Chapter 6

I n our study of theology we saw the Christian mystic adopting, as chart and
pilot book of his voyages and adventures, the scheme of faith, and diagram
of the spiritual world, which is accepted by ordinary Christian men. We saw
that he found in it a depth and richness of content which the conventional
believer in that theology, the “good churchman,” seldom suspects: and that
which is true of the Christian mystic is also true in its measure and as
regards their respective theologies, of the Pagan, the Mahommedan and the

But since the spiritual adventures of the mystic are not those of ordinary
men, it will follow that this map, though always true for him, is not
complete. He can press forward to countries which unmystical piety must mark
as unexplored, Pushing out from harbour to “the vast and stormy sea of the
divine,” he can take soundings, and mark dangers the existence of which such
piety never needs to prove. Hence it is not strange that certain maps,
artistic representations or symbolic schemes, should have come into being
which describe or suggest the special experiences of the mystical
consciousness, and the doctrines to which these experiences have given
birth. Many of these maps have an uncouth, even an impious appearance in the
eyes of those unacquainted with the facts which they attempt to translate:
as the charts of the deep-sea sailor seem ugly and unintelligible things to
those who have never been out of sight of land. Others—and these the most
pleasing, most easily understood—have already been made familiar, perhaps
tiresomely familiar, to us by the poets; who, intuitively recognizing their
suggestive qualities, their links with truth, have borrowed and adapted them
to their own business of translating Reality into terms of rhythm and
speech. Ultimately, however, they owe their origin to the mystics, or to
that mystical sense which is innate in all true poets: and in the last
resort it is the mystic’s kingdom, and the mystic’s experience, which they
affect to describe.

These special mystical diagrams, these symbolic and artistic descriptions of
man’s inward history—his secret adventures with God—are almost endless in
their variety: since in each we have a picture of the country of the soul
seen through a different temperament. To describe all would be to analyse
the whole field of mystical literature, and indeed much other literature as
well; to epitomize in fact all that has been dreamed and written concerning
the so-called “inner life”—a dreary and a lengthy task. But the majority of
them, I think, express a comparatively small number of essential doctrines
or fundamental ways of seeing things; and as regards their imagery, they
fall into three great classes, representative of the three principal ways in
which man’s spiritual consciousness reacts to the touch of Reality, the
three primary if paradoxical facts of which that consciousness must be
aware. Hence a consideration of mystic symbols drawn from each of these
groups may give us a key with which to unlock some at least of the verbal
riddles of the individual adventurer.

Thanks to the spatial imagery inseparable from human thinking and human
expression, no direct description of spiritual experience is or can be
possible to man. It must always be symbolic, allusive, oblique: always
suggest, but never tell, the truth: and in this respect there is not much to
choose between the fluid and artistic language of vision and the arid
technicalities of philosophy. In another respect, however, there is a great
deal to choose between them: and here the visionary, not the philosopher,
receives the palm. The greater the suggestive quality of the symbol used,
the more answering emotion it evokes in those to whom it is addressed, the
more truth it will convey. A good symbolism, therefore, will be more than
mere diagram or mere allegory: it will use to the utmost the resources of
beauty and of passion, will bring with it hints of mystery and wonder,
bewitch with dreamy periods the mind to which it is addressed. Its appeal
will not be to the clever brain, but to the desirous heart, the intuitive
sense, of man.

The three great classes of symbols which I propose to consider, appeal to
three deep cravings of the self, three great expressions of man’s
restlessness, which only mystic truth can fully satisfy. The first is the
craving which makes him a pilgrim and wanderer. It is the longing to go out
from his normal world in search of a lost home, a “better country”; an
Eldorado, a Sarras, a Heavenly Syon. The next is that craving of heart for
heart, of the soul for its perfect mate, which makes him a lover. The third
is the craving for inward purity and perfection, which makes him an ascetic,
and in the last resort a saint.

These three cravings, I think, answer to three ways in which mystics of
different temperaments attack the problem of the Absolute: three different
formulae under which their transcendence of the sense-world can be
described. In describing this transcendence, and the special adventures
involved in it, they are describing a change from the state of ordinary men,
in touch with the sense-world, responding to its rhythms, to the state of
spiritual consciousness in which, as they say, they are “in union” with
Divine Reality, with God. Whatever be the theological creed of the mystic,
he never varies in declaring this close, definite, and actual intimacy to be
the end of his quest. “Mark me like the tulip with Thine own streaks,” says
the Sufi. [258] “I would fain be to the Eternal Goodness what his own hand
is to a man,” says the German contemplative. [259] “My me isGod, nor do I
know my self-hood save in Him,” says the Italian saint. [260]

But, since this Absolute God is for him substance, ground or underlying
Reality of all that is : present yet absent, near yet far: He is already as
truly immanent in the human soul as in the Universe. The seeker for the Real
may therefore objectify his quest in two apparently contradictory, yet
really mutually explanatory ways. First he may see it as an outgoing journey
from the world of illusion to the real or transcendental world: a leaving of
the visible for the invisible. Secondly, it may appear to him as an inward
alteration, remaking or regeneration, by which his personality or character
is so changed as to be able to enter into communion with that Fontal Being
which he loves and desires; is united with and dominated by the indwelling
God who is the fount of his spiritual life. In the first case, the objective
idea “God” is the pivot of his symbolism: the Blazing Star, or Magnet of the
Universe which he has seen far off, and seeing, has worshipped and desired.
In the second case, the emphasis falls on the subjective idea “Sanctity,”
with its accompanying consciousness of a disharmony to be abolished. The
Mystic Way will then be described, not as a journey, but as an alteration of
personality, the transmuting of “earthly” into “heavenly” man. Plainly these
two aspects are obverse and reverse of one whole. They represent that mighty
pair of opposites, Infinite and Finite, God and Self, which it is the
business of mysticism to carry up into a higher synthesis. Whether the
process be considered as outward search or inward change, its object and its
end are the same. Man enters into that Order of Reality for which he was
made, and which is indeed the inciting cause of his pilgrimage and his
purification: for however great the demand on the soul’s own effort may be,
the initiative always lies with the living Divine World itself. Man’s small
desire is evoked, met, and fulfilled by the Divine Desire, his “separated
will” or life becomes one with the great Life of the All.

From what has been said in the last chapter, it will be clear that the
symbolism of outward search and of inward change will be adopted
respectively by the two groups of selves whose experience of “union with the
Divine” leans (1) to the Transcendent or external, (2) to the Immanent or
internal way of apprehending Reality. A third or intermediate group of
images will be necessary to express the experience of those to whom mystic
feeling—the satisfaction of love—is the supreme factor in the mystic life.
According, then, to whether man’s instinct prompts him to describe the
Absolute Reality which he knows and craves for as a Place, a Person, or a
State—all three of course but partial and inadequate translations of the one
Indescribable Truth—so will he tend to adopt a symbolism of one or other of
these three types.

