Light, Life, and Love
by W. R. Inge
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NOW let us speak of the first word. Christ saith, "See." Three things are required by him who would see supernaturally in interior exercises. The first is the light of the divine grace, but in a far more sublime manner than can be felt in the external, active life. The second is a stripping off of extraneous images and a denudation of the heart, so that a man may be free from images, and attachments to every creature. The third is a free conversion of the will, by means of a concentration of all the bodily and spiritual faculties, and complete deliverance from all inordinate affections. Thus this will flows together into the unity of the Godhead and of our own mind, so that the reasonable creature may be able to obtain and possess supernaturally the sublime unity of God. It is for this that God made the heaven and earth and mankind, it is for this that He was made man, and taught us by word and example by what way we should come to this unity. And then in the ardour of His love He endured to die, and He ascended to heaven, and opened to us this unity in which we may possess felicity and eternal blessedness.


NOW consider attentively: there are three kinds of natural unity in all men, and, moreover, of supernatural unity among the just. The first and supreme unity of man is in God; for all creatures are immanent in this unity, and if they were to be separated from God, they would be annihilated, and would become nothing. This unity is essential in us according to nature, whether we are good or bad. And without our co-operation it makes us neither holy nor blessed. This unity we possess in ourselves, and nevertheless above us, as a beginning and support of our life and essence.

Another unity exists in us naturally—that of the supreme forces, in so far as they actively take their natural origin in the unity of the spirit or of the thoughts. This is the same unity as that which is immanent in God, but it is taken here actively and there essentially. Nevertheless the spirit is entirely in each unity according to the integrity of its substance. We possess this unity in ourselves, above the sensitive part of us; and thence are born memory, intelligence, and will, and all the power of spiritual works. In this unity the soul is called spirit.

The third unity which is in us naturally is the foundation of bodily forces in the unity of the heart, the source and origin of bodily life. The soul possesses this unity in the lively centre of the heart, and from it flow all the material works and the five senses, and the soul draws from thence its name of soul (anima); for it is the source of life, and animates the body—that is to say, it makes it living and preserves it in life. These three unities are in man naturally, as a life and a kingdom. In the inferior unity we are sensible and animal, in the intermediate unity we are rational and spiritual; and in the superior unity we are preserved according to our essence. And this exists in all men, naturally.

Now these three unities are adorned and cultivated naturally, like a kingdom and an eternal abode, by the virtues, in charity and in the active life. And they are adorned still better and more gloriously cultivated by the internal exercises of a spiritual life. But most gloriously and blessedly of all by a supernatural contemplative life.

The inferior unity, which is corporeal, is adorned and cultivated supernaturally by external practices, by perfect conduct, by the example of Christ and the saints, by carrying the cross with Christ, by submitting our nature to the command of Holy Church and the teachings of the saints, according to the forces of nature and prudence.

The other unity which resides in the spirit and which is absolutely spiritual, is adorned and cultivated supernaturally by the three Divine gifts, Faith, Hope, and Charity, and by the influx of grace and Divine gifts, and by good will directed to all the virtues, and the desire to follow the example of Christ and of holy Christendom.

The third and supreme unity is above our intelligence and yet essentially in us. We cultivate it supernaturally when in all our works of virtue we have in view only the glory of God, without any other desire but to repose in Him, above thought, above ourselves, and above everything. And this is the unity from which we flowed out when we were created, and where we abide according to our essence, and towards which we endeavour to return by love. These are the virtues which adorn this triple unity in the active life.

Now we proceed to say how this triple unity is adorned more sublimely and cultivated more nobly by interior exercises joined to the active life. When a man, by love and right intention, elevates himself in all his works and in all his life towards the honour and glory of God, and seeks rest in God above all things, he will wait in humility and patience and abandonment of self and in the hope of new riches and new gifts, and he will not be troubled or anxious whether it pleases God to grant His gifts or to refuse them. So men prepare themselves for receiving an internal life of desires; even as a vessel is fitted and prepared, into which a precious liquid is to be poured. There is no vessel more noble than the loving soul, and no drink more necessary than the grace of God. Man will thus offer to God all his works and all his life, in a simple and right intention, and in a zest above his intention, above himself, and above everything, in the sublime unity in which God and the loving spirit are united without intermediary.


THE first coming of Christ to those who are engaged in the exercises of desire is an internal and sensible current from the Holy Spirit, which impels and attracts us to all the virtues. We shall compare this coming to the splendour and power of the sun, which, so soon as it is risen, enlightens and warms the whole world in the twinkling of an eye. In the same way Christ, the eternal sun, burns and shines, dwelling at the highest point of the spirit, and enlightens and fires the lower part of man—that is to say, his physical heart and sense-faculties, and this is accomplished in less time than the twinkling of an eye, for the work of God is prompt; but the man in whom it takes place ought to be internally seeing by means of his spiritual eyes.

The sun burns in the East, in the middle of the world, on the mountains; there it hastens in the summer, and creates good fruits and strong wines, filling the earth with joy. The same sun shines in the West, at the end of the world; the country there is colder and the force of the heat less; nevertheless, it there produces a great number of good fruits, but not much wine. The men who dwell in the West part of themselves, abide in their external senses, and by their good intentions, their virtues, and their outer practices, by the grace of God produce abundant harvests of virtues of divers kinds, but they but rarely taste the wine of inward joy and spiritual consolation.

The man who wishes to experience the rays of the eternal sun, which is Christ Himself, will be seeing; and will dwell on the mountains of the East, by concentrating all his faculties, and lifting up his heart to God, free, and indifferent to joy and pain and all the creatures. There shines Christ, the sun of righteousness, on the free and exalted heart, and this is what I mean by the mountains. Christ, the glorious sun and divine effulgence, shines through and fires by his internal coming, and by the power of His Spirit, the free heart and all the powers of the soul. This is the first work of the internal coming in the exercises of desire. Just as fire inflames things which are thrown into it, so Christ inflames the hearts offered to Him in freedom and exultation at His internal coming, and He says in this coming: "Go forth by the exercises appropriate to this life."


FROM this heat is born unity of heart, for we cannot obtain true unity, unless the Spirit of God lights His flame in our heart. For this fire makes one and like unto itself all that it can overtop and transform. Unity gives a man the feeling of being concentrated with all his faculties on one point. It gives internal peace and repose of heart. Unity of heart is a bond which draws and binds together the body and the soul, and all exterior and interior forces, in the unity of love.


FROM this unity of heart is born inwardness or the internal life, for none can have inwardness unless he is one and united in himself; fervour or inwardness is the introversion of a man into his own heart, to comprehend and experience the internal operation or speech of God. Inwardness is a sensible flame of love, which the Spirit of God lights and kindles in a man, and a man knows not whence it comes, nor what has happened to him.


FROM inwardness is born a sensible love which penetrates the heart of man and the highest faculties of the soul. This love and delight none can experience who has not inwardness. Sensible love is the desire and appetite for God as for an eternal good in which all is contained. Sensible love renounces all the creatures, not as needs but as pleasures. Interior love feels itself touched from above by the eternal love which it must practise eternally Interior love willingly renounces and despises everything, in order to obtain that which it loves.


FROM this sensible love is born devotion to God and His glory. For none can have a hungry devotion in his heart, unless he possesses the sensible love of God. Devotion excites and stimulates a man internally and externally to the service of God. It makes the body and soul abound in glory and merit in the eyes of God and men. God exacts devotion in all that we do. It purges the body and soul from all that might hold us back; it shows us the true path to blessedness.


FROM fervent devotion is born gratitude, for none can thank or praise God perfectly if he is not fervent and pious. We should thank God for everything here below, that we may be able to thank Him eternally above. Those who praise not God here, will be mute eternally. To praise God is the most joyous and delicious employment of the loving heart. There is no limit to the praises of God, for therein is our salvation, and we shall praise Him eternally.

Now hear a comparison, by which you may understand the exercise of gratitude. When the summer approaches and the sun mounts, it attracts the moisture of the earth along the stems and branches of the trees, whence come green leaves, flowers, and fruit. Even so when Christ, the eternal sun, rises in our hearts, He sends His light and heat upon our desires, and draws the heart away from all the manifold things of earth, creating unity and inwardness, and makes the heart grow and become green by interior love, and makes loving devotion flourish, and makes us bear the fruits of gratitude and love, and preserves these fruits eternally in the humble pain of our inability to praise and serve Him enough.

Here ends the first of the four chief kinds ot interior exercises, which adorn the lower part of a man.


BUT in thus comparing to the splendour and power of the sun the modes in which Jesus Christ comes, we shall find in the sun another virtue or influence which makes the fruit more early ripe and more abundant.

When the sun rises to a very great height, and enters the sign of the Twins—that is to say, into a double thing, but of the same nature, in the middle of the month of May, the sun has a double power over the flowers, herbs, and all that grows upon the earth. If at that time the planets which rule nature are well ordered according to the season of the year, the sun shines brightly on the earth, and attracts the moisture in the atmosphere. Hence are born dew and rain, and the fruits of the ground increase and multiply.

