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´╗┐Title: Spiritual Torrents
Author: Guyon, Jeanne Marie Bouvier de la Motte, 1648-1717
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Translated from the Paris Edition of 1790


[_All rights reserved._]



Some apology is perhaps needed when a Protestant thus brings before
Protestant readers the works of a consistent Roman Catholic author. The
plea must be, that the doctrine and experience described are essentially
Protestant; and so far from their receiving the assent of the Roman
Catholic Church, their author was persecuted for holding and
disseminating them.

Of the experience of Madame Guyon, it should be borne in mind, that
though the glorious heights of communion with God to which she attained
may be scaled by the feeblest of God's chosen ones, yet it is by no
means necessary that they should be reached by the same apparently
arduous and protracted path along which she was led.

The "Torrents" especially needs to be regarded rather as an account of
the personal experience of the author, than as the plan which God
invariably, or even usually, adopts in bringing the soul into a state of
union with Himself. It is true that, in order that we may "live unto
righteousness," we must be "dead indeed unto sin;" and that there must
be a crucifixion of self before the life of Christ can be made manifest
in us. It is only when we can say, "I am crucified with Christ," that we
are able to add, "Nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in
me." But it does not follow that this inward death must always be as
lingering as in the case of Madame Guyon. She tells us herself that the
reason was, that she was not wholly resigned to the Divine will, and
willing to be deprived of the gifts of God, that she might enjoy the
possession of the Giver. This resistance to the will of God implies
suffering on the part of the creature, and chastisement on the part of
God, in order that He may subdue to Himself what is not voluntarily
yielded to Him.

Of the joy of a complete surrender to God, it is not necessary to speak
here: thousands of God's children are realising its blessedness for
themselves, and proving that it is no hardship, but a joy unspeakable,
to present themselves a living sacrifice to God, to live no longer to
themselves, but to Him that died for them, and rose again.

A simple trust in a living, personal Saviour; a putting away by His
grace of all that is known to be in opposition to His will; and an
entire self-abandonment to Him, that His designs may be worked out in
and through us; such is the simple key to the hidden sanctuary of



   CHAP.                                                             PAGE

     II. FIRST DEGREE OF PRAYER                                         6


     IV. SPIRITUAL DRYNESS                                             16

      V. ABANDONMENT TO GOD                                            18

     VI. SUFFERING                                                     21

    VII. MYSTERIES                                                     23

   VIII. VIRTUE                                                        25

     IX. PERFECT CONVERSION                                            27



    XII. SELF-EXAMINATION AND CONFESSION                               39

   XIII. READING AND VOCAL PRAYER                                      42





  XVIII. EXHORTATIONS TO PREACHERS                                     71

    XIX. PREPARATION FOR DIVINE UNION                                  77




   CHAP.                                                             PAGE



             AND OF ITS FIRST DEGREE                                  111

      V. IMPERFECTIONS OF THIS FIRST DEGREE                           125

     VI. SECOND DEGREE OF THE PASSIVE WAY OF FAITH                    139



         SECT. III.--THIRD DEGREE OF SPOLIATION                       169

         SECT. IV.--ENTRANCE INTO MYSTICAL DEATH                      179

             CONSUMMATION                                             185

             COMMENCEMENT OF THE DIVINE LIFE                          193


             THE RESURRECTION LIFE                                    211

             ABANDONED SOUL                                           221

    III. PERFECT UNION OR DEIFORMITY                                  230




"Let judgment run down as waters; and righteousness as a mighty
stream."--Amos v. 24.





As soon as a soul is brought under divine influence, and its return to
God is true and sincere, after the first cleansing which confession and
contrition have effected, God imparts to it a certain instinct to return
to Him in a most complete manner, and to become united to Him. The soul
feels then that it was not created for the amusements and trifles of the
world, but that it has a centre and an end, to which it must be its aim
to return, and out of which it can never find true repose. This
instinct is very deeply implanted in the soul, more or less in different
cases, according to the designs of God; but all have a loving impatience
to purify themselves, and to adopt the necessary ways and means of
returning to their source and origin, like rivers, which, after leaving
their source, flow on continuously, in order to precipitate themselves
into the sea. You will observe that some rivers move gravely and slowly,
and others with greater velocity; but there are rivers and _torrents_
which rush with frightful impetuosity, and which nothing can arrest. All
the burdens which might be laid upon them, and the obstructions which
might be placed to impede their course, would only serve to redouble
their violence. It is thus with souls. Some go on quietly towards
perfection, and never reach the sea, or only very late, contented to
lose themselves in some stronger and more rapid river, which carries
them with itself into the sea. Others, which form the second class, flow
on more vigorously and promptly than the first. They even carry with
them a number of rivulets; but they are slow and idle in comparison
with the last class, which rush onward with so much impetuosity, that
they are utterly useless: they are not available for navigation, nor can
any merchandise be trusted upon them, except at certain parts and at
certain times. These are bold and mad rivers, which dash against the
rocks, which terrify by their noise, and which stop at nothing. The
second class are more agreeable and more useful; their gravity is
pleasing, they are all laden with merchandise, and we sail upon them
without fear or peril.

Let us look, with divine aid, at these three classes of persons, under
the three figures that I have proposed; and we will commence with the
first, in order to conclude happily with the last.



The first class of souls are those who, after their conversion, give
themselves up to meditation, or even to works of charity. They perform
some exterior austerities; endeavour, little by little, to purify
themselves, to rid themselves of certain notable sins, and even of
voluntary venial ones. They endeavour, with all their little strength,
to advance gradually, but it is feebly and slowly.

As their source is not abundant, the dryness sometimes causes delay.
There are even periods, in times of aridity, when they dry up
altogether. They do not cease to flow from the source, but it is so
feebly as to be barely perceptible. These rivers carry little or no
merchandise, and, therefore, for the public need, it must be taken to
them. It is necessary, at the same time, that art should assist nature,
and find the means of enlarging them, either by canals, or by the help
of other rivers of the same kind, which are joined together and united
to it, which rivers thus joined increase the body of water, and, helping
each other, put themselves in a condition to carry a few small boats,
not to the sea, but to some of the chief rivers, of which we shall speak
later. Such beings have usually little depth of spiritual life. They
work outwardly, and rarely quit their meditations, so that they are not
fit for great things. In general they carry no merchandise--that is to
say, they can impart nothing to others; and God seldom uses them, unless
it be to carry a few little boats--that is, to minister to bodily
necessities; and in order to be used, they must be discharged into the
canals of sensible graces, or united to some others in religion, by
which means several, of medium grace, manage to carry the small boat,
but not into the sea itself, which is God: into that they never enter in
this life, but only in the next.

It is not that souls are not sanctified in this way. There are many
people, who pass for being very virtuous, who never get beyond it, God
giving them lights conformed to their condition, which are sometimes
very beautiful, and are the admiration of the religious world. The most
highly favoured of this class are diligent in the practice of virtue;
they devise thousands of holy inventions and practices to lead them to
God, and to enable them to abide in His presence; but all is
accomplished by their own efforts, aided and supported by grace, and
their own works appear to exceed the work of God, His work only
concurring with theirs.

The spiritual life of this class only thrives in proportion to their
work. If this work be removed, the progress of grace within them is
arrested: they resemble pumps, which only yield water in proportion as
they are agitated. You will observe in them a great tendency to assist
themselves by means of their natural sensibilities, a vigorous activity,
a desire to be always doing something more and something new to promote
their perfection, and, in their seasons of barrenness, an anxiety to rid
themselves of it. They are subject to great variation: sometimes they do
wonders, at other times they languish and decline. They have no evenness
of conduct, because, as the greater part of their religion is in these
natural sensibilities, whenever it happens that their sensibilities are
dry, either from want of work on their part, or from a lack of
correspondence on the part of God, they fall into discouragement, or
else they redouble their efforts, in the hope of recovering of
themselves what they have lost. They never possess, like others, a
profound peace or calmness in the midst of distractions; on the
contrary, they are always on the alert to struggle against them or to
complain of them.

Such minds must not be directed to passive devotion; this would be to
ruin them irrecoverably, taking from them their means of access to God.
For as with a person who is compelled to travel, and who has neither
boat nor carriage, nor any other alternative than that of going on foot,
if you remove his feet, you place advancement beyond his reach; so with
these souls; if you take away their works, which are their feet, they
can never advance.

And I believe this to be the cause of the contests which now agitate the
religious world. Those who are in the _passive_ way, conscious of the
blessedness they experience in it, would compel all to walk with them;
those, on the contrary, who are in what I have termed the state of
_meditation_, would confine all to their way, which would involve
inestimable loss.

What must be done then? We must take the middle course, and see for
which of the two ways souls are fitted.

This may be known in some by the opposition they have to remaining at
rest, and allowing themselves to be led by the Spirit of God; by a
confusion of faults and defects into which they fall without being
conscious of them; or, if they are possessed of natural prudence, by a
certain skill in concealing their faults from others and from
themselves; by their adherence to their sentiments, and by a number of
other indications which cannot be explained.

The way to deliver them from such a state would be, to lead them to live
less in the intellect and more in the affections, and if it be manifest
that they are gradually substituting the one for the other, it is a sign
that a spiritual work is being carried on within them.

I am at a loss to understand why so loud a cry is raised against those
books and writers that treat of the inner life. I maintain that they can
do no harm, unless it be to some who are willing to lose themselves for
the sake of their own pleasure, to whom not only these things, but
everything else, would be an injury: like spiders, which convert flowers
into venom. But they can do no injury to those humble souls who are
desirous for perfection, because it is impossible for any to understand
them to whom the special light is not accorded; and whatever others may
read, they cannot rightly understand those conditions which, being
beyond the range of imagination, can be known only by experience.
Perfection goes on with a steady advancement corresponding to the
progress of the inner life.

Not that there are no persons advanced in sanctification who have faults
in appearance even greater than those of others, but they are not the
same either as to their nature or their quality.

The second reason why I say that such books can do no harm is, that they
demand so much natural death, so much breaking off, so many things to be
conquered and destroyed, that no one would ever have strength for the
undertaking without sincerity of purpose; or even if any one undertook
it, it would only produce the effect of _meditation_, which is to
endeavour to destroy itself.

As for those who wish to lead others in their groove, and not in God's,
and to place limits to their further advancement--as for those, I say,
who know but one way, and would have all the world to walk in it, the
evils which they bring upon others are irremediable, for they keep them
all their lives stopping at certain things which hinder God from
blessing them infinitely.

It seems to me that we must act in the divine life as in a school. The
scholars are not kept always in the same class, but are passed on to
others more advanced. O human science! you are so little worth, and yet
with you men do not fail to take every precaution! O science mysterious
and divine! you are so great and so necessary; and yet they neglect you,
they limit you, they contract you, they do violence to you! Oh, will
there never be a school of religion! Alas! by wishing to make it a
study, man has marred it. He has sought to give rules and limits to the
Spirit of God, who is without limit.

O poor powerless souls! you are better fitted to answer God's purposes,
and, if you are faithful, your devotion will be more pleasing to Him,
than that of those great intellects which make prayer a study rather
than a devotion. More than this, I say that such souls as these, who
appear so powerless and so incapable, are worthy of consideration,
provided they only knock at the door, and wait with a humble patience
until it be opened to them. Those persons of great intellect and subtle
understanding, who cannot remain a moment in silence before God, who
make a continual Babel, who are so well able to give an account of their
devotion in all its parts, who go through it always according to their
own will, and with the same method, who exercise themselves as they
will on any subject which suggests itself to them, who are so well
satisfied with themselves and their light, who expatiate upon the
preparation and the methods for prayer, will make but little advance in
it; and after ten or twenty years of this exercise, will always remain
the same.

Alas! when it is a question of loving a miserable creature, do they use
a method for that? The most ignorant in such a matter are the most
skilful. It is the same, and yet very different, with divine love.
Therefore, if one who has never known such religion comes to you to
learn it, teach him to love God much, and to let himself go with a
perfect abandonment into love, and he will soon know it. If it be a
nature slow to love, let him do his best, and wait in patience till love
itself make itself beloved in its own way, and not in yours.



The second class are like those large rivers which move with a slow and
steady course. They flow with pomp and majesty; their course is direct
and easily followed; they are charged with merchandise, and can go on to
the sea without mingling with other rivers; but they are late in
reaching it, being grave and slow. There are even some who never reach
it at all, and these, for the most part, lose themselves in other larger
rivers, or else turn aside to some arm of the sea. Many of these rivers
serve to carry merchandise, and are heavily laden with it. They may be
kept back by sluices, and turned off at certain points. Such are the
souls in the _passive way of sight_. Their strength is very abundant;
they are laden with gifts, and graces, and celestial favours; they are
the admiration of their generation; and numbers of saints who shine as
stars in the Church have never passed this limit. This class is composed
of two kinds. The first commenced in the ordinary way, and have
afterwards been drawn to passive contemplation. The others have been, as
it were, taken by surprise; they have been seized by the heart, and they
feel themselves loving without having learned to know the object of
their love. For there is this difference between divine and human love,
that the latter supposes a previous acquaintance with its object,
because, as it is outside of it, the senses must be taken to it, and the
senses can only be taken to it because it is communicated to them: the
eyes see and the heart loves. It is not so with divine love. God, having
an absolute power over the heart of man, and being its origin and its
end, it is not necessary that He should make known to it what He is. He
takes it by assault, without giving it battle. The heart is powerless
to resist Him, even though He may not use an absolute and violent
authority, unless it be in some cases where He permits it to be so, in
order to manifest His power. He takes hearts, then, in this way, making
them burn in a moment; but usually He gives them flashes of light which
dazzle them, and lift them nearer to Himself. These persons appear much
greater than those of whom I shall speak later, to those who are not
possessed of a divine discernment, for they attain outwardly to a high
degree of perfection, God eminently elevating their natural capacity,
and replenishing it in an extraordinary manner; and yet they are never
really brought to a state of annihilation to self, and God does not
usually so draw them out of their own being that they become lost in
Himself. Such characters as these are, however, the wonder and
admiration of men. God bestows on them gifts upon gifts, graces upon
graces, visions, revelations, inward voices, ecstasies, ravishments, &c.
It seems as though God's only care was to enrich and beautify them, and
to communicate to them His secrets. All joys are theirs.

This does not imply that they bear no heavy crosses, no fierce
temptations: these are the shadows which cause their virtues to shine
with greater brilliancy; for these temptations are thrust back
vigorously, the crosses are borne bravely; they even desire more of
them: they are all flame and fire, enthusiasm and love. God uses them to
accomplish great things, and it seems as though they only need to desire
a thing in order to receive it from God, He finding His delight in
satisfying all their desires and doing all their will. Yet in the same
path there are various degrees of progression, and some attain a far
higher standard of perfection than others; their danger lies in fixing
their thoughts upon what God has done for them, thus stopping at the
gifts, instead of being led through them to the Giver.

The design of God in the bestowal of His grace, and in the profusion
with which He gives it, is to bring them nearer to Himself; but they
make use of it for an utterly different end: they rest in it, reflect
upon it, look at it, and appropriate it; and hence arise vanity,
complaisance, self-esteem, the preference of themselves to others, and
often the destruction of religious life. These people are admirable, in
themselves considered; and sometimes by a special grace they are made
very helpful to others, particularly if they have been brought from
great depths of sin. But usually they are less fitted to lead others
than those who come after; for being near to God themselves, they have a
horror of sin, and often a shrinking from sinners, and never having
experienced the miseries they see in others, they are astonished, and
unable to render either help or advice. They expect too great
perfection, and do not lead on to it little by little, and if they meet
with weak ones, they do not aid them in proportion to their own
advancement, or in accordance with God's designs, but often even seek to
avoid them. They find it difficult to converse with those who have not
reached their own level, preferring a solitary life to all the ministry
of love. If such persons were heard in conversation by those not
divinely enlightened, they would be believed equal to the last class, or
even more advanced. They make use of the same terms--of DEATH, LOSS OF
SELF, ANNIHILATION, &c.; and it is quite true that they do die in their
own way, that they are annihilated and lose themselves, for often their
natural sensibilities are lost or suspended in their seasons of
devotion; they even lose the habit of making use of them. Thus these
souls are passive, but they have light, and love, and strength in
themselves; they like to retain something of their own, it may be even
their virtues, but in so delicate a form that only the Divine eye can
detect it. Such as these are so laden with merchandise that their course
is very slow. What must be done with them, then, to lead them out of
this way? There is a more safe and certain path for them, even that of
faith: they need to be led from the sensible to the supernatural, from
that which is known and perceived to the very deep, yet very safe,
darkness of faith. It is useless to endeavour to ascertain whether these
things be of God or not, since they must be surpassed; for if they are
of God, they will be carried on by Him, if only we abandon ourselves to
Him; and if they are not of God, we shall not be deceived by them, if we
do not stay at them.

