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R UYSB R O E C K

T H E Q U E ST

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A G LA N CE at the excellent Bibliographical


Note at the end of the volume will reveal
the surprising paucity of literature on
Ruysbroeck in this country A single v er
sion from the original of one short treatise
published in the present year is all that
we possess o f direct translation ; even in
v ersions from translation there is only one
treatise represented ; add to this one or
two selections of the same nature and
the f u ll tale is told We are equally poorly
o ff
for studies of the life and doctrine of
the great Flemish contemplative of the
fourteenth century
And yet Jan van
R u u s b r o e c is thought
by no few com
petent j udges to be the greatest o f all the
medi aeval Catholic mystics ; and indeed it
is difcult to point to his superior Miss
Evelyn U nderhill is therefore doing lovers
.

v iii

EDI TO R S N O TE

not only o f Catholic mysticism but also o f


mysticism i n general a very real service b y
her monograph which deals more satis
f a c t o r il y than any existing work i n English
with the life and teachings of one of the most
spiritual minds in Christendom Her b ook
i s not simply a painstaking summary of
the more pa t ent generalities o f the subj ect
but rather a deeply sympathetic entering
into the mind o f Ruysbroeck and that
too with no common insight
,

P R E F A T O RY
I

N OTE

to the great kindness of my friend


Mr s Theodore Beck the translation o f
several passages from R u y s b r o e c k s S p a r k
li ng S tone given in the present work ; and
in quoting from Th e Twelve B gu i nes have
often though not always av a iled myself of
the recently published version by Mr John
Francis
For all other renderings I alone
am responsible
OW E

CO N T EN T S
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T E M P L AT I O N

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RUY SB ROECK
CHAPTER I
R U Y S B R O E CK

tr e e

TH E

I g d r a s i l, wh i c h h a s

it s

M AN
h ead

in

h e a v en a nd
t h e i ma g e
i t s r o o t s i n h e l l ( t h e l o w e r pa r t s O f t h e ea r t h ) ,
I n pr o po r t i o n t o t h e d i v i n e h e i g h t s
o f t h e t r u e ma n
wh ic h
t o w h i c h i t a s c e n d s mu s t b e t h e o b s c u r e d e p t h s
t h e t r e e i s r o o t e d , a nd f r o m w h i c h i t d r a w s t h e m s t i c s a p
f
e
o f i t s s i r i t u al
p
CO V E T R
P MO R E

Th e

li

is

in
y

Y AT

the history o f the sp iritual adventures o f


man we nd at intervals certain great
mystics wh o appear to gather up and f use
together in the crucible o f the heart the
diverse tendencies o f those w h o have pre
ceded them and a d ding to these elements
the tincture of their o wn rich experience
give to us an intensely personal yet uni
versal vision o f God and ma n These are
constructive spirits whose creations in the
spiritual sphere sum up and represent the
best achievement o f a whole epoch ; as in
other spheres t h e g reat art ist musician or
IN

RU Y S B R O ECK

poet always the child of tradition as wel l

as of inspirati on may do
.

John Ruysbroeck is such a mystic as


this His career which covers the greater

part o f the fourteenth century that golden

age o f Christian mysticism seems to ex


b ibit within the circle of a single personality
and carry up t o a higher term than ever
before all the best attainments of the Middle
Ages in the realm O f Eternal Life Rooted
rmly i n history faithful to the teachings
of the great Catholic mystics of the primitive
and medi aeval times Ruysbroeck does not
merely transmit but t r a n s gu r e s their
principles : making from the salt sulphur
and mercury O f their vision reason and love

a new and living j ewel o r in his o wn words

a sparkling stone
which reects the actual
radiance Of the U ncreated Light Absorb
ing from the rich soil O f the Middle Ages all
the intellectual nourishment which he needs
dependent t o o as all real greatness is o n the
human environment in which he grows
that mysterious interaction and inter pene
t r a t i o n o f personalities w ithout wh ich human
consciousness can never develop its ful l

powers h e towers up from the social and


intellectual circumstances that con di tioned
him : a living growing unique and creative
individual yet truly a part o f the earth
from which he springs
To speak o f Ruysbroeck as some e nt h u s i
.

T H E M AN

biographers have done as an isolated


spirit u al phenomenon totally unrelated to
the life of his t i me an ignorant monk
whose profound knowledge of reality is
entirely the result of personal inspiration
and indep e ndent of human history is to
misunderstand his greatness Th e ignorant
monk was bound by clos e links to the
religious life of his day
He was no
spiritual in di vidualist ; but the h u mble
obedient child of an institution the loyal
member of a S ociety He tells us again
and again that his spiritual powers were
nourished by the sacramental life o f the
Catholi c Church
From t h e theologians
of that Church came the intellectual frame
work i n which his sublime intuit i ons were

expressed All that he does though he


does t h is to a degree perhaps uniqu e in

Christian history is to carry out into action


complet e ly actualise i n his own experience
the high vision of the soul s relation to
Divine Reality by which that Church is
possessed Th e central Christian doctrine
Of
Divine Fatherhood and O f the soul s
power to become t h e son of God : it i s
this raised to the nt h degree of int ensity
experienced in all its depth and fullne ss
and demonstrated with the exactitude of a
mathematician and the passion of a poet
which Ruysbroeck gives us Thus tradition
and authority no less than the abundant
a st ic

,
,

RU YSB R OECK

4s

inspiration the direct ecstatic knowledge


of God to which his writings bear witness
have their part in his achievement His
theological culture was wide and deep Not

I only the S criptures and the Liturgy but


i
t
e
e
o
a
A
r
Augustine
Dionysius
the
t
S
A
\
p g
Richard of S t Vict or S t Bernard S t
Bonaventura S t Thomas Aquinas and many
others have stimulated and controlled his
thought ; interpreting to him his ineffable
adventures and providing him with vessels
in which the fruit of those adventures could
be communicated to other men
Nor is Catholic tradition the only medium
through which human life has exercised a for
ma t i v e inuence upon R u ys b r o ec k s genius
His worldly circumstances his place within
and reaction to the temporal order the temper

of those souls amongst which he grew these


too are of vital importance in relation to his
mystical achievements To study the i n
t er i o r adventures and formal teachings o f
a mystic without reference to the general
trend and special accidents of his outer life
is to neglect o u r best chance of understanding
the nature and sources O f his vision o f truth
Th e angle from which that vision is per
c e i v e d the content of the mind which comes
to it above all the concrete activities which
it induces in the growing moving supple
self these are primary d a ta which we should
never ignore Action is o f the very essence
,

THE MA N

reality Where the inner life


is genuine and strong the outer life will
reect however faintly the curve o n which
it moves ; f o r hu man consciousness is a
unit capable o f reacting t o and synthesising
two orders not an unresolved dualism

as it were an angel and an ani mal c o n


d e mn e d t o lifelong battle within a narrow
cage
Therefore we begin o u r study o f Ruys
broeck the mystic by the study of Ruys
broeck the man : the circumstances o f his
life and environment so far as we can nd
them o u t For the facts of this life o u r
chief authority will be the Augustinian
Canon P o mer iu s who was Prior and chrou i
cler o f R u y s br o e c k s o wn community of
Groene n dael Born i n 1 3 8 2 a year after
R u ys b r o ec k s death and entering Groenen
dael early in the f t eenth century he knew
and talked with at least two o f the great
mystic s disciples John of H o el a er e and John
of
S c o o nh o v en
His life o f Ruysbroeck
and history of the foundation of the monas
t e r y was nished before 1 4 2 0 ; that is t o
say within the lifetime o f the generation
which succeeded the rst founders of the
house
It represents the careful gathering
up sifting and arranging of all that was
remembered and believed by the community
Th V t
f P m i
i p i n t d i n t h A n l t B ll n d
o

h uman

i a na ,

v ol .

z a o

iv

pp

er u s

57 ff

a ec a

RUY S BRO E K

still retaining several members who h a d

known him in the e s h o i the facts of


R u y s b r o ec k s character and career
P o mer i u s was no wild romancer but a
reasonably careful as well as a genuinely
enthusiastic monastic chronicler Modera
tion is hardly the outstanding V irtue o f such
home made l ives O f monastic founders
They are inevitably composed in surround
ings where any criticism o f their subj ect o r
scepticism as to his supernatural peculiari
ties is looked upon as a crime where every
incident has been tted with a h alo and the
unexplained is indistinguishable from the
miraculous Nevertheless the picture drawn

by P o mer iu s exaggerated though it be in

certain respects is a human picture ; pos


sessed of distinct characteristics some natural
and charming some deeply impressive
It is completed by a second documentary
source : the little sketch by R u y s b r o e c k s
intimate fr iend Ge rard N a gh el Prior of the
Carthusian monastery o f H r i nes near
Groenendael which forms the prologue to
our
most complete MS collection o f his
writings
R u y s b r o e c k s life as it is sho wn to us by
P o mer i u s and Gerard falls into t hr ee main
divisions three st a ges of ascent the natural
active life of boyhood ; the contemplative
disciplined career o f his middle period ; the
superessential life o f supreme union which

TH E M AN

'

overned
his
existence
at
Groenendael
g
This course which he trod in the tem
poral order seems like the rough sketch o f
that other course trodden by the advancing

soul within the eternal order the Three


fold Life o f man which he describes t o us in
Th e A d or n rnent of the S pi r i tu a l M a r r i age
and other o f his works
Now the details o f that career are these
John Ruysbroeck was born in 1 2 9 3 at the
little village o f Ruysbroeck o r R u u s b r o e c
between B russels and Hal from which he
takes his name We know nothing of his
father ; but his mother is described as a
good and pious woman devoted to the u p

bringing o f her son a hard task and one


t h at was soon proved to be beyond her Th e
child Ruysbroeck was strong willed a d v ent u r
already showing signs of
o u s ins u bordinate
that abounding vitality that strange restless
ness and need o f expansion which c hi ldren
At eleven years
o f genius so often exhibit
and found
o f age he ran away from home
his way to Brussels ; where his uncle John
H i n c ka e r t was a Canon o f the Cathedral
P o mer iu s assures us that
of
S t Gudule
this escapade which would have seemed a
mere naughtiness in normal little b oys was
in fact a proof of coming sanctity ; that it
was not the attraction o f the city but a
precocious instinct for the religious life
the rst crude stirrings o f the love o f Go d
.

RU YS B R OECK

which set this child upon the road S uc h a


claim is natural to the hagiographer ; yet
there lies behind it a certain truth Th e
little John may o r may not h ave dreamed
o
f
being
a
priest
he
did
already
dream
of
;
a greater more enticing life beyond the
barriers of use and wont Though he knew
it not the vision o f a spiritual city called
him Already the primal need o f his nature

was asserting itself the d emand felt long


before it was understood for something
beyond the comfortable world o f appear

ance and this demand crystallised into a


concrete act In the sturdy courage which
faced the unknown the practical t emper
which translated dream into action we see
already the germ of those qualities which
afterwards gave to the great contemplative
power t o climb up t o the supreme summits
O f the inner life and face the awful realities
.

of

Go d
S uch adventures
chil dhood o f the
.

are no t rare in the


mystics
Al ways of a
romantic temperament endowed too with
an abounding vitality the craving for some
dimly guessed and wonderful experience
O ften shows itself early in them
as
the
;
passion for music colour or poetry is some
times seen i n e mbryo in artists of another
type Th e impact of Reality seems to be
felt by such spirits in earl i est childhood
Born susceptible in a special degree to the
.

THE MAN

messages which pour in o n man from the


they move from the rst
Transcendent
in a di fferent universe from that o f other
boys and girls subj ect to experiences which
they do not understand full o f dreams
which they are unable t o explain and often
impelled to strange actions extremely dis
concerting to the ordinary guardians o f
youth Thus the little Catherine O f S iena
six years Ol d already lived in a world which
was peopled with saints and angels ; and
ruled her small life by the visions which
she had seen
Thus the baby Teresa
mysteriously attracted by sacrice as other
children are attracted by games a n d toys
set o u t to look for the Moors and martyr
dom
S O too the instinct for travel for
the remote and unknown Often shows itself
early in these wayfarers of the spirit whose
destiny it is to achieve a more extended life
in the interests of the race to nd and feel
that Innite Reality which alone can satisfy
the heart of man Thus in their early
years Francis Ignatius and many others
were restless turbulent eager for adventure
and change
This rst adventure brought the boy Ruys
broeck to a home so perfectly tted to his
needs that it might seem as t h ough some
secret instinct some overshadowing love had
indeed guided his steps His uncle John
H i n c ka er t at this time about forty years o f
,

RUYS B OE K

10

age had lately b een converted i t i s said

by a powerful sermon from the comfort


able and easy going life of a prosperous
ecclesiastic t o the austere quest o f spiritual
perfection He had distributed his wealth
given up all self indulgence and now with
another and younger Canon of the Cathe d ral
named Francis van Co u d enb er g lived in
simplest poorest style a dedicated life of
self d enial charity and prayer
He r e
Per
c e i v e d h i s runaway nephew willingly
haps he saw in this strange and eager child
suddenly ung upon his charity an o ppo r
t u ni t y for repairing some at least amongst

the omissions of his past that terrible


wreck of wasted years which torments the
memory of those who are converted in middle
life His love and remorse might spend
themselves o n this boy He might make O f
him perhaps all that he now longed to be
but could never wholly achieve : a perfect
servant of the Eternal Goodness young
vigorous ardent completely responsive t o
the touch of God
Ruysbroeck then found a home soaked
i n love governed by faith renunciation
humility ; a forcing house of the spiritual
life In the persons o f these two grown
men wh o had given up all outward things
for the sake of spiritual realities he was

brought face to face and this in his most

Impressionable year s with the hard facts


,

TH E

MA N

t he

11

concrete sacrices the heroic life o f


deliberate mo r t i c a t i o n which underlay the
lovely haunting vision the revelation o f the
Divine beauty and love that had possessed
him No lesson is of higher value t o the
natural mystic than this Th e lovers o f
Ruysbroeck should not forget h o w much they
o w e to the men who received
loved i n
u e n c e d educated the brilliant wayward and
impressionable child
His attainment is
t h eirs His mysticism is rooted in their
asceticism ; a ower directly dependent
for its perfection o n that favouring soil
Though his achievement like that of all
men of genius is individual and transcends
the circumstances and personalities which
surround it ; still from those circumstances
and personalities it t a kes its colour It
represents far more than a personal and
solitary experience Behind it lies the little
house in Brussels the supernatural atmo
sphere which lled i t and the fostering
care of the t wo men whose life of external
and deliberate p overty only made more
plain the richness of the S pirits who could
choose and remain constant to this career
of detachment and love
Th e personal inuence of H i nc k a e r t and
Co u d e nb e r g the moral disciplines and per
e
t
u a l self denials of the life which he shared
p
with them formed the heart of R u y s b r o ec k s
education ; helping to build up that manly
,

R YS B

1Q

R O EC K

and sturdy character which gave its spec i a l


temper to his mystical outlook l e so
many children destined t o greatness he was
hard to educate in the ordinary sense ; u n
interested i n general knowledge impatient
Nothing which did
o f scholastic drudgery
not minister to his innate passion for ulti
mates had any attraction for him He was
taught grammar with di fculty ; but o n
the other hand his astonishing aptitude for
religious ideas even o f the most subtle
kind his passionate clear vision o f spiritual
things was already so highly developed as t o
attract general attention ; and his writings
are su fcient witness to the width and depth
O f his theological reading With such tastes
a nd
powers as these and brought up in
such a household governed by religious
enthusiasms and under the very shadow o f
the Cathedral walls it was natural that he
should wish to become a priest and in 1 3 1 7
he was ordained and given through the
inuence o f his uncle a preb end in S t
Gudule
Now a great mystic is the product not
merely o f an untamed genius for the Tran
s c e n d e nt
but of a moral discipline an i n
t e r i o r ed u cation of the most strenuous kind
Al l the varied powers and tendencies o f a
nature which is necessarily strong and
passionate must be harnessed made sub
servient t o this o ne central interest Th e
.

TH E M A N

13

instinctive egotism o f the natural man


never more insidious than when set upon

sp i ri tual things must be eradicated S O


behind these few outward events O f Ruys
b r o e c k s adolescence we must discern a n
ot h er growth ; a perpetual interior travail
a perpetual slow c h aracter building always
going forward in him as his whole personality
is moulded into that conformity to the vision
seen which prepares the way o f union and
marks off the mystical saint from the mere
adept of transcendental things We know
from his writings how large a part such
moral pu r i c a t i o n s such interior adjustments
played i n his concept o f the spiritual life ;
and the inti macy with which he describes
each phase in the battle o f love each step
of the spir itual ladder the long process o f
preparation in which the soul adorns herself
for the spiritual marriage guarantees to
us t h at he has himself tro d den the path which
he maps out That path goes the whole
way from the rst impulse of goodwill
of glad acquiescence in the universal pur
pose throu gh the taming o f the proud will
to humility and suppleness and of the i n
surgent heart to gentleness kindness and
peace to that last state of perfect charity
in which the whole spirit of ma n is o ne will
and one love with God
Though his biographers have left us little
material for a reconstruction o f his i nne r
.

RU Y S B R O ECK

14

development we may surely infer something


of the course which it followed from the
vividly real istic descriptions in Th e K i ng
d o m of Lo v er s and Th e S p i r i tu a l M a r r i age
Personal experience underlies the wonderful
account of the ascent of the S piritual S u n in
the heavens of consciousness ; the rapture
wildness and j oy the fever of love which
fulls the man who feels its light and heat
Experience too dictates these profound
passages which deal with the terrible spiritual
reaction when the S u n declines in the
heavens and man feels cold dead and
abandoned of God Through these phases
at least Ruysbroeck had surely passed before
his great books came to be written
O ne or two small indications there are
which show us his progress on the mystic
way the development in him of those
secondary p sychic character s peculiar t o
the mystical type It seems that by the
time of his ordination that tendency t o
vision which often appears in the earliest
youth of natural mystics was already estab
l i s h e d in him
Deeply impressed by the
sacramental side of Catholicism and nding in
it throughout his life a true means of contact
wi th the U nseen the priesthood was con
c e i v e d by him as bringing with it a veritable
access of grace ; fresh p ower p oured in
o n him from the Transcendent
an increase
o f strength wherewith to help the souls o f
,

MAN

TH E

15

other men This belief took in his medit a


tions a concrete and positive form Again
and again he saw in dramat i c vision the
soul specially dear to him specially depen

dent Ou him that of his mother who had


lately died in the Brussels B g uinage
demanding how long she must wait till
her son s ordination made his prayers
effectual for her release fr om Purgatory
At the moment in which he nished saying
his rst Mass this vision returned to him ;
and he saw his mother s spirit delivered
from Purgatory by the power of the sacri
c e which he had offered entering into

Heaven a n experience originating in and


giving sharp dramatic expression to that
sense of new and sacred powers now con
ferred on him which may well at such a
moment have ooded the consciousness of
the young priest This story was repeated
to P o mer iu s by those who had heard it
from Ruysbroeck himself ; for
he O ften
told it to the brothers

For twenty s i x years that is to say until

he was fty years of age Ruysbroeck lived


in Brussels the industrious and inconspicuous
life of a secular priest It was not the soli
tude of the forest but the normal active
existence of a ca t hedral chaplain in a busy
capital city which controlled his develop
ment during that long period stretching
from the very beginnings of ma nh ood to
.

