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For three reasons man should draw in all his senses.
This decidedly is the most useful bond, with which to bind the senses; that they are entirely drawn inwards and bound together with divine truth, to the praise of God. Without this union no man can defend himself from fall. Why alone should the inward man be receptive of divine truth, and not also the senses? Now the inward man can also not receive divine truth, unless united with the senses; so the reason is only this, that, because there is only one God, and one faith, so also must a man have this unity, and also in his oneness he is receptive of his God, because oneness believes truly in God. Giving 291it more than one God and then believing, would render it impossible for a man to be inwardly united. But as there is only one God, and one faith, so also the man must be one, if he wisheth to be receptive of God and of true faith. So much as this unity faileth him, so much faileth him of God and of true faith; it is therefore necessary, that the senses should be drawn more together in inward unity. The more the senses are directed outwards, the more dissipated they are in their works; the more numerous these are in interest, so much the more are men inwardly impeded, to receive divine simple truth, which is God. Thus God is unable to be united with the changeable, external worldly man, for God is unable to be received in what is disunited, He can only enter inward unity. It standeth written by the prophets, “I will lead thee in the desert, and speak to thy heart;”190190 In the margin stands Solomon’s Song, but the passage occurs in Hosee ii. 14. viz., the desert of internal unity, where all alien beings and all things are united in one, where alone the eternal Word is spoken from the fatherly heart; and only in this solitude can the unity be heard. If also God speaks His Word to the man engrossed with material interests it cannot be heard, for if two speak at once we cannot hear them; one must be silent. Just the same also is it when God speaks to the soul, then all creatures and all things must be as nothing to the man, and alone the Spirit, the Word of God, must be heard.292
It is usual when the master speaketh that the servant listeneth; but if the servant is uncivil to the master, he often waxeth wrathful. So it is also when God speaketh His Word, all things must be as silent to the man, and he must hearken to the divine Word, through which all wisdom is learnt; whoever disturbeth Him, acteth with insolence to Him. But a man disturbeth God when he giveth way to his senses without giving attention to His advice; over this He waxeth wroth. These sensual men never again come to the love of God, because they fail in respect to Him. The greatest honour and love man can show to God is to hear His Word; but those who favour the senses cannot hear it, and cannot therefore love Him with a true love. He who wisheth this divine love must tame his passions, and have his powers at peace to be able to hear what God speaketh in the soul. In the mutual conversation which the soul holdeth with God there existeth the divine love; God loveth the soul with this love, and the soul returneth the love, and thus it will be loved justly. Jesus also saith, “He who loveth Me, heareth My Word; “those, therefore, who will not hear His Word can also not love Him. The origin of divine love is in the eternal word that God speaketh to the soul; he who ignoreth this faileth also in the 293foundation of divine love. Therefore man should direct all his senses and strength to the divine Word, so he will come to the true origin of divine love, he will drink from this fountain, will be intoxicated with love, and be swept away with it.
Love is his entire life, he can do nothing else than love; love hath penetrated him, without love he desireth nothing more. Who attributeth anything else than charity to him doeth him injustice, for he is all love; who attempteth to take it from him must also take his life. Charity is his life and death. If he liveth, he liveth from love; if he dieth, he dieth from love; let the lot fall, as it will, love is always one with him, and he is one with love. What happeneth to love also happeneth to him, what disturbeth love also disturbeth him. Whatever form it take is but love. Whosoever giveth to him giveth to charity, whosoever taketh from him taketh from charity. Whosoever wisheth closely to work with God bringeth it to completion through such God-loving men; for if these men receive a work of love, then love is uppermost, which is the consuming fire of divine love. Whosoever feedeth such men, feedeth also God. Thus when the food has been received love draweth the force of the food and consumeth it in the fountain of 294divine love, so that man knoweth not that he hath eaten. Everything cometh back with men of love to its origin, from which it is gone forth; he is the nearest to this origin, and what is accomplished by it must come through him. Whosoever showeth love and faith to such a man will not, most probably, be lost by God. For love and faith raised to this higher love cannot be overlooked by God. But those who love God are never loved by man, except by those who are worthy of His love. It is also quite natural that they are much hated, for very few are worthy of or equal to them. Of these St. Paul says, “The world is not worthy of them,” therefore they must bear much insult.
