Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

´╗┐Title: Practical Mysticism - A Little Book for Normal People
Author: Underhill, Evelyn, 1875-1941
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Practical Mysticism - A Little Book for Normal People" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



Transcriber's note:

   In the original book, the Table of Contents was located after
   the Preface, but I have placed it at the beginning of the text
   for this online version.



PRACTICAL MYSTICISM

by

EVELYN UNDERHILL

Author of "Mysticism," "The Mystic Way," "Immanence: A Book of Verses."



"If the doors of perception were cleansed,
everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.
For man has closed himself up,
till he sees all things through the narrow chinks of his cavern."
WILLIAM BLAKE



New York
E.P. Dutton & Company
681 Fifth Avenue
Copyright 1915 by
E.P. Dutton & Company



TO THE UNSEEN FUTURE



CONTENTS

         Preface                            vii
   I.    What is Mysticism                    1
   II.    The World of Reality               13
   III.   The Preparation of the Mystic      21
   IV.    Meditation and Recollection        56
   V.     Self-Adjustment                    29
   VI.    Love and Will                      74
   VII.   The First Form of Contemplation    87
   VIII.  The Second Form of Contemplation  105
   XI.    The Third Form of Contemplation   126
   X.     The Mystical Life                 148



PREFACE

This little book, written during the last months of peace, goes to
press in the first weeks of the great war. Many will feel that in
such a time of conflict and horror, when only the most ignorant,
disloyal, or apathetic can hope for quietness of mind, a book
which deals with that which is called the "contemplative" attitude
to existence is wholly out of place. So obvious, indeed, is this
point of view, that I had at first thought of postponing its
publication. On the one hand, it seems as though the dreams of a
spiritual renaissance, which promised so fairly but a little time
ago, had perished in the sudden explosion of brute force. On the
other hand, the thoughts of the English race are now turned, and
rightly, towards the most concrete forms of action--struggle and
endurance, practical sacrifices, difficult and long-continued
effort--rather than towards the passive attitude of self-surrender
which is all that the practice of mysticism seems, at first sight, to
demand. Moreover, that deep conviction of the dependence of all
human worth upon eternal values, the immanence of the Divine
Spirit within the human soul, which lies at the root of a mystical
concept of life, is hard indeed to reconcile with much of the
human history now being poured red-hot from the cauldron of
war. For all these reasons, we are likely during the present crisis
to witness a revolt from those superficially mystical notions
which threatened to become too popular during the immediate
past.

Yet, the title deliberately chosen for this book--that of "Practical"
Mysticism--means nothing if the attitude and the discipline which
it recommends be adapted to fair weather alone: if the principles
for which it stands break down when subjected to the pressure of
events, and cannot be reconciled with the sterner duties of the
national life. To accept this position is to reduce mysticism to the
status of a spiritual plaything. On the contrary, if the experiences
on which it is based have indeed the transcendent value for
humanity which the mystics claim for them--if they reveal to us a
world of higher truth and greater reality than the world of
concrete happenings in which we seem to be immersed--then that
value is increased rather than lessened when confronted by the
overwhelming disharmonies and sufferings of the present time. It
is significant that many of these experiences are reported to us
from periods of war and distress: that the stronger the forces of
destruction appeared, the more intense grew the spiritual vision
which opposed them. We learn from these records that the
mystical consciousness has the power of lifting those who
possess it to a plane of reality which no struggle, no cruelty, can
disturb: of conferring a certitude which no catastrophe can wreck.
Yet it does not wrap its initiates in a selfish and otherworldly
calm, isolate them from the pain and effort of the common life.
Rather, it gives them renewed vitality; administering to the
human spirit not--as some suppose--a soothing draught, but the
most powerful of stimulants. Stayed upon eternal realities, that
spirit will be far better able to endure and profit by the stern
discipline which the race is now called to undergo, than those
who are wholly at the mercy of events; better able to discern the
real from the illusory issues, and to pronounce judgment on the
new problems, new difficulties, new fields of activity now
disclosed. Perhaps it is worth while to remind ourselves that the
two women who have left the deepest mark upon the military
history of France and England--Joan of Arc and Florence
Nightingale--both acted under mystical compulsion. So, too, did
one of the noblest of modern soldiers, General Gordon. Their
national value was directly connected with their deep spiritual
consciousness: their intensely practical energies were the flowers
of a contemplative life.

We are often told, that in the critical periods of history it is the
national soul which counts: that "where there is no vision, the
people perish." No nation is truly defeated which retains its
spiritual self-possession. No nation is truly victorious which does
not emerge with soul unstained. If this be so, it becomes a part of
true patriotism to keep the spiritual life, both of the individual
citizen and of the social group, active and vigorous; its vision of
realities unsullied by the entangled interests and passions of the
time. This is a task in which all may do their part. The spiritual
life is not a special career, involving abstraction from the world
of things. It is a part of every man's life; and until he has realised
it he is not a complete human being, has not entered into
possession of all his powers. It is therefore the function of a
practical mysticism to increase, not diminish, the total efficiency,
the wisdom and steadfastness, of those who try to practise it. It
will help them to enter, more completely than ever before, into
the life of the group to which they belong. It will teach them to
see the world in a truer proportion, discerning eternal beauty
beyond and beneath apparent ruthlessness. It will educate them in
a charity free from all taint of sentimentalism; it will confer on
them an unconquerable hope; and assure them that still, even in
the hour of greatest desolation, "There lives the dearest freshness
deep down things." As a contribution, then, to these purposes,
this little book is now published. It is addressed neither to the
learned nor to the devout, who are already in possession of a
wide literature dealing from many points of view with the
experiences and philosophy of the mystics. Such readers are
warned that they will find here nothing but the re-statement of
elementary and familiar propositions, and invitations to a
discipline immemorially old. Far from presuming to instruct
those to whom first-hand information is both accessible and
palatable, I write only for the larger class which, repelled by the
formidable appearance of more elaborate works on the subject,
would yet like to know what is meant by mysticism, and what it
has to offer to the average man: how it helps to solve his
problems, how it harmonises with the duties and ideals of his
active life. For this reason, I presuppose in my readers no
knowledge whatever of the subject, either upon the philosophic,
religious, or historical side. Nor, since I wish my appeal to be
general, do I urge the special claim of any one theological
system, any one metaphysical school. I have merely attempted to
put the view of the universe and man's place in it which is
common to all mystics in plain and untechnical language: and to
suggest the practical conditions under which ordinary persons
may participate in their experience. Therefore the abnormal states
of consciousness which sometimes appear in connection with
mystical genius are not discussed: my business being confined to
the description of a faculty which all men possess in a greater or
less degree.

The reality and importance of this faculty are considered in the
first three chapters. In the fourth and fifth is described the
preliminary training of attention necessary for its use; in the
sixth, the general self-discipline and attitude toward life which it
involves. The seventh, eighth, and ninth chapters treat in an
elementary way of the three great forms of contemplation; and in
the tenth, the practical value of the life in which they have been
actualised is examined. Those kind enough to attempt the perusal
of the book are begged to read the first sections with some
attention before passing to the latter part.

E. U.

_September_ 12, 1914.



CHAPTER I

WHAT IS MYSTICISM?

Those who are interested in that special attitude towards the
universe which is now loosely called "mystical," find themselves
beset by a multitude of persons who are constantly asking--some
with real fervour, some with curiosity, and some with disdain--
"What _is_ mysticism?" When referred to the writings of the
mystics themselves, and to other works in which this question
appears to be answered, these people reply that such books are
wholly incomprehensible to them.

On the other hand, the genuine inquirer will find before long a
number of self-appointed apostles who are eager to answer his
question in many strange and inconsistent ways, calculated to
increase rather than resolve the obscurity of his mind. He will
learn that mysticism is a philosophy, an illusion, a kind of
religion, a disease; that it means having visions, performing
conjuring tricks, leading an idle, dreamy, and selfish life,
neglecting one's business, wallowing in vague spiritual emotions,
and being "in tune with the infinite." He will discover that it
emancipates him from all dogmas--sometimes from all morality--
and at the same time that it is very superstitious. One expert tells
him that it is simply "Catholic piety," another that Walt Whitman
was a typical mystic; a third assures him that all mysticism comes
from the East, and supports his statement by an appeal to the
mango trick. At the end of a prolonged course of lectures,
sermons, tea-parties, and talks with earnest persons, the inquirer
is still heard saying--too often in tones of exasperation--"What
_is_ mysticism?"

I dare not pretend to solve a problem which has provided so
much good hunting in the past. It is indeed the object of this little
essay to persuade the practical man to the one satisfactory course:
that of discovering the answer for himself. Yet perhaps it will
give confidence if I confess pears to cover all the ground; or at
least, all that part of the ground which is worth covering. It will
hardly stretch to the mango trick; but it finds room at once for the
visionaries and the philosophers, for Walt Whitman and the
saints.

Here is the definition:--

_Mysticism is the art of union with Reality. The mystic is a
person who has attained that union in greater or less degree; or
who aims at and believes in such attainment_.

It is not expected that the inquirer will find great comfort in this
sentence when first it meets his eye. The ultimate question,
"What is Reality?"--a question, perhaps, which never occurred to
him before--is already forming in his mind; and he knows that it
will cause him infinite-distress. Only a mystic can answer it:
and he, in terms which other mystics alone will understand.
Therefore, for the time being, the practical man may put it on one
side. All that he is asked to consider now is this: that the
word "union" represents not so much a rare and unimaginable
operation, as something which he is doing, in a vague, imperfect
fashion, at every moment of his conscious life; and doing with
intensity and thoroughness in all the more valid moments of that
life. We know a thing only by uniting with it; by assimilating it;
by an interpenetration of it and ourselves. It gives itself to us, just
in so far as we give ourselves to it; and it is because our outflow
towards things is usually so perfunctory and so languid, that our
comprehension of things is so perfunctory and languid too. The
great Sufi who said that "Pilgrimage to the place of the wise, is to
escape the flame of separation" spoke the literal truth. Wisdom is
the fruit of communion; ignorance the inevitable portion of those
who "keep themselves to themselves," and stand apart, judging,
analysing the things which they have never truly known.

Because he has surrendered himself to it, "united" with it, the
patriot knows his country, the artist knows the subject of his art,
the lover his beloved, the saint his God, in a manner which is
inconceivable as well as unattainable by the looker-on. Real
knowledge, since it always implies an intuitive sympathy more or
less intense, is far more accurately suggested by the symbols of
touch and taste than by those of hearing and sight. True, analytic
thought follows swiftly upon the contact, the apprehension,
the union: and we, in our muddle-headed way, have persuaded
ourselves that this is the essential part of knowledge--that it is, in
fact, more important to cook the hare than to catch it. But when
we get rid of this illusion and go back to the more primitive
activities through which our mental kitchen gets its supplies, we
see that the distinction between mystic and non-mystic is not
merely that between the rationalist and the dreamer, between
intellect and intuition. The question which divides them is really
this: What, out of the mass of material offered to it, shall
consciousness seize upon--with what aspects of the universe shall
it "unite"?

It is notorious that the operations of the average human
consciousness unite the self, not with things as they really are,
but with images, notions, aspects of things. The verb "to be,"
which he uses so lightly, does not truly apply to any of the
objects amongst which the practical man supposes himself to
dwell. For him the hare of Reality is always ready-jugged: he
conceives not the living lovely, wild, swift-moving creature
which has been sacrificed in order that he may be fed on the
deplorable dish which he calls "things as they really are." So
complete, indeed, is the separation of his consciousness from the
facts of being, that he feels no sense of loss. He is happy enough
"understanding," garnishing, assimilating the carcass from which
the principle of life and growth has been ejected, and whereof
only the most digestible portions have been retained. He is not
"mystical."

But sometimes it is suggested to him that his knowledge is not
quite so thorough as he supposed. Philosophers in particular have
a way of pointing out its clumsy and superficial character; of
demonstrating the fact that he habitually mistakes his own private
sensations for qualities inherent in the mysterious objects of the
external world. From those few qualities of colour, size, texture,
and the rest, which his mind has been able to register and
classify, he makes a label which registers the sum of his own
experiences. This he knows, with this he "unites"; for it is his
own creature. It is neat, flat, unchanging, with edges well
defined: a thing one can trust. He forgets the existence of other
conscious creatures, provided with their own standards of reality.
Yet the sea as the fish feels it, the borage as the bee sees it, the
intricate sounds of the hedgerow as heard by the rabbit, the
impact of light on the eager face of the primrose, the landscape as
known in its vastness to the wood-louse and ant--all these
experiences, denied to him for ever, have just as much claim to
the attribute of Being as his own partial and subjective
interpretations of things.

Because mystery is horrible to us, we have agreed for the most
part to live in a world of labels; to make of them the current coin
of experience, and ignore their merely symbolic character, the
infinite gradation of values which they misrepresent. We simply
do not attempt to unite with Reality. But now and then that
symbolic character is suddenly brought home to us. Some great
emotion, some devastating visitation of beauty, love, or pain, lifts
us to another level of consciousness; and we are aware for a
moment of the difference between the neat collection of discrete
objects and experiences which we call the world, and the height,
the depth, the breadth of that living, growing, changing Fact, of
which thought, life, and energy are parts, and in which we "live
and move and have our being." Then we realise that our whole
life is enmeshed in great and living forces; terrible because
unknown. Even the power which lurks in every coal-scuttle,
shines in the electric lamp, pants in the motor-omnibus, declares
itself in the ineffable wonders of reproduction and growth, is
supersensual. We do but perceive its results. The more sacred
plane of life and energy which seems to be manifested in
the forces we call "spiritual" and "emotional"--in love,
anguish, ecstasy, adoration--is hidden from us too. Symptoms,
appearances, are all that our intellects can discern: sudden
irresistible inroads from it, all that our hearts can apprehend. The
material for an intenser life, a wider, sharper consciousness, a
more profound understanding of our own existence, lies at our
gates. But we are separated from it, we cannot assimilate it;
except in abnormal moments, we hardly know that it is. We now
begin to attach at least a fragmentary meaning to the statement
that "mysticism is the art of union with Reality." We see that the
claim of such a poet as Whitman to be a mystic lies in the fact
that he has achieved a passionate communion with deeper levels
of life than those with which we usually deal--has thrust past the
current notion to the Fact: that the claim of such a saint as Teresa
is bound up with her declaration that she has achieved union with
the Divine Essence itself. The visionary is a mystic when his
vision mediates to him an actuality beyond the reach of the
senses. The philosopher is a mystic when he passes beyond
thought to the pure apprehension of truth. The active man is a
mystic when he knows his actions to be a part of a greater
activity. Blake, Plotinus, Joan of Arc, and John of the Cross--
there is a link which binds all these together: but if he is to make
use of it, the inquirer must find that link for himself. All four
exhibit different forms of the working of the contemplative
consciousness; a faculty which is proper to all men, though few
take the trouble to develop it. Their attention to life has changed
its character, sharpened its focus: and as a result they see, some a
wider landscape, some a more brilliant, more significant, more
detailed world than that which is apparent to the less educated,
less observant vision of common sense. The old story of Eyes and
No-Eyes is really the story of the mystical and unmystical types.
"No-Eyes" has fixed his attention on the fact that he is obliged to
take a walk. For him the chief factor of existence is his own
movement along the road; a movement which he intends to
accomplish as efficiently and comfortably as he can. He asks not
to know what may be on either side of the hedges. He ignores the
caress of the wind until it threatens to remove his hat. He trudges
along, steadily, diligently; avoiding the muddy pools, but
oblivious of the light which they reflect. "Eyes" takes the walk
too: and for him it is a perpetual revelation of beauty and wonder.
The sunlight inebriates him, the winds delight him, the very effort
of the journey is a joy. Magic presences throng the roadside, or
cry salutations to him from the hidden fields. The rich
world through which he moves lies in the fore-ground of his
consciousness; and it gives up new secrets to him at every step.
"No-Eyes," when told of his adventures, usually refuses to
believe that both have gone by the same road. He fancies that his
companion has been floating about in the air, or beset by
agreeable hallucinations. We shall never persuade him to the
contrary unless we persuade him to look for himself.

Therefore it is to a practical mysticism that the practical man is
here invited: to a training of his latent faculties, a bracing and
brightening of his languid consciousness, an emancipation from
the fetters of appearance, a turning of his attention to new levels
of the world. Thus he may become aware of the universe which
the spiritual artist is always trying to disclose to the race. This
amount of mystical perception--this "ordinary contemplation," as
the specialists call it--is possible to all men: without it, they are
not wholly conscious, nor wholly alive. It is a natural human
activity, no more involving the great powers and sublime
experiences of the mystical saints and philosophers than the
ordinary enjoyment of music involves the special creative powers
of the great musician.

As the beautiful does not exist for the artist and poet alone--
though these can find in it more poignant depths of meaning than
other men--so the world of Reality exists for all; and all may
participate in it, unite with it, according to their measure and to
the strength and purity of their desire. "For heaven ghostly," says
_The Cloud of Unknowing_, "is as nigh down as up, and up as
down; behind as before, before as behind, on one side as other.
Inasmuch, that whoso had a true desire for to be at heaven, then
that same time he were in heaven ghostly. For the high and the
next way thither is run by desires, and not by paces of feet." None
therefore is condemned, save by his own pride, sloth, or
perversity, to the horrors of that which Blake called "single
vision"--perpetual and undivided attention to the continuous
cinematograph performance, which the mind has conspired with
the senses to interpose between ourselves and the living world.



CHAPTER II

THE WORLD OF REALITY

The practical man may justly observe at this point that the world
of single vision is the only world he knows: that it appears to him
to be real, solid, and self-consistent: and that until the existence--
at least, the probability--of other planes of reality is made clear to
him, all talk of uniting with them is mere moonshine, which
confirms his opinion of mysticism as a game fit only for idle
women and inferior poets. Plainly, then, it is the first business of
the missionary to create, if he can, some feeling of dissatisfaction
with the world within which the practical man has always lived
and acted; to suggest something of its fragmentary and subjective
character. We turn back therefore to a further examination
of the truism--so obvious to those who are philosophers, so
exasperating to those who are not--that man dwells, under normal
conditions, in a world of imagination rather than a world of facts;
that the universe in which he lives and at which he looks is but a
construction which the mind has made from some few amongst
the wealth of materials at its disposal.

