Context

(Student Guide to World Philosophy)

Both the size and the title of Saint Bonaventure’s most famous little work belie its contents. From its diminutive size, one might take it to be a meditation on some single point; from its title, one might easily come to think of it as vague and mystical. Actually the opposite of both of these common impressions is the case. The Journey of the Mind to God belongs in the company of the Summa Theologiae (c. 1265-1273; Summa Theologica, 1911-1921) of Saint Thomas Aquinas, although its brevity indicates the quite different temper of its author. Bonaventure, the “Seraphic Doctor,” does not use the elaborate compendium method. Yet in brief compass, he presents a view of nature, humanity, and God no less comprehensive than that contained in a many-volumed work.

As to its “mystical” qualities, this work does reflect classical mysticism but Bonaventure’s presentation of this viewpoint is both detailed and highly technical. To sketch completely the structure that Bonaventure outlines would require a quite detailed study. It is rational in every detail—right up to the point at which reason finds its own end and realizes its own boundaries. Reason will be left behind, and ecstatic vision will become the goal, but this does not transpire until the very peak of possible human understanding has been reached. Only when reason has done its utmost at description and explanation can a way be seen to transcend reason. In this brief...

(The entire section is 592 words.)