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III. Beatrice of Nazareth

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7 Manners


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A Study of Beatrice of Nazareth's Van seuen manieren van heiliger minnen - Of seven manners of holy loving


by Katrien Vander Straeten


The following is the term paper for the course RN713/TH813, "Gender in Medieval Christian Mysticism", with Prof. Deeana Klepper, Spring 2001.


A Study of Beatrice of Nazareth's Van seuen manieren van heiliger minnen - Of seven manners of holy loving


by Katrien Vander Straeten




note on primary material used: 

- For this study I used Colledge's English translation as reprinted in: Petroff, Elizabeth Avilda. Medieval Women's Visionary Literature. Oxford, Oxford UP, 1986, pp.200-206.

- For the original Middle-Dutch text (with modern Dutch translation), I used: Beatrijs van Nazareth. Seven manieren van minne (Middelnederlandse tekst met een inleiding en hertaling foor Rob Faesen S.J.). Kapellen, Pelckmans, 1999.

- For the Vita I used:  The Life of Beatrice of Nazareth (translated and annotated by Roger De Ganck, assisted by John Baptist Hasbrouck). Kalamazoo, Mich., Cistercian Publ., 1991. (vol. 50 of the Cistercian Fathers Series)


Of the Seven Manners of holy loving

Texts and lives, their authors and their authority

Introduction. In this paper I set out to accomplish three things. In the next and most extensive part of this paper I give an exegesis of Beatrice of Nazareth’s Of the Seven Manners of Holy Loving, intending specifically to bring out the stunning dialectic that animates this work. Many commentators[i] recognize that this dialectic is there, but they do not proceed to make it explicit, and thus do not bring it into play in their approaches to the text. In my view, this is a deficiency and a missed opportunity: the dialectic is integral to Seven Manners and an understanding of it contributes substantially to the understanding of the text – and also, it must be added, to an appreciation of its beauty and ingenuity. My second intention, fulfilled concurrently with the first, is to apply this extra insight to the matter of the relation between the original Seven Manners and its Latin “translation” in the fourteenth chapter of Book III of the Vita Beatricis. To that effect I add to my exegesis of the Seuen manieren a comparative exegesis of “De caritatis dei” and of the Vita “proper”, that is, the story of the life of Beatrice. These comparisons turn especially, though not exclusively, on the role given to the body, or denied it, in these three texts. The point is not though to take on the issue of the role of the body in medieval women’s writing and in their (male-authored) hagiography. At this point I have a less ambitious and more contained project in mind: to point out how the changes in the dialectic, from one version of the Seven Manners to the next, relate to the changes in the role of the body. I do have at least some questions about a wider issue: about texts and lives, about their authors and their authority. I elaborate this issue presently, and at the end of this paper I rely on my conclusions about the texts of the Seven Manners to speculate on it further. But it is fitting to begin with some bibliographical remarks.

The Seven Manners as test case for the Vita. Van seuen manieren van heiliger minnen is written in the vernacular Middle-Dutch and survives in three mss. from the fourteenth century. In 1925 Leonce Reypens attributed it to Beatrice, born in Tienen and prioress of the Cistercian community of Nazareth. He and Joseph Van Mierlo published it in a critical edition in 1926 (SMM). The most readily available English translation of the Seuen manieren is by Eric Colledge (1964; SML), but it is rather flawed[ii], so I will mostly quote from my own translation – if I quote (too) extensively, it is because I want the reader to have a faithful glance of this beautiful text. Now, Beatrice was the subject of a Vita, written in Latin by an anonymous cleric and surviving in four mss., the earliest dating back to 1320. Its critical edition had to wait until 1964, when Reypens published it under the title Vita Beatricis. De Autobiografie van de Z. Beatrijs van Tienen O. Cist., 1200-1268 (VB). For quotations I wholly rely on the only available English translation, Roger de Ganck (1991; VB).  

Nothing is known about the event of the writing of the Seven Manners. The consensus, based primarily on the maturity of the work, is that Beatrice wrote it at Nazareth, so after 1235 and before 1268[iii]. The work itself, which is devoid of even a hint of autobiography, tells us nothing. So we turn to the Vita as the natural place to look for information, for it is, after all, ostensibly a biography of the author. Also, in the fourteenth chapter of its third book, titled “De caritate dei: et eius septem gradibus”, the Vita contains, in some form, the text of the Seven Manners. It was actually by comparing the as yet anonymous Seuen manieren to this chapter, that Reypens was able to make the attribution. But still the Vita is silent on the matter of when and where, on what occasion, for which audience, etc., the Seven Manners was written. The question of what the Vita can tell us about the Seven Manners is a dead end. Not so the question of what the Seven Manners can tell us about the Vita.

The Vita is more forthcoming about its own production. Presumably it was written at the request of Beatrice’s convent of Nazareth. The request was fulfilled by a male cleric who remains anonymous and about whose position nothing much is known. He wrote it not long after Beatrice’s death, for, though he himself had never met her, he could rely on eyewitness accounts of those who had survived Beatrice, among them her own sister by blood, Christine (VB, 269). But the main informant seems to have been Beatrice herself. Indeed, Beatrice is presented as the original author of the Vita. The biographer writes that he is “only the translator of this work, not the author. I have only given a Latin coloring to the vernacular words as they were given to me in diary-notes [cedulis]” (VB, 4[iv]), which notes contained the “book of her own life” (VB, 269[v]). As is evident, for instance from the title Reypens gave to his edition of the Vita and from De Ganck’s translation of “cedula” as “diary-notes”, unsuspecting commentators took the biographer at his word. Above all they took it for granted that, because the Vita claims to be a translation, and because the translation is, ostensibly, a vita, the original must indeed have been an “auto-vita”. If you accept this, then Beatrice’s life is accessible through this Life which she herself authored[vi].

But if the comparison of the only original “notes” that survive, i.e., the Seuen manieren, and the Vita’s translation of that part, i.e., the “De caritate dei”, tells us anything, it is to belie all this. For one, merely going by the bare letter we see that the “translation” is far from faithful. This is our cue to take seriously the biographer’s remarks that he “coloured” the original text (VB, 4), that he “omitted no small part of those things which might have evaded the reader’s understanding by their excessive depth”, so that he did not have to “sweat over what is superfluous, rather than what is necessary” (VB, 275-6), and that moreover he added “other things for the edification of the reader” (VB, 276). An account of all these innovations reveals that the biographer had in mind a “translation” of a purely general or objective theological treatise such as the Seuen manieren, into an account such as the “De caritate dei”, which is subjective, biographical, “in-carnated” (to use Pedersen’s term). We conclude that for the most part the translation is not a translation at all. Moreover, judging by the Seuen manieren the original notes almost certainly did not contain an autobiography, but rather a collection of “general notes” (Peters, 4, 32-3; and Pedersen, 64) and, if a journal, then not an autobiographical but a “mystical”, (McGinn, 166) or “spiritual” journal  (Ruh, 139), or an “exercise book” (Vekeman, 83), or even a collection of treatises[vii]. In short, the test case of the Seven Manners demonstrates the groundlessness of the hypotheses of an original autobiography and an autobiographer, of a faithful translation, of a biography and a biographer.

Genre, status and authorship of the Seven Manners.  The Seven Manners instructs us, as it were, by what it suffers at the hands of biographer, and its martyrdom commences in the two sentences that introduce “De caritatis dei”: “It is worthwhile to set forth a few things in summary about the blessed woman’s charity […] let us relate as briefly as we can by what degrees of love [caritatis gradibus] this blessed woman Beatrice arrived at the state of perfection” (VB, 246). In these two sentences the biographer accomplishes several things. First of all he changes the genre of the text. The Seven Manners, written in the impersonal third voice, about “the soul”, is no longer an objective treatise, but the curriculum vitae of “the blessed woman”, Beatrice. As Pedersen writes, “the hagiographer not only ‘incarnated’ the spirituality and theology of the text, he also attached it to the particular body of Beatrice” (Pedersen, 69). Note also the biographer’s use of “gradus” for “manier”, which is properly translated as “modus”[viii]. This eliminates the original dialectical notion of modes or manners that, as we shall see, co-exist, alternate and reappear  at the different levels in the dialectic of the soul’s experience, and replaces it with the linear notion of ascending degrees of perfection understood temporally as successive and exclusive stages of Beatrice’s life.

