Of an evil Day and a good Night, and what they mean, and how the Love of the World is likened to an evil Day, and the love of God to a good Night
IF thou wouldst know then what this desire is, verily it is Jesus, for He worketh this desire in thee, and giveth it thee; and He it is that desireth in thee, and He it is that is desired; He is all, and He doth all, if thou couldst see Him. Thou dost nothing, but sufferest Him to work in thy soul, and assentest to Him with great gladness of heart, that He will vouchsafe to do so in thee. Thou art nothing else but a reasonable instrument by which and in which He worketh; and therefore when thou feelest thy thoughts, through the touching of grace, taken up with the desire of Jesus, with a mighty devout will for to please Him and love Him, then think that thou hast Jesus, for He it is that thou desirest. Behold Him well, for He goeth before thee, not in bodily shape, but insensibly, by secret presence of His power. Therefore see Him spiritually if thou canst, and fasten all thy thoughts and affections to Him, and follow Him wheresoever He goeth; for He will lead thee the right way to Jerusalem, that is to the sight of peace and contemplation. Thus prayed the Prophet to the Father of Heaven, saying: Send out Thy light and Thy truth (that is Thy Son Jesus), and He shall lead me (by desire in me) to Thy holy hill and to Thy tabernacles.187 That is, to the feeling of perfect love and height of Contemplation.
Of this desire the Prophet Isaias speaketh thus: Memoriale tuum, &c. Lord Jesus, the remembrance of Thee is imprinted in the desire of my soul, for my soul hath desired Thee in the night, and my spirit hath coveted Thee in all its thoughts.188 The Prophet saith he desired God all in the night, being a space betwixt two days; for when one day is ended another day beginneth not presently, but first cometh night which parteth the days, being sometimes long and sometimes short, and then after that cometh another day. The Prophet meaneth not only of this manner of night, but he meaneth a spiritual night. Thou shalt understand that there be two days or two lights. The first is a false light, the second a true light. The false light is the love of this worlds which a man hath in himself through the corruption of nature. The true light is the perfect love of Jesus felt through grace in a man's soul. The love of this world is a false light, for it passeth away and lasteth not, and so it performeth not that which it promiseth. This light did the enemy promise to Adam when he stirred him to sin, and said thus: Your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods. And therein he said truth. For when Adam had sinned, forthwith his inner eye was shut, and spiritual light withdrawn, and his outward eye was opened, and he felt and saw a new light of fleshly liking and worldly love which he saw not before. And so saw he a new day, but this was an evil day, for this was it that Job cursed, when he said thus: Let the day perish wherein I was born.189 He cursed not the day running on in the year which God made, but he cursed this day which man made, that is the concupiscence and the love of this world in the which he was born, though he felt it not. That day and that light he asked of God that it might perish and last no longer. But the everlasting love of Jesus is a true day and a blessed light; for God is both love and light, and He is everlasting, as St John saith: He that loveth God dwelleth in the light.190 And now, what man perceiveth and seeth the love of this world to be false and failing, and therefore will forsake it and seek the love of Jesus, yet may he not for all that presently feel the love of Him, but he must abide awhile in the night, for he cannot suddenly come from that one light to that other, that is from the love of the world to perfect love of God. This night is nought else but a forbearing and a withdrawing of the thought and of the soul from earthly things by great desire and yearning for to love and see and feel Jesus and spiritual things. This is the night; for even as the night is dark, and doth hide all bodily things, and a time of ceasing from all bodily works; even so a man that setteth himself fully to think on Jesus, and to desire only the love of Him, is careful to hide his thoughts from vain beholding and perceiving, and his affections from fleshly liking and loving of all bodily creatures, whereby his thoughts may become free and not be subject, nor his affections bound or pinned to, or troubled with anything lower or worse than himself. And if he come to this pass then is it night with him, for then he is in darkness. But this is a good night and a light darkness, for it is a stopping out of the false love of this world, and it is an approaching of the true day. And verily the darker that this night is the nearer is the true day of the love of Jesus; for the more that a soul can, through longing after God, be hid from the noise191 and stirrings of fleshly affections and unclean thoughts, the nearer is she to feel the light of the love of Him, for it is even at her. Thus seemeth the Prophet to mean, when he saith: When I sit in darkness our Lord is my light. That is, when my soul is hid from all stirrings of sin as it were in sleep, then is our Lord my light, for then approacheth He by His grace to show me His light, nevertheless this night is sometime painful. As first, when a man is very foul, and is not used through grace to be often in this darkness, but would fain have it, and be in it, and therefore he setteth his thoughts and his desires to Godward as much as he can, he would not feel nor think but only of Him, and because he cannot easily have it, therefore it is painful for the custom and familiarity192 that he hath formerly had with the sins of the world, and of fleshly affections and earthly things; and his daily fleshly deeds press so upon him, and continually strike in, and through force draw down the soul to them, that he cannot well be hid from them so soon as he would. Therefore this darkness is painful to him, and especially when grace toucheth him not abundantly, instilling some extraordinary devotion into him. Nevertheless if it be so with thee, be not too sad or heavy for it, nor strive much as though thou wouldst by force drive them out of thy thoughts, for thou canst not do so; but do thou rather expect grace, suffer quietly, and force not thyself too much. But slyly (if thou canst) draw thy desire and spiritual eye to Jesus, as if thou didst not care for them. For be thou assured, when thou wouldest desire Jesus, and think only of Him, and thou art not able freely to do so, for the pressing in of such worldly thoughts, thou art certainly coming out of the false day and art entering into this darkness. But thy darkness is not restful, not quiet to thee by reason of thy uncleanness and unacquaintedness with it, and therefore use it often, and in process of time through feeling of grace it will be more easy and more restful to thee, and that is when thy soul through grace is made so free, and so able and so good and so gathered into itself that it listeth to think on just nothing, then is it in a good darkness. This nothing I mean thus: that a soul may through grace be gathered into itself freely and wholly, and not be driven against its will, nor drawn down by force for to think, or like, or love with cleaving of affection to any sin, or any earthly thing vainly, then thinketh the soul just nought, for then it thinketh of no earthly thing cleavingly. This is a rich nought, and this nought and this night is a great ease to the soul that desireth the love of Jesus, it is in ease as to the thoughts of any earthly thing, nevertheless it is full busy to think on Him.