But this unworthiness is the dignity of love; for worldly honour is contemptible to them, and whosoever showeth such to them offendeth them. The honour of such men is the cross of Jesus Christ, from this love hath its honour and dignity. St. Paul saith, “Let all worthiness be far from me, except through the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ; “in this lies all my honour and worth. But the cross of Jesus Christ leadeth to, and is, degradation, hatred, persecution, and every form of agony. From these things love gaineth honour and notoriety. But whosoever wisheth to be honoured, and pleaseth 295himself with a worldly position of honour, showeth immediately that he hath not divine love; divine love wisheth equality with nothing except that which it loves. And whosoever attempteth to draw it away from this equality maketh it sick, but whosoever handleth it with equal love filleth it with pleasure; from this one knoweth those who possess divine love.
This true divine love springeth from the fatherly heart when God speaketh His eternal Word to the soul; for in this conversation the Spirit of the Holy Ghost poureth forth and floodeth the soul and all its forces, so that all that it breatheth forth is love (charity). But this causeth the senses to be drawn under the control of the inward man, silencing their forces, whilst the inner love gloweth in God—in this condition the soul expandeth whilst the eternal Word is pronounced, from which all complete love springs. It is, therefore, necessary that he who wisheth to attain a perfect life must take up an inward life, and drag himself away from all external sheen. When he has drawn himself from this, and freed himself from the numbing influence of temporal greed, and even if he had the desire to perform a material work, desireth also that he would find no property remaining to him, then, but not till then, can he live 296a complete internal life, and give God scope to work in him.
The highest perfection of poverty of spirit is then in being entirely devoted to God so completely that a man doth not perceive the doings and defects of outside creatures, so that God can finish His perfect work, which maketh eternal beatitude. Concerning this Christ also said, “If thou wilt be perfect, sell all thou hast and give it to the poor.” Jesus doth not mean that all men without temporal goods are perfect, He only meaneth that to be perfect a man must have no property, and only give attention that God worketh direct on the soul. Thus a poor life leadeth to the highest perfection, and poverty is the only condition that permitteth a man to forget all creatures, and to hear God alone. As a master gives the first place to his disciple, and expecteth him to give only attention to him, and not to another, so also is poverty the highest place that God can give to His friends that they can better approach Him. But whosoever being poor, interesteth himself in external things, hath a poverty more damaging than perfect. God hath directed him to an inward life, and only to give attention to Him; but when he giveth his attention to outward attractions, he faileth in duty to God, and doth not live in the true road of humility 297of spirit. He who wisheth to serve man must have material goods, but whosoever wisheth to serve God must not make gain, but seek God. Therefore also Jesus directed Mary Magdalene that she should castaway all valuable objects that she might the more easily be , able to direct herself away from creatures, and look at Him without obstruction. Therefore He also saith, “She hath chosen the better part,” that is, she left the service of creatures, for she left temporal gains, and turned towards God, where the best part is to be found. But whosoever possess temporal things must give attention to creatures, serving them according to the will of God, for through this devotion they reach God; but those who are free from property have only God in view, and that is their best means of reaching God. On this question Seneca saith, “Whosoever wisheth to have the freedom of poverty must be an absolute pauper, or live as a pauper.” But that man is truly free if he is able to turn himself to the best part, which is God. But this only occurs by complete freedom from all temporal things. All temporal things are by their nature heavy, therefore they drag down the mind which is occupied with them. But whosoever is free from them hath a tendency which draweth him to God, and thus true freedom is to be found in the absence of all material goods.298
It is quite a right sequence that they who are laden with the temporal should blame freedom, for they possess it not, and you cannot praise what you have not. True freedom consisteth in an internal life, and in perceiving God in it; but if man turneth to creatures he is bound by them, and this fetter hindereth him from going back to God in his interior. Therefore is it good to remain always very much in yourself, in order to be unfettered and unhindered by creatures, that we may always find God in the depths of the soul, where His real dwelling is.