This class of people find far greater difficulty in entering the way of
faith than the first, for as what they already possess is so great, and
so evidently from God, they will not believe that there is anything
higher in the Church of God. Therefore they cling to it.

O God! how many spiritual possessions there are which appear great
virtues to those who are not divinely enlightened, and which appear
great and dangerous defects to those who are so! For those in this way
regard as virtues what others look upon as subtle faults; and even the
light to see them in their true colours is not given to them. These
people have rules and regulations for their obedience, which are marked
by prudence; they are strong and vigorous, though they appear dead. They
are indeed dead as to their own wants, but not as to their foundation.
Such souls as these often possess an inner silence, certain sinkings
into God, which they distinguish and express well; but they have not
that secret longing to be nothing, like the last class. It is true they
desire to be nothing by a certain perceptible annihilation, a deep
humility, an abasement under the immense weight of God's greatness. All
this is an annihilation in which they dwell without being annihilated.
They have the feeling of annihilation without the reality, for the soul
is still sustained by its feelings, and this state is more satisfactory
to it than any other, for it gives more assurance. This class usually
are only brought into God by death, unless it be some privileged ones,
whom God designs to be the lights of His Church, or whom He designs to
sanctify more eminently; and such He robs by degrees of all their
riches. But as there are few sufficiently courageous to be willing,
after so much blessedness, to lose it all, few pass this point, God's
intention perhaps being that they should not pass it, and that, as in
the Father's house there are many mansions, they should only occupy this
one. Let us leave the causes with God.



What shall we say of the souls in this _third way_, unless it be that
they resemble TORRENTS which rise in high mountains? They have their
source in God Himself, and they have not a moment's rest until they are
lost in Him. Nothing stops them, and no burdens are laid upon them. They
rush on with a rapidity which alarms even the most confident. These
torrents flow without order, here and there, wherever they can find a
passage, having neither regular beds nor an orderly course. They
sometimes become muddy by passing through ground which is not firm, and
which they bear away with them by their rapidity. Sometimes they appear
to be irrecoverably lost, then they reappear for a time, but it is only
to precipitate themselves in another abyss, still deeper than the former
one. It is the sport of these torrents to show themselves, to lose
themselves, and to break themselves upon the rocks. Their course is so
rapid as to be undiscernible; but finally, after many precipices and
abysses, after having been dashed against rocks, and many times lost and
found again, they reach the sea, where they are lost to be found no
more. And there, however poor, mean, useless, destitute of merchandise
the poor torrent may have been, it is wonderfully enriched, for it is
not rich with its own riches, like other rivers, which only bear a
certain amount of merchandise or certain rarities, but it is rich with
the riches of the sea itself. It bears on its bosom the largest vessels;
it is the sea which bears them, and yet it is the river, because the
river, being lost in the sea, has become one with it.

It is to be remarked, that the river or torrent thus precipitated into
the sea does not lose its nature, although it is so changed and lost as
not to be recognised. It will always remain what it was, yet its
identity is lost, not as to reality, but as to quality; for it so takes
the properties of salt water, that it has nothing peculiar to itself,
and the more it loses itself and remains in the sea, the more it
exchanges its own nature for that of the sea. For what, then, is not
this poor torrent fitted? Its capacity is unlimited, since it is the
same as that of the sea; it is capable of enriching the whole earth. O
happy loss! who can set thee forth? Who can describe the gain which has
been made by this useless and good-for-nothing river, despised and
looked upon as a mad thing, on which the smallest boat could not be
trusted, because, not being able to restrain itself, it would have
dragged the boat with it. What do you say of the fate of this torrent, O
great rivers! which flow with such majesty, which are the delight and
admiration of the world, and glory in the quantity of merchandise spread
out upon you? The fate of this poor torrent, which you regard with
contempt, or at best with compassion, what has it become? What use can
it serve now, or rather, what use can it not serve? What does it lack?
You are now its servants, since the riches which you possess are only
the overflow of its abundance, or a fresh supply which you are carrying
to it.

But before speaking of the happiness of a soul thus lost in God, we must
begin with its origin and go on by degrees.

The soul, as we have said, having proceeded from God, has a continual
propensity to return to Him, because, as He is its origin, He is also
its final end. Its course would be interminable if it were not arrested
or interrupted by sin and unbelief. Therefore the heart of man is
perpetually in motion, and can find no rest till it returns to its
origin and its centre, which is God: like fire, which, being removed
from its sphere, is in continual agitation, and does not rest till it
has returned to it, and then, by a miracle of nature, this element, so
active itself as to consume everything by its activity, is at perfect
rest. O poor soul who are seeking happiness in this life! you will never
find it out of God. Seek to return to Him: there all your longings and
troubles, your agitations and anxieties, will be reduced to perfect

It is to be remarked, that in proportion as fire approaches its centre,
it always approaches rest, although its swiftness increases. It is the
same with the soul: as soon as sin ceases to hold it back, it seeks
indefatigably to find God; and if it were not for sin, nothing could
impede its course, which would be so speedy, that it would soon attain
its end. But it is also true that, in proportion as it approaches God,
its speed is augmented, and at the same time becomes more peaceful; for
the rest, or rather the peace, since it is not at rest, but is pursuing
a peaceful course, increases so that its peace redoubles its speed, and
its speed increases its peace.

The hindrances, then, arise from sins and imperfections, which arrest
for a time the course of the soul, more or less, according to the
magnitude of the fault. Then the soul is conscious of its activity, as
though when fire was going on towards its centre, it encountered
obstacles, such as pieces of wood or straw: it would resume its former
activity in order to consume these obstacles or barriers, and the
greater the obstacle the more its activity would increase. If it were a
piece of wood, a longer and stronger activity would be needed to consume
it; but if it were only a straw, it would be burned up in a moment, and
would but very slightly impede its course. You will notice that the
obstacles which the fire would encounter would only impart to it a fresh
stimulus to surmount all which prevented its union with its centre;
again, it is to be remarked, that the more obstacles the fire might
encounter, and the more considerable they might be, the more they would
retard its course; and if it were continually meeting with fresh ones,
it would be kept back, and prevented from returning whence it came. We
know by experience, that if we continually add fuel to fire, we shall
keep it down, and prevent its rising. It is the same with the souls of
men. Their instincts and natural propensities lead them towards God.
They would advance incessantly, were it not for the hindrances they
meet. These hindrances are sins and imperfections, which prove the
greater obstacles in the way of their return to God, according as they
are serious and lasting; so that if they continue in sin, they will
never reach their end. Those, therefore, who have not sinned so grossly
as others, should advance much more rapidly. This usually is the case,
and yet it seems as though God took pleasure in making "grace abound
where sin has most abounded" (Rom. v. 20). I believe that one of the
reasons of this, to be found in those who have not grossly sinned, is
their estimation of their own righteousness, and this is an obstacle
more difficult to surmount then even the grossest sins, because we
cannot have so great an attachment to sins which are so hideous in
themselves, as we have to our own righteousness; and God, who will not
do violence to liberty, leaves such hearts to enjoy their holiness at
their own pleasure, while He finds His delight in purifying the most
miserable. And in order to accomplish His purpose, He sends a stronger
and fiercer fire, which consumes those gross sins more easily than a
slower fire consumes smaller obstacles. It even seems as though God
loved to set up His throne in these criminal hearts, in order to
manifest His power, and to show how He can restore the disfigured soul
to its original condition, and even make it more beautiful than it was
before it fell. Those then who have greatly sinned, and for whom I now
write, are conscious of a great fire consuming all their sins and
hindrances; they often find their course impeded by besetting sins, but
this fire consumes them again and again, till they are completely
subdued. And as the fire thus goes on consuming, the obstacles are more
and more easily surmounted, so that at last they are no more than
straws, which, far from impeding its course, only make it burn the more

Let us then take the soul in its original condition, and follow it
through its various stages, if God, who inspires these thoughts, which
only occur to me as I write, wills that we should do so.

As God's design for the soul is that it should be lost in Himself, in a
manner unknown to ordinary Christians, He begins His work by imparting
to it a sense of its distance from Him. As soon as it has perceived and
felt this distance, the natural inclination which it has to return to
its source, and which has been, as it were, deadened by sin, is revived.
Then the soul experiences true sorrow for sin, and is painfully
conscious of the evil which is caused by this separation from God. This
sentiment thus implanted in the soul leads it to seek the means of
ridding itself of this trouble, and of entering into a certain rest
which it sees from afar, but which only redoubles its anxiety, and
increases its desire to pursue it until it finds it.

Some of those who are thus exercised, having never been taught that they
must seek to have God within them, and not expect to find Him in outward
righteousness, give themselves up to meditation, and seek without what
can only be found within. This meditation, in which they seldom succeed,
because God, who has better things in store for them, does not permit
them to find any rest in such an experience, only serves to increase
their longing; for their wound is at the heart, and they apply the
plaster externally, which does but foster the disease, instead of
healing it. They struggle a long time with this exercise, and their
struggling does but increase their powerlessness; and unless God, who
Himself assumes the charge of them, sends some messenger to show them a
different way, they will lose their time, and will lose it just so long
as they remain unaided. But God, who is abundant in goodness, does not
fail to send them help, though it may be but passing and temporary. As
soon, then, as they are taught that they cannot advance because their
wound is an internal one, and they are seeking to heal it by external
applications; when they are led to seek in the depths of their own
hearts what they have sought in vain out of themselves; then they find,
with an astonishment which overwhelms them, that they have within them a
treasure which they have been seeking far off. Then they rejoice in
their new liberty; they marvel that prayer is no longer a burden, and
that the more they retire within themselves, the more they taste of a
certain mysterious something which ravishes them and carries them away,
and they would wish ever to love thus, and thus to be buried within
themselves. Yet what they experience, delightful as it may appear, does
not stop them, if they are to be led into pure faith, but leads them to
follow after something more, which they have not yet known. They are now
all ardour and love. They seem already to be in Paradise; for what they
possess within themselves is infinitely sweeter than all the joys of
earth: these they can leave without pain; they would leave the whole
world to enjoy for one hour their present experience. They find that
prayer has become their continual attitude; their love increases day by
day, so that their one desire is always to love and never to be
interrupted. And as they are not now strong enough to be undisturbed by
conversation, they shun and fear it; they love to be alone, and to enjoy
the caresses of their Beloved. They have within themselves a Counsellor,
who lets them find no pleasure in earthly things, and who does not
suffer them to commit a single fault, without making them feel by His
coldness how much sin is displeasing to Him. This coldness of God, in
times of transgression, is to them the most terrible chastisement. It
seems as though God's only care were to correct and reprove them, and
His one purpose to perfect them. It is a surprise to themselves and to
others that they change more in a month by this way, and even in a day,
than in several years by the other. O God! it belongs only to Thee to
correct and to purify the hearts of Thy children!

God has yet another means of chastising the soul, when it is further
advanced in the divine life, by making Himself more fully known to it
after it falls; then the poor soul is covered with confusion; it would
rather bear the most severe chastisement than this goodness of God after
it has sinned.

These persons are now so full of their own feelings that they want to
impart them to others; they long to teach the whole world to love God;
their sentiments towards Him are so deep, so pure, and so disinterested,
that those who hear them speak, if they are not divinely enlightened,
believe them to have attained the height of perfection. They are
fruitful in good works; there is no reasoning here, nothing but a deep
and burning love. The soul feels itself seized and held fast by a divine
force which ravishes and consumes it. It is like intoxicated persons,
who are so possessed with wine that they do not know what they are
doing, and are no longer masters of themselves. If such as these try to
read, the book falls from their hands, and a single line suffices them;
they can hardly get through a page in a whole day, however assiduously
they may devote themselves to it, for a single word from God awakens
that secret instinct which animates and fires them, so that love closes
both their mouth and their eyes. They cannot utter verbal prayers, being
unable to pronounce them. A heart which is unaccustomed to this does not
know what it means; for it has never experienced anything like it
before, and it does not understand why it cannot pray, and yet it cannot
resist the power which overcomes it. It cannot be troubled, nor be
fearful of doing wrong, for He who holds it bound does not permit it
either to doubt that it is He who thus holds it, or to strive against
it, for if it makes an effort to pray, it feels that He who possesses it
closes its lips, and compels it, by a sweet and loving violence, to be
silent. Not that the creature cannot resist and speak by an effort, but
besides doing violence to himself he loses this divine peace, and feels
that he is becoming dry: he must allow himself to be moved upon by God
at His will, and not in his own way. The soul in this state imagines
itself to be in an inward silence, because its working is so gentle, so
easy, and so quiet that it does not perceive it. It believes itself to
have reached the summit of perfection, and it sees nothing before it but
enjoyment of the wealth it possesses.

These Christians, so ardent and so desirous after God, begin to rest in
their condition, and gradually and insensibly to lose the loving
activity in seeking after God which formerly characterised them, being
satisfied with their joy which they substituted for God Himself; and
this rest would be to them an irreparable loss, if God, in His infinite
goodness, did not draw them out of this state to lead them into one more
advanced. But before speaking of it, let us look at the imperfections of
this stage.



The soul in the degree of which I have just spoken can and does make
great advances, going from love to love, and from cross to cross; but it
falls so frequently, and is so selfish, that it may be said to move only
at a snail's pace, although it appears to itself and to others to
progress infinitely. The torrent is now in a flat country, and has not
yet found the slope of the mountain down which it may precipitate
itself, and take a course which is never to be stopped.

The faults of those in this degree are a certain self-esteem, more
hidden and deeply rooted than it was before they had received these
graces and favours from God; a certain secret contempt for others whom
they see so far behind themselves, and a certain hardness for sin and
sinners; a zeal of St John before the descent of the Holy Ghost, when he
wanted to call down fire from heaven upon the Samaritans to consume
them; a certain confidence in their own safety and virtue; a secret
pride, which causes them to grieve specially over the faults which they
commit in public: they appropriate the gifts of God, and treat them as
though they were their own: they forget weakness and poverty in the
strength which they possess; so that they lose all self-distrust. Though
all this and much more is to be found in persons in this degree, they
are themselves unconscious of it; but these faults will make themselves
known in time. The grace which they feel so strongly in themselves being
an assurance to them that they have nothing to fear, they allow
themselves to speak without being divinely commissioned. They are
anxious to communicate what they feel to every one else. It is true that
they are of use to others, for their burning words take hold of the
hearts of those who hear them; but apart from the fact that they cannot
do the good they would do, if God would have them impart to others what
they have received, they are giving out of their necessity and not of
their abundance; so that they exhaust themselves; as you have seen
several pools of water under a fountain. The fountain alone gives out of
its abundance, and the pools only send into each other of the fulness
which is communicated to them; but if the fountain be closed or turned
aside, and the pools cease to overflow, then as they are cut off from
the source, they dry up. This is precisely what happens to those in this
degree. They want to be constantly sending out their waters, and it is
not till late that they perceive that the water which they had was only
for themselves, and that they are not in a state to communicate it,
because they are not connected with the source. They are like bottles of
scent which are left open: they find so much sweetness in the odour
which they emit that they do not perceive the loss they themselves
sustain. Yet they appear to practise virtue without any effort, since
they are occupied only with a general love, without reason or motive. If
you ask them what they do during the day, they will tell you that they
love; but if you ask why they love, they will tell you that they do not
know; they only know that they love, and that they burn with desire to
suffer for the object of their love. You may ask if it is not the sight
of the sufferings of their Beloved which inspires them with the longing
to suffer with Him, but they will reply that the thought of His
sufferings did not even enter their mind. Neither is it the desire to
imitate the virtues which they see in Him, for they do not think of
them, nor the sight of His beauty which enraptures them, for they do not
look at it. Only they feel in the depths of their heart a deep wound,
yet so delightful that they rest in their pain, and find their pleasure
in their grief.

