Chapter 16

W e have wandered during the last few chapters from our study of the
mystical life-process in man, the organic growth of his transcendental
consciousness, in order to examine the byproducts of that process, its
characteristic forms of self-expression: the development of its normal art
of contemplation, and the visions and voices, ecstasies and raptures which
are frequent—though not essential—accompaniments of its activity.

But the mystic, like other persons of genius, is man first and artist
afterwards. We shall make a grave though common mistake if we forget this
and allow ourselves to be deflected from our study of his growth in
personality by the wonder and interest of his art. Being, not Doing, is the
first aim of the mystic; and hence should be the first interest of the
student of mysticism. We have considered for convenience’ sake all the chief
forms of mystical activity at the half-way house of the transcendental life:
but these activities are not, of course, peculiar to any one stage of that
life. Ecstasy, for instance, is as common a feature of mystical conversion
as of the last crisis, or “mystic marriage” of the soul: [783] whilst
visions and voices—in selves of a visionary or auditive type—accompany and
illustrate every phase of the inward development. They lighten and explain
the trials of Purgation as often as they express the joys of Illumination,
and frequently mark the crisis of transition from one mystic state to the

One exception, however, must be made to this rule. The most intense period
of that great swing-back into darkness which usually divides the “first
mystic life,” or Illuminative Way, from the “second mystic life,” or Unitive
Way, is generally a period of utter blankness and stagnation, so far as
mystical activity is concerned. The “Dark Night of the Soul,” once fully
established, is seldom lit by visions or made homely by voices. It is of the
essence of its miseries that the once-possessed power of orison or
contemplation now seems wholly lost. The self is tossed back from its
hard-won point of vantage. Impotence, blankness, solitude, are the epithets
by which those immersed in this dark fire of purification describe their
pains. It is this episode in the life-history of the mystic type to which we
have now come.

We have already noticed [784] the chief psychological characteristics of all
normal mystical development. We have seen that its essence consists in the
effort to establish a new equilibrium, to get, as it were, a firm foothold
upon transcendent levels of reality; and that in its path towards this
consummation the self experiences a series of oscillations between “states
of pleasure” and “states of pain.” Put in another way, it is an orderly
movement of the whole consciousness towards higher centres, in which each
intense and progressive affirmation fatigues the immature transcendental
powers, and is paid for by a negation; a swing-back of the whole
consciousness, a stagnation of intellect, a reaction of the emotions, or an
inhibition of the will.

Thus the exalted consciousness of Divine Perfection which the self acquired
in its “mystical awakening” was balanced by a depressed and bitter
consciousness of its own inherent imperfection, and the clash of these two
perceptions spurred it to that laborious effort of accommodation which
constitutes the “Purgative Way.” The renewed and ecstatic awareness of the
Absolute which resulted, and which was the governing characteristic of
Illumination, brought its own proper negation: the awareness, that is to
say, of the self’s continued separation from and incompatibility with that
Absolute which it has perceived. During the time in which the illuminated
consciousness is fully established, the self, as a rule, is perfectly
content: believing that in its vision of Eternity, its intense and loving
consciousness of God, it has reached the goal of its quest. Sooner or later,
however, psychic fatigue sets in; the state of illumination begins to break
up, the complementary negative consciousness appears, and shows itself as an
overwhelming sense of darkness and deprivation. This sense is so deep and
strong that it inhibits all consciousness of the Transcendent; and plunges
the self into the state of negation and misery which is called the Dark

We may look at the Dark Night, as at most other incidents of the Mystic Way,
from two points of view: (1) We may see it, with the psychologist, as a
moment in the history of mental development, governed by the more or less
mechanical laws which so conveniently explain to him the psychic life of
man: or (2) with the mystic himself, we may see it in its spiritual aspect
as contributing to the remaking of character, the growth of the “New Man”;
his “transmutation in God.”

(1) Psychologically considered, the Dark Night is an example of the
operation of the law of reaction from stress. It is a period of fatigue and
lassitude following a period of sustained mystical activity. “It is one of
the best established laws of the nervous system,” says Starbuck, “that it
has periods of exhaustion if exercised continuously in one direction, and
can only recuperate by having a period of rest.” [785] However spiritual he
may be, the mystic—so long as he is in the body—cannot help using the
machinery of his nervous and cerebral system in the course of his
adventures. His development, on its psychic side, consists in the taking
over of this machinery, the capture of its centres of consciousness, in the
interests of his growing transcendental life. In so far, then, as this is
so, that transcendental life will be partly conditioned by psychic
necessities, and amenable to the laws of reaction and of fatigue. Each great
step forward will entail lassitude and exhaustion for that mental machinery
which he has pressed unto service and probably overworked. When the higher
centres have been submitted to the continuous strain of a developed
illuminated life, with its accompanying periods of intense fervour,
lucidity, deep contemplation—perhaps of visionary and auditive phenomena—the
swing-back into the negative state occurs almost of necessity.

This is the psychological explanation of those strange and painful episodes
in the lives of great saints—indeed, of many spiritual persons hardly to be
classed as saints—when, perhaps after a long life passed in faithful
correspondence with the transcendental order, growing consciousness of the
“presence of God,” the whole inner experience is suddenly swept away, and
only a blind reliance on past convictions saves them from unbelief. [786]
The great contemplatives, those destined to attain the full stature of the
mystic, emerge from this period of destitution, however long and drastic it
may be, as from a new purification. It is for them the gateway to a higher
state. But persons of a less heroic spirituality, if they enter the Night at
all may succumb to its dangers and pains. This “great negation” is the
sorting-house of the spiritual life. Here we part from the “nature
mystics,” the mystic poets, and all who shared in and were contented with
the illuminated vision of reality. Those who go on are the great and strong
spirits, who do not seek to know, but are driven to be.

We are to expect, then, as a part of the conditions under which human
consciousness appears to work that for every affirmation of the mystic life
there will be a negation waiting for the unstable self. Progress in
contemplation, for instance, is marked by just such an alternation of light
and shade: at first between “consolation” and “aridity”; then between “dark
contemplation” and sharp intuitions of Reality. So too in selves of extreme
nervous instability, each joyous ecstasy entails a painful or negative
ecstasy. The states of darkness and illumination coexist over a long period,
alternating sharply and rapidly. Many seers and artists pay in this way, by
agonizing periods of impotence and depression, for each violent outburst of
creative energy.

Rapid oscillations between a joyous and a painful consciousness seem to
occur most often at the beginning of a new period of the Mystic Way: between
Purgation and Illumination, and again between Illumination and the Dark
Night: for these mental states are, as a rule, gradually not abruptly
established. Mystics call such oscillations the “Game of Love” in which God
plays, as it were, “hide and seek” with the questing soul. I have already
quoted a characteristic instance from the life of Rulman Merswin, [787] who
passed the whole intervening period between his conversion and entrance on
the Dark Night, or “school of suffering love” in such a state of
disequilibrium. Thus too Madame Guyon, who has described with much
elaboration of detail her symptoms and sufferings during the oncoming and
duration of the Night—or, as she calls its intensest period the Mystic
Death—traces its beginning in short recurrent states of privation, or
dullness of feeling, such as ascetic writers call “aridity”: in which the
self loses all interest in and affection for those divine realities which
had previously filled its life. This privation followed upon, or was the
reaction from, an “illuminated” period of extreme joy and security, in
which, as she says, “the presence of God never left me for an instant. But
how dear I paid for this time of happiness! For this possession, which
seemed to me entire and perfect—and the more perfect the more it was secret,
and foreign to the senses, steadfast and exempt from change—was but the
preparation for a total deprivation, lasting many years, without any support
or hope of its return.” [788] As Madame Guyon never attempted to control her
states, but made a point of conforming to her own description of the
“resigned soul” as “God’s weathercock,” we have in her an unequalled
opportunity of study.

“I endured,” she says, “long periods of privation, towards the end almost
continual: but still I had from time to time inflowings of Thy Divinity so
deep and intimate, so vivid and so penetrating, that it was easy for me to
judge that Thou wast but hidden from me and not lost. For although during
the times of privation it seemed to me that I had utterly lost Thee, a
certain deep support remained, though the soul knew it not: and she only
became aware of that support by her subsequent total deprivation thereof.
Every time that Thou didst return with more goodness and strength, Thou
didst return also with greater splendour; so that in a few hours Thou didst
rebuild all the ruins of my unfaithfulness and didst make good to me with
profusion all my loss.” [789]

Here we have, from the psychological point of view, a perfect example of the
oscillations of consciousness on the threshold of a new state. The old
equilibrium, the old grouping round a centre characterized by
pleasure-affirmation, has been lost; the new grouping round a centre
characterized by pain-negation is not yet established. Madame Guyon is
standing, or rather swinging, between two worlds, the helpless prey of her
own shifting and uncontrollable psychic and spiritual states. But slowly the
pendulum approaches its limit: the states of privation, “become almost
continual,” the reactions to illumination, become less. At last they cease
entirely, the new state is established, and the Dark Night has really set

The theory here advanced that the “Dark Night” is, on its psychic side,
partly a condition of fatigue, partly a state of transition, is borne out by
the mental and moral disorder which seems, in many subjects, to be its
dominant character. When they are in it everything seems to “go wrong” with
them. They are tormented by evil thoughts and abrupt temptations, lose grasp
not only of their spiritual but also of their worldly affairs. Thus
Lucie-Christine says: “Often during my great temptations to sadness I am
plunged in such spiritual darkness that I think myself utterly lost in
falsehood and illusion; deceiving both myself and others. This temptation is
the most terrible of all.” [790] The health of those passing through this
phase often suffers, they become “odd” and their friends forsake them; their
intellectual life is at a low ebb. In their own words “trials of every
kind,” “exterior and interior crosses,” abound.

