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Mystics of the Renaissance & Their Relation to Modern Thought (1911)

Rudolf Steiner, Paul Marshall Allen (Introduction)

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Review © (2004-2008) by interesting-books-selector.com

When a friend wrote that he admired my energy and devotion to reading, I answered that reading about Buddhism solved a problem of my life, i.e.: abolishing negativism, and that I now wanted to know more why and how my state of mind was transformed. I wanted to read more about Buddhism but from a Western writer. Having reading several Colin Wilson books I got the idea to look if Rudolf Steiner wrote something about Buddhism. To my surprise I found out that Steiner succeeded in combining Christianism and Buddhism at the beginning of the 20.th century with great success. But during and after World War I, people had no longer time to search for enlightenment because they struggled to fight Inflation and to get food. Bad luck! After Steiner's dead, his educational center called Goetheaneum in Dornach near Basel was burned down; it was never found out who did it, but many believe that the nazis were responsible.

Unification of Buddhism with Christianism should not be so difficult a task, if they had a common root. My friend was just reviewing and restudying the histories of ancient Egypt, the Roman Empire, Russia, etc.. The history of ancient Egypt fascinates him more and more, and he felt that the ideas of Heaven and Hell, the Last Judgement etc. in Christianity have been derived from ancient Egypt. Buddhism too appears to have the ideas developed by Egyptians.

This reminded me what I've read in Steiner's book "Mystics of the Renaissance & Their Relation to Modern Thought (1911)", previously published under the titles "MYSTICISM at the Dawn of the Modern Age" or "Eleven European Mystics", quote:

    "On the basis of such views of human nature Paracelsus divides the latter into seven parts. They are the same as we find in the teachings of the ancient Egyptians, among the Neoplatonists, and in the Cabala."
The book has an excellent, comprehensive description of the author, the people and the background written by Paul Marshall Allen in 1960, quote:
    "In the lives of these eleven men is united the progressive unfoldment of ideas and events at a moment of supreme importance in the course of man's life on earth. Their struggles, tensions, and resolutions epitomize the historical process as it unveiled itself in the important development then taking place in the evolution of humanity. In their life-experiences we see the birth-pangs of the appearance of a new stage in the life of mankind - the dawn of the modern age."
The Eleven European Mystics are
  1. Master [Johannes] Eckhart (1260-1329),
  2. Johannes Tauler (1300-1361),
  3. Heinrich Suso (1295-1366),
  4. Jan van Ruysbroeck (1293-1381),
  5. Cardinal Nicolas [Chrypffs] of Cusa (1401-1463),
  6. [Henry Cornelius] Agrippa of Nettesheim (1487-1535),
  7. [Theophrastus Bombast von Hohenheim] Paracelsus (1493-1541),
  8. Valentine Weigel (1533-1588),
  9. Jacob Boehme (1575-1624),
  10. Giordano Bruno (1548-1600) - burned at the stake in 06-Feb,
  11. Johannes [Scheffler] Angelus Silesius (1624-1677)
Reading about the msytics as explained by Steiner changed something in my mind. I've got more energy, concentration, motivation to find out more about all the inner world and the Self. Some quotes that really pleased me:

Quote Steiner from the chapter about Giordano Bruno:

    "For coercion exists only where one can still be compelled by something from the outside. But when everything external has flowed into the interior, when the contrast between "I and world," "outside and inside," "nature and spirit," has disappeared, then man feels everything which impels him only as his own impulse."
Quote Steiner:
    "Eckhart also attains a pure concept of freedom. In ordinary life the soul is not free. For it is entangled in the realm of lower causes.
    " It accomplishes that to which it is compelled by these lower causes. By the "seeing" it is raised out of the region of these causes. It no longer acts as an individual soul."

Quote Eckhart:

    "God does not compel the will, rather He sets it at liberty, so that it wills nothing but what God Himself wills. And the spirit can will nothing but what God wills; and this is not its unfreedom; it is its true freedom. For freedom is this, that we are not bound, that we be free and pure and unadulterated as we were in our first origin, and when we were wed in the Holy Ghost.
    "The righteous man serves neither God nor the creatures, for he is free, and the closer he is to righteousness, the more he is freedom itself."
"Heretic!" said the pope.

Quotes from Johannes Tauler:

    "No matter what level you have attained, there are still higher prospects, still more sublime possibilities.
    "If man is truly to become one with God, all the faculties of the inner man too must die and be silent. The will must be turned away from even the good and from all willing, and must become will-less. Man must escape all the senses, turn all his faculties inward, and attain to forgetfulness of all things and of himself. For the true and eternal word of God is spoken only in the desert, when man has left his own self and all things behind, and stands alone, deserted, and solitary."

Quote Steiner:

    "When Tauler had reached his highest point the following question came to occupy the center of his mental life: How can man destroy and overcome his individual existence within himself, so that he can take part in life in the sense of the universal life?"

Wouldn't it be interesting to find the answer to this questions which Tauler knew 700 years ago?

Quote Steiner from the chapter about Agrippa of Nettesheim

    "Paracelsus characterizes himself when he writes under his portrait, "No one who can stand alone by himself should be the servant of another." His whole position with regard to cognition is given in these words."
To me that sounds quite Ayn Randish.

Quote Steiner from his book about "The Bhagavad Gita":

    "[T]he "sage" can no longer err, no longer sin. If he seems to err or sin he must illuminate his thoughts or his actions with a light in which that no longer appears as error and as sin which appears as such to the ordinary consciousness."

Quote Johann Scheffler, called Angelus Silesius (1624-1677), ibid:

    "[L]earn from the flower of the field how you can please God and be beautiful at the same time." - "The rose is without why; it blooms because it blooms; it pays no attention to itself, nor asks whether one sees it." ... "What is it not to sin? Do not ask much; go, the silent flowers will tell you."

Isn't that beautiful?

The little "go" in the middle is the essence of it all! It is confirmed by what Steiner wrote at the end of the chapter about the earlier about the mystic Nicolas of Cusa, quote:

    "[T]here are three roads - in the main - upon which one can walk when one arrives where Nicolas had arrived:
      one is positive faith, which comes to us from outside;
      the second is despair: one stands alone with one's burden and feels all existence tottering with oneself;
      the third road is the development of man's own deepest faculties. Confidence in the world must be one leader along this third road. Courage to follow this confidence, no matter where it leads, must be the other."

Simply GO! :-)

Matches well what my grandfather always said: "Those who ask many questions, will err often!" :-)

Once my friend had seen the above, he wrote to me:

    "You are in a new world!"

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