Chapter 11

I n illumination we come to that state of consciousness which is popularly
supposed to be peculiar to the mystic: a form of mental life, a kind of
perception, radically different from that of “normal” men. His preceding
adventures and experiences cannot be allowed this quality. His awakening to
consciousness of the Absolute—though often marked by a splendour and
intensity which seem to distinguish it from other psychic upheavals of that
kind—does but reproduce upon higher levels those characteristic processes of
conversion and falling in love which give depth and actuality to the
religious and passional life. The purification to which he then sets
himself—though this possesses as a rule certain features peculiar to
mystical development—is again closely related to the disciplines and
mortifications of ascetic, but not necessarily mystical, piety. It is the
most exalted form with which we are acquainted of that catharsis— that
pruning and training of the human plant—which is the essence of all
education, and a necessary stage in every kind of transcendence. Here, the
mystic does but adopt in a more drastic form the principles which all who
would live with an intense life, all seekers after freedom, all true lovers
must accept: though he may justly claim with Ophelia that these wear their
rue with a difference. [477]

But in the great swing back into sunshine which is the reward of that
painful descent into the “cell of self-knowledge,” he parts company with
these other pilgrims. Those who still go with him a little way—certain
prophets, poets, artists, dreamers do so in virtue of that mystical genius,
that instinct for transcendental reality, of which all seers and creators
have some trace. The initiates of beauty or of wisdom, as the great mystic
is the initiate of love, they share in some degree the experiences of the
way of illumination. But the mystic has now a veritable foothold in that
transcendental world into which they penetrate now and again: enjoys a
certain fellowship—not yet union—with the “great life of the All,” and
thence draws strength and peace. Really and actually, as one whose noviciate
is finished, he has “entered the Inner Choir, where the Soul joineth hands
and danceth with Sophia, the Divine Wisdom”: and, keeping time with the
great rhythms of the spiritual universe, feels that he has found his place.

This change of consciousness, however abrupt and amazing it may seem to the
self which experiences it, seems to the psychologist a normal phase in that
organic process of development which was initiated by the awakening of the
transcendental sense. Responding to the intimations received in that
awakening, ordering itself in their interest, concentrating its scattered
energies on this one thing, the self emerges from long and varied acts of
purification to find that it is able to apprehend another order of reality.
It has achieved consciousness of a world that was always there, and wherein
its substantial being—that Ground which is of God—has always stood. Such a
consciousness is “Transcendental Feeling” in excelsis : a deep, intuitional
knowledge of the “secret plan.”

“We are like a choir who stand round the conductor,” says Plotinus, “but do
not always sing in tune, because their attention is diverted by looking at
external things. So we always move round the One—if we did not, we should
dissolve and cease to exist—but we do not always look towards the One.”
Hence, instead of that free and conscious co-operation in the great life of
the All which alone can make personal life worth living, we move like slaves
or marionettes, and, oblivious of the whole to which our little steps
contribute, fail to observe the measure “whereto the worlds keep time.” Our
minds being distracted from the Corypheus in the midst the “energetic
Word” who sets the rhythm, we do not behold Him. We are absorbed in the
illusions of sense; the “eye which looks on Eternity” is idle. “But when we
do behold Him,” says Plotinus again, “we attain the end of our existence and
our rest. Then we no longer sing out of tune, but form a truly divine chorus
about Him; in the which chorus dance the soul beholds the Fountain of life
the Fountain of intellect, the Principle of Being, the cause of good the
root of soul.” [478] Such a beholding, such a lifting of consciousness from
a self-centred to a God-centred world, is of the essence of illumination.

It will be observed that in these passages the claim of the mystic is not
yet to supreme communion; the “Spiritual Marriage” of the Christian mystic,
or that “flight of the Alone to the Alone” which is the Plotinian image for
the utmost bliss of the emancipated soul. He has now got through
preliminaries; detached himself from his chief entanglements; re-orientated
his instinctive life. The result is a new and solid certitude about God, and
his own soul’s relation to God: an “enlightenment” in which he is adjusted
to new standards of conduct and thought. In the traditional language of
asceticism he is “proficient” but not yet perfect. He achieves a real vision
and knowledge, a conscious harmony with the divine World of Becoming: not
yet self-loss in the Principle of Life, but rather a willing and harmonious
revolution about Him, that “in dancing he may know what is done.” This
character distinguishes almost every first-hand description of illumination:
and it is this which marks it off from mystic union in all its forms. All
pleasurable and exalted states of mystic consciousness in which the sense of
I-hood persists, in which there is a loving and joyous relation between the
Absolute as object and the self as subject, fall under the head of
Illumination: which is really an enormous development of the intuitional
life at high levels. All veritable and first-hand apprehensions of the
Divine obtained by the use of symbols, as in the religious life; all the
degrees of prayer lying between meditation and the prayer of union; many
phases of poetic inspiration and “glimpses of truth,” are activities of the
illuminated mind.

To “see God in nature,” to attain a radiant consciousness of the
“otherness” of natural things, is the simplest and commonest form of
illumination. Most people, under the spell of emotion or of beauty, have
known flashes of rudimentary vision of this kind. Where such a consciousness
is recurrent, as it is in many poets, [479] there results that partial yet
often overpowering apprehension of the Infinite Life immanent in all living
things, which some modern writers have dignified by the name of
“nature-mysticism.” Where it is raised to its highest denomination, till the
veil is obliterated by the light behind, and “faith has vanished into
sight,” as sometimes happened to Blake, we reach the point at which the
mystic swallows up the poet.

“Dear Sir,” says that great genius in one of his most characteristic
letters, written immediately after an onset of the illuminated vision which
he had lost for many years, “excuse my enthusiasm, or rather madness, for I
am really drunk with intellectual vision whenever I take a pencil or graver
into my hand.” [480] Many a great painter, philosopher, or poet, perhaps
every inspired musician, has known this indescribable inebriation of Reality
in those moments of transcendence in which his masterpieces were conceived.
This is the “saving madness” of which Plato speaks in the “Phaedrus”; the
ecstasy of the “God-intoxicated man,” the lover, the prophet, and the poet
“drunk with life.” When the Christian mystic, eager for his birthright, says
“Sanguis Christi, inebria me!” he is asking for just such a gift of supernal
vitality, a draught of that Wine of Absolute Life which runs in the arteries
of the world. Those to whom that cup is given attain to an intenser degree
of vitality, hence to a more acute degree of perception, a more vivid
consciousness, than that which is enjoyed by other men. For though, as
Ruysbroeck warns us, this “is not God,” yet it is for many selves “the Light
in which we see Him.” [481]

Blake conceived that it was his vocation to bring this mystical
illumination, this heightened vision of reality, within the range of
ordinary men: to “cleanse the doors of perception” of the race. They thought
him a madman for his pains.

“. . . I rest not upon my great task

To open the Eternal Worlds, to open the immortal Eyes

Of Man inwards into the Worlds of Thought: into Eternity

Ever expanding in the Bosom of God, the Human Imagination.

O Saviour, pour upon me thy Spirit of meekness and love,

Annihilate the Selfhood in me: be thou all my life.” [482]

The Mysteries of the antique world appear to have been attempts—often by way
of a merely magical initiation—to “open the immortal eyes of man inwards”:
exalt his powers of perception until they could receive the messages of a
higher degree of reality. In spite of much eager theorizing, it is
impossible to tell how far they succeeded in this task. To those who had a
natural genius for the Infinite, symbols and rituals which were doubtless
charged with ecstatic suggestions, and often dramatized the actual course of
the Mystic Way, may well have brought some enhancement of consciousness:
[483] though hardly that complete rearrangement of character which is an
essential of the mystic’s entrance on the true Illuminated State. Hence
Plato only claims that “he whose initiation is recent” can see Immortal
Beauty under mortal veils.

“O blessèd he in all wise,

Who hath drunk the Living Fountain

Whose life no folly staineth

And whose soul is near to God:

Whose sins are lifted pall-wise

As he worships on the Mountain.” [484]

Thus sang the initiates of Dionysus; that mystery-cult in which the Greeks
seem to have expressed all they knew of the possible movement of
consciousness through rites of purification to the ecstasy of the
Illuminated Life. The mere crude rapture of illumination has seldom been
more vividly expressed. With its half-Oriental fervours, its self-regarding
glory in personal purification achieved, and the spiritual superiority
conferred by adeptship, may be compared the deeper and lovelier experience
of the Catholic poet and saint, who represents the spirit of Western
mysticism at its best. His sins, too, had been “lifted pall-wise” as a cloud
melts in the sunshine of Divine Love: but here the centre of interest is not
the little self which has been exalted, but the greater Self which deigns
thus to exalt.

“O burn that burns to heal!

O more than pleasant wound!

And O soft hand, O touch most delicate

That dost new life reveal

That dost in grace abound

And, slaying, dost from death to life translate.” [485]

Here the joy is as passionate, the consciousness of an exalted life as
intense: but it is dominated by the distinctive Christian concepts of
humility, surrender, and intimate love.

We have seen that all real artists, as well as all pure mystics, are sharers
to some degree in the Illuminated Life. They have drunk, with Blake, from
that cup of intellectual vision which is the chalice of the Spirit of Life:
know something of its divine inebriation whenever Beauty inspires them to
create. Some have only sipped it. Some, like John of Parma, have drunk deep,
accepting in that act the mystic heritage with all its obligations. But to
all who have seen Beauty face to face, the Grail has been administered; and
through that sacramental communion they are made participants in the mystery
of the world.

In one of the most beautiful passages of the “Fioretti” it is told how
Brother Jacques of la Massa, “unto whom God opened the door of His
secrets,” saw in a vision this Chalice of the Spirit of Life delivered by
Christ into the hands of St. Francis, that he might give his brothers to
drink thereof.

