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humanist and the ascetic who dwelt together in that large mind; to
observe how the world-renouncing element had to grow at the expense of
the other, until full justice had been done to its claims; and then
how the brighter, more truly Hellenic side was able to assert itself
under due safeguards, as a precious thing dearly purchased, a treasure
reserved for the pure and humble, and still only to be tasted
carefully, with reverence and godly fear. There is, of course, no
necessity for connecting this development with the name of Plato. The
way towards a reconciliation of this and other differences is more
clearly indicated in the New Testament; indeed, nothing can
strengthen our belief in inspiration so much as to observe how the
whole history of thought only helps us to _understand_ St. Paul and
St. John better, never to pass beyond their teaching. Still, the
traditional connexion between Plato and Mysticism is so close that we
may, I think, be pardoned for keeping, like Ficinus, a lamp burning in
his honour throughout our present task.

It is not my purpose in these Lectures to attempt a historical survey
of Christian Mysticism. To attempt this, within the narrow limits of
eight Lectures, would oblige me to give a mere skeleton of the
subject, which would be of no value, and of very little interest. The
aim which I have set before myself is to give a clear presentation of
an important type of Christian life and thought, in the hope that it
may suggest to us a way towards the solution of some difficulties
which at present agitate and divide us. The path is beset with
pitfalls on either side, as will be abundantly clear when we consider
the startling expressions which Mysticism has often found for itself.
But though I have not attempted to give even an outline of the history
of Mysticism, I feel that the best and safest way of studying this or
any type of religion is to consider it in the light of its historical
development, and of the forms which it has actually assumed. And so I
have tried to set these Lectures in a historical framework, and, in
choosing prominent figures as representatives of the chief kinds of
Mysticism, to observe, so far as possible, the chronological order.
The present Lecture will carry us down to the Pseudo-Dionysius, the
influence of whose writings during the next thousand years can hardly
be overestimated. But if we are to understand how a system of
speculative Mysticism, of an Asiatic rather than European type, came
to be accepted as the work of a convert of St. Paul, and invested with
semi-apostolic authority, we must pause for a few minutes to let our
eyes rest on the phenomenon called Alexandrianism, which fills a large
place in the history of the early Church.

We have seen how St. Paul speaks of a _Gnosis_ or higher knowledge,
which can be taught with safety only to the "perfect" or "fully
initiated";[110] and he by no means rejects such expressions as the
_Pleroma_ (the totality of the Divine attributes), which were
technical terms of speculative theism. St. John, too, in his prologue
and other places, brings the Gospel into relation with current
speculation, and interprets it in philosophical language. The movement
known as Gnosticism, both within and without the Church, was an
attempt to complete this reconciliation between speculative and
revealed religion, by systematising the symbols of transcendental
mystical theosophy.[111] The movement can only be understood as a
premature and unsuccessful attempt to achieve what the school of
Alexandria afterwards partially succeeded in doing. The anticipations
of Neoplatonism among the Gnostics would probably be found to be very
numerous, if the victorious party had thought their writings worth
preserving. But Gnosticism was rotten before it was ripe. Dogma was
still in such a fluid state, that there was nothing to keep
speculation within bounds; and the Oriental element, with its
insoluble dualism, its fantastic mythology and spiritualism, was too
strong for the Hellenic. Gnosticism presents all the features which we
shall find to be characteristic of degenerate Mysticism. Not to speak
of its oscillations between fanatical austerities and scandalous
licence, and its belief in magic and other absurdities, we seem, when
we read Irenæus' description of a Valentinian heretic, to hear the
voice of Luther venting his contempt upon some "_Geisterer_" of the
sixteenth century, such as Carlstadt or Sebastian Frank. "The fellow
is so puffed up," says Irenæus, "that he believes himself to be
neither in heaven nor on earth, but to have entered within the Divine
Pleroma, and to have embraced his guardian angel. On the strength of
which he struts about as proud as a cock. These are the self-styled
'spiritual persons,' who say they have already reached perfection."
The later Platonism could not even graft itself upon any of these
Gnostic systems, and Plotinus rejects them as decisively as Origen.

