One of the great figures on whom St. Simon relied for
the building up of Carmel in the West was Henry de
Hanna or Henry Hane, an Englishman. He was a man who
achieved fame not only in England but also on the
Continent. He was St. Simon’s great collaborator, and
his influence was tremendous. In an ancient manuscript
at Oxford, three sermons are preserved which in my
opinion cannot be ascribed to anyone but Henry Hane.
They are in a collection of Sermons of Eckhart and his
school.. In the 13th and 14th centuries, the mysticism
of Eckhart was predominant in the German lands and the
mysticism of Carmel especially in these lands came
under its influence. In his works, however, Henry Hane
avoids the tendency to excessive subtlety which
characterises the works of Eckhart. He ever takes a
middle position between the intellectual school of the
Dominicans and the school of the Franciscans
emphasising more the affective method and the
importance of the will. Just as in the mysticism of St.
John of the Cross, the influence of pseudo-Dionysius,
the Areopagite, is clearly seen, so also in the system
of Hane we find the six degrees of the soul’s ascent to
God taken from the same source.
The Six Degrees.
The first degree is the opening of the soul to God:
“Open to me, my beloved,” says the Bridegroom in
Solomon’s Canticle. The second degree is reached when
God — and here is meant the Holy Trinity — draws the
soul up to himself and comes to dwell therein. God is
born in the soul. Quoting from St. Augustine, Hane says
that there is a re-birth when love and desire are
united. The fruit of the Holy Spirit is light, love,
joy and peace. Here there is already a departure from
the intellectualism of Eckhart, in the insistence on
the element of love as the means through which God is
born in us. The third degree is the transformation of
the soul in God. This takes place through the
indwelling of light. In this light the soul sins no
more and the beauty of God is seen in such a way that
the darkness of sin no longer appears. The soul becomes
oblivious of everything which is not God. It walks in
the light as a child of light. Gustate et videte,
“Taste and see”: first. the mystical experience of God,
and in its wake-illumination. First light breaks in the
soul and then in this light the soul sees the source of
light. But the soul must have this light before it can
see. In this connection, Hane uses a figure, afterwards
used by St. Teresa. “The soul must not try to fly
before its wings are fledged.” It must bear the yoke of
Christ and feel how sweet it is, before it knows who it
is who has laid the yoke upon it.
In the fourth degree God releases enormous energies in
the soul and the natural faculties of the soul are
elevated and become supernatural and deified. In the
effulgence of its new light the soul becomes keenly
aware of its own natural infirmities, but God draws it
above itself and in the realization of its own
infirmities, the soul understands ever more perfectly
the omnipotence of God and His condescending love. In
this way, to use St. Paul’s words, the soul goes from
light to light.
In the fifth degree there is complete union of the soul
with God. God takes the form of the soul and the soul
takes the form of God and is transformed in God. The
heavenly light penetrates the soul entirely and in this
heavenly light it sees itself. Air in the light of the
sun appears no longer air but only light.
In the sixth degree not only does the light shine in
the soul, but the soul is wrapped in the light. In the
midst of this effulgence, the soul, like a precious
stone, is pierced through and through with the
brightness of the light and reflects itself in it and
this light beams forth from all its facets. Now it is
all light. The soul becomes translucent and a mirror of
divinity, as Dionysius says of the Angels.
Ideas of Hane Familiar to St. Teresa.
Thus does Hane explain the coming of the Lord into the
soul. He exclaims with St. Paul: “Rejoice, the Lord is
at hand.” St. Teresa is in remarkable agreement with
Hane in many of the images which he uses; so much so
that it would seem as if Teresa were familiar with his
works. Like him, she insists in the first instance that
we should open our souls to God. Acknowledging our
sins, we should betake ourselves to God and being
consumed in God, we should be cleansed from our sins
and imperfections and be free to advance to His love.
She also knows the image of the Bridegroom knocking at
the door of our souls and waiting for admission.
Remarkable also is the stress laid on the necessity of
practising the virtues as a preparation, accompaniment
and fruit of mystical life. They have in common the
image of flying before the wings are fledged. By her
also love is emphasised as a means of union with God.
St. Teresa especially loves the image of the sun and
its light and the image of the precious stone, the
diamond, in whose inmost heart the light dwells,
shining forth on all sides. Not only in the deepest
meaning of the metaphorical language is there agreement
but also in the description of the successive degrees
of the mystical life. Henry Hane’s description and St.
Teresa’s are almost identical. Also it is most
interesting to note how both teach that the
supernatural is built upon natural foundations and that
the supernatural is the development of the natural
Old Tree Flourishing Again.
So we see that the old tree, transplanted to new
ground, maintained its growth. That growth was
influenced, of course, by new conditions but it
survived the storms and winters of its new environment.
By its inner vitality and the care of the Heavenly
Gardener, it struck its roots deep into the new soil.
At times the storms tore off a branch here and there,
and its life was threatened, but the old trunk could
not be destroyed. It put forth new shoots and its
branches spread wider than ever before. And now it
stands, not the least among the noble trees in the
great garden of the Church.