“Then came St. Francis to give the chalice of life to his brothers. And he
gave it first to Brother John of Parma: who, taking it drank it all in
haste, devoutly; and straightway he became all shining like the sun. And
after him St. Francis gave it to all the other brothers in order: and there
were but few among them that took it with due reverence and devotion and
drank it all. Those that took it devoutly and drank it all, became
straightway shining like the sun; but those that spilled it all and took it
not devoutly, became black, and dark, and misshapen and horrible to see; but
those that drank part and spilled part, became partly shining and partly
dark, and more so or less according to the measure of their drinking or
spilling thereof. But the aforesaid Brother John was resplendent above all
the rest; the which had more completely drunk the chalice of life, whereby
he had the more deeply gazed into the abyss of the infinite light divine
.” [486]

No image, perhaps, could suggest so accurately as this divine picture the
conditions of perfect illumination: the drinking deeply, devoutly, and in
haste—that is, without prudent and self-regarding hesitation—of the heavenly
Wine of Life; that wine of which Rolle says that it “fulfils the soul with a
great gladness through a sweet contemplation.” [487] John of Parma, the hero
of those Spiritual Franciscans in whose interest this exquisite allegory was
composed, stands for all the mystics, who, “having completely drunk,” have
attained the power of gazing into the abyss of the infinite light divine. In
those imperfect brothers who dared not drink the cup of sacrifice to the
dregs, but took part and spilled part, so that they became partly shining
and partly dark, “according to the measure of their drinking or spilling
thereof,” we may see an image of the artist, musician, prophet, poet,
dreamer, more or less illuminated according to the measure of courage and
self-abandonment in which he has drunk the cup of ecstasy: but always in
comparison with the radiance of the pure contemplative, “partly shining and
partly dark.” “Hinder me not,” says the soul to the senses in Mechthild of
Magdeburg’s vision, “I would drink for a space of the unmingled wine.” [488]
In the artist, the senses have somewhat hindered the perfect inebriation of
the soul.

We have seen that a vast tract of experience—all the experience which
results from contact between a purged and heightened consciousness and the
World of Becoming in which it is immersed; and much, too, of that which
results from contact set up between such a consciousness and the Absolute
Itself—is included in that stage of growth which the mystics call the
Illuminative Way. This is the largest and most densely populated province of
the mystic kingdom. Such different visionaries as Suso and Blake, Boehme and
Angela of Foligno, Mechthild of Magdeburg, Fox, Rolle, St. Teresa, and
countless others have left us the record of their sojourn therein. Amongst
those who cannot be called pure mystics we can detect in the works of Plato
and Heracleitus, Wordsworth, Tennyson, and Walt Whitman indications that
they too were acquainted, beyond most poets and seers, with the phenomena of
the illuminated life. In studying it then, we shall be confronted by a mass
of apparently irreconcilable material: the results of the relation set up
between every degree of lucidity, every kind of character, and the
suprasensible world.

To say that God is Infinite is to say that He may be apprehended and
described in an infinity of ways. That Circle whose centre is everywhere and
whose circumference is nowhere, may be approached from every angle with a
certainty of being found. Mystical history, particularly that which deals
with the Illuminative Way, is a demonstration of this fact. Here, in the
establishment of the “first mystic life,” of conscious correspondence with
Reality, the self which has oscillated between two forms of consciousness,
has alternately opposed and embraced its growing intuitions of the Absolute,
comes for a time to rest. To a large extent, the discordant elements of
character have been purged away. Temporally at least the mind has “unified
itself” upon high levels, and attained, as it believes, a genuine
consciousness of the divine and veritable world. The depth and richness of
its own nature will determine how intense that consciousness shall be.

Whatever its scope, however, this new apprehension of reality generally
appears to the illuminated Self as final and complete. As the true lover is
always convinced that he has found in his bride the one Rose of the World,
so the mystic, in the first glow of his initiation, is sure that his quest
is now fulfilled. Ignorant as yet of that consummation of love which
overpasses the proceedings of the inward eye and ear, he exclaims with
entire assurance “Beati oculi qui exterioribus clausi, interioribus autem
sunt intenti,” [489] and, absorbed in this new blissful act of vision,
forgets that it belongs to those who are still in via . He has yet to pass
through that “night of the senses” in which he learns to distinguish the
substance of Reality from the accidents under which it is perceived; to
discover that the heavenly food here given cannot satisfy his “hunger for
the Absolute.” [490] His true goal lies far beyond this joyful basking in
the sunbeams of the Uncreated Light. Only the greatest souls learn this
lesson, and tread the whole of that “King’s Highway” which leads man back to
his Source. “For the many that come to Bethlehem, there be few that will go
on to Calvary.” The rest stay here, in this Earthly Paradise, these flowery
fields; where the liberated self wanders at will, describing to us as well
as it can now this corner, now that of the Country of the Soul.

It is in these descriptions of the joy of illumination—in the outpourings of
love and rapture belonging to this state—that we find the most lyrical
passages of mystical literature. Here poet, mystic, and musician are on
common ground: for it is only by the oblique methods of the artist, by the
use of aesthetic suggestion and musical rhythm, that the wonder of that
vision can be expressed. When essential goodness, truth, and beauty—Light,
Life, and Love—are apprehended by the heart, whether the heart be that of
poet, painter, lover, or saint, that apprehension can only be communicated
in a living, that is to say, an artistic form. The natural mind is conscious
only of succession: the special differentia of the mystic is the power of
apprehending simultaneity. In the peculiarities of the illuminated
consciousness we recognize the effort of the mind to bridge the gap between
Simultaneity and Succession: the characters of Creator and Creation. Here
the successive is called upon to carry the values of the Eternal.

Here, then, genius and sanctity kiss one another; and each, in that sublime
encounter, looks for an instant through the other’s eyes. Hence it is
natural and inevitable that the mystic should here call into play all the
resources of artistic expression: the lovely imagery of Julian and Mechthild
of Magdeburg, Suso’s poetic visions, St. Augustine’s fire and light, the
heavenly harmonies of St. Francis and Richard Rolle. Symbols, too, play a
major part, not only in the description, but also in the machinery of
illumination: the intuitions of many mystics presenting themselves directly
to the surface-mind in a symbolic form. We must therefore be prepared for a
great variety and fluidity of expression, a constant and not always
conscious recourse to symbol and image, in those who try to communicate the
secret of this state of consciousness. We must examine, and even classify so
far as possible, a wide variety of experience—some which is recognized by
friends and foes alike as purely “mystical,” some in which the operation of
poetic imagination is clearly discernible, some which involves “psychic
phenomena” and other abnormal activities of the mind—refusing to be
frightened away from investigation by the strange, and apparently
irreconcilable character of our material.

There are three main types of experience which appear again and again in the
history of mysticism; nearly always in connection with illumination, rather
than any other phase of mystical development. I think that they may fairly
be regarded as its main characteristics, though the discussion of them
cannot cover all the ground. In few forms of spiritual life is the
spontaneity of the individual so clearly seen as here: and in few is the
ever-deadly process of classification attended with so many risks.

These three characteristics are:—

1. A joyous apprehension of the Absolute: that which many ascetic writers
call “the practice of the Presence of God.” This, however, is not to be
confused with that unique consciousness of union with the divine which is
peculiar to a later stage of mystical development. The self, though
purified, still realizes itself as a separate entity over against God. It is
not immersed in its Origin, but contemplates it. This is the “betrothal”
rather than the “marriage” of the soul.

2. This clarity of vision may also be enjoyed in regard to the phenomenal
world. The actual physical perceptions seem to be strangely heightened, so
that the self perceives an added significance and reality in all natural
things: is often convinced that it knows at last “the secret of the
world.” In Blake’s words “the doors of perception are cleansed” so that
“everything appears to man as it is , infinite.” [491]

In these two forms of perception we see the growing consciousness of the
mystic stretching in two directions, until it includes in its span both the
World of Being and the World of Becoming; [492] that dual apprehension of
reality as transcendent yet immanent which we found to be one of the
distinguishing marks of the mystic type.

3. Along with this two-fold extension of consciousness, the energy of the
intuitional or transcendental self may be enormously increased. The psychic
upheavals of the Purgative Way have tended to make it central for life: to
eliminate from the character all those elements which checked its activity.
Now it seizes upon the ordinary channels of expression; and may show itself
in such forms as (a) auditions, (b) dialogues between the surface
consciousness and another intelligence which purports to be divine, (c)
visions, and sometimes (d) in automatic writings. In many selves this
automatic activity of those growing but still largely subconscious powers
which constitute the “New Man,” increases steadily during the whole of the
mystic life.

Illumination, then, tends to appear mainly under one or all of these three
forms. Often all are present; though, as a rule, one is dominant. The
balance of characteristics will be conditioned in each case by the self’s
psychic make-up; its temperamental leaning towards “pure contemplation,”
“lucid vision,” or automatic expression; emanation or immanence, the
metaphysical, artistic, or intimate aspects of truth. The possible
combinations between these various factors are as innumerable as the
possible creations of Life itself.

In the wonderful rhapsodies of St. Augustine, in St. Bernard’s converse with
the Word, in Angela of Foligno’s apprehensions of Deity, in Richard Rolle’s
“state of song,” when “sweetest heavenly melody he took, with him dwelling
in mind,” or in Brother Lawrence’s “practice of the Presence of God,” we may
see varied expressions of the first type of illuminated consciousness. Jacob
Boehme is rightly looked upon as a classic example of the second; which is
also found in one of its most attractive forms in St. Francis of Assisi.
Suso and St. Teresa, perhaps, may stand for the third, since in them the
visionary and auditory phenomena were peculiarly well marked. A further
study of each characteristic in order, will help us to disentangle the many
threads which go to the psychical make-up of these great and complex mystic
types. The rest of this chapter will, then, be given to the analysis of the
two chief forms of illuminated consciousness: the self’s perception of
Reality in the eternal and temporal worlds. The important subject of voices
and visions demands a division to itself.