The relation of this universe to the world of fact is not unlike the
relation between a tapestry picture and the scene which it
imitates. You, practical man, are obliged to weave your image of
the outer world upon the hard warp of your own mentality; which
perpetually imposes its own convention, and checks the free
representation of life. As a tapestry picture, however various and
full of meaning, is ultimately reducible to little squares; so the
world of common sense is ultimately reducible to a series of
static elements conditioned by the machinery of the brain. Subtle
curves, swift movement, delicate gradation, that machinery
cannot represent. It leaves them out. From the countless
suggestions, the tangle of many-coloured wools which the real
world presents to you, you snatch one here and there. Of these
you weave together those which are the most useful, the most
obvious, the most often repeated: which make a tidy and coherent
pattern when seen on the right side. Shut up with this symbolic
picture, you soon drop into the habit of behaving to it as though it
were not a representation but a thing. On it you fix your attention;
with it you "unite." Yet, did you look at the wrong side, at the
many short ends, the clumsy joins and patches, this simple
philosophy might be disturbed. You would be forced to acknowledge
the conventional character of the picture you have made
so cleverly, the wholesale waste of material involved in the
weaving of it: for only a few amongst the wealth of impressions
we receive are seized and incorporated into our picture of the
world. Further, it might occur to you that a slight alteration in the
rhythm of the senses would place at your disposal a complete
new range of material; opening your eyes and ears to sounds,
colours, and movements now inaudible and invisible, removing
from your universe those which you now regard as part of the
established order of things. Even the strands which you have
made use of might have been combined in some other way; with
disastrous results to the "world of common sense," yet without
any diminution of their own reality.

Nor can you regard these strands themselves as ultimate. As the
most prudent of logicians might venture to deduce from a skein
of wool the probable existence of a sheep; so you, from the raw
stuff of perception, may venture to deduce a universe which
transcends the reproductive powers of your loom. Even the
camera of the photographer, more apt at contemplation than the
mind of man, has shown us how limited are these powers in some
directions, and enlightened us as to a few of the cruder errors of
the person who accepts its products at face-value; or, as he would
say, believes his own eyes. It has shown us, for instance, that the
galloping race-horse, with legs stretched out as we are used to see
it, is a mythical animal, probably founded on the mental image or
a running dog. No horse has ever galloped thus: but its real action
is too quick for us, and we explain it to ourselves as something
resembling the more deliberate dog-action which we have caught
and registered as it passed. The plain man's universe is full of
race-horses which are really running dogs: of conventional
waves, first seen in pictures and then imagined upon the sea: of
psychological situations taken from books and applied to human
life: of racial peculiarities generalised from insufficient data, and
then "discovered" in actuality: of theological diagrams and
scientific "laws," flung upon the background of eternity as the
magic lantern's image is reflected on the screen.

The coloured scene at which you look so trustfully owes, in fact,
much of its character to the activities of the seer: to that process
of thought--concept--cogitation, from which Keats prayed with so
great an ardour to escape, when he exclaimed in words which
will seem to you, according to the temper of your mind, either an
invitation to the higher laziness or one of the most profound
aspirations of the soul, "O for a life of sensations rather than
thoughts!" He felt--as all the poets have felt with him--that
another, lovelier world, tinted with unimaginable wonders, alive
with ultimate music, awaited those who could free themselves
from the fetters of the mind, lay down the shuttle and the
weaver's comb, and reach out beyond the conceptual image to
intuitive contact with the Thing.

There are certain happy accidents which have the power of
inducting man for a moment into this richer and more vital
world. These stop, as one old mystic said, the "wheel of his
imagination," the dreadful energy of his image-making power
weaving up and transmuting the incoming messages of sense.
They snatch him from the loom and place him, in the naked
simplicity of his spirit, face to face with that Other than himself
whence the materials of his industry have come. In these hours
human consciousness ascends from thought to contemplation;
becomes at least aware of the world in which the mystics dwell;
and perceives for an instant, as St. Augustine did, "the light that
never changes, above the eye of the soul, above the intelligence."
This experience might be called in essence "absolute sensation."
It is a pure feeling-state; in which the fragmentary contacts with
Reality achieved through the senses are merged in a wholeness of
communion which feels and knows all at once, yet in a way
which the reason can never understand, that Totality of which
fragments are known by the lover, the musician, and the artist. If
the doors of perception were cleansed, said Blake, everything
would appear to man as it is--Infinite. But the doors of perception
are hung with the cobwebs of thought; prejudice, cowardice,
sloth. Eternity is with us, inviting our contemplation perpetually,
but we are too frightened, lazy, and suspicious to respond: too
arrogant to still our thought, and let divine sensation have its
way. It needs industry and goodwill if we would make that
transition: for the process involves a veritable spring-cleaning of
the soul, a turning-out and rearrangement of our mental furniture,
a wide opening of closed windows, that the notes of the wild
birds beyond our garden may come to us fully charged with
wonder and freshness, and drown with their music the noise of
the gramaphone within. Those who do this, discover that they
have lived in a stuffy world, whilst their inheritance was a world
of morning-glory; where every tit-mouse is a celestial messenger,
and every thrusting bud is charged with the full significance of
life.

There will be many who feel a certain scepticism as to the
possibility of the undertaking here suggested to them; a prudent
unwillingness to sacrifice their old comfortably upholstered
universe, on the mere promise that they will receive a new
heaven and a new earth in exchange. These careful ones may like
to remind themselves that the vision of the world presented to us
by all the great artists and poets--those creatures whose very
existence would seem so strange to us, were we not accustomed
to them--perpetually demonstrates the many-graded character of
human consciousness; the new worlds which await it, once it
frees itself from the tyranny of those labour-saving contrivances
with which it usually works. Leaving on one side the more subtle
apprehensions which we call "spiritual," even the pictures of the
old Chinese draughtsmen and the modern impressionists, of
Watteau and of Turner, of Manet, Degas, and Cezanne; the
poems of Blake, Wordsworth, Shelley, Whitman--these, and
countless others, assure you that their creators have enjoyed
direct communion, not with some vague world of fancy, but with
a visible natural order which you have never known. These have
seized and woven into their pictures strands which never
presented themselves to you; significant forms which elude you,
tones and relations to which you are blind, living facts for which
your conventional world provides no place. They prove by their
works that Blake was right when he said that "a fool sees not the
same tree that a wise man sees"; and that psychologists, insisting
on the selective action of the mind, the fact that our preconceptions
govern the character of our universe, do but teach the most
demonstrable of truths. Did you take them seriously, as you
should, their ardent reports might well disgust you with the
dull and narrow character of your own consciousness.

What is it, then, which distinguishes the outlook of great poets
and artists from the arrogant subjectivism of common sense?
Innocence and humility distinguish it. These persons prejudge
nothing, criticise nothing. To some extent, their attitude to the
universe is that of children: and because this is so, they
participate to that extent in the Heaven of Reality. According to
their measure, they have fulfilled Keats' aspiration, they do live a
life in which the emphasis lies on sensation rather than on
thought: for the state which he then struggled to describe was that
ideal state of pure receptivity, of perfect correspondence with the
essence of things, of which all artists have a share, and which a
few great mystics appear to have possessed--not indeed in its
entirety, but to an extent which made them, as they say, "one with
the Reality of things." The greater the artist is, the wider and
deeper is the range of this pure sensation: the more sharply he is
aware of the torrent of life and loveliness, the rich profusion of
possible beauties and shapes. He always wants to press deeper
and deeper, to let the span of his perception spread wider and
wider; till he unites with the whole of that Reality which he feels
all about him, and of which his own life is a part. He is always
tending, in fact, to pass over from the artistic to the mystical
state. In artistic experience, then, in the artist's perennial effort
to actualise the ideal which Keats expressed, we may find a point of
departure for our exploration of the contemplative life.

What would it mean for a soul that truly captured it; this life in
which the emphasis should lie on the immediate percepts, the
messages the world pours in on us, instead of on the sophisticated
universe into which our clever brains transmute them? Plainly, it
would mean the achievement of a new universe, a new order of
reality: escape from the terrible museum-like world of daily life,
where everything is classified and labelled, and all the graded
fluid facts which have no label are ignored. It would mean an
innocence of eye and innocence of ear impossible for us to
conceive; the impassioned contemplation of pure form, freed
from all the meanings with which the mind has draped and
disguised it; the recapturing of the lost mysteries of touch and
fragrance, most wonderful amongst the avenues of sense. It
would mean the exchanging of the neat conceptual world our
thoughts build up, fenced in by the solid ramparts of the possible,
for the inconceivable richness of that unwalled world from which
we have subtracted it. It would mean that we should receive from
every flower, not merely a beautiful image to which the label
"flower" has been affixed, but the full impact of its unimaginable
beauty and wonder, the direct sensation of life having communion
with life: that the scents of ceasing rain, the voice of
trees, the deep softness of the kitten's fur, the acrid touch of sorrel
on the tongue, should be in themselves profound, complete, and
simple experiences, calling forth simplicity of response in our
souls.

Thus understood, the life of pure sensation is the meat and drink
of poetry, and one of the most accessible avenues to that union
with Reality which the mystic declares to us as the very object of
life. But the poet must take that living stuff direct from the field
and river, without sophistication, without criticism, as the life of
the soul is taken direct from the altar; with an awe that admits not
of analysis. He must not subject it to the cooking, filtering
process of the brain. It is because he knows how to elude this
dreadful sophistication of Reality, because his attitude to the
universe is governed by the supreme artistic virtues of humility
and love, that poetry is what it is: and I include in the sweep of
poetic art the coloured poetry of the painter, and the wordless
poetry of the musician and the dancer too.

At this point the critical reader will certainly offer an objection.
"You have been inviting me," he will say, "to do nothing more or
less than trust my senses: and this too on the authority of those
impracticable dreamers the poets. Now it is notorious that our
senses deceive us. Every one knows that; and even your own
remarks have already suggested it. How, then, can a wholesale
and uncritical acceptance of my sensations help me to unite with
Reality? Many of these sensations we share with the animals: in
some, the animals obviously surpass us. Will you suggest that my
terrier, smelling his way through an uncoordinated universe, is a
better mystic than I?"

To this I reply, that the terrier's contacts with the world are
doubtless crude and imperfect; yet he has indeed preserved a
directness of apprehension which you have lost. He gets, and
responds to, the real smell; not a notion or a name. Certainly the
senses, when taken at face-value, do deceive us: yet the deception
resides not so much in them, as in that conceptual world which
we insist on building up from their reports, and for which we
make them responsible. They deceive us less when we receive
these reports uncooked and unclassified, as simple and direct
experiences. Then, behind the special and imperfect stammerings
which we call colour, sound, fragrance, and the rest, we
sometimes discern a _whole fact_--at once divinely simple and
infinitely various--from which these partial messages proceed;
and which seeks as it were to utter itself in them. And we feel,
when this is so, that the fact thus glimpsed is of an immense
significance; imparting to that aspect of the world which we are
able to perceive all the significance, all the character which it
possesses. The more of the artist there is in us, the more intense
that significance, that character will seem: the more complete,
too, will be our conviction that our uneasiness, the vagueness of
our reactions to things, would be cured could we reach and unite
with the fact, instead of our notion of it. And it is just such an act
of union, reached through the clarified channels of sense and
unadulterated by the content of thought, which the great artist or
poet achieves.

We seem in these words to have come far from the mystic, and
that contemplative consciousness wherewith he ascends to the
contact of Truth. As a matter of fact, we are merely considering
that consciousness in its most natural and accessible form: for
contemplation is, on the one hand, the essential activity of all
artists; on the other, the art through which those who choose to
learn and practise it may share in some fragmentary degree,
according to their measure, the special experience of the mystic
and the poet. By it they may achieve that virginal outlook upon
things, that celestial power of communion with veritable life,
which comes when that which we call "sensation" is freed from
the tyranny of that which we call "thought." The artist is no more
and no less than a contemplative who has learned to express
himself, and who tells his love in colour, speech, or sound: the
mystic, upon one side of his nature, is an artist of a special and
exalted kind, who tries to express something of the revelation he
has received, mediates between Reality and the race. In the game
of give and take which goes on between the human consciousness
and the external world, both have learned to put the emphasis
upon the message from without, rather than on their own reaction
to and rearrangement of it. Both have exchanged the false
imagination which draws the sensations and intuitions of the self
into its own narrow circle, and there distorts and transforms them,
for the true imagination which pours itself out, eager,
adventurous, and self-giving, towards the greater universe.



CHAPTER III

THE PREPARATION OF THE MYSTIC

Here the practical man will naturally say: And pray how am I
going to do this? How shall I detach myself from the artificial
world to which I am accustomed? Where is the brake that shall
stop the wheel of my image-making mind?

I answer: You are going to do it by an educative process; a drill,
of which the first stages will, indeed, be hard enough. You have
already acknowledged the need of such mental drill, such
deliberate selective acts, in respect to the smaller matters of life.
You willingly spend time and money over that narrowing and
sharpening of attention which you call a "business training," a
"legal education," the "acquirement of a scientific method." But
this new undertaking will involve the development and the
training of a layer of your consciousness which has lain fallow in
the past; the acquirement of a method you have never used
before. It is reasonable, even reassuring, that hard work and
discipline should be needed for this: that it should demand of
you, if not the renunciation of the cloister, at least the virtues of
the golf course.

The education of the mystical sense begins in self-simplification.
The feeling, willing, seeing self is to move from the various and
the analytic to the simple and the synthetic: a sentence which
may cause hard breathing and mopping of the brows on the part
of the practical man. Yet it is to you, practical man, reading these
pages as you rush through the tube to the practical work of
rearranging unimportant fragments of your universe, that this
message so needed by your time--or rather, by your want of time--
is addressed. To you, unconscious analyst, so busy reading the
advertisements upon the carriage wall, that you hardly observe
the stages of your unceasing flight: so anxiously acquisitive of
the crumbs that you never lift your eyes to the loaf. The essence
of mystical contemplation is summed in these two experiences--
union with the flux of life, and union with the Whole in which all
lesser realities are resumed--and these experiences are well
within your reach. Though it is likely that the accusation will
annoy you, you are already in fact a potential contemplative: for
this act, as St. Thomas Aquinas taught, is proper to all men--is,
indeed, the characteristic human activity.

More, it is probable that you are, or have been, an actual
contemplative too. Has it never happened to you to lose yourself
for a moment in a swift and satisfying experience for which you
found no name? When the world took on a strangeness, and you
rushed out to meet it, in a mood at once exultant and ashamed?
Was there not an instant when you took the lady who now orders
your dinner into your arms, and she suddenly interpreted to you
the whole of the universe? a universe so great, charged with so
terrible an intensity, that you have hardly dared to think of it
since. Do you remember that horrid moment at the concert, when
you became wholly unaware of your comfortable seven-and-sixpenny
seat? Those were onsets of involuntary contemplation; sudden
partings of the conceptual veil. Dare you call them the least
significant, moments of your life? Did you not then, like the
African saint, "thrill with love and dread," though you were not
provided with a label for that which you adored?

It will not help you to speak of these experiences as "mere
emotion." Mere emotion then inducted you into a world which
you recognised as more valid--in the highest sense, more rational--
than that in which you usually dwell: a world which had a
wholeness, a meaning, which exceeded the sum of its parts. Mere
emotion then brought you to your knees, made you at once proud
and humble, showed you your place. It simplified and unified
existence: it stripped off the little accidents and ornaments which
perpetually deflect our vagrant attention, and gathered up the
whole being of you into one state, which felt and knew a Reality
that your intelligence could not comprehend. Such an emotion is
the driving power of spirit, and august and ultimate thing: and
this your innermost inhabitant felt it to be, whilst your eyes were
open to the light.

Now that simplifying act, which is the preliminary of all mystical
experience, that gathering of the scattered bits of personality into
the _one_ which is really you--into the "unity of your spirit," as
the mystics say--the great forces of love, beauty, wonder, grief,
may do for you now and again. These lift you perforce from the
consideration of the details to the contemplation of the All: turn
you from the tidy world of image to the ineffable world of fact.
But they are fleeting and ungovernable experiences, descending
with dreadful violence on the soul. Are you willing that your
participation in Reality shall depend wholly on these incalculable
visitations: on the sudden wind and rain that wash your windows,
and let in the vision of the landscape at your gates? You can, if
you like, keep those windows clear. You can, if you choose to
turn your attention that way, learn to look out of them. These are
the two great phases in the education of every contemplative: and
they are called in the language of the mystics the purification of
the senses and the purification of the will.

Those who are so fortunate as to experience in one of its many
forms the crisis which is called "conversion" are seized, as it
seems to them, by some power stronger than themselves and
turned perforce in the right direction. They find that this
irresistible power has cleansed the windows of their homely coat
of grime; and they look out, literally, upon a new heaven and new
earth. The long quiet work of adjustment which others must
undertake before any certitude rewards them is for these
concentrated into one violent shattering and rearranging of the
self, which can now begin its true career of correspondence with
the Reality it has perceived. To persons of this type I do not
address myself: but rather to the ordinary plodding scholar of life,
who must reach the same goal by a more gradual road.

What is it that smears the windows of the senses? Thought,
convention, self-interest. We throw a mist of thought between
ourselves and the external world: and through this we discern, as
in a glass darkly, that which we have arranged to see. We see it in
the way in which our neighbours see it; sometimes through a
pink veil, sometimes through a grey. Religion, indigestion,
priggishness, or discontent may drape the panes. The prismatic
colours of a fashionable school of art may stain them. Inevitably,
too, we see the narrow world our windows show us, not "in
itself," but in relation to our own needs, moods, and preferences;
which exercise a selective control upon those few aspects of the
whole which penetrate to the field of consciousness and dictate
the order in which we arrange them, for the universe of the
natural man is strictly egocentric. We continue to name the living
creatures with all the placid assurance of Adam: and whatsoever
we call them, that is the name thereof. Unless we happen to be
artists--and then but rarely--we never know the "thing seen" in its
purity; never, from birth to death, look at it with disinterested
eyes. Our vision and understanding of it are governed by all that
we bring with us, and mix with it, to form an amalgam with
which the mind can deal. To "purify" the senses is to release
them, so far as human beings may, from the tyranny of egocentric
judgments; to make of them the organs of direct perception.
This means that we must crush our deep-seated passion for
classification and correspondences; ignore the instinctive, selfish
question, "What does it mean to _me_?" learn to dip ourselves in
the universe at our gates, and know it, not from without by
comprehension, but from within by self-mergence.

Richard of St. Victor has said, that the essence of all purification
is self-simplification; the doing away of the unnecessary and
unreal, the tangles and complications of consciousness: and we
must remember that when these masters of the spiritual life speak
of purity, they have in their minds no thin, abstract notion of a
rule of conduct stripped of all colour and compounded chiefly of
refusals, such as a more modern, more arid asceticism set up.
Their purity is an affirmative state; something strong, clean, and
crystalline, capable of a wholeness of adjustment to the
wholeness of a God-inhabited world. The pure soul is like a lens
from which all irrelevancies and excrescences, all the beams and
motes of egotism and prejudice, have been removed; so that it
may reflect a clear image of the one Transcendent Fact within
which all others facts are held.

    "All which I took from thee I did but take,
        Not for thy harms,
    But just that thou might'st seek it in My arms."

All the details of existence, all satisfactions of the heart and
mind, are resumed within that Transcendent Fact, as all the
colours of the spectrum are included in white light: and we
possess them best by passing beyond them, by following back the
many to the One.

