Poiret, Pierre

Poiret, Pierre a French philosopher of mystical tendency, and a writer whose works are of great importance to the students of French theological thought, was born at Metz April 15, 1646. He lost his father, a mechanic, when but six years of age. As he showed some disposition for the fine arts, he entered as an apprentice the studio of a sculptor, where he learned the elements of drawing. At thirteen years he studied humanities, and from 1661 to 1663 he was tutor at Basle, and there studied at the same time philosophy and theology. He finally entered the evangelical ministry, and after residing for a while at Hanau, was called as pastor to Heidelberg in 1667; married there, and acquired the reputation of a good preacher. In 1672 he was appointed pastor at Anweiler, in the duchy of Zweibrticken. Here he familiarized himself with the writings of the philosopher Descartes, and of the mystics Kempis, Tauler, and Antoinette Bourignon, and commenced to turn his thoughts towards the spiritual life. In 1673 a dangerous illness converted him fully to mysticism. The war having disturbed his peaceful studies, he first took refuge in Holland, then at Hamburg, in the house of Mlle. Bourignon to whom he had been long attached by feelings of esteem and admiration. In 1680 he established himself at Amsterdam. Speaking of his exemplary life there, Bayle says that "from a great Cartesian he had become so pious that, in order to apply himself the better to the things of heaven, he had broken off almost every intercourse with the earth." In order to live in more complete seclusion, he retired in 1688 to Rheinsberg, near Leyden, where he spent more than thirty years in the exercise of piety, and in the composition of spiritual and ascetic works. He died there May 21, 1719. Poiret is not the founder of a sect; he established no conventicles, because he attached no importance whatever to dogmatical questions. His theological system lacked speculative clearness and consistency, and was rather a subjective theology of the adoring heart and soaring fancy than of the seeing intellect. It lays little stress upon the forms and rules of any particular Church, and placed the ideal of the Christian life in retired, uninterrupted communion with self and with God. For him, morals were the essence of religion. Hence there was never a more tolerant theologian. If he avoided all intercourse with the world, it was to preserve the integrity of his conscience. Far from being indifferent, he was full of zeal for the Christian religion, which he defended on several occasions, especially against Spinoza. All those who were acquainted with him agree in the' praise of his meekness, his modesty, the purity of his life, the kindness of his heart. It would be unjust to deny that there are excellent things in his works. He displays a surprising sagacity in resolving the most subtle questions of metaphysics, and an uncommon talent in throwing light on the most obscure principles of theosophy. There is a methodical spirit in his writings, which is a fruit of his close study of Descartes and his system, under an appearance of disorder, is admirably connected and developed. He left about forty works, of which by far the most important is his De AEconomia Divina, under the French title, L'Economie Divine, ou Systeme universel, et démontré des AEuvres et des Desseins de Dieu envers les Hommes (Amsterd. 1687, 7 vols. 8vo), in which he means to show with certainty the general harmony of nature and grace, of philosophy and theology, of reason and faith, of natural and Christian ethics. The principle of the philosophic fabric which Poiret sought to construct, and which really systematizes and also explains the wild and incoherent rhapsodies of Bourignon is abstraction, or the preference of a presumed illumination to reason; the same in essence as the quietism of Molinos, the annihilation of the Hindu philosophy, and the divine vision of Bohme. Theologically there are, perhaps, some things that may be considered valuable in Poiret's writings. Opposed on the one hand to Descartes, and on the other to the then growing opinions of Locke, against whom he wrote an able treatise (Fibides et Ratio colltace ac suo utraque loco novitae adversus Piincipia J. Lockii), Poiret sought to mend weakness of reason by faith, and badness of will by grace. But the extension of his religious notions into the proper boundaries of speculative philosophy, to say nothing of his strong tendency to fanaticism, points him out to us as one of the most decided instances of mysticism in his age. Most peculiar are Poiret's Christological views. According to ch. 11 of this same treatise, the (ideal) Son of God assumed human nature soon after the creation of man, and prior to his fall, in such a manner that he (the Son of God) took from Adam his body and a divine soul. Poiret also ascribed to Christ, previous to his incarnation in the Virgin Mary, not only various manifestations, but also human "emotions and sufferings," and an unwearying intercession for mankind, his brethren (his office as high- priest). But in the Virgin Mary he assumed mortal flesh. "The body of Jesus Christ, assuming the flesh and blood of the blessed Virgin, is as little composed of two different bodies as a white and shining garment, dipped in a vessel dark and full of color, and coming into contact with the matter which composes this darkness, is thereby changed into a double garment, or into two garments instead of one." A complete list of Poiret's works would be useless without a description of them, for which we have not space. The curious may consult the Cataiogue Raisonne, in the Memories of J. P. Niceron (Par. 1727-1745). We have room here for the most important writings only. Among these we would mention Cogitationes Rationalis (de Deo, animo et malo (Amsterd. 1677, 4to). The edition of 1715 has besides a dissertation against the hidden atheism of Bayle and Spinoza: — La Paix des bonnes Amles dans toutes les Parties du Christianisme (ibid. 1687, 12mo). He advises peace in God between all righteous persons, without distinction of communion or rites. the essential is to go to God by the road of morality, the rest is of little account: — Idea Theologiae Christianas juxta Principia J. Behmi (ibid. 1687, 12mo). He avows that to understand Bohme is all but impossible: — Les Principes solides lde la Religion et de la Vie Chretienne appliques à l'Education des

