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Mystiek > Over mystiek > Geschiedenis > Christelijk

Appendix (3)

Mystiek in de tweede eeuw n.C.

Towards the end of the second century this tendency received brilliant literary expression at the hands of Clement of Alexandria (c. 160-220) - who first adapted the language of the pagan Mysteries to e Christian theory of the spiritual life - and his great pupil Origen (c.183-253). Nevertheless, the first person after St. Paul of whom it now be decisively stated that he was a practical mystic of the first rank, and in whose writings the central mystic doctrine of union with is found, is a pagan. That person is Plotinus, the great Neoplatonic philosopher of Alexandria (A.D. 205 - c. 270). His mysticism owes nothing the Christian religion, which is never mentioned in his works. Intellectually it is based on the Platonic philosophy, and also shows the influence of the Mysteries, and perhaps certain of the Oriental cults and philosophies which ran riot in Alexandria in the third century. Ostensibly a metaphysician, however, Plotinus possessed transcendental genius of a high order, and was consumed by a burning passion for the Absolute: and the importance of his work lies in the degree in which intellectual constructions are made the vehicle of mystical experience. His disciple Porphyry has left it on record that on four occasions he saw his master rapt to ecstatic union with "the One."

The Neoplatonism of which Plotinus was the greatest exponent of the the medium in which much of the mysticism - both Christian and pagan - of the first six centuries was expressed. But since mysticism is a way of life - an experience of Reality, not a philosophic account of Reality - Neoplatonism, and the mysticism which used its age, must not be identified with one another. Porphyry (233-304), favourite pupil of Plotinus, seems to have inherited something of his master's mysticism, but Neoplatonism as a whole was a confused, semi-religious philosophy, containing many inconsistent elements. Appearing when the wreck of paganism was complete, but before Christianity had conquered the educated world, it made a strong appeal to the spiritually minded; and also to those who hankered after the mysterious and the occult. It taught the illusory nature of all temporal things, and in the violence of its idealism outdid its master Plato. It also taught the existence of an Absolute God, the "Unconditioned One," who might be known in ecstasy and contemplation; and here it made a direct appeal to the mystical instincts of men. Those natural mystics who lived in the time of its greatest popularity found in it therefore a ready means of expressing their own intuitions of reality. Hence the early mysticism of Europe, both Christian and pagan, has come down to us in a Neoplatonic dress; and speaks the tongue of Alexandria rather than that of Jerusalem, Athens, or Rome.

The influence of Plotinus upon later Christian mysticism was enormous though indirect. During the patristic period all that was best in the spirit of Neoplatonism flowed into the veins of the Church. St. Augustine (A.D. 354-430) and Dionysius the Areopagite (writing between 475 and 525) are amongst his spiritual children; and it is mainly through them that his doctrine reached the mediaeval world. Proclus (412-c. 490), the last of the pagan philosophers, also derives from his teaching. Through these three there is hardly one in the long tale of the European contemplatives whom his powerful spirit has failed to reach.

Wie vecht tegen de leegte - zal de vol-doening ervan missen.
- Carla Pols -

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
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