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Mystics of the renaissance and their

3 olin

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http ://arch ive .0 rg/detai Is/cu31 924029351 32


MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE AND

THEIR RELATION TO MODERN

THOUGHT

INCLUDING

MEISTER ECKHART, TAULER. PARACELSUS, JACOB BOEHME, GIORDANO BRUNO,

AND OTHERS BY

RUDOLF STEINER Ph.D. (Vienna)

AUTHORISED TRANSLATION FROM THE GERMAN BY BERTRAM KEIGHTLEY, M.A. (Cantab.)

G.

P.

PUTNAM'S SONS

NEW YORK AND LONDON Zbe

Iftnfcfterbocftct

1911

©rcsg


7

^ \y

/

Copyright, 1911 BY

MAX

GYSI

MAX GYSI, Editor, " Adyar," Park Drive, London, N. W.

Ube

Itntcltetboclier gStesB,

Wew

IBotli


CONTENTS PAGE

Foreword Introduction

.....

v i

....

52

Friendship with God [Tauler, Suso AND RuYSBROECK]

81

Meister Eckhart

.

.

Cardinal Nicholas of Cusa

.

.

.

-133

Agrippa von Nettesheim and TheoPHRASTUS Paracelsus .182 .

.

Valentine Weigel and Jacob Boehme

223

Giordano Bruno and Angelus Silesius

246

Afterword

269

......


FOREWORD The the

matter which public

in

am

I

laying before

book formed

this

content of lectures which

I

the

delivered

during last winter at the Theosophical Library in Berlin.

I

had been requested

by Grafin and Graf Brockdorff to speak upon Mysticism before an audience for

whom stitute

the matters thus dealt with con-

a

vital question of the

importance.

Ten

utmost

years earlier I could

not have ventured to

fulfil

such a re-

Not that the realm of ideas, to which I now give expression, did not quest.

even then

live actively

within me.

For

these ideas are already fully contained in

my

1894.

Philosophy

Emil

of

Felber).

Freedom

But

(Berlin,

to give ex-


FOREWORD

vi

pression to this world of ideas in such

wise as basis of

I

do to-day, and to make

an exposition as

following

pages

—to

the

done on the

is

do

it

requires

this

something quite other than merely to

be immovably convinced of the lectual truth of these ideas.

It

an intimate acquaintance with of ideas, such as only

can give.

many

intel-

demands

this

realm

years of

life

Only now, after having en-

joyed that intimacy, do

I

venture to

speak in such wise as will be found in this book.

Any one who world of is

does not approach

my

ideas without preconceptions

sure to discover therein contradiction

after

contradiction.

cently (Berlin, 1900.

I

have quite

S.

Cronbach) dedi-

re-

cated a book upon the world conceptions of the nineteenth century to that great

naturalist, Ernst Haeckel,

and closed

it


FOREWORD

vii

with a defence of his thought- world. In the following expositions,

speak

I

about the Mystics, from Master Eckhart to Angelus Silesius, with a fuU measure of

devotion and acquiescence. tradictions,"

may

which one

further count

not mention at

me

Other "con-

critic or

another

up against me,

all.

It does

I shall

not surprise

condemned from one side as a "Mystic" and from the other as a to be

"MateriaHst." Jesuit Father

When

I

find

MuUer has

cult chemical problem,

and

that the

solved a I

diffi-

therefore in

him unreservedly, one can hardly condemn this

me

particular matter agree with

as an adherent of Jesuitism without

being reckoned a fool by those

who have

insight.

Whoever goes his own road, as I do, must needs allow many a misunderstanding about himself to pass.

That,


FOREWORD

viii

For such

enough.

are, in the

up with

put

however, he can

easily

misunderstandings

main, inevitable in his eyes,

when he recalls the mental type of those who misjudge him. I look back, not without humorous feelings, upon many a "critical" judgment that fered in the course of

At the I

my

outset, matters

I

have

siif-

literary career.

went

fairly well.

wrote about Goethe and his philosophy.

What

I

said there appeared to

many to

of such a nature that they could in their

mental pigeon-holes.

did by saying:

"A work

be

file it

This they

such as Rudolf

Steiner's Introduction to Goethe s Writings

upon Natural Science may, without tation,

hesi-

be described as the best that has

been written upon this question."

When,

later,

bit

published

an inde-

had already grown a more stupid. For now a well

pendent work,

good

I I


FOREWORD meaning

critic offered

ix

the advice " Before :

he goes on reforming further and gives Freedom to the world,

his Philosophy of

he should be pressingly advised

first

to

work himself through to an understanding of these

two philosophers [Hume and

The critic unfortunately knows only so much as he is himself able to read in Kant and Hume; practically, thereKant]."

fore,

me

to learn to see

in these thinkers

than he him-

he simply advises

no more

When I have

self sees.

be

will

my

satisfied

attained that, he

Then when

with me.

Philosophy and Freedom appeared, I

was found

to be as

much

in

need of cor-

most ignorant beginner. received from a gentleman who

rection as the

This

I

probably nothing

else

impelled to the

writing of books except that he had not

understood

He gravely

innumerable informs

foreign

me that I

ones.

should have


FOREWORD

X

noticed

my

mistakes

if

I

had "made

more thorough studies in psychology, logic, and the theory of knowledge"; and he enumerates forthwith the books ought to read to become as wise as

I

himself:

"Mill, Sigwart,

Paulsen, B.

Erdmann."

Wundt, Riehl, What amused

me especially was this advice from a man who was so "impressed" with the way he "understood" Kant that he could not even imagine how any man could have read Kant and yet judge otherwise

than himself.

indicates to

me

He

therefore

the exact chapters in

question in Kant's writings from which I

may be able to

of

Kant

his

own.

I

as deep

and as thorough as

have cited here a couple

criticisms of in

obtain an understanding

my

themselves

world of ideas. unimportant,

of typical

Though yet

they


FOREWORD me

seem to

to point, as

xi

symptoms, to

which present themselves to-day

facts

as serious obstacles in the path of any

one aiming at literary activity in regard to the higher

Thus

I

problems of knowledge.

my

must go on

whether one

man

gives

way,

me

indifferent,

the good ad-

vice to read Kant, or another hunts

me

as a heretic because I agree with Haeckel.

And

so I have also written

upon Mysti-

how a faithmaterialist may judge

cism, wholly indifferent as to

and believing

ful

of

me.

ters'

I

may

ink

out need

would only

—so that prin-

not be wasted wholly with-

—to inform any one me

perchance advise Riddle of the last

like

who may,

to read Haeckel's

Universe, that during the

few months

I

have delivered about

upon the said work. hope to have shown in this book

thirty lectures I

that one

may be

a faithful adherent of


FOREWORD

xii

the scientific conception of the world

and yet be able to

rightly

further

along

Soul

the

to seek out those paths

understood,

which

Mysticism,

leads.

I

even go

and say: Only he who knows the

Spirit, in

the sense of true Mysticism, can

attain a full understanding of the facts of Nature.

But one must not confuse

true Mysticism with the "pseudo-mys-

How Mysshown in my

ticism" of ill-ordered minds. ticism

can

Philosophy

err,

of

I

have

Freedom

(page

131

seq.).

Rudolf Steiner. Berlin, September, 1901.

et


MYSTICS OF

THE RENAISSANCE


Mystics of the Renaissance INTRODUCTION There

are

magical

certain

formulae

which operate throughout the centuries of

Man's mental

ways.

In

history

Greece

one

in ever

such

new-

formula

was regarded as an oracle of Apollo. runs:

"Know

Thyself."

It

Such sentences

seem to conceal within them an unending

life.

One comes upon them when

fol-

lowing the most diverse roads in mental life.

The further one advances, the more

one penetrates into the knowledge of things, the deeper appears the significance

of these formulae. of otu" brooding

In

many

a

moment

and thinking, they

flash


2

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

out like lightning, illuminating our whole In such moments there

inner being.

quickens within us a feeling as

if

we

heard the heart-beat of the evolution of

How

mankind.

close

do we not

feel

ourselves to personalities of the past,

when the

feeling

comes over

us,

through

one of their winged words, that they are

had had

revealing to us that they, too,

such moments!

We

then brought into

feel ourselves

intimate touch with these personalities.

For instance, we learn to know Hegel intimately when, of

Lectures

his

History

"Such tions

on

we come one

stuff,

that

the third volume

in

the

Philosophy

across

may

the

of

words:

say, the abstrac-

we contemplate when we

allow the philosophers to quarrel and battle in our study,

be thus or so

and make

it

out to

—mere verbal abstractions!


INTRODUCTION

3

No! No! These are deeds of the worldspirit and therefore of destiny. Therein the Philosophers are nearer to the Master

than are those who feed themselves with the crumbs of the spirit; they read or write the Cabinet Orders in the original at once; they are constrained to write

them out along with Him.

The

Philoso-

phers are the Mystee who, at the in the

part."

When

Hegel said

experienced one of those

spoken in

crisis

inmost shrine, were there and took

of.

this,

he had

moments

just

He uttered the phrases when,

the covirse of his remarks, he had

reached the close of Greek philosophy;

and through them he showed that once, like

a gleam of lightning, the meaning

of the Neoplatonic philosophy, of

which

he was just treating, had flashed upon him.

In the instant of this

become intimate with minds

flash,

he had

like Plotinus


MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

4

and Proklus; and we become intimate with him when

We

we

read his words.

become intimate,

too,

with that

solitary thinker, the Pastor of Zschopau,

M.

when we read

Valentin Weigel,

opening words of his

the

book Know

little

"We read in the the useful saying, Know

Thyself, written in 1578:

wise

men

of old

Thyself,' which,

used

'

though

it

be right well

about worldly manners, as thus:

'regard well thyself, in thine

what thou

own bosom, judge

lay no blame on

others,'

art,

seek

thyself

and

a saying,

repeat, which, though thus used of life

I

human

and manners, may well and appro-

by us to the natural and supernatural knowing of the whole man; so indeed, that man shall not only consider himself and thereby remember priately be applied

how he

should bear himself before people,

but that he shall also know his

own


INTRODUCTION

5

nature, inner and outer, in spirit and in Nattire;

he

is

So,

whence he cometh and whereof

made, to what end he

is

ordained."

from points of view peculiar to him-

self,

Valentin Weigel attained to insight

which

in his

this oracle of

A

mind summed

itself

up

in

ApoUo.

similar path to insight

lation to the saying

be ascribed to a

and a

like re-

"Know Thyself" may

series of

thinkers, beginning with

deep-natured

Master Eckhart

(1250-1327), and ending with Angelus Silesius (1624-1677),

among whom may

be found also Valentin Weigel himself. All these thinkers have in

common a

strong sense of the fact that in man's

knowing

of himself

there rises

a

sun

which illuminates something very different from the mere accidental, separated personality of the beholder.

What

Spi-

noza became conscious of in the ethereal


MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

6

heights of piire thought,

human

soul possesses

viz.,

that "the

an adequate know-

ledge of the Eternal and Infinite Being of God,"in

them

—that same consciousness lived and

as immediate feeling;

self-

knowledge was to them the path leading to this Eternal

was

clear to

and

Infinite Being.

them that self-knowledge

man

true form enriched

its

sense,

It

in

with a new

which unlocked for him a world

standing in relation to the world accessible

to

him without

this

new

sense as

does the world of one possessing physical sight to that of a blind It

would be

man. a better

difficult to find

description of the import of this

than the one given by

J.

new sense

G. Fichte in his

Berlin Lectiures (1813):

"Imagine a world to are

whom

all

objects

of

men bom

and

blind,

their relations

known only through the

sense

of


INTRODUCTION

7

Go amongst them and

touch.

them

of

and other

colours

speak to relations,

which are rendered visible only through Either you are talking to them

light.

of nothing,

—and

if

they say

the luckier, for thus

your mistake, and, their eyes, cease or,

for

if

you

this,

will

it

is

soon see

you cannot open

your useless talking,

some reason or

other, they will

upon giving some meaning or other to what you say; then they can only interpret it in relation to what they They will seek to know by touch. insist

feel,

they

light

and

dents

of

will

imagine

colour,

they

do

and the other

visibility,

they

will

feel

inci-

invent

something for themselves, deceive themselves with of touch,

Then they

something within the world

which they wiU will

and misinterpret

call

colour.

misunderstand, distort, it."


8

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

The same thing applies to what the thinkers we are speaking of sought after. They beheld a new sense opening in selfknowledge,

and

this sense yielded, ac-

cording to their experiences, views of things for

which are

simply

non-existent

one who does not see in self-knowledge

what

distinguishes

One

of knowing.

it

in

from

all

other kinds

whom this new sense

has not been opened, believes that

knowing, or

self -perception,

the same

is

thing as perception through senses,

or

through

acting from without ing

is

Only

.

any

in the

the outer

means

other

He thinks

knowing, perceiving

is

self-

:

' '

Know-

perceiving."

one case the object

is

some-

thing lying in the world outside, in the

other this object

is

his

own

soul.

He

finds words merely, or at best, abstract

thoughts, in that which for those

more deeply

is

who

see

the very foundation of


INTRODUCTION their inner sition:

namely, in the propo-

life;

that

9

in

every

kind

other

of

knowing or perception we have the object perceived outside of ourselves, while in self-knowledge or

self-perception

we

we

see

stand within that object; that

every other object coming to us already

complete and finished selves we, as actors

ing that which

This

may

off,

whUe

in our-

and creators, are weav-

we observe within

us.

appear to be nothing but a

merely verbal explanation, perhaps even a triviality;

it

may

appear, on the other

hand, as a higher light which illuminates every other cognition.

appears in the

is

way,

it

in the po-

is

man, to

words, but for him the glitter

He might tinite of

whom

to

whom one says: a glittering object. He hears the

sition of a blind

there

first

One

is

in himself the

not there.

whole simi

knowledge of his time; but

if

he


MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

10

does not

and

feel

realise the significance

of self-knowledge, then

it

is

in the

all,

higher sense, a blind knowledge.

The world,

outside of and independent

of us, exists for us

by communicating

What

to our consciousness.

itself

made known must needs be

thus

is

expressed in

the language peculiar to otirselves.

A

book, the contents of which were offered in a language

unknown

to us, wovdd for

us be without meaning.

Similarly, the

world would be meaningless for us did it

not speak to us in oux

the

own tongue and ;

same language which reaches us

from things, we also hear from within ourselves.

selves

who

point

is

But

in that case, it is

speak.

that

The

we should

really

we

otor-

important

correctly appre-

hend the transposition which occurs when

we

close our perception against external

things and listen only to that wnich then


INTRODUCTION But

speaks from within.

new awakened, we

needs this

ii

sense.

If it

to

this

has not been

believe that in

thus told us about ourselves

do

we

what

is

are hear-

ing only about something external to us

we fancy

that somewhere there

something which

is

is

hidden

speaking to us in the

same way as external things speak.

But

we possess this new sense, then we know that these perceptions differ essenif

from those relating to external

tially

Then we

things.

realise that this

what

sense does not leave

outside of object its

it

itself,

sees;

but that

If I see

remains outside of self,

then

ception.

more

I

perceives

it

as the eye leaves the

object wholly into

remainder.

it

can take up

itself,

leaving no

a thing, that thing

me

;

if

I

perceive

my-

my

per-

myself enter into

Whoever

of himself

new

seeks for something

than what

is

perceived,


MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

13

him the

real con-

tent in the perception has not

come to

shows thereby that

for

Johannes Tauler (1300-1361), has

light.

expressed this truth in the apt words:

"If I were a king and

should

I

be no king.

if

then for myself

for myself I

sess

If I

I

do not

do shine

myself also in

own most deeply

my J.

not, then

self-percep-

But

exist.

out, then I pos-

my perception,

original being.

remains no residue of myself of

it

do not shine

my own

forth for myself in tion,

knew

left

my

in

There outside

perception."

G. Fichte, in the following words,

vigorously points to the difference be-

tween self-perception and every other kind of perception:

men

"The majority

of

could be more easily brought to be-

lieve themselves

moon than an

a liimp of lava in the 'ego.'

Whoever

is

not

at one with himself as to this, under-


INTRODUCTION

13

stands no thorough-going philosophy and

Nature, whose ma-

has need of none. chine he

is,

will guide

him

in all the

things he has to do without any sort of

added help from him. For philosophising, self-reliance is needed,

and

only give to oneself.

We

want

this

one can

ought not to

to see without the eye; but also

ought not to maintain that

it is

we

the eye

which sees."

Thus the perception

of oneself is also

the awakening of oneself.

In our cog-

we combine the being of things with our own being. The communications, which things make to us in our own language, become members of onr own selves. An object in front of me nition

is

not separated from me, once

known from

own

it

it.

What

I

am

I

able to receive

becomes part and parcel

being.

If,

now,

I

have

awaken

of

my

my own


MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

14

self, if I

become aware

my own

inner being, then

mode

to a higher

from without

own

me

at

whatever

I

awakening have made

falls

springs

up within me and

my

upon upon

from the

world.

of

me

also

my own

outside

the

of

light that falls

things

and with

which

of being, that

The

my

awaken

I also

have made part

I

being.

of the content of

A

light

iilumines me,

that I have cognised of

all

Whatever I might know would

the world.

remain blind knowledge, did not this light fall

upon

I

it.

might search the

world through and through with perception;

my

the world would not be

still

me

must become, unless that perception were awakened in me to

that which in

it

a higher mode of being.

That which this

awakening

an enrichment

add to things through

I is

not a

of

new

idea, is

the content

of

not

my


INTRODUCTION knowing;

it is

an uplifting

15

of the

know-

ledge, of the cognition, to a higher level,

where everything glory.

sviffused

is

So long as

do not

I

with a new

raise

my con-

sciousness to this level, aU knowledge con-

tinues to be for me, in the higher sense, valueless.

my

The

things are there without

They have

presence.

in themselves.

What

my

could there be in being, which they

meaning

possible

linking with their

spiritual existence in

which repeats the things over

again within

me?

If

only a mere repeti-

tion of things were involved, senseless to carry

mere repetition I

is

it

out.

it

would be

But, really, a

only involved so long as

have not awakened, along with

self,

being

have outside and apart

from me, another addition,

their

my own

the mental content of these things

upon a higher level. When this occurs, then I have not merely repeated within


MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

i6

myself the being of things, but

brought

to a

new

birth on a higher

With the awakening

level.

there

it

is

have

I

my

of

self,

accomplished a spiritual re-birth

of the things of the world.

What

the things reveal in this re-birth

did not previously belong to them. There, without, stands the tree. to

my

consciousness.

I

take

throw

I

it

up

my

in-

inner

upon that which I have thus conceived. The tree becomes in me more than it is outside. That in it which finds

light

entrance through the gate of the senses

An

taken up into a conscious content. ideal replica of the tree is within

tell

me.

what the

me, and

more to say about the

that has infinitely tree than

is

can

tree itself, outside,

Then, for the

first

time there

shines out from within me, towards the tree,

what the

tree

is.

The

tree

no longer the isolated being that

is

now

it is

out


INTRODUCTION there in space.

17

becomes a link

It

in

the entire conscious world that lives in

me.

with other ideas

It links its content

that are in me.

It

becomes a member of

the whole world of ideas that embraces

kingdom;

vegetable

the

takes

it

its

place, further, in the series of all that lives.

Another example:

throw a stone

I

in a horizontal direction It

moves

time

in

a curved

line

away from me. and

to the ground.

falls

after

some

I see it

in

moments of time in different Through observation and re-

successive places.

flection I acquire the following: its

motion the stone If it

influences.

is

During

subject to different

were subject only to

the influence of the impulse which I im-

parted to

it,

it

would go on

ever in a straight its velocity.

line,

flying for

without altering

But now the earth

exerts an


1

8

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

influence

upon

towards

itself.

ing the stone, I

would have

and

its

It attracts the stone

it.

instead

If,

had simply

fallen

throw-

of

let it go, it

vertically to

earth;

velocity in doing so

would have

From

the mutual

constantly increased. interaction of these

two influences

arises

that which I actually see.

Let us assiome that

I

could not in

thought separate the two influences, and

from

this orderly

combination put to-

gether again in thought what I see: in that case, the matter would end with the actual happening.

It

would be mentally

a blind staring at what happened; a perception of the successive positions which

the stone occupies.

But

in actual fact,

matters do not stop there.

The whole Once out-

occurrence takes place twice. side,

and then

my

eye sees

it;

then

my

mind causes the whole happening to


INTRODUCTION repeat

19

again, in a mental or con-

itself

My

scious manner.

must be

inner sense

upon the mental occurrence, which my eye does not see, and then it

directed

becomes

clear to that sense that

my own

awaken that

inner power,

I,

by

occur-

rence as a mental one.

another

Again, Fichte's this

may

sentence

J.

G.

be quoted which brings

clearly

fact

of

"Thus the new

sense

is

mind.

the

before

the sense for

the spirit; that for which there exists

only spirit and absolutely nothing

and

for

which also the

itself

into spirit,

therefore being in its

has

actually

has

been

the

all

that

is

for

which

own proper form

disappeared. faculty

this sense ever since

and

'other,' the given

the form of spirit and

being, assumes

transforms

else,

of

.

.

.

There

seeing with

men have

existed,

great and excellent in the


MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

20

world, which alone upholds htomanity, originates in

what has been seen by means

of this sense.

It

is,

however, not the

case that this sense has been perceived

or

known

trast

and

in its difference

its

con-

with that other, ordinary sense.

The impressions

of the

into one another,

two senses melted

life fell

apart into these

two halves without a bond

The bond

of union

is

of imion."

created

by the

fact that the inner sense grasps in its spirituality the spiritual it

awakens

element which

in its intercourse

with the

That which we take up consciousness from outside

outer world.

our

into

things

thereby ceases to

mere meaningless as something

appear as a

repetition.

new over

It

appears

against that which

only external perception can give.

The

simple occurrence of throwing the stone,

and

my

perception thereof, appear in a


INTRODUCTION higher Hght

when

I

make

clear to myself

my

the kind of task which

21

inner sense

has to perform in regard to the whole

In order to

thing.

fit

together in thought

the two influences and their action,

modes

of

an amotmt of mental content

is

needed which

when

quired

therefore

I

I

must already have

apply a spiritual content

already stored up within that confronts

And

this

world

fits itself

me

me to something

in the external world.

occurrence

in

the

external

into the spiritual content

already present.

own

ac-

cognise the flying stone.

I

It reveals itself in its

special individuality as

an expres-

sion of this content.

Through

the

understanding

inner sense, there

me

the

obtains sense

nature

my

thus disclosed to

is

of

of

the

between the

and the things

relation

content of

the

of

that this

external


22

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE Fichte would say that without

world.

the

understanding

world

falls

this

me

into

apart for

two halves:

and

into things outside of me,

of these things within

tiores

the

sense,

of

into pic-

The

me.

two halves become united when inner self understands

itself

the

and con-

sequently recognises clearly what sort of illumination

throws upon things in

it

And

the cognitive process.

Fichte could

also venture to say that this inner sense sees only Spirit.

For

perceives

it

how

the Spirit enlightens the sense-world

making world.

it

part and parcel of the spiritual

The inner

sense causes the outer

sense-world to arise within spiritual being

ternal object

there

is

by

on a higher

no part

undergone

a

level.

completely

is

of

it

itself

as a

An

ex-

known when

which has not thus

spiritual

every external object

re-birth. fits

itself

Thus into a


INTRODUCTION content,

spiritual

which,

23

when

has

it

been grasped by the inner sense, shares the destiny of self-knowledge.

The

tual content, which belongs to

an object

through

merges

illumination

its

itself

spiri-

from within,

wholly, like the very

into the world of ideas, leaving

no

self,

re-

mainder behind.

These developments contain nothing which

is

logical

susceptible or even in need of

proof.

They

nothing

are

the results of inner experience.

ever

calls

into

experience.

lacking in this

is

It

dispute with him; as

is

impossible to

must

could one

little

discuss colour with a blind It

Who-

question this content,

shows only that he inner

but

not, however,

man.

be contended

made possible only through the special endowment of a few chosen people. It is a common

that this inner experience

is


MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

84

property.

Every one can enter upon

the path to

this experience

who does

not of his own will shut himself against This closing up of oneself against

it.

it, is,

however,

common

enough.

And

in

dealing with objections raised in this direction, it

is

one always has the feeling that

not so

much a matter

of people

being unable to attain this inner perience, as of their

ex-

having hopelessly

blocked the entrance to

it

of logical spiders' webs.

with aU kinds

It

is

almost as

some one looking through a telescope

if

and discovering a new yet deny lations

its

planet

should

existence because his calcu-

have shown that there can be no

planet in that position.

But with aU

this there

is still

in

most

people the clearly marked feeling that all

that really

lies in

the being of things

cannot be completely given in what the


INTRODUCTION

25

outer senses and the analysing under-

standing can cognise.

They then beleft over must

lieve that the remainder so

be just as

much

in the external world as

are the things of our perceptions themselves.

They think that

there

must be

something which remains unknown to cognition.

What

they ought to attain

by again perceiving with the inner

sense,

on a higher plane, the very object which they have already cognised and grasped with the understanding, fer as

something inaccessible and unknown

into the external world. of the limits of 01U-

—this they transThen they

knowledge which prevent

reaching the "thing-in-itself."

taUc of the

talk

unknown "being"

They

of things.

That this very "being" of things shines out when the inner sense lets its light fall upon the things, is what they will not recognise. The famous "Ignora-


26

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

bimus" speech

Reymond,

of the scientist,

in the year

Du

Bois-

fiarnished

1876,

a particularly blatant example of this error.

We

are supposed to be able to

get in every direction only so far as to

be able to see in

natural processes

all

What

the manifestations of "matter."

"matter"

itself is,

we

are supposed

to

Du Bois-Reymond

be unable to know.

contends that we shall never succeed in penetrating to wherever

ter" leads

reason

its

ghostly

why we

it is

life

that "mat-

in space.

cannot get there

however, in the fact that there

is

The lies,

nothing

whatsoever to be looked for there.

Who-

ever speaks like

Du

have a

that the knowledge of

feeling

Nature yields

Bois-Reymond must

results

which point to a

something further and other which Nature-knowledge

itself

cannot give.

he refuses to follow the

road,^

—the

But road


INTRODUCTION

27

which leads to

of inner experience,

this

Therefore he stands at a com-

other.

"mat-

plete loss before the question of

In him

ter" as before a dark riddle.

who

treads the path of inner experience, objects attain to a

new

and that

birth;

them which remains unknown

in

to outer

experience then shines forth.

In such wise the inner being of

man

obtains light not only as regards

itself

but also as regards external things.

Prom

this

point

of

view

Within him shines a

illumination

which

is

lights

up

makes

endless

is

not

all reality

whose

light

restricted

within him.

its

per-

before man's know-

spective opens out ledge.

an

It is a

at once.

to

that

sun which

Something

appearance in us which links

us with the whole world.

No

we simply

human beings,

isolated,

chance

longer are

no longer this or that individual.

The


MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

28

It un-

entire world reveals itself in us. veils

own coherence; and it how we ourselves as inbound up with it. From

to us its

unveils to us

dividuals are

out of self-knowledge the

of

world.

And

is

bom

our

knowledge

own

limited

individuality merges itself spiritually into

the

interconnected

great

world-whole,

because in us something has come to life

that

reaches

that

dividuality, it

out beyond

this

in-

embraces along with

everything of which this individuality

forms a part.

