Front Page Titles (by Subject) SIX: PERFECTIBILITY WITHIN CHRISTIANITY: THE ASCETICO-MYSTICAL TRADITION - The Perfectibility of Man
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SIX: PERFECTIBILITY WITHIN CHRISTIANITY: THE ASCETICO-MYSTICAL TRADITION - John Passmore, The Perfectibility of Man 
The Perfectibility of Man (3rd ed.) (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2000).
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PERFECTIBILITY WITHIN CHRISTIANITY: THE ASCETICO-MYSTICAL TRADITION
The gospel according to Matthew tells a story which was to be at once an embarrassment and an inspiration to Christianity. An embarrassment to such Christians as have sought to convince themselves that Christianity and worldly prosperity are perfectly compatible, an inspiration to those Christians who have refused to believe that, in this life, perfection lies beyond men’s reach. A rich young man came to Jesus and asked him: “What good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?” Jesus’ first answer was that the young man should keep the commandments, to which the young man replied, with remarkable insouciance, that he had kept them all his life. What else, therefore, must he do? And Jesus replied: “If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor.”1
In his Miscellanies, Clement of Alexandria had sought to demonstrate that a man need not abandon philosophy in order to become a Christian; in his sermon, The Rich Man’s Salvation, he set out to show that the Christian need not abandon his wealth, either. Jesus’ exhortation must not, Clement argues, be taken literally. What Jesus “really means” is not that men should literally abandon their riches—it was only necessary to look around the crowded streets of Alexandria, Clement told his congregation, to see that there was no virtue in poverty as such—but that they should banish from the soul “its excessive desire, its morbid excitement over them, its anxious cares.”2 In other words, it is the passions so often attaching to the possession of wealth, not the wealth itself, that the Christian must discard.
By such means, room was found within the Church for those who were not prepared to sacrifice their worldly goods in the interests of Christian perfection.* But not all Christians were satisfied thus to soften the teachings of Jesus. The story of the rich young man was, on the face of it, straightforward enough; it purported to be a historical record, not a parable. And it held out to Christians the hope of perfection—to such Christians, at least, as were prepared to accept the arduous discipline of poverty. There were other similar texts: that text, for example, which praises those who “made themselves eunuchs” for heaven’s sake; those many texts which insist that men must wholly submit themselves to God’s will. Brought together as the significantly-entitled “counsels of perfection,” these texts were read as laying down a path which Christians could follow to perfection, the path of poverty, chastity and self-abnegation.
Even if in the long run what men had to seek was detachment from the world, it is not humanly possible, many Christians decided, for a man to be fully detached from earthly goods so long as he still remains in full possession of them. Should a Christian genuinely seek to perfect himself, they concluded, the only safe thing for him to do was entirely to divest himself of all that he owned. “The deserts are full of mourners,” Basil wrote in the fourth century. What the desert anchorites were mourning was the growing worldliness of Christianity as it was slowly transformed into the Roman Church and took over from Rome its imperial splendour. But it was not only the snares of property, of power, of high office, which the mourners sought to escape, whether in the sands of the desert or within the walls of the monastery. “The glance of a woman,” so one of them wrote, “is a poisoned dart.” The glances of women fell harmlessly in the desert wastes and spent their force against the monastery wall. In pious tales about the sanctity of monk or hermit, one point is constantly emphasized: never, never, did he risk being poisoned by the darts of a woman’s glance, however holy, however ancient, however closely related she might be. Self-will, too, was an obstacle to perfection; in the desert or the monastery self-will could be tortured into submission.3 For such was the path to perfection.
Asceticism, of course, was no new thing. It was opposed, we suggested, to the general tendency of Judaism, which emphasized the goodness of the world God had created rather than the need to sacrifice its pleasures. But even the Jews had their ascetics. In his essay on The Contemplative Life Philo described the manner of life of certain Jewish monastic communities; reading this description, the fourth-century Christian historian Eusebius quite naturally concluded that Philo was referring “plainly and unquestionably to members of our Church.”4 The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls has increased our knowledge of these Jewish ascetic Essene sects: it was already well-known from Josephus’s The Jewish War that the Essene sects “renounced pleasure as an evil,” and saw virtue in “continence and poverty.”
Among the Greek philosophers, too, the Pythagorean brotherhoods called upon men to subdue the flesh; the Cynics taught men to despise the body; the Stoics proclaimed that, in order to become godlike, men must rise beyond the passions and be indifferent to material goods; the Platonists sought to ascend to the One by way of a renunciation of the flesh and the passions. So in Christian anchoritism and Christian monasticism a number of traditions in Western thought—to say nothing of Oriental influences—converged in a single powerful stream, restrained only, so far as it was restrained, by the fear of falling into Gnosticism, with its contempt for the body as the work of the Evil One. The object of the anchorite and the monk was, in the first place, to bring themselves to a state of sinlessness, of immaculate perfection, by renouncing the world. And that implied, not only a physical sundering from the ways of man, whether in the deserts sought out by the anchorites or in the monasteries of the monks, but the achievement of an absolute “freedom from desire.” For any form of secular passion, it was presumed, must be a subtraction from the love due to God; the hermit had achieved his spiritual aim if he could truly say: “Only I and God are in the world.”
Basil autobiographically described a pattern of life which was typical of a not inconsiderable number of his fourth-century contemporaries.5 He wasted his early years, he tells us, on the acquisition of “that wisdom made foolish by God,” i.e. the teachings of the philosophers. Not until he turned again to the Gospels, and in particular to the story of the rich young man, did he discover how to achieve what he was really seeking, a path to perfection. So Basil sold all his possessions and gave them to the poor, resolving that in future he would live “entirely without thought of this life,” in such a manner that his soul “should have no sympathetic concern with the things of this world.” Thus determined, he wandered through Egypt and Mesopotamia, encountering on the way many Christians who were already living the life he desired to live, “not concerning themselves with the body, nor deigning to waste a thought upon it, but as if passing their lives in alien flesh.” That phrase—“passing their lives in alien flesh”—has the root of the matter in it; for ascetic Christianity, as for Orphic-type religions, whatever is fleshly is “alien”; only by recognizing its foreignness can man achieve perfection. But Basil finally turned against the life of the solitary hermit—solitary, so far as discipline is concerned, even when the hermit lived in a community of hermits. It encouraged men, he thought, prematurely to suppose themselves perfect; it offered them no opportunities to practise the Christian virtues. So the monk, rather than the anchorite, came to represent Basil’s ideal.