I. The Consciousness of the Absolute, or “Sense of the Presence of God”

This consciousness, in its various forms and degrees, is perhaps the most
constant characteristic of Illumination; and makes it, for the mystic soul,
a pleasure-state of the intensest kind. I do not mean by this that the
subject passes months or years in a continuous ecstasy of communion with the
Divine. Intermittent periods of spiritual fatigue or “aridity”—renewals of
the temperamental conflicts experienced in purgation—the oncoming gloom of
the Dark Night—all these may be, and often are, experienced at intervals
during the Illuminated Life; as flashes of insight, indistinguishable from
illumination, constantly break the monotony of the Purgative Way. But a deep
certitude of the Personal Life omnipresent in the universe has been
achieved; and this can never be forgotten, even though it be withdrawn. The
“spirit stretching towards God” declares that it has touched Him; and its
normal condition henceforth is joyous consciousness of His Presence with
“many privy touchings of sweet spiritual sights and feeling, measured to us
as our simpleness may bear it.” [493] Where he prefers less definite or more
pantheistic language, the mystic’s perceptions may take the form of “harmony
with the Infinite”—the same divine music transposed to a lower key.

This “sense of God” is not a metaphor. Innumerable declarations prove it to
be a consciousness as sharp as that which other men have, or think they
have, of colour, heat, or light. It is a well-known though usually
transitory experience in the religious life: like the homing instinct of
birds, a fact which can neither be denied nor explained. “How that presence
is felt, it may better be known by experience than by any writing,” says
Hilton, “for it is the life and the love, the might and the light, the joy
and the rest of a chosen soul. And therefore he that hath soothfastly once
felt it he may not forbear it without pain; he may not undesire it, it is so
good in itself and so comfortable. . . . He cometh privily sometimes when
thou art least aware of Him, but thou shalt well know Him or He go; for
wonderfully He stirreth and mightily He turneth thy heart into beholding of
His goodness, and doth thine heart melt delectably as wax against the fire
into softness of His love.” [494]

Modern psychologists have struggled hard to discredit this “sense of the
presence”; sometimes attributing it to the psychic mechanism of projection,
sometimes to “wish-fulfilments” of a more unpleasant origin. [495] The
mystics, however, who discriminate so much more delicately than their
critics between true and false transcendental experience, never feel any
doubt about its validity. Even when their experience seems inconsistent with
their theology, they refuse to be disturbed.

Thus St. Teresa writes of her own experience, with her usual simplicity and
directness, “In the beginning it happened to me that I was ignorant of one
thing—I did not know that God was in all things: and when He seemed to me to
be so near, I thought it impossible. Not to believe that He was present was
not in my power; for it seemed to me, as it were, evident that I felt there
His very presence. Some unlearned men used to say to me, that He was present
only by His grace. I could not believe that, because, as I am saying, He
seemed to me to be present Himself: so I was distressed. A most learned man,
of the Order of the glorious Patriarch St. Dominic, delivered me from this
doubt, for he told me that He was present, and how He communed with us: this
was a great comfort to me.” [496]

Again, “An interior peace, and the little strength which either pleasures or
displeasures have to remove this presence (during the time it lasts) of the
Three Persons, and that without power to doubt of it, continue in such a
manner that I clearly seem to experience what St. John says, That He will
dwell in the soul, and this not only by grace, but that He will also make
her perceive this presence.” [497] St. Teresa’s strong “immanental” bent
comes out well in this passage.

Such a sense of the divine presence may go side by side with the daily life
and normal mental activities of its possessor; who is not necessarily an
ecstatic or an abstracted visionary, remote from the work of the world. It
is true that the transcendental consciousness has now become, once for all,
his centre of interest, its perceptions and admonitions dominate and light
up his daily life. The object of education, in the Platonic sense, has been
achieved: his soul has “wheeled round from the perishing world” to “the
contemplation of the real world and the brightest part thereof.” [498] But
where vocation and circumstances require it, the duties of a busy outward
life continue to be fulfilled with steadiness and success: and this without
detriment to the soul’s contemplation of the Real.

In many temperaments of the unstable or artistic type, however, this
intuitional consciousness of the Absolute becomes ungovernable: it
constantly breaks through, obtaining forcible possession of the mental field
and expressing itself in the “psychic” phenomena of ecstasy and rapture. In
others, less mobile, it wells up into an impassioned apprehension, a “flame
of love” in which the self seems to “meet God in the ground of the soul.”
This is “pure contemplation”: that state of deep orison in which the subject
seems to be “seeing, feeling and thinking all at once.” By this spontaneous
exercise of all his powers under the dominion of love, the mystic attains
that “Vision of the Heart” which, “more interior, perhaps, than the visions
of dream or ecstasy,” [499] stretches to the full those very faculties which
it seems to be holding in suspense; as a top “sleeps” when it is spinning
fast. Ego dormio et cor meum vigilat . This act of contemplation, this glad
surrender to an overwhelming consciousness of the Presence of God, leaves no
sharp image on the mind: only a knowledge that we have been lifted up, to a
veritable gazing upon That which eye hath not seen.

St. Bernard gives in one of his sermons a simple, ingenuous and obviously
personal account of such “privy touchings,” such convincing but elusive
contacts of the soul with the Absolute. “Now bear with my foolishness for a
little,” he says, “for I wish to tell you, as I have promised, how such
events have taken place in me. It is, indeed, a matter of no importance. But
I put myself forward only that I may be of service to you; and if you derive
any benefit I am consoled for my egotism. If not, I shall but have displayed
my foolishness. I confess, then, though I say it in my foolishness, that the
Word has visited me, and even very often. But, though He has frequently
entered into my soul, I have never at any time been sensible of the precise
moment of His coming. I have felt that He was present, I remember that He
has been with me; I have sometimes been able even to have a presentiment
that He would come: but never to feel His coming nor His departure. For
whence He came to enter my soul, or whither He went on quitting it, by what
means He has made entrance or departure, I confess that I know not even to
this day; according to that which is said, Nescis unde veniat aut quo vadat
. Nor is this strange, because it is to Him that the psalmist has said in
another place, Vestigia tua non cognoscentur .

“It is not by the eyes that He enters, for He is without form or colour that
they can discern; nor by the ears, for His coming is without sound; nor by
the nostrils, for it is not with the air but with the mind that He is
blended. . . . By what avenue then has He entered? Or perhaps the fact may
be that He has not entered at all, nor indeed come at all from outside: for
not one of these things belongs to outside. Yet it has not come from within
me, for it is good, and I know that in me dwelleth no good thing. I have
ascended higher than myself, and lo! I have found the Word above me still.
My curiosity has led me to descend below myself also, and yet I have found
Him still at a lower depth. If I have looked without myself, I have found
that He is beyond that which is outside of me, and if within, He was at an
inner depth still. And thus have I learned the truth of the words I have
read, In ipso enim vivimus et movemur et sumus .” [500]

Such a lifting up, such a condition of consciousness as that which St.
Bernard is here trying to describe, seems to snatch the spirit for a moment
into a state which it is hard to distinguish from that of true “union.” This
is what the contemplatives call passive or infused contemplation, or
sometimes the “orison of union”: a brief foretaste of the Unitive State,
often enjoyed for short periods in the Illuminative Way, which reinforces
their conviction that they have now truly attained the Absolute. It is but a
foretaste, however, of that attainment: the precocious effort of a soul
still in that stage of “Enlightening” which the “Theologia Germanica”
declares to be “belonging to such as are growing.” [501]

This distinction between the temporary experience of union and the
achievement of the Unitive Life is well brought out in a fragment of
dialogue between Soul and Self in Hugh of St. Victor’s mystical tract, “De
Arrha Animae.”

The Soul says, “Tell me, what can be this thing of delight that merely by
its memory touches and moves me with such sweetness and violence that I am
drawn out of myself and carried away, I know not how? I am suddenly renewed:
I am changed: I am plunged into an ineffable peace. My mind is full of
gladness, all my past wretchedness and pain is forgot. My soul exults: my
intellect is illuminated: my heart is afire: my desires have become kindly
and gentle: I know not where I am, because my Love has embraced me. Also,
because my Love has embraced me I seem to have become possessed of
something, and I know not what it is; but I try to keep it, that I may never
lose it. My soul strives in gladness that she may not be separated from That
which she desires to hold fast for ever: as if she had found in it the goal
of all her desires. She exults in a sovereign and ineffable manner, seeking
nought, desiring nought, but to rest in this. Is this, then, my Beloved?
Tell me that I may know Him, and that if He come again I may entreat Him to
leave me not, but to stay with me for ever.”

Man says, “It is indeed thy Beloved who visits thee; but He comes in an
invisible shape, He comes disguised, He comes incomprehensibly. He comes to
touch thee, not to be seen of thee: to arouse thee, not to be comprehended
of thee. He comes not to give Himself wholly, but to be tasted by thee: not
to fulfil thy desire, but to lead upwards thy affection. He gives a
foretaste of His delights, brings not the plenitude of a perfect
satisfaction: and the earnest of thy betrothal consists chiefly in this,
that He who shall afterwards give Himself to be seen and possessed by thee
perpetually, now permits Himself to be sometimes tasted, that thou mayest
learn how sweet He is. This shall console thee for His absence: and the
savour of this gift shall keep thee from all despair.” [502]

The real distinction between the Illuminative and the Unitive Life is that
in Illumination the individuality of the subject—however profound his
spiritual consciousness, however close his apparent communion with the
Infinite—remains separate and intact. His heightened apprehension of reality
lights up rather than obliterates the rest of his life: and may even
increase his power of dealing adequately with the accidents of normal
existence. Thus Brother Lawrence found that his acute sense of reality, his
apprehension of the Presence of God, and the resulting detachment and
consciousness of liberty in regard to mundane things, upheld and assisted
him in the most unlikely tasks; as, for instance, when he was sent into
Burgundy to buy wine for his convent, “which was a very unwelcome task to
him, because he had no turn for business, and because he was lame, and could
not go about the boat but by rolling himself over the casks. That, however,
he gave himself no uneasiness about it, nor about the purchase of the wine.
That he said to God, It was His business he was about: and that he
afterwards found it very well performed. . . . So likewise in his business
in the kitchen, to which he had naturally a great aversion.” [503]

The mind, concentrated upon a higher object of interest, is undistracted by
its own anxieties, likes, or dislikes; and hence performs the more
efficiently the work that is given it to do. Where it does not do so, then
the normal make-up or imperfect discipline of the subject, rather than its
mystical proclivities, must be blamed. St. Catherine of Genoa found in this
divine companionship the power which made her hospital a success. St. Teresa
was an administrator of genius and an admirable housewife, and declared that
she found her God very easily amongst the pots and pans. [504] Appearances
notwithstanding, Mary would probably have been a better cook than Martha,
had circumstances required of her this form of activity.

