Showing how some men live contrary to these exercises
Now some men, who seem to be
righteous, yet live contrary to these three ways to every virtue. Let
every one observe and prove himself! Every man who is not drawn and
enlightened of God is not touched by love, and has neither the active cleaving
with desire nor the simple and loving tendency to fruitive rest. And
therefore such a one cannot unite himself with God; for all those who live
without supernatural love are inclined towards themselves and seek their rest in
outward things. For all creatures by their nature tend towards rest: and
therefore, rest is sought both by the good and by the evil, in divers ways.
Now mark this: when a man is bare and
imageless in his senses, and empty and idle in his higher powers, he enters into
rest through mere nature; and this rest may be found and possessed within
themselves in mere nature by all creatures, without the grace of God, whenever
they can strip themselves of images and of all activity. But in this the
loving man cannot find his rest, for charity and the inward touch of God's grace
will not be still: and so the inward man cannot long remain in natural rest
But now mark the way in which this
natural rest is practised. It is a sitting still, without either outward
or inward acts, in vacancy, in order that rest may be found and may remain
untroubled. But a rest which is practised in this way is unlawful; for it
brings with it in men a blindness and ignorance, and a sinking down into
themselves without activity. Such a rest is nought else but idleness, into
which the man has fallen, and in which he forgets himself and God and all things
in all that has to do with activity. This rest is wholly contrary to the
supernatural rest, which one possesses in God; for that is a loving
self-mergence joined to a simple gazing into the Incomprehensible Brightness.
This rest in God, which is actively sought with inward longing, and is found in
fruitive inclination, and is eternally possessed in the self-mergence of love,
and which, when possessed, is sought none the less: this rest is exalted above
the rest of mere nature as greatly as God is exalted above all creatures.
And that is why all those men are deceived who have self in mind and sink down
in the natural rest, and neither seek God in desire, nor find Him in fruitive
love; for the rest which they find consists in their own idleness, to which they
are inclined by nature and by habit. And in this natural rest one cannot
find God, but it certainly leads a man into a bare vacancy, which may be found
by Pagans and Jews and all men, how wicked soever they be, if they can live in
their sins without the reproach of their conscience, and can empty themselves of
every image and of all activity. In this bare vacancy the rest is pleasant
and great. This rest is in itself no sin; for it exists in all men by
nature, whenever they make themselves empty. But when a man wishes to
practise and possess it without acts of virtue, he falls into spiritual pride
and a self-complacency, from which he seldom recovers. And he sometimes
fancies himself to have and to be that to which he shall never attain.
When a man thus possesses this rest in false quietude, and all loving adherence
seems a hindrance to him, he clings to himself in his rest, and lives contrary
to the first way in which man is united with God: and this is the beginning of
all ghostly error.
Now consider a similitude of this:
the angels who turned inward towards God in love and fruition, with all that
they had received from Him, found beatitude and eternal rest; but those who
turned towards themselves, and sought rest in themselves with self-complacency
in the natural light, their rest was short and was unlawful. And they were
blinded, and there was a wall of separation between them and the eternal light,
and they fell into darkness and eternal restlessness. This is the first
contrary way; which one possesses by resting in false quietude.
Now mark this: when a man wishes to
possess inward rest in idleness, without inward and desirous cleaving to God,
then he is ready for all errors; for he is turned away from God, and inclined
towards himself, in natural love, seeking and desiring consolation and sweetness
and everything that pleases him. And such a man is like to a merchant, for
in all his activity he is turned only towards himself, and seeks and means his
own rest and his own profit, more than the glory of God....
...All these men live contrary to
charity and to the loving introversion in which a man offers himself up, with
all that he can achieve for the honour and love of God; and in which nothing can
give him rest or satisfactions but a single incomprehensible Good, which is God
alone. For charity is a bond of love, in which we are drawn up to God, and
through which we renounce ourselves, and whereby we are united with God and God
is united with us. But natural love turns back towards itself, and towards
its own profit, and ever abides alone....
But Mary was a living Paradise.
She found the grace which Adam lost, and much more besides, for she is the
Mother of Love. She turned in active charity towards God, and conceived
Christ in humility. And she offered Him up to the Father with all His
sufferings in generosity; and she never tasted of consolation, nor of any gift,
in gluttony; and her whole life was in purity. Whosoever follows her shall
conquer all that is contrary to the virtues, and shall enter into the kingdom
where she reigns with her Son in eternity....