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LECTURE VII

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

ARISTOTLE, de Partibus Animalium, i. 5.

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

MILTON.

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

LOWELL.

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

GOETHE.

NATURE-MYSTICISM AND SYMBOLISM

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

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

"The true Mysticism," it has been lately said with much truth, "is the belief that everything, in being what it is, is symbolic of something more.316316In R.L. Nettleship's Remains." All Nature (and there are few more pernicious errors than that which separates man from Nature) is the language in which God expresses His thoughts; but the thoughts are far more than the language.317317In addition to passages quoted elsewhere, the following sentence from Luthardt is a good statement of the symbolic theory: "Nature is a world of symbolism, a rich hieroglyphic book: everything visible conceals an invisible mystery, and the last mystery of all is God." Goethe's "Alles vergängliche ist nur ein Gleichniss" would be better without the "nur," from our point of view. Thus it is that the invisible things of God from the creation of the world may be clearly seen and understood from the things that are made; while at the same time it is equally true that here we see through a glass darkly, and know only in part. Nature half conceals and half reveals the Deity; and it is in this sense that it may be called a symbol of Him.

The word "symbol," like several other words which the student of Mysticism has to use, has an ill-defined connotation, which produces confusion and contradictory statements. For instance, a French writer gives as his definition of Mysticism "the tendency to approach the Absolute, morally, by means of symbols.318318Récéjac, Essai sur les Fondements de la Connaissance Mystique." On the other hand, an English essayist denies that Mysticism is symbolic.319319In the Edinburgh Review, October 1896. The article referred to, on "The Catholic Mystics of the Middle Ages," is beautifully written, and should be read by all who are interested in the subject. Mysticism, he says, differs from symbolism in that, while symbolism treats the connexion between symbol and substance as something accidental or subjective, Mysticism is based on a positive belief in the existence of life within life, of deep correspondences and affinities, not less real than those to which the common superficial consciousness of mankind bears witness. I agree with this statement about the basis of Mysticism, but I prefer to use the word symbol of that which has a real, and not merely a conventional affinity to the thing symbolised.320320This is Kant's use of the word. See Bosanquet, History of Æsthetic, p. 273: "A symbol is for Kant a perception or presentation which represents a conception neither conventionally as a mere sign, nor directly, but in the abstract, as a scheme, but indirectly though appropriately through a similarity between the rules which govern our reflection in the symbol and in the thing (or idea) symbolised." "In this sense beauty is a symbol of the moral order." Goethe's definition is also valuable: "That is true symbolism where the more particular represents the more general, not as a dream or shade, but as a vivid, instantaneous revelation of the inscrutable." The line is by no means easy to draw. An aureole is not, properly speaking, a symbol of saintliness,321321Or rather of power and dignity; for in some early Byzantine works even Satan is represented with a nimbus. nor a crown of royal authority, because in these instances the connexion of sign with significance is conventional. A circle is perhaps not a symbol of eternity, because the comparison appeals only to the intellect. But falling leaves are a symbol of human mortality, a flowing river of the "stream" of life, and a vine and its branches of the unity of Christ and the Church, because they are examples of the same law which operates through all that God has made. And when the Anglian noble, in a well-known passage of Bede, compares the life of man to the flight of a bird which darts quickly through a lighted hall out of darkness, and into darkness again, he has found a symbol which is none the less valid, because light and darkness are themselves only symbolically connected with life and death. The writer who denies that Mysticism is symbolic, means that the discovery of arbitrary and fanciful resemblances or types is no part of healthy Mysticism.322322Emerson says rightly, "Mysticism (in a bad sense) consists in the mistake of an accidental and individual symbol for an universal one." In this he is quite right; and the importance of the distinction which he wishes to emphasise will, I hope, become clear as we proceed. It is not possible always to say dogmatically, "This is genuine Symbolism, and that is morbid or fantastic"; but we do assert that there is a true and a false Symbolism, of which the true is not merely a legitimate, but a necessary mode of intuition; while the latter is at best a frivolous amusement, and at worst a degrading superstition.323323The distinction which Ruskin draws between the fancy and the imagination may help us to discern the true and the false in Symbolism. "Fancy has to do with the outsides of things, and is content therewith. She can never feel, but is one of the most purely and simply intellectual of the faculties. She cannot be made serious; no edge-tool, but she will play with: whereas the imagination is in all things the reverse. She cannot but be serious; she sees too far, too darkly, too solemnly, too earnestly, ever to smile…. There is reciprocal action between the intensity of moral feeling and the power of imagination. Hence the powers of the imagination may always be tested by accompanying tenderness of emotion…. Imagination is quiet, fancy restless; fancy details, imagination suggests…. All egotism is destructive of imagination, whose play and power depend altogether on our being able to forget ourselves…. Imagination has no respect for sayings or opinions: it is independent" (Modern Painters, vol. ii. chap. iii.).

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

The two great sacraments are typical symbols, if we use the word in the sense which I give to it, as something which, in being what it is, is a sign and vehicle of something higher and better. This is what the early Church meant when it called the sacraments symbols.324324Cf. Harnack, History of Dogma, vol. ii. p. 144: "What we nowadays understand by 'symbols' is a thing which is not that which it represents; at that time (in the second century) 'symbol' denoted a thing which, in some kind of way, is that which it signifies; but, on the other hand, according to the ideas of that period, the really heavenly element lay either in or behind the visible form without being identical with it. Accordingly, the distinction of a symbolic and realistic conception of the Lord's Supper is altogether to be rejected." And vol. iv. p. 289: "The 'symbol' was never a mere type or sign, but always embodied a mystery." So Justin Martyr uses [Greek: symbolikôs eipein] and [Greek: eipein en mystêriô] as interchangeable terms; and Tertullian says that the name of Joshua was nominis futuri sacramentum. A "symbol" at that period implied a mystery, and a "mystery" implied a revelation. The need of sacraments is one of the deepest convictions of the religious consciousness. It rests ultimately on the instinctive reluctance to allow any spiritual fact to remain without an external expression. It is obvious that all morality depends on the application of this principle to conduct. All voluntary external acts are symbolic of (that is, vitally connected with) internal states, and cannot be divested of this their essential character. It may be impossible to show how an act of the material body can purify or defile the immaterial spirit; but the correspondence between the outward and inward life cannot be denied without divesting morality of all meaning. The maxim of Plotinus, that "the mind can do no wrong," when transferred from his transcendental philosophy to matters of conduct, is a sophism no more respectable than that which Euripides puts into the mouth of one of his characters: "The tongue hath sworn; the heart remains unsworn." Every act of the will is the expression of a state of the soul; and every state of the soul must seek to find expression in an act of the will. Love, as we should all admit, is not love, so long as it is content to be only in thought, or "in word and in tongue"; it is only when it is love "in deed" that it is love "in truth.325325So some thinkers have felt that "the Word" is not the best expression for the creative activity of God. The passage of Goethe where Faust rejects "Word," "Thought," and "Power," and finally translates, "In the beginning was the Act," is well known. And Philo, in a very interesting passage, says that Nature is the language in which God speaks; "but there is this difference, that while the human voice is made to be heard, the voice of God is made to be seen: what God says consists of acts, not of words" (De Decem Orac. II)." And it is the same with all other virtues, which are in this sense symbolic, as implying something beyond the external act. Nearly all the states or motions of the soul can find their appropriate expression in action. Charity in its manifold forms need not seek long for an object; and thankfulness and penitence, though they drive us first to silent prayer, are not satisfied till they have borne fruit in some act of gratitude or humility. But that deepest sense of communion with God, which is the very heart of religion, is in danger of being shut up in thought and word, which are inadequate expressions of any spiritual state. No doubt this highest state of the soul may find indirect expression in good works; but these fail to express the immediacy of the communion which the soul has felt. The want of symbols to express these highest states of the soul is supplied by sacraments. A sacrament is a symbolic act, not arbitrarily chosen, but resting, to the mind of the recipient, on Divine authority, which has no ulterior object except to give expression to, and in so doing to effectuate,326326Aquinas says of the sacraments, "efficiunt quod figurant." The Thomists held that the sacraments are "causæ" of grace; the Scotists (Nominalists), that grace is their inseparable concomitant. The maintenance of a real correspondence between sign and significance seems to be essential to the idea of a sacrament, but then the danger of degrading it into magic lies close at hand. a relation which is too purely spiritual to find utterance in the customary activities of life. There are three requisites (on the human side) for the validity of a sacramental act. The symbol must be appropriate; the thing symbolised must be a spiritual truth; and there must be the intention to perform the act as a sacrament.

