platonising Christians, and pagan Neoplatonists.


will

now

see what St. Dionysius

makes of

We

system,

this

which he accepts as from the hand of one who has


"

not only learned, but

The

date

felt

the things of God."

and nationality of

matters of dispute.^

Dionysius

Mysticism changes so

are

still

little

that

Another description of the process of ^TrXwo-is may be found in the


work of Ibn Tophail, translated by Ockley, and much valued by
the Quakers, The Itnprovernent of Human Reason^ exhibited in the Life
of Hai Ebn Tophail, newly traslated by Simon Ockley, 1708.
* o\j fibvov [xaOijiv aXKa Kal iraOCov ra. deta.
^ See Harnack, vol. iv.
pp. 282, 283. Frothingham's theory necessitates
a later date for Dionysius than that which Harnack believes to be most
probable the latter is in favour of placing him in the second half of the
fourth century.
The writings of Dionysius are quoted not much later than
^

curious

500.

PLATONISM AND MYSTICISM

impossible to determine the question by internal

is

it

105

evidence,

and

not of great import-

it is

The author was a monk, perhaps a Syrian

ance.

monk

he probably perpetrated a deliberate fraud

a pious fraud,

own

our purposes

for

in

The

theories

those

his

of

suppressing his

books on

sixth

St. Paul's

imposture

success of the

The

a book

in

by

that uncritical age,

food for reflection.


impossible

opinion

and fathering

individuality,

Athenian convert.
amazing, even

own

his

in

is

and gives much

century saw nothing

full

of the

later

Neoplatonic

Proclus

rather

than

Plotinus

having been written

in

the

And

century.

first

the

mediaeval Church was ready to believe that this strange


semi-pantheistic

Mysticism dropped from the

of

lips

Paul.2

St.

Dionysius

is

a theologian, not a visionary like his

His main object

master Hierotheus.

is

present

to

Christianity in the guise of a Platonic mysteriosophy,

and he uses the technical terms of the mysteries whenever he can.^


later

His philosophy

Neoplatonism, with

its

is

that of his

strong Oriental

Beginning with the Trinity, he

day

affinities.

identifies

God

Father with the Neoplatonic Monad, and describes


as " superessential

Indetermination,"

"

the

super

the

Him

rational

Unity," " the Unity which unifies every unity," " superessential
^

Essence,"

" irrational

Mind,"

"

unspoken

E.g., he agrees with lamblichus and ProcUis (in opposition to Plotinus)

that

" the One

"

is

exalted above " Goodness."

At the present time the more pious opinion among Romanists seems to be
that the writings are genuine
but Schram admits that " there is a dispute"
about their date, and some Roman Catholic writers frankly give them up.
' E.g., KaOapCLS, (pum<T/j,6s, fJiVT](ns, iiroTrreia, Oeucri^
leporeKeffTaL and
*

fiuffrayuyoi (of the bishops),

deacons).

(}>uiti<xtlkoI

(of the priests), KadapriKoi (of the

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

io6
Word,"

"

No-thing which

the absolute

existence."

Even now he

above

is

all

not satisfied with the

is

tortures to which he has subjected the Greek language.


"

No monad

or triad," he says, " can express the all-

transcending hiddenness of the all-transcending superessentially super-existing super-Deity."

But even

in

the midst of this barbarous jargon he does not quite

"The Good and

forget his Plato.


" are

the cause of

and aspire

love

Beautiful,"

things that are

all

Good and

to the

and

Beautiful,
"

indeed, the sole objects of their desire,"

Good and

Absolute

the

eliminating

from

must participate

6v)

fxT)

qualities

all

Beautiful
it,

things

which

are,

Since, then,

honoured

is

by

the non-existent also (to

Good and

the

in

he says,

all

Beautiful."

This pathetic absurdity shows what we are driven to

we

try to graft Indian nihilism

if

upon the Platonic doctrine

Plotinus tried hard to show that his First

of ideas.

Person was very different from his lowest category


"

non-existent
selves

matter

which

conclusion

"

the

define

to

but

he

we once

if

Infinite

the

as

allow

cannot

deprecated

our-

Indefinite,

the

be

long

averted.
"

God

Being

is

does not exist


good.

good

dvuvvnia
'

/cat

avrb 5e

ov5e/xia

rj

fiovd^

inr^p

6v

(lis

Since, then.

is."

its

evil,

as such,

participation in

fruit

it

/cai

this is dualism,

Trdcijs

X670S dpp7)T0%

must, therefore,

and must be

vovv ivdrrisevas evoiroibs aTrda-qs evddos

vovs dv^T/ros

jxr)
rj

evil

But

origin.

VTrepovcrios dopLcrria

that

or Goodness,

not in things which exist

is

cannot bear

vTrepovaios ovcria

all

God

only exists by

it

he says,

Evil,

tree

have another
'

Being of

the

is

identical with

dXoyla

koX dvorjala Kal

ovalas ^TreKetx'a.

rpids i^dyet. ttjv vw^p irdvTO. KpV(pibT-qTa

VTrepovaiois VTrepo6ai]S inrepdebTrjTOi.

ttjs iiirkp irdvTO.

PLATONISM AND MYSTICISM


Nor

rejected.^

angels

not

is

soul

nor

in

nor

in the

nor in the brutes

nor

Having thus

matter.

out of every corner of the universe, he asks

evil

Is evil, then,

tion

God, nor of God

human

nature

inanimate

in

hunted

is evil in

nor in the

107

simply privation of good

evil

in

No

itself.

must

evil

But

priva-

from

arise

and inharmonious motion." As dirt has


been defined as matter in the wrong place, so evil is

" disorderly

good

wrong

the

in

accident

" all

some good

that which

is

evil

place.

is

no one does
"

arises

It

evil as evil."

in

our

own day

its

found

has

All things flow out from God, and

Him.

The

first

is

God

influential

order to'

in

all will

emanation

is

the

ultimately

Thing

in

{avTo to e7uai), which corresponds to the Plotinian

He

Nov^, and to the Johannine Logos.

"Life

"

place in the universal harmony.^

return to
itself

that evil needs only to be

supplemented, rearranged, and transmuted,


take

"

Students of modern philosophy

recognise a theory which

advocates

Evil in itself

nohow, nowhere, and no thing

sees evil as good."


will

by a kind of

done with the object of gaining

in

itself"

avToao^La).

Of

and "Wisdom
this

he says,

"

in

also calls

itself"

it

(avro^wr],

So then the Divine

Wisdom in knowing itself will know all things. It


will know the material immaterially, and the divided
inseparably, and the many as one (hiaccos:), knowing
all

things

by the standard

of absolute unity."

These

is stated by Dionysius as an axiom.


See especially Bradley's Appea7-a7ice and Reality, some chapters of
which show a certain sympathy with Oriental speculative Mysticism. The
^

fiopas ^crraL irdaris Svados o-pxv

theory set forth in the text must not be confounded with true pantheism, to

which every phenomenon


end of this Lecture.

is

equally Divine as

it

stands.

See below, at the

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

io8

important speculations are

who merely

nysius,

universe

in

itself."

In creation

form."

The world

being.

He

created

premeditation

(or

whom

One

the

is

it

"

he

identifies

"Wisdom," or "Life in
is said to become multi-

necessary process of God's


as the sun shines," " without

The Father

purpose."

simply

is

Son has also plurality, namely, the words

the

or

itself,"

"

The

them dogmatically.

states

evolved from the Son,

is

with the "Thing

One

undeveloped by Dio-

left

reasons) which

make

existence

(toi9

ovaio7rocov<i

Xoyovi), which theology calls fore-ordinations {irpoopio--

But he does not teach that

fiov^).

ences will ultimately be


highest Unity gives to

merged

all

own

One

individuality.

one passage he speaks of God as


ing,

"

"

Being

Thus Dionysius

is

in

tries to

One.

The

on the other, to

And

in

God

is

more than
a Unity comprehend"

not abolishing differences.^

things

the

the power of striving, on

the one hand, to share in the


persist in their

separate exist-

all

in

Him, and He

is

before

all

not in Being."

safeguard the transcendence of

God, and to escape Pantheism.

The outflowing

process

appropriated by the mind by the positive method

is

downward path through finite existences its conis, " God is All."
The return journey is by the
negative road, that of ascent to God by abstraction and
analysis
its conclusion is, " All is not God." ^
The
the

clusion

De Div. Nom. iv. 8 ; xi. 3.


Dionysius distinguishes three movements of the human mind the
circular, wherein the soul returns in upon itself; the oblique, which
^

See

includes
direct,

symbols.

knowledge acquired by reasoning, research, etc. ; and the


which we rise to higher truths by using outward things as
The last two he regards as inferior to the " circular" movement,

all

in

which he also

calls

"simplification"

(ctTrXwcrts).

PLATONISM AND MYSTICISM


path

negative

mystics

the high road of a large school of

is

say more about

will

mystic, says Dionysius, "

both

109

all

This

mystical."

"

things

the sensible and in the intelligible worlds,

in

he enters into the darkness of nescience that


" is

The

presently.

it

must leave behind

"

is

till

truly

Divine darkness," he says elsewhere,

the light unapproachable

"

mentioned by

St. Paul,

a deep but dazzling darkness," as Henry Vaughan

calls

It

it.

dark through excess of

is

This

light.^

doctrine really renders nugatory what he has said about

the persistence of distinctions after the restitution of


;

us, in

proportion as

for as

all

colours agree in the dark," so, for

things

*'

all

we

attain to true knowledge, all

distinctions are lost in the absolute.

The
"

soul

The

symbols.

The higher

bipartite.

is

images

Divine

"

directly,

the

portion sees the

lower

by means of

not to be despised, for they

latter are

are " true impressions of the Divine characters," and

necessary steps, which enable us to

undivided truth by analogy."

mount

"

This

to those

myths

"

Church

who can

(the language

!)

in

The

much

highest stage (he says)

only

" puerile

startling in a saint of the

dyvwalas

to say about love,^ but

is

he uses

to reach rbv viripcpurov yv64>ov Kal

5t'

iSelv Kal yvCivai.

ToX/xQaa deoirXaaia and Traidapiwdrj^ (pavTacria are phrases which he

applies to
^

is

intelligible

from the

in

which they are sometimes embedded.

Dionysius has

d|3\ei/'/as Kal

is

free themselves

one

way

They have

which we should use the Scriptures.


symbolic truth and beauty, which

to the

the

is

Old Testament

As a specimen

narratives.

of his language,

we may quote

6e2os ^/3us, ovK iwv iavrOiv eXvai. roiis ipatyrks,

Nom.

iv.

13).

dXXd

?<tt(

5^ e /ctrrartKis 6

tC)v ipw/j-ivuv

{De Div.

no

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

the word

use "

which

epco?,

He

Testament.
dyaTTT},

hut

is

carefully avoided

admits that the


justifies

in the

New

"

often

Scriptures

preference for the other

his

word by quoting St. Ignatius, who says of Christ, " My


Divine Love, he finely
Love (epco?) is crucified." ^
says,

"

is

an eternal

from

circle,

goodness, through

goodness, and to goodness."

The
though
tions

mediaeval mystics were steeped in Dionysius,


his

system received from them certain modifica-

He

under the influence of Aristotelianism.

therefore, for us, a very important figure

are two

parts of his

scheme which,

think, require

than has been given them

fuller consideration

very slight sketch.

mean

is

and there

in

this

the "negative road" to

God, and the pantheistic tendency.

The theory

that

we can approach God only by


com-

analysis or abstraction has already been briefly

mented

on.

It is

no invention of Dionysius.

God

uses similar language, though his view of

of

fulness

all

/i/e

prevented him

negative path with thoroughness.

Divine Ground,"

the One," and

"

so forth.

am

call

God

But

Proclus

in

"

we

sinking

forsaking the manifold for


Basilides, long before, evi-

dently carried the doctrine to

not even

as the

from following the

common, about

find the phrases, afterwards so

into the

Plotinus

its

ineffable,"

inclined to agree with Dr. Bigg

extremity

he says,
{Bampton

"

"

We

since this

must
is

to

Lectures, Introduction,

pp. viii, ix), that Dionysius and the later mystics are right in their interpretation of this passage.
Bishop Lightfoot and some other good scholars take
it

to

mean, "

My

earthly affections are crucified."

See the discussion

in

Bigg's Introduction.
I am not
the vindicators of " Dionysius " explain the curious fact that

Lightfoot's edition of Ignatius,

aware how
he had read Ignatius

and

in

PLATONISM AND MYSTICISM

iii

make an assertion about Him He is above every


name that is named." ^ It was a commonplace of
;

say that

Christian instruction to
there

wisdom

great

is

phrase occurs

this

refusing to
It

true that

is

a very different

inadequate and symbolic


discarding

God

all

doctrine that
is

but that

symbols, as

He knows

as

from

thing

positive statements about God.

God must be

our language about

all

But con-

Cyril's catechism.^

is

make any

Divine matters
our ignorance

confessing

in

in

fessing our ignorance

" in

if

is

we could
At

in that

Himself.

God can be

no reason

way know

bottom,

the

described only

for

the

by negatives

neither Christian nor Greek, but belongs to the old

Let

religion of India.

and

consequence

its

in

me

try to state the

a clear form.

the Infinite, and the Infinite

is

argument

Since

God

the antithesis of the

finite,

every attribute which can' be affirmed of a

being

may

covered

which

by
veil

stripping off

all

Him; He can

finite

Hence God can.

be safely denied of God.

only be described by negatives

is

He

can only be

dis-

the qualities and attributes

only be reached by divesting

ourselves of all the distinctions of personality, and sink-

ing or rising into our " uncreated nothingness

He

"

and

can only be imitated by aiming at an abstract

spirituality,

which

is

the passionless

nothing

in

"

apathy

particular.

"

of an universal

Thus we

see that the

whole of those developments of Mysticism which despise


symbols, and hope to see

God by

shutting the eye of

^ See Harnack, vol. iii.


St. Augustine accepts this statepp. 242, 243.
ment, which he repeats word for word.
" Of Thee our fittest eloquence is silence, while
* Compare also Hooker
:

we

confess without confessing that

our reach."

Thy

glory

is

unsearchable and beyond

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

IF.2

sense,

They

hang together.

God

notion of

Unity transcending, or

as the abstract

rather excluding,

follow from the false

all

Of

all distinctions.

intended to exclude distinctions, but to

course,

above them

rise

the process of abstraction, or subtraction, as

but

really

can never lead us to

is,

"

the One."

possible unification with such an Infinite


VTjypero'i vttvo<;

passive hostility to
ideal

life

its

Nearly

of Nirvana.^

mediaeval religious

in

not

is

it

life

its

"

civilisation

all

that repels us

life

dolent contemplation

and

the emptiness of

maltreatment of the body

agement of family

the arepfiodv

is

other-worldliness "

it

The only

the respect which

it

its

its

dispar-

paid to in-

springs from this one root.

But

since no one who remains a Christian can exhibit the


results of this theory in their purest form,

liberty of quoting a few sentences

shall take the

from a pamphlet written

by a native Indian judge who I believe is still living.


His object is to explain and commend to Western
readers the mystical philosophy of his
"

He who

in

perfect rest rises from the

attains the highest light,

form.

This

is

own country :2

comes

forth in his

the immortal soul.

The

body and

own proper
ascent

is

by

Unity is a characteristic or simple condition of real being, but it is not


a principle of being, so that "the One" could exist substantially

in itself

To

it God, and then


would seem too absurd a fallacy to have misled any one,
if history did not show that it has had a long and vigorous life.
" By abstraction we an^ Cf. Sir W. Hamilton {Discussions, p. 21):
nihilate the object, and by abstraction we annihilate the subject of conBut what remains ? Nothing. When we attempt to conceive
sciousness.

by

itself.

try to imitate

it

we
The Hon.

as reality,

personify the barest of abstractions, call

it,

hypostatise the zero."

P. Ramanathan, C.M.G., Attorney-General of Ceylon,


The Mystery of Godliness. This interesting essay was brought to my
notice by the kindness of the Rev. G. U, Pope, D.D., University Teacher
in Tamil and Telugu at Oxford.
2

PLATONISM AND MYSTICISM

To know God, one must

the ladder of one's thoughts.


first

know

own

one's

The

by thought.

thought, and only

unspotted

purity,

its

hidden behind the

is

when thought

This stage

visible to itself.

in

spirit

soul

is

worn

is

called

off,

of

veil

becomes

knowledge of the

Next is realised knowledge of God, who rises


bosom of the soul. This is the end of

soul.

from

the

progress

between

differentiation

self

and others has

All the world of thought and senses

ceased.

into an ocean without waves or current.

solution of the world


sinful or

worldly

'

I,'

known

also

is

which

Consciousness
senses

wholly

knows them

it

is

only proof

is

in

distinct

is

melted

true Ego.

dis-

Then

seen in the regions


of thought.

veil

from

they do not

an appeal to

highest stage one

nothing

is

beyond the

consciousness

of pure

is

This

as the death of the

veils the

the formless Being of the Deity

the

113

and

thought

know

The

it.

In

spiritual experience."
"

absolutely inert,

knowing

particular."

Most of this would have been accepted


truth by the mediaeval Church mystics.^

as precious

The words

Hunt's summary of the philosophy of the Vedanta Sara [Pantheism and


19) may help to illustrate further this type of thought.
" Brahma is called the universal soul, of which all human souls are a part."
These are likened to a succession of sheaths, which envelop each other
^

Christianity, p.

like the coats of

The human

the sheath.

this

intellect

an onion.
But what is

and

all

its

faculties

are

away the sheath, and to


So long
Brahma is nothing.

take

soul frees itself

knowledge?

by knowledge from

To know

that the

ignorance and delusion.

God is all.
man perceives

find that

human

This

Whatever

to

is
is

not

himself to be any
as a
he discovers that his supposed individuality
Man must strive to
is
no individuality, then he has knowledge.
He must be only a
rid himself of himself as an object of thought.
subject.
As subject he is Brahma, while the objective world is mere
thing, he

is

nothing.

When

phenomenon."
- We may compare with them the following maxims, which, enclosed

in

114

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

nakedness,

darkness,

and the Hke,

fill

nothingness,

We

their pages.

apathy,

passivity,

shall find that

this

time-honoured phraseology was adhered to long after


grave

the

moral

dangers

which

beset

Mysticism had been recognised.

who

Tauler, for instance,

lays the axe to the root of the tree

" Christ never arrived

at the

type of

this

by saying,

emptiness of which these

men talk," repeats


German Mysticism

really rested

when Luther had

the courage to break with ecclesi-

the old jargon for pages together.

on another

basis,

and

via negativa rapidly disappeared

astical tradition, the

within the sphere of his influence.

But

it

cannot

held sway for a long time

complain

essence of

many have

if

Mysticism-."

so long that

said,

Mysticism

is

"

This

such

word, that one must not quarrel with any


interpretation

"

of

is

we
the

a vague
"

private

we must point out that this


army of symbolists," a
Europe at least, has shown more
it

but

limitation excludes the whole

which, in

school
vitality

than introspective

Mysticism.

regard

the

via negativa in metaphysics, religion, and ethics as the


an outline of Mount Caimel, form the frontispiece

to an early edition of
Juan of the Cross
" To enjoy Infinity, do not desire to taste of finite things.
"To arrive at the knowledge of Infinity, do not desire the knowledge of

St.

finite things.

"To
"To

reach to the possession of Infinity, desire to possess nothing.


be included in the being of Infinity, desire to be thyself nothing

whatever.

"The moment
advance towards

"In

that thou art resting in a creature, thou art ceasing to

Infinity.

order to unite thyself to Infinity, thou must surrender finite things

without reserve."
After reading such maxims,

"the

Infinite"

There

is

as a

name

we shall probably be inclined to think that


God might be given up with advantage.

for

nothing Divine about a tabula rasa.

PLATONISM AND MYSTICISM

115

The break-up

great accident of Christian Mysticism.

of the ancient civilisation, with the losses and miseries

which

brought upon humanity, and the chaos of

it

Europe weltered

brutal barbarism in which


centuries, caused

weariness which

is

Mysticism
faith
"

Let us

the

fly

but

in

We

"

nay, even

life

heavy and the weary weight of

to

hear
Plato.

in

heaven, but on earth he was

comfortably on the surface of


"

lost

Mysticism cuts too deep to allow us to

eclipsed.

world

Asiatic

not give up faith in God.

will

Plotinus

in

shone

still

full-blooded

men who have

hence to our dear country

words already

The sun

and

energetic

Renaissance and Reformation.

civilisation,

in

to

the natural refuge of

is

some

temper of Europe,

to the

foreign

and which gave way


activity in the

for

a widespread pessimism and world-

it off,

and seek peace

in

and so

till

all

live
"

the

unintelligible

this

all

men and women

pressed upon

throw

they were fain

an invisible world of

which they could not see even a shadow round about them.

But

do not think that the negative road

There

error.

is

We

thought and practice.


the

Infinite

by the

are

first

natural

first

the

limitations of

to think of the

barriers

are

must die

daily,

renewed.

We

finite,

if

must

our inward
die

Cf.

of

many dead

Richard of

tipsuni super

to our

And
man

selves

to

in

is

which

we

to

be daily
not once

rise

83,

It

practice

on stepping

higher things.^

Aiiiiu.

which

self,

is

lower

we may

St. Victor, dc Prirp.

semetipsum."

walls.

Infinite as that in

done away.

only but continually, so that


stones

a pure

impelled to seek

appear to the soul as bonds and prison

these

is

negative side in religion, both in

We

"ascendat per seme-

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

ii6
must die
around

our

to

of growth to

have

life

views of the world

superficial

nay, even to our

us,

views of

first

the childlike in our faith

religion, unless

of

first

become the

first

is

God and
by

arrest

childish.

All the good things

to be renounced,

and then given back

to us, before they can be really ours.

was neces-

It

sary that these truths should be not only taught, but

The

lived through.

individual has generally to pass


"

through the quagmire of the


he can set his
races,

it

feet

everlasting No," before

on firm ground

and the Christian

seems, were obliged to go through the sam.e

experience.

Moreover, there

sense in which

all

moral

aims at destroying the conditions of

its

own
Our

effort

existence,

logically in self-negation.

highest aim as regards ourselves

not only

sin,

have won
offend.

tation
" either
is,

and so ends

is

We

but temptation.

the

victory

until

to eradicate,

is

do not

feel that

we

we no longer wish to

But a being who was entirely


would be either more or

less

free

from temp-

than a

a beast or a God," as Aristotle says.^

man
There

therefore, a half truth in the theory that the goal of

earthly striving

once becomes

is

negation and absorption.

false if

cannot be reached

by good and

we

forget that

time,

in

it

and which

evil neutralising

But

it

at

is

a goal which

is

achieved, not

each other, but by death

being swallowed up in victory.

If morality ceases to

be moral when

its

The same

is

it

has achieved

goal,

it

must pass

true of our attitude towards external nature.

We

are

from the shadow to the substance, from the symbol


to the thing symbolised, and so far the followers of the negative road are
right ; but the life of Mysticism (on this side) consists in the process of
and to regard the process as completed is to
spiritualising our impressions
always trying to

rise

lose

shadow and substance

together.

PLATONISM AND MYSTICISM


into

117

something which includes as well as transcends

a condition which

it

by con-

certainly not fulfilled

is

templative passivity.^

These thoughts should save us from regarding the


saints of

The

impatience

the cloister with

contempt.

or

limitations incidental to their place in history

not prevent them from being glorious pioneers


the high passes of the spiritual

who

heights which those


of asceticism

We

"

must next consider

nearly

speculative

Dionysius,

charged with

freely

off.

charge of Pan-

briefly the

mystics,

The word

it.

by

be pardoned

hope

far as

can be done

in a

from

Plotinus

enough,

naturally

thoughtlessly used, even

may

scaled

the mistake

has been flung rather indiscriminately

all

Emerson.

"

about

have seldom even seen afar

theism, which
at

who have

life,

talk glibly

do

among

has

so loosely and

is

writers of repute, that

if

to

been

try to distinguish (so

few words) between the various

systems which have been called pantheistic.

mean

must

True Pantheism

God with

the

identification

of

the totality of existence, the doctrine that

the universe

the complete and only expression of

is

who on

this

only immanent and not transcendent.

On

the nature and

life

of God,

theory

is

this view,

everything in the world belongs to the Being of God,

who

is

real

is

manifested equally
is

perfect

reality

in

Whatever

everything.

and perfection are the same

It may be objected that I have misused the term via negativa, which
merely the line of argument which establishes the transcendence of God,
as the " affirmative road " establishes His immanence.
I am far from
^

is

wishing to depreciate a method which when rightly used


against Pantheism,

how

mischievous

is

a safeguard

but the whole history of mediceval Mysticism shows

it is

when followed

exclusively.

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

ii8

Here again we must go

thing.

"

example.

The

dog and

in the

So Pope says

God

manner of

all

any

the whole or in the parts.

is

may

of the world
if

everything

makes no

we

call

it

None
fairly

is

It is

easy to see

how

belief
Evil,

therefore, cannot exist for the sake of a higher

good.

good

this

pass into pessimism or nihilism

equally real

difference,

and

absurdities

inconsistent with

in purpose, either in

itself

a hair

Persian Sufis were deeply involved in

It

must be

flesh of dogs."

even immoralities.

it

the

in

elephant,

is " as full, as perfect, in

which leads to

this error,

alike

the

in

him who eateth the

in

that

The

as heart."

ox and

the

in

God

behold

learned

Brahmin,

reverend

to India for a perfect

view
for

and equally Divine,

it

except to our tempers, whether

everything or nothing, good or bad.

of the writers with

whom we

have to deal can

be charged with this error, which

the very foundations of true religion.

is

subversive of

Eckhart, carried

away by his love of paradox, allows himself occasionally


to make statements which, if logically developed, would
come perilously near to it and Emerson's philosophy
Diois more seriously compromised in this direction.
;

nysius

is in

no such danger,

he stands too near to Plato,

for the simple reason that

The

pantheistic tendency

of mediaeval Realism requires a few words of explanation, especially as

have placed the name of Plato

the head of this Lecture.

aimed
Idea

doctrine of ideas

at establishing the transcendence of the highest

as held

the

Plato's

at

that of God.

But the mediaeval doctrine of

by the extreme

summum genus
^

Realists, sought to find

for a

ideas,

room

harmonious coexistence of

See Vaiighan, Hours with the Mystics,

vol.

i.

p. 58.

in
all

PLATONISM AND MYSTICISM


things.

It

thus tended towards Pantheism

119
while the

;^

AristoteHan Realists maintained the substantial char-

Being of God.

acter of individuals outside the

view," says Eicken,

and

logical

philosophies,

"

which quite inverted the

"

This

historical

of the Platonic and Aristotelian

relation

was maintained

till

the close of the Middle

Ages."

We may

also

pantheistic

call

any system which

regards the cosmic process as a real becoming of God.

According to

God comes

this theory,

to Himself, attains

self-consciousness, in the highest of His creatures,

full

which

are, as

Personality.

it

were, the organs of His self-unfolding

This

commends

not a philosophy which

is

specially to speculative mystics, because

itself

volves the belief that time


in the

an ultimate

is

cosmic process, which takes place

becomes something which


be said that

He

is

sand years are to

He was

in-

it

If

reality.

time,

in

not before,

it

God

cannot

exalted above time, or that a thou-

Him

as one day.

shall say in

my

fourth Lecture that this view cannot justly be attributed


to Eckhart.
it is

or

is

The

Students of Hegel are not agreed whether

not part of their master's teaching,^

idea

of

ivill

as

world-principle

not

in

Schopenhauer's sense of a blind force impelling from


^

Seth, Hegelianism

argues that

God

is

"

and

Personality, states this

the ultimate goal of Realism

regarded as the

is

more

strongly.

lie

a thorough-going Pantheism."

sumimim getius, the ultimate Substance of which all


The genus inheres in the species, and the

existing things are accidents.

species in individuals, as an entity

common

to all

and

identical in each,

an entity to which individual differences adhere as accidents.


^ M'Taggart, Studies iji Hegeliati Dialectic,
p. 159 sq., argues that
Hegel means that the Absolute Idea exists eternally in its full perfection.
" Infinite time is a false
There can be no real development in time.
infinite of endless aggregation."

and

interesting.

The whole

discussion

is

very instructive

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

I20

within, but as the determination of a conscious


Hfts us at

tinction

once out of Pantheism.^

between what

Pantheism cannot

find

It sets

and what ought

is

room

for,

implies that the cosmic process

and

Mind

up the

to be,

at the

same time

already complete in

is

the consciousness of God, which cannot be held


is

dis-

which

He

if

subordinated to the category of time.

God

more than the All, as being the perfect


whose Will is manifested in creation under

is

Personality,

He

necessarily imperfect conditions.


less

is

also in a sense

than the All, since pain, weakness, and

known

Him

to

Him

The

as infinite Perfection,

economy of

the universe

though

sin,

as infinite Mind, can hardly be

felt

by

function of evil in the

an inscrutable mystery,

is

about which speculative Mysticism merely asserts that


the solution cannot be that of the Manicheans,

only the Agnostic

who

will here offer

It is

the dilemma of

Dualism or Pantheism, and try to force the mystic to


accept the second alternative.

There are two other views of the universe which


have been called pantheistic, but incorrectly.

The

that properly called AcosfJiism, which

first is

have encountered as Orientalised Platonism.

we

Plato's

theory of ideas was popularised into a doctrine of two


separate worlds, related to each other as shadow and
substance.

The

mind of God, alone

exists

reality to the visible world,

Pantheism.
'

world,

intelligible
;

we

But the notion of

So Lasson says

well, in his

views everything from

the

and

which

is

in

the

thus, by denying

get a kind of idealistic

God

as abstract Unity,

book on Meister Eckhart, " Mysticism

standpoint of

teleology,

while

Pantheism

generally stops at causality."


-

As, for instance, Leslie Stephen

tries to

do

in his Ai^nos/ic's

Apology.

PLATONISM AND MYSTICISM


which, as

we have

platonists

and

was held by the

seen,

for bare

Accordingly

nothing.

sphere of reality, drops out, and

we

are

world,"

landed

in nihilism or Asiatic

the

with only

left

So we

the infra-real world and the supra-real One.


iare

create,

his rays explains

" intelligible

the

make

to

Unity cannot

and the metaphor of the sun shedding

Neo-

later

seems

their Christian followers,

a real world impossible

121

Mysticism.^

The second is the belief in the immanence of a


God who is also transcendent. This should be called
Panentheism, a useful word coined by Krause, and not
Pantheism.

In

true form

its

it

is

an integral part of

Christian philosophy, and, indeed, of

But

logy.

all

rational theo-

in proportion as the indwelling of

Holy

of Christ, or the

Spirit in the heart of

God, or

man,

is

regarded as an opus operatJim, or as complete substitu-

Divine for the human, we are

tion of the

danger of

in

a self-deification which resembles the maddest phase


of Pantheism.^

Pantheism, as

understand the word,

is

Mysticism to avoid, not an error involved


^

The system

of Spinoza, based on the canon,

negatio," proceeds by wiping out

pitfall for

in

its

first

" Omnis determinatio

est

dividing lines, which he regards as

all

order to reach the ultimate truth of things.


This, as Hegel
acosmism rather than Pantheism, and certainly not " atheism."
The method of Spinoza should have led him, as the same method led

illusions, in

showed,

is

Dionysius, to define

God

as vTrepovcrMs aopLaria.

conclusion by an inconsistency.
vol.
^

i.

He

only escapes this

See E. Caird, Evolution of Religion,

pp. 104, 105.

There

is

a third system which

nothing to do with Mysticism,


deserves the

name

or not.

It is

is

but as it has
determine whether it

called pantheistic

need not
that which

try to

deifies physical law.

Some-

"materialism grown sentimental," as it has been lately described ; sometimes it issues in stern Fatalism.
This is Stoicism and
high Calvinism is simply Christian Stoicism.
It has been called pantimes

it

is

theistic,

because

it

admits only one Will in the universe.

122

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

principles.

But we need not quarrel with those who

have said that speculative Mysticism


form

of

Pantheism.

Amiel's dictum, that

For there

it

to

in

triumph

Those are no true


who would base it en-

upon dogmatic supernaturalism.


which are objective,

is

truth

it."

friends to the cause of religion

for facts

the Christian

much

" Christianity, if

over Pantheism, must absorb

tirely

is

is

isolated,

The
and

passion

past, often

prevents us from seeing facts which are eternal and

We

spiritual.

forget

that

amongst

us.

speculative
their

cry, "

Lo

here,"

and

kingdom of God

the

The
mystics

recognition

of

great

service

"
is

those

truths

there,"

within

rendered

to the Christian

grasps only to destroy.

Lo

Church

which

us

and

and

by the
lies

in

Pantheism

LECTURE

123

IV

Heraclitus.
" La philosophic

n'est pas philosophic

elle ccssc d'etre philosophic si elle

clle

si

ne touche a I'abime

y tombe."

Cousin.

"

Denn

Alles muss in Nichts zerfallen,

Wenn

es

im Sein beharren

will."

Goethe.
" Seek no more abroad, say I,
House and Home, but turn thine eye
Inward, and observe thy breast
There alone dwells solid Rest.
Say not that this House is small,
Girt up in a narrow wall
In a cleanly sober mind

Heaven itself full room doth find.


Here content make thine abode
With thyself and with thy God.
Here in this sweet privacy
May'st thou with thyself agree,

And keep House in peace,


Th' Universe's fabric fall."

tho' all

Joseph Beaumont.

"The One

remains, the

Heaven's light
Life, like

many change and

dome

for ever shines

earth's

pass:

shadows

of many-coloured glass,

Stains the white radiance of Eternity,"

Shelley.

fly

mais

LECTURE

IV

Christian Platonism and Speculative


Mysticism

" Know ye not

the west

in

2.

that ye are a temple of

dwelleth in you?"-

We

God, and that the


CoR. iii. i6.

have seen that Mysticism,

of religion, had

its

Spirit of

God

like

most other types

The

cradle in the East.

Christian

whom we

considered

in

wrote in Greek, and

we had no

occasion to mention

Platonists,

the

Western

But

Churches.

Dionysius, the East had


Christian thought.

century,

detain

little

after

more

the

Lecture,

Pseudo-

to contribute to

John of Damascus, in the eighth


and half scholastic, need not

mystic

half

The Eastern Churches

us.

the last

rapidly sank into a

deplorably barbarous condition, from which they have

never emerged.

We may

therefore turn

away from

the Greek-speaking countries, and trace the course of

Mysticism

in

Scientific

the Latin

Mysticism

through Dionysius.
sopher,

joy which

it

The

caused

in

the

West

races.

did not

all

pass

Victorinus, a Neoplatonic philo-

was converted

about 360 A.D.

and Teutonic

in

to Christianity in his old age,

story of his conversion, and the


the Christian community,

is

told

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

126

by

He was

Augustine.'^

St.

deep

of

thinker

the speculative mystical type, but a clumsy and ob-

His

scure writer, in spite of his rhetorical training.

importance

The

who wrote

Trinitarian doctrine of Victorinus anticipates in

mystics.

The

self in the

Son.

God, the

"

"

quies "

"

motto"

The Son

He

but

There

"

"

All

time.

life is

now

we

not in the past or future


of eternity, to which

all

live

as 6

firj

He
a>v

is
is

the generation

exalted above

to

present,

in the
life is

at the

is

a symbol

whom

for

all

same time the


the Son is the

that potentially

even says that the Father

to 6

wished

Plotinus

"

and thus our

generation of the Son

actualised.

a>v,

So Synesius

'"Non
praesenti

calls the

Son

avoid,

irarpbs

to the

is

and

applying

the

same

"

aut

vivimus futurum,

sed semper

Jiternitas semper per prtesentiam habet

omnia

haec semper."
*

"

is

fiopcf)ri.

enin vivimus prteteritum

utimur."

is

thus taking the step which

1 Con/,
viii. 2-5.
The best account of the theology of Victorinus
Gore's article in the Dictionary of Christian Biography.

as

to the " being " of

always

creation of the archetypal world

Son

same

the

is

motus

*'

things are for ever present.^

cosmic principle,* through


is

not

is

This eternal generation

of the Son.

The

motus

Movement " belongs


and this eternal " movement

the

silentiuml^

motus" while the Son

"

mutatto."

"

cessatio"

no contradiction between

since

of

utterance

the
"

is

also "

is

is

" cessatio"

God

Father

knows Him-

the self-objectification of

is

God,^

of

"

The

later philosophical

Father, he says, eternally

forma

Absolute.

and

Christian

first

in Latin.

remarkable manner that of the

"

as the

his position

in

lies

Neoplatonist

Effectus est omnia," Victorinus says plainly.

Si>

fe^t't.

aU*.

et

PLATONISM AND MYSTICISM


expression

the

to

God

superessential

as

127
to

infra-

essential matter.^

This actualisation

a self-Hmitation of God,^ but

is

no degradation.

involves

Victorinus

language

uses

implying the subordination of the Son, but

strongly

is

opposed to Arianism.

The Holy Ghost

^-

the

is

"

bond

Victorinus

is

the

became common.
triad

It

based

is

of status, progression

Ghost as the female


His

on

and the Son.

which afterwards
Neoplatonic

the

regressus

irpooBo';,

{fiouij,

Holy

In another place he symbolises the

eTTLcrTpo^rj).

in

to use this idea,

first

of the

(copula)

"

Trinity, joining in perfect love the Father

eternal

principle, the "

Mother of Christ

metaphor

This

life.

is

of

relic

Gnosticism, which the Church wisely rejected.

The second Person


archetypes

self the

inentum"

"

habitaculuin"

The

universe.

probation.

immersion
degradation
delivered.

"

He

habitator"

is

the "

" locus "

ele-

of the

material world was created for man's

All spirits pre-existed,


in

Him-

of the Trinity contains in

of everything.

an
from

and

their

partial

impure material environment

which

they

must

aspire

to

is

be

But the whole mundane history of a soul

only the realisation of the idea which had existed

is

from

all

eternity in the

mind of God.

These doctrines

show that Victorinus is involved in a dualistic view of


matter, and in a form of predestinarianism
but he has
;

Victorinus must have got this phrase from some Greek Neoplatonist.
was explained that to /xtj Gv may be used in four senses, and that it is not
But the very remarkable passage
intended to identify the two extremes.
in Hierotheus (referred to in Lecture III.) shows that the two categories
^

It

of aopiarla. cannot be kept apart.


^

" Ipse se ipsum circumterminavit."

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

128

no definite teaching on the relation of

to the ideal

sin

world.

language

His

about
"

mystical in tone.
"

The

resurrection of Christ

We

now come

period of his

Church

the

our resurrection

of Christ

is

he says

Christ,"

is

and

at

one

"

is life."

who

to St. Augustine himself,

was a diligent student of Plotinus,

life

would be hardly

It

is

The body

of the Eucharist, "

and

Christ

The Church

justifiable to claim St,

Augustine

a mystic, since there are important parts of his

as

teaching which have no affinity to Mysticism

him on one

touched
Platonist.

side,

but

it

and he remained half a

His natural sympathy with Mysticism was

by the vulgar and perverted forms of it


The
with which he was first brought in contact.
Manicheans and Gnostics only taught him to dishe soon saw
tinguish true Mysticism from false
not destroyed

through the pretensions of these

was

not

ashamed

from

learn

to

sectaries, while

he

The

Plotinus.

mystical or Neoplatonic element in his theology will

be clearly shown

he

places

in the

comes dangerously near

which we found

errors

God

is

above

must not even

all

silence,^ best

by

negatives.*

in

some of the

to

Dionysius.

that can be said of

Him

call

in

In a few

following extracts.

ineffable;^

He

is

We

Him.

best adored

known by nescience,^ best described


God is absolutely immutable this is a
;

doctrine on which he often insists, and which pervades


his

all
1

De

Dei,

ix.

teaching

Trin.

vii. 4.

about
de Doctr.

The world

predestination.
Christ,

5- 5

i.

Serin. 52. 16

De

Civ,

16.

Man.

CorUr. Aditn.

Enarrat. in Fs. 85.

ii.
1

2.

'^

Dc

Ord,

ii.

16. 44, 18. 47.

PLATONISM AND MYSTICISM


pre-existed from

the

Word

who

things and

all

not

time-process

the

sees

in

things were made, and

all

up together unchangeably, and

stored

God

whom

immutable Truth,

is

mind of God

eternity in the

all

of God, by

129

as

events are
are

all

one.

process,

gathered up into one harmonious whole.

but

This seems

very near to acosmism, but there are other passages

which are intended to guard against


instance,

in

the

Confessions

above are better than things below

that

but

better than things above"; that

together

is

reality

something higher than an abstract

He

is

as he identifies beauty with symmetry,^

the

formless "Infinite"

Platonist, the

being.

all

creation

God

and

plain that

him, as for every true

for

is

things

spirituality.^

is

it

"

to say, true

is

fond of speaking of the Beauty of

is

For

this error.

he says

bottom and not the top of the scale of

Plotinus had perhaps been the

first

to speak

of the Divine nature as the meeting-point of the Good,

the

and the Beautiful

True,

which

is

and

of great value, appears

There are three

grades

conception,

this

also

Augustine.

in

of beauty, they both

say,

and divine,"* the first being an


image of the second, and the second of the third.^

corporeal,

"

spiritual,

Righteousness
^

is

the truest beauty,"

Conf. vii. 13 ad fin.


Compare with this sentence of

the

Augustine says

Confessions

statement

the

Erigena quoted below, that " the things which are not are

far better

of

than

those which are."


'^

Ep. 120. 20. St. Augustine wrote in early Hfe an essay "On the
and Fit," which he unhappily took no pains to preserve.

Beautiful
*
^

De
De

Ord.

ii.

i6. 42,

Lib. Arb.

ii.

59

Plot.

16, 41

Plot.

Enn. i. 6. 4.
Enn. i. 6. 8,

Enarr. in Ps. xliv. 3 ; Ep. 120, 20.


more picturesqueness than usual, koKov ri

irpbffusTTOV,

iii.

Plot.
ttjs

Kai oiire ^(nrepos ovre eyos ovtu KoXa,,

8. 11.

Enn.

i.

6.

4, says

with

BiKaioawris Kai aucjipoaivq^

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

I30

" All

more than once,


the

which

Beauty,

highest

Platonism, and points to

we must

kind, which

on

is

God."

comes from
This

true

is

Mysticism of the symbolic

consider later.

St.

Augustine
evil

dark colour which gives

and when

beautiful

ground when he says that

less secure

the splash of
picture

is

that

simply

is

relief to the

other places he speaks of

in

is

it

as

But here again he closely

simple privation of good.


follows Plotinus.-^

was not

Augustine

St.

World

Soul

but he often warns

organism

God and

identifying

as

readers

his

living

against

God
The Neoplatonic

the world, or supposing that

merely immanent

is

idea of a

to the

hostile

he regards the universe

in

creation.

teaching about the relation of individual souls to the

World-Soul

may have

helped him to formulate his

own

teaching about the mystical union of Christians with

His phrase

Christ.
"

is

that Christ and the Church are

una persona."
St. Augustine arranges the ascent of the soul

seven

But the higher steps

stages.^

purgation, illumination, and union.

he
"

"

calls

This

have reached

it,

we

shall

Ench.

iii.

(Eitch.

xi. ),

"etiam

St.

illud

we were

quod malum

dicitur

eminentius commendat bona."

"cum omnino

Plot. Efin.

cf.

which

iii.

2.

5,

mali

nomen non

SXws 5^ rh KdKhv

Augustine praises Plotinus

is

When we

understand the wholesomeness

of the doctrines with which

suo positum

last,

the vision and contemplation of truth,"

not a step, but the goal of the journey."

in

as usual,

are,

for

his

fed, as

children

bene ordinatum est loco


St. Augustine also says

sit

nisi privationis

^Xeiij/Li'

mali";

rod dyaOoD deriov.

teaching on the universality of

Providence.
2

De

Civ. Dei,

iv.

12,

vii.

5.

Dc

Quantitate Animce. xxx.

PLATONISM AND MYSTICISM

131

meaning of such " hard sayings "


resurrection of the body will become plain
with milk

Of

the

the blessedness which attends


"

elsewhere/

eye of

eye of

my
my

to

us.

state he says

this

and beheld with the mysterious

entered,

as the

soul the light that never changes, above the

my

above

soul,

intelligence.

was some-

It

thing altogether different from any earthly illumination.

my

was higher than

It

me, and

knows the

again he says,^

upon me, and

thrills

and

tremble

am

it

knows that light,


knows eternity.
Love knows that

truth

that light

And

made
it.
He who
and he who knows

intelligence because

was lower because made by

Him

unlike

"

What

my

burn
I

which

this

is

heart without

tremble,

burn,

feeling

light."

flashes in

wounding
feeling

that

that

am

it ?

like

Him."

One more
St.

point must be mentioned before

Augustine.

In spite

we

or rather because

of,

leave
of, his

Platonism, he had nothing but contempt for the later

Neoplatonism, the theurgic and theosophic apparatus


of lamblichus and his friends.

have said nothing yet

about the extraordinary development of magic


its

other kinds of divination, charms

which

witchcraft,

brought

struggles of paganism.

Mysticism

ments

in

will

my

mentioning
"

all

"

These aberrations of Nature-

be dealt with in their later develop-

nonsensical

kind, says, "

wiser than these philosophers."


Conf.

vii.

10.

and amulets and


upon the last

ridicule

seventh Lecture.

some

abracadabra

in

branches, astrology, necromancy, table-rapping, and

St.