They believe now that they have arrived at the consummation of all, for
though they are full of the faults I have mentioned, and many others yet
more dangerous, which are better perceived in the following degree than
in this, they rest in their fancied perfection, and stopping at the
means, which they mistake for the end, they would remain stationary, if
God did not bring the torrent, which is now like a peaceful lake on a
mountain-top, to the brow of the hill in order to precipitate it, and to
start it on a course which will be more or less rapid according to the
depth of its fall.

It appears to me that even the most advanced in this degree have a habit
of concealing their faults, both from themselves and others, always
finding excuses and extenuations; not designedly, but from a certain
love of their own excellence, and a habitual dissimulation under which
they hide themselves. The faults which cause them the deepest solicitude
are those which are most apparent to others. They have a hidden love of
self, stronger than ever, an esteem for their own position, a secret
desire to attract attention, an affected modesty, a facility in judging
others, and a preference for private devotion rather than domestic
duties, which renders them the cause of many of the sins of those around
them. This is of great importance. The soul, feeling itself drawn so
strongly and sweetly, desires to be always alone and in prayer, which
gives rise to two evils--the first, that in its seasons of greatest
liberty it spends too much time in solitude; the second, that when its
vigour of love is exhausted, as it often is in this way, it has not the
same strength in times of dryness; it finds it difficult to remain so
long in prayer; it readily shortens the time; its thoughts wander to
exterior objects; then it is discouraged and cast down, thinking that
all is lost, and does everything in its power to restore itself to the
presence and favour of God.

But if such persons were strong enough to live an even life, and not to
seek to do more in seasons of abundance than in times of barrenness,
they would satisfy every one. As it is, they are troublesome to those
around them, to whom they cannot condescend, making it a favour to lay
themselves out for the satisfaction of others: they preserve an austere
silence when it is unnecessary, and at other times talk incessantly of
the things of God. A wife has scruples about pleasing her husband,
entertaining him, walking with him, or seeking to amuse him, but has
none about speaking uselessly for two hours with religious devotees.
This is a horrible abuse. We ought to be diligent in the discharge of
all duties, whatever their nature may be; and even if they do cause us
inconvenience, we shall yet find great profit in doing this, not perhaps
in the way we imagine, but in hastening the crucifixion of self. It even
seems as though our Lord shows that such sacrifice is pleasing to Him by
the grace which He sheds upon it. I knew a lady who, when playing at
cards with her husband in order to please him, experienced such deep and
intimate communion with God as she never felt in prayer, and it was the
same with everything she did at her husband's desire; but if she
neglected these things for others which she thought better, she was
conscious that she was not walking in the will of God. This did not
prevent her often committing faults, because the attractions of
meditation and the happiness of devotion, which are preferred to these
apparent losses of time, insensibly draw the soul away, and lead it to
change its course, and this by most people is looked upon as sanctity.
However, those who are to be taught the way of faith are not suffered
long to remain in these errors, because, as God designs to lead them on
to better things, He makes them conscious of their deficiency. It often
happens, too, that persons by means of this death to self, and acting
contrary to their natural inclinations, feel themselves more strongly
drawn to their inward rest; for it is natural to man to desire most
strongly what it is most difficult for him to obtain, and to desire most
intensely those things which he most earnestly resolves to avoid. This
difficulty of being able to enjoy only a partial rest increases the
rest, and causes them even in activity to feel themselves acted upon so
powerfully that they seem to have two souls within them, the inner one
being infinitely stronger than the outer. But if they leave their duties
in order to give the time to devotion, they will find it an empty form,
and all its joy will be lost. By devotion I do not mean compulsory
prayer, which is gone through as a duty that must not be avoided;
neither do I understand by activity the labours of their own choice, but
those which come within the range of positive duty. If they have spare
time at their disposal, by all means let them spend it in prayer; nor
must they lay upon themselves unnecessary burdens, and call them
obligations. When the taste for meditation is very great, the soul does
not usually fall into these last-named errors, but rather into the
former one, that of courting retirement. I knew a person who spent more
time in prayer when it was painful to her than when she felt it a
delight, struggling with the disinclination; but this is injurious to
the health, because of the violence which it does to the senses and the
understanding, which being unable to concentrate themselves upon any one
object, and being deprived of the sweet communion which formerly held
them in subjection to God, endure such torment, that the subject of it
would rather suffer the greatest trial than the violence which is
necessary to enable it to fix its thoughts on God. The person to whom I
alluded sometimes passed two or three hours successively in this painful
devotion, and she has assured me that the strangest austerities would
have been delightful to her in comparison with the time thus spent. But
as a violence so strong as this in subjects so weak is calculated to
ruin both body and mind, I think it is better not in any way to
regulate the time spent in prayer by our varying emotions. This painful
dryness of which I have spoken belongs only to the first degree of
faith, and is often the effect of exhaustion; and yet those who have
passed through it imagine themselves dead, and write and speak of it as
the most sorrowful part of the spiritual life. It is true they have not
known the contrary experience, and often they have not the courage to
pass through this, for in this sorrow the soul is deserted by God, who
withdraws from it His sensible helps, but it is nevertheless caused by
the senses, because, being accustomed to see and to feel, and never
having experienced a similar privation, they are in despair, which
however is not of long duration, for the forces of the soul are not then
in a state to bear for long such a pressure; it will either go back to
seek for spiritual food, or else it will give all up. This is why the
Lord does not fail to return: sometimes He does not even suffer the
prayer to cease before He reappears; and if He does not return during
the hour of prayer, He comes in a more manifest way during the day.

It seems as though He repented of the suffering He has caused to the
soul of His beloved, or that He would pay back with usury what she has
suffered for His love. If this consolation last for many days, it
becomes painful. She calls Him sweet and cruel: she asks Him if He has
only wounded her that she may die. But this kind Lover laughs at her
pain, and applies to the wound a balm so sweet, that she could ask to be
continually receiving fresh wounds, that she might always find a new
delight in a healing which not only restores her former health, but
imparts one yet more abundant.

Hitherto it has only been a play of love, to which the soul would easily
become accustomed if her Beloved did not change His conduct. O poor
hearts who complain of the flights of love! You do not know that this is
only a farce, an attempt, a specimen of what is to follow. The hours of
absence mark the days, the weeks, the months, and the years. You must
learn to be generous at your own expense, to suffer your Beloved to
come and go at His pleasure. I seem to see these young brides. They are
at the height of grief when their Beloved leaves them: they mourn His
absence as if it were death, and endeavour, as far as they can, to
prevent His departure. This love appears deep and strong, but it is not
so by any means. It is the pleasure they derive from the sight of their
Beloved which they mourn after. It is their own satisfaction they seek,
for if it were the pleasure of their Beloved, they would rejoice in the
pleasure which He found apart from them, as much as in that which He
found with them. So it is self-interested love, though it does not
appear such to them; on the contrary, they believe that they only love
Him for what He is. It is true, poor souls, you do love Him for what He
is, but you love Him because of the pleasure you find in what He is. You
reply that you are willing to suffer for your Beloved. True, provided He
will be the witness and the companion of your suffering. You say you
desire no recompense. I agree; but you do desire that He should know of
your suffering, and approve of it. You want Him to take pleasure in it.
Is there anything more plausible than the desire that He for whom we
suffer should know it, and approve of it, and take delight in it? Oh,
how much you are out in your reckoning! Your jealous Lover will not
permit you to enjoy the pleasure which you take in seeing His
satisfaction with your sorrow. You must suffer without His appearing to
see it, or to approve of it, or to know it. That would be too great a
gratification. What pain would we not suffer on such conditions! What!
to know that our Beloved sees our woes, and takes an infinite pleasure
in them! This is too great a pleasure for a generous heart! Yet I am
sure the greatest generosity of those in this degree never goes beyond
this. But to suffer without our Beloved being aware of it, when He seems
to despise what we do to please Him, and to turn away from it; to have
only scorn for what formerly seemed to charm Him; to see Him repay with
a terrible coldness and distance what we do for His sake alone, and with
terrible flights all our pursuit of Him; to lose without complaint all
that He had formerly given as pledges of His love, and which we think
we have repaid by our love, our fidelity, and our suffering; not only
uncomplainingly to suffer ourselves to be thus despoiled, but to see
others enriched with our spoils, and nevertheless not to cease to do
what would please our absent Lover; not to cease following after Him;
and if by unfaithfulness or surprise we stop for a moment, to redouble
our speed, without fearing or contemplating the precipices, although we
fall a thousand times, till we are so weary that we lose our strength,
and die from continual fatigue; when, perhaps, if our Beloved turns and
looks upon us, His glance restores life by the exquisite pleasure it
gives; until at last He becomes so cruel that He lets us die for want of
help: all this, I say, belongs not to this state, but to that which
follows. I must remark here, that the degree of which I have been
speaking is of very long duration, at least unless God intends the soul
to make great advances; and many, as I have said, never pass it.



The torrent having come to the brow of the hill, enters at the same time
into the _second degree of the passive way of faith_. This soul, which
was so peacefully resting on the mountain-top, had no thought of leaving
it. However, for want of a declivity, these waters of Heaven by their
stay upon earth were becoming tainted; for there is this difference
between stagnant waters which have no outlet, and those which are in
motion and have an outlet, that the first, with the exception of the
sea, and those large lakes which resemble it, grow putrid, and their
want of motion causes their destruction. But when, after leaving their
source, they have an easy outlet, the more rapidly they flow, the more
they are preserved.

You will remember I remarked before of this soul, that as soon as God
imparted to it the gift of _passive_ faith, He gave it at the same time
an instinct to seek after Him as its centre; but in its unfaithfulness
it stifles by its repose this instinct to seek God, and would remain
stationary, if God did not revive this instinct by bringing it to the
edge of the mountain, whence it is compelled to precipitate itself. At
first it is sensible that it has lost that calmness which it expected to
retain for ever. Its waters, formerly so tranquil, begin to be noisy. A
tumult is seen in its waves; they run and dash over. But where do they
run? Alas! as they imagine, it is to their own destruction. If it were
in their power to desire anything, they would wish to restrain
themselves, and return to their former calm. But this is impossible. The
declivity is found; they must be precipitated from slope to slope. It is
no longer a question of abyss or of loss. The water, that is the soul,
always reappears, and is never lost in this degree. It is embroiled and
precipitated; one wave follows another, and the other takes it up and
crashes it by its precipitation. Yet this water finds on the slope of
the mountain certain flat places where it takes a little relaxation. It
delights in the clearness of its waters; and it sees that its falls, its
course, this breaking of its waves upon the rocks, have served to render
it more pure. It finds itself delivered from its noise and storms, and
thinks it has now found its resting-place; and it believes this the more
readily because it cannot doubt that the state through which it has just
passed has greatly purified it, for it sees that its waters are clearer,
and it no longer perceives the disagreeable odour which certain stagnant
parts had given to it on the top of the mountain; it has even acquired a
certain insight into its own condition; it has seen by the troubled
state of its passions (the waves) that they were not lost, but only
asleep. As when it was descending the mountain, on its way to this
level, it thought it was losing its way, and had no hope of recovering
its lost peace, so now that it no longer hears the dash of its waves,
that it finds itself flowing calmly and pleasantly along the sand, it
forgets its former trouble, and never imagines there will be a return of
it: it sees that it has acquired fresh purity, and does not fear that it
will again become soiled; for here it is not stagnant, but flows as
gently and brightly as possible. Ah, poor torrent! You think you have
found your resting-place, and are firmly established in it! You begin to
delight in your waters. The swans glide upon them, and rejoice in their
beauty. But what is your surprise while, as you are flowing along so
happily, you suddenly encounter a steeper slope, longer and more
dangerous than the first! Then the torrent recommences its tumult.
Formerly it was only a moderate noise; now it is insupportable. It
descends with a crash and a roar greater than ever. It can hardly be
said to have a bed, for it falls from rock to rock, and dashes down
without order or reason; it alarms every one by its noise; all fear to
approach it. Ah, poor torrent! what will you do? You drag away in your
fury all that comes in your way; you feel nothing but the declivity down
which you are hurried, and you think you are lost. Nay, do not fear;
you are not lost, but the time of your happiness is not yet come. There
must be many more disturbances and losses before then; you have but just
commenced your course.

At last this dashing torrent feels that it has gained the foot of the
mountain and another level spot. It resumes its former calm, and even a
deeper one; and after having passed it may be years in these changes, it
enters the third degree, before speaking of which I will touch upon the
condition of those who enter it, and the first steps in it. The soul
having passed some time in the tranquillity of which we have spoken,
which it imagines it has secured for ever, and having, as it supposes,
acquired all the virtues in their full extent, believing all its
passions to be dead; when it is expecting to enjoy with the greatest
safety a happiness it has no fear of losing, is astonished to find that,
instead of mounting higher, or at least remaining in its present
position, it comes to the slope of the mountain. It begins, to its
amazement, to be sensible of an inclination for the things it had given
up. It sees its deep calm suddenly disturbed; distractions come in
crowds, one upon another; the soul finds only stones in its path,
dryness and aridity. A feeling of distaste comes into prayer. Its
passions, which it thought were dead, but which were only asleep, all

It is completely astonished at this change. It would like either to
return to the top of the mountain, or at least to remain where it is;
but this cannot be. The declivity is found, and the soul must fall (not
into sin, but into a privation of the previous degree and of feeling).
It does its best to rise after it falls; it does all in its power to
restrain itself, and to cling to some devotional exercise; it makes an
effort to recover its former peace; it seeks solitude in the hope of
recovering it. But its labour is in vain. It resigns itself to suffer
its dejection, and hates the sin which has occasioned it. It longs to
put things right, but can find no means of doing it; the torrent must go
on its way; it drags with it all that is opposed to it. Then, seeing
that it no longer finds support in God, it seeks it in the creature; but
it finds none; and its unfaithfulness only increases its apprehension.
At last, the poor bride, not knowing what to do, weeping everywhere the
loss of her Beloved, is filled with astonishment when He again reveals
Himself to her. At first she is charmed at the sight, as she feared she
had lost Him for ever. She is all the more happy, because she finds that
He has brought with Him new wealth, a new purity, a great distrust of
self. She has no longer the desire to stop, as she formerly had; she
goes on continuously, but peacefully and gently, and yet she has fears
lest her peace should be disturbed. She trembles lest she should again
lose the treasure which is all the dearer to her because she had been so
sensible of its loss. She is afraid she may displease Him, and that He
will leave her again. She tries to be more faithful to Him, and not to
make an end of the means.

