Ruysbroek (or Ruysbrock), Jan van
(1293–1381)
Flemish mystic, whose name probably derived from the village
of Ruysbroek, near Brussels, where he was born in 1293.
As a child he showed distinct religious inclinations and spent
his adolescence exploring a wealth of mystical literature. He
decided to follow the clerical profession, and in 1317 he was
duly ordained. A little later he became vicar of St. Gudule, a
parish in Brussels.
During his long term in this capacity he became widely esteemed
for his erudition and for his personal piety, while his
sermons and even his letters were passed from hand to hand
and perused with great admiration by many of his fellow clerics.
He did not court fame nor publicity of any kind, and at the
age of sixty he retired to Groenendale, not far from the battlefield
of Waterloo, where he founded a monastery. There he
lived until his death, devoting himself chiefly to the study and
practice of mysticism, and maintaining those charitable actions
befitting a monk. Ruysbroek was known to his disciples as ‘‘the
ecstatic teacher.’’ As a thinker he was speculative and broadminded,
and indeed was one of those who prefigured the Reformation,
the result being that although he won the encomiums
of many famous theologians in the age immediately succeeding
his, an attempt to beatify him was sternly suppressed.
Ruysbroek wrote a great deal, and at Cologne, in 1552, one
of his manuscripts found its way into print with the title, De
Naptu svel de Ornatu Nuptiarum Spiritualium, while subsequently
a number of his other works were published, notably De Vera
Contemplatione and De Septem Gradivus Amoris (Hanover, 1848).
The central tenet of his teaching was that ‘‘the soul finds
God in its own depths.’’ But in contradistinction to many other
mystics, he did not teach the fusion of the self in God, holding
that at the summit of the ascent toward righteousness the soul
still preserves its identity. Ruysbroek and his teaching gave rise
to many voluminous commentaries throughout the Middle
Ages, and he has attracted a number of great writers.
Ruysbroek died in 1381.
Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed. Ruysbroek (or Ruysbrock), Jan van
1335
Sources
Jones, Rufus Matthew. Studies in Mystical Religion. N.p.,
1909. Reprint, New York Russell & Russell, 1970.
Maeterlinck, Maurice L’Ornemant des Noces Spirituelles, de
Ruysbroeck l’admirable. English ed. as Ruysbroeck and the Mystics
with Selections fron Ruysbroeck. N.p., 1894.