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Divine Locutions. Discussions on That Subject.
1. It will be as well, I think, to explain these locutions of God, and to describe what the soul feels when it receives them, in order that you, my father, may understand the matter; for ever since that time of which I am speaking, when our Lord granted me that grace, it has been an ordinary occurrence until now, as will appear by what I have yet to say.357357 Philip. a SS. Trinitate, Theolog. Mystic. par. 2, tr. iii. disc. iv. art. v.: "Tres sunt modi divinæ locutionis; completur enim divina locutio vel verbis successivis, vel verbis formalibus, vel verbis substantialibus. Completur verbis successivis cum anima in semetipsa multum collecta quosdam discursus internos de Deo vel de aliis divina format directione; hujusmodi quippe discursus, quamvis ab ipsa sibi formati, a Deo tamen dirigente procedunt. Completur verbis formalibus cum anima vel in se collecta, vel aliis occupata, percipit quædam verba formaliter ac distincte divinitus expressa, ad quorum formationem anima passive penitus se habet. Completur verbis substantialibus cum anima vel in se collecta, vel etiam distracta, percipit quædam verba viva et efficacia, divinitus ad se directa, quæ virtutem aut substantialem effectum per ipsa significatum fortiter ac infallibiliter causant." See also St. John of the Cross, Ascent of Mount Carmel, b. ii. ch. xxviii. and the following, p. 188.
2. The words are very distinctly formed; but by the bodily ear they are not heard. They are, however, much more clearly understood than they would be if they were heard by the ear. It is impossible not to understand them, whatever resistance we may offer. When we wish not to hear anything in this world, we 206 can stop our ears, or give attention to something else: so that, even if we do hear, at least we can refuse to understand. In this locution of God addressed to the soul there is no escape, for in spite of ourselves we must listen; and the understanding must apply itself so thoroughly to the comprehension of that which God wills we should hear, that it is nothing to the purpose whether we will it or not; for it is His will, Who can do all things. We should understand that His will must be done; and He reveals Himself as our true Lord, having dominion over us. I know this by much experience; for my resistance lasted nearly two years,358358 From 1555 to 1557, when the Saint was advised by St. Francis de Borja to make no further resistance (Bouix). because of the great fear I was in: and even now I resist occasionally; but it is of no use.
3. I should like to explain the delusions which may happen here, though he who has had much experience will run little or no risk, I think; but the experience must be great. I should like to explain also how those locutions which come from the Good Spirit differ from those which come from an evil spirit; and, further, how they may be but an apprehension of the understanding,—for that is possible,—or even words which the mind addressed to itself. I do not know if it be so but even this very day I thought it possible. I know by experience in many ways, when these locutions come from God. I have been told things two or three years beforehand, which have all come to pass; and in none of them have I been hitherto deceived. There are also other things in which the Spirit of God may be clearly traced, as I shall relate by and by.359359 See ch. xxvii. § 4.
4. It seems to me that a person commending a matter to God with great love and earnestness may think that he hears in some way or other whether his prayer will be granted or not, and this is quite possible; but he who has heard the divine locution will see clearly enough what this is, because there is a great 207 difference between the two. If it be anything which the understanding has fashioned, however cunningly it may have done so, he sees that it is the understanding which has arranged that locution, and that it is speaking of itself. This is nothing else but a word uttered by one, and listened to by another: in that case, the understanding will see that it has not been listening only, but also forming the words; and the words it forms are something indistinct, fantastic, and not clear like the divine locutions. It is in our power to turn away our attention from these locutions of our own, just as we can be silent when we are speaking; but, with respect to the former, that cannot be done.
5. There is another test more decisive still. The words formed by the understanding effect nothing; but, when our Lord speaks, it is at once word and work; and though the words may not be meant to stir up our devotion, but are rather words of reproof, they dispose a soul at once, strengthen it, make it tender, give it light, console and calm it; and if it should be in dryness, or in trouble and uneasiness, all is removed, as if by the action of a hand, and even better; for it seems as if our Lord would have the soul understand that He is all-powerful, and that His words are deeds.