John Cassian was one of the first founders of Christian monasteries. He had no doubt, he tells us in his Conferences, that “life in a hermitage is a finer life than that in a monastic community,” that to learn how to live as a hermit is to “learn the rules of the perfect life.”6 But men ought, he argued, first to purge themselves by living in monasteries. Otherwise there is the risk that when they go to live alone in the deserts they will find themselves like Jerome “boiling with desires in a frozen body, in which there raged a conflagration of passions”—Jerome who “sat alone in the company of scorpions and wild beasts and yet was in the company of dancing girls.”7 It is impossible to “run away from one’s sins.” But once purged, it was only in solitude that men could achieve “the sublime vision.” The perfect life, Cassian emphasizes, is not to be achieved merely by giving away one’s possessions; renunciation is necessary but not sufficient. Asceticism is to be practised only as a rung on the ladder to “purity of mind,” the achievement of a condition of mind in which one is wholly dedicated to God and “free from every earthly distraction.”
In support of his view that the endless contemplation of God, rather than the practice of good works, is the Christian’s ultimate objective, Cassian quotes from Luke that story of Mary and Martha which was to provide scriptural support for so many varieties of Christian asceticism and Christian mysticism: the busy Martha, actively serving Jesus and his disciples, does not realize, unlike the contemplative Mary, seated at Jesus’ feet, that “we need few things, or only one thing,” that it is wrong “to be troubled about many things.” The “one thing” which men need is to contemplate and listen to God, as Mary did. That passage in Exodus8 —“For there shall no man see me, and live”—which is generally taken to mean that only after death is it possible to see God, has in fact, according to Cassian, a very different, more hopeful meaning: to see God men need only be dead to this world.
What of the love of our neighbour as distinct from God? In the more extreme forms of anchoritism, this fades out of the picture. So far as human beings are to be loved, it is only in the same sense that Nature may be loved—as a reflection of God’s power and glory. “Who can contemplate the immeasurable blessedness of heaven,” Cassian asks, “at that very moment when he is welcoming visitors with gracious hospitality, when he is concerned with caring for the needs of his brethren?” Essentially, the soul intent on perfection must be alone with God. “A man who avoids men,” to repeat a passage already quoted from the Sayings of the Fathers, “is like a ripe grape. A man who companies with men is like a sour grape.” Or again: “Say also to your soul, ‘What do I want with man?’”9 Anchoritism, that is, carries egocentric Christianity to its extreme point, a point at which it becomes, in the words of a Christian critic, “nauseatingly self-interested.”10
In the more communal type of monasticism, the position was rather different; one’s neighbour was a fellow-monk. Precisely for this reason Augustine preferred the monastic to the solitary life. It provided, he thought, an opportunity for the exercise of Christian virtues. Basil’s Longer Rules make the same point. Christ’s precept of charity, he says, does not permit the individual to consider nothing except his own salvation. “Whom, therefore, will you wash, to whom will you minister, compared to whom will you be the lowest, if you live alone?”11 Christian charity must infuse the monastery, and might in some measure be reflected in works of charity directed to the world outside the monastery. But love did not, must not, include any disinterested affection for a fellow human being as such.
Christianity, as we said, is often described as “the religion of love.” But it is worth observing that love, in the ordinary human sense of the word, has found among Christians its severest critics. “The best insight into our religion,” wrote the Jansenist Jacques Esprit, “shows that love, far from being innocent, is guilty of the most enormous crimes; since it cannot exist in man without depriving God of his right. For by stifling his love for God, it hinders him from paying that due honour, admiration and service which his creator requires.”12 Nor is this attitude surprising, or ascribable to some merely personal, pathological, attitude of mind. Love is the great secularizer; it is our loves which make life worth living, which hold us to this world, which illuminate and enliven it. In that sense, love—not least but not only the love of man for woman—must appear the great enemy to those who wish to deny the world. That is why Teresa of Avila was so alarmed to discover that she loved her sister above other women and was deeply concerned about her unhappiness. In Teresa’s eyes, this was a sure proof that she was still not perfect, still not “entirely detached,” still not wholly given to God.13
A passage in the writings of the Franciscan mystic Angela of Foligno, beatified by the Roman Catholic Church, illustrates this attitude in an even more uncompromising form. Angela had been married and had produced children; within a few days her husband, her children and her mother all died. She writes of their death thus: “In that time, and by God’s will, there died my mother, who was a great hindrance to me in following the way of God; my husband died likewise; and in a short time there also died all my children. And because I had begun to follow the aforesaid [mystic] way, and had prayed God to rid me of them, I had great consolation of their deaths, although I also felt some grief.” From a secular point of view, this is monstrous heartlessness—“I had prayed God to rid me of them.” But such heartlessness is only too characteristic of perfectibilists, secular or religious. Jesus himself had asked: “Who is my mother? and who are my brethren?”; he had made it plain that “he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”14 It was easy enough for Christians in search of perfection to conclude that it was better not to have parents or husbands, sons or daughters. Only thus can one be wholly protected against loving them for their own sake, in a way which subtracts from the love of God.
The ideal of perfection as renunciation of every form of human love in the quest for the vision of God involved, as with Stoicism, a distinction between an élite and the bulk of the population. The bulk of the population were to obey the commandments, as the rich young man had done; but the élite, the “salt of the earth,” should seek to tread the path to perfection. This distinction between the élite and the ordinary Christian—corresponding to Plato’s distinction between philosophical goodness and civic goodness—appears very early in Christianity. In the Didache—dating, most likely, from the second century—we read: “If you can bear the Lord’s full yoke, you will be perfect. But if you cannot, then do what you can.”15 “In a great house,” wrote Jerome in a similar spirit, “there are also vessels of wood and earthenware, as well as vessels of silver and gold.”16 Indeed, a contrast between the ordinary Christian and the élite was written into the distinction between clergy and laity, as soon as that distinction had established itself. The layman has not fully dedicated himself to God; if he loved God with his whole heart, he would cease to be a layman. In his Concerning Perfection Aquinas goes so far, like Dionysius before him,* as to form a hierarchy of perfection, with bishops first, the religious orders second, parish priests and archdeacons third—although he grants, of course, that even bishops can be defective in charity.17 It is impossible to escape the conclusion that a man has, to say the least, small chance of attaining even to moral perfection who does not become a member of the clergy. (Pelagius, that indomitable layman, had refused to accept this conclusion.)
