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Title: Christian Mysticism
Author: Inge, William Ralph, 1860-1954
Language: English
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The Bampton Lectures, 1899

Considered in Eight Lectures Delivered before the University of Oxford


Dean Of S. Paul's

Methuen & Co. Ltd.
36 Essex Street W.c.

From The Last Will And Testament
Of The Late
Rev. John Bampton
Canon Of Salisbury

----"I give and bequeath my Lands and Estates to the Chancellor,
Masters, and Scholars of the University of Oxford for ever, to have
and to hold all and singular the said Lands and Estates upon trust,
and to the intents and purposes hereinafter mentioned; that is to say,
I will and appoint that the Vice-Chancellor of the University of
Oxford for the time being shall take and receive all the rents,
issues, and profits thereof, and (after all taxes, reparations, and
necessary deductions made) that he pay all the remainder to the
endowment of eight Divinity Lecture Sermons, to be established for
ever in the said University, and to be performed in the manner

"I direct and appoint that upon the first Tuesday in Easter Term, a
Lecturer be yearly chosen by the Heads of Colleges only, and by no
others, in the room adjoining to the Printing-House, between the hours
of ten in the morning and two in the afternoon, to preach eight
Divinity Lecture Sermons, the year following, at St. Mary's in Oxford,
between the commencement of the last month in Lent Term, and the end
of the third week in Act Term.

"Also I direct and appoint, that the eight Divinity Lecture Sermons
shall be preached upon either of the following Subjects--to confirm
and establish the Christian Faith, and to confute all heretics and
schismatics--upon the Divine authority of the Holy Scriptures--upon
the authority of the writings of the primitive Fathers, as to the
faith and practice of the primitive Church--upon the Divinity of our
Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ--upon the Divinity of the Holy
Ghost--upon the Articles of the Christian Faith, as comprehended in
the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds.

"Also I direct that thirty copies of the eight Divinity Lecture
Sermons shall be always printed within two months after they are
preached; and one copy shall be given to the Chancellor of the
University, and one copy to the head of every College, and one copy to
the Mayor of the City of Oxford, and one copy to be put into the
Bodleian Library; and the expense of printing them shall be paid out
of the revenue of the Land or Estates given for establishing the
Divinity Lecture Sermons; and the Preacher shall not be paid, nor
entitled to the revenue, before they are printed.

"Also I direct and appoint, that no person shall be qualified to
preach the Divinity Lecture Sermons, unless he hath taken the degree
of Master of Arts at least, in one of the two Universities of Oxford
or Cambridge; and that the same person shall never preach the Divinity
Lecture Sermons twice."


The first of the subjects which, according to the will of Canon
Bampton, are prescribed for the Lecturers upon his foundation, is the
confirmation and establishment of the Christian faith. This is the aim
which I have kept in view in preparing this volume; and I should wish
my book to be judged as a contribution to apologetics, rather than as
a historical sketch of Christian Mysticism. I say this because I
decided, after some hesitation, to adopt a historical framework for
the Lectures, and this arrangement may cause my object to be
misunderstood. It seemed to me that the instructiveness of tracing the
development and operation of mystical ideas, in the forms which they
have assumed as active forces in history, outweighed the disadvantage
of appearing to waver between apology and narrative. A series of
historical essays would, of course, have been quite unsuitable in the
University pulpit, and, moreover, I did not approach the subject from
that side. Until I began to prepare the Lectures, about a year and a
half before they were delivered, my study of the mystical writers had
been directed solely by my own intellectual and spiritual needs. I was
attracted to them in the hope of finding in their writings a
philosophy and a rule of life which would satisfy my mind and
conscience. In this I was not disappointed; and thinking that others
might perhaps profit by following the same path, I wished to put
together and publish the results of my thought and reading. In such a
scheme historical details are either out of place or of secondary
value; and I hope this will be remembered by any historians who may
take the trouble to read my book.

The philosophical side of the subject is from my point of view of much
greater importance. I have done my best to acquire an adequate
knowledge of those philosophies, both ancient and modern, which are
most akin to speculative Mysticism, and also to think out my own
position. I hope that I have succeeded in indicating my general
standpoint, and that what I have written may prove fairly consistent
and intelligible; but I have felt keenly the disadvantage of having
missed the systematic training in metaphysics given by the Oxford
school of _Literæ Humaniores_, and also the difficulty (perhaps I
should say the presumption) of addressing metaphysical arguments to an
audience which included several eminent philosophers. I wish also that
I had had time for a more thorough study of Fechner's works; for his
system, so far as I understand it, seems to me to have a great
interest and value as a scheme of philosophical Mysticism which does
not clash with modern science.

I have spoken with a plainness which will probably give offence of the
debased supernaturalism which usurps the name of Mysticism in Roman
Catholic countries. I desire to insult no man's convictions; and it
is for this reason that I have decided not to print my analysis of
Ribet's work (_La Mystique Divine, distinguée des Contrefaçons
diaboliques_. Nouvelle Edition, Paris, 1895, 3 vols.), which I
intended to form an Appendix. It would have opened the eyes of some of
my readers to the irreconcilable antagonism between the Roman Church
and science; but though I translated and summarised my author
faithfully, the result had all the appearance of a malicious travesty.
I have therefore suppressed this Appendix; but with regard to Roman
Catholic "Mysticism" there is no use in mincing matters. Those who
find edification in signs and wonders of this kind, and think that
such "supernatural phenomena," even if they were well authenticated
instead of being ridiculous fables, could possibly establish spiritual
truths, will find little or nothing to please or interest them in
these pages. But those who reverence Nature and Reason, and have no
wish to hear of either of them being "overruled" or "suspended," will,
I hope, agree with me in valuing highly the later developments of
mystical thought in Northern Europe.

There is another class of "mystics" with whom I have but little
sympathy--the dabblers in occultism. "Psychical research" is, no
doubt, a perfectly legitimate science; but when its professors invite
us to watch the breaking down of the middle wall of partition between
matter and spirit, they have, in my opinion, ceased to be scientific,
and are in reality hankering after the beggarly elements of the later

The charge of "pantheistic tendency" will not, I hope, be brought
against me without due consideration. I have tried to show how the
Johannine Logos-doctrine, which is the basis of Christian Mysticism,
differs from Asiatic Pantheism, from Acosmism, and from (one kind of)
evolutionary Idealism. Of course, speculative Mysticism is nearer to
Pantheism than to Deism; but I think it is possible heartily to eschew
Deism without falling into the opposite error.

I have received much help from many kind friends; and though some of
them would not wish to be associated with all of my opinions, I cannot
deny myself the pleasure of thanking them by name. From my mother and
other members of my family, and relations, especially Mr. W.W. How,
Fellow of Merton, I have received many useful suggestions. Three past
or present colleagues have read and criticised parts of my work--the
Rev. H. Rashdall, now Fellow of New College; Mr. H.A. Prichard, now
Fellow of Trinity; and Mr. H.H. Williams, Fellow of Hertford. Mr. G.L.
Dickinson, Fellow of King's College, Cambridge, lent me an unpublished
dissertation on Plotinus. The Rev. C. Bigg, D.D., whose Bampton
Lectures on the Christian Platonists are known all over Europe, did me
the kindness to read the whole of the eight Lectures, and so added to
the great debt which I owe to him for his books. The Rev. J.M. Heald,
formerly Scholar of Trinity, Cambridge, lent me many books from his
fine library, and by inquiring for me at Louvain enabled me to procure
the books on Mysticism which are now studied in Roman Catholic
Universities. The Rev. Dr. Lindsay, who has made a special study of
the German mystics, read my Lectures on that period, and wrote me a
very useful letter upon them. Miss G.H. Warrack of Edinburgh kindly
allowed me to use her modernised version of Julian of Norwich.

I have ventured to say in my last Lecture--and it is my earnest
conviction--that a more general acquaintance with mystical theology
and philosophy is very desirable in the interests of the English
Church at the present time. I am not one of those who think that the
points at issue between Anglo-Catholics and Anglo-Protestants are
trivial: history has always confirmed Aristotle's famous dictum about
parties--[Greek: gignontai ai staseis ou peri mikrôn all' ek mikrôn,
stasiazousi de peri megalôn]--but I do not so far despair of our
Church, or of Christianity, as to doubt that a reconciling principle
must and will be found. Those who do me the honour to read these
Lectures will see to what quarter I look for a mediator. A very short
study would be sufficient to dispel some of the prejudices which still
hang round the name of Mysticism--e.g., that its professors are
unpractical dreamers, and that this type of religion is antagonistic
to the English mind. As a matter of fact, all the great mystics have
been energetic and influential, and their business capacity is
specially noted in a curiously large number of cases. For instance,
Plotinus was often in request as a guardian and trustee; St. Bernard
showed great gifts as an organiser; St. Teresa, as a founder of
convents and administrator, gave evidence of extraordinary practical
ability; even St. Juan of the Cross displayed the same qualities; John
Smith was an excellent bursar of his college; Fénelon ruled his
diocese extremely well; and Madame Guyon surprised those who had
dealings with her by her great aptitude for affairs. Henry More was
offered posts of high responsibility and dignity, but declined them.
The mystic is not as a rule ambitious, but I do not think he often
shows incapacity for practical life, if he consents to mingle in it.
And so far is it from being true that Great Britain has produced but
few mystics, that I am inclined to think the subject might be
adequately studied from English writers alone. On the more
intellectual side we have (without going back to Scotus Erigena) the
Cambridge Platonists, Law and Coleridge; of devotional mystics we have
attractive examples in Hilton and Julian of Norwich; while in verse
the lofty idealism[1] and strong religious bent of our race have
produced a series of poet-mystics such as no other country can rival.
It has not been possible in these Lectures to do justice to George
Herbert, Vaughan "the Silurist," Quarles, Crashaw, and others, who
have all drunk of the same well. Let it suffice to say that the
student who desires to master the history of Mysticism in Britain will
find plenty to occupy his time. But for the religious public in
general the most useful thing would be a judicious selection from the
mystical writers of different times and countries. Those who are more
interested in the practical and devotional than the speculative side
may study with great profit some parts of St. Augustine, the sermons
of Tauler, the _Theologia Germanica_, Hilton's _Scale of Perfection_,
the Life of Henry Suso, St. Francis de Sales and Fénelon, the Sermons
of John Smith and Whichcote's _Aphorisms_, and the later works of
William Law, not forgetting the poets who have been mentioned. I can
think of no course of study more fitting for those who wish to revive
in themselves and others the practical idealism of the primitive
Church, which gained for it its greatest triumphs.

I conclude this Preface with a quotation from William Law on the value
of the mystical writers. "Writers like those I have mentioned," he
says in a letter to Dr. Trapp, "there have been in all ages of the
Church, but as they served not the ends of popular learning, as they
helped no people to figure or preferment in the world, and were
useless to scholastic controversial writers, so they dropt out of
public uses, and were only known, or rather unknown, under the name of
mystical writers, till at last some people have hardly heard of that
very name: though, if a man were to be told what is meant by a
mystical divine, he must be told of something as heavenly, as great,
as desirable, as if he was told what is meant by a real, regenerate,
living member of the mystical body of Christ; for they were thus
called for no other reason than as Moses and the prophets, and the
saints of the Old Testament, may be called the spiritual Israel, or
the true mystical Jews. These writers began their office of teaching
as John the Baptist did, after they had passed through every kind of
mortification and self-denial, every kind of trial and purification,
both inward and outward. They were deeply learned in the mysteries of
the kingdom of God, not through the use of lexicons, or meditating
upon critics, but because they had passed from death unto life. They
highly reverence and excellently direct the true use of everything
that is outward in religion; but, like the Psalmist's king's daughter,
they are all glorious within. They are truly sons of thunder, and sons
of consolation; they break open the whited sepulchres; they awaken the
heart, and show it its filth and rottenness of death: but they leave
it not till the kingdom of heaven is raised up within it. If a man has
no desire but to be of the spirit of the gospel, to obtain all that
renovation of life and spirit which alone can make him to be in Christ
a new creature, it is a great unhappiness to him to be unacquainted
with these writers, or to pass a day without reading something of what
they wrote."


[Footnote 1: It is really time that we took to burning that travesty
of the British character--the John Bull whom our comic papers
represent "guarding his pudding"--instead of Guy Fawkes. Even in the
nineteenth century, amid all the sordid materialism bred of commercial
ascendancy, this country has produced a richer crop of imaginative
literature than any other; and it is significant that, while in
Germany philosophy is falling more and more into the hands of the
empirical school, our own thinkers are nearly all staunch idealists.]



     I. General Characteristics of Mysticism

    II. The Mystical Element in the Bible

   III. Christian Platonism and Speculative Mysticism--(1) In the East

    IV. Christian Platonism and Speculative Mysticism--(2) In the West

     V. Practical and Devotional Mysticism

    VI. Practical and Devotional Mysticism--_continued_

   VII. Nature-Mysticism and Symbolism

  VIII. Nature-Mysticism--_continued_

        APPENDIX A. Definitions of "Mysticism" and "Mystical Theology"

        APPENDIX B. The Greek Mysteries and Christian Mysticism

        APPENDIX C. The Doctrine of Deification

        APPENDIX D. The Mystical Interpretation of the Song of Solomon



[Greek: "Hêmin de apodeikteon hôs ep' eutuchia tê megistê para Theôn
hê toiautê mania didotai hê de dê apodeixis estai deinois men
apistos, sophois de pistê"]

PLATO, _Phædrus_, p. 245.

  "_Thoas_. Es spricht kein Gott; es spricht dein eignes Herz.
  _Iphigenia_. Sie reden nur durch unser Herz zu uns."

GOETHE, _Iphigenie_.

  "Si notre vie est moins qu'une journée
   En l'éternel; si l'an qui fait le tour
   Chasse nos jours sans espoir de retour;
   Si périssable est toute chose née;
   Que songes-tu, mon âme emprisonnée?
   Pourquoi te plaît l'obscur de notre jour,
   Si, pour voler en un plus clair séjour,
   Tu as au dos l'aile bien empennée!
   Là est le bien que tout esprit désire,
   Là, le repos ou tout le monde aspire,
   Là est l'amour, là le plaisir encore!
   Là, ô mon âme, au plus haut ciel guidée,
   Tu y pourras reconnaître l'idée
   De la beauté qu'en ce monde j'adore!"



"Beloved, now are we children of God, and it is not yet made manifest
what we shall be. We know that, if He shall be manifested, we shall be
like Him; for we shall see Him even as He is."--I JOHN iii. 2, 3.

No word in our language--not even "Socialism"--has been employed more
loosely than "Mysticism." Sometimes it is used as an equivalent for
symbolism or allegorism, sometimes for theosophy or occult science;
and sometimes it merely suggests the mental state of a dreamer, or
vague and fantastic opinions about God and the world. In Roman
Catholic writers, "mystical phenomena" mean supernatural suspensions
of physical law. Even those writers who have made a special study of
the subject, show by their definitions of the word how uncertain is
its connotation.[2] It is therefore necessary that I should make clear
at the outset what I understand by the term, and what aspects of
religious life and thought I intend to deal with in these Lectures.

The history of the _word_ begins in close connexion with the Greek
mysteries.[3] A mystic [Greek: mystês] is one who has been, or is
being, initiated into some esoteric knowledge of Divine things, about
which he must keep his mouth shut ([Greek: myein]); or, possibly, he is
one whose _eyes_ are still shut, one who is not yet an [Greek:
epoptês].[4] The word was taken over, with other technical terms of
the mysteries, by the Neoplatonists, who found in the existing
mysteriosophy a discipline, worship, and rule of life congenial to
their speculative views. But as the tendency towards quietism and
introspection increased among them, another derivation for "Mysticism"
was found--it was explained to mean deliberately shutting the eyes to
all external things.[5] We shall see in the sequel how this later
Neoplatonism passed almost entire into Christianity, and, while
forming the basis of mediæval Mysticism, caused a false association to
cling to the word even down to the Reformation.[6]

The phase of thought or feeling which we call Mysticism has its
origin in that which is the raw material of all religion, and perhaps
of all philosophy and art as well, namely, that dim consciousness of
the _beyond_, which is part of our nature as human beings. Men have
given different names to these "obstinate questionings of sense and
outward things." We may call them, if we will, a sort of higher
instinct, perhaps an anticipation of the evolutionary process; or an
extension of the frontier of consciousness; or, in religious language,
the voice of God speaking to us. Mysticism arises when we try to bring
this higher consciousness into relation with the other contents of our
minds. Religious Mysticism may be defined as the attempt to realise
the presence of the living God in the soul and in nature, or, more
generally, as _the attempt to realise, in thought and feeling, the
immanence of the temporal in the eternal, and of the eternal in the
temporal_. Our consciousness of the beyond is, I say, the raw material
of all religion. But, being itself formless, it cannot be brought
directly into relation with the forms of our thought. Accordingly, it
has to express itself by symbols, which are as it were the flesh and
bones of ideas. It is the tendency of all symbols to petrify or
evaporate, and either process is fatal to them. They soon repudiate
their mystical origin, and forthwith lose their religious content.
Then comes a return to the fresh springs of the inner life--a revival
of spirituality in the midst of formalism or unbelief. This is the
historical function of Mysticism--it appears as an independent active
principle, the spirit of reformations and revivals. But since every
active principle must find for itself appropriate instruments,
Mysticism has developed a speculative and practical system of its
own. As Goethe says, it is "the scholastic of the heart, the dialectic
of the feelings." In this way it becomes possible to consider it as a
type of religion, though it must always be remembered that in becoming
such it has incorporated elements which do not belong to its inmost
being.[7] As a type of religion, then, Mysticism seems to rest on the
following propositions or articles of faith:--

First, _the soul_ (as well as the body) _can see and
perceive_--[Greek: esti de psychês aisthêsis tis], as Proclus says.
We have an organ or faculty for the discernment of spiritual truth,
which, in its proper sphere, is as much to be trusted as the organs of
sensation in theirs.

The second proposition is that, since we can only know what is akin to
ourselves,[8] _man, in order to know God, must be a partaker of the
Divine nature_. "What we are, that we behold; and what we behold,
that we are," says Ruysbroek. The curious doctrine which we find in
the mystics of the Middle Ages, that there is at "the apex of the
mind" a spark which is consubstantial with the uncreated ground of the
Deity, is thus accounted for. We could not even begin to work out our
own salvation if God were not already working in us. It is always "in
His light" that "we see light." The doctrine has been felt to be a
necessary postulate by most philosophers who hold that knowledge of
God is possible to man. For instance, Krause says, "From finite reason
as finite we might possibly explain the thought of itself, but not the
thought of something that is outside finite reasonable beings, far
less the absolute idea, in its contents infinite, of God. To become
aware of God in knowledge we require certainly to make a freer use of
our finite power of thought, but the thought of God itself is
primarily and essentially an eternal operation of the eternal
revelation of God to the finite mind." But though we are made in the
image of God, our _likeness_ to Him only exists potentially.[9] The
Divine spark already shines within us, but it has to be searched for
in the innermost depths of our personality, and its light diffused
over our whole being.

This brings us to the third proposition--"_Without holiness no man may
see the Lord_"; or, as it is expressed positively in the Sermon on the
Mount, "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God."
Sensuality and selfishness are absolute disqualifications for knowing
"the things of the Spirit of God." These fundamental doctrines are
very clearly laid down in the passage from St. John which I read as
the text of this Lecture. The filial relation to God is already
claimed, but the vision is inseparable from _likeness_ to Him, which
is a hope, not a possession, and is only to be won by "purifying
ourselves, even as He is pure."

There is one more fundamental doctrine which we must not omit.
Purification removes the obstacles to our union with God, but our
guide on the upward path, _the true hierophant of the mysteries of
God, is love_[10]. Love has been defined as "interest in its highest
power";[11] while others have said that "it is of the essence of love
to be disinterested." The contradiction is merely a verbal one. The
two definitions mark different starting-points, but the two "ways of
love" should bring us to the same goal. The possibility of
disinterested love, in the ordinary sense, ought never to have been
called in question. "Love is not love" when it asks for a reward. Nor
is the love of man to God any exception. He who tries to be holy in
order to be happy will assuredly be neither. In the words of the
_Theologia Germanica_, "So long as a man seeketh his own highest good
_because_ it is his, he will never find it." The mystics here are
unanimous, though some, like St. Bernard, doubt whether perfect love
of God can ever be attained, pure and without alloy, while we are in
this life.[12] The controversy between Fénelon and Bossuet on this
subject is well known, and few will deny that Fénelon was mainly in
the right. Certainly he had an easy task in justifying his statements
from the writings of the saints. But we need not trouble ourselves
with the "mystic paradox," that it would be better to be with Christ
in hell than without Him in heaven--a statement which Thomas à Kempis
once wrote and then erased in his manuscript. For wherever Christ is,
there is heaven: nor should we regard eternal happiness as anything
distinct from "a true conjunction of the mind with God.[13]" "God is
not without or above law: He _could_ not make men either sinful or
miserable.[14]" To believe otherwise is to suppose an irrational
universe, the one thing which a rational man cannot believe in.

The mystic, as we have seen, makes it his life's aim to be transformed
into the likeness of Him in whose image he was created.[15] He loves
to figure his path as a ladder reaching from earth to heaven, which
must be climbed step by step. This _scala perfectionis_ is generally
divided into three stages. The first is called the purgative life,
the second the illuminative, while the third, which is really the goal
rather than a part of the journey, is called the unitive life, or
state of perfect contemplation.[16] We find, as we should expect, some
differences in the classification, but this tripartite scheme is
generally accepted.

The steps of the upward path constitute the ethical system, the rule
of life, of the mystics. The first stage, the purgative life, we read
in the _Theologia Germanica_, is brought about by contrition, by
confession, by hearty amendment; and this is the usual language in
treatises intended for monks. But it is really intended to include the
civic and social virtues in this stage.[17] They occupy the lowest
place, it is true; but this only means that they must be acquired by
all, though all are not called to the higher flights of contemplation.
Their chief value, according to Plotinus, is to teach us the meaning
of _order_ and _limitation_ ([Greek: taxis] and [Greek: peras]), which
are qualities belonging to the Divine nature. This is a very valuable
thought, for it contradicts that aberration of Mysticism which calls
God the Infinite, and thinks of Him as the Indefinite, dissolving all
distinctions in the abyss of bare indetermination. When Ewald says,
"the true mystic never withdraws himself wilfully from the business
of life, no, not even from the smallest business," he is, at any rate,
saying nothing which conflicts with the principles of Mysticism.[18]

The purgative life necessarily includes self-discipline: does it
necessarily include what is commonly known as asceticism? It would be
easy to answer that asceticism means nothing but _training_, as men
train for a race, or more broadly still, that it means simply "the
acquisition of some greater power by practice.[19]" But when people
speak of "asceticism," they have in their minds such severe
"buffeting" of the body as was practised by many ancient hermits and
mediæval monks. Is this an integral part of the mystic's "upward
path"? We shall find reason to conclude that, while a certain degree
of austere simplicity characterises the outward life of nearly all the
mystics, and while an almost morbid desire to suffer is found in many
of them, there is nothing in the system itself to encourage men to
maltreat their bodies. Mysticism enjoins a dying life, not a living
death. Moreover, asceticism, when regarded as a virtue or duty in
itself, tends to isolate us, and concentrates our attention on our
separate individuality. This is contrary to the spirit of Mysticism,
which aims at realising unity and solidarity everywhere. Monkish
asceticism (so far as it goes beyond the struggle to live unstained
under unnatural conditions) rests on a dualistic view of the world
which does not belong to the essence of Mysticism. It infected all the
religious life of the Middle Ages, not Mysticism only.[20]

The second stage, the illuminative life, is the concentration of all
the faculties, will, intellect, and feeling, upon God. It differs from
the purgative life, not in having discarded good works, but in having
come to perform them, as Fénelon says, "no longer as virtues," that is
to say, willingly and almost spontaneously. The struggle is now
transferred to the inner life.

The last stage of the journey, in which the soul presses towards the
mark, and gains the prize of its high calling, is the unitive or
contemplative life, in which man beholds God face to face, and is
joined to Him. Complete union with God is the ideal limit of religion,
the attainment of which would be at once its consummation and
annihilation. It is in the continual but unending approximation to it
that the life of religion subsists.[21] We must therefore beware of
regarding the union as anything more than an infinite process, though,
as its end is part of the eternal counsel of God, there is a sense in
which it is already a fact, and not merely a thing desired. But the
word deification holds a very large place in the writings of the
Fathers, and not only among those who have been called mystics. We
find it in Irenæus as well as in Clement, in Athanasius as well as in
Gregory of Nyssa. St. Augustine is no more afraid of "deificari" in
Latin than Origen of [Greek: theopoieisthai] in Greek. The subject is
one of primary importance to anyone who wishes to understand mystical
theology; but it is difficult for us to enter into the minds of the
ancients who used these expressions, both because [Greek: theos] was a
very fluid concept in the early centuries, and because our notions of
_personality_ are very different from those which were prevalent in
antiquity. On this latter point I shall have more to say presently;
but the evidence for the belief in "deification," and its continuance
through the Middle Ages, is too voluminous to be given in the body of
these Lectures.[22] Let it suffice to say here that though such bold
phrases as "God became man, that we might become God," were
commonplaces of doctrinal theology at least till after Augustine, even
Clement and Origen protest strongly against the "very impious" heresy
that man is "a part of God," or "consubstantial with God.[23]" The
attribute of Divinity which was chiefly in the minds of the Greek
Fathers when they made these statements, was that of _imperishableness_.

As to the means by which this union is manifested to the
consciousness, there is no doubt that very many mystics believed in,
and looked for, ecstatic revelations, trances, or visions. This,
again, is one of the crucial questions of Mysticism.

Ecstasy or vision begins when thought ceases, _to our consciousness_,
to proceed from ourselves. It differs from dreaming, because the
subject is awake. It differs from hallucination, because there is no
organic disturbance: it is, or claims to be, a temporary enhancement,
not a partial disintegration, of the mental faculties. Lastly, it
differs from poetical inspiration, because the imagination is passive.

That perfectly sane people often experience such visions there is no
manner of doubt. St. Paul fell into a trance at his conversion, and
again at a later period, when he seemed to be caught up into the third
heaven. The most sober and practical of the mediæval mystics speak of
them as common phenomena. And in modern times two of the sanest of our
poets have recorded their experiences in words which may be worth

Wordsworth, in his well-known "Lines composed above Tintern Abbey,"
speaks of--

                "That serene and blessed mood,
  In which ... the breath of this corporeal frame,
  And even the motion of our human blood,
  Almost suspended, we are laid asleep
  In body, and become a living soul:
  While with an eye made quiet by the power
  Of harmony, and the deep power of joy,
  We see into the life of things."

And Tennyson says,[24] "A kind of waking trance I have often had,
quite from boyhood, when I have been all alone. This has generally
come upon me through repeating my own name two or three times to
myself silently, till all at once, out of the intensity of the
consciousness of individuality, the individual itself seemed to
dissolve and fade away into boundless being: and this not a confused
state, but the clearest of the clearest, and the surest of the surest,
the weirdest of the weirdest, utterly beyond words, where death was an
almost laughable impossibility, the loss of personality (if so it
were) seeming no extinction, but the only true life."

Admitting, then, that these psychical phenomena actually occur, we
have to consider whether ecstasy and kindred states are an integral
part of Mysticism. In attempting to answer this question, we shall
find it convenient to distinguish between the Neoplatonic vision of
the super-essential One, the Absolute, which Plotinus enjoyed several
times, and Porphyry only once, and the visions and "locutions" which
are reported in all times and places, especially where people have not
been trained in scientific habits of thought and observation. The
former was held to be an exceedingly rare privilege, the culminating
point of the contemplative life. I shall speak of it in my third
Lecture; and shall there show that it belongs, not to the essence of
Mysticism, and still less to Christianity, but to the Asiatic leaven
which was mixed with Alexandrian thought, and thence passed into
Catholicism. As regards visions in general, they were no invention of
the mystics. They played a much more important part in the life of the
early Church than many ecclesiastical historians are willing to admit.
Tertullian, for instance, says calmly, "The majority, almost, of men
learn God from visions.[25]" Such implicit reliance was placed on the
Divine authority of visions, that on one occasion an ignorant peasant
and a married man was made Patriarch of Alexandria against his will,
because his dying predecessor had a vision that the man who should
bring him a present of grapes on the next day should be his successor!
In course of time visions became rarer among the laity, but continued
frequent among the monks and clergy. And so the class which furnished
most of the shining lights of Mysticism was that in which these
experiences were most common.

But we do not find that the masters of the spiritual life attached
very much importance to them, or often appealed to them as aids to
faith.[26] As a rule, visions were regarded as special rewards
bestowed by the goodness of God on the struggling saint, and
especially on the beginner, to refresh him and strengthen him in the
hour of need. Very earnest cautions were issued that no efforts must
be made to induce them artificially, and aspirants were exhorted
neither to desire them, nor to feel pride in having seen them. The
spiritual guides of the Middle Ages were well aware that such
experiences often come of disordered nerves and weakened digestion;
they believed also that they are sometimes delusions of Satan. Richard
of St. Victor says, "As Christ attested His transfiguration by the
presence of Moses and Elias, so visions should not be believed unless
they have the authority of Scripture." Albertus Magnus tries to
classify them, and says that those which contain a sensuous element
are always dangerous. Eckhart is still more cautious, and Tauler
attaches little value to them. Avila, the Spanish mystic, says that
only those visions which minister to our spiritual necessities, and
make us _more humble_, are genuine. Self-induced visions inflate us
with pride, and do irreparable injury to health of mind and body.[27]

It hardly falls within my task to attempt to determine what these
visions really are. The subject is one upon which psychological and
medical science may some day throw more light. But this much I must
say, to make my own position clear: I regard these experiences as
neither more nor less "supernatural" than other mental phenomena. Many
of them are certainly pathological;[28] about others we may feel
doubts; but some have every right to be considered as real
irradiations of the soul from the light that "for ever shines," real
notes of the harmony that "is in immortal souls." In illustration of
this, we may appeal to three places in the Bible where revelations of
the profoundest truths concerning the nature and counsels of God are
recorded to have been made during ecstatic visions. Moses at Mount
Horeb heard, during the vision of the burning bush, a proclamation of
God as the "I am"--the Eternal who is exalted above time. Isaiah, in
the words "Holy, Holy, Holy," perceived dimly the mystery of the
Trinity. And St. Peter, in the vision of the sheet, learned that God
is no respecter of persons or of nationalities. In such cases the
highest intuitions or revelations, which the soul can in its best
moments just receive, but cannot yet grasp or account for, make a
language for themselves, as it were, and claim the sanction of
external authority, until the mind is elevated so far as to feel the
authority not less Divine, but no longer external. We may find fairly
close analogies in other forms of that "Divine madness," which Plato
says is "the source of the chiefest blessings granted to men"--such as
the rapture of the poet, or (as Plato adds) of the lover.[29] And
even the philosopher or man of science may be surprised into some such
state by a sudden realisation of the sublimity of his subject. So at
least Lacordaire believed when he wrote, "All at once, as if by
chance, the hair stands up, the breath is caught, the skin contracts,
and a cold sword pierces to the very soul. It is the sublime which has
manifested itself![30]" Even in cases where there is evident
hallucination, e.g. when the visionary sees an angel or devil sitting
on his book, or feels an arrow thrust into his heart, there need be no
insanity. In periods when it is commonly believed that such things may
and do happen, the imagination, instead of being corrected by
experience, is misled by it. Those who honestly expect to see miracles
will generally see them, without detriment either to their
truthfulness or sanity in other matters.

The mystic, then, is not, as such, a visionary; nor has he any interest
in appealing to a faculty "above reason," if reason is used in its
proper sense, as the logic of the whole personality. The desire to find
for our highest intuitions an authority wholly external to reason and
independent of it,--a "purely supernatural" revelation,--has, as
Récéjac says, "been the cause of the longest and the most dangerous of
the aberrations from which Mysticism has suffered." This kind of
supernaturalism is destructive of _unity_ in our ideas of God, the
world, and ourselves; and it casts a slur on the faculties which are the
appointed organs of communication between God and man. A revelation
absolutely transcending reason is an absurdity: no such revelation could
ever be made. In the striking phrase of Macarius, "the human mind is the
throne of the Godhead." The supremacy of the reason is the favourite
theme of the Cambridge Platonists, two of whom, Whichcote and Culverwel,
are never tired of quoting the text, "The spirit of man is the candle of
the Lord." "Sir, I oppose not rational to spiritual," writes Whichcote
to Tuckney, "for spiritual is most rational." And again, "Reason is the
Divine governor of man's life: it is the very voice of God.[31]" What we
can and must transcend, if we would make any progress in Divine
knowledge, is not reason, but that shallow rationalism which regards the
data on which we can reason as a fixed quantity, known to all, and which
bases itself on a formal logic, utterly unsuited to a spiritual view of
things. Language can only furnish us with poor, misleading, and wholly
inadequate images of spiritual facts; it supplies us with abstractions
and metaphors, which do not really represent what we know or believe
about God and human personality. St. Paul calls attention to this
inadequacy by a series of formal contradictions: "I live, yet not I";
"dying, and behold we live"; "when I am weak, then I am strong," and so
forth; and we find exactly the same expedient in Plotinus, who is very
fond of thus showing his contempt for the logic of identity. When,
therefore, Harnack says that "Mysticism is nothing else than rationalism
applied to a sphere above reason," he would have done better to say that
it is "reason applied to a sphere above rationalism.[32]"

For Reason is still "king.[33]" Religion must not be a matter of
_feeling_ only. St. John's command to "try every spirit" condemns all
attempts to make emotion or inspiration independent of reason. Those
who thus blindly follow the inner light find it no "candle of the
Lord," but an _ignis fatuus_; and the great mystics are well aware of
this. The fact is that the tendency to separate and half personify the
different faculties--intellect, will, feeling--is a mischievous one.
Our object should be so to _unify_ our personality, that our eye may
be single, and our whole body full of light.

We have considered briefly the three stages of the mystic's upward
path. The scheme of life therein set forth was no doubt determined
empirically, and there is nothing to prevent the simplest and most
unlettered saint from framing his conduct on these principles. Many of
the mediæval mystics had no taste for speculation or philosophy;[34]
they accepted on authority the entire body of Church dogma, and
devoted their whole attention to the perfecting of the spiritual life
in the knowledge and love of God. But this cannot be said of the
leaders. Christian Mysticism appears in history largely as an
intellectual movement, the foster-child of Platonic idealism; and if
ever, for a time, it forgot its early history, men were soon found to
bring it back to "its old loving nurse the Platonic philosophy." It
will be my task, in the third and fourth Lectures of this course, to
show how speculative Christian Mysticism grew out of Neoplatonism; but
we shall not be allowed to forget the Platonists even in the later
Lectures. "The fire still burns on the altars of Plotinus," as
Eunapius said.

Mysticism is not itself a philosophy, any more than it is itself a
religion. On its intellectual side it has been called "formless
speculation.[35]" But until speculations or intuitions have entered
into the forms of our thought, they are not current coin even for the
thinker. The part played by Mysticism in philosophy is parallel to the
part played by it in religion. As in religion it appears in revolt
against dry formalism and cold rationalism, so in philosophy it takes
the field against materialism and scepticism.[36] It is thus possible
to speak of speculative Mysticism, and even to indicate certain
idealistic lines of thought, which may without entire falsity be
called the philosophy of Mysticism. In this introductory Lecture I
can, of course, only hint at these in the barest and most summary
manner. And it must be remembered that I have undertaken to-day to
delineate the general characteristics of Mysticism, not of Christian
Mysticism. I am trying, moreover, in this Lecture to confine myself to
those developments which I consider normal and genuine, excluding the
numerous aberrant types which we shall encounter in the course of our

The real world, according to thinkers of this school, is created by
the thought and will of God, and exists in His mind. It is therefore
spiritual, and above space and time, which are only the forms under
which reality is set out as a process.

When we try to represent to our minds the highest reality, the
spiritual world, as distinguished from the world of appearance, we are
obliged to form images; and we can hardly avoid choosing one of the
following three images. We may regard the spiritual world as endless
duration opposed to transitoriness, as infinite extension opposed to
limitation in space, or as substance opposed to shadow. All these are,
strictly speaking, symbols or metaphors,[37] for we cannot regard any
of them as literally true statements about the nature of reality; but
they are as near the truth as we can get in words. But when we think
of time as a piece cut off from the beginning of eternity, so that
eternity is only in the future and not in the present; when we think
of heaven as a place somewhere else, and therefore not here; when we
think of an upper ideal world which has sucked all the life out of
this, so that we now walk in a vain shadow,--then we are paying the
penalty for our symbolical representative methods of thought, and must
go to philosophy to help us out of the doubts and difficulties in
which our error has involved us. One test is infallible. Whatever view
of reality deepens our sense of the tremendous issues of life in the
world wherein we move, is _for us_ nearer the truth than any view
which diminishes that sense. The truth is revealed to us that we may
have _life_, and have it more abundantly.

The world as it is, is the world as God sees it, not as we see it. Our
vision is distorted, not so much by the limitations of finitude, as by
sin and ignorance. The more we can raise ourselves in the scale of
being, the more will our ideas about God and the world correspond to
the reality. "Such as men themselves are, such will God Himself seem
to them to be," says John Smith, the English Platonist. Origen, too,
says that those whom Judas led to seize Jesus did not know who He was,
for the darkness of their own souls was projected on His features.[38]
And Dante, in a very beautiful passage, says that he felt that he was
rising into a higher circle, because he saw Beatrice's face becoming
more beautiful.[39]

This view of reality, as a vista which is opened gradually to the
eyes of the climber up the holy mount, is very near to the heart of
Mysticism. It rests on the faith that the ideal not only ought to be,
but _is_ the real. It has been applied by some, notably by that
earnest but fantastic thinker, James Hinton, as offering a solution of
the problem of evil. We shall encounter attempts to deal with this
great difficulty in several of the Christian mystics. The problem
among the speculative writers was how to reconcile the Absolute of
philosophy, who is above all distinctions,[40] with the God of
religion, who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity. They could not
allow that evil has a substantial existence apart from God, for fear
of being entangled in an insoluble Dualism. But if evil is derived
from God, how can God be good? We shall find that the prevailing view
was that "Evil has no substance." "There is nothing," says Gregory of
Nyssa, "which falls outside of the Divine nature, except moral evil
alone. And this, we may say paradoxically, has its being in not-being.
For the genesis of moral evil is simply the privation of being.[41]
That which, properly speaking, exists, is the nature of the good." The
Divine nature, in other words, is that which excludes nothing, and
contradicts nothing, except those attributes which are contrary to the
nature of reality; it is that which harmonises everything except
discord, which loves everything except hatred, verifies everything
except falsehood, and beautifies everything except ugliness. Thus that
which falls outside the notion of God, proves on examination to be
not merely unreal, but unreality as such. But the relation of evil to
the Absolute is not a religious problem. To our experience, evil
exists as a positive force not subject to the law of God, though
constantly overruled and made an instrument of good. On this subject
we must say more later. Here I need only add that a sunny confidence
in the ultimate triumph of good shines from the writings of most of
the mystics, especially, I think, in our own countrymen. The Cambridge
Platonists are all optimistic; and in the beautiful but little known
_Revelations_ of Juliana of Norwich, we find in page after page the
refrain of "All shall be well." "Sin is behovable,[42] but all shall
be well, and all manner of thing shall be well."

Since the universe is the thought and will of God expressed under the
forms of time and space, everything in it reflects the nature of its
Creator, though in different degrees. Erigena says finely, "Every
visible and invisible creature is a theophany or appearance of God."
The purest mirror in the world is the highest of created things--the
human soul unclouded by sin. And this brings us to a point at which
Mysticism falls asunder into two classes.

The question which divides them is this--In the higher stages of the
spiritual life, shall we learn most of the nature of God by close,
sympathetic, reverent observation of the world around us, including
our fellow-men, or by sinking into the depths of our inner
consciousness, and aspiring after direct and constant communion with
God? Each method may claim the support of weighty names. The former,
which will form the subject of my seventh and eighth Lectures, is very
happily described by Charles Kingsley in an early letter.[43] "The
great Mysticism," he says, "is the belief which is becoming every day
stronger with me, that all symmetrical natural objects ... are types
of some spiritual truth or existence.... Everything seems to be full
of God's reflex if we could but see it.... Oh, to see, if but for a
moment, the whole harmony of the great system! to hear once the music
which the whole universe makes as it performs His bidding! When I feel
that sense of the mystery that is around me, I feel a gush of
enthusiasm towards God, which seems its inseparable effect."

On the other side stand the majority of the earlier mystics. Believing
that God is "closer to us than breathing, and nearer than hands and
feet," they are impatient of any intermediaries. "We need not search
for His footprints in Nature, when we can behold His face in
ourselves,[44]" is their answer to St. Augustine's fine expression
that all things bright and beautiful in the world are "footprints of
the uncreated Wisdom.[45]" Coleridge has expressed their feeling in
his "Ode to Dejection"--

        "It were a vain endeavour,
         Though I should gaze for ever
      On that green light that lingers in the West;
      I may not hope from outward forms to win
  The passion and the life whose fountains are within."

"Grace works from within outwards," says Ruysbroek, "for God is nearer
to us than our own faculties. Hence it cannot come from images and
sensible forms." "If thou wishest to search out the deep things of
God," says Richard of St. Victor, "search out the depths of thine own

The truth is that there are two movements,--a _systole_ and _diastole_
of the spiritual life,--an expansion and a concentration. The tendency
has generally been to emphasise one at the expense of the other; but
they must work together, for each is helpless without the other. As
Shakespeare says[46]--

              "Nor doth the eye itself,
  That most pure spirit of sense, behold itself,
  Not going from itself, but eye to eye opposed,
  Salutes each other with each other's form:
  For speculation turns not to itself
  Till it hath travelled, and is mirrored there,
  Where it may see itself."

Nature is dumb, and our own hearts are dumb, until they are allowed to
speak to each other. Then both will speak to us of God.

Speculative Mysticism has occupied itself largely with these two great
subjects--the immanence of God in nature, and the relation of human
personality to Divine. A few words must be said, before I conclude, on
both these matters.

The Unity of all existence is a fundamental doctrine of Mysticism. God
is in all, and all is in God. "His centre is everywhere, and His
circumference nowhere," as St. Bonaventura puts it. It is often argued
that this doctrine leads direct to Pantheism, and that speculative
Mysticism is always and necessarily pantheistic. This is, of course,
a question of primary importance. It is in the hope of dealing with it
adequately that I have selected three writers who have been frequently
called pantheists, for discussion in these Lectures. I mean Dionysius
the Areopagite, Scotus Erigena, and Eckhart. But it would be
impossible even to indicate my line of argument in the few minutes
left me this morning.

The mystics are much inclined to adopt, in a modified form, the old
notion of an _anima mundi_. When Erigena says, "Be well assured that
the Word--the second Person of the Trinity--is the Nature of all
things," he means that the Logos is a cosmic principle, the
Personality of which the universe is the external expression or

We are not now concerned with cosmological speculations, but the
bearing of this theory on human personality is obvious. If the Son of
God is regarded as an all-embracing and all-pervading cosmic
principle, the "mystic union" of the believer with Christ becomes
something much closer than an ethical harmony of two mutually
exclusive wills. The question which exercises the mystics is not
whether such a thing as fusion of personalities is possible, but
whether, when the soul has attained union with its Lord, it is any
longer conscious of a life distinct from that of the Word. We shall
find that some of the best mystics went astray on this point. They
teach a real _substitution_ of the Divine for human nature, thus
depersonalising man, and running into great danger of a perilous
arrogance. The mistake is a fatal one even from the speculative side,
for it is only on the analogy of human personality that we can
conceive of the perfect personality of God; and without personality
the universe falls to pieces. Personality is not only the strictest
unity of which we have any experience; it is the fact which creates
the postulate of unity on which all philosophy is based.

But it is possible to save personality without regarding the human
spirit as a monad, independent and sharply separated from other
spirits. Distinction, not separation, is the mark of personality; but
it is separation, not distinction, that forbids union. The error,
according to the mystic's psychology, is in regarding consciousness of
self as the measure of personality. The depths of personality are
unfathomable, as Heraclitus already knew;[48] the light of
consciousness only plays on the surface of the waters. Jean Paul
Richter is a true exponent of this characteristic doctrine when he
says, "We attribute far too small dimensions to the rich empire of
ourself, if we omit from it the unconscious region which resembles a
great dark continent. The world which our memory peoples only
reveals, in its revolution, a few luminous points at a time, while its
immense and teeming mass remains in shade.... We daily see the
conscious passing into unconsciousness; and take no notice of the bass
accompaniment which our fingers continue to play, while our attention
is directed to fresh musical effects.[49]" So far is it from being
true that the self of our immediate consciousness is our true
personality, that we can only attain personality, as spiritual and
rational beings, by passing beyond the limits which mark us off as
separate individuals. Separate individuality, we may say, is the bar
which prevents us from realising our true privileges as persons.[50]
And so the mystic interprets very literally that maxim of our Lord, in
which many have found the fundamental secret of Christianity: "He that
will save his life--his soul, his personality--shall lose it; and he
that will lose his life for My sake shall find it." The false self
must die--nay, must "die daily," for the process is gradual, and there
is no limit to it. It is a process of infinite _expansion_--of
realising new correspondences, new sympathies and affinities with the
not-ourselves, which affinities condition, and in conditioning
constitute, our true life as persons. The paradox is offensive only
to formal logic. As a matter of experience, no one, I imagine, would
maintain that the man who has practically realised, to the fullest
possible extent, the common life which he draws from his Creator, and
shares with all other created beings,--so realised it, I mean, as to
draw from that consciousness all the influences which can play upon
him from outside,--has thereby dissipated and lost his personality,
and become less of a person than another who has built a wall round
his individuality, and lived, as Plato says, the life of a

We may arrive at the same conclusion by analysing that unconditioned
sense of duty which we call _conscience_. This moral sense cannot be a
fixed code implanted in our consciousness, for then we could not
explain either the variations of moral opinion, or the feeling of
_obligation_ (as distinguished from necessity) which impels us to obey
it. It cannot be the product of the existing moral code of society,
for then we could not explain either the genesis of that public
opinion or the persistent revolt against its limitations which we
find in the greatest minds. The only hypothesis which explains the
facts is that in conscience we feel the motions of the universal
Reason which strives to convert the human organism into an organ of
itself, a belief which is expressed in religious language by saying
that it is God who worketh in us both to will and to do of His good

If it be further asked, Which is our personality, the shifting _moi_
(as Fénelon calls it), or the ideal self, the end or the developing
states? we must answer that it is both and neither, and that the root
of mystical religion is in the conviction that it is at once both and
neither.[52] The _moi_ strives to realise its end, but the end being
an infinite one, no process can reach it. Those who have "counted
themselves to have apprehended" have thereby left the mystical faith;
and those who from the notion of a _progressus ad infinitum_ come to
the pessimistic conclusion, are equally false to the mystical creed,
which teaches us that we are already potentially what God intends us
to become. The command, "Be ye perfect," is, like all Divine commands,
at the same time a promise.

It is stating the same paradox in another form to say that we can only
achieve inner _unity_ by transcending mere individuality. The
independent, impervious self shows its unreality by being inwardly
discordant. It is of no use to enlarge the circumference of our life,
if the fixed centre is always the _ego_. There are, if I may press the
metaphor, other circles with other centres, in which we are vitally
involved. And thus sympathy, or love, which is sympathy in its
highest power, is the great _atoner_, within as well as without. The
old Pythagorean maxim, that "a man must be _one_,[53]" is echoed by
all the mystics. He must be one as God is one, and the world is one;
for man is a microcosm, a living mirror of the universe. Here, once
more, we have a characteristic mystical doctrine, which is perhaps
worked out most fully in the "_Fons Vitæ_" of Avicebron (Ibn Gebirol),
a work which had great influence in the Middle Ages. The doctrine
justifies the use of _analogy_ in matters of religion, and is of great
importance. One might almost dare to say that all conclusions about
the world above us which are _not_ based on the analogy of our own
mental experiences, are either false or meaningless.

The idea of man as a microcosm was developed in two ways. Plotinus
said that "every man is double," meaning that one side of his soul is
in contact with the intelligible, the other with the sensible world.
He is careful to explain that the doctrine of Divine Immanence does
not mean that God _divides_ Himself among the many individuals, but
that they partake of Him according to their degrees of receptivity, so
that each one is potentially in possession of all the fulness of God.
Proclus tries to explain how this can be. "There are three sorts of
_Wholes_--the first, anterior to the parts; the second, composed of
the parts; the third, knitting into one stuff the parts and the
whole.[54]" In this third sense the whole resides in the parts, as
well as the parts in the whole. St. Augustine states the same doctrine
in clearer language.[55] It will be seen at once how this doctrine
encourages that class of Mysticism which bids us "sink into the depths
of our own souls" in order to find God.

The other development of the theory that man is a microcosm is not
less important and interesting. It is a favourite doctrine of the
mystics that man, in his individual life, recapitulates the spiritual
history of the race, in much the same way in which embryologists tell
us that the unborn infant recapitulates the whole process of physical
evolution. It follows that the Incarnation, the central fact of human
history, must have its analogue in the experience of the individual.
We shall find that this doctrine of the birth of an infant Christ in
the soul is one of immense importance in the systems of Eckhart,
Tauler, and our Cambridge Platonists. It is a somewhat perilous
doctrine, as we shall see; but it is one which, I venture to think,
has a future as well as a past, for the progress of modern science has
greatly strengthened the analogies on which it rests. I shall show in
my next Lecture how strongly St. Paul felt its value.

This brief introduction will, I hope, have indicated the main
characteristics of mystical theology and religion. It is a type which
is as repulsive to some minds as it is attractive to others.
Coleridge has said that everyone is born a Platonist or an
Aristotelian, and one might perhaps adapt the epigram by saying that
everyone is naturally either a mystic or a legalist. The
classification does, indeed, seem to correspond to a deep difference
in human characters; it is doubtful whether a man could be found
anywhere whom one could trust to hold the scales evenly between--let
us say--Fénelon and Bossuet. The cleavage is much the same as that
which causes the eternal strife between tradition and illumination,
between priest and prophet, which has produced the deepest tragedies
in human history, and will probably continue to do so while the world
lasts. The legalist--with his conception of God as the righteous Judge
dispensing rewards and punishments, the "Great Taskmaster" in whose
vineyard we are ordered to labour; of the Gospel as "the new law," and
of the sanction of duty as a "categorical imperative"--will never find
it easy to sympathise with those whose favourite words are St. John's
triad--light, life, and love, and who find these the most suitable
names to express what they know of the nature of God. But those to
whom the Fourth Gospel is the brightest jewel in the Bible, and who
can enter into the real spirit of St. Paul's teaching, will, I hope,
be able to take some interest in the historical development of ideas
which in their Christian form are certainly built upon those parts of
the New Testament.


[Footnote 2: See Appendix A for definitions of Mysticism and Mystical

[Footnote 3: See Appendix B for a discussion of the influence of the
Greek mysteries upon Christian Mysticism.]

[Footnote 4: Tholuck accepts the former derivation (cf. Suidas,
[Greek: mystêria eklêthêsan para to tous akouontas myein to stoma
kai mêdeni tauta exêgeisthai]); Petersen, the latter. There is no
doubt that [Greek: myêsis] was opposed to [Greek: epopteia], and in
this sense denoted _incomplete_ initiation; but it was also made to
include the whole process. The prevailing use of the adjective [Greek:
mystikos] is of something seen "through a glass darkly," some
knowledge purposely wrapped up in symbols.]

[Footnote 5: So Hesychius says, [Greek: Mystai, apo myô, myontes gar
tas aisthêseis kai exô tôn sarkikôn phrontidôn genomenoi, outô tas
theias analampseis edechonto.] Plotinus and Proclus both use [Greek:
myô] of the "closed eye" of rapt contemplation.]

[Footnote 6: I cannot agree with Lasson (in his book on Meister
Eckhart) that "the connexion with the Greek mysteries throws no light
on the subject." No writer had more influence upon the growth of
Mysticism in the Church than Dionysius the Areopagite, whose main
object is to present Christianity in the light of a Platonic
mysteriosophy. The same purpose is evident in Clement, and in other
Christian Platonists between Clement and Dionysius. See Appendix B.]

[Footnote 7: It should also be borne in mind that every historical
example of a mystical movement may be expected to exhibit
characteristics which are determined by the particular forms of
religious deadness in opposition to which it arises. I think that it
is generally easy to separate these secondary, accidental
characteristics from those which are primary and integral, and that we
shall then find that the underlying substance, which may be regarded
as the essence of Mysticism as a type of religion, is strikingly

[Footnote 8: The analogy used by Plotinus (_Ennead_ i. 6. 9) was often
quoted and imitated: "Even as the eye could not behold the sun unless
it were itself sunlike, so neither could the soul behold God if it
were not Godlike." Lotze (_Microcosmus_, and cf. _Metaphysics_, 1st
ed., p. 109) falls foul of Plotinus for this argument. "The reality of
the external world is utterly severed from our senses. It is vain to
call the eye sunlike, as if it needed a special occult power to copy
what it has itself produced: fruitless are all mystic efforts to
restore to the intuitions of sense, by means of a secret identity of
mind with things, a reality outside ourselves." Whether the subjective
idealism of this sentence is consistent with the subsequent dogmatic
assertion that "nature is animated throughout," it is not my province
to determine. The latter doctrine is held by a large school of
mystics: the acosmistic tendency of the former has had only too much
attraction for mystics of another school.]

[Footnote 9: This distinction is drawn by Origen, and accepted by all
the mystical writers.]

[Footnote 10: Faith goes so closely hand in hand with love that the
mystics seldom try to separate them, and indeed they need not be
separated. William Law's account of their operation is characteristic.
"When the seed of the new birth, called the inward man, has faith
awakened in it, its faith is not a notion, but a real strong essential
hunger, an attracting or magnetic desire of Christ, which as it
proceeds from a seed of the Divine nature in us, so it attracts and
unites with its like: it lays hold on Christ, puts on the Divine
nature, and in a living and real manner grows powerful over all our
sins, and effectually works out our salvation" (_Grounds and Reasons
of Christian Regeneration_).]

[Footnote 11: R.L. Nettleship, _Remains_.]

[Footnote 12: "Nescio si a quoquam homine quartus (gradus) in hac vita
perfecte apprehenditur, ut se scilicet diligat homo tantum propter
Deum. Asserant hoc si qui experti sunt: mihi (fateor) impossibile
videtur" (_De diligendo Deo_, xv.; _Epist_. xi. 8).]

[Footnote 13: From a sermon by Smith, the Cambridge Platonist.
Plotinus, too, says well, [Greek: ei tis allo eidos êdonês peri ton
spoudaion bion zêtei, ou ton spoudaion bion zêtei] (_Ennead_ i. 4.

[Footnote 14: From Smith's sermons.]

[Footnote 15: Pindar's [Greek: genoio oios essi mathôn] is a fine
mystical maxim. (_Pyth._ 2. 131.)]

[Footnote 16: Strictly, the unitive road (_via_) leads to the
contemplative life (_vita_). Cf. Benedict, xiv., _De Servorum Dei
beatific_., iii. 26, "Perfecta hæc mystica unio reperitur regulariter
in perfecto contemplativo qui in vita purgativa et illuminativa, id
est meditativa, et contemplativa diu versatus, ex speciali Dei favore
ad infusam contemplativam evectus est." On the three ways, Suarez
says, "Distinguere solent mystici tres vias, purgativam,
illuminativam, et unitivam." Molinos was quite a heterodox mystic in
teaching that there is but a "unica via, scilicet interna," and this
proposition was condemned by a Bull of Innocent XI.]

[Footnote 17: In Plotinus the civic virtues _precede_ the cathartic;
but they are not, as with some perverse mystics, considered to lie
_outside_ the path of ascent.]

[Footnote 18: Tauler is careful to put social service on its true
basis. "One can spin," he says, "another can make shoes; and all these
are gifts of the Holy Ghost. I tell you, if I were not a priest, I
should esteem it a great gift that I was able to make shoes, and would
try to make them so well as to be a pattern to all." In a later
Lecture I shall revert to the charge of indolent neglect of duties, so
often preferred against the mystics.]

[Footnote 19: R.L. Nettleship, _Remains_.]

[Footnote 20: In a Roman Catholic manual I find: "Non raro sub nomine
theologiæ mysticæ intelligitur etiam ascesis, sed immerito. Nam
ascesis consuetas tantum et tritas perfectionis semitas ostendit,
mystica autem adhuc excellentiorem viam demonstrat." This is to
identify "mystical theology" with the higher rungs of the ladder. It
has been used in this curious manner from the Middle Ages. Ribet says,
"La mystique, comme science spéciale, fait partie de la théologie
ascétique"; that part, namely, "dans lequel l'homme est réduit à la
passivité par l'action souveraine de Dieu." "L'ascèse" is defined as
"l'ascension de l'âme vers Dieu."]

[Footnote 21: Cf. Professor W. Wallace's collected _Lectures and
Essays_, p. 276.]

[Footnote 22: See Appendix C on the Doctrine of Deification.]

[Footnote 23: So Fénelon, after asserting the truth of mystical
"transformation," adds: "It is false to say that transformation is a
deification of the real and natural soul, or a hypostatic union, or an
unalterable conformity with God."]

[Footnote 24: _Life of Tennyson_, vol. i. p. 320. The curious
experience, that the repetition of his own name induced a kind of
trance, is used by the poet in his beautiful mystical poem, "The
Ancient Sage." It would, indeed, have been equally easy to illustrate
this topic from Wordsworth's prose and Tennyson's poetry.]

[Footnote 25: See the very interesting note in Harnack, _History of
Dogma_, vol. i. p. 53.]

