ND   JMC : History of Medieval Philosophy / by Maurice De Wulf


393. General Features of Mysticism in the Fourteeenth and Fifteenth Centuries. -- The fourteenth and fifteenth centuries saw a vigorous awakening of mystic life and teaching. The sterility of the controversies in the schools, and the errors into which they had betrayed not a few theologians (Ch. III., § 3), made many thoughtful people chary of speculation and disposed rather to devote their attention to the contemplative life. The author of the Imitation of Christ gave expression to the prevailing attitude of mind when he asked at the head of his book: "What have we to do with those disputes of the schools about genera and species?" (I., 3).

Among the masses of the people, too, there were formed powerful associations for the promotion of piety: the popular turn of the mysticism of the period is evidenced by the fact that the leaders of the movement wrote most of their works in the language of the people.

According as they asserted or denied the essential distinction between Creator and creature, those writers moved in a sphere of thought compatible or incompatible with scholasticism. The orthodox mystics excelled both in number and in ability. The best known among them are Ruysbroeck, Gerson, D'Ailly and Denis the Carthusian. They belong more properly to the history of mystic theology, but they have an interest also for the history of philosophy (201).

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