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strictest sense. Hence, "the knowledge, invocation, and vain
repetition of a deity's name constitutes in itself 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

[Footnote 345: I do not find it possible to give a more honourable
place than this to a system of biblical exegesis which has still 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
([Greek: ainigmata]), to be interpreted by Gnosis." The method was
often found useful in dealing with moral and scientific difficulties
in the Old Testament; it enabled Dionysius to use very bold language
about the literal meaning, as I showed in Lecture III. The Christian
Platonists of Alexandria meant it to be an esoteric method: Clement
calls it [Greek: symbolikôs philosophein]. It was held that [Greek: ta
mystêria mystikôs paradidotai]; and even that Divine truths are
honoured by enigmatic treatment ([Greek: hê krypsis hê mystikê
semnopoiei to theion]). 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 of Solomon. Still, it can
hardly be disputed that the countless books 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 of the 3 Persons of the Trinity.

The history of the doctrine of "signatures," which is the cryptogram
theory applied to medicine, is very curious and interesting, "Citrons,
according to Paracelsus, are good for heart affections, because they
are heart-shaped; the _saphena riparum_ is to be applied to fresh
wounds, because its leaves are spotted as with flecks of blood. A
species of _dentaria_, whose roots resemble teeth, is a cure for
toothache and scurvy." - Vaughan, _Hours with the Mystics_, vol. ii. p.
77. It is said that some traces of this quaint superstition survive
even in the modern materia medica. The alliance between medicine and
Mysticism subsisted for a long time, and forms a curious chapter of

[Footnote 346: 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 Vanity of Arts and Sciences_ (a ferocious attack
on most of the professions), and _On Occult Philosophy_ (treating of
natural, celestial, and religious magic). The "magician," he says,
"must study three sciences - physics, mathematics, and theology."
Agrippa's adventurous life ended in 1533.]

[Footnote 347: Theophrastus Paracelsus (Philippus Bombastus von
Hohenheim) was born in 1493, and died in 1541. 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 Böhme.]

[Footnote 348: "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. I saw in myself the
three worlds - the Divine 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

[Footnote 349: This is from Bp. Warburton. "Sublime nonsense,
inimitable bombast, fustian not to be paralleled," is John Wesley's

[Footnote 350: See Overton, _Life of William Law_, p. 188.]

[Footnote 351: I have omitted Böhme's gnostical theories as to the
seven _Quellgeister_ as belonging rather to theosophy than to
Mysticism. The resemblance to Basilides is here rather striking, but
it must be a pure coincidence.]

[Footnote 352: And of English Mysticism before the Reformation; cf. p.

[Footnote 353: From the _Spirit of Prayer_. The sect of Behmenists in
Germany, unlike Law, attended no church, and took no part in the
Lord's Supper. - Overton, _Life of William Law_, p. 214.]

[Footnote 354: 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 più ammirar, se bene stimo,
Lo tuo salir, se non come d'un rivo
Se d'alto monte scende giuso ad imo.
Maraviglia sarebbe in te, se privo
D'impedimento giu ti fossi assiso,
Com' a terra quieto fuoco vivo.
Quinci rivolce inver lo cielo il viso." ]

[Footnote 355: It may be interesting to compare the following passage
from George Fox, which dramatises the irruption of natural science,
with its faith in fixed laws, into the sphere of the religious
consciousness: - "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, _There is a living God who made 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."]

[Footnote 356: So we may fairly say, if we remember that we are
speaking of what transcends time. Neither Böhme nor Law looks forward
to a golden age on this earth.]

[Footnote 357: Henry More's judgment is as follows: "Jacob Behmen, I
conceive, is to be reckoned in the number of those whose imaginative
faculty has the pre-eminence above the rational; and though he was a
good and holy man, his natural complexion, notwithstanding, was not
destroyed, but retained its property still; and, therefore, his
imagination being very busy about Divine things, he could not without
a miracle fail of becoming an enthusiast, 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 failing him,
as well as the anxiety of reason does others of like integrity with

[Footnote 358: Canon G.G. Perry, in his _Students' English Church
History_, disposes of this noble group of men in one contemptuous
paragraph, as a "class of divines who were neither Puritans nor High
Churchmen," and makes the astounding statement that "to the school
thus commenced, the deadness, carelessness, and indifference prevalent
in the eighteenth century are in large measure to be attributed." It
is of these very 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 (_Works_, 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 been
produced, writers who do "full honour at once to the elevation and the
rationality of Christian piety.... In their writings we are invited to
ascend, by having a prospect opened before us as luminous as it is
sublime.... 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.]

