The inspiring Spirituel who dared to exalt love over reason and call theologians asses.
Dossier on the inspiring Spirituel who exalted Love over Reason and referred to the theologians as asses. Includes my transcendental letter to her, citing a famous troubador of the era.
Dossier on Marguerite Porete, Martyr to Love
I. Abstract of Criminal Record
NAME: Marguerite Porete,
PROSECUTING AUTHORITY: the Inquisition, under Philip the Fair.
DATE OF ARREST: about 1308
PLACE OF RESIDENCE: Hainaut, a medieval county presently in N. France and S.W. Belgium
INFORMATION: brought forth by Guy II's successor, Philip of Marigny, Bishop of Cambrai, N. France, to the effect that the suspect was spreading heresy "among simple people and beghards." The case was referred to high authority, the Provincial Inquisitor of Haute Lorraine, N.E. France, who forwarded it to Paris.
FORMAL CHARGE: Heretical Mysticism. Marguerite elevated mystic Love over Reason in her latest book, arousing the sexual fears of the pious authorities and threatening the patriarchical structure of society based upon "male" reason. She had submitted her book for preliminary critical appraisal to three spiritual authorities: Friar Minor John de Querayn, a liberal, representative of the most modern movement; Cistercian Frank of the Abbey of Villiers, a conservative and exponent of the monastic traditions; Godfrey of Fontaines, a moderate, famous theologian and scholastic, ex-regent of Paris University. The critics said her work was legitimate, but two of them warned her not to publish it.
DIVISION OF THE CHARGE: The formal charge was divided as follows:
1. The accused said that, via Seven Stages of Grace, the Soul is united with the Trinity in the Fifth and Sixth Stage, or God Himself, without any searching;
2. The accused said the Soul is liberated from the Virtues;
3. The accused said Love is the Great Church and that Reason is the Little Church;
4. The accused said the Soul does not seek God by Works, Thoughts, or
5.. The accused said union with God is NOW and in THIS world, in this bodily existence;
6. The accused made her book public;
7. The accused refused to answer questions.
RELIGIOUS AFFILIATION: Suspected Beguine, a heretical, penitential secular order of women religious appearing originally in the 12th century at Liege, Belgium.
PREVIOUS RECORD: Condemned for heresy by Guy II, Bishop of Cambrai. The heretical book in question, her first, was burned in the public square of her then residence, Valenciennes. The possession or publication of the book was prohibited under pain of excommunication and she was released.
PLACE OF TRIAL AND EXECUTION: Paris. Marguerite Porete is believed to be the first heretic burned at Paris by the Inquisition.
PRESIDING: Master William Humbert of Paris, a Dominican, Inquisitor General of the Kingdom of France, and King Philip's confessor. Reputedly a sinister man, Master William had presided over the trial of the Templars. It is rumoured that the trial and execution of Marguerite was token compensation to the Pope for the outrageous destruction of the Knights Templars. Since the Beguines believed the Pope was the Antichrist, prosecuting Marguerite as a Beguine, whether or not she actually belonged to the lay organization, would have demonstrated unwavering devotion to the Pope.
EXPERT WITNESSES: a special commission of 21 theologians from Paris University assembled at the Church of St.Mathurin. The Commission took certain sections of the book out of context and adjudged it heretical. The verdict was not suprising, especially since Marguerite had on previous occasions called the Paris University theologians churls, merchants, small minds, sheep and asses.
EVIDENCE: Her second published book, The Mirror of Simple Souls, wherein Marguerite exalted mystic Love over Reason. After she was executed, her book circulated secretly and anonymously in monasteries and nunneries. It was eventually widely circulated in several languages, and had a revolutionary influence on spiritual thinking. The book was not attributed to Marguerite of Hainaut until 1946 (by Romana Guarnieri). It has been critically acclaimed as the finest work written in the Old French vernacular.
