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 ]

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: Ruysbroeck and the Mystics: with selections from Ruysbroeck
Author: Maeterlinck, Maurice
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 "Ruysbroeck and the Mystics: with selections from Ruysbroeck" ***

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

MYSTICS ***



RUYSBROECK



The Devotional Library.

Handsomely printed and bound, price 3s. 6d. each volume.


_THIRD EDITION._

THE KEY OF THE GRAVE.

A Book for the Bereaved.

By W. ROBERTSON NICOLL, M.A., LL.D.


_SECOND EDITION._

MEMORANDA SACRA.

By Professor J. RENDEL HARRIS, M.A., Fellow of Clare College, Cambridge.


_THE GENERAL GORDON EDITION._

CHRIST MYSTICAL.

By JOSEPH HALL, D.D., Bishop of Norwich.

Reprinted, with General Gordon’s marks, from the Original Copy used by
him, and with an Introduction on his Theology By the Rev. H. CARRUTHERS
WILSON, M.A.


LONDON: HODDER AND STOUGHTON.



  RUYSBROECK
  AND THE
  MYSTICS

  WITH SELECTIONS FROM RUYSBROECK

  BY
  MAURICE MAETERLINCK

  TRANSLATED BY
  JANE T. STODDART


  LONDON
  HODDER AND STOUGHTON
  27 PATERNOSTER ROW

  MDCCCXCIV



TRANSLATOR’S NOTE


The following is an authorised translation of the essay prefixed by
M. Maeterlinck to L’Ornement des Noces Spirituelles, de Ruysbroeck
L’Admirable, Traduit du Flamand par Maurice Maeterlinck, which was
published in 1891 by Paul Lacomblez of Brussels. I have added selected
passages from Ruysbroeck’s own work.



CONTENTS


                                                         PAGE

  M. MAETERLINCK’S INTRODUCTION TO HIS
    TRANSLATION OF “THE ADORNMENT OF
    THE SPIRITUAL MARRIAGE”--

       I                                                    1

      II                                                   29

  SELECTED PASSAGES FROM “THE ADORNMENT
    OF THE SPIRITUAL MARRIAGE”

      ON THE KINGDOM OF THE SOUL                          122

      CHRIST THE SUN OF THE SOUL                          126

      THE LESSON FROM THE BEE                             129

      THE DEW OF MID-DAY                                  130

      THE LESSON FROM THE ANT                             132

      WHAT SHALL THE FORSAKEN DO?                         134

      THE SETTING OF THE ETERNAL SUN                      137

      THE NATURE OF GOD                                   138

      THE DIVINE GENEROSITY                               139

      CHRIST THE LOVER OF ALL MEN                         141

      HOW CHRIST GAVE HIMSELF TO US IN THE SACRAMENT      142

      THE SOUL’S HUNGER FOR GOD                           147

      THE LABOUR AND REST OF LOVE                         150

      THE CHRISTIAN LIFE                                  151

      THE COMING OF THE BRIDEGROOM                        152



  M. MAETERLINCK’S INTRODUCTION TO HIS TRANSLATION OF “THE ADORNMENT OF
    THE SPIRITUAL MARRIAGE.”


I

Many works are more correctly beautiful than this book of Ruysbroeck
L’Admirable. Many mystics--Swedenborg and Novalis among others--are
more potent in their influence, and more timely. It is very probable
that his writings may but rarely meet the needs of to-day. Looking
at him from another point of view, I know few more clumsy authors.
He wanders off now and then into strange puerilities, and the first
twenty chapters of _The Adornment of the Spiritual Marriage_, although
they are perhaps a necessary preparation for what follows, contain
little more than mild and pious commonplaces. Outwardly, at least,
he has no order, no logic of the schools. He is full of repetitions,
and sometimes seems to contradict himself. He shows the ignorance of
a child along with the wisdom of one who might have returned from the
dead. Over his involved syntax I have toiled more than once in the
sweat of my brow. He introduces an image, and forgets it. There are
some of his images which the mind cannot realise, and this phenomenon,
so unusual in an honest work, can only be explained by his awkwardness
or his extraordinary haste. He knows few of the tricks of language,
and can speak only of the unspeakable. He is almost entirely ignorant
of the habits, skilled methods, and resources of philosophic thought,
and he is constrained to think only of the unthinkable. When he speaks
of his little monastic garden, he can hardly tell us enough about what
goes on there; on that subject he writes like a child. He undertakes
to teach us what transpires in the nature of God, and writes pages
which Plato could not have written. Everywhere we find a grotesque
disproportion between his knowledge and ignorance, his capacity and
desire. You must not expect a literary work; you will see only the
convulsive flight of an eagle, dizzy, blind, and wounded, over snowy
peaks. I will add one word more by way of friendly warning. It has
been my lot to read books generally considered most abstruse: _The
Disciples at Saïs_, and the _Fragments_ of Novalis, for instance; the
_Biographia Literaria_ and the _Friend_ of Samuel Taylor Coleridge;
the _Timaeus_ of Plato; the _Enneads_ of Plotinus; the _Divine Names_
of St. Denys the Areopagite; the _Aurora_ of the great German mystic,
Jacob Böhme, with whom our author has more than one point of analogy.
I do not venture to say that the works of Ruysbroeck are more abstruse
than these works; but their abstruseness is less readily pardoned,
because we have here to do with an unknown writer in whom we have no
previous confidence. I thought it necessary to give an honest warning
to idlers on the threshold of this temple without architecture; for
this translation was undertaken only to please a few Platonists. I
believe that those who have not lived in close fellowship with Plato
and with the Neo-Platonists of Alexandria will not proceed far in
reading it. They will think they are entering the void; they will feel
as if they were falling steadily into a bottomless abyss, between black
and slippery rocks. In this book there is no common light or air; as a
spiritual abode it will be insupportable to those who come unprepared.
Do not enter here from literary curiosity; there are hardly any dainty
nick-nacks, and the botanist in search of fine images will find as few
flowers here as on the polar ice-banks. I tell them that this is a
boundless desert, where they will die of thirst. They will find here
very few phrases which one may handle and admire after the way of
literary critics; nothing but jets of flame or blocks of ice. Do not
seek for roses in Iceland. Some flower may still linger between two
icebergs--and indeed there are strange outbursts, unknown expressions,
unheard-of analogies, but they will not repay you for the time lost
in coming so far to pluck them. Before entering here one must be in a
philosophic state as different from our ordinary condition as the state
of waking is from that of slumber. Porphyry, in his _Principles of the
Theory of Intelligibles_, seems to me to have written a warning which
might fitly stand at the beginning of this book--“By our intelligence
we say many things of the principle which is higher than the
intelligence. But these things are divined much better by an absence
of thought than by thought. It is the same with this idea as with that
of sleep, of which we speak up to a certain point in our waking state,
but the knowledge and perception of which we can gain only by sleeping.
Like is known only by like, and the condition of all knowledge is that
the subject should become like to the object.”

It is most difficult, I repeat, to understand such things without
preparation; and I believe that, in spite of our preparatory studies,
a great deal of this mysticism will seem to us purely theoretic, and
that the most of these experiences of supernatural psychology will be
accessible to us only in the character of spectators. The philosophical
imagination is a faculty which is educated very slowly. We are here,
all at once, on the confines of human thought, and far within the
polar circle of the mind. It is strangely cold here; it is strangely
dark; and yet all around there is light and flame. But to those who
come without having trained their mind to these new perceptions, this
light and these flames are as dark and cold as painted images. We
are dealing here with the most exact of sciences. We have to explore
the most rugged and least habitable promontories of the divine
“Know Thyself”; and the midnight sun hangs over the tempestuous sea,
where the psychology of man mingles with the psychology of God. We
have constantly to keep in mind that we are dealing here with a very
profound science, and not with a dream. Dreams are not unanimous;
dreams have no roots; while the glowing flower of divine metaphysic,
which is here full blown, has its mysterious roots in Persia and
in India, in Egypt and in Greece. And yet it seems unconscious as
a flower, and knows nothing of its roots. Unhappily it is almost
impossible for us to put ourselves in the position of the soul which,
without effort, conceived this science; we cannot perceive it _ab
intra_ and reproduce it in ourselves. We lack that which Emerson would
call the same “central spontaneity”; we can no longer transform
these ideas into our own substance; the utmost we can do is to take
count, from the outside, of the tremendous experiences which are
within the reach of only a very few souls during the whole existence
of a planetary system. “It is not lawful,” says Plotinus, “to inquire
into the origin of this intuitive science as if it were a thing
dependent on place and movement; for it does not approach from here,
nor set out from there, in order to go elsewhere, but it appears or
does not appear. So that we must not pursue it in order to discover
its secret sources, but wait in silence until it suddenly shines out
upon us, preparing ourselves for the sacred sight, as the eye waits
patiently for the rising of the sun.” And elsewhere he adds: “It is
not by imagination nor by reason, which is itself obliged to draw its
principles from elsewhere, that we represent to ourselves intelligible
things (that is to say, the highest of all), but rather it is by our
faculty for beholding them, the faculty which enables us to speak of
them here below. We see them therefore by awaking in ourselves, here
on earth, the same powers which we shall have to awake when we are in
the world of pure intelligence. We are like a man who, on reaching the
summit of a rock, perceives with his eyes objects which are invisible
to those who have not made the ascent along with him.”

But although all beings, from the stone and the plant up to man, are
contemplations, they are unconscious contemplations; and it is very
difficult to rediscover in ourselves some memory of the previous
activity of the dead faculty. In this respect we resemble the eye
in the Neo-Platonic image. “It turns away from the light to see the
darkness, and by the very action it ceases to see; for it cannot see
the darkness with the light, and yet without it, it sees not at all;
and so, by not seeing, it sees the darkness as far as it is capable of
seeing it.”

I know the judgment which most men will pronounce on this book. They
will think it the work of a deluded monk, of a pale solitary, a hermit,
dizzy with fasting and worn with fever. They will take it for a wild,
dark dream, crossed with vivid lightning flashes,--nothing more.
This is the common idea which people form of the mystics; and they
forget too often that they alone are the possessors of certainty. If
it be true, as has been said, that every man is a Shakespeare in his
dreams, we might well ask whether every man is not in this life an
inarticulate mystic, a thousand times more transcendental than those
who have confined themselves within the bonds of words. Is not the
eye of the lover or of the mother, for instance, a thousand times
more abstruse, more impenetrable, and more mystical than this book,
which is poor and easily explained, after all, like all books, for
these are but dead mysteries, whose horizon will never be rekindled?
If we do not understand this, perhaps the reason is that we no longer
understand anything. But, to return to our author, a few will recognise
without difficulty that, far from being half-maddened by hunger,
solitude, and fever, this monk possessed, on the contrary, one of the
wisest, most exact, and most subtle philosophic brains which have
ever existed. He lived, they tell us, in his hut at Grönendal, in the
midst of the forest of Soignes. It was at the beginning of one of
the wildest centuries of the middle ages,--the fourteenth. He knew
no Greek, and perhaps no Latin. He was alone and poor; and yet, in
the depths of this obscure forest of Brabant, his mind, ignorant and
simple as it was, receives, all unconsciously, dazzling sunbeams from
all the lonely, mysterious peaks of human thought He knows, though he
is unaware of it, the Platonism of Greece, the Sufism of Persia, the
Brahmanism of India, and the Buddhism of Tibet; and his marvellous
ignorance rediscovers the wisdom of buried centuries, and foresees
the knowledge of centuries yet unborn. I could quote whole pages of
Plato, of Plotinus, of Porphyry, of the Zendic books, of the Gnostics,
and of the Kabbala, the all but inspired substance of which is to be
found intact in the writings of this humble Flemish priest.[1] We find
strange coincidences and disturbing agreements. We find more, for he
seems, at times, to have presupposed with exactitude the work of most
of his unknown predecessors. Just as Plotinus begins his stern journey
at the crossroad where Plato, fearing, paused and knelt down, so we
might say that Ruysbroeck awakened from a slumber of several centuries;
not, indeed, the same kind of thought (for that kind of thought never
sleeps), but the same kind of language as that which had fallen asleep
on the mountains where Plotinus forsook it, dazzled by that blaze of
light, and with his hands before his eyes, as if in presence of an
immense conflagration.

But the organic method of their thought differs strangely. Plato and
Plotinus are before all things princes in the sphere of dialectic. They
reach mysticism by the science of reasoning. They use the discursive
faculties of their mind, and seem to distrust their intuitive or
contemplative faculties. Reasoning beholds itself in the mirror
of reasoning, and endeavours to remain indifferent to every other
reflection. It continues its course like a river of fresh water in the
midst of the sea, with the presentiment of a speedy absorption. In our
author we find, on the contrary, the habits of Asiatic thought; the
intuitive faculty reigns alone above the discursive purification of
ideas by means of words. The fetters of the dream have fallen off.
Is it for this reason less sure? None can tell. The mirror of the
human intellect is entirely unknown in this book, but there is another
mirror, darker and more profound, which we hide in the inmost depths
of our being; no detail can be seen distinctly, and words will not
remain on its surface; the intellect would break it if it could for a
moment cast thereon the reflection of its merely secular light; but
something else is seen there from time to time. Is it the soul? is it
God Himself? is it both at once? We shall never know; yet these all
but invisible appearances are the only real rulers of the life of the
most unbelieving among us. Here you will perceive nothing but the dark
reflections on the mirror, and, as its treasure is inexhaustible, these
reflections are not like anything we have experienced in ourselves,
but, in spite of all, they have an amazing certainty. And this is why
I know nothing more terrifying than this honest book. There is no
psychological idea, no metaphysical experience, no mystical intuition,
however abstruse, profound, and surprising they may be, which it would
be impossible to reproduce if necessary, and to cause to live for a
moment in ourselves, that we might be assured of their human identity;
but here on earth we are like a blind father who can no longer recall
the faces of his children. None of these thoughts has the childlike
or brotherly look of a thought of this earth; we seem to have lost
our experience of God, and yet everything assures us that we are not
entered into the house of dreams. Must we exclaim with Novalis that
the time has passed away when the Spirit of God was comprehensible,
and that the divine sense of the world is forever lost? That of old
all things were manifestations of the Spirit, but that now we see only
lifeless reflections which we do not understand, and live entirely on
the fruits of better times?