[Footnote 359: A writer who signs himself S.P. (probably Simon
Patrick, bishop of Ely), in a pamphlet called _A Brief Account of the
new Sect of Latitude Men_ (1662), vindicates their attachment to the
"virtuous mediocrity" of the Church of England, as distinguished from
the "meretricious gaudiness of the Church of Rome, and the squalid
sluttery of fanatic conventicles."]

[Footnote 360: Compare with these extracts the words of Leibnitz: "To
despise reason in matters of religion is to my eyes certain proof
either of an obstinacy that borders on fanaticism, or, what is worse,
of hypocrisy."]

[Footnote 361: See Appendix C.]

[Footnote 362: The classical reader will be reminded of Lucretius,
iii. 979-1036. Smith, however, would not have relished this
comparison. He devotes part of one sermon to a refutation of the
Epicurean poet, in whom he sees a precursor of his _bête noire_,

[Footnote 363: Compare with this the following passage of Jean de
Labadie (1610-1674), the founder of a mystical school on the
Continent: "Plusieurs sont bien aises d'ouyr dire qu'ils sont
justifiés par Jesus-Christ, lavés de leurs péchés en son sang par la
foí, par la repentance et par le baptême chrestien, et volontiers ils
I'embrasent comme Justificateur, comme crucifié et mort pour eux; mais
peu prennent part à sa croix, à sa mort, pour se faire spirituellement
mourir avec Luy, crucifier leur chair avec la sienne, et porter en
eux-mêmes les vives marques de sa croix et de sa mort. Peu le goutent
comme Justificateur au dedans par l'Esprit consacrant et immolant le
vieil homme à Dieu et par une pratique vraiment sainte, laquelle
dompte le péché."]


"For nothing worthy proving can be proven,
Nor yet disproven; wherefore thou be wise,
Cleave ever to the sunnier side of doubt,
And cling to Faith beyond the forms of Faith!
She reels not in the storm of warring words,
She brightens at the clash of Yes 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!'"

TENNYSON, _The Ancient Sage_.

"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."


"My wish is that I may perceive the God whom I find everywhere in the
external world, in like manner within and inside me."


"Getrost, das Leben schreitet
Zum ew'gen Leben hin;
Von innrer Gluth geweitet
Verklärt sich unser Sinn.
Die Sternwelt wird zerfliessen
Zum goldnen Lebenswein,
Wir werden sie geniessen
Und lichte Sterne sein.

"Die Lieb' ist freigegeben
Und keine Trennung mehr
Es wogt das volle Leben
Wie ein unendlich Meer.
Nur eine Nacht der Wonne,
Ein ewiges Gedicht!
Und unser Aller Sonne
Ist Gottes Angesicht."


NATURE-MYSTICISM - _continued_

"The invisible things of Him since the creation of the world are
clearly seen, being understood through the things that are made, even
His everlasting power and Divinity." - ROM. i. 20.