Augustine, after

incantations
Christian old

of

the

woman

is

In truth, the spirit of

have quoted Bigg's translation.

Conf.

xi. 9.

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

132
Plato lived

in,

and not outside Christianity, even

And

time of Porphyry.

which was

spirits,

connected

closely

superstition, St. Augustine's

me

Whom

"

ive.

to

Thee

should

Should

judgment

with
is

he asks,

find,"

the

theurgic

very instruct" to

approach the angels

in

on the cultus of angels and

reconcile
?

With

what prayers, with what rites ? Many, as I hear,


have tried this method, and have come to crave
curious visions, and have been deceived, as they

for

deserved."^

In

of

spite

immense

Augustine's

St.

influence

Church was slow

Platonism

and

the

which he exercised, the Western


developing a mystical theology.

in

The Greek Mysticism, based on emanation, was not


congenial to the Western mind, and the time of the

German, with its philosophy of immanence, was not


The tendency of Eastern thinkers is to try to

yet.

gain a view of reality as a whole, complete and entire

the form under which

The West

that of space.

most readily pictures

it

it

is

seeks rather to discover the

universal laws which in every part of the universe are

working out

The form under which it


is that of time?Thus

their fulfilment.

most readily pictures reality


Neoplatonism had to undergo certain
^

St.

modifications

Augustine does not reject the belief that visions are granted by the

mediation of angels, but he expresses himself with great caution on the

" Sunt quaedam excellentia et


utrum visa sua facili
quadam et prsepotenti iunctione vel commixtione etiam nostra esse
facientes, an scientes nescio quo modo nostram in spiritu nostro informare
subject.

Cf.

De

Gen.

ad

litt.

xii.

30,

merito divina, qu?e demonstrant angeli miris modis

visionem,

difficilis

perceptu et

difficilior

diclu res est."

See Lotze, Microcosinns, bk. viii. chap. 4, and other places. We may
perhaps compare the Johannine Kdarfxos with the Synoptic ai'wc as examples
of the two modes of envisaging reality.
^

PLATONISM AND MYSTICISM


before

could enter deeply into

it

133

the religious con-

sciousness of the West.

The next

name

great

Scotus

of John

that

is

Erigena,^ an English or Irish

monk, who

in the ninth

Erigena

century translated Dionysius into Latin.

is

unquestionably one of the most remarkable figures of


the Middle Ages.

he made

to elucidate the

it

his

aim

bold and independent thinker,

vague Ttheories of

Dionysius, and to present them as a consistent philo-

worked out by the help of Aristotle

sophical system

He

and perhaps Boethius.^

intends, of course, to keep

within the limits permitted to Christian speculation

dogma

but in reality he does not allow

The

Christian Alexandrians were, on the whole,

orthodox

than

language

their

Erigena's

more

language

He

partially veils the real audacity of his speculation.

a mystic only by his intellectual

is

warmth

of

aspiration

pious

Dionysius, amid

all

to fetter him.

affinities ;^

the

and love which makes

his extravagance,

still

a religious

He

writer, has cooled entirely in Erigena.

can pray

with fervour and eloquence for intellectual enlighten-

ment

but there was nothing of the prophet or

about him, to judge from his writings.

one

might

dispute

his

to

title

be

Still,

called

saint'

though

either

Eriugena is, no doubt, the more correct spelling, but I have preferred
keep the name by which he is best known.
- Erigena quotes
also Origen, the two Gregorys, Basil, Maximus,
Ambrose, and Augustine. Of pagan philosophers he puts Plato first, but
^

to

holds Aristotle in high honour.


^

Stockl calls him " ein fiilscher Mystiker,'" because the Neoplatonic

("gnostic-rationalistic")
naturalism.

element takes, for

This, as will be

shown

Catholic view of Mysticism, which

For

us,

later, is in
is

not that adopted in these Lectures.

Erigena's defect as a mystic

extreme intellectualism.

him, the place of superaccordance with the Roman,

is

rather

to

be sought

in

his

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

134

Christian or a mystic,
this last flower of

on our northern

we must spare

a few minutes to

Neoplatonism, which bloomed so

God, says Erigena,

called Essence or

is

strictly speaking,

He

in opposition to

not-Being, and there

is not "

Absolute, or

the

to

nature of God,
simple,

and

late

islands.

is

Being

"

for

;^

is

Being

Being

arises

no opposition

Eternity, the abode or

God.

homogeneous and without

God

"

indivisible.

but,

is

parts, one,

the totality of all

things which are and are not, which can and cannot be.

He

the similarity of the similar, the dissimilarity of

is

the dissimilar, the opposition of opposites, and the contrariety of contraries.

All discords are resolved

when

they are considered as parts of the universal harmony."


All things begin

from unity and end

in

unity

so

God cannot be

called

Goodness,

opposed to Badness, and God


Goodness, however,

is

is

for

above

the

And

Absolute can contain nothing self-contradictory.

Goodness

is

this distinction.

a more comprehensive term than

There may be Goodness without Being, but


not Being without Goodness
for Evil is the negation
Being.

says Erigena
not^ lo,

The

"

of Being.

Scripture openly pronounces this,"

we

" for

they were, but,

read,
lo,

God saw

all

things

they were very good."

things are, in so far as they are good.

"

and
All

But the things

that are not are also called good, and are far better

than

those which

" since

it

The

feeling

that

since

"

Dum

are."

separates

Being, in

from

which prompts

the

fact,

is

a defect,

superessential

Good."

this strange expression

is

time and space are themselves onesided

vero (divina bonitas) incomprehensibilis intelligitur, per excel-

lentiam non immerilo nihilum vocitatui."

PLATONISM AND MYSTICISM

135

amount

appearances, a fixed limit must be set to the

of

goodness and reality which can be represented under

Erigena therefore thinks that to

these conditions.

enter the time-process must be to contract a certain

admixture of unreality or
involves

true

separateness

(not

but the manifold

In

evil.

so

distinction),

only

is

when

evil

the forms of time and space in which


that

"

as

life

must be
it

dis-

is

That the many-in-

cordant and antagonistic to unity.

one should appear as the one-in-many,


statement

far

this

the things which

the effect of

is

appears

it

not

are

the

are

far

better than those which are,"

is

only true in the sense

that the world of appearance

is

permeated by

Godhead

yet unsubdued, which in the

evil as

exists only as

something overcome or transmuted,


Erigena says that God

is

including that of relation.

above

in

the Persons

" relative

names," are

God,

about

metaphors

deny
^

is

we

if

remember

This

is

the " negative road

doctrine becomes very apparent in


^

De

Div. Nat.

i.

36

they

that

a revival of " modalism,"

really

make statements
only

are

we deny about Him, we

but whatever

truly.-

This

We may

the Absolute,^

the categories,

It follows that

of the Trinity, which are only

fused

all

of Dionysius,-

The unorthodoxy

some of Erigena's

" lamdudum

"

inter nos est

of the

successors.

confectum omnia quae


de Deo merito

vel sensu corporeo vel intellectu vel ratione cognoscuntur

creatore

omnium, posse

prcedicari,

cantur pura veritatis contemplatio

about

God

are

made "non

translative sedproprie."

dum

nihil

eorum quae de

eum approbat

esse."

se prsedi-

All affirmations

all negations " non


" veriusfideliusque negatur
ibid. i. 5. 26, " theophanias

proprie sed translative";

Cf. also

z7;/af. i.

i.

66,

in omnibus quam affirmatur" ; and especially


autem dico visibilium et invisibilium species, quarum ordine et pulcritudine
cognoscitur Deus esse et invenitur non quid est, sed quia solummodo est.""

Erigena

tries to

say (in his atrocious Latin) that the external world can

teach us nothing about God, except the bare fact of His existence.

No

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

136

whom

from

Erigena borrows a number of uncouth

compounds.
But we can see that he valued this
method mainly as safeguarding the transcendence of
God against pantheistic theories of immanence. The
religious and practical aspects of the doctrine had little
interest for him.

The
in
all

destiny of

God.

But he

God

which they

things

is

to " rest

raises

first

and be quiet

he says, the

rather,

creatures into a higher state, in

attain their true being.

All individual

types will be preserved in the universal.

an
"

illustration,

As

iron,

when

into pure

so

fire,

it

in

He

borrows

not a very happy one, from Plotinus.


it

becomes red-hot, seems

to be turned

but remains no less iron than before

when body passes

into God, they

"

to escape the conclusion that

tries

must disappear

distinctions

return to

all

into soul,

do not

and

rational substances

lose their identity, but preserve

a higher state of being."

Creation he regards as a necessary self-realisation of

God was not," he says, " before He made the


The Son is the Idea of the World " be
assured," he says, " that the Word is the nature of all
things."
The primordial causes or ideas Goodness,
Being, Life, etc., in themselves, which the Father made
God.

"

universe."

in the

Son

are in a sense the creators of the world,

for the order of all

them.

God

things

created the

is

\\'orld,

established according to

not out of nothing, nor

out of something, but out of Himself.^

The

creatures

passage could be found to illustrate more clearly the real tendencies of the
negative road, and the purely subjective Mysticism connected with it.

Erigena will not allow us to infer, from the order and beauty of the world,
and beauty are Divine attributes.
' But it must be remembered that
Erigena calls God "nihilum." His

that order

PLATONISM AND MYSTICISM


have always pre-existed

them

only caused

has

"

" in

yonder

to

be

Word

the

realised

137

God

time and

in

space.

Thought and Action are identical


by working and works by seeing."

"

sees

Man

is

vital,

represented

all

body

original

body

"

an

is

The

a microcosm.

corporeal,

sensitive,

The

one day be restored.


is

destined to disappear.

world must reach perfection, when


"

God.

The

loss

and absence of Christ

is

"

any

There

other."

life

The

ultimately

will

all

torment of the whole creation, nor do

ment

is

The

Nothing contrary to the Divine goodness and

there

This

incorruptible.

and blessedness can be coeternal with them."


be

He

corruptible

accident," the consequence of sin.

Evil has no substance, and


"

intellectual

rational,

body was immortal and

will

"

God."

fivefold division of nature

organisation.

his

in

in

is

think

the
that

no "place of punish-

is

anywhere.

Erigena

is

an admirable interpreter of the Alex-

andrians and of Dionysius, but he emphasises their

most dangerous tendencies.


that his
that

We

books were condemned

the audacious theories

cannot be surprised
;

it

is

more strange

which they repeat from

Dionysius should have been allowed to pass without


Indeed, the freedom of specula-

censure for so long.


tion

accorded

exception

to

the

mystics

zeal

for

to

the

forms

remarkable

orthodoxy

exact

which

characterised the general policy of the early Church.


words about creation

are,

"Ac

sic

de nihilo

facit

omnia, de sua videlicet

superessentialitate producit essentias, de supervitalitate vitas,


intellectualitate intellectus,

sunt, affirmationes

omnium

de negatione omnium qux sunt


qua; sunt et quce

non

sunt.''

et

de superqucc non

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

138

The explanation

is

that

East Mysticism has

the

in

seldom been revolutionary, and has compensated for


its

speculative audacity

by the readiness of

its

outward

conformity.

Moreover, the theories of Dionysius about

the earthly

and heavenly hierarchies were by no means

unwelcome

to sacerdotalism.

different.

Mysticism there has always been a

reform,

In the

There

generally of revolt.

Erigena, whose main

West
is

He

spirit

much even

were with

affinities

which forecasts the Reformation.

things were

is

the

of
in

East,

the father,

not only of Western Mysticism and scholasticism, but


of rationalism as well.^
in

his

But the danger which lurked


His
first recognised.

speculations was not at

book on predestination was condemned in 855 and 859


for its universalist doctrine,^ and two hundred years
later his Eucharistic doctrine, revived

censured.^

that

But

it

was not

till

by Berengar, was

the thirteenth century

a general condemnation was passed

upon him.

This judgment followed the appearance of a strongly


pantheistic

or

school

acosmistic

among whom was Amalric


theology at Paris about
interesting

figure,

features which are


^

So Kaulich shows

in

for

his

of

1200.

of

Bena,

mystics,

Amalric

teaching

chief

master
is

exhibits

of

a very
all

the

most characteristic of extravagant


his

monograph on

the speculative system of

Erigena.
-

Erigena was roused by a work on predestination, written by Gottes-

chalk, and advocating Calvinistic views, to protest against the doctrine

God, who is hfe, can possibly predestine anyone to eternal death.


Berengar objected to the crudely materialistic theories of the real
He protested against the statement
presence which were then prevalent.
that the transmutation of the elements takes place "vere et sensualiter,"

that
^

and that " portiunculse " of the body of Christ lie upon the altar. "The
mouth," he said, " receives the sacrament, the inner man the true body of
Christ."

PLATONISM AND MYSTICISM


Mysticism

West

the

in

immanence, not only


dividual

its

and

its

the

in

strong

belief in

Church, but

in

Divine
the in-

uncompromising rationalism, contempt

and

forms,

ecclesiastical

Among

optimism.

139

tendency

evolutionary

to

the doctrines attributed to Amalric

man

his followers are a pantheistic identification of

with God, and a negation of matter

they were said

bread was the body of

to teach that unconsecrated

and that God spoke through Ovid

Christ,

choice

well

as

!),

for

through

as

St.

(a curious

They

Augustine,

denied the resurrection of the body, and the traditional


eschatology, saying that
of

God

he who has the knowledge

on

progressive

historical

They

Christ, that

despised

of the

revelation

Abraham,

reign of the Father began with

Son with

They

himself has paradise within him."

in

insisted

"

the

that of the

Spirit with themselves.

sacraments, believing that the Spirit

They taught

works without means.

that he

who

lives

love can do no wrong, and were suspected, probably

in

truly, of the licentious

conduct which naturally follows

from such a doctrine.

This antinomianism

of true Mysticism

it is

with mystical
It

is

but

the

half-educated.

the vulgar perversion of Plotinus' doctrine that

nothing, and that the highest part of our

matter

is

nature

can

take

no

immorality practised
Gnostics and

We

stain.^

" in

nomine

evidence

find

caritatis "

Manicheans of the

first

among

centuries,

The

these heresies never really became extinct.

of the
'

no part

often found in conjunction

among

speculation

is

"

Free

Spirit,"

who

flourished

later

Similar leaching from the sacred books of the East

Caird, Evolution of Religion, vol.

i.

p.

355.

is

in

of
the

and
sects

the

quoted by E.

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

I40

thirteenth century, had an even worse reputation than

They combined with

the Amah-icians.

a Determinism which destroyed

On

bility.

Strassburg,

all

Pantheism

their

sense of responsi-

the other hand, the followers of Ortlieb of

about

same

the

an

advocated

period,

extreme asceticism based on a dualistic or Manichean


view of the world

and they combined with

this

an extreme rationalism, teaching that the

man

Christ was a mere

only a symbolical truth

body,

is

immortal

historical

that the Gospel history has

that the soul only, without the

and that the Pope and

error

his priests

are servants of Satan.

The problem for the Church was how to encourage


warm love and faith of the mystics without giving
The twelfth and
the rein to these mischievous errors.
the

thirteenth

produced several famous

centuries

writers,

who attempted to combine scholasticism and Mysticism.^


The leaders in this attempt were Bernard,^ Hugo and
Richard of
^

This

is

St. Victor,

Bonaventura, Albertus Magnus,

the accepted phrase for the

work of the

twelfth

and

thirteenth

We

might also say that they modified uncomCf. Harnack, History


promising Platonic Realism by Aristotelian science.
of Dogma, vol. vi. p. 43 (English translation): "Under what other
auspices could this great structure be erected than under those of that
Aristotelian Realism, which was at bottom a dialectic between the Platonic
century theologians.

and which was represented as capable of


immanence and transcendence, history and miracle, the immutability of God and mutability, Idealism and Realism, reason and authority."'
- The great importance of Bernard in the history of Mysticism does not
Realism and Nominalism

uniting

lie

in

the speculative side of his teaching, in which he depends almost

entirely

upon Augustine.

His great achievement was

to recall

devout and

loving contemplation to the image of the crucified Christ, and to found


that worship of our Saviour as the

"Bridegroom

much

of the Soul,"

which

in

and lyrical sacred


The romantic side of Mysticism, for good and for evil, received
poetry.
its greatest stimulus in Bernard's Poems and in his Sermons on the
Canticles.
This subject is dealt with in Appendix E.
the next centuries inspired so

fervid devotion

FLATONISM AND MYSTICISM


and

(later)

141

Their works are not of great value

Gerson.

as contributions to religious philosophy, for the School-

men were

too

afraid of their authorities

and Aristotle

tradition

bottom

much

probe

to

Catholic
to

difficulties

the

and the mystics, who, by making the renewed

of the soul their starting-point, were more inde-

life

pendent, were debarred, by their ignorance of Greek,

from a first-hand knowledge of their intellectual ances-

But

tors.

the history of Mysticism they hold an

in

important place.^

Speculation being for them restricted

within the limits of Church-dogma, they were obliged

more psychological and

to be

self-knowledge as the

and on

self-purification
"

sophy.
" is to

self

The way

to

as

self,"

ascend to God,"

says

Let him that

him make

The

says

selves to higher things.

God

clean his mirror, let

says Richard again.

Victorines do not disparage reason, which

God

Hugo,

"

spirit bright,"

organ by which mankind


things of

philo-

thirsts to see

own

his

of God,

The ascent is through


Richard
we are to rise on
-

stepping-stones of our dead


"

often on

more important than

descend into oneself."

above

metaphysical than

less

The Victorines insist


way to the knowledge

Dionysius or Erigena.

in

is

the

apprehend the

general

but they regard ecstatic contemplation

as a supra-rational state or faculty,

which can only be

^ Stockl
says of Hugo that the course of development of mediaeval
Mysticism cannot be understood without a knowledge of his writings.
Stockl's own account is very full and clear.

The "eye

of contemplation" was given us

selves"; this eye has been blinded by


given us " to see ourselves "

this

sin.

"to

has been injured by

of flesh " remains in

its

must

"quce non adiuvatur ratione

trust to faith,

ea ratio."

pristine clearness.

see

The "eye
sin.

God

within our-

of reason" was

Only

th"e

" eye

In things "above reason "


ulla,

quoniam non

we

capit

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

142

reached per mentis excessum, and


truth

is

no longer

seen,

This highest
birth

is

a rare

which the naked

in a glass darkly.^

state, in

which

"

Reason

Rachel died

Ecstasy, as

to

Benjamin,"

in

dies in giving

giving birth to

in

not on the high road of the spiritual

is

bestowed by supernatural grace.

gift,

says that the

stage of contemplation

first

It

life.

Richard

an ex-

is

pansion of the soul, the second an exaltation, the third

an

The
human

alienation.

second from

arises

first

from human

effort assisted

third from Divine grace alone.

The

the

effort,

by Divine

grace, the

predisposing con-

ditions for the third state are devotion {devoiio), admiration {admiratid)y

and joy

produce ecstasy, which

is

(exaltatio)

but these cannot

a purely supernatural infusion.

This sharp opposition between the natural and the


supernatural, which

of St. Victor,

Mysticism.

which the

is

It

is

fully

developed

first

by Richard

the distinguishing feature of Catholic


is

earlier

an abandonment of the great aim


Christian

had

idealists

before

set

themselves, namely, to find spiritual law in the normal

course of nature, and the motions of the Divine


the normal

in

doctrine of the

Richard,

Logos

Roman

dropped.

of this state:

processes of mind.

as a cosmic principle

Catholic

apologists

Word

John's great

St.

is

claim

now
that

who is more ecstatic than Hugo, gives the following account


"Per mentis excessum extra semetipsum ductus homo
.

lumen non per speculum in renigmatesed in simplici veritate contemplatur."


In this state " we forget all that is without and all that is within us."
Reason and

all

other faculties are obscured.

"The

What

then

is

our security

"must be
accompanied by Moses and Elias"; that is to say, visions must not be
believed which conflict with the authority of Scripture.
against

vol.

delusions?

See, especially, Stockl,


i.

pp. 382-384.

transfigured

Christ,"

he

says,

Geschichte der riulosophie des Mittela/ters,

PLATONISM AND MYSTICISM


was

Mysticism

pantheism

"

thus

"

which accompanies

of space and time (they say)

an ideal world, nor

is

theories

human

is

natural

phenomena

fainter effluence

from

We

man

and

Both nature

of immanence.

men on

The world

it.

individuality endangered

regain a sort of independence.


as free

" Gnostic-

no longer regarded, as

was by the Neoplatonist, as a

by

" idealistic

the

of the Neoplatonist, and from the

Manichean duahsm

it

from

free

set

143

once more tread

solid ground, while occasional " super"

are not wanting to testify to the

existence of higher powers.

We
by

have seen that the Logos-doctrine


Clement)

St.

is

the remedy of discarding

but

disease.

The

(as

understood

exceptionally liable to perversion

unscriptural

it

is

and unphilosophical

worse than the


cleft

between natural and supernatural introduces a more


intractable dualism than that of Origen.

which, according to this theory, possesses


intuition into the things of
sible to reason,

what

it

is

faculty

immediate

not only irrespon-

but stands in no relation to

ushers us into an entirely


criteria of truth

God

The

new

and falsehood are

reveals to us

is

it.

It

world, where the familiar

And

inapplicable.

not a truer and deeper view of

the actual, but a wholly independent cosmic principle

which invades the world of experience as a disturbing


force,

spasmodically subverting the laws of nature in

order to show

its

power over them.^

P'or as

soon as

St. Paul's distinction between


wholly different.
" Dieu
- Contrast the Plotinian doctrine of ecstasy with the following
eleve a son gre aux plus hauts sommets, sans aucun merite prealable.
Osanne de Mantoue recoit le don de la contemplation a peine agee de six
Christine est fiancee a dix ans, pendant une extase de trois jours ;
ans.
^

It is

hardly necessary to point out that

natural and spiritual (see esp.

Cor.

ii. )

is

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

144

the formless intuition of contemplation begins to ex-

when untested
The

press itself in symbols, these symbols,

reason, are transformed into hallucinations.

by

warning of Plotinus, that


reason

falls

outside of

it,"

"

he who

tries

to rise

who by

tion in such legends as that of St. Christina,

extreme

of her

reason

"

mystical

Mysticism, which

The consideration
phenomena " belongs to

Here

Lecture.

which

at

first

to

practice

in

will

doctrine

mystical

hope

of

of these

deal

with

objective

in

later

only say that the scholastic"

supernatural

seems

sight

the

to

soared

frequently

saintliness

over the tops of trees.


alleged

above

receives a painful corrobora-

most

so

interventions,

"

has

attractive,

barbarous

and

led

ridiculous

superstitions.^

Another good specimen of


the

short

Magnus.

treatise,

De

scholastic

adhcerendo

Mysticism

Albertus

Deo, of

shows very clearly how the

It

is

"

negative

Marie d'Agreda re5ut des illuminations des sa premiere enfance " (Ribet).
Since Divine favours are believed to be bestowed in a purely arbitrary
manner, the fancies of a child left alone in the dark are as good as the
Moreover, God somedeepest intuitions of saint, poet, or philosopher.
times "asserts His liberty" by "elevating souls suddenly and without
transition from the abyss of sin to the highest summits of perfection, just as
Such teaching is interesting
in nature He asserts it by miracles " (Ribet).
as showing how the admission of caprice in the world of phenomena reacts
upon the moral sense and depraves our conception of God and salvation.

The

faculty of contemplation, according to

acquired
natural

*
'

either

Roman

Catholic teaching,

by virtue or by gratuitous favour. "

and supernatural thus allows men

is

The dualism of

to claim independent merit, while

the interventions of God are arbitrary and unaccountable.


* Those who are interested to see how
utterly defenceless this theory
leaves us against the silliest delusions,

may

consult with advantage the

Dictionary of Mysticism, by the Abbe Migne (passim), or, if they wish to


ascend nearer to the fountain-head of these legends, there are the sixty folio
volumes of Acta Sanctorum, compiled by the Bollandists. Gorres and
Ribet are also very

full

of these stories.

PLATONISM AND MYSTICISM


"

road

had become the highway of mediaeval Catholicism,

and how

When

paragraph of

first

must be worshipped

his

in spirit,

must be cleared of
shut thy door

for

continuance

the

John says that God

St.

the

in

hoped

be

could

little

from

progress
"

from

mind

all

a Spirit," says Albert

he means that the mind

When

thou prayest,

all

all

love

that

God

other creatures and itself

He who

and

desire

intelligible

is

Such a
can

it

understand nothing, and love

is

only

it

penetrates into himself, and

so transcends himself, ascends truly to God.

whom

phantasms and

occupations and distractions.

nothing, except
sees in God.

He

and that

the doors of thy senses

is,

of nothing, and

think

"

a manner transformed into God, for

in

is

teaching.

Nothing pleases God more than a mind

such

treatise,

images.

all

that

is

and

civilisation

of

keep them barred and bolted against


images.
free

145

above

all

that

is

He

sensible

and

sense and imagination cannot

bring us to Him, but only the desire of a pure heart.

This brings us into the darkness of the mind, whereby

we

can

ascend

to

nor

world,

about

present, or future

thy
;

contemplation

the

mystery of the Trinity.

Do

friends,

of the

nor

about

the

past,

but consider thyself to be outside

and alone with God, as

the world

even

not think about the

if

thy soul were

already separated from the body, and had no longer

any

interest in

peace or war, or the state of the world.

Leave thy body, and


light.
.

afar

The
off,

thy gaze on the uncreated

soul in contemplation views the world from

when we proceed to God by the way of


we deny Him, first all bodily and sensible

just as,

abstraction,
10

fix

Let nothing come between thee and God.

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

146

then intelligible qualities, and,

attributes,

bemg

which keeps

(esse)

Him among

This, according to Dionysius,

is

that

lastly,

created things.

mode

the best

of union

with God."

Bonaventura resembles Albertus

reverting

in

more

decidedly than the Victorines to the Dionysian tradi-

He

tion.

expatiates on the passivity and

of the soul which

Divine

the

is

nakedness

necessary in order to enter into

and

darkness,

with

elaborates

tiresome

pedantry his arbitrary schemes of faculties and stages.

something by

However, he gains
Aristotle,

which he

God

doctrine of

uses to

the

Unity.

abstract

as

knowledge of

his

correct

Neoplatonic

God is ideo
summe unum."
"

omnimodum,' " he says finely, " quia


He is " totum intra omnia et totum extra" a succinct
statement that God is both immanent and tran-

scendent.

profound.

and

itself,

diffusivum

His proof of the Trinity


It

so

the

is

the

sui,"

is

and

original

Good to impart
Good must be " summe

nature of the

highest

which

can

be

only

in

hypostatic

union.

The

last great scholastic

from 1363 to 1429.

He

mystic

is

Gerson,

who

lived

attempts to reduce Mystic-

ism to an exact science, tabulating and classifying


the teaching of his predecessors.

of his system

is

all

A very brief summary

here given.

Gerson distinguishes symbolical, natural, and mystical

theology, confining the last to the method which

rests

on

inner

negative road.

experiences,

The

and

proceeds

by

the

experiences of the mystic have

a greater certainty than any external revelations can


possess.

PLATONISM AND MYSTICISM

147

may be

fol-

Gerson's psychology

lows

The

power has three

cognitive

simple intelligence or natural


highest intelligence,
ing,

which

is

on the

synteresis;^

To

sense-affections.

To

of the

each

of

these

affective

three

faculties

rational

again

these

contemplation;

(i)

activities:

(2) the understand-

understanding,

(2)

(i)

between the two worlds

frontier

one

answers

faculties

faculties:

an outflow from the

light,

God Himself;

sense-consciousness.

(3)

given in outline as

desire;

correspond

(3)

three

meditation;-

(2)

(3)

thought.

Mystical theology differs from speculative

theology

mystical

that

in

lastic),

affective faculties, not the cognitive

depend on
ignorant
rests

it

that

and

logic,

upon

the

does not

not open to the unbelieving, since

it is

faith

it

to

open even to the

therefore

is

that

scho-

[ix.

belongs

and love

and that

brings peace,

it

whereas speculation breeds unrest.

The

"

means of mystical theology

the call of

God

contemplative

life

encumbrances

God

(v.)

(ii.)

certainty that one

all

are not so

perseverance

if it

is

all

to be a

(i.)

called to the

freedom from

of interests

asceticism

shutting the eye to

are seven
is

(iii.)

(vi.)

must not be maltreated


(vii.)

concentration

(iv.)

"

upon

but the body

good servant

sense perceptions.^

See Appendix C.
difference between contemplation and meditation is explained by
all the mediffival mystics.
Meditation is "discursive," contemplation is
" mentis in Deum suspensse elevatio." Richard of St. Victor states the
'

The

distinction epigrammatically

sublimis veritatis."
^

This

" per meditationem rimamur, per contempla-

("Admiratio

tionem niiramur."

est actus

Thomas Aquinas.)

arbitrary

schematism

Mysticism, and shows

its

is

affinity to

very

consequens contemplationem

characteristic

Indian philosophy.

of this

type

of

Compare "the

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

148

Such teaching as this


itself becomes

of small value or interest.

is

Mysticism

arid

and formal

in the

hands

The whole movement was doomed

to

failure,

inasmuch as scholasticism was philosophy

in

chains,

and the negative road was Mysticism blind-

of Gerson.

No

folded.

reconciliation

fruitful

and piety could

be

between philosophy

The decay

thus achieved.

of

scholasticism put an end to these attempts at com-

Henceforward

promise.

the

mystics

either

discard

metaphysics, and develop their theology on the devo-

and

tional

by the

ascetic side

the course which was followed

later Catholic mystics

or they copy Erigena in

his independent attitude towards tradition.

In this Lecture

we

Mysticism, and

lative

of

greatest

and
for

He

we have now

speculative

all

who was born soon


century.^

are following the line of specu-

Spirit

middle of the thirteenth

was a Dominican monk, prior of Erfurt

He

and afterwards vicar-general

preached a great deal at Cologne

about 1325; and before


k-elations

the

mystics, Meister Eckhart,

after the

vicar of Thuringen,

Bohemia.

to consider

this period

had come

into close

with the Beghards and Brethren of the Free


societies

of

men and women who, by

their

implicit faith in the inner light, resembled the Quakers,

though many of them, as has been

said,

of immoral theories and practices.

His teaching soon

were accused

and some of
condemned by the Pope in

attracted the attention of the Inquisition,


his doctrines were formally

1329, immediately after his death.


eightfold path of

Buddha," and a hundred other shnilar

classifications in

the sacred books of the East.


'

The

date usually given, 1260,

cannot be determined.

is

probably too late

but the exact year

PLATONISM AND MYSTICISM


The aim

of Eckhart's religious philosophy

a speculative basis

which

at

shall

spiritual

must

distaste

have

claims of

satisfy the

read

polemical

for

controversy;

he chiefly

cites

by name

Gregory,

and

Boethius

Augustine,

nysius,

to find

His aims are purely constructive,

whom

writers

is

the doctrines of the Church,

same time

the

religion.

and he shows a

The

for

149

and

Erigena,

probably

are Dio;

he

but

Averroes,

whom
obligations,^
He

a Catholic could hardly confess his

with the words, "

writers to

also frequently introduces quotations

master

Thomas Aquinas,

nearly always

The

saith."

"

spark," which

soul,
is

it

Sumnia,
to

Thomas regarded

uncreated.^

its

in the

opposition

"

is

Eckhart

would be
that

all

For instance,

Thomas about

the

as a faculty of the

Eckhart, in his later writings, says that

while

His double object leads him into

Karl Pearson {Mind, 1886) says,

Prof.

owes

in

it

some have done,

a great mistake to say, as

Eckhart can be found

master

whom

to

was no doubt greatly indebted, though

he sets himself

"

He

leading ideas to Averroes."

"The

Mysticism of Eckhart

traces the doctrine of the NoD?

from Aristotle, de Aniiiia, through the Arabs to Eckhart, and finds


"ideas" of Eckhart
and the " Dinge an sich " of Kant. But Eckhart's affinities with Plotinus
and Hegel seem to me to be closer than those which he shows with Aristotle and Kant.
On the connexion with Averroes, Lasson says that while
there is a close resemblance between the Eckhartian doctrine of the
" Seelengrund" and Averroes' Intdkctus Agents as the universal principle
n-oir]TiK6s

a close resemblance between the "prototypes" or

of reason in

all

men (monopsychism),

roes personality

immanent

is

they differ in this

that with Aver-

a phase or accident, but with Eckhart the eternal

in the personality in

such a

way

is

that the personality itself has

Persona part in eternity (Meister Eckhart der Mystiker, pp. 348, 349).
Eckhart the eternal ground-form of all true being, and the

ality is for

notion of Person

/aw

none can

become a person,
-

is

the centre-point of his system.

God alone." The


Son of God is a Person.

truly speak but

as the

He

says,

" The word

individual must try to

Denifle has devoted great pains to proving that Eckhart in his Latin

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

I50

some

wards a semi-pantheistic idealism

him

an

possible

Evangelical
to

his

his

in

is

drawn

heart

to-

makes

though

But

Christian.

contradictions

find

he

Intellectually,

inconsistencies.

it

writings,

is

his

transparent intellectual honesty and his great powers

combined with deep devoutness and childpurity of soul, make him one of the most interest-

of thought,
like

ing figures in the history of Christian philosophy.

Eckhart wrote

in

German

the public, and not

for

for

that

is

to say,

he wrote
His

learned only.

the

desire to be intelligible to the general reader led

to adopt an epigrammatic antithetic style,

This

qualifying phrases.

himself open to so

many

is

The Godhead

God."

He

is

"

the

Formlessness."

"

and

Himself

all

distinctions, as

therefore cannot be the object

The Triune God

Godhead

the abiding potentiality of

of knowledge, nor of worship, being


"

laid

accusations of heresy.^

Being, containing within

yet undeveloped.

and to omit

one reason why he

Eckhart distinguishes between


"

him

is

"

Darkness

"

and

evolved from the

works is very largely dependent upon Aquinas. His conclusions are welcomed and gladly adopted by Harnack, who, like Ritschl, has little sympathy with the German mystics, and considers that Christian Mysticism is
" It will never be possible," he says, " to make
really " Catholic piety."
Mysticism Protestant without flying in the face of history and Catholicism."
No one certainly would be guilty of the absurdity of " making Mysticism
Protestant" but it is, I think, even more absurd to "make it (Roman)
Catholic," though such a view may unite the suffrages of Romanists and
;

Neo-Kantians.
^

But

Preger
it is

(vol.

See Appendix A,
iii.

p.

p. 346.
140) says that Eckhart did not try to be popular.

he did try to make his philosophy intelligible


man, though his teaching is less ethical and more

clear, I think, that

to the average educated

speculative than that of Tauler.


2 Sometimes he speaks of the Godhead as above the opposition of being
and not being ; but at other times he regards the Godhead as the universal
Ground or Substance of the ideal world. "All things in God are one
"God is neither this nor that." Compare, too, the following
thing."

PLATONISM AND MYSTICISM


The Son

Godhead.

uttered thought

is

Word

the

151

of the Father, His

and the Holy Ghost

"-the

is

Flower

of the Divine Tree," the mutual love which unites the

Eckhart quotes the words


and the Son.
which St. Augustine makes Christ say of Himself: " I
Father

am come

Word

as a

sun, as heat

from the heart, as a ray from the

from the

as a stream

fire,

that the generation of the

The

universe

of the Father

as fragrance from the flower,

is
it

Son

is

a continual process.

is

Word.

Eck-

boldly, "

Nature

the language of the

the lower part of the Godhead," and

God was

tion,

insists

the expression of the whole thought

hart loves startling phrases, and says


is

He

from a perennial fountain."

not God."

"

Before crea-

These statements are not

He

so crudely pantheistic as they sound.

without the Son the Father would

argues that

not be God, but

only undeveloped potentiality of being.


Persons are not merely accidents and

The

three

modes of the

Divine Substance, but are inherent in the Godhead.^

And

so there can never have been a time

Son was

not.

when

the

But the generation of the Son neces-

sarily involves the creation of

an ideal world

for the

by a cosmos
of ideas.
When Eckhart speaks of creation and of the
world which had no beginning, he means, not the world
of phenomena, but the world of ideas, in the Platonic
Son

is

Reason, and Reason

" (Gottes) einfeltige natur

is

constituted

von formen formlos, von werden


darum entgeht
sie in alien werdenden dingen, und die endliche dinge miissen da enden."
^ I here agree with Preger against
Lasson.
It seems to me to be one of
the most important and characteristic parts of Eckhart's system, that the
Trinity is not for him (as it was for Plierotheus) an emanation or appearance of the Absolute.
But it is not to be denied that there are passages in
Eckhart which support the other view.
passage

ist

werdelos, von wesen wesenlos, und von sachen sachelos, und

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

152

The

sense.

world

ideal

the thought of God, and


calls

it

tiirte

"

is

the complete expression of

above space and time.

is

"

non-natured nature," as opposed to

nature,"

world of phenomena.^

the

He

diu gena-

Eckhart's

doctrine here differs from that of Plotinus in a very im-

The Neoplatonists always thought

portant particular.

of emanation as a diffusion of rays from a sun, which


necessarily

decrease in

heat and

from the central focus.

recede

brightness as they
It

follows that

the

second Person of the Trinity, the Nov<i or Intelligence,


subordinate to the

is

The Son

and the Third

First,

But with Eckhart there

Second.

is

is

fountain of things

Him

is

is

the Father

the Son, and

Holy Ghost."

The

eternal

the image of things

love for this

Image

is

the

the ground of the Godhead, and

in

are realised in the Son.

in identifying the

The Alexandrian

Fathers,

Logos with the Platonic NoO?, the

bearer of the World-Idea, had


avoid

"

All created things abide " formless

(as possibilities)
all

the

the pure brightness of the Father's glory,

and the express image of His Person.


in

to

no subordination.

subordinating

Him

found

the

to

it

Father.

difficult

to

Eckhart

escapes this heresy, but in consequence his view of


the world

world

is

more

is

really

Divine mind.^

'

pantheistic.

For

his

intelligible

God it is the whole content of the


The question has been much debated,

Compare Spinoza's " natura naturata."


The ideas are "uncreated creatures " they

are " creatures in God but


Preger states Eckhart's doctrine thus: " Gott denkt
;

not in themselves."

Wesen in untergeordnete Weise nachahmbar, und der Reflex dieses


Denkens in dem gottlichen Bewusstsein, die Vorstellungen hievon, sind

sein

die Ideen."

Son

in

But

in

what sense

is

the ideal world "subordinate"?

The

Eclchart holds quite a different relation to the Father from that

PLATONISM AND MYSTICISM


whether Eckhart really

The answer seems

Logos

"

is

the

the relation of

He

world of ideas.

the

of the Incarnation of the

phenomenal world

ideas, the

world,

speaks

This

phenomenal and returns

God and back

God

to

"

also called a

is

Thus the whole process

Son."

arises.

"

is

"

an

But the process by which the soul eman-

cipates itself from the


intelligible

When God

into "externality."

incarnation.

says,

pantheism or not.

into

depend on what

as a' kind of explanation of the passage of the

prototypes

His

to

dogma

the Christian

offers

"

world

phenonc^enal

to

whole system

obscurest part of his


the

falls

me

to

153

is

a circular one

Time and

again.

to the

begetting of the

were created with the world.

from

space, he

Material

things

are outside each other, spiritual things in each other.

But these statements do not make

it

clear

how Eckhart

accounts for the imperfections of the phenomenal world,

which he

is

precluded from explaining, as the Neo-

by a theory of emanation. Nor can


the difficulty by importing modern theories

platonists did,

we

solve

of evolution into his system.

The

idea of the world-

" the One " in Plotinus, as the following sentence


working in one eternal Now ; this working
of His is giving birth to His Son; He bears Him at every moment.
From
this birth proceed all things.
God has such delight therein that He zises up
all His power in the process.
He bears Himself out of Himself into Himself.
He bears Himself continually in the Son ; in Him He speaks all
things."
The following passage from Ruysbroek is an attempt to define
more precisely the nature of the Eckhartian Ideas Before the temporal
creation God saw the creatures, " et agnovit distincte in seipso in alteriwhich the Novj holds

show

will

"God

is

to

for ever

tate

quadam

Deus

non
Our

est."

discretione,"

tionem."

tamen omnimoda

eternal

life

alteritate

quidquid enim

in

Deo

est

remains "perpetuo in divina essentia sine

but continually flows

out

"per reternam Verbi generais the embodiment

Ruysbroek also says clearly that creation

of the whole

mind of God: "Whatever lives in the Father hidden


Son in emanatione manifesta.'

the unity, lives in the

'

in

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

154

history as a gradual realisation of the Divine Person-

tries to father

mind

this

theory cannot be found

necessity

which impels God to

But

The
Son "

"

upon him the doctrine that the human

a necessary organ of the self-development of

is

God.

is

"

itself,"

that his view of the world

ism

than

is

"

pantheism.

to

much from
he says.

Eckhart.

as the

is

thinkers, he

not clear

did

to

not

how he can

ing the earthly

life

so

also regard

himself obliged

feel

transitory,

It

little.

would

most mediaeval
to

give

and that the world,

except as the temporary abode of immortal

him but

us

place,"

say that, like

permanent value to the


interested

fact

nearer to acosm-

Nothing hinders

abode of the immanent God.^

probably be true

The

God as time and


phenomena only the negation

sees in
it

"

The

he says.^

much

His

beget

the knowledge of

He

of being, and

them

in

"

not a physical but a moral necessity.

good must needs impart


is

Stockl, indeed,

was foreign to Eckhart's thought.

ality

spirits,

His neglect of history, includ-

of Christ,

is

not at

scepticism about the miraculous.

the result of

all

It is

simply due to

the feeling that the Divine process in the " everlasting

Now

"

is

a fact of immeasurably greater importance

than any occurrence


^

It

is

true that Eckhart

nihil facere posse "

in the

external world can be.

was censured

for teaching

but the notion of a real becoming of

"

Deum

God

sine ipso

in the

human

mind, and the attempt to solve the problem of evil on the theory of
See,
evolutionary optimism, are, I am convinced, alien to his philosophy.
however, on the other side, Carriere, Die philosophische Weltanschauung
der Keforinationszeil, pp. 152-157.
-See Lasson, Meister Eckhart,

Eckhart protests vigorously


p. 351.
he made the phenomenal world the
But
IVesen of God, and uses strongly acosmistic language in self-defence.
there seems to be a real inconsistency in this side of his philosophy.

against the misrepresentation that

PLATONISM AND MYSTICISM


When

a religious writer

is

155

suspected of pantheism,

naturally turn to his treatment of the problem of

we
evil.

To

the true pantheist

everything

much matter

all

is

equally divine, and

the best or for the worst,

for

does not

it

Eckhart certainly does not mean

which.^

to countenance this absurd theory, but there are pas-

sages in his writings which logically imply

it

and we

look in vain for any elucidation, in his doctrine of


In

of the dark places in his doctrine of God.'^

adds very
nature of

Good, and
self-will

little

to

it is

identifies

as such, with not-being.

evil,

he

Neoplatonic doctrine of the

the

Like Dionysius, he

evil.

sin,

fact,

Being with

Moral

evil

is

the attempt, on the part of the creature,

be a particular This or That outside of God.

to

But what

most

is

distinctive in

Eckhart's ethics

is

new importance which is given to the doctrine of


immanence. The human soul is a microcosm, which in
At the " apex
a manner contains all things in itself.
"
spark," which is so
of the mind " there is a Divine
closely akin to God that it is one with Him, and not

the

mean

that a pantheist

may

with equal consistency

call

himself an

optimist or a pessimist, or both alternately.


2 As when he says, " In God
The inquisitors were not slow to

all

things are one, from angel to spider."

lay hold of this error.

Among the

twentyin

omni

opere, etiam malo, manifestatur et relucet cequaliter gloria Dei."

The

six articles

word

of the

gravamen against Eckhart we

aqualiter'xs the

stamp of true pantheism.

find,

"Item,

Eckhart, however, whether

God. " God is


above all nature, and is not
In dealing with sin, he is confronted with the
Himself nature," etc.
obvious difficulty that if it is the nature of all phenomenal things to return
to God, from whom they proceeded, the process which he calls the birth of
the Son ought logically to occur in every conscious individual, for all have

consistently or not, frequently asserts the transcendence of


in the creatures, but

above them."

a like phenomenal existence.

He

"He

is

attempts to solve this puzzle by the

hypothesis of a double aspect of the

new

birth (see below).

some justice in Professor Pearson's comment, "Thus


menology is shattered upon his practical theology."

there

is

But
his

I fear

pheno-

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

156

merely united to Him.^


"

ground of the soul

"

In his

is

God

transforms us to Himself

that

is

it

is

it

created,

uncreated, the

is

Nature of God H imself.

His

Eckhart wavers.

"

But

his

later doctrine

immanence of

the Being and

Diess Flinkelein, das

ist

Gott,"

This view was adopted by Ruysbroek,

he says once.

Suso, and (with modifications by) Tauler, and

one of

earlier

and only the medium by which

view

that

teaching about this

This spark

their chief tenets.-

is

became

the organ by

which our personality holds communion with God and

knows Him.
uses

It

is

with reference to

the phrase which has so

convict

him of blasphemous

often

it

that Eckhart

been quoted to

self-deification

"

the eye

Other scholastics and mystics had taught that there is a residue of the
The idea of a central point of the soul appears in
in man.
Plotinus and Augustine, and the word scitjtilla had been used of this
faculty before Eckhart.
The "synteresis" of Alexander of Hales, Bonaventura, Albertus Magnus, and Thomas Aquinas, was substantially the
^

GodUke

same.
this

But there

this difference,

is

resemblance to

God

that while the earlier writers regard

as only a residue, Eckhart regards

it

as the true

which all its faculties may be transformed.