DEFENSE WITNESS: Beghard Guiard de Cressonessart, a Joachimist millenarian, who was said to possess the keys of David and was therefore called the "Angel of Philadelphia", was disposed to testify truthfully in Marguerite's favor. He was arrested in 1308 by order of Master William and an effort was made to force him to testify on Marguerite's "behalf"; that is, for her "salvation". He was imprisoned for 18 months to "reflect", and refused to appear before the court. Faced with the death penalty, he retracted his obstinant position and was condemned to life imprisonment.
MARGUERITE'S PERSONAL DEFENSE: After 18 month's imprisonment to reflect, Marguerite refused to appear, refused to swear to tell the "truth" to the Inquisitor, and refused to retract in the face of death.
VERDICT: Guilty as charged. Remanded to the civil authorities on May 31, 1310 as it was unconscionable for the Christian spiritual authorities to actually murder the people they condemned.
SENTENCE: Death. Marguerite was burned at the stake on June 1, 1310, at Place de Greve, now Place d l' Hotel de Ville. An enormous crowd attended and many were converted to her favor because of her courage at the stake. Those who love her say she was sacrificed not to the Pope but to Love.
II. Marguerite's Nine Points For Contemplation
1. The Soul cannot be found.
The Soul is crushed by all it knows, its sins, which are really nothing, hence the "annihilated" Soul itself is less than nothing.
2. The Soul is saved by Faith and not by works.
Faith imparts the Trinity, and one can do nothing of her own will.
3. The Soul is alone in Love.
The Soul finds no comfort in any creature except God, therefore asks nothing of creatures.
4. The Soul does nothing for God.
God has no use for works, and the Soul has use only for what God does. Since He is infinitely rich, she can never be poor.
5. The Soul leaves nothing aside that she can do for God.
She does only the will of God, and never thinks against God.
6. The Soul can be taught nothing.
The One she loves was never known and never will be, and is greater than all the knowledge in the world.
7. Nothing can be taken away from the Soul.
God is not in possessions, and everything taken away from the Soul leaves God in her as God.
8. One can give the Soul nothing.
What she has already exceeds anything that can be given. The "less" she has, the "more" God has in her.
9. The Soul has no will.
God is her only will.
Pure Love allows the Soul to be abandoned to the annihilated life, becoming the fixed abode of Charity.
III. The Beguines
The Beguine movement started during the 12th century in Belgium among upper-class women, then spread to middle-class women and eventually to poorer women.
Wealthy and noble medieval women were faced with the prospect of obtaining a husband or becoming cloistered in a convent. Since the dowries charged by convents were exorbitant, convents became havens for rich women, who were, in turn, served by poor women. The resulting disparity between rich and poor women in the cloisters caused reformers such as Clare of Assisi to work towards restoring the simple apostolic life to the convents.
To make matters worse, the ravages of war, disease, and guild rules caused women in general to be faced with a shortage of men available for marriage. Feudal society was disintegrating as the market economy symbolized by money grew; the nobility were selling land and titles; the powerless people (pauperese) or poor and unemployed were wandering the countryside. The social authorities were seeking a norm in contrast to the disruptions of the old order. They found deviates or social "lepers" to persecute, such as Jews, sodomites, prostitutes, fools and so on; they found natural allies in the rising merchant class. Medieval women did have their guilds - women virtually dominated the textile industry - yet they were faced with the hostility and lawsuits of the dominating, all-male guilds.
Out of those conditions grew beguinages, or women's lodgings where a few-score women without husbands or access to convents would reside together for their own security and use their skills to provide services to the public, such as weaving, nursing, and housework. The Beguines promised to remain chaste while residing at the Beguinages, but could leave and marry at will. Their spiritual concerns were served by Dominican and Franciscan friars, natural allies to the impoverished pursuant to the example set by Francis of Assisi, the sainted hero of social "lepers". some of whom believed he was the promised Christ - as for real lepers, liberals were glad to kiss their sores for they lepers had fully suffered for man's sins hence were closest to God. Mysticism rapidly spread among the Beguinages; with the advance of literacy, enthusiastic spiritual journals became quite the rage.