[Footnote 26: The Abbé Migne says truly, "Ceux qui traitent les
mystiques de visionnaires seraient fort étonnés de voir quel peu de
cas ils font des visions en elles-mémes." And St. Bonaventura says of
visions, "Nec faciunt sanctum nec ostendunt: alioquin Balaam sanctus
esset, _et asina_, quæ vidit Angelum."]

[Footnote 27: The following passage from St. Francis de Sales is much
to the same effect as those referred to in the text: "Les philosophes
mesmes ont recogneu certaines espèces d'extases naturelles faictes par
la véhémente application de l'esprit à la considération des choses
relevées. Une marque de la bonne et sainete extase est qu'elle ne se
prend ny attache jamais tant à l'entendement qu'à la volonté, laquelle
elle esmeut, eschauffe, et remplit d'une puissante affection envers
Dieu; de manière que si l'extase est plus belle que bonne, plus
lumineuse qu'affective, elle est grandement douteuse et digne de

[Footnote 28: Some of my readers may find satisfaction in the
following passage of Jeremy Taylor: "Indeed, when persons have long
been softened with the continual droppings of religion, and their
spirits made timorous and apt for impression by the assiduity of
prayer, and the continual dyings of mortification--the fancy, which is
a very great instrument of devotion, is kept continually warm, and in
a disposition and aptitude to take fire, and to flame out in great
ascents; and when they suffer transportations beyond the burdens and
support of reason, they suffer they know not what, and call it what
they please." Henry More, too, says that those who would "make their
whole nature desolate of all animal figurations whatever," find only
"a waste, silent solitude, and one uniform parchedness and vacuity.
And yet, while a man fancies himself thus wholly Divine, he is not
aware how he is even then held down by his animal nature; and that it
is nothing but the stillness and fixedness of melancholy that thus
abuses him, instead of the true Divine principle."]

[Footnote 29: Plato, _Phædrus_, 244, 245; Ion, 534.]

[Footnote 30: Lacordaire, _Conférences_, xxxvii.]

[Footnote 31: Compare, too, the vigorous words of Henry More, the most
mystical of the group: "He that misbelieves and lays aside clear and
cautious reason in things that fall under the discussion of reason,
upon the pretence of hankering after some higher principle (which, a
thousand to one, proves but the infatuation of melancholy, and a
superstitious hallucination), is as ridiculous as if he would not use
his natural eyes about their proper object till the presence of some
supernatural light, or till he had got a pair of spectacles made of
the crystalline heaven, or of the _cælum empyreum_, to hang upon his
nose for him to look through."]

[Footnote 32: There is, of course, a sense in which any strong feeling
lifts us "above reason." But this is using "reason" in a loose

[Footnote 33: [Greek: ho nous basileus], says Plotinus.]

[Footnote 34: Roman Catholic writers can assert that "la plupart des
contemplatifs étaient dépourvus de toute culture littéraire." But
their notion of "contemplation" is the passive reception of
"supernatural favours,"--on which subject more will be said in
Lectures IV. and VII.]

[Footnote 35: "Die Mystik ist formlose Speculation," Noack,
_Christliche Mystik_, p. 18.]

[Footnote 36: The Atomists, from Epicurus downwards, have been
especially odious to the mystics.]

[Footnote 37: The theory that time is real, but not space, leads us
into grave difficulties. It is the root of the least satisfactory kind
of evolutionary optimism, which forgets, in the first place, that the
idea of perpetual progress in time is hopelessly at variance with what
we know of the destiny of the world; and, in the second place, that a
mere _progressus_ is meaningless. Every created thing has its fixed
goal in the realisation of the idea which was immanent in it from the

[Footnote 38: Origen in _Matth._, Com. Series, 100; _Contra Celsum_,
ii. 64. Referred to by Bigg, _Christian Platonists of Alexandria_, p.

[Footnote 39: _Paradiso_ viii. 13--

  "Io non m'accorsi del salire in ella;
   Ma d'esserv' entro mi fece assai fede
   La donna mia ch'io vidi far più bella." ]

[Footnote 40: "Deo nihil opponitur," says Erigena.]

[Footnote 41: Compare Bradley, _Appearance and Reality_, where it is
shown that the essential attributes of Reality are _harmony_ and

[Footnote 42: I.e. "necessary" or "expedient."]

[Footnote 43: _Life_, vol. i. p. 55.]

[Footnote 44: J. Smith, _Select Discourses_, v. So Bernard says (_De
Consid._ v. I), "quid opus est scalis tenenti iam solium?"]

[Footnote 45: Aug. _De Libero Arbitrio_, ii. 16, 17.]

[Footnote 46: _Troilus and Cressida_, Act III. Scene 3.]

[Footnote 47: This idea of the world as a living being is found in
Plotinus: and Origen definitely teaches that "as our body, while
consisting of many members, is yet an organism which is held together
by one soul, so the universe is to be thought of as an immense living
being which is upheld by the power and the Word of God." He also holds
that the sun and stars are spiritual beings. St. Augustine, too (_De
Civitate Dei_, iv. 12, vii. 5), regards the universe as a living
organism; and the doctrine reappears much later in Giordano Bruno.
According to this theory, we are subsidiary members of an
all-embracing organism, and there may be intermediate will-centres
between our own and that of the universal Ego. Among modern systems,
that of Fechner is the one which seems to be most in accordance with
these speculations. He views life under the figure of a number of
concentric circles of consciousness, within an all-embracing circle
which represents the consciousness of God.]

[Footnote 48: [Greek: psuchês peirata ouk an exeuroio pasan
epiporeuomenos hodon outô bathyn logon echei], Frag. 71.]

[Footnote 49: J.P. Richter, _Selina_. Compare, too, Lotze,
_Microcosmus_: "Within us lurks a world whose form we imperfectly
apprehend, and whose working, when in particular phases it comes under
our notice, surprises us with foreshadowings of unknown depths in our

[Footnote 50: As Lotze says, "The finite being does not contain in
itself the conditions of its own existence." It must struggle to
attain to complete personality; or rather, since personality belongs
unconditionally only to God, to such a measure of personality as is
allotted to us. Eternal life is nothing than the attainment of full
personality, a conscious existence in God.]

[Footnote 51: J.A. Picton (_The Mystery of Matter_, p. 356) puts the
matter well: "Mysticism consists in the spiritual realisation of a
grander and a boundless unity, that humbles all self-assertion by
dissolving it in a wider glory. It does not follow that the sense of
individuality is necessarily weakened. But habitual contemplation of
the Divine unity impresses men with the feeling that individuality is
phenomenal only. Hence the paradox of Mysticism. For apart from this
phenomenal individuality, we should not know our own nothingness, and
personal life is good only through the bliss of being lost in God.
[Rather, I should say, through the bliss of finding our true life,
which is hid with Christ in God.] True religious worship doth not
consist in the acknowledgment of a greatness which is estimated by
comparison, but rather in the sense of a Being who surpasses all
comparison, because He gives to phenomenal existences the only reality
they can know. Hence the deepest religious feeling necessarily shrinks
from thinking of God as a kind of gigantic Self amidst a host of minor
selves. The very thought of such a thing is a mockery of the
profoundest devotion."]

[Footnote 52: See, further, Appendix C, pp. 366-7.]

[Footnote 53: [Greek: hena genesthai ton anthrôpon dei]: Pythagoras
quoted by Clement. Cf. Plotinus, _Enn._ vi. 9. I, [Greek: kai hugieia
de, hotan eis hen syntachthê to sôma, kai kallos hotan hê tou henos ta
moria kataschê physis, kai aretê de psychês hotan eis hen kai eis mian
homologian henôthê].]

[Footnote 54: Proclus, _in Tim._ 83. 265.]

[Footnote 55: Aug. _Ep._ 187. 19: "Deus totus adesse rebus omnibus
potest, _et singulis totus_, quamvis in quibus habitat habeant eum pro
suæ capacitatis diversitate, alii amplius, alii minus." More clearly
still, Bonaventura, _Itin. ment. ad Deum_, 5: "Totum intra omnia, et
totum extra: ac per hoc est sphæra intelligibilis, cuius centrum est
ubique, et circumferentia nusquam."]


[Greek: "To eu zên edidaxen epiphaneis ôs didaskalos, hina to aei
zên husteron ôs theos chorêgêsê."]


   "But souls that of His own good life partake
    He loves as His own self: dear as His eye
    They are to Him; He'll never them forsake:
    When they shall die, then God Himself shall die:
    They live, they live in blest eternity."


   "Amor Patris Filiique,
    Par amborum, et utrique
      Compar et consimilis:
    Cuncta reples, cuncta foves,
    Astra regis, coelum moves,
      Permanens immobilis.

    "Te docente nil obscurum,
    Te præsente nil impurum;
      Sub tua præsentia
    Gloriatur mens iucunda;
    Per te læta, per te munda
      Gaudet conscientia.

    "Consolator et fundator,
    Habitator et amator
      Cordium humilium;
    Pelle mala, terge sordes,
    Et discordes fac concordes,
      Et affer præsidium."



"That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; to the end that ye,
being rooted and grounded in love, may be strong to apprehend with all
the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to
know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge, that ye may be filled
with all the fulness of God."--EPH. iii. 17-19.

The task which now lies before me is to consider how far that type of
religion and religious philosophy, which I tried in my last Lecture to
depict in outline, is represented in and sanctioned by Holy Scripture.
I shall devote most of my time to the New Testament, for we shall not
find very much to help us in the Old. The Jewish mind and character,
in spite of its deeply religious bent, was alien to Mysticism. In the
first place, the religion of Israel, passing from what has been called
Henotheism--the worship of a national God--to true Monotheism, always
maintained a rigid notion of individuality, both human and Divine.
Even prophecy, which is mystical in its essence, was in the early
period conceived as unmystically as possible, Balaam is merely a
mouthpiece of God; his message is external to his personality, which
remains antagonistic to it. And, secondly, the Jewish doctrine of
ideas was different from the Platonic. The Jew believed that the
world, and the whole course of history, existed from all eternity in
the mind of God, but as an unrealised purpose, which was actualised by
degrees as the scroll of events was unfurled. There was no notion that
the visible was in any way inferior to the invisible, or lacking in
reality. Even in its later phases, after it had been partially
Hellenised, Jewish idealism tended to crystallise as Chiliasm, or in
"Apocalypses," and not, like Platonism, in the dream of a perfect
world existing "yonder." In fact, the Jewish view of the external
world was mainly that of naïve realism, but strongly pervaded by
belief in an Almighty King and Judge. Moreover, the Jew had little
sense of the Divine _in_ nature: it was the power of God _over_ nature
which he was jealous to maintain. The majesty of the elemental forces
was extolled in order to magnify the greater power of Him who made and
could unmake them, and whom the heaven of heavens cannot contain. The
weakness and insignificance of man, as contrasted with the tremendous
power of God, is the reflection which the contemplation of nature
generally produced in his mind. "How can a man be just with God?" asks
Job; "which removeth the mountains, and they know it not; when He
overturneth them in His anger; which shaketh the earth out of her
place, and the pillars thereof tremble; which commandeth the sun, and
it riseth not, and sealeth up the stars.... He is not a man, as I am,
that I should answer Him, that we should come together in judgment.
There is no daysman betwixt us, that might lay his hand upon us both."
Nor does the answer that came to Job out of the whirlwind give any
hint of a "daysman" betwixt man and God, but only enlarges on the
presumption of man's wishing to understand the counsels of the
Almighty. Absolute submission to a law which is entirely outside of us
and beyond our comprehension, is the final lesson of the book.[56] The
nation exhibited the merits and defects of this type. On the one hand,
it showed a deep sense of the supremacy of the moral law, and of
personal responsibility; a stubborn independence and faith in its
mission; and a strong national spirit, combined with vigorous
individuality; but with these virtues went a tendency to externalise
both religion and the ideal of well-being: the former became a matter
of forms and ceremonies; the latter, of worldly possessions. It was
only after the collapse of the national polity that these ideals
became transmuted and spiritualised. Those disasters, which at first
seemed to indicate a hopeless estrangement between God and His people,
were the means of a deeper reconciliation. We can trace the process,
from the old proverb that "to see God is death," down to that
remarkable passage in Jeremiah where the approaching advent, or rather
restoration, of spiritual religion, is announced with all the
solemnity due to so glorious a message. "Behold, the days come, saith
the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel,
and with the house of Judah.... After those days, saith the Lord, I
will put My law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts;
and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. And they shall
teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother,
saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know Me, from the least of
them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord.[57]" That this
knowledge of God, and the assurance of blessedness which it brings, is
the reward of righteousness and purity, is the chief message of the
great prophets and psalmists. "Who among us shall dwell with the
devouring fire? Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings? He
that walketh righteously, and speaketh uprightly; he that despiseth
the gain of oppressions, that shaketh his hands from holding of
bribes, that stoppeth his ears from hearing of blood, and shutteth his
eyes from seeing evil, he shall dwell on high; his place of defence
shall be the munitions of rocks: bread shall be given unto him; his
waters shall be sure. Thine eyes shall see the King in His beauty;
they shall behold the land that is very far off.[58]"

This passage of Isaiah bears a very close resemblance to the 15th and
24th Psalms; and there are many other psalms which have been dear to
Christian mystics. In some of them we find the "_amoris
desiderium_"--the thirst of the soul for God--which is the
characteristic note of mystical devotion; in others, that longing for
a safe refuge from the provoking of all men and the strife of tongues,
which drove so many saints into the cloister. Many a solitary ascetic
has prayed in the words of the 73rd Psalm: "Whom have I in heaven but
Thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside Thee. My flesh
and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my
portion for ever." And verses like, "I will hearken what the Lord God
will say concerning me," have been only too attractive to quietists.
Other familiar verses will occur to most of us. I will only add that
the warm faith and love which inspired these psalms is made more
precious by the reverence for _law_ which is part of the older
inheritance of the Israelites.

There are many, I fear, to whom "the mystical element in the Old
Testament" will suggest only the Cabbalistic lore of types and
allegories which has been applied to all the canonical books, and with
especial persistency and boldness to the Song of Solomon. I shall give
my opinion upon this class of allegorism in the seventh Lecture of
this course, which will deal with symbolism as a branch of Mysticism.
It would be impossible to treat of it here without anticipating my
discussion of a principle which has a much wider bearing than as a
method of biblical exegesis. As to the Song of Solomon, its influence
upon Christian Mysticism has been simply deplorable. A graceful
romance in honour of true love was distorted into a precedent and
sanction for giving way to hysterical emotions, in which sexual
imagery was freely used to symbolise the relation between the soul and
its Lord. Such aberrations are as alien to sane Mysticism as they are
to sane exegesis.[59]

In Jewish writings of a later period, composed under Greek influence,
we find plenty of Platonism ready to pass into Mysticism. But the
Wisdom of Solomon does not fall within our subject, and what is
necessary to be said about Philo and Alexandria will be said in the
next Lecture. In the New Testament, it will be convenient to say a
very few words on the Synoptic Gospels first, and afterwards to
consider St. John and St. Paul, where we shall find most of our

The first three Gospels are not written in the religious dialect of
Mysticism. It is all the more important to notice that the fundamental
doctrines on which the system (if we may call it a system) rests, are
all found in them. The vision of God is promised in the Sermon on the
Mount, and promised only to those who are pure in heart. The
indwelling presence of Christ, or of the Holy Spirit, is taught in
several places; for instance--"The kingdom of God is within you";
"Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in
the midst of them"; "Lo, I am with you alway, even to the end of the
world." The unity of Christ and His members is implied by the words,
"Inasmuch as ye have done it to one of the least of these My brethren,
ye have done it unto Me." Lastly, the great law of the moral
world,--the law of gain through loss, of life through death,--which is
the corner-stone of mystical (and, many have said, of Christian)
ethics, is found in the Synoptists as well as in St. John. "Whosoever
shall seek to gain his life (or soul) shall lose it; but whosoever
shall lose his life (or soul) shall preserve it."

The Gospel of St. John--the "spiritual Gospel," as Clement already
calls it--is the charter of Christian Mysticism. Indeed, Christian
Mysticism, as I understand it, might almost be called Johannine
Christianity; if it were not better to say that a Johannine
Christianity is the ideal which the Christian mystic sets before
himself. For we cannot but feel that there are deeper truths in this
wonderful Gospel than have yet become part of the religious
consciousness of mankind. Perhaps, as Origen says, no one can fully
understand it who has not, like its author, lain upon the breast of
Jesus. We are on holy ground when we are dealing with St. John's
Gospel, and must step in fear and reverence. But though the breadth
and depth and height of those sublime discourses are for those only
who can mount up with wings as eagles to the summits of the spiritual
life, so simple is the language and so large its scope, that even the
wayfaring men, though fools, can hardly altogether err therein.

Let us consider briefly, first, what we learn from this Gospel about
the nature of God, and then its teaching upon human salvation.

There are three notable expressions about God the Father in the Gospel
and First Epistle of St. John: "God is Love"; "God is Light"; and "God
is Spirit." The form of the sentences teaches us that these three
qualities belong so intimately to the nature of God that they usher us
into His immediate presence. We need not try to get behind them, or to
rise above them into some more nebulous region in our search for the
Absolute. Love, Light, and Spirit are for us names of God Himself. And
observe that St. John does not, in applying these semi-abstract words
to God, attenuate in the slightest degree His personality. God _is_
Love, but He also exercises love. "God so loved the world." And He is
not only the "white radiance" that "for ever shines"; He can "draw" us
to Himself, and "send" His Son to bring us back to Him.

The word "Logos" does not occur in any of the discourses. The
identification of Christ with the "Word" or "Reason" of the
philosophers is St. John's own. But the statements in the prologue are
all confirmed by our Lord's own words as reported by the evangelist.
These fall under two heads, those which deal with the relation of
Christ to the Father, and those which deal with His relation to the
world. The pre-existence of Christ in glory at the right hand of God
is proved by several declarations: "What if ye shall see the Son of
Man ascending where He was before?" "And now, O Father, glorify Me
with Thine own self, with the glory which I had with Thee before the
world was." His exaltation above time is shown by the solemn
statement, "Before Abraham was, I am." And with regard to the world,
we find in St. John the very important doctrine, which has never made
its way into popular theology, that the Word is not merely the
Instrument in the original creation,--"by (or through) Him all things
were made,"--but the central Life, the Being in whom life existed and
exists as an indestructible attribute, an underived prerogative,[60]
the Mind or Wisdom who upholds and animates the universe without being
lost in it. This doctrine, which is implied in other parts of St.
John, seems to be stated explicitly in the prologue, though the words
have been otherwise interpreted. "That which has come into existence,"
says St. John, "was in Him life" ([Greek: ho gegonen, en autô zôê
ên.]) That is to say, the Word is the timeless Life, of which the
temporal world is a manifestation. This doctrine was taught by many of
the Greek Fathers, as well as by Scotus Erigena and other speculative
mystics. Even if, with the school of Antioch and most of the later
commentators, we transfer the words [Greek: ho gegonen] to the
preceding sentence, the doctrine that Christ is the life as well as
the light of the world can be proved from St. John.[61] The world is
the poem of the Word to the glory of the Father: in it, and by means
of it, He displays in time all the riches which God has eternally put
within Him.

In St. John, as in mystical theology generally, the Incarnation,
rather than the Cross, is the central fact of Christianity. "The Word
was made flesh, and tabernacled among us," is for him the supreme
dogma. And it follows necessarily from the Logos doctrine, that the
Incarnation, and all that followed it, is regarded primarily as a
_revelation_ of life and light and truth. "That eternal life, which
was with the Father, has been _manifested_ unto us," is part of the
opening sentence of the first Epistle.[62] "This is the message which
we have heard of Him and announce unto you, that God is Light, and in
Him is no darkness at all." In coming into the world, Christ "came
unto His own." He had, in a sense, only to show to them what was there
already: Esaias, long before, had "seen His glory, and spoken of Him."
The mysterious estrangement, which had laid the world under the
dominion of the Prince of darkness, had obscured but not quenched the
light which lighteth _every_ man--the inalienable prerogative of all
who derive their being from the Sun of Righteousness. This central
Light is Christ, and Christ only. He alone is the Way, the Truth, the
Life, the Door, the Living Bread, and the True Vine. He is at once the
Revealer and the Revealed, the Guide and the Way, the Enlightener and
the Light. No man cometh unto the Father but by Him.

The teaching of this Gospel on the office of the Holy Spirit claims
special attention in our present inquiry. The revelation of God in
Christ was complete: there can be no question that St. John claims for
Christianity the position of the one eternally true revelation. But
without the gradual illumination of the Spirit it is partly
unintelligible and partly unobserved.[63] The purpose of the
Incarnation was to reveal God _the Father_: "He that hath seen Me hath
seen the Father." In these momentous words (it has been said) "the
idea of God receives an abiding embodiment, and the Father is brought
for ever within the reach of intelligent devotion.[64]" The purpose of
the mission of the Comforter is to reveal _the Son_. He takes the
place of the ascended Christ on earth as a living and active principle
in the hearts of Christians. His office it is to bring to remembrance
the teachings of Christ, and to help mankind gradually to understand
them. There were also many things, our Lord said, which could not be
said at the time to His disciples, who were unable to bear them. These
were left to be communicated to future generations by the Holy Spirit.
The doctrine of development had never before received so clear an
expression; and few could venture to record it so clearly as St. John,
who could not be suspected of contemplating a time when the teachings
of the human Christ might be superseded.

Let us now turn to the human side of salvation, and trace the upward
path of the Christian life as presented to us in this Gospel. First,
then, we have the doctrine of the new birth: "Except a man be born
anew (or, from above), he cannot see the kingdom of God." This is
further explained as a being born "of water and of the Spirit"--words
which are probably meant to remind us of the birth of the world-order
out of chaos as described in Genesis, and also to suggest the two
ideas of purification and life. (Baptism, as a symbol of purification,
was, of course, already familiar to those who first heard the words.)
Then we have a doctrine of _faith_ which is deeper than that of the
Synoptists. The very expression [Greek: pisteuein eis], "to believe
_on_," common in St. John and rare elsewhere, shows that the word is
taking a new meaning. Faith, in St. John, is no longer regarded
chiefly as a condition of supernatural favours; or, rather, the
mountains which it can remove are no material obstructions. It is an
act of the whole personality, a self-dedication to Christ. It must
precede knowledge: "If any man willeth to do His will, he shall know
of the teaching," is the promise. It is the "_credo ut intelligam_" of
later theology. The objection has been raised that St. John's teaching
about faith moves in a vicious circle. His appeal is to the inward
witness; and those who cannot hear this inward witness are informed
that they must first believe, which is just what they can find no
reason for doing. But this criticism misses altogether the drift of
St. John's teaching. Faith, for him, is not the acceptance of a
proposition upon evidence; still less is it the acceptance of a
proposition in the teeth of evidence. It is, in the first instance,
the resolution "to stand or fall by the noblest hypothesis"; that is
(may we not say?), to follow Christ wherever He may lead us. Faith
begins with an experiment, and ends with an experience.[65] "He that
believeth in Him hath the witness in himself"; that is the
verification which follows the venture. That even the power to make
the experiment is given from above; and that the experience is not
merely subjective, but an universal law which has had its supreme
vindication in history,--these are two facts which we learn
afterwards. The converse process, which begins with a critical
examination of documents, cannot establish what we really want to
know, however strong the evidence may be. In this sense, and in this
only, are Tennyson's words true, that "nothing worthy proving can be
proven, nor yet disproven."

Faith, thus defined, is hardly distinguishable from that mixture of
admiration, hope, and love by which Wordsworth says that we live. Love
especially is intimately connected with faith. And as the Christian
life is to be considered as, above all things, a state of union with
Christ, and of His members with one another, love of the brethren is
inseparable from love of God. So intimate is this union, that hatred
towards any human being cannot exist in the same heart as love to God.
The mystical union is indeed rather a bond between Christ and the
Church, and between man and man as members of Christ, than between
Christ and individual souls. Our Lord's prayer is "that they all may
be one, even as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also
may be one in us." The personal relation between the soul and Christ
is not to be denied; but it can only be enjoyed when the person has
"come to himself" as a member of a body. This involves an inward
transit from the false isolated self to the larger life of sympathy
and love which alone makes us persons. Those who are thus living
according to their true nature are rewarded with an intense
unshakeable conviction which makes them independent of external
evidences. Like the blind man who was healed, they can say, "One thing
I know, that whereas I was blind, now I see." The words "we know" are
repeated again and again in the first Epistle, with an emphasis which
leaves no room for doubt that the evangelist was willing to throw the
main weight of his belief on this inner assurance, and to attribute it
without hesitation to the promised presence of the Comforter. We must
observe, however, that this knowledge or illumination is
_progressive_. This is proved by the passages already quoted about the
work of the Holy Spirit. It is also implied by the words, "This is
life eternal, that they should know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus
Christ whom Thou hast sent." Eternal life is not [Greek: gnôsis],
knowledge as a possession, but the state of acquiring knowledge
([Greek: hina gignôskôsin]). It is significant, I think, that St. John,
who is so fond of the verb "to know," never uses the substantive
[Greek: gnôsis].

The state of progressive unification, in which we receive "grace upon
grace," as we learn more and more of the "fulness" of Christ, is
called by the evangelist, in the verse just quoted and elsewhere,
_eternal life_. This life is generally spoken of as a present
possession rather than a future hope. "He that believeth on the Son
_hath_ everlasting life"; "he _is passed_ from death unto life"; "we
_are_ in Him that is true, even Jesus Christ. This _is_ the true God,
and eternal life." The evangelist is constantly trying to transport us
into that timeless region in which one day is as a thousand years, and
a thousand years as one day.

St. John's Mysticism is thus patent to all; it is stamped upon his
very style, and pervades all his teaching. Commentators who are in
sympathy with this mode of thought have, as we might expect, made the
most of this element in the Fourth Gospel. Indeed, some of them, I
cannot but think, have interpreted it so completely in the terms of
their own idealism, that they have disregarded or explained away the
very important qualifications which distinguish the Johannine theology
from some later mystical systems. Fichte, for example, claims St. John
as a supporter of his system of subjective idealism (if that is a
correct description of it), and is driven to some curious bits of
exegesis in his attempt to justify this claim. And Reuss (to give one
example of his method) says that St. John cannot have used "the last
day" in the ordinary sense, "because mystical theology has nothing to
do with such a notion.[66]" He means, I suppose, that the mystic, who
likes to speak of heaven as a state, and of eternal life as a present
possession, has no business to talk about future judgment. I cannot
help thinking that this is a very grave mistake. There is no doubt
that those who believe space and time to be only forms of our thought,
must regard the traditional eschatology as symbolical. We are not
concerned to maintain that there will be, literally, a great assize,
holden at a date and place which could be announced if we knew it. If
that is all that Reuss means, perhaps he is right in saying that
"mystical theology has nothing to do with such a notion." But if he
means that such expressions as those referred to in St. John, about
eternal life as something here and now, imply that judgment is now,
_and therefore not in the future_, he is attributing to the
evangelist, and to the whole array of religious thinkers who have used
similar expressions, a view which is easy enough to understand, but
which is destitute of any value, for it entirely fails to satisfy the
religious consciousness. The feeling of the contrast between what
ought to be and what is, is one of the deepest springs of faith in the
unseen. It can only be ignored by shutting our eyes to half the facts
of life. It is easy to say with Browning, "God's in His heaven: all's
right with the world," or with Emerson, that justice is not deferred,
and that everyone gets exactly his deserts in this life; but it would
require a robust confidence or a hard heart to maintain these
propositions while standing among the ruins of an Armenian village, or
by the deathbed of innocence betrayed. There is no doubt a sense in
which it may be said that the ideal is the actual; but only when we
have risen in thought to a region above the antitheses of past,
present, and future, where "_is_" denotes, not the moment which passes
as we speak, but the everlasting Now in the mind of God. This is not a
region in which human thought can live; and the symbolical eschatology
of religion supplies us with forms in which it is possible to think.
The basis of the belief in future judgment is that deep conviction of
the rationality of the world-order, or, in religious language, of the
wisdom and justice of God, which we cannot and will not surrender. It
is authenticated by an instinctive assurance which is strongest in
the strongest minds, and which has nothing to do with any desire for
spurious "consolations";[67] it is a conviction, not merely a hope,
and we have every reason to believe that it is part of the Divine
element in our nature. This conviction, like other mystical
intuitions, is formless: the forms or symbols under which we represent
it are the best that we can get. They are, as Plato says, "a raft" on
which we may navigate strange seas of thought far out of our depth. We
may use them freely, as if they were literally true, only remembering
their symbolical character when they bring us into conflict with
natural science, or when they tempt us to regard the world of
experience as something undivine or unreal.

It is important to insist on this point, because the extreme
difficulty (or rather impossibility) of determining the true relations
of becoming and being, of time and eternity, is constantly tempting us
to adopt some facile solution which really destroys one of the two
terms. The danger which besets us if we follow the line of thought
natural to speculative Mysticism, is that we may think we have solved
the problem in one of two ways, neither of which is a solution at all.
Either we may sublimate our notion of spirit to such an extent that
our idealism becomes merely a sentimental way of looking at the
actual; or, by paring down the other term in the relation, we may fall
into that spurious idealism which reduces this world to a vain shadow
having no relation to reality. We shall come across a good deal of
"acosmistic" philosophy in our survey of Christian Platonism; and the
sentimental rationalist is with us in the nineteenth century; but
neither of the two has any right to appeal to St. John. Fond as he is
of the present tense, he will not allow us to blot from the page
either "unborn to-morrow or dead yesterday." We have seen that he
records the use by our Lord of the traditional language about future
judgment. What is even more important, he asserts in the strongest
possible manner, at the outset both of his Gospel and Epistle, the
necessity of remembering that the Christian revelation was conveyed by
certain historical events. "The Word was made flesh, and tabernacled
among us, and we have seen His glory." "That which was from the
beginning, that which we have heard, that which we have seen with our
eyes, that which we beheld, and our hands handled, concerning the Word
of Life ... that which we have seen and heard declare we unto you."
And again in striking words he lays it down as the test whereby we may
distinguish the spirit of truth from Antichrist or the spirit of
error, that the latter "confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in
the flesh." The later history of Mysticism shows that this warning was
very much needed. The tendency of the mystic is to regard the Gospel
history as only one striking manifestation of an universal law. He
believes that every Christian who is in the way of salvation
recapitulates "the whole process of Christ" (as William Law calls
it)--that he has his miraculous birth, inward death, and
resurrection; and so the Gospel history becomes for the Gnostic (as
Clement calls the Christian philosopher) little more than a
dramatisation of the normal psychological experience.[68] "Christ
crucified is teaching for babes," says Origen, with startling
audacity; and heretical mystics have often fancied that they can rise
above the Son to the Father. The Gospel and Epistle of St. John stand
like a rock against this fatal error, and in this feature some German
critics have rightly discerned their supreme value to mystical
theology.[69] "In all life," says Grau, "there is not an abstract
unity, but an unity in plurality, an outward and inward, a bodily and
spiritual; and life, like love, unites what science and philosophy
separate." This co-operation of the sensible and spiritual, of the
material and ideal, of the historical and eternal, is maintained
throughout by St. John. "His view is mystical," says Grau, "because
all life is mystical." It is true that the historical facts hold, for
St. John, a subordinate place as _evidences_. His main _proof_ is, as
I have said, experimental. But a spiritual revelation of God without
its physical counterpart, an Incarnation, is for him an impossibility,
and a Christianity which has cut itself adrift from the Galilean
ministry is in his eyes an imposture. In no other writer, I think, do
we find so firm a grasp of the "psychophysical" view of life which we
all feel to be the true one, if only we could put it in an
intelligible form.[70]

There is another feature in St. John's Gospel which shows his affinity
to Mysticism, though of a different kind from that which we have been
considering. I mean his fondness for using visible things and events
as symbols. This objective kind of Mysticism will form the subject of
my last two Lectures, and I will here only anticipate so far as to say
that the belief which underlies it is that "everything, in being what
it is, is symbolic of something more." The Fourth Gospel is steeped in
symbolism of this kind. The eight miracles which St. John selects are
obviously chosen for their symbolic value; indeed, he seems to regard
them mainly as acted parables. His favourite word for miracles is
[Greek: sêmeia], "signs" or "symbols." It is true that he also calls
them "works," but this is not to distinguish them as supernatural. All
Christ's actions are "works," as parts of His one "work." As evidences
of His Divinity, such "works" are inferior to His "words," being
symbolic and external. Only those who cannot believe on the evidence
of the words and their echo in the heart, may strengthen their weak
faith by the miracles. But "blessed are they who have not seen, and
yet have believed." And besides these "signs," we have, in place of
the Synoptic parables, a wealth of allegories, in which Christ is
symbolised as the Bread of Life, the Light of the World, the Door of
the Sheep, the good Shepherd, the Way, and the true Vine. Wind and
water are also made to play their part. Moreover, there is much
unobtrusive symbolism in descriptive phrases, as when he says that
Nicodemus came by night, that Judas went out into the night, and that
blood and water flowed from our Lord's side; and the washing of the
disciples' feet was a symbolic act which the disciples were to
understand hereafter. Thus all things in the world may remind us of
Him who made them, and who is their sustaining life.

In treating of St. John, it was necessary to protest against the
tendency of some commentators to interpret him simply as a speculative
mystic of the Alexandrian type. But when we turn to St. Paul, we find
reason to think that this side of his theology has been very much
underestimated, and that the distinctive features of Mysticism are
even more marked in him than in St. John. This is not surprising, for
our blessed Lord's discourses, in which nearly all the doctrinal
teaching of St. John is contained, are for all Christians; they rise
above the oppositions which must always divide human thought and human
thinkers. In St. Paul, large-minded as he was, and inspired as we
believe him to be, we may be allowed to see an example of that
particular type which we are considering.

St. Paul states in the clearest manner that Christ _appeared_ to him,
and that this revelation was the foundation of his Christianity and
apostolic commission. "Neither did I receive the Gospel from man,[71]"
he says, "nor was I taught it, but it came to me through revelation of
Jesus Christ." It appears that he did not at first[72] think it
necessary to "confer with flesh and blood"--to collect evidence about
our Lord's ministry, His death and resurrection; he had "seen" and
felt Him, and that was enough. "It was the good pleasure of God to
reveal His Son in me,[73]" he says simply, using the favourite
mystical phraseology. The study of "evidences," in the usual sense of
the term in apologetics, he rejects with distrust and contempt.[74]
External revelation cannot make a man religious. It can put nothing
new into him. If there is nothing answering to it in his mind, it will
profit him nothing. Nor can philosophy make a man religious. "Man's
wisdom," "the wisdom of the world," is of no avail to find spiritual
truth. "God chose the foolish things of the world, to put to shame
them that are wise." "The word of the Cross is, to them that are
perishing, foolishness." By this language he, of course, does not mean
that Christianity is irrational, and therefore to be believed on
authority. That would be to lay its foundation upon external
evidences, and nothing could be further from the whole bent of his
teaching. What he does mean, and say very clearly, is that the carnal
mind is disqualified from understanding Divine truths; "it cannot know
them, because they are spiritually discerned." He who has not raised
himself above "the world," that is, the interests and ideals of human
society as it organises itself apart from God, and above "the flesh,"
that is, the things which seem desirable to the "average sensual man,"
does not possess in himself that element which can be assimilated by
Divine grace. The "mystery" of the wisdom of God is necessarily hidden
from him. St. Paul uses the word "mystery" in very much the same sense
which St. Chrysostom[75] gives to it in the following careful
definition: "A mystery is that which is everywhere proclaimed, but
which is not understood by those who have not right judgment. It is
revealed, not by cleverness, but by the Holy Ghost, as we are able to
receive it. And so we may call a mystery a secret ([Greek:
aporrêton]), for even to the faithful it is not committed in all its
fulness and clearness." In St. Paul the word is nearly always found in
connexion with words denoting revelation or publication[76]. The
preacher of the Gospel is a hierophant, but the Christian mysteries
are freely communicated to all who can receive them. For many ages
these truths were "hid in God,[77]" but now all men may be
"illuminated,[78]" if they will fulfil the necessary conditions of
initiation. These are to "cleanse ourselves from all defilement of
flesh and spirit,[79]" and to have love, without which all else will
be unavailing. But there are degrees of initiation. "We speak wisdom
among the perfect," he says (the [Greek: teleioi] are the fully
initiated); but the carnal must still be fed with milk. Growth in
knowledge, growth in grace, and growth in love, are so frequently
mentioned together, that we must understand the apostle to mean that
they are almost inseparable. But this knowledge, grace, and love is
itself the work of the indwelling God, who is thus in a sense the
organ as well as the object of the spiritual life. "The Spirit
searcheth all things," he says, "yea, the deep things of God." The man
who has the Spirit dwelling in him "has the mind of Christ." "He that
is spiritual judgeth all things," and is himself "judged of no man."
It is, we must admit frankly, a dangerous claim, and one which may
easily be subversive of all discipline. "Where the Spirit of the Lord
is, there is liberty"; but such liberty may become a cloak of
maliciousness. The fact is that St. Paul had himself trusted in "the
Law," and it had led him into grievous error. As usually happens in
such cases, his recoil from it was almost violent. He exalts the inner
light into an absolute criterion of right and wrong, that no corner of
the moral life may remain in bondage to Pharisaism. The crucifixion of
the Lord Jesus and the stoning of Stephen were a crushing condemnation
of legal and ceremonial righteousness; the law written in the heart of
man, or rather spoken there by the living voice of the Holy Spirit,
could never so mislead men as to make them think that they were doing
God service by condemning and killing the just. Such memories might
well lead St. Paul to use language capable of giving encouragement
even to fanatical Anabaptists. But it is significant that the boldest
claims on behalf of liberty all occur in the _earlier_ Epistles.

The subject of St. Paul's visions and revelations is one of great
difficulty. In the Acts we have full accounts of the appearance in the
sky which caused, or immediately preceded, his conversion. It is quite
clear that St. Paul himself regarded this as an appearance of the same
kind as the other Christophanies granted to apostles and "brethren,"
and of a different kind from such visions as might be seen by any
Christian. It was an unique favour, conferring upon him the apostolic
prerogatives of an eye-witness. Other passages in the Acts show that
during his missionary journeys St. Paul saw visions and heard voices,
and that he believed himself to be guided by the "Spirit of Jesus."
Lastly, in the Second Epistle to the Corinthians he records that "more
than fourteen years ago" he was in an ecstasy, in which he was "caught
up into the third heaven," and saw things unutterable. The form in
which this experience is narrated suggests a recollection of
Rabbinical pseudo-science; the substance of the vision St. Paul will
not reveal, nor will he claim its authority for any of his
teaching.[80] These recorded experiences are of great psychological
interest; but, as I said in my last Lecture, they do not seem to me
to belong to the essence of Mysticism.

Another mystical idea, which is never absent from the mind of St.
Paul, is that the individual Christian must live through, and
experience personally, the redemptive process of Christ. The life,
death, and resurrection of Christ were for him the revelation of a
law, the law of redemption through suffering. The victory over sin and
death was won _for_ us; but it must also be won _in_ us. The process
is an universal law, not a mere event in the past.[81] It has been
exemplified in history, which is a progressive unfurling or revelation
of a great mystery, the meaning of which is now at last made plain in
Christ.[82] And it must also appear in each human life. "We were
buried with Him," says St. Paul to the Romans,[83] "through baptism
into death," "that like as Christ was raised from the dead through the
glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life." And
again,[84] "If the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead
dwell in you, He that raised up Christ Jesus from the dead shall
quicken also your mortal bodies through His Spirit that dwelleth in
you." And, "If ye were raised together with Christ, seek the things
that are above.[85]"

The law of redemption, which St. Paul considers to have been
triumphantly summed up by the death and resurrection of Christ,[86]
would hardly be proved to be an universal law if the Pauline Christ
were only the "heavenly man," as some critics have asserted. St.
Paul's teaching about the Person of Christ was really almost identical
with the Logos doctrine as we find it in St. John's prologue, and as
it was developed by the mystical philosophy of a later period. Not
only is His pre-existence "in the form of God" clearly taught,[87] but
He is the agent in the creation of the universe, the vital principle
upholding and pervading all that exists. "The Son," we read in the
Epistle to the Colossians,[88] "is the image of the invisible God, the
firstborn of all creation; for in Him were all things created, in the
heavens and upon the earth; all things have been created through Him,
and unto Him; and He is before all things, and in Him all things
consist" (that is, "hold together," as the margin of the Revised
Version explains it). "All things are summed up in Christ," he says to
the Ephesians.[89] "Christ is _all_ and in all," we read again in the
Colossians.[90] And in that bold and difficult passage of the 15th
chapter of the First Epistle to the Corinthians he speaks of the
"reign" of Christ as coextensive with the world's history. When time
shall end, and all evil shall be subdued to good, Christ "will deliver
up the kingdom to God, even the Father," "that God may be all in
all.[91]" Very important, too, is the verse in which he says that the
Israelites in the wilderness "drank of that spiritual rock which
followed them, and that rock was Christ.[92]" It reminds us of
Clement's language about the Son as the Light which broods over all

The passage from the Colossians, which I quoted just now, contains
another mystical idea besides that of Christ as the universal source
and centre of life. He is, we are told, "the Image of the invisible
God," and all created beings are, in their several capacities, images
of Him. Man is essentially "the image and glory of God";[93] the
"perfect man" is he who has come "to the measure of the stature of the
fulness of Christ.[94]" This is our _nature_, in the Aristotelian
sense of completed normal development; but to reach it we have to slay
the false self, the old man, which is informed by an actively
maleficent agency, "flesh" which is hostile to "spirit." This latter
conception does not at present concern us; what we have to notice is
the description of the upward path as an inner transit from the false
isolation of the natural man into a state in which it is possible to
say, "I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.[95]" In the Epistle
to the Galatians he uses the favourite mystical phrase, "until Christ
be formed in you";[96] and in the Second Epistle to the
Corinthians[97] he employs a most beautiful expression in describing
the process, reverting to the figure of the "mirror," dear to
Mysticism, which he had already used in the First Epistle: "We all
with unveiled face reflecting as a mirror the glory of the Lord, are
transformed into the same image from glory to glory." Other passages,
which refer primarily to the future state, are valuable as showing
that St. Paul lends no countenance to that abstract idea of eternal
life as freedom from all earthly conditions, which has misled so many
mystics. Our hope, when the earthly house of our tabernacle is
dissolved, is not that we may be unclothed, but that we may be
_clothed upon_ with our heavenly habitation. The body of our
humiliation is to be changed and glorified, according to the mighty
working whereby God is able to subdue all things unto Himself. And
therefore our whole spirit and soul _and body_ must be preserved
blameless; for the body is the temple of the Holy Ghost, not the
prison-house of a soul which will one day escape out of its cage and
fly away.

St. Paul's conception of Christ as the Life as well as the Light of
the world has two consequences besides those which have been already
mentioned. In the first place, it is fatal to religious individualism.
The close unity which joins us to Christ is not so much a unity of the
individual soul with the heavenly Christ, as an organic unity of all
men, or, since many refuse their privileges, of all Christians, with
their Lord. "We, being many, are one body in Christ, and severally
members one of another.[98]" There must be "no schism in the
body,[99]" but each member must perform its allotted function. St.
Augustine is thoroughly in agreement with St. Paul when he speaks of
Christ and the Church as "unus Christus." Not that Christ is
"divided," so that He cannot be fully present to any individual--that
is an error which St. Paul, St. Augustine, and the later mystics all
condemn; but as the individual cannot reach his real personality as an
isolated unit, he cannot, as an isolated unit, attain to full
communion with Christ.

The second point is one which may seem to be of subordinate
importance, but it will, I think, awaken more interest in the future
than it has done in the past. In the 8th chapter of the Epistle to the
Romans, St. Paul clearly teaches that the victory of Christ over sin
and death is of import, not only to humanity, but to the whole of
creation, which now groans and travails in pain together, but which
shall one day be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the
glorious liberty of the sons of God. This recognition of the
spirituality of matter, and of the unity of all nature in Christ, is
one which we ought to be thankful to find in the New Testament. It
will be my pleasant task, in the last two Lectures of this course, to
show how the later school of mystics prized it.

The foregoing analysis of St. Paul's teaching has, I hope, justified
the statement that all the essentials of Mysticism are to be found in
his Epistles. But there are also two points in which his authority has
been claimed for false and mischievous developments of Mysticism.
These two points it will be well to consider before leaving the

The first is a contempt for the historical framework of Christianity.
We have already seen how strongly St. John warns us against this
perversion of spiritual religion. But those numerous sects and
individual thinkers who have disregarded this warning, have often
appealed to the authority of St. Paul, who in the Second Epistle to
the Corinthians says, "Even though we have known Christ after the
flesh, yet now we know Him so no more." Here, they say, is a distinct
admission that the worship of the historical Christ, "the man Christ
Jesus," is a stage to be passed through and then left behind. There is
just this substratum of truth in a very mischievous error, that St.
Paul _does_ tell us[100] that he _began_ to teach the Corinthians by
giving them in the simplest possible form the story of "Jesus Christ
and Him crucified." The "mysteries" of the faith, the "wisdom" which
only the "perfect" can understand, were deferred till the converts had
learned their first lessons. But if we look at the passage in
question, which has shocked and perplexed many good Christians, we
shall find that St. Paul is not drawing a contrast between the
earthly and the heavenly Christ, bidding us worship the Second Person
of the Trinity, the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever, and to cease
to contemplate the Cross on Calvary. He is distinguishing rather
between the sensuous presentation of the facts of Christ's life, and a
deeper realisation of their import. It should be our aim to "know no
man after the flesh"; that is to say, we should try to think of human
beings as what they are, immortal spirits, sharers with us of a common
life and a common hope, not as what they appear to our eyes. And the
same principle applies to our thoughts about Christ. To know Christ
after the flesh is to know Him, not as man, but as _a_ man. St. Paul
in this verse condemns all religious materialism, whether it take the
form of hysterical meditation upon the physical details of the
passion, or of an over-curious interest in the manner of the
resurrection. There is no trace whatever in St. Paul of any aspiration
to rise above Christ to the contemplation of the Absolute--to treat
Him as only a step in the ladder. This is an error of false Mysticism;
the true mystic follows St. Paul in choosing as his ultimate goal the
fulness of Christ, and not the emptiness of the undifferentiated

The second point in which St. Paul has been supposed to sanction an
exaggerated form of Mysticism, is his extreme disparagement of
external religion--of forms and ceremonies and holy days and the like.
"One man hath faith to eat all things; but he that is weak eateth
herbs.[101]" "One man esteemeth one day above another, another
esteemeth every day alike." "He that eateth, eateth unto the Lord, and
giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not,
and giveth God thanks." "Why turn ye back to the weak and beggarly
rudiments, whereunto ye desire to be in bondage again? Ye observe
days, and months, and seasons, and years. I am afraid of you, lest I
have bestowed labour upon you in vain.[102]" "Why do ye subject
yourselves to ordinances, handle not, nor taste, nor touch, after the
precepts and doctrines of men?[103]" These are strongly-worded
passages, and I have no wish to attenuate their significance. Any
Christian priest who puts the observance of human ordinances--
fast-days, for example--at all on the same level as such duties as
charity, generosity, or purity, is teaching, not Christianity, but that
debased Judaism against which St. Paul waged an unceasing polemic, and
which is one of those dead religions which has to be killed again in
almost every generation.[104] But we must not forget that these vigorous
denunciations _do_ occur in a polemic against Judaism. They bear the
stamp of the time at which they were written perhaps more than any other
part of St. Paul's Epistles, except those thoughts which were connected
with his belief in the approaching end of the world. St. Paul certainly
did not intend his Christian converts to be anarchists in religious
matters. There is evidence, in the First Epistle to the Corinthians,
that his spiritual presentation of Christianity had already been made an
excuse for disorderly licence. The usual symptoms of degenerate
Mysticism had appeared at Corinth. There were men there who called
themselves "spiritual persons[105]" or prophets, and showed an arrogant
independence; there were others who wished to start sects of their own;
others who carried antinomianism into the sphere of morals; others who
prided themselves on various "spiritual gifts." As regards the last
class, we are rather surprised at the half-sanction which the apostle
gives to what reads like primitive Irvingism;[106] but he was evidently
prepared to enforce discipline with a strong hand. Still, it may be
fairly said that he trusts mainly to his personal ascendancy, and to his
teaching about the organic unity of the Christian body, to preserve or
restore due discipline and cohesion. There have been hardly any
religious leaders, if we except George Fox, the founder of Quakerism,
who have valued ceremonies so little. In this, again, he is a genuine

Of the other books of the New Testament it is not necessary to say
much. The Epistle to the Hebrews cannot be the work of St. Paul. It
shows strong traces of Jewish Alexandrianism; indeed, the writer
seems to have been well acquainted with the Book of Wisdom and with
Philo. Alexandrian idealism is always ready to pass into speculative
Mysticism, but the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews can hardly be
called mystical in the sense in which St. Paul was a mystic. The most
interesting side of his theology, from our present point of view, is
the way in which he combines his view of religious ordinances as types
and adumbrations of higher spiritual truths, with a comprehensive view
of history as a progressive realisation of a Divine scheme. The
keynote of the book is that mankind has been educated partly by
ceremonial laws and partly by "promises." Systems of laws and
ordinances, of which the Jewish Law is the chief example, have their
place in history. They rightly claim obedience until the practical
lessons which they can teach have been learned, and until the higher
truths which they conceal under the protecting husk of symbolism can
be apprehended without disguise. Then their task is done, and mankind
is no longer bound by them. In the same way, the "promises" which were
made under the old dispensation proved to be only symbols of deeper
and more spiritual blessings, which in the moral childhood of humanity
would not have appeared desirable; they were (not delusions, but)
_illusions_, "God having prepared some better thing" to take their
place. The doctrine is one of profound and far-reaching importance. In
this Epistle it is certainly connected with the idealistic thought
that all visible things are symbols, and that every truth apprehended
by finite intelligences must be only the husk of a deeper truth. We
may therefore claim the Epistle to the Hebrews as containing in
outline a Christian philosophy of history, based upon a doctrine of
symbols which has much in common with some later developments of

In the Apocalypse, whoever the author may be, we find little or
nothing of the characteristic Johannine Mysticism, and the influence
of its vivid allegorical pictures has been less potent in this branch
of theology than might perhaps have been expected.


[Footnote 56: In referring thus to the Book of Job, I rest nothing on
any theory as to its date. Whenever it was written, it illustrates
that view of the relation of man to God with which Mysticism can never
be content. But, of course, the antagonism between our personal claims
and the laws of the universe must be done justice to before it can be

[Footnote 57: Jer. xxxi. 31-34.]

[Footnote 58: Isa. xxxiii. 14-17.]

[Footnote 59: See Appendix D, on the devotional use of the Song of

[Footnote 60: Leathes, _The Witness of St. John to Christ_, p. 244.]

[Footnote 61: The punctuation now generally adopted was invented
(probably) by the Antiochenes, who were afraid that the words "without
Him was not anything made" might, if unqualified, be taken to include
the Holy Spirit. Cyril of Alexandria comments on the older
punctuation, but explains the verse wrongly. "The Word, as Life by
nature, was in the things which have become, mingling Himself by
participation in the things that are." Bp. Westcott objects to this,
that "the one life is regarded as dispersed." Cyril, however, guards
against this misconception ([Greek: ou kata merismon tina kai
alloiôsin]). He says that created things share in "the one life as they
are able." But some of his expressions are objectionable, as they seem
to assume a material substratum, animated _ab extra_ by an infusion of
the Logos. Augustine's commentary on the verse is based on the
well-known passage of Plato's _Republic_ about the "ideal bed." "Arca
in opere non est vita; arca in arte vita est. Sic Sapientia Dei, per
quam facta sunt omnia, secundum artem continet omnia antequam fabricat
omnia. Quæ fiunt ... foris corpora sunt, in arte vita sunt." Those who
accept the common authorship of the Gospel and the Apocalypse will
find a confirmation of the view that [Greek: ên] refers to ideal,
extra-temporal existence, in Rev. iv. 11: "Thou hast created all
things, and for Thy pleasure they _were_ ([Greek: êsan] is the true
reading) and were created." There is also a very interesting passage
in Eusebius (_Proep. Ev._ xi. 19): [Greek: kai outos ara ên ho logos
kath' hon aei onta ta gignomena egeneto, hôsper Hêrakleitos an
axiôseie.] This is so near to the words of St. John's prologue as to
suggest that the apostle, writing at Ephesus, is here referring
deliberately to the lofty doctrine of the great Ephesian idealist,
whom Justin claims as a Christian before Christ, and whom Clement
quotes several times with respect.]

[Footnote 62: It will be seen that I assume that the first Epistle is
the work of the evangelist.]

[Footnote 63: Westcott on John xiv. 26.]

[Footnote 64: Westcott.]

[Footnote 65: Cf. _Theologia Germanica_, chap. 48: "He who would know
before he believeth cometh never to true knowledge.... I speak of a
certain truth which it is possible to know by experience, but which ye
must believe in before ye know it by experience, else ye will never
come to know it truly."]

[Footnote 66: On the second coming of Christ, cf. John v. 25, xxi. 23;
I John ii. 28, iii. 2. Scholten goes so far as to expunge v. 25 and
28, 29 as spurious.]

[Footnote 67: The allegation that the Christian persuades himself of a
future life because it is the most comfortable belief to hold, seems
to me utterly contemptible. Certain views about heaven and hell are no
doubt traceable to shallow optimism; but the belief in immortality is
in itself rather awful than consoling. Besides, what sane man would
wish to be deceived in such a matter?]

[Footnote 68: Henry More brings this charge against the Quakers. There
are, he says, many good and wholesome things in their teaching, but
they mingle with them a "slighting of the history of Christ, and
making a mere allegory of it--tending to the utter overthrow of that
warrantable, though more external frame of Christianity, which
Scripture itself points out to us" (_Mastix, his letter to a Friend_,
p. 306).]

[Footnote 69: E.g. Strauss and Grau, quoted in Lilienfeld's _Thoughts
on the Social Science of the Future_.]

[Footnote 70: The intense moral dualism of St. John has been felt by
many as a discordant note; and though it is not closely connected with
his Mysticism, a few words should perhaps be added about it. It has
been thought strange that the Logos, who is the life of all things
that are, should have to invade His own kingdom to rescue it from its
_de facto_ ruler, the Prince of darkness; and stranger yet, that the
bulk of mankind should seemingly be "children of the devil," born of
the flesh, and incapable of salvation. The difficulty exists, but it
has been exaggerated. St. John does not touch either the metaphysical
problem of the origin of evil, or predestination in the Calvinistic
sense. The vivid contrasts of light and shade in his picture express
his judgment on the tragic fate of the Jewish people, The Gospel is
not a polemical treatise, but it bears traces of recent conflicts. St.
John wishes to show that the rejection of Christ by the Jews was
morally inevitable; that their blindness and their ruin followed
naturally from their characters and principles. Looking back on the
memories of a long life, he desires to trace the operation of uniform
laws in dividing the wheat of humanity from the chaff. He is content
to observe how [Greek: êthos anthrôpô daimôn], without speculating on
the reason why characters differ. In offering these remarks, I am
assuming, what seems to me quite certain, that St. John selected from
our Lord's discourses those which suited his particular object, and
that in the setting and arrangement he allowed himself a certain
amount of liberty.]

[Footnote 71: Gal. i. 12.]

[Footnote 72: 1 Cor. xv. shows that he subsequently satisfied himself
of the truth of the other Christophanies.]

[Footnote 73: Gal, i. 15, 16.]

[Footnote 74: 1 Cor. i. and ii.]

[Footnote 75: Chrysostom _in_ I _Cor_., Hom. vii. 2.]

[Footnote 76: See Lightfoot on Col. i. 26.]

[Footnote 77: Eph. iii. 9.]

[Footnote 78: 2 Tim. i. 10 ([Greek: phôtizein]); cf. Eph. i. 9.]

[Footnote 79: 2 Cor. vii. 1.]

[Footnote 80: In spite of this, he is attacked for this passage in the
_Pseudo-Clementine Homilies_ (xvii. 19), where "Simon Magus" is asked,
"Can anyone be made wise to teach through a vision?"]

[Footnote 81: Compare a beautiful passage in R.L. Nettleship's
_Remains_: "To live is to die into something more perfect.... God can
only make His work to be truly _His_ work, by eternally dying,
sacrificing what is dearest to Him."]

[Footnote 82: Col. i. 26, ii. 2, iv. 3; Eph. iii. 2-9. I have allowed
myself to quote from these Epistles because I am myself a believer in
their genuineness. The Mysticism of St. Paul might be proved from the
undisputed Epistles only, but we should then lose some of the most
striking illustrations of it.]

[Footnote 83: Rom. vi. 4.]

[Footnote 84: Rom. viii. 11.]

[Footnote 85: St. Paul's mystical language about death and
resurrection has given rise to much controversy. On the one hand, we
have writers like Matthew Arnold, who tell us that St. Paul
unconsciously substitutes an ethical for a physical resurrection--an
eternal life here and now for a future reward. On the other, we have
writers like Kabisch (_Eschatologie des Paulus_), who argue that the
apostle's whole conception was materialistic, his idea of a "spiritual
body" being that of a body composed of very fine atoms (like those of
Lucretius' "_anima_"), which inhabits the earthly body of the
Christian like a kernel within its husk, and will one day (at the
resurrection) slough off its muddy vesture of decay, and thenceforth
exist in a form which can defy the ravages of time. Of the two views,
Matthew Arnold's is much the truer, even though it should be proved
that St. Paul sometimes pictures the "spiritual body" in the way
described. But the key to the problem, in St. Paul as in St. John, is
that pyscho-physical theory which demands that the laws of the
spiritual world shall have their analogous manifestations in the world
of phenomena. Death must, somehow or other, be conquered in the
visible as well as in the invisible sphere. The law of life through
death must be deemed to pervade every phase of existence. And as a
mere prolongation of physical life under the same conditions is
impossible, and, moreover, would not fulfil the law in question, we
are bound to have recourse to some such symbol as "spiritual body." It
will hardly be disputed that the Christian doctrine of the
resurrection of the whole man has taken a far stronger hold of the
religious consciousness of mankind than the Greek doctrine of the
immortality of the soul, or that this doctrine is plainly taught by
St. Paul. All attempts to turn his eschatology into a rationalistic
(Arnold) or a materialistic (Kabisch) theory must therefore be
decisively rejected.]

