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since Erigena. His language on this subject resembles that of the
Cambridge Platonists. "Reasonable knowledge is eternal life," he says.
"How can any external revelation help me," he asks, "unless it be
verified by inner experience? The last appeal must always be to the
deepest part of my own being, and that is my reason." "The reason," he
says, "presses ever upwards. It cannot rest content with goodness or
wisdom, nor even with God Himself; it must penetrate to the Ground
from whence all goodness and wisdom spring."

Thus Eckhart is not content with the knowledge of God which is
mediated by Christ, but aspires to penetrate into the "Divine
darkness" which underlies the manifestation of the Trinity. In fact,
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 rise "from the Three to the One," he falls into the
error which we have already noticed, and several passages in his
writings advocate the quietistic self-simplification which belongs to
this scheme of perfection. There are sentences in which he exhorts us
to strip off all that comes to us from the senses, and to throw
ourselves upon the heart of God, there to rest for ever, "hidden from
all creatures[251]." But there are many other passages of an opposite
tendency. He tells us that "the way of the manhood," which, of course,
includes imitation of the active life of Christ, must be trodden first
by all; he insists 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 means to a higher activity, and that this is, in fact, its
object; "what a man has taken in by contemplation, that he pours out
in love." There is no contradiction in the desire for rest combined
with the desire for active service; for rest can only be defined as
unimpeded activity; but in Eckhart there is, I think, a real
inconsistency. The traditions of his philosophy pointed towards
withdrawal from the world and from outward occupations - towards the
monkish ideal, in a word; but the modern spirit was already astir
within him. He preached in German to the general public, and his
favourite themes are the present living operation of the Spirit, and
the consecration of life in the world. There is, he shows, no
contradiction between the active and the contemplative life; the
former belongs to the faculties of the soul, the latter to its
essence. In commenting on the story of Martha and Mary, those
favourite types of activity and contemplation[252], he surprises us by
putting Martha first. "Mary hath _chosen_ the good part; that is," he
says, "she is striving to be as holy as her sister. Mary is still at
school: Martha has learnt her lesson. It is better to feed the hungry
than to see even such visions as St. Paul saw." "Besser ein
Lebemeister als tausend Lesemeister." He discourages monkish
religiosity and external badges of saintliness - "avoid everything
peculiar," he says, "in dress, food, and language." "You need not go
into a desert and fast; a crowd is often more lonely than a
wilderness, and small things harder to do than great." "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[253]."
This double aspect of Eckhart's teaching makes him particularly
interesting; he seems to stand on the dividing-line between mediæval
and modern Christianity.

Like other mystics, he insists that love, when perfect, is independent
of the hope of reward, and he shows great freedom in handling
Purgatory, Hell, and Heaven. They are states, not places; separation
from God is the misery of hell, and each man is his own judge. "We
would spiritualise everything," he says, with especial reference to
Holy Scripture.[254]

In comparing the Mysticism of Eckhart with that of his predecessors,
from Dionysius downwards, and of the scholastics down to Gerson, we
find an obvious change in the disappearance of the long ladders of
ascent, the graduated scales of virtues, faculties, and states of
mind, which fill so large a place in those systems. These lists are
the natural product of the imagination, when it plays upon the theory
of _emanation_. But with Eckhart, as we have seen, the fundamental
truth is the _immanence_ of God Himself, not in the faculties, but in
the ground of the soul. The "spark of the soul" is for him really
"divinæ particula auræ." "God begets His Son in me," he is fond of
saying: and there 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.[255] This birth of the
Son in the soul has a double aspect - the "eternal birth," which is
unconscious and inalienable,[256] but which does not confer
blessedness, being common to good and bad alike; and the assimilation
of the faculties of the soul by the pervading presence of Christ, or
in other words by grace, "quæ lux quædam deiformis est," as Ruysbroek
says. The deification of our nature is therefore a thing to be striven
for, and not given complete to start with; but it is important to
observe that Eckhart places no intermediaries between man and God.
"The Word is very nigh thee," nearer than any object of sense, and any
human institutions; sink into thyself, and thou wilt find Him. The
heavenly and earthly hierarchies of Dionysius, with the reverence for
the priesthood which was built upon them, have no significance for
Eckhart. In this as in other ways, he is a precursor of the

