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exhibits all the features which are most characteristic of extravagant
Mysticism in the West - its strong belief in Divine immanence, not
only in the Church, but in the individual; its uncompromising
rationalism, contempt for ecclesiastical forms, 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; they were said to teach that unconsecrated bread
was the body of Christ, and that God spoke through Ovid (a curious
choice!), as well as through St. Augustine. They denied the
resurrection of the body, and the traditional eschatology, saying that
"he who has the knowledge of God in himself has paradise within him."
They insisted on a progressive historical revelation - the reign of the
Father began with Abraham, that of the Son with Christ, that of the
Spirit with themselves. They despised sacraments, believing that the
Spirit works without means. They taught that he who lives in love can
do no wrong, and were suspected, probably truly, of the licentious
conduct which naturally follows from such a doctrine. This
antinomianism is no part of true Mysticism; but it is often found in
conjunction with mystical speculation among the half-educated. It is
the vulgar perversion of Plotinus' doctrine that matter is nothing,
and that the highest part of our nature can take no stain.[221] We
find evidence of immorality practised "in nomine caritatis" among the
Gnostics and Manicheans of the first centuries, and these heresies
never really became extinct. The sects of the "Free Spirit," who
flourished later in the thirteenth century, had an even worse
reputation than the Amalricians. They combined with their Pantheism a
Determinism which destroyed all sense of responsibility. 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 historical Christ was a mere man; that
the Gospel history has only a symbolical truth; that the soul only,
without the body, is immortal; and that the Pope and his priests are
servants of Satan.

The problem for the Church was how to encourage the warm love and
faith of the mystics without giving the rein to these mischievous
errors. The twelfth and thirteenth centuries produced several famous
writers, who attempted to combine scholasticism and Mysticism.[222]
The leaders in this attempt were Bernard,[223] Hugo and Richard of St.
Victor, Bonaventura, Albertus Magnus, and (later) Gerson. Their works
are not of great value as contributions to religious philosophy, for
the Schoolmen were too much afraid of their authorities - Catholic
tradition and Aristotle - to probe difficulties to the bottom; and the
mystics, who, by making the renewed life of the soul their
starting-point, were more independent, 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.[224] Speculation being for them restricted within the limits of
Church-dogma, they were obliged to be more psychological and less
metaphysical than Dionysius or Erigena. The Victorines insist often on
self-knowledge as the way to the knowledge of God and on
self-purification as more important than philosophy. "The way to
ascend to God," says Hugo, "is to descend into oneself.[225]" "The
ascent is through self above self," says Richard; we are to rise on
stepping-stones of our dead selves to higher things. "Let him that
thirsts to see God clean his mirror, let him make his own spirit
bright," says Richard again. The Victorines do not disparage reason,
which is the organ by which mankind in general apprehend the things of
God; but they regard ecstatic contemplation as a supra-rational state
or faculty, which can only be reached _per mentis excessum_, and in
which the naked truth is seen, no longer in a glass darkly.[226]

This highest state, in which "Reason dies in giving birth to Ecstasy,
as Rachel died in giving birth to Benjamin," is not on the high road
of the spiritual life. It is a rare gift, bestowed by supernatural
grace. Richard says that the first stage of contemplation is an
expansion of the soul, the second an exaltation, the third an
_alienation_. The first arises from human effort, the second from
human effort assisted by Divine grace, the third from Divine grace
alone. The predisposing conditions for the third state are devotion
(_devotio_), admiration (_admiratio_), and joy (_exaltatio_); but
these cannot _produce_ ecstasy, which is a purely supernatural

This sharp opposition between the natural and the supernatural, which
is fully developed first by Richard of St. Victor, is the
distinguishing feature of Catholic Mysticism. It is an abandonment of
the great aim which the earlier Christian idealists had set before
themselves, namely, to find spiritual law in the normal course of
nature, and the motions of the Divine Word in the normal processes of
mind. St. John's great doctrine of the Logos as a cosmic principle is
now dropped. Roman Catholic apologists[227] claim that Mysticism was
thus set free from the "idealistic pantheism" of the Neoplatonist, and
from the "Gnostic-Manichean dualism" which accompanies it. The world
of space and time (they say) is no longer regarded, as it was by the
Neoplatonist, as a fainter effluence from an ideal world, nor is human
individuality endangered by theories of immanence. Both nature and man
regain a sort of independence. We once more tread as free men on solid
ground, while occasional "supernatural phenomena" are not wanting to
testify to the existence of higher powers.