The sacraments of Baptism and the Lord's Supper fulfil these conditions. Both are symbols of the mystical union between the Christian and his ascended Lord. Baptism symbolises that union in its inception, the Eucharist in its organic life. Baptism is received but once, because the death unto sin and the new birth unto righteousness is a definite entrance into the spiritual life, rather than a gradual process. The fact that in Christian countries Baptism in most cases precedes conversion does not alter the character of the sacrament; indeed, infant Baptism is by far the most appropriate symbol of our adoption into the Divine Sonship, to which we only consent after the event. It is only because we are already sons that we can say, "I will arise, and go unto my Father." The Holy Communion is the symbol of the maintenance of the mystical union, and of the "strengthening and refreshing of our souls," which we derive from the indwelling presence of our Lord. The Church claims an absolute prerogative for its duly ordained ministers in the case of this sacrament, because the common meal is the symbol of the organic unity of Christ and the Church as "unus Christus," a doctrine which the schismatic, as such, denies.327327In the case of irregular Baptism, the maxim holds: "Fieri non debuit; factum valet." Cf. Bp. Churton, The Missionary's Foundation of Doctrine, p. 129. The reason for this difference between the two sacraments is quite clear. The communicant who believes only in an individual relation between Christ and separate persons, or in an "invisible Church," does not understand the meaning of the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, and can hardly be said to participate in it.

There are two views of this sacrament which the "plain man" has always found much easier to understand than the symbolic view which is that of our Church. One is that it is a miracle or magical performance, the other is that it is a mere commemoration. Both are absolutely destructive of the idea of a sacrament. The latter view, that of some Protestant sects, was quite foreign to the early Church, so far as our evidence goes; the former, it is only just to say, is found in many of the Fathers, not in the grossly materialistic form which it afterwards assumed, but in such phrases as "the medicine of immortality" applied to the consecrated elements, where we are meant to understand that the elements have a mysterious power of preserving the receiver from the natural consequences of death.328328It is, of course, difficult to decide how far such statements were meant to be taken literally. But there is no doubt that both Baptism and the Eucharist were supposed to confer immortality. Cf. Tert. de Bapt. 2 (621, Oehl.), "nonne mirandum est lavacro dilui mortem?"; Gregory of Nyssa, Or. cat. magn. 35, [Greek: mê dynasthai de phêmi dicha tês kata to loutron anagennêseôs en anastasei genesthai ton anthrôpon]. Basil, too, calls Baptism [Greek: dynamis eis tên anastasin]. Of the Eucharist, Ignatius uses the phrase quoted, [Greek: pharmakon tês athanasias], and [Greek: antidotos tou mê apothanein]; and Gregory of Nyssa uses the same language as about Baptism. See, further, in Appendices B and C. But when we find that the same writers who use compromising phrases about the change that comes over the elements,329329E.g. [Greek: metallaxis] (Theodoret), [Greek: metabolê] (Cyril), [Greek: metapoiêsis] (Gregory Naz.), [Greek: metastoicheiôsis] (Theophylact). The last-named goes on to say that "we are in the same way transelementated into Christ." The Christian Neoplatonists naturally regard the sacrament as symbolic. Origen is inclined to hold that every action should be sacramental, and that material symbols, such as bread and wine, and participation in a ceremonial, cannot be necessary vehicles of spiritual grace; this is in accordance with the excessive idealism and intellectualism of his system. Dionysius calls the elements [Greek: symbola, eikones, antitypa, aisthêta tina anti noêtôn metalambanomena]; and Maximus, his commentator, defines a symbol as [Greek: aisthêton ti anti noêtou metalambanomenon]. also use the language of symbolism, and remember, too, that a "miracle" was a very different thing to those who knew of no inflexible laws in the natural world from what it is to us, we shall not be ready to agree with those who have accused the third and fourth century Fathers of degrading the Lord's Supper into a magical ceremony.