I believe we must humbly confess that the key of this book is not to be
found on the common pathways of the human mind. That key is not meant
to open earthly doors, and we must deserve it by withdrawing ourselves
as far as possible from the earth. One guide, indeed, we may still
meet at these lonely cross-roads, who can point out the last way-marks
towards these mysterious isles of fire, these Icelands of abstraction
and of love. That guide is Plotinus, who attempted to analyse, by
means of the human intellect, the divine faculty which here holds
sway. He experienced the same ecstasies (as we say in a word which
explains nothing) which are in their essence only the beginning of the
complete discovery of our being; and in the midst of their trouble and
their darkness, he never for one moment closed the questioning eye of
the psychologist who seeks to explain to himself the most abnormal
phenomena of his soul. He is thus like the last outwork of the pier,
from which we may understand something of the waves and the horizon of
that dim sea. He tries to extend the paths of the ordinary intellect
into the very heart of these desolations, and this is why we must
constantly revert to him, for he is the one analytical mystic. For the
sake of those who may be tempted to undertake this tremendous journey,
I give here one of the pages in which he has attempted to explain the
organism of that divine faculty of introspection:--

“In the intuition of the intellect,” he says, “intelligible objects
are perceived by the intellect by means of the light which the First
One spreads over them, and in seeing these objects, it sees really
the intelligible light. But, as it gives its attention to the objects
on which the light falls, it does not perceive with any exactness the
principle which enlightens them, while if, on the contrary, it forgets
the objects which it sees so as to contemplate only the brightness
which makes them visible, it sees the light itself and the principle
of the light. But it is never outside of itself that the intellect can
contemplate the intelligible light. It then resembles the eye which,
without contemplating an exterior or alien light, and indeed before
it has even perceived it, is suddenly struck by a brightness which
belongs to itself, or by a ray which darts from itself, and appears to
it in the midst of darkness: it is just the same when the eye, so as to
see no other objects, closes its lids and draws its light from itself,
or when, pressed by the hand, it perceives the light which it has in
itself. Then, although seeing no outside thing, it still sees; it sees
even more than at any other time, for it sees the light. The other
objects which it saw before, although they were luminous, were not the
light itself. So, when the intellect closes its eye in some degree to
other objects, and concentrates it on itself, then, seeing nothing, it
yet sees, not an alien light which shines in alien forms, but its own
light, which all at once shines inwardly with a pure radiance.”

Again he says: “The soul which studies God must form an idea of Him
whom it seeks to know; being aware, moreover, to what greatness it
desires to unite itself, and persuaded that it will find blessedness
in that union, it must plunge into the depths of divinity, until,
instead of contemplating itself, or the intelligible world, it becomes
itself an object of contemplation, and shines with the brightness of
conceptions which have their source above.”

We have here almost all that human wisdom can tell us; almost all that
the prince of transcendental metaphysicians could express; as for other
explanations, we must find them in ourselves, in the depths where all
explanation disappears in its expression. For it is not only in heaven
and earth, but above all in ourselves, that there are more things than
all philosophies can contain; and as soon as we are no longer obliged
to formulate the mysteries within us, we are more profound than all
that has been written, and greater than all that exists.

I have translated this book, then, solely because I believe that the
writings of the mystics are the purest diamonds in the vast treasure
of humanity. A translation may indeed very easily be useless, for
experience seems to prove that it matters little whether the mystery
of the incarnation of a thought takes place in darkness or in light;
it is enough that it has taken place. But, however this may be, the
truths of mysticism have a strange privilege over ordinary truths;
they can neither grow old nor die. There is no truth which did not,
one morning, come down upon this world, lovely in strength and in
youth, and covered with the fresh and wondrous dew which lies on
things yet unspoken: to-day you may pass through the infirmaries of
the human soul, where all thoughts come day by day to die, and you
will not find there a single mystic thought. They have the immunity of
the angels of Swedenborg, who progress continually towards the spring
of their youth, so that the oldest angels appear the youngest; and
whether they come from India, from Greece, or from the North, they
have neither country nor date, and wherever we meet them, they are
calm and real as God Himself. A work grows old in exact proportion to
its anti-mysticism; and that is why this book bears no date. I know
that it is unusually obscure, but I believe that a sincere and honest
author is never obscure in the eternal sense of the word, because he
always understands himself, and in a way which is infinitely beyond
anything that he says. It is only artificial ideas which spring up
in real darkness, and flourish solely in literary epochs and in the
insincerity of self-conscious ages, when the thought of the writer is
poorer than his expression. In the former case, we have the rich shade
of a forest; in the latter, the gloom of a cavern, in which only dismal
parasites can grow. We must take into account that unknown world which
our author’s phrases were meant to enlighten through the poor double
horn-panes of words and thoughts. Words, as it has been said, were
invented for the ordinary uses of life, and they are unhappy, restless,
and as bewildered as beggars round a throne, when, from time to time,
some royal soul leads them elsewhere. And, from another point of view,
is the thought ever the exact image of that unknown thing which gave it
birth? Do we not always behold in it the shadow of a conflict like that
of Jacob with the angel, confused in proportion to the stature of the
soul and of the angel? “Woe to us,” says Carlyle, “if we have nothing
in us except that which we can express and show to others.” I know that
on these pages there lies the shadow cast from objects which we have no
recollection of having seen. The monk does not stop to explain their
use to us, and we shall recognise them only when we behold the objects
themselves on the other side of this life; but meanwhile, he has made
us look into the distance, and that is much. I know, besides, that many
of his phrases float almost like transparent icicles on the colourless
sea of silence, but still they exist; they have been separated from
the waters, and that is sufficient. I am aware, finally, that the
strange plants which he cultivated on the high peaks of the spirit are
surrounded by clouds of their own, but these clouds annoy only gazers
from below. Those who have the courage to climb see that they are the
very atmosphere of these plants, the only atmosphere in which they
can blossom in the shade of non-existence. For this is a vegetation
so subtle that it can scarcely be distinguished from the silence
from which it has drawn its juices and into which it seems ready
to dissolve. This whole work, moreover, is like a magnifying glass
turned upon darkness and silence; and sometimes we do not immediately
discern the outline of the ideas which are still steeped therein. It
is invisible things which appear from time to time, and some attention
is obviously needed for their recognition. This book is not too far
off from us; probably it is in the very centre of our humanity; it is
we, on the contrary, who are too far from the book; and if it seems
to us discouraging as the desert, if the desolation of divine love in
it appears terrible, and the thirst on its summits unendurable, it is
not that the book is too ancient, but that we ourselves are perhaps
old and sad and lacking in courage, like gray-haired men in presence
of a child. Plotinus, the great pagan mystic, is probably right when
he says to those who complain that they see nothing on the heights of
introspection: “We must first make the organ of vision analogous and
similar to the object which it is to contemplate. The eye would never
have perceived the sun, if it had not first taken the form of the
sun; so likewise the soul could never see beauty if it did not first
become beautiful itself; and all men should begin by making themselves
beautiful and divine, in order that they may obtain the sight of the
beautiful and of divinity.”


II

The life of Jean von Ruysbroeck, like that of most of the great
thinkers of this world, is entirely an inner life. He said himself, “I
have no concerns outside.” Nearly all his biographers, Surius among
others, wrote nearly two centuries after his death, and their work
seems much intermixed with legend. They show us a holy hermit, silent,
ignorant, amazingly humble, amazingly good, who was in the habit of
working miracles unawares. The trees beneath which he prayed were
illumined by an aureole; the bells of a Dutch convent tolled without
hands on the day of his death. His body, when exhumed five years after
his soul had quitted it, was found in a state of perfect preservation,
and from it rose wonderful perfumes, which cured the sick who were
brought from neighbouring villages. A few lines will suffice to give
the facts which are undoubtedly authentic. He was born in the year
1274 at Ruysbroeck, a little village between Hal and Brussels. He was
first a priest in the church of Sainte-Gudule; then, by the advice of
the hermit Lambert, he left the Brabant town and retired to Grönendal
(Green Valley) in the forest of Soignes, in the neighbourhood of
Brussels. Holy companions soon joined him there, and with them he
founded the abbey of Grönendal, the ruins of which may be seen to
this day. Attracted by the strange renown of his theosophy and his
supernatural visions, pilgrims from Germany and Holland, among them the
Dominican Jean Tauler and Gerhard Groot, came to this retreat to visit
the humble old man, and went away filled with an admiration of which
the memory still lingers in their writings. He died, according to the
_Necrologium Monasterii Viridis Vallis_, on the 2nd of December 1381,
and his contemporaries gave him the title of “_L’Admirable_.”

It was the century of the mystics and the period of the gloomy wars
in Brabant and Flanders, of stormy nights of blood and prayers under
the wild reigns of the three Johns, of battles extending into the
very forest where the saints were kneeling. St. Bonaventura and St.
Thomas Aquinas had just died, and Thomas à Kempis was about to study
God in that mirror of the absolute which the inspired Fleming had left
in the depths of the Green Valley; while, first Jehan de Bruges, and
afterwards the Van Eycks, Roger van der Weyden, Hugues van der Goes,
Thierry Bouts, and Hans Memlinck were to people with images the lonely
_Word_ of the hermit.

Here is a list of the writings of Ruysbroeck, the sum-total of which is
very large. _The Book of the Twelve Beguines_; _The Mirror of Eternal
Salvation_; _The Book of the Spiritual Tabernacle_; _The Sparkling
Stone_; _The Book of Supreme Truth_; _The Book of the Seven Steps of
Spiritual Love_; _The Book of the Seven Castles_; _The Book of the
Kingdom of the Beloved_; _The Book of the Four Temptations_; _The
Book of the Twelve Virtues_; _The Book of Christian Faith_, and _The
Adornment of the Spiritual Marriage_. There are besides seven letters,
two hymns, and a prayer, to which Surius gave these titles, _Epistolae
septem utiles_, _Cantiones duæ admodum spirituales_, and _Oratio
perbrevis sed pia valde_, the original texts of which I have not been
able to discover in any of the Flemish manuscripts.

Some years ago the greater number of these writings were edited with
the utmost care by a society of Flemish bibliophiles--_De Maetschappij
der Vlaemsche Bibliophilen_--and most of this translation has been made
from the excellent text of that edition.

I shall not undertake to give here an analysis of these different
works; such an analysis would be difficult, monotonous, and useless.
All the books of our author treat exclusively of the same science: a
theosophy peculiar to Ruysbroeck, the minute study of the introversion
and introspection of the soul, the contemplation of God above all
similitudes and likenesses, and the drama of the divine love on the
uninhabitable peaks of the spirit. I shall therefore content myself
with giving some characteristic extracts from each of these writings.

_The Book of the Twelve Beguines_, in the Latin translation of Surius,
is entitled _De vera contemplatione, opus præclarum, variis divinis
institutionibus, eo quo Spiritus Sanctus suggessit ordine descriptis,
exuberans_. This title explains more exactly the nature of the work,
but is not to be found in any of the early manuscripts. The truth is
that Ruysbroeck, following the custom of his age, seldom gave a title
to his writings, and the titles by which they are now known, as well as
the marginal rubrics of the chapters, have apparently been interpolated
by the copyists. In the edition of the _Maetschappij der Vlaemsche
Bibliophilen_ we find collected under the title, _Dat boec van den
twaelf beghinen_, first of all that treatise on the contemplative life
mentioned by Surius, next a kind of manual of symbolical astrology,
and lastly some thoughts on the passion and death of our Lord Jesus
Christ. The three works are marked off from each other with more or
less distinctness, and Ruysbroeck evidently fixes the place where he
forsakes the inner universe and descends to the visible firmament,
when he says at the end of chapter xxxi., “And after this I leave the
contemplative life, which is God Himself, and which He grants to those
who have renounced self and have followed His Spirit to where, in
eternal glory, He rejoices in Himself and in His chosen.”

The first eight chapters of this book are written in singular and very
beautiful verses, and across their images, on the dark background of
essential love, as across the windows of a burning convent, there
flicker continually bright spiritual flames, and also frozen sadnesses,
not unlike those of Villon or of Verlaine.

Here are some of these verses:--

  “Contemplation is a science without mode,
  Above human reason remaining evermore;
  Unto our reason can it not come down,
  Neither above it can reason ever rise.
  Its enlightened freedom is a noble mirror,
  Wherein the eternal splendour of God doth shine.
  This modeless freedom hath no manner of its own,
  And before it all the works of reason pale;
  This modeless freedom is not God Himself,
  But it is the light by which we see Him.
  Those who move in this freedom unrestrained
  In the light of God,
  See vast prospects stretching out within them.
  This modeless freedom is more high than reason,
  Yet not without reason;
  All things beholdeth it without surprise--
  Surprise is far beneath it
  The life of contemplation is without surprise:
  It sees, but knows not what is seen,
  Above all things is it, and neither this nor that.”

