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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
CO.

LONDON: METHUEN &

EXTRACT
FROM THE LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT
OF THE LATE

REV.

JOHN BAMPTON,

CANON OF SALISBURY.
" I give and bequeath

my Lands and
all

Estates to the

Chancellor, Masters, and Scholars of the University of Oxford

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

have and to hold
trust,

and

singular the said

and Estates upon inafter mentioned

and

to the intents

;

eight Divinity Lecture Sermons, to be established for ever in

the

said
:

University,

and

to

be performed

in

the

manner

following

" 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

St.

Mary's in Oxford, between the com-

mencement
the third

of the last
in

month

in

Lent Term, and the end of

week

Act Term.

VI

EXTRACT
" Also
I

direct

and appoint,

that the eight Divinity Lecture

Sermons
Subjects

shall

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
to confirm

;

;

the

Land
;

or Estates given for establishing the Divinity Lecture

Sermons

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
first

of the subjects which, according to the will of
are prescribed for the Lecturers

Canon Bampton,
his foundation,
is

upon
have

the confirmation and establishment of

the Christian faith.

This

is

the

aim which
;

I

kept

in

view

in

preparing this volume

and

I

should

wish

my

book to be judged as a contribution to apolothan as a historical sketch of Christian
I

getics, rather

Mysticism.
hesitation,

say

this'

because

I

decided, after

some
the
object

to

adopt

a historical

framework
cause

for

Lectures, and this arrangement
to

may

my

be

misunderstood.

It

seemed to me that the
development and operahistory,

instructiveness of tracing the
tion

of mystical ideas, in the forms which they have
forces
in

assumed as active
and
narrative.

outweighed

the

disadvantage of appearing to waver between apology

A

series

of historical essays would, of

course, have been quite unsuitable in the University
pulpit, and,

moreover,
Until

I
I

did not approach the subject

from that

side.

began

to prepare the Lectures,

about a year and a half before they were delivered,

my
was

study of the mystical writers had been directed solely

by

my own
to

intellectual

and
the

spiritual

needs.
in

I

attracted

them

in

hope of finding
life

their

writings a philosophy and a rule of

which would

viii

PREFACE
my mind
;

satisfy

and conscience.

In this

I

was not

disappointed
profit

and thinking that others might perhaps
I

by following the same path, together and publish the results of reading. In such a scheme historical
out of place or of secondary value
will
;

wished to put

my
and

thought and

details are either
I

hope

this

be remembered by any historians who

may
from
I

take

the trouble to read

my

book.
subject
is

The
point

philosophical
of view of

side of the

my
have

much

greater importance.

done
those
are

my

best to acquire an adequate knowledge of

philosophies, both

ancient and modern, which

most akin
out

to speculative
position.

Mysticism, and also to
I

think

my own
in
I

hope that

I

have

succeeded
that what

indicating

my
have

general

standpoint, and
fairly consistent

have written
;

may

prove
felt

and

intelligible

but

I

keenly the disadin

vantage of having missed the systematic training
metaphysics
given

by the Oxford school of
I

LitercB

Huinaniores, and also the difficulty (perhaps

should

say

the

presumption)
to

of

addressing

metaphysical
several

arguments

an

audience
I

which

included
I

eminent philosophers.
for his system, so far as

wish also that

had had
;

time for a more thorough study of Fechner's works
I

understand

it,

seems to

me

to

have

a great interest and value

as a

scheme of

philosophical

Mysticism

which

does not clash with

modern
I

science.
will

have spoken with a plainness which
offence

probably

give

of the

debased

supernaturalism
in

which

usurps the
countries.

name
I

of

Mysticism
insult

Roman

Catholic

desire to

no man's convictions

PREFACE
and
print
it

ix

is

for

this

reason that

I

have decided not to
{^La

my

analysis of Ribet's

work

Mystique Divine,
Nouvelle
intended to

distinguh

des

Contrefa<^ons
3
It

diaboliques.

Edition, Paris, 1895, form an Appendix.

vols.),

which

I

would have opened the eyes
science

of

some of
between
I

my

readers to the irreconcilable antagon-

ism

the

Roman Church and

;

but
faith-

though
fully,

translated and summarised
all

my

author

the result had
I

the appearance of a malicious
this
"

travesty.

have therefore suppressed
to

Appendix
Mysticism

;

but
there

with
is

regard
in

Roman

Catholic

no use
in

mincing matters.

Those who
this

find

edification

signs
"

and wonders of

kind,

and
if

think

that

such

supernatural

phenomena," even

they were well authenticated instead of being ridiculous
fables,

could
or

possibly establish

spiritual

truths,

will in

find

little

nothing to please or interest them

these

pages.

But those who reverence Nature and
"

Reason, and have no wish to hear of either of them
being
with
"

overruled
in

or " suspended," will,

I

hope, agree

me

valuing highly the later developments of

mystical thought in Northern Europe.

There
have but
"

is

another class of

"

mystics

"

with

little

sympathy
" is,
its

whom

I

the dabblers in occultism.

Psychical research
;

no doubt, a perfectly legitimate

science

but when

professors invite us to watch the

breaking down of the middle wall of partition between

matter and

spirit,

they have,
in

in

my

opinion, ceased to

be

scientific,

and are
of
"

reality

hankering after the

beggarly elements of the later Neoplatonism.

The charge

pantheistic

tendency

"

will

not,

I

hope, be brought against

me

without due considera-

X
tion.
I

PREFACE
have
tried to
is

show how the Johannine Logosbasis

doctrine,
differs

which

the

of Christian

Mysticism,

from Asiatic Pantheism, from Acosmism, and
of)

from (one kind

evolutionary IdeaHsm.
is

Of

course,

speculative Mysticism
;

nearer to Pantheism than to

Deism but I think it is possible heartily to eschew Deism without falling into the opposite error.
I

have received much help from

many

kind friends

;

and though some of them would not wish to be
sociated with
all

as-

of

my

opinions,

I

cannot deny myself

the pleasure of thanking

them by name.

From my
relations,

mother and other members of
especially

my

family,

and

Mr.

have received

W. W. How, Fellow of Merton, I many useful suggestions. Three past
now Fellow
of

or present colleagues have read and criticised parts of

my

work
;

the Rev. H. Rashdall,

New
Mr.

College

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

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

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

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
him

the kindness to read the whole of the eight Lectures,

and so added
for his

to the great debt

which

I

owe

to

books.

The Rev.
library,

J.

M.

Heald,

formerly

Scholar of Trinity, Cambridge, lent

from
cism

his

fine

and

by inquiring

me many books for me at

Louvain enabled
which
are
Universities.

me

to procure the

books on Mysti-

a

special

now studied in Roman Catholic The Rev. Dr. Lindsay, who has made study of the German mystics, read my

Lectures on that period, and wrote

me

a very useful

PREFACE
letter

xi

upon them.

Miss G. H. Warrack of Edinburgh
to use her

kindly allowed

me

modernised version of
Lecture and it is more general acquaintis

Julian of Norwich.
I

have ventured to say
earnest conviction

in

my

my last

that a

ance with mystical theology and philosophy
desirable in the interests of the English

very

Church

at the

present time.

I

am

not one? of those

who

think that

the points at issue between Anglo-Catholics and Anglo-

Protestants
Aristotle's
(7rda€c<;

are trivial

:

history has always

confirmed

famous dictum about parties

^'uyvoviaL al

ov irepl fxcKpwv

Trepl

/u,eyaXo3v

aW

e'/c

fXLKpwv,
far

cnaaid^ovat he
despair of our

but

I

do not so

Church, or of Christianity, as to doubt that a reconciling principle

must and

will

be found.

Those who
will

do
to

me

the honour to read
I

these Lectures

see

what quarter

look for a mediator,

A

very short

study would be sufficient to dispel some of the prejudices which

still

e.g:,

that

its

professors are unpractical dreamers,
is

hang round the name of Mysticism and
antagonistic to the English
fact, all

that this type of religion

mind.

As

a matter of

the great mystics have
their business

been energetic and
city
is

influential,

and

capaof

specially noted in a curiously large

number

cases.

For instance, Plotinus was often

in

request as

a

guardian
as

and trustee
;

;

St.

Bernard
as

showed great
a

gifts

an organiser

St.

Teresa,

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
;

;

John Smith was an excelhis diocese

Fenelon ruled

extremely well

;

and

Madame Guyon

surprised those

xii

PREFACE
aptitude for
of high
re-

who had deahngs with her by her great Henry More was offered posts affairs.
sponsibiHty

and

dignity,

but

declined
I

them.

The

mystic

is

not as a rule ambitious, but
for practical

do not think
life, if
it

he often shows incapacity
sents
to

he con-

mingle

in

it.

And

so far

is

from being

true that Great Britain has produced but few mystics, that
I

am

inclined to think

the subject might be ade-

quately studied from English writers alone.

On

the

more

intellectual

side we have (without going back to

Scotus Erigena) the Cambridge Platonists,
Coleridge
;

Law and
attractive
;

of devotional mystics
in

we have

examples

Hilton and Julian of Norwich
^

while in

verse the lofty idealism

and strong
It

religious bent of

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

no other country can
in

rival.

has not been possible

these

Lectures to do justice to
" the
all

George Herbert,
Let
suffice to

Vaughan who have

Silurist,"

Quarles, Crashaw, and others,
well.
it

drunk of the same

say that the student who

desires to master the history

of Mysticism in Britain will find plenty to occupy his
time.

But

for the religious public in general the

most

useful

thing would be a judicious selection from the

mystical writers of different times and countries.

Those

who
'

are

more

interested in

the practical and devo-

tional than the speculative side
It is really

may

study with great

time that

we

took to burning that travesty of the British

character

— the John Bull whom our comic papers represent " guarding his pudding" — instead of Guy Fawkes. Even in the nineteenth century,
hands of the empirical school, our own thinkers

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

idealists.

PREFACE
profit

xiii

some
the

parts

of St. Augustine, the
Genna?iica,

sermons of
Sca/e

Tauler,

TJieologia

Hilton's

of

Perfection,

the

Life of

Sales and Fenelon, the

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 mentioned.
for those
I

can think of no course of study more
to revive in themselves

fitting

who wish
it its

and others

the practical idealism of the primitive Church, which

gained for
I

greatest triumphs.
this

conclude

Preface

with

a

quotation

from

William
"

Law on

the
I

value of the mystical

writers.
in a

Writers like those
Dr. Trapp,

have mentioned," he says
there have been in
all

letter to

"

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

at last

some people have
though,
if

hardly heard of that very

name

:

a

man

were to be told what

is

meant by a mystical
is

divine,

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

he was told what

meant by a

real,

regenerate,

living

member

of the

mystical body of

Christ

;

for

they were thus called for no other reason

than as Moses and the prophets, and the saints of
the Old Testament,

may

be called the spiritual

Israel,
their-

or the true mystical Jews.
office of

These writers began

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

xiv

PREFACE
They were deeply learned in kingdom of God, not through the
critics,
life.

inward and outward.
the mysteries of the

use of lexicons, or meditating upon

but because

they had passed from death unto

They highly

reverence and excellently direct the true use of every-

thing that
king's

is

outward

in religion
all

;

but, like the Psalmist's

daughter, they are

glorious within.

They
;

are truly sons of thunder, and sons of

consolation

they break open the whited sepulchres
the heart, and

;

they awaken

show
it
it.

it its

filth

and rottenness of death

but they leave
raised

not

till

the

kingdom of heaven
all

is

up within
and

If a

man

has no desire but to be
that renovato be

of the spirit of the gospel, to obtain
tion of
life

spirit

which alone can make him
it

in Christ a

new

creature,

is

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.

General Characteristics of Mysticism

II.

The

Mystical Element in the Bible

..... .....

(i) In the

PACK
3

39

III. Christian Platonism and Speculative Mysticism

East
IV. Christian Platonism and Speculative Mysticism

77


.

(2)

In the

West
V. Practical and Devotional Mysticism
VI. Practical and Devotional Mysticism
VII. Nature- Mysticism and Symbolism
. .

125
.

.167
.

VIII. Nature-Mysticism

continued

..... ......
and " Mystical

continued

.

.

213

249 299

Appendix A,

Definitions

of

" Mysticism "

Theology"

335
Mysteries and Christian Mysticism
of Deification

Appendix

B.

The Greek

Appendix

C.

The Doctrine

.....
Solomon

.

349
356 369

Appendix D. The

Mystical Interpretation of the Song of

Index

373

LECTURE

I

"'H.iJ.'ti>

Sk diroSeiKT^ov ws
rj

^tt'

evrvxlq^ rji /xeylffrji

Tapa OeQp
dTncrros,

ii

toio.'utt)

fiavla

SWoraf

8^

dij

awdSei^ts

iarai

beivdls

fi^v

(XOKpoh

di

^^"^n"

Plato, Phadrus, Es
spricht kein Gott
;

p. 245.

" Thoas.

es spricht dein eignes Herz.

Iphigenia.

Sie reden nur durch unser

Herz zu uns."

Goethe,
"Si
notre vie est moins qu'une journ^e
r^ternel;
si

Iphigenie.

En

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,

le

repos ou tout

le

monde

aspire,
!

Li
Tu De

est I'amour, la le plaisir

encore
ciel

Li, 6

mon ame,

au plus haut

guid^e,

y pourras reconnaitre I'id^e la beautt^ qu'en ce monde j'adore

!

Old Poet.

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
LECTURE
" Beloved, now are we children of God, and
what we
like
it

I

General Characteristics of Mysticism
is

not yet

made

manifest

shall be.
;

We

know

that, if

Him

for

we
in

shall see

Him

even

He shall be manifested, we shall as He is." — i John 2, 3.
iii.

be

No

word

our language

— not

even

"

Socialism "
"

has been employed more loosely than

Mysticism."

Sometimes

it is

used as an equivalent for symbolism or

allegorism, sometimes for theosophy or occult science

and sometimes

it

merely suggests the mental state of

a dreamer, or vague and fantastic opinions about

God

and the world.

In

Roman

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
I

is its

connotation.^

It is therefore

should

make

clear at the outset

what

I

understand by the term, and what aspects of religious
life

and thought

I

intend

to

deal

with

in

these

Lectures.

The
^

history of the

word begins

in

close connexion
and Mystical Thea-

See Appendix

A

for

definitions

of Mysticism

logy.
3

4

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM A
mystic
(/aucttt?'?)

with the Greek mysteries.^
has been, or
is

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?;?.'-^
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
life

congenial to their speculative views.

But as the
"

tendency towards quietism and introspection increased

among them,
found

another derivation

for "

Mysticism

was

it

was explained to mean deliberately shutting
all

the eyes to
sequel
into

external things.^
later

We

shall see in the

how this

Neoplatonism passed almost entire
forming
the
basis

Christianity, and, while

of

mediaeval Mysticism, caused a false association to cling
to the

word even down to the Reformation.'* The phase of thought or feeling which we

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
material of

5

has
all

its

origin

in

that

which
all

is

the

raw

religion,

and perhaps of

philosophy

and

art as well,
is

namely, that dim consciousness of the
part of our nature as

beyond, which

human

beings.

Men have given
if

different

names

to these

"

obstinate ques-

tionings of sense and outward things."

We may call them,

we

will,

a sort of higher instinct, perhaps an anticipa;

tion of the evolutionary process

or an extension of

the frontier of consciousness

;

or, in religious

language,
arises

the voice of

God speaking

to us.

Mysticism

when we
Mysticism

try to bring this

higher consciousness into
Religious

relation with the other contents of our minds.

may

be defined as the attempt to realise the

presence of the living
or,

God

in

the soul and in nature,

more generally,

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, I

say, the
it

raw material of

all religion.

But, being itself formless,

cannot be brought directly were
all
is

into relation with the forms of our thought. Accordingly,
it

has to express

itself

by symbols, which are
It is

as

it

the flesh and bones of ideas.

the tendency of

symbols to petrify or evaporate, and either process
fatal

to them.

They soon repudiate their mystical
lose their religious content.

origin,

and forthwith

Then
life

comes a return
unbelief.

to the fresh springs of the inner

a revival of spirituality in the midst of formalism or

This

is

the historical function of Mysticism

it

appears as an independent active principle, the
of reformations and revivals.

spirit

But since every
a
speculative

active principle

must

find for itself appropriate instru-

ments,

Mysticism

has

developed

and

6

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
of of
its

practical system
"

own.
heart,
it

As Goethe
the

says,

it

is

the

scholastic

the

dialectic

of
to

the

feelings."

In

this

way
in

becomes possible
it
it

con-

sider

it

as a type of religion, though

must always
has incorpor-

be remembered that

becoming such

ated elements which do not belong to

its

inmost being.^

As

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

the following propositions or articles of faith
First,

the

soul (as well
'^v-^]<^

as

the body)

ca7i

see

and

perceive

eVrt 8e

aia6t](jl^ re?, as

Proclus says.

We

have an organ or faculty

for

the discernment of
is

spiritual truth, which, in its

proper sphere,

as

much

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.
^

"

What

It

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

mystical

movement may be expected to exhibit characteristics which are determined by the particular forms of religious deadness in opposition
to

which

it

arises.

I

think that

it

is

generally easy to separate these

secondary, accidental chaiacteristics from
integral,

those which are

primary and

and

that

we

shall then find that the underlying substance,

which
is

may be
"

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

strikingly uniform.

imitated

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."
:

Lotze (Microcosmus, and
Plotinus for this argument.

cf.

Metaphysics, ist ed.,

p.

109) falls foul of

" The
It is

reality of the external

world

is

utterly

severed from our senses.

vain to call the eye sunlike, as
it

if it

needed

a special occult power to copy what

has

itself

produced

:

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

is

consistent

with the subsequent

dogmatic assertion that "nature

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
:

attraction for mystics of another school.

CHARACTERISTICS OF MYSTICISM
we
are, that

7

we behold

;

and what we behold, that we

are," says

Ruysbroek,

The
"

curious doctrine which
is

we
at

find in the mystics of the
" the

Middle Ages, that there
a spark

apex of the mind
for.

which

is

consubis

stantial with the uncreated

ground of the Deity,

thus

accounted
our
us^

We
if

could not even begin to work out

own

salvation

God were
His
felt

not already working in

It is

always

" in

light " that "

we

see light."

The

doctrine has been

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
itself,

finite

we might

possibly explain the

thought of
is

but not the thought of something that

outside finite reasonable beings, far less the absolute

idea, in its contents infinite, of

God.

To become aware

of

God

in

knowledge we require certainly to make a
of our
finite
itself is

freer

use

power of thought, but the
primarily and essentially an

thought of God
mind."

eternal operation of the eternal revelation of
finite

God

to the

But though we are made

in the

image of

God, our likeness to

Him

only exists potentially.^
us,

The

Divine spark already shines within

but

it

has to be

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


as

"

Without
it is

man may
in

see the

pressed
"

positively

the

Lord" or, Sermon on
;
:

ex-

the

Mount,

Blessed are the pure in heart

for

they shall see God."

Sensuality and selfishness are absolute disqualifications
for
^

knowing

"

the things of the Spirit of God."
is

This distinction

drawn by Origen, and accepted by

all

the mystical

writers.

8

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
These fundamental doctrines are very
clearly laid
I

down

in

the passage from St. John which

read

as
is

the text of this Lecture.

The

filial is

relation to

God

already claimed, but the
likeness to
is

vision

inseparable from

Him, which

is

a hope, not a possession, and

only to be
pure."

won by

" purifying ourselves,

even as

He

is

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,
" interest

is

love}

Love
"
;

has been defined as
while others have

in

its

highest power

^

said that "

it is

of the essence of love
is

to be disinterested."

The

contradiction

merely a verbal

one.

The two
goal.

definitions

mark
"

different starting-points,

but the two " ways of love

should bring us to the

same

The
"

possibility of disinterested love, in the
in

ordinary sense, ought never to have been called
question.

Love
is

is

not

love

"

M'hen
to

it

asks

for a

reward.

Nor
tries

the love of

man
in

God any

exception.

He who

to

be holy

order to be happy will

assuredly be neither.

In the words of the Theologia
as a

Germanica,

"

So long
it

man

seeketh his

own

highest

good because
^

is

his,

he

will

never find

it."

The
William

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

try to separate

them, and indeed they need not be separated.
their operation
is

Law's account of

characteristic.

"When

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,
us, so
it

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.
attracts
:

CHARACTERISTICS OF MYSTICISM
mystics
here
are

9
St.

unanimous, though

some, like

Bernard, doubt whether perfect love of

be attained, pure and without
this
life.^

alloy,

God can ever while we are in
and
will

The controversy between Fenelon
is

Bossuet on this subject

well

known, and few

deny that Fenelon was mainly
he had an easy task
"

in the right.

Certainly

in justifying his

statements from

the writings of the saints.
ourselves with the

But we need not trouble mystic paradox," that it would be

better to be with Christ in hell than without

Him

in

heaven


is,

a statement which
in his
:

Thomas

a Kempis once

wrote and then erased
Christ
there
is

manuscript.

For wherever
eternal

heaven

nor should

we regard
"

happiness as anything distinct from
tion of the

a true conjuncor

mind with God."
:

above law
miserable."

^

He could not To believe
in.

God is not without make men either sinful
^

"

or

otherwise

is

to suppose an

irrational universe, the

one thing which a rational

man
aim

cannot believe

The

mystic, as

we have

seen,

makes

it

his

life's

to be transformed into the likeness of

Him

in

whose

image he was

created.*

He

loves to figure his path

as a ladder reaching from earth to heaven, which

must
is

be climbed step by

step.

This scala perfectionis

generally divided into three stages.
^

The

first is

called

"Nescio
si

si

apprehenditur, ut se scilicet diligat

a quoquam homine quartus (gradus) in hac vita perfecte homo tantum propter Deum. Asserant
xi. 8).

hoc
"^

qui experti sunt: mihi (fateor) impossibile videtur " {De diligendo
the Cambridge Platonist.
irepi

Deo, XV.; Epist.

From a sermon by Smith,
\.

Plotinus, too,

says well, ef rts dXXo eZSos
airovhcuov ^lov ^TjTet {En?iead
"*

rjdovTJs

tov crTrovdaTov ^Lov ^tjtu, ov rbv

4.

12).
,

From

Smith's sermons.
olos iaai /xaOuif is

*

Pindar's yipoio

a fine mystical

maxim.

[Pyth.

2.

131-)

lo

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
life,

the purgative

the second the illuminative, while
really the goal

the third, which
of the journey,

is is

rather than a part
life,

called

the unitive

or state of

perfect contemplation.^

We

find, as

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
is
life,
life,

of the mystics.

The

first

stage,

we
this

read in the Theologia Gennanica,

brought about by contrition, by confession, by hearty
;

amendment
intended
include the

and
civic

is

the usual language in treatises

for

monks.

But

it

is

really
in
;

intended
this

to

and

social

virtues
it is

stage.^

They occupy
means

the lowest place,

true

but this only
all,

that they

must be acquired by

though

all

are not called to the higher flights of contemplation.

Their chief value, according to Plotinus,
the

is

to teach us

meaning of

oj'dej'-

and limitation

(rd^L'i

and

iripa'i),

which are
This
is

qualities

belonging to the Divine nature.
it

a very valuable thought, for

contradicts that

aberration of Mysticism which calls

God

the Infinite,
all

and thinks of
distinctions
in

Him
the

as

the

Indefinite,

dissolving

abyss

of

bare

indetermination.

When Ewald
^

says, " the true mystic never

withdraws
life

Strictly, the unitive

road {via) leads to the contemplative

(vita).

Cf.

Benedict, xiv.,

De

Servoruin Dei

beaiijic.,

iii.

26,

" 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."

Molinos was quite a heterodox mystic in

teaching that there
position
-

is

but a "unica via, scilicet interna," and this probut they are not, as

was condemned by a Bull of Innocent XI.
;

In Plotinus the civic virtues precede the cathartic
lie

with some perverse mystics, considered to

outside the path of ascent.

CHARACTERISTICS OF MYSTICISM
himself wilfully from the business of
life,

1

no, not even
rate,

from the smallest business," he

is,

at

any

saying

nothing which conflicts with the principles of Mysticism.^

The purgative
does
as
it

life

necessarily includes self-discipline

:

necessarily include
?

what
be

is

commonly known
to

asceticism

It

would

easy

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

this
" ?

an

integral
shall

part

of the

mystic's

upward path
while
a

We

find

reason to conclude
austere
all

that,

certain

degree
life

of

simplicity

characterises the outward

of nearly

the mystics,
is

and while an almost morbid
in

desire to suffer
in

found

many

of them, there

is

nothing

the system itself

to

encourage

men

to maltreat their bodies.
life,

Mysticism
Moreover,
itself,

enjoins a dying
asceticism,

not a living death.

when regarded
us,

as a virtue or duty in

tends to isolate

and concentrates our attention on
This
is

our separate individuality.
spirit

contrary to

the

of Mysticism, which aims at realising unity and

solidarity everywhere.
it

Monkish asceticism
live

(so far as

goes beyond the struggle to

unstained under

^

Tauler

is

careful to put social service

on

its

true basis.

"One

can

spin,'^he says, "another can

make shoes; and

all

these are gifts of the

Holy;Ghost.
gift that I

I tell

you,
to

if I

was able

make

were not a priest, I should esteem it a great shoes, and would try to make them so well
In a later Lecture
I shall revert to

as to be a pattern to all."

the charge

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

R. L. Nettleship, Remains,

12

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

unnatural conditions) rests on a dualistic view of the

world which does not belong to the essence of Mysticism.
It infected all

the religious

life

of the Middle Ages, not

Mysticism only.^

The second
centration of
all

stage, the illuminative

life, is

the confeeling,

the faculties,
differs

will, intellect,

and
life,

upon God.

It

from the purgative
in
"

not in

having discarded good works, but
perform them, as Fenelon says,
that
is

having come to
as virtues,"

no longer

to say, willingly
is

and almost spontaneously.
life.

The

struggle

now

transferred to the inner

The

last

stage of the journey, in which the soul

presses towards the mark,

and gains the prize of
or

its

high calling,

is

the

unitive

contemplative

life,

in

which

man

beholds

God

face to face,
is

and

is

joined to

Him.

Complete union with God
annihilation.

the ideal limit of
its

religion, the

attainment of which would be at once
It is in

consummation and
but
religion
subsists.^

the continual

unending approximation

to

it

that

the

life

of
re-

We
its
is

must therefore beware of
end
part

garding the union as anything more than an
process,

infinite

though, as

is

of the
it

eternal

counsel of God, there

a sense in which

is

already

a fact, and not merely a thing desired.
^

But the word
raro

In a

Roman

Catholic manual

I

find:

" Non

sub

nomine
ascesis

theologire mysticse intelligitur etiam ascesis, sed immerito.

Nam

consuetas tantum et tritas perfectionis semitas ostendit, mystica autem

adhuc excellentiorem viam demonstrat."
curious

This theology " with the higher rungs of the ladder.

is

to identify

"mystical

It

has been used in this

manner from
science speciale,

the
fait

Middle Ages.

Ribet says,

" La mystique,

comme
namely,

partie de la theologie ascetique"; that part,

"dans

lequel

souveraine de Dieu."
vers Dieu."
-

I'homme est reduit a la passivite par Taction "L'ascese" is defined as "I'ascension de I'ame

Cf. Professor

W.

Wallace's collected Lectures

and Essays,

p. 276.

CHARACTERISTICS OF MYSTICISM
deification holds a very large place in

13

the writings of

the Fathers, and not only
called mystics.

among
it

those

who have been

We

find

in

Irenaeus as well as in
in

Clement,
St.

in

Athanasius as well as
is

Gregory of Nyssa.
Latin
is

Augustine

no more afraid of
in

" deificari " in

than Origen of deoTroieladat

Greek.

one of primary importance to
understand mystical theology
to enter into the
;

The anyone who
it

subject

wishes to
for us

but

is difficult

minds of the ancients who used these expressions, both because 0e6<; was a very fluid concept
in

the early centuries, and

because

our notions

of

personality are very different

from those which were
this
latter

prevalent in antiquity.

On
;

point

I

shall

have more to say presently
belief in " deification,"

but the evidence for the

and

its

continuance through the

Middle Ages,

is

too voluminous to be given in the

body of these
that

Lectures.^

Let

it

suffice

to say

here

that though such bold phrases as "

God became man,
of

we might become God," were commonplaces
theology at least
till

doctrinal

after Augustine,

even
the

Clement and
"

Origen
"

protest

strongly

against

very impious
"

heresy that

man
^

is " a part

of God,"
of

or

consubstantial

with

God."

The

attribute

Divinity which was chiefly in the minds of the Greek

Fathers when they
imperishableness.

made

these statements, was that of

As

to the

means by which
is

this

union

is

manifested

to the consciousness, there
^

no doubt that very many

See Appendix

C

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."
-

14

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
in,

mystics believed

and looked

for, ecstatic revelations,
is

trances, or visions.

This, again,

one of the crucial

questions of Mysticism.

Ecstasy or vision begins when thought ceases,
consciousness,

to

our

to

proceed

from
the

ourselves.
is is

It

differs
It

from
differs

dreaming, because

subject

awake.

from hallucination, because there
:

no organic

disturbance

it

is,

or claims to be, a temporary en-

hancement, not a partial disintegration, of the mental
faculties.

Lastly,

it

differs
is

from poetical inspiration,
passive.

because the imagination

That perfectly sane people often experience such
visions

there

is

no manner of doubt.

St.

Paul

fell

into a trance at his conversion,
period,

and again

at a later

heaven.

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

recorded their experiences in words which
quoting.

may be worth

Wordsworth,

in

his

well-known

"

Lines composed

above Tintern Abbey," speaks of
"

That serene and blessed mood,

In which

.

.

.

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

life

of things."

And Tennyson
^

says,^ "
i.

A

kind of waking trance
The

I

Life of Tennyson, vol.

p.

320.

curious experience, that the
is

repetition of his

own name induced

a kind of trance,

used by the poet

CHARACTERISTICS OF MYSTICISM
have often had, quite from boyhood, when
all
I

15

have been
through

alone.

This has generally come upon

me

repeating
silently,

my own name
all

two or three times to myself
out of the intensity of the
the
individual
itself

till

at once,

consciousness

of

individuality,

seemed
and
this

to dissolve

and fade away

into boundless being

not a confused state, but the clearest of the

clearest,

and the surest of the

surest, the weirdest of

the weirdest, utterly beyond words, where death was

an almost laughable impossibility, the
(if

loss of personality

so

it

were) seeming no extinction, but the only true

life."

Admitting, then, that these
actually occur,

psychical

phenomena
In
it

we have

to consider

whether ecstasy and

kindred states are an integral part of Mysticism.

attempting to answer this question, we shall find
convenient
to

distinguish

between

the

Neoplatonic

vision of the super-essential

One, the Absolute, which

Plotinus
once,

enjoyed
the
all

several

times,

and

Porphyry only
"

and
in

visions

and and
trained

"

locutions

which

are

reported

times

places,
in

especially

where
of

people have not been

scientific

habits

thought and observation.

The former was
I

held to be

an exceedingly rare privilege, the culminating point of
the contemplative
life.

shall

speak of
it

it

in

my

third

Lecture

;

and
the

shall

there

show that
which

belongs, not to
to Christianity,

the essence of Mysticism, and

still less

but

to

Asiatic

leaven

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.

i6
ism.

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
As
regards
visions
in

general,

they were no
a

invention of the mystics.

They played
are

much more
to

important part

in

the

life

of the early Church than
willing

many

ecclesiastical
for

historians

admit.

Tertullian,

instance, says calmly, "

The

majority,
implicit
visions,

almost, of
reliance

men

learn

God from

visions."

^

Such

was placed on the Divine authority of
Patriarch

that on one occasion an ignorant peasant and a married

man was made
will,

of Alexandria against his

because his dying predecessor had a vision that

the

man who

should bring him a present of grapes
his successor
!

on the next day should be
of time
visions

In course

became

rarer

continued

frequent

among

the

among the laity, but monks and clergy.

And

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

attached very

much importance
faith.^

to them, or often

appealed to them as aids to

As
saint,

a rule, visions

were regarded as

special

rewards

bestowed

goodness of God on the struggling
the hour of need.
that no efforts

by the and especially
in

on the beginner, to refresh him and strengthen him

Very earnest cautions were issued must be made to induce them artificially,
to desire them,

and aspirants were exhorted neither
nor to
^

feel

pride in having seen them.
in

The

spiritual

See the very interesting note

Harnack, History of Dogma, vol.

i.

p. 53.

^

The Abbe Migne

says truly,

" Ceux qui

traitent les
ils

mystiques de

visionnaires seraient fort etonnes de voir quel peu de cas

font des visions

en elles-memes." And sanctum nee ostendunt
vidit

St.
:

Bonaventura says of

visions,
esset,

"Nee
et

faciunt

alioquin

Balaam sanctus

asiua, qua;

Angelum."

CHARACTERISTICS OF MYSTICISM
come
;

17

guides of the Middle Ages were well aware that such

experiences

often

of

disordered

nerves

and

weakened digestion
says,
"

they believed also that they are

sometimes delusions of Satan.

Richard of

St.

Victor

As

Christ attested

His transfiguration by the

presence of Moses and Elias, so visions should not be
believed unless they have the authority of Scripture."

Albertus

Magnus

tries

to classify them,

and says that

those which contain

a sensuous
is still

element are always
cautious,

dangerous.
attaches

Eckhart
value

more

and Tauler
Spanish

little

to

them.

Avila,

the

mystic, says that only those visions which minister to

our spiritual necessities, and
genuine.

make

us more humble, are us

Self-induced

visions

inflate

with pride,

and do
It

irreparable injury to health of
falls

mind and body.^

hardly

within

my

task to attempt to deter-

mine what these visions

really are.

The

subject

is

one upon which psychological and medical science

may
must

some day throw more
say, to

light.

But

this
:

much
I

I

make my own

position clear

regard these

experiences as neither more nor less "supernatural"

than other mental phenomena.
tainly pathological
^
;

2

about others we

Many of them may feel

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

following passage from St. Francis de Sales

effect

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
est plus belle

;

de maniere que

si

I'extase

douteuse et
-

que bonne, plus lumineuse digne de soupfon."

qu'affective, elle est

grandement

Some

of

my

readers

may

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

r.8

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
" for

but some have every right to be considered as real
irradiations

of the soul

from the light that

ever

shines," real notes of the
souls."

In illustration

harmony that " is in immortal of this, we may appeal to three
and counsels of God are
ecstatic visions.

places in the Bible where revelations of the profoundest
truths concerning the nature

recorded to have been

made during

Moses

at

Mount Horeb

heard, during the vision of

the burning bush, a proclamation of

God

as

the

" I

am
in

"

the Eternal
"

who

is

exalted above time.

Isaiah,

the words

Holy, Holy,

Holy," perceived

dimly
the

the

mystery of the Trinity.

And
God

St.
is

Peter, in

vision of the sheet, learned that

no respecter of
in its best

persons or of nationalities.
intuitions or revelations,

In such cases the highest

which the soul can

for,

moments just receive, but cannot yet grasp make a language for themselves, as it
the
is

or account

were, and

claim

sanction

of

external

authority, until the

mind
less

elevated so far as to feel the authority not
external.

Divine, but no longer

We may
that "

find

fairly

close analogies in other forms of
is

Divine
of
the

madness," which Plato says
chiefest blessings granted to

men

"

—such

" the

source

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
vacuity.

their

find only

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."
yet, while a
is

"a And

whole nature desolate of all animal figurations whatever," waste, silent solitude, and one uniform parchedness and

not aware

how he

;

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

19

And

even the philosopher or
prised into

man

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,
state

some such

the

hair

stands up, the

breath

is

caught,

the

skin

contracts,
It
is

and a cold sword
sublime

pierces to the very soul.

the

which
is

has

manifested

itself!"^
e.g:

Even when

in cases

where there

evident hallucination,

the visionary sees an angel or devil sitting on

his book, or feels

an arrow thrust into his heart, there
In periods
things

need be no insanity.
believed that

when

it is

commonly

such

may and do

happen, the

imagination, instead of being corrected by experience,
is

misled by

it.

Those who honestly expect
them, without

to see

miracles will

generally see

detriment

either to their truthfulness or sanity in other matters.

The
reason,"

mystic, then,

is

not, as

such, a visionary
faculty "

;

nor

has he any interest in appealing to a
if

above

reason

is

used

in

its

proper sense, as the

logic of the

whole personality.

The
it,

desire

to

find

for our highest intuitions

an authority wholly external

to reason

and independent of

natural

"

revelation,

a " purely super"

has, as

Recejac says,

been the

cause of the longest and the most dangerous of the
aberrations from which Mysticism has suffered."

This

kind of supernaturalism
ideas of God, the world,
slur

is

destructive of unity in our
;

and ourselves

and

it

casts a

on the

faculties

which are the appointed organs

of communication between
^

God and man.
;

A

revela-

Plato, Plucdrus, 244, 245

Ion, 534.

-

Lacordaire, Conferences, xxxvii.

20
tion

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
absolutely transcending

reason

is

an absurdity
In
is

no

such

revelation

could ever

be

made.

the

striking phrase of Macarius, " the

human mind

the

throne of the Godhead."
is

The supremacy
the

of the reason
Platonists,

the favourite theme of

Cambridge
spirit

two of whom, Whichcote and Culverwel, are never
tired

of quoting the text,

"

The
I

of

man

is

the

candle of the Lord."
spiritual," writes
is

" Sir,

oppose not rational to

Whichcote

to

Tuckney,

" for spiritual
is

most

rational."

And
life
:

again, "
it

Reason

the Divine
^

governor of man's

is

the very voice of God."
if
is

What we

can and must transcend,
in

we would make
not reason, but

any progress

Divine knowledge,

that shallow rationalism which

regards the data on

which we can reason as a fixed quantity, known to
all,

and which bases
us

itself

on a formal

logic, utterly

unsuited to a spiritual view of things.

only furnish

with

poor,

Language can misleading, and wholly
;

inadequate images of spiritual facts

it

supplies us

with abstractions and metaphors, which do not really
represent what

we know
St. series
"
;

or believe

about
attention

God and
to
:

human
live,
I

personality.

Paul

calls

this
"
I

inadequacy by a
yet not
I "

of formal contradictions

dying, and behold
I

we

live "
;

"
;

when

am
'

weak, then

am

strong,"

and so forth

and we

Compare,
:

too, the vigorous

of the group

"lie

that misbelieves
fall

reason in things that
of hankering after
ridiculous as

words of Henry More, the most mystical and lays aside clear and cautious under the discussion of reason, upon the pretence
principle (which, a thousand to one, proves
is

some higher

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

as

he would not use his natural eyes about

their

proper

object

till

the presence of

some supernatural
to look through."

light, or

till

he had got a

pair of spectacles
to

made

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

hang upon

his nose for

him

CHARACTERISTICS OF MYSTICISM
find exactly

21
is

the

same expedient
therefore,

in

Plotinus,

who

very fond of thus showing his contempt
of
"

for the logic

identity.
is

When,

Harnack

says

that

Mysticism

nothing else than rationalism applied
"

to a sphere

above reason," he would have done better
it
^

to

say that

is

reason applied to a sphere above

rationalism."

For Reason
every

is

still "

king."
St.

^

Religion must not be

a matter oi feeling only.
spirit "

or inspiration

command to " try condemns all attempts to make emotion independent of reason. Those who thus
John's
it

blindly follow the inner light find

no

"

candle

of

the Lord," but an ignis fatuus
are well aware of this.
to

;

and the great mystics
tendency

The

fact is that the

separate and half personify the different faculties
intellect,
will,

feeling

is

a mischievous one.

Our

object should be so to tmify our personality, that our

eye

may

be single, and our whole body

full

of light.

We
set

have considered

briefly the three stages of the

mystic's

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

there

nothing to prevent
saint

the

simplest

and

most

unlettered
principles.

from framing his conduct on these
of the

Many

medieval mystics
;

had no
and
above

taste for speculation or philosophy

^

they accepted on

authority the

entire

body of Church

dogma,
'
'

^

There

is,

reason."
^
^

But

of course, a sense in which any strong feehng Hfts us this is using "reason " in a loose manner.

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

Roman

Catholic writers can assert that "la plupart des contemplatifs

etaient depourvus de toute culture litteraire."

But

their notion of

"con-

templation"
subject

is

the passive reception of "supernatural favours,"

— on which

more

will

be said in Lectures IV. and VII.

22

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

devoted their whole attention to the perfecting of the
spiritual
this
life

in

the knowledge and love of God.

But

cannot be said of the leaders.
in history largely as

Christian Mysticism

appears

an intellectual movement,
;

the foster-child of Platonic idealism
time,
it

and

if

ever, for a

forgot
it

its

early history,

men were soon found
nurse the Platonic
the
third

to bring

back to
It

" its old loving

philosophy."

will

be

my

task, in

and

fourth Lectures of this course, to

show how

speculative
;

Christian Mysticism grew out of Neoplatonism
shall not

but

we
in

be allowed to forget the Platonists even
"

the later Lectures.

The

fire

still

burns on the altars

of Plotinus," as Eunapius said.

Mysticism
it

is

not

itself

a philosophyf-any
its

more than
it

is

itself

a religion.
"

On

intellectual side
^

has

been called

formless speculation."

But

until specula-

tions or intuitions

have entered into the forms of our

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

The
to

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

is

parallel
it

religion

appears

revolt

against

dry formalism
it

and

cold

rationalism, so in philosophy

takes the
It
is

field

against
to

materialism

and

scepticism.-

thus possible

speak of speculative Mysticism, and even to indicate
certain idealistic lines of thought, which
entire falsity be called

may

without

the philosophy of Mysticism.
I

In this introductory Lecture
at these
in

can, of course, only hint

the

barest and most

summary manner.
I

And
^

it

must be remembered that
ist

have undertaken

"Die Mystik
8.

formlose Speculation," Noack, Christliche Mystik,

p.

1

^

The

Atomists, from Epicurus downwards, have been especially odious

to the mystics.

CHARACTERISTICS OF MYSTICISM
to-day
to

23
of

delineate

the

general

characteristics
I

Mysticism, not of Christian Mysticism.

am

trying,

moreover, in this Lecture to confine myself to

those

developments which
excluding
shall

I

consider normal

and

genuine,

the

numerous

aberrant

types

which we
this school,

encounter

in the course of

our survey.

The
is

real world,

according to thinkers of
will of

created

by the thought and
It
is

God, and exists

in

His

mind.

therefore

spiritual,

and above

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

set out as a process.

When we
reality, the

try to represent to our
spiritual world, as

minds the highest

distinguished from the

world of appearance,

we

are obliged to form images

and we can hardly avoid choosing one of the following
three images.

We may

regard the spiritual world as

endless duration opposed to transitoriness, as infinite

extension opposed to limitation in space, or as substance

opposed

to

shadow.

All

these are, strictly

speaking, symbols or metaphors,^ for

we cannot regard

any of them

as
;

literally

true

statements about the

nature of reality

but they are as near the truth as

we can
eternity

get in words.

But when we think of time as

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

only

in

the future and not in the present
as

when we think of heaven
^

a place somewhere

else,

The

theory that time
It
is

is

real,

but not space, leads us into grave
least
first

diffi-

culties.

the

root

of the

satisfactory

kind of evolutionary

optimism, which forgets, in the
progress in time
is

place, that the idea of perpetual

hopelessly at variance with what
;

we know

of the
is

destiny of the world

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.

in the realisation of

24

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
;

and therefore not here
ideal world

when we think of an upper
all

which has sucked
in

the

life

that

we now walk

a vain shadow,

out of

this,

so
are

then

we

paying the penalty

for

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

us.

One

test

is

infallible.

Whatever
is

view of reality deepens our sense of the tremendous
issues of
life

in the

world wherein we move,

for us

nearer the truth than any view which diminishes that
sense.
life,

The

truth
it

is

revealed to us that

we may have
sees
it,

and have

more abundantly.
it
is,

as

The world we see it.

as

is

the world as
is

God

not

Our

vision

distorted, not so

much by

the limitations of

finitude, as

by

sin

and ignorance.

The more we can
the

raise ourselves in

the scale of being,

more

will

our ideas about
reality.
"

correspond to the
are,

God and the world Such as men themselves
to

such will

God Himself seem

them

to be," says

John Smith, the English
that

Platonist.

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
those
beautiful passage, says that he felt that he
into a

was

rising

higher

circle,

because he saw Beatrice's face

becoming more

beautiful.^
reality,

This view of
^

as a vista

which
ii.

is

opened
Referred

Origen

in

Matth., Com. Series, lOO
viii.

;

Contra Celsum,

64.

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

Paradiso

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."

CHARACTERISTICS OF MYSTICISM
very near to the heart of Mysticism.

25

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

It

rests
is

on
the

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

It

has been applied by some, notably by that

earnest but fantastic thinker,

James Hinton,
evil.

as offering

a solution of the problem of

We

shall

encounter

attempts to deal with
the Christian mystics.
lative writers

this great difficulty in several of

The problem among

the specu-

philosophy,

of religion,

was how to reconcile the Absolute of who is above all distinctions,^ with the God who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity.
in

They

could not allow that evil has a substantial exist-

ence apart from God, for fear of being entangled
insoluble Dualism.

an

But
?

if evil

is

derived from God,

how can God be good
vailing
"

We
"

shall find that the pre-

view
is

was

that

Evil

has

no

substance."
"

There

nothing," says

Gregory of Nyssa,

which

falls

outside of the Divine nature, except moral evil

alone.

And

this,

we may say

paradoxically, has

its

being

in not-being.

For the genesis of moral
the

evil is

simply the privation of being.^
speaking, exists,
is

That which, properly

nature of the good."
words,
is

The

Divine nature,

in other

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

everything
falsehood,

except

hatred,
beautifies
falls

verifies

everything

except
ugliness.

and

everything

except

Thus

that

which

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

26
of

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
God, proves
on
examination
as
is

to

be

not

merely

unreal, but
evil to the

unreality

such.

But the relation of

Absolute

not a religious problem.
as

To
not

our

experience, evil

exists

a

positive

force

subject to the law of God, though constantly overruled

and made an instrument of good.

On

this subject

we

must say more later. Here I need only add that a sunny confidence in the ultimate triumph of good
shines

from
I

the

writings
in

of

most

of the

mystics,

especially,

think,

our
all

own countrymen.
optimistic
;

The
in

Cambridge Platonists are
beautiful

and

the

but

little

known
in

Revelations of Juliana
after
is

of

Norwich, we find
"

page
"

page the

refrain

of

All shall be well"
well,

Sin

behovable,^ but

all shall

be

and

all

manner
is

of thing shall be well."

Since the universe

the thought and will of

God

expressed under the forms of time and space, everything in
it

reflects the

nature of

its

Creator, though in

different degrees.

Erigena says

finely, "

Every

visible

and

invisible creature is a

theophany or appearance of
is

God."

The
this

purest mirror in the world

the highest

of created things

the

human

soul unclouded

by

sin.

And
falls

brings us to a point at which
classes.

Mysticism

asunder into two

The

question which

divides

them
shall

is

this

— In

the

higher stages of the spiritual of the nature of
observation
of

life,

we

learn

most
our

God by
world

close,

sympathetic, reverent
us,

the

around

including

fellow-men, or by sinking into the depths of our inner
consciousness, and aspiring after direct and

constant

communion with God
^

?

Each method may claim the

I.e.

"necessary" or "expedient."

CHARACTERISTICS OF MYSTICISM
support of weighty names.

27

The

former, which will

form the subject of
is

my

seventh and eighth Lectures,

very happily described by Charles Kingsley in an
letter.^

early
belief

"
is

The

great Mysticism," he says, "

is

the

which

becoming every day stronger with me,
.
. .

that

all

symmetrical natural objects
truth
or existence.
if

are types of
.

some
seems
.
. .

spiritual

.

.

Everything

to be full of God's reflex
see, if

Oh, to

but for
!

we could but see it. a moment, the whole harmony
music which the
it

of the great system

to hear once the

whole universe makes as

performs

His

bidding
is

When
me,
I

I

feel that

sense of the mystery that

around

feel
its

a gush of enthusiasm towards God, which

seems

inseparable effect."

On

the other side stand the majority of the earlier

mystics.

Believing that

God

is

" closer

to

us than

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

impatient of any intermediaries.
for

"

We

need not search

His footprints

in
is

Nature,
their

when we can behold His
St.

face in ourselves,^

answer to

Augustine's
^

fine expression that all things

bright and beautiful in

the world are " footprints of the uncreated Wisdom."

Coleridge has expressed their feeling in his "

Ode

to

Dejection

"

"

It

were a vain endeavour.
I

Though

should gaze for ever
;

On that green light that Hngers in the West I may not hope from outward forms to win
The
"

passion and the Hfe whose fountains are within."

Grace works from within outwards," says Ruysbroek,
^

Life, vol.
J.

i.

p. 55.
v.
l),

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

Smith, Select Discourses,

28
for
it

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
God
is

nearer to us than our

own

faculties.

Hence
"If

cannot come from images and sensible forms."
"

thou wishest to search out the deep things of God,"
says Richard of St. Victor,
thine

search out the depths of

own spirit." The truth is
and

that

there are

two movements,
life,

systole

diastole of the spiritual

— — an expansion
generally been

and a concentration.
to

The tendency has
for

emphasise one at the expense of the other; but they
each
says
^

must work together,
other.

is

helpless without the

As Shakespeare
"

Nor doth

the eye

itself,

That most pure Not going from

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

to itself
is

mirrored there.

Where

it

may

see

itself."

Nature

is

dumb, and our own hearts

are

dumb,

until

they are allowed to speak to each other.
will

Then both
itself

speak to us of God.

Speculative

Mysticism

has occupied

largely

with these two great subjects
in

the

immanence
I

of

God

nature,

and the

relation

of

human

personality to

Divine.

A

few words must be
of
existence
is

said, before

conclude,

on both these matters.

The Unity
of Mysticism. centre
is

all

is

a fundamental doctrine
all is in

God

in all,

and

God.

"

His

everywhere, and His circumference nowhere,"
it.

as St. Bonaventura puts

It

is

often arguerd that

this doctrine leads direct to

Pantheism, and that specu-

lative

Mysticism
^

is

always and necessarily pantheistic.
and
Cressida^

Troilus

Act ni. Scene

3.

CHARACTERISTICS OF MYSTICISM
This
It
is
is,

29

of course, a question of primary importance.
the hope of dealing with
it

in

adequately that

I

have selected three writers who have been frequently
called pantheists, for discussion in these Lectures.
I

mean Dionysius
Eckhart.

the Areopagite, Scotus Erigena, and

But

it

would be impossible even
in

to indicate

my

line of

argument
are

the few minutes

left

me

this

morning.

The mystics

much
"

inclined

to

adopt,

in

a

modified form, the old

notion

of an

anima

inundi.

When

Erigena says,

Be

well assured that the

Word
all

the second Person of the Trinity
things," he

is

the Nature of

means

that the

Logos

is

a cosmic principle,
is

the Personality of which the universe

the external

expression or appearance.^

We
lations,

are not

now concerned
bearing
obvious.

with cosmological specu-

but
is

the

of this

theory

on
is

human

personality

If the

Son of God

regarded
principle,

as an all-embracing

and all-pervading cosmic

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,
;

iv.

12, vii. 5),

regards the universe as a living organism
later in

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
accordance with these speculations.

He

views

life

under the figure of a

number
circle

of concentric

circles of consciousness,

within an all-embracing

which represents the consciousness of God.

30

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
is is

exercises the mystics
fusion of personalities

not whether such a thing as
possible,

but whether,
its

when
is

the soul has attained union with longer conscious of a
life

Lord,

it

any

distinct

from that of the
best mystics

Word.

We

shall

find

that

some of the

went astray on
tion of the

this point.

They

teach a real substitu-

Divine for

human

nature, thus depersonalising

arrogance.

man, and running into great danger of a perilous The mistake is a fatal one even from the
it is

speculative side, for

only on the analogy of

human

personality that
ality
falls

we can

conceive of the perfect person-

of

God

;

and without personality the universe
Personality
is

to pieces.

not only the strictest
;

unity of which

we have any experience
the
based.
postulate

it

is

the fact
all

which creates
philosophy
is

of

unity on which

But

it

is

possible to save personality without re-

garding the

human
is

spirit

as

a

monad, independent
spirits.

and sharply separated from other
not separation,
separation, not
error,

Distinction,
;

the

mark of
that

personality
forbids

but

it

is

distinction,

union.

The
is

according

to

the

mystic's

psychology,
the

in

regarding
personality.
able,

consciousness

of self as

measure of
of

The depths

of personality are unfathom-

as

Heraclitus

already

knew

;

^

the

light

consciousness only plays on the surface of the waters.

Jean Paul Richter
istic

is

a true exponent of this charactersays, "

doctrine

when he

We

attribute far too small

dimensions to the rich empire of ourself, if we omit from it the unconscious region which resembles a
^

\6yov

V'X'?^ Treipara ovk ^xf'i ^''^^- 7^-

h.v

e^evpoio Tracrav iirnropevdfj.ei'Oi

odoV ovtu ^adiiv

CHARACTERISTICS OF MYSTICISM
great dark continent.

31

The world which our memory
its

peoples only reveals, in
points at a time, while

revolution, a few luminous

its
.

immense and teeming mass

remains
passing

in

shade.

.

.

We
;

daily see the

conscious

into unconsciousness

and take no notice of

the bass accompaniment which our fingers continue to
play, while our attention
effects."
^

is

directed to fresh musical
self of

So

far

is it

from being true that the
is

our immediate consciousness
that

our true personality,

we can only
off as

attain personality, as spiritual
limits

and

rational beings,

by passing beyond the
separate individuals.
say,
is

which

mark us
viduality,

Separate indi-

we may

the bar which prevents us

from realising our true privileges as persons.^
the mystic interprets very literally that

And

so

maxim

of our

Lord, in which

many have found
:

the

fundamental
life

secret of Christianity

"

his soul, his personality


"

He

that will save his
it
;

shall lose

and he that

will

lose his

life

for

must

die

My

sake shall find

it."

The

false self
is

nay, must
is

die daily," for the process
limit to
it.

gradual, and there
infinite

no

expansion

It is a

process of

of realising
affinities

new correspondences,
with the not-ourselves,
in

new sympathies and
which
tute,
affinities

condition,

and

conditioning constiis

our true

life

as persons.
Compare,

The paradox

offensive
"Within

^

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

too, Lotze, Microcosnius

:

us lurks a world whose form

we

when

in particular phases

it

imperfectly apprehend, and whose working, comes under our notice, surprises us with foreitself the

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
;

condi-

to

complete per-

or rather, since personality belongs unconditionally only to

God,

to such a

measure of personality as
attainment of
full

is

allotted to us.

Eternal

life is

nothing

else than the

personality, a conscious existence in

God.

32

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
logic.

only to formal
one,
I

As

a matter of experience, no

imagine, would maintain that the

man who

has

practically realised, to the fullest possible extent, the

common
mean, as

life

which he draws from
other created beings,

his

Creator, and
it,

shares with

all

so realised

I

to

influences which can play

draw from that consciousness all the upon him from outside,
person than another
individuality,

has thereby dissipated and lost his personality, and

become
the
life

less of a

who has

built a

wall round

his

and

lived, as Plato says,

of a

shell-fish.-^

We may
that
science.

same conclusion by analysing unconditioned sense of duty which we call conarrive at the

This
in

moral

sense cannot

be a fixed

code

implanted

our consciousness, for then

we

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.
'
'

feeling that

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
being
lost in
life,

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
is

God. which

[Rather,

I

should say, through the bliss of

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
in
its

33

limitations

which we

the

greatest

minds.
is

which explains the

facts

that in conscience

The only hypothesis we feel
itself,

the motions of the universal Reason which strives to

convert the

human organism
is

into an organ of
in

a belief which

expressed

religious
in

language by

saying that

it

is

God who worketh
Which
calls
?

us both to will

and

to
it

do of His good pleasure.
be further asked,
is

If

our personality, the
or the ideal
self,

shifting

moi

(as

F^nelon

it),

the
it is

end or the developing
is in

states

we must answer
at once both

that

both and neither, and that the root of mystical religion
the conviction that
it is

and

neither.^

The moi
"

strives to realise its end, but the

infinite one,

no process can reach
to

it.

end being an Those who have
"

counted

themselves

have
;

apprehended

have

thereby

left

the mystical faith

and those who from

the notion of a progressus

ad

infinitum

come

to the

pessimistic conclusion, are equally false to the mystical
creed,
ally
"

which teaches us that we are already potentito become.

what God intends us

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 transcending mere individuality.

The independent, impervious
by being inwardly discordant.
life,

self
It is
if
I

shows

its

unreality

of no use to enlarge the circumference of our
is

the fixed centre

always the

ego.

There
with

are, if

may

press

the

metaphor, other

circles

other

centres, in

which we are
^

vitally involved.

And

thus

See, further,

Appendix C, pp. 366-7.

3

34

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
love,

sympathy, or
power,
is

which

is

sympathy
" a

in

its

highest

the great atoner^ within as well as without.

The
onel'

old
^

Pythagorean maxim, that
echoed by
is

is

all

the mystics.
is

as

God

one,

and the world
mirror
of

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

microcosm, a

living

the

universe.

Here,

once more, we have a characteristic mystical doctrine,

which
great

is

perhaps worked out most fully

in the

*'

Fo7is

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

influence

in

the

Middle Ages.

The

doctrine

justifies
is

the use of analogy in matters of religion, and

of great importance.
all

One might almost
about the world
the

dare to
us

say that

conclusions

above

which are not based

on

analogy

of our

own
in

mental experiences, are either

false or

meaningless.

The

idea of

man

as a

microcosm was developed
every
is

two ways.
intelligible,

Plotinus said that "

man

is

double,"

meaning that one
careful

side of his soul

in contact

with the

the other with the sensible world.

He

is

to

explain

that

the doctrine of

Divine

Im-

manence does not mean that God

divides

Himself

among

the

many

individuals, but that they partake of

Him

according to their degrees of receptivity, so that
is

each one
of God.
"

potentially in possession of

all

the fulness

Proclus tries
sorts of

to explain

how

this

can be.

There are three
;

Wholes

— the

first,

anterior to
;

the parts

the second, composed

of the parts

the

third, knitting into
^

one stuff the parts and the whole."^
Cf.

«Va yeviijBai rbv SLvQputrov Set: Pythagoras quoted by Clement.

Plotinus,

Enn.
t]

vi.

9.

i,

koL iiyUia 8i, Sraf

eh

iv crvvTaxdrj t6 aw/xa, Kal
aperrj St
'/'I'XV*

KciWos brav
^f Kal
-

tov

fvi)s to. fxbpia
iviofffj.

KardaxV

4"^<^^^,

'*'"'

^Tav

fi'y

eh

p.lat>

bfioXoyiav

Proclus,

]>i

Titn. 83. 265.

CHARACTERISTICS OF MYSTICISM

35

In this third sense the whole resides in the parts, as
well as the parts in the whole.
St.

Augustine states
It

the

same doctrine

in

clearer

language.^

will

be

seen at once

how

this doctrine
" sink

encourages that class of
into the depths of our

Mysticism which bids us

own souls " in order to find God. The other development of the
microcosm
individual
race, in
tell
is

theory that

man

is

a

not

less

important and interesting.

It is

a favourite doctrine of the mystics that man, in his
life,

recapitulates the spiritual history of the

much

the

same way
evolution.

in

which embryologists
follows

us that the unborn infant recapitulates the whole

process

of physical

It

that

the

Incarnation, the central fact of

human

history,

must

have

its

analogue
find

in the

experience of the individual.

We
in

shall

that this doctrine of the birth of an
is

infant Christ in the soul

one of immense importance

the systems of Eckhart, Tauler, and our Cambridge
It is

Platonists.
shall see
;

a

somewhat

perilous doctrine, as
I

we

but

it is

one which,

venture to think, has a

future as well as a past, for the progress of

science

has

greatly
I

strengthened

the

modern analogies on

which

it

rests.

shall

show

in

my

next Lecture

how

strongly St. Paul

felt its

value.
will, 1

This brief introduction
the

hope, have indicated

main

characteristics
It
is

of

mystical
is

theology

and

religion.

a type which
19:

as repulsive to

some
et

'Aug. Ep.
diversitate,
Jlin.
alii

187.

" Deus
alii
:

totus

adesse

rebus omnibus potest,

singulis totus, quamvis in quibus habitat habeant
aniplius, 5

eum pro
et

suae capacitatis

minus."

More

clearly

nienl.

ad Deum,

" Totum

intra

omnia,

still, Bonaventura, totum extra ac per
:

hoc

est sphaera intelligibilis,

cuius centrum est ubique, et circumferentia

nusquam,"

36
minds as
it

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
is

attractive to others.
is

Coleridge has said

that everyone

born a Platonist or an Aristotelian,

and one might perhaps adapt the epigram by saying
that

everyone

is

naturally

either

a

mystic

or

a
to
;

legalist.

The

classification

does,
in

indeed,

seem

correspond to a deep difference
it is

human

characters

doubtful whether a

man

could be found anywhere

whom
let

one could
us say

— Fdnelon and
and
as
will

trust to hold the scales evenly

between
is

Bossuet.

The cleavage

much

the

same

as that which causes the eternal strife

between tradition and illumination, between priest and
prophet, which has produced the deepest tragedies in

human
ception

history,

probably continue to do so

while the
of

world

lasts.

The

legalist

—with

his

con-

God

the

righteous
"

Judge dispensing
" in

rewards and punishments, the
"

Great Taskmaster
to

whose vineyard we are ordered
Gospel as
the

labour

;

of the

new

law,"

and of the sanction of duty

as a " categorical imperative "

will

never find

it

easy to
St.

sympathise with those whose favourite words are
John's triad

light, life,

and

love,

and who

find

these

the most suitable names to express what they
the nature of God.

know

of

But those to

whom

the Fourth

Gospel

is

the brightest jewel in the Bible, and

who can
will,
I

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

hope, be able to take

some

interest in

the historical

development of ideas which
certainly built

in their

Christian form are

upon those parts of the

New

Testament.

LECTURE

II

37

"To
Oib^

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

i'fjv

varepov ws

xopvywv-"

Clement ok Alexandria.
own good
self:
life

"But

souls that of Ilis

partake

He

loves as His

own
;

dear as His eye

They

are to

Him

He'll never

them forsake

:

When
They

they shall die, then
live,

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

St.

Victor

S8

LECTURE
The Mystical Element
" That
Christ

II
in

the Bible
;

may
is

dwell in your hearts by faith

to the

end that ye,
all

being rooted and grounded in love,
the saints what

may be

strong to apprehend with

the breadth and length and height and depth, and to

know
with

the love of Christ which passeth knowledge, that ye

may be

filled

all

the fulness of

God."— Eph.

iii.

17-19.

