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History of Philosophy|
The Mystic School
by Turner, William (S.T.D.)
 Cf. De Wulf, op. cit., p. 217; Revue d'histoire et
littérature religieuses Nov.-Déc., 1902, p. 536.
Mysticism may mean a tendency of the mind towards the supernatural, or
it may mean a science growing out of such a tendency, -- a body of
doctrine having for its object to determine the mode or manner in which
the soul of man is directly united with God in contemplation and love.
Mysticism, as a tendency, was a characteristic of Neo-Platonism;
it reappeared in the philosophy of the Gnostics and in that of Erigena.
In fact, wherever philosophy tended toward pantheism it tended towards
mysticism. Thus we find the mystic spirit in the pantheistic systems
with which the history of the philosophy of the twelfth century
closes. Mysticism, as a science, does not appear in systematized form
until the first part of the twelfth century, although the principles of
orthodox mysticism are contained in the ascetic and exegetical
treatises of the Fathers. When, as we have seen, William of Champeaux
left Paris (i io8), he retired to the abbey of St. Victor and there
continued to teach. It was out of this teaching that the mystic
movement grew, which during the remainder of the century flourished at
that abbey and with which are associated the Victorines, -- Hugh,
Walter, and Richard. The condemnation of Abelard and the suspicion of
heterodoxy incurred by Gilbert strengthened the cause of the mystics,
who, from the outset, were opposed to dialectic.
St. Bernard of Clairvaux, Doctor Mellifluus (1091-1153),
although he belonged to no school of philosophy, lent all the weight of
his authority to the cause of mysticism. He was himself an exponent of
the principles of mystic theology, teaching that profane science is not
to be studied except in so far as it may contribute to the cultivation
of the spiritual life. The end and aim of life should be to attain by
means of the twelve stages or degrees of humility a contemplative love
of God. 
 On St. Bernard, cf. Vacandard, Vie de S. Bernard (Paris,
1895), and Storrs, Bernard of Clairvaux (New York, 1892). His works are
published by Migne, Patr. Lat., Vols. CLXXXII-CLXXXV.
HUGH OF ST. VICTOR
Life. Hugh of St. Victor was born at Hartingam in Saxony. From
1125 until his death in 1141 he taught at the abbey of St. Victor. He
is regarded as the founder of the Victorine school.
Sources. The mystical works of Hugh include De Arca Noe Morali,
De Arca Noe Mystica, De Vanitate Mundi, De Arrha Animae, De Amore
Sponsi ad Sponsam. These are published by Migne, Patr.
Lat., Vols. CLXXV-CLXXVII. A special work dealing with the
philosophy of the Victorines is Mignon's Origines de la
scolastique, etc. (Paris, 1895).
Hugh taught that the contemplation of invisible essences and causes is
the true complement of philosophy. "Sapientes hujus mundi propterea
stulti facti sunt quia soli naturali documento incedentes, exemplaria
gratiae non habuerunt."  Reason cannot penetrate to the truths of the
natural order unless aided by God: "Ratio per se non sufficit, nisi a
Deo adjuta fuerit." All knowledge is but the preliminary to the mystic
life which leads to God. In this mystic life we must distinguish the
preparative stage in which the soul engages in soliloquy, etc.,
(cogitatio), by which the soul seeks God in the material world,
meditation (meditatio), by which the soul seeks God in the
interior of the soul itself, and contemplation (contemplatio),
by which the soul is united immediately with God in supernatural
 Quoted by González, op. cit., II, 162.
González, however, as Mignon (op. cit., I, 63) has shown,
bases his study of Hugh's mysticism on a work falsely attributed to the
founder of the Victorine school.
Richard of St. Victor, who succeeded Hugh as prior of St.
Victor, taught from 1162 to 1173. Under his influence the mystic
movement took up a position of more determined hostility to secular
learning. The knowledge, Richard declared, of which profane philosophy
boasts is nothing but error and vanity: "Suspecta est mihi omnis
veritas quam non confirmat Scripturae auctoritas."  He observes with
pleasure, "Multi qui prius fabricabant in officina Aristotelis . . .
discunt cudere in officina Salvatoris."
 De Modo Dicendi et Meditandi, Cap. 8.
 De Praeparatione ad Contemplandum, Cap. 81.
It was, however, Walter of St. Victor, successor of Richard, who
carried the mystic disapproval of secular learning to the extent
of characterizing dialectic as "the devil's art." He wrote a work
entitled In Quatuor Labyrinthos Franciae, in which Abelard,
Peter of Lombardy, Peter of Poitiers, and Gilbert de la Porrée
(the "four labyrinths") were denounced as heretics because they had
treated with "Scholastic levity" the mysteries of the Trinity and the
Incarnation. To the same school belonged Achard and
Godfrey of St. Victor.
Historical Position. The mystic school is justly considered to
be a reaction against the rationalism of Berengar, Roscelin, and
Abelard. The Victorines were at first willing to assign to human reason
its legitimate scope in philosophy and theology; later, however, they
made common cause with the Cornificians and opposed all profane
learning, thus running counter to the Scholastic movement. Among those
whom they condemned for using dialectical reasoning was Peter of
Lombardy, the intellectual precursor of the greatest of the schoolmen
of the Golden Age of Scholasticism.
Mysticism has, nevertheless, a recognized place in the history of the
Scholastic movement it represents an important phase of the Neo-Latin
civilization of which Scholasticism is a product. To the Credo ut
intelligam and the Intelligo ut credam, the mystics added a
third principle, Amo ut intelligam, -- a principle which should
not be neglected in a complete synthesis of the spiritual and emotional
elements of human life, especially if human life be viewed, as it was
viewed in the Middle Ages, in relation to the other world as well as to
Mysticism was necessarily imaginative rather than rational. The
Neo-Platonic concept of the world harmonized the elements of mysticism
better than the Aristotelian concept could have done. It is these
elements -- imaginativeness and Neo-Platonism -- that determine the
tendency of mysticism towards pantheism.