Afterwards, the poet, perceiving that his verses are becoming too
obscure, standing as he is on the threshold of eternal knowledge, says
suddenly and very simply--

  “Now must I cease from versing
  And speak of contemplation clearly.”

From this point he makes use of a strange prose, dark as the fearful
void into which he is gazing, resembling that fierce cold which reigns
above all our images, with blue lights flashing over the black frosts
of abstraction. And when he descends for a moment into the regions of
similitudes, he touches only the most distant, the most subtle, and
the most unknown; he loves, too, such things as mirrors, reflections,
crystal, fountains, burning glasses, water-plants, precious stones,
glowing iron, hunger, thirst, fire, fish, the stars, and everything
that helps him to endow his ideas with visible forms--forms laid
prostrate in the presence of love on these clear summits of the
soul--and to give distinctness to those unheard-of truths which he
calmly reveals. It is needless to say more, for you shall presently
reach the threshold of that spiritual marriage, and from there behold
the still tempest of joy, reaching as far as to the eternal heart
of God. In one word, this man of all others went near to beholding
thought as it will be after death, and showed a faint shadow of its
rich growths of the future, in the midst of the incomprehensible
effluence of the Holy Trinity. I believe that this is a work which we
shall perhaps remember elsewhere and always. You shall see, too, that
the most amazing outbursts of St. Teresa are hardly to be distinguished
from the top of those unlighted, colourless, and airless glaciers to
which we climb with him “beyond surprise and emotion, above reason and
the virtues,” in the dark symphony of contemplation.

I give a passage from the book: _De altero veræ contemplationis modo_:--

“After this comes another mode of contemplation.

“Those who have raised themselves into the absolute purity of their
spirits by the love and reverence which they have for God, stand in
His presence, with open and unveiled faces. And from the splendour of
the Father a direct light shines on those spirits in which the thought
is naked and free from similitudes, raised above the senses, above
similitudes, above reason and without reason, in the lofty purity of
the spirit.

“This light is not God, but is a mediator between the seeing thought
and God. It is a light-ray from God or from the Spirit of the Father.
In it God shows Himself immediately, not according to the distinction
and the mode of His persons, but in the simplicity of His nature and
His substance; and in it also the Spirit of the Father speaks in
thought, lofty, naked, and without similitude, ‘Behold me as I behold
you.’ At the same time the keenness of the pure eyes is revealed,
when the direct brightness of the Father falls upon them, and they
behold the splendour of the Father--that is to say, the substance or
the nature of God in an immediate vision, above reason and without
distinction.

“This brightness and this manifestation of God give to the
contemplative spirit a real knowledge of the vision of God, as far
as it can be enjoyed in this mortal state. In order that you may
understand me clearly, I will give you an image from the senses. When
you stand in the dazzling radiance of the sun, and turn away your eyes
from all colour, from attending to and distinguishing all the various
things which the sun illuminates, if then you simply follow with your
eyes the brightness of the rays which flow from the sun, you shall be
led into the sun’s very essence; and so likewise, if you follow with a
direct vision the dazzling rays which stream from the splendour of God,
they will lead you to the source of your creation, and there you will
find nothing else but God alone.”

I come now to the second of the works enumerated above. _The Mirror
of Eternal Salvation_ (_Die Spieghel der Ewigher Salicheit_) is, like
all the writings of the mystic, a study of the joys of introversion,
or of the return of man into himself, until he comes into touch with
God. It was sent by the admirable doctor and eminent contemplator of
the Green Valley “To the dear Sister Margaret van Meerbeke, of the
convent of the Clares at Brussels, in the year of our Lord 1359.” In
some manuscripts the work is entitled “Book of the Sacraments,” and it
is indeed the poem of eucharistic love, above all distinctions and in
the midst of the blinding effluence of God, where the soul seems to
shake the pollen from its essence and to have an eternal foreknowledge.
Here, as elsewhere, we would need, in order to realise even slightly
these terrors of love, a language which has the intrinsic omnipotence
of tongues which are almost immemorial. The Flemish dialect possesses
this omnipotence, and it is possible that several of its words still
contain images dating from the glacial epochs. Our author then had at
his disposal one of the very oldest modes of speech, in which words
are really lamps behind ideas, while with us ideas must give light to
words. I am also disposed to believe that every language thinks always
more than the man, even the man of genius, who employs it, and who is
only its heart for the time being, and that this is the reason why an
ignorant monk like this mysterious Ruysbroeck, was able, by gathering
up his scanty forces in prayers so many centuries ago, to write works
which hardly correspond to our senses in the present day. I translate
from this book the following fragment:--

“See now, here must our reason and all definite actions give way; for
our powers become simple in love, and are silent and bend low before
the manifestation of the Father; for the manifestation of the Father
raises the soul above reason, into nakedness without similitudes.
There the soul is simple, pure, and emptied of everything, and in
that pure emptiness the Father shows His divine brightness. Into that
brightness there can enter neither reason nor the senses, observation
nor distinction. All these things must remain underneath it, for that
measureless brightness dazzles the eyes of the spirit, so that their
lids must close under its inconceivable radiance. But the naked eye,
above reason, and in the inmost depths of intelligence, is always open,
and beholds and contemplates with naked vision that light by that light
itself. There we have eye to eye, glass to glass, image to image.
By these three things we are like unto God, and are united to Him.
For this vision which strikes upon our naked eye is a living mirror
which God has made in His image. His image is His divine brightness,
and with it He has filled to overflowing the mirror of our soul, so
that no other brightness and no other image can enter there. But this
brightness is not an intermediary between God and us; for it is the
thing which we see, and also the light by which we see, but not our eye
which sees. For although the image of God is without intermediary in
the mirror of our soul, and is united to Him, still the image is not
the mirror, for God does not become the creature. But the union of the
image with the mirror is so great and so noble that the soul is called
the mirror of God.

“Further, that very image of God which we have received and which we
carry in our souls is the Son of God, the eternal mirror of divine
wisdom, in which we all dwell, and are continually reflected. Yet we
are not the wisdom of God, otherwise we should have created ourselves,
which is impossible and a suggestion savouring of heresy. For whatever
we are and whatever we have, we have received all from God and not
from ourselves. And although this sublimity is so great a thought for
our soul, yet is it hidden from the sinner and from many righteous
persons. And all that we can know by the light of nature is incomplete
and savourless and without emotion, for we cannot contemplate God or
find Him reigning in our souls without His aid and grace, and without
diligently exercising ourselves in His love.”

_The Book of the Spiritual Tabernacle_ (_Dat boec van den Gheesteleken
Tabernacule_). _In Tabernaculum Mosis et ad id pertinentia commentaria,
ubi multa etiam Exodi, Levitici, Numerorum mysteria, divino spiritu
explicantur_, as Surius describes it, is the longest work of the
hermit, and contains a strange, naïve, and arbitrary interpretation of
the symbols of the ark of the covenant, and of the sacrifices of the
ancient law. I shall give somewhat copious extracts from this work, for
it shows an interesting and brotherly aspect of his Flemish soul; and
the artistic subtlety with which he labours to elucidate his emblems,
as well as his amusing and childlike delight in certain effects of
colour and of figures, reminds us now and then of his marvellous
contemporaries of the Cologne school, the old dreamy painters, Meister
Wilhelm and Lochner, and of the splendid succession of nameless
dreamers, who, in lands far off from his, gave a fixed form to the
almost supernatural reflections of the spiritual joys of that and the
following century, which passed away so near to God and so far from
earth.

Here is what he says with regard to the offering of the poor as
commanded in the Jewish law:--

“And they (the doves) shall keep near streams and beside clear waters,
so that if any bird flies downwards to seize them or to do them any
injury, they may recognise him by his reflection in the water and
beware of him. The clear water is Holy Scripture, the lives of saints,
and the mercy of God. We shall reflect ourselves therein when we are
tempted, and so none shall be able to hurt us. These doves have a
loving nature, and young doves are often born of them, for whenever, to
the glory of God and for our own felicity, we think of sin with scorn
and hatred, and of virtue with love, we give birth to young doves--that
is to say, to new virtues.”

In the following passages he pictures, with the help of these same
doves, the offering of Saint Paul:--

“And our Lord replied that His grace should be sufficient for him, for
virtue is perfected in the weakness of temptations. When he understood
this he offered these two doves into the hands of our Lord. For he
renounced self, and willingly became poor, and bent the necks of his
doves (that is, his desires) under the hands of our Lord Jesus Christ
and of the Holy Church. And Christ broke the necks and the wings of the
doves, and then he became incapable of desiring or of flying towards
any desire except that which was God’s will. And then Christ placed the
head (that is to say, the will, which was dead and powerless) under the
broken wings, and then the doves were ready to be consumed; and so the
holy apostle says: ‘Most gladly, therefore, will I rather glory in my
weakness, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.’”

Let us consider further the extraordinary interpretation of the
spiritual flowers embroidered on the hangings of the tabernacle:--

“On these four curtains of divers colours the Lord ordered Bezaleel
and Aholiab to weave and to embroider with the needle many ornaments.
So likewise our obedient will and our intelligence will place upon
these four colours divers ornaments of virtues. On the white colour of
innocence we shall place red roses, by evermore resisting all that is
evil. Thus we maintain purity and crucify our own nature, and these red
roses with their sweet perfume are very lovely on the white colour.
Again, upon innocence we shall embroider sunflowers, by which we mean
obedience; for when the sun rises in the east, the sunflower opens
towards its rays, and turns ever eagerly towards the sun, even until
its setting in the west; and at night it closes and hides its colours
and awaits the return of the sun. Even so will we open our hearts by
obedience towards the illumination of the grace of God, and humbly
and eagerly will we follow that grace so long as we feel the warmth
of love. And when the light of grace ceases to awaken fresh emotions,
and we feel the warmth of love but little, or feel it not at all, then
it is night, when we shall close our heart to all that may tempt it;
and so shall we shut up within ourselves the golden colour of love,
awaiting a new dawn, with its new brightness and its fresh emotions;
and thus shall we preserve innocence always in its pristine splendour.
On the blue colour, which is like the firmament, we shall embroider
birds with varied plumage; in other words, we shall keep before our
minds, with clear observation, the lives and the works of the saints,
which are manifold. These works are their varied plumage, so gracious
and so beautiful, and with this they adorned themselves and soared to
heaven. They are birds which we must observe with attention; if we are
like them in their plumage, we shall follow them to their eternal
rest. On the purple colour (that is, violet or blood-red, meaning
generosity) we shall place water-lilies, and these symbolise the free
possession of all the treasures of God. For we notice four things in
the water-lily. It keeps itself always above the water, and has four
green leaves between the air and the water; and it is rooted in the
earth, and above it is opened out to the sun; and it is a remedy for
those who are fevered. So also may we, by generosity and freedom of
spirit, possess the waves of all the riches of God. And between this
free possession by our spirit and the waves of the lavish gifts of God,
we shall have green leaves--that is to say, an earnest consideration
of the way in which the eternal liberality of God flows forth, with
ever new gifts to men, and we shall consider also how the gifts are
bestowed with discrimination, according to the nature of the beloved
ones who receive them, and how the final cause of all the gifts is
the generous outflow of divine love; and the more immediate cause the
wisdom and generosity in human creatures, which makes them resemble
God. For none can know the wealth of the gifts of God except the wise
and generous man, who, out of the treasures of God, can give wisely and
generously to all creatures. So shall we adorn generosity, and then we
shall be rooted in the soil of all the gifts--that is to say, in the
Holy Spirit, as the water-lily is rooted deep down under the water. And
we shall open our hearts in the air above, towards truth and towards
the sun of righteousness. And thus we are a remedy for all the world;
for the generous heart which possesses the treasures of God, ought to
fill, console, refresh, and cool all those who are afflicted. And it
is thus that the purple colour is adorned with the red colour--that
is to say, with burning love. On it we shall place bright stars, by
which I mean pious and devout prayer for the good of our neighbour, and
reverent and secret communion between God and ourselves. These are the
stars which illuminate with their brightness the kingdoms of heaven and
of earth, and they make us inwardly light-giving and fruit-bearing, and
fix us in the firmament of eternal life.”

I shall next translate the whole of the “chapter on fishes,” with its
amazing analogies:--

“This is why the symbolic law ordered the Jews to eat clean fish, which
had scales and fins; and all other fish were unclean and were forbidden
by the law. By this we understand that our inner life ought to have a
clothing of virtues, and our inward devotions ought to be covered with
the application of our reason, just as the fish is clothed and adorned
with its scales. And our loving power should move in four different
ways:--in triumphing over our own will, in loving God, in desiring to
resist our own nature, and in seeking to acquire virtues. These are
four fins between which our inward life should swim, as fish do, in
the water of divine grace. The fish has besides, in the middle of its
body, a straight fin, which remains motionless in all its movements.
So our inward feelings, firmly centred, should be empty of everything
and without personal preference; in other words, we should allow God
to act in us and in all things, both in heaven and earth. The fourth
scale balances us in the mercy of God and in true divine peace. And so
our devotion has fins and scales and becomes for us a pure nourishment
which pleases God. But the scales which clothe and adorn our inward
exercises should be of four colours, for some fish have gray scales,
others red scales, others green scales, and others again white scales.
The gray scales teach us that the images with which we clothe our
devotions must be humble; in other words, we must think of our sins,
of our want of virtue, of the humility of our Lord Jesus Christ, and
of His mother, and of all things which may abase and humble us, and
we shall love poverty and contempt and to be unknown and despised by
everybody. This is the gray colour, which is very beautiful in the eyes
of God.

