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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.]

[Footnote 176: Hunt's summary of the philosophy of the Vedanta Sara
(_Pantheism and Christianity_, p. 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 like the coats of an onion. The
human soul frees itself by knowledge from the sheath. But what is this
knowledge? To know that the human intellect and all its faculties are
ignorance and delusion. This is to take away the sheath, and to find
that God is all. Whatever is not Brahma is nothing. So long as a man
perceives himself to be anything, he is nothing. When he discovers
that his supposed individuality is no individuality, then he has
knowledge. Man must strive to rid himself of himself as an object of
thought. He must be only a subject. As subject he is Brahma, while the
objective world is mere phenomenon."]

[Footnote 177: We may compare with them the following maxims, which,
enclosed in an outline of Mount Carmel, form the frontispiece to an
early edition of St. 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 reach to the possession of Infinity, desire to possess nothing.

"To be included in the being of Infinity, desire to be thyself nothing
whatever.

"The moment that thou art resting in a creature, thou art ceasing to
advance towards Infinity.

"In order to unite thyself to Infinity, thou must surrender finite
things without reserve."

After reading such maxims, we shall probably be inclined to think that
"the Infinite" as a name for God might be given up with advantage.
There is nothing Divine about a _tabula rasa_.]

[Footnote 178: Cf. Richard of St. Victor, _de Præp. Anim._ 83,
"ascendat per semetipsum super semetipsum."]

[Footnote 179: The same is true of our attitude towards external
nature. We are always trying to rise 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 spiritualising our impressions; and to
regard the process as completed is to lose shadow and substance
together.]

[Footnote 180: It may be objected that I have misused the term _via
negativa_, which is merely the line of argument which establishes the
transcendence of God, as the "affirmative road" establishes His
immanence. I am far from wishing to depreciate a method which when
rightly used is a safeguard against Pantheism, but the whole history
of mediæval Mysticism shows how mischievous it is when followed
exclusively.]

[Footnote 181: See Vaughan, _Hours with the Mystics_, vol. i. p. 58.]

[Footnote 182: Seth, _Hegelianism and Personality_, states this more
strongly. He argues that "the ultimate goal of Realism is a
thorough-going Pantheism." God is regarded as the _summum genus_, the
ultimate Substance of which all existing things are accidents. 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.]

[Footnote 183: McTaggart, _Studies in Hegelian Dialectic_, p. 159 sq.,
argues that Hegel means that the Absolute Idea exists eternally in its
full perfection. There can be no _real_ development in time. "Infinite
time is a false infinite of endless aggregation." The whole discussion
is very instructive and interesting.]

[Footnote 184: So Lasson says well, in his book on Meister Eckhart,
"Mysticism views everything from the standpoint of teleology, while
Pantheism generally stops at causality."]

[Footnote 185: As, for instance, Leslie Stephen tries to do in his
_Agnostic's Apology_.]

[Footnote 186: The system of Spinoza, based on the canon, "Omnis
determinatio est negatio," proceeds by wiping out all dividing lines,
which he regards as illusions, in order to reach the ultimate truth of
things. This, as Hegel showed, is acosmism rather than Pantheism, and
certainly not "atheism." The method of Spinoza should have led him, as
the same method led Dionysius, to define God as [Greek: hyperousios
aoristia]. He only escapes this conclusion by an inconsistency. See E.
Caird, _Evolution of Religion_, vol. i. pp. 104, 105.]

[Footnote 187: There is a third system which is called pantheistic;
but as it has nothing to do with Mysticism, I need not try to
determine whether it deserves the name or not. It is that which
deifies physical law. Sometimes it is "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 pantheistic, because it admits only one
Will in the universe.]




LECTURE IV


[Greek: "Edizêsamên emeôuton."]

HERACLITUS.


"La philosophie n'est pas philosophie si elle ne touche à l'abîme;
mais elle cesse d'être philosophie si elle y tombe."

COUSIN.


"Denn Alles muss in Nichts zerfallen,
Wenn es im Sein beharren will."

GOETHE.


"Seek no more abroad, say I,
House and Home, but turn thine eye
Inward, and observe thy breast;
There alone dwells solid Rest.
Say not that this House is small,
Girt up in a narrow wall:
In a cleanly sober mind
Heaven itself full room doth find.
Here content make thine abode
With thyself and with thy God.
Here in this sweet privacy
May'st thou with thyself agree,
And keep House in peace, tho' all
Th' Universe's fabric fall."

JOSEPH BEAUMONT.


"The One remains, the many change and pass:
Heaven's light for ever shines; earth's shadows fly:
Life, like a dome of many-coloured glass,
Stains the white radiance of Eternity."

SHELLEY.



