|« Prev||Chapter LV. An explanation where and how God is.||Next »|
An explanation where and how God is.
THE good daughter said:—Sir, I have now indeed found out what God is; but I would fain know also where God is. He answered:—Thou shalt hear this. The learned doctors say that God has no where, but that He is all in all. Open then the inward ears of thy soul and give good heed. These same doctors tell us in the art of logic, that we come to know what a thing is through its name. Now, one doctor says that 289being is the first name of God. Turn, then, thine eyes to being in its pure and naked simplicity, and take no note of this or that partial being. Consider only being in itself, unmixed with all non-being. For as all non-being is the negation of all-being, even so being in itself is the negation of all non-being. A thing which has yet to be, or which once was, is not now at this moment in actual being. Moreover, we can have no knowledge of mixed being or non-being, unless we take into account that which is all-being. For if we would under stand what any thing is, the first point which our mind meets with in it is being, and this is a being which is the efficient cause of all things. It is not the partial and particular being of this or that creature; for partial being is always mixed with some other element, and has a capacity for receiving something new into it. Therefore, the nameless Divine Being must be in itself a being that is all-being, and that sustains all particular beings by its presence.
It is a proof of the singular blindness of man’s reason, that it cannot examine into that which it contemplates first before every thing, and without which it cannot perceive any thing. It is with the reason as with the eye. When 290the eye is intent upon observing a variety of coloured objects, it does not notice the light which enables it to see all these objects, and even if it looks at the light, it still does not see it. Thus, too, is it with our soul’s eye; when it looks at this or that particular being, it takes no heed of the being, which is every where one, absolute and simple, and which enables it to apprehend all other beings. Hence a wise doctor says, that the eye of our intelligence, owing to its infirmity, is affected towards that being which is in itself the most manifest of all beings, as the eye of a bat or a night-owl towards the bright light of the sun; for particular beings distract and dazzle the mind, so that it cannot see the Divine darkness, which is in itself the brightest of all brightness.
Open now thy inward eyes and gaze as best thou canst on being in its naked simple purity, and thou wilt see at once that it comes from no one, and has no before nor after, and no capacity of change, either from within or from without, because it is a simple being. Thou wilt note too that it is the most actual, the most present, and the most perfect of all beings, with out flaw or alteration, because it is absolutely one in naked simplicity. And this truth is so 291evident to an enlightened reason, that it is impossible for it to think otherwise; for one point proves and implies the other. Thus, because it is a simple being, it must needs be the first of beings, and without origin and everlasting; and because it is the first and everlasting and simple, it must be the most present. It is at the very highest summit of perfection and simplicity, to which nothing can be added and from which nothing can be taken away. If thou canst understand what I have just told thee about the pure Godhead, thou wilt have been guided a long way into the incomprehensible light of God’s hidden truth. This pure and simple being is the first and highest cause of all beings which have a cause (created beings), and by its peculiar presence it encloses, as the beginning and end of all things, whatever comes into being in time. It is altogether in all things, and altogether outside all things. Hence a certain doctor says:—God is a circular ring, whose centre is every where and circumference nowhere.
The maiden answered:—Praised be God, I have been shown, as far as can be, what God is and where God is. I would fain now learn how, if God is so exceeding simple, He can be at the same time threefold.292
The Servitor replied:—Each several being, the more simple it is in itself, the more manifold it is in its productive efficacy. That which has nothing gives nothing, and that which has much can give much. Now, I have already spoken of that inflowing and overflowing fountain-head of good which God is in Himself, and of God’s unfathomable supernatural goodness which constrains Him not to keep all this to Himself, but to communicate it joyfully both within and with out Himself. But the highest and most perfect outpouring of the supreme Good must of necessity take place within itself, and this can be none other than a present, interior, substantial, personal, and natural outpouring, necessary, yet without compulsion, alike infinite and perfect. All other outpourings which take place in time and in creatures are but a reflection of the eternal outpouring of the unfathomable Divine goodness. And learned doctors say that, in the outflow of creatures from their primal fountainhead, there is a circular return-movement of the end to the beginning; for as the outflowing of the Person from God is an image and representation of the origin of creatures, so also it foreshadows the flowing back again of creatures into God.293
Now, observe the difference between the creature’s outpouring and God’s outpouring. Inasmuch as a creature is only a partial being, its giving and its outpouring is also partial and in measure. Thus a human father gives his son, when he begets him, only a part of his own being; he does not give him wholly and entirely all that he is, for he himself is but a partial good. But since the Divine outpouring is manifestly of a far more interior and nobler kind than the creature’s outpouring, in proportion to the greatness of the good which God is in Himself and His immeasurable superiority over all other goods, it follows as a necessary consequence from this that the outpouring must be like the being; and this cannot be unless God pours out His being according to the personal relations.
