In the eighth of her visions Hadewijch is shown the "Countenance of eternal fruition" at the top of a mountain. There too she encounters a guide, a nameless saint, who offers to show her four ways to attain the summit. This man calls himself "the champion and vassal of this true Countenance" and boasts, "My beauty is that of one who conquers everything and has in his power the Thing heaven, hell, and earth serve." Nevertheless, he adds that there is a fifth way, the highest of all, which has been reserved for her because he himself did not master it. After she has been divinely taught, Hadewijch turns again to her guide.
I asked him: "Lord Champion, how did you come to the beauty of your high witness, so that you led me upward and yet not to the end?" He told me who he was. After that he said to me: "I bear witness to you concerning the four ways, and I travel them to the end; in these I recognize myself, and I conquer the divisions of time. But the Beloved gave you the fifth way; you have received it where I am not. For when I lived as man, I had too little love with affection, and followed the strict counsel of the intellect. For this reason I could not be set on fire with the love that creates such a great oneness, for I did the noble Humanity great wrong in that I withheld from it this affection."1
This vision is unique in Hadewijch's corpus because her guide is human but unnamed. In most of the visions she is taught directly by God or angels, or else by allegorical figures. She meets John the Evangelist in the fifth vision, Augustine in the eleventh, and Mary in the thirteenth. After the fourteenth she appends a "List of the Perfect" that includes all her favorite saints, living and departed, and she places herself in their company. It was not spiritual modesty, then, that kept Hadewijch from identifying her Champion for the reader. Who was he, and why does she suppress his name?
In recent years two eminent scholars, working independently, have proposed a surprising candidate for the post: Peter Abelard. The name is startling for several reasons. A century after his condemnation at Sens,