^ The following passage from Amiel (p. 44 of English edition) is an
"The
admirable commentary on the mystical doctrine of immanence:
centre of life is neither in thought nor in feeling nor in will, nor even in
For moral truth may
consciousness, so far as it thinks, feels, or wishes.
have been penetrated and possessed in all these ways, and escape us still.

Wesen of the

soul, into

Deeper even than consciousness, there is our being itself, our very subOnly those truths which have entered into this last
region, which have become ourselves, Ijccome spontaneous and involuntary,
that is to say, something
instinctive and unconscious, are really our life
more than our property. So long as we are able to distinguish any space
whatever between the truth and us, we remain outside it. The thought,
But
the feeling, the desire, the consciousness of life, are not yet quite life.
peace and repose can nowhere be found except in life and in eternal life,
and the eternal life is the Divine life, is God. To become Divine is, then,
then only can truth be said to be ours beyond the possithe aim of life
bility of loss, because it is no longer outside of us, nor even in us, but we
are it, and it is we
we ourselves are a truth, a will, a work of God.
Liberty has become nature
the creature is one with its Creator one
stance, our nature.

through love,"

PLATONISM AND MYSTICISM


with which

He

sees me."

same
like

God
The

see
^

is

"

same

the

157

as that with which

uncreated spark

" is

really the

God-

as the grace of God, which raises us into a


state.

But

this

Eckhart

grace, according to

least in his later period),

is

God Himself

(at

acting like a

human faculty in the soul, and transforming it so


man himself becomes grace."
The following is perhaps the most instructive

that

"

sage

"

There

in the soul

is

something which

the soul. Divine, simple, a pure nothing


less

than named, rather

am accustomed

my

a power, sometimes an uncreated

times

and sometimes a Divine spark.

and

free

all

names and

free

and absolute

in Himself.

from

all

It

is still

distinction.

blossom and flourish with


^

No

all

absolute

is

forms, just as

It is

God

is

higher than know-

ledge, higher than love, higher than grace.

these there

Of this
Some-

discourses.

light,

it

pas-

above

name-

rather

unknown than known.

to speak in

have called

is

In this power

For

in all

God doth

His Godhead, and the

better exposition of the religious aspect of Eckhart's doctrine of

immanence can be found than

in

Principal Caird's Introduction to the

Philosophy of Religion, pp. 244, 245, as the following extract will show
"There is therefore a sense in which we can say that the world of finite
:

though distinct from God, is still, in its ideal nature, one with
That which God creates, and by which lie reveals the hidden
treasures of His wisdom and love, is still not foreign to His own infinite
life, but one with it.
In the knowledge of the minds that know Him, in
the self-surrender of the hearts that love Him, it is no paradox to affirm
that He knows and loves Himself.
As He is the origin and inspiration of
every true thought and pure affection, of eveiy experience in which we
If in
forget and rise above ourselves, so is He also of all these the end.
one point of view religion is the work of man, in another it is the work of
God. Its true significance is not apprehended till we pass beyond its
origin in time and in the experience of a finite spirit, to see in it the revelation of the mind of God Himself.
In the language of Scripture, It is
God that worketh in us to will and to do of His good pleasure all things
"
are of God, who hath reconciled us to Himself.'
intelligence,

Ilim.

'

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

158

In this power the Father

God.

Spirit flourisheth in

bringeth forth His only-begotten Son, as essentially as

Himself; and

in

This spark rejecteth

He

God, simply as

and

creatures,

all
is

Holy Ghost.

light ariseth the

in this

Himself.

in

will

have only

rests satisfied

It

neither with the Father, nor with the Son, nor with the

Holy Ghost, nor with the


existeth in

its

three Persons, so far as each

particular attribute.

with the superessential essence.


enter

simple

the

into

then

one

is

it

It

it

still

Then
is

one

only

determined to

is

Ground, the

Unity where no man dwelleth.


the light

It is satisfied

it

in

is

Waste, the
satisfied in

itself,

as this

Ground is a simple stillness, and in itself immovable


and yet by this immobility are all things moved."
It is God that worketh in us both to will and to do
of His good pleasure but our own nature and personIt is plain that we could not see
ality remain intact.
;

God

unless our personality remained distinct from the

personality of God.

Complete fusion

as destructive

is

of the possibility of love and knowledge as complete


separation.^

Eckhart gives to
^

is

Eckhart sees

" the highest

this (cf. Preger, vol.

i.

reason

421)

p.

"

the primacy

" Personality

in

Eckhart

neither the faculties, nor the form {Bild), nor the essence, nor the nature

of the Godhead, but

it is rather the spirit which rises out of the essence,


born by the irradiation of the form in the essence, which mingles
itself with our nature and works by its means."
The obscurity of this conception is not made any less by the distinction which Eckhart draws between

and

is

the outer and inner consciousness in the personality.

The

outer conscious-

bound up with the earthly life


to it all images must come
through sense but in this way it can have no image of itself. But the

ness

is

higher consciousness
is

and remains

is

sinless

supra-temporal.
;

The

but the personality

potential
is

ground of the soul

also united to the bodily

its guilt is that it inclines to its sinful nature instead of to God.


Eckhart distinguishes the intelleciics agens {diji wirkende Vernunft)
from the passive (lidcndc) intellect. The office of the former is to present

nature
^

PLATONISM AND MYSTICISM

159

among

our faculties, and in his earlier period identifies


with " the spark."
He asserts the absolute supremacy

it

more strongly than anyone

of reason

His language on

Platonists.

eternal

he says.

life,"

tion help me,"

he asks,

experience

The

The

"

How

"

unless

last

be verified by inner

it

appeal must always be to the

and that

being,

it

Thus Eckhart
is

is

not content with the knowledge of

In

of the imitation of Christ, he

way

which underlies the


fact,

when he speaks

distinguishes between

of the manhood," which has to be followed

and

"

the

mystic only.

way

of the Godhead," which

In this overbold aspiration to

the Three to the One," he

have

cannot

mediated by Christ, but aspires to pene-

manifestation of the Trinity.

all,

reason."

It

must penetrate to the Ground from

trate into the " Divine darkness "

the

my

goodness and wisdom spring."

all

God which

by

is

with goodness or wisdom, nor even with

God Himself;
whence

is

can any external revela-

reason," he says, "presses ever upwards.

rest content

"

knowledge

Reasonable

"

my own

deepest part of
"

resembles that of the

subject

this

Cambridge

Erigena.

since

already

noticed,

falls into

and

is

for the

rise "

from

the error which

several

passages

in

we
his

writings advocate the quietistic self-simplification which

belongs to this scheme of perfection.

There are sen-

tences in which he exhorts us to strip off

all

that

perceptions to the latter, set out under the forms of time and space.

comes
In his

Strassburg period, the spark or Ganster, the inteUectus agens, diu oberstc

seem to be identical but later he says, "The


what it has not got. It cannot see two ideas
But if God works in the place of
together, but only one after another.
the active intellect, lie begets (in the mind) many ideas in one point."
Thus the "spark" becomes supra-rational and uncreated the Divine
Vernicnft,

and

synteresis,

active intellect cannot give

essence

itself.

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

i6o

to us from the senses, and to throw ourselves

heart of God, there to rest for ever,


creatures."

"

upon the

hidden from

all

But there are many other passages of an

opposite tendency.

He

tells

way

us that " the

of the

manhood," which, of course, includes imitation of the


of Christ, must be trodden

by

he

active

life

insists

that in the state of union the faculties of the

soul will act in

personality

is

teaches that

new and higher way,

restored, not destroyed

contemplation

is

higher activity, and that this


"

what a man has taken


for

service

activity

in

There

pours out in love."


desire

The

and, lastly, he

means
its

fact,

to

object

by contemplation, that he
no contradiction in the

is

but in Eckhart there

sistency.

so that the

in

is,

desire

for

active

can only be defined as unimpeded

for rest
;

all

only the

combined with the

rest

first

traditions

of

is,

think, a real incon-

his

philosophy pointed

towards withdrawal from the world and from outward


occupations

towards

but the modern

He

preached

the monkish ideal, in a word

spirit

German

in

was already

to the general public,

The

him.

and

his

themes are the present living operation of

favourite

the Spirit, and the consecration of

There

astir within

life

in

the world.

he shows, no contradiction between the active

is,

following sentence, for instance,

"Thou

God

He

is in

the worst

manner of Dio-

a non-God, a non-Spirit, a nonPerson, a non-Form


He is absolute bare Unity." This is Eckhart's
In
theory of the Absolute ("the Godhead") as distinguished from God.
these moods he wishes, like the Asiatic mystics, to sink in the bottomless

nysius:

shall love

as

is,

He

sea of the Infinite.

"

Is

he sick

He

is

also aspires to absolute d.-KaQeia.{Abgeschiedenheit).

as fain to be sick as well.

If a friend

should die

in

name of God. If an eye should be knocked out in the name of God."


The soul has returned to its pre-natal condition, having rid itself of all
" creatureliness."
the

PLATONISM AND MYSTICISM


and the contemplative

life

i6i

the former belongs to the

commenting on the story of Martha and Mary, those


favourite types of activity and contemplation,^ he surfaculties of the soul, the latter to its essence.

prises us

by putting Martha

the good part

that

is,"

as holy as her sister.

Mary

has learnt her lesson.

It is

is

Lebemeister

als

she

at school

still

St.

chosen

striving to be

is

Martha

hungry

better to feed the

than to see even such visions as


ein

"

he says,

Mary hath

"

first.

In

"

Paul saw."

Besser

He

tausend Lesemeister."

dis-

courages monkish religiosity and external badges of


saintliness

avoid everything peculiar," he says, " in

"

and language."

"

You need

not go into a
more lonely than a
wilderness, and small things harder to do than great."
dress, food,

desert and fast

"

What

is

a crowd

is

often

the good of the dead bones of saints

asks, in the spirit of a sixteenth century reformer

dead can neither give nor take."


Many passages might

be quoted.

The

lasts for ever.

"

he

" the

This double aspect

ordinary conckision

is

that

Mary

confined to this Hfe, while conAugustine treats the story of Leah and Rachel

chose the better part, because activity


templation

is

same way {Contra Faust. Manich. xxii. 52): " Lia interpretatur
Laborans, Rachel autem Visum principium, sive Verbum ex quo videtur
Actio ergo humanre mortalisque vitse
principium.
ipsa est Lia prior
uxor Jacob
ac per hoc et infirmis oculis fuisse commemoratur.
Spes
in the

vero oeternce contemplationis Dei, habens certam et delectabilem

intelli-

gentiam

pulcra

veritatis, ipsa est

Rachel, unde etiam dicitur bona facie

et

specie," etc.
^

"

Moreover, he

If

your will

is

is

can do everything."
love."

"There

never tired of insisting that the Will

right,

is

you cannot go wrong," he


" Love resides in the will

says.

the

nothing

evil

is

everything.

" With the will I


more will, the more

but the evil will, of which sin

" The value of human

is

the

depends entirely on the aim


which it sets before itself." This over-insistence on purity of intention as
the end, as well as the beginning, of virtue, is no doubt connected with
Eckhart's denial of reality and importance to the world of time he tries
to show that it does not logically lead to Antinomianism.
His doctrine
that good works have no value in themselves differs from those of Abelard
appearance."

life

II

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

62

of Eckhart's teaching makes him particularly interesting; he seems to stand on the dividing-line between

mediaeval and modern Christianity.

Like other mystics, he


fect,

when

per-

independent of the hope of reward, and he

is

shows great freedom


Heaven.

They

from God

is

own

that love,

insists

handling Purgatory, Hell, and

We

not

states,

the misery of
"

judge.

are

in

would

hell,

spiritualise

says, with especial reference to

separation

places;

and each man

Holy

is

his

everything,"

he

Scripture.^

In comparing the Mysticism of Eckhart with that of


his predecessors,

scholastics

down

from Dionysius downwards, and of the


to Gerson,

we

find

an obvious change

in the disappearance of the long ladders of ascent, the

graduated

scales

mind, which

These

lists

when

it

fill

of virtues,

and

faculties,

so large a place

in

states

of

those systems.

are the natural product of the imagination,

plays upon

the theory of etnanation.

But

we have seen, the fundamental truth


is the immanence of God Himself, not in the faculties,
The " spark of the
but in the ground of the soul.
"
"
" God
divinae particula aurae."
is for him really
soul
begets His Son in me," he is fond of saying and there
with Eckhart, as

and Bernard, which have a

superficial

resemblance to

it.

Eckhart really

regards the Catholic doctrine of good works much as St, Paul treated the
Pharisaic legalism ; but he is as unconscious of the widening gulf which had
already opened between Teutonic and Latin Christianity, as of the discredit
which his own writings were to help to bring upon the monkish view of
life.
^ As an example of his free handling of the Old Testament, I may quote,
" Do not suppose that when God made heaven and earth and all things,
He made one thing to-day and another to-morrow. Moses says so, of

course, but he

who

knew

better

he only wrote that

could not have understood otherwise.

world

was"

for the

sake of the populace,

God merely

willed,

and the

PLATONISM AND MYSTICISM

163

is no doubt that, relying on a verse in the seventeenth


chapter of St. John, he regards this " begetting " as

analogous to the eternal generation of the Son.^


birth of the
"

Son

eternal birth," which

This

has a double aspect

in the soul

the

unconscious and inalienable,^

is

but which does not confer blessedness, being -common


to

good and bad alike


of

faculties

by the pervading presence of


" quae lux quaedam
Ruysbroek says. The deification of

the

soul

Christ, or in other

deiformis est," as

our nature

and the assimilation of the

words by grace,

therefore a thing to be striven for,

is

not given complete to start with

observe

to

Eckhart

that

but

places

man and God.

between

"

it

is

no intermediaries

The Word

is

very nigh

thee," nearer than any object of sense, and any

institutions

human

sink into thyself, and thou wilt find

The heavenly and

earthly

and

important

hierarchies

of

Him.

Dionysius,

with the reverence for the priesthood which was built

upon them, have no

significance for Eckhart.

as in other ways, he

is

With Eckhart

a precursor of the Reformation.

end

Lecture on the speculative

this

Mysticism of the Middle Ages.


broek, Suso, and Tauler,

with none of them


^

und
^

E.g. "
nitt

Da

much

as they resemble

is

the

him

him

in this, that

intellectual, philosophical

der vatter seynen sun in mir gebirt, da byn ich der selb sun

eyn ander."

So Hermann of

towards

His successors, Ruys-

teaching, differ from

in their general

In this

this

Fritslar says that the soul has

two

faces, the

world, the other immediately to God.

flows and shines eternally, whether

man

is

one turned

In the latter

conscious of

it

or not.

God
It

is

therefore according to man's nature as possessed of this Divine ground, to

seek God, his original

and even

in hell the suffering there has its source

in the hopeless contradiction of this indestructible tendency.


vol.

i.

p.

256

and the same teaching

in Tauler, p. 185.

See Vaughan,

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

64

side of primary importance.

value

to

the

speculative

They added nothing of

system

of Eckhart

their

Mysticism was primarily a religion of the heart or a


life.
It is this side of Mysticism to which I

rule of
shall

next invite your attention.

It

near to the centre of our subject


religious

system

is

best

known by

should bring us
for a
its

speculative

fruits.

LECTURE V

165

"

dpbvos r^s 6iuT7)Tos 6 vous iariv tj/hQv."

Macarius,
" Thou comest

Thou wert
Eternity

is

not, thou goest not


not, wilt not be

but a thought

By which we

think of Thee."

Faber.
" Werd als ein Kind, werd taub und blind,
Dein eignes Icht muss warden nicht
All Icht, all Nicht treib feme nur
Lass Statt, lass Zeit, auch Bild lass weit,
Geh ohne Weg den schmalen Steg,
So kommst du auf der Wiiste Spur.
O Seele mein, aus Gott geh ein,
Sink als ein Icht in Gottes Nicht,
Sink in die ungegrtindte Fluth.
Flich ich von Dir, du kommst zu mir,
;

Verlass ich mich, so find ich Dich,

iiberwesentliches

Gut

Medictval Geniian Hytnn.

" Quid caelo dabimus? quantum


Impendendus homo est, Deus

est

quo veneat omne?

esse ut possit in ipso."

Man

166

LI us.

LECTURE V
Practical and Devotional Mysticism
"

We all, with unveiled face

reflecting as a mirror the glory of the Lord, are

transformed into the same image, from glory to glory."

The

school of Eckhart

in the

Ruysbroek,

In

iii.

8.

fourteenth century pro-

duced the brightest cluster of names


Mysticism.

2 CoR.

Suso,

in

the history of

Tauler,

and

the

author of the Theologia Germanica we see introspective

Mysticism at
to

mean

its

best.

This must not be understood

that they improved

upon the philosophical

system of Eckhart, or that they are entirely free from


the dangerous tendencies which have been found in his

On

works.
value,

the speculative side they added nothing of

and none of them

intellect.

Eckhart

in

clearness of

But we

viction that our

find in them an unfaltering concommunion with God must be a fact

of experience, and

With

rivals

not only a philosophical theory.

the most intense earnestness they set themselves

to live through the mysteries of the spiritual

only
^

way

to understand

The indebtedness of the

and prove them.

life,

as the

Suso and

fourteenth century mystics to Eckhart

generally recognised, at any rate in

Germany

is

but before Pfeiffer's

now

work

name had been allowed to fall into most undeserved obscurity. This
was not the fault of his scholars, who, in spite of the Papal condemnation
his

speak of Eckhart with the utmost reverence,


"great," "sublime," or "holy" master.

of his writings,

167

as

the

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

i68

Tauler both passed through deep waters


of their inner Hves
suffering.

The

is

the history

a record of heroic struggle and

personality of the

men

is

part of their

message, a statement which could hardly be

made

of

Dionysius or Erigena, perhaps not of Eckhart himself.

John of Ruysbroek, " doctor ecstaticus " as the


Church allowed him to be called, was born in 1293,
and died in 1381. He was prior of Vauvert, near
Brussels,

and afterwards

Griinthal,

in

most

his

of

the forest

to the

retired

convent of

of Soignies, where he wrote

mystical

under

treatises,

the

guidance, as he believed, of the Holy Spirit.

direct

He was

the object of great veneration in the later part of his

Ruysbroek was not a learned man, or a

life.

thinker.^

He knew

Dionysius,

St.

clear

Augustine, and

Eckhart, and was no doubt acquainted with some of


the other mystical writers

a scholar or a

man

being more emotional and


of the

German

Ruysbroek

but he does not write like

He

of letters.

resembles Suso in

speculative than most

less

school.
reverts to

the

mystical tradition, par-

broken by Eckhart, of arranging almost

tially

topics

in

three

or

progressive scale.

all

his

seven divisions, often forming a

For instance,

in the treatise

"

On

we have the following series,


"Ladder of Love": (i) goodwill;

the Seven Grades of Love,"

which he
(2)

calls

the

voluntary poverty;

(5) desire for the glory of


tion,

(3)

God

chastity;
;

which has three properties

(4)

humility;

(6) Divine contempla-

intuition, purity

of

" Vir ut ferunt devotus sed parum litteratus," says the Abbe Tritheme
" Rusbrochius cum idiota esset" {Dyon. Carth.
Gessner, Biblioth.).
Serm. i. ). Compare Rousselot, Les Mystiques Espapiols, p. 493.
*

(a/.

PRACTICAL AND DEVOTIONAL


and nudity of mind

spirit,

transcendence

able

This

tiarum,

His

chief

the

active

elevated, or affective

and

The

{vita

life,

to

grace

obviam
:

life is

He came in the
and He will come

and

flesh

the virtues

is

humility

renunciation

gentleness,

piety,

for us

with

"

three

by

must

"

go

these are the three virtues which

obedience,

chastity.

We

to judgment.

"

into us

Him," by the three virtues of humility,

justice

and impulse

comes

"

He comes

support the fabric of the active


all

The

the text, " Ecce sponsus venit

The Bridegroom

ei."

out to meet
love,

the internal,

are not called,

all

correspond to these three stages.

motto of the active


times

stages

which only a few can

to

life,

of the

three

actuosd)^

which

nup-

spii'itualiunt

The

exist.

deep

three parts of the soul, sensitive, rational,

spiritual,

exite

Ordo

of

part

many

contain

life

and the contemplative


attain.

thought.

weakest

the

is

work,

which

progress

are here

unname-

knowledge and

one of the most complete charts

is

mystic's

(7) the ineffable,

which

writings,

thoughts.

all

schematism

arbitrary

Ruysbroek's

of

169

of

our

sympathy,

all,

if

Him

in

is

we

of

own

will,

patience,

bountifulness,

strength

for all virtues, soberness

This

The ground

life.

thence proceed, in order,

the active

life,

and temperance,

which

is

necessary

and to reign

wish to follow Christ,

His everlasting kingdom."

Above the active rises the inner life. This has three
parts.
Our intellect must be enlightened with supernatural clearness
we must behold the inner coming of
the Bridegroom, that is, the eternal truth we must " go
out " from the exterior to the inner life we must go
;

to meet the Bridegroom, to enjoy union with His Divinity.

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

I70

Finally, the spirit rises from the inner to the con-

templative

our ascent to

in

When we

"

life.

God

which embraces us
the practice of

and die

which

is

so simple that the love

occupied only with

the virtues, then

we

above

itself,

are transformed

God to ourselves and to all separate inGod unites us with Himself in eternal

in

dividuality."
love,

all

above ourselves, and

rise

made

are

"

Himself.

is

In this embrace and essential

God all devout and inward spirits are one


God by living immersion and melting away into

unity with

with

Him they are by grace one and the same thing with
Him, because the same essence is in both." " For
what we are, that we intently contemplate and what
;

we

we

contemplate, that

and our essence are simply


very truth, which

is

are

for

lifted

our mind, our

up and united

Wherefore

God.

in

and intent contemplation we are one

And

spirit

with God.

life.

In this highest stage the soul

without means

"

themselves
is

"
;

sinks

into

call

the

the contemplative
is

God

united to

vast

darkness

the

Persons

" thei'e is

of

of the

Trinity

transcend

only the eternal essence, which

the substance of the Divine Persons, where

all

simple

and one

In this abyss, he says, following his

the Godhead."
authorities,

it

this

this

life

life,

to the

we

are

one and uncreated, according to our prototypes."

Here,

"

so far as distinction of persons goes, there

is

no

more God nor creature " " we have lost ourselves and
been melted away into the unknown darkness." And
;

yet

we remain

eternally

distinct

from

creature remains a creature, and loses not

God.
its

The

creature-

We must be conscious of ourselves in God,


Hness.
and conscious of ourselves in ourselves. For eternal

PRACTICAL AND DEVOTIONAL

knowledge of God, and there can be

consists in the

life

171

no knowledge without self-consciousness.

If

we could

knowing it, a stone, which has


no consciousness, might be blessed.
Ruysbroek, it is plain, had no qualms in using the
without

be blessed

This

old mystical language without qualification.

is

the more remarkable, because he was fully aware of the

method

disastrous consequences which follow from the

of negation and self-deification.

For Ruysbroek was

an earnest reformer of abuses.

He

monks, and the

popes, bishops,

vigorous

language

and other

faults

but perhaps his sharpest castigation

There are some, he

reserved for the false mystics.

is

says,

who mistake mere

others

give

the rein

others neglect

all

them

"

"

they

laziness for holy abstraction


" spiritual

to

"

" of

all."

those

"

will

There

who

like

responsibility.

As

is

fall

these are "

"

into

forbidden

any appetite which

gratify

by

in-

far the

another error," he proceeds,

is

to

call

They take every impulse


all

others

think that nothing

terrupts their contemplation "

worst of

self-indulgence

religious exercises

antinomianism, and
to

are lashed in

laity

secularity, covetousness,

their

for

spares no one

themselves

to be Divine,

Most of them

live

'

theopaths.'

and repudiate

in

inert sloth."

a corrective to these errors, he very rightly says,

" Christ

must be the

rule

and pattern of

but he does not see that there

is

all

our lives

"
;

a deep inconsistency

between the imitation of Christ as the living way to


the

Father, and the " negative road

"

which leads to

vacancy.^
^

Maeterlinck, Ruysbroek's latest interpreter,

to the intellectual

endowments of

his

is

far too

fellow-countryman.

complimentary
" Ce moine

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

172

Henry Suso, whose autobiography

document of

is

unique importance for

the psychology of Mysticism,

was born

Intellectually he

in

of Eckhart,

broek

of the

1295.^

whom

but his

and character are more

life

Spanish mystics, especially

The text which


Where I am, there

Cross.
"

is,

which he interprets

"

No

cross,

accepts

The

in

mean

full

the

all

"
;

who

the fellowship of Christ's

the law of

is

mouth

servant be

only those

that

Him

can hope to be united to

no crown,"

his

in

My

also

like those

Juan of the

St.

most often

is

shall

to

have embraced to the


sufferings,

a disciple

is

he understands better than Ruys-

severity

of

which Suso

life

literal

its

glory.

in

meaning.

story of the terrible penances which he inflicted

on himself
with

of his

for part

repulsive to read

ostentatious

the

life

painful

is

and almost

but they have nothing in


self-torture

of

common

the

fakir.

Suso's deeply affectionate and poetical temperament,

with
the

its
life

accepted

strong

human

of the cloister very


it

himself to

as the highest
its

ideals

finally

difficult

life,

felt

for

and strove

and when,

of cruel austerities, he

was

and sympathies, made

loves

after

He

him.
to

conform

sixteen years

that his " refractory

body

"

tamed, he discontinued his mortifications,

possedait un des plus sages, des plus exacts, et des plus subtils organes

He

philosophiques qui aient jamais existe."


"il

sait,

thinks

a son insu, le platonisme de la Grece,

le

it

marvellous that

soufisme de la Perse,

le

brahmanisme de I'lnde et le bouddhisme de Thibet," etc. In reality,


Ruysbroek gets all his philosophy from Eckhart, and his manner of
expounding it shows no abnormal acuteness. But Maeterlinck's essay in
Le Tresor des Humbles contains some good things e.g. " Les verites
mystiques ne peuvent ni

vieillir ni

mourir.

Une

oeuvre ne

vieillit

qu'en proportion de sonantimysticisme."


*

So

Preger, probably rightly.

The chronology

of the Life

is

Noack

very loose.

places his birth five years later.

PRACTICAL AND DEVOTIONAL


and entered upon a career of active
had

he

this

heavier

still

was persecuted and


struggles

history of his

who

In

which

and charming of
gift is

him

death

his
life,

cheered

withdrawn.

had

were often

shortly before

carry,

he

for

old

age,

1365, he published the


one of the most interesting

autobiographies.

all

early

his

in

his

in

is

Suso's literary

Unlike most ecstatic mystics,

very remarkable.

declare on

In

usefulness.

to

falsely accused, while the spiritual

which

consolations

crosses

173

"

each occasion that

tongue cannot

utter" their experiences, Suso's store of glowing and


vivid language never

The hunger and

fails.

of

thirst

the soul for God, and the answering love of Christ

manifested in the inner man, have never found a more

pure and beautiful expression.

In

the hope of in-

ducing more readers to become acquainted with

gem

of mediaeval literature,

from

servitor of the eternal

Wisdom,"

made
to God

himself throughout the book,


conversion

the

of his

perfect

Before that, he had lived as others

to avoid deadly sin

but

all

gnawing reproach within him.

in

himself well."
"

He who

But

the

stern
^

to forsake

all,

command was

The extreme

content

live,

the time he had

Then came

eternal

felt

the temptato " treat

and

Wisdom

"

to

said

seeks with tender treatment to conquer

a refractory body, wants

minded

beginning

his eighteenth

tion to be content with gradual progress,


"

as he calls

first

year.

him,

this

a few extracts

will give

pages.

its

The

"

obeyed.^

asceticism which

a less degree) by Tauler,

is

common

sense.

If

thou art

The

do so to good purpose."

Very soon

it

is

the

was practised by Suso, and (though

to

not enjoined by them as a necessar)' part of a

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

174

usual experience of ascetic mystics

he

was encour-

One such, which came to


aged by rapturous visions.
him on St. Agnes' Day, he thus describes
" It was
without form or mode, but contained within itself the
most entrancing delight.
His heart was athirst and
:

yet satisfied.
of eternal

It

was a breaking

forth of the sweetness

as present in the stillness of con-

life, felt

Whether he was in the body or out of


the body, he knew not."
It lasted about an hour and
a half; but gleams of its light continued to visit him
templation.

some time

at intervals for

loving nature,

Suso's
of

object

after.

Augustine's, needed an

like

His

affection.

imagination

concentrated

itself

upon the eternal Wisdom, personified

Book

of Proverbs in female form as a loving mistress,

and the thought came often


shouldest

make

mistress,

of

love

thou
for in

hast

not remain without a love."

saw

her, radiant in form, rich in


it is

heavens, and
herself from

ing

all

she

heard

Truly thou

much,

so

who

Then

will

young heart

truth thy wild

will

ing with love

"

him,

the

of thy fortune, whether this high

trial

whom

become thy

to

in

in a vision

he

wisdom, and overflow-

touches the summit of the

the depths of the abyss,

who

spreads

end to end, mightily and sweetly dispos-

things.

And
him

and said to

she drew nigh to him lovingly,

sweetly,

"

My

son,

give

me

thy

heart."

At

this

intense
love.
holy

season there came into his soul a flame of

fire,

And

life.

Tauler says.

"We

which made
as

his

heart burn with Divine

a " love token,"

are to

kill

he

our passions, not our

cut deep
flesh

in

his

and blood," as

PRACTICAL AND DEVOTIONAL


name

breast

the

letters

remained

175

of Jesus, so that the marks of the


his

all

"

life,

about the length of a

finger-joint."

Another time he saw a

of angels, and be-

vision

sought one of them to show him the manner of God's


dwelling

secret
"

the

in

An

soul.

answered,

angel

Cast then a joyous glance into thyself, and see

God

how

He

plays His play of love with thy loving soul."

looked immediately, and saw that his body over his


heart was as clear as crystal, and that in the centre

was sitting tranquilly,


Wisdom, beside whom

own

the servitor's

God's

side,

sat,

full

which leaning lovingly towards

soul,

and encircled by His arms, lay pressed

In another vision he saw

who had

in

"

"

He

words cannot
in

blessed
the

tell

is

to

patience with

die

to

all

to

Kneeling down

is

him
in

the
in

him

told

him

that

which those persons


detached

themselves

to attain this detach-

and to maintain

unruffled

vision

of the

also to kiss

it.

Holy Child

church on Candlemas Day.

front of the Virgin,

to him, " he prayed her to


suffer

way

"

was quite
In answer

God."

men."

Very touching
which came

self,

in

in

really

soul

his

Master

manner

God who have

from the world, and that the

ment

he

signified to the servitor that

made Godlike

" the

questions,

dwell

the blessed master Eck-

exceeding glory, and that

transformed, and
to

"

lately died in disfavour with the rulers

of the Church.

was

of heavenly

eternal

longing,

His heart.

close to

hart,"

the

form,

lovely

in

show him the

When

who appeared
Child,

and to

she kindly offered

it

to

him, he spread out his arms and received the beloved

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

176

He

One.
kissed

contemplated

tender

its

again at

amazement
so

he uttered a cry of

his eyes,

He who
on

childlike

he

eyes,

little

of the heavenly trea-

up the heavens

bears

and yet so small, so

great,

and so

members

up

lifting

that

beautiful

its

mouth, and he gazed again and

the infant

all

Then,

sure.

little

beautiful

And

earth.

as the Divine

moved him, so did he act toward


now weeping, till at last he gave

now

it,

Infant

singing

back

it

is

heaven

in

to

its

mother."

When

at last he

was warned by an angel, he

to discontinue his austerities, " he spent several

says,

weeks

very pleasantly," often weeping for joy at the thought

he had

of the grievous sufferings which

But

his repose

sat meditating

on

" life

of a comely youth,

him

vested

day, as he

saw a

as a warfare," he

who

undergone.

One

was soon disturbed.

knight,^ saying to him, " Hearken, sir knight

thou hast been a squire


a knight.

And

cried, " Alas,

Suso

do unto me?
this time.

now God

my God

what

thought that

said,

Nevertheless

art

is

It

would be very

is

will

tell

to

have before

better for thee not to

thee of three things.

Now

will strike

interesting to trace the influence of the chivalric idea

religious Mysticism.
itself

enough

Thou about

suffering

" It

Hitherto thou hast stricken thyself.

on

thee to be

wills

had had enough by

Show me how much

The Lord

me."

know.

Hitherto

shalt have fighting

thou

vision

in the attire of

Chivalry, the worship of idealised

a mystical cult, and

its

womanhood,

relation to religious Mysticism appears

throughout the "Divine Comedy" and "Vita Nuova " (see especially
the incomparable paragraph which concludes this latter), and in the sonnet
of

M. Angelo

behold,"

etc.

translated

by Wordsworth, "

No

mortal object did

ttie^e

^yes

PRACTICAL AND DEVOTIONAL


thee,

and thou

good name.

and

shalt

pubHcIy the

suffer

there

thou find treachery and

shalt

Thirdly, hitherto thou hast floated in Divine

suffering.

sweetness, like a fish in the sea

draw from

thee,

shalt be

and thou

come

this will

The

to nought."

with-

and wither.

God and

hand

in

now

starve

shalt

forsaken both by

and whatever thou shalt take


shall

of thy

Secondly, where thou shalt look for love

faithfulness,

Thou

loss

177

the world,

to comfort thee

on

servitor threw himself

the ground, with arms outstretched to form a cross,

and prayed

in agony that this great misery might not


upon him. Then a voice said to him, "Be of
good cheer, I will be with thee and aid thee to
fall

overcome."

The next

how this vision or preThe journeys which he now

chapters show

sentiment was verified.


took

him

exposed

frequent

to

One adventure
simplicity
his

life

and

dangers,

men who

robbers and from lawless

with a murderer
vividness.

is

Suso

both

hated the monks.

told with delightful

remains

throughout

thoroughly human, and, hard as his

been, he

is

from

lot

had

an agony of fear at the prospect of a

in

The story of the outlaw confessing to


the trembling monk how, besides other crimes, he had
once pushed into the Rhine a priest who had just
heard his confession, and how the wife of the assassin
comforted Suso when he was about to drop down from

violent death.

sheer fright, forms

Among

other

reclaim fallen
insincerity
12

quaint interlude in the saint's

But a more grievous

memoirs.

he

pastoral

women
had

work,

he

trial

awaited

laboured

him.

much

to

and a pretended penitent, whose

detected,

revenged herself by a

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

178

slander which almost ruined him.^


of his

Happily, the chiefs

whose verdict he had greatly dreaded,

order,

completely exonerated him, after a

and

his

happy.

investigation,

full

last

years seem to have been peaceful and

The

closing chapters of

up by some very

interesting

spiritual " daughter," Elizabeth

the Life are taken

conversations with
Staglin,

his

who wished

to

She

understand the obscurer doctrines of Mysticism.

asks him about the doctrine of the Trinity, which he

expounds on the general

lines of Eckhart's

some of the bolder phrases

She, however, remembers


"

Eckhart, and says,

in

But there are some who say

that, in order to attain to perfect union,

ourselves

of

God, and
"

shining light."

That

words are taken

common

belief

out by perfect love

is

ordinary sense.

He

in

a great Task-

is

this sense the

Again,

in the highest

for

Divine Persons taken singly that confer


in

Suso here gives a

One."

Nothing

deserted by

in the

book

is

"

by the

it is

not the

bliss,

but the

really valuable turn


"

Where is heaven ?
The intellectual where" is the
"

to one of Eckhart's rashest theses.

asks his pupil next.

cast

state of union, the soul

takes no note of the Persons separately

Three

is

spiritual

does divest himself of God, as conceived of

vulgar.

the

But the

reward and punish,

to

and

divest

" if

Suso,

replies

false,"

is

we must

only to the inwardly-

about God, that

master, whose function

man

turn

their

in

theology.

more touching than the scene when the baby,

mother, Suso's false accuser, is brought to him. Suso takes


the child in his arms, and weeps over it with affectionate words, while the
infant smiles up at him.
In spite of the calumny which he knew was
its

being spread wherever

it

would most

on paying for
from neglect. The

injure him, he insists

the child's maintenance, rather than leave

it

to die

Italian mystic Scupoli, the author of a beautiful devotional

the Spiritual Combat,

was calumniated

in a similar

manner.

work

called

PRACTICAL AND DEVOTIONAL


reply, "

is

the essentially-existing unnameable nothing-

So we must

ness.

mode

call

it,

because we can discover no

of being, under which to conceive of

though

it

seems to us to be no-thing,

we see,
The maiden

Suso,

follows Dionysius, but with this proviso.

now

But

it.

deserves to be

it

something rather than nothing."

called

179

asks him to give her a figure or image of the

self-

evolution of the Trinity, and he gives her the figure of

when we throw a

concentric circles, such as appear


"

stone into a pond.


formless

the

truth

as

Soon

beautiful sun."

Suso saw her

But," he adds, " this

in a

Moor

black

after,

found everlasting
said, "

Ah, God

Thee alone
pains

blessed

He may

Thou rewardest

maiden, and

this

When

bliss.

is

the

and

between
prose

the

in all

His

eternal

of heavenly

full

his counsels, she

man who

God

His dear

other

had

strives after

well be content to suffer,

thus.

the

he came to himself, he

whose

help us to rejoice in
friends,

His Divine countenance eternally


autobiography.

as unlike

unlike

the holy maiden died, and

vision, radiant

showing him how, guided by

joy,

is

is

"
!

chief work,

Wisdom and

and to enjoy

So ends
a

Suso's

Dialogue

the Servitor,

is

of great beauty, the tenor of which

may

above extracts from the

Life.

poem

be inferred

from

the

Suso believed that the Divine Wisdom had indeed

and few, I think, will accuse


his pen
him of arrogance for the words which conclude the
" Whosoever will read these writings of
Dialogue.
spoken through

mine
in

in

a right

his heart's

light,

or

to

detestation

spirit,

can hardly

fail

to

be stirred

depths, either to fervent love, or to

longing

and

and

loathing

thirsting

of

his

for
sins,

new

God, or to
or

to

that

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

i8o

by which the soul

aspiration

spiritual

renewed

is

in

grace."

John Tauler was born at Strassburg about 1300,


and entered a Dominican convent in 131 5.
After
studying at Cologne and Paris, he returned to Strassburg, where, as a Dominican, he was allowed to officiate
as a priest, although the
interdict of

1324.

town was involved

who

called themselves " the

About

1346

devoted

in his ministrations

he

He

1348.

in

in the great

1339, however, he had to

which was the headquarters of the

to Basel,

society

In

returned

Friends of God."

and

Strassburg,

to

fly

revivalist

during the

"

was

black death

"

appears to have been strongly influenced

by one of the Friends of God, a mysterious layman,

who

been

has

BaseV

Nicholas of
"

conversion

probably

man.

Tauler

death

his

till

is

saintly

this

in

1361.

his teaching

treats

all

manner, and sometimes,

identical with that of

is

questions

By Schmidt, whose

accounts of Tauler's

subject

an independent

soul,^

he

differs

researches formed the basis of several

from

popular

Preger and Denifle both reject the identification

life.

of the mysterious stranger with Nicholas

The

in

as for instance in his doctrine

about the uncreated ground of the

altogether.

Though

a thinker as well as a preacher.

most points

is

Denifle doubts his existence

very fully discussed by Preger.

He cites Proclus,
Tauler was well read in the earlier mystics.
also
(frequently), Dionysius, Bernard, and the Victorines

Augustine
Aristotle
^

with

and, according to some, dated his

from his acquaintance with

"

Eckhart,^ he

'

wrongly,

Tauler continued to preach to crowded con-

gregations

in

identified,

and Aquinas.

Tauler adheres to the doctrine of an " uncreated ground," but he holds


it must always afct upon us through the medium of the "created

that

ground."
pantheistic.

He

evidently

See below,

considered

p. 183.

Eckhart's

later

doctrine

as

too

PRACTICAL AND DEVOTIONAL


There

his master.

change

also a perceptible

is

i8i
in the

upon certain parts of the system, which


brings Tauler nearer than Eckhart to the divines of
stress

laid

Reformation.

the

too deep for

him

doctrine

its

of

In particular, his

sense of sin

is

to be satisfied with the Neoplatonic

negativity,

which

Eckhart

led

into

difficulties,^

The little book called the German Theology^ by an


unknown author, also belongs to the school of Eckhart.
It

one of the most precious treasures of devotional

is

literature,

and deserves

this country.

in

famous

treatise of a

known than

to be better

some ways

In

Kempis, On

it

the Imitation

since the self-centred individualism

less

is

of

Christy

prominent.

The author thoroughly understands Eckhart, but


object

is

not to view everything

it is

superior to the

is

his

specie cetej-nitatis,

stib

but to give a practical religious turn to his master's


speculations.

His teaching

whom

with that of Tauler,

whom

and

he joins

in

is

closely

accordance

in

he quotes as an authority,

denouncing the followers of

the " false light," the erratic mystics of the fourteenth


century.

The

German mystics

practical theology of these four

of the fourteenth century

Ruysbroek,

Suso, Tauler,

and the writer of the German Theology,


that

it

taking

is

possible

each

to

consider

author separately.

it

It

in
is

is

so similar

detail

without

the crowning

achievement of Christian Mysticism before the Reformation

and, except

in

the

English

Platonists

of

the

In my estimate of Tauler's doctrine, I have made no use of


The Imitation of the Poverty of Christ, which Noack calls his
masterpiece, and the kernel of his Mysticism.
The work is not by Tauler.
^

Seep. 155.

the treatise on

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

82

we

seventeenth century,

not

shall

find

anywhere a

sounder and more complete scheme of doctrine built

upon

this foundation.

The

drawn by Eckhart between the God-

distinction

head and God

is

maintained

The

and by Ruysbroek.

the

in

latter,

German Theology,
as we have seen,^

does not shrink from following the path of analysis

and says plainly that

to the end,

no

is

only the eternal essence,


out

into

his

"

*'

My

the

deep

"

the

in

the Abyss there


persons, but
"

Tauler also bids us

down our

let

not

heart,

in

nets

the

put

but

"

intellect.

you should not ask about these great


problems," he says
and he prefers not to

children,

high

much about them,

talk

what he has not


darkness,"

wild

"

waste,"
is

"

" for

the

forth

formless
;)

the Unity in which

scended," and

that in

Him

becoming and being, eternal

and

not explicit.

says

of

he

Divine

God
is

" the

that
tran-

gathered up both
and eternal motion.
the Three Persons are

are
rest

In this deepest ground, he says,


implicit,

"

nothing,"

multiplicity

all

teach

Still

Eckhart, of the

nameless,

and so

no teacher can

through himself."

lived

Dionysius and

speaks, like

He

and

deep,
is

in

human

of Divine and

distinction

The Son

is

the

Form

of

all

forms, to which the " eternal, reasonable form created


after God's

image

"

(the Idea of

mankind) longs to be

conformed.

The

creation of the world, according to Tauler,

is

rather consonant with than necessary to the nature of

God.
its

The

world, before

it

became

actual, existed in

Idea in God, and this ideal world was set forth by


'

See above,

p.

70.

PRACTICAL AND DEVOTIONAL


means of the

Trinity.

*'

that

living,"

is,

Son

the

It is in

The

exist " from all eternity."

that the Ideas

Ideas are said to be

they work as forms, and after the

and

creation of matter act as universals above

Tauler
'*

God

show

the Being of

is

none of

He

careful to

is

all

transcends

far

that he

is

but

all,

is

universe

the

in things.

not a pantheist.

beings," he says

God

things."

all

183

"
;

all

He

but

is

He

which

in

is

God

not

is

immanent.
VVe look

point

obscurest
relations

vain to Tauler for an explanation of the

in

philosophy, as

Eckhart's

in

of the phenomenal

the

to

clearer evidence that temporal existence

is

to

We

real.

the

want

not regarded

as something illusory or accidental, an error which

may

be inconsistent with the theory of immanence as taught

by the school of Eckhart, but which

is

too closely allied

with other parts of their scheme.

The
of

and

personal

life,

man

" third

is

and of a
sense,

the spiritual

"

is

its

"

uncreated ground,"

created ground," which he uses

of the empirical

purified,

own

Tauler, works

self,

which

and now of the


This

also represented

of the soul," which


into

rather

or pure substance of

life

speaks also of an

intended him to be.

and

is

the abyss of the Godhead, but yet

now

must be

psychology

speaks of three phases of

the sensuous nature, the reason, and the

He

the soul.

his

He

difficult.

"

in the soul is the real centre

but

doctrine,

intricate

which

God

indwelling of

Tauler's

is

latter

by the

"

is

ideal
is "

in

" in

us,"

a double

imperfect and

man, as God

the third man,"

spark

" at

the " apex

to transform the rest of the soul

likeness.

The

"

uncreated ground," in

upon us through the medium of the

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

i84
" created

The

'*

ground," and not as

Image," which
a

is

"

ground,"

created

is

creative

identical with

as

principle

Eckhart, immediately.

in

sense, he

this

in

"

calls

the

Eckhart's " spark."

well

as

created,

It

the

like

Ideas " of Erigena.

The German
eyes,"

Theology says that " the soul has two

one of which, the right eye, sees into eternity,

the other sees time and


" is

eye

practically the

Tauler's
tells

"

image."

us that

same

It

we cannot

the creatures.

is

The

" right

as Eckhart's " spark "

author

that the

significant

see with both eyes together

eye must be shut before we can use the

left

The passage where

precept

this

is

and
the

right.^

given shows very

plainly that the author, like the other fourteenth century


mystics,^

dualism

was

earthly leaves
"

golden

still

under the influence of mediaeval

the belief that the Divine begins where the


off.

