Jan Van Ruysbroeck

1293-1381. Flemish mystic. Born near Brussels, and ordained a priest in 1317, he was for nearly three decades vicar at St. Gudele in Brussels. In 1344 he retired to the nearby wooded valley of Groenendaal, where after some years he founded an Augustinian monastery (1350). At Groenendaal he did most of his writing, and acted as spiritual adviser. Tauler,* Groote,* and many others came to him for advice on the life of the spirit. Ruysbroeck was one of the great fourteenth- century mystics. Written in powerful and often exalted Flemish prose, his writings helped shape the language. He wrote in the tradition of Augustine, Bernard, and perhaps especially Richard of St.-Victor.* The aim of mysticism is the union of the spirit with its Creator, by way of three stages: the active life, the inner life, and the final vision of God. His best-known work is Die Chierheit der gheestelijke Brulocht (tr. as The Spiritual Espousals, 1952). He opposed abuses in the church (writing during the “Babylonian Captivity” of the church of Avignon) and pantheistic versions of mysticism. He was beatified in 1908, and his feast is observed locally. His works were translated into Latin and influenced later mystics such as John of the Cross. A complete modern edition is available (4 vols., ed. J. Van Mierlo et al., 1944-48).