The Theologia Germanica of Martin Luther

Overview


Luther popularized this work by an unknown 14th-century German author who focuses on the "divine life," which is directed or guided by the "true light" of God. A primer in Catholic mysticism, it offers an abundance of insightful spiritual advice, written in simple language and relevant to all Christian denominations.
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The Theologia Germanica of Martin Luther

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Overview


Luther popularized this work by an unknown 14th-century German author who focuses on the "divine life," which is directed or guided by the "true light" of God. A primer in Catholic mysticism, it offers an abundance of insightful spiritual advice, written in simple language and relevant to all Christian denominations.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780486437712
  • Publisher: Dover Publications
  • Publication date: 10/15/2004
  • Edition description: Unabridged Reprint Edition
  • Pages: 144
  • Product dimensions: 5.42 (w) x 8.46 (h) x 0.29 (d)

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The Theologia Germanica of Martin Luther


By Susanna Winkworth

Dover Publications, Inc.

Copyright © 2004 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-486-14849-6


CHAPTER 1

Of that which is perfect and that which is in part, and how that which is in part is done away, when that which is perfect is come.


ST PAUL saith, 'When that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.' Now mark what is 'that which is perfect', and 'that which is in part'.

'That which is perfect' is a Being, who hath comprehended and included all things in Himself and His own Substance, and without whom, and beside whom, there is no true Substance, and in whom all things have their Substance. For He is the Substance of all things, and is in Himself unchangeable and immoveable, and changeth and moveth all things else. But 'that which is in part', or the Imperfect, is that which hath its source in, or springeth from the Perfect; just as a brightness or a visible appearance floweth out from the sun or a candle, and appeareth to be somewhat, this or that. And it is called a creature; and of all these 'things which are in part', none is the Perfect. So also the Perfect is none of the things which are in part. The things which are in part can be apprehended, known, and expressed; but the Perfect cannot be apprehended, known, or expressed by any creature as creature. Therefore we do not give a name to the Perfect, for it is none of these. The creature as creature cannot know nor apprehend it, name nor conceive it.

'Now when that which is Perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.' But when doth it come? I say, when as much as may be, it is known, felt and tasted of the soul. [For the lack lieth altogether in us, and not in it. In like manner the sun lighteth the whole world, and is as near to one as another, yet a blind man seeth it not; but the fault thereof lieth in the blind man, not in the sun. And like as the sun may not hide its brightness, but must give light unto the earth (for heaven indeed draweth its light and heat from another fountain), so also God, who is the highest Good, willeth not to hide Himself from any, wheresoever He findeth a devout soul, that is thoroughly purified from all creatures. For in what measure we put off the creature, in the same measure are we able to put on the Creator; neither more nor less. For if mine eye is to see anything, it must be single, or else be purified from all other things; and where heat and light enter in, cold and darkness must needs depart; it cannot be otherwise.]

But one might say, 'Now since the Perfect cannot be known nor apprehended of any creature, but the soul is a creature, how can it be known by the soul?' Answer: This is why we say, 'by the soul as a creature'. We mean it is impossible to the creature in virtue of its creature-nature and qualities, that by which it saith 'I' and 'myself'. For in whatsoever creature the Perfect shall be known, therein creature-nature, qualities, the I, the Self and the like, must all be lost and done away. This is the meaning of that saying of St Paul: 'When that which is perfect is come' (that is, when it is known), 'then that which is in part' (to wit, creature-nature, qualities, the I, the Self, the Mine) will be despised and counted for nought. So long as we think much of these things, cleave to them with love, joy, pleasure or desire, so long remaineth the Perfect unknown to us.

But it might further be said, 'Thou sayest, beside the Perfect there is no Substance, yet sayest again that somewhat floweth out from it: now is not that which hath flowed out from it, something beside it?' Answer: This is why we say, beside it, or without it, there is no true Substance. That which hath flowed forth from it, is no true Substance, and hath no Substance except in the Perfect, but is an accident, or a brightness, or a visible appearance, which is no Substance, and hath no Substance except in the fire whence the brightness flowed forth, such as the sun or a candle.

CHAPTER 2

Of what Sin is, and how we must not take unto ourselves any good Thing, seeing that it belongeth unto the true Good alone.