It is

little treatise,"

almost the only point

as

Henry More

calls

it,

this

in

to

which

exception must be taken.*


^

St.

This expression

is found first, I think, in Richard of St. Victor


but
Augustine speaks of "oculus interior atque intelligibilis" {De div.
;

qiuest. 46).
^ But Christ, he says, could see with both eyes
no way hindered the right.

Tauler often uses similar language

"The natural light


God is to enter with
''

as,

at

once

for instance,

the

in

left

when he

says,

of the reason must be entirely brought to nothing,

His

if

light."

Stockl criticises the Theologia Germanica in a very hostile

spirit.

He

" pantheism," by which he means acosmism, and also " GnosticManichean dualism," the latter being his favourite charge against the
Lutherans and their forerunners.
He considers that this latter tendency
is more strongly marked in the Ge7-iiian Theology than in the other works

finds

it

in

of the Eckhartian school, in that the writer identifies "the false light"
with the light of nature, and selfhood with sin; "devil, sin, Adam, old
man, disobedience, selfhood, individuality, mine, me, nature, self-will,
all the same ; they all represent what is against God and without God."
Accordingly, salvation consists in annihilation of the self, and substitution

are

PRACTICAL AND DEVOTIONAL


The

essence of sin

or self-will, and

self-assertion

is

185

Tauler has, perhaps,

consequent separation from God,

a deeper sense of sin than any of his predecessors, and

he revives the Augustinian (anti-Pelagian) teaching on


Sensuality and

the miserable state of fallen humanity.


the two chief manifestations of

pride,

the " created ground," that

as the unity of

all

"

the

be remembered that the Neoplatonic

It will

faculties.

is,

a sin of the

is

even the ground

"

and the poison has invaded

spirit,

have

self-will,

Pride

invaded the zvkole of our nature.

doctrine was that the spiritual part of our nature can

Tauler seems to believe that under

take no defilement.

one aspect the

medium

"

created

ground

"

the transparent

is

of the Divine light, but in this sense

He

potentially the light of our whole body.

it is

will

only
not

allow the sinless apex mentis to be identified with the

Separation from

personality.

Therein

misery.

God

the pain of

lies

hell.

soul can never cease to yearn and


"

and

the""'

longing

pain "

greatest

can

be

never

the source of

is

The human
God

thirst after
" is

of the lost
In

satisfied."

that

the

Theology^ the necessity of rising above the "


"

" is treated as

mine

the great saving truth.

the creature claimeth for


of

God

for

it.

There

is

this

German
I "

"

and

When

own anything good,

its

all

no doubt that the writer of

this treatise is

it

deeply

impressed with the beUef that the root of sin is self-will, and that the new
but it must be remembered that
birth must be a complete transformation
the language of piety is less guarded than that of dogmatic disputation,
;

and

that the theology of such a

My own

judgment is
Ruysbroek, and much

that,

book must be judged by

taken as a whole,

it

is

its

whole tendency.

safer than

Tauler or

The strongly-marked "ethical


same kind as that which we find in St.

safer than Eckhart.

dualism " is of very much the


John's Gospel. Taken as a theory of the origin and nature of evil, it no
doubt does hold out a hand to Manicheism ; but I do not think that the
writer

meant

it

to be so taken,

any more than

St.

John

did.

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

86

The more of self and me, the more of


Be simply and wholly bereft of
sin and wickedness.
" So long as a man seeketh his own highest
self."
"

goeth astray."

good because

long as he doeth

this,

he himself

that

his,

is

it

he

never find

For so

it.

he seeketh himself, and deemeth

(These

good."

highest

the

is

will

last

sentences are almost verbally repeated in a sermon

by John Smith, the Cambridge

The

thy soul

"

practise

self-

Jesus cannot speak in the temple of

In this stage
"

discipline.
till

to

first

those that sold and bought therein are cast

till

it."

old law,

have

our lower powers are governed by our

all

till

highest reason.

and

We

sermons.

Tauler's
control,

out of

Platonist.)

three stages of the mystic's ascent appear in

The

old

we must be under

man must be
him of a

Christ be born in

second stage he

says, "

Wilt thou with

strict rule

subject to the

truth."

John

St.

Of

the

rest

on

the loving breast of our Lord Jesus Christ, thou must be

transformed into His beauteous image by a constant,


earnest contemplation thereof."

may

will to call

and images, and


instrument.

been opened

thee higher
suffer

To some

" this

Him

still

to

It is possible that
;

then

let

go

work with thee as His

the very

door of heaven has

happens to some with a convulsion

of the mind, to others calmly and gradually."

not the work of a day nor of a year."

come

God

forms

all

to pass, nature

"

Before

" It
it

is

can

must endure many a death, out-

ward and inward."


In the
where,

first

we

firmities,

are

stage of the

"

dying

much oppressed by

and by the

fear of hell.

life,"

he says

else-

the sense of our in-

But

in the third, " all

our griefs and joys are a sympathy with Christ, whose

PRACTICAL AND DEVOTIONAL


earthly

He

life

was a mingled web of

life

has

These

extracts

that for him, as for

all

than Christ /<7r

But

if

the

us.

earth,
It

that

it

redemption

an

When

he

it

is

We

says, "

well

Christ,

more

is

it

in this

to contrast the

to

is

true significance,
as

us

exalt one

to

Tauler's wish
its

universal

unfair to put

at

the

give the

by showing

a particular

as

fact.

should worship Christ's humanity

only in union with this divinity," he


the

this

of course, true

is,

German mystics wished

expense of the other.

is

and

have their due

mystics, Christ

two views of redemption, and


historical

joy,

show that the Cross of

and the imitation of His life on


prominence in Tauler's teaching.

way, as

and

as a sacred testament to His followers."

left

last

grief

187

giving exactly

is

same caution which St. Paul expresses


" knowing Christ after the flesh."

in the verse

about
In

speaking

of the

highest

of

the

three

stages,

passages were quoted which advocate a purely passive


state of the will

and

cannot be denied

though

it

is

"

the fourteenth century mystics,

God draws

by His
when an

first,

the soul,

in

This quietistic tendency

largely counteracted

opposite kind.

ways,

intellect.^

creatures

us,"
;

by maxims of an

says Tauler, " in three

secondly,

by His voice

in

eternal truth mysteriously suggests

Throughout the fourteenth century, and

still

more

in the fifteenth,

can trace an increasing prominence given to subjugation of the will


This change

we
in

be attributed partly to the influence


of the Nominalist science of Duns Scotus, which gradually gained (at least
It may be
in this point) the ascendancy over the school of Aquinas.

mystical theology.

is

to

described as a transition from the more speculative Mysticism towards

In the fourteenth century writings, such as the Theologia Germanica, we merely welcome a new and valuable aspect of the religious life

quietism.

connected with a distrust of reason, and a return to


the standpoint of harsh legalism, we cannot regard it as an improvement.
but since the change

is

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

88

(This

being

interesting,

is

"

personal experience.)

means, when the

will

given through means


veil,

and

tasteless

which he

nysius
in

as

is

seen through a
it

There are other passages

obviously under the influence of Dio-

is

when he speaks of" dying to

distinctions";

all

" simplification " in

he at times preaches

fact,

it is

What

"

subdued."

quite

up into fragments, and bears with

split

of

Thirdly, without resistance or

is

is

sleep."

record

the

evidently

certain sting of bitterness."


in

morning

as happens not infrequently in

itself,

an

But, on the other hand, no Christian

unqualified form.

made more
" Ye
Eckhart.^

teachers have

of the active will than these

pupils of

are as holy as ye truly will to

be holy," says Ruysbroek.


everything,"

we read

version of the

and prune
emptiness

" Christ

will

"

we must

in itself

is

may do

one

against the per-

he says,

not nature, which

of which

'

"

lop

good and

Himself never arrived at the

men

these

Of contemplation he

talk."

And

in Tauler.

negative road

vices,

And

noble."
'

"

With the

"

ments are the food of the

(the

mystics)

false

says, " Spiritual enjoy-

soul,

and are only to be

taken for nourishment and support to help us in our

excused

Never

from

trust

practice."

their

in

indolence.

acceptable

work and

a virtue that

to

set

and

Tauler

God

to

Compare

skill

p.

were

says, "

Works

all

led strenuous

of

pious

of love are

more

than lofty contemplation

"

Holy Ghost."

i6i, for similar teaching in Eckhart himself.


p. 11, note.

be

contemplation.

no advocates

are gifts of the

See the quotation on

to

fain

has not been put into

These pupils of Eckhart

kinds of

"

men

Sloth often makes

themselves,

lives

" All

"

work."

active

and,

PRACTICAL AND DEVOTIONAL


The

process of deification

thus described by Ruys-

is

Ruysbroek

broek and by Tauler.

189

men who

writes: " All

are exalted above their creatureliness into a contemplative

life

are one with this Divine glory

And

glory.

they see and

feel

and

yea, are that

find in themselves,

by means of this Divine light, that they are the same


simple Ground as to their uncreated nature, since the
glory shineth forth without measure, after the Divine

manner, and abideth within them simply and without

mode, according

the

to

and

distinction,

beyond

of the

simplicity

Wherefore contemplative men should

rise

essence.

above reason

created substance, and

their

gaze perpetually by the aid of their inborn

light,

and so

they become transformed, and one with the same

by means of which they

Thus they

arrive at that eternal

without distinction,

This

is

in

light,

and which they


image

see.

which they

after

and contemplate God and

were created,

glory.

see,

all

things

a simple beholding, in

Divine

the loftiest and most profitable con-

templation to which

men

attain in this

Tauler,

life."

for the Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity,


The kingdom is seated in the inmost recesses of
spirit.
When, through all manner of exercises, the

in his

sermon

says: "

the

outward

man

has

been

converted

the

into

reasonable man, and thus the two, that

is

inward

to say, the

powers of the senses and the powers of the reason, are


gathered up into the very centre of the man's being,
the unseen depths of his

of God,

and

Abyss,

in

spirit,

wherein

lies

the image

thus he flings himself into the Divine

which he

dwelt

eternally

before he

was

then when God finds the man thus firmly


down and turned towards Him, the Godhead bends

created

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

190

and nakedly descends into the depths of the pure


waiting soul, and transforms the created soul, drawing
it

up

the

into

uncreated essence, so that the

would see himself so noble that he would

himself, he

and

God,

himself

fancy

times nobler than he


ceive

all

spirit

Could such a man behold

becomes one with Him.

himself

see

thousand

and would per-

himself,

in

is

the thoughts and purposes, words and works,

and have

the

all

knowledge of

men

all

ever

that

Suso and the German Theology use similar

were."

language.

The

idea

modern

reader.

deification

and

shocks

to find

that

startles

astonishes

It

humble

earnest and
in

of

us

the

these

saints at times express themselves

language which surpasses the arrogance even of the

We

Stoics,

must be something wrong

feel that there

with a system which ends in obliterating the distinction

We

between the Creator and His creatures.

desire in

some echo of Job's experience, so different


" I have heard Thee by the hearing of the ear,
in tone
but now mine eye seeth Thee therefore I abhor myself,
and repent in dust and ashes."
The proper effect

vain to hear
:

of the vision of

God

is

surely that which Augustine

describes in words already quoted


I

in

burn.
that

I
I

tremble, in that

am

beginner's experience

Him."

like
:

St.

am

"

unlike

Nor

is

tremble, and

Him
this

Paul had almost

burn,

only

the

" finished

when he called himself the chief of sinners.


The joy which uplifts the soul, when it feels the motions
of the Holy Spirit, arises from the fact that in such
moments " the spirit's true endowments stand out
plainly from its false ones "
we then see the " countenhis course "

PRACTICAL AND DEVOTIONAL


ance of our genesis," as

woman

James

St,

calls it

191

man

the

or

God meant us to be, and know that we


it if we were wholly cut off from its

that

could not so see

But the clearer the vision of the

realisation.

ideal, the

deeper must be our self-abasement when we turn our

We

eyes to the actual.

must not escape from

this

sharp and humiliating contrast by mentally annihilating


the

self,

on

straight

to

The

impossible to say,

Such

as

as

deification

have said

false

extreme

opposite

its

Moreover, to regard
fact, involves,

it

and on thisT

picture,

this

leads

make

so as to

"

Look

humility

arrogance.

an accomplished

(p. 33),

a contradiction.

process of unification with the Infinite must be

ad

a progressus

infinitum.

The

pessimistic conclusion

is

escaped by remembering that the highest reality

is

supra-temporal, and that

has

designed

There

for

but

realisation,
are,

in

has

us

two ways

fact,

abdicate our birthright, and

our high calling

merely

not

we may

in

contingent

accomplished.

a sense already

in

is

God

the destiny which

which

surrender

the

we may
prize

of

count ourselves already to

have apprehended, which must be a grievous delusion,

we may

or

resign

it

as unattainable, which

is

also a

delusion.

These truths were well known to Tauler and


brother-mystics,
sophers.

If

who were
it

well

as

must have been because they

God enshrined a
we remember the great

that the doctrine of union with

truth of great value.

mystical paradox,
it,"

as

they retained language which appears to

us so objectionable,
felt

saints

his

philo-

we

shall partly

"

He

And

if

that will lose his

understand

how they

life

shall save

arrived at

it.

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

192

we approach to God, the


yawn the gulf that separates us from
we feel it to be infinite. But does not

quite true that the nearer

It is

wider seems to

Him,

conviction itself bring with

this
fort
if

at last

till

How

could

we be aware

unspeakable com-

it

of that infinite distance,

there were not something within us which can span

the infinite
are

How

could

incommensurable,

if

we feel that God and man


we had not the witness of

a higher self immeasurably above our lower selves

And how

blessed

we may

gives us access to a region where

leave behind

not only external troubles and " the provoking of

men," but" the

of tongues

strife

chattering and growling of the


us, the recurring

" in

"

our

will,

smart of old sins repented


!

all

hearts, the

of,

"

within

and the

In this state

desiring nothing save to be conformed to the

God, and separating

will of

own

ape and tiger

dragging weight of innate propensities


the

the assurance that this higher self

is

itself entirely

from

lower

all

aims and wishes, claims the right of an immortal

spirit

to attach itself to eternal truth alone, having nothing in


itself,

and yet possessing

says, "

Let a

cares,

and

Will.

man

dear child

in the

all

the

devils

hell

in

heaven and earth and

it

all

midst of

all

all

unknown

these enmities

ground and nothing-

all its bells fall

on thee

storm out upon thee

real transformation of

of God's grace

is

yea,
;

let
all

sink thou into thy

nothingness, and the better part shall be thine."

gift

the creatures assail thee,

shall but marvellously serve thee

hope of a

and

his thoughts

were, on that

into thy

Let the tower with

ness.

So Tauler

things in God,

lovingly cast

his sins too, as

and dangers, sink thou


let

all

This

our nature by the free

the only message

of

comfort

PRACTICAL AND DEVOTIONAL


who

those

for

193

and bound by the chain of

are tied

their sins.

The

comes

error

in,

as

have said before, when we

God

set before ourselves the idea of

the Father, or of

the Absolute, instead of Christ, as the object of imita-

Whenever we

tion.

find

from Ruysbroek, about

we may be sure
Mystics of

such language as that quoted

" rising

above

distinctions,"

all

that this error has been committed.

times would have done well to keep in

all

minds a very happy phrase which Irenaeus quotes


some unknown author, " He spoke well who said
that the infinite (immensum) Father is measured {inensuratuni) in the Son
mensura enini Patris Filiusr ^
their

froiti

It is to this "

we

measure," not to the immeasureable, that

are bidden to aspire.

Eternity

is,

for Tauler, " the everlasting

hell fire

of

though

end of

Its

virtue."

must

of water

is

is

"

the

essence

in

lost

that the hopeis

the source

lost.

is

beginning, middle, and

complete self-surrender.

lose ourselves in the love of


is

God

as a drop

the ocean.

how Tauler combats the


into which some of the German mystics
The author of the German
his day.

only remains to show

fantastic errors

had

thought

his deeper

the torments of the

all

It

but

and punishment, even about

estrangement of the soul from God

Love, says Tauler,

We

popular discourses he uses the ordinary expres-

in his

sions about future reward

less

Now "

fallen

Theology

is

in

equally emphatic in his warnings against

the " false light

"
;

and Ruysbroek's denunciation of the

Brethren of the Free Spirit has already been quoted.


*

13

Irenseus,

Centra

ffcer, iv, 6,

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

194

Tauler, in an interesting sermon,^ describes the heady

arrogance, disorderly conduct, and futile idleness of these


fanatics,

and then gives the following maxims, by which

we may

distinguish the false Mysticism from the true.

"

Now

us

let

know how we may escape

No

the enemy.

one can be

these snares of

from the observance

free

God and the practice of virtue. No one


himself to God in emptiness without true love

of the laws of

can unite

and desire

for

No

God.

one can be holy without becom-

No

ing holy, without good works.

No one may rest

doing good works.


for

No

God.

in

one can be exalted to a stage which he has


Finally, he

not longed for or felt."


of Christ forbids

The

may leave off


God without love

one

shows how the example

the errors which he

all

is

combating.

Imitation of Christ has been so often spoken

of as the finest flower of Christian Mysticism, that

impossible to omit

all

reference to

in these

it

it is

Lectures.

And

yet

It is

the ripe fruit of mediaeval Christianity as concen-

it is

not, properly speaking, a mystical treatise.

the

trated in

of the cloister, the last and

life

legacy, in

this

kind, of a system

decaying

but

we

find

in

it

best

which was already

hardly a trace of that

independence which made Eckhart a pioneer of modern


philosophy, and the fourteenth century mystics fore-

runners

of

Thomas

Reformation.

the

preaches a Christianity of the heart

Kempis

but he does not

exhibit the distinguishing characteristics of Mysticism.

The

by which the book is known is really the title


of the first section only, and it does not quite accurately
title

describe the contents of the book.


treatise

we

feel

that
'

we

Throughout

tlie

are reading a defence of th^

No. 31, on Psaljn

xci.

13.

PRACTICAL AND DEVOTIONAL


recluse

and

his

scheme of

195

Self-denial, renunciation

life.

of the world, prayer and meditation, utter humility and


purity, are the road to a higher joy, a deeper peace,

There are

than anything which the world can give

us.

many

Roman

sentences which remind us of the

Stoics,

whose main object was by detachment from the world

Not that Thomas


from bearing the Cross.
The Cross

to render themselves invulnerable.

Kempis

of Christ

shrinks

is

always before him, and herein he

to those mystics

who speak only

is

superior

of the Incarnation.

But the monk of the fifteenth century was perhaps


more thrown back upon himself than his predecessors
The monasteries were no longer
in the fourteenth.
such homes of learning and centres of activity as they
It was no longer evident that the religious
had been.
That indifference
orders were a benefit to civilisation.
to

human

interests,

which we

feel to

be a weak spot

in

mediaeval thought generally, and in the Neoplatonists


to

whom

reaches

mediaeval

climax

its

thought was so much indebted,


in

Thomas

does he distrust "and disparage


Plato to

occasions

as

approval the

pitiful

philosophy, from

It

Plato calls

is,
it,

after

of

sin,

all,

society

"

Whenever

have returned home


the

life

of the

which he considers the

less

best.

a whole.

What we do

find

in

it,

of a

" shell-fish,"

as

The book

cannot safely be taken as a guide to the Christian


as

and

and quotes with

epigram of Seneca,

have gone among men,


man."

all

Thomas Aquinas, but he shuns

conversation

Not only

a Kempis.

life

set forth with

incomparable beauty and unstudied dignity, are the


Christian graces of humility, simplicity, and purity of
heart.

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

196
It

who had

very significant that the mystics,

is

undermined sacerdotalism, and

in

many

ways

other

prepared the Reformation, were shouldered aside when

Rome had

the secession from

Lutheran Church was


Sebastian

Frank,

are

And

by other hands.

built

Luther's

of

mystics

the

generation,

from

far

The

to be organised.

deserving

the

yet

and

Carlstadt

con-

temptuous epithets which Luther showered upon them.


Carlstadt endeavoured to deepen the Lutheran notion
of faith

by bringing

love of

God

it

into closer connexion with the

man and

to

man

of

God

to

Sebastian

Frank developed the speculative system of Eckhart

and Tauler

an

in

Protestant

" I will

it.

my

1545

Spirit, spirit, spirit,

who

almost

to pieces

century

identical

is

that

is

so
of

an

content with nothing


at all

for Bible,

The teaching which

spurned

with

men

"I despise them too

and cares not

Sacrament, or Preaching."
sixteenth

fall

nose does not deceive me, he

enthusiast or spiritualist,

but

manner.

not even answer such

as Frank," said Luther in


If

interesting

a powerful solvent, and

is

Churches are too ready to

even without

much.

-and

original

But speculative Mysticism

contemptuously

Eckhart

the

was

and Tauler,

whose names were still revered. But it was not wanted


It was not till the next generation, when
just then.
superstitious veneration for the letter of Scripture

bringing back
faith,

some of the

evils

was

of the unreformed

that Mysticism in the person of Valentine Weigel

was able

to

resume

its

true

task

in

the deepening

and spiritualising of religion in Germany,


But instead of following any further the course of
mystical theology in Germany, I wish to turn for a

PRACTICAL AND DEVOTIONAL


own

few minutes to our

ready to do

so,

ment, repeated
a barren

because
in

many

for

field

English character

is

the

more

have come across the

state-

country.

It

for
is

it

this

we

because

are

which there

think, in

In

later

Lecture

statement from our national


to insist that even the

race,

a richer vein of idealism,

is

and a deeper sense of the mystery of


own.

too

The

do not bear out

facts

is

we have

that

kind of religion.

and have too much common sense.


There is no
this view.

practical,

that

assumed that the

is

Mysticism

alien to

hint

writers

books, that England has been

mystics.

no sympathy, as a nation,

Some

am

197

than our

life,

hope to

illustrate

Here

poetry.

Mysticism of the

wish

cloister,

this

which

the least satisfying to the energetic and independent

might be thoroughly and

of our countrymen,

spirit

adequately studied from the works of English mystics


alone.

type.

I
will give two examples of this mediaeval
Both of them lived before the Reformation,

near the end of the fourteenth century


as in Tauler,

we

find very

but

in

few traces of Romish

them,

error.

Walter Hilton or Hylton,^ a canon of Thurgarton,

was the author of a mystical


{or

Ladder)

of Perfection.

which are given as


will

show

in

far as

The Scale

treatise, called

The

following

possible in his

what manner he used the

extracts,

own words,
traditional

mystical theology.
^

Hilton's book has been reprinted from the edition of 1659, with an
is known about the

Very little
introduction by the Rev. J. B. Dalgairns.
author's life, but his book was widely read, and was

"chosen

to

be the

guide of good Christians in the courts of kings and in the world."

mother of Henry
edition in

my

VH.

valued

it

very highly.

The

have also used Mr. Guy's

quotations from The Scale of Pe7-fectioii.

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

198

There are two


but

ive,

the

in

highest

state

always,

"

"

and, as

time of

God

the active and the contemplat-

lives,

are

there

latter

of contemplation

by

only

but

many stages.
a man cannot

when he

times,

is

The
enjoy

visited "

gather from the writings of holy men, the

it is

"

very short."

He

giveth where

This part of contemplation


Visions and revelations,

will."

of whatever kind, "are not true contemplation, but

The

merely secondary.

may

devil

counterfeit

them

and the only safeguard against these impostures

is

"
;

to

consider whether the visions have helped or hindered


us in devotion to God, humility, and other virtues.
" In the third stage of
"

reason

is

turned into

contemplation," he says finely,

light,

and

will into love."

by which he means vocal prayer


words, belongs to the second part of con-

" Spiritual prayer,"

not

set

in

templation.

" It

is

very wasting to the body of him

much, wounding the soul with the blessed


who uses
sword of love." " The most vicious or carnal man on
it

sword, would be right sober and

The

while after."

grave

with the understanding also."


;

"

a pure heart, indeed,

who would pray

We
Christ.

must

'

this

Since our eyes

light of the

of His

in

Godhead,

manhood

Cor. xiv. 15.

"

it

But

a great

all

is

" I will

this

is

the

pray

not for

behoveth him to have

manner."

our affections

fix

for

highest kind of prayer of

prayer of quiet, of which St. Paul speaks,

all

this sharp

were he once strongly touched with

earth,

first

on the humanity of

cannot bear the unclouded

we must
we

as long as

live

under the shadow

are here below."

St.

This text was also appealed to by the Quietists of the

post- Reformation period.

PRACTICAL AND DEVOTIONAL


Paul

converts that he

tells his

199

preached to them of

first

the humanity and passion of Christ, but afterwards of

how

the Godhead,

that Christ

the power and wisdom

is

of God.i
"

Christ

parable

but where

the

like

lost,

is

In thy house, that

Thou needest not run

soul.

money

of

piece

Rome

to

is,

in

the

in

thy

or Jerusalem to

He sleepeth in thy heart, as He did


awaken Him with the loud cry of thy

seek Him.
ship

Howbeit,

He

than

Put away

to thee."

First,

todily thing, no real thing


love.

It

is

whence flow
"

false,

fair

man doth

and

noises,"

however, find the image

only

inordinate

It

no

is

a lack of light and


of thyself, from

love

a man's soul

is

within

like

foul without like a


"

an angel."

But the sensual

not bear about the image of

but

sin,

is

borne

it."

The

true light

is

love of God, the false light

"

go from one to the other.


the nearer

and

"

nothing

God."

"

when

nothing,"

"

spoken

"

the soul

is

The

texts to

love

" at

night

the

is

the night

is,

the " darkness

mystics, " a

"

rich

thoughts of

rest as to

busy about thinking of

passeth

away

the

day

Flashes of light shine through the chinks

of the walls of Jerusalem

manner.

This

by the

of

thing, but very

But

dawneth."

The darker

the true day."

is

any earthly

is

But we must pass through darkness to

of the world.

Him

the deadly sins.

all

Fair and foul

beast,

by

" distracting

which thou bearest about with thee.

sin,

desire.

believe that thou sleepest oftener to

thou wilt hear Him.


of

in the

which he

Compare

Cor.

but thou art not there yet."

refers are those


i.

23,

ii.

2,

which Origen uses

Gal.

vi.

14, with

Cor.

in
i.

the
24.

same

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

200

But now beware of the midday

"

Hght as

if it

fiend, that

feigneth

This light appears

came from Jerusalem.

between two black rainy clouds, whereof the upper one


the lower a
is presumption and self-exaltation, and
This

disdaining of one's neighbour.

pass,

simply the death of

is

affections

it is

only gate of

The way

As

which

in

thou

not

art

The
there

The
shaken

it

has

is

chains

" truly

very interesting.

he

says.

But the

Hilton entirely dissociated

in

idea

of

of absorption

Asiatic

nihilism

into

are

the

now

would seem, uncon-

The " darkness " is felt


" the darker
brighter dawn

the night, the nearer

easily and,

off,

the true day."

how

is

the

place in the history

its

as

sciously.

is

the

it

at last

of a

is

soul does enter into darkness,

yet,"

the metaphysical

Infinite.

carnal

not fully dispelled in this world

is

psychical experience

from

conceives

Hilton

of Dionysius

"

life.

and the darkness


"

all

that dying to the world which

a psychical experience,

of the inner

and

self-will

life.

darkness

mystical

not the light of

is

This darkness, through which we must

the true sun."

It

is,

to be only the herald

think, gratifying to observe

our countryman strikes off the fetters of the time-

honoured

Dionysian

which blurs

all

tradition,

distinctions,

paralysing

the

and the

"

creed

negative road

"

which leads to darkness and not light and how in


consequence his Mysticism is sounder and saner than
even that of Eckhart or Tauler. Before leaving Hilton,
;

it

may

be worth while to quote two or three isolated

maxims

of

his,

as

examples of

his

wise and pure

doctrine.
"

There are two ways of knowing God

one

chiefly

PRACTICAL AND DEVOTIONAL

201

by the imagination, the other by the understanding.


The understanding is the mistress, and the imagination
is

the maid."
"

What

heaven to a reasonable soul

is

"

Ask

God nothing but

of

Holy Ghost.

the

is

both the giver and the

My

gift,

is

gift

of

but this

gift

of love."

of " revelations

series

"

came

a " bodily sight

of her Lord

"

other that were Christ's lovers

the

whom
She

old.

manner

She ardently desired

to her.

that

the year

in

being then about thirty years

describes with evident truthfulness the

the visions

in

Julian or Juliana of Norwich,^ to

were granted a
1373) she

God

no

is

example of English Mysticism

other

which

this gift of love,

For there

is

Middle Ages

Nought

God."

else but Jesus

in

which

to

have

upon the Cross, " like


"
and she prayed that
;

she might have "a grievous sickness almost unto death,"

wean her from the world and quicken her spiritual


The sickness came, and the vision for they
thought her dying, and held the crucifix before her, till

to

sense.

the figure on the Cross changed into the semblance of

the

Christ.

living

parts

formed

that
in

is

my

"

was showed by three


by bodily sight, and by words

to say,

All

this

understanding, and by ghostly sight."

^Julian (1343-I443?) was probably a Benedictine nun of Carrow, near


Norwich, but lived for the greater part of her life in an anchorage in the
churchyard of St. Julian at Norwich.
There is a copy of her Revelations
Editions by Cressy, 1670 ; reprint issued 1843 ;
in the British Museum.
by Collins, 1877, See, further, in the Dictionary of National Biography.
In my quotations from her, I have used an unpublished version kindly
lent me by Miss G. II. Warrack.
It is just so far modernised as to be intelligible to those

who

are not familiar with fourteenth century English.

-This was a recognised classification. Scaramelli says, " Le visioni


corporee sono favori propri dei principianti, che incomminciano a camminare nella via dello

spirito.

Le

visioni

immaginari sono proprie

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

202
"

But the ghostly sight

may

cannot nor

as openly nor as fully as

Her

would."

not show

it

later visions

came to her sometimes during sleep, but most often


when she was awake. The most pure and certain
were wrought by a " Divine illapse " into the spiritual
part of the soul, the mind and understanding, for these
Juliana was certainly per-

the devil cannot counterfeit.

little

The

and perfectly sane.

fectly honest

her

book

great charm of

the sunny hopefulness and happiness

is

which shines from every page, and the tender affection


for her suffering

Lord which mingles with her devotion

ever becoming

without

also interesting to see

she shows

morbid or

how

this

doctrines which

The

all

the philosophical

in

which follow

will illustrate

these statements.

The

which

reason,"

"

Father."

my

art

Christ

crucified

She refused

tion.

pain

listen

Me

"

proffer

heaven

to

would

liever

come

to

liked

have been

di perfezione."
xii.

7,

n.

It

to

His

to

Thou
in that

heaven otherwise

non sono ancor bene purgati.


sono proprie di quelli che si trovano gia in istato

comes

16): " Hsec

my

none other heaven than

dei principianti e dei pioficienti, che


visioni intellectuali

in

not," she replied, " for

Doomsday than
"

to

Look up

"

may

For

heaven.

till

the one object of her devo-

is

to

said,

Nay,

than by Him."

Le

(for

by the

led

is

is

some of the speculative

we have found

brief extracts

It

untaught maiden

no traces of book learning)

logic of the heart straight to

mystics.

irreverent.

originally from St. Augustine

sunt

tria

genera visionum.

{De Gen. ad
.

litt.

Primum ergo

appellemus corporale, quia per corpus percipitur, et corporis sensibus exhibetur.


Secundum spirituale quidquid eniin corpus non est, et tamen
aliquid est, iam recte dicitur spiritus
et utique non est corpus, quamvis
:

corpori similis
cernitur.

sit,

imago absentis

Tertium vero

intellecluale,

nee
ab intellectu."

corporis,

iile

ipse

obtutus quo

PRACTICAL AND DEVOTIONAL


which

Jesus,

And

after

says, "

that

my

be

shall

when

bliss

203

come

there."

describing a vision of the crucifixion, she

How might any pain be more than to


my life and all my bliss suffer ? "

Him

see

is all

Her estimate of

"

and sound.

clear

means of grace is very


In that time the custom of our

the value of

how we

praying was brought to mind,


of understanding and

knowing of

many means. Then saw I


worship to God and more very
of]

pray

fully

by

thereto

use, for lack

make

love, to

truly that

it

delight that

[use

is

more

we

faith-

Himself of His goodness, and cleave

to

His

grace, with true understanding

and

by love, than if we made [use of] all the


means that heart can think. For if we made [use of]
all these means, it is too little, and not full worship
but in His goodness is all the whole, and
to God
steadfast

For

there faileth right nought.

came
God

into
for

my

[the

mind.

In the

sake of]

as

this,

shall

say,

same time we pray

His holy

flesh

to

and precious

His holy passion, His dearworthy death and


wounds and all the blessed kinship, the endless life
And we
that we have of all this, is His goodness.
blood,

pray
that
is

Him for
Him bare

[the sake of]


;

and

of His goodness."

all

His sweet mother's

the help that

And

yet "

hath advanced means to help

God

nature that

He

redemption and
pleaseth

Him

mean

took of the maid, with

go afore and come

after

to endless

that

we

seek

love,

of her

of His goodness

us, full fair

of which the chief and principal

that

we have

and many

is

all

the blessed

the

means

which belong to our

salvation.

Him and

Wherefore
worship

through means, understanding and knowing that

it

Him
He is

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

204

the goodness of

For the goodness of God

all.

highest prayer, and


of our need.

on

life,

It

is

the
seek

it

cometh down

the

is

to the lowest part

quickeneth our soul, and bringeth

It

and maketh

wax

to

for

it

in

it

grace and virtue.

nearest in nature and readiest in grace

for

it

is

same grace that the soul seeketh, and ever shall


till we know verily that He hath us all in Himself

beclosed."

After this our Lord showed

"

In which showing

Lord

one

rightfulness, another

is

But oftentimes our

God

sure that

trust

heareth

not

is

before.

thou have

it
I

seechest

How

it.

we

for

nought

after

make

not have thy beseeching

it

?
'

My

'

we

am

will that

thee to wish for

thee to beseech

then should

for

our prayers as

is

first, it

trust.

are not

But our Lord said to me,

and then

make

feel right

the ground of thy beseechings

and then

by our

think because of our

and dry oftentimes

are as barren

Prayers.

assured

is

full

we

us, as

un worthiness, and because we

we were

concerning

see two conditions signified

it,

it

and thou be-

be that thou shouldest

For

it is

most impos-

sible that

we should beseech mercy and grace and not

have

For

to

it.

all

maketh us

things that our good Lord

Himself hath ordained them to us from

beseech.

Here may we see that our benot the cause of God's goodness and that

without beginning.
seeching

showed

He

is

He

saith

soothfastly in all these sweet


'

am

willeth that this be

the
if it

known

more that we know


be wisely taken

Merry and joyous

And

the ground.'

is

it

words which

our good Lord

of His lovers in earth

the more should

and so

is

we

and

beseech,

our Lord's meaning.

our Lord of our prayer, and

He

PRACTICAL AND DEVOTIONAL


looketh

for

it

we

us,

savour to thee
not,

for

it

though thou see

canst
"

have us

to

like

thou

profitable,

is

Himself

in

He

to

think

has no

it

though thou

feel

though thou think thou

not, yea,

is

rejoicing

a true inward knowing, with great reverence

and thanking inwardly.

plenteousness

Good Lord
Thou be."
Prayer

joy that

Thanks-

also to prayer belongeth thanksgiving.

and lovely dread turning ourselves with


unto the working that our good Lord

"

because

not,'

And

giving

it

Therefore saith

are in kind.

Pray inwardly, although

to have

vvilleth

He would

with His grace


condition as

He

and

205

great thanks be to

is

is

our mights
us

to,

And sometimes

for

stirreth

out with voice and

breaketh

it

all

Thee

saith

blessed mote

a right understanding of that fulness of

to come, with great longing

and

certain

Then belongeth it to us to do our diligence,


and when we have done it, then shall we yet think
and in sooth it is. But if we do as
that it is nought
we can, and truly ask for mercy and grace, all that
faileth us we shall find in Him.
And thus meaneth
trust.

I am the ground of thy beseechHe where He saith


And thus in this blessed word, with the Showing,
ing.'
:

saw a

all

full

'

overcoming against

all

our weakness and

our doubtful dreads."


Juliana's view of

human

personality

is

remarkable,

reminds us of the Neoplatonic doctrine that there

as

it

is

a higher and a lower

untainted

understood

by the
full

sins

self,

of which the former

of the

latter.

" I

is

saw and

surely," she says, " that in every soul

that shall be saved

there

is

a godly will that never

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

2o6
assented to
that
it

We

never work

will

so good

is

the sight of

in

this blessed

have

all

whole

will

and

godly

will " or

corresponds to the spark of the

German

safe in our

Lord Jesus

"

"

substance

which

but evermore continually

evil,

and worketh good

good,

willeth

God.

nor ever shall

sin,

may

it

This

Christ."

"

mystics.
difference," she says, "

saw no

" I

our substance, but, as

were,

it

all

between God and

And

God.

understanding took, that our substance


that

to say, that

is

God

is

in

is

my

yet

God

God, and our substance a

Highly ought we to enjoy that God

creature in God.

dwelleth in our soul, and

much more

highly, that our

Thus was my understanding


is made Trinity, like to the
known
and loved from withTrinity,
unmade Blessed
out beginning, and in the making oned to the Maker.
soul dwelleth in God.
led to

This sight was


peaceable and
"

know, that our soul

full

sweet and marvellous to behold,


sure and delectable."

restful,

As anent our substance and our

together

may

sense-part, both

rightly be called our soul

because of the oneing that they have

in

and that
God.

worshipful City that our Lord Jesus sitteth

our sense-soul, in which


substance

is

He

is

enclosed,

nature.

God,

This fulfilment of the

That

which

is

and our natural

is

Our

soul can-

powers until our sense-nature by the

its full

virtue of Christ's passion be " brought

stance."

The
it

beclosed in Jesus, sitting with the blessed

soul of Christ at rest in the Godhead."

not reach

in,

is

is

to

say, our

substantial

substantial Nature

up

soul " is

reason

is

Naturehood

to the sub-

grounded

in

grounded

in

out of this

mercy and grace spring and spread

PRACTICAL AND DEVOTIONAL


into

working

us,

things

all

in

of our joy:

fulfilling

we have our
For in nature we have our
mercy and grace we have our

these are our ground, in which

and our

fulfilling.

our being, and

and our

in

207

increase
life

and

increase

fulfilling."

one of her visions she was shown our Lord


scorning the fiend's malice, and noughting his unIn

'

"

might,"

For

made them

sight

this

After this

not Christ laugh.

and

said,

earnest.

scorn,

in

see three things

God

that

and

blissful

Christ, that

But

game, scorn, and

see'

overcome

is

him, and

scorneth

saw

graveness,

into

fell

see game, that the fiend

scorned
the

'

laught mightily, and that

were about me.

to laugh that

see earnest, in that he

he

see

shall

be

overcome by

is

and death of our Lord Jesus


in full earnest and with sober

passion

was done

travail.'

Alternations

mirth and sadness followed each

of

other

many

some

souls to feel

times, " to learn

on

me

that

Once

this wise."

speedful to

is

it

especially she

heaviness and weariness of

was

left to herself, " in

life,

and irksomeness of myself, that scarcely

have pleasure to
he

is

sometimes

always the cause


fore

Also,

live.

left
;

For

left

Her treatment of
"In my

And

He

will,

both

it

often

beginning of sin was not letted

is

not

was so sudden.

is

and
one

the problem of evil


folly,

could

sinned not, where-

for

this blessed feeling.

Lord giveth when

woe sometime.

acteristic.

although sin

time

to myself

man's soul

profit of a

to himself;

deserved not to have

freely our

to be in

for in that

should be so
I

my

But

sufifereth us

love."
is

very char-

wondered why the

but Jesus, in this

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

2o8
vision,

answered and

be

shall

and

well,

thing shall be

brought to

said,

Sin

'

behovable,i but

all

manner of
naked word sin our Lord

In this

well.'

my mind

is

be well, and

shall

all

generally

that

all

all

not good.

is

had no manner of sub-

saw not sin


any part of being, nor might it be known
but by the pain that is caused thereof and this pain
purgeth and maketh us to know ourself, and ask mercy.
But

for

believe

it

stance, nor

same words

In these

be well

shall

all

(*

" all

be

shall

She wondered
when Holy Church teacheth

well,"

us to believe that

many

no other answer but

and

things,

this,

shall

how

But

lost.

save

my

God

no creature beneath Christ that knoweth


wit

"

says,

life is all

may

He

be, that

God

for

Him

in

contrariousness which
of His goodness
visions of

Romish

hell

in love.

when

it

manner of

is

maketh
were

the most impos-

is

Our

Suddenly

truly peaced in

And

thus

peace and love, we find no

in

contrariousness, nor no

is

found no wrath.

is

all

It

should be wroth.

grounded and rooted

when we be

of the

us.

in

the soul oned to God,

itself;

is

saw no wrath but on man's party," she

it,

done."

and that forgiveth

saw,

is

shall

sible that

is

This

but what

ne

till it is

it

" I

had
in all

be done, there

shall

it

"

"

do

shall

" I

word

'

thing well.

all

the great deed that our Lord


the deed shall be, and

be

shall
'

make

shall

saw an high

')

God."

and marvellous privity hid in

how

now
it

ever

in us

letting,
;

through that

nay, our Lord

to us full profitable."

showed

to her.

God

No

In place

hideous details of torture which some of the


visionaries describe almost with relish, Juliana
*

That

is,

" necessary" or "profitable."

PRACTICAL AND DEVOTIONAL


merely reports,
than

"

To me was showed none

209

harder hell

sin."

Again and again


,

she

the changes

rings

words which the Lord said to

her, "

on the

love thee and

thou lovest Me, and our love shall never be disparted


in two."

"

The

love wherein

from without beginning

He made

Him

in which love," she concludes,

we have our beginning, and


God without end."

"

us was in

all

this shall

be seen

in

LECTURE

BU

VI

"

heart, the equal poise of Love's both parts,


Big alike with wounds and darts,
Live in these conquering leaves, live still the same,
And walk through all tongues one triumphant flame
Live here, great heart, and love and die and kill.
And bleed, and wound, and yield, and conquer still.
Let this immortal life, where'er it comes.
Walk in a crowd of loves and martyrdoms.
Let mystic deaths wait on it, and wise souls be
The love-slain witnesses of this life of thee.
O sweet incendiary show here thy art
Upon this carcase of a hard, cold heart
Let all thy scattered shafts of light, that play

Among

the leaves of thy large books of day,


against this breast at once break in,
And take away from rne myself and sin ;
This glorious robbery shall thy bounty be.
And my best fortunes such fair spoils of me.
thou undaunted daughter of desires
By all thy dower of lights and fires,
By all the eagle in thee, all the dove,
By all thy lives and deaths of love,
By thy large draughts of intellectual day,
And by thy thirsts of love more large than they
By all thy brim-fill'd bowls of fierce desire.
By thy last morning's draught of liquid fire.
By the full kingdom of that final kiss
That seized thy parting soul and seal'd thee His
By all the heavens thou hast in Him,
Fair sister of the seraphim
By all of Him we have in Thee,
Leave nothing of myself in me
Let me so read thy life, that I
Unto all life of mine may die."

Combined

Crashaw, On SL

"In a dark night,


Burning with ecstasies wherein
Oh happy

Teresa.

fell.

plight.

Unheard I left the house wherein I


The inmates sleeping peacefully and

dwell.
well.

Secure from sight

By unknown ways,

in

unknown

robes concealed.

Oh happy

plight
And to no eye revealed,
home in sleep as in the

My

Sweet night,

in

tomb was

whose blessed

sealed.

fold

No human

eye beheld me, and mine eye


None could behold.

Only

for

His Face
St.

Guide had

whom

desired so ardently."

Juan ok the Cross

(translated by Hutchings).

LFXTURE

VI

Practical and Devotional Mysticism


"Whom
that

strength of

We

have

in

heaven but Thee? and there

My

desire beside Thee.

my

heart,

and

my

flesh

and

my

none upon earth

is

heart faileth

portion for ever."

Ps.

continued

Ixxiii.

God

but

is

the

25, 26.

have seen that the leaders of the Reformation

Germany

in

thrust aside speculative Mysticism with im-

Nor

patience.

did

Platonism fare

Christian

There were students of

better in the Latin countries.

Plotinus in Italy in the sixteenth century,


that a revival of

humane

much

letters,

and

who

fancied

a better acquaint-

ance with philosophy, were the best means of combating


the

barbaric

enthusiasms

North.

of the

Italian Neoplatonists had, for the

most

But these

part,

no deep

and they did not exhibit in their lives


that severity which the Alexandrian philosophers had
practised.
And so, when Rome had need of a Catholic
religious feelings,

mystical revival to stem the tide of Protestantism, she

could not find what she required

and philosophers of the Papal

of the counter-Reformation had


It

has been said that

Spain."

"

among the scholars


The Mysticism

court.
its

Mysticism

This does not mean that

is

the philosophy of

idealistic

flourished in the Peninsula, for the

never shown any

centre in Spain.

Spanish race has

taste for metaphysics.

The Mysticism

Rousselot, Les Mystiques Espagnols, p.


213

philosophy

3.

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

14

of Spain

is

psychological

its

point of departure

is

human

the notion of Being or of Unity, but the

not
soul

seeking reconcilation with God.