CHRISTIAN PLATONISM AND SPECULATIVE MYSTICISM

2. IN THE WEST

"Know ye not that ye are a temple of God, and that the Spirit of God
dwelleth in you?" - 1 COR. iii. 16.


We have seen that Mysticism, like most other types of religion, had
its cradle in the East. The Christian Platonists, whom we considered
in the last Lecture, wrote in Greek, and we had no occasion to mention
the Western Churches. But after the Pseudo-Dionysius, the East had
little more to contribute to Christian thought. John of Damascus, in
the eighth century, half mystic and half scholastic, need not detain
us. The Eastern Churches rapidly sank into a deplorably barbarous
condition, from which they have never emerged. We may therefore turn
away from the Greek-speaking countries, and trace the course of
Mysticism in the Latin and Teutonic races.

Scientific Mysticism in the West did not all pass through Dionysius.
Victorinus, a Neoplatonic philosopher, was converted to Christianity
in his old age, about 360 A.D. The story of his conversion, and the
joy which it caused in the Christian community, is told by St.
Augustine[188]. He was a deep thinker of the speculative mystical
type, but a clumsy and obscure writer, in spite of his rhetorical
training. His importance lies in his position as the first Christian
Neoplatonist who wrote in Latin.

The Trinitarian doctrine of Victorinus anticipates in a remarkable
manner that of the later philosophical mystics. The Father,
he says, eternally knows Himself in the Son. The Son is the
self-objectification of God, the "_forma_" of God[189], the utterance
of the Absolute. The Father is "_cessatio_," "_silentium_," "_quies_";
but He is also "_motus_" while the Son is "_motio_." There is no
contradiction between "_motus_" and "_cessatio_" since "_motus_" is
not the same as "_mutatio_." "Movement" belongs to the "being" of God;
and this eternal "movement" is the generation of the Son. This eternal
generation is exalted above time. All life is _now_: we live always in
the present, not in the past or future; and thus our life is a symbol
of eternity, to which all things are for ever present[190]. The
generation of the Son is at the same time the creation of the
archetypal world; for the Son is the cosmic principle[191], through
whom all that potentially _is_ is actualised. He even says that the
Father is to the Son as [Greek: ho mê ôn] to [Greek: ho ôn], thus
taking the step which Plotinus wished to avoid, and applying the same
expression to the superessential God as to infra-essential
matter.[192]

This actualisation is a self-limitation of God,[193] but involves no
degradation. Victorinus uses language implying the subordination of
the Son, but is strongly opposed to Arianism.

The Holy Ghost is the "bond" (_copula_) of the Trinity, joining in
perfect love the Father and the Son. Victorinus is the first to use
this idea, which afterwards became common. It is based on the
Neoplatonic triad of _status, progressio, regressus_ ([Greek: monê,
proodos, epistrophê]). In another place he symbolises the Holy Ghost
as the female principle, the "Mother of Christ" in His eternal life.
This metaphor is a relic of Gnosticism, which the Church wisely
rejected.

The second Person of the Trinity contains in Himself the archetypes of
everything. He is the "_elementum_," "_habitaculum_," "_habitator_,"
"_locus_" of the universe. The material world was created for man's
probation. All spirits pre-existed, and their partial immersion in an
impure material environment is a degradation from which they must
aspire to be delivered. But the whole mundane history of a soul is
only the realisation of the idea which had existed from all eternity
in the mind of God. These doctrines show that Victorinus is involved
in a dualistic view of matter, and in a form of predestinarianism; but
he has no definite teaching on the relation of sin to the ideal
world.

His language about Christ and the Church is mystical in tone. "The
Church is Christ," he says; "The resurrection of Christ is our
resurrection"; and of the Eucharist, "The body of Christ is life."

We now come to St. Augustine himself, who at one period of his life
was a diligent student of Plotinus. It would be hardly justifiable to
claim St. Augustine as a mystic, since there are important parts of
his teaching which have no affinity to Mysticism; but it touched him
on one side, and he remained half a Platonist. His natural sympathy
with Mysticism was not destroyed by the vulgar and perverted forms of
it with which he was first brought in contact. The Manicheans and
Gnostics only taught him to distinguish true Mysticism from false: he
soon saw 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 in the following extracts. In a few
places he comes dangerously near to some of the errors which we found
in Dionysius.