A. Those who conceive the Perfect as a beatific vision exterior to them and
very far off, who find in the doctrine of Emanations something which answers
to their inward experience, will feel the process of their entrance into
reality to be a quest, an arduous journey from the material to the spiritual
world. They move away from, rather than transmute to another form, the life
of sense. The ecstasies of such mystics will answer to the root-meaning of
that much perverted word, as a “standing out” from themselves; a flight to
happier countries far away. For them, the soul is outward bound towards its

B. Those for whom mysticism is above all things an intimate and personal
relation, the satisfaction of a deep desire—who can say with Gertrude More,
“never was there or can there be imagined such a love, as is between an
humble soul and Thee”—will fall back upon imagery drawn largely from the
language of earthly passion. Since the Christian religion insists upon the
personal aspect of the Godhead, and provides in Christ an object of such
intimacy, devotion and desire, an enormous number of Christian mystics
inevitably describe their experiences under symbolism of this kind.

C. Those who are conscious rather of the Divine as a Transcendent Life
immanent in the world and the self, and of a strange spiritual seed within
them by whose development man, moving to higher levels of character and
consciousness, attains his end, will see the mystic life as involving inward
change rather than outgoing search. Regeneration is their watchword, and
they will choose symbols of growth or transmutation: saying with St.
Catherine of Genoa, “my Being is God, not by simple participation, but by a
true transformation of my Being.” [261]

These three groups of mystics, then, stand for three kinds of temperament;
and we may fairly take as their characteristic forms of symbolic expression
the Mystic Quest, the Marriage of the Soul, and the “Great Work” of the
Spiritual Alchemists.


The pilgrimage idea, the outgoing quest, appears in mystical literature
under two different aspects. One is the search for the “Hidden Treasure
which desires to be found.” Such is the “quest of the Grail” when regarded
in its mystic aspect as an allegory of the adventures of the soul. The other
is the long, hard journey towards a known and definite goal or state. Such
are Dante’s “Divine Comedy” and Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress”; each in their
manner faithful descriptions of the Mystic Way. The goal of the quest—the
Empyrean of Dante, the Beatific Vision or fulfilment of love—is often called
Jerusalem by the Christian mystics: naturally enough since that city was for
the mediaeval mind the supreme end of pilgrimage. By Jerusalem they mean not
only the celestial country Heaven, but also the spiritual life, which is
“itself a heaven.” [262] “Right as a true pilgrim going to Jerusalem,” says
Hilton, “leaveth behind him house and land, wife and child, and maketh
himself poor and bare from all that he hath, that he may go lightly without
letting: right so, if thou wilt be a ghostly pilgrim, thou shalt make
thyself naked from all that thou hast . . . then shalt thou set in thy heart
wholly and fully that thou wouldst be at Jerusalem, and at none other place
but there.” “Jerusalem,” he says in this same chapter, “is as much as to say
a sight of peace; and betokeneth contemplation in perfect love of God.”

Under this image of a pilgrimage—an image as concrete and practical, as
remote from the romantic and picturesque, for the mediaeval writers who used
it, as a symbolism of hotel and railway train would be to us—the mystics
contrived to summarize and suggest much of the life history of the ascending
soul; the developing spiritual consciousness. The necessary freedom and
detachment of the traveller, his departure from his normal life and
interests, the difficulties, enemies, and hardships encountered on the
road—the length of the journey, the variety of the country, the dark night
which overtakes him, the glimpses of destination far away—all these are seen
more and more as we advance in knowledge to constitute a transparent
allegory of the incidents of man’s progress from the unreal to the real.
Bunyan was but the last of a long series of minds which grasped this fact.

The Traveller, says the Sufi ‘Aziz bin Mahommed Nafasi, in whose book, “The
Remotest Aim,” the pilgrimage-symbolism is developed in great detail, is the
Perceptive or Intuitive Sense of Man. The goal to which he journeys is
Knowledge of God. This mysterious traveller towards the only country of the
soul may be known of other men by his detachment, charity, humility, and
patience. These primary virtues, however—belonging to ethical rather than to
spiritual life—are not enough to bring his quest to a successful
termination. They make him, say the Sufis, “perfect in knowledge of his goal
but deficient in the power of reaching it.” Though he has fraternal love for
his fellow-pilgrims, detachment from wayside allurements, untiring
perseverance on the road, he is still encumbered and weakened by unnecessary
luggage. The second stage of his journey, therefore, is initiated like that
of Christian by a casting off of his burden: a total self-renouncement, the
attainment of a Franciscan poverty of spirit whereby he becomes “Perfectly

Having got rid of all impediments to the spiritual quest, he must now
acquire or develop in their stead the characteristic mystical qualities, or
Three Aids of the Pilgrim; which are called in this system Attraction,
Devotion, and Elevation. Attraction is consciousness of the mutual desire
existing between man’s spirit and the Divine Spirit: of the link of love
which knits up reality and draws all things to their home in God. This is
the universal law on which all mysticism is based. It is St. Augustine’s
“Thou hast made us for Thyself and our hearts can find no rest except in
Thee.” This “natural magnetism,” then, once he is aware of it, will draw the
pilgrim irresistibly along the road from the Many to the One. His second
aid, Devotion, says the “Remotest Aim” in a phrase of great depth and
beauty, is “the prosecution of the journey to God and in God.” [264] It
embraces, in fact, the whole contemplative life. It is the next degree of
spiritual consciousness after the blind yielding to the attraction of the
Real, and the setting in order of man’s relation to his source.

The Traveller’s journey to God is complete when he attains knowledge of
Him—“Illumination,” in the language of European mystics. The point at which
this is reached is called the Tavern or resting-place upon the road, where
he is fed with the Divine Mysteries. There are also “Wine Shops” upon the
way, where the weary pilgrim is cheered and refreshed by a draught of the
wine of Divine Love. [265] Only when the journey to God is completed begins
the “Journey in God”—that which the Christian mystics call the Unitive
Way—and this, since it is the essence of Eternal Life, can have no end.
Elevation, the pilgrim’s third aid, is the exalted or ecstatic form of
consciousness peculiar to the contemplative, and which allows the traveller
a glimpse of the spiritual city towards which he goes. [266]

The Sufi poet ‘Attar, in his mystical poem, “The Colloquy of the Birds,” has
described the stages of this same spiritual pilgrimage with greater
psychological insight, as the journey through “Seven Valleys.” The lapwing,
having been asked by other birds what is the length of the road which leads
to the hidden Palace of the King, replies that there are Seven Valleys
through which every traveller must pass: but since none who attain the End
ever come back to describe their adventures, no one knows the length of the

(1) The first valley, says the lapwing, is the Valley of the Quest. It is
long and toilsome: and there the traveller must strip himself of all earthly
things, becoming poor, bare, and desolate: and so stay till the Supernal
Light casts a ray on his desolation. It is in fact, Dante’s Purgatorio, the
Christian Way of Purgation: the period of self-stripping and purification
which no mystic system omits.

(2) When the ray of Supernal Light has touched the pilgrim he enters the
limitless Valley of Love: begins, that is to say, the mystic life. It is
Dante’s “Earthly Paradise,” or, in the traditional system of the mystics,
the onset of Illumination.