We

our guard against pantheism

reading the Spanish

mystics

in

need not be on

they show no tendency to obliterate the divid-

The

ing lines of personality, or to deify sinful humanity.

cause of this peculiarity

is

to be sought partly in the

strong individualism of the Spanish character, and partly


in external circumstances.^

Free thought

in

Spain was

so sternly repressed, that those tendencies of mystical

which are antagonistic to Catholic discipline

religion

were never allowed to display themselves.

The Spanish

mystics remained orthodox Romanists, subservient to


their " directors "

making

and

" superiors,"

recruits for the cloister.

and indefatigable

Even

in

they did not

so,

escape the attention of the Inquisition; and though

two among them,

St.

Teresa and

St.

Juan of the Cross,

were awarded the badge of sanctity, the fate of Molinos

showed how

Rome had come

to dread even the

most

submissive mystics.

The

early part of the sixteenth century

of high culture in Spain.

The

was a period

universities of

and Alcala were famous throughout Europe


is

said

(doubtless

with

Salamanca
the former

great exaggeration) to have

contained at one time fourteen thousand students.

But

the Inquisition, which had been founded to suppress

Jews and Mahometans, was roused to a more baneful


activity

by the appearance of Protestantism

in

Spain.

Before the end of the sixteenth century, the Spanish


^ Among the latter must be mentioned the growth of Scotist Nominalism,
on which see a note on p. 187. Ritschl was the first to point out how
strongly Nominalism influenced the later Mysticism, by giving it its quietistic character.
See Harnack, History of Dogma (Eng. tr. ), vol. vi. p. 107.

PRACTICAL AND DEVOTIONAL


people,
in

who up

to that time

had been second

love of Hberty and many-sided

changed into sombre


superstition,

fanatics,

published in

Protestants began in 1559.

none
been

ignorance and

in

their former

The

buoyancy and healthy independence.^


vfdiS

to

energy, had

sunk

and retaining hardly a trace of

Expurgatorius

215

Index

first

1546; the burning of

Till then,

Eckhart, Tauler,

Suso, and Ruysbroek had circulated freely in Spain.

But the

condemned them all, except


The same rigour was extended to the

Inquisition

Ruysbroek.

Arabian philosophers, and so

much

fluenced Spanish theology

expected

been
in

from

chiefly

in-

than might have

less

the long sojourn of the

Averroism was

the Peninsula.

speculations

their

known

in

Moors
Spain

through the medium of the Fons Vitce of Ibn

Gebirol (Avicebron).

Dionysius

and

the

scholastic

mystics of the Middle Ages were, of course, allowed


to

But besides

be read.

these, the

and Plotinus were accessible

in

works of Plato

Latin translations, and

were highly valued by some of the Spanish mystics.


This statement

may

surprise those

who have

identified

Spanish Mysticism with Teresa and Juan of the Cross,

and who know how


their theology.

little

Platonism

is

to be found

in

But these two militant champions of

the counter-Reformation

numbered among

their con-

temporaries mystics of a different type, whose writings,


little

known

in this country, entitle

them

to an honour-

able place in the roll of Christian Platonists.


Vida de Lazarillo de Tormes, corregida y eme7i"The ignorance of the Spaniards
is excusable.
The Inquisitors are the cause. They are dreaded, not only by
the people, but by the great lords, to such an extent that the mere mention
^

Cf. the beginning of the

dada por Jumt de Luna {P&ns, 1620).

of the Inquisition

makes every head tremble

like a leaf in the

wind,"

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

2i6

We

them most of the

find in

of Christian Neoplatonism

characteristic doctrines

the radiation of

from God and their return to God

God

in all things

vitally

the notion of

connected with

all

"
;

and His members as

upon disinterested love

insistence

This

admonitions to close the eye of sense.^


which, as

as a microcosm,

the different orders of creation ;2

the Augustinian doctrine of Christ

"one Christ

things

immanence of

the

man

all

have maintained,

is

and

last precept,

neither true Platonism

nor true Mysticism, must be set against others in which


the universe
" of

copy of the Divine Ideas,

said to be a

is

which Plotinus has spoken divinely," the creation of

Love, which has given form to chaos, and stamped


with the image of the Divine beauty

we

and

in

it

which

are exhorted to rise through the contemplation of

Juan de Angelis,

nature to God.*'

his treatise

on

" Las cosas en Dios son mismo Dies."

Pedro Malon de Chaide

Alejo Venegas in Rousselot,

in

p.

78

Louis de Leon,

who

is

indebted to

the Fotis VitcE.


^
*

" The members and the head are one Christ."


Diego de Stella affirms the mystic paradox, that it is better to be
Louis de Leon

hell with Christ than in glory without

^Juan d'Avila

{Medit.

in

iii. ).

us put a veil between ourselves and

"Let

Him

all

created

things."
^

This side of Platonism appears in Pedro Malon, and especially in


Compare also the beautiful ode of Louis de Leon,

Louis de Granada.
entitled

"Noche Serena," where

the eternal peace of the starry heavens

contrasted with the turmoil of the world

" Quien

es el

que esto mira,

precia la bajeza de la tierra,

no gime y suspira
rompe lo que encierra

El alma, y destos bienes

la destierra

Aqui vive al contento,


Aqui reina la paz, aqui asentado

En

rico

Esta

De

el

y alto asiento

amor sagrado

glorias

y deleites rodeado."

is

the

PRACTICAL AND DEVOTIONAL

217

quotes

from

nuptials,

spiritual

Plato, Plotinus,

and

Tibullus,

But

this

Church,

and

Martial.

kind of humanism was frowned upon by the

Spain as elsewhere.

in

weapons with which


Inquisition in

on the Index of 1559


in

These were not the

Lutheranism

could

Portugal

was sent

pastoral idyll,
St.

Seville
in a

Leon, who

de

to a

dungeon

and

St.

Juan of the Cross passed nine months

fails

when applied with

of

its

immediate

sufficient ruthlessness,

object.

It

about twelve years to destroy Protestantism

and the Holy Office was equally successful


Mysticism hand and
expect to find
characteristic

in

St.

foot.^

And

Teresa or

St.

took only

Spain

in

binding

in

we must not

Juan any of the

The

inner

which they sought was not an illumination of the


but a consuming

After his release he was suflered to resume his lectures.

sympathisers assembled to hear his

first

utterance

with his usual formula, " Deciamos ahora," "

The

fire

to

crowd of

but he began quietly

We

were saying just now."


heresy of the " Alombrados " (lUuminati), which appeared in the

sixteenth century, and


to

so

independence of Mysticism.

intellect in its search for truth,

"

only a

is

for five years.^

black hole at Toledo.

seldom

had the

Teresa narrowly escaped imprisonment at

Persecution,

light

fought

Louis de Granada had to take

Louis

courage to say that the Song of Solomon

Even

be

Juan d'Avila was accused before the


1534, and one of his books was placed

successfully.

refuge

not only

freely,

but from Lucretius, Ovid,

Virgil,

was

ruthlessly crushed

by the Inquisition, belonged

the familiar type of degenerate Mysticism.

Its

adherents taught that

the prayers of the Church were worthless, the only true piayer being a

kind of ecstasy, without words or mental images. The " illuminated " need
no sacraments, and can commit no sins. The mystical union once achieved
is

an abiding possession. There was another outbreak of the same errors


and a corresponding sect of Illumines in Southern France.

in 1623,

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

2i8
burn up

earthly passions and desires.

all

sented them with no problems

been settled once


ascetics

life

such questions had

They were
neither of

typical mystic.^

of St. Teresa

teaching.

She had

Castilian

ancestors

life

all

simplicity,

interesting than her

straightforwardness,

and the record of her

enlivened

is

more

is

the best qualities of her noble

and dauntless courage


denying

all

by Holy Church.

for all

and Church Reformers next

first

them was a

The

Faith pre-

by numerous

self-

flashes

humour, which make her character more lovable.


best

is

known

as a visionary,

her visions that she

is

occupy a very large space


were frequent during the

fifty

life,

mainly through

in the story of
first

one of the

But these visions do not


her

life.

and during the

was actively engaged


houses, she saw

many

in

life,

and

periods,

when she

founding and visiting religious

them no more.
other

forty

gap between the two

twenty years of her

last

They

two or three years of her

and again between the ages of

there was a long

that of

it is

often regarded as

most representative mystics.

convent

and

of

She

This experience was

saints of the cloister.

Spiritual

consolations seem to be frequently granted to encourage

young beginners

then they are withdrawn, and only

recovered after a long period of dryness and darkness


^

The

real

founder of Spanish quietistic Mysticism was Pedro of Alcantara

He

was confessor to Teresa. Teresa is also indebted to FranOsuna, in whose writings the principles of quietism are clearly
taught.
Cf. Heppe, Geschichie der quietistichen Mystik, p. 9.
^ The fullest and best account of St. Teresa is in Mrs.
Cunninghame
Graham's Life and Times of Satita Teresa (2 vols. )
" Ws. in-.nginarice visiones regulariter eveniunt vel incipientibus vel
proficientibus nondum bene purgatis, ut communiter tenent mystse
{Lticern. Myst. Tract, v. 3).
(d.

1562).

cisco de

PRACTICAL AND DEVOTIONAL


but

when the character

in later life,

is

fixed,

219
and the

imagination less active, the vision fades into the light

common

of

day.

In considering St. Teresa's visions,

we must remember
and sincere

that she was transparently honest


superiors strongly disliked

that her

suspected, and

enemies

her

her

ridiculed,

and

spiritual

same time they brought her


great fame and influence
that she was at times
haunted by doubts whether she ever really saw them
and, lastly, that her biographers have given them a
more grotesque and materialistic character than is
privileges

that at the

justified

She

by her own

descriptions.

us herself that her reading of St. Augustine's

tells

Confessions, at the age of forty-one,

her
"

life.

When

"

came

was a turning-point

in

to his conversion," she says,

and read how he heard the voice


if the Lord called me."

was just as

that she began again to see visions

in

the garden,

It

was

it

after this

or rather to have

a sudden sense of the presence of God, with a suspen-

In these trances she generally

sion of all the faculties.

heard Divine

" locutions."

She says that

*'

the words

were very clearly formed, and unmistakable, though not


heard by the bodily

They

ear.

are quite unlike the

words framed by the imagination, which are muffled

She describes her

{cosa sorda).

First

carefully.
in

prayer,

He

visions of Christ very

stood beside her while she was

and she heard and saw Him,

"

though not

with the eyes of the body, nor of the soul."

by degrees

"

His

(This

pictures, lovingly

last

it

is

painted after the Resur-

sentence

gazed

Then

humanity was completely

sacred

manifested to me, as
rection."

"

at,

suggests

may have been

that

sacred

the source

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

220
some

of

Her

of her visions.)

superiors tried to per-

suade her that they were delusions

"If they who said

this told

but she replied,

me that a person who had


whom I knew well, was

just finished speaking to me,

knew

not that person, but they


less

but

fancied

it,

should believe them, rather than what

seen

that

person

this

if

as pledges of his great love,

and

found myself rich

could not believe

And

could show them.

knew me saw

clearly that

my

was great and palpable."

that

Teresa

for

the
"

if

it

For

wished.

who

all

was changed

soul

difference

manifestations were

had

behind him some jewels

left

having been poor,


these jewels

doubt-

the

The answer shows

question was

not whether

the

subjective " or " objective,"

but

whether they were sent by God or Satan.

One

of the best chapters in her autobiography, and

perhaps the most interesting from our present point


of view,

the allegory under which she describes the

is

The

different kinds of prayer.

appears

simile

Augustine and others

in St.

worked out by

St. Teresa,

been a great delight to

who

me

is

but

it is

us

" it

tells

to think of

garden, and of the Lord as walking in


says, "

Our

soul

out of which

is

God

not original

like a garden,

more

it

fully

has always

my

soul as a

So here she

it."

rough and

unfruitful,

plucks the weeds, and plants flowers,

which we have to water by prayer.

ways of doing
well

this

is

this

First,

There are four


by drawing the water from a

the earliest and most laborious process.

Secondly, by a water-wheel which

round with
to

The

flow
first

little

through
is

buckets.
it.

Third,

has

its

rim hung

by causing a stream

Fourth, by rain

ordinary prayer, which

is

from heaven.
often attended

PRACTICAL AND DEVOTIONAL


by great sweetness and comfort.
well

is

What

dry.

consist

then

in

than

when

to

seems

other

to

The second

give.

is

the soul understands that

to her that she need not talk aloud to

stage the Will

Memory

the

are

me

rather

to

the prayer of

God

so near

is

Him."

In this

(Teresa, following the scho-

active.

makes these the three


" It

is

faculties of the

God becomes,

In the third stage

Gardener.

not

delights

in

absorbed, but the Understanding and

is

still

mystics,

lastic

soul.)

God does

serving with justice, courage,

in

The

and humility.
quiet,

But sometimes the


love of

being able to weep, nor yet

and tenderness, but


receive

The

221

as

were,

it

a sleep of the faculties, which

are not entirely suspended, nor yet do they understand

how they
not

at

work."

all

pondered

Lord
is

all

the

faculties

how

she

might

said these words to

herself,
It

In the fourth stage, the soul labours

my

me

As

are quiescent.

describe
:

She

(the soul)

she
"

state,

this

the

unmakes

daughter, to bring herself closer to Me.

no more she that

comprehend what she

lives,

sees,

but

I.

As

understanding she ceases to

Years after she had attained

understand."

stagQ, Teresa experienced

she cannot

this fourth

what the mystics

call "

the

great dereliction," a sense of ineffable loneliness and


desolation,

which nevertheless

happiness.

It

is

the path to incomparable

was accompanied by a kind of catalepsy,

with muscular rigidity and cessation of the pulses.

These intense joys and sorrows of the


chief events

They

of Teresa's

life

for

spirit are

eight or ten

the

years.

followed by a period of extreme practical


when she devoted herself to organising com-

are

activity,

munities

of bare-footed

Carmelites,

whose austerity

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

222

and devotion were

revive the glories of primitive

to

work she showed not only


energy, but worldly wisdom and tact in no common
Her visions had certainly not impaired her
degree.
powers as an organiser and ruler of men and women.
In

Christianity.

Her

this

labours continued without intermission

till,

at the

age of sixty-seven, she was struck down by her


"

illness.

said,

This saint

will

last

be no longer wanted," she

with a sparkle of her old vivacity,

when she knew

that she was to die.


It

not worth while to give a detailed account of

is

St. Teresa's

that the religious

the

to

will

life

consists in complete conformity

"

passive "

the sole

Christ as

" at

and

rest "

ground of

which subject she uses language which


that of the Lutheran Reformers.

and the

passivity

that which the

but

it

is

"

remember

Roman Church

is

which can be found


real
in

identical with

" is

that

"

in

Molinos

life,

and that

not committed to every doctrine

The

may

be seen best

of her prayers, such as this which follows

Lord,

how

from our thoughts


resolved to love

utterly different are

From

Thee

her whole will into

Teresa was not

in the writings of her saints.

character of St. Teresa's piety

some

on

Her teaching about

prayer of quiet

to

fair

will

and the

salvation,

Pope afterwards condemned

only

curiously like

is

canonised for her theology, but for her


the

human

of God, so that at last the

becomes purely
belief in

Its cardinal points are

mystical theology.

alone,

Thy

Thy

a soul which

thoughts
is

firmly

and which has surrendered

hands,

Thou demandest only

that she should hearken, strive earnestly to serve Thee,

and

desire only to

promote Thine honour.

She need

PRACTICAL AND DEVOTIONAL


seek and choose no path, for

and her

Thine

will follows

Thou doest

that for her,

Lord, takest

while Thou,

223

care to bring her to fuller perfection."

In theory,

not be easy to reconcile

Perhaps no one has spoken better on

will as if

will as if

it

were

it

were

it

Thy

"

But

will."

quietistic Mysti-

cism often puts the matter on a wrong basis.


will

is

to be annihilated, not (as St. Teresa

implies) because our thoughts

Self-

sometimes

are so utterly different

from God's thoughts that they cannot exist

same

mind,

because

but

other

when God worketh

in

The

them.

only realises

faculties,

in

the

up

an

will,

like

sets

self-interest

unnatural antagonism between


the

is

O Lord, grant that I may


my will, that Thou mayest do

reported that he prayed,

my

whom

matter than the Rabbi Gamaliel, of

do Thy

" earnest

but the logic of the heart does not find them

will,

incompatible.
this

may

with complete surrender and abrogation of

striving "

the

it

itself in

its

fulness

us both to will and to do of

His good pleasure.


St.

Juan of the Cross, the fellow-workman of


the reform of monasteries,

St.

more

Teresa

in

perfect

example of the Spanish type of Mysticism.

is

still

His fame has never been so great as hers


Teresa's character remained

midst of

all

human and

for while

lovable in the

her austerities, Juan carried self-abnegation

to a fanatical extreme,

and presents the

life

of holiness

in a grim and repellent aspect.


compromise between the claims of God and the world,

In his disdain of all

he welcomes every kind of suffering, and bids us choose


always that which
ating.

His

own

is

most

life

painful, difficult,

was

divided

and humili-

between

terrible

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

224

and strenuous labour

mortifications

Though

of monasteries.

his

the foundation

in

books show a tendency to

Quietism, his character was one of fiery energy and

Houses of

unresting industry.

sprang up

"

discalced

"

Carmelites

over Spain as the result of his labours.

all

These monks and nuns

upon bare boards,

slept

fasted

months in the year, never ate meat, and wore the


same serge dress in winter and summer. In some of

eight

new foundations

these

each other
rule.

It

part of the

all

and devotion of

by a return

to the purity

The

older Catholic

earlier centuries.

the mediseval type of Christianity

restored

in

completeness

its

all

This

century.

this severe

campaign against Protest-

worldliness and luxury of the Renaissance

period were to be atoned for

ideal

Brethren even vied with

adding voluntary austerities to

in

was

The

antism.

the

essentially

militant

was

the

in

to be

seventeenth
of the

character

movement among the Carmelites must not be

lost

two great Spanish mystics were before


things champions of the counter- Reformation.

sight of: the


all

The two chief works of St. Juan are The Ascent of


Mount Carmely and The Obscure Night of the Soul.
Both are

treatises

At

type.

the

on

Cannelo he says,
Divine union

is

of

Mysticism of a peculiar

La Subida

The journey

"

called

point of departure

is

which

is

is

The

like night

privation of

soul

in

to the intellect

incomprehensible while
its

darkness to another.

de

of the soul

Monte
to

night for three reasons

detachment from the world

plete

God,

quietistic

beginning

we

ascent passes
First

there

all desire,

the road
;

is

the
the

and com-

by

faith,

the goal, which

are in this

is

life."

from one realm of


is

the

"

night

of

PRACTICAL AND DEVOTIONAL


sense,"

in

which the things of earth become dark to

This must needs be traversed, for

her.

are only the

crumbs that

none but dogs

God

allow

and carrying the Cross."

torment, blind, and pollute

"

When

that

All

completely detached from

the creatures

them

pick

to

"

from God's

fall

turn

will

desire only doth

God.

225

of

table,

and

"

One

up."

obeying Him,

other desires weaken,

Until we
we cannot

the soul.
all

such,

are
love

thou dwellest upon anything, thou hast

ceased to cast thyself upon the All."

"If thou

wilt

keep anything with the All, thou hast not thy treasure
simply
things,

in

"

God."

and thou

Empty

wilt

walk

thy

in

spirit

of

created

all

the Divine light, for

God

Such is the method of


Even at this early
night of sense."

resembles no created thing."


traversing

the "

stage the forms and symbols of eternity, which others

have found

in

as useless.

"

The dualism

the visible works of God, are discarded

God
or

seldom found

a,

has no resemblance to any creature."

acosmism of mediaeval thought has


harsher expression.

In the night of sense, the understanding and reason


are not blind
faith,

" all

but in the second night, the night of

the deepest darkness that


" third night,
is

at hand.

soul to

"

darkness."

is

the night of
"

Faith

"

Faith

is

midnight

"

he defines as

what we have heard

"

"

the assent of the

as a blind

man would

totally blind, " for

a partially blind

not commit himself wholly to his guide."


St.

Juan the whole content of revelation

from the scope of the reason, and


15

is

we have to pass for in the


memory and will," the dawn

receive a statement about the colour of an object.

must be

it

is

man
Thus

is

We
will

for

removed

treated as some-

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

226

We

thing communicated from outside.

have, indeed,

happy confidence

travelled far from St. Clement's

in

the guidance of reason, and Eckhart's independence

of tradition.

The

memory, and

will.

soul has three faculties

The imagination

intellect,

{fantasia)

is

between the sensitive and reasoning powers, and


comes between the intellect and memory .^ Of these
faculties, " faith (he says) blinds the intellect, hope the
link

memory, and love the


"

God

not

but

He

will."

God

"

adds, " to

in this life

blames those who think

it

"

without

themselves,"

"

seek for satisfaction in God."

annihilating

"

gluttony."

We

"

world."

"

of

God

for bitterness

what

God

from

consisteth not in

devotion or sweetness, though these


to

last is " spiritual

to choose

proceeding

whether

and those who

This

ought to seek

The way

is

He

enough to deny themselves

than sweetness in God," and


disagreeable,

that

all

like night."

is

may

rather
is

most

or

the

ways of

be necessary

beginners, but in giving ourselves up to suffer."

And

we must

so

from

fly

all

"

phenomena

mystical

(supernatural manifestations to the sight, hearing, and

the other senses)

good or

evil."

"

"

without examining whether they be

For bodily sensations bear no propor-

tion to spiritual things "

God and

the creature

likeness or

best

infinite," " there is

is

fly,"

toys

he says

"
;

"

the devil.

intellectual

perceptions,

So

in Plotinus tpavraala

perfect apprehension of vovs,

the

fly

that

For

no essential

Visions are at

touches honey

and the probability

come from

since the distance " between

communion between them."

" childish

cannot

is

that they

" neither the creatures,

natural

comes between

or

supernatural,

(pvcn^ (the

nor

can

lower soul) and the

PRACTICAL AND DEVOTIONAL

227

bring us to God, there being no proportion between

Created things cannot serve as a ladder

them.

are only a hindrance

There

is

that forsaketh not

My

disciple."

life

also

our nature

in

Whosoever he be of

"

yea,

and memory

are

"

Him who

"

his

own

that

all

is

down in absolute
made darkness His

"

His pavilion round about

third night

and

cast

water, and thick clouds to cover Him."

In the

interpreta-

that he hath, he cannot be

all

intellect, reason,

surrender at the feet of


secret place.

"

All that he hath

most Divine

sombre

in this

of our Lord,

you

"

they

and a snare,"

something heroic

maxim

tion of the

that of

Him

with dark

memory and

will

the soul sinks into a holy inertia and oblivion {santa


ociosidad y olvido), in which the flight of time

and the mind


St.

unconscious of

is

Juan seems here

like the torpor of the

of

Mount Athos.

to

all

have brought us to something

Indian Yogi or of the hesychasts

But he does not intend us

this state of trance as

unfelt,

is

particular thoughts.

permanent or

final.

to regard

It is

the last

watch of the night before the dawn of the supernatural


state,

in

which the human

faculties

are turned into

Divine attributes, and by a complete transformation the


soul,
"

which was

becomes,

state " one

by

" at

the opposite extreme

participation,

might

God."

In

"

this

to God,
beatific

say, in a sense, that the soul gives

God to God, for she gives to God all that she receives
God and He gives Himself to her. This is the

of

Juan follows the medieval mystics in distinguishing between


" and "contemplation."
" Meditation," from which external
images are not excluded, is for him an early and imperfect stage he who
is destined to higher things will soon discover signs which indicate that it
is time to abandon it.
^

St.

" meditation

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

228

mystical love-gift, wherewith the soul repayeth

This

debt."

is

all

her

who has

the infinite reward of the soul

refused to be content with anything short of infinity

With what
yearning this blessed hope inspired St. Juan, is shown in
the following beautiful prayer, which is a good example
of the eloquence, born of intense emotion, which we
[no se llenan menos que con lo Infinitd).

pages

"

find here

and there

God, too

who has found Thee is at


everything be changed, O God, that we may

rest

everywhere

things with

all

for

me

for

who

bride

and

Lord,

because

Such

will

uncover

me

know

faith,

gleams of

as

to

Thy

nothing

that

feet,^

Thyself,

me, none
presence,

draw near

will

for

me Thy

making

till

me

am

love

my
in

Amos

It is

please

soul

Thy

Thine arms.

own

soul."

were suffered

to

cast

upon the saint's gloomy and thornBut nevertheless the text of which we

are most often reminded in reading his pages

and not

Thee

to

may

not for a moment,

not the value of mine

hope, and

it

light

strewn path.

of

me, every-

for

and trouble

beseech Thee, leave

nothing

God, how sweet to

will rejoice in

me

bitterness

all

unite

to

Thee

supreme Good

art the

in silence,

Thee

O my

Thee.

O my God,
wish, O my Love,

All sweetness and delight for Thee,

thing for Thee.

none

sweetest love of

he

Thee, nothing for

for

all

Everywhere with Thee,

Thee,

in

rest

known

little

let

in his

"

Shall not the day of the

light

is

the verse

Lord be darkness

even very dark, and no brightness

a terrible view of

life

and duty

that

we

in

it

?"

are to

denude ourselves of everything that makes us citizens


that nothing which is natural is capable
of the world

The

reference

is

to

Ruth

iii.

7.

PRACTICAL AND DEVOTIONAL


God

of entering into relations with

human must
natural
"

die,

"

negative road
at

self

and have

infusion.

with

all

its

basis

which

all

is

place taken by super-

Juan follows

St.

the end

to

the

of Dionysius, without troubling him-

the

result of abstracting
;

that

metaphysics

transcendental

His nihilism or acosmism

Neoplatonism.

unity

its

229

from the notion of Being or of

psychological.

is

of

not the

is

religion carried almost to

It

" subjective "

is

The

logical conclusion.

its

Neoplatonists were led on by the hope of finding a


reconciliation between philosophy

and

positive religion

but no such problems ever presented themselves to the

We

Spaniards.

hear nothing of the relation of the

creation to God, or

why

the contemplation of

it

should

know its Maker.


The world simply does not exist for St. Juan nothing
exists save God and human souls.
The great human
only hinder instead of helping us to

society has no interest for

him

he would have us cut

ourselves completely adrift from the aims and aspirations of civilised humanity, and, " since nothing but the
Infinite can

satisfy us," to accept

nothingness

is

filled

nothing until our

He

with the Infinite.

does not

escape from the quietistic attitude of passive expectancy

which belongs to

this

view of

life

and

glaring inconsistency that he attaches


ecclesiastical

from

basis

symbolism, which
that

of his

rests

teaching.

it

only by a

is

any value

on a very

But

to the

different

St.

Juan's

Mysticism brought him no intellectual emancipation,


either

for

good or

evil.

antithesis, not to sights as

The

sacrifice of

the old man.

Faith
in

with him

was

the

the Bible, but to reason.

reason was part of the crucifixion of

And

so he remained in 'an attitude of

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

230

complete subservience to Church tradition and authority,

and even

an intermediary who

to his " director,"

mentioned by these post-Reformation


Even this unqualified submissiveness did not
preserve him from persecution during his lifetime, and
is

constantly

mystics.

His books were only authorised

suspicion afterwards.

twenty-seven years after his death, which occurred in


his beatification was delayed till 1674.
1 591; and
His orthodoxy was defended largely by references to

Teresa,

St.

could

not

who had

But

already been canonised.

it

be denied that the quietists of the next

much support

century might find

for

contro-

their

verted doctrines in both writers.

Juan's ideal of saintliness was as

St.

anachronism as

his

much

scheme of Church reform.

of an

But no

one ever climbed the rugged peaks of Mount Carmel


with more heroic courage and patience.

what tremendous moral

force

self-surrender to God.

And

is

His

shows

life

generated by complete

happily neither his failure

to read the signs of the times, nor his one-sided

defective grasp of Christian truth, could deprive

the reward of his

of sacrifice

life

the reward,

and

him

of feeling his fellowship with Christ in suffering.


sold " all that he

"

had

later

Roman

He

to gain the pearl of great price,

and the surrender was not made

The

of

mean,

Catholic

in vain.

mystics,

though they

some beautiful and lovable characters, do not


develop any further the type which we have found in
St. Teresa and St. Juan.
St. Francis de Sales has

include

been a favourite devotional writer with thousands


this

country.

softened

and

He

presents

polished

into

the

in

Spanish Mysticism

a graceful

and winning

PRACTICAL AND DEVOTIONAL


might

pietism, such as

the " honourable

and elevate the

refine

women

who

"

lives of

The
some countenhim.

consulted

errors of the quietists certainly receive

231

ance from parts of his writings, but they are neutralised

by maxims of a

different tendency,

borrowed

eclectically

from other sources.^

more consistent and

less fortunate follower of St.

Teresa was Miguel de Molinos, a Spanish

priest,

who

came to Rome about 1670. His piety and learning


won him the favour of Pope Innocent XL, who, according to Bishop Burnet, " lodged him in an apartment of

many

the palace, and put

upon him."

In

singular marks of his esteem

he published

1675

Italian

in

his

Spiritual Guide, a mystical treatise of great interest.

Molinos begins by saying that there are two ways


to

God

the knowledge of

thought, and " pure faith

"

meditation or discursive

Contem-

or contemplation.

plation has

two stages, active and passive, the

being

higher.^

"

the

exterior road

"

it is

Meditation

good

is

also

for beginners,

can never lead to perfection.


goal of which

he

The

road," the

complete

in

resignation to the will of God, annihilation of


^

The somewhat feminine temper

of Francis leads

him

the

he says, but

" interior

union with God, consists

latter

calls

all

to attach

self-

more

value to fanciful symbolism than would have been approved by St> Juan, or

even by

St.

And we miss in him that steady devotion to the


Him alone, which gives the Spaniards, in spite of

Teresa.

Person of Christ, and to

themselves, a sort of kinship with evangelical Christianity.

never have written,

'
'

Honorez, reverez,

sacree et glorieuse Vierge Marie.

the

essential

Juan could

(!).

The three parts into which the book is divided


" darkness and dryness" by which God purifies

stage, in

St.

d'un amour special la

Elle est mere de nostre souverain pere et

par consequent nostre grand'mere"


-

et respectez

deal respectively with


the heart

which he insists, complete obedience to a


and the stage of higher illumination.

the second

spiritual director is

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

232
will,

and an unruffled
the mystical

until

Then

we

"

tranquillity or passivity of soul,

grace

and

sink

shall

supernaturally " infused."

is

immeasurable sea of God's

lose

infinite

there steadfast and immovable."

we may know

tokens by which
meditation

contemplation

to

ourselves

He

that

the

in

goodness, and rest

we

gives a

list

of

are called from

and enumerates four

means, which lead to perfection and inward peace


obedience,

prayer,

The

mortification.
silence

that of desires,

is

the prayer of
of words,

silences, that

In the last and

and that of thought.

mind is a blank, and God alone speaks to


With the curious passion for subdivision
find in
nearly all Romish mystics, he

highest the
the soul.^

we

which

best kind of prayer

and there are three

communions, and inner

frequent

distinguishes three kinds of " infusa contemplazione "

when

(i) satiety,

conceives

the

hatred

mentale eccesso

"

soul

for

is

worldly things

all

and

soul

would willingly even go to

and annihilated
lives in

^ It is

Enn.

V.

all

It lives

truth

were God's

hell, if it

no longer

we may say

ingolfiano e ci perdiamo nel

c'

bonta in cui restiamo

un

the state of that soul which has slain

itself."

"With

it.

"Cola

is

(2) "

In this state the

satiety; (3) "security."

Happy

"

will.

or elevation of the soul, born of Divine

love

its

God and

with

filled

in itself, for

that

mare immenso

it is

God

deified."

dell' infinila

ed immobili."
interesting to find the "prayer of quiet" even in Plotinus.
" Let us call upon God Himself before we thus answer
I. 6

sua

stabili

with uttered words, but reaching forth our souls in prayer to


we pray, alone to Him who is alone."

Him

Cf.

not

for thus

alone can
^

He

speaks, too, of "inner recollection"

"mirandolo dentro
forma, specie,

modo

te

medesima

nel

(il

raccoglimento interiore),

piu intimo

del'

anima

tua,

senza

6 figura, in vista e generale notitia di fede amorosa ed

oscura, senza veruna distinzione di perfezione 6 attributo."

PRACTICAL AND DEVOTIONAL

233

St. Juan of the Cross in disparaging


which he says are often snares of the devil.
And, like him, he says much of the " horrible tempta-

Molinos follows

visions,

and torments, worse than any which the martyrs


early Church underwent," which form part of

tions

of the
"

He

purgative contemplation."

mystics also

frequent

thinks

when

communion,

daily

*'

especially

resembles the Spanish

on outward observances,

in his insistence

possible,"

but

except

for

unnecessary,

confession

beginners.

The book was no sooner printed," says Bishop


" than it was much read and highly esteemed,
The acquaintance of the
both in Italy and Spain.
author came to be much desired.
Those who seemed
"

Burnet,

the greatest credit at

in

upon

selves

from

all

Rome seemed

to value them-

Letters were writ to

his friendship.

places, so that a correspondence

was

him

settled

between him and those who approved of

his

many

grew so much

the vogue in

to be

those

" It

different places of Europe."

who had

aside

their

themselves

Rome,

that

all

much

began to lay

and other devotions, and

fetters "

course.

desires

which hindered

Unfortunately

some of the
to

to give

to the practice of mental prayer."


"

breaking

their

upward

Molinos had written with the object of


the

in

the nuns, except

Jesuits to their confessors,

rosaries

method,

fetters

keep the
" In

in

souls

he also loosened

for himself,

which the

laity

.^

And

in

Roman
so,

priesthood

instead

of the

everybody that was thought either sincerely


it, came to be reckoned
among the Quietists and if these persons were observed to become more
strict in their lives, more retired and serious in their mental devotions,
yet there appeared less zeal in their whole deportment as to the exterior
^

Cf. Bp.

Burnet

short,

devout, or that at least affected the reputation of


;

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

234

honours which had been grudgingly and suspiciously

bestowed on
in a

Molinos ended his days

his predecessors,

dungeon.^

His condemnation was followed by a

sharp persecution of his followers

become very numerous

Italy,

in

who had

and, in France, Bossuet pro-

cured the condemnation and imprisonment of

the centre of a group of quietists.

abilities,

Her Mysticism

need not detain us here.

Madame

who was
Madame de Guyon

Guyon, a lady of high character and

is

identical

with that of Saint Teresa, except that she was no


visionary,

and that her character was

masculine.

Her

softer

attractive personality,

and

less

and the cruel

and unjust treatment which she experienced during


the greater part of her
all

who read

her story

arouse the sympathy of

life,

but since

my

present object

is

not to exhibit a portrait gallery of eminent mystics,

but to investigate the chief types of mystical thought,


not be necessary for

it

will

or

make

me

to

extracts from her writings.

her quietism

may be

illustrated

describe

The

her

life

character of

by one example

the

They were not so assiduous at Mass,


nor so earnest to procure Masses to be said for their friends ; nor were they
parts of the religion of that Church.

so frequently either at confession or in processions, so that the trade of


those that live by these things was terribly sunk."
^ The Spi7-itual Guide was well
received at first in high quarters ; but in
l68i a Jesuit preacher published a book on "the prayer of quiet," which
raised a storm.
The first commission of inquiry exonerated Molinos ; but

1685 the Jesuits and Louis XIV. brought strong pressure to bear on the
Pope, and Molinos was accused of heresy.
Sixty-eight *<alse propositions

in

were extracted from his writings, and formally condemned. They include
a justification of disgraceful vices, which Molinos, who was a man of
saintly character, could never

But though the whole process


was shamefully unfair, the book
contains some highly dangerous teaching, which might easily be pressed
into the service of immorality.
Molinos saved his life by recanting all his
errors, but was imprisoned till his death, about 1696.
In 1687 the Inquisition arrested 200 persons for "quietist" opinions.
have taught.

against the author of the Spiritual Guide

PRACTICAL AND DEVOTIONAL


hymn on

"

by Cowper
"

The Acquiescence

235

of Pure Love," translated

Love if Thy destined sacrifice am I,


Come, slay thy victim, and prepare Thy fires
Plunged in Thy depths of mercy, let me die
The death which every soul that loves desires
!

watch

my

The time
Yet

all

my

With no

To me

'tis

hours,

and see them

fleet

away

long that I have languished here


thoughts Thy purposes obey,
is

reluctance, cheerful
equal, whether

and

sincere.

Love ordain

My life or death, appoint me


in
My soul perceives no real
ill

pain or ease
pain
;

In ease or health no real good she sees.

One Good she covets, and that Good alone


To choose Thy will, from selfish bias free

And to prefer a cottage


And grief to comfort,

to a throne,
if it

pleases Thee.

That we should bear the cross


Die to the world, and live to

Thy command

is

no more
unmoved beneath the rudest hand.
As pleased when shipwrecked as when safe on
self

Suffer

shore."

Fenelon was also a victim of the campaign against


the quietists, though he

He was drawn
Bossuet,

who

requested

pulous attack

was no follower of Molinos.

into the controversy against his will

him

to

endorse

upon Madame Guyon.

necessary for Fenelon to define his


did in his famous
is

Maxims of

attempt

to

Mysticism

determine
concerning

interested love

"

the

two

limits

great

an unscru-

made

This

it

position, which he

The

the Saints.

important for our purposes, since

by

it

of

is

treatise

an elaborate

true

and

doctrines

and "passive contemplation."

false

" dis-

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

236

On

the former, F^nelon's teaching

marised as follows

for self-love

not be always explicit


extraordinary

regards

all

the

own

our

is

lives "

kinds

five

God

of

love

be

God

for

only as the condition of

is

predominant

still

mixed with

still

He

(iv.)

interested

self-regarding motives

mentions here the

is

mixed with the

fear of hell

with the hope of heaven


"

we

are united to

of pure love."

of the

suggest
less."

of

always

greater

just

"

" If

to

God

hell

so

Mixed

love,"

salvation, because

life."

it is

God's

peaceable exercise

to will to send the souls

would not love

however,

of holy souls

in the illuminat-

Chrysostom and Clement

souls in the third state

part

while in the highest

in the

God were

interestedness in this

is

not a sin

Him
" the

never reach perfect

We

ought to wish

will that

dis-

for

we should do

our
so.

Interested love coincides with resignation, disinterested


^

" three

of the mystics, and says that in the purgative

love

stage

must

it

the love of God's gifts apart from

disinterested love.

(v.)

but

that of hope, in which the desire for

welfare

which

love,

love

(iii.)

need only become so on

it

the love of mere covetousness, which

(ii.)

happiness

ive,

are

purely servile

Himself;

occasions

There

implicit.

life

the root of

is

This predominant desire for God's glory need

evil.

(i.)

be sum-

must be excluded

Self-interest

from our love of God,

may

This " mystic paradox " has been mentioned aheady.

It is developed
Fenelon says that it is
found in Cassian, Gregory of Nazianzus, Augustine, Anselm, "and a great
number of saints." It is an unfortunate attempt to improve upon Job's
fine saying, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him," or the line
in Homer which has been often quoted^;/ 5^ ^det koX S\ff<TOP, iwel vu
Toi eiiaSev outus.
But unless we form a very unworthy idea of heaven and

at length in the Meditations of

hell, the proposition is

not so

Diego de

Stella.

much extravagant

as self-contradictory.

PRACTICAL AND DEVOTIONAL


" St.

holy indifference.

with

that the disinterested heart

Francis de Sales says


like

is

237

wax

hands of

in the

God."

its

We
even

must continue

to co-operate with God's grace,

stage, and not cease to resist our


came from God. " To speak other-

in the highest

impulses, as

wise

if all

language of the tempter."

to speak the

is

of course, directed

is,

The only

attributed to Molinos.)

former

is

difference between the


love,

is

that

simple and peaceable, while the latter

has not yet cast out


that

(This

immoral apathy

the

and that of disinterested

vigilance of pure

the

against

we should hate

It is false

fear.

ourselves

teaching to say

we should

be in charity

with ourselves as with others!'

Spontaneous, unreflecting good acts proceed from

what the mystics


acts

St.

Antony

"

the apex of the soul.

call

places

most

the

perfect

In such

prayer

unconscious prayer."

Of prayer he
and we desire
cannot be

says, "

(as the

We

much

as

pray as much as we desire,


as

we

love."

Vocal prayer

extreme

quietists pretend) useless to

" for

Christ has taught us a vocal

contemplative souls

prayer."

He

then proceeds to deal with

and

tion,"

refers

of St. Antony.

But

unintermittent in this

John

say

lasted

not

that

"

again to the

their

"

"

passive contempla-

unconscious prayer

pure contemplation

life."

periods

"

of pure

more than half an hour."

templation," he proceeds,

" is

is

never

Bernard, Teresa, and

contemplation
"

Pure con-

negative, being occupied

with no sensible image, no distinct and nameable idea


^

The

doctrine here

condemned

is

Manichean, says Fenelon

rightly.

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

238
it

the purely intellectual and abstract

stops only at

Yet

idea of being."
objects,"

this

idea includes, " as distinct

the humanity of Christ, and

deny

this

is

and

it,

atheism, wherein

His

confound God with

to

idea of

all real

creatures

God

who no

a traveller, and

reached

has

the

his

Christ

life,

To

"

(i.)

the

into

who

is

to

is

it

that there

is

or

no longer

longer needs the way, since he

way
as

finisher

It is

falls

as distinguished

To suppose

destination.

the

is

7teant.

Lastly,

be on the earth a contemplative

Jesus

the Trinity,

once

at

rejected."

is

advance two impieties

may

" as

His mysteries."

all

of deism which

form a kind

from

to annihilate Christianity under pretence

of purifying
to

God

the attributes of

all

To

(ii.)

as

well

well

as

ignore

that

the truth and

as

the author of our

faith.

This criticism of the formless vision


there

is

excellent, but

a palpable inconsistency between the definition

of " negative contemplation


" all

is

the attributes of

God

"

abound

dictions of this sort

and the inclusion


in

in

it

of

Contra-

as distinct objects."

Fenelon, and destroy

the value of his writings as contributions to religious

many

philosophy, though in his case, as in

may

"

speak of

noble inconsistencies

"

others,

We

credit to his heart than discredit to his intellect.

may

we

which do more

perhaps see here the dying spasm of the

"

negative

method," which has crossed our path so often in

this

survey.

The image
clearly seen

withdrawn
furnace of

of Jesus Christ, Fenelon continues,

by contemplatives
while

trial

the

but

soul

at

passes

we can never

first,

is

not

and may be

through

the

last

cease to need Him,

PRACTICAL AND DEVOTIONAL


"

though

true that the

is

it

Him

laccustomed to regard

most eminent

who speak

in error

of possessing

They

lives."

God

in

passive

called

is

are

His supreme

and of no more knowing Christ

Contemplation

flesh.

saints are

as an exterior object

less

than as the interior principle of their

simplicity,

239

after the

because

it

excludes the interested activity of the soul, not because

explaining

away than explaining

culmination of the

which love

in

is

and substance.

more me

is

But

is

it

there

false to

tion of the real

or

an

passive state

life

we

characteristic of

rather

his authorities.)

The

is "

transformation,"

of the soul, as

it

is its

Catherine of Genoa said,

being

no

find

no longer any other / but God."


say that transformation

and natural

unalterable

is

passive state "

"

the
"

"

(Here again Fenelon

excludes real action.

it

conformity

are

with

God,"

mortal

liable to

still

is

a deifica-

soul, or a hypostatic union,

In

sin.

the

(It

is

Fenelon that he contradicts, without

rejecting, the substitution-doctrine plainly stated in the

sentence from Catherine of Genoa.)


In his letter to the Pope, which accompanies the
"

Explanation of the Maxims," Fenelon thus sums up

his distinctions
1.

between true and

The "permanent

union with God)

is

act

to be

false

Mysticism

an indefectible state of

{i.e.

condemned

as " a poisoned

source of idleness and internal lethargy."


2.

There

is

an indispensable necessity of the distinct

exercise of each virtue.

'

Perpetual contemplation,"

3.

"

St.

Bernard {^De diligendo Deo,

x.

deification-doctrine as he vinderstands

making

it

" Quomodo omnia

homine de homine quicquara supererit


sed in alia forma"
See Appendix C,

erit

Deus,

si

in

venial

sins

28) gives a careful statement of the

in

omnibus

Alanebit stibstantia

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

240

impossible, and abolishing the distinction of virtues,

is

impossible.
"

4.

Passive prayer,"

of free-will,

if

excludes the co-operation

impossible,

is

There can be no "quietude" except the peace of

5.

Holy Ghost, which

the

it

acts in a

manner

so uniform

that these acts seem, to unscientific persons, not distinct


acts,

but a single and permanent unity with God.

That the doctrine of pure love may not serve as

6.

an asylum

for the errors of the Quietists,

hope must always abide, as

The

7.

state

we

assert that

saith St. Paul.

of pure love

very rare, and

is

it

is

intermittent.

manifesto, the

In reply to this
rejoin that

away

that he

contemplation
"

that he really preaches indifference to


is

danger of regarding contempla-

in

tion of Christ as a descent

the

"

Fenelon keeps the name of hope but takes

the thing

salvation

Three Prelates

"

from the heights of pure

that he unaccountably says nothing of

love of gratitude

"

to

God and our Redeemer

that he " erects the rare and transient experiences of a

few saints into a rule of


In

this

sympathies are

chiefly,

The standpoint
"

Pure

faith."

controversy about

love,"

of

disinterested

love,

our

but not entirely, with Fenelon.