The last stage, “the state of perfection”, is the subject of the Vita’s third and last Book, in which “De caritatis dei” has its penultimate place. The biographer is quite concerned with the place of the Seven Manners as a summary at the near end of the Vita, and with the conformity of its “seven grades” to the chronology of the Vita. This concern becomes visible already in the prologue of “De caritatis dei”, where the biographer translates: “These then are the seven degrees or stages of love, seven in number, through which she deserved to come to her beloved” (VB, 246[ix]), and adds: “After passing through the exile of this mortal life she grasped by actual presence the supreme and uncreated good, which she sought only as in a mirror and in a dim reflection while she was in this life” (VB, 246). In the following I will occasionally note how the Seven Manners is tweaked and twisted in order to fit this role. This means that the status of the Seven Manners is lowered from a unique and independent treatise, to a digest that depends on the work we have been reading all along. And the latter is the biographer’s work, for we know that, contrary to his explicit and adamant refusal of his own authorship and his insistence on Beatrice’s, Beatrice did not write the Vita, nor did she write “De caritate dei”. Thus, as he transforms the Seven Manners into a summa, the biographer mislays the authorship – which would have been irrevocably lost had not the original survived – and appropriates it.


Comparison of the texts

 Prologue. In her short opening Beatrice introduces us to the dialectic of give and take that runs through the entire text: “Seuen manieren sijn van minnen, die comen vten hoegsten ende keren weder ten ouersten” – “there are seven manners of loving, which come out of the highest and return to the most high” (SMM, 46).  Her book will deal therefore with that which binds most closely God and men: love, loving. Above I already quoted (in the English translation) the Vita version: “Sunt igitur hij dilectionis gradus siue status septem numero:, per quos ad dilectum suum” (VB, 246). The biographer’s failure to properly translate the first sentence prefigures his failure to cope with the dialectic. He also fails to do justice to the sober, dense and precise prose of the Seven Manners, establishing from the start the sloppy, effusive style that will mar his “translation” throughout.

First Manner[x] (1): the aim of loving. “Die ierste maniere van minnen” deals with the soul’s desire to restore herself in the image of God in which she was created, which is an important Cistercian theme. This is “a desire that becomes active out of love [ene begerte die comt werkende uter minnen]”. It is the desire of the “good soul [goede siele] to faithfully serve and to piously imitate and to truly love our Lord [onsen here]”, so as, “pulled into love, to receive and to be in the purity, freedom and nobility in which she was created in the Lord’s image and likeness, which is something very worth of love and of keeping”. The soul wants to “work and grow and climb in still greater heights of loving and in nearer knowledge of God, until the perfection for which she was fully made [perfected] and called by God”.  “And this is her question and her lesson and her demand and her thought of God: how she can attain and receive this conformity to love – in the beauty of the virtues and the purity of the highest nobility of love.” This Manner involves hard work, part of which is the hard business of self-knowledge, to examine “what she is and what she ought to be, what she has and what she lacks in desire”. This desire must rule the heart for a long time “before it can conquer the opposition”, and the soul must “labour greatly, until that moment when she is granted by God that she may thenceforth be in the service of love, no longer hindered by its past misdeeds, her conscience free, her spirit pure and her understanding clear”. This leads into the Second Manner of loving.

Interestingly Beatrice writes that the soul must also strive “to preserve itself and to shun everything which could burden or hinder it as it works to this end”. Ruh indicates the terseness of Beatrice’s presentation of asceticism (Ruh, 147). Pedersen, who points out that this passage is an ontological and eschatological account of creation, proposes that Beatrice means that both soul and body should be carefully preserved “to connect creation with re-creation”, this according to the Augustinian-Bernardine tradition (Pedersen, 69). Also, Beatrice writes, “longing of this kind […] comes from love and not from fear. Fear makes us work and suffer, and conduct ourselves in the fear of enraging our Lord and of the judgment of the righteous Judge or of eternal retribution or of punishment in this life. But love” [xi], etc. The opposition of punishment (Colledge: “chastising”) here on earth to love, and the attitude toward the body throughout the Seven Manners do suggest that Beatrice has no problem with the body, and is at least indifferent to it.

The biographer reiterates the eschatological emphasis, placed explicitly in four places in the “ierste maniere”, only once, in the formula of “according to the image and likeness of the Creator”. Instead, the First Manner falls prey to the biographer’s need to conform it to the story of the Vita: he retells its story in the terms of the “status  inchoantium” of Beatrice’s ascent to perfection, i.e., Book I of the Vita. Read, for instance, the particularly shocking description of the original ongoing, laborious and patient First Manner of loving that is to be brought to an end only by God himself, as a “quick” “shortcut to the more perfect state of life […] to grasp more easily by this attentive effort the fruit of orderly love”. This “orderly love” (“ordinate caritatis”) is by the way  the sole mention of love in this entire chapter, as against the ten explicit occurrences of the word “minne/n” in the “ierste maniere” (fifteen in Colledge’s translation).

Consistent with the biographer’s strategy is also his introduction of Beatrice’s body into the Seven Manner. Thus he writes that Beatrice cast “far from her everything she thought harmful to her and contrary to the attainment of her desire”, but he clearly does not interpret this as Pedersen does, for part of her work are “corporeal exercises” (“corporalibus exercitijs”). He is setting up the topos central to the Vita and to be employed throughout the rest of the Seven Manners: namely the identification of  strength with spiritual strength and weakness with bodily weakness (Pedersen, 72ff).  Thus, “it was beyond the possibility of natural forces to bear uninterruptedly this most fervent desire in the frail vessel of the heart [fragili cordis] […] Then she even used to fall into bodily langours because of the great fervor of her desire. Sometimes […] she thought death was near”. This passage is not just alien to the Seven Manners, it is contrary to it: it replaces the crucial passage, left untranslated, in which fear, suffering and “punishment in this life” are denied. All in all, the biographer overlooks, or purposely discards, the considerably good-natured character of “die ierste manier”, which advocates hard work but does not embrace asceticism or bodily “chastising”, and which betrays not a hint an opposition between soul and body, desire and “vessel”, interior and exterior. Is there perhaps a stirring of conscience in the biographer’s statement that “It is beyond human capacity to tell” how Beatrice lived this desire?

Second Manner[xii] (2): the unattainability of the end. Beatrice writes that “sometimes the soul also has another manner of loving [ene ander maniere van minnen]”. What distinguishes this Manner from the previous one is the absence of any ambition or concern for a goal. Beatrice writes that the soul “offers to serve the Lord for nothing”, “without a why [sonder enich waeromme] and for no reward of grace or of glory […] for no payment”.  Thus “the soul is like a maiden [jonfrouwe, i.e., virgin] who serves her master only for her great love of him”, “satisfied that she may serve him and that he suffers her to serve”. “All that she asks is to serve love with love […] to act and to suffer in the service and honor of love”. This service is moreover boundless, it is “without measure, beyond measure, and beyond human sense and reason [sonder mate ende bouen mate, ende bouen menschelike sin ende redene]”. In this state “the soul burns with desire, prepared to serve, and all work is light to her, adversity is easy to bear, and she is joyous in her struggle”.