If now with cleansed eye thou canst look into and gaze upon the most pure goodness of the supreme Good, which goodness is of its own nature a present active principle of the natural and spontaneous love with which the supreme Good loves itself, thou wilt behold the exuberant supernatural outpouring of the Word from the Father, by which act of begetting and speaking all things are spoken forth and produced; and thou wilt see too in the supreme Good and in 294the highest outpouring the divine Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, necessarily bursting forth. And if it be that from the supreme essential goodness the highest and most perfect outpouring gushes forth, it follows that there must be in the aforenamed Trinity the most supreme and intimate community of being, as well as the most perfect similarity and identity of that being, which the Persons possess in the jubilee of their outpouring, without any division or partition of the substance and the almightiness of the three Persons of the Godhead.
The maiden exclaimed:—O wonderful! I swim in the Godhead as an eagle in the air. He answered:—It is impossible to express in words how the Trinity of the Divine Persons can subsist in the unity of one essence. Nevertheless, to say what can be said about it, St. Augustin lays down that the Father is the fountain-head of all the Godhead of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, personally and essentially. St. Denys says, that in the Father there is an outflowing of the Godhead, and that this out flowing or stream pours itself out naturally in the outrunning Word, who is the Son by nature. He also pours Himself out according to the loving bountifulness of the will into the Son, 295and the Son in turn pours Himself out according to the lovingness of the will into the Father, and this is called a reciprocal love, and is the Holy Ghost. The hidden meaning of this is disclosed and proved to us by that bright light the dear St. Thomas, the teacher, who speaks thus:—In the outpouring of the Word from the Father’s heart and reason, it must needs be that God, with His luminous intellect, contemplates Himself, bending back, as it were, upon His Divine essence; for if the reason of the Father had not the Divine essence for its object, the Word conceived would be a creature and not God, which would be false. But in the way described, the Word is a Divine being from a Divine being. Again, this backward look upon the Divine essence in the reason of the Father must take place in a manner productive of a natural likeness, otherwise the Word would not be the Son. Here, then, we have unity of essence with diversity of Persons; and, as a good attestation of this distinction, the high-soaring eagle, St. John, has said:—"The Word was in the beginning with God.”
With regard to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, thou shouldst know that the substance of the Divine intellect is an act of cognition (intellectio), 296and this, moreover, must have an inclination for its object under the form in which it has been received into the intellect. This inclination is the will, and the longing of the will is to seek after pleasure as best it can. Thou shouldst also observe that the object loved is not in the person loving under the likeness of its natural form, as is the case with the object of the intellect in the light of the cognition. Now, inasmuch as the Word flows out from the looking forth of the Father according to the form of the nature, without confusion of Persons, this outpouring of the Father is called a begetting. But since this mode of procession does not occur in the out flowing of the will and of the love, which is the third Person, who is poured forth like a stream, of love by the Father, and also by His express image the Son, from out His very inmost depths, therefore this outflowing cannot be termed a Son or begotten. And since this love is in the will after an intellectual or spiritual fashion, like an inclination or love-bond present inwardly in the lover towards the object of his love, the third Person in the procession, who proceeds according to the loving manner of the will, fittingly receives the name of Spirit. But when a man has reached this point he is transformed by the Divine 297light in that mysterious way which they only can understand who have experienced it.