However, this repose carries away the soul, ravishes it, and renders it
idle. It cannot help being sensible of its peace, and it desires to be
always alone. It has again acquired a spiritual greediness. To rob it of
solitude is to rob it of life. It is still more selfish than before,
what it possesses being more delightful. It seems to be in a new rest.
It is going along calmly, when all at once it comes to another descent,
steeper and longer than the former one. It is suddenly seized with a
fresh surprise; it endeavours to hold itself back, but in vain; it must
fall; it must dash on from rock to rock. It is astonished to find that
it has lost its love for prayer and devotion. It does violence to itself
by continuing in it. It finds only death at every step. That which
formerly revived it is now the cause of its death. Its peace has gone,
and has left a trouble and agitation stronger than ever, caused as much
by the passions, which revive (though against its will) with the more
strength as they appeared the more extinct, as by crosses, which
increase outwardly, and which it has no strength to bear. It arms itself
with patience; it weeps, groans, and is troubled. The Bride complains
that her Beloved has forsaken her; but her complaints are unheeded. Life
has become death to her. All that is good she finds difficult, but has
an inclination towards evil which draws her away. But she can find no
rest in the creature, having tasted of the Creator. She dashes on more
vehemently; and the steeper the rocks, and the greater the obstacles
which oppose her course, the more she redoubles her speed. She is like
the dove from the ark, which, finding no rest for the sole of its foot,
was obliged to return. But alas! what could the poor dove have done if,
when it desired to re-enter the ark, Noah had not put out his hand to
take it in? It could only have fluttered round about the ark, seeking
rest but finding none. So this poor dove flutters round the ark till the
Divine Noah, having compassion on her distress, opens the door and
receives her to Himself. Oh, wonderful and loving invention of the
goodness of God! He only eludes the search of the soul to make it flee
more quickly to Him. He hides Himself that He may be sought after. He
apparently lets her fall, that He may have the joy of sustaining her and
raising her up. Oh, strong and vigorous ones, who have never experienced
these artifices of love, these apparent jealousies, these flights,
lovely to the soul which has passed them, but terrible to those who
experience them! You, I say, who do not know these flights of love,
because you are satisfied with the abiding presence of your Beloved; or,
if He hide Himself, it is for so short a time that you cannot judge of
the joy of His presence by the pain of a long absence; you have never
experienced your weakness, and your need of His help; but those who are
thus forsaken learn to lean no longer on themselves, but only on the
Beloved. His rigours have rendered His gentleness the more needful for

These persons often commit faults through sheer weakness, and because
they are deprived of all sensible support; and these faults so fill them
with shame, that, if they could, they would hide themselves from their
Beloved. Alas! in the terrible confusion into which they are thrown, He
gives them a glimpse of Himself. He touches them with His sceptre, like
another Ahasuerus (Esther v. 2), that they may not die; but His tender
caresses only serve to increase their confusion at the thought of having
displeased Him. At other times He makes them sensible, by His severity,
how much their unfaithfulness displeases Him. Oh! then if they could
sink into dust, they would. They would do anything to repair the injury
done to God; and if, by any slight neglects, which appear crimes to
them, they have offended their neighbour, what return are they not
willing to make? But it is pitiful to see the state of that one who has
driven away her Beloved. She does not cease to run after Him, but the
faster she goes, the further He seems to leave her behind; and if He
stops, it is only for a moment, that she may recover breath. She feels
now that she must die; for she no longer finds life in anything; all has
become death to her; prayer, reading, conversation--all is dead: she
loses the joy of service, or rather, she dies to it, performing it with
so much pain and weariness, that it is as death to her. At last, after
having fought well, but uselessly, after a long succession of conflicts
and rest, of lives and deaths, she begins to see how she has abused the
grace of God, and that this state of death is better for her than life;
for as she sees her Beloved returning, and finds that she possesses Him
more purely, and that the state which preceded her rejoicing was a
purification for her, she abandons herself willingly to _death_, and to
the coming and going of her Beloved, giving Him full liberty to go and
come as He will. She receives instruction as she is able to bear it.
Little by little she loses her joy in herself, and is thus prepared for
a new condition.

But before speaking of it, let me say, that in proportion as the soul
advances, its joys become short, simple, and pure, and its privations
long and agonising, until it has lost its _own_ joy, to find it no more:
and this is the _third degree_, that of _death_, _burial_, and _decay_.
This second degree ends in death, and goes no further.


Section I.


You have seen dying persons who, after they have been believed to be
dead, have all at once assumed a new strength, and retained it until
their death; as a lamp whose oil is spent flickers in the surrounding
darkness, but only to die out the more quickly: thus the soul casts out
flames, which only last for a moment. It has bravely resisted death; but
its oil is spent: the Sun of Righteousness has so withered it up, that
it is forced to die. But does this Sun design anything else with its
fierce rays, except the consumption of the soul? And the poor soul thus
burned thinks that it is frozen! The truth is, that the torment it
suffers prevents its recognising the nature of its pain. So long as the
Sun was obscured by clouds, and gave out rays to a certain extent
moderated, it felt the heat, and thought it was burning, while in
reality it was but slightly warmed: but when the Sun flashed full upon
it, then the soul felt itself burning, without believing that it was so
much as warmed. O loving deceit! O sweet and cruel Love! Have you lovers
only to deceive them thus? You wound these hearts, and then hide your
darts, and make them pursue after that which has wounded them. You
attract them, and show yourself to them, and when they long to possess
you, you flee from them. When you see the soul reduced to the last
extremity, and out of breath from its constant pursuit, you show
yourself for a moment that it may recover life, only to be killed a
thousand times with ever-increasing severity.

O rigorous Lover! innocent murderer! Why dost Thou not kill with a
single blow? Why give wine to an expiring heart, and restore life in
order to destroy it afresh? This is Thy sport. Thou woundest to the
death; and when Thou seest the victim on the point of expiring, Thou
healest one wound in order to inflict another! Alas! usually we die but
once; and the very cruellest murderers in times of persecution, though
they prolonged life, it is true, yet were content to destroy it but
once. But Thou, less compassionate than they, takest away our life time
after time, and restorest it again.

O life, which cannot be lost without so many deaths! O death, which can
only be attained by the loss of so many lives! Perhaps this soul, after
thou hast devoured it in Thy bosom, will enjoy its Beloved. That would
be too great happiness for it: it must undergo another torture. It must
be _buried_ and reduced to _ashes_. But perhaps it will then arrive at
the end of its sufferings, for bodies which decay suffer no longer. Oh!
it is not thus with the soul: it suffers continually; and burial, decay,
and nothingness are even more sensibly felt by it than death itself.

This degree of _death_ is extremely long, and as I have said that very
few pass the other degrees, so I say that far less pass this one. Many
people have been astonished to see very holy persons, who have lived
like angels, die in terrible anguish, and even despairing of their
salvation. It is because they have died in this mystical death; and as
God wished to promote their advancement, because they were near their
end, He redoubled their sorrow. The work of stripping the soul must be
left wholly to God. He will do the work perfectly, and the soul will
second the spoliation and the death, without putting hindrances in the
way. But to do the work for ourselves is to lose everything, and to make
a vile state of a divine one. There are persons who, hearing of this
spoliation, have effected it for themselves, and remain always
stationary; for as the stripping is their own work, God does not clothe
them with Himself. The design of God in stripping the soul is to clothe
it again. He only impoverishes that He may enrich, and He substitutes
_Himself_ for all that He takes away, which cannot be the case with
those whose spoliation is their own work. They indeed lose the gifts of
God, but they do not possess God Himself in exchange.

In this degree the soul has not learned to let itself be stripped,
emptied, impoverished, killed; and all its efforts to sustain itself
will but be its irreparable loss, for it is seeking to preserve a life
which must be lost. As a person wishing to cause a lamp to die out
without extinguishing it, would only have to cease to supply it with
oil, and it would die out of itself; but if this person, while
persistently expressing a wish that the lamp should go out, continued
replenishing it with oil from time to time, the lamp would never go out:
it is the same with the soul in this degree, which holds on, however
feebly, to life. If it consoles itself, does not suffer itself to be
killed, in a word, if it performs any actions of life whatever, it will
thereby retard its death. O poor soul! fight no longer against death,
and you will live by your death. I seem to see a drowning man before me;
he makes every effort to rise to the surface of the water; he holds on
to anything that offers itself to his grasp; he preserves his life so
long as his strength holds out; he is only drowned when that strength
fails. It is thus with Christians. They endeavour as long as possible to
prevent their death; it is only the failure of all power which makes
them die. God, who wishes to hasten this death, and who has compassion
upon them, cuts off the hands with which they cling to a support, and
thus obliges them to sink into the deep. Crosses become multiplied, and
the more they increase, the greater is the helplessness to bear them, so
that they seem as though they never could be borne. The most painful
part of this condition is, that the trouble always begins by some fault
in the sufferer, who believes he has brought it upon himself.

At last the soul is reduced to utter self-despair. It consents that God
should deprive it of the joy of His gifts, and admits that He is just in
doing it. It does not even hope to possess these gifts again.

When those who are in this condition see others who are manifestly
living in communion with God, their anguish is redoubled, and they sink
in the sense of their own nothingness. They long to be able to imitate
them, but finding all their efforts useless, they are compelled to die.
They say in the language of Scripture, "The thing which I greatly feared
is come upon me" (Job iii. 25). What! they say, to lose God, and to lose
Him for ever, without the hope of ever finding Him again! To be deprived
of love for time and for eternity! To be unable to love Him whom I know
to be so worthy of my affection!

Oh! is it not sufficient, Divine Lover, to cast off your spouse, to turn
away from her, without compelling her to lose love, and lose it, as it
seems, for ever? She believes she has lost it, and yet she never loved
more strongly or more purely. She has indeed lost the vigour, the
sensible strength of love; but she has not lost love itself; on the
contrary, she possesses it in a greater degree than ever. She cannot
believe this, and yet it is easily known; for the heart cannot exist
without love. If it does not love God, its affection is concentrated
upon some other object: but here the bride of Christ is far from taking
pleasure in anything. She regards the revolt of her passions and her
involuntary faults as terrible crimes, which draw upon her the hatred
of her Beloved. She seeks to cleanse and to purify herself, but she is
no sooner washed than she seems to fall into a slough yet more filthy
and polluted than that from which she has just escaped. She does not see
that it is because she runs that she contracts defilement, and falls so
frequently, yet she is so ashamed to run in this condition, that she
does not know where to hide herself. Her garments are soiled; she loses
all she has in the race.

Her Bridegroom aids in her spoliation for two reasons: the first,
because she has soiled her beautiful garments by her vain complaisances,
and has appropriated the gifts of God in reflections of self-esteem. The
second, because in running, her course will be impeded by this burden of
appropriation; even the fear of losing such riches would lessen her

O poor soul! what art thou become? Formerly thou wast the delight of thy
Bridegroom, when He took such pleasure in adorning and beautifying thee;
now thou art so naked, so ragged, so poor, that thou darest neither to
look upon thyself nor to appear before Him. Those who gaze upon thee,
who, after having so much admired thee, see thee now so disfigured,
believe that either thou hast grown mad, or that thou hast committed
some great crime, which has caused thy Beloved to abandon thee. They do
not see that this jealous Husband, who desires that His bride should be
His alone, seeing that she is amusing herself with her ornaments, that
she delights in them, that she is in love with herself; seeing this, I
say, and that she sometimes ceases looking at Him in order to look at
herself, and that her love to Him is growing cold because her self-love
is so strong, is stripping her, and taking away all her beauties and
riches from before her eyes.

In the abundance of her wealth, she takes delight in contemplating
herself: she sees good qualities in herself, which engage her affection,
and alienate it from her Bridegroom. In her foolishness she does not see
that she is only fair with the beauties of her Beloved; and that if He
removed these, she would be so hideous that she would be frightened at
herself. More than this, she neglects to follow Him wherever He goes;
she fears lest she may spoil her complexion, or lose her jewels. O
jealous Love! how well is it that thou comest to chastise this proud
one, and to take from her what Thou hast given, that she may learn to
know herself, and that, being naked and destitute, nothing may impede
her course.

Thus, then, our Lord strips the soul little by little, robbing her of
her ornaments, all her gifts, positions, and favours--that is, as to her
perception or conscious possession of them--which are like jewels that
weigh her down; then He takes away her natural capacity for good, which
are her garments; after which He destroys her personal beauty, which
sets forth divine virtue, which she finds it impossible to practise.

This spoliation commences with the graces, gifts, and favours of
conscious love. The bride sees that her husband takes from her, little
by little, the riches He had bestowed upon her. At first she is greatly
troubled by this loss; but what troubles her the most, is not so much
the loss of her riches, as the anger of her Beloved; for she thinks it
is in anger that He thus takes back His gifts. She sees the abuse she
had made of them, and the delight she had been taking in them, which so
fills her with shame that she is ready to die of confusion. She lets Him
do as He will, and dares not say, "Why dost Thou take from me what Thou
hast given?" for she sees that she deserves it, and looks on in silence.

Though she keeps silence, it is not so profound now as afterwards; it is
broken by mingled sobs and sighs. But she is astonished to find, when
she looks at her Bridegroom, that He appears to be angry with her for
weeping over His justice towards her, in no longer allowing her the
opportunity of abusing His gifts, and for thinking so lightly of the
abuse she has made of them. She tries then to let Him know that she does
not care about the loss of His gifts, if only He will cease His anger
towards her. She shows Him her tears and her grief at having displeased
Him. It is true that she is so sensible of the anger of her Beloved that
she no longer thinks of her riches. After allowing her to weep for a
long time, her Lover appears to be appeased. He consoles her, and with
His own hand He dries her tears. What a joy it is to her to see the new
goodness of her Beloved, after what she has done! Yet He does not
restore her former riches, and she does not long for them, being only
too happy to be looked upon, consoled, and caressed by Him. At first she
receives His caresses with so much confusion, that she dare not lift her
eyes, but forgetting her past woes in her present happiness, she loses
herself in the new caresses of her Beloved, and thinking no more of her
past miseries, she glories and rests in these caresses, and thereby
compels the Bridegroom to be angry again, and to despoil her anew.

It must be observed that God despoils the loss little by little; and the
weaker the souls may be, the longer the spoliation continues; while the
stronger they are, the sooner it is completed, because God despoils them
oftener and of more things at once. But however rough this spoliation
may be, it only touches superfluities on the outside, that is to say,
gifts, graces, and favours.

This leading of God is so wonderful, and is the result of such deep love
to the soul, that it would never be believed, except by those who have
experienced it; for the heart is so full of itself, and so permeated
with self-esteem, that if God did not treat it thus, it would be lost.

It will perhaps be asked, If the gifts of God are productive of such
evil consequences, why are they given? God gives them, in the fulness of
His goodness, in order to draw the soul from sin, from attachment to the
creature, and to bring it back to Himself. But these same gifts with
which He gratifies it--that He may wean it from earth and from self to
love Him, at least from gratitude--we use to excite our self-love and
self-admiration, to amuse ourselves with them; and self-love is so
deeply rooted in man, that it is augmented by these gifts; for he finds
in himself new charms, which he had not discovered before; he delights
in them, and appropriates to himself what belongs only to God. It is
true, God could deliver him from it, but He does not do it, for reasons
known only to Himself. The soul, thus despoiled by God, loses a little
of its self-love, and begins to see that it was not so rich as it
fancied, but that all its virtue was in Christ; it sees that it has
abused His grace, and consents that He should take back His gifts. The
bride says, "I shall be rich with the riches of my Bridegroom, and
though He may keep them, yet, from my union in heart and will with Him,
they will still be mine." She is even glad to lose these gifts of God;
she finds herself unencumbered, better fitted for walking. Gradually she
becomes accustomed to this spoliation; she knows it has been good for
her; she is no longer grieved because of it; and, as she is so
beautiful, she satisfies herself that she will not cease to please her
Bridegroom by her natural beauty and her simple garments, as much as she
could with all her ornaments.

Section II.


When the poor bride is expecting always to live in peace, in spite of
this loss, and sees clearly the good which has resulted to her from it,
and the harm she had done to herself by the bad use which she had made
of the gifts which now have been taken from her, she is completely
astonished to find that the Bridegroom, who had only given her temporary
peace because of her weakness, comes with yet greater violence to tear
off her clothing from her.

Alas, poor bride! what wilt thou do now? This is far worse than before,
for these garments are necessary to her, and it is contrary to all
propriety to suffer herself to be stripped of them. Oh! it is now that
she makes all the resistance in her power. She brings forward all the
reasons why her Bridegroom should not thus leave her naked: she tells
Him that it will bring reproach upon Himself. "Alas!" she cries, "I have
lost all the virtues which Thou hast bestowed upon me, Thy gifts, the
sweetness of Thy love! But still I was able to make an outward
profession of virtue; I engaged in works of charity; I prayed
assiduously, even though I was deprived of Thy sensible benefits: but I
cannot consent to lose all this. I was still clothed according to my
position, and looked upon by the world as Thy bride: but if I lose my
garments, it will bring shame upon Thee." "It matters not, poor soul;
thou must consent to this loss also: thou dost not yet know thyself;
thou believest that thy raiment is thine own, and that thou canst use it
as thou wilt. But though I acquired it at such a cost, thou hast given
it back to me as if it were a recompense on thy part for the labours I
have endured for Thee. Let it go; thou must lose it." The soul having
done its best to keep it, lets it go, little by little, and finds itself
gradually despoiled. It finds no inclination for anything; on the
contrary, all is distasteful to it. Formerly it had aversions and
difficulties, without absolute powerlessness; but here all power is
taken from it: its strength of body and mind fails entirely; the
inclination for better things alone remains, and this is the last robe,
which must finally be lost.