Thinking which does not block up

own road

its

to inner experience with logical

preconceptions

always

comes,

in

the

long run, to a recognition of the entity that rules in us and connects us with the entire world, because through this entity

we overcome and "outer"

the opposition of "inner" in regard to

man.

Paul


INTRODUCTION

29

Asmus, the keen-sighted philosopher, who died young, expressed himself as follows

about

this position {cp. his

und das Ding an

Sich, p.

"Let us make

clear

it

book Das Ich 14

et seq.):

—

by an example:

imagine a piece of sugar;

it

is

square,

sweet, impenetrable, etc., etc., these are

one and

all

which we under-

qualities

stand; one thing, however, hovers before us as

that

something totally

we do not understand,

difEerent

it

is

so

without losing ourselves

from the mere surface the

that

from ourselves that we cannot

penetrate into

starts

different,

back

afraid.

unknown bearer

of

which thought

This one thing

is

of all these qualities;

the thing-in-itself, which constitutes the

inmost

self of

Thus Hegel

the object.

rightly says that the entire content of

our perception

is

related as

mere

acci-

dent to this obscure subject, while we,


30

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

without

penetrating

into

depths,

its

merely attach determinations to what it

in itself,

is

—which

we do not know

ultimately, since

the thing

itself,

remain

merely subjective and have no objective Conceptual thought, on the other

value.

hand, has no such unknowable subject,

whose

might be mere

determinations

accidents, but the objective subject falls

within the concept.

then

thing,

fulness in in the

my

is

present in

conception

;

inmost shrine of

because of its

it

it

I its

its

am

at

entire

home

being, not

has no proper being-in-itself

own, but because

re-think

cognise any-

If I

its

it

compels

me

to

concept, in virtue of that

necessity of the concept which hovers

over us both and appears subjectively in

me and

itself.

objectively in the concept

Through

this

re-thinking there

reveals itself to us at the

same

time, as


INTRODUCTION

—just as activity —the

Hegel says, jective

this is

31

our

sub-

true, nature of the

So can speak only a

object."

own

able to illuminate the

man who

thought

of

life

is

with the light of inner experience. In

my

Philosophy of Freedom (Berlin,

1894, Verlag

Emil Felber), starting from

other points of view, I have also pointed

out the root-fact of the inner "It

is

life (p.

46)

therefore unquestionable: in our

we hold

thinking

by

the world-process

one corner, where we must be present,

come about

to

if

it is

is

just the very thing

cerned with.

why

things

That

at

we

is

And

all.

just

the reason

seem to confront

mysteriously: that I

am

that

are here con-

me

so without

so

any

share in their coming into existence.

simply

find

however,

I

them

there;

know how

it is

in

I

thinking,

done.

Hence

one can find no more original starting


MYSTICS OP THE RENAISSANCE

32

point for a consideration of the worldprocess than that of thought."

For one who looks thus upon the inner life

of

man,

meaning

of

it is

also obvious

human

what

is

the

cognition within the

mere

whole world-process.

It is not a

empty accompaniment

to the rest of the

world happenings.

would be such

it

It

if

represented merely an ideal repetition

what

of

is

outwardly

present.

But

in cognition something is accomplished

which accomplishes

itself

nowhere in

the outer world: the world-process sets before itself

its

own

spiritual being.

The

world-process would be to aU eternity

a mere half-thing, this

if it

confrontation.

did not attain to

Therewithal man's

inner experience finds

its

objective world-process;

place in the

and without

it

that process would be incomplete. It

is

'apparent that only the

life

which


INTRODUCTION

33

by the inner sense, man's highest spiritual life in its most proper sense, it is

ruled

—

is

this

life

man above

only which can thus raise himself.

For only in this

does the being of things unveil before

itself.

The matter

lies

life

itself

quite

differently in regard to the lower per-

For instance, the eye

ceptive power.

which meditates the seeing of an object is

the theatre of a process which, in con-

trast to the inner

life, is

exactly like any

My

other external process.

organs are

members of the spacial world like other things, and their perceptions are proFurther, cesses in time like any others. their being only appears when they are sunk into the inner double other

life;

the

objects,

life

life.

of

which

own embodiment and its

organs what

lies

I

thus live a

an object among lives

within

its

perceives through

outside this embodi-


MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

34

ment; and above

this life

a higher

life,

that knows no such inside and outside,

and bridging over both the outside world and itself. that

stretching

extends,

I shall therefore

am an individual, a limited "self"; another time I am a general, universal

time at

be forced to say: at one

I

This, too, Paul

"Self."

Asmus has

ex-

pressed in excellent words {cp. his book:

Die indogermanischen Religionen in den

Hauptpunhten

ihrer Entwickelung, p.

29

of Vol. I.):

"The in

activity

something

of

else, is

ing'; in thinking, its

concept,

a single

thing;

do we find alike for

'self'

what we cah

chink-

the ego has fulfilled

has given therefore,

otirselves in

all,

ness which

our

it

merging ourselves

itself

in

up

as

thinking

a sphere which

is

for the principle of separate-

is

involved in the relation of

to that which

is

other than


INTRODUCTION vanished in

has

itself

the activity of

the

self-canceUing of

the

35

single

and there remains then only hood'

common

'self,'

the^' Self-

to all."

Spinoza has exactly the same thing in

view when he describes, as the highest activity of knowing, that

which" advances

from an adequate conception of the nattire of

some

of the attributes of

real

God

to an adequate knowledge of the nature

This advancing

of things."

is

no other

than the illumination of things with the light

Spinoza de-

of inner experience.

scribes 'in glowing colours the life in this

"The highest virtue of know God, or to obtain in-

inner experience:

the soul

is

to

sight into things in the third

—mode of

knowing.

—the highest

This virtue

is

the

more the soul knows things method of knowing thus he who

greater, the

by

this

;

can grasp things in this mode of knowing


MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

36

human

highest

the

attains

and consequently becomes

perfection

filled

with the

by

highest joy, accompanied, moreover,

the conceptions of himself and of virtue.

Thus

there

from

arises

this

mode

of

knowing the highest peace of soul that possible."

is

He who knows

things in this way,

transforms himself within himself; his

single

at such

separated

"self"

for

becomes

moments absorbed by the

uni-

versal "Self"; all beings appear not to

a single limited individual in subordinated importance, they appear to "themselves."

On

difference

this level there

remains no

between Plato and me; what

separated us belongs to a lower level of cognition.

We

are

separated

individuals; the individual

which works

one and the same.

But

this fact it is impossible to

argue

within us

about

only as

is


INTRODUCTION

37

with one who has no experience of

He

everlastingly emphasise: Plato

will

That

and you are two. that in

all multiplicity, is

the outbursting

level

it.

life

knowledge:

of

this

duality,

reborn as unity of the highest

cannot

that

proved, that must be experienced. doxical as

it

may

sound,

it is

be

Para-

the truth:

the idea which Plato conceived and the like idea

which

It is

ideas.

conceive are not two

I

one and the same idea.

And

two ideas: one in Plato's head and one in mine but in the higher there are not

;

sense Plato's head and

mine interpene-

trate each other all heads interpenetrate ;

which grasp one and the same idea; and this idea is only

idea.

It

to one

have

is

once there as a single

there;

and the heads

and the same place

this idea in

all

go

in order to

them.

The transformation that

is

brought


38

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

about in the whole being of learns to see things thus,

man when

is

he

indicated in

by the Hindu poem, the Bhagavad-Git^, about which Wilhelm von Humboldt said that he was thankftil to the fate which had allowed him to live long enough to become acquainted beautiful words

In this poem, the inner

with this work. light declares: self,

in

"An

eternal ray

from my-

having attained a distinct existence world

the

around

itself

personal

of

life,

draws

the five senses and the in-

dividual soul, which belong to nature.

When bodies it

the

spirit,

itself in

quits

shining from above, em-

space and time, or

embodiment,

things and

carries

it

seizes

when upon

them away with

it,

as the zephyr seizes the perfumes of the flowers and bears

The taste

inner light

and

them away with

rules

the ear,

it.

touch,

smell, as also the emotions:


INTRODUCTION it

knits together the link between itself

and the objects ignorant

is

of

the

know not when

shines forth or it

39

is

married to

partakes of the

The

senses.

the inner light

when objects; only he who inner light can know

extinguished, nor

thereof."

So strongly does the Bhagavad-Gita insist

upon the transformation

man, that

it

says of the wise

he can no longer he

apparently,

must illuminate

err,

errs

man

no longer or

sins,

of

the that

sin.

If,

then he

his thoughts or his ac-

tions with a light wherein that

no longer

appears as error or as sin which to the ordinary consciousness appears as such.

"He who knowledge not,

has raised himself and whose is

of the purest kind,

he

nor does he stain himself,

though he should have

slain

This points only to the same

kills

even

another."

basic

mood


40

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

of

the soul flowing from the highest

knowledge, of which Spinoza, after having described

it

in his Ethics, breaks out into

"Here is conarmed to bring for-

passionate words:

the

cluded that which

ward

I

in regard to the

over

its affections

dom

of the soul.

power

of the soiol

or in regard to the free-

Hence

it is

clear

how

man is superior to and how much more power-

very greatly the wise the ignorant, fill

than he who

is

For the ignorant

ruled only is

by his

lusts.

not merely driven

and thither by external causes in many ways and never attains to the hither

but he also

true peace of

sotil,

ignorance

himself,

things,

of

and when

his existence ceases

his

of

lives in

God and

of

suffering

ceases,

also; while

on the

other hand, the wise man, as such, feels

hardly any disturbance in his

spirit

and

ever enjoys the true peace of the soul.


INTRODUCTION Even

if

41

the road which I have outlined

as leading thereto appears very

stm be

it

And

can be found. because

difficult,

For how could

it

it is

diffictilt,

well

may

it

so seldom found.

be possible,

if

salvation

lay close at hand and could be found

without great trouble, that

by almost

neglected is

noble

is

Goethe has indicated form the point

of

it is

in

world,

to

myself

rare."

monumental

view of the highest

knowledge in the words: "If relation

I

know my

and to the outer

And

I call it truth.

thus every

one can have his own truth, and yet is

always one and the

has his

own

individual, separate

act

same."

truth: because each

along with others.

be

Yet aU that

all?

as difficult as

shoiold

it

being,

beside

it

Each is

an

and

These other beings

upon him through

his organs.

From

the individual standpoint at which he


MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

42

placed,

is

and according to the

consti-

tution of his power of perception, he

up

builds

own

his

truth for himself in

intercourse with the things around him.

He

acquires his relation to things.

If,

he enters into self-knowledge,

then,

if

he learns to know his relation to himself, then his special separate truth in the universal

versal

Truth

is

is

merged

Truth; and this uni-

in all the

The understanding

same.

of the raising of

the individual, of the single

self,

into the

Universal Self in the personality,

is

re-

garded by deeper natures as the secret

which reveals of

man

itself in

the inmost heart

as the root -mystery of

life.

And

Goethe has found an apt expression this:

"And

for

so long as thou hast not that,

Then thou art but a melancholy guest upon this dark this:

Die and Become!

earth."


INTRODUCTION Not a mere

43

repetition in thought, but

a real part of the world-process,

which goes on

in

man's inner it is if

belonging thereto in the

human

And

its part.

highest which

is

if

the factor

one

attainable

The

Hfe.

world would not be what

not play

that

is

soul did calls

the

by man the

then one must say that this

Divine,

is

not present as something ex-

ternal, to

be repeated pictorially in the

Divine

human mind, but awakened found

know

in

the

that this Divine

man. right

Angelus

words

that without

Silesius

for

me God

has "I

this:

can

is

live

no

become nothing, He must "Withof necessity give up the ghost." out me God may make no single smallest worm: if I do not sustain it with Him, instant;

then

it

if

I

must straightway

he can make presupposes

such

that

in

perish."

Only

an assertion who

man

something


44

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

comes

which external

to light, without

being cannot exist.

If

everything per-

taining to the " worm " were there present

without man, then one say that sustain

it

must

perish

comes to

life

knowledge. ledge

man

if

kernel

of

the world

as spiritual content in self-

The experience of self-know-

means for man working and weaving

within the kernel of the world. is

He who

permeated with self-knowledge natur-

ally carries out his

own

light of self-knowledge. is

did not

it.

The innermost

;

not possibly

coiold

—in

general

action in the

Human

—determined

action

by motives.

Robert Hamerling, the poet-philosopher, has rightly said {Atomistik des Willens, p. 213):

"A man

—but

he

can indeed do what he cannot

pleases, because his

will will

whatever is

wills

he

determined


INTRODUCTION by

He

motives.

cannot

45

what-

will

Look again at these words more closely. Is there any sensible meaning in them? Freedom of

ever he pleases?

the will ought then to consist in being able to will something without reason,

But what does

without motive.

mean

other than the 'having a reason'

do or endeavotir to

to

preferring

for

willing

To

attain this, rather than that?

will

something without reason, without motive,

would mean to

out willing is

Without a

of

motive

up with that

of will-

definite

motive the

will

an empty potentiality: only through

a motive does It is

become active and real. therefore quite correct that man's it

will is in so far is

something 'with-

The concept

inseparably bound

ing. is

it.'

will

not free as

its

direction

always determined by the strongest

motive."


46

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE For

action that

all

the

in

motive,

reason

the

needs be

felt as

the

self-knowledge,

of

light

not accomplished

is

for

must But the

action,

a constraint.

when the reason

matter

is

otherwise

motive

is

taken up into self-knowledge.

Then

this reason

self.

The

mined;

becomes a part

willing

is

The lawwilling, now

itself.

abidingness, the motives of

no longer

of the

no longer deter-

determines

it

or

rule over the one

who

wills,

but are one and the same with this willing.

To

illuminate the laws of one's

action with the light of self-observation

means motive.

to

overcome

By so

all

constraint

doing, will transfers

of

itself

into the realm of freedom. It is

not

the marks

human

action which bears

of freedom.

Only such action

all

is free action

lighted

which in

its

every part

is

up with the glow of self-observa-


INTRODUCTION tion.

And because

the individual

self

self -observation raises

up

to the Universal Self,

therefore free action

from the Universal

is

that which flows

The

Self.

troversy whether man's will ject to

47

is

old con-

free or sub-

a universal law, to an tmalterable

problem wrongly stated.

necessity, is a

AU action is bound which is done by a man as an individual; all action free which

is

accomplished after his spiritual

re-birth.

Man, therefore, is not, in general,

He

either free or bound.

He

is

both the one

bound before his re-birth and he can become free through this re-birth. The individual upward

and the

other.

is

;

development

man

of

transformation

of

consists

unfree

willing

will possessing the character of

The man who has

in

the into

freedom.

realised the law-abid-

ingness of his action as his own, has

overcome the constraint

of

this

law-


48

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

abidingness and therewith of tin-freedom.

Freedom

is

not from the outset a fact

of htiman existence, but a goal thereof.

With the attainment

man

of free action,

a contradiction between

resolves

His own deeds

the world and himself.

become deeds

of universal

feels himself in

the fullest

this

harmony with

He

being.

universal

discord between himself

He

being.

feels

every

and another as

the outcome of a not yet fully awakened

But such

self.

that only

in

whole can

it

would not be man off

from everything as such a shut-off

Self.

the

else;

and

out again

It belongs

if

he

as an individual self

but also he

in the highest sense

himself

self,

find its contact with this

were not shut

man

the fate of the separation from

its

Man

whole.

is

if

not

he does not,

isolated

into

is

the

self,

widen

Universal

through and through to


INTRODUCTION the nature of

man

that

it

49

should over-

come an inherent contradiction which has lain therein

from the beginning.

Any one who

regards spirit as, in the

main, logical understanding, feel his

may

well

blood run cold at the idea that

objects should be supposed to undergo their re-birth in spirit.

He

will

compare

the fresh, living flower, outside there in its

fulness of colour, with the cold, faded,

schematic thought of the flower. feel

himself partictolarly

the conception that the his motives

ill

He will

at ease with

man who draws

from the solitude of his own

self-consciousness

is

more

free

than the

original,

naive personality which acts

from

immediate impulses, from the

its

fulness of its

own

nature.

To one who

sees only one-sided logic, another

who

sinks himself into his

own

man inner

being will appear like a mere walking


MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

50

scheme

of concepts,

in contrast with the his

own

a mere ghost

like

man who

remains in

natural individuality.

Such objections to the re-birth

of things

be heard from

in spirit are especially to

those whose power of perception

fails in

the presence of things with a purely spiritual content; although

they are well

provided with healthy organs of senseperception and with impulses and passions full of life.

As soon

as they are called

upon to perceive the ptuely spiritual, the power to do so fails them they can deal only with mere conceptual husks, when ;

even they are not limited to empty words.

They remain,

therefore, in

what

concerns spiritual content,

men

abstract understanding."

But the man

who

of "dry,

in things purely spiritual possesses

a gift of perception like that in things of the senses, finds

life

assuredly not the


INTRODUCTION poorer

when he has

spiritual content.

flower,

why

enriched

If I

shotdd

51 it

with

its

look out upon a colours lose

its rich

aught whatever of their freshness, because not only does

my

my eye

inner sense also perceives the spiritual

being of the flower? life

but

see the colotirs,

of

my

Why

become poorer,

personality

because I do not follow

should the

my

passions

and

impulses in spiritual blindness, but

il-

luminate them throughout with the light of higher ftitler,

knowledge?

Not

richer, is that life

back again

in the spirit.

poorer, but

which

is

given


MEISTER ECKHART The

world of Meister Eckhart's con-

ceptions

is

aglow through and through

with the feeling that things become

born as higher entities in the

man.

re-

spirit of

Like the greatest Christian theo-

logian of the Middle Ages, St.

Aquinas,

who

lived

from 1225

Thomas till

1274,

Meister Eckhart belonged to the Dominican Order.

Eckhart was an unqualified

admirer of St. Thomas; and this wiU

when we fix our gaze upon Eckhart's whole manner seem the more

intelligible

of conceiving things. self to

He

believed him-

be as completely in harmony with

the teachings of the Christian Church as

he assiimed a

like

agreement on the part 52


MEISTER ECKHART of

St.

Thomas.

53

Eckhart had neither

the desire to take aught

away from the

content of Christianity, nor- the wish to

add anything to

it;

but he desired to

bring forward this content

own way.

It

anew

forms no part

spiritual needs of

in his

of

the

a personality such as

he was to set up new truths of this or the other kind in the place of old ones. '

Such a personality has grown completely intertwined with the content which

has received from tradition but ;

to give to this content a

new

it

it

craves

form, a

new

life.

Eckhart desired, without doubt, to remain an

orthodox

Christian.

The

Christian truths were his own; only he desired to regard these truths in another

way from that, for instance, in which St. Thomas Aquinas had done. St. Thomas accepted two sources of know-


MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

54

ledge: Revelation,

and Reason,

in matters of faith,

in those of research.

Reason

recognises the laws of things, that

Reason can

spiritual in nature.

above

self

from one

natxire

side the Divine

lying nature. this

way

and grasp

But

it

to merging

ing of God.

A

still

is,

the

raise it-

in the spirit

Being under-

does not attain in

itself in

the

ftill

be-

higher truth-content

must come to meet it. That is given in the Holy Scripture, which reveals what man cannot attain to through him-

The truth-content of the Scripture must be accepted by man; Reason can self.

defend it

it.

Reason can seek to understand

as well as possible through its powers

of knowing; but never can

Reason en-

gender that truth from within the of is

man.

Not what

spirit

the spirit perceives

the highest truth, but

what has come

to this spirit from without.


MEISTER ECKHART St.

55

Augustine declares himself unable

to find within himself the source for that

He

which he should

believe.

would not believe

in the Gospel, did not

says: "I

the authority of the Catholic Chtu-ch

move me

That

thereto."

is

in the

who

spirit as the Evangelist,

same

points to

"That which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the

external

Word

the

testimony:

of Life;

.

.

.

.

that which

.

.

we

have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also

may have

fellowship with

But Meister Eckhart would rather impress upon man the words of Christ: "It is expedient for you that I go away:

us."

for

if I

go not away, the Comforter

will

not come unto you"; and he explains these words

had

said:

by

saying: "Just as

Ye have

set

too

if

much

he joy


MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

56

my

upon the

joy of the Holy Ghost cannot

full

come

present appearance, therefore

to you."

Eckhart thinks that he of

of

whom

Evangelist,

and

no God other than that God

and

Augustine,

the

Thomas, speak, and yet

God

as to

witness

is

not

his.

God with

a cow

withal,

"Some

for the

inner

the same eyes they see

sake

comfort; love

rightly

of

So they love

of outer riches

God.

.

.

.

Simple

God

so.

God and

I

mouth

such is

But

it

are one in the act

knowing {im Erkennen)."

derlies

folk

as though

stood there and they here.

not

and

but such folk do not

fancy they should behold

He

people want

and want to love God as

they would love a cow.

God

this testimony

not his testimony, their

is

to see

is

speaking

is

expressions

in

What

un-

Eckhart's

nothing else than the experience


MEISTER ECKHART of the inner sense;

shows him things

and

57

this experience

in a higher Kght.

therefore believes

need of an external

He

himself to have no light in order to

tain to the highest insight:

"A

at'^^

Master

God became man, whereby the whole htiman race is uplifted and made worthy. Thereof may we be glad that Christ our brother of His own strength says:

rose

above

all

the choirs of angels and

sitteth at the right

hand

of the Father.

That Master spake well; but, in truth, I would give little for it. What would it help me, had I a brother who was a rich man, and I therewithal a poor man? What would it help me, -had I a brother who was a wise man, and I were a fool? The Heavenly Father begetteth His Only-Begotten Son in Himself and in me. Wherefore in Himself and in me? I am one with Him; and .

.

.


58

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

He

has no power to shut

self-same work, the

me

out.

In the

Holy Ghost

receives

being and proceeds from me, as from

its

God.

Wherefore?

I

am

the Holy Ghost takes not

me, neither does

no wise

am

When St. Paul:

means

to

I

it

take

it

God, and

in its

if

being from

from God.

In

shut out."

Eckhart

recalls

the saying of

"Put ye on Jesus Christ," he imply in this saying the mean-

ing Sink yourselves into yourselves, dive :

down

into self -contemplation

:

and from

out the depths of yoiu: being,

God wiU

He

illumines

shine forth to meet you;

you have found Him within you; you have become imited all

things for you;

with God's Being.

"God became man,

that I might become God."

In his booklet upon Loneliness, Eckhart expresses himself as follows lation

of

the

outer

upon the

re-

perception to the


MEISTER ECKHART inner:

"Here thou must know that the

man

Masters say that in every

two kinds

are

59

of

man: the one

there called

is

the outer man, and yet he acts through

The other man

the power of the soul. called the inner is

within

know

man, that

that every

man who

maketh no more use the soul in the outer

that which

is,

Now

the man.

thou must loveth

of the

man

is

God

powers of

than so far as

the five senses absolutely require; and

that which

is

within turns not

the five senses, save in so far as

itself it is

to

the

guide and conductor of the five senses, and

shepherds them, so that they follow not after their craving to bestiality."

One

who

man

speaks in such wise of the inner

can no longer direct his gaze upon a Being of things lying outside himself; for

clearly that

he sees

from no kind or species

outer world can this Being

come

of the

to him.


MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

6o

An

What can

objector might urge:

it

matter to the things of the outer world,

what you add to them out of your own mind? Do but rely upon your own

They alone

senses.

give you informa-

tion of the outer world. terate,

senses

Do

not

adiol-

by a mental addition, what yotir give you in purity, without ad-

mixture, as the image of the outer world.

you what colour is; what your mind knows about colovir, of that Yoiur eye teUs

there itself.

nothing

is

To

this,

whatever

in

colour

from Meister Eckhart's

standpoint, the answer would have to be:

The

senses are a physical apparatus;

therefore

what they have to

tell

us about

objects can concern only that which

physical in the objects. sical factor in itself to

me

And

this

is

phy-

the objects communicates

in such wise that in myself

a physical process

is

set going.


MEISTER ECKHART

6i

Colour, as a physical process of the

outer world, sets up a physical process in

my

Thereby

eye and brain.

But

ceive colour.

in this

manner

perceive of colour only so physical, sensuous.

much

I

can

as

is

Sense-perception cuts

everything non-sensuous from ob-

out jects.

Objects are thus by sense-percep-

tion stripped of everything about

which

non-sensuous.

is

vance to the I

per-

I

spiritual,

If

I

them

then ad-

the ideal content,

in fact only reinstate in the objects

what sense-perception has shut out therefrom. Thus sense-perception does not exhibit to jects,

being.

it

me

the deepest Being of ob-

rather separates

But the

ception, seizing

me

me

from that

spiritual, the ideal con-

upon them

with that being.

It

again, unites

shows

me

objects are inwardly of exactly the

that

same

spiritual (geistigen) nature as I myself.


MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

62

The

myself and the

barrier between

outer world

falls

through this spiritual

am

conception of things.

I

from the external world

in so far as I

separated

am

a thing of the senses among other things of the senses.

two

Colour and

different entities.

My

my

eye are

brain and a

plant are two different things.

But the

and

of coloiir

ideal content of the plant

belong together with the ideal content of

my

brain and eye alike to a single

ideal entity.

This

way

of looking at things

must not

be confused with the very widespread anthropomorphising conception world, which imagines that

it

objects of the outer world

by

to

them

which

the

grasps the ascribing

qualities of a physical natvire,

are

supposed

to

resemble

the

human soul. This view When we meet another human

qualities of the asserts:

of


MEISTER ECKHART we

being,

fellow-man's

what

his

life,

inner

anything which I

from

infer

I

life.

him, his inner

of

Thus the

soul.

my

cannot see into

I

and hear

see

I

him only sensuous

perceive in

characteristics.

63

soul

never

is

can directly perceive;

I

perceive a soul only within myself.

My thoughts, my ings,

no

man

such an inner

imaginations,

Now

sees.

my

just as I

feel-

have

alongside of the

life

which can be outwardly perceived,

so,

life,

too, all other beings

inner

must have such an

life.

Thus concludes one who occupies the standpoint of

the

anthropomorphising

conception of the world.

What

ceive externally in the plant,

must equally

I per-

be the outer side of something inward, of a soul,

which

to

what

for

me

I

must add

in

my imagination

I actually perceive.

And

since

there exists but one single inner


MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

64

my

world, namely,

own, therefore

I

can

conceive of the inner world of other beings only as resembling

Along

world.

comes to a all

my own

inner

this line of argtiment

one

sort of universal ensouling of

nature (Pan-psychism).

This view depends,

what the awakened

failure to recognise

inner sense really gives us. {geistig)

The

spiritual

content of an external object,

which reveals self,

to

itself

me

in

my

inner

not anything added in or by

is

thought to the outer perception. just as little this as

man.

on a

however,

I

is

It is

the spirit of another

perceive this spiritual content

through the inner sense just in the same

way

as I perceive

its

physical content

And what

through the external senses. I call {i.e.,

all in

my

inner

life

in the

above sense

thoughts, feelings, etc.), the higher sense,

my

is

not at

spirit (Geist).


MEISTER ECKHART This so-called inner

come

only the out-

life is

of ptirely sensuous processes,

me

belongs to

personality,

and

only as a purely individual

which

the result of

its

is

nothing more than

physical organisation.