(3) Hence he passes to the Valley of Knowledge or Enlightenment—the
contemplative state—where each finds in communion with Truth the place that
belongs to him. No Dante student will fail to see here a striking parallel
with those planetary heavens where each soul partakes of the Divine, “not
supremely in the absolute sense,” as St. Bonaventura has it, but “supremely
in respect of himself.” The mystery of Being is now revealed to the
traveller. He sees Nature’s secret, and God in all things. It is the height
of illumination.

(4) The next stage is the Valley of Detachment, of utter absorption in
Divine Love—the Stellar Heaven of the Saints—where Duty is seen to be all in
all. This leads to—

(5) The Valley of the Unity, where the naked Godhead is the one object of
contemplation. This is the stage of ecstasy, or the Beatific Vision:
Dante’s condition in the last canto of the “Paradiso.” It is transient,
however, and leads to—

(6) The Valley of Amazement; where the Vision, far transcending the
pilgrim’s receptive power, appears to be taken from him and he is plunged in
darkness and bewilderment. This is the state which Dionysius the Areopagite,
and after him many mediaeval mystics, called the Divine Dark, and described
as the truest and closest of all our apprehensions of the Godhead. It is the
Cloud of Unknowing, “dark from excessive bright.” The final stage is—

(7) The Valley of Annihilation of Self: the supreme degree of union or
theopathetic state, in which the self is utterly merged “like a fish in the
sea” in the ocean of Divine Love. [267]

Through all these metaphors of pilgrimage to a goal—of a road followed,
distance overpassed, fatigue endured—there runs the definite idea that the
travelling self in undertaking the journey is fulfilling a destiny, a law of
the transcendental life; obeying an imperative need. The chosen Knights are
destined or called to the quest of the Grail. “All men are called to their
origin,” says Rulman Merswin, and the fishes which he sees in his Vision of
Nine Rocks are impelled to struggle, as it were “against nature,” uphill
from pool to pool towards their source. [268]

All mystical thinkers agree in declaring that there is a mutual attraction
between the Spark of the Soul, the free divine germ in man, and the Fount
from which it came forth. “We long for the Absolute,” says Royce, “only in
so far as in us the Absolute also longs, and seeks, through our very
temporal striving, the peace that is nowhere in Time, but only, and yet
Absolutely, in Eternity.” [269] So, many centuries before the birth of
American philosophy, Hilton put the same truth of experience in lovelier
words. “He it is that desireth in thee, and He it is that is desired. He is
all and He doth all if thou might see Him.” [270]

The homeward journey of man’s spirit, then, may be thought of as due to the
push of a divine life within, answering to the pull of a divine life
without. [271] It is only possible because there is already in that spirit a
certain kinship with the Divine, a capacity for Eternal Life; and the
mystics, in undertaking it, are humanity’s pioneers on the only road to
rest. Hence that attraction which the Moslem mystic discerned as the
traveller’s necessary aid, is a fundamental doctrine of all mysticism: and
as a consequence, the symbolism of mutual desire is here inextricably
mingled with that of pilgrimage. The spiritual pilgrim goes because he is
called; because he wants to go, must go, if he is to find rest and peace.
“God needs man,” says Eckhart. It is Love calling to love: and the journey,
though in one sense a hard pilgrimage, up and out, by the terraced mount and
the ten heavens to God, in another is the inevitable rush of the roving
comet, caught at last, to the Central Sun. “My weight is my love,” said St.
Augustine. [272] Like gravitation, it inevitably compels, for good or evil,
every spirit to its own place. According to another range of symbols, that
love flings open a door, in order that the larger Life may rush in and it
and the soul be “one thing.”

Here, then, we run through the whole gamut of symbolic expression; through
Transcendence, Desire, and Immanence. All are seen to point to one
consummation, diversely and always allusively expressed: the need of union
between man’s separated spirit and the Real, his remaking in the interests
of transcendent life, his establishment in that Kingdom which is both “near
and far.”

“In the book of Hidden Things it is written,” says Eckhart, “‘I stand at the
door and knock and wait’ . . . thou needst not seek Him here or there: He is
no farther off than the door of the heart. There He stands and waits and
waits until He finds thee ready to open and let Him in. Thou needst not call
Him from a distance; to wait until thou openest is harder for Him than for
thee. He needs thee a thousand times more than thou canst need Him. Thy
opening and His entering are but one moment .” [273] “God,” he says in
another place, “can as little do without us, as we without Him.” [274] Our
attainment of the Absolute is not a one-sided ambition, but the fulfilment
of a mutual desire. “For our natural Will,” says Lady Julian, “is to have
God, and the Good will of God is to have us; and we may never cease from
longing till we have Him in fullness of joy.” [275]

So, in the beautiful poem or ritual called the “Hymn of Jesus,” contained in
the apocryphal “Acts of John” and dating from primitive Christian times, the
Logos, or Eternal Christ, is thus represented as matching with His own
transcendent, self-giving desire every need of the soul. [276]

The Soul says:—

“‘I would be saved.’”

Christ replies:—

“‘And I would save.’ Amen.”

The Dialogue continues:—

“‘I would be loosed.’

‘And I would loose.’ Amen.

‘I would be pierced.’

‘And I would pierce.’ Amen.

‘I would be born.’

‘And I would bear.’ Amen.

‘I would eat.’

‘And I would be eaten.’ Amen.

‘I would hear.’

‘And I would be heard.’ Amen.”

“‘I am a Lamp to thee who beholdest Me,

I am a Mirror to thee who perceivest Me,

I am a Door to thee, who knockest at Me,

I am a Way to thee a wayfarer.’”

The same fundamental idea of the mutual quest of the Soul and the Absolute
is expressed in the terms of another symbolism by the great Mahommedan

“No lover ever seeks union with his beloved,

But his beloved is also seeking union with him.

But the lover’s love makes his body lean

While the beloved’s love makes her fair and lusty.

When in this heart the lightning spark of love arises,

Be sure this love is reciprocated in that heart.

When the love of God arises in thy heart,

Without doubt God also feels love for thee.” [277]

The mystic vision, then, is of a spiritual universe held within the bonds of
love: [278] and of the free and restless human soul, having within it the
spark of divine desire, the “tendency to the Absolute,” pnly finding
satisfaction and true life when united with this Life of God. Then, in
Patmore’s lovely image, “the babe is at its mother’s breast,” “the lover has
returned to the beloved.” [279]

Whatever their outward sense, all true mystic symbols express aspects of
this “secret of the world,” this primal verity. But whereas such great
visionary schemes as those of ‘Attar and of Dante show it in its cosmic
form, in many symbolic descriptions—particularly those which we meet in the
writings of the ecstatic saints—the personal subjective note, the
consciousness of an individual relation between that one self and the
Supernal Self, overpowers all general applications. Then philosophy and
formal allegory must step aside: the sacramental language of exalted
emotion, of profoundly felt experience, takes its place. The phases of
mutual love, of wooing and combat, awe and delight—the fevers of desire, the
ecstasy of surrender—are drawn upon and made to contribute something to the
description of the great and secret drama of the soul.