Even so when Christ, that bright sun, rises in our heart above all other things, and when the requirements of material nature, which are contrary to the spirit, are well regulated according to reason, when we possess the virtues as I have said above, and when, lastly, we offer and restore to God, by the ardour of charity, and with gratitude and love, the delight and peace which we find in the virtues, from all these are born, at times, a gentle rain of new internal consolations, and a celestial dew of divine sweetness. This dew and rain make all the virtues increase and multiply day by day, if we put no hindrance in their way. This is a new and special operation, and a new coming of Christ into the loving heart.


FROM this sweetness is born satisfaction of heart, and of all the bodily faculties, so that a man imagines that he is inwardly embraced in the divine bands of love. This pleasure and consolation is greater and more delicious to body and soul than all the pleasures granted on earth, even if a man could enjoy them to the full. In this pleasure God sinks into the heart by means of His gifts with such a profusion of delights, consolations, and joys, that the heart overflows internally.


THIS coming, or kind of coming, is granted to beginners, when they turn from the world, when their conversion is complete, and they abandon all the consolations of earth to live for God only; nevertheless they are still weak, and need milk and not strong meat, such as great temptations and the hiding of God's face. At this season frost and fog often injure them, for they are in the middle of the May of the interior life. The frost is to wish to be something, or to imagine that we are something, or to be somewhat attached to ourselves, or to believe that we have deserved consolations and are worthy of them. The fog is the wish to rest upon internal consolations and pains. This obscures the atmosphere of reason, and the ilowers, which were about to unfold and bloom and bear fruits, shut up again. This is why we lose the knowledge of truth, and nevertheless we sometimes keep certain false sweetnesses granted by the enemy, which at the last lead men astray.


I WISH to give you here a brief comparison, that you may not go astray, and that you may be able to behave wisely in this case. Observe the wise bee, and imitate her. She dwells in unity, in the midst of the assembly of her kind, and she goes forth, not during a storm, but when the weather is calm and bright, and the sun shines; and she flies towards every flower where she may find sweetness. She rests not on any flower, neither for its beauty nor for its sweetness, but draws out from the cups of the flowers their sweetness and clearness—that is to say, the honey and wax, and she brings them back to the unity which is formed of the assembly of all the bees, that the honey and wax may be put to good use.

The expanded heart on which Christ, the eternal sun, shines, grows and blooms under His rays, and from it flow all the interior forces in joy and sweetness.

Now the wise man will act like the bee, and will try to settle, with affection, intelligence, and prudence, on all the gifts and all the sweetness that he has experienced, and on all the good that God has done to him. He will not rest on any flower of the gifts, but laden with gratitude and praise he will fly back towards the unity where he wishes to dwell, and to rest with God eternally.


WHEN the sun in heaven reaches its highest point, in the sign of the Crab—that is to say, when it can go no higher, but must begin to go backwards, then the greatest heat of the year begins. The sun attracts the moisture, the earth dries, and the fruits ripen. In the same way, when Christ, the divine sun, arises above the highest summit of our heart—that is to say, above all His gifts, consolations and sweetnesses, and if we do not rest in any of these, however sweet, but return always with humble praises to the source from which these gifts flow, Christ stops and remains lifted up above the summit of our heart, and desires to attract all our powers to Himself.

This invitation is an irradiation of Christ, the eternal sun, and causes in the heart a joy and pleasure so great that the heart cannot close again after such an expansion, without pain. A man is wounded internally and feels the smart of love. To be wounded by love is the sweetest sensation and the most grievous pain that can be experienced. To be wounded by love is a sure sign that we shall be cured. This spiritual wound does us good and harm at the same time.


NOW I wish to speak of the fourth kind of coming of Jesus Christ, which exalts and perfects the man in his interior exercises, according to the lower part of his being. But having compared all the interior comings to the shining of the sun, we will continue to speak, while following the course of the seasons, of the other effects and works of the sun.

When the sun begins to descend the sky, it enters the sign of the Virgin, so called because this period of the year becomes barren like a virgin. The glorious virgin Mary, mother of Christ, full of joys and rich in all the virtues, ascended to heaven at this season. The heat begins then to diminish, and men gather, for use during the whole year, the ripe fruits which can be used long after, such as corn and the grape. And they sow part of the corn, that it may be multiplied for the use of men. At this season all the solar work of the year is finished. In the same way, when Christ, the glorious sun, has risen to the zenith in the heart of men, and begins to descend, so as to hide the splendour of His divine beams and to leave a man alone, the heat and impatience of love diminish. Now this occultation of Christ and the withdrawal of His light and heat are the first work and the new coming of this mode. Now Christ says spiritually in a man: "Go forth in the manner that I now show thee"; and the man goes forth, and finds himself poor, miserable, and desolate. Here all the storm, all the passion and eagerness of love grow cold; summer becomes autumn, and all his wealth is changed into great poverty. And the man begins to complain by reason of his misery; what is become of his ardent love, his inwardness, his gratitude, the interior consolations, the heartfelt joys? Where has it all gone? How comes it that all is dead within him? He is like a scholar who has lost his knowledge and his work; and nature is often troubled by such losses. Sometimes these unhappy ones are deprived of the good things of earth, of their friends and relations, and are deserted by all the creatures; their holiness is mistrusted and despised, men put a bad construction upon all the works of their life, and they are rejected and disdained by all those who surround them; and sometimes they are afflicted with diverse diseases; and some of them fall into bodily temptations, or into spiritual temptations, the most dangerous of all. From this misery are born the fear of falling, and a sort of half-doubt, and this is the extreme point where we can stop without despair. Let such men seek out the good, complain to them, show them their distress, and ask their help, and implore the aid of Holy Church, and of all just men.


A MAN will here observe humbly that he has nothing but his distress, and he will say in his resignation and self-abnegation the words of holy Job: "The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; He hath done what seemed good to Him; blessed be the name of the Lord." And he will leave himself in everything, and will say and think in his heart: "Lord, I am as willing to be poor, lacking all that Thou hast taken from me, as I should be to be rich, if such were Thy will, and if it were for Thine honour. It is not my will according to nature which must be accomplished, but Thy will, and my will according to my spirit, O Lord; for I belong to Thee, and I should love as well to be Thine in hell as in heaven, if that could serve Thy glory; and therefore, O Lord, accomplish in me the excellence of Thy will." From all these pains and acts of resignation, a man will derive an inward joy, and he will offer himself into the hands of God, and will rejoice to be able to suffer in His honour. And if he so perseveres, he will taste inward pleasures such as he has never had before; for nothing so rejoices the lover of God as to feel that he is His beloved. And if he is truly exalted as far as this mode, in the path of virtue, it is not necessary for him to have passed through all the states which we have described above; for he feels within himself in action, in humble obedience, in patience, and in resignation, the source of all the virtues. It is thus that this mode is eternally sure.

At this season the sun in the sky enters the sign of the Scales, for the day and night are equal, and the sun balances the light and the darkness. In the same way Jesus Christ is in the sign of the Scales for the resigned man; and whether He grants sweetness or bitterness, darkness or light, whatever He chooses to send him, the man keeps his balance, all things are equal to him except sin, which has been driven away once for all. When every consolation has been thus withdrawn from these resigned men, when they believe that they have lost all their virtues and that they are abandoned by God and all the creatures, if they then know how to reap the divers fruits, their corn and wine are ready and ripe. That is to say, that all that the bodily virtues can suffer will be offered by them to God with joy, without resistance to His supreme will. All the exterior and interior virtues, which they formerly practised with joy in the light of love, they will now practise courageously and laboriously, and will offer them to God, and never will they have so much merit in His eyes. Never will they have been more noble or more beautiful. All the consolations which God formerly granted, they will allow to be stripped from them with joy, since it is for the glory of God. It is thus that the virtues become perfect, and that sadness is transformed into an eternal vintage. These men—their life and their patience—improve and teach all who know and live near them, and thus it is that the wheat of their virtues is sown and multiplied for the good of all just men.

This is the fourth kind of coming which, according to the bodily faculties and the lower part of his being, adorns and perfects a man in interior exercises.


WE must needs walk in the light if we wish not to lose our way, and we must observe Jesus Christ, who has taught us these four modes, and has preceded us in them. Christ, the bright sun, rises in the heaven of the sublime Trinity and in the dawn of His glorious mother the virgin Mary, who was and is the dawn of all the graces. Now observe. Christ had and still has the first mode, for He was unique and united. In Him were and are collected and united all the virtues which have ever been practised, and which ever will be, and besides this, all the creatures who will cultivate these virtues. He was thus in an unique sense the Son of the Father, and united to human nature. And He was equally full of inwardness, for it was He who brought upon earth the fire which has consumed all the saints and all good men. And He had a sensible and faithful love for His Father, and for all who will have joy in Him eternally, and His pitiful and loving heart sighed and glowed with love for all men, before His Father. All His life and all His actions, within and without, and all His words, were praises of His Father. This is the first mode.

Christ, the sun of love, blazed and shone yet more brightly and warmly, for in Him was and is the fullness of all gifts. This is why the heart of Christ, and His character, and His habits and His service, overflowed with pity, sweetness, humility, and generosity. So gracious was He and so loving, that His manners and His personality attracted all whose nature was good. He was the pure lily in the midst of the flowers of the field, from which the good were to draw the honey of eternal sweetness and eternal consolations. According to His humanity He thanked His eternal Father for all the gifts which were ever granted to humanity, and praised Him, for His Father is the Father of all gifts, and He rested on Him, according to the highest faculties of His soul, above all gifts, in the sublime unity of God from which all the gifts flow; thus He had the second mode.

