A misztika fogalmai és hagyományai az európai gondolkodásban (OTKA) - Dr. Vassányi Miklós - LEZÁRULT


Intézet: Intézetközi

Vezető: Dr. Vassányi Miklós

Létrejötte: 2012. január 1.

Lezárult: 2015.december 3.



  • Dr. Daróczi Anikó
  • Dr. Kendeffy Gábor
  • Parlagi Gáspár
  • Dr. Sepsi Enikő
  • külső tagok (Dr. Tóth Anna Judit)


Kutatási tevékenység, profil rövid leírása: 

Concepts and traditions of the European mysticism

The aim of the project is to found a research group which could effectively coordinate the work of the researchers engaged in different problems of European mysticism, so they can share their achievements with each other and present them at the national and international conferences organized by the research group. The field of study of the participating researchers covers a large segment of Western mysticism from its roots in the Eastern Mediterranean to the XXth century.
The main research topics are:
a.) the Hermetic philosophy, the nature of the Hermetic ‘knowledge’ (Hamvas Endre), 
b.) the reception of Neoplatonic theurgy in late antiquity and Byzantium, its impact on the popular/folk culture (Tóth Anna),
c.) the Eastern roots of Christian mysticism: Egyptian monasticism in the 4-5th century, the works of Macarius (Parlagi Gáspár)
d.) the mystical theology of Dionysius the Areopagite, the connections to his Neoplatonic sources (Vassányi Miklós),
e.) the mysticism of the 12th-century author, Richard of Saint-Victor (Németh Csaba),
f.) the reception of medieval “mysticism” and the modern creation of the non-denominational “mysticism” (Németh Csaba),
g.) female mysticism and mystical poetic language in the Middle Ages through the example of the Flemish beguine Hadewijch (Daróczy Anikó),
h.) Meister Eckhart and his relation to classical philosophy (Bányai Ferenc),
i.) the connections of mysticism, literature and philosophy, the modern and contemporary literary-philosophical and theatrical approach of mysticism (Sepsi Enikő).

Within the framework of the research group a unique opportunity would be provided to examine the development of Western mysticism. The research would lay particular stress on the connections among the various traditions and on the examination of their terminology.

We approach the theme from a philosophical point of view. Beside the analysis of the textual sources we will examine the historical development of the phenomenon of ‘mysticism’, the relation of written text and oral performance in the case of the literary texts. Beside acknowledged experts young researchers are involved in the project for whom the conditions of academic work cannot be guaranteed without external support.

The numerous translations to be prepared, the articles and studies to be published, the national and international conferences ensure that the result of this research produce the desired scientific effect. Since the research forum, the Department of General Humanities of Károli University of the Reformed Church in Hungary offers degree programmes in Religious Studies, the findings of the research will immediately find their way into education as well. Students writing their theses will be enabled to join in on the research. Later, their research may bring fruits in the form of doctoral dissertations. The communication among the members of the research group does not pose serious problems insofar as several of them work in the same workplace so that both formally and informally, they can easily keep in contact. A major point of the work schedule entails expenses―namely, we are planning to organize an international conference, to which outstanding foreign experts of mysticism would be invited. We would like to cover their accomodation costs from OTKA support.

Work schedules of the participants:

Vassányi Miklós

The main subject is the mystical theology of a great Greek Church Father, Dionysius the Areopagite (floruit around 500). This work would involve the following momenta:
1. Studying Dionysius’ tripartite system of theology (positive, negative, mystical) as adumbrated in the brief but immensely seminal Mystical Theology. This will make it necessary to go back to Dionysius’ major Neoplatonic source of negative theology, which is Proclus.
2. Studying Dionysius’ On Divine Names (De divinis nominibus). This is perhaps the most important and influential mystical text of this grand Father. Maximus the Confessor’s running commentary (the Scholia) will help to follow Dionysius’ often difficult-to-decipher argumentation.
3. This particular investigation leads on to the next stage which concerns Dionysius’ Celestial Hierarchy. It is here that the theme of mediation comes to the fore insofar as in Dionysius’ conception, angelic orders may and do act as mediators in canalizing divine knowledge toward the ‘divinely wise’ humans. This programme makes it necessary to carry out the following concrete acts according to a fixed timetable:
1st year: Conference paper and article concerning the doctrine of the theophanies, a specific form of initiation into or experiencing the divine (Dionysius, Maximus, Eriugena);
2nd year: Translation and detailed annotation of De divinis nominibus, together with essential parts of Maximus’ running commentary; conference paper and article on Dionysius’ mystical theology;
3rd year: Publication of the annotated translation of De divinis nominibus, together with Maximus’ running commentary; translation of selected parts of Proclus’ Elements of Theology (Stoikheiósis theologiké / Elementatio theologica);
4th year: Publication of selected parts of the translation of Proclus’ Elements of Theology.