This is done very gradually, and the process is extremely painful,
because the bride sees all the while that it has been caused by her own
folly. She dares not speak, lest she may irritate the Bridegroom, whose
anger is worse to her than death. She begins to know herself better, to
see that she is nothing in herself, and that all belongs to her
Bridegroom. She begins to distrust herself, and, little by little, she
loses her self-esteem.

But she does not yet hate herself, for she is still beautiful, though
naked. From time to time she casts a pitiful look towards the
Bridegroom, but she says not a word: she is grieved at His anger. It
seems to her that the spoliation would be of little moment if she had
not offended Him, and if she had not rendered herself unworthy to wear
her nuptial robes.

If she was confused when at the first her riches were taken from her,
her confusion at the sight of her nakedness is infinitely more painful.
She cannot bear to appear before her Bridegroom, so deep is her shame.
But she must remain, and run hither and thither in this state. What! is
it not even permitted to her to hide herself? No; she must appear thus
in public. The world begins to think less highly of her. It says, "Is
this that bride who was once the admiration of angels and of men? See
how she has fallen!" These words increase her confusion, because she is
well aware that her Bridegroom has dealt justly with her. She does what
she can to induce Him to clothe her a little, but He will do nothing,
after having thus stripped her of all, for her garments would satisfy
her by covering her, and would prevent her seeing herself as she is.

It is a great surprise to a soul that thinks itself far advanced towards
perfection to see itself thus despoiled all at once. It imagines the old
sins, from which it was once purged, must have returned. But it is
mistaken: the secret is, that she was so hidden by her garments as to be
unable to see what she was. It is a terrible thing for a soul to be thus
stripped of the gifts and graces of God, and it is impossible that any
should know or imagine what it is without the actual experience of it.

Section III.


All this would be but little if the bride still retained her beauty; but
the Bridegroom robs her of that also. Hitherto she has been despoiled of
gifts, graces, and favours (facility for good): she has lost all good
works, such as outward charity, care for the poor, readiness to help
others, but she has not lost the divine virtues. Here, however, these
too must be lost, so far as their practice is concerned, or rather the
habit of exercising them, as acquired by herself, in order to appear
fair: in reality, they are all the while being more strongly implanted.
She loses virtue as virtue, but it is only that she may find it again in
CHRIST. This degraded bride becomes, as she imagines, filled with pride.
She, who was so patient, who suffered so easily, finds that she can
suffer nothing. Her senses revolt her by continual distractions. She
can no longer restrain herself by her own efforts, as formerly; and what
is worse, she contracts defilement at every step. She complains to her
Beloved that the watchmen that go about the city have found her and
wounded her (Cant. v. 7). I ought, however, to say that persons in this
condition do not sin willingly. God usually reveals to them such a
deep-seated corruption within themselves, that they cry with Job, "Oh,
that Thou wouldest hide me in the grave, that Thou wouldest keep me in
secret, until Thy wrath be past!" (Job xiv. 13).

It must not be supposed that either here or at any other stage of
progress God suffers the soul really to fall into sin; and so truly is
this the case, that though they appear in their own eyes the most
miserable sinners, yet they can discover no definite sin of which they
are guilty, and only accuse themselves of being full of misery, and of
having only sentiments contrary to their desires. It is to the glory of
God that, when He makes the soul most deeply conscious of its inward
corruption, He does not permit it to fall into sin. What makes its
sorrow so terrible is, that it is overwhelmed with a sense of the
purity of God, and that purity makes the smallest imperfection appear as
a heinous sin, because of the infinite distance between the purity of
God and the impurity of the creature. The soul sees that it was
originally created pure by God, and that it has contracted not only the
original sin of Adam, but thousands of actual sins, so that its
confusion is greater than can be expressed. The reason why Christians in
this condition are despised by others, is not to be found in any
particular faults which are observed in them, but because, as they no
longer manifest the same ardour and fidelity which formerly
distinguished them, the greatness of their fall is judged from this,
which is a great mistake. Let this serve to explain or modify any
statements or representations in the sequel, which may appear to be
expressed too strongly, and which those who do not understand the
experience might be liable to misinterpret. Observe, also, that when I
speak of _corruption_, of _decay_, &c., I mean the destruction of the
old man by the central conviction, and by an intimate experience of the
depth of impurity and selfishness which there is in the heart of man,
which, bringing him to see himself as he is apart from God, causes him
to cry with David, "I am a worm and no man" (Ps. xxii. 6), and with Job,
"If I wash myself with snow water, and make my hands never so clean, yet
shalt Thou plunge me in the ditch, and mine own clothes shall abhor me"
(Job ix. 30, 31).

It is not, then, that this poor bride commits the faults of which she
imagines herself guilty, for in heart she was never purer than now; but
her senses and natural powers, particularly the senses, being
unsupported, wander away. Besides which, as the speed of her course
towards God redoubles, and she forgets herself more, it is not to be
wondered at that in running she soils herself in the muddy places
through which she passes; and as all her attention is directed towards
her Beloved, although she does not perceive it by reason of her own
condition, she thinks no more of herself, and does not notice where she
steps. So that, while believing herself most guilty, she does not
willingly commit a single sin; though all her sins appear voluntary to
herself, they are rather faults of surprise, which often she does not
see until after they are committed. She cries to her Bridegroom, but He
does not heed her, at least not perceptibly, though He sustains her with
an invisible hand. Sometimes she tries to do better, but then she
becomes worse; for the design of her Bridegroom in letting her fall
_without wounding herself_ (Ps. xxxvii. 24) is that she should lean no
longer on herself; that she should recognise her helplessness; that she
should sink into complete self-despair; and that she should say, "My
soul chooseth death rather than life" (Job vii. 15). It is here that the
soul begins truly to _hate itself_ and to _know itself_ as it would
never have done if it had not passed through this experience.

All our natural knowledge of self, whatever may be its degree, is not
sufficient to cause us really to hate ourselves. "He that loveth his
life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world, shall
keep it unto life eternal" (John xii. 25). It is only such an experience
as this which can reveal to the soul its infinite depth of misery. No
other way can give true purity; if it give any at all, it is only
superficial, and not in the depth of the heart, where the impurity is

Here God searches the inmost recesses of the soul for that hidden
impurity which is the effect of the self-esteem and self-love which He
designs to destroy. Take a sponge which is full of impurities, wash it
as much as you will, you will clean the outside, but you will not render
it clean throughout unless you press it, in order to squeeze out all the
filth. This is what God does. He squeezes the soul in a painful manner,
but He brings out from it that which was the most deeply hidden.

I say, then, that this is the only way in which we can be purified
radically; and without it we should always be filthy, though outwardly
we might appear very clean. It is necessary that God should make the
soul thoroughly sensible of its condition. We could never believe,
without the experience, of what nature left to itself is capable. Yes,
indeed, our own being, abandoned to itself, is worse than all devils.
Therefore we must not believe that the soul in this state of misery is
abandoned by God. It was never better sustained; but nature is, as it
were, left a little alone, and makes all these ravages without the soul
in itself taking any part in them. This poor desolate bride, running
hither and thither in search of her Beloved, not only soils herself
grievously, as I have said, by falling into faults of surprise and
self-esteem, but she wounds herself with the thorns that come in her
way. She becomes so wearied at length that she is forced to die in her
race for want of help; that is, to expect nothing from herself or her
own activity.

That which is productive of the highest good to the soul in this
condition is that God manifests no pity towards it; and when He desires
to promote its advancement, He lets it run even to death; if He stops it
for a moment, by doing which He ravishes and revives it, it is because
of its weakness, and in order that its weariness may not compel it to

When He sees that it is becoming disheartened and inclined to give up
the race altogether, He looks upon it for a moment, and the poor bride
finds herself wounded anew by this look. She would willingly say to
Him, "Alas! why hast Thou thus compelled me to run? Oh, that I could
find Thee; and see Thee face to face!" But alas! when she seems to lay
hold of Him, He flees from her again. "I sought Thee," she cries, "but I
found Thee not" (Cant. iii. 1).

As this look from her Bridegroom has increased her love, she redoubles
her speed in order to find Him: nevertheless she was delayed just so
long as the look lasted, that is, in sensible joy. This is why the
Bridegroom does not often cast such looks upon her, and only when He
sees that her courage is failing.

The soul then dies at the end of its race, because all its active
strength is exhausted; for though it had been passive, it had not lost
its active strength, though it had been unconscious of it. The bride
said, "Draw me, we will run after thee" (Cant. i. 3). She ran indeed,
but how? By the loss of all; as the sun travels incessantly, yet without
quitting his repose. In this condition she so hates herself, that she
can hardly suffer herself. She thinks her Bridegroom has good reason to
treat her as He does, and that it is His indignation against her which
makes Him leave her. She does not see that it is in order to make her
run that He flees, that it is in order that He may purify her that He
suffers her to become so soiled. When we put iron in the fire, to purify
it and to purge it from its dross, it appears at first to be tarnished
and blackened, but afterwards it is easy to see that it has been
purified. Christ only makes His bride experience her own weakness, that
she may lose all strength and all support in herself, and that, in her
self-despair, He may carry her in His arms, and she may be willing to be
thus borne; for whatever her course may be, she walks as a child; but
when she is in God, and is borne by Him, her progress is infinite, since
it is that of God Himself.

In addition to all this degradation, the bride sees others adorned with
her spoils. When she sees a holy soul, she dare not approach it; she
sees it adorned with all the ornaments which her Bridegroom has taken
from her; but though she admires it, and sinks into the depths of
nothingness, she cannot desire to have these ornaments again, so
conscious is she of her unworthiness to wear them. She thinks it would
be a profanation to put them upon a person so covered with mud and
defilement. She even rejoices to see that, if she fills her Beloved with
horror, there are others in whom He can take delight, and whom she
regards as infinitely happy in having gained the love of her God: as for
the ornaments, though she sees others decorated with them, she does not
suppose that these are the sources of their happiness. If she sees any
blessedness in the possession of them, it is because they are the tokens
of the love of her Beloved. When she is thus sensible of her littleness
in the presence of such as these, whom she regards as queens, she does
not know the good which will result to her from this nakedness, death,
and decay. Her Bridegroom only unclothes her that He may be Himself her
clothing: "Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ," says St Paul (Rom. xiii.
14). He only kills her that He may be her life: "If we be dead with
Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him." He only
annihilates her that she may be transformed in Himself.

This loss of virtue is only brought about by degrees, as well as the
other losses, and this apparent inclination for evil is involuntary; for
that evil which makes us so vile in our own eyes is really no evil at

The things which bring defilement to these persons are certain faults
which only lie in the feelings. As soon as they see the beauty of a
virtue, they seem to be incessantly falling into the contrary vice: for
example, if they love truth, they speak hastily or with exaggeration,
and fancy they lie at every moment, although in fact they do but speak
against their sentiments; and it is thus with all the other virtues; the
more important these virtues are, and the more strongly they cling to
them, because they appear the more essential, the greater is the force
with which they are torn from them.

Section IV.


This poor soul, after having lost its all, must at last lose _its own
life_ by an utter self-despair, or rather it must die worn out by
terrible fatigue. Prayer in this degree is extremely painful, because
the soul being no longer able to make use of its own powers, of which it
seems to be entirely deprived, and God having taken from it a certain
sweet and profound calm which supported it, is left like those poor
children whom we see running here and there in search of bread, yet
finding no one to supply their need, so that the power of prayer seems
to be as entirely lost as if we had never possessed it; but with this
difference, that we feel the pain occasioned by the loss, because we
have proved its value by its possession, while others are not sensible
of the loss, because they have never known its enjoyment. The soul,
then, can find no support in the creature; and if it feels itself
carried away by the things of earth, it is only by impetuosity, and it
can find nothing to satisfy it. Not that it does not seek to abandon
itself to the things in which it formerly delighted; but alas! it finds
in them nothing but bitterness, so that it is glad to leave them again,
taking nothing back but sadness at its own unfaithfulness.

The _imagination_ goes altogether astray, and is scarcely ever at rest.
The three powers of the soul, the _understanding_, the _memory_, and the
_will_, by degrees lose their life, so that at length they become
altogether dead, which is very painful to the soul, especially as
regards the will, which had been tasting I know not what of sweetness
and tranquillity, which comforted the other powers in their deadness and

This unexplainable something which sustains the soul at its foundation,
as it were, is the hardest of all to lose, and that which the soul
endeavours the most strenuously to retain; for as it is too delicate, so
it appears the more divine and necessary: it would consent willingly to
be deprived of the two other powers, and even of the will, so far as it
is a distinct and perceived thing, if only this something might be left;
for it could bear all its labours if it may have within itself the
witness that it is born of God.

However, this must be lost, like the rest--that is, as to the
sentiment--and then the soul enters into the sensible realisation of all
the misery with which it is filled. And it is this which really produces
_the spiritual death_; for whatever misery the soul might endure, if
this, I know not what, were not lost, it would not die; and if, on the
other hand, this were lost without the soul being conscious of its
misery, it would be supported, and would not die. It can easily
understand that it must give up all dependence upon its own feelings or
upon any natural support, but to lose an almost imperceptible comfort,
and to fall from weakness, to fall into the mire, to this it cannot
consent. This is where reason fails, this is where terrible fears fill
the heart, which seems to have only sufficient life to be sensible of
its death.

It is, then, the loss of this imperceptible support, and the experience
of this misery, which causes death.

We should be very careful, in such times as these, not to let our senses
be led away willingly to creatures, seeking willingly consolation and
diversion. I say _willingly_, for we are incapable of mortifications and
attentions reflected upon ourselves, and the more we have mortified
ourselves, the stronger will be the bearing in the contrary direction,
without being aware of it; like a madman, who goes wandering about, if
you attempt to keep him too rigorously within bounds, apart from its
being useless, it would retard his death.

What must we do then? We must be careful to give no support to the
senses, to suffer them, and to let them find recreation in innocent
ways; for as they are not capable of an inward operation, by
endeavouring to restrain them we should injure health, and even mental
strength. What I say applies only to this degree; for if we were to make
this use of the senses in the time of the strength and activity of
grace, we should do wrong; and our Lord Himself in His goodness makes us
see the conduct that we should pursue; for at first, He puts such a
pressure on the senses, they have no liberty. They only have to desire
something in order to be deprived of it; God orders it thus that the
senses may be drawn from their imperfect operation, to be confined
within the heart; and in severing them outwardly, He binds them inwardly
so gently, that it costs them little to be deprived of everything; they
even find more pleasure in this deprivation than in the possession of
all things. But when they are sufficiently purified, God, who wishes to
draw the soul out of itself with a contrary movement, permits the senses
to expand outwardly, which appears to the soul as a great impurity.
However, it has now happened seasonably, and to endeavour to order
things otherwise, would be to purify ourselves in a different way from
that which God desires, and therefore to defile ourselves anew.