“Further, we shall clothe our devotions with red scales--that is to
say, we shall remember that the Son of God laid down His life for love
of us, and we shall keep His passion in our memory, like a glorious
mirror before our inward eyes, so that we may remember His love and
console ourselves in all our sorrows. And we shall also think of the
many torments of the martyrs, who by their sufferings followed our Lord
into eternal life. These are red scales, set well in order, and they
are a delightful clothing for our inward emotions.

“Then, again, we shall adorn our secret thoughts with green scales.
I mean that we shall earnestly meditate upon the noble lives of
confessors and saints, remembering how they despised the world, and by
what wonderful work and in what divers ways they honoured and served
God. Green is the colour which attracts and rejoices loving hearts and
willing eyes. Let us stir our fins, then, and follow the saints by
imitating their good works to the utmost of our power.

“Again, we shall clothe our inward exercise with white scales; in
other words, we shall glass ourselves in the purity of virgins, and
shall observe how they fought and how they conquered flesh and blood,
by which is meant the inclination of nature. This is why they wear
the crown of gold and follow the Lamb, who is Christ, with new songs,
which none shall sing save those who have preserved chastity in soul
and body. But if we have lost purity, we may still acquire innocence
and clothe ourselves with other virtues, and so we may reach the day
of judgment shining brighter than the sun, and possess the glory of
God through an unending eternity. In this way, then, we shall cover
our inward devotion with four kinds of scales, and each kind shall
have the active fins of good-will; that is, we must desire to carry out
in good works that which we understand by our intelligence. So shall
our spiritual nourishment be clean; for knowledge and wisdom without
a virtuous life are like scales without fins; and practical virtues
without reflection are fins without scales; and so we must know, love,
and practise virtues, in order that our life may be pure; and then we
shall be nourished with clean fish which have scales and fins.”

I give next the following passage:--

“Further, each lamp had a vase of gold, full of water, in which was
extinguished the fire taken away from the wicks. By this we learn
that every gift demands from our mind a desire towards every cardinal
virtue--a desire so simple that we can feel in ourselves the yearning
of love after union with God. We observe this in Jesus Christ, who
is our mirror in all things; for in every virtue which He practised,
He excelled so lovingly that He sought ardently after union with His
Father. And we shall unite all our yearnings in that loving yearning
which He felt towards His Father in all cardinal virtues. For our
loving yearnings are our golden vases, full of water--that is, of truth
and righteousness--we shall plunge into them our burning wicks, the
acts, that is, of all the virtues which we have practised; we shall
plunge them in and extinguish them, by commending ourselves to His
righteousness, and by uniting ourselves to His adorable merits; without
this the wick of all our virtues would smoke and would have an evil
savour before God and before all His saints.”

Elsewhere, he examines the twelve jewels of the Breastplate, and
sees in them reflections of eternal symbols, as well as unsuspected,
precise, and suggestive analogies. Let us see whether it is not so.

“In the rays of the sun, the topaz surpasses in splendour all precious
stones; and even so does the humanity of our Lord Jesus Christ excel in
glory and in majesty all the saints and all the angels because of His
union with the eternal Father. And in this union the reflection of the
Divine Sun is so clear and glorious that it attracts and reflects in
its clearness all the eyes of saints and angels in immediate vision,
and those also of just men to whom its splendour is revealed. So
likewise does the topaz attract and reflect in itself the eyes of those
who behold it, because of its great clearness. But if you were to cut
the topaz it would darken, while if you leave it in its natural state
it will remain clear. And so, too, if you examine and try to penetrate
the splendour of the eternal Word, that splendour will darken and you
will lose it. But leave it as it is, and follow it with earnest gaze,
and with self-abnegation, and it will give you light.”

Let us next consider the curious correspondences which he discovered in
other precious stones:--

“In this article we compare Christ to the noble sapphire, of which
there are two kinds. The first is yellow with shades of purple and
seems to be mingled with powdered gold; the other is sky-blue, and
in the rays of the sun it gives forth a burning splendour, and one
cannot see through it. And we find all this in our Lord, in this fifth
article of the creed. For when His noble soul rose to heaven, His
body lay in the tomb--yellow, because of the soul’s departure; purple,
because of His bleeding wounds; and mingled with powdered gold because
He was united to the divine nature. And His soul descended into hell,
blue as the sky, so that all his friends rejoiced and were glad in
His splendour; and in His resurrection the splendour becomes so great
and so powerful, both in body and soul, through the illumination of
the Divine Sun, that it darts forth lightnings and burning rays, and
inflames with love all things which it touches. And none can see
through that noble sapphire, Christ, because in His divine nature there
is a depth unfathomable.”

I pass over the amethyst “from which red roses seem to flow forth,” and
as a closing passage from this work, I shall translate the last three
symbols: those of the chrysolite, the emerald, and the jasper.

First of all, the chrysolite:--

“The communion of saints and the forgiveness of sins are obtained by
the _waves of the night_--that is to say, by two sacraments of the
Holy Church, baptism and penance. These are the waves which by faith
wash that night of darkness, sin. And God has sworn, even from the
time of Abraham, that He would give Himself to us and would become
our familiar friend, and because of His all-embracing and overflowing
love, He has willed to wash us in His blood. And in order that we might
believe without doubting in the oath which He sware by Himself, He has
sealed it with His own death, and has given the merits of His death
to all men in the Holy Church for the remission of sins, and to the
saints, for the adornment of their glory. That precious stone, the
chrysolite, symbolises to us that article of the creed, ‘the communion
of saints, the forgiveness of sins,’ for it is like the waves of the
sea, translucent and green, and moreover it has gleams of gold. And so
likewise all saints and just men are translucent by grace or by glory,
and they are green by their holy life, and they gleam with the gold of
divine love which shines through them. And these three adornments are
common to all saints and to all just persons, for they are the treasure
of the holy churches, here and in eternal life. And all who by penance
have put away from them the colour of the Red Sea--that is, a sinful
life--are like the chrysolite.

“You must know that this sea is red because of its country and the
colour of its bed. It is between Jericho and Zoar, Jericho signifies
‘the moon,’ and Zoar the beast which blinds the reason. Between
the moon of inconstancy and the inclination of reason towards the
beast, there is always the Red Sea--that is to say, an impure life.
No creature can live in the Red Sea, and whatever does not live in it
sinks to the bottom; and that is why it is called the Dead Sea, because
there is no movement in it, and it is like bitumen or pitch, because it
seizes and slays whatever enters it, and in this way it very closely
resembles sin, which seizes man and puts him to spiritual death in the
sight of God, and plunges him into hell.”

Let us see, lastly, how he applies the emerald and the jasper to the
third and sixth articles of the Apostles’ Creed:--

“In this article we compare to the Son of God that beautiful stone
which is called the emerald, and which is so green that neither leaves
nor grass nor any other green thing can compare with its viridity. And
it fills and feeds with its greenness the eyes of those who behold it.
Now when the eternal Word of the Father was made man, then was seen the
greenest colour ever known on earth. That union of natures is so green
and so lovely and so joyful, that no other colour can equal it; and so
in a holy vision it has filled and fed the eyes of such men as have
prepared themselves to perceive it. Nothing is more lovely and more
pleasant to the eye than the emerald when it has been cut and polished,
and everything that it reflects may be recognised and seen as in a
mirror. And so, if we examine in detail the divine being of Him who
took our nature through His love for us, we must needs admire, and we
cannot sufficiently praise its sublimity. And when we consider how He
became man, we must be ashamed of ourselves, remembering His humility,
and we cannot abase ourselves too deeply. And when we remember what His
motive was in becoming man, we cannot rejoice enough or love Him as He
deserves.

“In these three ways we shall behold with eager desire, and we shall
polish and lovingly examine Christ our noble emerald; and so doing, we
shall find nothing more pleasant to the eyes of our reason, nothing
more attractive, for we shall find Him reflected in us, and we shall
find ourselves re-echoed in Him through His grace and a virtuous life,
and so we shall turn away from earthly things and keep this mirror ever
before our eyes.

“In another article we compare Christ to the noble jasper, which has
a green colour, very pleasant to the eye; and it almost equals the
emerald in its greenness. And so we compare it to the ascension of our
Lord, who was green and beautiful in the eyes of the apostles, and so
pleasant that they could never forget Him during all their lives. And
we shall rightly have the same experience; we shall consider that the
noble emerald, the eternal Word, descended into our nature because of
His love for us, with an overflowing greenness, and we shall rejoice
in this above all, for this vision is full of grace. We shall further
consider that the glorious jasper, by which I mean our Lord Jesus,
ascended to heaven wearing our nature, and is seated at the right hand
of the Father, and has prepared for us the state of glory--Amen.”

Next comes _The Book of the Twelve Virtues_, which Laurentius Surius
entitles more exactly _Tractatus de præcipuis quibusdam virtutibus_.
In it the hermit of Grönendal seems to have made a violent effort to
open his bodily eyes, and all his thoughts are intertwined with the
simplicity of divine children, in the green and blue rays of humility
and mercy, while his prose, which is usually quite impersonal, is
enlivened here with various counsels and practical matters.

Here is a fragment on humility:--

“To reach the lowest place is to have no longer any desire towards
evil; and as we have always some sin to forsake, so long as we are in
this mortal life, we never reach the lowest place, for to die is to
attain, not according to the senses, but in a spiritual paradox. And if
any one were to say that to be steeped in humility is to have reached
the lowest place, I should not contradict his opinion. But it seems to
me that to bathe oneself in humility is to bathe oneself in God, for
God is the source of humility, and He is at the same height and the
same depth above and below all places. And between self-abasement and
the attainment of the lowest place, there is, to my mind, a difference.
For to reach the lowest place is to have no longer any desire towards
evil, and to experience self-abasement is to be steeped in humility,
and that is self-annihilation in God and death in God. Now, we have
always something to forsake so long as we live, and to have nothing
more to forsake is to have reached the lowest place. This is why we
cannot attain to the lowest place. For what man was ever so humble
that he could not have been more humble still? and who ever loved so
fervently that he could not have loved more fervently still? Except
Christ, assuredly not one. And so let us never be satisfied while in
this dying life, for we may always become more humble than we are
to-day. It is a most joyful thought that we have so great and good a
God that we can never give Him sufficient homage and praise. Yes, not
even if each single man could give every moment that which is given
by all men and by all angels. But if we steep ourselves in humility,
that is enough, and we please God by Himself, for in that immersion we
are _one life_ in Him, not according to nature, but by being bathed in
humility, because by humility we have descended below our creation,
and we have flowed into God, who is the source of humility. And there
we lack nothing, for we are beyond ourselves and in God, and there is
neither giving nor receiving, nor anything which can be called _there_,
for it is neither _there_ nor _here_, but I know not where.”

From the same book I transcribe the following passage on detachment
from all things:--

“Now, he who has found God thus reigning in him by His grace, and who
dwells in God above the measure of his human strength, may remain
insensible to joy, to grief, and to the multitude of creatures. For
God is _essenced_ in him, and he is more disposed to introversion than
to extroversion; and this essence is recalled to him wherever man is
found; and this inclination and this essence are never forgotten,
unless the man should deliberately turn away from God; and this he
will not readily do, for he who has experienced God in this way cannot
easily turn away from Him. I do not say that this can never happen, for
no one is certain of anything in this mortal life, except of certain
revelations.

“God takes by His divine power the man whom he has _essenced_ in
himself in this way, and enlightens him in everything, for everything
is full to him of divine enjoyment; for he who refers all things to the
glory of God, enjoys God in all things, and he sees in them the image
of God. For he takes all from the hand of God, thanks Him and praises
Him in everything, and God shines ever brightly before him, for he
watches God with close attention, and never willingly turns away to
worthless things. And as soon as he sees that he has turned towards
worthless things, he at once turns away from them with great bitterness
against himself, and bewails his unfaithfulness to God and resolves
never again to turn knowingly towards worthless things. For all is bare
and empty in which there is not either the glory of God or the good of
our neighbour or our own salvation. He who thus watches over himself is
less and less distracted, for his friend is often present with him,
and that delights him above all. He is like to one who has a burning
thirst. In his thirst he does nothing but drink. He may think of many
other things besides the thirst which consumes him; but whatever he
does, and whoever he is, or of whatever object he thinks, the image
of drink does not disappear from his mind so long as he suffers from
thirst. And the longer the thirst endures, the greater is the suffering
of the man. And it is even so with the man who loves anything so
passionately that he has no taste for aught besides, while nothing
really touches his heart except that with which he is busied, and on
which his love is set. Wherever he may be, with whomsoever he may find
himself, nothing removes from him that which he so ardently loves. And
he sees in all things the image of the beloved object; and the greater
and more powerful his love, the more vividly that image is present to
him. He does not seek repose and idleness that he may enjoy it, for no
distraction hinders him from having the image of the beloved abiding
ever with him.”

