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John Tauler was a German Dominican, one of the greatest mystics and preachers of the Middle Ages, born at Strasburg about 1300; died at the same place, 16 June, 1361. He was the son of a prosperous citizen of that city. Apparently while still a youth he entered the Dominican Order at Strasburg, because according to his own confession the ascetic life of the order attracted him. It is possible that while taking the customary eight-years' course of study at the monastery he heard Eckhart preach. When a student at the university of the order at Cologne, he became more closely acquainted with Eckhart. In the same way he probably came to know Henry Suso at Cologne. Whether he also studied at Paris is uncertain; more probably he returned from Cologne to Strasburg. From about 1339 to 1347 or 1348 he lived at Basle where he and Henry of Nördlingen were the centre of the large society called the Friends of God of Basle; these were persons who favoured the mystical life and who gave themselves this name from John 15:15. Tauler then returned to Strasburg where he laboured as a preacher. Christina Ebner praises his fiery tongue that kindled the entire world; Rulman Merswin chose him as confessor. Later he lived for some time at Cologne. During the last period of his life he was again at Strasburg. The centre of Tauler's mysticism is the doctrine of the visio essentiœ Dei, the blessed contemplation or knowledge of the Divine nature. He takes this doctrine from Thomas Aquinas, but goes further than the latter in believing that the Divine knowledge is attainable in this world also by a perfect man, and should be sought by every means. God dwells within each human being. In order, however, that the transcendent God may appear in man as a second subject, the human, sinful activities must cease. Aid is given in this effort by the light of grace which raises nature far above itself. The way to God is through love; God replies to its highest development by His presence. Tauler gives advice of the most varied character for attaining that height of religion in which the Divine enters into the human subject. Something needs to be said as regards Tauler's position towards the Church. Luther praised him greatly and Protestants have always had a very high opinion of him, and have included him among the "reformers before the Reformation". However it is now conceded by Protestants that he was "in reality entirely mediæval and not Protestant". He was in fact a dutiful son of the Church and never thought of withdrawing his allegiance. He expresses his opinion very plainly in his sermon on St. Matthew. He set his face against all heresy, especially that of the Brethren of the Free Spirit. What attracted Luther was probably not Tauler's doctrine itself, but only here and there some subordinate thought. Perhaps it pleased him that the word indulgence appears only once in Tauler's sermons, or it aroused his sympathy that Tauler laid less stress upon works, or again he was attracted by the tremendous earnestness of this seeker after God.
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