|« Prev||Chapter LVI. Of the very highest flight of a soul…||Next »|
Of the very highest flight of a soul experienced in the ways of God.
THE wise daughter said:—There is nothing which I would more gladly learn from Scripture than the answer to this deep and pregnant question, where and how a well-exercised person’s understanding may arrive at its highest end and aim in the deepest abyss of the God head, in such a manner that what is actually experienced will harmonise with the teaching of Holy Writ?
The Servitor drew from Scripture an answer conformable to right reason, and its purport according to its hidden meaning was as follows. Every one who has attained to the true nobility of spirit ponders in simplicity and inactivity the pregnant word which the Eternal Son 302spoke in the Gospel, “Where I am, there also shall My servant be” (John xii. 26). Now he who has not shrunk from following the Son to that bitter where, on which according to His manhood He took post in death upon, the cross, has, in virtue of this promise, the right and the possibility of enjoying, after a blissful and intellectual manner, in time and in eternity, the delightful where of the Son’s pure Godhead, so far as this is possible more or less. But where is the where of the Son’s pure Godhead? It is in the form-pregnant light of the divine Unity,—a light which may be termed in its unnameableness a nothingness; in its inward concentration, an essential stillness; in its indwelling outflow, a triune nature; in its peculiar property, a self-comprehending light; in its uncreated creativeness, an existence which makes things to be. And in the modeless darkness of this light all multiplicity ceases, and the spirit loses itself as self, and comes to an end as regards its own activity. This is the highest aim and the endless where, in which the spirituality of all spirits finds its end. Ever to lose oneself in this is everlasting bliss.
Thou must know, moreover, in order to understand this better, that in the form-pregnant 303light of the Divine Unity there is an indwelling out-springing impulse by which the Persons are poured forth out of the almighty and eternal Godhead. For the Trinity of the Persons is in the Unity of the nature, and the Unity of the nature is in the Trinity of the Persons. The Unity has its actuality in the Trinity, and the Trinity has its potentiality in the Unity; according to what St. Augustin says in his book about the Trinity—namely, that the Trinity of the Persons contains in itself the Unity as Their nature and essence, and hence it is that each Person is God, and according to the simplicity of the nature so also is the Godhead. Now the Unity shines forth in the Trinity after a divided fashion; but the Trinity, viewed as tending inwards and as indwelling, shines forth in the Unity after a simple fashion, just as the three Persons contain in themselves the Unity after the same simple fashion. The Father is the fountain-head of the Son, and the Son is an outflowing of the Father, gushing forth from Him eternally as regards the Personality, and dwelling in Him as regards the being or essence. The Father and the Son pour forth Their Spirit; and the Unity, which is the being of the primal fountain-head, is the being of all the 304three Persons. But as to how the Trinity is one, and the Trinity in the Unity of the nature is one, while nevertheless the Trinity comes forth from the Unity, this cannot be expressed in words, owing to the simplicity of that deep abyss. Hither it is, into this intellectual where, that the spirit, spiritualising itself, soars up, now flying on the summitless heights, now swimming in the bottomless depths of the sublime marvels of the Godhead. Nevertheless, the spirit retains there its own nature as a spirit, while it enjoys the co-eternal, co-omnipotent, indwelling and outflowing Persons, and high above the clouds and bustle of things below contemplates with fixed gaze the Divine marvellousness. For what greater marvel can there be than the pure Unity, into which the Trinity of the Persons merges itself in simplicity, and in which all the multiplicity of sensible objects ceases. And this is to be understood in the sense that the outflowing of the Persons poured forth is al ways tending back again into the Unity of the self-same essence, and that all creatures in regard to their indwelling outflow (i.e. their ideal procession) are from eternity in this one essence, and have in it an existence identical with God’s life, God’s knowledge, and God’s 305essence, according to the words in the beginning of St. John’s Gospel, “That which was made, was in Him life from everlasting.”1111 Quod factum est, in ipso vita erat (Joan. i. 3, 4). According to this deeply-suggestive reading, the clause quod factum est is referred to the words that follow instead of to those which precede. Many of the Fathers read the passage thus. This pure Unity is a dark stillness and an inactive in activity, which no one can understand, save he alone whom the Unity in itself illumines. Out of this still inactivity there shines forth freedom without any admixture of wickedness, for freedom is the fruit of the new birth of self-annihilation; and there shines forth likewise deep hidden truth without speck of falsehood, and this truth is born of the unveiling of the veiled Divine purity; for now at length, after the revelation of these things, the spirit is unclothed of that dusky light which has hitherto followed it, and in which it has till now viewed objects in a human and earthly way. And it finds that it has now become, strictly speaking, another, and something quite different, from what it till then understood itself to be according to its previous light; as St. Paul has said, “I live, but not I” (Gal. ii. 20); and in this manner it is unclothed and simplified in the modeless simplicity 306of the Divine essence, which makes its light to shine into all things in simplicity and stillness. In this simple and modeless contemplation the spirit takes no note of the permanent distinction of the Persons, viewed as separate. For, as Christian doctrine teaches, it is not the Person of the Father, taken by itself, which produces bliss, nor the Person of the Son, taken by itself, nor the Person of the Holy Ghost, taken by itself; but it is the three Persons, in dwelling in the Unity of the essence, that is eternal bliss. And this is the being itself of the Persons by nature, and it is that which gives being to creatures by grace, and it contains in itself the form and idea of all things in simplicity and essentially. Now, just as this form-pregnant light subsists as being, even so all things subsist in it according to their essential being, and not according to their accidental character; and since, moreover, it pours itself as light into all things, therefore its property is to subsist as light. And hence it is that all things shine forth in this absolute being in interior stillness, without detriment to its simplicity.