In my last Lecture I showed how the later Mysticism emancipated itself
from the mischievous doctrine that the spiritual eye can only see when
the eye of sense is closed. After the Reformation period the mystic
tries to look with both eyes; his aim is 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 tries to find spiritual law in
the natural world. It is true that a strange crop of superstitions,
the seeds of which had been sown long before, sprang up to mock his
hopes. In necromancy, astrology, alchemy, palmistry, table-turning,
and other delusions, we have what some count the essence, and others
the reproach, of Mysticism. But these are, strictly speaking,
scientific and not religious errors. From the standpoint of religion
and philosophy, the important change is that, in the belief of these
later mystics, the natural and the spiritual are, somehow or other, to
be reconciled; the external world is no longer regarded as a place of
exile from God, or as a delusive appearance; it is the living vesture
of the Deity; and its "discordant harmony,[364]" though "for the many
it needs interpreters,[365]" yet "has a voice for the wise" which
speaks of things behind the veil. The glory of God is no longer
figured as a blinding white light in which all colours are combined
and lost; but is seen as a "many-coloured wisdom[366]" which shines
everywhere, its varied hues appearing not only in the sanctuary of the
lonely soul, but in all the wonders that science can discover, and all
the beauties that art can interpret. Dualism, with the harsh
asceticism which belongs to it, has given way to a brighter and more
hopeful philosophy; men's outlook upon the world is more intelligent,
more trustful, and more genial; only for those who perversely seek to
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 finer examples of the
Christian mystic than John Smith and William Law. But these men, and
their intellectual kinsmen, were far from exhausting the treasure of
Nature-Mysticism. The Cambridge Platonists, indeed, somewhat
undervalued the religious lessons of Nature. They were scholars and
divines, and what lay nearest their heart was the consecration of the
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 Böhme's fantastic
theosophy to bring to Nature that childlike spirit which can best
learn her lessons.

The Divine in Nature has hitherto been discerned more fully by the
poet than by the theologian or the naturalist; and in this concluding
Lecture I must deal chiefly with Christian poetry. The attitude
towards Nature which we have now to consider is more contemplative
than practical; it studies analogies in order to _know_ the unseen
powers which surround us, and has no desire to bend them or make them
its instruments.

Our Lord's precept, "Consider the lilies," sanctions this religious
use of Nature; and many of His parables, such as that of the Sower,
show us how much we may learn from such analogies. And be it observed
that it is the normal and regular in Nature which in these parables is
presented for our study; the yearly harvest, not the three years'
famine; the constant care and justice of God, not the "special
providence" or the "special judgment." We need not wait for
catastrophes to trace the finger of God. As for Christian poetry and
art, we do not expect to find any theory of æsthetic in the New
Testament; but we may perhaps extract from the precept quoted above
the canon that the highest beauty that 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 same language. We find, indeed, in these writers a
marked tendency to exalt the religious value of natural beauty, and to
disparage the function of art - a premonition, perhaps, of iconoclasm.
Pagan art, which was decaying before the advent of Christ, could not,
it appears, be quietly Christianised and carried on without a break.

The true Nature-Mysticism is prominent in St. Francis of Assisi. He
loves to see in all around him the pulsations of one life, which
sleeps in the stones, dreams in the plants, and wakens in man. "He
would remain in contemplation before a flower, an insect, or a bird,
and regarded them with no dilettante or egoistic pleasure; he was
interested that the plant should have its sun, the bird its nest; that
the humblest manifestations of creative force should have the
happiness to which they are entitled.[367]" So strong was his
conviction that all living things are children of God, that he would
preach to "my little sisters the birds," and even undertook the
conversion of "the ferocious wolf of Agobio."

This tender reverence for Nature, which is a mark of all true
Platonism, is found, as we have seen, in Plotinus. It is also
prominent in the Platonists of the Renaissance, such as Bruno and
Campanella,[368] and in Petrarch, who loved to offer his evening
prayers among the moonlit mountains. Suso has at least one beautiful
passage on the sights and sounds of spring, and exclaims, "O tender
God, if Thou art so loving in Thy creatures, how fair and lovely must
Thou be in Thyself![369]" The Reformers, especially Luther and
Zwingli, are more alive than might have been expected to the value of
Nature's lessons; and the French mystics, Francis de Sales and
Fénelon, write gracefully about the footprints of the Divine wisdom
and beauty which may be traced everywhere in the world around us.

But natural religion is not to be identified with Mysticism, and it
would not further our present inquiry to collect passages, in prose or
poetry, which illustrate the aids to faith which the book of Nature
may supply. Nor need we dwell on such pure Platonism as we find in
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 "white radiance" of
the eternal archetypes.[370] We have seen how this view 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,
From whose pure beams all perfect beauty springs;
That kindleth love in every godly spright,
Even the love of God; which loathing brings
Of this vile world and these gay-seeming things;
With whose sweet pleasures being so possessed,
Thy straying thoughts henceforth for ever rest."