RU YS B R O ECK

16

the end o f middle age ; a nd it wa s i n fact


during these years a nd i n the midst o f
incessant distractions that he passed through
the great oscillations of consciousness which
mark the mystic way It is probable that
when at last he left Brussels for the forest
these oscillations were over equilibrium was
achieved ; he had climbed to the summits of
the mount of contemplation
It was o n
those summits that he loved to dwell
ab sorbed in loving communion with Divine
Reality ; but his career fullled that i deal
o f a synthesis of work and contemplation
an acceptance and remaking of the whole
which he perpetually puts before u s
o f life
as the essential characteristic o f a true
S pirituality
No mystic has ever been more
free from the vice of other worldliness
o r has practised more thoroughly and more
u n s el s h l y
the primary duty of active
charity towards men which i s lai d upon the
Go d possessed
Th e simple and devoted life of the little
family of three went on year by year u n
disturbed ; though one a t least was pass i ng
through those profound interior changes and
adventures which he has described to us a s
governing the evolution of the soul from the
state of the faithful servant to the trans
gu r e d existence of the
God seeing man
Ruysbroeck grew up to be a simple dreamy
very silent and totally unimpressive person
,

THE

wh o

MA N

going about the streets of Brussels


with his mind lifted up into God seemed a
nobody to those who did n o t know him
Y e t not only a spiritual life of unequalled
rich n ess int i macy and splendour but a pene
t r a t i ng intellect a fearless heart deep know
ledge o f human nature remarkable p owers
of express i on lay behind that meek and u n
attractive exterior As Paul s twelve years
o f quiet and subordinate work in Antioch
prepared the way of his missionary career ;
so dur i ng this long period of service the
silent growth o f character the steady
development o f his mystical p owers had
gone forward in Ruysbroeck Wh en cir
c u ms t a n c e s
called them i nto play he was
found t o be possessed o f an unsuspected
passion strength and courage a power o f
dealing with outward circum s tances which
was directly dependent on h i s inner life o f
contemplation and prayer
Th e event into which the tendencies o f
this stage o f his devel opment crystallised
is o n e which seems perhaps inconsistent
with the common idea o f the mystical
t e mpe r a ment w i t h its supposed concentr a tion
o n the Eternal its indifference to temporal
aff airs As his childhood was marked by
an exhibition o f adventurous love so his
manhood was marked by an exhibition of
militant lo v e o f th at stre ngt h a nd sternness

that passi on for the true whi ch no less

R UYSBROECK

18

peace is

an
than humility gentleness
i ntegral part of that paradoxical thing the
C h ristian character
like all great
Th e fourteenth century
spiritual periods was a century fruitful
in mystical heresies as well as in mystical
saints In particular the extravagant pan
theism preached by the Brethren of the
Free S pirit had become wi dely diff used in
Flanders and was responsible for much bad
morality as well as bad theology ; t h ose
on whom the S pirit had descended b e
lieving themselves to be already divine
and emancipated from obedience t o all
human codes of conduct S oon after Ruys
broeck came as a boy to Brussels a woman
named B l o e ma r d i n n e placed herself at the
head of this sect and gradually gained
extraordinary inuence S h e claimed super
n atural and prophetic powers
was said to
be accompanied by two S eraphim whenever
she went to the altar to receive Holy Com
munion and preached a degraded eroticism
under the ti t le of S eraphic love together
with a quietism o f the most exaggerated
and soul destroying t yp e All the dangers
and follies of a false mysticism dissociated
fro m the controlling inuence of tradition
and the essential virtue of humility were
exhibited in her Aga i nst this powerful
woman then at the height o f her fa me
Ruysbroeck declared war ; and prosecuted
,

TH E M A N

19

h i s campaign with a violence and courage


which must have been startling to those
who had regarded him only as a shy pious
Th e pa mph
rather negligible young man
lets which he wrote against her are lost ;
but the passionate denunciations of pan
theism and quietism scattered through his
later works no doubt have their origin i n
this controversy and represent the angle
from which his attacks were made
Pantheists he says in Th e B o o k of Tr u th
are
a fruit o f hell the more da ngerous
because they counterfeit the true fruit of
the S pirit of God
Far from possessing
that deep humili t y which is the soul s
inevitable reaction to the revelation of the
Innite they are full o f pride and self
satisfaction They claim that their imagin
ar y identity with the Essence of God e ma n c i
pates them from all need of effort all practice
o f virtue
and l eaves them free to indulge
those inclinations o f the esh which the
suggests
They
believe them
S pirit
selves s u nk in inward peace but as a matter
o f fact they are deep drown ed i n error
Against all this the stern virile ardent
spirituality of Ruysbroeck opposed itself
with its whole power Especially did he
hate and condemn the laziness and egotism
o f the quietistic do ctrine o f contemplation
the ideal of spiritual i mmobilit y which it
Th B
k f S p m T th
iv
p
,

oo

re

ru

ca

RU Y S B R O ECK

20

set up That love cannot be lazy i s a


cardinal truth for all real mystics Again
and again i t appears in their works Even
that profound repose in which they have
fruition of God is but the accompaniment
or preliminary of work of the most strenuous
kind and keeps at full stretch the soul
which truly t a stes it a nd this supernat u ral
state is as far above that self induced
quietude o f natural repose
consisting in
nothing but an idleness and i nterior va cancy
to which they are inclined by nature and

habit
i n which the quietists l ove to i m
merse themselv es as Go d i s above His
creatures
Here is the distinct i on always needed a nd
constantly ignored between that veritable
fruition of Eternal Life which results from the
interaction of will and grace and d em a nds
o f the soul the highest intensity and most
active love and th a t colourable imitation
o f it which is produced by a psychic trick
and is independent alike o f the human
effort and the divine gift
Ruysbroeck in
ghting the Free Spirit w a s ghting the
battle of true mysti cism against its most

dangerous and persistent enemy


mystic
ality
His attack upon B l o e ma r d i nn e is the one
outstanding incident in the long Brussels
period which has been preser v ed to us Th e
next gre at out ward mov ement in his steadily

T H E M AN

21

evolving life did n o t happen until the year


It was
1 3 43 when he was fty years of age
then that the three companions decided to
leave Brussels and live together in some
remote country place They had long felt
a growing distaste for the noisy and dis
tracting life o f the city ; a growing dis
satisfaction with the spiritual apathy and
low level o f religious observance at the
Cathedral of S t Gudule ; the need o f surround
ings in which they might devote themselves
with total concentration to the contemplative
life H i n c ka e r t and Co u d e nb er g were now
old men ; Ruysbroeck was a dvanced in
middle age Th e rhythm o f existence which
h a d driven him as a chi ld from cou ntry t o
town and harnessed him during long years
to the service o f his fellow men now drew
him back again to the quiet sp a ces where
he might be alone with God
He was
approaching those heights o f experience
from which his greatest mystical works
proceed ; and it was in O bedience to a true
instinct that he went away to the silent

places o f the forest as An thony to the


solitude o f the desert Francis to the holy

mountain of La Verna that undistracted


by the many whom he had served s o faith
fully he might open his whole consciousness
to the inow o f the O ne and receive in its
perfection the message which it was his duty
t o t r a n s mit t o t h e Worl d
He went sa ys
.

RU YS B R O E CK

22

not tha t he might h i de his


light but th at he might tend it better and
make it shine more brightly
By the inuence of Co u d e nb er g John
Duke o f Brabant gave to the three
friends the o l d hermitage of Groenendael
or the Green Valley in the forest o f
S oignes near Brussels
They entered into
possession on the Wednesday of Easter
week 1 3 43 ; and for ve years lived there
a s the y had lived in the little house in
Brussels with no other rule save their o wn
passion for perfection But perpetual i n
v a s i o n s from the outer world
not only of

penitents and would b e disciples for their

reputation for s anctity grew q uickly but


of huntsmen in the fores t and pleasure
parties from the town who dem a nded a n d
expected hospitality soon forced them t o
a dopt
some denite attitu d e towards the
question of enclosure It is sai d that Ruys
broeck begged for an entire seclusion ; but
Co u d en b e r g insisted that th i s was c o n
t r a r y to the law of charity and that some
at least o f those who sought them must be
received In addition t o t h ese practical
d i i c u l t i e s the Prior of the Abbey of S t
V ictor at Paris had addressed to them strong
remonstrances on account o f the absence of
rule in their life and the fact that they had
n o t even adopted a religious habit
a
pro
;
c ee d i n
g which i n his opinion savour e d rat h e r
P o mer i u s ,

THE

MA N

23

of the ill regulated doings o f the heretical


sects than of the decorum proper to good
Catholics As a result o f these various
considerations the simple and informal ex
i s t e nc e o f the little family was r e modelled
in conformity with the rule O f the Augustinian
Canons and the Priory o f Groenendael
was formall y created Co u d enb er g became
its provost and Ru ysbroeck who had refused
the higher o fce was made prior ; but
H i n c ka e r t now a very old man in feeble
health ref used to burden the young com
munity wi th a member who might be a drag
upon it and co u ld not keep the full rigour
of the rule In a spirit of renunciation
which surely touches the heroic he severed
himself from h i s lifelong friend and his
adopted son and went away to a little
cell in the forest where he lived alone until
his death
Th e story o f the foundation and growth of
the Priory of Groenendael the saintly per
s o n a li t i e s which it nourished
is not for this
place ; except in so far as it affects o u r
main interest the story o f R u y s b r o ec k s
soul U nd e r the inuences of the forest
of the silent and regular life those supreme
contemplative powers which belong to the
S uperessential Life of U nity now developed
in him with great rapidity It is possible
as we shall see that some at least of his
mystical writings ma y date fr om his B russels
-

RU Y SB R OECK

$24

period ; a nd we know tha t at the close of


this period his reputation as an illuminated
man was already made Nevertheless it
seems s a fe t o say that the bulk of his works
as we now possess them represent him as he
was during the last thirty years of his life
rather than during his earlier and m ore
and that the intense certitu d e
a ctive career
the wi de deep vision of the Innite which
distingu i shes them are the fruits of those
long hours o f profound absorption in Go d
for which his new l i fe found place In
the silence of the woods he was able to discern
ea ch subtle accen t o f that Voice wh i ch is
heard withou t utterance a nd w i thout the
so u nd of words sp eaks all truth
Like so many o f the greatest myst i cs
Ruysbroeck drawing nea r er t o Divine Reality
dre w nearer to nature t o o ; conforming
to h i s own ideal o f the contemplative who
hav i ng been ra i sed t o the simple vision o f
God Transcendent returns to nd His im age
reected by all life Many passages in his
writings show the closeness and sy mpathy
of his Observation of n atural things : the
vivid description in Th e S p i r i tu a l M a r r i age
of the spring summer and autumn of the
fruitfu l soul the constant insistence on the
phenomena o f growth the lessons drawn
from the h abits of ants and bees t he com
a
r
I
s
o
n
o
f
the surrendered soul to the sun
p
o ne of
ower
n atur e s m o s t wo nder ful

MAN

TH E

25

works
the t h ree types o f Christians com
pared with birds who can y but prefer hopping
about the earth birds who swim far o n the
waters of grace and birds w h o love o nl y t o soar
high in the heavens For the free exultant
life o f b irds he felt indeed a special sympathy
and love ; and many feathered is the best
n ame that he can nd f o r the soul o f the
contemplati ve ascending to the gl a d vision
,

of

Go d

It is probably a true tradition which r epr e


sents him as having written his greatest
and most Inspire d pages sitting under a
favourite tree in the depths o f the woods
When the S pirit came on him as it
often did with a startling suddenness he
would go away into the forest carry ing his
tablet and stylus There given over to an

ecstasy of composition which seems often


t o have approached the limits o f automatic
writing as in S t Teresa Boehme Blake and

other mystics h e would write that which


was given to him without addition o r
omission ; breaking o ff even in the middle
of a sentence when the S pirit abruptly
departed and resuming at the same point
though sometimes after an interval which
lasted several weeks when it returned In
his last years when eyesight failed him he
would allow a younger brother to go wi th
him into the woods and there to take down
fr o m dict atio n the fruit s o f th o s e m edit a t ions

RU YS B R O E CK

26

in which he saw without sight ; as the


illiterate Catherine of S iena dictated in
ecstasy the text of her Divine Dialogue
Tw o witnesses have preserved R u y s b r o e c k s
solemn afr mation given rst t o his disciple
Gerar d Groot
in great gentleness and
humility
and repeated again upon his
death bed in the presence of the whole com
munity that every word of his writings
was t hus composed under the immediate
domination of an inspiring power ; that
secondary personality of a superior type
in touch with levels of reality beyond the
span of the surface consciousness which
governs the activities of the great m y stics
in their last phases of development These
books are not the fruit of conscious thought
but God sent truths poured out from a
heart immersed in that Divine Abyss of
which he tries to tell
That a saint must needs be a visionary is
a conviction deeply implanted in the mind
of the medi aeval hagiographer ; who always
ascribes to these i n cidents an importance
which t h e saints themselves are the rst
to deny P o me r i u s thus attributes to B uys
broeck not only those profound and direct
experiences of Divine Reality to wh ich his
works b ear witness ; but also numerous
visions of a conventional and anthropo
morphic type in which he spoke with Christ
t h e B lessed Virgin and t h e S aints , ecstasie s
.

TH E

MA N

27

which fell upon him when saying Mass


and the passionate devotion to the Eucharist
which his writings express makes these at

least probable a certain faculty o f clair


voyance and a prophetic knowledge of his
own death Further it is said that once
being missed from the priory he was found
after long search by one of the brothers he
loved best sitting u n d er his favourite
tree rapt in ecstasy and surrounde d by an
of radiant light
as the discerning
aur a
eyes of those who loved them have seen S t
Francis S t Teresa and other contemplatives
t r a n s gu r e d and made shining by the i n
tensity of their spiritual life
I need not
point out that the fact that these things are
common form in the lives of the mystics
does not necessarily discredit them though
in any case their interest is less o f a mystical
than of a psychological kind
Not less signicant and to us perhaps
more winning is that side o f R u y s b r o e c k s
personality which was turned towards the
world of men In his own person he ful
lled t h at twofold duty O f the deied soul
which he has described to us : the i n
breathing of the Love of God the out breath
ing of that same radiant charity towards the
To give and receive both at once
race
is the essence of union
he says ; and his
whole career is an illustration of these
w or d s He took h i s li fe fro m t h e Tr a n
,

RU Y S B R O ECK

28

he
was
a
focus
of
distribution
;
which gave out that j oyous life again to other
souls His retr eat at Groenendael h i s c c
s t a s i e s of composition never kept him from
those who wanted his help and adv i ce
In his highest ascents towards Divine Love
the rich complexities O f human love went
with him O ther men alwa ys me a nt mu ch
to Ruysbroeck He h ad a genius for friend
ship and gave himself without stint to his
friends ; and those who knew h i m said
that none ever went to him for consolation
without returning with gl adness in the i r
hearts There are many tales in the Vi ta 1
of
his power over and intuitive under
standing o f other minds ; o f conversions
effected motives unvei led and clouds dis
l
l
e
e
d
His
great
friend
Gerard
l
e
N
a
h
p
g

the Carthusian prior a t whose desire he


wrote one of the most beautiful of his
shorter works Th e B o o k of S up r eme Tr u th
h a s left a vivid little account of the i m
pression which his personality created
his
peaceful and j oyful countenance his humble
good humoured speech
Ruysbroeck spent
three days i n Gerard s monastery in order
to explain some di fcult passages in his
writings
and t hese days were too short
for no one could speak to him or see him
without being the better for it
By this we may put the description O f
P o mer i u s , fo u nded u pon t h e r emi ni s c enc es
s c e n d e nt

TH E M A N

29

Th e
surviving friends
grace of God shone in his face ; and also
in his modest speech his kindly deeds his
humble manners and in the way that every
action of his life exhibited uprightness and
radiant purity He lived soberly neglected
his dress and was patient in all things and
with all people
Plainl y the great contemplative who had
seemed in Brussels a negligible man kept
to the end a great simplicity of aspect ;
closely approximating to his o wn ideal of the
really humble man without any pose or pre
tence as described i n Th e S p i r i tu a l M a r r i age
That profound s e lf immersion in God which
was the source of his power manifested itself
i n daily life under the least impressive forms
ever seeking embodiment in little concrete
acts of love and service
ministering in
the world without to all who need in love
1
and mercy
We see him in his Franciscan
love o f living things hi s deep sense o f kin
ship with all t h e little children O f Go d going
to the help of the animals in all their needs
thrown into a torment of distress by the
brothers who suggested to him that during
a hard winter the little birds of the forest
might die and at once making generous
and successful arrangements for their enter
t a i n ment
We see him giving Mary and
Mart h a
r endez
v o us
in
his heart
of

Ru y s br o e c k

Th e Twel v e B gu i nes ,

c a p.