We have seen that the Logos-doctrine (as understood by St. Clement) is
exceptionally liable to perversion; but the remedy of discarding it is
worse than the disease. The unscriptural[228] and unphilosophical
cleft between natural and supernatural introduces a more intractable
dualism than that of Origen. The faculty which, according to this
theory, possesses immediate intuition into the things of God is not
only irresponsible to reason, but stands in no relation to it. It
ushers us into an entirely new world, where the familiar criteria of
truth and falsehood are inapplicable. And what it reveals to us is not
a truer and deeper view of the actual, but a wholly independent cosmic
principle which invades the world of experience as a disturbing force,
spasmodically subverting the laws of nature in order to show its power
over them.[229] For as soon as the formless intuition of
contemplation begins to express itself in symbols, these symbols, when
untested by reason, are transformed into hallucinations. The warning
of Plotinus, that "he who tries to rise above reason falls outside of
it," receives a painful corroboration in such legends as that of St.
Christina, who by reason of her extreme saintliness frequently soared
over the tops of trees. The consideration of these alleged "mystical
phenomena" belongs to objective Mysticism, which I hope to deal with
in a later Lecture. Here I will only say that the scholastic-mystical
doctrine of "supernatural" interventions, which at first sight seems
so attractive, has led in practice to the most barbarous and
ridiculous superstitions.[230]

Another good specimen of scholastic Mysticism is the short treatise,
_De adhærendo Deo_, of Albertus Magnus. It shows very clearly how the
"negative road" had become the highway of mediæval Catholicism, and
how little could be hoped for civilisation and progress from the
continuance of such teaching. "When St. John says that God is a
Spirit," says Albert in the first paragraph of his treatise, "and that
He must be worshipped in spirit, he means that the mind must be
cleared of all images. When thou prayest, shut thy door - that is, the
doors of thy senses ... keep them barred and bolted against all
phantasms and images.... Nothing pleases God more than a mind free
from all occupations and distractions.... Such a mind is in a manner
transformed into God, for it can think of nothing, and understand
nothing, and love nothing, except God: other creatures and itself it
only sees in God.... He who penetrates into himself, and so transcends
himself, ascends truly to God.... He whom I love and desire is above
all that is sensible and all that is 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.... Do
not think about the world, nor about thy friends, nor about the past,
present, or future; but consider thyself to be outside the world and
alone with God, as if thy soul were already separated from the body,
and had no longer any interest in peace or war, or the state of the
world. Leave thy body, and fix thy gaze on the uncreated light.... Let
nothing come between thee and God.... The soul in contemplation views
the world from afar off, just as, when we proceed to God by the way of
abstraction, we deny Him, first all bodily and sensible attributes,
then intelligible qualities, and, lastly, that _being_ (_esse_) which
keeps Him among created things. This, according to Dionysius, is the
best mode of union with God."

Bonaventura resembles Albertus in reverting more decidedly than the
Victorines to the Dionysian tradition. He expatiates on the passivity
and nakedness of the soul which is necessary in order to enter into
the Divine darkness, and elaborates with tiresome pedantry his
arbitrary schemes of faculties and stages. However, he gains something
by his knowledge of Aristotle, which he uses to correct the
Neoplatonic doctrine of God as abstract Unity. "God is 'ideo
omnimodum,'" he says finely, "quia summe unum." He is "totum intra
omnia et totum extra" - a succinct statement that God is both immanent
and transcendent. His proof of the Trinity is original and profound.
It is the nature of the Good to impart itself, and so the highest Good
must be "summe diffusivum sui," which can only be in hypostatic union.

The last great scholastic mystic is Gerson, who lived from 1363 to
1429. He attempts to reduce Mysticism to an exact science, tabulating
and classifying all 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.

Gerson's psychology may be given in outline as follows: The cognitive
power has three faculties: (1) simple intelligence or natural light,
an outflow from the highest intelligence, God Himself; (2) the
understanding, which is on the frontier between the two worlds; (3)
sense-consciousness. To each of these three faculties answers one of
the affective faculties: (1) synteresis;[231] (2) understanding,
rational desire; (3) sense-affections. To these again correspond three
_activities_: (1) contemplation; (2) meditation;[232] (3) thought.

Mystical theology differs from speculative (i.e. scholastic), in that
mystical theology belongs to the affective faculties, not the
cognitive; that it does not depend on logic, and is therefore open
even to the ignorant; that it is _not_ open to the unbelieving, since
it rests upon faith and love; and that it brings peace, whereas
speculation breeds unrest.