As for absolute perfection, the vision of God, there were always those amongst the hermits and monks who asserted that the élite, if only for passing moments, could “see God face to face,” and to that extent could achieve perfection, if only momentarily, in this life. This was certainly the case in Greek and Syrian monasticism, as represented, for example, in the fourth-century Book of Grades, with its sharp distinction between “the perfect,” who knew heaven even while still alive, and the “righteous,” who did their duty as worldly Christians, but could not expect to achieve the highest blessedness whether on earth or after death. Even Basil suggests, for all his criticism of the anchorites as too wont to consider themselves perfect, that it is possible to perfect oneself in this life—to “break through to another world.” Benedict laid down his Rules, he told his monks, in order that those who kept to them should live righteous lives as monks. “But men aspire to the perfect life.” To reach this life, he says, the monks must turn to Cassian and Basil, and through them hope “under God’s protection to climb to those greater heights of knowledge and virtue to which the holy fathers beckon you.”18 In general, the Greek fathers, most notably Gregory of Nyssa, stood closer than did, say, Augustine to the neo-Platonic concepts of perfectibility.* Whereas in the Upanishads it is suggested that “there is no difference between a desire for sons and a desire for riches; and there is no difference between a desire for riches and a desire for [exalted] states of being: all of them are nothing more than desire”19 —and as desire to be rejected—the desire for “exalted states of being” certainly played an important part in the growth of monasticism.
What of sinlessness, immaculate perfection, as distinct from that sort of perfection which consists in catching a glimpse of God? Cassian discusses this question at considerable length and, on the face of it, denies that men can be sinless.20 But he grants that an ascetic can conquer not only his vices, but even his moral imperfections. If he cannot properly be called “sinless,” this is only because he cannot all the time concentrate all his mind on God. It is a sin to think about anything but God, and such thoughts will recur even when all desire has been destroyed. By the ordinary standards of the active life, then, men can be sinless; only in relation to the very special standards of the mystic are men incapable of immaculate perfection.
It would be a mistake, of course, to suppose that all Roman Catholic teachers have seen in monasticism, in asceticism or in mysticism the sole, or even the best, path to perfection. Whereas Teresa, writing of a “diligent and holy man,” says that “his life seems to be as perfect as the married state permits,”21 with the implication that the married state limits his perfection, Francis de Sales condemned as “a heresy” the attempt “to banish the devout life from the regiment of soldiers, the shop of the mechanic, the court of princes or the home of married folk.”22 All men, he argued, are capable of contemplating the divine.
From Augustine on, indeed, moral theologians have sung the praises of “the mixed life.” Augustine had no doubt that the contemplative life is the best life—he constantly reverts in his Sermons to the contrast between Mary and Martha—but he none the less lays it down in The City of God that “no man has a right to lead such a life of contemplation as to forget in his own ease the service due to his neighbour,” even if it is also true that no one “has . . . a right to be so immersed in active life as to neglect the contemplation of God.”23 But this concession to the active life is associated in Augustine with the doctrine that the contemplative life cannot be carried to its full perfection by corrupted human beings.24 That is what full-blooded Christian perfectibilists are not prepared to accept. On their view, the active life is bound to be a distraction; the Christian ought to, and can, achieve perfection here and now by wholly absolving himself from the daily round of distracting obligations, such obligations as preaching.
For Newman, in contrast, perfection “does not mean any extraordinary service, anything out of the way.” That man is perfect, he writes, “who does the work of the day perfectly.” If he were asked what a man should do to be perfect, Newman continues, he would reply: “Do not lie in bed beyond the due time of rising; give your first thoughts to God; make a good visit to the Blessed Sacrament; say the Angelus devoutly; eat and drink to God’s glory; say the Rosary well; keep out bad thoughts; make your evening meditation well; examine yourself daily; go to bed in good time, and you are already perfect.” This somewhat governess-like conception of perfection lies far from the ideals of the Syrian monasteries, with their incessant search for a life which would lead them out of life.25 It is as if Benedict’s Rules were to be thought of, not as rules for righteousness, but as rules of perfection. But the ascetic element in Roman Catholicism still persists, even if nowadays somewhat diminished.
The Reformers directed their fire, with particular zeal, against ascetic ideals. Martin Luther had been a monk. As a monk, he came to think, he had gone in search of a degree and type of perfection which man neither can, nor should, hope to achieve. “The saints of the Papists,” Luther writes in his Commentary on Galatians, “are like to the Stoics, who imagined such wise men, as in the world were never yet to be found. And by this foolish and wicked persuasion . . . the schoolmen brought both themselves and others without number into [horrible] desperation.”26 Christians who try to bring themselves to such a state of perfection as to be “without all feelings of temptations and sins” are trying to reduce themselves, Luther argues, to the state of “sticks and stones.”
Calvin was no less hostile to monasticism. Officially, he admitted, the monks claim no more for monasticism, as Aquinas claimed for it in his Apology for the Religious Orders, than that it is the best preparation for the life to come. But in practice, Calvin maintains, the monks thought of themselves as being actually in a state of perfection, a state which, according to Calvin as to Luther, no man can hope to achieve in this life. And it was entirely wrong of the monks, Calvin adds, to suggest that the monkish life was intrinsically superior to any other, even as a preparation for heaven.
Calvin, indeed, completely rejected what he calls a “double Christianity,” one variety for the spiritual élite, one variety for ordinary people. All Christians, on his view, are equally bound by “every little word uttered by Christ”; there is no ground for distinguishing between “commands” and “counsels” of perfection. The only effect of monasticism, he argues, is to make men vainglorious, as if by their own efforts they could attain to perfection.27
It is interesting to observe, in this connexion, that Pelagius was a lay-monk, and that Cassian, the monastery-founder, was also the founder of semi-Pelagianism. The ascetic life was by its nature a deliberate attempt to attract the grace of God, by living a life of peculiar sanctity. Benedict, recognizing this, tried to temper the Pelagian implications of monasticism by exhorting his monks to remember Paul’s “By the grace of God I am what I am.”28 But it is impossible to read Benedict, or Cassian, except as a set of exhortations to human effort. That is what Luther and Calvin observed with detestation.
