Selohaar, the Triquetra, and the Mysticism of Hugh of St. Victor


Hugh of St. Victor and the Ark of Wisdom

Hugh of St. Victor (c. 1078 - Feb. 11, 1141) was a 12th century Christian mystic philosopher. He was likely born in Hartingam in Saxony, Germany. After completing his studies in a religious house in Hamersleben (also in Saxony), he moved first to the abbey of St. Victor in Marseilles and then to the abbey of St. Victor in Paris, where he became a canon (c. 1125), and later, perhaps, a prior.

Among Hugh's dozens of treatises on mysticism and commentaries on Scripture is his De arca Noe morali, wherein he describes three stages of moral judgment using the Ark of Wisdom (or Prudence) - an allegorical rendering of Noah's Ark where each level or storey of the vessel represents a stage of the progression toward internalizing spiritual wisdom. This represents a journey, facilitated by the use of memory training. The stories of the ark are:

On the First Storey, one begins to meditate (that is, memorize) Scripture and the virtues until that knowledge is correct (Latin, rectus) within one's self.

On the Second Storey, one activates this knowledge by evincing its qualities in one's deeds. The knowledge, so activated, becomes therefore useful (utilis).

On the Third Storey, this knowledge becomes fully internalized and becomes a part of one's very being - it becomes 'domesticated' and habitual (necessarius) and necessary in one's life.

These stages, a mental model derived by a 12th century philosopher, correspond very well with the symbolism of our Triquetra, and with the progression through the initiatory degrees of Selohaar.

The Three Eyes of the Soul

Hugh also described the very seeking of knowledge using a three-fold distinction.

Cogitatio is simple empirical cognition, a seeking of the facts of the material world using the eye of the flesh. Meditatio is a seeking for the truths within one's self using the mind's eye - this involves internal action. Contemplatio is the knowledge, seen by the eye of contemplation, whereby one is united with the divine, which involves attainment and the creation of a new, synthetic being comprised of one's former self and one's link with divinity.

In more modern parlance, we may think of these processes - Hugh's Ark and his description of the eyes of the soul - as reception, activation and moderation; or, in dialectical terms, thesis, antithesis, and synthesis.

The Triquetra and Hugh's Mystical Ark

Necessarius (Habitual)
Contemplatio (Contemplation)
3rd Degree









Rectus (Correct)
Cogitatio (Cognition)
1st Degree









Utilis (Useful)
Meditatio (Meditation)
2nd Degree

The Selohaar Cycle of Initiation

Hugh's description of the Ark and his three eyes of the soul map well onto our system of three degrees and what is expected of a Selohaar initiate: