Johannes Tauler Criticism - Essay

“A layman” (essay date c. 1340)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: “The History and Life of the Reverend Doctor John Tauler” in The History and Life of the Reverend Doctor John Tauler of Strasbourg, translated by Susanna Winkworth, Smith, Elder, and Co., 1857, pp. 1-71.

[The following excerpt, written circa 1340, is from a history first printed in the 1498 edition of Tauler’s sermons. Believed to be genuine by Winkworth when she translated it, the history was shown by Heinrich S. Denifle in 1879 to have grave problems and, although the work is still controversial, scholars now consider it spurious, possibly the work of Rulman Merswin, and treat it as a legend.]

In the year of Our Lord 1340, it came to pass, that a Master...

(The entire section is 13968 words.)

Arthur Wollaston Hutton (essay date 1901)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: An introduction to The Inner Way: Being Thirty-Six Sermons for Festivals by John Tauler, Methuen & Co., 1901, pp. ix-xliii.

[In the following excerpt, Hutton portrays Tauler as both mystical and practical, as more than an allegorist, and as a man influenced by his time. Hutton debunks common misconceptions of mysticism and distinguishes between its different varieties.]



Only to Tauler’s Sermons must recourse be had to ascertain his teaching; and even of these, as has been noted, a critical edition is desirable. The other works once attributed to him, and printed as his in...

(The entire section is 4171 words.)

Rufus M. Jones (essay date 1909)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: “The Friends of God” in Studies in Mystical Religion, Macmillan and Co., Limited, 1909, pp. 242-97.

[In the following excerpt, Jones sketches the troubled times in which the Friends of God lived; describes their literature with its vision of Apocalypse and emphasis on renunciation; and profiles Tauler—particularly his insistence on the inner Light.]


One of the most important and remarkable expressions of mystical religion in the history of the Christian Church is that which flowered out in Germany in the fourteenth century, and whose exponents are known under the name of “Friends of God.” The title does not cover a sect, nor...

(The entire section is 15217 words.)

James M. Clark (essay date 1949)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: “Johann Tauler” in The Great German Mystics: Eckhart, Tauler, and Suso, Basil Blackwell, 1949, pp. 36-54.

[In the following essay, Clark offers an overview of Tauler’s life and works, describes his use of language, and traces his varying critical reception over the centuries.]

The ascertained facts about Tauler’s life are not as numerous as one could wish, but there is no doubt about his birthplace. He was a native of Strasbourg and was born about 1300. There are various references to the Tauler family in Strasbourg charters between 1312 and 1349, from which it appears that they were prominent citizens and property owners in that city. It has been...

(The entire section is 8343 words.)

C. F. Kelley (essay date 1954)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: An introduction to The Book of the Poor in Spirit, by a Friend of God, Longmans Green and Co, 1954, pp. 1-50.

[In the following excerpt, Kelley provides an overview of the Friends of God and discusses factors that led to their formation and rapid disappearance.]

It is an accepted maxim that the more a particular age becomes secular and dead to religious truth, the more marked becomes the line of demarcation between the indifferent and the concerned. The concerned person finds himself bound to abstain from occupations and pleasures which, though not injurious in themselves, have become corrupt. Furthermore, the perils of enthusiasm, the mistaking one’s own...

(The entire section is 7088 words.)

Eric Colledge (essay date 1961)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: An introduction to Spiritual Conferences, by John Tauler, edited by Eric Colledge and M. Jane, B. Herder Book Co., 1961, pp. 1-32.

[In the following essay, Colledge describes some of fourteenth-century Christendom’s scandalous and divisive elements and explains how Tauler advocated dealing with them through the practice of true simplicity and true humility.]

Three great figures dominated German spirituality in the fourteenth century, and all three were members of the Order of Preachers: Eckhart, Tauler and Suso. We cannot rightly appreciate any one of them without knowing and understanding the other two; and although Eckhart and Suso appear to us across the...

(The entire section is 10580 words.)

Josef Schmidt (essay date 1985)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: An introduction to Sermons, by Johannes Tauler, translated by Maria Shrady, Paulist Press, 1985, pp. 1-34.

[In the following essay, Schmidt discusses Tauler’s life, distinctive features of his sermons, and his complex, connotative use of language.]

References to “German medieval mysticism” usually involve a particular triad in this rich and extensive spiritual tradition: Meister Eckhart (around 1260-1328), Henry Suso (Seuse; 1295-1366), and John Tauler (around 1300-1361), all members of a young and dynamic mendicant order, the Dominicans. Tauler and Seuse were disciples of Meister Eckhart, who died in Avignon facing charges of heresy. Although they were...

(The entire section is 12851 words.)