Tauler (Original Form Tauweler), Johannes
Tauler (original form Tauweler), Johannes the famous Dominican preacher and mystic, was born at Strasburg in A.D. 1290 the authorities differ with respect to both time and place. He was of honorable family and early devoted to the priestly office. In (about) 1308 he became a monk and went to Paris, to the College of St. James, to study theology. He found greater pleasure in the study of the writings of the Areopagite St. Bernard, and the two Victors, and especially of Augustine, than in the popular philosophy; his attention was also given to the Neo- Platonists, and, among schoolmen, to Aquinas with respect to ethics. On his return to Strasburg, Tauler came under the influence of Master Eckart, and also of a more simple and practical company of mystical thinkers among the monks, including Nicholas of Strasburg and others. He became a preacher, and associated himself with the Friends of God-a society formed to teach and comfort the people upon whom rested the ban of the Church imposed by pope John XXII; and in this society he labored all his life. His sermons were clear and adapted to the popular needs, but not, it would seem, at this time pervaded by the power of a personal union of the preacher with Christ. In 1340 occurred an event of decisive importance to Tauler. He was then visited by Nicholas of Basle (q.v.), and by him led to realize his need of a personal conversion to God. During two years, in which he refrained from preaching and became an object of ridicule to his fellow-monks, who were unable to understand the reason for such struggles as he was passing through, did he wrestle with his sense of sin and his need of pardon. Finding peace at length, he passed through further discipline by reason of a disgraceful failure in an attempt to preach; but from that time he preached persistently, and with a power not previously possessed. Wicked clergymen were unable to endure the faithful rebukes with which he visited their sins, and they prohibited him from preaching; but the magistracy prevented the enforcement of their order. Under the preaching of the first sermon after his conversion a number of persons fell down as dead, and he was besought to discontinue the sermon. He was one of the few who refused to cease from preaching to the people in obedience to the papal interdict, and braved the anger of his immediate superiors in the execution of that duty. In 1348 the "black death" swept over Strasburg, carrying off sixteen thousand victims, and adding to the horrors of the situation. Oily l'Taulr and two other monks had pity upon the people, and they appealed in writings (whose circulation was at once prohibited) to the other clergy to do what they could that the "poor ignorant populace should not thus die under the ban." Charles IV soon afterwards came to Strasburg and caused the three monks to be brought before him, and, after inquiring into their principles, dismissed them with the admonition not, to "offend against the Church and its interdict again." Tauler retired to Cologne; and became preacher in the nunnery of St. Gertrude, but after a few years returned to Strasburg, where he had a last interview with Nicholas of Basle. He committed to the care of that friend the writings he wished to have given to the world, and died June 16,1361. He was buried in his convent, and the stone which covered his grave is preserved in the "New Church" of Strasburg.
Tauler's works consist of sermons, homilies, and an Imitation of the Life of Christ in its Poverty. The sermons are extant in manuscript in several libraries, the oldest MS. being a parchment at Strasburg. In printed form the first ed. appeared at Leipsic, 1498, in 4to, and others at Augsburg (1508, fol.) and Basle (1521 and 1522, fil.), the latter being superior to the former. Of modernized editions that of Frankfort (1826, 3 pts. 8vo) is best. The Imitation of Christ also exists in different MSS. and editions, the best ed. being that of Schlosser (Frankf. 1833, 8vo). A number of other writings are attributed to Tauler, but without authority.
The teachings of Tauler are not presented in his works in systematic form. His aim was practical, and the edifying element predominates over the speculative in his theology. As with Eckart, the speculative ideas may be traced back to the concept Being the absolute, simple, uncreated entity, which involves neither distinctions nor relations, and which no name is adequate to express. It is the hidden Deity, whose nature requires, however, revelation and operation. Revelation is the process of the Trinity; operation, with the Deity, is begetting. Hence the Deity in operation becomes Father, as he knows himself, and in that act of knowledge expresses himself, the word which he speaks being the Son. Between them exist reciprocal approval and love, and this love is the Holy Spirit, proceeding from both the Father and the Son. This conception of the Trinity evidently involves a distinction of relations rather than of hypostases in the Godhead. The Son is eternal. With reference to the creation, Tauler comes very near to the teachings of pantheism at times, but nevertheless preserves the distinction between the Creator and the creature, and was constantly opposed to the teachings of the Beghards and Brethren of the Free Spirit. The human soul came forth from God, and contains a divine spark, in which the Trinity is reflected, and which strives to return to God, while the sensual part of man yearns for the creature world. Sin consists in giving way to the latter impulse. It cannot wholly deprive the soul, which is at bottom noble and in harmony with the good, of its yearning for reunion with God; but man possesses in himself no power to return to God. Righteousness can be recovered only through faith in the merits of Christ. Meditation on the work and imitation of the life, especially the sufferings, of Christ form the way by which to return to God. This imitation should be outward, but also inward, transforming the entire man. By this way the soul rises superior to all creature control; God enters in with all his blessing, and supplies the place of grace with his immediate operation. As the soul becomes, in this way, "free from grace," so it also becomes "free from virtue," i.e. it no longer practices an isolated virtue, but, with a being transformed into love, he permits God to work in him all virtues as the outflow of that love. No idle contemplation or passive asceticism finds the approval of Tauler,' but a life of active love and pity, of patience and meekness-a life in the imitation of Christ. Tauler did not contradict the doctrines of his Church, but he was animated by an exalted reformatory spirit; his mysticism displayed a free, practical, evangelical tendency which has given it historical importance; and we may appropriately retain for him the title, early bestowed, of Doctor Illuminatus.
See the preface to Tauler's works; Bohringer, Die Kirche Christi u. ihre Zeugen; Schmidt, Joh. Tauler von Strasburg; Noack, Christliche Mystik (1853); Biblioth. Sacra, 15:253 sq.; Meth. Quar. Rev. 1869, I, art. 3: and Herzog, Real-Encyklop. s.v. SEE NICHOLAS OF BASLE.