To such symbolic transcripts of intimate experience belongs one amazing
episode of the spiritual life-history which, because it has been given
immortal expression by the greatest mystical poet of modern times, is
familiar to thousands of readers who know little or nothing of the more
normal adventures incidental to man’s attainment of the Absolute. In “The
Hound of Heaven” Francis Thompson described with an almost terrible power,
not the self’s quest of adored Reality, but Reality’s quest of the unwilling
self. He shows to us the remorseless, untiring seeking and following of the
soul by the Divine Life to which it will not surrender: the inexorable
onward sweep of “this tremendous Lover,” hunting the separated spirit,
“strange piteous futile thing” that flees Him “down the nights and down the
days.” This idea of the love-chase, of the spirit rushing in terror from the
overpowering presence of God, but followed, sought, conquered in the end, is
common to all the mediaeval mystics: it is the obverse of their general
doctrine of the necessary fusion of human and divine life, “escape from the
flame of separation.”

“I chased thee, for in this was my pleasure,” says the voice of Love to
Mechthild of Magdeburg; “I captured thee, for this was my desire; I bound
thee, and I rejoice in thy bonds; I have wounded thee, that thou mayst be
united to me. If I gave thee blows, it was that I might be possessed of
thee.” [280]

So in the beautiful Middle English poem of “Quia amore langueo,”—

“I am true love that fals was nevere,

Mi sistyr, mannis soule, I loved hir thus;

Bicause we wolde in no wise discevere

I lefte my Kyngdom glorious.

I purveyde for hir a paleis precious;

She fleyth, I folowe, I sought hir so.

I suffride this peyne piteous

Quia amore langueo,” [281]

Meister Eckhart has the same idea of the inexorable Following Love,
impossible to escape, expressed under less personal images. “Earth,” he
says, “cannot escape the sky; let it flee up or down, the sky flows into it,
and makes it fruitful whether it will or no. So God does to man. He who will
escape Him only runs to His bosom; for all corners are open to Him.” [282]

We find in all the mystics this strong sense of a mysterious spiritual
life—a Reality—over against man, seeking him and compelling him to Its will.
It is not for him, they think, to say that he will or will not aspire to the
transcendental world. [283] Hence sometimes this inversion of man’s long
quest of God. The self resists the pull of spiritual gravitation, flees from
the touch of Eternity; and the Eternal seeks it, tracks it ruthlessly down.
The Following Love, the mystics say, is a fact of experience, not a poetic
idea. “Those strong feet that follow, follow after,” once set upon the
chase, are bound to win. Man, once conscious of Reality, cannot evade it.
For a time his separated spirit, his disordered loves, may wilfully
frustrate the scheme of things: but he must be conquered in the end. Then
the mystic process unfolds itself: Love triumphs: the “purpose of the
worlds” fulfils itself in the individual life.


It was natural and inevitable that the imagery of human love and marriage
should have seemed to the mystic the best of all images of his own
“fulfilment of life”; his soul’s surrender, first to the call, finally to
the embrace of Perfect Love. It lay ready to his hand: it was understood of
all men: and moreover, it certainly does offer, upon lower levels, a
strangely exact parallel to the sequence of states in which man’s spiritual
consciousness unfolds itself, and which form the consummation of the mystic

It has been said that the constant use of such imagery by Christian mystics
of the mediaeval period is traceable to the popularity of the Song of Songs,
regarded as an allegory of the spiritual life. I think that the truth lies
rather in the opposite statement: namely, that the mystic loved the Song of
Songs because he there saw reflected, as in a mirror, the most secret
experiences of his soul. The sense of a desire that was insatiable, of a
personal fellowship so real, inward, and intense that it could only be
compared with the closest link of human love, of an intercourse that was no
mere spiritual self-indulgence, but was rooted in the primal duties and
necessities of life—more, those deepest, most intimate secrets of communion,
those self-giving ecstasies which all mystics know, but of which we, who are
not mystics, may not speak—all these he found symbolized and suggested,
their unendurable glories veiled in a merciful mist, in the poetry which man
has invented to honour that august passion in which the merely human draws
nearest to the divine.

The great saints who adopted and elaborated this symbolism, applying it to
their pure and ardent passion for the Absolute, were destitute of the
prurient imagination which their modern commentators too often possess. They
were essentially pure of heart; and when they “saw God” they were so far
from confusing that unearthly vision with the products of morbid sexuality,
that the dangerous nature of the imagery which they employed did not occur
to them. They knew by experience the unique nature of spiritual love: and no
one can know anything about it in any other way.

Thus for St. Bernard, throughout his deeply mystical sermons on the Song of
Songs, the Divine Word is the Bridegroom, the human soul is the Bride: but
how different is the effect produced by his use of these symbols from that
with which he has been charged by hostile critics! In the place of that
“sensuous imagery” which is so often and so earnestly deplored by those who
have hardly a nodding acquaintance with the writings of the saints, we find
images which indeed have once been sensuous; but which are here anointed and
ordained to a holy office, carried up, transmuted, and endowed with a
radiant purity, an intense and spiritual life.

“ ‘Let Him kiss me with the kisses of His mouth.’ Who is it speaks these
words? It is the Bride. Who is the Bride? It is the Soul thirsting for God.
. . . She who asks this is held by the bond of love to him from whom she
asks it. Of all the sentiments of nature, this of love is the most
excellent, especially when it is rendered back to Him who is the principle
and fountain of it—that is, God. Nor are there found any expressions equally
sweet to signify the mutual affection between the Word of God and the soul,
as those of Bridegroom and of Bride; inasmuch as between individuals who
stand in such relation to each other all things are in common, and they
possess nothing separate or divided. They have one inheritance, one
dwelling-place, one table, and they are in fact one flesh. If, then, mutual
love is especially befitting to a bride and bridegroom, it is not unfitting
that the name of Bride is given to a soul which loves.” [284]

To women mystics of the Catholic Church, familiar with the antique and
poetic metaphor which called every cloistered nun the Bride of Christ, that
crisis in their spiritual history in which they definitely vowed themselves
to the service of Transcendent Reality seemed, naturally enough, the
veritable betrothal of the soul. Often, in a dynamic vision, they saw as in
a picture the binding vows exchanged between their spirits and their God.
[285] That further progress on the mystic way which brought with it a sharp
and permanent consciousness of union with the Divine Will, the constant
sustaining presence of a Divine Companion, became, by an extension of the
original simile, Spiritual Marriage. The elements of duty, constancy,
irrevocableness, and loving obedience involved in the mediaeval conception
of the marriage tie, made it an apt image of a spiritual state in which
humility, intimacy, and love were the dominant characteristics. There is
really no need to seek a pathological explanation of these simple facts.
[286] Moreover with few exceptions, the descriptions of spiritual marriage
which the great mystics have left are singularly free from physical imagery.
“So mysterious is the secret,” says St. Teresa, “and so sublime the favour
that God thus bestows instantaneously on the soul, that it feels a supreme
delight, only to be described by saying that our Lord vouchsafes for the
moment to reveal to it His own heavenly glory in a far more subtle way than
by any vision or spiritual delight. As far as can be understood, the soul, I
mean the spirit of this soul, is made one with God, who is Himself a spirit,
and Who has been pleased to show certain persons how far His love for us
extends in order that we may praise His greatness. He has thus deigned to
unite Himself to His creature: He has bound Himself to her as firmly as two
human beings are joined in wedlock and will never separate Himself from
her.” [287]