Christ, the glorious sun, blazed and shone yet higher, and more brightly and warmly; for during all His days on earth, all His bodily faculties were invited and pressed to the sublime glory and bliss which He now experiences in His senses and body. And He was inclined thereto Himself, according to His desires; and nevertheless He willed to remain in this exile, till the time which the Father had foreseen and fixed from all eternity. Thus He had the third mode. When the time came at which Christ was to reap and carry away to the eternal kingdom the fruits of all the virtues which ever have been and ever will be practised, the eternal sun began to descend; for Christ humbled Himself, and gave up His bodily life into the hands of His enemies. And he was misunderstood and deserted by His friends in so great a distress; and all consolation, within and without, was withdrawn from His nature; and it was overwhelmed with misery, pain, and contempt, and paid all the debt which our sins justly incurred. All this He suffered in humble patience, and He accomplished the greatest works of love in this resignation, whereby He received and purchased our eternal inheritance. It is thus that the lower part of His noble humanity was adorned, for it was in it that He suffered this pain for our sins. It is on this account that He is called the Saviour of the world, and that He is glorified and raised up and seated on the right hand of His Father, and that He reigns in power. And every creature, on the earth, above the earth, and under the earth, bends the knee for ever before His glorious name.


THE man who, in true obedience to the commandments of God, lives in the moral virtues, and moreover exercises himself in the interior virtues, after the direction and impulse of the Holy Spirit, acting and speaking according to righteousness, and who seeks not his own interests in time or in eternity, and who supports with true patience obscurity and affliction and every kind of misery, and who thanks God for everything, and offers himself in humble resignation, has received the first coming of Jesus Christ according to interior exercises. When this man is purified and pacified, and turns back upon himself according to his lower nature, he may be internally enlightened, if he asks it, and if God judges that the right time has come. It may also happen that he is enlightened from the beginning of his conversion, so that he may offer himself entirely to the will of God and give up all possession of himself, which is the supreme end. But if he is to follow any further the road which I have shown, in the exterior and at the same time in the interior life, it will be much easier for him than for the man who has been raised straight from the bottom, for the former will have more light than the latter.


NOW we are about to speak of another mode of the coming of Christ, in interior exercises, which adorn, enlighten, and enrich a man, according to the three supreme faculties of his soul. We shall compare this coming to a life-giving fountain from which flow three rivers.

This fountain is the fullness of divine grace in the unity of our spirit. There resides grace essentially in its permanence, like a full fountain, and it flows out actively by its rivers into each of the faculties of the soul, according to their needs. These rivers are a special influx, or operation of God in the highest faculties, in which God operates in various manners by the intermediary of His grace.


THE first river of grace, which God causes to flow in this coming, is a pure simplicity which shines without distinction in the spirit. This river takes its source in the fountain, in the unity of the spirit, and flows directly downwards, and penetrates all the faculties of the soul, both higher and lower, and lifts them up out of all multiplicity and all over-occupation, and makes a simplicity in a man, and gives and shows him an internal bond in the unity of his spirit. A man is thus lifted up according to his memory, and delivered from strange and irrelevant thoughts, and from inconstancy. Now Christ in this light demands a going forth, according to the mode of this light and this coming. Then the man goes forth, and observes himself that by virtue of the simple light that is spread abroad in him he is united, established, penetrated and fixed in the unity of his spirit or of his thoughts. Here the man is exalted and established in a new essence; he turns his thoughts inwards, and rests his memory on the naked truth, above all sensuous images and above all multiplicity. There the man possesses essentially and supernaturally the unity of his spirit, for his own dwelling, and as an heritage of his own for ever. He always has an inclination towards that same unity, and this unity will have an eternal and loving inclination towards the more sublime unity where the Father and the Son are united with all the saints in the bands of the Holy Spirit.


THROUGH internal love, and loving inclination towards union with God, is born the second river from the fullness of grace, in unity of spirit, and this is a spiritual brightness which flows and sheds light through the intelligence, but with distinctions in the diverse modes. For this light shows and gives to the spirit, in the truth, the discretion in all the virtues. But this light is not placed altogether in our power, for though we have it always in our soul, God makes it speak or keep silence, and He can manifest or hide it, give or withdraw it, at all times and under all conditions, for this light is His. Such men do not absolutely need revelations, nor to be drawn up above sense, for their life and abode and habits and essence are in the spirit above sense and sensibility. And God shows them what He wills and what is necessary for them. Nevertheless God, if He wished, could withdraw their exterior sense, and show them, from within, unknown symbols and future things, in diverse manners.

Now Christ desires that this man should go forth, and go into the light, according to the mode of this light. This enlightened man will therefore go forth and observe his state and his life within and without, in order to know if he is perfectly like Christ according to His humanity and also according to His divinity. And this man will lift up his eyes, enlightened by enlightened reason, in intelligible truth, and will observe and consider, as a creature can, the sublime nature of God, and the unlimited attributes which are in God.

It is then necessary to consider and examine the sublime nature of God; how it contains simplicity and purity, inaccessible height and abysmal depth, incomprehensible extension and eternal duration; dark silence and wild waste; repose of all the saints in unity and joy in itself and in all the saints in eternity. This enlightened man will also examine the attributes of the Father in the Godhead, how He is all-powerful, the creator, mover, preserver, beginning and end, cause and existence of all creatures; this is what the bright river of grace shows to the enlightened reason. It shows also the attributes of the eternal Word, abysmal wisdom and truth, model of every creature and of all life, eternal norm of things, unveiled contemplation and intuition into everything, brightness and illumination of all saints, according to their merits, in heaven and on earth. But this bright river shows also to the enlightened reason the attributes of the Holy Spirit; inconceivable charity and generosity, pity and mercy, infinite watchfulness and faithfulness, immense and inconceivable riches flowing with delights through all heavenly spirits, ardent flame consuming all in unity, effluent fountain, preparation of all the saints for their eternal blessedness, and their introduction thereto; enveloping and penetrating the Father, the Son, and all the saints in joyous unity.


THE incomprehensible wealth and sublimity, and the universal generosity which flow from the divine nature, bring a man into a state of amazement; and above all he admires the communication of God and His effluence above everything, for he sees the inconceivable essence, which is the common joy of God and all the saints. And he sees that the three divine Persons are a common effluence in works, in graces, and in glory, in nature and above nature, in all conditions and in all times, in the saints and in men, in heaven and on earth, in all reasonable and irrational creatures, according to each one's merits, needs, and powers of receiving. God is common to all, with all His gifts, the angels are common, the soul is common in all its faculties, in all life, in all the members, and all in each, for one cannot divide it, except by reason. For the higher and lower faculties, the spirit and the soul, are distinct according to reason, but one in nature. Thus God is entirely and specially present to each one, and nevertheless common to all the creatures, for by Him are all things, and on Him depend the heaven, the earth, and the whole of nature. When a man thus observes the astonishing wealth and sublimity of the divine nature, and all the manifold gifts which He grants and offers to His creatures, he is lifted up internally by wonder at such manifold riches and sublimity; and from thence arises a singular inward joy of spirit, and a vast confidence in God; and this internal joy surrounds and penetrates all the faculties of the soul in inwardness of spirit.


FROM this joy and fullness of graces, and divine faithfulness, there is born and flows out the third river in this same unity of spirit. This river, like a flame, lights up the spirit and absorbs all things in unity. And it causes to overflow and flood with rich gifts and singular nobility, all the faculties of the soul, and it creates in the will a love without labour, spiritual and subtle. Now Christ says internally in the spirit by means of this flaming river: "Go forth by exercises according to the mode of these gifts and this coming." Thanks to the first river—that is to say, to a simple light, the memory is lifted up above the accidents of sense, and is established in the unity of spirit. Thanks to the second river— that is to say, to the brightness spread abroad within, the intelligence and reason are enlightened, so as to recognise the diverse modes of the virtues and of exercises, and the mysteries of the Scriptures. Thanks to the third river—that is to say, to an inspired ardour, the sublime will is kindled into a more tranquil love, and adorned with greater riches. In this way a man becomes spiritually enlightened, for the grace of God abides, like a fountain in the unity of the spirit; and these rivers create in the faculties of the soul an effluence of all the virtues. And the fountain of grace always requires a reflux towards its source.


THERE is a special benefit which Christ left in the Holy Church, to all good people, in this supper of the great Paschal feast, when He was about to pass from His sufferings to His Father after having eaten the Paschal lamb with His disciples, and when the ancient law was accomplished. At the end of the supper, He wished to give them a special meal, as He had long desired to do. And this is why He wished to finish the ancient law and to inaugurate the new law. He took bread in His sacred hands, and consecrated His holy body, and then His holy blood, and gave them to all His disciples, and left them to all the just, for their eternal good.