Let us glance next at the little work on _Christian Faith_, to which
Surius gives the title _De fide et judicio, tractatulus insignis_. Its
twenty pages form a kind of catechism, splendid in its precision, from
which I take the following fragment on the happiness of the elect:--

“We shall behold with our inward eyes the mirror of the wisdom of
God, in which shall shine and be illumined all things which have ever
existed and which can rejoice our hearts. And we shall hear with our
outward ears the melody and the sweet songs of saints and angels, who
shall praise God throughout eternity. And with our inner ears we shall
hear the inborn Word of the Father; and in this Word we shall receive
all knowledge and all truth. And the sublime fragrance of the Holy
Spirit shall pass before us, sweeter than all balms and precious herbs
that ever were; and this fragrance shall draw us out of ourselves,
towards the eternal love of God, and we shall taste His everlasting
goodness, sweeter than all honey, and it shall feed us, and enter into
our soul and our body; and we shall be ever an hungered and athirst
for it, and because of our hunger and thirst, these delights and this
nourishment shall remain with us for ever, ever more renewed; and this
is eternal life.

“We shall understand by love and we shall be understood by love, and
God shall possess us and we Him in unity. We shall enjoy God, and,
united to Him, we shall rest in blessedness. And this measureless
delight, in that super-essential rest, is the ultimate source of
blessedness, for we are then swallowed up in satisfaction beyond all
possibility of hunger. Hunger can have no place in it, for there is
nothing here but unity; all loving spirits shall here fall asleep in
super-essential darkness, and nevertheless they shall live and wake for
ever in the light of glory.”

Next we come to _The Book of the Sparkling Stone, De Calculo, sive de
perfectione filiorum Dei, libellus admirabilis_, as Surius adds. Here
the subject is the mysterious stone of which the Spirit says in the
Apocalypse: _Et dabo illi (vincenti) calculum candidum, et in calculo
nomen novum scriptum, quod nemo scit nisi qui accepit_ (Rev. ii. 17).
This stone, according to the monk of the forest of Soignes, is the
symbol of Christ, given to His loved ones only, and like a flame which
images the love of the eternal Word. And then again we have glimpses
of those dark shadows of love, from which break forth uninterrupted
sobs of light, seen in awful flowers through the gradual expansions of
contemplation and above the strange verdure of an unequalled gladness.
Let us examine this passage:--

“And hence follows the third point, that is to say, an inward exercise
above reason and without restraint; for that union with God which every
loving spirit has possessed in love continually attracts and draws
towards the inmost centre of its essence the divine persons and all
loving spirits; and all those who love feel this attraction, more or
less, according to their love and their holy exercises. And he who
keeps guard over this attraction and clings closely to it cannot fall
into deadly sin. But the contemplative one, who has renounced his own
being and all things else, does not experience an expulsive force,
because he no longer possesses anything, but is emptied of all; and so
he can always enter naked and imageless into the secret place of his
spirit. There he sees the eternal light revealed, and in that light
he feels an eternal craving for union with God. And he himself feels
a constant fire of love which desires above all things to be one with
God. And the more he observes that attraction and that craving, the
more keenly he feels it; and the more he feels it, the more he desires
to be one with God, for he longs to pay the debt which God calls on him
to pay. This eternal craving for union with God causes the spirit to
glow evermore with love; but as the spirit uninterruptedly continues
paying its debt, a perpetual consumption goes on within it; for in
the refreshment of unity all spirits grow weary in their task, and
feel only the absorption of everything into simple unity with God.
This simple unity can be felt and possessed by none save by those who
stand before the immense brightness and before love, above reason and
without restraint. In this presence the spirit feels itself perpetually
inflamed with love; and in this glow of love it finds neither beginning
nor end. And it feels itself _one_ with that burning fire of love.
The spirit remains always on fire in itself, for its love is eternal,
and it feels itself always consumed away in love; for it is attracted
towards the refreshment of union with God, in which the spirit burns
with love. If it observes itself, it finds a distinction and a
difference between itself and God, but where it burns it is pure and
has no distinction, and that is why it feels nothing else but unity;
for the immeasurable flame of the divine love consumes and swallows up
all that it has enveloped in its essence.

“And you may thus understand that the attracting unity of God is
nothing else save boundless love, which lovingly draws inwards, in
eternal enjoyment, the Father, the Son, and all who live in love. And
we desire to burn and be consumed in that love everlastingly, for
in it the blessedness of all spirits is found. And so we ought all
to found our lives on a fathomless abyss; we shall thus be able to
descend evermore in love, and to plunge ourselves beyond ourselves
into its unsounded depths; and by the same love we shall rise and go
beyond ourselves into its inconceivable height, and we shall wander in
that measureless love, and it will lead us away into the boundless
expanse of the love of God. And there will be a flow and outflow
beyond ourselves, in the unknown pleasure of the divine goodness and
riches. There will be an eternal fusion and transfusion, absorption and
perabsorption of ourselves in the glory of God. See how, in each of
these comparisons, I have shown to the contemplative mind its essence
and its inward exercises. But no other can understand me, for no man
can teach contemplation to his fellow. But when the eternal truth is
revealed to the spirit, it is instructed in all that is needful.”

I ought in fairness to translate also the many strange things in
chapters vi., vii., and viii., which deal with “The difference between
the hirelings and the faithful servants of God,” “The difference
between the faithful servants and the secret friends of God,” and “The
difference between the secret friends and the hidden sons of God.”
Here it does really seem as if the anchorite of the Green Valley had
dipped into things beyond this world. But having run to such lengths
already, I can hardly attempt it I must, however, be permitted to give
the following fragment, which shall be the last from this book. It is
strangely beautiful:--

“Understand, now, that this is the mode of progress: in our going
towards God, we ought to carry our being and all our works before
us, as an eternal offering to God; and in presence of God we shall
surrender ourselves and all our works, and, dying in love, we shall
pass beyond all creation into the super-essential kingdom of God. There
we shall possess God in an eternal death to ourselves. And this is why
the Spirit of God says in the book of the Apocalypse, ‘Blessed are the
dead who die in the Lord.’ Rightly indeed does He call them the blessed
dead, for they remain continually dead to themselves and immersed
beyond their own nature in the gladdening unity of God. And they die
ever newly in love, by the attracting refreshment of that same unity.
Furthermore, the divine Spirit saith, ‘They shall rest from their
labours, and their works shall follow them.’ In this finite existence,
where we are born of God into a spiritual and virtuous life, we carry
our works before us as an offering to God; but in that unconditioned
life, where we die anew in God, into a life of everlasting blessedness,
our good works follow us, for they are one life with us. In our walk
towards God, God dwells within us; but in our death to ourselves and
to all things besides, we dwell in God. If we have faith, hope, and
love, we have received God, and He dwells in us with His mercies, and
He sends us out as His faithful servants, to keep His commandments. And
He calls us in as His mysterious friends, and we obey His counsels. But
above all things, if we desire to enjoy God, or to experience eternal
life within us, we must rise far above human reason, and enter into God
through faith; and there we shall remain pure, at rest, and free from
all similitudes, lifted by love into the open nakedness of thought. For
when in love we die to all things, when in ignorance and obscurity we
die to all the notice of the world, we are wrought and reformed by the
eternal Word, who is an image of the Father. And in the repose of our
spirit we receive the incomprehensible splendour which envelops and
penetrates us, just as the air is penetrated by the brightness of the
sun. And this splendour is merely a boundless vision and a boundless
beholding. What we are, that we behold; and what we behold, that we
are; for our thought, our life, and our essence are closely united with
that truth which is God, and are raised along with it. And that is why
in this pure vision we are one life and one spirit with God; and this
is what I call a contemplative life. By connecting ourselves closely to
God through love, we choose the better part; but when we thus behold
God in super-essence, we possess Him altogether. This contemplation
is united with an untrammelled inward devotion, that is to say, with
a life in which earthly things are destroyed; for when we go outside
ourselves into darkness and into unlimited freedom, the pure ray of
the brightness of God shines perpetually on us; we are fixed in the
ray, and it draws us out of ourselves into our super-essence till
we are overwhelmed in love. And this overwhelming in love is always
accompanied and followed by the free inward exercise of love. For
love cannot be idle; it longs by knowledge and taste to enter into
the immense riches which dwell in its inmost heart; and its hunger
is inappeasable. To be always receiving in this powerlessness is to
swim against the stream. We can neither leave nor take, do without nor
receive, speak nor be silent, for it is above reason and intelligence,
and higher than all created beings. And so we can neither attain nor
pursue it; but we shall look within, and there we shall feel that the
Spirit of God is leading us and drawing us on in this impatience of
love. We shall look above, and there we shall feel that the Spirit of
God is drawing us out of ourselves, and that we are lost in Him--that
is, in the super-essential love with which we are one, and which we
possess more deeply and more widely than all other things.

“This possession is a pure and profound enjoyment of all good and of
eternal life; and we are swallowed up in this enjoyment, above reason
and without reason, in the deep calm of Godhead, which shall nevermore
be stirred. It is by experience only that we can know that this is
true. For how this is, or who, or in what place, or what, neither
reason nor inward exercise can tell us, and it is for this reason that
our inward exercise which follows must remain without mode or limit.
For we can neither conceive nor understand the unfathomable good which
we possess and enjoy; neither by our inward exercises can we go out
of ourselves to enter into it. And so we are poor in ourselves, but
rich in God; hungry and thirsty in ourselves, satiated and full of
wine in God; laborious in ourselves, in God enjoying perfect rest. And
thus we shall remain throughout eternity. For without the exercises of
love we can never possess God, and he who feels or thinks otherwise is
deceived. And thus we live wholly in God, by possessing our beatitude,
and we live wholly in ourselves by exercising our souls in love towards
God; and although we live wholly in God and wholly in ourselves, yet it
is but one life, which has two-fold and contrary sensations. For riches
and poverty, hunger and satiety, work and idleness, these things are
absolutely contrary to one another. Nevertheless, in this consists the
nobility of our nature, now and everlastingly, for it is impossible
that we should become God, or lose our created essence. But if we
remain wholly in ourselves, separated from God, we shall be miserable
and unsaved; and so we ought to feel ourselves living wholly in God and
wholly in ourselves, and between these two sensations we shall find
nothing but the grace of God and the exercises of our love. For from
the height of our highest sensation, the splendour of God shines upon
us, and it teaches us truth and impels us towards all virtues into the
eternal love of God. Without interruption we follow this splendour on
to the source from which it flows, and there we feel that our spirits
are stripped of all things and bathed beyond thought of rising in the
pure and infinite ocean of love. If we remained there continually,
with a pure vision, we should never lose this experience, for our
immersion in the enjoyment of God would be without interruption,
if we had gone out of ourselves and were swallowed up in love, so
possessing God. For if, overwhelmed in love, and lost to ourselves, we
are the possessors of God, God is ours and we are His, and we plunge
far beyond our depth, eternally and irrevocably having God as our own.
This immersion in love becomes the habit of our being, and so it takes
place while we sleep and while we wake, whether we know it or whether
we know it not. And in this way it deserves no other praise; but it
maintains us in possession of God and of all the good which we have
received from His hands. It is like unto streams, which, without pause
and without returning, flow continually into the sea, since that is
the place to which they belong. And so, if we possess God alone, the
immersion of our being through habitual love is always, and without
return, flowing into an unfathomable emotion, which we possess, and
which belongs to us. If we were always pure, and if we always beheld
with the same directness of vision, we should have such a feeling as
this. Now, this immersion in love is above all virtues, and above all
the practices of love. For it is simply an eternal going forth out of
ourselves, by a clear prevision, into a changed state, towards which
we lean out of ourselves, as if towards our beatitude. For we feel
ourselves eternally drawn outside ourselves and towards another. And
this is the most secret and the most hidden distinction which we can
experience between God and ourselves, and above it there is no more any
difference. Nevertheless, our reason remains with its eyes open in the
darkness--that is to say, in infinite ignorance--and in that darkness
the boundless splendour remains secret and hidden from us, for the
presence of its immensity blinds our reason. But it wraps us round with
its purity and transforms us by its essence, and so we are wrought
out of our personality and transformed until, overwhelmed in love, we
possess our beatitude, and are one with God.”

Let us next look at _The Book of the Seven Steps of the Ladder of Love_
(called by Surius _De Septem Gradibus amoris, libellus optimus_) in
which the prior of Grönendal studies seven virtues which lead from
introversion to the confines of absorption. This seems to me one of
the most beautiful works of a saint, whose works are all strange and
beautiful I ought to translate from it some rather singular passages;
among others, that in which he discusses the four melodies of heaven;
but space fails us, and this introduction is already too long. I shall
content myself with giving the following page:--

“The Holy Spirit cries in us with a loud voice and without words,
‘Love the love which loves you everlastingly.’ His crying is an inward
contact with our spirit. This voice is more terrifying than the storm.
The flashes which it darts forth open the sky to us and show us the
light of eternal truth. The heat of its contact and of its love is
so great that it well-nigh consumes us altogether. In its contact
with our spirit it cries without interruption, ‘Pay your debt; love
the love which has loved you from all eternity.’ Hence there arises
a great inward impatience and also an unlimited resignation. For the
more we love, the more we desire to love; and the more we pay of that
which love demands, the greater becomes our debt to love. Love is
not silent, but cries continually, ‘Love thou love.’ This conflict is
unknown to alien senses. To love and to enjoy, that is to labour and
to suffer. God lives in us by His grace. He teaches us, He counsels
us, He commands us to love. We live in Him above all grace and above
our own works, by suffering and enjoying. In us dwell love, knowledge,
contemplation, and possession, and, above them, enjoyment. Our work is
to love God; our enjoyment is to receive the embrace of love.

