In Divine Audacity, Peter Dillard presents a historically informed and rigorous analysis of the themes of mystical union, volition and virtue that occupied several of the foremost theological minds in the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries. In particular, the work of Marguerite Porete raises complex questions in these areas, which are further explored by a trio of her near contemporaries. Their respective meditations are thoroughly analysed and then skilfully brought into dialogue.
What emerges from Dillard’s synthesis of these voices is a contemporary mystical theology that is rooted in Hugh of Balma’s affective approach, sharpened through critical engagement with Meister Eckhart’s intellectualism, and strengthened by crucial insights gleaned from the writings of John Ruusbroec. The fresh examination of these thinkers – one of whom paid with her life for her radicalism – will appeal to philosophers and theologians alike, while Dillard’s own propositions demand attention from all who concern themselves with the nature of the union between the soul and God.
About the Author
Peter S. Dillard is an independent scholar living in Tucson, Arizona, having received his PhD in Philosophy from the University of Pennsylvania. He has previously published studies of St Bonaventure’s The Soul’s Journey into God and Hugh of St Victor’s De Sacramentis. His most recent monograph is Fate and Faith after Heidegger’s Contributions to Philosophy (2020).
Introduction. A Cluster of Controversies
Part One: Carthusian Meditations
1. A Curious Legacy
2. The Difficult Question
3. Neither This nor That but Something Other
4. On the Contrary
6. One Step Back, Two Steps Forward
7. The Same Way Another Way
8. A Threat and a Tension
9. A Carthusian Examen
10. Transition to Eckhart: A Volitional Riddle
Part Two: Eckhart and the Hegemony of the Intellect
11. The Ontological Problem of the Just Person
12. A Metaphysics of Determinability
13. The One that Got Away
Part Three: Ruusbroec and the Resurgence of the Will
14. Virtuous Dispositions, Resolute Resignation
15. Dialetheism Reconfigured
Conclusion: Porete’s Gambit
Endorsements and Reviews
How are we to conceive of union with God? What is the role of knowledge, if any, in attaining mystical union? Focussing on the thought of Hugh of Balma, and drawing Eckhart, Ruusbroec and Margarete Porete into conversation, Peter Dillard’s rich and challenging study offers highly original answers to these questions. Whether or not one agrees with his dialetheistic approach, readers will benefit tremendously from his incisive analysis and impressive scholarship.
Rik Van Nieuwenhove, Associate Professor of Medieval Thought, Durham University
In exploring the nature of mystical union, Divine Audacity offers careful analysis and clarity of exposition, shedding new light on the key issues at stake in the thought of a number of the most important contemplative theologians of the late thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. This book is highly recommended for all those interested in the Christian mystical tradition and medieval theology and philosophy.
John Arblaster, Ruusbroec Institute, University of Antwerp
With theological sensitivity and philosophical insight, Peter Dillard’s Divine Audacity breaks the impasse in mystical theology between ‘affective’ and ‘intellectual’ mysticism. Dillard’s exploration of Carthusian Hugh of Balma opens a wider, nuanced discussion, with Marguerite Porete, Meister Eckhart, and Jan van Ruusbroec, of fundamental mystical questions: In the journey into God, how does love know what intellect can never grasp? Is the fire of love all-consuming? An audacious conversation indeed!
Kevin L. Hughes, Professor of Historical Theology, Villanova University