The great Richard of St. Victor, in one of his most splendid mystical
treatises, [288] has given us perhaps the most daring and detailed
application of the symbolism of marriage to the adventures of the spirit of
man. He divides the “steep stairway of love,” by which the contemplative
ascends to union with the Absolute, into four stages. These he calls the
betrothal, the marriage, the wedlock, and the fruitfulness of the soul.
[289] In the betrothal, he says, the soul “thirsts for the Beloved”; that is
to say, it longs to experience the delights of Reality. “The Spirit comes to
the Soul, and seems sweeter than honey.” It is conversion, the awakening to
mystical truth; the kindling of the passion for the Absolute. “Then the Soul
with pertinacity demands more”: and because of her burning desire she
attains to pure contemplation, and so passes to the second degree of love.
In this she is “led in bridal” by the Beloved. Ascending “above herself” in
contemplation, she “sees the Sun of Righteousness.” She is now confirmed in
the mystic life; the irrevocable marriage vows are made between her spirit
and her God. At this point she can “see the Beloved,” but “cannot yet come
in to Him,” says Richard. This degree, as we shall see later, answers more
or less to that which other mystics call the Illuminative Way: but any
attempt to press these poetic symbols into a cast-iron series, and establish
exact parallels, is foredoomed to failure, and will merely succeed in
robbing them of their fragrance and suggestive power. In Richard’s “third
stage,” however, that of union, or wedlock, it is clear that the soul enters
upon the “Unitive Way.” She has passed the stages of ecstatic and
significant events, and is initiated into the Life. She is “deified,”
“passes utterly into God, and is glorified in Him”: is transfigured, he
says, by immediate contact with the Divine Substance, into an utterly
different quality of being. “Thus,” says St. John of the Cross, “the soul,
when it shall have driven away from itself all that is contrary to the
divine will, becomes transformed in God by love. [290]

“The Soul,” says Richard again, “is utterly concentrated on the One.” She is
“caught up to the divine light.” The expression of the personal passion, the
intimate relation, here rises to its height. But this is not enough. Where
most mystical diagrams leave off, Richard of St. Victor’s “steep stairway of
Love” goes on: with the result that this is almost the only symbolic system
bequeathed to us by the great contemplatives in which all the implications
contained in the idea of the spiritual marriage have been worked out to
their term. He saw clearly that the union of the soul with its Source could
not be a barren ecstasy. That was to mistake a means for an end; and to
frustrate the whole intention of life, which is, on all levels, fruitful and
creative. Therefore he says that in the fourth degree, the Bride who has
been so greatly honoured, caught up to such unspeakable delight, sinks her
own will and “is humiliated below herself.” She accepts the pains and duties
in the place of the raptures of love; and becomes a source, a “parent” of
fresh spiritual life. The Sponsa Dei develops into the Mater Divinae
gratiae. That imperative need of life, to push on, to create, to spread, is
here seen operating in the spiritual sphere. This forms that rare and final
stage in the evolution of the great mystics, in which they return to the
world which they forsook; and there live, as it were, as centres of
transcendental energy, the creators of spiritual families, the partners and
fellow-labourers with the Divine Life. [291]


We come now to the symbols which have been adopted by those mystics in whom
temperamental consciousness of their own imperfection, and of the
unutterable perfection of the Absolute Life for which they longed, has
overpowered all other aspects of man’s quest of reality. The “seek, and ye
shall find” of the pilgrim, the “by Love shall He be gotten and holden” of
the bride, can never seem an adequate description of experience to minds of
this type. They are intent on the inexorable truth which must be accepted in
some form by both these classes: the crucial fact that “we behold that which
we are,” or, in other words, that “only the Real can know Reality.” Hence
the state of the inward man, the “unrealness” of him when judged by any
transcendental standard, is their centre of interest. His remaking or
regeneration appears to them as the primal necessity, if he is ever to
obtain rights of citizenship in the “country of the soul.”

We have seen that this idea of the New Birth, the remaking or transmutation
of the self, clothed in many different symbols, runs through the whole of
mysticism and much of theology. It is the mystic’s subjective reading of
those necessary psychological and moral changes which he observes within
himself as his spiritual consciousness grows. His hard work of renunciation,
of detachment from the things which that consciousness points out as
illusory or impure, his purifications and trials, all form part of it. If
that which is whole or perfect is to come, then that which is in part must
be done away: “for in what measure we put off the creature, in the same
measure are we able to put on the Creator: neither more nor less.” [292]

Of all the symbolic systems in which this truth has been enshrined none is
so complete, so picturesque, and now so little understood as that of the
“Hermetic Philosophers” or Spiritual Alchemists. This fact would itself be
sufficient to justify us in examining some of the chief features of their
symbolism. There is a further excuse for this apparently eccentric
proceeding, however, in the fact that the language of alchemy was
largely—though not always accurately and consistently—used by the great
mystic Jacob Boehme, and after him by his English disciple, William Law.
Without, then, some knowledge of the terms which they employed, but seldom
explained, the writings of this important school can hardly be understood.

The alchemic symbols, especially as applied to the mystic life, are full of
an often deliberate obscurity; which makes their exact interpretation a
controversial matter at the best. Moreover, the authors of the various
Hermetic writings do not always use them in the same sense, and whilst many
of these writings are undoubtedly mystical, others clearly deal with the
physical quest of gold: nor have we any sure standard by which to divide
class from class. The elements from which the spiritual alchemists built up
their allegories of the mystic life are, however, easily grasped: and these
elements, with the significance generally attributed to them, are as much as
those who are not specialists can hope to unravel from this very tangled
skein. First, there are the metals; of course the obvious materials of
physical alchemy. These are usually called by the names of their presiding
planets: thus in Hermetic language Luna means silver, Sol gold, etc. Then
there is the Vessel, or Athanor, in which the transmutation of base metal to
gold took place: an object whose exact nature is veiled in much mystery. The
Fire, and various solvents and waters, peculiar to the different alchemistic
recipes, complete the apparatus necessary to the “Great Work.”

The process of this work, sometimes described in chemical, and sometimes in
astrological terms, is more often than not disguised in a strange heraldic
and zoological symbolism dealing with Lions, Dragons, Eagles, Vultures,
Ravens and Doves: which, delightful in its picturesqueness, is unequalled in
its power of confusing the anxious and unwary inquirer. It is also the
subject of innumerable and deliberate allegories, which were supposed to
convey its secrets to the elect, whilst most certainly concealing them from
the crowd. Hence it is that the author of “A Short Enquiry concerning the
Hermetic Art” speaks for all investigators of this subject when he describes
the “Hermetic science” as a “great Labyrinth, in which are abundance of
enquirers rambling to this day, many of them undiscerned by one another.”
Like him, I too “have taken several Turns in it myself, wherein one shall
meet with very few; for ‘tis so large, and almost every one taking a
different Path, that they seldom meet. But finding it a very melancholy
place, I resolved to get out of it, and rather content myself to walk in the
little garden before the entrance, where many things, though not all, were
orderly to be seen. Choosing rather to stay there, and contemplate on the
Metaphor set up, than venture again into the wilderness.” [293]

Coming, then, to the “contemplation of the Metaphor set up,”—by far the most
judicious course for modern students of the Hermetic art—we observe first
that the prime object of alchemy was held to be the production of the
Philosopher’s Stone, that perfect and incorrupt substance or “noble
Tincture,” never found upon our imperfect earth in its natural state, which
could purge all baser metals of their dross, and turn them to pure gold. The
quest of the Stone, in fact, was but one aspect of man’s everlasting quest
of perfection, his hunger for the Absolute; and hence an appropriate symbol
of the mystic life. But this quest was not conducted in some far off
transcendental kingdom. It was prosecuted in the Here and Now within the
physical world.