It is believed that the term Beguine derives from the French word "bege" (beige), or perhaps "baga" (hood), referring to the grey-brown homespun cloth St. Francis and other spirituals were fond of. The spiritual impact of St. Francis was tremendous during this crucial medieval period; in fact, it has been said that, if this early Reformation had succeeded, today's "Christians" would be calling themselves "Franciscans."
Joachim of Flora's writing was the spiritual movement's manifesto. Based on his studies of the Bible and the Trinity, Joachim concluded that there are three ages - Law, Faith, and Love - and that the Age of Love according to the Eternal Gospel was already upon the world, for which he proposed an ideal social order, namely, the monastic life. Joachim himself was not a revolutionary nor was he convicted of heresy, but reformers eagerly seized upon his Age-of-Love historical concept and concluded that the Age of Faith, meaning that of the Catholic Church, was over.
It was indeed a crucial time. The battle between God and Money was actually being fought out in the courts. The main question being tried was whether Jesus and the apostles held property individually, or in common, or neither. The Pope, who was not only powerful but an excellent lawyer, won the case for materialism with brilliant, sophisticated arguments.
Meanwhile, the counterparts to the Beguines, the mendicant Beghards, or beggars, were wandering about in the name of God; some of them, of course, accumulating quite a bad reputation along the way. A few wealthy men who took the Bible literally were caught up by the revival, gave their fortunes to Beguinages and joined the Beghards. Thus the Beguinage movement, in receiving both income and capital investment, was not only a spiritual but an economic threat to the Church.
IV. Letter to Lady Marguerite
Most Courteous Lady,
As I scratch out this appeal for your transcendent charms, a brief glance over your heavenly shoulder would make of a instant a joyful epoch for me. Indeed, the mere reflection of your face in the mirror would repay my fond regard with the sweetest of countenances. Furthermore, for the bare image of your fleeting presence, I would rhapsodize the millenniums with songs praising your beauty. Although in your supreme modesty you may demur that you are less than nothing because you are oppressed by nothingness, your bounty is more than enough for me.
Please allow me to introduce myself. I am a man of substance who feels substantial discontent drawing lines frantically across pages from left to right, denying all conclusions, frightened by the possibility of a final period. I forsake the roman rhythm as well as the familiar habit of rhyming. I flee from the discipline of the stuffy old schools of vain, vapid repetitions which lend a smug feeling to what is really awfully straunge. Wherefore, Madame, I plead for your literal grace.
My poor writing hand is moved to form letter after letter, bid by some unseen but certain force to spell out my crude incantation invoking a precious glimpse of your illumined being eternally crowned by courage. Perchance I shall feel your gracious hand brush mine as I stroll this incoherent ramble which impatiently awaits the elevating rapture to your transcendental realm of purest Love.
Dearest Lady, I have for too long been stumbling over the tombstones of times in places, terminals for the ever molting flesh marking off this world as a labyrinth of vanishing forms. Lovely though illusions may be, I am left alone, disillusioned, pending your gracious presence. Thus I foster a point of life in the void, a glowing spark from the bonfire of your humble spirit exalted at the Place de Greve and carried down to me by winds whispered through nunnery and monastery.
Many are your lovers, Lady, and many are those who fail to convey the beauty of your flame in words: even their best texts cloth your glory in a drab garment not quite gray or brown. Compared to those fashionable wordsmiths cluttering your court with their fancy ornaments, I bray, barely, like a donkey from the alley, yet still I venture to say that I love you more than any other.
Oh, Fond Lady, if only I possessed the fine phrases and melodies of a brash troubadour such as King Peire! Ah, but you are not deceived by the courtesies at your feet. Nor are you disturbed by the flesh ensouled, for you know a man's love for a lady is not altogether carnal - true love cannot be incorporated.
