The Soul’s (or Mind’s) Journey to God
By: Giovanni di Fidanza “St. Bonaventura”
St. Bonaventura was a theologian who believed the human mind, utilizing intellect, is responsible and capable of practical thought and intense personification of the truth about faith and reason. He believed that there are reasons behind critical thinking and, with the right combination of reason and faith, one can live a life of fulfillment and meaning. Giovanni di Fidanza was born in Tuscany, Italy in 1221. At the age of 21, Fidanza joined the Franciscan Order and, by the year 1257 had risen to the rank of Seventh General of the Franciscan Order. Pope Gregory X bestowed Fidanza, who was the current Bishop of Albanoto, the heights of Cardinal. Cardinal Fidanza died in 1274. In 1482 Sixtus IV canonized the Cardinal into Sainthood, deeming him Saint Bonaventura. During his life, St. Bonaventura was a theologian and a professor of theology at the University of Paris. He wrote three major works, which titles translated to English are Reduction of the Arts to Theology, Bible of the Poor, and Breviloquium. Throughout this essay, based on Bonaventura’s short thesis regarding a path to God, The Mind’s Road to God, we will explore the steps necessary to achieve the highest, most sought after end to one’s journey: eternal afterlife in Paradise with God. The essay explores the word mysticism, and it’s meaning in the sense of living through, by, and alongside God. St. Bonaventura there was a path believed one needed to take in order to reach the lifelong pursuit of Paradise after death or judgment and have the chance to sit and be with the Heavenly Father. Within this journey, he taught that there are three vital steps or stages one must climb, including purification, illumination, and union.
The Prologue of The Mind’s Path to God, explains the events in St. Bonaventura’s life that sparked his thoughts and expressions and led him to these findings. He went on a search to find peace and did a long meditation in the same area where his blessed father, Father Francis, ascended to Mount Alverna in order to locate this “peace.” He writes, “I breathlessly sought this peace, I, a sinner, who have succeeded to the place of most blessed…though in all ways unworthy” (G.B 1.2). During his meditation he saw the same vision described by Father Francis, the six winged Seraph. The Seraph in the Christian beliefs, found in the book of Isaiah, is a fiery six winged being that attends to God. The Seraph is in the top spot in the hierarchy of Angels in Christianity, and fifth of the ten ranks in Judaism (Toorn). Within the purification stage the six wings of the Seraph are understood as six internal stages of illumination of a soul that has been purged of sin. The six stages are to wit, sense imagination, reason, intellect, intelligence, and the illumination on conscience, or “synteresis,” as it is called in the text. According to Bonaventura, “ these stages are implanted in us by nature, deformed by sin, reformed by grace, purged by justice, exercised by knowledge, and perfected by wisdom” (C.B 1.6). Moreover, in order to illuminate and cleanse the soul, the person must reorient their life to God and the pursuit of unification. This stage of purification is also necessary in order to reach the latter steps. St. Bonaventura believed that in order to ascend into the grace of God, "Prayer, then, is the mother and source of the ascent" (C.B 1.1). This step has within itself three principal aspects, or steps: the external body, the inner body, and the mind. St. Bonaventura explains the reason behind these three principals and three steps. As being a reference to the six wings of the Seraph, the Bible has multiple examples of the number six. The few examples are, the six days it took God to create life as we know it, the six steps at the base of the throne of Solomon, the six days the Lord called Moses out from the midst of the clouds, and the six days it took Jesus as is...
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