THE Scripture and the Faith and the Truth say, Sin is nought else, but that the creature turneth away from the unchangeable Good and betaketh itself to the changeable; that is to say, that it turneth away from the Perfect to 'that which is in part' and imperfect, and most often to itself. Now mark: when the creature claimeth for its own anything good, such as Substance, Life, Knowledge, Power, and in short whatever we should call good, as if it were that, or possessed that, or that were itself, or that proceeded from it – as often as this cometh to pass, the creature goeth astray. What did the devil do else, or what was his going astray and his fall else, but that he claimed for himself to be also somewhat, and would have it that somewhat was his, and somewhat was due to him? This setting up of a claim and his I and Me and Mine, these were his going astray, and his fall. And thus it is to this day.

CHAPTER 3

How Man's Fall and going astray must be amended as Adam's Fall was.


WHAT else did Adam do but this same thing? It is said, it was because Adam ate the apple that he was lost, or fell. I say, it was because of his claiming something for his own, and because of his I, Mine, Me, and the like. Had he eaten seven apples, and yet never claimed anything for his own, he would not have fallen: but as soon as he called something his own, he fell, and would have fallen if he had never touched an apple. Behold! I have fallen a hundred times more often and deeply, and gone a hundred times farther astray than Adam; and not all mankind could amend his fall, or bring him back from going astray. But how shall my fall be amended? It must be healed as Adam's fall was healed, and on the self-same wise. By whom, and on what wise was that healing brought to pass? Mark this: man could not without God, and God should not without man. Wherefore God took human nature or manhood upon Himself and was made man, and man was made divine. Thus the healing was brought to pass. So also must my fall be healed. I cannot do the work without God, and God may not or will not without me; for if it shall be accomplished, in me, too, God must be made man; in such sort that God must take to Himself all that is in me, within and without, so that there may be nothing in me which striveth against God or hindereth His work. Now if God took to Himself all men that are in the world, or ever were, and were made man in them, and they were made divine in Him, and this work were not fulfilled in me, my fall and my wandering would never be amended except it were fulfilled in me also. And in this bringing back and healing, I can, or may, or shall do nothing of myself, but just simply yield to God, so that He alone may do all things in me and work, and I may suffer Him and all His work and His divine will. And because I will not do so, but I count myself to be my own, and say 'I', 'Mine', 'Me' and the like, God is hindered, so that He cannot do His work in me alone and without hindrance; for this cause my fall and my going astray remain unhealed. Behold! this all cometh of my claiming somewhat for my own.

CHAPTER 4

How Man, when he claimeth any good Thing for his own, falleth, and toucheth God in His Honour.


GOD saith, 'I will not give My glory to another.' This is as much as to say, that praise and honour and glory belong to none but to God only. But now, if I call any good thing my own, as if I were it, or of myself had power or did or knew anything, or as if anything were mine or of me, or belonged to me, or were due to me or the like, I take unto myself somewhat of honour and glory, and do two evil things: First, I fall and go astray as aforesaid: Secondly, I touch God in His honour and take unto myself what belongeth to God only. For all that must be called good belongeth to none but to the true eternal Goodness which is God only, and whoso taketh it unto himself, committeth unrighteousness and is against God.

CHAPTER 5

How we are to take that Saying, that we must come to be without Will, Wisdom, Love, Desire, Knowledge, and the like.


CERTAIN men say that we ought to be without will, Cwisdom, love, desire, knowledge, and the like. Hereby is not to be understood that there is to be no knowledge in man, and that God is not to be loved by him, nor desired and longed for, nor praised and honoured; for that were a great loss, and man were like the beasts [and as the brutes that have no reason]. But it meaneth that man's knowledge should be so clear and perfect that he should acknowledge of a truth [that in himself he neither hath nor can do any good thing, and that none of his knowledge, wisdom and art, his will, love and good works do come from himself, nor are of man, nor of any creature, but] that all these are of the eternal God, from whom they all proceed. [As Christ Himself saith, 'Without Me, ye can do nothing.' St Paul saith also, 'What hast thou that thou hast not received?' As much as to say – nothing. 'Now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory as if thou hadst not received it?' Again he saith, 'Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves, but our sufficiency is of God.'] Now when a man duly perceiveth these things in himself, he and the creature fall behind, and he doth not call anything his own, and the less he taketh this knowledge unto himself, the more perfect doth it become. So also is it with the will, and love and desire, and the like. For the less we call these things our own, the more perfect and noble and Godlike do they become, and the more we think them our own, the baser and less pure and perfect do they become.