Now “trials,” taken en bloc , mean a disharmony between the self and the
world with which it has to deal. Nothing is a trial when we are able to cope
with it efficiently. Things try us when we are not adequate to them: when
they are abnormally hard or we abnormally weak. This aspect of the matter
becomes prominent when we look further into the history of Madame Guyon’s
experiences. Thanks to the unctuous and detailed manner in which she has
analysed her spiritual griefs, this part of her autobiography is a
psychological document of unique importance for the study of the “Dark
Night” as it appears in a devout but somewhat self-occupied soul.

As her consciousness of God was gradually extinguished, a mental and moral
chaos seems to have invaded Madame Guyon and accompanied the more spiritual
miseries of her state. “So soon as I perceived the happiness of any state,
or its beauty, or the necessity of a virtue, it seemed to me that I fell
incessantly into the contrary vice: as if this perception, which though very
rapid was always accompanied by love, were only given to me that I might
experience its opposite. I was given an intense perception of the purity of
God; and so far as my feelings went, I myself became more and more impure:
for in reality this state is very purifying, but I was far from
understanding this. . . . My imagination was in a state of appalling
confusion, and gave me no rest. I could not speak of Thee, oh my God, for I
became utterly stupid; nor could I even grasp what was said when I heard
Thee spoken of. . . . I found myself hard towards God, insensible to His
mercies; I could not perceive any good thing that I had done in my whole
life. The good appeared to me evil; and—that which is terrible—it seemed to
me that this state must last for ever.” [791]

This world as well as the next seemed leagued against her. Loss of health
and friendship, domestic vexations, increased and kept pace with her
interior griefs. Self-control and power of attention were diminished. She
seemed stupefied and impotent, unable to follow or understand even the
services of the Church, incapable of all prayer and all good works;
perpetually attracted by those worldly things which she had renounced, yet
quickly wearied by them. The neat edifice of her first mystic life was in
ruins, the state of consciousness which accompanied it was disintegrated,
but nothing arose to take its place.

“It is an amazing thing,” says Madame Guyon naively, “for a soul that
believed herself to be advanced in the way of perfection, when she sees
herself thus go to pieces all at once.” [792]

So, too, Suso, when he had entered the “upper school” of the spiritual life,
was tormented not only by temptations and desolations, but by outward trials
and disabilities of every kind: calumnies, misunderstandings, difficulties,
pains. “It seemed at this time as if God had given permission both to men
and demons to torment the Servitor,” he says. [793] This sense of a
generally inimical atmosphere, and of the dimness and helplessness of the
Ego oppressed by circumstances, is like the vague distress and nervous
sensibility of adolescence, and comes in part from the same cause: the
intervening period of chaos between the break-up of an old state of
equilibrium and the establishment of the new. The self, in its necessary
movement towards higher levels of reality, loses and leaves behind certain
elements of its world, long loved but now outgrown: as children must make
the hard transition from nursery to school. Destruction and construction
here go together: the exhaustion and ruin of the illuminated consciousness
is the signal for the onward movement of the self towards other centres: the
feeling of deprivation and inadequacy which comes from the loss of that
consciousness is an indirect stimulus to new growth. The self is being
pushed into a new world where it does not feel at home; has not yet reached
the point at which it enters into conscious possession of its second or
adult life.

“Thou hast been a child at the breast, a spoiled child,” said the Eternal
Wisdom to Suso. “Now I will withdraw all this.” In the resulting darkness
and confusion, when the old and known supports are thus withdrawn, the self
can do little but surrender itself to the inevitable process of things: to
the operation of that unresting Spirit of Life which is pressing it on
towards a new and higher state, in which it shall not only see Reality but
be real.

Psychologically, then, the “Dark Night of the Soul” is due to the double
fact of the exhaustion of an old state, and the growth towards a new state
of consciousness. It is a “growing pain” in the organic process of the
self’s attainment of the Absolute. The great mystics, creative geniuses in
the realm of character, have known instinctively how to turn these psychic
disturbances to spiritual profit. Parallel with the mental oscillations,
upheavals and readjustments, through which an unstable psycho-physical type
moves to new centres of consciousness, run the spiritual oscillations of a
striving and ascending spiritual type. Gyrans gyrando vadit spiritus . The
machinery of consciousness, over-stretched, breaks up, and seems to toss the
self back to an old and lower level, where it loses its apprehensions of the
transcendental world; as the child, when first it is forced to stand alone,
feels weaker than it did in its mother’s arms.

“For first He not only withdraws all comfortable observable infusions of
light and grace, but also deprives her of a power to exercise any
perceptible operations of her superior spirit, and of all comfortable
reflections upon His love, plunging her into the depth of her inferior
powers,” says Augustine Baker, the skilled director of souls, here
anticipating the modern psychologist. “Here consequently,” he continues,
“her former calmness of passions is quite lost, neither can she introvert
herself; sinful motions and suggestions do violently assault her, and she
finds as great difficulty (if not greater) to surmount them as at the
beginning of a spiritual course. . . . If she would elevate her spirit, she
sees nothing but clouds and darkness. She seeks God, and cannot find the
least marks or footsteps of His Presence; something there is that hinders
her from executing the sinful suggestions within her but what that is she
knows not, for to her thinking she has no spirit at all, and, indeed, she is
now in a region of all other most distant from spirit and spiritual
operations—I mean, such as are perceptible.” [794]

Such an interval of chaos and misery may last for months, or even for years,
before the consciousness again unifies itself and a new centre is formed.
Moreover, the negative side of this new centre, this new consciousness of
the Absolute, often discloses itself first. The self realizes, that is to
say, the inadequacy of its old state, long before it grasps the possibility
of a new and higher state. This realization will take two forms; ( a )
Objective: the distance or absence of the Absolute which the self seeks, ( b
) Subjective: the self’s weakness and imperfection. Both apprehensions
constitute a direct incentive to action. They present, as it were, a Divine
Negation which the self must probe, combat, resolve. The Dark Night,
therefore, largely the product of natural causes, is the producer in its
turn of mystical energy; and hence of supernatural effects.

(2) So much for psychology. We have next to consider the mystical or
transcendental aspects of the Dark Night: see what it has meant for those
mystics who have endured it and for those spiritual specialists who have
studied it in the interests of other men.

As in other phases of the Mystic Way, so here, we must beware of any
generalization which reduces the “Dark Night” to a uniform experience; a
neatly defined state which appears under the same conditions, and attended
by the same symptoms, in all the selves who have passed through its pains.
It is a name for the painful and negative state which normally intervenes
between the Illuminative and the Unitive Life—no more. Different types of
contemplatives have interpreted it to themselves and to us in different
ways; each type of illumination being in fact balanced by its own
appropriate type of “dark.”

In some temperaments it is the emotional aspect—the anguish of the lover who
has suddenly lost the Beloved—which predominates: in others, the
intellectual darkness and confusion overwhelms everything else. Some have
felt it, with St. John of the Cross, as a “passive purification,” a state of
helpless misery, in which the self does nothing, but lets Life have its way
with her. Others, with Suso and the virile mysticism of the German school,
have experienced it rather as a period of strenuous activity and moral
conflict directed to that “total self-abandonment” which is the essential
preparation of the unitive life. Those elements of character which were
unaffected by the first purification of the self—left as it were in a corner
when the consciousness moved to the level of the illuminated life—are here
roused from their sleep, purged of illusion, and forced to join the grooving

The Dark Night, then, is really a deeply human process, in which the self
which thought itself so spiritual, so firmly established upon the
supersensual plane, is forced to turn back, to leave the Light, and pick up
those qualities which it had left behind. Only thus, by the transmutation of
the whole man, not by a careful and departmental cultivation of that which
we like to call his “spiritual” side, can Divine Humanity be formed: and the
formation of Divine Humanity—the remaking of man “according to the pattern
showed him in the mount”—is the mystic’s only certain ladder to the Real.
“My humanity,” said the Eternal Wisdom to Suso, “is the road which all must
tread who would come to that which thou seekest.” [795] This “hard saying”
might almost be used as a test by which to distinguish the genuine mystic
life from its many and specious imitations. The self in its first purgation
has cleansed the mirror of perception; hence, in its illuminated life, has
seen Reality. In so doing it has transcended the normal perceptive powers of
“natural” man, immersed in the illusions of sense. Now, it has got to be
reality: a very different thing. For this a new and more drastic purgation
is needed—not of the organs of perception, but of the very shrine of self:
that “heart” which is the seat of personality, the source of its love and
will. In the stress and anguish of the Night, when it turns back from the
vision of the Infinite to feel again the limitations of the finite the self
loses the power to Do; and learns to surrender its will to the operation of
a larger Life, that it may Be. “At the end of such a long and cruel
transition,” says Lucie Christine, “how much more supple the soul feels
itself to be in the Hand of God, how much more detached from all that is not
God! She sees clearly in herself the fruits of humility and patience, and
feels her love ascending more purely and directly to God in proportion as
she has realized the Nothingness of herself and all things.” [796]

We must remember in the midst of our analysis, that the mystic life is a
life of love: that the Object of the mystic’s final quest and of his
constant intuition is an object of adoration and supreme desire. “With Thee,
a prison would be a rose garden, oh Thou ravisher of hearts: with Thee, Hell
would be Paradise, oh Thou cheerer of souls,” said Jalalu ‘d Din. [797]
Hence for the mystic who has once known the Beatific Vision there can be no
greater grief than the withdrawal of this Object from his field of
consciousness; the loss of this companionship, the extinction of this Light.
Therefore, whatever form the “Dark Night” assumes, it must entail bitter
suffering: far worse than that endured in the Purgative Way. Then the self
was forcibly detached from the imperfect. Now the Perfect is withdrawn,
leaving behind an overwhelming yet impotent conviction of something
supremely wrong, some final Treasure lost. We will now look at a few of the
characteristic forms under which this conviction is translated to the

A. To those temperaments in which consciousness of the Absolute took the
form of a sense of divine companionship, and for whom the objective idea
“God” had become the central fact of life, it seems as though that God,
having shown Himself, has now deliberately withdrawn His Presence, never
perhaps to manifest Himself again. “He acts,” says Eckhart, “as if there
were a wall erected between Him and us.” [798] The “eye which looked upon
Eternity” has closed, the old dear sense of intimacy and mutual love has
given place to a terrible blank.

