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Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 10.djvu/730

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MYSTICISM


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MYSTICISM


Mysticism and its influence on i)liilosopliy, and pre- sent a criticism of it.

HisToiiiiAi. Sketch. — In his "History of Philoso- phy", Cousin nicnlions four systems, between which, he says, philo.suphical thouglif has continually wav- ered, viz., Scnsism, Idi-alisni, Scepticism, and Mysti- cism. Whatever may be thought of this classification, it is true that Mysticism Ikus exercised a large influ- ence on i)liil()sopliy, becoming at times the basis of whole systems, but more often entering as an element into their constitution. Mysticism dominated in the symbolic pliilo.sophy of ancient Egypt. The Taoism of the C^hinese philosopher Lao-tze is a system of met- aphysics and ethics in which Mysticism is a fundamen- tal element (ef. De Harlez, "Laotze, le premier phi- losophe chinois", in " Memoires couroiuieset autres de I'Acadcmie", Bru.s.sels, .lanuary, 1880). The same may be said of Indian ]>liilosopliy; the end of human reflection and cITort in liruhinanism and Vedantism is to deliver the soul from its tiaiisiiiigrations and absorb it into Brahma forever. There is little of Mysticism in the first schools of Greek i)liiloso|)liy, but it already takes a large place in the .sy.stem of I'lat.o, e. g., in his theory of t he world of itleas, (jf the origin of the world soul and the human soul, in his doctrine of recollection and intuition. The Alexamlrian Jew Philo (30 B. c.^ A. D. 50) combined these Platonic elements with the data of the Old Testament, and taught that every man, by freeing himself from matter and receiving illumination from God, may reach the mystical, ec- static, or prophetical state, where he is absorbed into the Divinity. The most systematic attempt at a philo- sophical .system of a mystical character was that of the Neoplatonic School of Alexandria, especially of Plo- tinus (a. d. 20.5-70) in his "Enneads". His system is a syncretism of the previous philosophies on the basis of Mysticism — an emanative and pantheistic Monism. Above all being, there is the One absolutely indeter- mined, the absolutely Good. From it come forth through successive emanations intelligence (toOs) with its ideas, the world-soul with its plastic forces (SSyoi arepucLTiKol), matter inactive and the principle of im- perfection. The human soul had its existence in the world-soul until it was united with matter. The end of human life ami of philosophy is to realize the mysti- cal return of the soul to God. Freeing itself from the sensuous world by purification ((tdeapo-is), the human soul asceiKls by successive steps through the various degrees of the metaphysical order, until it unites itself in a confused and unconscious contemplation to the One, and sinks into it: it is the state of ecstasis.

With Christainity, the history of Mysticism enters into a new jjeriod. The Fathers recognized indeed the partial truth of the pagan system, but they pointed out also its fundamental errors. They made a distinction between reason and faith, philosophy and theology; they acknowledged the aspirations of the soul, but, at the same time, they emphasized its essential inability to penetrate the mysteries of Divine life. They taught that the vision of God is the work of grace and the reward of eternal Ufe; in the present life only a few souls, by a special grace, can reach it. On these principles, the Christian school of Alexandria opposed the true gnosis based on grace and faith to the Gnostic heresies. St. Augustine teaches indeed that we know the essences of things in raiionibus wlernis, but this knowledge has its starting point in the data of sense (cf. Quastiones, LXXXIH, c. xlvi). Pseudo- Dionysius, in his various works, gave a systematic treatment of Christian Mysticism, carefully distin- guishing between rational and mystical knowledge. By the former, he says, we know God, not in His na- ture, but through the wonderful order of the universe, which is a participation of the Divine ideas ("De Di- vinis Nomin.", c, vii, §§ 2-3, in P. G., IH, 867 sq.). There is, however, he adds, a more perfect knowledge of God possible in this life, beyond the attainments of


reason even enlightened by faith, through which the soul contemplates directly the mysteries of Divine light. The coMtemplation in the present life is possi- ble only to a lew privileged souls, through a very spe- cial grace of (iod: it is the C^uktis, ^uo-tikJ; ivuais.

The works of Pseudo-Dionysius exercised a great in- fluence on the following ages. John Scotus Eriugena (ninth century), in his "De Divisione Natunc", took them as his guide, but he neglected the distinction of his master, identifying philo.sophy and theology, God and creatures, and, instead of developing the doctrine of Dionysius, reproduced the pantheistic theories of Plotinus (see Eriugena, John Scotus). In the twelfth century, orthodox Mysticism was presented under a systematic form by the Victorines, Hugh, Walter, and Richard (cf. Mignon, " Les Origines de la Scolastique et Hugucs de St. Victor", Paris, 1895), and there was also a restatement of Eriugena's princi- ples with Amaury de Bene, Joachim de Floris, and David of Dinant. A legitimate element of Mysticism, more or less emphasized, is found in the works of the Schoolmen of the thirteenth century. In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries there was, as a protest against a sterile dialecticism, a revival of mystical systems, some orthodox — J. Ruysbroek, Gerson, Peter d'Ailly, Denys the Carthusian — and others heterodox — John of Ghent, John of Mirecourt, the Beguines and Beghards, and various brotherhoods influenced by Averroism, and especially Meister Eckhart (1260-1327), who in his "Opus Tripartitum" teaches a deification of man and an assimilation of the creature into the Creator through contemplation (cf. Denifle in "Archiv fiir Literatur und Kirchengeschichte des Mittelalters", 1886), the "Theologia Germanica", and, to a certain extent, Nicholas of Cusa (1401-64) with his theory of the coincidenlia opposilorum. Protestantism, by its negation of all ecclesiastical authority and by advo- cating a direct union of the soul with God, had its logical outcome in a Mysticism mostly pantheistic.

Protestant Mysticism is represented by Sebastian Frank (1499-1.542), by Valentine Weiler (1533-88), and especially by J. Bohme (1575-1624), who, in his "Aurora", conceived the nature of God as containing in itself the energies of good and evil, and identified the Divine nature with the human sold whose operation is to kindle, according to its free will, the fire of good or the fire of evil (cf. Deussen, "J. Biihme ueber sein Leben und seine Philosophic", Kiel, 1897). Reuchlin (1455-1522)developed asystcm of cabahstic Mysticism in his "De arte cabahstica" and his "De verbo miri- fico ". We may also assign to the influence of Mysticism the ontological systems of Malebranche and of the Ontologists of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The romantic Mysticism of Kichte (1762-1814), No- valis (1772-1801), and Sclielling (1775-1854) was a re- action against the Rationalism of the eighteenth century. A pseudo-Mysticism is also the logical out- come of the Fideism and evolutionistic Subjectivism of modern Protestants, inaugurated by Lessing (1728- 81), developed by Schleiermacher (1768-1834), A. Ritschl (1822-89; cf. Goyau, "L'Allemagne Rcligi- euse, Le Protestantisme", 6th ed., Paris, 1906), Saba- tier, etc., and accepted by the Modernists in their theories of vital immanence and religious experience (cf. EncycUcal "Pascendi"). (See Modernism.)

Cmticism. — A tendency so universal and so per- sistent as that of Mysticism, which appears among all peoples and influences philosopliical thought more or less throughout all centuries, must have some real foundation in human nature. There is indeed in the human soul a natural desire for, an aspiration towards the highest truth, the absolute truth, and the highest, the infinite good. We know by experience and reason that the knowledge and enjoyment of created things cannot give the fulness of truth and the perfection of beatitude which will completely satisfy our desires and aspirations. There is in our soul a capacity for