In persons of feeble or diffuse intelligence, however, and above all in
victims of a self-regarding spirituality, this deep absorption in the sense
of Divine Reality may easily degenerate into monoideism. Then the “shady
side” of Illumination, a selfish preoccupation with transcendental joys, the
“spiritual gluttony” condemned by St. John of the Cross, comes out. “I made
many mistakes,” says Madame Guyon pathetically, “through allowing myself to
be too much taken up by my interior joys. . . . I used to sit in a corner
and work, but I could hardly do anything, because the strength of this
attraction made me let the work fall out of my hands. I spent hours in this
way without being able to open my eyes or to know what was happening to me:
so simply, so peacefully, so gently that sometimes I said to myself, ‘Can
heaven itself be more peaceful than I?’” [505]

Here we see Madame Guyon basking like a pious tabby cat in the beams of the
Uncreated Light, and already leaning to the extravagances of Quietism, with
its dangerous “double character of passivity and beatitude.” The heroic
aspect of the mystic vocation is in abeyance. Those mystical impressions
which her peculiar psychic make-up permitted her to receive, have been
treated as a source of personal and placid satisfactions; not as a
well-spring, whence new vitality might be drawn for great and self-giving

It has been claimed by the early biographers of St. Catherine of Genoa, that
she passed in the crisis of her conversion directly through the Purgative to
the Unitive Life; and never exhibited the characteristics of the
Illuminative Way. This has been effectually disproved by Baron von Hügel,
[506] though he too is inclined in her case to reject the usual sequence of
the mystic states. Yet the description of Catherine’s condition after her
four great penitential years were ended, as given in cap. vi. of the “Vita e
Dottrina,” is an almost perfect picture of healthy illumination of the
inward or “immanental” type; and makes an effective foil to the passage
which I have quoted from Madame Guyon’s life.

No doubt there were hours in which St. Catherine’s experience, as it were,
ran ahead; and she felt herself not merely lit up by the Indwelling Light,
but temporally merged in it. These moments are responsible for such passages
as the beautiful fragment in cap. v.; which does, when taken alone, seem to
describe the true unitive state. “Sometimes,” she said, “I do not see or
feel myself to have either soul, body, heart, will or taste, or any other
thing except Pure Love.” [507] Her normal condition of consciousness,
however, was clearly not yet that which Julian of Norwich calls being “oned
with bliss”; but rather an intense and continuous communion with an
objective Reality which was clearly realized as distinct from herself.
“After the aforesaid four years,” says the next chapter of the “Vita,”
“there was given unto her a purified mind, free, and filled with God:
insomuch that no other thing could enter into it. Thus, when she heard
sermons or Mass, so much was she absorbed in her interior feelings, that she
neither heard nor saw that which was said or done without. But within, in
the sweet divine light, she saw and heard other things, being wholly
absorbed by that interior light: and it was not in her power to act
otherwise.” St. Catherine, then, is still a spectator of the Absolute, does
not feel herself to be one with it. “And it is a marvellous thing that with
so great an interior recollection, the Lord never permitted her to go beyond
control. But when she was needed, she always came to herself: so that she
was able to reply to that which was asked of her: and the Lord so guided
her, that none could complain of her. And she had her mind so filled by Love
Divine, that conversation became hard to her: and by this continuous taste
and sense of God, several times she was so greatly transported, that she was
forced to hide herself, that she might not be seen.” It is clear, however,
that Catherine herself was aware of the transitory and imperfect nature of
this intensely joyous state. Her growing transcendental self, unsatisfied
with the sunshine of the Illuminative Way, the enjoyment of the riches of
God, already aspired to union with the Divine. With her, as with all truly
heroic souls, it was love for love, not love for joy. “She cried to God
because He gave her so many consolations, ‘Non voglio quello che esce da te,
ma sol voglio te, O dolce Amore !’” [508]

“Non voglio quello che esce da te.” When the growing soul has reached this
level of desire, the Illuminative Way is nearly at an end. It has seen the
goal, “that Country which is no mere vision, but a home,” [509] and is set
upon the forward march. So Rabia, the Moslem saint: “O my God, my concern
and my desire in this world, is that I should remember thee above all the
things of this world, and in the next that out of all who are in that world,
I should meet with thee alone.” [510] So Gertrude More: “No knowledge which
we can here have of thee can satisfy my soul seeking and longing without
ceasing after thee. . . . Alas, my Lord God, what is all thou canst give to
a loving soul which sigheth and panteth after thee alone, and esteemeth all
things as dung that she may gain thee? What is all I say, whilst thou givest
not thyself, who art that one thing which is only necessary and which alone
can satisfy our souls? Was it any comfort to St. Mary Magdalen, when she
sought thee, to find two angels which presented themselves instead of thee?
verily I cannot think it was any joy unto her. For that soul that hath set
her whole love and desire on thee can never find any true satisfaction but
only in thee.” [511]

What is the nature of this mysterious mystic illumination? Apart from the
certitude it imparts, what is the form which it most usually assumes in the
consciousness of the self? The illuminatives seem to assure us that its
apparently symbolic name is really descriptive; that they do experience a
kind of radiance, a flooding of the personality with new light. A new sun
rises above the horizon, and transfigures their twilit world. Over and over
again they return to light-imagery in this connection. Frequently, as in
their first conversion, they report an actual and overpowering consciousness
of radiant light, ineffable in its splendour, as an accompaniment of their
inward adjustment.

“Sopr’ onne lengua amore,

bontá senza figura,

lume fuor di mesura

resplende nel mio core,” [512]

sang Jacopone da Todi. “Light rare, untellable!” said Whitman. “The flowing
light of the Godhead,” said Mechthild of Magdeburg, trying to describe what
it was that made the difference between her universe and that of normal men.
“Lux vixens dicit,” said St. Hildegarde of her revelations, which she
described as appearing in a special light, more brilliant than the
brightness round the sun. [513] It is an “infused brightness,” says St.
Teresa, “a light which knows no night; but rather, as it is always light,
nothing ever disturbs it.” [514]

“De subito parve giorno a giorno

essere aggiunto!”

exclaims Dante, initiated into the atmosphere of heaven; “Lume è lassù”is
his constant declaration:

“Cio ch’ io dico è un semplice lume,”

his last word, in the effort to describe the soul’s apprehension of the
Being of God. [515]

It really seems as though the mystics’ attainment of new levels of
consciousness did bring with it the power of perceiving a splendour always
there, but beyond the narrow range of our poor sight; to which it is only a
“luminous darkness” at the best. “In Eternal Nature, or the kingdom of
Heaven,” said Law, “materiality stands in life and light.” [516] The
cumulative testimony on this point is such as would be held to prove, in any
other department of knowledge, that there is indeed an actual light,
“lighting the very light” and awaiting the recognition of men. [517]

Consider the accent of realism with which St. Augustine speaks of his own
experience of Platonic contemplation; a passage in which we seem to see a
born psychologist desperately struggling by means of negations to describe
an intensely positive state. “I entered into the secret closet of my soul,
led by Thee; and this I could do because Thou wast my helper. I entered, and
beheld with the mysterious eye of my soul the Light that never changes,
above the eye of my soul, above my intelligence. It was not the common light
which all flesh can see, nor was it greater yet of the same kind, as if the
light of day were to grow brighter and brighter and flood all space. It was
not like this, but different: altogether different from all such things. Nor
was it above my intelligence in the same way as oil is above water, or
heaven above earth; but it was higher because it made me, and I was lower
because made by it. He who knoweth the truth knoweth that Light: and who
knoweth it, knoweth eternity. Love knoweth it.” [518]

Here, as in the cases of St. Teresa, St. Catherine of Genoa, and Jacopone da
Todi, we have a characteristically “immanental” description of the
illuminated state. The self, by the process which mystics call
“introversion,” the deliberate turning inwards of its attention, its
conative powers, discerns Reality within the heart: “the rippling tide of
love which flows secretly from God into the soul, and draws it mightily back
into its source.” [519] But the opposite or transcendental tendency is not
less frequent. The cosmic vision of Infinity, exterior to the subject—the
expansive, outgoing movement towards a Divine Light,

“Che visible face

lo Creatore a quella creatura,

che solo in lui vedere ha la sua pace,” [520]

wholly other than anything the earth-born creature can conceive—the strange,
formless absorption in the Divine Dark to which the soul is destined to
ascend—all these modes of perception are equally characteristic of the
Illuminative Way. As in conversion, so here Reality may be apprehended in
either transcendent or immanent, positive or negative terms. It is both near
and far; “closer to us than our most inward part, and higher than our
highest”; [521] and for some selves that which is far is easiest to find. To
a certain type of mind, the veritable practice of the Presence of God is not
the intimate and adorable companionship of the personal Comrade or the
Inward Light, but the awestruck contemplation of the Absolute, the “naked
Godhead,” source and origin of all that Is. It is an ascent to the supernal
plane of perception, where “the simple, absolute and unchangeable mysteries
of heavenly Truth lie hidden in the dazzling obscurity of the secret
Silence, outshining all brilliance with the intensity of their darkness, and
surcharging our blinded intellects with the utterly impalpable and invisible
fairness of glories which exceed all beauty.” [522]

With such an experience of eternity, such a vision of the triune
all-including Absolute which “binds the Universe with love,” Dante ends his
“Divine Comedy”: and the mystic joy with which its memory fills him is his
guarantee that he has really seen the Inviolate Rose, the flaming heart of

“O abbondante grazia, ond’ io presunsi

ficcar lo viso per la luce eterna

tanto che la veduta vi consunsi!