What thing then maketh this darkness? Verily nought else but a gracious desire to have the love of Jesus, for that desire and that longing that it hath at that time to the love of God, for to see Him and have Him, driveth out of the heart all worldly vanities and fleshly affections, and gathereth the soul into itself, and busieth it only in thinking how it may come to the love of Him. And at that time she may freely and devoutedly behold Jesus, whether she would pray or meditate, and so it bringeth her to this right nothing; and verily it is not altogether dark nor nothing when it thinketh thus; for though it be dark from false light, it is not altogether dark from the true light. For Jesus, that is both love and light, is in this darkness, whether it be painful or restful. If it be painful, then is Jesus in the soul, as travelling in the desire and longing after light, but He is not yet as resting in love, nor as showering His light. And therefore it is called night and darkness, inasmuch as the soul is hid from the false light of the world, and hath not yet a full feeling of true light, but is in expecting of that blessed love of God which it desireth.
Therefore if thou wouldst know when thou art in this secure darkness, and when not, thou mayest try it thus, and seek no further. When thou feelest thy intent and thy will fully set for to desire God, and think only on Him, thou mayest, as it were, at first ask thyself in thy own thoughts whether thou covetest to have anything of this life for love of the thing itself, or for to have the using of any of thy bodily senses in any creature. And then if the eye answer then thus: I would see just nothing, and thy mouth: I would savour just nothing, and thine ear: I would hear just nothing; and thy body: I would feel just nothing; and after that, thy heart say: I would think just nothing of earthly things, nor of bodily deeds, nor would have my affections fastened fleshly to any creature but only in God and to Godwards, if I could; and when they all answer thus to thee, and do it full readily being touched by grace, then art thou entered somewhat into this darkness. For though withal thou feel and perceive within thee the presentations and profferings of vain thoughts, and pressing in of fleshly affections; nevertheless thou art in this profitable darkness, if it be so that thy thoughts be not fixed to them; for such vain imaginations that fall into the heart unadvisedly, they trouble indeed this darkness, and somewhat molest the soul because it would be hid from them, but cannot; but they do not take away the profit of this darkness, for the soul shall by this means in time come to restful darkness. And then is this darkness restful when the soul is hid for a time from the painful feeling of all such vain thoughts, and is rested only in the desire and longing after Jesus, with a spiritual beholding of Him, as it shall be said hereafter; but this lasteth whole and entire but a short time, yet though it be but for a short time, yet it is full profitable.
How that the Desire of Jesus felt in this lightsome Darkness slayeth all Motions of Sin, and enableth the Soul to perceive spiritual Lightnings from the heavenly Jerusalem, that is, Jesus
SEEING then this darkness and this night consisting only in the desire and longing after the love of Jesus with a blind thinking on Him, is so good and so restful, though it be but short, how good then, and how blessed it is to feel His love, and to be illuminated with His blessed invisible light thereby to see the truth, the which light a soul receiveth when the night passeth, and the day springeth.
This I conceive was the night that the Prophet meant when he said: My soul hath desired Thee in the night, as I have said before. It is much better to be hid in this dark night from beholding of the world,193 though it were painful, than to be out in false liking of this world, which seemeth so shining, and so comfortable to them that are blind in the knowledge of spiritual light; for when thou art in this darkness, thou art much nearer Jerusalem than when thou art in the midst of the false light. Therefore apply thy heart fully to the stirrings of grace, and use thy self to dwell in this darkness, and by often essaying to be acquainted therewith, and it shall soon be made restful to thee, and the true light of spiritual knowing shall spring up to thee, not all at once, but secretly by little and little, as the Prophet saith: To them that dwell in the country of the shadow of death light is sprung up.194 That is, light of grace springeth, and shall spring to all them that can dwell in the shadow of death; that is in this darkness which is like to death; for as death slayeth a living body and all its fleshly senses, right so the desire of the love of Jesus felt in this darkness slayeth all sins, all fleshly affections, and all unclean thoughts for the time, and then dost thou hasten to draw near to Jerusalem. Thou art not there yet, but by some small sudden lightnings that glide out of small caves from that city, shalt thou be able to see it afar off ere thou come to it, for know thou well, though that thy soul be in this restful darkness without the trouble of worldly vanities, it is not yet clothed all in light, nor turned all into the fire of love. But it perceiveth full well that there is somewhat above itself that it knoweth not, nor hath not yet, but would have it, and burningly yearneth after it, and that is nought else but the sight of Jerusalem outwardly, which is like to a city which the Prophet Ezechiel saw in his visions.195 He saith that he saw a city upon a hill towards the south, that to his sight when it was measured was no more in length and breadth than a reed, that is six cubits and a palm of length. But as soon as he was brought into the city, and looked about him, then he saw that it was wondrous great, for he saw many halls, and chambers both open and secret; he saw gates and porches without and within, and many more buildings than I now speak of, and it was in length and breadth many hundred cubits, that it seemed a wonder to him that this city was so long and so large within, that seemed so little to his sight when he was without.
This city betokeneth the perfect love of God set upon the hill of Contemplation, which to the sight of a soul that without the feeling of it travelleth in desire towards it seemeth somewhat, but it seemeth but a little thing, no more than a rood, that is, six cubits and a palm of length. By six cubits are understood the perfection of man's work; and by the palm, a little touch of Contemplation. He seeth well that there is such a thing that passeth the deservings of all the workings of man, like as a palm is surpassed by six cubits, but he seeth not within what it is, yet if he can come within the city of Contemplation, then seeth he much more than he saw at first.
How a Man shall know false Illuminations that are feigned by the Enemy, from the true Light of knowing that cometh out of Jesus, and by what tokens
BUT now beware of the midday fiend that feigneth light as if it came out of Jerusalem, and is not so; for the fiend seeth that our Lord Jesus showeth light to His lovers of truth; therefore for the deceiving of them that are unwise, he showeth a light that is not true under colour of a true light, and cozeneth them. Nevertheless, how a soul may know the true light when it shineth from God, and when it is feigned by the enemy shall I declare (as methinketh) by an example of the firmament.