This gift and this special food rejoice and adorn all the great festivals and all the banquets in heaven and on earth. In this gift Christ gives Himself to us in three manners; He gives us His flesh and blood and His bodily life, glorified and full of joys and griefs. And He gives us His spirit with its highest faculties, and full of glory, of gifts, of truths and justifications. And He gives us His personality with the divine light which lifts up His spirit and all enlightened spirits, even to the sublime and joyous unity.

Now Christ wishes us to remember Him, whenever we consecrate, offer, and receive His body. Now observe how we should remember Him. We shall observe and consider how Christ bends towards us in loving affection, in great desire, in loving joy, and by flowing into our bodily nature. For He gives us that which He received from our humanity—that is to say, His flesh and blood and bodily nature. We shall contemplate this precious body pierced and wounded with love, by reason of His faithfulness to us. It is by it that we are adorned and nourished in the lower part of our human nature. He gives us also, in this sublime gift of the sacrament, His spirit full of glory, and the richest gifts of the virtues, and ineffable marvels of charity and nobleness.

It is by this that we are nourished, adorned, and illuminated in the unity of our spirit and in our higher faculties, thanks to the indwelling of Christ with all His riches. He gives us also in the sacrament of the altar His sublime personality in incomprehensible light. And thanks to this, we are united to the Father, and so we reach our inheritance of divinity in eternal bliss. If a man meditate rightly on this, he will meet Christ in the same manner in which Christ comes to him. He will raise himself up to receive Christ, with all his faculties and in eager joy. It is not possible for our joy to be too great, for our nature receives His nature—that is to say the glorified humanity of Christ, full of joyfulness and full of merits. This is why I would that man, at the reception of this sacrament, should melt away with desire, joy, and pleasure, for he is receiving the fairest, the most gracious, the most lovable of the children of men, and is united to Him. In this union and in this joy great benefits often come to men, and many mysterious and marvellous secrets of divine treasures are manifested and disclosed. When a man meditates, at this reception, on the martyrdom and sufferings of the precious body of Christ, whom he is receiving, he enters sometimes into so loving a devotion and so great a compassion, that he desires to be nailed with Christ to the cross, and to shed his heart's blood for the honour of Christ. And he presses himself to the wounds and open heart of Christ His Saviour. In these exercises revelations and great benefits have often come to men.


THE sublime and superessential unity of the Divine nature, in which the Father and the Son possess their nature in the unity of the Holy Spirit, above the conception and comprehension of all our faculties, in the bare essence of our spirit, surpasses in this sublime calm all the creatures of created light. This sublime unity of the Divine nature is living and fruitful, for, from this same unity, the eternal Word is born from the Father without interruption. And by this birth the Father knows the Son, and all things in the Son. And the Son knows the Father, and all things in the Father, for their nature is simple. From this reciprocal vision of the Father and the Son in an eternal clearness, flow forth an eternal satisfaction and unfathomable love, which is the Holy Spirit. And by the Holy Spirit and the eternal Wisdom God inclines towards every creature severally, and loads every one of them with gifts and kindles it with love, according to its nobility and according to the state wherein it is constituted and elected though its virtues and the eternal foresight of God. And it is by this that all just spirits, in heaven and on earth, are united in virtue and justice.


NOW be attentive: I am about to give you an example on this subject. God has made the upper heaven a pure and simple clearness encircling and enveloping all the heavens; and all the material world which God has created for it is the exterior abode and kingdom of God and His saints, full of glory and eternal joys. Now the heaven being an unmixed clearness, there is there neither time, nor state, nor temptation, nor change, for it is unchangeably fixed above all things. The sphere which approaches most nearly to it is called the primum mobile. All movement, by the power of God, emanates from the supreme heaven. This is the movement which carries with it the motions of the firmament and all the planets. It is by this same initial movement that all the creatures live and grow, according to their order. Now understand that the essence of the soul is like a spiritual kingdom of God, full of Divine clearness, surpassing all our faculties, unless these faculties are not transformed in a simple fashion, of which I do not wish to speak now. See; in this essence of the soul in which God reigns, the unity of our spirit is like the primum mobile; for in this unity the spirit is moved from above, by the power of God, naturally and supernaturally; for by ourselves we have nothing either in or above nature. And this motion of God, when it is supernatural, is the first and chief cause of all our virtue. And by this motion of God the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are granted to certain enlightened men, like the seven planets which illuminate all the lives of men. This is how God possesses the essential unity of our spirit, as His Kingdom.


NOW attend carefully. The unity of our spirit has two modes, one essential and the other active. You should know that the spirit, according to its essential existence, receives the coming of Christ in its bare nature, without intermediary and without interruption. For this essence and life which we are in God, in our eternal image, and which we have in ourselves, according to essential existence, are without intermediary and inseparable. This is why the spirit receives, in its highest and most intimate part, in its bare nature, the impression of its eternal image, and the divine brightness without interruption, and it is an eternal dwelling of God, which He occupies by a perpetual inhabitation, and which He visits always with a new coming, and a new effulgence from His eternal birth. For where He comes He is, and where He is He comes. And where He has never been, He will never come, for there is in Him neither accident nor change, and everything, where He is, is in Him, for He never goes out of Himself. And this is why the spirit possesses God essentially in its bare nature, and God the spirit, for the spirit lives in God, and God in the spirit. And it is capable, in its highest part, of receiving the brightness of God, and all that God may grant it, without intermediary. And by the brightness of its eternal image, which shines essentially and personally in it, the spirit is plunged, as regards the highest part of its vitality, in the divine essence; and there enters into possession of its eternal bliss, and flowing out again by the eternal birth of the Son is placed in its created essence by the free will of the Holy Trinity, And here it is like the image of the sublime Trinity and Unity for which it is created. And in its created nature, it takes the impression of its eternal image without interruption, like an immaculate mirror in which every impression abides, and which renews the likeness in itself without interruption. This essential unity of our spirit in God, exists not in itself, but abides in God and flows out from God, and is immanent in God and returns to God, as to its eternal cause. It never separates itself from God, for this unity is a fact of bare nature, and if nature separated itself from God it would fall into nothingness. And this unity is above time and conditions, and works always without interruption according to the mode of God. This is the nobleness which we have naturally according to the essential unity of our spirit, where it is united naturally to God.

This makes us neither saints nor blessed, for all men have it in them, the bad as well as the good; but it is the first cause of all holiness and bliss; and this is the meeting and unity of God in our spirit, in our base nature.


NOW examine this thought with care, for if you understand well what I wish to say to you, and what I have already said, you will understand all the divine truth which a creature can apprehend at present, and even things far more sublime. In the second mode, our spirit keeps itself actively in this same unity, and subsists by itself as in its personal created essence. This is the foundation and origin of the supreme faculties, and this is the beginning and end of all the works of a created nature, accomplished according to the mode of the creatures, both in nature and above nature.

Nevertheless this unity does not operate as unity; but all the faculties of the soul have their power entirely in their foundation—that is to say, in the unity of the spirit, where it resides in its personal essence. In this unity the spirit must always be like unto God, by grace and virtue, or unlike Him by mortal sin; for man is made in the likeness of God, which he must understand in the sense of grace; for grace is a deiform light which shines through us and makes us like unto God; and without this light we cannot be united supernaturally to God, even though we can never lose the image of God, nor our natural unity in Him. If we lose this likeness—that is to say, grace, we are damned. And this is why, so soon as God finds in us something which is capable of receiving His grace, He wishes to enliven us by His goodness, and to make us like unto Himself by His gifts. And this happens whenever we turn towards Him with full purpose; for at the same moment Christ comes to us and in us, with and without intermediary—that is to say, by the virtues and above all the virtues. And He impresses His image and likeness upon us—that is to say, Himself and all His gifts, and He relieves us from sin and makes us like unto Himself.

By the same operation in which God relieves us from sin, and makes us like Him and free in charity, the spirit is plunged in joyous love. And here take place a meeting and a union, which are without intermediaries and supernatural, and wherein resides our supreme blessedness. Although all that He gives by love and pure goodness is natural to God, yet to us it is accidental and supernatural, according to our mode, since formerly we were strangers and unlike, and only subsequently have become like God and obtained union with Him.


NOW understand. This incomprehensible light transforms and penetrates the joyous inclination of our spirit. In this light, the spirit is plunged in joyous repose; for this repose is without mode and without bottom, and we can only know it by itself—that is to say, by repose. For if we could know it and conceive it, it would fall into mode and measure, and so would not be able to satisfy us, and repose would become an eternal restlessness. And this is why the simple, loving, complete inclination of our spirit forms in us a joyous love, and joyous love is without bottom. And the abyss of God calls to abyss; so it is with all those whose spirits are united to God in joyous love. This calling is an irruption from His essential brightness; and this essential brightness in the embrace of His bottomless love, causes us to lose ourselves and escape from ourselves, in the lonely darkness of God. And thus united, without intermediary, to the spirit of God, we can meet God by God, and possess unchangeably, with Him and in Him, our eternal blessedness.


THE most interior life is practised in three ways. Sometimes the interior man operates, above all activity and all virtue, by simple introspection in joyous love. And here he meets God without intermediary. And from the unity of God a simple light shines in him, and this light shows him darkness, nakedness, and nothingness. He is enveloped in darkness, and falls into the absence of mode as one who loses his way. He loses, in nakedness, the power of observing and distinguishing all things, and he is transformed and penetrated by a simple brightness. He loses, in nothingness, all his works, for he is overcome in the work of the unlimited love of God; and in the joyous inclination of his spirit he triumphs in God and becomes one spirit with Him. This is the first mode, which is inactive; for it empties a man of all things, and lifts him up above works and virtues.


