chapter  6
26 Pages

Knowing and Speaking of Divine Love: Mechthild of Magdeburg

ByCatherine Villanueva Gardner

Although the examination of the forms used by the medieval mystic Mechthild of Magdeburg in her work The Flowing Light of the Godhead can aid understanding of its philosophical content, the forms of this work raise very different issues from the work of the other philosophers I have considered; and it is these new questions that will form the focus of the interpretation of my last philosopher. 1 This time I shall focus on the particular challenge provided by its overall form to interpretation, specifically the ambiguity of its authorship. For the writings of medieval mystics like Mechthild provide an unusual case, since essentially they are not supposed to be the authors of their works; rather they are simply reporting their experiences of God, or God is speaking through them. Thus while their contemporaries allowed these works—even though they were written by women—to have authority, apparently spontaneous outpourings and unanalyzed reports of divine visions are unlikely to be the subject of modern philosophy.