[Footnote 86: Col. iii. 1.]

[Footnote 87: Phil. ii. 6.]

[Footnote 88: Col. i. 15-17.]

[Footnote 89: Eph. i. 10.]

[Footnote 90: Col. iii. 11.]

[Footnote 91: 1 Cor. xv. 24-28.]

[Footnote 92: 1 Cor. x. 4.]

[Footnote 93: 1 Cor. xi. 7.]

[Footnote 94: Eph. iv. 13.]

[Footnote 95: Gal. ii. 20.]

[Footnote 96: Gal. iv. 19.]

[Footnote 97: 2 Cor. iii. 18.]

[Footnote 98: Rom. xii. 5.]

[Footnote 99: 1 Cor. xii. 25.]

[Footnote 100: 1 Cor. ii. 1, 2.]

[Footnote 101: Rom. xiv.]

[Footnote 102: Gal. iv. 9-11.]

[Footnote 103: Col. ii. 20-22.]

[Footnote 104: I have been reminded that great tenderness is due to
the "sancta simplicitas" of the "anicula Christiana," whose religion
is generally of this type. I should agree, if the "anicula" were not
always so ready with her faggot when a John Huss is to be burnt.]

[Footnote 105: 1 Cor. xiv. 37.]

[Footnote 106: There seem to have been two conceptions of the
operations of the Spirit in St. Paul's time: (a) He comes fitfully,
with visible signs, and puts men beside themselves; (b) He is an
abiding presence, enlightening, guiding, and strengthening. St. Paul
lays weight on the latter view, without repudiating the former. See H.
Gunkel, _Die Wirkungen des H. Geistes nach der popul. Anschauung d.
apostol. Zeit und d. Lehre der Paulus._]


[Greek: "Dio dê dikaiôs monê pteroutai hê tou philosophou dianoia
pros gar ekeinois aei esti mnêmê kata dunamin, pros oisper theos ôn
theios esti. tois de dê toioutois anêr hupomnêmasin orthôs
chrômenos, teleous aei teletas teloumenos, teleos ontôs monos

PLATO, _Phædrus_, p. 249.


   "Wohne, du ewiglich Eines, dort bei dem ewiglich Einen!
     Farbe, du wechselnde, komm' freundlich zum Menschen herab!"


   "Nel suo profondo vidi che s'interna,
      Legato con amore in un volume,
      Ciò che per l'universo si squaderna;
    Sustanzia ed accidente, e lor costume,
      Tutti conflati insieme par tal modo,
      Che ciò ch'io dico è un semplice lume."

DANTE, _Paradiso_, c. 33.



"That was the true Light, which lighteth every man coming into the
world."--JOHN i. 9.

"He made darkness His hiding place, His pavilion round about Him;
darkness of waters, thick clouds of the skies."--Ps. xviii. 11.

I have called this Lecture "Christian Platonism and Speculative
Mysticism." Admirers of Plato are likely to protest that Plato himself
can hardly be called a mystic, and that in any case there is very
little resemblance between the philosophy of his dialogues and the
semi-Oriental Mysticism of Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite. I do not
dispute either of these statements; and yet I wish to keep the name of
Plato in the title of this Lecture. The affinity between Christianity
and Platonism was very strongly felt throughout the period which we
are now to consider. Justin Martyr claims Plato (with Heraclitus[107]
and Socrates) as a Christian before Christ; Athenagoras calls him the
best of the forerunners of Christianity, and Clement regards the
Gospel as perfected Platonism.[108] The Pagans repeated so
persistently the charge that Christ borrowed from Plato what was true
in His teaching, that Ambrose wrote a treatise to confute them. As a
rule, the Christians did not deny the resemblance, but explained it by
saying that Plato had plagiarised from Moses--a curious notion which
we find first in Philo. In the Middle Ages the mystics almost
canonised Plato: Eckhart speaks of him, quaintly enough, as "the great
priest" (_der grosse Pfaffe_); and even in Spain, Louis of Granada
calls him "divine," and finds in him "the most excellent parts of
Christian wisdom." Lastly, in the seventeenth century the English
Platonists avowed their intention of bringing back the Church to "her
old loving nurse the Platonic philosophy." These English Platonists
knew what they were talking of; but for the mediæval mystics Platonism
meant the philosophy of Plotinus adapted by Augustine, or that of
Proclus adapted by Dionysius, or the curious blend of Platonic,
Aristotelian, and Jewish philosophy which filtered through into the
Church by means of the Arabs. Still, there was justice underlying this
superficial ignorance. Plato is, after all, the father of European
Mysticism.[109] Both the great types of mystics may appeal to
him--those who try to rise through the visible to the invisible,
through Nature to God, who find in earthly beauty the truest symbol of
the heavenly, and in the imagination--the image-making faculty--a raft
whereon we may navigate the shoreless ocean of the Infinite; and
those who distrust all sensuous representations as tending "to nourish
appetites which we ought to starve," who look upon this earth as a
place of banishment, upon material things as a veil which hides God's
face from us, and who bid us "flee away from hence as quickly as may
be," to seek "yonder," in the realm of the ideas, the heart's true
home. Both may find in the real Plato much congenial teaching--that
the highest good is the greatest likeness to God--that the greatest
happiness is the vision of God--that we should seek holiness not for
the sake of external reward, but because it is the health of the soul,
while vice is its disease--that goodness is unity and harmony, while
evil is discord and disintegration--that it is our duty and happiness
to rise above the visible and transitory to the invisible and
permanent. It may also be a pleasure to some to trace the fortunes of
the positive and negative elements in Plato's teaching--of the
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
company. The "marching orders" of the true mystic are those given by
God to Moses on Sinai, "See that thou make all things according to the
pattern showed thee in the mount.[143]" But Plotinus teaches that, as
the sensible world is a shadow of the intelligible, so is action a
shadow of contemplation, suited to weak-minded persons.[144] This is
turning the tables on the "man of action" in good earnest; but it is
false Platonism and false Mysticism. It leads to the heartless
doctrine, quite unworthy of the man, that public calamities are to the
wise man only stage tragedies--or even stage comedies.[145] The moral
results of this self-centred individualism are exemplified by the
mediæval saint and visionary, Angela of Foligno, who congratulates
herself on the deaths of her mother, husband, and children, "who were
great obstacles in the way of God."

A few words must be said about the doctrine of ecstasy in Plotinus. He
describes the conditions under which the vision is granted in exactly
the same manner as some of the Christian mystics, e.g. St. Juan of the
Cross. "The soul when possessed by intense love of Him divests herself
of all form which she has, even of that which is derived from
Intelligence; for it is impossible, when in conscious possession of
any other attribute, either to behold or to be harmonised with Him.
Thus the soul must be neither good nor bad nor aught else, that she
may receive Him only, Him alone, she alone.[146]" While she is in this
state, the One suddenly appears, "with nothing between," "and they are
no more two but one; and the soul is no more conscious of the body or
of the mind, but knows that she has what she desired, that she is
where no deception can come, and that she would not exchange her bliss
for all the heaven of heavens."

What is the source of this strange aspiration to rise above Reason and
Intelligence, which is for Plotinus the highest category of Being, and
to come out "on the other side of Being" [Greek: epekeina tês
ousias]? Plotinus says himself elsewhere that "he who would rise above
Reason, falls outside it"; and yet he regards it as the highest
reward of the philosopher-saint to converse with the hypostatised
Abstraction who transcends all distinctions. The vision of the One is
no part of his philosophy, but is a mischievous accretion. For though
the "superessential Absolute" may be a logical necessity, we cannot
make it, even in the most transcendental manner, an object of sense,
without depriving it of its Absoluteness. What is really apprehended
is not the Absolute, but a kind of "form of formlessness," an idea not
of the Infinite, but of the Indefinite.[147] It is then impossible to
distinguish "the One," who is said to be above all distinctions, from
undifferentiated matter, the formless No-thing, which Plotinus puts at
the lowest end of the scale.

I believe that the Neoplatonic "vision" owes its place in the system
to two very different causes. First, there was the direct influence of
Oriental philosophy of the Indian type, which tries to reach the
universal by wiping out all the boundary-lines of the particular, and
to gain infinity by reducing self and the world to zero. Of this we
shall say more when we come to Dionysius. And, secondly, the blank
trance was a real psychical experience, quite different from the
"visions" which we have already mentioned. Evidence is abundant; but I
will content myself with one quotation.[148] In Amiel's _Journal_[149]
we have the following record of such a trance: "Like a dream which
trembles and dies at the first glimmer of dawn, all my past, all my
present, dissolve in me, and fall away from my consciousness at the
moment when it returns upon myself. I feel myself then stripped and
empty, like a convalescent who remembers nothing. My travels, my
reading, my studies, my projects, my hopes, have faded from my mind.
All my faculties drop away from me like a cloak that one takes off,
like the chrysalis case of a larva. I feel myself returning into a
more elementary form." But Amiel, instead of expecting the advent of
"the One" while in this state, feels that "the pleasure of it is
deadly, inferior in all respects to the joys of action, to the
sweetness of love, to the beauty of enthusiasm, or to the sacred
savour of accomplished duty.[149]"

We may now return to the Christian Platonists. We find in Methodius
the interesting doctrine that the indwelling Christ constantly repeats
His passion in remembrance, "for not otherwise could the Church
continually conceive believers, and bear them anew through the bath of
regeneration, unless Christ were repeatedly to die, emptying Himself
for the sake of each individual." "Christ must be born mentally
([Greek: moêtôs]) in every individual," and each individual saint,
by participating in Christ, "is born as a Christ." This is exactly the
language of Eckhart and Tauler, and it is first clearly heard in the
mouth of Methodius.[150] The new features are the great prominence
given to _immanence_--the mystical union as an _opus operatum_, and
the individualistic conception of the relation of Christ to the soul.

Of the Greek Fathers who followed Athanasius, I have only room to
mention Gregory of Nyssa, who defends the historical incarnation in
true mystical fashion by an appeal to spiritual experience. "We all
believe that the Divine is in everything, pervading and embracing it,
and dwelling in it. Why then do men take offence at the dispensation
of the mystery taught by the Incarnation of God, who is not, even now,
outside of mankind?... If the _form_ of the Divine presence is not now
the same, we are as much agreed that God is among us to-day, as that
He was in the world then." He argues in another place that all other
species of spiritual beings must have had their Incarnations of
Christ; a doctrine which was afterwards condemned, but which seems to
follow necessarily from the Logos doctrine. These arguments show very
clearly that for the Greek theologians Christ is a cosmic principle,
immanent in the world, though not confined by it; and that the scheme
of salvation is regarded as part of the constitution of the universe,
which is animated and sustained by the same Power who was fully
manifested in the Incarnation.

The question has been much debated, whether the influence of Persian
and Indian thought can be traced in Neoplatonism, or whether that
system was purely Greek.[151] It is a quite hopeless task to try to
disentangle the various strands of thought which make up the web of
Alexandrianism. But there is no doubt that the philosophers of Asia
were held in reverence at this period. Origen, in justifying an
esoteric mystery-religion for the educated, and a mythical religion
for the vulgar, appeals to the example of the "Persians and Indians."
And Philostratus, in his life of Apollonius of Tyana, says, or makes
his hero say, that while all wish to live in the presence of God, "the
Indians alone succeed in doing so." And certainly there are parts of
Plotinus, and still more of his successors, which strongly suggest
Asiatic influences.[152] When we turn from Alexandria to Syria, we
find Orientalism more rampant. Speculation among the Syrian monks of
the third, fourth, and fifth centuries was perhaps more unfettered
and more audacious than in any other branch of Christendom at any
period. Our knowledge of their theories is very limited, but one
strange specimen has survived in the book of Hierotheus,[153] which
the canonised Dionysius praises in glowing terms as an inspired
oracle--indeed, he professes that his own object in writing was merely
to popularise the teaching of his master. The book purports to be the
work of Hierotheus, a holy man converted by St. Paul, and an
instructor of the real Dionysius the Areopagite. A strong case has
been made out for believing the real author to be a Syrian mystic,
named Stephen bar Sudaili, who lived late in the fifth century. If
this theory is correct, the date of Dionysius will have to be moved
somewhat later than it has been the custom to fix it. The book of the
holy Hierotheus on "the hidden mysteries of the Divinity" has been but
recently discovered, and only a summary of it has as yet been made
public. But it is of great interest and importance for our subject,
because the author has no fear of being accused of Pantheism or any
other heresy, but develops his particular form of Mysticism to its
logical conclusions with unexampled boldness. He will show us better
even than his pupil Dionysius whither the method of "analysis" really
leads us.

The system of Hierotheus is not exactly Pantheism, but Pan-Nihilism.
Everything is an emanation from the Chaos of bare indetermination
which he calls God, and everything will return thither. There are
three periods of existence--(1) the present world, which is evil, and
is characterised by motion; (2) the progressive union with Christ, who
is all and in all--this is the period of rest; (3) the period of
fusion of all things in the Absolute. The three Persons of the
Trinity, he dares to say, will then be swallowed up, and even the
devils are thrown into the same melting-pot. Consistently with
mystical principles, these three world-periods are also phases in the
development of individual souls. In the first stage the mind aspires
towards its first principles; in the second it becomes Christ, the
universal Mind; in the third its personality is wholly merged. The
greater part of the book is taken up with the adventures of the Mind
in climbing the ladder of perfection; it is a kind of theosophical
romance, much more elaborate and fantastic than the "revelations" of
mediæval mystics. The author professes to have himself enjoyed the
ecstatic union more than once, and his method of preparing for it is
that of the Quietists: "To me it seems right to speak without words,
and understand without knowledge, that which is above words and
knowledge; this I apprehend to be nothing but the mysterious silence
and mystical quiet which destroys consciousness and dissolves forms.
Seek, therefore, silently and mystically, that perfect and primitive
union with the Arch-Good."

We cannot follow the "ascent of the Mind" through its various
transmutations. At one stage it is crucified, "with the soul on the
right and the body on the left"; it is buried for three days; it
descends into Hades;[154] then it ascends again, till it reaches
Paradise, and is united to the tree of life: then it descends below
all essences, and sees a formless luminous essence, and marvels that
it is _the same essence_ that it has seen on high. Now it comprehends
the truth, that God is consubstantial with the Universe, and that
there are no real distinctions anywhere. So it ceases to wander. "All
these doctrines," concludes the seer, "which are unknown even to
angels, have I disclosed to thee, my son" (Dionysius, probably).
"Know, then, that all nature will be confused with the Father--that
nothing will perish or be destroyed, but all will return, be
sanctified, united, and confused. Thus God will be all in all.[155]"

There can be no difficulty in classifying this Syrian philosophy of
religion. It is the ancient religion of the Brahmins, masquerading in
clothes borrowed from Jewish allegorists, half-Christian Gnostics,
Manicheans, Platonising Christians, and pagan Neoplatonists. We will
now see what St. Dionysius makes of this system, which he accepts as
from the hand of one who has "not only learned, but felt the things of

The date and nationality of Dionysius are still matters of
dispute.[157] Mysticism changes so little that it is impossible to
determine the question by internal evidence, and for our purposes it
is not of great importance. The author was a monk, perhaps a Syrian
monk: he probably perpetrated a deliberate fraud--a pious fraud, in
his own opinion--by suppressing his own individuality, and fathering
his books on St. Paul's Athenian convert. The success of the imposture
is amazing, even in that uncritical age, and gives much food for
reflection. The sixth century saw nothing impossible in a book
full of the later Neoplatonic theories--those of Proclus rather
than Plotinus[158]--having been written in the first century.
And the mediæval Church was ready to believe that this strange
semi-pantheistic Mysticism dropped from the lips of St. Paul.[159]

Dionysius is a theologian, not a visionary like his master Hierotheus.
His main object is to present Christianity in the guise of a Platonic
mysteriosophy, and he uses the technical terms of the mysteries
whenever he can.[160] His philosophy is that of his day--the later
Neoplatonism, with its strong Oriental affinities.

Beginning with the Trinity, he identifies God the Father with the
Neoplatonic Monad, and describes Him as "superessential
Indetermination," "super-rational Unity," "the Unity which unifies
every unity," "superessential Essence," "irrational Mind," "unspoken
Word," "the absolute No-thing which is above all existence.[161]"
Even now he is not satisfied with the tortures to which he has
subjected the Greek language. "No monad or triad," he says, "can
express the all-transcending hiddenness of the all-transcending
super-essentially super-existing super-Deity.[162]" But even in the
midst of this barbarous jargon he does not quite forget his Plato.
"The Good and Beautiful," he says, "are the cause of all things that
are; and all things love and aspire to the Good and Beautiful, which
are, indeed, the sole objects of their desire." "Since, then, the
Absolute Good and Beautiful is honoured by eliminating all qualities
from it, the non-existent also ([Greek: to mê on]) must
participate in the Good and Beautiful." This pathetic absurdity shows
what we are driven to if we try to graft Indian nihilism upon the
Platonic doctrine of ideas. Plotinus tried hard to show that his First
Person was very different from his lowest category--non-existent
"matter"; but if we once allow ourselves to define the Infinite as the
Indefinite, the conclusion which he deprecated cannot long be averted.

"God is the Being of all that is." Since, then, Being is identical
with God or Goodness, evil, as such, does not exist; it only exists by
its participation in good. Evil, he says, is not in things which
exist; a good tree cannot bear evil fruit; it must, therefore, have
another origin. But this is dualism, and must be rejected.[163] Nor
is evil in God, nor of God; nor in the angels; nor in the human soul;
nor in the brutes; nor in inanimate nature; nor in matter. Having thus
hunted evil out of every corner of the universe, he asks--Is evil,
then, simply privation of good? But privation is not evil in itself.
No; evil must arise from "disorderly and inharmonious motion." As dirt
has been defined as matter in the wrong place, so evil is good in the
wrong place. It arises by a kind of accident; "all evil is done with
the object of gaining some good; no one does evil as evil." Evil in
itself is that which is "nohow, nowhere, and no thing"; "God sees evil
as good." Students of modern philosophy will recognise a theory which
has found influential advocates in our own day: that evil needs only
to be supplemented, rearranged, and transmuted, in order to take its
place in the universal harmony.[164]

All things flow out from God, and all will ultimately return to Him. The
first emanation is the Thing in itself ([Greek: auto to einai]), which
corresponds to the Plotinian [Greek: Nous], and to the Johannine Logos.
He also calls it "Life in itself" and "Wisdom in itself" ([Greek:
autozôê, autosophia]). Of this he says, "So then the Divine Wisdom in
knowing itself will know all things. It will know the material
immaterially, and the divided inseparably, and the many as one ([Greek:
heniaiôs]), knowing all things by the standard of absolute unity." These
important speculations are left undeveloped by Dionysius, who merely
states them dogmatically. The universe is evolved from the Son, whom he
identifies with the "Thing in itself," "Wisdom," or "Life in itself." In
creation "the One is said to become multiform." The world is a necessary
process of God's being. He created it "as the sun shines," "without
premeditation or purpose." The Father is simply One; the Son has also
plurality, namely, the words (or reasons) which make existence ([Greek:
tous ousiopoious logous]), which theology calls fore-ordinations
([Greek: proorismous]). But he does not teach that all separate
existences will ultimately be merged in the One. The highest Unity gives
to all the power of striving, on the one hand, to share in the One; on
the other, to persist in their own individuality. And in more than one
passage he speaks of God as a Unity comprehending, not abolishing
differences.[165] "God is before all things"; "Being is in Him, and He
is not in Being." Thus Dionysius tries to safeguard the transcendence of
God, and to escape Pantheism. The outflowing process is appropriated by
the mind by the _positive_ method--the downward path through finite
existences: its conclusion is, "God is All." The return journey is by
the _negative_ road, that of ascent to God by abstraction and analysis:
its conclusion is, "All is not God.[166]" The negative path is the high
road of a large school of mystics; I will say more about it presently.
The mystic, says Dionysius, "must leave behind all things both in the
sensible and in the intelligible worlds, till he enters into the
darkness of nescience that is truly mystical." This "Divine darkness,"
he says elsewhere, "is the light unapproachable" mentioned by St. Paul,
"a deep but dazzling darkness," as Henry Vaughan calls it. It is dark
through excess of light[167]. This doctrine really renders nugatory what
he has said about the persistence of distinctions after the restitution
of all things; for as "all colours agree in the dark," so, for us, in
proportion as we attain to true knowledge, all distinctions are lost in
the absolute.

The soul is bipartite. The higher portion sees the "Divine images"
directly, the lower by means of symbols. The latter are not to be
despised, for they are "true impressions of the Divine characters,"
and necessary steps, which enable us to "mount to the one undivided
truth by analogy." This is the way in which we should use the
Scriptures. They have a symbolic truth and beauty, which is
intelligible only to those who can free themselves from the "puerile
myths[168]" (the language is startling in a saint of the Church!) in
which they are sometimes embedded.

Dionysius has much to say about love[169], but he uses the word
[Greek: erôs], which is carefully avoided in the New Testament. He
admits that the Scriptures "often use" [Greek: agapê], but justifies
his preference for the other word by quoting St. Ignatius, who says of
Christ, "My Love [Greek: erôs] is crucified.[170]" Divine Love, he
finely says, is "an eternal circle, from goodness, through goodness,
and to goodness."

The mediæval mystics were steeped in Dionysius, though his system
received from them certain modifications under the influence of
Aristotelianism. He is therefore, for us, a very important figure; and
there are two parts of his scheme which, I think, require fuller
consideration than has been given them in this very slight sketch. I
mean the "negative road" to God, and the pantheistic tendency.

The theory that we can approach God only by analysis or abstraction has
already been briefly commented on. It is no invention of Dionysius.
Plotinus uses similar language, though his view of God as the fulness of
all _life_ prevented him from following the negative path with
thoroughness. But in Proclus we find the phrases, afterwards so common,
about "sinking into the Divine Ground," "forsaking the manifold for the
One," and so forth. Basilides, long before, evidently carried the
doctrine to its extremity: "We must not even call God ineffable," he
says, "since this is to make an assertion about Him; He is above every
name that is named.[171]" It was a commonplace of Christian instruction
to say that "in Divine matters there is great wisdom in confessing our
ignorance"--this phrase occurs in Cyril's catechism.[172] But confessing
our ignorance is a very different thing from refusing to make any
positive statements about God. It is true that all our language about
God must be inadequate and symbolic; but that is no reason for
discarding all symbols, as if we could in that way know God as He knows
Himself. At the bottom, the doctrine that God can be described only by
negatives is neither Christian nor Greek, but belongs to the old
religion of India. Let me try to state the argument and its consequence
in a clear form. Since God is the Infinite, and the Infinite is the
antithesis of the finite, every attribute which can be affirmed of a
finite being may be safely denied of God. Hence God can only be
_described_ by negatives; He can only be _discovered_ by stripping off
all the qualities and attributes which veil Him; He can only be
_reached_ by divesting ourselves of all the distinctions of personality,
and sinking or rising into our "uncreated nothingness"; and He can only
be _imitated_ by aiming at an abstract spirituality, the passionless
"apathy" of an universal which is nothing in particular. Thus we see
that the whole of those developments of Mysticism which despise symbols,
and hope to see God by shutting the eye of sense, hang together. They
all follow from the false notion of God as the abstract Unity
transcending, or rather excluding, all distinctions. Of course, it is
not intended to _exclude_ distinctions, but to rise above them; but the
process of abstraction, or subtraction, as it really is, can never lead
us to "the One.[173]" The only possible unification with such an
Infinite is the [Greek: atermôn nêgretos hupnos] of Nirvana.[174] Nearly
all that repels us in mediæval religious life--its "other-worldliness"
and passive hostility to civilisation--the emptiness of its ideal
life--its maltreatment of the body--its disparagement of family
life--the respect which it paid to indolent contemplation--springs from
this one root. But since no one who remains a Christian can exhibit the
results of this theory in their purest form, I shall take the liberty of
quoting a few sentences from a pamphlet written by a native Indian judge
who I believe is still living. His object is to explain and commend to
Western readers the mystical philosophy of his own country:[175]--"He
who in perfect rest rises from the body and attains the highest light,
comes forth in his own proper form. This is the immortal soul. The
ascent is by the ladder of one's thoughts. To know God, one must first
know one's own spirit in its purity, unspotted by thought. The soul is
hidden behind the veil of thought, and only when thought is worn off,
becomes visible to itself. This stage is called knowledge of the soul.
Next is realised knowledge of God, who rises from the bosom of the soul.
This is the end of progress; differentiation between self and others has
ceased. All the world of thought and senses is melted into an ocean
without waves or current. This dissolution of the world is also known as
the death of the sinful or worldly 'I,' which veils the true Ego. Then
the formless Being of the Deity is seen in the regions of pure
consciousness beyond the veil of thought. Consciousness is wholly
distinct from thought and senses; it knows them; they do not know it.
The only proof is an appeal to spiritual experience." In the highest
stage one is absolutely inert, "knowing nothing in particular.[176]"

Most of this would have been accepted as precious truth by the
mediæval Church mystics.[177] The words nakedness, darkness,
nothingness, passivity, apathy, and the like, fill their pages. We
shall find that this time-honoured phraseology was adhered to long
after the grave moral dangers which beset this type of Mysticism had
been recognised. Tauler, for instance, who lays the axe to the root of
the tree by saying, "Christ never arrived at the emptiness of which
these men talk," repeats the old jargon for pages together. German
Mysticism really rested on another basis, and when Luther had the
courage to break with ecclesiastical tradition, the _via negativa_
rapidly disappeared within the sphere of his influence.

But it held sway for a long time--so long that we cannot complain if
many have said, "This is the essence of Mysticism." Mysticism is such
a vague word, that one must not quarrel with any "private
interpretation" of it; but we must point out that this limitation
excludes the whole army of symbolists, a school which, in Europe at
least, has shown more vitality than introspective Mysticism. I regard
the _via negativa_ in metaphysics, religion, and ethics as the great
accident of Christian Mysticism. The break-up of the ancient
civilisation, with the losses and miseries which it brought upon
humanity, and the chaos of brutal barbarism in which Europe weltered
for some centuries, caused a widespread pessimism and world-weariness
which is foreign to the temper of Europe, and which gave way to
energetic and full-blooded activity in the Renaissance and
Reformation. Asiatic Mysticism is the natural refuge of men who have
lost faith in civilisation, but will not give up faith in God. "Let us
fly hence to our dear country!" We hear the words already in
Plotinus--nay, even in Plato. The sun still shone in heaven, but on
earth he was eclipsed. Mysticism cuts too deep to allow us to live
comfortably on the surface of life; and so all "the heavy and the
weary weight of all this unintelligible world" pressed upon men and
women till they were fain to throw it off, and seek peace in an
invisible world of which they could not see even a shadow round about

But I do not think that the negative road is a pure error. There is a
negative side in religion, both in thought and practice. We are first
impelled to seek the Infinite by the limitations of the finite, which
appear to the soul as bonds and prison walls. It is natural first to
think of the Infinite as that in which these barriers are done away.
And in practice we must die daily, if our inward man is to be daily
renewed. We must die to our lower self, not once only but continually,
so that we may rise on stepping stones of many dead selves to higher
things.[178] We must die to our first superficial views of the world
around us, nay, even to our first views of God and religion, unless
the childlike in our faith is by arrest of growth to become the
childish. All the good things of life have first to be renounced, and
then given back to us, before they can be really ours. It was
necessary that these truths should be not only taught, but lived
through. The individual has generally to pass through the quagmire of
the "everlasting No," before he can set his feet on firm ground; and
the Christian races, it seems, were obliged to go through the same
experience. Moreover, there is a sense in which all moral effort aims
at destroying the conditions of its own existence, and so ends
logically in self-negation. Our highest aim as regards ourselves is to
eradicate, not only sin, but temptation. We do not feel that we have
won the victory until we no longer wish to offend. But a being who was
entirely free from temptation would be either more or less than a
man--"either a beast or a God," as Aristotle says.[179] There is,
therefore, a half truth in the theory that the goal of earthly
striving is negation and absorption. But it at once becomes false if
we forget that it is a goal which cannot be reached in time, and which
is achieved, not by good and evil neutralising each other, but by
death being swallowed up in victory. If morality ceases to be moral
when it has achieved its goal, it must pass into something which
includes as well as transcends it--a condition which is certainly not
fulfilled by contemplative passivity.[180]

These thoughts should save us from regarding the saints of the
cloister with impatience or contempt. The limitations incidental to
their place in history do not prevent them from being glorious
pioneers among the high passes of the spiritual life, who have scaled
heights which those who talk glibly about "the mistake of asceticism"
have seldom even seen afar off.

We must next consider briefly the charge of Pantheism, which has been
flung rather indiscriminately at nearly all speculative mystics, from
Plotinus to Emerson. Dionysius, naturally enough, has been freely
charged with it. The word is so loosely and thoughtlessly used, even
by writers of repute, that I hope I may be pardoned if I try to
distinguish (so far as can be done in a few words) between the various
systems which have been called pantheistic.

True Pantheism must mean the identification of God with the totality
of existence, the doctrine that the universe is the complete and only
expression of the nature and life of God, who on this theory is only
immanent and not transcendent. On this view, everything in the world
belongs to the Being of God, who is manifested equally in everything.
Whatever is real is perfect; reality and perfection are the same
thing. Here again we must go to India for a perfect example. "The
learned behold God alike in the reverend Brahmin, in the ox and in the
elephant, in the dog and in him who eateth the flesh of dogs.[181]" So
Pope says that God is "as full, as perfect, in a hair as heart." The
Persian Sufis were deeply involved in this error, which leads to all
manner of absurdities and even immoralities. It is inconsistent with
any belief in _purpose_, either in the whole or in the parts. Evil,
therefore, cannot exist for the sake of a higher good: it must be
itself good. It is easy to see how this view of the world may pass
into pessimism or nihilism; for if everything is equally real and
equally Divine, it makes no difference, except to our tempers, whether
we call it everything or nothing, good or bad.

None of the writers with whom we have to deal can fairly be charged
with this error, which is subversive of the very foundations of true
religion. Eckhart, carried away by his love of paradox, allows himself
occasionally to make statements which, if logically developed, would
come perilously near to it; and Emerson's philosophy is more seriously
compromised in this direction. Dionysius is in no such danger, for the
simple reason that he stands too near to Plato. The pantheistic
tendency of mediæval Realism requires a few words of explanation,
especially as I have placed the name of Plato at the head of this
Lecture. Plato's doctrine of ideas aimed at establishing the
transcendence of the highest Idea--that of God. But the mediæval
doctrine of ideas, as held by the extreme Realists, sought to find
room in the _summum genus_ for a harmonious coexistence of all
things. It thus tended towards Pantheism;[182] while the Aristotelian
Realists maintained the substantial character of individuals outside
the Being of God. "This view," says Eicken, "which quite inverted the
historical and logical relation of the Platonic and Aristotelian
philosophies, was maintained till the close of the Middle Ages."

We may also call pantheistic any system which regards the cosmic
process as a real _becoming_ of God. According to this theory, God
comes to Himself, attains full self-consciousness, in the highest of
His creatures, which are, as it were, the organs of His self-unfolding
Personality. This is not a philosophy which commends itself specially
to speculative mystics, because it involves the belief that _time_ is
an ultimate reality. If in the cosmic process, which takes place in
time, God becomes something which He was not before, it cannot be said
that He is exalted above time, or that a thousand years are to Him as
one day. I shall say in my fourth Lecture that this view cannot justly
be attributed to Eckhart. Students of Hegel are not agreed whether it
is or is not part of their master's teaching.[183]

The idea of _will_ as a world-principle--not in Schopenhauer's sense
of a blind force impelling from within, but as the determination of a
conscious Mind--lifts us at once out of Pantheism.[184] It sets up the
distinction between what is and what ought to be, which Pantheism
cannot find room for, and at the same time implies that the cosmic
process is already complete in the consciousness of God, which cannot
be held if He is subordinated to the category of time.

God is more than the All, as being the perfect Personality, whose Will
is manifested in creation under necessarily imperfect conditions. He
is also in a sense less than the All, since pain, weakness, and sin,
though known to Him as infinite Mind, can hardly be felt by Him as
infinite Perfection. The function of evil in the economy of the
universe is an inscrutable mystery, about which speculative Mysticism
merely asserts that the solution cannot be that of the Manicheans. It
is only the Agnostic[185] who will here offer the dilemma of Dualism
or Pantheism, and try to force the mystic to accept the second

There are two other views of the universe which have been called
pantheistic, but incorrectly.

The first is that properly called _Acosmism_, which we have
encountered as Orientalised Platonism. Plato's theory of ideas was
popularised into a doctrine of two separate worlds, related to each
other as shadow and substance. The intelligible world, which is in the
mind of God, alone exists; and thus, by denying reality to the visible
world, we get a kind of idealistic Pantheism. But the notion of God as
abstract Unity, which, as we have seen, was held by the later
Neoplatonists and their Christian followers, seems to make a real
world impossible; for bare Unity cannot create, and the metaphor of
the sun shedding his rays explains nothing. Accordingly the
"intelligible world," the sphere of reality, drops out, and we are
left with only the infra-real world and the supra-real One. So we are
landed in nihilism or Asiatic Mysticism[186].

The second is the belief in the _immanence_ of a God who is also
transcendent. This should be called _Panentheism_, a useful word
coined by Krause, and not Pantheism. In its true form it is an
integral part of Christian philosophy, and, indeed, of all rational
theology. But in proportion as the indwelling of God, or of Christ, or
the Holy Spirit in the heart of man, is regarded as an _opus
operatum_, or as complete _substitution_ of the Divine for the human,
we are in danger of a self-deification which resembles the maddest
phase of Pantheism[187].

Pantheism, as I understand the word, is a pitfall for Mysticism to
avoid, not an error involved in its first principles. But we need not
quarrel with those who have said that speculative Mysticism is the
Christian form of Pantheism. For there is much truth in Amiel's
dictum, that "Christianity, if it is to triumph over Pantheism, must
absorb it." Those are no true friends to the cause of religion who
would base it entirely upon dogmatic supernaturalism. The passion for
facts which are objective, isolated, and past, often prevents us from
seeing facts which are eternal and spiritual. We cry, "Lo here," and
"Lo there," and forget that the kingdom of God is within us and
amongst us. The great service rendered by the speculative mystics to
the Christian Church lies in their recognition of those truths which
Pantheism grasps only to destroy.


[Footnote 107: The mention of Heraclitus is very interesting. It shows
that the Christians had already recognised their affinity with the
great speculative mystic of Ephesus, whose fragments supply many
mottoes for essays on Mysticism. The identification of the Heraclitean
[Greek: nous-logos] with the Johannine Logos appears also in Euseb.
_Præp. Ev_. xi. 19, quoted above.]

[Footnote 108: [Greek: ho panta aristos Platôn--oion pheothoroumenos],
he calls him.]

[Footnote 109: "Mysticism finds in Plato all its texts," says Emerson

[Footnote 110: The doctrine of reserve in religious teaching, which
some have thought dishonest, rests on the self-evident proposition
that it takes two to tell the truth--one to speak, and one to hear.]

[Footnote 111: "Man kann den Gnosticismus des zweiten Jahrhunderts als
theologisch-transcendente Mystik, und die eigentliche Mystik als
substantiell-immanente Gnosis bezeichnen" (Noack).]

[Footnote 112: See Conybeare's interesting account of the Therapeutæ
in his edition of Philo, _On the Contemplative Life_, and his
refutation of the theory of Lucius, Zeller, etc., that the Therapeutæ
belong to the end of the third century.]

[Footnote 113: _Stoical_ influence is also strong in Philo.]

[Footnote 114: The Jewish writer Aristobulus (about 160 B.C.) is said
to have used the same argument in an exposition of the Pentateuch
addressed to Ptolemy Philometor.]

[Footnote 115: Compare Philo's own account (_in Flaceum_) of the
anti-Semitic outrages at Alexandria.]

[Footnote 116: There is a very explicit identification of Christ with
[Greek: Nous] in the second book of the _Miscellanies_: "He says, Whoso
hath ears to hear, let him hear. And who is 'He'? Let Epicharmus
answer: [Greek: Nous hora]," etc.]

[Footnote 117: See Bigg, _Christian Platonists of Alexandria_,
especially pp. 92, 93.]

[Footnote 118: [Greek: Pistis] is here used in the familiar sense
(which falls far short of the Johannine) of assent to particular
dogmas. [Greek: Gnôsis] welds these together into a consistent
whole, and at the same time confers a more immediate apprehension of

[Footnote 119: [Greek: askêsis] or [Greek: praxis].]

[Footnote 120: _Strom_, v. 10. 63.]

[Footnote 121: See, further, Appendices B and C.]

[Footnote 122: In Origen, [Greek: sophia] is a higher term than
[Greek: gnôsis].]

[Footnote 123: The Greek word is [Greek: ainigmata] "riddles." On the
whole subject see Harnack, _History of Dogma_, vol. ii. p. 342.]

[Footnote 124: God, he says (_Tom. in Matth_. xiii. 569), is not the
absolutely unlimited; for then He could not have self-consciousness:
His omnipotence is limited by His goodness and wisdom (cf. _Cels_. iii.

[Footnote 125: I hope it is not necessary to apologise for devoting a
few pages to Plotinus in a work on Christian Mysticism. Every treatise
on religious thought in the early centuries of our era must take
account of the parallel developments of religious philosophy in the
old and the new religions, which illustrate and explain each other.]

[Footnote 126: _Enn_. i. 8. 14, [Greek: ouden estin ho amoiron esti

[Footnote 127: _Enn_. iii. 2. 7; iv. 7. 14.]

[Footnote 128: _Enn_. iv. 4. 26.]

[Footnote 129: _Enn_. iv. 1. 1.]

[Footnote 130: Matter is [Greek: alogos, skia logou kai ekptôsis]
_Enn_. vi. 3. 7; [Greek: eidôlon kai phantasma ogkou kai hopostaseôs
ephesis] _Enn_. iii. 6. 7. If matter were _nothing_, it could not
desire to be something; it is only no-thing--[Greek: apeiria,

[Footnote 131: These three stages correspond to the three stages in
the mystical ladder which appear in nearly all the Christian mystics.]

[Footnote 132: The passages in which Plotinus (following Plato) bids
us mount by means of the beauty of the external world, do not
contradict those other passages in which he bids us "turn from things
without to look within" (_Enn_. iv. 8. 1). Remembering that postulate
of all Mysticism, that we only know a thing by _becoming_ it, we see
that we can only know the world by finding it in ourselves, that is,
by cherishing those "best hours of the mind" (as Bacon says) when we
are lifted above ourselves into union with the world-spirit.]

[Footnote 133: Plotinus guards against this misconception of his
meaning, _Enn_. v. 1. 6, [Greek: ekpodôn de êmin estô genesis hê en

[Footnote 134: [Greek: zôê exelittomenê], _Enn_. i. 4. 1.]

[Footnote 135: See especially _Enn_. iv. 4. 32, 45.]

[Footnote 136: _Enn_. iv. 5. 3, [Greek: sympathes to zôon tode to
pan heautô]; iv. 9. 1, [Greek: hôste emou pathontos synaisthanesthai
to pan].]

[Footnote 137: _Enn_. iv. 5. 2, [Greek: sympatheia amydra].]

[Footnote 138: See Bigg, _Neoplatonism_, pp. 203, 204. He shows that
with the Stoics, who were Pantheists, the Logos was regarded as a
first cause; while with the Neoplatonists, who were Theists and
Transcendentalists, it was a secondary cause. In Plotinus, the
Intelligence ([Greek: Nous]) is "King" (_Enn_. v. 3. 3), and "the
law of Being" (_Enn_. v. 9. 5). But the Johannine Logos is both
immanent and transcendent. When Erigena says, "Certius cognoscas
verbum Naturam omnium esse," he gives a true but incomplete account of
the Nature of the Second Person of the Trinity.]

[Footnote 139: See especially the interesting passage, _Enn_. i. 8.

[Footnote 140: _Enn_. i. 8. 13, [Greek: eti anthrôpikon hê kakia,
memigmenê tini enantiô].]

[Footnote 141: The "civil virtues" are the four cardinal virtues.
Plotinus says that justice is mainly "minding one's business" [Greek:
oikeiopagia]. "The purifying virtues" deliver us from sin; but [Greek:
hê spoudê ouk exô hamartias einai, alla theon einai].]

[Footnote 142: Compare Hegel's criticism of Schelling, in the latter's
Asiatic period, "This so-called wisdom, instead of being yielded up to
the influence of Divinity _by its contempt of all proportion and
definiteness_, does really nothing but give full play to accident and
caprice. Nothing was ever produced by such a process better than mere
dreams" (_Vorrede zur Phänomenologie_, p. 6).]

[Footnote 143: Heb. viii. 5.]

[Footnote 144: _Enn_. iii. 8. 4, [Greek: hotan asthenêsôsin eis to
theôrein, skian theôrias kai logou tên praxin poiountai]. Cf. Amiel's
_Journal_, p. 4, "action is coarsened thought."]

[Footnote 145: _Enn_. iii. 2. 15, [Greek: hypokriseis] and [Greek:
paignion]; and see iv. 3. 32, on love of family and country.]

[Footnote 146: _Enn_. vi. 7. 34.]

[Footnote 147: It would be an easy and rather amusing task to
illustrate these and other aberrations of speculative Mysticism from
Herbert Spencer's philosophy. E.g., he says that, though we cannot
know the Absolute, we may have "an indefinite consciousness of it."
"It is impossible to give to this consciousness any qualitative or
quantitative expression whatever," and yet it is quite certain that we
have it. Herbert Spencer's Absolute is, in fact, _matter without
form_. This would seem to identify it rather with the all but
non-existing "matter" of Plotinus (see Bigg, _Neoplatonism_, p. 199),
than with the superessential "One"; but the later Neoplatonists found
themselves compelled to call _both_ extremes [Greek: to mê on].
Plotinus struggles hard against this conclusion, which threatens to
make shipwreck of his Platonism. "Hierotheus," whose sympathies are
really with Indian nihilism, welcomes it.]

[Footnote 148: The following advice to directors, quoted by Ribet, may
be added: "Director valde attendat ad personas languidæ valetudinis.
Si tales personæ a Deo in quamdam quietis orationem eleventur,
contingit ut in omnibus exterioribus sensibus certum defectum ac
speciem quamdam deliquii experiantur cum magna interna suavitate, quod
extasim aut raptum esse facillime putant. Cum Dei Spiritui resistere
nolint, deliquio illi totas se tradunt, et per multas horas, cum
gravissimo valetudinis præiudicio in tali mentis stupiditate
persistunt." Genuine ecstasy, according to these authorities, seldom
lasted more than half an hour, though one Spanish writer speaks of an

[Footnote 149: Mrs. Humphry Ward's translation, p. 72.]

[Footnote 150: But we should not forget that the author of the
_Epistle to Diognetus_ speaks of the Logos as [Greek: pantote neos en
hagiôn kardiais gennômenos]. In St. Augustine we find it in a rather
surprisingly bold form; cf. _in Joh. tract._ 21, n. 8: "Gratulemur et
grates agamus non solum nos Christianos factos esse, sed Christum ...
Admiramini, gaudete: Christus facti sumus." But this is really quite
different from saying, "Ego Christus factus sum."]

[Footnote 151: "Greek" must here be taken to include the Hellenised
Jews. Those who are best qualified to speak on Jewish philosophy
believe that it exercised a strong influence at Alexandria.]

[Footnote 152: Proclus used to say that a philosopher ought to show no
exclusiveness in his worship, but to be the hierophant of the whole
world. This eclecticism was not confined to cultus.]

[Footnote 153: This account of "Hierotheus" is, of course, taken from
Frothingham's most interesting monograph.]

[Footnote 154: So Ruysbroek says, "We must not remain on the top of
the ladder, but must descend."]

[Footnote 155: Another description of the process of [Greek: haplôsis]
may be found in the curious work of Ibn Tophail, translated by Ockley,
and much valued by the Quakers, _The Improvement of Human Reason,
exhibited in the Life of Hai Ebn Tophail, newly translated by Simon
Ockley_, 1708.]

[Footnote 156: [Greek: ou monon mathôn alla kai pathôn ta theia.]]

[Footnote 157: See Harnack, vol. iv. pp. 282, 283. Frothingham's
theory necessitates a later date for Dionysius than that which Harnack
believes to be most probable; the latter is in favour of placing him
in the second half of the fourth century. The writings of Dionysius
are quoted not much later than 500.]

[Footnote 158: E.g., he agrees with Iamblichus and Proclus (in
opposition to Plotinus) that "the One" is exalted above "Goodness."]

[Footnote 159: At the present time the more pious opinion among
Romanists seems to be that the writings are genuine; but Schram admits
that "there is a dispute" about their date, and some Roman Catholic
writers frankly give them up.]

[Footnote 160: E.g., [Greek: katharsis, phôtismos, myêsis, epopteia,
theôsis; hierotelestai] and [Greek: mystagôgoi] (of the bishops),
[Greek: phôtistikoi] (of the priests), [Greek: kathartikoi] (of the

[Footnote 161: [Greek: hyperousios aoristia--hyper noun
hynotês--henas henopoios hapasês henados--hyperousios ousia kai nous
anoêtos kai logos arrêtos--alogia kai anoêsia kai anônymia--auto de
mê on ôs pasês ousias epekeina.]]

[Footnote 162: [Greek: oudemia ê monas ê trias exagei tên hyper
panta krypsiotêta tês hyper panta hyperousiôs hyperousês

[Footnote 163: [Greek: monas estai pasês dyados archê] is stated by
Dionysius as an axiom.]

[Footnote 164: See especially Bradley's _Appearance and Reality_, some
chapters of which show a certain sympathy with Oriental speculative
Mysticism. The theory set forth in the text must not be confounded
with true pantheism, to which every phenomenon is equally Divine as it
stands. See below, at the end of this Lecture.]

[Footnote 165: See _De Div. Nom._ iv. 8; xi. 3.]

[Footnote 166: Dionysius distinguishes _three_ movements of the human
mind--the _circular_, wherein the soul returns in upon itself; the
_oblique_, which includes all knowledge acquired by reasoning,
research, etc.; and the _direct_, in which we rise to higher truths by
using outward things as symbols. The last two he regards as inferior
to the "circular" movement, which he also calls "simplification"
[Greek: haplôsis].]

[Footnote 167: The highest stage (he says) is to reach [Greek: ton
hyperphôton gnophon kai di' ablepsias kai agnôsias idein kai gnônai].]

[Footnote 168: [Greek: tolmôsa theoplasia] and [Greek: paidariôdês
phantasia] are phrases which he applies to Old Testament narratives.]

[Footnote 169: As a specimen of his language, we may quote [Greek:
esti de ekstatikos ho theios erôs, ouk eôn eautôn einai tous erastas,
alla tôn erômenôn] (_De Div. Nom_. iv. 13).]

[Footnote 170: I am inclined to agree with Dr. Bigg (_Bampton
Lectures_, Introduction, pp. viii, ix), that Dionysius and the later
mystics are right in their interpretation of this passage. Bishop
Lightfoot and some other good scholars take it to mean, "My earthly
affections are crucified." See the discussion in Lightfoot's edition
of Ignatius, and in Bigg's Introduction. I am not aware how the
vindicators of "Dionysius" explain the curious fact that he had read

[Footnote 171: See Harnack, vol. iii. pp. 242, 243. St. Augustine
accepts this statement, which he repeats word for word.]

[Footnote 172: Compare also Hooker: "Of Thee our fittest eloquence is
silence, while we confess without confessing that Thy glory is
unsearchable and beyond our reach."]

[Footnote 173: Unity is a characteristic or simple condition of real
being, but it is not in itself a principle of being, so that "the One"
could exist substantially by itself. To personify the barest of
abstractions, call it God, and then try to imitate it, would seem too
absurd a fallacy to have misled any one, if history did not show that
it has had a long and vigorous life.]

[Footnote 174: Cf. Sir W. Hamilton (_Discussions_, p. 21): "By
abstraction we annihilate the object, and by abstraction we annihilate
the subject of consciousness. But what remains? Nothing. When we
attempt to conceive it as reality, we hypostatise the zero."]

[Footnote 175: The Hon. P. Ramanathan, C.M.G., Attorney-General of
Ceylon, _The Mystery of Godliness_. This interesting essay was brought
to my notice by the kindness of the Rev. G.U. Pope, D.D., University
Teacher in Tamil and Telugu at Oxford.]

[Footnote 176: Hunt's summary of the philosophy of the Vedanta Sara
(_Pantheism and Christianity_, p. 19) may help to illustrate further
this type of thought. "Brahma is called the universal soul, of which
all human souls are a part. These are likened to a succession of
sheaths, which envelop each other like the coats of an onion. The
human soul frees itself by knowledge from the sheath. But what is this
knowledge? To know that the human intellect and all its faculties are
ignorance and delusion. This is to take away the sheath, and to find
that God is all. Whatever is not Brahma is nothing. So long as a man
perceives himself to be anything, he is nothing. When he discovers
that his supposed individuality is no individuality, then he has
knowledge. Man must strive to rid himself of himself as an object of
thought. He must be only a subject. As subject he is Brahma, while the
objective world is mere phenomenon."]

[Footnote 177: We may compare with them the following maxims, which,
enclosed in an outline of Mount Carmel, form the frontispiece to an
early edition of St. Juan of the Cross:--

"To enjoy Infinity, do not desire to taste of finite things.

"To arrive at the knowledge of Infinity, do not desire the knowledge
of finite things.

"To reach to the possession of Infinity, desire to possess nothing.

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

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

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

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

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

[Footnote 179: The same is true of our attitude towards external
nature. We are always trying to rise from the shadow to the substance,
from the symbol to the thing symbolised, and so far the followers of
the negative road are right; but the life of Mysticism (on this side)
consists in the process of spiritualising our impressions; and to
regard the process as completed is to lose shadow and substance

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

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

[Footnote 182: Seth, _Hegelianism and Personality_, states this more
strongly. He argues that "the ultimate goal of Realism is a
thorough-going Pantheism." God is regarded as the _summum genus_, the
ultimate Substance of which all existing things are accidents. The
genus inheres in the species, and the species in individuals, as an
entity common to all and _identical in each_, an entity to which
individual differences adhere as accidents.]

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

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

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

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

[Footnote 187: There is a third system which is called pantheistic;
but as it has nothing to do with Mysticism, I need not try to
determine whether it deserves the name or not. It is that which
deifies physical law. Sometimes it is "materialism grown sentimental,"
as it has been lately described; sometimes it issues in stern
Fatalism. This is Stoicism; and high Calvinism is simply Christian
Stoicism. It has been called pantheistic, because it admits only one
Will in the universe.]


[Greek: "Edizêsamên emeôuton."]


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


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


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


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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The next great name is that of John Scotus Erigena,[211] an English or
Irish monk, who in the ninth century translated Dionysius into Latin.
Erigena is unquestionably one of the most remarkable figures of the
Middle Ages. A bold and independent thinker, he made it his aim to
elucidate the vague theories of Dionysius, and to present them as a
consistent philosophical system worked out by the help of Aristotle
and perhaps Boethius.[212] He intends, of course, to keep within the
limits permitted to Christian speculation; but in reality he does not
allow dogma to fetter him. The Christian Alexandrians were, on the
whole, more orthodox than their language; Erigena's language partially
veils the real audacity of his speculation. He is a mystic only by his
intellectual affinities;[213] the warmth of pious aspiration and love
which makes Dionysius, amid all his extravagance, still a religious
writer, has cooled entirely in Erigena. He can pray with fervour and
eloquence for intellectual enlightenment; but there was nothing of the
prophet or saint about him, to judge from his writings. Still, though
one might dispute his title to be called either a Christian or a
mystic, we must spare a few minutes to this last flower of
Neoplatonism, which bloomed so late on our northern islands.

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

Erigena says that God is above all the categories, including that of
relation. It follows that the Persons of the Trinity, which are only
"relative names," are fused in the Absolute.[215] We may make
statements about God, if we remember that they are only metaphors; but
whatever we deny about Him, we deny truly.[216] This is the "negative
road" of Dionysius, from whom Erigena borrows a number of uncouth
compounds. But we can see that he valued this method mainly as
safeguarding the transcendence of God against pantheistic theories of
immanence. The religious and practical aspects of the doctrine had
little interest for him.

The destiny of all things is to "rest and be quiet" in God. But he
tries to escape the conclusion that all distinctions must disappear;
rather, he says, the return to God raises creatures into a higher
state, in which they first attain their true being. All individual
types will be preserved in the universal. He borrows an illustration,
not a very happy one, from Plotinus. "As iron, when it becomes
red-hot, seems to be turned into pure fire, but remains no less iron
than before; so when body passes into soul, and rational substances
into God, they do not lose their identity, but preserve it in a higher
state of being."

Creation he regards as a necessary self-realisation of God. "God was
not," he says, "before He made the universe." The Son is the Idea of
the World; "be assured," he says, "that the Word is the nature of all
things." The primordial causes or ideas--Goodness, Being, Life, etc.,
_in themselves_, which the Father made in the Son--are in a sense the
creators of the world, for the order of all things is established
according to them. God created the world, not out of nothing, nor out
of something, but out of Himself.[217] The creatures have always
pre-existed "yonder" in the Word; God has only caused them to be
realised in time and space.

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

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

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

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

[Footnote 247: The following passage from Amiel (p. 44 of English
edition) is an admirable commentary on the mystical doctrine of
immanence:--"The centre of life is neither in thought nor in feeling
nor in will, nor even in consciousness, so far as it thinks, feels, or
wishes. For moral truth may have been penetrated and possessed in all
these ways, and escape us still. Deeper even than consciousness, there
is our being itself, our very substance, our nature. Only those truths
which have entered into this last region, which have become ourselves,
become spontaneous and involuntary, instinctive and unconscious, are
really our life--that is to say, something more than our property. So
long as we are able to distinguish any space whatever between the
truth and us, we remain outside it. The thought, the feeling, the
desire, the consciousness of life, are not yet quite life. But peace
and repose can nowhere be found except in life and in eternal life,
and the eternal life is the Divine life, is God. To become Divine is,
then, the aim of life: then only can truth be said to be ours beyond
the possibility of loss, because it is no longer outside of us, nor
even in us, but we are it, and it is we; we ourselves are a truth, a
will, a work of God. Liberty has become nature; the creature is one
with its Creator--one through love."]

[Footnote 248: No better exposition of the religious aspect of
Eckhart's doctrine of immanence can be found than in Principal Caird's
_Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion_, pp. 244, 245, as the
following extract will show: "There is therefore a sense in which we
can say that the world of finite intelligence, though distinct from
God, is still, in its ideal nature, one with Him. That which God
creates, and by which He reveals the hidden treasures of His wisdom
and love, is still not foreign to His own infinite life, but one with
it. In the knowledge of the minds that know Him, in the self-surrender
of the hearts that love Him, it is no paradox to affirm that He knows
and loves Himself. As He is the origin and inspiration of every true
thought and pure affection, of every experience in which we forget and
rise above ourselves, so is He also of all these the end. If in one
point of view religion is the work of man, in another it is the work
of God. Its true significance is not apprehended till we pass beyond
its origin in time and in the experience of a finite spirit, to see in
it the revelation of the mind of God Himself. In the language of
Scripture, 'It is God that worketh in us to will and to do of His good
pleasure: all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to Himself.'"]

[Footnote 249: Eckhart sees this (cf. Preger, vol. i. p. 421):
"Personality in Eckhart is neither the faculties, nor the form
(_Bild_), nor the essence, nor the nature of the Godhead, but it is
rather the spirit which rises out of the essence, and is born by the
irradiation of the form in the essence, which mingles itself with our
nature and works by its means." The obscurity of this conception is
not made any less by the distinction which Eckhart draws between the
outer and inner consciousness in the personality. The outer
consciousness is bound up with the earthly life; to it all images must
come through sense; but in this way it can have no image of itself.
But the higher consciousness is supra-temporal. The potential ground
of the soul is and remains sinless; but the personality is also united
to the bodily nature; its guilt is that it inclines to its sinful
nature instead of to God.]

[Footnote 250: Eckhart distinguishes the _intellectus agens_ (_diu
wirkende Vernunft_) from the passive (_lîdende_) intellect. The office
of the former is to present perceptions to the latter, set out under
the forms of time and space. In his Strassburg period, the spark or
_Ganster_, the _intellectus agens, diu oberste Vernunft_, and
_synteresis_, seem to be identical; but later he says, "The active
intellect cannot give what it has not got. It cannot see two ideas
together, but only one after another. But if God works in the place of
the active intellect, He begets (in the mind) many ideas in one
point." Thus the "spark" becomes supra-rational and uncreated--the
Divine essence itself.]

[Footnote 251: The following sentence, for instance, is in the worst
manner of Dionysius: "Thou shalt love God as He is, a non-God, a
non-Spirit, a non-Person, a non-Form: He is absolute bare Unity." This
is Eckhart's theory of the Absolute ("the Godhead") as distinguished
from God. In these moods he wishes, like the Asiatic mystics, to sink
in the bottomless sea of the Infinite. He also aspires to absolute
[Greek: apatheia] (_Abgeschiedenheit_). "Is he sick? He is as fain to
be sick as well. If a friend should die--in the name of God. If an eye
should be knocked out--in the name of God." The soul has returned to
its pre-natal condition, having rid itself of all "creatureliness."]

