Johannes Tauler

Tauler, Johannes (1300-1361)


Johannes Tauler was one of the most eminent mystics of German who was greatly influenced by Meister Eckhart. He was born in Strasburg, joined the Dominican Order, studied in Cologne, and became probably the most acute observer of the mind as it grapples with the immanent presence of God.

The central teaching of Tauler’s mysticism is the doctrine of the visio essentice Dei, the blessed contemplation or knowledge of the Divine nature. He derives this doctrine from Thomas Aquinas, but goes further than Aquinas in believing this Divine knowledge is attainable in this world by a perfect man, and should be sought by every means. God dwells in every human being. In order, however, that the transcendent God may appear in man as a second subject, the human, sinful activities must cease. Aid is given in this effort by the light of grace that rises far above nature itself. The way to God is through love; God replies to its highest development by His presence.

Although his work concerning the ethical and religious aspects of mysticism has exercised a profound and continuing influence in Western mysticism, notably on Martin Luther, he never thought of leaving Catholicism. He firmly expressed his opinion in his sermon on St. Matthew. He set his face against all heresies, especially those of the Brethren of Free Spirit.

It is thought what attracted Luther to Tauler was not the latter’s doctrine but subordinate scattered ideas. This attraction perhaps was based on the fact that Tauler only mentioned the word indulgence only once in his sermons; he laid less stress on works; or Luther was attracted by the tremendous earnestness of this seeker after God.

Most of Tauler’s writings have not been subjected to a thorough critical investigation. Some works attributed to him that were not authored by him. Only his sermons are believed to be genuine, and they have undergone many editions. A.G.H.

 

Johannes Tauler mystic

Johannes Tauler, a significant figure in the Christian mysticism of the 14th century, made impactful contributions to the spiritual landscape of his time, influencing later religious reformers and mystics.

 

Early Life and Background

  • Born in 1300: Tauler was born in Strasbourg, which was then part of the Holy Roman Empire.
  • Dominican Order: He joined the Dominican Order, a Catholic religious order known for its emphasis on scholarship and preaching.
  • Studies: Tauler studied in Cologne, a major center of theological learning during that period.

 

Mystical Teachings

  • Influence of Meister Eckhart: Tauler was greatly influenced by Meister Eckhart, another prominent Christian mystic, and philosopher.
  • Doctrine of Visio Essentice Dei: His central teaching focused on the ‘visio essentice Dei’ (the blessed contemplation or knowledge of the Divine nature). He believed that this divine knowledge is attainable in this life by the perfect man.
  • Integration of Thomistic Thought: While deriving his doctrines from Thomas Aquinas, Tauler expanded on these ideas, emphasizing the attainability of divine knowledge and experience in the earthly life.
  • God’s Immanence in Humanity: He preached that God dwells in every human being, and to experience God’s transcendent presence, one must transcend sinful human activities.

 

Approach to Mysticism

  • Emphasis on Love and Grace: Tauler taught that the path to God is through love, and God responds to this love with His divine presence.
  • Spiritual Transformation: He spoke of the necessity of inner transformation and the cessation of worldly pursuits to achieve spiritual union with God.

 

Influence and Legacy

  • Impact on Western Mysticism: Tauler’s teachings on ethical and religious aspects of mysticism had a profound and lasting influence on Western mysticism.
  • Influence on Martin Luther: Although Tauler remained a Catholic and opposed heresies, his ideas resonated with Martin Luther, the Protestant Reformer. Luther was particularly drawn to Tauler’s emphasis on inner earnestness in seeking God.
  • Critique of Indulgences and Works: Tauler’s relative lack of emphasis on indulgences and works (in contrast to the Catholic Church’s teachings at the time) might have appealed to Luther and other reformers.

 

Writings

  • Sermons: Most of Tauler’s extant writings are his sermons, which have been widely published and translated. They are considered authentic and reflect his mystical theology.
  • Critical Examination: Not all works attributed to Tauler were written by him, and there has been scholarly effort to discern his genuine works.

 

Modern Perspective

  • Continued Relevance: Tauler’s works continue to be studied for their insights into Christian mysticism and spirituality.
  • Historical Figure: He is regarded as a key figure in the history of Christian thought, bridging medieval mysticism and the emerging ideas of the Reformation.

 


Sources: John Tauler, and 2, 298.