Nel suo profondo vidi che s’ interna,

legato con amore in un volume,

ciò che per l’universo si squaderna;

Sustanzia ed accidenti, e lor costume,

quasi conflati insieme per tal modo

che ciò ch’ io dico è un semplice lume.

La forma universal di questo nodo

credo ch’ io vidi, perchè più di largo,

dicendo questo, mi sento ch’ io godo.

. . . . .

O, quanto è corto il dire, e come fioco

al mio concetto! e questo, a quel ch’ io vidi,

è tanto che non basta a dicer poco.

O luce eterna, che sola in te sidi,

sola t’ intendi, e, da te intelletta

ed intendente te, ami ed arridi!” [523]

In Dante, the transcendent and impersonal aspect of illumination is seen in
its most exalted form. It seems at first sight almost impossible to find
room within the same system for this expansive vision of the
Undifferentiated Light and such intimate and personal apprehensions of Deity
as Lady Julian’s conversations with her “courteous and dearworthy Lord,” or
St. Catherine’s companionship with Love Divine. Yet all these are really
reports of the same psychological state: describe the attainment by selves
of different types, of the same stage in the soul’s progressive apprehension
of reality.

In a wonderful passage, unique in the literature of mysticism, Angela of
Foligno has reported the lucid vision in which she perceived this truth: the
twofold revelation of an Absolute at once humble and omnipotent, personal
and transcendent—the unimaginable synthesis of “unspeakable power” and “deep

“The eyes of my soul were opened, and I beheld the plenitude of God, wherein
I did comprehend the whole world, both here and beyond the sea, and the
abyss and ocean and all things. In all these things I beheld naught save the
divine power, in a manner assuredly indescribable; so that through excess of
marvelling the soul cried with a loud voice, saying ‘This whole world is
full of God!’ [524] Wherefore I now comprehended how small a thing is the
whole world, that is to say both here and beyond the seas, the abyss, the
ocean, and all things; and that the Power of God exceeds and fills all. Then
He said unto me: ‘I have shown thee something of My Power,’ and I
understood, that after this I should better understand the rest. He then
said ‘Behold now My humility.’ Then was I given an insight into the deep
humility of God towards man. And comprehending that unspeakable power and
beholding that deep humility, my soul marvelled greatly, and did esteem
itself to be nothing at all.” [525]

It must never be forgotten that all apparently one-sided descriptions of
illumination—more, all experiences of it—are governed by temperament. “That
Light whose smile kindles the Universe” is ever the same; but the self
through whom it passes, and by whom we must receive its report, has already
submitted to the moulding influences of environment and heredity, Church and
State. The very language of which that self avails itself in its struggle
for expression, links it with half a hundred philosophies and creeds. The
response which it makes to Divine Love will be the same in type as the
response which its nature would make to earthly love: but raised to the n th
degree. We, receiving the revelation, receive with it all those elements
which the subject has contributed in spite of itself. Hence the soul’s
apprehension of Divine Reality may take almost any form, from the
metaphysical ecstasies which we find in Dionysius, and to a less degree in
St. Augustine, to the simple, almost “common-sense” statements of Brother
Lawrence, the emotional ardours of St. Gertrude, or the lovely intimacies of
Julian or Mechthild.

Sometimes—so rich and varied does the nature of the great mystic tend to
be—the exalted and impersonal language of the Dionysian theology goes, with
no sense of incongruity, side by side with homely parallels drawn from the
most sweet and common incidents of daily life. Suso, in whom illumination
and purgation existed side by side for sixteen years, alternately obtaining
possession of the mental field, and whose oscillations between the harshest
mortification and the most ecstatic pleasure-states were exceptionally
violent and swift, is a characteristic instance of such an attitude of mind.
His illumination was largely of the intimate and immanental type; but, as we
might expect in a pupil of Eckhart, it was not without touches of mystical
transcendence, which break out with sudden splendour side by side with those
tender and charming passages in which the Servitor of the Eternal Wisdom
tries to tell his love.

Thus, he describes in one of the earlier chapters of his life how “whilst he
was thinking, according to his custom, of the most lovable Wisdom, he
questioned himself, and interrogated his heart, which sought persistently
for love, saying, ‘O my heart, whence comes this love and grace, whence
comes this gentleness and beauty, this joy and sweetness of the heart? Does
not all this flow forth from the Godhead, as from its origin? Come! let my
heart, my senses and my soul immerse themselves in the deep Abyss whence
come these adorable things. What shall keep me back? To-day I will embrace
you, even as my burning heart desires to do.’ And at this moment there was
within his heart as it were an emanation of all good, all that is beautiful,
all that is lovable and desirable was there spiritually present, and this in
a manner which cannot be expressed. Whence came the habit that every time he
heard God’s praises sung or said, he recollected himself in the depths of
his heart and soul, and thought on that Beloved Object, whence comes all
love. It is impossible to tell how often, with eyes filled with tears and
open heart, he has embraced his sweet Friend, and pressed Him to a heart
overflowing with love. He was like a baby which a mother holds upright on
her knees, supporting it with her hands beneath its arms. The baby, by the
movements of its little head, and all its little body, tries to get closer
and closer to its dear mother, and shows by its little laughing gestures the
gladness in its heart. Thus did the heart of the Servitor ever seek the
sweet neighbourhood of the Divine Wisdom, and thus he was as it were
altogether filled with delight.” [526]

2. The Illuminated Vision of the World

Closely connected with the sense of the “Presence of God,” or power of
perceiving the Absolute, is the complementary mark of the illuminated
consciousness; the vision of “a new heaven and a new earth,” or an added
significance and reality in the phenomenal world. Such words as those of
Julian, “God is all thing that is good as to my sight, and the goodness that
all thing hath, it is He,” [527] seem to supply the link between the two.
Here again we must distinguish carefully between vaguely poetic
language—“the light that never was,” “every common bush afire with God”—and
descriptions which can be referred to a concrete and definite psychological
experience. This experience, at its best, balances and completes the
experience of the Presence of God at its best. That is to say, its “note” is
sacramental, not ascetic. It entails the expansion rather than the
concentration of consciousness; the discovery of the Perfect One
self-revealed in the Many, not the forsaking of the Many in order to find
the One. Its characteristic expression is—

“The World is charged with the grandeur of God;

It will flame out, like shining from shook foil,”

not “turn thy thoughts into thy own soul, where He is hid.” It takes, as a
rule, the form of an enhanced mental lucidity—an abnormal sharpening of the
senses—whereby an ineffable radiance, a beauty and a reality never before
suspected, are perceived by a sort of clairvoyance shining in the meanest

“From the moment in which the soul has received the impression of Deity in
infused orison,” says Malaval, “she sees Him everywhere, by one of love’s
secrets which is only known of those who have experienced it. The simple
vision of pure love, which is marvellously penetrating, does not stop at the
outer husk of creation: it penetrates to the divinity which is hidden
within.” [528]

Thus Browning makes David declare—

“I but open my eyes,—and perfection, no more and no less

In the kind I imagined full-fronts me, and God is seen God

In the star, in the stone, in the flesh, in the soul and the clod.” [529]

Blake’s “To see a world in a grain of sand,” Tennyson’s “Flower in the
crannied wall,” Vaughan’s “Each bush and oak doth know I AM,” and the like,
are exact though over-quoted reports of “things seen” in this state of
consciousness, this “simple vision of pure love”: the value of which is
summed up in Eckhart’s profound saying, “The meanest thing that one knows in
God—for instance if one could understand a flower as it has its Being in
God—this would be a higher thing than the whole world!” [530] Mystical poets
of the type of Wordsworth and Walt Whitman seem to possess in a certain
degree this form of illumination. It is this which Bucke, the American
psychologist, analysed under the name of “Cosmic Consciousness.” [531] It is
seen at its full development in the mystical experiences of Boehme, Fox, and

We will take first the experience of Jacob Boehme, a mystic who owed little
or nothing to the influence of tradition, and who furnishes one of the best
recorded all-round examples of mystical illumination; exhibiting, along with
an acute consciousness of divine companionship, all those phenomena of
visual lucidity, automatism, and enhanced intellectual powers which properly
belong to it, but are seldom developed simultaneously in the same

In Boehme’s life, as described in the Introduction to the English
translation of his collected works, [532] there were three distinct onsets
of illumination; all of the pantheistic and external type. In the first,
which seems to have happened whilst he was very young, we are told that “he
was surrounded by a divine Light for seven days, and stood in the highest
contemplation and Kingdom of Joy.” This we may perhaps identify with
mystical awakening, of the kind experienced by Suso. About the year 1600
occurred the second illumination, initiated by a trance-like state of
consciousness, the result of gazing at a polished disc. To this I have
already referred. [533] This experience brought with it that peculiar and
lucid vision of the inner reality of the phenomenal world in which, as he
says, “he looked into the deepest foundations of things.” “He believed that
it was only a fancy, and in order to banish it from his mind he went out
upon the green. But here he remarked that he gazed into the very heart of
things, the very herbs and grass, and that actual Nature harmonized with
what he had inwardly seen.” [534] Of this same experience and the
clairvoyance which accompanied it, another biographer says, “Going abroad in
the fields to a green before Neys Gate, at Görlitz, he there sat down, and,
viewing the herbs and grass of the field in his inward light, he saw into
their essences, use and properties, which were discovered to him by their
lineaments, figures and signatures. . . . In the unfolding of these
mysteries before his understanding, he had a great measure of joy, yet
returned home and took care of his family and lived in great peace and
silence, scarce intimating to any these wonderful things that had befallen
him.” [535]

So far as we can tell from his own scattered statements, from this time
onwards Boehme must have enjoyed a frequent and growing consciousness of the
transcendental world: though there is evidence that he, like all other
mystics, knew seasons of darkness, “many a shrewd Repulse,” and times of
struggle with that “powerful contrarium” the lower consciousness. In
1610—perhaps as the result of such intermittent struggles—the vivid
illumination of ten years before was repeated in an enhanced form: and it
was in consequence of this, and in order that there might be some record of
the mysteries upon which he had gazed, that he wrote his first and most
difficult book, the “Aurora,” or “Morning Redness.” The passage in which the
“inspired shoemaker” has tried to tell us what his vision of Reality was
like, to communicate something of the grave and enthusiastic travail of his
being, the unspeakable knowledge of things which he attained, is one of
those which arouse in all who have even the rudiments of mystical perception
the sorrow and excitement of exiles who suddenly hear the accents of home.
Like absolute music, it addresses itself to the whole being, not merely to
the intellect. Those who will listen and be receptive will find themselves
repaid by a strange sense of extended life, an exhilarating consciousness of
truth. Here, if ever, is a man who is struggling to “speak as he saw”: and
it is plain that he saw much—as much, perhaps, as Dante, though he lacked
the poetic genius which was needed to give his vision an intelligible form.
The very strangeness of the phrasing, the unexpected harmonies and
dissonances which worry polite and well-regulated minds, are earnests of the
Spirit of Life crying out for expression from within. Boehme, like Blake,
seems “drunk with intellectual vision”—“a God-intoxicated man.”