Behold on this sort must we cast all things from us, and strip ourselves of them; we must refrain from claiming anything for our own. When we do this, we shall have the best, fullest, clearest and noblest knowledge that a man can have, and also the noblest and purest love, will and desire; for then these will be all of God alone. It is much better that they should be God's than the creature's. Now that I ascribe anything good to myself, as if I were, or had done, or knew, or could perform any good thing, or that it were mine, this is all of sin and folly. For if the truth were rightly known by me, I should also know that I am not that good thing and that it is not mine, nor of me, and that I do not know it, and cannot do it, and the like. If this came to pass, I should needs cease to call anything my own.

It is better that God, or His works, should be known, as far as it be possible to us, and loved, praised and honoured, and the like, and even that man should vainly imagine he loveth or praiseth God, than that God should be altogether unpraised, unloved, unhonoured and unknown. For when the vain imagination and ignorance are turned into an understanding and knowledge of the truth, the claiming anything for our own will cease of itself. Then the man says: 'Behold! I, poor fool that I was, imagined it was I, but behold! it is, and was, of a truth, God!'

CHAPTER 6

How that which is best and noblest should also be loved above all Things by us, merely because it is the best.


A MASTER called Boetius saith, 'It is of sin that we do not love that which is Best.' He hath spoken the truth. That which is best should be the dearest of all things to us; and in our love of it, neither helpfulness nor unhelpfulness, advantage nor injury, gain nor loss, honour nor dishonour, praise nor blame, nor anything of the kind should be regarded; but what is in truth the noblest and best of all things, should be also the dearest of all things, and that for no other cause than that it is the noblest and best.

Hereby may a man order his life within and without. His outward life: for among the creatures one is better than another, according as the Eternal Good manifesteth itself and worketh more in one than in another. Now that creature in which the Eternal Good most manifesteth itself, shineth forth, worketh, is most known and loved, is the best, and that wherein the Eternal Good is least manifested is the least good of all creatures. Therefore when we have to do with the creatures and hold converse with them, and take note of their diverse qualities, the best creatures must always be the dearest to us, and we must cleave to them, and unite ourselves to them, above all to those which we attribute to God as belonging to Him or divine, such as wisdom, truth, kindness, peace, love, justice, and the like. Hereby shall we order our outward man, and all that is contrary to these virtues we must eschew and flee from.

But if our inward man were to make a leap and spring into the Perfect, we should find and taste how that the Perfect is without measure, number or end, better and nobler than all which is imperfect and in part, and the Eternal above the temporal or perishable, and the fountain and source above all that floweth or can ever flow from it. Thus that which is imperfect and in part would become tasteless and be as nothing to us. Be assured of this: All that we have said must come to pass if we are to love that which is noblest, highest and best.

CHAPTER 7

Of the Eyes of the Spirit wherewith Man looketh into Eternity and into Time, and how the one is hindered of the other in its Working.


Let us remember how it is written and said that the soul of Christ had two eyes, a right and a left eye. In the beginning, when the soul of Christ was created, she fixed her right eye upon eternity and the Godhead, and remained in the full intuition and enjoyment of the Divine Essence and Eternal Perfection; and continued thus unmoved and undisturbed by all the accidents and travail, suffering, torment and pain that ever befell the outward man. But with the left eye she beheld the creature and perceived all things therein, and took note of the difference between the creatures, which were better or worse, nobler or meaner; and thereafter was the outward man of Christ ordered.

Thus the inner man of Christ, according to the right eye of His soul, stood in the full exercise of His divine nature, in perfect blessedness, joy and eternal peace. But the outward man and the left eye of Christ's soul, stood with Him in perfect suffering, in all tribulation, affliction and travail; and this in such sort that the inward and right eye remained unmoved, unhindered and untouched by all the travail, suffering, grief and anguish that ever befell the outward man. It hath been said that when Christ was bound to the pillar and scourged, and when He hung upon the cross, according to the outward man, yet His inner man or soul according to the right eye, stood in as full possession of divine joy and blessedness as it did after His ascension, or as it doth now. In like manner His outward man, or soul with the left eye, was never hindered, disturbed or troubled by the inward eye in its contemplation of the outward things that belonged to it.