True lovers must confess, Lovely Lady, that lovers love most the Ideal Lady, although they see her not in the shimmering pool of their own vanity. The Ideal Lady is the mirror before whom each poor soul performs all those acts falling, like tears, tragically short of perfection. Nevertheless, finding himself alone after bitter experience, the hapless romantic wretch would once more sacrifice flesh to his consuming passion. Yet it is not passion that drives the lover mad, but the flesh, for the spirit makes him whole - the lover is mad in matter but sane in spirit. And there rests the fundamental hypocrisy, the ground of divorce and the fulsome motive for reconciliation.
By your most gracious leave, Joyous True Lady, permit me to mention King Peire again. I know his vanity and love for women in the flesh shall offend you not, for you are a playwright and poet on the highest stage of all. You fully fathom the extent of love - and deep in love you shall find me your most humble servant. Still, I am not as well versed and adept in these matters as Peire Vidal. Therefore, in closing, I faithfully recite a few of his words while praying that you shall accept the spirit of his text in my context, and respond to me anon.
"Nothing has pleased me so well as the Joyous True Lady
In whom is every good quality without any evil.
Since all things are in her that are fitting to love,
I am lucky if only I may be there,
And if mercy, which makes all good things to increase,
Avail me aught with her,
I may say without any denial
That I never could effect so much with love."
"Soon can she be overthrowing grief,
If on one's heart it seizes.
E'n the thought of her appeases woe,
And he whose praise is glowing never to speak false need fear.
Surely she has no peer.
None so fair in mirror gazes."
Very Truly Yours,
David Arthur Walters
V. Jaroslav Vrchlicky's poetic interpretation of Joachim de Flora's "eternal gospel."
Now what is written in the revelation will come to pass.
Indeed, first of all a great morning will shine out for humanity.
Again the Angel flies through the ravine over the abyss and he holds the eternal gospel so that he can announce it over the mountains and the waters into the crowd of the languages of all men and of all clans.
The world is sinking in the flood of vanity and blood.
Who sees the Angel as he flies through the dark skies?
This heavenly guest is half hidden by stars;
Down below the world sleeps or wallows in vices;
The mitre weights heavily on pope, and on king weighs heavily the wreath, on scholar the book.
At midnight my eyes rise to the sky.
Behold, the clasp of the book flashes in the clouds!
Here on a rocky slope in Calabria, where wolves vie with the wind in their howling;
here I am close to the sky, and, indeed, I see it.
And I let myself be guided by the words of the Apostle;
Now we see everything as in a mirror!
But withered leaves will rise again through new sap!
Oh, listen, you whose hearts are tired, have lost their warmth! Says the Angel of God, who flies above the world;
The only and the third Kingdom of the Spirit will come, when all riches and possessions and gold, jewels, base wealth will be mere mire, when the poor in goods will be rich in spirit, and the world comes alive with the bustle of eternal spring.
With trembling, joyous ear I listen to him.
He speaks in the wind; he speaks in the thunder; I know he tells the truth, for from one side here I look at Sodom and Rome, and from the other side I look in anger at Byzantium and Gomorrha, and I weigh up their error and guilt, and I do not wonder the world lies in shadows.
He rides into the world like a fiery wedge.
The kingdom of the Father has been: that was the flaring of sweet stars. The kingdom of the Son has been: that was the smiling of the Moon. The kingdom of the Spirit is to come, an unperishing Sun; I can hear the wings of its messengers beating... Those two kingdoms are past and the third is arising; its glory is already dawning in the East.
The Angel waves the great book over the world.
The kingdom of Laws, suffering and anxiety has been; the kingdom of mercy, Faith and discipline has been; now the kingdom of Love will come, the kingdom of eternal Love! You tarried only at the entrance of the sanctuary, but now you will yourselves enter the tabernacle; you will walk on roses, where you used to walk on nettles.