Bossuet

is

not

he says almost coarsely,

religious
" is

at

opposed

all.

to the

essence of love, which always desires the enjoyment of


its

object, as well as to the nature of

sarily desires happiness."

Most of us

man, who neceswill rather

agree

with St. Bernard, that love, as such, desires nothing but


^

The Archbishop

Bishop

of Chartres.

of Paris, the Bishop of Me^^^U?; (Bossuet), and

the.

PRACTICAL AND DEVOTIONAL


reciprocation

amor

" verus

contentus

ipso

se

24
est

id quod amatur."
If the question
had been simply whether reHgion is or is not in its

habet prcemium, sed

nature mercenary, we should have

which side the truth

schemes

may

no doubt on

felt

and

Self-regarding hopes

lay.

be schoolmasters to bring us to Christ

seems, indeed, to be part of our education to form

it

them, and then see them shattered one after another,

may

that better and deeper hopes

of the fragments

but a

selfish Christianity is a contra-

But F^nelon,

diction in terms.

be constructed out

in

" is his

he says,

own

become strangers
Resignation is not a remedy

therefore

in suffering

one

is

only pure love that loves to


with which

many

for "

self,

mot."

this

resignation suffers

in resignation

This

suffer."

It is at

is

the thought

it

by Fenelon.

should lead to the destruction of love

love requires two living factors,^

has attained a

wholly out of

it is

bottom Stoical or Buddhistic,

emotional turn given to

in spite of the
it

this

of us are familiar in James Hinton's

Mystery of Pain.
Logically,

to

two persons

as

"

greatest cross."

A man's
We must

"

disinterested love, goes further than this.


self,"

about

his teaching

"

holy

self,

who

has

passed

as incapable of love as of

is

The attempt

high for mortal

man "

opposite errors.

We

" to

any

wind ourselves too

has resulted, as usual,

find,

for

and the person who

indifference,"

other emotion.

in

two

on the one hand, some who

two beings are separate, they cannot influence each other inwardly.
can be no relations between them.
Man is
at once organ and organism, and this is why love between man and God
is possible.
The importance of maintaining that action between man and
God must be reciprocal, is well shown by Lilienfeld, Gedanken iiber die
^

If

If they are not distinct, there

Socialwissinschaft der Zukunfi, vol.

16

v. p.

472

sq,

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

242

try to escape the daily sacrifices

which

life

demands,

by declaring themselves bankrupt to start with. And,


on the other hand, we find men like Fenelon, who are
too good Christians to wish to shift their crosses in

way

this

but

indifference

"

who
"

and

of

allow their doctrines


" to

pure love

sternness to their teaching,

"

holy

impart an excessive

and demand from us an

impossible degree of detachment and renunciation.

The importance attached to the " prayer of quiet


can only be understood when we remember how much
mechanical recitation of forms of prayer was enjoined

by Romish
the soul to

" directors."

commune

even without thoughts


our Blessed Lord
ecstatic states
latter

is

It

with
^
;

will

is,

of course, possible for

God without

words, perhaps

but the recorded prayers of

not allow us to regard these

as better than vocal prayer,

offered " with the spirit,

when the

and with the under-

standing also."

The
in

quietistic

controversy

an atmosphere of

jealousies,
fact

which

in

in

political

France was carried on

and private

intrigues

no way concern

But the great

us.

which stands out above the turmoil of calumny and

misrepresentation
sore straits

is

that the

had called

Roman

Church, which

in

in the help of quietistic Mysti-

cism to stem the flood of Protestantism, at length found


the alliance too dangerous, and disbanded her irregular

troops in spite of their promises to submit to discipline.

In Fenelon, Mysticism had a champion eloquent and


learned,

and not too

logical to repudiate with honest

conviction consequences which

some of

his

" Thought was not," says Wordsworth of one in a


and again, " All his thoughts were steeped in feeling."

authorities

state of rapture

PRACTICAL AND DEVOTIONAL


had found
loyal

He

necessary to accept.

it

243

remained a

and submissive son of the Church, as did Molinos

and was,

in fact,

Bossuet,

who

in

more guarded

in his

ignorance of mystical theology

his

But the

often blundered into dangerous admissions.^

saw with

Jesuits

statements than

their usual

acumen

that Mysticism,

in the most submissive guise, is an independent


and turbulent spirit and by condemning Fenelon as

even

Molinos, they crushed

well as

movement

To

us

it

out as a religious

it

the Latin countries.

in

seems that the Mysticism of the counter-

Reformation was bound to

fail,

because

was the

it

The
perhaps those who

revival of a perverted, or at best a one-sided type.

most

consistent

quietists

were

brought the doctrine of quietism into most discredit,


such as the hesychasts of Mount Athos.
rests

it

of

upon that

For

at

dualistic or rather acosmistic view

which prevailed from the decay of the

life

Empire

till

cosmology

is

the

bottom

Roman

Renaissance and Reformation.

one which leaves

this

Its

world out of account

except as a training ground for souls

its

theory of

knowledge draws a hard and fast line between natural


and supernatural truths, and then tries to bring them
together by intercalating " supernatural
the order of nature

by teaching with

God secundum
^

se

^.^. he writes to
,

and

St.
is

in ethics

it

phenomena

paralyses morality

Thomas Aquinas

that " to love

more meritorious than

Madame

" in

to love our

Giiyon, "Jen'ai jamais hesiteun seul

moment

sur les etats de Sainte Therese, parceque je n'y ai rien trouve, que je ne
It is doubtful whether Bossuet had really
Fenelon says much more cautiously, " Quelque
respect et quelque admiration que j'aie pour Sainte Therese, je n'aurais
jamais voulu donner au public tout ce qu'elle a ecrit."

trouvasse aussi dans I'ecriture."

read

much

of St. Teresa.

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

244
neighbour."

All this

is

not of the essence of Mysti-

mediaeval Catholicism.

cism, but belongs to

It

was

probably a necessary stage through which Christianity,

and Mysticism with


of an abstract
religious

life

ive road "

is

had to

it,

many

any

at

spirituality

from

The

pass.

liberated the

rate

base associations

the

path of

after all the holy

vain quest

"

negat-

self-sacrifice

and the maltreatment of the body, which began among


the hermits of the Thebaid,

was largely based on an

instinctive recoil against the poison of sensuality,

had helped to destroy the old

which

But the

civilisation.

resuscitation of mediaeval

Mysticism after the Renais-

sance was an anachronism

and except

days of the sixteenth century,

in the fighting

was not

it

world-ruling papal polity, with


of

officials,

bound

invulnerable,

to poverty

was a

reductio

its

and

likely

to

The
incomparable army

appeal to the manliest or most intelligent

spirits.

and therefore

celibacy,

ad absurdum

of

its

world-

renouncing doctrines, which Europe was not likely to


forget.

all

work
It

had
had

wrestled with the angel of


the spiritual night even

Thy name " ..."


bless me."

human

its

the recesses of the lonely heart, and

a work of great service to the

explored

had done

Introspective Mysticism

till

God through

the morning.

race.

the terrors of
"

Tell

me now

Thee go until Thou


These had been the two demands of the
I

contemplative mystic

will

not

let

the only rewards which his soul

craved in return for the sacrifice of every earthly delight.

The reward was worth the sacrifice but " God reveals
Himself in many ways," and the spiritual Christianity
;

the

Of course there is a sense in which this is true but I am speaking of


way in wliich it was understood by medieval Catholicism.
;

PRACTICAL AND DEVOTIONAL


of the

modern epoch

is

called rather to the consecration

of art, science, and social


tion.

In

my

last

245

life

than to lonely contempla-

two Lectures

hope

to

show how an

important school of mystics, chiefly between the Renaissance and our

own

day, have turned to the religious

study of nature, and have found there the same illumination which the mediaeval ascetics drew from the deep
wells of their inner consciousness.

LECTURE

VII

'Ev Traai tois


(liretv elvat

/cat

(pvcriKOLS ^uearl

dav[xa<XT6v Ka66.irep 'IlpdK\eiTos Xiyerai

ivravda deovs.

Aristotle, de Partibus Animalium,

"What

if

i.

$.

earth

Be but the shadow of heaven, and things therein


Each to each other like, more than on earth is thought

Milton.
" God

is

He should speak no more.


wanderings in the wilderness,

not dumb, that

If thou hast

And

find'st not Sinai, 'tis thy soul is poor


There towers the mountain of the voice no less.
Which whoso seeks shall find ; but he who bends,
Intent on manna still and mortal ends.

Sees

it

not,

neither hears

its

thundered lore."

Lowell.

"Of the
but this

Absolute in the theoretical sense


maintain, that

if

man

always keeps his eye fixed upon

it,

recognises

he

I
it

do not venture

to

speak;

in its manifestations,

will reap a very great

and

reward."

Goethe.

LECTURE

VII

Nature-Mysticism and Symbolism


" The creation

itself also shall

be delivered from the bondage of corruption

into the liberty of the glory of the children of

God."

It would be possible to maintain that


consists in finding sympathies

antagonisms,

apparent

and

and order out of chaos.

discord,

owe

pleasures

their

attractiveness

viii.

underlying

harmony out of
Even the lowest

to a

certain

porary correspondence between our desires


nature of things.
of sin,

misery,

Selfishness

itself,

the prime source

and ignorance, cannot sever the

succeeds in doing

"

tem-

and the

which bind us to each other and to nature

an experienced

21.

our happiness

affinities

bringing

in

all

Rom.

so,

it

alienist

concentrated egoism."

or

ties
if it

passes into madness, of which

has said, that


Incidentally

its

essence

may

is

say that

the peculiar happiness which accompanies every glimpse

of insight into truth and reality, whether in the scientific,

aesthetic, or

emotional sphere, seems to

me

to

have a greater apologetic value than has been generally


recognised.

the true

is

It is

the clearest possible indication that

for us the good,

they
those

are,

and forms the ground of a

we could

see

would be found to work together

for

reasonable faith that

who

all

things,

love God.
249

if

them
good

as
to

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

250

The true Mysticism," it has been lately


much truth, " is the belief that everything,
"

what

it

is,

said with

being

in

symbolic of something more."

is

All

Nature (and there are few more pernicious errors than


that which separates

man from

Nature)

which God expresses His thoughts

in

are far

more than the language.^

invisible things of

God from

is

the language

but the thoughts

Thus

it

is

that the

the creation of the world

may

be clearly seen and understood from the things

that

are

made

we

here

true that

know only

in

same time

while at the

is

equally

through a glass darkly, and


Nature half conceals and half

see

part.

reveals the Deity

it

and

it

is

in this

sense that

it

may

be called a symbol of Him.

The word

"

symbol," like several other words which

the student of Mysticism has to use, has an ill-defined

connotation, which produces confusion and contradict-

ory statements.
as his definition

For instance, a French writer gives


of Mysticism " the tendency to ap-

proach the Absolute, morally, by means of symbols."

On

the other hand, an

Mysticism

is

symbolic.^

from symbolism
connexion
^

in

English essayist denies that


Mysticism, he says,

that, while

symbolism

differs

treats

the

between symbol and substance as some-

In R. L. Nettleship's /Remains.

In addition to passages quoted elsewhere, the following sentence from


" Nature is a world
is a good statement of the symbolic theory
of symbolism, a rich hieroglyphic book
everything visible conceals an
-

Luthardt

and the last mystery of all is God." Goethe's " Alles


nur ein Gleichniss " would be better without the " nur,"

invisible mystery,

vergiingliche

ist

from our point of view.


^ Recejac, ssai sur les Fojidernents
de la Connaissance Mystique.
* In the Edinburgh Review, October
The article referred to, on
1896.
"The Catholic Mystics of the Middle Ages," is beautifully written, and
should be read by all who are interested in the subject.

NATURE-MYSTICISM AND SYMBOLISM


thing accidental or subjective, Mysticism
a positive belief in the existence of

deep correspondences and

affinities,

common

those to which the

life

251

based on

is

within

life,

of

not less real than

superficial consciousness

mankind bears witness. I agree with this statement about the basis of Mysticism, but I prefer to
use the word symbol of that which has a real, and
not merely a conventional affinity to the thing symbolised.^
The line is by no means easy to draw.

of

An

aureole

is

not,

properly speaking, a symbol of

nor a crown of royal authority, because

saintliness,^

connexion of sign with

these instances the

in

nificance

is

symbol of
only to the
of

human

of

life,

conventional.
eternity,

circle

sig-

perhaps not a

is

because the comparison appeals

But

intellect.

falling leaves are a

symbol

mortality, a flowing river of the " stream

and a vine and

"

branches of the unity of

its

and the Church, because they are examples


same law which operates through all that God
And when the Anglian noble, in a wellhas made.
known passage of Bede, compares the life of man
Christ

of the

to the flight of a

a lighted hall

out

bird which darts

of

again, he has found a

quickly through

darkness, and

symbol which

is

into

darkness

none the

less

See Bosanquet, Ilislory of Esthetic,


This is Kant's use of the word.
" A symbol is for Kant a perception or presentation which repre273
sents a conception neither conventionally as a mere sign, nor directly, but
in the abstract, as a scheme, but indirectly though appropriately through a
similarity between the rules which govern our reflection in the symbol and
" In this sense beauty is a symbol of
in the thing (or idea) symbolised."
^

p.

the moral order."

Goethe's <lefinition

symbolism where the more particular

is

also valuable:

represent.'-'

the

more

"That

is

true

general, not as a

dream or shade, but as a vivid, instantaneous' revelation of the inscrutable."


^ Or rather of power and dignity
for in some early Byzantine works
;

even Satan

is

represented with a_nimbus.

252
valid,

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

because light and darkness are themselves only

who

writer

with

connected

symbolically

denies that Mysticism

that the discovery of arbitrary


or types

and

is

we

proceed.

It is

dogmatically, " This

The

death.

symbolic, means

fanciful resemblances

In this he

and the importance of the

which he wishes to emphasise


clear as

and

no part of healthy Mysticism.^

is

quite right

is

life

will,

distinction

hope, become

not possible always to say

genuine Symbolism, and that

is

we do

is

morbid or fantastic

is

a true and a false Symbolism, of which the true

is

not merely a legitimate, but a necessary

intuition

"

while the latter

but

is

assert that there

mode

at best a frivolous

of

amuse-

ment, and at worst a degrading superstition.^

But we

we

if

handle our subject very inadequately

shall

consider only the symbolical value which

be attached to external objects.

may

Our thoughts and

about the spiritual world, so far as they are

beliefs

under

conceived

forms,

expressed

or

language,

in

which belong properly only to things of time and


^Emerson

"Mysticism

says rightly,

(in

a bad sense) consists in the

mistake of an accidental and individual symbol for an universal one."


-

The

which Ruskin draws

distinction

imagination

may help

between the fancy and

the

us to discern the true and the false in Symbolism.

Fancy has to do with the outsides of things, and is content therewith.


She can never /<;/, but is one of the most purely and simply intellectual of
the faculties.
She cannot be made serious ; no edge-tool, but she will
play with
whereas the imagination is in all things the reverse.
She
*'

cannot but be serious

she sees too

far,

too darkly, too solemnly,

too

There is reciprocal action between the


intensity of moral feeling and the power of imagination.
Hence the
powers of the imagination may always be tested by accompanying tenderearnestly,

ever to smile.

ness of emotion.

imagination suggests.

Imagination

is

fancy details,

of

imagination,

quiet, fancy restless

All egotism

is

destructive

whose play and power depend altogether on our being able to forget
ourselves.
Imagination has no respect for sayings or opinions
it
is independent" {Modern Painters, vol. ii. chap. iii.).
.

NATURE-MYSTICISM AND SYMBOLISM


nature of symbols.

space, are of the

has been said

it

theology

is

the

that the greater


dialectical

sense

this

part of dogmatic

development of mystical

For instance, the paternal

symbols.

In

253

of the

relation

Second

First Person of the Trinity to the

is

a symbol

and the representation of eternity as an endless period


of time stretching

into futurity,

is

believe that the forms under which

We

a symbol.
it

natural and

is

necessary for us to conceive of transcendental truths

have a

and

real

vital

attempt to express

we

if

them

treat

which they

but their inadequacy

is

as facts of the

phenomena, and

try

among

often done,

relation to the ideas

to

same order

intercalate

manifest

as natural

them, as

is

too

the materials with which an abstract

science has to deal.

The two great sacraments are typical symbols,


we use the word in the sense which I give to it,
something which,

being what

in

vehicle of something higher

the early

a mystery, and

"
"

symbol

mystery

of sacraments

is

a sign and

is

This

called

it

" at
"

is,

better.

Church meant when

ments symbols.^

The need

and

it

if

as

the

is

what

sacra-

that period implied

implied

revelation.

one of the deepest con-

Harnack, History of Dogma, vol. ii. p. 144: "What we nowadays


symbols is a thing which is not that which it represents
at that time (in the second century)
symbol denoted a thing which, in
some kind of way, is that which it signifies but, on the other hand,
according to the ideas of that period, the really heavenly element lay
either in or behind the visible form without being identical with it.
Accordingly, the distinction of a symbolic and realistic conception of the
Lord's Supper is altogether to be rejected." And vol. iv. p. 289: "The
symbol was never a mere type or sign, but always embodied a mystery."
So Justin Martyr uses cvix^o\ikCo% eiTre'iv and direlv iv yui/UTT/ptCfj as interchangeable terms
and Tertullian says that the name of Joshua was
^

Cf.

understand by

'

'

'

'

'

'

no/ninis futiiri sacramcnttim.

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

254

victions of the religious consciousness.

on the

mately

sion.

It

is

reluctance

instinctive

obvious that

morality depends on the

all

external acts are symbolic of (that

show how an
the

defile

character.

may

It

act of the material

immaterial

spirit

when

of Plotinus, that

"

body can purify or

life

cannot be denied

of

the

from his transcendental philosophy

transferred

to matters of conduct,

a sophism no

is

more

respect-

mouth

able than that which Euripides puts into the


of one of his characters

"

The tongue hath sworn


Every act of the

the heart remains unsworn."

the expression of a state of the

is

must seek

state of the soul

long as

love, so

or

" in

love

" in

the

is

sense
^

deed

"

tongue

in

that

same with

all

and every

all

admit,

an

in
is

it

is

"

it

love

is

" in

only when
truth."

not

it

is

And

it

other virtues, which are in this

implying something beyond

symbolic, as

So some thinkers have

will

content to be only in thought,

is

it

word and

soul

to find expression

Love, as we should

act of the will.

this

be impossible to

The
all
meaning.
mind can do no wrong,"

morality

divesting

maxim

connected

but the correspondence

between the outward and inward


without

All voluntary

vitally

is,

and cannot be divested of

with) internal states,


essential

any

allow

to

application of this principle to conduct.

their

rests ulti-

an external expres-

to remain without

spiritual fact

It

felt

that

" the

Word"

is

the

not the best expression

God.
The passage of Goethe where Faust
rejects "Word," "Thought," and "Power," and finally translates, "In
the beginning was the ^r/," is well known.
And Thilo, in a very
interesting passage, says that Nature is the language in which God speaks
"but there is this difference, that while the human voice is made to be
heard, the voice of God is made to be seen
what God says consists of acts,
not of words" ^De Decern Ornc. Ii),
for the creative activity of

NATURE-MYSTICISM AND SYMBOLISM


external
the

Nearly

act.

can

soul

Charity in

action.

long for an object

satisfied

the

or

first

to

some

in

fruit

act of

But that deepest sense of

humility.

in

is

in

prayer, are not

silent

communion with God, which


religion,

motions of

expression

and thankfulness and penitence,

they have borne

till

or

states

appropriate

manifold forms need not seek

its
;

though they drive us


gratitude

all

their

find

255

very

the

is

danger of being shut up

in

heart

of

thought

and word, which are inadequate expressions of any


spiritual

soul

state.

may

these

No

doubt

highest state of the

this

good works

find indirect expression in

immediacy of the communion

to express the

fail

which the soul has

The want

felt.

of symbols

express these highest states of the soul

by sacraments.
recipient,

sacrament

chosen, but

arbitrarily

on Divine authority,

to

which

mind of the
which has no ulterior
to

is

the

to,

and

validity of a sacramental act.

in so

doing

too purely spiritual

There are three requisites (on the human


appropriate

to

supplied

utterance in the customary activities of

find

truth

is

a symbolic act, not

is

resting,

object except to give expression


to effectuate,^ a relation

but

life.

side) for the

The symbol must be

the thing symbolised must be a spiritual

and there must be the intention

to

perform

the act as a sacrament.

The sacraments
^Aquinas

of Baptism and the Lord's Supper

says of the sacraments,

"efficiunt

quod

figurant."

The

Thomists held that the sacraments are "causos" of grace; the Scotists
(NominaHsts), that grace is their inseparable concomitant. The maintenance of a real correspondence between sign and significance seems to be
essential to the idea of a sacrament, but then the danger of degrading it
into magic lies close at hand.

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

256
fulfil

Both are symbols of the mystical

these conditions.

union between the Christian and his ascended Lord.

Baptism symbolises that union


Eucharist in

organic

its

in

received but

is

once, because the death unto sin

and the new

unto

entrance

righteousness

spiritual

that

definite

precedes conversion
the sacrament

Baptism

countries

Christian

in

is

rather than a gradual process.

life,

does not

most appropriate

birth

into

the

The

fact

most cases

in

the character of

alter

indeed, infant Baptism

the

inception,

its

Baptism

life.

is

by

symbol of our adoption

far the

the

into

Divine Sonship, to which we only consent after the


event.

only because

It is

can say,

" I

will arise,

Holy Communion

is

we

of our

souls,"

an absolute prerogative

"

strengthening and

for its

The Church

is

the

claims

duly ordained ministers

the case of this sacrament, because

meal

Father."

which we derive from

indwelling presence of our Lord.

in

my

the symbol of the maintenance

of the mystical union, and of the


refreshing

we
The

are already sons that

and go unto

the

common

the symbol of the organic unity of Christ and

the Church as

"

schismatic, as

such, denies.^

unus Christus," a doctrine which the

The communicant who

believes only in an individual relation

betwen Christ and

separate persons, or in an " invisible Church," does not

understand the meaning of the sacrament of the Lord's


Supper, and can hardly be said to participate

There are two views of


" plain

man

"

this

has always found

in

it.

sacrament which the

much

easier to under-

In the case of irregular Baptism, the maxim holds " Fieri non debuit
factum valet." Cf. Bp. Churton, The Missionm-y' s Foundation of Doctrine,
The reason for this difference between the two sacraments is
p. 129.
1

quite clear.

NATURE-MYSTICISM AND SYMBOLISM


stand than the symboUc view which

One

that

is

the other

that

is

that of our Church.

is

a miracle or magical performance,

is

it

257

a mere commemoration.

is

it

Both

are absolutely destructive of the idea of a sacrament.

The
quite

foreign

eyidence goes

found

in

the former,

many

of the

form which

such

as

applied

meant

phrases
to

"

power

same

as

our

far

the

in

grossly

we

elements, where

the

of death.^

writers

is

assumed, but

that the elements have a

natural consequences
that the

was

medicine of immortality

the

preserving

of

not

afterwards

consecrated

the

to understand

terious

it

so

sects,

only just to say,

is

it

Fathers,

materialistic
in

Church,

early

the

to

some Protestant

of

that

latter view,

who

are

mys-

from

receiver

But when we

the
find

use compromising phrases

about the change that comes over the elements,^ also


use the
^

It

is,

language of symbolism, and remember, too,


how far such statements were meant
no doubt that both Baptism and the

of course, difficult to decide

to be taken literally.

But there

is

Eucharist were supposed to cottfer immortality.


Oehl.

),

"nonne mirandum

Or. cat. niagn. 35,


PTiaeus

Swac^at

dvaa-rdaei yeviadai

iv

dfjva/Ms

IM)

est lavacro dilui

els

TT]v

Of

avdaracnv.

5^

^'JA't

^'x**

rhv B-vOpuirov.
the

Bapt. 2 (621,

Cf. Tert. de

mortem?"

Gregory of Nyssa,

ko-to.

'"'J'

rh Xovrpbv ivayev-

Basil, too,

calls

Baptism

Eucharist, Ignatius uses the phrase

and olvtISotos rod firj aTTodaveiv and


ttjs adavaala,^,
Gregory of Nyssa uses the same language as about Baptism. See, further,
in Appendices B and C.

quoted, (papfiaKov

E.g. fierdWa^is (Theodoret), ixera^oXr] (Cyril), fieTaTrolrjcns (Gregor}The last-named goes on to say that

Naz.), yuerao-rotxe^wcriy (Theophylact).

"we

are in the

same way transelementatid'wiiQ Christ."

The

Neoplatonists naturally regard the sacrament as symbolic.


inclined to hold that every action should be sacramental,

Christian

Origen

is

and that material

symbols, such as bread and wine, and participation in a ceremonial, cannot

be necessary vehicles of spiritual grace


excessive idealism

elements
Pav6fieva

(jiy-^oKa.,
;

and

this

is

in

intellectualism of his system.

eUdves, dvTlrvwa, aladryrd

and Maximus,

his

nva

accordance with the


Dionysius

dvTl

calls the

votjtQv fxeroKafi-

commentator, defines a symbol as alaOrjrdv

dfrl voTjToO neTaXafi^avd/xevov.

rt

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

258

was a very

that a " miracle "

who knew

different

of no inflexible laws

from what

it

agree with

those

thing to those

the natural world

in

us, we shall not be ready to


who have accused the third and

to

is

fourth century Fathers of degrading the Lord's Supper


into a magical ceremony.

Most of the

errors

which have so grievously obscured

the true nature of this sacrament have proceeded from

attempts

answer the question,

to

"

How

does

the

reception of the consecrated elements affect the inner


state

receiver

of the

symbolic view, as

is

The

the one

who

those
it, it

hold

the

seems clear that

of cause and effect must be resolutely

the question
cast aside.

To

? "

understand

reciprocal action of spirit

great

mystery which, to

all

and matter
appearance,

must remain impenetrable to the finite intelligence.


We do not ask whether the soul is the cause of the
body, or the body of the soul we only know that the
;

two are found,

in

experience, always united.

same way we should


on the

effect

of the

instead to consider

abstain,

In the

think, from speculating

sacraments, and train ourselves

them

as divinely-ordered symbols,

by which the Church, as an organic whole, and we as


members of it, realise the highest and deepest of our
spiritual privileges.

There are other


institution

is

mental value.

religious forms for

And

those who,

drink, or whatever they do,"

may

be

ments.
It is

said

To

which no Divine

claimed, but which have a quasi-sacra-

to turn the

do

"

all

whether they

commonest

the true mystic,

life

eat, or

to the glory of

God,

acts into sacra-

itself is

a sacrament.

natural, but unfortunate, that sorne of those

who

NATURE-MYSTICISM AND SYMBOLISM


have

259

most strongly have shown a tendency

felt this

to

disparage observances which are simply acts of devo-

mere forms," as they

tion, "

The attempt

them.

call

between conventional ceremonies, which

to distinguish

have no essential connexion with the truth symbolised,

and actions which are


no doubt

is

that this

the

Many

rise.

motive,

way

in

say

my

should be remembered

it

which antinomianism takes

have begun by saying,

all,

is

but

"

The

the external act nothing

What

the letter nothing.

all,

in

is

themselves moral or immoral,

in

justifiable,

can

it

the spirit

matter whether

my

prayers in church or at home, on

bed, in words or in thought only

its

heart, the
is
I

knees or

What

can

it

matter whether the Eucharistic bread and wine are


consecrated or not
or

not

And

"

contempt

at

the

least

Perhaps

for all

actually eat and drink

The descent

so on.

easy by this road.


fessed

whether

no

sect

to

Avernus

that

ceremonial forms has escaped

imputation of scandalous licentiousness,

with the honourable exception of the Quakers.


truth

is

The

that the need of symbols to express or repre-

sent our highest


nature,

emotions

is

inwoven with human

and indifference to them

is

not, as

many have

supposed, a sign of enlightenment or of spirituality.


is,

in fact,

man

is

has pro-

an unhealthy symptom.

with a

his love in

common

warm

word and

sense of a

We

do not

It

credit

who does not care to show


nor should we commend the
soldier who saw in his regimental
heart
act

colours only a rag at the end of a pole.

It is

we must be content to be
and should be thankful that wc may remain
the points in which

with a clear conscience,

one of

children,

children

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

26o
I

my

do not shrink from expressing

conviction that

meaning of our sacramental system, which in


external forms is so strangely anticipated by the

the true
its

Greek mysteries, and in its inward significance strikes


down to the fundamental principles of mystical
Christianity, can only be understood
in

some sympathy with Mysticism.

by those who are


But it has not

been possible to say much about the sacraments sooner

We

than this late stage of our inquiry.

have hitherto

been dealing with the subjective or introspective type


of Mysticism,

and

carried

logical

to

its

it

is

plain

sacramental religion.^ Those

God by

must regard
reality,

way

the

and must wish

From

possible.

who

of abstraction,

symbols as

all

this

form,

that this

conclusion,

veils

when

inconsistent with

is

seek
the

to

ascend to

negative road,

between our eyes and

to get rid of

them

as soon as

point of view, sacraments, like

other ceremonial forms, can only be useful at a very


stage

early

ultimately

in

upward

the

into a

can be distinguished.

which

path,

leads

darkness, where no

Divine
It

is

that

true

us

forms

some devout

mystics of this type have both observed and exacted a


punctilious strictness in using

of grace

The

for.^

but

this

all

inconsistency

the appointed
is

easily

means

accounted

pressure of authority, loyalty to the estab-

^ liarnack
{History of Dogma, vol. vi. p. 102, English edition) says
" In the centuries before the Reformation, a growing value was attached

not only to the sacraments, but to crosses, amulets,

As long

as

what the soul seeks

is

relics,

holy places,

etc.

not the rock of assurance, but means for

it will create for itself a thousand holy things.


It is
an extremely superficial view that regards the most inward
Mysticism and the service of idols as contradictory.
The opposite view,
rather, is correct."
I have seldom found myself able to agree with this
svriter's judgments upon Mysticism
and this one is no exception. The

inciting to piety,

therefore

NATURE-MYSTICISM AND SYMBOLISM


and human nature, which

lished order,

261

stronger than

is

away the
them from
time-honoured symbols and vehicles of Divine love.
casting

has prevented

either,

But a true appreciation of sacraments belongs only


to those who can sympathise with the other branch of
Mysticism

that which rests on belief in symbolism.

To

my subject I now
we expect to find ourselves at once in a larger
air when we
have taken leave of the monkish
The objective or
mystics, we shall be disappointed.
this

branch of

your attention.

invite

If

symbolical type of Mysticism

many

is

of

feel that

we

of

shall observe in

the former too

more barbarous

still
is

it

this part

creeds.

many

Indeed,

almost necessary, as an introduction to

my

subject, to consider very briefly the

through which the religious

stages

as

a tendency to revert to the apathy of the

Indian Yogi,
survivals

quite

If in the latter

perversions as the subjective.

we found

to

liable

consciousness

of

mankind has passed in its attempts to realise Divine


immanence in Nature, for this is, of course, the foundation of all religious

symbolism.

"most inward Myslicism "' does not occupy itself much with external
"incitements to piety," nor is this the motive with which a mystic could
receive the Eucharist.
The use of amulets, etc., which Harnack
have been spreading before the Reformation, and which was
certainly very prevalent in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries,
My
had very little to do with "the most inward Mysticism."
view as to the place of magic in the history of Mysticism is given in

ever

{e.j^.)

finds to

this

Lecture

protest against identifying

Symbolic Mysticism soon outgrew


it.

it

The
has

its

it

it

with the essence of Mysticism.

introspective Mysticism never valued

use of visible things as stimulants to piety

is

another matter

place in the systems of the Catholic mystics, but as a very

early stage in the spiritual ascent.

What

have said as to the inconsistency

of a high sacramental doctrine with the favourite injunctions to "cast

away

all

we

images," which

indisputable.

'

find in the mediceval

mystics,

is,

think,

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

262

The
called

earliest belief

Animism, the

seems

to be that

conscious living beings

like

some deplorable customs,

This

ourselves.

primitive form of natural religion


to

which has been

belief that all natural forces are

and though

is

the
leads

it

not a morbid type, but

it is

a very early effort on the lines of true development.^

The

perverted form of primitive

Fetishism, which
reside

is

some

in

Animism

called

is

the belief that supernatural powers

visible object,

which

is

the

home or
The

most treasured possession of a god or demon.


object

may be

a building, a tree, an animal, a particu-

kind of food, or indeed anything.

lar

belief

this

form of

it

school of

Roman

is

Unfortunately

not peculiar to savages.

is exhibited by the
modern France, and

degraded

so-called neo-mystical
in

the baser types of

Catholicism everywhere.-

Primitive

next stage

Animism
is

believes in no natural laws.

to believe in laws

The

which are frequently

suspended by the intervention of an independent and


superior

power.

Mediaeval

dualism

regarded every

breach of natural law as a vindication of the power


The most

recent developments of German idealistic philosophy, as set


cosmology of Lotze, and still more of Fechner, may perhaps be
described as an attempt to preserve the truth of Animism on a much higher
'

fonh

in the

plane, without repudiating the universality of law.


- I

La

refer especially to

Iluysmans' two "mystical" novels,

En

Route and

The naked Fetishism of the latter book almost passes


belief.
We have a Madonna who is good-natured at Lourdes and crossgrained at La Salette who likes " pretty speeches and little coaxing ways"
in "paying court" to her, and who at the end is apostrophised as "our
Lady of the Pillar," "our Lady of the Crypt." It may perhaps be
Cathedrale.

excusable to resort to such expedients as these in the conversion of savages


but there is something singularly repulsive in the picture (drawn apparently
;

from life) of a profligate man of letters seeking salvation


which has lowered itself far beneath educated paganism.
not the

name

of .Mysticism be given to such methods.

in a Christianity

At any

rate, let

NATURE-MYSTICISM AND SYMBOLIS]\I


of spirit over matter

power, for

evil

turbances

of the

spirits

the religion

always, however, of Divine

could produce very similar dis-

physical

tendency

persistent

not

of the

deeply involved.

263

to "

Thus arose

order.

seek

after

vulgar, even

Miracle, in

a sign,"

own

our

in

some form

regarded as the real basis of belief

day,

is

or other,

is

At

God.

in

that

which

in

this

stage people never ask themselves whether any spiritual


truth, or indeed

be

anything worth knowing, could possibly

communicated or authenticated by thaumaturgic


What attracts them at first is the evi-

exhibitions.

dence which these


they

live is

scious

or

beliefs furnish, that the

inflexible

power, but that behind

mechanism of cause and

own

world

in

which

not entirely under the dominion of an uncon-

irregularity

in its

as the majesty of law

effect

and

is

the iron

a will more like their

Afterwards,

arbitrariness.

dawns upon them, miracles are

no longer regarded as capricious exercises of power,


but as the operation of higher physical laws, which are

only active on rare occasions.

them a

function of which
real

and

the

material

worlds.

they lose

all

turning

is

truer view sees in

to act as interpreters between the

between

apparent,

When
has

its

into

dreadful cruelties.^

spiritual

evil,

which

long nightmare, and

The

and

Moreover, the belief

dark counterpart

dread of the powers of


life

the

they crystallise as portents,

their usefulness.

celestial visitations

stitious

materialisation of mystical symbols, the proper

error has

still

is

in

in

super-

capable of
has

enough

led

to

vitality

' I refer especially


to the horrors connected with the belief in witchcraft,
on which see Lecky, Rationalism in Europe, vol. i. " Remy, a judge of
Nancy, boasted that he had put to death eight hundred witches in sixteen

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

264
to

a prejudice against natural science, which

create

appears

the light of an invading

in

enemy wresting

province after province from the empire of the supernatural.

But we are concerned with thaumaturgy only so


as

At

has affected Mysticism.

it

may seem

nexion

very slight

and

sight the con-

first

slight indeed

But just as Mysticism of the subjective type


entangled

which sublimate matter

in theories

been often pervaded by another kind of

which

that

phenomena

"

edification

These

standard

much

are so

Roman

the

finds

manifestations.

natural

in

is
till

it

is.

often

only

shadow remains, so objective Mysticism has

a vain

ism

far

Catholic

treatises

on

continental

universities,

legends of

" levitation,"

" radiation,"

false spiritual-

palpable super"

so-called

identified with "

mystical

Mysticism

"

Church of to-day, that the


the

subject,

largely

now

consist

" bilocation," "

studied

of

in

grotesque

incandescence,"

and other miraculous tokens of Divine

The

favour.^

in

great work of Gorres, in five volumes,

is

" In the bishopric of Warlzburg, nine hundred were burnt in one


years."
year." As late as 1850, some French peasants burnt alive a woman

named Bedouret, whom they supposed to be a witch.


^ The degradation of Mysticism in the Roman Church
tion may be estimated by comparing the definitions

since the Reforma-

of Mysticism and

Mystical Theology current in the Middle Ages with the following from
Ribet,

who

Theologie

recognised as a standard authority on

is

mystique, au

point

de vue subjectif

et

the

semble pouvoir etre definie ; une attraction surnaturelle


I'ame vers Dieu, provenant d'une illumination et d'un
interieurs,

qui

previennent

peiivent avoir sur

"Au

le

la

reflexion,

subject:

"La

experimental, nous
et

passive de

embrasement
surpassent I'effort humain, et

corps tin reteyttissenient merveilletix et irresistible.^^

point de vue doctrinal et objectif, la mystique peut se d^finir

la

science qui traite des phenomenes sitmatji7-e!s, soit intimes, soit exterieurs,

qui preparent, accompagnent, et suivent la contemplation divine."

time

is

past,

if it

ever existed,

when such

The

superstitions could be believed

without grave injury to mental and moral health.

NATURE-MYSTICISM AND SYMBOLISM

265

divided into Divine, Natural, and Diabolical Mysticism.

The first contains stories of the miraculous enhancement of sight, hearing, smell, and so forth, which results
from extreme holiness and tells us how one saint had
;

the power of becoming invisible, another of walking

through closed doors, and a third of flying through


the

"

air.

Natural Mysticism

"

deals with divination,

lycanthropy, vampires, second sight, and other barbar-

ous

" Diabolical

superstitions.

witchcraft, diabolical possession,

of incubi and succubse.

It is

any more about these savage


to bring

includes

and the hideous

not

my

and

says, "

must be

this

survivals, as

do not wish
"

These

darkness of the mind," as Lucretius


dispelled, not

by

the sun's light, but

by the bright

will think

who have

it

shafts of

Roman Church may

not studied the subject.

hardly strong enough.

be con-

Those who

In self-defence,

quote one sentence from Schram, whose work on "Mysticism"


sidered authoritative, and

Louvain

is

the study of Nature's laws."

This language about the teaching of the

sidered unseemly by those

have done so

stories

intention to say

my subject into undeserved contempt.^

terrors,

"

Mysticism

I will

is

con-

studied in the great Catholic university of

"Qureri potest utrum dcemon per turpem concubitum possit

violenter opprimere

marem

vel

feminam cuius obsessio permissa

finem perfectionis et contemplationis acquirendse."

The answer

sit

is

ob

in the

and the evidence is such as could hardly be transcribed, even


is mainly intended for the direction of confessing
priests, and the evidence shows, as might have been expected, that the
subjects of these "phenomena" are generally poor nuns suffering from

affirmative,

Schram's book

in Latin.

hysteria.

At a time when many are hoping to find in the study of the obscurer
phenomena a breach in the "middle wall of partition" between
the spiritual and material worlds, I may seem to have brushed aside too
-

psychical

contemptuously the floating mass of popular beliefs which "spiritualists"


think worthy of serious investigation.
I must therefore be allowed to say
that in

my

opinion psychical research has already established results of

great value, especially in helping to break

onsness of the ego which

is

any consistent philosophy.

fatal to

down

that view of the irupervi-

Mysticism, and (I venture to think) to

Monadism, we may hope,

is

doomed.

But

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

266

Some

of these fables are quite obviously due to a

These sym-

materialisation of conventional symbols.

bols are the picture language into which the imagination

what the

translates

has

soul

felt.

typical case

that of the miniature image of Christ, which

have been found embedded

The supposed

saint.

of imagination

reported

we must

miracle was, of course, the work

but this does not

mean

that those

who

We

know now

that

liars.

distinguish between observation an^ imagina-

between the language

tion,

said to

of a deceased

in the heart

were deliberate

it

is

is

metaphor

poetical

rationalism

this

but

of

and that of

science

an age which

in

was not so

abhorred

Rationalism has

clear.^

function in proving that such mystical symbols are

its

But when

not physical facts.

goes on to say that

it

they are related to physical facts as morbid hallucinations to realities,

Proceeding a

it

has stepped outside


further as

little

ment of natural or objective


belief in

associated

in

with their

first

What

science.

that

magic, which

based on

is

it

gives

spondences.

we

province.

its

trace the develop-

we come

religion,

primitive peoples

attempts

magic

its

fanciful,

is

to the

closely

experimental

at

peculiar character

and not on

real

The uneducated mind cannot

is

corre-

distinguish

between associations of ideas which are purely arbitrary

n the
,

more popular kind of

supernatural

is simply the old hankering after


which are always dear to semi-regenerate

spiritualism

manifestations,

minds.
It

'

is,

making

tliink, signilicant

that

the

word "imagination" was slow

its

way

into

Amma,

iii.

3) as

fclfTja-is

not

till

Philostratus that the creative imagination

it

is

Cf.
fj-r)

psychology.

inrb ttjs aicrOrjcreus

Vif. Apoll. vi. 19, filfXTjaLS

doev.

ta/'Tacria is

fxii>

defined

t^s icar ivipryeiav

o-ijjMoi'pyriaei

is

in

by Aristotle (de
yiyvo/j-ivyj,

opposed to

but

ix[in]<ns.

6 elSev, ^ai'racrla di Kal

<S

NATURE-MYSTICISM AND SYMBOLISM


and

and those which have a more universal

subjective,

Not, of course, that

validity.

267

upon by primitive man

all

proved

the affinities seized


illusory

but those

which were not so ceased to be magical, and became

The savage draws no

scientific.

the process by which he


his

priest

down

calls

professional secret

rain,

same

of the

distinction

fire

except that the latter

is

There

magic which

however,

is,

is

magician sometimes claims that the

The

spirits are subject

him, not because he has learned

forces

purely natural-

and that which makes mystical claims.

istic

indiffer-

astronomy and astrology are

science.

difference between the

to

between

and that by which

drugs and spells are used

ently to cure the sick


parts

makes

how

to wield the

which they must obey, but because he has so

purged

his

higher faculties that the occult sympathies

of nature have

become apparent

His theosophy

to him.

claims to be a spiritual illumination, not a scientific

The

discovery.

here

error

clairvoyance

spiritual

insight into reality, which

is

the

physical

to
is

application

of

The

relations.

unquestionably the reward

of the pure heart and the single eye, does not reveal to
us in detail

No

spirits

how

from the vasty deep

show us where

it

lies

science

Physical

keeps to

relations

nature should be subdued to our needs.

its

is

the road

to

will

obey our

fortune

or

call, to

to

ruin.

an abstract inquiry, which, while

proper subject

which prevail

in

the investigation of the

the phenomenal world

is self-

sufficient,

and can receive nothing on external authority.

Still less

can the adept usurp Divine powers, and bend

the eternal laws of the universe to his

The

turbid

puny

streams of theurgy and

will.

magic flowed

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

268
into

the

Of

ism.

The

broad

the

channels

of

river

later

the former something has been said already.

root-idea of the system


in a

kind

chain

microcosm,

is

heaven

from

in

to

relations with

One

from the superessential


daemons."

all

life

may be

earth.

Man,

as

contact with every link in the chain,

and can establish


"

was that

descending scale of potencies, forming a

arranged
of

thought by two

Christian

Neoplatonism, and Jewish Cabbal-

The

to

spiritual

all

the

philosopher-saint,

powers,

lower spirits or

who had explored

the highest regions of the intelligence, might hope to

dominate the

the air, and compel them to do


Thus the door was thrown wide open
for every kind of superstition.
The Cabbalists followed
much the same path. The word Cabbala means " oral
tradition," and is defined by Reuchlin as " the symbolic
reception of a Divine revelation handed down for the
spirits of

bidding.

his

saving contemplation

of

God and separate forms."


The Cabbala is nothing else

In another place he says,

"

than symbolic theology,

in

and words symbols of


other things."

was held

to

revelation,- in

which not only are

things, but things are

letters

symbols of

This method of symbolic interpretation

have been originally communicated by


order that persons

of holy

life

might

" Est enim Cabbala divince revclationis


Reuchlin, Dc arte cabbalistica
ad salutiferam Dei et formarum separatarum contemplationem traditre
symbolica receptio, quam qui coelesti sortiuntur afflatu recto nomine
Cabbalici dicuntur,
eorum vero discipulos cognomento Cabbala?os
appellabimus, et qui alioquin eos imitari conantur, Cabbalistce nominandi
'

sunt."
-

The

mystical Rabbis ascribe

reputed teacher of

Adam

the Cabbala as his lesson-book.


tlie

main Cabbalistic docrines

pp. 84-88.

Cabbala to the angel Razael, the


and say that this angel gave Adam
There is a clear and succinct account of
Hunt, Fautheism and Christianity,

tlie

in Paradise,

in

NATURE-MYSTICISM AND SYMBOLISM


by

attain

it

to

relation

to

communion with God, or


much the same

mystical

The

deification.