“That which this anguished soul feels most deeply,” says St. John of the
Cross, “is the conviction that God has abandoned it, of which it has no
doubt; that He has cast it away into darkness as an abominable thing . . .
the shadow of death and the pains and torments of hell are most acutely
felt, and this comes from the sense of being abandoned by God, being
chastised and cast out by His wrath and heavy displeasure. All this and even
more the soul feels now, for a terrible apprehension has come upon it that
thus it will be with it for ever. It has also the same sense of abandonment
with respect to all creatures, and that it is an object of contempt to all,
especially to its friends.” [799]

So, too, Madame Guyon felt this loss of her intuitive apprehension of God as
one of the most terrible characteristics of the “night.” “After Thou hadst
wounded me so deeply as I have described, Thou didst begin, oh my God, to
withdraw Thyself from me: and the pain of Thy absence was the more bitter to
me, because Thy presence had been so sweet to me, Thy love so strong in me.
. . . Thy way, oh my God, before Thou didst make me enter into the state of
death, was the way of the dying life: sometimes to hide Thyself and leave me
to myself in a hundred weaknesses, sometimes to show Thyself with more
sweetness and love. The nearer the soul drew to the state of death, the more
her desolations were long and weary, her weaknesses increased, and also her
joys became shorter, but purer and more intimate, until the time in which
she fell into total privation.” [800]

When this total privation or “mystic death” is fully established, it
involves not only the personal “Absence of God,” but the apparent withdrawal
or loss of that impersonal support, that transcendent Ground or Spark of the
soul, on which the self has long felt its whole real life to be based.
Hence, its very means of contact with the spiritual world vanishes; and as
regards all that matters, it does indeed seem to be “dead.” “When we have
reached this total deprivation,” says De Caussade, “what shall we do? Abide
in simplicity and peace, as Job on his ash heap, repeating, ‘Blessed are the
poor in spirit; those who have nothing have all, since they have God.’ ‘Quit
all, strip yourself of all,’ says the great Gerson, ‘and you will have all
in God.’ ‘God felt, God tasted and enjoyed,’ says Fénelon, ‘is indeed God,
but God with those gifts which flatter the soul. God in darkness, in
privation, in forsakenness, in insensibility, is so much God, that He is so
to speak God bare and alone. . . .’ Shall we fear this death, which is to
produce in us the true divine life of grace?” [801]

B. In those selves for whom the subjective idea “Sanctity”—the need of
conformity between the individual character and the Transcendent—has been
central, the pain of the Night is less a deprivation than a new and dreadful
kind of lucidity. The vision of the Good brings to the self an abrupt sense
of her own hopeless and helpless imperfection: a black “conviction of
sin,” far more bitter than that endured in the Way of Purgation, which
swamps everything else. “That which makes her pain so terrible is that she
is, as it were, overwhelmed by the purity of God, and this purity makes her
see the least atoms of her imperfections as if they were enormous sins,
because of the infinite distance there is between the purity of God and the
creature.” [802]

“This,” says St. John of the Cross again, “is one of the most bitter
sufferings of this purgation. The soul is conscious of a profound emptiness
in itself, a cruel destitution of the three kinds of goods, natural,
temporal, and spiritual, which are ordained for its comfort. It sees itself
in the midst of the opposite evils, miserable imperfections, dryness and
emptiness of the understanding, and abandonment of the spirit in
darkness.” [803]

C. Often combined with the sense of sin and the “absence of God” is another
negation, not the least distressing part of the sufferings of the self
suddenly plunged into the Night. This is a complete emotional lassitude: the
disappearance of all the old ardours, now replaced by a callousness, a
boredom, which the self detests but cannot overcome. It is the dismal
condition of spiritual ennui which ascetic writers know so well under the
name of “aridity,” and which psychologists look upon as the result of
emotional fatigue. [804] It seems incredible that the eager love of a Divine
Companion, so long the focus of the self’s whole being should have vanished:
that not only the transcendent vision should be withdrawn, but her very
desire for, and interest in, that vision should grow cold. Yet the mystics
are unanimous in declaring that this is a necessary stage in the growth of
the spiritual consciousness.

“When the sun begins to decline in the heavens,” says Ruysbroeck, “it enters
the sign Virgo; which is so called because this period of the year is
sterile as a virgin.” This is the autumn season in the cycle of the soul,
when the summer heat grows less. “It perfects and fulfils the yearly travail
of the Sun. In the same manner, when Christ, that glorious sun, has risen to
His zenith in the heart of man, as I have taught in the Third degree, and
afterwards begins to decline, to hide the radiance of His divine sunbeams,
and to forsake the man; then the heat and impatience of love grow less. Now
that occultation of Christ, and the withdrawal of His light and heat, are
the first work and the new coming of this degree. Now Christ says inwardly
to this man, Go ye out in the manner which I now show you: and the man goes
out and finds himself to be poor, miserable, and abandoned. Here all the
storm, the fury, the impatience of his love, grow cool: glowing summer turns
to autumn, all its riches are transformed into a great poverty. And the man
begins to complain because of his wretchedness: for where now are the
ardours of love, the intimacy, the gratitude, the joyful praise, and the
interior consolation, the secret joy, the sensible sweetness? How have all
these things failed him? And the burning violence of his love, and all the
gifts which he felt before. How has all this died in him? And he feels like
some ignorant man who has lost all his learning and his works . . . and of
this misery there is born the fear of being lost, and as it were a sort of
half-doubt: and this is the lowest point at which a man can hold his ground
without falling into despair.” [805]

D. This stagnation of the emotions has its counterpart in the stagnation of
the will and intelligence, which has been experienced by some contemplatives
as a part of their negative state. As regards the will, there is a sort of
moral dereliction: the self cannot control its inclinations and thoughts. In
the general psychic turmoil, all the unpurified part of man’s inheritance,
the lower impulses and unworthy ideas which have long been imprisoned below
the threshold, force their way into the field of consciousness. “Every vice
was re-awakened within me,” says Angela of Foligno, “I would have chosen
rather to be roasted than to endure such pains.” [806] Where visual and
auditory automatism is established, these irruptions from the subliminal
region often take the form of evil visions, or of voices making coarse or
sinful suggestions to the self. Thus St. Catherine of Siena, in the interval
between her period of joyous illumination and her “spiritual marriage,” was
tormented by visions of fiends, who filled her cell and “with obscene words
and gestures invited her to lust.” She fled from her cell to the church to
escape them, but they pursued her there: and she obtained no relief from
this obsession until she ceased to oppose it. She cried, “I have chosen
suffering for my consolation, and will gladly bear these and all other
torments in the name of the Saviour, for as long as it shall please His
Majesty.” With this act of surrender, the evil vision fled: Catherine swung
back to a state of affirmation, and was comforted by a vision of the Cross.

An analogous psychological state was experienced by St. Teresa; though she
fails to recognize it as an episode in her normal development, and
attributes it, with other spiritual adventures for which she can find no
other explanation, to the action of the Devil. “The soul,” she says, “laid
in fetters, loses all control over itself, and all power of thinking of
anything but the absurdities he puts before it, which, being more or less
unsubstantial, inconsistent, and disconnected, serve only to stifle the
soul, so that it has no power over itself; and accordingly—so it seems to
me—the devils make a football of it, and the soul is unable to escape out of
their hands. It is impossible to describe the sufferings of the soul in this
state. It goes about in quest of relief, and God suffers it to find none.
The light of reason, in the freedom of its will, remains, but it is not
clear; it seems to me as if its eyes were covered with a veil. . . .
Temptations seem to press it down, and make it dull, so that its knowledge
of God becomes to it as that of something which it hears of far away.” This
dullness and dimness extends to ordinary mental activity, which shares in
the lassitude and disorder of the inner life. “If it seeks relief from the
fire by spiritual reading, it cannot find any, just as if it could not read
at all. On one occasion it occurred to me to read the life of a saint, that
I might forget myself and be refreshed with the recital of what he had
suffered. Four or five times, I read as many lines, and though they were
written in Spanish, I understood them less at the end than I did when I
began: so I gave it up. It so happened to me on more occasions than one.”
[808] If we are reminded of anything here, it is of the phenomenon of “dark
contemplation.” That dimness of mind which we there studied, is here
extended to the normal activities of the surface intelligence. The Cloud of
Unknowing, rolling up, seems to envelop the whole self. Contemplation, the
“way within the way,” has epitomized the greater process of the mystic life.
In both, the path to Light lies through a meek surrender to the confusion
and ignorance of the “Dark.” The stress and exasperation felt in this dark,
this state of vague helplessness, by selves of an active and self-reliant
type, is exhibited by Teresa in one of her half-humorous self-revealing
flashes. “The Devil,” she says of it, “then sends so offensive a spirit of
bad temper that I think I could eat people up!” [809]

All these types of “darkness,” with their accompanying and overwhelming
sensations of impotence and distress, are common in the lives of the
mystics. Suso and Rulman Merswin experienced them: Tauler constantly refers
to them: Angela of Foligno speaks of a “privation worse than hell.” It is
clear that even the joyous spirit of Mechthild of Magdeburg knew the
sufferings of the loss and absence of God. “Lord,” she says in one place,
“since Thou hast taken from me all that I had of Thee, yet of Thy grace
leave me the gift which every dog has by nature: that of being true to Thee
in my distress; when I am deprived of all consolation. This I desire more
fervently than Thy heavenly Kingdom!” [810] In such a saying as this, the
whole “value for life” of the Dark Night is revealed to us: as an education
in selfless constancy, a “school of suffering love.”