The daughter said:—Ah, sir, this is indeed a sublime fulness of Christian doctrine. Nevertheless, there are to be met with certain intellectual men who deny what has been just said about God, and whose view is, that he who would attain to perfect union will find the contemplation of God a hurtful impediment. He should, on the contrary, according to them, divest himself of God and of the spirit, and cast behind him all visions, and turn himself only to the inwardly-shining truth, which he is himself.
He answered:—This doctrine is false if the words are taken in their ordinary sense. Therefore keep clear of it, and hearken to what the Christian faith teaches on this point. The common view which men take of God is that He is the Lord and Creator of the whole world, who suffers no wickedness to pass unpunished, and no good deed unrewarded. He, then, who commits sin regards God as a terrible God; as the good Job said, “I have always feared God as shipmen fear the great waves” (Job xxxi. 23). He also who serves God for reward has a great and munificent God, able to recompense him 298abundantly. But a well-exercised and experienced man, who by manifold dyings has rid himself of the sinful things which God hates, and who serves God at all times with burning love, this man loves God in his heart, and not after the afore-mentioned fashion. And he has in a certain sense divested himself of God, and he loves Him as his heart’s own loved one; for servile fear has passed from him, as St. Paul says. Thus to the spiritual man God remains truly God and Lord, and yet at the same time he has emptied himself of God, according to the grosser acceptation of the term, for he has attained to a more perfect conception of Him.
Now as to the way in which a man should be divested of the spirit, hearken to the true account of it. When a man at the outset of his interior life begins to observe that he is a creature composed of body and soul, and that his body is mortal, but that his soul is an ever lasting spirit, he gives his body and all his animal nature their dismissal, and cleaves to the spirit, and brings his body into subjection to it; and every thing he does is interiorly in thought directed to this one end, how he may discover the superessential Spirit, and how lay hold of It, and how unite his spirit with It. A 299man of this kind is called a spiritual and holy man. Now, supposing that all goes right with him, after he has exercised himself in this for a long time, and yet the superessential Spirit, though ever playing as it were before him, has always eluded his grasp, his created spirit begins at last to realise its own helplessness, to abandon itself by an utter renunciation of self to the everlasting Divine might, and to turn away from itself, with contempt for what comes from the senses, to the immensity of the Supreme Being. In this taking-up of the spirit into God it attains to a forgetfulness and loss of self, of which St. Paul speaks, “I live, but not I” (Gal. ii. 20); and of which Christ has said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (Matt. ii. 3). Thus it is that a man’s spirit, while it remains what it was as to its essence, is nevertheless divested of itself in regard to the possession of itself through the senses.
I will also explain to you the difference between pure truth and doubtful visions. To gaze without any medium upon the unveiled Godhead is undoubtedly absolute and unmingled truth; and the more intellectual and unimaginary a vision is, and the more nearly it approaches to the unveiled contemplation, the more 300noble is its character. Some of the prophets had imaginary visions, as Jeremias and others. And such imaginary visions are still often granted to God’s intimate friends, sometimes when asleep and sometimes when awake, their outward senses being at the time stilled to rest and abstracted. A learned doctor says, that angelic appearances happen to some persons oftener in sleep than when awake, and for this reason:—because a man in sleep is in a state of greater quietude with regard to the multiplicity of his external operations than when awake. But when it is that a vision which takes place in sleep may and ought to be deemed a true vision—as the dream in the Old Testament which King Pharaoh had about the seven fat and seven lean kine, and many similar dreams mentioned in Holy Writ—and also how the truth of such visions is to be discerned,—for dreams are usually deceptive, though undoubtedly they some times announce the truth,—all this thou mayest learn from what St. Augustin writes about his holy mother. God, she told him, had given her this gift: that when He showed her any thing in sleep or half-sleep, she received at the same time the inward power of discerning whether it was merely a common dream, which she should 301disregard, or an imaginary vision, to which she should attend. Those persons who have this gift from God can all the better explain to themselves how this is. But no one can communicate it to another by words. Those only understand it who have had experience of it.
|« Prev||Chapter LV. An explanation where and how God is.||Next »|