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

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

I do not shrink from expressing my conviction that the true meaning of our sacramental system, which in its external forms is so strangely anticipated by the Greek mysteries, and in its inward significance strikes down to the fundamental principles of mystical Christianity, can only be understood by those who are in some sympathy with Mysticism. But it has not been possible to say much about the sacraments sooner than this late stage of our inquiry. We have hitherto been dealing with the subjective or introspective type of Mysticism, and it is plain that this form, when carried to its logical conclusion, is inconsistent with sacramental religion. Those who seek to ascend to God by the way of abstraction, the negative road, must regard all symbols as veils between our eyes and reality, and must wish to get rid of them as soon as possible. From this point of view, sacraments, like other ceremonial forms, can only be useful at a very early stage in the upward path, which leads us ultimately into a Divine darkness, where no forms can be distinguished. It is true that some devout mystics of this type have both observed and exacted a punctilious strictness in using all the appointed means of grace; but this inconsistency is easily accounted for.330330Harnack (History of Dogma, vol. vi. p. 102, English edition) says: "In the centuries before the Reformation, a growing value was attached not only to the sacraments, but to crosses, amulets, relics, holy places, etc. As long as what the soul seeks is not the rock of assurance, but means for inciting to piety, it will create for itself a thousand holy things. It is therefore an extremely superficial view that regards the most inward Mysticism and the service of idols as contradictory. The opposite view, rather, is correct." I have seldom found myself able to agree with this writer's judgments upon Mysticism; and this one is no exception. The "most inward Mysticism" does not occupy itself much with external "incitements to piety," nor is this the motive with which a mystic could ever (e.g.) receive the Eucharist. The use of amulets, etc., which Harnack finds to have been spreading before the Reformation, and which was certainly very prevalent in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, had very little to do with "the most inward Mysticism." My view as to the place of magic in the history of Mysticism is given in this Lecture; I protest against identifying it with the essence of Mysticism. Symbolic Mysticism soon outgrew it; introspective Mysticism never valued it. The use of visible things as stimulants to piety is another matter; it has its place in the systems of the Catholic mystics, but as a very early stage in the spiritual ascent. What I have said as to the inconsistency of a high sacramental doctrine with the favourite injunctions to "cast away all images," which we find in the mediæval mystics, is, I think, indisputable. The pressure of authority, loyalty to the established order, and human nature, which is stronger than either, has prevented them from casting away the time-honoured symbols and vehicles of Divine love. But a true appreciation of sacraments belongs only to those who can sympathise with the other branch of Mysticism—that which rests on belief in symbolism. To this branch of my subject I now invite your attention. If we expect to find ourselves at once in a larger air when we have taken leave of the monkish mystics, we shall be disappointed. The objective or symbolical type of Mysticism is liable to quite as many perversions as the subjective. If in the latter we found a tendency to revert to the apathy of the Indian Yogi, we shall observe in the former too many survivals of still more barbarous creeds. Indeed, I feel that it is almost necessary, as an introduction to this part of my subject, to consider very briefly the stages through which the religious consciousness of mankind has passed in its attempts to realise Divine immanence in Nature, for this is, of course, the foundation of all religious symbolism.

The earliest belief seems to be that which has been called Animism, the belief that all natural forces are conscious living beings like ourselves. This is the primitive form of natural religion; and though it leads to some deplorable customs, it is not a morbid type, but a very early effort on the lines of true development331331The most recent developments of German idealistic philosophy, as set forth in the cosmology of Lotze, and still more of Fechner, may perhaps be described as an attempt to preserve the truth of Animism on a much higher plane, without repudiating the universality of law..

The perverted form of primitive Animism is called Fetishism, which is the belief that supernatural powers reside in some visible object, which is the home or most treasured possession of a god or demon. The object may be a building, a tree, an animal, a particular kind of food, or indeed anything. Unfortunately this belief is not peculiar to savages. A degraded form of it is exhibited by the so-called neo-mystical school of modern France, and in the baser types of Roman Catholicism everywhere332332I refer especially to Huysmans' two "mystical" novels, En Route and La Cathédrale. The naked Fetishism of the latter book almost passes belief. We have a Madonna who is good-natured at Lourdes and cross-grained at La Salette; who likes "pretty speeches and little coaxing ways" in "paying court" to her, and who at the end is apostrophised as "our Lady of the Pillar," "our Lady of the Crypt." It may perhaps be excusable to resort to such expedients as these in the conversion of savages; but there is something singularly repulsive in the picture (drawn apparently from life) of a profligate man of letters seeking salvation in a Christianity which has lowered itself far beneath educated paganism. At any rate, let not the name of Mysticism be given to such methods..

Primitive Animism believes in no natural laws. The next stage is to believe in laws which are frequently suspended by the intervention of an independent and superior power. Mediæval dualism regarded every breach of natural law as a vindication of the power of spirit over matter—not always, however, of Divine power, for evil spirits could produce very similar disturbances of the physical order. Thus arose that persistent tendency to "seek after a sign," in which the religion of the vulgar, even in our own day, is deeply involved. Miracle, in some form or other, is regarded as the real basis of belief in God. At this stage people never ask themselves whether any spiritual truth, or indeed anything worth knowing, could possibly be communicated or authenticated by thaumaturgic exhibitions. What attracts them at first is the evidence which these beliefs furnish, that the world in which they live is not entirely under the dominion of an unconscious or inflexible power, but that behind the iron mechanism of cause and effect is a will more like their own in its irregularity and arbitrariness. Afterwards, as the majesty of law dawns upon them, miracles are no longer regarded as capricious exercises of power, but as the operation of higher physical laws, which are only active on rare occasions. A truer view sees in them a materialisation of mystical symbols, the proper function of which is to act as interpreters between the real and the apparent, between the spiritual and material worlds. When they crystallise as portents, they lose all their usefulness. Moreover, the belief in celestial visitations has its dark counterpart in superstitious dread of the powers of evil, which is capable of turning life into a long nightmare, and has led to dreadful cruelties333333I refer especially to the horrors connected with the belief in witchcraft, on which see Lecky, Rationalism in Europe, vol. i. "Remy, a judge of Nancy, boasted that he had put to death eight hundred witches in sixteen years." "In the bishopric of Wartzburg, nine hundred were burnt in one year." As late as 1850, some French peasants burnt alive a woman named Bedouret, whom they supposed to be a witch.. The error has still enough vitality to create a prejudice against natural science, which appears in the light of an invading enemy wresting province after province from the empire of the supernatural.