The biographer’s version of this short passage is more than twice as long as the original, and what is added squarely contradicts Beatrice’s point. For, when he reiterates that the soul (here Beatrice’s) is “not like a hired woman serving her lord for any recompense […] but simply for himself”, he goes on to assign rewards anyway. An added passage reads: “The more loving service she showed [to others] the more she deserved to receive from the Lord’s goods; and she received in recompense many gifts and graces and various increases of heavenly rewards for what she had paid out in the divine service form loving affection alone, with no eye to the reward”. He feels the need to explain this: “What could the kindly giver of every good thing receive from this beloved without rewarding her? With him is the whole recompense of those who labor, and the abundance of rewards”. And he cannot stop himself from emphasizing this practically to the point parody: “When the Lord’s virgin was once disputing about this repayment and was complaining that she was receiving a lucrative return”, the Lord let her know it was out of his “divine good-pleasure”, and then “she acquiesced, and even with praise and thanksgiving she multiplied manifold by her interior exercises the things she received.”

All this is in keeping with the use of the Seven Manners as a summary of the Vita, though with one reservation. Book I of the Vita tells of Beatrice’s “Penitence and mortification of the flesh” (Ch. Five), her offerings of illness as a “martyrdom” (35), of poverty, of “frequent sighs and groans” (40), of “the ordering and exercise of the meditation of her heart’ (Ch. Eight), etc. Then (Ch. Ten) the good news comes at Rameya, from Ida of Nivelles who has “learned by revelation of the Holy Spirit that our Beatrice would surely be taken by the Lord as his special spouse” (VB, 50). Notice that in the “Secundus modus” the original “jonfrouwe” or “virgin soul” is replaced with the woman Beatrice who is “as a bride serving the bridegroom [sponsa sponso]”. As Pedersen points out, he thereby underlines Beatrice’s status as a nun, but he misses the point that bride-hood is a much later stage (Sixth Manner) (Pedersen, 71). In any case, when Beatrice hears the good news, there follow in the Vita several pages of petitioning, supplication, anticipation, some disappointment, and finally Beatrice’s reception of her first gift of grace: “Her rapture and the heavenly vision shown to her spirit” (Ch. Eleven). The reservation is the patent one that in these passages from the Vita the inner states are consistently exteriorized in bodily manifestations, but that in the “Secundus modus” the body is wholly absent[xiii]. One could say that here is one occasion in the Seven Manners upon which the biographer does not seize the opportunity to further his program. (EXPLAIN??)

Third Manner[xiv] (3/I): despair and rejection. Already in the previous two Manners the ground was laid for the dialectic: (1) the First Manner posited, without any reservations, the goal and end of the desire, namely love; (2) the Second Manner denied that end by emphasizing the desire as the end in itself, and by making that in turn problematic as something “beyond measure”. The coexistence of the First Manner with the opposite  Manner – a clear sign that the Manners are not consecutive and exclusive stages – gets the dialectic going. Beatrice puts (1) and (2) together in the first three paragraphs of “die derde maniere van Minnen”. “It sometimes happens that the good soul experiences another manner of loving, which gives her much pain and sorrow”. This happens when “she longs to satisfy and follow love fully [das es datsi begheert der minnen genouch te doene] in all honor and in all service”, etc. The emphasis in these lines is on “fully”, “all”, on “without sparing” and “without measure”. Thus “desire becomes a storm in the soul” and “in this state [the soul] is truly prepared for every service, and willing and fearless in the work and the pain but in all her works she remains discontented [nochtan blijftsi onghenuget ende ongekust in al haren werken]”. As Vekeman puts it: the gulf between desire and love is cultivated (Vekeman, 93). Then “above all, it pains her that in her desire she cannot  satisfy love [datsi na hare grote begerte niet genouch encan gedoen] and that there is always so much she lacks in love [dat hare so vele moet ontbliuen in der minnen]”. This realization does not, however, the end of the line, for as we shall see it is the nature of the dialectic to perpetuate itself by the constant recurrence of its elements in slightly changed and intensified forms – until (3) a new element or Manner emerges. Thus, “that it is above human ability and beyond its powers to do as it wishes, for what it longs to do [to reach the aim] is impossible and unnatural to created beings”, must be realized again and again in opposition to the equally strong desire to fulfill anyway whatever her service lacks (“Ende dats hare oec so vele ontlbiuet in den werken, dat wil si eruullen met geheelen wille ende met starken begerten”). But, again, that cannot satisfy the soul (“dat enmach hare niet genueghen”), and again, she knows full well that cannot achieve what she wants, but again, “she cannot moderate or restrain or calm her desire. She does  all that she can [Si doet al datsi mach], she thanks and praises love, she works and labors for love, she yearns and crave for love, she gives herself over wholly to love. All that gives her no peace…”

At one point in this see-saw of (1) aiming and (2) aimlessness the Third Manner of loving emerges (3). Perhaps it is impossible to say when, if only because in any dialectic the new element does not annihilate the two previous ones, but incorporates them in their fullness. Still, I think we can locate that moment at line 108 in the sentence “All that gives her no peace and this is a great pain to her [al dit engheuet hare gene raste ende dat es hare ene grote pine]” (SMM, 56; SML, 202), because after this sentence suffering really becomes the predominant theme. And this suffering is wholly different from the suffering that was introduced in the Second Manner and that was driving the dialectic to this point. The latter was a positive kind of suffering: it is joyfully desired and endured as a service that makes all its works perfect in love, i.e., that will help the soul to reach its goal – it is also, by the way, endured by the Lord does, who suffers our service (cf. above). But this suffering is not joyfully sought out and borne. “It is a great pain that she must desire what she cannot obtain, and therefore she must remain with a painful heart and live in discontent”. The description that follows of this state is one of the most beautiful passages in the work: “And so seems to her is as if, living, she dies and, dying, she feels the torments of hell; and her whole life is hellish, and it is a disgrace [ongenade??/kwelling?] and a discontent because of the horror [vreeslecheit] of the anxious desire which she cannot fulfill, quiet, or sate. [Ende so es hare alse of si al leuende steruet ende steruende die pine van der hellen gevoelt; ende al hare leuen es hellechtich, ende ongenade ende ongenuechte van der vreeslecheit der anxtliker begerten dier si niet genouch enmach gedoen, noch oec gestillen noch gesaten]”. The Third Manner is the manner of despair, and again only the Lord can salve this despair.

In “De caritatis dei” this beautiful dialectic cannot even get off the ground, because, as we saw, the biographer missed the boat already in the Second Manner, where he promised and also gave the reward that is in truth unattainable. At the beginning, by the way, of his “Tercius modus sieu gradus”, he even repeats his misguided emphasis on the reward. So when he reiterates from the original that the “arduous work of love could not be fulfilled by human strength”, and that “The very fact that she found her own incapacity obstructing her, sometimes increased the vigor of her desire, as usually happens”, he is merely parroting without understanding. Consequently his version of the Third Manner is only 2/3 as long as the original. That he is fundamentally ignorant of what is going on in Beatrice’s text is clear from the fact that he reinterprets the incapacity of the soul to reach its goal (2) as the shortcoming of Beatrice’s body. He writes: “To fulfill this desire she put forth not only her interior affections but all her bodily forces, an she compensated with the most fervent desire of her heart what was lacking to these forces.”

He aggravates the problem by somatizing even the despair of the soul (3): “when not only the intention of her will did not slacken from its proposal but even hastened with insatiable desire beyond all human endurance […] then she underwent many and grave sicknesses”. He even tries to  attribute this interpretation to Beatrice herself: “As she herself said”, he writes, “she was, in a way leading the life of hell, undergoing death while living, dragging along in much trouble of heart and weakness of body”. This adaptation again conforms the Seven Manners to Beatrice’s life story. We are strongly reminded of Chapter Twelve of Book II, “The temptations with which she was gravely harassed for three years,” wherein Beatrice is visited by “onslaughts of mistrust and desperation” and “great agonies and intolerable vexations from thoughts of blasphemy and even unbelief” (VB, 132). Beatrice defends herself against these and also “poisonous infections of carnal enjoyments” (ibid.) “with all her strength of heart and body” (VB, 133) and “weeping and prayers […] tears and sobs” (VB, 137). But the more “She desired […] to walk on the royal road in purity of heart and body” (VB, 131), the more she fell into despair. Thus the dialectic is present also in some parts of the Vita, but it is very much thinned down. Here, as in the “Tercius modus”, the result is of course not a “somatized dialectic” or a dialectic between desire and body, for the simple reason, which  the biographer himself would have to accept, that  the body runs out of steam long before the higher level is reached. In a dialectic the two coexisting elements must be equal, and it is exactly because in Beatrice’s dialectic the two elements, the soul and its desire, are equal and eternal, that her dialectic can attain this level – and indeed even higher levels, all the way to a Seventh Manner.