Still closer is the approximation to later speculation which we find
in Philo, who was a contemporary of St. Paul. Philo and his Therapeutæ
were genuine mystics of the monastic type. Many of them, however, had
not been monks all their life, but were retired men of business, who
wished to spend their old age in contemplation, as many still do in
India. They were, of course, not Christians, but Hellenised Jews,
though Eusebius, Jerome, and the Middle Ages generally thought that
they were Christians, and were well pleased to find monks in the first

Philo's object is to reconcile religion and philosophy - in other
words, Moses and Plato.[113] His method[114] is to make Platonism a
development of Mosaism, and Mosaism an implicit Platonism. The claims
of orthodoxy are satisfied by saying, rather audaciously, "All this is
Moses' doctrine, not mine." His chief instrument in this difficult
task is allegorism, which in his hands is a bad specimen of that
pseudo-science which has done so much to darken counsel in biblical
exegesis. His speculative system, however, is exceedingly interesting.

God, according to Philo, is unqualified and pure Being, but _not_
superessential. He is emphatically [Greek: ho ôn], the "I am," and the
most _general_ ([Greek: to genikôtaton]) of existences. At the same
time He is without qualities ([Greek: apoios]), and ineffable
([Greek: arrêtos]). In His inmost nature He is inaccessible; as it
was said to Moses, "Thou shalt see what is behind Me, but My face
shall not be seen." It is best to contemplate God in silence, since we
can compare Him to nothing that we know. All our knowledge of God is
really God dwelling in us. He has breathed into us something of His
nature, and is thus the archetype of what is highest in ourselves. He
who is truly inspired "may with good reason be called God." This
blessed state may, however, be prepared for by such mediating agencies
as the study of God's laws in nature; and it is only the highest class
of saints - the souls "born of God" - that are exalted above the need of
symbols. It would be easy to show how Philo wavers between two
conceptions of the Divine nature - God as simply transcendent, and God
as immanent. But this is one of the things that make him most
interesting. His Judaism will not allow him really to believe in a God
"without qualities."

The Logos dwells with God as His Wisdom (or sometimes he calls Wisdom,
figuratively, the mother of the Logos). He is the "second God," the
"Idea of Ideas"; the other Ideas or Powers are the forces which he
controls - "the Angels," as he adds, suddenly remembering his Judaism.
The Logos is also the mind of God expressing itself in act: the Ideas,
therefore, are the content of the mind of God. Here he anticipates
Plotinus; but he does not reduce God to a logical point. His God is
self-conscious, and reasons. By the agency of the Logos the worlds
were made: the intelligible world, the [Greek: kosmos noêtos], is
the Logos acting as Creator. Indeed, Philo calls the intelligible
universe "the only and beloved Son of God"; just as Erigena says, "Be
assured that the Word is the Nature of all things." The Son represents
the world before God as High Priest, Intercessor, and Paraclete. He is
the "divine Angel" that guides us; He is the "bread of God," the "dew
of the soul," the "convincer of sin": no evil can touch the soul in
which He dwells: He is the eternal image of the Father, and we, who
are not yet fit to be called sons of God, may call ourselves His

Philo's ethical system is that of the later contemplative Mysticism.
Knowledge and virtue can be obtained only by renunciation of self.
Contemplation is a higher state than activity. "The soul should cut
off its right hand." "It should shun the whirlpool of life, and not
even touch it with the tip of a finger." The highest stage is when a
man leaves behind his finite self-consciousness, and sees God face to
face, standing in Him from henceforward, and knowing Him not by
reason, but by clear certainty. Philo makes no attempt to identify the
Logos with the Jewish Messiah, and leaves no room for an Incarnation.

This remarkable system anticipates the greater part of Christian and
Pagan Neoplatonism. The astonishing thing is that Philo's work
exercised so little influence on the philosophy of the second century.
It was probably regarded as an attempt to evolve Platonism out of the
Pentateuch, and, as such, interesting only to the Jews, who were at
this period becoming more and more unpopular.[115] The same prejudice
may possibly have impaired the influence of Numenius, another
semi-mystical thinker, who in the age of the Antonines evolved a kind
of Trinity, consisting of God, whom he also calls Mind; the Son, the
maker of the world, whom he does _not_ call the Logos; and the world,
the "grandson," as he calls it. His Jewish affinities are shown by his
calling Plato "an Atticising Moses."

