The mystical language of recollection: Bernardino de Laredo and the “Subida del Monte Sión”
Bernardino de Laredo (1482–1540, Seville) is known today only through his texts: two pharmaceutical works and one of the first mystical treatises composed in Castilian, the Subida del Monte Sión (1535, revised 1538). Although surpassed in reputation by his most famous reader, Teresa of Avila, Laredo's treatise was a founding text in the Castilian genre of recollection mysticism (recogimiento). I argue that he drew on medieval spiritual trends as found in moral treatises, Lives of Christ, and tripartite contemplative ways in order to synthesize a unique cataphatic route to union with a God located in the interior of the soul. I place Laredo in his context of reform Franciscanism, scholastic medicine, Sevillan confraternal devotion, and provide new evidence that he moved in a converso social circle. I posit that this historical framework, combined with his medieval sources, provides the rationale for his incorporation of the pursuit of virtue and Passion meditation (techniques usually assigned to beginners) into a mystic way, proving that the first two stages of his tripartite ascent are key to understanding his method despite scholarly focus on the third stage alone. I identify Laredo's narrative of the Passion (stage two) as a unique interiorization of the late medieval tradition of imaginative visualization of the Passion. Highlighting the integrity of Laredo's method in the original 1535 edition based on his continuing interest in Trinitarian theology and recollection at all levels of the Subida, I suggest that previous scholarship places too much emphasis on Laredo's introduction of negative theology in the second edition, as the elements usually associated with the 1538 version of union through the loving will are already present in 1535. Finally, I examine how Laredo uses metaphoric language as a structuring device, ultimately reconfiguring the subjects of humility and the Passion as essential to the soul's discovery of language's incapacity to convey a union between a finite human and an infinite divine. I identify Laredo's interest in the failure of mystical language as his motivation for revising the Subida and the aspect of his method (no pensar nada) that originally attracted Teresa of Avila's attention.