Mechthild of Magdeburg (c. 1207–1282)

  • The flowing of divine light

    Mechthild of Magdeburg was the first mystic to write in German. She wrote her book The Flowing Light of the Godhead as God's lover. But the true author of the book, according to her, was God himself and the text had flowed into her like the light of the Godhead.

    Mechthild's famous book is highly poetic and contains a variety of texts. It includes prayers, accounts of visions, songs of praise, bible commentaries, and many dramatic dialogues (between the soul and its divine lover as well as between the living and the dead).

    The I in The Flowing Light of the Godhead understands herself as lover. She converses with her lover about salvation history and participates in his creation as fellow saviour. In Mechthild's book, the loving soul and its divine partner behave with each other like the lovers in the Old Testament Song of Songs: they desire each other, unite, but nevertheless - at least on earth - have always to painfully let go of each other again. In this, the limitation of the possibilities of experience in the body are discovered. But the separation also enables another, negative, experience of God.

    The original of Mechthild's text, which was written in Middle Low German, is lost. The oldest existing source is the manuscript of the translation into Allemanic from the Benedictine monastery of Einsiedeln which is exhibited here.