Fourth Manner[xv] (II): delight and union. In the Fourth Manner the Lord for the first time assumes power and steps in to comfort the despairing soul, establishing it “in an other manner of loving”. “Die vierde maniere van minnen” entails “now great bliss, now great pain” – which is beautifully rendered in the original: “selcstont in groter waelheiden, selcstont in groter welegheiden” – but it seems to be al about the bliss. On the occasion of the Lord’s merciful intercession, “it happens that love is sweetly engendered in the soul […] without any help from human activity”. Beatrice’s description communicates the passivity of the soul at this point: “the heart is touched tenderly by love and eagerly drawn into love and passionately affected by love and violently overwhelmed by love and lovingly embraced in love, so that she is altogether conquered by love”. Beatrice puts this in the language of falling in love, even literally falling into love: The soul “has sunk and been engulfed so deeply in the abyss of love [int afgront der minnen] and has itself entirely become love. Love’s beauty has eaten her up [heeftse geten], love’s power has consumed her [heeftse verteert], love’s sweetness has made her go under [heeftse versonken], love’s greatness has devoured it [heeftse versuolgen], love’s nobility has embraced her [heeftse behelst], love’s purity has adorned her [heefse ghesiert], and love’s majesty [hoecheit] has pulled drawn her up and made her one in her [heeftse bouen getrect ende in hare geenicht] so that she must be wholly of love and with love”.  In dialectical and stunningly paradoxical terms: (I) the despairing soul, dark and bereft, alone, empty and at its lowest point, falls even deeper into (II) the “abyss of love” which is the height of love, and so gains “a great closeness to God [ene grote naheit te gode] and an insightful clarity  and a wonderful wealth and a noble freedom and a lush sweetness and an intense embrace of strong love and an abundant fullness of  great delight”.

In short, the Lord (“onse here”) has pulled the soul into a union with love which is, for the first time, a nearness to God (“te gode”). Beatrice also describes the effect of this on the body – and this is the body’s first appearance ever in the Seuen manieren. As “she feels herself [to be] in the overflowing of rapture and in the great fullness of  the heart, her spirit [geest] sinks wholly into love and her body escapes her, her heart melts and all her strength is lost. She is so conquered by love that she is hardly in possession of herself and often loses control over all her members and her senses”. The Fourth Manner is then completed by the most stunning metaphor in the entire Seven Manners: “And just as a vessel filled up to the brim immediately overflows and brims [ouerloyt ende vut-welt] if it is touched, so the soul is feels itself suddenly touched and conquered by the great fullness of her heart, so that despite herself she often breaks out of herself”. Notice how Beatrice has reversed the order of the flowing: the soul that was flooded is now flooding. This could be a image for the effects of ecstasy on the body, but I believe it makes more sense to read it as a summary of the Fourth Manner.

The biographer is of a different opinion. Without ado he ties the metaphor to the preceding passage about the body. His translation is: “Just as a vessel filled with liquid spills what it contains when it is only slightly pushed, so it happened frequently that Beatrice, pushed as it were, would let spill out by many signs of holy love what she felt inside; or else she would undergo a kind of paralyzed trembling, or would be burdened with some other discomfort of languor”. The entire “Quartus modus dilectionis” is fraught with these oppositions of soul versus body, inside versus outside. E.g., “The Lord of his free kindness and mercy poured into his beloved’s heart as into a most pure vessel a certain nectar-like taste of love without any additional effort of body or spirit”. And, more acutely, “As often as she was interiorly troubled by this kind of love, she was greatly concerned to conceal what she felt inside […] lest that superabundance of his love should perhaps become known through some signs”. The biographer also adds many passages about Beatrice’s body, e.g., “In the stage the holy woman’s affection was so tender that she was often soaked with the flood of tears from her melted heart, and sometimes because of the excessive abundance of spiritual delight, she lay languishing and sick in bed, deprived of all her strength”. Lastly, he cannot contend with Beatrice’s sentence about the soul being drawn into the abyss of love, which he feels the need to metaphorize: “Beatrice was, as it were [my italics], absorbed in the abyss of charity [abissum caritatis]”. By using the beautiful vessel-analogy to point to physical results and by setting up his usual soul–body opposition, the biographer again, and for the same reasons as before, ruins the dialectic. As Pedersen writes, he “embodies” the purely spiritual experience of contemplative exercises “so much that they almost vanish” (Pedersen, 72).

(Interlude.) Vekeman describes the abovementioned passages in the Vita as the call to what he calls “mysticism” proper or the “cognitio experimentalis Dei”, as an invitation to leave the “natural road to God” or (mere) “spirituality”. Only after three years of struggle the Lord “turned the eyes of mercy to console her fully” (VB, 138), the consolation comes in a series of visions, which take up the end of Book II. Vekeman calls these visions “die göttliche Pädagogik”, a preparation for the direct and passive experience of the presence of God, or “mysticism” proper. (Vekeman, 90) Let us be absolutely clear on the point that, according to Vekeman’s scheme of the Vita, the series of visions are still a preparation, i.e., still part of the “status proficientium” (Book II), and only leading up to, but not yet attaining, the “status perfectionis” (Book III). As we shall see, the “status perfectionis” is heralded by yet another state (the Fifth Manner). I want to be clear on this because as of this point we can clearly see the correspondence between the pattern of the Vita as interpreted, accurately I believe, by Vekeman, and the dialectic of the Seven Manners. Therefore I will as of now give more attention to the Vita. Questions about the nature of the correspondence will be broached in the Conclusion.

Fifth Manner[xvi] (III/A): “orwoed” and the mad lover. In the Fifth Manner the dialectic is repeated: (I) despair and forlornness and (II) delight and union now come into coexistence and begin working on one another as did (1) the ambition behind the hard work for an end and (2) the realization that the end is unattainable. But thanks to Beatrice’s ingenuity the recurrence is on a higher level, with all the previous elements preserved and raised up, subtly changed in content and therefore provoking something wholly new. This makes “Die vifte maniere der minnen”, even more so than the Third Manner, a tight knot of conflicts and confrontations. It is also in this Manner that Beatrice gives us a word for the experience of this conflict between the opposites: “orwoed”[xvii]. The last paragraph is a beautiful summary of the dialectic at this high plane: The more she is given from on high, the more she demands, and the more is revealed to her, the more she is yearns to approach [so si meer uerhangen wert in begerten naerre te comene] the light of truth and the purity and nobility and enjoyment [gebrukelicheit] of love. She is always increasingly excited and attracted, but never fulfilled or satisfied. And it is exactly that which haunts and hurts her the most, that heals and cures her. That which makes the deepest wound, that alone gives her health”. Thus Beatrice first joins “the practice of love [die ufeninghe van minnen] and the lack of love [ende int gebreken der minnen]” – recognizable as (1) and (2). Then she repeats but transforms the opposition as “the desire to fulfill the great and pure works of love” versus (“Ofte”, i.e., “or”) the desire “to rest in the sweet embraces of love, the desirable bliss and the pleasurable possession of love”. Then the soul feels “so strong in spirit, so enterprising of heart, so strong in body and so thriving in her work”, in short, “inwardly and outwardly so active, that it seems to her that everything about her is active and engaged [onledig], even though on the outside she seems to be still”. But “at the same time [met desen]” she “feels acutely an inner slowness and a great dependence on love, and a restless desire for love and countless sufferings because of deep dissatisfaction”. “Or she suffers because she experiences love itself, for free [without a why, sonder enig waeromme], or because she demands love and feels dissatisfied because she cannot enjoy love.”