“Between love and enjoyment there is a distinction, even as between
God and His grace. We are spirits when we hold fast by love, but when
He robs us of our spirit, and re-makes us by His own spirit, then we
are enjoyment. The Spirit of God breathes us out towards love and
good works, and it breathes us in to rest and enjoyment; and that is
eternal life, just as we breathe out the air which is in us and breathe
in fresh air; and in that consists our mortal life and nature. And
although our spirit should be ravished and its powers fail in enjoyment
and in blessedness, it is always renewed in grace, in charity, and in
virtues. And so what I love is to enter into a restful enjoyment, to
go forth in good works, and to remain always united to the Spirit of
God. Just as we open the eyes of the body, see, and shut them again, so
quickly that we hardly notice what we have done, even so we die in God,
we live out of God, and we remain always one with Him.”

Next we have _The Book of the Seven Castles_, called by Laurentius
Surius _De Septem Custodiis, Opusculum longe piissimum_. It is not
without resemblance to the _Castle of the Soul_, by Saint Teresa of
Avila, which has also seven dwellings, of which prayer is the door.
The hermit of the forest of Soignes sends this work, with the _Mirror
of Eternal Salvation_, “To the holy Clare, Margaret van Meerbeke, of
the convent of Brussels,” and so the counsels on which he touches in
the prologue have a slight note of pitying sadness. For instance, he
teaches her in what way she shall go to the window of the convent
parlour, shutting out from her eyes the face of man; and speaks of
the joy of pain and the care of the sick, with pale counsels for the
sick-ward. Then there rise the seven spiritual castles of St. Clara,
the doors of which are closed by divine grace, and must no more be
opened to look into the streets of the heart. Let us hear what follows,
still on the subject of love:--

“And the loving soul cannot give itself wholly to God, nor perfectly
receive God, for all that it receives is but a little thing as
compared with that which it lacks, and counts as nothing in its eager
emotion. And so it is disturbed, and falls into impatience, and into
the strong passion of love; for it can neither do without God nor have
Him, reach His depth nor His height, follow nor forsake Him. And this
is the storm and the spiritual plague of which I have spoken; for no
tongue can describe the many storms and agitations which arise from
the two sides of love. For love makes a man now hot, now cold; now
bold, now timid; now joyous, now sorrowful; it brings him fear, hope,
despair, tears, complaints, songs, praises, and such things without
number. Such are the sufferings of those who live in the passion of
love; and yet this is the most spiritual and the most useful life which
man can live, each according to his own capacity. But where man’s
method fails and can reach no higher, then God’s method begins; where
man, by his sufferings, his love, and his unsatisfied desires, entwines
himself with God and cannot be united to Him, then the Spirit of our
Lord comes like a fierce fire which burns and consumes and swallows up
all things in itself, so that the man forgets his inward exercises, and
forgets himself and feels just as if he were one spirit and one love
with God. Here our senses and all our powers are silent, and they are
calmed and satisfied, for the fountain of divine goodness and wealth
has flowed over everything, and each has received more than he can
desire.

“Next comes the third method, which we attribute to our heavenly
Father--that in which He empties the memory of forms and images, and
lifts up our naked thought to the ultimate source, which is Himself.
There man is fixed firmly at his beginning, which is God, and is
united to Him. And there is given to him strength and freedom to work
inwardly and outwardly by means of all the virtues. And he receives
knowledge and understanding in all exercises which are according to
reason. And he learns how to receive the inward working of God and the
transformation of the divine methods, which are above reason, even as
we have already said. And above all divine limits, he will understand
by the same boundless intuition, the boundless essence of God, whose
being is without limitation. For one cannot express it by words, nor
by works, nor by methods, nor signs, nor similitudes, but it manifests
itself spontaneously to the simple intuition of pure and naked thought.

“But we may place on the road signs and similitudes which prepare
man for the sight of the Kingdom of God, and you shall imagine this
essence like the glow of a boundless fire, in which everything is
silently consumed--a red and motionless conflagration. And so it is
with the calm of essential love, which is the enjoyment of God and of
all the saints, above all limitations, and above all the works and all
the practices of virtue. This love is a wave, boundless and calmed,
of riches and joys, in which all the saints are swallowed up with God
in an unlimited enjoyment. And this joy is wild and lonely like a
wandering, for it has neither limit, nor road, nor path, nor rest, nor
measure, nor end, nor beginning, nor anything which one can show or
express by words. And this is the pure blessedness of all of us, this
divine essence, and our super-essence, above reason and without reason.
If we desire to experience it, our spirit must go forth into it, above
our created essence, towards that eternal centre in which all our lines
begin and end. And in this centre these lines lose their name and all
distinction, and are united to this centre, and become that same unity
which the centre itself is; and nevertheless in themselves they always
remain as converging lines.

“See, then, how we shall thus always remain what we are in our created
essence, and yet by the ascent of our spirit we shall continually
pass into our super-essence. In it we shall be above ourselves, below
ourselves, beyond our breadth, beyond our length, in an eternal
wandering which has no return.”

I shall say little of the small work entitled _Four Temptations_, which
deals with the very subtle dangers which threaten the contemplative
mind, the most formidable of them all being quietism. With the
exception of certain discoveries in the unknown psychology of prayer,
this work, which, as I have said, is very short, does not present any
very exceptionally lofty summit to our souls.

The other little work, which is about the same length--that is to
say, about twenty pages--is called _The Book of Supreme Truth_,
or, according to Surius, _Samuel_. He adds:--“Qui alias de alta
contemplatione dicitur, verius autem apologice quorumdam sancti
hujus viri dictorum sublimium inscribi possit.” But this book is so
marvellous that one would need to translate the whole. At present I
shall make no extract from it, since we can no more divide it than we
can divide that essence whose perpetual effusion is displayed in its
unique and awful mirror.

I come, therefore, to _The Book of the Kingdom of Lovers_, the
strangest and most abstract work of the sage of the Green Valley, in
the midst of which the soul stretches itself, and is filled with terror
in a spiritual void which is doubtless normal, and which for the mind
that does not follow it is like some dark glass bell, in which there
is neither air, nor image, nor anything that can be exactly conceived,
except uninterrupted stars in the eternal spaces.

The work is founded on that verse in Wisdom, “Justum deduxit per vias
rectas et ostendit illi regnum Dei,” and includes the three virtues of
theology and the seven gifts of the Holy Ghost I proceed at once to
translate, and more fully than ever.

Let us look first at this passage on the deserts of being:--

“The soul of man being made of nothing, which God took from nowhere,
man has followed this nothingness, which is nowhere, and he has gone
out of his ego into wanderings, by immersion in the simple essence
of God, as in his own ultimate source; and he has died in God. To
die in God is to be blessed; and, for each one according to his own
merits, it involves a great difference both in grace and glory. This
blessedness is to understand God and to be understood by God, in the
joyful unity of the divine persons, and to have flowed by this unity
into the super-essence of God. Now this unity brings joy when we look
inward, and bears fruit in our outward life, and so the fountain of
unity flows; that is to say, the Father begets the Son, the eternal
truth, who is the image of the Father, in which He sees Himself and
all things. This image is the life and cause of all creatures, for in
this image is everything, according to the divine mode of being; and
by this image all things are perfectly made, and all things are wisely
ruled upon that model; and according to this image everything is set
apart for its own end, so far as it is possible for God to do so; for
every creature has received the means of attaining blessedness. But the
reasonable creature is not the image of the Father, according to the
effluence of his created mode of being, for that effluence flows forth
in as far as it is a creature, and that is why it enjoys and loves with
measure in the light of grace or of glory. For no one possesses the
divine nature actively according to the divine mode, except the divine
persons themselves, since no creature can work according to an infinite
mode, for if it worked thus it would be God and not a creature.

“By His own image God has made His creatures like unto Himself in
their nature, and in those who have turned to Him, He has made the
likeness even greater--higher than nature in the light of grace or of
glory, each one according to the capacity which he has by the state
of his soul or by his merits. Now all those who feel this inward
contact, who have an enlightened reason and the eagerness of love, and
to whom love’s infinite freedom has been revealed, enter into joyful
contemplation in the super-essence of God. Moreover, God is united to
His essence in a joyful manner, and contemplates that very essence
which He enjoys. According to the mode of the enjoyment, the divine
light constantly fails in the infinite essence; but in contemplation
and in a fixed and steady gaze the vision cannot be darkened, for we
shall forever behold that which we enjoy. Those for whom the light
constantly fails are those who rest in enjoyments, in the midst of
those wild solitudes where God possesses Himself in perpetual joy;
there the light grows dim in rest and in the infinitude of the sublime
essence. There God is His own throne, and all those who possess God in
grace and in glory in this degree are the thrones and the tabernacles
of God, and they have died in God in an eternal rest.

“From this death there arises a super-essential life--that is to say,
a life of contemplation--and here the gift of intelligence begins. For
God, who without ceasing contemplates the very essence which He enjoys,
and who grants the impatience of love to those whom He makes like unto
Himself, gives also rest and enjoyment to those who are united with
Him. But where there is union of being and complete immersion, there
is no more giving or receiving. And because He grants an enlightened
reason to those whom He makes like unto Himself, He also gives a
boundless splendour to those who are united to Him. That boundless
splendour is the image of the Father. We are created in this image,
and we are capable of being united to it in a grandeur more lofty than
thrones, if we only contemplate, above our own human weakness, the
glorious face of the Father--in other words, the sublime nature of
deity. Now this unfathomed splendour is a common gift to all spirits
who rejoice in grace and in glory. It thus streams forth for all like
the splendour of the sun, and yet those who receive it are not all
equally enlightened. The sun shines more clearly through glass than
through stone, more clearly through crystal than through glass, and
each precious stone shines and shows its beauty and its power and its
colour in the light of the sun. Even so is each man enlightened both in
grace and in glory, according as he is capable of receiving so sublime
a gift; but he who is most enlightened in grace yet has less than he
who is least enlightened in glory. Nevertheless the light of glory is
not an intermediary between the soul and this unlimited splendour, but
our spiritual condition, our earthly state, and our inconstancy disturb
us, and so we have to gain merits, which those who dwell in glory have
no need to gain.

“This sublime splendour is the simple contemplation of the Father, and
of all those who behold and rejoice, and look fixedly in one direction
by means of an incomprehensible light, each one according as the light
is bestowed upon him. For that measureless light shines ceaselessly
into all our thoughts; but the man who lives here, in this earthly
state, is often overwhelmed with images, so that he does not always
actively and steadily behold the super-essence of God by means of this
light. But in receiving this gift he virtually possesses it, and he can
contemplate whenever he wills. Since the light by which we contemplate
is unlimited, and that which we contemplate of an unfathomed depth, the
one can never reach the other; but this fixed gaze of our contemplation
remains eternally turned towards the infinite, in the joyful presence
of the sublime Majesty, where the Father, by His eternal wisdom, gazes
fixedly into the depths of His own infinite being.”

A great part of this book on _The Kingdom of Lovers_ is written in
singular verses. The three-lined and breathlessly monotonous rhythm
is rather like that of the _Stabat Mater_, only that the third line of
every strophe reproduces the same rhyme throughout the entire work, and
rests on an abstract idea from which the two preceding lines rise, like
twin flowers of obscurity and restlessness. We can imagine this hollow
music floating through the spiritual dreams of the maids of Memlinck,
while their secret senses, their faces, and their little hands all
unite in ecstasy; but unhappily a translation cannot reproduce its
taste of darkness and of bread soaked in the night, nor catch the image
of the tear-brightened gloom, of ice mingled with fire, of oppression
without hope, which we feel throughout the work. I shall therefore
translate only one of these dark poems, the subject of which is the
“Gift of Intelligence.”

  “He who seeks that gift to light him
  Must rise beyond his nature,
  To the highest height of being.
  Brightness without measure
  There shall he perceive it
  In primal purity.
  Through his soul will flow
  The light of heavenly truth,
  And he in it shall vanish.
  That universal radiance
  Enlightens the pure-hearted
  According to their merits.
  Then can they behold
  With gaze that knows no limit
  The very face of joy.
  For ever shall we gaze on
  That which we there enjoy
  And lose ourselves in vision.
  Far off has gone the Lover;
  We turn our eyes for ever
  Towards the blessed vision.
  Yet has he reached the goal
  And the lover has the loved one
  In the lonely realm of union.
  So shall we thus remain
  And ever strive to follow
  To that wondrous depth divine.”

I should have liked to translate many other passages from this
remarkable volume; but I shall close with a translation of the chapter
entitled “Of the gift of sweet-savoured wisdom”:--

“The seventh divine gift is that of sweet-savoured wisdom. It is
granted on the highest peak of introversion, and it penetrates the
intelligence and the will according as they are turned towards the
absolute. This savour is without source and without measure, and it
flows from within outwards, and drinks in the body and the soul (in
proportion to their respective capacity for its reception) even to
the inmost sense--that is to say, even to a physical sensation. The
other senses, like sight and hearing, take their pleasure outside, in
the marvels which God has created for His own glory and for the needs
of men. This incomprehensible savour, above the mind and in the vast
breadth of the soul, is without measure, and it is the Holy Spirit,
the incomprehensible love of God. In lower regions than the spirit,
sensation is limited. But as its powers are inherent, they overwhelm
everything. Now, the eternal Father has adorned the contemplative
spirit with joy in unity, and with active and passive comprehension
in which the self is lost, and the spirit thus becomes the throne
and the rest of God; and the Son, the eternal Truth, has adorned the
contemplative intelligence with His own brightness, so that it may
behold the face of joy. And now the Holy Spirit desires to adorn the
contemplative will, and the inherent unity of its powers, so that the
soul may taste, know, and feel how great God is. This savour is so vast
that the soul imagines that heaven, earth, and all that is in them must
dissolve and sink in nothingness before its unbounded sweetness. These
delights are above and beneath, within and without, and have entirely
enveloped and saturated the kingdom of the soul. Then the intellect
beholds the pure source from which all these delights flow forth.
This awakes the attention of the enlightened reason. It knows well,
however, that it is incapable of knowing these unimaginable delights,
for it observes by means of a created light, while this joy is entirely
without measure. Therefore the reason fails in its attention; but the
intellect, which is transformed by this illimitable splendour, beholds
without ceasing the incomprehensible joy of beatitude.”

