Chapter 10

H ere , then, stands the newly awakened self: aware, for the first time, of
reality, responding to that reality by deep movements of love and of awe.
She sees herself, however, not merely to be thrust into a new world, but set
at the beginning of a new road. Activity is now to be her watchword,
pilgrimage the business of her life. “That a quest there is, and an end, is
the single secret spoken.” Under one symbol or another, the need of that
long slow process of transcendence, of character building, whereby she is to
attain freedom, become capable of living upon high levels of reality, is
present in her consciousness. Those in whom this growth is not set going are
no mystics, in the exact sense in which that word is here used; however
great their temporary illumination may have been.

What must be the first step of the self upon this road to perfect union with
the Absolute? Clearly, a getting rid of all those elements of normal
experience which are not in harmony with reality: of illusion, evil,
imperfection of every kind. By false desires and false thoughts man has
built up for himself a false universe: as a mollusk by the deliberate and
persistent absorption of lime and rejection of all else, can build up for
itself a hard shell which shuts it from the external world, and only
represents in a distorted and unrecognisable form the ocean from which it
was obtained. This hard and wholly unnutritious shell, this one-sided
secretion of the surface-consciousness, makes as it were a little cave of
illusion for each separate soul. A literal and deliberate getting out of the
cave must be for every mystic, as it was for Plato’s prisoners, the first
step in the individual hunt for reality.

In the plain language of old-fashioned theology “man’s sin is stamped upon
man’s universe.” We see a sham world because we live a sham life. We do not
know ourselves; hence do not know the true character of our senses and
instincts; hence attribute wrong values to their suggestions and
declarations concerning our relation to the external world. That world,
which we have distorted by identifying it with our own self-regarding
arrangements of its elements, has got to reassume for us the character of
Reality, of God. In the purified sight of the great mystics it did reassume
this character: their shells were opened wide, they knew the tides of the
Eternal Sea. This lucid apprehension of the True is what we mean when we
speak of the Illumination which results from a faithful acceptance of the
trials of the Purgative Way.

That which we call the “natural” self as it exists in the “natural”
world—the “old Adam” of St. Paul—is wholly incapable of supersensual
adventure. All its activities are grouped about a centre of consciousness
whose correspondences are with the material world. In the moment of its
awakening, it is abruptly made aware of this disability. It knows itself
finite. It now aspires to the infinite. It is encased in the hard crust of
individuality: it aspires to union with a larger self. It is fettered: it
longs for freedom. Its every sense is attuned to illusion: it craves for
harmony with the Absolute Truth. “God is the only Reality,” says Patmore,
“and we are real only as far as we are in His order and He is in us.” [392]
Whatever form, then, the mystical adventure may take it, must begin with a
change in the attitude of the subject; a change which will introduce it into
the order of Reality, and enable it to set up permanent relations with an
Object which is not normally part of its universe. Therefore, though the end
of mysticism is not adequately defined as goodness, it entails the
acquirement of goodness. The virtues are the “ornaments of the spiritual
marriage” because that marriage is union with the Good no less than with the
Beautiful and the True.

Primarily, then, the self must be purged of all that stands between it and
goodness: putting on the character of reality instead of the character of
illusion or “sin.” It longs ardently to do this from the first moment in
which it sees itself in the all-revealing radiance of the Uncreated Light.
“When love openeth the inner eyes of the soul for to see this truth,” says
Hilton, “with other circumstances that come withal then beginneth the soul
for sooth to be vastly meek. For then by the sight of God it feeleth and
seeth itself as it is, and then doth the soul forsake the beholding and
leaning to itself.” [393]

So, with Dante, the first terrace of the Mount of Purgatory is devoted to
the cleansing of pride and the production of humility: the inevitable—one
might almost say mechanical—result of a vision, however fleeting, of
Reality, and an undistorted sight of the earthbound self. All its life that
self has been measuring its candlelight by other candles. Now for the first
time it is out in the open air and sees the sun. “This is the way,” said the
voice of God to St. Catherine of Siena in ecstasy. “If thou wilt arrive at a
perfect knowledge and enjoyment of Me, the Eternal Truth, thou shouldst
never go outside the knowledge of thyself; and by humbling thyself in the
valley of humility thou wilt know Me and thyself, from which knowledge thou
wilt draw all that is necessary. . . . In self knowledge, then, thou wilt
humble thyself; seeing that, in thyself, thou dost not even exist.” [394]

The first thing that the self observes, when it turns back upon itself in
that awful moment of lucidity—enters, as St. Catherine says, into “the cell
of self-knowledge,”—is the horrible contrast between its clouded contours
and the pure sharp radiance of the Real; between its muddled faulty life,
its perverse self-centred drifting, and the clear onward sweep of that
Becoming in which it is immersed. It is then that the outlook of rapture and
awe receives the countersign of repentance. The harbinger of that new self
which must be born appears under the aspect of a desire: a passionate
longing to escape from the suddenly perceived hatefulness of selfhood, and
to conform to Reality, the Perfect which it has seen under its aspect of
Goodness, of Beauty, or of Love—to be worthy of it, in fact to be real.
“This showing,” says Gerlac Petersen of that experience, “is so vehement and
so strong that the whole of the interior man, not only of his heart but of
his body, is marvellously moved and shaken, and faints within itself, unable
to endure it. And by this means, his interior aspect is made clear without
any cloud, and conformable in its own measure to Him whom he seeks.” [395]

The lives of the mystics abound in instances of the “vehemence of this
showing”: of the deep-seated sense of necessity which urges the newly
awakened self to a life of discomfort and conflict, often to intense poverty
and pain, as the only way of replacing false experience by true. Here the
transcendental consciousness, exalted by a clear intuition of its goal, and
not merely “counting” but perceiving the world to be obviously well lost for
such a prize, takes the reins. It forces on the unwilling surface mind a
sharp vision of its own disabilities, its ugly and imperfect life; and the
thirst for Perfection which is closely bound up with the mystic temperament
makes instant response. “No more sins!” was the first cry of St. Catherine
of Genoa in that crucial hour in which she saw by the light of love her own
self-centred and distorted past. She entered forthwith upon the Purgative
Way, in which for four years she suffered under a profound sense of
imperfection, endured fasting, solitude and mortification; and imposed upon
herself the most repulsive duties in her efforts towards that self-conquest
which should make her “conformable in her own measure” to the dictates of
that Pure Love which was the aspect of reality that she had seen. It is the
inner conviction that this conformity—this transcendence of the unreal—is
possible and indeed normal which upholds the mystic during the terrible
years of Purgation: so that “not only without heaviness, but with a joy
unmeasured he casts back all thing that may him let.” [396]

To the true lover of the Absolute, Purgation no less than Illumination is a
privilege, a dreadful joy. It is an earnest of increasing life. “Let me
suffer or die!” said St. Teresa: a strange alternative in the ears of common
sense, but a forced option in the spiritual sphere. However harsh its form,
however painful the activities to which it spurs him, the mystic recognizes
in this breakup of his old universe an essential part of the Great Work: and
the act in which he turns to it is an act of loving desire, no less than an
act of will. “Burning of love into a soul truly taken all vices purgeth: . .
. for whilst the true lover with strong and fervent desire into God is
borne, all things him displease that from the sight of God withdrawn.” [397]
His eyes once opened, he is eager for that costly ordering of his disordered
loves which alone can establish his correspondences with Transcendental
Life. “Teach me, my only joy,” cries Suso, “the way in which I may bear upon
my body the marks of Thy Love.” “Come, my soul, depart from outward things
and gather thyself together into a true interior silence, that thou mayst
set out with all thy courage and bury and lose thyself in the desert of a
deep contrition.” [398]

It is in this torment of contrition, this acute consciousness of
unworthiness, that we have the first swing back of the oscillating self from
the initial state of mystic pleasure to the complementary state of pain. It
is, so to speak, on its transcendental side, the reflex action which follows
the first touch of God. Thus, we read that Rulman Merswin, “swept away by
the transports of Divine Love,” did not surrender himself to the passive
enjoyment of this first taste of Absolute Being, but was impelled by it to
diligent and instant self-criticism. He was “seized with a hatred of his
body, and inflicted on himself such hard mortifications that he fell ill.”
[399] It is useless for lovers of healthy-mindedness to resent this and
similar examples of self-examination and penance: to label them morbid or
mediaeval. The fact remains that only such bitter knowledge of wrongness of
relation, seen by the light of ardent love, can spur the will of man to the
hard task of readjustment.

“I saw full surely,” says Julian of Norwich, “that it behoveth needs to be
that we should be in longing and in penance, until the time that we be led
so deep into God that we verily and truly know our own soul.” [400]

Dante’s whole journey up the Mount of Purgation is the dramatic presentation
of this one truth. So, too, the celebrated description of Purgatory
attributed to St. Catherine of Genoa [401] is obviously founded upon its
author’s inward experience of this Purgative Way. In it, she applies to the
souls of the dead her personal consciousness of the necessity of
purification; its place in the organic process of spiritual growth. It is,
as she acknowledges at the beginning, the projection of her own
psychological adventures upon the background of the spiritual world: its
substance being simply the repetition after death of that eager and heroic
acceptance of suffering, those drastic acts of purification, which she has
herself been compelled to undertake under the whip of the same psychic
necessity—that of removing the rust of illusion, cleansing the mirror in
order that it may receive the divine light. “It is,” she says, “as with a
covered object, the object cannot respond to the rays of the sun, not
because the sun ceases to shine—for it shines without intermission—but
because the covering intervenes. Let the covering be destroyed, and again
the object will be exposed to the sun, and will answer to the rays which
beat against it in proportion as the work of destruction advances. Thus the
souls are covered by a rust—that is, by sin—which is gradually consumed away
by the fire of purgatory. The more it is consumed, the more they respond to
God their true Sun. Their happiness increases as the rust falls off and lays
them open to the divine ray . . . the instinctive tendency to seek happiness
in God develops itself, and goes on increasing through the fire of love
which draws it to its end with such impetuosity and vehemence that any
obstacle seems intolerable; and the more clear its vision, the more extreme
its pain.” [402]

“Mostratene la via di gire al monte!” cry the souls of the newly-dead in
Dante’s vision, [403] pushed by that “instinctive tendency” towards the
purifying flames. Such a tendency, such a passionate desire, the aspiring
self must have. No cool, well-balanced knowledge of the need of new
adjustments will avail to set it on the Purgative Way. This is a heroic act,
and demands heroic passions in the soul.