And gradually, just as in the Third Manner, suffering become the principal words, and violence is the tenor of this Manner – and again Colledge’s translation fails to do justice here. “Sometimes”, Beatrice writes, “it happens also that love awakens in the soul, stormily rises with great tempestuousness and fierce passion [ende stormelijke op-ersteet met groten geruse ende met groter verwoetheit], as if with its rage it would break the heart and tear the soul out of herself and beyond herself”. At these times love “becomes so boundless and so overflowing in the soul – when love strongly and fiercely stirs inside her – that it seems to her as if [my italics] her heart is badly wounded again and again and that daily her wounds are renewed and intensified with ever more and new pain [??]”. Beatrice carries this simile – “it seems to her”, “hare dunct dat” – of pain over into a horrifying, graphic bodily metaphor: “And it seems to her that [my italics] her veins tear open and her blood boils, that her marrow withers, her bones soften and that her breast burns and her throat parches, so that her appearance and all her members feel the inward heat and the madness of loving” – in this last sentence, as elsewhere when a verse culminates, Beatrice rhymes: “ende al hare lede gevuelen der hitten van binnen ende des orwoeds van minnen”. Emerging therefore from the “orwoed” is (III) mad love, “die vifte maniere der minnen”: “But she is so conquered by the boundlessness of love that she cannot keep herself in check, nor order her acts, nor spare herself, or keep with what reason shows is possible.” And she “then often feels that an arrow [een gescutte] goes through her heart, into the throat and on till her brain, as if she would go mad. And so like a devouring fire that draws everything inside itself that it can consume and overwhelm, that is how she experiences love working inside her, mercilessly, ceaselessly, pulling and consuming everything inside herself”[xviii].

With both hands the biographer grabs this opportunity to make Beatrice’s body suffer the worst[xix]. Thus, whereas in “die vifte maniere” it seems that the veins are bursting and as if the senses are failing, in the “Quintus modus amoris” “the blood diffused through her bodily members” does “[boil] over through her open veins”, her bones do “[contract] and the marrow disappeared; the dryness of her chest produced hoarseness of throat”. To use the image of the Fourth Manner, the biographer all too keenly pushes the vessel to make the extreme spiritual madness “spill over” into physical and perceptible madness. Read, for instance, that “The very fervor of her holy longing and love blazed up as a fire in all her bodily members”, even “making her perceptibly hot in a wondrous way”. And “Indeed her heart, deprived of strength by this invasion, often gave off a sound like that of a shattering vessel, while she both felt the same and heard it exteriorly”! The movement from inside to outside is made explicit by the biographer himself: “proceeding through the paths of the interior affection and reaching to the exterior bodily senses” is the “impetuous swirl” of a maimed dialectic of (I) bodily suffering and (II) the desire of love (also translated, as we saw, into swooning and languor). Again spiritual strength (“fortius in mente”) is confronted with ”imbecillitatis corporalis”, “bodily weakness [that] denied her the strength to support the humanly insupportable burden”. This Manner’s “madness of holy desire and love which she recognized sometimes as rioting so strongly within her that raving like some roaring, untamed beast”, strikes “the whole framework of her body”, so that Beatrice “necessarily languished in a discomfort” and was not allowed “to rise from her sick bed or to enjoy the benefit of good health.” One cannot but agree with Pedersen that again the biographer forfeits all the fine nuances, even if only because the original insists that the soul in this manner is  “so strong in spirit, so enterprising of heart, so strong in body and so thriving in her work”.

But again his motive becomes apparent when we compare this to the beginning of Book III, i.e., the passages immediately following the series of visions at the end of Book II, which we likened to the Fourth Manner (cf. Interlude). In the first Chapter of Book III, titled “She deserved to be cleansed from all her sins”, Beatrice’s desire for union “had increased to such madness” (VB, 185), and she “raved madly” (200), and “a new and unfamiliar madness was rising within her” (219), a “mad love”, “lapses into frenzy”, “excessive insanity” (220). Again the dialectic shows up, but again it is the thin one of desire and body: “She found that all she could do by bodily and mental effort could never suffice. What should she do with such a discrepancy between spiritual affection and bodily weakness? Her spiritual affection wanted to claim the happy joys promised her with great vigor by means of the greatest acts of virtue, but the frail and tender flesh necessarily succumbed under the burden of the labor” (183). To cleanse herself from sin she turns to bodily castigation, and when Beatrice asks for “the fires of purgatory and even the torments of hell-fire” (186), “behold, a very severe fever, which they call ‘acute’, invades her whole body” (189). “This washes away bodily filth and stains, so she felt her soul being cleansed and washed interiorly” (190), “the body’s sickness was the soul’s delight” (191). When Beatrice has gone through this, then she is “perfect”, “like gold proved in the fire” (191) and  “stewed in the fire of purgatory” (197) – as we can gather from the next passages of the Vita, and from the next Manner.

Sixth Manner[xx] (B): bride and housewife. It should not surprise us that, just as in the Second and Fourth Manners, in “die seste minne” too we have a moment of respite during the rush of the dialectic. For here in “die seste minne” we meet the opposite of (A) the “mad lover”: (B) the composed bride and, ultimately, the housewife. This is the first time the bride makes an appearance in the Seven Manners – whereas, as we saw, the biographer rushed her in already in the Second Manner. The soul as bride “feels another manner of love, a closer state and a higher knowledge”. She feels that “love has overpowered her and conquered all inner opposition, and that she has mended all shortcomings and dominated her deepest being, and love has, without any objections, gained authority over her”. The result is that “occupies her heart with calm confidence and can enjoy it with rest and be freely active in it”. And so “everything that needs to be done for love is small, easily done and let be, suffered and endured. To apply oneself to love is easy”, and “she feels a divine power, a clear purity, a spiritual sweetness, an enviable freedom, and a delicious equality with God [ende ene sachte effenheit te gode]”. Beatrice conveys the peace and orderliness, and the equality with God by likening the soul to “a housewife [ere husurouwen] who has run all her household well, wisely arranged it, prudently managed it, put it in good order, and secured it with foresight, working with insight.” “She is love, love rules in her, with sovereignty and power, working and resting, going about its business, interiorly and exteriorly, as she wishes”.

This manner too, then, like the fourth one, is one of union, but of a different kind of union, i.e., on a higher level of the dialectic: no longer the abyssal falling of ecstasy, but a peaceful, natural and free union in which the soul is “like the fish, swimming in the vast sea and resting in the deep, and like the bird, boldly mounting high in the sky”. This union is also ordered and rational: the housewife has “the prudence and wisdom and the sweetness and strength”. The soul is protected and confident and even “so bold that it no longer fears man nor devil, angel nor saint, nor God himself, in all that she does or does not do, in all her working and resting”. She is allowed to be like that, because “It is love’s sovereign power which has seized the soul and led her, sheltered and protected her”, and because “all that is in the soul and comes to the soul is according to love’s will”. Beatrice is describing no less than the state of perfection: “This is freedom of conscience, sweetness of heart, well-disposedness, nobility of soul, exaltation of the spirit, and the beginning and foundation of everlasting life. This is to live the life of angels here in the flesh.” In other words, in this manner of loving the soul is free from desire. But Beatrice is careful to put this manner of loving in the perspective of the dialectic: it is only for those who “seek it in fear and pursue it in faith, and practice it in longing, not sparing themselves in great labor, in many sufferings, undergoing many sorrows and enduring much contempt. The soul must not despise these things.”