Cabbalists thus held

Talmudists

the

the

as

tradition

faithful

mystics

the

to

But, as Jews, they

scholastics in the twelfth century.

remained

269

two doctrines of an inspired

to the

and an inspired book, which distinguish them

from Platonic mystics.^


Pico de Mirandola (born 1463) was the

first

to bring

the Cabbala into Christian philosophy, and to unite

Very

with his Neoplatonism.


the declaration

is

"

that

it

characteristic of his age

there

no natural science

is

which makes us so certain of the Divinity of Christ as

For there was

Magic and the Cabbala."-

that

at

But the notion that the deepest mysteries should not be entrusted to
is found in Clement and Origen
cf. Origen, Against Cehus, vi. 26
ovK 6.kIv8wov tt]v tQiv TOLOirrwy ffacp-fjveLav irLaTevaai, ypatpfj.
And Clement
'

writing

says

ra.

The

anbppriTa, KaOdirep 6 debi, Xdyip TrtareveTai ov ypafifxari.

curi-

ous legend of an oral tradition also appears in Clement {Hypotyp. Fragm.


in Eusebius,
TT]!'

H. E.

ii.

I.

4)

'la/cwjScfJTy diKaitp /cat 'Iwcij't; kuI TliTp({i /ierd

avaaraffiv TrapiScoKe ttjv yvQcnv 6 Kvpio?, odroi toIs \onroh dTroaroXots

irapiSiiJKav, oi 8e \onrol dwocrToXoi Toli e^Soix-qKOVTa, uiv

eU

Tjv

Koi liapva^a'!.

Origen, too, speaks of " things spoken in private to the disciples."'


-

The

'
'

One

may be interesting, as illusmagic and science at this period

following extract from Pico's Apology


the close connexion between

trating

of the chief charges against

me

is

that I

am

a magician.

Have

not

myself distinguished two kinds of magic?

One, which the Greeks call


depends entirely on alliance with evil spirits, and deserves to be
regarded with horror, and to be punished the other is magic in the proper

yo7]Teia,

sense of the word.

makes them serve

The former subjects man to the evil spirits, the latter


him.
The former is neither an art nor a science the
;

embraces the deepest mysteries, and the knowledge of the whole of


While it connects and combines the forces
Nature with her powers.
scattered by God through the whole world, it does not so much work
Its researches into the
miracles as come to the help of working nature.
latter

sympathies of things enable

it

to bring to light

secret treasure-houses of the world, just as

if it

hidden marvels from the

created them

itself.

As

the

upon the elm, so the magician marries the


earthly objects to heavenly bodies.
His art is beneficial and Godlike, for
it brings men to wonder at the works of God, than which nothing conduces
more to true religion,"
countryman

trains

the vine

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

270
period

alliance of Mysticism

a curious

and

natural

science against scholasticism, which had kept both in


galling chains

and both mystics and physicists invoked


Just as Pythagoras, Plato,

the aid of Jewish theosophy.

up against Aristotle, so the occult


philosophy of the Jews, which on its speculative side
was mere Neoplatonism, was set up against the divinity
and Proclus were

set

of the Schoolmen.

wrote a

treatise,

In

Germany, Reuchlin (145 5-1 522)

On

the

Cabbalistic Art, in which a

scheme resembling those of the Neoplatonwas based on occult


ists and speculative mystics
The book captivated Pope Leo X. and the
revelation.
theological

early Reformers alike.

The

influence of Cabbalism at this period

was

felt

not only in the growth of magic, but in the revival of


the science of allegorisni, which resembles magic in
doctrine

theurgic element.

everything

in

the

According to
visible

Everything that a

numbers,

colours,

thing

else.^

man

view of nature,

saw, heard, or did

and

beasts,

birds,

life

this

was

to

in

The world was supposed

hieroglyphics

to the

to be

truths

Thus the shamrock bears witness


'

p.

This was a very old theory.

264.

"The

Cf.

Clavis of St. Melito,

the

flowers,

remind him of somefull

of sacred

cryptograms, and every part of the natural order


fied

its

the

world has an emblematic

meaning.

various actions of

though without

sympathies,

of occult

testi-

of Christianity.

to the Trinity, the

Lecky, Rationalism in Europe^

who was

bishop of Sardis,

it

vol.

is

i.

said,

beginning of the second century, consists of a catalogue of many


hundreds of birds, beasts, plants, and minerals that were symbolical of
Christian virtues, doctrines, and personages."
^ The analogy between allegorism in religion and the hieroglyphic writing is drawn out by Clement, Strom, v. 4 and 7.
in the

NATURE-MYSTICISM AND SYMBOLISM


spider

is

an emblem of the

devil,

kind of symbolism was and

and so

This

forth.

extensively used merely

is

which there

as a picture-language, in

271

is

no pretence

that the signs are other than artificial or conventional.

The language of signs may be used either to instruct


who cannot understand words, or to baffle those
who can. Thus, a crucifix may be as good as a sermon

those

an

to

peasant

illiterate

while the sign of a

used by the early Christians because

This

gible to their enemies.

sense which

But

it

is

is

otherwise

Pious persons found a curious

satisfaction in turning the

most matter of

mystical
"

for

"

as well as

types

was

"

Allegorism

apologetics.

dogmatic, which

it

its
x\

fact state-

Every verse must

ments into enigmatic prophecies.


the search

the

in

in this Lecture.^

when the type is used as a proof


latter method had long been in

use in biblical exegesis.

its "

unintelli-

This

of the antitype.

have

was

not symbolism

have given to the word

it

was

fish

natural meaning, and

branch of

recognised

became

authoritative

has no right to be.

It

and

would be

rash to say that this pseudo-science, which has proved

many

so attractive to

minds,

is

entirely valueless.

very absurdity of the arguments used by


should

make

us

suspect that there

of a more respectable

underlying

To

The

this

distinction,

primitive

man

sort

is

behind them.

its

The

votaries

dumb

logic

There

is,

love of types and emblems, a strong

however, would be unintelligible to the savage mind.


is a symbol in the strictest sense.
Hence, " the

name

knowledge, invocation, and vain repetition of a deity's name constitutes in


an actual, if mystic, union with the deity named " (Jevons, Introduction to the History of Religion, p. 245).
This was one of the chief reasons
for making a secret of the cultus, and even of the name of a patron-deity.
To reveal it was to admit strangers into the tutelage of the national god.
itself

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

272

if "

conviction that
the ages,

must be discernible

it

Everything

as in great.

Power which made

it

Whatever method helps us


and

in

we could

if

to

in

it

life

beyond the

significance

through

things as well
see

be symbolic of the Divine

and maintains

cannot believe that anything


has no

in small

the world,

in

things as they are, must

or

"

one eternal purpose runs

We

being.

meaningless,

is

fleeting

realise this

moment.
is

useful,

So far as this we may go with the


same time we may be thankful

in a sense true.

allegorists, while at the

that

the cobwebs

texts have
last

which they spun over the sacred

now been

read our Bible as


do not

find

it

cleared away, so that

authors intended

its

possible to give a

it

we can

more honourable place than

system of biblical exegesis which has

still

at

to be read.^

a few defenders.

It

this to a

was

first

developed in Christian times by the Gnostics, and was eagerly adopted by


Origen, who fearlessly applied it to the Gospels, teaching that " Christ's
actions on earth were enigmas (alviyfiara), to be interpreted by Gnosis."

The method was

often found useful in dealing with moral

difficulties in the

Old Testament

language about the


Christian

Clement

literal

it

and

scientific

enabled Dionysius to use very bold

meaning, as

Platonists of Alexandria
calls

it

meant

a-vfipoXiKQ^ (pcXoaocpeiv.

showed
^t
It

Lecture III.

in

The

be an esoteric method
was held that ra fivar-qpia

to

and even that Divine truths are honoured by


t; fxvariKT] cre/jLvoiroie? to Oelov).
But the main
use of allegorism was pietistic
and to this there can be no objection,
unless the piety is morbid, as is the case in many commentaries on the Song
Still, it can hardly be disputed that the countless books
of Solomon.
written to elaborate the principles of allegorism contain a mass of futility
such as it would be difficult to match in any other class of literature. The
best defence of the method is perhaps to be found in Keble's Tract (No. 89)
on the " Mysticism" of the early Fathers. Keble's own poetry contains
many beautiful examples of the true use of symbolism but as an apologist
of allegorism he does not distinguish between its use and abuse.
Yet
surely there is a vast difference between seeing in the " glorious sky
embracing all " a type of "our Maker's love," and analysing the 153 fish
caught in the Sea of Galilee into the square of the 12 Apostles + the square
fjLV(TTiKQ>%

irapaSiSoTai

enigmatic treatment

(-^

Kpv\l/ts

of the 3 Persons of the Trinity.


The history of the doctrine of "signatures," which

is

the cryptogram

NATURE-MYSTICISM AND SYMBOLISM

273

Theosophical and magical Mysticism culminated


the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

in

Just as the

idealism of Plotinus lost itself in the theurgic system

immanence
school was followed by the

of lamblichus, so the doctrine of Divine

preached by Eckhart and his

Nature-Mysticism of Cornelius Agrippa

The

SUS.2

"

road

negative

and Paracel-

had been discredited by

"

Luther's invective, and Mysticism, instead of shutting

her eyes to the world of phenomena, stretched forth her

hands to conquer and annex

The

it.

old theory of a

World-Spirit, the pulsations of whose heart are


all

the

life

Through

felt in

came once more into favour.


phenomena, it was believed, runs an

of the universe,
all

network of sympathies and antipathies, the

intricate

threads of which, could they be disentangled, would


theory applied to medicine,

is

very curious and interesting,

"Citrons,

according to Paracelsus, are good for heart affections, because they are
heart-shaped

because

whose

its

the saphena

riparu7n

roots resemble teeth,

Hours with

is

be applied to fresh wounds,

the Mystics, vol.

species of ofew/ar/d,

a cure for toothache and scurvy."


p. 77.

ii.

quaint superstition survive even


alliance

to

is

leaves are spotted as with flecks of blood.

It is said

in the

that

some

Vaughan,

traces of this

modern materia medica.

between medicine and Mysticism subsisted

for a

The

long time, and

forms a curious chapter of history.


^ Cornelius Agrippa of Nettesheim,
a contemporary of Reuchlin, studied
Cabbalism mainly as a magical science. He was nominally a Catholic, but
attacked Rome and scholasticism quite in the spirit of Luther.
His three
chief works are, On the Threefold Way of Knowing God, On the Vatiity of
Arts and Sciences (a ferocious attack on most of the professions), and On

Occult Philosophy [ixtz-im^ of natural, celestial,

and

religious magic).

The

"magician," he says, "must study three sciences physics, mathematics,


and theolog}'." Agrippa's adventurous life ended in 1533.
- Theophrastus Paracelsus (Philippus Bombastus von Hohenheim)
was
born in 1493, and died in 1 541.
His writings are a curious mixture of
theosophy and medical science "medicine," he taught, "has four pillars
philosophy, astronomy (or rather astrology), alchemy, and religion." He
lays great stress on the doctrine that man is a microcosm, and on the law of
Divine manifestation by contraries the latter is a new feature which was
further developed by Bohme.
:

18

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

274

furnish us with a clue through

patient

on

enter

to

humanity had

the labyrinths of

all

The age was im-

natural and supernatural science.

the methods of

experimental science seemed tame and slow

we

especially

find,

astrology, white magic,

alchemy, necromancy, and what not

had

not

witnessed

sciences (with which

medicine,

in

such

history,

and

real progress

kindred
"

were divided under three provinces or


those

the

of

World,

Spiritual

as Chris-

These pseudo-

before.

was mingled much

natural

and so

Germany, an extraordinary

in

outburst of Nature-Mysticism

tianity

which

from

inheritance

the

been debarred

long

sciences)

vincula

which were

magical invocations, diagrams, and signs

mainly

those of the

World, which were taught by astrology

Celestial

"

and

those of the Elemental World, which consisted in the

sympathetic influence of material objects upon


other.

These

by man

universe,

secrets

man

for

and there

not claim an

was held) are

(it

discoverable

all

is

a microcosm, or epitome of the

is

nothing

affinity.

in

it

with which he can-

In knowing himself, he

God and all the other works that God


The subject of Nature-Mysticism is a

both

one

but

aspects.

must here confine myself

An

to

88),

Lutheran pastor

new

objective Mysticism

its

ive

3-1

superstitious elements

Mysticism which

and

the

down from Dionysius and


cosmology

is

knows

has made.
fascinating
its

religious

attempt was soon made, by Valentine

bring together the

Weigel (15

each

Tschopau, to

at

freed from

the traditional subject-

Middle Ages had handed


Weigel's

the Neoplatonists.

based on that of Paracelsus

psychology also reminds us of him.

Man

is

and

his

a micro-

NATURE-MYSTICISM AND SYMBOLISM


cosm, and his nature has three parts
material body, the astral

spirit,

sense,

reason

The

These are the

stand).

The

knowledge.

"

which he also

He

Divine,

parts

they are

understanding

three eyes

{Ver-

by which we get

"

sense perceives material things

and art;

natural science

reason,

and

soul,

three faculties of

these three

to

{Verfiunft),

outward

the

and the immortal

which bears the image of God.


the soul correspond

275

calls

the

the

understanding,

the spark, sees the invisible and

follows the

mystics in distin-

scholastic

guishing between natural and supernatural knowledge,

but his method of distinguishing

them

Natural knowledge, he says,

original.

is,

think,

not conveyed

is

by the object it is the percipient subject which creates


knowledge out of itself. The object merely provokes
In natural knowledge
the consciousness into activity.
;

the subject
to

is

" active, not passive "

come from without

The eye
is

of the

the

that appears

from within.

opposite

is

the case.

understanding," which sees the Divine,

the spark in the centre of the soul where

Divine image.

if it

were dead.

the

its

thoughts must be as

subject

does

not

Spirit

and Word of God are

Himself the eye and the

supernatural

still

light in

come from
ivithin

know-

Yet

co-operate.

supernatural knowledge does not

The

the

Just as in natural knowledge the

object does not co-operate, so in

ledge

lies

In this kind of cognition the subject

must be absolutely passive


as

all

really evolved

is

In supernatural knowledge
"

us,

this

without.

God

is

the soul, as well as

the object which the eye sees by this light.

Super-

natural knowledge flows from within outwards, and in


this

way resembles

natural knowledge.

But since God

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

276
is

both the eye that sees and the object which

it

sees,

much as God who


it
is not we who know
knows Himself in us. Our inner man is a mere
God, so

instrument of God.

Thus Weigel, who begins with

Paracelsus, leaves off

somewhere near Eckhart and Eckhart in his boldest


mood. But his chief concern is to attack the Bibliolaters {Buchstabentheologeti) in the Lutheran Church,
and

to protest against the unethical

We

righteousness.

which

to

so,

kind of accidental

Speculative

Mysticism,

always the foe of formalism and dryness

is

religion, attacks

and

give a

theology.

his

of imputed

need not follow him into either of

these controversies, which

colouring

dogma

them

when we

in

try

whatever forms
penetrate

to

Mysticism by investigating

finds

it

essence

the

in

them

of

historical manifestations,

its

we must always consider what was the system which in


each case it was trying to purify and spiritualise.
Weigel's Mysticism moves in the atmosphere of Lutheran

But

dogmatics.

it

marks a stage

also

the general

in

development of Christian Mysticism, by giving a posit-

and natural knowledge as part of


" Study nature,"
of the human soul.

ive value to scientific

the self-evolution

he says,
you,

"

physics, alchemy, magic, etc.

and you become what you have

that his religious attitude


position

is

is

for it is all in

learnt."

rigidly quietistic

It is
;

true

but this

so inconsistent with the activity which he

enjoins on the " reason," that he

may claim

the credit of

having exhibited the contradiction between the positive

and negative methods


contradiction

is

in

a clear light

always the

more notable

effort

first

in

and to prove a

step towards solving

the same

direction

it.

was

NATURE-MYSTICISM AND SYMBOLISM

Bohme, who, though he had studied

of Jacob

that

VVeigel,

brought

which was

to

his

all

Bohme was born

his

a philosophical

task

2,

and

in

1575 near

where he

Gorlitz,

treatises

between that date and

by Divine illumination.
vellous

his death in

1624.

professed to write only what he had

signs

he simply

"

seen

"

His visions are not (with

exceptions)

insignificant

to

which

he produced a number of

him

for five years,

after-

He began

in spite of clerical opposition,

silenced

Bohme

genius

own.

wards settled as a shoemaker and glover.


write in 161

277

authenticated by any marasserts

that

he

has been

allowed to see into the heart of things, and that the

very Being of
sight.^

God has been

laid

open to

his spiritua

His was that type of mind to which

every

thought becomes an image, and a logical process


like

an animated photograph.

book," he says

and

in

he

fails,

it

describe what he

man

is

but when he

seeing.
is

myself

my own

mind's eye.

float before his

cannot find words

because he

is

am

is

writing, he tries to transcribe

on paper the images which


If

" I

Bohme was an

to

unlearned

content to describe his visions in

"I saw," he says, "the Being of all Beings, the Ground and the
Abyss ; also, the birth of the Holy Trinity the origin and first state of the
world and of all creatures.
the Divine
I saw in myself the three worlds
or angelic world
the dark world, the original of Nature ; and the
external world, as a substance spoken forth out of the two spiritual worlds.
... In my inward man I saw it well, as in a great deep for I saw right
through as into a chaos where everything lay wrapped, but I could not
unfold it.
Yet from time to time it opened itself within me, like a growing
plant.
For twelve years I carried it about within me, before I could bring
it forth in any external form
till afterwards it fell upon me, like a bursting
shower that killeth wheresoever it lighteth, as it will. Whatever I could
bring into outwardness, that I wrote down.
The work is none of mine I
am but the Lord's instrument, wherewith He doeth what He will."
^

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

278

homely German, he

is

lucid enough.

him with philosophical

terms,

personified

instance

either

for

which

he

The study

a sense of his own.

scured his style

still

more,

supplied
forthwith

word

the

image of a beautiful maiden

called forth the


in

Unfortunately,

who soon gathered round him

the scholars

"

Idea

or used

of Paracelsus ob-

his treatises with a

filling

The

bewildering mixture of theosophy and chemistry.


result

certainly

is

unreadable

that

much

work

of his

the nuggets of gold have to be

from a bed of rugged stone

almost

is

dug out

and we cannot be sur-

prised that the unmystical eighteenth century declared


that "

moon."

Behmen's works would disgrace Bedlam

reverence of
"

"

the father of Protestant Mysticism,"

perhaps only wanted learning and the

expression
Isaac

at full

But German philosophers have spoken with

become a German

to

Newton shut himself up

for

Plato

gift
"

three

who

of clear

and

Sir

months

to

study Bohme, whose teaching on attraction and the


laws of motion seemed to him to have great value.^

For
tion

us,

he

is

most interesting as marking the

Symbolism, or rather as

the

author

of a

attempt to fuse the two into one system.


brief sketch of

Bohme's doctrines

far

its

Law was

best exponent.

brilliant

In

my

shall illustrate his

teaching from the later works of William Law,

by

transi-

from the purely subjective type of Mysticism to

who

is

an enthusiastic

admirer of Bohme, and being, unlike his master, a

man

of learning and a practised writer, was able to bring


'

This

is

from Bp. Warburlon.

" Sublime nonsense, inimitable Imm-

bast, fustian not to be paralleled," is


-

See Overton, Life of Williatn Law.

John Wesley's
p.

i88.

verdict,

NATURE-MYSTICISM AND SYMBOLISM


Bohme

order out of the chaos in which


strength

In

tions.

and

clear

specula-

Law was Bohme's

of intellect

and as a writer of

equal,

left his

279

forcible English

he

has few superiors.

Bohme's doctrine of God and the world resembles


that of other speculative mystics, but he contributes a

new element

in

things

the

great

stress

consist,"

he

No

says.

which he lays on

No

"In Yes and

law of being.

antithesis as a

philosopher

all

since

Heraclitus and Empedocles had asserted so strongly


that " Strife

hidden

life

is

the father of

Even in the
Godhead he finds the

things."

all

of the unmanifested

play of Attraction and Diffusion, the resultant of which


a Desire for manifestation,

is

feeling this desire, the

the

felt in

"

which illumines the darkness

light

As

the Godhead.

Godhead becomes

Darkness

Son.

the

is

"

Holy Spirit, in whom arise the


archetypes of creation.
So he explains Body, Soul,

The

resultant

and

is

the

Spirit as thesis, antithesis,

same formula
Will
Evil

and synthesis

serves to explain

Good,

Angels, Devils, and the World.

is

not very consistent

but his

that the object of the cosmic process

victory of
at

Evil,

least

Good over

Evil, of

has the merit

inwoven with our


soar above

lives

and the

His view of

final
is

and Free

doctrine

He

Love over Hatred.^

of showing that

here that

the conflict between

is

to exhibit the

strife

is

so

we cannot possibly
Good and Evil. It

must be observed that Bohme repudiated the doctrine


that there
^

is

any evolution of God

in

time.

" I

say

have omitted Bohme's gnostical theoiies as to the seven Qtiellgeister


The resemblance to

as belonging rather to theosophy than to Mysticism.


Basilides

is

here rather striking, but

it

must be a pure coincidence.

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

28o

not that Nature

God," he says

is

"

and communicates His power to

He

Himself

is

all,

But

His works."

was not a temporal

the archetypes

of

the creation

all

act.

Like other Protestant mystics, he lays great

on

with

sistently

"

this

righteousness,

no Christian," he

is

against

revolts

of imputed

stress

And, con-

Christ.

Cambridge Platonists a

as did the

That man

of

he

belief,

doctrine

Calvinistic

much

presence

indwelling

the

little

"

says,

the

very
later.

who doth

merely comfort himself with the suffering, death, and

and doth impute

satisfaction of Christ,

a gift of favour, remaining himself

...

unregenerate.

me,

hunger

may

Then

put

tion,

Him

in

death,

and

the

hell,

a wild beast and

in

to avail for

The Father must

me.

my

desire of faith, that

Him

faith's

His word of promise.

in

on, in His entire process of justifica-

ground

inward

me

begins

my

apprehend'

my

in

to himself as

If this said sacrifice is

must be wrought

it

beget His Son in

still

it

and

killing of the

straightway there

wrath of the

from the inward power

devil,

of Christ's

He is my life I live
I am an instrument
in Him, and not in my selfhood.
To the
of God, wherewith He doeth what He will."
"
given
same effect William Law says, Christ
for us is
He
neither more nor less than Christ given into us.
death.

is

in

am

inwardly dead, and

no other sense our

full,

perfect,

Atonement, than as His nature and


formed

was the
"

in us."
effect,

Law

and

sufficient

born and
Atonement

spirit are

also insists that the

not of the wrath, but of the love of God.

Neither reason nor scripture," he says,

to bring wrath into

God

" will

allow us

Himself, as a temper of His

NATURE-MYSTICISM AND SYMBOLISM

281

who is only infinite, unalterable, overflowing


" Wrath is atoned when sin is extinguished."

mind,
Love."

This revolt against the forensic theory of the Atone-

ment

is

very characteristic of Protestant Mysticism.^

The disparagement

of external rites and ordinances,

which we have found

so

in

many

mystics, appears in

William Law, though he was himself precise


serving
pearl

of

eternity

is

temple

Church, a

the

ob-

in
"

This

of

God

the rules of the English Church.

all

within thee, the consecrated place of Divine worship,

where alone thou canst worship God


In

truth.

spirit,

because thy

spirit

in
is

and

spirit

in

that alone in

thee which can unite and cleave unto God, and receive
the working of the Divine Spirit upon thee.

because this adoration


of which

forms

and

trutJi,

and

reality

though

rites,

in-

by God, are only the figure for a time but


is eternal.
Accustom thyself to the holy

stituted
this

in spirit is that truth

outward

all

In

worship

service of this inward temple.

fountain

the

drink and

of living

live

for

ever.

In the midst of

water, of

which

There the supper of the

bread that came


the world,

known

is

down from

Lamb

thy true nourishment

soul.

There the

all

is

the

life

to

done, and

birth, the

life,

the

and ascension of

real states of thy soul,

followed Christ in the regeneration.

And

and

kept

merely remembered, but inwardly found

and enjoyed as the

'

in life

is

living sensibility of the

sufferings, the death, the resurrection

Christ, are not

mayst

thou

heaven, that giveth

in real experience, in a

work of God on the

is

There the mysteries of thy

redemption are celebrated, or rather opened


power.

it

When

of English Mysticism before the Reformation

which has
once thou

cf.

p. 20S'.

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

282

grounded

well

art

have learnt to

For every day

inward worship, thou wilt

this

in

unto God above time and place.

live

be Sunday to thee, and wherever

will

thou goest thou wilt have a

In

the

mystical

writers

"

There

in

setting

all

mankind, and the way to

it

forth.

one

God, just and

mercy

true,

how

open, and Christ thus the

is

common

"

This

ends, wills nothing but

to

its

flame.

propagate

Saviour to

"

creature."
its

The

itself,

by Eckhart.
^

From

its

till

own

all

that

in

more

spirit

everything

is

of love does not want


;

its

only desire

and become the blessing and


it."

definitely Christian

"If Christ was to

the Spi'nt of Prayer.

life is

Love has no by-

increase

doctrine of the Divine spark {synteresis)

by Law, but

The

sect

raise a

is

held

form than

new

of Behmenists in

Law, attended no church, and took no


Overton, Life of IVilliaiii Law, p. 214.

unlike

and

happiness of everything that wants

The

God.

thus everywhere

is

to be rewarded, honoured, or esteemed


is

love

the one only bond of union

is

God and His

as oil to

Thy

Thee " And of love


No creature can have any union or com-

of love.

betwixt

life w^ith

is

munion with the goodness of the Deity


spirit

the

unites with

it

one

turn the desire of their hearts to

he says

is,

This desire brings

great

mankind, that heaven

to

and that

and God into the soul

co-operates with God, and

it

but one salvation for

is

it is

desire of the soul turned to God.

the soul to God,

follows

none before him,

but

strong and growing eloquence

think, attained to such

God,

Law

teaching about faith and love.

his

best

O my

church, and an

priest, a

altar along with thee."

life

like

Germany,

part in the Lord's Supper.

NATURE-MYSTICISM AND SYMBOLISM


His own

man must have had

every man, then every

in

originally

the inmost

in

spirit

283

of his

a seed of

life

Christ, or Christ as a seed of heaven, lying there in a

state of insensibility, out of

but

which

it

could not arise

For
by the mediatorial power of Christ.
to deny self, if there were not some.

what could begin


thing in

man

different

God

the

hidden

is

immured under

treasure

The Word of
every human soul,

of

and blood,

flesh

arises in our hearts,

Adam

from self?

Is

manner ?
Very characteristic

and the

There also

is

of the later Mysticism

when

soul,

writes, "

where the body


there,

The

Bohme

needeth

dies, there is

devil

most beautiful

in

Bohme and Law

language which both

body,"

it

use about the

not

go

to

not

states,

separate,

and the soul needeth only

to

Law

is

will of

and

and imposed
"

God."

that

and

states,

own

"

they are

no

hell

are

foreign,

adjudged to us by the

Damnation," he says,

essential state of our

for

hell.
God is
own kingdom.

in asserting that heaven

places,

far

heaven and

yea, each in his

Paradise

the

is

departs from the

enter through the deep door in the centre."

very emphatic

it

not this the Platonic

doctrine of anamnesis, Christianised

"

as a day-star

till

and changes the son of an earthly

into a son of God."

future state.

"

is

the natural,

disordered nature, which

is

impossible, in the nature of the thing, to be anything


else
"

but

There

finely,

is

our

own

hell,

nothing that

" in

the

Every part of

it

is

whole
has

powers of nature, and

its
all

both

here

and

hereafter."

supernatural," he says very

system

ground

of

redemption.

our

in the

our redemption

workings and
is

only nature

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

284
set right, or

There
.

to be that

which

ought

it

true

evil,

to be.^

God

supernatural but

is

Right and wrong, good and

made

nothing that

is

and

alone.
false,

happiness and misery, are as unchangeable in nature

and space. Nothing, therefore, can be done to


any creature supernaturally, or in a way that is without
as time

or contrary to the powers of nature

or creature that

good done to
have

it

to be helped, that

is

or

it,

done so

any

to

is,

taken out of

it,

have any
can only

powers of nature are

able,

to effect it.""

to abstain

from quoting more passages

which Faith, which had been so long directed

like this, in

only to

evil

far as the

and rightly directed


It is difficult

but every thing

the

beams over

unseen and unknown, sheds her bright

this earth of ours,

The

her own.

and claims

laws of nature are

now

all

nature for

recognised as

the laws of God, and for that very reason they cannot

be broken or arbitrarily suspended.

Redemption

is

This stimulating doctrine, that the soul, when freed from impediments,
ascends naturally and inevitably to its "own place," is put into the mouth
'

of Beatrice by Dante [Paradiso,

" Non

i.

136)

dei piu ammirar, se bene stimo,

Lo

tuo

Se

d'alto

se non come d'un rivo,


monte scende giuso ad imo.

salir,

Maraviglia sarebbe in

te,

se privo

D'impedimento giu ti fossi


Cora' a terra quieto fuoco
Quinci
-

Il

may be

assiso,

vivo.

rivohi; in ver lo cielo

interesting to

il

viso."

compare the following passage from George

which dramatises the irruption of natural science, with its faith in


" One morning,
while I was sitting by the fire, a great cloud came over me, a temptation
beset me
and I sat still. It was said, All things come by Nature ; and
the elements and stars came over me, so that I was in a manner quite
clouded by it. And as I sat still under it and let it alone, a living hope
and a true voice arose in me, which said, T/iere ?s a living God who wade
all things.
Immediately the cloud and temptation vanished away, and life
rose over it all
my heart was glad, and I praised the living God."
t'ox,

fixed laws, into the sphere of the religious consciousness

NATURE-MYSTICISM AND SYMBOLISM


law of

life.

lilies,"

as

come a time,^ " the time of the


Bohme calls it, when all nature will be
There

will

delivered from bondage.

"

redemption," says Law,

" is

unheavenly, gross,

is

from

285

every part

of

All the design of Christian


to

remove everything that

dark, wrathful,
this

fallen

and disordered

No

world."

text

is

mouth than the words of St. Paul which


That " dim symthe text of this Lecture.

oftener in his
I

read as

pathy

"

of

human

the

which Plotinus

spirit

with the

life

of nature

but which mediaeval dualism had

felt,

now become an intense and happy


community with all living things, as
subjects of one all-embracing and unchanging law, the
Magic and portents, apparitions
law of perfect love.
almost quenched, has

consciousness of

and

visions, the

and

their

raptures of " infused

contemplation

dark Nemesis of Satanic delusions, can no

more trouble the serenity of him who has

same God

the

whom

nature

in

holy place of his


It

own

whose

Behmen,"

But

obliged

to

in

he

has found

disciple

he

Law

from the

was proud

putting them together

depart

learnt to
in

.see

the

heart.

was impossible to separate

himself.

"

from

the

to

"

blessed
profess

have been

chronological order, for

the Cambridge Platonists, as they are usually called,

come between.
sion,

for

This, however, need cause no confu-

the Platonists

had no

direct influence

upon

Law, Nonjuror as well as mystic, remained a


High Churchman by sympathy, and hated Rational-

Law.
ism
'

while the Platonists sprang from an Evangelical

So we may

transcends time.

on

this earth.

fairly say,

Neither

if

we remember

Bohme

nor

Law

thai

we

are speaking of what

looks forward to a golden age

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

286

were

school,

regarded

we

never

Bohme

much

so very

find

tired

extolling

of

Reason,

as a fanciful " enthusiast."


in

common between

And

and
yet,

the Platon-

Law, that these party differences


seem merely superficial. The same exalted type of
and

ists

William

Mysticism appears

The group of
centre in some of

in

both.

philosophical divines,

who had

their

the Cambridge colleges towards the

middle of the seventeenth century, furnishes one of the

most interesting and important chapters

in

the history

Never since the time of the early


Greek Fathers had any orthodox communion produced
of our

Church.

and yet so thoroughly loyal

so independent

thinkers

And seldom

to the Church.

has the Christian temper

found a nobler expression than


ings of such
*

men

in

the lives and writ-

Whichcote and John Smith.-

as

Henry More's judgment

is

as follows

"Jacob Behmen,

conceive,

is

he reckoned in the number of those whose imaginative faculty has the


pre-eminence above the rational and though he was a good and holy
to

man,

his natural complexion, notwithstanding,

tained

its

property

still

was not destroyed, but

re-

and, therefore, his imagination being very busy

about Divine things, he could not without a miracle

fail of becoming an
and of receiving Divine truths upon the account of the strength
and vigour of his fancy which, being so well qualified with holiness and
sanctity, proved not unsuccessful in sundry apprehensions, but in others it
fared with him after the manner of men, the sagacity of his imagination

enthusiast,

failing him, as well as the anxiety of reason

does others of like integrity

with himself."

Canon G. G.

Church History, disposes


one contemptuous paragraph, as a "class of
divines who were neither Puritans nor High Churchmen," and makes the
'^

Perry, in his Sfudenfs^ English

of this noble group of

men

in

astounding statement that "to the school thus commenced, the deadness,
carelessness,

and

indifference prevalent

large measure to be attributed."

Burnet writes, that

if

It is

in

the eighteenth century are in

of these same same

men

that Bishop

they had not appeared to combat the

"laziness

and negligence," the "ease and sloth" of the Restoration clergy, "the
Church had quite lost her esteem over the nation." Alexander Knox
lVo7-Jcs, vol. iii. p. 199) speaks of the rise of this school as a great instance
of the design of Providence to supply to the Church what had never before
(

NATURE-MYSTICISM AND SYMBOLISM


These men made no secret of

And

homage

their

to Plato.

be noticed that they were students of Plato

let it

and Plotinus more than of Dionysius and


Their Platonism

sors.

287

his succes-

not of the debased Oriental

is

type,

and

is

The

via

negativa has disappeared as completely

entirely free from self-absorbed quietism.

Bohme

their writings as in those of

them

as for

the world

him the mirror of the Deity

philosophers and not physicists, they are

in

for

is

but, being

most

inter-

ested in claiming for religion the whole field of intellectual

life.

They

are fully convinced that there can

be no ultimate contradiction

and Christian

science

faith
"

only for their praise of

between philosophy or

and

optimism which appears everywhere

The

accounts

this

in

not

happy

reason," but for the

their writings.

luxurious and indolent Restoration clergy, whose

Hves were shamed by the simplicity and spirituality of


the
to

Platonists,

invented

throw at them,

"

the

word

'*

Latitudinarian

a long nickname which they have

taught their tongues to pronounce as roundly as

were shorter than

it is

by

four or five syllables

if

"

it

but

they could not deny that their enemies were loyal sons

What

of the Church of England.^


been produced, writers who do "

full

the rationality of Christian piety.

...

honour

at

once to the elevation and

In their writings

we

are invited to

ascend, by having a prospect opened before us as luminous as


lime.

They

are such writers as,

meant

the Platonists

had never before

existed.

sub-

it is
.

No

Church but the English Church could have produced them." Of John
Smith he says, "My value for him is beyond what words can do justice
to."
The works of Whichcote, Smith, Cudworth, and Culverwel are
happily accessible enough, and I beg my readers to study them at first
hand.
I do not believe that any Christian could rise from the perusal of
the two first-named without having gained a lasting benefit in the deepening of his spiritual life and heightening of his faith.
^ A writer who signs himself S.
P. (probably Simon Patrick, bishop of

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

288
*

by making reason the seat of authority may be seen


by a few quotations from Whichcote and Smith, who
our purpose

for

the

are,

think, the best representatives of

Tuckney, who had

Whichcote answers

school.

him

remonstrated with

"

for

a vein of doctrine,

which reason hath too much given to

Too much " and


"
Scripture is full
The
these points
and I discourse on them too much and
of faith

teries

"

"

oppose not rational to

what he has

for

and

most

the

said,

"

When

the

" It

life."

ill

frigid

"

which

following,
"

mystic.

yet

right,

right

it

is

How

stamps

For the use of

to be done,

the

Gospel becomes

this

intellectual

teaching differs

morality prevalent

"

may

be judged from the

Whichcote

as

of judgment be

make

are that

this

is

the very voice of

make our

far

common-sense

Though liberty
how few there

most

be the principle of our

to

the eighteenth century,

in

will

it

becomes us

faculties Gibeonites."

from the

life

Sir,

is

Reason

"

doctrine of the

the reason of our mind,

truths,

too often

is fit

can be done."

that

of such

that gives reason

has done what

Divine Governor of man's

God."

He

"

mys-

too often " on

spiritual, for spiritual

Elsewhere he writes,

rational."

in the

it

"

in

right doth

genuine

everyone's
use of this

depend upon

self-improvement by meditation, consideration, examination,

prayer, and the

Ely), in a pamphlet called

Men
the

These are things antece-

like.

Brief Arcouut of Ihe Jiew Sec/ of Latitude

(1662), vindicates their attachment to the "virtuous mediocrity" of

Church of England,

of the Church of

as distinguished from the

Rome, and

^Compare with

" meretricious gaudiness

the squalid sluttery of fanatic conventicles."

these extracts

reason in matters of religion

is

the
to

words of Leibnitz:

my

"To

despise

eyes certain proof either of an

obstinacy that borders on fanaticism, or, what

is

worse, of hypocrisy."

NATURE-MYSTICISM AND SYMBOLISM


dent and prerequisite."
too long to quote in

lumen de lumine, a
Father of lights
of himself

John Smith, in a fine passage


says " Reason in man being

full,

was to enable man

God which

those notions of

all

from the Fountain and

light flowing

groundwork of love and obedience


formity to Him.

the inward virtue and vigour of reason

work out

to

are the true

God, and con-

to

But since man's

289

from God,

fall
is

much

abated,

the soul having suffered a 7rTpoppv7]ai<i, as Plato speaks,

a defiuviunt pennaru7n.
of natural

truth

truth of Divine revelation.

ward
it.

revelation, there
.

which

to God.

And

is

God

more

But besides

manner

special

attributed

only can so shine upon our glassy

Him-

understandings, as to beget in them a picture of


self,

the
out-

this

an inward impression of

also

is

in a

therefore, besides the

God hath provided

inscription,

and turn the soul

like

wax

or clay to the seal of

light and love.


He that made our souls in
own image and likeness can easily find a way
The Word that God speaks, having found
into them.
a way into the soul, imprints itself there as with the
point of a diamond. ... It is God alone that acquaints

His own
His

the

with

soul

strengthens

the

and

truths

the

raises

of

of natural

world which the sun

truth,

some of the ancient Fathers

also

that

in

the

in the sensible, as

love to speak,

and the

too, who meant God by their


Agens} whose proper work they supposed

be not so

much

to

enlighten

faculty."
^

19

is

and

better apprehen-

philosophers

Intellectiis

to

to

God being

sions even
intellectual

ancient

revelation,

soul

See Appendix C.

the

object as the

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

290

The
light,

on

Platonists thus lay great stress

and

identify

it

exposition of their teaching on this head

of attaining
says,

is

Way

The True

inner

The

Smith's

in

or

best

Method

" Divinity,"

Divine Knowledge."

to

a Divine

" is

"

on

sermon

beautiful

the

with the purified reason.

he

rather than a Divine science, to

life

be understood rather by a spiritual sensation than by

any verbal
Divine

of

Divinity

in

"

wan

poor

dead

a true efflux from the

and therefore our

compared
"

To

with that which

seek our divinity merely

among the
truth is often not so much enshrined
That which enables us to know and

books and writings


"

the be-

is

Systems and models furnish

light,"

shines in purified souls.


in

the prolepsis

is

His beatitudes connext purity of heart

to the beatific vision."

is

and enliven

enlighten, but also heat

but

life

which, like the sunbeams, does not only

light,

Saviour hath

good

the fear of the Lord

ginning of wisdom.
eternal

description.

science

is

to seek the living

in these, "

as entombed."

"

understand aright the things of God, must be a living


within

of holiness

principle

us.

The sun

never shines into any unpurged souls.

men
be.

themselves
.

heads.

He

much

his

so admirable that

men
for

God,

are content
I

Such as

God Himself seem

to

must seek

it

with a

in

mystical theology, and was

ideal

differed

from

that

of

His criticism of the via negativa

Dionysian Mysticism.
is

of truth
.

sanctified mind."

Smith was well read


aware how

will

too bad hearts to have good

that will find truth

judgment and a

free

such

are,

Some men have

mean not

must quote part of

and ready

to

it.

"

Good

deny themselves
deny their own

that they should

NATURE-MYSTICISM AND SYMBOLISM

291

some would have it, for that were to deny a


beam of Divine light, and so to deny God, instead of
denying ourselves for Him. ... By self-denial, I mean
the soul's quitting all its own interest in itself, and an
reason, as

entire resignation

and

of

Him

itself to

as to

and duty; and thus the soul

service

lives

much

the possession not so

in

points of

all

loses itself in

of

its

God,

own

being as of the Divinity, desiring only to be great

God, to glory
fulness

be

to

expend

itself in

in

His

Him to receive all from Him, and to


Him and so to live, not as its own,
;

for

all

and spread

light,

always by Him, and to empty

filled

again into

itself

His

in

Wicked men

but as God's."

"

maintain a vieum and

God and themselves," but the good man


make
a full surrender of himself, " triumphis able to
ing in nothing more than in his own nothingness, and
tuiim between

the allness of the Divinity.

in

being nothing

is

the only

way

But, indeed, this his

to

be

all

things

having nothing the truest way of possessing


.

The

wards

of the

spirit

of religion

and, spreading
loosens

soul,

itself
it

enjoyment.

The

it

spirit

till it

be

with

filled

all

a self-confinement and

more capacious of Divine


of a good
fills

men

waiting, that speaks

power of God.

It is

man
itself

is

always

more and

the fulness of God."

not a melancholy kind of- sitting

is

things,

always ascending up-

is

drinking in fountain-goodness, and

more,

this his

through the whole essence

from

narrowness, and so renders

all

still,

and

" It

slothful

enlivened by the Spirit and

not religion to

stifle

and smother

those active powers and principles which are within us.


.

Good men do not walk up and down

rnerely like ghosts

and shadows

the world

but they are indeed

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

292
living

men, by a

from

participation

real

Him who

is

indeed a quickening Spirit."


"

Neither were

a mind,
to

an happiness worth the having

it

an hermit sequestered from

like

spend an eternity

self-converse and the enjoy-

in

ment of such a diminutive


is.

We

nothing as

superficial

to

What went ye out into the


may invert it, What do you

We

see

narrow

cell

confined

soul

of

its

deprives itself of

own

itself

it

all

private

and

Such a

soul

about

He

of

who doth

are

is,

not

the Divine perfections."

which
say,

is,

it

which yet

equally sound on

nor

he

is

find

and

sweet

with

itself

Whichcote says

at all as

such retiredness."

in

Platonists

of ecstasy.

it,

enjoying of such a

for the

this,

know God
ravishings

round

shines

and diminutive thing as

The English

religion,

throughout the whole universe

can never enjoy truly

subject

the

wilderness to
return within

that almighty and essential glory

all

deprives itself of
poor, petty,

within

particular being

and goodness which


spreads

itself

read in the Gospel of such a question of

our Saviour's,
see?

for

things else,

all

in

lovely

He

"
in

the

doth not

a good state

himself at times
considerations

And Smith

Who

"

can

of
tell

the delights of those mysterious converses with the


Deity,

when reason

becomes

vision

is

The

turned
fruit

into sense,

of

sweeter than honey and the honeycomb.


Platonists' leave, this
*

contemplative

man ')

and sober Christian.


infant-Christ formed

life

... By

is

the

belongs to the true

is

nothing else but an

his soul.

But we must not

This

mistake: this knowledge

faith

and knowledge (that of the

peculiarly

in

and

knowledge

this

is

life

here but in

its

infancy."

NATURE-MYSTICISM AND SYMBOLISM


While we are

"

here,

own imaginative

our

293

powers,

which are perpetually attending the best acts of our


be breathing a gross dew upon the pure

souls, will

glass of our understandings."

Heaven is first a temper, then a place," says Whichand Smith says the same about hell. " Heaven

"

cote,

not a thing without

is

from a true

distinct
"

truce

with

fied,

nor

is

happiness anything

conjunction of the mind

Though we could suppose

God."

asleep

us,

heaven, and

own

yet would our

make an

all

Divine displeasure

sins, if

with

ourselves to be at
laid

they continue unmorti-

JEtna. or Vesuvius within us."

This

view of the indissoluble connexion between holiness

and blessedness,
Smith
as

between

sin

and damnation, leads

to reject strenuously the doctrine of imputed,

opposed

to

not bid us be
us

as

"

God does

says, "

and deny

imparted, righteousness.

warmed and

filled,"

he

those necessities which our starving and hungry

souls call

for.

...

doubt sometimes, some of our

dogmata and notions about justification may puff us


up in far higher and goodlier conceits of ourselves than
God hath of us, and that we profanely make the
unspotted righteousness of Christ to serve only as a
covering wherein
filthy
in

as

vices,

good

ourselves,

much

as

to

wrap our

foul

deformities

and

and when we have done, think ourselves


credit

and repute with God as we are with

and that we are become Heaven's darlings as

we

are our own."

