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Course about Christian spirituality
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Medieval Dutch Mysticism in the Low Countries

Hadewijch and John of Ruusbroec, their faith and way of thinking


Rozemarijn van Leeuwen
© 1999-2001



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Lecture 7/7.  Ruusbroec: Image and resemblance of God and the importance of love ('minne')

Topics this hour:
  • The coming of Christ in the spiritual faculties (the source with the three rivers)
  • The human being as image of God and resemblance after God
  • Love unifies with God



Introduction


This already is the very last lecture of this course Medieval Dutch Mysticism in the Low Countries, about the christian spirituality of Hadewijch and John of Ruusbroec, their faith and their way of thinking.

I hope you've gotten a little bit acquainted with these two medieval mystics: the 13th-century beguine and the 14th-century priest from the Duchy Brabant. In the few hours we had, we went through their works in big steps, to get a general oversight of the broad line in it. And all that time, we roamed around in the Middle Ages, about 600 or 700 years ago.

First we stayed with the early beguines, in the sphere of the ideal of poverty of the 12th century. After that we ended up with a chaplain of the church of Saint Gudula, who left Brussels to seek an ideal parish in the Sonian Forest, later becoming a monastery. But all this time we were with medieval people who dared to go their own religious way, who strived for an inner, personal, affective experienced religion and: who were willing and daring to carry this out in the regional language.


Today before the break we will read three fragments. First of all we'll read more about Ruusbroec's view on man (the 'psyche' of the human being, you could say in nowadays terms) with the three spiritual faculties (mental powers, abilities), in the passage of the source with the three rivers (Inward Life). And because Ruusbroec on this point has described his image of the human psyche in much more detail (being-spirit-soul), he's now able to describe the various spiritual processes and the relationship between man and God much more elaborated.

Second of all, we'll ask the question: in which way is the human being God's image and resemblance? How should we imagine that, out of Ruusbroec's view on man? And what does it say about the relation between man and God?

We found these concepts, 'image and resemblance', already in the 'Prologue' of The spiritual wedding and last week Ruusbroec made a first onset of a description of the human being as God's image and resemblance: the perfect image is situated in the being and the still imperfect resemblance is a process, the spiritual growth that's possible in the unit of the spirit. But only now, at the end of the Inward Life, Ruusbroec will work this out: the relationship between man and God, elaborated from the concepts 'image' and 'resemblance'.

And on the third place, I'd promised to clarify the importance of love (the minne) within Ruusbroec's mystical body of thought. Love is a basic concept in Western spirituality - and here Ruusbroec will make clear why.

After the break we'll finally read about the possible unification of God and the human being, the mystical experience according to Ruusbroec.



The coming of Christ in the spiritual faculties (the source with the three rivers)


In the second part, the Inward Life, Ruusbroec does something peculiar, because he merges the two subdivions 'the bridegroom is coming' and 'go out'. Apparently, the coming of Christ, the working of God in the soul, and the human being's reaction on it, are so closely connected, that they can't be separated. So from beginning to end he treats them together.

Well, in this subdivision 'the bridegroom is coming, go out' Ruusbroec again describes three comings of Christ. Last week in the Active Life he also described three comings of Christ: in the past, when Christ came to earth; in the present, the daily coming in every loving heart; and in the future, during the Last Judgement. Then we read about the second coming of Christ, the fragment about the sun in the valley.

In the Inward Life Ruusbroec also describes three comings of Christ (or God's working into the human). The first one is a spiritual coming into the heart. And we now know what Ruusbroec means with the 'heart', the part of the soul that is connected with the body, the lowest spiritual unit. That's where the human being experiences Christ first of all. God is working from the inside out, but first of all experienceable in the lowest part of the soul.

The second coming in the Inward Life occurs in the spiritual faculties and Ruusbroec compares this with a source with three rivers. The third coming occurs in the unit of the spirit, once again one level higher, and Ruusbroec describes this with the word 'stirring' ('gherinen'), being touched by God. In this passage Ruusbroec writes about the importance of love for mysticism.