Sometime the firmament showeth a light from the sun, which seemeth to be the sun and is not; and sometimes showeth the true sun truly. To know the one from the other is thus: the feigned sun showeth himself only betwixt two black rainy clouds; and then because the sun is near, there shineth out from the clouds a light as if it were a sun, but is not. But the true sun showeth itself when the firmament is clear, or much cleared from black clouds. Now to our purpose. Some men, as it seems, forsake the love of the world and would come to the love of God, and to the light of understanding Him, but they would not come through that darkness which I spake of before. They will not know themselves truly and humbly what they have been heretofore, or what they are yet through sin, nor how naught they are in their nature against God. They are not busy to enter into themselves, all other outward things being left and flee all wicked stirrings that rise in their hearts of Pride, Envy, Anger, or other sins through a lasting desire to Jesus in praying and meditating, in silence, and in weeping, and in other corporal and spiritual exercises as devout and holy men have done. But as soon as they have forsaken the world, as it were outwardly in appearance, or else soon after, they imagine that they are holy and able to have the spiritual understanding of the Gospel and of holy Writ, and, namely, if they can literally fulfil the commandments of God and keep themselves from corporal sins, then they imagine that they love God perfectly. And therefore they will presently preach and teach all other men, as if they had received grace of understanding in perfection of charity through special gift of the Holy Ghost. And also they are much more stirred, forasmuch as they feel sometimes much knowledge as it were suddenly given to them without great study before had, and also much fervour of love as it seemeth for to preach truth and righteousness to their neighbour. Therefore they hold it as a grace of God that visiteth them with His blessed light above other souls. Nevertheless, if they will look well about them, they shall find that this light of knowledge and that fervour which they feel cometh not from the true Sun, which is our Lord Jesus, but cometh from the midday fiend that feigneth light, and likeneth him to the Sun, and therefore shall he be known by the foresaid example.
Light of knowledge, that is feigned by the fiend to a dark soul, is showed betwixt two black rainy clouds. Whereof the upper cloud is presumption and exalting of himself, and the lower cloud is the down-putting and disdaining of his neighbour. Then whatsoever light of knowing or feeling of fervour it be that shineth to a soul with presumption and exalting of itself, and disdain of his neighbour felt at the same time, it is not the light of grace given of the Holy Ghost; although the knowledge in itself be true, but it is either from the fiend, if it come suddenly, or else from a man's own wit if it come by study, and so it may easily be known that this feigned light of knowing is not the light of the true Sun.
Therefore, they that have this knowing on this manner are full of spiritual pride, and see it not; they are so blind with this feigned light that they hold the exalting of their own heart and their disobedience to the laws of holy Church as it were perfect humility to the Gospel and to the laws of God; and imagine that the following of their own will to be freedom of spirit. And thereupon they begin to rain, like black clouds, waters of errors and heresies; for the words that they utter in preaching tend all to backbiting, and to strife and discord, reproving of States and of Persons; and yet they say that all this is charity and zeal of the truth. But it is not so; for St James the Apostle saith thus: Ubi zelus est et contentio, &c. -- Where envy is and contention, there is unstableness and every evil work.196 And therefore that knowledge that bringeth forth such sins cometh not from the Father of lights, that is God, but is earthly, beastly and devilish. And so by these tokens, namely, pride, presumption, disobedience, indignation, backbiting and other such sins (for these follow after) may the feigned light be known from the true. For the true Sun shineth not nor breaketh forth by special visitation to give light of understanding or perfect charity to a soul, unless the firmament be first made bright and clear from clouds; that is, unless the conscience be made clean through the fire of burning desire to Jesus in this darkness which wasteth and burneth up all wicked stirrings of pride, vain-glory, wrath, envy and all other sins in the soul. As the Prophet saith: Ignis ante ipsum procedet, &c. -- A fire shall go before him; that is, desire of love shall go before Jesus in man's soul, and it shall burn all his enemies;197 that is, it shall waste all sins. For except a soul be first smitten down from the height of itself by fear and humility, and be well tried and burnt in this fire of desire, and as it were purified from all spiritual filth, through long time in devout prayers and other spiritual exercises, it is not able to bear the shinings of spiritual light nor to receive the precious liquor of perfect love of Jesus. But when it is purified and made subtle through this fire, then may it receive the gracious light of spiritual knowing and the perfection of love, which is the true Sun.
Thus saith holy Writ: Vobis qui timetis Deum, &c. -- The true Sun of Righteousness, that is, our Lord Jesus, shall spring to you that fear Him;198 that is, to humble souls that humble themselves to their neighbour, through knowing of their own wretchedness, and cast themselves down under God by annihilating themselves in their own substance through reverent fear and spiritual beholding of Him lastingly, for that is perfect humility. Unto these souls the true Sun shall spring, and enlighten their reason to the knowing of Truth, and kindle their affections in the fervour of love, and then shall they both burn and shine, namely, burn in perfect love through the virtue of this heavenly Sun, and shine in the knowledge of God and spiritual things, for then be they reformed in feeling.
Therefore, he that would not be deceived, I think it is good for him to draw down himself and hide himself in this darkness. First, from intermeddling with other men, as I have said, and forget all the world if he can; and follow Jesus with constant desire offered up in prayers and meditating on Him. And then I believe the light that cometh after this darkness is secure and true, and that it shineth out of the city of Jerusalem from the true Sun to a soul that travelleth in darkness, and crieth after light for to show her the right way and comfort her in travel. For I believe that after true darkness going before feigned light never cometh. That is, if a man truly and fully set himself to forsake the love of the world, and can through grace come to the feeling and knowing of himself, and hold himself humbly in that feeling, he shall not be deceived with any errors nor heresies nor fancies; for all these come in by the gate of pride. If then pride can be stopped out, there shall no such sin rest in a soul, and though they come and proffer themselves, they shall not enter; for grace which the soul feeleth in this humble darkness shall teach the soul truth, and show it that all such proffering are from the enemy.