The "Simple Eye" of Contemplation, about which the mystic
writers say so much, is then a synthetic sense; which sees that
white light in which all colour is, without discrete analysis of its
properties. The Simple Ear which discerns the celestial melody,
hears that Tone in which all music is resumed; thus achieving
that ecstatic life of "sensation without thought" which Keats
perceived to be the substance of true happiness.

But you, practical man, have lived all your days amongst the
illusions of multiplicity. Though you are using at every instant
your innate tendency to synthesis and simplification, since this
alone creates the semblance of order in your universe--though
what you call seeing and hearing are themselves great unifying
acts--yet your attention to life has been deliberately adjusted to a
world of frittered values and prismatic refracted lights: full of
incompatible interests, of people, principles, things. Ambitions
and affections, tastes and prejudices, are fighting for your
attention. Your poor, worried consciousness flies to and fro
amongst them; it has become a restless and a complicated thing.
At this very moment your thoughts are buzzing like a swarm of
bees. The reduction of this fevered complex to a unity appears to
be a task beyond all human power. Yet the situation is not as
hopeless for you as it seems. All this is only happening upon the
periphery of the mind, where it touches and reacts to the world of
appearance. At the centre there is a stillness which even you are
not able to break. There, the rhythm of your duration is one with
the rhythm of the Universal Life. There, your essential self exists:
the permanent being which persists through and behind the flow
and change of your conscious states. You have been snatched to
that centre once or twice. Turn your consciousness inward to it
deliberately. Retreat to that point whence all the various lines of
your activities flow, and to which at last they must return. Since
this alone of all that you call your "selfhood" is possessed of
eternal reality, it is surely a counsel of prudence to acquaint
yourself with its peculiarities and its powers. "Take your seat
within the heart of the thousand-petaled lotus," cries the Eastern
visionary. "Hold thou to thy Centre," says his Christian brother,
"and all things shall be thine." This is a practical recipe, not a
pious exhortation. The thing may sound absurd to you, but you
can do it if you will: standing back, as it were, from the vague
and purposeless reactions in which most men fritter their vital
energies. Then you can survey with a certain calm, a certain
detachment, your universe and the possibilities of life within it:
can discern too, if you be at all inclined to mystical adventure, the
stages of the road along which you must pass on your way
towards harmony with the Real.

This universe, these possibilities, are far richer, yet far simpler
than you have supposed. Seen from the true centre of personality,
instead of the usual angle of self-interest, their scattered parts
arrange themselves in order: you begin to perceive those
graduated levels of Reality with which a purified and intensified
consciousness can unite. So, too, the road is more logically
planned, falls into more comprehensible stages, than those who
dwell in a world of single vision are willing to believe.

Now it is a paradox of human life, often observed even by the
most concrete and unimaginative of philosophers, that man seems
to be poised between two contradictory orders of Reality. Two
planes of existence--or, perhaps, two ways of apprehending
existence--lie within the possible span of his consciousness. That
great pair of opposites which metaphysicians call Being and
Becoming, Eternity and Time, Unity and Multiplicity, and others
mean, when they speak of the Spiritual and the Natural Worlds,
represents the two extreme forms under which the universe can
be realised by him. The greatest men, those whose consciousness
is extended to full span, can grasp, be aware of, both. They
know themselves to live, both in the discrete, manifested,
ever-changeful parts and appearances, and also in the Whole Fact.
They react fully to both: for them there is no conflict between the
parochial and the patriotic sense. More than this, a deep instinct
sometimes assures them that the inner spring or secret of that
Whole Fact is also the inner spring and secret of their individual
lives: and that here, in this third factor, the disharmonies between
the part and the whole are resolved. As they know themselves to
dwell in the world of time and yet to be capable of transcending
it, so the Ultimate Reality, they think, inhabits yet inconceivably
exceeds all that they know to be--as the soul of the musician
controls and exceeds not merely each note of the flowing melody,
but also the whole of that symphony in which these cadences
must play their part. That invulnerable spark of vivid life, that
"inward light" which these men find at their own centres when
they seek for it, is for them an earnest of the Uncreated Light, the
ineffable splendour of God, dwelling at, and energising within
the heart of things: for this spark is at once one with, yet separate
from, the Universal Soul.

So then, man, in the person of his greatest and most living
representatives, feels himself to have implicit correspondences
with three levels of existence; which we may call the Natural, the
Spiritual, and the Divine. The road on which he is to travel
therefore, the mystical education which he is to undertake, shall
successively unite him with these three worlds; stretching his
consciousness to the point at which he finds them first as three,
and at last as One. Under normal circumstances even the first of
them, the natural world of Becoming, is only present to him--
unless he be an artist--in a vague and fragmentary way. He is, of
course, aware of the temporal order, a ceaseless change and
movement, birth, growth, and death, of which he is a part. But the
rapture and splendour of that everlasting flux which India calls
the Sport of God hardly reaches his understanding; he is too busy
with his own little movements to feel the full current of the
stream.

But under those abnormal circumstances on which we have
touched, a deeper level of his consciousness comes into focus; he
hears the music of surrounding things. Then he rises, through and
with his awareness of the great life of Nature, to the knowledge
that he is part of another greater life, transcending succession. In
this his durational spirit is immersed. Here all the highest values
of existence are stored for him: and it is because of his existence
within this Eternal Reality, his patriotic relationship to it, that the
efforts and experiences of the time-world have significance for
him. It is from the vantage point gained when he realises his
contacts with this higher order, that he can see with the clear eye
of the artist or the mystic the World of Becoming itself--
recognise its proportions--even reach out to some faint intuition
of its ultimate worth. So, if he would be a whole man, if he would
realise all that is implicit in his humanity, he must actualise his
relationship with this supernal plane of Being: and he shall do it,
as we have seen, by simplification, by a deliberate withdrawal of
attention from the bewildering multiplicity of things, a deliberate
humble surrender of his image-making consciousness. He already
possesses, at that gathering point of personality which the old
writers sometimes called the "apex" and sometimes the "ground"
of the soul, a medium of communication with Reality. But this
spiritual principle, this gathering point of his selfhood, is just that
aspect of him which is furthest removed from the active surface
consciousness. He treats it as the busy citizen treats his national
monuments. It is there, it is important, a possession which adds
dignity to his existence; but he never has time to go in. Yet as the
purified sense, cleansed of prejudice and self-interest, can give us
fleeting communications from the actual broken-up world of
duration at our gates: so the purified and educated will can
wholly withdraw the self's attention from its usual concentration
on small useful aspects of the time-world, refuse to react to its
perpetually incoming messages, retreat to the unity of its spirit,
and there make itself ready for messages from another plane.
This is the process which the mystics call Recollection: the first
stage in the training of the contemplative consciousness.

We begin, therefore, to see that the task of union with Reality
will involve certain stages of preparation as well as stages
of attainment; and these stages of preparation--for some
disinterested souls easy and rapid, for others long and full of
pain--may be grouped under two heads. First, the disciplining and
simplifying of the attention, which is the essence of Recollection.
Next, the disciplining and simplifying of the affections and will,
the orientation of the heart; which is sometimes called by the
formidable name of Purgation. So the practical mysticism of the
plain man will best be grasped by him as a five-fold scheme of
training and growth: in which the first two stages prepare the self
for union with Reality, and the last three unite it successively
with the World of Becoming, the World of Being, and finally
with that Ultimate Fact which the philosopher calls the Absolute
and the religious mystic calls God.



CHAPTER IV

MEDITATION AND RECOLLECTION

Recollection, the art which the practical man is now invited to
learn, is in essence no more and no less than the subjection of the
attention to the control of the will. It is not, therefore, a purely
mystical activity. In one form or another it is demanded of all
who would get control of their own mental processes; and does or
should represent the first great step in the education of the human
consciousness. So slothful, however, is man in all that concerns
his higher faculties, that few deliberately undertake this education
at all. They are content to make their contacts with things by a
vague, unregulated power, ever apt to play truant, ever apt to fail
them. Unless they be spurred to it by that passion for ultimate
things which expresses itself in religion, philosophy, or art, they
seldom learn the secret of a voluntary concentration of the mind.

Since the philosopher's interests are mainly objective, and the
artist seldom cogitates on his own processes, it is, in the end, to
the initiate of religion that we are forced to go, if we would learn
how to undertake this training for ourselves. The religious
contemplative has this further attraction for us: that he is by
nature a missionary as well. The vision which he has achieved is
the vision of an intensely loving heart; and love, which cannot
keep itself to itself, urges him to tell the news as widely and as
clearly as he may. In his works, he is ever trying to reveal the
secret of his own deeper life and wider vision, and to help his
fellow men to share it: hence he provides the clearest, most
orderly, most practical teachings on the art of contemplation that
we are likely to find. True, our purpose in attempting this art may
seem to us very different from his: though if we carry out the
principles involved to their last term, we shall probably find that
they have brought us to the place at which he aimed from the
first. But the method, in its earlier stages, must be the same;
whether we call the Reality which is the object of our quest
aesthetic, cosmic, or divine. The athlete must develop much the
same muscles, endure much the same discipline, whatever be the
game he means to play.

So we will go straight to St. Teresa, and inquire of her what
was the method by which she taught her daughters to gather
themselves together, to capture and hold the attitude most
favourable to communion with the spiritual world. She tells us--
and here she accords with the great tradition of the Christian
contemplatives, a tradition which was evolved under the pressure
of long experience--that the process is a gradual one. The method
to be employed is a slow, patient training of material which the
licence of years has made intractable; not the sudden easy turning
of the mind in a new direction, that it may minister to a new
fancy for "the mystical view of things." Recollection begins, she
says, in the deliberate and regular practice of meditation; a
perfectly natural form of mental exercise, though at first a hard
one.

Now meditation is a half-way house between thinking and
contemplating: and as a discipline, it derives its chief value from
this transitional character. The real mystical life, which is the
truly practical life, begins at the beginning; not with supernatural
acts and ecstatic apprehensions, but with the normal faculties of
the normal man. "I do not require of you," says Teresa to her
pupils in meditation, "to form great and curious considerations in
your understanding: I require of you no more than to _look_."

It might be thought that such looking at the spiritual world,
simply, intensely, without cleverness--such an opening of the Eye
of Eternity--was the essence of contemplation itself: and indeed
one of the best definitions has described that art as a "loving
sight," a "peering into heaven with the ghostly eye." But the self
who is yet at this early stage of the pathway to Reality is not
asked to look at anything new, to peer into the deeps of things:
only to gaze with a new and cleansed vision on the ordinary
intellectual images, the labels and the formula, the "objects" and
ideas--even the external symbols--amongst which it has always
dwelt. It is not yet advanced to the seeing of fresh landscapes: it
is only able to re-examine the furniture of its home, and obtain
from this exercise a skill, and a control of the attention, which
shall afterwards be applied to greater purposes. Its task is here to
_consider_ that furniture, as the Victorines called this preliminary
training: to take, that is, a more starry view of it: standing back
from the whirl of the earth, and observing the process of things.

Take, then, an idea, an object, from amongst the common stock,
and hold it before your mind. The selection is large enough: all
sentient beings may find subjects of meditation to their taste, for
there lies a universal behind every particular of thought, however
concrete it may appear, and within the most rational propositions
the meditative eye may glimpse a dream.

    "Reason has moons, but moons not hers!
        Lie mirror'd on her sea,
    Confounding her astronomers
        But, O delighting me."

Even those objects which minister to our sense-life may well be
used to nourish our spirits too. Who has not watched the intent
meditations of a comfortable cat brooding upon the Absolute
Mouse? You, if you have a philosophic twist, may transcend such
relative views of Reality, and try to meditate on Time,
Succession, even Being itself: or again on human intercourse,
birth, growth, and death, on a flower, a river, the various
tapestries of the sky. Even your own emotional life will provide
you with the ideas of love, joy, peace, mercy, conflict, desire.
You may range, with Kant, from the stars to the moral law. If
your turn be to religion, the richest and most evocative of fields is
open to your choice: from the plaster image to the mysteries of
Faith.

But, the choice made, it must be held and defended during the
time of meditation against all invasions from without, however
insidious their encroachments, however "spiritual" their disguise.
It must be brooded upon, gazed at, seized again and again, as
distractions seem to snatch it from your grasp. A restless
boredom, a dreary conviction of your own incapacity, will
presently attack you. This, too, must be resisted at sword-point.
The first quarter of an hour thus spent in attempted meditation
will be, indeed, a time of warfare; which should at least convince
you how unruly, how ill-educated is your attention, how
miserably ineffective your will, how far away you are from the
captaincy of your own soul. It should convince, too, the most
common-sense of philosophers of the distinction between real
time, the true stream of duration which is life, and the sequence
of seconds so carefully measured by the clock. Never before has
the stream flowed so slowly, or fifteen minutes taken so long to
pass. Consciousness has been lifted to a longer, slower rhythm,
and is not yet adjusted to its solemn march.

But, striving for this new poise, intent on the achievement
of it, presently it will happen to you to find that you have
indeed--though how you know not--entered upon a fresh plane of
perception, altered your relation with things.

First, the subject of your meditation begins, as you surrender to
its influence, to exhibit unsuspected meaning, beauty, power. A
perpetual growth of significance keeps pace with the increase of
attention which you bring to bear on it; that attention which is the
one agent of all your apprehensions, physical and mental alike. It
ceases to be thin and abstract. You sink as it were into the deeps
of it, rest in it, "unite" with it; and learn, in this still, intent
communion, something of its depth and breadth and height, as we
learn by direct intercourse to know our friends.

Moreover, as your meditation becomes deeper it will defend you
from the perpetual assaults of the outer world. You will hear the
busy hum of that world as a distant exterior melody, and know
yourself to be in some sort withdrawn from it. You have set a
ring of silence between you and it; and behold! within that
silence you are free. You will look at the coloured scene, and it
will seem to you thin and papery: only one amongst countless
possible images of a deeper life as yet beyond your reach. And
gradually, you will come to be aware of an entity, a _You_, who
can thus hold at arm's length, be aware of, look at, an idea--a
universe--other than itself. By this voluntary painful act of
concentration, this first step upon the ladder which goes--as the
mystics would say--from "multiplicity to unity," you have to
some extent withdrawn yourself from that union with unrealities,
with notions and concepts, which has hitherto contented you; and
at once all the values of existence are changed. "The road to a
Yea lies through a Nay." You, in this preliminary movement of
recollection, are saying your first deliberate No to the claim
which the world of appearance makes to a total possession of
your consciousness: and are thus making possible some contact
between that consciousness and the World of Reality.

Now turn this new purified and universalised gaze back upon
yourself. Observe your own being in a fresh relation with things,
and surrender yourself willingly to the moods of astonishment,
humility, joy--perhaps of deep shame or sudden love--which
invade your heart as you look. So doing patiently, day after day,
constantly recapturing the vagrant attention, ever renewing the
struggle for simplicity of sight, you will at last discover that there
is something within you--something behind the fractious,
conflicting life of desire--which you can recollect, gather up,
make effective for new life. You will, in fact, know your own
soul for the first time: and learn that there is a sense in which this
real _You_ is distinct from, an alien within, the world in which
you find yourself, as an actor has another life when he is not on
the stage. When you do not merely believe this but know it; when
you have achieved this power of withdrawing yourself, of making
this first crude distinction between appearance and reality, the
initial stage of the contemplative life has been won. It is not
much more of an achievement than that first proud effort in
which the baby stands upright for a moment and then relapses to
the more natural and convenient crawl: but it holds within it the
same earnest of future development.



CHAPTER V

SELF-ADJUSTMENT

So, in a measure, you have found yourself: have retreated behind
all that flowing appearance, that busy, unstable consciousness
with its moods and obsessions, its feverish alternations of interest
and apathy, its conflicts and irrational impulses, which even the
psychologists mistake for You. Thanks to this recollective act,
you have discovered in your inmost sanctuary a being not wholly
practical, who refuses to be satisfied by your busy life of
correspondences with the world of normal men, and hungers for
communion with a spiritual universe. And this thing so foreign to
your surface consciousness, yet familiar to it and continuous with
it, you recognise as the true Self whose existence you always
took for granted, but whom you have only known hitherto in its
scattered manifestations. "That art thou."

This climb up the mountain of self-knowledge, said the Victorine
mystics, is the necessary prelude to all illumination. Only at its
summit do we discover, as Dante did, the beginning of the
pathway to Reality. It is a lonely and an arduous excursion, a
sufficient test of courage and sincerity: for most men prefer to
dwell in comfortable ignorance upon the lower slopes, and there
to make of their more obvious characteristics a drapery which
shall veil the naked truth. True and complete self-knowledge,
indeed, is the privilege of the strongest alone. Few can bear to
contemplate themselves face to face; for the vision is strange and
terrible, and brings awe and contrition in its wake. The life of the
seer is changed by it for ever. He is converted, in the deepest and
most drastic sense; is forced to take up a new attitude towards
himself and all other things. Likely enough, if you really knew
yourself--saw your own dim character, perpetually at the mercy
of its environment; your true motives, stripped for inspection
and measured against eternal values; your unacknowledged
self-indulgences; your irrational loves and hates--you would be
compelled to remodel your whole existence, and become for the
first time a practical man.

But you have done what you can in this direction; have at last
discovered your own deeper being, your eternal spark, the agent
of all your contacts with Reality. You have often read about it.
Now you have met it; know for a fact that it is there. What next?
What changes, what readjustments will this self-revelation
involve for you?

You will have noticed, as with practice your familiarity with the
state of Recollection has increased, that the kind of consciousness
which it brings with it, the sort of attitude which it demands of
you, conflict sharply with the consciousness and the attitude
which you have found so appropriate to your ordinary life in the
past. They make this old attitude appear childish, unworthy, at
last absurd. By this first deliberate effort to attend to Reality you
are at once brought face to face with that dreadful revelation of
disharmony, unrealness, and interior muddle which the blunt
moralists call "conviction of sin." Never again need those
moralists point out to you the inherent silliness of your earnest
pursuit of impermanent things: your solemn concentration upon
the game of getting on. None the less, this attitude persists. Again
and again you swing back to it. Something more than realisation
is needed if you are to adjust yourself to your new vision of the
world. This game which you have played so long has formed and
conditioned you, developing certain qualities and perceptions,
leaving the rest in abeyance: so that now, suddenly asked to play
another, which demands fresh movements, alertness of a different
sort, your mental muscles are intractable, your attention refuses
to respond. Nothing less will serve you here than that drastic
remodelling of character which the mystics call "Purgation," the
second stage in the training of the human consciousness for
participation in Reality.