Gold, the Crowned King, or Sol, as it is called in the planetary symbolism
of the alchemists, was their standard of perfection, the “Perfect Metal.”
Towards it, as the Christian towards sanctity, their wills were set. It had
for them a value not sordid but ideal. Nature, they thought, is always
trying to make gold, this incorruptible and perfect thing; and the other
metals are merely the results of the frustration of her original design. Nor
is this aiming at perfection and achieving of imperfection limited to the
physical world. Quod superius, sicut quod inferius. Upon the spiritual plane
also they held that the Divine Idea is always aiming at “Spiritual
Gold”—divine humanity, the New Man, citizen of the transcendental world—and
“natural man” as we ordinarily know him is a lower metal, silver at best. He
is a departure from the “plan,” who yet bears within himself, if we could
find it, the spark or seed of absolute perfection: the “tincture” which
makes gold. “The smattering I have of the Philosopher’s Stone,” says Sir
Thomas Browne, “(which is something more than the perfect exaltation of
gold) hath taught me a great deal of divinity, and instructed my belief how
that immortal spirit and incorruptible substance of my soul may lie obscure,
and sleep awhile within this house of flesh.” [294] This “incorruptible
substance” is man’s goldness, his perfect principle: for “the highest
mineral virtue resides in Man,” says Albertus Magnus, “and God may be found
everywhere.” [295] Hence the prosecution of a spiritual chemistry is a
proper part of the true Hermetic science.

The art of the alchemist, whether spiritual or physical, consists in
completing the work of perfection, bringing forth and making dominant, as it
were, the “latent goldness” which “lies obscure” in metal or man. The ideal
adept of alchemy was therefore an “auxiliary of the Eternal Goodness.” By
his search for the “Noble Tincture” which should restore an imperfect world,
he became a partner in the business of creation, assisting the Cosmic Plan.
Thus the proper art of the Spiritual Alchemist, with whom alone we are here
concerned, was the production of the spiritual and only valid tincture or
Philosopher’s Stone; the mystic seed of transcendental life which should
invade, tinge, and wholly transmute the imperfect self into spiritual gold.
That this was no fancy of seventeenth-century allegorists, but an idea
familiar to many of the oldest writers upon alchemy—whose quest was truly a
spiritual search into the deepest secrets of the soul—is proved by the words
which bring to an end the first part of the antique “Golden Treatise upon
the Making of the Stone,” sometimes attributed to Hermes Trismegistus.
“This, O Son,” says that remarkable tract, “is the Concealed Stone of Many
Colours, which is born and brought forth in one colour; know this and
conceal it . . . it leads from darkness into light, from this desert
wilderness to a secure habitation, and from poverty and straits to a free
and ample fortune.” [296]

Man, then, was for the alchemists “the true laboratory of the Hermetic
art”; which concealed in an entanglement of vague and contradictory symbols
the life-process of his ascension to that perfect state in which he was able
to meet God. This state must not be confused with a merely moral purity, but
is to be understood as involving utter transmutation into a “new form.” It
naturally followed from this that the indwelling Christ, the “Corner
Stone,” the Sun of Righteousness, became, for many of the Christian
alchemists, identified with the Lapis Philosophorum and with Sol: and was
regarded both as the image and as the earnest of this “great work.” His
spirit was the “noble tincture” which “can bring that which is lowest in the
death to its highest ornament or glory;” [297] transmuting the natural to
the supernatural, operating the “New Birth.” “This,” says Boehme, “is the
noble precious Stone (Lapis Philosophorum), the Philosopher’s Stone, which
the Magi (or wise men) find which tinctureth nature, and generateth a new
son in the old. He who findeth that, esteemeth more highly of it than of
this (outward) world. For the Son is many thousand times greater than the
Father.” Again, “If you take the spirit of the tincture, then indeed you go
on a way in which many have found Sol; but they have followed on the way to
the heart of Sol, where the spirit of the heavenly tincture hath laid hold
on them, and brought them into the liberty, into the Majesty, where they
have Known the Noble Stone, Lapis Philosophorum, the Philosopher’s Stone,
and have stood amazed at man’s blindness, and seen his labouring in vain.
Would you fain find the Noble Stone? Behold, we will show it you plain
enough, if you be a Magus, and worthy, else you shall remain blind still:
therefore fall to work thus: for it hath no more but three numbers. First
tell from one till you come to the Cross, which is ten (X) . . . and there
lieth the Stone without any great painstaking, for it is pure and not
defiled with any earthly nature.”

“In this stone there lieth hidden, whatsoever God and the Eternity, also
heaven, the stars and elements contain and are able to do. There never was
from eternity anything better or more precious than this, and it is offered
by God and bestowed upon man; every one may have it . . . it is in a simple
form, and hath the power of the whole Deity in it.” [298]

Boehme is here using alchemic symbols, according to his custom, in a loose
and artistic manner; for the true Hermetic Philosopher’s Stone is not
something which can be found but something which must be made. The
alchemists, whether their search be for a physical or a spiritual
“tincture,” say always that this tincture is the product of the furnace and
Athanor: and further that it is composed of “three numbers” or elements,
which they call Sulphur, Salt, and Mercury. These, when found, and forced
into the proper combination, form the “Azoth” or “Philosopher’s Egg”—the
stuff or First Matter of the Great Work. Sulphur, Salt, and Mercury,
however, must not be understood in too literal a sense. “You need not look
for our metallic seed among the elements,” says Basil the Monk, “it need not
be sought so far back. If you can only rectify the Mercury, Sulphur, and
Salt (understand those of the sages) until the metallic spirit and body are
inseparably joined together by means of the metallic soul, you thereby
firmly rivet the chain of love and prepare the palace for the Coronation.”