This is not the keynote of the later Nature-Mysticism. We now expect
that every new insight into the truth of things, every enlightenment
of the eyes of our understanding, which may be granted us as the
reward of faith, love, and purity of heart, will make the world around
us appear, not viler and baser, but more glorious and more Divine. It
is not a proof of spirituality, but of its opposite, if God's world
seems to us a poor place. If we could see it as God sees it, it would
be still, as on the morning of creation, "very good." The hymn
which is ever ascending from the earth to the throne of God is to be
listened for, that we may join in it. The laws by which all creation
lives are to be studied, that we too may obey them. As for the beauty
which is everywhere diffused so lavishly, it seems to be a gift of
God's pure bounty, to bring happiness to the unworldly souls who alone
are able to see and enjoy it.

The greatest prophet of this branch of contemplative Mysticism is
unquestionably the poet Wordsworth. It was the object of his life to
be a religious teacher, and I think there is no incongruity in placing
him at the end of the roll of mystical divines who have been dealt
with in these Lectures. His intellectual kinship with the acknowledged
representatives of Nature-Mysticism will, I hope, appear very plainly.

Wordsworth was an eminently sane and manly spirit. He found his
philosophy of life early, and not only preached but lived it
consistently. A Platonist by nature rather than by study, he is
thoroughly Greek in his distrust of strong emotions and in his love of
all which the Greeks included under [Greek: sôphrosynê]. He was a
loyal Churchman, but his religion was really almost independent of any
ecclesiastical system. His ecclesiastical sonnets reflect rather the
dignity of the Anglican Church than the ardent piety with which our
other poet-mystics, such as Herbert, Vaughan, and Crashaw, adorn the
offices of worship. His cast of faith, intellectual and contemplative
rather than fervid, and the solitariness of his thought, forbade him
to find much satisfaction in public ceremonial. He would probably
agree with Galen, who in a very remarkable passage says that the study
of nature, if prosecuted with the same earnestness and intensity which
men bring to the contemplation of the "Mysteries," is even more fitted
than they to reveal the power and wisdom of God; for "_the symbolism
of the mysteries is more obscure than that of nature_."

He shows his affinity with the modern spirit in his firm grasp of
natural _law_. Like George Fox and William Law, he had to face the
shock of giving up his 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 - "the categorical
imperative," till the gift of intuition was restored to him in fuller
measure. This experience explains his attitude towards natural
science. His reverence for _facts_ never failed him; "the sanctity and
truth of nature," he says, "must not be tricked out with accidental
ornaments"; but he looked askance at the science which tries to erect
itself into a philosophy. Physics, he saw plainly, is an abstract
study: its view of the world is an abstraction for certain purposes,
and possesses less truth than the view of the poet.[371] And yet he
looked forward to a time when science, too, shall be touched with fire
from the altar; -

"Then her heart shall kindle; her dull eye,
Dull and inanimate, no more shall hang
Chained to its object in brute slavery."

And in a remarkable passage of the "Prefaces" he says "If the time
should ever come when that which is now called science shall be ready
to put on as it were a form of flesh and blood, the poet will lend his
Divine spirit to aid the transformation, and will welcome the Being
thus produced as a dear and genuine inmate of the household of man."
He feels that the loving and disinterested study of nature's laws must
at last issue, not in materialism, but in some high and spiritual
faith, inspired by the Word of God, who is Himself, as Erigena said,
"the Nature of all things."

In aloofness and loneliness of mind he is exceeded by no mystic of the
cloister. It may be said far more truly of him than of Milton, that
"his soul was like a star, and dwelt apart." In his youth he confesses
that human beings had only a secondary interest for him;[372] and
though he says that Nature soon led him to man, it was to man as a
"unity," as "one spirit," that he was drawn, not to men as
individuals.[373] Herein he resembled many other contemplative

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