But we are concerned with thaumaturgy only so far as it has affected Mysticism. At first sight the connexion may seem very slight; and slight indeed it is. But just as Mysticism of the subjective type is often entangled in theories which sublimate matter till only a vain shadow remains, so objective Mysticism has been often pervaded by another kind of false spiritualism—that which finds edification in palpable supernatural manifestations. These so-called "mystical phenomena" are so much identified with "Mysticism" in the Roman Catholic Church of to-day, that the standard treatises on the subject, now studied in continental universities, largely consist of grotesque legends of "levitation," "bilocation," "incandescence," "radiation," and other miraculous tokens of Divine favour334334The degradation of Mysticism in the Roman Church since the Reformation may be estimated by comparing the definitions of Mysticism and Mystical Theology current in the Middle Ages with the following from Ribet, who is recognised as a standard authority on the subject: "La Theologie mystique, au point de vue subjectif et experimental, nous semble pouvoir être définie; une attraction surnaturelle et passive de l'âme vers Dieu, provenant d'une illumination et d'un embrasement intérieurs, qui préviennent la réflexion, surpassent l'effort humain, et peuvent avoir sur le corps un retentissement merveilleux et irresistible." "Au point de vue doctrinal et objectif, la mystique peut se définir: la science qui traite des phénomènes surnaturels, soit intimes, soit extérieurs, qui preparent, accompagnent, et suivent la contemplation divine." The time is past, if it ever existed, when such superstitions could be believed without grave injury to mental and moral health.. The great work of Görres, in five volumes, is divided into Divine, Natural, and Diabolical Mysticism. The first contains stories of the miraculous enhancement of sight, hearing, smell, and so forth, which results from extreme holiness; and tells us how one saint had the power of becoming invisible, another of walking through closed doors, and a third of flying through the air. "Natural Mysticism" deals with divination, lycanthropy, vampires, second sight, and other barbarous superstitions. "Diabolical Mysticism" includes witchcraft, diabolical possession, and the hideous stories of incubi and succubæ. It is not my intention to say any more about these savage survivals, as I do not wish to bring my subject into undeserved contempt335335This language about the teaching of the Roman Church may be considered unseemly by those who have not studied the subject. Those who have done so will think it hardly strong enough. In self-defence, I will quote one sentence from Schram, whose work on "Mysticism" is considered authoritative, and is studied in the great Catholic university of Louvain: "Quæri potest utrum dæmon per turpem concubitum possit violenter opprimere marem vel feminam cuius obsessio permissa sit ob finem perfectionis et contemplationis acquirendæ." The answer is in the affirmative, and the evidence is such as could hardly be transcribed, even in Latin. Schram's book is mainly intended for the direction of confessing priests, and the evidence shows, as might have been expected, that the subjects of these "phenomena" are generally poor nuns suffering from hysteria.. "These terrors, and this darkness of the mind," as Lucretius says, "must be dispelled, not by the bright shafts of the sun's light, but by the study of Nature's laws336336At a time when many are hoping to find in the study of the obscurer psychical phenomena a breach in the "middle wall of partition" between the spiritual and material worlds, I may seem to have brushed aside too contemptuously the floating mass of popular beliefs which "spiritualists" think worthy of serious investigation. I must therefore be allowed to say that in my opinion psychical research has already established results of great value, especially in helping to break down that view of the imperviousness of the ego which is fatal to Mysticism, and (I venture to think) to any consistent philosophy. Monadism, we may hope, is doomed. But the more popular kind of spiritualism is simply the old hankering after supernatural manifestations, which are always dear to semi-regenerate minds.."

Some of these fables are quite obviously due to a materialisation of conventional symbols. These symbols are the picture language into which the imagination translates what the soul has felt. A typical case is that of the miniature image of Christ, which is said to have been found embedded in the heart of a deceased saint. The supposed miracle was, of course, the work of imagination; but this does not mean that those who reported it were deliberate liars. We know now that we must distinguish between observation and imagination, between the language of science and that of poetical metaphor; but in an age which abhorred rationalism this was not so clear337337It is, I think, significant that the word "imagination" was slow in making its way into psychology. [Greek: Phantasia] is defined by Aristotle (de Anima, iii. 3) as [Greek: kinêsis hypo tês aisthêseôs tês kat energeian gignomenê], but it is not till Philostratus that the creative imagination is opposed to [Greek: mimêsis]. Cf. Vit. Apoll. vi. 19, [Greek: mimêsis men dêmiourgêsei ho eiden, phantasia de kai ho mê eiden].. Rationalism has its function in proving that such mystical symbols are not physical facts. But when it goes on to say that they are related to physical facts as morbid hallucinations to realities, it has stepped outside its province.

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

The turbid streams of theurgy and magic flowed into the broad river of Christian thought by two channels—the later Neoplatonism, and Jewish Cabbalism. Of the former something has been said already. The root-idea of the system was that all life may be arranged in a descending scale of potencies, forming a kind of chain from heaven to earth. Man, as a microcosm, is in contact with every link in the chain, and can establish relations with all spiritual powers, from the superessential One to the lower spirits or "dæmons." The philosopher-saint, who had explored the highest regions of the intelligence, might hope to dominate the spirits of the air, and compel them to do his bidding. Thus the door was thrown wide open for every kind of superstition. The Cabbalists followed much the same path. The word Cabbala means "oral tradition," and is defined by Reuchlin as "the symbolic reception of a Divine revelation handed down for the saving contemplation of God and separate forms.338338Reuchlin, De arte cabbalistica: "Est enim Cabbala divinæ revelationis ad salutiferam Dei et formarum separatarum contemplationem traditæ symbolica receptio, quam qui coelesti sortiumtur afflatu recto nomine Cabbalici dicuntur, eorum vero discipulos cognomento Cabbalæos appellabimus, et qui alioquin eos imitari conantur, Cabbalistæ nominandi sunt."" In another place he says, "The Cabbala is nothing else than symbolic theology, in which not only are letters and words symbols of things, but things are symbols of other things." This method of symbolic interpretation was held to have been originally communicated by revelation,339339The mystical Rabbis ascribe the Cabbala to the angel Razael, the reputed teacher of Adam in Paradise, and say that this angel gave Adam the Cabbala as his lesson-book. There is a clear and succinct account of the main Cabbalistic docrines in Hunt, Pantheism and Christianity, pp. 84-88. in order that persons of holy life might by it attain to a mystical communion with God, or deification. The Cabbalists thus held much the same relation to the Talmudists as the mystics to the scholastics in the twelfth century. But, as Jews, they remained faithful to the two doctrines of an inspired tradition and an inspired book, which distinguish them from Platonic mystics.340340But the notion that the deepest mysteries should not be entrusted to writing is found in Clement and Origen; cf. Origen, Against Celsus, vi. 26: [Greek: ouk akindynon tên tôn toioutôn saphêneian pisteusai graphê]. And Clement says: [Greek: ta aporrêta, kathaper ho theos, logô pisteuetai ou grammati]. The curious legend of an oral tradition also appears in Clement (Hypolyp. Fragm. in Eusebius, H.E. ii. I. 4): [Greek: Iakôbô tô dikaiô kai Iôanê kai Petrô meta tên anastasin paredôke tên gnôsin ho kyrios, outoi tois loipois apostolois paredôkan, oi de loipoi apostoloi tois hebdomêkonta, ôn eis ên kai Barnabas.] Origen, too, speaks of "things spoken in private to the disciples."