But was not Calvin a Puritan, the Puritan of Puritans? How, then, could he condemn asceticism? Puritanism and asceticism, however, are by no means the same thing. Asceticism attempts to withdraw from the world as a whole; Puritanism condemns the world only in so far as it is sinful, not, for example, commerce, or political service, or marriage, but, characteristically, the theatre, the consumption of alcohol, any form of sensual delight.* Within Christianity, asceticism and Puritanism are normally conjoined and it is the easier to confuse them. The world is at once, for the ascetic, unworthy of his attention and an occasion of sin. But Buddhism is ascetic without being Puritanical; it rejects “the flesh” not because sensual delights are wicked but because they are transitory. And to recognize their transitoriness those who wish to reach perfection through enlightenment “must first of all know the taste of the pleasures which the senses can give.”
The Buddha Shakyamuni, whom, in the West, we think of as Buddha, at first lived a life of complete sensuality—entertained by “soft words, tremulous calls, wanton swayings, sweet laughter, butterfly kisses, and seductive glances.”29 What converted him from the sensual life was not the belief that such sensuality was wicked but the realization that its joys are transitory: “It is not that I despise the objects of sense,” he told his counsellor when he resolved to abandon sensuality, . . . “But when I consider the impermanence of everything in this world, then I can find no delight in it. . . . If only this beauty of women were imperishable, then my mind would certainly indulge in the passions.”30
This, we might say, is a metaphysical criticism of sensuality, characteristic of asceticism in all its forms, very obviously of Platonism, and it is quite distinct from that moral criticism which is the essence of Puritanism, for which “wanton swayings” and “seductive glances” are intrinsically sinful. The Puritan, too, does not expect to reach perfection by renouncing sensuality—such a renunciation, for him, is at most a sine qua non of salvation. It need not even be related to salvation, for Puritans may, like Shaw, be secularists, with a horror of sensuality which has no theological roots. The Bodhisattva, in contrast, is in search of perfection. He hopes to become “a fully enlightened Buddha, perfect in knowledge and conduct”31 —and to achieve that end by an ascetico-mystical renunciation of the world.
Asceticism, indeed, is usually associated with mysticism, understood (in its Christian form) as the view that we can in this life attain to that “vision of God” or “union with God” in which perfection consists. Buddhist mysticism is, in principle, bound to state its objective differently, since Buddhism is not, in its classical versions, committed to belief in God. For Buddhism, what the mystic seeks is a foretaste of Nirvana, the entire extinction of the self. But in practice the two forms of mysticism are not always so different as one would suppose. The great temptation, at least, of Christian mysticism is a form of pantheism, for which the individual soul entirely disappears in an undifferentiated unity. Such a pantheism lies at the heretical border of Christian asceticism, just as Manichaeanism lies at the heretical border of Christian Puritanism.
Take the case of Dionysius the Areopagite, whose Mystical Theology had so crucial an influence on Christian mysticism. Dionysius begins with a prayer to “Trinity, which exceedeth all Being, Deity, and Goodness.” The “Trinity” is orthodox enough, but what about the phrase “which exceedeth all Deity”? Dionysius goes on to warn us that what he has to say is directed only at the “initiated.” Only the “initiated,” indeed, are likely to understand what Dionysius means when he says of “the Good Cause of all things” that it “is revealed in Its naked truth to those alone who pass right through the opposition of fair and foul” and are prepared to “leave behind them all divine enlightenment.” Only the initiated will recognize, when the time comes, that he has finally reached that “Darkness of Unknowing wherein he renounces all the apprehensions of his understanding . . . and . . . through the passive stillness of all his reasoning powers [is] united by his highest faculty to Him that is wholly Unknowable, of whom thus by a rejection of all knowledge he possesses a knowledge that exceeds his understanding.”32 The uninitiated may well imagine that what they are being urged to do is to cast aside all morality—for how else are they to move beyond “fair and foul”?—and all the teaching of the Christian Church. For what else can be meant, in such a context, by the “divine enlightenment” which is to be “left behind”? If “all knowledge” is to be rejected, this must surely include the knowledge gained by Revelation.
It is sometimes said, indeed, that all mysticism is identical, that the idea of a “Christian mysticism” is a contradiction in terms, since the mystical experience, by its very nature, consists in union with an “undifferentiated One,” which can no more be the specifically Christian God than it can be the specifically Muslim God or the Buddhist Nirvana. If Christian mysticism is to be contained within the bounds of orthodoxy it has somehow to avoid this conclusion, but it is not at all clear how it is to do so. Angela of Foligno, for example, professes to arrive at a condition in which she beholds as something higher than God’s power “a Thing, as fixed and stable as it was indescribable.” A Parmenidean One, perhaps, but certainly not a personal God. Yet Angela’s orthodoxy is not suspect.33
Roman Catholic mysticism, although active enough from the early days of the Church, reached its peak in the thirteenth to the sixteenth century, first in England and Germany and then in Spain. For the most part it has been accepted as orthodox, but Meister Eckhart, the founder of the German mystical school, had some twenty-eight of his principal theses condemned as heretical—although his disciples, and some modern commentators, allege that they are heretical only when torn from their context.34 “The Father himself begets his Son,” wrote Eckhart, “and what is more, he begets me as his son—the self-same Son! Indeed, I assert that he begets me not only as his Son but himself as myself, begetting me in his own nature, his own being. At that inmost source I spring from the Holy Spirit, and there is one life, one being, and one action.” Here the temptations of mysticism to identify are clearly exemplified: God, the Father, the Son, and the mystic soul are amalgamated into one. Whereas for Aquinas perfection resides in the vision of God, for Eckhart the perfect soul is converted into being God. “We are not wholly blessed,” he writes, “even though we are looking at divine truth; for while we are still looking at it, we are not in it. As long as a man has an object under consideration, he is not one with it.”35
If Eckhart was eventually condemned, his pupils Heinrich Suso and John Tauler were not, and from Tauler’s Sermon on the Hunt of the Sun we can see the limits of what was permissible.36 Tauler draws the classical distinction between two classes of Christian—the “noble souls” and the ordinary, unenlightened Christians. The ordinary Christian, according to Tauler, when he is touched by grace either tries to respond to it, in the manner of the theologians, “with rational concepts and high speculation,” or else, in the manner of the conventionally devout, “he seeks satisfaction in self-chosen observances, devotions, meditations.” Such men have not really “arisen,” Tauler argues, and this is manifested in the fact that they still display such faults as pride, solicitude, spitefulness.
The noble ones are very different. They put themselves completely in God’s hands, abandoning themselves entirely to his will. Those men who have reached this height Tauler freely describes as “supernatural men.” He goes so far as to say, indeed, that “they, in a sense, are no longer, but God is in them.” They have reached a height in which “there is no longer sin, because they enjoy a godlike freedom.” No doubt, he adds, even when they have achieved the highest degree of perfection they must still watch themselves, “lest God should find something in [their] soul to hinder the accomplishment of the Divine purpose.” The fact remains that man is in principle perfectible, perfectible here and now, capable of becoming both immaculate and godlike.
