Henry of Herp (Harphius van Erp)
HENRY OF HERP (HARPHIUS VAN ERP)
Dutch mystical writer; b. probably at Erp (North Brabant), c. 1405; d. Mechlin, Feb. 22, 1477. He joined the Brethren of the Common Life, was rector of the house at Delft about 1445, and somewhat later was founder and rector of St. Paul's at Gouda. In 1450 he entered the Franciscan Observants while in Rome on pilgrimage. He held the office of guardian at Mechlin several times after 1454, and from 1470 to 1473 was vicar provincial of the Observants of the Cologne province.
His works fall into two groups: oratorical and ascetical-mystical. The oratorical writings are contained in two volumes under the titles Speculum aureum de praeceptis divinae legis (sermons on the decalogue) and Sermones de tempore. The first of these was published at Mainz (1474), and the latter at Speyer (1484). His asceticalmystical works were composed between 1450 and 1470. They were written in Latin (with the exception of the Spieghel ) and in the form of sermons. These include: (1) Eden, id est Paradisus contemplativorum, a youthful work showing dependence upon Jan van Ruysbroeck. (2) The Scala Amoris, which expounded the nine degrees of charity, and shows dependence upon Rudolph of Biberach and St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae 2a2ae, 23–27. (3) Collatio I seu Directorium Brevissimum, a resumé of Herp's doctrine about the prayer of aspiration. Three early manuscripts ascribe this work to John Bourcelli, OFM [ see M. Viller, Harphius ou Bourcelli? in Revue d'ascétique et de mystique 3 (1922) 155–162]. (4) Soliloquia super Cantica, sermons describing the whole ascent of the spiritual life. (5) De processu humani profectus, sermons about the interior life. (6) Spieghel der Volcomenheit (critical edition by L. Verschueren, Antwerp 1931, 2 v.), his chief work, written 1455–60 in Middle Dutch. A complete collection of Herp's mystical writings was edited and published under the title Theologia Mystica by Theodoric Loer, OCart (Cologne 1538). This edition was placed on the Index, but a corrected edition was published in Rome in 1586.
The Spieghel has four parts. The introduction deals at length with the subject of mortification. The remainder of the work treats of three successive steps of life: the internal-active; the spiritual-contemplative; and the spiritual-superessential. Each life is considered under three aspects—its preparation, its ornamentation, and its ascent—a division borrowed from Ruysbroeck. The preparation of the active life consists in compunction; its ornamentation in the acquisition of the moral virtues; its ascent either in the exercise of the prayer of aspiration, or in the practice of the theological virtues. The preparation of the contemplative life consists in the removal of impediments and in a general refinement of mind and will; its ornamentation in the gifts of the Holy Spirit; its ascent takes place on three levels, namely, in the lower or sensory powers of the soul, in its higher or spiritual powers, and in its very essence. On the occasion of this last phase of ascent the soul is seized by an insatiable desire for God. The spiritual-superessential life (which, according to the uncommon thesis maintained by Herp, has the immediate vision of the divine essence as its final term) has for its preparation a total disengagement from things, and in this Herp distinguished nine differences of degree. In the ornamentation of this life the divine Persons themselves, directly working in the will, the intellect and the memory, effect a final purification and detachment and make the soul able to see the essence of God.
Herp accentuated the importance of the exercise of aspiration, i.e., the frequent raising of the mind to God with ardent sighs, which are not, however, to be conceived as an excitement of the sensitive emotions, but as the fervent tendency of the will to achieve union with God. The general idea was borrowed from Hugh of Balma, but whereas Hugh restricted this exercise principally to the higher phases of spiritual life, Herp saw it as playing a part, though in different forms, in all the phases. He conceived it as the moving force that carries the soul to the highest degrees of union with God.
Herp was especially influential in the 16th and 17th centuries, not only in the Low Countries, but also in Spain, France, and Italy. Though not an original writer, he is one of the most important representatives of Dutch spirituality. He joined a clear and practical précis of Ruysbroeck's mystical teaching with certain ascetical ideas that give him an almost modern air. He felicitously assimilated Hugh of Balma's doctrine about the prayer of aspiration and applied it to the whole progress of the spiritual life.
Bibliography: l. verschueren, Spieghel der Volcomenheit, 2 v. (Antwerp 1931) v. 1; "De Heraut van Ruusbroec," Jan van Ruusbroec: Leven en Werken (Mechlin 1931) 230–262; "Harphius et les capucins français," Études Franciscaines 45 (1933) 316–329; 46 (1934) 272–288. d. kalverkamp, Die Vollkommenheitslehre des Franziskaners Heinrich Herp (Werl, Ger. 1940). m.m. j. smits van waesberghe, Het verschijnsel van de opheffing des geestes bij Jan van Ruusbroec en Hendrik Herp (Nijmegen 1945). c. janssen, "L'Oraison aspirative chez Herp et chez ses prédécesseurs," Carmelus 3 (1956) 19–48. k. freienhagen-baumgardt, Hendrik Herps Spieghel der Volcomenheit in oberdeutscher Überlieferung: Ein Beitrag zur Rezeptionsgeschichte niederländischer Mystik im oberdeutschen Raum (Leuven 1998).