We now will read these last two comings of Christ, spiritual effects on the human being, in the part the Inward Life.


Okay, first of all a part of the second coming, page 221 point b, the coming of Christ into the spiritual faculties (or the working of God into these faculties), and Ruusbroec compares this with the image of a source with three rivers.


Now we will further treat the second way in which Christ comes within the inner practise, that decorates and lightens and enriches the three higher powers of the soul.

We'll compare this coming with a living fountain with three rivers. This source, from which those three rivers flow, is the fullness of the divine mercy in the unit of the spirit, in which the mercy lives substantially according to her residing, like an overflowing well, while she is actively, according to the rivers that are flowing out of this well, in every faculty of the soul. These rivers are the special influences or workings of God in the higher faculties, in which God works in many ways through mercy.


Jan van Ruusbroec, The spiritual wedding (± 1335). Inward Life, The source with the three rivers.

English translation by RvL, based on: L. Moereels, Die gheestelike brulocht (1989), p. 221.  Entire paragraph (M.D. and translation).


So Ruusbroec compares Christ's coming in the Inward Life with the image of a source with three rivers. The source is the divine grace and the three rivers are God's working into the three spiritual powers (memoria, reason and will).

He describes the first river at the next page, as the 'unification of the memoria'. The memoria is a somewhat different kind of human faculty: it isn't a power in the sense that a human being can use this actively, but it's more that there can be unity inside a human. Ruusbroec doesn't describe it as one faculty, but as the merging of all abilities. The best definition or translation of the medieval concept 'memoria' would probably be: 'consciousness'.

     the spiritual faculties
memoria unity  

For this moment, I'll leave the memoria out of my discourse and I move on to the two powers that a human can use actively, the reason and the will.

First the mercy working into the reason, page 225. I'll first read the translation and then I'll also read the Middle Dutch aloud (click on 'play').


Overmids inwindighe liefde ende minlijc neyghen ende godlijcke trouwe ontspringhet die andere riviere van volheiden der gracien in eenicheit dies gheests, ende dat es eene gheestelijcke claerheit die vloeyt ende licht inden verstaene, met ondersceede in menigher wisen. Want dat licht toent ende ghevet inder waerheit ondersceet in allen duechden.


Jan van Ruusbroec, Werken, ed. Poukens and Reypens (Ruusbroec Society, 1932).

speaker music play middle dutch   play Middle Dutch  /  or click here


 


 


Due to the love and loving tending of human beings and God's loyalty, the second river evolves out of the fullness of mercy in the unity of the spirit, and that is spiritual clarity, that flows into the reason and enlightens it in many ways. This light shows and gives, in all truth, insight in the distinguishable virtues.


Jan van Ruusbroec, The spiritual wedding (± 1335). Inward Life, The source with the three rivers.

English translation by RvL, based on: L. Moereels, Die gheestelike brulocht (1989), p. 225.  Entire paragraph (M.D. and translation).


We recognise this from last week, the Active Life: mercy flows into the soul as light. But here Ruusbroec is much more explicit - he can be more precise, because in the meantime he has described his idea of the human psyche. So the light flows into the reason, in the spiritual faculty the reason or intellect, sense, the thought. This means the light doesn't flow just undifferentiated into the soul as a whole, no, it flows into the reason. And there it brings truth and insight.

We saw this before in the writings of Hildegard of Bingen: light was flowing into her spirit and as a result she received insight; and we also saw this in Hadewijch's visions: receiving insight, insight as a result of a mystical experience. Here Ruusbroec explains his view on how this works: God's light flows into the reason, that becomes enlightened and therefore it receives truth and insight.

      God's working into the spiritual faculties
memoria unity  
reason insight spiritual light

We'll keep on reading about the second coming of Christ in the Inward Life. At page 233 Ruusbroec continues with God's working into the other human spiritual faculty, the will.