Of these three ingredients, the important one is the spiritual principle,
the unseizable Mercury; which is far from being the metal which we
ordinarily know by that name. The Mercury which the alchemists sought—often
in strange places—is a hidden and powerful substance. They call it “Mercury
of the Wise”; and he who can discover it, they say, is on the way towards
success. The reader in search of mystical wisdom already begins to be
bewildered; but if he persevere in this labyrinth of symbolism, he presently
discovers—as Basil the Monk indeed hints—that the Sulphur and the Salt, or
“metallic soul and body” of the spiritual chemistry, represent something
analogous to the body and mind of man—Sulphur his earthly nature, seasoned
with intellectual Salt. The Mercury is Spirit in its most mystic sense, the
Synteresis or holy Dweller in the Innermost, the immanent spark or Divine
Principle of his life. Only the “wise,” the mystically awakened, can know
this Mercury, the agent of man’s transmutation: and until it has been
discovered, brought out of the hiddenness, nothing can be done. “This
Mercury or Snowy Splendour, is a Celestial Body drawn from the beams of the
Sun and the Moon. It is the only Agent in the world for this art.” [300] It
is the divine-human “spark of the soul,” the bridge between Gold and Silver,
God and man.

The Three Principles being enclosed in the vessel, or Athanor, which is man
himself, and subjected to a gentle fire—the Incendium Amoris —the process of
the Great Work, the mystic transmutation of natural into spiritual man, can
begin. This work, like the ingredients which compose it, has “three
numbers”: and the first matter, in the course of its transmutation, assumes
three successive colours: the Black, the White, and the Red. These three
colours are clearly analogous to the three traditional stages of the Mystic
Way: Purgation, Illumination, Union.

The alchemists call the first stage, or Blackness, Putrefaction. In it the
three principles which compose the “whole man” of body, soul and spirit, are
“sublimated” till they appear as a black powder full of corruption, and the
imperfect body is “dissolved and purified by subtle Mercury”; as man is
purified by the darkness, misery, and despair which follows the emergence of
his spiritual consciousness. As psychic uproar and disorder seems part of
the process of mental growth, so “ Solve et coagula ”—break down that you
may build up—is the watchword of the spiritual alchemist. The “black
beast,” the passional element, of the lower nature must emerge and be dealt
with before anything further can be done. “There is a black beast in our
forest,” says the highly allegorical “Book of Lambspring,” “his name is
Putrefaction, his blackness is called the Head of the Raven; when it is cut
off, Whiteness appears.” [301] This Whiteness, the state of Luna, or Silver,
the “chaste and immaculate Queen,” is the equivalent of the Illuminative
Way: the highest point which the mystic can attain short of union with the
Absolute. This White Stone is pure, and precious; but in it the Great Work
of man’s spiritual evolution has not yet reached its term. That term is the
attainment of the Red, the colour of Perfection or alchemic gold; a process
sometimes called the “Marriage of Luna and Sol”—the fusion of the human and
divine spirit. Under this image is concealed the final secret of the mystic
life: that ineffable union of finite and infinite—that loving reception of
the inflowing vitality of God—from which comes forth the Magnum Opus:
deified or spiritual man.

“This,” says the author of “A Suggestive Enquiry,” “is the union
supersentient, the nuptials sublime, Mentis et Universi . . . . Lo! behold I
will open to thee a mystery, cries the Adept, the bridegroom crowneth the
bride of the north [ i.e. , she who comes out of the cold and darkness of
the lower nature]. In the darkness of the north, out of the crucifixion of
the cerebral life, when the sensual dominant is occultated in the Divine
Fiat, and subdued, there arises a Light wonderfully about the summit, which
wisely returned and multiplied according to the Divine Blessing, is made
substantial in life.” [302]

I have said, that side by side with the metallic and planetary language of
the alchemists, runs a strange heraldic symbolism in which they take refuge
when they fear—generally without reason—that they are telling their secrets
too plainly to an unregenerate world. Many of these heraldic emblems are
used in an utterly irresponsible manner; and whilst doubtless conveying a
meaning to the individual alchemist and the disciples for whom he wrote,
are, and must ever be, unintelligible to other men. But others are of a more
general application; and appear so frequently in seventeenth-century
literature, whether mystical or non-mystical, that some discussion of them
may well be of use.

Perhaps the quaintest and most celebrated of all these allegories is that
which describes the quest of the Philosopher’s Stone as “the hunting of the
Green Lion.” [303] The Green Lion, though few would divine it, is the First
Matter of the Great Work: hence, in spiritual alchemy, natural man in his
wholeness—Salt, Sulphur, and Mercury in their crude state. He is called
green because, seen from the transcendent standpoint, he is still unripe,
his latent powers undeveloped; and a Lion, because of his strength,
fierceness, and virility. Here the common opinion that a pious effeminacy, a
diluted and amiable spirituality, is the proper raw material of the mystic
life, is emphatically contradicted. It is not by the education of the lamb,
but by the hunting and taming of the wild intractable lion, instinct with
vitality, full of ardour and courage, exhibiting heroic qualities on the
sensual plane, that the Great Work is achieved. The lives of the saints
enforce the same law.

“Our lyon wanting maturitie

Is called greene for his unripeness trust me:

And yet full quickly he can run,

And soon can overtake the Sun.” [304]

The Green Lion, then, in his strength and wholeness is the only creature
potentially able to attain Perfection. It needs the adoption and
purification of all the wealth and resources of man’s nature, not merely the
encouragement of his transcendental tastes, if he is to “overtake the Sun”
and achieve the Great Work. The Kingdom of Heaven is taken by violence, not
by amiable aspiration. “The Green Lion,” says one alchemist, “is the priest
by whom Sol and Luna are wed.” In other words, the raw stuff of indomitable
human nature is the means by which man is to attain union with the Absolute.
The duty of the alchemist, the transmuting process, is therefore described
as the hunting of the Green Lion through the forest of the sensual world.
He, like the Hound of Heaven, is on a love chase down the nights and down
the days.

When the lion is caught, when Destiny overtakes it, its head must be cut off
as the preliminary to the necessary taming process. This is called by the
alchemists “the head of the Raven,” the Crow, or the Vulture, “for its
blackness.” It represents the fierce and corrupt life of the passions: and
its removal is that “death of the lower nature” which is the object of all
asceticism— i.e. , Purgation. The lion, the whole man, Humanity in its
strength, is as it were “slain to the world,” and then resuscitated; but in
a very different shape. By its passage through this mystic death or the
“putrefaction of the Three Principles” the “colour of unripeness” is taken
away. Its taming completed, it receives wings, wherewith it may fly up to
Sol, the Perfect or Divine; and is transmuted, say the alchemists, into the
Red Dragon. This is to us a hopelessly grotesque image: but to the Hermetic
philosophers, whose sense of wonder was uncorrupt, it was the deeply
mystical emblem of a new, strange, and transcendental life, powerful alike
in earth and in heaven. As the angel to the man, so was the dragon to the
world of beasts: a creature of splendour and terror, a super-brute,
veritably existent if seldom seen. We realize something of the significance
of this symbol for the alchemic writers, if we remember how sacred a meaning
it has for the Chinese: to whom the dragon is the traditional emblem of free
spiritual life, as the tiger represents the life of the material plane in
its intensest form. Since it is from China that alchemy is supposed to have
reached the European world, it may yet be found that the Red Dragon is one
of the most antique and significant symbols of the Hermetic Art.