R U YS BROECK

30

working in the garden o f the commun i ty


trying hard to be useful wh eel i ng barrow
loads of manure and emerging from pr o
found meditat i on o n the Innite to pull up
young vegetables un d er the impression that
they were weeds He made i n fact valiant
efforts to achieve that perfect synthesis of
action and contemplation ever abiding in
the simplicity o f the S pirit and perpetually
owing forth in abundant acts of love to
wards heaven and earth which he regarded
as the proper goal o f human growth
e fforts constantly thwarted by his own grow
ing concentration o n the Transcendent the
ease and frequency with which his con
s c i o u s n es s now withdrew from the world o f
the senses to immerse itself in S piritual
Reality In theory there was for him no
cleavage between the two : Being and B e
coming the Temporal and the Eternal
were but two moods within the mind O f God
l\ and in the superessential life of perfect
union these completing opp osites should
merge I n one
A li f e which shall nd place for the
activities of the lover the servant and the
apostle is the goal towards which the great
mystics seem to move We have seen how
the homely life of the priory gave to Ruys
broeck the opportunity of service h o w the
silence o f the forest fostered and supported
his secret life o f love As the years passed
,

,
,

'

MA N

TH E

31

th e third side of his nature the apostolic


,

passion which had found during his long


Brussels period ample scope for its activities
once mor e came into prominence He was
sought out by numbers of would b e disciples
not only from Belgium itself but from
Holland Germany and France a n d became a
fountainhead of new life the father o f man y
spiritual children
Th e tradition which
places among these disciples the great
Dominican mystic Tauler is probably false ;
thou gh many passages in Ta u l er s later ser
mons suggest that he was strongly inuenced
by R u ys b r o ec k s works which had already
attain e d a wide circulation But Gerard
Groot afterwards the founder of the Brothers
of the Common Life and S piritual ancestor
of Thomas a K empis went to Groenendael
shortly after his conversion in 1 3 7 4 that he
might there learn the rudiments of a sane
and robust spirituality Ruysbroeck received
him with a special j oy recognising in him at
rst S ight a peculiar aptitude for the things
of the S pirit A deep friendship grew up
betwe en the Ol d mystic and the young and
vigorous convert Gerard stayed often at
the priory and corresponded regularly with
R u ysbroeck ; whose inuence it was which
conditioned his subsequent career as a
preacher and as founder of a congrega
tion as simple and unconventional in
its rst beginnings as fruitful in its
,

IRUY S BROECK

32

later developments a s that of Gr o enen


d a el i tself
The p enetr at i ng r emarks upon hu m an
character scattered through h i s wor k s and
the anecdotes of his dealings with disciples
and penitents preserved by P o mer i u s sug
gest that Ruysbroeck though he might not
always recognise the distinction between the
weeds and vegetables o f the garden was
seldom at fault in his j udgment o f men An
instinctive knowledge of the human heart
an unerring eye for insincerity egotism
self deception is a p o w er which nearly all
the great contemplatives possess and often
employed with disconcerting effect I need
refer only to the caustic analysis of the
false contemplative contained in Th e Cl o u d
of Unkn o wi ng and the amusing sketches of
spiritual self importance in S t Teresa s
letters and life The little tale so often
repeated o f the somewhat self conscious
priests who came fro m Paris to consult
Ruysbroeck on the state o f their souls and
received from him only the bl u nt observa

tion
apparently so careless yet really
plumbing human nature to its deeps
Yo u
are as holy as y ou wish t o be shows him
possessed o f this same power o f stripping o ff
the husks o f unreality and penetrating at
once to the fundamental facts of the soul s
life the purity and direction of its will and
love
,

TH E MAN

33

The life giving life o f union once man has


grown up to it claries illuminates raises
to a higher term all aspects o f the self :
intelligence no less than love and will
That self is n o w harmonised about its true
centre and nding Go d in all creatures
and all creatures in God nds them in their
reality S O it is that R u ys b r o e c k s long
life of growth his long education in love
bringing him to that which he calls the Go d
seeing stage brings h i m to a point in which he
nds everywhere Reality in those rh ythmic
seasonal changes of the forest life which
have inspired his wonderful doctrine of the
perpetual rebirth and r e budding of the soul

in the hearts of men though O f t en there

deep buried above all in the mysteri es o f


the Christian faith S peaking with an u n
e q ualled authority and intimacy o f those
supersensuous regions those mysterious con
tacts of love which lie beyond and above
all thought he is yet rmly root ed in the
concrete ; for he has reconciled in his o wn
experience the paradox o f a Transcendent
yet Immanent God There is no break in
the life process which begins wi th the little
country boy runni ng away from home in
o
f
uest
of
some
vaguely
felt
obj
ect
desire
q
some better land a nd which ends with the
triumphant passing over o f the soul o f the
great contempl ative to the perfect fruition
of Eternal L o v e
-

RU Y S B R O ECK

34

Ruysbroeck d i ed at Gr oenendael on
Dece mber 2 1 3 8 1
He wa s eighty eight
years old ; feeb l e in bo d y nearly blind
yet keep ing to the last his clear S piritual
vision h is v igour and eagerness o f soul
His death s a ys P o mer i u s speaking o n the
authori t y of tho se who had seen it was f u ll
n o t the
o f peaceful j o y of gaiety of heart ;
falling asleep o f the tired servant but the
leap to mor e abundant life of the vi gorous
child o f the Innite at last set free With an
immense gladness he went out from that time
world which in his o wn image i s the S hadow
to those high mountains of the
o f God
land o f promise wher e no sh a dow is but
only t h e S u n
O ne of the gre atest of
Christian seers one of the mos t manly and
human of t h e mystics it is yet as a lover
in the noblest and most vital sense o f the
word tha t his personality lives for us
Fr om rst to last under all its ext ernal
accidents we may trace i n h i s life the

activi ty r s t instinct ive and only gradually

understood O f th at unconquerable love


ardent industrious at last utterly surren
der ed which he describes in the wonderful
tenth chapter o f Th e S p a r kli ng S tone as the
unique power which e ffects the soul s union
w ith God
For no man u n d er s t a n d et h
wh at l o ve is i n itself but s u ch are its work
ings which g i veth more t han one can tak e
and asketh mor e t h a n one c a n pay
Tha t
-

'

MAN

THE

l ove i t was which came

35

from the In
nite as a tendency an instinct endowed
wi th liberty and life and passed across the
stage o f history manifested under humblest
inconspicuous forms but ever growing in
passion and power ; till at last achieving
the f ull stature of the children o f God it
r eturned to its Source and Origin again
When we speak o f the mysticism of Ruys
broeck i t is o f this that we should think :
o f this grow i ng spirit
this ardent u nc o n
creative
thing
A
veritable
part
u er a b l e
q
o f o u r own order therein it was transmuted
from unreal to real existence ; putting o n
Divine Humanity and attaining the goal o f
all life in the inter ests of t he race
out

CHAP

ER II

W O RK S

HI S

hav e

u n d e r s t o o d , f e l t , o r wr i t t e n , I s u mi t
l th at I
Ch u r c h ,
a nd o f H o l
m s e l f t o t h e j u d g me n t o f t h e
Ch r i s t i a n F a i t h
f o r I wo uld
e a n d d i e Ch r i s t s s e r v a n t
T H E B OO K O F S U P R EM E TR UT

In

al

liv

s ai n t s

in

B E FO R E discussing R u y s b r o e c k s view of
the spiritual world his doctrine of the soul s
development perhap s it will be well to
consider the traditional names gener a l
character and contents o f his admittedly
authentic works O nly a few o f these works
can be dated with precision ; f o r recent
criticism has S hown that the s o called
1
chronological l i st given by P o mer iu s cannot
be accepted As to several of them we
cannot tell whether they were composed
at Brussels or at Groenendael at the b e
ginning middle Or end of his mysti cal life
All were written in the Flemish vernacular

of his own day o r strictly speaking in the

dialect of Brabant for they were practical


books composed f o r a practica l O bj ect not

Vi t a ,

ca
36

x
v
p
.

WO RKS

HIS

academic treatises o n mystical theology


Founded o n experience they deal with and
incite t o experience ; and were addressed
to all who felt within themselves the stirri ngs
of a special grace the call o f a superhuman
love irrespective o f education o r position
to hermits p riests nuns and ardent souls
still i n the world who were trying to live

the o ne real life not merely to learned


professors tryi n g to el ucidate the doctrines
o f that life
Ruysbroeck therefore belongs
t o that considerable gro u p of mystical wr iters
whose gift t o the history of literature is
only less important than their gift t o
the history o f the spiritual world ; since
they have helped to break down the barrier
between the written and the spoken word
At the moment in which poetry r st for
sakes the literary language and uses the
people s speech we nearly always nd a
mystic thus trying to tell his message to the
race His enthusiasm it is which is equal
t o the task o f subduing a new medium to the
purposes o f art Thus at the very begin
ning of Italian poetry we n d St Francis
of
Assisi singing in the popular tongue
his great Canticle o f the S u n and soon
after him come the su blime lyrics o f Jaco
pone da Todi
Thu s Ge rman literature
owes much t o Mechthild o f Magdeburg and

English t o Ri chard Roll o both forsaking


Latin for the common speech of their day
.

RU Y SB RO EC K

38

in India t he poet K abir obedient t o


the same impulse sings i n Hindi r ather than
in S anscrit his beautiful songs of Divine
Love
In Ruysbroeck as in these others a strong
p oetic inspiration mingled with and some
times controlled the purely mystical side of
his genius O ften his love and enthusi a sm
break out and express themselves sometimes
in rough irregu l a r verse sometimes in
r hymed and r hythmic prose : a kind of wild
spontaneous chant which may be related to
the ghostly song that boiled up within
the heart o f Richard Rolle It is well

known th at automatic compos it i on and we


have seen that the evidence of tho s e who
knew him suggests the presence o f a n auto
matic element in R u y s b r o e c k s creative

methods tends to assume a rhythmic char


a cter ; being indeed closely related to that
strange chanted speech in wh i ch religious
excitement frequently expresses itself R e
leased from the control o f the surface i n
t el l ec t the deeper mind which is involved
in these mysteriou s processes tends to
present its intuitions and concepts in
measured waves o f words ; which some
t I mes
as in Rolle s ghostly song and
perhaps too in R u ys b r o e c k s S ong of Joy
are actually gi ven a music a l form In such
rhythm the mystic seems t o c atch some
thing o f the cadences o f t h at far O ff mus i c
Thus

W O RKS

H IS
of

39

which h e is writing and to receive and


transmit a message which exce e ds the po s
s i b ili t i es
of speech
Ruysbroeck was n o
expert poet Often his ver s e is bad ; h a lt
ing in cadence violent and uncouth in
imagery like the stammeri ng utterance o f
one possessed But its presence a nd qu ality
its mingled simplici ty and violence a s sure
us o f the strong excitement th a t f u l lled
him and tend to corrob orate the account
of his mental proc esses which we h a ve
deduced from the sta tements i n P o mer i u s
,

.,

Eleven admittedly authentic books and


L
tra cts survive in numerous MS c o l l ect i o ns
and from these come all th at we kn o w
of
his vision and teaching
The Twelv e
Vi r tu es and the two Canticles often a t t r i
buted to him are probably spuriou s ; and
the tracts against the Brethren o f the Fr ee
S pirit which are known to have been written
during his Brussels period h ave all d i s
appeared I give here a S hort account
of
the authentic works their names and
general contents ; putting rst in order
those of unknown date some of which may
possibly have been composed before the
foundation of Groenendael In each case
the rst title is a translation o f that used
in the best Flemish texts ; the second
.

D e V r ee s e h a s d e n t ied
M S S o f R u ys b r o ec k
l

60

Fl e mi s h

an d

4 6 La t in

RU YS BR OECK

40

that employed in the great Latin v ers i on o f


R u ysbroeck himself never g ave any
Su r iu s
titles t o his writings
1 TH E S P I RI T U A L TA B E R N A C L E ( called

by S u r i u s I n Ta ber na cu lu m M os i s ) Th e
longest most fantastic and in spite of some
ne passages the least interesting of Ruys
Probably founded up on
b r o e c k s works
the D e Ar ca M ys ti oa of Hugh o f S t Victor
this is an elaborate allegory thoroughly
med i aeval i n type in which the Tabernacle
o f the
Israelites becomes a gure o f the
spiritual life ; the details o f its c o n s t r u c
tion furniture and ritual being given a
symbolic S ignicance in a ccordance with
the methods of interpret ation popular at
the time In this book and perhaps in the
astronomical treatise appended to Th e Twel v e
B eg u i nes ( No
I believe that we have the
only surviving works of R u y s b r o e c k s rst
period ; when he had not yet transcended
images but was at that p oint in his mystical
development in which the young contem
l
a
t
i
v
e
loves
to
discern
symbolic
meanings
p
in all visible things
2 TH E
TW E L V E
P O I N TS O F T R U E
FA I T H ( D e F i de et J u d i ci o )
This little
tract is in form a gloss up on the Nicene
Creed ; in fact a characteristically Ruys
b r o e c ki a n confession o f faith
Without ever
over passing the boundaries of Catholic doc
tri ne Ruysbroeck is here able to turn all
.

'

HI S

WO RKS

41

its i magery to the purposes o f his o wn vision


O f truth
3 TH E B OO K O F T H E F O U R TE M P TA T I O N S
D
e
a
e
a
The
Four
u
t
u
o
r
T
n
t
t
i
o
n
i
b
u
s
Q
(
)
T emptations are four manife stations of the
higher egotism specially dangerous t o souls
entering on the contemplative life : rst
the love of ease and comfort as much in
things spiritual as in things material ;
secondly the tendency to pose as the
possessor of special illumination with other
and like forms of spiritual pretence thirdly
intellectual pride which seeks to unders tand
unfathomable mysteries and attain to the
Vision of God by t h e reason alone fourthly
most dangerous of all that fals e liberty
of spirit which was the mark of the h e
r et i c a l
mystic sects This book too may
well have been written before the retreat
to Groenendael
4 TH E B O O K O F T H E K I N G D O M O F G O D S

L O VE R S ( R egnu m D eu m A ma n ti u m) This
and the following work The A d or nment
of
the S p i r i tu a l M a r r i age
contain Ruys
b r o e c k s fullest and most orderly d e s c r i p
tions of the mystical life process The
K ingdom which God s lovers may inherit
is the actual life of God infused into the
soul and deifying it Thi s ess ential life
reveals itself under ve modes in the sense
world in the soul s nature in the witness o f
S cripture in t h e life of grace or
glory
.

R UYSB RO ECK

44

her religious community ; but whom Ruys


broeck looks upon as S pecially called elect
and loved
In simplest language often of
extreme beauty he puts before her the
magnitude o f the vocation she has accepted
the dangers she will encounter and the
great source from which she must draw her
strength : the sacr a mental dispensation o f
the Church In a series o f magnicent
chapters he celebrates the mystical doctrine
of the Eucharist the feeding o f the ever
growing soul on the substance of God ;
following this by a digression full of shrewd
observation o n the different types O f b e
li ev e r s wh o come to communion
We see
them through his eyes : the religious sent i
mentalists who are generally women and
only very seldom men
the sturdy normal
Christian who does his best t o struggle
against sin ; the humble and devout lover
of
God ; the churchy hypocrite who b e
haves with gr eat reverence at Mass and then
goes home and scolds the servants ; the
heretical mystic full o f spiritual pride ; the
easy going worldling who sins and repents
with equal facility Th e book ends with
a superb description of the goal t owards
which the young contemplative i s set the
life giving life of perfect union with God
in which that higher life latent in ev ery
soul at last attains to maturity
7 TH E S E V E N
C L O I S TE R S ( D e S ep tem
,

'

HI S W O RK S

Cu s to di i s )

45

was written before 1 3 6 3


and preserves its address to Th e Holy
Nun Dame Margaret van Meerbek e Cantor
of the Monastery o f S t Clare at Brussels
The novice of the Mirror is now a professed
religious ; and her director instructs her
upon the attitude of mind which she should
bring to the routine duties of a nun s day
the opportunity they offer for the enriching
and perfecting O f love and humility
He
describes the education of the human spirit
up to that high point of consciousness where
it knows itself established between Eter
n i t y and Time
one of the fundamental
thoughts of Flemish and German mysticism
This education admits her successively into
the seven cloisters which kept St Clare
Foundress of the Order unspotted from the
world The rst is the physical enclosure
of the convent walls ; the next the moral
and volitional limitation of self control The
third is the open door of the love o f Christ
which crowns man s affective p owers and

leads to the fourth total dedication o f the


will The f t h and sixth represent the t w o
great forms of the Contemplative Life as
conceived by Ruysbroeck : the ecstatic and
the deiform Th e seventh admits t o Abyss
o f Being itself : that
dim silence at the
hea rt of which as in the S eventh Habita
tion of St Teresa s Interior Castle he
will nd himself alone with God There
-

This

RU Y S B R O ECK

46

the mystic union is consummated and t he


Divine activity takes the place o f the separate
activity o f man in
a S imple beatitude
which transcends all sanctity and the pr a c
tice o f virtue an Eternal Fruition which
satises all hunger and thirst all love and all
craving for God
Finally he returns to
the Active Life ; and ends with a practical
chapter on clothes and a charming instru o
tion f ull o f deep poetry o n the evening
meditation wh i ch should close the day
8 TH E S E V E N D E G R E E S O F T H E L A D D E R
O F L O V E ( D e S ep tem Gr a d i bus A mar i s )
This book which was written before 1 3 7 2
i s believed by the Benedictines of Wisques
the latest and most learned o f R u ys b r o e c k s
editors to complete the trilogy o f work s
addressed to Dame Margaret van Meerbeke
It traces the soul s ascent to the height o f
Divine love by way of the ch aracteristic
virtues o f asceticism under the well known
medi aeval i mage o f the ladder o f per f ec

o
r
tion
stairway o f love
metaphor
a
originat i ng in Jacob s Dream which had
already served S t Benedict Richard of St
Victor S t Bonaventura and many others
as a useful diagr a m o f the mystic way
Originality o f form however is the last
thing we should look f o r in R u ys b r o ec k s
works He pours his strange wine into any
V essel that com e s to hand As often his
most sublime o r a ma z ing utterances or i gin
,

,
,

H IS

W O RK S

ate in commentaries upon some familiar text


o r the dee pest truths are hidden under the
most grotesque similitudes ; so this well
worn metaphor gives him the o pportunity
for some o f his nest descriptions of the soul s
movement to that transmutation in which all
ardent spirits become as live coals in the
re of Innite Love
This book in which
t h e inuence of S t
Bernard is strongly
marked contains some beautiful passages
on the my stic life considered as a heavenly
song o f faithfulness and love which Christ
Cantor and o u r Chora gus has sung
our
from the beginning Of things
and which
every Christian soul must learn
9 TH E B O O K O F T H E S P A R K L I N G S T O N E
D
l
u
v
e
d
o
e
r
e
a
c
l
e
e
C
o
s
i
P
c
t
i
n
F
l
i
u
m
o
i
or
(
f

D ei )
This priceless work is said to have been
written by Ruysbroeck at the request o f a
hermit who wished for further light o n the
high matters of which i t treats It conta i ns
the nest ower of his tho u ght and shows
perhaps more clearly than any other o f his
writings the mark of direct i nspiration
Here again the sca ffolding o n which he
builds is almost as old as Christi a n mys t i
c i s m itself : that three fold division of men
into the faithful servants secret friends
and hidden sons o f God which descended
through the centuries from Cl ement o f Alex
a n dr ia
But the tower w h i ch he raises with
i t s h elp ascends t o he ight s u nr ea ch ed by
,

'

RU Y S B R O ECK

48

any other writer : to the point at which


man is given the supreme gift o f the S park
ling S tone o r N ature of Christ the goal of
human transcendence I regard the ninth
and tenth chapters of Th e S p a r kli ng S to ne
How we may become Hidden Sons of God
and live the Contemplative Life and How
we though o n e with God must eternally

re main other than Him


as the high
water mark of mystical literature N O
where else do we nd such a marvellous
combination o f wi de and soaring vision
with the most delicate and intimate psycho
logical analysis The old mystic sitting
under his friendly tree seems here to be
gazing at and reporting to us the nal
secrets of that eternal world where
the
Incomprehensible Light enfolds and pene
trates us as the air is penetrated by the
light of the sun
There he tastes and a p
prehends in an unfathomable seeing and
beholding the inbreathi ng and the o u t

breat hi ng of the Love of God that d o u ble


movement which controls the universe ;
yet knows along with this great cosmic
Vision that intimate and searching com
munion in which
the Beloved and the
Lover are immersed wholly in love and each
I s all to the other in possession and in rest
1 0 TH E B O O K O F S U P R E M E T R U T H called
(
I n some collections The B o o k o R etr a c ta ti ons
f

S
n
and by uri s S a mu el ) This is the tract
,

H IS

W O RK S

49

wr itten by Ruysbroeck at the request


,

of

Gerard N a g h el t o explain certain obscur e


passages in The B o o k of the K i ng d o m of Go d s
In it he is specially concerned to
Lo v er s
make clear the vital distinction between his

doctrine of the soul s union with Go d a


union in which the primal distinction between
Creator and created is never overpassed
and the pantheistic doctrine o f complete
absorption in Him with cessation o f all
effort and striving preached by the heretical
sects whose initiates claim t o be God
By the time that this book was written
careless readers had already charged Ruys
broeck with these pantheist tendencies whi ch
he abhorred and condemned ; and here he
sets out his defence He discusses also the
three degrees o f union with God which
correspond to the three lives of the grow
ing soul : union by means of sacraments
and good deeds ; union achieved in con
without means where
t e mpl a t i v e prayer
the soul learns its do u ble vocation of action
and fruition ; and the highest union of all
where the spirit which has swu ng pendulum
like between the temporal and eternal worlds
achieves its equilibrium and dwells wholly
in God drunk with love and sunk in the
Dark Light
1 1 TH E TW E L VE B EG U I N E S ( D e Ver a Con

This is a long composite book


temp la ti o ne )
O f eight y four chapters which apparently
,

RU YSBR O ECK

5O

consists of at least three distinct treat i se s


different dates
The rst The Twelve
of
B gu i nes which ends with chapter xvi
contains the longest consecutive example of
R u y s b r o e c k s p o etic method ; its rst eight
chapters being written in irregular rhymed
verse It is believed t o be o n e of his last
compositions Its doctrine differs little from
that already set forth in his earlier works ;
though nowhere perh a ps is the develop
ment o f the spirit u al consciousness de
scribed with greater subtlety The soul s
communion with and feeding on the Divine
Nature in the Eucharist and in contem
l
t
i
e
prayer
its
acquirement
of
the
art
a
v
;
p
o f introversion ;
the Way of Contemplation
with its four modes paralleled by the Way of
Love with its four modes ; these lead up
to the perfect union of the spirit with God
in o ne love and o ne fruition with Him
fullled in everlasting bliss
The seven
t e ent h chapter begins a new treatise wi th a
description of the Active Life o n Ruys
b r o ec k s usual lines ; and at the thirtieth
there i s again a complete change o f subj ect
introducing a mystical and symbolic i nter
r
e
a
t
t
i
o
n
o
f
t
he
science
of
astronomy
This
p
section s o unlike his later Writings some
wh at r esembles The S p i r i tu a l Ta ber na c le
and m ay perhaps be a work o f the same
period A collection Of Meditations upon
the Passion o f Chr ist arr a nged according
,

H IS

W O RKS

51

to the S even Hours of the Roman Breviary


capp
lxxiii
to
end
completes
the
book
;
)
(
and also the tale o f R u ys b r o ec k s authentic
works A critical list of the reprints and
translations in which these may best be
studied will be found in the Bibliographical
Note
.

