But more important and more effective than these ideas which foreshadow the Franciscan school and much of medieval thinking about faith, is the mysticism of Bernard of Clairvaux. Here I come to a problem which is important and has been dealt with directly in this room two years ago when we had a seminar on Christian mysticism, and put it under the question, “Can mysticism be baptized?” I. e., can it be Christian? is that possible? Mysticism is much older than Christianity, it is much more universal than Christianity. What about the relation of Christianity to mysticism? Now in this seminar we came to the final answer that it can be baptized if it is made a concrete Christ-mysticism – in a very similar way as it is in Paul – -a participation in Christ as Spirit. And now this is just what Bernard of Clairvaux did. He is really the baptizing father in the development of Christian mysticism. This is his importance. And whenever you are attacked, and some Barthians tell you that Christianity and mysticism are two different things; you are either a Christian or a mystic, and the attempt of almost 2000 years to baptize mysticism is wrong – then you must answer that perhaps the most important figure in whom mysticism is expressed is Bernard, and this is the mysticism of love, and only if you have a mysticism of love can you have Christian mysticism.
Mysticism has two contents in Bernard: first, the picture of Jesus as it is given in the Biblical report, and in which the Divine is transparent. It is the participation in the humility and not an ethical command, although this follows out of it. It is the reality of God in Jesus, in which we participate. The mystical following of Jesus is participating in Him. And you never should forget, when you read about Francis of Assisi and Thomas a Kempis, that when they tried to follow Jesus, this was not the way in which a Jew follows Moses; it was not another law, but it was meant as a participation in the meaning of what Jesus is. In this way the mystics of the Middle Ages overcame a legal interpretation of the obedience to Christ. We cannot really follow Him except we participate in Him mystically. But this participation is not static, it’s dynamic. It’s not legal, but it is participation. This concrete, active mysticism of love to Christ is the presupposition of the second part of mysticism in Bernard of Clairvaux, the abstract mysticism, “abstract” meaning abstracting from anything concrete, the mysticism of the abyss of the Divine. This side of the mystical experience is that which Christian mysticism has in common with all other forms of mysticism. There are three steps, according to Bernard: 1) Consideration (you look at things from outside; they remain objects for your subjectivity.) 2) Contemplation (participating in the “temple,”( going into the holiness of the holy..) 3) Excelsum (going outside of oneself, an attitude which exceeds the normal existence, in which man is driven beyond himself without losing himself. It is also described as raptus, being grasped.