The biographer takes over most of the important elements, such as the housewife (“materfamilias”) and her qualities. But the “Sextus amor” is of course Beatrice’s “sublime state of life” in which she accepted “that love which is God” “in its tranquil enjoyment”. And of course the body is involved: Beatrice only “became in a way entirely celestial and could say with the apostle that her conversation was in heaven [Ph 3:20]”, because “tolerating the  partition of her frail body as the only thing holding back from eternal joy her spirit […] she led an angelic life on earth” (VB, 258). All this corresponds to the part of the Vita that follows upon the story of Beatrice’s fever (cf. Fifth Manner): “with open heart and enlarged veins, as if she were mad with excessive desire” (193), she enters the Bridegroom’s chamber (196), and  “how sweetly he had nourished her with the milk of consolation and with motherly affection” (214). Beatrice is truly perfect, even though “in this one matter her body was an impediment”: “that her affection, impeded by this obstacle, could barely attain what it desired [and] she could not attain the everlasting fruition of the supreme Good” (198). Still, “The obstacle of the flesh had been removed and penal torments no longer stood in the way” (195), and “if she committed something worthy of correction, God would not ignore it, but divine severity would purge the fault away with temporal affliction according to the mode of  the fault, exercising its revenge on it” (195). Beatrice is even “rapped into the deep abyss of the judgments of her God” (223) and for a year finds “herself totally stripped of the entire will” (224): “so wholly lacked any human will that she chose neither eternal nor temporal things by the judgment of her will” (225). Now “Beatrice recognized that she had by God’s grace arrived, at such a stability of spirit and her heart that she fulfilled the divine good-pleasure in everything without great labor” (226). “She would stand all hard, harsh things not only very patiently, but also very willingly, without impatience or sorrow, and even ignorant of them [she] or the rest of her life perfected the work the heavenly Father had given her to do, being firmer in faith, more constant in hope, and more fervent in love” (227). Thus “the very great desire was totally appeased” (226).

Seventh Manner[xxi] (C): hope. If we go by Colledge’s translation, then “Die .vij. maniere der minnen” seems to be a departure from the preceding Manners, because the translator renders the end of the Sixth Manner like this: “This is to live the life of angels here in the flesh, that everlasting life which may God grant us all. Amen.” (SML, 204). But there is in reality no such “Amen” at the end of the original Sixth Manner! Indeed, the (triple) dialectic we have seen unfolding demands a seventh stage. Now what could be higher than the Sixth Manner, the manner of the angel in the flesh, if not the manner of the soul who has shed the flesh and passed on to eternal bliss? But no, as we shall see, the soul who adopts the seventh manner of loving is still in via (Ruh, 154). But how can there be, in this life, a higher manner of loving than the sixth? Ruh answers that there can’t be, that therefore the Seventh Manner does not transcend the Sixth but is parallel to it (Ruh, 154-155). But that contradicts Beatrice’s own first sentence: “The soul still has a higher manner of loving”. Ruh is not following the dialectic so he misses what is in my view the central point of the Seventh Manner: it takes into consideration the whole human, the bride/housewife who is sometimes in her Bridegroom’s arms, but mostly stays behind alone, longing. The nature of that longing is at stake in the Seventh Manner.

In other words, the Seventh Manner involves the combination of the two previous manners, and indeed includes not just (A) and (B), but also, because of (A), (I) and (II), and, because of (I), also (1) and (2) – this explains the exceptional length of this Manner: as the end point of the dialectic it preserves all the preceding manners. But with regard to the mad love and the love of the bride/housewife, Beatrice joins them in the first couple of paragraphs of the Seventh Manner. As for (B), in the first paragraph the soul “is drawn into the eternity of love by eternal love, into the incomprehensible wisdom and silent highness and into the deep abyss of the Godhead, who is all in all, and who remains intangible above everything”. In the fifth paragraph Beatrice writes that “By acting so love pulls the soul up into a higher state, and thus she has climbed with her spirit above time into eternity […] she is exalted above human manners of loving and above her own human nature in the longing to be up there”, up there “in the sweet company of the highest spirits”. And “sometimes,” Beatrice writes, “she has up there her yearning association [wandelinge], especially in the company of the burning seraphim, and her lovely resting place and her pleasant abode.” As for (A), in the second paragraph Beatrice reintroduces the engine of the dialectic: “In this state […] her heart has become frantic and restless, her soul flows away and  wastes away from love, her spirit is nothing but yearning […] love will not let her be in peace”. As if to emphasize the dialectic, the third paragraph presents us with another beautiful summary of the dialectic that is reminiscent of the one in the Fifth Manner: “love draws her up and pulls her down, love caresses her and then again hurts her, love brings death and brings back to life, gives health and then wounds again. Love makes her mad [dul] and then wise [vroet] again.”

These elements work their chemistry and slowly a new manner of loving emerges, in the form of a new kind of longing. The soul’s longing is not just for a visit with the Bridegroom, but the further or higher longing to be in a state in which she will be able to enjoy His presence for ever. The longing for the death of the flesh sets in. In the seventh paragraph of the Seventh Manner we learn that “that is why the earthly life is for her a great misery [ellende: exile?] and a hard prison and a heavy complaint. She despises the world, the earth is heavy going for her, and what is of the earth cannot gratify or satisfy her. It is a great pain to her that she has to be so far away and seem such a stranger. She cannot forget that she is in exile, her longing cannot be appeased, her yearning hurts her terribly and so she is martyred and tormented beyond measure and without mercy.” That is why the soul yearns to be released from this exile, “and to be dissolved from this body”. Beatrice uses one of the first of three, so far unprecedented Latin quotes[xxii]: Cupio dissolvi et esse cum Christo (Paul, Philemon 1,23).

This the soul hopes for: the soul’s pain, Beatrice writes, “is unspeakable, nevertheless she must live in hope [in hopen], and this hope makes her yearn and hurt”. It is because the seventh manner of loving is hope – the hope of Romans 8 (cf. Pedersen, 75) –, that it is in the end life-affirming, though not therefore less hard and painful. For the soul cannot nor wants to be consoled, as the Prophet says: Renuit consolari anima mea, etcetera (Psalm 76, 3). Even God’s comfort she refuses, because the joy this would bring would make her love flare up and “renew her longing to bring love into practice, and to enjoy love, and to live in exile without satisfaction [...] This is a life of hard work, because she does not want to be consoled as long as she cannot receive what she seeks so restlessly.” In the end the Seventh Manner, therefore, the dialectic does find some sort of resting place: in the life in this world, in the flesh, without consolation, a life of hard work, in the longing hope for eternal bliss. The last paragraphs of the Seventh Manner are devoted to describing the subject of that hope: “When she has done in this exile everything that was possible for her to do, her refuge is in glory […] she wants to go to her fatherland, where she has build her home […] where she is liberated from all obstacles and where she is lovingly welcomed by her Beloved […] She will enjoy Him, in full satisfaction [ende si sal sijns gebruken met volre genuchten], Him whom she has embraced interiorly so many times”. She “will have no fear for Him, but will possess Him, living like the most beloved in the most Beloved [???]. There the soul is united with her Bridegroom [met haren brudegome], she becomes one in spirit with Him in inseparable loyalty and eternal love […] May God bring us to this. Amen.” The locomotive of the dialectic, the longing that up until these last moments of the Seven Manners was rather negative, has been turned into something more affirmative: hope. This I believe is the bequest of the Seventh Manner, and of the Seven Manners as a whole.

In the Vita the Seventh Manner is cut very short. Again it leaves out most of the dialectic, for the reason give by the biographer himself: “Who might conceive in mind or express in words with what desire of heart, with what tears, what sobs and sighs, Beatrice aspired to that future rest and happiness [….]? Who might worthily tell with what devout affection of heart she daily frequented the heavenly homeland”? Etc. The emphasis in the rest of the “caritatis gradus septimus” is on the meetings with angels and the holy seraphim and all the other heaven-dwellers. This connects the Seventh Manner to Part III in the Vita and especially to Beatrice’s visions of “the world as a wheel set under her feet”, in which “union, by which she was now made one spirit with God, she knew she had arrived at that pristine purity and liberty of her spirit, at that clarity in which she had been created from the beginning” (236)[xxiii].