It was about one hundred and fifty years after Philo that St. Clement
of Alexandria tried to do for Christianity what Philo had tried to do
for Judaism. His aim is nothing less than to construct a philosophy of
religion - a Gnosis, "knowledge," he calls it - which shall "initiate"
the educated Christian into the higher "mysteries" of his creed. The
Logos doctrine, according to which Christ is the universal
Reason,[116] the Light that lighteth every man, here asserts its full
rights. Reasoned belief is the superstructure of which faith[117] is
the foundation.

"Knowledge," says Clement, "is more than faith." "Faith is a summary
knowledge of urgent truths, suitable for people who are in a hurry;
but knowledge is scientific faith." "If the Gnostic (the philosophical
Christian) had to choose between the knowledge of God and eternal
salvation, and it were possible to separate two things so inseparably
connected, he would choose without the slightest hesitation the
knowledge of God." On the wings of this "knowledge" the soul rises
above all earthly passions and desires, filled with a calm
disinterested love of God. In this state a man can distinguish truth
from falsehood, pure gold from base metal, in matters of belief; he
can see the connexion of the various dogmas, and their harmony with
reason; and in reading Scripture he can penetrate beneath the literal
to the spiritual meaning. But when Clement speaks of reason or
knowledge, he does not mean merely intellectual training. "He who
would enter the shrine must be pure," he says, "and purity is to
think holy things." And again, "The more a man loves, the more deeply
does he penetrate into God." Purity and love, to which he adds
diligent study of the Scriptures, are all that is _necessary_ to the
highest life, though mental cultivation may be and ought to be a great

History exhibits a progressive training of mankind by the Logos.
"There is one river of truth," he says, "which receives tributaries
from every side."

All moral evil is caused either by ignorance or by weakness of will.
The cure for the one is knowledge, the cure for the other is

In his doctrine of God we find that he has fallen a victim to the
unfortunate negative method, which he calls "analysis." It is the
method which starts with the assertion that since God is exalted above
Being, we cannot say what He is, but only what He is not. Clement
apparently objects to saying that God is above Being, but he strips
Him of all attributes and qualities till nothing is left but a
nameless point; and this, too, he would eliminate, for a point is a
numerical unit, and God is above the idea of the Monad. We shall
encounter this argument far too often in our survey of Mysticism, and
in writers more logical than Clement, who allowed it to dominate their
whole theology and ethics.

The Son is the Consciousness of God. The Father only sees the world as
reflected in the Son. This bold and perhaps dangerous doctrine seems
to be Clement's own.

Clement was not a deep or consistent thinker, and the task which he
has set himself is clearly beyond his strength. But he gathers up most
of the religious and philosophical ideas of his time, and weaves them
together into a system which is permeated by his cultivated, humane,
and genial personality.

Especially interesting from the point of view of our present task is
the use of mystery-language which we find everywhere in Clement. The
Christian revelation is "the Divine (or holy) mysteries," "the Divine
secrets," "the secret Word," "the mysteries of the Word"; Jesus Christ
is "the Teacher of the Divine mysteries"; the ordinary teaching of the
Church is "the lesser mysteries"; the higher knowledge of the Gnostic,
leading to full initiation ([Greek: epopteia]) "the great mysteries."
He borrows _verbatim_ from a Neopythagorean document a whole sentence,
to the effect that "it is not lawful to reveal to profane persons the
mysteries of the Word" - the "Logos" taking the place of "the
Eleusinian goddesses." This evident wish to claim the Greek
mystery-worship, with its technical language, for Christianity, is
very interesting, and the attempt was by no means unfruitful. Among
other ideas which seem to come direct from the mysteries is the notion
of _deification by the gift of immortality_. Clement[120] says
categorically, [Greek: to mê phtheiresthai theiotêtos metechein
esti]. This is, historically, the way in which the doctrine of
"deification" found its way into the scheme of Christian Mysticism.
The idea of immortality as the attribute constituting Godhead was, of
course, as familiar to the Greeks as it was strange to the Jews.[121]

Origen supplies some valuable links in the history of speculative
Mysticism, but his mind was less inclined to mystical modes of thought
than was Clement's. I can here only touch upon a few points which bear
directly upon our subject.