It is not merely that your intellect has assimilated, united with a
superficial and unreal view of the world. Far worse: your will,
your desire, the sum total of your energy, has been turned the
wrong way, harnessed to the wrong machine. You have become
accustomed to the idea that you want, or ought to want, certain
valueless things, certain specific positions. For years your
treasure has been in the Stock Exchange, or the House of
Commons, or the Salon, or the reviews that "really count" (if they
still exist), or the drawing-rooms of Mayfair; and thither your
heart perpetually tends to stray. Habit has you in its chains. You
are not free. The awakening, then, of your deeper self, which
knows not habit and desires nothing but free correspondence with
the Real, awakens you at once to the fact of a disharmony
between the simple but inexorable longings and instincts of the
buried spirit, now beginning to assert themselves in your hours of
meditation--pushing out, as it were, towards the light--and the
various changeful, but insistent longings and instincts of the
surface-self. Between these two no peace is possible: they
conflict at every turn. It becomes apparent to you that the
declaration of Plotinus, accepted or repeated by all the mystics,
concerning a "higher" and a "lower" life, and the cleavage that
exists between them, has a certain justification even in the
experience of the ordinary man.

That great thinker and ecstatic said, that all human personality
was thus two-fold: thus capable of correspondence with two
orders of existence. The "higher life" was always tending toward?
union with Reality; towards the gathering of it self up into One.
The "lower life," framed for correspondence with the outward
world of multiplicity, was always tending to fall downwards, and
fritter the powers of the self among external things. This is but a
restatement, in terms of practical existence, of the fact which
Recollection brought home to us: that the human self is
transitional, neither angel nor animal, capable of living towards
either Eternity or Time. But it is one thing to frame beautiful
theories on these subjects: another when the unresolved dualism
of your own personality (though you may not give it this
high-sounding name) becomes the main fact of consciousness,
perpetually reasserts itself as a vital problem, and refuses to take
academic rank.

This state of things means the acute discomfort which ensues on
being pulled two ways at once. The uneasy swaying of attention
between two incompatible ideals, the alternating conviction that
there is something wrong, perverse, poisonous, about life as you
have always lived it, and something hopelessly ethereal about the
life which your innermost inhabitant wants to live--these
disagreeable sensations grow stronger and stronger. First one and
then the other asserts itself. You fluctuate miserably between
their attractions and their claims; and will have no peace until
these claims have been met, and the apparent opposition between
them resolved. You are sure now that there is another, more
durable and more "reasonable," life possible to the human
consciousness than that on which it usually spends itself. But it is
also clear to you that you must yourself be something more, or
other, than you are now, if you are to achieve this life, dwell in it,
and breathe its air. You have had in your brief spells of
recollection a first quick vision of that plane of being which
Augustine called "the land of peace," the "beauty old and new."
You know for evermore that it exists: that the real thing within
yourself belongs to it, might live in it, is being all the time invited
and enticed to it. You begin, in fact, to feel and know in every
fibre of your being the mystical need of "union with Reality"; and
to realise that the natural scene which you have accepted so
trustfully cannot provide the correspondences toward which you
are stretching out.

Nevertheless, it is to correspondences with this natural order that
you have given for many years your full attention, your desire,
your will. The surface-self, left for so long in undisputed
possession of the conscious field, has grown strong, and
cemented itself like a limpet to the rock of the obvious; gladly
exchanging freedom for apparent security, and building up, from
a selection amongst the more concrete elements offered it by the
rich stream of life, a defensive shell of "fixed ideas." It is useless
to speak kindly to the limpet. You must detach it by main force.
That old comfortable clinging life, protected by its hard shell
from the living waters of the sea, must now come to an end. A
conflict of some kind--a severance of old habits, old notions, old
prejudices--is here inevitable for you; and a decision as to the
form which the new adjustments must take.

Now although in a general way we may regard the practical
man's attitude to existence as a limpet-like adherence to the
unreal; yet, from another point of view, fixity of purpose and
desire is the last thing we can attribute to him. His mind is full of
little whirlpools, twists and currents, conflicting systems,
incompatible desires. One after another, he centres himself on
ambition, love, duty, friendship, social convention, politics,
religion, self-interest in one of its myriad forms; making of each a
core round which whole sections of his life are arranged. One
after another, these things either fail him or enslave him.
Sometimes they become obsessions, distorting his judgment,
narrowing his outlook, colouring his whole existence. Sometimes
they develop inconsistent characters which involve him in public
difficulties, private compromises and self-deceptions of every
kind. They split his attention, fritter his powers. This state of
affairs, which usually passes for an "active life," begins to take on
a different complexion when looked at with the simple eye of
meditation. Then we observe that the plain man's world is in a
muddle, just because he has tried to arrange its major interests
round himself as round a centre; and he is neither strong enough
nor clever enough for the job. He has made a wretched little
whirlpool in the mighty River of Becoming, interrupting--as he
imagines, in his own interest--its even flow: and within that
whirlpool are numerous petty complexes and counter-currents,
amongst which his will and attention fly to and fro in a continual
state of unrest. The man who makes a success of his life, in any
department, is he who has chosen one from amongst these claims
and interests, and devoted to it his energetic powers of heart and
will; "unifying" himself about it, and from within it resisting all
counter-claims. He has one objective, one centre; has killed out
the lesser ones, and simplified himself.

Now the artist, the discoverer, the philosopher, the lover, the
patriot--the true enthusiast for any form of life--can only achieve
the full reality to which his special art or passion gives access by
innumerable renunciations. He must kill out the smaller centres
of interest, in order that his whole will, love, and attention may
pour itself out towards, seize upon, unite with, that special
manifestation of the beauty and significance of the universe to
which he is drawn. So, too, a deliberate self-simplification, a
"purgation" of the heart and will, is demanded of those who
would develop the form of consciousness called "mystical." All
your power, all your resolution, is needed if you are to succeed in
this adventure: there must be no frittering of energy, no mixture
of motives. We hear much of the mystical temperament, the
mystical vision. The mystical character is far more important: and
its chief ingredients are courage, singleness of heart, and
self-control. It is towards the perfecting of these military virtues,
not to the production of a pious softness, that the discipline of
asceticism is largely directed; and the ascetic foundation, in one
form or another, is the only enduring foundation of a sane
contemplative life.

You cannot, until you have steadied yourself, found a poise, and
begun to resist some amongst the innumerable claims which the
world of appearance perpetually makes upon you: attention
and your desire, make much use of the new power which Recollection
has disclosed to you; and this Recollection itself, so long
as it remains merely a matter of attention and does not involve
the heart, is no better than a psychic trick. You are committed
therefore, as the fruit of your first attempts at self-knowledge,
to a deliberate--probably a difficult--rearrangement of
your character; to the stern course of self-discipline, the
voluntary acts of choice on the one hand and of rejection on the
other, which ascetic writers describe under the formidable names
of Detachment and Mortification. By Detachment they mean the
eviction of the limpet from its crevice; the refusal to anchor
yourself to material things, to regard existence from the personal
standpoint, or confuse custom with necessity. By Mortification,
they mean the resolving of the turbulent whirlpools and currents
of your own conflicting passions, interests, desires; the killing out
of all those tendencies which the peaceful vision of Recollection
would condemn, and which create the fundamental opposition
between your interior and exterior life.

What then, in the last resort, is the source of this opposition; the
true reason of your uneasiness, your unrest? The reason lies, not
in any real incompatibility between the interests of the temporal
and the eternal orders; which are but two aspects of one Fact, two
expressions of one Love. It lies solely in yourself; in your attitude
towards the world of things. You are enslaved by the verb "to
have": all your reactions to life consist in corporate or individual
demands, appetites, wants. That "love of life" of which we
sometimes speak is mostly cupboard-love. We are quick to snap
at her ankles when she locks the larder door: a proceeding which
we dignify by the name of pessimism. The mystic knows not this
attitude of demand. He tells us again and again, that "he is rid of
all his asking"; that "henceforth the heat of having shall never
scorch him more." Compare this with your normal attitude to the
world, practical man: your quiet certitude that you are well within
your rights in pushing the claims of "the I, the Me, the Mine";
your habit, if you be religious, of asking for the weather and the
government that you want, of persuading the Supernal Powers to
take a special interest in your national or personal health and
prosperity. How often in each day do you deliberately revert to an
attitude of disinterested adoration? Yet this is the only attitude in
which true communion with the universe is possible. The very
mainspring of your activity is a demand, either for a continued
possession of that which you have, or for something which as yet
you have not: wealth, honour, success, social position, love,
friendship, comfort, amusement. You feel that you have a right to
some of these things: to a certain recognition of your powers, a
certain immunity from failure or humiliation. You resent
anything which opposes you in these matters. You become
restless when you see other selves more skilful in the game of
acquisition than yourself. You hold tight against all comers your
own share of the spoils. You are rather inclined to shirk boring
responsibilities and unattractive, unremunerative toil; are greedy
of pleasure and excitement, devoted to the art of having a good
time. If you possess a social sense, you demand these things not
only for yourself but for your tribe--the domestic or racial group
to which you belong. These dispositions, so ordinary that they
almost pass unnoticed, were named by our blunt forefathers the
Seven Deadly Sins of Pride, Anger, Envy, Avarice, Sloth,
Gluttony, and Lust. Perhaps you would rather call them--as
indeed they are--the seven common forms of egotism. They
represent the natural reactions to life of the self-centred human
consciousness, enslaved by the "world of multiplicity"; and
constitute absolute barriers to its attainment of Reality. So long as
these dispositions govern character we can never see or feel
things as they are; but only as they affect ourselves, our family,
our party, our business, our church, our empire--the I, the Me, the
Mine, in its narrower or wider manifestations. Only the detached
and purified heart can view all things--the irrational cruelty of
circumstance, the tortures of war, the apparent injustice of life,
the acts and beliefs of enemy and friend--in true proportion; and
reckon with calm mind the sum of evil and good. Therefore the
mystics tell us perpetually that "selfhood must be killed" before
Reality can be attained.

"Feel sin a lump, thou wottest never what, but none other thing
than _thyself_," says _The Cloud of Unknowing_. "When the I,
the Me, and the Mine are dead, the work of the Lord is done,"
says Kabir. The substance of that wrongness of act and relation
which constitutes "sin" is the separation of the individual spirit
from the whole; the ridiculous megalomania which makes each
man the centre of his universe. Hence comes the turning inwards
and condensation of his energies and desires, till they do indeed
form a "lump"; a hard, tight core about which all the currents of
his existence swirl. This heavy weight within the heart resists
every outgoing impulse of the spirit; and tends to draw all things
inward and downward to itself, never to pour itself forth in
love, enthusiasm, sacrifice. "So long," says the _Theologia
Germanica_, "as a man seeketh his own will and his own highest
good, because it is his, and for his own sake, he will never find it:
for so long as he doeth this, he is not seeking his own highest
good, and how then should he find it? For so long as he doeth
this, he seeketh himself, and dreameth that he is himself the
highest good. . . . But whosoever seeketh, loveth, and pursueth
goodness, as goodness and for the sake of goodness, and maketh
that his end--for nothing but the love of goodness, not for love of
the I, Me, Mine, Self, and the like--he will find the highest good,
for he seeketh it aright, and they who seek it otherwise do err."

So it is disinterestedness, the saint's and poet's love of things for
their own sakes, the vision of the charitable heart, which is the
secret of union with Reality and the condition of all real
knowledge. This brings with it the precious quality of suppleness,
the power of responding with ease and simplicity to the great
rhythms of life; and this will only come when the ungainly
"lump" of sin is broken, and the verb "to have," which expresses
its reaction to existence, is ejected from the centre of your
consciousness. Then your attitude to life will cease to be
commercial, and become artistic. Then the guardian at the gate,
scrutinising and sorting the incoming impressions, will no longer
ask, "What use is this to _me_?" before admitting the angel of
beauty or significance who demands your hospitality. Then
things will cease to have power over you. You will become free.
"Son," says a Kempis, "thou oughtest diligently to attend to this;
that in every place, every action or outward occupation, thou be
inwardly free and mighty in thyself, and all things be under thee,
and thou not under them; that thou be lord and governor of thy
deeds, not servant." It is therefore by the withdrawal of your will
from its feverish attachment to things, till "they are under thee
and thou not under them," that you will gradually resolve the
opposition between the recollective and the active sides of your
personality. By diligent self-discipline, that mental attitude which
the mystics sometimes call poverty and sometimes perfect
freedom--for these are two aspects of one thing--will become
possible to you. Ascending the mountain of self-knowledge and
throwing aside your superfluous luggage as you go, you shall at
last arrive at the point which they call the summit of the spirit;
where the various forces of your character--brute energy, keen
intellect, desirous heart--long dissipated amongst a thousand little
wants and preferences, are gathered into one, and become a
strong and disciplined instrument wherewith your true self can
force a path deeper and deeper into the heart of Reality.



CHAPTER VI

LOVE AND WILL

This steady effort towards the simplifying of your tangled
character, its gradual emancipation from the fetters of the unreal,
is not to dispense you from that other special training of the
attention which the diligent practice of meditation and
recollection effects. Your pursuit of the one must never involve
neglect of the other; for these are the two sides--one moral, the
other mental--of that unique process of self-conquest which
Ruysbroeck calls "the gathering of the forces of the soul into the
unity of the spirit": the welding together of all your powers, the
focussing of them upon one point. Hence they should never,
either in theory or practice, be separated. Only the act of
recollection, the constantly renewed retreat to the quiet centre of
the spirit, gives that assurance of a Reality, a calmer and more
valid life attainable by us, which supports the stress and pain of
self-simplification and permits us to hope on, even in the teeth of
the world's cruelty, indifference, degeneracy; whilst diligent
character-building alone, with its perpetual untiring efforts at
self-adjustment, its bracing, purging discipline, checks the human
tendency to relapse into and react to the obvious, and makes
possible the further development of the contemplative power.

So it is through and by these two great changes in your attitude
towards things--first, the change of attention, which enables you
to perceive a truer universe; next, the deliberate rearrangement of
your ideas, energies, and desires in harmony with that which you
have seen--that a progressive uniformity of life and experience is
secured to you, and you are defended against the dangers of an
indolent and useless mysticality. Only the real, say the mystics,
can know Reality, for "we behold that which we are," the
universe which we see is conditioned by the character of the
mind that sees it: and this realness--since that which you seek is
no mere glimpse of Eternal Life, but complete possession of it--
must apply to every aspect of your being, the rich totality of
character, all the "forces of the soul," not to some thin and
isolated "spiritual sense" alone. This is why recollection and
self-simplification--perception of, and adaptation to, the Spiritual
World in which we dwell--are the essential preparations for
the mystical life, and neither can exist in a wholesome and
well-balanced form without the other. By them the mind, the will, the
heart, which so long had dissipated their energies over a thousand
scattered notions, wants, and loves, are gradually detached from
their old exclusive preoccupation with the ephemeral interests of
the self, or of the group to which the self belongs.

You, if you practise them, will find after a time--perhaps a long
time--that the hard work which they involve has indeed brought
about a profound and definite change in you. A new suppleness
has taken the place of that rigidity which you have been
accustomed to mistake for strength of character: an easier attitude
towards the accidents of life. Your whole scale of values has
undergone a silent transformation, since you have ceased to fight
for your own hand and regard the nearest-at-hand world as the
only one that counts. You have become, as the mystics would
say, "free from inordinate attachments," the "heat of having" does
not scorch you any more; and because of this you possess great
inward liberty, a sense of spaciousness and peace. Released from
the obsessions which so long had governed them, will, heart, and
mind are now all bent to the purposes of your deepest being:
"gathered in the unity of the spirit," they have fused to become an
agent with which it can act.

What form, then, shall this action take? It shall take a practical
form, shall express itself in terms of movement: the pressing
outwards of the whole personality, the eager and trustful
stretching of it towards the fresh universe which awaits you. As
all scattered thinking was cut off in recollection, as all vagrant
and unworthy desires have been killed by the exercises of
detachment; so now all scattered willing, all hesitations between
the indrawing and outflowing instincts of the soul, shall be
checked and resolved. You are to _push_ with all your power: not
to absorb ideas, but to pour forth will and love. With this
"conative act," as the psychologists would call it, the true
contemplative life begins. Contemplation, you see, has no very
close connection with dreaminess and idle musing: it is more like
the intense effort of vision, the passionate and self-forgetful act
of communion, presupposed in all creative art. It is, says one old
English mystic, "a blind intent stretching . . . a privy love
pressed" in the direction of Ultimate Beauty, athwart all the
checks, hindrances, and contradictions of the restless world: a
"loving stretching out" towards Reality, says the great
Ruysbroeck, than whom none has gone further on this path.
Tension, ardour, are of its essence: it demands the perpetual
exercise of industry and courage.

We observe in such definitions as these a strange neglect of that
glory of man, the Pure Intellect, with which the spiritual prig
enjoys to believe that he can climb up to the Empyrean itself. It
almost seems as though the mystics shared Keats' view of the
supremacy of feeling over thought; and reached out towards
some new and higher range of sensation, rather than towards new
and more accurate ideas. They are ever eager to assure us that
man's most sublime thoughts of the Transcendent are but a little
better than his worst: that loving intuition is the only certain
guide. "By love may He be gotten and holden, but by thought
never."

Yet here you are not to fall into the clumsy error of supposing
that the things which are beyond the grasp of reason are
necessarily unreasonable things. Immediate feeling, so far as it is
true, does not oppose but transcends and completes the highest
results of thought. It contains within itself the sum of all the
processes through which thought would pass in the act of
attaining the same goal: supposing thought to have reached--as it
has not--the high pitch at which it was capable of thinking its way
all along this road.

In the preliminary act of gathering yourself together, and in those
unremitting explorations through which you came to "a knowing
and a feeling of yourself as you are," thought assuredly had its
place. There the powers of analysis, criticism, and deduction
found work that they could do. But now it is the love and will--
the feeling, the intent, the passionate desire--of the self, which
shall govern your activities and make possible your success. Few
would care to brave the horrors of a courtship conducted upon
strictly intellectual lines: and contemplation is an act of love, the
wooing, not the critical study, of Divine Reality. It is an eager
outpouring of ourselves towards a Somewhat Other for which we
feel a passion of desire; a seeking, touching, and tasting, not a
considering and analysing, of the beautiful and true wherever
found. It is, as it were, a responsive act of the organism to those
Supernal Powers without, which touch and stir it. Deep humility
as towards those Powers, a willing surrender to their control, is
the first condition of success. The mystics speak much of these
elusive contacts; felt more and more in the soul, as it becomes
increasingly sensitive to the subtle movements of its spiritual
environment.

    "Sense, feeling, taste, complacency, and sight,
        These are the true and real joys,
    The living, flowing, inward, melting, bright
        And heavenly pleasures; all the rest are toys;
            All which are founded in Desire
            As light in flame and heat in fire."

But this new method of correspondence with the universe is not
to be identified with "mere feeling" in its lowest and least orderly
forms. Contemplation does not mean abject surrender to every
"mystical" impression that comes in. It is no sentimental
aestheticism or emotional piety to which you are being invited:
nor shall the transcending of reason ever be achieved by way of
spiritual silliness. All the powers of the self, raised to their in
tensest form, shall be used in it; though used perhaps in a new
way. These, the three great faculties of love, thought, and will--
with which you have been accustomed to make great show on the
periphery of consciousness--you have, as it were, drawn inwards
during the course of your inward retreat: and by your education
in detachment have cured them of their tendency to fritter their
powers amongst a multiplicity of objects. Now, at the very heart
of personality, you are alone with them; you hold with you in that
"Interior Castle," and undistracted for the moment by the
demands of practical existence, the three great tools wherewith
the soul deals with life.