If I transfer this inner life to I

65

am, as a matter of

fact,

outer things,

thinking in the

air.

My

personal

soul -life,

my

thoughts,

memories, and feelings, are in me, because

I

am

a nature-being organised in

such and such a way, with a perfectly definite sense-apparatus,

with a perfectly I

have no right

my human

sovd to other

definite nervous system.

to transfer this

should only be entitled to do

things.

I

so

happened to find anywhere a

if

I

similarly organised nervous system.

my

individual soul

spiritual spiritual

is

not the highest

element in me.

element must

But

first

This highest

be awakened


MYSTICS OP THE RENAISSANCE

66

through the inner sense; and this awak-

ened spiritual element in

and the same with the in

also one

element

spiritual

The plant appears imits own proper spirituality

—

to this spiritual element,^

endow

my

is

things.

all

mediately in

to

me

I

have no need

with a spirituality like unto

it

own.

AU

talk about the

itself" loses

unknown

"thing-in-

any kind of meaning with

this conception of the world; for

just

" thing-in-itself "

that very

reveals

itself

to

it

is

which

the inner sense.

All

such talk originates simply in the fact

who

that those recognise their

in

own

talk thus are unable to

the spiritual

inner being

the

contents

of

"things-in-

.

They think that they know in their own inner selves mere shadows and schemes without being, "mere concepts and ideas" of things. But as themsel ves "

—


MEISTER ECKHART they

sort of premonition of

have a

still

67

the " thing -in-itself," they therefore believe that this "thing-in-itself" is conceal-

ing

itself,

to man's

and that there are

power

limits set

One cannot

of knowing.

prove to such as are entangled in this belief,

that they must grasp the "thing-

in-itself" in their

even

if

own

inner being, for

one were to put

they would

still

it

never recognise or admit

this "thing-in-itself."

But

recognition with which

we

All

that

saturated

Meister

with

this take a

before them,

this

it is

just this

are concerned.

Eckhart

says

recognition.

comparison:

A

and shuts upon a hinge. compare the outer plank of

is

"Of

door opens If,

this

now,

I

door to

must then compare the hinge to the inner man.' Now, when the door opens and shuts, the outer plank the outer man,

I

moves

fro,

to

and

while yet the hinge


MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

68

remains constantly immovable and

no way changed thereby. it is

As an

here also."

In

like

^the

door opens and shuts,

not spiritually give birth within

manner

all direc-

^if

I

do

me to the

perceptions of the senses, then do I

nothing of their nattire

in

individual sense,-

being, I can investigate things in tions—

is

know

—the hinge does

not move!

The illumination brought about through the inner sense

is,

according

hart's view, the entrance of

the soul.

The

light of

to

Eck-

God

into

knowledge which

flames up through this entrance, he calls

the

"little

spark

the

of

sotd."

The

point in man's inner being at which this

"spark" flames up

and

so noble in

is

"so

itself,

can be therein, but only

piore, so lofty,

that no creature

God

alone dwells

therein with His purely Divine Nature."

Whosoever has kindled

this

"spark"

in


MEISTER ECKHART himself,

no longer sees only as

man

ordinary

with

69

his

sees the

with his outer senses, and iinderstanding

logical

which

orders and classifies the impressions of

the senses, but he sees

The

themselves. classifying

individual

make time,

of

in space

things are in

outer senses and the

understanding separate the

man from

him an

who

how

other things; they

individual in space and

also perceives the other things

The man

and time.

illuminated

by the "spark"

ceases to be a single

separated being.

He

arateness. difference

AU

brings

about the

between himself and things

ceases to be. is

that

annihilates his sep-

That

he, as

a single being,

that which perceives, no longer comes

into consideration. self

are

Things and he him-

no longer separated.

and with them, God, him.

"This spark

is

Things,

see themselves in in very

deed God,


70

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

in that

within

it

a single oneness and bears

is

it

the imagery of

creatures,

all

image without image, and image upon image."

Eckhart proclaims in the most magnificent

words the extinction "It

being:

lated

is

of the iso-

to

be

it is

one

therefore

known, that according to things

and the same to know God and to be known by God. Therein do we know God and see, that He makes us to see and to know. And as the air, which enlighteneth, it

is

enlightens;

because

know

it is

we

maketh us

to

builds

purely

this

up

for the

air

giveth

light,

enlightened; even so do

that

On

nothing other than what

are known, and that

we

He

know Himself."

foundation Meister Eckhart his relation to

spiritual

one,

God.

and

It

cannot

is

a

be

modelled according to any image bor-


MEISTER ECKHART rowed

Not

frora

human

71

individual experience.

as one separated individual loves

another can

God

love his creation: not

as an architect builds a house can

have created

it.

All such thoughts van-

ish before the inner vision.

to God's very being that

the world.

God

He

A God who

not love at pleasure,

is

It belongs

should love

could love or

imagined ac-

cording to the likeness of the individual

man.

"I speak in good truth and in

eternal truth

and

in everlasting truth,

God must needs ever pour Himself forth in every man who has reached down that

to his true root to the utmost of possibility, so

His

life

and

in

back;

wholly and completely that in

and

in His being, in His nature

His Godhead,

He must

fruitful wise."

tion

is

He

keeps nothing

ever pour

And

all

forth in

the inner illtmiina-

something that the soul must


MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

72

necessarily find

when

it

sinks itself deep

into the basis of its being.

From

this

it

already obvious that

is

God's communication to humanity cannot be conceived after the fashion of the revelation of one himian being to

This commtmication

another.

be cut

off,

for

one

man

may

also

can shut himself

off

from another; but God must, by virtue

of

His very nature, reveal Himself.

is

a sure and certain truth, that

necessity for if

God

it is

a

to seek us, exactly as

His very Godhead depended upon

God can

"It

it.

we with Him. Even though we turn away from God, yet God can never turn away as

from us." to

little

dispense with us as

Consequently, man's relation

God cannot be

conceived of as though

something image-like, something taken

from the individual human being, were contained therein.


MEISTER ECKHART Eckhart

73

thus conscious that

is

be-

it

longs to the perfectness of the Root-Being

human

of the

world to find

soul.

This Root-Being indeed would be

Itself in

imperfect, incomplete, of its

pari;

if

it

the

lacked that

unfoldment which comes to

What happens

light in the soul.

belongs to the Root-Being; and

in

man did

if it

not happen, then the Root-Being woxold be but a part of

man

can

of the

In this sense,

Itself.

feel himself as

a necessary part

Being of the universe.

This Eck-

by describing

his feelings

hart expresses

towards God as follows:

God

that

He

"I thank not

loveth me, for

do otherwise; whether

He may

He wiU

it

or no.

His nature yet compelleth Him. Therefore will

me

I

not pray to

anything, nor will

that which

But

He

I

God

praise

hath given me.

not

.

.

.

to give

Him

for ."

.

.

this relationship of the soul to the


74

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

Root-Being must not be conceived of as if

the soul in

its

individual nature were

declared to be identical with this RootBeing.

The

soul which

is

entangled in

the sense-world, and so in the

finite,

has

as such not yet got within itself the con-

The

tent of the Root-Being. first

It

soul

develop that content within

must annihilate

must itself.

as an isolated

itself

being; and Meister Eckhart most aptly characterises

annihilation

(un-becoming

werdung

"When

this

or

as Ent-

involution).

come to the root of the Godhead, none ask me whence I come and where I have been, and none doth miss I

me, for here there

is

an Entwerdung."

Again, the following phrase speaks very clearly about this relation: "I take a

cup

of

water and lay therein a mirror and set

it

under the disc of the sun.

casts out its shining light

The sun

on the mirror


MEISTER ECKHART

The reflect-

and yet doth not pass away. ing of the mirror in the sun

sun in the

is

and yet the mirror remains what

sun,

So

is.

Godhead, and yet

The

God

about God.

is it

soul with His very nature

He

is

The

it

in the

not the soul.

reflecting of the soul in

which

is

and being and

God, and yet the soul

in

75

God, is

is

still

God that

it is."

up to the

soul which gives itself

knows in itself not only what this same soul was before but it also knows its illumination; that which soul only became this through this illumination. "We must inner

be

illiunination

united

with

God

in

being;

we

must be united with God uniquely we must be united with God wholly.

How in

shall

being?

beholding

we

be

united

with

That must happen and

not

in

the

in

God the

Wesung.


MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

76

His being

may

but

be our

it

shall

existent

life

—a

not become our being,

Wesung

in the logical sense;

ing

—the

life;

Not an

life."

beholding

is

already-

to be

known

but the higher know-

shall itself

become

the spiritual, the ideal must be so

by the beholder, as ordinary daily is felt by individual himian nature.

felt life

From such

starting

Meister

points,

Eckhart also builds up a pure conception of

Freedom.

soul

is

not

In

its

ordinary

free; for it is

life

the

interwoven with

the realm of lower causes, and accomplishes that to

which

these lower causes.

or "vision"

it is

of these causes,

it

impelled

is

But by

' '

by

beholding

raised out of the

'

domain

and acts no longer as a

separated individual soul.

The

being is laid bare in this soul,

root of

and that

can be moved to action by naught save by itself. "God does not compel the


MEISTER ECKHART will; rather

sets the will free, so that

Himself

and the

wills;

to will other than

that

and

we

not

is

God

not otherwise than what

wills

it

He

77

its

spirit desires

what God wiUs: and

vm-freedom

it is its

:

For freedom

real freedom.

are not bound, but free

we were

is

true

that

and pure and

unmixed, as we were in our pouring, as

not

first

out-

set free in the

Holy

Ghost." It

man

may be that he

from within

of the

said

is

himself the being which

itself

good and what

illuminated

determines what

is evil.

is

He can do naught

absolutely, but accomplish the good.

For

he does not serve the good, but the good realises

and

righteous

lives itself

man

and the nearer to righteousness, the more he is ;

is

"The

serveth neither God, nor

the creature for he

he

out in him.

Freedom's very

is free,

self."

What

then, for


78

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

Meister Eckhart, can

evil

be?

It

can

be only action under the influence of the

mode

lower

regarding

of

—

things;'

^the

acting of a soul which has not passed

through the state of Entwerdung (un-

Such a soul

becoming). sense that

not bring

only

wills

it

willing

its

moral

accord with

is selfish

in the

It

could

itself.

outwardly into

The

ideals.

soul

having vision cannot in this sense be

Even

selfish.

could

will

ideal;

for

very

it

if

only it

ideal.

has It

willed

the

made

itself, it

lordship

longer aught in

can no longer

nature.

To

common with

will it

the

has no

this lower

act in conformity with moral

ideals implies for vision,

the

into this

itself

ends of the lower nature, for

of

yet

the

soul which

has

no compulsion, no deprivation.

"The man who standeth in God's will and in God's love, to him it is a craving


MEISTER ECKHART to

do

good things that God

all

and leave undone

all

are contrary to God.

him

sible for

that

God

walking

to leave

will

evil

And

willeth,

things that it

is

impos-

imdone anything

have done.

Even

as

impossible to one whose legs

is

are bound, just so for a

79

man who

it

would be impossible

standeth in God's will to

do aught unvirtuous." moreover

Eckhart

expressly

guards

himself against the idea that, with this

view of

his, free license is

given for any-

thing and everything that the individual

may is

The man

will.

possessing vision

indeed to be recognised by the very

fact that as a separated individual

" Certain

he

men

no longer

wills anything.

say:

If I

have God and God's freedom,

then

I

may

just

do whatever

I please.

Such understand wrongly this saying. So long as thou canst do aught that is con-


MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

8o

God and His commandment,

trary to

long thou hast not

so

even

God's love;

though thou mayest well deceive the world, as

Eckhart

thou hadst."

if

is

convinced that to the soul which dives

down

own

root, the

most per-

fect morality will shine forth

from that

into its

root to meet

it

;

that there

and aU acting

ception,

sense, ceases,

and an

ing of hiiman

life

"For grasp, is

and

all

God.

and the is

.

appearance.

Where understanding

which .

.

bliss of

is

it is

dark, there

wider than the wide

The bliss of the God is one bliss

the righteous full of

is full

order-

There that power unfolds

shineth God.

heavens.

its

new

that desiring can desire,

desiring end, there

in the soul

in the ordinary

entirely

makes

con-

that the understanding can

all

verily not

and

all logical

of bhss."

bliss,

righteous ;

for there

where God


THE FRIENDSHIP OF GOD In Johannes Tauler

(1

300-1 36 1 ) Heinrich ,

Suso (1295-1365), and Johannes Ruysbroeck (1293-138 1), one makes acquaint-

men whose

ance with

life

and work

exhibit in a very striking

manner those

"motions

which such a

spiritual

hart of

is

of the soul" to

path as that of Meister Eck-

calculated to give rise in natures

depth and power.

seems

like

a

While Eckhart

man who,

in the blissful

experiencing of spiritual re-birth, speaks of

the nature of Knowledge as of a

picture which he has succeeded in painting; these others, followers of his,

rather like pilgrims, to re-birth has 6

whom

appear

their inner

shown a new road which they 81


MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

82

fain

would tread, but whose goal seems

to vanish before

into the illimitable

Eckhart dwells more upon the

distance. glories

them

of his

difficulties of

the

new

To understand personalities

they upon the

picture;

path.

the difference between

Eckhart and Tauler,

like

one must see quite clearly

how a man

stands

towards his higher cognitions.

Man

interwoven with the sense-world

is

and the laws sense- world

is

of nature

product of that world. its forces

in

and

by which

He He

ruled.

is

that

himself a

lives

because

materials are at work

its

him; nay, he perceives this sense-

by

laws, according

to which both he himself

and that world

world and judges of

are alike built up.

it

If

he turns

his eyes

upon an

object, not only does the object,

present

itself

to

him

interacting forces, ruled

as a complex of

by nature's

laws,


THE FRIENDSHIP OF GOD

83

but the eye, with which he sees the object is itself

a body built up according to just

such laws and of just such forces and the ;

seeing, too, takes place

and

forces.

of natural

by

similar laws

we had reached the goal science, we should be able to If

follow out this play of the forces of nature

according to natural laws right up into the highest regions of thought -formation,

—but

•

in the very act of doing this,

we

raise ourselves above this play of forces.

For do we not stand above and beyond all

the "uniformities which

make up

the

when we over-see the whole and recognise how we ourselves laws of nature,"

fit

into nature?

We

see

with our eyes

according to laws of nature.

know also we see.

We

But we

the laws, according to which

can take our stand upon a higher

summit

and

overlook

at

once

both


84

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

ourselves

and the outer world

mutual interplay.

there

Is

a something working higher than sonality

the

in

us,

in

their

not

here

which

is

sensuous-organic per-

working with Nature's forces

and according

to

Nature's

such activity does there

still

In

laws?

remain any

wall of division between our inner selves

That which here

and the outer world? judges and gains for

itself insight is

longer our separated personality; rather the general world -being,

has torn

down

alike.

As

is

which

the barrier between the

inner and outer worlds

both

it

no

and now embraces

true as

it is

that, judged

by the outer appearance, I still remain the same separated individual when I have thus torn down is

it

also that,

sential being, I

arated tmit.

this barrier, so true

judged according to

am

no longer

Henceforth there

es-

this seplives in


THE FRIENDSHIP OF GOD

me

85

my

the feeling that there speaks in

sovil

the All-Being, which embraces both

myself and the entire world.

This

what Tauler

is

"Man

said:

men—

^his

is

just as

animal

man

if

when he

felt,

he were three

as he

according

is

to the senses; then his rational lastly,

The one

man

;

highest,

his is

man.

is

his understanding

{Gemiiih —

^lit.

far this third

sees me.

W.

is

rea-

spirit,

emotional, feeling nature),

man

is

above the

How

'

'

^

first

"The eye through which

God, that

Cp.

.

and

Eckhart has expressed in the

second,

'

and

man

the very highest part of the soul.

p. 161.

.

the inner, understanding

soning powers; the third

words:

.

the outer, animal, sensuous

the other

man, with

godlike

man and

is

I see

the same eye with which

My

God

eye and God's eye, that

Preger: Geschichte der Deutschen Mystik, vol.

iii,


MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

86 is

one eye and one knowing and one

feeling."

But

Tauler another feeling

in

He

as well as this.

is

active

has fought his way-

through to a real vision of the

spiritual,

and does not constantly confuse, as do the false materialists and the false the sensibly-natural with the

idealists,

spiritual.

If,

with his disposition, Tauler

had become a

upon

insisted

scientist,

he would have

explaining

all

that

is

man, both and the second, purely upon lines. He would never have

natural, including the whole of

the

first

natural

transferred purely

nature

itself.

talked of a

spiritual

He would

forces

never

into

have

" piirposefillness " in nature

conceived of according to men's notions.

He knew

that there, where

with our senses, are to be found.

we

perceive

no "creative ideas" Far rather he was most


THE FRIENDSHIP OF GOD

87

man

keenly conscious of the fact that

And

a purely natural being.

is

as he felt

himself to be, not a scientist, but a defelt

most

keenly the contrast which reveals

itself

votee of moral

between

life,

he therefore

this nattiral being of

that vision of

God which

arises naturally

and within nature, but as

And

spirituality.

just in that very contrast the

ing of

Man

life

presented

finds himself as

reveal to

cannot

a

is

outside

natural creation.

In

And

life

yet his inner

and beyond

it.

to his eyes.

science can

else

about

this

such a creattire of

As a creature get

mean-

single being, a

him anything

than that he

natiu-e.

itself

And no

creature of nature.

life

man and

of it

nature

of

the

sphere

he of

he must remain.

leads

him

outside

He must have

confi-

dence in that which no science of outer nature can give hrm or show to him.


MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

88

If

he

calls

"that which to reach cognises

only this nature Being or is,"

then he must be able

out to the vision which as

"that which

no God who

the higher, is

is

not."

Non-being,

re-

or

Tauler seeks for

present in the same sense

as a natural force; he seeks tio

God who

has created the world in the sense of

human

creation.

In him lives the clear

insight that the conception of creation

even of the Fathers of the Church

is only-

human creating. It is clear him that God is not to be foimd idealised

nature's working

by

science.

nature as God.

as

and her laws are found,

Tauler

we must not add

to

in

is

well aware that

thought anything to

He knows

that whoever

thinks God, in his sense, no longer thinks

thought-content, as does one

grasped natirre in thought.

who has

Therefore,

Tauler seeks not to think God, but to


THE FRIENSDHIP OF GOD think divinely, to think as

The knowledge

God

89

thinks.

of nattire is not enriched

by the knowledge of God, but transformed. The knower of God does not know a different thing

from the knower of nature,

but he knows in a different way. one

single letter

can the knower of

add to the knowledge

Not God

of nature; but

through his whole knowing of nature there shines a

What of

new

Ught.

root-feelings will take possession

who contemplates

a man's soul

the

world from this point of view, will depend

upon how he regards that experience of the soul

re-birth. is

which brings about

spiritual

Within this experience,

man

wholly a natural being, when he con-

siders

himself

in

his

interaction with

the rest of nature; and he spiritual

being

when he

is

wholly a

considers the

conditions into which this re-birth has


MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

90

brought him.

the

equal truth, soul

Thus we can say with inmost depth of the

natural; as also

is still

it is

already

Tauler emphasised the former

divine.

in accordance

with his own tendency of

However far we may penetrate our souls, we still remain separated

thought. into

individual self.

human

But yet

beings, said he to him-

in the

very depths of the

soul of the individual being there gleams forth the All-Being.

Tauler was dominated by the feeling:

Thou canst not free thyself from ness, nor purify thyself

from

separate-

There-

it.

fore the All-Being in its purity can never

make

its

only shed soul.

appearance within thee, its light

Thus

reflection,

a

comes into

in its

it

can

into the depths of thy

depths only a mere

picture existence.

of

the

Thou

All-Being canst

so

transform thy separated personality that


THE FRIENDSHIP OF GOD it

91

reproduces the All-Being as a picture;

but this All-Being forth in thee.

itself

does not shine

Starting from such con-

came

ceptions, Tauler

to the idea of a

Godhead that never merges wholly

into

the htunan world, never flows quite completely into

More, he attaches im-

it.

portance to his not being confused with those

who maintain

being

is

itself

that man's inmost

divine.

Union with God

is

in a fleshly sense,

He

says:

"The

taken by foolish

men

and they say that they

be transformed into divine nature;

shall

but such

is

false

and an

evil heresy.

For

even in the very highest, most inward

Union with God, God's nature and God's being the

still

remain

loftiest;

lofty, yea,

higher than

that passeth into a divine

abyss, where never yet

was creature."

Tauler wishes, and rightly, to be called

a good Catholic in the sense of his age


MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

92

and

desire to oppose

and

deepen

desires only to

spiritualise that Christianity

way

has no

any other conception to

He

Christianity.

his

He

of his priestly calling.

of looking at

He

it.

through

speaks as

a pious priest of the content of Holy Writ.

But

this

same scripture

becomes

still

means

the world of his conceptions a

in for

the expression of the inmost experiences of his soul. in the soul

"God worketh

all his

works

and giveth them to the

soul;

and the Father begetteth His only begotten Son

in the soul, as truly as

Him What

bom when

one

begetteth in the soul? of

Is it

of

God?

Nay

:

it is

less.

God

says:

God, or a picture of God, or

what

begetteth

more, nor

in eternity, neither is

He

a likeness is it

some-

neither picture

nor likeness of God, but the same

and the same Son

whom

getteth in eternity

and naught

God

the Father beelse

than


THE FRIENDSHIP OP GOD the blissful divine word, that

Him

person in the Trinity, begetteth in the soul,

is

.

.

the second

the Father

and thereof

.

the soul hath thus great and

The

dignity."'

come

93

special

stories of scripture be-

for Tauler the

garment

in

which he

clothes the happiness of the inner

life.

"Herod, who drove out the child and sought to slay him, world,

is

a likeness of the

which yet seeketh to

this

kill

child in a beKeving

man, therefore one

should and must

therefrom,

desire to

is

but

the enlightened believing

soiol

and every man." directs his gaze

the natural man, he

concerned to the higher '

Cp. Preger:

2ig

we do us,

As Tauler

p.

if

keep that child alive in

that child of each

flee

et seq.

tell

man

is

mainly upon

comparatively

us what happens

less

when

enters into the natural

History of German Mysticism, vol.

iii..


94

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

man, than

to discover the paths

which

the lower forces of the personaHty must follow

they are to be transmuted into

if

the higher

moral

life,

As a devotee

life.

he desires to show to

roads to the All-Being. ditional faith

man,

his life that there

if

man

his

world:

a

will so order

man

can

shuts him-

mere natural separated

Such a man, separated

personality. in himself,

has imcon-

this All-Being

never shine forth while in

the

shaU be in him a shrine

But

for the Divine.

up

men

and trust that the All-Being

shines forth in

self

He

of the

is

off

merely one member of the

single

creature,

in

Tauler's

The more man shuts himself off within this his being as a member of the world, so much the less can the All-

language.

Being find place in him.

"If

man

is

in

become one with God, then all energies and powers even of the inner

reality to


THE FRIENDSHIP OF GOD man must

and become

die

95

The

silent.

must turn away even from the Good

will

and from

all willing,

of

willing."

aU

his senses

and become void

"Man must

escape from

and turn inwards

all his

powers, and come into a forgetting of

"For the true

things and of himself."

and eternal Word in the desert,

of

God

is

uttered only

when the man hath gone

out from himself and from

and

is

all

all

things

quite untrammelled, desolate and

alone."

When

Tauler stood at his zenith, the

problem which occupied the central point of his

mental

overcome and

was:

life

kill

How

can

man

out in himself his

separated existence, so as to live in perfect

unison with the All-life?

For one

in this position, all feelings towards the

All-Being this

concentrate

one thing:

Awe

themselves

into

the

All-

before


MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

96

Being as that which

He

endless.

says to himself: whatever

thou hast reached, there remain

level still

higher perspectives,

Thus

possibilities. is

inexhaustible,

is

him the

to

still

and defined as

clear

direction in

to turn his steps,

it

is

more exalted

which he has

equally clear to

him that he can never speak of a goal: for a new goal is only the beginning of a new path. Through such a new goal

man

reaches a certain level of evolution:

but

evolution

itself

continues

ably.

And what

attain

upon some more distant

that

can never know upon

There

is

evolution

its

no knowing the

inimit-

may

level, it

present stage.

final goal:

only

a trusting in the path, in evolution self.

There

which

man

is

knowing

has

already

for everything

attained.

consists in the penetration of

present

object

it-

It

an already

by the powers

of

ovj:


THE FRIENDSHIP OF GOD For the higher

spirit.

inner being, there

Here the powers

is

97

man's

of

life

no such knowing.

of oiir spirit

must

first

transfer the object itself into the realm

they must

of the existent;

for

it

create

first

an existence, constituted as

is

natural existence.

Natural Science follows the evolution of beings

from the simplest up to the

most perfected, to evolution pleted. it

lies

man

himself.

This

before us as already com-

We know

it,

by penetrating

When humanity, man

with the powers of our

evolution has reached

spirit.

then finds nothing further there before

him

as

its

accomplishes

He

continuation.

the

Henceforward he

further lives

stages he only knows.

unfoldment.

what

He

himself

for earlier creates, ac-

cording to the object, that which, for

what has gone

before,

he only copies


MYSTICS OP THE RENAISSANCE

98

in accordance

with

That truth

not one with the existent

in nature,

is

its spiritual

nature.

but naturally embraces both

the existent and the non-existent: of this truth Tauler all

his

down

filled

is

feelings.

It

to overflowing in

has been handed

to us that Tauler

fulfilling

was

led to this

by an illuminated layman, a

"Friend of God from the Mountains."

We

have here a mysterious

story.

God"

lived

there exist only conjectures; as to

who

As

to where this "Friend of

He seems Taiiler's way

he was, not even these.

to

have heard much

of

of

preaching, and to have resolved accordingly

to

journey to

Tauler,

who was

then working as a preacher in Strassburg, in order to

by him. of

fulfil

a certain duty

Tauler's relation to the Friend

God, and the

latter exercised

influence which

upon the former,

the

are to


THE FRIENSDHIP OF GOD

99

be found described in a text which

is

printed along with the oldest editions of

sermons

Tauler's

"The Book

of the

a Friend of God, in recognise the

under the

a "Master," ler himself.

Therein

Master."

whom some

same who came

lations with Tauler, gives

title,

seek to into re-

an account

of

whom some assert to be TauHe relates how a transfor-

mation, a spiritual re-birth, was brought

about in a certain "Master" and how the

when he

latter,

felt

near, called his friend to

him

drawing

his death

him and begged

to write the story of his "enlight-

enment," but yet to take care that no one should ever learn of

whom

speaks.

He

that

the knowledge that

all

from him

is

the book

asks this on the

ground proceeds

yet not really from him.

"For know ye that God hath brought all to pass through me, poor worm, and


MYSTICS OP THE RENAISSANCE

100

that what

it

is,

is

not mine,

it

is

of

God."

A

learned controversy which has con-

nected

itself

with

the

occurrence

is

not of the very smallest importance for

An

the essence of the matter.

was made to prove on one Friend of

God never

existence

his

was

side' that the

existed,

fiction

effort

but that

and that the

books ascribed to him come from another hand (Rulman Merswin).