6. It seems to me that there is as much difference between these two locutions as there is between speaking and listening, neither more nor less; for when I speak, as I have just said,360360 § 4. I go on with my understanding arranging what I am saying; but if I am spoken to by others, I do nothing else but listen, without any labour. The human locution is as something which we cannot well make out, as if we were half asleep; but the divine locution is a voice so clear that not a syllable of its utterance is lost. It may occur, too, when the understanding and the soul are so troubled and distracted that they cannot form one sentence correctly; and yet grand sentences, perfectly 208 arranged, such as the soul in its most recollected state never could have formed, are uttered, and at the first word, as I said,361361 § 5. change it utterly. Still less could it have formed them if they are uttered in an ecstasy, when the faculties of the soul are suspended; for how should the soul then comprehend anything, when it remembers nothing?—yea, rather, how can it remember them then, when the memory can hardly do anything at all, and the imagination is, as it were, suspended?
7. But it is to be observed, that if we see visions and hear words it never is as at the time when the soul is in union in the very rapture itself,—so it seems to me. At that moment, as I have shown,—I think it was when I was speaking of the second water,362362 The doctrine here laid down is not that of the second water,—chs. xiv. and xv.,—but that of the third, ch. xvi. The Saint herself speaks doubtfully; and as she had but little time for writing, she could not correct nor read again what she had written (De la Fuente).—all the faculties of the soul are suspended; and, as I think, neither vision, nor understanding, nor hearing, is possible at that time. The soul is then wholly in the power of another; and in that instant—a very brief one, in my opinion—our Lord leaves it free for nothing whatever; but when this instant is passed, the soul continuing still entranced, then is the time of which I am speaking; for the faculties, though not completely suspended, are so disposed that they are scarcely active, being, as it were, absorbed, and incapable of making any reflections.
8. There are so many ways of ascertaining the nature of these locutions, that if a person be once deceived, he will not be deceived often. I mean, that a soul accustomed to them, and on its guard, will most clearly see what they are; for, setting other considerations aside which prove what I have said, the human locution produces no effect, neither does the soul accept it,—though it must admit the other, whether we like it or not,—nor does it believe it; on 209 the contrary, it is known to be a delusion of the understanding, and is therefore put away as we would put away the ravings of a lunatic.
9. But as to the divine locution, we listen to that as we do to a person of great holiness, learning, or authority, whom we know to be incapable of uttering a falsehood. And yet this is an inadequate illustration; for these locutions proceed occasionally in such great majesty that, without our recollecting who it is that utters them, they make us tremble if they be words of reproof, and die of love if words of love. They are also, as I have said,363363 § 6. matters of which the memory has not the least recollection; and expressions so full are uttered so rapidly, that much time must have been spent in arranging them, if we formed them ourselves; and so it seems to me that we cannot possibly be ignorant at the time that we have never formed them ourselves at all.
10. There is no reason, therefore, why I should dwell longer on this matter. It is a wonder to me that any experienced person, unless he deliberately chooses to do so, can fall into delusions. It has often happened to me, when I had doubts, to distrust what I had heard, and to think that it was all imagination,—but this I did afterwards: for at the moment that is impossible,—and at a later time to see the whole fulfilled; for our Lord makes the words dwell in the memory so that they cannot be forgotten. Now, that which comes forth from our understanding is, as it were, the first movement of thought, which passes away and is forgotten; but the divine locution is a work done; and though some of it may be forgotten, and time have lapsed, yet is not so wholly forgotten that the memory loses all traces of what was once spoken,—unless, indeed, after very long time, or unless the locution were words of grace or of instruction. But as to prophetic words, they are never 210 forgotten, in my opinion; at least, I have never forgotten any,—and yet my memory is weak.
11. I repeat it, unless a soul be so wicked as to pretend that it has these locutions, which would be a great sin, and say that it hears divine words when it hears nothing of the kind, it cannot possibly fail to see clearly that itself arranges the words, and utters them to itself. That seems to me altogether impossible for any soul that has ever known the Spirit of God. If it has not, it may continue all its life long in this delusion, and imagine that it hears and understands, though I know not how that can be. A soul desires to hear these locutions, or it does not; if it does not, it is distressed because it hears them, and is unwilling to listen to them, because of a thousand fears which they occasion, and for many other reasons it has for being quiet in prayer without these interruptions. How is it that the understanding has time enough to arrange these locutions? They require time.