As regards the life you have hitherto looked upon as "normal,"
love--understood in its widest sense, as desire, emotional
inclination--has throughout directed your activities. You did
things, sought things, learned things, even suffered things,
because at bottom you wanted to. Will has done the work to
which love spurred it: thought has assimilated the results of their
activities and made for them pictures, analyses, "explanations" of
the world with which they had to deal. But now your purified
love discerns and desires, your will is set towards, something
which thought cannot really assimilate--still less explain.
"Contemplation," says Ruysbroeck, "is a knowing that is in no
wise . . . therein all the workings of the reason fail." That
reason has been trained to deal with the stuff of temporal existence.
It will only make mincemeat of your experience of Eternity if
you give it a chance; trimming, transforming, rationalising
that ineffable vision, trying to force it into a symbolic
system with which the intellect can cope. This is why the great
contemplatives utter again and again their solemn warning against
the deceptiveness of thought when it ventures to deal with the
spiritual intuitions of man; crying with the author of _The Cloud
of Unknowing_, "Look that _nothing_ live in thy working mind
but a naked intent stretching"--the voluntary tension of your
ever-growing, ever-moving personality pushing out towards the Real.
"Love, and _do_ what you like," said the wise Augustine: so little
does mere surface activity count, against the deep motive that
begets it.

The dynamic power of love and will, the fact that the heart's
desire--if it be intense and industrious--is a better earnest of
possible fulfilment than the most elegant theories of the spiritual
world; this is the perpetual theme of all the Christian mystics. By
such love, they think, the worlds themselves were made. By an
eager outstretching towards Reality, they tell us, we tend to move
towards Reality, to enter into its rhythm: by a humble and
unquestioning surrender to it we permit its entrance into our
souls. This twofold act, in which we find the double character of
all true love--which both gives and takes, yields and demands--is
assured, if we be patient and single-hearted, of ultimate
success. At last our ignorance shall be done away; and we shall
"apprehend" the real and the eternal, as we apprehend the
sunshine when the sky is free from cloud. Therefore "Smite upon
that thick cloud of unknowing with a sharp dart of longing love"--
and suddenly it shall part, and disclose the blue.

"Smite," "press," "push," "strive"--these are strong words: yet
they are constantly upon the lips of the contemplatives when
describing the earlier stages of their art. Clearly, the abolition of
discursive thought is not to absolve you from the obligations of
industry. You are to "energise enthusiastically" upon new planes,
where you shall see more intensely, hear more intensely, touch
and taste more intensely than ever before: for the modes of
communion which these senses make possible to you are now to
operate as parts of the one single state of perfect intuition, of
loving knowledge by union, to which you are growing up. And
gradually you come to see that, if this be so, it is the ardent will
that shall be the prime agent of your undertaking: a will which
has now become the active expression of your deepest and purest
desires. About this the recollected and simplified self is to gather
itself as a centre; and thence to look out--steadily, deliberately--
with eyes of love towards the world.

To "look with the eyes of love" seems a vague and sentimental
recommendation: yet the whole art of spiritual communion is
summed in it, and exact and important results flow from this
exercise. The attitude which it involves is an attitude of complete
humility and of receptiveness; without criticism, without clever
analysis of the thing seen. When you look thus, you surrender
your I-hood; see things at last as the artist does, for their sake, not
for your own. The fundamental unity that is in you reaches out to
the unity that is in them: and you achieve the "Simple Vision" of
the poet and the mystic--that synthetic and undistorted
apprehension of things which is the antithesis of the single vision
of practical men. The doors of perception are cleansed, and
everything appears as it is. The disfiguring results of hate, rivalry,
prejudice, vanish away. Into that silent place to which
recollection has brought you, new music, new colour, new light,
are poured from the outward world. The conscious love which
achieves this vision may, indeed must, fluctuate--"As long as
thou livest thou art subject to mutability; yea, though thou wilt
not!" But the _will_ which that love has enkindled can hold
attention in the right direction. It can refuse to relapse to unreal
and egotistic correspondences; and continue, even in darkness,
and in the suffering which such darkness brings to the awakened
spirit, its appointed task, cutting a way into new levels of Reality.

Therefore this transitional stage in the development of the
contemplative powers--in one sense the completion of their
elementary schooling, in another the beginning of their true
activities--is concerned with the toughening and further training
of that will which self-simplification has detached from its old
concentration upon the unreal wants and interests of the self.
Merged with your intuitive love, this is to become the true agent
of your encounter with Reality; for that Simple Eye of Intention,
which is so supremely your own, and in the last resort the maker
of your universe and controller of your destiny, is nothing else
but a synthesis of such energetic will and such uncorrupt desire,
turned and held in the direction of the Best.



CHAPTER VII

THE FIRST FORM OF CONTEMPLATION

Concentration, recollection, a profound self-criticism, the stilling
of his busy surface-intellect, his restless emotions of enmity and
desire, the voluntary achievement of an attitude of disinterested
love--by these strange paths the practical man has now been led,
in order that he may know by communion something of the
greater Life in which he is immersed and which he has so long
and so successfully ignored. He has managed in his own small
way something equivalent to those drastic purifications, those
searching readjustments, which are undertaken by the heroic
seekers for Reality; the arts whereby they defeat the tyranny of
"the I, the Me, the Mine" and achieve the freedom of a wider life.
Now, perhaps, he may share to some extent in that illumination,
that extended and intensified perception of things, which they
declare to be the heritage of the liberated consciousness.

This illumination shall be gradual. The attainment of it depends
not so much upon a philosophy accepted, or a new gift of vision
suddenly received, as upon an uninterrupted changing and
widening of character; a progressive growth towards the Real, an
ever more profound harmonisation of the self's life with the
greater and inclusive rhythms of existence. It shall therefore
develop in width and depth as the sphere of that self's
intuitive love extends. As your own practical sympathy with and
understanding of other lives, your realisation of them, may be
narrowed and stiffened to include no more than the family group,
or spread over your fellow-workers, your class, your city, party,
country, or religion--even perhaps the whole race--till you feel
yourself utterly part of it, moving with it, suffering with it, and
partake of its whole conscious life; so here. Self-mergence is a
gradual process, dependent on a progressive unlimiting of
personality. The apprehension of Reality which rewards it is
gradual too. In essence, it is one continuous out-flowing
movement towards that boundless heavenly consciousness where
the "flaming ramparts" which shut you from true communion
with all other selves and things is done away; an unbroken
process of expansion and simplification, which is nothing more
or less than the growth of the spirit of love, the full flowering of
the patriotic sense. By this perpetually-renewed casting down of
the hard barriers of individuality, these willing submissions to the
compelling rhythm of a larger existence than that of the solitary
individual or even of the human group--by this perpetual
widening, deepening, and unselfing of your attentiveness--you
are to enlarge your boundaries and become the citizen of a
greater, more joyous, more poignant world, the partaker of a
more abundant life. The limits of this enlargement have not yet
been discovered. The greatest contemplatives, returning from
their highest ascents, can only tell us of a world that is
"unwalled."

But this growth into higher realities, this blossoming of your
contemplative consciousness--though it be, like all else we know
in life, an unbroken process of movement and change--must be
broken up and reduced to the series of concrete forms which we
call "order" if our inelastic minds are to grasp it. So, we will
consider it as the successive achievement of those three levels or
manifestations of Reality, which we have agreed to call the
Natural World of Becoming, the Metaphysical World of Being,
and--last and highest--that Divine Reality within which these
opposites are found as one. Though these three worlds of
experience are so plaited together, that intimations from the
deeper layers of being constantly reach you through the natural
scene, it is in this order of realisation that you may best think of
them, and of your own gradual upgrowth to the full stature of
humanity. To elude nature, to refuse her friendship, and attempt
to leap the river of life in the hope of finding God on the other
side, is the common error of a perverted mysticality. It is as fatal
in result as the opposite error of deliberately arrested
development, which, being attuned to the wonderful rhythms of
natural life, is content with this increase of sensibility; and,
becoming a "nature-mystic," asks no more.

So you are to begin with that first form of contemplation which
the old mystics sometimes called the "discovery of God in His
creatures." Not with some ecstatic adventure in supersensuous
regions, but with the loving and patient exploration of the world
that lies at your gates; the "ebb and flow and ever-during power"
of which your own existence forms a part. You are to push back
the self's barriers bit by bit, till at last all duration is included in
the widening circles of its intuitive love: till you find in every
manifestation of life--even those which you have petulantly
classified as cruel or obscene--the ardent self-expression of that
Immanent Being whose spark burns deep in your own soul.

The Indian mystics speak perpetually of the visible universe as
the _Lila_ or Sport of God: the Infinite deliberately expressing
Himself in finite form, the musical manifestation of His creative
joy. All gracious and all courteous souls, they think, will gladly
join His play; considering rather the wonder and achievement of
the whole--its vivid movement, its strange and terrible evocations
of beauty from torment, nobility from conflict and death, its
mingled splendour of sacrifice and triumph--than their personal
conquests, disappointments, and fatigues. In the first form of
contemplation you are to realise the movement of this game, in
which you have played so long a languid and involuntary part,
and find your own place in it. It is flowing, growing, changing,
making perpetual unexpected patterns within the evolving
melody of the Divine Thought. In all things it is incomplete,
unstable; and so are you. Your fellow-men, enduring on the
battlefield, living and breeding in the slum, adventurous and
studious, sensuous and pure--more, your great comrades, the
hills, the trees, the rivers, the darting birds, the scuttering insects,
the little soft populations of the grass--all these are playing with
you. They move one to another in delicate responsive measures,
now violent, now gentle, now in conflict, now in peace; yet ever
weaving the pattern of a ritual dance, and obedient to the music
of that invisible Choragus whom Boehme and Plotinus knew.
What is that great wind which blows without, in continuous and
ineffable harmonies? Part of you, practical man. There is but one
music in the world: and to it you contribute perpetually, whether
you will or no, your one little ditty of no tone.

    "Mad with joy, life and death dance to the rhythm of this music:
    The hills and the sea and the earth dance:
    The world of man dances in laughter and tears."

It seems a pity to remain in ignorance of this, to keep as it were a
plate-glass window between yourself and your fellow-dancers--
all those other thoughts of God, perpetually becoming, changing
and growing beside you--and commit yourself to the unsocial
attitude of the "cat that walks by itself."

Begin therefore at once. Gather yourself up, as the exercises of
recollection have taught you to do. Then--with attention no
longer frittered amongst the petty accidents and interests of your
personal life, but poised, tense, ready for the work you shall
demand of it--stretch out by a distinct act of loving will towards
one of the myriad manifestations of life that surround you: and
which, in an ordinary way, you hardly notice unless you happen
to need them. Pour yourself out towards it, do not draw its image
towards you. Deliberate--more, impassioned--attentiveness, an
attentiveness which soon transcends all consciousness of
yourself, as separate from and attending to the thing seen; this is
the condition of success. As to the object of contemplation, it
matters little. From Alp to insect, anything will do, provided that
your attitude be right: for all things in this world towards which
you are stretching out are linked together, and one truly
apprehended will be the gateway to the rest.

Look with the eye of contemplation on the most dissipated tabby
of the streets, and you shall discern the celestial quality of life set
like an aureole about his tattered ears, and hear in his strident
mew an echo of

    "The deep enthusiastic joy,
    The rapture of the hallelujah sent
    From all that breathes and is."

The sooty tree up which he scrambles to escape your earnest gaze
is holy too. It contains for you the whole divine cycle of the
seasons; upon the plane of quiet, its inward pulse is clearly to be
heard. But you must look at these things as you would look into
the eyes of a friend: ardently, selflessly, without considering his
reputation, his practical uses, his anatomical peculiarities, or the
vices which might emerge were he subjected to psycho-analysis.

Such a simple exercise, if entered upon with singleness of heart,
will soon repay you. By this quiet yet tense act of communion,
this loving gaze, you will presently discover a relationship--far
more intimate than anything you imagined--between yourself and
the surrounding "objects of sense"; and in those objects of sense a
profound significance, a personal quality, and actual power of
response, which you might in cooler moments think absurd.
Making good your correspondences with these fellow-travellers,
you will learn to say with Whitman:

    "You air that serves me with breath to speak!
    You objects that call from diffusion my meanings and give them
        shape!
    You light that wraps me and all things in delicate equable showers!
    You paths worn in the irregular hollows by the roadside!
    I believe you are latent with unseen existences, you are so dear
        to me."

A subtle interpenetration of your spirit with the spirit of those
"unseen existences," now so deeply and thrillingly felt by you,
will take place. Old barriers will vanish: and you will become
aware that St. Francis was accurate as well as charming when he
spoke of Brother Wind and Sister Water; and that Stevenson was
obviously right when he said, that since:

    "The world is so full of a number of things,
    I'm sure we ought all to be happy as kings."

Those glad and vivid "things" will speak to you. They will offer you
news at least as definite and credible as that which the paper-boy
is hawking in the street: direct messages from that Beauty
which the artist reports at best at second hand. Because of your
new sensitiveness, anthems will be heard of you from every
gutter; poems of intolerable loveliness will bud for you on every
weed. Best and greatest, your fellowmen will shine for you with
new significance and light. Humility and awe will be evoked in
you by the beautiful and patient figures of the poor, their long
dumb heroisms, their willing acceptance of the burden of life. All
the various members of the human group, the little children and
the aged, those who stand for energy, those dedicated to skill, to
thought, to plainest service, or to prayer, will have for you fresh
vivid significance, be felt as part of your own wider being. All
adventurous endeavours, all splendour of pain and all beauty of
play--more, that grey unceasing effort of existence which makes
up the groundwork of the social web, and the ineffective hopes,
enthusiasms, and loves which transfuse it--all these will be seen
and felt by you at last as full of glory, full of meaning; for you
will see them with innocent, attentive, disinterested eyes, feel
them as infinitely significant and adorable parts of the
Transcendent Whole in which you also are immersed.

This discovery of your fraternal link with all living things, this
down-sinking of your arrogant personality into the great generous
stream of life, marks an important stage in your apprehension of
that Science of Love which contemplation is to teach. You are
not to confuse it with pretty fancies about nature, such as all
imaginative persons enjoy; still less, with a self-conscious and
deliberate humanitarianism. It is a veritable condition of
awareness; a direct perception, not an opinion or an idea. For
those who attain it, the span of the senses is extended. These live
in a world which is lit with an intenser light; has, as George Fox
insisted, "another smell than before." They hear all about them
the delicate music of growth, and see the "new colour" of which
the mystics speak.

Further, you will observe that this act, and the attitude which is
proper to it, differs in a very important way even from that
special attentiveness which characterised the stage of meditation,
and which seems at first sight to resemble it in many respects.
Then, it was an idea or image from amongst the common stock--
one of those conceptual labels with which the human paste-brush
has decorated the surface of the universe--which you were
encouraged to hold before your mind. Now, turning away from
the label, you shall surrender yourself to the direct message
poured out towards you by the _thing_. Then, you considered:
now, you are to absorb. This experience will be, in the very
highest sense, the experience of sensation without thought: the
essential sensation, the "savouring" to which some of the mystics
invite us, of which our fragmentary bodily senses offer us a
transient sacrament. So here at last, in this intimate communion,
this "simple seeing," this total surrender of you to the impress of
things, you are using to the full the sacred powers of sense: and
so using them, because you are concentrating upon them,
accepting their reports in simplicity. You have, in this
contemplative outlook, carried the peculiar methods of artistic
apprehension to their highest stage: with the result that the
sense-world has become for you, as Erigena said that all creatures
were, "a theophany, or appearance of God." Not, you observe, a
symbol, but a showing: a very different thing. You have begun
now the Plotinian ascent from multiplicity to unity, and therefore
begin to perceive in the Many the clear and actual presence of the
One: the changeless and absolute Life, manifesting itself in all
the myriad nascent, crescent, cadent lives. Poets, gazing thus at
the "flower in the crannied wall" or the "green thing that stands in
the way," have been led deep into the heart of its life; there to
discern the secret of the universe.

All the greater poems of Wordsworth and Walt Whitman represent
an attempt to translate direct contemplative experience of
this kind into words and rhythms which might convey its
secret to other men: all Blake's philosophy is but a desperate
effort to persuade us to exchange the false world of "Nature" on
which we usually look--and which is not really Nature at all--for
this, the true world, to which he gave the confusing name of
"Imagination." For these, the contemplation of the World of
Becoming assumes the intense form which we call genius: even
to read their poems is to feel the beating of a heart, the upleap of
a joy, greater than anything that we have known. Yet your own
little efforts towards the attainment of this level of consciousness
will at least give to you, together with a more vivid universe, a
wholly new comprehension of their works; and that of other poets
and artists who have drunk from the chalice of the Spirit of Life.
These works are now observed by you to be the only artistic
creations to which the name of Realism is appropriate; and it is
by the standard of reality that you shall now criticise them,
recognising in utterances which you once dismissed as rhetoric
the desperate efforts of the clear-sighted towards the exact
description of things veritably seen in that simplified state of
consciousness which Blake called "imagination uncorrupt." It
was from those purified and heightened levels of perception to
which the first form of contemplation inducts the soul, that Julian
of Norwich, gazing upon "a little thing, the quantity of an hazel
nut," found in it the epitome of all that was made; for therein she
perceived the royal character of life. So small and helpless in its
mightiest forms, so august even in its meanest, that life in its
wholeness was then realised by her as the direct outbirth of, and
the meek dependant upon, the Energy of Divine Love. She felt at
once the fugitive character of its apparent existence, the
perdurable Reality within which it was held. "I marvelled," she
said, "how it might last, for methought it might suddenly have
fallen to naught for littleness. And I was answered in my
understanding: _It lasteth, and ever shall, for that God loveth it_.
And so All-thing hath the being by the love of God." To this
same apprehension of Reality, this linking up of each finite
expression with its Origin, this search for the inner significance
of every fragment of life, one of the greatest and most balanced
contemplatives of the nineteenth century, Florence Nightingale,
reached out when she exclaimed in an hour of self-examination,
"I must strive to see only God in my friends, and God in my
cats."