Overmids dese vroude ende volheit der gracien, ende eene godlijcke trouwe, ontspringhet ende vloeyt de derde riviere in deser selver eenicheit des gheests. Dese riviere ontfunct den wille ghelijc den viere, ende verslindet ende verteret alle dinc in eenicheit, ende overvloeyt ende dorevloeyt alle de crachte der zielen met rijcken gaven ende met zonderlingher edelheit, ende si maket in den wille eene subtile gheestelijcke minne zonder aerbeit.


Jan van Ruusbroec, Werken, ed. Poukens and Reypens (Ruusbroec Society, 1932).

speaker music play middle dutch   play Middle Dutch  /  or click here


 


 


Due to this joy and abundant mercy and divine loyalty, a third river arises and flows into the same unit of the spirit. This river inflames the will like a fire and devours and digests everything into unity and floods and runs through all the powers of the soul with rich gifts and with a special nobleness, and without effort she arouses a fine spiritual love (minne) in the soul.


Jan van Ruusbroec, The spiritual wedding (± 1335). Inward Life, The source with the three rivers.

English translation by RvL, based on: L. Moereels, Die gheestelike brulocht (1989), p. 233.  Entire paragraph (M.D. and translation).


And here we recognise the other aspect of the passage last week, the sun in the valley: the soul wasn't just lighted by God's mercy, but also heated, and we encounter the same thing here. The will is inflamed like a fire. So mercy flows into the reason as light, and flows into the will as heat, warmth. And just like insight was aroused in the reason, love is aroused in the will. So there is a relation between the will, love and warmth.

      God's working into the spiritual faculties
memoria unity  
reason insight spiritual light
will love spiritual warmth

Now Ruusbroec clearly has described the places, where the light and warmth of God's working into the soul enter: light flows into the reason and warmth flows into the will. The spiritual light evokes insight in the reason and the spiritual warmth evokes love in the will.

I agree that the last relation is a bit surprising: love is a feeling and we wouldn't expect it to be present in the will, rather in a human faculty to have feelings. But Ruusbroec didn't have a separate faculty, because Augustine hadn't distinguished it in the 4th century; so Ruusbroec here places the love inside the will. He argues that love is a kind of longing, desiring, wanting; and longing belongs to the will.

Well, I hope that we now all have a clear picture of Ruusbroec's view on man, and how he describes God's approach at a spiritual level. The human spirit consists of three units. The being hangs in God and is open to God. The unit of the spirit is the potentially active aspect of the being (here the human starts to become independently active with the spiritual powers). And the unity of the soul animates the body.

From the unity of the spirit three spiritual faculties arise: the memoria, which isn't an active power, but unity in all the powers, what we would call consciousness. Furthermore the reason, that's connected with spiritual light and the concrete interpretation of this is insight or also truth or wisdom. The will is connected with spiritual warmth and the concrete interpretation of that is love.



The human being as image of God and resemblance after God


The next fragment we'll read is about image and resemblance. We have to go back to page 225. It's the part that Ruusbroec writes about the enlightenment of the intellect or the reason. Due to this the human being receives insights and those insights clarify and replenish above scheme of the spiritual faculties in a beautiful way.


Now Christ desires that this person goes out and behaves in this light according to the unique manner of this light.

That's why this enlightened human being has to go out and regard the state of his soul internally and externally, to see if he has a perfect resemblance with Christ according to His humanity and also to His divinity; because we are created to the image and after the resemblance of God. For that he has to lift the illuminated eyes of his enlightened reason to the sensible truth, to consider and contemplate, in the way of a created being, God's exalted nature and God's groundless characteristics. Because with the groundless nature come groundless virtues and works.

He has to consider God's exalted nature as nothing but a oneness, an inaccessible height and an abysmal depth, an unfathomable width and an unending length, a dark silence and a wide desert, a peace for all saints in the unity, a collective object of enjoyment (ghebruken) for Himself and for all saints in eternity. And still much more miraculous one can regard in the groundless sea of the divinity (...). This shows the river of mercy with clarity to the enlightened reason.

She also shows the singularity of the eternal Word: his abysmal wisdom and truth, original image of all creatures and source of life; eternal rule without changeability; staring at and seeing through all things without any veils; shining through and illuminating all saints in heaven and on earth, according to everyone's dignity.