Now the created soul of man hath also two eyes. The one is the power of seeing into eternity, the other of seeing into time and the creatures, of perceiving how they differ from each other as aforesaid, of giving life and needful things to the body, and ordering and governing it for the best. But these two eyes of the soul of man cannot both perform their work at once; but if the soul shall see with the right eye into eternity, then the left eye must close itself and refrain from working, and be as though it were dead. For if the left eye be fulfilling its office toward outward things; that is, holding converse with time and the creatures; then must the right eye be hindered in its working; that is, in its contemplation. Therefore whosoever will have the one must let the other go; for 'no man can serve two masters'.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from The Theologia Germanica of Martin Luther by Susanna Winkworth. Copyright © 2004 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Historical Introduction 9
Letter from Chevalier Bunsen to the Translator 25
Chap. I Of that which is perfect and that which is in part, and how that which is in part is done away, when that which is perfect is come 35
Chap. II Of what Sin is, and how we must not take unto ourselves any good Thing, seeing that it belongeth unto the true Good alone 37
Chap. III How Man's Fall and going astray must be amended as Adam's Fall was 38
Chap. IV How Man, when he claimeth any good Thing for his own, falleth, and toucheth God in His Honour 39
Chap. V How we are to take that Saying, that we must come to be without Will, Wisdom, Love, Desire, Knowledge, and the like 40
Chap. VI How that which is best and noblest should also be loved above all Things by us, merely because it is the best 42
Chap. VII Of the Eyes of the Spirit, wherewith Man looketh into Eternity and into Time, and how the one is hindered of the other in its Working 43
Chap. VIII How the Soul of Man, while it is yet in the Body, may obtain a Foretaste of eternal Blessedness 45
Chap. IX How it is better and more profitable for a Man that he should perceive what God will do with him, or to what end He will make Use of him, than if he knew all that God had ever wrought, or would ever work through all the Creatures; and how Blessedness lieth alone in God, and not in the Creatures, or in any Works 46
Chap. X How the perfect Men have no other Desire than that they may be to the Eternal Goodness what His Hand is to a Man; and how they have lost the Fear of Hell, and Hope of Heaven 48
Chap. XI How a righteous Man in this present Time is brought into Hell, and there cannot be comforted, and how he is taken out of Hell and carried into Heaven, and there cannot be troubled 50
Chap. XII Touching that true inward Peace, which Christ left to His Disciples at the last 53
Chap. XIII How a Man may cast aside Images too soon 54
Chap. XIV Of three Stages by which a Man is led upwards till he attaineth true Perfection 55
Chap. XV How all Men are dead in Adam and are made alive again in Christ, and of true Obedience and Disobedience 56
Chap. XVI Telleth us what is the old Man, and what is the new Man 57
Chap. XVII How we are not to take unto ourselves what we have done well, but only what we have done amiss 61
Chap. XVIII How that the Life of Christ is the noblest and best Life that ever hath been or can be, and how a careless Life of false Freedom is the worst Life that can be 62
Chap. XIX How we cannot come to the true Light and Christ's Life, by much Questioning or Reading, or by high natural Skill and Reason, but by truly renouncing ourselves and all Things 63
Chap. XX How, seeing that the Life of Christ is most bitter to Nature and Self, Nature will have none of it, and chooseth a false careless Life, as is most convenient to her 64
Chap. XXI How a Friend of Christ willingly fulfilleth by his outward Works, such Things as must be and ought to be, and doth not concern himself with the rest 65
Chap. XXII How sometimes the Spirit of God, and sometimes also the Evil Spirit may possess a Man and have the Mastery over him 66
Chap. XXIII He who will submit himself to God and be obedient to Him, must be ready to bear with all Things; to wit, God, himself, and all Creatures, and must be obedient to them all, whether he have to suffer or to do 68
Chap. XXIV How that Four Things are needful before a Man can receive divine Truth and be possessed with the Spirit of God 70