THERE are moments when the interior man turns desirously and actively towards God, to pay Him homage, and to offer up and annihilate, in the love of God, his being and all that he can give. And here he meets God, through an intermediary. This intermediary is the gift of wisdom, which is the foundation and source of all the virtues, and excites the just to virtues in proportion to their love; and sometimes it touches and inflames the interior man with love so violently, that all the gifts of God, and all that God can give without giving Himself, seem to him too little and do not satisfy him, but only increase his impatience. For he has at the bottom of his being an interior perception or sensation, wherein all the virtues begin and end, and wherein he offers to God all the virtues, and wherein love lives. And thus the hunger and thirst of love become so great, that he is reduced to nothingness, and then touched anew, as it were for the first time, by the irradiation of God. Thus in living he dies and in dying he lives again. This is the second mode, and it is more useful and more glorious than the first; for none can enter into the repose that is above action unless he has first actively loved love. And this is why none will be inactive, who is master of himself and who is able to practise love.


FROM these two kinds is born the third, which is an interior life according to righteousness. Now understand. God comes to us without interruption, with and. without intermediary, He requires of us action and joy, in such a way that action may not hinder joy, nor joy action, but that each may help the other. This is why the interior man possesses his life in these two modes, repose and work. And in each of them he is entire and undivided; for he is entirely in God, in his joyous repose, and he is entirely in himself, in his active love; and God warns him that He requires him to renew continually his repose and his work. The righteousness of the spirit wishes to pay, every hour, what God requires of us, and this is why, at every irradiation of God, the spirit turns inwards, actively and joyously, and so is renewed in all the virtues, and plunged more deeply in joyous love. For God at every gift gives Himself with all His gifts, and the spirit whenever it turns inwards, gives itself with all its works. The spirit is united to God, and transferred without interruption into repose. The man is hungry, for he sees the nourishment of angels and the food of heaven. He works actively in love, for he sees his repose. He is a pilgrim, and he sees his country. He fights, in love, for victory, for he sees his crown. Consolation, peace, joy, beauty, and riches, and all that can rejoice the heart, are shown to the reason illuminated by God, in spiritual similitudes and without measure. And by this vision, at the touch of God, love remains active. For this just man has built up, in the spirit, a true life, which will last eternally, but after this life it will be transformed into a more sublime state. Thus the man is just, and he goes towards God by interior love in eternal work, and he goes in God by joyous inclination, in eternal repose. And he abides in God, and yet he goes out towards all the creatures, in common love, in the virtues, and in the works of justice. This is the supreme summit of the inner life.

Note.—Here follow in Ruysbroek's treatise four chapters of warnings against the errors of Quietism, such as were exemplified in his time by many of the Brethren of the Free Spirit and similar sects.



THE interior lover of God, who possesses God in joyous repose, and possesses himself in the unity of active love, and possesses all his life in the virtues, enters into the contemplative life, thanks to these three points and to the secret manifestation of God; yes, it is the internal and devout lover, whom God will choose freely and lift him up even to a superessential contemplation in divine light and according to the mode of God. This contemplation places us in a purity and brightness above all intelligence, for it is a singular ornament and a celestial crown, and at last the eternal recompense of all the virtues and of all life. And none can arrive there by knowledge or subtlety, nor by any exercise; but he whom God wills to unite to His own Spirit and to illuminate by Himself, can contemplate God, and none other can. To such an one the heavenly Father says, in the secret and submerged part of the spirit: "See, the Bridegroom cometh, go forth to meet Him."

I wish to analyse and explain these words, in their relation to superessential contemplation, which is the basis of all holiness and of the perfect life. Very few men attain to this divine contemplation, by reason of our incapacity, and the mystery of the light in which contemplation takes place. And this is why no one, by his own knowledge or by any subtle examination, will understand these ideas. For all words, and all that can be learned and understood according to the mode of the creatures, are strangers to the truth which I speak of, and far below it. But he who is united to God, and illuminated in this truth, can comprehend the truth by itself. For to conceive and understand God above all similitudes, as He is in Himself, is to be God in God, without intermediary and without any difference which might prove an obstacle. This is why I desire that every man who does not understand this, nor experience it in the joyous unity of his spirit, may not be wounded by my words, for what I say is true. And this is why he who wishes to understand this, must be dead to himself and alive to God, and he will turn his face to the eternal light, at the bottom of his spirit, where the hidden truth is manifested without intermediary. For the heavenly Father wishes that we should be seeing; for He is the Father of Light, and this is why He says eternally, without interruption and without intermediary, one abysmal word and no other. In this word He proffers Himself and all things. The word is: "See." And it is the going forth and the birth of the Son of the eternal light, in whom we see and recognise all our blessedness.


IN order that the spirit may contemplate God by God, without intermediary, in this Divine light, three things are necessary. First, the man must be well governed externally in all the virtues, and without obstacles within, and as free from all external works as if he did them not; for if he is troubled within by any act of virtue, he has images, and so long as they remain in him he cannot contemplate. In the second place, he must adhere internally to God, by the combination of intention and of love, like a burning fire, which can never more be extinguished. At the moment when he feels himself in this state, he can contemplate. In the third place, he should be lost in an absence of mode, and in a darkness, in which all contemplatives wander joyously, and can never find themselves again according to the mode of the creatures. In the abyss of this darkness, where the loving spirit is dead to itself, begin the manifestation of God and of eternal life. For in this darkness is born and shines an incomprehensible light, which is the Son of God, in whom we see eternal life. And in this light we become seeing; and this Divine light is given in the simple vision of the spirit, in which the spirit receives the clearness which is God Himself, without intermediary, and becomes without interruption this clearness which it receives. See; this dark clearness, in which we contemplate all that we desire, while the spirit is passive,—this clearness is so great than the loving contemplative, in the depth where he reposes, sees and experiences nothing save an incomprehensible light, and according to the simple nudity which envelopes all things, he sees and apprehends the same light by which he sees, and nothing else. This is the first condition of becoming seeing in the Divine light. Happy are the eyes which thus see, for they have eternal life.


WHEN we have thus become seeing, we can contemplate in joy the eternal coming of the Bridegroom, and this is the second point on which I wish to speak. What is then this coming of the Bridegroom which is eternal? It is a new birth and a new illumination without interruption; for the foundation out of which the clearness shines, and which is the clearness itself, is living and fruitful; and this is why the manifestation of the eternal light is renewed without interruption, in the most secret part of the spirit. See; every creaturely work, and every exercise of virtue must here submit themselves, for God works alone in the highest part of the spirit. There is nought here but an eternal contemplation and fixity of light, by light, and in light. And the coming of the Bridegroom is so swift that He comes always, and is immanent with His unfathomable riches, and comes back ever anew, in person, with such new splendours that He seems never to have come before. For His coming consists in an eternal Now, transcending time, and He is always received with new desire and new joy. The delights and joy which this Bridegroom brings at His coming are without bottom and without limits, for they are Himself. This is why the eyes of the spirit, by which the lover contemplates the Bridegroom, are open so wide that they will never more be shut. For the contemplation and fixity of the spirit remain eternal in the hidden manifestation of God. And the contemplation of the spirit is so widely opened, while waiting for the coming of the Bridegroom, that the spirit itself acquires the amplitude of that which it comprehends. And in this way, God is seen and comprehended by God, in which all our salvation and blessedness consists. This is the second manner in which we receive, without interruption in our spirit, the eternal coming of our Bridegroom.


NOW the Spirit of God saith, in the secret depths of our spirit: "Go forth," in an eternal contemplation and joy, according to the mode of God. All the wealth which is in God naturally, we possess in Him by love; and God possesses it in us, by His boundless Love, which is the Holy Spirit. For in this love all is tasted that can be desired. And this is why, thanks to this love, we are dead to ourselves, and have gone forth in loving liquefaction or immersion, in the absence of mode and in darkness. There the spirit, enveloped by the Holy Trinity, is eternally immanent in the superessential unity, in repose and in joy. And in this same unity, according to the mode of generation, the Father is in the Son, and the Son in the Father, and every creature in them both. And this is above the distinction of Persons, for here we understand by reason the fatherhood and sonship in the lively fruitfulness of nature.