Németh Csaba

The four-year term of the proposed research includes studies concerning three interconnected subjects, according to the following thematic division:
1) The question of the mystical language in Richard of Saint-Victor: A case study. The investigation focuses on the “mystical” works of Richard of Saint-Victor (d. 1173) and the way he uses language and exegesis in them. The larger context of this study is an investigation of the possibility of a “mystical” language (in terms of the twelfth century) which may be the adequate language for supra-rational cognition.
2) The question of a “Victorine” mysticism. The central question of the study is whether there existed a distinctive form of “mysticism” (that is, a common set of theological and anthropological doctrines) among the members of the so-called Victorine school in the twelfth century, and if so, how that particularly Victorine “mysticism” differed in language and concepts from other contemporary “schools”.
3) Between theology and the history of philosophy: The reception of medieval “mysticism” and the modern creation of the non-denominational “mysticism”. This investigation focuses on the genealogy of the modern concept of “mysticism,” investigating the early modern and modern reception of medieval spiritual (“mystical”) authors. In the early modern period, divided by denominational differences, the medieval “mystical” authors were part of the Catholic tradition, rejected by Protestants. The notion of a Christian mysticism (called “theologia mystica”) which surpasses denominational and institutional differences appeared with Pierre Poiret (1646-1719), a Calvinist priest, the editor of Thomas Kempis, Raymund Lull and modern Quietist authors. His writings show a modern attitude: having access (through the printing) to the historical texts of the Christian spirituality, he could elaborate the general notion of a “mystical theology” which connects the most various Christian authors from the still respected medieval ones to the questionable Catholic heretics of his own days (as the Quietists). The connections between this early-eighteenth century notion of a non-denominational Christian “mystical theology” and the modern concept of “Christian mysticism” and “mysticism” in general demand further investigations.

In a year-by-year distribution, the following seems to be a reasonable and feasible plan:
1 st year: a paper read in an international conference (Prague, Obscuritas conference, October 2011).
2 nd year: at least one paper read at a (preferably international) conference; or an article.
3 rd year: a translation volume into Hungarian, covering twelfth-century “mystical” works; a paper read at a (preferably international) conference; or an article.
4 th year: at least one paper read at a (preferably international) conference. A series of studies, or a monograph, in Hungarian.

Daróczy Anikó

The subject of the present research will be the 45 mystical love songs of the 13th-century Flemish beguine, Hadewijch of Brabant. Her songs are written in the form of the love lyrics of the French trouvères. Melodies were adjusted to 6 of them in 1992, and, partly inspired by the author’s own writings and suggestions, 13 more melodies have been discovered during the past three years by musicologists.
The research has two aims: 1.) An investigation of the mechanism of mystical songs – how the ineffable can be incorporated into a special kind of formulaic speech, in this case into the fixed form of songs with a strict and complicated structure. Technically this research will be carried out by virtue of a) a minute analysis of the relationship between words and music of the songs of my corpus; b) with reference to existing performance theories of Medieval music, and c) by a comparatistic analysis of the Medieval mystical song material and the recordings of Hungarian archaic sung prayers that are deeply rooted in a common medieval European tradition (liturgical texts, mystery plays, songs about the Virgin Mary, visions etc.).
Year 1: Minute analysis of the Flemish primary source of the mystical songs (the so-called A and C manuscripts and the critical edition of the texts) and the original trouvère melodies together with their texts and the contrafacts, in order to understand the relationship between text and music; a word-for-word translation of the 45 songs of Hadewijch, establishing a corpus consisting of thematically relevant Hungarian archaic prayers and religious songs; this corpus will serve as material for a comparative study.
Year 2: Analysis of song prosody, the relationship between text and music, the possible variations of adjusting the words to the melody and the melody to the words – this will give a clue to the understanding of the mechanics of oral composition (work resulting in a publication); literary translation of the 19 songs of Hadewijch with a melody analysis of the prosody of the archaic prayers and songs from the pont of view of the relationship between words and music.
Year 3: An introduction and detailed notes to the Hungarian edition of Hadewijch’s songs, creating a CD with pieces chosen from the Hungarian corpus, adjusting the 19 literary translations of the Hadewijch-songs to the trouvère-melodies (work carried out in cooperation with literary historian Dr. István Rumen Csörsz, artistic leader of the Musica Historica early music ensemble).
Year 4: Finishing the Hungarian edition of Hadewijch’s songs, assisting to the artistic work of Musica Historica (CD with the original trouvère-songs, the versions of Hadewijch and the Hungarian translation of Hadewijch’s songs), publishing two articles in Dutch/English (eventually a book, with an appendix containing a translation of the archaic texts).