A 'Halleluja' sounds through the expanse of worlds.
Oh, all of you come to the one table! First there was the Bible, and the the Apostles' joy-giving message spread itself onto the drawn world. Now the eternal gospel transmits its glowing flame; now the true freedom of human souls will begin, the freedom which will victoriously trample all chains into the dust.
My vision suggests to me this kingdom of the Spirit.
Through that kingdom I hack myself out a way over the weir of eloquence. Francis will be its highpriest; he will complete Christ in the future age, for Christ stooped only to man, where Francis stooped to animal, and took matter into his loving embrace.
Therefore he is the centre of the great third kingdom.
All that the Angel said to me in the dark night, as I was finishing the 'Ave' on my rosary and as I turned to gaze from the heights of Calabria into the darkness of the world, which is putrefying in injustices, on the one hand harnessed under the yoke of the she-wolf of Rome, on the other hand pursued by the hangmen of Byzantium:
I, Joachim of Fiore, prophecy this golden age.
Druha antologie z vasni Jar. Vrcklickeho
(Prague: Otto, n.d. (1903)
Jaroslav Vrchlicky's poem was set to music by composer Leos Janacek (1854-1928) in his cantata, 'Eternal Gospel' (1914), reminiscent of a Glagolitic Mass.
Jaroslav Vrchlicky was born in 1853. His real name was Emil Frida. He is often referred to as "the unknown father of Czech poetry."
Besides his 85 volumes of lyric verse, Jaroslav Vrchlicky wrote 270 volumes translating world literature from French, Spanish, Italian, and German into his native tongue, in order to bring Czechoslovakia out of its provincial corner.
Vrchlicky's poetry is epic, contemplative, lyric and philosophical. His favorite subjects were the Bible and Talmud, Greek and Roman reasoning, the Renaissance, Provence tales, sorcery, knighthood, geniuses, heretics, battles and wars.
He was greatly influenced by Victor Hugo's stories of humanity's triumph over cruelty and fanaticism. He advocated using improvisational techniques for writing and living: "If life is good, the improvisations are good." He was inspired by his wife Sofi Podlipsaka, with whom he raised three children. In 1892 he received a letter informing him he was not the father of two of them - this was reportedly a cause of great despair to him. He died in 1912.
VI. From Poetry of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Christus: A Mystery
First Interlude: the Abbot Joachim,
a room in the convent of Flora in Calabria, at night.)
The wind is rising; it seizes and shakes
The doors and window-blinds and makes
Mysterious moanings in the halls;
The convent-chimneys seem almost
The trumpets of some heavenly host,
Setting its watch upon our walls!
Where it listeth, there it bloweth;
We hear the sound, but no man knoweth
Whence it cometh or whither it goeth,
And thus it is with the Holy Ghost.
O breath of God! O my delight
In many a vigil of the night,
Like the great voice in Patmos heard
By John, the Evangelist of the Word,
I hear thee behind me saying: Write
In a book the things that thou hast seen,
The things that are, and that have been,
And the things that shall hereafter be!
This convent, on the rocky crest
Of the Calabrian hills, to me
A Patmos is wherein I rest;
While round about me like a sea
The white mists roll, and overflow
The world that lies unseen below
In darkness and in mystery.
Here in the Spirit, in the vast
Embrace of God's encircling arm,
Am I uplifted from all harm
The world seems something far away,
Something belonging to the Past,
A hostelry, a peasant's farm,
That lodged me for a night or day,
In which I care not to remain,
Nor, having left, to see again.
Thus, in the hollow of Gods hand
I dwelt on sacred Tabor's height,
When as a simple acolyte
I journeyed to the Holy Land,
A pilgrim for my master's sake,
And saw the Galilean Lake,
And walked through many a village street
That once had echoed to his feet.