“In order to overcome our desires,” says St. John of the Cross, who is the
classic authority upon this portion of the mystic quest, “and to renounce
all those things, our love and inclination for which are wont so to inflame
the will that it delights therein, we require a more ardent fire and a
nobler love—that of the Bridegroom. Finding her delight and strength in Him,
the soul gains the vigour and confidence which enable her easily to abandon
all other affections. It was necessary, in her struggle with the attractive
force of her sensual desires, not only to have this love for the Bridegroom,
but also to be filled with a burning fervour, full of anguish . . . if our
spiritual nature were not on fire with other and nobler passions we should
never cast off the yoke of the senses, nor be able to enter on their night,
neither should we have the courage to remain in the darkness of all things,
and in denial of every desire.” [404]

“We must be filled with a burning fervour full of anguish.” Only this deep
and ardent passion for a perceived Object of Love can persuade the mystic to
those unnatural acts of abnegation by which he kills his lesser love of the
world of sense, frees himself from the “remora of desire,” unifies all his
energies about the new and higher centre of his life. His business, I have
said, is transcendence: a mounting up, an attainment of a higher order of
reality. Once his eyes have been opened on Eternity, his instinct for the
Absolute roused from its sleep, he sees union with that Reality as his duty
no less than his joy: sees too, that this union can only be consummated on a
plane where illusion and selfhood have no place.

The inward voice says to him perpetually, at the least seasonable moments,
“Dimitte omnia transitoria, quaere aeterna.” [405] Hence the purgation of
the senses, and of the character which they have helped to build is always
placed first in order in the Mystic Way; though sporadic flashes of
illumination and ecstasy may, and often do, precede and accompany it. Since
spiritual no less than physical existence, as we know it, is an endless
Becoming, it too has no end. In a sense the whole of the mystical experience
in this life consists in a series of purifications, whereby the Finite
slowly approaches the nature of its Infinite Source: climbing up the
cleansing mountain pool by pool, like the industrious fish in Rulman
Merswin’s vision, until it reaches its Origin. The greatest of the
contemplative saints, far from leaving purgation behind them in their
progress, were increasingly aware of their own inadequateness, the nearer
they approached to the unitive state: for the true lover of the Absolute,
like every other lover, is alternately abased and exalted by his
unworthiness and his good fortune. There are moments of high rapture when he
knows only that the banner over him is Love: but there are others in which
he remains bitterly conscious that in spite of his uttermost surrender there
is within him an ineradicable residuum of selfhood, which “stains the white
radiance of eternity.”

In this sense, then, purification is a perpetual process. That which
mystical writers mean, however, when they speak of the Way of Purgation, is
rather the slow and painful completion of Conversion. It is the drastic
turning of the self from the unreal to the real life: a setting of her house
in order, an orientation of the mind to Truth. Its business is the getting
rid, first of self-love; and secondly of all those foolish interests in
which the surface-consciousness is steeped.

“The essence of purgation,” says Richard of St. Victor, “is
self-simplification.” Nothing can happen until this has proceeded a certain
distance: till the involved interests and tangled motives of the self are
simplified, and the false complications of temporal life are recognized and
cast away.

“No one,” says another authority in this matter, “can be enlightened unless
he be first cleansed or purified and stripped.” [406] Purgation, which is
the remaking of character in conformity with perceived reality, consists in
these two essential acts: the cleansing of that which is to remain, the
stripping of that which is to be done away. It may best be studied,
therefore, in two parts: and I think that it will be in the reader’s
interest if we reverse the order which the “Theologia Germanica” adopts, and
first consider Negative Purification, or self-stripping, and next Positive
Purification, or character-adjustment. These, then, are the branches into
which this subject will here be split. (1) The Negative aspect, the
stripping or purging away of those superfluous, unreal, and harmful things
which dissipate the precious energies of the self. This is the business of
Poverty, or Detachment . (2) The Positive aspect: a raising to their highest
term, their purest state, of all that remains—the permanent elements of
character. This is brought about by Mortification, the gymnastic of the
soul: a deliberate recourse to painful experiences and difficult tasks.

I. Detachment

Apart from the plain necessity of casting out imperfection and sin, what is
the type of “good character” which will best serve the self in its journey
towards union with the Absolute?

The mystics of all ages and all faiths agree in their answer. Those three
virtues which the instinct of the Catholic Church fixed upon as the
necessities of the cloistered life—the great Evangelical counsel of
voluntary Poverty with its departments, Chastity, the poverty of the senses,
and Obedience, the poverty of the will—are also, when raised to their
highest term and transmuted by the Fire of Love, the essential virtues of
the mystical quest.

By Poverty the mystic means an utter self-stripping, the casting off of
immaterial as well as material wealth, a complete detachment from all finite
things. By Chastity he means an extreme and limpid purity of soul, cleansed
from personal desire and virgin to all but God: by Obedience, that
abnegation of selfhood, that mortification of the will, which results in a
complete self-abandonment, a “holy indifference” to the accidents of life.
These three aspects of perfection are really one: linked together as
irrevocably as the three aspects of the self. Their common characteristic is
this: they tend to make the subject regard itself, not as an isolated and
interesting individual, possessing desires and rights, but as a scrap of the
Cosmos, an ordinary bit of the Universal Life, only important as a part of
the All, an expression of the Will Divine. Detachment and purity go hand in
hand, for purity is but detachment of the heart; and where these are present
they bring with them that humble spirit of obedience which expresses
detachment of will. We may therefore treat them as three manifestations of
one thing: which thing is Inward Poverty. “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven,” is the motto of all pilgrims on this

“God is pure Good in Himself,” says Eckhart, “therefore will He dwell
nowhere but in a pure soul. There He can pour Himself out: into that He can
wholly flow. What is Purity? It is that a man should have turned himself
away from all creatures and have set his heart so entirely on the Pure Good
that no creature is to him a comfort, that he has no desire for aught
creaturely, save so far as he may apprehend therein the Pure Good, which is
God. And as little as the bright eye can endure aught foreign in it, so
little can the pure soul bear anything in it, any stain on it, that comes
between it and God. To it all creatures are pure to enjoy; for it enjoyeth
all creatures in God, and God in all creatures.” [407]

“To it all creatures are pure to enjoy!” This is hardly the popular concept
of the mystic; which credits him, in the teeth of such examples as St.
Francis, St. Mechthild of Magdeburg, Rolle, Suso, and countless others, with
a hearty dread of natural things. Too many examples of an exaggerated
asceticism—such as the unfortunate story told of the holy Curé d’Ars, who
refused to smell a rose for fear of sin—have supported in this respect the
vulgar belief; for it is generally forgotten that though most mystics have
practised asceticism as a means to an end, all ascetics are not mystics.
Whatever may be the case with other deniers of the senses, it is true that
the soul of the great mystic, dwelling on high levels of reality, his eyes
set on the Transcendental World, is capable of combining with the perfection
of detachment that intense and innocent joy in natural things, as veils and
vessels of the divine, which results from seeing “all creatures in God and
God in all creatures.” “Whoso knows and loves the nobleness of My
Freedom,” said the voice of God to Mechthild of Magdeburg, “cannot bear to
love Me alone, he must love also Me in the creatures.” [408] That
all-embracing love is characteristic of the illumination which results from
a faithful endurance of the Purgative Way; for the corollary of “blessed are
the pure in heart” is not merely a poetic statement. The annals of mysticism
prove it to be a psychological law.

How then is this contradiction to be resolved: that the mystic who has
declared the fundamental necessity of “leaving all creatures” yet finds them
pure to enjoy? The answer to the riddle lies in the ancient paradox of
Poverty: that we only enjoy true liberty in respect of such things as we
neither possess nor desire. “That thou mayest have pleasure in everything,
seek pleasure in nothing. That thou mayest know everything, seek to know
nothing. That thou mayest possess all things, seek to possess nothing. . . .
In detachment the spirit finds quiet and repose, for coveting nothing,
nothing wearies it by elation, and nothing oppresses it by dejection,
because it stands in the centre of its own humility. For as soon as it
covets anything, it is immediately fatigued thereby.” [409]

It is not love but lust—the possessive case, the very food of selfhood—which
poisons the relation between the self and the external world and
“immediately fatigues” the soul. Divide the world into “mine” and “not
mine,” and unreal standards are set up, claims and cravings begin to fret
the mind. We are the slaves of our own property. We drag with us not a
treasure, but a chain. “Behold,” says the “Theologia Germanica,” “on this
sort must we cast all things from us and strip ourselves of them: we must
refrain from claiming anything for our own. When we do this, we shall have
the best, fullest, clearest, and noblest knowledge that a man can have, and
also the noblest and purest love and desire.” [410] “Some there are,” says
Plotinus, “that for all their effort have not attained the Vision. . . .
They have received the authentic Light, all their soul has gleamed as they
have drawn near, but they come with a load on their shoulders which holds
them back from the place of Vision. They have not ascended in the pure
integrity of their being, but are burdened with that which keeps them apart.
They are not yet made one within.” [411] Accept Poverty, however, demolish
ownership, the verb “to have” in every mood and tense, and this downward
drag is at an end. At once the Cosmos belongs to you, and you to it. You
escape the heresy of separateness, are “made one,” and merged in “the
greater life of the All.” Then, a free spirit in a free world, the self
moves upon its true orbit; undistracted by the largely self-imposed needs
and demands of ordinary earthly existence.