E. There is, however, another way in which the self’s sense of a continued
imperfection in its relation with the Absolute—of work yet remaining to be
done—expresses itself. In persons of a very highly strung and mobile type,
who tend to rapid oscillations between pain and pleasure states, rather than
to the long, slow movements of an ascending consciousness, attainment of the
Unitive Life is sometimes preceded by the abrupt invasion of a wild and
unendurable desire to “see God,” apprehend the Transcendent in Its fullness:
which can only, they think, be satisfied by death. As they begin to outgrow
their illuminated consciousness, these selves begin also to realize how
partial and symbolic that consciousness—even at its best—has been: and their
movement to union with God is foreshadowed by a passionate and
uncontrollable longing for ultimate Reality. This passion is so intense,
that it causes acute anguish in those who feel it. It brings with it all the
helpless and desolate feelings of the Dark Night; and sometimes rises to the
heights of a negative rapture, an ecstasy of deprivation. St. Teresa is
perhaps the best instance of this rare method of apprehending the self’s
essential separation from its home; which is also the subject of a
celebrated chapter in the “Traité de l’Amour de Dieu” of St. François de
Sales. [811] Thanks to her exceptionally mobile temperament, her tendency to
rush up and down the scale of feeling, Teresa’s states of joyous rapture
were often paid for by such a “great desolation”—a dark ecstasy or “pain of
God.” “As long as this pain lasts,” she says, “we cannot even remember our
own existence; for in an instant all the faculties of the soul are so
fettered as to lie incapable of any action save that of increasing our
torture. Do not think I am exaggerating; on the contrary, that which I say
is less than the truth, for lack of words in which it may be expressed. This
is a trance of the senses and the faculties, save as regards all which helps
to make the agony more intense. The understanding realizes acutely what
cause there is for grief in separation from God: and our Lord increases this
sorrow by a vivid manifestation of Himself. The pain thus grows to such a
degree that in spite of herself the sufferer gives vent to loud cries, which
she cannot stifle, however patient and accustomed to pain she may be,
because this is not a pain which is felt in the body, but in the depths of
the soul. The person I speak of learned from this how much more acutely the
spirit is capable of suffering than the body. [812]

The intense and painful concentration upon the Divine Absence which takes
place in this “dark rapture” often induces all the psycho-physical marks of
ecstasy. “Although this state lasts but a short time, the limbs seem to be
disjointed by it. The pulse is as feeble as if one were at the point of
death; which is indeed the case, for whilst the natural heat of the body
fails, that which is supernatural so burns the frame that with a few more
degrees God would satisfy the soul’s desire for death. . . . You will say
perhaps, that there is imperfection in this desire to see God: and ask why
this soul does not conform herself to His will, since she has so completely
surrendered herself to it. Hitherto she could do this, and consecrated her
life to it; but now she cannot, for her reason is reduced to such a state
that she is no longer mistress of herself and can think of nothing but her
affliction. Far from her Sovereign Good, why should she desire to live? She
feels an extraordinary loneliness, finds no companionship in any earthly
creature; nor could she I believe among those who dwell in heaven, since
they are not her Beloved. Meanwhile all company is torture to her. She is
like a person suspended in mid-air, who can neither touch the earth, nor
mount to heaven. She burns with a consuming thirst, and cannot reach the
water. And this is a thirst which cannot be borne, but one which nothing
will quench: nor would she have it quenched with any other water than that
of which our Lord spoke to the Samaritan woman; and this water is denied
her.” [813]

All these forms of the Dark Night—the “Absence of God,” the sense of sin,
the dark ecstasy, the loss of the self’s old passion, peace, and joy, and
its apparent relapse to lower spiritual and mental levels—are considered by
the mystics themselves to constitute aspects or parts of one and the same
process: the final purification of the will or stronghold of personality,
that it may be merged without any reserve “in God where it was first.” The
function of this episode of the Mystic Way is to cure the soul of the innate
tendency to seek and rest in spiritual joys; to confuse Reality with the joy
given by the contemplation of Reality. It is the completion of that ordering
of disordered loves, that trans-valuation of values, which the Way of
Purgation began. The ascending self must leave these childish satisfactions;
make its love absolutely disinterested, strong, and courageous, abolish all
taint of spiritual gluttony. A total abandonment of the individualistic
standpoint, of that trivial and egotistic quest of personal satisfaction
which thwarts the great movement of the Flowing Light, is the supreme
condition of man’s participation in Reality. Thus is true not only of the
complete participation which is possible to the great mystic, but of those
unselfish labours in which the initiates of science or of art become to the
Eternal Goodness “what his own hand is to a man.” “Think not,” says Tauler,
“that God will be always caressing His children, or shine upon their head,
or kindle their hearts as He does at the first. He does so only to lure us
to Himself, as the falconer lures the falcon with its gay hood. . . . We
must stir up and rouse ourselves and be content to leave off learning, and
no more enjoy feeling and warmth, and must now serve the Lord with strenuous
industry and at our own cost.” [814]

This manly view of the Dark Night, as a growth in responsibility—an episode
of character-building—in which, as “The Mirror of Simple Souls” has it, “the
soul leaves that pride and play wherein it was full gladsome and jolly,” is
characteristic of the German mystics. We find it again in Suso, to whom the
angel of his tribulation gave no sentimental consolations; but only the
stern command, “Viriliter agite ”—“Be a man!” “Then first,” says Tauler
again, “do we attain to the fullness of God’s love as His children, when it
is no longer happiness or misery, prosperity or adversity, that draws us to
Him or keeps us back from Him. What we should then experience none can
utter; but it would be something far better than when we were burning with
the first flame of love, and had great emotion, but less true submission.”

In Illumination, the soul, basking in the Uncreated Light, identified the
Divine Nature with the divine light and sweetness which it then enjoyed. Its
consciousness of the transcendent was chiefly felt as an increase of
personal vision and personal joy. Thus, in that apparently selfless state,
the “I, the Me, the Mine,” though spiritualized, still remained intact. The
mortification of the senses was more than repaid by the rich and happy life
which this mortification conferred upon the soul. But before real and
permanent union with the Absolute can take place: before the whole self can
learn to live on those high levels where—its being utterly surrendered to
the Infinite Will—it can be wholly transmuted in God, merged in the great
life of the All, this dependence on personal joys must be done away. The
spark of the soul, the fast-growing germ of divine humanity, must so invade
every corner of character that the self can only say with St. Catherine of
Genoa, “My me is God: nor do I know my selfhood except in God.” [816]

The various torments and desolations of the Dark Night constitute this last
and drastic purgation of the spirit; the doing away of separateness, the
annihilation of selfhood, even though all that self now claims for its own
be the Love of God. Such a claim—which is really a claim to entire felicity,
since the soul which possesses it needs nothing more—is felt by these great
spirits to sully the radiance of their self-giving love. “All that I would
here say of these inward delights and enjoyments,” says William Law, “is
only this; they are not holiness, they are not piety, they are not
perfection; but they are God’s gracious allurements and calls to seek after
holiness and spiritual perfection . . . and ought rather to convince us that
we are as yet but babes, than that we are ready men of God. . . . This alone
is the true Kingdom of God opened in the soul when, stripped of all
selfishness, it has only one love and one will in it; when it has no motion
or desire but what branches from the Love of God, and resigns itself wholly
to the Will of God. . . . To sum up all in a word: Nothing hath separated us
from God but our own will, or rather our own will is our separation from
God. All the disorder and corruption and malady of our nature lies in a
certain fixedness of our own will, imagination, and desire, wherein we live
to ourselves, are our own centre and circumference, act wholly from
ourselves, according to our own will, imagination, and desires. There is not
the smallest degree of evil in us but what arises from this selfishness
because we are thus all in all to ourselves. . . . To be humble, mortified,
devout, patient in a certain degree, and to be persecuted for our virtues,
is no hurt to this selfishness; nay, spiritual-self must have all these
virtues to subsist upon, and his life consists in seeing, knowing and
feeling the bulk, strength, and reality of them. But still, in all this show
and glitter of virtue, there is an unpurified bottom on which they stand,
there is a selfishness which can no more enter into the Kingdom of Heaven
than the grossness of flesh and blood can enter into it. What we are to feel
and undergo in these last purifications, when the deepest root of all
selfishness, as well spiritual as natural, is to be plucked up and torn from
us, or how we shall be able to stand in that trial, are both of them equally
impossible to be known by us beforehand.” [817]