12. But, on the other side, the divine locutions instruct us without loss of time, and we understand matters which seem to require a month on our part to arrange. The understanding itself, and the soul, stand amazed at some of the things we understand. So it is; and he who has any experience of it will see that what I am saying is literally true. I give God thanks that I have been able thus to explain it. I end by saying that, in my opinion, we may hear the locutions that proceed from the understanding whenever we like, and think that we hear them whenever we pray. But it is not so with the divine locutions: for many days I may desire to hear them, and I cannot; and at other times, even when I would not, as I said before,364364 § 2. hear them, I must. It seems to me that any one disposed to deceive people by saying that he heard from God that which he has invented himself, might as easily say that he heard it with his bodily ears. It is most 211 certainly true that I never imagined there was any other way of hearing or understanding till I had proof of it in myself; and so, as I have said before,365365 Ch. vii. § 12. it gave me trouble enough.
13. Locutions that come from Satan not only do not leave any good effects behind, but do leave evil effects. This has happened to me; but not more than two or three times. Our Lord warned me at once that they came from Satan. Over and above the great aridity which remains in the soul after these evil locutions, there is also a certain disquiet, such as I have had on many other occasions, when, by our Lord's permission, I fell into great temptations and travail of soul in diverse ways; and though I am in trouble often enough, as I shall show hereafter,366366 Ch. xxviii. § 6, ch. xxx. § 10. yet this disquiet is such that I know not whence it comes; only the soul seems to resist, is troubled and distressed, without knowing why; for the words of Satan are good, and not evil. I am thinking whether this may not be so because one spirit is conscious of the presence of another.
14. The sweetness and joy which Satan gives are, in my opinion, of a very different kind. By means of these sweetnesses he may deceive any one who does not, or who never did, taste of the sweetness of God,—by which I mean a certain sweet, strong, impressive, delightsome, and calm refreshing. Those little, fervid bursts of tears, and other slight emotions,—for at the first breath of persecution these flowers wither,—I do not call devotion, though they are a good beginning, and are holy impressions; but they are not a test to determine whether these locutions come from a good or an evil spirit. It is therefore best for us to proceed always with great caution; for those persons who have advanced in prayer only so far as this may most easily fall into delusions, if they have visions or revelations. For myself, I never had a single vision or revelation till 212 God had led me on to the prayer of union,—unless it be on that occasion, of which I have spoken before,367367 Ch. vii. § 11. now many years ago, when I saw our Lord. Oh, that His Majesty had been pleased to let me then understand that it was a true vision, as I have since understood it was! it would have been no slight blessing to me.
15. After these locutions of the evil one, the soul is never gentle, but is, as it were, terrified, and greatly disgusted.
16. I look upon it as a most certain truth, that the devil will never deceive, and that God will not suffer him to deceive, the soul which has no confidence whatever in itself; which is strong in faith, and resolved to undergo a thousand deaths for any one article of the creed; which in its love of the faith, infused of God once for all,—a faith living and strong,—always labours, seeking for further light on this side and on that, to mould itself on the teaching of the Church, as one already deeply grounded in the truth. No imaginable revelations, not even if it saw the heavens open, could make that soul swerve in any degree from the doctrine of the Church. If, however, it should at any time find itself wavering even in thought on this point, or stopping to say to itself, If God says this to me, it may be true, as well as what He said to the Saints—the soul must not be sure of it. I do not mean that it so believes, only that Satan has taken the first step towards tempting it; and the giving way to the first movements of a thought like this is evidently most wrong. I believe, however, that these first movements will not take place if the soul is so strong in the matter—as that soul is to whom our Lord sends these graces—that it seems as if it could crush the evil spirits in defence of the very least of the truths which the Church holds.
17. If the soul does not discern this great strength in itself, and if the particular devotion or vision help it 213 not onwards, then it must not look upon it as safe. For though at first the soul is conscious of no harm, great harm may by degrees ensue; because, so far as I can see, and by experience understand, that which purports to come from God is received only in so far as it corresponds with the sacred writings; but if it varies therefrom ever so little, I am incomparably more convinced that it comes from Satan than I am now convinced it comes from God, however deep that conviction may be. In this case, there is no need to ask for signs, nor from what spirit it proceeds, because this varying is so clear a sign of the devil's presence, that if all the world were to assure me that it came from God, I would not believe it. The fact is, that all good seems to be lost out of sight, and to have fled from the soul, when the devil has spoken to it; the soul is thrown into a state of disgust, and is troubled, able to do no good thing whatever—for if it conceives good desires, they are not strong; its humility is fictitious, disturbed, and without sweetness. Any one who has ever tasted of the Spirit of God will, I think, understand it.