CHA P T E R
HIS

O C T RI N E OF

w ords ar e s tran g e ;

My

TH E

s t a nd .

II I

MI

G OD

bu t t h o s e w h o
R R O R O F ET ER

l ove

NA

w i ll

u nd e r

A ATI O N
LV

MY S TI CA L writers are of two kinds

O ne

kind of which S t Teresa is perhaps the


supreme type deals almost wholly with the
personal and interior exper i ences o f the soul
in the states of contemplation and the
psychological rules governing those states ;
above all with the emotional reactions o f
the self to the impact of the Divine This

kind O f mystic
whom William James
accused with some reason of turning the
soul s relation with God into a duet
makes
little attempt to describe the ultimate Obj ect
of the self s love and desire the great
movements of the spiritual world ; for such
description the formul ae of existing theology
are felt to be enough Visions o f Christ

experiences of the Blessed Trinity these are


su fcient names for t h e personal and i m
personal aspects o f that Reality with which
the contemplative seeks to unite But the
.

C R I NE

H I S DO T

OF GOD

53

mystic though possibly and

other kind o f
indeed usually as orthodox in his beliefs

as ardent in his love cannot o n the one


hand remain within the circle of these sub
c t i v e a n d personal conceptions and on the
e
j
other content himself with the lab el which
tradition has afx ed to the Thing that he
has known He may not rej ect the label
but neither does he confuse it with the
Thi ng He has the wide vision the meta
physical passion O f the philosopher and the
poet ; and in his work he is ever pressing
towards more exact description more sug
e s t i v e and evocative speech
T
h
symbols
e
g
which come most naturally to him are
usually derived from the ideas of space
and of wonder ; not from those of human
intimacy and love
In him the intellect is
active as well as the heart ; sometimes more
active Plotinus is an extrem e example o f
mysticism of this type
The greatest mystics however whether
in the East or in the West are possessed
of a vision and experience o f God so deep
and rich that it embraces at once the i n
nit e and the intimate aspects of Reality ;
illuminating those religious concepts which
are as it were an artistic reconstruction
of the Transcendent and at t h e same time
having contact with that vast region above
and beyond reason whence come the frag
mentary intimations of Reality crystalli s ed
,

RUY SB R OECK

54

in the formul ae of faith For them as for


S t Augu st i ne God is both near and far ;
and the paradox of transcendent i mmanent
Reality is a self evident if an inexpressible
truth They swing between hushed adora
tion and closest communion between the
divine ignorance of the intellect lifted up
into God and the divine certitude of the
heart in which He dwells ; and give us by
turns a subj ective and psychological an
obj ective and metaphysical reading o f
spiritual experience Ruysbroeck i s a mystic
of this type The span o f his universe

can include
indeed demand
both the
concept of that Abyss o f Pure Being where
all distinctions are transcended and the
soul is immersed in the dark light of the
O ne and the distinctively Christian and i n
c a r na t i o na l experience of loving communion
with and through the Person of Christ For
him the ladder of contemplation is rmly
planted in the bed rock o f human character

goes the whole way from the heart of man

to the Essence of God and ever y stage o f it


has importance for the eager and ascending
soul Hence when he seems to rush out to
the farthest limits of the cosmos he still
remains within the circle o f Catholic ideas ;
and is at once ethical and metaphysical
intensely sacramental and intensely tran
s c e n d e nt a l too

Nor is th i s result obtained a s it s o m et im es


.

C R I NE

H IS D O T

OF G OD

55

seems to be for instance in such a visionary

as Angela of Foligno b y a mere heaping


up of the various and inconsistent emotional
r e actions of the self
There is a f u nda
mental orderliness in the R u ys b r o ec ki a n
universe which though it may be di fcult
to understand and often impossible for him
to express without resort to paradox yet
reveals itself to careful analysis He tries
hard to describe or at least s u ggest it to us
because he is a mystic of a n apostolic type
Even where he is dealing with the soul s
most ineffable experiences and seems to
hover over that Abyss which is beyond
Reason stammering and breaking into wild
poetry in the desperate attempt to seize
the unseizable truth he is ever intent o n
telling us how these things may be actualised
this atti tude attained by other men The
note is never as with many subj ective
I have seen
visionaries
but always We
shall or may see
Now such an obj ective mystic as this
who is not content with retailing his
private experiences and ecstasies but
accepts the great vocation o f revealer O f
Reality is called upon to do certain things
He must give us not merely a static picture
of Eternity but also a dynamic reading o f
life
and of a life more extended than that
which the moralist o r ev en the philosopher
He must not only tell
Off ers to inter pret
,

RU Y SB R OECK

56

us what he thinks about the universe and


in particular that ultimate S piritual Reality
which all mysticism discerns within o r
beyond the ux He must also tell us what
he thinks of man that living movi ng uid
spirit thing : his reactions to this universe
and this Reality the satisfact i on which it
O ffers to h i s thought
will and love the
obligations la i d up on him in respect of it
We on o u r part must tr y to understand what
he tells u s of these things ; for he i s as it
were an organ developed by the race for

this purpose a tentacle pushed ou t to


wards the Innite t o make in our name and
i n our interest fresh contacts with Reality
He performs for us some of t h e functions
o f the artist extending
our un i verse the
pioneer cutting our path the hunter winning
food for o u r souls
Th e clue t o the un i verse of such a m y stic
will always be the vision o r i dea which he
has o f the Nature of God ; and there we
must begin if we would nd our way through
the tangle of his thought
From this
Centre all else branches out and to this
all else must conform if it i s t o have for him
realness and life ; for truth as Aquinas
teaches is simply the reality of things as
they are in God We begin then o u r ex
ploration o f Ru ys b r o ec k s doctrine by trying
to discover the character o f his vision o f the
DI V i ne Nature and m an s relation wi th it
,

C R I NE

H IS DO T

57

OF G OD

That vision is s o wi de deep and search


ing that only by resort to the langu ag e
of opposites by perpetual alternations of
spatial and personal metaphysical and
passionate speech is he able t o communi
cate it to us His fortunate and profound
acquaintance with the science of theology
his contact through it with the formul a

of Christian Platonism has given him the


framework o n which he stretches o u t his
wonderful and living picture o f the Innite
This picture is personal to himself the fruit
of a direct and vivid inspiration not s o the
terms by which it is communicated These
for the most part are the common property
o f C hr istian theology ; though here used with
a consummate skill often with an apparent
originality Especially from S t Augustine
Dionysius the Areopagite Richard of S t
Victor St Bernard and the more orthodox
utterances of his own i mmediate predecessor

Meister Eckhart sometimes too from his

contemporaries S uso and Tauler has he


taken the intellectual concepts the highly
charged poetic metaphors in which his
perceptions are enshrined So close does
he keep to these masters so frequent are his
borrowings that almost every page of his
writings might be glossed from their works
It is one of the most astonishi ng features of
the celebrated and astonishing essay o f
M Maeterlinc k that , bent o n vindicating
,

RU Y S B R O ECK

56

us what he thinks about the un i verse and


in particular that ultimate S piritual Reality
which all mysticism discerns within o r
beyond the ux He must also tell us what
he thinks of man that living movi ng uid
spirit thing : his reactions to this universe
and this Reality the satisfaction which it
offers to his thought will and love the
Obligat i ons laid upon him in respect of it
We on o u r part must tr y to understand what
he tells us of these things ; for he is as it
were an organ developed by the race for
this purpose a tentacle pushed out to
wards the Innite to make in our name and
i n our interest fresh contacts with Reality
He performs for us some of t h e functions
o f the artist extending
our un i verse the
pioneer cutting o u r path the hunter winning
food for o u r souls
The clue t o the universe o f such a m y stic
will always be the vision or i dea which he
has o f the Nature of God ; and there we
must begin if we would nd our way through
the tangle of his thought
F rom this
Centre all else branches out and to this
all else must conform if i t i s t o have for him
re alness and life ; for truth as Aquinas
teaches is simply the reality of things as
they are in God We begin then o u r ex
ploration o f Ru ys b r o ec k s doctrine by trying
to d i scover the character of his vision o f the
Di vine Nature and man s relati on wi t h it
,

H IS

C R I NE

DO T

57

OF G OD

That vision is so wide deep and search


ing that only by resort to the langu age
of opposites by perpetual alternations of
spatial and personal metaphysical and
passionate speech is he able to communi
cate it to us His fortunate and profound
acqua i ntance with the science o f theology
his contact through it with the formul ae

of Christian Platonism has given him the


framework o n which he stretches o u t his
wonderful and living picture o f the Innite
This picture is personal to h i mself the fruit
of a direct and vivid inspiration not so the
terms by which it is communicated These
for the most part are the common property
of Christian theology ; though here used with
a consummate skill often with an apparent
originality Especially from St Augustine
Dionysius the Areopagite Richard of S t
Victor St Bernard and the more orthodox
utterances of his own i mmediate predecessor
Meister Eckhart sometimes too from his

contemporaries S uso and Tauler has he


taken the intellectual concepts the highly
charged poetic metaphors in which his
perceptions are enshrined So close does
he keep to these masters so frequent are his
borrowings that almost every page of his
writings might be glossed from their works
It is one of the most astonishi ng features of
the celebrated and astonishing essay o f
M Maeterlinck that , bent on vindicating
,

RU Y S B R O E CK

58

the inspiration of his S i mple and ignorant


monk
he entirely fails to observe the
traditional character of the formul ae which
express it N o student of the my stics will
deny the abundant inspiration by which
Ruysbroeck was possessed ; but this i n
spiration is spiritual not intellectual The
truth was told to him i n the tongue o f
angels and he did his best to translate it
into the tongue of the Church perpetually
reminding us as he did so how great was the
difference between vision and description
how cl u msy and inadequ ate those concepts
a n d images wherewith the artist seer tried
to tell his love
This distinction which the reader of
Ruysbroeck should never forget is of primar y
i mportance in connection with his tr e atment
O f the Nature o f God ; where the disparity
between the thing known and the thing
said is inevit ably at a maximum
Th e
high nature of the Godhead he says in a
string of suggestive and paradoxical images
t o which St Paul Dionysius and Eckhart
have all contributed is in itself S implicity
and O ne f o l d n e s s ; inaccessible height and
fathomless deep incomprehensible breadth
and eternal length ; a dim S ilence and a

wild desert
O blique suggestive musical
language which enchants rather than i n
forms t h e soul ; opens the door to e xper i
ence , but does not
convey a ny accur at e

C R I NE

H IS D O T

OF GOD

59

knowledge o f the Imageless Truth


Now
we may experien ce many wonders in that
fathomless Godhead but although because
of the coarseness of the h u man intellect
when we would describe such things o u t
wa r d l y we must use images in truth that
which is inwardly perceived and beheld is
nought else but a Fathomless and U nc o n d i
t i o n e d Good
Y et this primal Reality this ultimately
indivisible O ne has for human consciousness
a two fold character ; and though for the
intuition Of the mystic its fruition is a syn
thetic experience it must in thought be
analysed if it is ever to be grasped God
as known by man exhibits in its perfection
the dual property of Love on the one h and
active generative creative ; on the other
hand a still and ineffable possession or

F r u i ti o n one o f the master words of Ruys


br o e c k s thought
He is then the Absolute
One in whom the antithesis of Eternity
and Time of Being and Becoming is r e
solved ; both static and dynamic tran
s c e n d e nt
and immanent impersonal and
personal undifferentiated and differentiated
Eternal Rest and Eternal Work t h e U n
Al
moved Mover yet Movement itself
though i n our way of seeing we give
God many names His nature is O ne
He transcends the storm of succession yet
xxx
Th S pi i t l M
i g li b ii
vii
p
.

ua

arr a

e,

ca

RU Y S B R O ECK

60

is the inspiring spirit o f the ux Accordi ng


to His fruitful n ature
He works without
a reminiscence
ceasing for He i s Pure Act
o f Ar i stotle which seems strange upon the
lips o f the ignorant monk
He i s the
omnipotent and ever active Creator o f all
things ; an immeasurable Flame o f Love
perpetually breathing forth His energetic
Life i n new births of bei ng and new oods
of grace a n d drawing in again all creatures
to Himself Y et this statement denes not
His being but o n e manifestation o f His
being When the soul pierces beyond this
fruitful nature to His simpl e essence
and simple is here and throughout to b e
understood in i ts pri mal meaning o f syn

H e is that ab solute and abiding


thetic
Reality which seems to man Eternal
Rest the Deep Quiet of the God h ead the
Abyss the Dim S ilence
and which we
can taste indeed but never know There all
lovers lose themselves in the consummation
o f that experience at wh i ch our fragmentary
intuitions hint
The active and fertile aspect of the Divine
Nature is manifested in differentiation f o r
Ruysbroeck the Catholic in the Trinity of
Persons as dened by Christian theology
The sta tic and absolute aspect is the calm
and glorious U nity of the Godhead which
he nds beyond and within the Trinity the
fathomless Ab y ss that i s t h e B eing o f God ,
.

C R

H I S D O T I NE OF G OD

61

idea familiar t o Indian my sticism and


implicit in Christian Neoplatonism which
governed all Me ister Ec kh a r t s speculations
upon the Divine Nature There is sa y s
Ruysbroeck in o n e of his most Ec kh a r t i a n
passages
a distinction and differentia
tion accor di ng to o u r reason between God
and the Godhead between action and rest
The fruitful nature o f the Persons o f whom
is the Trinity in Unity and U nity in Trinit y
ever worketh in a living differentiation
But the S imple Being of God according to
the nature thereof is an Eternal Rest of
God and of all created things
In differentiating the three great aspects
o f the Divine Life
as known by the love
and thou ght of man Ruysbroeck keeps
close to formal theology ; though investing
its academic language with new and deep
signicance and constantly remindi ng us
that such language even at its best can
never get beyond the region o f image and
similitude or provide more than an imperfect
reection of the O ne who is neither This
nor That
O n his lips credal denitions
are perpetually passing over from the arid
region of theological argument to the fruitful
o ne
O f spiritual experience There they
become songs as new as the song heard
by the Apocalyptist real channels of light
which S how the mind things that it never
Th Tw l
B g i n
x
iv
p
!

ah

e ve

es , c a

RU YS BR O ECK

62

guessed before For the r e born man


they have a fresh a n d immortal me a ning ;
because that river of grace of which he
perpetually speaks as p our i ng into the heart
opened towards the Innite t r a n s gu r e s
and irradiates them T hus the illumi n ated
mind knows in the Father not a conf usingly
anthropomorphic metaphor but the uniquely
vital S ource and unconditioned O rigin o f
all things in whom o u r life and being is
begun
He is the S trengt h and Power
Creator Mover K eeper Beginning and End
1
Cause a nd Existence of all creatures
Further the intuition of the mystic discerns
i n the S o n the Eternal Word and fathom
less Wi sdom and Truth perpetually generated
of the Father shining forth in the world o f
conditions : the Pattern or Archetype o f
creation and of life the image of God which
the universe reects back before the face
o f the Absolute the Eternal Rule incarnate
in Christ And this same light wherein
we see God also shows t o the enlightened
mind the veritable character o f the Holy
S pirit ;
the Incomprehensible Love and
Generosity O f the Divine Nature which
emanates in an eternal procession from the
mutual contemplation o f Father and S o n
f o r these two Persons are always hungry
for love
The Holy S pirit is the source
of the Divine vitality immanent in the uni
-

Th e S pi r i tu a l

M a r r i a ge li b i i
,

c a p.

x xx

v ii

C R

HI S D O T I NE OF G OD

63

verse It is an o u t o w i ng torrent o f Good


which streams through all heavenly spirits
it is a Flame of Fire that consumes all in
the O ne ; it is also the S park of tran
The Spirit
s c e n d e n c e latent in man s soul
i s the personal Grace t h e impersonal side
of that energetic Love which enfolds a n d
penetrates all life ; and all this may be
perceived and beheld inseparable and
without division in the S imple Nature o f
the Godhead
The relations which form the character
o f these Three Persons exist in an eternal
distinction for that world o f conditions
wherein the human soul is immersed and
where things happen in some wise
There
from the embrace of the Father and S o n
and the o u t o w i ng of the Spirit i n waves
of endless love all cre ated things are born
and Go d by His grace and His death r e
creates them and adorns them with love
and goodness and draws them back t o
their source This is the circling course o f
the Divine life process
from goodness
through goodness to goodness described by
Dionysius the Areopagite But beyond and
above this plane of Divine differentiation
is the superessential world transcending all
conditions inaccessible to thought the
measureless solitude of the Godhead where
God possesses Himself in j oy
This is the
.