But, the “caritatis gradus septimus” goes on to say, Beatrice saw all this “only as through a mirror and in a dim reflection” (1 Co 13,12), because, of course, “with her body did she dwell on earth, but with her whole mind she dwelt in heaven”. Though no longer as explicitly as he has done before, the biographer turns Beatrice’s more complex and ultimately life-affirming attitude towards life on earth into a simple earth-heaven dualism (Pedersen, 75). The more she took part in the eternal joys, he writes, “the more vexed she was to come to herself again, withdrawn from there and returned to earth, recalled by the weight of the humanity she bore. Hence weeping and sighing must always accompany her.” Beatrice’s internal yearning is again exteriorized: “with her heart lifted up, her hands and eyes too were lifted up to heaven under the impulse of her heart, as if even these bodily members aspired to the everlasting fatherland”. Also the more simple obsession with Beatrice’s body returns: she sometimes thought her great desire would cause “great damage to her vital bodily organs”. And at the end of his translation, in his justification for cutting the Seventh Manner so short, the biographer gives away “his preoccupation with matters carnal, not with matters spiritual” (Pedersen, 75): “But why do I delay more on these matters, which […] can be conceived only by experience, not by a flood of words, and which can be understood not in the letter but in the spirit, not with carnal but with spiritual understanding [my italics]”…


Conclusion: authors and authority

Let us reckon in bare terms what we have before us: (1) a life, lived by one named Beatrice; (2) a biography, written by a cleric or “biographer”, who titled it the Vita Beatricis; (3) a lost collection of “cedula”, written by Beatrice, said to be an “autobiography”; (4) a surviving text, written by Beatrice and called Seuen manieren; (5) a surviving text, called “De caritate dei: et eius septem gradibus”, part of the Vita and based on the Seuen Manieren, and written by… whom? This question I believe is conclusively answered by the preceding exegesis of the Seuen mannieren and its comparison with “De caritate dei”: the author of the latter cannot be Beatrice, but is the biographer. But the more difficult question is this: who is the author of that “ghost text” that I have called “The Seven Manners”, i.e., the meaning or message of the Seuen manieren / “De caritate dei”? And by extension, what is the Seven Manners? To answer these questions we have to look at the history of the texts.

The Seven Manners began as Beatrice’s and as identical with the Seuen manieren. But in the course of the “translation” into “De caritate dei” we witnessed its “appropriation” by the biographer – and by “appropriation” I mean not the modern concept of “taking as one’s own” (for biographer signed his name to neither of “his” texts) but authorship and authority. We can safely assume that the same happened to the rest of the “cedula”, with of course the crucial exception that only the Seuen manieren remained in existence. As of its translation, then, the Seven Manners enjoyed a double existence, and there is an irony connected to this. As part and “summary” of the Vita Beatricis, Seven MannersA stayed connected to Beatrice, but the connection was distorted: the biographer’s assurance that he was only a “translator” fooled many if not all into believing that it was indeed Beatrice’s, i.e., the Seuen manieren, only in translation, while it was really his, i.e., “De caritate dei”. As the original Seuen manieren, the Seven MannersB quickly lost all ties with Beatrice, and for centuries it remained anonymous, orphaned as it were… until the attribution in 1925. That attribution of the Seven MannersB, i.e. the Seuen manieren, to Beatrice (gradually) generated some dramatic reallocations of authorship. Beatrice was now denied possession of the Seven MannersA, which was now recognized as “De caritate Dei” and attributed to the biographer. And as the perceptions of “translation”, of “autobiography” collapsed, Beatrice also lost authority over the rest of the Vita to the biographer.  In short, today we have only one Seven Manners, Beatrice’s, and a Vita, the biographer’s.

So that with regard to texts, but what about the lives, and the bodies? Just as the Seven Manners started out as unique, lodged unambiguously in the Seuen Manieren, but then became a “ghost text”, pulled apart in several directions between two versions and two authors, also Beatrice became such a “ghost”. Of course death turns each and every one of into a ghost, but we are not normally resurrected in a vita. With that event there were suddenly two Beatrices: the BeatriceB of the Vita, and the BeatriceA who was once a woman of flesh and blood. Ostensibly, the author of the first was Beatrice herself, for the Vita was not just claimed to be a vita, but indeed a translation of an auto-vita. And so the B-version again claimed to be the only authentic one. But on the basis of the Seven Manners (and research of hagiography in general), the secret was revealed: the Beatrice of the Vita was not authored by Beatrice herself, but by the biographer. Again Beatrice lost authority, this time over the life and the body that are the protagonists of the Vita. But of course, unlike the real Seven Manners, the real Beatrice will pop up to appropriate herself. But we can at least see to it that the “ghost” that she is, is not appropriated by anyone else, that we free her life, and her body, from the biographer’s authority. And to do so is not just to understand her, but also to understand him.

No doubt this “conclusion” is also not what it seems, a conclusion. It is easy and perhaps a bit too playful to “translate” the issue into metaphors, but quite another thing to take them seriously and to unravel what they mean. That however will have to be done elsewhere.

 ~  fin ~




 SMM Beatrice van Nazareth. Seven Manieren van Minne, critisch uitgegeven (eds. Leonce Reypens and Joseph Van Mierlo). Leuven, De Vlaamsche Boekenhalle, 1926 (Leuvense studien en tekstuitgaven, no. II). Reprinted in: Beatrijs van Nazareth, Seven manieren van minne, Middelnederlandse tekst met een inleiding en hertaling door Rob Faesen S.J. Kapellen, Pelckmans, 1999.
 SML Beatrice of Nazareth. There are Seven Manners of Loving (ed. and trans. by Eric Colledge). In: Elizabeth Avilda Petroff, ed. Medieval Women’s Visionary Literature, NY, Oxford, Oxford UP, 1986, pp. 200-206. This is a reprint of the text in: Eric Colledge, ed. and trans., Medieval Netherlands religious Literature, Leyden, Sythoff, 1964; New York, London House & Maxwell, 1965.
 SM-VB “De caritate dei: et eius septem gradibus”. Chapter 14 of Book III of VB. = “The Love of God and its Seven Degrees”. Chapter 14 of Book III of VB.
 VB Leonce Reypens. Vita Beatricis. De Autobiografie van de Z. Beatrijs van Tienen O. Cist., 1200-1268. Antwerp, Ons Geestelijk Erf, 1964. (Studien en tekstuitgaven van Ons Geestelijk Erf, no.15). Reprinted in: The Life of Beatrice of Nazareth (Roger De Ganck, trans., assisted by John Baptist Hasbrouck). Kalamazoo, Mich., Cistercian Publ., 1991. (the Cistercian Fathers Series, vol. 50) = The Life of Beatrice of Nazareth (Roger De Ganck, trans. and annotator, assisted by John Baptist Hasbrouck). Kalamazoo, Mich., Cistercian Publ., 1991. (the Cistercian Fathers Series, vol. 50) / The references to either the Latin original or the English translation will be to the pages in Reypens original edition of 1964.


Roger De Ganck. Beatrice of Nazareth in her context (Beatrice of Nazareth and the thirteenth-century mulieres religiosae of the Low Countries; Vol.2: Towards unification with God). Kalamazoo, Mich.: Cistercian Publications, 1991, 2 vols. (Cistercian studies series; no. 121-122)

Rob Faesen. “Inleiding” and “Enkele opmerkingen bij de tekst en de hertaling”. In: Beatrijs van Nazareth, Seven manieren van minne, Middelnederlandse tekst met een inleiding en hertaling door Rob Faesen S.J., Kapellen, Pelckmans, 1999, pp. 9-42 and pp.87-91.