This was the truth which St. Francis of Assisi grasped, and applied with the
energy of a reformer and the delicate originality of a poet to every
circumstance of the inner and the outer life. This noble liberty it is which
is extolled by his spiritual descendant, Jacopone da Todi, in one of his
most magnificent odes:—

“Povertá, alto sapere,

a nulla cosa sojacere,

en desprezo possedere

tutte le cose create. . . .

Dio non alberga en core stretto,

tant’é grande quant’ hai affetto,

povertate ha si gran petto

che ci alberga deitate. . . .

Povertate è nulla avere

e nulla cosa poi volere;

ad omne cosa possedere

en spirito de libertate.” [412]

“My little sisters the birds,” said St. Francis, greatest adept of that high
wisdom, “Brother Sun, Sister Water, Mother Earth.” [413] Not my servants,
but my kindred and fellow-citizens; who may safely be loved so long as they
are not desired. So, in almost identical terms, the dying Hindu ascetic:—

“Oh Mother Earth, Father Sky,

Brother Wind, Friend Light, Sweetheart Water,

Here take my last salutation with folded hands!

For to-day I am melting away into the Supreme

Because my heart became pure,

And all delusion vanished,

Through the power of your good company.”

It is the business of Lady Poverty to confer on her lovers this freedom of
the Universe, to eradicate delusion, cut out the spreading growth of
claimfulness, purify the heart, and initiate them into the “great life of
the All.” Well might St. Francis desire marriage with that enchantress, who
gives back ten-fold all that she takes away. “Holy poverty,” he said, “is a
treasure so high excelling and so divine that we be not worthy to lay it up
in our vile vessels; since this is that celestial virtue whereby all earthly
things and fleeting are trodden underfoot, and whereby all hindrances are
lifted from the soul, so that freely she may join herself to God Eternal.”

Poverty, then, prepares man’s spirit for that union with God to which it
aspires. She strips off the clothing which he so often mistakes for himself,
transvaluates all his values, and shows him things as they are. “There
are,” says Eckhart, “four ascending degrees of such spiritual poverty. 1.
The soul’s contempt of all things that are not God. 2. Contempt of herself
and her own works. 3. Utter self-abandonment. 4. Self-loss in the
incomprehensible Being of God.” [415] So, in the “Sacrum Commercium,” when
the friars, climbing “the steeps of the hill,” found Lady Poverty at the
summit “enthroned only in her nakedness,” she “preventing them with the
blessings of sweetness,” said, “Why hasten ye so from the vale of tears to
the mount of light? If, peradventure, it is me that ye seek, lo, I am but as
you behold, a little poor one, stricken with storms and far from any
consolation.” Whereto the brothers answer, “ Only admit us to thy peace; and
we shall be saved .” [416]

The same truth: the saving peace of utter detachment from everything but
Divine Reality—a detachment which makes those who have it the citizens of
the world, and enabled the friars to say to Lady Poverty as they showed her
from the hill of Assisi the whole countryside at her feet, “Hoc est
claustrum nostrum, Domina,” [417] —is taught by Meister Eckhart in a more
homely parable.

“There was a learned man who, eight years long, desired that God would show
him a man who would teach him the truth. And once when he felt a very great
longing, a voice from God came to him and said, ‘Go to the church, and there
shalt thou find a man who shalt show thee the way to blessedness.’ And he
went thence and found a poor man whose feet were torn and covered with dust
and dirt: and all his clothes were hardly worth three farthings. And he
greeted him, saying:—

“‘God give you good day!’

“He answered: ‘I have never had a bad day.’

“‘God give you good luck.’

“‘I have never had ill luck.’

“‘May you be happy! but why do you answer me thus?’

“‘I have never been unhappy.’

“‘Pray explain this to me, for I cannot understand it.’

“The poor man answered, ‘Willingly. You wished me good day. I never had a
bad day; for if I am hungry I praise God; if it freezes, hails, snows,
rains, if the weather is fair or foul, still I praise God; am I wretched and
despised, I praise God, and so I have never had an evil day. You wished that
God would send me luck. But I never had ill luck, for I know how to live
with God, and I know that what He does is best; and what God gives me or
ordains for me, be it good or ill, I take it cheerfully from God as the best
that can be, and so I have never had ill luck. You wished that God would
make me happy. I was never unhappy; for my only desire is to live in God’s
will, and I have so entirely yielded my will to God’s, that what God wills,
I will.’

“‘But if God should will to cast you into hell,’ said the learned man, ‘what
would you do then?’

“‘Cast me into hell? His goodness forbids! But if He did cast me into hell,
I should have two arms to embrace Him. One arm is true humility, that I
should lay beneath Him, and be thereby united to His holy humanity. And with
the right arm of love, which is united with His holy divinity, I should so
embrace Him that He would have to go to hell with me. And I would rather be
in hell and have God, then in heaven and not have God.’

“Then the Master understood that true abandonment with utter humility is the
nearest way to God.

“The Master asked further: ‘Whence are you come?’

“‘From God.’

“‘Where did you find God?’

“‘When I forsook all creatures.’

“‘Where have you left God?’

“‘In pure hearts, and in men of good will.’

“The Master asked: ‘What sort of man are you?’

“‘I am a king.’

“‘Where is your kingdom?’

“‘My soul is my kingdom, for I can so rule my senses inward and outward,
that all the desires and power of my soul are in subjection, and this
kingdom is greater than a kingdom on earth.’ [418]

“‘What brought you to this perfection?’

“‘My silence, my high thoughts, and my union with God. For I could not rest
in anything that was less than God. Now I have found God; and in God have
eternal rest and peace.’” [419]

Poverty, then, consists in a breaking down of man’s inveterate habit of
trying to rest in, or take seriously, things which are “less than God”: i.e.
, which do not possess the character of reality. Such a habit is the most
fertile of all causes of “world-weariness,” disillusion and unrest: faults,
or rather spiritual diseases, which the mystics never exhibit, but which few
who are without all mystic feeling can hope to escape. Hence the sharpened
perceptions of the contemplatives have always seen poverty as a counsel of
prudence, a higher form of common sense. It was not with St. Francis, or any
other great mystic, a first principle, an end in itself. It was rather a
logical deduction from the first principle of their science—the paramount
importance to the soul of an undistracted vision of reality.

Here East and West are in agreement: “Their science,” says Al Ghazzali of
the Sufis, who practised, like the early Franciscans, a complete
renunciation of worldly goods, “has for its object the uprooting from the
soul of all violent passions, the extirpation from it of vicious desires and
evil qualities; so that the heart may become detached from all that is not
God, and give itself for its only occupation meditation upon the Divine
Being.” [420]

All those who have felt themselves urged towards the attainment of this
transcendental vision, have found that possessions interrupt the view; that
claims, desires, attachments become centres of conflicting interest in the
mind. They assume a false air of importance, force themselves upon the
attention, and complicate life. Hence, in the interest of
self-simplification, they must be cleared away: a removal which involves for
the real enthusiast little more sacrifice than the weekly visit of the
dustman. “Having entirely surrendered my own free-will,” says Al Ghazzali of
his personal experience,” my heart no longer felt any distress in renouncing
fame, wealth, or the society of my children.” [421]

Others have reconciled self-surrender with a more moderate abandonment of
outward things; for possessions take different rank for almost every human
soul. The true rule of poverty consists in giving up those things which
enchain the spirit, divide its interests, and deflect it on its road to
God—whether these things be riches, habits, religious observances, friends,
interests, distastes, or desires—not in mere outward destitution for its own
sake. It is attitude, not act, that matters; self-denudation would be
unnecessary were it not for our inveterate tendency to attribute false value
to things the moment they become our own. “What is poverty of spirit but
meekness of mind, by which a man knows his own infirmity?” says Rolle,
“seeing that to perfect stableness he may not come but by the grace of God,
all thing that him might let from that grace he forsakes, and only in joy of
his Maker he sets his desire. And as of one root spring many branches, so of
wilful poverty on this wise taken proceed virtues and marvels untrowed. Not
as some, that change their clothes and not their souls; riches soothly it
seems these forsake, and vices innumerable they cease not to gather. . . .
If thou truly all thing for God forsake, see more what thou despised than
what thou forsaketh. ” [422]

The Poverty of the mystics, then, is a mental rather than a material state.
Detachment of the will from all desire of possessions is the inner reality,
of which Franciscan poverty is a sacrament to the world. It is the poor in
spirit, not the poor in substance, who are to be spiritually blessed. “Let
all things be forsaken of me,” says Gerlac Petersen, “so that being poor I
may be able in great inward spaciousness, and without any hurt, to suffer
want of all those things which the mind of man can desire; out of or
excepting God Himself.” [423]

“The soul,” says St. John of the Cross, “is not empty, so long as the desire
for sensible things remains. But the absence of this desire for things
produces emptiness and liberty of soul; even when there is an abundance of
possessions.” [424]

Every person in whom the mystical instinct awakes soon discovers in himself
certain tastes or qualities which interrupt the development of that
instinct. Often these tastes and qualities are legitimate enough upon their
own plane; but they are a drain upon the energy of the self, preventing her
from attaining that intenser life for which she was made and which demands
her undivided zest. They distract her attention, fill the field of
perception, stimulate her instinctive life: making of the
surface-consciousness so active a thing that it can hardly be put to sleep.
“Where can he have that pure and naked vision of unchangeable Truth whereby
he see into all things,” says Petersen again, “who is so busied in other
things, not perhaps evil, which operate . . . upon his thoughts and
imagination and confuse and enchain his mind . . . that his sight of that
unique One in Whom all things are is overclouded?” [425]

The nature of these distracting factors which “confuse and enchain the
mind” will vary with almost every individual. It is impossible to predict
what those things will be which a self must give up, in order that the
transcendental consciousness may grow. “It makes little difference whether a
bird be held by a slender thread or by a rope; the bird is bound, and cannot
fly until the cord that holds it is broken. It is true that a slender thread
is more easily broken; still notwithstanding, if it is not broken the bird
cannot fly. This is the state of a soul with particular attachments: it
never can attain to the liberty of the divine union, whatever virtues it may
possess. Desires and attachments affect the soul as the remora is said to
affect a ship; that is but a little fish, yet when it clings to the vessel
it effectually hinders its progress.” [426]

Thus each adventurer must discover and extirpate all those interests which
nourish selfhood, however innocent or even useful these interests may seem
in the eyes of the world. The only rule is the ruthless abandonment of
everything which is in the way. “When any man God perfectly desires to love,
all things as well inward as outward that to God’s love are contrary and
from His love do let, he studies to do away.” [427] This may mean the prompt
and utter self-stripping of St. Francis of Assisi, who cast off his actual
clothing in his relentless determination to have nothing of his own: [428]
the reluctant bit-by-bit renunciations which at last set his follower Angela
of Foligno free, or the drastic proceedings of Antoinette Bourignan, who
found that a penny was enough to keep her from God.