Roman Catholic mysticism achieved its completest expression in sixteenth-century Spain, at a time and a place, interestingly enough, which also witnessed a violent reaction against mystical teachings, under the leadership of that resolute Dominican Melchior Cano. Cano’s hostility was particularly directed against the Alumbrados or, as they are more often called, the “Illuminists” (both names have the same significance—“the Enlightened ones”). It is not at all clear whether the Illuminists, most of them Franciscans or Jesuits, constituted a loosely-associated group of like-minded Christians or whether “Illuminist” was no more than a convenient label which the Inquisition could attach to any Christians who incurred their displeasure by emphasizing mystical religious experience rather than the formally-organized devotions of the Church.
This much is certain however: the Inquisition cast its nets widely. Men as high in rank as the Cardinal Archbishop of Toledo, intellectuals as distinguished as the poet Luis de Leon, were condemned to lengthy periods of imprisonment—the latter for translating into Spanish the Song of Songs, which was, of course, universally read as a mystical poem, symbolizing the delights of mystical union. Even Ignatius Loyola incurred the displeasure of the Dominicans, and was accused of fleeing Spain to escape their investigators.
The shadow of imprisonment and the stake—there was a notable auto-da-fé of Illuminists at Llerena in 1579—lay across both Teresa of Avila and her follower, John of the Cross. Teresa’s confessor was asked to report on her teachings; although his report was favourable, it is hedged about with reservations. One of her spiritual advisers, the Jesuit Balthasar Alvarez, was to find himself condemned by his own Order, suspected of Illuminism. John of the Cross was denounced to the Inquisition.37 If, then, scholars have found it impossible to bring to entire consistency what either Teresa or John says, this may in part be because they were neither of them logicians, in part because, a common difficulty with mystical writings, they profess to be describing the indescribable and can scarcely be expected to do so with clarity, but in part because to have made claims of too large a kind could easily have involved them in serious difficulties with the Inquisition.
The general pattern of their mysticism, however, is clear enough for our present purposes. It was a quest for perfection, which rested on an asceticism of the severest kind, characteristic of the Carmelite order to which they both belonged and which they sought to restore to its primitive austerity. In her Life Teresa refers to the body as the “evil guest” of the soul; she describes herself as a “foul and stinking dunghill”; it is, she says, a sign of spiritual progress “to hold the world in profound contempt.” From the age of twenty, she tells us—and this is a sure sign of the ascetic as distinct from the Puritan—she already pitied those who followed the ways of the world “even in its lawful pursuits.”
John of the Cross wore underclothes of knotted ropes,38 and was as emphatic as any anchorite on the need for avoiding “evil communications,” i.e. his fellow-men. “The Lord,” he writes to a nun, “. . . loves you to be quite alone, desiring to be Himself your only companion.”39 Nuns and monks, he thought, should live in their convent or monastery “as if they lived alone.” Both Teresa and John accepted Augustine’s interpretation of “love your neighbour as yourself”; to love one’s neighbours meant to try to bring them to God. In offering spiritual advice they were indefatigable. But as we have already seen, even Teresa’s natural affection for her sister appeared to her as a sin. As for John, the imperfections from which men must try to purify themselves include, he says, any attachment, however slight, to “a person, a garment, a book, a cell, a particular kind of food, tittle-tattle.”40 So attachments to persons are ranked with attachments to places, to food, or, even, to tittle-tattle. All affections must be killed, however desirable they may be in the eyes of the world.*
No Hindu or Buddhist has ever preached more forcibly than John the need for securing “the detachment and annihilation of that [natural] self.”41 Men, if they hope to be perfect, must, he says, first pass through a period of darkness, a condition in which “the spiritual and the sensual desires are put to sleep and mortified, so that they can experience nothing, either Divine or human; the affections of the soul are oppressed and constrained, so that they can neither move nor find support in anything; the imagination is bound and can make no useful reflection; the memory is gone; the understanding is in darkness, unable to understand anything; and hence the will likewise is arid and constrained and all the faculties are void and useless; and in addition to all this, a thick and heavy cloud is upon the soul, keeping it in affliction, and, as it were, far away from God.”42 Only in such a “dark night of the soul,” devoid of all human faculties and therefore wholly dependent on God, can the soul “walk securely.” It is tempting to ascribe much of what John has to say about the dark night of the soul to the Spanish love of suffering and death. And it is worth noting that both for Teresa and for John: “Take up thy cross and follow me” is the principal command of perfection, and that both wrote poems in which the recurrent theme is a longing for death.
There was, it is true, nothing unfamiliar in the idea that a “dark night of the soul” is an essential stage in the progress towards mystical enlightenment. When this very passage from John was denounced to the Inquisition, John’s learned defender could point to a comparable suggestion in the writings of Bernard of Clairvaux. The first chapter of Dionysius’s Mystical Theology bears the title, “What is divine gloom?” The author of Theologia Germanica tells us that the righteous man must, like Christ, descend into hell before he can ascend into the heaven of perfection—a hell in which he feels unworthy, even, of divine punishment.43 Even that cheerful, energetic, English mystic who wrote, in the fourteenth century, The Cloud of Unknowing, was insistent that the mystic must pass through “darkness, a cloud of unknowing.” But this “darkness,” this “gloom,” is described by John with a peculiar horror, only to be matched by his Spanish disciple Molinos who, in his Spiritual Guide, describes the contemplative soul as “seeing itself deserted by God, surrounded with temptations, with darkness, with difficulties, with afflictions, with troubles, with a hard discipline of dryness . . . being in such affliction that its tortures seem nothing other than a long death, and a continual martyrdom.”* John sums up thus: “the road of suffering is more secure . . . than that of fruition and action.” He does not deny that action, as distinct from contemplative worship, can be “profitable,” but it is unsafe, he thinks, because in acting “the soul is practising its own weaknesses and imperfections.”44 The road to perfection, then, is paved with bitter sufferings. Only by such sufferings, it is presumed, can self-love be mortified, every affection which binds men to the world destroyed, and the soul made ready to be entirely filled with the love of God. How far, thus prepared, can the soul reach towards perfection?