This intellectual where, in which, as has been just set forth, the tried servant of God should dwell with the eternal Son, may be regarded 307as the essentially existing unnameable Nothingness. And here it is that the spirit arrives at the naught of the Unity; and this Unity is termed naught because the spirit can not discover any mode of being under which to frame a conception of what it is. Nevertheless the spirit clearly feels that it is contained by another, quite different from what it is itself; for which reason that which contains it deserves more properly the name of something than naught, though it seems to the spirit naught because it cannot find any mode of conceiving what it is. Now when the spirit, by the loss of its self-consciousness, has in very truth established its abode in this glorious and dazzling obscurity, it is set free from every obstacle to union and from all its individual properties, as St. Bernard says; and this takes place less or more according as the spirit remains in the body or goes out of it when it passes away out of itself into God. And this loss of the spirit’s self is after that Divine manner in which all things, so to speak, have come to be for it, as the Scripture says (1 Cor. xv. 28).
In this merging of itself in God the spirit passes away, and yet not wholly; for it receives indeed some attributes of the Godhead, but it 308does not become God by nature. What befalls it is all of grace, for it is still a something which has been created out of nothing, and continues to be this everlastingly. Thus much then we may say: When the spirit has passed away out of itself and has been taken up into God, it is rid of that wondering doubt which it felt while losing itself, and it ceases to exist in regard to the sense, so far as its own knowledge of itself is concerned. For, to use ordinary language, the spirit is drawn upwards by the might of the all-luminous Divine essence above its natural capacity into the purity of the Divine naught, in which it is unclothed of all created modes, though without ceasing to retain its own proper mode of existence as a creature. This modeless mode is the being of the Persons, which they contain within Them as their nature in absolute simplicity and perfection. And it is by gazing upon this that the spirit is divested of itself, as has been said; and this takes place in the naught of the Unity, when the spirit ceases to be conscious of its own proper name and existence, in the perfect knowledge of this naught to which it has attained; for in it the spirit loses itself in a forgetfulness of self and all things; and this happens to it the moment it turns away from itself and 309all created things to the purity of the uncreated naught. On this wild mountain range of the Divine where, there is an abyss, perceptible to all pure spirits, disporting itself, so to speak, before them, and opening itself out to their gaze,—here it is they enter into the hidden depths of that which is unnameable and into that wild estrangement; and this is the fathomless abyss of all creatures, which naught but itself can fathom, and which lies hid from all that is not God, save only from those to whom God pleases to reveal it. And these persons must seek it in detachment, and in a certain sense they must behold it with God Himself; according to the words of Scripture, “We shall know then, even as we are known” (1 Cor. xiii. 12; 1 John iii. 2).
The spirit has not this knowledge from its own self, for the Unity in the Trinity draws it up into Itself—that is to say, into the spirit’s true supernatural dwelling-place, in which it dwells above itself in that which has drawn it up thither. Here the spirit dies, and yet is all alive in the marvels of the Godhead. The dying of the spirit consists in this: that when it has passed away into God it no longer takes note of any distinction between individual existences; nevertheless, as regards the outpouring 310of the Persons and of creatures, it holds firmly the distinction between the three Per son s, and also the separate existence of every creature, as is explained in the Servitor’s short treatise concerning Truth. Observe, moreover, that when the spirit has passed out of itself in the way described above, there shines forth out of the Unity a simple light, and this modeless light streams out from the three Persons into the purity of the spirit. When this light falls upon the spirit, it sinks down out of itself and all that belongs to self, the activity of all its powers comes to an end, and it is divested of its operations and its self-existence. This arises from the entering of the spirit into God, when it has passed away out of itself as regards the sense, and is lost in the stillness of the glorious dazzling obscurity and of the naked simple Unity. It is in this modeless where that the highest bliss is to be found.
The maiden exclaimed:—Oh, wonderful! But how is one to enter into it? He answered:—I leave the answer of this question to that bright light St. Denys, who speaks thus to his disciple:—If thou wouldst enter into the hidden mysteriousness, mount boldly upwards; and disregarding thy outer and inner senses, and 311the workings of thy reason in itself, and all things visible and invisible, and all that is and is not, mount upwards to the simple Unity. Into this thou must press forward without knowing it, even into that silence which is above all being and above all science, with the purity and simplicity of a mind utterly abstracted from every creature, right into the very splendours of the Divine darkness. Here thou must let go every hold, and part with every thing created; for in the superessential Trinity of the God-transcending Godhead, on that mysterious, incomprehensible, all-dazzling pinnacle of pinnacles, marvellous things are heard from out the low whispering silence, and marvellous things are felt, new and yet unchangeable, amid the splendours of that dark obscurity, which is the fulness of light and glory manifested, where in all that is shines forth, and which fills to overflowing the sightless mind of the beholder with its incomprehensible, invisible, and effulgent luminousness.312
|« Prev||Chapter LVI. Of the very highest flight of a soul…||Next »|
►Proofing disabled for this book
► Printer-friendly version