“Being one night in a most profound Penitence,” says the biographer of this
extraordinary woman, “she said from the bottom of her Heart, ‘O my Lord!
what must I do to please Thee? For I have nobody to teach me. Speak to my
soul and it will hear Thee.’” At that instant she heard, as if another had
spoken within her “Forsake all earthly things. Separate thyself from the
love of the creatures. Deny thyself.” From this time, the more she entered
into herself the more she was inclined to abandon all. But she had not the
courage necessary for the complete renunciation towards which her
transcendental consciousness was pressing her. She struggled to adjust
herself to the inner and the outer life, but without success. For such a
character as hers, compromise was impossible. “She asked always earnestly,
When shall I be perfectly thine, O my God? and she thought He still answered
her, When thou shalt no longer possess anything, and shalt die to thyself.
And where shall I do that, Lord? He answered, In the Desert.” At last the
discord between her deeper and her superficial self became intolerable.
Reinforced by the miseries of an unsympathetic home, still more by a threat
of approaching marriage, the impulse to renunciation got its way. She
disguised herself in a hermit’s dress—she was only eighteen, and had no one
to help or advise her—and “went out of her chamber about Four in the
Morning, taking nothing but one Penny to buy Bread for that Day and it being
said to her in the going out, Where is thy Faith? In a Penny? she threw it
away. . . . Thus she went away wholly delivered from the heavy burthen of
the Cares and Good Things of this World.” [429]

An admirable example of the mystic’s attitude towards the soul-destroying
division of interests, the natural but hopeless human struggle to make the
best of both worlds, which sucks at its transcendental vitality, occurs in
St. Teresa’s purgative period. In her case this war between the real and the
superficial self extended over many years; running side by side with the
state of Illumination, and a fully developed contemplative life. At last it
was brought to an end by a “Second Conversion” which unified her scattered
interests and set her firmly and for ever on the Unitive Way. The virile
strength of Teresa’s character, which afterwards contributed to the
greatness of her achievement, opposed the invading transcendental
consciousness; disputed every inch of territory; resisted every demand made
upon it by the growing spiritual self. Bit by bit it was conquered, the
sphere of her deeper life enlarged; until the moment came in which she
surrendered, once for all, to her true destiny. [430]

During the years of inward stress, of penance and growing knowledge of the
Infinite, which she spent in the Convent of the Incarnation, and which
accompanied this slow remaking of character, Teresa’s only
self-indulgence—as it seems, a sufficiently innocent one—was talking to the
friends who came down from Avila to the convent-parlour, and spoke to her
through the grille. Her confessors, unaccustomed to the education of
mystical genius, saw nothing incompatible between this practice and the
pursuit of a high contemplative life. But as her transcendental
consciousness, her states of orison grew stronger, Teresa felt more and more
the distracting influence of these glimpses of the outer world. They were a
drain upon the energy which ought to be wholly given to that new, deep, more
real life which she felt stirring within her, and which could only hope to
achieve its mighty destiny by complete concentration upon the business in
hand. No genius can afford to dissipate his energies: the mystic genius
least of all. Teresa knew that so long as she retained these personal
satisfactions, her life had more than one focus; she was not whole-hearted
in her surrender to the Absolute. But though her inward voices, her deepest
instincts, urged her to give them up, for years she felt herself incapable
of such a sacrifice. It was round the question of their retention or
surrender that the decisive battle of her life was fought.

“The devil,” says her great Augustinian eulogist, Fray Luis de Leon, in his
vivid account of these long interior struggles, “put before her those
persons most sympathetic by nature; and God came, and in the midst of the
conversation discovered Himself aggrieved and sorrowful. The devil delighted
in the conversation and pastime, but when she turned her back on them and
betook herself to prayer, God redoubled the delight and favours, as if to
show her how false was the lure which charmed her at the grating, and that
His sweetness was the veritable sweetness. . . . So that these two
inclinations warred with each other in the breast of this blessed woman, and
the authors who inspired them each did his utmost to inflame her most, and
the oratory blotted out what the grating wrote, and at times the grating
vanquished and diminished the good fruit produced by prayer, causing agony
and grief which disquieted and perplexed her soul: for though she was
resolved to belong entirely to God, she knew not how to shake herself free
from the world: and at times she persuaded herself that she could enjoy
both, which ended mostly, as she says, in complete enjoyment of neither. For
the amusements of the locutorio were embittered and turned into wormwood by
the memory of the secret and sweet intimacy with God; and in the same way
when she retired to be with God, and commenced to speak with Him, the
affections and thoughts which she carried with her from the grating took
possession of her.” [431]

Compare with these violent oscillations between the superficial and mystical
consciousness—characteristic of Teresa’s strong volitional nature, which
only came to rest after psychic convulsions which left no corner of its
being unexplored—the symbolic act of renunciation under which Antoinette
Bourignan’s “interior self” vanquished the surface intelligence and asserted
its supremacy. Teresa must give up her passionate delight in human
friendship. Antoinette, never much tempted in that direction, must give up
her last penny. What society was to Teresa’s generous, energetic nature,
prudence was to the temperamentally shrewd and narrow Antoinette: a
distraction, a check on the development of the all-demanding transcendental
genius, an unconquered relic of the “lower life.”

Many a mystic, however, has found the perfection of detachment to be
consistent with a far less drastic renunciation of external things than that
which these women felt to be essential to their peace. The test, as we have
seen, does not lie in the nature of the things which are retained, but in
the reaction which they stimulate in the self. “Absolute poverty is
thine,” says Tauler, “when thou canst not remember whether anybody has ever
owed thee or been indebted to thee for anything; just as all things will be
forgotten by thee in the last journey of death.” [432] Poverty, in this
sense, may be consistent with the habitual and automatic use of luxuries
which the abstracted self never even perceives. Thus we are told that St.
Bernard was reproached by his enemies with the inconsistency of preaching
evangelical poverty whilst making his journeys from place to place on a
magnificently caparisoned mule, which had been lent to him by the Cluniac
monks. He expressed great contrition: but said that he had never noticed
what it was that he rode upon. [433]

Sometimes, the very activity which one self has rejected as an impediment
becomes for another the channel of spiritual perception. I have mentioned
the Curé d’Ars, who, among other inhibitions, refused to allow himself to
smell a rose. Yet St. Francis preached to the flowers, [434] and ordered a
plot to be set aside for their cultivation when the convent garden was made,
“in order that all who saw them might remember the Eternal Sweetness.” [435]
So, too, we are told of his spiritual daughter, St. Douceline, that “out of
doors one day with her sisters, she heard a bird’s note. ‘What a lovely
song!’ she said: and the song drew her straight way to God. Did they bring
her a flower, its beauty had a like effect .” [436] “To look on trees,
water, and flowers,” says St. Teresa of her own beginnings of contemplation,
“helped her to recollect the Presence of God.” [437] Here we are reminded of
Plato. “The true order of going is to use the beauties of Earth as steps
along which one mounts upwards for the sake of that other Beauty.” This,
too, is the true order of Holy Poverty: the selfless use, not the selfish
abuse of lovely and natural things.

To say that some have fallen short of this difficult ideal and taken refuge
in mere abnegation is but to say that asceticism is a human, not a
superhuman art, and is subject to “the frailty of the creature.” But on the
whole, these excesses are mainly found amongst saintly types who have not
exhibited true mystic intuition. This intuition, entailing as it does
communion with intensest Life, gives to its possessors a sweet sanity, a
delicate balance, which guards them, as a rule, from such conceptions of
chastity as that of the youthful saint who shut himself in a cupboard for
fear he should see his mother pass by: from the obedience which identifies
the voice of the director with the voice of God; from detachment such as
that exhibited by the Blessed Angela of Foligno, who, though a true mystic,
viewed with almost murderous satisfaction the deaths of relatives who were
“impediments.” [438] The detachment of the mystic is just a restoration to
the liberty in which the soul was made: it is a state of joyous humility in
which he cries, “Nought I am, nought I have, nought I lack.” To have arrived
at this is to have escaped from the tyranny of selfhood: to be initiated
into the purer air of that universe which knows but one rule of action—that
which was laid down once for all by St. Augustine when he said, in the most
memorable and misquoted of epigrams: “Love, and do what you like.”