The self, then, has got to learn to cease to be its “own centre and
circumference”: to make that final surrender which is the price of final
peace. In the Dark Night the starved and tortured spirit learns through an
anguish which is “itself an orison” to accept lovelessness for the sake of
Love, Nothingness for the sake of the All; dies without any sure promise of
life, loses when it hardly hopes to find. It sees with amazement the most
sure foundations of its transcendental life crumble beneath it, dwells in a
darkness which seems to hold no promise of a dawn. This is what the German
mystics call the “upper school of true resignation” or of “suffering love”;
the last test of heroic detachment, of manliness, of spiritual courage.
Though such an experience is “passive” in the sense that the self can
neither enter nor leave it at will it is a direct invitation to active
endurance, a condition of stress in which work is done. Thus, when St.
Catherine of Siena was tormented by hideous visions of sin, she was being
led by her deeper self to the heroic acceptance of this subtle form of
torture, almost unendurable to her chaste and delicate mind. When these
trials had brought her to the point at which she ceased to resist them, but
exclaimed, “I have chosen suffering for my consolation,” their business was
done. They ceased. More significant still, when she asked, “Where wast Thou,
Lord, when I was tormented by this foulness?” the Divine Voice answered, “I
was in thy heart.” [818]

“In order to raise the soul from imperfection,” said the Voice of God to St.
Catherine in her Dialogue, “I withdraw Myself from her sentiment, depriving
her of former consolations . . . which I do in order to humiliate her, and
cause her to seek Me in truth, and to prove her in the light of faith, so
that she come to prudence. Then, if she love Me without thought of self, and
with lively faith and with hatred of her own sensuality, she rejoices in the
time of trouble, deeming herself unworthy of peace and quietness of mind.
Now comes the second of the three things of which I told thee, that is to
say: how the soul arrives at perfection, and what she does when she is
perfect. That is what she does. Though she perceives that I have withdrawn
Myself, she does not, on that account, look back; but perseveres with
humility in her exercises, remaining barred in the house of self-knowledge,
and, continuing to dwell therein, awaits with lively faith the coming of the
Holy Spirit, that is of Me, who am the Fire of Love. . . . This is what the
soul does in order to rise from imperfection and arrive at perfection, and
it is to this end, namely, that she may arrive at perfection, that I
withdraw from her, not by grace, but by sentiment. Once more do I leave her
so that she may see and know her defects, so that feeling herself deprived
of consolation and afflicted by pain, she may recognize her own weakness,
and learn how incapable she is of stability or perseverance, thus cutting
down to the very root of spiritual self-love: for this should be the end and
purpose of all her self-knowledge, to rise above herself, mounting the
throne of conscience, and not permitting the sentiment of imperfect love to
turn again in its death-struggle, but with correction and reproof digging up
the root of self-love with the knife of self-hatred and the love of
virtue.” [819]

“Digging up the root of self-love with the knife of self-hatred”—here we see
the mystical reason of that bitter self-contempt and sense of helplessness
which overwhelms the soul in the Dark Night.

Such a sense of helplessness is really, the mystics say, a mark of progress:
of deeper initiation into that sphere of reality to which it is not yet
acclimatized, and which brings with it a growing consciousness of the
appalling disparity between that Reality, that Perfection, and the imperfect

The self is in the dark because it is blinded by a Light greater than it can
bear—that “Divine Wisdom which is not only night and darkness to the soul,
but pain and torment too.” “The more clear the light, the more does it blind
the eyes of the owl, and the more we try to look at the sun the feebler
grows our sight and the more our weak eyes are darkened. So the divine light
of contemplation, when it beats on the soul not yet perfectly purified,
fills it with spiritual darkness, not only because of its brilliance, but
because it paralyses the natural perception of the soul. The pain suffered
by the soul is like that endured by weak or diseased eyes when suddenly
struck by a strong light. Such suffering is intense when the yet unpurified
soul finds itself invaded by this cleansing light. For in this pure light,
which attacks its impurities to expel them, the soul perceives itself to be
so unclean and miserable that it seems as if God had set Himself against it.
. . . Wonderful and piteous sight! so great are the weakness and
imperfection of the soul that the hand of God, so soft and so gentle, is
felt to be so heavy and oppressive, though merely touching it, and that,
too, most mercifully; for He touches the soul, not to chastise it, but to
load it with His graces.” [820]

The Dark Night then, whichever way we look at it, is a state of disharmony;
of imperfect adaptation to environment. The self, unaccustomed to that
direct contact of the Absolute which is destined to become the Source of its
vitality and its joy, feels the “soft and gentle touch” of the Following
Love as unbearable in its weight. The “self-naughting” or “purification of
the will,” which here takes place, is the struggle to resolve that
disharmony; to purge away the somewhat which still sets itself up in the
soul as separate from the Divine, and makes the clear light of reality a
torment instead of a joy. So deeply has the soul now entered into the great
stream of spiritual life, so dominant has her transcendental faculty become,
that this process is accomplished in her whether she will or no: and in this
sense it is, as ascetic writers sometimes call it, a “passive purgation.” So
long as the subject still feels himself to be somewhat, he has not yet
annihilated selfhood and come to that ground where his being can be united
with the Being of God.

Only when he learns to cease thinking of himself at all, in however
depreciatory a sense; when he abolishes even such selfhood as lies in a
desire for the sensible presence of God, will that harmony be attained. This
is the “naughting of the soul,” the utter surrender to the great movement of
the Absolute Life, which is insisted upon at such length by all writers upon
mysticism. Here, as in purgation, the condition of access to higher levels
of vitality is a death: a deprivation, a detachment, a clearing of the
ground. Poverty leaps to the Cross: and finds there an utter desolation,
without promise of spiritual reward. The satisfactions of the spirit must
now go the same way as the satisfactions of the senses. Even the power of
voluntary sacrifice and self-discipline is taken away. A dreadful ennui, a
dull helplessness, takes its place. The mystic motto, I am nothing, I have
nothing, I desire nothing, must now express not only the detachment of the
senses, but the whole being’s surrender to the All.

The moral condition towards which the interior travail is directed is that
of an utter humility. “Everything depends,” says Tauler, on “a fathomless
sinking in a fathomless nothingness.” He continues, “If a man were to say,
‘Lord, who art Thou, that I must follow Thee through such deep, gloomy,
miserable paths?’ the Lord would reply, ‘I am God and Man, and far more
God.’ If a man could answer then, really and consciously from the bottom of
his heart. ‘Then I am nothing and less than nothing’; all would be
accomplished, for the Godhead has really no place to work in, but ground
where all has been annihilated. [821] As the schoolmen say, when a new form
is to come into existence, the old must of necessity be destroyed. . . . And
so I say: ‘If a man is to be thus clothed upon with this Being, all the
forms must of necessity be done away that were ever received by him in all
his powers—of perception, knowledge, will, work, of subjection, sensibility
and self-seeking.’ When St. Paul saw nothing, he saw God. So also when Elias
wrapped his face in his mantle, God came. All strong rocks are broken here,
all on which the spirit can rest must be done away. Then, when all forms
have ceased to exist, in the twinkling of an eye the man is transformed.
Therefore thou must make an entrance. Thereupon speaks the Heavenly Father
to him: “Thou shalt call Me Father, and shalt never cease to enter in;
entering ever further in, ever nearer, so as to sink the deeper in an
unknown and unnamed abyss; and, above all ways, images and forms, and above
all powers, to lose thyself, deny thyself, and even unform thyself.’ In this
lost condition nothing is to be seen but a ground which rests upon itself,
everywhere one Being, one Life. It is thus, man may say, that he becomes
unknowing, unloving, and senseless.” [822]

It is clear that so drastic a process of unselfing is not likely to take
place without stress. It is the negative aspect of “deification”: in which
the self, deprived of “perception, knowledge, will, work, self-seeking”—the
I, the Me, the Mine—loses itself, denies itself, unforms itself, drawing
“ever nearer” to the One, till “nothing is to be seen but a ground which
rests upon itself”—the ground of the soul, in which it has union with God.

“Everywhere one Being, one Life”—this is the goal of mystical activity; the
final state of equilibrium towards which the self is moving, or rather
struggling, in the dimness and anguish of the Dark Night. “The soul,” says
Madame Guyon in a passage of unusual beauty, “after many a redoubled death,
expires at last in the arms of Love; but she is unable to perceive these
arms. . . . Then, reduced to Nought, there is found in her ashes a seed of
immortality, which is preserved in these ashes and will germinate in its
season. But she knows not this; and does not expect ever to see herself
living again.” Moreover, “the soul which is reduced to the Nothing, ought to
dwell therein; without wishing, since she is now but dust, to issue from
this state, nor, as before, desiring to live again. She must remain as
something which no longer exists: and this, in order that the Torrent may
drown itself and lose itself in the Sea, never to find itself in its
selfhood again: that it may become one and the same thing with the Sea.”

So Hilton says of the “naughted soul,” “the less it thinketh that it loveth
or seeth God, the nearer it nigheth for to perceive the gift of the blessed
love. For then is love master, and worketh in the soul, and maketh it for to
forget itself, and for to see and behold only how love doth. And then is the
soul more suffering than doing, and that is clean love.” [824]

The “mystic death” or Dark Night is therefore an aspect or incident of the
transition from multiplicity to Unity, of that mergence and union of the
soul with the Absolute which is the whole object of the mystical evolution
of man. It is the last painful break with the life of illusion, the tearing
away of the self from that World of Becoming in which all its natural
affections and desires are rooted, to which its intellect and senses
correspond; and the thrusting of it into that World of Being where at first,
weak and blinded, it can but find a wilderness, a “dark.” No transmutation
without fire, say the alchemists: No cross, no crown, says the Christian.
All the great experts of the spiritual life agree—whatever their creeds,
their symbols, their explanations—in describing this stress, tribulation,
and loneliness, as an essential part of the way from the Many to the One;
bringing the self to the threshold of that completed life which is to be
lived in intimate union with Reality. It is the Entombment which precedes
the Resurrection, say the Christian mystics; ever ready to describe their
life-process in the language of their faith. Here as elsewhere—but nowhere
else in so drastic a sense—the self must “lose to find and die to live.”