Here is born and begins an eternal going forth, and an eternal work without beginning, for there is here a beginning without beginning. For by means of the eternal birth of the Son, the Word of the Father, all creatures have gone forth eternally, before they were created in time, and God has considered and recognised them distinctly in Himself, in lively reason, and in distinction from Himself: but not in another mode, for all that is in God is God. This eternal going forth and this eternal life, which we have and are eternally in God, without ourselves, is the cause of our created essence in time. And our created essence is immanent in the eternal essence, and this eternal life, which we have and are in the eternal wisdom of God, is like unto God; for they have an eternal immanence, without distinction, in the divine essence. And they have an eternal effluence by the birth of the Son, in a difference with distinction, according to the eternal reason. And thanks to these two things, a man is in this way like unto God, that he recognises himself and reflects on himself without interruption, in this resemblance, according to essence and according to the Persons. For though here there is still distinction and difference, according to reason, this resemblance is nevertheless one with the very image of the Holy Trinity, which is the wisdom of God, and wherein God contemplates Himself and all things in an eternal Now, without before or after. In simple vision He regards Himself as He regards all things. And this is the image and likeness of God, and our image and likeness, for in it God and all things are reflected. In this divine image, all the creatures, without themselves, have an eternal life, as in their eternal model, and the Holy Trinity has made us in this eternal image and likeness. And this is why God wishes that we should go out from ourselves, in this eternal light, and that we should pursue this image, which is our true life, supernaturally, and possess it with Him actively and joyously, in eternal blessedness.

For we know well that the bosom of the Father is our foundation and origin, wherein we begin our life and our being. And from our true foundation—that is to say, from the Father and from all that lives in Him, beams forth an eternal radiance, which is the birth of the Son. In this radiance, the Father manifests Himself, and all that lives in Himself, to Himself; for all that He is, and all that He has, He gives to the Son, except the prerogative of fatherhood, which resides in Himself. And this is why all that lives in the Father hidden in the Unity, lives also in the Son, and flows forth in His manifestation; but the simple foundation of our eternal image remains always without mode in the darkness. But the boundless radiance which shines out thence manifests and reflects in the mode the mystery of God. And all men who are raised above their creatureliness into a contemplative life, are united to this divine splendour. And they are this splendour itself, and they see, experience, and find, thanks to this divine radiance, that they are this same simple foundation, according to their uncreated essence, from which shines forth, in the divine mode, this immeasurable radiance, which, according to simplicity of essence, remains eternally within, and without mode. This is why interior men and contemplatives will go forth, according to the mode of contemplation, above distinction and above their created essence, by means of an eternal intuition. Thanks to this inborn light, they are transformed, and are united to this same light by which they see and which they see. In this manner contemplatives pursue the eternal image, after which they are made, and contemplate God and all things without distinction, by a pure vision in divine brightness. This is the most sublime and the most useful contemplation which we can attain in this life; for in this contemplation a man remains the best and freest master of himself, and at each loving introversion, above all that we can comprehend, he can advance in the sublimities of life, for he remains free and master of himself, in unity and in the virtues. And this contemplation in the divine light maintains him above all inwardness, above all virtue, above all merit, for it is the crown and recompense towards which we are striving, and which we already have and possess in this mode, for the contemplative life is a celestial life. But if we shall be drawn up out of this exile and this misery, we shall be, according to our created nature, more susceptible of this radiance, and then the glory of God would shine through us better and more sublimely. This is the mode above all modes, according to which we go forth in a divine contemplation and in an eternal stability, and according to which we are transformed and reformed in the divine radiance. This going forth of the contemplative is also loving; for by joyous love he surpasses his created essence, and finds and tastes the riches and delights which are God, and which He causes to flow without interruption into the most secret part of the spirit, into the place where he is like the sublimity of God.


WHEN the interior man and contemplative has thus pursued his eternal image, and possessed in this purity the bosom of the Father by the Son, he is illuminated by the divine truth, and receives anew at each instant the eternal birth; and he goes forth according to the mode of light, in a divine contemplation. And here arises the fourth and last point—that is to say, the loving meeting, in which before all else resides our eternal blessedness.

You know that our heavenly Father, like a living foundation, is actively inclined towards His Son, as towards His own eternal wisdom. And this same wisdom, and all that lives therein, is actively inclined in the Father—that is to say, in the foundation whence it proceeds. And in this meeting arises the Third Person, between the Father and the Son, and this is the Holy Spirit, their mutual love, which is united to them both in the same nature. And He envelopes and penetrates, actively and joyously, the Father and the Son and all that lives in them with such riches and such joy, that all the creatures must be silent thereupon eternally, for the incomprehensible marvel of this love surpasses eternally the intelligence of all the creatures. But where we comprehend and taste this amazement, without being amazed, there the spirit is above itself, and one with the Spirit of God, and it tastes and sees, without measure, like God, the riches which He is Himself in the unity of the living foundation, where He possesses Himself according to the unity of His uncreated essence.

Now this delightful meeting is without interruption actively renewed in us, according to the mode of God, for the Father gives Himself in the Son, and the Son in the Father, in an eternal gratification and a loving embrace, and this is renewed at every hour in the ties of love; for even as the Father without interruption contemplates anew all things in the birth of His Son, so all things are beloved anew, by the Father and the Son, through the influence of the Holy Spirit. And this is the eternal meeting of the Father and the Son, in which we are lovingly wrapped by the Holy Spirit in eternal love.

Now this active meeting and this loving embrace are, in their foundation, joyous and without mode, for God's infinite absence of mode is so obscure and so destitute of mode, that it envelopes in itself every divine mode and every work, and the individuality of the Persons, in the rich envelopment of essential unity, and forms a divine rejoicing in the abyss of the unnameable. And here there is a joyous and outflowing immersion in the essential nakedness, where all the divine names and all the modes, and all divine reason, reflected in the mirror of the divine truth, fall into simple ineffability, in the absence of mode and of reason. For in this boundless abyss of simplicity, all things are enveloped in joyous blessedness, and the abyss remains itself uncomprehended save by the essential unity. Before this essential unity, the Persons must give way, and all that lives in God. For here is nought but an eternal rest, in a joyous envelopment of loving immersion, and this is the essence, without mode, which all interior spirits have chosen above all other things. It is the dark silence in which all lovers are lost. But if we could prepare ourselves thus for the virtues, we should unclothe ourselves, so to speak, from life, and should float on the wide expanses of this divine sea, and created things would no longer have power to touch us.

May we be able to possess, rejoicing, the essential unity, and clearly to contemplate the Unity in Trinity; and may the divine love, which rejects no suppliant, grant us this. Amen.



SIN is nothing else but the turning away of the creature from the unchangeable Good to the changeable; from the perfect to the imperfect, and most often to itself. And when the creature claims for its own anything good, such as substance, life, knowledge, or power, as if it were that, or possessed it, or as if that proceeded from itself, it goeth astray. What else did the devil do, and what was his error and fall, except that he claimed for himself to be something, and that something was his and was due to him? This claim of his—this "I, me, and mine," were his error and his fall. And so it is to this day. For what else did Adam do? It is said that Adam was lost, or fell, because he ate the apple. I say, it was because he claimed something for his own, because of his "I, me, and mine." If he had eaten seven apples, and yet never claimed anything for his own, he would not have fallen: but as soon as he called something his own, he fell, and he would have fallen, though he had never touched an apple. I have fallen a hundred times more often and more grievously than Adam; and for his fall all mankind could not make amends. How then shall my fall be amended? It must be healed even as Adam's fall was healed. And how, and by whom, was that healing wrought? Man could not do it without God, and God could not do it without man. Therefore God took upon Himself human nature; He was made man, and man was made God. Thus was the healing effected. So also must my fall be healed. I cannot do the work without God, and He may not or will not do it without me. If it is to be done, God must be made man in me also; God must take into Himself all that is in me, both within and without, so that there may be nothing in me which strives against God or hinders His work. Now if God took to Himself all men who are or ever lived in the world, and was made man in them, and they were deified in Him, and this work were not accomplished in me, my fall and my error would never be healed unless this were accomplished in me also. And in this bringing back and healing I can and shall do nothing of myself; I shall simply commit myself to God, so that He alone may do and work all things in me, and that I may suffer Him, and all His work, and His divine will. And because I will not do this, but consider myself to be mine own, and "I, me, and mine," and the like, God is impeded, and cannot do His work in me alone and without let or hindrance; this is why my fall and error remain unhealed. All comes of my claiming something for my own. ii., iii.


We should remember the saying that the soul of Christ had two eyes, a right eye and a left eye. In the beginning, when the soul of Christ was created, she fixed her right eye upon eternity and the Godhead, and remained in the full beholding and fruition of the Divine essence and eternal perfection; and thus remained unmoved by all the accidents and labours, the suffering, anguish, and pain, that befell the outer man. But with the left eye she looked upon the creation, and beheld all things that are therein, and observed how the creatures differ from each other, how they are better or worse, nobler or baser; and after this manner was the outer man of Christ ordered. Thus the inner man of Christ, according to the right eye of His soul, stood in the full exercise of His Divine nature, in perfect blessedness, joy, and eternal peace. But the outer man and the left eye of the soul of Christ stood with Him in perfect suffering, in all His tribulations, afflictions and labours; in such a way that the inner or right eye remained unmoved, unimpeded and untouched by all the labour, suffering, woe, and misery that happened to the outer man. It has been said that when Jesus was bound to the pillar and scourged, and when He hung on the cross, according to the outer man, the inner man, a soul according to the right eye, stood in as full possession of Divine joy and blessedness as it did after the ascension, or as it does now. Even so His outer man, or soul according to the left eye, was never impeded, disturbed, or troubled by the inward eye in its contemplation of the outward things which pertained to it. The created soul of man has also two eyes. The one is the power of looking into eternity, the other the power of looking into time and the creatures, of perceiving how they differ from each other, of giving sustenance and other things necessary to the body, and ordering and ruling it for the best. But these two eyes of the soul cannot both perform their office at once; if the soul would look with the right eye into eternity, the left eye must be shut, and must cease to work: it must be as if it were dead. For if the left eye is discharging its office towards outward things—if it is holding conversation with time and the creatures—then the right eye must be impeded in its working, which is contemplation. Therefore, he who would have one must let the other go; for no man can serve two masters. vii.


