Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index


  • Record Number: 3099
  • Author(s)/Creator(s): Plattig , Michael.
  • Contributor(s):
  • Title: Heinrich Seuse als "christliche Erosgestalt"!?
  • Source: Studies in Spirituality 6, ( 1996): Pages 49 - 72.
  • Description:
  • Article Type: Journal Article
  • Subject (See Also): Heinrich Seuse, Mystic Literature- Prose Mystics Nuns Sexuality in Literature Stagel, Elsbeth, Mystic Women in Literature Women in Religion
  • Geographic Area: Germany
  • Century: 14
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  • Abstract: In 1995 we celebrated the seventh hundred anniversary of Heinrich Seuse's birth and in 1996 the 630th anniversary of his death. In 1964 he was charcterized by Ida Friederike Görres as "one of the few erotic Christians." This is important, because in the history of spirituality the eroticism in the relationship with God disappeared more and more and was replaced by ascetic or moral efforts. Agaph displaced eros. In the Middle Ages there was a great erotic movement in secular literature and music, the so called "Minne." It was related to the ideals of chivalry. These traditions, together with the erotic tales of the Song of Songs in the Old Testament, influenced spirituality especially in nunneries, but some friars, for example Heinrich Seuse, were also influenced. In Seuse's works we find the images of these traditions transferred to the relatonship with God. This seems to be easier for women, because there are normally men image God [sic]. it is also possible for Heinrich Seuse, because he visualized God as female wisdom, Sophia, and in his dialogues with God he identified himself with the female soul in relation to the masculine God. So he retained the erotic tension in his relationship with God. A consequence of this understanding was the positive role of the body within spiritual experiences. Another consequence was the awe of women, which was not only literal, as it was in the tradition of the "Minne," but also real: in his concern for women in trouble and for prostitutes, which involved him in difficultues and accusations. In the history of spirituality he is a rare example whose awe of Mary and of virginity is not combined with sexual suspicion and devaluation of real women, but with respect for them. In the seconf half of his life his main occupation was spiritual direction, especially for nuns and pious women. He had an intense relationship with Elsbeth Stagel, A Dominican nun. You could say she was his spiritual fellow. The way and experiences of Heinrich Seuse, what he learned in the spiritual direction of Elsbeth Stagel and others, focused his attention on the experiential and personal dimension of faith. The experience of God according to Heinrich Seuse seizes the whole person, intellect, feelings, mind, body, soul. So the emotional and erotical[sic] dimension of man is naturally involved in the relationship of man with God. The mystical tradition with its erotical [sic] dimension is proof of the existence of a tradition in the history of Christianity which underlines the value of the human body and its erotic feelings and keeps in mind the delightful dimension of relationship with God, the delightful dimension of faith. "Religion and eroticism are bound together. If there is religion without eroticism, the religion will dry up into abstract metaphysics or arid ethics. If there is eroticism without religion, the eroticism will dwindle to its skeleton, the technique of sexual intercourse" (Kurt Marti). [Reproduced by permission of the Titus Brandsma Institute. The journal may be ordered from the Institute, Attn. Ineke Wackers, Erasmusplein 1, 6525 HT Nijmegen, The Netherlands.]
  • Author's Affiliation: Franziskanerkloster, Münster
  • Conference Info: - , -
  • Year of Publication: 1996.
  • Language: German
  • ISSN/ISBN: 09266453
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