The
I

task which

now

Hes before

me

is

to consider

how
reI

far that

type of rehgion and rehgious philosophy, which
in

tried

my

last

Lecture to depict

in

outline,

is

presented in
shall
for

and sanctioned by Holy

Scripture.

devote most of

my

time to the

New

Testament,

we shall not find very much to The Jewish mind and character, in
Ireligious

help us in the Old.
spite of
its

deeply
first

bent,

was

alien to

Mysticism.

In

the

place,

the religion of Israel, passing from what

has

been called

God

Henotheism


as

the worship

of a

national
rigid

to true

Monotheism, always maintained a

notion of individuality, both

human and
its

Divine.

Even
in

prophecy, which
early

is

mystical in

essence,

was

the

period
is

conceived

unmystically as

possible.
is

Balaam
to

merely a mouthpiece of

God

;

his

message
ideas

external to his personality, which remains antagonistic
it.

And, secondly, the Jewish doctrine of
from the Platonic.

was

different

The Jew

believed that

the world,

and the whole course of

history, existed

40
from
the
all

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
eternity in the

mind of God, but

as an un-

realised purpose,
scroll

which was actualised by degrees as

of events

was unfurled.
in
reality.

There was

no

notion that the visible was in any
invisible,

or

lacking
it

way inferior to the Even in its later
Hellenised, Jewish

phases, after

had been
not, like

partially

idealism tended to crystallise as Chiliasm, or in "
calypses,"

Apo-

and

Platonism, in the dream of a
In
fact,

perfect world existing " yonder."

the Jewish

view of the external world was mainly that of naive
realism, but strongly pervaded

by

belief in

an Almighty
little

King and Judge.
of the Divine
i7i

Moreover, the Jew had
nature
:

sense

it

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

the

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

as contrasted with the tremendous

power of God,
can a

is

the reflection which the contemplation of nature generally

produced
? "

in his

mind.
;

"

How

man

be just

with

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,
"
;

;

and the

pillars
it

thereof tremble

;

which commandeth
stars.
. .

the sun, and

riseth not,
I

and sealeth up the
I

.

He
that

is

not a man, as

am, that

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
betwixt

man and God,

but only enlarges on the pre-

MYSTICAL ELEMENT
of the Almighty.
is

IN

THE BIBLE

41

sumption of man's wishing to understand the counsels
Absolute submission to a law which
entirely outside of us
is

and beyond our comprehenof the book.^

sion,

the

final

lesson

The

nation

exhibited the merits and defects of this type.

On
;

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
a deeper reconciliation.

We

can trace

the process,
death,"

from the old proverb that
to

" to see

God

is

down

that

remarkable

passage in

Jeremiah where the

approaching advent, or rather restoration, of spiritual
religion, is

announced with
**

all

the solemnity due to so

glorious a message.

Behold, the days come, saith the
a

Lord, that

I

will

make
I

new covenant with
. . .

the house

of Israel, and with the house of Judah. days, saith the Lord,
parts,
will

After those

put

My
;

law

in their
I

inward

and write

it

in

their hearts

and

will

be their

God, and they
^

shall

be

My people.

And

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

42

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
his

no more every man
brother, saying.

neighbour, and every
:

Know
^

the Lord

for

they shall

all

man his know

Me, from the

least of

saith the Lord."

That

them unto the greatest of them, this knowledge of God, and the
it

assurance of blessedness which
of righteousness and purity,
is

brings,

is

the reward

the chief message of the
"

great prophets and psalmists.

dwell with the devouring fire?
dwell with
everlasting burnings

Who among Who among
?
;

us shall us shall

He

that

walketh

righteously, and speaketh uprightly

he that despiseth

the gain of oppressions, that shaketh his hands from

holding of bribes, that stoppeth his ears from hearing
of blood, and
shall dwell

shutteth his eyes from seeing
;

evil,

he

on high
:

his place of defence shall

be the
;

munitions of rocks
waters shall be sure.

bread shall be given unto him

his

Thine eyes

shall see the
is

King

in

His
^

beauty

;

they shall behold the land that

very far

off."

This passage of Isaiah bears a very close resemblance to the

15th and 24th Psalms; and there are

many

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
;

—which

is

the

characteristic note of mystical devotion

in others, that
all

longing for a safe refuge from the provoking of

men

and the
in the

strife

of tongues, which drove so

many
have

saints

into the cloister.

Many
?

a solitary ascetic has prayed

words of the 73rd Psalm:

"Whom
my

I

in
I
:

heaven but Thee
but

and there

is

none upon earth that

desire beside Thee.

My

flesh

and
will

heart faileth

God
^

is

the strength of

my
I

heart,

and

my

portion

for ever."

And

verses like, "

hearken what the
xxxiii. 14-17.

Jer. xxxi. 31-34.

^ Isa.

fs

MYSTICAL ELEMENT
Lord God
to
will

IN

THE BIBLE
will

43

say concerning me," have been only loo

attractive to quietists.

Other familiar verses

occur

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

by the reverence
I

for

law which
to

is

part of the

older inheritance of the Israelites.

There are many,
element
in the

fear,

whom
will

" the

mystical

Old Testament"

suggest only the

Cabbalistic lore of types and allegories which has been

applied to

all

the canonical books, and with especial

persistency and boldness to the
shall give

Song

of Solomon.

I

my

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
it

It

would be

here without anticipating

my

of a

principle

which

has a

bearing than as a method of biblical
the

much wider exegesis. As to
upon Christian

Song
in

of

Solomon,

its

influence

Mysticism has been

simply deplorable.

A
to

graceful

romance

honour of true love was distorted into a

precedent and sanction for giving

way

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,

composed under

Greek influence, we
does not

find

plenty of Platonism ready to

pass into Mysticism.
fall

But the Wisdom of Solomon
is

within our subject, and what

necessary

to be said about Philo

and Alexandria

will

be said in

the next Lecture.
'

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

44
In the

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
New
Testament,
it

will

be convenient to say
first,

a very few words on the Synoptic Gospels

and

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

we
the

most of our material.
three
of

The
religious

first

Gospels

are

not
It
is

written
all

in

dialect

Mysticism.

the

more

important to notice that the fundamental doctrines on

which the system
are
in
all

(if

found

in

them.

we may call it a system) rests, The vision of God is promised
to

the

Sermon on the Mount, and promised only
are pure in heart.

those

who

The

indwelling presence
is

of Christ, or of the
places
;

for instance
"


I

Holy
"

Spirit,

taught
of

in
is

several

The kingdom
in

God
"

within

you

"

;

Where two

or three are gathered together in

My
am

name, there

am

the midst of them

;

"

Lo,

I

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

The unity of Christ and His members words, " Inasmuch as ye have done
least of these

implied by the
to
it

one of the
unto Me."
the law of
is

My
loss,

brethren, ye have done

Lastly, the great law of the moral world,
g^iin

through

of

life

through death,
(and,
in

— — which

the

corner-stone

of

mystical
is

many have

said,

of

Christian) ethics,
in

found

the Synoptists as well as
shall seek

St. John.

"

Whosoever
it
;

to gain his

life
life

(or soul) shall lose

but whosoever shall lose his
it."

(or soul) shall preserve

The Gospel
Mysticism.
stand
if it
is
it,

of St. John
calls
it

Clement already

— —
is

the " spiritual Gospel," as
the charter of Christian
I

Indeed, Christian Mysticism, as

under-

might almost be called Johannine Christianity;
which the Christian
mystic sets before

were not better to say that a Johannine Christianity
ideal

the

MYSTICAL ELEMENT
himself.

IN

THE BIBLE

45

For we cannot but

feel that there are

deeper

truths in this wonderful Gospel than have yet

become
Perit

part of the religious consciousness of mankind.

haps, as Origen says, no one can fully understand

who has
Jesus.

not, like its author, lain

upon the breast of
are dealing
in

We

are on holy ground

when we

with St. John's Gospel, and
reverence.

fear and But though the breadth and depth and

must step

height of those sublime discourses are for those only

who can mount up with wings
of the spiritual
large
fools,
its
life,

as eagles to the
is

summits

so simple

the language and so

scope, that even the wayfaring men, though

can hardly altogether err therein.

Let us consider
this

what we learn from Gospel about the nature of God, and then its
briefly,
first,

teaching upon

human

salvation.

There are three notable expressions about God the Father in the Gospel and First Epistle of St. John
"

God

is

Love

"

;

"

God

is

Light

"
;

and

"

God

is

Spirit."

The form

of the sentences teaches us that

these three qualities belong so intimately to the nature
of

God

that they usher us into His immediate presence.
rise

We

need not try to get behind them, or to
into

above

them

some more nebulous region

in

our search

for the

Absolute.

Love, Light, and Spirit are for us

names of God Himself.
does
not,
in

And

observe that

St.

John

applying these semi-abstract words to
in

God, attenuate

the slightest degree His personality.

God

is

Love, but
"

loved the world."

radiance

that
"

" for

He also exercises love. " God so And He is not only the " white ever shines " He can " draw " us to
;

Himself, and

send

"

His Son to bring us back to Him.

46

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
The word
"

Logos

"

does not occur
of

in

any of the
with
is

discourses.
"

The
or
"

identification
"

Christ

the
St.

Word

"

Reason

of

the

philosophers
in

John's own.
all

But the statements These

the prologue are
as reported

confirmed by our Lord's
evangelist.
fall

own words

by the

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
:

shall see the

Son of Man ascending where
now,

before

? "

"

And

O

Father,

glorify
I

He Me

was
with

Thine own

self,

with the glory which

had with Thee
is

before the world was."

His exaltation above time
statement,
"

shown by
was,
St.
I

the

solemn

Before

am."

And

with regard to the world,

Abraham we find in

John the very important doctrine, which has never
its

made
"

way

into popular theology, that the
in

Word

is

not merely the Instrument

the original creation,

by

(or through)

Him

all

things were made,"

but the

central Life, the Being in

whom

life

existed and exists

as an indestructible attribute, an underived prerogative,^

the

Mind

or

Wisdom who upholds and
it.

animates

the universe without being lost in

This doctrine,

which
stated

is

implied

in

other parts of St. John, seems to be
the prologue, though
"

explicitly

in

the words

have been otherwise interpreted.

That which has
in

come
is

into existence," says St. John,

"was

(o ye'yovev, iv

avrw

^cor) rjv).

That

is

to say, the

Him life" Word
is

the timeless Life, of which the temporal world

a

manifestation.
*

This doctrine was taught by
John
to

many

of

Leathes, T/ie Witness of St.

Christ, p. 244.

MYSTICAL ELEMENT
other speculative mystics.

IN

THE BIBLE
if,

47

the Greek Fathers, as well as by Scotus Erigena and

Even
later

with the school of

Antioch

and

most of the

commentators,

we

transfer the

words
can

o yeyouev to the
is

preceding sentence,
as well as the light
St.

the doctrine that Christ
of the world
is
:

the

life

be proved from
of the

John.^

The

world

the
in
it,

poem

Word
it.

to the glory of the

Father
all

and by means of
which God
has

He

displays in time

the riches

eternally

put

within

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

the central fact of
flesh,

The Word was made

and taber-

'

The

punctuation'

Antiochenes,
thing

now generally adopted was invented (probably) by the who were afraid that the words " without Him was not anyif 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

made " might,

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.

view that %v
true

refers to ideal, extra-temporal existence, in
all

Rev,

II

:

"Thou
the

hast created

things,

and

for

Thy

pleasure they were
is

{J]ijav

is

reading)

interesting passage in Eusebius {Pnvp.

and were created." There Ev. xi. 19): *:ai
St.

also a very
rji>

oStos &pa

6

\6yos Kad' 6v del

Hivra

rd yiyvbfxeva eyivero, ibawep

'Hpct/iXetros

hv

d^Lucrete.

This

is

so near to the

words of
is

apostle,

writing at Ephesus,

John's prologue as to suggest that the here referring deliberately to the lofty

doctrine of the great Ephesian Idealist,
before Christ, and

whom Clement

whom Justin claims as a Christian quotes several times with respect.

48
nacled

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
among
us,"
is

for

him the supreme dogma. Logos
and
doctrine,
it,

And

it

follows necessarily from the

that the

Incarnation, and

all

that followed
life

is

re-

garded primarily as a revelation of
truth.
"

light

and

That eternal

life,

which was with the Father,
is

has been manifested unto us,"

part of the opening

sentence of the

first

Epistle.^

"

This

is

the message

which we
that

have heard of
is

God

Light, and in

Him and announce unto Him is no darkness at
Christ
"

you,
all."

In coming into

the world,

own."

He

had, in a sense, only to
:

came unto His show to them what
had
"

was there already
glory,

Esaias, long before,

seen His
estrange-

and spoken of Him."

The mysterious

ment, which had laid the world under the dominion of
the Prince of darkness, had obscured but not quenched
the light

which lighteth every
all

man

the inalienable

prerogative of

who

derive their being from the

Sun
and

of Righteousness.
Christ
only.

This central
alone
is

Light

is

Christ,

He

the

Way,

the Truth, the

Life, the

Door, the Living Bread, and the True Vine.

He

is

at

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
plete
inquiry.
:

teaching of this Gospel on the office of the
special

Spirit claims

attention

in

our

present

The

revelation of

God

in

Christ

was com-

there can be no question that St.

John claims

for Christianity the

position of the one eternally true

revelation.

But without the gradual illumination of
it

the Spirit
^

is

partly unintelligible and partly unobI

It will

be seen that

assume that the

first

Epistle

is

the

work of the

evangelist.

MYSTICAL ELEMENT
served.^

IN

THE BIBLE
Me

49

The purpose
Father
In
:

of the Incarnation was to reveal
that hath seen

God
said)

tJie

"

He

hath seen the
(it

Father."
"

these

momentous words

has been

the idea of

God
is

receives an abiding

embodithe

ment, and the Father

brought
^

for ever within

reach of intelligent devotion."
mission
of the Comforter
is

The

purpose of the

to reveal the Son.

He

takes the place of the ascended Christ on earth as a
living

His

office

and active principle in the hearts of Christians. it is to bring to remembrance the teachings of and to help mankind gradually to understand There were also many things, our Lord said,
disciples,
left

Christ,

them.

which could not be said at the time to His

who were unable
communicated

to bear them.

These were

to be

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

future

generations

;

to record

it

so clearly as St. John,

suspected of contemplating a of the

who could not be time when the teachings

human Christ might be superseded. Let us now turn to the human side of salvation, and
upward path of the Christian
First, then,
life

trace the

as presented

to us in this Gospel.

we have

the doctrine

of the

Except a man be born anew (or, from above), he cannot see the kingdom of God."

new

birth

:

"

This

is

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
xiv. 26.
^

Westcolt on John

Westcott.

4

50
to those

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
who
first

heard the words.)
is

Then we have a
of the
et'?,

doctrine

oi faith which

deeper than that
Tnarevetv

Synoptists.
believe on,"

The very expression

"

to

common
is

in
is

St.

John and rare elsewhere,

shows that the word
in St.

taking a

new meaning.
rather,

Faith,

John,

no longer regarded chiefly as a condition
favours
;

of

supernatural
it

or,

the

mountains

which
It is

can

remove are

no

material

obstructions.

an act of the whole personality, a self-dedication
It

to

Christ.

must precede knowledge

:

" If

any

man

willeth
is

to

do His

will,

he shall

know

of the

teaching,"

the promise.

It is

the "credo ut intelligam"

of later theology.
St.

The
is

objection has been raised that

John's

teaching about faith

moves

in

a vicious
;

circle.

His

appeal

to

the

inward witness

and

those

who cannot
must
no reason
not
still

hear this inward witness are informed
believe,

that they
find

first

which

is

just

what they can
misses
Faith, for

for

doing.

But

this

criticism

altogether the drift of St. John's teaching.

him,

is

the

acceptance
it

of a proposition

upon
first

evidence;
tion
in

less is

the acceptance of a proposiIt
is,

the

teeth

of evidence.
"

in

the

instance, the resolution

to stand or

fall

by the noblest
?),

hypothesis

"

;

that

is

(may we not say
lead us.

to

follow

Christ wherever

He may

Faith begins with
"

an experiment, and ends with an experience.^
that believeth in
that
is

He

Him
make

hath the witness

in

himself";

the verification which follows the venture.

That

even the power to
^

the experiment
:

is

given from

Cf.

Theologia

Germamca, chap. 48
to true

"

He who
.

would know before he
speak of a certain truth

believeth

cometh never
possible to
it

knowledge.
else

.

.

I

which

it is

know by

experience, but which ye must believe in

before ye

know

by experience,

ye will never come to

know

it

truly."

MYSTICAL ELEMENT
above
ive,
;

IN
is

THE BIBLE
its

51

and that the experience

not merely subject-

but an universal law which has had
in

supreme
which

vindication

history,

these

are

two

facts

we

learn

afterwards.

The converse
really
be.

process,

which

begins with a critical examination of documents, cannot establish what
strong the evidence

we

want

to

know, however
nothing worthy

may

In this sense, and in this
true, that "

only, are Tennyson's

words

proving can be proven, nor yet disproven."
Faith, thus defined,
is

hardly distinguishable from

that mixture of admiration, hope,

and love by which

Wordsworth says that we
life is

live.

Love

especially

is

intimately connected with faith.
to be considered as,

And
all

as the Christian

above

things, a state of

union

with

Christ,

and of His
brethren
is

members with one
is

another,

love

of

the

inseparable

from

love of God.

So intimate

this

union, that hatred

towards any
heart as
rather a

human being cannot exist in love to God. The mystical union

the
is

same

indeed

bond between Christ and the Church, and

between

man and man
Christ
" that

as

members

of Christ,

than

between
prayer
is

and individual
they
all
I

souls.

Our Lord's

may be
in

one, even as Thou,

Father, art in Me, and

Thee, that they also

may

be one

in us."
is

The

personal relation between the soul
;

and Christ

not to be denied

but

it

can only be

enjoyed when the person has

"come
to

to himself" as a

member
from

of a body.
false

This involves an inward transit
self

the

isolated

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-

52
viction

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
which Like the bHnd

makes them independent of external man who was healed, they " One thing I know, that whereas I was can say, 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 hesitaevidences.
tion to the

promised presence of the Comforter.
this
is

We

must observe, however, that
tion
is

knowledge or illumina-

progressive.

This

proved by the passages
It

already quoted about the work of the Holy Spirit.
is

also implied

by the words,

"

This

is life

eternal, that

they should
Christ
7i/wo-i9,

know Thee, the only whom Thou hast sent."

true God, and Jesus

Eternal

life

is

not
of

knowledge as a possession, but the

state

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

It is significant,
"

think, that St. John,

who

is

so fond of the verb
'yvooai'^.

to

know," never uses the substantive

The
receive

state
"

of progressive
grace,"

unification, in

which we"*

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

we

eternal

life.

This

life

is

generally spoken

of as
"
"
;

a

present possession rather than a future
that believeth on the
is
is

hope.
life "

He
he

/

Son hath everlasting

passed irom death unto life";
true,

"we
is
is

are in

Him

that

even Jesus Christ.
life."

This

the true God,

and
one

eternal

The

evangelist

constantly trying to

transport

us into that timeless region in which

day

is

as a thousand years,

and a thousand years as

one day.

MYSTICAL ELEMENT
St.

IN

THE BIBLE
patent to
all
;

53
it

John's Mysticism

is

thus

is

stamped upon
teaching.
this

his very style, and pervades all his Commentators who are in sympathy with mode of thought have, as we might expect, made

the most of this element in the Fourth Gospel,

Indeed,
it

some of them,

I

cannot but think, have interpreted

so completely in the terms of their

they have disregarded

or explained

own idealism, that away the very
systems.
Fichte,

important qualifications which distinguish the Johannine
theology from some later mystical
for

example, claims St. John as a supporter of his
of subjective
it),

system

idealism
is

(if

that

is

a

correct
bits

description of

and

driven to

some curious

of exegesis in his attempt to justify this claim.

And
in

Reuss
St.

(to

give one

example of
"

his

method) says that
last

John cannot have used
sense, "

the

day
I

"

the

ordinary
to

because mystical theology has nothing
^

do with such a notion."
mystic,

He
to

means,

suppose,

that the
state,

who

likes
life

speak of heaven as a

and of eternal

as a present 'possession, has

no business

to talk about future
is

judgment.

I

cannot

help thinking that this
is

a very grave mistake.

There
time

no doubt that those who believe space and
be only forms
of our

to

thought, must regard the

traditional

eschatology as symbolical.

We

are

not

concerned to maintain that there

will be, literally, a

great assize, holden at a date and place which could

be announced

if

we knew
is

it.

If that is all that
"

Reuss

means, perhaps he

right in saying that

mystical

theology has nothing to do with such a notion."
*

But
ii.

On
2.

the second

coming of

Christ,

iii.

Scholten goes so

far as to

cf. John v. 25, expunge v. 25 and

xxi.

23

;

i

John

28,

28, 29 as spurious.

54
if

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
he means that such expressions as those referred to
St.

in

John, about eternal

life
is

as

something here and
therefore not in

now, imply that
the fiiture,

judgment

now, and

he

is

attributing to the evangelist, and to

the whole array of religious thinkers
similar expressions, a view which
is

who have used
easy enough to

understand, but which
entirely
fails

is

destitute of

any

value, for

it

to

satisfy

the

religious

consciousness.

The

feeling of the contrast
is, is

between what ought to be
faith in

and what

one of the deepest springs of

the unseen.

It

can only be ignored by shutting our
life.

eyes to half the facts of

It
:

is

easy to say with
right with the

Browning,

"

God's

in

His heaven

all's
is

world," or with Emerson, that justice

not deferred,

and
life
;

that

everyone
it

gets exactly his deserts in this
require a robust confidence or a

but

would

hard heart to maintain these propositions while standing

among

the ruins of an

Armenian

village, or
is

by the
is

deathbed of innocence betrayed.
a sense in which
actual
;

There
risen in

no doubt
the

it

may

be said that the ideal

but only when
" is "

we have

thought to

a region
future,

above the antitheses of past, present, and
denotes, not

where

the

moment which

passes as

we

speak, but the everlasting

Now

in

the

mind of God.
thought can
religion

This
;

is

not a region

in

which human
possible

live

and the symbolical eschatology of
it is

supplies us with forms in which

to think.
is

The

basis of the belief in future

judgment
and

that deep conviction of the rationality of the worldreligious

order, or, in
justice of
It
is

language, of the wisdom
will

God, which we cannot and

not surrender.

authenticated by an instinctive assurance which

MYSTICAL ELEMENT
is

IN

THE BIBLE
"

55

strongest

in

the

strongest minds, and which

has

nothing to do with any desire for spurious
tions
"
;

consola-

1

it

is

a conviction, not merely a
it
is

hope, and

we
like

have every reason to believe that
Divine element
in

part of the

our nature.
is

This conviction,
:

other mystical intuitions,

formless

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

use them freely, as

if

they

were

literally true,

only remembering their symbolical

character
science,

when they bring us into conflict with natural or when they tempt us to regard the world of
important to
difficulty
insist

experience as something undivine or unreal.
It
is

on

this point,

because the
of deter-

extreme

(or

rather impossibility)

mining the true relations of becoming and being, of
time and eternity,
is

constantly tempting us to adopt

some

facile

solution which really destroys one of the

two terms.
that

The danger which

besets us

if

we

follow
is

the line of thought natural to speculative Mysticism,

we may think we have

solved the problem in
is

one of two ways, neither of which
Either we

a solution at
spirit to

all.

may

sublimate our notion of

such

an extent that our idealism becomes merely a

senti-

mental way of looking

at

the actual

;

or,

by paring
fall

down
^

the other term in the relation,

we may

into

The

allegation that the Christian persuades himself of a
it

future

life

because

is

the most comfortable belief to hold, seems

to

me

utterly

contemptible.
to shallow

optimism

Certain views about heaven and hell are no doubt traceable but the belief in immortality is in itself rather awful ;
Besides,

than consoling.

what sane man would wish

to

be deceived

in

such a matter ?

56

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
shadow having no relation to reality. We shall across a good deal of " acosmistic " philosophy our survey of Christian Platonism and the senti;

that spurious idealism which reduces this world to a

vain

come
in

mental rationalist

is

with us in the nineteenth century

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

John.

Fond

as he

is

of the present tense, he will not
"

allow us to blot from the page either

unborn

to-

morrow

or dead yesterday."

We
is

have seen that he
traditional language

records the use

by our Lord of the

about future judgment.

What

even more important,

he asserts

in

the strongest possible manner, at the

outset both of his Gospel

and

Epistle, the

necessity

of

remembering
flesh,

that

the

Christian
events.

revelation
"

was

conveyed by certain

was made
have seen

The Word and tabernacled among us, and we
historical
"

His glory."

That which was from the
heard, that which

beginning, that which

we have

we

have seen with our eyes, that which we beheld, and
our hands handled, concerning the
that which

Word

of Life

.

.

.

we have seen and heard declare we unto
again in striking words he lays
it

you."

And

down
spirit

as

the test

whereby we may distinguish the
not that Jesus Christ
is

of

truth from Antichrist or the spirit of error, that the
latter " confesseth
flesh."

come

in the

The
is

later history of

Mysticism shows that

this

warning was very much needed.
mystic
to regard the

The tendency

of the

Gospel history as only one
Pie believes

striking manifestation of an universal law.

that every Christian

who

is

in

the

way

of salvation
" (as

recapitulates " the whole process of Christ

William

Law

calls

it)

that he has his miraculous birth, inward

MYSTICAL ELEMENT
death, and
resurrection
;

IN

THE BIBLE

57

and so the Gospel history

becomes

for the

Gnostic (as Clement calls the Christian

philosopher)

little

more than a dramatisation of the
experience.^
" Christ

normal psychological
is

crucified

teaching
;

for

babes,"
heretical

says

Origen, with

startling

audacity

and

mystics

have

often fancied

thatTthey can

rise

above the Son to the Father,
St.

The
rock

Gospel and Epistle of

John stand

like

a

against this fatal error, and in this feature
critics

have rightly discerned their
"

some German supreme value to
"

mystical theology.^

In

all life,"

says Grau,

there

is

not an abstract

unity, but an

unity in plurality, an
spiritual
;

outward and inward, a bodily and
like love, unites

and

life,

what science and philosophy separate."
spiritual, of the

This co-operation of the sensible and
material

and

ideal,

of the

historical
St.

and
"

eternal,

is is

maintained throughout by
mystical," says Grau,
is

John.
all life is

His

view

"

because

mystical."

It

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

subordinate place as evidences.
I

His main proof

is,

as

have

said, experimental.

But a

spiritual revelation

of

God
is

without
for

its

physical counterpart, an
impossibility,

Incarna-

tion,

him an

and a Christianity

which has cut
is

itself adrift

from the Galilean ministry
In

in

his

eyes an
find

imposture.
so
firm

no other
"

writer,

I

think,
^

do we

a

grasp of the

psycho-

says,

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
it

allegory of

— 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,

58
physical
one,
if

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
"

view of

life

which we
it

all

feel

to be the true

only we could put
is

in

an

intelligible form.^

There

another feature

in St. John's

Gospel which

shows

his affinity to

Mysticism, though of a different

kind from that which

we have been
kind
of

considering.

I

mean

his

fondness for using visible things and events

as symbols.

This objective

Mysticism
I

will

form the subject of

my

last

two Lectures, and

will

here only anticipate so far as to say that the belief

which underlies
it
is,

it

is

that " everything, in being

what

is

symbolic of something more."
is

Gospel

steeped in symbolism

of this

The Fourth The kind.
obviously

eight miracles which St. John

selects
;

are

chosen for their symbolic value

indeed, he seems to

regard them mainly as acted parables.

His favourite
or
"

word
^

for

miracles

is

o-T/^eta,

"

signs "

symbols."

The

intense moral dualism of St.
;

John has been
it.

felt

by many as a

discordant note

and though

it is

not closely connected with his Mysticism,
It

a few words should perhaps be added about
strange that the Logos,
to

has been thought

who

is

the

life

of

all

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.
invade His
;

of darkness

The Gospel
flicts.

is

not a polemical treatise, but
to

it

bears traces of recent con-

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
St.

John wishes

show

that the rejection of Christ by the

;

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
is

IN

THE BIBLE
"

59
is

true that he also calls

them

works," but this

not to distinguish them as supernatural.

All Christ's

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

As
Only

evidences

of His Divinity, such " works

"

are inferior

to His " words," being symbolic

and external.

those

who cannot
echo
in

believe on the evidence of the

words

and
faith

their

the heart,

may
"

strengthen their weak
are

by the
" signs,"

miracles.

But

blessed

they

who

have not seen, and yet have believed."
these

And

besides

we

have, in place of the Synoptic parables,
is

a wealth of allegories, in which Christ

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
hereafter.

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
has

been

very

much
St.

underestimated, and

that

the

distinctive features of
in

Mysticism are even more marked
This
in
is is

him than

in

John.

not surprising, for
all

our blessed Lord's discourses,
doctrinal teaching of St.

which nearly

the
all

John

contained, are for

6o
Christians
;

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
they
rise

above

the

oppositions

which

must always divide human thought and human
believe

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

him

to be,

appeared to
foundation
mission.
"

him, and that
of his

this

revelation

was the
comto

Christianity

and

apostolic

Neither

did

I

receive

the
it,

Gospel from
it

man,"

^

he says, " nor was

I

taught

but

came
"

me

through revelation of Jesus Christ."
first ^

It

appears
confer

that he did not at

think

it

necessary to

with flesh and blood

"

to collect evidence about our
;

Lord's ministry. His death and resurrection

he had
" It

"seen" and

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

and contempt.^
religious.
is

External revelation cannot

make
it

a

man

It

can put nothing new into him.
answering to
it

If there
profit

nothing

in his

mind,

will

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."

By

this

language he, of course, does not
is

mean
1

that Christianity
i.

irrational,

and therefore to

Gal.
I

12.

^

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

the other Christophanies.
^

Gal.

i.

15, 16,

I

Cor.

i,

and

ii.

MYSTICAL ELEMENT
be believed on authority.

IN

THE BIBLE
to lay

6i
its

That would be

foundation upon external evidences, and nothing could

be further from the whole bent of his teaching. he does mean, and say very clearly,
is

What

that the carnal

mind
"
it

is

disqualified from understanding Divine truths

cannot

discerned."

world,"

know them, because they are spiritually He who has not raised himself above " the that is, the interests and ideals of human
it

society as

organises itself apart from God, and above
is,

" the flesh," that

the things which seem desirable to
in

the "
that

average sensual man," does not possess

himself

element

which
"

can
"

be

assimilated

by Divine

grace.

The
" in
^

necessarily hidden from him.
"

mystery
"

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

Chrysostom
tion
:

gives to
is

in the following careful definiis

A

mystery
right

that which

everywhere pro-

claimed, but which

is

not understood by those
It
is

who
by

have

not

judgment.

revealed,

not

cleverness, but

by the ,Holy Ghost, as we
so

are able to

receive

it.

And

we may

call

a mystery a secret
it is

{airopprjTov), for

even to the

faithful

not committed

in all its fulness
is

and

clearness."
in

In St. Paul the word

nearly

always

found

connexion

with

words
of

denoting revelation or publication.the Gospel are freely
is

The preacher

a hierophant, but the Christian mysteries
to all

communicated
"

who can
"
if

receive them.
^

For many ages these truths were

hid in God,"

but
fulfil

now

all

men may be

illuminated,"*
3.

they

will

'

"
*

Chrysostom in i Cor., Horn. vii. See Lightfoot on Col. i. 26. 2 Tim. i. 10 {(j}i))Ti{iiv) cf. Eph.
;

•*

Eph.

iii.

9.

i.

9.

62
the
to
•'

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
necessary
conditions of
all

initiation.

These

are,

cleanse ourselves from
^

defilement of flesh and
all

spirit,"

and

to

have

love,

without which

else will
initiation.

be
"

unavailing.

But there are degrees of

We

speak wisdom

among
Growth

the perfect," he says (the
;

reXeioi are the fully initiated)

but the carnal must

still

be fed with milk.
grace,

in

knowledge, growth

in

and growth

in love, are so frequently

mentioned

together, that

we must understand

the apostle to

mean

that they are almost inseparable.
grace,

But

this

knowledge,

and

lo\^e is itself

the work of the indwelling God,

who

is

thus in a sense the organ as well as the object
life.

of the spiritual

"

The

Spirit searcheth all things,"

he says,

" yea,

the deep things of God."
in

The man
things,"

who
is

has the Spirit dwelling
"

him
It

"

has the mind of
all

Christ."

He

that

is

spiritual

judgeth
is,

and

himself "judged of no man."

we must admit
easily

frankly, a dangerous claim,

and one which may
"
;

be subversive of
the Lord
is,

all

discipline,
is

Where
The

the Spirit of

there

liberty "

but such liberty
fact
is

may
that
it

become a
St.

cloak

of maliciousness.
in

Paul had himself trusted
led

" the

Law," and

had
in

him

into grievous error.
it

As

usually happens
violent.

such cases, his recoil from

was almost

He

exalts the inner light into an absolute criterion of

right

and wrong, that no corner of the moral
in

life

may

remain

bondage

to

Pharisaism.

The
and

crucifixion

of the Lord Jesus and the stoning of Stephen were a

crushing

condemnation
;

of

legal
in

ceremonial

righteousness

the

law written

the heart of man,

or rather spoken there
^

by the
2 Cor.

living voice of the
I.

Holy

vii.

MYSTICAL ELEMENT
Spirit,

IN

THE BIBLE

63

could never so mislead

think that they

men as to make them were doing God service by condemning
Such memories might well lead
But
it

and

killing the just.

St.

Paul to use language capable of giving encouragement

even to fanatical Anabaptists.

is

significant
all

that the boldest claims on behalf of liberty

occur

in

the earlier Epistles.

The

subject of St. Paul's visions
difificulty.

and revelations
Acts we have

is

one of great
immediately

In

the

full

accounts of the appearance
preceded,
his

in the

sky which caused, or
*

conversion.

It

is

quite

clear that St. Paul himself regarded this as

an appear-

ance of the same kind as the other Christophanies
granted to apostles and
" brethren,"

and of a
be seen

different

kind

from

such
It

visions

as

might

Christian.

was an unique

favour, conferring

by any upon
Other

him the

apostolic prerogatives of an eye-witness.

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

by the
Epistle

" Spirit

of Jesus."

Lastly,

in

the
"

Second

to

the

Corinthians he records that

ago " he was

in

up

into the third
in

more than fourteen years an ecstasy, in which he was " caught heaven," and saw things unutterable.
this

The form

which

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

this,

Homilies

(xvii, 19),

64
but, as
I

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
said in

my

last

Lecture, they do not seem to

me
/

to belong to the essence of Mysticism.
idea,

Another mystical

which

is

never absent from

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

a law, the law of redemption through suffering.
victory over sin

The
but
it

and death was won for us
in us.

;

must also be won
law,

The
in
is

process
past.^

is

an universal
It

not a mere

event

the

has

been

exemplified in history,

which

a progressive unfurling

or revelation of a great mystery, the
is

meaning of which

now

at last
in

made
each
St.

plain in Christ.-

And
"

it

must

also

appear

human

life.

"

We

were buried
through

with Him," says

Paul to the Romans,^

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

life."

And

again,*

" If the Spirit of

dwell in you.

Him that raised up Jesus from He that raised up Christ Jesus
And,
" If

the dead

from the

dead

shall

quicken also your mortal bodies through His

Spirit that dwelleth in you."

ye were raised
^

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

Compare a

beautiful passage in R. L. Nettleship's
.

Remains:
is

"To

live

is

Lo die

into-somelhing more perfect.

.

.

God can

only

make His work
dearest to

to

be truly His work, by eternally dying, sacrificing what

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. much

vi. 4.

*

Rom.

viii.

11.

* St.

Paul's mystical language about death

to

controversy.

On

and resurrection has given rise the one hand, we have writers like Matthew

MYSTICAL ELEMENT
The law
have been triumphantly
an universal law
"

IN

THE BIBLE

65

of redemption, which St. Paul considers to

summed up by

the death and

resurrection of Christ/ would hardly be proved to be
if

the Pauline Christ were only the
critics

heavenly man," as some

have asserted.

St.

Paul's teaching about the Person of Christ

was

really
it

almost identical with the Logos doctrine as we find
in St. John's prologue,

and as

it

was developed by the

mystical philosophy of a later period.
pre-existence
" in

Not only

is

His

the form of

God

"

clearly taught,^ but

He
"

is

the agent in the creation of the universe, the

vital principle

upholding and pervading

all

that exists.
Colossians,^
all

The Son," we read
is

in the Epistle to the

"

the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of
who
tell

Arnold,

us that St. Paul unconsciously substitutes an ethical for

a physical resurrection

— an eternal

life

here and

now

for a future reward.

On

the other,

we have

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
its

inhabits

the

earthly

body of the

Christian like a kernel within

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.

2

Phil,

ii.

6.

2

Col.

i.

15-17.

5

66
creation
;

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
for in

Him

were

all

things created, in the
all

heavens and upon the earth;
created through
all

things
;

have

been
before
is,

Him, and unto Him
in

and

He
"

is

things,

and
"

Him

all

things consist

(that

"

hold together," as the margin of the Revised Version
it),

explains

All things are
"

summed up
is

in Christ,"

he says to the Ephesians.^

Christ

all

and

in all,"

we read again
and
difficult

in

the Colossians.^

And

in

that bold

passage of the 15th chapter of the First
"

Epistle to the Corinthians he speaks of the

reign

"

of

Christ as coextensive with the world's history.

When

time shall end, and
"

all

evil shall

be subdued to good,
to

Christ " will deliver up the
Father,"
that
is

kingdom
all

God, even the

God may be
"

in

all." ^

Very imthe
spiritual
*

portant, too,
Israelites in

the verse in which he says that

the wilderness

drank of that

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

reminds us of Clement's language about the Son as
all

the Light which broods over

history.
I

The passage from

the Colossians, which

quoted

just now, contains another mystical idea besides that

of Christ as the universal source and

centre of
invisible

life.

He
and

is,

we

are told, " the

Image of the
is

God,"

all

created beings are, in their several capacities,

images of Him.
glory of

Man
^

essentially " the

image and
he who has

God

"

;

the

" perfect

man

"

is

come

" to
^

the measure of the stature of the fulness of

Christ."

This

is

our nature^ in the Aristotelian sense
;

of completed normal development

but to reach

it

we
is

have
1
••

to
Eph.
J
i.

slay
10.

the

false
" ^

self,

the old
^ i
I'

man, which
Cor. xv. 24-28.
iv.

Col.
I

iii.

ii.

Cor.

X, 4.

Cor.

xi. 7,

Eph.

13.

MYSTICAL ELEMENT
informed

IN

THE BIBLE
agency,

G-j

by an
hostile

actively maleficent

" flesh

which
notice

is

to

" spirit."

This latter conception
;

does not at present concern us
is

what we have

to

the description of the

upward path

as an

inner transit

from the

false
it is

isolation

of the natural
I

man

into a state in
I,

which

possible to say, "
^

live

yet not

but Christ liveth in me."

In the Epistle

to the Galatians he uses the favourite mystical phrase,
" until Christ

be formed

in
^

you

"
;

-

and

in

the Second

Epistle to the Corinthians

he employs a most beautiful

expression in describing the process, reverting to the
figure of the
" mirror,"

dear to Mysticism, which he
:

had already used

in

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,
life

which has misled

so

many

mystics.

Our hope, when
is

the earthly house

of our tabernacle

unclothed, but that

heavenly habitation.
to be

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

not that

changed and

glorified,
is

according to the mighty
all

working whereby God
Himself.

able to subdue

things unto

And

therefore

our whole

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
ii.

Gal.

20.

^

Gal.

iv.

19.

3

^ Cor.

iji.

18.

68

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
two consequences besides
In the
first

as the Light of the world has

those which have been already mentioned.
place,
it is

fatal to

religious individualism.
is

unity which joins us to Christ

not so

The close much a unity
refuse their

of the individual soul with the heavenly Christ, as an

organic unity of
privileges, of
all

all

men,

or,

since

many

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

Christians, with their Lord.
in

being many, are one body

Christ,

its

allotted function.
St.

St.

Augustine

is

thoroughly

in

agreement with
" divided,"

Paul when he speaks of Christ and

the Church as " unus Christus."
so that
that
is

Not

that

Christ

is

individual
tine,

He

cannot be

fully present to
St. Paul, St.
;

any

an error which
all

Augusan
to

and the

later mystics

condemn

but as the

individual

cannot

reach

his

real

personality as
unit, attain

isolated unit, he cannot, as
full

an isolated

communion with The second point
interest
in

Christ.
is

one which
it

may seem
I

to be of

subordinate importance, but

will,
it

think,

awaken

more
past.
St.

the future than

has done in the

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

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
all

of the spirituality of matter, and of the unity of

nature
1

in Christ, is

one which we ought to be thankful
I

Rom,

xii.

5.

"

Cor.

xii.

25.

MYSTICAL ELEMENT
to find in the

IN

THE BIBLE
be

69

New

Testament.

It will

my

pleasant

task, in the last

two Lectures of

this

course, to

show
has,
I

how the later school of mystics prized it. The foregoing analysis of St. Paul's teaching
hope, justified the statement that
all

the essentials of

Mysticism are to be found
are also

in

his Epistles.

But there
of

two points

in

which his authority has been
mischievous
it

claimed for false
Mysticism,

and

developments

These two points

will

be well to con-

sider before leaving the subject.

The
St.

first is

a contempt for the historical framework

of Christianity.

We
those

have already seen how strongly
this

John warns us against
But

perversion of spiritual
sects

religion.

numerous

and

individual

thinkers

who have disregarded

this

warning, have often
Paul,
says, "
flesh,

appealed to the authority of St.

who

in

the

Second Epistle to the Corinthians

we have known know Him so no
admission
"

Christ

after

the

Even though yet now we
is

more."
the

Here, they say,

a distinct

that

worship of the historical Christ,
is

the

man

Christ Jesus,"
left

a stage to be passed through
is

and then
us
^

behind.

There

just this substratum of

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

that

he began to teach the Corinthians by

giving them in the simplest possible form the story of
*'

Jesus Christ and
faith,

Him

crucified."

The

"

mysteries
" perfect

"

of the

the

"

wisdom

"

which only the
till

"

can understand, were deferred
learned
their
first

the converts

had
the

lessons.

But

if

we

look

at

passage in question, which has shocked and perplexed

many good

Christians,
'

we
Cor.

shall
ii.

find

that St. Paul

is

I

I,

2.

70

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

not drawing a contrast between the earthly and the

heavenly Christ, bidding us worship the Second Person
of the Trinity, the

same yesterday, to-day, and
contemplate the Cross on

for ever,

and

to cease to
is

Calvary.

He

distinguishing rather between the sensuous pre-

sentation

of the facts of Christ's
It

life,

and a deeper
to say,

realisation of their import.
"

should be our aim to
;

know no man

after the

flesh "

that

is

we

should try to think of

human

beings as what they are,

immortal
a

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

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
in St.

resurrection.

There

is

no trace whatever
treat

Paul of any aspiration to

rise

above Christ to the contemplation of the Absolute

to

Him
in

as only a step in the ladder.
;

This

is

an

error of false Mysticism

the true mystic follows St.

Paul

choosing as his ultimate goal the fulness of

Christ,

and not the emptiness of the undifferentiated
point in which St. Paul has been sup-

Godhead.

The second
is

posed to sanction an exaggerated form of Mysticism,
his

extreme disparagement of external religion
to eat all things
^

of

forms and ceremonies and holy days and the
"
is

like.

One man hath
weak eateth

faith

;

but he that

herbs."
*

"

One man esteemeth one
xiv.

Rom.

MYSTICAL ELEMENT
day
above
"

IN

THE BIBLE
every

71

another,

another

esteemeth

day
and
the

alike."

He

that eateth, eateth unto the Lord,
;

giveth

God thanks

and he that eateth

not, to
"

Lord he eateth
turn

not,

and giveth God thanks."
to be in

Why
Ye
I

ye back to the weak and beggarly rudiments,
desire

whereunto ye

bondage again

?

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

am
you

afraid of you, lest
in

I

have bestowed labour upon

vain."

^

"

Why
not,

do ye subject yourselves
nor
taste,

to

ordinances,

handle

nor

touch,

after

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

attenuate

their

significance.

Any
human
or

Christian

priest

who

puts the observance of

ordinances
level
is

days, for example
duties
as

fast-

at all

on the same debased

as such

charity,

generosity,

purity,

teaching,

not Christianity, but

that

Judaism against

which
which
killed

St.
is

Paul

waged an unceasing polemic, and
almost
every
these
generation.^

one of those dead religions which has to be
in

again

But

we

must not forget that
do occur
the
in

vigorous

denunciations

a polemic against Judaism.
at

They bear
St.

stamp of the time

which they were written
part

perhaps

more than

any other

of

Paul's

Epistles, except those thoughts which were connected

with his belief in the approaching end of the world.
St.

Paul certainly did not intend his Christian conto
iv.

verts
*

be anarchists
9-1
1.

in

religious
^

matters.
Col.
ii.

There
'

Gal.

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

72
is

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
evidence, in
his

the

First

Epistle

to the Corinthians,

that

spiritual

presentation

of
for

Christianity

had had

already been

made an excuse
of

disorderly licence.

The

usual

symptoms
at

degenerate

Mysticism

appeared
called

Corinth.

There were
persons

men
"
^

there
or

who
were

themselves

" spiritual

prophets,

and

showed

an

arrogant

independence

;

there

others

who wished who As
at

to start sects of their

own

;

others

who

carried antinomianism into the sphere of morals

others
gifts."

prided

themselves
last

on various

" spiritual

regards the

class,

we

are rather surapostle
^
;

prised
to

the

half-sanction
like primitive

which

the

gives

what reads

Irvingism

but he was

evidently prepared to enforce discipline with a strong

hand.

Still,

it

may

be

fairly

said

that

he

trusts

mainly to

his

personal ascendancy, and to his teach-

ing about the organic unity of the Christian body, to

preserve or restore due discipline and cohesion.

There

have been hardly any religious leaders,

if

we except
is

George

Fox, the

founder
little.

of

Quakerism, who have
In
this,

valued ceremonies so

again, he

a

genuine mystic.

Of
not

the

other

books of the
say

New
The

Testament
Epistle
It

it

is

necessary

to

much.

to

the

Hebrews cannot be the work of
strong traces of Jewish
^

St. Paul.
;

shows

Alexandrianism

indeed, the

I

Cor. xiv. 37.
to

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

Spirit in St. Paul's

:

;

Fauliis.

MYSTICAL ELEMENT
writer seems to have

IN

THE BIBLE

73

been well acquainted with the
Philo.

Book of Wisdom and with
ism
is

Alexandrian ideal-

always ready to pass into speculative Mystito the

cism, but the author of the Epistle

Hebrews
side
is

can hardly be called mystical
St.

in

the sense in which
interesting

Paul was a mystic.
theology,
in

The most
his

of his
the

from our present point of view,

way

which he combines
as

view of religious
of

ordinances

types

and

adumbrations

higher

spiritual truths, with a comprehensive view of history

as

a

progressive

realisation
is

of
that

a

Divine

scheme.

mankind has been educated partly by ceremonial laws and partly by " promises." Systems of laws and ordinances, of which
of the book

The keynote

the Jewish
in

Law

is

the chief example, have their place
rightly

history.

They

claim

obedience until the
teach

practical

lessons

which

they

can

have

been

learned,

and

until the higher truths

which they con-

ceal under the protecting

husk of symbolism can be

apprehended
the

without
is

disguise.

Then

their

task

is

done, and mankind

no longer bound by them.
"

In

same way, the
and

"

promises

which were made under
which
the

the old

dispensation

proved to be only symbols of
blessings,
in

deeper

more
they

spiritual

moral childhood of humanity would not have appeared
desirable
"
;

were

(not

delusions,

but)
"

illusions^

God having prepared some their place. The doctrine is one
far-reaching

better thing

to

take

of

profound
it

and
cerall

importance.
with

In

this

Epistle

is

tainly connected
visible things are

the idealistic

thought that

symbols, and that every truth appreintelligences

hended by

finite

must be only the husk

74
of a

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
deeper
to
truth.

We may
as

therefore
in

claim

the

Epistle

the

Hebrews

containing

outline

a

Christian philosophy of history, based upon a doctrine
of symbols
later

which has much

in

common

with some

developments of Mysticism.

In the Apocalypse, whoever the author
find
little

may

be,

we

or

nothing of the characteristic Johannine
its

Mysticism, and the influence of

vivid

allegorical

pictures has been less potent in this branch of theo-

logy than might perhaps have been expected.

LECTURE

III

76

"Alb
5»;

dr]

OiKaiws

ixovt}

TTTepovraL

ij

tou (pi\oa6<pov didvoia'
olcnrep 6ei)s

irphs

yap

eKeiyoLS del eari

/J-vvfJ-r]

Kara.

dOva/jiii', irpbs

wp

6ei6s eVrt.

tois di

ToiovTois

d.vrjp viro/jLv/i/xaffiv

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

riXeos 6i>tus

iJ,bvos

ylyverai."

Plato, Phcedrus,

p. 249.

Light und Farbe
" Wohne, du ewiglich Eines,
Farbe, du wechselnde,
dort bei

dem

ewiglich Einen

!

komm'

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

modo,
Paradiso,
c.
t^I-

Che

cio ch'io dice c

un semplice lume."

Dante,
" There
is

no sadder

sight than the direct striving after the

Unconditioned

in this thoroughly conditioned

world."

Goethe.

76

LECTURE

III

Christian Platonism and Speculative Mysticism
i.

in

the east
man coming
into the

"That was
world."

the true Light, which lighteth every
i.

" He made darkness His hiding

—^JOHN

9.

place,

His pavilion round about

Him

darkness of waters, thick clouds of the skies."

— Ps.

;

xviii.

11.

I

HAVE

called this Lecture " Christian Platonism

and

Speculative Mysticism."

Admirers of Plato are
very

likely

to protest that Plato himself can

hardly be called a
is

mystic, and that in

any case there
the

little

re-

semblance between
the Areopagite.

philosophy of his dialogues

and the semi-Oriental Mysticism of Pseudo-Dionysius
I

do not dispute
I

either

of these

statements
in

;

and yet and

wish to keep the

name

of Plato

the

title

of this Lecture.

The

affinity

between
felt

Christianity

Platonism

was very strongly

throughout the period which we are
Justin

now
;

to consider.
^

Martyr claims

Plato

(with

Heraclitus

and

Socrates)
^

as a Christian

before

Christ

Athenagoras

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

The mention

Mysticism.

The

identification of the
in

Heraclitean
xi.

voOs-XSyos with the
19,

Johannine Logos appears also

Euseb. Prap. Ev.
77

quoted above.

78
calls

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
him the best of the forerunners of
Christianity,

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,

that

Ambrose wrote a

treatise

to

confute

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

first

in

Philo.

In

the
:

Middle
Eckhart

Ages the
speaks of

mystics almost

canonised
*'

Plato

him, quaintly enough, as
Pfaffe)
;

the great priest " {der grosse

and even and

in

Spain, Louis of Granada calls

him

" divine,"

finds in

him

" the

most excellent

parts of Christian wisdom,"

Lastly, in the seventeenth

century the English Platonists avowed their intention
of bringing back the Church to
"

her old loving nurse
Platonists

the Platonic philosophy."

These English

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,
totelian,

or

the

curious

blend

of

Platonic,

Aris-

and Jewish philosophy which filtered through Still, there into the Church by means of the Arabs.

was
is,

justice underlying this superficial ignorance.
all,

Plato

after

the father of European Mysticism.^

Both
those

the great types of mystics

may

appeal to him
to
in

who

try to rise through the visible

the

invisible,

through Nature to God, who find

earthly beauty

the truest symbol of the heavenly, and in the imagination


^

the image-making faculty
nXdrwv

a

raft
he

whereon we
calls

6 Ka.vTo. dpicrros

— olov 0€O<popovfievos,

him.
truly.

'

" Mysticism

finds in Plato all its texts," says

Emerson

PLATONISM AND MYSTICISM
may
those

79
;

navigate the shoreless ocean of the Infinite

and
as
to

who
who

distrust

all

sensuous

representations

tending
starve,"

" to

nourish

appetites

which
a

we ought
which
"

look upon this earth as a place of banishmaterial
us,

ment, upon

things

as

veil

hides

God's face from

and who bid us

" flee

away from
yonder," in

hence as quickly as

may

be,"

to

seek

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

Both

may

find in the real Plato

much
is

congenial teaching

that the highest
'that

good
seek

is

the greatest likeness to the vision of

the greatest happiness
holiness

God God

that

we should
is

not
is

for

the sake of

external reward, but because
soul, while vice
its

it

disease

the health of the
is

that goodness

unity

and harmony, while

evil is discord


It

and disintegration
rise

that

it

is

our duty and happiness to
to the invisible

above the

visible

and transitory

and permanent.

may

also be a pleasure to

some

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,
;

until

full

justice

had

been

claims
lenic

and then how the

brighter,

done to its more truly Helunder due
safe-

side

was able

to assert itself

guards, as a precious thing dearly purchased, a treasure

reserved for the pure and humble, and
tasted carefully, with reverence
is,

still

only to be

and godly

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,

8o

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
in inspiration so

nothing can strengthen our behef
as to observe

much

how

the whole history of thought only

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

never to pass beyond their teaching.
ditional

Still,

the

trais

connexion between Plato and Mysticism

so close that
ing,
like

we may,
a

I

think, be

pardoned
in

for

keep-

Ficinus,

lamp

burning

his

honour

throughout our present task.
It is

not

my

purpose

in these

Lectures to attempt a

historical survey of Christian
this,

Mysticism.

To attempt
subject,

within the narrow limits of eight Lectures, would

oblige

me

to

give

a

mere skeleton of the

which would be of no value, and of very

little interest.
is

The aim which
life

I

have set before myself
the hope that
the solution

to give a

clear presentation of

an important type of Christian
it

and thought,
a

in

may

suggest to

us

way towards

of

which

at present agitate

and divide

us.

some difficulties The path is
which
I

beset with pitfalls on either side, as will be abundantly
clear

when we consider the

startling expressions
for itself.

Mysticism has often found
history of Mysticism,

But though

have not attempted to give even an outline of the
I

feel

that the best and safest
is

way
sider

of studying this or any type of religion
it

to con-

in

the light of
it

its

historical

development, and

of the forms which
I

has actually assumed.

And

so

have tried to set these Lectures
in

in a historical

frame-

work, and,

choosing prominent figures as represent-

atives of the chief kinds of Mysticism, to observe, so
far as possible, the

chronological order.

The

present

Lecture

will

carry us

down

to the Pseudo-Dionysius,

the influence of whose writings during the next thou-

PLATONISM AND MYSTICISM
sand years can hardly be overestimated.
are to understand
ticism, of

8i
if

But

how

a system of speculative

an Asiatic rather than European type,

we Myscame

to be accepted as the

work of a convert of
let

St. Paul,

and invested with semi-apostolic authority, we must
pause
for a

few minutes to

our eyes rest on the

phenomenon

called Alexandrianism,

which

fills

a large

place in the history of the early Church.

We

have seen how
" perfect "

St.

Paul speaks of a Gnosis or

higher knowledge,

which can be taught with safety
or " fully initiated "
^
;

only to the

and he
were

by no means
(the
totality

rejects

such expressions as the Pleroma
Divine
attributes),

of the

which

technical terms of speculative theism.
in

St.

John, too,

his

prologue and other places, brings the Gospel

into relation with current speculation,
in philosophical

and interprets

it

language.

The movement known
this

as

Gnosticism, both within and without the Church, was

an

attempt

to

complete

reconciliation

between

speculative and revealed religion, by systematising the

symbols of transcendental mystical theosophy.-

The

movement can only be understood
unsuccessful attempt
to

as a

premature and
doing.

achieve what the school of
in

Alexandria

afterwards partially succeeded

The

anticipations of Neoplatonism

among

the Gnostics
if

would probably be found
victorious party
^

to be very

numerous,

the

had thought

their writings

worth pre-

The

doctrine of reserve in religious teaching, which
it

some have thought
tell

dishonest, rests on the self-evident proposition that
truth

—one to speak,

takes two to

the

and one

to hear,

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

6

82
serving.

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
But Gnosticism was rotten before
still
it

was

ripe.

Dogma was

in

such a

fluid state, that there
;

was
fanfor

nothing to keep speculation within bounds
Oriental element, with
tastic
its

and the
its

insoluble dualism,

mythology and
shall find to

spiritualism,

was too strong
all

the

Hellenic.

Gnosticism

presents

the

features

which we
Mysticism.

be characteristic of degenerate
its

Not

to speak of

oscillations
licence,

between
its

fanatical austerities
in

and scandalous

and

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
" Geistej'er"

some
Carl-

of the sixteenth
"

century, such as

stadt or Sebastian Frank.
up,"

The

fellow

is

so puffed

says

Irenaeus,

" that

he believes himself to be
entered

neither in heaven nor on earth, but to have

within the Divine Pleroma, and to have embraced his

guardian angel.

On

the strength of which he struts

about as proud as a cock.
'

These are the

self-styled

spiritual

persons,'

who say they have
later

already reached

perfection."
itself

The

Platonism could not even graft

upon any of these Gnostic systems, and Plotinus

rejects

them

as decisively as Origen.

Still closer is

the approximation to later speculation

which we
Paul.

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

Hellenised

Jews,

though

Eusebius,

Jerome,

and

the

Middle

Ages generally

PLATONISM AND MYSTICISM
thought
that

83

they

were

Christians,

and were well
and philosophy
His method
^

pleased to find

monks
is

in the first century.^

Philo's object

to reconcile religion


to

in other

words, Moses and Plato.^

is

make Platonism

a development of Mosaism, and

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

Moses' doctrine, not mine."
in
is

His chief instru-

ment
hands

this

difficult

task

is

allegorism, which in his

a bad specimen of that pseudo-science which

has done so
gesis.

much

to darken counsel in biblical exeis

His speculative system, however,

exceedingly

interesting.

God, according to
"

Philo,

is

unqualified

and pure
wf,

Being, but not superessential.
the
I

He

is

emphatically

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

existences.
(aTToio?),

At

the

same time He
as
it

is

without qualities

and

ineffable (app7}To^).
;

In His inmost nature
to Moses, "

He

is

inaccessible

was said

Thou

shalt see
seen."

what

is

behind Me, but

My
God

face shall not be
in silence, since

It is

best to contemplate

we can compare Him to nothing that we know. our knowledge of God is really God dwelling in

All
us.

He
is

has breathed into us something of His nature, and
is

thus the archetype of what
is

highest in ourselves.

He who
^

truly inspired "

may

with good reason be

of Philo,

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
" ^

century.
Stoical influence
is

also strong in Philo.

The Jewish

writer Aristobulus (about 160 B.C.)
in

same argument
Philometor.

is said to have used the an exposition of the Pentateuch addressed to Ptolemy

84
called

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
God."
This blessed
state

may, however, be
only the highest
"

prepared for by such mediating agencies as the study
of God's laws in nature
class of saints
;

and
"

it

is

the souls

born of God
It

that are

exalted above the need of symbols.
to

would be easy

show how Philo wavers between two conceptions

of the Divine nature

— God

as

simply transcendent,
is

and God as immanent. But this that make him most interesting.
not
qualities."

one of the things
His Judaism
a
will

allow him really to believe in

God

"

without

The Logos
sometimes he
the Logos).

dwells with
calls

God

as

His

Wisdom
"

(or

Wisdom,
is

figuratively, the rfiother of

He

the " second God," the

Idea of

Ideas

"

;

the

other

which he controls
the

Ideas
"

or

Powers are the forces
as

the Angels,"

he adds, sudis

denly remembering his Judaism.

The Logos
act
:

also

mind of God expressing

itself in

the Ideas,

therefore, are the content of the

mind of God.
is

Here

he anticipates Plotinus
to

;

but he does not reduce
self-conscious,

God
and

a

logical

point.

His God

reasons.

By

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
in

"

convincer
dwells
:

of sin

no

evil

can touch the soul

which

He

He

is

the eternal image of the Father, and we,

who

are

PLATONISM AND MYSTICISM
not yet
fit

85
ourselves

to be called sons of

God,

may

call

His sons,
Philo's

ethical

system

is

that

of the

later

con-

templative Mysticism.

Knowledge and
self.

virtue can

be

obtained only by renunciation of
is

Contemplation
soul should cut

a higher state than activity.
" It

"

The

off its right hand."
life,

should shun the whirlpool of
it

and not even touch
highest stage
is

with the tip of a finger."
a

The
finite

when

man

leaves behind his
face,

self-consciousness,
in

and sees God face to
Philo

standing

Him

from henceforward, and knowing

Him

not by reason, but by clear certainty.
attempt, to identify the

makes no

Logos with the Jewish Messiah,
an Incarnation.
anticipates

and leaves no room
This
part

for

remarkable
Christian
is

system

the

greater

of

and

Pagan Neoplatonism.

The
little

astonishing thing

that Philo's work exercised so

influence on the philosophy of the second century.

It

was probably regarded as an attempt to evolve Platonism out of the Pentateuch, and, as
only to the Jews,
such,
interesting

who were
the

at this period

becoming

more and more unpopular.^
possibly

The same
influence

prejudice

may

have

impaired

of

Numenius,

another semi-mystical thinker,

who

in

the age of the

Antonines evolved a kind of Trinity, consisting of God,

whom
world,

he also

calls

Mind

;

the Son, the
call

whom
"

he does not

the Logos
it.

maker of the and the
;

world, the
affinities are

grandson," as he calls

His

Jewish

shown by

his calling Plato "

an Atticising

Moses."
^

Compare

Philo's

own

account

(/;;

Flaccunt) of the anti-Semitic outrages

at Alexandria.

86
It

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
was about one hundred and
fifty

years after Philo

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

anity what Philo had tried to do for Judaism.

His aim

is

nothing

less

than to construct a philosophy of religion
it

Gnosis, " knowledge," he calls

—which


"

" shall " initiate

the educated Christian into the higher
his creed.

"

mysteries
to

of

The Logos

doctrine, according

which

Christ

is

the universal Reason,^ the Light that lighteth
its full rights.
^

every man, here asserts
is

Reasoned

belief

the superstructure of which faith
"

is

the foundation.
faith."

Knowledge," says Clement,
is

" is

more than

"

Faith

a

suitable for
is

summary knowledge of urgent truths, people who are in a hurry but knowledge
;

scientific faith."

" If

the Gnostic (the philosophical

Christian)

had

to

choose between the knowledge of
salvation,

God and

eternal

and

it

were possible to

separate two things so insepararbly connected, he would

choose without the slightest hesitation the knowledge
of God."
rises

On
all

the wings of this " knowledge
earthly passions and desires,

"

the soul

above

filled

with

a calm disinterested love of God.

In this state a

man

can distinguish truth from falsehood, pure gold from
base metal,
in

matters of belief; he can see the con-

nexion of the various dogmas, and their harmony with
reason
;

and

in

reading

Scripture

he can penetrate

beneath the

literal to

the spiritual meaning.