^ The
classical reader will be reminded of Lucretius, iii. 979-1036.
He devotes
Smith, however, would not have relished this comparison.
part of one sermon to a refutation of the Epicurean poet, in whom he sees

a precursor of his /v/ noire,


*

Compare with

Hobbes

this the following passage of

Jean de Labadie (1610-

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

294

show

*rhese extracts will

that the English Platonists

breathe a larger air than the later

Romish

mystics,

and

teach a religion more definitely Christian than Erigena


I shall now show how this happy result
was connected with a more truly spiritual view of the

and Eckhart.

we have met with

external world than


part of our survey.
"

laws of God, that

and wicked," that

evil

" evil is unnatural,"

tradiction of the law of our being," which


in
"

"

men and devils," is one


And Smith sets

wicked

the earlier

in

That the laws of nature are the


man, as man, is averse to what is
and a

"

con-

only found

is

of Whichcote's

gallant themes."

the true

forth

principles of Nature-Mysticism in a splendid passage,

with which
"

will

God made

conclude this Lecture

the universe and

many

tained therein as so
reflect
in

He

His own glory.

the creation

and

in

power, and wisdom.


feelingly

He

might

hath copied forth Himself

outward world we

of the

But how

converse with

to

the creatures con-

glasses wherein

this

read the lovely characters

all

Divine

to find

may

goodness,

God

Him, and being

here,

and

affected

with the sense of the Divine glory shining out upon

how

the creation,

the intellectual,

to pass out of the sensible world into


is

not so effectually taught by that

1674), the founder of a mystical school on the Continent

"

Flusieurs sont

bien aises d'ouyr dire qu'ils sont justifies par Jesus-Christ, laves de leurs

peches en son sang par

la foi,

et volontiers ils I'embrasent

pour eux

par la repentance et par

comme

Justificateur,

le

bapteme

comme

chrestien,

crucifie et niort

mais peu prennent part a sa croix, k sa mort, pour se faire


mourir avec Luy, crucifier leur chair avec la sienne, et

spirituellement

porter en

goutent
le vieil

le

eux-memes

comme
honime

peche."

marques de sa croix et de sa mort. Peu le


dedans par I'Esprit consacrant et immolant
par une pratique vraiment sainte, laquelle dompte

les vives

Justificateur au
a

Dieu

el

NATURE-MYSTICISM AND SYMBOLISM


philosophy which professed

That which

knits

can best teach


those golden

it

295

most, as by true reh"gion.

and unites God and the soul together


it

how

and descend upon

to ascend

links that unite, as

it

were, the world to

That Divine Wisdom, that contrived and beauti-

God.

own

glorious structure, can best explain her

this

fied

art, and carry up the soul back again in these


beams to Him who is the Fountain of them.
.

men may

reflected
.

Good

every creature pointing out to

easily find

whose image and superscription it bears,


and climb up from those darker resemblances of the
that Being

Divine wisdom and goodness, shining out in different


degrees upon several creatures,

they sweetly repose

till

themselves in the bosom of the Divinity


are thus conversing with this lower world

God many

and while they

they find

times secretly flowing into their souls, and

leading them silently out of the court of the temple

Holy

into the

truth

and doth
to us.

Place.

Thus

in
.

it is

in

of our minds,

nothing but a thick mist of pride and

sun which enlightens them and

from beholding that

is

no more

measure of

things else.

all

solicitous

good thing be mine, or whether


the

spirit

a manner spiritualise this outward creation


It is

self-love that hinders men's eyes

good man

where

religion,

and power, renews the very

whether

my

...

perfections exceed

or that particular creature

this

this or that

for

whatsoever good he beholds anywhere, he enjoys and


delights in

it

as

much

as

if it

were

his

own, and what-

ever he beholds in

himself, he looks not upon

property, but as a

common good

come from one and


Hsrht

in

whom

the

he loves

it

as his

for all these beams


same Fountain and Ocean of
them all with an universal
;

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

296
love.

Thus may a man walk up and down

world as

the

garden of spices, and suck a Divine

in

sweetness out of every flower.

There is a twofold
meaning in every creature, a literal and a mystical,
and the one is but the ground of the other and as the
;

Jews say of

good man says of every-

their law, so a

thing that his senses offer to him

lower part, but

mind and

it

spirit.

something that

Whereas
infinite

true

it

speaks to his

points out something above to his


It is

superstition which

is

may

jog

religion

muddy

the drowsy and

fain to set

some

and put

it

sphere of the Divinity

in

mind of God.

itself

...

it

in

the midst of that glorious

Being who

is

indivisibly everywhere.

the world

Jacob, "

is

How

God's temple
dreadful

is

he

is

itself

unbounded
good

upon holy ground

to

man
him

ready to say with

is

this place

than the house of God, this

out of the

beholds

everywhere

finds every place he treads

of

idol at its elbow,


it

never finds

spirit

this

is

none other

the gate of heaven."

LECTURE

297

VIII

" For nothing worthy proving can be proven,


Nor yet disproven wherefore thou be wise,
;

Cleave ever to the sunnier side of doubt,

And

cling to Faith beyond the forms of Faith


She reels not in the storm of warring words,
She brightens at the clash of Ves and No,
She sees the Best that glimmers through the Worst,
She feels the sun is hid but for a night.
She spies the summer thro' the winter bud.
She tastes the fruit before the blossom falls,
She hears the lark within the songless egg,
She finds the fountain where they wail'd 'Mirage I'"
Tennyson, The Ancient Sage.
I

"Of true religions there are only two: one of them recognises and
worships the Holy that without form or shape dwells in and around us ;
and the other recognises and worships it in its fairest form. Everything
that lies

between these two

is

idolatry."

Goethe.
"

My

wish

is

that

may

whom

perceive the Cxod

in the external world, in like

manner within and

inside

everywhere
me."

find

Keplek.

"

Getrost, das

Leben

schreitet

Zum

ew'gen Leben hin


Von innrer Gluth geweitet

\'erklart sich unser Sinn.

Die Sternwelt wird zerfliesscn


Zum goldnen Lebenswein,
Wir werden sic geniessen

Und

lichte Sterne sein.

Die Lieb'

Und

ist

freigegebcn

keine Trennung mehr

Es wogt das

voile

Leben

Wie ein unendlich Meer.


Nur eine Nacht der Wonne,
Ein ewiges Gedicht

Und
Ist

unser Aller Sonne

Gottes Angesicht."
NOVAI.IS.

298

LECTURE

VIII

Nature-Mysticism
" The

invisible things of

Him

continued

since the creation of the world are clearly

seen, being understood through the things that are


lasting

my

In

Rom.

power and Divinity."

last

Lecture

emancipated

itself

i.

made, even His ever-

20.

showed how the

Mysticism

later

from the mischievous doctrine that

when the eye

the spiritual eye can only see

of sense

is

After the Reformation period the mystic tries

closed.

to look with

both eyes

his

aim

things, as well as all things in

is

to see

He

God.

God

in all

returns with

better resources to the task of the primitive religions,

and
is

tries to find spiritual

law

in

the natural world.

It

true that a strange crop of superstitions, the seeds

of which

mock

had been sown long before, sprang up to


In necromancy, astrology, alchemy,

his hopes.

palmistry, table-turning, and other delusions,

we have

what some count the essence, and others the reproach,


But these

of Mysticism.
tific

and not

religion

speaking, scien-

are, strictly

religious errors.

From

the standpoint of

and philosophy, the important change

is

that, in

the belief of these later mystics, the natural and the


spiritual are,

somehow

external world

is

or other, to be reconciled

the

no longer regarded as a place of exile

from God, or as a delusive appearance

it

is

the living

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

300
^

vesture of the Deity

though

" for

many

the

a voice for the wise

The

veil.

"

its "

and

needs intepreters,"

it

lost

but

God

which shines everywhere,


only

in

"

colours are combined

all

can

Dualism,

interpret.

"

varied hues appearing not

its

the sanctuary of the lonely soul, but in

art

has

many-coloured wisdom

wonders that science can discover, and


that

"

yet

no longer figured as a

is

seen as a

is

which speaks of things behind the

glory of

blinding white light in which

and

discordant harmony,"

asceticism which belongs to

all

with

has given

it,

all

the

the beauties

harsh

the

way

to a

more hopeful philosophy men's outlook


upon the world is more intelligent, more trustful, and
only for those who perversely seek to
more genial
impose the ethics of selfish individualism upon a world
which obeys no such law, science has in reserve a

brighter and

blacker pessimism than ever brooded over the ascetic


of the cloister.

We

not

shall

meet,

in

this

chapter,

any

finer

examples of the Christian mystic than John Smith

and William Law.


lectual kinsmen,

But these men, and

were

far

their

intel-

from exhausting the treasure

The Cambridge Platonists,


somewhat undervalued the religious lessons
of Nature.
They were scholars and divines, and what
lay nearest their heart was the consecration of the
Nature-Mysticism.

of

indeed,

reason

that

guidance of

is,

its

whole personality under

highest faculty

And Law,

and goodness.

much under

of the

the

to the service of truth

in his later years,

was too

the influence of Bohme's fantastic theosophy

Horace, Ep.

ttoXvitoIkCKos aocpla,

i.

12.

19.

Eph.

iii.

10.

Pindar, Olymp.

ii.

154.

NATURE-MYSTICISM AND SYMBOLISM


Nature that childlike

to bring to

301

which can best

spirit

learn her lessons.

The Divine
more

fully

naturalist

in

Nature has hitherto been discerned

by the poet than by the theologian or the


and in this concluding Lecture I must deal

The

with Christian poetry.

chiefly

attitude towards

Nature which we have now

to consider

templative than practical

studies analogies in order

it

is

to knoiu the

unseen powers which surround

no desire

bend them or make them

to

Our Lord's

this religious use of

Nature

is

And

the normal and regular in

parables

is

justice of
" special

famine

God, not the

judgment."

We

in

art,

the

we do not expect

New

Testament

it

As

but

these

in

the constant care

to find

it

the yearly harvest,

providence

need not wait

from the precept quoted

observed that

Nature which

" special

to trace the finger of God.

and

sanctions

how much we may

be

presented for our study

not the three years'

lilies,"

and many of His parables,

such as that of the Sower, show us


learn from such analogies.

and has

us,

instruments.

its

precept, " Consider the

more con-

"

and

or the

for catastrophes

for Christian

any theory of

we may perhaps

poetry

aesthetic

extract

above the canon that the

we can discern resides in the real


and natural, and only demands the seeing eye to find it.
In the Greek Fathers we find great stress laid on the
highest beauty that

glories of
"

Nature as a revelation of God.

The wider our contemplation

will

be our conception of God,"

same language.
marked tendency

We

find,

Cyril says,

of creation, the grander

And

Basil uses the

indeed, in these writers

a'

to exalt the religious value of natural

beauty, and to disparage the function of art

pre-

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

302

monition, perhaps, of iconoclasm.

Pagan

was decaying before the advent of

Christ, could

not,

and carried on

be quietly Christianised

appears,

it

which

art,

without a break.

The

true

Nature - Mysticism

He

Francis of Assisi.

the pulsations of one

dreams

in the plants,

prominent

in

St.

loves to see in all around

him

is

which sleeps

life,

and wakens

in

in

man.

the stones,
"

He

would

remain in contemplation before a flower, an insect, or a


bird,

and regarded them with no dilettante or

pleasure
its

sun, the bird

its

nest

that the humblest manifesta-

tions of creative force should

which
that

they are entitled."

all

have the happiness to

So strong was his conviction

living things are children of

preach to

"

my

little sisters

"

took the conversion of

God, that he would

the birds," and even under-

the ferocious wolf of Agobio."

This tender reverence for Nature, which


of

true Platonism,

all

egoistic

he was interested that the plant should have

Plotinus,

It is

is

we have

found, as

is

mark

seen, in

also prominent in the Platonists of the

Renaissance, such as Bruno and Campanella,- and


Petrarch,

who

loved to offer his evening prayers

the moonlit mountains.


ful

Suso has

at least

in

among

one beauti-

passage on the sights and sounds of spring, and

exclaims,
creatures,
self! "

-^

O tender God, if Thou art so loving in Thy


how fair and lovely must Thou be in ThyThe Reformers, especially Luther and Zwingli,
"

Deux

Barine in Revue Jes

Tlie latter, like Fechner in our

iMomies, April 1891.

own

century, holds that the stars are

whose "sensibility is full of pleasure."


See Illingworth's Divine Itiunamnce, where this and other interesting
But Suso was, of course, not a " Protestant mystic."
passages are quoted.
And 1 cannot agree with the author when he says that Lucretius found no

living organisms,
*

NATURE-MYSTICISM AND SYMBOLISM


more

are

303

than might have been expected to the

alive

vahie of Nature's

lessons

and the French mystics,

Francis de Sales and Fenelon, write gracefully about

wisdom and beauty which

the footprints of the Divine

may

be traced everywhere

But

natural

Mysticism, and

religion
it

in the

world around

us.

not to be identified with

is

would not further our present inquiry


which illustrate

to collect passages, in prose or poetry,

may

the aids to faith which the book of Nature

Nor need we dwell on such pure Platonism


Spenser's "

in

Hymn

as

supply.

we

find

of Heavenly Beauty," or some of

Shelley's poems, in which

we

are bidden to gaze

upon

the world as a mirror of the Divine Beauty, since our

mortal sight cannot endure the


the eternal archetypes.^
religious inspiration in Nature.

We

"

white radiance

have seen how

Tiie poet of the

himself to have been a lonely man,

this

"

of

view

Nature of Things shows

who had pondered much among

the

and by the sea, and who loved to taste the pure delights of the
spring.
Thence came to him the "holy joy and dread" ("quredam divina
voluptas atque horror ") which pulsates through his great poem as he
shatters the barbarous mythology of paganism, and then, in the spirit of
hills

a priest rather than of a philosopher, turns the "bright shafts of day"


upon the folly and madness of those who are slaves to the world or the
flesh.

The

spirit of

Lucretius

is

the spirit of

modern

neither to materialism nor to atheism, whatever

its

which tends
and enemies mav

science,

friends

say.
^

the

more beautifully set forth than in


Compare, especially, the following

Christian Platonism has never been

poem

stanzas

of Spenser

named above.

" The means,

which unto us is lent


on His works to look,
Which He hath made in beauty excellent,
And in the same, as in a brazen book
To read enregistered in every nooke
His goodness, which His beauty dotli declare
For all that's good is beautiful and fair.

Him

therefore,

to behold,

is

Thence gathering plumes of

To imp

perfect speciilation.

the wings of thy high-flying

mimL

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

304

of the world as a pale reflection of the Ideas leads in


practice to a contempt for visible things

does

in

He

Spenser's beautiful poem.

as,

indeed,

it

invites us, after

learning Nature's lessons, to


"

Look

up

at last

to that sovereign light,

From whose pure beams


That kindleth love

in

all perfect beauty springs


every godly spright,
which loathing brings

Even the love of God


Of this vile world and these gay-seeming things
With whose sweet pleasures being so possessed,
;

Thy
This

We

is

straying thoughts henceforth for ever rest."

not the keynote of the later Nature-Mysticism.

now expect

that every

new

insight into the truth

of things, every enlightenment of the eyes of our under-

may

standing, which
faith,

love,

be granted us as the reward of

and purity of

around us appear, not

and more Divine.


opposite,

of

its

If

we could

as on

the

hymn which
it.

baser, but

the world

more

glorious

not a proof of spirituality, but

God's world seems to us a poor place.


it

as

God

morning of

sees

it

it,

creation,

"

would be

still,

as

The

very good."

ever ascending from the earth to the

is

God

throne of

if

see

It is

make

heart, will

and

viler

is

to be listened for, that

The laws by which

we may
are

creation lives

all

Mount up aloft through heavenly contemplation,


From this dark world, whose damps the soul do
On that bright Sun of glory fix thine eyes,
Cleared from gross mists of

frail

join in

to

be

blind,

infirmities."

Shelley sums up a great deal of Plotinus in the following stanza of

" Adonais"
" The One remains;
:

the

many change and

Heaven's

light for ever shines

Life, like

dome

earth's

of many-coloured glass,

Stains the white radiance of eternity."

Compare,

too, the

opening

lines of

" Alastor."

pass;

shadows

fly

NATURE-MYSTICISM AND SYMBOLISM


we

studied, that

beauty which

too

seems to be a

may obey

gift

of

and enjoy

The

the

for

lavishly,

it

who

alone are able to

it.

greatest prophet of this branch of contemplative

Mysticism

is

unquestionably the poet Wordsworth.

was the object of


I

so

God's pure bounty, to bring

happiness to the unworldly souls


see

As

them.

everywhere diffused

is

305

think there

end of the

is

roll

his life to

no incongruity

in

of mystical divines

His

with in these Lectures.

It

be a religious teacher, and


placing him at the

who have been

intellectual

dealt

kinship with

the acknowledged representatives of Nature-Mysticism


will, I

hope, appear very plainly.

Wordsworth was an eminently sane and manly spirit.


found his philosophy of life early, and not only
A Platonist by
preached but lived it consistently.

He

nature rather than by study, he

is

thoroughly Greek

his distrust of strong emotions and in his love of

in
all

He was

which the Greeks included under a-w^poavvT).

a loyal Churchman, but his religion was really almost

independent of any ecclesiastical system.

His

astical sonnets reflect rather the dignity of the

ecclesi-

Anglican

Church than the ardent piety with which our other poetmystics, such as Herbert, Vaughan, and Crashaw, adorn
the offices of worship.

His cast of

faith, intellectual

and contemplative rather than fervid, and the


ness of his thought, forbade him to find much
tion in

He would

pubHc ceremonial.

with Galen,

who

in

probably agree

a very remarkable passage says

that the study of nature,

if

prosecuted with the same

earnestness and intensity which

templation of the " Mysteries,"


20

solitari-

satisfac-

is

men

bring to the con-

even more

fitted

than

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

3o6

they to reveal the power and wisdom of

symbolism of

mysteries

t/ie

is

God

for " the

more obscure than that of

nature."

He

shows

his

affinity

with the modern spirit in his

Like George Fox and

grasp of natural law.

firm

William Law, he had to face the shock of giving up

his

There was a period

belief in arbitrary interferences.

when he lost his young faculty of generalisation when


he bowed before the inexorable dooms of an unknown
;

Lawgiver
of

"

was restored

intuition

categorical

the

imperative,"

him

to

till

fuller

in

the

gift

measure.

This experience explains his attitude towards natural

His reverence

science.

sanctity

iox facts

never failed him

and truth of nature," he

says,

tricked out with accidental ornaments

askance at the science which


Physics, he

philosophy.

study

its

and possesses

And

the poet.^

" If

in

plainly,
is

but he looked

is

an abstract

an abstraction for cer-

less truth

touched with

Then her

than the view of

fire

when

from the altar

heart shall kindle her dull eye,


Dull and inanimate, no more shall hang

Chained

And

the

must not be

yet he looked forward to a time

science, too, shall be


"

"

"
;

tries to erect itself into

saw

view of the world

tain purposes,

"

to its object in brute slavery."

a remarkable passage of the

the time should ever

"

come when

Prefaces" he says,
that which

is

now

^ Compare the following sentences in Bradley's Appearance and Reality :


" Nature viewed materialistically is only an abstraction for certain purThe poet's nature
poses, and has not a high degree of truth or reality.
has much more.
Our principle, that the abstract is the unreal, moves
.

us steadily upward.

...

our higher emotions.

absorbed into
reality."

spirit,

It compels us in the end to credit nature with


That process can only cease when nature is quite
and at every stage of the process we find increase in

NATURE-MYSTICISM AND SYMBOLISM


called science shall be ready to put on as

form of
spirit

flesh

and blood, the poet

to aid the transformation,

were a

it

lend his Divine

will

and

307

will

welcome the

Being thus produced as a dear and genuine inmate of

He

the household of man."

feels that

disinterested study of nature's laws

not in

the loving and

must

at last issue,

but in some high and spiritual


by the Word of God, who is Himself, as

materialism,

faith, inspired

said, " the

Erigena

Nature of

all things."

mind he is exceeded
by no mystic of the cloister. It may be said far more
truly of him than of Milton, that " his sdul was like
In his youth he confesses
a star, and dwelt apart."
that human beings had only a secondary interest for
him ^ and though he says that Nature soon led him
In aloofness and loneliness of

to

man,

it

was

to

man

was drawn, not

that he

he resembled

many

as a " unity," as " one spirit,"

men

to

has been said truly that

it

man

general than a
" sits

in

the centre

bright day,"

"

Herein

as individuals.^

other contemplative mystics

in

but

know man in
The sage who

" it is easier to

particular."

of his being, and there

does not really

know human

"

enjoys

beings as

persons.
will

It

be interesting to compare the steps

in the

ladder of perfection, as described by Wordsworth, with


the schemes of Neoplatonism and introspective Mystic-

The

ism.

three stages of the mystical ascent have

been already explained.


too,

had

We

find

that Wordsworth,

" Prelude,"

" Prelude,"

La Rochefoucauld.

These words, from Milton's " Comus," are applied

Hazlitt.

He began

his purgative, disciplinary stage.

viii.

340

sq.

"

to

viii.

66S.

Wordsworth by

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

3o8

by

deliberately crushing, not only the ardent passions

to

which he

all

ambition and love of money, determining to confine


"

himself to

us that he was naturally prone, but

tells

such objects as excite no morbid passions,

no disquietude, no vengeance, and


found

his

which

all

reward

no

and

hatred,"

a settled state of calm serenity, in

in

the thoughts flow like a clear fountain, and

have forgotten how to hate and how to despise.^

Wordsworth

First, there

life.

inculcate

to

who would proceed

guards for those


plative

careful

is

we must

safe-

contem-

must be strenuous aspiration

to reach that infinitude which

home

several

to the

our being's heart and

is

by " hope that


can never die, effort, and expectation, and desire, and
something evermore about to be." ^ The mind which
^
is set upon the unchanging will not " praise a cloud,"
but

will "

press forward, urged

tions,

Wordsworth

tries

always

separation

Hume's

In the spirit of

crave objects that endure."


contrasted with

Platonism, as

true

to
his

atheistic

will

see

in

principle

is

the
"

distinction

exact

aberra-

He

without

antithesis

of

things are conjoined,

The importance
The

later

blurred outlines.

Nature

dictum, that

but not connected."


" Prelude,"

have no

its

of this caution

Wordsworth's ethics
and unruffled
As Hutton says excellently (Essays, p. 81), "there is
outlook upon life.
volition and self-government in every line of his poetry, and his best
thoughts come from the steady resistance he opposes to the ebb and flow of
He contests the ground inch by inch with
ordinary desires and regrets.
all despondent and indolent humours, and often, too, with movements of
inconsiderate and wasteful joy turning defeat into victory, and victory
See the whole passage.
into defeat."
" Miscell. Sonnets," xii.
2 " Prelude," vi. 604-608.
" In nature every^ See the Essay in which he deals with Macpherson
'

iv.

1207-1229.

ascetic element in

should by no means be forgotten by those

who envy

his brave

thing

is distinct,

yet nothing defined into absolute independent singleness.

NATURE-MYSTICISM AND SYMBOLISM


been

has

reason

Again,

course

of our

" still

man

to be courted, never to be won."

may affect " even the very faculty of sight,"


man "look forth," or " dive into himself."^

Delusions

whether a
he

analogies

the

in

he knows that to imperfect

too,

a crown

is

degrees

demonstrated

fully

Then,

inquiry.

309

"

seek

us

bids

no

"

loose

no mythology

The symbolic

for

types

and

real,

of

not

fanciful

through

things

all

and no arbitrary symbolism.

value of natural objects

not that they

is

remind us of something that they are

not, but

that

they help us to understand something that they


part are.

They

from

earth into the clouds.

this

world of
our

are not intended to transport us

of us," he says boldly,

all

happiness

not at

or

still

God

small voice of

This earth
" in

all,

is

the

which we find

Lastly,

all." ^

perhaps the most important of


the

"

in

away

and

this

is

he recognises that

breathes not out of nature

alone, nor out of the soul alone, but from the contact

of the soul with nature.


intellect

of

man

to " this

It

is

the

marriage of the

goodly universe,

in

holy passion," which produces these raptures.


lect " includes

for

Reason

assist

Imagination, which

in

her most exalted

is

love and
" Intel-

but another

mood

^
;

these

name
must

the eye of sense.

In Macpherson's work
insulated, dislocated,

it

is

reverse everything
yet nothing distinct."

exactly the

deadened

is

defined,

"Excursion," v. 500-514.
This seemed flat blasphemy to Shelley, whose idealism was mixed with
" Nor was there aught the world contained of
Byronic misanthropy.
^

which he could approve."


' " Prelude," xiv. 192.
Wordsworth's psychology is very interesting.
" Imagination" is for him ("Miscellaneous Sonnets," xxxv.) a "glorious

faculty,"

whose function

it

is

to elevate the

more-than-reasoning mind

amaranthine flower of Faith," and "colour life's


dark cloud with orient rays." This faculty is at once " more than reason,"
"'tis hers to pluck the

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

3IO
Such

is

the discipline, and such are the counsels,

by

must prepare himself

to

which the
approach

of Nature

priest

her

And what

mysteries.

which contemplation revealed to him

The

first

way

step on the

are

the truths

God was

that leads to

the

sense of the boundless^ growing out of musings on the


finite

and with

it

the conviction that the Infinite and

Eternal alone can be our being's heart and

we

feel that

are greater than

we know."

home " we
Then came

him

to

"The
Of something

sense sublime

more deeply

far

interfused,

Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,


And the round ocean and the living air.
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man

motion and a

spirit,

that impels

All thinking things, all objects of all thoughts,

And

The

through

all

things."

worldliness and artificiality which set us out of

tune with
"

rolls

all this is

higher Pantheism

worse than paganism.^


"

all-pervading Personality, " a soul that

of thought."

And

of the nature of
his

own

God came

personality, a

thought to thought."
last

"

this

the eternity

is

with this heightened consciousness


also a deeper

knowledge of

knowledge which he describes

true mystical language

at

Then

developed into the sense of an

as

This

breathe in worlds

"

may
to

in

sinking into self from

continue

till

man can

which the heaven of

and identical with " Reason in her most exalted mood." I have said (p.
21 ) that "Mysticism is reason applied to a sphere above rationalism"
and this appears to be exactly Wordsworth's doctrine.
^ " Sonnets on the River Duddon," xxxiv.
^ " Lines composed above Tintern Abbey," 95-102.
* " Miscell. Sonnets," xxxiii.

NATURE-MYSTICISM AND SYMBOLISM


heavens

kingdom
last

but a

is
is

veil,"

and perceive

"

311

the forms whose

where time and space are

These

not."

Hnes describe a state analogous to the

of the

o\/rt9

Neoplatonists, and the excessus mentis of the Catholic

At

mystics.

may

advanced stage the

this

surrender

himself to

Of such minds he
flesh

Nature

mistrust.

says

"The
That

priest of

ecstasy without

can know

is

highest bliss

theirs

the

consciousness

Of whom they are, habitually infused


Through every image and through every thought,
And all affections by communion raised
From earth to^ heaven, from human to divine
...
Thence cheerfulness for acts of daily life,
;

Emotions which best foresight need not fear,


Most worthy then of trust when most intense."

There are many other places where he describes


this

" bliss

ineffable,"

when

" all

his

thoughts were

steeped in feeling," as he listened to the song which

every form of creature sings

" as

it

looks towards the

uncreated with a countenance of adoration and an eye


of love,"

that blessed

" In

mood

which the affections gently lead us

on,

Until, the breath of this corporeal frame,

And even the motion of our human blood


Almost suspended, we are laid asleep
In body, and become a living soul
While with an eye made quiet by the power
Of harmony, and the deep power of joy.
:

We
Is

it

see into the

life

of things."

not plain that the poet of Nature amid the

Cumberland

hills,

the Spanish ascetic in his

cell,

and

the Platonic philosopher in his library or lectOfe-room,

have been climbing the same mountain from


'

"

" "Prelude,"
" Prelude," xiv. 1 12-129.
" Lines composed above Tintern Abbey," 35-4S.

ii.

different
396-418.

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

312

The paths are


summit is the same.

sides

the

but the prospect from

different,

speak of collusion

It is idle to

or insanity in the face of so great a cloud of witnesses,

divided by every

had no

friar

the

circumstance

of date,

interest

nationality,

The Carmelite

and environment.

education,

creed,

confirming the testimony of

in

Alexandrian professor

and no one has yet had

the temerity to question the sanity of Wordsworth, or


of Tennyson, whose
"

they have
for all

hill

His holy place

off"

of the Lord

He

is

always

It

or

who

lifted

He

Lord, and

visible

holy mountain.

not

deceitfully.

of his salvation."

Who

shall

shall stand in

hath clean "^hands and a

that

who hath

nor sworn

blessing from the

God

common

in

"

mystic in the 24th Psalm,

for the

pure heart

have only one thing

life

observed the conditions laid down once

ascend into the

vanity,

to be a record of per-

These explorers of the high places

sonal experience.

of the spiritual

description of the Vision in his

now known

" is

Ancient Sage

The

"

soul unto

his

receive

the

righteousness from

the

shall

land which

very far

is

who have climbed

to those

may be

up

scaled

the

by the path of

prayer and mortification, or by the path of devout

study of God's handiwork

head

in

Natyre (and under

out by Wordsworth, but

that

hitherto

less

trodden

road which should lead the physicist to God)


lastly,

by the path of consecrated

world, which, as

it is

life

in

and,

the great

the most exposed to temptations,

perhaps on that account the most blessed of the


'

this

would wish to include not only the way traced

Wordsworth's Mysticism contains

are of more questionable value.

a few subordinate

is

three.^

elements which

The "echoes from beyond

the grave,"

NATURE-MYSTICISM AND SYMBOLISM


It

said
"

has been said of Wordsworth, as


of

other

mystics,

human

from half of

he

that

fate."

the

in

world,

eyes

have

as

consequent need of redemption,

many, too
Mysticism

little

in general.

both from the


It is

held by

affirm a

recognised

averts

is

that which

The

lies

existence of

great fact, and


is,

in

the

the opinion of

by Wordsworth, and by

This objection has been urged

and from the

scientific

many

been

Religious writers

beneath the shadow of the Cross.


evil

has
his

explained that the neglected half

positive

it

313

religious side.

students of Nature that her laws

Pessimism and not an Optimism.

"

Red

in

tooth and claw with ravine," she shrieks against the


creed that her

Maker

is

morality which she inculcates


jungle, or

at

best

that

God
is

of love.

The only

that of a tiger in the

of a wolf-pack.

" It

not

is

which "the inward ear" sometimes catches, are dear to most of us hut
we must not be too confident that they always come from God. Still less
can we be sure that presentiments are "heaven-born instincts." Again,
when the lonely thinker feels himself surrounded by "huge and mighty
forms, that do not move like living men," it is a sign that the "dim and
undetermined sense of unknown modes of being " has begun to work not
quite healthily upon his imagination.
And the doctrine of pre-existence,
which appears in the famous Ode, is once which it has been hitherto impossible to admit into the scheme of Christian beliefs, though many
Christian thinkers have dallied with it.
Perhaps the true lesson of the Ode
is that the childish love of nature, beautiful and innocent as it is, has to die
and be born again in the consciousness of the grown man. That Wordsworth
himself passed through this experience, we know from other passages in
his writings.
In his case, at any rate, the " light of common day" was,
;

more splendid than the roseate hues of his childish


and there seems to be no reason for
holding the gloomy view that spiritual insight necessarily becomes dimmer
What
as we travel farther from our cradles, and nearer to our graves.
for a

time at

least,

imagination can possibly have been

us as we get older is only that kind of vision which is analogous to the


"consolations" often spoken of by monkish mystics as the privilege of

fails

Amiel expresses exactly the same regret as Wordsworth


."
"Shall I ever enjoy again those marvellous reveries of past days?
See the whole paragraph on p. 32 of Mrs. Humphry Ward's translation.
beginners.

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

314
strange

Lotze)

(says

culture."

The answer

no

that

nature -religions have

any high pitch of morality or

raised their adherents to

to this

that Nature includes

is

man
man

as well as the brutes,

rate,

can exclude nothing from the domain of Nature.

And

and the merciful and moral


Physical science, at any

as well as the savage.

the Christian

may

say with

Nature includes, or rather

is

reverence

all

included by, Christ, the

Word of God, by whom it was made. And


was made flesh to teach us that vicarious
which we see to be the law of Nature,

all

alike a condition

not

suffers

but

is

Word

suffering,

a law of God,
for

of perfection, not a reductio

ad

existence.

Nature,

of

own

the

and therefore

a thing not foreign to His

absurdum of

that

The

life,

reductio

of selfish

shipwreck alike

in

ad absurdum

irrdividualism,

is

which

objective and in subjective

shadow of the
Cross lies across the world, that we can watch Nature
at work with " admiration, hope, and love," instead of
with horror and disgust.
The religious objection amounts to little more than
religion.

that

It

precisely because

is

Mysticism

problem of

evil,

has

not

that

the mystics

this
;

succeeded

in

solving

the

which no philosophy has ever attacked

with even apparent success.


reason

the

for

difficulty

It

has

is,

however, with some

been pressed against

they are bound by their principles to

attempt some solution, and their tendency has been to


attenuate the positive character of evil to a

somewhat

These objections are pressed by Lotze, and not only by avowed


Lotze abhors what he calls "sentimental symbolism " because
I venture to say that any philoit interferes with his monadistic doctrines.
sophy which divides man, as a being sui generis, from the rest of Nature,
is inevitably landed either in Acosmism or in Manichean Dualism.
^

Pessimists.

NATURE-MYSTICISM AND SYMBOLISM


dangerous degree.

But

if

we

315

the charges often

sift

brought by religious writers against Mysticism, we

shall

generally find that there

their

disapproval

bottom of

at the

lies

residuum of mediaeval dualism, which

wishes to see in Christ the conquering invader of a

kingdom.

hostile

In practice, at any rate, the great

mystics have not taken lightly the struggle with the

law of
the

in

sin

wounds

It

our members, or tried to


of the soul.^

quite true that the

is

and

cheerful

kingdom

" to

live

opinion," as

Whichcote says

anticipated

by

This

is

mystics have been

own minds, and who have enough

their

in

later

But those who have found_a

optimistic.

strength of character

'

" heal slightly "

arch

that

by reason and not by


a maxim which was

(in

enemy

of

Mysticism

perhaps the best place to notice the mystical treatise of James


is chiefly remarkable

Hinton, entitled Maji and his Divelling-place^ which


for its

attempt to solve the problem of

evil.

extremity the favourite mystical doctrine that

own

This writer pushes to an

we surround

ourselves with a

which we see
Apart from the
unlikelihood of a theory which makes man " the roof and crown of
things "
the only diseased and discordant element in the universe, the
writer lays himself open to the fatal rejoinder, "Did Christ, then, see no
world after our
in

Nature

is

the

likeness,

and considers

"projection of our

own

that all the evil

deadness."

sin or evil in the

as

world?"

The

doctrines of sacrifice (vicarious suffering)

a blessed law of Nature ("the secret of the universe

is

learnt

on

Calvary"), and of the necessity of annihilating " the self" as the principle

Our blessed Lord


no such yoke upon us, nor will human nature consent to bear it. The
"atonement" of the world by love is much better delineated by R. L.
Nettleship, in a passage which seems to me to exhibit the very kernel of
" Suppose that all human beings
Christian Mysticism in its social aspect.
felt permanently to each other as they now do occasionally to those they
love best.
All the pain of the world would be swallowed up in doing
good.
So far as we can conceive of such a state, it would be one in which
individuals at all, but an universal being in and for
there would be no
another where being took the form of consciousness, it would be the
consciousness of 'another' which was also 'oneself a common consciousness.
Such would be the atonement of the world."
of evil, are pressed with a harsh and unnatural rigour.
laid

'

'

'

'

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

3i6

than other men.

Epicurus), are likely to be happier

And, moreover, Wordsworth teaches us that almost,


quite, every evil

may

be so transmuted by the

which abides within the

if

not

" faculty

soul," that those " interpositions

which would hide and darken

may

"

"

become

contin-

gencies of pomp, and serve to exalt her native brightness "

even as the moon,

grove,

lofty

turns

more compassionate

he

dusky

the

behind a thick and

"

by the scenes
Whether

faith,

the one

is

to

Christian mystic,

that his love

in

deeper than for humanity.

which

But he does

held up by St. John for the

and sympathy

inanimate Nature were (at any rate

cusation

form a grave

the best representative.

short of the ideal

may

not

Mysticism of which

indictment against the type of

fall

feel

are in great trouble.

These charges, then, do not seem

Wordsworth

and

to a solution

and only consolation which we

mockery when we

to be a

which

a high and noble

is

it

made

this healing

way

purifying effect of sorrow points the

of the problem of evil or not,

is

-of horror

compelled to witness.

is

substance

into

veil

So the happy warrior

glorious as her own."


"

" rising

justly

And

if

in

there

his
is

for

poetry)

any

ac-

be brought against the

higher order of mystics (as opposed to representatives


of aberrant types),

think

and found God

sought

in

it

is

this

their

own

that they have


souls

and

in

men and
The grand

Nature, but not so often in the souls of other

women

theirs has

been a lonely

religion.

maxim, " Vides fratrem, vides Dominum tuum," has


been remembered by them only in acts of charity.
But in reality the love of human beings must be the

old

shortest road to the vision of God.

Love, as

St.

John

NATURE-MYSTICISM AND SYMBOLISM


teaches

us,

the great hierophant of the Christian

is

mysteries.

It gives

wings to contemplation and Hghtens

When

the darkness which hides the face of God.

emotions are deeply

human

affection

either quite

is

many

in

is

unmoved by

her lessons.

all

sordid

which derives half of

civilisation,

man who

power of human love

spiritualising

deeming principle

while the

her influences, or misreads

The

our

even Nature speaks to us

stirred,

with voices unheard before

without

317

the re-

is

Teutonic

lives,

energy

restless

its

from ideals which are essentially anti-Christian, and


tastes

which are radically barbarous,

sinking into moral materialism by

domestic

The sweet

life.

fraction of

is

to

Christ,

Him

named.

nearly

all

from

whom

a schoolmaster to bring

men

out that, though St.

is

without a

sense a symbol of our union

every family

deprive

some

but

it

Paul

in

heaven and earth

labour a thesis on which

It is needless to

are agreed

home

grossness and of

its

natural affection

It is in the truest

rival.

with

As

its evil.

prevented from

high standard of

influences of the

even mammon-worship of half

and women

is

its

may

felt

be worth pointing
unique value

the

of

Christian marriage as a symbol of the mystical union

of Christ and the Church, this truth was for the most
part lost sight

of

by the mediaeval mystics, who

monks
The romances
ment contains were

as

and priests were, of course, cut off from domestic

life.

of true love which the Old Testatreated as prophecies wrapped up

in riddling language, or as

plation.

models

Wordsworth, though

happy one, does not supply


chain.

his

for ecstatic

contem-

own home was

this link

The most noteworthy attempt

in

to

the mystical

do so

is

to

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

31

be found

Mysticism

way complementary

to

that of

resembles Wordsworth

in

always

this

in

is

He

Wordsworth,^

trying " to see the infinite


that "

This

worth study."

ive Mysticism, for


if "

that

things,"

in

but considers

(than the development of a soul)

else

little

Browning, whose

the poetry of Robert

in

is

Browning

as well aware as

is

perfected only "in the stream of the world."

him the
Divine
asks, "
first

friction of active

human

in

man.

How

Quite

for

and especially the ex-

necessary to realise the

"

as

do

safe,

human

human weal

such

is

With

the spirit of St. John he

in

produces carelessness to

punishments

it

life,

love, are

can that course be

cut yourself from

of

Goethe

a talent grows best in solitude," a character

perience of

is

not exactly a return to subject-

which from the

love

"

Do

not

there are strange

Solitude

so.^

"

is

the death

but the strongest virtue, and in Browning's view

all

also deprives us of the strongest inner witness to the

For he who

existence of a loving Father in heaven.


" finds love
this, as

in

creature.^

full
all

in

else,

his nature "

Since, then, in

know God, and

cannot doubt that

knowing love we

since the object of

the mystic's minor premiss,

(this,

in

the Creator must far surpass the

life is

is

to

taken

learn to

know God

for

granted

by Browning), it follows that love is the meaning of


life
and he who finds it not " loses what he lived for,
and eternally must lose it." * " The mightiness of love is
curled " inextricably round all power aud beauty in the
;

world.

The worst

fate that

can befall us

is

to lead " a

is another mystic of the same school.


^ Browning, "Saul,"
Browning, Paracelsus, Act i.
^Browning, "Cristina."
1
-

Charles Kingsley

xvii.

NATURE-MYSTICISM AND SYMBOLISM


ghastly smooth
esting

dead

life,

Especially inter-

the passage where he chooses or chances upon

is

Eckhart's image of the

and gives

soul,

at heart."

319

new

it

"

spark

" in

the centre of the

turn in accordance with his

own Mysticism
"

It

would not be because

my

eye grew dim

Thou

could'st not find the love there, thanks to

Who

never

Him

dishonoured in the spark


He gave us from His fire of fires, and bade
Remember whence it sprang, nor be afraid
While that burns on, though all the rest grow dark."
is

Our language has no separate words


Christian love

aino}')

"
;

(a'yd'rr'q

charity

caritas)

this

distinguish

from sexual love

has not established

"

Perhaps

wider meaning.

to

itself

lated into

But

strong

not forget that the ascetic element

us

let

in

seems to
our joys

Browning
indicate,

may be

ends gain ends


"

as

Wordsworth.

transexists.
is

as

Love, he

three parts pain," for " where pain

too."

Not

its

no exception to the rule that

is

"

in

(e/jtu?

in

not to be regretted

is

any rate Browning's poems could hardly be


any language in which this distinction

at

yet on thee

Shall burst the future, as successive zones

Of

several

wonder open on some

spirit

Flying secure and glad from heaven to heaven


But thou shalt painfully attain to joy,
While hope and fear and love shall keep thee man."^
;

He

even carries this law into the future

have none of a "joy which

is

life,

crystallised

and

for

Browning, " Christmas Eve and Easter Day," xxx., xxxiii.


Browning, " Any Wife to any Husband."
Compare Plato's well-known sentence 5t' oX-^rihtivwv koX
yiyyerai t) CxpiXeta, ov yap olov re dWus aSiKia^ airaWaTreadai.

will

ever."

'

Browning, Parace/sus.

oSvvuiv

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

320

Felt imperfection

we have

a proof of a higher birthright

is

arrived at the completion


"

men, then

own

shape sometimes

able

disappointments

apparent

through

success

verjr

is

assumes a question-

It

age,'-^

life

but Browning's trust

This

God,"

to

faith in unending progress as the law of

characteristic of our

if

of our nature as

anew a tendency

begins

^
:

even based on the consciousness of present

real

in

trust

failure

certainly one of the noblest parts of his religious

is

philosophy.

decided

have

my

end

to

survey of Christian

Mysticism with these two English poets.


be

hardly

appropriate,

of symbols,

Carlyle's

doctrine

religious

and other kinds of

wanting

is

word

when he deals with

The

great

acter

was

more

is

clothing

"

of

His philosophy
features

essential

too

religion,

American

of

any

than

And Emerson,

far.

is

mystic,

a very unsafe guide.

whose beautiful char-

humanity as

as noble a gift to
liable

"

discuss

hardly be called Christian with-

the

stretching

the

truth.

some of the

in

Mysticism, and can


out

as

would

It

to

place,

this

in

his writings,

whom we

of those

have

described to the reproach of having turned his back

on the dark side of


ness

Partly from a fastidious-

which could not bear even

ailments,
,dweller

made
fulness
^

life.

partly
in

from

new

the

to

country,

and

serenity,

Compare Pascal

he shut

" No one

is

because

partly

a principle of maintaining an

and

hear of bodily

optimism of the

natural

unruffled

he

cheer-

his eyes to pain, death,

discontented at not being a king, except

a discrowned king."

" Give her the


It is almost as prominent in Tennyson as in Browning
wages of going on, and not to die," is his wisli for the human soul.
:

NATURE-MYSTICISM AND SYMBOLISM


and

321

even more resolutely than did Goethe. The


is
built on this foundation has no

sin,

optimism which

message of comfort
that " evil

is

the stricken

for

only good

an ancient and discredited attempt

And

enigma.
out

in

to solve the great

world,

this

is

playing with pantheistic

meted

is

mere
him of

surely

Moreover, we can hardly acquit

dreaming.

say

to repeat

is

to assert that perfect justice

individuals

to

To

heart.

the making,"

in

Mysticism of the Oriental

type, without seeing, or without caring, whither such


"

speculations logically lead.


us, "

is

beauty,

universal
is

Within man," he

equally related

which every part and

to

the eternal One."

Pantheism, and should carry with

Emerson says
nomianism

equally

are

actions

all

that

He

agrees with

many

it

This

is

particle

genuine

the doctrine that

bad,

or

indifferent.

kept him

from

anti-

giving up the defence of his

is

also

good,
wife

his

but this

philosophy.

"

tells

the soul of the whole, the wise silence, the

from

differs

and

Christianity,

Hegelians, in teaching that

God,

the Over-Soul," only attains to self-consciousness in

man
in

and

combined with

this,

denial

his

of degrees

Divine immanence, leads him to a self-deification

of an arrogant and shocking kind, such as


in

and

the Persian Sufis,

own

"

Middle Ages.

of the

Perfect.

am

The

all.

through me.
to the

same

who have
21

I,

some

the

heretical

we

eyeball.

great

am

find

mystics

imperfect, adore

receptive of the

become a transparent
see

in

soul.

nothing.

my
I
I

currents of the universal Being circulate


I

am

effect.

travelled

part of

This

is

God

"

and much more</