With Eckhart I end this Lecture on the speculative Mysticism of the
Middle Ages. His successors, Ruysbroek, Suso, and Tauler, much as they
resemble him in their general teaching, differ from him in this, that
with none of them is the intellectual, philosophical side of primary
importance. They added nothing of value to the speculative system of
Eckhart; their Mysticism was primarily a _religion of the heart_ or a
rule of life. It is this side of Mysticism to which I shall next
invite your attention. It should bring us near to the centre of our
subject: for a speculative religious system is best known by its


[Footnote 188: _Conf._ viii. 2-5. The best account of the theology of
Victorinus is Gore's article in the _Dictionary of Christian

[Footnote 189: So Synesius calls the Son [Greek: patros morphê].]

[Footnote 190: "Non enim vivimus præteritum aut vivimus futurum, sed
semper præsenti utimur." "Æternitas semper per præsentiam habet omnia
et hæc semper."]

[Footnote 191: "Effectus est omnia," Victorinus says plainly.]

[Footnote 192: Victorinus must have got this phrase from some Greek
Neoplatonist. It was explained that [Greek: to mê on] may be used in
four senses, and that it is not intended to identify the two extremes.
But the very remarkable passage in Hierotheus (referred to in Lecture
III.) shows that the two categories of [Greek: aoristia] cannot be
kept apart.]

[Footnote 193: "Ipse se ipsum circumterminavit."]

[Footnote 194: _De Trin_. vii. 4. 7; _de Doctr. Christ_. i. 5. 5;
_Serm_. 52. 16; _De Civ. Dei_, ix. 16.]

[Footnote 195: _Contr. Adim. Man._ 11.]

[Footnote 196: _De Ord._ ii. 16. 44, 18. 47.]

[Footnote 197: _Enarrat. in Ps._ 85. 12.]

[Footnote 198: _Conf._ vii. 13 _ad fin._]

[Footnote 199: Compare with this sentence of the _Confessions_ the
statement of Erigena quoted below, that "the things which are not are
far better than those which are."]

[Footnote 200: _Ep._ 120. 20. St. Augustine wrote in early life an
essay "On the Beautiful and Fit," which he unhappily took no pains to

[Footnote 201: _De Ord._ ii. 16. 42, 59; Plot. _Enn._ i. 6. 4.]

[Footnote 202: _De Lib. Arb._ ii. 16. 41; Plot. _Enn._ i. 6. 8, iii.
8. 11.]

[Footnote 203: _Enarr. in Ps._ xliv. 3; _Ep._ 120. 20. Plot. _Enn._ i.
6. 4, says with more picturesqueness than usual [Greek: kalon to tês
dikaiosynês kai sôphrosynês prosôpon, kai oute hesperos oute eôos
outô kala]. (From Aristotle, _Eth._ v. 1. 15.)]

[Footnote 204: _Ench._ iii. "etiam illud quod malum dicitur bene
ordinatum est loco suo positum; eminentius commendat bona." St.
Augustine also says (_Ench._ xi.), "cum omnino mali nomen non sit nisi
privationis boni"; cf. Plot. _Enn._ iii. 2. 5, [Greek: holôs de to
kakon elleipsin tou agathou theteon.] St. Augustine praises Plotinus
for his teaching on the universality of Providence.]

[Footnote 205: _De Civ. Dei_, iv. 12, vii. 5.]

[Footnote 206: _De Quantitate Animæ_, xxx.]

[Footnote 207: _Conf._ vii. 10. I have quoted Bigg's translation.]

[Footnote 208: _Conf._ xi. 9.]