On

the

other hand Wilhehn Preger has sought

with

many arguments

(in his

History of

German Mysticism) to support the existence, the genuineness of the writings,

and

the correctness of the facts that relate to Tauler. I

am here

light

under no obligation to throw

by presumptuous

investigation

upon

a relationship as to which any one, who 'Denifle: Die Dictungen des Gottesfreundes

im Oberlande.


THE FRIENDSHIP OF GOD understands question,

in

remain a

how

loi

to read the writings^

know

will

that

should

it

secret.

one says of Tauler, that at a certain

If

stage of his

life

a transformation took

amply sufficient. Tauler's personality need no longer be in any way considered in this connecplace in him, that will be

but only a personality "in general."

tion,

As regards Tauler, we are only concerned with the fact that we must understand his

transformation

view

compare

from the point

what

follows.

his later activity

with his

set forth in

the fact of this transformation

without '

The

further

search.

writings in question axe,

I

among

is

we

earlier,

obvious

will others

If

of

:

leave Von eime

eigenwilligen weltwisen manne, der von eime heiligen welt-

gehorsamme, 1338; Das Buck von den zwei Mannen; Der gefangene Ritter, 1349; Die geistliche siege, 1350; Von der geistlichen Leiter, 1357; Das Meisterbuch, 1369; Geschichte von zwei fiinfzehnjdhzpriestere gewiselwart uffe demueiige

igen

Knaben.


MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

102

aside

all

outer circtimstances and relate

the inner occurrences in the soul of the

"Master" under "the

my

What

layman."

influence of the

reader

will

understand by the "layman" and the

"Master" depends mentaUty; what it is

for

I

it is

Master

as to

his

is

of

know

any weight.

instructing his disciples

the relationship of the

that

own

myself think about

the All-Being of things. fact

upon

a matter as to which I cannot

whom

A

entirely

when

man

soul to

He speaks of the plunges

into

the abysmal depths of his soul, he no longer feels the natural, limited forces of

the separated personality working within

him.

Therein

the

separated

man no

longer speaks, therein speaks God.

There

man does not see God, or the world there God sees Himself. Man has become one ;

with God.

But the Master knows that


THE FRIENDSHIP OF GOD this teaching has not yet full life in

He

him.

103

awakened

thinks

to

with his

it

understanding: but he does not yet live in

with every

it

He

fibre of his personality.

thus teaching about a state of

is

things which he has not yet completely lived through in himself.

The

descrip-

tion of the condition corresponds to the truth; yet this truth it

does not gain

bring

itself

life,

no value

has if

it

does

if

not

forth in reality as actually

existent.

The "layman"

or "Friend

of

God"

hears of the Master and his teachings.

He

is

no

less

saturated with the truth

which the Master utters than the Master

But he possesses

himself.

this

truth

not as a matter of the understanding;

he has

it

as the whole force of his

life.

He knows that when this truth has come to a man from outside, he can himself


I04

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

give utterance to

than the

without even in the

accordance with

least living in

in that case

it,

it.

he has nothing other in

knowledge of the un-

natiu-al

He

derstanding.

But him

then

speaks

this

of

were the

natural

knowledge as

highest,

equivalent to the working of

the All-Being.

It is

it

if

not

so,

has not been acquired in a

because

life

it

that has

approached to this knowledge as a transformed, a reborn only

quires

as

What one

natural

a

natiu-al,-

ac-

man, that

—even

only

remains

life.

when

one afterwards expresses in words the

fundamental characteristic of the higher knowledge.

Outwards, from within the

very nature

itself,

must the transform-

ation be accomplished.

Nature, which by living has evolved itself

to

a certain

further through

life

level, ;

must evolve

something new must


THE FRIENDSHIP OF GOD come

105

into existence through this further

Man must

evolution.

not

only

look

backwards upon the evolution which already

lies

highest

that

behind him

which

cording thereto

—claim

shapes his

in

as the

itself

spirit

—but

ac-

he

must look forward upon the uncreate: his

knowledge must be a beginning

new

of evolution it.

the

of

a

content, not an end to the content

which already

lies

before

Nature advances from the worm to

mammal, from

the

mammal

to

man,

not in a conceptual but in an actual,

Man

real process.

process not

in

has to repeat this

mind

his

mental repetition

is

alone.

The

only the beginning

of a fresh, real evolution, which, however,

despite

its

being spiritual,

then, does not merely

is real.

Man,

know what nature

has produced; he continues natiire; he translates his knowledge into living ac-


io6

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

He

tion.

the

gives birth within himself to

and

spirit,

onwards from

advances thence

this spirit

level to level of evolution,

Spirit begins

as nature itself advances.

a natural process upon a higher

The

God who contem-

talk about the

man's inner being, takes

plates Himself in

on a

who has

different character in one

recognised

portance

He

this.

the

to

attaches

fact

depths

the

of

him

All-Being;

spiritual nature acquires a It

unfolds

itself

direction determined

Such a

man

differently

little

im-

an insight

that

already attained has led

ter.

level.

into the

instead,

new

further

by the

his

characin

the

All-Being.

not only looks at the world

from one who merely under-

stands: he lives his

life

otherwise.

does not talk of the meaning which

He life

already has through the forces and laws of the world:

but he gives anew a fresh


THE FRIENDSHIP OF GOD meaning to

107

already has in

As little as the itself what makes

appearance on a

later level of evolution

his

life.

mammal,

as the

as

little

fish its

has the under-

standing

man

already in himself what

be

bom

from him as the higher

shall

man.

know

the fish could

If

the things around

it,

it

and

itself

would regard

the being-a-fish as the meaning of It

would say: the All-Being

fish:

in the fish

Thus would the

long as

it

remained constant to not

does

It

reaches

with

its activity.

and

later it

its

under-

In reality

remain constant thereto.

out beyond

a

the

speak as

fish

standing kind of knowledge.

which

is like

the All-Being beholds

itself.

it

life.

It

its

knowledge

becomes a

mammal.

reptile

The meaning

gives to itself in reality reaches

out beyond the meaning which contemplation gives to

it.

mere


io8

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

must be so. He gives himself a meaning in reality; he does not halt and stand still at the meaning he already has, which his contemplation shows him. Knowledge In

man

leaps out

also

this

beyond

itself, if

only

it

under-

Knowledge cannot deduce the world from a ready-made God; it can only unfold itself from a germ in the direction towards a God. stands

itself aright.

The man who has understood this will not regard God as something that is outside of him; he will deal with God as a being who wanders with him towards a goal, which at the outset is just as unknown as the nature of the to the

fish.

He

mammal

is

tinknown

does not aim to be the

knower of the hidden, or of the self -revealing existent God, but to be the friend of the divine doing is

and working, which

exalted over both being

and non-being.


THE FRIENDSHIP OF GOD The layman, who came

109

to the Master,

was a "Friend, of God" in this sense, and through him the Master became from a contemplator of the being of God, one who one

"aHve

is

who not

in the spirit,"

lived in the higher sense.

now no

of

ideas burst

understanding from

the

his inner nature,

but these concepts and

forth

from him as

He no

actualised spirit.

foundations

is

longer merely

of

their

being.

plunged

their

souls

inner being; he led

living,

he shook the very

edified his hearers;

This

The Master

longer brought forth concepts

and ideas

longer

but

only contemplated,

them

He no into

into a

their

new

life.

recounted to us symbolically:

about forty people his preaching

fell

and lay as

down through if

dead.


no MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE As a guide possess

a

book

nothing

is

known.

known

about

has

first

with

it

indicates

ac-

year

the

trans-

What

original text.

book

the

it

Franz

modern German

a

lation facing the

precedes

made

printed

recently

we

author

philologist,

cording to a manuscript of 1497,

life,

whose

Luther

The

in print.

Pfeiffer,

new

to such a

its

pur-

"Here begins the man from Frankfurt and saith many very lofty and very beautiful things pose and

its

goal:

about a perfect

life."

the "Preface about the furt":

Upon

man from

"Al-mighty, Eternal

uttered this

little

this follows

Frank-

God hath

book through a

wise,

understanding, truthful, righteous man, his friend,

who

in

former days was a

German nobleman, a priest and a custodian in the German House of Nobles at Frankfurt;

it

teacheth

many a

lovely


THE FRIENDSHIP OF GOD insight

know and

Divine Wisdom,

into

pecially

1 1

and

es-

how and whereby one may

the true, righteous friends of God, the

also

thinkers,

who

unrighteous,

false,

free-

are very hiartful to

Holy

Church."

By

"free-thinkers" one

who

understand those conceptual

world,

may

live in

like

the

perhaps

a merely

"Master"

described above before his transformation

by means of the "Friend of God," and by the "true, righteous friends of God," such as possess the disposition of the

"layman."

One may

further ascribe to

the book the intention of so working

upon its readers as the "Friend of God from the Mountains" did upon the

known who the author was. But what does that mean? It is not known when he was bom and Master.

died, or

It

is

not

what he did

in his outer

life.


112

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

That

the

author

aimed

preserve

to

eternal secrecy about these facts of his

outer in

life,

way

belongs naturally to the

which he desired to work.

bom

the "I" of this or the other man, at a definite point of time,

speak to

us,

not

It is

who

is

to

but the "I-ness" in the

depths whereof "the separateness of individualities" (in the sense of Paul saying')

must

first

unfold

itself.

Asmus' "If

God who

men who are or have ever been, and became man in them, and they became God in Him, and it did not happen to me also, then my fall and my turning away would never be made good, unless it also happened in me too. And in this restoration and making good, I neither can nor may nor should do anytook to Himself

all

thing thereto save a mere pvire suffering, so that '

God

alone doeth and worketh

Vide ante, page 34.


THE FRIENDSHIP OF GOD all

things in me, and

all

His works and His divine

if I

will

not submit to

myself with egotism, I,

suffer

I

this,

i.e.,

1

13

Him and will.

But

but possess

with mine, and

to me, for me, and the like, that hinders

God so that He cannot work His work in me purely alone and without hindrance. remain

my

my

away thus not made good." The

Therefore

"man from

fall

and

turning

Frankfurt" aims to speak

not as a separated individual; he desires to let

God

speak.

That he yet can do

this only as a single, distinct personality

he naturally knows

full well;

but he

a "Friend of God," that means a

who aims of

life

pointing

is

man

not at presenting the nature

through contemplation, but at out the beginning of a new

evolutionary pathway through the living spirit.

The explanations

in

the

book are


114

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

how one comes The root-thought

various instructions as to to

pathway.

this

strip

and

again

returns ofif

man must

again:

everything that

connected

is

with that which makes him appear as a single, separate personality.

This thought

seems to be worked out only in respect of the

moral

life; it

should be extended,

without further ado, to the higher of

knowledge as

hilate

then

separateness:

anni-

whatever appears as

oneself

in

One must

well.

life

separated

existence

We

ceases; the All-Life enters into us.

cannot master this All-Life by drawing it

towards

we reduce silence. all

the

We

comes into

separateness

when we

existence

already dwelt within

as it.

when

us,

us to

in

have the All-Life

just then,

separated

It

us.

least

of

so regard our if

the

This

Whole

first

to light in the separated existence

comes

when


THE FRIENDSHIP OP GOD this separated existence

sion

no longer claims This preten-

be anything.

for itself to

115

on the part of the separated existence

our text terms "assumption."

Through "assumption" the it

impossible

versal self

for

itself

then puts

itself

makes

the Uni-

that

enter into

shoiild

Self

self

it.

The

as a part, as some-

thing imperfect, in the place of the whole,

"The

of the perfect.

perfect

is

a being,

that in itself and in its being has conceived

and resolved

beings,

all

and without

which and apart from which there

is

no

true being, and in which all things have their being;

things and

for

is

it

is

in itself

the being of

unchangeable and

immovable, and changes and moves other things. imperfect

is

all

all

But the divided and the

that which has sprung from

out of this perfect, or becomes, just as a

ray or a light that flows forth from the


MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

ii6

sun or a light and shines upon something, this

And

or that.

and

creature,

none

that

the

called

of all these divided things

Therefore also

the perfect.

is

is

the perfect none of the divided.

When

But when does

When

known, defect

so far as

lies

is

come?

it

possible

sun is

But that

is

the

man

sees

no defect of the sun

anything,

other things.

If

my

eye

.

.

.

it

Now

one might be

inclined to say: In so far then as

unknowable and inconceivable creatures,

it.

must become or be already cleansed from all

see

cleansed,

is

just as near to the

but of the blind man. ... to

it

illuminates

one as to the other, yet a blind

is

is

I

wholly in us and not in

whole world and

not.

.

tasted in the soul; for the

felt,

For just as the

it

.

the perfect cometh, the divided

despised.

say:

.

is

and

since the soul

is

it

for

also

is

all

a


THE FRIENDSHIP OF GOD how can

creature,

it

as

is

much

in

is it said,

known as a

the creature shall be

This

known

then be

Answer: Therefore

the soul?

117

creature.''

as to say that

all

creatures shall be regarded as created

and creation and not regard themselves as

and

I-ness

knowing

is

whereby

self-ness,

made

be known, there

"For

impossible.

whatever creature

in

one shall

this perfect

all

this

creature-being, cre-

and everything of the kind must be lost, be and become naught."' The soul must thereated-being, I-ness, self-ness,

fore look its

within

from the

it

perfect.

it

thereby cuts

itself off

i.,

in spirit,

Book of

the

If

If it regards its I-ness

upon by the stream Chap,

finds

remains

only as a thing lent to annihilates

it

it

I-ness, its self-ness.

standing there,

•

there

itself;

it

were, and

will

be seized

as

it it

of the All-Life, of

Man from

Frankfurt.


ii8

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

"When

Perfection.

sumes to

the

creature

somewhat

itself

as-

good, as

of

Being, Life, Knowledge, Power, in short,

aught of that which one thinks that to

it

much

it is

calls

good and

that, or that it belongs

or comes from

so often

it,

and so

as that happens, does the creature

"The created soul of man The one is the possibility

turn away."

has two eyes.

of seeing in eternity; the other of seeing in time

and

"Man

in creation."

therefore stand

and be quite

himself, that

without

me, mine, he as

for

little

and what

is

is

me and

free

should

without

self-ness, I-ness,

the

so that

like,

seeks and thinks of himself his in all things as

if it

did

not exist; and he should therefore also think

little of

and as

if

himself, as

another

if

he were not,

had done

deeds."' '

Chap. XV. Book of ,

the

Man from

Frankfurt.

all

his


THE FRIENDSHIP OF GOD One must

also take account

fact in regard

to

that

sentences,

the

and

these

thought-content,

the

by

We

his

feelings, is that of

believing priest in the spirit of his

time.

19

of the

writer of

to which he gives a direction

higher ideas

1

a

own

are here concerned not with

the thought-content, but with the direction, not with the thoughts

the

way

of thinking.

Any

one

but with

who does

not live as he does in Christian dogmas,

but in the conceptions of natural science, in his

finds

sentences other thoughts;

but with these other thoughts he points in the

tion

is

same

direction.

And

this direc-

that which leads to the over-

coming

of the self -hood,

itself.

The

in his

Ego.

by the

Self -hood

highest light shines for

But

this light

man

only then

imparts to his concept-world the right reflection,

when he becomes aware

that


MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

I20

it

not

is

own

his

but the

self-light,

universal world- light.

Hence there

no more important

is

knowledge than self-knowledge; and there is

equally no knowledge which leads so

completely out beyond "self"

knows

no longer a

When

itself.

itself aright, it is

own

In his

"self."

the

already

language,

the writer of the book in question expresses

as

this

'own-ness' of self-ness

is

void of this

and

and own-ness

follows:

I-ness;

it

'this'

but the nature

of the creature is that

seeketh and willeth

and

"For God's and that, void

and

'that';

and

does or leaves undone,

receive its

own

benefit

"When, now, the loseth his own-ness himself,

God

its

own

in all

that

and

itself

it

and

seeketh to profit.

creature or the

and

his self-ness

and goeth out from

it

man and

himself, then

entereth in with His Own-ness, that


THE FRIENDSHIP OF GOD

Man

with his Self-hood."'

is

wards, from a view of his

makes the very

a

to

soars up-

"Ego" which

appear to him as his

latter

being,

121

view

such

that

it

shows him his Ego as a mere organ,

in

which the All-Being works upon

itself.

In the concept-sphere of our text, this

means: "If

man

can attain thereto that

he belongeth unto

God

just as a

man's

hand belongeth to him, then let him content himself and seek no further."^ That is not intended to mean that

when man has reached a of

his

is

he

shall

stand

still

but that, when he has got as far

there,

as

evolution

certain stage

indicated in the above words, he

should not set on foot further investigations into the

rather '

make

meaning

but

use of the hand, in order

Chap, xxiv, Book of Chap. liv.

'Ibid.,

of the hand,

the

Man

from Frankfurt.


MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

122

that

it

may

to which

it

render service to the body belongs.

Heinrich Suso and Johannes RxjysBROEK possessed a type of mind which

may be characterised as genius for feeling. Their feelings are drawn by something like

instinct

in

the same direction in

which Eckhart's and Tauler's feelings were guided by their higher thoughtlife.

Suso's heart turns devoutly towards

that Root-Being which embraces the individual

man

just as

much

remaining world, and in himself,

he yearns to

as the whole

whom

forgetting

lose himself as a

drop of water in the mighty ocean.

He

speaks of this his yearning towards the All -Being, not as of something that desires to of

it

embrace

in thought;

he

he speaks

as a natural impulse, that

makes


THE FRIENDSHIP OF GOD drunken with desire

soul

his

annihilation

and

its

of

of

the

endless

life.

its

with not-being; for being.

let fall

Take unmoved

manifold being.

that

being in itseh alone, that

all

"Turn

pure naked

thou mayest

simplicity, so that

and

the

in the all-

life

thine eyes to this being in

this

for

separated existence

its

re-awakening to

efficiency

123

all

is

not-being denies

A thing that is yet to become,

or that has been,

is

not

now

in actual

presence."

"Now, one cannot know mixed being or not-being except by some mark of For

being as a whole.

if

stand a thing, the reason being,

and that

all things.

is

It is

or that creature, all

one will underfirst

encounters

a being that worketh

a divided being of this

—for

divided being

is

mingled with something of other-ness,

with a possibility of receiving something.


MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

124

Therefore

must it

the

nameless

so be a whole being in

sustaineth

all

being

divine itself,

that

divided beings by

its

presence."

Thus speaks Suso in the autobiography which he wrote in conjunction with his He, too,

pupil Elsbet Staglin. priest

and

circle of if it

He

a pious

the Christian

lives entirely in

thought.

is

lives therein as

were quite unthinkable that anybody

with his mental tendency could live in

any other world.

But

of

him

also it is

true that one can combine another con-

cept-content with his mental tendency.

This in

is

clearly borne out

by the way

which the content of the

teaching

has

Christian

become

for

him

and

his

relation

inner experience,

actual to

become a relation between his own spirit and the eternal truth in a Christ has

purely ideal, spiritual way.


THE FRIENDSHIP OF GOD He composed a Wisdom y

"Little

to

not?

How

its

servant, in

"Knowest thou

other words to himself:

me

of Eternal

In this he makes the "Eter-

Wisdom" speak

nal

Book

125

art thou so cast

down, or

hast thou lost consciousness from agony of heart, is I,

my

merciful

tender child?

Behold

it

Wisdom, who have opened

wide the abyss of fathomless compassion which yet

hidden from

is

saints, tenderly to receive thee

repentant hearts;

it

is

I,

all

the

and

all

sweet Eternal

Wisdom, who was there poor and miserable, so as to bring thee to

thy worthiness;

who suffered bitter death, that I might make thee to live again! I stand it is I,

here pale and bleeding and lovely, as I

stood on the lofty gallows of the cross

between the stem judgment

and

thee.

is I,

thy spouse!

It is

I,

I

of

my Father

thy brother; look,

it

have therefore wholly


126

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

forgotten as

if

thou hast done against me,

all

had never been,

it

tumest wholly to self

me and

if

only thou

separatest thy-

no more from me."

All that

bodily and temporal in the

is

conception

Christian

become

has

for

Suso, as one sees, a spiritual-ideal process

From some

in the recesses of his soul.

chapters of Suso's biography mentioned

above,

it

might appear as

himself be guided not of his

own

spiritual power,

visions.

But he expresses

to

not

the

two-souled

knowledge

One

ghostly

meaning attains

reasonableness,

any kind

difference

his

this.

through

truth

through

"The

about

let

but through

through

revelations,

clearly

he had

by the mere action

external

quite

if

of

revelation.

between pure truth and

visions

in

the

I will also tell

matter

of

An

im-

you.

mediate beholding of the bare Godhead,


THE FRIENDSHIP OF GOD that

is

right

pure truth,

127

without

doubt; and every vision, so that

all

be

it

reasonable and without pictures and the

more

like it

be unto that bare beholding,

the purer and nobler

it

is."

Meister Eckhart, too, leaves no doubt that he puts aside the view which seeks to be spiritual in bodily-spacial forms, in appearances

which one can perceive

by any senses. Minds of the type Suso and Eckhart are thus opponents

of

of

such a view, as that which finds expression in the spiritualism which has devel-

oped during the nineteenth century.

Johannes Ruysbroek, the Belgian mystic, trod the same path as Suso.

His

way foimd an active opponent Johannes Gerson (bom 1363), who

spiritual

in

was

for

some time Chancellor

of

the


128

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

University of Paris and played a mo-

mentous

r61e at the Council of Constance.

Some

light

of the

mysticism which was practised by

Tauler,

compares

is

Suso it

thrown upon the nature

and

Ruysbroek,

if

one

with the mystic endeavours

of Gerson,

who had

Richard de

St. Victor,

his predecessors in

Bonaventura, and

others.

Ruysbroek himself fought against those

whom

he reckoned among the heretical

mystics.

As such he considered aU those

who, through an easy-going judgment of the understanding, hold that all things

proceed from one Root-Being, fore see in the

and

in

who

there-

world only a manifoldness

God the unity

of this manifoldness.

Ruysbroek does not count himself among these, for

he knew that one cannot attain

by the contemplation but only by raising oneself from

to the Root-Being of things,


THE FRIENDSHIP OF GOD this lower

mode

129

of contemplation to a

higher one Similarly, he turned against those

who

seek to see without further ado, in the individual

ence

man,

in his separated exist-

(in his creattire-being),

He

nature also.

deplored not a

the error which confuses

and

the sense- world,

in

his higher little

all differences

asserts

light-

mindedly that things are different only in appearance,

they are for

but that in their being

all alike.

This would amount,

a way of thinking

like

Ruysbroek's, to

the same thing as saying: fact that the trees in otu"

seeing to

That the an avenue seem to

come together does not

In reality they are every-

concern us.

where equally

far apart,

therefore oiir

eyes ought to accustom themselves to see correctly.

That the

But our eyes

trees

see aright.

run together depends


130

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

upon a necessary law of nature; and we have nothing to reproach ovir seeing with, but on the contrary to recognise in

why we

spirit

see

them

thus.

Moreover, the mystic does not turn

away from

the things of the senses.

As

them as to him that

things of the senses, he accepts

they

and

are,

through

in

senses

is

clear

no judgment

standing

But

it

can spirit

of

the

under-

become otherwise. he passes beyond both

they

and understanding, and then only

does he find the unity.

His faith

is

unshakable that he can develop himself to the beholding of this unity.

does he ascribe to the nature of

fore

man

the divine

brought to shine its

There-

own

spark which in

can be

him, to shine by

light.

People of the otherwise.

type of Gerson think

They do not

believe in this


THE FRIENDSHIP OF GOD

man

For them, what

self -shining.

131

,

can

behold remains always a something external, that

come

from some

them

to

side or other

must

Ruysbroek

externally.

beheved that the highest wisdom must needs shine forth for mystic contem-

Gerson believed only that the

plation.

an

soul can illuminate the content of

external teaching (that of the Church).

For else

Gerson,

For

teaching. faith,

that

is

was

warm

but possessing a

everything

is

Mysticism

bom

feeling for

revealed

Ruysbroek,

that the content of

also

in

nothing

the

in

was

it

all

soul.

this

a

teaching

Therefore

Gerson blames Ruysbroek in that the latter imagines that not only

has he the

power to behold the AU-Being with clearness,

but

there expresses

AU-Being.

beholding

that

in

itself

an activity

this

of the

Ruysbroek simply could not


132

MYSTICS OP THE RENAISSANCE

be understood by Gerson. of

two wholly

Both spoke Ruys-

different things.

broek has in his mind's eye the the soul that lives

with

its

life

of

into

oneness

God; Gerson, only a

soul-life

itself

that seeks to love the

never actually live in

God whom itself.

Like

it

can

many

others, Gerson fought against something

that was strange to

him only because he

could not grasp

in experience.

it


CARDINAL NICHOLAS OF CUSA

A

GLORIOUSLY shining

star in the

Middle Ages

of the thought-life of the is

Nicholas

Trevis,

of

Cusa

(at

stands upon the

the knowledge of his time.

mathematics

markable work.

may

He

1 401- 1464).

simimit of

In

Chrysippus

sky

he

accomplished

re-

In natural science he

be described as the forerunner of

Copernicus, for he took up the standpoint that the earth

is

a moving celestial

body like others. He had already broken away from a view upon which even a hundred years later the great astronomer, Tycho Brahe, based himself, when he hurled against the teaching of Copernicus

the

sentence: 133

"The

earth

is

a


134

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

gross,

heavy mass inapt

how,

then,

star of

can

and run

it

for

movement;

Copernicus it

make

a

about in the air?"

The same man who thus not only embraced

all

the knowledge of his time, but

extended

also

it

fiu-ther,

possessed in

addition, in a high degree, the

awakening

man

it

of

knowledge in the inner

this

so that

life,

external

power

not only illuminates the

world, but also mediates

that spiritual

life,

for

which from the

profounder depths of his soul he needs

must long

after.

we compare Nicholas with such spirits as Eckhart or Tauler, we obtain If

a remarkable

result.

Nicholas

is

the

scientific thinker, striving to lift himself

from research about the things

of the

world on to the level of a higher perception; ful

Eckhart and Tauler are the

believers,

who

faith-

seek the higher

life


CARDINAL NICHOLAS OF CUSA from within the content

135

of this faith.

Eventually Nicholas arrives at the same inner

life

as Meister Eckhart;

inner

life

of the former has a rich store

of

knowledge as

The

but the

content.

its

full significance of this difference

becomes clear when we

reflect that for

the student of science the danger

lies

very near at hand of misunderstanding the scope of that species of knowing

which enlightens us regarding the various special

departments of knowledge.

He

can very readily be misled into believing that there really or

mode

of

only one single kind

is

knowledge; and then he

will

either over- or under-rate this knowledge

which leads us to the goal special will

sciences.

In the one case he

approach the subject-matter of the

highest spiritual

lem

in the various

in physics,

life

as he

would a prob-

and proceed

to deal with


136

it

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

by means

he would

of concepts such as

apply to gravitation or

Thus,

electricity.

according as he believes himself to be

more

or less enlightened, the world will

appear to him as a blindly working machine,

or

an organism,

teleological structure of

ceived "World-Soul."

the

a personal God:

perhaps even as a form which

pervaded by a more or

as

or

is

ruled and

less clearly

con-

In the other case

he notes that the knowledge, of which alone he has any experience,

is

adapted

only to the things of the sense-world;

and then he will become a to himself:

We

things which senses.

lie

sceptic, saying

can know nothing about

beyond the world

Our knowledge

has

For the needs of the higher

life

a

of the limit.

we have

no choice but to throw ourselves blindly into

the

arms

knowledge.

of

And

faith for

a

untouched by learned

theo-


CARDINAL NICHOLAS OF CUSA

137

who was

logian like Nicholas of Cusa,

also a scientist, this second danger lay

peculiarly near at hand.

