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exerpt from 
The Adornment of the Spiritual Marriage
John of Ruysbroeck

Translated by Evelyn Underhill

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 within himself.


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....