18. Nevertheless, Satan has many devices; and so there is nothing more certain than that it is safer to be afraid, and always on our guard, under a learned director, from whom nothing is concealed. If we do this, no harm can befall us, though much has befallen me through the excessive fears which possessed some people. For instance, it happened so once to me, when many persons in whom I had great confidence, and with good reason, had assembled together,—five or six in number, I think,—and all very great servants of God. It is true, my relations were with one of them only; but by his orders made my state known to the others. They had many conferences together about my necessities; for they had great affection for me, and were afraid I was under a delusion. I, too, was very much afraid whenever I was not occupied in prayer; but when I prayed, and our Lord bestowed 214 His graces upon me, I was instantly reassured. My confessor told me they were all of opinion that I was deceived by Satan; that I must communicate less frequently, and contrive to distract myself in such a way as to be less alone.
19. I was in great fear myself, as I have just said, and my disease of the heart368368 Ch. iv. § 6, ch. v. § 14. contributed thereto, so that very often I did not dare to remain alone in my cell during the day. When I found so many maintain this, and myself unable to believe them, I had at once a most grievous scruple; for it seemed to me that I had very little humility, especially as they all led lives incomparably better than mine: they were also learned men. Why should I not believe them? I did all I could to believe them. I reflected on my wicked life, and therefore what they said to me must be true.
20. In this distress, I quitted the church,369369 It was the church of the Jesuits (Bouix). and entered an oratory. I had not been to Communion for many days, nor had I been alone, which was all my comfort. I had no one to speak to, for every one was against me. Some, I thought, made a mock of me when I spoke to them of my prayer, as if I were a person under delusions of the imagination; others warned my confessor to be on his guard against me; and some said it was clear the whole was an operation of Satan. My confessor, though he agreed with them for the sake of trying me, as I understood afterwards, always comforted me: and he alone did so. He told me that, if I did not offend God, my prayer, even if it was the work of Satan, could do me no harm; that I should be delivered from it. He bade me pray much to God: he himself, and all his penitents, and many others did so earnestly; I, too, with all my might, and as many as I knew to be servants of God, prayed that His Majesty would be pleased to lead me by another 215 way. This lasted, I think, about two years; and this was the subject of my continual prayer to our Lord.
21. But there was no comfort for me when I thought of the possibility that Satan could speak to me so often. Now that I was never alone for prayer, our Lord made me recollected even during conversation: He spoke what He pleased,—I could not avoid it; and, though it distressed me, I was forced to listen. I was by myself, having no one in whom I could find any comfort; unable to pray or read, like a person stunned by heavy trials, and by the dread that the evil one had deluded me; utterly disquieted and wearied, not knowing what would become of me. I have been occasionally—yea, very often—in distress, but never before in distress so great. I was in this state for four or five hours; there was no comfort for me, either from heaven or on earth—only our Lord left me to suffer, afraid of a thousand dangers.
22. O my Lord, how true a friend art Thou! how powerful! Thou showest Thy power when Thou wilt; and Thou dost will it always, if only we will it also. Let the whole creation praise Thee, O Thou Lord of the world! Oh, that a voice might go forth over all the earth, proclaiming Thy faithfulness to those who love Thee! All things fail; but Thou, Lord of all, never failest! They who love Thee, oh, how little they have to suffer! oh, how gently, how tenderly, how sweetly Thou, O my Lord, dealest with them! Oh, that no one had ever been occupied with any other love than Thine! It seems as if Thou didst subject those who love Thee to a severe trial: but it is in order that they may learn, in the depths of that trial, the depths of Thy love. O my God, oh, that I had understanding and learning, and a new language, in order to magnify Thy works, according to the knowledge of them which my soul possesses! Everything fails me, O my Lord; but if Thou wilt not abandon me, I will never fail Thee. Let all the learned rise up against me,—let the whole 216 creation persecute me,—let the evil spirits torment me,—but do Thou, O Lord, fail me not; for I know by experience now the blessedness of that deliverance which Thou dost effect for those who trust only in Thee. In this distress,—for then I had never had a single vision,—these Thy words alone were enough to remove it, and give me perfect peace: "Be not afraid, my daughter: it is I; and I will not abandon thee. Fear not."370370 See Inner Fortress, vi. 3, § 5.