Pico de Mirandola (born 1463) was the first to bring the Cabbala into Christian philosophy, and to unite it with his Neoplatonism. Very characteristic of his age is the declaration that "there is no natural science which makes us so certain of the Divinity of Christ as Magic and the Cabbala.341341The following extract from Pico's Apology may be interesting, as illustrating the close connexion between magic and science at this period: "One of the chief charges against me is that I am a magician. Have I not myself distinguished two kinds of magic? One, which the Greeks call [Greek: goêteia], depends entirely on alliance with evil spirits, and deserves to be regarded with horror, and to be punished; the other is magic in the proper sense of the word. The former subjects man to the evil spirits, the latter makes them serve him. The former is neither an art nor a science; the latter embraces the deepest mysteries, and the knowledge of the whole of Nature with her powers. While it connects and combines the forces scattered by God through the whole world, it does not so much work miracles as come to the help of working nature. Its researches into the sympathies of things enable it to bring to light hidden marvels from the secret treasure-houses of the world, just as if it created them itself. As the countryman trains the vine upon the elm, so the magician marries the earthly objects to heavenly bodies. His art is beneficial and Godlike, for it brings men to wonder at the works of God, than which nothing conduces more to true religion."" For there was at that period a curious alliance of Mysticism and natural science against scholasticism, which had kept both in galling chains; and both mystics and physicists invoked the aid of Jewish theosophy. Just as Pythagoras, Plato, and Proclus were set up against Aristotle, so the occult philosophy of the Jews, which on its speculative side was mere Neoplatonism, was set up against the divinity of the Schoolmen. In Germany, Reuchlin (1455-1522) wrote a treatise, On the Cabbalistic Art, in which a theological scheme resembling those of the Neoplatonists and speculative mystics was based on occult revelation. The book captivated Pope Leo X. and the early Reformers alike.

The influence of Cabbalism at this period was felt not only in the growth of magic, but in the revival of the science of allegorism, which resembles magic in its doctrine of occult sympathies, though without the theurgic element. According to this view of nature, everything in the visible world has an emblematic meaning. Everything that a man saw, heard, or did—colours, numbers, birds, beasts, and flowers, the various actions of life—was to remind him of something else.342342This was a very old theory. Cf. Lecky, Rationalism in Europe, vol. i. p. 264. "The Clavis of St. Melito, who was bishop of Sardis, it is said, in the beginning of the second century, consists of a catalogue of many hundreds of birds, beasts, plants, and minerals that were symbolical of Christian virtues, doctrines, and personages." The world was supposed to be full of sacred cryptograms, and every part of the natural order testified in hieroglyphics343343The analogy between allegorism in religion and the hieroglyphic writing is drawn out by Clement, Strom. v. 4 and 7. to the truths of Christianity. Thus the shamrock bears witness to the Trinity, the spider is an emblem of the devil, and so forth. This kind of symbolism was and is extensively used merely as a picture-language, in which there is no pretence that the signs are other than artificial or conventional. The language of signs may be used either to instruct those who cannot understand words, or to baffle those who can. Thus, a crucifix may be as good as a sermon to an illiterate peasant; while the sign of a fish was used by the early Christians because it was unintelligible to their enemies. This is not symbolism in the sense which I have given to the word in this Lecture.344344The distinction, however, would be unintelligible to the savage mind. To primitive man a name is a symbol in the strictest sense. Hence, "the knowledge, invocation, and vain repetition of a deity's name constitutes in itself an actual, if mystic, union with the deity named" (Jevons, Introduction to the History of Religion, p. 245). This was one of the chief reasons for making a secret of the cultus, and even of the name of a patron-deity. To reveal it was to admit strangers into the tutelage of the national god. But it is otherwise when the type is used as a proof of the antitype. This latter method had long been in use in biblical exegesis. Pious persons found a curious satisfaction in turning the most matter of fact statements into enigmatic prophecies. Every verse must have its "mystical" as well as its natural meaning, and the search for "types" was a recognised branch of apologetics. Allegorism became authoritative and dogmatic, which it has no right to be. It would be rash to say that this pseudo-science, which has proved so attractive to many minds, is entirely valueless. The very absurdity of the arguments used by its votaries should make us suspect that there is a dumb logic of a more respectable sort behind them. There is, underlying this love of types and emblems, a strong conviction that if "one eternal purpose runs" through the ages, it must be discernible in small things as well as in great. Everything in the world, if we could see things as they are, must be symbolic of the Divine Power which made it and maintains it in being. We cannot believe that anything in life is meaningless, or has no significance beyond the fleeting moment. Whatever method helps us to realise this is useful, and in a sense true. So far as this we may go with the allegorists, while at the same time we may be thankful that the cobwebs which they spun over the sacred texts have now been cleared away, so that we can at last read our Bible as its authors intended it to be read.345345   I do not find it possible to give a more honourable place than this to a system of biblical exegesis which has still a few defenders. It was first developed in Christian times by the Gnostics, and was eagerly adopted by Origen, who fearlessly applied it to the Gospels, teaching that "Christ's actions on earth were enigmas ([Greek: ainigmata]), to be interpreted by Gnosis." The method was often found useful in dealing with moral and scientific difficulties in the Old Testament; it enabled Dionysius to use very bold language about the literal meaning, as I showed in Lecture III. The Christian Platonists of Alexandria meant it to be an esoteric method: Clement calls it [Greek: symbolikôs philosophein]. It was held that [Greek: ta mystêria mystikôs paradidotai]; and even that Divine truths are honoured by enigmatic treatment ([Greek: hê krypsis hê mystikê semnopoiei to theion]). But the main use of allegorism was pietistic; and to this there can be no objection, unless the piety is morbid, as is the case in many commentaries on the Song of Solomon. Still, it can hardly be disputed that the countless books written to elaborate the principles of allegorism contain a mass of futility such as it would be difficult to match in any other class of literature. The best defence of the method is perhaps to be found in Keble's Tract (No. 89) on the "Mysticism" of the early Fathers. Keble's own poetry contains many beautiful examples of the true use of symbolism; but as an apologist of allegorism he does not distinguish between its use and abuse. Yet surely there is a vast difference between seeing in the "glorious sky embracing all" a type of "our Maker's love," and analysing the 153 fish caught in the Sea of Galilee into the square of the 12 Apostles + the square of the 3 Persons of the Trinity.
   The history of the doctrine of "signatures," which is the cryptogram theory applied to medicine, is very curious and interesting, "Citrons, according to Paracelsus, are good for heart affections, because they are heart-shaped; the saphena riparum is to be applied to fresh wounds, because its leaves are spotted as with flecks of blood. A species of dentaria, whose roots resemble teeth, is a cure for toothache and scurvy."—Vaughan, Hours with the Mystics, vol. ii. p. 77. It is said that some traces of this quaint superstition survive even in the modern materia medica. The alliance between medicine and Mysticism subsisted for a long time, and forms a curious chapter of history.