For he emerged,

along the lines of his learned training,

—the way of conceiv-

from Scholasticism,-

ing things which was dominant in scientific life

within the Mediseval Church; a

mode of thought that St. Thomas Aquinas (1227-1274), the "Prince of Scholastics,"

had brought to

We

must take

its

this

highest perfection.

mode

of conceiving

when we

background,

things

as

the

desire

to

portray

the

personality

of

Nicholas of Cusa. Scholasticism

a product

of

is,

in the highest degree,

human

the logical capacity celebrated

triumphs.

and

sagacity;

Any one who

is

its

Scholastics

for

highest

striving to

work out concepts in their most clear-cut outlines, ought the

in it

sharpest, to go to

instruction.

They


138

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

afford us the

nique

of

High School

thinking.

incomparable

skill in

of pure thinking.

for the tech-

They possess an moving in the field

It is easy to under-

value what they were able to achieve in this field; for it is only with difficulty

accessible to

man

partments of knowledge. rise to its level

numbers and ing

most de-

as regards

The majority

only in the domains of

calctilation,

upon the connection

and

in reflect-

of geometrical

figures.

We

can count by adding in thought a

unity to a number, without needing to call

We

to our help sense-conceptions.

calculate tions,

also,

without

such

concep-

in the pure element of thought.

In regard to geometrical figures,

we know

that they never perfectly coincide with

any

sensible

perception.

There

is

no

such thing within sensible reality as an


CARDINAL NICHOLAS OF CUSA "ideal" cerns

Yet our thinking con-

circle.

itself

139

with the purely ideal

circle.

For things and processes which are more complicated than forms of number and space,

it is

more

counterparts.

that

it

sides,

of

difficult to find

the ideal

This has even led so far

has been contended, from various

that in the separated departments

knowledge there

real science as there

is is

only so

much

of

of

measuring and

is

that most

counting.

The

truth about this

are not capable

of

men

grasping the pure

thought-element where

it

is

no longer

concerned with what can be counted or

measured.

But the man who cannot do

that for the higher realms of

life

and

knowledge, resembles in that respect a child,

which has not yet learned to count

otherwise than by adding one pea to another.

The

thinker

who

said

there


I40

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

was

much

just so

domain

as there was mathematics in

was not very much at home

One ought thing

any

science in

real

rather to

which

in the matter.

demand

cannot

it,

that every-

measured

be

or

counted should be handled just as ideally as the forms of

number and

the Scholastics in the fullest justice

to

this

And

space.

way

did

They sought

demand.

everywhere the thought-content of things, just as the field of

mathematician seeks

what

is

it

in the

measurable and countable.

In spite of this perfected logical

art,

the Scholastics attained only to a onesided

and

subordinate

Knowledge.

conception

Their conception

that in the act of knowing,

man

is

an image of what he

know.

is

obvious,

without

this:

creates

in himself It

of

is

to

fiorther

discussion, that with such a conception

of the

knowing process

all

reality

must


CARDINAL NICHOLAS OF CUSA

141

For

be located outside of the knowing.

one can grasp, in knowing, not the thing itself,

but only an image

of that thing.

man

knowing himself

Also, in

cannot

grasp himself, but again, what he does

know

of himself

himself.

only an image of

is

It is entirely

from out

of the

spirit of

Scholasticism that an accurate

student

thereof^

time no

life,

... he

has

in

his ego, of the

perception of

hidden ground of

and

"Man

says:

spiritual

his

being

never attain to

will

beholding himself; for either, estranged for ever

from God, he

will find in himself

only a fathomless, dark abyss, an endless emptiness, or

he

will find

else,

made

on turning

blessed in God,

his gaze inwards

just that very God, the sun of

mercy '

is

whose

shining within him, whose image

K. Werner, in

his

book upon Frank Suarez and

Scholasticism of the Last Centuries, p. 122.

the


142

and

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE likeness shapes itself in the spiritual

traits of his nattire."

Whoever thinks

about

this

like

all

knowing, has only such a conception of

knowing

as

The

things.

is

applicable

to

external

sensible factor in anything

always remains external for us; therefore

we can only

take up into

pictures of whatever

When we

world. stone,

we

is

oiu*

knowledge

sensible in the

perceive a colour or a

are unable, in order to

know

the being of the colotu" or the stone, to

become ourselves the colour or the Just

as

little

can the

colour

stone.

or

the

a part of our

stone transform

itself into

own

may, however, be ques-

being.

It

tioned whether the conception of such a

knowing-process, wholly directed to what is

external in things,

is

For Scholasticism,

an exhaustive one.

all

human knowing

does certainly in the main coincide with


CARDINAL NICHOLAS OF CUSA

Another admi-

kind of knowing.

this

rable authority on Scholasticism'

which we are concerned thought in the

direction of

"Our

manner: life

but

is

the

in

therein:

in this

following earth-

in

primarily focussed

surrounding

ordered

spiritual

allied

spirit,

with the body,

upon the

char-

conception of knowledge

acterises the

with

143

the

bodily

world,

direction

the

of

beings, natures,

forms of things, the elements of

exist-

which are related to our

spirit

ence,

and

offer to it the

rungs for

its

ascent

to the super-sensuous; the field of our is

therefore the realm of ex-

perience, but

we must learn to understand

knowledge

what

it offers,

to penetrate to its

meaning

and thought, and thereby unlock

for

ourselves the world of thought." 'Otto Willman, in P- 395-

his

History of Idealism, vol.

ii.,


144

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

The

Scholastic

any other conception the dogmatic

not attain to

could

of knowledge, for

content

prevented his doing

theology

of his

so.

he had

If

rected the gaze of his spiritual eye

di-

upon

that which he regards as an image only,

he would then have seen that the content of things reveals

spiritual

itself

in this

supposed image; he would then have

found that in his own inner being the

God

He

not alone images Himself, but that

lives therein, is present there in

own

He would have

nature.

own

gazing into his

His

beheld in

inner being, not a

dark abyss, an endless emptiness, but also not merely

would have him, which

and that

his

of

God; he

that a

life

pulses within

the very

life

of

felt is

an image

own

life is

God

itself;

verily just God's

life.

This the Scholastic dared not admit.


CARDINAL NICHOLAS OF CUSA

145

The God must not, in his opinion, enter into him and speak forth from him; God must only be in him as an image. In reahty, the Godhead must be external to the

Accordingly, also,

self.

not reveal

itself

the spiritual

life,

it cotild

from within through but must reveal

itself

from outside, through supematiiral commtmication. is

just exactly

thereby.

What what

is is

aimed at

in this,

least of all attained

sought to attain to the

It is

highest possible conception of the God-

head.

In reality, the Godhead

down and made a things;

only

that

is

dragged

thing

among

these

other

other things

reveal themselves to us naturally, through

experience; while the

posed to reveal rally.

A

Godhead

Itself to

difference,

is

sup-

us supematu-

however, between

the knowledge of the divine and of the created

is

attained in this way: that as


146

MYSTICS OP THE RENAISSANCE

regards the created, the external thing

given in experience, so that

is

knowledge of

it;

divine, the object

The

is

not given to us in

we can reach

experience;

we have

while as regards the

it

only in faith.

highest things, therefore, are for

the Scholastic not objects of knowledge,

but mainly of

faith.

It

is

true that

the relation of knowledge to faith must

not be so conceived, according to the Scholastic view, as

only knowledge,

it, itself,

in

and

a certain domain in

another only

For "the knowledge

faith reigned.

that which

if

is,

is

of

possible to us, because

springs from a creative element;

things are for the spirit, because they are from the spirit; they have something

to

tell us,

because they have a meaning

which a higher intelligence has placed in '

them."'

Because God has created

Otto Willman, History of Idealism, vol.

ii.,

p.

383.


CARDINAL NICHOLAS OF CUSA the world according to thoughts, are able,

when we grasp

the world,

of

147

we

too

the thoughts

to seize also upon

the

traces of the Divine in the world, through

But what God

scientific reflection.

according to His

own

being,

we can

only from that revelation which

is,

learn

He

has

given to us in supernatural ways, and

which we must

in

What we

believe.

ought to think about the highest things,

must be decided not by any hioman knowledge, but by faith; and "to faith belongs

all

that

writings of the

is

contained

New and

of

in

the

the Old

Testament, and in the divine traditions." It

is

not our task here to present and

establish in detail the relation of the

content of faith to the content of knowledge. '

In truth,

all

and every

Joseph Kleutgen, Die Theologie der

P- 39-

faith-

Vorzeit, vol.

i.,


MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

148

content

some

from

originates

actual

inner htiman experience that has once

Such an experience

been imdergone.

then preserved, as far as

its

outer form

goes, without the consciousness of it

in

And

was acquired. regard to

it

that

is

how

people maintain

came

it

into the

world by supernatural revelation.

The

content of the Christian faith was simply-

accepted by inner

the

experience,

Scholastics.

Science,

had no business to

claim any rights over

it.

As

little

science can create a tree, just so

as

little

dared Scholasticism to create a concep-

was bound to accept the revealed one ready-made and complete, tion of

just

as

God;

it

natural science has to accept

the tree ready-made. itself

can shine forth

That the spiritual and live in man's

inner nature, could never, never be ad-

mitted by the Scholastic.

He

therefore


CARDINAL NICHOLAS OF CUSA drew the

149

power

frontier of the rightfiil

knowledge at the point where the

of

domain

Hu-

of outer experience ceases.

man knowledge must

not dare to beget

out of

itself

a conception of the higher

beings;

it is

botmd to accept a revealed

one.

The

Scholastics

naturally

could

not admit that in doing so they were accepting and proclaiming as "revealed''

a conception which

in truth

been begotten at an

man's

spiritual

Thus, in the all

had

earlier

really

stage

of

life.

cotirse of its

development,

those ideas had vanished from Scholas-

ticism

which indicated the ways and

means by which man had begotten, natiu"al

in

a

manner, his conceptions of the

divine.

In the

first

centuries

of

the

development of Christianity, at the time of

the

doctrinal

Church Fathers,

we

see

the

content of theology growing


ISO

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

bit

by

by the

bit

In Johannes Scotus Eri-

experiences.

gena, ian

who

stood at the summit of Christ-

theological

centtiry,

assimilation of inner

we

culttire

the

in

ninth

find this doctrinal content

being handled entirely as an inner ing

With the

experience.

of the

liv-

Scholastics

following centtiries, this charac-

teristic

of

an

inner,

experience

living

disappears altogether: the old doctrinal

content

becomes

content

of

an

transposed external,

into

the

supernatural

revelation.

One might, activity

of

therefore, understand the

the

mystical

theologians,

Eckhart, Tauler, Suso and their associates, in the following sense:

they were

stimulated by the doctrines of the Church,

which were contained

in

its

theology,

but had been misinterpreted, to bring to birth afresh from within themselves,


CARDINAL NICHOLAS OF CUSA as

inner

living

experience,

a

151

similar

content.

Nicholas of Cusa sets out to

mount

from the knowledge one acquires isolated sciences

experiences.

up

in the

to the inner living

There can be no doubt that

the excellent logical technique which the Scholastics

have developed, and

for

which

Nicholas himself was educated, forms a

most

effective

means

of

attaining

to

these inner experiences, even though the Scholastics

from

this

themselves were held back

road by their positive

faith.

But one can only understand Nicholas fully when one reflects that his calling as a priest, which raised him to the dignity of Cardinal, prevented him from coming to a complete breach with the faith of

the Church, which found an expression


MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

152

appropriate to the age in Scholasticism.

We a

him

find

so far along the road, that

single step fiarther

would necessarily

have carried him out

We

the

of

shall therefore tinderstand the

inal best

we complete

if

more which then,

he

not

did

las's

mental

and

take;

backwards, throw

looking

ignorance."

Card-

the one step

upon what he aimed at. The most significant thought

of

Church.

life

By

is

this

that

of

in

light

Nicho-

"learned

he means a form

knowing which occupies a higher

level

compared with ordinary knowledge.

as

In the lower sense, knowledge .

grasping of an object

by the mind,

spirit.

The most important

istic of

knowing

is

that

it

something

it

gives us light

directs its gaze

different

from

or

character-

about something outside of the that therefore

the

is

itself.

spirit,

upon

The


CARDINAL NICHOLAS OF CUSA spirit,

therefore,

concerned

is

in

153

the

knowing-process with things thought of as outside

develops

Now

itself.

in

itself

what the

about things

The

being of those things. spirit.

Man

spirit is

things are

sees the spirit so far only-

What

through the sensible encasement. lies

outside the spirit

encasement; enters

only this sensible

is

being of

the the

into

spirit.

the

the things, which

then

knowing

;

outside of

looking at it

is

with

not looking at anything

it is

itself,

thing which

being of

of like nature

is

the

can no longer talk of

it

for

things

then,

If,

spirit turns its attention to this

itself,

the

but

is

part of

itself.

only looks upon

It

looking at someitself;

is,

indeed,

no longer knows;

itself.

It is

no longer

concerned with a "knowing," but with

a "not-knowing."

No

longer does

man

"grasp" something through the mind;


154

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

he

"beholds

own

conceiving"

his

This highest stage of knowing

life.

comparison with the lower stages,

in

is,

without

a "not-knowing."

But

is

it

obvious that the essential

being of things can only be reached

Thus

through this stage of knowing. Nicholas of

Cusa

in

"learned not-knowing" of nothing else but "

new

birth, as

speaking is

of

his

really speaking

knowing" come to a

He

an inner experience.

how he came to this " I made many efforts inner experience. to vinite the ideas of God and the world,

tells

us himself

and the Church, into a

of Christ

root-idea; but nothing satisfied

at last, on

my

my way

me

single

until

back from Greece by

by an lumination from above, soared up

sea,

mind's vision, as

that perception in which to

me

as the

if

il-

to

God appeared

supreme Unity

of all con-


CARDINAL NICHOLAS OF CUSA To

tradictions."

this illumination

a greater or

from the study

derived

One

cessors.

of

extent

less

was due to

155

influences

prede-

his

recognises in his

way

of

looking at things a peculiar revival of

the views which writings

of

we meet with

in the

The

a certain Dionysius.

above-mentioned Scotus Erigena transthese

lated

writings

into

Latin,

and

speaks of their author as the "great and divine revealer."

The works tioned

in

century.

in question are first

the

half

first

They were

to Christianity

by

left

tents

sixth

named

in the

who was converted

When these composed may here

St. Paul.

writings were really

be

the

ascribed to that

Dionysius, the Areopagite,

Acts of the Apostles,

of

men-

an open question.

Their con-

worked powerfully upon Nicholas

as they had already

worked upon Scotus


MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

156

Erigena, and as they must also have

been in

many ways

way

thinking

of

colleagues.

This

stimulating for the

of ' '

Eckhart and his

learned not -knowing

way preformed writings. Here we can only the essential trait in the way is

in

a certain

ceiving

Man

things

primarily

sense- world.

found

things

in these

indicate of con-

these

knows the things

works. of the

He forms thoughts about its

being and action. all

in

'

The Primal Cause

of

must lie higher than these things

themselves.

Man therefore must not seek

to grasp this Primal Cause by means of the

same concepts and ideas as

things.

If

he therefore ascribes to the Root-Being (God) attributes which he has learned to

know

in lower things, such attributes

can

be at best auxiliary conceptions of his

weak

spirit,

Being to

which drags down the Root-

itself,

in order to conceive

it.


CARDINAL NICHOLAS OF CUSA

157

In truth, therefore, no attribute whatsoever which lower things possess can

be predicated of God. be said that God is

a concept which

and

"being"

whom we

It

must not even " being

For

is. "

man

But God

lower things.

to

"

is

too

exalted above

The God

ascribe attributes,

We

God.

'

has formed from

"not-being."

fore not the true

'

is

there-

come

to the

when we think of an "OverGod" above and beyond any God with true God,

such attributes.

Of

this

we can know nothing

"Over-God"

in the ordinary

In order to attain to Him,

sense.

' '

know-

ing" must merge into "not-knowing."

One there

sees that at the root of such

lies

the consciousness that

self is able to

which

is

man him-

develop a higher knowing,

no longer mere knowing

purely natural manner

what

a view

—in

—on the basis

his various sciences

a of

have yielded


MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

158

The

him.

Scholastic

view

declared

knowledge to be impotent to such a development; and, at the point where

knowledge

supposed to cease,

the help

to

in

is

basing

itself

of

it

called

knowledge a

faith

upon external

revelation.

Nicholas of Cusa was thus upon the road to develop out of knowledge itself that

which the Scholastics had declared to be unattainable for knowledge.

We

thus see that, from Nicholas of

Cusa's point of view, there can be no question of there being only one kind or

mode

On

of knowing.

the contrary, for

him, knowing clearly divides two, otu"

first

into such

itself into

knowing as mediates

acquaintance with external objects,

and second

such as

into

is

itself

the

object of which one gains knowledge.

The

first

mode

in the sciences,

of

knowing

is

dominant

which teach us about


CARDINAL NICHOLAS OF CUSA

159

the things and occurrences of the outer

when we ourthe knowledge we have

world; the second selves live

acquired.

in

is

in us

This second kind of knowing

Now, however, it is still one and the same world with which both these modes of knowing are concerned; and it is one and the selfsame man who is active in both. Hence the question must arise, whence comes it that one and the self -same man develops two different kinds of knowledge of one and the same world. grows out of the

first.

connection with Tauler,

Already, in

the direction could be indicated in which the answer to this question must be sought.

Here

answer can be lated.

still

In the

a separated

in Nicholas of

more

first

definitely

place,

(individual)

other separated beings.

Cusa

man

this

formu-

lives as

being amidst

In addition to


i6o

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

the effects which the other beings produce

on each other, there the

arises in his case

knowledge.

(lower)

Through

his

senses he receives impressions from other beings,

with

and works up these impressions inner

his

spiritual

He

powers.

then turns his spiritual gaze away from external things, and beholds himself as

weU

own

as his

self-knowledge

activity.

arises

in

In so doing him.

But

long as he remains on this level of

so

self-

knowledge, he does not, in the true sense of the word, still

behold himself.

believe that

active within him,

and

He

can

some hidden being

is

whose manifestations

effects are only that

which appears

him to be his own activities. But now the moment may come in which,

to

through an perience,

it

incontrovertible

inner

ex-

becomes clear to the man that

he experiences,

in

what he perceives or


CARDINAL NICHOLAS OF CUSA feels

i6i

within himself, not the manifestation

or effect of

any hidden power or being,

but this very being essential

itself

in

and intimate form.

its

most

Then he

can say to himself: In a certain way

I

aU other things ready given, and

I

find

myself, standing apart from and outside

them whatever the spirit has to tell about them. But what I thus creatively add to the things in of

them, add

to

myself, therein do I myself live; that

myself,

my

very

own

being.

is

But what

is

that which speaks there in the depths

of

my

I

have acquired

spirit?

It is the

of

knowledge which

the things of the

But in this knowledge there speaks no longer an effect, a manifest-

world.

ation

;

that which speaks expresses

itself

wholly, holding back nothing of what it

contains.

In this knowledge, there

speaks the world in

all

its

immediacy.


i62

But

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE have acquired

I

this

knowledge

of

among own being

things and of myself, as one thing

other things. I

From

my

out

myself speak, and the things,

too,

speak.

Thus, in truth,

no longer only to

I

am

giving utterance

my own being

;

I

am also

giving utterance to the being of things

themselves.

My

"ego"

is

the form, the

organ in which the things express themselves about themselves.

I

have gained

the experience that in myself I experience

my own

essential

perience

expands

being; and this exin

itself

me

to

the

further one that in myself and through

myself

the

Itself, or

I

can

thing feel

All-Being

Itself

in other words,

expresses

knows

Itself.

now no longer feel myself as a among other things I can now only ;

myself as a form in which the All-

Being

lives

out Its

own

life.


CARDINAL NICHOLAS OF CUSA It is

163

thus only natural that one and

same man should have two modes knowing. Judging by the facts of the

the of

senses,

he

is

a thing among other things,

and, in so far as he

that,

is

he gains for

himself a knowledge of these things; but at

any moment he can acquire the higher

experience that he

is

really the

form

in

which the All-Being beholds Itself.

Then

man

thing

transforms himself from a

among

other things into a form of the

All-Being

—and,

knowledge

along with himself, the things

of

transforms

itself

into the expression of the very being of things.

But

as a matter of fact this

transformation can only be accomplished

That which

through man. in the higher

is

mediated

knowledge does not exist

as long as this higher knowledge itself is

not present.

Man

becomes only a

real being in the creation of this higher


1

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

64

knowledge;

and

through

only

man's

higher knowledge can things also bring their being forth into real existence. If,

shall

therefore,

we demand

that

man

add nothing to things through

inner knowledge, pression

his

but merely give ex-

to whatever already exists in

the things outside of himself, that would really of

amount

to a complete abnegation

From

aU higher knowledge.

the fact

that man, in respect of his sensible is

life,

merely one thing among others, and

that he only attains to the higher knowledge

when he himself accomplishes with

himself,

as a being

the senses, the

of

transformation into a higher being,

it

follows that he can never replace the

one kind of knowledge by the other.

His

spiritual life consists,

on the contrary,

in a ceaseless oscillation

two poles

of

knowledge

between these

—between know-


ing

CARDINAL NICHOLAS OF CUSA

165

and

off

seeing.

from the

If

seeing,

nature of things: himself

off

he shuts himself

he abandons the real if

he seeks to shut

from sense-perception,

he

would shut out from himself the things whose nature he seeks to know. these

It is

very same things which reveal

themselves alike in the lower knowing

and the higher

seeing; only in the one

they reveal themselves according

case

to their outer appearance; in the other

according to their inner being. is

Thus

it

not due to the things themselves that,

at a certain stage, they appear only as

external things; but their doing so

due to the all

raise

fact that

man must

first of

and transform himself to the

upon which the things cease external and outside. level

is

to be

In the light of these considerations,

some

of the views which natural science


1

66

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

has

developed

during

the

nineteenth

century appear for the

first

time in the

Hght.

right

views

tell

The

us that

supporters

we

these

of

hear, see,

and touch

the objects of the physical world through

our senses.

The

eye, for instance, trans-

mits to us a phenomenon

of

light,

a

Thus we say that a body emits red light, when with the help of the eye we experience the sensation "red." But the eye can give us this same sencolour.

sation in other cases also. is

If

struck or pressed upon, or

spark

is

the eyeball

if

an

electric

allowed to pass through the

head, the eye has a sensation of light. It

is

cases in

thus evident that even in the

which we have the sensation

a body emitting red

may

really

light,

be happening

of

something

in that

body

which has no sort of resemblance to the colour

we

sensate.

Whatever may be


CARDINAL NICHOLAS OF CUSA

167

actually happening "outside of us" in space, so long as of

what happens

is

capable

making an impression on the

eye,

there arises in us the sensation of light.

Thus what we experience arises in us, because we possess organs constituted in a particular

manner.

What happens

outside in space, remains outside of us;

we know only

the

effects

external happenings call

mann Helmholtz a

clearly

up

which the Her-

in us.

(1821-1893) has given

outlined

expression

to

this

thought

"Our

sensations

which are produced

are in

simply

effects

our organs by

manner in which such an effect will show itself depends, naturally enough, altogether upon the kind of apparatus upon which the action

external causes, and the

takes place.

In so far as the quality

of our sensation gives us information as


168

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

to

the peculiar nattire of the external

action which produces the sensation, so far can the sensation

be regarded as a

sign or symbol of this external action,

but not as an image or reproduction it.

For we expect

in

of

a picture some

kind of resemblance to the object

it

represents; thus in a statue, resemblance of form; in

a drawing, resemblance in

the perspective projection of the'

field

of view; in a painting, resemblance of

colour ever,

in is

symbol,

how-

not required to have any sort

of resemblance bolises.

A

addition.

to

that which

it

sym-

The necessary connection

tween the object and the symbol limited

to

this:

beis

that the same object

coming into action under the same conditions shall call

up the same symbol,

and

that

shall

always correspond to different ob-

therefore

different

symbols


CARDINAL NICHOLAS OF CUSA

When

jects.

in ripening

tion

169

berries of a certain kind

produce together red coloura-

and sugar, then red colour and a

sweet taste will always find themselves together in our sensation of berries of this form."'

Let us follow out step by step the line thought which this view makes

of

own.

It

is

assumed that something

happens outside

me

of

produces an effect upon

and

my

I

is

brain.

brought

experience the sensation "red."

is

Cp. Helmholtz, Die

in detail in

my

my

foUows the assertion: therefore the

p. 12 et seq.

in

to

occurrence

sensation "red" '

space; this

my sense-organs;

made

thus

There another

Now

in

nervous system conducts the

impression

about.

its

I

not outside, not ex-

Thatsachen der Wahrnehmung, this kind of conception

have characterised

my

Welt-

Philosophie der Freiheit, Berlin, 1894, and und Lebensanschauungen im Neunzehnten

Jahrhundert, vol.

ii.,

p.

i.,

etc.


I70

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

me

temal to tions

;

in me.

it is

All our sensa-

merely symbols or signs of

are

external occiirrences of whose real quality

we know

We

nothing.

In

of

spirit

this

in

of their line

of

would thus be possible to that if we had no eyes, colour

thought, assert

the

and move

know nothing

our sensations and origin.

live

it

would not

exist; for

then there would be

nothing to translate

unknown

this,

to us, wholly

happening into the

external

sensation "red."

For many people possesses

a

nevertheless

this line of

curious it

thought

attraction;

but

originates in a complete

misconception of the facts under consideration.

(Were

it

not that

many

of

the present day scientists and philoso-

phers

by

are

blinded

even

this line of thought,

to say less about

it.

to

absurdity

one would need

But, as a rriatter


CARDINAL NICHOLAS OF CUSA of fact, this blindness has ruined in

171

many

respects the thinking of the present day.)

man

In truth, since thing

among

follows that of

them

pression

if

is

but one object or

other things,

he

to

is

naturally

it

have any experience

make an imupon him somehow or other.

at

all,

they must

Something

that

man must

cause something to happen

within him,

if

sation "red"

happens

outside

the

in his visual field the senis

to

make

its

appearance.

The whole question turns upon this: What is without? what within? Outside of him something happens in space and time. But within there is undoubtedly For

a similar occurrence.

in

the eye

there occurs such a process, which manifests itself to the brain

the colour "red."

I

perceive

This process which

goes on "inside" me, directly,

when

cannot perceive

I

any more than

I

can directly


MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

172

wave

perceive the

which

the

motions "outside"

physicist

conceives

answering

to

really

only in this sense that

it is

the

colour

as

of

But

"red." I

can

speak of an "inside" and an "outside" at

Only on the plane of sense-per-

all.

ception

can

opposition

the

between

"outside" and "inside" hold good.