Much now depends on what is to be understood by “perfection.” Take first impeccability, “immaculate perfection.” John would have been free, without taint of heresy—or so his counsel assures us—to maintain that at the highest reaches of contemplation the mystic can, for a time, be free of sin. But John, his defender argues, does not even claim so much, because he grants that the soul, even when it has achieved union with God, is not wholly free from temptation.45 In fact, however, John admits no more than that what he calls “the natural desires” are not in this life “wholly mortified.” It is only if the mere existence of natural desires in “the sensual part of the soul” constitutes a sin, even although the rational soul is quite undisturbed by them, that John’s defender can be acquitted of the charge of being disingenuous. For John certainly maintains that the soul can be free not only from mortal sins, not only from venial sins, but even from “imperfections.”46 Indeed, if “The Points of Love” records his teachings correctly, as it professes to do, John explicitly asserted that “the soul that is in the union of love has not even the first movements of sin.”47 And how could it be otherwise, if it has entered into full union with God?
Aquinas, it will be remembered, defined perfection, at the purely human level, as first, “the removal from man’s affections of everything that is contrary to the love of God, such as mortal sin,” and secondly, the removal of “whatever hinders the mind’s affections from turning wholly to God.” Together these constitute what John calls “evangelical perfection.” There can be no doubt, on his view, that such a degree of perfection lies within man’s reach; it is, indeed, the highest level of perfection for which a spiritual adviser should consciously strive, the highest point which can be reached by human effort without the aid of very special grace. But if such a degree of perfection already carries human beings far beyond what the Reformers would allow to mortal men, it is still not enough for Teresa, for John, or any other mystic; it is no more than a stage on the ladder of perfection.
What of the vision of God? Even this, John allows to the perfected mystic, who can reach, indeed, to such a degree of illumination that he sees all created things through the eyes of God. As the Islamic mystic Avicenna had already suggested, he contemplates all things as God contemplates them, because “God is contemplating in him.”48 He is no longer obliged, that is, to achieve his knowledge of God’s nature through his knowledge of created things. It is true that God is still not known fully “in his essence”; he appears to the enlightened soul, for example, to be in movement, although God is in fact unmoving. (John’s “vision of God” owes more to Aristotle than to the Bible.) But at least this much can be said: that God “draws back . . . some of the veils and curtains which are in front of [the soul] . . . and it is able to see (though somewhat darkly, since not all the veils are drawn back) that face of His that is full of graces.”49 So a partial, though not a complete, vision of God is available to man in this life, made possible, as the vision of God was made possible to Moses, by God’s protective grace, shielding man from the full sight of God’s glory. The comparison with Moses is revealing: John is obviously not prepared to accept the view that the case of Moses was exceptional, that it was not a standard of what men should hope to achieve. The second stage in the progress towards perfection—“illumination”—certainly lies within men’s reach.
As for the final stage, “union with God,” here, particularly, heresy was to be feared. John was acquainted with the mystical writings of the Arabs; they, certainly, had sometimes passed beyond the bounds of Muslim tolerance. Some members of the Sufi sect, indeed, had achieved martyrdom by proclaiming, simpliciter, “I am God,” or, “There is nothing inside this clothing but Allah.” Christians were certainly no more tolerant than Muslims of such pretensions to be God made flesh.
In its perfected condition, according to John, “the soul lives the life of God,” a life in no respect animal. Its understanding is enlightened by God, it is no longer dependent for its knowledge on the senses; its will is one with God’s will; its memory is of “the eternal years,” not only of its own past; its desire is God’s desire; its movements are God’s movements. But does it not, if this is so, become God? Metaphysics saves John from pantheism. The substance of the soul, he argues, is not changed into the substance of God, even although the soul, in respect of all its activities, is “united in Him and absorbed in Him.” Teresa makes little use of scholastic terminology, but when she writes that the mystic achieves “a most definite union of the whole soul with God,” in which “two things become one,”50 it is presumably this sort of union she has in mind. A theology created in an attempt to make some sense of the Incarnation could thus be deployed in aid of mystical perfectionism.
How does mysticism stand in relation to the Pelagian controversy? It is very hard to say. Such theological concepts as original sin play no part at all in John’s thinking; no doubt he accepted the orthodox teaching on this point, but he does not let original sin dominate his thinking as it dominated the thinking of Augustine or the Reformers. One sees why the twentieth-century Calvinist theologian, Emil Brunner, complains that “the mystic dodges the question of guilt and forgiveness.”51 Indeed—a true ascetic—John has very little to say about sin of any kind; his emphasis is the Stoic one, on the need for becoming detached from the world, rather than the more characteristically Christian emphasis on being saved from sin. No doubt, this is in his eyes a false antithesis, as it was for Augustine. Any kind of attachment to the world is itself a “sin,” as involving the misuse of a love which properly belongs only to God. For him, as for the rich young man in Matthew’s story, it is relatively easy to keep the commandments; the disciplines which interest him begin at that point.
Up to a certain level, one might say, Christian mysticism is Pelagian, or semi-Pelagian; beyond that point it veers sharply to the opposite extreme. In the Roman Catholic world of the counter-Reformation, John of the Cross found himself denounced for assigning too little importance to good works, and for suggesting, or so it was alleged, that in its higher states of union with God the will is no longer free. Such twentieth-century anti-Pelagians as Niebuhr and Barth, in contrast, see in mysticism one of the forms assumed by Pelagianism. In virtue of its insistence on the need for mortification, for detachment, mysticism is bound— however much it may officially acknowledge that nothing can be achieved without God’s help—to emphasize the importance of human effort. Once a measure of perfection has been achieved, however, the soul can only pray, and hope, and wait, in a quite un-Pelagian way. Even its prayers must not be petitions but exercises of love, forms of worship. And if the union with God should finally be achieved, it comes not as a result of human efforts but as “an interior assault of the Holy Spirit,” as “the supernatural assault of love.” So whereas man achieves evangelical perfection, immaculate perfection, by an exercise of will, co-operating with God’s grace, he achieves absolute perfection, the union with God, only by wholly surrendering to that grace.
In seventeenth-century French “Quietism,” it is worth observing, this anti-Pelagian “waiting” occupies the very centre of mysticism. “My desire is to desire nothing,” wrote the Quietist Marie-Rosette, “my will is to will nothing, to remain attached to nothing. . . . But I do not even desire to desire nothing, because I think that would also be a desire.”52 Asceticism—the “Pelagian” element in mysticism—was, on the Quietist view, not only unnecessary but a positive distraction. What the Christian had to learn to do was to wait, to wait until God moved him; if he busies himself with the practice of mortifications he is demonstrating a quite un-Christian impatience.