And because this river of clarity brings many insights and knowledge to distinguish, she also shows the enlightened reason the unity of the Holy Ghost: an incomprehensible caritas (love) and mildness, compassion and mercy; endless loyalty and benevolence; incomprehensible large flowing out wealth and abysmal goodness that flows through all souls with bliss; fiery flame that burns everything to unity, flowing source, rich in taste to everyone's desire; preparing and leading all saints into their eternal delight; the embracing and mutual penetrating of Father and Son and of all saints in delighting (ghebrukelijcker) unity.


Jan van Ruusbroec, The spiritual wedding (± 1335). Inward Life, Image and resemblance.

English translation by RvL, based on: L. Moereels, Die gheestelike brulocht (1989), p. 225-229.  Entire paragraph (M.D. and translation).


Ruusbroec here writes about the insights that a human receives, or that he starts to strive for, by the enlightenment of his reason, the intellectual power that more and more lightens up. The human being receives, by this spiritual enlightenment of the reason, three insights.

The first insight that a human being receives when the reason gets enlightened is insight in himself, at the bottom of page 225. There also the sentence is repeated: 'we are created to the image and after the resemblance of God'. And as we know by now, Ruusbroec describes the human being, at a spiritually level, as a being, a spirit and a soul, and the image of God is situated in the being and the resemblance after God in the unit of the spirit.

The second insight that the human receives, is about the nature of God, knowledge of God (p. 227). And here Ruusbroec describes God in a, I almost would say, 'mystical' way: 'an inaccessible height and an abysmal depth, an unfathomable width and an unending length'. And probably this also reminds you to Hadewijch: the deep whirlpool in her visions and her description of God as: 'God is above everything, but not elevated. God is below everything, but not suppressed. God is within everything, but not enclosed. God is outside everything, but completely enclosed'. A divine darkness and a groundless sea, Ruusbroec adds as well.

The third insight that the human being receives when his reason gets enlightened (after insight in himself and knowledge of God) is about the divine trinity (half way page 227): the Father, the Word and the Holy Ghost. And what do we see? The Father is the beginning of everything, the origin, the first setting in motion. The Word is wisdom, truth, original image, source and light. And the Holy Ghost is love, mildness, goodness and fieriness and burning.

And now we come across the correspondence, the similarity that Ruusbroec will work out more precise later in the Inward Life and the Contemplative Life: that is that the Father is associated with origins and unity; the Word or the Son is associated with wisdom (or truth/insight) and light; and the Holy Ghost is associated with love and warmth. So very clearly this mirrors the psyche of the human. Or, in other words: the third insight of the enlightened human, is the way in which the human being is created after God's image.


     the human being as God's image and resemblance


psyche
human

concrete
level

spiritual
level

‘psyche’
God


memoria unity   Father
reason wisdom spirt. light Son
will love spirt. warmth Holy Ghost


Ruusbroec repeatedly speaks about the coming of Christ, because he's tied to the allegoric image of Christ as bridegroom and the soul as bride: behold, the bridegroom (Christ) is coming, go out (soul), to meet Him. But this paragraph shows that here he better could speak about the coming of the Son and the Holy Ghost. This twofold coming is a twofold working into the human soul: the Son works into the reason (light) and the Holy Ghost works into the will (warmth).


So in short: in the Inward Life Ruusbroec again describes three comings of Christ (or flowings of mercy or workings of God): into the heart, into the spiritual faculties and into the unity of the spirit (with the gherinen, which we'll read in a moment to end this lecture).

The second coming, into the three spiritual human powers, he describes as a source with three rivers. The mercy flows as light into the reason and arouses truth and insight there. And the mercy flows as warmth into the will and arouses love there.

Hereby the human receives three insights: insight in himself, knowledge of God and insight in the human as image and resemblance of the divine Persons. The Son corresponds with wisdom, light and reason; en the Holy Ghost corresponds with love, warmth and will.