0p

ci t

i bi d

RU Y SB R O ECK

64

ultimate world of the mystic d i scerned b y


intuition and love
i n a simple seeing
beyond reason and without consideration
Eternal Now withou t
There within the
either before or after released from the
storm of succession things happen indeed
yet in no wise
There
we can speak
no more of Father Son and Holy Spirit
nor of any creature ; but only of o n e Being
which is the very substance o f the Divine
Persons There were we all o n e before our
creation ; for this is our s up er es s enc e
There the Godhead is i n simple essence
without activity ; Eternal Rest U nc o n
d i t i o n e d Dark the N ameless Being
the
S u per es s en c e of all created things and the
simple and innite Bliss of God and of all
1
Saints
Ruysbroeck here brings us to the position
of Dante in the last canto of the P a r a di s o
w h en transcending those partial a ppr e h en
sions of Reali t y which are gured by the
River of Becoming and the Rose of Beati
tude he penetrated to the swift vision of
that Eternal Light which only in Itself

abideth
discerned best by man under
the image of the three circles yet in its
profound and clear substance i n divisibly
O ne
The S imple light of th i s Being is limit
less i n its immensity and tr a nscending
,

Th e S ev en D egr ees

L o v e,

c a p.

xi v

C R I NE

H IS D O T

OF G OD

65

form includes and embr a ces the unity o f


the Divine Persons and the soul with all
its faculties ; and this t o such a point that
it envelopes and irradiates bo th the natural
tendency o f o u r ground [i e its dynamic

movement t o God the River ! and the


fruitive adherence of Go d a n d all those who
are united with Him in this Light [i e

Eternal Being the Rose ! And this is the


union o f God and the souls that love Him
,

Th e K i ngd o m o f G o d

L o v er s ,

ca

p xxix
.

CHAP T E R I V
HI S

O CTR I N E OF

wa s b
r will

M AN

G
r a c e , 1 8 a c c o mpl i s h e d
e un
Th a t wh i c h
g
l
n
o
d
w
r
k
m
i
e
t
h
a
h
e
o
t
o
t
t
s
G ra c e a nd F e e
;
n
s e a r a t e l , s i mul t a n e o u s l
o t s u c c e s s i v e l , i n e a c h a nd
p
ER
RD
B
S
T
a l l o f t h e ir
r o c es s e s
p

by

NA

by

concept o f the Nature of God whi ch


w e have traced through i ts three phases
o u t from the unchanging O ne t o the active

Persons a nd b a ck to the O ne again gives


us a clue to R u ys b r o ec k s i dea of the nature
and desti ny O f man In m an both aspects
active and fruitive are
o f Divine Reality
should be reected ; for Go d is the
or
Living Pattern o f Cre a t i on
who h a s
i mpressed His image o n each soul and in
every adult spir it the character of that
i mag e must be brought from the hiddenness
and realised Destined to be wholly real
though yet in the making there is in man
a latent Divine likeness a spark o f the
pr i mal re Created f o r union with God
already in Eternity th a t union is a fact
The creature is in Br a hma and Brahma
TH E

66

C R I NE

HIS DO T

OF M A N

the creature they are ever distinct yet


ever united says the Indian mystic Were
it translated into Christian language it is

probable that this thought which does no t

inv olve pantheism would have been found


acceptable by Ruysbroeck ; for the inter
penetration yet eternal distinction Of the
h u man and Divine spirits is the central fact
of his universe Ma n he thinks is already
related i n a threefold manner to his Innite
we have o u r bei ng in Him as
S ource ; for
the Fat her we contemplate Him as does
the S o n we ceaselessly tend t o return t o Him
as does the Spirit
The rst property of the soul is a na ked
Thereby do we
bei ng devoid o f all image
resemble and are united t o the Father and
His nature D i vine
This is the ground of
the soul perpetually referred t o b y mystics
of the Ec kh a r t i a n S chool ; the bare still
place to which consciousness r etreats in
introversion image o f the static and absolute
aspect o f Reality
The second property
might be called the hi gher u nd er s ta nd
It i s a mirror o f light
i ng o f the soul
wherein we receive the S o n of God the
Eternal Truth By this light we are like
unto Him ; but in the act o f receivi ng we
are o n e with Him
This is the power o f
knowing Divine things by intuitive c o m
prehension man s fragmentary share in the
character of the Log o s o r Wisdom of

1 8 In

'

RU Y S BR O ECK

68

thir d proper ty we call the


It i s the i nward and
s p a r k o f the sou l
natural tendency of the s oul towar ds its
Source ; and here do we receive the Holy
By th i s i nward
S pirit the C h ar i ty o f God
tendency we are like the Holy Sp i r it ; but
i n the act o f receiving we become o ne spirit
1
Here the D i vine
and o ne love with God
image shows itself i n its i mmanent and
dyn a mic a spect as the internal push whi ch
dr i v e s Creation back to the Father s heart
Th e soul then i s as Julian of Norwich
said
m a de Tr i ni ty like to the unm a de
Blessed Tr inity
Reciproc a lly there i s in
the Eternal World the uncreated Pattern

or
Archetype of man his Platonic i dea
Now m an mus t b ri ng fr om i ts hiddenness the
latent likeness the germ of D i v i ne huma n i ty
t h at is in him and develop it until it r eal i ses
the Platonic i dea
a ch i eving thus the
implicit truth of his own n atur e a s i t exists
in the mind o f God This a ccor d i ng to
Ruysbroeck i s the whol e ar t a nd obj ect of
the spiritual life ; th i s actualisation of the
etern al s i de o f hum a n nature a tr o phied i n

the maj ority of men the i nnate Ch r i s t l i


ness in v i rtue of wh i ch w e ha v e p ower to
become Sons o f God
Lo ! t hus a re we all one with God i n
our Eternal Ar chetype which i s Hi s Wisdom
who hath p ut on the nature of u s all An d
God

Th e

Th e

M i r r o r o f E ter na l S a l v a ti o n

c a p. v ii

C R

H I S D O T I NE OF MAN

69

although we are alrea dy one wi th Him


therein by t h at putting o n of o u r nature
we must also be like God in grace and virtue
if we would nd ourselves o n e with Him in
o u r Eternal Archetype which is Himself
U nder the stimulus o f D ivine Love per
l
l
e
beating
in
o
n
him
feeding
per
t
u
a
p
y
l
e
t
l
o
u
on
the
substance
God
per
a
f
p
y
l
e
t
u
l
o
t
o
renewed
and
reborn
ever
a
n
p
y
higher levels through the V ivifying contact
of reality man must grow up i nto the
superessential life o f complete unity with
the Tr a nscendent
only the
There
no t
triune a spect but the dual character o f Go d
is r epro d uced in him reconciled i n a syn
thesis beyond the span o f thought ; and

he becomes deiform
both acti v e and
fruitive ever at work and ever at rest
a t once a deni z en o f Eternity and o f Time

Every a spect o f his being love intellect and

will is to be invaded and enhanced by t h e


new life givi ng life ; it sh all condition and
enrich his correspondences with the sense
world as well as with the world o f soul
Ma n is not here invited t o leave the active
life for the contemplative but to make
the active life perfect within the contempla
tive ; carrying u p these apparent opposites
to a point at which they become one It is
o ne o f R u s b r o e c k s characteristics that he
y
as few others followed mysticism o u t t o
,

Th e Twel v e B gu i nes ,

ca

i
x
p
.

RU YS B ROECK

70

this i ts last stage ; where it i ssues i n a


balanced divine hum a n life The energetic
Love o f God which ows perpetually forth
from the Ab y ss o f Being to the farthest
limits o f the universe enlightening and
quickening where it goes and turns a gai n
home as a strong tide drawing all things
t o their O rigin
here attains equilibrium ;
the effort o f creation ach i eves its aim
N o w this aim this goal i s already r e al i sed
within God s nature f o r there all perfection
eternally I S But to man it is super n atur e
to achieve i t he must tra nscend the world
o f conditions in which he lives according to
the esh and grow up to fresh levels o f
life Un d er the v a riou s im ages o f sonship
marriage and transmut ation this is the
View of human destiny which Ruysbroeck
states again and a gain t he creat i ve ev o lu
tion of the soul His insist ence on the
completeness o f the Divine U nion to which
the soul a tt a ins in this nal phase his
perpetual resort to the dangerous language o f
d e i c a t i o n in the eff ort towards describing
it seems a t rst sight to expose him t o the
charge of pantheism ; and as a matter of
fact h a s done so in the past Y et he is
most caref u l t o guard himself at every point
against this misinterpretation o f his V ision
O f life
In his view by its growth towa r ds
God persona lity is n o t lost but r a i sed to
a n ever h igher plane Even in that ecst ati c
,

C R I NE

H IS D O T

M AN

OF

71

fruition o f Eternal Life in which the spirit


passes above the state o f Union to t he state
o f U nity
and beyond the Persons to the
One the eternal otherness o f Creator and
created is not overpassed ; but as in the
perfect fullment o f love utter fusion and
clear differentiation mysteriously c o exist
It is he says not a mergence but a mutual
inhabitation
In his attempts towards the
description o f this state he borrows the
language o f S t Bernard most orthodox o f
the mystics ; language which goes back to
primitive Christian times Th e Divine light
love and being he tells us penetrates and
drenches the surrendered naked receptive
soul as re does the iron as s u nlight d o es
the air
and even as the sunshine and
the air the iron and the re so are these
two terms distinct yet united
The iron
doth not become re n o r the re iron ; b ut
each retaineth its substance a nd its nature
S o likewise the spirit of man doth not
become God but is God formed and knoweth
itself breadth and length and height and
1
depth
Again
this union is i n Go d
through grace and o u r homeward tending
love Y et even here does the creature feel
a distinction and otherness between itself
and God in its inward ground
The
dualistic r elation o f lover and beloved
,

Th e Twel v e B gu i n es , c a p xi v .
Th e B o o k o f Tr u th , c a p xi
.

RU Y SBR O E C K

72

though ra i sed to another p o w er and gl or y


is an eternal o n e
I have spoken o f R u y s b r o ec k s c o nce p t o f
God h i s closely related concep t of man s
soul ; the threefold di a gr a m O f Reality
within which these terms are placed t he
doctrine o f transcendence he deduced there
from But such a diagr am cannot expr ess
t o us the rich content the deeply personal
ch aracter o f his experience a nd his know
ledge I t is no more than a m a p of the
living l a nd he has explored a formal picture
of the Living O ne whom he has seen without
sight For him the landscape lived and
owered in endless variety o f maj esty and
sweetness the Person drew nea r i n my s t er i
o u s communion
and gave to him as food
His very life
All that this mean t and must mean f o r
our
deeper knowledge o f Reality and of
man s intuitive contacts with the D ivine
Life we must nd if we can in his doctrine o f
Love Love is the very self hood o f Go d
says Ruysbroeck in strict Johannine lan
guage His theology is above all the theo
logy o f the Holy Spirit the i mmanent
Divine Energy and Love It is Love which
breaks down the barrier between nite and
innite life But Love as he understands
it has little in common with the feeling
state to which m a ny of t h e female mystics
hav e gi v en that august name For him it
,

H IS

C R INE

DO T

OF

MA N

73
'

is har dl y an emotional word at all and


never a sentimental one ; rather the title
of a mighty force a h oly energy th at lls

the universe the essential acti v i ty o f God


Sometimes he describes it under the antique
imagery o f Light ; imagery which is more
than a metaphor and is connected wi th that
veritable consciousness of enhanced radiance
as well in the outer as in the inner world
experienced by the illuminated mystic
Again it is the life giving Life hidden in
God and the substance o f our souls which
the self nds and appropriates ; the whole
J O h a nni n e trilogy brought into play to
express its meaning for heart intellect and
will This Love in fact is the dynamic
power which S t Augustine comp ared with
gra vitation
drawing all things to their
own place and which Dante saw binding
the multiplicity o f the universe into o ne
Al l R u ys b r o ec k s images for it turn o n the
idea of force It is a raging re a storm a
ood He speaks of it in o n e great passage
as playing like lightning between God and
the soul
Whoev e r will look at William Blake s
great picture o f the Cre a tion of Adam may
gain some idea o f the terric yet innitely
compassionate character inherent in this
concept o f Di vine Love t h e agony passion
beauty sternn ess and pity o f the primal
generating force This love is eternally
,

RU YS BR O ECK

74

'

giving and t a k i ng i t is i ts v ery p r o perty

says Ruysbroeck
ever to give a nd ev er

to receive
p our i ng its dower o f energy into
the soul and drawing o u t from that sou l
new vitali t y new love new surrender
Hung ry love
generous love
stormy
love he calls it again and aga i n
S treaming
out from the heart o f Reality the impersona l
a spect of the very Spirit of God its cre ati v e
touch e v okes in man once he becomes con
scious o f it an answering storm o f love
The whole o f our human growth wi th i n the
spiritual order is conditioned by the quality
of this response ; by the will the industry
the courage with which man acce pts his
p art in the Divi ne give and take
Th at me a sureless L ove which is Go d
Himself dwells i n the pure deeps of our
spirit like a burning b razier of coal And
it throws forth brilliant and ery sp arks
which st i r and enkindle heart and senses
will and desire a nd all the powers of the
sou l wi th a re of l ove ; in a storm a rage
a measureless f ury o f love These be the
weapons with which we ght against the
terrible and immense Love o f Go d who
would consume all l oving spirits and swallow
them in Himself
Love arms us with its
o wn gifts
and claries o u r reason and
commands counsels and advises us to oppose
Him to ght against Him and to maintain
against Him o u r right t o lo v e so long as we
,

H I S D O CT R I NE

OF

MA N

75

ma y
In the spiritu a l realm g l v mg and
receiving are o ne act
for Go d is an
ocean that ebbs and ows ; and it i s only
by opposing love t o love by self donation t o
His mysterious movements that the soul
appropriates new force invigorating and
fertilising it afresh Thus and thus alone
it lays hold on eternal life ; sometimes
sacramentally under external images and
a ccidents ; sometimes mystically in the com
munion o f deep prayer
Every time we
think with love O f the Well beloved He is

anew o u r meat and drink


more we too
are His f o r the love between G o d and man
is a mutual love and desire As we lay hold
upon the D ivine Life devour and assimilate
it so in t h at very act the Divine Life
devours us and knits u s up into the my stical
Body o f Reality
Thou shalt not change
Me into thine o wn subst a nce as thou dost
change the food o f thy esh but thou shalt
be changed into Mine said the Spirit o f
God to S t Augustine ; and his Flemish
descendant announces this same mysterious
principle o f life with grea ter richness and
beauty
It is the nature o f love ever t o give and
t o take t o love and to be loved and these
two things meet in whomsoever loves Thus
the love of Christ is both avid and generous
as He devours u s so He would feed us
!

Th e

M i r r o r o f E ter nal S a l v a ti o n

c a p.

vi i

RUY S B R O ECK

76

If He absorbs us u tterly int o Him self i n


1
return He gives u s His very self again
This is but another aspect o f that great
inbreathing and outbreathing o f the D ivine
nature which governs the relation between the
Creator and the ux o f life for R u y s b r o ec k s
Chri st ological language a lways carr i es wi th
it the i dea of the Logos the Tr uth a nd
Wi sdom of De ity a s revealed i n the w orld

of
conditions not only i n the historical
J esus but also i n the eternal generation of
the S on S t Francis o f Assisi had said that
Divine Love perpetually swings between
a nd reconciles two mighty opposites
What
l
is God
and What am I
F o r Ruy s
broeck too that Love is a unifying power
mani fest ed i n motion itself
an outgo i ng
attraction which dr ags u s o u t of ourselves
a nd calls u s to be melted and na u g h t e d i n
2
t he Unity
a nd all h i s deepest thoughts
of it are expressed i n terms o f movement
The relation between the soul and the

Absolute then is a love relation as in


fact all the mystics have declared it to be
Ma n that imperfectly re a l thing h a s an
inherent tendency towards Go d the O nl y
Reality Al ready p ossessed o f a life within
the worl d o f conditions h i s unquiet he art
reaches o u t to wards a world that transcends
conditions Ho w shall he achiev e that world
,

0 p ci t , c a p v i i
T h e S pa r kl i ng S to ne,
.

c ap

H IS

C RIN E OF

M AN

DO T

77

In the s a me way say s Ruysbroeck as the


child achieves the world o f manhood : by
the double method of growth and educa
tion the balanced action o f the organism
and its environment In its development
and its needs spirit conforms to the great
laws o f natural life Taught by the voices
o f the forest and that inward Presence w h o
spoke without utterance in his soul he
is quick t o recogni se the close p a rallels
between nature and grace His stor y of
the mystical life is the story of birth growth
adolescence matur ity a steady progress de
pendent o n food and nurture on the brooks
of
grace which ow from the Living
Fountain and bring perpetual renovation
t o help the wise disciplines and voluntary
c h o I c es that brace and pur ge o u r expanding
wi ll and love
R u ys b r o ec k s universe like th a t of K abir
and certain other great m y stics has three
orders : Becoming Being God Parallel
with this he distinguishes t hr ee great stages
in the soul s achievement of complete r e
ality : the Active the Interior and the
Superessential Life sometimes symbolised
by the conditions of S ervant Friend and
S o n o f Go d
These however must be r e
garded rather as divisions made for con
v e ni en c e of description
answering to those
divisions which thought has made in the
in di visible fa ct of the universe th a n as
,

RU Y SB R OECK

78
'

d isti ncti ons i nher ent i n t h e reality of t h i ngs


The sp i ritu a l life has the t rue character of
duration ; i t i s one indivisible tendency
and movement towards our source and
home i n which t h e pas t i s ne v er left behind
but i ncor p orated i n the l arger p r esent
In the Active Li fe the pr i mary i nteres t
i s et h i cal Ma n here puries his normal
hu m a n cor respondence s with the world of
sense approximates his will to the Will of
Here h i s contacts w ith the Di v i ne
Go d
take place wit hin that world of sense and
by means
In the Inter i or Li fe the
i nterest e mbra ces the intellect up on which
i s now conferred the vi si on o f Reality As
the Active Life corresponded to the world of
Becoming this Life corresponds wi t h the
supersensu al w orld of Be i ng w here the
self s contacts w i th the D i v i ne take place
without means In the Superessent ia l Life
the self h a s tr a nscended the intellectual
pl a ne and entered into the very heart of
Re al ity ; where she does not behold but
has fruition of God i n one life and one love
Th e O bvious parallel between these three
stages a nd the tradition a l threefold way
of
Purgation Illumination and U nion is
howev er n o t so exact as i t appear s Many
of the characters of the Unitive Way ar e
present in R u ys b r o e c k s second life
and
his third life takes the sou l to heights
of fruition wh i ch fe w a mongst e v en the
.

