1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Hugh of St Victor
HUGH OF ST VICTOR (c. 1078–1141), mystic philosopher, was probably born at Hartingam, in Saxony. After spending some time in a house of canons regular at Hamersleben, in Saxony, where he completed his studies, he removed to the abbey of St Victor at Marseilles, and thence to the abbey of St Victor in Paris. Of this last house he rose to be canon, in 1125 scholasticus, and perhaps even prior, and it was there that he died on the 11th of February 1141. His eloquence and his writings earned for him a renown and influence which far exceeded St Bernard’s, and which held its ground until the advent of the Thomist philosophy. Hugh was more especially the initiator of a movement of ideas—the mysticism of the school of St Victor—which filled the whole of the second part of the 12th century. “The mysticism which he inaugurated,” says Ch. V. Langlois, “is learned, unctuous, ornate, florid, a mysticism which never indulges in dangerous temerities; it is the orthodox mysticism of a subtle and prudent rhetorician.” This tendency undoubtedly shows a marked reaction from the contentious theology of Roscellinus and Abelard. For Hugh of St Victor dialectic was both insufficient and perilous. Yet he did not profess the haughty contempt for science and philosophy which his followers the Victorines expressed; he regarded knowledge, not as an end in itself, but as the vestibule of the mystic life. The reason, he thought, was but an aid to the understanding of the truths which faith reveals. The ascent towards God and the functions of the “threefold eye of the soul”—cogitatio, meditatio and contemplatio—were minutely taught by him in language which is at once precise and symbolical.