“In this my earnest and Christian Seeking and Desire,” he says, “(wherein I
suffered many a shrewd Repulse, but at last resolved rather to put myself in
Hazard, than give over and leave off) the Gate was opened to me, that in one
Quarter of an Hour I saw and knew more than if I had been many years
together at an University, at which I exceedingly admired, and thereupon
turned my Praise to God for it. For I saw and knew the Being of all Beings,
the Byss and the Abyss, and the Eternal Generation of the Holy Trinity, the
Descent and Original of the World, and of all creatures through the Divine
Wisdom: knew and saw in myself all the three Worlds, namely, The Divine,
angelical and paradisical; and the dark World, the Original of the Nature to
the Fire; and then, thirdly, the external; and visible World, being a
Procreation or external Birth from both the internal and spiritual Worlds.
And I saw and knew the whole working Essence in the Evil and the Good, and
the Original and Existence of each of them; and likewise how the fruitful
bearing Womb of Eternity brought forth. . . . Yet however I must begin to
labour in these great mysteries, as a Child that goes to School. I saw it as
in a great Deep in the Internal. For I had a thorough view of the Universe,
as in a Chaos, wherein all things are couched and wrapped up, but it was
impossible for me to explain the same. Yet it opened itself to me, from Time
to Time, as in a Young Plant; though the same was with me for the space of
twelve years, and as it was as it were breeding, and I found a powerful
Instigation within me, before I could bring it forth into external Form of
Writing: and whatever I could apprehend with the external Principle of my
mind, that I wrote down.” [536]

Close to this lucid vision of the reality of things—this sudden glimpse of
the phenomenal in the light of the intelligible world—is George Fox’s
experience at the age of twenty-four, as recorded in his Journal. [537]
Here, as in Boehme’s case, it is clear that a previous and regrettable
acquaintance with the “doctrine of signatures” has to some extent determined
the language and symbols under which he describes his intuitive vision of
actuality as it exists in the Divine Mind.

“Now was I come up in spirit through the flaming sword into the Paradise of
God. All things were new: and all the creation gave another smell unto me
than before, beyond what words can utter. . . . The creation was opened to
me; and it was showed me how all things had their names given them,
according to their nature and virtue. And I was at a stand in my mind
whether I should practise physic for the good of mankind, seeing the nature
and virtue of the creatures were so opened to me by the Lord. . . . Great
things did the Lord lead me unto, and wonderful depths were opened unto me
beyond what can by words be declared; but as people come into subjection to
the Spirit of God, and grow up in the image and power of the Almighty, they
may receive the word of wisdom that opens all things, and come to know the
hidden unity in the Eternal Being.”

“To know the hidden unity in the Eternal Being”—know it with an invulnerable
certainty, in the all-embracing act of consciousness with which we are aware
of the personality of those we truly love—is to live at its fullest the
Illuminated Life, enjoying “all creatures in God and God in all
creatures.” Lucidity of this sort seemes to be an enormously enhanced form
of the poetic consciousness of “otherness” in natural things—the sense of a
unity in separateness, a mighty and actual Life beyond that which eye can
see, a glorious reality shining through the phenomenal veil—frequent in
those temperaments which are at one with life. The self then becomes
conscious of the living reality of that World of Becoming, the vast arena of
the Divine creativity, in which the little individual life is immersed.
Alike in howling gale and singing cricket it hears the crying aloud of that
“Word which is through all things everlastingly.” It participates, actively
and open-eyed, in the mighty journey of the Son towards the Father’s heart:
and seeing with purged sight all things and creatures as they are in that
transcendent order, detects in them too that striving of Creation to return
to its centre which is the secret of the Universe.

A harmony is thus set up between the mystic and Life in all its forms.
Undistracted by appearance, he sees, feels, and knows it in one piercing act
of loving comprehension. “And the bodily sight stinted,” says Julian, “but
the spiritual sight dwelled in mine understanding, and I abode with reverent
dread joying in that I saw.” [538] The heart outstrips the clumsy senses,
and sees—perhaps for an instant, perhaps for long periods of bliss—an
undistorted and more veritable world. All things are perceived in the light
of charity, and hence under the aspect of beauty: for beauty is simply
Reality seen with the eyes of love. As in the case of another and more
beatific Vision, essere in caritate è qui necesse [539] For such a reverent
and joyous sight the meanest accidents of life are radiant. The London
streets are paths of loveliness; the very omnibuses look like coloured
archangels, their laps filled full of little trustful souls.

Often when we blame our artists for painting ugly things, they are but
striving to show us a beauty to which we are blind. They have gone on ahead
of us, and attained that state of “fourfold vision to which Blake laid
claim; in which the visionary sees the whole visible universe transfigured,
because he has “put off the rotten rags of sense and memory,” and “put on
Imagination uncorrupt.” [540] In this state of lucidity symbol and reality,
Nature and Imagination, are seen to be One: and in it are produced all the
more sublime works of art, since these owe their greatness to the impact of
Reality upon the artistic mind. “I know,” says Blake again, “that this world
is a world of imagination and vision. I see everything I paint in this
world, but everybody does not see alike. To the eye of a miser a guinea is
far more beautiful than the sun and a bag worn with the use of money has
more beautiful proportions than a vine filled with grapes. The tree which
moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing which
stands in the way. Some see Nature all ridicule and deformity, and by these
I shall not regulate my proportions; and some scarce see Nature at all. But
to the eyes of the man of imagination Nature is Imagination itself. As a man
is, so he sees. As the eye is formed, such are its powers. You certainly
mistake, when you say that the visions of fancy are not to be found in this
world. To me this world is all one continued vision of fancy or imagination,
and I feel flattered when I am told so.” [541]

If the Mystic Way be considered as an organic process of transcendence, this
illuminated apprehension of things, this cleansing of the doors of
perception, is surely what we might expect to occur as man moves towards
higher centres of consciousness. It marks the self’s growth towards free and
conscious participation in the Absolute Life; its progressive appropriation
of that life by means of the contact which exists in the deeps of man’s
being—the ground or spark of the soul—between the subject and the
transcendental world. The surface intelligence, purified from the domination
of the senses, is invaded more and more by the transcendent personality; the
“New Man” who is by nature a denizen of the independent spiritual world, and
whose destiny, in mystical language, is a “return to his Origin.” Hence an
inflow of new vitality, a deeper and wider apprehension of the mysterious
world in which man finds himself, an exaltation of his intuitive powers.

In such moments of clear sight and enhanced perception as that which Blake
and Boehme describe, the mystic and the artist do really see sub specie
aeternitatis the Four-fold River of Life—that World of Becoming in which, as
Erigena says, “Every visible and invisible creature is a theophany or
appearance of God”— as all perhaps might see it, if prejudice, selfhood, or
other illusion did not distort our sight. From this loving vision there
comes very often that beautiful sympathy with, that abnormal power over, all
living natural things, which crops up again and again in the lives of the
mystical saints; to amaze the sluggish minds of common men, barred by “the
torrent of Use and Wont” [542] from all free and deep communion alike with
their natural and supernatural origin.