It remains now to say a word about the different translations of
Ruysbroeck’s work. Twenty years ago, Ernest Hello, who, with Villiers
de l’Isle Adam and Stéphane Mallarmé, is the greatest French mystic
of our time, published a brief volume in which he collected under
headings, chosen mostly as his fancy dictated, various passages of our
author, translated from a Latin translation written in the sixteenth
century by Laurentius Surius, a Carthusian monk of Cologne. This
translation of Surius, noble and subtle in its Latinity, gives with
strict and admirable care the sense of the original; but with its
over-anxiety, its prolixity, and its weakness, it resembles, when
we contrast with it the crude colours of the original Flemish, some
distant image seen through sullied panes. When his author uses one
word, Surius generally employs two or three, and even then, still
dissatisfied, he very often paraphrases once more that which he
has already translated in full. The hermit utters cries of love so
passionate that they are sometimes almost like blasphemies; Surius is
frightened as he reads them and sets down something different. There
are times when the old hermit looks outside himself, and in speaking of
God searches for images drawn from the garden, the kitchen, or from the
stars. Surius does not always venture to follow these flights, and he
tries to weaken the meaning or flatters himself that he is ennobling it.

  “He escapes me like a truant,”

says one of the Flemish Beguines in speaking of Jesus, and others add:--

  “Christ and I keep house together,
  He is mine, I His;
  Night and day His love outwears me;
  He my heart hath stolen;
  In His mouth He holds me,
  What care have I outside!”

Elsewhere God says to man:--

  “I will be thy nourishment,
  Thy host and thy cook.
  My flesh was well roasted
  On the cross for love of thee.
  Shalt eat and drink with Me.”

The translator is terrified and changes these astonishing flights
into pale circumlocutions. The wild and simple air, the vast and
savage love of the original work, most frequently disappear in a wise,
correct, copious, and monotonous conventual phraseology; the fidelity
to the meaning remaining all the while exact. It was fragments of this
translation which Ernest Hello translated in his turn, or rather, he
gathered together in chapters arranged by himself, phrases taken from
different portions of the work, and disfigured by a double translation.
He thus formed a kind of anthology, admirable in its way, almost
entirely consecutive; but in which, in spite of careful searching, I
have been unable to find more than three or four passages reproduced in
their entirety.

As for the present translation, its one merit is its literal
exactitude. I might perhaps have been able to make it, if not more
elegant, at least more readable, and to improve the work a little from
the point of view of theological and metaphysical terminology. But
it seemed to me less dangerous and more loyal to confine myself to
an almost blind word-for-word translation. I have also resisted the
inevitable temptation to introduce unfaithful splendours, for the mind
of the old monk is constantly touching upon strange beauties, which
his discretion does not awake, and all his paths are peopled with
lovely sleeping dreams, whose slumber his humility does not venture to
disturb.



  SELECTED PASSAGES FROM “THE ADORNMENT OF THE SPIRITUAL MARRIAGE.”


ON THE KINGDOM OF THE SOUL

He who desires to obtain and to preserve virtue will adorn, occupy, and
arrange his soul like to a kingdom. Free will is the king of the soul.
He is free by nature, and yet more free through divine mercy. He will
be crowned with a crown named charity. This crown and this kingdom we
shall receive from the Emperor, who is the Lord, the Ruler and the King
of kings, and we shall possess, rule, and maintain this kingdom in
His name. The sovereign, free will, shall dwell in the highest town of
the kingdom--that is to say, in the strong desires of the soul. And he
will be adorned with a robe of two parts. The right side of the robe
shall be a virtue which is called strength, so that he may be strong
and powerful to conquer every obstacle, and to dwell at last in heaven
in the palace of the great Emperor, bending his crowned head with love
and passionate self-surrender before the supreme and sovereign King.
This is the fitting work of charity. Through it we receive the crown.
Through it we adorn the crown, and through it we maintain and possess
the kingdom through all eternity. The left side of the robe shall be a
cardinal virtue, which is called moral strength. Through its aid shall
free will, the king, put down all immorality and fulfil all virtue,
and shall have the power to maintain his kingdom unto death.

This king shall choose councillors in his country, the wisest to be
found in the land. These will be two divine virtues, knowledge and
discretion, enlightened by the grace of God. They will dwell near the
king, in a palace which is called the soul’s strength of reason; but
they will be clothed and adorned with a moral virtue which is called
temperance, so that the king may always act or refrain from acting
according to their counsels. By knowledge we shall purge the conscience
from all its faults and adorn it with every virtue; and by discretion
we shall give and take, do and leave undone, speak and be silent, fast
and eat, listen and reply; and in all things we shall act according to
knowledge and discretion, clothed with their moral virtue, which is
called temperance or moderation.

This king, free will, shall also set up in his kingdom a judge, who
shall be called justice, a divine virtue when it springs from love; and
it is one of the highest moral virtues. This judge shall dwell in the
conscience, in the centre of the kingdom, in the strongest passions.
And he will be adorned with moral virtue, which is called prudence. For
justice cannot be perfect. This judge, justice, shall travel through
the kingdom with the power and the force of the king, accompanied by
wisdom of counsel and by his own prudence. He will promote and dismiss,
judge and condemn, kill and keep alive, mutilate, blind and restore
sight, lift up and put down, organise, punish, and chastise every sin
with perfect justice, and at last destroy all vices.

The people of this kingdom--that is all the pure of soul--shall be
established on and in the fear of God; they shall be subject unto God
in all virtues, each according to his own capacity. He who has thus
occupied, adorned, and regulated the kingdom of his soul, has gone
forth in love and virtue towards God, himself, and his neighbour.


CHRIST THE SUN OF THE SOUL

The sun shines in the east, in the centre of the world, on the
mountains; it hastens summer in that region, and creates good fruits
and potent wines, filling the earth with joy. The same sun shines in
the west, at the ends of the earth; there the country is colder, and
the power of its heat is less, yet nevertheless it produces a great
many excellent fruits; but few wines are found there.

Those men who dwell in the west of their own being, remain in the
outward senses, and by their good intentions, their virtues, and their
outward practices, through God’s grace, they produce abundant harvests
and virtues in various ways, but they seldom taste the wine of inward
joy and of spiritual consolation.

The man who will feel the shining of the Eternal Sun, which is Christ
Himself, will have clear vision, and will dwell on the mountains of
the east, concentrating all his energies and raising his heart towards
God, free and careless as regards joy, sorrow, and all creatures. There
Christ the Sun of Righteousness shines on the free and uplifted heart;
and these are the mountains which I have in mind. Christ, the glorious
sun and the divine brightness, shines and illumines and enkindles by
His inward coming, and the power of His Spirit, the free heart and all
the powers of the soul.

When summer draws near, and the sun rises higher in the heavens, it
draws the moisture of the soil through the roots and the trunk of the
trees, until it reaches the branches, and hence come foliage, flowers,
and fruits. So likewise, when Christ, the Eternal Sun, rises in our
hearts, so that the summer reigns over their adornment of virtues,
He sends His light and His fire into our will, and draws the heart
from the multitude of earthly things, and creates unity and close
fellowship, and makes the heart to grow and become green through inward
love, and to bear the flowers of loving devotion and the fruits of
gratitude and affection, and preserves these fruits in the sorrow and
humility we feel because of our impotence.


THE LESSON FROM THE BEE

Observe the wise bee and make it your model. It dwells in a community
in the midst of its companions, and it goes forth, not during the
storm, but when the weather is calm and still and the sun is shining;
and it flies towards all the flowers on which it can find sweetness.
It does not rest on any flower, neither in its beauty nor in its
sweetness, but it draws from each calix honey and wax--that is to say,
the sweetness and the substance of its brightness--and it bears them
back to the community in which all the bees are assembled, so that the
honey and wax may profitably bear fruit.

The opened heart on which Christ, the Eternal Sun, is shining, grows
and flourishes under His rays, and flows with all its inner powers
into joy and sweetnesses.

Now the wise man will act like the bee, and he will fly out in order
to settle with care, intelligence, and prudence on all the gifts and
on all the sweetness which he has experienced, and on all the good
which God has done to him; and through the rays of the sun and his own
inward observation he will experience a multitude of consolations and
blessings. And he will not rest on any flower of all these gifts, but,
laden with gratitude and praise, he will fly back again toward the home
in which he longs to dwell and rest for evermore with God.


THE DEW OF MID-DAY

Sometimes in these burning days there falls the honey-dew of some false
sweetness, which soils the fruits or completely spoils them. It falls
for the most part at noon, in bright sunshine, and its great drops can
hardly be distinguished from rain. Even so there are some men who can
be caught away from their outward senses by some brightness which is
the gift of the enemy. And this brightness enwraps and envelops them,
and at that moment they behold images, falsehoods, and many kinds of
truths, and voices speak to them in different ways, and all this is
seen and received with great joy. And here there fall at times the
honey-drops of a false sweetness in which the man delights himself. He
who values it highly receives a great quantity, and so the man is often
injured, for if he holds for true such things as have no resemblance
to truth, because they have been shown or taught him, he falls into
error and the fruit of virtue is lost. But those who have climbed by
the paths which I have pointed out above, although they may indeed be
tempted by that spirit and by that brightness, will recognise them and
receive no injury.


THE LESSON FROM THE ANT

I will give a brief parable to those who live in continual ebullitions
of love, in order that they may endure this disposition nobly and
becomingly, and may attain to a higher virtue.

There is a little insect which is called the ant; it is strong and
wise, and very tenacious of life, and it lives with its fellows in
warm and dry soils. The ant works during summer and collects food and
grain for the winter, and it splits the grain so that it may not become
rotten or spoiled, and may be eaten when there is nothing more to be
found. And it does not make strange paths, but all follow the same
path, and after waiting till the proper time they become able to fly.

So should these men do; they will be strong by waiting for the
coming of Christ, wise against the appearance and the inspiration of
the enemy. They will not choose death, but they will prefer God’s
glory alone and the winning of fresh virtues. They will dwell in the
community of their heart and of their powers, and will follow the
invitation and the constraint of divine unity. They will live in rich
and warm soils, or, in other words, in the passionate heat of love, and
in great impatience. And they will work during the summer of this life,
and will gather in for eternity the fruits of virtue. These they will
divide in two--one part means that they will always desire the supreme
joy of eternity; the other, that by their reason they will always
restrain themselves as much as possible, and wait the time that God has
appointed for them, and so the fruit of virtue shall be preserved into
eternity. They will not follow strange paths or curious methods, but
through all storms they will follow the path of love, towards the place
whither love shall guide them. And when the set time has come, and they
have persevered in all the virtues, they shall be fit to behold God,
and their wings shall bear them towards His mystery.


WHAT SHALL THE FORSAKEN DO?

He shall humbly consider that he hath nothing of his own save his
misery, and shall say with resignation and self-abandonment the same
words which were spoken by holy Job: “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath
taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” And in all things he
shall yield up his own will, saying and thinking in his heart, “Lord,
I am as willing to be poor and without all those things of which Thou
hast deprived me, as I should be ready to be rich, Lord, if Thy will
were so, and if in that state I might further Thy glory. It is not
my natural will which must be done, but Thy will and the will of my
spirit. Lord, I am Thine, and I should be Thine as gladly in hell as
in heaven, if in that way I could advance Thy glory. So then, O Lord,
fulfil in me the good pleasure of Thy will.” Out of all sufferings and
all renunciations the man will draw for himself an inward joy; he will
resign himself into the hands of God, and will rejoice to suffer in
promoting God’s glory. And if he perseveres in this course, he will
enjoy secret pleasures never tasted before; for nothing so rejoices
the lover of God as to feel that he belongs to his Beloved. And if
he has truly risen to this height in the path of virtues, it is not
necessary that he shall have passed through the different states which
we have pointed out in previous chapters, for he feels in himself, in
work, in humble obedience, and in patience and resignation, the source
of every virtue. This method has therefore an everlasting certainty.

At this season the sun enters into the sign of Libra, for the day and
night are equal, and light and darkness evenly balanced. Even so for
the resigned soul Jesus Christ is in the sign of Libra; and whether He
grants sweetness or bitterness, darkness or light, of whatever nature
His gift may be, the man retains his balance, and all things are one
to him, with the exception of sin, which has been driven out once
for all. When all consolation has been withdrawn from these resigned
ones, so that they believe they have lost all their virtues, and are
forsaken of God and of every creature; then, if they know how to reap
the various fruits, the corn and wine are ripe and ready.


THE SETTING OF THE ETERNAL SUN

When the time came for Christ to gather in and bear away to the eternal
kingdom the fruits of all the virtues that ever were and ever shall be
practised upon earth, then the Eternal Sun began to set; for He humbled
Himself and gave up the life of His body into the hands of His enemies.
And in His distress he was misunderstood and forsaken by His friends,
and all consolation, from without and from within, was taken away
from His human nature, and it was overwhelmed with misery and pain,
with scorn and heaviness, and in it He paid all the debt that justice
claimed for sin. He suffered these things with humble patience, and
in this resignation He fulfilled the highest tasks of love, and so He
received and redeemed our eternal heritage. Thus was adorned the lower
part of His noble humanity, for in it He suffered this sorrow for our
sins. And this is why He calls Himself the Saviour of the world; this
is why He is now famous and glorified, exalted and seated at the right
hand of His Father, where He reigns with power. And every creature on
earth, in heaven, and in hell, bends continually the knee before His
glorious name.