God is above all that can be said of Him. We must not even call Him
ineffable;[194] He is best adored in silence,[195] best known by
nescience,[196] best described by negatives.[197] God is absolutely
immutable; this is a doctrine on which he often insists, and which
pervades all his teaching about predestination. The world pre-existed
from all eternity in the mind of God; in the Word of God, by whom all
things were made, and who is immutable Truth, all things and events
are stored up together unchangeably, and all are one. God sees the
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 this error. For instance, in the
_Confessions_[198] he says that "things above are better than things
below; but all creation together is better than things above"; that is
to say, true reality is something higher than an abstract
spirituality.[199]

He is fond of speaking of the _Beauty_ of God; and as he identifies
beauty with symmetry,[200] it is plain that the formless "Infinite" is
for him, as for every true Platonist, the bottom and not the top of
the scale of being. Plotinus had perhaps been the first to speak of
the Divine nature as the meeting-point of the Good, the True, and the
Beautiful; and this conception, which is of great value, appears also
in Augustine. There are three grades of beauty, they both say,
corporeal, spiritual, and divine,[201] the first being an image of the
second, and the second of the third.[202] "Righteousness is the truest
beauty,[203]" Augustine says more than once. "All that is beautiful
comes from the highest Beauty, which is God." This is true Platonism,
and points to Mysticism of the symbolic kind, which we must consider
later. St. Augustine is on less secure ground when he says that evil
is simply the splash of dark colour which gives relief to the picture;
and when in other places he speaks of it as simple privation of good.
But here again he closely follows Plotinus.[204]

St. Augustine was not hostile to the idea of a World-Soul; he regards
the universe as a living organism;[205] but he often warns his readers
against identifying God and the world, or supposing that God is merely
immanent in creation. The Neoplatonic teaching about the relation of
individual souls to the World-Soul may have helped him to formulate
his own teaching about the mystical union of Christians with Christ.
His phrase is that Christ and the Church are "_una persona_."

St. Augustine arranges the ascent of the soul in seven stages.[206]
But the higher steps are, as usual, purgation, illumination, and
union. This last, which he calls "the vision and contemplation of
truth," is "not a step, but the goal of the journey." When we have
reached it, we shall understand the wholesomeness of the doctrines
with which we were fed, as children with milk; the meaning of such
"hard sayings" as the resurrection of the body will become plain to
us. Of the blessedness which attends this state he says
elsewhere,[207] "I entered, and beheld with the mysterious eye of my
soul the light that never changes, above the eye of my soul, above my
intelligence. It was something altogether different from any earthly
illumination. It was higher than my intelligence because it made me,
and I was lower because made by it. He who knows the truth knows that
light, and he who knows that light knows eternity. Love knows that
light." And again he says,[208] "What is this which flashes in upon
me, and thrills my heart without wounding it? I tremble and I burn; I
tremble, feeling that I am unlike Him; I burn, feeling that I am like
Him."

One more point must be mentioned before we leave St. Augustine. In
spite of, or rather because of, his Platonism, he had nothing but
contempt for the later Neoplatonism, the theurgic and theosophic
apparatus of Iamblichus and his friends. I have said nothing yet about
the extraordinary development of magic in all its branches, astrology,
necromancy, table-rapping, and other kinds of divination, charms and
amulets and witchcraft, which brought ridicule upon the last struggles
of paganism. These aberrations of Nature-Mysticism will be dealt with
in their later developments in my seventh Lecture. St. Augustine,
after mentioning some nonsensical incantations of the "abracadabra"
kind, says, "A Christian old woman is wiser than these philosophers."
In truth, the spirit of Plato lived in, and not outside Christianity,
even in the time of Porphyry. And on the cultus of angels and spirits,
which was closely connected with theurgic superstition, St.
Augustine's judgment is very instructive. "Whom should I find," he
asks, "to 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.[209]"

In spite of St. Augustine's Platonism and the immense influence which
he exercised, the Western Church was slow in developing a mystical
theology. The Greek Mysticism, based on emanation, was not congenial
to the Western mind, and the time of the German, with its philosophy
of immanence, was not yet. The tendency of Eastern thinkers is to try
to gain a view of reality as a whole, complete and entire: the form
under which it most readily pictures it is that of _space_. The West
seeks rather to discover the universal laws which in every part of the
universe are working out their fulfilment. The form under which it
most readily pictures reality is that of _time_.[210] Thus
Neoplatonism had to undergo certain modifications before it could
enter deeply into the religious consciousness of the West.

The next great name is that of John Scotus Erigena,[211] 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 theories of Dionysius, and to present them as a
consistent philosophical system worked out by the help of Aristotle
and perhaps Boethius.[212] 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. He is a mystic only by his
intellectual affinities;[213] the warmth of pious aspiration and love
which makes Dionysius, amid all his extravagance, still a religious
writer, has cooled entirely in Erigena. He can pray with fervour and
eloquence for intellectual enlightenment; but there was nothing of the
prophet or saint about him, to judge from his writings. Still, though
one might dispute his title to be called either a Christian or a
mystic, we must spare a few minutes to this last flower of
Neoplatonism, which bloomed so late on our northern islands.