This does not prevent our making mistakes in this outward development of
the senses; but the confusion which it occasions us, and our fidelity in
making use of it, is the furnace in which we are most quickly purified,
by dying the soonest to ourselves. It is here also that we lose the
esteem of men. They look on us with contempt, and say, "Are not these
the persons whom we formerly admired? How are they become thus
disfigured?" "Alas!" we reply, "look not upon me, because I am black"
(Cant. i. 6). "It is the sun which has thus discoloured me." It is at
this point that we suddenly enter the third degree, that of burial and



The torrent, as we have said, has passed through every imaginable
vicissitude. It has been dashed against rocks; indeed, its course has
been but a succession of falls from rock to rock; but it has always
reappeared, and we have never seen it really lost. Now it begins to lose
itself in gulf after gulf. Formerly it still had a course, though it was
so precipitate, so confused, and so irregular; but here it is engulphed
with a yet greater precipitation in unsearchable depths. For a long time
it disappears altogether from view, then we perceive it slightly, but
more by hearing than by sight, and it only appears to be again
precipitated in a deeper gulf. It falls from abyss to abyss, from
precipice to precipice, until at last it falls into the depths of the
sea, where, losing all form, it is lost to be found no more, having
become one with the sea itself. The soul, after many deaths, expires at
last in the arms of Love; but it does not even perceive those arms. It
has no sooner expired, than it loses all vital action, all desire,
inclination, tendency, choice, repugnance, and aversion. As it draws
near to death, it grows weaker; but its life, though languishing and
agonising, is still life, and "while there is life there is hope," even
though death be inevitable. The torrent must be buried out of sight.

O God! what is this? What were only precipices become abysses. The soul
falls into a depth of misery from which there is no escape. At first
this abyss is small, but the further the soul advances, the stronger
does it appear, so that it goes from bad to worse; for it is to be
remarked, that when we first enter a degree, there clings to us much
that we have brought in with us, and at the end we already begin to feel
symptoms of that which is to come. It is also noticeable that each
degree contains within it an infinitude of others.

A man, after his death and before his burial, is still among the living:
he still has the face of a man, though he is an object of terror; thus
the soul, in the commencement of this degree, still bears some
resemblance to what it was before; there remains in it a certain secret
impression of God, as there remains in a dead body a certain animal heat
which gradually leaves it. The soul still practises devotion and prayer,
but this is soon taken away from it. It must lose not only all prayer,
every gift of God, but God Himself to all appearance--that is, so far as
He was possessed selfishly by the _ego_--and not lose Him for one, two,
or three years, but for ever. All facility for good, all active virtue,
are taken from it; it is left naked and despoiled of everything. The
world, which formerly esteemed it so much, begins to fear it. Yet it is
no visible sin which produces the contempt of men, but a powerlessness
to practise its former good works with the same facility. Formerly whole
days were spent in the visitation of the sick, often even against
natural inclination; such works as these can be practised no longer.

The soul will soon be in an entire oblivion. Little by little, it loses
everything in such a degree, that it is altogether impoverished. The
world tramples it under foot, and thinks no more of it. O poor soul!
thou must see thyself treated thus, and see it with terror, without
being able to prevent it. It must suffer itself to be buried, covered
with earth, and trodden under foot by all men.

It is here that heavy crosses are borne, and all the heavier that they
are believed to be merited. The soul begins to have a horror of itself.
God casts it so far off, that He seems determined to abandon it for
ever. Poor soul! thou must be patient, and remain in thy sepulchre. It
is content to remain there, though in terrible suffering, because it
sees no way of escape from it; and it sees, too, that it is its only fit
place, all others being even sadder to it. It flees from men, knowing
that they regard it with aversion. They look upon this forlorn Bride as
an outcast, who has lost the grace of God, and who is only fit to be
buried in the earth.

The heart endures its bitterness; but, alas! how sweet this state is
even now, and how easy it would be to remain in the sepulchre, if it
were not necessary to decay! The old man becomes gradually corrupted;
formerly there were weaknesses and failings, now the soul sees a depth
of corruption of which it had hitherto been ignorant, for it could not
imagine what were its self-esteem and selfishness. O God! what horror
this soul suffers in seeing itself thus decaying! All troubles, the
contempt and aversion of man, affect it no longer. It is even insensible
to the deprivation of the Sun of Righteousness; it knows that His light
does not penetrate the tomb. But to feel its own corruption, that it
cannot endure. What would it not rather suffer? But it must experience,
to the very depths of its being, what it is.

And yet, if I could decay without being seen by God, I should be
content: what troubles me is the horror which I must cause Him by the
sight of my corruption. But, poor desolate one! what canst thou do? It
should suffice thee, one would think, to _bear_ this corruption, without
_loving_ it: but now thou art not even sure that thou dost not desire
it! The soul is in darkness, without being able to judge whether its
terrible thoughts proceed from itself or from the evil one.

It is no longer troubled at being cast off by God; it is so conscious of
its demerit, that it consents to the deprivation of the sensible
presence of God. But it cannot endure the thought that the taint of its
corruption reaches even to God. It does not wish to sin. Let me decay,
is its cry, and find my home in the depths of hell, if only I may be
kept free from sin. It no longer thinks of love, for it believes itself
to be incapable of affection. It is, in its own opinion, worse than when
it was in a state of nature, since it is in the state of corruption
usual to the body deprived of life.

At length by degrees the soul becomes accustomed to its corruption: it
feels it less, and finds it natural, except at certain times, when it is
tried by various temptations, whose terrible impressions cause it much
anguish. Ah, poor torrent! wast thou not better off on the mountain-top
than here? Thou hadst then some slight corruption, it is true; but now,
though thou flowest rapidly, and nothing can stop thee, thou passest
through such filthy places, so tainted with sulphur and saltpetre, that
thou bearest away their odours with thee.

At last the soul is reduced to a state of nothingness, and has become
like a person who does not exist, and never will exist; it does nothing,
either good or ill. Formerly it thought of itself now it thinks no
longer. All that is of grace is done as if it were of nature, and there
is no longer either pain or pleasure. All that there is, is that its
ashes remain as ashes, without the hope of ever being anything but
ashes: it is utterly dead, and nothing affects it either from without or
within--that is, it is no longer troubled by any sensible impressions.
At last, reduced to nonentity, there is found in the ashes _a germ of
immortality_, which lives beneath these ashes, and in due time will
manifest its life. But the soul is in ignorance of it, and never expects
to be revived or raised from the dead.

The faithfulness of the soul in this condition consists in letting
itself be buried, crushed, trampled on, without making any more movement
than a corpse, without seeking in any way to prevent its putrefaction.
There are those who wish to apply balm to themselves. No, no; leave
yourselves as you are. You must know your corruption, and see the
infinite depth of depravity that is in you. To apply balm is but to
endeavour by good works to hide your corruption. Oh, do it not! You will
wrong yourselves. God can suffer you; why cannot you suffer yourselves?
The soul, reduced to nothingness, must remain in it, without wishing to
change its state; and it is then that the torrent loses itself in the
sea, never to find itself in itself again, but to become one with the
sea. It is then that this corpse feels without feeling, that it is
gradually reanimated, and assumes _a new life_; but this is done so
gradually that it seems like a dream. And this brings us to the last
degree, which is the commencement of the _divine and truly inner life_,
including numberless smaller degrees, and in which the advancement is
infinite: just as this torrent can perpetually advance in the sea, and
imbibe more of its nature, the longer it remains in it.



When the torrent begins to lose itself in the sea, it can easily be
distinguished. Its movement is perceptible, until at length it gradually
loses all form of its own, to take that of the sea. So the soul, leaving
this degree, and beginning to lose itself, yet retains something of its
own; but in a short time it loses all that it had peculiar to itself.
The corpse which has been reduced to ashes is still dust and ashes; but
if another person were to swallow those ashes, they would no longer
have an identity, but would form part of the person who had taken them.
The soul hitherto, though dead and buried, has retained its own being;
it is only in this degree that it is really taken out of itself.

All that has taken place up to this point has been in the individual
capacity of the creature; but here the creature is taken out of his own
capacity to receive an infinite capacity in God Himself. And as the
torrent, when it enters the sea, loses its own being in such a way that
it retains nothing of it, and takes that of the sea, or rather is taken
out of itself to be lost in the sea; so this soul loses the human in
order that it may lose itself in the divine, which becomes its being and
its subsistence, not essentially, but mystically. Then this torrent
possesses all the treasures of the sea, and is as glorious as it was
formerly poor and miserable.

It is in the tomb that the soul begins to resume life, and the light
enters insensibly. Then it can be truly said that "The people which sat
in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and
shadow of death light is sprung up" (Matt. iv. 16). There is a
beautiful figure of this resurrection in Ezekiel (chap. xxxvii.), where
the dry bones gradually assume life: and then there is that other
passage, "The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the
voice of the Son of God; and they that hear shall live" (John v. 25). O
you who are coming out of the sepulchre! you feel within yourselves a
germ of life springing up little by little: you are quite astonished to
find a secret strength taking possession of you: your ashes are
reanimated: you feel yourselves to be in a new country. The poor soul,
which only expected to remain at rest in its grave, receives an
agreeable surprise. It does not know what to think: it supposes that the
sun must have shed upon it a few scattered rays through some opening or
chink, whose brightness will only last for a moment. It is still more
astonished when it feels this secret vigour permeating its entire being,
and finds that it gradually receives a new life, to lose it no more for
ever, unless it be by the most flagrant unfaithfulness.

But this new life is not like the former one: it is a _life in God_. It
is a perfect life. The soul _lives no longer_ and works no longer of
itself, but _God_ lives, acts, and operates in it (Gal. ii. 20); and
this goes on increasing, so that it becomes perfect with God's
perfection, rich with God's riches, and loving with God's love.

The soul sees now that whatever it owned formerly had been in its own
possession: now it no longer possesses, but is possessed: it only takes
a new life in order to lose it in God; or rather it only lives with the
life of God; and as He is the principle of life, the soul can want
nothing. What a gain it has made by all its losses! It has lost the
created for the Creator, the nothing for the All in all. All things are
given to it, not in itself, but in God; not to be possessed by itself,
but to be possessed by God. Its riches are immense, for they are God
Himself. It feels its capacity increasing day by day to immensity: every
virtue is restored to it, but in God.

It must be remarked, that as it was only despoiled by degrees, so it is
only enriched and vivified by degrees. The more it loses itself in God,
the greater its capacity becomes; just as the more the torrent loses
itself in the sea, the more it is enlarged, having no other limits than
those of the sea: it participates in all its properties. The soul
becomes strong and firm: it has lost all means, but it has found the
end. This divine life becomes quite natural to it. As it no longer feels
itself, sees itself, or knows itself, so it no longer sees or
understands or distinguishes anything of God as distinct or outside of
itself. It is no longer conscious of love, or light, or knowledge; it
only knows that God is, and that it no longer lives except in God. All
devotion is action, and all action is devotion: all is the same; the
soul is indifferent to all, for all is equally God. Formerly it was
necessary to exercise virtue in order to perform virtuous works; here
all distinction of action is taken away, the actions having no virtue in
themselves, but all being God, the meanest action equally with the
greatest, provided it is in the order of God and at His time: for all
that might be of the natural choice, and not in this order, would have
another effect, leading the soul out of God by unfaithfulness. Not that
it would be brought out of its degree or its loss, but out of the
divine plan, which makes all things one and all things God. So the soul
is _indifferent_ as to whether it be in one state or another, in one
place or another: all is the same to it, and it lets itself be carried
along naturally. It ceases to think, to wish, or to choose for itself;
but remains content, without care or anxiety, no longer distinguishing
its inner life to speak of it. Indeed it may be said not to possess one:
it is no longer in itself; it is all in God. It is not necessary for it
to shut itself up within itself; it does not hope to find anything
there, and does not seek for it. If a person were altogether penetrated
with the sea, having sea within and without, above and below, on every
side, he would not prefer one place to another, all being the same to
him. So the soul does not trouble itself to seek anything or to do
anything; that is, of itself, by itself, or for itself. It remains as it
is. But what does it do? Nothing--always nothing. It does what it is
made to do, it suffers what it is made to suffer. Its peace is
unchangeable, but always natural. It has, as it were, passed into a
state of nature; and yet how different from those altogether without

The difference is, that it is compelled to action by God without being
conscious of it, whereas formerly it was nature that acted. It seems to
itself to do neither right nor wrong, but it lives satisfied, peaceful,
doing what it is made to do in a steady and resolute manner.

God alone is its guide; for at the time of its loss, it lost its own
will. And if you were to ask what are its desires, it could not tell. It
can choose for itself no longer: all desire is taken away, because,
having found its centre, the heart loses all natural inclination,
tendency, and activity, in the same way as it loses all repugnance and
contrariety. The torrent has no longer either a declivity or a movement:
it is in repose, and at its end.

But with what satisfaction is this soul satisfied? With the satisfaction
of God, immense, general, without knowing or understanding what it is
that satisfies it; for here all sentiments, tastes, views, particular
opinions, however delicate they may be, are taken from it: that certain
vague, indefinable something, which formerly occupied without occupying
it, is gone, and nothing remains to it. But this insensibility is very
different to that of death, burial, and decay. That was a deprivation of
life, a distaste, a separation, the powerlessness of the dying united
with the insensibility of the dead; but this is an _elevation_ above all
these things, which does not remove them, but renders them useless. A
dead man is deprived of all the functions of life by the powerlessness
of death; but if he were to be raised gloriously, he would be full of
life, without having the power to preserve it by means of the senses:
and being placed above all means by virtue of his germ of immortality,
he would no longer feel that which animated him, although he would know
himself to be alive.

In this degree God cannot be tasted, seen, or felt, being no longer
distinct from ourselves, but one with us. The soul has neither
inclination nor taste for anything: in the period of death and burial it
experienced this, but in a very different manner. Then it arose from
distaste and powerlessness, but now it is the effect of _plenitude_ and
_abundance_; just as if a person could live on air, he would be full
without feeling his plenitude, or knowing in what way he had been
satisfied; he would not be empty and unable to eat or to taste, but free
from all necessity of eating by reason of his satisfaction, without
knowing how the air, entering by all his pores, had penetrated equally
at all parts.

The soul here is in God, as in the air which is natural to it, and it is
no more sensible of its fulness than we are of the air we breathe. Yet
it is full, and nothing is wanting to it; therefore all its desires are
taken from it. Its peace is great, but not as it was before. Formerly it
was an inanimate peace a certain sepulture, from which there sometimes
escaped exhalations which troubled it. When it was reduced to ashes, it
was at peace; but it was a barren peace, like that of a corpse, which
would be at peace in the midst of the wildest storms of the sea: it
would not feel them, and would not be troubled by them, its state of
death rendering is insensible. But here the soul is raised, as it were,
to a mountain-top, from which it sees the waves rolling and tossing,
without fearing their attacks; or rather it is at the bottom of the sea,
where there is always tranquillity, even while the surface is agitated.
The senses may suffer their sorrows, but at the centre there is always
the same calm tranquillity, because He who possesses it is immutable.

This, of course, supposes the faithfulness of the soul; for in whatever
state it may be, it is possible for it to recede and fall back into
itself. But here the soul progresses infinitely in God; and it is
possible for it to advance incessantly; just as, if the sea had no
bottom, any one falling into it would sink to infinitude, and going down
to greater and greater depths of the ocean, would discover more and more
of its beauties and treasures. It is even thus with the soul whose home
is in God.

But what must it do in order to be faithful to God? Nothing, and less
than nothing. It must simply suffer itself to be possessed, acted upon,
and moved without resistance, remaining in the state which is natural to
it, waiting for what every moment may bring to it, and receiving it from
Him, without either adding to or taking from it; letting itself be led
at all times and to any place, regardless of sight or reason, and
without thinking of either; letting itself go naturally into all things,
without considering what would be best or most plausible; remaining in
the state of evenness and stability in which God has placed it, without
being troubled to do anything; but leaving to God the care of providing
its opportunities, and of doing all for it; not making definite acts of
abandonment, but simply resting in the state of abandonment in which it
already is, and which is natural to it.