Therefore man should hush his senses and attend to his inner man, because the man’s best part is within; for it is quite fair that a man should serve the best and should give up evil. But whoso favoureth the senses is like a man who leaveth his best friend and giveth himself up to the public enemy; for what is sensual is the enemy of the soul; whoso serveth sense serveth his public enemy, and it is quite just that he should receive the reward of his enemy, that is, everlasting death. The senses bring death, their reward is therefore also death. No one giveth what he hath not therefore also they cannot also give life, for 299they have it not. It came to pass thus with Eve. When she saw that the fruit was good she desired it, ate thereof, thus served her sensuality, and death was also her portion. So it happeneth still to all who favour their senses. If she had followed her reason she would have gone apart from her senses, and then life would have been her portion. It is often said that God damneth man; God damneth no man, but man damneth himself, for by this, that he turneth himself wilfully to sensuality and liveth to it, he chooseth death and abandoneth life. If God were to give him life he could not take it, for he hath no place in which he could receive life. All is death that is in him, and death alone is his portion. Even if God were to give life to such sensual men, he would act like him, who throweth his best good that he hath, into impure dung. All that is sensual is impure dung; as also St. Paul saith, “I have held all things as dung.” Life is the best good that God hath. That He may also not be mocked He giveth it to no one who liveth down in the senses. Let not therefore any one wonder if God doth not grant much grace to him; he ought not to do so. It doth not agree with his order to give divine good to them that serve sensuality. It is also said: If God would, He could give many gifts to man. This is true; and if man were to turn to grace God might give them to him, and he could take them; but as he turneth whither there is no grace, God also ought to give him 300none. Therefore, if man wisheth to receive grace from God he must subdue his senses and turn himself inwardly to God, then he can receive it. But if he liveth in the senses, if he turneth away from God, God also will grant him no grace. For whoso wisheth to receive something from another must be with him from whom he receiveth it; therefore all that is in man must be inwardly with God, as God is in our interior. Only thus can the divine grace be received.
Thirdly, man should draw his senses inward, for as often as he turneth outward, the senses receive something impure and bring it with them, which also sullieth the soul. Whoso, therefore, wisheth to abide always pure, let him keep his senses within, let him not suffer them to roam outwardly, then his heart remaineth pure and in peace. Whoso stirreth about too much outwardly, even if it be for good works, cometh never to the true peace of his heart, for the peace of God surpasseth all sense; whoso liveth on in the senses cannot attain to it. What is sensual is all unstable and unquiet. Therefore he who wisheth to attain to true rest must go apart from the senses and enter into the depths of the soul where stability is; there alone he findeth rest and peace. But let no one hold himself already so free and perfect that he 301fancy it would not harm him if he were to turn to outward works that are not necessary for him. I say to thee, that no one is so holy in time that he can remain as pure if he turneth himself outwardly as if he tarrieth in his interior, and for this reason, because if man, without any necessity, turneth outwardly, he turneth to creatures as they are found there. But if he turneth himself to his interior he turneth to God, as He dwelleth there. But no one can remain as pure with creatures as with God; the creature is unfruitful, but God fruitful. But he who denieth that this turning outwardly is hurtful, proveth that he hath never yet come to true internal piety. Some very small thing causeth pain to the eye, and we must take great heed and be provident if it is to remain clear. But a far smaller thing can injure the internal man, and you must take much more heed than with the outer eye if it is to remain always pure. All that is outward is impure; but if the senses turn thither they take up the impure with themselves, and if they come back again into the interior they bring this with them, and thereby trouble the heart. It is therefore meet and right, if man keepeth himself alway in the interior, that his heart may remain always pure. Internal life belongeth to a pure poor life. Whoso turneth himself without goeth aside from the way of true poverty; for poverty of spirit is a matter of the inner man, but the external man hath it not. Poverty of spirit is a pure, simple being, and whoso is outwardly 302cannot be pure. Purity is begotten of God inwardly, and not of creatures. If, therefore, thou wishest to keep poverty of spirit, live inwardly.