Love unifies with God


To bring this lecture to an end, I will, as I announced, read the passage about the importance of love within mysticism. With that we arrived at the third coming of Christ in the Inward Life, the gherinen (the touching, the stirring) into the unit of the spirit.

This is a very important passage to understand the greater part of medieval, affective, Western mysticism; to understand why love is in the center point of christian mysticism. This Western mysticism not only contains enlightenment, the illumination of the reason, the intellect (to become an 'enlightened person', as it's called), but it also contains heating, corresponding with the will and with love. In this passage, Ruusbroec explains the link between them.

Right at the end of the subdivision 'the bridegroom is coming, go out' (Inward Life), Ruusbroec describes that the human being is touched by God in the unity of the spirit (page 263). At the beginning of this lessen hour, we've seen how the human was touched into the faculties: light was flowing into the reason and warmth in the will. Now the human being is touched one level higher, in the unit of the spirit. Ruusbroec calls this gherinen (touching, stirring).

Page 263, the third line under the subheading. The gherinen, this stirring by God into the unit of the spirit, awakens a twofold reaction in the human.


And this stirring (gherinen) obliges the reason to know God in his clarity, and it pulls and invites the loving power to enjoy (ghebrukene) God without medium.


Jan van Ruusbroec, The spiritual wedding (± 1335). Inward Life, Love in the mystical experience.

English translation by RvL, based on: L. Moereels, Die gheestelike brulocht (1989), p. 263.  Entire paragraph (M.D. and translation).


So the reason wants to know God, in clarity; and the love wants to enjoy (ghebruken) God - and of course we'll remember Hadewijch using this word, ghebruken, enjoying, having delight, intensely and lovingly experience the divine love, the loving unification with God.

I'll continue reading at page 263, the next paragraph.


Due to the enlightened reason, the spirit raises in a deep consideration and directs his sight and pondering to the very core of his spirit, where this stirring occurs. Here the reason and all the created light fall short to make progress, because the divine clarity that's floating above it, and that causes this stirring, is blinding all created power of sight due to her arrival, because she is unfathomable and incomprehensible, and every understanding in the created light relates to this as the eye of the bat to the glittering of the sun.

Nevertheless, the spirit time and time again is urged and aroused by God and by himself to comprehend this deeply hidden stirring, and to know what God is, and what this stirring could be. And the enlightened reason again and again asks himself new questions, from where this could be, and it makes an effort to follow this honey vein to her deepest ground. But in the end she is as wise as on the first day. So the reason and the intellect speak: "I don't know what this is". (...)

But when the spirit experiences this in it's deepest core, even if reason and intellect fail before the divine clarity and stand still outside the gates, then the loving power wants to move on, because she is urged and invited just the same as the reason, but she is blind and wants to feel the delight (gebruken); and enjoying is more like tasting and feeling than like understanding. This is why the love (minne) wants to move on, while the reason stays out.


Jan van Ruusbroec, The spiritual wedding (± 1335). Inward Life, Love in the mystical experience.

English translation by RvL, based on: L. Moereels, Die gheestelike brulocht (1989), p. 263-265.  Entire paragraph (M.D. and translation).


So the reason falls short, fails to understand what God is. The human being literally cannot get that using his reason, the reason can't understand God. We already saw this with other mystics: God can't be described, can't be captured in words, can't be understood, God is too big for our comprehension. Ruusbroec here says: the reason and the intellect 'fallieren', fail, fall short.

But there were the reason falls short, the love (minne) takes over. She is blind, Ruusbroec says, in other words: she doesn't try to become enlightened, she doesn't try to understand, she wants to experience, to ghebruken, feeling the divine delight.

I'll repeat the last paragraph in Middle Dutch, cause Ruusbroec explains there the difference between reason and feeling short and to the point: the reason wants to know God and always fails - but love is blind, doesn't try to 'know', but continues, wants to 'ghebruken', to feel, to experience, to become one.