But when

Clement speaks of reason or knowledge, he does not

mean merely
^

intellectual

training.

"

He who
NoOs

would

enter the shrine must be pure," he
There is a very explicit book of the Miscellanies :
hear.
-

says, "

and purity
in the

identification of Christ with

second
let

"He

says,

Whoso

hath ears to hear,
:

him

Let Epicharmus answer Nous 6p^," etc. See Bigg, Christian Platonists of Alexandria, especially pp. 92, 93.
is
'

And who

He '?

PLATONISM AND MYSTICISM
is

87
a

to

think holy things."
loves,

And
to

again,

"

The more

man
God."

the

more deeply does he penetrate
and
love,
all

into

Purity

which he adds diligent
that
is

study of the Scriptures, are
highest
life,

necessaiy to the

though mental cultivation
help.^

may

be and

ought to be a great

History exhibits a progressive training of mankind

by the Logos.
"

"

There

is

one

river of truth,"
side."

he says,

which receives tributaries from every
All

moral

evil

is

caused

either

by weakness of

will.

The

cure for

by ignorance or the one is knowthat he has fallen

ledge, the cure for the other

is discipline.^

In his doctrine of

God we
is

find

a victim to the unfortunate negative method, which he
calls
" analysis." It

the method which starts with

the assertion that since

God
is,

is

exalted above Being,

we cannot say what He
above Being, but he
qualities
this, too,
till

but only what
saying
of
all

He

is

not.
is

Clement apparently objects to
strips
is

that

God
;

Him

attributes

and and

nothing

left

but a nameless point
is

he would eliminate, for a point
is

a numerical

unit,

and God
encounter

above the idea of the Monad.

We
our

shall

this

argument
to

far

too

often

in

survey of Mysticism, and

in writers
it

more

logical

than

Clement,

who allowed
is

dominate

their

whole

theology and ethics.

The Son

the Consciousness of God.

The Father
This bold
short of the

only sees the world as reflected in the Son.
'

niiTTis is

here used in the familiar sense (which

falls far

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.

88

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
to be Clement's

and perhaps dangerous doctrine seems
own.

Clement was not a deep or consistent
the task which he has set himself
strength.
is

thinker,

and
his

clearly

beyond

But he gathers up most of the religious and
ideas

philosophical

of

his

time,
is

and weaves

them
his

together

into

a

system which

permeated by

cultivated,

humane, and genial personality.
the use of mystery-language which
in

Especially interesting from the point of view of our

present task
find
"
"

is

we
is

everywhere

Clement.

The

Christian revelation

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

Word,"
is "

"

the

mysteries of the

Word
the

"
;

Jesus Christ

the Teacher of the Divine mysteries

"
;

the ordinary teaching of the

Church

is

"

lesser

mysteries "
ing to

;

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

full initiation

He

borrows verbatim

from a Neopythagorean docuthat "
it

ment a whole

sentence, to the effect

is

not

lawful to reveal to profane persons the mysteries of the

Word "

the

"

Logos

"

taking

the

place

of

" the

Eleusinian goddesses."

This evident wish to claim the
its

Greek mystery-worship, with
for

technical

language,

Christianity,

is

very interesting, and the attempt
unfruitful.

was by no means which seem to come
says categorically, to
iari.

Among

other

ideas
is

direct

from the mysteries

the

notion of deification by the gift of immortality.
yJi)

Clement^

(pdetpeadai OeiorrjTo^ ^ere'^eiv

This

is,

historically,

the
its

doctrine of " deification " found

way in which the way into the scheme

of Christian

Mysticism.
^

The

idea of immortality as

Slfout, V. lo. 6;.

PLATONISM AND MYSTICISM
the attribute constituting
familiar to the

89

Greeks as

it

Godhead was, of course, as was strange to the Jews.^
in

Origen supplies some valuable links
of speculative Mysticism, but his

the history

mind was less inclined to mystical modes of thought than was Clement's. I can here only touch upon a few points which bear
directly

upon our
follows
into

subject.

Origen
religious

Clement

in

his

division

of

the

life

two

classes or stages, those of faith

and knowledge.
"

He

draws too hard a

line

between
of

them, and speaks with a professorial arrogance
popular,
irrational
faith "

the
"

which

leads

to

"

somatic

Christianity," as

opposed to the

" spiritual

Christianity
it

conferred by Gnosis or Wisdom."

He makes
"

only

too clear that
that faith which

by
is

"

somatic Christianity

he means

based on the gospel history.

Of

teaching founded upon the historical narrative, he says,
"

What

better
? "

method could be devised

to assist the

masses

crucified

The Gnostic or Sage no Christ. The " eternal " or "
his

longer needs the
spiritual " Gospel,
all

which

is

possession,

"

shows

clearly

things

concerning the

Son of God Himself, both the mysteries shown by His words, and the things of which His acts
were the
symbols."
^

It

is

not

that

he

denies

or

doubts the truth of the Gospel history, but he
that events which only

feels

happened once can be of no
life,

importance, and regards the
of Christ as
law,
^

death,

and resurrection

only one manifestation of an universal
really enacted, not in this fleeting world

which was

See, further, Appendices

B and

C.

^

In Origen, ao^La

is

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

90

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
Most

of shadows, but in the eternal counsels of the

High.

He

considers
of

that those

who

are thoroughly

convinced

the

universal

truths

revealed

by the
in

Incarnation and

Atonement, need trouble themselves
their

no

more

about

particular

manifestations

time.

Origen, like the

Neoplatonists, says

that

God

is

above or beyond

Being

;

but

he

is

sounder

than

Clement on
ness
1

this point, for

he attributes self-conscious-

and

reason

to

God, who therefore does not
in order to

require the

Second Person

come

to Himself.

Also, since

God

is

not wholly above reason,
reason,

He

can

be approached by
vision.

and not only by
the Trinity

ecstatic

The Second Person Origen, as by Clement,

of

is

called

by
is

" the

Idea of Ideas."

He

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

One who
have
Logos,

is

the basis of the manifold.

Human
union with

souls

fallen

through 'sin from their

the

who became

incarnate in order to restore
lost.
;

them

to the state

which they have
spiritual
is

Everything
every
spirit

indestructible

and therefore

must

at last return to the
;

Good.

For the

Good
This

alone exists
is

evil

has no existence, no substance.

a doctrine

which we shall meet with again.
asserts,

Man, he expressly
with God, for

cannot be consubstantial

man
see,

can change, while

God

is

immutable.

He

does not

apparently, that, from the point of

view of the Platonist, his universalism
^

makes man's

limited
is

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).
;
:

PLATONISM AND MYSTICISM
freedom to change an
only and
illusion, as

91

belonging to time

not to eternity.
his

While Origen was working out
of ecclesiastical
Plotinus, outside

great system

dogmatic, his younger contemporary
the
Christian
pale,

was laying the

coping-stone on the edifice of Greek philosophy by a

scheme of idealism which must always remain one of
the greatest achievements of the

human

mind.^

In

the history of Mysticism he holds a more undisputed
place than Plato
;

for

some of the most

characteristic

doctrines of Mysticism, which in Plato are only thrown

out tentatively, are in Plotinus welded into a compact
whole.

Among
whom

the

doctrines

which

first

receive

a

clear exposition in his writings are, his theory of the

Absolute,
his
for

he

calls

the One, or the
differs

Good

;

and
as

theory of the

Ideas, which

from Plato's

Plato represents the
in

mind of the World-Artist
in the universal

immanent
other

the

Idea of the Good, while

Plotinus

makes the Ideas immanent
words,
the
real
" intelligible

mind
calls
is

;

in

world

(which

he

the

world," the sphere of the Ideas)

in the

mind of God.

He

also,

in

his

doctrine- of

Vision,

attaches an importance to revelation which was

new

in

Greek philosophy.
centre of his system,

But

his
it

psychology
is

is

really the

and

here that the Christian
in

Church and Christian Mysticism,
indebted to him.

particular,

is

most

The
^

soul
it

is

with

him the meeting-point of the
Every
treatise

I

hope

is

not necessary to apologise for devoting a few pages to

Plotinus in a

work on Christian Mysticism.

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.

92
intelligible

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
and the phenomenal.
It
is

diffused everyin
it
;

where.^

Animals and vegetables participate
immaterial and immortal, for

and the earth has a soul which sees and
soul
is
it

hears.^

The

belgngs to the
is

world of real existence, and nothing that
to
be,'*

can cease

in the

body.

The body is in The soul

the soul, rather than the soul
creates the
in
itself is

body by imposing
No-thing, pure
in-

form on matter, which

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

Space and time are only forms of our thought.

The

concepts formed by the soul, by classifying the things
of sense, are said to be " Ideas unrolled and separate,"
that
time,
is,

they are conceived as separate in space and
of existing
is

instead

all
;

together
it

in

eternity.

The
three

nature of the soul
forms, which

triple

is

presented under

are

at
it

the

same time the three
.

stages of perfection which

can reach.^
soul,

There
is

is first

and lowest the animal and sensual

which
is

closely

bound up with the body
reasoning
soul,

;

then there

the logical,

the

distinctively

human

part

;

and,

lastly, there is the

superhuman stage or

part, in

which
intelli-

a

man

"

thinks himself according to the higher

gence, with which he has

become

identified,

knowing

himself no longer as a man, but as one

who has become
made one with
*

altogether changed, and has transferred himself into the

higher region."
^

The
i<XTi.v

soul

is

thus

*'

Enn.
Etin.

i.

8.

14, ovhiv
;

6 dfjioip6v iari ^ux'^s*

* *

iii.

2. 7

iv. 7.

14,

Enn,

iv. 4.

26.

Enn.
7
>

iv.

i,

i.

Matter
it

is

&\oyos,

ctklo.

XSyov Kai

^xtttwctis,

Enn.
iii.

vi.

3.

etSuiXoi'

kuI

(pdvracrfia

6yKov Kal virodTaffeus i^eais, Enn.

6.
it

7is

If matter

were

iwthing,

could not desire to be something;

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
are

93

Intelligence without losing herself; so that they two

both one and two."

This
if

is

exactly Eckhart's

we identify Plotinus* JV0O9 " God," as we may fairly do. with Eckhart's The soul is not altogether incarnate in the body part of
doctrine of the funkelein,
;

it

remains above,

in
its

the intelligible world, whither
entirety.

it

desires to return in

The world
itself

is

an image of the Divine Mind, which
It
is

is

a reflection of the One.
"

therefore not bad

or

evil.

What more
? "

beautiful

image of the Divine

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

world yonder

And

so

it is

a great mistake to shut
us, "

our eyes to the world around
things."
^

and

all

beautiful

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
•'

way

—up

The

love of beauty will lead us

up a long

ideal
;

form, the universal mould," share the

fate

of

Hylas

they are engulfed

in

a

swamp, from which

they never emerge.

The
being
light
is

universe resembles a vast chain, of which every

a link.

It

may

also be

compared

to rays of

shed abroad from one centre.
this centre,
it.

Everything flowed
desires to flow back
all

from

and everything
all

towards
^

God draws

men and

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.

i).

Remembering
it

that postulate of all Mysticism, that
it,

we
the

can only
the

know
" (as

a thing by beconiiug
in ourselves, that

we

see that

we can

only

know

world by finding

is,

by cherishing those " best hours of

mind

Bacon

says)

when we

are lifted above ourselves into union

with the world-spirit.

94
Himself as

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
a

magnet draws

iron,

with a constant
is

unvarying attraction.

This theory of emanation

often sharply contrasted with that of evolution, and
is

supposed to be discredited by modern science
is

;

but

that

only true

if

the emanation

is

regarded as a
it is

process in time, which for the Neoplatonist
In fact, Plotinus uses the word
"

not.^

evolution

" to

explain

the process of nature.^

The whole
one member

universe
suffer,
all

is

one vast organism,^ and

if
it."*

members suffer with " faint movement of sympathy " ^ stirs This is why a So within us at the sight of any living creature.
the

Origen says,

"

As our body,

while consisting of

many

members,
universe

is is

yet held together by one soul, so the
to
is

be thought of as an immense living
held together by one soul
All

being, which

the power
is

and
tion,

the

Logos of God."
is

existence

drawn

upwards towards God
which
in the

by a kind of centripetal attracin

unconscious

the lower, half conscious

higher organisms.

Christian Neoplatonism tended to identify the Logos,
as the
"

Second Person of the Trinity, with the Nov^,
"

Mind
in

or

" Intelligence,"

of Plotinus, and

rightly

but

Plotinus the

position, being practically

word Logos has a less exalted what we call law," regarded
'*

as a vital force.^
^

Plotinus guards against this misconception of
ijfjuv

liis

meaning, Efin.

v.

1

.

6, iKTTodCov 8i
- f'WTj ^

^aro) yiveais

ij

iv XP^^V-

i^e\iTTo/j^v7],

Enn.

i.

4. i.

See especially Enn.

iv. 4.

32, 45.
^'i'ov

*

Enn. Enn.

iv.

5- 3) cv/uLTraOes

to
irdv.

To8e to wai> iavTw

;

iv. g,

I,

wore

efiov

iraOdj/TOi
*
^

cvvMuOdveadaL to

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

See Bigg, Neoplatonism,

20j, 204.

lie shows that with the Stoics,

PLATONISM AND MYSTICISM
Plotinus' Trinity are the

95
is

One

or the

Good, who

above existence, God as the Absolute; the InteUigence,

who
calls

occupies the sphere of real existence, organic unity

comprehending multiplicity
it,

— the
it,

One-Many,

as

he

or, as

we might

call

God

as thought,

existing in and for Himself; and the Soul, the

God One

and Many, occupying the sphere of appearance or
imperfect reality

— God
is

as

action.

Soulless
is

matter,

which only exists as a

logical abstraction,

arrived at

by looking
less."

at things " in disconnexion, dull

and

spiritis

It is

the sphere of the

"
is

merely many," and
Infinity.

zero, as "

the

One who

not "
is

The

Intelligible

World

timeless and spaceless, and

contains the archetypes of the Sensible World.
Sensible

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.
and
KLV'qaL'i,

that

is,

it

is

unchanging
is

itself,
is

but the
eternally

whole cosmic process, which
present to
Evil
is
it

ever in flux,

as a process.

disintegration.^

In

its

essence
such.
It

it

is

not

merely unreal, but unreality as

can only

appear in conjunction with some low degree of goodness,

which suggests to Plotinus the
Pantheists, the

fine

saying that
;

who were

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.

96
" vice

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
at
its

worst

is

still

human, being mixed with
^

something opposite to

itself."

The
average

"

lower virtues," as he
citizen,'^

calls

the duties of the

are not only purgative, but teach us

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

This

is

immensely important,

for

it

the point where Platonism and Asiatic

Mysticism

finally part

company.^

But
true

in

Plotinus, as in his Christian imitators, they

de not part company.
mystic
are

The

"

marching orders

"

of the

those

given by
all

God

to

Moses on
*

Sinai, "

See that thou make

things according to

the

pattern

showed
that,

thee
as

in

the

mount."

But
is

Plotinus

teaches

the so
is

sensible

world

a

shadow of the
is

intelligible,

action

a shadow of

contemplation, suited to weak-minded persons.^
turning
the
;

This
"

tables

on the
is

"

man

of action

in

good

earnest

but

it

false

Platonism

and

false

Mysticism.

It

leads

to

the heartless doctrine, quite
public

unworthy of the man, that
the wise
^

man

only stage tragedies

calamities 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
is

that

justice

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

"The

purify-

ing virtues " deliver us from sin
6ebv elvai.
^

but

rj

<jirov5y}

ovk t^u) ajxapria^ elvai,

dWa
:

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.

8. 4,

orav dadefijawcriv
Cf. AiaiQVs

ety

r6 dewpeiv, aKiav Oeupias Kal X6yov
p.

T7]V irpa^iv

TroiovvraL.

Journal^

4,

"action

is

coarsened

thought."

PLATONISM AND MYSTICISM
comedies.!

97

The moral

results

of

this

self-centred
saint

individualism are exemplified

by the mediaeval

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." of

A

few words must be said about the doctrine
in

ecstasy

Plotinus.

He
is

describes

the

conditions

under which the vision

granted in exactly the same

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
is

all

form which she has,
;

even of that which
is

derived from Intelligence

for

it

impossible,

when
to

in

conscious possession of any other

attribute, either

behold or to be harmonised with

Him.

Thus the
else,
^

soul

must be neither good nor bad

nor aught

that she

may

receive
is in

Him

only.

Him
One

alone, she alone."

While she
"

this state, the

suddenly appears,
are no

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 deception can come,
bliss for all the

and that she would not exchange her
heaven of heavens."

What

is

the source of this strange aspiration to rise
is

above Reason and Intelligence, which
the highest category of Being, and to

for Plotinus "

come out
ovaia^)
?

on the

other side of Being

"

{iirkKuva

rrj<i

Plotinus

says himself elsewhere that

Reason,
^

falls

outside
15,

it

"

;

" he who would rise above and yet he regards it as the

Enn.
Enn.
7

iii.

2.

viroKpiam and Traiyvtov

;

and see

iv.

3.

32,

on love

of family and country,
-

vi. 7.

34.

98

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
of the

highest reward

philosopher-saint

to

converse
all

with the hypostatised Abstraction
distinctions.
his

The
"

vision of
is

the

who One
"

transcends
is

no part of
For
be a logical
the

philosophy, but

a mischievous

accretion.

though the
necessity,

superessential Absolute

may
in

we
it

cannot

make

it,

even
of

most
really

transcendental

manner, an
of
is

object

sense,

without
is

depriving

its

Absoluteness.
the

What
but
a

apprehended
"

not

Absolute,
idea
It
is

kind

of

form of formlessness," an
of
the
Indefinite.^

not of the Infinite,

but

then
said

impossible

to
all

distinguish " the One,"
distinctions,
less

who

is

to be

above

from

undifferentiated

matter, the

form-

No-thing, which Plotinus puts at the lowest end

of the scale.
I

believe
in

that

the Neoplatonic " vision
to

"

owes

its

place

the

system

two very

different

causes.

First, there

was the

direct influence of Oriental philotries

sophy of the Indian type, which

to reach

the

by wiping out particular, and to gain
universal

all

the boundary-lines of the

infinity
this

by reducing
shall

self

and

the world to zero.

Of

we

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
trance
to

99

Dionysius.
a
the
real

And, secondly, the blank
experience,
quite

was

psychical

different from

" visions "
is

which we have already
;

mentioned.

Evidence

abundant

but

I

will

content

myself with one quotation.^

In Amiel's Journal^
:

we

have the following record of such a trance

"

Like a

dream which trembles and
dawn,
fall
it

dies at the first

glimmer of

all

my

past, all

my

present, dissolve in me,

and

away from

my

consciousness at the
I

moment when
nothing.

returns

upon myself.

feel

myself then stripped

and empty,

like a convalescent

who remembers
studies,

My

travels,

my

reading,

hopes, have faded from

my my

my
All

projects,

my
off,

mind.

my

faculties

drop away from

me

like

a cloak that one takes
I

like the chrysalis case of a larva.

feel

myself return-

ing into a more elementary form."
of expecting the advent of " the
state, feels

But Amiel, instead

One
it

"

while in this

that

"

the pleasure of

is

deadly, inferior

in

all

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
passion
:

the indwelling Christ constantly repeats His
The
following advice to directors, quoted by Ribet,

may be added

" Director valde attendat ad personas languida;
sonse a

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
facillime putant.

Cum

Dei

Spiritui resistere nolint, deliquio

illi

totas se

tradunt, et per multas boras,

cum gravissimo

valetudinis prceiudicio in tali

mentis

authorities,

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.
stupiditate

100
in

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
" for

remembrance,

not otherwise could the Church

continually conceive believers,

and bear them anew
for the

through the bath of regeneration, unless Christ were
repeatedly to
die,

emptying Himself
"

sake of

each

individual."
in

Christ

must be born

mentally

(vo7)Toi)'i)

every individual," and each individual saint,
is

by
is
it

participating in Christ, "

born as a Christ."

This

exactly the language of Eckhart and Tauler, and
is

first

clearly heard

in

the

mouth of Methodius.^
prominence given to
of the relation of

The new
and the

features are the great

immanence

the mystical union as an opus opei-atum,

individualistic

conception

Christ to the soul.

Of

the Greek Fathers

who

followed Athanasius,

I

have only room to mention Gregory of Nyssa, who
defends
fashion
all

the

historical

incarnation

in

true

mystical
"

by an appeal
it,

to spiritual experience.
is

We

believe that the Divine

in everything,
in
it.

pervading
then do

and embracing

and dwelling

Why
is

men

take offence at the dispensation of the mystery

taught by the Incarnation of God,

who

not,

even

now, outside of mankind
Divine presence
is

?

...

not

agreed that
in
all

God

is

now the among us to-day,

form of the same, we are as much
If the

as that

He was
had
was

the world then."

He

argues

in

another place that

other species of spiritual

beings must

have

their

Incarnations

of Christ;

a doctrine which

^ 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,

:

" Gratulemur
.
.

sed Chiistum
this is

But

agamus non solum nos Christianos factos Admiramini, gaudete Christus facti sumus." really quite different from saying, " Ego Christus factus sum."
et grates
.

:

PLATONISM AND MYSTICISM
afterwards
necessarily

loi
follow

condemned, but which
from
the

seems

to

Logos

doctrine.
for the

These argu-

ments show very clearly that
Christ
is

Greek theologians

a cosmic principle,
it
;

though not confined by
salvation
is

immanent in the world, and that the scheme of

regarded as part of the constitution of the
is

universe, which

animated and sustained by the same
manifested
in the Incarnation.

Power who was

fully

The
in

question has been

much

debated, whether the

influence of Persian and Indian thought can be traced

Neoplatonism, or whether that system was purely
It
is

Greek.^

a quite hopeless task to try to disen-

tangle the various strands of thought which

make up
no doubt

the

web

of Alexandrianism.

But there

is

that the philosophers of Asia were held in reverence at
this period.

Origen, in justifying an esoteric mysterythe educated, and a mythical religion for

religion

for

the vulgar, appeals to the

example of the
life

"

Persians
of Apol-

and Indians,"
lonius

And

Philostratus, in his

of Tyana, says, or
all

makes

his

hero say, that

while

wish to

live

in

the presence of God, " the

Indians alone succeed in doing so."
there
are
parts

And

certainly
his

of

Plotinus,

and

still

more of

successors,

which strongly suggest Asiatic
turn

influences.find

When we

from Alexandria to Syria, we
Speculation

Orientalism more rampant.

among

the

Syrian monks of the third, fourth, and
^

fifth

centuries
Those
it

"Greek" must

here be taken to include the Hellenised Jews.
to

who
^

are best qualified

speak on Jewish philosophy believe that

exercised a strong influence at Alexandria,

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

in

worship,

eclecticism

but to be the hierophant of the whole world. was not confined to cultus.

This

102

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

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
glowing terms as an inspired oracle
fesses
in

the

book of
in

Hierotheus/ which the canonised Dionysius praises

indeed, he pro-

that

his

own

object

in writing

was merely
1*he

to

popularise

the

teaching

of his

master,

book

purports to be the work of Hierotheus, a holy

man

converted by St. Paul, and an

instructor

of the real

Dionysius the Areopagite.

A

strong case has been

made
the

out for believing the real author to be a Syrian

mystic,

named Stephen bar
century.
will

Sudaili,
is

who

lived late in

fifth

If this theory

correct, the date of
later

Dionysius
it

have to be moved somewhat
fix
it.

than

has been the custom to

The book
mysteries

of the

holy

Hierotheus on
"

"

the

hidden

of the

Divinity

has been but recently discovered, and only a
of
it

summary
of
great

has as yet been

made

public.
for

But

it

is

interest

and

importance

our subject,

because the author has no fear of being accused of

Pantheism

or

any other heresy, but
its

develops

his

particular form of Mysticism to

logical conclusions

with unexampled boldness.
analysis " really leads us.

He

will

show

us better

even than his pupil Dionysius whither the method of
"

The system

of Hierotheus

is

not exactly Pantheism,
is

but Pan-Nihilism.

Everything

an emanation from

the Chaos of bare indetermination which he calls God,

and everything
^

will

return thither.
is,

There are three

This account of " Hier(jtheus"

of course, taken from Frothingham's

most interesting monograph.

PLATONISM AND MYSTICISM
periods of existence

103
is evil,

(i) the present world,
;

which

and

is

characterised

with Christ,
rest;

who
The

is

by motion all and in

(2) the progressive union

all

this
all

is

the period of

(3)

the

period

of fusion

of

things in

the

Absolute.

three Persons of the Trinity, he dares

to say, will then

be swallowed up, and even the devils

are thrown into the

same melting-pot.

Consistently

with mystical principles, these three world-periods are
also phases in the

development of individual

souls.

In
prin-

the

first
;

stage the

mind
it

aspires towards

its first

ciples

in

the second

becomes

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
mediseval mystics.
self

fantastic than the " revelations " of

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

understand without

knowledge, that which
;

is

above

words and knowledge
destroys
therefore,

this

I

apprehend to be nothing
forms.

but the mysterious silence and mystical quiet which
consciousness
silently

and

dissolves

Seek,

and mystically, that perfect and
"

primitive union with the Arch-Good."

We
its

cannot follow the

ascent of the

Mind
it is

"

through
crucified,
left "
;

various transmutations.

At one
;

stage

"
it

with the soul on the right and the body on the
is

;

buried for three days
says,

it

descends into Hades

^

^

So Ruysbroek

"We

must not remain on the top of the ladder,

but must descend."

I04
then
it

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
ascends again,
till
:

it

reaches Paradise, and
it

is

united to the tree of
essences,

life

then

descends below

all

and sees a formless luminous essence, and
it

marvels that
high.

is

the

same

essence that
truth,

it

has seen on
that

Now

it

comprehends the
anywhere.

God

is

consubstantial with the Universe, and that there are

no

real distinctions

So
I

it

ceases to wander.
"

" All

these doctrines," concludes the seer,
to angels, have

which are

unknown even
son
"

disclosed to thee,

my
all

(Dionysius, probably).
will

"

Know,
all

then, that

nature
will

be confused with the Father
or

— that
will

nothing

perish

be destroyed, but

return, be
will

sanctified, united,
in all."
1

and confused.

Thus God

be

all

There can be no

difficulty in classifying this
It
is

Syrian

philosophy of religion.

the ancient religion of

the Brahmins, masquerading in clothes borrowed from

Jewish

allegorists, half-Christian

Gnostics, Manicheans,

Platonising Christians, and pagan Neoplatonists.
will

We

now

see what St. Dionysius

makes of

this

system,

which he accepts as from the hand of one who has
"

not only learned, but

felt

the things of God."

^

The

date

and nationality of

Dionysius

are
little

still

matters of dispute.^

Mysticism changes so

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
it

105

is

impossible to determine the question by internal

evidence,
ance.

and

for

our purposes

it is

not of great import-

The author was a monk, perhaps a Syrian
:

monk
own

he probably perpetrated a deliberate fraud
in

a pious fraud,

his

own
The The

opinion

—by

suppressing his
St. Paul's
is

individuality,

and fathering

his

books on

Athenian convert.
amazing, even
in

success of the

imposture

that uncritical age,

and gives much
Neoplatonic
Plotinus
^

food for reflection.
impossible
theories
in

sixth

century saw nothing
later

a book
of

full

of the
rather
first

— those

Proclus
in

than

having been written

the

century.

And
lips

the

mediaeval Church was ready to believe that this strange
semi-pantheistic
St.

Mysticism dropped from the

of

Paul.2

Dionysius

is

a theologian, not a visionary like his

master Hierotheus.

His main object

is

to

present

Christianity in the guise of a Platonic mysteriosophy,

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

His philosophy
its

is

that of his

day

the

Neoplatonism, with

strong Oriental

affinities.

Beginning with the Trinity, he
as " superessential

identifies

God
-

the

Father with the Neoplatonic Monad, and describes
Indetermination,"
"

Him

super

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),

(}>uiti<xtlkoI

(of the priests), KadapriKoi (of the

deacons).

io6
Word,"
"

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
the absolute
^

No-thing which
is

is

above

all

existence."

Even now he

not satisfied with the

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
forget his Plato.
" are

"The Good and
all

Beautiful,"
;

he says,
things
are,

the cause of

things that are

and
"

all

love

and aspire
Absolute
all

to the

Good and

Beautiful,

which

indeed, the sole objects of their desire,"
the

Since, then,

Good and
qualities
in

Beautiful
it,

is

honoured

by

eliminating
fxT)

from

the non-existent also (to

6v)

must participate

the

Good and

Beautiful."
if

This pathetic absurdity shows what we are driven to

we

try to graft Indian nihilism

upon the Platonic doctrine

of ideas.

Plotinus tried hard to show that his First

Person was very different from his lowest category
non-existent
selves
to
"

matter
the

"

;

but

if

we once
the

allow

our-

define

Infinite

as

Indefinite,

the

conclusion
averted.
"

which
the

he

deprecated

cannot

long

be

God
is

is

Being of

all

that

is."

Since, then.
evil,

Being
good.

identical with
;

God
is

or Goodness,
its

as such,

does not exist
Evil,

it

only exists by

participation in
;

he says,

not in things which exist
evil
fruit
;

a

good

tree

cannot bear
origin.

it

must, therefore,

have another
'

But

this is dualism,

and must be

VTrepovcrios dopLcrria

inr^p

vovv ivdrris—evas evoiroibs aTrda-qs evddos
/cai

vTrepovaios ovcria

dvuvvnia
'

— avrb 5e
rj

/cat

vovs dv^T/ros
6v
(lis

X670S dpp7)T0%

— dXoyla

koX dvorjala Kal

jxr)
rj

Trdcijs

ovalas ^TreKetx'a.
ttjs iiirkp irdvTO.

ov5e/xia

fiovd^

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

VTrepovaiois VTrepo6ai]S inrepdebTrjTOi.

PLATONISM AND MYSTICISM
rejected.^

107
in the
;

Nor

is evil in

God, nor of God
soul
in
;

;

nor

angels
in

;

nor in the

human
;

nor in the brutes
matter.

nor

inanimate
evil

nature

nor

Having thus
But
arise

hunted

out of every corner of the universe, he asks

Is evil, then,
is

simply privation of good
in
itself.

?

priva-

tion

not

evil

No

;

evil

must

from

" disorderly

and inharmonious motion." As dirt has been defined as matter in the wrong place, so evil is
in
;

good

the
" all
;

wrong
evil
is

place.

It

arises

by a kind of
Evil in itself
"
;

accident

done with the object of gaining
evil as evil."
is

some good
that which

no one does
"

is

nohow, nowhere, and no thing
has

"

God

sees evil as good."
will

Students of modern philosophy

recognise a theory which
in

found

influential

advocates

our

own day

:

that evil needs only to be
in

supplemented, rearranged, and transmuted,
take
its

order to'

place in the universal harmony.^
all will
is

All things flow out from God, and
return to
itself

ultimately

Him.

The

first

emanation

the

Thing

in

{avTo to e7uai), which corresponds to the Plotinian

Nov^, and to the Johannine Logos.

He

also calls

it

"Life

in

itself"

and "Wisdom
this

in

itself"

(avro^wr],

avToao^La).

Of

he says,

"

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

io8

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
left

important speculations are
nysius,

undeveloped by Dio-

who merely
is

states

them dogmatically.

The

universe

evolved from the Son,
in
"
itself,"

whom

he

identifies

with the "Thing
itself."

In creation

the

One

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

form."
being.

The world

is
it

a
"

necessary process of God's
as the sun shines," " without

He
the

created
or

premeditation

purpose."

The Father
(toi»9

is

simply

One
(or

;

Son has also plurality, namely, the words

reasons) which

make

existence

ovaio7rocov<i

Xoyovi), which theology calls fore-ordinations {irpoopio-fiov^).

But he does not teach that

all

separate exist-

ences will ultimately be
highest Unity gives to

merged

in

the

One.

The

all

the power of striving, on

the one hand, to share in the
persist in their

One

;

on the other, to
in

own

individuality.

one passage he speaks of God as
ing,

more than a Unity comprehend"

And

not abolishing differences.^
"
;

God
is

is

before

all

things

"

Being

is

in

Him, and He

not in Being."

Thus Dionysius
is

tries to

safeguard the transcendence of

God, and to escape Pantheism.
the

The outflowing

process

appropriated by the mind by the positive method
:

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
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,

all

in

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,
calls

which he also

"simplification"

(ctTrXwcrts).

PLATONISM AND MYSTICISM
negative

109

path
I

is

the high road of a large school of

mystics

;

will

say more about

it

presently.
all

The
things
till

mystic, says Dionysius, "

must leave behind

both

in

the sensible and in the intelligible worlds,
is

he enters into the darkness of nescience that
mystical."
" is

truly

This

"

Divine darkness," he says elsewhere,
"

the light unapproachable

mentioned by

St. Paul,

"

a deep but dazzling darkness," as Henry Vaughan
it.

calls

It

is

dark through excess of

light.^

This

doctrine really renders nugatory what he has said about

the persistence of distinctions after the restitution of
things
us, in
;

all

for as

*'

all

colours agree in the dark," so, for

proportion as

we

attain to true knowledge, all

distinctions are lost in the absolute.

The
"

soul

is

bipartite.
"

The higher
the

portion sees the

Divine

images

directly,

lower

by means of

symbols.

The

latter are

not to be despised, for they

are " true impressions of the Divine characters," and

necessary steps, which enable us to

"

mount
is

to the

one
in

undivided truth by analogy."

This

the

way

which we should use the Scriptures.
symbolic truth and beauty, which
to those
is

They have
intelligible

a

only

who can
in

free themselves
is

from the

" puerile

myths

"

-

(the language

startling in a saint of the

Church

!)

which they are sometimes embedded.

Dionysius has
The

much

to say about love,^ but

he uses

^

highest stage (he says)

is

to reach rbv viripcpurov yv64>ov Kal

5t'

d|3\ei/'/as Kal
^

dyvwalas

iSelv Kal yvCivai.

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

applies to
^

Old Testament

narratives.

As a specimen
iv.

of his language,

we may quote
dXXd

?<tt(

5^ e /ctrrartKis 6

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

tC)v ipw/j-ivuv

{De Div.

Nom.

13).

no
the word

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
epco?,

which

is

carefully avoided

in the
"

New
often

Testament.
use "
dyaTTT},

He
hut

admits that the
justifies

Scriptures

his

preference for the other

word by quoting St. Ignatius, who says of Christ, " My Divine Love, he finely Love (epco?) is crucified." ^
says,
is

"

an eternal

circle,

from

goodness, through

goodness, and to goodness."

The
though
tions

mediaeval mystics were steeped in Dionysius,
his

system received from them certain modifica-

under the influence of Aristotelianism.
;

He

is

therefore, for us, a very important figure

and there

are two

parts of his

scheme which,

I

think, require
in

fuller consideration

than has been given them
I

this

very slight sketch.

mean

the "negative road" to

God, and the pantheistic tendency.

The theory
mented
fulness
on.

that

we can approach God only by
comas the

analysis or abstraction has already been briefly
It is

no invention of Dionysius.
prevented him

Plotinus

uses similar language, though his view of

God

of

all

/i/e

from following the

negative path with thoroughness.
find the phrases, afterwards so

But

in

Proclus
"

we

common, about

sinking

into the

Divine Ground,"
so forth.

"

forsaking the manifold for
Basilides, long before, eviits

the One," and

dently carried the doctrine to

extremity
"

:

"

We

must
is

not even

call

God

ineffable,"

he says,
{Bampton

since this

to

^

I

am

inclined to agree with Dr. Bigg

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

Lightfoot's edition of Ignatius,

aware how he had read Ignatius

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

and

in

!

PLATONISM AND MYSTICISM
;

iii

make an assertion about Him He is above every name that is named." ^ It was a commonplace of
Christian instruction to
there
is

say that
in

" in

Divine matters
our ignorance

great

wisdom
in
is

confessing


It

this

phrase occurs

Cyril's catechism.^

But conthing

fessing our ignorance

a very different

from

refusing to
is

make any
all

positive statements about God.

true that

our language about
;

God must be
no reason
bottom,
for

inadequate and symbolic
discarding
all

but that

is

symbols, as

if

God
is

as

He knows

Himself.

we could At

in that

way know
the

the

doctrine that

God can be
Let
in

described only

by negatives
argument

neither Christian nor Greek, but belongs to the old

religion of India.

me

try to state the

and

its

consequence

a clear form.
is

Since

God

is

the Infinite, and the Infinite
finite,

the antithesis of the
finite

every attribute which can' be affirmed of a

being

may
by
veil

be safely denied of God.
;

Hence God can.
can only be
dis-

only be described by negatives
covered
stripping off
all

He

the qualities and attributes

which

Him; He can

only be reached by divesting

ourselves of all the distinctions of personality, and sink-

ing or rising into our " uncreated nothingness

"

;

and

He

can only be imitated by aiming at an abstract
the passionless
in
"

spirituality,

apathy

"

of an universal
see that the

which

is

nothing

particular.

Thus we

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

Thy

glory

is

unsearchable and beyond

our reach."

IF.2

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
hang together.

sense,

They

all

follow from the false

notion of

God

as the abstract

Unity transcending, or

rather excluding,

all distinctions.

Of

course,
rise

it

is

not

intended to exclude distinctions, but to

above them
it

but

the process of abstraction, or subtraction, as
is,

really

can never lead us to

"

the One."

^

The only
the arepfiodv

possible unification with such an Infinite
VTjypero'i vttvo<;

is

of Nirvana.^
life

Nearly
its

all

that repels us

in

mediaeval religious

"

other-worldliness "

passive hostility to
ideal
life

civilisation

and
its

the emptiness of

its

maltreatment of the body
life

agement of family

dolent contemplation

— —


it

its

dispar-

the respect which

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,
I

shall take the

liberty of quoting a few sentences

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
"

own country :2
body and
is

He who
This

in

perfect rest rises from the

attains the highest light,

comes

forth in his

own proper
ascent

form.

is

the immortal soul.

The

by

^

in itself

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

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.

To

personify the barest of abstractions, call

try to imitate

it,

it

as reality,
2

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.

we The Hon.

hypostatise the zero."

PLATONISM AND MYSTICISM
the ladder of one's thoughts.
first

113

To know God, one must
in
its

know

one's

own
soul

spirit
is

purity,

unspotted
veil

by thought.

The

hidden behind the
is

of

thought, and only
visible to itself.
soul.

when thought
is

worn

off,

becomes

This stage

called

knowledge of the

from

the
;

Next is realised knowledge of God, who rises bosom of the soul. This is the end of
differentiation

progress
ceased.

between

self

and others has
is

All the world of thought and senses

melted
dis-

into an ocean without waves or current.

This

solution of the world
sinful or

is

also

known
veils the
is

as the death of the

worldly

'

I,'

which

true Ego.

Then

the formless Being of the Deity

seen in the regions
veil

of pure

consciousness
is

beyond the
distinct

of thought.

Consciousness
senses
;

wholly
;

from

thought
it.

and

it

knows them
is

they do not

know
"

The
In

only proof
the

an appeal to
is
^

spiritual experience."

highest stage one
in

absolutely inert,

knowing

nothing

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 sheath.
intellect

an onion. But what is
all
its

The human
this

soul frees itself

by knowledge from
that the

knowledge?
find that

To know

human
is is

and

faculties

are

ignorance and delusion.

This

to

take

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

away the sheath, and to So long Brahma is nothing.
nothing.

God is all. man perceives

Whatever

not

When

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

in

8

114
nakedness,

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
darkness,
fill

nothingness,

passivity,

apathy,
this

and the Hke,
the

their pages.

We

shall find that

time-honoured phraseology was adhered to long after
grave

moral

dangers

which

beset

this

type of

Mysticism had been recognised.

Tauler, for instance,

who

lays the axe to the root of the tree
at the

by saying,

" Christ never arrived

emptiness of which these

men talk," repeats German Mysticism
when Luther had

the old jargon for pages together.
really rested

on another

basis,

and

the courage to break with ecclesivia negativa rapidly disappeared

astical tradition, the

within the sphere of his influence.

But
cannot

it

held sway for a long time
if

so long that
"

we
the

complain

many have

said,
is

This

is

essence of

Mysticism-."

Mysticism

such

a vague
"

word, that one must not quarrel with any
interpretation
"

private

of

limitation excludes the whole

school
vitality

which, in

we must point out that this army of symbolists," a Europe at least, has shown more
it
;

but

than introspective

Mysticism.

I

regard

the

via negativa in metaphysics, religion, and ethics as the
an outline of Mount Caimel, form the frontispiece
St.
:

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

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

whatever.

"The moment
advance towards

Infinity.

"In

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

without reserve."
After reading such maxims,

"the
There

Infinite"
is

as a

name

for

we shall probably be inclined to think that God might be given up with advantage.

nothing Divine about a tabula rasa.

PLATONISM AND MYSTICISM
great accident of Christian Mysticism.

115

The break-up

of the ancient civilisation, with the losses and miseries

which

it

brought upon humanity, and the chaos of

brutal barbarism in which
centuries, caused

Europe weltered
to the

for

some

a widespread pessimism and worldis

weariness which

foreign
to

temper of Europe,

and which gave way
activity in the

energetic

and

full-blooded
Asiatic
lost

Renaissance and Reformation.

Mysticism
faith
"

is

the natural refuge of

men who have
!

in

civilisation,
fly

but

will

not give up faith in God.
"

Let us

hence to our dear country
in
in

the

words already
still

Plotinus

We
in

hear
Plato.

nay, even

The sun
eclipsed.

shone

heaven, but on earth he was
live
"

Mysticism cuts too deep to allow us to
life
;

comfortably on the surface of

and so
this
till

all

the

heavy and the weary weight of
world
to
"

all

unintelligible

pressed upon
it off,

men and women
in

they were fain

throw

and seek peace

an invisible world of

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

But
error.

I

do not think that the negative road
is

is

a pure

There

a

negative side in religion, both in

thought and practice.
the
Infinite

We

are

first

impelled to seek
the
finite,

by the

limitations of

which
It
is

appear to the soul as bonds and prison
natural
first

walls.

to think of the

Infinite as that in

which

these

barriers

are
if

done away.
our inward
die
to our

must die
renewed.

daily,

And man

in
is

practice

we

to

be daily
not once

We

must

lower

self,

only but continually, so that
stones
^

we may
to

rise

on stepping

of

many dead
semetipsum."

selves

higher things.^
83,

We

Cf.

Richard of

St. Victor, dc Prirp.

Aiiiiu.

"ascendat per seme-

tipsuni super

ii6
must die
around
to

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
our
first

superficial
first

views of the world
views of
is

us,

nay, even to our

God and
by
arrest

religion, unless

the childlike in our faith
childish.

of growth to of
life

become the

All the good things

have

first

to be renounced,

and then given back
It

to us, before they can be really ours.

was neces-

sary that these truths should be not only taught, but
lived through.

The
feet

individual has generally to pass
"

through the quagmire of the
he can set his
races,
it

everlasting No," before
;

on firm ground

and the Christian
sense in which

seems, were obliged to go through the sam.e

experience.

Moreover, there

is

a

all its

moral

effort

aims at destroying the conditions of

own Our

existence,

and so ends

logically in self-negation.
is

highest aim as regards ourselves
sin,

to eradicate,
feel that

not only

but temptation.
victory
until

We

do not

we

have won
offend.

the

we no longer wish to
free

But a being who was entirely
would be either more or
less

from temp-

tation
" either
is,

than a

man
There
at

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

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

earthly striving

negation and absorption.

But

it

once becomes

false if
in

we

forget that

it

is
is

a goal which
achieved, not

cannot be reached

time,

and which

by good and

evil neutralising

each other, but by death
If morality ceases to
its

being swallowed up in victory.

be moral when
^

it

has achieved

goal,

it

must pass

The same

is

true of our attitude towards external nature.
rise

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
;

lose

shadow and substance

together.

PLATONISM AND MYSTICISM
into

117
it

something which includes as well as transcends
is

a condition which

certainly not fulfilled

by con-

templative passivity.^

These thoughts should save us from regarding the
saints of

the cloister with

impatience

or

contempt.

The

limitations incidental to their place in history

do

not prevent them from being glorious pioneers
the high passes of the spiritual
life,

among
scaled

who have
"
off.

heights which those
of asceticism
"

who

talk glibly

about

the mistake

have seldom even seen afar
briefly the

We
at

must next consider
all

charge of Pan-

theism, which

has been flung rather indiscriminately
speculative
mystics,

nearly

from
enough,
is

Plotinus

to

Emerson.
freely

Dionysius,
it.

naturally

has

been

charged with

The word
by
if
I

so loosely and
I

thoughtlessly used, even

writers of repute, that

hope
far as

I

may

be pardoned
in a

try to distinguish (so

can be done

few words) between the various

systems which have been called pantheistic.

True Pantheism

must

mean

the

identification

of

God with

the totality of existence, the doctrine that
is

the universe

the complete and only expression of
life

the nature and

of God,

who on

this

theory

is

only immanent and not transcendent.

On

this view,

everything in the world belongs to the Being of God,

who
is

is

manifested equally
is

in

everything.

Whatever

real

perfect

;

reality

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,

is

a safeguard

but the whole history of mediceval Mysticism shows

how

mischievous

it is

when followed

exclusively.

ii8
thing.

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
Here again we must go
"

to India for a perfect

example.
reverend
in the

The
in

learned
in

behold

God
in

alike

in

the

Brahmin,

the

ox and

the

elephant,
^

dog and

him who eateth the

flesh of dogs."

So Pope says
as heart."
this error,

that

God

is " as full, as perfect, in

a hair

The

Persian Sufis were deeply involved in
all

which leads to
It
is

manner of

absurdities

and
Evil,

even immoralities.
in purpose, either in

inconsistent with

any

belief

the whole or in the parts.

therefore, cannot exist for the sake of a higher
it

good
view
;

must be

itself

good.

It is

easy to see

how

this

of the world
if

may
is

pass into pessimism or nihilism

for
it

everything

equally real

and equally Divine,

makes no

difference,

except to our tempers, whether

we

call

it

everything or nothing, good or bad.

None
fairly

of the writers with

whom we

have to deal can
is

be charged with this error, which

subversive of

the very foundations of true religion.

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,

for the simple reason that

he stands too near to Plato,

The

pantheistic tendency

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

have placed the name of Plato
Plato's

at

the head of this Lecture.

doctrine of ideas

aimed
Idea

at establishing the transcendence of the highest

that of God.

But the mediaeval doctrine of
Realists, sought to find
for a

ideas,
in
all

as held

by the extreme

room

the

summum genus
^

harmonious coexistence of
vol.
i.

See Vaiighan, Hours with the Mystics,

p. 58.

S

PLATONISM AND MYSTICISM
things.
It

119
while the

thus tended towards Pantheism

;^

AristoteHan Realists maintained the substantial character of individuals outside the

Being of God.

"

This

view," says Eicken,

"

which quite inverted the

historical

and

logical

relation

of the Platonic and Aristotelian
till

philosophies,

was maintained
also
call

the close of the Middle

Ages."

We may
According to
full

pantheistic

any system which
to Himself, attains

regards the cosmic process as a real becoming of God.
this theory,

God comes

self-consciousness, in the highest of His creatures,
are, as
it

which

were, the organs of His self-unfolding
is

Personality.
itself

This

not a philosophy which

commends
it

specially to speculative mystics, because
is

in-

volves the belief that time
in the

an ultimate
in

reality.

If

cosmic process, which takes place

time,
it

God

becomes something which
be said that

He was

not before,

cannot

He

is

exalted above time, or that a thouas one day.
I

sand years are to

Him

shall say in

my

fourth Lecture that this view cannot justly be attributed
to Eckhart.
it is

Students of Hegel are not agreed whether

or

is

not part of their master's teaching,^
of
ivill

The

idea

as

a

world-principle

— not

in

Schopenhauer's sense of a blind force impelling from
^

Seth, Hegelianism

and

Personality, states this
is

more

strongly.

lie

argues that

"

the ultimate goal of Realism

a thorough-going Pantheism."

God

is

regarded as the

existing things are accidents.

sumimim getius, the ultimate Substance of which all The genus inheres in the species, and the

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."

The whole

discussion

is

very instructive

and

interesting.

I20

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
Mind
dis-

within, but as the determination of a conscious
Hfts us at

once out of Pantheism.^
is

It sets

up the

tinction

between what
find

and what ought
for,

to be,

which

Pantheism cannot

room

and
is

at the

same time
if

implies that the cosmic process

already complete in

the consciousness of God, which cannot be held
is

He

subordinated to the category of time.

God

is

Personality,

more than the All, as being the perfect whose Will is manifested in creation under

necessarily imperfect conditions.
less

He

is

also in a sense
sin,

than the All, since pain, weakness, and
to

though
felt

known

Him

as infinite Mind, can hardly be

by

Him

as infinite Perfection,

The
is

function of evil in the

economy of

the universe

an inscrutable mystery,

about which speculative Mysticism merely asserts that
the solution cannot be that of the Manicheans,
It is

only the Agnostic

^

who

will here offer

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

first is

that properly called AcosfJiism, which

we

have encountered as Orientalised Platonism.

Plato's

theory of ideas was popularised into a doctrine of two
separate worlds, related to each other as shadow and
substance.

The

intelligible

world,
;

which

is

in

the

mind of God, alone
Pantheism.
'

exists

and

thus, by denying

reality to the visible world,

we

get a kind of idealistic

But the notion of
well, in his

God

as abstract Unity,
Pantheism
Apology.

So Lasson says

book on Meister Eckhart, " Mysticism
teleology,

views everything from
-

the

standpoint of
tries to

while

generally stops at causality."

As, for instance, Leslie Stephen

do

in his Ai^nos/ic's

PLATONISM AND MYSTICISM
which, as
platonists

121

we have
and

seen,

was held by the
for bare

later

Neo-

their Christian followers,
;

seems

to

make
create,

a real world impossible

Unity cannot

and the metaphor of the sun shedding
nothing.

his rays explains

Accordingly

the

" intelligible

world,"

the

sphere of reality, drops out, and

we

are

left

with only

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

So we

landed

in nihilism or Asiatic

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
its

true form

it

is

an integral part of
all

Christian philosophy, and, indeed, of
logy.

rational theo-

But

in proportion as the indwelling of

God, or

of Christ, or the

Holy

Spirit in the heart of

man,

is

regarded as an opus operatJim, or as complete substitution of the

Divine for the human, we are

in

danger of

a self-deification which resembles the maddest phase
of Pantheism.^

Pantheism, as

I

understand the word,

is

a

pitfall for
its

Mysticism to avoid, not an error involved
^

in

first

The system

of Spinoza, based on the canon,
all

" Omnis determinatio

est

negatio," proceeds by wiping out
illusions, in

dividing lines, which he regards as

showed,

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
is

Dionysius, to define

God

as vTrepovcrMs aopLaria.

He

only escapes this

conclusion by an inconsistency.
vol.
^
i.

See E. Caird, Evolution of Religion,
is

pp. 104, 105.
is

There

a third system which
I

called pantheistic
try to

nothing to do with Mysticism,
deserves the

name

or not.

It is

need not that which

but as it has determine whether it
;

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
principles.

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
But we need not quarrel with those who
is

have said that speculative Mysticism
form
of

the Christian
truth
in

Pantheism.

For there

is

much
it

Amiel's dictum, that

" Christianity, if
it."

is

to

triumph

over Pantheism, must absorb

friends to the cause of religion
tirely

Those are no true who would base it en-

upon dogmatic supernaturalism.
which are objective,
isolated,

The
and

passion

for facts

past, often

prevents us from seeing facts which are eternal and
spiritual.

We
us.

cry, "

Lo

here,"

and

"
is

Lo

there,"

and

forget

that

the

kingdom of God

within

us

and
in

amongst
their

The
mystics
of

great

service

rendered

by the
lies

speculative

to the Christian

Church

recognition

those

truths

which

Pantheism

grasps only to destroy.

LECTURE

IV

123

Heraclitus.
" La philosophic

n'est pas philosophic

si

clle

ne touche a I'abime

;

mais

elle ccssc d'etre philosophic si elle

y tombe."

Cousin.

"

Denn

Alles muss in Nichts zerfallen,
es

Wenn

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
Life, like

remains, the

many change and
;

pass:

Heaven's light
a

for ever shines

earth's

shadows

fly

dome

of many-coloured glass,

Stains the white radiance of Eternity,"

Shelley.

LECTURE

IV

Christian Platonism and Speculative Mysticism
2.

in

the west
God, and that the CoR. iii. i6.
Spirit of

" Know ye not

that ye are a temple of

God

dwelleth in you?"-

i

We

have seen that Mysticism,
its

like

most other types

of religion, had
Platonists,

cradle in the East.

The

Christian

whom we

considered

in

the last

Lecture,

wrote in Greek, and
the

we had no
But
little

occasion to mention
after

Western

Churches.

the

Pseudo-

Dionysius, the East had
Christian thought.

more

to contribute to

century,

half

mystic

John of Damascus, in the eighth and half scholastic, need not
rapidly sank into a

detain

us.

The Eastern Churches

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

the Latin

and Teutonic
in

races.
all

Scientific

Mysticism

the

West

did not

pass

through Dionysius.
sopher,

Victorinus, a Neoplatonic philoto Christianity in his old age,

was converted

about 360 A.D.
joy which
it

The
in

story of his conversion, and the
the Christian community,
is

caused

told

126

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
St.

by

Augustine.'^

He was

a

deep

thinker

of

the speculative mystical type, but a clumsy and ob-

scure writer, in spite of his rhetorical training.

His

importance

lies

in

his position

as the

first

Christian

Neoplatonist

who wrote

in Latin.

The
a

Trinitarian doctrine of Victorinus anticipates in
later philosophical

remarkable manner that of the

mystics.
self in the

The
Son.
"

Father, he says, eternally

knows Himof

The Son
"

is

the self-objectification of the
"

God, the
Absolute.
" "

forma

of

God,^
is

utterance
"

the

The
but

Father
is

cessatio"

silentiuml^
is

quies "

;

He
is

also "

motus" while the Son
*'

motto"

There
"

no contradiction between
"

motus
as

and
"

" cessatio"

since

motus

"

is

not

the

same

mutatto."
;

God
time.

Movement " belongs and this eternal " movement
All
life is

to the " being " of
"
is
is

the generation

of the Son.

This eternal generation

exalted above
in the
life is

now

:

we
;

live

always

present,

not in the past or future
of eternity, to which
all

and thus our
at the
;

a symbol

things are for ever present.^
is

The

generation of the Son

creation of the archetypal world

for

same time the the Son is the
is
is

cosmic principle,* through
is

whom

all

that potentially

actualised.

He
a>v

even says that the Father
a>v,

to the

Son

as 6

firj

to 6
to

thus taking the step which

Plotinus

wished

avoid,

and

applying

the

same
is

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

^

So Synesius

calls the

Son

irarpbs

fiopcf)ri.

'"Non
praesenti

enin vivimus prteteritum

aut

vivimus futurum,

sed semper

utimur."

"

Jiternitas semper per prtesentiam habet

omnia

et

haec semper."
*

"

Effectus est omnia," Victorinus says plainly.

Si>

fe^t't.

aU*.

PLATONISM AND MYSTICISM
expression
to

127
to
infra-

the

superessential

God

as

essential matter.^

This actualisation
involves

is

a self-Hmitation of God,^ but
Victorinus
uses
is

no degradation.

language
strongly

implying the subordination of the Son, but

opposed to Arianism.
^-

The Holy Ghost
is

is

the

"

bond

"

(copula)

of the

Trinity, joining in perfect love the Father

and the Son.
Neoplatonic
irpooBo';,

Victorinus

the

first

to use this idea,
is

which afterwards
the

became common.
triad
eTTLcrTpo^rj).

It

based

on

of status, progression

regressus

{fiouij,

In another place he symbolises the
principle, the "

Holy
of

Ghost as the female
in

Mother of Christ
is

His

eternal

life.

This

metaphor

a

relic

Gnosticism, which the Church wisely rejected.

The second Person
self the

of the Trinity contains in

Himele-

archetypes
"

of everything.
"

He

is

the "

inentum"
universe.

habitaculuin"

habitator"

" locus "

of the

The
in

material world was created for man's

probation.

All spirits pre-existed,

and

their

partial
is

immersion
degradation
delivered.
is

an from

impure material environment

a

which

they

must

aspire

to

be

But the whole mundane history of a soul

only the realisation of the idea which had existed
all

from

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."

128

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
sin

no definite teaching on the relation of
world.

to the ideal

His
"

language

about
"

Christ

and
is

the

Church
"

is

mystical in tone.

The Church
is

Christ,"

he says
;

The

resurrection of Christ

our resurrection
is life."

and
one

of the Eucharist, "

The body

of Christ

We
It

now come
life

to St. Augustine himself,

who

at

period of his

was a diligent student of Plotinus,
justifiable to claim St,

would be hardly

Augustine
but

as

a mystic, since there are important parts of his
;

teaching which have no affinity to Mysticism

it

touched
Platonist.

him on one

side,

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

sectaries, while

he

was

not

ashamed

to

learn

from

Plotinus.

The

mystical or Neoplatonic element in his theology will

be clearly shown
places
errors

in the

following extracts.
to

In a few

he

comes dangerously near
in

some of the
Him.

which we found
is

Dionysius.

God
in

above

all

that can be said of
ineffable;^

We

must not even by
negatives.*

call

Him

He

is

best adored

silence,^ best

known by nescience,^ best described God is absolutely immutable this is a
;

doctrine on which he often insists, and which pervades
all
1

his

teaching
vii. 4.

about
de Doctr.

predestination.
Christ,
i.

The world
;

De
ix.

Trin.
16.

7

;

5- 5

;

Serin. 52. 16

De

Civ,

Dei,
2
*

CorUr. Aditn.

Man.

ii.
1

'^

Dc

Ord,

ii.

16. 44, 18. 47.

Enarrat. in Fs. 85.

2.

PLATONISM AND MYSTICISM
pre-existed from
all

129
;

eternity in the

mind of God

in

the

Word
is

of God, by

whom

all all

things were made, and

who
God

immutable Truth,
the

things and

events are
are
one.

stored

up together unchangeably, and
sees

all

time-process

not

as

a

process,

but

gathered up into one harmonious whole.

This seems

very near to acosmism, but there are other passages

which are intended to guard against
instance,
in

this error.

For
things

the

Confessions

^

he says
;

that
all

"

above are better than things below
together
reality
is is
is

but
is

creation

better than things above"; that

to say, true

something higher than an abstract

spirituality.^

He
the

fond of speaking of the Beauty of
it

God

;

and

as he identifies beauty with symmetry,^

is

plain that

formless "Infinite"

is

for

him, as for every true

Platonist, the

bottom and not the top of the scale of
first

being.

Plotinus had perhaps been the

to speak

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

the

True,
is

and the Beautiful
grades

;

and

this
in

conception,

which

of great value, appears

also

Augustine.
say,

There are three
corporeal,

of beauty, they both

and divine,"* the first being an image of the second, and the second of the third.^
spiritual,

"

Righteousness
^

is

the truest beauty,"

^

Augustine says
the

^

Conf. vii. 13 ad fin. Compare with this sentence of

the

Confessions

statement
far better

of

Erigena quoted below, that " the things which are not are
those which are."
'^

than

Beautiful
*
^

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

De De

Ord.

ii.

i6. 42,
ii.

59

;

Plot.
;

Lib. Arb.

16, 41

Plot.

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

iii.

8. 11.
i.

Enarr. in Ps. xliv. 3 ; Ep. 120, 20. more picturesqueness than usual, koKov ri
®

Plot.

Enn.

6.

4, says

with

BiKaioawris Kai aucjipoaivq^

irpbffusTTOV,

Kai oiire ^(nrepos ovre eyos ovtu KoXa,,

I30

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
" All

more than once,
the
highest

that

is

beautiful

comes from
This
is

Beauty,

which

is

God."

true

Platonism, and points to
kind, which

Mysticism of the symbolic
St.

we must

consider later.

Augustine
evil
is

is

on

less secure

ground when he says that
dark colour which gives
in

simply

the splash of
picture
;

relief to the
it

and when

other places he speaks of

as

simple privation of good.
follows Plotinus.-^
St.

But here again he closely
hostile

Augustine
-

was not

to the as

idea of a

World

Soul
^
;

;

he regards the universe
his

a

living

organism

but he often warns

readers

against

identifying
is

God and

the world, or supposing that
in

merely immanent

creation.

God The Neoplatonic own

teaching about the relation of individual souls to the

World-Soul
Christ.
"

may have
is

helped him to formulate his

teaching about the mystical union of Christians with

His phrase

that Christ and the Church are

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

in

seven

But the higher steps

are,

as usual,

purgation, illumination, and union.

This

last,

which
is

he
"

calls

"

the vision and contemplation of truth,"

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

When we
children

have reached

we

shall

understand the wholesomeness

of the doctrines with which

we were
dicitur

fed, as

1

Ench.

iii.
;

"etiam

illud

quod malum
mali

suo positum
(Eitch.
cf. xi. ),

eminentius commendat bona."

bene ordinatum est loco St. Augustine also says
nisi privationis

"cum omnino
iii.

nomen non
for

sit

mali";

Plot. Efin.

2.

5,

SXws 5^ rh KdKhv
his

^Xeiij/Li'

rod dyaOoD deriov.

St.

Augustine praises Plotinus

teaching on the universality of
^

Providence.
2

De

Civ. Dei,

iv.

12,

vii.

5.

Dc

Quantitate Animce. xxx.

PLATONISM AND MYSTICISM
meaning of such " hard sayings " resurrection of the body will become plain
with milk
;

131
as the to
us.

the

Of

the blessedness which attends
"
I

this

state he says

elsewhere/

entered,

and beheld with the mysterious

eye of

eye of

my my

soul the light that never changes, above the
soul,

above

my

intelligence.

It

was some-

thing altogether different from any earthly illumination.
It

was higher than
I

my

intelligence because

me, and

was lower because made by
truth

knows the
that light

knows that light, knows eternity. Love knows that
"

made it. He who and he who knows
it

light."

And
I

again he says,^
thrills
I
;

What
;

is

this

which

flashes in
it ?

upon me, and
tremble
unlike

my

heart without
I

wounding
feeling
I

and

burn
I

tremble,
feeling

that

I

am

Him

burn,

that

am
we

like

Him."

One more
St.

point must be mentioned before

leave
of, his

Augustine.

In spite

of,

or rather because

Platonism, he had nothing but contempt for the later

Neoplatonism, the theurgic and theosophic apparatus
of lamblichus and his friends.
I

have said nothing yet
in
all

about the extraordinary development of magic
its

branches, astrology, necromancy, table-rapping, and

other kinds of divination, charms
witchcraft,

which

brought

ridicule

and amulets and upon the last

struggles of paganism.

These aberrations of NatureSt.

Mysticism

will

be dealt with in their later developAugustine, after
of
the
is

ments
"

in

my
"

seventh Lecture.
nonsensical

mentioning

some

incantations
Christian old

abracadabra

kind, says, "

A

woman
Conf.
xi. 9.

wiser than these philosophers."
^

In truth, the spirit of
-

Conf.

vii.