2. Mortification

By mortification, I have said, is to be understood the positive aspect of
purification: the remaking in relation to reality of the permanent elements
of character. These elements, so far, have subserved the interests of the
old self, worked for it in the world of sense. Now they must be adjusted to
the needs of the new self and to the transcendent world in which it moves.
Their focal point is the old self; the “natural man” and his self-regarding
instincts and desires. The object of mortification is to kill that old self,
break up his egoistic attachments and cravings, in order that the higher
centre, the “new man,” may live and breathe. As St. Teresa discovered when
she tried to reconcile the claims of worldly friendships and contemplation,
one or other must go: a house divided against itself cannot stand. “Who
hinders thee more,” says Thomas a Kempis, “than the unmortified affections
of thy own heart? . . . if we were perfectly dead unto ourselves, and not
entangled within our own breasts, then should we be able to taste Divine
things, and to have some experience of heavenly contemplation.” [439]

In psychological language, the process of mortification is the process of
setting up “new paths of neural discharge.” That is to say, the mystic life
has got to express itself in action: and for this new paths must be cut and
new habits formed—all, in spite of the new self’s enthusiasm, “against the
grain”—resulting in a complete sublimation of personality. The energy which
wells up incessantly in every living being must abandon the old road of
least resistance and discharge itself in a new and more difficult way. In
the terms of the hormic psychology, the conative drive of the psyche must be
concentrated on new objectives; and the old paths, left to themselves, must
fade and die. When they are dead, and the new life has triumphed,
Mortification is at an end. The mystics always know when this moment comes.
Often an inner voice then warns them to lay their active penances aside.

Since the greater and stronger the mystic, the stronger and more stubborn
his character tends to be, this change of life and turning of energy from
the old and easy channels to the new is often a stormy matter. It is a
period of actual battle between the inharmonious elements of the self, its
lower and higher springs of action: of toil, fatigue, bitter suffering, and
many disappointments. Nevertheless, in spite of its etymological
associations, the object of mortification is not death but life: the
production of health and strength, the health and strength of the human
consciousness viewed sub specie aeternitatis . “In the truest death of all
created things, the sweetest and most natural life is hidden.” [440]

“This dying,” says Tauler again, “has many degrees, and so has this life. A
man might die a thousand deaths in one day and find at once a joyful life
corresponding to each of them. This is as it must be: God cannot deny or
refuse this to death. The stronger the death the more powerful and thorough
is the corresponding life; the more intimate the death, the more inward is
the life. Each life brings strength, and strengthens to a harder death. When
a man dies to a scornful word, bearing it in God’s name, or to some
inclination inward or outward, acting or not acting against his own will, be
it in love or grief, in word or act, in going or staying; or if he denies
his desires of taste or sight, or makes no excuses when wrongfully accused;
or anything else, whatever it may be, to which he has not yet died, it is
harder at first to one who is unaccustomed to it and unmortified than to him
who is mortified. . . . A great life makes reply to him who dies in earnest
even in the least things, a life which strengthens him immediately to die a
greater death; a death so long and strong, that it seems to him hereafter
more joyful, good and pleasant to die than to live, for he finds life in
death and light shining in darkness.” [441]

No more than detachment, then, is mortification an end in itself. It is a
process, an education directed towards the production of a definite kind of
efficiency, the adjustment of human nature to the demands of its new life.
Severe, and to the outsider apparently unmeaning—like their physical
parallels the exercises of the gymnasium—its disciplines, faithfully
accepted, do release the self from the pull of the lower nature, establish
it on new levels of freedom and power. “Mortification,” says the Benedictine
contemplative Augustine Baker, “tends to subject the body to the spirit and
the spirit to God. And this it does by crossing the inclinations of sense,
which are quite contrary to those of the Divine Spirit . . . by such
crossing and afflicting of the body, self-love and self-will (the poison of
our spirits) are abated, and in time in a sort destroyed; and instead of
them there enter into the soul the Divine love and Divine will, and take
possession thereof.” [442] This transformation accomplished, mortification
may end, and often does, with startling abruptness. After a martyrdom which
lasted sixteen years, says Suso—speaking as usual in the third person—of his
own experience, “On a certain Whitsun Day a heavenly messenger appeared to
him, and ordered him in God’s name to continue it no more. He at once
ceased, and threw all the instruments of his sufferings [irons, nails,
hair-shirt, etc.] into a river.” [443] From this time onward, austerities of
this sort had no part in Suso’s life.

The Franco-Flemish mystic who wrote, and the English contemplative who
translated, “The Mirror of Simple Souls,” have between them described and
explained in bold and accurate language the conditions under which the soul
is enabled to abandon that “hard service of the virtues” which has absorbed
it during the Purgative Way. The statement of the “French Book” is direct
and uncompromising: well calculated to startle timid piety. “Virtues, I take
leave of you for evermore!” exclaims the Soul. “Now shall mine heart be more
free and more in peace than it hath been before. I wot well your service is
too travaillous. . . . Some time I laid mine heart in you without any
dissevering: ye wot well this: I was in all things to you obedient. O I was
then your servant, but now I am delivered out of your thraldom.”

To this astounding utterance the English translator has added a singularly
illuminating gloss. “I am stirred here,” he says, “to say more to the
matter, as thus: First: when a soul giveth her to perfection, she laboureth
busily day and night to get virtues, by counsel of reason, and striveth with
vices at every thought, at every word and deed that she perceiveth cometh of
them, and busily searcheth vices, them to destroy. Thus the virtues be
mistresses, and every virtue maketh her to war with its contrary, the which
be vices. Many sharp pains and bitterness of conscience feeleth the soul in
this war. . . . But so long one may bite on the bitter bark of the nut, that
at last he shall come to the sweet kernel. Right so, ghostly to understand,
it fareth by these souls that be come to peace. They have so long striven
with vices and wrought by virtues, that they be come to the nut kernel, that
is, to the love of God, which is sweetness. And when the soul hath deeply
tasted this love, so that this love of God worketh and hath his usages in
her soul, then the soul is wondrous light and gladsome. . . . Then is she
mistress and lady over the virtues, for she hath them all within herself. .
. . And then this soul taketh leave of virtues, as of the thraldom and
painful travail of them that she had before, and now she is lady and
sovereign, and they be subjects.” [444]

Jacopone da Todi speaks to the same effect:—

“La guerra è terminata

de le virtu battaglia,

de la mente travaglia

cosa nulla contende”. [445]

Thus, St. Catherine of Genoa, after a penitential period of four years,
during which she was haunted by a constant sense of sin, and occupied by
incessant mortifications, found that “all thought of such mortifications was
in an instant taken from her mind: in such a manner that, had she even
wished to continue such mortifications, she would have been unable to do so
. . . the sight of her sins was now taken from her mind, so that henceforth
she did not catch a glimpse of them: it was as though they had all been cast
into the depths of the sea.” [446] In other words, the new and higher centre
of consciousness, finally established, asserted itself and annihilated the
old. “La guerra e teminata,”all the energy of a strong nature flows freely
in the new channels; and mortification ceases, mechanically, to be possible
to the now unified, sublimated, or “regenerated” self.

Mortification takes its name from the reiterated statement of all ascetic
writers that the senses, or “body of desire,” with the cravings which are
excited by different aspects of the phenomenal world, must be mortified or
killed; which is, of course, a description of psychological necessities from
their special point of view. All those self-regarding instincts—so ingrained
that they have become automatic—which impel the self to choose the more
comfortable part, are seen by the awakened intuition of the embryo mystic as
gross infringements of the law of love. “This is the travail that a man
behoveth, to draw out his heart and his mind from the fleshly love and the
liking of all earthly creatures, from vain thoughts and from fleshly
imaginations, and out from the love and the vicious feeling of himself, that
his soul should find no rest in no fleshly thought, nor earthly
affection.” [447] The rule of Poverty must be applied to the temper of
normal consciousness as well as to the tastes and possessions of the self.
Under this tonic influence, real life will thrive, unreal life will wither
and die.

This mortifying process is necessary, not because the legitimate exercise of
the senses is opposed to Divine Reality, but because those senses have
usurped a place beyond their station; become the focus of energy, steadily
drained the vitality of the self. “The dogs have taken the children’s
meat.” The senses have grown stronger than their masters, monopolized the
field of perception, dominated an organism which was made for greater
activities, and built up those barriers of individuality which must be done
away if true personality is to be achieved, and with it some share in the
boundless life of the One. It is thanks to this wrong distribution of
energy, this sedulous feeding of the cuckoo in the nest, that “in order to
approach the Absolute, mystics must withdraw from everything, even
themselves.” [448] “The soul is plunged in utter ignorance, when she
supposes that she can attain to the high estate of union with God before she
casts away the desire of all things, natural and supernatural, which she may
possess,” says St. John of the Cross, “because the distance between them and
that which takes place in the state of pure transformation in God is
infinite.” [449] Again, “until the desires be lulled to sleep by the
mortification of sensuality, and sensuality itself be mortified in them, so
that it shall war against the spirit no more, the soul cannot go forth in
perfect liberty to union with the Beloved.” [450]

The death of selfhood in its narrow individualistic sense is, then, the
primary object of mortification. All the twisted elements of character which
foster the existence of this unreal yet complex creature are to be pruned
away. Then, as with the trees of the forest, so with the spirit of man,
strong new branches will spring into being, grow towards air and light. “I
live, yet not I” is to be the declaration of the mystic who has endured this
“bodily death.” The self-that-is-to-be will live upon a plane where her own
prejudices and preferences are so uninteresting as to be imperceptible. She
must be weaned from these nursery toys: and weaning is a disagreeable
process. The mystic, however, undertakes it as a rule without reluctance:
pushed by his vivid consciousness of imperfection, his intuition of a more
perfect state, necessary to the fulfilment of his love. Often his entrance
upon the torments of the Purgative Way, his taking up of the spiritual or
material instruments of mortification, resembles in ardour and abruptness
that “heroic plunge into Purgatory” of the newly dead when it perceives
itself in the light of Love Divine, which is described in the “Treatise” of
St. Catherine of Genoa as its nearest equivalent. “As she, plunged in the
divine furnace of purifying love, was united to the Object of her love, and
satisfied with all he wrought in her, so she understood it to be with the
souls in Purgatory.” [451]