Yet it is not the self-tormenting strife of introspective and
self-conscious aspiration, but rather an unrelaxed, diligent intention,
a steady acquiescence, a simple and loyal surrender to the great
currents of life, a holding on to results achieved in your best
moments, that shall do it for you: a surrender not limp but
deliberate, a trustful self-donation, a "living faith." "A pleasing
stirring of love," says _The Cloud of Unknowing_, not a
desperate anxious struggle for more light. True contemplation
can only thrive when defended from two opposite exaggerations:
quietism on the one hand, and spiritual fuss upon the other.
Neither from passivity nor from anxiety has it anything to
gain. Though the way may be long, the material of your mind
intractable, to the eager lover of Reality ultimate success is
assured. The strong tide of Transcendent Life will inevitably
invade, clarify, uplift the consciousness which is open to receive
it; a movement from without--subtle yet actual--answering each
willed movement from within. "Your opening and His entering,"
says Eckhart, "are but one moment." When, therefore, you put
aside your preconceived ideas, your self-centred scale of values,
and let intuition have its way with you, you open up by this act
new levels of the world. Such an opening-up is the most practical
of all activities; for then and then only will your diurnal
existence, and the natural scene in which that existence is set,
begin to give up to you its richness and meaning. Its paradoxes
and inequalities will be disclosed as true constituents of its
beauty, an inconceivable splendour will be shaken out from its
dingiest folds. Then, and only then, escaping the single vision of
the selfish, you will begin to guess all that your senses were
meant to be.

    "I swear the earth shall surely be complete to him or her who
        shall be complete,
    The earth remains jagged and broken only to him or her who
        remains jagged and broken."



CHAPTER VIII

THE SECOND FORM OF CONTEMPLATION

"And here," says Ruysbroeck of the self which has reached this
point, "there begins a hunger and a thirst which shall never more
be stilled."

In the First Form of Contemplation that self has been striving to
know better its own natural plane of existence. It has stretched
out the feelers of its intuitive love into the general stream of
duration of which it is a part. Breaking down the fences of
personality, merging itself in a larger consciousness, it
has learned to know the World of Becoming from within--as a
citizen, a member of the great society of life, not merely as a
spectator. But the more deeply and completely you become
immersed in and aware of this life, the greater the extension of
your consciousness; the more insistently will rumours and
intimations of a higher plane of experience, a closer unity and
more complete synthesis, begin to besiege you. You feel that
hitherto you nave received the messages of life in a series of
disconnected words and notes, from which your mind constructed
as best it could certain coherent sentences and tunes--laws,
classifications, relations, and the rest. But now you reach
out towards the ultimate sentence and melody, which exist
independently of your own constructive efforts; and realise that
the words and notes which so often puzzled you by displaying an
intensity that exceeded the demands of your little world, only
have beauty and meaning just because and in so far as you
discern them to be the partial expressions of a greater whole
which is still beyond your reach.

You have long been like a child tearing up the petals of flowers
in order to make a mosaic on the garden path; and the results of
this murderous diligence you mistook for a knowledge of the
world. When the bits fitted with unusual exactitude, you called it
science. Now at last you have perceived the greater truth and
loveliness of the living plant from which you broke them: have,
in fact, entered into direct communion with it, "united" with its
reality. But this very recognition of the living growing plant does
and must entail for you a consciousness of deeper realities,
which, as yet, you have not touched: of the intangible things and
forces which feed and support it; of the whole universe that
touches you through its life. A mere cataloguing of all the plants--
though this were far better than your old game of indexing your
own poor photographs of them--will never give you access to the
Unity, the Fact, whatever it may be, which manifests itself
through them. To suppose that it can do so is the cardinal error of
the "nature mystic": an error parallel with that of the psychologist
who looks for the soul in "psychic states."

The deeper your realisation of the plant in its wonder, the more
perfect your union with the world of growth and change, the
quicker, the more subtle your response to its countless
suggestions; so much the more acute will become your craving
for Something More. You will now find and feel the Infinite and
Eternal, making as it were veiled and sacramental contacts with
you under these accidents--through these its ceaseless creative
activities--and you will want to press through and beyond them,
to a fuller realisation of, a more perfect and unmediated union
with, the Substance of all That Is. With the great widening and
deepening of your life that has ensued from the abolition of a
narrow selfhood, your entrance into the larger consciousness of
living things, there has necessarily come to you an instinctive
knowledge of a final and absolute group-relation, transcending
and including all lesser unions in its sweep. To this, the second
stage of contemplation, in which human consciousness enters
into its peculiar heritage, something within you now seems to
urge you on.

If you obey this inward push, pressing forward with the "sharp
dart of your longing love," forcing the point of your wilful
attention further and further into the web of things, such an
ever-deepening realisation, such an extension of your conscious
life, will indeed become possible to you. Nothing but your own
apathy, your feeble and limited desire, limits this realisation.
Here there is a strict relation between demand and supply--your
achievement shall be in proportion to the greatness of your
desire. The fact, and the in-pressing energy, of the Reality
without does not vary. Only the extent to which you are able to
receive it depends upon your courage and generosity, the measure
in which you give yourself to its embrace. Those minds which set
a limit to their self-donation must feel as they attain it, not a sense
of satisfaction but a sense of constriction. It is useless to offer
your spirit a garden--even a garden inhabited by saints and
angels--and pretend that it has been made free of the universe.
You will not have peace until you do away with all banks and
hedges, and exchange the garden for the wilderness that is
unwalled; that wild strange place of silence where "lovers lose
themselves."

Yet you must begin this great adventure humbly; and take, as
Julian of Norwich did, the first stage of your new outward-going
journey along the road that lies nearest at hand. When Julian
looked with the eye of contemplation upon that "little thing"
which revealed to her the oneness of the created universe, her
deep and loving sight perceived in it successively three
properties, which she expressed as well as she might under the
symbols of her own theology: "The first is that God made it; the
second is that God loveth it; the third is that God keepeth it."
Here are three phases in the ever-widening contemplative
apprehension of Reality. Not three opinions, but three facts, for
which she struggles to find words. The first is that each separate
living thing, budding "like an hazel nut" upon the tree of life, and
there destined to mature, age, and die, is the outbirth of another
power, of a creative push: that the World of Becoming in all its
richness and variety is not ultimate, but formed by Something
other than, and utterly transcendent to, itself. This, of course, the
religious mind invariably takes for granted: but we are concerned
with immediate experience rather than faith. To feel and know
those two aspects of Reality which we call "created" and
"uncreated," nature and spirit--to be as sharply aware of them, as
sure of them, as we are of land and sea--is to be made free of the
supersensual world. It is to stand for an instant at the Poet's side,
and see that Poem of which you have deciphered separate phrases
in the earlier form of contemplation. Then you were learning to
read: and found in the words, the lines, the stanzas, an
astonishing meaning and loveliness. But how much greater the
significance of every detail would appear to you, how much more
truly you would possess its life, were you acquainted with the
Poem: not as a mere succession of such lines and stanzas, but as a
non-successional whole.

From this Julian passes to that deeper knowledge of the heart
which comes from a humble and disinterested acceptance of life;
that this Creation, this whole changeful natural order, with all its
apparent collisions, cruelties, and waste, yet springs from an
ardour, an immeasurable love, a perpetual donation, which
generates it, upholds it, drives it; for "_all-thing_ hath the being
by the love of God." Blake's anguished question here receives its
answer: the Mind that conceived the lamb conceived the tiger
too. Everything, says Julian in effect, whether gracious, terrible,
or malignant, is enwrapped in love: and is part of a world
produced, not by mechanical necessity, but by passionate desire.

Therefore nothing can really be mean, nothing despicable;
nothing, however perverted, irredeemable. The blasphemous
other-worldliness of the false mystic who conceives of matter as
an evil thing and flies from its "deceits," is corrected by this
loving sight. Hence, the more beautiful and noble a thing appears
to us, the more we love it--so much the more truly do we see it:
for then we perceive within it the Divine ardour surging up
towards expression, and share that simplicity and purity of vision
in which most saints and some poets see all things "as they are in
God."

Lastly, this love-driven world of duration--this work within
which the Divine Artist passionately and patiently expresses His
infinite dream under finite forms--is held in another, mightier
embrace. It is "kept," says Julian. Paradoxically, the perpetual
changeful energies of love and creation which inspire it are
gathered up and made complete within the unchanging fact of
Being: the Eternal and Absolute, within which the world of
things is set as the tree is set in the supporting earth, the enfolding
air. There, finally, is the rock and refuge of the seeking
consciousness wearied by the ceaseless process of the flux. There
that flux exists in its wholeness, "all at once"; in a manner which
we can never comprehend, but which in hours of withdrawal we
may sometimes taste and feel. It is in man's moments of contact
with this, when he penetrates beyond all images, however lovely,
however significant, to that ineffable awareness which the
mystics call "Naked Contemplation"--since it is stripped of all the
clothing with which reason and imagination drape and disguise
both our devils and our gods--that the hunger and thirst of the
heart is satisfied, and we receive indeed an assurance of ultimate
Reality. This assurance is not the cool conclusion of a successful
argument. It is rather the seizing at last of Something which we
have ever felt near us and enticing us: the unspeakably simple
because completely inclusive solution of all the puzzles of life.

As, then, you gave yourself to the broken-up yet actual reality of
the natural world, in order that it might give itself to you, and
your possession of its secret was achieved, first by surrender of
selfhood, next by a diligent thrusting out of your attention, last by
a union of love; so now by a repetition upon fresh levels of that
same process, you are to mount up to higher unions still. Held
tight as it seems to you in the finite, committed to the perpetual
rhythmic changes, the unceasing flux of "natural" life--compelled
to pass on from state to state, to grow, to age, to die--there is yet,
as you discovered in the first exercise of recollection, something
in you which endures through and therefore transcends this world
of change. This inhabitant, this mobile spirit, can spread and
merge in the general consciousness, and gather itself again to one
intense point of personality. It has too an innate knowledge of--an
instinct for--another, greater rhythm, another order of Reality, as
yet outside its conscious field; or as we say, a capacity for the
Infinite. This capacity, this unfulfilled craving, which the cunning
mind of the practical man suppresses and disguises as best it can,
is the source of all your unrest. More, it is the true origin of all
your best loves and enthusiasms, the inspiring cause of your
heroisms and achievements; which are but oblique and tentative
efforts to still that strange hunger for some final object of
devotion, some completing and elucidating vision, some total
self-donation, some great and perfect Act within which your little
activity can be merged.

St. Thomas Aquinas says, that a man is only withheld from this
desired vision of the Divine Essence, this discovery of the
Pure Act (which indeed is everywhere pressing in on him and
supporting him), by the apparent necessity which he is under of
turning to bodily images, of breaking up his continuous and
living intuition into Conceptual scraps; in other words, because
he cannot live the life of sensation without thought. But it is not
the man, it is merely his mental machinery which is under this
"necessity." This it is which translates, analyses, incorporates in
finite images the boundless perceptions of the spirit: passing
through its prism the White Light of Reality, and shattering it to a
succession of coloured rays. Therefore the man who would know
the Divine Secret must unshackle himself more thoroughly than
ever before from the tyranny of the image-making power. As it is
not by the methods of the laboratory that we learn to know life,
so it is not by the methods of the intellect that we learn to know
God.

"For of all other creatures and their works," says the author of
_The Cloud of Unknowing_, "yea, and of the works of God's self,
may a man through grace have full-head of knowing, and well he
can think of them: but of God Himself can no man think. And
therefore I would leave all that thing that I can think, and choose
to my love that thing that I cannot think. For why; He may well
be loved, but not thought. By love may He be gotten and holden;
but by thought never."

"Gotten and holden": homely words, that suggest rather the
outstretching of the hand to take something lying at your very
gates, than the long outward journey or terrific ascent of the
contemplative soul. Reality indeed, the mystics say, is "near and
far"; far from our thoughts, but saturating and supporting our
lives. Nothing would be nearer, nothing dearer, nothing sweeter,
were the doors of our perception truly cleansed. You have then
but to focus attention upon your own deep reality, "realise your
own soul," in order to find it. "We dwell in Him and He in us":
you participate in the Eternal Order now. The vision of the
Divine Essence--the participation of its own small activity in the
Supernal Act--is for the spark of your soul a perpetual process.
On the apex of your personality, spirit ever gazes upon Spirit,
melts and merges in it: from and by this encounter its life arises
and is sustained. But you have been busy from your childhood
with other matters. All the urgent affairs of "life," as you absurdly
called it, have monopolised your field of consciousness. Thus all
the important events of your real life, physical and spiritual--the
mysterious perpetual growth of you, the knitting up of fresh bits
of the universe into the unstable body which you confuse with
yourself, the hum and whirr of the machine which preserves your
contacts with the material world, the more delicate movements
which condition your correspondences with, and growth within,
the spiritual order--all these have gone on unperceived by you.
All the time you have been kept and nourished, like the "Little
Thing," by an enfolding and creative love; yet of this you are less
conscious than you are of the air that you breathe.

Now, as in the first stage of contemplation you learned and
established, as a patent and experienced fact, your fraternal
relation with all the other children of God, entering into the
rhythm of their existence, participating in their stress and their
joy; will you not at least try to make patent this your filial
relation too? This actualisation of your true status, your place in
the Eternal World, is waiting for you. It represents the next phase
in your gradual achievement of Reality. The method by which
you will attain to it is strictly analogous to that by which you
obtained a more vivid awareness of the natural world in which
you grow and move. Here too it shall be direct intuitive contact,
sensation rather than thought, which shall bring you certitude--
"tasting food, not talking about it," as St. Bonaventura says.

Yet there is a marked difference between these two stages. In the
first, the deliberate inward retreat and gathering together of your
faculties which was effected by recollection, was the prelude to a
new coming forth, an outflow from the narrow limits of a merely
personal life to the better and truer apprehension of the created
world. Now, in the second stage, the disciplined and recollected
attention seems to take an opposite course. It is directed towards
a plane of existence with which your bodily senses have no
attachments: which is not merely misrepresented by your
ordinary concepts, but cannot be represented by them at all. It
must therefore sink inwards towards its own centre, "away from
all that can be thought or felt," as the mystics say, "away from
every image, every notion, every thing," towards that strange
condition of obscurity which St. John of the Cross calls the
"Night of Sense." Do this steadily, checking each vagrant
instinct, each insistent thought, however "spiritual" it may seem;
pressing ever more deeply inwards towards that ground, that
simple and undifferentiated Being from which your diverse
faculties emerge. Presently you will find yourself, emptied and
freed, in a place stripped bare of all the machinery of thought;
and achieve the condition of simplicity which those same
specialists call nakedness of spirit or "Wayless Love," and which
they declare to be above all human images and ideas--a state of
consciousness in which "all the workings of the reason fail."
Then you will observe that you have entered into an intense and
vivid silence: a silence which exists in itself, through and in spite
of the ceaseless noises of your normal world. Within this world
of silence you seem as it were to lose yourself, "to ebb and to
flow, to wander and be lost in the Imageless Ground," says
Ruysbroeck, struggling to describe the sensations of the self in
this, its first initiation into the "wayless world, beyond image,"
where "all is, yet in no wise."

Yet in spite of the darkness that enfolds you, the Cloud of
Unknowing into which you have plunged, you are sure that it is
well to be here. A peculiar certitude which you cannot analyse, a
strange satisfaction and peace, is distilled into you. You begin to
understand what the Psalmist meant, when he said, "Be still, and
know." You are lost in a wilderness, a solitude, a dim strange
state of which you can say nothing, since it offers no material to
your image-making mind.

But this wilderness, from one point of view so bare and desolate,
from another is yet strangely homely. In it, all your sorrowful
questionings are answered without utterance; it is the All, and
you are within it and part of it, and know that it is good. It calls
forth the utmost adoration of which you are capable; and,
mysteriously, gives love for love. You have ascended now, say
the mystics, into the Freedom of the Will of God; are become
part of a higher, slower duration, which carries you as it were
upon its bosom and--though never perhaps before has your soul
been so truly active--seems to you a stillness, a rest.

The doctrine of Plotinus concerning a higher life of unity, a lower
life of multiplicity, possible to every human spirit, will now
appear to you not a fantastic theory, but a plain statement of fact,
which you have verified in your own experience. You perceive
that these are the two complementary ways of apprehending and
uniting with Reality--the one as a dynamic process, the other as
an eternal whole. Thus understood, they do not conflict.
You know that the flow, the broken-up world of change and
multiplicity, is still going on; and that you, as a creature of the
time-world, are moving and growing with it. But, thanks to the
development of the higher side of your consciousness, you are
now lifted to a new poise; a direct participation in that simple,
transcendent life "broken, yet not divided," which gives to this
time-world all its meaning and validity. And you know, without
derogation from the realness of that life of flux within which you
first made good your attachments to the universe, that you are
also a true constituent of the greater whole; that since you are
man, you are also spirit, and are living Eternal Life now, in the
midst of time.

The effect of this form of contemplation, in the degree in which
the ordinary man may learn to practise it, is like the sudden
change of atmosphere, the shifting of values, which we experience
when we pass from the busy streets into a quiet church; where
a lamp burns, and a silence reigns, the same yesterday, to-day,
and for ever. Thence is poured forth a stillness which strikes
through the tumult without. Eluding the flicker of the arc-lamps,
thence through an upper window we may glimpse a perpetual star.

The walls of the church, limiting the range of our attention,
shutting out the torrent of life, with its insistent demands and
appeals, make possible our apprehension of this deep eternal
peace. The character of our consciousness, intermediate between
Eternity and Time, and ever ready to swing between them, makes
such a device, such a concrete aid to concentration, essential to
us. But the peace, the presence, is everywhere--for us, not for it,
is the altar and the sanctuary required--and your deliberate,
humble practice of contemplation will teach you at last to find it;
outside the sheltering walls of recollection as well as within. You
will realise then what Julian meant, when she declared the
ultimate property of all that was made to be that "God keepeth
it": will _feel_ the violent consciousness of an enfolding
Presence, utterly transcending the fluid changeful nature-life, and
incomprehensible to the intelligence which that nature-life has
developed and trained. And as you knew the secret of that
nature-life best by surrendering yourself to it, by entering its
currents, and refusing to analyse or arrange: so here, by a
deliberate giving of yourself to the silence, the rich "nothingness,"
the "Cloud," you will draw nearest to the Reality it conceals
from the eye of sense. "Lovers put out the candle and draw the
curtains," says Patmore, "when they wish to see the God and the
Goddess: and in the higher communion, the night of thought is
the light of perception."

Such an experience of Eternity, the attainment of that intuitive
awareness, that meek and simple self-mergence, which the
mystics call sometimes, according to its degree and special
circumstances, the Quiet, the Desert of God, the Divine Dark,
represents the utmost that human consciousness can do of itself
towards the achievement of union with Reality. To some it brings
joy and peace, to others fear: to all a paradoxical sense of the
lowliness and greatness of the soul, which now at last can
measure itself by the august standards of the Infinite. Though the
trained and diligent will of the contemplative can, if control of
the attention be really established, recapture this state of
awareness, retreat into the Quiet again and again, yet it is of
necessity a fleeting experience; for man is immersed in duration,
subject to it. Its demands upon his attention can only cease with
the cessation of physical life--perhaps not then. Perpetual
absorption in the Transcendent is a human impossibility, and the
effort to achieve it is both unsocial and silly. But this experience,
this "ascent to the Nought," changes for ever the proportions of
the life that once has known it; gives to it depth and height, and
prepares the way for those further experiences, that great
transfiguration of existence which comes when the personal
activity of the finite will gives place to the great and compelling
action of another Power.