How great profit it is to the Soul to be brought through Grace into lightsome Darkness, and how a Man shall dispose himself if he will come thereto
THERE be many devout souls that through grace come into this darkness and feel the knowledge of themselves, and yet know they not fully what it is, and that ignorance is partly a hindrance to them. They feel well often their thoughts and their affections drawn out and separated from the minding of earthly things, and brought into great rest of a delectable softness, without painful troubling of vain thoughts or of their bodily senses, and they feel that time so great a freedom of spirit that they can think on Jesus peaceably and offer up their Psalms and Prayers mightily, savourly and sweetly to Him, as long as frailty of bodily nature will suffer them. They understand well that this feeling is good, but they know not what it is. Therefore unto all such souls I say, as methinketh, that this manner of feeling, though it be but short and but seldom, it is really this darkness that I speak of. For it is a feeling of themselves first, and a rising above themselves through burning desire to the sight of Jesus; or else, if I shall say more truly, this gracious feeling is a spiritual sight of Jesus. And if they can keep themselves in that rest, or bring it through grace into a custom, so that they can lightly and freely have it when they list, and hold themselves in it, they shall never be overcome by temptation of the fiend, nor of the flesh, nor by errors or heresies; for they are set in the gate of Contemplation, able and ready to receive the perfect love of Jesus. Therefore he that hath it, it is good that he know it humbly, keep it tenderly, and pursue it fervently that no creature let199 him utterly from it, but that he follow it when he may. And that he forget and set at nought all things that may put him from this, if so be, he be at his own liberty, and may do what he will without scandal or offence to his neighbour. For I think that he cannot come to this rest lightly, unless he hath great plenty of grace and set himself to follow the motions of grace, and that ought he to do; for grace would ever be free, namely from sin and worldly business, and all other things that let the working of it, though they are not sins.
Nevertheless, another soul that hath not yet received this plenty of grace, if he desire to come to this spiritual knowing of Jesus, he must, as much as in him lieth, enable himself to it, and put away all lettings that obstruct grace as much as he can. He must truly learn to die to the world, and truly forsake the love of it. First, pride, both spiritual and corporal, that he desire no worship, worldly knowledge, nor worldly craft, profits, nor riches, nor precious clothing, nor worldly array, nor anything by which he may be honoured above other men; he shall covet none of all these. But if they be put upon him take them with fear, so that he be poor both outwardly and inwardly, or at least fully inwardly in his heart. And that he covet to be forgotten of the world, and men regard him no more, though he be never so rich or so wise, than the poorest man living. Also that he suffereth not his heart to rest in the beholding of his own deeds, or in his virtues, imagining that he doth better than another, in that he forsaketh the world, which others do not, and therefore he setteth well by himself. Also he must leave all risings of heart, and evil will of anger and envy against his neighbour. And that he offend no man, nor anger him indiscreetly by word or deed; nor give any man occasion whereby he may reasonably be angered, or moved, so that he may be free from every man. And also that he forsake covetousness, that he covet right naught of earthly goods, but only crave his bodily sustenance which he needeth, and hold himself well apaid, when God stirreth up other men to give it him. And that he put no manner of trust in the possession of any worldly goods, nor in the help or favour of any worldly friends, but principally and fully in God; for if he doth otherwise, he bindeth himself to the world, so that he cannot be free to think on Jesus. And also gluttony, and lechery, and all other fleshly uncleanness must he utterly leave, that his affections be bound to no woman by fleshly familiarity; for it is no doubt but that such blind love as is sometime betwixt a man and a woman, and seemeth good and honest, forasmuch as they would not sin in act, is in the sight of God full unclean and very great sin. For it is a great sin for a man to suffer his affections, which should be fastened to Jesus and to all His virtues, and to all spiritual cleanness, to be bound by any fleshly love willingly to any creature, especially if it be so much that it beareth down his thoughts, and maketh them unrestful that he cannot have favour in God. And this I hold to be done willingly, when a man doth it, though he confess it to be a sin, or else when he is so blinded with it that he will not see it. And also that a man covet not delights of meats and drinks only for lust of his flesh, but be contented with such as he can easily have without great trouble; namely, if he be in health with what meat will put away hunger, and keep his body in ordinary strength for the service of God. And that he grudge not, nor strive not, nor vex himself for his meat, though sometime he be served not as his flesh desires. All these sins and all other must he forsake utterly in his will, and in deed when he can; and all other things that hinder him, so that he may dispose himself to think freely on Jesus. For as long as these lettings and such other hang upon him, he cannot die to the world, nor come into this darkness of knowing of himself. And therefore that he may come thereto, he must do all these things, as St Paul did, saying thus: This world is slain and crucified to me, and I to the world.200 That is, he that hath forsaken the love of the world in honours and riches and in all other worldly things abovesaid, for the love of God, and loveth it not, nor pursueth it, but is well satisfied that he hath right nought of it, nor verily would have though he might, verily to him the world is dead, for he hath no favour nor delight therein. And if the world set him at nought, and hath no regard to him, nor favour, nor worship, and set no price by him, but forgetteth him as a dead man, then is he dead to the world. And in this plight was St. Paul set perfectly, and so must every other man in part that would come to the perfect love of God; for he cannot live to God fully, unless he die first to the world. This dying to the world is this darkness, and it is the gate to Contemplation, and to reforming in feeling, and none other than this. There may be many sundry ways, and several works letting and leading sundry souls to Contemplation; for according to divers disposings of men, and after divers states as are religious and seculars, according as they are in, are there divers exercises in working. Nevertheless there is but one gate; for whatsoever exercise a soul useth, unless thereby he come to this knowing, and to an humble feeling of himself, and that is, that he be mortified and dead to the world, as to his love of it, and that he may feel himself sometime in this restful darkness, by the which he may be hid from the vanities of the world, as to the love of them, and that he may feel himself what he is indeed, he is not yet come to the reforming in feeling, nor hath he Contemplation fully. He is full far from it, and if he will come to it by any other gate, he is but a thief and a breaker of the wall, and therefore shall be cast out as unworthy.
But he that can bring himself first to nought by the grace of humility, and die on this manner, he is in the gate; for he is dead to the world, and he liveth to God. Of the which St Paul speaketh thus: Ye are dead.201 That is, ye that for the love of God forsake all the love of the world, are dead to the world, and Your life is hid with Christ in God. That is, ye live spiritually in the love of Jesus. But your life is hid from worldly men, as Christ liveth, and is hid in His Godhead from the love and the sight of fleshly lovers.