Yet it is surely not very amazing that St. Francis of Assisi, feeling and
knowing—not merely “believing”—that every living creature was veritably and
actually a “theophany or appearance of God,” should have been acutely
conscious that he shared with these brothers and sisters of his the great
and lovely life of the All. Nor, this being so, can we justly regard him as
eccentric because he acted in accordance with his convictions, preached to
his little sisters the birds, [543] availed himself of the kindly offices of
the falcon, [544] enjoyed the friendship of the pheasant, [545] soothed the
captured turtledoves, his “simple-minded sisters, innocent and chaste,”
[546] or persuaded his Brother Wolf to a better life. [547]

The true mystic, so often taunted with “a denial of the world,” does but
deny the narrow and artificial world of self: and finds in exchange the
secrets of that mighty universe which he shares with Nature and with God.
Strange contacts, unknown to those who only lead the life of sense, are set
up between his being and the being of all other things. In that remaking of
his consciousness which follows upon the “mystical awakening,” the deep and
primal life which he shares with all creation has been roused from its
sleep. Hence the barrier between human and non-human life, which makes man a
stranger on earth as well as in heaven, is done away. Life now whispers to
his life: all things are his intimates, and respond to his fraternal

Thus it seems quite a simple and natural thing to the Little Poor Man of
Assisi, whose friend the pheasant preferred his cell to “the haunts more
natural to its state,” that he should be ambassador from the terrified folk
of Gubbio to his formidable brother the Wolf. The result of the interview,
reduced to ordinary language, could be paralleled in the experience of many
persons who have possessed this strange and incommunicable power over animal

“O wondrous thing! whereas St. Francis had made the sign of the Cross, right
so the terrible wolf shut his jaws and stayed his running: and when he was
bid, came gently as a lamb and laid him down at the feet of St. Francis. . .
. And St. Francis stretching forth his hand to take pledge of his troth, the
wolf lifted up his right paw before him and laid it gently on the hand of
St. Francis, giving thereby such sign of good faith as he was able. Then
quoth St. Francis, ‘Brother Wolf, I bid thee in the name of Jesu Christ come
now with me, nothing doubting, and let us go stablish this peace in God’s
name.’ And the wolf obedient set forth with him, in fashion as a gentle
lamb; whereat the townsfolk made mighty marvel, beholding. . . . And
thereafter this same wolf lived two years in Agobio; and went like a tame
beast in and out the houses from door to door, without doing hurt to any, or
any doing hurt to him, and was courteously nourished by the people; and as
he passed thus wise through the country and the houses, never did any dog
bark behind him. At length after a two years space, brother wolf died of old
age: whereat the townsfolk sorely grieved, sith marking him pass so gently
through the city, they minded them the better of the virtue and the sanctity
of St. Francis.” [548]

In another mystic, less familiar than St. Francis to English readers—Rose of
Lima, the Peruvian saint—this deep sympathy with natural things assumed a
particularly lovely form. To St. Rose the whole world was a holy fairyland,
in which it seemed to her that every living thing turned its face towards
Eternity and joined in her adoration of God. It is said in her biography
that “when at sunrise, she passed through the garden to go to her retreat,
she called upon nature to praise with her the Author of all things. Then the
trees were seen to bow as she passed by, and clasp their leaves together,
making a harmonious sound. The flowers swayed upon their stalks, and opened
their blossoms that they might scent the air; thus according to their manner
praising God. At the same time the birds began to sing, and came and perched
upon the hands and shoulders of Rose. The insects greeted her with a joyous
murmur, and all which had life and movement joined in the concert of praise
she addressed to the Lord.” [549]

Again—and here we catch an echo of the pure Franciscan spirit, the gaiety of
the Troubadours of God—during her last Lent, “each evening at sunset a
little bird with an enchanting voice came and perched upon a tree beside her
window, and waited till she gave the sign to him to sing. Rose, as soon as
she saw her little feathered chorister, made herself ready to sing the
praises of God, and challenged the bird to this musical duel in a song which
she had composed for this purpose. ‘Begin, dear little bird,’ she said,
‘begin thy lovely song! Let thy little throat, so full of sweet melodies,
pour them forth: that together we may praise the Lord. Thou dost praise thy
Creator, I my sweet Saviour: thus we together bless the Deity. Open thy
little beak, begin and I will follow thee: and our voices shall blend in a
song of holy joy.’

“At once the little bird began to sing, running through his scale to the
highest note. Then he ceased, that the saint might sing in her turn . . .
thus did they celebrate the greatness of God, turn by turn, for a whole
hour: and with such perfect order, that when the bird sang Rose said
nothing, and when she sang in her turn the bird was silent, and listened to
her with a marvellous attention. At last, towards the sixth hour, the saint
dismissed him, saying, ‘Go, my little chorister, go, fly far away. But
blessed be my God who never leaves me!’’’ [550]

The mystic whose illumination takes such forms as these, who feels with this
intensity and closeness the bond of love which “binds in one book the
scattered leaves of all the universe,” dwells in a world unknown to other
men. He pierces the veil of imperfection, and beholds Creation with the
Creator’s eye. The “Pattern is shown him in the Mount.” “The whole
consciousness,” says Récéjac, “is flooded with light to unknown depths,
under the gaze of love, from which nothing escapes. In this stage, intensity
of vision and sureness of judgment are equal: and the things which the seer
brings back with him when he returns to common life are not merely partial
impressions, or the separate knowledge of ‘science’ or ‘poetry.’ They are
rather truths which embrace the world, life and conduct: in a word, the
whole consciousness .” [551]

It is curious to note in those diagrams of experience which we have
inherited from the more clear-sighted philosophers and seers, indications
that they have enjoyed prolonged or transitory periods of this higher
consciousness; described by Récéjac as the marriage of imaginative vision
with moral transcendence. I think it at least a reasonable supposition that
Plato’s doctrine of Ideas owed something to an intuition of this kind; for a
philosophy, though it may claim to be the child of pure reason, is usually
found to owe its distinctive character to the philosopher’s psychological
experience. The Platonic statements as to the veritable existence of the
Idea of a house, a table, or a bed, and other such concrete and practical
applications of the doctrine of the ideal, which have annoyed many
metaphysicians, become explicable on such a psychological basis. That
illuminated vision in which “all things are made new” can afford to embrace
the homeliest as well as the sublimest things; and, as a matter of
experience, it does do this, seeing all objects, as Monet saw the hayrick,
as “modes of light.” Blake said that his cottage at Felpham was a shadow of
the angels’ houses, [552] and I have already referred to the converted
Methodist who saw his horses and hogs on the ideal plane. [553]

Again, when Plotinus, who is known to have experienced ecstatic states,
speaks with the assurance of an explorer of an “intelligible world,” and
asks us, “What other fire could be a better image of the fire which is
there, than the fire which is here? Or what other earth than this, of the
earth which is there?” [554] we seem to detect behind the language of
Neoplatonic philosophy a hint of the same type of first-hand experience. The
minds to whom we owe the Hebrew Kabalah found room for it too in their
diagram of the soul’s ascent towards Reality. The first “Sephira” above
Malkuth, the World of Matter, or lowest plane upon that Tree of Life which
is formed by the ten emanations of the Godhead is, they say, “Yesod,” the
“archetypal universe.” In this are contained the realities, patterns, or
Ideas, whose shadows constitute the world of appearance in which we dwell.
The path of the ascending soul upon the Tree of Life leads him first from
Malkuth to Yesod: i.e. , human consciousness in the course of its
transcendence passes from the normal illusions of men to a deeper perception
of its environment—a perception which is symbolized by the “archetypal
plane” or world of Platonic Ideas. “Everything in temporal nature,” says
William Law, “is descended out of that which is eternal, and stands as a
palpable visible outbirth of it, so when we know how to separate the
grossness, death, and darkness of time from it, we find what it is in its
eternal state. . . . In Eternal Nature, or the Kingdom of Heaven,
materiality stands in life and light; it is the light’s glorious Body, or
that garment wherewith light is clothed, and therefore has all the
properties of light in it, and only differs from light as it is its
brightness and beauty, as the holder and displayer of all its colours,
powers, and virtues.” [555] When Law wrote this, he may have believed that
he was interpreting to English readers the unique message of his master,
Jacob Boehme. As a matter of fact he was reiterating truths which a long
line of practical mystics had been crying for centuries into the deaf ears
of mankind. He was saying in the eighteenth century what Gregory of Nyssa
had said in the fourth and Erigena in the ninth; telling the secret of that
“Inviolate Rose” which can never be profaned because it can only be seen
with the eyes of love.

That serene and illuminated consciousness of the relation of things inward
and outward—of the Hidden Treasure and its Casket, the energizing Absolute
and its expression in Time and Space—which we have been studying in this
chapter, is at its best a state of fine equilibrium; a sane adjustment of
the inner and outer life. By that synthesis of love and will which is the
secret of the heart, the mystic achieves a level of perception in which the
whole world is seen and known in God, and God is seen and known in the whole
world. It is a state of exalted emotion: being produced by love, of
necessity it produces love in its turn. The sharp division between its
inlooking and outlooking forms which I have adopted for convenience of
description, is seldom present to the minds which achieve it. They,
“cleansed, fed, and sanctified,” are initiated into a spiritual universe
where such clumsy distinctions have little meaning. All is alike part of the
“new life” of peaceful charity: and that progressive abolition of selfhood
which is of the essence of mystical development, is alone enough to prevent
them from drawing a line between the inward personal companionship and
outward impersonal apprehension of the Real. True Illumination, like all
real and vital experience, consists rather in the breathing of a certain
atmosphere, the living at certain levels of consciousness, than in the
acquirement of specific information. It is, as it were, a resting-place upon
“the steep stairway of love”; where the self turns and sees all about it a
transfigured universe, radiant with that same Light Divine which nests in
its own heart and leads it on.

“When man’s desires are fixed immovably on his Maker as far as for
deadliness and corruption of the flesh he is let,” says Rolle of the
purified soul which has attained the illuminated state, “then it is no
marvel that his strength manly using, first as it were heaven being opened,
with his understanding he beholds high heavenly citizens; and afterwards
sweetest heat, as it were burning fire, he feels. Then with marvellous
sweetness he is taught, and so forth in songful noise he is joyed. This,
therefore, is perfect charity, which no man knows but he that hath it took.
And he that it has taken, it never leaves: sweetly he lives and sickerly he
shall die.” [556]

Sweetly, it is true, the illuminated mystic may live; but not, as some
think, placidly. Enlightenment is a symptom of growth: and growth is a
living process, which knows no rest. The spirit, indeed, is invaded by a
heavenly peace; but it is the peace, not of idleness, but of ordered
activity. “A rest most busy,” in Hilton’s words: a progressive appropriation
of the Divine. The urgent push of an indwelling spirit, aspiring to its home
in the heart of Reality, is felt more and more, as the invasion of the
normal consciousnesss by the transcendental personality—the growth of the
New Man—proceeds towards its term.

Therefore the great seekers for reality are not as a rule long delayed by
the exalted joys of Illumination. Intensely aware now of the Absolute Whom
they adore, they are aware too that though known He is unachieved. Even
whilst they enjoy the rapture of the Divine Presence—of life in a divine,
ideal world—something, they feel, makes default. Sol voglio Te, O dolce
Amore. Hence for them that which they now enjoy, and which passes the
understanding of other men, is not a static condition; often it coexists
with that travail of the heart which Tauler has called “stormy love.” The
greater the mystic, the sooner he realizes that the Heavenly Manna which has
been administered to him is not yet That with which the angels are full fed.
Nothing less will do: and for him the progress of illumination is a
progressive consciousness that he is destined not for the sunny shores of
the spiritual universe, but for “the vast and stormy sea of the divine.”