[Footnote 209: St. Augustine does not reject the belief that visions
are granted by the mediation of angels, but he expresses himself with
great caution on the subject. Cf. _De Gen. ad litt._ xii. 30, "Sunt
quædam excellentia et merito divina, quæ demonstrant angeli miris
modis: utrum visa sua facili quadam et præpotenti iunctione vel
commixtione etiam nostra esse facientes, an scientes nescio quo modo
nostram in spiritu nostro informar visionem, difficilis perceptu et
difficilior dictu res est."]

[Footnote 210: See Lotze, _Microcosmus_, bk. viii. chap. 4, and other
places. We may perhaps compare the Johannine [Greek: kosmos] with the
Synoptic [Greek: aiôn] as examples of the two modes of envisaging

[Footnote 211: Eriugena is, no doubt, the more correct spelling, but I
have preferred to keep the name by which he is best known.]

[Footnote 212: Erigena quotes also Origen, the two Gregorys, Basil,
Maximus, Ambrose, and Augustine. Of pagan philosophers he puts Plato
first, but holds Aristotle in high honour.]

[Footnote 213: Stöckl calls him "ein fälscher Mystiker," because the
Neoplatonic ("gnostic-rationalistic") element takes, for him, the
place of supernaturalism. This, as will be shown later, is in
accordance with the Roman Catholic view of Mysticism, which is not
that adopted in these Lectures. For us, Erigena's defect as a mystic
is rather to be sought in his extreme intellectualism.]

[Footnote 214: "Dum vero (divina bonitas) incomprehensibilis
intelligitur, per excellentiam non immerito _nihilum_ vocitatur."]

[Footnote 215: This is really a revival of "modalism." The unorthodoxy
of the doctrine becomes very apparent in some of Erigena's

[Footnote 216: _De Div. Nat._ i. 36: "Iamdudum inter nos est confectum
omnia quæ vel sensu corporeo vel intellectu vel ratione cognoscuntur
de Deo merito creatore omnium, posse prædicari, dum nihil eorum quæ de
se prædicantur pura veritatis contemplatio eum approbat esse." All
affirmations about God are made "non proprie sed translative"; all
negations "non translative sed proprie." Cf. also _ibid._ i. 1. 66,
"verius fideliusque negatur in omnibus quam affirmatur"; and
especially _ibid._ i. 5. 26, "theophanias autem dico visibilium et
invisibilium species, quarum ordine et pulcritudine cognoscitur Deus
esse et invenitur _non quid est, sed quia solummodo est._" Erigena
tries to say (in his atrocious Latin) that the external world can
teach us nothing about God, except the bare fact of His existence. No
passage could be found to illustrate more clearly the real tendencies
of the negative road, and the purely subjective Mysticism connected
with it. Erigena will not allow us to infer, from the order and beauty
of the world, that order and beauty are Divine attributes.]

[Footnote 217: But it must be remembered that Erigena calls God
"nihilum." His words about creation are, "Ac sic de nihilo facit
omnia, de sua videlicet superessentialitate producit essentias, de
supervitalitate vitas, de superintellectualitate intellectus, de
negatione omnium quæ sunt et quæ non sunt, affirmationes omnium quæ
sunt et quæ non sunt."]

[Footnote 218: So Kaulich shows in his monograph on the speculative
system of Erigena.]

[Footnote 219: Erigena was roused by a work on predestination, written
by Gotteschalk, and advocating Calvinistic views, to protest against
the doctrine that God, who is life, can possibly predestine anyone to
eternal death.]

[Footnote 220: Berengar objected to the crudely materialistic theories
of the real presence which were then prevalent. He protested against
the statement that the transmutation of the elements takes place "vere
et sensualiter," and that "portiunculæ" of the body of Christ lie upon
the altar. "The mouth," he said, "receives the _sacrament_, the inner
man the true body of Christ."]

[Footnote 221: Similar teaching from the sacred books of the East is
quoted by E. Caird, _Evolution of Religion_, vol. i. p. 355.]