This gate our Lord Himself showed in the Gospel, when He said thus: Every man that forsaketh for My love Father or Mother, Sister or Brother, or any earthly good, he shall have an hundredfold in this life, and afterward the bliss of Heaven.202 This hundredfold which a soul shall have, if he forsake the world, is nought but the profit of this lightsome darkness, which I call the gate of Contemplation. For he that is in this darkness, and is hid through grace from worldly vanity, he coveteth nothing of worldly goods, he seeketh it not, he is not hindered therewith, he looketh not after it, he loveth it not, and therefore hath he an hundredfold more than the King, or than he that coveteth most of worldly goods, for he that coveteth nought but Jesus hath an hundredfold, for he hath more rest, more peace in heart, more true love and delight in soul in one day, than he that most coveteth of this world, and hath all the wealth of it in his full possession, hath all his life-time.
This is, then, a good darkness, and a rich nought, that bringeth a soul to so much spiritual ease, and so quiet softness. I suppose David meant of this night, or this nought, when he said thus: Ad nihilum redactus sum, et nescivi -- I was brought to nought, and I knew it not.203 That is, the grace of our Lord Jesus sent into my heart hath slain in me, and brought to nought all the love of the world, and I knew not how, for not through any working of my own, nor by my own wit had I it, but by the grace of our Lord Jesus. And therefore methinketh that he that would have the light of grace, and sweetly feel the love of Jesus in his soul, he must forsake all the false light or worldly love, and abide in this darkness. And, nevertheless, if he be fearful, at first to continue therein, he must not turn again to the love of the world, but suffer awhile, and put all his hope and his trust in Jesus, and he shall not be long without some spiritual light. Thus the Prophet commandeth: Qui ambulat in tenebris, &c. -- He that walketh in darkness and hath no light, let him hope in our Lord, and let him rely upon his God.204 That is, whoso would hide himself from the love of the world, and cannot readily feel the light of spiritual love, let him not despair, nor turn again to the world, but hope in our Lord, and rely upon Him; that is, trust in God, and cleave to Him by desire, and abide awhile, and he shall have light. For it falleth out therein as it doth when a man hath been a great while in the sun, and after that cometh suddenly into a dark house where no sun shineth, he will be as it were blind, and see just nought. But if he will abide awhile, he shall be able presently to see about him; first great things, and then small things, and afterwards all that is ever in the house. Just so is it spiritually: he that forsaketh the love of the world, and cometh to himself into his own conscience, at first it is somewhat dark and blind to his sight; but if he stand still, and hold out by serious praying, and often meditating in the same will to the love of Jesus, he shall be able afterwards to see both great and small things which he knew not before. This it seemeth the Prophet promiseth when he saith thus: Orietur in tenebris lux tua, &c. -- In darkness shall thy light spring up, and thy darkness shall be as noon-day, and thy Lord God shall give thee rest, and shall fill thy soul with lights.205 That is, thou that truly forsaketh the light of all worldly love, and hidest thy thought in this darkness, light of blessed love and spiritual knowing of God shall spring up to thee, and thy darkness shall be as midday; that is, thy darkness of painful desire, and thy blind trust in God, that thou hast at first, shall turn into clear knowledge, and into security of love, and thy Lord God shall give rest to thee; that is, thy fleshly desires, and thy painful fears and doubts, and wicked spirits that have before time vexed thee, all these shall grow weak, and lose much of their might, and thou shalt be made so strong that they shall not trouble thee, for thou shalt be hid in rest from them. And then shall our Lord fulfil thy soul with shinings; that is, when thou art brought into this spiritual rest, then shalt thou more easily attend to God, and do nought else but love Him, and then shall He fill all the powers of thy soul with beams of spiritual light. Wonder not that I call the forsaking of worldly love a darkness, for the Prophet calleth it so, saying thus to a soul: -- Intra in tenebras tuas filia Chalaeorum -- Go into thy darkness, thou daughter of Chaldee.206 That is, thou soul that art as a daughter of Chaldee through love of this world, forsake it, and go into thy darkness.
That the Working of our Lord Jesus in the Reforming of a Soul, is divided into four times, which are: Calling, Justifying, Magnifying and Glorifying
LO, I have told thee a little, how, if thou covet to be reformed in feeling, thou shalt dispose thyself towards thy forthgoing. Nevertheless I do not say that thou canst do thus of thyself; for I know well that it is our Lord Jesus that bringeth all this to the end where He pleaseth. For He only, through His grace, stirreth up a soul, and bringeth it first into this darkness and then into light, as the Prophet saith: Sicut tenebrae ejus ita et lumen ejus.207 That is, just as the light of knowing and the feeling of spiritual love is from Jesus, just so the darkness, that is, the forsaking of worldly love, is from Him, for He doth all. He formeth and reformeth. He formeth only by Himself, but He reformeth us with us; for grace given, and the applying our will to grace doth work all this. And in what manner this is done, St Paul rehearses thus: Quos Deus praescivit, &c. -- Those whom God foreknew should be made conformable to the Image of His Son, those He called; and whom He called those He justified; and whom He justified those He glorified.208 Though these words may be understood of all chosen souls in the lowest degree of charity, who are reformed only in faith; nevertheless they may be understood more especially of those souls that are reformed in feeling, to whom our Lord God showeth great plenty of grace, and is much more busy about them; for they are in a special manner His own children, who bear the full shape and the likeness of His Son Jesus. In these words St Paul divideth the working of our Lord into four times.