Theosophical and magical Mysticism culminated in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Just as the idealism of Plotinus lost itself in the theurgic system of Iamblichus, so the doctrine of Divine immanence preached by Eckhart and his school was followed by the Nature-Mysticism of Cornelius Agrippa346346Cornelius Agrippa of Nettesheim, a contemporary of Reuchlin, studied Cabbalism mainly as a magical science. He was nominally a Catholic, but attacked Rome and scholasticism quite in the spirit of Luther. His three chief works are, On the Threefold Way of Knowing God, On the Vanity of Arts and Sciences (a ferocious attack on most of the professions), and On Occult Philosophy (treating of natural, celestial, and religious magic). The "magician," he says, "must study three sciences—physics, mathematics, and theology." Agrippa's adventurous life ended in 1533. and Paracelsus.347347Theophrastus Paracelsus (Philippus Bombastus von Hohenheim) was born in 1493, and died in 1541. His writings are a curious mixture of theosophy and medical science: "medicine," he taught, "has four pillars—philosophy, astronomy (or rather astrology), alchemy, and religion." He lays great stress on the doctrine that man is a microcosm, and on the law of Divine manifestation by contraries—the latter is a new feature which was further developed by Böhme. The "negative road" had been discredited by Luther's invective, and Mysticism, instead of shutting her eyes to the world of phenomena, stretched forth her hands to conquer and annex it. The old theory of a World-Spirit, the pulsations of whose heart are felt in all the life of the universe, came once more into favour. Through all phenomena, it was believed, runs an intricate network of sympathies and antipathies, the threads of which, could they be disentangled, would furnish us with a clue through all the labyrinths of natural and supernatural science. The age was impatient to enter on the inheritance from which humanity had long been debarred; the methods of experimental science seemed tame and slow; and so we find, especially in Germany, an extraordinary outburst of Nature-Mysticism— astrology, white magic, alchemy, necromancy, and what not—such as Christianity had not witnessed before. These pseudo-sciences (with which was mingled much real progress in medicine, natural history, and kindred sciences) were divided under three provinces or "vincula"—those of the Spiritual World, which were mainly magical invocations, diagrams, and signs; those of the Celestial World, which were taught by astrology; and those of the Elemental World, which consisted in the sympathetic influence of material objects upon each other. These secrets (it was held) are all discoverable by man; for man is a microcosm, or epitome of the universe, and there is nothing in it with which he cannot claim an affinity. In knowing himself, he knows both God and all the other works that God has made.

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

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

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

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

Böhme professed to write only what he had "seen" by Divine illumination. His visions are not (with insignificant exceptions) authenticated by any marvellous signs; he simply asserts that he has been allowed to see into the heart of things, and that the very Being of God has been laid open to his spiritual sight.348348"I saw," he says, "the Being of all Beings, the Ground and the Abyss; also, the birth of the Holy Trinity; the origin and first state of the world and of all creatures. I saw in myself the three worlds—the Divine or angelic world; the dark world, the original of Nature; and the external world, as a substance spoken forth out of the two spiritual worlds…. In my inward man I saw it well, as in a great deep; for I saw right through as into a chaos where everything lay wrapped, but I could not unfold it. Yet from time to time it opened itself within me, like a growing plant. For twelve years I carried it about within me, before I could bring it forth in any external form; till afterwards it fell upon me, like a bursting shower that killeth wheresoever it lighteth, as it will. Whatever I could bring into outwardness, that I wrote down. The work is none of mine; I am but the Lord's instrument, wherewith He doeth what He will." His was that type of mind to which every thought becomes an image, and a logical process is like an animated photograph. "I am myself my own book," he says; and in writing, he tries to transcribe on paper the images which float before his mind's eye. If he fails, it is because he cannot find words to describe what he is seeing. Böhme was an unlearned man; but when he is content to describe his visions in homely German, he is lucid enough. Unfortunately, the scholars who soon gathered round him supplied him with philosophical terms, which he forthwith either personified—for instance the word "Idea" called forth the image of a beautiful maiden—or used in a sense of his own. The study of Paracelsus obscured his style still more, filling his treatises with a bewildering mixture of theosophy and chemistry. The result is certainly that much of his work is almost unreadable; the nuggets of gold have to be dug out from a bed of rugged stone; and we cannot be surprised that the unmystical eighteenth century declared that "Behmen's works would disgrace Bedlam at full moon.349349This is from Bp. Warburton. "Sublime nonsense, inimitable bombast, fustian not to be paralleled," is John Wesley's verdict." But German philosophers have spoken with reverence of "the father of Protestant Mysticism," who "perhaps only wanted learning and the gift of clear expression to become a German Plato"; and Sir Isaac Newton shut himself up for three months to study Böhme, whose teaching on attraction and the laws of motion seemed to him to have great value.350350See Overton, Life of William Law, p. 188.

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

Böhme's doctrine of God and the world resembles that of other speculative mystics, but he contributes a new element in the great stress which he lays on antithesis as a law of being. "In Yes and No all things consist," he says. No philosopher since Heraclitus and Empedocles had asserted so strongly that "Strife is the father of all things." Even in the hidden life of the unmanifested Godhead he finds the play of Attraction and Diffusion, the resultant of which is a Desire for manifestation felt in the Godhead. As feeling this desire, the Godhead becomes "Darkness"; the light which illumines the darkness is the Son. The resultant is the Holy Spirit, in whom arise the archetypes of creation. So he explains Body, Soul, and Spirit as thesis, antithesis, and synthesis; and the same formula serves to explain Good, Evil, and Free Will; Angels, Devils, and the World. His view of Evil is not very consistent; but his final doctrine is that the object of the cosmic process is to exhibit the victory of Good over Evil, of Love over Hatred.351351I have omitted Böhme's gnostical theories as to the seven Quellgeister as belonging rather to theosophy than to Mysticism. The resemblance to Basilides is here rather striking, but it must be a pure coincidence. He at least has the merit of showing that strife is so inwoven with our lives here that we cannot possibly soar above the conflict between Good and Evil. It must be observed that Böhme repudiated the doctrine that there is any evolution of God in time. "I say not that Nature is God," he says: "He Himself is all, and communicates His power to all His works." But the creation of the archetypes was not a temporal act.

Like other Protestant mystics, he lays great stress on the indwelling presence of Christ. And, consistently with this belief, he revolts against the Calvinistic doctrine of imputed righteousness, very much as did the Cambridge Platonists a little later. "That man is no Christian," he says, "who doth merely comfort himself with the suffering, death, and satisfaction of Christ, and doth impute it to himself as a gift of favour, remaining himself still a wild beast and unregenerate…. If this said sacrifice is to avail for me, it must be wrought in me. The Father must beget His Son in my desire of faith, that my faith's hunger may apprehend Him in His word of promise. Then I put Him on, in His entire process of justification, in my inward ground; and straightway there begins in me the killing of the wrath of the devil, death, and hell, from the inward power of Christ's death. I am inwardly dead, and He is my life; I live in Him, and not in my selfhood. I am an instrument of God, wherewith He doeth what He will." To the same effect William Law says, "Christ given for us is neither more nor less than Christ given into us. He is in no other sense our full, perfect, and sufficient Atonement, than as His nature and spirit are born and formed in us." Law also insists that the Atonement was the effect, not of the wrath, but of the love of God. "Neither reason nor scripture," he says, "will allow us to bring wrath into God Himself, as a temper of His mind, who is only infinite, unalterable, overflowing Love." "Wrath is atoned when sin is extinguished." This revolt against the forensic theory of the Atonement is very characteristic of Protestant Mysticism.352352And of English Mysticism before the Reformation; cf. p. 208.

