willbulow's picture

"That a man shall not take ensample at the bodily ascension of Christ, for to strain his imagination upwards bodily in the time of prayer: and that time, place, and body, these three should be forgotten in all ghostly working."

This is the third chapter whose "title" warns us not to think in terms of physical direction in the performance of this work. As in the previous chapters, so here, we can find other things that could as well be taken as the topic. One I find in this case is, he mentions that there is more like a change than a local movement in this work. There seems to be a certain change of consciousness that's almost automatic, almost by definition the result of forgetting time, place, and body. Maybe here again, though, we should guard against thinking that this is the purpose. There should be no other purpose than drawing closer to God as we work in this exercise.

dohpeterchina's picture

Chapter 59 Comments

Hello Everyone,

This chapter opens with a discussion of the Ascension of Jesus. Our author says that some people may assume the Ascension was bodily which includes spirit, He ascended very God and very man. Our author points out that this is wrong and that Jesus was dead, and clad with undeadliness, in other words clothed with immortality, and so shall we be at the Day of Doom or judgement day. On the Day of Doom we shall get our get our heavenly body. But for now we cannot get the heavenly body, and can only get the spiritual body which we should make to be so ghostly, that it shall not be on bodily manner; neither upwards nor downwards, nor on one side nor on other, behind nor before.

The second paragraph describes how this work acts upon our ghostly bodies. Our author describes our work as a stirring and this stirring stretch neither up bodily, nor in bodily, nor yet that it be any such stirring as is from one place to another. This work is sometimes called rest, but this rest is not true rest, it is abiding in a place without removing therefrom. Then our author gives a beautiful description of the experience of abiding in spirit. For the perfection of this work is so pure and so ghostly in itself, that an it be well and truly conceived, it shall be seen far removed from any stirring and from any place.

The third paragraph describes how the how this experience may come about. It can be called a sudden changing, than any real stirring. However words are inadequate to describe the experience because time, place, and body: these three should be forgotten in all ghostly working. Do not confuse this experience with Ascension, do not strain your imagination. If you feel yourself to be taken up to heaven bodily remember the words of John 3:13 (NIV) No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. Such experiences come from an abundance of ghostly working only by the might of the spirit. And that is far from any bodily stressing or straining of our imagination bodily, either up, or in, on one side, or on other.

In this chapter it becomes clear why our author has spent so much time refuting the ideas that contemplative experience is in any way bodily, emotional, mental or imaginative. The experience lies outside of creation. This is why our author’s best explanation is to say what the stirring is not. In effect our author has been talking about this stirring for the last 9 or more chapters, and providing very clear guidelines as to what it is not. These chapters provide the closest description that can be given in creation of this stirring. The only thing our author can say about the stirring is that it should by some reason rather be called a sudden changing, than any stirring of place.


Peter Smith
Co-Group Leader