God, says Erigena, is called Essence or Being; but, strictly speaking,
He is not "Being";[214] for Being arises in opposition to not-Being,
and there is no opposition to the Absolute, or God. Eternity, the
abode or nature of God, is homogeneous and without parts, one, simple,
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 they are
considered as parts of the universal harmony." All things begin from
unity and end in unity: the Absolute can contain nothing
self-contradictory. And so God cannot be called Goodness, for Goodness
is opposed to Badness, and God is above this distinction. Goodness,
however is a more comprehensive term than Being. 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; "for we read, God saw all things; and _not_, lo, they were,
but, lo, they were very good." All things are, in so far as they are
good. "But the things that are not are also called good, and are far
better than those which are." Being, in fact, is a defect, "since it
separates from the superessential Good." The feeling which prompts
this strange expression is that since time and space are themselves
onesided appearances, a fixed limit must be set to the amount of
goodness and reality which can be represented under these conditions.
Erigena therefore thinks that to enter the time-process must be to
contract a certain admixture of unreality or evil. In so far as life
involves _separateness_ (not distinction), this must be true; but the
manifold is only evil when it is discordant and antagonistic to unity.
That the many-in-one should appear as the one-in-many, is the effect
of the forms of time and space in which it appears; the statement that
"the things which are not are far better than those which are," is
only true in the sense that the world of appearance is permeated by
evil as yet unsubdued, which in the Godhead exists only as something
overcome or transmuted.

Erigena says that God is above all the categories, including that of
relation. It follows that the Persons of the Trinity, which are only
"relative names," are fused in the Absolute.[215] We may make
statements about God, if we remember that they are only metaphors; but
whatever we deny about Him, we deny truly.[216] This is the "negative
road" of Dionysius, from 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 destiny of all things is to "rest and be quiet" in God. But he
tries to escape the conclusion that all distinctions must disappear;
rather, he says, the return to God raises creatures into a higher
state, in which they first attain their true being. All individual
types will be preserved in the universal. He borrows an illustration,
not a very happy one, from Plotinus. "As iron, when it becomes
red-hot, seems to be turned into pure fire, but remains no less iron
than before; so when body passes into soul, and rational substances
into God, they do not lose their identity, but preserve it in a higher
state of being."

Creation he regards as a necessary self-realisation of God. "God was
not," he says, "before He made the universe." 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 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 world, not out of nothing, nor out
of something, but out of Himself.[217] The creatures have always
pre-existed "yonder" in the Word; God has only caused them to be
realised in time and space.

"Thought and Action are identical in God." "He sees by working and
works by seeing."

Man is a microcosm. The fivefold division of nature - corporeal, vital,
sensitive, rational, intellectual - is all represented in his
organisation. The corruptible body is an "accident," the consequence
of sin. The original body was immortal and incorruptible. This body
will one day be restored.

Evil has no substance, and is destined to disappear. "Nothing contrary
to the Divine goodness and life and blessedness can be coeternal with
them." The world must reach perfection, when all will ultimately be
God. "The loss and absence of Christ is the torment of the whole
creation, nor do I think that there is any other." There is no "place
of punishment" anywhere.

Erigena is an admirable interpreter of the Alexandrians and of
Dionysius, but he emphasises their most dangerous tendencies. We
cannot be surprised that his books were condemned; it is more strange
that the audacious theories which they repeat from Dionysius should
have been allowed to pass without censure for so long. Indeed, the
freedom of speculation accorded to the mystics forms a remarkable
exception to the zeal for exact orthodoxy which characterised the
general policy of the early Church. The explanation is that in the
East Mysticism has seldom been revolutionary, and has compensated for
its speculative audacity by the readiness of its outward conformity.
Moreover, the theories of Dionysius about the earthly and heavenly
hierarchies were by no means unwelcome to sacerdotalism. In the West
things were different. Mysticism there has always been a spirit of
reform, generally of revolt. There is much even in Erigena, whose main
affinities were with the East, which forecasts the Reformation. He is
the father, not only of Western Mysticism and scholasticism, but of
rationalism as well.[218] But the danger which lurked in his
speculations was not at first recognised. His book on predestination
was condemned in 855 and 859 for its universalist doctrine,[219] and
two hundred years later his Eucharistic doctrine, revived by Berengar,
was censured.[220] But it was not till the thirteenth century that a
general condemnation was passed upon him. This judgment followed the
appearance of a strongly pantheistic or acosmistic school of mystics,
chief among whom was Amalric of Bena, a master of theology at Paris
about 1200. Amalric is a very interesting figure, for his teaching


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