Mysticism in Thomas Aquinas and Hans Urs von Balthasar

A Preliminary Comparison

  • Bernard McGinn Divinity School, The University of Chicago, IL, USA
Keywords: Mysticism, Thomas Aquinas, Hans Urs von Balthasar, Christian mysticism


Even though the writings of Thomas Aquinas and Hans Urs von Balthasar do not directly deal with Mysticism, a careful examination will uncover many of their thoughts that today we would call mystical themes. Thomas considers key issues in the history of Christian mysticism under at least four headings treated in the Summa theologiae. Balthasar eschewed the category of “mysticism” as an organizational or integral theme for his systematics; but he could not avoid mystical themes in his writings. Those are flagrant in his perspective based on the fundamental theological categories of beauty, action, and truth. Thomas Aquinas’s theology of mysticism is centered on the role of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit and the way in which the supreme gift of infused sapientia provides a connatural knowing and loving of God even in this life.

Author Biography

Bernard McGinn, Divinity School, The University of Chicago, IL, USA

Divinity School, The University of Chicago, IL, USA


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Balthasar, Hans Urs von (1969) Love Alone, New York: Herder and Herder.

Balthasar, Hans Urs von (1974) Grundfragen der Mystik, Einsiedeln: Johannes Verlag, 37-71.

Balthasar, Hans Urs von (1982) The Glory of the Lord. A Theological Aesthetics. Vol. I. Seeing the Form, San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 219-425.

Balthasar, Hans Urs von (1989) Explorations in Theology. I: The Word Made Flesh, San Francisco: Ignatius, 227-40; 181-226.

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Balthasar, Hans Urs von (1993) Explorations in Theology. Vol. III: Creator Spirit, San Francisco: Ignatius, 309-35.

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