HIS

C R I NE

O F M AN

DO T

79

'

gr e ates t unitive mystics have attained or


described
A
When
man
st
feels
upon
his
so
u
l

r
( )
the touch o f the Divine Light at once
and in a moment o f time his will is ch anged ;
tu rned in the direction o f Reality and
away from unreal obj ects o f desir e He
is in fact converted in the highest and
most accurate sense o f that ill u sed word
S eeing the D ivine he wants the D i vi ne
though he may n o t yet understand h i s
own cr aving ; for the scrap o f D ivine Life
within him has emerged into the eld o f con
and recognises its home Then
s c i o u s n es s
as it were God a nd the soul rush together
and o f their encounter springs lov e Th i s
is the New Birth ; the bringi ng forth of the
S o n in the gr ound o f the soul its bapt i sm
in the fountain o f the Life giving Life
The new force and tendency received
i nto the self begins to act o n the per i phery
a nd thence works towards the centre of
exist ence Fi rst t hen it attacks the ordin
ary temporal life in all its departments
It pours in fresh waves of energy which
confer new knowledge and hatred o f sin
purify character bring fresh virtues into
being It rearranges the consciousness about
new and higher centres gathering u p all
the faculties into o ne si mple state o f atten
tion to God
Thence results the highest life
which is attainable by nature In it m a n
.

RU YSBR O E C K

80

i s u nited wi th

through means acts i n


obedience to the dictates O f Divine Love
and in accordance with the tendency o f
the Di v i ne Will and becomes the Faith
ful S ervant o f the Transcendent Or der
Plainly the Active Life thus considered
has much in common wi th t h e Purgati v e
Way of ascetic science
B
hen
this
growth
has
r
eached
i
ts
W
( )
term when Free will we ars the crown o f
Charity and rules as a K ing over the soul
the awakened and enhanced consciousness
begins to crave a closer contact with the
spiritual : that unmediated and direct
contact which is the essence of the Con
t e mpl a t i v e o r Interior Life and i s achieved
i n the deep state o f recollection called
unitive prayer
Here voluntary a nd pur
i
o
s
e
o
t
e
d
u
c
a
i
n
takes
its
place
by
the
v
p
side of organic development The way
called by most ascetic writers Illu mina

tion
the state Of p r ocient i n monast i c

parlance includes the tr a i ni ng of the self


in the cont emplati v e art as well as its
r
o
w
t
h
i
n
will
and
love
Th
i
s
training
g
braces and puri es intellect a s the dis
c i l i ne s o f the acti v e life puried will and
p
sense It teaches introversion o r the t u rn
ing inward o f the attention from the dis
tractions O f the sense world ; the cleansing
of the mirror of thought thronged with
conf u sing i mages ; the production o f that
Go d

HIS

C R

D O T I NE

OF

MAN

81

silence in which the music of the Innite


can be heard N o r is the Active Life here
left b ehind ; it is carried up to and i n
cluded in the new deepened activities of the
self which are no longer ruled by the laws
but by the quickeni ng counsels o f Go d
Of this new life interior courage is a rst
necessity It is no easy appropriation o f
supersensual graces but a deeper entering
into the mystery o f life a richer more
profound participation in pain effort as
well as j oy There must be no settling
down into a comfortable sense o f the Divine
Presence no reliance on the O ne Act
bu t an incessant process of change r e
newal r e emergence Sometimes Ruysbroeck
appears to see this central stage in the
spiritual life process in terms o f upward
growth toward transcendent levels ; some
times in terms of recollection the steadfast
pressing inwards of consciousness towards
that bare ground of the soul where it unites
with imma n ent Reality and nds the
Divine Life surging up like a living fountain
from the deeps This double way of con
c ei v i n
one
process
is
puzzling
for
us
but
;
g
a proof that for Ruysbroeck no o ne concept
could suggest the whole truth and a useful
reminder o f the sy mbolic character of all
these maps and itineraries of the spiritual
life
As the sun grows in power wit h the passing
.

82

U YSBR O E C K

seasons so the soul now exp er i e nces a st e a dy


increase in the power and splendour o f the
Divine Light as it a scends in the he av ens
of consciousness and p ours its heat and
ra diance into all the faculties o f ma n The
i n beati ng of this energy and light brings
the self int o the tempestuous heats o f high

sum mer or full illumination the fury of


love most fertile and danger ous epoch o f
the spiritual y ear Thence obedient to
those laws of movement that double rhythm
which K abir de
o f renunciation and love
t e c t e d at the heart O f the universal melody
it enters on a negative period of psychic
fatigue and spiritual destitution ; the dark
night of t h e soul
The sun descends i n the
heavens the ardours o f love grow cold
Wh en this stage is fully established says
Ruysbroeck the S eptember of the soul is

come ; the harvest and vintage


raw

material Of the life giving Eucharist


is
ripe The o w er i ng time of spiritual j oy and
beauty is as nothing in its value for life com
pared wi th this still autumnal period o f true
fec u ndity in which man is at l a st afr med
in the spiritual life
This then is the curve of the self s growth
Side by side with it runs the other curve
of deliberate training : the education by
which our wandering attention o u r di ffused
undisciplined consciousness is sharpened and
focussed upon Realit y This training i s needed
,

HIS

C RI NE

DO T

OF

M AN

83

by intellect and feeling ; but most of all by


the wi ll which Ruysbroeck like the great
English mystics regards as the gathering
point of personality the spiritu al heart
O n every page of his wr itings the r eference
t o that which the spiritual Light and Love
do f o r man is balanced by an insistence o n
that which man himself must do the choices
to be made the exercises to be performed
the tension and effort which must charac
t er i s e the mystic way until its last phase
is reached Morally these exercises consist
in progressi v e renunciations on the o n e hand
and acceptances o n the other for Love s
sake
intellectually in introversion that
turning inwards and concentration o f con
the stripping o ff o f all images
s c i o u s nes s
and emptying of the mind which is the ps y
c h o l o g i c a l method whereby human conscious
ness transcends the conditioned u niverse
to which it has become adapted and enters
the conte mplative world Man s attention to
life is to change its character as he ascends
the ladder of being Therefore the o l d attach
ments must be cut before the new attachments
can be formed This is o f course a common
place o i asceticism
and much o f Ruys
b r o ec k s teaching o n detachment self naugh t
ing and contemplation is indeed simply the
standard doctrine o f Christian asceticism seen
through a temperament
When the self has gr o wn up from the
,

RU YS BR OECK

84

active to the contemplative state of c o n


s c i o u s n es s i t is plain that his whole r elation
t o h i s environment h a s ch a nged His world is
grouped about a new centre It n o w becomes
the supreme business o f intellect to gaze upon
God the supreme business o f love to str etch
out towards Him When these twin po w ers
under the regnancy of the enhanced and
t r ained will are set towards Reality then the
human creatu re has done h i s part in the setting
up of the relation of the soul t o its S ource and
made it possible for t he music o f the Innite
to sound in him
F o r this intellectual
ga z ing and this stretching forth o f love are
two heavenly pipes sounding without the need
of t u ne or of notes ; they e v er go forward
in that Eternal Life neither stra y ing aside
nor returni ng backward again
and ever
keeping harmony and concord with the Hol y
Church for the Holy S pirit g i ves the wi nd
that s i ngs in them
Observe that tens i o n
i s here a condition o f the right employment
of both faculties and ensures that the
Divine music shall sound true ; o n e o f the
many implicit contradictions of the qu ietist
doctrine of spir i tual li mpness which w e nd
throughout R u ys b r o ec k s w orks
C
hen
the
twofold
p
rocess
of
gro
wt
h
W
( )
and educ ation has brought the self to thi s
perfection of attit u de as r egards the Spiritu al

Or der a n attitude o f true u ni on sa ys Ruys


,

Th e Twel v e B gu i nes ,

c a p.

xi v

HIS

C R INE

DO T

OF M A N

85

broeck but n o t yet of the unthinkable u ni ty

which is o u r goal man h a s done all that he


can do of himself His Interior Life is com
l
e t e and his being is united through grace
p
with the Being o f God in a relation which
is t h e faint image o f the mutual relat i ons o f
the Divine Persons ; a conscious sonship
nding expression in the mutual interchange
This existence
o f the spirit o f will and love
is rooted in grace the unconditioned life
force intermediary between ourselves and
God as the active stage was rooted in
Y et there is something beyond
nature
this As beyond the Divine Persons there
is the Superessential U nity of the Godhead
so beyond the plane of B e ing ( Wes en ) Ruys
broeck apprehends a reality which is more
than Being ( Over wes en ) Man s spirit having
relations with every grade of reality has
also in its fathomless ground a p otential
relation with this superessential sphere and
until this be actual i sed he i s not wholly
real nor wholly deif o r m R u y s b r o ec k s
most original contribution to the history of
my sticism is his description of this supreme
state ; in which the human soul becomes
truly free and is made the hidden child
o f God
Then only do we discern the glory
of
our
full grown human nature ; when
participating fully in t h e mysterious double
life of God the twofold action o f true love
we have p erfect fruition o f Hi m as Eternal
,

RU Y SBR O E C K

86

Rest a nd p erfect sharing i n that outgo i ng


love which is Hi s eternal Work : G o d with
God o ne love and one l i fe i n His eterna l
1
manifestation
Th e consumm a t i on of the mystic way
then represents not merely a state o f
ecstatic contemplation escape from the
stream o f succession the death o f self ho od
j oyous self immersion in the Ab y ss ; not
merely the enormously enhanced state of
creative activity and energetic love which the
mystics call divine fecundi ty
but bo th
the ux and reux o f supreme Reality It
is the synthesis o f contemplation and action
of Be i ng and Becoming : the discovery at

last o f a clue inexpressible indeed but

really held and experienced t o the myster y


which most deeply torments us the link
between our life o f d uration and the Eternal
Life of Go d This is the Seventh Degree of
Love
noblest and highest that can be
realised i n the life o f time o r o f eternity
That p r ocess of enhancement whereby th e
self in its upward progress carries with it
all that h a s been attained before here nds
its completion The active life of Becoming
and the essential life of Being are no t all
From bey ond the Innite the Innite
comes sa i d the Indian ; and his Christian
brother in parallel terms declar es that
beyond the Essence i s the S u per e s s enc e o f
,

Th e Twel v e B gu i nes ,

ca

iii
x
p
.

HIS

DO

CTR I N E O F

MAN

87

His simple or syn thetic unity It


is for fruition o f this that man is destined ;
yet he does not leave this world for that
world but kn ows them as o ne Totally
surren dered to the double current o f the
universe t h e in breathing and outbreathing
of the Spirit of God
his love and fruition
live between labour and rest
He goes up
and down the mountain o f vision a living
willing tool wherewith God works
Hence
to enter into restful fruition and come forth
again in good works and to remain ever

o n e with God
this is the thing that I would
say Even as we open o u r e s h l y eyes to
see and shu t them again so quickly that we
do not even feel it thus we die into God we
live o f God and remain ever o ne with God
Therefore we must come forth in the a c t i v i
ties o f the sense life and again r e enter in
love and cling to God in order that we may
1
ever remain one with Him without change
Al l perfect lives says Ruysbroeck conform
to this pat t ern follow this curve ; though
such perfect lives are rare amongst men
They are the fruit not o f volition but of
vocation ; of the mysterious operations o f

the Divine Light which perpetually crying


through the universe t h e unique and fathom
less word Behold behold
and there
with giving utterance to itself and all other

things
yet evokes only in some men an
n D g
Th S
x
iv
fL
p
Go d ,

ev e

e r ees o

ov e, c a

RU Y SBR O E C K

88

nswer i ng movement of consc i ou sness the


deliberate surrender which condit i ons the
new power o f response and of growth
To this divine vision but few men can
attain because o f their o wn u n t nes s and
because of the darkness o f that Light whereby
we see : and therefore no o ne S hall thor
oughly understand this perception by means
of any scholarship o r by their own acuteness
o f comprehension
For all words and all
th a t men may learn and u nderstand in a
creaturely fashion is foreign t o this and fa r
below the truth that I mean To under
stand and lay hold o f God as He is in Hi mself

above all images this is to be Go d wi th Go d


without intermediary o r any difference that
might become an intermediary o r an obstacle
And therefore I beg each o n e who can
neither understand this nor feel it b y the
way of spiritual union that he be not
1
grieved thereby a nd let it be as it is
I end this chapter by a reference to certai n
key words frequent in R u y s b r o ec k s works
which are sometimes a sou rce o f difculty to
his readers These words are nearly always
his names for inward experiences He uses
them in a poetic a nd artistic manner
evocative rather than exact ; and we in
try ing to discover their meaning mu st never
forget the coloured fringe of suggestion
which they carry for the myst i c and the
i
i g li b
Th S pi i t l AI
p
a

ua

a rr a

e,

ca

H IS

DO

C TR I N E O F

MA N

89

poet and which is a true part o f the message


he intends them to convey
The r st of these words is F R U I T I O N
Fr uition a concept which Eu c ken s philo
sophy has brought back into current thought
represents a total attainment complete and
permanent participation and possession It
is an absolute state transc e nding all succes
sion and it is applied b y Ruy sbroeck to the
absolute character of the S pirit s life in God
which though it seem to the surface con
s c i o u s n e s s a perpetuall y renewed enco u nter
is in its ground fruitive and u n
o f love
conditioned a timeless self immersion in the
Dark the glorious and essential O neness
Thus he speaks of fruitive love
fru itive
possession as opposed to striving dynamic
love partial progressive and conditioned
possession Perfect contemplation and lov
ing dependence are the eternal fruition o f
God
the B ea t i c Vision o f theology
Where we are one with God without inter
mediary beyond all sep a ration ; there is God
o u r fruition and His own in an eternal and
1
fathomless bliss
N ext perhaps in the power o f provoking
misunderstanding is the wei ght attached b y
Ruysbroeck to the adj ective S I M P L E This
word which constantly recurs in his de
s c r i t i o n s of spiritual states always conveys
p
the sense O f wholeness completeness syn
,

Th e Twel v e B g u i nes ,

ca

x
p vi.
.

RUY S B ROECK

90

thesis n ot o f poverty thinness subtract i on


It is the white light in which all the colours
the spectrum are included and fused
of
Simple Union
Simple Contemplation

Simple Light
all these mean the total u n
di fferentiated act o r perception from which
our analytic minds subtract aspects
In
simplicity will I unite with the S imple O ne
said K abir S o Ruys broeck :
We behold
His face in a simple seeing beyond reason
and witho u t consideration
Another cause o f di fculty to those u n
familiar with the mystics is the constant
reference to B A R E N E S S or N U D I TY especially
in descr i pt i ons o f t he contemplative act
This is o f course but one example of that

negative method of suggest i on darkness


bareness desolation divine ign orance the

rich nothing the naked thought


which
is a stock device of myst i cism and was prob
ably taken by R u ysbroeck from Dionysius
the Areopagite It represents rst the
bewi ldering emptiness and nakedness of con
s c i o u s n e s s when introduced into a universe
that tr a nscends our ordinary conceptual
world secondly the necessity of such tran
s c e n d en c e o f emptying the eld of conscious
ness o f every vain imagining if the self
is to have contact with the Reality which
these veil
Wi t h the d i st i nction between Essence
W
e
e
and
u
e
I
have
s
n
S
e
e
s
e
s
n
c
e
e
w
n
v
es
r
O
r
(
)
(
)
p
,

H IS D O

C TR I N E O F

MAN

91

alrea dy dealt ; and this will appear more


clearly when we consider R u y s b r o ec k s
second and third stages of the mystic
life
There r emains the great pair of oppos ites
fundamental f o r his thought called in the
Flemish vernacular Wi s e and Unwi s e and
generally rendered by translators as Mode
and Modeless
Wherever possible I have
replaced these tasteless La t i nisms by the Old
English equivalents in some wise and in
occasionally by conditioned and
n o wise
unconditioned t h ough perhaps the collo
i
somehow
and
nohow
would
be
yet
u
a
l
q
more exactly expressive Now this pair of
opposites is psychological rather t h an meta
physical and has to do with the character
i s t i c phenomena of contemplation
It indi
cates the difference between the universe
of the normal man living as the servant or
friend of God within the temporal order
and the universe of the true contemplative
the hidden child
The knowledge and
love o f the rst is a conditioned knowledge
and love Ever ything which happens to
him happens in some wise
it has attach
ments within his conceptual world is medi
ated to him by symbols and i mages which
intellect can grasp
Th e simple ascent
into the N ude and the U ncondition e d is
unknown and unloved o f h i m
it is thro u gh
and amongst his ordinary mental furniture

RU Y S B R OE CK

92

th at he obtains his contacts wi th Reality


But the knowledge and love of the second
his cont a cts transcend the categories o f
thought He has escaped alike from the
tyrannies and comforts o f the world o f
images has made the
ascent into the
Nought where all i s yet in no wise
Th e power of the understanding i s lifted
up to that which is beyond all conditions
and its seeing is in no wi se being wi thou t
manner and i t is neither thus n o r thus
1
neither here nor there
This is the d irect
unmediated world o f sp i ritual intuition ;
where t h e self touches a Reality that has not
been passed through the lters o f sense and
thought There man achieves a love a
vision an activi ty which are wayless yet
far more valid than anything that c a n be
tted into the framework of our conditioned
world
In
l
e
nd
m
l
i
n
k
with
o
ut
b
e
t
t
s
t
e
t
e
p
y
p
s hado w f t e
Soul nd b d y transcendi ng I liv e i n t h e l f my

ac

ra c

ac

sou

L o v ed O n e

ra c

a n e w.