For the Spiritual Chemistry, then, the Red Dragon represents Deified Man;
whose emergence must always seem like the birth of some monstrous and
amazing creature when seen from the standpoint of the merely natural world.
With his coming forth, the business of the alchemist, in so far as he be a
mystic, is done. Man has transcended his lower nature, has received wings
wherewith to live on higher levels of reality. The Tincture, the latent
goldness, has been found and made dominant, the Magnum Opus achieved. That
the trite and inward business of that Work, when stripped of its many
emblematic veils, was indeed the reordering of spiritual rather than
material elements, is an opinion which rests on a more solid foundation than
personal interpretations of old allegories and alchemic-tracts. The Norwich
physician—himself deeply read in the Hermetic science—has declared to us his
own certainty concerning it in few but lovely words. In them is contained
the true mystery of man’s eternal and interior quest of the Stone: its
reconciliation with that other, outgoing quest of “the Hidden Treasure that
desires to be found.”

“Do but extract from the corpulency of bodies, or resolve things beyond
their First Matter, and you discover the habitation of Angels: which, if I
call it the ubiquitary and omnipresent Essence of God, I hope I shall not
offend Divinity.” [305]

[258] Jámi, “Joseph and Zulaikha. The Poet’s Prayer.”

[259] “Theologia Germanica,” cap. x.

[260] St. Catherine of Genoa, “ Vita e Dottrina,” cap. xiv.

[261] “Vita e Dottrina,” p. 36.

[262] This image seems first to have been elaborated by St. Augustine, from
whom it was borrowed by Hugh of St. Victor, and most of the mediaeval

[263] “The Scale of Perfection,” bk. ii. cap. xxi.

[264] So too Ruysbroeck says that “the just man goes towards God by inward
love in perpetual activity and in God in virtue of his fruitive affection in
eternal rest” (“De Ornatu Spiritalium Nuptiarum.” I. ii. cap. lxv).

[265] I need not remind the reader of the fact that this symbolism,
perverted to the purposes of his skeptical philosophy, runs through the
whole of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyám.

[266] See Palmer’s “Oriental Mysticism,” pt. I. caps. i., ii., iii., and v.

[267] An abridged translation of ‘Attar’s allegory of the Valleys will be
found in “The Conference of the Birds,” by R. P. Masani (1924). See also W.
S. Lilly’s “Many Mansions,” p. 130.

[268] Jundt, “Rulman Merswin,” p. 27.

[269] Royce, “The World and the Individual,” vol. ii. p. 386.

[270] “The Scale of Perfection,” bk. ii. cap. xxiv.

[271] Compare Récéjac (“Fondements de la Connaissance Mystique,” p. 252).
“According to mysticism, morality leads the soul to the frontiers of the
Absolute and even gives it an impulsion to enter, but this is not enough.
This movement of pure Freedom cannot succeed unless there is an equivalent
movement within the Absolute itself.”

[272] Aug. Conf., bk. xiii. cap. 9. “All those who love,” says Ruysbroeck,
“feel this attraction: more or less according to the degree of their
love.” (“De Calculo sive de Perfectione filiorum Dei.”)

[273] Meister Eckhart, Pred. iii.

[274] Ibid ., Pred. xiii.

[275] “Revelations of Divine Love,” cap. vi.

[276] The Greek and English text will be found in the “Apocrypha Anecdota”
of Dr. M. R. James, series 2 (Cambridge, 1897), pp. 1-25. I follow his
translation. It will be seen that I have adopted the hypotheses of Mr. G. R.
S. Mead as to the dramatic nature of this poem. See his “Echoes from the
Gnosis,” 1896.

[277] Jalalu d’ Din Rumi (Wisdom of the East Series), p. 77.

[278] So Dante—

“ Nel suo profondo vidi che s’interna

legato con amore in un volume

cio che per l’universo si squaderna.”
(Par. xxxiii. 85.)

[279] “The Rod, the Root, and the Flower,” “Aurea Dicta,” ccxxviii.

[280] “Das Fliessende Licht der Gottheit,” pt. i. cap. iii.

[281] “Quia amore langueo,” an anonymous fifteenth-century poem. Printed
from the Lambeth MS. by the E.E.T.S., 1866-67.

[282] Pred. lxxxviii.

[283] So we are told of St. Francis of Assisi, that in his youth he “tried
to flee God’s hand.” Thomas of Celano, Legenda Prima, cap. ii.

[284] Sr. Bernard, “Cantica Canticorum,” Sermon vii. For a further and
excellent discussion of St. Bernard’s mystical language, see Dom Cuthbert
Butler, “Western Mysticism,” 2nd ed., pp. 160 seq .

[285] Vide infra, Pt. II. cap. v.

[286] Professor Pratt, by no means an enthusiastic witness, most justly
observes “There are several excellent reasons why the mystics almost
inevitably make use of the language of human love in describing the joy of
the love of God. The first and simplest is this: that they have no other
language to use . . . the mystic must make use of expressions drawn from
earthly love to describe his experience, or give up the attempt of
describing it at all. It is the only way he has of even suggesting to the
non-mystical what he has felt” (“The Religious Consciousness,” p. 418).

[287] “El Castillo Interior,” Moradas Sétimas, cap ii.

[288] “De Quatuor Gradibus Violentae Charitatis” (Migne, Patrologia Latina,
vol. cxcvi. col. 1207).

[289] “In primo gradu fit desponsatio, in secundo nuptiae, in tertio copula,
in quarto puerperium. . . . De quarto dicitur, Coucepimus, et quasi
parturivimus et peperimus spiritum” (Isa. xviii . 26). ( Op. cit., 1216, D.)

[290] “Subida del Monte Carmelo,” lii. cap. v.

[291] Vide infra , pt. ii. caps. i. and x.

[292] “Theologia Germanica,” cap. i.

[293] “A Short Enquiry Concerning the Hermetic Art,” p. 29.

[294] “Religio Medici,” pt. i.

[295] “A Suggestive Enquiry into the Hermetic Mystery,” p. 143. This rare
and curious study of spiritual alchemy was the anonymous work of the late
Mrs. Atwood. She attempted to suppress it soon after publication under the
impression—common amongst mystics of a certain type—that she had revealed
matters which might not be spoken of; as Coventry Patmore for the same
reason destroyed his masterpiece, “Sponsa Dei.”

[296] Quoted in “A Suggestive Enquiry into the Hermetic Mystery,” p. 107.
The whole of the “Golden Treatise” will be found set out in this work.

[297] Jacob Boehme, “The Threefold Life of Man,” cap. iv. § 23.

[298] Boehme, “The Threefold Life of Man,” cap. vi. § 98; cap. x. §§ 3, 4;
and cap. xiii. § 1.

[299] “The Golden Tripod of the Monk Basilius Valentinus” (“The Hermetic
Museum, “ vol. i. p. 319).

[300] “A Short Enquiry Concerning the Hermetic Art,” p. 17.

[301] “The Hermetic Museum,” vol. i. p. 272.

[302] “A Suggestive Enquiry,” p. 345.

[303] See “A Short Enquiry,” p. 17, and “A Suggestive Enquiry,” pp. 297 et
seq ., where the rhymed Alchemic tract called “Hunting the Greene Lyon” is
printed in full.

[304] Op. cit.

[305] Sir Thomas Browne, “Religio Medici,” pt. i.