Else Marie Wiberg Pedersen. “"The In-carnation of Beatrice of Nazareth's Theology". In: Juliette Dor, Lesley Johnson, and Jocelyn Wogan-Browne, eds., New Trends in Feminine Spirituality: the Holy Women of Liège and Their Impact, Brepols, 1999, pp.61-80.

Ursula Peters. Religiöse Erfahrung als literarisches Faktum. Zur Vorgeschichte und Genese frauenmystischer Texte des 13. und 14. Jahrhunderts. Tübingen, Niemeyer, 1988.

Kurt Ruh. Geschichte der abendländische Mystik. Zweiter Band. Frauenmystik und Franziskanische Mystik der Frühzeit. München, C.H. Beck, 1990. (Chapter XVII, Beatrijs van Nazareth)

Herman Vekeman. “Beatrijs van Nazareth. Die Mystik einer Zisterzienserin”. In: Peter Dinzelbacher and Dieter R. Bauer, eds., Frauenmystik in Mittelalter, Ostfildern bei Stuttgart, Schwabenverlag, 1985, pp.78-98.


[i] Pedersen, Vekeman, etc. I disagree with Faesen who recognizes the ingenuity of the structure of the Seven Manners, but nevertheless reduces it, in my view, to three diptychs preceded by an introduction (Faesen, 37).  (LIST with scholars!)

[ii] One of the worst shortcomings of the Colledge translation is that it translates “si” or “se” (for the soul) as “it”, while clearly “she” is meant, for in Dutch “de ziel” is feminine.

[iii] 1250 is the date tacitly assumed by most scholars (cf. Ruh, 137).

[iv] “prout in cedulis suscepi, oblata verba vvlgaria latino <tantum> eloquio coloraui”.

[v] “libro vite sue”.

[vi] Which would make it the first work of that nature in Dutch (Ruh, 139). (LIST of those scholars). Kurt Ruh (ibid.) marvels that, despite his laments over the changes in content and the replacement of the sober Dutch by the excessive Latin, Leonce Reypens still concluded that the biographer was reliable and that  “Beatrice is his source” (Reypens, 41).

[vii]  There are several other passages in the Vita which are probably also “translations” of treatises like the Seuen manieren, because qua style, motif and originality they stand out from the rest, and especially from those moralizing commentaries of which we can know for certain that they were added by the biographer (small print in Reypens’ edition). I am thinking of, among other passages, the beautiful Chapters 5-9 of Book II: “The two cells she established in her heart”, “The five mirrors of her heart”, and “The spiritual monastery she established in her heart”, “Humility and obedience: the two guardians of her monastery”, and “The fruitful garden of her heart”. Also, in Book III, Ch.15: “The love of neighbor”. A specific, textual analysis is yet to be done. Ruh notices these passages too, and writes that, because here Beatrice shows through in the Vita, this vita is one that breaks with the hagiographical type. But Ruh also speculates that perhaps the Seven Manners was qua form exceptional among the notes, and that this is why it is the only text to survive. His argument, though, that the rest was probably destroyed by the biographer because the latter deemed it would “have done more harm than good to those with minds less practiced in these matters” (VB, 275), surely would have applied to the Seven Manners as well. (cf. Ruh, 139-140 and 146)

[viii] Once in a while the biographer does use “modus”, but almost out of carelessness.

[ix] “Sunt igitur hij dilectionis gradus siue status septem numero:, per quos ad dilectum suum”.

[x] SMM, 46, 48, 50 (lines 1-54); SML, 200-201; VB, 246-248.

[xi] A reference to i John. 4, 18: “Fear is not in charity: but perfect charity casteth out fear, because fear hath pain. And he that feareth, is not perfected in charity” (DR); “timor non est in caritate sed perfecta caritas foras mittit timorem quoniam timor poenam habet qui autem timet non est perfectus in caritate” (Vul.).

[xii] SMM, 52 SML, 201 (lines 55-71); VB, 249-250.

[xiii] Although the original intimate service of the soul to love is extended and exteriorized to the service to others: “The blessed woman was seen bowing down before everyone faithfully, patient in adversity, exultant in tribulations, with an even temper”, etc.

[xiv] SMM, 54, 56 (lines 72-120); SML, 201-202; VB, 251-252.

[xv] SMM, 58, 60 (lines 121-162); SML, 202; VB, 253-254.

[xvi] SMM, 62, 64, 66 (lines 163-230); SML, 202-203; VB, 255-256.

[xvii] SMM, 64, l.201. “Orwoed” or “orewoet” is a cognate of “verwoetheit” (l.165), “verwoedelike” (l.192), and the modern Dutch verb “woeden” or “to rage” or “storm”, and to the noun “woede”, “rage”, “frenzy”. Hadewijch used this word, and so did Ruusbroec. It is also called or “furor” or “aestus amoris (Reypens and Van Mierlom p.77). There is no study specifically of “orwoed”, but cf. Joris Reynaert, De beeldspraak van Hadewijch, Tielt, 1981, pp.277-381. (Ruh, 151, n.27)

[xviii] Faesen points to similar experiences by Beatrice’s contemporary mystics: Lutgarde of Tongeren (Acta Sanctorum June 4, 200D), Ida of Gorsleeuw (Acta Sanctorum October 13, 123B), Aleydis of Schaarbeek (Acta Sanctorum, June 2,474B), Juliana of Mont-Cornillon (Acta Sanctorum April 1, 449A). Also Hadewijch in the “Seventh Vision” (lines 3-5) and Ruusbroec in the Geestelike Brulocht (CCCM 103, line b488vv). The arrow can be found already in the commentary of the Song of Songs by Origenes (Commentary on the Canticle of Canticles, 3, 8, 13-14, SC 376, 574-576). (Faesen, 89). 

[xix] Pedersen writes that the biographer’s version of this mad love is William of St. Thierry’s and Richard of  St. Victor’s more dramatic interpretation of the power of a love which must strike at the health and sanity of the contemplative, while Beatrice’s “mad love” is more like Bernard’s concept of amor vehemens (Pedersen, 73).

[xx] SMM, 68, 70, 72 (lines 231-295); SML, 203-204; VB, 257-258.

[xxi] SMM, 74, 76, 78, 80, 82, 84 (lines 296-450); SML, 204-206; VB, 259-262.

[xxii] line 358, citing Paul, Philemon 1,23; lines 382-383, citing Psalm 76; and lines 438-439, citing Augustine’s Confessiones, II, 10, 18.

[xxiii] Ruh’s intuition is that the later visions in Chapters 7 and 11 of Book III – respectively the image of the Trinity in the form of a river with brooks and brooklets, and the intellectum meditationis on Bernard’s words on the connection between self knowledge and knowledge of God, which leads to an ecstatic vision of standing on a wheel and seeing the Trinity – are inauthentic, i.e., were never part at all of the original “cedula”. His argument is that the biographer found the “cedula” coming short on material for the “status perfectionis” and therefore added material from the Cistercian and Victorine theology. He bases this on the fact that these visions are more of an allegorical-didactical nature, starting no longer from God as felt in the heart, but from a theological question and therefore very different from the rest of the Vita. (Ruh, 144-145) But that in turn is based on the position that the Seven Manners was an exception in the “cedula”. If however we think of the “cedula” as a collection of more theoretical works and treatises such as the Seven Manners, then the abovementioned “visions” fit Beatrice perfectly. Also, Ruh claims, the role of “Visionärin” “is nicht die Art der Beatrijs” (Ruh, 145). Judging by the Seven Manners she is not, but just like Hadewijch she could have written and collected “Visions”. Perhaps these “visions” were originally, as Ruh writes, allegories of an intellectual, theoretical nature, but the biographer “added” the visionary and ecstatic aspect to them…