Thus cries the great S u poet Jal alu dd i n ;


and the suggestion which his words convey
is per h aps as close as speec h can come t o
what Ru y sbroeck meant by Onwi s e The
change o f consciousness which initiates man

into this inner yet unbounded world the


w orld that is unwalled to use his o wn
,

Th e T welv e B egu i nes ,

ca

'

HIS DO

CT R I NE

OF

MAN

93

favourite metaphor i s the essence

of

con
t e mpl a t i o n ; which consists not in looking
at strange mysteries bu t in a movement to
fresh levels shut to the analytic intellect
open t o adventurous love There without
any amazement the self can know in no
wise that which it can never understand
C n t e mpl t i n i
kn wi ng t h t i s i n no w i
F
e
d w l l i ng b e t h e R a son
N ev er
Re
n
n i t s i n k do w n i n t
th
An d b v i t
n th
R a son n v e r l i mb
Th e s hi n i ng f t h f Th t whi c h i i n no wi se i s a s
,

or

v er

ov

ca

ca

or

Wh e r i n s hin

ha s

no
no t
is

aso

f a i r mi r r o r ,
e
e
t h e Et e r n a l Li g h t

s e,

of

Go d

It
a t tr ib u t e s ,
A nd h e r e a l l t h e w o r k s o f Re a s o n f a i l
It is
Go d ,
Bu t i t
s ee H i m
t h e Li g h t w h e r e
Th o s e wh o w a l k i n t h e D i v i n e L i g h t o f i t
Dis c o v er
t h e ms e l v e s t h e Un w a l l e d
Th a t w h i c h
in
e , i s a b o v e t h e Re a s o n , n o t
wi t h o u t i t :
It b o
ng
al l
w i t h o u t a ma z e me n t
Ama z eme n t
fa r b ene a t h i t :
Th e c o n t e mpl a t i v e l i f e
w i t h o u t a ma z e me n t
no t w h a t ;
Th a t wh i c h
w is e
k
in
e ,
1
Fo r i t
Th a t
b v a ll ,
i s n e i t h e r Th
.

by w e

in

e h lds

is

is

is

is a

thi

oe

no
s

no

wi s

and

is

se s

Th e Twel v e B gu i nes ,

it

cap

no w s
i s no r

vi

ii

CH A
TH E

d i sco
in us

TE

R V

I VE

A CT

I FE

now

a nd k
I f w e wo u l d
t h a t Ki n g d o m o f G o d
ve
a
d
a
l
f
h
a
i
s
l
i
w
e
m
e
t
t
wh i c h i s h i d d e n
e
,
w i t h i n, w e l l o r d e r e d w i t h o u t , a n d f u l l l e d w
t r ue
T
i mi t a t i n g C
ev er
w a y, w e c a n ,
ch ar i t
o that
u
t
t h r o u g h g r a c e , l o v e a nd v i r t u e , r a i s e o u
e
p
h
r e Go d
a nd
a e
of the
w
e
p
g
O
TH E M R R O R O F ET ER
L S LV

ust

hu s

hri s t i n

soul

liv es

virtu o u s
ith

r se lv
r e i ns
NA

s
A ATI

beginning o f man s Act iv e Life says

Ruysbroeck that uplifting of the diurnal


existence into the Divine Atmosphere which

confers on it meani ng a n d reality


is a
movement of r e sponse Grace the s ynt h e s rs
energy and will pours like
o f God s love
a great river through the universe and per
t
l
l
i
n
e
u
a
beats
upon
the
soul
When
man
y
p
consents to receive it O pens the sluices of
the heart to that living water surrenders
to it ; then he opens his heart and will
to the impact of Reality his eyes to the
Divine Light and in this energetic move
ment of acceptance begins for the rst time
to live indeed Hence it is that in the varied
ethical systems which we nd in his books

TH E

94

T HE A CT I VE

L I FE

95

a nd which describe the active crescent life


C h ristian virtue the laborious adjustment
Ruys
o f character to the V ision o f God
broeck always puts rst the V irtue o r rather
the attitude which he calls g o o d wi l l : the
voluntar y orientation o f the self in the right
direction the eager accept ance o f grace
As all growth depends upon food so all
development depends upon the
S piritual
self s appropriation o f its o wn share Of the
transcendent life force its own rill of grace
and good will breaks down the barrier which
prevents that stream from pouring into the
soul
Desire said William L a w i s everything
and d o es everything it is t h e primal motive
power Ruysbroeck too nds in desire
turned towards the best the beginning o f
human transcendence and regards willing
and loving as the essence of life B a sing
his psychology on the common medi aeval
scheme of Memory Intelligence and Will
he speaks of this last as the king o f the soul ;
dominating both the other powers and able
to gather them in its clutch force them to
attend t o the invitations and messages of
the eternal world Thus in his system the
demand upon man s industry and courage
is made from the very rst The great
mystical necessity of s elf surr e n der is S hown
t o involve not a limp acquiescence but a
deliberate and h eroic choice ; the di fcult
of

RU Y S B R O E CK

96

approximation o f o u r own thoughts a nd


desires to the thoughts and desires of Divine
Reality
When we have but one thought
and one will wi th God we are on the rst
step of the ladder o f love and O f sanctity ;
for good wi ll is the foundation of all virt ue
In The A d o r n ment of the S p i r i tu a l M a r r i age
Ruysbroeck has used the words said to the
wise and foolish virgins of the parable
Behold the bridegroom cometh ; go ye

o u t to meet him
as an epitome of the
self s relations with and reactions to Reality
First all created spirits are called to behold
God who is perpetually coming to the
world of conditions in a ce a seless procession
o f love ;
and in this seeing our happiness
consists But in order really to see a thing
we need not only light and clear sight but the
wi ll to look at it ; ever y act o f perception
demands a self giving on the seer s part
S o here we need not only the light of grace
and the open eyes of the soul but also the
Innite : our
wi ll turned towards the
attention to life the regnant fac t o f o u r
consciousness must be focussed upon eternal
things Now when we see God we cannot
but love Him and love is motion activit y
Hence this rst demand on the awakened
spirit Behold
is swiftly followed by the
second demand Go ye o u t
for the essence
o f love is generous
o u t o wi ng
expansive
.

Th e S ev en D egr ees

L o v e,

ca

i
p
.

T HE A T I VE L I FE

97

an upward and outward tendency towards


the K ingdom o f God which is God H i mself
This outgoing this concret e act o f response
will at once change and condition o u r
correspondences with and attitu d e towards
Go d ourselves and o u r neighbours ; ex
pressing itself within the world Of action

in a new ardo u r for perfection the natural


result o f the loving vision o f the Bride
groom the self s rst glimpse o f Perfect
Goodness and Truth
We observe the
continued insistence o n effort act as the
very heart o f all true self g iving to tran
s c en d ent i nterests
Whilst in the volitional life drastic r e
a dj u stments stern character building and
eager work are the expression o f good
will i n the emotional life it is felt as a
profou nd impulse to self surrender : a
loving yielding up o f the whole personality
to the inow and purging activities o f the
This good will is nought
Absolute Life
e lse
but the infuse d Love o f God which
causes him to apply himself to Divine
things and all virtues ;
when it turns
towards God it crowns the spirit with
Eternal Love and when it returns to o u t
ward thi ngs it rules as a m i stress over his
1
external good deeds
We have here then a disposition o f heart
and mind which both receives and respon d s
!

Th e

M i r r o r o f E ter na l S a l v a ti o n

c ap

RU Y SBR O E C K

98

to the mess a ges of Reality mak i ng it pos


sible f o r the self to b egin to grow in the
r ight direction to enter into possession
her i tage That completely
o f its twofold
human life o f activity and contemplation
which moves freely up and do w n the ladder
o f love betwe en the temp oral and eternal
worlds and reproduces in little the ideal
is
o f D ivine Humanity decl a red in Chr i st
the idea l towards which it i s set ; a nd
already even in this lowest phase the
double movement o f the awakened con
s c i o u s n e s s begins to S how itself
Our love
and will rmly fa stened in the Eternal
World are t o swing like a pen d ulum between
the seen and the unseen spheres ; in great
ascending arcs o f balanced adoration and
service which sh all bring a ll the noblest
element s o f human character into play
Therefore the pivoting o f life upon Divine
Reality which is the result o f good will
the setting up o f a right relation with the

universe is inevitably the r st condition


of virtue the root o f sanctity the b e
ginning Of spiritual growt h the act which
makes man free ; translating him in Ruys
b r o e c k s image from the state of the slave
to th a t o f the conscious and willing servant
of
Eternal Truth
From the hour in
which with God s help he transcends his
self hood
he feels true lov e which
o v ercomes doubt and fe a r a n d m a kes man
,

A CT I VE

T HE

L I FE

99

tru s t a nd hope ; and s o he becomes a tru e


servant and m ea ns and loves Go d i n all
that he does
S O man emerg i ng from t he shell of self

hood makes o i his o wn free choice by

his own effort his rst timid upward bea t


t o God ; and following swiftly upon it the
compensating outwa rd beat o f charity
t owards his fellow men We Observe how
tight a hold has this most transcendental
o f the mystics o n the wh o lenes s of all healthy
human life the mutu al support and inter
penetration o i the active and contemplative
powers
Ot her worldliness is decisively
contradicted from the rst
It is the
appearance o f this eager active charity
this imitation in little o f the energetic

Love o f Go d which assu res us that the


rst st a ge o f the self s growth is rightly
a ccomplished ; completing its rst outward
push in that new direction to which it s
g o od will is turned
For ch ar ity ever
presses towards the heights towards the
K ingdom of Go d the which is G o d Him
s elf
In the practical cou nsels g i ven to the
young novice t o whom Th e M i r r o r of S a lv a
ti on is addressed we may see R u y s b r o ec k s
ideal o f that active life o f self discipline
and serv i ce which the soul has n o w set in
hand ; and whic h he describes in greater
,

Th e S pa r kl i ng S to ne,

c a p. v i .

RU YS B ROECK

1 00

Th e A d or nment of the S p i r i tu a l

M a r r i age a nd Th e K i ng d o m of Go d s L o ver s
Total self donation , he tells her , i s her r st

detai l

in

choosing God for love s s a ke with


hes it a t i ons or r eser ves ; a nd this
o ut
ded i c ation to the interest s o f Reality must
be unt a inted by a ny s pi r i tu a l selshness
any h i nt o f that ins i diou s d esire for per
sonal beatitude wh i ch fa des the ower of
true love
This done self con q u es t and
self c o ntrol become the nov i ce s p rim a ry
duties : the gradual subduing a nd r e
arrangement o i c hara ct er ab out it s new
centre the el i minat i on o f all tendencies
inimical t o t he demands o f Eter n a l Li fe ;
the rm est a blishment upon its throne of
that true free will wh i ch des i res only God s
will Th i s self conquest the essence of the
Way o f Purga ti on as descr ibed and exper i
b y so many a scetics and m y stics
enc e d
includes n o t only the era di c a tion of S ins
but the tra i ning of the attention the
adaptation of consc i ousness t o i ts new
environment ; the killing out of inclin ati ons
which h armless i n themsel v es compete
with the o ne transcendent interest o f life
Like all great m y stics Ruysbroeck had
a strong sense o f sin
Th i s is merely a
theological way O f stat i ng the fact that his
intense realisation O f Perfection involved
a vivid consciousness o f the imperfections
d i shar mon i es per ver s ities i mplic i t i n the

need

TH E

A CT I VE

LI FE

1 01

huma n creature ; the need o f resolvi ng


t h em if the soul wa s to gr o w u p to the
stature o f D i vine Humanity Y et there
is in his wr itings a singular absence o f
that profound preoccupation with sin found
in so many medi aeval a scetics His attit u de
towards character was a frmative a nd r o
bust ; emphasising the possibilities rather
than the disabilities o f man Sin for him
was egotism showing itself in the manifold
for ms of pr i de laziness self indulgence
coldness o f heart or spiritual self seeking
but always imply i ng a central wrongness
of
attitude resulting in a wrong employ
ment o f power Self denials and bodily
mo r t i c a t i o n s he r egarded partly as exer

cises in self control sp iritual athletics


use f u l becau se educative o f the will partly
a s expressions of love At best they are
but the means of sanctity and never t o be
confu sed with its end ; f o r the m a n who
deliberately passed the gre ater part o f his
life in the bustle o f the town wa s no a d v o
cate o f a cloistered virtue o r a n arrow
perfectionism
Morbid piety is often the product o f
physical as well as spiritual s t u fne s s ; and
Ruysbroeck wrote his great books o u t of
doors with light and air all round him and
the rhythmic life O f trees to remind him
how much stronger w as the quiet law o f
growth than a ny ata vism accident o r
.

R UYS BR O E C K

1 02

per v ers i on by which i t could be checke d


Thus throughout his works the accent
alwa y s falls upon p ower rather than weak
ness : up on the spiritual energ y p our i ng in
like sunshine ; the incessant growth wh i ch
love sets going ; the perpetual rebirths to
ever higher levels as the young sapling
stretches upwar d every spr i ng What he
asks o f the n ovice is contrition without
anxiety self discipline wit h out fuss ; the
steady all round dev elopment of her person
ality stretch i ng and growi ng towar d s G o d
S h e is t o be the m i stress o f her soul never
permi tting i t to be drawn hither and thither
by the distractions and duties o f external
life K eeping always i n the a tmosphere o f
Reality she shall bring therefrom tru th
and frankness to all her words and deeds ;
a nd perform her duties with t hat r ight
and health y detachment which springs
not from a contempt of the Many but from
the secure and loving possession o f the O ne
The disciplines to which she mu st subj ect
herself in the effort t o wa rds attainment of
this po i se will like a wise gymn a s t ic pr o
duce i n her a suppleness o f soul ; making
the constant a n d inevitable transition from
interior communion t o outward work which
charity and good se nse dema nd easy and
natur a l and caus i ng the S pirit to be plastic

i n t he hand of God S uch suppleness the


li g htness and l i ssomeness which comes from
.

THE

A C T I VE

LI FE

1 03

sp i rit u al muscles exercised a nd controlled


was o ne of the favourite qualities O f that
wise trainer o f char a cter St Fran co i s de
Sales ; and the many small and irritat i ng
mo r t i c a t i o n s with which he was accus
t o me d to torment his
disciples had no
other aim than to produce it
In the stage of development to which the
Active Life belo ngs the soul enj oys c o m
munion with Reality not with that direct
ness proper to the true contemplative but
obliquely by means symb ols a n d images
especially by the sacramental dispensation
o f the Church
a subj ect to which Ruys
broeck devotes great attention As always
in his system growt h from within is inti
mately connected with the reception of food
and power from without The movement
of the self into God the movement o f God
into the self though separable in thought
are o ne in fact : will and grace are t w o
aspects of one tru th O nly t h i s pa r a d o x
can express t h e relation between th at Divine
Love which is both avid and generous
and the self t h at is destined both to devour
and be devoured by Reality
In the beautiful chapters o n the Eucharist
which form the special feature o f The
M i r r or of E ter na l S a lv a ti o n R u ysbroeck
develops this idea
If He gives us all
that He has and all that He is in return He
takes from us all th at we have and all t hat
.

RU Y SBR O E C K

1 04

we are a nd demands o f us more than we are


capable o f giving
E v en i n d e v our i ng
us He desires to feed us If He absorbs
us utterly into Himself He gives Himself
in return He causes to be born in us the
hunger and thirst o f the spirit which shall
make us savour Him in an eternal fruition
and to this spiritual hunger as well as to the
love o f our heart He gives His o wn Body a s
food
Thus does He give us His life full
of wi sdom truth a nd knowledge in order that
we ma y imi t ate Him in all v irtues ; and
then He lives in us and we in Him Then
do we grow and ra i se ourselves up above
the reason int o a Divine Love wh i ch causes
us to take and consume that Food i n a
spir i tual manner and stretch o u t i n pure
love t owards the Divinity There takes
place that encount er o f the spir i t that is
to say o f measureless love which consumes
and transforms o u r spirit with all its works ;
dr a wing us w ith itself towards the U nity
where we taste beatitude and rest Herein
therefore is our eternal life ever to devour
and be devoured t o ascend and descend
1
w ith love
The soul then turned i n the directio n
of the Innite having God for aim and
wi th her door opened to the i n o wi ng Divine
Life begins to grow Her growth i s up and
out ;
from th at temporal w orld to w hich
,

Th e

M i r r o r 0/ E ter na l S a l v a ti o n

c ap

T HE A CTI VE

L I FE

1 05

her nature i s adapted and where S h e seems


full o f power and efciency to that eternal
world to which the spark within her belongs
but where she is as yet n o more than a weak
and h elpless child Hence the rst state Of
mind and heart produced in her if the new
birth has indeed taken place will be that
humility which results from all real self
knowledge ; since
whoso might v eril y
see and feel himself as he i s he should
verily be meek
This clear a c kn o wl e d g
ment of facts this nding o f one s own
place Ruysbroeck calls the solid f o u n d a
tion of the K ingdom o f the S oul
In thus
discerning love and humility as the govern
ing characteristics o f the soul s reaction to
Reality he is o f course keeping close to
the great trad ition o f Christian mysticism ;
especially t o the teaching o f Rich ard o f S t
Victor which we nd constantly repeated
in the ascetic literature o f the Middl e Ages
Fr om these two v irtues then o f humble
self knowledge and Go d centred love are
gradually developed all those graces o f
character which adorn the soul for the
spirit u al marriage mark her ascent o f the
rst degrees o f the ladder o f love and
make possible the perfe cting o f her corre
s po n d e n c e s with the
K ingdom
This de
v el o ment
follows
an
orderly
course
as
p
subj ect t o law as the unfolding o f the leaves
and owers upon the growi ng plant ; and
,

RU Y S B R O ECK

1 06

though Ruysbroeck i n his var i ous works


uses diff erent di a gr a ms wherewith to ex
plain it the psychological changes which
these diagrams demonstrate are s u b s t a nt i
ally the same In each case we watch the
open i ng of man s man y petalled heart under
the r ays of the D i vi ne Light till i t blossoms
at last into the rose o f Perfect Charity
Thus i n Th e S even D egr ees of Lov e si nce
he is there addressing a cloistered nun
he accommoda t es his s y stem to that three
f old monastic v o w o f voluntary poverty o r
perfect renunciation chast i ty o r singleness
of heart and Obedience o r true humility in
action by wh i ch she is bound When the
reality wh i ch these v ows express i s a ctual
i sed in the soul and dominates all her r e
a ctions to the world she wears the crown
of virtue
and lives that noble life ruled
b y the puried and enhanced will purged
o f all selsh des i res and distractions
which
seeking i n all things the i nterests o f the

sp i ritual world is full O f love a nd char ity


a nd industr i ous in good works
In The S p i r i tu a l M a r r i age 3 more elabor
ate an alysis is possible ; based upon that
d i vis i on o f man s moral perversities into
the seven mortal sins or seven funda
mental forms of selshness which governed
and go v erns yet the Catholic v i ew o f human
character After a preliminary passage in
which the triple attitu de of love as towards
,

TH E

A CT I VE

LIF E

1 07

Go d ,

humility as towards self j ustice as


towards other men is extolled as the only
secure basis o f the spiritual life Ruysbroeck
proceeds to exhibit the seven re a l and posi
tive qualities which oppose the seven great
abuses of human freedom As Pride is
rst and worst o f mortal sins and follies
s o its antithesis Humility is a g a in p u t for
ward as the rst condition o f communion
with God This produces in the emotional
life an attitude o f loving adoration ; in the
volitional life Obedience By o bedi ence
Ruysbroeck means that self submission
that wise suppleness of spirit which is
swayed and guided no t by its o wn tastes
and interests but b y the Will of God ; as
expressed in the commands and pr o h i b i
tions o f moral and spiritual law the interior
push o f conscience This attitude at rst
deliberately assumed gradually controls all
the self s reacti ons and ends by subduing
it entirely to the Divine purpose
O f this
obedience there grows the abdication o f
one s own will and one s o wn opinion ;
by this abdication o f the will in all
that one does or does not do or endures
the substance and occasion o f pride are
wholly driven out and the highest humility
1
is perfec t ed
This movement o f renunciation brings

l
next phase in the u n s e ng o f the self a com
xi
v
Th Spi i t l M
i g li b i
p
,

ua

arr a

e,

ca

S R O E CK

RUY B

1 08
s
t
i
e
n
a
n
g
p

outward swing o f love expressed


under t h e b ea u t if u l forms of p a ti ence the
tranquil tolerance of all that can happen
a nd hence the antithesis of Anger ; gentl e
which
with peace and calm bears
n es s
vexatious w ords and deeds
ki ndnes s
which de als with the quarrelsome and i r r i t
able by means O f a friendly countenance
affectionate persu a sion a nd comp a ss i on ate
acts and s ymp a thy that inward movement
of the heart which compassion ates the b odily
and spiritual griefs of all men
and kills
the evil spirit o f Envy and hate This four
fold i ncre a se i n disinterested love is summed
up in the cond ition which Ru y sbroeck calls
s up er na tu r a l g ener o s i ty
that largeness o f
heart which ows o u t towards the gener
o s i t y of God
which is swayed by pity and
love wh i ch embr a ces all men i n its sweep
By this energetic love which seeks not its
o wn
all v irtues are i ncreased and all
the p owers of the sp i rit are adorned
and Avarice the fourth gre at mortal sin is
opposed
Generosity is no mere mood ; it is a
motive force demand i ng expression in action
From the emotions it invades the will
and produces d i li genc e a nd z ea l : an
inward a nd i mpatient eagerness f o r every
kind o f work and for the hard pr a c
tice o f every kind o f virtue whic h makes
imp o ss i ble that slackness and dulness o f

A CT I VE

TH E

LI F E

1 09

soul which i s characteristic of the sin o f


It is dynamic love ; and the S pirit
S loth
which is red by its ardours has reached a
degree o f self conquest in which the two

remaining evi l tendencies that t o every


kind of immoderate enj oyment spiritual
intellectual or physical which is the essence
of Gluttony and that t o the impure desire

created things which is Lust can be


of
met and vanquis h ed The purged and
strengthened will crowned by unselsh love
is n o w established o n its throne ; man has
become captain o f his soul and rules all the
elements o f his character and that character s

no t
expression i n life
as an absolute
1
monarch but in the name o f Divine Love
He has done all he can do o f himself towards
the conforming o f his life to Supreme Per
f ec t i o n ; has opposed o n e after another
each o f t hose exhibitions o f the self s ten
deney t o curl inwards to fence itself in and
demand absorb enj oy as a separate entity
which lie at the root o f sin The constructive
side o f the Pu rgative Way has consisted i n
the replacement o f this egoistic indrawing
energy b y these o u t o wi ng energies o f
self surrender kindness diligence and the
rest ; summed up in that perfection o f
hu mility and love which
in all its
works and always stretches o u t towards
.

