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HENRY SUSO

HOROLOGIUM SAPIENTIAE,

OR THE 'COMPUTER OF WISDOM'

IN THE AMHERST MANUSCRIPT
 

 
 
 

enry Suso was born in Switzerland about 1296, entering the Dominican monastery at fifteen. Five years later, after much guilt and excessive asceticism (including inscribing Jesus' name over his heart upon his flesh with his writing stylus), he was 'converted', giving his heart to the love of Eternal Wisdom. He worked with Meister Eckhart at Cologne after 1320 and wrote the Book of Divine Truth in defense of Eckhart's teachings. Suso was then himself forbidden to teach, though he continued to write, and he wandered about, in close contact with John Tauler , Henry of Nordlingen and other 'Friends of God'. Elsbeth Stägel, a Dominican nun at Töss, wrote his Life and received assistance from him as the 'Servant' on interpreting Eckhart's writings.

Einsiedeln, Cod. 710 (322), fol. 89, Henry Suso and Elsbeth Stagel sheltering under cloak of Sapientia

A thread on the Medieval Religion List was a query about a Carol sung each Christmas in Germany, said in its legend to have been sung by the Angels when they danced with Henry Suso.

The Horologium Sapientiae ('Clock of Wisdom', the 'Computer of Wisdom'), was written in 1339. Henry Suso died at Ulm, 1366. Immensely popular throughout Europe this work was translated into other languages.

Henry Suso's Horologium Sapientiae, in British Library, Add. 37,790, fols. 135v-136v, presents part of Chapter Four's dialogue between Wisdom and the Disciple. British Library, Add. 37,790, the Amherst Manuscript, also contains Julian of Norwich's Showing of Love, Marguerite Porete's Mirror of Simple Souls, Jan van Ruusbroec's Sparkling Stone , and works by Richard Rolle , Walter Hilton and Birgitta of Sweden . It may have been copied out by Richard Misyn himself for the recluse Margaret Heslyngton, and these earlier layers of the manuscript could have even been written as early as circa 1413, and represent Julian's own contemplative library. You may be reading what she once read.

Both Henry Suso and Richard Rolle stress Jesus ' name, Suso inscribing it upon his own flesh over his heart with his writing stylus, Rolle wearing it as an embroidered badge upon his hermit's garb, Charles de Foucauld as a hermit using a similar practice in our own century. Women were more likely to centre such a concept upon the heart of Jesus, as did Mecthild of Hackeborn, whose Book of Ghostly Grace in British Library, Egerton 2006, is copied out by the same scribe as that of this Amherst Manuscript, and as did Julian of Norwich herself

The concluding reference in this text to the Desert Father Arsenius is also to be found in the booklet 'Colections '. Manuscripts of this text by Henry Suso are sometimes illuminated with Henry Suso, who was Swiss, and his translator together gazing upon the medieval form of a computer, an elaborate Swiss clock, presented to us by the figure of God as female Wisdom. The rubrication here follows that in the Amherst Manuscript.

A hard copy booklet of this text giving the Middle English with its thorns and yochs in parallel text with the modern translation, may be obtained from holloway.julia@tiscali.it .
 
 

A Brief Formula for the Spiritual Life:

N the fellowship of saints which as the morning stars
shone in the dark night of this world and as the sun and moon
shed forth the beams of their clear knowledge you shall find some who
surpassingly were perfectly grounded not only in active life and virtue but
also in contemplation, of whose teaching and example you may take
the most perfect doctrine and love of true spiritual life. And nevertheless I
willingly and condescendingly to your youth and inexperience shall give you
some principles of spiritual living for a memory to have always
at hand to set you in the right working if you desire
to have the perfection of spiritual life that is to be desired by all men
and if you will and desire to take it up manfully you shall first
withdraw from ill fellowship and harmful company of all men who would
hinder you from your good purpose, seeking always opportunity when and what
time you may retire and there take privy silence for contemplation
and flee from the perils and turbulance of this harmful world. Always it
belongs to you first to study to have cleanness of heart, that is to say
that you keep your sensory perceptions turned into yourself and there you have as much as is
possible the doors of your heart busily closed from the