The

recognition of this leads

assume the existence "outside" process in space

it

at

the same recognition further postulate

of

and time, although

do not directly perceive to

me

to

a I

And leads me

all.

a similar process within

myself, although I cannot directly per-

ceive that either. fact,

I

habitually

But, as a matter of postulate

analogous

occurrences in space and time in ordinary life

which

I

do not

for instance,

when

directly perceive; as, I

hear piano -playing

next door, and assume that a human being


CARDINAL NICHOLAS OF CUSA in space is seated at the piano

playing upon

when

And my

it.

and

1

73 is

conception,

speak of processes happening

I

and within me,

outside

of,

same.

assume that these processes have

I

is

just the

quaHties analogous to those of the pro-

which do

cesses

my

of

senses,

fall

within the province

only

that,

because

my

certain reasons, they escape

of

direct

perception. If

I

were to attempt to

these processes

my

show me

senses

space and time, in truth

the

in the

domains

of

should in reality and

famous knife without

whose

handle,

Therefore, I

time

to

be trying to think something

not unlike a

I

deny

the qualities which

all

was wanting. can only say that space and

processes

blade

take

place

"outside"

me; these bring about space and time processes

"within" me; and both are


174

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

necessary

the sensation "red"

if

appear in

my

so far as this

field of vision.

"red"

is

time, I shall seek for

whether

I

myself.

Those

it

For

To

in

equally in vain,

scientists

find

it is

and

philoso-

"outside,"

it

it

"inside"

not "inside," in exactly

the same sense in which side."

And,

not in space and

ought not to want to find either.

to

seek "without" or "within"

who cannot

phers

is

it is

not "out-

declare that the total content

of that

which the sense-world presents

to us

but an inner world of sensation

is

or feeling, and then to endeavour to tack

on something "external" or "outside" to

it,

is

a wholly impossible conception.

Hence, we must not speak of "red," "sweet," "hot,"

etc.,

as being symbols, or

signs,

which as such are only aroused with-

in us,

and to which "outside "

of us some-

thing totally different corresponds.

For


CARDINAL NICHOLAS OF CUSA that which

is

175

really set going within us,

some external happening, something altogether other than what

as the effect of is

appears in the If

we want

field

of our sensations.

to call that which

us a symbol, then

we can

within

is

These

say:

symbols make their appearance within our organism, in order to mediate to us the perceptions which, as such, in their

immediacy, are neither within nor outside of us,

to

that

but belong, on the contrary,

common

"external"

world,

world and

world are only parts. able to grasp this it

is

true,

raise

of

my

which

my

"internal"

In order to be

common world,

I

must,

myself to that higher

plane of knowledge, for which an "inner"

and an

know

"outer"

no longer

quite well that people

exist.

who

(I

pride

themselves on the gospel that our entire

world of experience builds

itself

up out


MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

176

and

of sensations origin

will

unknown upon

contemptously

look

remarks;

these

feelings of

Dr.

instance,

for

as,

Erich Adikes in his book, Kant contra

"At

Haeckel, observes condescendingly: first

of

people like Haeckel and thousands

type

his

without

philosophise

theory of knowledge

inkling of of

how cheap are.

lack of critical

Let

critical

self-

Such gentlemen have no

knowledge

others.

or

away about

themselves

troubling

reflection."

gaily

us

their

They

own

to

the

suspect

self-reflection

leave

theories

only

them

in

their

"wisdom.") Nicholas of Cusa expresses some very telling

thoughts bearing directly upon this

very point. in

The

clear

and

distinct

way

which he holds apart the lower and

the higher knowledge enables him, on the one side, to arrive at a

full

and com-


CARDINAL NICHOLAS OF CUSA plete recognition of the fact that

as a sense-being can only

have

processes which, as effects, sarily

177

man

in himself

must

neces-

be altogether unlike the corres-

ponding external processes; while, on the other side,

it

guards him against

confusing the inner processes with the facts

the

which make their appearance in

field of

in their

nor

our perceptions, and which,

immediacy, are neither outside

inside,

but altogether transcend

this

opposition of "in" and "out."

But Nicholas was hampered

in

the

thorough carrying through of these ideas

by

his "priestly garments."

how he makes a

fine

So we see

beginning with

the progress from "knowing" to "not-

knowing."

At the same time we must

also note that in the

domain

of the higher

knowledge, or "ignorance," he unfolds practically nothing but the content of


MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

178

the theological teaching which the SchoCertainly he knows

lastics also give us.

how

to

in a

most able manner.

expound

this theological content

He

presents us

with teachings about Providence, Christ, the creation of the world, man's salvation, the moral

life,

which are kept thoroughly

in

harmony with dogmatic

It

would have been

his

in

Christianity.

accordance with

mental starting point, to say:

confidence in

human

I

have

nature that after

having plunged deeply into the science of things in all directions, of transforming

"knowing"

it

from within

into

is

capable

itself

"not-knowing,"

a

this

in

such wise that the highest insight shall bring

In

satisfaction.

that

case,

he

would not simply have accepted the traditional ideas tality,

Trinity,

salvation,

and so

of

the

God, forth,

soul,

immor-

creation,

as he

the

actually


CARDINAL NICHOLAS OF CUSA

179

but he wotild have represented his

did,

own.

But Nicholas personally was, however, saturated with

so

the

conceptions

of

Christianity that he might well believe

himself to have awakened in himself a

"not-knowing" of his own, while yet

was merely bringing

he

to

traditional views in which he

up.

was brought

But he stood upon the verge precipice

terrible

of

the

light

man.

He was

in

a

the

of

spiritual

scientific

man.

a

life

Now

science, primarily, estranges us

from the

innocent harmony in which

live

with

we abandon

our-

the world so long as

we

selves to a purely naive attitude towards life.

In such an attitude to

dimly

feel

life,

we

our connection with the world-

whole.

We

are

beings like

others,

forming

links in the chain of Natture's workings.


MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

i8o

But with knowledge we separate ourselves off from this whole; we create within us a mental world, wherewith we stand alone and isolated over against Nature.

We

have become enriched but our ;

are a burden which culty; for

it

riches

we bear with

diffi-

weighs primarily upon our-

And we must now, by own strength, find the way back

selves

our

alone.

again to Nature. that

we

We

ourselves

have to recognise

must now

fit

our

wealth into the stream of world activities, just

as

previously Natiire herself had

our poverty.

fitted in lie

in wait for

man

strength can easily

All evil

demons

at this point. fail

him.

His

Instead

of himself accomplishing this fitting in,

he

will,

if

his strength thus

fails,

seek

some revelation coming from without, which frees him again from his refuge in

loneliness,

which leads back once more


CARDINAL NICHOLAS OF CUSA

i8i

the knowledge that he feels a burden,

womb

into the very

Godhead.

of being, into the

Like Nicholas of Cusa, he

will believe that

he

is

travelling his

own

road; and yet in reality he wUl be only following the path which his

own spiritual

evolution has pointed out for him.

Now

there are

—

in

the main

roads which one can follow,

—three

when once

one has reached the point at which Nicholas had arrived: the one

is

positive

faith, forcing itself

upon us from with-

out; the second

despair; one stands

is

alone with one's burden, and feels the

whole universe tottering with oneself; the third road deepest,

is

the development of the

most inward powers

of

man.

Confidence, trust in the world must be

one of our guides upon this third path; courage, to follow that confidence whither-

soever

it

may

lead us,

must be the

other.


AGRIPPA VON NETTESHEIM AND THEOPHRASTUS PARACELSUS Both

Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa von

Nettesheim

(1487 -1535)

and

Theo-

phrastus Paracelsus (1493-1541) followed the same road along which points Nicholas of

Cusa's

way

of conceiving things.

They devoted themselves

to the study

of Nature,

and sought to discover her

laws by

the

all

means

in their

as thoroughly as possible.

power and

In this know-

ledge of Nature, they saw the true basis of all higher knowledge.

They

strove

to develop this higher knowledge from

within the science or knowledge of Nature

by bringing that knowledge birth in the spirit. 182

to a

new


NETTESHEIM AND PARACELSUS Agrippa von Nettesheim led a varied

He

life.

bom

He

in Cologne.

medicine

studied

much

sprang from a noble

family and was early

183

and law, and

sought to obtain clear insight into the processes of Nature in the

way which

was then customary within certain circles and societies, or even among isolated investigators,

who

studiously kept secret

whatever of the knowledge they

For

discovered.

he went repeatedly to to England,

and

He

these

of

Nature

ptirposes

Paris, to Italy,

also visited the

Abbot Trithemius burg.

of

Sponheim

and

famous

in

Wurz-

taught at various times in

learned institutions, and here and there

entered the service of rich and distin-

guished

people,

at

whose disposal he

placed his abilities as a statesman and a

man

of science.

If the services that

he

rendered are not always described by his


1

84

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

biographers as unobjectionable, said that he

if

made money under the

it

is

pre-

tence of understanding secret arts and conferring

on people thereby,

benefits

there stands against this his unmistakable,

unresting

impulse to acquire honestly

the entire knowledge of his age, and to

deepen

this

knowledge

in the direction

of a higher cognition of the world.

We may

see

him very

in

plainly

the endeavour to attain to a clear and definite attitude

towards natural science

on the one hand, and to the higher knowledge on the other.

But he only can

attain to such an attitude

who

is

pos-

sessed of a clear insight as to the respective roads

which lead to one and to the

other kind of knowledge. is

true as

it

on the one hand that natural science

must eventually be of

As

the

spirit,

if

it

raised into the region is

to pass over into


NETTESHEIM AND PARACELSUS higher knowledge;

so, also, it is

185

true on

the other, that this natural science must, to begin with, remain upon

ground,

is

it

if

its

own special

to yield the right basis

the attainment of a higher level.

for

The

Nature"

"spirit in

spirit.

exists only for

So surely as Nature so surely too

is spiritual,

is

in this sense

there nothing

in Nature, of all that is perceived

bodily

which

organs,

spiritual.

There

my

in

I

must not seek for the spirit interpret

the external world

spiritual;

immediately

eye as spiritual.

as such in Nature; but that

doing when

my

nothing spiritual

exists

which can appear to Therefore, I

is

by

when,

is

I

am

any occurrence immediately as

for instance,

to a plant a soul which

what

is

I

ascribe

supposed to be

only remotely analogous to that of man. Further, I again do the same ascribe to

spirit

itself

when

an existence

I

in


1

86

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

space and time: assert of the

as, for instance,

human

soul that

when

I

continues

it

to exist in time without the body, but

yet after the manner of a body or again, ;

when

even go so far as to believe that,

I

under any sort of conditions or arrange-

ments perceivable by the

senses,

a dead person can show

spirit of

Spiritualism,

which makes

only shows thereby that

the

itself.

this mistake,

has not at-

it

tained to a true conception of the spirit at

all,

but

is still

bent upon directly and

immediately "seeing" the thing

grossly

spirit in

mistakes

It

sensible.

some-

equally both the real nature of the sensible

and

also that

de-spuitualises sense,

the

of

the

ordinary

spirit.

world

It

of

which hourly passes before our

eyes, in order to give the

immediately prising,

to

name

something

uncommon.

of spirit

rare,

sur-

It fails to under-


NETTESHEIM AND PARACELSUS

187

stand that that which lives as the "spirit in nature" reveals itself to

him who

is

able to perceive spirit in the collision of

two

elastic balls, for instance;

and not

only in occurrences which are striking

from their at

rarity,

and which cannot

once be grasped

in

their

all

natural

sequence and connection.

But the

down

spirit

spiritist

something that happens in

"spirits,"

to

the

senses,

his

and beings

in their turn are spacial

ceptible

on a

Instead

and that he perceives through

senses only, in terms of forces

which

drags the

into a lower sphere.

of explaining

space,

further

and

per-

he resorts to

which he thereby places exactly

level with the things of the senses.

At the very

root of such a

way

of viewing

things, there lies a lack of the spiritual

apprehension.

We

power

of

are unable

to perceive spiritual things spiritually;


1

88

we

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE therefore satisfy otir craving for the

spiritual

with mere beings perceptible

to the senses.'

Their

reveals to such

men

own

nothing spiritual;

and therefore they seek through the senses.

inner spirit

for the spiritual

As they

flying through the air,

see clouds

would

so they

fain see spirits hastening along.

Agrippa

von Nettesherm fought

genuine

for

science of Nature, which

the

phenomena

a

shall

of Nature, not

explain

by means

of spirits phenomenalising in the of the senses,

world

but by seeing in Nattire only

the natural, and in the spirit only the spiritual.

Of course, Agrippa misunderstood

if

will

be entirely

one compares his natiu"al

science with that of later centuries which

dispose of wholly different experiences.

In such a comparison,

seem that he was

it

still

might

easily

actually

and


NETTESHEIM AND PARACELSUS

189

entirely referring to the direct action of

which only depend upon

spirits, things

natural connections or upon mistaken

Such a wrong

experience.

him by Moriz

Carridre

done to

is

when he

not in any malicious sense,

"Agrippa gives a huge

list

it

says,

true:

is

of

things

which belong to the Sun, the Moon, the Planets and the fixed stars, and receive from them;

influences

for

instance:

to

the Sun are related Fire, Blood, Laurel,

they confer the

Gold,

Chrysolite;

of the

Sun: Courage, Cheerfulness, and

Light.

.

.

.

Animals

sense, which, higher

have

than

a

human

natural

under-

standing, approaches the spirit of

phecy.

.

.

.

Men

gifts

pro-

can be bewitched to

love and hate, to sickness and health.

Thieves can be bewitched so that they cannot steal at some particular place, merchants, that they cannot do business,


I90

MYSTICS OP THE RENAISSANCE they cannot work, lightning

mills, that flashes, that

they cannot

This

strike.

is

brought about through drinks, salves, images, rings, incantations; the blood of hy-

enas or basilisks

purpose

it

adapted to such a

is

reminds one of Shakespeare's

No;

cauldron."

witches'

remind one of that,

if

it

does

not

one understands

He believed'— it goes —in many facts which in

Agrippa aright. without sayinghis time

tionable.

everybody regarded as tmques-

But we

stiU

do the same to-day.

Or do we imagine that future centuries will not relegate much of what we now regard as "undoubted fact" to the lumber-

room I

of

am

"blind"

superstition?

convinced that in our knowledge

of facts there has been a real progress.

When

once the "fact" that the earth

round had been discovered,

all

is

previous

conjectures were banished into the do-


NETTESHEIM AND PARACELSUS main

of

191

"superstition"; and the same

holds'good of certain truths of astronomy, biology,

The

etc.

doctrine of natural

evolution constitutes an advance, as com-

pared with creation,"

previous

all

similar

"theories

marked by

that

to

of

the recognition of the roundness of the earth

contrasted with

as

speculations as to

am

less, I

learned

works and

to be found

is

which

will

many

treatises

a "fact"

seem to future centuries to be

just as little of a fact as

celsus

Neverthe-

form.

its

vividly conscious that in our

scientific

there

aU previous

much

that Para-

and Agrippa maintain; but the

really important point is not

what they

regarded as "fact," but how, in spirit,

what

they interpreted their "facts."

In Agrippa's time, there

understanding

or

sympathy

was for

little

the

"natural magic" he represented, which


MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

192

sought

Nature

in

the

natural

— the

men

clung

spiritual only in the spirit;

to

the

which

magic,"

"supernatural

sought the spiritual in the realm of the sensible,

and which Agrippa combated.

Therefore

the

Sponheim was

Abbot

Trithemius

right in giving

of

him the

advice to communicate his views only as a secret teaching to a few chosen pupils of

who

could rise to a similar idea

Nature and

spirit,

because one "gives

only hay to oxen and not sugar as to singing birds."

himself

own

owed

correct

It

may be

to this

point

that Agrippa

same Abbot

his

In

his

of

view.

Steganography, Trithemius has produced

a book in which he handled with the

most subtle irony that mode

of

con-

ceiving things which confuses nature with spirit.

In this book he apparently speaks of


NETTESHEIM AND PARACELSUS but

nothing

Any one

supernatural

reading

it

as

believe that the author

is

it

193

occurrences.

stands must

talking of conju-

rations of spirits, of spirits flying through

the

air,

and so on.

however, one

If,

drops certain words and there remain

the table,

letters

—as

under

Wolfgang

Ernst Heidel proved in the year 1676 letters

which, combined into words, de-

scribe piu-ely natural occurrences.

one

case,

for instance, in

conjviration,

and

last

a formula of

one must drop the

words

entirely,

(In

first

and then cancel

from the remainder the second, foiuth, sixth,

and so on.

In the words

left

must again cancel the first, third, fifth letters and so on. One next combines what is then left into words; and the conjuration formula resolves itself into a purely natural commimiover, one

cation.) 13


194

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

How

difficult

work himself

is

for

Agrippa to

from the prejudices of

free

time and to

his

was

it

rise to

a pure perception

proved by the fact that he did not

allow his "Occult Philosophy" {Philoso-

phia Occulta), already written in 1510, to appear before the year 1531, because

he considered

dence of this fact ' '

Further evi-

unripe.

it

given by his work

is

On the Vanity of the Sciences

tate

Scientiarum)

with

bitterness

which

in

of

the

'

'

{De Vani-

he

speaks

scientific

and

He

there

other activities of his time.

states quite clearly that he has only with difficulty

wrenched himself

free

from the

phantasy which beholds in external actions

immediate spiritual

external facts prophetic

processes, in

indications

of

the future, and so forth.

Agrippa advances to the higher knowledge in three stages.

He

treats as the


NETTESHEIM AND PARACELSUS first

stage the world as

the senses, with

on

Nature, in so far as

this level,

is

it

given for its

phy-

forces.

He

substances,

and other

chemical

sical,

calls

its

it

195

is

looked at

"elementary Nature."

On

the second stage, one contemplates the

world as a whole in connection, as to measure,

and so

it

its

natural inter-

orders things according

number, weight, harmony,

forth.

The

first

stage proceeds

from one thing to the next nearest.

It

seeks for the causes of an occurrence in its

immediate svuroundings.

stage

regards

connection It carries

thing

is

a

with

single

the

The second

occurrence

entire

in

universe.

through the idea that every-

subject to the influence of

all

other things in the entire world-whole.

In

its

eyes this world-whole appears as

a vast harmony, in which each individual item

is

a member.

Agrippa terms the


196

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

world, regarded from this point of view,

the

' '

astral " or " heavenly

third stage of

the

spirit,

knowing

'

world

'

is

The

.

that wherein

by plunging deep

into

itself,

perceives immediately the spiritual, the

Root-Being of the world.

Agrippa here

speaks of the world, of soul and

spirit.

The views which Agrippa develops about the world, and the relation of man to the world, present themselves to us in the case of

Theophrastus Paracelsus,

in a similar

manner, only in more per-

fected form.

It is better, therefore, to

consider

them

in connection with

the

latter.

Paracelsus characterises himself aptly,

when he writes under "None shaU be another's

slave,

himself can remain alone." attitude towards knowledge

these words.

He

strives

portrait:

his

who

for

His whole is

given in

everywhere to


NETTESHEIM AND PARACELSUS

19

go back himself to the deepest founda tions of natural knowledge, in order

by

rise

own

his

ti

strength to the lofties

regions of cognition.

As

Physician, h

will not, like his contemporaries,

simph

accept what the ancient investigators

who then counted

as authorities,— Galei

or Avicenna, for instance, asserted Ion;

ago; he

is

resolved to read for himsel

directly in the

book

of Nature.

"Th^

Physician raust pass Nature's examina tion,

which

origins.

is

And

the world,

the

very

and

all it

same

tha

Nature teaches him, he must commanc to his wisdom, but seek for nothing

ii

his

wisdom, only and alone in the ligh

of

Nattire."

He

shrinks from nothing

in order to learn to

her workings in

know Nature

an(

For

thi

all directions.

purpose he made journeys to Sweden

Hungary, Spain, Portugal, and the East


198

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

He

can truly say of himself: "I

followed the Art at the risk of

have

my

and have not been ashamed to

life,

learn

from wanderers, executioners and sheep-

My

shearers.

doctrine

was tested more

severely than silver in poverty, fears,

wars and hardships."

What has been handed down by ancient authorities has for

him no

value, for he

believes that

he can attain to the right

view only

he himself experiences the

upward

if

from

climb

Nature to

the

the knowledge of

highest

living, personal experience

mouth the proud will

This

insight.

puts into his

utterance:

"He who

my

foUow truth, must come into

monarchy.

.

.

.

After me; not

I

after

you, Avicenna, Rhases, Galen, Mesur!

After me; not I after you,

ye of Montpellier, ye

ye of Paris,

of Swabia,

ye of

Meissen, ye of Cologne, ye of Vienna and


NETTESHEIM AND PARACELSUS what

of

199

on the Danube and the

lies

Rhine; ye islands in the

sea,

thou

Italy,

thou Dahnatia, thou Athens, thou Greek, thou Arab, thou

It

is

Mine

you!

I after

me, not

Israelite; after is

the Monarchy."

easy to misunderstand Paracelsus

because

of

rough exterior,

his

which

sometimes conceals a deep earnestness behind a

"By

Does he not himself say:

jest.

nature

I

am

brought up on

on cheese, I

may

figs

and wheat-bread, but

mUk and

rye-bread, wherefore

well be rude with the over-clean

and superfine

up

not subtly woven, nor

;

who were brought and we who were

for those

in soft clothing

bred in pine needles do not easily understand one another.

mean

to be kindly, I

be taken as rude. strange to one in the

sun?"

When must

How

in myself I

therefore often

can

I

not be

who has never wandered


fioo

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

In his book about Winkelmann, Goethe

man

has described the relation of

Nature

man self

in the following beautiful sen-

"When

tence:

to

healthy nature of

the

when he

acts as a whole;

feels

him-

as one with a great, beautiful, noble

and worthy whole; when the sense

of

harmonious well-being gives him a pure

and

free delight then

if it

cotild

;

would the Universe,

be conscious of

its

own

feeling,

burst forth in joy at having attained goal,

its

and contemplate with wondering

admiration the summit of

coming

and

its

With a

being."

own

be-

feeling

such as finds expression in these sentences,

From

Paracelsus

out of

is

simply saturated.

depths the riddle of

its

humanity takes shape watch how

this

for him.

happens

Let us

in Paracelsus's

sense.

At the

outset,

the

road by which


NETTESHEIM AND PARACELSUS

201

Nature has travelled to attain her

loftiest

hidden from man's

power

altitude

is

of comprehension.

She has climbed,

deed, to the summit; but the

in-

summit

myself as the

does not proclaim: I

feel

whole of Nature;

proclaims, on the

it

myself as this single,

contrary:

I

separated

human

reality

an achievement of the whole

is

universe,

feel

feels

being.

itself

as

That which a

separated,

isolated being, standing alone

This indeed viz.,

is

in

by

itself.

the true being of man,

that he must needs feel himself to

be something quite different from what, in ultimate analysis, if

he really

is.

And

must a contradiction come to

that be a contradiction, then

man

be called

life.

Man

is

particular

the

universe

in

way; he regards

his

own

his oneness

with the universe as a duality:

he

is


MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

202

the very same that the universe

he

is

the universe

as

This

a single being.

which Paracelsus

is;

but

a repetition, as is

the contrast

feels as the

Microcosm

(Man) and the Macrocosm (Universe). Man, for him, is the universe in miniaThat which makes man regard ture. his relationship to the world in this

that

This

his spirit.

is

spirit

way,

appears

bound to a single being, to a single organism: and this organism belongs, by as

if

the very nature of

mighty stream

its

whole being, to the

of the universe.

It

is

one member, one link in that whole, having with

its

all

thereof.

come of and sees

very existence only in relation the

other

But

spirit

links

members

this single, separated organism, itself

at the outset as

only with that organism. this

or

appears as an out-

bound up

It tears loose

organism from the mother earth


NETTESHEIM AND PARACELSUS out of which

has grown.

it

203

So,

for

Paracelsus, a deep-seated connection be-

tween in

man and

the

basic

the universe Hes hidden

foundations

connection which

is

of

a

hidden through the

That

presence of "spirit."

leads us to higher insight

knowledge

being,

spirit

which

by making

and leads on

possible,

this

knowledge to a new birth on a higher level-

—this

men, to

has, as its first resiilt for us

veil

from us our own oneness

with the whole.

Thus the nature

of

man

resolves itself

for Paracelsus in the first place into three

factors:

our

sensuous-physical

nature,

our organism which appears to us as a natural being

and

is

among

other natural beings

of like nature with all other natural

beings; our concealed or hidden nature,

which

is

universe,

a link in the chain of the whole

and therefore

is

not shut up


204

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

within the organism or limited to

it,

but radiates and receives the workings of

upon and from the

energy

entire

and our highest nature, our which lives its life in a purely-

tmiverse; spirit,

The

manner.

spiritual

man's nature Paracelsus

first

factor in

calls

the "ele-

mentary body " the second, the ethereal;

heavenly,

or

body"; and the

names "the Soul."

third he

Thus

"astral

in

Paracelsus

the

"astral"

phenomena,

an

intermediate

recognises

stage between

the purely physical and

the properly spiritual or

soul-phenomena.

Therefore these astral activities will come into view veils

when the

or conceals

spirit or soul,

which

the natural basis of

our being, suspends

its activity.

In the

dream-world we see the simplest phe-

nomena

of

this

realm.

which hover before us

in

The

pictures

dreams, with


NETTESHEIM AND PARACELSUS their

remarkably

with

occtirrences

and with

significant connection

environment

our

in

states of our inner nature, are

products of

oiu-

natural basis or root-

being, which are obscured light of the soul.

chair

205

falls

by the

brighter

For example, when a

over beside

my

bed and

I

dream a whole drama ending with a shot fired in a duel; or when I have palpitation of the heart and dream of a boiling

cauldron,

we can

these dreams natural to

light

which are

see

that

in

come sense and

operations

full

meaning, and disclose a

of life

lying be-

tween the purely organic functions and the

concept-forming activity which

carried on in the of the spirit.

are all the

domain of and in the

full,

is

clear consciousness

Connected with

this region

phenomena belonging to the hypnotism and suggestion; latter are

we not compelled


206

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

to recognise

an interaction between hu-

man

which points to some con-

beings,

nection or relation between beings in

Nature, which

is

normally hidden by the

higher activity of the mind? starting point

we can

From

this

reach an tinder-

standing of what Paracelsus meant by the "astral" body.

It is the

sum

of those natural operations under

influence

we

stand, or

may

total

whose

in special

circumstances come to stand, or which

proceed from us, without our souls or

minds coming into consideration

in con-

nection with them, but which yet cannot

be included under the concept of purely physical

phenomena.

The

fact

that

Paracelsus reckons as truths in this do-

main things which we doubt to-day, does not come into the question, from the point of view which I have already described.