10.

I

have quoted Bigg's translation.

132
Plato lived

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
in,

and not outside Christianity, even

in

the

time of Porphyry.
spirits,

And

on the cultus of angels and
connected
with
is

which was

closely

theurgic

superstition, St. Augustine's
ive.

judgment

very instruct" to

"

Whom
?

should

I

find,"

he asks,

reconcile
?

me

to

Thee

Should

I

approach the angels

With

what prayers, with what rites ? Many, as I hear, have tried this method, and have come to crave
for

curious visions, and have been deceived, as they

deserved."^

In

spite

of

St.

Augustine's

Platonism

and

the

immense

influence

which he exercised, the Western
in

Church was slow

developing a mystical theology.

The Greek Mysticism, based on emanation, was not
congenial to the Western mind, and the time of the

yet.

German, with its philosophy of immanence, was not The tendency of Eastern thinkers is to try to
gain a view of reality as a whole, complete and entire
:

the form under which
that of space.

it

most readily pictures

it

is

The West

seeks rather to discover the

universal laws which in every part of the universe are

working out

their fulfilment.

most readily pictures reality Neoplatonism had to undergo certain
^

The form under which it is that of time?Thus
modifications

St.

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

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.

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
it

133

could enter deeply into

the religious con-

sciousness of the West.

The next

great

name

is

that

of John

Scotus

Erigena,^ an English or Irish

monk, who

in the ninth

century translated Dionysius into Latin.

Erigena

is

unquestionably one of the most remarkable figures of
the Middle Ages.

A

bold and independent thinker,

he made

it

his

aim

to elucidate the

vague Ttheories of

Dionysius, and to present them as a consistent philosophical system

worked out by the help of Aristotle

and perhaps Boethius.^

He

intends, of course, to keep
;

within the limits permitted to Christian speculation

but in reality he does not allow

dogma

to fetter him.

The

Christian Alexandrians were, on the whole,

more

orthodox

than

their

language

;

Erigena's

language

partially veils the real audacity of his speculation.
is

He
the

a mystic only by his intellectual
of

affinities ;^

warmth

pious

aspiration

and love which makes
still

Dionysius, amid

all

his extravagance,

a religious

writer, has cooled entirely in Erigena.

He

can pray

with fervour and eloquence for intellectual enlighten-

ment
one
^

;

but there was nothing of the prophet or
Still,

saint'

about him, to judge from his writings.

though
a

might

dispute

his

title

to

be

called

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

him, the place of superaccordance with the Roman,
to

This, as will be

shown

later, is in
is

Catholic view of Mysticism, which

not that adopted in these Lectures.
is

For

us,

Erigena's defect as a mystic

rather

be sought

in

his

extreme intellectualism.

134

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
we must spare
a few minutes to
late

Christian or a mystic,
this last flower of

Neoplatonism, which bloomed so
called Essence or

on our northern
strictly speaking,
in opposition to

islands.
is

God, says Erigena,

Being

;

but,

He

is not "

Being

"

;^

for
is

Being

arises

not-Being, and there

no opposition
parts, one,

to

the

Absolute, or
is

God.
"

Eternity, the abode or

nature of God,
simple,

homogeneous and without

and

indivisible.

God

is

the totality of all

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

He

is

the similarity of the similar, the dissimilarity of

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

All discords are resolved

when
the

they are considered as parts of the universal harmony."
All things begin

from unity and end
Goodness,
is

in

unity

:

Absolute can contain nothing self-contradictory.
so

And
is

God cannot be

called

for

Goodness

opposed to Badness, and God
Goodness, however,
Being.
is

above

this distinction.

a more comprehensive term than

There may be Goodness without Being, but not Being without Goodness for Evil is the negation
;

of Being.

"
;

The

Scripture openly pronounces this,"

says Erigena
not^ lo,

" for

we

read,
lo,

God saw

all

things

;

and
All

they were, but,

they were very good."
"

things are, in so far as they are good.

But the things
a defect,

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

than

those which
it

are."

Being, in
the

fact,

is

" since

separates

from

superessential

Good."
is

The
that
^

feeling

which prompts

this strange expression

since

time and space are themselves onesided

"

Dum

vero (divina bonitas) incomprehensibilis intelligitur, per excel-

lentiam non immerilo nihilum vocitatui."

PLATONISM AND MYSTICISM
appearances, a fixed limit must be set to the

135
of

amount

goodness and reality which can be represented under
these conditions.

Erigena therefore thinks that to
In so

enter the time-process must be to contract a certain

admixture of unreality or
involves
separateness

evil.

far

as

life

(not
is

distinction),

this

must be
it

true

;

but the manifold

only

evil

when
is
it

is

dis-

cordant and antagonistic to unity.

That the many-inthe effect of

one should appear as the one-in-many,
the forms of time and space in which

appears
not

;

the
far

statement

that

"

the things which
is

are

are

better than those which are,"

only true in the sense

that the world of appearance

is

permeated by

evil as

yet unsubdued, which in the

Godhead
above
all

exists only as

something overcome or transmuted,
Erigena says that God
including that of relation.
is

the categories,
the Persons

It follows that
" relative

of the Trinity, which are only

names," are

fused

in

the Absolute,^
if

We may

make statements
they
are

about

God,
;

we
is

remember

that

only

metaphors

but whatever

we deny about Him, we
"

deny
^

truly.-

This

the " negative road

of Dionysius,-«
of the

This

is

really

a revival of " modalism,"
36

The unorthodoxy
successors.

doctrine becomes very apparent in
^

some of Erigena's
inter nos est

De

Div. Nat.

i.

:

" lamdudum
prcedicari,

vel sensu corporeo vel intellectu vel ratione cognoscuntur

confectum omnia quae de Deo merito
se prsedi-

creatore

omnium, posse
are

dum

nihil

eorum quae de
esse."

cantur pura veritatis contemplatio

eum approbat
z7;/af. i.

All affirmations

about

God

made "non

proprie sed translative";
i.

translative sedproprie."

Cf. also

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.""

all negations " non " veriusfideliusque negatur ibid. i. 5. 26, " theophanias

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

136
from

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
whom
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

all

things

is

to " rest

and be quiet

"

God.

But he

tries

to escape the conclusion that
;

distinctions

must disappear
raises

rather,

he says, the

return to

God
first

creatures into a higher state, in

which they
an
"

attain their true being.

All individual

types will be preserved in the universal.
illustration,

He

borrows

not a very happy one, from Plotinus.
it

As

iron,

when
fire,

becomes red-hot, seems
into soul,

to be turned

into pure

but remains no less iron than before

so

when body passes
in

and

rational substances

into God, they
it

do not

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

things

is

established according to

them.

God

created the

\\'orld,

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.
that order

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

PLATONISM AND MYSTICISM
have always pre-existed
has
"

137
;

yonder
be

" in

the

Word
in

God

only caused

them

to

realised

time and

space.
"

sees

Thought and Action are identical by working and works by seeing."
is

in

God."

"

He


all

Man

a microcosm.
vital,

The

fivefold division of nature

corporeal,

sensitive,
his

rational,

intellectual

is

represented
is

in

organisation.

The

corruptible

body
body
"

an

"

accident," the consequence of sin.
incorruptible.

The
This

original

body was immortal and
one day be restored.
is

will

Evil has no substance, and

destined to disappear.
life

Nothing contrary to the Divine goodness and

and blessedness can be coeternal with them."
world must reach perfection, when
be
all

The
is

will

ultimately
the
that

God.

"

The

loss

and absence of Christ
I

torment of the whole creation, nor do
there
is

think

any

other."

There

is

no "place of punish-

ment

"

anywhere.
is

Erigena

an admirable interpreter of the Alex-

andrians and of Dionysius, but he emphasises their

most dangerous tendencies.
that his
that

We
;

cannot be surprised
it is

books were condemned

more strange

the audacious theories

which they repeat from

Dionysius should have been allowed to pass without
censure for so long.
tion

Indeed, the freedom of specula-

accorded
to

to

the
zeal

mystics
for

forms

a

remarkable

exception

the

exact

orthodoxy

which

characterised the general policy of the early Church.
words about creation
are,

"Ac

sic

de nihilo

facit

omnia, de sua videlicet
et

superessentialitate producit essentias, de supervitalitate vitas,
intellectualitate intellectus,

de negatione omnium qux sunt
qua; sunt et quce

de superqucc non

sunt, affirmationes

omnium

non

sunt.''

138

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
is

The explanation
its

that

in

the

East Mysticism has

seldom been revolutionary, and has compensated for
speculative audacity

by the readiness of

its

outward

conformity.
the earthly

Moreover, the theories of Dionysius about

and heavenly hierarchies were by no means
to sacerdotalism.

unwelcome
different.

In the

West
is

things were
spirit

Mysticism there has always been a

of
in

reform,

generally of revolt.

There

much even
the
is

Erigena, whose main

affinities

were with

East,

which forecasts the Reformation.

He

the father,

not only of Western Mysticism and scholasticism, but
of rationalism as well.^
in

his

speculations was not at

But the danger which lurked His first recognised.

book on predestination was condemned in 855 and 859 for its universalist doctrine,^ and two hundred years
later his Eucharistic doctrine, revived

by Berengar, was
upon him.
chief

censured.^

But

it

was not

till

the thirteenth century

that

a general condemnation was passed

This judgment followed the appearance of a strongly
pantheistic

or

acosmistic

school of

of

mystics,

among whom was Amalric
theology at Paris about
interesting
figure,

Bena,

a

master
is

of

1200.

Amalric

a very
all

for

his

teaching

exhibits

the

features which are
^

most characteristic of extravagant
his

So Kaulich shows

in

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
that
^

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,"

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
in

139
Divine
the infor

the

West

its

strong

belief in
in

immanence, not only
dividual
;

in

the

Church, but

its

uncompromising rationalism, contempt
forms,

ecclesiastical

and

tendency

to

evolutionary

optimism.

Among

the doctrines attributed to Amalric

and

his followers are a pantheistic identification of
;

man

with God, and a negation of matter
to teach that unconsecrated
Christ,

they were said

bread was the body of
(a curious

and that God spoke through Ovid
!),

choice

as

well

as

through
"

St.

Augustine,

They

denied the resurrection of the body, and the traditional
eschatology, saying that of

he who has the knowledge
revelation

God

in

himself has paradise within him."
a progressive
historical

insisted

on

They
the

reign of the Father began with

Abraham,

that of the

Son with

Christ, that

of the

Spirit with themselves.

They
in

despised

sacraments, believing that the Spirit

works without means.
truly, of the licentious

They taught

that he

who

lives

love can do no wrong, and were suspected, probably

conduct which naturally follows
This antinomianism
it is

from such a doctrine.
of true Mysticism with mystical
It
is
;

is

no part

but

often found in conjunction

speculation

among

the

half-educated.

the vulgar perversion of Plotinus' doctrine that
is

matter
nature

nothing, and that the highest part of our

can

take

no

stain.^

We

find

evidence

of the

immorality practised
Gnostics and

" in

nomine

caritatis "
first

among
The
in

Manicheans of the

centuries,

and
sects

these heresies never really became extinct.

of the
'

"

Free

Spirit,"

who
i.

flourished

later
is

the

Similar leaching from the sacred books of the East
p.

quoted by E.

Caird, Evolution of Religion, vol.

355.

I40

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
They combined with
all

thirteenth century, had an even worse reputation than

the Amah-icians.

their

Pantheism

a Determinism which destroyed
bility.

sense of responsi-

On

the other hand, the followers of Ortlieb of

Strassburg,

about

the

same

period,

advocated

an

extreme asceticism based on a dualistic or Manichean
view of the world
;

and they combined with

this

error

an extreme rationalism, teaching that the
Christ was a mere

historical

man
;

;

that the Gospel history has

only a symbolical truth

that the soul only, without the
his priests

body,

is

immortal

;

and that the Pope and

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
centuries

produced several famous

writers,

who attempted to combine scholasticism and Mysticism.^ The leaders in this attempt were Bernard,^ Hugo and
Richard of
^

St. Victor,

Bonaventura, Albertus Magnus,
work of the
twelfth

This

is

the accepted phrase for the

and

thirteenth

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.

We

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

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

much

FLATONISM AND MYSTICISM
and
(later)

141

Gerson.

Their works are not of great value

as contributions to religious philosophy, for the School-

men were
tradition

too

much

afraid of their authorities

and Aristotle

Catholic
to

to

probe

difficulties

the

bottom
life

;

and the mystics, who, by making the renewed

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

pendent, were debarred, by their ignorance of Greek,

from a first-hand knowledge of their intellectual ancestors.

But

in

the history of Mysticism they hold an

important place.^

Speculation being for them restricted

within the limits of Church-dogma, they were obliged
to be

more psychological and

less

metaphysical than
often on

Dionysius or Erigena.
self-knowledge as the

The Victorines insist way to the knowledge
as

of God,
philo-

and on
sophy.
" is to

self-purification
"

more important than
says
-

The way
self,"

to

ascend to God,"
"

Hugo,

descend into oneself."
says

self

above

The ascent is through Richard we are to rise on
;

stepping-stones of our dead
"

selves to higher things.

Let him that
his

thirsts to see

God

clean his mirror, let

him make

own

spirit bright,"

says Richard again.
is

The

Victorines do not disparage reason, which
in

the

organ by which mankind
things of

general

apprehend the

God

;

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
sin.

"to

see

God

within our-

selves"; this eye has been blinded by
given us " to see ourselves "
of flesh " remains in
its
;

The "eye
sin.

of reason" was

this

has been injured by

Only

th"e

" eye

pristine clearness.

In things "above reason "
ulla,

we

must

trust to faith,

"quce non adiuvatur ratione

quoniam non

capit

ea ratio."

142

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
in

reached per mentis excessum, and
truth
is

which the naked

seen,

no longer
state, in

in a glass darkly.^

This highest
birth

which

"

Reason
in

dies in giving

to

Ecstasy, as
is

Rachel died

giving birth to
life.

Benjamin,"
is

not on the high road of the spiritual

It

a rare

gift,

bestowed by supernatural grace.
first

Richard
is

says that the

stage of contemplation

an ex-

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

an

alienation.

second from

The human

first

arises

from human

effort,

the

effort assisted

by Divine

grace, the

third from Divine grace alone.

The

predisposing con-

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

and joy
is

(exaltatio)

;

but these cannot

produce ecstasy, which
supernatural, which

a purely supernatural infusion.

This sharp opposition between the natural and the
is

fully

developed

first

by Richard

of St. Victor,

is

the distinguishing feature of Catholic
is

Mysticism.

It

an abandonment of the great aim
Christian
idealists

which the

earlier

had

set

before

themselves, namely, to find spiritual law in the normal

course of nature, and the motions of the Divine
in

Word
now
that

the normal

processes of mind.

St.

John's great
is

doctrine of the

Logos

as a cosmic principle

dropped.
Richard,

Roman

Catholic

apologists

^

claim

^

of this state:

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
against
all

other faculties are obscured.

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.
delusions?
transfigured

"The

Christ,"

he

says,

^

See, especially, Stockl,
i.

Geschichte der riulosophie des Mittela/ters,

vol.

pp. 382-384.

PLATONISM AND MYSTICISM
Mysticism

143

was
"

thus

set

free

from

the

" idealistic

pantheism

of the Neoplatonist, and from the
"

" Gnostic-

Manichean duahsm

which accompanies
is

it.

The world
from

of space and time (they say)
it

no longer regarded, as
fainter effluence

was by the Neoplatonist, as a
is

an ideal world, nor

human

individuality endangered

by

theories

of immanence.

Both nature

and

man

regain a sort of independence.
as free

We

once more tread

men on

solid ground, while occasional " super"

natural

phenomena

are not wanting to testify to the

existence of higher powers.

We
by
but
St.

have seen that the Logos-doctrine
Clement)
is

(as

understood
;

exceptionally liable to perversion
it

the remedy of discarding

is

worse than the
cleft

disease.

The

unscriptural

^

and unphilosophical

between natural and supernatural introduces a more
intractable dualism than that of Origen.

The

faculty

which, according to this theory, possesses
intuition into the things of
sible to reason,

immediate

God

is

not only irresponit.

but stands in no relation to

It

ushers us into an entirely
criteria of truth

new

world, where the familiar
inapplicable.

and falsehood are
is

And

what

it

reveals to us

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
its

order to show
^

power over them.^

P'or as

soon as

natural and spiritual (see esp.

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
i

Cor.

ii. )

is

:

144

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
when untested The
to rise

the formless intuition of contemplation begins to express itself in symbols, these symbols,

by

reason, are transformed into hallucinations.
"

warning of Plotinus, that
reason
falls

he who

tries

above

outside of

it,"

receives a painful corrobora-

tion in such legends as that of St. Christina,

who by
soared
of these

reason

of her

extreme

saintliness

frequently

over the tops of trees.
alleged
"

mystical

The consideration phenomena " belongs to
hope
"

objective

Mysticism, which
Lecture.

I I

to

deal

with

in

a

later

Here
first

will

only say that the scholasticsupernatural
so
"

mystical

doctrine

of

interventions,

which
in

at

sight

seems

attractive,

has

led

practice

to

the

most

barbarous

and

ridiculous

superstitions.^

Another good specimen of
the
short
treatise,
It

scholastic

Mysticism
"

is

De

adhcerendo

Deo, of

Albertus
negative

Magnus.

shows very clearly how the

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
*
'

Roman

Catholic teaching,

is

acquired
natural

either

by virtue or by gratuitous favour. "

The dualism of

and supernatural thus allows men

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
"

145

had become the highway of mediaeval Catholicism,
little

and how
progress
"

could
the

be

hoped

for

civilisation

and

from
St.
first

continuance
is

of

such

teaching.

When
the

John says that God
paragraph of
his
in spirit,
all
is,

a Spirit," says Albert
"

in

treatise,

and that

He

must be worshipped

he means that the mind

must be cleared of
shut thy door

images.

When
all

thou prayest,
. .
.

that

the doors of thy senses

keep them barred and bolted against
images.
free
.
.

phantasms and

.

Nothing pleases God more than a mind
occupations and distractions.
. .
.

from
is

all

Such a
it

mind
think

in

a manner transformed into God, for

can

of nothing, and

understand nothing, and love
other creatures and itself
it

nothing, except
sees in God.
. .

God
.

:

only

He who
desire
;

penetrates into himself, and
. . .

so transcends himself, ascends truly to God.

He
and

whom
all

I

love
is

and

is

above

all

that

is

sensible

that

intelligible

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

the
.

contemplation
.
.

even

of the

mystery of the Trinity.
world,

Do

not think about the

nor

about
;

thy

friends,

nor

about

the

past,

present, or future

but consider thyself to be outside
if

the world

and alone with God, as

thy soul were

already separated from the body, and had no longer

any

interest in

peace or war, or the state of the world.
fix

Leave thy body, and
light.
.
. . .

thy gaze on the uncreated

.

.

Let nothing come between thee and God.
soul in contemplation views the world from

The
off,

afar

just as,

abstraction, 10

when we proceed to God by the way of we deny Him, first all bodily and sensible

146
attributes,

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
then intelligible qualities, and,
lastly,

that

bemg

(esse)

which keeps

Him among
is

created things.

This, according to Dionysius,

the best

mode

of union

with God."

Bonaventura resembles Albertus

in

reverting

more

decidedly than the Victorines to the Dionysian tradition.

He
Divine

expatiates on the passivity and
is

nakedness

of the soul which
the

necessary in order to enter into

darkness,

and

elaborates

with

tiresome

pedantry his arbitrary schemes of faculties and stages.

However, he gains
Aristotle,

something by
uses to
correct

his

knowledge of
Neoplatonic
*

which he

the
"

doctrine of

God

as

abstract

Unity.

omnimodum,' " he says finely, " quia He is " totum intra omnia et totum extra" a succinct statement that God is both immanent and tran-

God is ideo summe unum."

scendent.

His proof of the Trinity
It
is

is

original

and

profound.
itself,

the

nature of the

and

so

the

highest

Good to impart Good must be " summe
only

diffusivum
union.

sui,"

which

can

be

in

hypostatic

The

last great scholastic

mystic

is

Gerson,

who

lived

from 1363 to 1429.

He

attempts to reduce Mysticall

ism to an exact science, tabulating and classifying
the teaching of his predecessors.

A very brief summary

of his system

is

here given.

Gerson distinguishes symbolical, natural, and mystical

theology, confining the last to the method which

rests

on

inner

experiences,

and

proceeds

by

the

negative road.

The

experiences of the mystic have

a greater certainty than any external revelations can
possess.

PLATONISM AND MYSTICISM
Gerson's psychology

147
fol-

may be

given in outline as
faculties:

lows

:

The

cognitive

power has three
light,

(i)

simple intelligence or natural
highest intelligence,
ing,

an outflow from the
(2) the understand-

God Himself;
frontier

which

is

on the

between the two worlds

(3)

sense-consciousness.

To

each

of

these
faculties

three
:

faculties

answers
(2)

one

of the

affective

(

i

synteresis;^

understanding,

rational

desire;

(3)

sense-affections.
activities:

To

these

again
(2)

correspond

three
(3)

(i)

contemplation;

meditation;-

thought.

Mystical theology differs from speculative
lastic),

[ix.

scho-

in

that

mystical

theology
;

belongs
that
it

to

the

affective faculties, not the cognitive

does not

depend on
ignorant
it
;

logic,

and

is

therefore

open even to the
brings peace,

that

it is

not open to the unbelieving, since
;

rests

upon
"

faith

and love

and that
"

it

whereas speculation breeds unrest.

The

means of mystical theology

are seven
is

:

(i.)

the call of

God

;

(ii.)

contemplative

life
;

certainty that one

called to the

all

are not so

;

(iii.)

freedom from

encumbrances

(iv.)

concentration
;

of interests
;

upon

God
(vii.)

;

(v.)

perseverance

(vi.)

asceticism
is

but the body

must not be maltreated
shutting the eye to

if it

to be a

good servant

all

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

— " per meditationem rimamur, per contemplaest actus
is

tionem niiramur."
sublimis veritatis."
^

("Admiratio
schematism
its

—Thomas Aquinas.)
very
affinity to

consequens contemplationem
of this

This

arbitrary

characteristic

type

of

Mysticism, and shows

Indian philosophy.

Compare "the

148

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
is

Mysticism

Such teaching as this itself becomes

of small value or interest.

arid

and formal

in the

hands
to
in

of Gerson.
failure,

The whole movement was doomed

inasmuch as scholasticism was philosophy

chains,
folded.

and the negative road was Mysticism blind-

No

fruitful

reconciliation

between philosophy

and piety could
promise.

be

thus achieved.

The decay
either

of

scholasticism put an end to these attempts at com-

Henceforward

the

mystics

discard

metaphysics, and develop their theology on the devotional

and

ascetic side

the course which was followed
;

by the

later Catholic mystics

or they copy Erigena in

his independent attitude towards tradition.

In this Lecture
lative

we

are following the line of specu-

Mysticism, and
of
all

we have now

to consider

the

greatest

speculative

mystics, Meister Eckhart,

who was born soon
century.^

after the

middle of the thirteenth

He

was a Dominican monk, prior of Erfurt and afterwards vicar-general
this period

and
for

vicar of Thuringen,

Bohemia.

He

preached a great deal at Cologne

about 1325; and before
k-elations

had come

into close

with the Beghards and Brethren of the Free
societies

Spirit

of

men and women who, by
said,

their

implicit faith in the inner light, resembled the Quakers,

though many of them, as has been
of immoral theories and practices.

were accused

His teaching soon

attracted the attention of the Inquisition,
his doctrines were formally

and some of condemned by the Pope in

1329, immediately after his death.
eightfold path of

Buddha," and a hundred other shnilar
is

classifications in

the sacred books of the East.
'

The

date usually given, 1260,

probably too late

;

but the exact year

cannot be determined.

PLATONISM AND MYSTICISM
The aim
which
shall

149
is

of Eckhart's religious philosophy
for

to find

a speculative basis
at

the doctrines of the Church,
satisfy the

the

same time
for

claims of

spiritual

religion.

His aims are purely constructive,
distaste

and he shows a

polemical

controversy;
are Dio;

The
must

writers

whom
read

he chiefly
Gregory,
Erigena,

cites

by name
Boethius

nysius,

Augustine,

and and

but

he

have

probably

Averroes,

whom obligations,^ He
writers to

a Catholic could hardly confess his
also frequently introduces quotations

with the words, "
nearly always

A

master

saith."

The
to

"

master

"

is

Thomas Aquinas,

whom
it

Eckhart

was no doubt greatly indebted, though
a great mistake to say, as

would be
that
all

some have done,
Sumnia,
to

Eckhart can be found
he sets himself
"

in the

For instance,
the

in

opposition

Thomas about

spark," which

Thomas regarded

as a faculty of the

soul,
it

while

Eckhart, in his later writings, says that

is

uncreated.^

His double object leads him into
"The
Mysticism of Eckhart

^

Prof.
its

Karl Pearson {Mind, 1886) says,
leading ideas to Averroes."

owes

He

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),
is

they differ in this

— that with Averis

roes personality

a phase or accident, but with Eckhart the eternal

immanent
ality is for

in the personality in

such a

way

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
notion of Person
is

the centre-point of his system.

He

says,

" The word

/aw
-

none can

truly speak but

become a person,

as the

God alone." The Son of God is a Person.

individual must try to

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

I50

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
inconsistencies.
Intellectually,
;

some
him

he
his

is

drawn

to-

wards a semi-pantheistic idealism
an
Evangelical
to
find

heart

makes
it

Christian.
in

But
his

though

is

possible

contradictions

writings,

his

transparent intellectual honesty and his great powers
of thought,
like

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

ing figures in the history of Christian philosophy.

Eckhart wrote
for

in

German

;

that

is

to say,

he wrote
His

the public, and not

for

the

learned only.

desire to be intelligible to the general reader led

him
laid

to adopt an epigrammatic antithetic style,

and to omit

qualifying phrases.

This

is

one reason why he
"

himself open to so

many

accusations of heresy.^
the

Eckhart distinguishes between
"

Godhead

"

and

God."

The Godhead

is

the abiding potentiality of

Being, containing within

Himself

all

distinctions, as

yet undeveloped.

He

therefore cannot be the object
"

of knowledge, nor of worship, being
"

Darkness

"

and

Formlessness."

-

The Triune God

is

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.
^

See Appendix A,
iii.

Preger
it is

(vol.

p.

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

But

clear, I think, that

to the average educated

he did try to make his philosophy intelligible man, though his teaching is less ethical and more

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
Godhead.

151

The Son
;

is

the

Word

of the Father, His
is

uttered thought

and the Holy Ghost

"-the

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

as a

Word

from the heart, as a ray from the
fire,

sun, as heat as a stream

from the

as fragrance from the flower,

from a perennial fountain."

He

insists

that the generation of the

Son

is

a continual process.

The

universe
;

is
it

the expression of the whole thought
is

of the Father

the language of the

Word.
"

EckNature

hart loves startling phrases, and says
is

boldly, "

the lower part of the Godhead," and

Before crea-

tion,

God was

not God."

These statements are not

so crudely pantheistic as they sound.

He

argues that

without the Son the Father would

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
not.

when

the

Son was
Son
is

But the generation of the Son necesan ideal world
constituted
;

sarily involves the creation of

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
Reason, and Reason
is

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
:

" (Gottes) einfeltige natur

ist

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

152
sense.

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
The
"

ideal

world

is is

the complete expression of

the thought of God, and
calls
tiirte
it

above space and time.
"

He

non-natured nature," as opposed to
the

diu gena-

nature,"

world of phenomena.^

Eckhart's

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

portant particular.

The Neoplatonists always thought
heat and
brightness as they
It

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

decrease in

recede

from the central focus.

follows that

the

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

subordinate to the

First,

and the Third
is

to

the

Second.

But with Eckhart there
is

no subordination.
"

The Son

the pure brightness of the Father's glory,

and the express image of His Person.
fountain of things
in
is

The

eternal

the Father

;

the image of things

Him

is

the Son, and

love for this

Image

is

the

Holy Ghost."
(as possibilities)
all

All created things abide " formless
in

the ground of the Godhead, and

are realised in the Son.

The Alexandrian
found
it

Fathers,

in identifying the

Logos with the Platonic NoO?, the
difficult

bearer of the World-Idea, had
avoid

to

subordinating

Him

to

the

Father.

Eckhart

escapes this heresy, but in consequence his view of
the world
is

more

pantheistic.

world

is

really

Divine mind.^

God it is the whole content of the The question has been much debated,

For

his

intelligible

'

-

Compare Spinoza's " natura naturata." The ideas are "uncreated creatures " they
;

not in themselves."
sein

are " creatures in God but Preger states Eckhart's doctrine thus: " Gott denkt

Wesen in untergeordnete Weise nachahmbar, und der Reflex dieses Denkens in dem gottlichen Bewusstsein, die Vorstellungen hievon, sind
die Ideen."

But

in

what sense

is

the ideal world "subordinate"?

The

Son

in

Eclchart holds quite a different relation to the Father from that

PLATONISM AND MYSTICISM
whether Eckhart really
falls

153

into

pantheism or not.
is

The answer seems
the
phenonc^enal

to

me
to

to

depend on what

the

obscurest part of his

whole system
the

the relation of

world

world of ideas.

He

offers

the Christian

dogma

of the Incarnation of the
"

Logos
"

as a' kind of explanation of the passage of the
"

prototypes

into "externality."

When God
arises.

"

speaks
is

His

ideas, the

phenomenal world

This

an

incarnation.

But the process by which the soul eman-

cipates itself from the
intelligible

phenomenal and returns
"

to the

world,

is

also called a
is

begetting of the

Son."

Thus the whole process
to

a circular one

— from
things

God and back
says,

God

again.

Time and

space, he

were created with the world.

Material

are outside each other, spiritual things in each other.

But these statements do not make
which he

it

clear

how Eckhart

accounts for the imperfections of the phenomenal world,
is

precluded from explaining, as the Neo-

platonists did,

we

solve

by a theory of emanation. Nor can the difficulty by importing modern theories

of evolution into his system.
which the Novj holds
will

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 alterito

show

:

"God

is

for ever

:

tate

quadam
est."

—non
Our

tamen omnimoda
life

alteritate

;

quidquid enim

in

Deo

est

Deus

eternal

remains "perpetuo in divina essentia sine
out

discretione,"

but continually flows

tionem."

Ruysbroek also says clearly that creation
'

"per reternam Verbi generais the embodiment
in

of the whole

the unity, lives in the

mind of God: "Whatever lives in the Father hidden Son in emanatione manifesta.'

154

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

history as a gradual realisation of the Divine Personality

was foreign to Eckhart's thought.

Stockl, indeed,

tries to father

upon him the doctrine that the human
theory cannot be found
"

mind
God.

is

a necessary organ of the self-development of
this
in

But
"

Eckhart.

The Son "
is

necessity

which impels God to

"

beget
"

His

is

not a physical but a moral necessity.
itself,"
is

The
fact

good must needs impart
ism than
to

he says.^

The
us

that his view of the world

much

nearer to acosmso

pantheism.

"

Nothing hinders

much from
he says.

the knowledge of

He

sees in
it

God as time and phenomena only the negation

place,"

of being, and

is

not clear

how he can

also regard
It

them

as the

abode of the immanent God.^
to

would
give

probably be true
thinkers, he

say that, like
feel

most mediaeval
to

did

not

himself obliged

a

permanent value to the
interested

transitory,

and that the world,
spirits,

except as the temporary abode of immortal

him but
life

little.

His neglect of history, includis

ing the earthly

of Christ,

not at

all

the result of

scepticism about the miraculous.

It is

simply due to

the feeling that the Divine process in the " everlasting

Now

"

is

a fact of immeasurably greater importance
in the

than any occurrence
^

external world can be.
for teaching

It

is

true that Eckhart
;

was censured

"

Deum

sine ipso

nihil facere posse "

but the notion of a real becoming of

God

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,
against the misrepresentation that

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.

PLATONISM AND MYSTICISM
When
we
evil.

155

a religious writer

is

suspected of pantheism,

naturally turn to his treatment of the problem of

To

the true pantheist
for

all

is

equally divine, and
it

everything

the best or for the worst,

does not

much matter

which.^

Eckhart certainly does not mean

to countenance this absurd theory, but there are pas-

sages in his writings which logically imply

it

;

and we
sin,

look in vain for any elucidation, in his doctrine of
of the dark places in his doctrine of God.'^

In

fact,

he

adds very
nature of

little

to

the

Neoplatonic doctrine of the
identifies

evil.

Like Dionysius, he

Being with
evil
is

Good, and
self-will
:

evil,

as such, with not-being.

Moral

it is

the attempt, on the part of the creature,

to

be a particular This or That outside of God.

But what
the

is

most

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
*

I

mean

that a pantheist

may
all

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

things are one, from angel to spider."

lay hold of this error.

Among the
"Item,

twentyin

six articles

of the

gravamen against Eckhart we
stamp of true pantheism.
above them."

find,

omni

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

The

word

aqualiter'xs the

Eckhart, however, whether

consistently or not, frequently asserts the transcendence of
in the creatures, but

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

"He

is

a like phenomenal existence.
there

He

attempts to solve this puzzle by the

hypothesis of a double aspect of the
is

new

birth (see below).

But
his

I fear

some justice in Professor Pearson's comment, "Thus menology is shattered upon his practical theology."

pheno-

156

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
In his

merely united to Him.^
"

teaching about this

ground of the soul
is

"

Eckhart wavers.

His

earlier

view

that

it

is

created,

and only the medium by which But
his
later doctrine

God
is

transforms us to Himself
it

that

is

uncreated, the
"

immanence of

the Being and
ist

Nature of God H imself.
he says once.

Diess Flinkelein, das

Gott,"

This view was adopted by Ruysbroek,

Suso, and (with modifications by) Tauler, and

became

one of

their chief tenets.-

This spark

is

the organ by

which our personality holds communion with God and

knows Him.
uses

It

is

with reference to
often

it

that Eckhart

the phrase which has so

been quoted to

convict
^

him of blasphemous

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

is

this difference,

that while the earlier writers regard
it

resemblance to

God

as only a residue, Eckhart regards

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
I

157

see
^

He
like

sees me."

God The
this

is

the

same

as that with which
" is

"

uncreated spark

really the

same

as the grace of God, which raises us into a
state.

God(at

But

grace, according to
is

Eckhart

least in his later period),

God Himself

acting like a
that

"

human faculty in the soul, and transforming it so man himself becomes grace." The following is perhaps the most instructive
:

pas-

sage

"

There

is

in the soul

something which
;

is

above

the soul. Divine, simple, a pure nothing
less
I

rather

name-

than named, rather

unknown than known.

am accustomed
I

to speak in
it

my

discourses.

Of this Someabsolute

times
light,

have called
from

a power, sometimes an uncreated
It
is

and sometimes a Divine spark.
all

and
free

free

names and
in Himself.

all

forms, just as

God

is

and absolute

It is

higher than know-

ledge, higher than love, higher than grace.

For

in all

these there

is still

distinction.
all

In this power

God doth

blossom and flourish with
^

His Godhead, and the

No

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

immanence can be found than

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.

'

:

158

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
God.
In this power the Father

Spirit flourisheth in

bringeth forth His only-begotten Son, as essentially as
in

Himself; and

in this
all
is

light ariseth the

Holy Ghost.
have only
rests satisfied

This spark rejecteth

creatures,

and
It

will

God, simply as

He

in

Himself.

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
It is satisfied It
is

particular attribute.

only

with the superessential essence.
enter
into

determined to

the

simple

Ground, the

still
it

Waste, the
satisfied in

Unity where no man dwelleth.
the light
;

Then
is

is

then

it

is

one

:

it

one

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

is

as destructive

of the possibility of love and knowledge as complete
separation.^

Eckhart gives to
^

" the highest
i.

reason
:

"

-

the primacy
in

Eckhart sees

this (cf. Preger, vol.

p.

421)

" Personality

Eckhart

is

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-

ness

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
is
; ;

higher consciousness
is

is

supra-temporal.
;

The

potential
is

ground of the soul

and remains
;

sinless

but the personality

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
among
it

159

our faculties, and in his earlier period identifies with " the spark." He asserts the absolute supremacy

of reason

more strongly than anyone
this

since

Erigena.

His language on

subject
"

resembles that of the

Cambridge
eternal
life,"

Platonists.

Reasonable

knowledge

is

he says.

" "

How

can any external revelait

tion help me,"

he asks,

unless

be verified by inner

experience

?

The

last

appeal must always be to the
being,

deepest part of
"

my own

and that

is

my

reason."

The

reason," he says, "presses ever upwards.

It

cannot

rest content

with goodness or wisdom, nor even with
it

God Himself;
whence
all

must penetrate to the Ground from
not content with the knowledge of

goodness and wisdom spring."
is

Thus Eckhart

God which

is

mediated by Christ, but aspires to pene-

trate into the " Divine darkness "

which underlies the
fact,

manifestation of the Trinity.

In

when he speaks

of the imitation of Christ, he
"

distinguishes between

the

way

of the manhood," which has to be followed
"

by

all,

and

the

way

of the Godhead," which

is

for the

mystic only.

In this overbold aspiration to
falls into

rise "

from

the Three to the One," he

the error which

we
his

have

already

noticed,

and

several

passages

in

writings advocate the quietistic self-simplification which

belongs to this scheme of perfection.

There are senall

tences in which he exhorts us to strip off

that

comes
In his

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

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.

i6o

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
upon the
all

to us from the senses, and to throw ourselves

heart of God, there to rest for ever,
creatures."
^

"

hidden from

But there are many other passages of an

opposite tendency.

He

tells

us that " the

way
by

of the

manhood," which, of course, includes imitation of the
active
insists
life

of Christ, must be trodden

first

all

;

he

that in the state of union the faculties of the

soul will act in

a

new and higher way,
;

so that the

personality

is

restored, not destroyed

and, lastly, he

teaches that

contemplation

is

only the
is,

means
its

to

a

higher activity, and that this
"

in

fact,

object

what a man has taken
for
;

in

pours out in love."
desire
rest

There

is

by contemplation, that he no contradiction in the
desire
for

combined with the

active

service
activity

for rest
;

can only be defined as unimpeded
is,

but in Eckhart there

I

think, a real incon-

sistency.

The

traditions

of

his

philosophy pointed

towards withdrawal from the world and from outward
occupations

—towards
in

the monkish ideal, in a word

;

but the modern

spirit

was already

astir within

him.
his

He

preached

German

to the general public,

and

favourite

themes are the present living operation of
life

the Spirit, and the consecration of

in

the world.

There
The

is,

he shows, no contradiction between the active
manner of Dio-

^

following sentence, for instance,

is in

the worst

nysius:

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
shall love
:

"Thou

God

as

He

is,

sea of the Infinite.

He
is

also aspires to absolute d.-KaQeia.{Abgeschiedenheit).
If a friend

"

Is

he sick

?

He

as fain to be sick as well.

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
In

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
;

first.

"

Mary hath
is

chosen

the good part

that

is,"

he says,
is

"

she

striving to be
:

as holy as her sister.

Mary
It is

still

at school

Martha
hungry
"

has learnt her lesson.

better to feed the
St.

than to see even such visions as
ein

Paul saw."

Besser
dis-

Lebemeister

als

tausend Lesemeister."

He

courages monkish religiosity and external badges of
saintliness

"

avoid everything peculiar," he says, " in
"

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

and language."
;

You need

desert and fast

a crowd

is

often

"

What

is

the good of the dead bones of saints
;

?

"

he

asks, in the spirit of a sixteenth century reformer

" the

dead can neither give nor take."
^

^

This double aspect
is

Many passages might
lasts for ever.

be quoted.

The
is

ordinary conckision

that

Mary

chose the better part, because activity templation
in the

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

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
. . .

;

vero oeternce contemplationis Dei, habens certam et delectabilem

intelli-

gentiam
^

veritatis, ipsa est

Rachel, unde etiam dicitur bona facie

et

pulcra

specie," etc.

Moreover, he
your will
is

is

never tired of insisting that the Will

is

everything.

"

If

right,

can do everything."
love."

you cannot go wrong," he " Love resides in the will
evil
life

says.

— the

" With the will I more will, the more
is

"There

is

nothing

but the evil will, of which sin

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."
;

" The value of human

II

1

62

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

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,
is

insists

that love,

when

per-

independent of the hope of reward, and he
in

shows great freedom
Heaven.
from God

handling Purgatory, Hell, and
not
places;

They
is

are

states,

separation
is

the misery of
"

hell,

and each man
Scripture.^

his

own

judge.

We

would

spiritualise

everything,"

he

says, with especial reference to

Holy

In comparing the Mysticism of Eckhart with that of
his predecessors,

from Dionysius downwards, and of the
to Gerson,

scholastics

down

we

find

an obvious change

in the disappearance of the long ladders of ascent, the

graduated

scales
fill

of virtues,

faculties,

and

states

of

mind, which

so large a place

in

those systems.

These

lists
it

are the natural product of the imagination,

when

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. " is for him really " divinae particula aurae." " God 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

knew

better

;

he only wrote that

for the

sake of the populace,
willed,

who

could not have understood otherwise.

God merely

and the

world

was"

~

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

in the soul
is

has a double aspect

This
the

eternal birth," which

unconscious and inalienable,^

but which does not confer blessedness, being -common
to

good and bad alike
of the
soul

;

and the assimilation of the

faculties

Christ, or in other

deiformis est," as

by the pervading presence of " quae lux quaedam Ruysbroek says. The deification of
words by grace,

our nature

is

therefore a thing to be striven for,
;

and

not given complete to start with
to

but

it

is

important

observe

that

Eckhart
"

places

no intermediaries
is

between

man and God.
;

The Word

very nigh

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

human
Him.

institutions

sink into thyself, and thou wilt find earthly
hierarchies

The heavenly and
upon them, have no
as in other ways, he

of

Dionysius,

with the reverence for the priesthood which was built
significance for Eckhart.
is

In this

a precursor of the Reformation.
this

With Eckhart

I

end

Lecture on the speculative

Mysticism of the Middle Ages.
broek, Suso, and Tauler,
in their general

His successors, Ruysas they resemble

much
the

him

teaching, differ from
is

him

in this, that

with none of them
^

intellectual, philosophical

E.g. "
nitt

Da

der vatter seynen sun in mir gebirt, da byn ich der selb sun
Fritslar says that the soul has

und
^

eyn ander."

So Hermann of
this

two

faces, the

one turned

towards

world, the other immediately to God.

In the latter
it

God
It
is

flows and shines eternally, whether

man

is

conscious of

or not.

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.

See Vaughan,

p.

256

;

and the same teaching

in Tauler, p. 185.

1

64

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
They added nothing of
of Eckhart
;

side of primary importance.

value

to

the

speculative

system

their

rule of
shall

Mysticism was primarily a religion of the heart or a life. It is this side of Mysticism to which I
next invite your attention.
It
:

should bring us
for a
its

near to the centre of our subject
religious

speculative

system

is

best

known by

fruits.

LECTURE V

165

"

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

Macarius,
" Thou comest
not, thou goest not not, wilt not be

Thou wert
Eternity
is

but a thought
think of Thee."

By which we

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,

O

iiberwesentliches

Gut

!

Medictval Geniian Hytnn.

" Quid caelo dabimus? quantum Impendendus homo est, Deus

est

quo veneat omne?

esse ut possit in ipso."

Man

I

LI us.

166

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."

— 2 CoR.

iii.

1

8.

The

school of Eckhart

^

in the

fourteenth century proin

duced the brightest cluster of names
Mysticism.
In

the history of

Ruysbroek,

Suso,

Tauler,

and

the

author of the Theologia Germanica we see introspective

Mysticism at
to

its

best.

This must not be understood

mean

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

works.
value,

On

the speculative side they added nothing of
rivals

and none of them
But we

Eckhart

in

clearness of

intellect.

viction that our

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

of experience, and

not only a philosophical theory.

With
only
^

the most intense earnestness they set themselves
life,

to live through the mysteries of the spiritual

as the

way

to understand

and prove them.

Suso and
is

The indebtedness of the

fourteenth century mystics to Eckhart

now

generally recognised, at any rate in
his

Germany

;

but before Pfeiffer's

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
of his writings,

speak of Eckhart with the utmost reverence, "great," "sublime," or "holy" master.
167

as

the

i68

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
;

Tauler both passed through deep waters
of their inner Hves
suffering.
is

the history

a record of heroic struggle and

The

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,
Griinthal,

and afterwards
in

retired

to the

convent of

the forest

of Soignies, where he wrote
treatises,

most

of

his

mystical

under

the

direct

guidance, as he believed, of the Holy Spirit.

He was
clear

the object of great veneration in the later part of his
life.

Ruysbroek was not a learned man, or a

thinker.^

He knew

Dionysius,

St.

Augustine, and

Eckhart, and was no doubt acquainted with some of
the other mystical writers
;

but he does not write like

a scholar or a

man

of letters.
less

He

resembles Suso in

being more emotional and
of the

speculative than most

German

school. reverts to

Ruysbroek
tially

the

mystical tradition, parall

broken by Eckhart, of arranging almost
in

his

topics

three

or

seven divisions, often forming a

progressive scale.

For instance,

in the treatise

"

On

the Seven Grades of Love,"

which he
(2)

calls

the

we have the following series, "Ladder of Love": (i) goodwill;
(3)

voluntary poverty;

chastity;
;

(4)

humility;

(5) desire for the glory of
tion,

God

(6) Divine contempla-

which has three properties

intuition, purity

of

(a/.

" 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.
*

PRACTICAL AND DEVOTIONAL
spirit,

169

and nudity of mind
transcendence
arbitrary

;

(7) the ineffable,

unnamethought.
part

able

of

all

knowledge and
is

This

schematism
chief

the

weakest

of

Ruysbroek's
thoughts.

writings,

which
work,

contain

many

deep
nupof the
stages

His

Ordo

spii'itualiunt

tiarum,
mystic's

is

one of the most complete charts

progress
the

which
life
life,

exist.

The
actuosd)^
all

three

are here

active

{vita

the internal,

elevated, or affective

to

which
to

are not called,

and the contemplative
attain.

life,

which only a few can

The

three parts of the soul, sensitive, rational,

and
exite

spiritual,

correspond to these three stages.
life is

The
three

motto of the active

the text, " Ecce sponsus venit
"

obviam
:

ei."

The Bridegroom
flesh
;

comes

"

times
grace

;

He came in the and He will come
justice
:

He comes

into us

by
"

to judgment.

We

must

go

out to meet
love,

Him," by the three virtues of humility,
these are the three virtues which
life.

and

support the fabric of the active
all

The ground
will,

of

the virtues

is

humility
of

;

thence proceed, in order,

obedience,
gentleness,

renunciation
piety,

our

own

patience,

sympathy,
the active

bountifulness,

strength

and impulse
chastity.
for us
all,

for all virtues, soberness

and temperance,
is

"

This
if

is

life,

which

necessary

we

wish to follow Christ,

and to reign

with

Him

in

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.

I70

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
"

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

templative
in

life.

When we
are
is

rise

above ourselves, and
above

our ascent to

God

made

so simple that the love
itself,

which embraces us
the practice of
all

occupied only with

the virtues, then

we

are transformed

and die
love,

in

dividuality."

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

which

is

In this embrace and essential

unity with

with
;

God all devout and inward spirits are one God by living immersion and melting away into

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

contemplate, that

we
God.

are

;

for

our mind, our

life,

and our essence are simply
very truth, which
is

lifted

up and united
in this

to the

Wherefore

simple

and intent contemplation we are one
spirit
life.

life

and one

with God.

And
it

this

I

call

the contemplative
is

In this highest stage the soul
;

united to

God
of

without means
the Godhead."
authorities,
"
"
;

sinks

into

the

vast

darkness

In this abyss, he says, following his

the

Persons

of the

Trinity

transcend

themselves
is

" thei'e is

only the eternal essence, which

the substance of the Divine Persons, where

we
is

are

all

one and uncreated, according to our prototypes."
"

Here,

so far as distinction of persons goes, there
;

no

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

we remain

eternally

distinct

from

God.
its

The

creature remains a creature, and loses not

creature-

We must be conscious of ourselves in God, Hness. and conscious of ourselves in ourselves. For eternal

PRACTICAL AND DEVOTIONAL
life

171

consists in the

knowledge of God, and there can be
If

no knowledge without self-consciousness.
be blessed
without

we could

knowing it, a stone, which has no consciousness, might be blessed. Ruysbroek, it is plain, had no qualms in using the
This
is

old mystical language without qualification.

the more remarkable, because he was fully aware of the
disastrous consequences which follow from the

method

of negation and self-deification.

For Ruysbroek was

an earnest reformer of abuses.
popes, bishops,

He

spares no one
are lashed in

monks, and the
for

laity

vigorous

language
faults
;

their

secularity, covetousness,

and other
is

but perhaps his sharpest castigation

reserved for the false mystics.

There are some, he
;

says,

who mistake mere
give

laziness for holy abstraction
" spiritual

others

the rein
all

to

self-indulgence
;

"

others neglect

religious exercises
"

others
is

fall

into

antinomianism, and
to

them

"

think that nothing
gratify
:

forbidden
in-

"

they
"

will

any appetite which
these are "

terrupts their contemplation "

by

far the

worst of
" of

all."

There
like

is

another error," he proceeds,
call

those

who

to

themselves

'

theopaths.'

They take every impulse
all

to be Divine,
live

and repudiate
inert sloth."

responsibility.

Most of them
rule

in

As

a corrective to these errors, he very rightly says,

" Christ

must be the

and pattern of
is

all

our lives

"
;

but he does not see that there

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,

is

far too

to the intellectual

endowments of

his

fellow-countryman.

complimentary " Ce moine

172

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
is

Henry Suso, whose autobiography
unique importance for

a

document of
is

the psychology of Mysticism,
Intellectually he

was born
broek

in

1295.^

a disciple

of Eckhart,
;

whom
life

he understands better than Ruys-

but his

and character are more
St.

like those

of the
Cross.
is,

Spanish mystics, especially
is

Juan of the
in

"

The text which Where I am, there
to

most often
also

his

mouth
"
;

shall

My

servant be

which he interprets

mean

that

only those

who
glory.

have embraced to the
sufferings,
"

full

the fellowship of Christ's

can hope to be united to

Him
life

in

No

cross,
in

no crown,"
all

is

the law of

which Suso
meaning.

accepts

the

severity

of

its

literal

The

story of the terrible penances which he inflicted
for part
;

on himself
with
the

of his

life

is

painful

and almost

repulsive to read

but they have nothing in
self-torture

common
fakir.

ostentatious

of

the

Suso's deeply affectionate and poetical temperament,

with
the

its
life

strong

human

loves

and sympathies, made
difficult

of the cloister very
it

for

him.
to

He

accepted

as the highest
its

life,

and strove
after

conform

himself to

ideals

;

and when,
felt

sixteen years

of cruel austerities, he

that his " refractory

body

"

was

finally

tamed, he discontinued his mortifications,

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

philosophiques qui aient jamais existe."
"il
sait,

He

thinks
le

it

marvellous that
le

a son insu, le platonisme de la Grece,

soufisme de la Perse,

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.

Noack

places his birth five years later.

The chronology

of the Life

is

very loose.

PRACTICAL AND DEVOTIONAL
and entered upon a career of active
this

173
In

usefulness.

he

had

still

heavier

crosses

to

carry,

for

he

was persecuted and
consolations
struggles

falsely accused, while the spiritual

which

had
death

cheered

him
In

in

his

early

were often
his
life,

withdrawn.
in

his

old

age,

shortly before
history of his

which
all

is

1365, he published the one of the most interesting
Suso's literary

and charming of
gift is

autobiographies.

very remarkable.

Unlike most ecstatic mystics,
"

who

declare on

each occasion that

tongue cannot
of

utter" their experiences, Suso's store of glowing and
vivid language never
fails.

The hunger and

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 inthis

ducing more readers to become acquainted with

gem
from
"

of mediaeval literature,
its

I

will give

a few extracts

pages.
servitor of the eternal

The

Wisdom,"
the
in
first

as he calls

himself throughout the book,
of his
year.
perfect

conversion

made to God

beginning

his eighteenth
live,

Before that, he had lived as others
;

content
felt

to avoid deadly sin

but

all

the time he had

a

gnawing reproach within him.
himself well."

Then came

the temptato " treat

tion to be content with gradual progress,

and
"

But

"

the

eternal

Wisdom
sense.

said

to

him,

"

He who

seeks with tender treatment to conquer

a refractory body, wants

common

If

thou art

minded
stern
^

to forsake

all,

do so to good purpose."

The
is

command was
is

obeyed.^

Very soon

it

the
to

The extreme

asceticism which

was practised by Suso, and (though

a less degree) by Tauler,

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

174

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

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
templation.

It

was a breaking

forth of the sweetness

life, felt

as present in the stillness of con-

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
at intervals for

some time

after.

Suso's
object
itself

loving nature,
affection.

like

Augustine's, needed an

of

His

imagination

concentrated
in

upon the eternal Wisdom, personified
to

the

Book

of Proverbs in female form as a loving mistress,

and the thought came often
shouldest
mistress,

him,

"

Truly thou

make
of

trial

of thy fortune, whether this high

whom
love
;

thou
for in

hast

heard

so

much,

will

become thy
will

truth thy wild

young heart
he

not remain without a love."
her, radiant in form, rich in
;

Then

in a vision

saw

wisdom, and overflow-

ing with love

it is

she

who

touches the summit of the

heavens, and
herself from

the depths of the abyss,

who

spreads

end to end, mightily and sweetly dispos-

ing

all

things.

And
him

she drew nigh to him lovingly,
"

and said to
heart."

sweetly,

My

son,

give

me

thy

At
love.
holy
life.

this

season there came into his soul a flame of

intense

fire,

which made
as

his

heart burn with Divine

And
"We

a " love token,"
kill

he

cut deep
flesh

in

his

are to

our passions, not our

and blood," as

Tauler says.

PRACTICAL AND DEVOTIONAL
breast
letters

175

the

name

of Jesus, so that the marks of the
all

remained

his

life,

"

about the length of a
of angels, and be-

finger-joint."

Another time he saw a
secret
"

vision

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

the

soul.

An

angel

answered,

Cast then a joyous glance into thyself, and see
plays His play of love with thy loving soul."

how

God

He

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
the servitor's

in
sat,

lovely
full

form,

the

eternal

of heavenly

longing,

own

soul,

which leaning lovingly towards

God's

side,

and encircled by His arms, lay pressed
"

close to

His heart.
the blessed master Ecklately died in disfavour with the rulers
"

In another vision he saw
hart,"

who had

of the Church.

He

signified to the servitor that
his

he

was
to
"

in

exceeding glory, and that

soul

was quite
In answer

transformed, and
questions,

made Godlike
blessed the

in

God."
"

" the
tell

Master
in

told

him

that

words cannot
in

manner

which those persons
detached
themselves
to attain this detach-

dwell

God who have
to

really

from the world, and that the

way

ment

is

die
all

to

self,

and to maintain
vision

unruffled

patience with

men."
is

Very touching
which came
to

the
in

of the

Holy Child

him
in

church on Candlemas Day.

Kneeling down

front of the Virgin,

who appeared
Child,

to him, " he prayed her to
suffer

show him the

and to
it

him

also to kiss

it.

When

she kindly offered

to

him, he spread out his arms and received the beloved

176
One.
kissed

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
He
its

contemplated
little

its

beautiful

little

eyes,

he

tender
all

mouth, and he gazed again and

again at
sure.

the infant
lifting

members
his eyes,

of the heavenly trea-

Then,

up

he uttered a cry of

amazement
so
great,

that

He who
on
earth.

bears

up the heavens
beautiful
in

is

and yet so small, so

heaven
Infant

and so

childlike

And

as the Divine
it,

moved him, so did he act toward now weeping, till at last he gave
mother."

now
back

singing
to
its

it

When

at last he

was warned by an angel, he

says,

to discontinue his austerities, " he spent several

weeks

very pleasantly," often weeping for joy at the thought
of the grievous sufferings which

he had

undergone.
day, as he
vision

But

his repose

was soon disturbed.
on
" life

One

sat meditating

as a warfare," he

saw a

of a comely youth,

who

vested

him

in the attire of
!

a

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

Hitherto
thee to be

thou hast been a squire
a knight.

;

now God
!

wills

And
I

thou

shalt have fighting

enough

!

Suso

cried, " Alas,

my God

what
I

art

Thou about
I

to

do unto me?
this time.

thought that
" It

had had enough by
have before

Show me how much
said,
I

suffering

me."

The Lord

is

better for thee not to

know.

Nevertheless

will

tell

thee of three things.

Hitherto thou hast stricken thyself.

Now

I

will strike

^

It

would be very

interesting to trace the influence of the chivalric idea

on
is

religious Mysticism.
itself

Chivalry, the worship of idealised
its

womanhood,

a mystical cult, and

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
etc.

translated

by Wordsworth, "

No

mortal object did

ttie^e

^yes

behold,"

PRACTICAL AND DEVOTIONAL
thee,

177
of thy

and thou
faithfulness,

shalt

suffer

pubHcIy the

loss

good name.

Secondly, where thou shalt look for love
there
shalt

and

thou find treachery and

suffering.

Thirdly, hitherto thou hast floated in Divine
;

sweetness, like a fish in the sea

this will

I

now

with-

draw from

thee,

and thou

shalt

starve

and wither.
the world,

Thou
shall

shalt be

forsaken both by
in

God and

and whatever thou shalt take

hand

to comfort thee

come

to nought."

The

servitor threw himself

on

the ground, with arms outstretched to form a cross,

and prayed
fall

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

overcome."

The next
took

chapters show

sentiment was verified.

how this vision or preThe journeys which he now
dangers,

exposed

him

to

frequent

both

from

robbers and from lawless

men who
is

hated the monks.

One adventure
simplicity
his
life

with a murderer
vividness.

told with delightful

and
in

Suso

remains

throughout
lot

thoroughly human, and, hard as his
is

had

been, he

an agony of fear at the prospect of a

violent death.

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
sheer fright, forms
a

quaint interlude in the saint's
trial

memoirs.

But a more grievous
other
pastoral
;

awaited

him.
to

Among

work,

he

laboured

much

reclaim fallen
insincerity
12

women
had

and a pretended penitent, whose
revenged herself by a

he

detected,

178

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
Happily, the chiefs

slander which almost ruined him.^ of his
order,

whose verdict he had greatly dreaded,
full

completely exonerated him, after a

investigation,

and

his

last

years seem to have been peaceful and
closing chapters of
interesting

happy.

The

the Life are taken
his

up by some very

conversations with
Staglin,

spiritual " daughter," Elizabeth

who wished

to

understand the obscurer doctrines of Mysticism.

She

asks him about the doctrine of the Trinity, which he

expounds on the general
She, however, remembers
in

lines of Eckhart's

theology.

some of the bolder phrases
But there are some who say

Eckhart, and says,

"

that, in order to attain to perfect union,

we must
Suso,

divest

ourselves

of

God, and
"

turn
is

only to the inwardlyreplies
" if

shining light."

That
in

false,"

the

words are taken

their

ordinary sense.

But the
cast

common

belief

about God, that
is

He

is

a great Taskis

master, whose function

to

reward and punish,
in

out by perfect love

;

and

this sense the

spiritual

man

does divest himself of God, as conceived of

by the
not the

vulgar.

Again,

in the highest

state of union, the soul
;

takes no note of the Persons separately

for

it is

Divine Persons taken singly that confer

bliss,

but the
"

Three

in

One."

Suso here gives a
"
"

really valuable turn

to one of Eckhart's rashest theses.

asks his pupil next.
^

Where is heaven ? The intellectual where" is the

Nothing

in the
its

book

is

more touching than the scene when the baby,

deserted by

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
being spread wherever
it

would most

injure him, he insists
it

the child's maintenance, rather than leave the Spiritual Combat,

to die

on paying for from neglect. The

Italian mystic Scupoli, the author of a beautiful devotional

work

called

was calumniated

in a similar

manner.

PRACTICAL AND DEVOTIONAL
reply, "
ness.
is

179

the essentially-existing unnameable nothingcall
it,

So we must
it

because we can discover no
it.

mode
called

of being, under which to conceive of

But

though

seems to us to be no-thing,

it

deserves to be

something rather than nothing."

Suso,

follows Dionysius, but with this proviso.

we see, The maiden
self-

now

asks him to give her a figure or image of the

evolution of the Trinity, and he gives her the figure of concentric circles, such as appear

when we throw a
is

stone into a pond.
the

"

But," he adds, " this
a

as unlike

formless

truth

as

black

Moor
and

is

unlike

the

beautiful sun."

Soon
in a

after,

the holy maiden died, and
full

Suso saw her
joy,

vision, radiant

of heavenly

showing him how, guided by
bliss.

his counsels, she

had

found everlasting
said, "

When
is

he came to himself, he

Ah, God
!

!

blessed

the

man who

strives after

Thee alone
pains
this

He may
in all

well be content to suffer,

whose

Thou rewardest

thus.

God

help us to rejoice in
friends,
"
!

maiden, and

His dear

and to enjoy
Suso's

His Divine countenance eternally
autobiography.

So ends
a

His

other

chief work,

Dialogue
is

between
prose

the

eternal

Wisdom and

the Servitor,

a

poem

of great beauty, the tenor of which

may
Life.

be inferred

from

the

above extracts 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
light,

in

a right

spirit,

can hardly

fail

to

be stirred

his heart's

depths, either to fervent love, or to

new
that

or

to

longing

and

thirsting

for
sins,

God, or to
or
to

detestation

and

loathing

of

his

i8o
spiritual

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
aspiration

by which the soul

is

renewed

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

town was involved

in the great
fly

1324.

In

1339, however, he had to

to Basel,

which was the headquarters of the
called themselves " the

revivalist

society

who

Friends of God."

About
devoted
in

1346

he

returned

to

Strassburg,
"

and

was
"

in his ministrations

during the

black death

1348.

He

appears to have been strongly influenced

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

who
"

has

been

identified,

probably

wrongly,

with

Nicholas of
conversion

BaseV
"

and, according to some, dated his
this

from his acquaintance with

saintly

man.

Tauler continued to preach to crowded contill

gregations

his

death

in

1361.

Tauler
in

is

a thinker as well as a preacher.
his teaching
all
is

Though

most points

identical with that of
in

Eckhart,^ he

treats

questions

an independent
from

manner, and sometimes,

as for instance in his doctrine
soul,^

about the uncreated ground of the
'

he

differs

By Schmidt, whose
life.

researches formed the basis of several

popular

accounts of Tauler's
altogether.
-

Preger and Denifle both reject the identification
;

of the mysterious stranger with Nicholas

Denifle doubts his existence

The

subject

is

very fully discussed by Preger.