John’s favourite metaphor, which he develops at great length and in extraordinarily sensual detail, is the Song of Songs metaphor of the bride and the bridegroom—John is, of course, the bride, and the bride of the Christian tradition, wholly passive, entirely dominated by her groom.* It is perhaps not surprising that, although women have made no contributions whatever to “intellectual” theology, so many of the leading mystics, up to the twentieth-century Evelyn Underhill, have been women; the language of mysticism—especially of what is often called “nuptial” mysticism as distinct from the “speculative” mysticism of Eckhart and his followers—comes more easily from their lips.
[1. ]Matthew 19:21.
[2. ]Trans. G. W. Butterworth in Clement of Alexandria, Loeb Classical Library (London, 1919), p. 293.
[* ]Clement’s views were destined to have a long life; they are expounded in Lawrence Lipton’s The Holy Barbarians (New York, 1959, paperback ed., 1962) by a young Roman Catholic member of the “beat generation” to explain why he does not feel it necessary to give up his riches: “The circumstances of one’s own personal wealth . . . are of little importance. I mean, the thing that is important is the detachment from one’s own possessions” (p. 55). One is at once reminded of Stoicism. But Clement’s interpretation can be lent Biblical support by reference, for example, to 1 Corinthians 7:29–30: “it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none; And they that weep, as though they wept not; . . . and they that buy, as though they possessed not.” On the basis of a pious forgery, it was for long believed that Seneca got his ideas from Paul. Whether the true situation is that Paul got them from Seneca—or at least from the Stoicism of Tarsus—is still disputed. See J. N. Sevenster: Paul and Seneca (Leiden, 1961) which tends, however, to exaggerate the difference between Paul and Seneca. Pelagius was unconvinced by the Clementine argument; it was one of Augustine’s objections to Pelagius that he threatened by his moralistic intransigence to drive out of the church the landowners essential to its institutional life. A modern commentator on Augustine (Portalié) denounces Pelagius’s “wild error”—that the wealthy cannot hope to be saved. In the thirteenth century Francis of Assisi narrowly escaped ecclesiastical condemnation, and some of his friends were less fortunate, for taking the virtues of poverty too seriously. The great Church of Assisi is one of the most ironical of all ecclesiastical memorials, almost as if a modern multiversity were set up in honour of Socrates. See Peter Brown: Augustine of Hippo, pp. 347–52 and Gordon Leff: Heresy in the Later Middle Ages, Vol. 1, Pt. 1.
[3. ]For details of the extremes to which these practices were carried, especially, but not only, in the Eastern Church, see H. B. Workman: The Evolution of the Monastic Ideal, 2nd ed. (London, 1927), pp. 45–54. The Sayings of the Fathers make it sufficiently clear what counted as preparation for perfection. See also P. F. Anson: The Call of the Desert (London, 1964).
[4. ]History of the Church, 2. 17. 14; trans. G. A. Williamson (Harmondsworth, 1965). The relevant extracts from Philo can be conveniently read in A. Dupont-Sommer: The Essene Writings from Qumran, trans. G. Vermes (Oxford, 1961), pp. 21–26.
[5. ]See particularly Letter 223 in Saint Basil: The Letters, trans. R. J. Deferrari, Loeb Classical Library, 4 vols (London, 1926–34), Vol. III, pp. 293–95.
[6. ]His Conferences are included, in part, in Western Asceticism, ed. O. Chadwick. They purport to give an account of the teachings of Egyptian ascetics. But we can safely presume that Cassian approved their teachings. The reference is to p. 194.
[7. ]Jerome: Epistles (Letter 22).
[8. ]Exodus 33:20.
[9. ]Pts. I–XVI of Rosweyde’s ed. of The Sayings of the Fathers are included in Western Asceticism, ed. O. Chadwick. The references are to pp. 42 and 47. The passage from Cassian is from his Conferences, XXIII. 5. 1, quoted in O. Chadwick: John Cassian, 1st ed. (Cambridge, 1950), pp. 105–6.
[10. ]Chadwick: John Cassian, ed. cited, p. 180. These passages have been omitted from the 2nd ed. (1968) of this work.
[11. ]Quoted in G. B. Ladner: The Idea of Reform (Cambridge, Mass., 1959), p. 341.
[12. ]Discourses on the Deceitfulness of Humane Virtues, trans. W. Beauvoir (London, 1706), p. 264.
[13. ]Life, ch. 31.
[14. ]Matthew 12:48 and 10:37. The passage from Angela is from Visionum et instructionum liber, cap. ix, trans. M. G. Steegmann as The Book of Divine Consolation of the Blessed Angela of Foligno (London and New York, 1908), p. 5.
[15. ]In Early Christian Fathers, ed. and trans. C. C. Richardson, Library of Christian Classics, 1 (London, 1953), p. 174. On the question of date, see the translator’s introduction.
[16. ]Quoted in H. B. Workman: The Evolution of the Monastic Ideal, pp. 57–58.
[* ]Dionysius, interestingly enough, had set priests and deacons well above monks in “the ecclesiastical hierarchy”; in his hierarchy, indeed, bishops stand immediately next to angels, but monks only just above ordinary baptized Christians. The religious orders had obviously come up in the world since Dionysius wrote.
[17. ]De Perfectione, ch. XII.
[18. ]Rule of Saint Benedict, 73; as trans. in Western Asceticism, ed. O. Chadwick, pp. 336–37.
[* ]A fuller study of Christian ascetico-mysticism would have to pay much greater attention to the Greek fathers and, more generally, to the Eastern Church. In particular, Gregory of Nyssa is a central figure, who almost certainly influenced Dionysius and independently re-entered Western thought when he was translated by Erigena. For Gregory see Jean Daniélou: Platonisme et théologie mystique: essai sur la doctrine spirituelle de saint Grégoire de Nysse (Paris, 1944), or for a greater emphasis on Gregory’s philosophical ideas, H. F. Cherniss: The Platonism of Gregory of Nyssa (University of California Publications in Classical Philology, Vol. 11, No. 1, 1930).
[19. ]Brihadāranyaka Upanishad, III, v, as trans. in Hindu Scriptures, ed. R. C. Zaehner, Everyman’s Library (London, 1966), p. 51.
[20. ]Conferences, XIII. See the discussion of this Conference in O. Chadwick: John Cassian, ed. cited, pp. 126–34.