The "means of mystical theology" are seven: (i.) the call of God;
(ii.) certainty that one is called to the contemplative life - all are
not so; (iii.) freedom from encumbrances; (iv.) concentration of
interests upon God; (v.) perseverance; (vi.) asceticism; but the body
must not be maltreated if it is to be a good servant; (vii.) shutting
the eye to all sense perceptions.[233]

Such teaching as this is of small value or interest. Mysticism itself
becomes arid and formal in the hands of Gerson. The whole movement was
doomed to failure, inasmuch as scholasticism was philosophy in chains,
and the negative road was Mysticism blindfolded. No fruitful
reconciliation between philosophy and piety could be thus achieved.
The decay of scholasticism put an end to these attempts at compromise.
Henceforward the mystics either 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 we are following the line of speculative Mysticism,
and we have now to consider the greatest of all speculative mystics,
Meister Eckhart, who was born soon after the middle of the thirteenth
century.[234] He was a Dominican monk, prior of Erfurt and vicar of
Thuringen, and afterwards vicar-general for Bohemia. He preached a
great deal at Cologne about 1325; and before this period had come into
close relations with the Beghards and Brethren of the Free
Spirit - societies of men and women who, by their implicit faith in the
inner light, resembled the Quakers, though many of them, as has been
said, were accused of immoral theories and practices. His teaching
soon attracted the attention of the Inquisition, and some of his
doctrines were formally condemned by the Pope in 1329, immediately
after his death.

The aim of Eckhart's religious philosophy is to find a speculative basis
for the doctrines of the Church, which shall at the same time satisfy
the claims of spiritual religion. His aims are purely constructive, and
he shows a distaste for polemical controversy. The writers whom he
chiefly cites by name are Dionysius, Augustine, Gregory, and Boethius;
but he must have read Erigena, and probably Averroes, writers to whom a
Catholic could hardly confess his obligations.[235] He also frequently
introduces quotations with the words, "A master saith." The "master" is
nearly always Thomas Aquinas, to whom Eckhart was no doubt greatly
indebted, though it would be a great mistake to say, as some have done,
that all Eckhart can be found in the _Summa_. For instance, he sets
himself in opposition to Thomas about the "spark," which Thomas regarded
as a faculty of the soul, while Eckhart, in his later writings, says
that it is uncreated.[236] His double object leads him into some
inconsistencies. Intellectually, he is drawn towards a semi-pantheistic
idealism; his heart makes him an Evangelical Christian. But though it is
possible to find contradictions in his writings, his transparent
intellectual honesty and his great powers of thought, combined with deep
devoutness and childlike purity of soul, make him one of the most
interesting figures in the history of Christian philosophy.

Eckhart wrote in German; that is to say, he wrote for the public, and
not for the learned only. His desire to be intelligible to the general
reader led him to adopt an epigrammatic antithetic style, and to omit
qualifying phrases. This is one reason why he laid himself open to so
many accusations of heresy.[237]

Eckhart distinguishes between "the 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.[238]"
The Triune God is evolved from the Godhead. The Son is the Word of
the Father, His uttered thought; and the Holy Ghost is "the Flower of
the Divine Tree," the mutual love which unites the Father and the Son.
Eckhart quotes the words which St. Augustine makes Christ say of
Himself: "I am come as a Word from the heart, as a ray from the sun,
as heat from the fire, as fragrance from the flower, as a stream from
a perennial fountain." He insists that the generation of the Son is a
continual process.

The universe is the expression of the whole thought of the Father; it
is the language of the Word. Eckhart loves startling phrases, and says
boldly, "Nature is the lower part of the Godhead," and "Before
creation, 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. The
three Persons are not merely accidents and modes of the Divine
Substance, but are inherent in the Godhead.[239] And so there can
never have been a time when the Son was not. But the generation of the
Son necessarily involves the creation of an ideal world; for the Son
is Reason, and Reason is constituted 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 sense. The ideal world is the complete expression of the
thought of God, and is above space and time. He calls it "non-natured
nature," as opposed to "diu genâ-tûrte nâtûre," the world of
phenomena.[240] Eckhart's doctrine here differs from that of Plotinus
in a very important particular. The Neoplatonists always thought of
emanation as a diffusion of rays from a sun, which necessarily
decrease in heat and brightness as they recede from the central focus.
It follows that the second Person of the Trinity, the [Greek: Nous] or
Intelligence, is subordinate to the First, and the Third to the
Second. But with Eckhart there is no subordination. The Son is the
pure brightness of the Father's glory, and the express image of His
Person. "The eternal fountain of things is the Father; the image of
things in Him is the Son, and love for this Image is the Holy Ghost."
All created things abide "formless" (as possibilities) in the ground
of the Godhead, and all are realised in the Son. The Alexandrian
Fathers, in identifying the Logos with the Platonic [Greek: Nous], the
bearer of the World-Idea, had found it difficult to avoid
subordinating Him to the Father. Eckhart escapes this heresy, but in
consequence his view of the world is more pantheistic. For his
intelligible world is really God - it is the whole content of the
Divine mind.[241] The question has been much debated, whether Eckhart
really falls into pantheism or not. The answer seems to me to depend
on what is the obscurest part of his whole system - the relation of the
phenomenal world to the 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 "speaks" His
ideas, the phenomenal world arises. This is an incarnation. But the
process by which the soul emancipates itself from the phenomenal and
returns to the intelligible world, is also called a "begetting of the
Son." Thus the whole process is a circular one - from God and back to
God again. Time and space, he says, were created with the world.
Material things are outside each other, spiritual things in each
other. But these statements do not make it clear how Eckhart accounts
for the imperfections of the phenomenal world, which he is precluded
from explaining, as the Neoplatonists did, by a theory of emanation.
Nor can we solve the difficulty by importing modern theories of
evolution into his system. The idea of the world-history as a gradual
realisation of the Divine Personality was foreign to Eckhart's
thought. Stöckl, indeed, tries to father upon him the doctrine that
the human mind is a necessary organ of the self-development of God.
But this theory cannot be found in Eckhart. The "necessity" which
impels God to "beget His Son" is not a physical but a moral necessity.
"The good must needs impart itself," he says.[242] The fact is that
his view of the world is much nearer to acosmism than to pantheism.
"Nothing hinders us so much from the knowledge of God as time and
place," he says. He sees in phenomena only the negation of being, and
it is not clear how he can also regard them as the abode of the
immanent God.[243] It would probably be true to say that, like most
mediæval thinkers, he did not feel himself obliged to give a permanent
value to the transitory, and that the world, except as the temporary
abode of immortal spirits, interested him but little. His neglect of
history, including the earthly life of Christ, is 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 than any occurrence in the external
world can be.