[Footnote 252: Many passages might be quoted. The ordinary conclusion
is that Mary chose the better part, because activity is confined to
this life, while contemplation lasts for ever. Augustine treats the
story of Leah and Rachel in the same way (_Contra Faust. Manich_.
xxii. 52): "Lia interpretatur Laborans, Rachel autem Visum principium,
sive Verbum ex quo videtur principium. Actio ergo humanæ mortalisque
vitæ ... ipsa est Lia prior uxor Jacob; ac per hoc et infirmis oculis
fuisse commemoratur. Spes vero æternæ contemplationis Dei, habens
certam et delectabilem intelligentiam veritatis, ipsa est Rachel, unde
etiam dicitur bona facie et pulcra specie," etc.]

[Footnote 253: Moreover, he is never tired of insisting that the
_Will_ is everything. "If your will is right, you cannot go wrong," he
says. "With the will I can do everything." "Love resides in the
will--the more will, the more love." "There is nothing evil but the
evil will, of which sin is the appearance." "The value of human life
depends entirely on the aim which it sets before itself." This
over-insistence on purity of intention as the end, as well as the
beginning, of virtue, is no doubt connected with Eckhart's denial of
reality and importance to the world of time; he tries to show that it
does not logically lead to Antinomianism. His doctrine that good works
have no value in themselves differs from those of Abelard and Bernard,
which have a superficial resemblance to it. Eckhart really regards the
Catholic doctrine of good works much as St. Paul treated the Pharisaic
legalism; but he is as unconscious of the widening gulf which had
already opened between Teutonic and Latin Christianity, as of the
discredit which his own writings were to help to bring upon the
monkish view of life.]

[Footnote 254: As an example of his free handling of the Old
Testament, I may quote, "Do not suppose that when God made heaven and
earth and all things, He made one thing to-day and another to-morrow.
Moses says so, of course, but he knew better; he only wrote that for
the sake of the populace, who could not have understood otherwise. God
merely _willed_ and the world _was_."]

[Footnote 255: E.g. "Da der vatter seynen sun in mir gebirt, da byn
ich der selb sun und nitt eyn ander."]

[Footnote 256: So Hermann of Fritslar says that the soul has two
faces, the one turned towards this world, the other immediately to
God. In the latter God flows and shines eternally, whether man is
conscious of it or not. It is therefore according to man's nature as
possessed of this Divine ground, to seek God, his original; and even
in hell the suffering there has its source in hopeless contradiction
of this indestructible tendency. See Vaughan, vol. i. p. 256; and the
same teaching in Tauler, p. 185.]


[Greek: "Ho thronos tês theiotêtos ho nous estin êmôn."]


   "Thou comest not, thou goest not;
      Thou wert not, wilt not be;
    Eternity is but a thought
      By which we think of Thee."


   "Werd als ein Kind, werd taub und blind,
    Dein eignes Icht muss werden nicht:
      All Icht, all Nicht treib ferne nur;
    Lass Statt, lass Zeit, auch Bild lass weit,
    Geh ohne Weg den schmalen Steg,
      So kommst du auf der Wüste Spur.
    O Seele mein, aus Gott geh ein,
    Sink als ein Icht in Gottes Nicht,
      Sink in die ungegründte Fluth.
    Flich ich von Dir, du kommst zu mir,
    Verlass ich mich, so find ich Dich,
      O überwesentliches Gut!"

_Mediæval German Hymn_.

  "Quid cælo dabimus? quantum est quo veneat omne?
  Impendendus homo est, Deus esse ut possit in ipso."



"We all, with unveiled face reflecting as a mirror the glory of the
Lord, are transformed into the same image, from glory to glory."--2
COR. iii. 18.

The school of Eckhart[257] in the fourteenth century produced the
brightest cluster of names in the history of Mysticism. In Ruysbroek,
Suso, Tauler, and the author of the _Theologia Germanica_ we see
introspective Mysticism at its best. This must not be understood to
mean that they improved upon the philosophical system of Eckhart, or
that they are entirely free from the dangerous tendencies which have
been found in his works. On the speculative side they added nothing of
value, and none of them rivals Eckhart in clearness of intellect. But
we find in them an unfaltering conviction that our communion with God
must be a fact of experience, and not only a philosophical theory.
With the most intense earnestness they set themselves to live through
the mysteries of the spiritual life, as the only way to understand and
prove them. Suso and Tauler both passed through deep waters; the
history of their inner lives is a record of heroic struggle and
suffering. The personality of the men is part of their message, a
statement which could hardly be made of Dionysius or Erigena, perhaps
not of Eckhart himself.

John of Ruysbroek, "doctor ecstaticus," as the Church allowed him to
be called, was born in 1293, and died in 1381. He was prior of the
convent of Grünthal, in the forest of Soignies, where he wrote most of
his mystical treatises, under the direct guidance, as he believed, of
the Holy Spirit. He was the object of great veneration in the later
part of his life. Ruysbroek was not a learned man, or a clear
thinker.[258] He knew Dionysius, St. Augustine, and Eckhart, and was
no doubt acquainted with some of the other mystical writers; but he
does not write like a scholar or a man of letters. He resembles Suso
in being more emotional and less speculative than most of the German

Ruysbroek reverts to the mystical tradition, partially broken by
Eckhart, of arranging almost all his topics in three or seven
divisions, often forming a progressive scale. For instance, in the
treatise "On the Seven Grades of Love," we have the following series,
which he calls the "Ladder of Love": (1) goodwill; (2) voluntary
poverty; (3) chastity; (4) humility; (5) desire for the glory of God;
(6) Divine contemplation, which has three properties--intuition,
purity of spirit, and nudity of mind; (7) the ineffable, unnameable
transcendence of all knowledge and thought. This arbitrary schematism
is the weakest part of Ruysbroek's writings, which contain many deep
thoughts. His chief work, _Ordo spiritualium nuptiarum_, is one of the
most complete charts of the mystic's progress which exist. The three
stages are here the active life (_vita actuosa_), the internal,
elevated, or affective life, to which all are not called, and the
contemplative life, to which only a few can attain. The three parts of
the soul, sensitive, rational, and spiritual, correspond to these
three stages. The motto of the active life is the text, "_Ecce sponsus
venit; exite obviam ei_." The Bridegroom "comes" three times: He came
in the flesh; He comes into us by grace; and He will come to judgment.
We must "go out to meet Him," by the three virtues of humility, love,
and justice: these are the three virtues which support the fabric of
the active life. The ground of all the virtues is humility; thence
proceed, in order, obedience, renunciation of our own will, patience,
gentleness, piety, sympathy, bountifulness, strength and impulse for
all virtues, soberness and temperance, chastity. "This is the active
life, which is necessary for us all, if we wish to follow Christ, and
to reign with Him in His everlasting kingdom."

Above the active rises the inner life. This has three parts. Our
intellect must be enlightened with supernatural clearness; we must
behold the inner coming of the Bridegroom, that is, the eternal truth;
we must "go out" from the exterior to the inner life; we must go to
_meet_ the Bridegroom, to enjoy union with His Divinity.

Finally, the spirit rises from the inner to the contemplative life.
"When we rise above ourselves, and in our ascent to God are made so
simple that the love which embraces us is occupied only with itself,
above the practice of all the virtues, then we are transformed and die
in God to ourselves and to all separate individuality." God unites us
with Himself in eternal love, which is Himself. "In this embrace and
essential unity with God all devout and inward spirits are one with
God by living immersion and melting away into Him; they are by grace
one and the same thing with Him, because the same essence is in both."
"For what we are, that we intently contemplate; and what we
contemplate, that we are; for our mind, our life, and our essence are
simply lifted up and united to the very truth, which is God. Wherefore
in this simple and intent contemplation we are one life and one spirit
with God. And this I call the contemplative life. In this highest
stage the soul is united to God without means; it sinks into the vast
darkness of the Godhead." In this abyss, he says, following his
authorities, "the Persons of the Trinity transcend themselves";
"_there_ is only the eternal essence, which is the substance of the
Divine Persons, where we are all one and uncreated, according to our
prototypes." Here, "so far as distinction of persons goes, there is no
more God nor creature"; "we have lost ourselves and been melted away
into the unknown darkness." And yet we remain eternally distinct from
God. The creature remains a creature, and loses not its
creatureliness. We must be conscious of ourselves in God, and
conscious of ourselves in ourselves. For eternal life consists in the
knowledge of God, and there can be no knowledge without
self-consciousness. If we could be blessed without knowing it, a
stone, which has no consciousness, might be blessed.

Ruysbroek, it is plain, had no qualms in using the old mystical
language without qualification. This is the more remarkable, because
he was fully aware of the disastrous consequences which follow from
the method of negation and self-deification. For Ruysbroek was an
earnest reformer of abuses. He spares no one--popes, bishops, monks,
and the laity are lashed in vigorous language for their secularity,
covetousness, and other faults; but perhaps his sharpest castigation
is reserved for the false mystics. There are some, he says, who
mistake mere laziness for holy abstraction; others give the rein to
"spiritual self-indulgence"; others neglect all religious exercises;
others fall into antinomianism, and "think that nothing is forbidden
to them"--"they will gratify any appetite which interrupts their
contemplation": these are "by far the worst of all." "There is another
error," he proceeds, "of those who like to call themselves
'theopaths.' They take every impulse to be Divine, and repudiate all
responsibility. Most of them live in inert sloth." As a corrective to
these errors, he very rightly says, "Christ must be the rule and
pattern of all our lives"; but he does not see that there is a deep
inconsistency between the imitation of Christ as the living way to the
Father, and the "negative road" which leads to vacancy.[259]

Henry Suso, whose autobiography is a document of unique importance
for the psychology of Mysticism, was born in 1295[260]. Intellectually
he is a disciple of Eckhart, whom he understands better than
Ruysbroek; but his life and character are more like those of the
Spanish mystics, especially St. Juan of the Cross. The text which is
most often in his mouth is, "Where I am, there shall also My servant
be"; which he interprets to mean that only those who have embraced to
the full the fellowship of Christ's sufferings, can hope to be united
to Him in glory. "No cross, no crown," is the law of life which Suso
accepts in all the severity of its literal meaning. The story of the
terrible penances which he inflicted on himself for part of his life
is painful and almost repulsive to read; but they have nothing in
common with the ostentatious self-torture of the fakir. Suso's deeply
affectionate and poetical temperament, with its strong human loves and
sympathies, made the life of the cloister very difficult for him. He
accepted it as the highest life, and strove to conform himself to its
ideals; and when, after sixteen years of cruel austerities, he felt
that his "refractory body" was finally tamed, he discontinued his
mortifications, and entered upon a career of active usefulness. In
this he had still heavier crosses to carry, for he was persecuted and
falsely accused, while the spiritual consolations which had cheered
him in his early struggles were often withdrawn. In his old age,
shortly before his death in 1365, he published the history of his
life, which is one of the most interesting and charming of all
autobiographies. Suso's literary gift is very remarkable. Unlike most
ecstatic mystics, who declare on each occasion that "tongue cannot
utter" their experiences, Suso's store of glowing and vivid language
never fails. The hunger and thirst of the soul for God, and the
answering love of Christ manifested in the inner man, have never found
a more pure and beautiful expression. In the hope of inducing more
readers to become acquainted with this gem of mediæval literature, I
will give a few extracts from its pages.

"The servitor of the eternal Wisdom," as he calls himself throughout
the book, made the first beginning of his perfect conversion to God in
his eighteenth year. Before that, he had lived as others live, content
to avoid deadly sin; but all the time he had felt a gnawing reproach
within him. Then came the temptation to be content with gradual
progress, and to "treat himself well." But "the eternal Wisdom" said
to him, "He who seeks with tender treatment to conquer a refractory
body, wants common sense. If thou art minded to forsake all, do so to
good purpose." The stern command was obeyed.[261] Very soon--it is the
usual experience of ascetic mystics--he was encouraged by rapturous
visions. One such, which came to him on St. Agnes' Day, he thus
describes:--"It was without form or mode, but contained within itself
the most entrancing delight. His heart was athirst and yet satisfied.
It was a breaking forth of the sweetness of eternal life, felt as
present in the stillness of contemplation. Whether he was in the body
or out of the body, he knew not." It lasted about an hour and a half;
but gleams of its light continued to visit him at intervals for some
time after.

Suso's loving nature, like Augustine's, needed an object of affection.
His imagination concentrated itself upon the eternal Wisdom,
personified in the Book of Proverbs in female form as a loving
mistress, and the thought came often to him, "Truly thou shouldest
make trial of thy fortune, whether this high mistress, of whom thou
hast heard so much, will become thy love; for in truth thy wild young
heart will not remain without a love." Then in a vision he saw her,
radiant in form, rich in wisdom, and overflowing with love; it is she
who touches the summit of the heavens, and the depths of the abyss,
who spreads herself from end to end, mightily and sweetly disposing
all things. And she drew nigh to him lovingly, and said to him
sweetly, "My son, give me thy heart."

At this season there came into his soul a flame of intense fire, which
made his heart burn with Divine love. And as a "love token," he cut
deep in his breast the name of Jesus, so that the marks of the
letters remained all his life, "about the length of a finger-joint."

Another time he saw a vision of angels, and besought one of them to
show him the manner of God's secret dwelling in the soul. An angel
answered, "Cast then a joyous glance into thyself, and see how God
plays His play of love with thy loving soul." He looked immediately,
and saw that his body over his heart was as clear as crystal, and that
in the centre was sitting tranquilly, in lovely form, the eternal
Wisdom, beside whom sat, full of heavenly longing, the servitor's own
soul, which leaning lovingly towards God's side, and encircled by His
arms, lay pressed close to His heart.

In another vision he saw "the blessed master Eckhart," who had lately
died in disfavour with the rulers of the Church. "He signified to the
servitor that he was in exceeding glory, and that his soul was quite
transformed, and made Godlike in God." In answer to questions, "the
blessed Master" told him that "words cannot tell the manner in which
those persons dwell in God who have really detached themselves from
the world, and that the way to attain this detachment is to die to
self, and to maintain unruffled patience with all men."

Very touching is the vision of the Holy Child which came to him in
church on Candlemas Day. Kneeling down in front of the Virgin, who
appeared to him, "he prayed her to show him the Child, and to suffer
him also to kiss it. When she kindly offered it to him, he spread out
his arms and received the beloved One. He contemplated its beautiful
little eyes, he kissed its tender little mouth, and he gazed again and
again at all the infant members of the heavenly treasure. Then,
lifting up his eyes, he uttered a cry of amazement that He who bears
up the heavens is so great, and yet so small, so beautiful in heaven
and so childlike on earth. And as the Divine Infant moved him, so did
he act toward it, now singing now weeping, till at last he gave it
back to its mother."

When at last he was warned by an angel, he says, to discontinue his
austerities, "he spent several weeks very pleasantly," often weeping
for joy at the thought of the grievous sufferings which he had
undergone. But his repose was soon disturbed. One day, as he sat
meditating on "life as a warfare," he saw a vision of a comely youth,
who vested him in the attire of a knight,[262] saying to him,
"Hearken, sir knight! Hitherto thou hast been a squire; now God wills
thee to be a knight. And thou shalt have fighting enough!" Suso cried,
"Alas, my God! what art Thou about to do unto me? I thought that I had
had enough by this time. Show me how much suffering I have before me."
The Lord said, "It is better for thee not to know. Nevertheless I will
tell thee of three things. Hitherto thou hast stricken thyself. Now I
will strike thee, and thou shalt suffer publicly the loss of thy good
name. Secondly, where thou shalt look for love and faithfulness, there
shalt thou find treachery and suffering. Thirdly, hitherto thou hast
floated in Divine sweetness, like a fish in the sea; this will I now
withdraw from thee, and thou shalt starve and wither. Thou shalt be
forsaken both by God and the world, and whatever thou shalt take in
hand to comfort thee shall come to nought." The servitor threw himself
on the ground, with arms outstretched to form a cross, and prayed in
agony that this great misery might not fall upon him. Then a voice
said to him, "Be of good cheer, I will be with thee and aid thee to

The next chapters show how this vision or presentiment was verified.
The journeys which he now took exposed him to frequent dangers, both
from robbers and from lawless men who hated the monks. One adventure
with a murderer is told with delightful simplicity and vividness. Suso
remains throughout his life thoroughly human, and, hard as his lot had
been, he is in an agony of fear at the prospect of a violent death.
The story of the outlaw confessing to the trembling monk how, besides
other crimes, he had once pushed into the Rhine a priest who had just
heard his confession, and how the wife of the assassin comforted Suso
when he was about to drop down from sheer fright, forms a quaint
interlude in the saint's memoirs. But a more grievous trial awaited
him. Among other pastoral work, he laboured much to reclaim fallen
women; and a pretended penitent, whose insincerity he had detected,
revenged herself by a slander which almost ruined him.[263] Happily,
the chiefs of his order, whose verdict he had greatly dreaded,
completely exonerated him, after a full investigation, and his last
years seem to have been peaceful and happy. The closing chapters of
the Life are taken up by some very interesting conversations with his
spiritual "daughter," Elizabeth Stäglin, who wished to understand the
obscurer doctrines of Mysticism. She asks him about the doctrine of
the Trinity, which he expounds on the general lines of Eckhart's
theology. She, however, remembers some of the bolder phrases in
Eckhart, and says, "But there are some who say that, in order to
attain to perfect union, we must divest ourselves of God, and turn
only to the inwardly-shining light." "That is false," replies Suso,
"if the words are taken in their ordinary sense. But the common belief
about God, that He is a great Taskmaster, whose function is to reward
and punish, _is_ cast out by perfect love; and in this sense the
spiritual man _does_ divest himself of God, as conceived of by the
vulgar. Again, in the highest state of union, the soul takes no note
of the Persons _separately_; for it is not the Divine Persons taken
singly that confer bliss, but the Three in One." Suso here gives a
really valuable turn to one of Eckhart's rashest theses. "_Where_ is
heaven?" asks his pupil next. "The intellectual _where_" is the
reply, "is the essentially-existing unnameable nothingness. So we
must call it, because we can discover no mode of being, under which to
conceive of it. But though it seems to us to be no-thing, it deserves
to be called something rather than nothing." Suso, we see, follows
Dionysius, but with this proviso. The maiden now asks him to give her
a figure or image of the self-evolution of the Trinity, and he gives
her the figure of concentric circles, such as appear when we throw a
stone into a pond. "But," he adds, "this is as unlike the formless
truth as a black Moor is unlike the beautiful sun." Soon after, the
holy maiden died, and Suso saw her in a vision, radiant and full of
heavenly joy, showing him how, guided by his counsels, she had found
everlasting bliss. When he came to himself, he said, "Ah, God! blessed
is the man who strives after Thee alone! He may well be content to
suffer, whose pains Thou rewardest thus. God help us to rejoice in
this maiden, and in all His dear friends, and to enjoy His Divine
countenance eternally!" So ends Suso's autobiography. His other chief
work, a Dialogue between the eternal Wisdom and the Servitor, is a
prose poem of great beauty, the tenor of which may be inferred from
the above extracts from the Life. Suso believed that the Divine Wisdom
had indeed spoken through his pen; and few, I think, will accuse him
of arrogance for the words which conclude the Dialogue. "Whosoever
will read these writings of mine in a right spirit, can hardly fail to
be stirred in his heart's depths, either to fervent love, or to new
light, or to longing and thirsting for God, or to detestation and
loathing of his sins, or to that spiritual aspiration by which the
soul is renewed in grace."

John Tauler was born at Strassburg about 1300, and entered a Dominican
convent in 1315. After studying at Cologne and Paris, he returned to
Strassburg, where, as a Dominican, he was allowed to officiate as a
priest, although the town was involved in the great interdict of 1324.
In 1339, however, he had to fly to Basel, which was the headquarters
of the revivalist society who called themselves "the Friends of God."
About 1346 he returned to Strassburg, and was devoted in his
ministrations during the "black death" in 1348. He appears to have
been strongly influenced by one of the Friends of God, a mysterious
layman, who has been identified, probably wrongly, with Nicholas of
Basel,[264] and, according to some, dated his "conversion" from his
acquaintance with this saintly man. Tauler continued to preach to
crowded congregations till his death in 1361.

Tauler is a thinker as well as a preacher. Though in most points his
teaching is identical with that of Eckhart,[265] he treats all
questions in an independent manner, and sometimes, as for instance in
his doctrine about the uncreated ground of the soul,[266] he differs
from his master. There is also a perceptible change in the stress
laid upon certain parts of the system, which brings Tauler nearer than
Eckhart to the divines of the Reformation. In particular, his sense of
sin is too deep for him to be satisfied with the Neoplatonic doctrine
of its negativity, which led Eckhart into difficulties.[267]

The little book called the _German Theology_, by an unknown author,
also belongs to the school of Eckhart. It is one of the most precious
treasures of devotional literature, and deserves to be better known
than it is in this country. In some ways it is superior to the famous
treatise of à Kempis, _On the Imitation of Christ_, since the
self-centred individualism is less prominent. The author thoroughly
understands Eckhart, but his object is not to view everything _sub
specie oeternitatis_, but to give a practical religious turn to his
master's speculations. His teaching is closely in accordance with that
of Tauler, whom he quotes as an authority, and whom he joins in
denouncing the followers of the "false light," the erratic mystics of
the fourteenth century.

The practical theology of these four German mystics of the fourteenth
century--Ruysbroek, Suso, Tauler, and the writer of the _German
Theology_, is so similar that it is possible to consider it in detail
without taking each author separately. It is the crowning achievement
of Christian Mysticism before the Reformation, except in the English
Platonists of the seventeenth century, we shall not find anywhere a
sounder and more complete scheme of doctrine built upon this

The distinction drawn by Eckhart between the Godhead and God is
maintained in the _German Theology_, and by Ruysbroek. The latter, as
we have seen,[268] does not shrink from following the path of analysis
to the end, and says plainly that in the Abyss there is no distinction
of Divine and human persons, but only the eternal essence. Tauler also
bids us "put out into the deep, and let down our nets"; but his "deep"
is in the heart, not in the intellect. "My children, you should not
ask about these great high problems," he says; and he prefers not to
talk much about them, "for no teacher can teach what he has not lived
through himself." Still he speaks, like Dionysius and Eckhart, of the
"Divine darkness," "the nameless, formless nothing," "the wild waste,"
and so forth; and says of God that He is "the Unity in which all
multiplicity is transcended," and that in Him are gathered up both
becoming and being, eternal rest and eternal motion. In this deepest
ground, he says, the Three Persons are implicit, not explicit. The Son
is the Form of all forms, to which the "eternal, reasonable form
created after God's image" (the Idea of mankind) longs to be

The creation of the world, according to Tauler, is rather consonant
with than necessary to the nature of God. The world, before it became
actual, existed in its Idea in God, and this ideal world was set forth
by means of the Trinity. It is in the Son that the Ideas exist "from
all eternity." The Ideas are said to be "living," that is, they work
as forms, and after the creation of matter act as universals above and
in things. Tauler is careful to show that he is not a pantheist. "God
is the Being of all beings," he says; "but He is none of all things."
God is all, but all is not God; He far transcends the universe in
which He is immanent.

We look in vain to Tauler for an explanation of the obscurest point in
Eckhart's philosophy, as to the relations of the phenomenal to the
real. We want clearer evidence that temporal existence is not regarded
as something illusory or accidental, an error which may be
inconsistent with the theory of immanence as taught by the school of
Eckhart, but which is too closely allied with other parts of their

The indwelling of God in the soul is the real centre of Tauler's
doctrine, but his psychology is rather intricate and difficult. He
speaks of three phases of personal life, the sensuous nature, the
reason, and the "third man"--the spiritual life or pure substance of
the soul. He speaks also of an "uncreated ground," which is the abyss
of the Godhead, but yet "in us," and of a "created ground," which he
uses in a double sense, now of the empirical self, which is imperfect
and must be purified, and now of the ideal man, as God intended him to
be. This latter is "the third man," and is also represented by the
"spark" at the "apex of the soul," which is to transform the rest of
the soul into its own likeness. The "uncreated ground," in Tauler,
works upon us through the medium of the "created ground," and not as
in Eckhart, immediately. The "created ground," in this sense, he calls
"the Image," which is identical with Eckhart's "spark." It is a
creative principle as well as created, like the "Ideas" of Erigena.

The _German Theology_ says that "the soul has two eyes,[269]" one of
which, the right eye, sees into eternity, the other sees time and the
creatures. The "right eye" is practically the same as Eckhart's
"spark" and Tauler's "image." It is significant that the author tells
us that we cannot see with both eyes together; the left eye must be
shut before we can use the right.[270] The passage where this precept
is given shows very plainly that the author, like the other fourteenth
century mystics,[271] was still under the influence of mediæval
dualism--the belief that the Divine begins where the earthly leaves
off. It is almost the only point in this "golden little treatise," as
Henry More calls it, to which exception must be taken.[272]

The essence of sin is self-assertion or self-will, and consequent
separation from God. Tauler has, perhaps, a deeper sense of sin than
any of his predecessors, and he revives the Augustinian
(anti-Pelagian) teaching on the miserable state of fallen humanity.
Sensuality and pride, the two chief manifestations of self-will, have
invaded the _whole_ of our nature. Pride is a sin of the spirit, and
the poison has invaded "even the ground"--the "created ground," that
is, as the unity of all the faculties. It will be remembered that the
Neoplatonic doctrine was that the spiritual part of our nature can
take no defilement. Tauler seems to believe that under one aspect the
"created ground" is the transparent medium of the Divine light, but in
this sense it is only potentially the light of our whole body. He will
not allow the sinless _apex mentis_ to be identified with the
personality. Separation from God is the source of all misery. Therein
lies the pain of hell. The human soul can never cease to yearn and
thirst after God; "and the greatest pain" of the lost "is that this
longing can never be satisfied." In the _German Theology_, the
necessity of rising above the "I" and "mine" is treated as the great
saving truth. "When the creature claimeth for its own anything good,
it goeth astray." "The more of self and me, the more of sin and
wickedness. Be simply and wholly bereft of self." "So long as a man
seeketh his own highest good _because_ it is his, he will never find
it. For so long as he doeth this, he seeketh himself, and deemeth that
he himself is the highest good." (These last sentences are almost
verbally repeated in a sermon by John Smith, the Cambridge Platonist.)

The three stages of the mystic's ascent appear in Tauler's sermons. We
have first to practise self-control, till all our lower powers are
governed by our highest reason. "Jesus cannot speak in the temple of
thy soul till those that sold and bought therein are cast out of it."
In this stage we must be under strict rule and discipline. "The old
man must be subject to the old law, till Christ be born in him of a
truth." Of the second stage he says, "Wilt thou with St. John rest on
the loving breast of our Lord Jesus Christ, thou must be transformed
into His beauteous image by a constant, earnest contemplation
thereof." It is possible that God may will to call thee higher still;
then let go all forms and images, and suffer Him to work with thee as
His instrument. To some the very door of heaven has been opened--"this
happens to some with a convulsion of the mind, to others calmly and
gradually." "It is not the work of a day nor of a year." "Before it
can come to pass, nature must endure many a death, outward and

In the first stage of the "dying life," he says elsewhere, we are much
oppressed by the sense of our infirmities, and by the fear of hell.
But in the third, "all our griefs and joys are a sympathy with Christ,
whose earthly life was a mingled web of grief and joy, and this life
He has left as a sacred testament to His followers."

These last extracts show that the Cross of Christ, and the imitation
of His life on earth, have their due prominence in Tauler's teaching.
It is, of course, true that for him, as for all mystics, Christ _in_
us is more than Christ _for_ us. But it is unfair to put it in this
way, as if the German mystics wished to contrast the two views of
redemption, and to exalt one at the expense of the other. Tauler's
wish is to give the historical redemption its true significance, by
showing that it is an universal as well as a particular fact. When he
says, "We should worship Christ's humanity only in union with this
divinity," he is giving exactly the same caution which St. Paul
expresses in the verse about "knowing Christ after the flesh."

In speaking of the highest of the three stages, passages were quoted
which advocate a purely passive state of the will and intellect.[273]
This quietistic tendency cannot be denied in the fourteenth century
mystics, though it is largely counteracted by maxims of an opposite
kind. "God draws us," says Tauler, "in three ways, first, by His
creatures; secondly, by His voice in the soul, when an eternal truth
mysteriously suggests itself, as happens not infrequently in morning
sleep." (This is interesting, being evidently the record of personal
experience.) "Thirdly, without resistance or means, when the will is
quite subdued." "What is given through means is tasteless; it is seen
through a veil, and split up into fragments, and bears with it a
certain sting of bitterness." There are other passages in which he is
obviously under the influence of Dionysius; as when he speaks of
"dying to all distinctions"; in fact, he at times preaches
"simplification" in an unqualified form. But, on the other hand, no
Christian teachers have made more of the _active will_ than these
pupils of Eckhart.[274] "Ye are as holy as ye truly will to be holy,"
says Ruysbroek. "With the will one may do everything," we read in
Tauler. And against the perversion of the "negative road" he says, "we
must lop and prune vices, not nature, which is in itself good and
noble." And "Christ Himself never arrived at the 'emptiness' of which
these men (the false mystics) talk." Of contemplation he says,
"Spiritual enjoyments are the food of the soul, and are only to be
taken for nourishment and support to help us in our active work."
"Sloth often makes men fain to be excused from their work and set to
contemplation. Never trust in a virtue that has not been put into
practice." These pupils of Eckhart all led strenuous lives themselves,
and were no advocates of pious indolence. Tauler says, "Works of love
are more acceptable to God than lofty contemplation": and, "All kinds
of skill are gifts of the Holy Ghost.[275]"

The process of deification is thus described by Ruysbroek and by
Tauler. Ruysbroek writes: "All men who are exalted above their
creatureliness into a contemplative life are one with this Divine
glory--yea, _are_ that glory. And they see and feel and find in
themselves, by means of this Divine light, that they are the same
simple Ground as to their uncreated nature, since the glory shineth
forth without measure, after the Divine manner, and abideth within
them simply and without mode, according to the simplicity of the
essence. Wherefore contemplative men should rise above reason and
distinction, beyond their created substance, and gaze perpetually by
the aid of their inborn light, and so they become transformed, and one
with the same light, by means of which they see, and which they see.
Thus they arrive at that eternal image after which they were created,
and contemplate God and all things without distinction, in a simple
beholding, in Divine glory. This is the loftiest and most profitable
contemplation to which men attain in this life." Tauler, in his sermon
for the Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity, says: "The kingdom is seated
in the inmost recesses of the spirit. When, through all manner of
exercises, the outward man has been converted into the inward
reasonable man, and thus the two, that is to say, the powers of the
senses and the powers of the reason, are gathered up into the very
centre of the man's being,--the unseen depths of his spirit, wherein
lies the image of God,--and thus he flings himself into the Divine
Abyss, in which he dwelt eternally before he was created; then when
God finds the man thus firmly down and turned towards Him, the Godhead
bends and nakedly descends into the depths of the pure waiting soul,
and transforms the created soul, drawing it up into the uncreated
essence, so that the spirit becomes one with Him. Could such a man
behold himself, he would see himself so noble that he would fancy
himself God, and see himself a thousand times nobler than he is in
himself, and would perceive all the thoughts and purposes, words and
works, and have all the knowledge of all men that ever were." Suso and
the _German Theology_ use similar language.

The idea of deification startles and shocks the modern reader. It
astonishes us to find that these earnest and humble saints at times
express themselves in language which surpasses the arrogance even of
the Stoics. We feel that there must be something wrong with a system
which ends in obliterating the distinction between the Creator and His
creatures. We desire in vain to hear some echo of Job's experience, so
different in tone: "I have heard Thee by the hearing of the ear, but
now mine eye seeth Thee; _therefore_ I abhor myself, and repent in
dust and ashes." The proper effect of the vision of God is surely that
which Augustine describes in words already quoted: "I tremble, and I
burn. I tremble, in that I am unlike Him; I burn, in that I am like
Him." Nor is this only the beginner's experience: St. Paul had almost
"finished his course" when he called himself the chief of sinners. The
joy which uplifts the soul, when it feels the motions of the Holy
Spirit, arises from the fact that in such moments "the spirit's true
endowments stand out plainly from its false ones"; we then see the
"countenance of our genesis," as St. James calls it--the man or woman
that God meant us to be, and know that we could _not_ so see it if we
were wholly cut off from its realisation. But the clearer the vision
of the ideal, the deeper must be our self-abasement when we turn our
eyes to the actual. We must not escape from this sharp and humiliating
contrast by mentally annihilating the self, so as to make it
impossible to say, "Look on this picture, and on _this_." Such false
humility leads straight to its opposite--extreme arrogance. Moreover,
to regard deification as an accomplished fact, involves, as I have
said (p. 33), a contradiction. The process of unification with the
Infinite _must_ be a _progressus ad infinitum_. The pessimistic
conclusion is escaped by remembering that the highest reality is
supra-temporal, and that the destiny which God has designed for us has
not merely a contingent realisation, but is in a sense already
accomplished. There are, in fact, two ways in which we may abdicate
our birthright, and surrender the prize of our high calling: we may
count ourselves already to have apprehended, which must be a grievous
delusion, or we may resign it as unattainable, which is also a

These truths were well known to Tauler and his brother-mystics, who
were saints as well as philosophers. If they retained language which
appears to us so objectionable, it must have been because they felt
that the doctrine of union with God enshrined a truth of great value.
And if we remember the great Mystical paradox, "He that will lose his
life shall save it," we shall partly understand how they arrived at
it. It is quite true that the nearer we approach to God, the wider
seems to yawn the gulf that separates us from Him, till at last we
feel it to be infinite. But does not this conviction itself bring with
it unspeakable comfort? How could we be aware of that infinite
distance, if there were not something within us which can span the
infinite? How could we feel that God and man are incommensurable, if
we had not the witness of a higher self immeasurably above our lower
selves? And how blessed is the assurance that this higher self gives
us access to a region where we may leave behind not only external
troubles and "the provoking of all men," but "the strife of tongues"
in our own hearts, the chattering and growling of the "ape and tiger"
within us, the recurring smart of old sins repented of, and the
dragging weight of innate propensities! In this state the will,
desiring nothing save to be conformed to the will of God, and
separating itself entirely from all lower aims and wishes, claims the
right of an immortal spirit to attach itself to eternal truth alone,
having nothing in itself, and yet possessing all things in God. So
Tauler says, "Let a man lovingly cast all his thoughts and cares, and
his sins too, as it were, on that unknown Will. O dear child! in the
midst of all these enmities and dangers, sink thou into thy ground and
nothingness. Let the tower with all its bells fall on thee; yea, let
all the devils in hell storm out upon thee; let heaven and earth and
all the creatures assail thee, all shall but marvellously serve thee;
sink thou into thy nothingness, and the better part shall be thine."
This hope of a real transformation of our nature by the free gift of
God's grace is the _only_ message of comfort for those who are tied
and bound by the chain of their sins.

The error comes in, as I have said before, when we set before
ourselves the idea of God the Father, or of the Absolute, instead of
Christ, as the object of imitation. Whenever we find such language as
that quoted from Ruysbroek, about "rising above all distinctions," we
may be sure that this error has been committed. Mystics of all times
would have done well to keep in their minds a very happy phrase which
Irenæus quotes from some unknown author, "He spoke well who said that
the infinite (_immensum_) Father is _measured_ (_mensuratum_) in the
Son: _mensura enim Patris Filius_.[276]" It is to this "measure," not
to the immeasureable, that we are bidden to aspire.

Eternity is, for Tauler, "the everlasting Now"; but in his popular
discourses he uses the ordinary expressions about future reward and
punishment, even about hell fire; though his deeper thought is that
the hopeless estrangement of the soul from God is the source of all
the torments of the lost.

Love, says Tauler, is the "beginning, middle, and end of virtue." Its
essence is complete self-surrender. We must lose ourselves in the love
of God as a drop of water is lost in the ocean.

It only remains to show how Tauler combats the fantastic errors into
which some of the German mystics had fallen in his day. The author of
the _German Theology_ is equally emphatic in his warnings against the
"false light"; and Ruysbroek's denunciation of the Brethren of the
Free Spirit has already been quoted. Tauler, in an interesting
sermon[277], describes the heady arrogance, disorderly conduct, and
futile idleness of these fanatics, and then gives the following
maxims, by which we may distinguish the false Mysticism from the true.
"Now let us know how we may escape these snares of the enemy. No one
can be free from the observance of the laws of God and the practice of
virtue. No one can unite himself to God in emptiness without true love
and desire for God. No one can be holy without becoming holy, without
good works. No one may leave off doing good works. No one may rest in
God without love for God. No one can be exalted to a stage which he
has not longed for or felt." Finally, he shows how the example of
Christ forbids all the errors which he is combating.

The _Imitation of Christ_ has been so often spoken of as the finest
flower of Christian Mysticism, that it is impossible to omit all
reference to it in these Lectures. And yet it is not, properly
speaking, a mystical treatise. It is the ripe fruit of mediæval
Christianity as concentrated in the life of the cloister, the last and
best legacy, in this kind, of a system which was already decaying; but
we find in it hardly a trace of that independence which made Eckhart a
pioneer of modern philosophy, and the fourteenth century mystics
forerunners of the Reformation. Thomas à Kempis preaches a
Christianity of the _heart_; but he does not exhibit the
distinguishing characteristics of Mysticism. The title by which the
book is known is really the title of the first section only, and it
does not quite accurately describe the contents of the book.
Throughout the treatise we feel that we are reading a defence of the
recluse and his scheme of life. Self-denial, renunciation of the
world, prayer and meditation, utter humility and purity, are the road
to a higher joy, a deeper peace, than anything which the world can
give us. There are many sentences which remind us of the Roman Stoics,
whose main object was by detachment from the world to render
themselves invulnerable. Not that Thomas à Kempis shrinks from bearing
the Cross. The Cross of Christ is always before him, and herein he is
superior to those mystics who speak only of the Incarnation. But the
monk of the fifteenth century was perhaps more thrown back upon
himself than his predecessors in the fourteenth. The monasteries were
no longer such homes of learning and centres of activity as they had
been. It was no longer evident that the religious orders were a
benefit to civilisation. That indifference to human interests, which
we feel to be a weak spot in mediæval thought generally, and in the
Neoplatonists to whom mediæval thought was so much indebted, reaches
its climax in Thomas à Kempis. Not only does he distrust and disparage
all philosophy, from Plato to Thomas Aquinas, but he shuns society and
conversation as occasions of sin, and quotes with approval the pitiful
epigram of Seneca, "Whenever I have gone among men, I have returned
home less of a man." It is, after all, the life of the "shell-fish,"
as Plato calls it, which he considers the best. The book cannot safely
be taken as a guide to the Christian life as a whole. What we do find
in it, set forth with incomparable beauty and unstudied dignity, are
the Christian graces of humility, simplicity, and purity of heart.

It is very significant that the mystics, who had undermined
sacerdotalism, and in many other ways prepared the Reformation, were
shouldered aside when the secession from Rome had to be organised. The
Lutheran Church was built by other hands. And yet the mystics of
Luther's generation, Carlstadt and Sebastian Frank, are far from
deserving the contemptuous epithets which Luther showered upon them.
Carlstadt endeavoured to deepen the Lutheran notion of faith by
bringing it into closer connexion with the love of God to man and of
man to God; Sebastian Frank developed the speculative system of
Eckhart and Tauler in an original and interesting manner. But
speculative Mysticism is a powerful solvent, and Protestant Churches
are too ready to fall to pieces even without it. "I will not even
answer such men as Frank," said Luther in 1545; "I despise them too
much. If my nose does not deceive me, he is an enthusiast or
spiritualist, who is content with nothing but Spirit, spirit, spirit,
and cares not at all for Bible, Sacrament, or Preaching." The teaching
which the sixteenth century spurned so contemptuously was almost
identical with that of Eckhart and Tauler, whose names were still
revered. But it was not wanted just then. It was not till the next
generation, when superstitious veneration for the letter of Scripture
was bringing back some of the evils of the unreformed faith, that
Mysticism in the person of Valentine Weigel was able to resume its
true task in the deepening and spiritualising of religion in Germany.

But instead of following any further the course of mystical theology
in Germany, I wish to turn for a few minutes to our own country. I am
the more ready to do so, because I have come across the statement,
repeated in many books, that England has been a barren field for
mystics. It is assumed that the English character is alien to
Mysticism--that we have no sympathy, as a nation, for this kind of
religion. Some writers hint that it is because we are too practical,
and have too much common sense. The facts do not bear out this view.
There is no race, I think, in which there is a richer vein of
idealism, and a deeper sense of the mystery of life, than our own. In
a later Lecture I hope to illustrate this statement from our national
poetry. Here I wish to insist that even the Mysticism of the cloister,
which is the least satisfying to the energetic and independent spirit
of our countrymen, might be thoroughly and adequately studied from the
works of English mystics alone. I will give two examples of this
mediæval type. Both of them lived before the Reformation, near the end
of the fourteenth century; but in them, as in Tauler, we find very few
traces of Romish error.

Walter Hilton or Hylton[278], a canon of Thurgarton, was the author of
a mystical treatise, called _The Scale (or Ladder) of Perfection_. The
following extracts, which are given as far as possible in his own
words, will show in what manner he used the traditional mystical

There are two lives, the active and the contemplative, but in the
latter there are many stages. The highest state of contemplation a man
cannot enjoy always, "but only by times, when he is visited"; "and, as
I gather from the writings of holy men, the time of it is very short."
"This part of contemplation God giveth where He will." Visions and
revelations, of whatever kind, "are not true contemplation, but merely
secondary. The devil may counterfeit them"; and the only safeguard
against these impostures is to consider whether the visions have
helped or hindered us in devotion to God, humility, and other virtues.

"In the third stage of contemplation," he says finely, "reason is
turned into light, and will into love."

"Spiritual prayer," by which he means vocal prayer not in set words,
belongs to the second part of contemplation. "It is very wasting to
the body of him who uses it much, wounding the soul with the blessed
sword of love." "The most vicious or carnal man on earth, were he once
strongly touched with this sharp sword, would be right sober and grave
for a great while after." The highest kind of prayer of all is the
prayer of quiet, of which St. Paul speaks, "I will pray with the
understanding also[279]." But this is not for all; "a pure heart,
indeed, it behoveth him to have who would pray in this manner."

We must fix our affections first on the humanity of Christ. Since our
eyes cannot bear the unclouded light of the Godhead, "we must live
under the shadow of His manhood as long as we are here below." St.
Paul tells his converts that he first preached to them of the
humanity and passion of Christ, but afterwards of the Godhead, how
that Christ is the power and wisdom of God[280].

"Christ is lost, like the piece of money in the parable; but where? In
thy house, that is, in thy soul. Thou needest not run to Rome or
Jerusalem to seek Him. He sleepeth in thy heart, as He did in the
ship; awaken Him with the loud cry of thy desire. Howbeit, I believe
that thou sleepest oftener to Him than He to thee." Put away
"distracting noises," and thou wilt hear Him. First, however, find the
image of sin, which thou bearest about with thee. It is no bodily
thing, no real thing--only a lack of light and love. It is a false,
inordinate love of thyself, from whence flow all the deadly sins.

"Fair and foul is a man's soul--foul without like a beast, fair within
like an angel." "But the sensual man doth not bear about the image of
sin, but is borne by it."

The true light is love of God, the false light is love of the world.
But we must pass through darkness to go from one to the other. "The
darker the night is, the nearer is the true day." This is the
"darkness" and "nothing" spoken of by the mystics, "a rich nothing,"
when the soul is "at rest as to thoughts of any earthly thing, but
very busy about thinking of God." "But the night passeth away; the day
dawneth." "Flashes of light shine through the chinks of the walls of
Jerusalem; but thou art not there yet." "But now beware of the midday
fiend, that feigneth light as if it came from Jerusalem. This light
appears between two black rainy clouds, whereof the upper one is
presumption and self-exaltation, and the lower a disdaining of one's
neighbour. This is not the light of the true sun." This darkness,
through which we must pass, is simply the death of self-will and all
carnal affections; it is that dying to the world which is the only
gate of life.

The way in which Hilton conceives the "truly mystical darkness" of
Dionysius is very interesting. As a psychical experience, it has its
place in the history of the inner life. The soul _does_ enter into
darkness, and the darkness is not fully dispelled in this world; "thou
art not there yet," as he says. But the psychical experience is in
Hilton _entirely dissociated_ from the metaphysical idea of absorption
into the Infinite. The chains of Asiatic nihilism are now at last
shaken off, easily and, it would seem, unconsciously. The "darkness"
is felt to be only the herald of a brighter dawn: "the darker the
night, the nearer is the true day." It is, I think, gratifying to
observe how our countryman strikes off the fetters of the
time-honoured Dionysian tradition, the paralysing creed which blurs
all distinctions, and the "negative road" which leads to darkness and
not light; and how in consequence his Mysticism is sounder and saner
than even that of Eckhart or Tauler. Before leaving Hilton, it may be
worth while to quote two or three isolated maxims of his, as examples
of his wise and pure doctrine.

"There are two ways of knowing God--one chiefly by the imagination,
the other by the understanding. The understanding is the mistress, and
the imagination is the maid."

"What is heaven to a reasonable soul? Nought else but Jesus God."

"Ask of God nothing but this gift of love, which is the Holy Ghost.
For there is no gift of God that is both the giver and the gift, but
this gift of love."

My other example of English Mysticism in the Middle Ages is Julian or
Juliana of Norwich,[281] to whom were granted a series of
"revelations" in the year 1373, she being then about thirty years old.
She describes with evident truthfulness the manner in which the
visions came to her. She ardently desired to have a "bodily sight" of
her Lord upon the Cross, "like other that were Christ's lovers"; and
she prayed that she might have "a grievous sickness almost unto
death," to wean her from the world and quicken her spiritual sense.
The sickness came, and the vision; for they thought her dying, and
held the crucifix before her, till the figure on the Cross changed
into the semblance of the living Christ. "All this was showed by three
parts--that is to say, by bodily sight, and by words formed in my
understanding, and by ghostly sight.[282]" "But the ghostly sight I
cannot nor may not show it as openly nor as fully as I would." Her
later visions came to her sometimes during sleep, but most often when
she was awake. The most pure and certain were wrought by a "Divine
illapse" into the spiritual part of the soul, the mind and
understanding, for these the devil cannot counterfeit. Juliana was
certainly perfectly honest and perfectly sane. The great charm of her
little book is the sunny hopefulness and happiness which shines from
every page, and the tender affection for her suffering Lord which
mingles with her devotion without ever becoming morbid or irreverent.
It is also interesting to see how this untaught maiden (for she shows
no traces of book learning) is led by the logic of the heart straight
to some of the speculative doctrines which we have found in the
philosophical mystics. The brief extracts which follow will illustrate
all these statements.

The crucified Christ is the one object of her devotion. She refused to
listen to "a proffer in my reason," which said, "Look up to heaven to
His Father." "Nay, I may not," she replied, "for Thou art my heaven.
For I would liever have been in that pain till Doomsday than to come
to heaven otherwise than by Him." "Me liked none other heaven than
Jesus, which shall be my bliss when I come there." And after
describing a vision of the crucifixion, she says, "How might any pain
be more than to see Him that is all my life and all my bliss suffer?"

Her estimate of the value of means of grace is very clear and sound.
"In that time the custom of our praying was brought to mind, how we
use, for lack of understanding and knowing of love, to make [use of]
many means. Then saw I truly that it is more worship to God and more
very delight that we faithfully pray to Himself of His goodness, and
cleave thereto by His grace, with true understanding and steadfast by
love, than if we made [use of] all the means that heart can think. For
if we made [use of] all these means, it is too little, and not full
worship to God; but in His goodness is all the whole, and _there_
faileth right nought. For this, as I shall say, came into my mind. In
the same time we pray to God for [the sake of] His holy flesh and
precious blood, His holy passion, His dearworthy death and wounds: and
all the blessed kinship, the endless life that we have of all this, is
His goodness. And we pray Him for [the sake of] His sweet mother's
love, that Him bare; and all the help that we have of her is of His
goodness." And yet "God of His goodness hath advanced means to help
us, full fair and many; of which the chief and principal mean is the
blessed nature that He took of the maid, with all the means that go
afore and come after which belong to our redemption and to endless
salvation. Wherefore it pleaseth Him that we seek Him and worship Him
through means, understanding and knowing that He is the goodness of
all. For the goodness of God is the highest prayer, and it cometh down
to the lowest part of our need. It quickeneth our soul, and bringeth
it on life, and maketh it for to wax in grace and virtue. It is
nearest in nature and readiest in grace; for it is the same grace that
the soul seeketh, and ever shall seek till we know verily that He hath
us all in Himself beclosed."

"After this our Lord showed concerning Prayers. In which showing I see
two conditions signified by our Lord; one is rightfulness, another is
assured trust. But oftentimes our trust is not full; for we are not
sure that God heareth us, as we think because of our unworthiness, and
because we feel right nought; for we are as barren and dry oftentimes
after our prayers as we were before.... But our Lord said to me, 'I am
the ground of thy beseechings: first, it is My will that thou have it;
and then I make thee to wish for it; and then I make thee to beseech
it, and thou beseechest it. How then should it be that thou shouldest
not have thy beseeching?' ... For it is most impossible that we should
beseech mercy and grace and not have it. For all things that our good
Lord maketh us to beseech, Himself hath ordained them to us from
without beginning. Here may we see that our beseeching is not the
cause of God's goodness; and that showed He soothfastly in all these
sweet words which He saith: 'I am the ground.' And our good Lord
willeth that this be known of His lovers in earth; and the more that
we know it the more should we beseech, if it be wisely taken; and so
is our Lord's meaning. Merry and joyous is our Lord of our prayer, and
He looketh for it; and He willeth to have it; because with His grace
He would have us like to Himself in condition as we are in kind.
Therefore saith He to us 'Pray inwardly, although thou think it has no
savour to thee: for it is profitable, though thou feel not, though
thou see not, yea, though thou think thou canst not.'"

"And also to prayer belongeth thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is a true
inward knowing, with great reverence and lovely dread turning
ourselves with all our mights unto the working that our good Lord
stirreth us to, rejoicing and thanking inwardly. And sometimes for
plenteousness it breaketh out with voice and saith: Good Lord! great
thanks be to Thee: blessed mote Thou be."

"Prayer is a right understanding of that fulness of joy that is to
come, with great longing and certain trust.... Then belongeth it to us
to do our diligence, and when we have done it, then shall we yet think
that it is nought; and in sooth it is. But if we do as we can, and
truly ask for mercy and grace, all that faileth us we shall find in
Him. And thus meaneth He where He saith: 'I am the ground of thy
beseeching.' And thus in this blessed word, with the Showing, I saw a
full overcoming against all our weakness and all our doubtful dreads."

Juliana's view of human personality is remarkable, as it reminds us of
the Neoplatonic doctrine that there is a higher and a lower self, of
which the former is untainted by the sins of the latter. "I saw and
understood full surely," she says, "that in every soul that shall be
saved there is a godly will that never assented to sin, nor ever
shall; which will is so good that it may never work evil, but evermore
continually it willeth good, and worketh good in the sight of God....
We all have this blessed will whole and safe in our Lord Jesus
Christ." This "godly will" or "substance" corresponds to the spark of
the German mystics.

"I saw no difference," she says, "between God and our substance, but,
as it were, all God. And yet my understanding took, that our substance
is _in_ God--that is to say, that God is God, and our substance a
creature in God. Highly ought we to enjoy that God dwelleth in our
soul, and much more highly, that our soul dwelleth in God.... Thus was
my understanding led to know, that our soul is _made_ Trinity, like to
the unmade Blessed Trinity, known and loved from without beginning,
and in the making oned to the Maker. This sight was full sweet and
marvellous to behold, peaceable and restful, sure and delectable."

"As anent our substance and our sense-part, both together may rightly
be called our soul; and that is because of the oneing that they have
in God. The worshipful City that our Lord Jesus sitteth in, it is our
sense-soul, in which He is enclosed, and our natural substance is
beclosed in Jesus, sitting with the blessed soul of Christ at rest in
the Godhead." Our soul cannot reach its full powers until our
sense-nature by the virtue of Christ's passion be "brought up to the
substance." This fulfilment of the soul "is grounded in nature. That
is to say, our reason is grounded in God, which is substantial
Naturehood; out of this substantial Nature mercy and grace spring and
spread into us, working all things in fulfilling of our joy: these
are our ground, in which we have our increase and our fulfilling. For
in nature we have our life and our being, and in mercy and grace we
have our increase and our fulfilling."

In one of her visions she was shown our Lord "scorning the fiend's
malice, and noughting his unmight." "For this sight I laught mightily,
and that made them to laugh that were about me. But I saw not Christ
laugh. After this I fell into graveness, and said, 'I see three
things: I see game, scorn, and earnest. I see game, that the fiend is
overcome; I see scorn, in that God scorneth him, and he shall be
scorned; and I see earnest, in that he is overcome by the blissful
passion and death of our Lord Jesus Christ, that was done in full
earnest and with sober travail.'"

Alternations of mirth and sadness followed each other many times, "to
learn me that it is speedful to some souls to feel on this wise." Once
especially she was left to herself, "in heaviness and weariness of my
life, and irksomeness of myself, that scarcely I could have pleasure
to live.... For profit of a man's soul he is sometimes left to
himself; although sin is not always the cause; for in that time I
sinned not, wherefore I should be so left to myself; for it was so
sudden. Also, I deserved not to have this blessed feeling. But freely
our Lord giveth when He will, and suffereth us to be in woe sometime.
And both is one love."

Her treatment of the problem of evil is very characteristic. "In my
folly, often I wondered why the beginning of sin was not letted; but
Jesus, in this vision, answered and said, 'Sin is behovable,[283] but
all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing
shall be well.' In this naked word _sin_ our Lord brought to my mind
generally all that is not good.... But I saw not sin; for I believe it
had no manner of substance, nor any part of being, nor might it be
known but by the pain that is caused thereof; and this pain ...
purgeth and maketh us to know ourself, and ask mercy. In these same
words ('all shall be well') I saw an high and marvellous privity hid
in God." She wondered _how_ "all shall be well," when Holy Church
teacheth us to believe that many shall be lost. But "I had no other
answer but this, 'I shall save my word in all things, and I shall make
all thing well.'" "This is the great deed that our Lord God shall do;
but what the deed shall be, and how it shall be done, there is no
creature beneath Christ that knoweth it, ne shall wit it till it is

"I saw no wrath but on man's party," she says, "and that forgiveth He
in us. It is the most impossible that may be, that God should be
wroth.... Our life is all grounded and rooted in love.... Suddenly is
the soul oned to God, when it is truly peaced in itself; for in Him is
found no wrath. And thus I saw, when we be all in peace and love, we
find no contrariousness, nor no manner of letting, through that
contrariousness which is now in us; nay, our Lord God of His goodness
maketh it to us full profitable." No visions of hell were ever showed
to her. In place of the hideous details of torture which some of the
Romish visionaries describe almost with relish, Juliana merely
reports, "To me was showed none harder hell than sin."

Again and again she rings the changes on the words which the Lord said
to her, "I love thee and thou lovest Me, and our love shall never be
disparted in two." "The love wherein He made us was in Him from
without beginning; in which love," she concludes, "we have our
beginning, and all this shall be seen in God without end."


[Footnote 257: The indebtedness of the fourteenth century mystics to
Eckhart is now generally recognised, at any rate in Germany; but
before Pfeiffer's work his name had been allowed to fall into most
undeserved obscurity. This was not the fault of his scholars, who, in
spite of the Papal condemnation of his writings, speak of Eckhart with
the utmost reverence, as the "great," "sublime," or "holy" master.]

[Footnote 258: "Vir ut ferunt devotus sed parum litteratus," says the
Abbé Trithême (_ap._ Gessner, _Biblioth._). "Rusbrochius cum idiota
esset" (_Dyon. Carth._ Serm. i.). Compare Rousselot, _Les Mystiques
Espagnols_, p. 493.]

[Footnote 259: Maeterlinck, Ruysbroek's latest interpreter, is far too
complimentary to the intellectual endowments of his fellow-countryman.
"Ce moine possédait un des plus sages, des plus exacts, et des plus
subtils organes philosophiques qui aient jamais existé." He thinks it
marvellous that "il sait, à son insu, le platonisme de la Grèce, le
soufisme de la Perse, le brahmanisme de I'Inde et le bouddhisme de
Thibet," etc. In reality, Ruysbroek gets all his philosophy from
Eckhart, and his manner of expounding it shows no abnormal acuteness.
But Maeterlinck's essay in _Le Trésor des Humbles_ contains some good
things--e.g. "Les verités mystiques ne peuvent ni vieillir ni
mourir.... Une oeuvre ne vieillit qu'en proportion de son

[Footnote 260: So Preger, probably rightly. Noack places his birth
five years later. The chronology of the _Life_ is very loose.]

[Footnote 261: The extreme asceticism which was practised by Suso, and
(though to a less degree) by Tauler, is not enjoined by them as a
necessary part of a holy life. "We are to kill our passions, not our
flesh and blood," as Tauler says.]

[Footnote 262: It would be very interesting to trace the influence of
the chivalric idea on religious Mysticism. Chivalry, the worship of
idealised womanhood, is itself a mystical cult, and its relation to
religious Mysticism appears throughout the "Divine Comedy" and "Vita
Nuova" (see especially the incomparable paragraph which concludes this
latter), and in the sonnet of M. Angelo translated by Wordsworth, "No
mortal object did these eyes behold," etc.]

[Footnote 263: Nothing in the book is more touching than the scene
when the baby, deserted by its mother, Suso's false accuser, is
brought to him. Suso takes the child in his arms, and weeps over it
with affectionate words, while the infant smiles up at him. In spite
of the calumny which he knew was being spread wherever it would most
injure him, he insists on paying for the child's maintenance, rather
than leave it to die from neglect. The Italian mystic Scupoli, the
author of a beautiful devotional work called the _Spiritual Combat_,
was calumniated in a similar manner.]