[Fol. 136]

forms of outward things and images of earthly things. Truly
among all other spiritual exercises cleanness of heart has the sovereignty,
as a final intent and reward of all the travails that a chosen knight of Christ is to receive.
Also you must lessen your affections from all your business about all the things that might
hinder your freedom from such a thing that in any manner has might and power to bind and
draw down your affection to it. As it is written in Moses' Law, 'Remain living in your own
dwelling and do not go out your door on the day of the Sabbath. Every man shall live by himself and
no man go out through the door of his house upon the Sabbath day'. This is as much as to say
that for a man to dwell with himself is to gather all the various
thoughts and affections of his heart and have them knit together into
one true and sovereign good, that is God. And to keep the Sabbath is
to have your heart free and unburdened from all fleshly affections that might
defoul the soul and from all worldly cares and business that might distress
it and so rest sweetly in peace of heart as in the haven of silence and
the love and feeling of his Creator God. Above all other things, let
this be your principal intent and business, that you always have your soul
and your mind lifted up to contemplation of heavenly things, so that
frail earthly things be left, to be continually drawn up to
the things that are above and what thing so ever it be that is different
from this, though it seem great in itself as chastising of the body, fasting,
vigils, and such like exercises of virtue, they shall be taken
and considered as secondary and less worthy and only so much expedient
and profitable as they profit and help to cleanness of heart. And there
fore it is that so few go on to perfection for they waste their time and their
strength in mean things that are not greatly profitable and the due
remedies they leave and discard. But if you desire to know the
right way to fulfil your intent you shall sovereignly desire
to continual cleanness of heart and rest of spirit and tranquillity and
to have your heart lastingly lifted up to God.
Disciple: Who is he who in this mortal body may always be knit to
that spiritual contemplation?

Wisdom: There may be no deadly manner always fasten and
set into this contemplation but from this cause, as said earlier,
that you may know. Where you shall fasten and solemnly set the
intention of the spirit and to what mark you shall always draw
the beholding of your soul when at that time the mind may
get them he will be glad and when he is distracted and drawn
away then he is sorry and sighs often as he feels himself
separated from that beholding. But if by chance you will ever turn against
me and say that you may not long abide and dwell in one's man's state
you shall know and understand that the power of God may do
and work more than any man may think. Therefore it falls
often that that thing that a man binds him to at the beginning
with a manner of violence and difficulty, afterwards he shall

[Fol. 136v]

do it lightly and at last with great liking, if he continue and
leave not what he has first begun. Hear now, my dear son,
the teaching of your father. Heed carefully my words and
write them in your heart as into a book. Follow not the multitude
of those who go back to the desires and lusts of their hearts
in which devotion is slackened, charity grows cold and meek obedience
is cast aside, in those who covet to be over other men in
prelacy and busily seek esteem and delicacies for the stomach,
desiring overmuch gifts and questing rewards that in this
world are gained, which they covet for as reward of their work. But
in another world they shall be left empty of everlasting
joy. And therefore follow not this manner of people but take
heed busily to the worthy flowers, that is the holy Fathers, that
spread about the sweet odour of the sovereign holiness and busy
yourself to take the purpose with like intent and conversation as is now
shown to you. Wherefore, whether you eat or drink or any other
thing do it late. Ever this voice of your sweet father sounds in your
ears saying, 'My son, turn again into thy heart. Withdraw
yourself from all outward things as much as
is possible to you and with a fervent love cleave ever to the
sovereign good that is God and having always your mind lifted
up in contemplation of heavenly things. So that all your soul
with the powers and strengths thereof gathered together into God
be made one spirit with him in whom stands sovereign
perfection of our way and living in this world. This short
doctrine for form and manner of living is given to you in
which stands the sovereignty of all perfection. And in which
if you will busily study and truly fulfil it, in effect you
will be blessed and in this manner begin here in this frail body
everlasting felicity. This is the healthful way that Arsenius,
taught by the Angel, kept himself and bade his disciples
keep. That is to say, 'Flee, Keep Silence, and Be in Rest'. 'These', he
said, 'Are the principles of spiritual health'. God be Thanked.
 

 


P. Odo Lang O.S.B., Librarian, Einsiedeln Abbey, which owns major Suso manuscript, Cod. 710 (322), also major Mechtild von Magdebourg manuscript

Foto: Frau Liliane Géraud, Zürich
 

See also Amherst Manuscript


JULIAN OF NORWICH, HER SHOWING OF LOVE AND ITS CONTEXTS ©1997-2017 JULIA BOLTON HOLLOWAY  || JULIAN OF NORWICH  || SHOWING OF LOVE || HER TEXTS || HER SELF || ABOUT HER TEXTS || BEFORE JULIAN || HER CONTEMPORARIES || AFTER JULIAN || JULIAN IN OUR TIME ||  ST BIRGITTA OF SWEDEN  ||  BIBLE AND WOMEN || EQUALLY IN GOD'S IMAGE  || MIRROR OF SAINTS || BENEDICTINISM || THE CLOISTER || ITS SCRIPTORIUM  || AMHERST MANUSCRIPT || PRAYER || CATALOGUE AND PORTFOLIO (HANDCRAFTS, BOOKS ) || BOOK REVIEWS || BIBLIOGRAPHY ||