Bányai Ferenc

This research project is based on translations and papers of B.F. in relation to Meister Eckhart, (c. 1260 - 1328) who is one of the greatest Christian mystics, and has been called the First German Philosopher. It is intended to inquire Eckharts’ mystical languge (1st year), his relation to classical philosophy and the theology of the Fathers (2nd year), and in order to find characteristics of Western mysticism in the Middle Ages, a comparison to islamic world by examples of Avicenna and Ibn Tufajl and ascetics (3rd year) and finaly the conclusion of these three parts of the research (4th year) at a conference and in a study book.

The first part of this project focuses on German vernacular sermons in which the very eckhartian language and style is shown. By way of metaphors in cognitive sense, creation of expressions, and the use of paradoxes Eckhart inspired not only black friars and monastic orders, but wide range of protagonist pious lay groups showing that reality which lies beyond image. The second part would be an analysis of his central themes in relation to stoic, neoplatonic and Augustinian ideas. The spark of the soul, the Abyss, the birth of the eternal son i.e. the Logos in the heart, the presence of God in us, and the dignity of the soul of the just man will be treated from historic point of view. The third part will review approaches of both Western and Eastern scholars which find parallels between Eckhart and islamic or buddhist thinkers.

Kendeffy Gábor

Participation: in the 4th year of the project. Result of the research: two papers in English for international periodicals or collections of essays, one dealing with the theory of the revelation of a secret divine truth in Lactantius’ Divine Institutions, and another one relating to the Augustinian doctrine on the knowledge of God. The studies will be completed with the Hungarian translation of several excerpts from the works of these two African theologians: Augustine’s De diversis quaestionibus LXXXIII.46 (De ideis), as well as excerpts from his De Trinitate XIIXV (correcting the earlier Hungarian translation, hardly useful for scientific purposes); and excerpts from Book IV of Lactantius’ Institutiones divinae.

Tóth Anna

Her research is focused on the questions of mysticism in late antiquity, examining the topic in a historical approach. The research will be carried out according to the following timetable:
1 st year: Preparations for the main subject: analysis of the De mysteriis of Iamblichus, the connections of his mysticism with the Greek religious tradition, the role of the old Greek and Roman cults in the theurgy, the ritual mysticism of theurgy and its connections to the magic of the same age; study of the process that shifts philosophy toward theology in the last centuries of the Roman Empire. This study makes it possible to evolve a general theory representing theurgy as a symptomatic phenomenon of the religion of the Imperium.
2 nd year: The figure of the philosophos, who appears as a priest and a sorcerer in the investigated sources. The philosopher-sorcerer is the best example to illustrate how the mysticism of Platonism caught the imagination of wider social strata, and how the doctrines of theurgy became a part of the popular culture.
3 rd year: The topic of the next step of the research is the reception of theurgy in the first centuries of Byzantium. In the Byzantine sources pagan religion was identified with pagan mysticism and theurgy. This stage of the research aims to detect the reasons of this identification and to examine in a detailed manner this process.
4 th year: The transmission of theurgy in Byzantium. We can distinguish between two traditions: the mysticism of the educated scholars, e.g., Psellos, and a more rustic way that assimilated some elements of theurgy into the beliefs of the modern Greek folklore. Two articles will be published on the subject in each year. In the fourth year, a monograph will be written.