The soul is unable to act in any way of itself without a consciousness
of unfaithfulness. It possesses all things by having nothing. It finds a
facility for every duty, for speaking and for acting, no longer in its
own way, but in God's. Its faithfulness does not consist in ceasing from
all activity, like one who is dead, but in doing nothing except by the
principle which animates it. A soul in this state has no inclination of
its own in anything, but lets itself go as it is led, and beyond that
does nothing. It cannot speak of its state, for it does not see it;
though there is so much that is extraordinary, it is no longer as it
was in the former degrees, where the creature had some part in it, that
which was in a great measure its own; but here the most wonderful things
are perfectly natural, and are done without thought. It is the same
principle that gives life to the soul which acts in it and through it.
It has a sovereign power over the hearts of those around it, but not of
itself. As nothing belongs to it, it can make no reserves; and if it can
say nothing of a state so divine, it is not because it fears vanity, for
that no longer exists; it is rather because what it has, while
possessing nothing, passes all expression by its extreme simplicity and
purity. Not that there are not many things which are but the accessories
of this condition, and not the centre, of which it can easily speak.
These accessories are like the crumbs which fall from that eternal feast
of which the soul begins to partake in time; they are but the sparks
which prove the existence of a furnace of fire and flame; but it is
impossible to speak of the principle and the end, because only so much
can be imparted as God is pleased to give at the moment to be either
written or spoken.

It may be asked, Is the soul unconscious of its faults, or does it
commit none? It does commit them, and is more conscious of them than
ever, especially in the commencement of its new life. The faults
committed are often more subtile and delicate than formerly. The soul
knows them better, because its eyes are open; but it is not troubled by
them, and can do nothing to rid itself of them. It is true that, when it
has been guilty of unfaithfulness or sin, it is sensible of a certain
cloud; but it passes over, without the soul itself doing anything to
dispel it, or to cleanse itself; apart from which, any efforts it might
make would be useless, and would only serve to increase its impurity; so
that it would be deeply sensible that the second stain was worse than
the first. It is not a question of returning to God, because a _return_
presupposes a departure; and if we are in God, we have but to abide in
Him; just as, when there arises a little cloud in the middle region of
air, if the wind blows, it moves the clouds, but does not dissipate
them; if, on the contrary, the sun shines forth, they will soon be
dispelled. The more subtile and delicate the clouds are, the more
quickly they will be dissipated.

Oh! if we had sufficient fidelity never to look at ourselves, what
progress might we not make! Our sights of ourselves resemble certain
plants in the sea, which, just so long as their support lasts, prevent
bodies from falling. If the branches are very delicate, the weight of
the body forces them down, and we are only delayed for a moment; but if
we look at ourselves willingly and long, we shall be delayed just so
long a time as the look may occupy, and our loss will be great indeed.
The defects of this state are certain light emotions or sights of self,
which are born and die in a moment--certain winds of self, which pass
over the calm sea, and cause ripples; but these faults are taken from us
little by little, and continually become more delicate.

The soul, on leaving the tomb, finds itself, without knowing how,
clothed with the _inclinations_ of Christ; not by distinct and natural
views of Him, but by its natural condition, finding these inclinations
just when they are needed, without thinking of them; as a person who
possesses a hidden treasure might find it unexpectedly in the time of
his need. The soul is surprised when, without having reflected on the
mind and disposition of Christ, it finds them naturally implanted within
it. These dispositions of Christ are lowliness, meekness, submission,
and the other virtues which He possessed. The soul finds that all these
are acting within it, but so easily, that they seem to have become
natural to it. Its treasury is in God alone, where it can draw upon it
ceaselessly in every time of need, without in any degree diminishing it.
It is then that it really "puts on" Jesus Christ (Rom. xiii. 14); and it
is henceforth He who acts, speaks, moves in the soul, the Lord Jesus
Christ being its moving principle. Now those around it do not
inconvenience it; the heart is enlarged to contain them. It desires
neither activity nor retreat, but only to be each moment what God makes
it to be.

As in this condition the soul is capable of infinite advancement, I
leave those who are living in it to write of it, the light not being
given me for the higher degrees, and my soul not being sufficiently
advanced in God to see or to know them. All that I shall add is, that it
is easy to see by the length of the road necessary to be taken in order
to arrive at God that the end is not so soon attained as we are apt to
imagine, and that even the most spiritual and enlightened mistake the
consummation of the _passive way of light and love_ for the end of this
one, when in reality it is but the commencement.

I must also remark, that what I have said touching the _mind_ of Christ
commences as soon as we enter the way of _naked faith_. Although the
soul in the former degrees has no distinct sights of Christ, it has
nevertheless a desire to be conformed to His image. It covets the cross,
lowliness, poverty; then this desire is lost, and there remains a secret
inclination for the same things, which continually deepens and
simplifies, becoming every day more intimate and more hidden. But here
the mind of Christ is the mind of the soul, natural and habitual to it,
as something no longer distinct from itself, but as its own being and
its own life; Christ exercising it without going out of the soul, and
the soul exercising it with Him, in Him, without going out of Him; not
like something distinct, which it knows, sees, attempts, practises, but
as that which is natural to it. All the actions of life, such as
breathing, are done naturally, without thought, rule, or measure; and
they are done unconsciously by the person who does them. It is thus with
the mind of Christ in this degree, which continually develops, as the
soul is more transformed in Him, and becomes more thoroughly one with

But are there no crosses in this condition? As the soul is strong with
the strength of God Himself, God lays upon it more crosses and heavier
ones than before; but they are borne divinely. Formerly the cross
charmed it; it was loved and cherished; now it is not thought of, but is
suffered to go and come; and the cross itself becomes God, like all
other things. This does not involve the cessation of suffering, but of
the sorrow, the anxiety, the bitterness of suffering. It is true that
the crosses are no longer crosses, but God. In the former stages, the
cross is virtue, and is exalted more and more as the condition is more
advanced: here the soul feels it to be God, like the rest; all that
constitutes the life of this soul, all that it has, moment by moment,
being God to it.

The outward appearance of these persons is quite ordinary, and nothing
unusual is observed in them except by those who are capable of
understanding them.

All is seen in God, and in its true light; therefore this state is not
subject to deception. There are no visions, revelations, ecstasies,
ravishments, or translations. All these things do not belong to this
state, which is above them all. This way is simple, pure, and naked,
seeing nothing out of God; and thus seeing all as God sees it, and with
His eyes.




I omitted to say that this is where true liberty begins; not, as some
imagine, a liberty which necessitates idleness; that would be
imprisonment rather than liberty, fancying ourselves free because,
having an aversion to our own works, we no longer practise them. The
liberty of which I speak is of a different nature; it does all things
easily which God would have done, and the more easily in proportion to
the duration and the painfulness of the incapacity to do them which we
have previously experienced. I confess I do not understand the
resurrection state of certain Christians, who profess to have attained
it, and who yet remain all their lives powerless and destitute; for here
the soul takes up a true life. The actions of a raised man are the
actions of life; and if the soul remain lifeless, I say that it may be
dead or buried, but not risen. A risen soul should be able to perform
without difficulty all the actions which it has performed in the past,
only they would be done in God. Did not Lazarus, after his resurrection,
exercise all the functions of life as formerly, and Jesus Christ after
His resurrection was willing to eat and to converse with men. And so of
those who believe themselves to be risen with Christ, and who are
nevertheless stunted in their spiritual growth and incapable of
devotion,--I say, that they do not possess a resurrection life, for
there everything is restored to the soul a hundred-fold. There is a
beautiful illustration of this in the case of Job, whose history I
consider a mirror of the spiritual life. First God robbed him of his
wealth, which we may consider as setting forth gifts and graces; then of
his children; this signifies the destruction of natural sensibilities,
and of our own works, which are as our children and our most cherished
possessions: then God deprived him of his health, which symbolises the
loss of virtue; then He touched his person, rendering him an object of
horror and contempt. It even appears that this holy man was guilty of
sin, and failed in resignation; he was accused by his friends of being
justly punished for his crimes; there was no healthy part left in him.
But after he had been brought down to the dunghill, and reduced as it
were to a corpse, did not God restore everything to him, his wealth, his
children, his health, and his life?

It is the same with spiritual resurrection; everything is restored, with
a wonderful power to use it without being defiled by it, clinging to it
without appropriating it as before. All is done in God, and things are
used as though they were not used. It is here that true liberty and true
life are found. "If we have been planted in the likeness of Christ's
death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection" (Rom. vi.
5). Can there be freedom where there are powerlessness and restrictions?
No; "If the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed," but with
His liberty.

This is where true liberty begins. Nothing that God desires is difficult
to us, or costs us anything; and if a person is called to preach, to
instruct, &c., he does it with a marvellous facility, without the
necessity of preparing a discourse, being well able to practise what
Jesus commanded His disciples, "Take no thought how or what ye shall
speak: for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your
adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist" (Matt. x. 19; Luke
xxi. 15). This is not given till after an experience of powerlessness;
and the deeper that experience has been, the greater is the liberty. But
it is useless to endeavour to force ourselves into this condition; for
as God would not be the source, we should not realise the desired
results. It may well be said of this risen life, that all good things
are given with it. In this state, the soul cannot practise the virtues
as virtues; it is not even conscious of them; but all the virtues have
become so habitual to it, that it practises them naturally, almost
instinctively. When it hears others speak of deep humiliation, it is
surprised to find that it experiences nothing of the kind; and if it
sought to humble itself, it would be astonished, as though it were
guilty of unfaithfulness, and would even find it impossible, because the
state of annihilation through which it has passed has placed it below
all humiliation; for in order to be humbled, we must _be something_, and
nothingness cannot be brought lower; its present state has placed it
above all humility and all virtue by its transformation into God, so
that its powerlessness arises both from its annihilation and its
elevation. Those persons have nothing outwardly to distinguish them from
others, unless it be that they do no harm to any one; for, so far as the
exterior is concerned, they are very ordinary, and therefore do not
attract observation, but live in a state of quiet rest, free from all
care and anxiety. They experience a deep joy, arising from the absence
of all fear, or desire, or longing, so that nothing can disturb their
repose or diminish their joy. David possessed this experience when he
said, "The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? The
Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid" (Ps. xxvii.

A heart ravished with joy no longer looks at itself, nor thinks of
itself; and its joy, though great, is not an object of contemplation.
The soul is in a state of ravishment and ecstasy which cause no
uneasiness, because God has enlarged its capacity almost to infinitude.
Those ecstasies which cause the loss of consciousness are the effect of
human imperfection, and are nevertheless the admiration of men. God is,
as it were, drawing the soul out of itself that it may be lost in Him;
but as it has neither sufficient purity nor strength to bear the
process, it becomes necessary, either that God should cease thus to draw
it, which involves the cessation of the ecstasy, or that nature should
succumb and die, which not unfrequently happens. But in this
resurrection life, the ecstasy lasts, not for a few hours only, but for
ever, without either violence or variation, God having purified and
strengthened the subject of it to the extent necessary to enable it to
bear this glorious ravishment. It seems to me that when God goes out of
Himself, He creates an ecstasy,--but I dare not say this for fear of
teaching an error. What I say then is, that the soul drawn out of itself
experiences an inward ecstasy; but a happy one, because it is only drawn
out of itself in order that it may be drowned and lost in God, quitting
its own imperfections and its own limited thoughts to participate in
those of God.

O happy nothingness! where does its blessedness end? O poverty-stricken,
weary ones! how well ye are recompensed! O unutterable happiness! O
soul! what a gain thou hast made in exchange for all thy losses! Couldst
thou have believed, when thou wast lying in the dust, that what caused
thee so much horror could have procured thee so great a happiness as
that which thou now possessest? If it had been told thee, thou couldst
not have credited it. Learn now by thine own experience how good it is
to trust in God, and that those who put their confidence in Him shall
never be confounded.

O abandonment! what gladness canst thou impart to the soul, and what
progress it might have made if it had found thee at first; from how
much weariness it might have been delivered if it had known how to let
God work! But, alas! men are not willing to abandon themselves, and to
trust only in God. Even those who appear to do it, and who think
themselves well established in it, are only abandoned in imagination,
and not in reality. They are willing to abandon themselves in one thing
and not in another; they wish to compromise with God, and to place a
limit to what they will permit Him to do. They want to give themselves
up, but on such and such conditions. No; this is not abandonment. An
entire and total abandonment excepts nothing, keeps back nothing,
neither death, nor life, nor perfection, nor salvation, nor heaven, nor
hell. O poor souls! give yourselves up utterly in this abandonment; you
will get only happiness and blessing from it. Walk boldly on this stormy
sea, relying on the word of Jesus, who has promised to take upon Himself
the care of all those who will lose their own life, and abandon
themselves to Him. But if you sink like Peter, ascribe it to the
weakness of your faith. If we had the faith calmly, and without
hesitation, to face all dangers, what good should we not receive! What
do you fear, trembling heart? You fear to lose yourself? Alas! for all
that you are worth, what would that matter? Yes, you will lose yourself
if you have strength to abandon yourself to God, but you will be lost in
Him. O happy loss! I do not know how sufficiently to repeat it. Why can
I not persuade every one to make this abandonment? and why do men preach
anything less? Alas! men are so blind that they regard all this as
folly, as something fit for women and weak minds; but for great minds it
is too mean; they must guide themselves by their own meagre share of
wisdom. This path is unknown to them, because they are wise and prudent
in themselves; but it is revealed to babes, who can suffer self to be
annihilated, and who are willing to be moved by God at His pleasure,
leaving Him to do with them as He will, without resistance, without
considering what others will say. Oh, how difficult it is to this proper
prudence to become nothing both in its own eyes and in the sight of
others! Men say that their one object in life is to glorify God, while
it is really their own glorification. But to be willing to be nothing in
the sight of God, to live in an entire abandonment, in utter
self-despair, to give themselves to Him when they are the most
discouraged, to leave themselves in His hands, and not to look at self
when they are on the very edge of the abyss; it is this that is so rare,
and it is this which constitutes perfect abandonment. There sometimes
occur in this life wonderful manifestations to the natural senses, but
this is not usual; it is like Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration.



The soul having attained a divine state, is, as I have already said, an
immovable rock, proof against all blows or shocks, unless it be when the
Lord desires it to do something contrary to custom; then, if it does not
yield to His first promptings, it has to suffer the pain of a constraint
to which it can offer no resistance, and is compelled by a violence,
which cannot be explained, to obey His will.

It is impossible to tell the strange proofs to which God subjects the
hearts which are perfectly abandoned, and which offer no resistance to
Him in anything; neither, if I could speak of them, should I be
understood. All that I can say is, that He does not leave them the
shadow of anything that could be named, either in God or out of God. And
He so raises them above all by the loss of all, that nothing less than
God Himself, either in earth or heaven, can stop them. Nothing can harm
them, because there is no longer anything hurtful for them, by reason of
their union with God, which, in associating with sinners, contracts no
defilement, because of its essential purity.

This is more real than I can express: the soul participates in the
purity of God; or rather, all natural purity having been annihilated,
the purity of God alone exists in its nothingness; but so truly, that
the heart is in perfect ignorance of evil, and powerless to commit it,
which does not however prevent the possibility of its falling; but this
seldom happens here, because the profound nothingness of the soul does
not leave anything that can be appropriated to itself; and it is
appropriation alone which can cause sin, for that which no longer exists
cannot sin.

The peace of those in this condition is so invariable and so profound,
that nothing either in earth or hell can disturb it for a moment. The
senses are still susceptible to suffering; but when they are
overpowered by it, and cry out with the anguish, if they are questioned,
or if they examine themselves, they will find nothing in themselves that
suffers: in the midst of the greatest pain, they say that they suffer
nothing, being unable to admit that they are suffering, because of the
divine state of blessedness which reigns in the centre or supreme part.

And then there is such an entire and complete separation of the two
parts, the inferior and the superior, that they live together like
strangers; and the most extraordinary trouble does not interrupt the
perfect peace, tranquillity; joy, and rest of the superior part; as the
joy of the divine life does not prevent the suffering of the inferior.

If you wish to attribute any goodness to those who are thus transformed
in God, they will object to it, not being able to find anything in
themselves that can be named, affirmed, or heard. They are in a complete
_negation_. It is this which causes the difference of terms and
expressions employed by writers on this subject, who find a difficulty
in making themselves understood, except by those whose experience
accords with their own. Another effect of this negation is, that the
soul having lost all that was its own, God having substituted Himself,
it can attribute nothing either to itself or to God; because it knows
God only, of whom it can say nothing. Here all is God to the soul,
because it is no longer a question of seeing all _in_ God; for to see
things in God is to distinguish them in Him. For instance, if I enter a
room, I see all that is there in addition to the room itself, though it
be placed within it; but if all could be transformed into the room
itself, or else were taken out of it, I should see nothing but the room
alone. All creatures, _celestial_, _terrestrial_ or _pure
intelligences_, disappear and fade away, and there remains only God
Himself, as He was before the creation. The soul sees only God
everywhere; and all is God; not by thought, sight, or light, but by an
identity of condition and a consummation of unity, which rendering it
God by participation, without its being able to see itself, prevents it
seeing anything anywhere; it can see no created being out of the
Uncreated, the only uncreated One being all and in all.