Maer die gheest die dit ghevoelt in sinen gronde, al eest dat redene ende verstannesse failliert jeghen die godlijcke Claerheit ende buten vore die porte blivet, die minnende cracht wilt nochtan voert, want si es gheeyschet ende ghenodet ghelijc den verstane, ende si es blent, ende wilt ghebrucken: ende ghebruken leghet meer in smaken ende in ghevoelen dan in verstane. Hier omme wilt minnen voert daer verstannisse buyten blivet.


Jan van Ruusbroec, Werken, ed. Poukens and Reypens (Ruusbroec Society, 1932).

speaker music play middle dutch   play Middle Dutch  /  or click here


 


 


But when the spirit experiences this in it's deepest core, even if reason and intellect fail before the divine clarity and stand still outside the gates, then the loving power wants to move on, because she is urged and invited just the same as the reason, but she is blind and wants to feel the delight (gebruken); and enjoying is more like tasting and feeling than like understanding. This is why the love (minne) wants to move on, while the reason stays out.


Jan van Ruusbroec, The spiritual wedding (± 1335). Inward Life, Love in the mystical experience.

English translation by RvL, based on: L. Moereels, Die gheestelike brulocht (1989), p. 265.  Entire paragraph (M.D. and translation).


And on the next page Ruusbroec adds: 'our love is touched by God's love', in other words: the love is mutual, and a love-bond arises. And this mutual love, this love-bond, is a binding force, has a binding effect, is a uniting force. Love, at least mutual love, has the quality that she connects, ties together, unifies: love makes one.

With his reason the human can strive for God, love unifies with God.

And this explains why it's impossible in this Western mysticism that a human being would completeley be absorbed in God, be dissolved in God, would dissapear into God: then this mutual love would not be possible anymore. On the contrary, in the core of this Western mysticism is the individual person, the spiritual fully grown, independent (virtuous, conscientious, loving) person.

So in the center of the affective, Western mysticism in the Middle Ages is: love, the unifying, mutual love.

At the bottom of page 267 it says:


Gods gherinen ende sijn gheven, onse minlijcke crighen ende onse wedergheven, dit houdet ghestede die minne. Dit vloeyen ende dit wedervloeyen doet overvloeyen die fonteyne der minnen. Aldus wert Gods gherinen ende onser minnen crighen eene eenvoldighe minne.


Jan van Ruusbroec, Werken, ed. Poukens and Reypens (Ruusbroec Society, 1932).

speaker music play middle dutch   play Middle Dutch  /  or click here


 


 


God's stirring and his giving, our loving desiring and giving back, steadily maintain the love. This flowing and flowing back is causing the source to overflow. In this way God's stirring and our longing for love become one single love.


Jan van Ruusbroec, The spiritual wedding (± 1335). Inward Life, Love in the mystical experience.

English translation by RvL, based on: L. Moereels, Die gheestelike brulocht (1989), p. 267-269.  Entire paragraph (M.D. and translation).


The light, the reason falls short. The love, the warmth, unifies. Unification of human being and God is in fact: unification through love, mutual love.

We still know this in our language use today, by the way: a wedding between a man and a woman we can call in Dutch: an echt-vereniging ('legal-unification'), in English a matrimonial union. So it's no coincidence that the image of a wedding between Christ and the soul is so often used since the 12th-century Bernadine spirituality: remember Hadewijch's bridal visions (vision X and XII) and Ruusbroec's book title The spiritual wedding. These images refer to mystical unification that arises from mutual love.

The light of the reason strives for God, the warmth, the love unifies the human with God. But according to Ruusbroec, lightening and heating always are followed by: fertility (remember the sun in the valley). Also in this case, when we are talking about the mystical unification with God, he doesn't forget about the virtues, the conscience, the good works and the love of one's fellow man.

Page 269, from the subheading onward:


Now our spirit and this love at the same time are alive and fertile in virtues. And that's why these powers can't stay calm in the unit of the spirit. Because God's indescribable clarity and his groundless love are above the spirit and touch the loving power; and the spirit wants to go back to it's works, yearning higher and more profound than ever before. And the more profound and noble he is, the faster he works himself out and is undoing (forgetting himself) in love, and again falls back into new works.