NETTESHEIM AND PARACELSUS

207

Starting from the basis of these views as

to

divides ciples,

man, Paracelsus

the

nature of

him

into seven factors or prin-

which are the same as those we

wisdom of the ancient Egyptians, among the Neoplatonists and also find in the

in

the Kabbalah.

man

a

is

In the

physical-bodily

therefore subject to the

He

every other body. therefore, a purely

The purely into

is,

first

place,

being,

and

same laws as in this respect,

"elementary" body.

physical-bodily laws combine

an organic

life-process,

and Para-

celsus denotes this organic sequence of

law by the terms " archaus" or "spiritus Next, the organic rises into a

vitce."

region

phenomena resembling

of

the

spiritual,

but which are not yet properly

spiritual,

and these he

classifies as

From amidst

"as-

tral"

phenomena.

astral

phenomena, the functions of the

these


MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

2o8

"animal soul" make

Man

becomes a being

Then he connects impressions

by

their appearance. of

the

together his sense

according to

their natiire,

his understanding or mind,

"human comes

senses.

and the

soul" or "reasoning soul" be-

He

alive in him.

sinks himself

deep into his own mental productions,

and

learns to recognise "spirit" as such,

and thus he has level of

he

risen at length to the

the "spiritual soul."

must come

recognise

to

this spiritual soul

Finally,

he

is

that

in

experiencing the

ultimate basis of universal being; the spiritual soul ceases to

be separated. of

Then

be individual, to

arises the

knowledge

which Eckhart spoke when he

longer himself,

felt

no

was speaking within but that in him the Root-Being

that

he

was uttering

Itself.

come about

in

The

which the

condition has All-Spirit in


NETTESHEIM AND PARACELSUS

man

beholds

stamped the

Paracelsus

Itself.

has

feeling of this condition with

"And

the simple words:

that

thing whereon to dwell: there in

209

heaven or

upon earth that

is

a great

is

naught

is

not in

And God who dwelleth in Heaven, He also is in Man." With these seven principles of human Man.

nature,

Paracelsus

aims at expressing

nothing else than the facts of inner and outer

The

experience.

remains

fact

unquestioned that, what for hiiman experience subdivides plicity

reality

of

itself

into a multiin

higher

But the higher

insight

seven factors,

a unity.

exists just for the

is

very ptirpose of exhibit-

ing the tmity in all that appears as multiplicity to

man, owing to

spiritual organisation.

his bodily

On

and

the level of

the highest insight, Paracelsus strives to the utmost to fuse the unitary Root-


MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

210

Being of the world with his own

spirit.

But he knows that man can only cognise Nature into

when he

in its spirituality,

enters

immediate intercourse with that

Man

Nature.

by peopling arbitrarily

it

does not grasp Nature

from within himself with

assumed

cepting and valuing

entities; it

as

it is,

but by acas Nature.

Paracelsus therefore does not seek for

God

or for spirit in Nature; but Nature,

just as

it

comes before

his eyes, is for

him wholly, immediately one then

first

divine.

Must

ascribe to the plant a soul

after the kind of a

human

soul, in order

to find the spiritual?

Hence Paracelsus explains to himself the development of things, so far as that

means

of

his age, altogether in such wise that

he

is

possible with the scientific

conceives this development as a sensible-

natural process.

He makes

all

things


NETTESHEIM AND PARACELSUS to

211

from the root-matter, the

proceed

root-water (YHaster).

And he

regards

as a further natural process the separation of the root-matter (which he also

the great Limbus)

calls

into the four

elements: Water, Earth, Fire and Air.

When

he says that the "Divine

Word"

called forth the multiplicity of beings

from the root-matter, one must understand this also only in such wise as per-

haps

must Force

in

more recent natural

understand to

the

A

Matter.

matter-of-fact sense, this stage.

is

science one

relationship "Spirit,"

of

in

a

not yet present at

This "Spirit"

is

no matter-

of-fact basis of the natural process,

but

a matter-of-fact result of that process. This Spirit does not create Nature,

but develops

itself

out of Nature.

Not

a few statements of Paracelsus might be interpreted in the opposite sense.

Thus


212

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

when he

"There

says:

nothing which

is

does not possess and carry with

a

hidden

spirit

withal.

which

Also,

stirs itself

mals, the

that

life,

ani-

in the earth, the birds

sky and the

in the

has

only

and moves, as men,

worms

also

and that Hves not

in it

not

it

fishes in water,

but

bodily and actual things as well."

all

But

in

such sayings Paracelsus only

aims at warning us against that supercontemplation

ficial

fancies

it

of

Nature which

can exhaust the being of a

thing with a couple of "stuck-up" concepts, according to Goethe's apt expres-

He aims

sion.

things

not

putting

into

some imaginary being, but at

setting in

motion

all

to bring out that lies

at

the powers of

which

man

in actual fact

in the thing.

What

matters

is

not to

let oneself

be

misled by the fact that Paracelsus ex-


NETTESHEIM AND PARACELSUS

213

presses himself in the spirit of his time. It

is

far

more important

to recognise

what things really hovered before his mind when, looking upon Nature, he expresses his ideas in the forms of expression proper to his age.

He

ascribes

to man, for instance, a dual flesh, that is,

a

flesh

of

dual

must

also be understood, that

two kinds, namely the

from

"The

bodily constitution.

Adam and

from Adam.

The

gross flesh, for

besides flesh,

flesh

it is

comes

flesh that

the flesh which

from

it is

is

Adam

not is

a

earthly and nothing

that can be bound and

grasped like wood and stone.

The

other

Adam, it is a subtle flesh and cannot be bound or grasped, What is for it is not made of earth." the flesh that is from Adam? It is flesh is

not from

everything that

man has received through

natural development, everything, there-


214

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

To

heredity.

man

on to him by

has passed

that

fore,

that

has acquired

is

added, whatever himself

for

in

intercourse with the world around

his

him

in the course of time.

The modem

scientific

inherited characteristics

conceptions of

and those

ac-

quired by adaptation easily emerge from the above-cited thought of Paracelsus.

The "more

subtle flesh" that

makes man

capable of his intellectual activities, has

not existed from the beginning in man.

Man was a

"gross flesh" like the animal,

flesh that

like

"can be bound and grasped

wood and

stone."

In a

scientific

sense, therefore, the soul is also

an

ac-

quired characteristic of the "gross flesh."

What

the

scientist

of

the

nineteenth

century has in his mind's eye when he speaks of the factors inherited from the

animal world,

is

just

what Paracelsus


NETTESHEIM AND PARACELSUS

215

has in view when he uses the expression,

"the

Natiirally I

of

have not the the

blurring

between a

Adam."

that comes from

flesh

least intention

that

difference

exists

scientist of the sixteenth

one of the nineteenth century.

and

It was,

indeed, this latter century which for the first

time was able to

scientific sense,

see,

in the full

the phenomena of living

beings in such a connection that their natural relationship and actual descent, right

up

to

man, stood out

one's eyes.

clearly before

Science sees only a natural

process where Linnseus in the eighteenth

century

saw a

characterised

it

are counted as

spiritual

process

in the words:

many

and

"There

species of living'

beings, as there were created different

forms in the beginning."

While thus

in Linnseus's time, the Spirit

had

still

to be transferred into the spacial world


2i6

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

and have assigned to

it

the task of

ually generating the forms of

spirit-

life,

or

"creating" them: the natural science of the nineteenth

century could give to

Nature what belonged to Nature, and

To

to Spirit what belonged to Spirit. Natture

is

even assigned the task of exher

plaining

own

and the

creations;

where

Spirit can plunge into itself there,

alone of

it is

to be found, in the inner being

man.

But although

in

a certain sense Para-

celsus thinks according to the spirit of his age, yet

ship of

he has grasped the relation-

man

to

Nature

manner, especially in

in

a profound

relation

idea of Evolution, of Becoming.

to

the

He

did

not see in the Root-Being of the universe

something which in any sense

is

there

as a finished thing, but he grasped the

Divine

in

the

process

of

Becoming.


NETTESHEIM AND PARACELSUS

217

Thereby he was enabled truly to ascribe to if

man

a

self-creative

the divine root of being

given once for

For

activity.

as

is,

were,

it

then there can be no

all,

question of any truly creative activity in

man.

who then

It is not

man,

but

creates,

from Eternity, that Paracelsus there Eternity.

is

it

living in time, is

God, who

creates.

for

no such God from

For him there

eternal happening,

But

is

and man

in this eternal happening.

is is

an

only

one link

What man

forms, was previously in no sense existent.

What man

creates,

is,

as he creates

it,

a

new, original creation.

If

called divine, it can only

be so-called in

the sense in which

it is

it

is

to be

a htiman creation.

Therefore Paracelsus can assign to

man

a r61e in the building of the universe,

which makes him a co-architect creation.

The

in its

divine root of being

is


2i8

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

without man, not that which

it

with

is

man.

"For nature brings nothing to Hght, which as such is perfect, but man must

make it perfect ity of is

man in

. '

This self -creative activ-

'

the building of the universe

what Paracelsus

calls

Alchemy.

"This

Thus the Alchemist is the baker, when he bakes bread, the vintager, when he makes wine, the weaver, when he makes cloth." perfecting

is

Alchemy.

Paracelsus aims at being an Alchemist in

his

own domain

"Therefore

I

may

as

a

Physician.

well write so

here about Alchemy, that ye

understand it is

it,

and how

much

may

well

and experience that which it is

to be understood

;

and

not find a sttimbling-block therein that neither Gold nor Silver shall

thee therefron;.

come

But have regard

to

there-

unto, that the Arcana [curative means]


NETTESHEIM AND PARACELSUS be revealed unto thee. pillar

of medicine

preparation

come

is

the

of

to pass without

cannot be made

.

.

The

.

Alchemy, medicines

219

third

for the

cannot

because Nature

it,

use of without Art."

In the strictest sense, therefore, the eyes of Paracelsus are directed to Natixre, in order to overhear

from

herself

what

she has to say about that which she

He

brings forth.

seeks to explore the

laws of chemistry, so that, in his sense,

he

may work

tvires to

as

an Alchemist.

himself all bodies as

He

pic-

compounded

out of three root-substances: Salt, Sul-

and

phur,

Mercury.

What he

thus

names, naturally does not coincide with that which later chemistry solely and strictly little

calls

by

these names;

just

as

as that which Paracelsus conceives

of as the root-substance

is

such in the

sense of our later chemistry.

Different


MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

220

by the same names

things are called

What

times.

different

the

at

ancients

called the four elements: Earth, Water,

and

Air,

But we

Fire,

we

have

still

call these four

to-day.

"elements" no

longer "elements," but states of aggre-

gation and have for them the designations: solid, liquid, gaseous

The Earth,

for

instance,

and

was

etheric.

for

the

ancients not earth, but the "solid."

Again,

we can

clearly recognise the

three root-substances of Paracelsus in

contemporary conceptions, though not present

in

names

of

like

sound.

For

Paracelsus, dissolution in a liquid and

burning are the two most important chemical

processes

which

he

a body be dissolved or burnt,

If

up

into its parts.

is

burnt.

What

it

breaks

Something remains

behind as insoluble; something or

utilises.

is

left

dissolves,

behind

is

to


NETTESHEIM AND PARACELSUS him

221

of the nature of Salt; the soluble

(liquid) of the

nature of Mercury; while

he terms Sulphur -like the part that can

be burnt. All this, taken as relating to material

may

things,

man

the

leave

who

cold

cannot look out beyond such natural processes;

grasp

whoever seeks at

with his senses, will

the spirit

people these processes with

in

with

its secret

become revealed

—

^he

the senses offer them;

them;

currences of Nature

which

the whole,

to

man's inner being,

re-interpret

like

knows how to regard them

connection

permits

all sorts of

He, however, who

ensouling beings.

Paracelsus

all costs to

in

accepts them, as

he does not

first

for

just as the oc-

lie

before us in their

sensible reality, so too

do they,

own way,

reveal to us the

existence.

That

which

in their

riddle

through

of

their


222

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

sensible

reality

have

they

to

unveil

from within the soul of man, stands,

him who

strives after the light of higher

knowledge,

higher than

far

natural wonders or

get

for

revealed

suppositious

man

that

all

super-

can invent

him about

to

There

"spirit."

their is

no

"Spirit of Nature," capable of uttering loftier truths

Nature

than the mighty works of

herself,

in friendship

when our

soul links itself

with that Nature and listens

to the revelations of her secrets in inti-

mate

and

tender

intercourse.

friendship with Nature celsus sought.

Such

was what Para-


VALENTINE WEIGEL AND JACOB

BOEHME In the view of Paracelsus, what mattered most

was

to acquire ideas about

Nattire which should breathe the spirit of the higher insight that

A

thinker related to him,

the same his

he represented.

mode

own nature

who

applied

of conceiving things to especially, is

WEIGEL (1533-1588).

valentine

He grew up

out

of Protestant theology in a like sense to

that in which Eckhart, Tauler, and Suso

grew up out

He

of

Roman

Catholic theology.

has predecessors in Sebastian Frank

and Caspar Schwenckfeldt.

These two,

as contrasted with the orthodox Church-

men

clinging

to

external 223

profession,


224

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

pointed downwards to the deepening of the inner Hfe. Jesus

whom

For them

it

is

not that

the Gospels preach

who

but the Christ who can be

of value,

man

in every

as his deeper nature,

is

bom and

him the Saviour from the lower life and the guide to ideal uplifting. Weigel performed silently and humbly become

for

the duties of his office as clergyman in

Zschopau.

he

left

It

was only from the writings

behind, printed

first in

the seven-

teenth century, that the world learned

anything of the significant ideas which

had come to him about the nature

of

man.' Weigel

feels himself

driven to gain a

clear understanding of his relation to the writings, may be Ding ohne Irrlhumb zu erkennen, vielen Hochgelehrten unbekandt, und dock alien Menschen nothwendig zu wissen; Erkenne dich selbsl; Vom '

The

named:

following,

Der

Ort der Welt.

from among

his

giildene Griff, das ist alle


WEIGEL AND BOEHME

225

teaching of the Church; and that leads

him on

further to investigate the basic

foundations of

man

all

Whether

knowledge.

can know anything through a con-

fession of faith,

is

a question as to which

he can only give himself an account when he knows how

man knows.

Weigel starts

from the lowest kind of knowing.

How

asks himself: object,

when

it

do

I

presents

know itself

He

a sensible

before

me?

Thence he hopes to be able to mount upwards to a point of view whence he can give himself an account of the highest

knowledge.

In cognition through the senses, the instrument (the sense-organ) and the object, the

"counterpart"

stand opposed.

(Gegenwurf)

"Since in natural per-

ception there must be two things, as the object or 'counterpart,' which

known and

seen

is

to be

by the eye and the ;

eye,


226

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

or the perceiver, which sees or object, so

other:

knows the

do thou hold over against each

whether the

forth from the

knowledge

comes

object to the eye;

or

whether the judgment, or the cognition, flows out from the eye into the object."'

Weigel

now

cognition

says

(or

to

'

himself

knowledge)

the "counterpart"

flowed

(or thing)

eye, then of necessity

If

:

the

from

into the

from one and the

same thing a similar and perfect cognition must come to all eyes. But that not the case, for each

man

sees accord-

ing to the measure of his

own

eyes.

is

the

eyes,

not

the

Only

"counterpart"

(or

object) can be in fault, in that various

and

different conceptions are possible of

one and the same thing.

To

clear

up

the matter, Weigel compares seeing with reading. '

Der

If

the book were not there, I

giiliene Griff, p.

26 et seq.


WEIGEL AND BOEHME naturally could not read still

in

be there, and yet

it,

if I

reading.

but

it

might

could read nothing

I

did not understand the art of

The book

there; but,

from

everything

I

therefore

itself it

the smallest thing;

That

it;

227

I

must be

can give

me

must draw

not

forth

read from within myself.

is

also the nature of sensible per-

ception.

Colour is there as the " counter-

part," but

from out of nise,

As

it

can give the eye nothing

itself.

from out of

little

as the content of the

the reader, just so eye.

If

The eye must recogitself, what colour is. little is

book

is

colour in the

the content of the book were in

the reader, he would not need to read

Yet

in

in reading,

this

it.

content does not

flow out from the book, but from the reader.

So

object.

What

him

that does not flow from outside

is;

is

it

also with the sensible

the sensible thing before


228

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE man, but from within out-

into the

wards.

from

Starting

might say:

man

from not

If all

one

knowledge flows out

into the object, then one does

know what

what

thoughts,

these

is in

is

in the object,

man.

The

but only

detailed working

out of this line of thought, brought about

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804).^ Weigel says to himself: Even if the knowledge flows out from man, it is still the view of

only the being of the "counterpart" (or object) which direct

comes to

light in this in-

way through man.

As

I

learn the

content of the book by reading

not

my own

by

content,

learn the colour of the 'The

and

also

I

"counterpart"

error in this line of thought will be found ex-

plained in 1894.

so

it,

my

Here

I

book, The Philosophy of Freedom, Berlin, limit myself to mentioning that Val-

must

entine Weigel, with his simple, robust things, stands far higher than Kant.

way

of conceiving


WEIGEL AND BOEHME

229

through the eye, not any colour to be

found

in the eye, or in

(Thus

myself.

Weigel arrives by a road of his own at a result that

we have

in Nicholas of Cusa.

In this

way Weigel

already encountered

Cp. pages

1

51-160).

attained to clearness

He

as to the nature of sense-perception.

arrived at the conviction that everything

which external things have to

tell

us can

own inner nature Man cannot remain passive when itself. he tries to know sensible objects and only flow forth from our

seeks merely to allow

them

to act

upon

him; but he must assume an active tude,

and bring forth the knowledge from

within

himself.

object) merely in the spirit.

ledge

atti-

when

The counterpart

awakens the knowledge

Man his

"counterpart."

(or

rises to

spirit

One

sensible cognition that

higher know-

becomes can

its

see

own from

no cognition can


230

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

flow into

man from

Therefore

outside.

there can be no such thing as an external revelation,

but only an inner awakening.

As now the till

external counterpart waits

there comes into

its

presence man, in

whom it can express its being, man wait, when he seeks to

so too

must

be his own

"counterpart " (or object) until the knowledge of his in

him.

own being

If,

in

shall

cognition

be awakened through the

man must assume an active attiin order that he may bring to meet

senses,

tude

the "counterpart" the higher knowing, self passive,

its

own

being, so in

man must

because he

is

hold him-

himself

now

the "counterpart."

He must admit

being into himself.

Therefore the cog-

nition of the spirit

appears to him as

enlightenment from above.

its

In contrast

to cognition through the senses, Weigel therefore terms the higher cognition the


WEIGEL AND BOEHME "Light

of

Mercy"

is,

Mercy."

This

"Light

in reaHty, nothing other

the self-knowledge of the

231

spirit in

of

than

man,

or the re-birth of knowledge on the higher level of beholding.

Now

just as Nicholas of Cusa, in fol-

lowing up his road from knowing to beholding, does not really bring about

the re-birth of the knowledge he has gained, on the higher level, but only the faith of the

Church

in

which he was

brought up appears deceptively before

him as such a with Weigel.

re-birth, so

He

is it

also the case

guides himself to the

right road, but loses

it

again in the very

moment in which he steps upon it. He who will travel the road that Weigel points

out,

his guide

point.

can regard the latter as

only as far as the starting-


232

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

What works

rings out to

meet us from the

Master-Shoemaker

of the

of Gor-

Jacob Boehme (1575-1624), sounds hke the joyous outburst of Nature adHtz,

miring her

own

of her evolution.

being upon the summit

A man

appears before

us whose words have wings,

woven out

of the inspiring feeling of having seen

knowledge shining within him as Higher Jacob Boehme describes his

Wisdom.

own

state as Piety

which

strives

only

Wisdom, and as a Wisdom that seeks to live only in Piety: "As I was to be

wrestling

and

fighting in God's behalf, be-

hold a wondrous light shone into

my

soul,

such as was quite foreign to savage nature

knew what God and man were, and what God had to do with men." Jacob Boehme no longer feels himself therein I

first

as a separated being expressing sights;

he

feels

its in-

himself as an organ of


WEIGEL AND BOEHME the

great

All-Spirit,

233

speaking in him.

The limits of his personality do not appear to him as the limits of the Spirit that speaks from within him. for

This Spirit

him present everywhere.

is

He knows

that "the Sophist will blame him"

when

he speaks of the beginning of the world

and

its

creation: "the while I

thereby and did not myself see

was not it.

To

him be it said that in the essence of my soul and body, when I was not yet the 'I,' but when I was still Adam's essence, I was there present and myself squandered away my glory in Adam." Only in external similes is Boehme

how the light broke forth When once as a boy being.

able to indicate in his inner

he finds himself on the top of a mountain,

he sees above him a place where

seem to shut up the mountain; the entrance is open and in large red stones


MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

234 its

depth he sees a vessel

full of gold.

shudder runs through him

on

and he goes

way without touching the treasure.

his

Later on he in

;

A

is

apprenticed to a shoemaker

A

Gorlitz.

stranger steps into the

and demands a pair

shop

Boehme

is

not allowed to

absence of his master.

of

shoes.

them in the The stranger

sell

departs, but after a while calls the ap-

prentice out of the shop

"Jacob, thou art

and says to him

little,

but thou wilt

some day become quite another man, over

whom

the world will break out into

In riper years, Jacob

Boehme

sees the reflection of the bright

sun in a

wonder."

tin vessel: the

view that thus presents

him seems to him to unveil a profound secret. Even after the impresitself

to

sion of this appearance, he believes himself to

be in possession of the key to the

riddles of Nature.


WEIGEL AND BOEHME

He

235

a spiritual anchorite, hiim-

lives as

bly earning his living by his trade, and

between

in his inner being

man;

he,

who

makes

desires

when he

The zealotry

the Spirit in himself.

of priestly fervotir

the

own

for his

he notes down the harmonies

which resound feels

though

whiles, as

recollection,

life

hard for

naught but to

read the Scripture which the light of his inner nature illuminates for him, is

by those

persecuted and tortured

whom

to

only the external writ, the rigid,

dogmatic confession of

faith, is accessible.

One world -riddle remains ing presence in Jacob driving

him on

lieves himself to in a divine

as a disquiet-

Boehme's

He

to knowledge.

be in his

spirit

soul,

be-

enfolded

harmony; but when he looks

around him, he sees discord everywhere in the divine workings.

the light of

To man

belongs

Wisdom and yet he is exposed ;


236

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

to error; in

him

lives

the impulse to the

good, and yet the discord of evil sounds

throughout the whole of

human

develop-

is

governed by

great laws; yet

its

by happenings

of

harmony is disturbed no purport, and the

ment.

Nature

warfare of the elements.

its

How

is

own

this

discord in the harmonious world-whole to

be understood?

This question tortures

Jacob Boehme.

It strides into the centre

of the world of his thought.

He

strives

to gain a view of the world as a whole,

which

shall include the discordant.

how can a

For

conception which leaves the

actual present discord unexplained ex-

The

plain the world?

discord

must be

explained out of the harmony, the

out of the good

itself.

Let us

evil

restrict

ourselves, in speaking of these things, tc

the good and the of

harmony

in the

evil,

wherein the lack

narrower sense

finde


WEIGEL AND BOEHME

For, fundamentally, Ja-

expression.

its

Boehme

cob

He

this.

also

can do

restricts

so, for

himself

Nature and

appear to him as a single entity. in

237

him an

man

He sees The

both similar laws and processes.

purposeless seems to

to

evil

some-

thing in Nature, just as evil seems to

him something purposeless in man. lar

and

Simi-

fundamental forces rule both here there.

To one who has known

origin of evil in

Nature also

lies

man, the source open and

Now, how can the

the

of evil in

clear.

evil as well as the

good flow forth from the very same RootBeing? sense,

Speaking

in

Jacob

Boehme's

one would give the following an-

The Root-Being does not live out The multiplicity its existence in itself. As of the world shares in this existence. the human body lives its life, not as a

swer.

single

member, but as a multiplicity

of


MYSTICS OP THE RENAISSANCE

238

members, so also the Root-Being.

human

as

life

multiplicity of

Being

is

poured out into

poured out into the manifoldness

is

that the entire so true

life,

own

its

is it

life.

dicts the

man

As

And

as

little

whole harmonious

it

own body and wound

true as

has only one

that every

that his hand should turn his

this

members, so too the Root-

of the things of this world. it is

And

member has as

it

contra-

of

a man,

life

itself

against

so

little is

it,

impossible that the things of the world,

which

live the life of

the Root-Being in

own way, should turn themselves each other. Thus the RootBeing, in dividing itself among different

their

against

lives,

confers

upon each such

capacity to turn It is

forth, lives.

itself

life

the

against the whole.

not from the good that evil streams

but from the way in which the good

As the

light is only able to shine


WEIGEL AND BOEHME when

239

pierces the darkness, so the

it

can bring

meates

itself

its

to

only when

life

From

opposite.

good

it

per-

out of the

"fathomless abyss" of darkness there streams forth the light from the

'

;

lessness"

of

the

'

ground-

there

indifferent

And

brought to birth the Good.

is

as in

the shadow only the brightening demands

a pointing to the light but the darkness, ;

as a matter of course,

weakens the it is is

is felt

as that which

light; so too in the world,

only the law-abiding character that

sought for in

the purposeless,

all is

things;

and the

accepted as a matter

Thus, in

of course, intelligible in itself. spite of the fact that for

the Root-Being in the

is

evil,

Jacob Boehme

the All,

still

nothing

world can be understood, unless

one has an eye both to the Root-Being

and

its

opposite at once.

has swallowed up into

itself

"The good the evil or


240

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

the hideous.

.

.

good and

itself

ment, as

Every being has

.

and

evil,

in its unfold-

passes over into division,

it

becomes a contradiction

in

it

of qualities, as

one seeks to overcome the other."

Hence

altogether in accordance

is

it

with Jacob Boehme's view to see in every-

and

thing,

in every process of the world,

both good and

evil

;

but

it is

not in accord

with his meaning, without more ado to seek the Root-Being in the mingling of

good and

The Root-Being must

evil.

swallow up the

evil;

but the

part of the Root-Being.

evil is

not a

Jacob Boehme

seeks the Root-Being of the world; but

the world

itself

has sprung forth from the

"fathomless abyss" through the RootBeing.

"The

and eternally only

external world will

.

.

.

not God,

not be called God, but

a being wherein

Himself.

is

When

God

manifests

one says:

God

is


WEIGEL AND BOEHME all,

God

is

heaven and earth, and also

the outer world, so

him and

241

is

that true: for from

him all stands originallyrooted. But what am I to do with such a saying, which is no religion?" With such a view in the background, in

Jacob Boehme's conceptions as to the being of the whole world built themselves

up

in his

mind, so that he makes the

orderly world emerge in a series of steps

from

the

"fathomless

world builds forms.

itself

up

abyss."

This

in seven natural

In dark astringency the Root-

Being receives form, dumbly shut up within

itself

tringency

symbol

of

and motionless.

Boehme Salt.

grasps

In

This as-

under

the

employing such

upon Paracelsus, who had borrowed from chemical processes his names for the processes of Nature. By swallowing up its opposite, designations he leans

16


MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

242

the

nature-form passes over into the

first

form of the second; the astringent, the

movement; Power

motionless, takes on

and

Life enter into

cury)

Quicksilver (Mer-

it.

the symbol for this second form.

is

In the struggle of Rest and Motion, of

Death with

the third form of

Life,

Nature unveils

Life battling within

itself,

fest to itself; it lives

becomes mani-

thenceforward no

longer an outer battle of there quivers through

unifying

up

its

form living

glowing

of

Nature

battle

(Fire).

of

first,

its

as

members; it

itself

were a lighting

This fourth

to the

rises

the

fifth,

the parts resting

themselves (Water).

upon the

it

flash,

own being

This

(Siilphur).

itself

there

On is

this level,

rest,

opposites, but

an

as

present an inner

astringency and dumbness; only

not an absolute

in

it

is

a silence of the inner

interior

movement

of


WEIGEL AND BOEHME the opposites. resting in

It is not the motionless

itself,

but the moved, that

which has been kindled by the of

the fourth

level,

itself

of itself as such inner

"Clang" or

Call,

sixth

Living beings

life.

and

in so

of

calls it

the

doing adopts

sound as the

for sense-perception in general.