[Footnote 222: This is the accepted phrase for the work of the twelfth
and thirteenth century theologians. We might also say that they
modified uncompromising Platonic Realism by Aristotelian science. Cf.
Harnack, _History 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 Realism and Nominalism; and which was
represented as capable of uniting immanence and transcendence, history
and miracle, the immutability of God and mutability, Idealism and
Realism, reason and authority."]

[Footnote 223: The great importance of Bernard in the history of
Mysticism does not 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 the next centuries inspired so much
fervid devotion and lyrical sacred poetry. The romantic side of
Mysticism, for good and for evil, received its greatest stimulus in
Bernard's Poems and in his Sermons on the Canticles. This subject is
dealt with in Appendix E.]

[Footnote 224: Stöckl says of Hugo that the course of development of
mediæval Mysticism cannot be understood without a knowledge of his
writings. Stöckl's own account is very full and clear.]

[Footnote 225: The "eye of contemplation" was given us "to see God
within ourselves"; this eye has been blinded by sin. The "eye of
reason" was given us "to see ourselves"; this has been injured by sin.
Only the "eye flesh" remains in its pristine clearness. In things
"above reason" we must trust to faith, "quæ non adiuvatur ratione
ulla, quoniam non capit ea ratio."]

[Footnote 226: Richard, who is more ecstatic than Hugo, gives the
following account of this state: "Per mentis excessum extra semetipsum
ductus homo ... lumen non per speculum in ænigmate sed in simplici
veritate contemplatur." In this state "we forget all that is without
and all that is within us." Reason and all other faculties are
obscured. What then is our security against delusions? "The
transfigured Christ," he says, "must be accompanied by Moses and
Elias"; that is to say, visions must not be believed which conflict
with the authority of Scripture.]

[Footnote 227: See, especially, Stöckl, _Geschichte der Philosophie
des Mittelalters_, vol. i. pp. 382-384.]

[Footnote 228: It is hardly necessary to point out that St. Paul's
distinction between natural and spiritual (see esp. 1 Cor. ii.) is
wholly different.]

[Footnote 229: Contrast the Plotinian doctrine of ecstasy with the
following: "Dieu élève à son grè aux plus hauts sommets, sans aucun
mérite préalable. Osanne de Mantoue reçoit le don de la contemplation
à peine agée de six ans. Christine est fiancée à dix ans, pendant une
extase de trois jours; Marie d'Agrèda reçut des illuminations dès sa
première 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 deepest intuitions of saint,
poet, or philosopher. Moreover, God sometimes "asserts His liberty" by
"elevating souls suddenly and without transition from the abyss of sin
to the highest summits of perfection, just as in nature He asserts it
by miracles" (Ribet). Such teaching is interesting 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
"_either_ by virtue _or_ by gratuitous favour." The dualism of natural
and supernatural thus allows men to claim independent merit, while the
interventions of God are arbitrary and unaccountable.]

[Footnote 230: 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 Abbé 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. Görres and Ribet are also very full of
these stories.]

[Footnote 231: See Appendix C.]

[Footnote 232: The difference between contemplation and meditation is
explained by all the mediæval mystics. Meditation is "discursive,"
contemplation is "mentis in Deum suspensæ elevatio." Richard of St.
Victor states the distinction epigrammatically - "per meditationem
rimamur, per contemplationem miramur." ("Admiratio est actus
consequens contemplationem sublimis veritatis." - Thomas Aquinas.)]

[Footnote 233: This arbitrary schematism is very characteristic of
this type of Mysticism, and shows its affinity to Indian philosophy.
Compare "the eightfold path of Buddha," and a hundred other similar
classifications in the sacred books of the East.]

[Footnote 234: The date usually given, 1260, is probably too late; but
the exact year cannot be determined.]