Augustine
Aristotle
^

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

and Aquinas.

that

Tauler adheres to the doctrine of an " uncreated ground," but he holds it must always afct upon us through the medium of the "created

ground."
pantheistic.

He

evidently

considered

Eckhart's

later

doctrine

as

too

See below,

p. 183.

^

PRACTICAL AND DEVOTIONAL
his master. stress
laid

i8i
in the

There

is

also a perceptible

change

upon certain parts of the system, which brings Tauler nearer than Eckhart to the divines of
the

Reformation.

In particular, his

sense of sin

is

too deep for
doctrine
of

him
its

to be satisfied with the Neoplatonic

negativity,

which

led

Eckhart

into

difficulties,^

The little book called the German Theology^ by an unknown author, also belongs to the school of Eckhart.
It
is

one of the most precious treasures of devotional

literature,
in

and deserves
In

to be better
it

known than
is

it is

this country.

some ways

superior to the

famous

treatise of a

Kempis, On

the Imitation
is

of

Christy

since the self-centred individualism

less

prominent.
his

The author thoroughly understands Eckhart, but
object
is

not to view everything

stib

specie cetej-nitatis,

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

His teaching

is

closely

in

accordance

with that of Tauler,

whom
in

he quotes as an authority,

and

whom

he joins

denouncing the followers of

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

The

practical theology of these four

of the fourteenth century

— Ruysbroek,
it

German mystics
Suso, Tauler,
is

and the writer of the German Theology,
that
it

so similar

is

possible

to

consider

in
is

detail

without

taking

each

author separately.

It

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

1

82

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
we
shall

seventeenth century,

not

find

anywhere a

sounder and more complete scheme of doctrine built

upon

this foundation.

The

distinction
is

drawn by Eckhart between the Godmaintained
in

head and God

the

and by Ruysbroek.
to the end,
is

The

latter,

German Theology, as we have seen,^
in

does not shrink from following the path of analysis

and says plainly that
of Divine and

the Abyss there
persons, but
"
;

no

distinction

human

only the eternal essence,
out
his
*'

Tauler also bids us
let

put

into
"

the
"

deep,
is

and
the

down our
not
in

nets

"

but

deep

in

heart,

the

intellect.

My

children,

high
talk

you should not ask about these great problems," he says and he prefers not to
;

much about them,
lived

" for

no teacher can
"

teach

what he has not
speaks, like

through himself."
Eckhart, of the
formless
;)

Still

he

Dionysius and
"

Divine
" the

darkness,"

the

nameless,
forth

nothing,"

wild

waste,"
is

and so
that in

and
all

says

of

God
is

that
tran-

He

"

the Unity in which

multiplicity

scended," and

Him

are
rest

becoming and being, eternal
implicit,

In this deepest ground, he says,

gathered up both and eternal motion. the Three Persons are
is

not explicit.

The Son

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
God.
its

creation of the world, according to Tauler,

is

rather consonant with than necessary to the nature of

The

world, before

it

became

actual, existed in

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

See above,

p.

1

70.

PRACTICAL AND DEVOTIONAL
means of the
*'

183

Trinity.

It is in

the

Son

that the Ideas

exist " from all eternity."
living,"

The

Ideas are said to be

that

is,

they work as forms, and after the

creation of matter act as universals above

and
"
;

in things.

Tauler
'*

is is

careful to

show
all

that he

is

not a pantheist.
but not

God

the Being of
all

beings," he says
is

He
He

is

none of

things."

God
the

all,

but

all

is

God

;

He

far

transcends

universe

in

which

is

immanent.
VVe look
obscurest
relations
in

vain to Tauler for an explanation of the
in

point

Eckhart's

philosophy, as
to

to

the

of the phenomenal

the

real.
is

We

want

clearer evidence that temporal existence

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
with other parts of their scheme.

is

too closely allied

The
of

indwelling of
doctrine,
difficult.

God
but

in the soul is the real centre

Tauler's

his

psychology

is

rather

intricate

and
life,

He

speaks of three phases of

personal
" third

man
is

"

the sensuous nature, the reason, and the
the spiritual
life

or pure substance of
"

the soul.

He
"

speaks also of an

uncreated ground,"
" in

which
sense,

the abyss of the Godhead, but yet
created ground," which he uses
in

us,"

and of a

a double

now

of the empirical

self,

which
is "

is

imperfect and

must be

purified,

and now of the
This
latter
"

ideal

man, as God
the " apex

intended him to be.

the third man,"
" at

and
into

is

also represented
is

by the

spark

of the soul," which
its

to transform the rest of the soul

own

likeness.

The

"

uncreated ground," in

Tauler, works

upon us through the medium of the

i84
" created

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
ground," and not as ground,"
is

y

in

Eckhart, immediately.
sense, he
calls
"

The
is

'*

created

in

this

the
It

Image," which
a
creative

identical with

Eckhart's " spark."
as
created,
like

principle

as

well

the

"

Ideas " of Erigena.

The German
eyes,"
^

Theology says that " the soul has two

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

the other sees time and

The

" right

eye

" is

practically the
"

same
is

as Eckhart's " spark "

and
the

Tauler's
tells
left

image."

It

significant

that the

author
;

us that

we cannot

see with both eyes together

eye must be shut before we can use the
this

right.^

The passage where
mystics,^

precept

is

given shows very

plainly that the author, like the other fourteenth century

was

still

dualism

under the influence of mediaeval
almost the only point

the belief that the Divine begins where the
off.

earthly leaves
"

It is

in

this

golden

little treatise,"

as

Henry More

calls

it,

to

which

exception must be taken.*
^

This expression

St.

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.

at

once

;

the

left

in

*

Tauler often uses similar language

;

as,

for instance,

when he

says,
if

"The natural light God is to enter with
''

of the reason must be entirely brought to nothing,

His

light."
spirit.

Stockl criticises the Theologia Germanica in a very hostile
it

He

finds

" 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
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,

are

all the same ; they all represent what is against God and without God." Accordingly, salvation consists in annihilation of the self, and substitution

PRACTICAL AND DEVOTIONAL
The
essence of sin
is

185

self-assertion

or self-will, and

consequent separation from God,

Tauler has, perhaps,

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

he revives the Augustinian (anti-Pelagian) teaching on
the miserable state of fallen humanity.
pride,

Sensuality and
self-will,
is

the two chief manifestations of

have
"

invaded the zvkole of our nature.
spirit,

Pride
"

a sin of the

and the poison has invaded
is,

even the ground
all

the " created ground," that
It will

as the unity of

the

faculties.

be remembered that the Neoplatonic

doctrine was that the spiritual part of our nature can

take no defilement.

Tauler seems to believe that under

one aspect the

"

created

ground

"

is

the transparent
it is

medium

of the Divine light, but in this sense

only
not

potentially the light of our whole body.

He

will

allow the sinless apex mentis to be identified with the
personality.

Separation from
lies

God

is

the source of

all

misery.

Therein

the pain of

hell.

soul can never cease to yearn and
"

thirst after
" is

The human God
that
this

and

the""'

greatest

pain "

of the lost
In

longing

can

never

be

satisfied."

the

German
I "

Theology^ the necessity of rising above the "
"

and

mine

" is treated as

the great saving truth.
its

"

When
it

the creature claimeth for
of

own anything good,
this treatise is

God

for

it.

There

is

no doubt that the writer of

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
that,

book must be judged by
it

its

whole tendency.
Tauler or

My own

judgment is Ruysbroek, and much

taken as a whole,

is

safer than

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

The strongly-marked "ethical same kind as that which we find in St.

meant

it

to be so taken,

any more than

St.

John

did.

1

86

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
"

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
that

it

is

his,

he

will

never find

it.

For so
last

long as he doeth

this,
is

he seeketh himself, and deemeth
highest

he himself

the

good."

(These

sentences are almost verbally repeated in a sermon

by John Smith, the Cambridge

Platonist.)

The
Tauler's
control,

three stages of the mystic's ascent appear in

sermons.
till

We

have

first

to

practise

self-

all

our lower powers are governed by our
"

highest reason.

Jesus cannot speak in the temple of

thy soul
out of

till

those that sold and bought therein are cast

it."

In this stage
"

we must be under

strict rule

and

discipline.
till

The

old

man must be
him of a

subject to the

old law,

Christ be born in
says, "

truth."
St.

Of
rest

the

second stage he

Wilt thou with

John

on

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

transformed into His beauteous image by a constant,
earnest contemplation thereof."
It is possible that
;

God

may

will to call

thee higher
suffer

still

then

let

go

all

forms

and images, and
instrument.

Him

to

work with thee as His
door of heaven has
" It
it

been opened

To some
" this

the very

happens to some with a convulsion
is

of the mind, to others calmly and gradually."

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

"

Before

can

come

to pass, nature

must endure many a death, out"

ward and inward."
In the where,
first

stage of the

dying

life,"

he says

else-

we

are

much oppressed by
fear of hell.

the sense of our in-

firmities,

and by the

But

in the third, " all

our griefs and joys are a sympathy with Christ, whose

PRACTICAL AND DEVOTIONAL
earthly
life life

187

was a mingled web of
left

grief

and

joy,

and

this

He

has

as a sacred testament to His followers."

These

last

extracts

show that the Cross of
earth,
It
is,

Christ,

and the imitation of His life on prominence in Tauler's teaching.
that for him, as for
all

have their due
of course, true

mystics, Christ
it

m

us
it

is

more

than Christ /<7r

us.

But

is

unfair to put

in this

way, as

if

the

German mystics wished
to

to contrast the
at

two views of redemption, and
expense of the other.
historical

exalt one
is

the

Tauler's wish
its

to

give the

redemption

true significance,
as well as

by showing
fact.

that

it

is

an

universal

a particular

When
the

he

says, "

We

should worship Christ's humanity
is

only in union with this divinity," he

giving exactly
in the verse

about
In

same caution which St. Paul expresses " knowing Christ after the flesh."
speaking
of the highest of the

three

stages,

passages were quoted which advocate a purely passive
state of the will

and

intellect.^

This quietistic tendency

cannot be denied

in

the fourteenth century mystics,

though
ways,

it

is

largely counteracted
"

by maxims of an by His voice
in

opposite kind.
first,

God draws
creatures
;

us,"

says Tauler, " in three

the soul,

by His when an

secondly,

eternal truth mysteriously suggests

^

Throughout the fourteenth century, and
This change
is

still

more

in the fifteenth,

we
in

can trace an increasing prominence given to subjugation of the will
mystical theology.
to

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.
described as a transition from the more speculative Mysticism towards
quietism.

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

;

connected with a distrust of reason, and a return to the standpoint of harsh legalism, we cannot regard it as an improvement.

I

88

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
as happens not infrequently in
is

itself,

morning
the

sleep."

(This

interesting,

being
"

evidently

record

of

personal experience.)

Thirdly, without resistance or
quite

means, when the

will
is

is

subdued."
;

"

What
it

is

given through means
veil,

tasteless

it is

seen through a
a

and

split

up into fragments, and bears with

certain sting of bitterness."
in

There are other passages
distinctions";

which he
;

is

obviously under the influence of Dioall

nysius
in

as

when he speaks of" dying to

fact,

he at times preaches

" simplification " in

an

unqualified form.

But, on the other hand, no Christian of the active will than these
are as holy as ye truly will to
"

teachers have
pupils of

made more " Ye Eckhart.^
we read
"

be holy," says Ruysbroek.
everything,"

With the

will

one

may do
lop

in Tauler.
"

And
is

against the per"

version of the

negative road

he says,

we must

and prune
noble."
'

vices,

not nature, which

in itself

good and
mystics)

And
'

" Christ

Himself never arrived at the
these

emptiness

of which

men
soul,

(the

false

talk."

Of contemplation he

says, " Spiritual enjoy-

ments are the food of the
active

and are only to be

taken for nourishment and support to help us in our
work."
"

Sloth often makes

men
to

fain

to

be

excused

from
in

their

work and

set

contemplation.

Never

trust

a virtue that

has not been put into
all

practice."
lives

These pupils of Eckhart and
were
Tauler
to

led strenuous

themselves,

no advocates

of

pious

indolence.

says, "

Works

of love are
"
:

more
and,
2

acceptable
" All

God
skill

than lofty contemplation

kinds of
^

are gifts of the

Holy Ghost."

Compare

p.

i6i, for similar teaching in Eckhart himself.
p. 11, note.

"

See the quotation on

PRACTICAL AND DEVOTIONAL
The
process of deification
is

189

thus described by Ruyswrites: " All

broek and by Tauler.

Ruysbroek

men who

are exalted above their creatureliness into a contemplative
glory.
life

are one with this Divine glory

yea, are that

And

they see and

feel

and

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

to

the

simplicity

of the
rise

essence.

Wherefore contemplative men should

above reason

and

distinction,

beyond

their

created substance, and
light,

gaze perpetually by the aid of their inborn

and so
light,

they become transformed, and one with the same

by means of which they

see,

and which they
image
after

see.

Thus they

arrive at that eternal

which they
all

were created,
This

and contemplate God and
in

things

without distinction,
glory.
is

a simple beholding, in

Divine

the loftiest and most profitable con-

templation to which
in his

men

attain in this

life."

Tauler,

says: "

the

for the Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity, The kingdom is seated in the inmost recesses of spirit. When, through all manner of exercises, the

sermon

outward

man

has

been

converted

into
is

the

inward

reasonable man, and thus the two, that

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
spirit,

of God,

— and
in

wherein

lies

the image

thus he flings himself into the Divine

Abyss,
created
;

which he

dwelt

eternally

before he

was

then when God finds the man thus firmly down and turned towards Him, the Godhead bends

190

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

and nakedly descends into the depths of the pure
waiting soul, and transforms the created soul, drawing
it

up

into

the

uncreated essence, so that the

spirit

becomes one with Him.
himself, he

Could such a man behold
see
in

would see himself so noble that he would
God,

fancy

himself

and
is

himself

a

thousand

times nobler than he
ceive
all

himself,

and would per-

the thoughts and purposes, words and works,
all

and have
were."

the

knowledge of

all

men

that

ever

Suso and the German Theology use similar
idea

language.

The
modern
in

of

deification
It

startles

and

shocks
that

the

reader.

astonishes

us

to find

these

earnest and

humble

saints at times express themselves

language which surpasses the arrogance even of the

Stoics,

We

feel that there

must be something wrong

with a system which ends in obliterating the distinction

between the Creator and His creatures.
vain to hear
:

We

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
;

of the vision of

God

is

surely that which Augustine
:

describes in words already quoted
I

"

I

tremble, and

burn.
that

I I

tremble, in that

I

am

unlike
is

Him
this

;

I

burn,

in

am

like
:

Him."
St.

Nor

only

the

beginner's experience
his course "

Paul had almost

" 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 " counten;

PRACTICAL AND DEVOTIONAL
ance of our genesis," as
St,

191

James

calls it

the

man

or

woman

that

could not so see
realisation.

God meant us to be, and know that we it if we were wholly cut off from its
ideal, the

But the clearer the vision of the

deeper must be our self-abasement when we turn our
eyes to the actual.

We
make
its

must not escape from
impossible to say,
"

this

sharp and humiliating contrast by mentally annihilating
the
self,

so as to
picture,

it

Look

on

this

and on thisT
opposite

leads

straight

to

— extreme
as

Such

false

humility

arrogance.

Moreover, to regard
fact, involves,

deification

an accomplished
a contradiction.

as

I

have said

(p. 33),

The
is

process of unification with the Infinite must be

a progressus

ad

infinitum.

The

pessimistic conclusion

escaped by remembering that the highest reality
supra-temporal, and that

is

the destiny which

God

has

designed

for
is

us
in

has

not

merely

a

contingent

realisation,

but
in

a sense already

accomplished.

There

are,

fact,

two ways

in

which
the

we may
prize

abdicate our birthright, and

surrender

of

our high calling

:

we may
it

count ourselves already to

have apprehended, which must be a grievous delusion,
or

we may

resign

as unattainable, which

is

also a

delusion.

These truths were well known to Tauler and
brother-mystics,
sophers.
If

his

who were
it

saints

as

well

as

philo-

they retained language which appears to

us so objectionable,
felt

must have been because they

that the doctrine of union with

truth of great value.

And

if

God enshrined a we remember the great
life

mystical paradox,
it,"

"

He

that will lose his

shall save
it.

we

shall partly

understand

how they

arrived at

192
It is

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
quite true that the nearer

wider seems to

Him,
this
fort
if
?

till

at last

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

conviction itself bring with

unspeakable com-

How
?

could

we be aware
could
if

of that infinite distance,

there were not something within us which can span

the infinite
are

How

incommensurable,

we feel that God and man we had not the witness of
?

a higher self immeasurably above our lower selves

And how

blessed

is

the assurance that this higher self

gives us access to a region where

we may
our

leave behind
all

not only external troubles and " the provoking of

men," but" the

strife

of tongues

" in

own

hearts, the
"

chattering and growling of the
us, the recurring

"

ape and tiger
of,

within

smart of old sins repented
!

and the

dragging weight of innate propensities
the
will,

In this state

desiring nothing save to be conformed to the
itself entirely

will of

God, and separating

from

all

lower
spirit

aims and wishes, claims the right of an immortal

to attach itself to eternal truth alone, having nothing in
itself,

and yet possessing
Let a

all

things in God,
all

So Tauler
and

says, "
cares,

man

lovingly cast
it

his thoughts

and

his sins too, as

were, on that
all

unknown

Will.

O

dear child

!

in the

midst of

these enmities

and dangers, sink thou
ness.
let
all

into thy

ground and nothingon thee
;

Let the tower with
the
devils
in

all its bells fall

yea,
;

hell
all

storm out upon thee

let
all

heaven and earth and

the creatures assail thee,
;

shall but marvellously serve thee

sink thou into thy

nothingness, and the better part shall be thine."

This

hope of a
gift

real transformation of
is

our nature by the free
of

of God's grace

the only message

comfort

PRACTICAL AND DEVOTIONAL
for

193

those

who

are tied

and bound by the chain of
have said before, when we

their sins.

The

error

comes

in,

as

I

set before ourselves the idea of

God

the Father, or of

the Absolute, instead of Christ, as the object of imitation.

Whenever we

find

such language as that quoted

from Ruysbroek, about

" rising

above

all

distinctions,"

we may be sure
Mystics of
their
all

that this error has been committed.

times would have done well to keep in

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 ^
froiti
:

It is to this "

measure," not to the immeasureable, that

we

are bidden to aspire.

Eternity
in his

is,

for Tauler, " the everlasting

Now "

;

but

popular discourses he uses the ordinary expres-

sions about future reward
hell fire
less
;

and punishment, even about
thought
is

though

his deeper

that the hopeis

estrangement of the soul from God
the torments of the
is

the source

of

all

lost.
"

Love, says Tauler,

the
is

beginning, middle, and

end of

virtue."

Its

essence

complete self-surrender.

We

must

lose ourselves in the love of
is

God

as a drop

of water
It

lost

in

the ocean.

only remains to show

fantastic errors

had

fallen
is

in

how Tauler combats the into which some of the German mystics The author of the German his day.
"
;

Theology

equally emphatic in his warnings against

the " false light

and Ruysbroek's denunciation of the

Brethren of the Free Spirit has already been quoted.
*

Irenseus,

Centra

ffcer, iv, 6,

13

194

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

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
distinguish the false Mysticism from the true.

we may
"

Now

let

us

know how we may escape

these snares of

the enemy.

No

one can be

free

from the observance

of the laws of

can unite

God and the practice of virtue. No one himself to God in emptiness without true love
for

and desire

God.

No

one can be holy without becom-

ing holy, without good works.

No

one
in

doing good works.
for

No one may rest
Finally, he

may leave off God without love

God.

No

one can be exalted to a stage which he has

not longed for or felt."
of Christ forbids
all

shows how the example
is

the errors which he

combating.

The

Imitation of Christ has been so often spoken
it is

of as the finest flower of Christian Mysticism, that

impossible to omit

all

reference to

it

in these

Lectures.

And
It is

yet

it is

not, properly speaking, a mystical treatise.

the ripe fruit of mediaeval Christianity as concenthe
this
life

trated in
legacy, in

of the cloister, the last and

best

kind, of a system

which was already

decaying

;

but

we

find

in

it

hardly a trace of that

independence which made Eckhart a pioneer of modern
philosophy, and the fourteenth century mystics fore-

runners

of

the

Reformation.

Thomas
\

a

Kempis

preaches a Christianity of the heart

but he does not

exhibit the distinguishing characteristics of Mysticism.

by which the book is known is really the title of the first section only, and it does not quite accurately
title

The

describe the contents of the book.
treatise

Throughout

tlie

we

feel

that
'

we

are reading a defence of th^
xci.
13.

No. 31, on Psaljn

PRACTICAL AND DEVOTIONAL
recluse

195

and

his

scheme of

life.

Self-denial, renunciation

of the world, prayer and meditation, utter humility and
purity, are the road to a higher joy, a deeper peace,

than anything which the world can give

us.

There are
Stoics,

many

sentences which remind us of the

Roman

whose main object was by detachment from the world
to render themselves invulnerable.

a

Kempis

shrinks

Not that Thomas from bearing the Cross. The Cross
is

of Christ

is

always before him, and herein he

superior

to those mystics

who speak only

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
its

mediaeval

thought was so much indebted,
in

reaches

climax

Thomas

a Kempis.
all

Not only
society

does he distrust "and disparage
Plato to

philosophy, from

Thomas Aquinas, but he shuns
as

and

conversation

occasions

of

sin,

and quotes with
"

approval the

pitiful

epigram of Seneca,
I

Whenever
less

I

have gone among men,
man."
It
is,
it,

have returned home
the
life

of a
as

after

all,

of the

" shell-fish,"

Plato calls

which he considers the

best.

The book
life

cannot safely be taken as a guide to the Christian
as

a whole.

What we do

find

in

it,

set forth with

incomparable beauty and unstudied dignity, are the
Christian graces of humility, simplicity, and purity of
heart.

196
It
is

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
very significant that the mystics,
in

who had
ways

undermined sacerdotalism, and
the secession from

many

other

prepared the Reformation, were shouldered aside when

Rome had
built

to be organised.

The
yet

Lutheran Church was
the

by other hands.
generation,

And
the

mystics

of

Luther's
are
far

Carlstadt

and
con-

Sebastian

Frank,

from

deserving

temptuous epithets which Luther showered upon them.
Carlstadt endeavoured to deepen the Lutheran notion of faith
love of

by bringing

it

into closer connexion with the

God

to

man and
an

of

man
-and

to

God

;

Sebastian

Frank developed the speculative system of Eckhart

and Tauler
Protestant

in

original
is

interesting

manner.

But speculative Mysticism
even without
" I will

a powerful solvent, and
fall

Churches are too ready to
it.

to pieces

not even answer such

men
is

as Frank," said Luther in

1545

;

"I despise them too
an
content with nothing
at all
for Bible,

much.
but

If

my

nose does not deceive me, he

enthusiast or spiritualist,
Spirit, spirit, spirit,

who

is

and cares not
so of

Sacrament, or Preaching."
sixteenth

The teaching which
contemptuously

the

century

spurned
that

was

almost

identical

with

Eckhart

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

was

bringing back
faith,

some of the
its

evils

of the unreformed

that Mysticism in the person of Valentine Weigel
to

was able

resume

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
few minutes to our

197

own
I

country.

I

am

the

more
state-

ready to do

so,

because
in

have come across the

ment, repeated
a barren
field

many
is

books, that England has been
It
is

for

mystics.
alien to

assumed that the

English character

Mysticism
for
is

that

we have
are

no sympathy, as a nation,

this

kind of religion.

Some
facts
I

writers

hint

that

it

because

we

too

practical,

do not bear out

and have too much common sense. There is no this view.
which there
is

The
race,

think, in

a richer vein of idealism,
life,

and a deeper sense of the mystery of
own.
In
a
later

than our
this

Lecture

I

hope to
poetry.

illustrate

statement from our national
to insist that even the
is

Here

I

wish

Mysticism of the

cloister,

which

the least satisfying to the energetic and independent of our countrymen,

spirit

might be thoroughly and

adequately studied from the works of English mystics
alone.
I will give two examples of this mediaeval Both of them lived before the Reformation,
;

type.

near the end of the fourteenth century
as in Tauler,

but

in

them,

we

find very

few traces of Romish

error.

Walter Hilton or Hylton,^ a canon of Thurgarton,

was the author of a mystical
{or

treatise, called

The Scale
extracts,

Ladder)

of Perfection.
far as

The

following

which are given as
will

possible in his

own words,
traditional

show

in

what manner he used the

mystical theology.
^

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

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

"chosen

to

be the

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

The

VH.

valued

it

very highly.

I

have also used Mr. Guy's

my

quotations from The Scale of Pe7-fectioii.

198

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
lives,

There are two
ive,

the active and the contemplatthere
are

but

in

the

latter

highest

state
"

of contemplation

many stages. a man cannot
is

The
enjoy

always,
"

but
I

only

by

times,

when he

visited "

and, as

gather from the writings of holy men, the

time of

it is

very short."

"

This part of contemplation
Visions and revelations,

God

giveth where

He

will."

of whatever kind, "are not true contemplation, but

merely secondary.

The

devil

may

counterfeit

them
is

"
;

and the only safeguard against these impostures
us in devotion to God, humility, and other virtues.
" In the third stage of
"

to

consider whether the visions have helped or hindered

contemplation," he says finely,

reason

is

turned into

light,

and

will into love."

" Spiritual prayer,"

not

in

set

by which he means vocal prayer words, belongs to the second part of con" It
is

templation.
it

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
earth,

were he once strongly touched with
grave

this sharp
for

sword, would be right sober and
while after."

a great
is

The

highest kind of prayer of

all

the

prayer of quiet, of which St. Paul speaks,
with the understanding also."
all
;

" I will
is

pray

^

But

this

not for

"

a pure heart, indeed,
in
this

it

behoveth him to have on the humanity of

who would pray

manner."
first

We
Christ.

must

fix

our affections

Since our eyes

cannot bear the unclouded
live

light of the

Godhead,

"

of His
'

manhood

as long as

we must we

under the shadow
St.

are here below."

I

Cor. xiv. 15.

This text was also appealed to by the Quietists of the

post- Reformation period.

PRACTICAL AND DEVOTIONAL
Paul
tells his

199

converts that he

first

preached to them of

the humanity and passion of Christ, but afterwards of

the Godhead, of God.i
"

how
lost,

that Christ

is

the power and wisdom

Christ
;

is

like
?

the

piece

of

money
is,

in

the

parable
soul.

but where

In thy house, that
to

in

thy

Thou needest not run
;

Rome

or Jerusalem to
in the

seek Him.
ship

He sleepeth in thy heart, as He did awaken Him with the loud cry of thy
I

desire.

Howbeit,
than

believe that thou sleepest oftener to

Him
and
no

He

to thee."

Put away
First,

" distracting

noises,"

thou wilt hear Him.
of
sin,

however, find the image
It
is

which thou bearest about with thee.

todily thing, no real thing
love.
It
is

—only

a lack of light and of thyself, from

a

false,

inordinate

love

whence flow
"

all

the deadly sins.
is

Fair and foul
fair

a man's soul

foul without like a
"

beast,

within

like

an angel."

But the sensual
sin,

man doth
by
it."

not bear about the image of

but

is

borne

The

true light

is

love of God, the false light

is

love

of the world.

But we must pass through darkness to
"

go from one to the other.
the nearer
is

The darker
This
is

the night

is,

the true day."
"

the " darkness

"

and

"

nothing

spoken
the soul

of
is

by the

mystics, " a

rich

nothing,"

when
"

" at

rest as to

thoughts of

any earthly
God."

thing, but very

busy about thinking of

But
"

the

night

passeth

away

;

the

day

dawneth."

Flashes of light shine through the chinks
;

of the walls of Jerusalem
^

but thou art not there yet."
which Origen uses
vi.

The

texts to

which he
I

refers are those
i.

in
i.

the
24.

same

manner.

Compare

Cor.

23,

ii.

2,

Gal.

14, with

i

Cor.

200
"

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
fiend, that

But now beware of the midday
if it

feigneth

Hght as

came from Jerusalem.

This light appears

between two black rainy clouds, whereof the upper one the lower a is presumption and self-exaltation, and
disdaining of one's neighbour.
the true sun."
pass,
is

This

is

not the light of

This darkness, through which we must
self-will

simply the death of
;

and

all

carnal
is

affections

it is

that dying to the world which

the

only gate of

life.

The way
mystical

in

which
"

Hilton

conceives
is

the

" truly

darkness

of Dionysius
it

very interesting.

As

a psychical experience,
life.

has

its

place in the history

of the inner

The
is

soul does enter into darkness,
;

and the darkness
"

not fully dispelled in this world
yet,"
in

thou

art

not

there
is

as

he

says.

But the
into

psychical experience

Hilton entirely dissociated
of absorption
nihilism

from

the metaphysical

idea

the

Infinite.

The
shaken

chains
off,

of

Asiatic
it

are

now

at last

easily and,

would seem, unconto be only the herald

sciously.

of a
is

The " darkness " is felt " the darker brighter dawn
:

the night, the nearer

the true day."

It

is,

I

think, gratifying to observe

how

our countryman strikes off the fetters of the time-

honoured

Dionysian
all

tradition,

the

paralysing
"

creed
"

which blurs

distinctions,

and the

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
of
his,

maxims
doctrine.
"

as

examples of

his

wise and pure

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
Ask

is

heaven to a reasonable soul
God."

?

Nought
which
that

else but Jesus
"
is is

of

God nothing but
gift,

this gift of love,
is

the

Holy Ghost.
other

For there

no

gift
gift

of

God
in

both the giver and the

but this

of love."

My

example of English Mysticism
is

the

Middle Ages
1373) she

Julian or Juliana of Norwich,^ to
series

whom
She
which
have

were granted a

of " revelations

"

in

the year
old.

being then about thirty years

describes with evident truthfulness the

manner

in

the visions

came

to her.
"

She ardently desired

to

a " bodily sight

of her Lord

other that were Christ's lovers

upon the Cross, " like " and she prayed that
;

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

sense.

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
;

the figure on the Cross changed into the semblance of

the

living

Christ.
is

"

All

parts

that
in

to say,

was showed by three by bodily sight, and by words
this
-

formed

my

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

202
"

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
I

But the ghostly sight

cannot nor
I

may
Her

not show

it

as openly nor as fully as

would."

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
the devil cannot counterfeit.
fectly honest

Juliana was certainly per-

and perfectly sane.
is

The

great charm of

her

little

book

the sunny hopefulness and happiness

which shines from every page, and the tender affection
for her suffering

Lord which mingles with her devotion
morbid or
this

without

ever becoming

irreverent.

It

is

also interesting to see

how

untaught maiden
is

(for

she shows

no traces of book learning)

led

by the

logic of the heart straight to

some of the speculative
in

doctrines which
mystics.
all

we have found

the philosophical
will illustrate

The

brief extracts

which follow

these statements.

The
tion.

crucified

Christ
to
"

is

the one object of her devoto
"

She refused
which
"

listen

a

proffer

in

my
His

reason,"

said,
I

Look up
would
to

to

heaven

to

Father."
art

Nay,

may
I

not," she replied, " for
liever

Thou
in that

my

heaven.

For

have been

pain

till

Doomsday than
"

come

to

heaven otherwise

than by Him."

Me

liked

none other heaven than
.
.

dei principianti e dei pioficienti, che

Le
xii.

visioni intellectuali
It

non sono ancor bene purgati. sono proprie di quelli che si trovano gia in istato
.

di perfezione."
7,

comes

originally from St. Augustine
tria

{De Gen. ad
.

litt.

n.

16): " Hsec

sunt

genera visionum.

.

.

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
intellecluale,

corporis,

Tertium vero

nee ab intellectu."

iile

ipse

obtutus quo

PRACTICAL AND DEVOTIONAL
Jesus,

203
there."

which
after

shall

be

my

bliss

when

I

come

And
that

describing a vision of the crucifixion, she
see

says, "

is all

How might any pain be more than to my life and all my bliss suffer ? "
the value of
"

Him

Her estimate of
clear

and sound.

means of grace is very In that time the custom of our

praying was brought to mind,
of understanding and
of]

how we

use, for lack

knowing of

love, to

make
it

[use

many means. Then saw I worship to God and more very
fully

truly that

is

more
faith-

delight that

we

pray

to

Himself of His goodness, and cleave
grace, with true understanding

thereto
steadfast

by

His

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
;

there faileth right nought.

For

this,

as

I

shall

say,

came God

into
for

my

mind.
sake of]

In the

same time we pray
flesh

to

[the

His holy

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]
;

His sweet mother's

love,

and

all

the help that

we have

of her

of His goodness."

And

yet "

God

of His goodness

hath advanced means to help

us, full fair

and many
the blessed

of which the chief and principal

mean

is

nature that
that

He

took of the maid, with
after

all

the

means
it

go afore and come

which belong to our

redemption and
pleaseth

to endless

salvation.

Wherefore
worship

Him

that

we

seek

Him and

through means, understanding and knowing that

Him He is

204

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
all.
it

the goodness of

For the goodness of God

is

the

highest prayer, and
of our need.
It

cometh down
for

to the lowest part
it

quickeneth our soul, and bringeth
it

on
It

life,

and maketh

to

wax

in

grace and virtue.
;

is

nearest in nature and readiest in grace

for

it

is

the seek

same grace that the soul seeketh, and ever shall till we know verily that He hath us all in Himself
After this our Lord showed
I

beclosed."
"

concerning

Prayers.

In which showing

see two conditions signified
is
;

by our
trust.

Lord

;

one

is

rightfulness, another
trust
is

assured
for

But oftentimes our
sure that

not

full

we

are not

God

heareth

us, as

we

think because of our

un worthiness, and because we
are as barren

feel right

nought

;

for

we

and dry oftentimes
.

after

our prayers as
'

we were

before.

.

.

But our Lord said to me,
:

I

am
it

the ground of thy beseechings

first, it

is

My

will that

thou have

it I

;

and then

I

make
it
.

thee to wish for
it,

and then
seechest
it.

make

thee to beseech

and thou bemost impos-

How

then should
?
'

be that thou shouldest

not have thy beseeching
sible that

.

.

For

it is

we should beseech mercy and grace and not
For
all

have
to

it.

things that our good Lord

maketh us

beseech.

Himself hath ordained them to us from

without beginning.
seeching
is

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

showed

He
' :

soothfastly in all these sweet
I

words which

He
the
if it

saith

am

the ground.'

And

our good Lord
;

willeth that this be

known
it

of His lovers in earth

and

more that we know
be wisely taken
is
;

the more should
is

we

beseech,

and so

our Lord's meaning.

Merry and joyous

our Lord of our prayer, and

He

PRACTICAL AND DEVOTIONAL
looketh
for
it
;

205
because
in

and

He

vvilleth

to have
like

it

;

with His grace
condition as
us,
*

He would

have us

to

Himself

we

are in kind.

Therefore saith

He

to

Pray inwardly, although
:

thou

think

it

has no
feel

savour to thee
not,

for

it

is

profitable,

though thou

though thou see
not,'

not, yea,

though thou think thou

canst
"

And
is

also to prayer belongeth thanksgiving.

Thanks-

giving

a true inward knowing, with great reverence
all

and lovely dread turning ourselves with unto the working that our good Lord
rejoicing

our mights
us
to,

stirreth

and thanking inwardly.
it

And sometimes
Thee
:

for

plenteousness

breaketh

out with voice and

saith

Good Lord Thou be."
-

!

great thanks be to

blessed mote

"

Prayer
is
.

is

a right understanding of that fulness of

joy that
trust.
.

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
. ;

I am the ground of thy beseechHe where He saith And thus in this blessed word, with the Showing, ing.'
: '

I

saw a

full

overcoming against

all

our weakness and

all

our doubtful dreads."
Juliana's view of

human

personality

is

remarkable,

as
is

it

reminds us of the Neoplatonic doctrine that there
self,

a higher and a lower

of which the former
latter.
" I

is

untainted

by the
full

sins

of the

saw and

understood

surely," she says, " that in every soul

that shall be saved

there

is

a godly will that never

2o6
assented to
that
it it

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
sin,

nor ever shall
evil,

;

which

will

is

so good

may
. .

never work

but evermore continually
in

willeth
.

good,

and worketh good
have
this blessed

the sight of

God.
"

We
"

all

will
"

whole

and

safe in our

Lord Jesus

Christ."

This

godly

will " or

substance

corresponds to the spark of the

German

mystics.
" I

saw no

difference," she says, "
it

between God and

our substance, but, as

were,

all

God.

And
is

yet

my

understanding took, that our substance
that
is

in

God

to say, that

God

is

God, and our substance a
highly, that our

creature in God.

Highly ought we to enjoy that God

dwelleth in our soul, and
soul dwelleth in God.
led to
.

much more

Thus was my understanding is made Trinity, like to the Trinity, known and loved from withunmade Blessed out beginning, and in the making oned to the Maker.
.
.

know, that our soul

This sight was
peaceable and
"

full

sweet and marvellous to behold,
sure and delectable."
sense-part, both
;

restful,

As anent our substance and our

together

may

rightly be called our soul

and that
God.
in,

is

because of the oneing that they have

in

The
it

worshipful City that our Lord Jesus sitteth

is

our sense-soul, in which
substance
is

He

is

enclosed,

and our natural

beclosed in Jesus, sitting with the blessed

soul of Christ at rest in the Godhead."

Our
up

soul can-

not reach

its full

powers until our sense-nature by the
to the sub-

virtue of Christ's passion be " brought

stance."

This fulfilment of the

soul " is
is
;

grounded
grounded

in in

nature.

That
is

is

to

say, our

reason

God,

which

substantial

Naturehood

out of this

substantial Nature

mercy and grace spring and spread

PRACTICAL AND DEVOTIONAL
into
us,

207

working

all

things

in

fulfilling

of our joy:
increase
life

these are our ground, in which

and our

fulfilling.

our being, and

in

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

and

increase

and our
In
•'

fulfilling."

one of her visions she was shown our Lord scorning the fiend's malice, and noughting his un"

might,"

For

this

sight

I

laught mightily, and that

made them
and
said,
'

to laugh that

were about me.
I
:

But

I

saw

not Christ laugh.
I

After this

fell

into

graveness,

see three things

I

see'
is

game, scorn, and

earnest.

I

see game, that the fiend

overcome
he

;

I

see

scorn,

in
;

that

God
I

scorneth

him, and
is

shall

be

scorned
the

and

see earnest, in that he

overcome by

blissful

passion

Christ, that
travail.'

was done
of

and death of our Lord Jesus in full earnest and with sober

Alternations
other

mirth and sadness followed each

many

times, " to learn

me

that

it

is

speedful to

some
was
life,

souls to feel

on

this wise."

Once

especially she

left to herself, " in

heaviness and weariness of
I

my

and irksomeness of myself, that scarcely
live.
.

could

have pleasure to he
is

.

.

For

profit of a

man's soul
is

sometimes
;

left

to himself;

although sin
I

not

always the cause
fore
I

for in that
left

time
;

sinned not, whereit

should be so
I

to myself

for

was so sudden.
But
sufifereth us

Also,

deserved not to have

this blessed feeling.

freely our

Lord giveth when

He

will,
is

and
one

to be in

woe sometime.

And

both

love."
is

acteristic.

Her treatment of "In my

the problem of evil
folly,

very char-

often

I
;

wondered why the
but Jesus, in this

beginning of sin was not letted

2o8
vision, shall

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
answered and
well,
said,
'

Sin

is

behovable,i but
all

all

be

and

all

shall

be well, and

thing shall be

well.'

In this

manner of naked word sin our Lord
all
it

brought to

my mind
;

generally
I

that

is

not good.

.

.

.

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
I

for

believe

had no manner of sub-

stance, nor

;

.

.

.

In these

same words
shall

(*

all

shall

be well God."

')

I

saw an high

and marvellous privity hid in

how

" all

be

well,"

She wondered when Holy Church teacheth
shall
'

us to believe that

many
this,

be

lost.

But
'

" I

had
in all
is

no other answer but
things,

I

shall

save

my
"

word
"
;

and

I

shall

make

all

thing well.

This

the great deed that our Lord the deed shall be, and

God
it

shall

do

but what
is

how

shall

be done, there
it,

no creature beneath Christ that knoweth
wit
it

ne

shall

till it is

done."
says,

" I

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

"

and that forgiveth

He

in

us.

It

is

the most impos.
.

sible that
life is all

may

be, that

God

should be wroth.
in love.
it
. . .

.

Our

grounded and rooted

Suddenly
thus

is

the soul oned to God,
for
in

when

is

truly peaced in

itself;

Him

is

found no wrath.
in

And

I

saw,

when we be

all

peace and love, we find no
letting,
;

contrariousness, nor no

manner of

through that

contrariousness which
of His goodness
visions of
hell

is

now
it

in us

nay, our Lord

God

maketh
were

to us full profitable."

No

ever

showed

to her.

In place

of the

hideous details of torture which some of the
visionaries describe almost with relish, Juliana
*

Romish

That

is,

" necessary" or "profitable."

PRACTICAL AND DEVOTIONAL
merely reports,
than
sin."
,

209

"

To me was showed none
she
rings

harder hell

Again and again

the changes
her, "
I

on the

words which the Lord said to
in two."
"

love thee and

thou lovest Me, and our love shall never be disparted

The

love wherein
;

He made
all

us was in

Him
in

from without beginning
"

in which love," she concludes,

we have our beginning, and God without end."

this shall

be seen

U

LECTURE

VI

BU

"

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
!

O

!

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."

Among

Combined

O

!

;

!

:

Crashaw, On SL

Teresa.

"In a dark night, Burning with ecstasies wherein
Oh happy
plight.

I

fell.

Unheard I left the house wherein I The inmates sleeping peacefully and
Secure from sight

dwell.
well.

By unknown ways,

in

unknown

robes concealed.

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

Oh happy

My

tomb was
fold

sealed.

Sweet night,

in

whose blessed

No human
Only
for

eye beheld me, and mine eye None could behold.

Guide had

I

His Face
St.

whom

I

desired so ardently."
(translated by Hutchings).

Juan ok the Cross

LFXTURE
"Whom
that
I

VI

Practical and Devotional Mysticism
have
I

—continued
but

in

heaven but Thee? and there

is

none upon earth
:

desire beside Thee.

My
my

flesh

and

my

heart faileth

God

is

the

strength of

my

heart,

and

portion for ever."

— Ps.

Ixxiii.

25, 26.

We

have seen that the leaders of the Reformation

in

Germany
patience.

thrust aside speculative Mysticism with im-

Nor

did

Christian

Platonism fare

much
fancied

better in the Latin countries.

There were students of

Plotinus in Italy in the sixteenth century,
that a revival of

who

humane

letters,

and

a better acquaint-

ance with philosophy, were the best means of combating
the
barbaric

enthusiasms

of the

North.

But these

Italian Neoplatonists had, for the

most

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
has been said that
^

court.
its
is

among the scholars The Mysticism
centre in Spain.

of the counter-Reformation had
It

"

Mysticism

the philosophy of

Spain."

This does not mean that

idealistic

philosophy

flourished in the Peninsula, for the

Spanish race has

never shown any
^

taste for metaphysics.

The Mysticism
3.

Rousselot, Les Mystiques Espagnols, p.
213

2

14
is

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
psychological
;

of Spain

its

point of departure

is

not
soul

the notion of Being or of Unity, but the

human

seeking reconcilation with God.

We

need not be on

our guard against pantheism
mystics
;

in

reading the Spanish

they show no tendency to obliterate the divid-

ing lines of personality, or to deify sinful humanity.

The

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
religion

which are antagonistic to Catholic discipline

were never allowed to display themselves.
their " directors "

The Spanish
in

mystics remained orthodox Romanists, subservient to

and

" superiors,"

and indefatigable

making

recruits for the cloister.

Even
St.

so,

they did not

escape the attention of the Inquisition; and though

two among them, showed how

St.

Teresa and

Juan of the Cross,

were awarded the badge of sanctity, the fate of Molinos

Rome had come

to dread even the

most

submissive mystics.

The

early part of the sixteenth century

was a period
Salamanca
the former

of high culture in Spain.

The

universities of
;

and Alcala were famous throughout Europe
is

said

(doubtless

with

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

215
to

who up

to that time

had been second
sunk
in

none
been

love of Hberty and many-sided
fanatics,

energy, had

changed into sombre
superstition,

ignorance and
their former
first

and retaining hardly a trace of
published in

buoyancy and healthy independence.^
Expurgatorius
vfdiS

The

Index

1546; the burning of
Eckhart, Tauler,

Protestants began in 1559.

Till then,

Suso, and Ruysbroek had circulated freely in Spain.

But the

Inquisition

Ruysbroek.

condemned them all, except The same rigour was extended to the
their
less

Arabian philosophers, and so
fluenced Spanish theology

speculations

in-

much

than might have

been
in

expected

from

the long sojourn of the

Moors
Spain

the Peninsula.

Averroism was
Dionysius

known
the

in

chiefly

through the medium of the Fons Vitce of Ibn

Gebirol (Avicebron).

and

scholastic

mystics of the Middle Ages were, of course, allowed
to

be read.

But besides

these, the
in

works of Plato

and Plotinus were accessible
This statement

Latin translations, and

were highly valued by some of the Spanish mystics.

may

surprise those

who have
is

identified

Spanish Mysticism with Teresa and Juan of the Cross,

and who know how
their theology.

little

Platonism

to be found

in

But these two militant champions of

the counter-Reformation

numbered among
them

their con-

temporaries mystics of a different type, whose writings,
little

known

in this country, entitle

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,"

2i6

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
find in

We

them most of the
:

characteristic doctrines
all

of Christian Neoplatonism

the radiation of
;

things

from God and their return to God

the

immanence of

God

in all things

;

^

the notion of
all

man

as a microcosm,

vitally

connected with
"
;

the different orders of creation ;2

the Augustinian doctrine of Christ

and His members as
;

"one Christ
which, as

^

insistence

upon disinterested love
This
is

*

and

admonitions to close the eye of sense.^
I

last precept,

have maintained,
said to be a

neither true Platonism

nor true Mysticism, must be set against others in which
the universe
" of
is

copy of the Divine Ideas,

which Plotinus has spoken divinely," the creation of
it

Love, which has given form to chaos, and stamped
with the image of the Divine beauty
;

and

in

which

we

are exhorted to rise through the contemplation of

nature to God.*'
^

Juan de Angelis,
:

in

his treatise

on

Pedro Malon de Chaide

" Las cosas en Dios son mismo Dies."
p.

^

Alejo Venegas in Rousselot,

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
:

in

hell with Christ than in glory without

Him

{Medit.

iii. ).

^Juan d'Avila
things."
^

:

"Let

us put a veil between ourselves and

all

created

Louis de Granada.
entitled

This side of Platonism appears in Pedro Malon, and especially in Compare also the beautiful ode of Louis de Leon,

"Noche Serena," where
" Quien
es el

the eternal peace of the starry heavens

is

contrasted with the turmoil of the world

que esto mira,

Y

precia la bajeza de la tierra,

Y
Y

no gime y suspira rompe lo que encierra
la destierra
?

El alma, y destos bienes

Aqui vive al contento, Aqui reina la paz, aqui asentado

En

rico
el

y alto asiento

Esta

amor sagrado
y deleites rodeado."

De

glorias

PRACTICAL AND DEVOTIONAL
the
spiritual

217
from

nuptials,

quotes

freely,

not only

Plato, Plotinus,

and

Virgil,

but from Lucretius, Ovid,

Tibullus,

and
in

Martial.

But

this

kind of humanism was frowned upon by the

Church,

Spain as elsewhere.

These were not the
could

weapons with which
successfully.

Lutheranism

be

fought

Inquisition in

Juan d'Avila was accused before the 1534, and one of his books was placed
;

on the Index of 1559
refuge
in

Louis de Granada had to take

Portugal

;

Louis

de

Leon, who

had the
is

courage to say that the Song of Solomon
pastoral idyll,

only a

was sent

to a

dungeon

for five years.^

Even
Seville
in a

St.
;

Teresa narrowly escaped imprisonment at
St.

and

Juan of the Cross passed nine months
sufficient ruthlessness,
It

black hole at Toledo.

Persecution,

when applied with
its

seldom

fails

of

immediate

object.

took only
in in

about twelve years to destroy Protestantism

Spain

;

and the Holy Office was equally successful
Mysticism hand and
expect to find
characteristic
light
in
foot.^

binding

And
St.

so

we must not

St.

Teresa or

Juan any of the

independence of Mysticism.

The

inner

which they sought was not an illumination of the
but a consuming
fire

intellect in its search for truth,
^

to

After his release he was suflered to resume his lectures.
first

A

crowd of

sympathisers assembled to hear his
"

utterance

;

but he began quietly

with his usual formula, " Deciamos ahora," "

The

were saying just now." heresy of the " Alombrados " (lUuminati), which appeared in the

We

sixteenth century, and
to

was

ruthlessly crushed

by the Inquisition, belonged
Its

the familiar type of degenerate Mysticism.

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

in 1623,

an abiding possession. There was another outbreak of the same errors and a corresponding sect of Illumines in Southern France.

2i8
burn up
all

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
earthly passions and desires.
;

Faith pre-

sented them with no problems

all

such questions had

been settled once
ascetics
first

for all

by Holy Church.
;

They were
neither of

and Church Reformers next
typical mystic.^
^

them was a

The

life

of St. Teresa

is

more

interesting than her

teaching.
Castilian

She had
ancestors

all

the best qualities of her noble
simplicity,
;

straightforwardness,
self-

and dauntless courage
denying
best
life
is

and the record of her

enlivened

by numerous
and
it is

flashes

of

humour, which make her character more lovable.
is

She

known

as a visionary,
is

mainly through

her visions that she

often regarded as

one of the

most representative mystics.
occupy a very large space
were frequent during the
convent
fifty
:

But these visions do not
her
life.

in the story of
first

They
and

two or three years of her
forty

life,

and again between the ages of
last

there was a long

gap between the two
life,

periods,

and during the
houses, she saw
that of

twenty years of her
in

when she

was actively engaged

founding and visiting religious
This experience was
Spiritual

them no more.
other

many

saints of the cloister.

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

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).

He

cisco de

•^

PRACTICAL AND DEVOTIONAL
but
in later life,

219
and the

when the character

is

fixed,

imagination less active, the vision fades into the light
of

common
;

day.

In considering St. Teresa's visions,
that she was transparently honest
superiors strongly disliked
ridiculed,

we must remember
and sincere
privileges

that her

and

suspected, and
;

her

enemies

her

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
that at the
;

justified

by her own

descriptions.

She
her
"

tells

us herself that her reading of St. Augustine's

Confessions, at the age of forty-one,
life.

was a turning-point
in
It

in

"

When

I

came

to his conversion," she says,

was just as

and read how he heard the voice if the Lord called me."

the garden,

it

was

after this

that she began again to see visions

or rather to have

a sudden sense of the presence of God, with a suspension of all the faculties.

In these trances she generally

heard Divine

" locutions."

She says that

*'

the words

were very clearly formed, and unmistakable, though not
heard by the bodily
ear.

They

are quite unlike the
"

words framed by the imagination, which are muffled
{cosa sorda).

She describes her
First

visions of Christ very

carefully.
in

He

stood beside her while she was
"

prayer,

and she heard and saw Him,
"

though not

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

Then

by degrees
rection."

His

sacred
it

humanity was completely
is

manifested to me, as
(This
last

painted after the Resursuggests
that

sentence
at,

sacred

pictures, lovingly

gazed

may have been

the source

220
of

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
of her visions.)

some

Her

superiors tried to per;

suade her that they were delusions

but she replied,

"If they who said

this told

just finished speaking to me,

me that a person who had whom I knew well, was
that
I

not that person, but they
less
I

knew
left

fancied

it,

doubtI

should believe them, rather than what
but
if

had

seen

;

this

person

behind him some jewels

as pledges of his great love,

and

I

found myself rich
it

having been poor,

I

could not believe

if

I

wished.
all
;

And

these jewels

I

could show them.

For

who
the

knew me saw
difference

clearly that

my

soul

was changed
not whether

was great and palpable."
Teresa
the
"

The answer shows
the

that

for

question was

manifestations were

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,
is

the allegory under which she describes the

different kinds of prayer.

The

simile
;

is

not original
it is

it

appears

in St.

Augustine and others
St. Teresa,

but
us

more

fully

worked out by

who

tells

" it

has always
soul as a

been a great delight to
says, "

me

to think of
it."

my

garden, and of the Lord as walking in

So here she
unfruitful,

Our

soul

is

like a garden,

rough and

out of which

God
this

plucks the weeds, and plants flowers,

which we have to water by prayer.

ways of doing
well
;

First,

There are four by drawing the water from a
has

this

is

the earliest and most laborious process.
its

Secondly, by a water-wheel which

rim hung

round with
to

little

buckets.
it.

Third,

by causing a stream
from heaven.
often attended
is

flow
first

through
is

Fourth, by rain

The

ordinary prayer, which

PRACTICAL AND DEVOTIONAL
by great sweetness and comfort.
well
is

221

But sometimes the
love of

dry.
in

What

then

?

The

God does
in

not

consist

being able to weep, nor yet
in

delights

and tenderness, but

serving with justice, courage,

and humility.
receive
quiet,

The
to
give.

other

seems

to
is

me
God

rather

to

than

The second

the prayer of
is

when

the soul understands that

so near In this

to her that she need not talk aloud to

Him."

stage the Will

is

absorbed, but the Understanding and
active.

Memory
lastic

are

still

(Teresa, following the schofaculties of the

mystics,

makes these the three
" It
is

soul.)

In the third stage

God becomes,

as

it

were,

the

Gardener.

a sleep of the faculties, which

are not entirely suspended, nor yet do they understand

how they
not
at

work."
;

In the fourth stage, the soul labours
the
faculties

all

all

are quiescent.
this

As
"

she
the

pondered

how

she

might

describe
:

state,

Lord
It
is

said these words to

me

She
but

(the soul)

unmakes

herself,

my

daughter, to bring herself closer to Me.
lives,
I.

no more she that
sees,

As

she cannot

comprehend what she
understand."

understanding she ceases to
this fourth
call "

Years after she had attained

stagQ, Teresa experienced

what the mystics

the

great dereliction," a sense of ineffable loneliness and
desolation,

which nevertheless
It

is

the path to incomparable

happiness.

was accompanied by a kind of catalepsy,
spirit are

with muscular rigidity and cessation of the pulses.

These intense joys and sorrows of the
chief events

the

of Teresa's

life

for

eight or ten

years.

They

are

activity,

followed by a period of extreme practical when she devoted herself to organising comof bare-footed

munities

Carmelites,

whose austerity

222

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
to
this

and devotion were
Christianity.

revive the glories of primitive

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

Her

labours continued without intermission

till,

at the
last

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

"

This saint

will

be no longer wanted," she

said,

with a sparkle of her old vivacity,

when she knew

that she was to die.
It
is

not worth while to give a detailed account of
mystical theology.
life

St. Teresa's

Its cardinal points are

that the religious
to

consists in complete conformity

the

will

of God, so that at last the
"

human
;

will

becomes purely
belief in

passive "

and

" at

rest "

and the
on

Christ as

the sole

ground of
is

salvation,

which subject she uses language which
that of the Lutheran Reformers.
passivity

curiously like

Her teaching about
" is

and the
only

"

prayer of quiet

identical with
in

that which the

Pope afterwards condemned
fair

Molinos

;

but

it

is

to

remember

that

Teresa was not
life,

canonised for her theology, but for her
the

and that

Roman Church

is

not committed to every doctrine

which can be found
real
in

in the writings of her saints.

The
:

character of St. Teresa's piety

may

be seen best

some
"

of her prayers, such as this which follows

O

Lord,

how

utterly different are
!

Thy

thoughts
is

from our thoughts
resolved to love

From
alone,

a soul which

firmly

Thee

and which has surrendered

her whole will into

Thy

hands,

Thou demandest only
She need

that she should hearken, strive earnestly to serve Thee,

and

desire only to

promote Thine honour.

PRACTICAL AND DEVOTIONAL
seek and choose no path, for

223

Thou doest

that for her,

and her

will follows

Thine

;

while Thou,

O

Lord, takest

care to bring her to fuller perfection."

In theory,
striving "

it

may

not be easy to reconcile

" earnest

with complete surrender and abrogation of

the

will,

but the logic of the heart does not find them

incompatible.
this

Perhaps no one has spoken better on

matter than the Rabbi Gamaliel, of
"

whom

it

is

reported that he prayed,

do Thy

will as if
it

it

were

O Lord, grant that I may my will, that Thou mayest do
will."

my
will

will as if

were

Thy

But

quietistic MystiSelf-

cism often puts the matter on a wrong basis.
is

to be annihilated, not (as St. Teresa

sometimes
the

implies) because our thoughts

are so utterly different
in

from God's thoughts that they cannot exist

same
the

mind,

but

because

self-interest

sets

up
will,

an
like

unnatural antagonism between
other
faculties,

them.

The

only realises
in

itself in

its

fulness

when God worketh
His good pleasure.
St.

us both to will and to do of

Juan of the Cross, the fellow-workman of
in

St.

Teresa
perfect

the reform of monasteries,

is

a

still

more

example of the Spanish type of Mysticism.
;

His fame has never been so great as hers
Teresa's character remained

for while

human and

lovable in the

midst of

all

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.
is

most

painful, difficult,

and humiliterrible

His

own

life

was

divided

between

224

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
and strenuous labour
in

mortifications

the foundation

of monasteries.

Though

his

books show a tendency to
"

Quietism, his character was one of fiery energy and
unresting industry.

Houses of
slept

discalced

"

Carmelites

sprang up

all

over Spain as the result of his labours.

These monks and nuns
eight

upon bare boards,

fasted

months in the year, never ate meat, and wore the same serge dress in winter and summer. In some of
these

new foundations
in
It

the

Brethren even vied with
this severe

each other
rule.

adding voluntary austerities to
all

was

part of the

campaign against Protest-

antism.

The

worldliness and luxury of the Renaissance

period were to be atoned for

by a return

to the purity

and devotion of
ideal

earlier centuries.

The
in

older Catholic

the mediseval type of Christianity
in
all

—was

to be

restored
century.

its

completeness

the

seventeenth
of the
lost

This

essentially

militant

character

movement among the Carmelites must not be
sight of: the
all

two great Spanish mystics were before things champions of the counter- Reformation.

The two chief works of St. Juan are The Ascent of Mount Carmely and The Obscure Night of the Soul.
Both are
type.
treatises

on
"

quietistic

Mysticism of a peculiar

At

the

beginning

of

La Subida

de

Monte
to
:

Cannelo he says,
Divine union
is

The journey
is

of the soul

the
the

called

night for three reasons
all desire,

point of departure
plete

privation of
;

and com-

detachment from the world
is

the road
;

is

by

faith,
is

which

like night

to the intellect

the goal, which
life."

God,

is

incomprehensible while
soul
in
its

we

are in this

The

ascent passes
First

from one realm of
is

darkness to another.

there

the

"

night

of

PRACTICAL AND DEVOTIONAL
sense,"
her.
in

225

which the things of earth become dark to
"

This must needs be traversed, for

the creatures
table, "

are only the

crumbs that
will

fall

from God's
pick
that

and

none but dogs

turn

to

desire only doth

God

allow

them
of

up."

One

obeying Him,

and carrying the Cross."
torment, blind, and pollute

All

other desires weaken,

the soul.
all

completely detached from

such,

Until we we cannot

are
love

God.

"

When

thou dwellest upon anything, thou hast

ceased to cast thyself upon the All."

"If thou
of

wilt

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

God."

"

Empty
walk
in

thy

spirit

all

created

and thou
the "

wilt

the Divine light, for

God

resembles no created thing."
traversing

Such is the method of Even at this early night of sense."

stage the forms and symbols of eternity, which others

have found
as useless.

in
"

the visible works of God, are discarded

God
or
a,

has no resemblance to any creature."

The dualism
seldom found

acosmism of mediaeval thought has
harsher expression.

In the night of sense, the understanding and reason
are not blind
faith,
" all
is
;

but in the second night, the night of
"

darkness."

Faith

is

midnight
;

"

;

it

is

the deepest darkness that
" third night,
is

the night of
"

we have to pass for in the memory and will," the dawn
"

at hand.

Faith

"

he defines as
"

the assent of the

soul to

what we have heard
totally blind, " for

as a blind

man would

receive a statement about the colour of an object.

We
will

must be
St.

a partially blind

man
Thus

not commit himself wholly to his guide."

for

Juan the whole content of revelation
is

is

removed

from the scope of the reason, and
15

treated as some-

226

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

thing communicated from outside.
travelled far from St. Clement's

We

have, indeed,
in

happy confidence

the guidance of reason, and Eckhart's independence

of tradition.

The
will.

soul has three faculties

intellect,
is

memory, and
link

The imagination

{fantasia)

a

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

memory, and love the
not

will."

He

adds, " to
is

all

that

is

God

"
;

but

"

God

in this life
it

like night."

He

blames those who think
"
"

enough to deny themselves
and those who
last is " spiritual

without

annihilating

themselves,"

seek for satisfaction in God."
"

This

gluttony."

We

ought to seek
"

for bitterness

rather
is

than sweetness in God," and
disagreeable,

to choose

what

most
the

whether
of

proceeding

from

God

or

world."

"

The way

God

consisteth not in

ways of

devotion or sweetness, though these
to

may

be necessary

beginners, but in giving ourselves up to suffer."
so

And

we must
"

fly

from

all

"

mystical

phenomena

(supernatural manifestations to the sight, hearing, and

the other senses)

without examining whether they be

good or

evil."

"

For bodily sensations bear no propor;

tion to spiritual things "

since the distance " between

God and
best

the creature

is

infinite," " there is

no essential

likeness or

communion between them."
toys
"
; ;

Visions are at

" childish
fly,"

"

the

fly

that

touches honey
is

cannot

he says

and the probability
For
natural
or

that they

come from
intellectual
^

the devil.

" neither the creatures,

nor

perceptions,

supernatural,

can

So

in Plotinus tpavraala

comes between

(pvcn^ (the

lower soul) and the

perfect apprehension of vovs,

PRACTICAL AND DEVOTIONAL
them.

227

bring us to God, there being no proportion between

Created things cannot serve as a ladder

;

they

are only a hindrance

and a snare,"
in this
"

There

is

something heroic

sombre

interpreta-

tion of the

maxim

of our Lord,
all

Whosoever he be of
"

you

that forsaketh not
disciple."

that he hath, he cannot be

My
life

also

"

All that he hath


"

yea,

and

his

intellect, reason,

and memory
cast

most Divine
secret place.

in

our nature

—are

own
is

all

that

surrender at the feet of

Him who

down in absolute made darkness His

His pavilion round about
"

Him
^

with dark

water, and thick clouds to cover Him."

In the

"

third night

that of

memory and
is

will

the soul sinks into a holy inertia and oblivion {santa
ociosidad y olvido), in which the flight of time
unfelt,

and the mind
St.

is

unconscious of
to

all

particular thoughts.