The first is the time of calling of a soul from worldly vanity, and that time is often easy and comfortable; for in the beginning of turning such a man that is disposed to much grace, is so quickly and so feelingly inspired, and feeleth often so great sweetness of devotion, and hath so many tears in compunction that he thinketh sometimes that he is half in Heaven; but this ease passeth away after for a time. And then cometh the second time, namely, the time of justifying, which is laborious. For when he beginneth to go forth mightily in the way of righteousness, and setteth his will fully against all sin outward and inward, and stretcheth out his desires to virtues and to the love of Jesus, then feeleth he much letting both within himself from the frowardness and hardness of his own will, and from without through the temptation of his enemy, that he is oft in full great torment, and that is no wonder: for he hath so long been crooked towards the false love of the world, that he cannot be made straight, as a crooked staff cannot be made even, unless it be cast and wrought by the fire. Therefore our Lord Jesus, knowing what is fit for a froward soul, suffereth it to be tormented and letted by sundry temptations, and to be tried soundly by spiritual tribulations that all the rust of uncleanness may be burnt out of it. And this shall be done both inwardly with fears and doubts and perplexities that it shall almost fall into despair, and shall seem as it were forsaken of God, and wholly left in the hands of the fiend (saving only a little secret trust that it shall have in the goodness and mercy of God, for that secret trust our Lord leaveth in such a soul, though he go never so far from it, by the which the soul is borne up from despair, and saved from spiritual mischief), and outwardly also it shall be mortified and pained in the sensuality, either by divers sicknesses, or by feeble tormentings of the enemy; or else by a secret working of God the silly soul through feeling and bearing of the wretched body shall be so pained that it shall despair almost of suffering or continuing in the body, unless our Lord Himself keep it therein. And yet, notwithstanding, the soul had rather be in all this pain than to be blinded with the false love of the world, for that would be hell to such a soul; but the suffering of this manner of pain is only Purgatory, and therefore he suffereth it gladly. And he would not put it away though he might, because it is so profitable. All this doth our Lord in great profit to a soul to drive it out of its sensuality, that it may receive spiritual light; for after this, when a soul is thus mortified, and brought from worldly love into this darkness, that it hath no more savour nor delight of worldly liking than of a straw, but thinketh it bitter as wormwood, then cometh the third time of Magnifying: and that is, when a soul is reformed in feeling in part, and receiveth the gift of perfection, and the grace of Contemplation, and that is a time of great rest; for then is Jesus more familiar with a soul.
And after this cometh a fourth time of Glorifying; that is, when a soul shall be fully reformed in the bliss of heaven. For these souls that are thus called from sin, and thus Justified, or else on any other manner by divers trials both through fire and water, and afterwards are thus magnified, they shall be glorified. For our Lord shall then give them fully what they coveted here; and more than they could covet; for He shall raise them above all other chosen souls, to be equal with cherubim and seraphim, seeing they passed all other in knowing and loving of God here in this life.
Therefore he that will come to this magnifying must not be afraid of this justifying, for that is the way; for our Lord saith by His Prophet a word of great comfort to all such souls that are tried with the fire of tribulation thus: Puer meus noli timere, &c. -- My child, if thou pass through fire fear not, for the flame shall not hurt thee.209 It shall cleanse thee from all fleshly filth, and make thee able to receive spiritual fire of the love of God, and this must first be done; for as I said before it cannot otherwise be reformed in feeling.
How it falleth out sometimes that Souls that are but beginning or profiting in Grace seem to have more Love, as to outward tokens thereof, than some have that be perfect, and yet it is not really so in their Interior
BUT now thou wilt say, how can this be true? For there be many souls newly turned to God that have many spiritual feelings; some have great compunction for their sins, and some have great devotions and fervours in their prayers, and often have sundry teachings of spiritual light in understanding, and some men have other kind of feelings of comfortable heat and great sweetness; and yet these souls never come fully into this restful darkness, which I speak of, with fervent desire and lasting love and thought on God. And hereupon thou askest whether these souls be reformed in feeling or no. And it seemeth yes, inasmuch as they have such great spiritual feelings, which other men who stand only in faith feel not.
Unto this I answer, as methinketh, that these spiritual feelings, whether they stand in compunction or devotion, or in spiritual imagination, are not the feelings which a soul shall have and feel in the grace of Contemplation. I say not but that they are true and graciously given of God. But these souls that feel such are not yet reformed in feeling, nor have as yet the gift of perfection nor the spiritual burning love of Jesus as they may arrive to. And nevertheless, it often seemeth otherwise that such souls feel more of the love of God than others that have the gift of perfection, inasmuch as the feeling showeth more outwardly by great fervour of bodily tokens in weeping, praying, kneeling and speaking, and other bodily stirrings, so far forth that it seemeth to another man that they were even ravished in love. Though I, for my part, do not think them so, for I will understand that these kind of feelings and fervours of devotion and compunction that these men feel are gracious gifts of God sent into chosen souls to draw them out of worldly love and fleshly lust, which hath long time been rooted in their hearts, from the which love they would not be drawn out but by such feeble motions of great fervours.
And the reason why this fervour is so much in outward showing is not only from the greatness of that love which they have, but from the littleness and weakness of their soul, that cannot bear a little touching of God; for it is yet, as it were, fleshly, fastened to the flesh, and never was yet parted from it by spiritual mortification; and therefore the least touching of love, and the least sparkle of spiritual light sent from Heaven into such a soul is so much and so comfortable and so delectable above all the likings that ever it felt before in fleshly love of earthly things, that she is, as it were, overcome with it. And also it is so new and so sudden and so unaccustomed to her that she is not able to bear it, but bursteth and breaketh out into weeping, sobbing and other bodily stirrings. Just as a barrel that is old, when it receiveth new wine that is fresh and strong, the barrel swelleth out and is ready to cleave and burst until the wine hath boiled and purged out all uncleanness; but as soon as the wine is fined and cleared, then it standeth still and the barrel whole; just so a soul that is old through sin, when it receiveth a little of the love of God, which is so fresh and strong that the body is in point to cleave and to break were it not that God keepeth it whole. But yet it bursteth out at the eyes by weeping, and at the mouth by speaking, which is more for weakness and feebleness of the soul than through greatness of love. For afterward, when love hath boiled all uncleanness out of the soul by such great fervours, then is the love clear and standeth still. And then is both the body and the soul much more in peace. And yet hath the soul much more love than it had before, though it show less outwardly; for it is now all whole in rest within, and but little in outward showing of fervour. And therefore I say that these souls that feel such great bodily fervours, though they be in much grace, are not yet reformed in feeling, but they are greatly disposed towards it. For I trow that such a man, namely, that hath been greatly defiled in sin, shall not be reformed in feeling, unless he be first burnt and purified with such great compunctions going before.