There first I heard the great command,
The voice behind me saying: Write!
And suddenly my soul became
Illumined by a flash of flame,
That left imprinted on my thought
The image I in vain had sought,
And which forever shall remain;
As sometimes from these windows high,
Gazing at midnight on the sky
Black with a storm of wind and rain,
I have beheld a sudden glare
Of lightning lay the landscape bare,
With tower and town and hill and plain
Distinct and burnt into my brain,
Never to be effaced again!
And I have written. These volumes three,
The Apocalypse, the Harmony
Of the Sacred Scriptures, new and old,
And the Psalter with Ten Strings, enfold
Within their pages, all and each,
The Eternal Gospel that I teach.
Well I remember the Kingdom of Heaven
Hath been likened to a little leaven
Hidden in two measures of meal,
Until it leavened the whole mass;
So likewise will it come to pass
With the doctrines that I here conceal.
Open and manifest to me
The truth appears, and must be told;
All sacred mysteries are threefold;
Three Persons in the Trinity,
Three ages of Humanity,
And holy Scriptures likewise three,
Of Fear, of Wisdom, and of Love;
For Wisdom that begins in Fear
Endeth in Love; the atmosphere
In which the soul delights to be
And finds that perfect liberty
Which cometh only from above.
In the first Age, the early prime
And dawn of all historic time,
The Father reigned; and face to face
He spake with the primeval race.
Bright Angels, on his errands sent,
Sat with the patriarch in his tent;
His prophets thundered in the street;
His lightnings flashed, his hailstorms beat;
In earthquake and in flood and flame,
In tempest and in cloud He came!
The fear of God is in his Book;
The pages of the Pentateuch
Are full of the terror of his name.
Then reigned the Son; his Covenant
Was peace on earth, good-will to man;
With Him the reign of Law began.
He was the Wisdom and the Word,
And sent his Angels Ministrant,
Unterrified and undeterred,
To rescue souls forlorn and lost,
The troubled, tempted, tempest-tost
To heal, to comfort, and to teach.
The fiery tongues of Pentecost
His symbols were, that they should preach
In every form of human speech
From continent to continent.
He is the Light Divine, whose rays
Across the thousand years unspent
Shine through the darkness of our days,
And touch with their celestial fires
Our churches and our convent spires.
His Book is the New Testament.
These Ages now are of the Past;
And the Third Age begins at last.
The coming of the Holy Ghost,
The reign of Grace, the reign of Love
Brightens the mountain-tops above,
And the dark outline of the coast.
Already the whole land is white
With Convent walls, as if by night
A snow had fallen on hill and height!
Already from the streets and marts
Of town and traffic, and low cares,
Men climb the consecrated stairs
With weary feet, and bleeding hearts;
And leave the world and its delights,
Its passions, struggles, and despairs,
For contemplation and for prayers
In cloister-cells of cenobites.
Eternal benedictions rest
Upon thy name, Saint Benedict!
Founder of convents in the West,
Who built on Mount Cassino's crest
In the Land of Labor, thine eagle's nest!
May I be found not derelict
In aught of faith or godly fear,
If I have written, in many a page,
The Gospel of the coming age,
The Eternal Gospel men shall hear.
Oh may I live resembling thee,
And die at last as thou hast died;
So that hereafter men may see,
Within the choir, a form of air,
Standing with arms outstretched in prayer,
As one that hath been crucified!
My work is finished; I am strong
In faith and hope and charity;
For I have written the things I see,
The things that have been and shall be,
Conscious of right, nor fearing wrong;
Because I am in love with Love,
And the sole thing I hate is Hate;
For Hate is death; and Love is life,
A peace, a splendor from above;
And Hate, a never-ending strife,
A smoke, a blackness from the abyss
Where unclean serpents coil and hiss!
Love is the Holy Ghost within
Hate the unpardonable sin!
Who preaches otherwise than this
Betrays his Master with a kiss!