Juan seems here

have brought us to something

like the torpor of the

Indian Yogi or of the hesychasts
to regard

of

Mount Athos.

But he does not intend us

this state of trance as

permanent or

final.

It is

the last

watch of the night before the dawn of the supernatural
state,

in

which the human
" at

faculties

are turned into

Divine attributes, and by a complete transformation the
soul,
"

which was

the opposite extreme

"

to God,
beatific

becomes,

by

participation,

God."

In

this

state " one

might

say, in a sense, that the soul gives

of

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

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

;

228

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
all

mystical love-gift, wherewith the soul repayeth
debt."

her

This

is

the infinite reward of the soul

who has

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).
find here

and there
little

in his
;

pages

:

"

O

sweetest love of

God, too
rest
;

let

who has found Thee is at everything be changed, O God, that we may
known
he

rest

in

Thee,
all

Everywhere with Thee,
things with

everywhere
all

Thee

for

Thee, nothing for

me

— nothing
I

;

as

I

O my God, wish, O my Love,
for

me, every-

thing for Thee.

All sweetness and delight for Thee,
bitterness

none
for

for

me

all

and trouble
will

for

me, none
presence,
to

Thee.
art the

O my
and
will

God, how sweet to
!

me Thy
that
it

who

supreme Good
uncover
to

draw near

Thee
please

in silence,

Thy

feet,^

may

Thee
bride
;

to
I

unite

me

Thyself,

making
I

my
in

soul

Thy

will rejoice in
I I

nothing

till

am

Thine arms.

O
/

Lord,

beseech Thee, leave

me

not for a moment,

because

know
light

not the value of mine
love

own

soul."

Such

faith,

hope, and

were suffered

to

cast

gleams of

strewn path.

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

are most often reminded in reading his pages

the verse

of

Amos

:

"

Shall not the day of the
?

Lord be darkness
in
it

and not
It is

light

even very dark, and no brightness
life

?"

a terrible view of

and duty


7.

that

we

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.

PRACTICAL AND DEVOTIONAL
of entering into relations with

229
is

God

that

all

which

human must
natural
"

die,

and have
St.

its

place taken by superto

infusion.
"

Juan follows
transcendental

the end

the

negative road
at
all

of Dionysius, without troubling him-

self

with

the

metaphysics
is

of

Neoplatonism.

His nihilism or acosmism
psychological.
its

not the

result of abstracting

from the notion of Being or of
It
is

unity

;

its

basis

is

" subjective "

religion carried almost to

logical conclusion.

The

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
Spaniards.

We

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
is

nothing until our

nothingness

filled

with the Infinite.

He
it

does not
only by a
to the

escape from the quietistic attitude of passive expectancy

which belongs to

this

view of

life

;

and

is

glaring inconsistency that he attaches
ecclesiastical

any value
But
St.

symbolism, which
that

rests

on a very

different

basis

from

of his

teaching.

Juan's

Mysticism brought him no intellectual emancipation,
either
for

good or

evil.

Faith
in

with him

was

the

antithesis, not to sights as

the Bible, but to reason.

The

sacrifice of

reason was part of the crucifixion of
so he remained in 'an attitude of

the old man.

And

230

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
an intermediary who

complete subservience to Church tradition and authority,
is

and even

to his " director,"

mentioned by these post-Reformation Even this unqualified submissiveness did not preserve him from persecution during his lifetime, and
constantly
mystics.

suspicion afterwards.

His books were only authorised

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
St.

Teresa,

who had

already been canonised.

But

it

could

not

be denied that the quietists of the next

century might find

much support

for

their

contro-

verted doctrines in both writers.
St.

Juan's ideal of saintliness was as
his

much

of an

anachronism as

scheme of Church reform.
His

But no
shows

one ever climbed the rugged peaks of Mount Carmel
with more heroic courage and patience.
life

what tremendous moral
self-surrender to God.

force

is

generated by complete

And

happily neither his failure

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

and
of

defective grasp of Christian truth, could deprive

the reward of his

life

of sacrifice

him

the reward,

I

mean,

of feeling his fellowship with Christ in suffering.
sold " all that he

He

had

"

to gain the pearl of great price,
in vain.

and the surrender was not made

The
include

later

Roman

Catholic

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
been a favourite devotional writer with thousands
this in

country.

He

presents
into

the

Spanish Mysticism

softened

and

polished

a graceful

and winning

PRACTICAL AND DEVOTIONAL
pietism, such as

231
lives of

might

refine
"

and elevate the
consulted

the " honourable

women

who

errors of the quietists certainly receive

The some countenhim.
eclectically

ance from parts of his writings, but they are neutralised

by maxims of a

different tendency,

borrowed

from other sources.^

A

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
the palace, and put

many
1675

singular marks of his esteem

upon him."

In

he published

in

Italian

his

Spiritual Guide, a mystical treatise of great interest.

Molinos begins by saying that there are two ways
to

the knowledge of

God
"

meditation or discursive

thought, and " pure faith
plation has

or contemplation.

Contemlatter
calls

two stages, active and passive, the
higher.^
"
;

being
"

the

Meditation

he

also

the

exterior road

it is

good

for beginners,

he says, but
road," the

can never lead to perfection.
goal of which
is

The

" interior

union with God, consists

in

complete
all

resignation to the will of God, annihilation of
^

self-

The somewhat feminine temper
St.

of Francis leads

him

to attach

more

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

even by

Teresa.

Person of Christ, and to
never have written,
' '

And we miss in him that steady devotion to the Him alone, which gives the Spaniards, in spite of
St.

themselves, a sort of kinship with evangelical Christianity.

Juan could

Honorez, reverez,

et respectez

d'un amour special la

sacree et glorieuse Vierge Marie.

Elle est mere de nostre souverain pere et
(!).

par consequent nostre grand'mere"
-

the

The three parts into which the book is divided " darkness and dryness" by which God purifies
;

deal respectively with
the heart
;

the second

stage, in
essential

which he insists, complete obedience to a and the stage of higher illumination.

spiritual director is

232
will,

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
and an unruffled
the mystical
"

tranquillity or passivity of soul,
is

until

grace
sink

supernaturally " infused."
lose

Then

we

shall

and

ourselves

in

the

immeasurable sea of God's
tokens by which
meditation
to

infinite
^

goodness, and rest

there steadfast and immovable."

He
we

gives a

list

of

we may know
;

that

are called from

contemplation

and enumerates four

means, which lead to perfection and inward peace
prayer,

obedience,

frequent

communions, and inner
is

mortification.
silence
;

The

best kind of prayer

the prayer of
of words,

^

and there are three

silences, that

that of desires,

and that of thought.

In the last and

highest the
the soul.^

which

we

mind is a blank, and God alone speaks to With the curious passion for subdivision find in nearly all Romish mystics, he

distinguishes three kinds of " infusa contemplazione "
(i) satiety,

when
hatred
"

the
for

soul
all

is

filled

with
;

God and
(2) "

conceives

a

worldly things

un

mentale eccesso
love
soul
will.

or elevation of the soul, born of Divine

and
"

its

satiety; (3) "security."

In this state the

would willingly even go to

hell, if it

were God's

Happy
it.

is

the state of that soul which has slain
It lives

and annihilated
lives in

itself."

no longer

in itself, for
it is

God

"With

all

truth

we may say

that

deified."

^

"Cola

c'

ingolfiano e ci perdiamo nel
stabili

mare immenso

dell' infinila

sua

bonta in cui restiamo
^ It is

Enn.

V.

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

Cf.

—not

alone can
^

with uttered words, but reaching forth our souls in prayer to we pray, alone to Him who is alone."

Him

;

for thus

He

speaks, too, of "inner recollection"
te

(il

raccoglimento interiore),
del'

"mirandolo dentro
forma, specie,

medesima

nel

piu intimo

anima

tua,

senza

modo

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

oscura, senza veruna distinzione di perfezione 6 attributo."

PRACTICAL AND DEVOTIONAL
Molinos follows

233

visions,

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-

tions

of the
"

and torments, worse than any which the martyrs early Church underwent," which form part of

purgative contemplation."
in his insistence

He

resembles the Spanish

mystics also
especially
*'

on outward observances,

daily

communion,
confession

when

possible,"

but
for

thinks

frequent

unnecessary,

except

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,

in

the greatest credit at

Rome seemed

to value them-

selves

upon
all

his friendship.

Letters were writ to

him
in

from

places, so that a correspondence
his

was

settled

between him and those who approved of

method,

many
to be

different places of Europe."

" It
all

grew so much
began to lay
to give

the vogue in

Rome,

that

the nuns, except

those
aside

who had
their

Jesuits to their confessors,

rosaries

and other devotions, and
"

themselves

much

to the practice of mental prayer."

Molinos had written with the object of
the
fetters "

breaking

which hindered

souls

in

their

upward

course.

Unfortunately
fetters
in

for himself,

he also loosened

some of the
desires
^

which the
.^

Roman
so,

priesthood
of the

to

keep the
:

laity

And

instead

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

" In

short,

devout, or that at least affected the reputation of
;

234

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

honours which had been grudgingly and suspiciously

bestowed on
in a

his predecessors,

Molinos ended his days

dungeon.^

His condemnation was followed by a
in

sharp persecution of his followers

Italy,

who had

become very numerous

;

and, in France, Bossuet pro-

cured the condemnation and imprisonment of

Madame

Guyon, a lady of high character and
the centre of a group of quietists.

who was Madame de Guyon
abilities,
is

need not detain us here.

Her Mysticism

identical

with that of Saint Teresa, except that she was no
visionary,

and that her character was

softer

and

less

masculine.

Her

attractive personality,

and the cruel

and unjust treatment which she experienced during
the greater part of her
all
life,

arouse the sympathy of

who read

her story

;

but since

my

present object

is

not to exhibit a portrait gallery of eminent mystics,

but to investigate the chief types of mystical thought,
it

will

not be necessary for

me

to

describe

her

life

or

make

extracts from her writings.

The

character of

her quietism

may be

illustrated

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

in

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

were extracted from his writings, and formally condemned. They include a justification of disgraceful vices, which Molinos, who was a man of

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

saintly character, could never

PRACTICAL AND DEVOTIONAL
hymn on
"

235

The Acquiescence
:

of Pure Love," translated

by Cowper
"
!

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
;

!

I

watch
all

my
my

hours,
is

and see them

fleet

away

;

The time
Yet

long that I have languished here thoughts Thy purposes obey,
reluctance, cheerful
equal, whether

;

With no

and

sincere.

To me

'tis

Love ordain
ill

My life or death, appoint me in My soul perceives no real

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
Suffer

is

Thy command
;

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

shore."

Fenelon was also a victim of the campaign against
the quietists, though he

was no follower of Molinos.

He was drawn
Bossuet,

into the controversy against his will

by
it

who

requested

him

to

endorse

an unscru-

pulous attack

upon Madame Guyon.

This

made

necessary for Fenelon to define his
did in his famous
is

position, which he

Maxims of
the

the Saints.
it

The
is

treatise

important for our purposes, since
to

an elaborate

attempt

determine
concerning
"

limits

of

true

and

Mysticism

two

great

doctrines

false

" dis-

interested love

and "passive contemplation."

236

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
the former, F^nelon's teaching
:

On

may

be sum-

marised as follows

Self-interest

must be excluded
is

from our love of God,
evil.

for self-love

the root of

all

This predominant desire for God's glory need

not be always explicit extraordinary
implicit.
(i.)


;

it

need only become so on
but
it

occasions
are

must
of
love

always
for

be

There

five

kinds

God

purely servile
(ii.)


is

the love of God's gifts apart from

Himself;
regards

the love of mere covetousness, which
love

the
;

of

God

only as the condition of

happiness

(iii.)

that of hope, in which the desire for
still

our
love,
(v.)

own

welfare
is

predominant

;

(iv.)

interested
;

which

still

mixed with

self-regarding motives

disinterested love.

He

mentions here the

" three

lives "
life

of the mystics, and says that in the purgative
is

love

mixed with the
are united to
" If

fear of hell
;

;

in the illuminat-

ive,

with the hope of heaven
"

while in the highest

stage

we

God
so

in the

peaceable exercise

of pure love."

God were

of the

just

to

hell

suggest
less."
1


"

to will to send the souls

Chrysostom and Clement
would not love
is

souls in the third state

Him
" the

Mixed

love,"

however,

not a sin

:

greater

part

of holy souls
life."

never reach perfect

dis-

interestedness in this
salvation, because

We

ought to wish

for

our
so.

it is

God's

will that

we should do

Interested love coincides with resignation, disinterested
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
^

This " mystic paradox " has been mentioned aheady.

at length in the Meditations of

Diego de

Stella.

hell, the proposition is

not so

much extravagant

as self-contradictory.

PRACTICAL AND DEVOTIONAL
with

237

holy indifference.

" St.
is

Francis de Sales says
like

that the disinterested heart
its

wax

in the

hands of

God."

We
even

must continue

to co-operate with God's grace,

in the highest
if all

impulses, as

stage, and not cease to resist our came from God. " To speak other-

wise
is,

is

to speak the

language of the tempter."
against

(This

of course, directed

the

immoral apathy
love,

attributed to Molinos.)
vigilance of pure

The only

difference between the
is

and that of disinterested
It is false
;

that

the

former

is

simple and peaceable, while the latter
fear.

has not yet cast out
that

teaching to say
be in charity

we should hate

ourselves

we should

with ourselves as with others!'

^

Spontaneous, unreflecting good acts proceed from

what the mystics
acts
St.

call

the apex of the soul.
the

"

In such

Antony

places

most

perfect

prayer

unconscious prayer."

Of prayer he and we desire
cannot be

says, "

We

pray as much as we desire,
as

as

much
;

we

love."

Vocal prayer

(as the

extreme
" for

quietists pretend) useless to

contemplative souls
prayer."

Christ has taught us a vocal

He
tion,"

then proceeds to deal with

"

passive contempla-

and

refers

again to the

"

unconscious prayer
is

of St. Antony.

But
their

"

pure contemplation
"

never

unintermittent in this

life."

Bernard, Teresa, and

John
lasted

say
not

that

periods

of pure

contemplation
"

more than half an hour."
" is

Pure con-

templation," he proceeds,

negative, being occupied

with no sensible image, no distinct and nameable idea
^

The

doctrine here

condemned

is

Manichean, says Fenelon

rightly.

238
it

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
the purely intellectual and abstract
idea includes, " as distinct

stops only at

idea of being."
objects,"
all

Yet

this

the attributes of
all

God

" as

the Trinity,
"

the humanity of Christ, and

His mysteries."

To

deny
to

this

is

to annihilate Christianity under pretence
it,

of purifying

and

to

confound God with
at

7teant.
falls

It is

form a kind
His

of deism which
all real
is

once

into

atheism, wherein

idea of

God

as distinguished

from

creatures

rejected."
(i.)

Lastly,

it

is

to

advance two impieties

To suppose

that there
is

is

or

may
has

be on the earth a contemplative

who

no longer
that

a traveller, and

who no
the

longer needs the way, since he
(ii.)

reached
Christ

his
is

destination.

To
as

ignore

Jesus
the
faith.

way
as

as

well
as

the truth and

life,

the

finisher

well

the author of our

This criticism of the formless vision
there
is

is

excellent, but

a palpable inconsistency between the definition
"

of " negative contemplation
" all

and the inclusion
in

in

it

of

the attributes of

God

as distinct objects."

Contra-

dictions of this sort

abound

Fenelon, and destroy

the value of his writings as contributions to religious

philosophy, though in his case, as in

many
"

others,

we

may may

speak of

"

noble inconsistencies

which do more

credit to his heart than discredit to his intellect.

We
this

perhaps see here the dying spasm of the

"

negative

method," which has crossed our path so often in
survey.

The image
clearly seen

of Jesus Christ, Fenelon continues,

is

not

by contemplatives
while
the
soul

at

first,

and may be
the
last

withdrawn
furnace of

passes

through

trial

;

but

we can never

cease to need Him,

PRACTICAL AND DEVOTIONAL
"

239

though

it

is

true that the

most eminent
less

saints are

laccustomed to regard

Him

as an exterior object
lives."

than as the interior principle of their
in error

They

are

who speak

of possessing

God

in

His supreme
after the
it

simplicity,
flesh.

and of no more knowing Christ
is

Contemplation

called

passive

because

excludes the interested activity of the soul, not because
it

excludes real action.

(Here again Fenelon
is "

is

rather

explaining

away than explaining
"
is

his authorities.)

The
being

culmination of the
in

passive state "
life

transformation,"
it

which love

the
"
is

of the soul, as

is its
I

and substance.

Catherine of Genoa said,

find

no

more me
"

;

there

no longer any other / but God."
say that transformation
is

But
an

it

is

false to

a deifica-

tion of the real

and natural
are

soul, or a hypostatic union,

or

unalterable

conformity
still

with

God,"

^

In

the
is

passive state

we

liable to

mortal

sin.

(It

characteristic of

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
act
{i.e.

false

Mysticism

:

The "permanent
is

an indefectible state of
as " a poisoned

union with God)

to be

condemned

source of idleness and internal lethargy."
2.

There
"

is

an indispensable necessity of the distinct

exercise of each virtue.
3.
'

Perpetual contemplation,"
x.

making

venial

sins

St.

Bernard {^De diligendo Deo,
si

28) gives a careful statement of the
it
:

deification-doctrine as he vinderstands
erit

" Quomodo omnia
?

in

omnibus

homine de homine quicquara supererit sed in alia forma" See Appendix C,
Deus,
in

Alanebit stibstantia

240

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
is

impossible, and abolishing the distinction of virtues, impossible.
4.
"

Passive prayer,"
is

if

it

excludes the co-operation

of free-will,
5.

impossible,

There can be no "quietude" except the peace of

the

Holy Ghost, which

acts in a

manner

so uniform

that these acts seem, to unscientific persons, not distinct
acts,
6.

but a single and permanent unity with God.

That the doctrine of pure love may not serve as
for the errors of the Quietists,

an asylum

we

assert that

hope must always abide, as
7.

saith St. Paul.
is

The

state

of pure love

very rare, and

it

is

intermittent.

In reply to this
rejoin that

manifesto, the

"

Three Prelates

"

^

Fenelon keeps the name of hope but takes
;

away

the thing
;

that he really preaches indifference to
is

salvation

that he

in

danger of regarding contemplafrom the heights of pure

tion of Christ as a descent

contemplation
the
"

;

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

faith."

controversy about
chiefly,

disinterested

love,

our

sympathies are Pure

but not entirely, with Fenelon.
is

The standpoint
"

of

Bossuet

not

religious
" is

at

all.

love,"

he says almost coarsely,

opposed

to the

essence of love, which always desires the enjoyment of
its

object, as well as to the nature of

man, who neceswill rather

sarily desires happiness."

Most of us

agree

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

The Archbishop
of Chartres.

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

the.

Bishop

PRACTICAL AND DEVOTIONAL
reciprocation

24
est

" verus

amor

se

ipso

contentus

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

felt

no doubt on

which side the truth

lay.

Self-regarding hopes

and

schemes
it

may

be schoolmasters to bring us to Christ

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

them, and then see them shattered one after another,
that better and deeper hopes

may
in

be constructed out

of the fragments
diction in terms.

;

but a

selfish Christianity is a contra-

But F^nelon,

his teaching
" "

about

disinterested love, goes further than this.
self,"

he says,

" is his

own

greatest cross."
to
;

A man's We must
mot."

therefore

become strangers Resignation is not a remedy
;

this

self,

this

for "

resignation suffers
;

in suffering

one

is

as

two persons
suffer."

in resignation

it is

only pure love that loves to
with which

This

is

the thought

many

of us are familiar in James Hinton's
It is at

Mystery of Pain.
in spite of the

bottom Stoical or Buddhistic,
it

emotional turn given to

by Fenelon.
;

Logically,

it

should lead to the destruction of love

for

love requires two living factors,^

and the person who

has attained a

"

holy
is

indifference,"

who

has

passed

wholly out of
other emotion.

self,

as incapable of love as of
" to

any two

The attempt

wind ourselves too
in

high for mortal
opposite errors.
^

man "

has resulted, as usual,

We

find,

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.

v. p.

472

sq,

16

242

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
which
life

try to escape the daily sacrifices

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
this

way

;

but
"

who
"

allow their doctrines
" to

of

"

holy

indifference

and

pure love

impart an excessive

sternness to their teaching,

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."

It

is,

of course, possible for

commune

with
^
;

God without

words, perhaps

even without thoughts
our Blessed Lord
ecstatic states
latter
is

but the recorded prayers of

will

not allow us to regard these

as better than vocal prayer,

when the

offered " with the spirit,

and with the under-

standing also."

The
in

quietistic

controversy

in

France was carried on
intrigues
us.

an atmosphere of

political

and private
But the great

jealousies,
fact

which

in

no way concern
that the

which stands out above the turmoil of calumny and
is

misrepresentation
sore straits

Roman

Church, which

in

had called

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

authorities
;

" Thought was not," says Wordsworth of one in a and again, " All his thoughts were steeped in feeling."

state of rapture

PRACTICAL AND DEVOTIONAL
had found
loyal
it

243

necessary to accept.

He

remained a
;

and submissive son of the Church, as did Molinos
in fact,

and was,
Bossuet,

more guarded
his

in his

statements than

who

in

ignorance of mystical theology

often blundered into dangerous admissions.^
Jesuits

But the

saw with

their usual

acumen

that Mysticism,

even

in the most submissive guise, is an independent and turbulent spirit and by condemning Fenelon as
;

well as

Molinos, they crushed
in
it

it

out as a religious

movement

the Latin countries.

To

us

seems that the Mysticism of the counterfail,

Reformation was bound to

because

it

was the

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

most

consistent

quietists

were

The perhaps those who
For
at

brought the doctrine of quietism into most discredit,
such as the hesychasts of Mount Athos.
it

bottom

rests
life

upon that
the

dualistic or rather acosmistic view

of

which prevailed from the decay of the
till

Roman
Its

Empire

Renaissance and Reformation.
this

cosmology

is

one which leaves

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
;

phenomena

" in

and

in ethics

it

paralyses morality
that " to love
to love our

by teaching with

St.
is

Thomas Aquinas

God secundum
^
,

se

more meritorious than

^.^. he writes to

Madame

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.

244
neighbour."
^

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
All this
is

not of the essence of MystiIt

cism, but belongs to

mediaeval Catholicism.

was

probably a necessary stage through which Christianity,

and Mysticism with
of an abstract
religious
life
is

it,

had to
at

pass.

The
;

vain quest

spirituality

any

rate

liberated the

from

many

base associations

the

"

negat-

ive road "

after all the holy

path of

self-sacrifice

and the maltreatment of the body, which began among
the hermits of the Thebaid,

was largely based on an
which

instinctive recoil against the poison of sensuality,

had helped to destroy the old
resuscitation of mediaeval

civilisation.

But the

Mysticism after the Renais;

sance was an anachronism

and except
it

in the fighting

days of the sixteenth century,

was not

likely

to

appeal to the manliest or most intelligent
world-ruling papal polity, with
of
officials,
its

The incomparable army
spirits.

bound

to poverty

and

celibacy,

and therefore
of
its

invulnerable,

was a

reductio

ad absurdum

world-

renouncing doctrines, which Europe was not likely to
forget.

Introspective Mysticism

had done

its

work
It

a work of great service to the

human

race.

had had

explored

all

the recesses of the lonely heart, and

wrestled with the angel of
the spiritual night even
till

God through
not
let

the terrors of
"

the morning.

Tell

me now

Thy name " ..."
bless me."

Thee go until Thou These had been the two demands of the
I

will

contemplative mystic

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

245

modern epoch
In

is

called rather to the consecration
life

of art, science, and social
tion.

than to lonely contemplaI

my

last

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

n

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

ivravda deovs.

Aristotle, de Partibus Animalium,

i.

$.

"What

if

earth

Be but the shadow of heaven, and things therein Each to each other like, more than on earth is thought

?

Milton.
" God
not dumb, that

is

If thou hast

He should speak no more. wanderings in the wilderness,

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
I

Absolute in the theoretical sense
maintain, that
if

I
it

do not venture

to

speak;

a

man
it,

recognises

in its manifestations,

and

always keeps his eye fixed upon

he

will reap a very great

reward."

Goethe.

LECTURE
" The creation
itself also shall

VII

Nature-Mysticism and Symbolism
be delivered from the bondage of corruption

into the liberty of the glory of the children of

God."

Rom.

viii.

21.

It would be possible to maintain that
consists in finding sympathies

all

our happiness

and

affinities

underlying

apparent
discord,

antagonisms,

in

bringing

and order out of chaos.

harmony out of Even the lowest
certain

pleasures

owe

their

attractiveness

to a

tem-

porary correspondence between our desires
nature of things.
of sin, misery,
Selfishness
itself,

and the

the prime source
ties
if it

and ignorance, cannot sever the
;

which bind us to each other and to nature
succeeds in doing
so,
it

or

passes into madness, of which

an experienced
"

alienist

has said, that
Incidentally
I

its

essence

is

concentrated egoism."

may

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.
It is

the clearest possible indication that

the true

is

for us the good,
all

and forms the ground of a
if

reasonable faith that

things,

we could

see
for

they
those

are,

would be found to work together
love God.
249

them good

as
to

who

250
"

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
said with
in
^

The true Mysticism," it has been lately much truth, " is the belief that everything,
what
it
is,

being
All

is

symbolic of something more."

Nature (and there are few more pernicious errors than
that which separates
in

man from

Nature)
;

is

the language

which God expresses His thoughts

but the thoughts
it

are far

more than the language.^

Thus

is

that the

invisible things of

God from

the creation of the world

may
that

be clearly seen and understood from the things
are

made
here
in

;

while at the

same time

it

is

equally

true that

we
part.
;

see

know only

through a glass darkly, and Nature half conceals and half
it

reveals the Deity

and

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
is

English essayist denies that
Mysticism, he says,
differs

Mysticism connexion
^

symbolic.^
in

from symbolism

that, while

symbolism

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

:

:

invisible mystery,

vergiingliche

ist

and the last mystery of all is God." Goethe's " Alles nur ein Gleichniss " would be better without the " nur,"

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
life
is

251

based on
life,

within

of

deep correspondences and
those to which the
of

affinities,

not less real than

common

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.

An
in

aureole

is

not,

properly speaking, a symbol of

saintliness,^

nor a crown of royal authority, because

these instances the
is

connexion of sign with

sig-

nificance

conventional.
eternity,
intellect.

A

circle

is

perhaps not a

symbol of
only to the
of

because the comparison appeals

But

falling leaves are a

symbol
"

human
life,

mortality, a flowing river of the " stream
its

of

and a vine and

branches of the unity of

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

bird which darts

quickly through
into

a lighted hall

out

of

darkness, and

darkness
less

again, he has found a
^

symbol which

is

none the

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

is

also valuable:

"That

is

true

symbolism where the more particular

represent.'-'

the

more

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
The

because light and darkness are themselves only

symbolically
writer

connected

with

life

and
is

death.

who
is

denies that Mysticism

symbolic, means

that the discovery of arbitrary
or types
is

and

fanciful resemblances

no part of healthy Mysticism.^
;

In this he
distinction

quite right

and the importance of the
will,
I

which he wishes to emphasise
clear as

hope, become

we

proceed.

It is
is

not possible always to say

dogmatically, " This
is

genuine Symbolism, and that
"
;

morbid or fantastic

but

we do

assert that there

is
is

a true and a false Symbolism, of which the true

not merely a legitimate, but a necessary
;

mode

of

intuition

while the latter

is

at best a frivolous

amuse-

ment, and at worst a degrading superstition.^

But we
if

shall

handle our subject very inadequately

we

consider only the symbolical value which

may

be attached to external objects.
beliefs

Our thoughts and
in

about the spiritual world, so far as they are

conceived

under

forms,

or

expressed

language,

which belong properly only to things of time and
^Emerson
-

says rightly,

"Mysticism

(in

a bad sense) consists in the

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

The

distinction

which Ruskin draws

between the fancy and

the

imagination
*'

may help

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
earnestly,

;

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 tenderever to smile.
ness of emotion.
. . .

Imagination
. .

is

quiet, fancy restless
is

;

fancy details,
imagination,

imagination suggests.

.

All egotism

destructive

of

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
space, are of the
it

253
sense

nature of symbols.
that the greater
dialectical

In

this

has been said
is

part of dogmatic

theology
symbols.

the

development of mystical
relation
is

For instance, the paternal

of the

First Person of the Trinity to the

Second

a symbol

and the representation of eternity as an endless period
of time stretching
into futurity,
is

a symbol.
it

We

believe that the forms under which

is

natural and

necessary for us to conceive of transcendental truths

have a

real

and

vital
;

relation to the ideas

which they
is

attempt to express
if

but their inadequacy

manifest

we

treat

them

as facts of the
try
to

same order

as natural
is

phenomena, and
often done,

intercalate

them, as

too

among

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,
the early
in

if

as

being what

it

is,

is

a sign and

vehicle of something higher

and

better.
it

This
the

is

what

Church meant when

called

sacra-

ments symbols.^
a mystery, and

A
a
"

"

symbol

" at
"

that period implied

mystery
is

implied

a

revelation.

The need
^

of sacraments

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.

254

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
It

victions of the religious consciousness.

rests ulti-

mately

on the

instinctive

reluctance

to

allow

any

spiritual fact
sion.
It
is

to remain without

an external expresAll voluntary

obvious that

all

morality depends on the

application of this principle to conduct.

external acts are symbolic of (that
with) internal states,
their

is,

vitally

connected
this

and cannot be divested of
It

essential

character.

may

be impossible to

show how an
defile

act of the material
spirit
;

body can purify or
cannot be denied

the

immaterial

but the correspondence
life

between the outward and inward
without
divesting

morality
"

of

maxim
when

of Plotinus, that

the

The all meaning. mind can do no wrong,"
more
respect-

transferred

from his transcendental philosophy
is

to matters of conduct,

a sophism no

able than that which Euripides puts into the of one of his characters
:

mouth
;

"

The tongue hath sworn
Every act of the
soul
;

the heart remains unsworn."
is

will

the expression of a state of the

and every
in
is

state of the soul

must seek

to find expression
all

an
not

act of the will.
love, so

Love, as we should
it

admit,

long as

is

content to be only in thought,

or

" in

word and
deed
"

in

tongue
it

"

;

it

is

only when
truth."
^

it

is
it

love
is

" in

that
all

is

love

" in

And

the

same with

other virtues, which are in this
the

sense
^

symbolic, as

implying something beyond
felt

So some thinkers have

that

" the

Word"

is

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
soul
act.

255

Nearly
find

all

the

states

or

motions of
in

can

their
its
;

appropriate

expression

action.

Charity in

manifold forms need not seek

long for an object

and thankfulness and penitence,
first

though they drive us
satisfied
till

to

silent
fruit

prayer, are not
in

they have borne
humility.

some

act of

gratitude

or

But that deepest sense of
is

communion with God, which
religion,
is

the

very
in

heart

of

in

danger of being shut up

thought

and word, which are inadequate expressions of any
spiritual
state.

No

doubt

this

highest state of the

soul

may
fail

find indirect expression in

good works

;

but

these

to express the
felt.

immediacy of the communion

which the soul has

The want
is

of symbols
is

to

express these highest states of the soul

supplied

by sacraments.
arbitrarily
recipient,

A

sacrament

a symbolic act, not
to

chosen, but

resting,

on Divine authority,

mind of the which has no ulterior
the
to,

object except to give expression
to effectuate,^ a relation

and

in so

doing

which

is

too purely spiritual
life.

to

find

utterance in the customary activities of

There are three requisites (on the human
validity of a sacramental act.

side) for the

The symbol must be
to

appropriate
truth
;

;

the thing symbolised must be a spiritual

and there must be the intention

perform

the act as a sacrament.

The sacraments
^Aquinas

of Baptism and the Lord's Supper
"efficiunt

says of the sacraments,

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.

,

256
fulfil

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
these conditions.

Both are symbols of the mystical
in

union between the Christian and his ascended Lord.

Baptism symbolises that union
Eucharist in
its

its

inception,
is

the

organic

life.

Baptism

received but
birth

once, because the death unto sin

and the new
entrance
into

unto

righteousness
life,

is

a

definite

the
fact

spiritual

rather than a gradual process.

The

that

in

Christian

countries

Baptism
alter

in

most cases

precedes conversion
the sacrament
;

does not

the character of
is

indeed, infant Baptism

by

far the

most appropriate
event.

symbol of our adoption

into

the

Divine Sonship, to which we only consent after the
It is
" I

only because
will arise,
is

we

are already sons that

can say,

and go unto
"

my

Father."

we The

Holy Communion
refreshing

the symbol of the maintenance

of the mystical union, and of the
of our
souls,"

strengthening and
the

which we derive from

indwelling presence of our Lord.

The Church
the

claims

an absolute prerogative
in

for its

duly ordained ministers

the case of this sacrament, because
is

common

meal

the symbol of the organic unity of Christ and
"

the Church as
schismatic, as

unus Christus," a doctrine which the

such, denies.^

The communicant who
betwen Christ and

believes only in an individual relation

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
in
it.

There are two views of
" plain
1

this

sacrament which the

man

"

has always found

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.
quite clear.

NATURE-MYSTICISM AND SYMBOLISM
stand than the symboUc view which
is

257

that of our Church.

One

is

that
is

it

is
it

a miracle or magical performance,
is

the other

that

a mere commemoration.

Both

are absolutely destructive of the idea of a sacrament.

The
quite

latter view,

that

of

some Protestant
Church,
is

sects,

was
our
is

foreign
;

to

the

early
it

so

far

as

eyidence goes

the former,

only just to say,
not
in

found

in

many
phrases

of the

Fathers,
it

the

grossly

materialistic
in

form which
as
"

afterwards

assumed, but

such

the

medicine of immortality
elements, where

applied

to

the

consecrated

we

are

meant
terious

to understand

that the elements have a

mysthe
find

power

of

preserving

the

receiver

from

natural consequences
that the

of death.^

But when we

same

writers

who

use compromising phrases

about the change that comes over the elements,^ also
use the
^

language of symbolism, and remember, too,
how far such statements were meant no doubt that both Baptism and the
Cf. Tert. de
;

It

is,

of course, difficult to decide

to be taken literally.

But there

is

Eucharist were supposed to cottfer immortality.
Oehl.
),

Bapt. 2 (621,

"nonne mirandum
IM)

est lavacro dilui

mortem?"
'"'J'

Gregory of Nyssa,
rh Xovrpbv ivayevcalls

Or. cat. niagn. 35,
PTiaeus
dfjva/Ms

Swac^at

5^

^'JA't

^'x**

ko-to.

iv
els

dvaa-rdaei yeviadai
TT]v

rhv B-vOpuirov. the

Basil, too,

Baptism

avdaracnv.

Of

Eucharist, Ignatius uses the phrase
;

quoted, (papfiaKov

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.
-

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

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

"we

same way transelementatid'wiiQ Christ."

The

Christian

Neoplatonists naturally regard the sacrament as symbolic.
inclined to hold that every action should be sacramental,

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

;

this

is

in

accordance with the
Dionysius
calls the

and

intellectualism of his system.

elements
Pav6fieva
;

(jiy-^oKa.,

eUdves, dvTlrvwa, aladryrd
his

nva

dvTl

votjtQv fxeroKafirt

and Maximus,

commentator, defines a symbol as alaOrjrdv

dfrl voTjToO neTaXafi^avd/xevov.

258

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
was a very
to
different
in

that a " miracle "

thing to those

who knew
from what
agree with

of no inflexible laws
it

the natural world

is

those

us, we shall not be ready to who have accused the third and

fourth century Fathers of degrading the Lord's Supper
into a magical ceremony.

Most of the
attempts
to

errors

which have so grievously obscured
"

the true nature of this sacrament have proceeded from

answer the question,
receiver
I ? "

How
who

does

the

reception of the consecrated elements affect the inner
state

of the

To

those
it, it

hold

the

symbolic view, as
the question
cast aside.
is

understand

seems clear that

of cause and effect must be resolutely

The
great

reciprocal action of spirit

and matter
appearance,

the one

mystery which, to

all

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,
on the
effect

in

experience, always united.
abstain,
I

In the

same way we should
of the
instead to consider

think, from speculating

sacraments, and train ourselves
as divinely-ordered symbols,

them

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

religious forms for

which no Divine
eat, or

claimed, but which have a quasi-sacra-

mental value.

And

those who,

"

whether they

drink, or whatever they do,"

do

all

to the glory of

God,

may
It is

be

said

to turn the

commonest
life

acts into sacra-

ments.

To

the true mystic,

itself is

a sacrament.

natural, but unfortunate, that sorne of those

who

NATURE-MYSTICISM AND SYMBOLISM
have
felt this

259
to

most strongly have shown a tendency
call

disparage observances which are simply acts of devotion, "

mere forms," as they

them.

The attempt

to distinguish

between conventional ceremonies, which
in

have no essential connexion with the truth symbolised,

and actions which are
is

themselves moral or immoral,
but
it

no doubt
is

justifiable,

should be remembered
its

that this
rise.

the

way

in

which antinomianism takes
"

Many
is

have begun by saying,

The
;

heart, the
is I

motive,
all,

all,

the external act nothing

the spirit

the letter nothing.

What

can

it

matter whether

say
in

my

prayers in church or at home, on
?

my

knees or
can
it

bed, in words or in thought only

What

matter whether the Eucharistic bread and wine are
consecrated or not
or
?

whether
Perhaps

I

actually eat and drink
to

not

?

"

And

so on.

The descent
no
sect

Avernus

is

easy by this road.
fessed
at

that

has pro-

contempt
the

for all

ceremonial forms has escaped

least

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
is

and indifference to them
an unhealthy symptom.

not, as

many have
It

supposed, a sign of enlightenment or of spirituality.
is,

in fact,

We

do not

credit

a

man

with a

warm

his love in

word and

common

sense of a

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

one of

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

children,

children

with a clear conscience,

26o
I

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
do not shrink from expressing

my

conviction that

the true
its

meaning of our sacramental system, which in external forms is so strangely anticipated by the

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
than this late stage of our inquiry.

We

have hitherto

been dealing with the subjective or introspective type
of Mysticism,
carried
to
its

and

it

is

plain

that this
is

form,

when

logical

conclusion,

inconsistent with
to

sacramental religion.^ Those

who

seek
the

ascend to

God by
reality,

the

way
all

of abstraction,
veils

negative road,

must regard
possible.

symbols as

between our eyes and

and must wish

to get rid of

them

as soon as

From
in

this

point of view, sacraments, like

other ceremonial forms, can only be useful at a very
early

stage

the

upward
It
is

path,

which
that

leads

us

ultimately

into a

Divine

darkness, where no
true

forms

can be distinguished.

some devout
means

mystics of this type have both observed and exacted a
punctilious strictness in using
all

the appointed
is

of grace
for.^

;

but

this

inconsistency

easily

accounted

The

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,

relics,

holy places,

etc.

As long

as

what the soul seeks

is

not the rock of assurance, but means for

inciting to piety,

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

therefore

;

NATURE-MYSTICISM AND SYMBOLISM
lished order,
either,

261

and human nature, which

is

stronger than

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

But a true appreciation of sacraments belongs only to those who can sympathise with the other branch of
Mysticism
this

that which rests on belief in symbolism.
invite

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.
branch of

your attention.

If

symbolical type of Mysticism

is

liable

to

quite

as

many

perversions as the subjective.

If in the latter

we found
survivals
feel that

a tendency to revert to the apathy of the

Indian Yogi,
of
it

we
still

shall observe in

the former too
creeds.

many
I

more barbarous

Indeed,

is

almost necessary, as an introduction to
subject, to consider very briefly the

this part

of

my

stages

through which the religious

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

;

I

protest against identifying
it
;

it

with the essence of Mysticism.

Symbolic Mysticism soon outgrew
it.

introspective Mysticism never valued
is

The
has
its

use of visible things as stimulants to piety

another matter

it

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

early stage in the spiritual ascent.

What

I

have said as to the inconsistency
mystics,
is,

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

away

all

images," which
'

we

find in the mediceval

1

think,

indisputable.

262

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
earliest belief

The
called

seems

to be that

which has been
This
it

Animism, the

belief that all natural forces are
like

conscious living beings

ourselves.
;

is

the
leads

primitive form of natural religion
to

and though

some deplorable customs,

it is

not a morbid type, but

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

The
reside

perverted form of primitive
is

Animism
is

is

called

Fetishism, which
in

the belief that supernatural powers

some

visible object,

which

the

most treasured possession of a god or demon.
object
lar this

home or The

may be
is

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

kind of food, or indeed anything.
belief
it

Unfortunately

not peculiar to savages.

A

degraded

form of

school of

is exhibited by the modern France, and

so-called neo-mystical
in

the baser types of

Roman

Catholicism everywhere.-

Primitive

Animism
is

believes in no natural laws.

The

next stage

to believe in laws

which are frequently
regarded every

suspended by the intervention of an independent and
superior

power.

Mediaeval

dualism

breach of natural law as a vindication of the power
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
'

The most
in the

fonh

plane, without repudiating the universality of law.
- I

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.
;

La

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

in a Christianity

At any

rate, let

name

of .Mysticism be given to such methods.

NATURE-MYSTICISM AND SYMBOLIS]\I
of spirit over matter

263

— not

always, however, of Divine

power, for
turbances
persistent

evil

spirits

could produce very similar disorder.
after
in

of the

physical
to "

Thus arose
a sign,"
in

that

tendency
of the

seek

which
day,
is

the religion

vulgar, even

our

own

deeply involved.

Miracle, in

some form
in

or other,

is

regarded as the real basis of belief

God.

At

this

stage people never ask themselves whether any spiritual
truth, or indeed

anything worth knowing, could possibly

be

exhibitions.

communicated or authenticated by thaumaturgic What attracts them at first is the evibeliefs furnish, that the

dence which these
they
live is

world

in

which

not entirely under the dominion of an unconinflexible

scious

or

power, but that behind
effect
is

the iron

mechanism of cause and

a will more like their

own

in its

irregularity

and

arbitrariness.

Afterwards,

as the majesty of law

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.

A

truer view sees in

them a
real

materialisation of mystical symbols, the proper
is

function of which

to act as interpreters between the

and

the
worlds.
all

apparent,

between

the

spiritual

and
in

material

When
has
its

they crystallise as portents,

they lose

their usefulness.

Moreover, the belief
in

celestial visitations

dark counterpart
evil,

super-

stitious

dread of the powers of
life

which

is

capable of
has
led

turning

into

a

long nightmare, and

to

dreadful cruelties.^

The

error has

still

enough

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

264
to

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
a prejudice against natural science, which
the light of an invading

create
in

appears

enemy wresting

province after province from the empire of the supernatural.

But we are concerned with thaumaturgy only so
as
it

far

has affected Mysticism.

At
;

first

sight the conit
is.

nexion

may seem

very slight

and

slight indeed
is
till

But just as Mysticism of the subjective type
entangled
a vain
in theories

often

which sublimate matter

only

shadow remains, so objective Mysticism has
false spiritual-

been often pervaded by another kind of
ism

that

which
"

finds

edification

in

palpable super"

natural

manifestations.
are so

These

so-called

mystical
"

phenomena
in

much
on

identified with "

Mysticism

the

Roman

Catholic

Church of to-day, that the
the
subject,

standard

treatises

now
of

studied

in

continental

universities,
" levitation,"

largely

consist

grotesque

legends of
" radiation,"

" bilocation," "

incandescence,"

and other miraculous tokens of Divine
great work of Gorres, in five volumes,
is

favour.^

The

" 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
Ribet,

since the Reforma-

of Mysticism and
the

Mystical Theology current in the Middle Ages with the following from

who

is

recognised as a standard authority on
point

subject:

"La

Theologie

mystique, au

de vue subjectif

et

experimental, nous
et

semble pouvoir etre definie ; une attraction surnaturelle I'ame vers Dieu, provenant d'une illumination et d'un
interieurs,

passive de

qui

previennent
le

la

reflexion,

embrasement surpassent I'effort humain, et
:

peiivent avoir sur

corps tin reteyttissenient merveilletix et irresistible.^^
la

"Au

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

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

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

The

time

is

past,

if it

ever existed,

when such

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

superstitions.

" Diabolical

Mysticism

"

includes
stories

witchcraft, diabolical possession,

and the hideous

of incubi and succubse.

It is

not

my

intention to say
I

any more about these savage
to bring
terrors,

survivals, as

do not wish
"

my subject into undeserved contempt.^
and
this

These

darkness of the mind," as Lucretius
dispelled, not

says, "

must be

by the bright

shafts of
-

the sun's light, but
1

by

the study of Nature's laws."

This language about the teaching of the

Roman Church may

be conI will

sidered unseemly by those

who have

not studied the subject.

Those who
is

have done so

will think

it

hardly strong enough.

In self-defence,

quote one sentence from Schram, whose work on "Mysticism"
sidered authoritative, and
is

con-

studied in the great Catholic university of

Louvain

:

"Qureri potest utrum dcemon per turpem concubitum possit

violenter opprimere

marem

vel

feminam cuius obsessio permissa

sit

ob

finem perfectionis et contemplationis acquirendse."
affirmative,
in Latin.

The answer

is

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
Schram's book
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

down

that view of the irupervi-

onsness of the ego which

is

fatal to

Mysticism, and (I venture to think) to
is

any consistent philosophy.

Monadism, we may hope,

doomed.

But

266

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
of these fables are quite obviously due to a

Some

materialisation of conventional symbols.

These symtypical case
is

bols are the picture language into which the imagination
translates

what the

soul

has

felt.

A

is

that of the miniature image of Christ, which

said to

have been found embedded
saint.

in the heart

of a deceased

The supposed
;

miracle was, of course, the work

of imagination

but this does not
liars.

mean

that those

who
that

reported

it

were deliberate

We

know now

we must
tion,

distinguish between observation an^ imagina-

between the language

of

science

and that of
abhorred

poetical

metaphor
this

;

but

in

an age which
clear.^

rationalism
its

was not so

Rationalism has

function in proving that such mystical symbols are

not physical facts.

But when

it

goes on to say that

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

has stepped outside
further as

its

province.

Proceeding a

little

we

trace the develop-

ment of natural or objective
belief in

religion,

we come
is

to the

magic, which

in
first

primitive peoples

closely

associated
science.

with their

attempts
its

at

experimental
is

What
is

gives

magic
fanciful,

peculiar character
real

that

it

based on

and not on

corre-

spondences.

The uneducated mind cannot

distinguish

between associations of ideas which are purely arbitrary

n the
,

more popular kind of
manifestations,

spiritualism

supernatural

is simply the old hankering after which are always dear to semi-regenerate

minds.
'

It

is,

I

tliink, signilicant

that

the

word "imagination" was slow
defined
t^s icar ivipryeiav
is

in

making

its
iii.

way
3) as

into

psychology.

•ta/'Tacria is

by Aristotle (de
yiyvo/j-ivyj,

Amma,
it

fclfTja-is

inrb ttjs aicrOrjcreus

but

is

not

till

Philostratus that the creative imagination
fxii>

opposed to

ix[in]<ns.
<S

Cf.
fj-r)

Vif. Apoll. vi. 19, filfXTjaLS

o-ijjMoi'pyriaei

6 elSev, ^ai'racrla di Kal

doev.

NATURE-MYSTICISM AND SYMBOLISM
and
subjective,

267

and those which have a more universal
all

validity.

Not, of course, that

the affinities seized
illusory
;

upon by primitive man
scientific.

proved

but those

which were not so ceased to be magical, and became

The savage draws no
makes
fire

distinction

between

the process by which he
his

and that by which
is

priest

calls

down
;

rain,

except that the latter

a

professional secret

drugs and spells are used
;

indiffer-

ently to cure the sick
parts

astronomy and astrology are There
is
is,

of the

same

science.

however,

a

difference between the
istic

magic which

purely natural-

and that which makes mystical claims.

The

magician sometimes claims that the
to

spirits are subject

him, not because he has learned

how

to wield the

forces

which they must obey, but because he has so
his

purged

higher faculties that the occult sympathies

of nature have

become apparent
error

to him.

His theosophy

claims to be a spiritual illumination, not a scientific
discovery.
spiritual

The

here
to
is

is

the

application
relations.

of

clairvoyance

physical

The

insight into reality, which

unquestionably the reward

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

how

nature should be subdued to our needs.
will

No

spirits

from the vasty deep
lies
is

obey our
or

call, to

show us where
Physical
it

the road

to

fortune

to

ruin.

science
its

an abstract inquiry, which, while

keeps to

proper subject
in

the investigation of the

relations

which prevail

the phenomenal world

is self-

sufficient,
Still less

and can receive nothing on external authority.
can the adept usurp Divine powers, and bend

the eternal laws of the universe to his

puny

will.

The

turbid

streams of theurgy and

magic flowed

268
into

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
the

broad

river

of

Christian

thought by two

channels
ism.

— the
in a

later

Neoplatonism, and Jewish Cabbal-

Of

the former something has been said already.

The
kind

root-idea of the system

was that
to

all

life

may be
as

arranged
of

descending scale of potencies, forming a

chain
is

from

heaven

earth.

Man,

a

microcosm,

in

contact with every link in the chain,
relations with
all

and can establish
"

spiritual

powers,

from the superessential
daemons."

One

to

the

lower spirits or

The

philosopher-saint,

who had explored

the highest regions of the intelligence, might hope to

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

dominate the
bidding.

his

saving contemplation

of

In another place he says,

"

God and separate forms." The Cabbala is nothing else
which not only are

^

than symbolic theology,

in

letters

and words symbols of
other things."

things, but things are

symbols of

This method of symbolic interpretation

was held

to

have been originally communicated by
order that persons
:

revelation,- in
'

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

tlie

reputed teacher of

Adam

in Paradise,

the Cabbala as his lesson-book.
tlie

main Cabbalistic docrines

in

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,

pp. 84-88.

NATURE-MYSTICISM AND SYMBOLISM
by
it

269

attain

to

a

mystical

deification.

The
the

Cabbalists thus held

communion with God, or much the same
as

relation

to

Talmudists

the

mystics

to

the

scholastics in the twelfth century.

But, as Jews, they

remained
tradition

faithful

to the

two doctrines of an inspired

and an inspired book, which distinguish them
to bring
it

from Platonic mystics.^
Pico de Mirandola (born 1463) was the
first

the Cabbala into Christian philosophy, and to unite

with his Neoplatonism.
is

Very
"

characteristic of his age
is

the declaration

that

there

no natural science
at

which makes us so certain of the Divinity of Christ as

Magic and the Cabbala."'

For there was

that

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.

anbppriTa, KaOdirep 6 debi, Xdyip TrtareveTai ov ypafifxari.

The

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

following extract from Pico's Apology
the close connexion between

trating
'
'

may be interesting, as illusmagic and science at this period
:

One

of the chief charges against

me

is

that I

am

a magician.

Have

I

not

myself distinguished two kinds of magic?
yo7]Teia,

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
;

sense of the word.

makes them serve
latter

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.
sympathies of things enable
it

to bring to light
if it

hidden marvels from the
itself.

secret treasure-houses of the world, just as

created them

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

270
period

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
a curious
alliance of Mysticism

and

natural

science against scholasticism, which had kept both in
galling chains
;

and both mystics and physicists invoked
Just as Pythagoras, Plato,
set

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
of the Schoolmen.
In

Germany, Reuchlin (145 5-1 522)
the

wrote a

treatise,

On

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 of occult
its

sympathies,

though without
this

the

theurgic element.

According to
visible

view of nature,

everything

in

the

world has an emblematic

meaning.

Everything that a
numbers,
birds,

man
to

saw, heard, or did

colours,

beasts,

and
to be

flowers,

various actions of

life

— was

the

remind him of somefull

thing

else.^

The world was supposed
^

of sacred
testi-

cryptograms, and every part of the natural order
fied

in

hieroglyphics

to the

truths

of Christianity.

Thus the shamrock bears witness
'

to the Trinity, the

This was a very old theory.

Cf.

Lecky, Rationalism in Europe^

vol.

i.

p.

264.

"The

Clavis of St. Melito,

who was

bishop of Sardis,

it

is

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

271
This

an emblem of the

devil,
is

and so

forth.

kind of symbolism was and
as a picture-language, in

extensively used merely
is

which there

no pretence

that the signs are other than artificial or conventional.

those

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
to

an

illiterate

peasant

;

while the sign of a
it

fish

was
the

used by the early Christians because
gible to their enemies.

was

unintelliin

This

is

not symbolism

sense which

I

have given to the word
This

in this Lecture.^

But

it

is

otherwise

of the antitype.

when the type is used as a proof latter method had long been in
Pious persons found a curious

use in biblical exegesis.

satisfaction in turning the

most matter of

fact state-

ments into enigmatic prophecies.
have
its "

Every verse must
natural meaning, and

mystical
for
"

"

as well as
"

its
x\

the search
apologetics.

types

was

recognised

branch of

Allegorism
it

became

authoritative
It

and

dogmatic, which

has no right to be.

would be

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

many

minds,

is

entirely valueless.
its

The
logic
is,

very absurdity of the arguments used by
should

votaries

make

us

suspect that there
sort

is

a

dumb

of a more respectable

behind them.

There

underlying
The

this

love of types and emblems, a strong

^

distinction,

To

primitive

man

a

name

however, would be unintelligible to the savage mind. is a symbol in the strictest sense. Hence, " the

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

272

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
if "

conviction that
the ages,
it

one eternal purpose runs
in small
if

"

through

must be discernible
Everything
in

things as well

as in great.

the world,

we could
being.

see

things as they are, must

be symbolic of the Divine
it

Power which made
or

it

and maintains
in

in
is

We

cannot believe that anything
has no
significance

life

meaningless,

beyond the
to

fleeting

moment.
is

Whatever method helps us
and
that
in a sense true.
allegorists, while at the

realise this

useful,

So far as this we may go with the same time we may be thankful
cleared away, so that

the cobwebs

which they spun over the sacred

texts have
last

now been

we can

at

read our Bible as
do not
find

its

authors intended

it

to be read.^

^

I

it

possible to give a

more honourable place than
still

this to a

system of biblical exegesis which has

a few defenders.

It

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
difficulties in the

often found useful in dealing with moral

and

scientific

Old Testament
literal

;

it

enabled Dionysius to use very bold
I

language about the
Christian

meaning, as

showed
^t It

in

Lecture III.

The
:

Platonists of Alexandria
calls
it

meant

to

Clement
fjLV(TTiKQ>%

a-vfipoXiKQ^ (pcXoaocpeiv.
;

be an esoteric method was held that ra fivar-qpia

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
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
the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

273
in

Theosophical and magical Mysticism culminated

Just as the

idealism of Plotinus lost itself in the theurgic system

of lamblichus, so the doctrine of Divine

preached by Eckhart and his

immanence school was followed by the
^

Nature-Mysticism of Cornelius Agrippa
SUS.2

and Paracel-

The

"

negative

road

"

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
of the universe,
all

it.

The

old theory of a
felt in

World-Spirit, the pulsations of whose heart are
all
life

Through
intricate

came once more into favour. phenomena, it was believed, runs an

network of sympathies and antipathies, the

threads of which, could they be disentangled, would
theory applied to medicine,
is

very curious and interesting,
to

"Citrons,

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

the saphena

riparu7n

is

be applied to fresh wounds,

because

its

leaves are spotted as with flecks of blood.
is

A

species of ofew/ar/d,

whose

roots resemble teeth,

a cure for toothache and scurvy."
ii.

—Vaughan,
The

Hours with
alliance

the Mystics, vol.

p. 77.

It is said

that

some

traces of this

quaint superstition survive even

in the

modern materia medica.
for a

between medicine and Mysticism subsisted

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

274

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
all

furnish us with a clue through

the labyrinths of

natural and supernatural science.

The age was imfrom

patient

to

enter

on

the

inheritance
;

which

humanity had

long

been debarred

the methods of
;

experimental science seemed tame and slow

and so

we

find,

especially

in

Germany, an extraordinary

outburst of Nature-Mysticism

astrology, white magic,

alchemy, necromancy, and what not
tianity

—such
"

as Chris-

had

not

witnessed

before.

These pseudoreal progress

sciences (with which
in

was mingled much
history,

medicine,

natural

and

kindred

sciences)
"

were divided under three provinces or
those
of

vincula

the

Spiritual

World,

which were
;

mainly

magical invocations, diagrams, and signs
Celestial

those of the
;

World, which were taught by astrology

and
each

those of the Elemental World, which consisted in the

sympathetic influence of material objects upon
other.

These
;

secrets

(it

was held) are

all

discoverable

by man

for

man

is is

a microcosm, or epitome of the

universe,

and there

nothing

in

it

with which he can-

not claim an

affinity.

In knowing himself, he

knows

both

God and all the other works that God The subject of Nature-Mysticism is a
;

has made.
fascinating
its

one

but

I

must here confine myself
3-1

to

religious

aspects.

An
3

attempt was soon made, by Valentine
5

Weigel (15
its

88),

Lutheran pastor

at

Tschopau, to

bring together the

new

objective Mysticism

superstitious elements

— and

freed from

the traditional subject-

ive

Mysticism which

the

Middle Ages had handed
the Neoplatonists.
;

down from Dionysius and
cosmology
is

Weigel's

based on that of Paracelsus

and

his

psychology also reminds us of him.

Man

is

a micro-

NATURE-MYSTICISM AND SYMBOLISM
cosm, and his nature has three parts
material body, the astral
spirit,

275

the

outward
soul,

and the immortal

which bears the image of God.
the soul correspond
sense,
stand).
to

The

three faculties of
parts
;

these three

they are
{Ver-

reason

{Verfiunft),
"

and

understanding
"

These are the

three eyes

by which we get
;

knowledge.
reason,

The

sense perceives material things

the

natural science
calls

and art;
scholastic

the

understanding,

which he also
Divine,

the spark, sees the invisible and

He

follows the

mystics in distin-

guishing between natural and supernatural knowledge,

but his method of distinguishing
original.

them
is

is,

I

think,

Natural knowledge, he says,
;

not conveyed

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 "
is

;

all

that appears

come from without
of the
"

really evolved

from within.
is

In supernatural knowledge

the

opposite

the case.

The eye
is

understanding," which sees the Divine,
lies

the spark in the centre of the soul where

the

Divine image.

In this kind of cognition the subject
;

must be absolutely passive
as
if it

its

thoughts must be as

still

were dead.

Just as in natural knowledge the

object does not co-operate, so in

supernatural

knowthis

ledge

the

subject

does

not

co-operate.

Yet

supernatural knowledge does not

come from
ivithin
us,

without.

The

Spirit

and Word of God are
light in

God

is

Himself the eye and the

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

276
is

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
it

both the eye that sees and the object which

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

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

Paracelsus, leaves off

dogma

of imputed

righteousness.

We
his

need not follow him into either of
give a

these controversies, which

kind of accidental Mysticism,
in
;

colouring

to

theology.

Speculative

which

is

always the foe of formalism and dryness

religion, attacks

them

in

whatever forms
to

it

finds

them

and

so,

when we

try

penetrate
its

the

essence

of

Mysticism by investigating

historical manifestations,

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

dogmatics.

But

it

also

marks a stage

in

the general

development of Christian Mysticism, by giving a positive value to scientific

the self-evolution

and natural knowledge as part of " Study nature," of the human soul.
;

he says,
you,

"

physics, alchemy, magic, etc.

for it is all in
It is
;

and you become what you have
is is

learnt."

true

that his religious attitude
position

rigidly quietistic

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
first

and to prove a
it.

always the
effort

step towards solving
direction

A

more notable

in

the same

was

NATURE-MYSTICISM AND SYMBOLISM
that

277

of Jacob

Bohme, who, though he had studied
to
his

VVeigel,

brought
all

task

a philosophical

genius

which was

his

own.
in

Bohme was born
write in 161
silenced
treatises
2,

1575 near

Gorlitz,

where he

after-

wards settled as a shoemaker and glover.

He began

to

and

in spite of clerical opposition,

which

him

for five years,

he produced a number of
his death in

between that date and

1624.
"

Bohme

professed to write only what he had

seen

"

by Divine illumination.
insignificant

His visions are not (with
authenticated by any marasserts

exceptions)
;

vellous

signs

he simply

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
" I

every
is

thought becomes an image, and a logical process
like

an animated photograph.
;

am

myself

my own

book," he says

and

in

writing, he tries to transcribe
float before his

on paper the images which
If

mind's eye.
to

he

fails,

it

is

because he
is

cannot find words

describe what he

seeing.
is

Bohme was an

unlearned

man
^

;

but when he

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."
;

;

;

;

;

278

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
is

homely German, he
the scholars

lucid enough.

Unfortunately,
supplied
forthwith
"

who soon gathered round him

him with philosophical
either

personified

terms,
instance

which
the

he

for

word

called forth the
in

image of a beautiful maiden


is

Idea

or used

a sense of his own.
still

The study
filling

of Paracelsus ob-

scured his style

more,

his treatises with a

bewildering mixture of theosophy and chemistry.
result
is

The

certainly
;

that

much

of his

work

almost

unreadable

the nuggets of gold have to be
;

dug out

from a bed of rugged stone
that "

and we cannot be surat full

prised that the unmystical eighteenth century declared

Behmen's works would disgrace Bedlam
^

moon."
"

But German philosophers have spoken with
"

reverence of

the father of Protestant Mysticism,"
gift
"
;

who
Sir

perhaps only wanted learning and the
to

of clear

expression
Isaac

become a German
for

Plato

and

Newton shut himself up

three

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
the

transi-

from the purely subjective type of Mysticism to
author
of a
brilliant

Symbolism, or rather as
brief sketch of

attempt to fuse the two into one system.

In

my
is

Bohme's doctrines

I

shall illustrate his

teaching from the later works of William Law,

who

by

far

its

best exponent.

Law was

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
-

John Wesley's
p.

verdict,

See Overton, Life of Williatn Law.

i88.

NATURE-MYSTICISM AND SYMBOLISM
order out of the chaos in which
tions.

279

Bohme
and

left his

specula-

In

strength

of intellect
clear

Law was Bohme's
forcible English

equal,

and as a writer of

he

has few superiors.

Bohme's doctrine of God and the world resembles
that of other speculative mystics, but he contributes a

new element
antithesis as a

in

the

great

stress

which he lays on

law of being.
he
says.

"In Yes and

No

all

things

consist,"

No
all

philosopher

since

Heraclitus and Empedocles had asserted so strongly
that " Strife
is

the father of

things."

hidden

life

of the unmanifested

Even in the Godhead he finds the
the Godhead.
"

play of Attraction and Diffusion, the resultant of which
is

a Desire for manifestation,

felt in

As
"

feeling this desire, the

Godhead becomes

Darkness
is

the

light

which illumines the darkness
is

the

Son.