But no man can be really poor save if God maketh him poor, and God granteth this only to him who is inwardly with Him, from him He taketh away all that is ungodly. He who is the most internal is also the poorest, and he who is the poorest is also the most internal. Inwardness and poverty stand on the same degree. Whoso hath not left outer things in inwardness hath evidently not yet obtained true inwardness, for true inwardness is an entire abnegation of oneself and of all things; not only inwardly but outwardly must we suffer it to be; all must give way to true inwardness. Into it the will entereth into the most perfect will of God, and uniteth itself then with God; what God willeth for the best, the true internal will willeth also. But that is the most perfect will of God that we follow Jesus Christ in His life and in His teaching. This was the voice of the Father to the Son, when St. John baptized Him: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased: hear ye Him.” “In whom I am pleased,” this means that all the good pleasure of the Father is alone in the Son; and therefore it is the highest will of the Father for 303them that follow Him, to follow His Son as closely as possible. He said further: “Hear ye Him,” this is a sign that it is His will for us to follow His teaching. But the life and the teaching of our Lord are outward and inward poverty, and the true will that penetrateth into God desireth this also. But whoso bringeth not his will to work, his will is not yet internal, nor is it yet united with the divine will. For from this, that the man is inwardly taken up and his will united with God’s will, he will directly know what he ought to do or omit. God’s will is only for him to follow Christ in life and in His teaching; and whoso followeth Him the closest is the most internal man, but whoso liveth most internally followeth Him also the closest.
Whoso attaineth to a poor life in this inwardness hath true poverty and no one else. It is needful that he who desireth to be right poor, should be so internally. Poverty without inwardness is like a king without lands or like a body without a soul, thus inwardness maketh man’s life fruitful and well pleasing to God. Christ said also, “Unless the seed of corn falleth into the earth and dieth, it can bring forth no fruit.” All things must die inwardly in us, and we in God, then we bring forth much fruit, that is, much life is born in 304us, which is well pleasing to God. Whoso doth not come thus into his interior, cannot also die internally or bring forth any fruit. The outward show of poverty hath no worth; the street beggars have also this show, but they are not on that account holy. Man must die inwardly in the ground of his soul; this belongeth to a poor life, in which perfection lieth.
It might now be asked: What is then an inward life, dead to all things? I give this answer: Man is then dead when he forsaketh all sin and obtaineth virtue, so that virtue becometh his very being. He is internal, when all that is outward is painful to him; he is poor, when his spirit is a mere instrument of God, so that God, without hindrance, can speak His Eternal Word in the ground of the soul. These three things stand on the same point, eternally, in the purity of a pure being genuine dying is unity, true unity is inwardness, and true poverty is unity. Christ said, “One thing is needful.” This is needful if God is to work in the soul, that man should gather himself up in an internal, mortified, and pure unity. This alone is receptive of the work of God, and God can only work His most perfect in one, in this unity; whoso is most united is most receptive of God. When the heaven is clearest, the sun 305can best send out its rays through the air; so is it also, when the soul is quite simplified, the divine sun can spread out its splendour the most in the soul; it enlighteneth the soul with divine light. As much as the soul lacketh unity, so much it lacketh light; therefore also its working is in unity, for each thing worketh according to its nature; therefore the light, which is like unto God, worketh always in unity, and whoso turneth himself away from unity, turneth himself from the divine light. The highest perfection consists in this, that the soul be internal and united; whoso is and abideth eternally the most inward, increaseth most in perfection, he receiveth most the influx of the divine light, which enlighteneth his reason, to know the pure truth. Right knowledge of truth passeth on to unity; no man with scattered faculties, whose reason is occupied with the manifold, attaineth to true light, in which all divine truth revealeth itself. The light is simple, therefore also the ground must be simple if it reflects its splendour, for each thing must also find a place according to its value. It is therefore needful that he, who wisheth to have light should be internal and united, therefore also Jesus said, “If thine eye is single, thy whole body will be light.”191191 Matt. vi. 32. Man’s eye is the reason, if this is single, all that it understandeth is pure truth, and all its works are pure virtues.306