Sepsi Enikő

The starting point of this part of the research is the traditional division of mysticism, i.e., the separation of speculative and descriptive mysticism. In the case of Simone Weil and Pilinszky, the philosophy of attention offers a unique description of the mystical attitude and of the great moments of mystical life, with a metaphysical-theological conceptual grounding and, in the case of the poet, a poetical systematisation. ‘Decreation’ becomes the basis of a new understanding of “imitatio Christi”, not only in its theological or ethical aspect, but in the aesthetic application of kenósis (as an analogy for “décréation”), in contemporary poetic or theatrical works.
The detailed plan of the research is as follows:
1st year: Investigation into the roots of Simone Weil’s mysticism. An annotated anthology of Simone Weil’s mystical texts translated into Hungarian (some texts of the Cahiers and Intuitions pré-chrétiennes recently published in the volume of her Complete Works by André A. Devaux and Florence de Lussy, at Gallimard), accompanied by a long study about this part of her work.
2nd year: Literary approach to Simone Weil’s mysticism: the work of János Pilinszky. The doctoral thesis of Sepsi Enikő, entitled “Le théâtre de János Pilinszky (points de rencontres),” explains how the appearance of the metaphor of the multiple role icon becomes the model of a poetic of a “mise en scène” of immobility, associated with depersonalisation/decreation in the work of János Pilinszky, from the poems to the prose works, via the essays and writings for the theatre. A Hungarian adaptation of this work (available only in French) will be prepared on the basis of recent research.
3rd year: Theatrical approach to Simone Weil’s mysticism: the work of Valère Novarina. The organic theatre tries to reach the via negativa, the state where the actor is a vehicle, an empty vessel ready to take in and carry something. The debates on sacrality in Europe and America and the increasing interest in rituals outside Europe compelled 20th-century artists to abandon traditional theatre and the classical dramatic text. Valère Novarina’s authorial practice is like, as it were, a linguistic ‘sink,’ her theatrical practice and the theatre revealed in her essays employ a sort of creative word, burnt and revived by the actor lending him- or herself to action, the hidden liturgy of the word in space. Result: Publication of studies.
4th year: Further participation in the publication of the research group. Contribution to the conference of the group with a lecture on contemporary literary-philosophical and theatrical approach of mysticism.

Hamvas Endre

The main subject of this part of the research is the nature of knowledge in the Hermetic literature. Whoever understands the the character of the cosmic and the divine world must take a spiritual way, at the end of which the initiated person gains an atemporal knowledge, i.e., gnosis. This Hermetic gnosis is an initiation to a mystical vision, through different stages of learning, from a discursive knowledge to a mystical revelation. The final aim of intuitively grasping the divine thruth is an inner vision disclosing the real nature of the immaterial divine order (Pleroma). This mystical vision is described in details in the dialogues CH. XI, XIII, NHC. VI. 52, 1-63, 32.
1 st year: Examination of the basic concepts concerning the types of human knowledge.
2 nd year: The nature and the aim of discursive cognition in the Hermetic tractates.
3 rd: Description of the mystical vision appearing in the Hermetic gnosis.
4 th year: Study of the terminology used to describe the different types of knowledge by the Hermetic authors, and the parallel concepts in the contemporary spiritual movements and in the classical Greek philosophical tradition. One longer article will be published on the subject in each year.

Parlagi Gáspár

The field of research is the study of early monasticism, with a special focus on its textual sources from the 4th and 5th centuries and on the reception of these texts. Within the Study Group a detailed study will be carried out concerning some of the early monastic letters (attributed to the ”founders” of monastic life, and to Macarius the Great in particular), concerning the special role of prayer and the anthropological viewpoint of the involved texts, in the context of the Origenist controversy.
1st year: Preparation of an annotated Hungarian translation of that part of the Macarian corpus which is closely linked to the tradition of the Apophthegmata Patrum and could contain genuine Macarian text parts (in particular: the apophthegma collection “Vertus de Saint Macaire” and at least two letters from the corpus). Translation of the collection “Vertus de Saint Macaire” from Coptic; writing an article and a conference paper on the subject;
2nd year: Finishing the translation of the “Vertus” and the letters; critical analysis of the Macarian letters; comparative studies to define the place of the Macarian letters (step 1: their relations to the Antonian and Ammonian letters); publication of a selection from the translations.
3rd year: Comparative studies to define the place of the Macarian letters (step 2: the relation to exterior sourses of early Egyptian monasticism); publication of the “Vertus” (and at least one letter) with an accompanying study.
4th year: Finishing the comparative work in a wider context: the early ascetic letters and the theoreticians and “apostles” of monasticism (in particular: Evagrius and Johannes Cassianus); publication of the letters, of a conference paper on the subject, and an article.

Ötvös Csaba

This one-year-long research has two aims. The first is to examine the hidden or mystical dimensions of the revealed knowledge (gnosis) in the primary sources of ancient Gnosticism. The second is to translate, with detailed analysis, a short revelation from the Nag Hammadi Library, with due consideration of related parts from the tractates and from the heresiological literature. The focus of the analysis is, on the one hand, on the concepts of hidden, mystical and divine knowledge which is revealed only to the elect and incorporated into a hidden tradition. On the other hand, the examination can also shed light on the developments and the directions of the controversy between the contemporary Christian traditions and the Gnostic literature in the understanding, the evaluation and the use of the revelation as literary genre and instrument. Results of the research: the publication of one Hungarian and one English article; participation in a Hungarian and international conference. Translation and detailed analysis of the Bronte (NHC VI,2) and selected parts from the tractates.

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