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By two ways one may go to God, the first by Meditation and Discourse or Reasoning; the second by pure Faith and Contemplation.
1. There are two ways of going to God, the one by Consideration and Mental Discourse, and the other by the Purity of Faith, an indistinct, general and confused knowledge. The first is called Meditation, the second Internal Recollection, or acquir’d Contemplation. The first is of Beginners, the second of Proficients. The first is sensible and material, the second more naked, pure and internal.
2. When the Soul is already accustomed to discourse of Mysteries, by the help of imagination, and the use of corporal Images; being carried from Creature to Creature, and from Knowledg to Knowledg (though with very little of that which it wants) and from these to the Creator; Then God is wont to take that Soul by the hand (if rather he calls it not in the very beginning, and leads it without ratiocination by the way of pure Faith) making the Intellect pass by all considerations and reasonings, draws it forward, and raises it out of this material and sensible state, making it under a simple and obscure knowledge of Faith, wholly aspire to its Bridegroom upon the wings of Love, without any farther necessity of the perswasions and informations of the Intellect, to make it love him, because in that manner the Soul’s love would be very scanty, much dependent on Creature, stinted to drops, and these too but falling with pauses and intervals.
3. By how much less it depends on Creatures, and the more it relies on God alone, and his secret documents, by the mediation of pure Faith, the more durable, firm, and strong will that Love be. After the Soul hath already acquired the knowledg which all the meditations and corporal Images of Creatures can give her; it, now, the Lord raise her out of that state, by stripping her of ratiocination, and leaving her in divine darkness, to the end she may march in the streight Way, and by pure Faith, let her be guided, and not love with the scantiness and tenuity that these direct; but let her suppose that the whole World, and all that the most refined conceptions of the wisest understandings can tell her, are nothing, and that the goodness and beauty of her beloved, infinitely surpasses all their knowledg, being perswaded that all Creatures are too rude to inform her, and to conduct her to the true knowledg of God.
4. She ought then to advance forward with her love, leaving all her understanding behind. Let her love God as he is in himself, and not as her imagination says he is, and frames him to her; And if she cannot know him as he is in himself, let her love him without knowing him under the obscure veils of Faith; in the same manner as a Son who hath never seen his Father, but fully believing those who have given him information of him, loves him, as if he had already seen him.
5.The Soul, from which Mental Discourse is taken, ought not to strain her self, nor solicitously seek for more clear and particular knowledge, but even without the supports of sensible consolations or notices, with poverty of spirit, and deprived of all that the natural appetite requires; continue quiet, firm and constant, letting the Lord work his work, though she may seem to be alone, exhausted and full of darkness: and though this appear to her to be idleness, it is only of her own sensible and material activity, not of God’s, who is working true knowledg in her.
6. Finally, the more the Spirit ascends, the more it is taken off of sensible Objects. Many are the Souls who have arrived and do arrive at this gate, but few have passed or do pass it, for want of the experimental guide, and those who have had, and actually have it, for want of a true subjection and intire submission.
7. They’ll say, that the Will will not love; but be unactive, if the Intellect understand not clearly and distinctly, it being a received Maxim, that that which is not known, cannot be loved. To this it is answered, that tho’ the Intellect understand not distinctly by ratiocination, Images and Considerations, yet it understands and knows by an obscure, general and confused Faith; which knowledg, tho’ so obscure, indistinct, and general, and being supernatural, hath nevertheless a more clear and perfect cognition of God, than any sensible and particular notice, that can be formed in this life, because all corporal and sensible representation is infinitely distant from God.
8. We know God more perfectly (says St. Denis - Mystic. Theol. c.I.§.2) by Negatives, than by Affirmatives. We think more highly of God, by knowing that he is incomprehensible, and above all our capacity, than by conceiving him under any image or created beauty, according to our rude understanding. A greater esteem and love then will flow from this confused, obscure and negative, than from any other sensible and distinct way; because that is more proper to God, and abstracted from creatures; and this, on the contrary, the more it depends on creatures, the less it hath of God.
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