Chap. XXV Of two evil Fruits that do spring up from the Seed of the Evil Spirit, and are two Sisters who love to dwell together. The one is called spiritual Pride and Highmindedness, the other is false, lawless Freedom 71
Chap. XXVI Touching Poorness of Spirit and true Humility and whereby we may discern the true and lawful free Men whom the Truth hath made free 73
Chap. XXVII How we are to take Christ's Words when He bade us forsake all Things; and wherein the Union with the Divine Will standeth 77
Chap. XXVIII How, after a Union with the Divine Will, the inward Man standeth immoveable, the while the outward Man is moved hither and thither 78
Chap. XXIX How a Man may not attain so high before Death as not to be moved and touched by outward Things 80
Chap. XXX On what wise we may come to be beyond and above all Custom, Order, Law, Precepts and the like 81
Chap. XXXI How we are not to cast off the Life of Christ, but practise it diligently, and walk in it until Death 82
Chap. XXXII How God is a true, simple, perfect Good, and how He is a Light and a Reason and all Virtues, and how what is highest and best, that is, God, ought to be most loved by us 84
Chap. XXXIII How when a Man is made truly Godlike, his Love is pure and unmixed, and he loveth all Creatures, and doth his best for them 86
Chap. XXXIV How that if a Man will attain to that which is best, he must forswear his own Will; and he who helpth a Man to his own Will helpeth him to the worst Thing he can 88
Chap. XXXV How there is deep and true Humility and Poorness of Spirit in a Man who is 'made a Partaker of the Divine Nature' 89
Chap. XXXVI How nothing is contrary to God but Sin only; and what Sin is in Kind and Act 91
Chap. XXXVII How in God, as God, there can neither be Grief, Sorrow, Displeasure, nor the like, but how it is otherwise in a Man who is 'made a Partaker of the Divine Nature' 92
Chap. XXXVIII How we are to put on the Life of Christ from Love, and not for the sake of Reward, and how we must never grow careless concerning it, or cast it off 94
Chap. XXXIX How God will have Order, Custom, Measure, and the like in the Creature, seeing that He cannot have them without the Creature, and of four sorts of Men who are concerned with this Order, Law, and Custom 95
Chap. XL A good Account of the False Light and its Kind 97
Chap. XLI How that he is to be called, and is truly, a Partaker of the Divine Nature, who is illuminated with the Divine Light, and inflamed with Eternal Love, and how Light and Knowledge are worth nothing without Love 103
Chap. XLII A Question: whether we can know God and not love Him, and how there are two kinds of Light and Love - a true and a false 105
Chap. XLIII Whereby we may know a Man who is made a Partaker of the Divine Nature, and what belongeth unto him; and further, what is the token of a False Light and a False Free-Thinker 108
Chap. XLIV How nothing is contrary to God but Self-will, and how he who seeketh his own Good for his own sake, findeth it not; and how a Man of himself neither knoweth nor can do any good Thing 112
Chap. XLV How that where there is a Christian Life, Christ dwelleth, and how Christ's Life is the best and most admirable Life that ever hath been or can be 114
Chap. XLVI How entire Satisfaction and true Rest are to be found in God alone, and not in any Creature; and how he who will be obedient unto God, must also be obedient to the Creatures, with all Quietness, and he who would love God, must love all Things in One 115
Chap. XLVII A Question: Whether, if we ought to love all Things, we ought to love Sin also? 117
Chap. XLVIII How we must believe certain Things of God's Truth beforehand, ere we can come to a true Knowledge and Experience thereof 118
Chap. XLIX Of Self-will, and how Lucifer and Adam fell away from God through Self-will 118
Chap. L How this present Time is a Paradise and Outer Court of Heaven, and how therein there is only one Tree forbidden, that is, Self-will 119
Chap. LI Wherefore God hath created Self-will, seeing that it is so contrary to Him 120
Chap. LII How we must take those two Sayings of Christ: 'No Man cometh unto the Father, but by me', and 'No Man cometh unto Me, except the Father which hath sent Me draw him' 126
Chap. LIII Considereth that other Saying of Christ, 'No Man can come unto Me, except the Father, which hath sent Me, draw him' 128
Chap. LIV How a Man shall not seek his own, either in Things spiritual or natural, but the Honour of God only; and how he must enter in by the right Door, to wit, by Christ, into Eternal life 132
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