The disparagement of external rites and ordinances, which we have found in so many mystics, appears in William Law, though he was himself precise in observing all the rules of the English Church. "This pearl of eternity is the Church, a temple of God within thee, the consecrated place of Divine worship, where alone thou canst worship God in spirit and in truth. In spirit, because thy spirit is that alone in thee which can unite and cleave unto God, and receive the working of the Divine Spirit upon thee. In truth, because this adoration in spirit is that truth and reality of which all outward forms and rites, though instituted by God, are only the figure for a time; but this worship is eternal. Accustom thyself to the holy service of this inward temple. In the midst of it is the fountain of living water, of which thou mayst drink and live for ever. There the mysteries of thy redemption are celebrated, or rather opened in life and power. There the supper of the Lamb is kept; the bread that came down from heaven, that giveth life to the world, is thy true nourishment: all is done, and known in real experience, in a living sensibility of the work of God on the soul. There the birth, the life, the sufferings, the death, the resurrection and ascension of Christ, are not merely remembered, but inwardly found and enjoyed as the real states of thy soul, which has followed Christ in the regeneration. When once thou art well grounded in this inward worship, thou wilt have learnt to live unto God above time and place. For every day will be Sunday to thee, and wherever thou goest thou wilt have a priest, a church, and an altar along with thee.353353From the Spirit of Prayer. The sect of Behmenists in Germany, unlike Law, attended no church, and took no part in the Lord's Supper.—Overton, Life of William Law, p. 214."

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

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

Very characteristic of the later Mysticism is the language which both Böhme and Law use about the future state. "The soul, when it departs from the body," Böhme writes, "needeth not to go far; for where the body dies, there is heaven and hell. God is there, and the devil; yea, each in his own kingdom. There also is Paradise; and the soul needeth only to enter through the deep door in the centre." Law is very emphatic in asserting that heaven and hell are states, not places, and that they are "no foreign, separate, and imposed states, adjudged to us by the will of God." "Damnation," he says, "is the natural, essential state of our own disordered nature, which is impossible, in the nature of the thing, to be anything else but our own hell, both here and hereafter." "There is nothing that is supernatural," he says very finely, "in the whole system of our redemption. Every part of it has its ground in the workings and powers of nature, and all our redemption is only nature set right, or made to be that which it ought to be.354354   This stimulating doctrine, that the soul, when freed from impediments, ascends naturally and inevitably to its "own place," is put into the mouth of Beatrice by Dante (Paradiso, i. 136)—
     "Non dei più ammirar, se bene stimo,
   Lo tuo salir, se non come d'un rivo
   Se d'alto monte scende giuso ad imo.
   Maraviglia sarebbe in te, se privo
   D'impedimento giu ti fossi assiso,
   Com' a terra quieto fuoco vivo.
   Quinci rivolce inver lo cielo il viso."
There is nothing that is supernatural but God alone…. Right and wrong, good and evil, true and false, happiness and misery, are as unchangeable in nature as time and space. Nothing, therefore, can be done to any creature supernaturally, or in a way that is without or contrary to the powers of nature; but every thing or creature that is to be helped, that is, to have any good done to it, or any evil taken out of it, can only have it done so far as the powers of nature are able, and rightly directed to effect it.355355It may be interesting to compare the following passage from George Fox, which dramatises the irruption of natural science, with its faith in fixed laws, into the sphere of the religious consciousness:—"One morning, while I was sitting by the fire, a great cloud came over me, a temptation beset me; and I sat still. It was said, All things come by Nature; and the elements and stars came over me, so that I was in a manner quite clouded by it. And as I sat still under it and let it alone, a living hope and a true voice arose in me, which said, There is a living God who made all things. Immediately the cloud and temptation vanished away, and life rose over it all; my heart was glad, and I praised the living God.""

It is difficult to abstain from quoting more passages like this, in which Faith, which had been so long directed only to the unseen and unknown, sheds her bright beams over this earth of ours, and claims all nature for her own. The laws of nature are now recognised as the laws of God, and for that very reason they cannot be broken or arbitrarily suspended. Redemption is a law of life. There will come a time356356So we may fairly say, if we remember that we are speaking of what transcends time. Neither Böhme nor Law looks forward to a golden age on this earth., "the time of the lilies," as Böhme calls it, when all nature will be delivered from bondage. "All the design of Christian redemption," says Law, "is to remove everything that is unheavenly, gross, dark, wrathful, and disordered from every part of this fallen world." No text is oftener in his mouth than the words of St. Paul which I read as the text of this Lecture. That "dim sympathy" of the human spirit with the life of nature which Plotinus felt, but which mediæval dualism had almost quenched, has now become an intense and happy consciousness of community with all living things, as subjects of one all-embracing and unchanging law, the law of perfect love. Magic and portents, apparitions and visions, the raptures of "infused contemplation" and their dark Nemesis of Satanic delusions, can no more trouble the serenity of him who has learnt to see the same God in nature whom he has found in the holy place of his own heart.

It was impossible to separate Law from the "blessed Behmen," whose disciple he was proud to profess himself. But in putting them together I have been obliged to depart from the chronological order, for the Cambridge Platonists, as they are usually called, come between. This, however, need cause no confusion, for the Platonists had no direct influence upon Law. Law, Nonjuror as well as mystic, remained a High Churchman by sympathy, and hated Rationalism; while the Platonists sprang from an Evangelical school, were never tired of extolling Reason, and regarded Böhme as a fanciful "enthusiast.357357Henry More's judgment is as follows: "Jacob Behmen, I conceive, is to be reckoned in the number of those whose imaginative faculty has the pre-eminence above the rational; and though he was a good and holy man, his natural complexion, notwithstanding, was not destroyed, but retained its property still; and, therefore, his imagination being very busy about Divine things, he could not without a miracle fail of becoming an enthusiast, and of receiving Divine truths upon the account of the strength and vigour of his fancy; which, being so well qualified with holiness and sanctity, proved not unsuccessful in sundry apprehensions, but in others it fared with him after the manner of men, the sagacity of his imagination failing him, as well as the anxiety of reason does others of like integrity with himself."" And yet, we find so very much in common between the Platonists and William Law, that these party differences seem merely superficial. The same exalted type of Mysticism appears in both.