This “divine furnace of purifying love” demands from the ardent soul a
complete self-surrender, and voluntary turning from all impurity, a humility
of the most far-reaching kind: and this means the deliberate embrace of
active suffering, a self-discipline in dreadful tasks. As gold in the
refiner’s fire, so “burning of love into a soul truly taken all vices
purgeth.” Detachment may be a counsel of prudence, a practical result of
seeing the true values of things; but the pain of mortification is seized as
a splendid opportunity, a love token, timidly offered by the awakened spirit
to that all-demanding Lover from Whom St. Catherine of Siena heard the
terrible words “I, Fire, the Acceptor of sacrifices, ravishing away from
them their darkness, give the light.” [452] “Suffering is the ancient law of
love,” says the Eternal Wisdom to Suso, “there is no quest without pain,
there is no lover who is not also a martyr. Hence it is inevitable that he
who would love so high a thing as Wisdom should sometimes suffer hindrances
and griefs.” [453]

The mystics have a profound conviction that Creation, Becoming,
Transcendence, is a painful process at the best. Those who are Christians
point to the Passion of Christ as a proof that the cosmic journey to
perfection, the path of the Eternal Wisdom, follows of necessity the Way of
the Cross. That law of the inner life, which sounds so fantastic and yet is
so bitterly true—“No progress without pain”—asserts itself. It declares that
birth pangs must be endured in the spiritual as well as in the material
world: that adequate training must always hurt the athlete. Hence the
mystics’ quest of the Absolute drives them to an eager and heroic union with
the reality of suffering, as well as with the reality of joy. [454]

This divine necessity of pain, this necessary sharing in the travail of a
World of Becoming, is beautifully described by Tauler in one of those
“internal conversations” between the contemplative soul and its God, which
abound in the works of the mystics and are familiar to all readers of “The
Imitation of Christ.” “A man once thought,” says Tauler, “that God drew some
men even by pleasant paths, while other were drawn by the path of pain. Our
Lord answered him thus, ‘What think ye can be pleasanter or nobler than to
be made most like unto Me? that is by suffering. Mark, to whom was ever
offered such a troubled life as to Me? And in whom can I better work in
accordance with My true nobility than in those who are most like Me? They
are the men who suffer. . . . Learn that My divine nature never worked so
nobly in human nature as by suffering; and because suffering is so
efficacious, it is sent out of great love. I understand the weakness of
human nature at all times, and out of love and righteousness I lay no
heavier load on man than he can bear. The crown must be firmly pressed down
that is to bud and blossom in the Eternal Presence of of My Heavenly Father.
He who desires to be wholly immersed in the fathomless sea of My Godhead
must also be deeply immersed in the deep sea of bitter sorrow. I am exalted
far above all things, and work supernatural and wonderful works in Myself:
the deeper and more supernaturally a man crushes himself beneath all things
the more supernaturally will he be drawn far above all things.’” [455]

Pain, therefore, the mystics always welcome and often court: sometimes in
the crudely physical form which Suso describes so vividly and horribly in
the sixteenth chapter of his Life, more frequently in those refinements of
torture which a sensitive spirit can extract from loneliness, injustice,
misunderstanding—above all, from deliberate contact with the repulsive
accidents of life. It would seem from a collation of the evidence that the
typical mystical temperament is by nature highly fastidious. Its passionate
apprehension of spiritual beauty, its intuitive perception of divine
harmony, is counterbalanced by an instinctive loathing of ugliness, a
shrinking from the disharmonies of squalor and disease. Often its ideal of
refinement is far beyond the contemporary standards of decency: a
circumstance which is alone enough to provide ample opportunity of
wretchedness. This extreme sensitiveness, which forms part of the normal
psychophysical make-up of the mystic, as it often does of the equally
highly-strung artistic type, is one of the first things to be seized upon by
the awakened self as a disciplinary instrument. Then humility’s axiom,
“Naught is too low for love” is forced to bear the less lovely gloss,
“Naught must be too disgusting.”

Two reasons at once appear for this. One is the contempt for phenomena,
nasty as well as nice—the longing to be free from all the fetters of
sense—which often goes with the passion for invisible things. Those mystics
to whom the attractions of earth are only illusion, are inconsistent if they
attribute a greater reality to the revolting and squalid incidents of life.
St. Francis did but carry his own principles to their logical conclusion,
when he insisted that the vermin were as much his brothers as the birds.
Real detachment means the death of preferences of all kinds: even of those
which seem to other men the very proofs of virtue and fine taste.

The second reason is nobler. It is bound up with that principle of
self-surrender which is the mainspring of the mystic life. To the
contemplative mind, which is keenly conscious of unity in multiplicity—of
Gods in the world—all disinterested service is service of the Absolute which
he loves: and the harder it is, the more opposed to his self-regarding and
aesthetic instincts, the more nearly it approaches his ideal. The point to
which he aspires—though he does not always know it—is that in which all
disharmony, all appearance of vileness, is resolved in the concrete reality
which he calls the Love of God. Then, he feels dimly, everything will be
seen under the aspect of a cosmic and charitable beauty; exhibiting through
the woof of corruption the web of eternal life.

It is told of St. Francis of Assisi, in whom the love of lovely things was
always paramount, how he forced himself to visit the lepers whose sight and
smell disgusted him: how he served them and even kissed them. [456] “Then as
he departed, in very truth that which had aforetime been bitter unto him, to
wit, the sight and touch of lepers, now changed into sweetness. For, as he
confessed, the sight of lepers had been so grievous unto him that he had
been minded to avoid not only seeing them, but even going nigh their
dwelling. And if at any time he chanced to pass their abodes, or to see
them, albeit he were moved by compassion to do them an alms through another
person, yet alway would he turn aside his face, stopping his nostrils with
his hand. But through the grace of God he became so intimate a friend of the
lepers that, even as he recorded in his will, he did sojourn with them and
did humbly serve them.”

Also, after his great renunciation of all property, he, once a prosperous
young man who had been “dainty in his father’s home,” accustomed himself to
take a bowl and beg scraps of food from door to door: and here too, as in
the case of the lepers, that which at first seemed revolting became to him
sweet. “And when he would have eaten that medley of various meats,” says the
legend, “at first he shrank back, for that he had never been used willingly
even to see, much less to eat, such scraps. At length, conquering himself,
he began to eat; and it seemed to him that in eating no rich syrup had he
ever tasted aught so delightsome.” [457]

The object, then, of this self-discipline is, like the object of all
purgation, freedom: freedom from the fetters of the senses, the “remora of
desire,” from the results of environment and worldly education, from pride
and prejudice, preferences and distaste: from selfhood in every form. Its
effect is a sharp reaction to the joy of self-conquest. The very act that
had once caused in the enchained self a movement of loathing becomes not
merely indifferent, but an occasion of happiness. So Margery Kempe “had
great mourning and sorrowing if she might not kiss a leper when she met them
in the way for the love of our Lord, which was all contrary to her
disposition in the years of her youth and prosperity, for then she abhorred
them most.” [458]

I spare the sensitive reader a detailed account of the loathsome ordeals by
which St. Catherine of Genoa and Madame Guyon strove to cure themselves of
squeamishness and acquire this liberty of spirit. [459] They, like St.
Francis, St. Elizabeth of Hungary, and countless other seekers for the Real,
sought out and served with humility and love the sick and the unclean;
deliberately associated themselves with life in its meanest forms; compelled
themselves to contact with the most revolting substances; and mortified the
senses by the traditional ascetic expedient of deliberately opposing
all—even their most natural and harmless—inclinations. “In the first four
years after she received the sweet wound from her Lord,” says the Life of
St. Catherine of Genoa, she “made great penances: so that all her senses
were mortified. And first, so soon as she perceived that her nature desired
anything at once she deprived it thereof, and did so that it should receive
all those things that it abhorred. She wore harsh hair, ate no meat nor any
other thing that she liked; ate no fruit, neither fresh nor dried . . . and
she lived greatly submitted to all persons, and always sought to do all
those things which were contrary to her own will; in such a way that she was
always inclined to do more promptly the will of others than her own.” . . .
“And while she worked such and so many mortifications of all her senses it
was several times asked of her ‘Why do you do this?’ And she answered ‘I do
not know, but I feel myself drawn inwardly to do this . . . and I think it
is God’s will.’” [460]

St. Ignatius Loyola, in the world a highly bred Spanish gentleman of refined
personal habits, found in those habits an excellent opportunity of
mortification. “As he was somewhat nice about the arrangement of his hair,
as was the fashion of those days and became him not ill, he allowed it to
grow naturally, and neither combed it nor trimmed it nor wore any head
covering by day or night. For the same reason he did not pare his finger or
toe nails; for on these points he had been fastidious to an extreme.” [461]

Madame Guyon, a delicate girl of the leisured class, accustomed to the
ordinary comforts of her station, characteristically chose the most crude
and immoderate forms of mortification in her efforts towards the acquirement
of “indifference.” But the peculiar psychic constitution which afterwards
showed itself in the forms of automatism and clairvoyance, seems to have
produced a partial anesthesia. “Although I had a very delicate body, the
instruments of penitence tore my flesh without, as it seemed to me, causing
pain. I wore girdles of hair and of sharp iron, I often held wormwood in my
mouth.” “If I walked, I put stones in my shoes. These things, my God, Thou
didst first inspire me to do, in order that I might be deprived even of the
most innocent satisfactions.” [462]