Another soul that never was much defiled with the love of the world, but hath ever been kept from great sins in innocency, may lightlier and more privily, without great fervour showed outwardly, come to this reforming. Then is this true, as I hope, that such comforts and fervours that a soul feeleth in a state of its beginning, or of its profiting, are, as it were, his spiritual food sent from Heaven for to strengthen him in his journey. Even as a Pilgrim travelleth all day meatless and drinkless, and is near-at-hand overcome with weariness, falleth at last to a good inn, and there hath he meat and drink, and is well refreshed for the time, right so is it spiritually. A devout soul, that will forsake the love of the world, and would fain love God and setteth all her business thereto, prayeth and exerciseth all day bodily and spiritually, and sometimes feeleth no comfort nor savour in devotion; then our Lord, having pity on all His creatures, that they should not perish for want, nor fall into heaviness or grudging, sendeth to it, among other things, His spiritual food, and comforteth it in devotion as He pleaseth. And when the soul feeleth any comfort, then doth she hold herself well paid for all her travail and all the suffering it had on the day, when it fareth well at night by feeling of any grace.
Also in the same manner falleth it out with other souls that are profiting and proceeding well forward in grace. These feel oftentimes gracious touchings of the Holy Ghost in their soul, both in understanding and sight of spiritual things and in affection of love. But yet be they not reformed in feeling, nor are they yet perfect, for why? All such feelings come to them in that state as it were unawares, for they come to them ere they think of them, and go from them before they think; and they cannot come by such things again, nor wot they where they may find them; for they have not as yet any familiarity with them, of thought and lasting desire in Jesus. Nor is the eye of their soul opened to the beholding of spiritual things, but they draw well toward it; and therefore they are not yet reformed in feeling nor have yet the full gift of Contemplation.
After what manner a Man shall come to know his own Soul, and how a Man should set his Love in Jesus, God and Man in one Person
A SOUL that would know spiritual things needs first to have the knowledge of itself; for she cannot have the knowledge of a thing that is above herself, unless she have first the knowledge of herself. And that is when the soul is so gathered into herself, and separated from beholding of all earthly things and from the use of her bodily senses, that she feeleth herself as she is in her own kind, which is without a body. Then, if thou covet for to know and see thy soul what it is, thou shalt not turn thy thought with imagination into thy body, to seek it and feel it as it were hid within thy heart, as thy heart is hid and holden within thy body. If thou seek in that manner, thou shalt never find it in itself. The more thou seekest for to find and feel it as thou wouldst feel a bodily thing, the farther thou art from it. For thy soul is no bodily thing, but a life invisible, not hid and holden within thy body, as a less thing is hidden and holden within a greater; but it holdeth and quickeneth thy body, and is much greater in might and virtue than is thy body. If then thou wilt find it, withdraw thy thoughts from all bodily things outward, and from minding of thy own body, also from all thy five senses, as much as thou canst, and think on the nature of a reasonable soul spiritually, as thou wouldst think for to know any virtue, as justice, humility or any other. Right so think that a soul is a life immortal, invisible, and hath in itself a power to know the sovereign verity, and for to love the sovereign goodness, which is God; when thou seest this, then feelest thou somewhat of thyself. Seek thyself in none other place, but the more fully, the more clearly that thou thinkest of the nature and the worthiness of a reasonable soul, what it is and what is the kindly working of it, the better seest thou thyself.
It is full hard for a soul that is rude and much in the flesh for to have sight and knowledge of itself or of an angel or of God. It falleth presently to the imagining of a bodily shape, and it weeneth thereby to have the sight of itself, and in like manner of God, and of spiritual things. And that may not be, for all spiritual things are seen and known by the understanding of the soul, not by the imagination. Right as a soul seeth by her understanding, that the virtue of righteousness is to give to everything that which he ought to have; right so, and on such a manner may the soul see itself by the understanding.
Nevertheless, I say not that thy soul should rest still in this knowing, but it shall by this seek a higher knowledge above itself, and that is the nature of God, for the soul is but a glass,210 in the which thou shouldst see God spiritually. And therefore thou shalt first find thy glass and keep it bright and clean from fleshly filth and worldly vanity, and hold it well up from the earth, that thou mayest see it and our Lord therein also. For to this end do all chosen souls travail in this life, in their meaning and in their intent, though they have not the special feeling of this. And therefore it is said before that many souls beginning and profiting have many great fervours, and much sweet devotion, and as it seemeth are all burning in love, and yet have they not love perfectly nor spiritual knowledge of God. For be thou well assured that though a soul feel never so much fervour, even so much that he thinketh his body cannot bear it; or though he melt all into weeping, as long as his thinking and his beholding of God is for the most part or all in imagination and not in the understanding, he is not yet come to perfect love nor to Contemplation.
For thou shalt understand that the love of God is in three manner of ways; all of which are good, but each one is better than the other. The first cometh only through Faith, without gracious imagination or spiritual knowing of God. This love is in the least soul that is reformed in Faith, in the lowest degree of charity; and it is good, for it sufficeth to salvation. The second is that which a soul feeleth through faith and imagination of Jesus in His Manhood. This love is better than the first, when the imagination is stirred by grace, for then the spiritual eye is opened in beholding of our Lord's humanity. The third love that a soul feeleth through spiritual sight of the Godhead in the humanity, as it may be seen here, is the best and most worthy, and that is perfect love. This love a soul feeleth not, until it be reformed in feeling. Souls beginning and profiting have not this love, for they cannot think on Jesus nor love Him spiritually, but, as it were, all manly and fleshly after the conditions and likeness of a man; and accordingly they frame all their working in their thoughts and in their affections. They fear Him as a man, and worship Him and love Him principally by the imagination of His humanity, and go no further.
As thus: If they have done amiss and trespassed against God, they think then that God is angry with them, as a man would be if they had trespassed against him; and therefore they fall down, as it were, at the feet of our Lord with sorrow of heart, and cry Him mercy. And when they have done thus, they have a good trust that our Lord of His mercy will forgive them their trespass. This manner of doing is right good, but it is not spiritual as it might be. Also when they would worship God, they present themselves in their thoughts, as if they were before our Lord's face in a bodily likeness, and imagine a wonderful light there where our Lord Jesus is, and then they reverence Him, and worship Him, and fear Him, and fully put them into His mercy for to do with them what He will. Also when they would love God, they behold Him, worship Him, and dread Him as a man (not yet as God in the humanity), either in His Passion, or in some other thing in His humanity, and in that beholding they feel their hearts much stirred to the love of God.