The Dark Night, as we have seen, tends to establish itself gradually; the
powers and intuitions of the self being withdrawn one after another, the
intervals of lucidity becoming rarer, until the “mystic death” or state of
total deprivation is reached. So, too, when the night begins to break down
before the advance of the new or Unitive Life, the process is generally
slow, though it may be marked—as for instance in Rulman Merswin’s case—by
visions and ecstasies. [825] One after another, the miseries and
disharmonies of the Dark Night give way: affirmation takes the place of
negation: the Cloud of Unknowing is pierced by rays of light.

The act of complete surrender then, which is the term of the Dark Night, has
given the self its footing in Eternity: its abandonment of the old centres
of consciousness has permitted movement towards the new. In each such
forward movement, the Transcendental Self, that spark of the soul which is
united to the Absolute Life, has invaded more and more the seat of
personality; stage by stage the remaking of the self in conformity with the
Eternal World has gone on. In the misery and apparent stagnation of the Dark
Night—that dimness of the spiritual consciousness, that dullness of its will
and love—work has been done, and the last great phase of the inward
transmutation accomplished. The self which comes forth from the night is no
separated self, conscious of the illumination of the Uncreated Light, but
the New Man, the transmuted humanity, whose life is one with the Absolute
Life of God. “As soon as the two houses of the soul [the sensual and the
spiritual],” says St. John of the Cross, “are tranquil and confirmed and
merged in one by this peace, and their servants the powers, appetites and
passions are sunk in deep tranquillity, neither troubled by things above nor
things below, the Divine Wisdom immediately unites itself to the soul in a
new bond of loving possession, and that is fulfilled which is written in the
Book of Wisdom: ‘While all things were immersed in quiet silence, and the
night was in the midway of her course, Thy omnipotent Word sallied out of
heaven from the royal seats’ (Wisdom xviii. 14). The same truth is set
before us in the Canticle, where the Bride, after passing by those who took
her veil away and wounded her, saith, ‘When I had a little passed by them I
found Him Whom my soul loveth’ (Cant. iii. 4).” [826]

* * * * *

So far, we have considered the Dark Night of the Soul from a somewhat
academic point of view. We have tried to dissect and describe it: have seen
it through the medium of literature rather than life. Such a method has
obvious disadvantages when dealing with any organic process: and when it is
applied to the spiritual life of man, these disadvantages are increased.
Moreover, our chief example, “from the life,” Madame Guyon, valuable as her
passion for self analysis makes her to the student of mystic states cannot
be looked upon as a satisfactory witness. Her morbid sentimentalism, her
absurd “spiritual self-importance” have to be taken into account and
constantly remembered in estimating the value of her psychological
descriptions. If we want to get a true idea of the Dark Night, as an episode
in the history of a living soul, we must see it in its context, as part of
that soul’s total experience. We must study the reactions of a self which is
passing through this stage of development upon its normal environment the
content of its diurnal existence; not only on its intuition of the Divine.

As a pendant to this chapter, then, we will look at this “state of pain” as
it expressed itself in the life of a mystic whose ardent, impressionable,
and poetic nature reacted to every aspect of the contemplative experience,
every mood and fluctuation of the soul. I choose this particular case—the
case of Suso—(1) because it contains many interesting and unconventional
elements; showing us the Dark Night not as a series of specific moods and
events, but as a phase of growth largely conditioned by individual
temperament: (2) because, being told at first hand, in the pages of his
singularly ingenuous autobiography, the record is comparatively free from
the reverent and corrupting emendations of the hagiographer.

From the 22nd chapter onwards, Suso’s “Life” is one of the most valuable
documents we possess for the study of this period of the Mystic Way. We see
in it—more clearly perhaps than its author can have done—the remaking of his
consciousness, his temperamental reactions to the ceaseless travail of his
deeper self: so different in type from those of St. Teresa and Madame Guyon.
There is a note of virile activity about these trials and purifications, an
insistence upon the heroic aspect of the spiritual life, far more attractive
than Madame Guyon’s elaborate discourses on resignation and holy passivity,
or even St. Teresa’s “dark ecstasies” of insatiable desire.

The chapter in which Suso’s entrance into this “Second Mystic Life” of
deprivation is described is called “How the Servitor was led into the School
of True Resignation.” Characteristically, this inward experience expressed
itself in a series of dramatic visions; visions of that “dynamic” kind which
we have noticed as a frequent accompaniment of the crisis in which the
mystic self moves to a new level of consciousness. [827] It followed the
long period of constant mortification and intermittent illumination which
lasted, as he tells us, from his eighteenth to his fortieth year: and
constituted the first cycle of his spiritual life. At the end of that time,
“God showed him that all this severity and these penances were but a good
beginning, that by these he had triumphed over the unruly sensual man: but
that now he must exert himself in another manner if he desired to advance in
the Way.” [828] In two of these visions—these vivid interior dramas—we seem
to see Suso’s developed mystical consciousness running ahead of its
experience, reading the hidden book of its own future, probing its own
spiritual necessities; and presenting the results to the backward and
unwilling surface-mind. This growing mystic consciousness is already aware
of fetters which the normal Suso does not feel. Its eyes open upon the
soul’s true country, it sees the path which it must tread to perfect
freedom; the difference between the quality of that freedom, and the
spirituality which Suso thinks that he has attained. The first of these
visions is that of the Upper School; the second is that in which he is
called to put upon him the armour of a knight.

“One night after matins, the Servitor being seated in his chair, and plunged
in deep thought, he was rapt from his senses. And it seemed to him that he
saw in a vision a magnificent young man descend from Heaven before him, and
say, “thou hast been long enough in the Lower School, and hast there
sufficiently applied thyself. Come, then, with me; and I will introduce thee
into the highest school that exists in this world. [829] There, thou shalt
apply thyself to the study of that science which will procure thee the
veritable peace of God; and which will bring thy holy beginning to a happy
end.’ Then the Servitor rose, full of joy; and it seemed to him that the
young man took him by the hand and led him into a spiritual country, wherein
there was a fair house inhabited by spiritual men: for here lived those who
applied themselves to the study of this science. As soon as he entered it,
these received him kindly, and amiably saluted him. And at once they went to
the supreme Master, and told him that a man was come, who desired to be his
disciple and to learn his science. And he said, ‘Let him come before me,
that I may see whether he please me.’ And when the supreme Master saw the
Servitor, he smiled on him very kindly, and said, ‘Know that this guest is
able to become a good disciple of our high science, if he will bear with
patience the hard probation: for it is necessary that he be tried

“The Servitor did not then understand these enigmatic words. He turned
toward the young man who had brought him and asked, ‘Well, my dear comrade,
what then is this Upper School and this science of which you have spoken to
me?’ The young man replied thus: ‘In this Upper School they teach the
science of Perfect Self-abandonment; that is to say, that a man is here
taught to renounce himself so utterly that, in all those circumstances in
which God is manifested, either by Himself or in His creatures, the man
applies himself only to remaining calm and unmoved renouncing so far as is
possible all human frailty.’ And shortly after this discourse, the Servitor
came to himself . . . and, talking to himself, he said, ‘Examine thyself
inwardly and thou wilt see that thou hast still much self-will: thou wilt
observe, that with all thy mortifications which thou hast inflicted on
thyself, thou canst not yet endure external vexations. Thou art like a hare
hiding in a bush, who is frightened by the whispering of the leaves. Thou
also art frightened every day by the griefs that come to thee: thou dost
turn pale at the sight of those who speak against thee: when thou doest fear
to succumb, thou takest flight; when thou oughtest to present thyself with
simplicity, thou dost hide thyself. When they praise thee, thou art happy:
when they blame thee, thou art sad. Truly is it very needful for thee that
thou shouldst go to an Upper School.” [830]

Some weeks later, when he had been rejoicing in the new bodily comfort which
resulted from his relinquishment of all outward mortifications, Suso
received a still more pointed lesson on his need of moral courage. He was
sitting on his bed and meditating on the words of Job “Militia est.” “The
life of man upon the earth is like unto that of a knight”: [831] “and during
this meditation, he was once more rapt from his senses, and it seemed to him
that he saw coming towards him a fair youth of manly bearing, who held in
his hands the spurs and the other apparel which knights are accustomed to
wear. And he drew near to the Servitor, and clothed him in a coat of mail,
and said to him, ‘Oh, knight! hitherto thou hast been but a squire, but now
it is God’s will that thou be raised to knighthood.’ And the Servitor gazed
at his spurs, and said with much amazement in his heart, ‘Alas, my God! what
has befallen me? what have I become? must I indeed be a knight? I had far
rather remain in peace.’ Then he said to the young man, ‘Since it is God’s
will that I should be a knight I had rather have won my spurs in battle; for
this would have been more glorious.’ The young man turned away and began to
laugh: and said to him, ‘Have no fear! thou shalt have battles enough. He
who would play a valiant part in the spiritual chivalry of God must endure
more numerous and more dreadful combats than any which were encountered by
the proud heroes of ancient days, of whom the world tells and sings the
knightly deeds. It is not that God desires to free thee from thy burdens; He
would only change them and make them far heavier than they have ever
been.’ Then the Servitor said, ‘Oh, Lord, show me my pains in advance, in
order that I may know them.’ The Lord replied, ‘No, it is better that thou
know nothing, lest thou shouldst hesitate. But amongst the innumerable pains
which thou wilt have to support, I will tell thee three. The first is this.
Hitherto it is thou who hast scourged thyself, with thine own hands: thou
didst cease when it seemed good to thee, and thou hadst compassion on
thyself. Now, I would take thee from thyself, and cast thee without defence
into the hands of strangers who shall scourge thee. Thou shalt see the ruin
of thy reputation. Thou shalt be an object of contempt to blinded men; and
thou shalt suffer more from this than from the wounds made by the points of
thy cross. [832] When thou didst give thyself up to thy penances thou wert
exalted and admired. Now thou shalt be abased and annihilated. The second
pain is this: Although thou didst inflict on thyself many cruel tortures,
still by God’s grace there remained to thee a tender and loving disposition.
It shall befall thee, that there where thou hadst thought to find a special
and a faithful love, thou shalt find nought but unfaithfulness, great
sufferings, and great griefs. Thy trials shall be so many that those men who
have any love for thee shall suffer with thee by compassion. The third pain
is this: hitherto thou hast been but a child at the breast, a spoiled child.
Thou hast been immersed in the divine sweetness like a fish in the sea. Now
I will withdraw all this. It is my will that thou shouldst be deprived of
it, and that thou suffer from this privation, that thou shouldst be
abandoned of God and of man, that thou shouldst be publicly persecuted by
the friends of thine enemies. I will tell it thee in a word: all thou shalt
undertake, that might bring thee joy and consolation, shall come to nothing,
and all that might make thee suffer and be vexatious to thee shall
succeed.’” [833]