The seventh form raising itself

perceptions self

the

senses represent this form

sense-perception

symbol

fire- flash

becomes aware

Jacob Boehme

of Nature.

the

Upon

stage.

the Root-Being

endowed with

243

of

Nature

on the basis (Wisdom).

is

the Spirit,

of its sense-

He

finds

him-

again as himself, as the Root-Being,

within the world that has grown up out of the "fathomless abyss," shaping itself

out of the harmonious and the discordant.

"The Holy Ghost this

brings the Glory of

Majesty into the being, wherein the

Godhead stands

revealed."


244

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

It

is

with

Boehme

such

seeks

to

views

that

Jacob

fathom that world

which for him, according to the knowledge

was reckoned as the actual fact. For him all is fact which

of his time,

world of is

by the natural science time and by the Bible. His way

so regarded

his

conceiving things

is

of

of

one thing, his world

of facts quite another.

One can imagine

the former applied to a totally different

knowledge of

facts.

And

thus

appears before our eyes a Jacob

there

Boehme

as he might stand at the parting of the

nineteenth and the twentieth centuries.

Such a one would not saturate with

way

his

of conceiving things the six days'

creation

work

of the angels

geological

of the Bible

and the

and the

devils,

but Lyell's

knowledge and the facts of

Haeckel's The History of Creation.

who can

fight

He

penetrate into the spirit of Jacob


WEIGEL AND BOEHME

245

Boehme's writings must arrive at

this

conviction.

'We may

here

name

the most important of Boehme's

writings: Die Morge?ir6the

im Aufgang; Die

drei Prinzi-

das dreifache Leben des Menschen; Das umgewandte Auge; " Signatura rerum" oder von der Geburl und Bezeichnung alter Wesen; Das pien gottlichen Lebens oder

"Mysterium Magnum."

iiber


GIORDANO BRUNO AND ANGELUS SILESIUS In the

first

decennium

of the sixteenth

century, the scientific genius of Nicholas

Copernicus

(1473-1543)

thinks out in

the castle of Heilsberg, in Prussia, an intellectual structure

men

which compels the

of subsequent epochs to look

up to

the starry heavens with other conceptions than those in antiquity

To them

which their forefathers

and the Middle Ages had.

the earth was their dwelling-

place, at rest in the centre of the Universe.

The of

stars,

however, were for them beings

a perfect nature, whose motion took

place in circles because the circle representative of perfection. 246

is

the


BRUNO AND

SILESIUS

247

In that which the stars showed to

human

senses they beheld something of

the nature of soul, something spiritual.

was one kind of speech that the things and processes upon earth spoke to man; It

quite another, that of the shining stars,

beyond the moon which seemed filling

space.

like

the

in

some

pure

asther,

spiritual nature

Nicholas of Cusa had

al-

ready formed other ideas.

Through Copernicus, earth became

man

a brother-being in face of the other

heavenly others.

to

for

show

bodies,

a

star

moving

like

All the difference that earth has for

man

to this: that earth

He was no

he could now reduce is

his dwelling-place.

longer forced to think differ-

ently about the events of this earth and

those of the rest of universal space.

The

world of his senses had expanded

itself

into the

most remote

spaces.

He was


248

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

compelled henceforth to allow that which penetrated his eye from the aether to

count as sense-world just as things

He

earth.

of

much

could

as the

no longer

seek in the aether in sensuous fashion for

the Spirit.

Whoever,

henceforth,

strove

higher knowledge, must needs

an understanding with world of the senses. the brooding

a world of with a

mind

facts.

new

this

after

come to expanded

In earlier centuries, of

man

stood before

Now he was confronted

task.

No

longer could the

things of earth only express this nature

from within man's inner being. inner nature of his

was

called

This

on to em-

brace the spirit of a sense- world, which fills

the All of Space everywhere alike.

The thinker of Nola, Philotheo Giordano Bruno (1548- 1600) found himself faced by such a problem. The senses


BRUNO AND

SILESIUS

have conquered the universe henceforth the Spirit

found in space.

is

249

of space;

no more to be

Thus man was guided

from without to seek henceforward

for

the Spirit there alone where from out of

profound inner experiences those ous thinkers sought

it,

glori-

whose ranks our

previous expositions have led before us.

These thinkers drew upon a view of the world to which, later on, the advance of natiural

knowledge forces humanity.

The

sun of those ideas, which later should shine

upon a new view still

of Nature, with

them

stands below the horizon; but their

light already appears as the early

at a time itself still

The

when men's thoughts

of

dawn

Nature

lay in the darkness of night.

sixteenth century gave the heav-

enly spaces to natural science for the sense-world to which

by the end

it

rightfully belongs

of the nineteenth century, this


250

MYSTICS OP THE RENAISSANCE

had advanced so far that, even within the phenomena of plant, animal, science

and htunan

life,

it

could assign to the

world of sensible facts that which belongs to

it.

Neither, then, in the aether above,

nor in the development of living creatures,

can this natural science henceforth seek for anything

but sensible, matter-of-fact

As the thinker in the sixteenth centtuy had to say: "The earth is a star among other stars, subject to the same laws as other stars"; so must the processes.

thinker of the nineteenth century say:

"Man, whatever may be his future,

is

mammal, and

his origin

and

for anthropology only further,

that

a

mammal

whose organisation, needs and diseases are the most complex, whose brain, with its

marvellous capacities, has reached the

highest level of development."' '

Paul Topinard

:

Anthropologie, Leipzig, 1888, p. 528.


BRUNO AND From such a

SILESIUS

standpoint,

251

attained

through natural science, there can no longer occur any confusion between the

and the

spiritual

sensible,

provided

understands himself rightly. natural science makes

it

man

Developed

impossible to

seek in Nature for a Spirit conceived of after the fashion of something material,

just as healthy thinking

possible to seek

for

forward movement not

in

makes

it

im-

the reason of the the clock-hand,

of

mechanical laws (the Spirit of

inorganic

Nature), but

in

a

special

Daimon, supposed to bring about the

movements of the hands. Ernst Haeckel was quite right in rejecting, as a scientist, the gross conception of a of in material fashion.

God

conceived

"In the higher

and more abstract forms of religion, the bodily appearance is abandoned and God is

worshipped as pure

Spirit,

devoid of


252

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE 'God

body.

is

a Spirit, and they that

worship him must worship him in

and

in

truth.'

But,

spirit

the

nevertheless,

soul-activity of this pure Spirit remains

quite the

same as that

of the anthropo-

morphic personal God.

In

even

reality,

this immaterial Spirit is not

thought of

as bodiless, but as invisible, like a gas.

We

thus arrive at the paradoxical con-

ception of

In

God

reality,

as a gaseous vertebrate."

^

the matter-of-fact, sensible

existence of something spiritual

may

assumed only when immediate

sensible

be

experience shows something spiritual, and

only such a degree of the spiritual

may

be assumed as can be perceived in this

manner.

That

first

rate

Cameri, ventured to say

thinker, (in his

Empfindung und Bewusstsein,

"The dictum: No '

spirit

Haeckel, Riddle of the Universe.

p.

B.

book: 15):

without matter,


BRUNO AND

SILESIUS

but also no matter without entitle us to

253

spirit,

—would

extend the question to the

plant also, nay, even to any block of stone taken at random, wherein there

seems very

little

to speak in favour of

these correlative conceptions.

'

Spiritual

'

occurrences as matters of fact are the results of various doings of

the Spirit of the world

is

an organism;

not present in

the world in a material sense, but precisely after a spiritual fashion.

a

sum

of processes in

Man's

which

present in

man

soul,

In the

however. Spirit

only.

And

is

Spirit ap-

pears most immediately as fact.

form of such a

soul

it

is

implies

that one misunderstands Spirit, that one

commits the worst

sin against Spirit, to

seek for Spirit in the form of Soul else-

where than in man, to imagine other beings thus ensouled as

ever does

this,

man

is.

Who-

only shows that he has


MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

254

not experienced Spirit within himself;

he has only experienced that outer form of

appearance of

reigns in him.

Spirit,

the

But that

is

Soiol,

same drawn

just the

as though one regarded a circle

with a pencil as the ideal circle. self

real,

which

mathematically

Whoever experiences

in him-

nothing other than the soul-form of

the Spirit, feels himself thereupon driven to assimie also such a soul-form in non-

human

may

things, in order that thereby

he

not need to remain rooted in the

materiality of the gross senses. of thinking the

Instead

Root-Being of the world

as Spirit, he thinks of

it

as World-Soul,

and postidates a general ensoulment

of

Nature.

Giordano Bruno, upon

Copemican view

of

whom

the

Nature forced

new

itself,

could grasp Spirit in the world, from

which

it

had been expelled

in its old form,


BRUNO AND

SILESIUS

255

no other manner than as World-Soul.

in

On

plunging into Bruno's writings

pecially

deeply

his

De Rerum

thoughtful

Principiis

et

(es-

book:

Elementis

et

Causis) one gets the impression that he

thought of things as ensouled, although

He has not, in reality,

in varying degree.

experienced in himself the Spirit, therefore he conceives Spirit after the fashion

human

of the

encountered

soul, it.

wherein alone he has

When he

Spirit,

he conceives of

way:

"The

it

speaks

of

in the following

universal reason

is

the in-

most, most effective and most special capacity,

and a potential part

World-Soul tical,

;

which

of the

it is

something one and iden-

fills

the All, illuminates the

universe and instructs Nature

how

to

bring forth her species as they ought to be." is

In these sentences

Spirit, it is true,

not described as a "gaseous verte-


MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

256

brate," but is

it is

like to the

described as a being that

human

soul.

"Let now a

thing be as small and tiny as you please, it

yet has within

a portion of spiritual

it

substance, which,

when

it

stratum adapted thereto, to

become a

plant,

ganises itself to

that

is

finds a sub-

out

reaches

an animal, and

any body you choose For

ordinarily called ensouled.

Spirit is to

or-

be found in

all things,

there does not exist even the tiniest

and little

body which does not embrace

in itself

such a share thereof as causes

to

to

it

come

life."

Because

Giordano

Bruno had

not

really experienced the Spirit, as Spirit,

in himself,

the

life

he could therefore confuse

of the Spirit

mechanical processes,

mond LuUy

with the external

wherewith Ray-

(1235-1315) wanted to unveil

the secrets of the Spirit in his so-called


BRUNO AND

SILESIUS

257

A

"Great Art" (Ars Magna).

recent

philosopher, Franz Brentano, describes this

"Great Art" thus: "Concepts were

to be inscribed

upon

rately revolving discs,

concentric,

sepa-

and then the most

varied combinations produced

by turning

them about." Whatever chance brings up in the turning of these discs, was shaped into a judgment about the highest

And Giordano Bruno, in his maniwanderings through Europe, made

truths. fold his

appearance at various seats of learning

as a teacher of this

"Great Art."

He

possessed the daring courage to think of

the stars as worlds, perfectly analogous to our earth; he widened the outlook of

thinking beyond the confines

scientific

he thought of the heavenly bodies no longer as bodily spirits; but of earth;

he

still

spirits. 17

thought

of

them

as

soul-like

One must not be unjust towards


258

the

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

man whom

Church

Catholic

the

caused to pay with death the penalty for his

advanced way

of thinking.

It

re-

quired something gigantic to harness the

whole space

heaven

of

of the universe

in the

same view

which hitherto had been

applied only to things upon earth, even

though Bruno did

still

think of the sen-

sible as soul-like. *

*

*

In the seventeenth century there appeared Johann SchefHer, called

Angelus

SiLESlus (1624-1677), a personality in

whom

more shone forth, in mighty harmony of soul, what Tauler, Weigel, Jacob Boehme, and others, had there once

Gathered, as

prepared.

spiritual focus

light-giving

thinkers in his

were, into a

and shining with enhanced

power,

the

named make

book:

it

ideas

of

the

their appearance

" Cherubinischer

Wanders-


BRUNO AND mann.

Geistreiche

And

reime."

Silesius utters

SILESIUS

259

und

Schluss-

Sinn-

everything that Angelus

appears as such an im-

mediate, inevitable, natural revelation of his personality, that it is as

man had

though

this

been called by a special provi-

dence to embody wisdom in a personal form.

The

simple, matter-of-course

which he

in

expression

way

wisdom, attains

lives

by being

forth

set

in

its

say-

ings which, even in respect of their art

and

their form, are

worthy

of admiration.

He

hovers like some spiritual being over

all

earthly existence; and

is

like the breath of

beforehand from

another world, freed gross

and

human wisdom

gen-

all

impure, wherefrom

that

erally only toilsomely

He of

only

Angelus

is

what he says is

works

itself free.

truly a knower, in the sense

Silesius,

who

brings the eye

of the All to vision in himself;

he alone


MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

260

who

sees his action in the true light

that this action

wrought

is

"God

the hand of the All:

him by

in is

feels

in

me

the

him the light; are we not most intimate communion one with

fire,

in

and

I in

another?"-

— "I am as rich as God; there

can be no grain of dust that

me, man,

—^have

— Him."- "God

not in

loves

me

I

—believe

common

with

above Himself;

Him above myself: I so give Him as much as He gives me from Himself."

if I

love

"The

bird

flies

on the earth; spirit in

in the air, the stone rests

in

God's

water lives the

born of God, then bloometh

and His Godhead

is

— " Halt

adornment ." thou?

God

Heaven

is

!

God

my

fish,

own hand." — "Art

thou

in thee;

thy sap and thy whither

runnest

in thee: seekest

otherwhere, thou missest

Him

thou ever

and ever." For one who thus

feels himself in

the


BRUNO AND All,

SILESIUS

261

every separation ceases between

and another being; he no longer

self

feels

himself as a single individual; rather

does he

feel

all

that there

as a part of the world, his

is

of

own proper

being, indeed, as that World- Whole

"The

world,

it

with

itself.

holds thee not; thou art

thyself the world thee,

him

thee,

that holds thee, in so

— bound." "Man has

strongly

captive

never perfect

bliss

before that unity has swallowed up otherness."

— "Man

is all

things;

if

aught

is

lacking to him, then in truth he know3th

not his

As a

own

riches."

sense-being,

man is a thing among

other things, and his sense-organs bring to him, as a sensible individuality, sense-

news

of the things in space

side of

and time out-

him; but when Spirit speaks in

man, then there remains no without and no within; nothing is here and nothing


262 is

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE there that

and nothing

earlier

nothing

spiritual;

is

is

later; space

is

and

time have vanished in the contemplation

Only so long as

of the All-Spirit.

looks forth as an individual,

and the thing

there;

is

he here

and only so long as

he looks forth as an individual,

and

earlier,

this later.

swingest thy so each

spirit

moment

— "I nity."

am

"Man,

in self

I

God and

— together grasp."' "The rose God from

all

see, it so

eternity."

centre set thyself, so see'st thou

at once:

what then and now occurred,

here and in heaven's reakn." for thee,

my

and time: what

thou place,

myself eternity when

hath bloomed in

all

if

this

canst thou be in eter-

that here thine outer eye doth

— "In

is

over time and

leave time behind, and self in

God

man

's

so

God,

friend, in

— "So long

mind

lies

place

long graspest thou not

nor

what

eternity."


BRUNO AND

SILESIUwS

263

"When man

from manifoldness withdraws, and inward turns to God, so cometh he to unity."

The summit has thus

man

been climbed, whereon

beyond

his individual

steps forth

"I" and

abolishes

every opposition between the world and himself.

A

higher

begins for him.

life

The inner experience that comes over him appears to him as the death of the old and a resurrection in a new life.

"When thou dost raise thyself above thyself

and

spirit

lettest

God

o'errule;

then in thy

happens ascension into heaven."

— "The body in the spirit must God:

spirit, too, in

man,

if

thou in him,

will live for ever

much mine

the

my

blessed."'—-"So

me doth 'minish and much therefore to power

'I' in

decrease; so

Cometh the Lord's own

From such a nises his

arise,

'I.'"

point of view,

man

recog-

meaning and the meaning

of all


MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

264

things in the reahn of eternal necessity.

The

natural All appears to

ately as the Divine Spirit.

him immediThe thought

who

of a divine All-Spirit,

could

still

have being and sub-existence over and beside the things of the world, vanishes

away

as a superseded conception.

appears

All-Spirit

things, that

at

all,

if

it

but

I

;

falleth

in being with the

even one single member were its

being.

and thou; and

not then

into

could no longer be thought

thought away from is

outpoured

so

becomes one

things, so

This

is

if

"Naught

we twain were

God no more God, and heaven

—Man

in."'

feels

himself

as

a

His

necessary link in the world-chain.

doing has no longer aught of arbitrariness or of individuality in is

it.

What he

does

necessary in the whole, in the world-

chain, which his doing

would

were to

fall

fall

to pieces

out from

it.

if

this

"God


BRUNO AND may

SILESIUS

265

make without me a single worm: if I with him uphold it not

straightway must

me God

come needs must give up the live: if I

this height,

man

not,

burst asunder."

it

"I know that without

moment

little

to naught, he

—Upon

ghost."-

time sees

for the first

things in their real being.

can no

He no

longer

needs to ascribe from outside to the smallest thing, to the grossly sensible, a

For just as

spiritual entity.

nutest thing

is, in all its

this

smallness and

gross sensibility, it is

a link in the

"

so vile, no

No

grain of dust

is

be so small: the wise

mi-

man

Whole.

mote can

seeth

God

most gloriously therein."— "In a mustard seed, if thou wilt vmderstand it, is

the image of

all

things above and

beneath."

Man feels himself free upon this height. For constraint

is

there only where a thing


MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

266

But when

can constrain from without. that

all

within,

is

without has flowed into the

when the

opposition

between

"I and world," "Without and Within,"

"Nature and

man

then

own

impulse.

thou

Spirit," has

feels all

wilt,

be quite

"So

far as

that impels

a thousand irons: free

my

will is dead, so far ;

all

as his

I

still

and unfettered."

God do what I will I him the pattern and the point cease

him

"Shut me, as strongly as

in

will

disappeared,

must

myself prescribe to goal."

—At this

moral obligations, coming

man becomes to himself measure and goal. He is subject to no from without:

law; for the law, too, has become his

"For the wicked is the law; were there no command written, stUl would

being.

the pious love

God and

their neighbour."

Thus, on the higher level of knowledge, the innocence of Nature

is

given back to


BRUNO AND He

man.

267

the tasks that are set

fulfils

him in the feeling

He

SILESIUS

of

an external

necessity.

says to himself: Through this iron

necessity

it

given into thy hand to

is

withdraw from

very iron necessity

this

the link which has been allotted to thee.

"Ye men, learn but from the meadow flower: how ye shall please God and be as

beautiful

without

well."

why and

— "The

rose

exists

because, she blooms

because she blooms; she takes no heed of herself, asks not

if

men

man who has arisen upon feels

in

see her."

The

the higher level

himself the eternal,

necessary

meadow meadow flower

pressure of the All, as does the flower; he acts, as the

The feeling of his moral respon-

blooms. sibility

grows in

immeasurable. not do

is

all his

doing into the

For that which he does

withdrawn from the

All, is

a

slaying of that All, so far as the possi-


268

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

bility of

"What

such a slaying

is it,

lies

not to sin?

not question long: go, the will tell it If

with him.

Thou

need'st

dumb

flowers

— "All must thee."

be

slain.

thou slay est not thyself for God, then

at last eternal death shall slay thee for

the enemy."


AFTERWORD Nearly two and

a half centuries have

passed since Angelus Silesius gathered up the profound wisdom of his predecessors in his Cheruhinean Wanderer.

These cen-

have brought rich insights into

turies

Goethe

Nature.

opened

a

spective to natural science. to follow

up the

eternal,

vast

He

per-

sought

unchangeable

laws of Nature's working, to that summit where, with like necessity, they cause

man

to

come

into being, just as

on a

lower level they bring forth the stone. ^

Lamarck, Darwin, Haeckel, and

have laboured further of this '

Cp.

my

way

others,

in the direction

of conceiving things.

The

book: Goethe's Weltanschauung, Weimar, 1897. 269


MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

270

"question

of

questions,"

all

regard to the natural

origin

found

the

century;

and

in

other

of

in

man,

nineteenth

related problems

reakn of natural events have

the

in

answer

its

that

also found their solutions.

comprehend that

it is

To-day men

not necessary to

step outside of the realm of the actual

and the

sensible in order to understand

the serial succession of beings, right

man,

to

in its

development

in

up

a purely

natural manner.

And,

further, J. G. Fichte's penetra-

tion has thrown light into the being of

human

the

man where

ego,

and shown the soul

to seek itself

and what

of

it is.^

Hegel has extended the reakn of thought over

all

the provinces of being, and striven

to grasp in thought the entire sensible '

Cp. ante, and the section upon Fichte in my book: und Lebens-anschauungen im neunzehnten Jahrhundert,

Weltvol.

i.,

Berlin, S. Cronbach.


AFTERWORD

271

existence of Nature, as also the loftiest

human

creations of the

How,

spirit.'

then, do those

men

of genius

whose thoughts have been traced

in the

preceding pages, appear in the light of a

world-conception which takes into ac-

count the

scientific

centuries

that

They

believed in a "supernatural"

still

achievements of the

followed

their

epoch?

How do their thoughts

story of creation.

appear when confronted with a "natural history of creation, which the science of

the nineteenth century has built up?

This natural

science

has

given

to

Nature naught that did not belong to her; it has only taken from her what did not belong to her.

Nature but

is

all

that

is

It

has banished from

not to be sought in her,

to be found only in man's inner

' Cp. my presentation of Hegel in Welt- und Lebensanschauungen im neunzehnten Jahrhundert, vol. i.


MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

272

being.

Nature that

is like

and that creates It

no longer any being

It sees

unto the hiunan

after the

manner

man.

of

their

it

ter Eckhart, as well as Tauler,

Jacob

follows

development in the sense-world Meis-

according to purely natural laws.

Boehme with Angelus

would needs in

soul,

no longer makes the organic forms to

be created by a man-like God;

up

in

feel

and

also

Silesius,

the deepest satisfaction

contemplating this natural science.

The spirit in which they desired to behold the world has passed over in the fullest sense to this view of Nature, rightly still

of

it is

What they were

understood.

unable to do,

when

viz.:

to bring the facts

Nature themselves into the light which

had risen for them, that, undoubtedly, would have been their longing, if this same natural fore them.

science

had been

laid be-

They could not do

it;

for


AFTERWORD

273

no geology, no "natural history

of crea-

tion" told them about the processes in

The Bible alone told them in its own way about such processes. ThereNature.

fore they sought, so far as they could, for

the spiritual where alone

it

is

to be

found: in the inner nature of man.

At the present quite other aids at time, to Spirit is

time, they would have

hand than

in their

own

show that an actually existing They to be found only in man.

would to-day agree unreservedly with those

who

seek Spirit as a fact not in

the root of Nature, but in her

They would admit that ceivable

is

fruit.

Spirit as per-

a result of evolution, and

that upon lower levels of evolution such

must not be sought for. They wotdd understand that no "creative Spirit

thought" ruled Spirit in l8

in the

forthcoming of the

the organism, any more than


274

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

such a "creative thought" caused the

ape to evolve from the marsupials.

Our present age cannot speak about the facts of Nature as Jacob Boehme spoke of them. But there exists a point of view,

even in this present day, which

brings Jacob Boehme's

way

of regarding

things near to a view of the world that

takes account of

There

is

modem

no need to

natural science.

lose the Spirit,

when

one finds in Nature only the natural.

Many

do,

indeed,

believe to-day that

one must needs lose oneself in a shallow

and prosaic materialism,

if

one simply

accepts the "facts" which natural

ence has discovered. fully

ural

upon the ground science.

I

I

myself

sci-

stand

same natthrough and

of this

have,

through, the feeling that, in a view of

Nature such as Ernst Haeckel's, only he can lose himself amid shallows who him-


AFTERWORD self

approaches

world.

feel

I

glorious,

275

with a shallow thought-

it

something higher, more

when

I

let

the, revelations of

the "natural history of creation" work

upon me, than when the supernatural miracle stories of the confessions of faith force themselves

book" do

I

upon me.

know aught

In no "holy

that unveils for

me

anything as lofty as the "sober"

fact,

that every

er's

womb

human germ

in the

moth-

repeats in brief, one after the

other, those animal types

which its animal

ancestors have passed through. If only we fill

ovu-

hearts with the glory of the facts

that our senses behold, then little

not

left

lie

we shall have

over for "wonders" which do

in the course of

Nature.

experience the Spirit in ourselves,

have no need In lin,

my 1894)

we then we If

of such in external Nature.

Philosophy of Freedom, (BerI

have described

my

view


MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

276

which has no thought of

of the world,

driving out the Spirit, because

it

beholds

Nature as Darwin and Haeckel beheld

A

her.

me

for

my

plant,

if

I

people

"more

me

me

against

things of the just

soulful"

being of it,

my

in

it.

I

inner being

believe that the

sense-world are, in fact,

as they present themselves to us,

because

I see

that a right self-knowledge

leads us to this that in Nature :

we should

seek nothing but natural processes. seek no Spirit of I

I

world for

believe that the insight which

shines forth for

guards

information.

do not even assume

things; nay, I I

with souls of which

in the external

"deeper,"

because

it

me no

senses give

do not seek a

an animal, gains nothing

believe that

I

God

in Nature, because

perceive the nature of

the hiiman spirit in myself.

admit

my animal

I

I

calmly

ancestry, because I be-


AFTERWORD lieve myself to

know

277

that there, where

these animal ancestors have their origin,

no spirit of I

like

nature with soul can work.

can only agree with Ernst Haeckel when

he prefers the "eternal

rest of the

grave"

to an immortality such as

is

some

a dishonour-

religions.'

For

I find

taught by

ing of Spirit, an ugly sin against the Spirit, in the conception of exist after the I tific

hear a

a soul continuing to

manner

shrill

of a sensible being.

discord

when the

facts in Haeckel's presentation

scien-

come

up against the "piety" of the confessions But of some of our contemporaries. for

me

there rings out from confessions

of faith, facts,

piety

which give a discord with natural

naught of the

which

I

spirit of

find in

the higher

Jacob Boehme

and Angelus SUesius. This higher piety stands far more in full harmony with '

Cp. Haeckel's Riddle of

the Universe.


278

MYSTICS OF THE RENAISSANCE

the working of the natural.

There Has

no contradiction

in the fact of saturating

oneself with the

knowledge of the most

recent natural science, and at the

time

the

treading

same

path which Jacob

Boehme and Angelus Silesius have sought. He who enters on that path in the sense of those thinkers has

no need to fear

losing himself in a shallow materialism

when he

lets

laid before

creation."

the secrets of Nature be

him by a "natural history of Whoever has grasped my

thoughts in this sense will understand with

me

in like

manner the

last saying

of the Cherubinean Wanderer, with also this

book

shall close:

which

"Friend,

it is

even enough.

In case thou more wilt

read, go forth,

and

thyself

book, thyself the reading."

THE END

become the


D rudolf steiner mystics of the renaissance (paracelsus included), 1911 msn cul  
D rudolf steiner mystics of the renaissance (paracelsus included), 1911 msn cul  
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