CHAPTER IX

THE THIRD FORM OF CONTEMPLATION

The hard separation which some mystical writers insist upon
making between "natural" and "supernatural" contemplation, has
been on the whole productive of confusion rather than clearness:
for the word "supernatural" has many unfortunate associations for
the mind of the plain man. It at once suggests to him visions and
ecstasies, superstitious beliefs, ghosts, and other disagreeable
interferences with the order which he calls "natural"; and inclines
him to his old attitude of suspicion in respect of all mystical
things. But some word we must have, to indicate the real
cleavage which exists between the second and third stages in the
development of the contemplative consciousness: the real change
which, if you would go further on these interior paths, must now
take place in the manner of your apprehension of Reality.
Hitherto, all that you have attained has been--or at least has
seemed to you--the direct result of your own hard work. A
difficult self-discipline, the slowly achieved control of your
vagrant thoughts and desires, the steady daily practice of
recollection, a diligent pushing out of your consciousness from
the superficial to the fundamental, an unselfish loving attention;
all this has been rewarded by the gradual broadening and
deepening of your perceptions, by an initiation into the
movements of a larger life, You have been a knocker, a seeker,
an asker: have beat upon the Cloud of Unknowing "with a sharp
dart of longing love." A perpetual effort of the will has
characterised your inner development. Your contemplation, in
fact, as the specialists would say, has been "active," not
"infused."

But now, having achieved an awareness--obscure and indescribable
indeed, yet actual--of the enfolding presence of Reality,
under those two forms which the theologians call the "immanence"
and the "transcendence" of the Divine, a change is to take
place in the relation between your finite human spirit and
the Infinite Life in which at last it knows itself to dwell. All that
will now come to you--and much perhaps will come--will happen
as it seems without effort on your own part: though really it will
be the direct result of that long stress and discipline which has
gone before, and has made it possible for you to feel the subtle
contact of deeper realities. It will depend also on the steady
continuance--often perhaps through long periods of darkness and
boredom--of that poise to which you have been trained: the
stretching-out of the loving and surrendered will into the dimness
and silence, the continued trustful habitation of the soul in the
atmosphere of the Essential World. You are like a traveller
arrived in a new country. The journey has been a long one; and
the hardships and obstacles involved in it, the effort, the perpetual
conscious pressing forward, have at last come to seem the chief
features of your inner life. Now, with their cessation, you feel
curiously lost; as if the chief object of your existence had been
taken away. No need to push on any further: yet, though there is
no more that you can do of yourself, there is much that may and
must be done to you. The place that you have come to seems
strange and bewildering, for it lies far beyond the horizons of
human thought. There are no familiar landmarks, nothing on
which you can lay hold. You "wander to and fro," as the mystics
say, "in this fathomless ground"; surrounded by silence and
darkness, struggling to breathe this rarefied air. Like those who
go to live in new latitudes, you must become acclimatised. Your
state, then, should now be wisely passive; in order that the great
influences which surround you may take and adjust your spirit,
that the unaccustomed light, which now seems to you a darkness,
may clarify your eyes, and that you may be transformed from a
visitor into an inhabitant of that supernal Country which St.
Augustine described as "no mere vision, but a home."

You are therefore to let yourself go; to cease all conscious,
anxious striving and pushing. Finding yourself in this place of
darkness and quietude, this "Night of the Spirit," as St. John of
the Cross has called it, you are to dwell there meekly; asking
nothing, seeking nothing, but with your doors flung wide open
towards God. And as you do thus, there will come to you an ever
clearer certitude that this darkness enveils the goal for which you
have been seeking from the first; the final Reality with which you
are destined to unite, the perfect satisfaction of your most ardent
and most sacred desires. It is there, but you cannot by your efforts
reach it. This realisation of your own complete impotence, of the
resistance which the Transcendent--long sought and faithfully
served--now seems to offer to your busy outgoing will and love,
your ardour, your deliberate self-donation, is at once the most
painful and most essential phase in the training of the human
soul. It brings you into that state of passive suffering which is to
complete the decentralisation of your character, test the purity of
your love, and perfect your education in humility.

Here, you must oppose more thoroughly than ever before the
instincts and suggestions of your separate, clever, energetic self;
which, hating silence and dimness, is always trying to take
the methods of Martha into the domain of Mary, and seldom
discriminates between passivity and sloth. Perhaps you will find,
when you try to achieve this perfect self-abandonment, that a
further, more drastic self-exploration, a deeper, more searching
purification than that which was forced upon you by your first
experience of the recollective state is needed. The last fragments
of selfhood, the very desire for spiritual satisfaction--the
fundamental human tendency to drag down the Simple Fact and
make it ours, instead of offering ourselves to it--must be sought
out and killed. In this deep contemplation, this profound Quiet,
your soul gradually becomes conscious of a constriction, a
dreadful narrowness of personality; something still existing in
itself, still tending to draw inwards to its own centre, and keeping
it from that absolute surrender which is the only way to peace.
An attitude of perfect generosity, complete submission, willing
acquiescence in anything that may happen--even in failure and
death--is here your only hope: for union with Reality can only be
a union of love, a glad and humble self-mergence in the universal
life. You must, so far as you are able, give yourself up to, "die
into," melt into the Whole; abandon all efforts to lay hold of It.
More, you must be willing that it should lay hold of you. "A pure
bare going forth," says Tauler, trying to describe the sensations of
the self at this moment. "None," says Ruysbroeck, putting this
same experience, this meek outstreaming of the bewildered spirit,
into other language, "is sure of Eternal Life, unless he has died
with his own attributes wholly into God."

It is unlikely that agreeable emotions will accompany this utter
self-surrender; for everything will now seem to be taken from
you, nothing given in exchange. But if you are able to make it, a
mighty transformation will result. From the transitional plane of
darkness, you will be reborn into another "world," another stage
of realisation: and find yourself, literally, to be other than you
were before. Ascetic writers tell us that the essence of the change
now effected consists in the fact that "God's _action_ takes the
place of man's _activity_"--that the surrendered self "does not act,
but receives." By this they mean to describe, as well as our
concrete language will permit, the new and vivid consciousness
which now invades the contemplative; the sense which he has of
being as it were helpless in the grasp of another Power, so utterly
part of him, so completely different from him--so rich and
various, so transfused with life and feeling, so urgent and so
all-transcending--that he can only think of it as God. It is for
this that the dimness and steadily increasing passivity of the
stage of Quiet has been preparing him; and it is out of this
willing quietude and ever-deepening obscurity that the new
experiences come.

        "O night that didst lead thus,
        O night more lovely than the dawn of light,
        O night that broughtest us
        Lover to lover's sight--
    Lover with loved in marriage of delight,"

says St. John of the Cross in the most wonderful of all mystical
poems. "He who has had experience of this," says St. Teresa of
the same stage of apprehension, "will understand it in some
measure: but it cannot be more clearly described because what
then takes place is so obscure. All I am able to say is, that the
soul is represented as being close to God; and that there abide a
conviction thereof so certain and strong, that it cannot possibly
help believing so."

This sense, this conviction, which may be translated by the
imagination into many different forms, is the substance of the
greatest experiences and highest joys of the mystical saints. The
intensity with which it is realised will depend upon the ardour,
purity, and humility of the experiencing soul: but even those who
feel it faintly are convinced by it for evermore. In some great and
generous spirits, able to endure the terrific onslaught of Reality,
it may even reach a vividness by which all other things are
obliterated; and the self, utterly helpless under the inundations of
this transcendent life-force, passes into that simple state of
consciousness which is called Ecstasy.

But you are not to be frightened by these special manifestations;
or to suppose that here the road is barred against you. Though
these great spirits have as it were a genius for Reality, a
susceptibility to supernal impressions, so far beyond your own
small talent that there seems no link between you: yet you have,
since you are human, a capacity for the Infinite too. With less
intensity, less splendour, but with a certitude which no arguments
will ever shake, this sense of the Living Fact, and of its
mysterious contacts with and invasions of the human spirit, may
assuredly be realised by you. This realisation--sometimes felt
under the symbols of personality, sometimes under those of an
impersonal but life-giving Force, Light, Energy, or Heat--is the
ruling character of the third phase of contemplation; and the
reward of that meek passivity, that "busy idleness" as the mystics
sometimes call it, which you have been striving to attain. Sooner
or later, if you are patient, it will come to you through the
darkness: a mysterious contact, a clear certitude of intercourse
and of possession--perhaps so gradual in its approach that the
break, the change from the ever-deepening stillness and peace of
the second phase, is hardly felt by you; perhaps, if your nature be
ardent and unstable, with a sudden shattering violence, in a
"storm of love."

In either case, the advent of this experience is incalculable, and
completely outside your own control. So far, to use St. Teresa's
well-known image, you have been watering the garden of your
spirit by hand; a poor and laborious method, yet one in which
there is a definite relation between effort and result. But now the
watering-can is taken from you, and you must depend upon the
rain: more generous, more fruitful, than anything which your own
efforts could manage, but, in its incalculable visitations, utterly
beyond your control. Here all one can say is this: that if you
acquiesce in the heroic demands which the spiritual life now
makes upon you, if you let yourself go, eradicate the last traces of
self-interest even of the most spiritual kind--then, you have
established conditions under which the forces of the spiritual
world can work on you, heightening your susceptibilities,
deepening and purifying your attention, so that you are able to
taste and feel more and more of the inexhaustible riches of
Reality.

Thus dying to your own will, waiting for what is given, infused,
you will presently find that a change in your apprehension has
indeed taken place: and that those who said self-loss was the only
way to realisation taught no pious fiction but the truth. The
highest contemplative experience to which you have yet attained
has seemed above all else a still awareness. The cessation of your
own striving, a resting upon and within the Absolute World--
these were its main characteristics for your consciousness. But
now, this Ocean of Being is no longer felt by you as an
emptiness, a solitude without bourne. Suddenly you know it to be
instinct with a movement and life too great for you to apprehend.
You are thrilled by a mighty energy, uncontrolled by you,
unsolicited by you: its higher vitality is poured into your soul.
You enter upon an experience for which all the terms of power,
thought, motion, even of love, are inadequate: yet which contains
within itself the only complete expression of all these things.
Your strength is now literally made perfect in weakness: because
of the completeness of your dependence, a fresh life is infused
into you, such as your old separate existence never knew.
Moreover, to that diffused and impersonal sense of the Infinite, in
which you have dipped yourself, and which swallows up and
completes all the ideas your mind has ever built up with the
help of the categories of time and space, is now added the
consciousness of a Living Fact which includes, transcends,
completes all that you mean by the categories of personality and
of life. Those ineffective, half-conscious attempts towards free
action, clear apprehension, true union, which we dignify by the
names of will, thought, and love are now seen matched by an
Absolute Will, Thought, and Love; instantly recognised by the
contemplating spirit as the highest reality it yet has known, and
evoking in it a passionate and a humble joy.

This unmistakable experience has been achieved by the mystics
of every religion; and when we read their statements, we know
that all are speaking of the same thing. None who have had it
have ever been able to doubt its validity. It has always become
for them the central fact, by which all other realities must
be tested and graduated. It has brought to them the deep
consciousness of sources of abundant life now made accessible to
man; of the impact of a mighty energy, gentle, passionate,
self-giving, creative, which they can only call Absolute Love.
Sometimes they feel this strange life moving and stirring within
them. Sometimes it seems to pursue, entice, and besiege them. In
every case, they are the passive objects upon which it works. It is
now another Power which seeks the separated spirit and demands
it; which knocks at the closed door of the narrow personality;
which penetrates the contemplative consciousness through and
through, speaking, stirring, compelling it; which sometimes, by
its secret irresistible pressure, wins even the most recalcitrant
in spite of themselves. Sometimes this Power is felt as an
impersonal force, the unifying cosmic energy, the indrawing love
which gathers all things into One; sometimes as a sudden access
of vitality, a light and heat, enfolding and penetrating the self and
making its languid life more vivid and more real; sometimes as a
personal and friendly Presence which counsels and entreats the
soul.

In each case, the mystics insist again that this is God; that here
under these diverse manners the soul has immediate intercourse
with Him. But we must remember that when they make this
declaration, they are speaking from a plane of consciousness far
above the ideas and images of popular religion; and from a place
which is beyond the judiciously adjusted horizon of philosophy.
They mean by this word, not a notion, however august; but an
experienced Fact so vivid, that against it the so-called facts of
daily life look shadowy and insecure. They say that this Fact is
"immanent"; dwelling in, transfusing, and discoverable through
every aspect of the universe, every movement of the game of
life--as you have found in the first stage of contemplation. There you
may hear its melody and discern its form. And further, that It is
"transcendent"; in essence exceeding and including the sum of
those glimpses and contacts which we obtain by self-mergence in
life, and in Its simplest manifestations above and beyond
anything to which reason can attain--"the Nameless Being, of
Whom nought can be said." This you discovered to be true in the
second stage. But in addition to this, they say also, that this
all-pervasive, all-changing, and yet changeless One, Whose melody
is heard in all movement, and within Whose Being "the worlds
are being told like beads," calls the human spirit to an immediate
intercourse, a _unity_, a fruition, a divine give-and-take, for
which the contradictory symbols of feeding, of touching, of
marriage, of immersion, are all too poor; and which evokes in the
fully conscious soul a passionate and a humble love. "He devours
us and He feeds us!" exclaims Ruysbroeck. "Here," says St.
Thomas Aquinas, "the soul in a wonderful and unspeakable
manner both seizes and is seized upon, devours and is herself
devoured, embraces and is violently embraced: and by the knot of
love she unites herself with God, and is with Him as the Alone
with the Alone."

The marvellous love-poetry of mysticism, the rhapsodies which
extol the spirit's Lover, Friend, Companion, Bridegroom; which
describe the "deliberate speed, majestic instancy" of the Hound of
Heaven chasing the separated soul, the onslaughts, demands, and
caresses of this "stormy, generous, and unfathomable love"--all
this is an attempt, often of course oblique and symbolic in
method, to express and impart this transcendent secret, to
describe that intense yet elusive state in which alone union with
the living heart of Reality is possible. "How delicately Thou
teachest love tome!" cries St. John of the Cross; and here indeed
we find all the ardours of all earthly lovers justified by an
imperishable Objective, which reveals Itself in all things that we
truly love, and beyond all these things both seeks us and compels
us, "giving more than we can take and asking more than we can
pay."

You do not, you never will know, _what_ this Objective is: for as
Dionysius teaches, "if any one saw God and understood what he
saw, then it was not God that he saw, but something that belongs
to Him." But you do know now that it exists, with an intensity
which makes all other existences unreal; save in so far as they
participate in this one Fact. "Some contemplate the Formless, and
others meditate on Form: but the wise man knows that Brahma is
beyond both." As you yield yourself more and more completely
to the impulses of this intimate yet unseizable Presence, so much
the sweeter and stronger--so much the more constant and steady--
will your intercourse with it become. The imperfect music of
your adoration will be answered and reinforced by another music,
gentle, deep, and strange; your out-going movement, the
stretching forth of your desire from yourself to something other,
will be answered by a movement, a stirring, within you yet not
conditioned by you. The wonder and variety of this intercourse is
never-ending. It includes in its sweep every phase of human love
and self-devotion, all beauty and all power, all suffering and
effort, all gentleness and rapture: here found in synthesis. Going
forth into the bareness and darkness of this unwalled world of
high contemplation, you there find stored for you, and at last
made real, all the highest values, all the dearest and noblest
experiences of the world of growth and change.

You see now what it is that you have been doing in the course of
your mystical development. As your narrow heart stretched
to a wider sympathy with life, you have been surrendering
progressively to larger and larger existences, more and more
complete realities: have been learning to know them, to share
their very being, through the magic of disinterested love. First,
the manifested, flowing, evolving life of multiplicity: felt by you
in its wonder and wholeness, once you learned to yield yourself
to its rhythms, received in simplicity the undistorted messages of
sense. Then, the actual unchanging ground of life, the eternal and
unconditioned Whole, transcending all succession: a world
inaccessible alike to senses and intelligence, but felt--vaguely,
darkly, yet intensely--by the quiet and surrendered consciousness.
But now you are solicited, whether you will or no, by a greater
Reality, the final inclusive Fact, the Unmeasured Love, which "is
through all things everlastingly": and yielding yourself
to it, receiving and responding to its obscure yet ardent
communications, you pass beyond the cosmic experience to the
personal encounter, the simple yet utterly inexpressible union of
the soul with its God.

And this threefold union with Reality, as your attention is
focussed now on one aspect, now on another, of its rich
simplicity, will be actualised by you in many different ways: for
you are not to suppose that an unchanging barren ecstasy is now
to characterise your inner life. Though the sense of your own
dwelling within the Eternal transfuses and illuminates it, the
sense of your own necessary efforts, a perpetual renewal of
contact with the Spiritual World, a perpetual self-donation, shall
animate it too. When the greater love overwhelms the lesser, and
your small self-consciousness is lost in the consciousness of the
Whole, it will be felt as an intense stillness, a quiet fruition of
Reality. Then, your very selfhood seems to cease, as it does in all
your moments of great passion; and you are "satisfied and
overflowing, and with Him beyond yourself eternally fulfilled."
Again, when your own necessary activity comes into the foreground,
your small energetic love perpetually pressing to deeper
and deeper realisation--"tasting through and through, and
seeking through and through, the fathomless ground" of the
Infinite and Eternal--it seems rather a perpetually renewed
encounter than a final achievement. Since you are a child of Time
as well as of Eternity, such effort and satisfaction, active and
passive love are both needed by you, if your whole life is to be
brought into union with the inconceivably rich yet simple One in
Whom these apparent opposites are harmonised. Therefore
seeking and finding, work and rest, conflict and peace, feeding on
God and self-immersion in God, spiritual marriage and spiritual
death--these contradictory images are all wanted, if we are to
represent the changing moods of the living, growing human
spirit; the diverse aspects under which it realises the simple fact
of its intercourse with the Divine.

Each new stage achieved in the mystical development of the
spirit has meant, not the leaving behind of the previous
stages, but an adding on to them: an ever greater extension of
experience, and enrichment of personality. So that the total result
of this change, this steady growth of your transcendental self, is
not an impoverishment of the sense-life in the supposed interests
of the super-sensual, but the addition to it of another life--a huge
widening and deepening of the field over which your attention
can play. Sometimes the mature contemplative consciousness
narrows to an intense point of feeling, in which it seems
indeed "alone with the Alone": sometimes it spreads to a vast
apprehension of the Universal Life, or perceives the common
things of sense aflame with God. It moves easily and with no
sense of incongruity from hours of close personal communion
with its Friend and Lover to self-loss in the "deep yet dazzling
darkness" of the Divine Abyss: or, re-entering that living world
of change which the first form of contemplation disclosed to it,
passes beyond those discrete manifestations of Reality to realise
the Whole which dwells in and inspires every part. Thus
ascending to the mysterious fruition of that Reality which is
beyond image, and descending again to the loving contemplation
and service of all struggling growing things, it now finds and
adores everywhere--in the sky and the nest, the soul and the
void--one Energetic Love which "is measureless, since it is all
that exists," and of which the patient up-climb of the individual
soul, the passionate outpouring of the Divine Mind, form the
completing opposites.