Some have asked whether it is possible for the soul, while it is still in the body, to reach so great a height as to gaze into eternity, and receive a foretaste of eternal life and blessedness. This is commonly denied; and in a sense the denial is true. For indeed it cannot come about, so long as the soul is occupied with the body, and the things which minister to the body and belong to it, and to time and created things, and is disturbed and troubled and distracted by them. For the soul that would mount to such a state, must be quite pure, entirely stripped and bare of all images; it must be wholly separate from all creatures, and above all from itself. Many think that this is impossible in this present life. But St Dionysius claims that it is possible, as we find from his words in his letter to Timothy, where he says: "In order to behold the hidden things of God, thou shalt forsake sense and the things of the flesh, and all that can be perceived by the senses, and all that reason can bring forth by her own power, and all things created and uncreated which reason can know and comprehend, and thou shalt stand upon an utter abandonment of thyself, as if thou knewest none of those things which I have mentioned, and thou shalt enter into union with Him who is, and who is above all existence and knowledge." If he did not think this to be possible in this present time, why did he teach it and urge it upon us in this present time? But you ought to know that a master has said, about this passage of St Dionysius, that it is possible, and may come to a man so often that he may become accustomed to it, and be able to gaze into eternity whenever he will. And a single one of these glances is better, worthier, higher, and more pleasing to God than all that the creature can do as a creature. He who has attained to it asks for nothing more, for he has found the kingdom of heaven and eternal life here on earth. viii.


Even as the soul of Christ had to descend into hell, before it ascended into heaven, so must the soul of man. And mark how this comes to pass. When a man truly perceives and considers who and what he is, and finds himself wholly base and wicked, and unworthy of all the consolation and kindness that he ever received, either from God or from the creatures, he falls into such a profound abasement and contempt for himself, that he thinks himself unworthy to walk upon the earth; he feels that he deserves that all creatures should rise against him and avenge their Maker upon him with punishments and torments; nay, even that were too good for him. And therefore he will not and dare not desire any consolation or release, either from God or any creature; he is willing to be unconsoled and unreleased, and he does not lament for his condemnation and punishment, for they are right and just, and in accordance with God's will. Nothing grieves him but his own guilt and wickedness; for that is not right, and is contrary to God's will: for this reason he is heavy and troubled. This is the meaning of true repentance for sin. And the man who in this life enters into this hell, enters afterwards into the kingdom of heaven, and has a foretaste of it which exceeds all the delights and happiness which he has ever had, or could have, from the things of time. But while a man is in this hell, no one can comfort him, neither God, nor the creatures. Of this condition it has been written, "Let me die, let me perish! I live without hope; from within and from without I am condemned, let no man pray for my deliverance." Now God has not forsaken a man, while he is in this hell, but He is laying His hand upon him, that he may desire nothing but the eternal Good only, and may discover that this is so noble and exceedingly good, that its blessedness cannot be searched out nor expressed, comfort and joy, peace, rest, and satisfaction. When, therefore, the man cares for and seeks and desires the eternal Good and nought beside, and seeks not himself, nor his own things, but the glory of God only, he is made to partake of every kind of joy, blessedness, peace, rest, and comfort, and from that time forward is in the kingdom of God.

This hell and this heaven are two good safe ways for a man in this present life, and he is happy who truly finds them. For this hell shall pass away, but this heaven shall abide for evermore. Let a man also observe, that when he is in this hell, nothing can console him; and he cannot believe that he shall ever be delivered or comforted. But when he is in heaven, nothing can disturb him: he believes that no one will ever be able to offend or trouble him again, though it is indeed possible that he may again be troubled and left unconsoled.

This heaven and hell come upon a man in such a way, that he knows not whence they come; and he can do nothing himself towards making them either come or depart. He can neither give them to himself, nor take them away from himself, neither bring them nor drive them away; even as it is written, "The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh or whither it goeth." And when a man is in either of these two states, all is well with him, and he is as safe in hell as in heaven. And while a man is in the world, it is possible for him to pass many times from the one state into the other—even within a day and night, and without any motion of his own. But when a man is in neither of these two states, he holds intercourse with the creatures, and is carried this way and that, and knows not what manner of man he is. A man should therefore never forget either of these states, but carry the memory of them in his heart. xi.


Be well assured that none can be illuminated, unless he be first cleansed, purified, or stripped. Also none can be united to God unless he be first illuminated. There are therefore three stages—first, the purification; secondly, the illumination; and thirdly, the union. The purification belongs to those who are beginning or repenting. It is effected in three ways; by repentance and sorrow for sin, by full confession, and by hearty amendment. The illumination belongs to those who are growing, and it also is effected in three ways; by the renunciation of sin, by the practice of virtue and good works, and by willing endurance of all trials and temptations. The union belongs to those who are perfect, and this also is effected in three ways; by pureness and singleness of heart, by love, and by the contemplation of God, the Creator of all things. xiv.


We ought truly to know and believe that no life is so noble, or good, or pleasing to God, as the life of Christ. And yet it is to nature and selfishness the most bitter of all lives. For to nature, and selfishness, and the Me, a life of careless freedom is the sweetest and pleasantest, but it is not the best; indeed, in some men it may be the worst. But the life of Christ, though it be the bitterest of all, should be preferred above all. And hereby ye shall know this. There is an inward sight which is able to perceive the one true good, how that it is neither this nor that, but that it is that of which St Paul says: "When that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away." By this he signifies that what is whole and perfect excels all the parts, and that all which is imperfect, and in part, is as nothing compared to what is perfect. In like manner, all knowledge of the parts is swallowed up when the whole is known. And where the good is known, it cannot fail to be desired and loved so greatly, that all other love, with which a man has loved himself, and other things, vanishes away. Moreover, that inward sight perceives what is best and noblest in all things, and loves it in the one true good, and for the sake of the true good alone. Where this inward sight exists, a man perceives truly that the life of Christ is the best and noblest life, and that it is therefore to be chosen above all others; and therefore he willingly accepts and endures it, without hesitation or complaining, whether it is pleasing or displeasing to nature and other men, and whether he himself likes or dislikes it, and finds it sweet or bitter. Therefore, whenever this perfect and true good is known, the life of Christ must be followed, until the decease of the body. If any man vainly deems otherwise, he is deceived, and if any man says otherwise, he tells a lie; and in whatever man the life of Christ is not, he will never know the true good or the eternal truth.

But let no one imagine that we can attain to this true light and perfect knowledge, and to the life of Christ, by much questioning, or by listening to others, or by reading and study, or by ability and deep learning. For so long as a man is occupied with anything which is this or that, whether it be himself or any other creature; or does anything, or forms plans, or opinions, or objects, he comes not to the life of Christ. Christ Himself declared as much, for He said: "If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me." "And if any man hate not his father and mother, and wife and children, and brethren and sisters, yea and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple." He means this: "He who does not give up and abandon everything can never know My eternal truth, nor attain to My life." And even if this had not been declared to us, the truth itself proclaims it, for so verily it is. But as long as a man holds fast to the rudiments and fragments of this world, and above all to himself, and is conversant with them, and sets great store by them, he is deceived and blinded, and perceives what is good only in so far as is convenient and agreeable to himself and profitable to his own objects.

Since then the life of Christ is in all ways most bitter to nature and the self and the Me—for in the true life of Christ nature and the self and the Me must be abandoned and lost and suffered to die completely—therefore in all of us nature has a horror of it, and deems it evil and unjust and foolish; and she strives after such a life as shall be most agreeable and pleasant to ourselves; and says, and believes too in her blindness, that such a life is the best of all. Now nothing is so agreeable and pleasant to nature as a free and careless manner of life. To this therefore she clings, and takes enjoyment in herself and her powers, and thinks only of her own peace and comfort. And this is especially likely to happen, when a man has high natural gifts of reason, for reason mounts up in its own light and by its own power, till at last it comes to think itself the true eternal light, and gives itself out to be such; and it is thus deceived in itself, and deceives others at the same time, people who know no better and are prone to be so deceived. xviii.-xx.


In what does union with God consist? It means that we should be indeed purely, simply, and wholly at one with the one eternal Will of God, or altogether without will, so that the created will should flow out into the eternal Will and be swallowed up and lost in it, so that the eternal Will alone should do and leave undone in us. Now observe what may be of use to us in attaining this object. Religious exercises cannot do this, nor words, nor works, nor any creature or work done by a creature. We must therefore give up and renounce all things, suffering them to be what they are, and enter into union with God. Yet the outward things must be; and sleeping and waking, walking and standing still, speaking and being silent, must go on as long as we live.