[Footnote 264: By Schmidt, whose researches formed the basis of
several popular accounts of Tauler's life. Preger and Denifle both
reject the identification of the mysterious stranger with Nicholas;
Denifle doubts his existence altogether. The subject is very fully
discussed by Preger]

[Footnote 265: Tauler was well read in the earlier mystics. He cites
Proclus, Augustine (frequently), Dionysius, Bernard, and the
Victorines; also Aristotle and Aquinas.]

[Footnote 266: Tauler adheres to the doctrine of an "uncreated
ground," but he holds that it must always act upon us through the
medium of the "created ground." He evidently considered Eckhart's
later doctrine as too pantheistic. See below, p. 183.]

[Footnote 267: See p. 155. In my estimate of Tauler's doctrine, I have
made no use of the treatise on _The Imitation of the Poverty of
Christ_, which Noack calls his masterpiece, and the kernel of his
Mysticism. The work is not by Tauler.]

[Footnote 268: See above, p. 170.]

[Footnote 269: This expression is found first, I think, in Richard of
St. Victor; but St. Augustine speaks of "oculus interior atque
intelligibilis" (_De div. quæst._ 46).]

[Footnote 270: But Christ, he says, could see with both eyes at once;
the left in no way hindered the right.]

[Footnote 271: Tauler often uses similar language; as, for instance,
when he says, "The natural light of the reason must be entirely
brought to nothing, if God is to enter with His light."]

[Footnote 272: Stöckl criticises the _Theologia Germanica_ in a very
hostile spirit. He finds it in "pantheism," by which he means
acosmism, and also "Gnostic-Manichean dualism," the latter being his
favourite charge against the Lutherans and their forerunners. He
considers that this latter tendency is more strongly marked in the
_German Theology_ than in the other works of the Eckhartian school, in
that the writer identifies "the false light" with the light of nature,
and selfhood with sin; "devil, sin, Adam, old man, disobedience,
selfhood, individuality, mine, me, nature, self-will, are all the
same; they all represent what is against God and without God."
Accordingly, salvation consists in annihilation of the self, and
substitution for God for it. There is no doubt that the writer of this
treatise is deeply impressed with the belief that the root of sin is
self-will, and that the new birth must be a complete transformation;
but it must be remembered that the language of piety is less guarded
than that of dogmatic disputation, and that the theology of such a
book must be judged by its whole tendency. My own judgment is that,
taken as a whole, it is safer than Tauler or Ruysbroek, and much safer
than Eckhart. The strongly-marked "ethical dualism" is of very much
the same kind as that which we find in St. John's Gospel. Taken as a
theory of the origin and nature of evil, it no doubt does hold out a
hand to Manicheism; but I do not think that the writer meant it to be
so taken, any more than St. John did.]

[Footnote 273: Throughout the fourteenth century, and still more in
the fifteenth, we can trace an increasing prominence given to
subjugation of the _will_ in mystical theology. This change is to be
attributed partly to the influence of the Nominalist science of Duns
Scotus, which gradually gained (at least this point) the ascendancy
over the school of Aquinas. It may be escribed as a transition from
the more speculative Mysticism towards quietism. In the fourteenth
century writings, such as the _Theologia Germanica_, we merely welcome
a new and valuable aspect of the religious life; since the change is
connected with a distrust of reason, and a return to standpoint of
harsh legalism, we cannot regard it as an improvement.]

[Footnote 274: Compare p. 161, for similar teaching in Eckhart

[Footnote 275: See the quotation on p. 11, note.]

[Footnote 276: Irenæus, _Contra Har_. iv. 6.]

[Footnote 277: No. 31. on Psalm xci. 13.]

[Footnote 278: Hilton's book has been reprinted from the edition of
1659, with an introduction by the Rev. J.B. Dalgairns. Very little is
known about the author's life, but his book was widely read, and was
"chosen to be the guide of good Christians in the courts of kings and
in the world." The mother of Henry VII. valued it very highly. I have
also used Mr. Guy's edition in my quotations from _The Scale of

[Footnote 279: 1 Cor. xiv. 15. This text was also appealed to by the
Quietists of the post-Reformation period.]

[Footnote 280: The texts to which he refers are those which Origen
uses in the same manner. Compare 1 Cor. i. 23, ii. 2, Gal. vi. 14,
with 1 Cor. i. 24.]

[Footnote 281: Julian (born 1343) was probably a Benedictine nun of
Carrow, near Norwich, but lived for the greater part of her life in an
anchorage in the churchyard of St. Julian at Norwich. There is a copy
of her _Revelations_ in the British Museum. Editions by Cressy, 1670;
reprint issued 1843; by Collins, 1877. See, further, in the
_Dictionary of National Biography_. In my quotations from her, I have
used an unpublished version kindly lent me by Miss G.H. Warrack. It is
just so far modernised as to be intelligible to those who are not
familiar with fourteenth century English.]

[Footnote 282: This was a recognised classification. Scaramelli says,
"Le visioni corporce sono favori propri dei principianti, che
incomminciano a camminare nella via dello spirito.... Le visioni
immaginari sono proprie dei principianti e dei proficienti, che non
sono ancor bene purgati.... Le visioni intellectuali sono proprie di
quelli che si trovano gia in istato di perfezione." It comes
originally from St. Augustine (_De Gen. ad litt._ xii. 7, n. 16): "Hæc
sunt tria genera visionum.... Primum ergo appellemus corporale, quia
per corpus percipitur, et corporis sensibus exhibetur. Secundum
spirituale: quidquid enim corpus non est, et tamen aliquid est, iam
recte dicitur spiritus; et utique non est corpus, quamvis corpori
similis sit, imago absentis corporis, nee ille ipse obtutus quo
cernitur. Tertium vero intellectuale, ab intellectu."]

[Footnote 283: That is, "necessary" or "profitable."]


   "O heart, the equal poise of Love's both parts,
    Big alike with wounds and darts,
    Live in these conquering leaves, live still the same,
    And walk through all tongues one triumphant flame!
    Live here, great heart, and love and die and kill,
    And bleed, and wound, and yield, and conquer still.
    Let this immortal life, where'er it comes,
    Walk in a crowd of loves and martyrdoms.
    Let mystic deaths wait on it, and wise souls be
    The love-slain witnesses of this life of thee.
    O sweet incendiary! show here thy art
    Upon this carcase of a hard, cold heart;
    Let all thy scattered shafts of light, that play
    Among the leaves of thy large books of day,
    Combined against this breast at once break in,
    And take away from me myself and sin;
    This glorious robbery shall thy bounty be,
    And my best fortunes such fair spoils of me.
    O thou undaunted daughter of desires!
    By all thy dower of lights and fires,
    By all the eagle in thee, all the dove,
    By all thy lives and deaths of love,
    By thy large draughts of intellectual day,
    And by thy thirsts of love more large than they;
    By all thy brim-fill'd bowls of fierce desire,
    By thy last morning's draught of liquid fire,
    By the full kingdom of that final kiss
    That seized thy parting soul and seal'd thee His;
    By all the heavens thou hast in Him,
    Fair sister of the seraphim!
    By all of Him we have in Thee,
    Leave nothing of myself in me:
    Let me so read thy life, that I
    Unto all life of mine may die."

CRASHAW, _On St. Teresa_.

           "In a dark night,
    Burning with ecstasies wherein I fell,
            Oh happy plight,
    Unheard I left the house wherein I dwell,
    The inmates sleeping peacefully and well.

           "Secure from sight;
    By unknown ways, in unknown robes concealed,
           Oh happy plight;
    And to no eye revealed,
    My home in sleep as in the tomb was sealed.

    "Sweet night, in whose blessed fold
    No human eye beheld me, and mine eye
           None could behold.
    Only for Guide had I
    His Face whom I desired so ardently."

ST. JUAN OF THE CROSS (translated by Hutchings).


"Whom have I in heaven but Thee? and there is none upon earth that I
desire beside Thee. My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the
strength of my heart, and my portion for ever."--Ps. lxxiii. 25, 26.

We have seen that the leaders of the Reformation in Germany thrust
aside speculative Mysticism with impatience. Nor did Christian
Platonism fare much better in the Latin countries. There were students
of Plotinus in Italy in the sixteenth century, who fancied that a
revival of humane letters, and a better acquaintance with philosophy,
were the best means of combating the barbaric enthusiasms of the
North. But these Italian Neoplatonists had, for the most part, no deep
religious feelings, and they did not exhibit in their lives that
severity which the Alexandrian philosophers had practised. And so,
when Rome had need of a Catholic mystical revival to stem the tide of
Protestantism, she could not find what she required among the scholars
and philosophers of the Papal court. The Mysticism of the
counter-Reformation had its centre in Spain.

It has been said that "Mysticism is the philosophy of Spain.[284]"
This does not mean that idealistic philosophy flourished in the
Peninsula, for the Spanish race has never shown any taste for
metaphysics. The Mysticism of Spain is psychological; its point of
departure is not the notion of Being or of Unity, but the human soul
seeking reconcilation with God. We need not be on our guard against
pantheism in reading the Spanish mystics; they show no tendency to
obliterate the dividing lines of personality, or to deify sinful
humanity. The cause of this peculiarity is to be sought partly in the
strong individualism of the Spanish character, and partly in external
circumstances.[285] Free thought in Spain was so sternly repressed,
that those tendencies of mystical religion which are antagonistic to
Catholic discipline were never allowed to display themselves. The
Spanish mystics remained orthodox Romanists, subservient to their
"directors" and "superiors," and indefatigable in making recruits for
the cloister. Even so, they did not escape the attention of the
Inquisition; and though two among them, St. Teresa and St. Juan of the
Cross, were awarded the badge of sanctity, the fate of Molinos showed
how Rome had come to dread even the most submissive mystics.

The early part of the sixteenth century was a period of high culture
in Spain. The universities of Salamanca and Alcala were famous
throughout Europe; the former is said (doubtless with great
exaggeration) to have contained at one time fourteen thousand
students. But the Inquisition, which had been founded to suppress Jews
and Mahometans, was roused to a more baneful activity by the
appearance of Protestantism in Spain. Before the end of the sixteenth
century, the Spanish people, who up to that time had been second to
none in love of liberty and many-sided energy, had been changed into
sombre fanatics, sunk in ignorance and superstition, and retaining
hardly a trace of their former buoyancy and healthy independence.[286]
The first _Index Expurgatorius_ was published in 1546; the burning of
Protestants began in 1559. Till then, Eckhart, Tauler, Suso, and
Ruysbroek had circulated freely in Spain. But the Inquisition
condemned them all, except Ruysbroek. The same rigour was extended to
the Arabian philosophers, and so their speculations influenced Spanish
theology much less than might have been expected from the long sojourn
of the Moors in the Peninsula. Averroism was known in Spain chiefly
through the medium of the _Fons Vitæ_ of Ibn Gebirol (Avicebron).
Dionysius and the scholastic mystics of the Middle Ages were, of
course, allowed to be read. But besides these, the works of Plato and
Plotinus were accessible in Latin translations, and were highly valued
by some of the Spanish mystics. This statement may surprise those who
have identified Spanish Mysticism with Teresa and Juan of the Cross,
and who know how little Platonism is to be found in their theology.
But these two militant champions of the counter-Reformation numbered
among their contemporaries mystics of a different type, whose
writings, little known in this country, entitle them to an honourable
place in the roll of Christian Platonists.

We find in them most of the characteristic doctrines of Christian
Neoplatonism: the radiation of all things from God and their return to
God; the immanence of God in all things;[287] the notion of man as a
microcosm, vitally connected with all the different orders of
creation;[288] the Augustinian doctrine of Christ and His members as
"one Christ";[289] insistence upon disinterested love;[290] and
admonitions to close the eye of sense.[291] This last precept, which,
as I have maintained, is neither true Platonism nor true Mysticism,
must be set against others in which the universe is said to be a copy
of the Divine Ideas, "of which Plotinus has spoken divinely," the
creation of Love, which has given form to chaos, and stamped it with
the image of the Divine beauty; and in which we are exhorted to rise
through the contemplation of nature to God.[292] Juan de Angelis, in
his treatise on the spiritual nuptials, quotes freely, not only from
Plato, Plotinus, and Virgil, but from Lucretius, Ovid, Tibullus, and

But this kind of humanism was frowned upon by the Church, in Spain as
elsewhere. These were not the weapons with which Lutheranism could be
fought successfully. Juan d'Avila was accused before the Inquisition
in 1534, and one of his books was placed on the Index of 1559; Louis
de Granada had to take refuge in Portugal; Louis de Leon, who had the
courage to say that the Song of Solomon is only a pastoral idyll, was
sent to a dungeon for five years.[293] Even St. Teresa narrowly
escaped imprisonment at Seville; and St. Juan of the Cross passed nine
months in a black hole at Toledo.

Persecution, when applied with sufficient ruthlessness, seldom fails
of its immediate object. It took only about twelve years to destroy
Protestantism in Spain; and the Holy Office was equally successful in
binding Mysticism hand and foot.[294] And so we must not expect to
find in St. Teresa or St. Juan any of the characteristic independence
of Mysticism. The inner light which they sought was not an
illumination of the intellect in its search for truth, but a consuming
fire to burn up all earthly passions and desires. Faith presented
them with no problems; all such questions had been settled once for
all by Holy Church. They were ascetics first and Church Reformers
next; neither of them was a typical mystic.[295]

The life of St. Teresa[296] is more interesting than her teaching. She
had all the best qualities of her noble Castilian ancestors--
simplicity, straightforwardness, and dauntless courage; and the record
of her self-denying life is enlivened by numerous flashes of humour,
which make her character more lovable. She is best known as a visionary,
and it is mainly through her visions that she is often regarded as one
of the most representative mystics. But these visions do not occupy a
very large space in the story of her life. They were frequent during the
first two or three years of her convent life, and again between the ages
of forty and fifty: there was a long gap between the two periods, and
during the last twenty years of her life, when she was actively engaged
in founding and visiting religious houses, she saw them no more. This
experience was that of many other saints of the cloister. Spiritual
consolations seem to be frequently granted to encourage young
beginners;[297] then they are withdrawn, and only recovered after a long
period of dryness and darkness; but in later life, when the character is
fixed, and the imagination less active, the vision fades into the light
of common day. In considering St. Teresa's visions, we must remember
that she was transparently honest and sincere; that her superiors
strongly disliked and suspected, and her enemies ridiculed, her
spiritual privileges; that at the same time they brought her great fame
and influence; that she was at times haunted by doubts whether she ever
really saw them; and, lastly, that her biographers have given them a
more grotesque and materialistic character than is justified by her own

She tells us herself that her reading of St. Augustine's
_Confessions_, at the age of forty-one, was a turning-point in her
life. "When I came to his conversion," she says, "and read how he
heard the voice in the garden, it was just as if the Lord called me."
It was after this that she began again to see visions--or rather to
have a sudden sense of the presence of God, with a suspension of all
the faculties. In these trances she generally heard Divine
"locutions." She says that "the words were very clearly formed, and
unmistakable, though not heard by the bodily ear. They are quite
unlike the words framed by the imagination, which are muffled" (_cosa
sorda_). She describes her visions of Christ very carefully. First He
stood beside her while she was in prayer, and she heard and saw Him,
"though not with the eyes of the body, nor of the soul." Then by
degrees "His sacred humanity was completely manifested to me, as it is
painted after the Resurrection." (This last sentence suggests that
sacred pictures, lovingly gazed at, may have been the source of some
of her visions.) Her superiors tried to persuade her that they were
delusions; but she replied, "If they who said this told me that a
person who had just finished speaking to me, whom I knew well, was not
that person, but they knew that I fancied it, doubtless I should
believe them, rather than what I had seen; but if this person left
behind him some jewels as pledges of his great love, and I found
myself rich having been poor, I could not believe it if I wished. And
these jewels I could show them. For all who knew me saw clearly that
my soul was changed; the difference was great and palpable." The
answer shows that for Teresa the question was not whether the
manifestations were "subjective" or "objective," but whether they were
sent by God or Satan.

One of the best chapters in her autobiography, and perhaps the most
interesting from our present point of view, is the allegory under
which she describes the different kinds of prayer. The simile is not
original--it appears in St. Augustine and others; but it is more fully
worked out by St. Teresa, who tells us "it has always been a great
delight to me to think of my soul as a garden, and of the Lord as
walking in it." So here she says, "Our soul is like a garden, rough
and unfruitful, out of which God plucks the weeds, and plants flowers,
which we have to water by prayer. There are four ways of doing
this--First, by drawing the water from a well; this is the earliest
and most laborious process. Secondly, by a water-wheel which has its
rim hung round with little buckets. Third, by causing a stream to flow
through it. Fourth, by rain from heaven. The first is ordinary prayer,
which is often attended by great sweetness and comfort. But sometimes
the well is dry. What then? The love of God does not consist in being
able to weep, nor yet in delights and tenderness, but in serving with
justice, courage, and humility. The other seems to me rather to
receive than to give. The second is the prayer of quiet, when the soul
understands that God is so near to her that she need not talk aloud to
Him." In this stage the Will is absorbed, but the Understanding and
Memory are still active. (Teresa, following the scholastic mystics,
makes these the three faculties of the soul.) In the third stage God
becomes, as it were, the Gardener. "It is a sleep of the faculties,
which are not entirely suspended, nor yet do they understand how they
work." In the fourth stage, the soul labours not at all; all the
faculties are quiescent. As she pondered how she might describe this
state, "the Lord said these words to me: She (the soul) unmakes
herself, my daughter, to bring herself closer to Me. It is no more she
that lives, but I. As she cannot comprehend what she sees,
understanding she ceases to understand." Years after she had attained
this fourth stage, Teresa experienced what the mystics call "the great
dereliction," a sense of ineffable loneliness and desolation, which
nevertheless is the path to incomparable happiness. It was accompanied
by a kind of catalepsy, with muscular rigidity and cessation of the

These intense joys and sorrows of the spirit are the chief events of
Teresa's life for eight or ten years. They are followed by a period of
extreme practical activity, when she devoted herself to organising
communities of bare-footed Carmelites, whose austerity and devotion
were to revive the glories of primitive Christianity. In this work she
showed not only energy, but worldly wisdom and tact in no common
degree. Her visions had certainly not impaired her powers as an
organiser and ruler of men and women. Her labours continued without
intermission till, at the age of sixty-seven, she was struck down by
her last illness. "This _saint_ will be no longer wanted," she said,
with a sparkle of her old vivacity, when she knew that she was to die.

It is not worth while to give a detailed account of St. Teresa's
mystical theology. Its cardinal points are that the religious life
consists in complete conformity to the will of God, so that at last
the human will becomes purely "passive" and "at rest"; and the belief
in Christ as the sole ground of salvation, on which subject she uses
language which is curiously like that of the Lutheran Reformers. Her
teaching about passivity and the "prayer of quiet" is identical with
that which the Pope afterwards condemned in Molinos; but it is only
fair to remember that Teresa was not canonised for her theology, but
for her life, and that the Roman Church is not committed to every
doctrine which can be found in the writings of her saints. The real
character of St. Teresa's piety may be seen best in some of her
prayers, such as this which follows:--

"O Lord, how utterly different are Thy thoughts from our thoughts!
From a soul which is firmly resolved to love Thee alone, and which has
surrendered her whole will into Thy hands, Thou demandest only that
she should hearken, strive earnestly to serve Thee, and desire only to
promote Thine honour. She need seek and choose no path, for Thou
doest that for her, and her will follows Thine; while Thou, O Lord,
takest care to bring her to fuller perfection."

In theory, it may not be easy to reconcile "earnest striving" with
complete surrender and abrogation of the will, but the logic of the
heart does not find them incompatible. Perhaps no one has spoken
better on this matter than the Rabbi Gamaliel, of whom it is reported
that he prayed, "O Lord, grant that I may do Thy will as if it were my
will, that Thou mayest do my will as if it were Thy will." But
quietistic Mysticism often puts the matter on a wrong basis. Self-will
is to be annihilated, not (as St. Teresa sometimes implies) because
our thoughts are so utterly different from God's thoughts that they
cannot exist in the same mind, but because self-interest sets up an
unnatural antagonism between them. The will, like the other faculties,
only realises itself in its fulness when God worketh in us both to
will and to do of His good pleasure.

St. Juan of the Cross, the fellow-workman of St. Teresa in the reform
of monasteries, is a still more perfect example of the Spanish type of
Mysticism. His fame has never been so great as hers; for while
Teresa's character remained human and lovable in the midst of all her
austerities, Juan carried self-abnegation to a fanatical extreme, and
presents the life of holiness in a grim and repellent aspect. In his
disdain of all compromise between the claims of God and the world, he
welcomes every kind of suffering, and bids us choose always that which
is most painful, difficult, and humiliating. His own life was divided
between terrible mortifications and strenuous labour in the
foundation of monasteries. Though his books show a tendency to
Quietism, his character was one of fiery energy and unresting
industry. Houses of "discalced" Carmelites sprang up all over Spain as
the result of his labours. These monks and nuns slept upon bare
boards, fasted eight months in the year, never ate meat, and wore the
same serge dress in winter and summer. In some of these new
foundations the Brethren even vied with each other in adding voluntary
austerities to this severe rule. It was all part of the campaign
against Protestantism. The worldliness and luxury of the Renaissance
period were to be atoned for by a return to the purity and devotion of
earlier centuries. The older Catholic ideal--the mediæval type of
Christianity--was to be restored in all its completeness in the
seventeenth century. This essentially militant character of the
movement among the Carmelites must not be lost sight of: the two great
Spanish mystics were before all things champions of the

The two chief works of St. Juan are _The Ascent of Mount Carmel_, and
_The Obscure Night of the Soul_. Both are treatises on quietistic
Mysticism of a peculiar type. At the beginning of _La Subida de Monte
Carmelo_ he says, "The journey of the soul to the Divine union is
called _night_ for three reasons: the point of departure is privation
of all desire, and complete detachment from the world; the road is by
faith, which is like night to the intellect; the goal, which is God,
is incomprehensible while we are in this life."

The soul in its ascent passes from one realm of darkness to another.
First there is the "night of sense," in which the things of earth
become dark to her. This must needs be traversed, for "the creatures
are only the crumbs that fall from God's table, and none but dogs will
turn to pick them up." "One desire only doth God allow--that of
obeying Him, and carrying the Cross." All other desires weaken,
torment, blind, and pollute the soul. Until we are completely detached
from all such, we cannot love God. "When thou dwellest upon anything,
thou hast ceased to cast thyself upon the All." "If thou wilt keep
anything with the All, thou hast not thy treasure simply in God."
"Empty thy spirit of all created things, and thou wilt walk in the
Divine light, for God resembles no created thing." Such is the method
of traversing the "night of sense." Even at this early stage the forms
and symbols of eternity, which others have found in the visible works
of God, are discarded as useless. "God has no resemblance to any
creature." The dualism or acosmism of mediæval thought has seldom
found a harsher expression.

In the night of sense, the understanding and reason are not blind; but
in the second night, the night of faith, "all is darkness." "Faith is
midnight"; it is the deepest darkness that we have to pass; for in the
"third night, the night of memory and will," the dawn is at hand.
"Faith" he defines as "the assent of the soul to what we have
heard"--as a blind man would receive a statement about the colour of
an object. We must be totally blind, "for a partially blind man will
not commit himself wholly to his guide." Thus for St. Juan the whole
content of revelation is removed from the scope of the reason, and is
treated as something communicated from outside. We have, indeed,
travelled far from St. Clement's happy confidence in the guidance of
reason, and Eckhart's independence of tradition. The soul has three
faculties--intellect, memory, and will. The imagination (_fantasia_)
is a link between the sensitive and reasoning powers, and comes
between the intellect and memory.[298] Of these faculties, "faith (he
says) blinds the intellect, hope the memory, and love the will." He
adds, "to all that is not God"; but "God in this life is like night."
He blames those who think it enough to deny themselves "without
annihilating themselves," and those who "seek for satisfaction in
God." This last is "spiritual gluttony." "We ought to seek for
bitterness rather than sweetness in God," and "to choose what is most
disagreeable, whether proceeding from God or the world." "The way of
God consisteth not in ways of devotion or sweetness, though these may
be necessary to beginners, but in giving ourselves up to suffer." And
so we must fly from all "mystical phenomena" (supernatural
manifestations to the sight, hearing, and the other senses) "without
examining whether they be good or evil." "For bodily sensations bear
no proportion to spiritual things"; since the distance "between God
and the creature is infinite," "there is no essential likeness or
communion between them." Visions are at best "childish toys"; "the fly
that touches honey cannot fly," he says; and the probability is that
they come from the devil. For "neither the creatures, nor intellectual
perceptions, natural or supernatural, can bring us to God, there
being no proportion between them. Created things cannot serve as a
ladder; they are only a hindrance and a snare."

There is something heroic in this sombre interpretation of the maxim
of our Lord, "Whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he
hath, he cannot be My disciple." All that he hath--"yea, and his own
life also"--intellect, reason, and memory--all that is most Divine in
our nature--are cast down in absolute surrender at the feet of Him who
"made darkness His secret place, His pavilion round about Him with
dark water, and thick clouds to cover Him.[299]"

In the "third night"--that of memory and will--the soul sinks into a
holy inertia and oblivion (_santa ociosidad y olvido_), in which the
flight of time is unfelt, and the mind is unconscious of all
particular thoughts. St. Juan seems here to have brought us to
something like the torpor of the Indian Yogi or of the hesychasts of
Mount Athos. But he does not intend us to regard this state of trance
as permanent or final. It is the last watch of the night before the
dawn of the supernatural state, in which the human faculties are
turned into Divine attributes, and by a complete transformation the
soul, which was "at the opposite extreme" to God, "becomes, by
participation, God." In this beatific state "one might say, in a
sense, that the soul gives God to God, for she gives to God all that
she receives of God; and He gives Himself to her. This is the
mystical love-gift, wherewith the soul repayeth all her debt." This
is the infinite reward of the soul who has refused to be content with
anything short of infinity (_no se llenan menos que con lo Infinito_).
With what yearning this blessed hope inspired St. Juan, is shown in
the following beautiful prayer, which is a good example of the
eloquence, born of intense emotion, which we find here and there in
his pages: "O sweetest love of God, too little known; he who has found
Thee is at rest; let everything be changed, O God, that we may rest in
Thee. Everywhere with Thee, O my God, everywhere all things with Thee;
as I wish, O my Love, all for Thee, nothing for me--nothing for me,
everything for Thee. All sweetness and delight for Thee, none for
me--all bitterness and trouble for me, none for Thee. O my God, how
sweet to me Thy presence, who art the supreme Good! I will draw near
to Thee in silence, and will uncover Thy feet,[300] that it may please
Thee to unite me to Thyself, making my soul Thy bride; I will rejoice
in nothing till I am in Thine arms. O Lord, I beseech Thee, leave me
not for a moment, because I know not the value of mine own soul."

Such faith, hope, and love were suffered to cast gleams of light upon
the saint's gloomy and thorn-strewn path. But nevertheless the text of
which we are most often reminded in reading his pages is the verse of
Amos: "Shall not the day of the Lord be darkness and not light? even
very dark, and no brightness in it?" It is a terrible view of life and
duty--that we are to denude ourselves of everything that makes us
citizens of the world--that _nothing_ which is natural is capable of
entering into relations with God--that all which is human must die,
and have its place taken by supernatural infusion. St. Juan follows to
the end the "negative road" of Dionysius, without troubling himself at
all with the transcendental metaphysics of Neoplatonism. His nihilism
or acosmism is not the result of abstracting from the notion of Being
or of unity; its basis is psychological. It is "subjective" religion
carried _almost_ to its logical conclusion. The Neoplatonists were led
on by the hope of finding a reconciliation between philosophy and
positive religion; but no such problems ever presented themselves to
the Spaniards. We hear nothing of the relation of the creation to God,
or _why_ the contemplation of it should only hinder instead of helping
us to know its Maker. The world simply does not exist for St. Juan;
nothing exists save God and human souls. The great human society has
no interest for him; he would have us cut ourselves completely adrift
from the aims and aspirations of civilised humanity, and, "since
nothing but the Infinite can satisfy us," to accept nothing until our
nothingness is filled with the Infinite. He does not escape from the
quietistic attitude of passive expectancy which belongs to this view
of life; and it is only by a glaring inconsistency that he attaches
any value to the ecclesiastical symbolism, which rests on a very
different basis from that of his teaching. But St. Juan's Mysticism
brought him no intellectual emancipation, either for good or evil.
Faith with him was the antithesis, not to _sight_, as in the Bible,
but to reason. The sacrifice of reason was part of the crucifixion of
the old man. And so he remained in an attitude of complete
subservience to Church tradition and authority, and even to his
"director," an intermediary who is constantly mentioned by these
post-Reformation mystics. Even this unqualified submissiveness did not
preserve him from persecution during his lifetime, and suspicion
afterwards. His books were only authorised twenty-seven years after
his death, which occurred in 1591; and his beatification was delayed
till 1674. His orthodoxy was defended largely by references to St.
Teresa, who had already been canonised. But it could not be denied
that the quietists of the next century might find much support for
their controverted doctrines in both writers.

St. Juan's ideal of saintliness was as much of an anachronism as his
scheme of Church reform. But no one ever climbed the rugged peaks of
Mount Carmel with more heroic courage and patience. His life shows
what tremendous moral force is generated by complete self-surrender to
God. And happily neither his failure to read the signs of the times,
nor his one-sided and defective grasp of Christian truth, could
deprive him of the reward of his life of sacrifice--the reward, I
mean, of feeling his fellowship with Christ in suffering. He sold "all
that he had" to gain the pearl of great price, and the surrender was
not made in vain.

The later Roman Catholic mystics, though they include some beautiful
and lovable characters, do not develop any further the type which we
have found in St. Teresa and St. Juan. St. Francis de Sales has been a
favourite devotional writer with thousands in this country. He
presents the Spanish Mysticism softened and polished into a graceful
and winning pietism, such as might refine and elevate the lives of
the "honourable women" who consulted him. The errors of the quietists
certainly receive some countenance from parts of his writings, but
they are neutralised by maxims of a different tendency, borrowed
eclectically from other sources.[301]

A more consistent and less fortunate follower of St. Teresa was Miguel
de Molinos, a Spanish priest, who came to Rome about 1670. His piety
and learning won him the favour of Pope Innocent XI., who, according
to Bishop Burnet, "lodged him in an apartment of the palace, and put
many singular marks of his esteem upon him." In 1675 he published in
Italian his _Spiritual Guide_, a mystical treatise of great interest.

Molinos begins by saying that there are two ways to the knowledge of
God--meditation or discursive thought, and "pure faith" or
contemplation. Contemplation has two stages, active and passive, the
latter being the higher.[302] Meditation he also calls the "exterior
road"; it is good for beginners, he says, but can never lead to
perfection. The "interior road," the goal of which is union with God,
consists in complete resignation to the will of God, annihilation of
all self-will, and an unruffled tranquillity or passivity of soul,
until the mystical grace is supernaturally "infused." Then "we shall
sink and lose ourselves in the immeasurable sea of God's infinite
goodness, and rest there steadfast and immovable.[303]" He gives a
list of tokens by which we may know that we are called from meditation
to contemplation; and enumerates four means, which lead to perfection
and inward peace--prayer, obedience, frequent communions, and inner
mortification. The best kind of prayer is the prayer of silence;[304]
and there are three silences, that of words, that of desires, and that
of thought. In the last and highest the mind is a blank, and God alone
speaks to the soul.[305] With the curious passion for subdivision
which we find in nearly all Romish mystics, he distinguishes three
kinds of "infusa contemplazione"--(1) satiety, when the soul is filled
with God and conceives a hatred for all worldly things; (2) "un
mentale eccesso" or elevation of the soul, born of Divine love and its
satiety; (3) "security." In this state the soul would willingly even
go to hell, if it were God's will. "Happy is the state of that soul
which has slain and annihilated itself." It lives no longer in itself,
for God lives in it. "With all truth we may say that it is deified."

Molinos follows St. Juan of the Cross in disparaging visions, which
he says are often snares of the devil. And, like him, he says much of
the "horrible temptations and torments, worse than any which the
martyrs of the early Church underwent," which form part of "purgative
contemplation." He resembles the Spanish mystics also in his
insistence on outward observances, especially "daily communion, when
possible," but thinks frequent confession unnecessary, except for

"The book was no sooner printed," says Bishop Burnet, "than it was
much read and highly esteemed, both in Italy and Spain. The
acquaintance of the author came to be much desired. Those who seemed
in the greatest credit at Rome seemed to value themselves upon his
friendship. Letters were writ to him from all places, so that a
correspondence was settled between him and those who approved of his
method, in many different places of Europe." "It grew so much to be
the vogue in Rome, that all the nuns, except those who had Jesuits to
their confessors, began to lay aside their rosaries and other
devotions, and to give themselves much to the practice of mental

Molinos had written with the object of "breaking the fetters" which
hindered souls in their upward course. Unfortunately for himself, he
also loosened some of the fetters in which the Roman priesthood
desires to keep the laity[306]. And so, instead of the honours which
had been grudgingly and suspiciously bestowed on his predecessors,
Molinos ended his days in a dungeon[307]. His condemnation was
followed by a sharp persecution of his followers in Italy, who had
become very numerous; and, in France, Bossuet procured the
condemnation and imprisonment of Madame Guyon, a lady of high
character and abilities, who was the centre of a group of quietists.
Madame de Guyon need not detain us here. Her Mysticism is identical
with that of Saint Teresa, except that she was no visionary, and that
her character was softer and less masculine. Her attractive
personality, and the cruel and unjust treatment which she experienced
during the greater part of her life, arouse the sympathy of all who
read her story; but since my present object is not to exhibit a
portrait gallery of eminent mystics, but to investigate the chief
types of mystical thought, it will not be necessary for me to describe
her life or make extracts from her writings. The character of her
quietism may be illustrated by one example--the hymn on "The
Acquiescence of Pure Love," translated by Cowper:--

  "Love! if Thy destined sacrifice am I,
     Come, slay thy victim, and prepare Thy fires;
   Plunged in Thy depths of mercy, let me die
     The death which every soul that loves desires!

   "I watch my hours, and see them fleet away;
     The time is long that I have languished here;
   Yet all my thoughts Thy purposes obey,
     With no reluctance, cheerful and sincere.

   "To me 'tis equal, whether Love ordain
     My life or death, appoint me pain or ease
   My soul perceives no real ill in pain;
     In ease or health no real good she sees.

   "One Good she covets, and that Good alone;
     To choose Thy will, from selfish bias free
   And to prefer a cottage to a throne,
     And grief to comfort, if it pleases Thee.

   "That we should bear the cross is Thy command
     Die to the world, and live to self no more;
   Suffer unmoved beneath the rudest hand,
     As pleased when shipwrecked as when safe on shore."

Fénelon was also a victim of the campaign against the quietists,
though he was no follower of Molinos. He was drawn into the
controversy against his will by Bossuet, who requested him to endorse
an unscrupulous attack upon Madame Guyon. This made it necessary for
Fénelon to define his position, which he did in his famous _Maxims of
the Saints_. The treatise is important for our purposes, since it is
an elaborate attempt to determine the limits of true and false
Mysticism concerning two great doctrines--"disinterested love" and
"passive contemplation."

On the former, Fénelon's teaching may be summarised as follows:
Self-interest must be excluded from our love of God, for self-love is
the root of all evil. This predominant desire for God's glory need not
be always explicit--it need only become so on extraordinary occasions;
but it must always be implicit. There are five kinds of love for God:
(i.) purely servile--the love of God's gifts apart from Himself; (ii.)
the love of mere covetousness, which regards the love of God only as
the condition of happiness; (iii.) that of hope, in which the desire
for our own welfare is still predominant; (iv.) interested love, which
is still mixed with self-regarding motives; (v.) disinterested love.
He mentions here the "three lives" of the mystics, and says that in
the purgative life love is mixed with the fear of hell; in the
illuminative, with the hope of heaven; while in the highest stage "we
are united to God in the peaceable exercise of pure love." "If God
were to will to send the souls of the just to hell--so Chrysostom and
Clement suggest--souls in the third state would not love Him
less[308]." "Mixed love," however, is not a sin: "the greater part of
holy souls never reach perfect disinterestedness in this life." We
ought to wish for our salvation, because it is God's will that we
should do so. Interested love coincides with resignation,
disinterested with holy indifference. "St. Francis de Sales says that
the disinterested heart is like wax in the hands of its God."

We must continue to _co-operate_ with God's grace, even in the highest
stage, and not cease to resist our impulses, as if all came from God.
"To speak otherwise is to speak the language of the tempter." (This
is, of course, directed against the immoral apathy attributed to
Molinos.) The only difference between the vigilance of pure and that
of interested love, is that the former is simple and peaceable, while
the latter has not yet cast out fear. It is false teaching to say that
we should hate ourselves; _we should be in charity with ourselves as
with others_.[309]

Spontaneous, unreflecting good acts proceed from what the mystics call
the apex of the soul. "In such acts St. Antony places the most perfect
prayer--unconscious prayer."

Of prayer he says, "We pray as much as we desire, and we desire as
much as we love." Vocal prayer cannot be (as the extreme quietists
pretend) useless to contemplative souls; "for Christ has taught us a
vocal prayer."

He then proceeds to deal with "passive contemplation," and refers
again to the "unconscious prayer" of St. Antony. But "pure
contemplation is never unintermittent in this life." "Bernard, Teresa,
and John say that their periods of pure contemplation lasted not more
than half an hour." "Pure contemplation," he proceeds, "is negative,
being occupied with no sensible image, no distinct and nameable idea;
it stops only at the purely intellectual and abstract idea of being."
Yet this idea includes, "as distinct objects," all the attributes of
God--"as the Trinity, the humanity of Christ, and all His mysteries."
"To deny this is to annihilate Christianity under pretence of
purifying it, and to confound God with _néant_. It is to form a kind
of deism which at once falls into atheism, wherein all real idea of
God as distinguished from His creatures is rejected." Lastly, it is to
advance two impieties--(i.) To suppose that there is or may be on the
earth a contemplative who is no longer a traveller, and who no longer
needs the way, since he has reached his destination. (ii.) To ignore
that Jesus Christ is the way as well as the truth and the life, the
finisher as well as the author of our faith.

This criticism of the formless vision is excellent, but there is a
palpable inconsistency between the definition of "negative
contemplation" and the inclusion in it of "all the attributes of God
as distinct objects." Contradictions of this sort abound in Fénelon,
and destroy the value of his writings as contributions to religious
philosophy, though in his case, as in many others, we may speak of
"noble inconsistencies" which do more credit to his heart than
discredit to his intellect. We may perhaps see here the dying spasm of
the "negative method," which has crossed our path so often in this

The image of Jesus Christ, Fénelon continues, is not clearly seen by
contemplatives at first, and may be withdrawn while the soul passes
through the last furnace of trial; but we can never cease to need Him,
"though it is true that the most eminent saints are accustomed to
regard Him less as an exterior object than as the interior principle
of their lives." They are in error who speak of possessing God in His
supreme simplicity, and of no more knowing Christ after the flesh.
Contemplation is called passive because it excludes the _interested_
activity of the soul, not because it excludes real action. (Here again
Fénelon is rather explaining away than explaining his authorities.)
The culmination of the "passive state" is "transformation," in which
love is the life of the soul, as it is its being and substance.
"Catherine of Genoa said, I find no more _me_; there is no longer any
other _I_ but God." "But it is false to say that transformation is a
deification of the real and natural soul, or a hypostatic union, or an
unalterable conformity with God.[310]" In the passive state we are
still liable to mortal sin. (It is characteristic of Fénelon that he
contradicts, without rejecting, the substitution-doctrine plainly
stated in the sentence from Catherine of Genoa.)

In his letter to the Pope, which accompanies the "Explanation of the
Maxims," Fénelon thus sums up his distinctions between true and false

1. The "permanent act" (i.e. an indefectible state of union with God)
is to be condemned as "a poisoned source of idleness and internal

2. There is an indispensable necessity of the distinct exercise of
each virtue.

3. "Perpetual contemplation," making venial sins impossible, and
abolishing the distinction of virtues, is impossible.

4. "Passive prayer," if it excludes the co-operation of free-will, is

5. There can be no "quietude" except the peace of the Holy Ghost,
which acts in a manner so uniform that these acts seem, _to
unscientific persons_, not distinct acts, but a single and permanent
unity with God.

6. That the doctrine of pure love may not serve as an asylum for the
errors of the Quietists, we assert that hope must always abide, as
saith St. Paul.

7. The state of pure love is very rare, and it is intermittent.

In reply to this manifesto, the "Three Prelates[311]" rejoin that
Fénelon keeps the name of hope but takes away the thing; that he
really preaches indifference to salvation; that he is in danger of
regarding contemplation of Christ as a descent from the heights of
pure contemplation; that he unaccountably says nothing of the "love of
gratitude" to God and our Redeemer; that he "erects the rare and
transient experiences of a few saints into a rule of faith."

In this controversy about disinterested love, our sympathies are
chiefly, but not entirely, with Fénelon. The standpoint of Bossuet is
not religious at all. "Pure love," he says almost coarsely, "is
opposed to the essence of love, which always desires the enjoyment of
its object, as well as to the nature of man, who necessarily desires
happiness." Most of us will rather agree with St. Bernard, that love,
as such, desires nothing but reciprocation--"verus amor se ipso
contentus est: habet præmium, sed id quod amatur." If the question had
been simply whether religion is or is not in its nature mercenary, we
should have felt no doubt on which side the truth lay. Self-regarding
hopes and schemes may be schoolmasters to bring us to Christ; it
seems, indeed, to be part of our education to form them, and then see
them shattered one after another, that better and deeper hopes may be
constructed out of the fragments; but a selfish Christianity is a
contradiction in terms. But Fénelon, in his teaching about
disinterested love, goes further than this. "A man's self," he says,
"is his own greatest cross." "We must therefore become strangers to
this self, this _moi._" Resignation is not a remedy; for "resignation
suffers in suffering; one is as two persons in resignation; it is only
pure love that loves to suffer." This is the thought with which many
of us are familiar in James Hinton's _Mystery of Pain_. It is at
bottom Stoical or Buddhistic, in spite of the emotional turn given to
it by Fénelon. Logically, it should lead to the destruction of love;
for love requires two living factors,[312] and the person who has
attained a "holy indifference," who has passed wholly out of self, is
as incapable of love as of any other emotion. The attempt "to wind
ourselves too high for mortal man" has resulted, as usual, in two
opposite errors. We find, on the one hand, some who try to escape the
daily sacrifices which life demands, by declaring themselves bankrupt
to start with. And, on the other hand, we find men like Fénelon, who
are too good Christians to wish to shift their crosses in this way;
but who allow their doctrines of "holy indifference" and "pure love"
to impart an excessive sternness to their teaching, and demand from us
an impossible degree of detachment and renunciation.

The importance attached to the "prayer of quiet" can only be
understood when we remember how much mechanical recitation of forms of
prayer was enjoined by Romish "directors." It is, of course, possible
for the soul to commune with God without words, perhaps even without
thoughts;[313] but the recorded prayers of our Blessed Lord will not
allow us to regard these ecstatic states as better than vocal prayer,
when the latter is offered "with the spirit, and with the
understanding also."

The quietistic controversy in France was carried on in an atmosphere
of political intrigues and private jealousies, which in no way concern
us. But the great fact which stands out above the turmoil of calumny
and misrepresentation is that the Roman Church, which in sore straits
had called in the help of quietistic Mysticism to stem the flood of
Protestantism, at length found the alliance too dangerous, and
disbanded her irregular troops in spite of their promises to submit to
discipline. In Fénelon, Mysticism had a champion eloquent and learned,
and not too logical to repudiate with honest conviction consequences
which some of his authorities had found it necessary to accept. He
remained a loyal and submissive son of the Church, as did Molinos; and
was, in fact, more guarded in his statements than Bossuet, who in his
ignorance of mystical theology often blundered into dangerous
admissions[314]. But the Jesuits saw with their usual acumen that
Mysticism, even in the most submissive guise, is an independent and
turbulent spirit; and by condemning Fénelon as well as Molinos, they
crushed it out as a religious movement in the Latin countries.

To us it seems that the Mysticism of the counter-Reformation was bound
to fail, because it was the revival of a perverted, or at best a
one-sided type. The most consistent quietists were perhaps those who
brought the doctrine of quietism into most discredit, such as the
hesychasts of Mount Athos. For at bottom it rests upon that dualistic
or rather acosmistic view of life which prevailed from the decay of
the Roman Empire till the Renaissance and Reformation. Its cosmology
is one which leaves this world out of account except as a training
ground for souls; its theory of knowledge draws a hard and fast line
between natural and supernatural truths, and then tries to bring them
together by intercalating "supernatural phenomena" in the order of
nature; and in ethics it paralyses morality by teaching with St.
Thomas Aquinas that "to love God _secundum se_ is more meritorious
than to love our neighbour.[315]" All this is not of the essence of
Mysticism, but belongs to mediæval Catholicism. It was probably a
necessary stage through which Christianity, and Mysticism with it, had
to pass. The vain quest of an abstract spirituality at any rate
liberated the religious life from many base associations; the
"negative road" is after all the holy path of self-sacrifice; and the
maltreatment of the body, which began among the hermits of the
Thebaid, was largely based on an instinctive recoil against the poison
of sensuality, which had helped to destroy the old civilisation. But
the resuscitation of mediæval Mysticism after the Renaissance was an
anachronism; and except in the fighting days of the sixteenth century,
it was not likely to appeal to the manliest or most intelligent
spirits. The world-ruling papal polity, with its incomparable army of
officials, bound to poverty and celibacy, and therefore invulnerable,
was a _reductio ad absurdum_ of its world-renouncing doctrines, which
Europe was not likely to forget. Introspective Mysticism had done its
work--a work of great service to the human race. It had explored all
the recesses of the lonely heart, and had wrestled with the angel of
God through the terrors of the spiritual night even till the morning.
"Tell me now Thy name" ... "I will not let Thee go until Thou bless
me." These had been the two demands of the contemplative mystic--the
only rewards which his soul craved in return for the sacrifice of
every earthly delight. The reward was worth the sacrifice; but "God
reveals Himself in many ways," and the spiritual Christianity of the
modern epoch is called rather to the consecration of art, science, and
social life than to lonely contemplation. In my last two Lectures I
hope to show how an important school of mystics, chiefly between the
Renaissance and our own day, have turned to the religious study of
nature, and have found there the same illumination which the mediæval
ascetics drew from the deep wells of their inner consciousness.


[Footnote 284: Rousselot, _Les Mystiques Espagnols_, p. 3.]

[Footnote 285: Among the latter must be mentioned the growth of
Scotist Nominalism, on which see a note on p. 187. Ritschl was the
first to point out how strongly Nominalism influenced the later
Mysticism, by giving it its quietistic character. See Harnack,
_History of Dogma_ (Eng. tr.), vol. vi. p. 107.]

[Footnote 286: Cf. the beginning of the _Vida de Lazarillo de Tormes,
corregida y emendada por Juan de Luna_ (Paris, 1620). "The ignorance
of the Spaniards is excusable. The Inquisitors are the cause. They are
dreaded, not only by the people, but by the great lords, to such an
extent that the mere mention of the Inquisition makes every head
tremble like a leaf in the wind."]

[Footnote 287: Pedro Malon de Chaide: "Las cosas en Dios son mismo

[Footnote 288: Alejo Venegas in Rousselot, p. 78: Louis de Leon, who
is indebted to the _Fons Vitæ_.]

[Footnote 289: Louis de Leon: "The members and the head are one

[Footnote 290: Diego de Stella affirms the mystic paradox, that it is
better to be in hell with Christ than in glory without Him (_Medit._

[Footnote 291: Juan d'Avila: "Let us put a veil between ourselves and
all created things."]

[Footnote 292: This side of Platonism appears in Pedro Malon, and
especially in Louis de Granada. Compare also the beautiful ode of
Louis de Leon, entitled "Noche Serena," where the eternal peace of the
starry heavens is contrasted with the turmoil of the world--

  "Quien es el que esto mira,
   Y precia la bajeza de la tierra,
   Y no gime y suspira
   Y rompe lo que encierra
   El alma, y destos bienes la destierra?
   Aqui vive al contento,
   Aqui reina la paz, aqui asentado
   En rico y alto asiento
   Esta el amor sagrado
   De glorias y deleites rodeado."  ]

[Footnote 293: After his release he was suffered to resume his
lectures. A crowd of sympathisers assembled to hear his first
utterance; but he began quietly with his usual formula, "Deciamos
ahora," "We were saying just now."]

[Footnote 294: The heresy of the "Alombrados" (Illuminati), which
appeared in the sixteenth century, and was ruthlessly crushed by the
Inquisition, belonged to the familiar type of degenerate Mysticism.
Its adherents taught that the prayers of the Church were worthless,
the only true prayer being a kind of ecstasy, without words or mental
images. The "illuminated" need no sacraments, and can commit no sins.
The mystical union once achieved is an abiding possession. There was
another outbreak of the same errors in 1623, and a corresponding sect
of _Illuminés_ in Southern France.]

[Footnote 295: The real founder of Spanish quietistic Mysticism was
Pedro of Alcantara (d. 1562). He was confessor to Teresa. Teresa is
also indebted to Francisco de Osuna, in whose writings the principles
of quietism are clearly taught. Cf. Heppe, _Geschichte der
quietistichen Mystik_, p. 9.]

[Footnote 296: The fullest and best account of St. Teresa is in Mrs.
Cunninghame Graham's _Life and Times of Santa Teresa_ (2 vols.).]

[Footnote 297: "Hæ imaginariæ visiones regulariter eveniunt vel
incipientibus vel proficientibus nondum bene purgatis, ut communiter
tenent mystæ" (_Lucern. Myst. Tract_, v. 3).]

[Footnote 298: So in Plotinus [Greek: phantasia] comes between [Greek:
physis] (the lower soul) and the perfect apprehension of [Greek:

[Footnote 299: St. Juan follows the mediæval mystics in distinguishing
between "meditation" and "contemplation." "Meditation," from which
external images are not excluded, is for him an early and imperfect
stage; he who is destined to higher things will soon discover signs
which indicate that it is time to abandon it.]

[Footnote 300: The reference is to Ruth iii. 7.]

[Footnote 301: The somewhat feminine temper of Francis leads him to
attach more value to fanciful symbolism than would have been approved
by St. Juan, or even by St. Teresa. And we miss in him that steady
devotion to the Person of Christ, and to Him alone, which gives the
Spaniards, in spite of themselves, a sort of kinship with evangelical
Christianity. St. Juan could never have written, "Honorez, reverez, et
respectez d'un amour special la sacrée et glorieuse Vierge Marie. Elle
est mère de nostre souverain père et par consequent nostre grand'mère"

[Footnote 302: The three parts into which the book is divided deal
respectively with the "darkness and dryness" by which God purifies the
heart; the second stage, in which he insists, complete obedience to a
spiritual director is essential; and the stage of higher

[Footnote 303: "Colà c' ingolfiano e ci perdiamo nel mare immenso
dell' infinita sua bontà in cui restiamo stabili ed immobili."]

[Footnote 304: It is interesting to find the "prayer of quiet" even in
Plotinus. Cf. _Enn_. v. 1. 6: "Let us call upon God Himself before we
thus answer--not with uttered words, but reaching forth our souls in
prayer to Him; for thus alone can we pray, alone to Him who is

[Footnote 305: He speaks, too, of "inner recollection" (il
raccoglimento interiore), "mirandolo dentro te medesima nel più intimo
del' anima tua, senza forma, specie, modo ò figura, in vista e
generate notitia di fede amorosa ed oscura, senza veruna distinzione
di perfezione ò attributo."]

[Footnote 306: Cf. Bp. Burnet: "In short, everybody that was thought
either sincerely devout, or that at least affected the reputation of
it, came to be reckoned among the Quietists; and if these persons were
observed to become more strict in their lives, more retired and
serious in their mental devotions, yet there appeared less zeal in
their whole deportment as to the exterior parts of the religion of
that Church. They were not so assiduous at Mass, nor so earnest to
procure Masses to be said for their friends; nor were they so
frequently either at confession or in processions, so that the trade
of those that live by these things was terribly sunk."]

[Footnote 307: The _Spiritual Guide_ was well received at first in
high quarters; but in 1681 a Jesuit preacher published a book on "the
prayer of quiet," which raised a storm. The first commission of
inquiry exonerated Molinos; but in 1685 the Jesuits and Louis XIV.
brought strong pressure to bear on the Pope, and Molinos was accused
of heresy. Sixty-eight false propositions were extracted from his
writings, and formally condemned. They include a justification of
disgraceful vices, which Molinos, who was a man of saintly character,
could never have taught. But though the whole process against the
author of the _Spiritual Guide_ was shamefully unfair, the book
contains some highly dangerous teaching, which might easily be pressed
into the service of immorality. Molinos saved his life by recanting
all his errors, but was imprisoned till his death, about 1696. In 1687
the Inquisition arrested 200 persons for "quietist" opinions.]

[Footnote 308: This "mystic paradox" has been mentioned already. It
is developed at length in the _Meditations_ of Diego de Stella.
Fénelon says that it is found in Cassian, Gregory of Nazianzus,
Augustine, Anselm, "and a great number of saints." It is an
unfortunate attempt to improve upon Job's fine saying, "Though He slay
me, yet will I trust in Him," or the line in Homer which has been
often quoted--[Greek: en de phaei kai olesson, epei ny toi euaden
outôs.] But unless we form a very unworthy idea of heaven and hell,
the proposition is not so much extravagant as self-contradictory.]

[Footnote 309: The doctrine here condemned is Manichean, says Fénelon

[Footnote 310: St. Bernard (_De diligendo Deo_, x. 28) gives a careful
statement of the deification-doctrine as he understands it: "Quomodo
omnia in omnibus erit Deus, si in homine de homine quicquam supererit?
_Manebit substantia sed in alia forma._" See Appendix C.]

[Footnote 311: The Archbishop of Paris, the Bishop of Meaux (Bossuet),
and the Bishop of Chartres.]

[Footnote 312: If two beings are separate, they cannot influence each
other inwardly. If they are not distinct, there can be no relations
between them. Man is at once organ and organism, and this is why love
between man and God is possible. The importance of maintaining that
action between man and God must be reciprocal, is well shown by
Lilienfeld, _Gedanken über die Socialwissenschaft der Zukunft_, vol.
v. p. 472 sq.]

[Footnote 313: "Thought was not," says Wordsworth of one in a state of
rapture; and again, "All his thoughts were steeped in feeling."]

[Footnote 314: E.g., he writes to Madame Guyon, "Je n'ai jamais hesité
un seul moment sur les états de Sainte Thérèse, parceque je n'y ai
rien trouvé, que je ne trouvasse aussi dans l'ecriture." It is
doubtful whether Bossuet had really read much of St. Teresa. Fénelon
says much more cautiously, "Quelque respect et quelque admiration que
j'aie pour Sainte Thérèse, je n'aurais jamais voulu donner au public
tout ce qu'elle a écrit."]

[Footnote 315: Of course there is a sense in which this is true; but I
am speaking of the way in which it was understood by mediæval


[Greek: En pasi tois physikois enesti ti thaumaston; kathaper
Hêrakleitos legetai eipein; einai kai entautha theous.]

ARISTOTLE, _de Partibus Animalium_, i. 5.

                          "What if earth
    Be but the shadow of heaven, and things therein
    Each to other like, more than on earth is thought?"


   "God is not dumb, that He should speak no more.
    If thou hast wanderings in the wilderness,
    And find'st not Sinai, 'tis thy soul is poor;
    There towers the mountain of the voice no less,
    Which whoso seeks shall find; but he who bends,
    Intent on manna still and mortal ends,
    Sees it not, neither hears its thundered lore."


"Of the Absolute in the theoretical sense I do not venture to speak;
but this I maintain, that if a man recognises it in its
manifestations, and always keeps his eye fixed upon it, he will reap a
very great reward."



"The creation itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of
corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of
God."--ROM. viii. 21.

It would be possible to maintain that all our happiness consists in
finding sympathies and affinities underlying apparent antagonisms, in
bringing harmony out of discord, and order out of chaos. Even the
lowest pleasures owe their attractiveness to a certain temporary
correspondence between our desires and the nature of things.
Selfishness itself, the prime source of sin, misery, and ignorance,
cannot sever the ties which bind us to each other and to nature; or if
it succeeds in doing so, it passes into madness, of which an
experienced alienist has said, that its essence is "concentrated
egoism." Incidentally I may say that the peculiar happiness which
accompanies every glimpse of insight into truth and reality, whether
in the scientific, æsthetic, or emotional sphere, seems to me to have
a greater apologetic value than has been generally recognised. It is
the clearest possible indication that the true is for us the good, and
forms the ground of a reasonable faith that all things, if we could
see them as they are, would be found to work together for good to
those who love God.

"The true Mysticism," it has been lately said with much truth, "is
the belief that everything, in being what it is, is symbolic of
something more.[316]" All Nature (and there are few more pernicious
errors than that which separates man from Nature) is the language in
which God expresses His thoughts; but the thoughts are far more than
the language.[317] Thus it is that the invisible things of God from
the creation of the world may be clearly seen and understood from the
things that are made; while at the same time it is equally true that
here we see through a glass darkly, and know only in part. Nature half
conceals and half reveals the Deity; and it is in this sense that it
may be called a symbol of Him.