Holy Spirit, in whom arise the archetypes of creation. So he explains Body, Soul,

The

resultant

the

and
Will
Evil

Spirit as thesis, antithesis,

and synthesis
Good,
Evil,

;

and the

same formula
;

serves to explain

and Free

Angels, Devils, and the World.
is

His view of
doctrine
is

not very consistent

;

but his

final
is

that the object of the cosmic process

to exhibit the

victory of
at
least

Good over

Evil, of

Love over Hatred.^
strife
is

He
so

has the merit
lives

of showing that

inwoven with our
soar above

here that

the conflict between

we cannot possibly Good and Evil. It
in

must be observed that Bohme repudiated the doctrine
that there
^

is

any evolution of God

time.

" I

say

I

as belonging rather to theosophy than to Mysticism.
Basilides
is

have omitted Bohme's gnostical theoiies as to the seven Qtiellgeister The resemblance to
here rather striking, but
it

must be a pure coincidence.

28o

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
is

not that Nature

God," he says

:

" all

He

Himself

is

all,

and communicates His power to
the creation
act.

His works."

But

of

the archetypes

was not a temporal
stress

Like other Protestant mystics, he lays great

on

the

indwelling

presence
belief,

of

Christ.

And, conagainst the

sistently

with

this

he

revolts

Calvinistic

doctrine

of imputed

righteousness,
little

very
later.

much
"

as did the
is

Cambridge Platonists a
says,

That man

no Christian," he

"

who doth

merely comfort himself with the suffering, death, and
satisfaction of Christ,

and doth impute
still

it

to himself as

a gift of favour, remaining himself

a wild beast and
to avail for

unregenerate.

...

If this said sacrifice is

me,

it

must be wrought

in

me.

The Father must

beget His Son in

my

desire of faith, that

my

faith's

hunger

may
put

apprehend'

Him

in

His word of promise.
straightway there

Then
tion,

I

Him
me

on, in His entire process of justifica-

in

my
in

inward
the

ground

;

and

begins
death, death.

killing of the

wrath of the

devil,

and
I

hell,

from the inward power

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." " Christ given for us is same effect William Law says, He neither more nor less than Christ given into us. am
inwardly dead, and
is

in

no other sense our

full,

perfect,

and

sufficient

Atonement, than as His nature and
formed
in us."
effect,

spirit are

Law

also insists that the

born and Atonement

was the
"

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

Neither reason nor scripture," he says,

allow us

to bring wrath into

God

Himself, as a temper of His

NATURE-MYSTICISM AND SYMBOLISM
mind,
Love."

281

who is only infinite, unalterable, overflowing " Wrath is atoned when sin is extinguished."
very characteristic of Protestant Mysticism.^
of external rites and ordinances,
in
1

This revolt against the forensic theory of the Atone-

ment

is

The disparagement
which we have found
serving
pearl

so

many

mystics, appears in
in
"

William Law, though he was himself precise
all

ob-

the rules of the English Church.
is

This

of

eternity

the

Church, a

temple

of

God
in

within thee, the consecrated place of Divine worship,

where alone thou canst worship God
truth.

in
is

spirit

and

In

spirit,

because thy

spirit

that alone in

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

In

trutJi,

because this adoration
of which
stituted
this
all

in spirit is that truth

and

reality
in-

outward

forms

and

rites,

though
;

worship

by God, are only the figure for a time but is eternal. Accustom thyself to the holy
In the midst of
it

service of this inward temple.

is

the

fountain

of living
for

water, of

which

thou

mayst
and
the
to

drink and

live

ever.

There the mysteries of thy
in life

redemption are celebrated, or rather opened
power.

There the supper of the

Lamb
:

is

kept

;

bread that came
the world,
is

down from

heaven, that giveth
all
is

life

thy true nourishment

done, and

known

in real experience, in a

living sensibility of the
birth, the
life,

work of God on the
Christ, are not

soul.

There the

the

sufferings, the death, the resurrection

and ascension of
which has
once thou
cf.

merely remembered, but inwardly found
real states of thy soul,

and enjoyed as the
And

followed Christ in the regeneration.
'

When
;

of English Mysticism before the Reformation

p. 20S'.

282
art

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
well

grounded
live

in

this

inward worship, thou wilt

have learnt to

unto God above time and place.

For every day

will

be Sunday to thee, and wherever
priest, a

thou goest thou wilt have a
altar along with thee."
^

church, and an

In

his

teaching about faith and love.
mystical
writers
;

Law

follows
I

the

best

but

none before him,

think, attained to such
in
all

strong and growing eloquence

setting

it

forth.

"

There

is

but one salvation for

mankind, and the way to

it is

one

;

and that

is,

the

desire of the soul turned to God.

This desire brings
;

the soul to God,

and God into the soul
is

it

unites with

God,

it

co-operates with God, and

one
is

life w^ith

God.

O my
mercy

God, just and
to

true,

how

great
is

Thy

love

and
that

mankind, that heaven

thus everywhere
all

open, and Christ thus the

common

Saviour to
!

turn the desire of their hearts to

he says

:

"

Thee " And of love No creature can have any union or comtill

munion with the goodness of the Deity
spirit

its

life is

a

of love.

This

is

the one only bond of union
"

betwixt

God and His
its

creature."
its

Love has no by:

ends, wills nothing but
as oil to

own
spirit

increase

everything

is

flame.

The

of love does not want
;

to be rewarded, honoured, or esteemed
is

its

only desire

to

propagate

itself,

and become the blessing and
it." is

happiness of everything that wants

The

doctrine of the Divine spark {synteresis)
in

held

by Law, but by Eckhart.
^

a

more

definitely Christian
raise a

form than
life

"If Christ was to
The
sect

new

like

From

the Spi'nt of Prayer.

of Behmenists in

Germany,

unlike

Law, attended no church, and took no Overton, Life of IVilliaiii Law, p. 214.

part in the Lord's Supper.

NATURE-MYSTICISM AND SYMBOLISM
His own
originally
in

283

every man, then every
the inmost
spirit

man must have had
life

in

of his

a seed of

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

state of insensibility, out of

which

it

could not arise
. . .

but

what could begin
thing in

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

man
the

different

from self?
treasure

.

God

is

hidden
flesh

of

The Word of every human soul,
. .

immured under

and blood,

till

as a day-star

it

arises in our hearts,

and changes the son of an earthly
Is

Adam

into a son of God."

not this the Platonic
in

doctrine of anamnesis, Christianised

a

most beautiful
the

manner ? Very characteristic
language which both
future state.
"

of the later Mysticism

is

Bohme and Law
soul,

use about the

The

when

it

departs from the
to

body,"

Bohme
and the
is

writes, "

needeth

not

go

far

;

for

where the body
there,

dies, there is

heaven and

devil

;

yea, each in his
;

hell. God is own kingdom.

There also

Paradise

and the soul needeth only

to
is

enter through the deep door in the centre."

Law
hell

very emphatic
states,

in asserting that heaven

and
"

are

not

places,

and

that

they are

no

foreign,

separate,
will of

and imposed
"

states,

adjudged to us by the
"
is

God."

Damnation," he says,

the natural,
is

essential state of our

own
hell,
is

disordered nature, which

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

but
is

our

own

both

here

and
our

hereafter."

There

nothing that
the
it

supernatural," he says very

finely,

" in

whole
has
its all

system

of

redemption.

Every part of

ground

in the

workings and
is

powers of nature, and

our redemption

only nature

284
set right, or

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
made
to be that
is

which

it

ought

to be.^

There
. .

is

nothing that

supernatural but
evil,

God
and

alone.
false,

.

Right and wrong, good and

true

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
;

but every thing
is,

or creature that

is

to be helped, that

to
it,

have any
can only
able,

good done to
have
it

it,

or

any

evil

taken out of

done so

far as the

powers of nature are

and rightly directed
It is difficult

to effect it.""

to abstain

from quoting more passages

like this, in

which Faith, which had been so long directed
unseen and unknown, sheds her bright
this earth of ours,

only to

the

beams over
her own.

and claims

all

nature for

The

laws of nature are

now

recognised as

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

be broken or arbitrarily suspended.
'

Redemption

is

a

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,
i.

136)

" Non

dei piu ammirar, se bene stimo,
salir,

Lo
Se

tuo

d'alto

se non come d'un rivo, monte scende giuso ad imo.
te,

Maraviglia sarebbe in

se privo
assiso,

D'impedimento giu ti fossi Cora' a terra quieto fuoco
Quinci
-

vivo.
il

rivohi; in ver lo cielo

viso."

Il

may be

interesting to

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
lilies,"
life.

285

as

come a time,^ " the time of the Bohme calls it, when all nature will be
There
will
"
" is

delivered from bondage.

All the design of Christian
to

redemption," says Law,
is

remove everything that

unheavenly, gross,

dark, wrathful,
this fallen

and disordered

from

every part

of

world."

No

text

is

oftener in his
I

read as
"

mouth than the words of St. Paul which That " dim symthe text of this Lecture.
the

pathy

of

human
felt,

spirit

with the

life

of nature

which Plotinus

but which mediaeval dualism had

consciousness of

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

and

visions, the

raptures of " infused

contemplation

"

and
the

their

dark Nemesis of Satanic delusions, can no
learnt to
in
.see

more trouble the serenity of him who has

same God

in

nature

whom

he

has found

the

holy place of his
It

own

heart.

was impossible to separate

Law

from the
to

"

blessed
profess

Behmen,"
himself.

whose
But
in

disciple

he

was proud
I

putting them together

have been

obliged

to

depart

from

the

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.
ism
'

Law, Nonjuror as well as mystic, remained a High Churchman by sympathy, and hated Rational;

while the Platonists sprang from an Evangelical
fairly say,
if

So we may
this earth.

we remember
nor

thai

we

are speaking of what

transcends time.

Neither

Bohme

Law

looks forward to a golden age

on

286
school,

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
were
never
tired

of

extolling

Reason,
^

and
yet,

regarded

Bohme
so very

as a fanciful " enthusiast."

And

we
ists

find

much

in

common between

the Platon-

Law, that these party differences seem merely superficial. The same exalted type of
and
William

Mysticism appears

in

both.

The group of centre in some of

philosophical divines,

who had

their

the Cambridge colleges towards the

middle of the seventeenth century, furnishes one of the

most interesting and important chapters
of our

in

the history

Never since the time of the early Greek Fathers had any orthodox communion produced
Church.
thinkers
so independent

and yet so thoroughly loyal
has the Christian temper
in

to the Church.

And seldom
as

found a nobler expression than
ings of such
*

the lives and writ-

men

Whichcote and John Smith.is

Henry More's judgment

as follows

:

"Jacob Behmen,

I

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,
its

was not destroyed, but

re-

tained

property

still

;

and, therefore, his imagination being very busy

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

about Divine things, he could not without a miracle
enthusiast,

;

failing him, as well as the anxiety of reason

does others of like integrity

with himself."

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

Canon G. G.

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
It is

in

the eighteenth century are in

large measure to be attributed."

of these same same

men

that Bishop

Burnet writes, that

if

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
their

287

homage

to Plato.

And
sors.

let it

be noticed that they were students of Plato
his succes-

and Plotinus more than of Dionysius and
Their Platonism
is

not of the debased Oriental

type,

and
via

is

entirely free from self-absorbed quietism.
in

The
them

negativa has disappeared as completely

their writings as in those of

Bohme

;

the world
;

is

for

as for

him the mirror of the Deity

but, being

philosophers and not physicists, they are

most

inter-

ested in claiming for religion the whole field of intellectual
life.

They

are fully convinced that there can

be no ultimate contradiction
science

between philosophy or

and Christian

faith
"

;

and

this

accounts

not

only for their praise of

reason," but for the
in

happy

optimism which appears everywhere

their writings.

The
the
to

luxurious and indolent Restoration clergy, whose

Hves were shamed by the simplicity and spirituality of
Platonists,

invented
"

the

word

'*

Latitudinarian

throw at them,

a long nickname which they have
if
;

taught their tongues to pronounce as roundly as

it

were shorter than

it is

by

four or five syllables

"

but

they could not deny that their enemies were loyal sons
of the Church of England.^
been produced, writers who do "
the rationality of Christian piety.
full

What
honour

the Platonists

meant

at

once to the elevation and

...

In their writings

we

are invited to
it is
. .

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

sub.

They

are such writers as,

had never before

existed.

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

288
*

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

by making reason the seat of authority may be seen by a few quotations from Whichcote and Smith, who
for

our purpose
school.

are,

I

think, the best representatives of

the

Whichcote answers

Tuckney, who had
in

remonstrated with
"

him
"

for

"

a vein of doctrine,
it

which reason hath too much given to
teries

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

;

in the

mys-

"

too often " on
truths,
!

of such

too often

Sir,

I

oppose not rational to

spiritual, for spiritual
"

is

most

rational."
for

Elsewhere he writes,
said,

He

that gives reason
is fit

what he has
the

has done what

to be done,
is

and

most

that

can be done."
life
;

"

Reason

the

Divine Governor of man's

it

is

the very voice of

God."

"

When
ill

the

doctrine of the
it

Gospel becomes

the reason of our mind,
life."

will

be the principle of our

" It

becomes us
^

to

make our
this
"

intellectual

faculties Gibeonites."

How

far

teaching differs

from the
in

frigid

"

common-sense

morality prevalent

the eighteenth century,

may

be judged from the
as

following,

which
"

stamps

Whichcote
are that

a

genuine

mystic.
right,

yet
!

Though liberty how few there

of judgment be

everyone's
use of this

make

right

For the use of
prayer, and the

this

right doth

depend upon

self-improvement by meditation, consideration, examination,
like.

These are things antece-

Ely), in a pamphlet called

A

Brief Arcouut of Ihe Jiew Sec/ of Latitude

Men
the

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

Church of England,

" meretricious gaudiness

of the Church of

Rome, and

the squalid sluttery of fanatic conventicles."

^Compare with

these extracts
is

the
to

words of Leibnitz:
is

"To

despise

reason in matters of religion

my

eyes certain proof either of an
worse, of hypocrisy."

obstinacy that borders on fanaticism, or, what

NATURE-MYSTICISM AND SYMBOLISM
dent and prerequisite."
too long to quote in

289

full,

John Smith, in a fine passage says " Reason in man being
:

lumen de lumine, a
Father of lights
of himself
all
.

light flowing
.
.

from the Fountain and
to

was to enable man

work out

those notions of

God which
to

are the true

groundwork of love and obedience
formity to Him.
. . .

God, and confall
is

But since man's

from God,
abated,

the inward virtue and vigour of reason

much

the soul having suffered a 7rT€poppv7]ai<i, as Plato speaks,

a defiuviunt pennaru7n.
truth

.

.

.

And
. . .

therefore, besides the

of natural

inscription,

God hath provided
But besides
this

the
out-

truth of Divine revelation.

ward
it.
.
.

revelation, there
.

is

also

an inward impression of
special

which
. . .

is

in a

more

manner

attributed

to God.

God

only can so shine upon our glassy

understandings, as to beget in them a picture of
self,

Him-

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

soul

with

the

truths

of
soul

revelation, to

and

also

strengthens
sions even
intellectual

and

raises

the
truth,

better apprehen-

of natural

God being
is

that

in

the

world which the sun

in the sensible, as

some of the ancient Fathers
ancient

love to speak,

and the

philosophers

Intellectiis

too, who meant God by their Agens} whose proper work they supposed

to

be not so

much
^

to

enlighten

the

object as the

faculty."
See Appendix C.

19

290

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
Platonists thus lay great stress
identify
it

The
light,

on

the

inner

and

with the purified reason.
is

The
in

best

exposition of their teaching on this head
beautiful

Smith's

sermon
to

on

"

The True

Way

or

Method
he

of attaining
says,
" is

Divine Knowledge."
life

" Divinity,"

a Divine

rather than a Divine science, to

be understood rather by a spiritual sensation than by

any verbal
of

description.

Divine

science

A

good

life

is

the prolepsis
is

the fear of the Lord

the be-

ginning of wisdom.
eternal
light,

Divinity

is

a true efflux from the

which, like the sunbeams, does not only

enlighten, but also heat

and enliven
"

;

and therefore our

Saviour hath

in

His beatitudes connext purity of heart

to the beatific vision."

Systems and models furnish

but

a

poor

wan

light,"
"

compared

with that which

shines in purified souls.
in

To

seek our divinity merely

books and writings
"
;

dead

in these, "
"

as entombed."

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

to seek the living

understand aright the things of God, must be a living
principle

of holiness

within

us.

The sun
. . .

of truth

never shines into any unpurged souls.

Such as
to

men
be.
.

themselves
.
.

are,

such

will

God Himself seem
must seek
it

Some men have
.

too bad hearts to have good

heads.
free

.

,

He

that will find truth

with a

judgment and a

sanctified mind."
in

Smith was well read
aware how

mystical theology, and was
differed

much

his

ideal

from

that

of

Dionysian Mysticism.
is

His criticism of the via negativa
I

so admirable that
. .
.

must quote part of

it.

"

Good

men
for

are content
I

and ready

to

God,

mean not

that they should

deny themselves deny their own

NATURE-MYSTICISM AND SYMBOLISM
reason, as

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
entire resignation

of

itself to

Him

as to

all

points of

service

and duty; and thus the soul
in

loses itself in

God,

and

lives

the possession not so

much

of

its

own
in

being as of the Divinity, desiring only to be great

God, to glory
fulness
itself
;

in

His

light,

and spread

itself in

His

to

be

filled
;

always by Him, and to empty

again into
all

expend

for

Him to receive all from Him, and to Him and so to live, not as its own,
;

but as God's."
tuiim between

Wicked men

"

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
in

the allness of the Divinity.
is

But, indeed, this his

being nothing

the only

way

to

be

all

things

;

this his

having nothing the truest way of possessing
. . .

all

things,

The
;

spirit

of religion
itself
it

is

always ascending upa self-confinement and

wards

and, spreading
soul,

through the whole essence

of the

loosens

from
it

narrowness, and so renders

more capacious of Divine
of a good
fills

enjoyment.

.

.

.

The

spirit

man
itself

is

always
" It

drinking in fountain-goodness, and

more and
slothful

more,
is

till it

be

filled

with

all

the fulness of God."
still,

not a melancholy kind of- sitting

and

waiting, that speaks

men

enlivened by the Spirit and
stifle

power of God.

It is

not religion to

and smother
the world

those active powers and principles which are within us.
. . .

Good men do not walk up and down
and shadows
j

rnerely like ghosts

but they are indeed

292
living

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
men, by a
real

participation

from

Him who

is

indeed a quickening Spirit."
"

Neither were
like

it

an happiness worth the having
all

for

a mind,
to

an hermit sequestered from
in

things else,

spend an eternity

self-converse and the enjoysuperficial

ment of such a diminutive
is.
. .

nothing as

itself

.

We
A

read in the Gospel of such a question of
wilderness to
return within
private

our Saviour's,
see?
to

We
?

What went ye out into the may invert it, What do you
soul
its

see

confined

within

the
?

and
soul

narrow

cell

of

own
all

particular being

Such a

deprives itself of

that almighty and essential glory

and goodness which
spreads
itself

shines

round

about
;

it,

which
say,
it

throughout the whole universe
all

I

deprives itself of
poor, petty,
it

this,

for the

enjoying of such a
itself
is,

and diminutive thing as
in

which yet
the

can never enjoy truly

such retiredness."
are

The English
subject

Platonists

equally sound on
:

of ecstasy.
at all as

Whichcote says

" in

He

doth not

know God
of
religion,

He

is,

nor
find

is

he

a good state

who doth
with

not

in

himself at times
considerations
:

ravishings

sweet

and

lovely

of
tell

the Divine perfections."

And Smith
turned
fruit

"

Who

can

the delights of those mysterious converses with the
Deity,

when reason
vision
?

is

into sense,

and

faith
is

becomes

The
life

of

this

knowledge

sweeter than honey and the honeycomb.
Platonists' leave, this
*

... By

the

and knowledge (that of the
belongs to the true

contemplative

man ')

peculiarly

and sober Christian. infant-Christ formed

This
in

life

is

nothing else but an

his soul.
is

But we must not
its

mistake: this knowledge

here but in

infancy."

NATURE-MYSTICISM AND SYMBOLISM
While we are
souls, will

293

here,

"

our

own imaginative

powers,

which are perpetually attending the best acts of our
be breathing a gross dew upon the pure
glass of our understandings."
"

cote,
is

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

not a thing without

nor

is

happiness anything
with

distinct

from a true
"

conjunction of the mind

God."
truce

Though we could suppose
heaven, and
all

ourselves to be at
laid

with
;

Divine displeasure

asleep
fied,

yet would our

own

sins, if

they continue unmorti^

make an

JEtna. or Vesuvius within us."

This

view of the indissoluble connexion between holiness

and blessedness,
Smith
as

as

between

sin

and damnation, leads
"

to reject strenuously the doctrine of imputed, to

opposed

imparted, righteousness.
filled,"

God does
and deny

not bid us be
us

warmed and

he

says, "

those necessities which our starving and hungry
for.

souls call

...

I

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

to

wrap our

foul

deformities

and

vices,

and when we have done, think ourselves
credit

as

good
as

and repute with God as we are with
^

ourselves,

and that we are become Heaven's darlings as
are our own."

much

we

^ 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,
*

Hobbes

!

Compare with

this the following passage of

Jean de Labadie (1610-

294

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
show
that the English Platonists

*rhese extracts will

breathe a larger air than the later

Romish

mystics,

and

teach a religion more definitely Christian than Erigena

and Eckhart.

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

external world than
part of our survey.

we have met with

in

the earlier

laws of God, that
evil

"

That the laws of nature are the man, as man, is averse to what is
" evil is unnatural,"

and wicked," that
"

and a

"

con-

tradiction of the law of our being," which
in
"

is

only found

wicked

gallant themes."

men and devils," is one And Smith sets
will

of Whichcote's
forth

the true

principles of Nature-Mysticism in a splendid passage,

with which
"

I

conclude this Lecture
all

:

God made

the universe and

the creatures con-

tained therein as so
reflect
in

many

glasses wherein

He

might

His own glory.
;

He
in

hath copied forth Himself

the creation

and

this

outward world we
Divine
to find

may
and

read the lovely characters

of the

goodness,
here,

power, and wisdom.
feelingly

.

.

.

But how

God

to

converse with

Him, and being

affected

with the sense of the Divine glory shining out upon
the creation,

how

to pass out of the sensible world into
is

the intellectual,

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,

par la repentance et par

le

bapteme

chrestien,

et volontiers ils I'embrasent

comme

Justificateur,

comme

crucifie et niort

pour eux
porter en

;

spirituellement

mais peu prennent part a sa croix, k sa mort, pour se faire mourir avec Luy, crucifier leur chair avec la sienne, et
les vives

eux-memes
a

goutent
le vieil

comme
honime

Justificateur au

Dieu

el

marques de sa croix et de sa mort. Peu le dedans par I'Esprit consacrant et immolant par une pratique vraiment sainte, laquelle dompte

le

peche."

NATURE-MYSTICISM AND SYMBOLISM
philosophy which professed
it

295

most, as by true reh"gion.

That which

knits

and unites God and the soul together
it

can best teach
those golden

how

to ascend
it

and descend upon
were, the world to

links that unite, as

God.
fied

That Divine Wisdom, that contrived and beautithis

glorious structure, can best explain her

own
Good

art, and carry up the soul back again in these beams to Him who is the Fountain of them.
.

reflected
. .

men may
that Being

easily find

every creature pointing out to

whose image and superscription it bears, and climb up from those darker resemblances of the
Divine wisdom and goodness, shining out in different
degrees upon several creatures,
till

they sweetly repose
;

themselves in the bosom of the Divinity
are thus conversing with this lower world

and while they
.

.

.

they find

God many
into the

times secretly flowing into their souls, and

leading them silently out of the court of the temple

Holy
in
.

Place.

.

.

.

Thus

religion,
spirit

where

it is

in

truth

and power, renews the very
It is

of our minds,

and doth
to us.
. .

a manner spiritualise this outward creation

nothing but a thick mist of pride and
from beholding that
things else.

self-love that hinders men's eyes

sun which enlightens them and

all

...

A

good man
the

is

no more
this

solicitous

whether

this or that

good thing be mine, or whether
measure of
as

my

perfections exceed
;

or that particular creature

for

whatsoever good he beholds anywhere, he enjoys and
delights in
it

much

as

if it

were

his

own, and whatit

ever he beholds in

himself, he looks not upon

as his

property, but as a

common good
the

come from one and
Hsrht
in

whom

he loves

for all these beams same Fountain and Ocean of them all with an universal
;

296
love.
. .

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
.

Thus may a man walk up and down
in

the

world as

a

garden of spices, and suck a Divine

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
;

sweetness out of every flower.

Jews say of

their law, so a

good man says of every-

thing that his senses offer to him


it

it

speaks to his

lower part, but

it

points out something above to his
It is
is

mind and

spirit.

the drowsy and

muddy
in

spirit

of

superstition which

fain to set

some

idol at its elbow,

something that

may

jog

it

and put

mind of God.
out of the
itself

Whereas
infinite

true

religion

never finds

itself
it

sphere of the Divinity
in
is

...

beholds

everywhere

the midst of that glorious
indivisibly everywhere.

unbounded
good
;

Being who
the world

A

man
him

finds every place he treads
is

upon holy ground
;

to

God's temple
dreadful
is

he

is
!

ready to say with
this
is

Jacob, "

How

this place
is

none other

than the house of God, this

the gate of heaven."

LECTURE

VIII

297

" For nothing worthy proving can be proven, Nor yet disproven wherefore thou be wise,
;

Cleave ever to the sunnier side of doubt,
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

And

"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

f

may

perceive the Cxod

whom

I

find

in the external world, in like

manner within and

inside

everywhere me."

Keplek.

"

Getrost, das

Leben

schreitet
;

ew'gen Leben hin Von innrer Gluth geweitet

Zum

\'erklart sich unser Sinn.

Die Sternwelt wird zerfliesscn Zum goldnen Lebenswein, Wir werden sic geniessen

Und Und

lichte Sterne sein.
ist

Die Lieb'

freigegebcn

keine Trennung mehr
voile

Es wogt das

Leben

Wie ein unendlich Meer. Nur eine Nacht der Wonne,
Ein ewiges Gedicht
!

Und
Ist

unser Aller Sonne

Gottes Angesicht." NOVAI.IS.

298

LECTURE
Nature-Mysticism
" The
lasting
invisible things of

VIII

continued

Him

since the creation of the world are clearly

seen, being understood through the things that are

made, even His ever-

power and Divinity."

Rom.

i.

20.

In

my

last

Lecture
itself

I

showed how the

later

Mysticism

emancipated
closed.

from the mischievous doctrine that

the spiritual eye can only see

when the eye
aim
is

of sense

is

After the Reformation period the mystic tries

to look with

both eyes

;

his

to see

God

in all

things, as well as all things in

God.

He

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

his hopes.

had been sown long before, sprang up to In necromancy, astrology, alchemy,

palmistry, table-turning, and other delusions,

we have

what some count the essence, and others the reproach,
of Mysticism.
tific

But these

are, strictly

speaking, scien-

and not

religious errors.

From

the standpoint of
is

religion

and philosophy, the important change

that, in

the belief of these later mystics, the natural and the
spiritual are,

somehow
is

or other, to be reconciled

;

the

external world

no longer regarded as a place of exile
;

from God, or as a delusive appearance

it

is

the living

300
^

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
;

vesture of the Deity

and
it

its "

discordant harmony,"
^

^

though

" for

the

many
"

needs intepreters,"

yet

"

has

a voice for the wise
veil.

which speaks of things behind the

The
lost
;

glory of

God

is

no longer figured as a
all

blinding white light in which

colours are combined
"
^

and
only

but

is

seen as a
its

"

many-coloured wisdom

which shines everywhere,
in

varied hues appearing not
all

the sanctuary of the lonely soul, but in
all

the

wonders that science can discover, and
that
art

the beauties
the

can

interpret.

Dualism,
it,

with

harsh
to a

asceticism which belongs to
brighter and

has given
;

way

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
;

blacker pessimism than ever brooded over the ascetic
of the cloister.

We

shall

not

meet,

in

this

chapter,

any
their

finer

examples of the Christian mystic than John Smith

and William Law.
lectual kinsmen,

But these men, and
far

intel-

were

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
of

Nature-Mysticism.

indeed,

reason

that

is,

of the

whole personality under

the

guidance of

its

highest faculty

to the service of truth

and goodness.

And Law,

in his later years,

was too

much under
^
•*

the influence of Bohme's fantastic theosophy
i.

Horace, Ep.

12.

19.

^
iii.

Pindar, Olymp.

ii.

154.

ttoXvitoIkCKos aocpla,

Eph.

10.

NATURE-MYSTICISM AND SYMBOLISM
to bring to

301

Nature that childlike

spirit

which can best

learn her lessons.

The Divine
more
fully
;

in

Nature has hitherto been discerned

naturalist
chiefly

by the poet than by the theologian or the and in this concluding Lecture I must deal

with Christian poetry.

The

attitude towards
is

Nature which we have now
templative than practical
to knoiu the
;

to consider

more conus,

it

studies analogies in order

unseen powers which surround

and has

no desire

to

bend them or make them
precept, " Consider the

its

instruments.
sanctions

Our Lord's

lilies,"

this religious use of

Nature

;

and many of His parables,

such as that of the Sower, show us
learn from such analogies.
is

how much we may
it

And

be

observed that
in

it

the normal and regular in
is

Nature which
;

these

parables

presented for our study

the yearly harvest,

not the three years'
justice of
" special

famine

;

the constant care

and

God, not the

" special

providence

"

or the

judgment."

We

need not wait

for catastrophes

to trace the finger of God.

As

for Christian

poetry

and
in

art,

we do not expect
Testament
;

to find

any theory of

aesthetic

the

New

but

we may perhaps

extract

from the precept quoted
highest beauty that

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
glories of
"

Nature as a revelation of God.

Cyril says,

The wider our contemplation

of creation, the grander

will

be our conception of God,"

And

Basil uses the
a'

same language. marked tendency

We

find,

indeed, in these writers

to exalt the religious value of natural

beauty, and to disparage the function of art

—a

pre-

302

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
Pagan
art,

monition, perhaps, of iconoclasm.

which
not,

was decaying before the advent of
it

Christ, could

appears,

be quietly Christianised

and carried on
prominent
in

without a break.

The

true

Nature - Mysticism

is

St.

Francis of Assisi.

He

loves to see in all around

him

the pulsations of one

life,

which sleeps
in

in

the stones,
"

dreams

in the plants,

and wakens

man.

He

would

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

and regarded them with no dilettante or
;

egoistic

pleasure
its

he was interested that the plant should have
its

sun, the bird

nest

;

that the humblest manifesta-

tions of creative force should

have the happiness to

which
that

they are entitled."

^

So strong was his conviction
God, that he would
the birds," and even under-

all

living things are children of
"

preach to

my

little sisters

took the conversion of

"

the ferocious wolf of Agobio."
is

This tender reverence for Nature, which
of
all

a

mark

true Platonism,
It is

is

found, as

we have

seen, in

Plotinus,

also prominent in the Platonists of the
in

Renaissance, such as Bruno and Campanella,- and
Petrarch,

who

loved to offer his evening prayers

among

the moonlit mountains.
ful

Suso has

at least

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,
"

*

Barine in Revue Jes

Deux

iMomies, April 1891.

-

Tlie latter, like Fechner in our

own

century, holds that the stars are

living organisms,
•*

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

NATURE-MYSTICISM AND SYMBOLISM
are

303

more

alive

than might have been expected to the
lessons
;

vahie of Nature's

and the French mystics,

Francis de Sales and Fenelon, write gracefully about
the footprints of the Divine

wisdom and beauty which
world around
us.

may

be traced everywhere
natural
religion
it

in the

But

is

not to be identified with

Mysticism, and

to collect passages, in prose or poetry,

would not further our present inquiry which illustrate

the aids to faith which the book of Nature

may
as

supply.

Nor need we dwell on such pure Platonism
in

we

find

Spenser's "

Hymn

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.

"

white radiance
this

of

We

have seen how

view

Tiie poet of the

Nature of Things shows
the

himself to have been a lonely man,
hills

who had pondered much among

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
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
its

science,

neither to materialism nor to atheism, whatever
say.
^

friends

which tends and enemies mav

Christian Platonism has never been

the

poem
:

of Spenser

named above.
therefore,
is

more beautifully set forth than in Compare, especially, the following

stanzas

" 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

to behold,

:

Thence gathering plumes of

perfect speciilation.

To imp

the wings of thy high-flying

mimL

304

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

of the world as a pale reflection of the Ideas leads in practice to a contempt for visible things
;

as,

indeed,

it

does

in

Spenser's beautiful poem.

He

invites us, after

learning Nature's lessons, to
"

Look

at last

up

to that sovereign light,
all perfect beauty springs every godly spright, which loathing brings
;

From whose pure beams
That kindleth love
in

Even the love of God Of this vile world and these gay-seeming things With whose sweet pleasures being so possessed,

;

Thy
This
is

straying thoughts henceforth for ever rest."

not the keynote of the later Nature-Mysticism.
that every

We

now expect

new

insight into the truth

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

standing, which
faith,

may

be granted us as the reward of
heart, will

love,

and purity of
viler

make

the world
glorious

around us appear, not

and

baser, but

more

and more Divine.
of
If
its

It is

not a proof of spirituality, but

opposite,

if

God's world seems to us a poor place.
it

we could
the

see

as

God

sees

it,

it

would be

still,

as

as on

morning of
is is

creation,

"

very good."

The
join in

hymn which
throne of
it.

ever ascending from the earth to the
to be listened for, that
all

God

we may
are

The laws by which

creation lives

to

be

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

blind,

infirmities."

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

" Adonais" — " The One remains;
:

the

many change and
;

pass;
fly
;

Heaven's
Life, like

light for ever shines

earth's

shadows

a

dome

of many-coloured glass,

Stains the white radiance of eternity."

Compare,

too, the

opening

lines of

" Alastor."

NATURE-MYSTICISM AND SYMBOLISM
studied, that

305
the
it

we
is

too

may obey
of

them.
so

As

for

beauty which

everywhere diffused
gift

lavishly,

seems to be a

God's pure bounty, to bring

happiness to the unworldly souls
see

who

alone are able to

and enjoy

it.

The

greatest prophet of this branch of contemplative
is

Mysticism

unquestionably the poet Wordsworth.
his life to

It

was the object of
I

be a religious teacher, and
in

think there
roll

is

no incongruity
His

placing him at the

end of the

of mystical divines

who have been

dealt

with in these Lectures.

intellectual

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

in
all

his distrust of strong emotions and in his love of

which the Greeks included under a-w^poavvT).
independent of any ecclesiastical system.

He was
ecclesi-

a loyal Churchman, but his religion was really almost

His

astical sonnets reflect rather the dignity of the

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
solitari-

and contemplative rather than fervid, and the ness of his thought, forbade him to find much
tion in

satisfac-

pubHc ceremonial.

He would
if

probably agree

with Galen,

who

in

a very remarkable passage says

that the study of nature,

prosecuted with the same

earnestness and intensity which

men

bring to the confitted

templation of the " Mysteries,"
20

is

even more

than

3o6

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
God
;

they to reveal the power and wisdom of

for " the

symbolism of
nature."

t/ie

mysteries

is

more obscure than that of

He
firm

shows

his

affinity

with the modern spirit in his

grasp of natural law.

Like George Fox and
his

William Law, he had to face the shock of giving up
belief in arbitrary interferences.

There was a period
;

when he lost his young faculty of generalisation when he bowed before the inexorable dooms of an unknown
Lawgiver
of

"

the

categorical
to

^

imperative,"

till

the

gift

intuition

was restored

him

in

fuller

measure.

This experience explains his attitude towards natural
science.

His reverence

iox facts

never failed him
says,
"
;

"
;

the

sanctity

and truth of nature," he

"

must not be
a

tricked out with accidental ornaments

but he looked

askance at the science which
philosophy.
Physics, he

tries to erect itself into

saw
is

plainly,

is

an abstract

study

:

its

view of the world

an abstraction for certhan the view of

tain purposes,

and possesses

less truth

the poet.^

And

yet he looked forward to a time

when
;

science, too, shall be
"

touched with

fire

from the altar

Then her
Chained

heart shall kindle her dull eye, Dull and inanimate, no more shall hang
;

to its object in brute slavery."

And
" If

in

a remarkable passage of the

"

Prefaces" he says,
that which
is

the time should ever

come when

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
it

307

were a

form of
spirit

flesh

and blood, the poet

will

lend his Divine
will

to aid the transformation,

and

welcome the

Being thus produced as a dear and genuine inmate of
the household of man."

He

feels that

the loving and
at last issue,

disinterested study of nature's laws

must

not in

materialism,

faith, inspired

but in some high and spiritual by the Word of God, who is Himself, as

Erigena

said, " the

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

as a " unity," as " one spirit,"
to

that he

was drawn, not

men

as individuals.^

Herein
;

he resembled
it

many
man
"

other contemplative mystics
" it is easier to
^

but

has been said truly that
in

general than a
" sits

particular."

know man in The sage who
"

in

the centre
^

of his being, and there

enjoys

bright day,"
persons.
It

does not really

know human

beings as

will

be interesting to compare the steps

in the

ladder of perfection, as described by Wordsworth, with
the schemes of Neoplatonism and introspective Mysticism.

The
had

three stages of the mystical ascent have

been already explained.
too,
^

We

find

that Wordsworth,

his purgative, disciplinary stage.
viii.

He began
viii.

" Prelude,"

340

sq.

"

" Prelude,"
to

66S.

^ *

La Rochefoucauld.
These words, from Milton's " Comus," are applied

Wordsworth by

Hazlitt.

3o8

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
us that he was naturally prone, but

by
to
all

deliberately crushing, not only the ardent passions

which he
"

tells

ambition and love of money, determining to confine
such objects as excite no morbid passions,

himself to

no disquietude, no vengeance, and
found
his
all

no

hatred,"

and

reward

in

a settled state of calm serenity, in

which

the thoughts flow like a clear fountain, and

have forgotten how to hate and how to despise.^

Wordsworth
plative
life.

is

careful

to

inculcate

several

safe-

guards for those

who would proceed
is

to the

contem-

First, there

must be strenuous aspiration
our being's heart and

to reach that infinitude which

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,"
;

home

we must

press forward, urged

but
true

will "

crave objects that endure."
contrasted with

In the spirit of
its

Platonism, as

later

aberra-

tions,
tries

Wordsworth
always
;

will

have no
in

blurred outlines.
distinction

He
of

to
his

see

Nature
is

without

separation

principle

the
"

exact

antithesis

Hume's

atheistic

dictum, that
^

things are conjoined, of this caution

but not connected."
'

The importance
The
ascetic element in

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.

" Prelude,"

1207-1229.

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
has

309

been

fully

demonstrated
too,
" still

in

the

course

of our

inquiry.

Then,

he knows that to imperfect

man

reason

is

a crown

to be courted, never to be won."

Delusions

whether a
Again,

may affect " even the very faculty of sight," man "look forth," or " dive into himself."^
bids

he
;

us
"

seek

for

real,

and

not

fanciful
all

analogies

no

loose

types
;

of

things

through

degrees

"
;

no mythology

and no arbitrary symbolism.
is

The symbolic

value of natural objects

not that they
not, but

remind us of something that they are
part are.

that
in

they help us to understand something that they

They
all

are not intended to transport us
"

away
is

from
our

this

earth into the clouds.

This earth
" in

the

world of

of us," he says boldly,
or

which we find

happiness

not at

all." ^
all,

Lastly,

and

this

is

perhaps the most important of
the
still

he recognises that

small voice of

God

breathes not out of nature

alone, nor out of the soul alone, but from the contact

of the soul with nature.
intellect

It

is

the

marriage of the
in

of

man

to " this

goodly universe,

love and
" Intel-

holy passion," which produces these raptures.
lect " includes

Imagination, which
her most exalted

is

but another
^
;

name
must

for

Reason

in

mood

these

assist

the eye of sense.
it

In Macpherson's work
insulated, dislocated,
^

is

exactly the

deadened

reverse — everything —yet nothing distinct."

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

3IO
Such
is

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
the discipline, and such are the counsels,
priest

by
to

which the
approach

of Nature

must prepare himself
are
?

her

mysteries.

And what

the truths

which contemplation revealed to him

The
finite
;

first

step on the

way

that leads to

God was

the

sense of the boundless^ growing out of musings on the

and with

it

the conviction that the Infinite and

Eternal alone can be our being's heart and
feel that

we

are greater than

we know."

^

home " we Then came

to

him
"The
Of something
far

sense sublime
interfused,

more deeply

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

;

A

motion and a
rolls

spirit,

that impels
^

All thinking things, all objects of all thoughts,

And

through

all

things."

The
"

worldliness and artificiality which set us out of
all this is

tune with

worse than paganism.^
"

Then

this

higher Pantheism

developed into the sense of an
is

all-pervading Personality, " a soul that

the eternity

of thought."

And

with this heightened consciousness
also a deeper

of the nature of
his

God came
as

knowledge of
in

own

personality, a

knowledge which he describes
a
"

true mystical language

sinking into self from

thought to thought."
at
last
"

This

may
to

continue

till

man can

breathe in worlds

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
is is

311

but a

veil,"

and perceive

"

the forms whose
not."
o\/rt9

kingdom
last

where time and space are

These
of the

Hnes describe a state analogous to the

Neoplatonists, and the excessus mentis of the Catholic
mystics.

At

this

advanced stage the
says

priest of

Nature

may

surrender

himself to

ecstasy without

mistrust.

Of such minds he
That
flesh

"The
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

mood
on,

" In

which the affections gently lead us

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
hills,

Cumberland

the Spanish ascetic in his

cell,

and

the Platonic philosopher in his library or lectOfe-room,

have been climbing the same mountain from
'

different
396-418.

"

" "Prelude," " Prelude," xiv. 1 12-129. " Lines composed above Tintern Abbey," 35-4S.

ii.

312
sides
?

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
different,

the

The paths are summit is the same.

but the prospect from

It is idle to

speak of collusion

or insanity in the face of so great a cloud of witnesses,

divided by every
creed,
friar

circumstance

of date,

nationality,

education,

and environment.
in

The Carmelite

had no

interest

confirming the testimony of
;

the

Alexandrian professor

and no one has yet had

the temerity to question the sanity of Wordsworth, or
of Tennyson, whose
"

description of the Vision in his
to be a record of per-

Ancient Sage

" is

now known

sonal experience.

These explorers of the high places
life

of the spiritual

—they have
for all

have only one thing
"

in

common
shall

observed the conditions laid down once
mystic in the 24th Psalm,
hill
?

for the

Who

ascend into the

of the Lord

?

or

who
up

shall stand in

His holy place
pure heart
vanity,
;

He

that

hath clean "^hands and a
lifted

who hath

not

his

soul unto
receive

nor sworn

deceitfully.

He

shall

the

blessing from the

Lord, and

righteousness from
"

the

God
off"

of his salvation."
is

The

land which

is

very far
the

always

visible
It

to those

who have climbed
scaled

holy mountain.

may be
in

by the path of
this

prayer and mortification, or by the path of devout

study of God's handiwork

Natyre (and under
hitherto

head

I

would wish to include not only the way traced
that
less

out by Wordsworth, but

trodden
;

road which should lead the physicist to God)
lastly,

and,

by the path of consecrated
it is

life

in

the great
is

world, which, as

the most exposed to temptations,

perhaps on that account the most blessed of the
'

three.^

Wordsworth's Mysticism contains

a few subordinate

elements which
the grave,"

are of more questionable value.

The "echoes from beyond

NATURE-MYSTICISM AND SYMBOLISM
It

313
been
eyes

has been said of Wordsworth, as
of

it

has
his

said
"

other

mystics,

that

he

averts

from half of

human

fate."

Religious writers
is

have
lies

explained that the neglected half

that which

beneath the shadow of the Cross.
positive
evil

The
in

existence of
the

in

the

world,

as

a

great fact, and
is,

consequent need of redemption,

the opinion of

many, too
Mysticism

little

recognised

by Wordsworth, and by
religious side.

in general.

This objection has been urged

both from the
It is

scientific

and from the

held by

many

students of Nature that her laws
"

affirm a

Pessimism and not an Optimism.

Red

in

tooth and claw with ravine," she shrieks against the
creed that her

Maker
that

is

a

God
is

of love.

The only
" It
is

morality which she inculcates
jungle, or
at

that of a tiger in the

best

of a wolf-pack.

not
;

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

;

fails

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
:

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.
. .

314
strange

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
(says

Lotze)

that

no

nature -religions have

raised their adherents to
culture."
^

any high pitch of morality or
to this
is

The answer

that Nature includes

man man
rate,

as well as the brutes,

and the merciful and moral
Physical science, at any

as well as the savage.

can exclude nothing from the domain of Nature.
the Christian

And

may

say with
is

all

reverence

that

Nature includes, or rather

included by, Christ, the
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,
a thing not foreign to His
all
is

Word

suffering,

a law of God,
for

own

life,

and therefore

alike a condition

of perfection, not a reductio

ad
is

absurdum of
not
of
suffers

existence.

The
in

reductio

ad absurdum

Nature,

but

of selfish

irrdividualism,

which

shipwreck alike
It
is

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.

precisely because

the

that

Mysticism
evil,

has

not

succeeded

in

solving

the

problem of
reason

which no philosophy has ever attacked
It
is,

with even apparent success.
that
;

however, with some

this

difficulty

has

been pressed against

the mystics

for

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.

315

But

if

we

sift

the charges often
shall their

brought by religious writers against Mysticism, we
generally find that there
lies

at the

bottom of

disapproval

a

residuum of mediaeval dualism, which
In practice, at any rate, the great
" heal slightly "

wishes to see in Christ the conquering invader of a
hostile

kingdom.

mystics have not taken lightly the struggle with the

law of
the

sin

in

our members, or tried to
of the soul.^
later

wounds
is

It

quite true that the

mystics have been

cheerful

and
in

optimistic.
their

But those who have found_a
live

kingdom

own minds, and who have enough
" to

strength of character
opinion," as

Whichcote says

(in

by reason and not by a maxim which was
of

anticipated
'

by

that

arch

-

enemy

Mysticism

This

is

Hinton, entitled Maji and his Divelling-place^ which
for its

perhaps the best place to notice the mystical treatise of James is chiefly remarkable
evil.

attempt to solve the problem of

This writer pushes to an
ourselves with a

extremity the favourite mystical doctrine that

we surround
deadness."

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

own

likeness,

and considers

that all the evil

Nature

is

the

"projection of our

own

sin or evil in the

world?"

The

doctrines of sacrifice (vicarious suffering)
is

as

a blessed law of Nature ("the secret of the universe

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
' '

;

'

'

3i6

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
than other men.
if

Epicurus), are likely to be happier

And, moreover, Wordsworth teaches us that almost,
quite, every evil

not

may

be so transmuted by the
"

" faculty

which abides within the

soul," that those " interpositions

which would hide and darken
ness "
lofty

may

"

become

contin-

gencies of pomp, and serve to exalt her native bright;

even as the moon,
turns
the

" rising

behind a thick and
into

grove,

dusky

veil

a

substance
is

glorious as her own."
"

So the happy warrior
"

made
which

more compassionate
is

he

compelled to witness.

by the scenes Whether
it

-of horror

this healing

and

purifying effect of sorrow points the

way

to a solution

of the problem of evil or not,
faith,

is

a high and noble
feel

the one

and only consolation which we
are in great trouble.
to

not

to be a

mockery when we

These charges, then, do not seem
indictment against the type of

form a grave

Mysticism of which

Wordsworth
fall

is

the best representative.

But he does
for

short of the ideal
in

held up by St. John for the

Christian mystic,

that his love

and sympathy
in

inanimate Nature were (at any rate

his
is

poetry)

deeper than for humanity.
cusation

And

if

there

any

ac-

which

may
I

justly

be brought against the
that they have
souls

higher order of mystics (as opposed to representatives
of aberrant types),
think
in
it

is

this

:

sought

and found God
theirs has

their

own

and

in

Nature, but not so often in the souls of other

women
old

:

been a lonely

religion.

men and The grand

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
Love, as
St.

shortest road to the vision of God.

John

NATURE-MYSTICISM AND SYMBOLISM
teaches
us,
is

317

the great hierophant of the Christian

mysteries.

It gives

wings to contemplation and Hghtens

the darkness which hides the face of God.

When

our

emotions are deeply

stirred,
;

even Nature speaks to us
while the
either quite
all

with voices unheard before

man who

is

without

human

affection

is

unmoved by
is

her influences, or misreads

her lessons.
the re-

The

spiritualising

power of human love

deeming principle
civilisation,

in

many

sordid

lives,
its

Teutonic

which derives half of

restless

energy

from ideals which are essentially anti-Christian, and
tastes

which are radically barbarous,

is

prevented from

sinking into moral materialism by

its

high standard of

domestic

life.

The sweet

influences of the
its

home

deprive

even mammon-worship of half
fraction of
its evil.

grossness and of

some

As

a schoolmaster to bring
natural affection
is

men

and women
rival.

to

Christ,

without a

It is in the truest

sense a symbol of our union
in

with
is

Him
all

from

whom
;

every family

heaven and earth

named.

It is needless to

labour a thesis on which

nearly

are agreed

but

it

may
the

be worth pointing unique value
of

out that, though St.

Paul

felt

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

as

life.

monks The romances ment contains were

and priests were, of course, cut off from domestic
of true love which the Old Testatreated as prophecies wrapped up

in riddling language, or as

models
his

for ecstatic

contema

plation.

Wordsworth, though

own home was
in

happy one, does not supply
chain.

this link

the mystical

The most noteworthy attempt

to

do so

is

to

31

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
in
is

be found

the poetry of Robert
in

Browning, whose
to
in

Mysticism

this

way complementary
in

that of

Wordsworth,^
that "

He

resembles Wordsworth
things,"

always

trying " to see the infinite
little

but considers
is

else

(than the development of a soul)

worth study."
if "

This

is

not exactly a return to subjectis

ive Mysticism, for

Browning

as well aware as

Goethe
is

that

a talent grows best in solitude," a character

perfected only "in the stream of the world."

With

him the
Divine
asks, "
first

friction of active

life,

and especially the ex-

perience of
in

human

love, are
in

necessary to realise the

man.

Quite

the spirit of St. John he
safe,

How

can that course be

which from the
?

produces carelessness to
"

human
. . .

love

"

"

Do

not

cut yourself from

human weal
as

there are strange
is

punishments
of
it

for

such

do

so.^

Solitude

the death

all

but the strongest virtue, and in Browning's view

also deprives us of the strongest inner witness to the

existence of a loving Father in heaven.
" finds love
this, as
full
all

For he who
in

in

his nature "

cannot doubt that

in

else,

the Creator must far surpass the

creature.^

Since, then, in

knowing love we
life is

learn to

know God, and
(this,

since the object of

to

know God
granted

the mystic's minor premiss,

is

taken

for

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.
1 -

The worst
Charles Kingsley

fate that

can befall us

is

to lead " a

is another mystic of the same school. ^ Browning, "Saul," Browning, Paracelsus, Act i. ^Browning, "Cristina."

xvii.

NATURE-MYSTICISM AND SYMBOLISM
ghastly smooth
esting
is life,

319

dead
"

at heart."

^

Especially inter-

the passage where he chooses or chances upon

Eckhart's image of the
soul,

spark

" in

the centre of the

and gives

it

a

new

turn in accordance with his

own Mysticism
"
It

would not be because
never
is

my

eye grew dim

Thou

could'st not find the love there, thanks to

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."

Who

-

Our language has no separate words


at

Christian love
aino}')
"
;

(a'yd'rr'q

to

distinguish
(e/jtu?

caritas)

from sexual love
itself

charity

"

has not established
this
is

in

its

wider meaning.

Perhaps

not to be regretted
transexists.
is

lated into

any rate Browning's poems could hardly be any language in which this distinction
let

But

us
in

not forget that the ascetic element

as

strong

Browning
indicate,
is

as

in

Wordsworth.

Love, he

seems to
our joys

no exception to the rule that
^

may be
"

"

three parts pain," for " where pain

ends gain ends

too."

Not

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
is

life,

and

will

have none of a "joy which

crystallised

for

ever."

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.
•'
:

oSvvuiv

*

Browning, Parace/sus.

320

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
is

Felt imperfection

a proof of a higher birthright

^
:

if

we have
men, then

arrived at the completion
"

of our nature as
to

begins

anew a tendency

God,"
life
is

This
verjr

faith in unending progress as the law of

characteristic of our

own
;

age,'-^

It

assumes a questionin

able

shape sometimes

but Browning's trust

real

success

through

apparent

disappointments

a

trust

even based on the consciousness of present
is

failure

certainly one of the noblest parts of his religious

philosophy.
I

have
be

decided

to

end
in

my
this

survey of Christian
It

Mysticism with these two English poets.
hardly
Carlyle's
religious
is

would
discuss
"

appropriate,

place,

to

doctrine

of symbols,

as

the

"

clothing

of

and other kinds of
in

truth.

His philosophy
features

wanting

some of the
the

essential

of

Mysticism, and can
out
stretching

hardly be called Christian with-

word

too
is

far.

And Emerson,

when he deals with

religion,

a very unsafe guide.

The
acter
is

great

American
than

mystic,

whose beautiful charhis writings,

was

as noble a gift to
liable

humanity as

more

any

of those

whom we

have

described to the reproach of having turned his back

on the dark side of
ness
partly
in

life.

Partly from a fastidiousto

which could not bear even
from
the

hear of bodily

ailments,
,dweller

natural

optimism of the
partly

a

new

country,

and

because

he

made
fulness
^

a principle of maintaining an

unruffled

cheer-

and

serenity,
:

he shut
is

his eyes to pain, death,

Compare Pascal

" No one

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
sin,

321

optimism which
that " evil

even more resolutely than did Goethe. The is built on this foundation has no
for

message of comfort
is

the stricken
in

heart.
is

To

say

only good

the making,"

to repeat

an ancient and discredited attempt
enigma.
out
to

to solve the great
is

And

to assert that perfect justice
in
this

meted
mere him of

individuals

world,

is

surely

dreaming.

Moreover, we can hardly acquit

playing with pantheistic

Mysticism of the Oriental
"

type, without seeing, or without caring, whither such

speculations logically lead.
us, "
is

Within man," he

tells

the soul of the whole, the wise silence, the

universal
is

beauty,

to

equally related

which every part and
This
is

particle

the eternal One."
it

genuine

Pantheism, and should carry with
all

the doctrine that
or
indifferent.

actions

are

equally
his
is

good,
wife

bad,

Emerson says
nomianism
philosophy.
;

that

kept him

from

anti-

but this

giving up the defence of his
differs

He
many

also

from

Christianity,

and
God,

agrees with
"

Hegelians, in teaching that

the Over-Soul," only attains to self-consciousness in
;

man
in

and

this,

combined with

his

denial

of degrees

Divine immanence, leads him to a self-deification

of an arrogant and shocking kind, such as
in

we

find

the Persian Sufis,

and
"
I,

in

some

heretical

mystics

of the

Middle Ages.
I

the

imperfect, adore

my
I
I

own
see

Perfect.

am

receptive of the
eyeball.
I

great

soul.

become a transparent
all.

am
;

nothing.

The
same
21

currents of the universal Being circulate
I

through me.
to the

am

part of

God

"

and much more
ladder, instead of

effect.

This

is

not the language of those

who have

travelled

up the mystical

322

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
it.

only writing about

It is far

more objectionable than
I

the bold phrases about deification which

quoted

in

my
is

fifth

Lecture from the fourteenth century mystics
"

because with them the passage into the Divine glory
the
final

reward,
"
;

only

to

be

attained
it

by

all

manner of
be a
state

exercises

while for

Emerson

seems

to

already

existing,

which

we can
as
if

realise

by a mere act of
phrase, "
Spirit
its

intellectual apprehension.

Man

is

a

part

of God,"

And

the

the Divine

were divided among the organs which express

various activities,

—has

been condemned by
Plotinus

all

the

great speculative

mystics, from

downwards.
spiritualising

Emerson
idealism

is

perhaps at his best when he applies his

to love

and

friendship.

The

and illuminating influence of pure comradeship has And never been better or more religiously set forth.
though
it

is

necessary to be on

our guard against
his teaching,

the very dangerous tendency of

some of
was,
"

we

shall find

much

to learn from the brave
first

and serene
out into
his

philosopher whose
the azure
life
;

maxim

Come

love the day,"

and who during
good
report.

whole

fixed his thoughts steadily on whatsoever things

are pure, lovely, noble, and of

The
century

constructive
is,

task which

lies

before the next

if

I

may

say so without presumption, to
morality and art have already
vision of

spiritualise

science, as

been

spiritualised.

The

God

should appear

to us as a triple star of truth, beauty,

and

goodness.-^

1 I had written these words before the publication of Principal Caird's Sermons, which contain, in my judgment, the most powerful defence of what I have called Christian Mysticism that has appeared since William Law. On p. 14 he says " Of all things good and fair and holy there is a spiritual cognisance which precedes and is independent of that knowledge
:

NATURE-MYSTICISM AND SYMBOLISM
These are the three objects of
all

323

human
the

aspiration
all

;

and our hearts
alike
rest
in

will

never be at peace

till

three

God.

Beauty
;

is
^

chief
this
is

mediator

between the good and the true
great poets have
at present lags behind

and

why

the

been also prophets.
;

But Science

she has not found her

God

;

and

to' this

is

largely due the " unrest of the age."

Much
by
still,

has already been done in the right direction
philosophers,

divines,

and

physicists,

and

more
striven
lies

perhaps, by the great poets,

who have

earnestly to see the spiritual background which

behind the abstractions of materialistic science.

But

much
its

yet remains to be done.
" Positivism

We may

agree with

Hinton that

bears a

bqsom

"

;

but the child

new Platonism in has not yet come to the

birth.'

which the understanding conveys." He shows how in the contemplation oPnature it is " by an organ deeper than intellectual thought" that "the "And in like revelation of material beauty flows in upon the soul." manner there is an apprehension of God and Divine things which comes upon the spirit as a living reality which it immediately and intuitively "There is a capacity of the soul, by which the truths of perceives." See the whole sermon, religion may be apprehended and appropriated." entitled, IV/iat is Religion ? and many other parts of the book. " The Beautiful is ^ Cf. Ilegel {Philosophy of Religion, vol. ii. p. 8)
. .
.

:

essentially the Spiritual

making

itself

known

sensuously, presenting itself
that that existence
is

in sensuous concrete existence, but in such a

manner

wholly and entirely permeated by the Spiritual, so that the sensuous is not independent, but has its meaning solely and exclusively in the Spiritual

and through the
-

Spiritual,

and exhibits not

itself,

but the Spiritual."
to

Some

reference ought perhaps to be

made

Drummond's Natural

J.aw in the Spiritual World. But ^fysticism seeks rather to find spiritual law in the natural worjd and some better law than Diummond's Calvin(And I cannot help thinking that, though Evolution explains much ism. and contradicts nothing in Christianity, it is in danger of proving an ignis

fatttus to

many, especially to those who are inclined to idealistic pantheism. There can be no progress or development in God, and the cosmic process as we know it cannot have a higher degree of reality than the categories of time and place under which it appears. As for the millennium of per-

324

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

Meanwhile, the special work assigned to the Church
of England would seem to be the development of a

Johannine Christianity, which

shall

be both Catholic

and Evangelical without being either
testant.
It

Roman

or Pro-

has been abundantly proved that neither
Protestantism, regarded as alternatives,

Romanism nor

possesses enough of the truth to satisfy the religious

needs of the present day.

But

is

it

not

probable

that, as the theology of the Fourth Gospel acted as

a reconciling principle between the opposing sections
in

the early Church, so
is

it

may

be found to contain

the teaching which
in

most needed by both parties
?

our

own communion
all

In St. John and St. Paul

we

find

the

principles
;

of a
it

sound
to

and

sober
" fresh

Christian

Mysticism
of the
is

and
life

is

these

springs

"

spiritual

that

we must

turn,

if

the Church
-

to
in

renew her youth.

I

attempted

my

second Lecture to analyse the
St.

main elements of Christian Mysticism as found in

But since in the later Lectures I Paul and St. John. have been obliged to draw from less pure sources, and since, moreover, I am most anxious not to leave the
impression that
ality
I

have been advocating a vague
rationalism,
I

spiritu-

tempered by

will try in a

few words
I

to define

my

position apologetically, though

am

well

aware that

it is

a hazardous and

difficult task.
est,"

The

principle, "

Cuique

in

sua arte credendum

applies to those
holiness as

who have been eminent
as to the leaders in

for personal

much

any other branch

fected humanity on this earth, which some Positivists and others dream Christianity has nothing to say against it, but science has a great deal.) of,

See below,

p. 32S.

NATURE-MYSTICISM AND SYMBOLISM
of excellence.

325

akin to each other,

Even in dealing with arts which are we do not invite poets to judge of

music, or sculptors of architecture.

We

need not then

be disturbed
in

if

other

fields,

we who

occasionally find

men

illustrious

are as insensible to religion as to
for the character

poetry.

Our reverence

and genius of

Charles Darwin need not induce us to lay aside either

our Shakespeare or our
to

New

Testament.i

The men
have been

whom we

naturally turn as our best authorities in

spiritual

matters, are
"

those

who seem

to

endowed with an

anima

naturaliter Christiana,"

and

who have devoted their whole lives to the service of God and the imitation of Christ. Now it will be found that these men of acknowledged
and pre-eminent
they
tell

saintliness agree very closely in

what
not

us about God.

They

tell

us that they have
conviction,

arrived

gradually

at

an

unshakable

based on inference but on immediate experience, that

God

is

a Spirit with
;

intercourse

that

in

whom the human Him meet all
;

spirit

can hold
they

that

can

imagine of goodness, truth, and beauty
see

that they can

His footprints everywhere

in nature,
life

and

feel

His
so

presence within them as the very
that in

of their

life,

proportion as they

come

to

themselves they

come

to

Him.

They

tell

us that what separates us

^ In the Life of Charles Darwin there is an interesting letter, in which he laments the gradual decay of his taste for poetry, as his mind became a mere "machine for grinding out general laws " from a mass of observations. The decay of religious feeling in many men of high character may be

The really great man is conscious of the for in the same way. which he is making. " It is an accursed evil to a man," Darwin wrote to Hooker, "to become so absorbed in any subject as I am in mine." The common-place man is itot conscious of it: he obtains his heart's desire, if he works hard enough, and God sends leanness withal into his soul.
accounted
sacrifice

326
from
its

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
Him and
;

from happiness

is, first,

self-seeking in
all its

all

forms

and, secondly, sensuality in

forms

;

that

these are the

ways of darkness and death, which hide
;

from us the face of God
like a shining light,

while the path of the just

is

which shineth more and more unto

the perfect day.

As they have

way, the Spirit has spoken to

up the narrow them of Christ, and has
toiled
till

enlightened the eyes of their understandings,

they

have at least
of God.

begun to know the love of Christ which
filled

passeth knowledge, and to be

with

all

the fulness

So
inner

far,

the position

is

unassailable.
its

But the scope

of the argument has, of course,
light

fixed limits.
truths.