But when this union truly comes to pass and is established, the inner man henceforth stands immoveable in this union; as for the outer man, God allows him to be moved hither and thither, from this to that, among things which are necessary and right. So the outer man says sincerely, "I have no wish to be or not to be, to live or die, to know or be ignorant, to do or leave undone; I am ready for all that is to be or ought to be, and obedient to whatever I have to do or suffer." Thus the outer man has no purpose except to do what in him lies to further the eternal Will. As for the inner man, it is truly perceived that he shall stand immoveable, though the outer man must needs be moved. And if the inner man has any explanation of the actions of the outer man, he says only that such things as are ordained by the eternal Will must be and ought to be. It is thus when God Himself dwells in a man; as we plainly see in the case of Christ. Moreover, where there is this union, which is the outflow of the Divine light and dwells in its beams, there is no spiritual pride nor boldness of spirit, but unbounded humility and a lowly broken heart; there is also an honest and blameless walk, justice, peace, contentment, and every virtue. Where these are not, there is no true union. For even as neither this thing nor that can bring about or further this union, so nothing can spoil or hinder it, except the man himself with his self-will, which does him this great injury. Be well assured of this. xxvii., xxviii.


Now I must tell you what the False Light is, and what belongs to it. All that is contrary to the true light belongs to the false. It belongs of necessity to the true light that it never seeks to deceive, nor consents that anyone should be injured or deceived; and it cannot be deceived itself. But the false light both deceives others, and is deceived itself. Even as God deceives no man, and wills not that any should be deceived, so it is with His true light. The true light is God or Divine, but the false light is nature or natural. It belongeth to God, that He is neither this nor that, and that He requires nothing in the man whom He has made to be partaker in the Divine nature, except goodness as goodness and for the sake of goodness. This is the token of the true light. But it belongs to the creature, and to nature, to be something, this or that, and to intend and seek something, this or that, and not simply what is good without asking Why. And as God and the true light are without all self-will, selfishness, and self-Seeking, so the "I, Me, and Mine" belong to the false light, which in everything seeks itself and its own ends, and not goodness for the sake of goodness. This is the character of the natural or carnal man in each of us. Now observe how it first comes to be deceived. It does not desire or choose goodness for its own sake, but desires and chooses itself and its own ends rather than the highest good; and this is an error and the first deception. Secondly, it fancies itself to be God, when it is nothing but nature. And because it feigns itself to be God, it takes to itself what belongs to God; and not that which belongs to God when He is made man, or when He dwells in a Godlike man; but that which belongs to God as He is in eternity without the creature. God, they say, and say truly, needs nothing, is free, exempt from toil, apart by Himself, above all things: He is unchangeable, immoveable, and whatever He does is well done. "so will I be," says the false light. "The more like one is to God, the better one is; I therefore will be like God and will be God, and will sit and stand at His right hand." This is what Lucifer the Evil Spirit also said. Now God in eternity is without contradiction, suffering, and grief, and nothing can injure or grieve Him. But with God as He is made man it is otherwise. The false light thinks itself to be above all works, words, customs, laws, and order, and above the life which Christ led in the body which He possessed in His human nature. It also claims to be unmoved by any works of the creatures; it cares not whether they be good or bad, for God or against Him; it keeps itself aloof from all things, and deems it fitting that all creatures should serve it. Further, it says that it has risen beyond the life of Christ according to the flesh, and that outward things can no longer touch or pain it, even as it was with Christ after the Resurrection. Many other strange and false notions it cherishes. Moreover, this false light says that it has risen above conscience and the sense of sin, and that whatever it does is right. One of the so-called "Free Spirits" even said that if he had killed ten men, he would have as little sense of guilt as if he had killed a dog. This false light, in so far as it fancies itself to be God, is Lucifer, the Evil Spirit; but in so far as it makes of no account the life of Christ, it is Antichrist. It says, indeed, that Christ was without sense of sin, and that therefore we should be so. We may reply that Satan also is without sense of sin, and is none the better for that. What is a sense of sin? It is when we perceive that man has turned away from God in his will, and that this is man's fault, not God's, for God is guiltless of sin. Now, who knows himself to be free from sin, save Christ only? Scarce will any other affirm this. So he who is without sense of sin is either Christ or the Evil Spirit. But where the true light is, there is a true and just life such as God loves. And if a man's life is not perfect, as was that of Christ, still it is modelled and built on His, and His life is loved, together with modesty, order, and the other virtues, and all self-will, the "I, Me, and Mine," is lost; nothing is devised or sought for except goodness for its own sake. But where the false light is, men no longer regard the life of Christ and the virtues, but they seek and purpose what is convenient and pleasant to nature. From this arises a false liberty, whereby men become regardless of everything. For the true light is the seed of God, and bringeth forth the fruits of God; but the false light is the seed of the Devil, and where it is sown, the fruits of the Devil, nay the very Devil himself, spring up. xl.


It may be asked, What is it like to be a partaker of the Divine nature, or a Godlike man? The answer is, that he who is steeped in, or illuminated by, the eternal and Divine Light, and kindled or consumed by the eternal and Divine Love, is a Godlike man and a partaker of the Divine nature. But this light or knowledge is of no avail without love. You may understand this if you remember that a man who knows very well the difference between virtue and wickedness, but does not love virtue, is not virtuous, in that he obeys vice. But he who loves virtue follows after it, and his love makes him an enemy to wickedness, so that he will not perform any wicked act and hates wickedness in others; and he loves virtue so that he would not leave any virtue unperformed even if he had the choice, not for the sake of reward, but from love of virtue. To such a man virtue brings its own reward, and he is content with it, and would part with it for no riches. Such a man is already virtuous, or in the way to become so. And the truly virtuous man would not cease to be so to gain the whole world. He would rather die miserably. The case of justice is the same. Many men know well what is just and unjust, but yet neither are nor ever will be just men. For they love not justice, and therefore practise wickedness and injustice. If a man loved justice, he would do no unjust deed; he would feel so great abhorrence and anger against injustice whenever he saw it that he would be willing to do and suffer anything in order to put an end to injustice, and that men might be made just. He would rather die than commit an injustice, and all for love of justice. To him, justice brings her own reward, she rewards him with herself, and so the just man would rather die a thousand deaths than live as an unjust man. The same may be said of truth. A man may know very well what is truth or a lie, but if he loves not the truth, he is not a true man. If, however, he loves it, it is with truth as with justice. And of justice Isaiah speaks in the fifth chapter: "Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil, that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter." Thus we may understand that knowledge and light avail nothing without love. We see the truth of this in the case of the Evil One. He perceives and knows good and evil, right and wrong: but since he has no love for the good that he sees, he becomes not good. It is true indeed that Love must be led and instructed by knowledge, but if knowledge is not followed by Love, it will be of no avail. So also with God and Divine things. Although a man know much about God and Divine things, and even dream that he sees and understands what God Himself is, yet if he have not Love, he will never become like God or a partaker of the Divine nature. But if Love be added to his knowledge, he cannot help cleaving to God, and forsaking all that is not God or from God, and hating it and fighting with it, and finding it a cross and burden. And this Love so unites a man to God, that he can never again be separated from Him. xli.


What is Paradise? All things that are. For all things are good and pleasant, and may therefore fitly be called Paradise. It is also said, that Paradise is an outer court of heaven. In the same way, this world is truly an outer court of the eternal, or of eternity; and this is specially true of any temporal things or creatures which manifest the Eternal or remind us of eternity; for the creatures are a guide and path to God and eternity. Thus the world is an outer court of eternity, and therefore it may well be called a Paradise, for so indeed it is. And in this Paradise all things are lawful except one tree and its fruit. That is to say, of all things that exist, nothing is forbidden or contrary to God, except one thing only. That one thing is self-will, or to will otherwise than as the eternal Will would have it. Remember this. For God says to Adam (that is, to every man) "Whatever thou art, or doest, or leavest undone, or whatever happens, is lawful if it be done for the sake of and according to My will, and not according to thy will. But all that is done from thy will is contrary to the eternal Will." Not that everything which is so done is in itself contrary to the eternal Will, but in so far as it is done from a different will, or otherwise than from the Eternal and Divine Will. l.


Some may ask: "If this tree, Self-Will, is so contrary to God and to the eternal will, why did God create it, and place it in Paradise?" We may answer: a man who is truly humble and enlightened does not ask God to reveal His secrets to him, or enquire why God does this or that, or prevents or allows this or that; he only desires to know how he may please God, and become as nothing in himself, having no will of his own, and that the eternal will may live in him, and possess him wholly, unhampered by any other will, and how what is due may be paid to the Eternal Will, by him and through him. But there is another answer to this question. For we may say: the most noble and gracious gift that is bestowed on any creature is the Reason and the Will. These two are so intimately connected that the one cannot be anywhere without the other. If it were not for these two gifts, there would be no reasonable creatures, but only brutes and brutality; and this would be a great loss, for God would then never receive His due, or behold Himself and His attributes exhibited in action; a thing which ought to be, and is, necessary to perfection. Now Perception and Reason are conferred together with will, in order that they may teach the will and also themselves, that neither perception nor will is of itself, or to itself, nor ought to seek or obey itself. Nor must they turn themselves to their own profit, nor use themselves for their own ends; for they belong to Him from whom they proceed, and they shall submit to Him, and flow back to Him, and become nothing in themselves—that is, in their selfhood.

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