The group of philosophical divines, who had their centre in some of the Cambridge colleges towards the middle of the seventeenth century, furnishes one of the most interesting and important chapters in the history of our Church. Never since the time of the early Greek Fathers had any orthodox communion produced thinkers so independent and yet so thoroughly loyal to the Church. And seldom has the Christian temper found a nobler expression than in the lives and writings of such men as Whichcote and John Smith.358358Canon G.G. Perry, in his Students' English Church History, disposes of this noble group of men in one contemptuous paragraph, as a "class of divines who were neither Puritans nor High Churchmen," and makes the astounding statement that "to the school thus commenced, the deadness, carelessness, and indifference prevalent in the eighteenth century are in large measure to be attributed." It is of these very same men that Bishop Burnet writes, that if they had not appeared to combat the "laziness and negligence," the "ease and sloth" of the Restoration clergy, "the Church had quite lost her esteem over the nation." Alexander Knox (Works, vol. iii. p. 199) speaks of the rise of this school as a great instance of the design of Providence to supply to the Church what had never before been produced, writers who do "full honour at once to the elevation and the rationality of Christian piety…. In their writings we are invited to ascend, by having a prospect opened before us as luminous as it is sublime…. They are such writers as had never before existed…. No Church but the English Church could have produced them." Of John Smith he says, "My value for him is beyond what words can do justice to." The works of Whichcote, Smith, Cudworth, and Culverwel are happily accessible enough, and I beg my readers to study them at first hand. I do not believe that any Christian could rise from the perusal of the two first-named without having gained a lasting benefit in the deepening of his spiritual life and heightening of his faith.

These men made no secret of their homage to Plato. And let it be noticed that they were students of Plato and Plotinus more than of Dionysius and his successors. Their Platonism is not of the debased Oriental type, and is entirely free from self-absorbed quietism. The via negativa has disappeared as completely in their writings as in those of Böhme; the world is for them as for him the mirror of the Deity; but, being philosophers and not physicists, they are most interested in claiming for religion the whole field of intellectual life. They are fully convinced that there can be no ultimate contradiction between philosophy or science and Christian faith; and this accounts not only for their praise of "reason," but for the happy optimism which appears everywhere in their writings. The luxurious and indolent Restoration clergy, whose lives were shamed by the simplicity and spirituality of the Platonists, invented the word "Latitudinarian" to throw at them, "a long nickname which they have taught their tongues to pronounce as roundly as if it were shorter than it is by four or five syllables"; but they could not deny that their enemies were loyal sons of the Church of England.359359A writer who signs himself S.P. (probably Simon Patrick, bishop of Ely), in a pamphlet called A Brief Account of the new Sect of Latitude Men (1662), vindicates their attachment to the "virtuous mediocrity" of the Church of England, as distinguished from the "meretricious gaudiness of the Church of Rome, and the squalid sluttery of fanatic conventicles." What the Platonists meant by making reason the seat of authority may be seen by a few quotations from Whichcote and Smith, who for our purpose are, I think, the best representatives of the school. Whichcote answers Tuckney, who had remonstrated with him for "a vein of doctrine, in which reason hath too much given to it in the mysteries of faith";—"Too much" and "too often" on these points! "The Scripture is full of such truths, and I discourse on them too much and too often! Sir, I oppose not rational to spiritual, for spiritual is most rational." Elsewhere he writes, "He that gives reason for what he has said, has done what is fit to be done, and the most that can be done." "Reason is the Divine Governor of man's life; it is the very voice of God." "When the doctrine of the Gospel becomes the reason of our mind, it will be the principle of our life." "It ill becomes us to make our intellectual faculties Gibeonites.360360Compare with these extracts the words of Leibnitz: "To despise reason in matters of religion is to my eyes certain proof either of an obstinacy that borders on fanaticism, or, what is worse, of hypocrisy."" How far this teaching differs from the frigid "common-sense" morality prevalent in the eighteenth century, may be judged from the following, which stamps Whichcote as a genuine mystic. "Though liberty of judgment be everyone's right, yet how few there are that make use of this right! For the use of this right doth depend upon self-improvement by meditation, consideration, examination, prayer, and the like. These are things antecedent and prerequisite." John Smith, in a fine passage too long to quote in full, says: "Reason in man being lumen de lumine, a light flowing from the Fountain and Father of lights … was to enable man to work out of himself all those notions of God which are the true groundwork of love and obedience to God, and conformity to Him…. But since man's fall from God, the inward virtue and vigour of reason is much abated, the soul having suffered a [Greek: pterorryêsis], as Plato speaks, a defluvium pennarum…. And therefore, besides the truth of natural inscription, God hath provided the truth of Divine revelation…. But besides this outward revelation, there is also an inward impression of it … which is in a more special manner attributed to God…. God only can so shine upon our glassy understandings, as to beget in them a picture of Himself, and turn the soul like wax or clay to the seal of His own light and love. He that made our souls in His own image and likeness can easily find a way into them. The Word that God speaks, having found a way into the soul, imprints itself there as with the point of a diamond…. It is God alone that acquaints the soul with the truths of revelation, and also strengthens and raises the soul to better apprehensions even of natural truth, God being that in the intellectual world which the sun is in the sensible, as some of the ancient Fathers love to speak, and the ancient philosophers too, who meant God by their Intellectus Agens361361 whose proper work they supposed to be not so much to enlighten the object as the faculty."

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

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

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

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

"Heaven is first a temper, then a place," says Whichcote, and Smith says the same about hell. "Heaven is not a thing without us, nor is happiness anything distinct from a true conjunction of the mind with God." "Though we could suppose ourselves to be at truce with heaven, and all Divine displeasure laid asleep; yet would our own sins, if they continue unmortified, make an Ætna or Vesuvius within us.362362The classical reader will be reminded of Lucretius, iii. 979-1036. Smith, however, would not have relished this comparison. He devotes part of one sermon to a refutation of the Epicurean poet, in whom he sees a precursor of his bête noire, Hobbes!" This view of the indissoluble connexion between holiness and blessedness, as between sin and damnation, leads Smith to reject strenuously the doctrine of imputed, as opposed to imparted, righteousness. "God does not bid us be warmed and filled," he says, "and deny us those necessities which our starving and hungry souls call for…. I doubt sometimes, some of our dogmata and notions about justification may puff us up in far higher and goodlier conceits of ourselves than God hath of us, and that we profanely make the unspotted righteousness of Christ to serve only as a covering wherein to wrap our foul deformities and filthy vices, and when we have done, think ourselves in as good credit and repute with God as we are with ourselves, and that we are become Heaven's darlings as much as we are our own.363363Compare with this the following passage of Jean de Labadie (1610-1674), the founder of a mystical school on the Continent: "Plusieurs sont bien aises d'ouyr dire qu'ils sont justifiés par Jesus-Christ, lavés de leurs péchés en son sang par la foí, par la repentance et par le baptême chrestien, et volontiers ils I'embrasent comme Justificateur, comme crucifié et mort pour eux; mais peu prennent part à sa croix, à sa mort, pour se faire spirituellement mourir avec Luy, crucifier leur chair avec la sienne, et porter en eux-mêmes les vives marques de sa croix et de sa mort. Peu le goutent comme Justificateur au dedans par l'Esprit consacrant et immolant le vieil homme à Dieu et par une pratique vraiment sainte, laquelle dompte le péché.""

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

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


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