Men would condemn such a state, saying it makes us something less than
the meanest insect; and so it does, not by obstinacy and firmness of
purpose, but by powerlessness to interfere with ourselves. You may ask
one in this condition, "Who leads you to do such and such a thing? Is it
God who has told you to do it, or has made known to you His will
concerning it?" He will reply, "I know nothing, and I do not think of
knowing anything: all is God and His will; and I no longer know what is
meant by the will of God, because that will has become natural to me."
"But why should you do this rather than that?" "I do not know: I let
myself be guided by Him who draws me." "Why so?" "He draws me because I,
being no longer anything, am carried along with God, and am drawn by Him
_alone_. _He_ goes hither and thither: _He_ acts; and I am but an
instrument, which I neither see nor regard. I have no longer a separate
interest, because by the loss of myself I have lost all self-interest.
Neither am I capable of giving any reason for my conduct, for I no
longer have a conduct: yet I act infallibly so long as I have no other
principle than that of the Infallible One."

And this blind abandonment is the permanent condition of the soul of
which I speak; because having become one with God, it can see nothing
but God; for having lost all separateness, self-possession, and
distinction, it can no longer be abandoning itself, because, in order to
abandon ourselves, we must do something, and have the power of disposing
of ourselves.

The soul is in this condition "hidden _with Christ_ in God" (Col. iii.
3); _mingled_ with Him, as the river of which we have spoken is mingled
with the sea, so that it can be separated no more. It has the ebb and
flow of the sea, no longer by choice, will, and liberty, but by nature:
the immense sea having absorbed its shallow limited waters, it
participates in all the movements of the sea. It is the sea which bears
it, and yet it is not borne, since it has lost its own being; and having
no other motion than that of the sea, it acts as the sea acts: not
because it naturally possesses the same qualities, but because, having
lost all its natural qualities, it has no others but those of the sea,
without having the power of ever being anything but sea. It is not, as
I have said, that it does not so retain its own nature, that, if God so
willed it, in a moment it could be separated from the sea; but He does
not do this. Neither does it lose the nature of the creature; and God
could, if He pleased, cast it off from His divine bosom: but He does not
do it, and the creature acts as it were divinely.

But it will be said that by this theory I deprive man of his liberty.
Not so; he is no longer free except by an excess of liberty, because he
has lost freely all created liberty. He participates in the uncreated
freedom, which is not contracted, bounded, limited by anything; and the
soul's liberty is so great, so broad, that the whole earth appears to it
as a speck, to which it is not confined. It is free to do all and to do
nothing. There is no state or condition to which it cannot accommodate
itself; it can do all things, and yet takes no part in them. O glorious
state! who can describe thee, and what hast thou to fear or to
apprehend? O Paul! thou couldst say, "who shall separate us from the
love of Christ?" "I am persuaded," says the great apostle, "that
neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor
things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other
creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in
Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. viii. 35, 38, 39). Now these words, "I am
persuaded," exclude all doubt. But what was the foundation of Paul's
assurance? It was in the infallibility of God alone. The epistles of
this great apostle, this mystical teacher, are often read, but seldom
understood; yet all the mystic way, its commencement, its progress, its
end, are described by St Paul, and even the divine life; but few are
able to understand it, and those to whom the light is given see it all
there clearer than the day.

Ah! if those who find it so difficult to leave themselves to God could
only experience this, they would confess that though the way might be
arduous, a single day of this life was a sufficient recompense for years
of trouble. But by what means does God bring the soul here? By ways
altogether opposed to natural wisdom and imagination. He builds up by
casting down; He gives life by killing. Oh! if I could tell what He
does, and the strange means which He uses to bring us here. But silence!
men are not able to hear it; those who have experienced it know what it
is. Here there is no need of place or time; all is alike, all places are
good; and wherever the order of God may take us, it is well, because all
means are useless and infinitely surpassed: when we have reached the
end, there is nothing left to wish for.

Here all is God: God is everywhere and in everything, and therefore to
the soul all is the same. Its religion is God Himself, always the same,
never interrupted; and if sometimes God pours some stream of His glory
upon its natural powers and sensibilities, it has no effect upon the
centre, which is always the same. The soul is indifferent either to
solitude or a crowd: it no longer looks forward to deliverance from the
body in order that it may be united to God. It is now not only united,
but transformed, changed into the Object of its love, which causes it no
longer to think of loving; for it loves God with His own love, and
naturally, though not inamissibly.



A similitude occurs to my mind which appears very appropriate to this
subject: it is that of grain. First it is separated from the husk, which
sets forth conversion and separation from sin: when the grain is
separate and pure, it must be ground (by affliction, crosses, sickness,
&c.); when it is thus bruised and reduced to flour, there must still be
taken from it, not that which is impure, for this is gone, but all that
is coarse, that is, the bran; and when there is nothing left but the
fine flour, then it is made into bread for food. It appears as though
the flour were soiled, blackened, and blighted; that its delicacy and
whiteness were taken from it, in order that it may be made into a paste
which is far less beautiful than the flour. Lastly, this paste is
exposed to the heat of the fire. Now this is precisely what happens to
the soul of which I have been speaking. But after the bread is baked, it
is fit for the mouth of the king, who not only unites it to himself by
contact with it, but eats it, digests it, consumes it, and annihilates
it, that it may enter into his composition, and become part of himself.

You will observe that though the bread has been eaten by the king, which
is the greatest honour it can receive, and is its end, yet it cannot be
changed into his substance unless it be annihilated by digestion, losing
all its natural form and quality. Oh, how well this sets forth all the
conditions of the soul; that of union being very different to that of
transformation, in which the soul, in order to become one with God,
transformed and changed into Him, must not only be eaten, but digested,
that, after having lost all that was its own, it may become one with God
Himself: "That they all may be one, as Thou, Father, art in me, and I
in Thee; that they also may be one in us, I in them, and Thou in me,
that they may be made perfect in one." (John xvii. 21, 23). "He that is
joined unto the Lord is one spirit" (1 Cor. vi. 17).

This state is very little known, therefore it is not spoken of. O state
of life! how narrow is the way which leadeth unto thee! O love the most
pure of all, because Thou art God Himself! O love immense and
independent, which nothing can limit or straiten!

Yet these people appear quite common, as I have said, because they have
nothing outwardly to distinguish them, unless it be an infinite freedom,
which is often scandalised by those who are limited and confined within
themselves, to whom, as they see nothing better than they have
themselves, all that is different to what they possess appears evil. But
the holiness of these simple and innocent ones whom they despise is a
holiness incomparably more eminent than all which they consider holy,
because their own works, though performed with such strictness, have no
more strength than the principle in which they originate, which is
always the effort, though raised and ennobled, of a weak creature; but
those who are consummated in the divine union act in God by a principle
of infinite strength; and thus their smallest actions are more agreeable
to God than the multitude of heroic deeds achieved by others, which
appear so great in the sight of men. Therefore those in this degree do
not seek for great things to do, resting contented with being what God
makes them at each moment. These do more, without doing anything, for
the conversion of a kingdom, than five hundred preachers who have not
attained this condition.

God sometimes, however, permits these people to be known, though not
fully. Many people apply to them for instruction, to whom they
communicate a vivifying principle, by means of which many more are won
to Christ; but this is done, without care or anxiety, by pure
Providence. If people only knew the glory which is rendered to God by
such as these, who are scorned by the world, they would be astonished;
for it is they who render to God a glory worthy of Himself; because God,
acting as God within them, brings into them a glory worthy of Him.

Oh, how many Christians, quite seraphic in appearance, are far from
this! But in this condition, as in all others, there are souls more or
less divine. God hides them in His bosom, and under the veil of a most
common life, so that they may be known to Him alone, though they are His
delight. Here the secrets of God, in Himself and in the hearts of those
in whom He dwells, are revealed; not by word, sight, or light, but by
the science of God, which abides in Him; and when such people have to
write or speak, they are themselves astonished to find that all flows
from a divine centre, without their having been aware that they
possessed such treasures. They find themselves in a profound science,
without memory or recollection; like an inestimable treasure, which is
unobserved until there is a necessity for its manifestation; and it is
in the manifestation to others that they find the revelation to
themselves. When they write, they are astonished to find themselves
writing of things with which they neither knew nor believed themselves
to be acquainted; although, as they write, they cannot doubt their
apprehension of them. It is not so with other Christians; their light
precedes their experience, as a person sees from afar the things which
he does not possess, and describes what he has seen, known, heard, &c.
But these are persons who hold a treasure within themselves, which they
do not see until after the manifestation, although it is in their

Yet, after all, this does not well express the idea which I wish to
convey. God is in this soul; or rather the soul no longer exists; it no
longer acts, but God acts, and it is the instrument. God includes all
treasures in Himself, and manifests them through this soul to others;
and thus, as it draws them from its centre, it becomes aware of their
presence, though it had never reflected upon them before. I am sure that
any who have attained this degree will enter into my meaning, and will
easily distinguish the difference between the states I have described.
Those whom I mentioned first, see things and enjoy them as we enjoy the
sun; but the others have become one with the sun itself, which does not
enjoy nor reflect upon its own light. This condition is permanent, and
its only vicissitude, so far as its centre is concerned, is a greater
advancement in God: and as God is infinite, He can continually make the
soul more divine by enlarging its capacity, as the water of which we
have spoken expands in proportion as it is lost in the sea, with which
it mingles incessantly without ever leaving it. It is the same with
these souls. All who are in this degree have God, but some more and some
less fully. They are all full, but all do not possess an equal
plenitude. A little vase when full is as truly filled as a larger one,
yet it does not contain an equal quantity. So all these souls are filled
with the fulness of God, but it is according to their receptive
capacity, which capacity God continually enlarges. Therefore the longer
Christians live in this divine condition, the more they expand, and
their capacity becomes continually more immense, without anything being
left for them to do or desire; for they always possess God in His
fulness, and He never leaves an empty corner in their hearts. As they
grow and enlarge, He fills them with Himself, as we see with the air. A
small room is full of air, but a large one contains more. If you
continually increase the size of a room, in the same proportion the air
will enter, infallibly though imperceptibly: and thus, without changing
its state or disposition, and without any new sensation, the soul
increases in capacity and in plenitude. But this growing capacity can
only be received in a state of nothingness, because in any other
condition there is an opposition to growth.

It may be well here to explain what may appear a contradiction, when I
say, that the soul must be brought to nothing in order to pass into God,
and that it must lose all that is its own; and yet I speak of capacity
which it retains.

There are two capacities. One is natural to the creature, and this is
narrow and limited: when it is purified, it is fitted to receive the
gifts of God, but not God Himself; because what we receive within us
must of necessity be less than ourselves, as that which is enclosed in a
vase must be of less extent, though it may be of greater value, than the
vase which contains it.

But the capacity of which I speak here is a capacity to extend and to
lose itself more and more in God, after the soul has lost its
appropriation, which confined it to itself; and this capacity being no
longer restricted nor limited, because its annihilation has deprived it
of all form, disposes the soul to flow into God, so that it loses
itself, and flows into Him who is beyond comprehension. The more it is
lost in Him, the more it develops and becomes immense, participating in
His perfections, and being more and more transformed in Him, as water in
communication with its source continually mingles with it. God, being
our original source, has created us with a nature fit to be united,
transformed, and made one with Himself.



The soul has now nothing to do but to remain as it is, and to follow
without resistance all the movements of its Guide. All its movements are
of God, and He guides it infallibly. It is not thus in the inferior
conditions, unless it be when the soul begins to taste of the centre;
but then it is not so infallible, and they would be deceived who applied
this rule to any but the most advanced state.

It is the duty of this soul to follow blindly with reflection all the
movings of God. Here all reflection is banished, and the soul would
find a difficulty in indulging in it, even if it desired to do so. But
as by an effort it might accomplish it, this habit should be
scrupulously avoided; because reflection alone has the power of leading
man to enter into himself, and of drawing him out of God. Now, I say,
that if man does not go out of God he will never sin; and if he sin, it
is because he has gone out of Him, which can only be the effect of
appropriation; and the soul can only take itself back from its
abandonment by reflex action, which would be to it a hell similar to
that into which the great angel fell when, looking with complacency upon
himself, and preferring himself to God, he became a devil. And this
state would be more terrible as that which had been previously attained
was more advanced.

It will be objected that suffering is impossible in this condition, not
only as to the centre, but also as to the senses, because in order to
suffering there must be reflex action, and it is reflection which
constitutes the principal and the most painful part of suffering. All
this is true in a certain sense; and as it is a fact that souls far less
advanced than these suffer sometimes by reflection, sometimes by
impression, I maintain that it is also true that those in this degree
cannot suffer otherwise than by impression. This does not imply that
sorrow may not be unlimited, and far more intense than that which is
reflected, as the burning of one brought into actual contact with fire
would be much more severe than that of one who is burned by the
reflection of fire. It will be said, But God can teach them by means of
reflection how to suffer. God will not make use of reflection for this
end. He can show them in a moment what they have to suffer by a direct
view, and not by a reflected one, as those in heaven see in God that
which is in Him, and that which passes out from Him to His creatures,
without looking at these things or reflecting upon them, but remaining
absorbed and lost in God. It is this which deceives so many
spiritually-minded people, who imagine that nothing can be either known
or suffered but by reflection. On the contrary, this kind of knowledge
and suffering is very slight compared to that which is imparted in other

All such suffering as can be distinguished and known, though expressed
in such exaggerated terms, does not equal that of those who do not know
their suffering, and cannot admit that they do suffer, because of the
great separation between the two parts. It is true that they suffer
extreme pain; it is true that they suffer nothing, and that they are in
a state of perfect contentment.

I believe that, if such a soul were taken to hell, it would suffer all
the cruel tortures of its fate in a complete contentment, because of the
beatitude of its transformed centre; and this is the cause of the
indifference which they feel towards all conditions.

As I have said, this does not prevent their experiencing the extremity
of suffering, as the extremity of suffering does not hinder their
perfect happiness. Those who have experienced it will be well able to
understand me.

It is not here as in the passive state of love. There the soul is filled
with a love of suffering and of the good pleasure of God: here it is a
loss of the will in God by a state of deification, where all is God
without its being recognised as such. The soul is established by its
condition in its sovereign, unchangeable good. It is in a perfect
beatitude, where nothing can cross its perfect happiness, which is
rendered its permanent condition; for many possess it temporarily, or
know it temporarily, before it becomes their permanent condition. God
gives first the knowledge of the condition, then a desire for it; then
He gives it confusedly and indistinctly; and lastly, He makes it a
normal condition, and establishes the soul in it for ever.

It will be said that when once the soul is established in this
condition, nothing more can be done for it. It is just the reverse:
there is always an infinitude to be done on the part of God, not on that
of the creature. God does not make the life divine all at once, but by
degrees. Then, as I have said, He enlarges the capacity of the soul, and
can continually deify it more and more, God being an unfathomable depth.

O Lord! "how great is Thy goodness, which Thou hast laid up for them
that fear Thee!" (Ps. xxxi. 19).

It was the sight of this state of blessedness which elicited such
frequent exclamations from David after he had been purified from sin.

But in conclusion, I say that these persons cannot be troubled by sin,
because, although they hate it infinitely, they no longer suffer from
it, seeing it as God sees it; and though, if it were necessary, they
would give their lives to prevent the commission of a single sin, if God
so willed it, they are without action, without desire, without
inclination, without choice, without impatience, in a state of complete
death, seeing things only as God sees them, and judging them only with
God's judgment.



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