[21. ]Life, ch. 23.
[22. ]Introduction to the Devout Life, Pt. I, ch. 3, trans. J. K. Ryan (London, 1953), p. 8. Francis is writing, it should be observed, after the Reformation. His Devout Life was not published until 1607. Compare what is said about Teilhard de Chardin at p. 400 below.
[23. ]City of God, Bk. XIX, ch. 19, trans. M. Dods (Edinburgh, 1872). Compare what Plato says in the Republic about the responsibility which lies on the philosopher who has seen the form of the good to return to play his part in the State. In the Philebus Plato introduces the concept of a “mixed life.”
[24. ]Tractatus in Joannis evangelium, CXXIV, 5 on John 21:19–25.
[25. ]Meditations and Devotions, ed. cit., pp. 382–83.
[26. ]Quoted in Martin Luther: Selections from His Writings, ed. John Dillenberger, pp. 158–59, from rev. ed. by P. S. Watson (1956), pp. 508–18.
[27. ]Institutes of the Christian Religion, IV, xiii, 11–14, trans. F. L. Battles, Vol. 2, pp. 1265–69.
[28. ]I Corinthians 15:10.
[* ]Calvin’s own attitude is anything but straightforward. At times, he writes in the manner of an ascetic: “there is no middle ground between these two: either the world must become worthless to us or hold us bound by intemperate love of it.” But he also writes that God has provided the world “not only . . . for necessity but also for delight and good cheer.” (Institutes, III, ix. 2; III, x. 2.) Perhaps his most general view is that what God creates—the world—may properly be delighted in but that men often delight in it in the wrong, fleshly, manner. Recent commentators tend to emphasize Calvin’s “humanism” and to blame the Puritanical excesses of Calvinism on his disciples. But this is perhaps an over-correction. For the older view see Williston Walker: John Calvin (London, 1906), pp. 304 ff., for the newer view G. E. Duffield, ed.: John Calvin (Abingdon, 1966). Perhaps the best-balanced account is in François Wendel: Calvin, trans. P. Mairet (London, 1963). From the point of view of the history of perfectibility what Calvin actually taught is much less important than what his disciples represented him as teaching, and that, quite certainly, was a kind of Puritanism. Those readers who feel that my account of Calvin is unfair to him are at liberty to think of me as writing about Calvinism.
[29. ]Buddhist Scriptures, sel. and trans. Edward Conze (Harmondsworth, 1959), p. 38.
[30. ]Ibid., pp. 40–41.
[31. ]Ibid., p. 24.
[32. ]Quotations are as trans. C. E. Rolt in Dionysius the Areopagite on the Divine Names and the Mystical Theology, pp. 191–94.
[33. ]Compare Evelyn Underhill: “The Blessed Angela of Foligno” in Paul Sabatier et al.: Franciscan Essays (Aberdeen, 1912; republ. Farnborough, 1966), pp. 88–108. The reference is to p. 104.
[34. ]See, for example, Gordon Leff: Heresy in the Later Middle Ages, Vol. 1, pp. 281–82, 293–94.
[35. ]Quotations are from Sermon 18 and Sermon 22 in Meister Eckhart: A Modern Translation by R. B. Blakney (New York and London, c. 1941).
[36. ]My references are to the trans. by D. Attwater included in C. J. Barry, ed.: Readings in Church History, Vol. 1 (Westminster, Md., 1960; repr. 1965), pp. 593–95.
[37. ]For the Spanish anti-mystical movement see K. E. Kirk: The Vision of God, ed. cit., pp. 431–33. The report on John can be read in The Complete Works of St John of the Cross, ed. and trans. E. Allison Peers, rev. ed. (London, 1953; 1 vol. repr. 1964), Vol. 3, pp. 355–404. See also Friedrich Heer: The Intellectual History of Europe, trans. J. Steinberg (London, 1966), pp. 272–80.
[38. ]For a heart-rending description of the mortifications the mystics thought fit to impose upon themselves see, for example, Heinrich Suso: The Life of the Servant, trans. J. M. Clark (London, 1952).
[39. ]Works, Vol. 3, p. 260.
[40. ]Ibid., Vol. 1, p. 50.
[* ]One is naturally reminded once more of Stoicism. It is interesting to note that Seneca, himself a Spaniard, was very widely read in fifteenth-century Spain. Teresa’s nickname for John of the Cross was “my little Seneca.” For all the austerity of their life and even more of their teachings, both Teresa and John of the Cross were a good deal more human than their doctrines would have allowed them to be. But the fact remains that they thought they ought to cast off all attachments to persons, at least attachments for their own sake. On Seneca in Spain, see A Benedictine of Stanbrook Abbey: Medieval Mystical Tradition and Saint John of the Cross, ed. cit., p. 68.
[41. ]Ibid., Vol. 1, p. 85.
[42. ]Ibid., Vol. 1, p. 421.
[43. ]Theologia Germanica, ch. XI.
[* ]Molinos was to find himself imprisoned, allegedly for immorality. But the charges against him were based on his private letters rather than the Spiritual Guide, a work which had been widely distributed, translated and recommended by highly-placed ecclesiastical authorities. The quotation, from the Spiritual Guide, iii. 5, is as trans. in R. A. Knox: Enthusiasm, p. 291.
[44. ]Works, Vol. 1, p. 425.
[45. ]Ibid., Vol. 3, p. 393.
[46. ]Ibid., Vol. 1, p. 49.
[47. ]Ibid., Vol. 3, p. 231.
[48. ]Avicenna (Ibn’Sina): Stages of the Mystical Life, in M. Smith, ed.: Readings from the Mystics of Islam (London, 1950), p. 49.
[49. ]Works, Vol. 3, p. 190.
[50. ]Life, ch. 17.
[51. ]The Word and the World (New York, 1931), p. 50.
[52. ]For the Quietist controversy see H. Daniel-Rops: The Church in the Seventeenth Century, pp. 368–93 (the quotation from Marie-Rosette is on p. 369), and R. A. Knox: Enthusiasm. Compare the Hindu doctrine quoted on p. 122 above.
[* ]The soul, according to Zaehner, must realise that “If it is to commune with God, its role can only be that of the bride, it must play the woman.” He quotes Eckhart as saying that to become fruitful a man must necessarily be a woman; he reminds us that Suso in his autobiography always refers to himself in the feminine gender. (R. C. Zaehner: Mysticism: Sacred and Profane, Oxford, 1957, p. 152.)