The word "symbol," like several other words which the student of
Mysticism has to use, has an ill-defined connotation, which produces
confusion and contradictory statements. For instance, a French writer
gives as his definition of Mysticism "the tendency to approach the
Absolute, morally, by means of symbols.[318]" On the other hand, an
English essayist denies that Mysticism is symbolic.[319] Mysticism, he
says, differs from symbolism in that, while symbolism treats the
connexion between symbol and substance as something accidental or
subjective, Mysticism is based on a positive belief in the existence
of life within life, of deep correspondences and affinities, not less
real than those to which the common superficial consciousness of
mankind bears witness. I agree with this statement about the basis of
Mysticism, but I prefer to use the word symbol of that which has a
real, and not merely a conventional affinity to the thing
symbolised.[320] The line is by no means easy to draw. An aureole is
not, properly speaking, a _symbol_ of saintliness,[321] nor a crown of
royal authority, because in these instances the connexion of sign with
significance is conventional. A circle is perhaps not a symbol of
eternity, because the comparison appeals only to the intellect. But
falling leaves are a symbol of human mortality, a flowing river of the
"stream" of life, and a vine and its branches of the unity of Christ
and the Church, because they are examples of the same law which
operates through all that God has made. And when the Anglian noble, in
a well-known passage of Bede, compares the life of man to the flight
of a bird which darts quickly through a lighted hall out of darkness,
and into darkness again, he has found a symbol which is none the less
valid, because light and darkness are themselves only symbolically
connected with life and death. The writer who denies that Mysticism is
symbolic, means that the discovery of arbitrary and fanciful
resemblances or types is no part of healthy Mysticism.[322] In this he
is quite right; and the importance of the distinction which he wishes
to emphasise will, I hope, become clear as we proceed. It is not
possible always to say dogmatically, "_This_ is genuine Symbolism, and
_that_ is morbid or fantastic"; but we do assert that there is a true
and a false Symbolism, of which the true is not merely a legitimate,
but a necessary mode of intuition; while the latter is at best a
frivolous amusement, and at worst a degrading superstition.[323]

But we shall handle our subject very inadequately if we consider only
the symbolical value which may be attached to external objects. Our
thoughts and beliefs about the spiritual world, so far as they are
conceived under forms, or expressed in language, which belong properly
only to things of time and space, are of the nature of symbols. In
this sense it has been said that the greater part of dogmatic theology
is the dialectical development of mystical symbols. For instance, the
paternal relation of the First Person of the Trinity to the Second is
a symbol; and the representation of eternity as an endless period of
time stretching into futurity, is a symbol. We believe that the forms
under which it is natural and necessary for us to conceive of
transcendental truths have a real and vital relation to the ideas
which they attempt to express; but their inadequacy is manifest if we
treat them as facts of the same order as natural phenomena, and try to
intercalate them, as is too often done, among the materials with which
an abstract science has to deal.

The two great sacraments are typical symbols, if we use the word in
the sense which I give to it, as something which, in being what it is,
is a sign and vehicle of something higher and better. This is what the
early Church meant when it called the sacraments symbols.[324] A
"symbol" at that period implied a mystery, and a "mystery" implied a
revelation. The need of sacraments is one of the deepest convictions
of the religious consciousness. It rests ultimately on the instinctive
reluctance to allow any spiritual fact to remain without an external
expression. It is obvious that all morality depends on the application
of this principle to conduct. All voluntary external acts are symbolic
of (that is, vitally connected with) internal states, and cannot be
divested of this their essential character. It may be impossible to
show how an act of the material body can purify or defile the
immaterial spirit; but the correspondence between the outward and
inward life cannot be denied without divesting morality of all
meaning. The maxim of Plotinus, that "the mind can do no wrong," when
transferred from his transcendental philosophy to matters of conduct,
is a sophism no more respectable than that which Euripides puts into
the mouth of one of his characters: "The tongue hath sworn; the heart
remains unsworn." Every act of the will is the expression of a state
of the soul; and every state of the soul must seek to find expression
in an act of the will. Love, as we should all admit, is not love, so
long as it is content to be only in thought, or "in word and in
tongue"; it is only when it is love "in deed" that it is love "in
truth.[325]" And it is the same with all other virtues, which are in
this sense symbolic, as implying something beyond the external act.
Nearly all the states or motions of the soul can find their
appropriate expression in action. Charity in its manifold forms need
not seek long for an object; and thankfulness and penitence, though
they drive us first to silent prayer, are not satisfied till they have
borne fruit in some act of gratitude or humility. But that deepest
sense of communion with God, which is the very heart of religion, is
in danger of being shut up in thought and word, which are inadequate
expressions of any spiritual state. No doubt this highest state of the
soul may find indirect expression in good works; but these fail to
express the _immediacy_ of the communion which the soul has felt. The
want of symbols to express these highest states of the soul is
supplied by sacraments. A sacrament is a symbolic act, not arbitrarily
chosen, but resting, to the mind of the recipient, on Divine
authority, which has no ulterior object except to give expression to,
and in so doing to effectuate,[326] a relation which is too purely
spiritual to find utterance in the customary activities of life. There
are three requisites (on the human side) for the validity of a
sacramental act. The symbol must be appropriate; the thing symbolised
must be a spiritual truth; and there must be the intention to perform
the act _as_ a sacrament.

The sacraments of Baptism and the Lord's Supper fulfil these
conditions. Both are symbols of the mystical union between the
Christian and his ascended Lord. Baptism symbolises that union in its
inception, the Eucharist in its organic life. Baptism is received but
once, because the death unto sin and the new birth unto righteousness
is a definite entrance into the spiritual life, rather than a gradual
process. The fact that in Christian countries Baptism in most cases
precedes conversion does not alter the character of the sacrament;
indeed, infant Baptism is by far the most appropriate symbol of our
adoption into the Divine Sonship, to which we only consent after the
event. It is only because we are already sons that we can say, "I will
arise, and go unto my Father." The Holy Communion is the symbol of the
maintenance of the mystical union, and of the "strengthening and
refreshing of our souls," which we derive from the indwelling presence
of our Lord. The Church claims an absolute prerogative for its duly
ordained ministers in the case of this sacrament, because the common
meal is the symbol of the organic unity of Christ and the Church as
"unus Christus," a doctrine which the schismatic, as such,
denies.[327] The communicant who believes only in an individual
relation between Christ and separate persons, or in an "invisible
Church," does not understand the meaning of the sacrament of the
Lord's Supper, and can hardly be said to participate in it.

There are two views of this sacrament which the "plain man" has always
found much easier to understand than the symbolic view which is that
of our Church. One is that it is a miracle or magical performance, the
other is that it is a mere commemoration. Both are absolutely
destructive of the idea of a sacrament. The latter view, that of some
Protestant sects, was quite foreign to the early Church, so far as our
evidence goes; the former, it is only just to say, is found in many of
the Fathers, not in the grossly materialistic form which it afterwards
assumed, but in such phrases as "the medicine of immortality" applied
to the consecrated elements, where we are meant to understand that the
elements have a mysterious power of preserving the receiver from the
natural consequences of death.[328] But when we find that the same
writers who use compromising phrases about the change that comes over
the elements,[329] also use the language of symbolism, and remember,
too, that a "miracle" was a very different thing to those who knew of
no inflexible laws in the natural world from what it is to us, we
shall not be ready to agree with those who have accused the third and
fourth century Fathers of degrading the Lord's Supper into a magical

Most of the errors which have so grievously obscured the true nature
of this sacrament have proceeded from attempts to answer the question,
"How does the reception of the consecrated elements affect the inner
state of the receiver?" To those who hold the symbolic view, as I
understand it, it seems clear that the question of cause and effect
must be resolutely cast aside. The reciprocal action of spirit and
matter is the one great mystery which, to all appearance, must remain
impenetrable to the finite intelligence. We do not ask whether the
soul is the cause of the body, or the body of the soul; we only know
that the two are found, in experience, always united. In the same way
we should abstain, I think, from speculating on the effect of the
sacraments, and train ourselves instead to consider them as
divinely-ordered symbols, by which the Church, as an organic whole,
and we as members of it, realise the highest and deepest of our
spiritual privileges.

There are other religious forms for which no Divine institution is
claimed, but which have a quasi-sacramental value. And those who,
"whether they eat, or drink, or whatever they do," do all to the glory
of God, may be said to turn the commonest acts into sacraments. To the
true mystic, life itself is a sacrament. It is natural, but
unfortunate, that some of those who have felt this most strongly have
shown a tendency to disparage observances which are simply acts of
devotion, "mere forms," as they call them. The attempt to distinguish
between conventional ceremonies, which have no essential connexion
with the truth symbolised, and actions which are in themselves moral
or immoral, is no doubt justifiable, but it should be remembered that
this is the way in which antinomianism takes its rise. Many have begun
by saying, "The heart, the motive, is all, the external act nothing;
the spirit is all, the letter nothing. What can it matter whether I
say my prayers in church or at home, on my knees or in bed, in words
or in thought only? What can it matter whether the Eucharistic bread
and wine are consecrated or not? whether I actually eat and drink or
not?" And so on. The descent to Avernus is easy by this road. Perhaps
no sect that has professed contempt for all ceremonial forms has
escaped at least the imputation of scandalous licentiousness, with the
honourable exception of the Quakers. The truth is that the need of
symbols to express or represent our highest emotions is inwoven with
human nature, and indifference to them is not, as many have supposed,
a sign of enlightenment or of spirituality. It is, in fact, an
unhealthy symptom. We do not credit a man with a warm heart who does
not care to show his love in word and act; nor should we commend the
common sense of a soldier who saw in his regimental colours only a rag
at the end of a pole. It is one of the points in which we must be
content to be children, and should be thankful that we may remain
children with a clear conscience.

I do not shrink from expressing my conviction that the true meaning
of our sacramental system, which in its external forms is so strangely
anticipated by the Greek mysteries, and in its inward significance
strikes down to the fundamental principles of mystical Christianity,
can only be understood by those who are in some sympathy with
Mysticism. But it has not been possible to say much about the
sacraments sooner than this late stage of our inquiry. We have
hitherto been dealing with the subjective or introspective type of
Mysticism, and it is plain that this form, when carried to its logical
conclusion, is inconsistent with sacramental religion. Those who seek
to ascend to God by the way of abstraction, the negative road, must
regard all symbols as veils between our eyes and reality, and must
wish to get rid of them as soon as possible. From this point of view,
sacraments, like other ceremonial forms, can only be useful at a very
early stage in the upward path, which leads us ultimately into a
Divine darkness, where no forms can be distinguished. It is true that
some devout mystics of this type have both observed and exacted a
punctilious strictness in using all the appointed means of grace; but
this inconsistency is easily accounted for.[330] The pressure of
authority, loyalty to the established order, and human nature, which
is stronger than either, has prevented them from casting away the
time-honoured symbols and vehicles of Divine love. But a true
appreciation of sacraments belongs only to those who can sympathise
with the other branch of Mysticism--that which rests on belief in
symbolism. To this branch of my subject I now invite your attention.
If we expect to find ourselves at once in a larger air when we have
taken leave of the monkish mystics, we shall be disappointed. The
objective or symbolical type of Mysticism is liable to quite as many
perversions as the subjective. If in the latter we found a tendency to
revert to the apathy of the Indian Yogi, we shall observe in the
former too many survivals of still more barbarous creeds. Indeed, I
feel that it is almost necessary, as an introduction to this part of
my subject, to consider very briefly the stages through which the
religious consciousness of mankind has passed in its attempts to
realise Divine immanence in Nature, for this is, of course, the
foundation of all religious symbolism.

The earliest belief seems to be that which has been called _Animism_,
the belief that all natural forces are conscious living beings like
ourselves. This is the primitive form of natural religion; and though
it leads to some deplorable customs, it is not a morbid type, but a
very early effort on the lines of true development[331].

The perverted form of primitive Animism is called _Fetishism_, which
is the belief that supernatural powers reside in some visible object,
which is the home or most treasured possession of a god or demon. The
object may be a building, a tree, an animal, a particular kind of
food, or indeed anything. Unfortunately this belief is not peculiar to
savages. A degraded form of it is exhibited by the so-called
neo-mystical school of modern France, and in the baser types of Roman
Catholicism everywhere[332].

Primitive Animism believes in no natural laws. The next stage is to
believe in laws which are frequently suspended by the intervention of
an independent and superior power. Mediæval dualism regarded every
breach of natural law as a vindication of the power of spirit over
matter--not always, however, of Divine power, for evil spirits could
produce very similar disturbances of the physical order. Thus arose
that persistent tendency to "seek after a sign," in which the religion
of the vulgar, even in our own day, is deeply involved. Miracle, in
some form or other, is regarded as the real basis of belief in God. At
this stage people never ask themselves whether any spiritual truth, or
indeed anything worth knowing, could possibly be communicated or
authenticated by thaumaturgic exhibitions. What attracts them at first
is the evidence which these beliefs furnish, that the world in which
they live is not entirely under the dominion of an unconscious or
inflexible power, but that behind the iron mechanism of cause and
effect is a will more like their own in its irregularity and
arbitrariness. Afterwards, as the majesty of law dawns upon them,
miracles are no longer regarded as capricious exercises of power, but
as the operation of higher physical laws, which are only active on
rare occasions. A truer view sees in them a materialisation of
mystical symbols, the proper function of which is to act as
interpreters between the real and the apparent, between the spiritual
and material worlds. When they crystallise as portents, they lose all
their usefulness. Moreover, the belief in celestial visitations has
its dark counterpart in superstitious dread of the powers of evil,
which is capable of turning life into a long nightmare, and has led to
dreadful cruelties[333]. The error has still enough vitality to
create a prejudice against natural science, which appears in the light
of an invading enemy wresting province after province from the empire
of the supernatural.

But we are concerned with thaumaturgy only so far as it has affected
Mysticism. At first sight the connexion may seem very slight; and
slight indeed it is. But just as Mysticism of the subjective type is
often entangled in theories which sublimate matter till only a vain
shadow remains, so objective Mysticism has been often pervaded by
another kind of false spiritualism--that which finds edification in
palpable supernatural manifestations. These so-called "mystical
phenomena" are so much identified with "Mysticism" in the Roman
Catholic Church of to-day, that the standard treatises on the subject,
now studied in continental universities, largely consist of grotesque
legends of "levitation," "bilocation," "incandescence," "radiation,"
and other miraculous tokens of Divine favour[334]. The great work of
Görres, in five volumes, is divided into Divine, Natural, and
Diabolical Mysticism. The first contains stories of the miraculous
enhancement of sight, hearing, smell, and so forth, which results from
extreme holiness; and tells us how one saint had the power of becoming
invisible, another of walking through closed doors, and a third of
flying through the air. "Natural Mysticism" deals with divination,
lycanthropy, vampires, second sight, and other barbarous
superstitions. "Diabolical Mysticism" includes witchcraft, diabolical
possession, and the hideous stories of incubi and succubæ. It is not
my intention to say any more about these savage survivals, as I do not
wish to bring my subject into undeserved contempt[335]. "These
terrors, and this darkness of the mind," as Lucretius says, "must be
dispelled, not by the bright shafts of the sun's light, but by the
study of Nature's laws[336]."

Some of these fables are quite obviously due to a materialisation of
conventional symbols. These symbols are the picture language into
which the imagination translates what the soul has felt. A typical
case is that of the miniature image of Christ, which is said to have
been found embedded in the heart of a deceased saint. The supposed
miracle was, of course, the work of imagination; but this does not
mean that those who reported it were deliberate liars. We know now
that we must distinguish between observation and imagination, between
the language of science and that of poetical metaphor; but in an age
which abhorred rationalism this was not so clear[337]. Rationalism has
its function in proving that such mystical symbols are not physical
facts. But when it goes on to say that they are related to physical
facts as morbid hallucinations to realities, it has stepped outside
its province.

Proceeding a little further as we trace the development of natural or
objective religion, we come to the belief in _magic_, which in
primitive peoples is closely associated with their first attempts at
experimental science. What gives magic its peculiar character is that
it is based on fanciful, and not on real correspondences. The
uneducated mind cannot distinguish between associations of ideas which
are purely arbitrary and subjective, and those which have a more
universal validity. Not, of course, that all the affinities seized
upon by primitive man proved illusory; but those which were not so
ceased to be magical, and became scientific. The savage draws no
distinction between the process by which he makes fire and that by
which his priest calls down rain, except that the latter is a
professional secret; drugs and spells are used indifferently to cure
the sick; astronomy and astrology are parts of the same science. There
is, however, a difference between the magic which is purely
naturalistic and that which makes mystical claims. The magician
sometimes claims that the spirits are subject to him, not because he
has learned how to wield the forces which they must obey, but because
he has so purged his higher faculties that the occult sympathies of
nature have become apparent to him. His theosophy claims to be a
spiritual illumination, not a scientific discovery. The error here is
the application of spiritual clairvoyance to physical relations. The
insight into reality, which is unquestionably the reward of the pure
heart and the single eye, does not reveal to us in detail how nature
should be subdued to our needs. No spirits from the vasty deep will
obey our call, to show us where lies the road to fortune or to ruin.
Physical science is an abstract inquiry, which, while it keeps to its
proper subject--the investigation of the relations which prevail in
the phenomenal world--is self-sufficient, and can receive nothing on
external authority. Still less can the adept usurp Divine powers, and
bend the eternal laws of the universe to his puny will.

The turbid streams of theurgy and magic flowed into the broad river
of Christian thought by two channels--the later Neoplatonism, and
Jewish Cabbalism. Of the former something has been said already. The
root-idea of the system was that all life may be arranged in a
descending scale of potencies, forming a kind of chain from heaven to
earth. Man, as a microcosm, is in contact with every link in the
chain, and can establish relations with all spiritual powers, from the
superessential One to the lower spirits or "dæmons." The
philosopher-saint, who had explored the highest regions of the
intelligence, might hope to dominate the spirits of the air, and
compel them to do his bidding. Thus the door was thrown wide open for
every kind of superstition. The Cabbalists followed much the same
path. The word Cabbala means "oral tradition," and is defined by
Reuchlin as "the symbolic reception of a Divine revelation handed down
for the saving contemplation of God and separate forms.[338]" In
another place he says, "The Cabbala is nothing else than symbolic
theology, in which not only are letters and words symbols of things,
but things are symbols of other things." This method of symbolic
interpretation was held to have been originally communicated by
revelation,[339] in order that persons of holy life might by it
attain to a mystical communion with God, or deification. The
Cabbalists thus held much the same relation to the Talmudists as the
mystics to the scholastics in the twelfth century. But, as Jews, they
remained faithful to the two doctrines of an inspired tradition and an
inspired book, which distinguish them from Platonic mystics.[340]

Pico de Mirandola (born 1463) was the first to bring the Cabbala into
Christian philosophy, and to unite it with his Neoplatonism. Very
characteristic of his age is the declaration that "there is no natural
science which makes us so certain of the Divinity of Christ as Magic
and the Cabbala.[341]" For there was at that period a curious
alliance of Mysticism and natural science against scholasticism, which
had kept both in galling chains; and both mystics and physicists
invoked the aid of Jewish theosophy. Just as Pythagoras, Plato, and
Proclus were set up against Aristotle, so the occult philosophy of the
Jews, which on its speculative side was mere Neoplatonism, was set up
against the divinity of the Schoolmen. In Germany, Reuchlin
(1455-1522) wrote a treatise, _On the Cabbalistic Art_, in which a
theological scheme resembling those of the Neoplatonists and
speculative mystics was based on occult revelation. The book
captivated Pope Leo X. and the early Reformers alike.

The influence of Cabbalism at this period was felt not only in the
growth of magic, but in the revival of the science of _allegorism_,
which resembles magic in its doctrine of occult sympathies, though
without the theurgic element. According to this view of nature,
everything in the visible world has an emblematic meaning. Everything
that a man saw, heard, or did--colours, numbers, birds, beasts, and
flowers, the various actions of life--was to remind him of something
else.[342] The world was supposed to be full of sacred cryptograms,
and every part of the natural order testified in hieroglyphics[343] to
the truths of Christianity. Thus the shamrock bears witness to the
Trinity, the spider is an emblem of the devil, and so forth. This
kind of symbolism was and is extensively used merely as a
picture-language, in which there is no pretence that the signs are
other than artificial or conventional. The language of signs may be
used either to instruct those who cannot understand words, or to
baffle those who can. Thus, a crucifix may be as good as a sermon to
an illiterate peasant; while the sign of a fish was used by the early
Christians because it was unintelligible to their enemies. This is not
symbolism in the sense which I have given to the word in this
Lecture.[344] But it is otherwise when the type is used as a _proof_
of the antitype. This latter method had long been in use in biblical
exegesis. Pious persons found a curious satisfaction in turning the
most matter of fact statements into enigmatic prophecies. Every verse
must have its "mystical" as well as its natural meaning, and the
search for "types" was a recognised branch of apologetics. Allegorism
became authoritative and dogmatic, which it has no right to be. It
would be rash to say that this pseudo-science, which has proved so
attractive to many minds, is entirely valueless. The very absurdity of
the arguments used by its votaries should make us suspect that there
is a dumb logic of a more respectable sort behind them. There is,
underlying this love of types and emblems, a strong conviction that
if "one eternal purpose runs" through the ages, it must be discernible
in small things as well as in great. Everything in the world, if we
could see things as they are, must be symbolic of the Divine Power
which made it and maintains it in being. We cannot believe that
anything in life is meaningless, or has no significance beyond the
fleeting moment. Whatever method helps us to realise this is useful,
and in a sense true. So far as this we may go with the allegorists,
while at the same time we may be thankful that the cobwebs which they
spun over the sacred texts have now been cleared away, so that we can
at last read our Bible as its authors intended it to be read.[345]

Theosophical and magical Mysticism culminated in the sixteenth and
seventeenth centuries. Just as the idealism of Plotinus lost itself in
the theurgic system of Iamblichus, so the doctrine of Divine immanence
preached by Eckhart and his school was followed by the Nature-Mysticism
of Cornelius Agrippa[346] and Paracelsus.[347] The "negative road" had
been discredited by Luther's invective, and Mysticism, instead of
shutting her eyes to the world of phenomena, stretched forth her hands
to conquer and annex it. The old theory of a World-Spirit, the
pulsations of whose heart are felt in all the life of the universe, came
once more into favour. Through all phenomena, it was believed, runs an
intricate network of sympathies and antipathies, the threads of which,
could they be disentangled, would furnish us with a clue through all the
labyrinths of natural and supernatural science. The age was impatient to
enter on the inheritance from which humanity had long been debarred; the
methods of experimental science seemed tame and slow; and so we find,
especially in Germany, an extraordinary outburst of Nature-Mysticism--
astrology, white magic, alchemy, necromancy, and what not--such as
Christianity had not witnessed before. These pseudo-sciences (with which
was mingled much real progress in medicine, natural history, and kindred
sciences) were divided under three provinces or "vincula"--those of the
Spiritual World, which were mainly magical invocations, diagrams, and
signs; those of the Celestial World, which were taught by astrology; and
those of the Elemental World, which consisted in the sympathetic
influence of material objects upon each other. These secrets (it was
held) are all discoverable by man; for man is a microcosm, or epitome of
the universe, and there is nothing in it with which he cannot claim an
affinity. In knowing himself, he knows both God and all the other works
that God has made.

The subject of Nature-Mysticism is a fascinating one; but I must here
confine myself to its religious aspects. An attempt was soon made, by
Valentine Weigel (1533-1588), Lutheran pastor at Tschopau, to bring
together the new objective Mysticism--freed from its superstitious
elements--and the traditional subjective Mysticism which the Middle
Ages had handed down from Dionysius and the Neoplatonists. Weigel's
cosmology is based on that of Paracelsus; and his psychology also
reminds us of him. Man is a microcosm, and his nature has three
parts--the outward material body, the astral spirit, and the immortal
soul, which bears the image of God. The three faculties of the soul
correspond to these three parts; they are sense, reason (_Vernunft_),
and understanding (_Verstand_). These are the "three eyes" by which we
get knowledge. The sense perceives material things; the reason,
natural science and art; the understanding, which he also calls the
spark, sees the invisible and Divine. He follows the scholastic
mystics in distinguishing between natural and supernatural knowledge,
but his method of distinguishing them is, I think, original. Natural
knowledge, he says, is not conveyed by the object; it is the
percipient subject which creates knowledge out of itself. The object
merely provokes the consciousness into activity. In natural knowledge
the subject is "active, not passive"; all that appears to come from
without is really evolved from within. In supernatural knowledge the
opposite is the case. The eye of the "understanding," which sees the
Divine, is the spark in the centre of the soul where lies the Divine
image. In this kind of cognition the subject must be absolutely
passive; its thoughts must be as still as if it were dead. Just as in
natural knowledge the object does not co-operate, so in supernatural
knowledge the subject does not co-operate. Yet this supernatural
knowledge does not come from without. The Spirit and Word of God are
_within_ us. God is Himself the eye and the light in the soul, as well
as the object which the eye sees by this light. Supernatural knowledge
flows from within outwards, and in this way resembles natural
knowledge. But since God is both the eye that sees and the object
which it sees, it is not we who know God, so much as God who knows
Himself in us. Our inner man is a mere instrument of God.

Thus Weigel, who begins with Paracelsus, leaves off somewhere near
Eckhart--and Eckhart in his boldest mood. But his chief concern is to
attack the Bibliolaters (_Buchstabentheologen_) in the Lutheran
Church, and to protest against the unethical dogma of imputed
righteousness. We need not follow him into either of these
controversies, which give a kind of accidental colouring to his
theology. Speculative Mysticism, which is always the foe of formalism
and dryness in religion, attacks them in whatever forms it finds them;
and so, when we try to penetrate the essence of Mysticism by
investigating its historical manifestations, we must always consider
what was the system which in each case it was trying to purify and
spiritualise. Weigel's Mysticism moves in the atmosphere of Lutheran
dogmatics. But it also marks a stage in the general development of
Christian Mysticism, by giving a positive value to scientific and
natural knowledge as part of the self-evolution of the human soul.
"Study nature," he says, "physics, alchemy, magic, etc.; for _it is
all in you, and you become what you have learnt_." It is true that his
religious attitude is rigidly quietistic; but this position is so
inconsistent with the activity which he enjoins on the "reason," that
he may claim the credit of having exhibited the contradiction between
the positive and negative methods in a clear light; and to prove a
contradiction is always the first step towards solving it.

A more notable effort in the same direction was that of Jacob Böhme,
who, though he had studied Weigel, brought to his task a philosophical
genius which was all his own.

Böhme was born in 1575 near Görlitz, where he afterwards settled as a
shoemaker and glover. He began to write in 1612, and in spite of
clerical opposition, which silenced him for five years, he produced a
number of treatises between that date and his death in 1624.

Böhme professed to write only what he had "seen" by Divine
illumination. His visions are not (with insignificant exceptions)
authenticated by any marvellous signs; he simply asserts that he has
been allowed to see into the heart of things, and that the very Being
of God has been laid open to his spiritual sight.[348] His was that
type of mind to which every thought becomes an image, and a logical
process is like an animated photograph. "I am myself my own book," he
says; and in writing, he tries to transcribe on paper the images which
float before his mind's eye. If he fails, it is because he cannot find
words to describe what he is seeing. Böhme was an unlearned man; but
when he is content to describe his visions in homely German, he is
lucid enough. Unfortunately, the scholars who soon gathered round him
supplied him with philosophical terms, which he forthwith either
personified--for instance the word "Idea" called forth the image of a
beautiful maiden--or used in a sense of his own. The study of
Paracelsus obscured his style still more, filling his treatises with a
bewildering mixture of theosophy and chemistry. The result is
certainly that much of his work is almost unreadable; the nuggets of
gold have to be dug out from a bed of rugged stone; and we cannot be
surprised that the unmystical eighteenth century declared that
"Behmen's works would disgrace Bedlam at full moon.[349]" But German
philosophers have spoken with reverence of "the father of Protestant
Mysticism," who "perhaps only wanted learning and the gift of clear
expression to become a German Plato"; and Sir Isaac Newton shut
himself up for three months to study Böhme, whose teaching on
attraction and the laws of motion seemed to him to have great

For us, he is most interesting as marking the transition from the
purely subjective type of Mysticism to Symbolism, or rather as the
author of a brilliant attempt to fuse the two into one system. In my
brief sketch of Böhme's doctrines I shall illustrate his teaching from
the later works of William Law, who is by far its best exponent. Law
was an enthusiastic admirer of Böhme, and being, unlike his master, a
man of learning and a practised writer, was able to bring order out
of the chaos in which Böhme left his speculations. In strength of
intellect Law was Böhme's equal, and as a writer of clear and forcible
English he has few superiors.

Böhme's doctrine of God and the world resembles that of other
speculative mystics, but he contributes a new element in the great
stress which he lays on _antithesis_ as a law of being. "In Yes and No
all things consist," he says. No philosopher since Heraclitus and
Empedocles had asserted so strongly that "Strife is the father of all
things." Even in the hidden life of the unmanifested Godhead he finds
the play of Attraction and Diffusion, the resultant of which is a
Desire for manifestation felt in the Godhead. As feeling this desire,
the Godhead becomes "Darkness"; the light which illumines the darkness
is the Son. The resultant is the Holy Spirit, in whom arise the
archetypes of creation. So he explains Body, Soul, and Spirit as
thesis, antithesis, and synthesis; and the same formula serves to
explain Good, Evil, and Free Will; Angels, Devils, and the World. His
view of Evil is not very consistent; but his final doctrine is that
the object of the cosmic process is to exhibit the victory of Good
over Evil, of Love over Hatred.[351] He at least has the merit of
showing that strife is so inwoven with our lives here that we cannot
possibly soar above the conflict between Good and Evil. It must be
observed that Böhme repudiated the doctrine that there is any
evolution of God in time. "I say not that Nature is God," he says:
"He Himself is all, and communicates His power to all His works." But
the creation of the archetypes was not a temporal act.

Like other Protestant mystics, he lays great stress on the indwelling
presence of Christ. And, consistently with this belief, he revolts
against the Calvinistic doctrine of imputed righteousness, very much
as did the Cambridge Platonists a little later. "That man is no
Christian," he says, "who doth merely comfort himself with the
suffering, death, and satisfaction of Christ, and doth impute it to
himself as a gift of favour, remaining himself still a wild beast and
unregenerate.... If this said sacrifice is to avail for me, it must be
wrought _in_ me. The Father must beget His Son in my desire of faith,
that my faith's hunger may apprehend Him in His word of promise. Then
I put Him on, in His entire process of justification, in my inward
ground; and straightway there begins in me the killing of the wrath of
the devil, death, and hell, from the inward power of Christ's death. I
am inwardly dead, and He is my life; I live in Him, and not in my
selfhood. I am an instrument of God, wherewith He doeth what He will."
To the same effect William Law says, "Christ given _for_ us is neither
more nor less than Christ given _into_ us. He is in no other sense our
full, perfect, and sufficient Atonement, than as His nature and spirit
are born and formed in us." Law also insists that the Atonement was
the effect, not of the wrath, but of the love of God. "Neither reason
nor scripture," he says, "will allow us to bring wrath into God
Himself, as a temper of His mind, who is only infinite, unalterable,
overflowing Love." "Wrath is atoned when sin is extinguished." This
revolt against the forensic theory of the Atonement is very
characteristic of Protestant Mysticism.[352]

The disparagement of external rites and ordinances, which we have
found in so many mystics, appears in William Law, though he was
himself precise in observing all the rules of the English Church.
"This pearl of eternity is the Church, a temple of God _within_ thee,
the consecrated place of Divine worship, where alone thou canst
worship God in spirit and in truth. In _spirit_, because thy spirit is
that alone in thee which can unite and cleave unto God, and receive
the working of the Divine Spirit upon thee. In _truth_, because this
adoration in spirit is that truth and reality of which all outward
forms and rites, though instituted by God, are only the figure for a
time; but this worship is eternal. Accustom thyself to the holy
service of this inward temple. In the midst of it is the fountain of
living water, of which thou mayst drink and live for ever. There the
mysteries of thy redemption are celebrated, or rather opened in life
and power. There the supper of the Lamb is kept; the bread that came
down from heaven, that giveth life to the world, is thy true
nourishment: all is done, and known in real experience, in a living
sensibility of the work of God on the soul. There the birth, the life,
the sufferings, the death, the resurrection and ascension of Christ,
are not merely remembered, but inwardly found and enjoyed as the real
states of thy soul, which has followed Christ in the regeneration.
When once thou art well grounded in this inward worship, thou wilt
have learnt to live unto God above time and place. For every day will
be Sunday to thee, and wherever thou goest thou wilt have a priest, a
church, and an altar along with thee.[353]"

In his teaching about faith and love, Law follows the best mystical
writers; but none before him, I think, attained to such strong and
growing eloquence in setting it forth. "There is but one salvation for
all mankind, and the way to it is one; and that is, the desire of the
soul turned to God. This desire brings the soul to God, and God into
the soul; it unites with God, it co-operates with God, and is one life
with God. O my God, just and true, how great is Thy love and mercy to
mankind, that heaven is thus everywhere open, and Christ thus the
common Saviour to all that turn the desire of their hearts to Thee!"
And of love he says: "No creature can have any union or communion with
the goodness of the Deity till its life is a spirit of love. This is
the one only bond of union betwixt God and His creature." "Love has no
by-ends, wills nothing but its own increase: everything is as oil to
its flame. The spirit of love does not want to be rewarded, honoured,
or esteemed; its only desire is to propagate itself, and become the
blessing and happiness of everything that wants it."

The doctrine of the Divine spark (_synteresis_) is held by Law, but in
a more definitely Christian form than by Eckhart. "If Christ was to
raise a new life like His own in every man, then every man must have
had originally in the inmost spirit of his life a seed of Christ, or
Christ as a seed of heaven, lying there in a state of insensibility,
out of which it could not arise but by the mediatorial power of
Christ.... For what could begin to deny self, if there were not
something in man different from self?... The Word of God is the hidden
treasure of every human soul, immured under flesh and blood, till as a
day-star it arises in our hearts, and changes the son of an earthly
Adam into a son of God." Is not this the Platonic doctrine of
_anamnesis_, Christianised in a most beautiful manner?

Very characteristic of the later Mysticism is the language which both
Böhme and Law use about the future state. "The soul, when it departs
from the body," Böhme writes, "needeth not to go far; for where the
body dies, there is heaven and hell. God is there, and the devil; yea,
each in his own kingdom. There also is Paradise; and the soul needeth
only to enter through the deep door in the centre." Law is very
emphatic in asserting that heaven and hell are states, not places, and
that they are "no foreign, separate, and imposed states, adjudged to
us by the will of God." "Damnation," he says, "is the natural,
essential state of our own disordered nature, which is impossible, in
the nature of the thing, to be anything else but our own hell, both
here and hereafter." "There is nothing that is supernatural," he says
very finely, "in the whole system of our redemption. Every part of it
has its ground in the workings and powers of nature, and all our
redemption is only nature set right, or made to be that which it
ought to be.[354] There is nothing that is supernatural but God
alone.... Right and wrong, good and evil, true and false, happiness
and misery, are as unchangeable in nature as time and space. Nothing,
therefore, can be done to any creature supernaturally, or in a way
that is without or contrary to the powers of nature; but every thing
or creature that is to be helped, that is, to have any good done to
it, or any evil taken out of it, can only have it done so far as the
powers of nature are able, and rightly directed to effect it.[355]"

It is difficult to abstain from quoting more passages like this, in
which Faith, which had been so long directed only to the unseen and
unknown, sheds her bright beams over this earth of ours, and claims
all nature for her own. The laws of nature are now recognised as the
laws of God, and for that very reason they cannot be broken or
arbitrarily suspended. Redemption is a law of life. There will come a
time[356], "the time of the lilies," as Böhme calls it, when all
nature will be delivered from bondage. "All the design of Christian
redemption," says Law, "is to remove everything that is unheavenly,
gross, dark, wrathful, and disordered from every part of this fallen
world." No text is oftener in his mouth than the words of St. Paul
which I read as the text of this Lecture. That "dim sympathy" of the
human spirit with the life of nature which Plotinus felt, but which
mediæval dualism had almost quenched, has now become an intense and
happy consciousness of community with all living things, as subjects
of one all-embracing and unchanging law, the law of perfect love.
Magic and portents, apparitions and visions, the raptures of "infused
contemplation" and their dark Nemesis of Satanic delusions, can no
more trouble the serenity of him who has learnt to see the same God in
nature whom he has found in the holy place of his own heart.

It was impossible to separate Law from the "blessed Behmen," whose
disciple he was proud to profess himself. But in putting them together
I have been obliged to depart from the chronological order, for the
Cambridge Platonists, as they are usually called, come between. This,
however, need cause no confusion, for the Platonists had no direct
influence upon Law. Law, Nonjuror as well as mystic, remained a High
Churchman by sympathy, and hated Rationalism; while the Platonists
sprang from an Evangelical school, were never tired of extolling
Reason, and regarded Böhme as a fanciful "enthusiast.[357]" And yet,
we find so very much in common between the Platonists and William Law,
that these party differences seem merely superficial. The same exalted
type of Mysticism appears in both.

The group of philosophical divines, who had their centre in some of
the Cambridge colleges towards the middle of the seventeenth century,
furnishes one of the most interesting and important chapters in the
history of our Church. Never since the time of the early Greek Fathers
had any orthodox communion produced thinkers so independent and yet so
thoroughly loyal to the Church. And seldom has the Christian temper
found a nobler expression than in the lives and writings of such men
as Whichcote and John Smith.[358]

These men made no secret of their homage to Plato. And let it be
noticed that they were students of Plato and Plotinus more than of
Dionysius and his successors. Their Platonism is not of the debased
Oriental type, and is entirely free from self-absorbed quietism. The
_via negativa_ has disappeared as completely in their writings as in
those of Böhme; the world is for them as for him the mirror of the
Deity; but, being philosophers and not physicists, they are most
interested in claiming for religion the whole field of _intellectual_
life. They are fully convinced that there can be no ultimate
contradiction between philosophy or science and Christian faith; and
this accounts not only for their praise of "reason," but for the happy
optimism which appears everywhere in their writings. The luxurious and
indolent Restoration clergy, whose lives were shamed by the simplicity
and spirituality of the Platonists, invented the word "Latitudinarian"
to throw at them, "a long nickname which they have taught their
tongues to pronounce as roundly as if it were shorter than it is by
four or five syllables"; but they could not deny that their enemies were
loyal sons of the Church of England.[359] What the Platonists meant
by making reason the seat of authority may be seen by a few
quotations from Whichcote and Smith, who for our purpose are, I think,
the best representatives of the school. Whichcote answers Tuckney, who
had remonstrated with him for "a vein of doctrine, in which reason
hath too much given to it in the mysteries of faith";--"Too much" and
"too often" on these points! "The Scripture is full of such truths,
and I discourse on them too much and too often! Sir, I oppose not
rational to spiritual, for spiritual is most rational." Elsewhere he
writes, "He that gives reason for what he has said, has done what is
fit to be done, and the most that can be done." "Reason is the Divine
Governor of man's life; it is the very voice of God." "When the
doctrine of the Gospel becomes the reason of our mind, it will be the
principle of our life." "It ill becomes us to make our intellectual
faculties Gibeonites.[360]" How far this teaching differs from the
frigid "common-sense" morality prevalent in the eighteenth century,
may be judged from the following, which stamps Whichcote as a genuine
mystic. "Though liberty of judgment be everyone's right, yet how few
there are that make use of this right! For the use of this right doth
depend upon self-improvement by meditation, consideration,
examination, prayer, and the like. These are things antecedent and
prerequisite." John Smith, in a fine passage too long to quote in
full, says: "Reason in man being _lumen de lumine_, a light flowing
from the Fountain and Father of lights ... was to enable man to work
out of himself all those notions of God which are the true groundwork
of love and obedience to God, and conformity to Him.... But since
man's fall from God, the inward virtue and vigour of reason is much
abated, the soul having suffered a [Greek: pterorryêsis], as Plato
speaks, a _defluvium pennarum_.... And therefore, besides the truth of
natural inscription, God hath provided the truth of Divine
revelation.... But besides this outward revelation, there is also an
inward impression of it ... which is in a more special manner
attributed to God.... God only can so shine upon our glassy
understandings, as to beget in them a picture of Himself, and turn the
soul like wax or clay to the seal of His own light and love. He that
made our souls in His own image and likeness can easily find a way
into them. The Word that God speaks, having found a way into the soul,
imprints itself there as with the point of a diamond.... It is God
alone that acquaints the soul with the truths of revelation, and also
strengthens and raises the soul to better apprehensions even of
natural truth, God being that in the intellectual world which the sun
is in the sensible, as some of the ancient Fathers love to speak, and
the ancient philosophers too, who meant God by their _Intellectus
Agens_[361] whose proper work they supposed to be not so much to
enlighten the object as the faculty."

The Platonists thus lay great stress on the inner light, and identify
it with the purified reason. The best exposition of their teaching on
this head is in Smith's beautiful sermon on "The True Way or Method of
attaining to Divine Knowledge." "Divinity," he says, "is a Divine life
rather than a Divine science, to be understood rather by a spiritual
sensation than by any verbal description. A good life is the
_prolepsis_ of Divine science--the fear of the Lord is the beginning
of wisdom. Divinity is a true efflux from the eternal light, which,
like the sunbeams, does not only enlighten, but also heat and enliven;
and therefore our Saviour hath in His beatitudes connext purity of
heart to the beatific vision." "Systems and models furnish but a poor
wan light," compared with that which shines in purified souls. "To
seek our divinity merely in books and writings is to seek the living
among the dead"; in these, "truth is often not so much enshrined as
entombed." "That which enables us to know and understand aright the
things of God, must be a living principle of holiness within us. The
sun of truth never shines into any unpurged souls.... Such as men
themselves are, such will God Himself seem to be.... Some men have too
bad hearts to have good heads.... He that will find truth must seek it
with a free judgment and a sanctified mind."

Smith was well read in mystical theology, and was aware how much his
ideal differed from that of Dionysian Mysticism. His criticism of the
_via negativa_ is so admirable that I must quote part of it. "Good men
... are content and ready to deny themselves for God. I mean not that
they should deny their own reason, as some would have it, for that
were to deny a beam of Divine light, and so to deny God, instead of
denying ourselves for Him.... By self-denial, I mean the soul's
quitting all its own interest in itself, and an entire resignation of
itself to Him as to all points of service and duty; and thus the soul
loses itself in God, and lives in the possession not so much of its
own being as of the Divinity, desiring only to be great in God, to
glory in His light, and spread itself in His fulness; to be filled
always by Him, and to empty itself again into Him; to receive all from
Him, and to expend all for Him; and so to live, not as its own, but as
God's." Wicked men "maintain a _meum_ and _tuum_ between God and
themselves," but the good man is able to make a full surrender of
himself, "triumphing in nothing more than in his own nothingness, and
in the allness of the Divinity. But, indeed, this his being nothing is
the only way to be all things; this his having nothing the truest way
of possessing all things.... The spirit of religion is always
ascending upwards; and, spreading itself through the whole essence of
the soul, loosens it from a self-confinement and narrowness, and so
renders it more capacious of Divine enjoyment.... The spirit of a good
man is always drinking in fountain-goodness, and fills itself more and
more, till it be filled with all the fulness of God." "It is not a
melancholy kind of sitting still, and slothful waiting, that speaks
men enlivened by the Spirit and power of God. It is not religion to
stifle and smother those active powers and principles which are within
us.... Good men do not walk up and down the world merely like ghosts
and shadows; but they are indeed living men, by a real participation
from Him who is indeed a quickening Spirit."

"Neither were it an happiness worth the having for a mind, like an
hermit sequestered from all things else, to spend an eternity in
self-converse and the enjoyment of such a diminutive superficial
nothing as itself is.... We read in the Gospel of such a question of
our Saviour's, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? We may
invert it, What do you return within to see? A soul confined within
the private and narrow cell of its own particular being? Such a soul
deprives itself of all that almighty and essential glory and goodness
which shines round about it, which spreads itself throughout the whole
universe; I say, it deprives itself of all this, for the enjoying of
such a poor, petty, and diminutive thing as itself is, which yet it
can never enjoy truly in such retiredness."

The English Platonists are equally sound on the subject of ecstasy.
Whichcote says: "He doth not know God at all as He is, nor is he in a
good state of religion, who doth not find in himself at times
ravishings with sweet and lovely considerations of the Divine
perfections." And Smith: "Who can tell the delights of those
mysterious converses with the Deity, when reason is turned into sense,
and faith becomes vision? The fruit of this knowledge is sweeter than
honey and the honeycomb.... By the Platonists' leave, this life and
knowledge (that of the 'contemplative man') peculiarly belongs to the
true and sober Christian. This life is nothing else but an
infant-Christ formed in his soul. But we must not mistake: this
knowledge is here but in its infancy." While we are here, "our own
imaginative powers, which are perpetually attending the best acts of
our souls, will be breathing a gross dew upon the pure glass of our

"Heaven is first a temper, then a place," says Whichcote, and Smith
says the same about hell. "Heaven is not a thing without us, nor is
happiness anything distinct from a true conjunction of the mind with
God." "Though we could suppose ourselves to be at truce with heaven,
and all Divine displeasure laid asleep; yet would our own sins, if
they continue unmortified, make an Ætna or Vesuvius within us.[362]"
This view of the indissoluble connexion between holiness and
blessedness, as between sin and damnation, leads Smith to reject
strenuously the doctrine of imputed, as opposed to imparted,
righteousness. "God does not bid us be warmed and filled," he says,
"and deny us those necessities which our starving and hungry souls
call for.... I doubt sometimes, some of our dogmata and notions about
justification may puff us up in far higher and goodlier conceits of
ourselves than God hath of us, and that we profanely make the
unspotted righteousness of Christ to serve only as a covering wherein
to wrap our foul deformities and filthy vices, and when we have done,
think ourselves in as good credit and repute with God as we are with
ourselves, and that we are become Heaven's darlings as much as we are
our own.[363]"

These extracts will show that the English Platonists breathe a larger
air than the later Romish mystics, and teach a religion more
definitely Christian than Erigena and Eckhart. I shall now show how
this happy result was connected with a more truly spiritual view of
the external world than we have met with in the earlier part of our
survey. That the laws of nature are the laws of God, that "man, as
man, is averse to what is evil and wicked," that "evil is unnatural,"
and a "contradiction of the law of our being," which is only found in
"wicked men and devils," is one of Whichcote's "gallant themes." And
Smith sets forth the true principles of Nature-Mysticism in a splendid
passage, with which I will conclude this Lecture:--

"God made the universe and all the creatures contained therein as so
many glasses wherein He might reflect His own glory. He hath copied
forth Himself in the creation; and in this outward world we may read
the lovely characters of the Divine goodness, power, and wisdom....
But how to find God here, and feelingly to converse with Him, and
being affected with the sense of the Divine glory shining out upon the
creation, how to pass out of the sensible world into the intellectual,
is not so effectually taught by that philosophy which professed it
most, as by true religion. That which knits and unites God and the
soul together can best teach it how to ascend and descend upon those
golden links that unite, as it were, the world to God. That Divine
Wisdom, that contrived and beautified this glorious structure, can
best explain her own art, and carry up the soul back again in these
reflected beams to Him who is the Fountain of them.... Good men may
easily find every creature pointing out to that Being whose image and
superscription it bears, and climb up from those darker resemblances
of the Divine wisdom and goodness, shining out in different degrees
upon several creatures, till they sweetly repose themselves in the
bosom of the Divinity; and while they are thus conversing with this
lower world ... they find God many times secretly flowing into their
souls, and leading them silently out of the court of the temple into
the Holy Place.... Thus religion, where it is in truth and power,
renews the very spirit of our minds, and doth in a manner spiritualise
this outward creation to us.... It is nothing but a thick mist of
pride and self-love that hinders men's eyes from beholding that sun
which enlightens them and all things else.... A good man is no more
solicitous whether this or that good thing be mine, or whether my
perfections exceed the measure of this or that particular creature;
for whatsoever good he beholds anywhere, he enjoys and delights in it
as much as if it were his own, and whatever he beholds in himself, he
looks not upon it as his property, but as a common good; for all these
beams come from one and the same Fountain and Ocean of light in whom
he loves them all with an universal love.... Thus may a man walk up
and down the world as in a garden of spices, and suck a Divine
sweetness out of every flower. There is a twofold meaning in every
creature, a literal and a mystical, and the one is but the ground of
the other; and as the Jews say of their law, so a good man says of
everything that his senses offer to him--it speaks to his lower part,
but it points out something above to his mind and spirit. It is the
drowsy and muddy spirit of superstition which is fain to set some idol
at its elbow, something that may jog it and put it in mind of God.
Whereas true religion never finds itself out of the infinite sphere of
the Divinity ... it beholds itself everywhere in the midst of that
glorious unbounded Being who is indivisibly everywhere. A good man
finds every place he treads upon holy ground; to him the world is
God's temple; he is ready to say with Jacob, 'How dreadful is this
place! this is none other than the house of God, this is the gate of


[Footnote 316: In R.L. Nettleship's _Remains_.]

[Footnote 317: In addition to passages quoted elsewhere, the following
sentence from Luthardt is a good statement of the symbolic theory:
"Nature is a world of symbolism, a rich hieroglyphic book: everything
visible conceals an invisible mystery, and the last mystery of all is
God." Goethe's "Alles vergängliche ist nur ein Gleichniss" would be
better without the "nur," from our point of view.]

[Footnote 318: Récéjac, _Essai sur les Fondements de la Connaissance

[Footnote 319: In the _Edinburgh Review_, October 1896. The article
referred to, on "The Catholic Mystics of the Middle Ages," is
beautifully written, and should be read by all who are interested in
the subject.]

[Footnote 320: This is Kant's use of the word. See Bosanquet, _History
of Æsthetic_, p. 273: "A symbol is for Kant a perception or
presentation which represents a conception neither conventionally as a
mere sign, nor directly, but in the abstract, as a scheme, but
indirectly though appropriately through a similarity between the rules
which govern our reflection in the symbol and in the thing (or idea)
symbolised." "In this sense beauty is a symbol of the moral order."
Goethe's definition is also valuable: "That is true symbolism where
the more particular represents the more general, not as a dream or
shade, but as a vivid, instantaneous revelation of the inscrutable."]

[Footnote 321: Or rather of power and dignity; for in some early
Byzantine works even Satan is represented with a nimbus.]

[Footnote 322: Emerson says rightly, "Mysticism (in a bad sense)
consists in the mistake of an accidental and individual symbol for an
universal one."]

[Footnote 323: The distinction which Ruskin draws between the _fancy_
and the _imagination_ may help us to discern the true and the false in
Symbolism. "Fancy has to do with the outsides of things, and is
content therewith. She can never _feel_, but is one of the most purely
and simply intellectual of the faculties. She cannot be made serious;
no edge-tool, but she will play with: whereas the imagination is in
all things the reverse. She cannot but be serious; she sees too far,
too darkly, too solemnly, too earnestly, ever to smile.... There is
reciprocal action between the intensity of moral feeling and the power
of imagination. Hence the powers of the imagination may always be
tested by accompanying tenderness of emotion.... Imagination is quiet,
fancy restless; fancy details, imagination suggests.... All egotism is
destructive of imagination, whose play and power depend altogether on
our being able to forget ourselves.... Imagination has no respect for
sayings or opinions: it is independent" (_Modern Painters_, vol. ii.
chap. iii.).]

[Footnote 324: Cf. Harnack, _History of Dogma_, vol. ii. p. 144: "What
we nowadays understand by 'symbols' is a thing which is not that which
it represents; at that time (in the second century) 'symbol' denoted a
thing which, in some kind of way, is that which it signifies; but, on
the other hand, according to the ideas of that period, the really
heavenly element lay either in or behind the visible form without
being identical with it. Accordingly, the distinction of a symbolic
and realistic conception of the Lord's Supper is altogether to be
rejected." And vol. iv. p. 289: "The 'symbol' was never a mere type or
sign, but always embodied a mystery." So Justin Martyr uses [Greek:
symbolikôs eipein] and [Greek: eipein en mystêriô] as interchangeable
terms; and Tertullian says that the name of Joshua was _nominis futuri

[Footnote 325: So some thinkers have felt that "the Word" is not the
best expression for the creative activity of God. The passage of
Goethe where Faust rejects "Word," "Thought," and "Power," and finally
translates, "In the beginning was the _Act_," is well known. And
Philo, in a very interesting passage, says that Nature is the language
in which God speaks; "but there is this difference, that while the
human voice is made to be _heard_, the voice of God is made to be
_seen_: what God says consists of acts, not of words" (_De Decem
Orac_. II).]

[Footnote 326: Aquinas says of the sacraments, "efficiunt quod
figurant." The Thomists held that the sacraments are "causæ" of
grace; the Scotists (Nominalists), that grace is their inseparable
concomitant. The maintenance of a real correspondence between sign and
significance seems to be essential to the idea of a sacrament, but
then the danger of degrading it into magic lies close at hand.]

[Footnote 327: In the case of irregular Baptism, the maxim holds:
"Fieri non debuit; factum valet." Cf. Bp. Churton, _The Missionary's
Foundation of Doctrine_, p. 129. The reason for this difference
between the two sacraments is quite clear.]

[Footnote 328: It is, of course, difficult to decide how far such
statements were meant to be taken literally. But there is no doubt
that both Baptism and the Eucharist were supposed to _confer_
immortality. Cf. Tert. _de Bapt._ 2 (621, Oehl.), "nonne mirandum est
lavacro dilui mortem?"; Gregory of Nyssa, _Or. cat. magn._ 35, [Greek:
mê dynasthai de phêmi dicha tês kata to loutron anagennêseôs en
anastasei genesthai ton anthrôpon]. Basil, too, calls Baptism [Greek:
dynamis eis tên anastasin]. Of the Eucharist, Ignatius uses the
phrase quoted, [Greek: pharmakon tês athanasias], and [Greek:
antidotos tou mê apothanein]; and Gregory of Nyssa uses the same
language as about Baptism. See, further, in Appendices B and C.]

[Footnote 329: E.g. [Greek: metallaxis] (Theodoret), [Greek:
metabolê] (Cyril), [Greek: metapoiêsis] (Gregory Naz.), [Greek:
metastoicheiôsis] (Theophylact). The last-named goes on to say that
"we are in the same way _transelementated_ into Christ." The Christian
Neoplatonists naturally regard the sacrament as symbolic. Origen is
inclined to hold that _every_ action should be sacramental, and that
material symbols, such as bread and wine, and participation in a
ceremonial, cannot be necessary vehicles of spiritual grace; this is
in accordance with the excessive idealism and intellectualism of his
system. Dionysius calls the elements [Greek: symbola, eikones,
antitypa, aisthêta tina anti noêtôn metalambanomena]; and Maximus,
his commentator, defines a symbol as [Greek: aisthêton ti anti
noêtou metalambanomenon].]

[Footnote 330: Harnack (_History of Dogma_, vol. vi. p. 102, English
edition) says: "In the centuries before the Reformation, a growing
value was attached not only to the sacraments, but to crosses,
amulets, relics, holy places, etc. As long as what the soul seeks is
not the rock of assurance, but means for inciting to piety, it will
create for itself a thousand holy things. It is therefore an extremely
superficial view that regards the most inward Mysticism and the
service of idols as contradictory. The opposite view, rather, is
correct." I have seldom found myself able to agree with this writer's
judgments upon Mysticism; and this one is no exception. The "most
inward Mysticism" does not occupy itself much with external
"incitements to piety," nor is this the motive with which a mystic
could ever (e.g.) receive the Eucharist. The use of amulets, etc.,
which Harnack finds to have been spreading before the Reformation, and
which was certainly very prevalent in the sixteenth and seventeenth
centuries, had very little to do with "the most inward Mysticism." My
view as to the place of magic in the history of Mysticism is given in
this Lecture; I protest against identifying it with the essence of
Mysticism. Symbolic Mysticism soon outgrew it; introspective Mysticism
never valued it. The use of visible things as stimulants to piety is
another matter; it has its place in the systems of the Catholic
mystics, but as a very early stage in the spiritual ascent. What I
have said as to the inconsistency of a high sacramental doctrine with
the favourite injunctions to "cast away all images," which we find in
the mediæval mystics, is, I think, indisputable.]

[Footnote 331: The most recent developments of German idealistic
philosophy, as set forth in the cosmology of Lotze, and still more of
Fechner, may perhaps be described as an attempt to preserve the truth
of Animism on a much higher plane, without repudiating the
universality of law.]

[Footnote 332: I refer especially to Huysmans' two "mystical" novels,
_En Route_ and _La Cathédrale_. The naked Fetishism of the latter book
almost passes belief. We have a Madonna who is good-natured at Lourdes
and cross-grained at La Salette; who likes "pretty speeches and little
coaxing ways" in "paying court" to her, and who at the end is
apostrophised as "our Lady of the Pillar," "our Lady of the Crypt." It
may perhaps be excusable to resort to such expedients as these in the
conversion of savages; but there is something singularly repulsive in
the picture (drawn apparently from life) of a profligate man of
letters seeking salvation in a Christianity which has lowered itself
far beneath educated paganism. At any rate, let not the name of
Mysticism be given to such methods.]

[Footnote 333: I refer especially to the horrors connected with the
belief in witchcraft, on which see Lecky, _Rationalism in Europe_,
vol. i. "Remy, a judge of Nancy, boasted that he had put to death
eight hundred witches in sixteen years." "In the bishopric of
Wartzburg, nine hundred were burnt in one year." As late as 1850, some
French peasants burnt alive a woman named Bedouret, whom they supposed
to be a witch.]

[Footnote 334: The degradation of Mysticism in the Roman Church since
the Reformation may be estimated by comparing the definitions of
Mysticism and Mystical Theology current in the Middle Ages with the
following from Ribet, who is recognised as a standard authority on the
subject: "La Theologie mystique, au point de vue subjectif et
experimental, nous semble pouvoir être définie; une attraction
surnaturelle et passive de l'âme vers Dieu, provenant d'une
illumination et d'un embrasement intérieurs, qui préviennent la
réflexion, surpassent l'effort humain, _et peuvent avoir sur le corps
un retentissement merveilleux et irresistible_." "Au point de vue
doctrinal et objectif, la mystique peut se définir: la science qui
traite _des phénomènes surnaturels_, soit intimes, _soit extérieurs_,
qui preparent, accompagnent, et suivent la contemplation divine." The
time is past, if it ever existed, when such superstitions could be
believed without grave injury to mental and moral health.]