In the earlier stages of their education, a constant agere contra, even in
apparently indifferent things, seems essential to the mystics; till the
point is reached at which the changes and chances of mortal life are
accepted with a true indifference and do not trouble the life of the soul.
This established ascendancy of the “interior man,” the transcendental
consciousness, over “sensitive nature”—the self in its reactions to the ups
and downs and manifold illusions of daily life—is the very object of
Purgation. It is, then, almost impossible that any mystic, whatever his
religion, character or race, should escape its battles: for none at the
beginning of their growth are in a position to dispense with its good
offices. Neoplatonists and Mahommedans, no less than the Christian ascetics,
are acquainted with the Purgative Way. All realize the first law of
Spiritual Alchemy, that you must tame the Green Lion before you give him
wings. Thus in ‘Attar’s allegory of the Valleys, the valley of
self-stripping and renunciation comes first. [463] So too Al Ghazzali, the
Persian contemplative, says of the period immediately following his
acceptance of the principles of Sufi ism and consequent renunciation of
property, “I went to Syria, where I remained more than two years; without
any other object than that of living in seclusion and solitude, conquering
my desires, struggling with my passions, striving to purify my soul, to
perfect my character, and to prepare my heart to meditate upon God.” At the
end of this period of pure purgation circumstances forced him to return to
the world; much to his regret, since he “had not yet attained to the perfect
ecstatic state, unless it were in one or two isolated moments.” [464]

Such gleams of ecstatic vision, distributed through the later stages of
purification, seem to be normal features of mystical development. Increasing
control of the lower centres, of the surface intelligence and its scattered
desires, permits the emergence of the transcendental perceptions. We have
seen that Fox in his early stages displayed just such an alternation between
the light and shade of the mystic way. [465] So too did that least ascetic
of visionaries, Jacob Boehme. “Finding within myself a powerful contrarium,
namely the desires that belong to the flesh and blood,” he says, “I began to
fight a hard battle against my corrupted nature, and with the aid of God I
made up my mind to overcome the inherited evil will, to break it, and to
enter wholly into the Love of God. . . . This, however, was not possible for
me to accomplish, but I stood firmly by my earnest resolution, and fought a
hard battle with myself. Now while I was wrestling and battling, being aided
by God, a wonderful light arose within my soul. It was a light entirely
foreign to my unruly nature, but in it I recognized the true nature of God
and man, and the relation existing between them, a thing which heretofore I
had never understood, and for which I would never have sought.” [466]

In these words Boehme bridges the gap between Purgation and Illumination:
showing these two states or ways as coexisting and complementary one to
another, the light and dark sides of a developing mystic consciousness. As a
fact, they do often exist side by side in the individual experience: [467]
and any treatment which exhibits them as sharply and completely separated
may be convenient for purposes of study, but becomes at best diagrammatic if
considered as a representation of the mystic life. The mystical
consciousness, as we have seen, belongs—from the psychological point of
view—to that mobile or “unstable” type in which the artistic temperament
also finds a place. It sways easily between the extremes of pleasure and
pain in its gropings after transcendental reality. It often attains for a
moment to heights in which it is not able to rest: is often flung from some
rapturous vision of the Perfect to the deeps of contrition and despair.

The mystics have a vivid metaphor by which to describe that alternation
between the onset and the absence of the joyous transcendental consciousness
which forms as it were the characteristic intermediate stage between the
bitter struggles of pure Purgation, and the peace and radiance of the
Illuminative Life. They call it Ludus Amoris , the “Game of Love” which God
plays with the desirous soul. It is the “game of chess,” says St. Teresa,
“in which game Humility is the Queen without whom none can checkmate the
Divine King.” [468] “Here,” says Martensen, “God plays a blest game with the
soul.” [469] The “Game of Love” is a reflection in consciousness of that
state of struggle, oscillation and unrest which precedes the first
unification of the self. It ceases when this has taken place and the new
level of reality has been attained. Thus St. Catherine of Siena, that
inspired psychologist, was told in ecstasy, “With the souls who have arrived
at perfection, I play no more the Game of Love, which consists in leaving
and returning again to the soul; though thou must understand that it is not,
properly speaking, I, the immovable GOD, Who thus elude them, but rather the
sentiment that My charity gives them of Me.” [470] In other terms, it is the
imperfectly developed spiritual perception which becomes tired and fails,
throwing the self back into the darkness and aridity whence it has emerged.
So we are told of Rulman Merswin [471] that after the period of harsh
physical mortification which succeeded his conversion came a year of
“delirious joy alternating with the most bitter physical and moral
sufferings.” It is, he says, “the Game of Love which the Lord plays with His
poor sinful creature.” Memories of all his old sins still drove him to
exaggerated penances: morbid temptations “made me so ill that I feared I
should lose my reason.” These psychic storms reacted upon the physical
organism. He had a paralytic seizure, lost the use of his lower limbs, and
believed himself to be at the point of death. When he was at his worst,
however, and all hope seemed at an end, an inward voice told him to rise
from his bed. He obeyed, and found himself cured. Ecstasies were frequent
during the whole of this period. In these moments of exaltation he felt his
mind to be irradiated by a new light, so that he knew, intuitively, the
direction which his life was bound to take, and recognized the inevitable
and salutary nature of his trials. “God showed Himself by turns harsh and
gentle: to each access of misery succeeded the rapture of supernatural
grace.” In this intermittent style, torn by these constant fluctuations
between depression and delight, did Merswin, in whom the psychic instability
of the artistic and mystic types is present in excess, pass through the
purgative and illuminated states. [472] They appear to have coexisted in his
consciousness, first one and then the other emerging and taking control.
Hence he did not attain the peaceful condition which is characteristic of
full illumination, and normally closes the “First Mystic Life”; but passed
direct from these violent alternations of mystical pleasure and mystical
pain to the state which he calls “the school of suffering love.” This, as we
shall see when we come to its consideration, is strictly analogous to that
which other mystics have called the “Dark Night of the Soul,” and opens the
“Second Mystic Life” or Unitive Way.

Such prolonged coexistence of alternating pain and pleasure states in the
developing soul, such delay in the attainment of equilibrium, is not
infrequent, and must be taken into account in all analyses of the mystic
type. Though it is convenient for purposes of study to practise a certain
dissection, and treat as separate states which are, in the living subject,
closely intertwined, we should constantly remind ourselves that such a
proceeding is artificial. The struggle of the self to disentangle itself
from illusion and attain the Absolute is a life-struggle. Hence, it will and
must exhibit the freedom and originality of life: will, as a process, obey
artistic rather than scientific laws. It will sway now to the light and now
to the shade of experience: its oscillations will sometimes be great,
sometimes small. Mood and environment, inspiration and information, will all
play their part.

There are in this struggle three factors.

(1) The unchanging light of Eternal Reality: that Pure Being “which ever
shines and nought shall ever dim.”

(2) The web of illusion, here thick, there thin; which hems in, confuses,
and allures the sentient self.

(3) That self, always changing, moving, struggling—always, in fact,
becoming— alive in every fibre, related at once to the unreal and to the
real; and, with its growth in true being, ever more conscious of the
contrast between them.

In the ever-shifting relations between these three factors, the consequent
energy engendered, the work done, we may find a cause of the innumerable
forms of stress and travail which are called in their objective form the
Purgative Way. One only of the three is constant: the Absolute to which the
soul aspires. Though all else may fluctuate, that goal is changeless. That
Beauty so old and so new, “with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of
turning,” which is the One of Plotinus, the All of Eckhart and St. John of
the Cross, the Eternal Wisdom of Suso, the Unplumbed Abyss of Ruysbroeck,
the Pure Love of St. Catherine of Genoa, awaits yesterday, to-day, and for
ever the opening of Its creature’s eyes.

In the moment of conversion those eyes were opened for an instant: obtained,
as it were, a dazzling and unforgettable glimpse of the Uncreated Light.
They must learn to stay open: to look steadfastly into the eyes of Love: so
that, in the beautiful imagery of the mystics, the “faithful servant” may
become the “secret friend.” [473] Then it is, says Boehme, that “the divine
glimpse and beam of joy ariseth in the soul, being a new eye, in which the
dark, fiery soul conceiveth the Ens and Essence of the divine light.” [474]
So hard an art is not at once acquired in its perfection. It is in
accordance with all that we know of the conditions of development that a
partial achievement should come first; bewildering moments of lucidity,
splendid glimpses, whose brevity is due to the weakness of the newly opened
and unpractised “eye which looks upon Eternity,” the yet undisciplined
strength of the “eye which looks upon Time.” Such is that play of light and
dark, of exaltation and contrition, which often bridges the gap between the
Purgative and the Illuminative states. Each by turn takes the field and
ousts the other; for “these two eyes of the soul of man cannot both perform
their work at once.” [475]

To use another and more domestic metaphor, that Divine Child which was, in
the hour of the mystic conversion, born in the spark of the soul, must learn
like other children to walk. Though it is true that the spiritual self must
never lose its sense of utter dependence on the Invisible; yet within that
supporting atmosphere, and fed by its gifts, it must “find its feet.” Each
effort to stand brings first a glorious sense of growth, and then a fall:
each fall means another struggle to obtain the difficult balance which comes
when infancy is past. There are many eager trials, many hopes, many
disappointments. At last, as it seems suddenly, the moment comes: tottering
is over, the muscles have learnt their lesson, they adjust themselves
automatically, and the new self suddenly finds itself—it knows not
how—standing upright and secure. That is the moment which marks the boundary
between the purgative and the illuminative states.

