.

Mystiek > Over mystiek > Geschiedenis > Christelijk

Appendix (1)

Geschiedenis Europese mystiek tot aan Blake

Hieronder vindt u de letterlijke tekst van de appendix van Underhill's boek. Ik heb het hier opgenomen omdat het zo'n helder en beknopt overzicht biedt van de geschiedenis van de christelijke mystiek. De indeling in paragrafen en de koppen boven de paragrafen zijn van mijn hand.

A historical Sketch of European Mysticism from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Death of Blake

If we try to represent the course of Mysticism in Europe during the Christian period by the common device of a chronological curve, showing by its rises and falls as it passes across the centuries the absence or preponderance in any given epoch of mystics and mystical thought, we shall find that the great periods of mystical activity tend to correspond with the great periods of artistic, material, and intellectual civilization. As a rule, they come immediately after, and seem to complete such periods: those outbursts of vitality in which man makes fresh conquests over his universe apparently producing, as their last stage, a type of heroic character which extends these victories to the spiritual sphere. When science, politics, literature, and the arts - the domination of nature and the ordering of life - have risen to their height and produced their greatest works, the mystic comes to the front; snatches the torch, and carries it on. It is almost as if he were humanity's finest flower; the product at which each great creative period of the race had aimed.

Thus the thirteenth century expressed to perfection the medieval ideal in religion, art, philosophy, and public life. It built the Gothic cathedrals, put the finishing touch to the system of chivalry, and nourished the scholastic philosophers. It has many saints, but not very many mystics; though they increase in number as the century draws on. The fourteenth century is filled by great contemplatives; who lifted this wave of activity to spiritual levels, and brought the intellectual vigour, the romance and passion of the mediaeval temperament, to bear upon the deepest mysteries of the transcendental life. Again, the sixteenth century, that period of abounding vitality which left no corner of existence unexplored, which produced the Renaissance and the Humanists and remade the medieval world, had hardly reached its full development before the great procession of the post-Renaissance mystics, with St. Teresa at their head, began. If life, then - the great and restless life of the race - be described under the trite metaphor of a billowy sea, each great wave as it rises from the deep bears the mystic type upon its crest.

Our curve will therefore follow close behind that other curve which represents the intellectual life of humanity. Its course will be studded and defined for us by the names of the great mystics; the possessors of spiritual genius, the pathfinders to the country of the soul. These starry names are significant not only in themselves but also as links in the chain of man's growing spiritual history. They are not isolated phenomena, but are related to one another. Each receives something from his predecessors: each by his personal adventures enriches it, and hands it on to the future. As we go on, we notice more and more this cumulative power of the past. Each mystic, original though he be, yet owes much to the inherited acquirement of his spiritual ancestors. These ancestors form his tradition, are the classic examples on which his education is based; and from them he takes the language which they have sought out and constructed as a means of telling their adventures to the world. It is by their help too, very often, that he elucidates for himself the meaning of the dim perceptions of his amazed soul. From his own experiences he adds to this store; and hands on an enriched tradition of the transcendental life to the next spiritual genius evolved by the race. Hence the names of the great mystics are connected by a thread; and it becomes possible to treat them as subjects of history rather than of biography.

I have said that this thread forms a curve, following the fluctuations of the intellectual life of the race. At its highest points, the names of the mystics are clustered most thickly, at its descents they become fewer and fewer, at the lowest points they die away. Between the first century A.D. and the nineteenth, this curve exhibits three great waves of mystical activity besides many minor fluctuations. They correspond with the close of the Classical, the Medieaval, and the Renaissance periods in history: reaching their highest points in the third, fourteenth and seventeenth centuries. In one respect, however, the mystic curve diverges from the historical one. It rises to its highest point in the fourteenth century, and does not again approach the level it there attains; for the medieval period was more favourable to the development of mysticism than any subsequent epoch has been. The fourteenth century is as much the classic moment for the spiritual history of our race as the thirteenth is for the history of Gothic, or the fifteenth for that of Italian art.

The names upon our curve, especially during the first ten centuries of the Christian era, are often separated by long periods of time. This, of course, does not necessarily mean that these centuries produced few mystics: merely that few documents relating to them have survived. We have now no means of knowing, for instance, the amount of true mysticism which may have existed amongst the initiates of the Greek or Egyptian Mysteries; how many advanced but inarticulate contemplatives there were amongst the Alexandrian Neoplatonists, amongst the pre-Christian communities of contemplatives described by Philo, the deeply mystical Alexandrian Jew (20 B.C. - A.D. 40), or the innumerable Gnostic sects which replaced in the early Christian world the Orphic and Dionysiac mystery-cults of Greece and Italy. Much real mystical inspiration there must have been, for we know that from these centres of life came many of the doctrines best loved by later mystics: that the Neoplatonists gave them the concepts of Pure Being and the One, that the New Birth and the Spiritual Marriage were foreshadowed in the Mysteries, that Philo anticipated the theology of the Fourth Gospel.

Wie parels wil vinden moet diep duiken.
- Bernardus van Clairvaux -

Underhill, Evelyn: Mysticism
A study in the nature and development of Man's spiritual consciousness
Cover van Evelyn Underhill: MysticismDit boek van Evelyn Underhill is een onbetwistbare klassieker t.a.v. het onderwerp mystiek. Ook al is het in 1910 voor het eerst gepubliceerd, Underhills boek
Meer...

WaalWeb Internetproducties
Zinrijk Webtechniek
© 2006-7

 

.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.