CHAPTER X

THE MYSTICAL LIFE

And here the practical man, who has been strangely silent during
the last stages of our discourse, shakes himself like a terrier
which has achieved dry land again after a bath; and asks once
more, with a certain explosive violence, his dear old question,
"What is the _use_ of all this?"

"You have introduced me," he says further, "to some curious
states of consciousness, interesting enough in their way; and to a
lot of peculiar emotions, many of which are no doubt most
valuable to poets and so on. But it is all so remote from daily life.
How is it going to fit in with ordinary existence? How, above all,
is it all going to help _me_?"

Well, put upon its lowest plane, this new way of attending to life--
this deepening and widening of outlook--may at least be as
helpful to you as many things to which you have unhesitatingly
consecrated much time and diligence in the past: your long
journeys to new countries, for instance, or long hours spent in
acquiring new "facts," relabelling old experiences, gaining skill
in new arts and games. These, it is true, were quite worth the
effort expended on them: for they gave you, in exchange for your
labour and attention, a fresh view of certain fragmentary things, a
new point of contact with the rich world of possibilities, a tiny
enlargement of your universe in one direction or another. Your
love and patient study of nature, art, science, politics, business--
even of sport--repaid you thus. But I have offered you, in
exchange for a meek and industrious attention to another
aspect of the world, hitherto somewhat neglected by you, an
enlargement which shall include and transcend all these; and be
conditioned only by the perfection of your generosity, courage,
and surrender.

Nor are you to suppose that this enlargement will be limited to
certain new spiritual perceptions, which the art of contemplation
has made possible for you: that it will merely draw the curtain
from a window out of which you have never looked. This new
wide world is not to be for you something seen, but something
lived in: and you--since man is a creature of responses--will
insensibly change under its influence, growing up into a more
perfect conformity with it. Living in this atmosphere of Reality,
you will, in fact, yourself become more real. Hence, if you accept
in a spirit of trust the suggestions which have been made to you--
and I acknowledge that here at the beginning an attitude of faith
is essential--and if you practise with diligence the arts which I
have described: then, sooner or later, you will inevitably find
yourself deeply and permanently changed by them--will perceive
that you have become a "new man." Not merely have you acquired
new powers of perception and new ideas of Reality; but a quiet
and complete transformation, a strengthening and maturing of
your personality has taken place.

You are still, it is true, living the ordinary life of the body. You
are immersed in the stream of duration; a part of the human, the
social, the national group. The emotions, instincts, needs, of that
group affect you. Your changing scrap of vitality contributes to
its corporate life; and contributes the more effectively since a
new, intuitive sympathy has now made its interests your own.
Because of that corporate life, transfusing you, giving to you and
taking from you--conditioning, you as it does in countless oblique
and unapparent ways--you are still compelled to react to many
suggestions which you are no longer able to respect: controlled,
to the last moment of your bodily existence and perhaps
afterwards, by habit, custom, the good old average way of
misunderstanding the world. To this extent, the crowd-spirit has
you in its grasp.

Yet in spite of all this, you are now released from that crowd's
tyrannically overwhelming consciousness as you never were
before. You feel yourself now a separate vivid entity, a real,
whole man: dependent on the Whole, and gladly so dependent,
yet within that Whole a free self-governing thing. Perhaps you
always fancied that your will was free--that you were actually, as
you sometimes said, the "captain of your soul." If so, this was
merely one amongst the many illusions which supported your
old, enslaved career. As a matter of fact, you were driven along a
road, unaware of anything that lay beyond the hedges, pressed on
every side by other members of the flock; getting perhaps a
certain satisfaction out of the deep warm stir of the collective life,
but ignorant of your destination, and with your personal initiative
limited to the snatching of grass as you went along, the pushing
of your way to the softer side of the track. These operation? made
up together that which you called Success. But now, because you
have achieved a certain power of gathering yourself together,
perceiving yourself as a person, a spirit, and observing your
relation with these other individual lives--because too, hearing
now and again the mysterious piping of the Shepherd, you realise
your own perpetual forward movement and that of the flock, in
its relation to that living guide--you have a far deeper, truer
knowledge than ever before both of the general and the individual
existence; and so are able to handle life with a surer hand.

Do not suppose from this that your new career is to be perpetually
supported by agreeable spiritual contacts, or occupy itself
in the mild contemplation of the great world through which
you move. True, it is said of the Shepherd that he carries the
lambs in his bosom: but the sheep are expected to walk, and put
up with the inequalities of the road, the bunts and blunders of the
flock. It is to vigour rather than to comfort that you are called.
Since the transcendental aspect of your being has been brought
into focus you are now raised out of the mere push-forward, the
blind passage through time of the flock, into a position of creative
responsibility. You are aware of personal correspondences with
the Shepherd. You correspond, too, with a larger, deeper, broader
world. The sky and the hedges, the wide lands through which you
are moving, the corporate character and meaning of the group to
which you belong--all these are now within the circle of your
consciousness; and each little event, each separate demand or
invitation which comes to you is now seen in a truer proportion,
because you bring to it your awareness of the Whole. Your
journey ceases to be an automatic progress, and takes on some of
the characters of a free act: for "things" are now under you, you
are no longer under them.

You will hardly deny that this is a practical gain: that this
widening and deepening of the range over which your powers of
perception work makes you more of a man than you were before,
and thus adds to rather than subtracts from your total practical
efficiency. It is indeed only when he reaches these levels, and
feels within himself this creative freedom--this full actualisation
of himself--on the one hand: on the other hand the sense of a
world-order, a love and energy on which he depends and with
whose interests he is now at one, that man becomes fully human,
capable of living the real life of Eternity in the midst of the world
of time.

And what, when you have come to it, do you suppose to be your
own function in this vast twofold scheme? Is it for nothing, do
you think, that you are thus a meeting-place of two orders?
Surely it is your business, so far as you may, to express in action
something of the real character of that universe within which you
now know yourself to live? Artists, aware of a more vivid and
more beautiful world than other men, are always driven by their
love and enthusiasm to try and express, bring into direct
manifestation, those deeper significances of form, sound, rhythm,
which they have been able to apprehend: and, doing this, they
taste deeper and deeper truths, make ever closer unions with the
Real. For them, the duty of creation is tightly bound up with the
gift of love. In their passionate outflowing to the universe which
offers itself under one of its many aspects to their adoration, that
other-worldly fruition of beauty is always followed, balanced,
completed, by a this-world impulse to creation: a desire to fix
within the time-order, and share with other men, the vision by
which they were possessed. Each one, thus bringing new aspects
of beauty, new ways of seeing and hearing within the reach of the
race, does something to amend the sorry universe of common
sense, the more hideous universe of greed, and redeem his
fellows from their old, slack servitude to a lower range of
significances. It is in action, then, that these find their truest and
safest point of insertion into the living, active world of Reality: in
sharing and furthering its work of manifestation they know its
secrets best. For them contemplation and action are not opposites,
but two interdependent forms of a life that is _one_--a life that
rushes out to a passionate communion with the true and beautiful,
only that it may draw from this direct experience of Reality a new
intensity wherewith to handle the world of things; and remake it,
or at least some little bit of it, "nearer to the heart's desire."

Again, the great mystics tell us that the "vision of God in His
own light"--the direct contact of the soul's substance with the
Absolute--to which awful experience you drew as near as the
quality of your spirit would permit in the third degree of
contemplation, is the prelude, not to a further revelation of the
eternal order given to you, but to an utter change, a vivid
life springing up within you, which they sometimes call the
"transforming union" or the "birth of the Son in the soul." By this
they mean that the spark of spiritual stuff, that high special power
or character of human nature, by which you first desired, then
tended to, then achieved contact with Reality, is as it were
fertilised by this profound communion with its origin; becomes
strong and vigorous, invades and transmutes the whole personality,
and makes of it, not a "dreamy mystic" but an active and
impassioned servant of the Eternal Wisdom.

So that when these full-grown, fully vital mystics try to tell us
about the life they have achieved, it is always an intensely active
life that they describe. They say, not that they "dwell in restful
fruition," though the deep and joyous knowledge of this, perhaps
too the perpetual longing for an utter self-loss in it, is always
possessed by them--but that they "go up _and down_ the ladder
of contemplation." They stretch up towards the Point, the unique
Reality to which all the intricate and many-coloured lines of life
flow, and in which they are merged; and rush out towards those
various lives in a passion of active love and service. This double
activity, this swinging between rest and work--this alone, they
say, is truly the life of man; because this alone represents on
human levels something of that inexhaustibly rich yet simple life,
"ever active yet ever at rest," which they find in God. When he
gets to this, then man has indeed actualised his union with
Reality; because then he is a part of the perpetual creative act, the
eternal generation of the Divine thought and love. Therefore
contemplation, even at its highest, dearest, and most intimate, is
not to be for you an end in itself. It shall only be truly
yours when it impels you to action: when the double movement of
Transcendent Love, drawing inwards to unity and fruition, and
rushing out again to creative acts, is realised in you. You are to
be a living, ardent tool with which the Supreme Artist works: one
of the instruments of His self-manifestation, the perpetual process
by which His Reality is brought into concrete expression.

Now the expression of vision, of reality, of beauty, at an artist's
hands--the creation of new life in all forms--has two factors: the
living moulding creative spirit, and the material in which it
works. Between these two there is inevitably a difference of
tension. The material is at best inert, and merely patient of the
informing idea; at worst, directly recalcitrant to it. Hence,
according to the balance of these two factors, the amount of
resistance offered by stuff to tool, a greater or less energy must
be expended, greater or less perfection of result will be achieved.
You, accepting the wide deep universe of the mystic, and the
responsibilities that go with it, have by this act taken sides once
for all with creative spirit: with the higher tension, the unrelaxed
effort, the passion for a better, intenser, and more significant life.
The adoration to which you are vowed is not an affair of
red hassocks and authorised hymn books; but a burning and
consuming fire. You will find, then, that the world, going its own
gait, busily occupied with its own system of correspondences--
yielding to every gust of passion, intent on the satisfaction of
greed, the struggle for comfort or for power--will oppose your
new eagerness; perhaps with violence, but more probably with
the exasperating calmness of a heavy animal which refuses to get
up. If your new life is worth anything, it will flame to sharper
power when it strikes against this dogged inertness of things: for
you need resistances on which to act. "The road to a Yea lies
through a Nay," and righteous warfare is the only way to a living
and a lasting peace.

Further, you will observe more and more clearly, that the stuff of
your external world, the method and machinery of the common
life, is not merely passively but actively inconsistent with your
sharp interior vision of truth. The heavy animal is diseased as
well as indolent. All man's perverse ways of seeing his universe,
all the perverse and hideous acts which have sprung from them--
these have set up reactions, have produced deep disorders in the
world of things. Man is free, and holds the keys of hell as well as
the keys of heaven. Within the love-driven universe which you
have learned to see as a whole, you will therefore find egotism,
rebellion, meanness, brutality, squalor: the work of separated
selves whose energies are set athwart the stream. But every
aspect of life, however falsely imagined, can still be "saved,"
turned to the purposes of Reality: for "all-thing hath the being by
the love of God." Its oppositions are no part of its realness;
and therefore they can be overcome. Is there not here, then,
abundance of practical work for you to do; work which is the
direct outcome of your mystical experience? Are there not here,
as the French proverb has it, plenty of cats for you to comb? And
isn't it just here, in the new foothold it gives you, the new clear
vision and certitude--in its noble, serious, and invulnerable faith--
that mysticism is "useful"; even for the most scientific of social
reformers, the most belligerent of politicians, the least
sentimental of philanthropists?

To "bring Eternity into Time," the "invisible into concrete
expression"; to "be to the Eternal Goodness what his own hand is
to a man"--these are the plainly expressed desires of all the great
mystics. One and all, they demand earnest and deliberate action,
the insertion of the purified and ardent will into the world of
things. The mystics are artists; and the stuff in which they work
is most often human life. They want to heal the disharmony
between the actual and the real: and since, in the white-hot
radiance of that faith, hope, and charity which burns in them, they
discern such a reconciliation to be possible, they are able to work
for it with a singleness of purpose and an invincible optimism
denied to other men. This was the instinct which drove St.
Francis of Assist to the practical experience of that poverty which
he recognised as the highest wisdom; St. Catherine of Siena from
contemplation to politics; Joan of Arc to the salvation of France;
St. Teresa to the formation of an ideal religious family; Fox to the
proclaiming of a world-religion in which all men should be
guided by the Inner Light; Florence Nightingale to battle with
officials, vermin, dirt, and disease in the soldiers' hospitals;
Octavia Hill to make in London slums something a little nearer
"the shadows of the angels' houses" than that which the practical
landlord usually provides.

All these have felt sure that a great part in the drama of creation
has been given to the free spirit of man: that bit by bit, through
and by him, the scattered worlds of love and thought and action
shall be realised again as one. It is for those who have found the
thread on which those worlds are strung, to bring this knowledge
out of the hiddenness; to use it, as the old alchemists declared
that they could use their tincture, to transmute all baser; metals
into gold.

So here is your vocation set out: a vocation so various in its
opportunities, that you can hardly fail to find something to do. It
is your business to actualise within the world of time and space--
perhaps by great endeavours in the field of heroic action, perhaps
only by small ones in field and market, tram and tube, office and
drawing-room, in the perpetual give-and-take of the common
life--that more real life, that holy creative energy, which this
world manifests as a whole but indifferently. You shall work for
mercy, order, beauty, significance: shall mend where you find
things broken, make where you find the need. "Adoro te devote,
latens Deitas," said St. Thomas in his great mystical hymn: and
the practical side of that adoration consists in the bringing of the
Real Presence from its hiddenness, and exhibiting it before the
eyes of other men. Hitherto you have not been very active in this
matter: yet it is the purpose for which you exist, and your
contemplative consciousness, if you educate it, will soon make
this fact clear to you. The teeming life of nature has yielded up to
your loving attention many sacramental images of Reality: seen
in the light of charity, it is far more sacred and significant than
you supposed. What about _your_ life? Is that a theophany too?
"Each oak doth cry I AM," says Vaughan. Do you proclaim by
your existence the grandeur, the beauty, the intensity, the living
wonder of that Eternal Reality within which, at this moment, you
stand? Do your hours of contemplation and of action harmonise?

If they did harmonise--if everybody's did--then, by these
individual adjustments the complete group-consciousness of
humanity would be changed, brought back into conformity with
the Transcendent; and the spiritual world would be actualised
within the temporal order at last. Then, that world of false
imagination, senseless conflicts, and sham values, into which our
children are now born, would be annihilated. The whole race, not
merely a few of its noblest, most clearsighted spirits, would be
"in union with God"; and men, transfused by His light and heat,
direct and willing agents of His Pure Activity, would achieve that
completeness of life which the mystics dare to call "deification."
This is the substance of that redemption of the world, which
all religions proclaim or demand: the consummation which is
crudely imagined in the Apocalyptic dreams of the prophets and
seers. It is the true incarnation of the Divine Wisdom: and you
must learn to see with Paul the pains and disorders of creation--
your own pains, efforts, and difficulties too--as incidents in the
travail of that royal birth. Patriots have sometimes been asked to
"think imperially." Mystics are asked to think celestially; and
this, not when considering the things usually called spiritual, but
when dealing with the concrete accidents, the evil and sadness,
the cruelty, failure, and degeneration of life.

So, what is being offered to you is not merely a choice amongst
new states of consciousness, new emotional experiences--though
these are indeed involved in it--but, above all else, a larger and
intenser life, a career, a total consecration to the interests of the
Real. This life shall not be abstract and dreamy, made up, as
some imagine, of negations. It shall be violently practical and
affirmative; giving scope for a limitless activity of will, heart, and
mind working within the rhythms of the Divine Idea. It shall cost
much, making perpetual demands on your loyalty, trust, and
self-sacrifice: proving now the need and the worth of that training in
renunciation which was forced on you at the beginning of your
interior life. It shall be both deep and wide, embracing in its span
all those aspects of Reality which the gradual extension of your
contemplative powers has disclosed to you: making "the inner
and outer worlds to be indivisibly One." And because the
emphasis is now for ever shifted from the accidents to the
substance of life, it will matter little where and how this career is
actualised--whether in convent or factory, study or battlefield,
multitude or solitude, sickness or strength. These fluctuations of
circumstance will no longer dominate you; since "it is Love that
payeth for all."

Yet by all this it is not meant that the opening up of the universe,
the vivid consciousness of a living Reality and your relation with
it, which came to you in contemplation, will necessarily be a
constant or a governable feature of your experience. Even under
the most favourable circumstances, you shall and must move
easily and frequently between that spiritual fruition and active
work in the world of men. Often enough it will slip from you
utterly; often your most diligent effort will fail to recapture it, and
only its fragrance will remain. The more intense those contacts
have been, the more terrible will be your hunger and desolation
when they are thus withdrawn: for increase of susceptibility
means more pain as well as more pleasure, as every artist knows.
But you will find in all that happens to you, all that opposes and
grieves you--even in those inevitable hours of darkness when the
doors of true perception seem to close, and the cruel tangles of
the world are all that you can discern--an inward sense of security
which will never cease. All the waves that buffet you about,
shaking sometimes the strongest faith and hope, are yet parts and
aspects of one Ocean. Did they wreck you utterly, that Ocean
would receive you; and there you would find, overwhelming and
transfusing you, the unfathomable Substance of all life and
joy. Whether you realise it in its personal or impersonal
manifestation, the universe is now friendly to you; and as he is a
suspicious and unworthy lover who asks every day for renewed
demonstrations of love, so you do not demand from it perpetual
reassurances. It is enough, that once it showed you its heart. A
link of love now binds you to it for evermore: in spite of
derelictions, in spite of darkness and suffering, your will is
harmonised with the Will that informs the Whole.

We said, at the beginning of this discussion, that mysticism was
the art of union with Reality: that it was, above all else, a Science
of Love. Hence, the condition to which it looks forward and
towards which the soul of the contemplative has been stretching
out, is a condition of _being_, not of _seeing_. As the bodily
senses have been produced under pressure of man's physical
environment, and their true aim is not the enhancement of his
pleasure or his knowledge, but a perfecting of his adjustment to
those aspects of the natural world which concern him--so the use
and meaning of the spiritual senses are strictly practical too.
These, when developed by a suitable training, reveal to man a
certain measure of Reality: not in order that he may gaze upon it,
but in order that he may react to it, learn to live in, with, and for
it; growing and stretching into more perfect harmony with the
Eternal Order, until at last, like the blessed ones of Dante's vision,
the clearness of his flame responds to the unspeakable radiance of
the Enkindling Light.





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Practical Mysticism - A Little Book for Normal People" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home