“Here,” says Ruysbroeck of the soul which has been lit by the Uncreated
Light, “there begins an eternal hunger, which shall never more be satisfied.
It is the inward craving and hankering of the affective power and created
spirit after an Uncreated Good. And as the spirit longs for fruition, and is
invited and urged thereto by God, she must always desire to attain it.
Behold! here begin an eternal craving and continual yearning in eternal
insatiableness! These men are poor indeed: for they are hungry and greedy,
and their hunger is insatiable! Whatsoever they eat and drink they shall
never be satisfied, for this hunger is eternal. . . . Here are great dishes
of food and drink, of which none know but those who taste them; but full
satisfaction in fruition is the one dish that lacks them, and this is why
their hunger is ever renewed. Nevertheless in this contact rivers of honey
full of all delight flow forth; for the spirit tastes these riches under
every mode that it can conceive or apprehend. But all this is according to
the manner of the creatures, and is below God: and hence there remains an
eternal hunger and impatience. If God gave to such a man all the gifts which
all the saints possess, and all that He is able to give, but without giving
Himself, the craving desire of the spirit would remain hungry and
unsatisfied.” [557]

[477] For the relation between catharsis and poetic and mystical knowledge,
see Bremond, “Prière et Poesie,” caps xvi. and xvii.

[478] Plotinus, Ennead vi. 9. Compare with this image of the rhythmic dance
of things about a divine Corypheus in the midst, those passages in the
Apocryphal “Hymn of Jesus” where the Logos or Christ, standing within the
circle of disciples, says, “I am the Word who did play and dance all
things,” “Now answer to My dancing,” “Understand by dancing what I do.”
Again, “Who danceth not knoweth not what is being done.” “I would pipe,
dance ye all!” and presently the rubric declares, “All whose Nature is to
dance, doth dance!” (See Dr. M. R. James, “Apocrypha Anecdota,” series 2;
and G. R. S. Mead, “Echoes from the Gnosis: the Dance of Jesus.” Compare
supra, p. 134.)

[479] For instance, Keats Shelley, Wordsworth, Tennyson, Browning, Whitman.

[480] “Letters of William Blake,” p. 171.

[481] Ruysbroeck, “De vera Contemplatione,” cap. xi.

[482] “Jerusalem,” cap. i.

[483] Compare E. Rhode, “Psyche,” and J. E. Harrison, “Prolegomena to the
Study of Greek Religion,” caps, ix., x., and xi.; a work which puts the most
favourable construction possible on the meaning of Orphic initiation.

[484] The “Bacchae” of Euripides (translated by Gilbert Murray), p. 83.

[485] St. John of the Cross, “Llama de Amor Viva” (translated by Arthur

[486] “Fioretti,” cap. xlviii. (Arnold’s translation).

[487] Horstman, “Richard Rolle of Hampole,” vol. ii. p. 79.

[488] “Das Fliessende Licht der Gottheit,” pt. i. cap. 43.

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

[490] For the decisive character of this “night of the senses,” see St. John
of the Cross, “Noche escura del Alma,” I. i.

[491] “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell,” xxii.

[492] Vide supra, pp. 42-50 .

[493] Julian of Norwich, “Revelations,” cap. xliii.

[494] “The Scale of Perfection,” bk. ii. cap. xli.

[495] See Delacroix, “Études sur le Mysticisme,” Appendix I. “Sentiment de
Présence.” For a balanced view, Maréchal, “Studies in the Psychology of the
Mystics,” p. 55. See also Poulain, “Les Grâces d’Oraison,” cap. v.

[496] Vida, cap. xviii. § 20.

[497] “Letters of St. Teresa” (1581), Dalton’s translation, No. VII.

[498] “Republic,” vii. 518.

[499] Récéjac, “Fondements de la Connaissance Mystique,” p. 151.

[500] St. Bernard, “Cantica Canticorum,” Sermon lxxiv.

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

[502] Hugh of St. Victor, “De Arrha Animae” (Migne, Patrologia Latina, vol.

[503] “The Practice of the Presence of God,” Second Conversation.

[504] St. Teresa, “Las Fundaciones,” cap, v. p. 8.

[505] Vie, pt. i. cap. xvii.

[506] “Mystical Element of Religion,” vol. i. p. 105.

[507] “Vita e Dottrina” loc. cit.

[508] “I desire not that which comes forth from Thee; but only I desire
Thee, O sweetest Love!” (“Vita e Dottrina,” cap. vi ).

[509] Aug. Conf., bk. vii. cap. xx. Compare St. Teresa: “Rapture is a great
help to recognize our true home and to see that we are pilgrims here; it is
a great thing to see what is going on there, and to know where we have to
live, for if a person has to go and settle in another country, it is a great
help to him in undergoing the fatigues of his journey that he has discovered
it to be a country where he may live in the most perfect peace” (Vida, cap.
xxxviii., § 8).

[510] M. Smith, “Rabia the Mystic,” p. 30.

[511] “Spiritual Exercises,” pp. 26 and 174.

[512] “Love above all language, goodness unimagined, light without measure
shines in my heart” (Jacopone da Todi. Lauda xci.).

[513] Pitra, “Analecta S. Hildegardis opera,” p. 332.

[514] St. Teresa, Vida, cap. xxviii. §§ 7, 8.

[515] Par. i. 61, xxx. 100, xxxiii. 90.

[516] “An Appeal to All who Doubt.” I give the whole passage below, p. 263.

[517] It is, of course, arguable that the whole of this light-imagery is
ultimately derived from the Prologue of the Fourth Gospel: as the imagery of
the Spiritual Marriage is supposed to be derived from the Song of Songs.
Some hardy commentators have even found in it evidence of the descent of
Christian Mysticism from sun-worship. (See H. F. Dunbar, “Symbolism in
Mediaeval Thought”.) But it must be remembered that mystics are essentially
realists, always seeking for language adequate to their vision of truth:
hence their adoption of this imagery is most simply explained by the fact
that it represent something which they know and are struggling to describe.

[518] Aug. Conf., bk. vii. cap. x.

[519] Mechthild of Magdeburg, op. cit ., pt. vii. 45.

[520] Par. xxx. 100, “Which makes visible the creator to that creature who
only in beholding Him finds its peace.”

[521] Aug. Conf., bk. iii. cap. 6.

[522] Dionysius the Areopagite, “De Mystica Theologia,” i. 1. (Rolt’s

[523] Par. xxxiii. 82, 121:— “O grace abounding! wherein I presumed to fix
my gaze on the eternal light so long that I consumed my sight thereon! In
its depths I saw ingathered the scattered leaves of the universe, bound into
one book by love. Substance and accident and their relations: as if fused
together in such a manner that what I tell of is a simple light. And I
believe that I saw the universal form of this complexity; because, as I say
this, I feel that I rejoice more deeply. . . . Oh, but how scant the speech
and how faint to my concept! and that to what I saw is such, that it
suffices not to call it ‘little.’ O Light Eternal, Who only in Thyself
abidest, only Thyself dost comprehend, and, of Thyself comprehended and
Thyself comprehending, dost love and smile!”

[524] The Latin is more vivid: “Est iste mundus pregnans de Deo.”

[525] Ste. Angèle de Foligno, “Le Livre de l’Expérience des Vrais
Fidèles,” p. 124 (English translation, p. 172).

[526] Suso, Leben, cap. iv.

[527] “Revelations,” cap. viii.

[528] Malaval, “De l’Oraison Ordinaire” (“La Pratique de la Vraye Theologie
Mystique,” vol. i. p. 342).

[529] ”Saul,” xvii.

[530] Meister Eckhart (“Mystische Schriften,” p. 137).

[531] Vide supra, pt. II. Cap. II., the cases of Richard Jefferies, Brother
Lawrence, and others.

[532] The Works of Jacob Boehme, 4 vols., 1764, vol. i. pp. xii., etc.

[533] Supra , p. 58.

[534] Martensen, “Jacob Boehme,” p. 7.

[535] “Life of Jacob Boehme,” pp. xiii. and xiv. in vol. i. of his Collected
Works, English translation.

[536] Op. cit ., p. xv.

[537] Vol. I. cap. ii.

[538] “Revelations,” cap. viii.

[539] Par. iii. 77.

[540] “Letters of William Blake,” p. 111.

[541] Op. cit., p. 62.

[542] Aug. Conf., bk. I. cap. xvi.

[543] “Fioretti,” cap. xiv.

[544] Ibid., “Delle Istimate,” 2, and Thomas of Celano, Vita Secunda, cap,

[545] Thomas of Celano, op. cit., cap. cxxix.

[546] “Fioretti,” cap. xxii.

[547] Ibid., cap. xxi.

[548] Fioretti,” cap. xxi (Arnold’s translation). Perhaps I may be allowed
to remind the incredulous reader that the discovery of a large wolf’s scull
in Gubbio close to the spot in which Brother Wolf is said to have lived in a
cave for two years after his taming by the Saint, has done something to
vindicate the truth of this beautiful story.

[549] De Bussierre, “Le Pérou et Ste. Rose de Lime,” p. 256.

[550] De Bussierre, “Le Pérou et Ste. Rose de Lime,” p. 415.

[551] “Fondements de la Connaissance Mystique,” p. 113.

[552] Letters, p. 75.

[553] Vide supra, p. 192.

[554] Ennead ii. 9. 4.

[555] “An Appeal to All who Doubt” (Liberal and Mystical Writings of William
Law, p. 52).

[556] Rolle, “The Fire of love,” bk. i. cap. xix.

[557] “De Ornatu Spiritalium Nuptiarum,” I. ii. cap, liii.