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.

Sources: John Tauler, and 2, 298.