This manner of working is good and gracious, but it is much less and lower than is the working of the understanding; that is, when the soul graciously beholdeth God in man, for in our Lord Jesus are two natures, the Humanity and the Divinity. And as the Divinity is more sovereign and more worthy than the Humanity, right so the spiritual beholding of the Divinity in Jesus Man is more worthy, and more spiritual, and more meritorious than the beholding of the Humanity alone, whether he behold the Humanity as mortal or as glorified. And right so by the same reason the love which a soul feeleth in thinking and beholding of the Divinity in the Manhood, when it is graciously showed, is more worthy, more spiritual, and more meritorious than the fervour of devotion, that the soul feeleth by the imagination only of the humanity, show it never so much outwardly; for in regard of that of the Divinity, this of the Humanity is but a human thing. For our Lord showeth not Himself in the imagination as He is, nor that He is, for the soul cannot at that time for frailty of the flesh suffer it so.
Nevertheless unto such souls that cannot meditate on the Divinity spiritually, that they may not err in their devotion, but that they should be comforted and strengthened by some manner of inward beholding of Jesus to forsake sin and the love of the world, wherefore our Lord Jesus tempereth this invisible light of His Godhead, and clotheth it under bodily likeness of His Manhood, and showeth it unto the inner eye of the soul, and feedeth it with the love of His precious flesh spiritually. The which love is of so great might, that it slayeth all wicked love in the soul, and strengthens it for to suffer bodily penance and other bodily difficulties in the time of need for the love of Jesus. And this is the shadowing of our Lord Jesus over a chosen soul, in which shadowing the soul is kept from the burning of worldly love; for as a shadow is made of a light and of a body, even so this spiritual shadow is made of the blessed invisible light of the Godhead, and of the Manhood united thereto, showed to a devout soul. Of the which shadow the Prophet saith thus: Spiritus ante faciem nostram, &c. -- Our Lord Christ before our face as a Spirit, under His shadow we shall live among folks.211 That is, our Lord Jesus in His Godhead is a spirit, that cannot be seen of us living in the flesh as He is in His blessed light, therefore we shall live under the shadow of His Manhood as long as we are here.
But though that this be true that this love in imagination is good; nevertheless a soul should desire to have spiritual love in understanding of the Godhead; for that is the end and the full bliss of the soul, and all bodily beholdings are but means leading a soul to it. I say not that we should refuse the Manhood of Jesus, and separate God from man; but thou shalt in Jesus Man, behold, fear, admire and love spiritually the Godhead, and so shalt thou, without separating them, love God in man, and both God and man spiritually and fleshly. Thus our Lord taught Mary Magdalen to do like a Contemplative, when He said thus: Noli me tangere, &c. -- Touch me not: I am not yet ascended to My Father. The meaning is this: Mary Magdalen loved our Lord Jesus well before the time of His Passion, but her love was much bodily and little spiritual. She understood well that He was God, but she loved Him but little as God; for she could not then, and therefore she suffered all her affection and all her thoughts to fall on Him as He was in form of man. And our Lord blamed her not then, but praised it much. But after when He was risen from death, and appeared to her, she would have worshipped Him with the same manner of love as she did before, and then our Lord forbade her, and said thus: Touch Me not. That is, set not thy rest nor the love of thy heart on that form of man which thou seest with thy fleshly eye, for to rest therein only, for in that form I am not ascended up to My Father; that is, I am not equal to the Father, that is, the form of the Godhead; and love Me, know Me and worship Me as God and Man, godly, not as a man, manly, so shalt thou touch Me. For since I am both God and Man, and all the reason why I am to be beloved and worshipped is, for that I am God, and for that I took the nature of man; and therefore make Me a God in thy heart and in thy love, and worship Me in thine understanding as Jesus, God and Man, the sovereign verity and the sovereign goodness, and blessed life; for I am so. And thus our Lord taught her, as I understand, and also all other souls that are disposed to Contemplation, and enabled thereto that they should do so. Nevertheless other souls are not so skilful,212 nor are yet made spiritual through grace, it is good for them that they keep on their own working in imagination, with affections towards our Saviour's Humanity, until more grace come freely to them. It is not safe for a man to leave any good thing utterly, until he see and feel a better.
In like manner may it be said of other kind of feelings that are like to bodily, as hearing of delectable songs, or feeling of comfortable heat in the body, seeing of light, or sweetness of bodily savour. These are not spiritual feelings; for spiritual feelings are felt in the powers of the soul, principally in the understanding, and in love, and little in the imagination. But these feelings are felt in the powers of the body in the imagination, and therefore are not spiritual feelings. But when they are even at best, and most true, yet are they but outward tokens of the inward grace which is felt in the powers of the soul. This may be plainly proved out of Holy Writ, saying thus: Apparuerunt Apostolis, &c. -- The Holy Ghost appeared to the Apostles on the day of Pentecost in the likeness of burning tongues, and inflamed their hearts, and sat upon each of them.213 Now it is true that the Holy Ghost, which is God in Himself invisible, was not that fire nor those tongues that were seen, nor that burning which was felt bodily, but He was invisibly felt in the powers of their souls, for He enlightened their reason and enkindled their affections through His blessed presence so clearly and so burningly, that they had suddenly the spiritual knowledge of truth, and the perfection of love, as our Lord promised them, saying thus: Spiritus Sanctus docebit vos, &c. -- The Holy Spirit shall teach you all truth. That fire and that burning then was nought else but a bodily token showed outwardly in witnessing of that grace which was felt inwardly. And as it was in them, so is it in other souls that are visited and lightened within of the Holy Ghost, and have withal such outward feelings for comforting them and witnessing of their inward grace. But yet I do not think that such grace is in all souls that are perfect, but only where our Lord pleaseth.
Other imperfect souls that have such feelings outwardly, and have not yet received inward grace, it is not good for them to rest in such outward feelings, but only inasmuch as they help the soul to more love, and to more stableness of thought in God; for some may be true and some may be feigned, as I have said before.