- The Friend of God from the Oberland
The Friend of God from the Oberland ("Der Gottesfreund vom Oberland", sometimes translated as "the friend of God from the Upland," or "the mysterious layman from the Oberland") was the name of a figure in
Middle Age German mysticism, associated with the Friends of Godand the conversion of Johannes Tauler.
His name comes from the
In "Story of the First Four Years of a New Life",
Rulman Merswinwrites: "Of all the wonderful works which God had wrought in me I was not allowed to tell a single word to anybody until the time when it should please God to reveal to a man in the Oberland to come to me. When he came to me God gave me the power to tell him everything." The identity and personality of this "Friend of God," who bulks so largely in the great collection of mystical literature, and is everywhere treated as a half supernatural character, is one of the most difficult problems in the history of mysticism.
The accounts of his life say that about
1343he was forbidden to reveal his identity to anyone save Rulman Merswin. As all the writings bear the marks of a single authorship it has been assumed, especially by Denifle, that "the Friend of God" is a literary creation of Merswin and that Merswin (and his school) produced the entire body of work as tendency-literature designed to set forth the ideals of the movement to which he had given his life. Thus "the great unknown" from the Oberland is the ideal character, "who illustrates how God does his work for the world and for the church through a divinely trained and spiritually illuminated layman," just as William Langlandin England about the same time drew the figure of Piers Plowman. There is much in this contention that is sound, but Rieder seems to go unnecessarily far in denying altogether that Merswin wrote any of the mystical books. The conclusion remains that the literature must be treated as tendency-writingand not as genuine biography and history.
See besides the works cited, Rufus M Jones, "Studies in Mystical Religion", ch. xiii. (London, 1909).
* [http://www.angelfire.com/ok3/apologia/fog.html The Friends of God]
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