Ozment, Steven E. The Age of Reform: 1250-1550 : An Intellectual and Religious History of Late Medieval and Reformation Europe. New Haven, Conn. ; London: Yale University Press, 1980. Kindle Electronic Edition.
Chapter 3, “The Spiritual Traditions” Part 4 “Varieties of Mystical Experience” pp. 115-134
Medieval writings, especially of a mystical nature, are widely varied. “True mystics, however, were always considered rare” (Ozment 1980, 115). While people were interested in mysticism the actual experience was not very widespread. “All agreed that the mystic had reached the summit of piety, the highest possible religious goal of earthly life” (Ibid.). Ozment discusses two types of mysticism. From the Latin tradition there is one by which the will apprehends Christ and grows in love and practical godly behavior. Representatives of this view are Bernard of Clairvaux and Bonaventura (Ibid.). The other stream is more related to German Dominicans. The stress here is contemplation and understanding of God. The prime example of this view is Meister Eckhart. All this mysticism has as a main goal being conformed to God, thus withdrawing from the world.
On p. 118 Ozment makes a startling statement. “There are three distinct major medieval mystical traditions: the Dionysian, the Franciscan, and the Eckhartian.” This is a startling statement because he had been discussing only two. “Dionysian mysticism is especially distinguished by its emphasis on God’s transcendence of reason” (Ibid., 118). After describing this retreat from knowing, Ozment turns to Franciscan mysticism and its representative Bonaventura (fl. ca. 1257) on p. 120. The greatest goal “is the peace that comes from being crucified with Christ as St. Francis was” (Ibid., 121). Here “the experience is one of painful ecstasy” (Ibid.) This is done by looking to the presence of God within us, then moving into the God above us. Bonaventura finally takes us through six steps, two each for the outside world, the world within, and the world above (Ibid., 124). Finally Bonaventura’s mysticism results in a departure from intellectual understanding, as we leave what we understand (Ibid., 126).
Ozment then turns his attention to Meister Eckhart. Eckhart always urged consideration of matters all the way back to the very beginning. He saw himself and all people as having a pre-created state to which they would return in the end. Man’s soul has a spark of transcendence which receives God directly. Eckhart asserted a unity of the soul with God, not holding any separation. This went farther than the other mystics of his time (Ibid., 131).