Origen follows Clement in his division of the religious life into two
classes or stages, those of faith and knowledge. He draws too hard a
line between them, and speaks with a professorial arrogance of the
"popular, irrational faith" which leads to "somatic Christianity," as
opposed to the "spiritual Christianity" conferred by Gnosis or
Wisdom.[122] He makes it only too clear that by "somatic Christianity"
he means that faith which is based on the gospel history. Of teaching
founded upon the historical narrative, he says, "What better method
could be devised to assist the masses?" The Gnostic or Sage no longer
needs the crucified Christ. The "eternal" or "spiritual" Gospel, which
is his possession, "shows clearly all things concerning the Son of God
Himself, both the mysteries shown by His words, and the things of
which His acts were the symbols.[123]" It is not that he denies or
doubts the truth of the Gospel history, but he feels that events which
only happened once can be of no importance, and regards the life,
death, and resurrection of Christ as only one manifestation of an
universal law, which was really enacted, not in this fleeting world
of shadows, but in the eternal counsels of the Most High. He
considers that those who are thoroughly convinced of the universal
truths revealed by the Incarnation and Atonement, need trouble
themselves no more about their particular manifestations in time.

Origen, like the Neoplatonists, says that God is above or beyond
Being; but he is sounder than Clement on this point, for he attributes
self-consciousness[124] and reason to God, who therefore does not
require the Second Person in order to come to Himself. Also, since God
is not wholly above reason, He can be approached by reason, and not
only by ecstatic vision.

The Second Person of the Trinity is called by Origen, as by Clement,
"the Idea of Ideas." He is the spiritual activity of God, the
World-Principle, the One who is the basis of the manifold. Human souls
have fallen through sin from their union with the Logos, who became
incarnate in order to restore them to the state which they have lost.

Everything spiritual is indestructible; and therefore every spirit
must at last return to the Good. For the Good alone exists; evil has
no existence, no substance. This is a doctrine which we shall meet
with again. Man, he expressly asserts, cannot be consubstantial with
God, for man can change, while God is immutable. He does not see,
apparently, that, from the point of view of the Platonist, his
universalism makes man's freedom to change an illusion, as belonging
to time only and not to eternity.

While Origen was working out his great system of ecclesiastical
dogmatic, his younger contemporary Plotinus, outside the Christian
pale, was laying the coping-stone on the edifice of Greek philosophy
by a scheme of idealism which must always remain one of the greatest
achievements of the human mind.[125] In the history of Mysticism he
holds a more undisputed place than Plato; for some of the most
characteristic doctrines of Mysticism, which in Plato are only thrown
out tentatively, are in Plotinus welded into a compact whole. Among
the doctrines which first receive a clear exposition in his writings
are, his theory of the Absolute, whom he calls the One, or the Good;
and his theory of the Ideas, which differs from Plato's; for Plato
represents the mind of the World-Artist as immanent in the Idea of the
Good, while Plotinus makes the Ideas immanent in the universal mind;
in other words, the real world (which he calls the "intelligible
world," the sphere of the Ideas) is in the mind of God. He also, in
his doctrine of Vision, attaches an importance to _revelation_ which
was new in Greek philosophy. But his psychology is really the centre
of his system, and it is here that the Christian Church and Christian
Mysticism, in particular, is most indebted to him.

The _soul_ is with him the meeting-point of the intelligible and the
phenomenal. It is diffused everywhere.[126] Animals and vegetables
participate in it;[127] and the earth has a soul which sees and
hears.[128] The soul is immaterial and immortal, for it belongs to the
world of real existence, and nothing that _is_ can cease to be.[129]
The body is in the soul, rather than the soul in the body. The soul
creates the body by imposing form on matter, which in itself is
No-thing, pure indetermination, and next door to absolute
non-existence.[130] Space and time are only forms of our thought. The
concepts formed by the soul, by classifying the things of sense, are
said to be "Ideas unrolled and separate," that is, they are conceived
as separate in space and time, instead of existing all together in
eternity. The nature of the soul is triple; it is presented under
three forms, which are at the same time the three stages of perfection
which it can reach.[131] There is first and lowest the animal and
sensual soul, which is closely bound up with the body; then there is
the logical, reasoning soul, the distinctively _human_ part; and,
lastly, there is the superhuman stage or part, in which a man "thinks
himself according to the higher intelligence, with which he has become
identified, knowing himself no longer as a man, but as one who has
become altogether changed, and has transferred himself into the higher
region." The soul is thus "made one with Intelligence without losing
herself; so that they two are both one and two." This is exactly
Eckhart's doctrine of the _funkelein_, if we identify Plotinus'
[Greek: Nous] with Eckhart's "God," as we may fairly do. The soul is
not altogether incarnate in the body; part of it remains above, in the
intelligible world, whither it desires to return in its entirety.

