Johannes Tauler

c.1300-1361. German mystic. Born in Strasbourg, he entered the Dominican Order of Preachers there about 1315 and came under Eckhart's* influence. Thomism was a part of him, but unlike Eckhart his ends were practical. He wrote only in German, never in Latin, and did not write learned works. His sermons were preached mainly to nuns. His was a simple, homely method, though obscurities do occur in the more mystical passages; dialogue was used by him for illustration to include his audience. His imagery, moreover, was local, derived from hunting, war, farming, trade, and natural history.

His was the kind of mysticism that was to dominate the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, with its immense concern for everyone's spiritual health: no longer was mysticism only for the spiritual elite. Eckhart bridged Scholasticism and mysticism, and Tauler translated an academic approach to spirituality into a practical Christianity of high personal demands, designed for all men. His sermons demonstrate this where, with little biblical quotation and no personal testimony, the meaning of being a Christian is carefully unraveled. Many sermons have been ascribed to him due to his popularity, but only some are genuine. During the Black Death* period (1348) he devoted himself completely to the sick. His years in Basle (1338-43) found him a central figure in the Friends of God* (Gottesfreunde). He owed a great debt to the Waldensian layman Nicholas of Basle,* who advised him to stop preaching and meditate, which he did for two years amid his ministry with remarkable results. Luther read him profitably.

C. Schmidt, Johannes Tauler von Strassburg (1841); S. Winkworth, The History and Life of...John Tauler...with Twenty-five of His Sermons (1857); D. Helander, Johann Tauler als Prediger (1923); J.M. Clark, The Great German Mystics (1949).