When a religious writer is suspected of pantheism, we naturally turn
to his treatment of the problem of evil. To the true pantheist all is
equally divine, and everything for the best or for the worst, it does
not much matter which.[244] Eckhart certainly does not mean to
countenance this absurd theory, but there are passages in his writings
which logically imply it; and we look in vain for any elucidation, in
his doctrine of sin, of the dark places in his doctrine of God.[245]
In fact, he adds very little to the Neoplatonic doctrine of the nature
of evil. Like Dionysius, he identifies Being with Good, and evil, as
such, with not-being. Moral evil is self-will: it is the attempt, on
the part of the creature, to be a particular This or That outside of

But what is most distinctive in Eckhart's ethics is the new importance
which is given to the doctrine of immanence. The human soul is a
microcosm, which in a manner contains all things in itself. At the
"apex of the mind" there is a Divine "spark," which is so closely akin
to God that it is one with Him, and not merely united to Him.[246] In
his teaching about this "ground of the soul" Eckhart wavers. His
earlier view is that it is created, and only the medium by which God
transforms us to Himself. But his later doctrine is that it is
uncreated, the immanence of the Being and Nature of God Himself.
"Diess Fünkelein, das ist Gott," he says once. This view was adopted
by Ruysbroek, Suso, and (with modifications by) Tauler, and became one
of their chief tenets.[247] This spark is the organ by which our
personality holds communion with God and knows Him. It is with
reference to it that Eckhart uses the phrase which has so often been
quoted to convict him of blasphemous self-deification - "the eye with
which I see God is the same as that with which He sees me.[248]" The
"uncreated spark" is really the same as the grace of God, which raises
us into a Godlike state. But this grace, according to Eckhart (at
least in his later period), is God Himself acting like a human faculty
in the soul, and transforming it so that "man himself becomes grace."

The following is perhaps the most instructive passage: "There is in
the soul something which is above the soul, Divine, simple, a pure
nothing; rather nameless than named, rather unknown than known. Of
this I am accustomed to speak in my discourses. Sometimes I have
called it a power, sometimes an uncreated light, and sometimes a
Divine spark. It is absolute and free from all names and all forms,
just as God is free and absolute in Himself. It is higher than
knowledge, higher than love, higher than grace. For in all these there
is still _distinction_. In this power God doth blossom and flourish
with all His Godhead, and the Spirit flourisheth in God. In this
power the Father bringeth forth His only-begotten Son, as essentially
as in Himself; and in this light ariseth the Holy Ghost. This spark
rejecteth all creatures, and will have only God, simply as He is in
Himself. It rests satisfied neither with the Father, nor with the Son,
nor with the Holy Ghost, nor with the three Persons, so far as each
existeth in its particular attribute. It is satisfied only with the
superessential essence. It is determined to enter into the simple
Ground, the still Waste, the Unity where no man dwelleth. Then it is
satisfied in the light; then it is one: it is 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 personality remain intact. It is
plain that we could not see 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

Eckhart gives to "the highest reason[250]" the primacy among our
faculties, and in his earlier period identifies it with "the spark."
He asserts the absolute supremacy of reason more strongly than anyone

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