The world is an image of the Divine Mind, which is itself a reflection
of the One. It is therefore not bad or evil. "What more beautiful
image of the Divine could there be," he asks, "than this world, except
the world yonder?" And so it is a great mistake to shut our eyes to
the world around us, "and all beautiful things.[132]" The love of
beauty will lead us up a long way - up to the point when the love of
the Good is ready to receive us. Only we must not let ourselves be
entangled by sensuous beauty. Those who do not quickly rise beyond
this first stage, to contemplate "ideal form, the universal mould,"
share the fate of Hylas; they are engulfed in a swamp, from which they
never emerge.

The universe resembles a vast chain, of which every being is a link.
It may also be compared to rays of light shed abroad from one centre.
Everything flowed from this centre, and everything desires to flow
back towards it. God draws all men and all things towards Himself as
a magnet draws iron, with a constant unvarying attraction. This theory
of emanation is often sharply contrasted with that of evolution, and
is supposed to be discredited by modern science; but that is only true
if the emanation is regarded as a process in time, which for the
Neoplatonist it is not.[133] In fact, Plotinus uses the word
"evolution" to explain the process of nature.[134]

The whole universe is one vast organism,[135] and if one member
suffer, all the members suffer with it.[136] This is why a "faint
movement of sympathy[137]" stirs within us at the sight of any living
creature. So Origen says, "As our body, while consisting of many
members, is yet held together by one soul, so the universe is to be
thought of as an immense living being, which is held together by one
soul - the power and the Logos of God." All existence is drawn upwards
towards God by a kind of centripetal attraction, which is unconscious
in the lower, half conscious in the higher organisms.

Christian Neoplatonism tended to identify the Logos, as the Second
Person of the Trinity, with the [Greek: Nous], "Mind" or
"Intelligence," of Plotinus, and rightly; but in Plotinus the word
Logos has a less exalted position, being practically what we call
"law," regarded as a vital force.[138]

Plotinus' Trinity are the One or the Good, who is above existence,
God as the Absolute; the Intelligence, who occupies the sphere of real
existence, organic unity comprehending multiplicity - the One-Many, as
he calls it, or, as we might call it, God as thought, God existing in
and for Himself; and the Soul, the One and Many, occupying the sphere
of appearance or imperfect reality - God as action. Soulless matter,
which only exists as a logical abstraction, is arrived at by looking
at things "in disconnexion, dull and spiritless." It is the sphere of
the "merely many," and is zero, as "the One who is not" is Infinity.

The Intelligible World is timeless and spaceless, and contains the
archetypes of the Sensible World. The Sensible World is _our_ view of
the Intelligible World. When we say it does not exist, we mean that we
shall not always see it in this form. The "Ideas" are the ultimate
form in which things are regarded by Intelligence, or by God. [Greek:
Nous] is described as at once [Greek: stasis] and [Greek:
kinêsis], that is, it is unchanging itself, but the whole cosmic
process, which is ever in flux, is eternally present to it as a

Evil is disintegration.[139] In its essence it is not merely unreal,
but unreality as such. It can only _appear_ in conjunction with some
low degree of goodness which suggests to Plotinus the fine saying that
"vice at its worst is still human, being mixed with something
opposite to itself.[140]"

The "lower virtues," as he calls the duties of the average
citizen,[141] are not only purgative, but teach us the principles of
_measure_ and _rule_, which are Divine characteristics. This is
immensely important, for it is the point where Platonism and Asiatic
Mysticism finally part company.[142]

But in Plotinus, as in his Christian imitators, they do _not_ part

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