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CHAPTER II: How God openeth the inward Eye of the Soul to see Him, not all at once, but by divers times, and of three Manners of reforming of a Soul explained by a familiar Example

A SOUL that is called from the love of the world, and after that is righted, tried and mortified and purified, as I have said before, our Lord Jesus of His merciful goodness reformeth it in feeling when He pleaseth. He openeth the inner eye of the soul, when He enlighteneth her reason through the touching and shining of His blessed light for to see Him and know Him, not all fully at once, but by little and little, by divers times, as the soul is able to bear it. He seeth Him not what He is, for that can no creature do in Heaven nor in earth. Nor seeth he Him as He is, for that sight is only in the bliss of Heaven. But he seeth Him that He is an unchangeable being, a supreme power, a sovereign truth, supreme goodness, a blessed life, an endless bliss. This seeth a soul, and much more that cometh withal not blindly and nakedly and unsavourly, as doth a learned man, that knoweth and seeth Him only by his learning, through might of his naked reason; but he seeth Him in understanding, that is, comforted and lighted by the gift of the Holy Ghost, with a wonderful reverence, and a secret burning love, and with a spiritual savour and heavenly delight, more clearly and more fully than can be written or spoken.

This sight, though it be but short and little, is so worthy and so mighty that it draweth and ravisheth all the affections of the soul from be holding and minding of all earthly things to itself, for to rest therein evermore if it could. And upon this kind of sight and knowing the soul groundeth all its working inward in all the affections; for then she worshippeth God in the humanity, as verity; wondereth at Him, as power and might; loveth Him, as goodness. This sight and this goodness, and this knowing of Jesus, with the blessed love that cometh out of it, may be called reforming of a soul in feeling and in faith, which I have spoken of. It is in faith, for it is dark yet in comparison of that full knowing of Jesus, with the blessed love that cometh out of it, that shall be in Heaven. For then shall we see Him, not only that He is, but as He is, as St John saith: Tunc videbimus eum sicut est—Then shall we see Him as He is.219219    St John 3. Nevertheless it is in feeling also, as in regard of that blind knowing that a soul hath standing only in faith, for this soul knoweth somewhat of the very nature of Jesus as God through this gracious sight, which that other in faith knoweth not, but only believeth it to be truth.

Nevertheless, that thou mayest the better conceive what I mean, I shall show these three manners of reforming of a soul by example of three men standing in the light of the sun. Of the which one is blind, another can see, but hath his eyes stopped, the third looketh forth with full sight. The blind man hath no manner of knowledge that he is in the sun, but he believeth it if an honest man tell him so; and he betokeneth a soul that is only reformed in Faith, that believeth in God as holy Church teacheth, and understandeth not what. This sufficeth as to salvation. That other man seeth a light of the sun, but he seeth it not clearly what it is, for his eyelid letteth him that he cannot see; but he seeth through the lids of his eyes a glimmering of great light. And this man betokeneth a soul that is reformed in Faith and in feeling, and so he is Contemplative, for he seeth somewhat of the Godhead of Jesus through grace, not clearly nor fully; for the lid, that is, his bodily nature, is yet a wall betwixt his nature and the nature of Jesus God, and letteth him from the clear sight. But he seeth through this wall, after that grace toucheth him more or less, that Jesus is God, and that Jesus is sovereign goodness, and sovereign being, and a blessed life, and that all other goodness cometh from Him. Thus seeth the soul by grace, notwithstanding its bodily nature, and the more clean and subtle that the soul is made, and the more it is separated from sensuality, the sharper sight it hath and the greater love of the Divinity of Jesus. This sight is so mighty that though no other man living should believe in Jesus, nor love Him, yet would he never believe the less, nor love Him the less, for he seeth it so certainly that he cannot but believe it.

The third man that hath full sight of the sun, he believeth it not, for he seeth it fully. And he betokeneth a full blessed soul, that without any wall of his body or of sin, seeth openly the face of Jesus in the bliss of Heaven. There is no faith, and therefore he is fully reformed in feeling. There is no state above the second reforming that a soul can come to here in this life, for this is the state of perfection and the way to heavenward. Nevertheless, all the souls that are in this state are not all alike in degrees; for some have it little, short and seldom; and some longer, clearer and oftener; and some have it best of all, clearest and longest, according to the abounding of grace, and yet all these have the gift of Contemplation. For the soul hath not perfect sight of Jesus all at once, but at first a little and a little, and after that it profiteth and cometh to more feeling; and as long as it is in this life it groweth more in knowing, and in this love of Jesus. And verily I know not what can be more desirable to such a soul that hath felt a little of it, than utterly to leave it and set at nought all other things, for to hold only thereto, to have a clearer sight and clearer love of Jesus, in whom is all the Blessed Trinity.

This manner of knowing of Jesus, as I understand, is the opening of Heaven to the eye of a clean soul, of which holy men speak in their writings. Not as some imagine, that the opening of Heaven is as if a soul could see by imagination through the skies above the Firmament, how our Lord Jesus sitteth in His Majesty, in a bodily light, as much as an hundred suns. No, it is not so; no, though he see never so high on this manner, verily he seeth not the spiritual Heaven. The higher he soareth up above the sun for to see Jesus God, thus by such imagination the lower he falleth beneath the sun. Nevertheless, this kind of sight is tolerable in simple souls that can seek no better for Him that is invisible.


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