Observe here, under a highly poetic and visionary method of presentation,
the characteristic pains of the Dark Night as described by St. John of the
Cross, Madame Guyon, De Caussade and almost every expert who has written
upon this state of consciousness. Desolation and loneliness, abandonment by
God and by man, a tendency of everything to “go wrong,” a profusion of
unsought trials and griefs—all are here. Suso, naturally highly strung,
sensitive and poetic, suffered acutely in this mental chaos and
multiplication of woes. He was tormented by a deep depression so that “it
seemed as though a mountain weighed on his heart” by doubts against faith:
by temptations to despair. [834] These miseries lasted for about ten years.
They were diversified and intensified by external trials, such as illnesses
and false accusations; and relieved, as the years of purgation had been, by
occasional visions and revelations.

Suso’s natural tendency was to an enclosed life: to secret asceticism,
reverie, outbursts of fervent devotion, long hours of rapt communion with
the Eternal Wisdom whom he loved. At once artist and recluse, utterly
unpractical, he had all the dreamer’s dread of the world of men. His deeper
self now ran counter to all these preferences. Like the angel which said to
him in the hour of his utmost prostration and misery, “ Viriliter agite!”
[835] it pressed him inexorably towards the more manly part; pushing him to
action, sending him out from his peaceful if uncomfortable cell to the
rough-and-tumble of the world. Poor Suso was little fitted by nature for
that rough-and-tumble: and a large part of his autobiography is concerned
with the description of all that he endured therein. The Dark Night for him
was emphatically an “active night”; and the more active he was forced to be,
the darker and more painful it became. Chapter after chapter is filled with
the troubles of the unhappy Servitor; who, once he began to meddle with
practical life, soon disclosed his native simplicity and lost the reputation
for wisdom and piety which he had gained during his years of seclusion.

There was not in Suso that high-hearted gaiety, that child-like courage,
which made the early Franciscans delight to call themselves God’s fools. The
bewildered lover of the Eternal Wisdom suffered acutely from his loss of
dignity; from the unfriendliness and contempt of other men. He gives a long
and dismal catalogue of the enemies that he made, the slanders which he
endured, in the slow acquirement of that disinterested and knightly valour
which had been revealed to him as the essential virtue of the squire who
would “ride with the Eternal Wisdom in the lists.” [836]

Suso was a born romantic. This dream of a spiritual chivalry haunts him:
again and again he uses the language of the tournament in his description of
the mystic life. Yet perhaps few ideals seem less appropriate to this timid,
highly-strung, unpractical Dominican friar: this ecstatic “minnesinger of
the Holy Ghost,” half-poet, half-metaphysician, racked by ill-health,
exalted by mystical ardours, instinctively fearing the harsh contact of his

There is no grim endurance about Suso: he feels every hard knock, and all
the instincts of his nature are in favour of telling his griefs. A more
human transcendentalist has never lived. Thanks to the candour and
completeness with which he takes his readers into his confidence, we know
him far more intimately than we do any of the other great contemplatives.
There is one chapter in his life in which he describes with the utmost
ingenuousness how he met a magnificent knight whilst crossing the Lake of
Constance; and was deeply impressed by his enthusiastic descriptions of the
glories and dangers of the lists. The conversation between the tough man at
arms and the hypersensitive mystic is full of revealing touches. Suso is
exalted and amazed by the stories of hard combats, the courage of the
knights, and the ring for which they contend: but most astounded by the
fortitude which pays no attention to its wounds.

“And may not one weep, and show that one is hurt, when one is hit very
hard?” he says.

The knight replies, “No, even though one’s heart fails, as happens to many,
one must never show that one is distressed. One must appear gay and happy;
otherwise one is dishonoured, and loses at the same time one’s reputation
and the Ring.”

“These words made the Servitor thoughtful; and he was greatly moved, and
inwardly sighing he said, ‘Oh Lord, if the knights of this world must suffer
so much to obtain so small a prize, how just it is that we should suffer far
more if we are to obtain an eternal recompense! Oh, my sweet Lord, if only I
were worthy of being Thy spiritual knight!”

Arrived at his destination, however, Suso was visited by fresh trials: and
soon forgetting his valiant declarations, he began as usual to complain of
his griefs. The result was a visionary ecstasy, in which he heard the voice
of that deeper self to which he always attributed a divine validity,
inquiring with ill-concealed irony, “Well, what has become of that noble
chivalry? Who is this knight of straw, this rag-made man? It is not by
making rash promises and drawing back when suffering comes, that men win the
Ring of Eternity which you desire.”

“Alas! Lord,” said Suso plaintively, “the tournaments in which one must
suffer for Thee last such a very long time!”

The voice replied, “But the reward, the honour, and the Ring which I give to
My knights endure for ever.” [837]

As his mystic consciousness grew, the instinct pressing him towards action
and endurance grew with it. The inner voice and its visionary expression
urged him on remorselessly. It mocked his weakness, encouraged him to more
active suffering, more complete self-renunciation: more contact with the
unfriendly world. Viriliter agile! He must be a complete personality; a
whole man. Instead of the quiet cell, the secret mortifications, his
selfhood was to be stripped from him, and the reality of his renunciation
tested, under the unsympathetic and often inimical gaze of other men. The
case of Suso is one that may well give pause to those who regard the mystic
life as a progress in passivity, withdrawal from the actual world: and the
“Dark Night” as one of its most morbid manifestations.

It is interesting to observe how completely human and apparently
“unmystical” was the culminating trial by which Suso was “perfected in the
school of true resignation.” “None can come to the sublime heights of the
divinity,” said the Eternal Wisdom to him in one of his visions, “or taste
its ineffable sweetness, if first they have not experienced the bitterness
and lowliness of My humanity. The higher they climb without passing by My
humanity, the lower afterward shall be their fall. My humanity is the road
which all must tread who would come to that which thou seekest: My
sufferings are the door by which all must come in.” [838] It was by the path
of humanity; by some of the darkest and most bitter trials of human
experience, the hardest tests of its patience and love, that Suso “came
in” to that sustained peace of heart and union with the divine will which
marked his last state. The whole tendency of these trials in the “path of
humanity” seems, as we look at them, to be directed towards the awakening of
those elements of character left dormant by the rather specialized
disciplines and purifications of his cloistered life. We seem to see the
“new man” invading all the resistant or inactive corners of personality: the
Servitor of Wisdom being pressed against his will to a deeply and widely
human life in the interests of Eternal Love. The absence of God whom he
loved, the enmity of man whom he feared, were the chief forces brought to
play upon him: and we watch his slow growth, under their tonic influence, in
courage, humility, and fraternal love.

Few chapters in the history of the mystics are more touching than that
passage in Suso’s Life. [839] “Where we speak of an extraordinary Trial
which the Servitor had to bear.” It tells how a malicious woman accused him
of being the father of her child, and succeeded for the time in entirely
destroying his reputation. “And the scandal was all the greater,” says the
Servitor with his customary simplicity “because the rumour of that
brother’s sanctity had spread so far.” Poor Suso was utterly crushed by this
calumny, “wounded to the depths of his heart.” “Lord, Lord!” he cried,
“every day of my life I have worshipped Thy holy Name in many places, and
have helped to cause it to be loved and honoured by many men: and now Thou
wouldst drag my name through the mud!” When the scandal was at its height, a
woman of the neighbourhood came to him in secret; and offered to destroy the
child which was the cause of this gossip, in order that the tale might be
more quickly forgotten and his reputation restored. She said further that
unless the baby were somehow disposed of, he would certainly be forced by
public opinion to accept it, and provide for its upbringing. Suso, writhing
as he was under the contempt of the whole neighbourhood, the apparent ruin
of his career—knowing, too, that this slander of one of their leaders must
gravely injure the reputation of the Friends of God—was able to meet the
temptation with a noble expression of trust. “I have confidence in the God
of Heaven, Who is rich, and Who has given me until now all that which was
needful unto me. He will help me to keep, if need be, another beside
myself.” And then he said to his temptress, “Go, fetch the little child that
I may see it.”