What is not produced from a simple ground is all deception; therefore whoso doth not wish to be deceived, let him turn from the manifold to internal unity; no deception can be mixed up there. All that deceiveth man is that the phantasy forms too many things, and that it taketh these images to be the truth; the evil spirit can shut himself up in this, holdeth before him false images, and deceiveth him. He cannot reach a perfectly simple, pure ground, therefore also he cannot deceive the pure, simple man. He who attacheth weight to so-called visions, and busieth himself much with images, showeth that his ground is not simple or pure. For in a simple, pure ground, nothing is begotten save God, and what is like unto God. But God is invisible, raised above all images, therefore they are deceived who assume that they wish to see Him. What is produced in a pure ground is so fine and simple that no one can grasp it by images, and no one can speak of it; whoso knoweth the pure truth, he knoweth well that it is true, and maketh nothing of visions, especially at this time. For the truth hath been revealed in our Lord Jesus Christ, and whoso seeketh it outside Him and His teaching deceiveth himself, and also others. All that believe in this man are sick in faith, and have more in common with Antichrist than with Christ. They who live 307in Christ, and in whom He liveth, can hold and believe nothing else than Christ, and whatever else is revealed in them they hold to be false. Thus they alone remain undeceived by all falsity.
Nay, even a pure and simple man, of whose heart Christ hath taken possession must often resist a pure distinction of truth having a likeness to the God-like; he must do so in order to remain pure in his simplicity, that God may not be hindered in His working in him, which is raised above all the distinctions of truth by imagery. And even if they sometimes examine a thing by distinction, in order to be able to teach their fellow-men about it, yet as soon as they turn away from these works they loose the very image of the thing, return to Christ, and leave all the rest as it is, which keepeth them also in true purity. These men have the greatest labour and the greatest burthen that any one can have in time, for they must resist all that is in time and not God, they must overcome all with a heavy fight, all that is in them must be broken through and set aside. It happeneth indeed that some, who have a weak nature, or are burthened with sins, are so weakened that they must lie down sick, and can say with the loving soul, “Tell it to my Beloved, for I lie sick with love.”192192 In the margin Canticorum, i.e. Solomon’s Song ii. 5.308
The love of the Holy Ghost penetrateth all the members of man, inflameth them all with the love fire; and this fire burneth up all unlikeness, and maketh all things straight that were crooked before. Man fancieth that he will be entirely burnt up, and this is named the working and overwhelming love. And as something unlike is still in man, this love must work; but afterwards when working love hath worked off all unlikeness, a sweet love springeth up in man, and this is named passive love, which then suffereth in a calm and gentle rest what God worketh; and it worketh no more, but God worketh, and it suffereth. And now at length the soul is in an eternal entrance into God, and God draweth it with Himself, and maketh the soul one love with Himself, and thus man becometh entirely one love with God. Whoever would now give him a name would properly give him that of love, for nothing save love is in him. And those men do not trouble themselves with any vision, or with any strange ways, but only with simple, divine love. This is brought about by the simple, pure ground and foundation out of which simple, divine love springeth. In this is the greatest joy that exists in time, and the delight is not natural or contrary to truth, but it is God-like, and revealeth the truth, which is God. This rapture ought not 309to be blamed, for it is Irom God, and destroyeth all natural lust that is against God. But man should not linger with love because of this delight, so that he would love God on account of the delight; but he ought to love God for the sake of God, he must give up all delight, and cleave to God alone without any wherefore, and thus is his love perfect. For if he were to love God on account of delight, he would love Him in a natural way, or according to the love of creatures. And may God help us to love God in the most perfect manner.310311
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