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Mystiek > Over mystiek > Geschiedenis > Christelijk

Appendix (18)

Middeleeuwen: Vlaamse mystiek

In immediate dependence on the German school, and like it drawing its intellectual vigour from the genius of Eckhart, is the mysticism of Flanders: best known to us in the work of its most sublime representative, the Blessed John Ruysbroeck (1293-1381), one of the greatest mystics whom the world has yet known. In Ruysbroeck's works the metaphysical and personal aspects of mystical truth are fused and attain their highest expression. Intellectually indebted to St. Augustine, Richard of St. Victor, and Eckhart, his value lies in the fact that the Eckhartian philosophy was merely the medium by which he expressed the results of profound experience. In his early years a priest in Brussels, in old age a recluse in the forest of Soignes, Ruysbroeck's influence on his own generation was great. Through his disciple Gerard Groot (1340-1384), founder of the Brotherhood of the Common Life, it formed the inspiration of the religious movement of the New Devotion; which carried over into the next century the spirit of the great medieval mystics. The mystical writings of Henry de Mande (c. 1360-1415), the "Ruysbroeck of the North," the beautiful and deeply Platonic "Fiery Soliloquy with God" of Gerlac Petersen (1378-1411), and above all the "Imitation of Christ" of his friend Thomas à Kempis (1380-1471), in which some of Gerard Groot's meditations may be enshrined, are the chief channels through which this mystical current passed. In the next century the Franciscan Henry de Herp or Harphius (ob. 1477) and two greater personalities - the learned and holy Platonist, Cardinal Nicolas of Cusa (1401-1464), and his friend the theologian and contemplative Denis the Carthasian (1402-1471), one of the great religious figures of the fifteenth century - drew their inspiration from Ruysbroeck. Denis translated the whole of his works into Latin; and calls him "another Dionysius" but "clear where the Areopagite is obscure." It was mainly through the voluminous writings of Denis, widely read during succeeding centuries, that the doctrine of the medieaval mystics was carried over to the Renaissance world. Ruysbroeck's works, with those of Suso, appear in English MSS. early in the fifteenth century, taking their place by the side of St. Bernard, St. Bonaventura, and the great English mystic Richard Rolle. The influence of his genius has also been detected in the mystical literature of Spain.

God kan ons alleen een indruk van zichzelf geven - door eeuwig op hetzelfde neer te komen.
- Carla Pols -

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