Jan van Ruusbroec, The spiritual wedding (± 1335). Inward Life, Love in the mystical experience.

English translation by RvL, based on: L. Moereels, Die gheestelike brulocht (1989), p. 269.  Entire paragraph (M.D. and translation).


The more exalted and noble the contact with God, the more the human being wants to be active and to go out with virtues and good works and love.

Clearly the difference with the Brothers and Sisters of the Free Spirit is enormous, poles apart. They stated that as soon as you started to experience the divine, all virtues and love of one's fellow man become needless. Ruusbroec says the complete opposite.

In this fragment you already can see a little bit, that Ruusbroec is searching for a balance between ghebruken (divine delight) and working; or, as he later calls it, resting and working. To rest in God and to work in the world, have to be in balance.



Ruusbroec and essence-mysticism


Finally a last comment to this paragraph about the importance of love. Ruusbroec sometimes is catagorised under 'essence-mysticism' or 'speculative mysticism', in which the reason is aspiring to God, but fails. And the space that arises in the deepest essence, the deepest being of the soul, by not-knowing, is space to experience God within the deepest core of the soul, the being or essence of the soul (hence 'essence-mysticism'). The German theologist Meister Eckhart (ca. 1260-1328) is often called a textbook example of this essence-mysticism or speculative mysticism.

After all we've read so far, you clearly will see similarities between this 'essence-mysticism' and Ruusbroec's doctrine (his view on man as soul-spirit-being, the descriptions of the spiritual faculties). But this last paragraph by Ruusbroec, about the importance of love, shows something radical beyond that mystical belief.

In Ruusbroec's line of thought, not only the reason is aspiring to God, but also the will / the loving power / the love - and it is the love that fuses together and unifies with the divine. Also Ruusbroec emphasizes the danger that (by turning inwards, prayer, meditation) one only experiences the divine within one's own being, without experiencing the endless divinity beyond the own being (remember last week, the 'Free Spirit').

Furthermore Ruusbroec deliberately uses key words from the nuptial tradition, the Bernardine spirituality, the bridal mysticism - just consider the book title Die gheestelike brulocht / The spiritual wedding; the key motif 'Behold, the bridegroom comes'; and the use and the importance of the word 'minne' (love). Although Ruusbroec doesn't use visionary bridal images, obviously the influence from this spiritual tradition is very profound.

So you wouldn't do justice to Ruusbroec's doctines if you just would label his work to be 'essence-mysticism' - or just 'bridal mysticism', or just 'minne-mysticism'. Besides enlightenment there's always also heating and fertility. Besides reason there are always also love and virtues and good works. So yes, there are aspects of essence-mysticism within Ruusbroec's writings - but his mystical teachings are more rich and more radical than that. It is reason-and-minne-mysticism, light-and-warmth-mysticism.



Mysticism according to Hadewijch and Ruusbroec


So far we've got a good impression of Ruusbroec's view on man: the being, the spirit and the soul of the human being, and the spiritual powers (faculties), in which God's mercy is working (spiritual light flows into the reason and increases insight/wisdom; and spiritual warmth flows into the will and increases love) - and this from the inside out.

We've also seen how the human being, spiritually spoken, is God's 'image and resemblance'. The human psyche is reflecting God's image. The reason corresponds to the Son (spiritual light, insight/wisdom) and the will corresponds to the Holy Spirit (spiritual warmth, love).

The gherinen, God's stirring in the unit of the spirit, then leads to a twofold reaction of the human being: the reason wants to know God, the love wants to unify. Mutual love is a unifying power. With his reason, the human being can strive for God, love unifies with God.

The last hour of this course, right after the break, I will conclude the course with two final questions. How does the view on the mystical experience of Hadewijch and Ruusbroec relate to those first fragments about mysticism we read that very first lecture? And does everything we read and discussed during this course give us an idea of a late-medieval Brabantian spirituality?

I'll discuss those two questions after the break.



