Theologia Deutsch: brisante Ideen zwischen „deutscher Mystik“ und Reformation
Theologia Deutsch: Disquieting Conceptions between ‘German Mysticism’ and the Reformation
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This study aims to provide a detailed intellectual analysis of Theologia Deutsch, an anonymous work of ‘German mysticism’ dating to the turn of the 15th century which had a fundamental impacted on the development of theological and philosophical thought in the German lands during the 16th century. The author lays particular emphasis on the work’s neo-Platonic roots, outlines its most important philosophical underpinnings, situates the work in its contemporary intellectual context and fi nally establishes links to certain strands of 16th- and 17th-century thought evident particularly in the works of Valentin Weigel (1533–1588), Sebastian Franck (1499–1542) and Jacob Böhme (1575–1624). The intention the author of Theologia Deutsch had of coming to terms with the teachings of ‘free spirits’, which he understood as representing a sort of non-religious intellectualism, is considered to be decisive for the overall conception of the work and for the formulation of its component answers. Theologia Deutsch attempts to define this intellectual trend more precisely, as against the views and dealings of true ‘Friends of God’. This is especially important because the neo-Platonic bases of Theologia Deutsch come quite close at times to the ideas of the ‘free spirits’. The study pays particular attention to emphasising the role of affectivity in Theologia Deutsch and its thorough consideration of the relationship between intellect (knowledge) and will (love). Here Theologia Deutsch tries to establish a connection between Thomistic and voluntaristic motifs and, at the same time, draw from the views of Tauler and Eckhart. The study then devotes itself to significant considerations of the concepts of freedom and order: the measure of their proper proportions in Theologia Deutsch became the ‘life of Christ’ (Christus-Leben) as an insuperable model which was at the very least potentially imitable, though it most probably remained somehow singular in actuality; its fulfilment was the ‘Godly or Godlike man’. In answer to the question as to why the term ‘Godlike man’ (or Godly man) does not entail the overcoming and relinquishment of the virtues, the commandments and all order in the name of freedom, we find in Theologia Deutsch a far-ranging metaphysical reflection on the relationship between an inert ‘Godliness’ and a voluntaristically understood ‘God’. A condition for the actualisation of the ‘eternal will’, which is in God in potentia, is His creation, man. The ‘Godly or Godlike man’ is the medium through which the self-cognition of God is achieved. From man’s perspective, however, this cognition is an act which is not purely theoretical, but rather theoretical-practical, for it is based on the conformity of the will of the created being with the will of God. At the same time, it is – in a certain sense – only by means of this cognition that God is constituted as God as opposed to Godliness. The closing section of the article briefly outlines the reception of the new God-man relationship discussed in Theologia Deutsch among certain thinkers of the Reformed period.
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