The process of this passage of the “new” or spiritual man from his awakening
to the illuminated life, has been set out by Jacob Boehme in language which
is at once poetic and precise. “When Christ the Corner-Stone [ i.e. , the
divine principle latent in man] stirreth himself in the extinguished Image
of Man in his hearty Conversion and Repentance,” he says, “then Virgin
Sophia appeareth in the stirring of the Spirit of Christ in the extinguished
Image, in her Virgin’s attire before the Soul; at which the Soul is so
amazed and astonished in its Uncleanness that all its Sins immediately awake
in it, and it trembleth before her; for then the judgment passeth upon the
Sins of the Soul, so that it even goeth back in its unworthiness, being
ashamed in the Presence of its fair Love, and entereth into itself, feeling
and acknowledging itself utterly unworthy to receive such a Jewel. This is
understood by those who are of our tribe and have tasted of this heavenly
Gift, and by none else. But the noble Sophia draweth near in the Essence of
the Soul, and kisseth it in friendly Manner, and tinctureth its dark Fire
with her Rays of Love, and shineth through it with her bright and powerful
Influence. Penetrated with the strong Sense and Feeling of which, the Soul
skippeth in its Body for great Joy, and in the strength of this Virgin Love
exulteth, and praiseth the great God for his blest Gift of Grace. I will set
down here a short description how it is when the Bride thus embraceth the
Bridegroom, for the consideration of the Reader, who perhaps hath not yet
been in this wedding chamber. It may be he will be desirous to follow us,
and to enter into the Inner Choir, where the Soul joineth hands and danceth
with Sophia, or the Divine Wisdom.” [476]

[392] “The Rod, the Root, and the Flower,” “Magna Moralia,” xxii.

[393] “The Scale of Perfection,” bk. ii. cap. xxxvii.

[394] Dialogo, cap. iv.

[395] “Ignitum cum Deo Soliloquium.” cap. xi.

[396] Richard Rolle, “The Mending of Life,” cap. i.

[397] Ibid ., “The Fire of Love,” bk. i. cap, xxiii.

[398] “Buchlein von der ewigen Weisheit,” cap. v.

[399] Jundt, “Rulman Merswin,” p. 19.

[400] Revelations of Divine Love,” cap. lvi.

[401] I offer no opinion upon the question of authorship. Those interested
may consult Von Hügel, “The Mystical Element of Religion,” vol. i.,
Appendix. Whoever may be responsible for its present form, the Treatise is
clearly founded upon first-hand mystic experience: which is all that our
present purpose requires.

[402] “Trattato di Purgatorio,” caps. ii. and iii.

[403] Purg. ii., 60.

[404] “Subida del Monte Carmelo I. i. cap. xiv.

[405] “De Imitatione Christi,” I. iii. cap. i.

[406] “Theologia Germanica,” cap. xiv.

[407] Meister Eckhart, quoted by Wackernagel, “Altdeutsches Lesebuch,” p.

[408] “Das Fliessende Licht der Gottheit.” pt. vi., cap. 4.

[409] St. John of the Cross, “Subida del Monte Carmelo,” bk. i. cap. xiii.

[410] “Theologia Germanica,” cap. v.

[411] Ennead vi. 9.

[412] “Oh Poverty, high wisdom! to be subject to nothing, and by despising
all to possess all created things. . . . God will not lodge in a narrow
heart; and it is as great as thy love. Poverty has so ample a bosom that
Deity Itself may lodge therein. . . . Poverty is naught to have, and nothing
to desire: but all things to possess in the spirit of liberty.”— Jacopone da
Todi. Lauda lix.

[413] “Fioretti,” cap. xvi., and “Speculum,” cap. cxx.

[414] Ibid ., cap. xiii. (Arnold’s translation).

[415] Pfeiffer, Tractato x. (Eng. translation., p, 348).

[416] “Sacrum Commercium Beati Francisci cum Domina Paupertate,” caps. iv.
and v. (Rawnsley’s translation).

[417] Op. cit ., cap. xxii.

[418] So Ruysbroeck, “Freewill is the king of the soul . . . he should dwell
in the chief city of that kingdom: that is to say, the desirous power of the
soul” (“De Ornatu Spiritalium Nuptiarum,” I. i. cap. xxiv.).

[419] Meister Eckhart. Quoted in Martensen’s monograph, p. 107.

[420] Schmölders, “Essai sur les Écoles Philosophiques chez les Arabes,” p.

[421] Schmölders, “Essai sur les Écoles Philosophiques chez les Arabes,” op.
cit., p. 58.

[422] Richard Rolle, “The Mending of Life,” cap. iii.

[423] “Ignitum cum Deo Soliloquium,” cap. i.

[424] “Subida del Monte Carmelo,” I. i. cap. iii.

[425] Gerlac Petersen, op. cit., cap. xi.

[426] St. John of the Cross, op. cit ., cap. xi.

[427] Richard Rolle, “The Fire of Love,” bk. i. cap. xix.

[428] Thomas of Celano, Legenda Prima, cap. vi.

[429] “An Apology for Mrs. Antoinette Bourignan,” pp. 269-70.

[430] St. Teresa’s mystic states are particularly difficult to classify.
From one point of view these struggles might be regarded as the
preliminaries of conversion. She was, however, proficient in contemplation
when they occurred, and I therefore think that my arrangement is the right

[431] Quoted by G. Cunninghame Graham, “Santa Teresa,” vol. i. p. 139. For
St. Teresa’s own account, see Vida, caps. vii-ix.

[432] Sermon on St. Paul (“The Inner Way,” p. 113).

[433] Cotter Morison, “Life and Times of St. Bernard,” p. 68.

[434] Thomas of Celano, Legenda Prima, cap. xxix.

[435] Ibid ., Legenda Secunda, cap. cxxiv.

[436] Anne Macdonell, “St. Douceline,” p. 30.

[437] Vida, cap. ix., p. 6.

[438] “In that time and by God’s will there died my mother, who was a great
hindrance unto me in following the way of God: soon after my husband died
likewise, and also all my children. And because I had commenced to follow
the Aforesaid Way, and had prayed God that He would rid me of them, I had
great consolation of their deaths. (Ste Angèle de Foligno: “Le Livre de
l’Expérience des Vrais Fidèles.” Ed. M. J. Ferry p. 10.)

[439] “De Imitatione Christi,” I. i. caps. iii. and ix.

[440] Tauler, Sermon on St. Paul (“The Inner Way,” p. 114).

[441] Tauler, Second Sermon for Easter Day. (This is not included in either
of the English collections.)

[442] Augustine Baker, “Holy Wisdom,” Treatise ii. Sect. i., cap. 3.

[443] Suso, Leben. cap. xvii.

[444] “The Mirror of Simple Souls,” edited by Clare Kirchberger, p. 12.

[445] “The war is at an end: in the battle of virtues, in travail of mind,
there is no more striving” (Lauda xci.).

[446] “Vita e Dottrina,” cap. v.

[447] Walter Hilton “The Scale of Perfection,” bk. i. cap. 8, xlii.

[448] Récéjac, “Fondements de la Connaissance Mystique,” p. 78. This,
however, is to be understood of the initial training of the mystic; not of
his final state.

[449] “Subida del Monte Carmelo,” I. i. cap. v.

[450] Op. cit., bk. i. cap. xv.

[451] S. Caterina di Genova, “Trattato di Purgatorio,” cap. i.

[452] Dialogo, cap. lxxxv.

[453] Leben, cap. iv.

[454] “This truth, of which she was the living example,” says Huysmans of
St. Lydwine, “has been and will be true for every period. Since the death of
Lydwine, there is not a saint who has not confirmed it. Hear them formulate
their desires. Always to suffer, and to die! cries St. Teresa; always to
suffer, yet not to die, corrects St. Magdalena dei Pazzi; yet more, oh Lord,
yet more! exclaims St. Francis Xavier, dying in anguish on the coast of
China; I wish to be broken with suffering in order that I may prove my love
to God, declares a seventeenth century Carmelite, the Ven. Mary of the
Trinity. The desire for suffering is itself an agony, adds a great servant
of God of our own day, Mother Mary Du Bourg; and she confided to her
daughters in religion that ‘if they sold pain in the market she would hurry
to buy it there.’” (J. K. Huysmans, “Sainte Lydwine de Schiedam,” 3rd
edition, p. 225).Examples can be multiplied indefinitely from the lives and
works of the mystics of all periods.

[455] Tauler, Sermon on St. Paul (“The Inner Way,” p. 114).

[456] Thomas of Celano, Legenda Prima, cap. vii.; 3 Soc. cap. iv.

[457] 3 Soc. cap. vii.

[458] “A Short Treatise of Contemplation taken out of the boke of Margery
Kempe ancresse of Lynne.” London, 1521. Reprinted and ed. by F. Gardner in
“The Cell of Self-Knowledge,” 1910, p. 49.

[459] The curious are referred to the original authorities. For St.
Catherine chapter viii. of the “Vita e Dottrina”: for Madame Guyon, Vie, pt.
i. ch. x.

[460] “Vita e Dottrina,” cap. v.

[461] Testament, cap. ii. (Rix’s translation).

[462] Vie, pt. i. cap. x.

[463] Supra , p. 131.

[464] Schmölders, “Essay sur les Écoles Philosophiques chez les Arabes,” p.

[465] Supra , p. 177.

[466] Hartmann, “Life and Doctrines of Jacob Boehme,” p. 50.

[467] Compare the case of St. Teresa already cited, supra , p. 213.

[468] “Camino de Perfeccion,” cap. xvii.

[469] Martensen, “Meister Eckhart,” p. 75.

[470] Dialogo, cap. lxxviii.

[471] Jundt, “Rulman Merswin,” pp. 10 and 20.

[472] We recognize here the chief symptoms of the “cyclic type” of
mentality, with its well-marked alternations of depression and exaltation.
This psychological type is found frequently, but not invariably, among the
mystics: and its peculiarities must be taken into account when studying
their experiences. For a technical description, see W. McDougall: “An
Introduction to Abnormal Psychology,” caps. xxii and xxviii.

[473] See Ruysbroeck, “De Calculo,” cap. vii. The metaphor is an ancient one
and occurs in many patristic and mediaeval writers.

[474] “The Epistles of Jacob Boehme,” p. 19.

[475] “Theologia Germanica,” cap. vii.

[476] Jacob Boehme, “The Way to Christ,” pt. i. p. 23 (vol. iv. of the
complete English translation of Boehme’s works).