The
It

can

only testify to

spiritual
;

always speaks

in the present tense

it

cannot guarantee
It

any
can

historical event, past or future.

cannot guaranIt

tee either the Gospel history or a future judgment.
tell

us that Christ

is

risen,

and that

He

is

alive for

evermore, but not that
It

He

rose again the third day.
life
is

can

tell

us that the gate of everlasting

open,

but not that the dead shall be raised incorruptible.

We
for

have other
past

faculties
;

for investigating the eviden.ce

events

the inner light cannot certify
it

them
in

immediately, though
the

can give a powerful support to

external
to

evidence.

For though we are
about
the
relations

no
the

position

dogmatise

of

temporal to the eternal, one
out,

fact
us,
"

does seem to stand

that the

two

are,

for
"

bound
are

together.
itself

If,

when we read
eternal
life,

the Gospels,

the Spirit

beareth

witness with our spirit

that here

the words of
in history is

and the character which alone
it

absolutely flawless, then

is

natural for us to believe

NATURE-MYSTICISM AND SYMBOLISM
tion of the

327

that there has been, at that point of time, an Incarna-

Word

of

God

Himself.

That the
is

revelation

of Christ

is

an absolute revelation,
strictly speaking,

a dogmatic state-

ment which,
make.
years

only the Absolute could
that after two thousand
its

What we mean by
we
in

it is

are unable to conceive of

being ever superfinds
this

seded

any

particular.

And

if

anyone

inadequate, he

may
the

be invited to explain what higher
within our reach.

degree of certainty
the future
life,

is

With regard

to
to

same consideration may help us

understand
literal

why

the Church has clung to the belief in a

second coming of Christ to pronounce the dooms

of

all

mankind.

But our Lord Himself has taught us
" lies

that in " that
inscrutable

day and that hour

hidden a more

mystery than even

He

Himself, as man,

could reveal.

There

is

one other point on which
clear.

I

wish to

make

my
of

position
is

sympathy
life,

the guide

revealing to us

The fact that human love or who conducts us to the heart God and Nature and ourselves, is
life
is

proof that part of our
the world, and that
if

bound up with the

life

of

we

live in these

our true relations

we

shall

not entirely die so long as

human

beings

remain

alive

upon

this

earth.

The
these

progress of the

race, the diminution of sin

and miseiy, the advancing

kingdom of Christ on
that

earth,

are matters in

which we have a personal

interest.

The
it

strong desire


in

we

feel

— and
is

the best of us feel
race

most strongly
wiser,

that

the
in

human

may be

better,

and

happier
the

the future than they are

now

or have been

past,

neither due to a false association of

ideas,

nor to pure unselfishness.

There

is

a sense in

328

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
for us,

which death would not be the end of everything
even though
in this Hfe

only

we had hope

in Christ.
is

But when

this

comforting and inspiring thought

made
when
in
it

to

form the basis of a new Chiliasm

a belief in

a millennium of perfected humanity on this earth, and
this belief is substituted for the Christian belief
life

an eternal
is

beyond our bourne of time and

place,
fails

necessary to protest that this belief entirely

to satisfy the legitimate hopes of the
it

human

race, that

bad philosophy, and that it is flatly contrary to what science tells us of the destiny of the world and of mankind. The human spirit beats against the bars of
is

space and time themselves, and could never be satisfied
with any earthly Utopia. Our true home must be in some higher sphere of existence, above the contradictions which make it impossible for us to believe that time and space are ultimate realities, and out of reach
of the inevitable catastrophe which the next glacial age

must bring upon the human
space and time
is

race.^

This world of
it

to resemble heaven as far as
is

can

;

but a fixed limit
plan

set to the

amount

of the Divine

which
hearts

can
tell

be realised under these conditions.
us of a higher form of existence, in
is

Our

which the doom of death
abolished.
glass darkly
at best

not merely deferred but

This eternal world we here see through a
:

we can apprehend but
the reality of time in

the out-

^

The metaphysical problem about
is

relation

to

bound up with speculative Mysticism, that I have been obliged to state my own opinion upon it. It is, of course, one of the vexed questions of philosophy at the present time ; and I could not afford the space, even if I had the requisite knowledge and ability, to argue it.
evolution
so closely

The

best discussion of

it

that I

know
on

is

in

M 'Taggart's Studies in Hegelian

Dialectic, pp. 159-202.

Cf. note

p. 23.

NATURE-MYSTICISM AND SYMBOLISM
skirts of

329

God's ways, and hear a small whisper of His
is

voice

;

but our conviction

that,
it

though our earthly

be), we have a made with hands, eternal in the heavens. In this hope we may include all creation and trust that in some way neither more nor less incomprehensible than the deliverance which we expect for ourselves, all

house be dissolved (as dissolved
not

must

home

;

God's creatures, according to their several capacities,

may
Most

be set free from the bondage of corruption and
in

participate

the final triumph
I

over death and

sin.

firmly

do

believe that this faith in immortality,
air

though formless and inpalpable as the

we
is

breathe,

and incapable of
less

definite

presentation except

under

inadequate and self-contradictory symbols,

neverthe-

enthroned

in

the

centre of our being, and that

those

who have

steadily set their affections on things
life

above, and lived the risen

even on earth, receive
its

in

themselves an assurance which robs death of

sting,

and

is

an earnest of a
or can

final victory

over the grave.
in its

It is

not claimed that Mysticism, even
is,

widest

sense,

ever be, the whole of Christianity.
institutional as well as a

Every

religion

must have an
Just
as, if

mystical element.

the feeling of immediate

communion with God has
Church worshipping
" a

faded,

we

shall

have a dead

dead

Christ,"

as
his

Fox
day;

the
so,

Quaker
if

said of the Anglican

Church

in

the seer and prophet expel the priest, there will be
discipline

no

and no cohesion.

Still,

at

the present

time, the greatest

need seems to be that we should

return to the fundamentals of spiritual religion.

We

cannot shut our eyes to the fact that both the old seats
of authority, the infallible

Church and the

infallible

330

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
These can only come from the depths
will
" is

book, are fiercely assailed, and that our faith needs
reinforcements.

of the religious consciousness

from
"

thence, they

not

summoned The be found wanting.
itself;

and

if

impregnable rock
life

neither an institution nor a book,
Faith, which
is its is

but a

or experience.

an affirmation
justi-

of the basal personality,
fication.

own evidence and
it

Under normal
it.

conditions,

will

always be
is

strongest in the healthiest minds.

There

and can

be no appeal from
us, " see,"

If,

then, our hearts, duly pre-

pared for the reception of the Divine Guest, at length
say to

This

I

know, that whereas
in

I

was

blind,

now

I

we may,

St.

John's words, " have con-

fidence towards God."

The
or
its

objection

may

be raised

"

But these

beliefs

change, and merely reflect the degree of enlightenment
opposite, which every

man

has reached."

The

conscience of the savage

him emphatically that must not do ; and blind there are some things which he
tells

obedience to this
not only
crimes
all

" categorical

imperative

"

has produced
"

the complex absurdities of

taboo," but
in

like

human

sacrifice,
"

and

faith

a

great

many

things that are not.

Perhaps we are leaving
left

behind the theological stage, as we have already behind
study
those
of
superstitions

of

savagery."

Now
to

the
to

primitive

religions

does

seem

me
;

prove the danger of resting religion and morality on

unreasoning obedience to a supposed revelation
that
is

but
kill

not

my

position.

The two

forces

which

mischievous superstitions are the knowledge of nature,

and the moral sense
both
free

;

and we are quite ready to give
that

play,

confident

both come from the

/

NATURE-MYSTICISM AND SYMBOLISM
living

331
is

Word
is

of God.

The

fact

that a revelation
it is

progressive
in fact,
is

no argument that
that

not Divine

:

it is,

only when the free current of the religious
it

life

dammed up
society.
all

human
with

swamp, and poisons Of course we must be ready to admit
turns into a

humility, that our notions of
;

God

are probably
is

unworthy and distorted enough

but that

no reason

why we
be true."

should not follow the light which we have,
it

or mistrust

on the ground that
be

it

is "

too good to

Nor would
makes
religion

it

fair

to

say that this argument
feeling.

depend merely on
is

A

theology
con-

based on mere feeling
trary to

(as

Hegel

said) as

much
is

revealed

religion as to rational
is

knowledge.

The
that

fact that

God
;

present to our feeling
feelings

no proof

He

exists

our

include

imaginations

which have no
is

reality corresponding to them.

No,

it

not feeling, but the heart or reason (whichever term

we

prefer),

which speaks with authority.
I

By

the heart or

reason

mean the whole personality acting in concord, an abiding mood of thinking, willing, and feeling. The
life

of the spirit perhaps begins with mere feeling, and
will

perhaps
" that

be consummated
is

in

mere

feeling,
"
;

when
but

which
its

in

part

shall

be done away
its

during
it

struggles to enter into

full
all

inheritance,

gathers up into

itself the activities

of

the faculties,

which act harmoniously together
organism to which they belong
is

in

proportion as the

in a

healthy

state.

Once more, this reliance on the inner light does not mean that every man must be his own prophet, his own priest, and his own saviour. The individual is not
independent of the
Church, nor the Church of the

332
historical

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
Christ.

But the Church

is

a living body,
facts,

and the Incarnation and Atonement are living
still

in operation.
;

They

are part of the eternal counsels
in the

of

God

and whether they are enacted

Abyss of

the Divine Nature, or once for

all in their
it

fulness on

the stage of history, or in miniature, as
soul

were, in your

and mine, the process is the same, and the tremendous importance of those historical facts which our
is

creeds affirm

due precisely to the
isolated

fact that

they are

not unique and

portents,

but

the

supreme
universal

manifestation
laws.

of the

grandest

and

most

These considerations may well have a calming and reassuring influence upon those who, from whatever
cause,

are

troubled

by

religious
sure,

doubts.
this

The
seal,

foundation of

God

standeth

having

The Lord knoweth, and is known by, them that are His. But we must not expect that " religious difficulties " will ever cease. Every truth that we know is
of a deeper truth and it may be that Holy Spirit has still many things to say to us, which we cannot bear now. Each generation and each individual has his own problem, which has never been set in exactly the same form before we must all work out our own salvation, for it is God who worketh in us. If we have realised the meaning of these words

but the husk
the

;

:

of St. Paul, which

I

have had occasion to quote so'

often in thes^ Lectures,

we cannot doubt

that,

though
only
in

we now part, we
to face,

see through a glass darkly,
shall

and know

one day behold our Eternal Father face

and know

Him

even as we are known.

APPENDICES

APPENDIX A
Definitions of "Mysticism" and "Mystical Theology"

The
list

following definitions are given only as specimens.

The

be made much longer by quoting from other Roman Catholic theologians, but their definitions for the most part agree closely enough with those which I have transcribed from Corderius, John a Jesu Maria, and Gerson. 1. Corderius. "Theologia mystica est sapientia experimentalis, Dei affectiva, divinitus infusa, qus mentem ab omni
might
inordinatione
caritatis

puram per actus supernaturales
intime coniungit.
. . .

fidei

spei et

Mystica theologia, si vim nominis attendas, designat quandam sacram et arcanam de Deo divinisque rebus notitiam."
2.

cum Deo

Joh7i a Jesu Maria.
notitia per

" [Theologia mystica] est caelestis

qusedam Dei
elicita vel

unionem

voluntatis

Deo

inhaerentis

lumine cselitus immisso producta." 3. Bojiaventura (adopted also by Gerson). extensio in Deum per amoris desiderium."
4.

" Est

animi

Gerson.

" Theologia mystica est motio anagogica in
et

Deum

per

amorem fervidum

purum.

Aliter sic

:

est experimentalis cognitio habita
:

de Deo est sapientia, id est sapida notio complexum. Aliter sic habita de Deo, dum ei supremus apex affcctivee potentice
Scarafnelli.

Theologia mystica per amoris unitivi

rationalis per
5.
il

amorem iungitur " La theologia

et unitur."

mistica esperimentale, secondo

suo atto principale e piu proprio, e una notizia pura di Dio che 1' anima d'ordinario riceve nella caligine luminosa, o per di meglio nel chiaro oscuro d' un' alta contemplazione, insieme con un amore esperimentale si intimo, che la fa perdere tutta
a se stessa per unirla e transformarla in Dio."

336
6.

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
Ribet.

"

La

theologie mystique, au point de vue subjectif

et

experimental,

nous

semble

pouvoir

attraction surnaturelle et passive

etre definie une de I'ame vers Dieu, prove:

nant d'une illumination et d'un embrasement interieurs, qui previennent la reflexion, surpassent I'effort humain, et pouvent avoir sur le corps un retentissement merveilleux et irresistible.
.
.

.

Au
:

point de vue doctrinal objectif, la mystique peut se
la

definir

science qui traite des

phenomenes
la

surnaturels, qui

preparent, accompagnent, et

suivent I'attraction passive des

ames

vers

Dieu

et

par Dieu, c'est a dire
la raison

contemplation divine

qui les coordonne et les justifie par I'autorite de I'Ecriture,

des docteurs et de
paralleles

;

les

distingue des
et

phenomenes
analogues

dus

a

I'action
;

de Satan,
ces

des

faits

purement naturels
la

enfin, qui trace des regies pratiques

pour
mais

conduite des ames dans

ascensions sublimes

perilleuses."
7.

EAbhe Migne.

"

La mystique
effets

est la science d'etat sur-

naturel de I'ame

humaine manifeste dans

des choses visibles par des

le corps et dans I'ordre egalement surnaturels."

In these scholastic and modern

Roman

Catholic definitions

we may observe

{a)

that

the earlier

definitions

supplement

without contradicting each other, representing different aspects
of Mysticism, as an experimental science, as a living sacrifice of

an illumination from above, and as an exercise of {b) that symbolic or objective Mysticism is not recognised (c) that the sharp distinction between natural and supernatural, which is set up by the scholastic mystics,
the
will, as

ardent devotion
;

;

carries with

it

a craving for physical

" mystical

phenomena

"

These though not mentioned in the earlier definitions, have come to be considered an integral part of Mysticism, so that Migne and Ribet include them in their definitions {d) lastly, that those who take this view of "la mystique divine" are
to support the belief in supernatural interventions.

miracles,

;

constrained to admit by the side of true mystical facts a parallel
class of " contrefagons diaboliques."
8.

Vo7i

Harfmatm.

" Mysticism
(feeling,

is

the

filling

of the con-

sciousness with

a content

thought,

desire),

by an

involuntary emergence of the

same out of the unconscious."

Von Hartmann's

hypostasis of the Unconscious has been

APPENDIX A
often

337
on Mysticism
is
is

and

justly criticised.

But

his chapter

of

great value.

He

begins by asking,

"What

the JVesen of

Mysticism
(which

? "

mystics like
is

and shows that it is not quietism (disproved by Bohme, and by many active reformers), nor ecstasy
symbolism, nor
itself,

generally pathological), nor asceticism, nor allegorism,

nor
It is

fantastic

obscurity

of expression,

nor

religion generally, nor superstition, nor the

sum

of these things.
to individuals

healthy in
to the race.

and has been of high value

and

prepared for the Gospel of St. John, for the revolt against arid scholasticism in the Middle Ages, for the
It

Reformation, and for modern
the mystical element in

German philosophy. He shows Hamann, Jacobi, Fichte, and Schelling

;

and quotes with approval the description of "intellectual intuition " given by the last named. We must not speak of
thought as an antithesis to experience, "for thought (including immediate or mystical

knowledge)
it,

is

itself

experience."

This knowledge
conscious
will

is

not derived from sense-perception,

has nothing to do with

—"

—the
work

it

can only have

arisen through inspiration from the Unconscious." He would extend the name of mystic to " eminent art-geniuses who owe
their productions to inspirations of genius,

and not

to the

of their consciousness

(e.g.

Phidias, ^schylus, Raphael, Beeth-

oven"), and even to every "truly original" philosopher, for
every high thought has been
of genius.
first apprehended by the glance Moreover, the relation of the individual to the an essential theme of philosophy, can on/y be

Absolute,
mystically

apprehended.

"This

feeling

is

the content

of

Mysticism Kar iioxqv, because it finds its existence only in it." He then shows with great force how religious and philosophical
systems have
full

probative force only for the few

who

are able

to reproduce mystically in themselves their underlying supposi-

which can only be mystically apprehended. most adherents are just the poorest of all and most unphilosophical (e.g. materialism and rationalistic Theism)."
tions, the truth of

"

Hence

it is

that those systems which rejoice in

9.

Dii Prel.
if

" If the self

is

not wholly contained in

self-

consciousness,
sensibility,

man
is

then
is

a being dualised by the threshold of Mysticism possible ; and if the threshold of
is
is

sensibility

movable, then Mysticism

necessary."

"The

22

338
mystical

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
phenomena
process."
is

of the soul-life are anticipations of the

biological

"Soul
the soul

is

our

spirit

within

the

self-

consciousness, spirit

This definition, from J. P. Ritcher, quoted in Lecture I., assumes that Mysticism may be treated as a branch of experimental psychology. Du Prel attaches great importance to somnambulism and other kindred
psychical phenomena, which (he thinks) give us glimpses of

beyond the self-consciousness." with which should be compared the passage

the inner world of our Ego, in

many ways

different

from our

waking consciousness.
its

"As

the

moon

turns to us only half

orb, so our Ego."

He

distinguishes between the
will perish at death.

Ego and
from

the subject.

The former

It arises

the free act of the subject, which enters the time-process as a " The self-conscious Ego is a projection of the discipline.

transcendental subject, and resembles
this

it."

"

We

should regard

earthly

existence

correspondence with
science
is

a transitory phenomenal form in " Conour transcendental interest."
as

transcendental nature."

(This last sentence suggests

how Schopenhauer's pessimism may be made the basis of a higher optimism. " The path of biological advance leads to the merging of the
thoughts of great interest.)
Prel shows

Du

Ego

in

the

subject."

"The
is

biological

aim

for

the

race

coincides with

the

transcendental aim for the
that the
disillusions of experience
its

individual."

"The
life

whole content of Ethics

the Subject."

The

has no value for
;

is the one fatal These thoughts are mixed with speculations of much less value for I cannot agree with Du Prel that we shall learn much about higher and deeper modes of life by studying abnormal and pathological states of the consciousness.

end

it

follows that to
life.

own make

sake,

and

is

Ego must subserve show that earthly only a means to an

pleasure our end

mistake in

;

10.

Goethe.

" Mysticism " Mysticism

is

the scholastic of the heart, the

dialectic of the feelings."
11.

Noack.

is

formless speculation."

Noack's definition is, perhaps, not very happily phrased, for the essence of Mysticism is not speculation but intuition and when it begins to speculate, it is obliged at once to
take to itself "forms."
negativa
is

Even

the ultimate goal of the via

apprehended as " a kind of form of formlessness."

APPENDIX A
philosophy, and from this point of view describes
12.

339

Goethe's definition regards Mysticism as a system of religion or

Ewald.

it accurately. " Mystical theology begins by maintaining that

man

wit^h

is fallen away from God, and craves to be again united Him." "That we bear the image of God is 13. Canon Overton.

the starting-point, one might almost say the postulate, of

all

Mysticism.
goal of
all

The complete union
Mysticism."
" Mysticism
is is

of the soul with

God

is

the

14. Pfleiderer.

the immediate feeling of the

unity of the self with

God

;

it

nothing, therefore, but the

fundamental feeling of religion, the religious life at its very But what makes the mystical a special heart and centre. tendency inside religion, is the endeavour to fix the immediateness of the
life

in

God

as such, as abstracted from all inter-

vening helps and channels whatever, and find a permanent abode in the abstract inwardness of the life of pious feeling.
forgotten, the subject

In this God-intoxication, in which self and the world are alike knows himself to be in possession of the

highest

and

fullest truth

;

but this truth

is

only possessed in the

and bare form of monotonous feelwhat truth the subject possesses is not filled up by any ing determination in which the simple unity might unfold itself, and it lacks therefore the clearness of knowledge, which is only
quite undeveloped, simple,
;

attained

when thought harmonises

differences with unity."

"Mysticism is a phase of thought, 15. Professor A. Seth. or rather, perhaps, of feeling, which from its very nature is It appears in connexion hardly susceptible of exact definition.
with the endeavour of the human mind to grasp the Divine essence or the ultimate reality of things, and to enjoy the
blessedness of actual
is

communion
that
is

with the highest.
;

The

first

the philosophic side of Mysticism

the second,

its

religious

side.

The thought
is

most .intensely present with the

mystic

that of a

supreme, all-pervading, and indwelling
things are one.

Power, in
character.

whom

all

Hence

the speculative

utterances of Mysticism are always

more or

less pantheistic in

On

the practical

side,

Mysticism maintains the

possibility of direct intercourse with this

Being of beings.

.

.

.

God

ceases to be an object, and becomes an experience."

340

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

is

This carefully-worded statement of the essence of Mysticism followed by a hostile criticism. Professor Seth considers
" It
characteristic of Mysticism,
is

quietism the true conclusion from the mystic's premisses.
is

that

it

does not distinguish
is

between what
literal

metaphorical and what

susceptible of a
treat a relation of

interpretation.

Hence
if
it

it

is

prone to

ethical

harmony
;

as

were one of substantial identity or

chemical fusion
feeling literally,

and, taking the sensuous language of religious
bids the individual aim at nothing less than

it

an interpenetration of essence.

And

as this goal

is

unattainable

while reason and the consciousness of self remain, the mystic

begins to consider these as impediments to be thrown aside.
>

a faculty above reason, by which the subject shall be placed in immediate and complete union with the object of his desire, a union in which the consciousness of self has disappeared, and in which, therefore,
.
. .

Hence Mysticism demands

subject

and object are one."
:

To

this,

I

think, the

mystic

might answer " I know well that interpenetration and absorption are words which belong to the category of space, and are only
separateness, impenetrability,

metaphors or symbols of the relation of the soul to God ; but and isolation, which you affirm of

and are no whit less which of the two sets of words best expresses the relation of the ransomed soul to its Redeemer? In my opinion, your phrase ethical harmony is altogether inadequate, while the New Testament expressions, membership,' union,' indwelling-,' are as adequate as words can be."
the ego, belong to the
category,

same

metaphorical.

The

question

is,

'

'

*

'

'

The
that

rest

of the criticism

is

directed against the
to defend, since I
first

" negative

road," which I have
it

no wish

follows logically from the
Recejac.

cannot admit principles of Mysticism.

"Mysticism is the tendency to approach the Absolute morally, and by means of symbols."
1 6.

Recejac's very interesting Essai sur

les

Fondeitients de la

Connaissance mystique has the great merit of emphasising the

symbolic character of
all

all

mystical phenomena, and of putting

such experiences in their true place, as neither hallucinations nor invasions of the natural order, but symbols of a
higher
reality.

" Les apparitions et autres phenomenes mys-

tiques n'existent

que dans

I'esprit

du voyant,

et

ne perdent rien

APPENDIX A
.
. .

341

pour cela de leur prix ni de leur verite. Et alors n'y a-t-il pas au fond des symboles autant ^etrc que sous les phenomenes ? Bien plus encore car I'etre phenomenal, le re'el, se
:

pose dans
sous
et le
les

la

conscience par un enchainement de
'

faits
'

tellement

successif que nous ne tenons jamais

le

meme

;

tandis que

symboles,

si

nous tenons quelque chose,
is

c'est I'identique

permanent."
but love
it.

Rec(5jac also insists with great force that

the motive power of Mysticism
interest,
fatal
:

neither curiosity nor
is

self-

the intrusion of alien motives

at

once
This

to

" Its logic consists in having confidence in the

rationality of the

moral consciousness and

its

agrees with what I have said

desires."

logic of our entire personality,
it

Reason is, or should be, the and that if Reason is so defined,
that

does not come into conflict with Mysticism.
to say

Recdjac also has

much

upon Free Will and Determinism.

He

says that

Mysticism is an alliance between the Practical Reason (which he identifies with " la Liberte ") and Imagination. " Deter-

minism
Liberty,

is

the opposite, not of

'

Liberty,' but of 'indifference.'

as

Fouillee says,

is

only a higher form of Deter-

minism."
inspiration

ception of Divine

"The modern idea of liberty, and the mystical conwill, may be reconciled in the same way as
that both are discovered in

and reason, on condition

the same fact interior to us, and that, far from being opposed
to each other, they are fused

and distinguished together dans
R^cejac

quelque implicite reeliement present a la conscience"

throughout appeals to Kant instead of to Hegel as his chief philosophical authority, in this differing from the majority of
those

who

are in sympathy with Mysticism.

17. Bonchitte.

"Mysticism consists
larger

in giving to the spon-

taneity of the intelligence a
faculties."
18.

part than

to

the

other

Charles Kings ley.
is

"The

great Mysticism

is

the belief
all

which

becoming every day stronger with me, that metrical natural objects are types of some spiritual

sym-

truth or

When I walk the fields, I am oppressed now and then with an innate feeUng that everything I see has a meaning, And this feeling of being surif I could but understand it. rounded with truths which I cannot grasp, amounts to indeEverything seems to be full of God's scribable awe sometimes.
existence.

342
reflex, if

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
we could but
see
it.

Oh, how
!

I

have prayed to have

the mystery unfolded, at least hereafter

To

see, if
!

but for a

moment, the whole harmony of the
!

great system

To

hear

once the music which the whole universe makes as it performs The thought of the first His bidding Oh, that heaven glance of creation from thence, when we know even as we are known. And He, the glorious, the beautiful, the incarnate Ideal shall be justified in all His doings, and in all, and through all, and over all. All day, glimpses from the other world, floating motes from that inner transcendental life, have been floating across me. Have you not felt that your real soul was imperceptible to your mental vision, except at a few hallowed moments ? That in everyday life the mind, looking
!

.

.

.

.

.

.

and working, and immortality, and on which the Spirit of God most probably works, as being most cognate to Deity" {Life, vol. Again he says "This p. 55).
at itself, sees only the brute intellect, grinding

not the Divine particle, which

is life

i.

:

earth

is

the next greatest fact to that of God's existence."

Kingsley's review of Vaughan's Hours with the Mystics shows that he retained his sympathy with Mysticism at a later It would be impossible to find any consistent period of his life.
idealistic

philosophy in Kingsley's writings

;

but the sentences

above quoted are interesting as a profession of faith in Mysticism of the objective type. " The cure for a wrong Mysticism is 19. R. L. Nettleship.
to realise the facts, not particular facts or aspects of facts, but

the

whole

fact

:

true

Mysticism
is

is

the

consciousness that

everything that
element, in fact
;

we experience
i.e.

that in

an element, and only an being what it is, it is symbolic of
in Nettleship's

something more."

The

obiter dicta

on Mysticism

Remaitis are

of great value.

"The essence of Mysticism is the assertion of 20. Lasson. an intuition which transcends the temporal categories of the
understanding, relying on speculative reason. Rationalism cannot conduct us to the essence of things ; we therefore need intellectual vision. But Mysticism is not content with symbolic knowledge, and aspires to see the Absolute by pure
spiritual apprehension.
.

.

.

There

is

a contradiction in regard-

APPENDIX A
ing

343
and
yet as an

God

as the

immanent Essence of
all things.
if

all things,
it

abstraction transcending

But

is

inevitable.

Pure

immanence
in
things.
.

is
,

unthinkable,
.

Strict

'

we are to maintain distinctions immanence doctrine tends towards
'

the

monopsychism of Averroes.

.

.

.

Mysticism

is

often asso-

ciated with pantheism, but the religious character of Mysticism

views everything from the standpoint of teleology, while pantheism generally stops at causality. Mysticism, again, is often allied with rationalism, but their ground-principles are
.
.

.

different,

for rationalism

is

deistic,

and

rests

on

this

earth,

being based on the understanding [as opposed to the higher

Nothing can be more perverse than Its danger is rather an overvaluing of reason and knowledge. Mysticism is only religious so long as it remembers that we can here only see
faculty, the reason].
. . .

to accuse Mysticism of vagueness.

.

.

.

through a glass darkly
adequately,
it falls

;

into a

when it tries to represent the eternal new and dangerous retranslation of
. . .

thought into images, or into bare negation. relation of person to person, a life, which
analogy to the earthly, while
eternal.
its

Religion

is

a

in

its

form

is

an

content

is

pure relation to the

Dogmatic

is
.

the skeleton, Mysticism the life-blood,
. .

of the Christian body.

Since the Reformation, philosophy

has taken over most of the work which the speculative mystics performed in the Middle Ages " {Essay on the Essence and
Value of Mysticism).

Nordau. "The word Mysticism describes a state of in which the subject imagines that he perceives or divines unknown and inexplicable relations among phenomena, discerns in things hints at mysteries, and regards them as symbols by which a dark power seeks to unveil, or at least to
2 1.

mind

indicate,

all

sorts

of marvels.

...
.

It
.

is
.

always connected

with strong emotional excitement.
ceptions, ideas,
closely

Nearly

all

our perless

and conceptions

are connected

more or

But to make the association of ideas fulfil its function, one more thing must be added attention, which is the faculty to suppress one part of the memory-images and maintain another part." We must
through the association of ideas.
select

the

strongest

and most

direct images, those direcdy
;

connected with the afferent nerves

" this Ribot calls adapta-

344
tion

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
of the whole

organism to a predominant
will.

idea.

.

.

.

Attention presupposes strength of
association, the result of

Unrestricted play of

an exhausted or degenerate brain,
Since the mystic cannot express his

gives rise to Mysticism.

clusive expressions.

cloudy thoughts in ordinary language, he loves mutually exMysticism blurs outlines, and makes the
transparent opaque."

The Germans have two words for what we call Mysticism Mystik and Mysticismus, the latter being generally dyslogistic. The long
chapter in Nordau's Degeneration, entitled " Mysit

ticism," treats

throughout as a morbid
last

state.

It will

be

observed that the

sentence quoted

flatly

contradicts one

of the statements copied from Lasson's essay. But Nordau is not attacking religious Mysticism, so much as that unwholesome

development of symbolic "science, falsely so called," which has usurped the name in modern France. Those who are interested in Mysticism should certainly study the pathological symptoms which counterfeit mystical states, and from this
point

of view the

essay in Degeneration
alienists

is

valuable.

The
to

observations of

Nordau and other
the

must lead us
of

suspect

very

strongly

following

kinds

symbolical

representation, whether the symbols are borrowed from the

external world, or created by the imagination

:

{a) All those

which include images of a sexual character. It is unnecessary to illustrate this. The visions of monks and nuns are often, as we might expect, unconsciously tinged with a morbid element of this kind, {b) Those which depend on mere
verbal

resemblances

or

other

fortuitous
is

correspondences.

Nordau shows

that the diseased brain

very ready to follow

{c) Those which are connected with the sense of smell, which seems to be morbidly developed in this kind of degeneracy, {d) Those which in

these false trains of association,

any way minister to pride or self-sufficiency. 22. Harnack. "Mysticism is rationalism applied to a sphere above reason." I have criticised this definition in my first Lecture, and have suggested that the words " rationalism " and " reason " ought to be transposed. Elsewhere Harnack says that the distinctions between " Scholastic, Roman, German, Catholic,

APPENDIX A
Evangelical,
ficial,

345
" are at

,

and Pantheistic Mysticism
in

best super-

and

particular

that

it

is

a mistake to contrast

Middle Ages.
in

" Scholasticism and Mysticism " as opposing forces in the " Mysticism," he proceeds, " is Catholic piety
general,

so

far
is,

as this piety
fides i?nplicita.
it

is

not merely ecclesiastical

obedience, that

The Reformation element
this,
is

which

is

ascribed to

lies

simply in

that Mysticism,

when
the

developed in a particular direction,
again
deprive
it."

led

to discern

inherent responsibility of the soul, of which no authority can

between Mysticism and no way militate against both being Catholic ideals, just as asceticism and world-supremacy are both Catholic ideals, though contradictory. The German " I give no extracts from their mystics he disparages. writings," he says, " because I do not wish even to seem to countenance the error that they expressed anything that one
conflicts
in

The

Church

authority,

he thinks,

cannot read in Origen, Plotinus, the Areopagite, Augustine,
Erigena,
religious

Bernard,
progress."

and Thomas, or
"It
mystic
will

that

they

represented

never be possible to

make
is

Mysticism Protestant without flying in the face of history and
Catholicism."
"

A

who does not become
I

a Catholic

a dilettante."

Before considering these statements,

will

quote

from

another attack upon

Mysticism by a writer whose general views are very similar to those of Harnack.

"The 23. Herrmann {Verkehr des Christen mit Gott). most conspicuous features of the Roman Catholic rule of life are obedience to the laws of cultus and of doctrine on the one side, and Neoplatonic Mysticism on the other. The essence of Mysticism lies in this when the influence of God upon the soul is sought and found solely in an inward ex.
. . :

perience of the individual;

when
:

certain excitements of the

emotions are taken, with no further question, as evidence that the soul is possessed by God when at the same time nothing
external to the soul
firmly grasped
life
;

is

consciously and clearly perceived and
that

when no thoughts
is

elevate the spiritual

are aroused by the positive contents of an idea that rules

the soul,
is

— then that
is

the piety of Mysticism.

.

.

.

Mysticism

not that which

common

to all religion, but a particular

346

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
namely a piety which
feels that

species of religion,
historical in

which

is

the positive religion to be burdensome, and so

rejects

it."

These

extracts from

Harnack and Herrmann represent the

attitude towards Mysticism of the Ritschlian school in Ger-

are neo-Kantians,

many, of which Kaftan is another well-known exponent. They whose religion is an austere moralism, and
to regard Christianity as a primitive Puritanism,

who seem
and
is

spoiled by the Greeks,

who brought

into

it

their intellectualism

their sacramental mysteries.

True
fact,

Christianity, they say,

faith in

the historic Christ.

" In the

human

Jesus," says
is

Herrmann, "we have met with a
within ourselves,

the content of which

incomparably richer than that of any feelings which arise

—a

fact,

moreover, which makes us so certain

of "

God

that,
is

our reason and conscience being judges, our con-

viction

only confirmed that

we

are in

communion
is

with
.

Him."
If

The

mystic's

experience of

God

a delusion.

the
all

Christian has learnt
that he

how

Christ alone has lifted

him above

had even been before, he cannot believe that another man might reach the same end by simply turning inward upon
himself."

"The
it

piety of the mystic

is

such that at the highest

point to which

leads Christ must vanish from the soul along
is

with
quite

all else

that

external."

fails to

explain

how

This curious view of Christianity " our reason and conscience " can
It

detect the "incomparable richness" of a revelation altogether

unlike "the feehngs which arise within ourselves."
tirely

en-

ignores

the

Pauline and Johannine doctrine of the
is

mystical union, according to which Christ
to the

not " external

redeemed
it.

soul,

from

Instead of the

and most assuredly can never "vanish" "Lo I am with you alway" of our

that is, primarily, blessed Lord, we are referred to "history" the four Gospels confirmed by " a fifth," " the united testimony

of the

first

Christian

community " (Harnack,
presented with a

Christianity atid

History).

We

are

Christianity

without

knowledge (Gnosis), without discipline, without sacraments, resting partly on a narrative which these very historical critics tear in pieces, each in his own fashion, and partly on a categorical imperative which is really the voice of " irreligious moralism," as Pfleiderer calls it. The words are justified by

APPENDIX A
such a sentence as
this

347
:

from Herrmann

" Religious faith in

God

is,

rightly

understood, just the

universal law

becomes individualised

medium by which the for the particular man in
so as to enable

his particular place in the world's

life,

him

to

recognise

its

absoluteness as the ground of his self-certainty,

and the

ideal

drawn

in

it

as his

own

personal end."

Thus the

school which has shown the greatest animus against Mysticism

unconsciously approaches very near to the atheism of Feuerbach.

Indeed, what worse atheism can there be, than such
this

disbelief in

pressed in

the rationality of our highest thoughts as is exsentence " Metaphysics is an impassioned
:

endeavour to obtain recognition for thoughts, the contents of which have no other title to be recognised than their value for us " ? As if faith in God had any other meaning than a confidence that what is of " value for us " is the eternally and universally good and true Herrmann's attitude towards reason can only escape atheism by accepting in preference the crudest dualism, " behind which " (to quote Pfleiderer again) lies concealed simply "the scepticism of a disintegrating Nominalism." "Mysticism is the pretension to know 24. Victor Cousin.
!

God

without intermediary, and, so to speak, face to face.

For Mysticism, whatever is between God and us hides Him from us." " Mysticism consists in substituting direct inspiration for indirect, ecstasy for reason, rapture for philosophy."

"Mysticism is that form of error 25. R. A. Vmighan. which mistakes for a Divine manifestation the operations of a merely human faculty." This poor definition is the only one (except " Mysticism is the romance of religion ") to be found in Hours with the Mystics, the solitary work in English which attempts to give a
history of Christian Mysticism.

The book
of the
gift

has several conreading
is

spicuous

merits.

The range

author's

remarkable, and he has a wonderful

of illustration.

But

he was not content to

trust to the interest of the subject to tried to attract readers

make
it

his

book popular, and
in

in a

most incongruous
telling

setting.

There

is

by placing something almost
Suso, and
at

offensive

the story of
in the

men

like Tauler,

Juan of the Cross,

form of smart conversations

a

348
house-party,

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

and the jokes cracked at the expense of the "mystics" are not ahvays in the best taste. Vaughan does not take his subject quite seriously enough. There is an irritating air of superiority in all his discussions of the lives and doctrines of the mystics, and his hatred and contempt for the Roman Church often warp his judgment. His own philosophical standpoint is by no means clear, and this makes his treatment of speculative Mysticism less satisfactory than the more popular parts of the book. It is also a pity that he has neglected the English representatives of Mysticism they are quite as interesting in their way as Madame Guyon, whose story he tells at disproportionate length. / At the same time, I wish to acknowledge considerable obligations to Vaughan, whose early death probably deprived us of even better work than the book which made
benighted
;

-

his reputation.
26.

James Hinton.

of knowing that

"Mysticism is an assertion of a means must not be tried by ordinary rules of

evidence

— the

claiming authority for our

own

impressions."

Another poor and question-begging
lines as the last.

definition,

on the same

APPENDIX
The

B

The Greek Mysteries and Christain Mysticism
connexion between the Greek Mysteries and Christian is marked not only by the name which the world has agreed to give to that type of religion (though it must be said
Mysticism
that ixva-Trjpia
is

not the

opyta, TeXerat, TeXrj are

all, I

commonest name for the Mysteries think, more frequent), but by the
to emphasise

evident desire on the part of such founders of mystical Christianity as

Clement and Dionysius the Areopagite,
It
is

the

resemblance.

not

without a purpose that these

and other Platonising theologians from the third to the and practice of the Church almost every term which was associated with the Eleusinian Mysteries and others like them. For instance, the sacraments
writers,
fifth

century, transfer to the faith

are regularly

fjLva-TrjpLa

;

baptism

is /jlvcttlkov

Xovrpov (Gregory of
;

Nyssa)
/Avo-Tts

;

unction, )(piaixa

(jlvo-tlkov
;

(Athanasius)

the elements,

cSwSt;

(Gregory Naz.)

fjiva-TiKT] fjL£TdXrnJ/is.

participation in them is Baptism, again, is " initiation " (/avt/o-is) ; a

and

is fjcefxyrjixevo?, fxv(rT7]<s, or a-vfjiixva-Trjs (Gregory Ny. and Chrysostom), an unbaptized person is dixvr]To<;. The celebrant is fjLva-T-qpLtxyv XavOavovrwv fxv(TTaywy6<; (Gregory Ny.)

baptized person

the administration
are also
Tf-X^rrj

is TrapaSoo-is,

as at Eleusis.
;

The sacraments
as are reActwo-ts,

or

tIXtj,

regular Mystery-words

TcXciovcr^at,

TfAeioTToto?,

which are

used

in

the

same conitself

nexion.

Secret formulas (the notion of secret formulas

comes from the Mysteries) were aTropprjra, (Whether the words ^wTicr/Ao's and cr(/)pay6s in their sacramental meaning come from the Mysteries seems doubtful, in spite of Hatch, Hibbert
Lectures,
p.

295.)

Nor

is

the

language of the Mysteries

applied only to the sacraments.
pline
TO.

KaOdpcria,

and

to. fj.iKpa

Clement calls purgative discifjivcrrypia, and the highest stage

349

350

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
He
also uses such language as
!

in the spiritual life eVoTrrcta.

the following

:

"

truly sacred mysteries

O

stainless light

My

way
!

is

lighted with torches,

and

I

survey the heavens and

God
Lord

I
is

am become holy while I am my hierophant," etc. {Protr. xii.
in a note

being initiated.
120).

The
I

Dionysius, as

have shown
frequently,

on Lecture

III.,

uses the Mystery words

the

and gives to the orders of the Christian ministry names which distinguished the officiating priests at the

Mysteries.

The aim

of these writers was to prove that the
all

Church
alliance

offers

a mysteriosophy which includes

the

good

elements of the old Mysteries without their corruptions.

The

between a Mystery-religion and speculative Mysticism within the Church was at this time as close as that between the Neoplatonic philosophy and the revived pagan Mysterycults. But when we try to determine the amount of direct influence exercised by the later paganism on Christian usages and thought, we are baffled both by the loss of documents, and by the extreme difficulty of tracing the pedigree of religious ideas and customs. I shall here content myself with calling attention to certain features which were common to the Greek Mysteries and to Alexandrian Christianity, and which may
perhaps claim to be in part a legacy of the old religion to the new. My object is not at all to throw discredit upon modes
of thought which

may have been
is

unfamiliar to

Palestinian

Jews.

A
it

doctrine or custom
is

not necessarily un-Christian
I

because

"

Greek

"

or " pagan."
rest the

know

of no stranger

whole weight of their religion upon "history," to suppose that our Lord meant to raise an universal religion on a purely Jewish basis. The Greek Mysteries were perhaps survivals of an oldworld ritual, based on a primitive kind of Nature-Mysticism, The "public Mysteries," of which the festival at Eleusis was the most important, were so called because the State admitted strangers by initiation to what was originally a national (There were also private Mysteries, conducted for profit cult. by itinerant priests {ayvprai) from the East, who as a class bore no good reputation.) The main features of the ritual The festival began at Athens, where at Eleusis are known. the mystcE collected, and, after a fast of several days, were
perversity than for

men who

APPENDIX B
" driven " to the
sea, or to

351
lakes

two

salt

on the road

to

Eleusis, for a purifying bath.

This kind of baptism washed

away the

stains of their former sins, the worst of which they were obliged to confess before being admitted to the Mysteries. Then, after sacrifices had 'been offered, the company went in procession to Eleusis, where Mystery-plays were performed in a great hall, large enough to hold thousands of people, and

the votaries were allowed to handle certain sacred

relics.

A

sacramental meal, in which a mixture of mint, barley-meal, and
water was administered to the initiated, was an integral part
of the festival.

reserved for the cVoVrai,

The most secret part of the ceremonies was who had passed through the ordinary

initiation in a previous year. It probably culminated in the solemn exhibition of a corn-ear, the symbol of Demeter. The obligation of silence was imposed not so much because there were any secrets to reveal, but that the holiest sacraments of the Greek religion might not be profaned by being brought This feeling was strengthened into contact with common life. by the belief that words are more than conventional symbols of things. A sacred formula must not be taken in vain, or divulged to persons who might misuse it. The evidence is strong that the Mysteries had a real spiritualising and moralising influence on large numbers of those who were initiated, and that this influence was increasing under the early empire. The ceremonies may have been trivial, and even at times ludicrous but the discovery had been made that the performance of solemn acts of devotion in common, after ascetical preparation, and with the aid of an impressive ritual, is one of the strongest incentives to piety. Diodorus is not alone in saying (he is speaking of the Samothracian Mysteries) that " those who have taken part in them are said to become more pious, more upright, and in every way better than their former selves." The chief motive force which led to the increased im;

portance of Mystery-religion in the

first

centuries of our era,

was the desire for " salvation " (crwTT^pta), which both with pagans and Christians was very closely connected with the hope of everlasting life. Happiness after death was the great promise held out in the Mysteries. The initiated were secure of

352

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
lie

blessedness in the next world, while the uninitiated must expect

"to

in darkness

and mire

after

their

death"

(cf.

Plato,

Fhcsdrus, 69).

How
to

was

this " salvation " attained or conferred ?
it

We

find

that several conflicting views were held, which

is

impossible

human mind at one time one of them, at another time to another. {a) Salvation is imparted by revdation. This makes it to depend upon knozv ledge ; but this knowledge was in the Mysteries conveyed by the spectacle or drama, not by any intelkeep
rigidly separate, since the

inclines to

lectual process.

Plutarch {de Defect. Orac. 22) says that those
initiated could

who had been

produce no demonstration or

proof of the beliefs which they had acquired.
quotes Aristotle as
saying
that

And

Synesius

do not learn anything, but rather receive impressions (ou jxadCiv tl Setv dXAa Tradftv). The old notion that monotheism was taught as a secret dogma rests on no evidence, and is very unlikely. There was a good deal of OeoKpacrta, as the ancients called it, and some departures from the current theogonies, but such
the
initiated

much nearer to pantheism than to monotheism. Certain truths about nature and the facts of life were communicated in the " greatest mysteries," according to Clement, and Cicero says the same thing. And sometimes the yvwo-is (TwTrjpia'i includes knowledge about the whence and whither of man (rtvc? itr/xev koI tI ycydva/Aci/, Clem. JSxc. ex Theod. 78). Some of the mystical formulae were no doubt susceptible of deep and edifying interpretations, especially in the direction of an elevated nature-worship. {h) Salvation was regarded, as in the Oriental religions, as emancipation from the fetters of human existence. Doctrines of this kind were taught especially in the Orphic Mysteries, where it was a secret doctrine (dTroppiyros Ao-yos, Plat. Phcedr.
doctrine as there was, was

62) that
((rrjfji.a.

"we men
400).

are here in a kind of prison," or in a
ij/v)(yj^,

tomb

rives to crMfxa elvat t^s

ws

Te^a/AyLieVT/s iv

tw

irapovTL,

Plat.

Cral.

They

also believed in transmigration of

souls,

and in a kvkXos t^s yeve'creo)? (rola fati et generationis). The " Orphic life," or rules of conduct enjoined upon these
mystics,

comprised asceticism, and,
laid

in

particular,

abstinence

from flesh; and

great

stress

on "following of God"

APPENDIX B
{IwecrOaL OX aKoXovOelv to3 ^ew) as the goal of

353
moral endeavour.
;

This

cult,

however, was tinged with Thracian barbarism

its

heaven was a kind of Valhalla (fi^Or] atwvto?, Plat. J?cJ>. ii. 363). Very similar was the rule of life prescribed by the Pythagorean brotherhood, who were also vegetarians, and advocates of virginity. Their system of purgation, followed by initiation,
liberated

men "from
life

the grievous woeful circle" (kvkXov

8'

i^iTTTav /3apviriv6eos apyaXeoio

on a tombstone), and
C.)

entitled

them "to a happy

with the gods."

(For the conception of

salvation as deification, see

Appendix

Whether these sects
is

taught that our separate individuality must be merged
certain
;

un-

but

among

the Gnostics,

who had much
I

in

common
art

with the Orphic //mte, the formula, "
I,"

am
crov

thou,

and thou
/cat

was

common

{Fi'stis

Sophia

;

formulse of the Marcosians
:

also in
ifiov crov.

Rohde, JPsyche^ VOl. ii. p. 61). A foretaste of this deliverance was given by initiation, which conducts the mystic to ecstasy^ an oXtyoxpoVios /xavia (Galen), in which " animus ita solutus est et vacuus ut
(tov.

an invocation of Hermes cyoj yap clfxi to el'ScuXov

to

ovofia ifiov

to

ei

plane nihil

sit

cum

corpore

"

(Cic.

De

Divin.

i.

i.

113);

which was otherwise conceived as
((t)

ivOovaiaa-fxos {Ivdovcnwa-q^

KoX ovkIti ovarj'i iv iavTrj Stavota?, Philo).

The

means.
potency.

imperishable Divine nature is infused by mechanical Sacraments and the like have a magical or miraculous

The Homeric hymn

ritual purity as the condition

people trusted to
previous

Demeter insists only on and we hear that the mystic baptism to wash out all their
to

of salvation,

Similarly the baptism of blood, the taurobolium^ sins. was supposed to secure eternal happiness, at any rate if death occurred within twenty years after the ceremony when that interval had elapsed, it was common to renew the rite. (We find on inscriptions such phrases as " arcanis perfusionibus in aeternum renatus.") So mechanical was the operation of the
;

Mysteries supposed to be, that rites were performed for the dead (Plat. Rep. 364. St. Paul seems to refer to a similar custom in i Cor. xv. 29), and infants were appointed " priests," and thoroughly initiated, that they might be clean from their " original sin." Among the Gnostics, a favourite phrase was that initiation releases men "from the fetters of
2X

354
fate

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
and necessity
with
"
;

the gods of the inteUigible world {6eol

vorjTOi),

whom we

hold communion in the Mysteries,

being above "fate."
(d) Salvation consists of

moral regeneration.

The

efficacy

of initiation without

moral reformation naturally

appeared

doubtful to serious thinkers.
asked,

Diogenes

is

reported to have

"What

say

you?

Will Patgecion the thief be happier

in the next

initiated?"

world than Epaminondas, because he has been And Philo says, " It often happens that good
are, if

men
lewd

are not initiated, but that robbers,

women

they pay

phants."

Ovid
35)

protests

and murderers, and and hieroagainst the immoral doctrine of

money

to the initiators

mechanical purgation with more than his usual earnestness
(Fasfi,
ii.

:—
tollere posse senes.
;

" Omne nefas omnemque mali purgamina causam
Credebant nostri
Greecia principium moris fuit
ilia

nocentes

Impia

lustratos ponere facta putat.
faciles,
tolli

A

!

nitnium

qui

tristia

crimina csedis
!

Fluminea

posse putetis aqua

Such passages show
felt

that abuses existed, but also that

it

be a scandal if the moral improvement.
to

initiated person failed to exhibit

was any

These

different
I

conceptions of the office of the Mysteries
said,

cannot, as

have
of

reappear in the history of the

be separated historically. They all The Christian sacraments.
-

main

features

the

Mystery

system which
of

passed

into

Catholicism are the
the
three
stages
in

notions
the

of secrecy,

symbolism,
all,

of of

mystical brotherhood, of sacramental grace, and, above
spiritual
life,

ascetic

purification,

illumination,

and

cTroTrraa as the crown.

not

The secrecy observed about creeds and liturgical forms had much to do with the development of Mysticism, except by
(cf.

associating sacredness with obscurity
rj

Strabo,

x.

fxvcTTLKr] o-e/AVOTTOtct

TO 6eiov, iii[xovfxivq t^v

(f>va-LV

467, tj Kpvij/is avTOv ck^cuitself in

yovorav t^v

aLo-Orjo-iv),

a tendency which also

showed
i.

the love of symbolism.

This certainly had a great influence,
(cf.

both in the form of allegorism
S^t

Clem.

Stro7n.

i.

15, eori

a KoX alviierai

jxol

rj

ypat^rf Treipda-CTai. 8k Koi

\av6dvov(ra

APPENDIX B
ttTTCtv

35
(TtcoTraicra),

5

Koi

tTTLKpvTVTOjxivq

iKcf)rjvai

KOL Sei^at

which
in the

Philo calls "the

method of the Greek Mysteries," and

various kinds of Nature-Mysticism.

The

great value of the
for

Mysteries

lay

in

the

facilities

which they offered

free

symbolical interpretation.

The
was, as

idea of mystical union by

means
sec.

of a

common meal
For instance,
is

we have

seen, familiar to the Greeks.

Plutarch says (JVon posse suav. vivi

Epic. 21), "It

not

the wine or the cookery that delights us at these feasts, but

good hope, and the
that

belief that

God

is

present with us, and

He

accepts our service graciously."
sacrifice, alike in
it

There have always

been two ideas of

—the
slain

savage and civilised cults

mystical, in which

is

a cotnnrmiion, the victim
or a

who

is
;

and eaten being himself the god,

symbol of the god
is

and the commercial, in which something valuable the god in the hope of receiving some benefit

offered to

in

exchange.
into itself

The
all

Mysteries certainly encouraged the idea of communion,
it

and made

easier for the Christian rite to gather

up

the religious elements which can be contained in a sacra-

ment of this kind. But the scheme of ascent from KaOapcn^
fivr](TL<;

to

fjLvrjcrL?,

and from

to

i-TroTTTeia, is

the great contribution of the Mysteries to
Purification began,
;

Christian Mysticism.

with confession of sin

it

as we have seen, proceeded by means of fasting (with

which was combined dyveia a-rro o-ui'ovcrtas) and meditation, till the second stage, that of illumination, was reached. The majority were content with the partial illumination which belonged to this stage, just as in books of Roman Catholic divinity "mystical theology" is a summit of perfection to which "all are not called." The elect advanced, after a year's
interval at
least, to

the

full

contemplation {iTroTnda).

This

highest truth was conveyed in various ways
bols dramatically displayed, by

symsolemn words of mysterious import ; by explanations of enigmas and allegories and dark speeches (cf. Orig. Cels. vii. i o), and perhaps by " visions and revelations." It is plain that this is one of the cases in which Christianity conquered Hellenism by borrowing from it all its best elements ; and I do not see that a Christian need feel any reluctance to make this admission.
visible

— by

APPENDIX
The Doctrine
The

C

of Deification by man of
of
religious

conception of salvation as the acquisition
is

Divine attributes
thought.
It

common

to

many forms
in

was widely diffused

the

Roman Empire

at

the time of the Christian revelation, and was steadily growing

importance during the first centuries of our era. The Orphic Mysteries had long taught the doctrine. On tombstones erected by members of the Orphic brotherhoods we " Happy and blessed one find such inscriptions as these
in
:

!

Thou

shalt

be a god instead of a mortal
avrl ppoTolo)
;

" (oX/Ste nal /xa/cap-

icrre, 6e6<; 8' eo-r]

"

Thou

art a

god instead of a

wretched

man "

(^eos el eXeetvoD l^ avOpwnov).

been said that "

deification

It has indeed was the idea of salvation taught in

the Mysteries " (Harnack).

To

strange, but arrogant

moiiern ears the word "deification" sounds not only and shocking. The Western conscious-

ness has always tended to emphasise the distinctness of individuality,

and has been supicious of anything

that looks like

juggling with the rights of persons,

human
St.

or Divine.

This

is

especially true of thought in the Latin countries.

Deus has

never been a

fluid

concept

like

6e6<;.

Augustine no doubt

gives us the current Alexandrian philosophy in a Latin dress

the Latin-speaking countries.

but this part of his Platonism never became acclimatised in The Teutonic genius is in this
matter more in sympathy with the Greek
while the later
;

but we are AVesterns,

"Greeks "were

half Orientals,
is

and there

is

much

in their habits of

thought which

strange and unin-

telligible

to

emperors.

Take, for instance, the apotheosis of the us. This was a genuinely Eastern mode 'Of homage,

APPENDIX C
ridiculous.

357

which to the true European remained either profane or But Vespasian's last joke, " Vce I pttto Dens fio /" would not sound comic in Greek. The associations of the word 6€6<i were not sufficiently venerable to make the idea of
deification
(6co-iroLr]arL<i)

grotesque.
of

We
the

find,

as

we should
even

expect,

that

this

vulgarisation

word

affected

Christians in the Greek-speaking countries. Not only were the " barbarous people " of Galatia and ISIalta ready to find

" theophanies

" in

the

visits of apostles, or

any other strangers

have unusual powers, but the philosophers (except the "godless Epicureans") agreed in calling the highest faculty of the soul Divine, and in speaking of "the God who dwells within us." There is a remarkable passage of Origen (quoted by Harnack) which shows how elastic the word
to

who seemed

Oeo^

was

in the current dialect of the educated.
is

" In another

sense

God

said to be an immortal, rational, moral Being.
(ao-rei'a)

In this sense every gentle

soul

is

God.

But God

is

otherwise defined as the self-existing immortal Being.

In this

men are not gods." Clement, too, speaks of the soul as "training itself to be God." Even more remarkable than such language (of which
sense the souls that are enclosed in wise

many

other

examples

might be given)
bishops,

is

the

frequently
philo-

recurring

accusation

that

teachers, martyrs,

sophers, etc., are venerated with Divine or semi-Divine honours.

These charges are brought by Christians against pagans, by pagans against Christians, and by rival Christians against each other. Even the Epicureans habitually spoke of their founder Epicurus as "a god." If we try to analyse the concept of ^£0?, thus loosely and widely used, we find that the prominent
idea was that exemption from the
prerogative of a Divine Being
(cf.
i

doom
Tim.

of death was the
vi.

i6,

^'

Who

onfy

hath immortality
is

"),

and

that therefore the gift of immortality

itself

a deification.

This notion

several Christian writers.

is distinctly adopted by Theophilus says (ad Autol. ii. 27)

"that man,
God."

receive from

by keeping the commandments of God, may him immortality as a reward (/xto-^oV), mid becotne And Clement {Stro7?i. v. 10. 63) says, "To be im/jly]

perishable {to

(ftOeLpea-Oai)

is

to share
x.

in Divinity."

the same effect Hippolytus {Philos.

34) says,

To "Thy body

358
shall
thoii

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM
hast become

be immortal and incorruptible as well as thy soul. For God. All the things that follow upon the Divine nature God has promised to supply to thee, for thou
deified in

wast

being born to immortality.^''

^Vith regard to

later times,

Harnack says that "after Theophilus, Iren^eus, Hippolytus, and Origen, the idea of deification is found in all the Fathers of the ancient Church, and that in a primary
position.

We

have

it

in

Athanasius,

the

Cappadocians,

Apollinaris,
Cyril,

Ephraem
it,

Syrus, Epiphanius,

and

others, as also in

Sophronius, and late Greek and
Ps.
Ixxxii. 6

Russian theologians.

In proof of

('I said,

Ye

often quoted."

He

quotes from Athanasius,
;

are gods') " He

is

very

became

man

"If, then,

we might be deified " and from Pseudo-Hippolytus, man has become immortal, he will be God." This notion grew within the Church as chiliastic and
that

apocalyptic Christianity faded away.
that

the

Incarnation,
into a
state

etc.,

A favourite phrase was "abolished death," and brought
which
is

mankind

transformation of

This spoken of as OeoTT-oLfjcn?, is the highest work of the Logos. Athanasius makes it clear that what he contemplates is no pantheistic merging of the personality in the Deity, but rather a renovation

of " incorruption " (d^^apcrta).
nature,
also

human

after the original type.

But the process of deification may be conceived of in two ways (a) as essentialisation, (b) as substitution. The former may perhaps be called the more philosophical conception, the latter the more religious. The former lays stress on the high calling of man, and his potential greatness as the image of God; theTatter, on his present misery and alienation, and his need of redemption. The former was the teaching of the Neoplatonic philosophy, in which the human mind was the throne of the Godhead the latter was the doctrine of the Mysteries, in which salvation was conceived of realistically as something imparted or infused.
:

;

The

notion that salvation or deification consists in realising

our true nature, was supported by the favourite doctrine that like only can know like. "If the soul were not essentially

Godlike (^coetSTys), it could never know God." This doctrine might seem to lead to the heretical conclusion that man is

APPENDIX C
6fjLoov(TLo<: to)

359
This conclusion,
/j.epos

JJarpL in the

same sense

as Christ.

however, was strongly repudiated both by Clement and Origen.

The former
Koi

{Strom,

xvi. 74)
;

says that

men

are not
xiii.

6eov

Tw

6€<2

ofxoovo-Loi

and Origen

very impious to assert that

we

25) says it is are o/xoovctlol with " the un{in
oh.

J

begotten nature."

But

for

those

who thought

of

Christ

mainly as the Divine Logos or universal Reason, the line was
not very easy to draw.

Methodius says that every believer

must, through participation in Christ, be born as a Christ,

view which,
or that the
difficulty as

if

pressed logically (as
is

it

ought not to

be), implies

either that our nature
life

at

bottom identical with that of
is

Christ,

of Christ

substituted for our own.

The

to

whether the
is

human

soul

is,

strictly

speaking,

" divinae particula aurae,"

and

interesting passage quoted p. 34;
(i) in

met by Proclus in the ingenious "There are," he says,
which the whole
is is

"three sorts of wholes,

anterior to

the parts, (2) in which the whole
(3)

which knits into one
TO. /Acp?/

stuff

composed of the parts, the parts and the whole (17 toIs
This
is

oAois

crwv^atvouo-a)."

is

also
split

the

doctrine

of

Plotinus,

and of Augustine.

God

not
in

creatures, nor are they essential to
is

Him

up among His the same way as He
is

to them.

Erigena's doctrine of deification

expressed (not
iii.

very clearly) in the following sentence {De Div. Nat.
igitur participatio divinae essentiae

9)

:

" Est

assumptio.
est

Assumptio vero
substantia
et

eius divinae sapientiae
essentia, et

fusio

quse

omnium

quaecumque in eis naturaliter intelliguntur." According to Eckhart, the Wesen of God transforms the soul into itself by means of the " spark " or " apex of the soul (equivalent to Plotinus' KevTpov ijyvxv% Eym. vi. 9. 8), which is "so akin to God that it is one with God, and not merely united to Him." The history of this doctrine of the spark, and of the closelyconnected word synteresis, is interesting. The word "spark"
'"

occurs in this connexion as early as Tatian,
" In the beginning the spirit was a constant
soul,

who

says {Or, 13):

but forsook
retained, as

it

companion of the because the soul would not follow it
its

yet

it

it

were, a spark of
41.

power,"

etc.

See also
part
in
i.):

Tertullian,

De Anima,

The

curious word synieresis (often

misspelt

sinderesis),

which

plays

a

considerable
in

mediaeval mystical treatises, occurs

first

Jerome (on Ezech.

36o
"

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

Quartamque ponunt quam Gr?eci vocant a-vvr^prja-tv, quae Cain quoque pectore non exstinguitur, et qua victi voluptatibus vel furore nos peccare sentimus.
scintilla conscientiae in
. .

.

In Scripturis [earn] interdum vocari legimus Spiritum."

Cf.

Rom.

viii.

26

;

2

Cor.

ii.

11.

Then we

find

it

in

Alexander of

Hales, and in Bonaventura, who {/tinerare, c. i) defines it as " apex mentis seu scintilla " ; and more precisely {B reviloquium.

Pars
enim

2,

c.

11): "Benignissimus

Deus quadruplex
gratiae.

contulit ei

adiutorium, scilicet duplex naturae et duplex

Duplicem
recte

indidit rectitudinem ipsi naturae, videlicet
et h?ec est rectitudo conscientiae,

unam ad

iudicandum,

aliam ad recte

volendum,

et haec est synteresis, cuius est

remurmurare contra
of Fritslar speaks

malum
of
it

et stimulare

ad bonum."

Hermann

power or faculty in the soul, wherein God works immediat