[Footnote 335: This language about the teaching of the Roman Church
may be considered unseemly by those who have not studied the subject.
Those who have done so will think it hardly strong enough. In
self-defence, I will quote one sentence from Schram, whose work on
"Mysticism" is considered authoritative, and is studied in the great
Catholic university of Louvain: "Quæri potest utrum dæmon per turpem
concubitum possit violenter opprimere marem vel feminam cuius obsessio
permissa sit ob finem perfectionis et contemplationis acquirendæ." The
answer is in the affirmative, and the evidence is such as could hardly
be transcribed, even in Latin. Schram's book is mainly intended for
the direction of confessing priests, and the evidence shows, as might
have been expected, that the subjects of these "phenomena" are
generally poor nuns suffering from hysteria.]

[Footnote 336: At a time when many are hoping to find in the study of
the obscurer psychical phenomena a breach in the "middle wall of
partition" between the spiritual and material worlds, I may seem to
have brushed aside too contemptuously the floating mass of popular
beliefs which "spiritualists" think worthy of serious investigation. I
must therefore be allowed to say that in my opinion psychical research
has already established results of great value, especially in helping
to break down that view of the _imperviousness_ of the ego which is
fatal to Mysticism, and (I venture to think) to any consistent
philosophy. Monadism, we may hope, is doomed. But the more popular
kind of spiritualism is simply the old hankering after supernatural
manifestations, which are always dear to semi-regenerate minds.]

[Footnote 337: It is, I think, significant that the word "imagination"
was slow in making its way into psychology. [Greek: Phantasia] is
defined by Aristotle (_de Anima_, iii. 3) as [Greek: kinêsis hypo tês
aisthêseôs tês kat energeian gignomenê], but it is not till
Philostratus that the creative imagination is opposed to [Greek:
mimêsis]. Cf. _Vit. Apoll._ vi. 19, [Greek: mimêsis men
dêmiourgêsei ho eiden, phantasia de kai ho mê eiden].]

[Footnote 338: Reuchlin, _De arte cabbalistica_: "Est enim Cabbala
divinæ revelationis ad salutiferam Dei et formarum separatarum
contemplationem traditæ symbolica receptio, quam qui coelesti
sortiumtur afflatu recto nomine Cabbalici dicuntur, eorum vero
discipulos cognomento Cabbalæos appellabimus, et qui alioquin eos
imitari conantur, Cabbalistæ nominandi sunt."]

[Footnote 339: The mystical Rabbis ascribe the Cabbala to the angel
Razael, the reputed teacher of Adam in Paradise, and say that this
angel gave Adam the Cabbala as his lesson-book. There is a clear and
succinct account of the main Cabbalistic docrines in Hunt, _Pantheism
and Christianity_, pp. 84-88.]

[Footnote 340: But the notion that the deepest mysteries should not be
entrusted to writing is found in Clement and Origen; cf. Origen,
_Against Celsus_, vi. 26: [Greek: ouk akindynon tên tôn toioutôn
saphêneian pisteusai graphê]. And Clement says: [Greek: ta aporrêta,
kathaper ho theos, logô pisteuetai ou grammati]. The curious legend of
an oral tradition also appears in Clement (_Hypolyp. Fragm._ in
Eusebius, _H.E._ ii. I. 4): [Greek: Iakôbô tô dikaiô kai Iôanê kai
Petrô meta tên anastasin paredôke tên gnôsin ho kyrios, outoi tois
loipois apostolois paredôkan, oi de loipoi apostoloi tois
hebdomêkonta, ôn eis ên kai Barnabas.] Origen, too, speaks of "things
spoken in private to the disciples."]

[Footnote 341: The following extract from Pico's _Apology_ may be
interesting, as illustrating the close connexion between magic and
science at this period: "One of the chief charges against me is that I
am a magician. Have I not myself distinguished two kinds of magic?
One, which the Greeks call [Greek: goêteia], depends entirely on alliance
with evil spirits, and deserves to be regarded with horror, and to be
punished; the other is magic in the proper sense of the word. The
former subjects man to the evil spirits, the latter makes them serve
him. The former is neither an art nor a science; the latter embraces
the deepest mysteries, and the knowledge of the whole of Nature with
her powers. While it connects and combines the forces scattered by God
through the whole world, it does not so much work miracles as come to
the help of working nature. Its researches into the sympathies of
things enable it to bring to light hidden marvels from the secret
treasure-houses of the world, just as if it created them itself. As
the countryman trains the vine upon the elm, so the magician marries
the earthly objects to heavenly bodies. His art is beneficial and
Godlike, for it brings men to wonder at the works of God, than which
nothing conduces more to true religion."]

[Footnote 342: This was a very old theory. Cf. Lecky, _Rationalism in
Europe_, vol. i. p. 264. "The _Clavis_ of St. Melito, who was bishop
of Sardis, it is said, in the beginning of the second century,
consists of a catalogue of many hundreds of birds, beasts, plants, and
minerals that were symbolical of Christian virtues, doctrines, and

[Footnote 343: The analogy between allegorism in religion and the
hieroglyphic writing is drawn out by Clement, _Strom._ v. 4 and 7.]

[Footnote 344: The distinction, however, would be unintelligible to
the savage mind. To primitive man a _name_ is a symbol in the
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."



"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
mystics; but it has been said truly that "it is easier to know man in
general than a man in particular.[374]" The sage who "sits in the
centre" of his being, and there "enjoys bright day,[375]" does not
really know human beings as persons.

It will be interesting to compare the steps in the ladder of
perfection, as described by Wordsworth, with the schemes of
Neoplatonism and introspective Mysticism. The three stages of the
mystical ascent have been already explained. We find that Wordsworth,
too, had his purgative, disciplinary stage. He began by deliberately
crushing, not only the ardent passions to which he tells us that he
was naturally prone, but all ambition and love of money, determining
to confine himself to "such objects as excite no morbid passions, no
disquietude, no vengeance, and no hatred," and found his reward in a
settled state of calm serenity, in which all the thoughts flow like a
clear fountain, and have forgotten how to hate and how to

Wordsworth is careful to inculcate several safeguards for those who
would proceed to the contemplative life. First, there must be
strenuous aspiration to reach that infinitude which is our being's
heart and home; we must press forward, urged by "hope that can never
die, effort, and expectation, and desire, and something evermore about
to be.[377]" The mind which is set upon the unchanging will not
"praise a cloud,[378]" but will "crave objects that endure." In the
spirit of true Platonism, as contrasted with its later aberrations,
Wordsworth will have no blurred outlines. He tries always to see in
Nature distinction without separation; his principle is the exact
antithesis of Hume's atheistic dictum, that "things are conjoined, but
not connected.[379]" The importance of this caution has been fully
demonstrated in the course of our inquiry. Then, too, he knows that to
imperfect man reason is a crown "still to be courted, never to be
won." Delusions may affect "even the very faculty of sight," whether a
man "look forth," or "dive into himself.[380]" Again, he bids us seek
for real, and not fanciful analogies; no "loose types of things
through all degrees"; no mythology; and no arbitrary symbolism. The
symbolic value of natural objects is not that they remind us of
something that they are not, but that they help us to understand
something that they in part are. They are not intended to transport us
away from this earth into the clouds. "This earth is the world of all
of us," he says boldly, "in which we find our happiness or not at
all.[381]" Lastly, and this is perhaps the most important of all, he
recognises that the still small voice of God breathes not out of
nature alone, nor out of the soul alone, but from the contact of the
soul with nature. It is the marriage of the intellect of man to "this
goodly universe, in love and holy passion," which produces these
raptures. "Intellect" includes Imagination, which is but another name
for Reason in her most exalted mood;[382] these must assist the eye of

Such is the discipline, and such are the counsels, by which the
priest of Nature must prepare himself to approach her mysteries. And
what are the truths which contemplation revealed to him?

The first step on the way that leads to God was the sense of the
_boundless_, growing out of musings on the finite; and with it the
conviction that the Infinite and Eternal alone can be our being's
heart and home--"we feel that we are greater than we know.[383]" Then
came to him--

                   "The sense sublime
  Of something far more deeply interfused,
  Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
  And the round ocean and the living air,
  And the blue sky, and in the mind of man;
  A motion and a spirit, that impels
  All thinking things, all objects of all thoughts,
  And rolls through all things.[384]"

The worldliness and artificiality which set us out of tune with all
this is worse than paganism.[385] Then this "higher Pantheism"
developed into the sense of an all-pervading Personality, "a soul that
is the eternity of thought." And with this heightened consciousness of
the nature of God came also a deeper knowledge of his own personality,
a knowledge which he describes in true mystical language as a "sinking
into self from thought to thought." This may continue till man can at
last "breathe in worlds to which the heaven of heavens is but a
veil," and perceive "the forms whose kingdom is where time and space
are not." These last lines describe a state analogous to the [Greek:
opsis] of the Neoplatonists, and the _excessus mentis_ of the Catholic
mystics. At this advanced stage the priest of Nature may surrender
himself to ecstasy without mistrust. Of such minds he says--

                  "The highest bliss
  That flesh can know is theirs--the consciousness
  Of whom they are, habitually infused
  Through every image and through every thought,
  And all affections by communion raised
  From earth to heaven, from human to divine;...
  Thence cheerfulness for acts of daily life,
  Emotions which best foresight need not fear,
  Most worthy then of trust when most intense.[386]"

There are many other places where he describes this "bliss ineffable,"
when "all his thoughts were steeped in feeling," as he listened to the
song which every form of creature sings "as it looks towards the
uncreated with a countenance of adoration and an eye of love,[387]"
that blessed mood--

  "In which the affections gently lead us on,--
   Until, the breath of this corporeal frame,
   And even the motion of our human blood
   Almost suspended, we are laid asleep
   In body, and become a living soul:
   While with an eye made quiet by the power
   Of harmony, and the deep power of joy,
   We see into the life of things.[388]"

Is it not plain that the poet of Nature amid the Cumberland hills, the
Spanish ascetic in his cell, and the Platonic philosopher in his
library or lecture-room, have been climbing the same mountain from
different sides? The paths are different, but the prospect from the
summit is the same. It is idle to speak of collusion or insanity in
the face of so great a cloud of witnesses divided by every
circumstance of date, nationality, creed, education, and environment.
The Carmelite friar had no interest in confirming the testimony of the
Alexandrian professor; and no one has yet had the temerity to question
the sanity of Wordsworth, or of Tennyson, whose description of the
Vision in his "Ancient Sage" is now known to be a record of personal
experience. These explorers of the high places of the spiritual life
have only one thing in common--they have observed the conditions laid
down once for all for the mystic in the 24th Psalm, "Who shall ascend
into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in His holy place? He
that hath clean hands and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his
soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive the blessing
from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation." The
"land which is very far off" is always visible to those who have
climbed the holy mountain. It may be scaled by the path of prayer and
mortification, or by the path of devout study of God's handiwork in
Nature (and under this head I would wish to include not only the way
traced out by Wordsworth, but that hitherto less trodden road which
should lead the physicist to God); and, lastly, by the path of
consecrated life in the great world, which, as it is the most exposed
to temptations, is perhaps on that account the most blessed of the

It has been said of Wordsworth, as it has been said of other mystics,
that he averts his eyes "from half of human fate." Religious writers
have explained that the neglected half is that which lies beneath the
shadow of the Cross. The existence of positive evil in the world, as a
great fact, and the consequent need of redemption, is, in the opinion
of many, too little recognised by Wordsworth, and by Mysticism in
general. This objection has been urged both from the scientific and
from the religious side. It is held by many students of Nature that
her laws affirm a Pessimism and not an Optimism. "Red in tooth and
claw with ravine," she shrieks against the creed that her Maker is a
God of love. The only morality which she inculcates is that of a tiger
in the jungle, or at best that of a wolf-pack. "It is not strange
(says Lotze) that no nature-religions have raised their adherents to
any high pitch of morality or culture.[390]" The answer to this is
that Nature includes man as well as the brutes, and the merciful and
moral man as well as the savage. Physical science, at any rate, can
exclude nothing from the domain of Nature. And the Christian may say
with all reverence that Nature includes, or rather is included by,
Christ, the Word of God, by whom it was made. And the Word was made
flesh to teach us that vicarious suffering, which we see to be the law
of Nature, is a law of God, a thing not foreign to His own life, and
therefore for all alike a condition of perfection, not a _reductio ad
absurdum_ of existence. The _reductio ad absurdum_ is not of Nature,
but of selfish individualism, which suffers shipwreck alike in
objective and in subjective religion. It is precisely because the
shadow of the Cross lies across the world, that we can watch Nature at
work with "admiration, hope, and love," instead of with horror and

The religious objection amounts to little more than that Mysticism has
not succeeded in solving the problem of evil, which no philosophy has
ever attacked with even apparent success. It is, however, with some
reason that this difficulty has been pressed against the mystics; for
they are bound by their principles to attempt some solution, and their
tendency has been to attenuate the positive character of evil to a
somewhat dangerous degree. But if we sift the charges often brought
by religious writers against Mysticism, we shall generally find that
there lies at the bottom of their disapproval a residuum of mediæval
dualism, which wishes to see in Christ the conquering invader of a
hostile kingdom. In practice, at any rate, the great mystics have not
taken lightly the struggle with the law of sin in our members, or
tried to "heal slightly" the wounds of the soul.[391]

It is quite true that the later mystics have been cheerful and
optimistic. But those who have found a kingdom in their own minds, and
who have enough strength of character "to live by reason and not by
opinion," as Whichcote says (in a maxim which was anticipated by that
arch-enemy of Mysticism--Epicurus), are likely to be happier than
other men. And, moreover, Wordsworth teaches us that almost, if not
quite, every evil may be so transmuted by the "faculty which abides
within the soul," that those "interpositions which would hide and
darken" may "become contingencies of pomp, and serve to exalt her
native brightness"; even as the moon, "rising behind a thick and lofty
grove, turns the dusky veil into a substance glorious as her own." So
the happy warrior is made "more compassionate" by the scenes of horror
which he is compelled to witness. Whether this healing and purifying
effect of sorrow points the way to a solution of the problem of evil
or not, it is a high and noble faith, the one and only consolation
which we feel not to be a mockery when we are in great trouble.

These charges, then, do not seem to form a grave indictment against
the type of Mysticism of which Wordsworth is the best representative.
But he _does_ fall short of the ideal held up by St. John for the
Christian mystic, in that his love and sympathy for inanimate Nature
were (at any rate in his poetry) deeper than for humanity. And if
there is any accusation which may justly be brought against the higher
order of mystics (as opposed to representatives of aberrant types), I
think it is this: that they have sought and found God in their own
souls and in Nature, but not so often in the souls of other men and
women: theirs has been a lonely religion. The grand old maxim, "Vides
fratrem, vides Dominum tuum," has been remembered by them only in acts
of charity. But in reality the love of human beings must be the
shortest road to the vision of God. Love, as St. John teaches us, is
the great hierophant of the Christian mysteries. It gives wings to
contemplation and lightens the darkness which hides the face of God.
When our emotions are deeply stirred, even Nature speaks to us with
voices unheard before; while the man who is without human affection is
either quite unmoved by her influences, or misreads all her lessons.

The spiritualising power of human love is the redeeming principle in
many sordid lives. Teutonic civilisation, which derives half of its
restless energy from ideals which are essentially anti-Christian, and
tastes which are radically barbarous, is prevented from sinking into
moral materialism by its high standard of domestic life. The sweet
influences of the home deprive even mammon-worship of half its
grossness and of some fraction of its evil. As a schoolmaster to bring
men and women to Christ, natural affection is without a rival. It is
in the truest sense a symbol of our union with Him from whom every
family in heaven and earth is named. It is needless to labour a thesis
on which nearly all are agreed; but it may be worth pointing out that,
though St. Paul felt the unique value of Christian marriage as a
symbol of the mystical union of Christ and the Church, this truth was
for the most part lost sight of by the mediæval mystics, who as monks
and priests were, of course, cut off from domestic life. The romances
of true love which the Old Testament contains were treated as
prophecies wrapped up in riddling language, or as models for ecstatic
contemplation. Wordsworth, though his own home was a happy one, does
not supply this link in the mystical chain. The most noteworthy
attempt to do so is to be found in the poetry of Robert Browning,
whose Mysticism is in this way complementary to that of
Wordsworth.[392] He resembles Wordsworth in always trying "to see the
infinite in things," but considers that "little else (than the
development of a soul) is worth study." This is not exactly a return
to subjective Mysticism, for Browning is as well aware as Goethe that
if "a talent grows best in solitude," a character is perfected only
"in the stream of the world." With him the friction of active life,
and especially the experience of human love, are necessary to realise
the Divine in man. Quite in the spirit of St. John he asks, "How can
that course be safe, which from the first produces carelessness to
human love?" "Do not cut yourself from human weal ... there are
strange punishments for such" as do so.[393] Solitude is the death of
all but the strongest virtue, and in Browning's view it also deprives
us of the strongest inner witness to the existence of a loving Father
in heaven. For he who "finds love full in his nature" cannot doubt
that in this, as in all else, the Creator must far surpass the
creature.[394] Since, then, in knowing love we learn to know God, and
since the object of life is to know God (this, the mystic's minor
premiss, is taken for granted by Browning), it follows that love is
the meaning of life; and he who finds it not "loses what he lived for,
and eternally must lose it.[395]" "The mightiness of love is curled"
inextricably round all power and beauty in the world. The worst fate
that can befall us is to lead "a ghastly smooth life, dead at
heart.[396]" Especially interesting is the passage where he chooses or
chances upon Eckhart's image of the "spark" in the centre of the soul,
and gives it a new turn in accordance with his own Mysticism--

  "It would not be because my eye grew dim
   Thou could'st not find the love there, thanks to Him
   Who never is dishonoured in the spark
   He gave us from His fire of fires, and bade
   Remember whence it sprang, nor be afraid
   While that burns on, though all the rest grow dark.[397]"

Our language has no separate words to distinguish Christian love
([Greek: agapê]--_caritas_) from sexual love ([Greek: erôs]--_amor_);
"charity" has not established itself in its wider meaning. Perhaps this
is not to be regretted--at any rate Browning's poems could hardly be
translated into any language in which this distinction exists. But let
us not forget that the _ascetic_ element is as strong in Browning as in
Wordsworth. Love, he seems to indicate, is no exception to the rule that
our joys may be "three parts pain," for "where pain ends gain ends

              "Not yet on thee
  Shall burst the future, as successive zones
  Of several wonder open on some spirit
  Flying secure and glad from heaven to heaven;
  But thou shalt painfully attain to joy,
  While hope and fear and love shall keep thee man.[399]"

He even carries this law into the future life, and will have none of a
"joy which is crystallised for ever." Felt imperfection is a proof of
a higher birthright:[400] if we have arrived at the completion of our
nature as men, then "begins anew a tendency to God." This faith in
unending progress as the law of life is very characteristic of our own
age.[401] It assumes a questionable shape sometimes; but Browning's
trust in real success through apparent disappointments--a trust even
_based_ on the consciousness of present failure--is certainly one of
the noblest parts of his religious philosophy.

I have decided to end my survey of Christian Mysticism with these two
English poets. It would hardly be appropriate, in this place, to
discuss Carlyle's doctrine of symbols, as the "clothing" of religious
and other kinds of truth. His philosophy is wanting in some of the
essential features of Mysticism, and can hardly be called Christian
without stretching the word too far. And Emerson, when he deals with
religion, is a very unsafe guide. The great American mystic, whose
beautiful character was as noble a gift to humanity as his writings,
is more liable than any of those whom we have described to the
reproach of having turned his back on the dark side of life. Partly
from a fastidiousness which could not bear even to hear of bodily
ailments, partly from the natural optimism of the dweller in a new
country, and partly because he made a principle of maintaining an
unruffled cheerfulness and serenity, he shut his eyes to pain, death,
and sin, even more resolutely than did Goethe. The optimism which is
built on this foundation has no message of comfort for the stricken
heart. To say that "evil is only good in the making," is to repeat an
ancient and discredited attempt to solve the great enigma. And to
assert that perfect justice is meted out to individuals in this world,
is surely mere dreaming. Moreover, we can hardly acquit him of playing
with pantheistic Mysticism of the Oriental type, without seeing, or
without caring, whither such speculations logically lead. "Within
man," he tells us, "is the soul of the whole, the wise silence, the
universal beauty, to which every part and particle is _equally_
related--the eternal One." This is genuine Pantheism, and should carry
with it the doctrine that all actions are equally good, bad, or
indifferent. Emerson says that his wife kept him from antinomianism;
but this is giving up the defence of his philosophy. He also differs
from Christianity, and agrees with many Hegelians, in teaching that
God, "the Over-Soul," only attains to self-consciousness in man; and
this, combined with his denial of _degrees_ in Divine immanence, leads
him to a self-deification of an arrogant and shocking kind, such as we
find in the Persian Sufis, and in some heretical mystics of the Middle
Ages. "I, the imperfect, adore my own Perfect. I am receptive of the
great soul. I become a transparent eyeball. I am nothing. I see all.
The currents of the universal Being circulate through me. I am part of
God"; and much more to the same effect. This is not the language of
those who have travelled up the mystical ladder, instead of only
writing about it. It is far more objectionable than the bold phrases
about deification which I quoted in my fifth Lecture from the
fourteenth century mystics; because with them the passage into the
Divine glory is the final reward, only to be attained "by all manner
of exercises"; while for Emerson it seems to be a state already
existing, which we can realise by a mere act of intellectual
apprehension. And the phrase, "Man is a part of God,"--as if the
Divine Spirit were _divided_ among the organs which express its
various activities,--has been condemned by all the great speculative
mystics, from Plotinus downwards. Emerson is perhaps at his best when
he applies his idealism to love and friendship. The spiritualising and
illuminating influence of pure comradeship has never been better or
more religiously set forth. And though it is necessary to be on our
guard against the very dangerous tendency of some of his teaching, we
shall find much to learn from the brave and serene philosopher whose
first maxim was, "Come out into the azure; love the day," and who
during his whole life fixed his thoughts steadily on whatsoever things
are pure, lovely, noble, and of good report.

The constructive task which lies before the next century is, if I may
say so without presumption, to spiritualise science, as morality and
art have already been spiritualised. The vision of God should appear
to us as a triple star of truth, beauty, and goodness.[402] These are
the three objects of all human aspiration; and our hearts will never
be at peace till all three alike rest in God. Beauty is the chief
mediator between the good and the true;[403] and this is why the great
poets have been also prophets. But Science at present lags behind; she
has not found her God; and to this is largely due the "unrest of the
age." Much has already been done in the right direction by divines,
philosophers, and physicists, and more still, perhaps, by the great
poets, who have striven earnestly to see the spiritual background
which lies behind the abstractions of materialistic science. But much
yet remains to be done. We may agree with Hinton that "Positivism
bears a new Platonism in its bosom"; but the child has not yet come to
the birth.[404]

Meanwhile, the special work assigned to the Church of England would
seem to be the development of a _Johannine_ Christianity, which shall
be both Catholic and Evangelical without being either Roman or
Protestant. It has been abundantly proved that neither Romanism nor
Protestantism, regarded as alternatives, possesses enough of the truth
to satisfy the religious needs of the present day. But is it not
probable that, as the theology of the Fourth Gospel acted as a
reconciling principle between the opposing sections in the early
Church, so it may be found to contain the teaching which is most
needed by both parties in our own communion? In St. John and St. Paul
we find all the principles of a sound and sober Christian Mysticism;
and it is to these "fresh springs" of the spiritual life that we must
turn, if the Church is to renew her youth.

I attempted in my second Lecture to analyse the main elements of
Christian Mysticism as found in St. Paul and St. John. But since in
the later Lectures I have been obliged to draw from less pure sources,
and since, moreover, I am most anxious not to leave the impression
that I have been advocating a vague spirituality tempered by
rationalism, I will try in a few words to define my position
apologetically, though I am well aware that it is a hazardous and
difficult task.

The principle, "Cuique in sua arte credendum est," applies to those
who have been eminent for personal holiness as much as to the leaders
in any other branch of excellence. Even in dealing with arts which
are akin to each other, we do not invite poets to judge of music, or
sculptors of architecture. We need not then be disturbed if we
occasionally find men illustrious in other fields, who are as
insensible to religion as to poetry. Our reverence for the character
and genius of Charles Darwin need not induce us to lay aside either
our Shakespeare or our New Testament.[405] The men to whom we
naturally turn as our best authorities in spiritual matters, are those
who seem to have been endowed with an "anima naturaliter Christiana,"
and who have devoted their whole lives to the service of God and the
imitation of Christ.

Now it will be found that these men of acknowledged and pre-eminent
saintliness agree very closely in what they tell us about God. They
tell us that they have arrived gradually at an unshakable conviction,
not based on inference but on immediate experience, that God is a
Spirit with whom the human spirit can hold intercourse; that in Him
meet all that they can imagine of goodness, truth, and beauty; that
they can see His footprints everywhere in nature, and feel His
presence within them as the very life of their life, so that in
proportion as they come to themselves they come to Him. They tell us
that what separates us from Him and from happiness is, first,
self-seeking in all its forms; and, secondly, sensuality in all its
forms; that these are the ways of darkness and death, which hide from
us the face of God; while the path of the just is like a shining
light, which shineth more and more unto the perfect day. As they have
toiled up the narrow way, the Spirit has spoken to them of Christ, and
has enlightened the eyes of their understandings, till they have at
least _begun_ to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge, and
to be filled with all the fulness of God.

So far, the position is unassailable. But the scope of the argument
has, of course, its fixed limits. The inner light can only testify to
spiritual truths. It always speaks in the present tense; it cannot
guarantee any historical event, past or future. It cannot guarantee
either the Gospel history or a future judgment. It can tell us that
Christ is risen, and that He is alive for evermore, but not that He
rose again the third day. It can tell us that the gate of everlasting
life is open, but not that the dead shall be raised incorruptible. We
have other faculties for investigating the evidence for past events;
the inner light cannot certify them immediately, though it can give a
powerful support to the external evidence. For though we are in no
position to dogmatise about the relations of the temporal to the
eternal, one fact does seem to stand out,--that the two are, _for us_,
bound together. If, when we read the Gospels, "the Spirit itself
beareth witness with our spirit" that here are the words of eternal
life, and the character which alone in history is absolutely flawless,
then it is natural for us to believe that there has been, at that
point of time, an Incarnation of the Word of God Himself. That the
revelation of Christ is an absolute revelation, is a dogmatic
statement which, strictly speaking, only the Absolute could make. What
_we_ mean by it is that after two thousand years we are unable to
conceive of its being ever superseded in any particular. And if anyone
finds this inadequate, he may be invited to explain what higher degree
of certainty is within our reach. With regard to the future life, the
same consideration may help us to understand why the Church has clung
to the belief in a literal second coming of Christ to pronounce the
dooms of all mankind. But our Lord Himself has taught us that in "that
day and that hour" lies hidden a more inscrutable mystery than even He
Himself, as man, could reveal.

There is one other point on which I wish to make my position clear.
The fact that human love or sympathy is the guide who conducts us to
the heart of life, revealing to us God and Nature and ourselves, is
proof that part of our life is bound up with the life of the world,
and that if we live in these our true relations we shall not entirely
die so long as human beings remain alive upon this earth. The progress
of the race, the diminution of sin and misery, the advancing kingdom
of Christ on earth,--these are matters in which we have a _personal_
interest. The strong desire that we feel--and the best of us feel it
most strongly--that the human race may be better, wiser, and happier
in the future than they are now or have been in the past, is neither
due to a false association of ideas, nor to pure unselfishness. There
is a sense in which death would not be the end of everything for us,
even though in this life only we had hope in Christ.

But when this comforting and inspiring thought is made to form the
basis of a new Chiliasm--a belief in a millennium of perfected
humanity on this earth, and when this belief is substituted for the
Christian belief in an eternal life beyond our bourne of time and
place, it is necessary to protest that this belief entirely fails to
satisfy the legitimate hopes of the human race, that it is bad
philosophy, and that it is flatly contrary to what science tells us of
the destiny of the world and of mankind. The human spirit beats
against the bars of space and time themselves, and could never be
satisfied with any earthly utopia. Our true home must be in some
higher sphere of existence, above the contradictions which make it
impossible for us to believe that time and space are ultimate
realities, and out of reach of the inevitable catastrophe which the
next glacial age must bring upon the human race.[406] This world of
space and time is to resemble heaven as far as it can; but a fixed
limit is set to the amount of the Divine plan which can be realised
under these conditions. Our hearts tell us of a higher form of
existence, in which the doom of death is not merely deferred but
abolished. This eternal world we here see through a glass darkly: at
best we can apprehend but the outskirts of God's ways, and hear a
small whisper of His voice; but our conviction is that, though our
earthly house be dissolved (as dissolved it must be), we have a home
not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. In this hope we may
include all creation; and trust that in some way neither more nor less
incomprehensible than the deliverance which we expect for ourselves,
all God's creatures, according to their several capacities, may be set
free from the bondage of corruption and participate in the final
triumph over death and sin. Most firmly do I believe that this faith
in immortality, though formless and inpalpable as the air we breathe,
and incapable of definite presentation except under inadequate and
self-contradictory symbols, is nevertheless enthroned in the centre of
our being, and that those who have steadily set their affections on
things above, and lived the risen life even on earth, receive in
themselves an assurance which robs death of its sting, and is an
earnest of a final victory over the grave.

It is not claimed that Mysticism, even in its widest sense, is, or can
ever be, the whole of Christianity. Every religion must have an
institutional as well as a mystical element. Just as, if the feeling
of immediate communion with God has faded, we shall have a dead Church
worshipping "a dead Christ," as Fox the Quaker said of the Anglican
Church in his day; so, if the seer and prophet expel the priest, there
will be no discipline and no cohesion. Still, at the present time, the
greatest need seems to be that we should return to the fundamentals of
spiritual religion. We cannot shut our eyes to the fact that both the
old seats of authority, the infallible Church and the infallible
book, are fiercely assailed, and that our faith needs reinforcements.
These can only come from the depths of the religious consciousness
itself; and if summoned from thence, they will not be found wanting.
The "impregnable rock" is neither an institution nor a book, but a
life or experience. Faith, which is an affirmation of the basal
personality, is its own evidence and justification. Under normal
conditions, it will always be strongest in the healthiest minds. There
is and can be no appeal from it. If, then, our hearts, duly prepared
for the reception of the Divine Guest, at length say to us, "This I
know, that whereas I was blind, now I see," we may, in St. John's
words, "have confidence towards God."

The objection may be raised--"But these beliefs change, and merely
reflect the degree of enlightenment or its opposite, which every man
has reached." The conscience of the savage tells him emphatically that
there are some things which he _must not do_; and blind obedience to
this "categorical imperative" has produced not only all the complex
absurdities of "taboo," but crimes like human sacrifice, and faith in
a great many things that are not. "Perhaps we are leaving behind the
theological stage, as we have already left behind those superstitions
of savagery." Now the study of primitive religions does seem to me to
prove the danger of resting religion and morality on unreasoning
obedience to a supposed revelation; but that is not my position. The
two forces which kill mischievous superstitions are the knowledge of
nature, and the moral sense; and we are quite ready to give both free
play, confident that both come from the living Word of God. The fact
that a revelation is progressive is no argument that it is not Divine:
it is, in fact, only when the free current of the religious life is
dammed up that it turns into a swamp, and poisons human society. Of
course we must be ready to admit with all humility, that _our_ notions
of God are probably unworthy and distorted enough; but that is no
reason why we should not follow the light which we have, or mistrust
it on the ground that it is "too _good_ to be true."

Nor would it be fair to say that this argument makes religion depend
merely on _feeling_. A theology based on mere feeling is (as Hegel
said) as much contrary to revealed religion as to rational knowledge.
The fact that God is present to our feeling is no proof that He
exists; our feelings include imaginations which have no reality
corresponding to them. No, it is not feeling, but the _heart_ or
_reason_ (whichever term we prefer), which speaks with authority. By
the heart or reason I mean the whole personality acting in concord, an
abiding mood of thinking, willing, and feeling. The life of the spirit
perhaps begins with mere feeling, and perhaps will be consummated in
mere feeling, when "that which is in part shall be done away"; but
during its struggles to enter into its full inheritance, it gathers up
into itself the activities of all the faculties, which act
harmoniously together in proportion as the organism to which they
belong is in a healthy state.

Once more, this reliance on the inner light does not mean that every
man must be his own prophet, his own priest, and his own saviour. The
individual is not independent of the Church, nor the Church of the
historical Christ. But the Church is a _living_ body and the
Incarnation and Atonement are _living_ facts still in operation. They
are part of the eternal counsels of God; and whether they are enacted
in the Abyss of the Divine Nature, or once for all in their fulness on
the stage of history, or in miniature, as it were, in your soul and
mine, the process is the same, and the tremendous importance of those
historical facts which our creeds affirm is due precisely to the fact
that they are _not_ unique and isolated portents, but the supreme
manifestation of the grandest and most universal laws.

These considerations may well have a calming and reassuring influence
upon those who, from whatever cause, are troubled by religious doubts.
The foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord
knoweth, and is known by, them that are His. But we must not expect
that "religious difficulties" will ever cease. Every truth that we
know is but the husk of a deeper truth; and it may be that the Holy
Spirit has still many things to say to us, which we cannot bear now.
Each generation and each individual has his own problem, which has
never been set in exactly the same form before: we must all work out
our own salvation, for it is God who worketh in us. If we have
realised the meaning of these words of St. Paul, which I have had
occasion to quote so often in these Lectures, we cannot doubt that,
though we now see through a glass darkly, and know only in part, we
shall one day behold our Eternal Father face to face, and know Him
even as we are known.


[Footnote 364: Horace, _Ep._ i. 12. 19.]

[Footnote 365: [Greek: polypoikilos sophia], Eph. iii. 10.]

[Footnote 366: Pindar, _Olymp._ ii. 154.]

[Footnote 367: Barine in _Revue des Deux Mondes_, April 1891.]

[Footnote 368: The latter, like Fechner in our own century, holds that
the stars are living organisms, whose "sensibility is full of

[Footnote 369: See Illingworth's _Divine Immanence_, where this and
other interesting passages are quoted. But Suso was, of course, _not_
a "Protestant mystic." And I cannot agree with the author when he says
that Lucretius found no religious inspiration in Nature. The poet of
the _Nature of Things_ shows himself to have been a lonely man, who
had pondered much among the hills and by the sea, and who loved to
taste the pure delights of the spring. Thence came to him the "holy
joy and dread" ("quædam divina voluptas atque horror") which pulsates
through his great poem as he shatters the barbarous mythology of
paganism, and then, in the spirit of a priest rather than of a
philosopher, turns the "bright shafts of day" upon the folly and
madness of those who are slaves to the world or the flesh. The spirit
of Lucretius is the spirit of modern science, which tends neither to
materialism nor to atheism, whatever its friends and enemies may say.]

[Footnote 370: Christian Platonism has never been more beautifully set
forth than in the poem of Spenser named above. Compare, especially,
the following stanzas:--

  "The means, therefore, which unto us is lent
   Him to behold, is on His works to look,
   Which He hath made in beauty excellent,
   And in the same, as in a brazen book
   To read enregistered in every nooke
   His goodness, which His beauty doth declare:
   For all that's good is beautiful and fair.

   "Thence gathering plumes of perfect speculation,
   To imp the wings of thy high-flying mind,
   Mount up aloft through heavenly contemplation,
   From this dark world, whose damps the soul do blind,
   On that bright Sun of glory fix thine eyes,
   Cleared from gross mists of frail infirmities."

Shelley sums up a great deal of Plotinus in the following stanza of

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

Compare, too, the opening lines of "Alastor."]

[Footnote 371: Compare the following sentences in Bradley's
_Appearance and Reality_: "Nature viewed materialistically is only an
abstraction for certain purposes, and has not a high degree of truth
or reality. The poet's nature has much more.... Our principle, that
the abstract is the unreal, moves us steadily upward.... It compels us
in the end to credit nature with our higher emotions. That process can
only cease when nature is quite absorbed into spirit, and at every
stage of the process we find increase in reality."]

[Footnote 372: "Prelude," viii. 340 sq.]

[Footnote 373: "Prelude," viii. 668.]

[Footnote 374: La Rochefoucauld.]

[Footnote 375: These words, from Milton's "Comus," are applied to
Wordsworth by Hazlitt.]

[Footnote 376: "Prelude," iv. 1207-1229. The ascetic element in
Wordsworth's ethics should by no means be forgotten by those who envy
his brave and unruffled outlook upon life. As Hutton says excellently
(_Essays_, p. 81), "there is volition and self-government in every
line of his poetry, and his best thoughts come from the steady
resistance he opposes to the ebb and flow of ordinary desires and
regrets. He contests the ground inch by inch with all despondent and
indolent humours, and often, too, with movements of inconsiderate and
wasteful joy--turning defeat into victory, and victory into defeat."
See the whole passage.]

[Footnote 377: "Prelude," vi. 604-608.]

[Footnote 378: "Miscell. Sonnets," xii.]

[Footnote 379: See the Essay in which he deals with Macpherson: "In
nature everything is distinct, yet nothing defined into absolute
independent singleness. In Macpherson's work it is exactly the
reverse--everything is defined, insulated, dislocated, deadened--yet
nothing distinct."]

[Footnote 380: "Excursion," v. 500-514.]

[Footnote 381: This seemed flat blasphemy to Shelley, whose idealism
was mixed with Byronic misanthropy. "Nor was there aught the world
contained of which he could approve."]

[Footnote 382: "Prelude," xiv. 192. Wordsworth's psychology is very
interesting. "Imagination" is for him ("Miscellaneous Sonnets," xxxv.)
a "glorious faculty," whose function it is to elevate the
more-than-reasoning mind; "'tis hers to pluck the amaranthine flower
of Faith," and "colour life's dark cloud with orient rays." This
faculty is at once "more than reason," and identical with "Reason in
her most exalted mood." I have said (p.21) that "Mysticism is reason
applied to a sphere above rationalism" and this appears to be exactly
Wordsworth's doctrine.]

[Footnote 383: "Sonnets on the River Duddon," xxxiv.]

[Footnote 384: "Lines composed above Tintern Abbey," 95-102.]

[Footnote 385: "Miscell. Sonnets," xxxiii.]

[Footnote 386: "Prelude," xiv. 112-129.]

[Footnote 387: "Prelude," ii. 396-418.]

[Footnote 388: "Lines composed above Tintern Abbey," 35-48.]

[Footnote 389: Wordsworth's Mysticism contains a few subordinate
elements which are of more questionable value. The "echoes from beyond
the grave," which "the inward ear" sometimes catches, are dear to most
of us; but we must not be too confident that they always come from
God. Still less can we be sure that presentiments are "heaven-born
instincts." Again, when the lonely thinker feels himself surrounded by
"huge and mighty forms, that do not move like living men," it is a
sign that the "dim and undetermined sense of unknown modes of being"
has begun to work not quite healthily upon his imagination. And the
doctrine of pre-existence, which appears in the famous Ode, is one
which it has been hitherto impossible to admit into the scheme of
Christian beliefs, though many Christian thinkers have dallied with
it. Perhaps the true lesson of the Ode is that the childish love of
nature, beautiful and innocent as it is, has to die and be born again
in the consciousness of the grown man. That Wordsworth himself passed
through this experience, we know from other passages in his writings.
In his case, at any rate, the "light of common day" was, for a time at
least, more splendid than the roseate hues of his childish imagination
can possibly have been; and there seems to be no reason for holding
the gloomy view that spiritual insight necessarily becomes dimmer as
we travel farther from our cradles, and nearer to our graves. What
fails us as we get older is only that kind of vision which is
analogous to the "consolations" often spoken of by monkish mystics as
the privilege of beginners. Amiel expresses exactly the same regret as
Wordsworth: "Shall I ever enjoy again those marvellous reveries of
past days?..." See the whole paragraph on p. 32 of Mrs. Humphry Ward's

[Footnote 390: These objections are pressed by Lotze, and not only by
avowed Pessimists. Lotze abhors what he calls "sentimental symbolism"
because it interferes with his monadistic doctrines. I venture to say
that any philosophy which divides man, as a being _sui generis_, from
the rest of Nature, is inevitably landed either in Acosmism or in
Manichean Dualism.]

[Footnote 391: This is perhaps the best place to notice the mystical
treatise of James Hinton, entitled _Man and his Dwelling-place_, which
is chiefly remarkable for its attempt to solve the problem of evil.
This writer pushes to an extremity the favourite mystical doctrine
that we surround ourselves with a world after our own likeness, and
considers that all the evil which we see in Nature is the "projection
of our own deadness." Apart from the unlikelihood of a theory which
makes man--"the roof and crown of things"--the only diseased and
discordant element in the universe, the writer lays himself open to
the fatal rejoinder, "Did Christ, then, see no sin or evil in the
world?" The doctrines of sacrifice (vicarious suffering) as a blessed
law of Nature ("the secret of the universe is learnt on Calvary"), and
of the necessity of annihilating "the self" as the principle of evil,
are pressed with a harsh and unnatural rigour. Our blessed Lord laid
no such yoke upon us, nor will human nature consent to bear it. The
"atonement" of the world by love is much better delineated by R.L.
Nettleship, in a passage which seems to me to exhibit the very kernel
of Christian Mysticism in its social aspect. "Suppose that all human
beings felt permanently to each other as they now do occasionally to
those they love best. All the pain of the world would be swallowed up
in doing good. So far as we can conceive of such a state, it would be
one in which there would be no 'individuals' at all, but an universal
being in and for another; where being took the form of consciousness,
it would be the consciousness of 'another' which was also 'oneself'--a
_common_ consciousness. Such would be the 'atonement' of the world."]

[Footnote 392: Charles Kingsley is another mystic of the same school.]

[Footnote 393: Browning, _Paracelsus_, Act i.]

[Footnote 394: Browning, "Saul," xvii.]

[Footnote 395: Browning, "Cristina."]

[Footnote 396: Browning, "Christmas Eve and Easter Day," xxx.,

[Footnote 397: Browning, "_Any Wife to any Husband._"]

[Footnote 398: Compare Plato's well-known sentence: [Greek: di
algêdonôn kai odynôn gignetai hê ôpheleia, ou gar oion te
allôs adikias apallattesthai].]

[Footnote 399: Browning, _Paracelsus_.]

[Footnote 400: Compare Pascal: "No one is discontented at not being a
king, except a discrowned king."]

[Footnote 401: It is almost as prominent in Tennyson as in Browning:
"Give her the wages of going on, and not to die," is his wish for the
human soul.]

[Footnote 402: I had written these words before the publication of
Principal Caird's _Sermons_, which contain, in my judgment, the most
powerful defence of what I have called Christian Mysticism that has
appeared since William Law. On p. 14 he says: "Of all things good and
fair and holy there is a spiritual cognisance which precedes and is
independent of that knowledge which the understanding conveys." He
shows how in the contemplation of nature it is "by an organ deeper
than intellectual thought" that "the revelation of material beauty
flows in upon the soul." "And in like manner there is an apprehension
of God and Divine things which comes upon the spirit as a living
reality which it immediately and intuitively perceives." ... "There is
a capacity of the soul, by which the truths of religion may be
apprehended and appropriated." See the whole sermon, entitled, _What
is Religion?_ and many other parts of the book.]

[Footnote 403: Cf. Hegel (_Philosophy of Religion_, vol. ii. p. 8):
"The Beautiful is essentially the Spiritual making itself known
sensuously, presenting itself in sensuous concrete existence, but in
such a manner that that existence is wholly and entirely permeated by
the Spiritual, so that the sensuous is not independent, but has its
meaning solely and exclusively in the Spiritual and through the
Spiritual, and exhibits not itself, but the Spiritual."]

[Footnote 404: Some reference ought perhaps to be made to Drummond's
_Natural Law in the Spiritual World_. But Mysticism seeks rather to
find spiritual law in the natural world--and some better law than
Drummond's Calvinism. (And I cannot help thinking that, though
Evolution explains much and contradicts nothing in Christianity, it is
in danger of proving an _ignis fatuus_ to many, especially to those
who are inclined to idealistic pantheism. There can be no progress or
development in God, and the cosmic process as we know it cannot have a
higher degree of reality than the categories of time and place under
which it appears. As for the millennium of perfected humanity on this
earth, which some Positivists and others dream of,--Christianity has
nothing to say against it, but science has a great deal.) See below,
p. 328.]

[Footnote 405: In the Life of Charles Darwin there is an interesting
letter, in which he laments the gradual decay of his taste for poetry,
as his mind became a mere "machine for grinding out general laws" from
a mass of observations. The decay of religious _feeling_ in many men
of high character may be accounted for in the same way. The really
great man is conscious of the sacrifice which he is making. "It is an
accursed evil to a man," Darwin wrote to Hooker, "to become so
absorbed in any subject as I am in mine." The common-place man is
_not_ conscious of it: he obtains his heart's desire, if he works hard
enough, and God sends leanness withal into his soul.]

[Footnote 406: The metaphysical problem about the reality of time in
relation to evolution is so closely bound up with speculative
Mysticism, that I have been obliged to state my own opinion upon it.
It is, of course, one of the vexed questions of philosophy at the
present time; and I could not afford the space, even if I had the
requisite knowledge and ability, to argue it. The best discussion of
it that I know is in M'Taggart's _Studies in Hegelian Dialectic_, pp.
159-202. Cf. note on p. 23.]



Definitions Of "Mysticism" And "Mystical Theology"

The following definitions are given only as specimens. The list might
be made much longer by quoting from other Roman Catholic theologians,
but their definitions for the most part agree closely enough with
those which I have transcribed from Corderius, John a Jesu Maria, and

1. _Corderius_. "Theologia mystica est sapientia experimentalis, Dei
affectiva, divinitus infusa, quæ mentem ab omni inordinatione puram
per actus supernaturales fidei spei et caritatis cum Deo intime
coniungit.... Mystica theologia, si vim nominis attendas, designat
quandam sacram et arcanam de Deo divinisque rebus notitiam."

2. _John a Jesu Maria_. "[Theologia mystica] est cælestis quædam Dei
notitia per unionem voluntatis Deo inhærentis elicita vel lumine
cælitus immisso producta."

3. _Bonaventura_ (adopted also by Gerson). "Est animi extensio in Deum
per amoris desiderium."

4. _Gerson_. "Theologia mystica est motio anagogica in Deum per amorem
fervidum et purum. Aliter sic: Theologia mystica est experimentalis
cognitio habita de Deo per amoris unitivi complexum. Aliter sic: est
sapientia, id est sapida notio habita de Deo, dum ei supremus apex
affectivæ potentiæ rationalis per amorem iungitur et unitur."

5. _Scaramelli_. "La theologia mistica esperimentale, secondo il suo
atto principale e più proprio, è una notizia pura di Dio che l' anima
d'ordinario riceve nella caligine luminosa, o per di meglio nel chiaro
oscuro d' un' alta contemplazione, insieme con un amore esperimentale
si intimo, che la fa perdere tutta a sè stessa per unirla e
transformarla in Dio."

6. _Ribet_. "La théologie mystique, au point de vue subjectif et
expérimental, nous semble pouvoir être définie: une attraction
surnaturelle et passive de l'âme vers Dieu, provenant d'une
illumination et d'un embrasement intérieurs, qui préviennent la
réflexion, surpassent l'effort humain, et pouvent avoir sur le corps
un retentissement merveilleux et irrésistible.... Au point de vue
doctrinal objectif, la mystique peut se définir: la science qui traite
des phénomènes surnaturels, qui préparent, accompagnent, et suivent
l'attraction passive des âmes vers Dieu et par Dieu, c'est à dire la
contemplation divine; qui les coordonne et les justifie par l'autorité
de l'Écriture, des docteurs et de la raison; les distingue des
phénomènes parallèles dus a l'action de Satan, et des faits analogues
purement naturels; enfin, qui trace des règles pratiques pour la
conduite des âmes dans ces ascensions sublimes mais périlleuses."

7. _L'Abbé Migne_. "La mystique est la science d'état sur naturel de
l'âme humaine manifesté dans le corps et dans l'ordre des choses
visibles par des effets également surnaturels."

In these scholastic and modern Roman Catholic definitions we may
observe (a) that the earlier definitions supplement without
contradicting each other, representing different aspects of Mysticism,
as an experimental science, as a living sacrifice of the will, as an
illumination from above, and as an exercise of ardent devotion; (b)
that symbolic or objective Mysticism is not recognised; (c) that the
sharp distinction between natural and supernatural, which is set up by
the scholastic mystics, carries with it a craving for physical
"mystical phenomena" to support the belief in supernatural
interventions. These miracles, though not mentioned in the earlier
definitions, have come to be considered an integral part of Mysticism,
so that Migne and Ribet include them in their definitions; (d)
lastly, that those who take this view of "la mystique divine" are
constrained to admit by the side of true mystical facts a parallel
class of "contrefaçons diaboliques."

8. _Von Hartmann_. "Mysticism is the filling of the consciousness with
a content (feeling, thought, desire), by an involuntary emergence of
the same out of the unconscious."

Von Hartmann's hypostasis of the Unconscious has been often and
justly criticised. But his chapter on Mysticism is of great value. He
begins by asking, "What is the _Wesen_ of Mysticism?" and shows that
it is not quietism (disproved by mystics like Böhme, and by many
active reformers), nor ecstasy (which is generally pathological), nor
asceticism, nor allegorism, nor fantastic symbolism, nor obscurity of
expression, nor religion generally, nor superstition, nor the sum of
these things. It is healthy in itself, and has been of high value to
individuals and to the race. It prepared for the Gospel of St. John,
for the revolt against arid scholasticism in the Middle Ages, for the
Reformation, and for modern German philosophy. He shows the mystical
element in Hamann, Jacobi, Fichte, and Schelling; and quotes with
approval the description of "intellectual intuition" given by the last
named. We must not speak of thought as an antithesis to experience,
"for thought (including immediate or mystical knowledge) is itself
experience." This knowledge is not derived from sense-perception,--the
conscious will has nothing to do with it,--"it can only have arisen
through inspiration from the Unconscious." He would extend the name of
mystic to "eminent art-geniuses who owe their productions to
inspirations of genius, and not to the work of their consciousness
(e.g. Phidias, Æeschylus, Raphael, Beethoven)", and even to every
"truly original" philosopher, for every high thought has been first
apprehended by the glance of genius. Moreover, the relation of the
individual to the Absolute, an essential theme of philosophy, can
_only_ be mystically apprehended. "This feeling is the content of
Mysticism [Greek: kat exochên], because it finds its existence _only_
in it." He then shows with great force how religious and philosophical
systems have full probative force only for the few who are able to
reproduce mystically in themselves their underlying suppositions, the
truth of which can only be mystically apprehended. "Hence it is that
those systems which rejoice in most adherents are just the poorest of
all and most unphilosophical (e.g. materialism and rationalistic

9. _Du Prel_. "If the self is not wholly contained in
self-consciousness, if man is a being dualised by the threshold of
sensibility, then is Mysticism possible; and if the threshold of
sensibility is movable, then Mysticism is necessary." "The mystical
phenomena of the soul-life are anticipations of the biological
process." "Soul is our spirit within the self-consciousness, spirit is
the soul beyond the self-consciousness."

This definition, with which should be compared the passage from J.P.
Ritcher, quoted in Lecture I., assumes that Mysticism may be treated
as a branch of experimental psychology. Du Prel attaches great
importance to somnambulism and other kindred psychical phenomena,
which (he thinks) give us glimpses of the inner world of our _Ego_, in
many ways different from our waking consciousness. "As the moon turns
to us only half its orb, so our Ego." He distinguishes between the Ego
and the subject. The former will perish at death. It arises from the
free act of the subject, which enters the time-process as a
discipline. "The self-conscious Ego is a projection of the
transcendental subject, and resembles it." "We should regard this
earthly existence as a transitory phenomenal form in correspondence
with our transcendental interest." "Conscience is transcendental
nature." (This last sentence suggests thoughts of great interest.) Du
Prel shows how Schopenhauer's pessimism may be made the basis of a
higher optimism. "The path of biological advance leads to the merging
of the Ego in the subject." "The biological aim for the race coincides
with the transcendental aim for the individual." "The whole content of
Ethics is that the Ego must subserve the Subject." The disillusions of
experience show that earthly life has no value for its own sake, and
is only a means to an end; it follows that to make pleasure our end is
the one fatal mistake in life. These thoughts are mixed with
speculations of much less value; for I cannot agree with Du Prel that
we shall learn much about higher and deeper modes of life by studying
abnormal and pathological states of the consciousness.

10. _Goethe_. "Mysticism is the scholastic of the heart, the dialectic
of the feelings."

11. _Noack_. "Mysticism is formless speculation."

Noack's definition is, perhaps, not very happily phrased, for the
essence of Mysticism is not speculation but intuition; and when it
begins to speculate, it is obliged at once to take to itself "forms."
Even the ultimate goal of the _via negativa_ is apprehended as "a kind
of form of formlessness." Goethe's definition regards Mysticism as a
system of religion or philosophy, and from this point of view
describes it accurately.

12. _Ewald_. "Mystical theology begins by maintaining that man is
fallen away from God, and craves to be again united with Him."

13. _Canon Overton_. "That we bear the image of God is the
starting-point, one might almost say the postulate, of all Mysticism.
The complete union of the soul with God is the goal of all Mysticism."

14. _Pfleiderer_. "Mysticism is the immediate feeling of the unity of
the self with God; it is nothing, therefore, but the fundamental
feeling of religion, the religious life at its very heart and centre.
But what makes the mystical a special tendency inside religion, is the
endeavour to fix the immediateness of the life in God as such, as
abstracted from all intervening helps and channels whatever, and find
a permanent abode in the abstract inwardness of the life of pious
feeling. In this God-intoxication, in which self and the world are
alike forgotten, the subject knows himself to be in possession of the
highest and fullest truth; but this truth is only possessed in the
quite undeveloped, simple, and bare form of monotonous feeling; what
truth the subject possesses is not filled up by any determination in
which the simple unity might unfold itself, and it lacks therefore the
clearness of knowledge, which is only attained when thought harmonises
differences with unity."

15. _Professor A. Seth_. "Mysticism is a phase of thought, or rather,
perhaps, of feeling, which from its very nature is hardly susceptible
of exact definition. It appears in connexion with the endeavour of the
human mind to grasp the Divine essence or the ultimate reality of
things, and to enjoy the blessedness of actual communion with the
highest. The first is the philosophic side of Mysticism; the second,
its religious side. The thought that is most intensely present with
the mystic is that of a supreme, all-pervading, and indwelling Power,
in whom all things are one. Hence the speculative utterances of
Mysticism are always more or less pantheistic in character. On the
practical side, Mysticism maintains the possibility of direct
intercourse with this Being of beings. God ceases to be an object, and
becomes an experience."

This carefully-worded statement of the essence of Mysticism is
followed by a hostile criticism. Professor Seth considers quietism the
true conclusion from the mystic's premisses. "It is characteristic of
Mysticism, that it does not distinguish between what is metaphorical
and what is susceptible of a literal interpretation. Hence it is prone
to treat a relation of ethical harmony as if it were one of
substantial identity or chemical fusion; and, taking the sensuous
language of religious feeling literally, it bids the individual aim at
nothing less than an interpenetration of essence. And as this goal is
unattainable while reason and the consciousness of self remain, the
mystic begins to consider these as impediments to be thrown aside....
Hence Mysticism demands a faculty above reason, by which the subject
shall be placed in immediate and complete union with the object of his
desire, a union in which the consciousness of self has disappeared,
and in which, therefore, subject and object are one." To this, I
think, the mystic might answer: "I know well that interpenetration and
absorption are words which belong to the category of space, and are
only metaphors or symbols of the relation of the soul to God; but
separateness, impenetrability, and isolation, which you affirm of the
_ego_, belong to the same category, and are no whit less metaphorical.
The question is, which of the two sets of words best expresses the
relation of the ransomed soul to its Redeemer? In my opinion, your
phrase 'ethical harmony' is altogether inadequate, while the New
Testament expressions, 'membership,' 'union,' 'indwelling,' are as
adequate as words can be." The rest of the criticism is directed
against the "negative road," which I have no wish to defend, since I
cannot admit that it follows logically from the first principles of

16. _Récéjac_. "Mysticism is the tendency to approach the Absolute
morally, and by means of symbols."

Récéjac's very interesting _Essai sur les Fondements de la
Connaissance mystique_ has the great merit of emphasising the symbolic
character of all mystical phenomena, and of putting all such
experiences in their true place, as neither hallucinations nor
invasions of the natural order, but symbols of a higher reality. "Les
apparitions et autres phénomènes mystiques n'existent que dans
l'esprit du voyant, et ne perdent rien pour cela de leur prix ni de
leur vérité.... Et alors n'y a-t-il pas au fond des symboles autant
_d'être_ que sous les phénomènes? Bien plus encore: car l'être
phénoménal, le réel, se pose dans la conscience par un enchaînement de
faits tellement successif que nous ne tenons jamais 'le même'; tandis
que sous les symboles, si nous tenons quelque chose, c'est l'identique
et le permanent." Récéjac also insists with great force that the
motive power of Mysticism is neither curiosity nor self-interest, but
love: the intrusion of alien motives is at once fatal to it. "Its
logic consists in having confidence in the rationality of the moral
consciousness and its desires." This agrees with what I have
said--that Reason is, or should be, the logic of our entire
personality, and that if Reason is so defined, it does not come into
conflict with Mysticism. Récéjac also has much to say upon Free Will
and Determinism. He says that Mysticism is an alliance between the
Practical Reason (which he identifies with "la Liberté") and
Imagination. "Determinism is the opposite, not of 'Liberty,' but of
'indifference.' Liberty, as Fouillée says, is only a higher form of
Determinism." "The modern idea of liberty, and the mystical conception
of Divine will, may be reconciled in the same way as inspiration and
reason, on condition that both are discovered in the same fact
interior to us, and that, far from being opposed to each other, they
are fused and distinguished together _dans quelque implicite
réellement présent a la conscience_." Récéjac throughout appeals to
Kant instead of to Hegel as his chief philosophical authority, in this
differing from the majority of those who are in sympathy with

17. _Bonchitté_. "Mysticism consists in giving to the spontaneity of
the intelligence a larger part than to the other faculties."