23. It seems to me that, in the state I was in then, many hours would have been necessary to calm me, and that no one could have done it. Yet I found myself, through these words alone, tranquil and strong, courageous and confident, at rest and enlightened; in a moment, my soul seemed changed, and I felt I could maintain against all the world that my prayer was the work of God. Oh, how good is God! how good is our Lord, and how powerful! He gives not counsel only, but relief as well. His words are deeds. O my God! as He strengthens our faith, love grows. So it is, in truth; for I used frequently to recollect how our Lord, when the tempest arose, commanded the winds to be still over the sea.371371 St. Matt. viii. 26; "Imperavit ventis et mari, et facta est tranquillitas magna." So I said to myself: Who is He, that all my faculties should thus obey Him? Who is He, that gives light in such darkness in a moment; who softens a heart that seemed to be made of stone; who gives the waters of sweet tears, where for a long time great dryness seems to have prevailed; who inspires these desires; who bestows this courage? What have I been thinking of? what am I afraid of? what is it? I desire to serve this my Lord; I aim at nothing else but His pleasure; I seek no joy, no rest, no other good than that of doing His will. I was so confident that I had no other desire, that I could safely assert it.
24. Seeing, then, that our Lord is so powerful,—as I217
see and know He is,—and that the evil spirits are His slaves, of which there can be no doubt, because it is of faith,—and I a servant of this our Lord and King,—what harm can Satan do unto me? Why have I not strength enough to fight against all hell? I took up the cross in my hand,—I was changed in a moment into another person, and it seemed as if God had really given me courage enough not to be afraid of encountering all the evil spirits. It seemed to me that I could, with the cross, easily defeat them altogether. So I cried out, Come on, all of you; I am the servant of our Lord: I should like to see what you can do against me.
25. And certainly they seemed to be afraid of me, for I was left in peace: I feared them so little, that the terrors, which until now oppressed me, quitted me altogether; and though I saw them occasionally,—I shall speak of this by and by,372372 Ch. xxxi. § 2.—I was never again afraid of them—on the contrary, they seemed to be afraid of me.373373 St. John of the Cross, Spiritual Canticle, st. 24, p. 128, Eng. trans. I found myself endowed with a certain authority over them, given me by the Lord of all, so that I cared no more for them than for flies. They seem to be such cowards; for their strength fails them at the sight of any one who despises them. These enemies have not the courage to assail any but those whom they see ready to give in to them, or when God permits them to do so, for the greater good of His servants, whom they may try and torment.
26. May it please His Majesty that we fear Him whom we ought to fear,374374 St. Matt. x. 26, 28; "Ne ergo timueritis eos, . . . sed potius timete Eum." and understand that one venial sin can do us more harm than all hell together; for that is the truth. The evil spirits keep us in terror, because we expose ourselves to the assaults of terror by our attachments to honours, possessions, and pleasures. For then the evil spirits, uniting themselves with us,—we become our own enemies when we love and seek 218 what we ought to hate,—do us great harm. We ourselves put weapons into their hands, that they may assail us; those very weapons with which we should defend ourselves. It is a great pity. But if, for the love of God, we hated all this, and embraced the cross, and set about His service in earnest, Satan would fly away before such realities, as from the plague. He is the friend of lies, and a lie himself.375375 St. John viii. 44: "Mendax est, et pater ejus." He will have nothing to do with those who walk in the truth. When he sees the understanding of any one obscured, he simply helps to pluck out his eyes; if he sees any one already blind, seeking peace in vanities,—for all the things of this world are so utterly vanity, that they seem to be but the playthings of a child,—he sees at once that such a one is a child; he treats him as a child, and ventures to wrestle with him—not once, but often.
27. May it please our Lord that I be not one of these; and may His Majesty give me grace to take that for peace which is really peace, that for honour which is really honour, and that for delight which is really a delight. Let me never mistake one thing for another—and then I snap my fingers at all the devils, for they shall be afraid of me. I do not understand those terrors which make us cry out, Satan, Satan! when we may say, God, God! and make Satan tremble. Do we not know that he cannot stir without the permission of God? What does it mean? I am really much more afraid of those people who have so great a fear of the devil, than I am of the devil himself. Satan can do me no harm whatever, but they can trouble me very much, particularly if they be confessors. I have spent some years of such great anxiety, that even now I am amazed that I was able to bear it. Blessed be our Lord, who has so effectually helped me!
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