[Footnote 235: Prof. Karl Pearson (_Mina_, 1886) says, "The Mysticism
of Eckhart owes its leading ideas to Averroes." He traces the doctrine
of the [Greek: Nous poiêtikos] from Aristotle, _de Anima_, through
the Arabs to Eckhart, and finds a close resemblance between the
"prototypes" or "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' _Intellectus Agens_ as the universal principle of reason in
all men (monopsychism), they differ in this - that with Averroes
personality is a phase or accident, but with Eckhart the eternal is
immanent in the personality in such a way that the personality itself
has a part in eternity (_Meister Eckhart der Mystiker_, pp. 348, 349).
Personality is for 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 _I am_ none can truly speak but God alone." The individual
must try to become a person, as the Son of God is a Person.]

[Footnote 236: Denifle has devoted great pains to proving that Eckhart
in his Latin 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 really "Catholic piety." "It will never be
possible," he says, "to make 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, p.

[Footnote 237: Preger (vol. iii. p. 140) says that Eckhart did _not_
try to be popular. But it is clear, I think, that he did try to make
his philosophy intelligible to the average educated man, though his
teaching is less ethical and more speculative than that of Tauler.]

[Footnote 238: 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 thing." "God is neither this nor that." Compare,
too, the following passage: "(Gottes) einfeltige natur ist von formen
formlos, von werden werdelos, von wesen wesenlos, und von sachen
sachelos, und darum entgeht sie in allen werdenden dingen, und die
endliche dinge müssen da enden."]

[Footnote 239: 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 Hierotheus)
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.]

[Footnote 240: Compare Spinoza's "natura naturata."]

[Footnote 241: The ideas are "uncreated creatures"; they are "creatures
in God but not in themselves." Preger states Eckhart's doctrine thus:
"Gott denkt sein Wesen in untergeordnete Weise nachahmbar, und der
Reflex dieses Denkens in dem göttlichen Bewusstsein, die Vorstellungen
hievon, sind die Ideen." But in what sense is the ideal world
"subordinate"? The Son in Eckhart holds quite a different relation to
the Father from that which the [Greek: Noûs] holds to "the One" in
Plotinus, as the following sentence will show: "God is for ever 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 uses 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 alteritate quadam - non tamen omnimoda
alteritate; quidquid enim in Deo est Deus est." Our eternal life remains
"perpetuo in divina essentia sine discretione," but continually flows
out "per æternam Verbi generationem." Ruysbroek also says clearly that
creation is the embodiment of the _whole_ mind of God: "Whatever lives
in the Father hidden in the unity, lives in the Son 'in emanatione

[Footnote 242: It is true that Eckhart was censured for teaching "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 evolutionary optimism, are, I am convinced, alien to his
philosophy. See, however, on the other side, Carrière, _Die
philosophische Weltanschauung der Reformationszeit_, pp. 152-157.]

[Footnote 243: See Lasson, _Meister Eckhart_, p. 351. Eckhart protests
vigorously against the misrepresentation that he made the phenomenal
world the _Wesen_ of God, and uses strongly acosmistic language in
self-defence. But there seems to be a real inconsistency in this side
of his philosophy.]

[Footnote 244: I mean that a pantheist may with equal consistency call
himself an optimist or a pessimist, or both alternately.]

[Footnote 245: As when he says, "In God all things are one, from angel
to spider." The inquisitors were not slow to lay hold of this error.
Among the twenty-six articles of the gravamen against Eckhart we find,
"Item, in omni opere, etiam malo, manifestatur et relucet _æqualiter_
gloria Dei." The word _æqualiter_ the stamp of true pantheism.
Eckhart, however, whether consistently or not, frequently asserts the
transcendence of God. "God is in the creatures, but above them." "He
is above all nature, and is not Himself nature," etc. In dealing with
_sin_, he is confronted with the 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 a like
phenomenal existence. He attempts to solve this puzzle by the
hypothesis of a double aspect of the new birth (see below). But I fear
there is some justice in Professor Pearson's comment, "Thus his
phenomenology is shattered upon his practical theology."]

[Footnote 246: Other scholastics and mystics had taught that there is
a _residue_ of the Godlike in man. The idea of a central point of the

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