Enfants (ibid. 1690, 1705, 12mo). This book, disapproved by the ministers of Hamburg, was translated into German, English, Flemish, and Latin: — De Eruditione triplici sotida, superficiaria et falsa lib. 3 (ibid. 1692, 12mo, and 1707 4to). His purpose is to show that there can be no real erudition without inspiration from above: — Theologie du Coeur (Cologne, 1696, 1697, 16mo): — La Theologie reelle, vulgairement dits la Thiologie Germanique (Amsterd. 1700, 12mo). This translation of a German work of the 16th century, translated before by Castalion, had been published in 1676. Poiret accompanied it with a Letter on the mystical authors; the latter are 130 in number, and Poiret gives most curious details about their principles, character, life, and works: — Theologie Mysticae Idea (ibid. 1702, 12mo): — F-ides et Ratio adversus Principia J. Lockii (ibid. 1707, 12mo): — Bibliotheca Mysticoruunm Selecta (ibid. 1708, 8vo): — Posthuma (ibid. 1721, 4to). Poiret translated The Imitation of Jesus Christ (ibid. 1683, 12mo, sev. edit.), which he paraphrased partly according to the interior sense; the works of St. Catherine of Genoa (1691, 12mo), and those of Angele de Foligny (1696, 12mo). He edited the (Euvres d'Antoinette Bourignon (Amsterd. 1679 and following, 19 vols. 12mo), with a most circumstantial Life, which was reprinted apart (1683, 2 vols. 12mo), and followed by an apologetic Memoire, inserted in the Nouvelles de la Republique des Lettres (1685); an answer to the attacks of Scckendorf (Monitum Necessariunm, 1686, 4to); several mystical Opuscules; and after having published several of the writings of Mme. Guyon, among others, Le Nouveau et l'Ancien Testament (Cologne, 1713- 1715, 20 vols. 12mo); her Vie, ecrite par elle-meme (1720, 3 vols. 12mo); and her Poesies (1722, 12mo), brought out a complete edition with great care, in 39 vols., furnishing them with elaborate introductions, prefaces, and apologies, sufficient to make several volumes in themselves. In all this there is manifest, as in the editing of Mile. Bourignon's writings, a remarkable willingness to hide himself entirely behind the beloved objects upon which he spends his toil; so that now in many instances it is impossible to tell just how much of the worth and beauty of whole volumes is to be assigned to himself rather than to the reputed authors. Nearly all of Poiret's writings have been translated into Latin, Dutch, and German. See Walch, Religionsstreitigkeiten ausser der evangel. — Luther. Kirche, liv, 911 sq.; Niceron, flist. des Hommes illustres, 4, 144 sq.; 10:140 sq.; Grisse, Literaturgesch. vol. 3, pt. 3, p. 479 sq.; Erdmann, Verstuch einer Gesch. d. neuern Philosophie, vol. 1, pt. 2, p. 217 sq.; Bibliotheca Bremens. Theol. Philol. tom. 3, pt. 1, p. 75; Noack, Mystik 217; Niedner,

Zeitschr.fiir die hist. Theol. 1853-54; Hagenbach, Vorlesungen über die Kirchengesch. 4, 326 sq.; Dorner, On the Person of Christ, 1, 231 sq.; Morell, Speculatiae Philos. of Europe, p. 201; Comment. de Vita et Scriptes Petri Poiaret, in his Posthuma (Amsterd. 1721, 8vo); Jervis, Hist. of the Church of France (see Index); Hurst, Hist. of Rationalism (see Index); Haag, La France Protestante, s.v.; Histoire des Dogmes (see Index).

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