18. _Charles Kingsley_. "The great Mysticism is the belief which is
becoming every day stronger with me, that all symmetrical natural
objects are types of some spiritual truth or existence. When I walk
the fields, I am oppressed now and then with an innate feeling that
everything I see has a meaning, if I could but understand it. And this
feeling of being surrounded with truths which I cannot grasp, amounts
to indescribable awe sometimes. Everything seems to be full of God's
reflex, if we could but see it. Oh, how I have prayed to have the
mystery unfolded, at least hereafter! To see, if but for a moment, the
whole harmony of the great system! To hear once the music which the
whole universe makes as it performs His bidding! Oh, that heaven! The
thought of the first glance of creation from thence, when we know even
as we are known. And He, the glorious, the beautiful, the incarnate
Ideal shall be justified in all His doings, and in all, and through
all, and over all.... All day, glimpses from the other world, floating
motes from that inner transcendental life, have been floating across
me.... Have you not felt that your real soul was imperceptible to your
mental vision, except at a few hallowed moments? That in everyday life
the mind, looking at itself, sees only the brute intellect, grinding
and working, not the Divine particle, which is life and immortality,
and on which the Spirit of God most probably works, as being most
cognate to Deity" (_Life_, vol. i. p. 55). Again he says: "This earth
is the next greatest fact to that of God's existence."

Kingsley's review of Vaughan's _Hours with the Mystics_ shows that he
retained his sympathy with Mysticism at a later period of his life. It
would be impossible to find any consistent idealistic philosophy in
Kingsley's writings; but the sentences above quoted are interesting as
a profession of faith in Mysticism of the _objective_ type.

19. _R.L. Nettleship_. "The cure for a wrong Mysticism is to realise
the facts, not particular facts or aspects of facts, but the whole
fact: true Mysticism is the consciousness that everything that we
experience is an element, and only an element, in fact; i.e. that in
being what it is, it is symbolic of something more."

The _obiter dicta_ on Mysticism in Nettleship's _Remains_ are of great

20. _Lasson_. "The essence of Mysticism is the assertion of an
intuition which transcends the temporal categories of the
understanding, relying on speculative reason. Rationalism cannot
conduct us to the essence of things; we therefore need intellectual
vision. But Mysticism is not content with symbolic knowledge, and
aspires to see the Absolute by pure spiritual apprehension.... There
is a contradiction in regarding God as the immanent Essence of all
things, and yet as an abstraction transcending all things. But it is
inevitable. Pure immanence is unthinkable, if we are to maintain
distinctions in things.... Strict 'immanence' doctrine tends towards
the monopsychism of Averroes.... Mysticism is often associated with
pantheism, but the religious character of Mysticism views everything
from the standpoint of teleology, while pantheism generally stops at
causality.... Mysticism, again, is often allied with rationalism, but
their ground-principles are different, for rationalism is deistic, and
rests on this earth, being based on the understanding [as opposed to
the higher faculty, the reason].... Nothing can be more perverse than
to accuse Mysticism of _vagueness_. Its danger is rather an
overvaluing of reason and knowledge.... Mysticism is only religious so
long as it remembers that we can here only see through a glass darkly;
when it tries to represent the eternal _adequately_, it falls into a
new and dangerous retranslation of thought into images, or into bare
negation.... Religion is a relation of person to person, a life, which
in its form is an analogy to the earthly, while its content is pure
relation to the eternal. Dogmatic is the skeleton, Mysticism the
life-blood, of the Christian body.... Since the Reformation,
philosophy has taken over most of the work which the speculative
mystics performed in the Middle Ages" (_Essay on the Essence and Value
of Mysticism_).

21. _Nordau_. "The word Mysticism describes a state of mind in which
the subject imagines that he perceives or divines unknown and
inexplicable relations among phenomena, discerns in things hints at
mysteries, and regards them as symbols by which a dark power seeks to
unveil, or at least to indicate, all sorts of marvels.... It is always
connected with strong emotional excitement.... Nearly all our
perceptions, ideas, and conceptions are connected more or less closely
through the association of ideas. But to make the association of ideas
fulfil its function, one more thing must be added--_attention_, which
is the faculty to suppress one part of the memory-images and maintain
another part." We must select the strongest and most direct images,
those directly connected with the afferent nerves; "this Ribot calls
adaptation of the whole organism to a predominant idea.... Attention
presupposes strength of will. Unrestricted play of association, the
result of an exhausted or degenerate brain, gives rise to Mysticism.
Since the mystic cannot express his cloudy thoughts in ordinary
language, he loves mutually exclusive expressions. Mysticism blurs
outlines, and makes the transparent opaque."

The Germans have two words for what we call Mysticism--_Mystik_ and
_Mysticismus_, the latter being generally dyslogistic. The long chapter
in Nordau's _Degeneration_, entitled "Mysticism," treats it throughout
as a morbid state. It will be observed that the last sentence quoted
flatly contradicts one of the statements copied from Lasson's essay. But
Nordau is not attacking religious Mysticism, so much as that unwholesome
development of symbolic "science, falsely so called," which has usurped
the name in modern France. Those who are interested in Mysticism should
certainly study the pathological symptoms which counterfeit mystical
states, and from this point of view the essay in _Degeneration_ is
valuable. The observations of Nordau and other alienists must lead us to
suspect very strongly the following kinds of symbolical representation,
whether the symbols are borrowed from the external world, or created by
the imagination:--(a) All those which include images of a sexual
character. It is unnecessary to illustrate this. The visions of monks
and nuns are often, as we might expect, unconsciously tinged with a
morbid element of this kind. (b) Those which depend on mere verbal
resemblances or other fortuitous correspondences. Nordau shows that the
diseased brain is very ready to follow these false trains of
association. (c) Those which are connected with the sense of smell,
which seems to be morbidly developed in this kind of degeneracy. (d)
Those which in any way minister to pride or self-sufficiency.

22. _Harnack_. "Mysticism is rationalism applied to a sphere above

I have criticised this definition in my first Lecture, and have
suggested that the words "rationalism" and "reason" ought to be
transposed. Elsewhere Harnack says that the distinctions between
"Scholastic, Roman, German, Catholic, Evangelical, and Pantheistic
Mysticism" are at best superficial, and in particular that it is a
mistake to contrast "Scholasticism and Mysticism" as opposing forces
in the Middle Ages. "Mysticism," he proceeds, "is Catholic piety in
general, so far as this piety is not merely ecclesiastical obedience,
that is, _fides implicita_. The Reformation element which is ascribed
to it lies simply in this, that Mysticism, when developed in a
particular direction, is led to discern the inherent responsibility of
the soul, of which no authority can again deprive it." The conflicts
between Mysticism and Church authority, he thinks, in no way militate
against _both_ being Catholic ideals, just as asceticism and
world-supremacy are both Catholic ideals, though contradictory. The
German mystics he disparages. "I give no extracts from their
writings," he says, "because I do not wish even to seem to countenance
the error that they expressed anything that one cannot read in Origen,
Plotinus, the Areopagite, Augustine, Erigena, Bernard, and Thomas, or
that they represented religious progress." "It will never be possible
to make Mysticism Protestant without flying in the face of history and
Catholicism." "A mystic who does not become a Catholic is a

Before considering these statements, I will quote from another attack
upon Mysticism by a writer whose general views are very similar to
those of Harnack.

23. _Herrmann_ (_Verkehr des Christen mit Gott_). "The most
conspicuous features of the Roman Catholic rule of life are obedience
to the laws of cultus and of doctrine on the one side, and Neoplatonic
Mysticism on the other.... The essence of Mysticism lies in this: when
the influence of God upon the soul is sought and found solely in an
inward experience of the individual; when certain excitements of the
emotions are taken, with no further question, as evidence that the
soul is possessed by God: when at the same time nothing external to
the soul is consciously and clearly perceived and firmly grasped; when
no thoughts that elevate the spiritual life are aroused by the
positive contents of an idea that rules the soul,--then that is the
piety of Mysticism.... Mysticism is not that which is common to all
religion, but a particular species of religion, namely a piety which
feels that which is historical in the positive religion to be
burdensome, and so rejects it."

These extracts from Harnack and Herrmann represent the attitude
towards Mysticism of the Ritschlian school in Germany, of which Kaftan
is another well-known exponent. They are neo-Kantians, whose religion
is an austere moralism, and who seem to regard Christianity as a
primitive Puritanism, spoiled by the Greeks, who brought into it their
intellectualism and their sacramental mysteries. True Christianity,
they say, is faith in the historic Christ. "In the human Jesus," says
Herrmann, "we have met with a fact, the content of which is
incomparably richer than that of any feelings which arise within
ourselves,--a fact, moreover, which makes us so certain of God that,
our reason and conscience being judges, our conviction is only
confirmed that we are in communion with Him." "The mystic's experience
of God is a delusion. If the Christian has learnt how Christ alone has
lifted him above all that he had even been before, he cannot believe
that another man might reach the same end by simply turning inward
upon himself." "The piety of the mystic is such that at the highest
point to which it leads Christ must vanish from the soul along with
all else that is external." This curious view of Christianity quite
fails to explain how "our reason and conscience" can detect the
"incomparable richness" of a revelation altogether unlike "the
feelings which arise within ourselves." It entirely ignores the
Pauline and Johannine doctrine of the mystical union, according to
which Christ is _not_ "external" to the redeemed soul, and most
assuredly can never "vanish" from it. Instead of the "Lo I am with you
alway" of our blessed Lord, we are referred to "history"--that is,
primarily, the four Gospels confirmed by "a fifth," "the united
testimony of the first Christian community" (Harnack, _Christianity
and History_). We are presented with a Christianity without knowledge
(Gnosis), without discipline, without sacraments, resting partly on a
narrative which these very historical critics tear in pieces, each in
his own fashion, and partly on a categorical imperative which is
really the voice of "irreligious moralism," as Pfleiderer calls it.
The words are justified by such a sentence as this from Herrmann:
"Religious faith in God is, rightly understood, just the medium by
which the universal law becomes individualised for the particular man
in his particular place in the world's life, so as to enable him to
recognise its absoluteness as the ground of his self-certainty, and
the ideal drawn in it as his own personal end." Thus the school which
has shown the greatest animus against Mysticism unconsciously
approaches very near to the atheism of Feuerbach. Indeed, what worse
atheism can there be, than such disbelief in the rationality of our
highest thoughts as is expressed in this sentence: "Metaphysics is an
impassioned endeavour to obtain recognition for thoughts, the contents
of which have no other title to be recognised than their value for
us"? As if faith in God had any other meaning than a confidence that
what is of "value for us" is the eternally and universally good and
true! Herrmann's attitude towards reason can only escape atheism by
accepting in preference the crudest dualism, "behind which" (to quote
Pfleiderer again) lies concealed simply "the scepticism of a
disintegrating Nominalism."

24. _Victor Cousin_. "Mysticism is the pretension to know God without
intermediary, and, so to speak, face to face. For Mysticism, whatever
is between God and us hides Him from us." "Mysticism consists in
substituting direct inspiration for indirect, ecstasy for reason,
rapture for philosophy."

25. _R.A. Vaughan_. "Mysticism is that form of error which mistakes
for a Divine manifestation the operations of a merely human faculty."

This poor definition is the only one (except "Mysticism is the romance
of religion") to be found in _Hours with the Mystics_, the solitary
work in English which attempts to give a history of Christian
Mysticism. The book has several conspicuous merits. The range of the
author's reading is remarkable, and he has a wonderful gift of
illustration. But he was not content to trust to the interest of the
subject to make his book popular, and tried to attract readers by
placing it in a most incongruous setting. There is something almost
offensive in telling the story of men like Tauler, Suso, and Juan of
the Cross, in the form of smart conversations at a house-party, and
the jokes cracked at the expense of the benighted "mystics" are not
always in the best taste. Vaughan does not take his subject quite
seriously enough. There is an irritating air of superiority in all his
discussions of the lives and doctrines of the mystics, and his hatred
and contempt for the Roman Church often warp his judgment. His own
philosophical standpoint is by no means clear, and this makes his
treatment of speculative Mysticism less satisfactory than the more
popular parts of the book. It is also a pity that he has neglected the
English representatives of Mysticism; they are quite as interesting in
their way as Madame Guyon, whose story he tells at disproportionate
length. At the same time, I wish to acknowledge considerable
obligations to Vaughan, whose early death probably deprived us of even
better work than the book which made his reputation.

26. _James Hinton_. "Mysticism is an assertion of a means of knowing
that must not be tried by ordinary rules of evidence--the claiming
authority for our own impressions."

Another poor and question-begging definition, on the same lines as the


The Greek Mysteries And Christian Mysticism

The connexion between the Greek Mysteries and Christian Mysticism is
marked not only by the name which the world has agreed to give to that
type of religion (though it must be said that [Greek: mystêria] is not
the commonest name for the Mysteries--[Greek: orgia, teletai, telê]
are all, I think, more frequent), but by the evident desire on the
part of such founders of mystical Christianity as Clement and
Dionysius the Areopagite, to emphasise the resemblance. It is not
without a purpose that these writers, and other Platonising
theologians from the third to the fifth century, transfer to the faith
and practice of the Church almost every term which was associated with
the Eleusinian Mysteries and others like them. For instance, the
sacraments are regularly [Greek: mystêria]; baptism is [Greek:
mystikon loutron] (Gregory of Nyssa); unction, [Greek: chrisma
mystikon] (Athanasius); the elements, [Greek: mystis edôdê] (Gregory
Naz.); and participation in them is [Greek: mystikê metalêpsis].
Baptism, again, is "initiation" [Greek: myêsis]; a baptized person is
[Greek: memyêmenos], [Greek: mystês] or [Greek: symmystês] (Gregory Ny.
and Chrysostom), an unbaptized person is [Greek: amyêtos]. The
celebrant is [Greek: mystêriôn lanthanontôn mystagôgos] (Gregory Ny.);
the administration is [Greek: paradosis], as at Eleusis. The
sacraments are also [Greek: teletê] or [Greek: telê], regular
Mystery-words; as are [Greek: teleiôsis, teleiousthai, teleiopoios],
which are used in the same connexion. Secret formulas (the notion of
secret formulas itself comes from the Mysteries) were [Greek:
aporrêta]. (Whether the words [Greek: phôtismos] and [Greek: sphragis]
in their sacramental meaning come from the Mysteries seems doubtful,
in spite of Hatch, _Hibbert Lectures_, p. 295.) Nor is the language of
the Mysteries applied only to the sacraments. Clement calls purgative
discipline [Greek: ta katharsia], and [Greek: ta mikra mystêria], and
the highest stage in the spiritual life [Greek: epopteia]. He also
uses such language as the following: "O truly sacred mysteries! O
stainless light! My way is lighted with torches, and I survey the
heavens and God! I am become holy while I am being initiated. The Lord
is my hierophant," etc. (_Protr._ xii. 120). Dionysius, as I have
shown in a note on Lecture III., uses the Mystery words frequently,
and gives to the orders of the Christian ministry the names which
distinguished the officiating priests at the Mysteries. The aim of
these writers was to prove that the Church offers a mysteriosophy
which includes all the good elements of the old Mysteries without
their corruptions. The alliance between a Mystery-religion and
speculative Mysticism within the Church was at this time as close as
that between the Neoplatonic philosophy and the revived pagan Mystery
cults. But when we try to determine the amount of direct _influence_
exercised by the later paganism on Christian usages and thought, we
are baffled both by the loss of documents, and by the extreme
difficulty of tracing the pedigree of religious ideas and customs. I
shall here content myself with calling attention to certain features
which were common to the Greek Mysteries and to Alexandrian
Christianity, and which may perhaps claim to be in part a legacy of
the old religion to the new. My object is not at all to throw
discredit upon modes of thought which may have been unfamiliar to
Palestinian Jews. A doctrine or custom is not necessarily un-Christian
because it is "Greek" or "pagan." I know of no stranger perversity
than for men who rest the whole weight of their religion upon
"history," to suppose that our Lord meant to raise an universal
religion on a purely Jewish basis.

The Greek Mysteries were perhaps survivals of an old-world ritual,
based on a primitive kind of Nature-Mysticism. The "public Mysteries,"
of which the festival at Eleusis was the most important, were so
called because the State admitted strangers by initiation to what was
originally a national cult. (There were also private Mysteries,
conducted for profit by itinerant priests [Greek: agyrtai] from the
East, who as a class bore no good reputation.) The main features of
the ritual at Eleusis are known. The festival began at Athens, where
the _mystæ_ collected, and, after a fast of several days, were
"driven" to the sea, or to two salt lakes on the road to Eleusis, for
a purifying bath. This kind of baptism washed away the stains of their
former sins, the worst of which they were obliged to confess before
being admitted to the Mysteries. Then, after sacrifices had been
offered, the company went in procession to Eleusis, where
Mystery-plays were performed in a great hall, large enough to hold
thousands of people, and the votaries were allowed to handle certain
sacred relics. A sacramental meal, in which a mixture of mint,
barley-meal, and water was administered to the initiated, was an
integral part of the festival. The most secret part of the ceremonies
was reserved for the [Greek: epoptai] who had passed through the
ordinary initiation in a previous year. It probably culminated in the
solemn exhibition of a corn-ear, the symbol of Demeter. The obligation
of silence was imposed not so much because there were any secrets to
reveal, but that the holiest sacraments of the Greek religion might
not be profaned by being brought into contact with common life. This
feeling was strengthened by the belief that _words_ are more than
conventional symbols of things. A sacred formula must not be taken in
vain, or divulged to persons who might misuse it.

The evidence is strong that the Mysteries had a real spiritualising
and moralising influence on large numbers of those who were initiated,
and that this influence was increasing under the early empire. The
ceremonies may have been trivial, and even at times ludicrous; but the
discovery had been made that the performance of solemn acts of
devotion in common, after ascetical preparation, and with the aid of
an impressive ritual, is one of the strongest incentives to piety.
Diodorus is not alone in saying (he is speaking of the Samothracian
Mysteries) that "those who have taken part in them are said to become
more pious, more upright, and in every way better than their former

The chief motive force which led to the increased importance of
Mystery-religion in the first centuries of our era, was the desire for
"salvation" ([Greek: sôtêria]), which both with pagans and Christians
was very closely connected with the hope of everlasting life.
Happiness after death was the great promise held out in the Mysteries.
The initiated were secure of blessedness in the next world, while the
uninitiated must expect "to lie in darkness and mire after their
death" (cf. Plato, _Phædrus_, 69).

How was this "salvation" attained or conferred? We find that several
conflicting views were held, which it is impossible to keep rigidly
separate, since the human mind at one time inclines to one of them, at
another time to another.

(a) Salvation is imparted by _revelation_. This makes it to depend
upon _knowledge_; but this knowledge was in the Mysteries conveyed by
the spectacle or drama, not by any intellectual process. Plutarch (_de
Defect. Orac._ 22) says that those who had been initiated could
produce no demonstration or proof of the beliefs which they had
acquired. And Synesius quotes Aristotle as saying that the initiated
do not _learn_ anything, but rather receive impressions ([Greek: ou
mathein ti dein alla pathein]). The old notion that monotheism was
taught as a secret dogma rests on no evidence, and is very unlikely.
There was a good deal of [Greek: theokrasia], as the ancients called
it, and some departures from the current theogonies, but such doctrine
as there was, was much nearer to pantheism than to monotheism. Certain
truths about nature and the facts of life were communicated in the
"greatest mysteries," according to Clement, and Cicero says the same
thing. And sometimes the [Greek: gnôsis sôtêrias] includes knowledge
about the whence and whither of man ([Greek: tines esmen kai ti
gegonamen], Clem. _Exc. ex Theod._ 78). Some of the mystical formulæ
were no doubt susceptible of deep and edifying interpretations,
especially in the direction of an elevated nature-worship.

(b) Salvation was regarded, as in the Oriental religions, as
emancipation from the fetters of human existence. Doctrines of this
kind were taught especially in the Orphic Mysteries, where it was a
secret doctrine ([Greek: aporrêtos logos], Plat. _Phædr._ 62) that
"we men are here in a kind of prison," or in a tomb ([Greek: sêma
tines to sôma einai tês psychês, ôs tethammenês en tô paronti],
Plat. _Crat._ 400). They also believed in transmigration of souls, and
in a [Greek: kuklos tês geneseôs] (rota fati et generationis). The
"Orphic life," or rules of conduct enjoined upon these mystics,
comprised asceticism, and, in particular, abstinence from flesh; and
laid great stress on "following of God" [Greek: epesthai] or
[Greek: akolouthein tô theô] as the goal of moral endeavour. This cult,
however, was tinged with Thracian barbarism; its heaven was a kind of
Valhalla ([Greek: methê aiônios], Plat. _Rep._ ii. 363). Very similar
was the rule of life prescribed by the Pythagorean brotherhood, who
were also vegetarians, and advocates of virginity. Their system of
purgation, followed by initiation, liberated men "from the grievous
woeful circle" ([Greek: kyklou d'exeptan Barypentheos argaleoio] on a
tombstone), and entitled them "to a happy life with the gods." (For
the conception of salvation as deification, see Appendix C.) Whether
these sects taught that our separate individuality must be merged is
uncertain; but among the Gnostics, who had much in common with the
Orphic _mystæ_, the formula, "I am thou, and thou art I," was common
(_Pistis Sophia_; formulæ of the Marcosians; also in an invocation of
Hermes: [Greek: to son onoma emon kai to emon son. egô gar eimi to
eidôlon son]. Rohde, _Psyche_, vol. ii. p. 61). A foretaste of this
deliverance was given by initiation, which conducts the mystic to
_ecstasy_, an [Greek: oligochronios mania] (Galen), in which "animus
ita solutus est et vacuus ut ei plane nihil sit cum corpore" (Cic. _De
Divin._ i. I. 113); which was otherwise conceived as [Greek:
enthousiasmos] ([Greek: enthousiôsês kai ouketi ousês en eautê dianoias],

(c) The imperishable Divine nature is infused by mechanical means.
Sacraments and the like have a magical or miraculous potency. The
Homeric hymn to Demeter insists only on _ritual_ purity as the
condition of salvation, and we hear that people trusted to the mystic
baptism to wash out all their previous sins. Similarly the baptism of
blood, the _taurobolium_, was supposed to secure eternal happiness,
at any rate if death occurred within twenty years after the ceremony;
when that interval had elapsed, it was common to renew the rite. (We
find on inscriptions such phrases as "arcanis perfusionibus in
æternum renatus.") So mechanical was the operation of the Mysteries
supposed to be, that rites were performed for the dead (Plat. _Rep._
364. St. Paul seems to refer to a similar custom in 1 Cor. xv. 29),
and infants were appointed "priests," and thoroughly initiated, that
they might be clean from their "original sin." Among the Gnostics, a
favourite phrase was that initiation releases men "from the fetters of
fate and necessity"; the gods of the intelligible world ([Greek:
theoi noêtoi]) with whom we hold communion in the Mysteries being
above "fate."

(d) Salvation consists of moral regeneration. The efficacy of
initiation without moral reformation naturally appeared doubtful to
serious thinkers. Diogenes is reported to have asked, "What say you?
Will Patæcion the thief be happier in the next world than
Epaminondas, because he has been initiated?" And Philo says, "It often
happens that good men are not initiated, but that robbers, and
murderers, and lewd women are, if they pay money to the initiators and
hierophants." Ovid protests against the immoral doctrine of mechanical
purgation with more than his usual earnestness (_Fasti_, ii. 35):--

  "Omne nefas omnemque mali purgamina causam
     Credebant nostri tollere posse senes.
   Græcia principium moris fuit; ilia nocentes
     Impia lustratos ponere facta putat.
   A! nimium faciles, qui tristia crimina cædis
     Fluminea tolli posse putetis aqua!"

Such passages show that abuses existed, but also that it was felt to
be a scandal if the initiated person failed to exhibit any moral

These different conceptions of the office of the Mysteries cannot, as
I have said, be separated historically. They all reappear in the
history of the Christian sacraments. The main features of the
Mystery-system which passed into Catholicism are the notions of
secrecy, of symbolism, of mystical brotherhood, of sacramental grace,
and, above all, of the three stages in the spiritual life, ascetic
purification, illumination, and [Greek: epopteia] as the crown.

The secrecy observed about creeds and liturgical forms had not much to
do with the development of Mysticism, except by associating sacredness
with obscurity (cf. Strabo, x. 467, [Greek: hê krypsis hê mystikê
semnopoiei to theion, mimoumenê tên physin autou ekpheugousan tên
aisthêsin]), a tendency which also showed itself in the love of
symbolism. This certainly had a great influence, both in the form of
allegorism (cf. Clem. _Strom_, i. 1. 15, [Greek: esti de ha kai
ainixetai moi hê graphê; peirasetai de kai ganthanousa eipein kai
epikryptomenê ekphênai kai deixai siôpôsa]), which Philo calls "the
method of the Greek Mysteries," and in the various kinds of
Nature-Mysticism. The great value of the Mysteries lay in the facilities
which they offered for free symbolical interpretation.

The idea of mystical union by means of a common meal was, as we have
seen, familiar to the Greeks. For instance, Plutarch says (_Non fosse
suav. vivi sec. Epic._ 21), "It is not the wine or the cookery that
delights us at these feasts, but good hope, and the belief that God is
present with us, and that He accepts our service graciously." There
have always been two ideas of sacrifice, alike in savage and civilised
cults--the mystical, in which it is a _communion_, the victim who is
slain and eaten being himself the god, or a symbol of the god; and the
commercial, in which something valuable is offered to the god in the
hope of receiving some benefit in exchange. The Mysteries certainly
encouraged the idea of communion, and made it easier for the Christian
rite to gather up into itself all the religious elements which can be
contained in a sacrament of this kind.

But the scheme of ascent from [Greek: katharsis] to [Greek: myêsis], and
from [Greek: myêsis] to [Greek: epopteia], is the great contribution of
the Mysteries to Christian Mysticism. Purification began, as we have seen,
with confession of sin; it proceeded by means of fasting (with which was
combined [Greek: agneia apo synousias]) and meditation, till the second
stage, that of illumination, was reached. The majority were content with
the partial illumination which belonged to this stage, just as in books of
Roman Catholic divinity "mystical theology" is a summit of perfection to
which "all are not called." The elect advance, after a year's interval at
least, to the full contemplation ([Greek: epopteia]). This highest truth
was conveyed in various ways--by visible symbols dramatically displayed,
by solemn words of mysterious import; by explanations of enigmas and
allegories and dark speeches (cf. Orig. _Cels._ vii. 10), and perhaps
by "visions and revelations." It is plain that this is one of the
cases in which Christianity conquered Hellenism by borrowing from it
all its best elements; and I do not see that a Christian need feel any
reluctance to make this admission.


The Doctrine Of Deification

The conception of salvation as the acquisition by man of Divine
attributes is common to many forms of religious thought. It was widely
diffused in the Roman Empire at the time of the Christian revelation,
and was steadily growing in importance during the first centuries of
our era. The Orphic Mysteries had long taught the doctrine. On
tombstones erected by members of the Orphic brotherhoods we find such
inscriptions as these: "Happy and blessed one! Thou shalt be a god
instead of a mortal" ([Greek: olbie kai makariste theos d' esê anti
brotoio]); "Thou art a god instead of a wretched man" ([Greek: theos
ei eleeinou ex anthrôpou]). It has indeed been said that "deification
was the idea of salvation taught in the Mysteries" (Harnack).

To modern ears the word "deification" sounds not only strange, but
arrogant and shocking. The Western consciousness has always tended to
emphasise the distinctness of individuality, and has been suspicious
of anything that looks like juggling with the rights of persons, human
or Divine. This is especially true of thought in the Latin countries.
_Deus_ has never been a fluid concept like [Greek: theos]. St.
Augustine no doubt gives us the current Alexandrian philosophy in a
Latin dress; but this part of his Platonism never became acclimatised
in the Latin-speaking countries. The Teutonic genius is in this matter
more in sympathy with the Greek; but we are Westerns, while the later
"Greeks" were half Orientals, and there is much in their habits of
thought which is strange and unintelligible to us. Take, for instance,
the apotheosis of the emperors. This was a genuinely Eastern mode of
homage, which to the true European remained either profane or
ridiculous. But Vespasian's last joke, "_Voe! puto Deus fio!_" would
not sound comic in Greek. The associations of the word [Greek: theos]
were not sufficiently venerable to make the idea of deification
([Greek: theopoiêsis]) grotesque. We find, as we should expect, that
this vulgarisation of the word affected even Christians in the
Greek-speaking countries. Not only were the "barbarous people" of
Galatia and Malta ready to find "theophanies" in the visits of
apostles, or any other strangers who seemed to have unusual powers,
but the philosophers (except the "godless Epicureans") agreed in
calling the highest faculty of the soul Divine, and in speaking of
"the God who dwells within us." There is a remarkable passage of
Origen (quoted by Harnack) which shows how elastic the word [Greek:
theos] was in the current dialect of the educated. "In another sense
God is said to be an immortal, rational, moral Being. In this sense
every gentle ([Greek: asteia]) soul is God. But God is otherwise
defined as the self-existing immortal Being. In this sense the souls
that are enclosed in wise men are not gods." Clement, too, speaks of
the soul as "training itself to be God." Even more remarkable than
such language (of which many other examples might be given) is the
frequently recurring accusation that bishops, teachers, martyrs,
philosophers, etc., are venerated with Divine or semi-Divine honours.
These charges are brought by Christians against pagans, by pagans
against Christians, and by rival Christians against each other. Even
the Epicureans habitually spoke of their founder Epicurus as "a god."
If we try to analyse the concept of [Greek: theos], thus loosely and
widely used, we find that the prominent idea was that exemption from
the doom of death was the prerogative of a Divine Being (cf. 1 Tim.
vi. 16, "Who _only_ hath immortality"), and that therefore the gift of
immortality is itself a deification. This notion is distinctly adopted
by several Christian writers. Theophilus says (_ad Autol._ ii. 27)
"that man, by keeping the commandments of God, may receive from him
immortality as a reward ([Greek: misthon]), _and become God._" And
Clement (_Strom._ v. 10. 63) says, "To be imperishable ([Greek: to mê
phtheiresthai]) is to share in Divinity." To the same effect
Hippolytus (_Philos._ x. 34) says, "Thy body shall be immortal and
incorruptible as well as thy soul. For _thou hast become God_. All the
things that follow upon the Divine nature God has promised to supply
to thee, for _thou wast deified in being born to immortality_." With
regard to later times, Harnack says that "after Theophilus, Irenæus,
Hippolytus, and Origen, the idea of deification is found in all the
Fathers of the ancient Church, and that in a primary position. We have
it in Athanasius, the Cappadocians, Apollinaris, Ephraem Syrus,
Epiphanius, and others, as also in Cyril, Sophronius, and late Greek
and Russian theologians. In proof of it, Ps. lxxxii. 6 ('I said, Ye
are gods') is very often quoted." He quotes from Athanasius, "He
became man that we might be deified"; and from Pseudo-Hippolytus, "If,
then, man has become immortal, he will be God."

This notion grew within the Church as chiliastic and apocalyptic
Christianity faded away. A favourite phrase was that the Incarnation,
etc., "abolished death," and brought mankind into a state of
"incorruption" ([Greek: aphtharsia]) This transformation of human
nature, which is also spoken of as [Greek: theopoiêsis] is the
highest work of the Logos. Athanasius makes it clear that what he
contemplates is no pantheistic merging of the personality in the
Deity, but rather a renovation after the original type.

But the process of deification may be conceived of in two ways: (a)
as essentialisation, (b) as substitution. The former may perhaps be
called the more philosophical conception, the latter the more
religious. The former lays stress on the high calling of man, and his
potential greatness as the image of God; the latter, on his present
misery and alienation, and his need of redemption. The former was the
teaching of the Neoplatonic philosophy, in which the human mind was
the throne of the Godhead; the latter was the doctrine of the
Mysteries, in which salvation was conceived of realistically as
something imparted or infused.

The notion that salvation or deification consists in realising our
true nature, was supported by the favourite doctrine that like only
can know like. "If the soul were not essentially Godlike ([Greek:
theoeidês]), it could never know God." This doctrine might seem to
lead to the heretical conclusion that man is [Greek: omoousios tô
Patri] in the same sense as Christ. This conclusion, however, was
strongly repudiated both by Clement and Origen. The former (_Strom._
xvi. 74) says that men are _not_ [Greek: meros theou kai tô theô
omoousioi]; and Origen (_in Joh._ xiii. 25) says it is very impious to
assert that we are [Greek: omoousioi] with "the unbegotten nature."
But for those who thought of Christ mainly as the Divine Logos or
universal Reason, the line was not very easy to draw. Methodius says
that every believer must, through participation in Christ, be born as
a Christ,--a view which, if pressed logically (as it ought not to be),
implies either that our nature is at bottom identical with that of
Christ, or that the life of Christ is substituted for our own. The
difficulty as to whether the human soul is, strictly speaking, "divinæ
particula auræ," is met by Proclus in the ingenious and interesting
passage quoted p. 34; "There are," he says, "three sorts of _wholes_,
(1) in which the whole is anterior to the parts, (2) in which the
whole is composed of the parts, (3) which knits into one stuff the
parts and the whole ([Greek: hê tois holois ta merê sunyphainousa])."
This is also the doctrine of Plotinus, and of Augustine. God is not
split up among His creatures, nor are they essential to Him in the
same way as He is to them. Erigena's doctrine of deification is
expressed (not very clearly) in the following sentence (_De Div. Nat._
iii. 9): "Est igitur participatio divinæ essentiæ assumptio.
Assumptio vero eius divinæ sapientiæ fusio quæ est omnium substantia
et essentia, et quæcumque in eis naturaliter intelliguntur."
According to Eckhart, the _Wesen_ of God transforms the soul into
itself by means of the "spark" or "apex of the soul" (equivalent to
Plotinus' [Greek: kentron psychês], _Enn._ vi. 9. 8), which is "so
akin to God that it is one with God, and not merely united to Him."

The history of this doctrine of the spark, and of the closely
connected word _synteresis_, is interesting. The word "spark" occurs
in this connexion as early as Tatian, who says (_Or._ 13): "In the
beginning the spirit was a constant companion of the soul, but forsook
it because the soul would not follow it; yet it retained, as it were,
a spark of its power," etc. See also Tertullian, _De Anima_, 41. The
curious word _synteresis_ (often misspelt _sinderesis_), which plays a
considerable part in mediæval mystical treatises, occurs first in
Jerome (on _Ezech._ i.): "Quartamque ponunt quam Græci vocant [Greek:
syntêrêsin], quæ scintilla conscientiæ in Cain quoque pectore non
exstinguitur, et qua victi voluptatibus vel furore nos peccare
sentimus.... In Scripturis [eam] interdum vocari legimus Spiritum."
Cf. Rom. viii. 26; 2 Cor. ii. 11. Then we find it in Alexander of
Hales, and in Bonaventura, who (_Itinerare_, c. I) defines it as "apex
mentis seu scintilla"; and more precisely (_Breviloquium, Pars_ 2, c.
11): "Benignissimus Deus quadruplex contulit ei adiutorium, scilicet
duplex naturæ et duplex gratiæ. Duplicem enim indidit rectitudinem
ipsi naturæ, videlicet unam ad recte iudicandum, et hæc est rectitudo
conscientiæ, aliam ad recte volendum, et hæc est synteresis, cuius est
remurmurare contra malum et stimulare ad bonum." Hermann of Fritslar
speaks of it as a power or faculty in the soul, wherein God works
immediately, "without means and without intermission." Ruysbroek
defines it as the natural will towards good implanted in us all, but
weakened by sin. Giseler says: "This spark was created with the soul
in all men, and is a clear light in them, and strives in every way
against sin, and impels steadily to virtue, and presses ever back to
the source from which it sprang." It has, says Lasson, a double
meaning in mystical theology, (a) the ground of the soul; (b) the
highest ethical faculty. In Thomas Aquinas it is distinguished from
"intellectus principiorum," the former being the highest activity of
the moral sense, the latter of the intellect. In Gerson, "synteresis"
is the highest of the affective faculties, the organ of which is the
intelligence (an emanation from the highest intelligence, which is God
Himself), and the activity of which is contemplation. Speaking
generally, the earlier scholastic mystics regard it as a remnant of
the sinless state before the fall, while for Eckhart and his school it
is the core of the soul.

There is another expression which must be considered in connexion with
the mediæval doctrine of deification. This is the _intellectus agens_,
or [Greek: nous poiêtikos], which began its long history in
Aristotle (_De Anima_, iii. 5). Aristotle there distinguishes two forms
of Reason, which are related to each other as form and matter. Reason
_becomes_ all things, for the matter of anything is potentially the
whole class to which it belongs; but Reason also _makes_ all things,
that is to say, it communicates to things those categories by which
they become objects of thought. This higher Reason is separate and
impassible ([Greek: chôristos kai amigês kai apathês]); it is
eternal and immortal; while the passive reason perishes with the body.
The creative Reason is immanent both in the human mind and in the
external world; and thus only is it possible for the mind to know
things. Unfortunately, Aristotle says very little more about his
[Greek: nous poiêtikos], and does not explain how the two Reasons
are related to each other, thereby leaving the problem for his
successors to work out. The most fruitful attempt to form a consistent
theory, on an idealistic basis, out of the ambiguous and perhaps
irreconcilable statements in the _De Anima_, was made by Alexander of
Aphrodisias (about 200 A.D.), who taught that the Active Reason "is
not a part or faculty of our soul, but comes to us from without"--it
is, in fact, identified with the Spirit of God working in us. Whether
Aristotle would have accepted this interpretation of his theory may be
doubted; but the commentary of Alexander of Aphrodisias was translated
into Arabic, and this view of the Active Reason became the basis of
the philosophy of Averroes. Averroes teaches that it is possible for
the passive reason to unite itself with the Active Reason, and that
this union may be attained or prepared for by ascetic purification and
study. But he denies that the passive reason is perishable, not
wishing entirely to depersonalise man. Herein he follows, he says,
Themistius, whose views he tries to combine with those of Alexander.
Avicenna introduces a celestial hierarchy, in which the higher
intelligences shed their light upon the lower, till they reach the
Active Reason, which lies nearest to man, "a quo, ut ipse dicit,
effluunt species intelligibiles in animas nostras" (Aquinas). The
doctrine of "monopsychism" was, of course, condemned by the Church.
Aquinas makes both the Active and Passive Reason parts of the human
soul. Eckhart, as I have said in the fourth Lecture, at one period of
his teaching expressly identifies the "intellectus agens" with the
"spark," in reference to which he says that "here God's ground is my
ground, and my ground God's ground." This doctrine of the Divinity of
the ground of the soul is very like the Cabbalistic doctrine of the
Neschamah, and the Neoplatonic doctrine of [Greek: Nous] (cf.
Stöckl, vol. ii. p. 1007). Eckhart was condemned for saying, "aliquid
est in anima quod est increatum et increabile; si tota anima esset
talis, esset increata et increabilis. Hoc est intellectus." Eckhart
certainly says explicitly that "as fire turns all that it touches into
itself, so the birth of the Son of God in the soul turns us into God,
so that God no longer knows anything in us but His Son." Man thus
becomes "filius naturalis Dei," instead of only "filius adoptivus." We
have seen that Eckhart, towards the end of his life, inclined more and
more to separate the spark, the organ of Divine contemplation, from
the reason. This is, of course, an approximation to the _other_ view
of deification--that of substitution or miraculous infusion from
_without_, unless we see in it a tendency to divorce the personality
from the reason. Ruysbroek states his doctrine of the Divine spark
very clearly: "The unity of our spirit in God exists in two ways,
essentially and actively. The essential existence of the soul, _quæ
secundum æternam ideam in Deo nos sumus, itemque quam in nobis
habemus, medii ac discriminis expers est_. Spiritus Deum in nuda
natura essentialiter possidet, et spiritum Deus. Vivit namque in Deo
et Deus in ipso; et _secundum supremam sui partem_ Dei claritatem
suscipere absque medio idoneus est; quin etiam per æterni exemplaris
sui claritudinem _essentialiter ac personaliter in ipso lucentis,
secundum supremam vivacitatis suæ portionem, in divinam sese demittit
ac demergit essentiam_, ibidemque perseveranter secundum ideam manendo
æternam suam possidet beatitudinem; rursusque cum creaturis omnibus
per æternam Verbi generationem inde emanans, in esse suo creato
constituitur." The "natural union," though it is the first cause of
all holiness and blessedness, does not make us holy and blessed, being
common to good and bad alike. "Similitude" to God is the work of
grace, "quæ lux quædam deiformis est." We cannot lose the "unitas,"
but we can lose the "similitudo quæ est gratia." The highest part of
the soul is capable of receiving a perfect and immediate impression of
the Divine essence; by this "apex mentis" we may "sink into the Divine
essence, and by a new (continuous) creation return to our created
being according to the idea of God." The question whether the "ground
of the soul" is created or not is obviously a form of the question
which we are now discussing. Giseler, as I have said, holds that it
was created with the soul. Sterngassen says: "That which God has in
eternity in uncreated wise, that has the soul in time in created
wise." But the author of the _Treatise on Love_, which belongs to this
period, speaks of the spark as "the Active Reason, _which is God_."
And again, "This is the _Uncreated_ in the soul of which Master
Eckhart speaks." Suso seems to imply that he believed the ground of
the soul to be uncreated, an emanation of the Divine nature; and
Tauler uses similar language. Ruysbroek, in the last chapter of the
_Spiritual Nuptials_, says that contemplative men "see that they are
_the same simple ground as to their uncreated nature_, and are one
with the same light by which they see, and which they see." The later
German mystics taught that the Divine essence is the material
substratum of the world, the creative will of God having, so to speak,
_alienated_ for the purpose a portion of His own essence. If, then,
the created form is broken through, God Himself becomes the ground of
the soul. Even Augustine countenances some such notion when he says,
"From a good man, or from a good angel, take away 'man' or 'angel,'
and you find God." But one of the chief differences between the older
and later Mysticism is that the former regarded union with God as
achieved through the faculties of the soul, the latter as inherent in
its essence. The doctrine of _immanence_, more and more emphasised,
tended to encourage the belief that the Divine element in the soul is
not merely something potential, something which the faculties may
acquire, but is immanent and basal. Tauler mentions both views, and
prefers the latter. Some hesitation may be traced in the _Theologia
Germanica_ on this point (p. 109, "Golden Treasury" edition): "The
true light is that eternal Light which is God; _or else_ it is a
created light, but yet Divine, which is called grace." Our Cambridge
Platonists naturally revived this Platonic doctrine of deification,
much to the dissatisfaction of some of their contemporaries. Tuckney
speaks of their teaching as "a kind of moral divinity minted only with
a little tincture of Christ added. Nay, _a Platonic faith unites to
God!_" Notwithstanding such protests, the Platonists persisted that
all true happiness consists in a participation of God; and that "we
cannot enjoy God by any external conjunction with Him."

The question was naturally raised, "If man by putting on Christ's life
can get nothing more than he has already, what good will it do him?"
The answer in the _Theologia Germanica_ is as follows: "This life is
not chosen in order to serve any end, or to get anything by it, but
for love of its nobleness, and because God loveth and esteemeth it so
greatly." It is plain that any view which regards man as essentially
Divine has to face great difficulties when it comes to deal with

The other view of deification, that of a _substitution_ of the Divine
Will, or Life, or Spirit, for the human, cannot in history be sharply
distinguished from the theories which have just been mentioned. But
the idea of substitution is naturally most congenial to those who feel
strongly "the corruption of man's heart," and the need of deliverance,
not only from our ghostly enemies, but from the tyranny of self. Such
men feel that there must be a _real_ change, affecting the very depths
of our personality. Righteousness must be imparted, not merely
imputed. And there is a death to be died as well as a life to be
lived. The old man must die before the new man, which is "not I but
Christ," can be born in us. The "birth of God (or Christ) in the soul"
is a favourite doctrine of the later German mystics. Passages from the
fourteenth century writers have been quoted in my fourth and fifth
Lectures. The following from Giseler may be added: "God will be born,
not in the Reason, not in the Will, but in the most inward part of the
essence, and all the faculties of the soul become aware thereof.
Thereby the soul passes into mere passivity, and lets God work." They
all insist on an immediate, substantial, personal indwelling, which is
beyond what Aquinas and the Schoolmen taught. The Lutheran Church
condemns those who teach that only the gifts of God, and not God
Himself, dwell in the believer; and the English Platonists, as we have
seen, insist that "an infant Christ" is really born in the soul. The
German mystics are equally emphatic about the annihilation of the old
man, which is the condition of this indwelling Divine life. In
quietistic (Nominalist) Mysticism the usual phrase was that the will
(or, better, "self-will") must be utterly destroyed, so that the
Divine Will may take its place. But Crashaw's "leave nothing of myself
in me," represents the aspiration of the later Catholic Mysticism
generally. St. Juan of the Cross says, "The soul must lose entirely
its human knowledge and human feelings, in order to receive Divine
knowledge and Divine feelings"; it will then live "as it were outside
itself," in a state "more proper to the future than to the present
life." It is easy to see how dangerous such teaching may be to weak
heads. A typical example, at a much earlier date, is that of Mechthild
of Hackeborn (about 1240). It was she who said, "My soul swims in the
Godhead like a fish in water!" and who believed that, in answer to her
prayers, God had so united Himself with her that she saw with His
eyes, and heard with His ears, and spoke with His mouth. Many similar
examples might be found among the mediæval mystics.

Between the two ideas of essentialisation and of substitution comes
that of gradual _transformation_, which, again, cannot in history be
separated from the other two. It has the obvious advantage of not
regarding deification as an _opus operatum_, but as a process, as a
hope rather than a fact. A favourite maxim with mystics who thought
thus, was that "love changes the lover into the beloved." Louis of
Granada often recurs to this thought.

The best mystics rightly see in the doctrine of the Divinity of Christ
the best safeguard against the extravagances to which the notion of
deification easily leads. Particularly instructive here are the
warnings which are repeated again and again in the _Theologia
Germanica_. "The false light dreameth itself to be God, and taketh to
itself what belongeth to God as God is in eternity without the
creature. Now, God in eternity is without contradiction, suffering,
and grief, and nothing can hurt or vex Him. But with God when He is
made man it is otherwise." "Therefore the false light thinketh and
declareth itself to be above all works, words, customs, laws, and
order, and above that life which Christ led in the body which He
possessed in His holy human nature. So likewise it professeth to
remain unmoved by any of the creature's works; whether they be good or
evil, against God or not, is all alike to it; and it keepeth itself
apart from all things, like God in eternity; and all that belongeth to
God and to no creature it taketh to itself, and vainly dreameth that
this belongeth to it." "It doth not set up to be Christ, but the
eternal God. And this is because Christ's life is distasteful and
burdensome to nature, therefore it will have nothing to do with it;
but to be God in eternity and not man, or to be Christ as He was after
His resurrection, is all easy and pleasant and comfortable to nature,
and so it holdeth it to be best."

These three views of the manner in which we may hope to become
"partakers of the Divine nature," are all aspects of the truth. If we
believe that we were made in the image of God, then in becoming like
Him we are realising our true idea, and entering upon the heritage
which is ours already by the will of God. On the other hand, if we
believe that we have fallen very far from original righteousness, and
have no power of ourselves to help ourselves, then we must believe in
a deliverance from _outside_, an acquisition of a righteousness not
our own, which is either imparted or imputed to us. And, thirdly, if
we are to hope for a real change in our relations to God, there must
be a real change _in_ our personality,--a progressive transmutation,
which without breach of continuity will bring us to be something
different from what we were. The three views are not mutually
exclusive. As Vatke says, "The influence of Divine grace does not
differ from the immanent development of the deepest Divine germ of
life in man, only that it here stands over-against man regarded as a
finite and separate being--as something external to himself. If the
Divine image is the true nature of man, and if it only possesses
reality in virtue of its identity with its type or with the Logos,
then there can be no true self-determination in man which is not at
the same time a self-determination of the type in its image." We
cannot draw a sharp line between the operations of our own personality
and those of God in us. Personality escapes from all attempts to limit
and define it. It is a concept which stretches into the infinite, and
therefore can only be represented to thought symbolically. The
personality must not be identified with the "spark," the "Active
Reason," or whatever we like to call the highest part of our nature.
Nor must we identify it with the changing _Moi_ (as Fénelon calls it).
The personality, as I have said in Lecture I. (p. 33), is both the
end--the ideal self, and the changing _Moi_, and yet neither. If
either thesis is held divorced from its antithesis, the thought ceases
to be mystical. The two ideals of self-assertion and self-sacrifice
are both true and right, and both, separately, unattainable. They are
opposites which are really necessary to each other. I have quoted from
Vatke's attempt to reconcile grace and free-will: another extract from
a writer of the same school may perhaps be helpful. "In the growth of
our experience," says Green, "an animal organism, which has its
history in time, gradually becomes the vehicle of an eternally
complete consciousness. What we call our mental history is not a
history of this consciousness, which in itself can have no history,
but a history of the process by which the animal organism becomes its
vehicle. 'Our consciousness' may mean either of two things: either a
function of the animal organism, which is being made, gradually and
with interruptions, a vehicle of the eternal consciousness; or that
eternal consciousness itself, as making the animal organism its
vehicle and subject to certain limitations in so doing, but retaining
its essential characteristic as independent of time, as the
determinant of becoming, which has not and does not itself become. The
consciousness which varies from moment to moment ... is consciousness
in the former sense. It consists in what may properly be called
phenomena.... The latter consciousness ... constitutes our knowledge"
(_Prolegomena to Ethics_, pp. 72, 73). Analogous is our _moral_
history. But no Christian can believe that our life, mental or moral,
is or ever can be _necessary_ to God in the same sense in which He is
necessary to our existence. For practical religion, the symbol which
we shall find most helpful is that of a progressive transformation of
our nature after the pattern of God revealed in Christ; a process
which has as its end a real union with God, though this end is, from
the nature of things, unrealisable in time. It is, as I have said in
the body of the Lectures, a _progessus ad infinitum_, the consummation
of which we are nevertheless entitled to claim as already ours in a
transcendental sense, in virtue of the eternal purpose of God made
known to us in Christ.


The Mystical Interpretation Of The Song Of Solomon

The headings to the chapters in the Authorised Version give a sort of
authority to the "mystical" interpretation of Solomon's Song, a poem
which was no doubt intended by its author to be simply a romance of
true love. According to our translators, the Lover of the story is
meant for Christ, and the Maiden for the Church. But the tendency of
Catholic Mysticism has been to make the individual soul the bride of
Christ, and to treat the Song of Solomon as symbolic of "spiritual
nuptials" between Him and the individual "contemplative." It is this
latter notion, the growth of which I wish to trace.

Erotic Mysticism is no part of Platonism. That "sensuous love of the
unseen" (as Pater calls it), which the Platonist often seems to aim
at, has more of admiration and less of tenderness than the emotion
which we have now to consider. The notion of a spiritual marriage
between God and the soul seems to have come from the Greek Mysteries,
through the Alexandrian Jews and Gnostics. Representations of
"marriages of gods" were common at the Mysteries, especially at those
of the least reputable kind (cf. Lucian, _Alexander_, 38). In other
instances the ceremony of initiation was made to resemble a marriage,
and the [Greek: mystês] was greeted with the words [Greek: chaire,
nymphie]. And among the Jews of the first century there existed a
system of Mysteries, probably copied from Eleusis. They had their
greater and their lesser Mysteries, and we hear that among their
secret doctrines was "marriage with God." In Philo we find strange and
fantastic speculations on this subject. For instance, he argues that
as the Bible does not mention Abraham, Jacob, and Moses as [Greek:
gnôrizontas tas gynaikas], we are meant to believe that their children
were not born naturally. But he allegorises the women of the
Pentateuch in such a way ([Greek: logô men eisi gynaikes, ergô de
aretai]) that it is difficult to say what he wishes us to believe in a
literal sense. The Valentinian Gnostics seem to have talked much of
"spiritual marriage," and it was from them that Origen got the idea of
elaborating the conception. But, curiously enough, it is Tertullian
who first argues that the body as well as the soul is the bride of
Christ. "If the soul is the bride," he says, "the flesh is the dowry"
(_de Resurr._ 63). Origen, however, really began the mischief in his
homilies and commentary on the Song of Solomon. The prologue of the
commentary in Rufinus commences as follows: "Epithalamium libellus
hic, id est nuptiale carmen, dramatis in modum mihi videtur a Salomone
conscriptus, quem cecinit instar nubentis sponsæ, et erga sponsum suum
qui est sermo Dei cælesti amore flagrantis. Adamavit enim eum _sive
anima_, quæ ad imaginem eius facta est, sive ecclesia." Harnack says
that Gregory of Nyssa exhibits the conception in its purest and most
attractive form in the East, and adds, "We can point to very few Greek
Fathers in whom the figure does not occur." (There is a learned note
on the subject by Louis de Leon, which corroborates this statement of
Harnack. He refers to Chrysostom, Theodoret, Irenæus, Hilary, Cyprian,
Augustine, Tertullian, Ignatius, Gregory of Nyssa, Cyril, Leo,
Photius, and Theophylact as calling Christ the bridegroom of souls.)
In the West, we find it in Ambrose, less prominently in Augustine and
Jerome. Dionysius seizes on the phrase of Ignatius, "My love has been
crucified," to justify erotic imagery in devotional writing.

Bernard's homilies on the Song of Solomon gave a great impetus to this
mode of symbolism; but even he says that the Church and not the
individual is the bride of Christ. There is no doubt that the enforced
celibacy and virginity of the monks and nuns led them, consciously or
unconsciously, to transfer to the human person of Christ (and to a
much slighter extent, to the Virgin Mary) a measure of those feelings
which could find no vent in their external lives. We can trace this,
in a wholesome and innocuous form, in the visions of Juliana of
Norwich. Quotations from Ruysbroek's _Spiritual Nuptials_, and from
Suso, bearing on the same point, are given in the body of the
Lectures. Good specimens of devotional poetry of this type might be
selected from Crashaw and Quarles. (A few specimens are included in
Palgrave's _Golden Treasury of Sacred Song_.) Fénelon's language on
the subject is not quite so pleasing; it breathes more of
sentimentality than of reverence. The contemplative, he says, desires
"une simple présence de Dieu purement amoureuse," and speaks to Christ
always "comme l'épouse à l'époux."

The Sufis or Mohammedan mystics use erotic language very freely, and
appear, like true Asiatics, to have attempted to give a sacramental or
symbolic character to the indulgence of their passions. From this
degradation the mystics of the cloister were happily free; but a
morbid element is painfully prominent in the records of many mediæval
saints, whose experiences are classified by Ribet. He enumerates--(1)
"Divine touches," which Scaramelli defines as "real but purely
spiritual sensations, by which the soul feels the intimate presence of
God, and tastes Him with great delight"; (2) "The wound of love," of
which one of his authorities says, "hæc poena tam suavis est quod
nulla sit in hac vita delectatio quæ magis satisfaciat." It is to this
experience that Cant. ii. 5 refers: "Fulcite me floribus, stipate me
malis, quia amore langueo." Sometimes the wound is not purely
spiritual: St. Teresa, as was shown by a post-mortem examination, had
undergone a miraculous "transverberation of the heart": "et pourtant
elle survécut près de vingt ans à cette blessure mortelle"! (3)
Catherine of Siena was betrothed to Christ with a ring, which remained
always on her fingers, though visible to herself alone. Lastly, in the
revelations of St. Gertrude we read: "Feria tertia Paschæ dum
communicatura desideraret a Domino ut per idem sacramentum vivificum
renovare dignaretur in anima eius matrimonium spirituale quod ipsi in
spiritu erat desponsata per fidem et religionem, necnon per virginalis
pudicitiæ integritatem, Dominus blanda serenitate respondit: hoc,
inquiens, indubitanter faciam. Sic inclinatus ad eam blandissimo
affectu eam ad se stringens osculum prædulce animæ eius infixit," etc.

The employment of erotic imagery to express the individual relation
between Christ and the soul is always dangerous; but this objection
does not apply to the statement that "the Church is the bride of
Christ." Even in the Old Testament we find the chosen people so spoken
of (cf. Isa. liv. 5; Jer. iii. 14). Professor Cheyne thinks that the
Canticles were interpreted in this sense, and that this is why the
book gained admission into the Canon. In the New Testament, St. Paul
uses the symbol of marriage in Rom. vii. 1-4; 1 Cor. xi. 3; Eph. v.
23-33. On the last passage Canon Gore says: "The love of Christ--the
removal of obstacles to His love by atoning sacrifice--the act of
spiritual purification--the gradual sanctification--the consummated
union in glory; these are the moments of the Divine process of
redemption, viewed from the side of Christ, which St. Paul specifies."
This use of the "sacrament" of marriage (as a symbol of the mystical
union between Christ and the Church), which alone has the sanction of
the New Testament, is one which, we hope, the Church will always
treasure. The more personal relation also exists, and the fervent
devotion which it elicits must not be condemned; though we are forced
to remember that in our mysteriously constituted minds the highest and
lowest emotions lie very near together, and that those who have chosen
a life of detachment from earthly ties must be especially on their
guard against the "occasional revenges" which the lower nature, when
thwarted, is always plotting against the higher.

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We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.