“And when he had the baby, he put it on his knees and looked at it: and the
baby began to smile at him. And sighing deeply, he said, ‘Could I kill a
pretty baby that smiled at me? No, no, I had rather suffer every trial that
could come upon me!” And turning his face to the unfortunate little
creature, he said to it, ‘Oh my poor, poor little one! Thou art but an
unhappy orphan, for thy unnatural father hath denied thee, thy wicked mother
would cast thee off, as one casts off a little dog that has ceased to
please! The providence of God hath given thee to me, in order that I may be
thy father. I wilt accept thee, then, from Him and from none else. Ah, dear
child of my heart, thou liest on my knees; thou dost gaze at me, thou canst
not yet speak! As for me, I contemplate thee with a broken heart; with
weeping eyes, and lips that kiss, I bedew thy little face with my burning
tears! . . . Thou shalt be my son, and the child of the good God; and as
long as heaven gives me a mouthful, I shall share it with thee, for the
greater glory of God; and will patiently support all the trials that may
come to me, my darling son!’” How different is this from the early Suso;
interested in little but his own safe spirituality, and with more than a
touch of the religious aesthete!

The story goes on: “And when the hard-hearted woman who had wished to kill
the little one saw these tears, when she heard these tender words, she was
greatly moved: and her heart was filled with pity, and she too began to weep
and cry aloud. The Servitor was obliged to calm her, for fear that,
attracted by the noise, some one should come and see what was going on. And
when she had finished weeping the Brother gave her back the baby and blessed
it, and said to it, ‘Now may God in His goodness bless thee, and may the
saints protect thee against all evil that may be!’ And he enjoined the woman
to care for it well at his expense.”

Small wonder that after this heroic act of charity Suso’s reputation went
from bad to worse; that even his dearest friends forsook him, and he
narrowly escaped expulsion from the religious life. His torments and
miseries, his fears for the future, continued to grow until they at last
came to their term in a sort of mental crisis. “His feeble nature broken by
the pains which he had to endure, he went forth raving like one who has lost
his sense and hid himself in a place far from men, where none could see or
hear him . . . and whilst he suffered thus, several times something which
came from God said within his soul, ‘Where then is your resignation? Where
is that equal humour in joy and in tribulation which you have so lightly
taught other men to love? In what manner is it, then, that one should rest
in God and have confidence only in Him?’ He replied weeping, ‘You ask where
is my resignation? But tell me first, where is the infinite pity of God for
His friends? . . . Oh Fathomless Abyss! come to my help, for without Thee I
am lost. Thou knowest that Thou art my only consolation, that all my trust
is only in Thee. Oh hear me, for the love of God, all you whose hearts are
wounded! Behold! let none be scandalized by my insane behaviour. So long as
it was only a question of preaching resignation, that was easy: but now that
my heart is pierced, now that I am wounded to the marrow . . . how can I be
resigned?’ And after thus suffering half a day, his brain was exhausted, and
at last he became calmer, and sitting down he came to himself: and turning
to God, and abandoning himself to His Will, he said, ‘If it cannot be
otherwise, fiat voluntas tua .’” [1][840] The act of submission was at once
followed by an ecstasy and vision, in which the approaching end of his
troubles was announced to him. “And in the event, God came to the help of
the Servitor, and little by little that terrible tempest died away.”

Thus with Suso, as with St. Catherine of Siena and other mystics whom we
have considered, the travail of the Dark Night is all directed towards the
essential mystic act of utter self-surrender; that fiat voluntas tua which
marks the death of selfhood in the interests of a new and deeper life. He
has learned the lesson of “the school of true resignation”: has moved to a
new stage of reality: a complete self-naughting, an utter acquiescence in
the large and hidden purposes of the Divine Will.

“Anzi è formale ad esto beato esse

tenersi dentro alla divina voglia

per ch’ una fansi nostre voglie stesse,” [840]

says Piccarda, announcing the primary law of Paradise. Suso has passed
through the fire to the state in which he too can say, “La sua voluntate è
nostre pace.” The old grouping of his consciousness round “spiritual self”
has come to its head and at last broken down. In the midst of a psychic
storm parallel to the upheavals of conversion, “mercenary love” is for ever
disestablished, the new state of Pure Love is abruptly established in its
place. Human pain is the price: the infinite joy peculiar to “free souls” is
the reward. We may study the pain, but the nature of the joy is beyond us:
as, in the Absolute Type of all mystic achievement, we see the cross clearly
but can hardly guess at the true nature of the resurrection life.

Hence Suso’s description of his establishment in the Unitive Way seems
meagre, an anti-climax, after all that went before. “And later,” he says
simply, “when God judged that it was time, He rewarded the poor martyr for
all his suffering. And he enjoyed peace of heart, and received in
tranquillity and quietness many precious graces. And he praised the Lord
from the very depths of his soul, and thanked Him for those same sufferings:
which, for all the world, he would not now have been spared. And God caused
him to understand that by this complete abasement he had gained more, and
was made the more worthy to be raised up to God, than by all the pains which
he had suffered from his youth up to that time.” [841]

[783] Vide supra , pp. 187 seq ., the cases of Suso and Pascal.

[784] Pt. ii. cap. i.

[785] “Psychology of Religion,” p. 24.

[786] An example of this occurred in the later life of Ste. Jeanne Françoise
de Chantal. See “The Nuns of Port Royal,” by M. E. Lowndes, p. 284. Much
valuable material bearing on the trials of the Dark Night as they appear in
the experience of ordinary contemplatives will be found in the letters of
direction of De Caussade. See his “L’Abandon à la Providence Divine,” vol.

[787] Vide supra , p. 228.

[788] Vie, pt. I. cap. xx.

[789] Op. cit., cap. xxi.

[790] “Journal Spirituel,” p. 233.

[791] Vie, cap. xxiii.

[792] “Les Torrents,” pt. i. cap. vii. § 2.

[793] Leben, cap. xxii.

[794] “Holy Wisdom,” Treatise iii. § iv. cap. v.

[795] “Buchlein von der ewigen Weisheit,” cap. ii.

[796] “Journal Spirituel,” p. 368.

[797] From the “Mesnevi.” Quoted in the Appendix to ‘The Flowers or Rose
Garden of Sadi.”

[798] Meister Eckhart, Pred. lvii. So too St. Gertrude in one of her
symbolic visions saw a thick hedge erected between herself and Christ.

[799] “Noche Escura del Alma,”’ I. ii. cap. vi.

[800] Vie, pt. i. cap. xxiii.

[801] De Caussade, “L’Abandon à la Providence Divine.” vol. ii., p. 269.

[802] Madame Guyon , “Les Torrents,” pt. i. cap, vii.

[803] “Noche Escura del Alma,” loc. cit.

[804] Instructive examples in De Caussade, op. cit., vol. ii., pp. 1-82.

[805] Ruysbroeck, “De Ornatu Spiritalium Nuptiarum,” I. ii. cap. xxviii.

[806] St. Angèle de Foligno, op. cit ., p. 197 (English translation, p. 15).

[807] J. E. Gardner, “St. Catherine of Siena,” p. 20.

[808] Vida, cap. xxx. §§ 12 and 14.

[809] Op. cit., loc. cit.

[810] “Das Fliessende Licht der Gottheit,” pt. ii. cap. 25.

[811] L. vi. cap. xiii.

[812] “El Castillo Interior,” Moradas Sextas, cap. xi.

[813] St. Teresa, op. cit., loc. cit. Compare the Vida, cap. xx. §§ 11 to

[814] Sermon for the 4th Sunday in Lent (Winkworth’s translation, p. 280).

[815] Op. cit., loc. cit .

[816] “Vita e Dottrina,” cap. xiv.

[817] “Christian Regeneration” (The Liberal and Mystical Writings of William
Law, pp. 158-60).

[818] Vide supra , p. 392.

[819] Dialogo, cap. lxiii.

[820] St. John of the Cross, “Noche Escura del Alma,” I. ii cap. v.

[821] I.e. , the pure essence of the soul, purged of selfhood and illusion.

[822] Sermon on St. Matthew (“The Inner Way.” pp. 204, 205).

[823] “Les Torrents” pt. i. cap, viii.

[824] “The Scale of Perfection,” bk. ii. cap. xxxv.

[825] Jundt, “Rulman Merswin” p. 22.

[826] “Noche Escura del Alma,” I. ii, cap. xxiv.

[827] Vide supra , p. 290.

[828] Leben, cap. xx.

[829] These expressions, the Upper and Lower School of the Holy Spirit, as
applied to the first and second mystic life, were common to the whole group
of “Friends of God,” and appear frequently in their works. Vide supra ,
p.441, Rulman Merswin’s “Vision of Nine Rocks,” where the man who has “gazed
upon his Origin” is said to have been in the Upper School of the Holy
Spirit; i.e ., to have been united to God.

[830] Leben, cap. xxi.

[831] Job vii. 1 (Vulgate).

[832] During the years of purgation Suso had constantly worn a sharp cross,
the points of which pierced his flesh.

[833] Leben, cap. xxii.

[834] Leben, cap. xxiii.

[835] Ibid. , cap. xxv.

[836] “Buchlein von der ewigen Weisheit,” cap. ii.

[837] Leben, cap. xlvii. So Ruysbroeck, “The gold Ring of our Covenant is
greater than Heaven or Earth” (“De Contemplatione”). Compare Vaughan the
Silurist (“The World”). “I saw Eternity the other night, Like a great Ring
of pure and endless light, All calm as it was bright; . . . . One whispered
thus: ‘This Ring the Bridegroom did for none provide But for His Bride.’”

[838] “Buchlein von der ewigen Weisheit,” cap. ii.

[839] Cap. xl.

[840] “Nay, it is essential to this blessed being, to hold ourselves within
the Will Divine; that therewith our own wills be themselves made one.”

[841] Loc. cit .