THE NATURE OF GOD

We must consider and examine the sublime nature of God: how it is
simplicity and purity; height that cannot be scaled and depth that
cannot be sounded; breadth without understanding and length without
end; awful silence and the savage wilderness; rest of all saints in the
union and in the common joy which He shares with His saints throughout
eternity.


THE DIVINE GENEROSITY

The incomprehensible wealth and sublimity and the universality of the
gifts which flow forth from the divine nature awake wonder in the heart
of man, and above all he marvels at the universal presence of God and
of His works, a presence which is above everything, for he beholds the
inconceivable essence, which is the common joy of God and of all the
saints. And he sees that the Divine Persons send forth one common
effluence in works, in grace, and in glory, in nature and above nature,
in all states and in all times, in men and in the glorified saints, in
heaven and on earth, in all reasonable creatures, and in those which
are without reason or material, according to the merits, the needs, and
the receptivity of each. And he sees the creation of the heaven and the
earth, the sun and the moon, the four elements with all the creatures,
and the course of the heavens, which is common to all. God, with all
His gifts, is common to all, men and angels are a common gift, and the
soul with all its faculties....

When man thus considers the wealth and the marvellous sublimity of the
divine nature, and all the manifold gifts which He grants and offers
to His creatures, amazement is stirred up in his spirit at the sight
of so manifold a wealth and majesty; at the sight of the immense
faithfulness of God to all His creatures. This causes a strange joy of
spirit, and a boundless trust in God, and this inward joy surrounds
and penetrates all the forces of the souls in the secret places of the
spirit.


CHRIST THE LOVER OF ALL MEN

Consider how Christ gave Himself to all in perfect faithfulness. His
secret and sublime prayer flowed forth towards His Father, and was
for the common good of all who desire salvation. Jesus Christ was all
things to all men in His love, in His teaching, in His reproaches, in
His consolations and sweetness, in His generous gifts, in His gracious
forgiveness. His soul and His body, His life, His death, and His
service were and are for the common good of all. His sacrament and
His gifts are for all. Christ received neither food, nor drink, nor
anything that was needful for His body, without thinking of the common
good of all those who shall be saved even until the last day.

Christ had nothing of His own, but all was held in common, body and
soul, mother and disciples, tunic and cloak. He ate and drank for us,
He lived and toiled for us. His toil and grief and misery were indeed
His own, but the blessings and the good which flowed from them were
the common possession of all. And the glory of His merits shall be the
possession of all throughout eternity.


HOW CHRIST GAVE HIMSELF TO US IN THE SACRAMENT

There is a special benefit which Christ, in the Holy Church, has left
to all the good: namely, that supper of the great feast of Passover,
which He instituted when the time had come for Him to leave His sorrow
and go to the Father, after He had eaten of the paschal lamb with His
disciples and the ancient law had been fulfilled. At the end of the
meal and of the feast, He wished to give them a special food, which
He had long desired to give. In this way He would make an end of the
ancient law and bring in the new, and so He took bread in His sacred
hands and consecrated His sacred body and afterwards His blood, and
gave them to all His disciples, and left them as a common gift to all
just men, for their eternal benefit.

This gift and this special food rejoice and adorn all great festivals
and all banquets in heaven and on earth. In this gift Christ gives
Himself to us in three ways: He gives us His flesh and His blood
and His bodily life, glorified and full of joys and sorrows; and He
gives us His Spirit, with its supreme faculties, full of glory and of
gifts, of truth and justifying power; and He gives us His personality,
with the divine light which raises His Spirit and the spirits of all
enlightened beings into the sublime unity and joy of God.

Christ desires that we shall remember Him whenever we consecrate,
offer, and receive His body. Consider now in what way we shall remember
Him. We shall observe and examine how Christ inclines Himself towards
us, by loving affection, by great desires, by a tender joy and warm
influence passing into our bodily nature. For He gives us that which
He received from our humanity, His flesh, His blood, and His bodily
nature. We shall likewise observe and examine that precious body,
tortured, furrowed, and wounded with love, because of His faithfulness
towards us. So shall we be adorned and nourished in the lower part
of our human nature. In this sublime gift of the Sacrament He also
gives us His Spirit full of glory, and the richer gifts of virtues and
unspeakable mercies of charity and goodness.

By these we are nourished and adorned and enlightened in the unity of
our spirit and in our higher powers, because Christ with all His riches
dwells within us.

In the sacrament of the altar He further bestows upon us His sublime
personality and His incomprehensible light. Through this we are united
and given up to the Father, and the Father receives His elect children
at the same time as His only begotten Son, and so we reach our divine
inheritance and our eternal felicity.

If a man has diligently considered these things, he will meet Christ
in the same way in which Christ comes to him. He will rise to receive
Christ with eager joy in his heart, his desires, his love, and all
his powers. And it is thus that Christ Himself receives. This joy
cannot possibly be too great, for our nature receives His nature, the
glorified humanity of Christ, full of gladness and merit. Therefore I
desire that in thus receiving man shall, as it were, dissolve and flow
forth through his desires, his joys, and his pleasures, for he receives
the most lovely, the most gracious, and the kindest of the children
of men, and is made one with Him. In this union and this joy great
delights often come to men, and many mysterious and secret marvels of
divine treasures are manifested and revealed. When in so receiving a
man meditates on the torment and the sufferings of this precious body
of Christ of which he is partaking, there sometimes enters into him
a devotion so loving and a compassion so keen that he desires to be
nailed with Christ to the wood of the Cross, and to shed his heart’s
blood in honour of Christ. And he presses into the wounds and into the
open heart of Christ his Saviour. In such exercises revelations and
great benefits have often come to men.


THE SOUL’S HUNGER FOR GOD

Here there begins an eternal hunger, which shall nevermore be
satisfied. It is the yearning and the inward aspiration of our faculty
of love, and of our created spirit towards an uncreated good. And as
the spirit desires joy, and is invited and constrained by God to
partake of it, it is always longing to realise joy. Behold then the
beginning of an eternal aspiration and of eternal efforts, while our
impotence is likewise eternal. These are the poorest of all men, for
they are eager and greedy, and they can never be satisfied. Whatever
they eat or drink, they can never have enough, for this hunger lasts
continually. For a created vessel cannot contain an uncreated good, and
hence that continual struggle of the hungry soul, and its feebleness
which is swallowed up in God. There are here great banquets of food
and drink, which none knoweth saving he who partakes of them; but full
satisfaction of joy is the food which is ever lacking, and so the
hunger is perpetually renewed. Yet streams of honey flow within reach,
full of all delights, for the spirit tastes these pleasures in every
imaginable way, but always according to its creaturely nature and
below God, and that is why the hunger and the impatience are without
end. If God were to grant to this man all the gifts which are possessed
by all the saints, and everything that He has to offer, but were to
deny Himself, the open-mouthed eagerness of his spirit would be still
hungry and unsatisfied. Emotion and the inward contact with God are the
explanation of our hunger and our striving; for the Spirit of God gives
chase to our spirit, and the closer the contact the greater the hunger
and the striving. This is the life of love in its highest development,
above reason and higher than all understanding; for in such love reason
can neither give nor take away, for our love is in touch with the
divine love. And I think that once this point is reached there will be
no more separation from God. The contact of God with us, so long as we
feel it, and our own loving efforts, are both created and of the nature
of the creature, and so they may grow and increase all the days of our
life.


THE LABOUR AND REST OF LOVE

In one single moment and at the same time, love labours and rests in
its beloved. And the one is strengthened by the other; for the loftier
the love, the greater is the rest, and the greater the rest, the
closer is the love; for the one lives in the other, and he who loves
not rests not, neither does he who rests not know aught of love. There
are, nevertheless, some righteous men who believe that they neither
love nor rest in God. But this thought itself springs from love, and
because their desire to love is greater than their ability, therefore
it seems to them that they are powerless to love. And in this labour
they taste of love and rest, for none except the resigned, passive, and
enlightened man can understand how one may rest and also enjoy.


THE CHRISTIAN LIFE

He (the believer) is hungry and thirsty, for he sees the food of angels
and the drink of heaven. He labours diligently in love, for he beholds
his rest. He is a pilgrim, and he sees his fatherland. He strives in
love for the victory, for he sees his crown. Consolation, peace, joy,
beauty, and riches, and all that the heart can desire, are shown to
the reason which is enlightened to see God in spiritual similitudes
and without measure or limit.... Those who do not possess, at the same
time, the power of rest and action, and are not exercised in both,
have not received this righteousness of the just.


THE COMING OF THE BRIDEGROOM

What is this eternal coming of our Bridegroom? It is a new birth and a
new illumination which are without interruption; for the source from
which the brightness streams, and which is itself the brightness, is
living and fertile; and so the manifestation of the eternal light is
renewed without interruption, in the secret depths of the spirit....
And the coming of the Bridegroom is so swift that He is always coming,
and that He dwells within us with His unfathomable riches, and that He
returns ever anew in person, with such new brightness that it seems as
if He had never come before. For His coming is comprised beyond all
limit of time, in an eternal _Now_; and He is ever received with new
desires and a new delight. Behold, the joys and the pleasures which
this Bridegroom brings with Him at His coming are boundless and without
limit, for they are Himself. And this is why the eyes of the spirit, by
which the loving soul beholds its Bridegroom, are opened so wide that
they will never shut again. For the contemplation and the fixed gaze
of the spirit are eternal in the secret manifestation of God. And the
comprehension of the spirit is so widely opened, as it waits for the
appearance of the Bridegroom, that the spirit itself becomes vast as
that which it comprehends. And so is God beheld and understood by God,
in whom all our blessedness is found.


THE END


_Printed by_ R. & R. CLARK, _Edinburgh_.



The Devotional Library.

Handsomely printed and bound, price 3s. 6d. each, cloth.


_THIRD EDITION._

THE KEY OF THE GRAVE.

A Book for the Bereaved.

By W. ROBERTSON NICOLL, M.A., LL.D.

“This volume is a collection of brief but pregnant chapters, written
in sweet, simple English which is full of consolation and drops gently
into the reader’s heart. We give the book our warm commendation and
believe that it has a mission of comfort to perform for burdened
souls.”--_New York Independent._

“Dr. Robertson Nicoll has produced a unique, exquisite, and most
edifying book. We are much impressed by the delicate and profound
spiritual insight manifested on every page of this beautiful little
volume. Many a familiar passage in the Bible shines with a new,
unexpected, and immortal light. It is difficult to know what to quote
from a volume so full of delightful and memorable passages. It is
pre-eminently a book to put into the hands of the refined, sensitive,
scholarly, and devout, when they feel the awful pressure of the
greatest bereavement.”--_Methodist Times._


_SECOND EDITION._

MEMORANDA SACRA.

By Professor J. RENDEL HARRIS, M.A., Fellow of Clare College, Cambridge.

“Two gifts, both of the very highest, are marvellously united in
Professor Rendel Harris, and here we have the ripe fruits of one,
in most delicious flavour and most wholesome nourishment. It is not
possible to review such a book as this. Words about it do not tell
us what it is. Nor will a selection of words from it half convey its
incommunicable fragrance.”--_Expository Times._


_THE GENERAL GORDON EDITION._

CHRIST MYSTICAL.

By JOSEPH HALL, D.D., Bishop of Norwich.

Reprinted, with General Gordon’s marks, from the Original Copy used by
him, and with an Introduction on his Theology

By the Rev. H. CARRUTHERS WILSON, M.A.

“A book which was so highly prized by so romantic and heroic a
Christian as General Gordon is sure to awaken a widespread curiosity.
This edition is not only printed from his copy, but shows the passages
which he had marked for special consideration. The treatise itself is
worthy of the place it held in his esteem. Mr. Wilson’s introduction
is entirely appropriate, and we cannot but feel that the publishers
have rendered good service by including the work in their Devotional
Library.”--_Baptist Magazine._

“Hall’s treatise is in itself an excellent example of the best kind of
devotional literature, and it will contribute to its appreciation by
the modern reader that its sacred teachings and appeals formed part of
the spiritual nourishment of the English nineteenth-century hero and
saint.”--_Christian World._


LONDON: HODDER AND STOUGHTON.



FOOTNOTE:

[1] I shall give only one example, which is elementary in both senses
of the word. Ruysbroeck distinguishes three kinds of life--the active
life, the inward life, and the super-essential life. The Gnostics
distinguish the spirit, the soul, and the material life, and divide men
into three classes--the pneumatic or spiritual men, psychic or soul
men, and hylic or material men. Plotinus also distinguishes between the
soul, the intellect, the reasonable soul, and the animal nature. The
Zohar distinguishes the spirit, the soul, and the life of the senses,
and in the two systems, as in Ruysbroeck, the relation of the three
principles is explained by a _procession_ which is of the nature of an
_irradiation_; then the theory of the divine meeting, God coming into
us from within towards without, we going to Him from without towards
within, etc. Cf. also the 5th Ennead, etc. etc.



TRANSCRIBER’S NOTES:


  Italicized text is surrounded by underscores: _italics_.

  Obvious typographical errors have been corrected.



*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Ruysbroeck and the Mystics: with selections from Ruysbroeck" ***

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