Recapitulation


In the Inward Life of The spiritual wedding Ruusbroec describes his view on man, the working of God into the human being and the similarity of God and human in great detail.

•  In the Inward Life Ruusbroec again describes three comings of Christ into the soul (God workings into the soul), this time in the heart (or: the soul), in the spiritual powers (faculties) and in the spirit.

•  To describe the coming into the faculties, he uses the image of the source with three rivers. The source is the divine mercy and the rivers are God working into the spiritual faculties. Mercy flows as light into the reason and arouses truth/insight. Mercy flows as warmth into the will and arouses love.

     God's working into the spiritual faculties
memoria unity  
reason insight spiritual light
will love spiritual warmth

•  The first insight the human receives when his reason is enlightened, is insight in himself. The human being is, spiritually spoken, created after God's image and resemblance. The (perfect) image of God is situated in the being; the (still imperfect) resemblance after God in the unit of the spirit - that's where a human can grow spiritually and bring the likeness to perfection.

•  The second insight the human receives, is knowledge of God. Ruusbroec describes God in that case as a height, a depth, a groundless sea, a divine darkness.

•  The third insight the human receives, is the similarity between God and man: the Son is associated with light and wisdom, similar to the human reason. And the Holy Spirit is associated with warmth and love, similar to the human will. In this way the human is created to God's image and after God's resemblance.

psyche
human

concrete
level

spiritual
level

‘psyche’
God


memoria unity   Father
reason wisdom sprt. light Son
will love sprt. warmth Holy Ghost

•  When the human is touched by God in the unit of the spirit, Ruusbroec uses the word gherinen (being touched, stirred). Because of this the reason wants to know God, but the love wants to ghebruken (enjoy) God (experience, feeling divine delight, unify lovingly).

•  The reason falls short, fails, to understand what God is. After this the love takes over. With the reason the human can strive for God, love unifies with God. Mutual love connects, is a binding force, unifies - love makes one.

•  This is why the core of this affective, medieval, Western mysticism is the unifying, mutual love.

•  In this Western spirituality, a human, spiritually spoken, becomes not just enlightened (insight), but also heated (love). After this, according to Ruusbroec, always follows fertility: the increase of virtues, conscience, good works and love of one's neighbour.



After the break / Next week


After the break I first will round off Ruusbroec and also round off the course as a whole.

I will look back on the course to catch sight of two main lines: what did we learn during this course about the view of Hadewijch and Ruusbroec on the mystical experience? And can we conclude that something like an overarching, late-medieval Brabantian mysticism exists?



Background information


The course Medieval Mysticism in the Low Countries consists of seven lectures. The mystical writings of Hadewijch and Ruusbroec will be read and understood from their cultural-historical context.

•  About this course Medieval Mysticism in the Low Countries: content and layout.

•  Background literature about the Middle Ages, Hadewijch, Ruusbroec and medieval mysticism.

•  About the teacher Rozemarijn van Leeuwen.

•  Read the reactions or leave a comment.

•  Texts of Hadewijch and Ruusbroec: fragments in Middle Dutch and nowadays Dutch.



Original Dutch course


•  Lecture 7/7 in Dutch: De mens als Gods beeld en gelijkenis.



Copyright


©  Above lecture is part of the course Medieval Dutch Mysticism in the Low Countries, by Rozemarijn van Leeuwen (1999-2001).

It's not permitted to copy this text digital or in print and/or to publish it.



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Follow the whole course Medieval Dutch Mysticism in the Low Countries online:

    first lesson hour (cultural-historical background) second lesson hour (reading texts)
  1 The Middle Ages What is mysticism?
  2 The medieval world view Hadewijch: vision and mysticism
  3 Hadewijch: glimpse of her life Hadewijch: roads towards God
  4 Women in the Middle Ages Hadewijch: bridal mysticism
  5 Ruusbroec: course of his life Ruusbroec: Active Life
  6 The horrible 14th century Ruusbroec: Inward Life
  7 Image and resemblance of God  ↑ Ruusbroec: To meet Him




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