Go d

!
.

Th e S pi r i tu a l

M a r r i a ge li b i
,

ca

x
ii
pp
.

xxi v

RU Y SBR O E C K

110

The rs t three g i ft s of the Holy Sp i r it


are possessed by the sou l wh i ch has reached
this point says Ruysbroeck in Th e K i ngd o m
that loving Fear which
of Go d s Lo ver s :
includes true hum i lit y with all its ancillary
characteristics ; that general att i tude o f
char i ty which m a kes man gentle p a t i ent
and docile ready to serve and pity every
one a nd is called Godliness because there
rst emerges in it his potential likeness to
God ; and nally that K nowledge o r d i s
of right and prudent conduc t
c er nment
which checks the disastrous tendency to
moral fussi ness helps man to conform his
l i fe to supreme Perfection and gi v es the
calmness and balance which are essential
to a sane and manl y spiritu ality Thu s the
new life force has inv a ded and affected will
feeling and intellect ; raised the whole man
to fresh levels o f existence and made possible
fresh corr espondences wi th Reality
Here
by are the three lower powers of the soul
adorned with Div i ne virtues The Irascible
volitional
and
dynamic
i
s
adorned
w
i
th
e
i
[
!
loving and lial fear humility obedience
a nd renunciati on The Desirou s is adorned
with kindness pity compassion and gener
Finally the Reasonable with know
o s it y
ledge and discernment and that prudence
1
which regulates all things
The ideal o f
character held o u t and described under
Th K i ngd m f Go d L
c a p x v iii
r
,

o ve s ,

T HE A C T I VE

L IFE

111

varying metaphors in R u ys b r o ec k s di fferent


works is thus seen t o be a perfectly c o n
sistent o ne
Now when the growing self has actualised
this ideal and lives the Active Life o f the
faithful servant o f Reality it begins t o feel
an ardent desire for some more direct en
counter with That which it loves S ince
it has now acquired the ornaments o f the

virtues
cleansed its mirror ordered its

disordered loves this encounter ma y and


does in a certain sense take place for every
Godward movement o f the human is met
by a compensating movement o f the Divine
Ma n now begins to nd God in all thi ngs :
in nature in the soul in works o f charity
But in the tu rmoil and bustle o f the Active
Life such an encounter i s at best indirect ;
a sidelong gli m pse o f the rst and only
Fair
That vision can only be apprehended
in its wholeness b y a concentration o f all
the powers of the self If we would look
the Absolute in the e y es we must look at
nothing else ; the complet e opening o f the
eye o f Eternity entails the closing o f the eye
o f Time
Ma n then must abstract himself
from multiplicity if only for a moment if he
would catch sight of the U nspeakable Sim
l
i
t
of
the
Real
Longing
know
c
i
t
o
p
y
the nature o f the Beloved he must act
as Z acch aeus did when he wished to see
Christ :

RU Y SB R OECK

1 12

He must run before the crowd that i s


to sa y t he mu ltipl i city of created th i ngs ;
for these make us so little a nd l o w th at we
cannot perce i ve God And he must climb
up on the Tree Of Faith which grows from
ab ove downwards for i t s root i s in the
Godhe a d This tree h a s twelve branches
which are the twelve articles o f the Creed
The lower branches speak of the Humanity
of God ;
the upper branches however
S peak of the Godhead :
o f the Trinity of
Persons and the U nity o f the Div i ne N ature
Ma n must cling to the U nity which i s at the
t op o f t h e tree for it i s here that J esus will
p a ss by with all His gifts And now J esus
comes and He sees man and shows him in
the light of fa i th that He i s according to Hi s
Divinity u nmeasur ed and incomprehensible
i naccessible and fathomless and that He
overpasses all created light and a ll nite
comprehension This is the highest know
ledge o f God which man can acquire in the
Active Life : thus to recognise by the light o f
faith that God is inconceivable and unknow
able In this light God says to the desire
o f man :
Come down quickly f o r I would
dwell in your hou se t o day
And this
quick descent to which God invites him is
nou ght else but a descent by love and desire
into the Abyss of the Godhea d to which no
intell ect can attain by its created light
But here wher e intellect mu st r es t without
,

,
!

T HE A C T I VE

L I FE

113

lov e and desire may enter in When the


soul thus leans upon God by intention and
love above all that she understands then
she rests and dwells in God and God in her
When the soul mounts up by desire above
the multiplicity o f things above the activities
o f the senses and above the light of external
nature then she encounters Christ by the
light o f faith and is illuminated ; and she
r ecognises that God is unknowable and i n
conceivable Finally stretching by desire
towards this incomprehensible God she
meets Christ and is fullled with His gifts
And loving and resting above all gi f t s
above herself and above all things she
dwells in God a nd God in her
Accord
ing to this manner Christ may be en c o u n
t er e d upon the
summit of the Active
1
Life
This then is the completion o f the rst
stage in the mystic way this showing t o the
purie d consciousness of the helplessness o f
the analytic intellect the dynamic power o f
self surrendered love
Where intellect must
rest without love a n d desire may enter
in
Th e human creature turning towards
Reality has pressed up to the very e d ge o f
the Cloud o f U nknowi ng in which the
goal o f transcendence is hid If it is to g o
further it must bring to the adventure n o t
knowledge but divine ignorance not riches
Th S pi i t
l M
xx
v
i
i g li b i
p
.

ua

arr a

e,

ca

RU Y S B R O E CK

114

but poverty ; ab ove all an eager and i h


d u s t r i o u s love
,

A er a me o f d e v o t i o n l ea pi n g a nd a s c e nd i n g i nt o
t h e v er
o o d n e s s o f G o d H i ms e l f ,
g
A l o v i ng l o ng i n g o f t h e s o u l t o b e w i t h G o d i n H i s
Et e r n i t ,
A t u r ni ng f r o m a ll t h i n g s o f s e l f i n t o t h e f r e e d o m o f
t h e Wi l l o f G o d ;
Wi t h a l l t h e f o r c e s o f t h e s o u l g a t h e r e d i nt o t h e
1
o f t h e s i ri t
u ni t
p

Th e Twel v e B gmnes ,
'

c a p.

CH A P T E R
TH E

I N T E RI O R
AN D

VI

I L L U M I N A TI O N
D E S TI T U TI O N
LI F E :

Le t w h o s o t h i r s t s t o s e e h i s G o d c l ea n s e h i s mi r r o r ,
h
h
ur e
h
i
i
ri t ;
a nd
w
en t h u s
e
h
as
c l ea n s e d h i s
s
s
p g
p
mi r r o r , a nd l o n g a n d d i l i g e n t l g a z e d i n i t , a c e r t a i n
br i g h t n e s s o f d i v i n e l i g h t b e g i n s t o s h i n e t h r o u g h u po n
h i m, a n d a c e r t a in i mme n s e r a y o f un w o n t e d v i s i o n t o
a
ro m t h e
h
a r befo r e h i s e e s
F
o l d in
i
e
o
f
h
s
e
t
pp
g
l i g h t , w h i c h i t s e e s w i t h i n i t s e l f w i t h a ma z e me n t , t h e
min d i s mi g h t i l s e t o n r e , a nd l i f t e d up t o e h o l d t h a t
Li gh t w h i c h i s a o v e i t s el f
RC
R D OF S T
V C OR

HA

I T

I T is plain that

b r o e c k s system

the Active Life in Ruys


answers more or less to
the Purgati v e Way considered upon its
a frmative and constructive side as a build
ing up of the h eroic Christian character
S o t o o the life which he calls Interior or
Contemplative and which initiates man
into the friendship of God corr e sponds
in the main with the Illuminative Way of
orthodox mysticism ; though it includes
in its later stages much that is usually
held to belong to the third or U nitive
,

RU Y S B R OE CK

1 16

state o f the soul Th e rst life has as it


were unfolded to the sunlight the outer
petals o f the mystic rose ; exhibiting in
their full beauty adj usting to their true
use the normally apparent constituents of
man s personality All his relations with
the given world o f sense the sphere of
B ecoming have been puried and adjusted
Now the expansive and educative inuence
of t h e Divine Light i s able to penetrate
nearer t o the heart of his personality ; is
brought to bear up on those interior qualities
which he hardly knows himself to possess
and which govern his relation with the
spiritual world of Being Th e ower is t o
open more widely ; the inner ring of petals
must uncurl
As the primary interest of the Active Life
was ethical purication so the primary
interest o f this S econd Life is intellectua l
purication Intellect however is here to
be understood in its highest sense ; as
including not only the analytic reason which
deals with t h e problems of our normal
universe but that higher intelligence that
contemplative mind which
once it is
awakened to consciousness
can gather
news o f the tra n scendental world Th e
development and clarication o f this power
is only possible to those who have achieved
and continue to live at full stretch the
h igh arduous and unselsh life of Christian
.

TH E

INTE R I O R LIFE

1 17

virtue Again we must remind ourselves


that R u ys b r o ec k s theory of transcendence
involves not the passage from o ne life to
another but the a d d i ng of o ne life to another
the perpetual deepening widening heighten
ing and enriching o f human experience
As the author o f Th e Cl o u d of Un kn o wi ng
insists that none can be truly contemplative
who is not also active so Ruysbroeck says
that no man ever rises above the ordinary
obligations of Christian kindness and active
good works
We nd nowadays many silly men who
would be so interior and so detached that
they will not be active o r helpful in any
way o f which their neighbours are in need
K now such men are neither hidden friends
nor yet true servants of God but are wholly
false and disloyal ; for none can follow
His cou nsels but those who obey His laws
Nevertheless it would be generally true
to say that w hilst the a i m of the Active Life
is right conduct the aim o f the Interior
Life is right vision and thought As in
that rst life all the perversions of man s
ordinary powers and passions were rectied
all that was superuous and unreal done
away and h i s nature set right with God ;

now still holding and living in its fulness

this puried active life h e is to press


deeper and deeper into the resources of
.

Th e S pa r kl i ng S to ne,

c a p. v i i .

RU Y S B ROECK

118

his bein g nding there other powers and


cravings which must be brought within
the eld of consciousness and set up those
relations with the Transcendent o f which
they are capable This deepening and en
l a r g i ng of man s universe t ogether with
t h e further and more dr astic discarding
of illusions and unrealities is the business
considered on its i m
o f the S econd Life
personal side
I f thou dost desire to unfold in t h yself
the Contemplative Life thou must enter
within beyond the sense life ; and on that
apex o f thy being adorned with all the
virtues o f which I have sp oken looking
unto God with gratitude and love and
contin u al reverence thou must keep thy
thoughts bare and stripped o f every sensible
image thine understanding open a n d lifted
up to the Eternal Truth and thy spirit
spread out in the sight of Go d as a living
mirror to receive His everlasting likeness
Behold therein appears a light of the under
standing which neither sense reason nature
nor the clearest logic can apprehend but
which gives us freedom and condence
towards God I t is nobler and higher than
all that God has created in nature ; for it
is the perfection of nature and transcends
nature and is the clear shining intermediary
between ourselves and God Our thoughts
bare and stripped of imag es are t h emselves
,

TH E

INTE R I O R LIFE

1 19

the living mirror in which this light shines


and the light requires of us that we should
be like to and o ne with God in this living
1
mirror of our bare thoughts
I n this strongly Victorine passage the
whole process of the S econd Life is epi t o
mi s e d ; but in The S p i r i tu a l M a r r i age where
its description occupies the seventy three
chapters of the second book we see h o w
long is the way which stretches from that
rst entering in beyond the sense life to
the point at which the soul s mirror is able
to receive in its fullness that Light wherein
alone it can apprehend Reality
Considered upon its organic side as a
growt h and movement o f the soul this
Way as conceived and probably exper i
enc e d
by Ruysbroeck can be divided into
t h ree great phases We might call these
Action Reaction and Equilibrium Broadly
speaking they a nswer t o the Illumination
Dark Night and S i mple U nion of orthodox
mystical science Y et since in his vivi d
description o f these linked states he c o n
s t a nt l y
departs from the formul ae o f his
predecessors and as constantly illustrates
their statements by intimate and homely
touches o nly possi ble to one w h o has endured
the adventures of which he tells we are
justied in claiming the description as the
fruit o f experience rather t h an of tradition ;
,

The

Twel v e B egmn es ,

c ap

ix
.

RU Y S B R O ECK

12 0

and as evidence o f the course taken by his


own development
I t is surely u p on his own memory that
he is relying when he tells us that the
beginning o f this new life possesses some
thing o f the abrupt character of a second
conversion I t happens he says when we
least expect it ; when the self after t h e
long tension and struggle o f moral purga
tion has become drowsy and tired Then
suddenly
a spiritual cry echoes through
the soul
announcing a new encounter
with Reality and demanding a new r e
s po n s e ;
or to put it in another way
conscio u sness o n its ascending spiral has
pushed through to another level o f exist
ence where it can hear voices and discern
visions to which it was deaf and blind before
This sudden clarity of mind this new vivid
apprehension o f Divine Love is the rst
indication of man s entrance o n the Illu
mi na t i v e Way I t i s i ntroversive rather
than o u t going in type Changing the char
acter of o u r attention to life we discern
within us something which we have always
p ossessed and always ignored : a secret
Divine energy which is now to emerge
from t h e subconscious deeps into the area
of
consci ousness There it stimulates the
will evicts all lesser images and interests
from t h e heart and concentrates all the
f aculties i nto a single and inte nse state ,
.

THE

INTE RI O R LIFE

12 1

press i ng towards the U nity o f God the


synth etic exp erience of love ; for perpetual

movement towards that unity not achieve

ment of i t is the mark of this S econd Life


in which the separation of God and the soul
remains intact I n Victorine language it
is the period of spiritual betrothal not
o f spiritual marriage ;
of a vision which
though wide rich and wonderful is mirrored
rather than direct
Th e new God inspired movement then
begins within like a spring bubbling from
the deeps ; and thrusts up and out to the
consciousness which it is destined to clarify
and enhance
Th e stream o f Divine grace
swiftly stirs and moves a man inwardly
and from within outwards ; and this swift
stirring is the rst thing that makes us
s ee
Of this swift stirring is born from the
side of man the second point : that is a
gathering together of all the inward and
outward powers in spiritual unity and in
the bonds of love Th e third is that liberty
which enables man to retreat into himself
without images o r obstacles whensoever
he wills and thinks o f his God
S o we may say that an enhancement of the
conative p owers a greater control over
the attention are the chief marks of the
Illuminative Way as perceived by the grow
ing self But the liberty here spoken o f h a s
,

Th e S pi r i tu a l

M a r r i a ge 11b
,

ii

ca

i
v
p
.

RU Y S B R OE CK

12 2

a moral as well as a mental aspect It is a


freeing of the whole man from the fetters
o f illusion
and involves that perfect de
t a c h me nt
of
heart that self na u g h t i ng
which makes him equally wi lling to have
j oy or pain gain o r loss esteem or contempt
peace o r fear as the Divine Will may
ordain Thus is perfected that suppleness
of soul which he began t o acquire in the
Active Life a gradual process which needs
for its accomplishment the negative rhythm
o f renunciation
testing the manliness and
courage of the self as well as the positive
movement o f l ove Hence the Contem
i
l
e
a
t
Life
as
R
uysbroeck
knows
and
v
p
describes it has and must have its state
o f pain as well as its state o f j oy
With
him however as with nearly all the mystics
the state of j oy comes rst : the glad and
eager reaction t o those new levels of spiritual
reality disclosed to consciousness when the
struggles and readj ustment s of the Active
This is the
Life have done their work
phase in the self s progress which mystical
writers properly mean by Illumination :
a condition o f great happiness and of an
intuition of Reality so vivid and j oyous
that the soul often supposes that she has
here reached the goal of her quest It is in
the spiritual year says Ruysbroeck that
which the month of Ma y is in the seasons o f
t h e earth a wh o l es o m e a nd necessary tim e
.

INTER I O R LIF E

THE

123

sunshine swift growt h and abundant


owers when the soul under the inuence
the soft rain of inward consolations
of
and the heavenly dew of t h e Div i ne sweet
ness blossoms in new and lovely graces
Illumination is an unstable period Th e
sun is rising swiftly in the heaven of man s
consciousness and as it increas e s in power
so it calls forth o n the soul s part greater
ardours more intense emotional reactions
O nce more the ux o f God is demanding
its reux Th e soul like the growing boy
suddenly made aware of the beauty romance

and wonder the intense and irresistible

appeal o f a world that had seemed ordinary


before ows out towards this new universe
with all the enthusiasm and eagerness
of its young fresh powers
Those powers
are so new to it that it cannot yet control
or understand them Vigorous and n u
governable they invade by turns the heart
the will the mind as do the fevers and
j oys of physical adolescence ; inciting to
acts and satisfactions for which the whole
s e lf is hardly ready yet
Then is thrown
wide says Ruysbroeck
the heaven which
was shut and from the face of Divine
Love there blazes down a sudden light
as it were a lightning ash
In the meet
ing of this inward and out ward spiritual

force the Divine Light witho u t the grow


ther e is great
i ng Divine S park wit h in
of

RU Y S B R O ECK

12 4

j oy
Ecstasy and that state of musical
rapture exceeding the possibilities o f speech
which Ruysbroeck like Richard Rolle calls
ghostly song are the natural self ex
pressions of the soul in this moment o f its
career
In more than one book we nd references
to this ecstatic period a period so strongly
marked in his o wn case that it became for

him though he was under no illusions

as to its permanent value o n e o f the


landmarks in man s j ourney to his home
Looking back o n it in later life he sees in it
two great phases of which the earlier and
lower at any rate is dangerous and easily
misunderstood ; and is concerned to warn
those who come after him of its transitory
and imperfect character Th e rst phase
is that o f spiritual inebriation in which
the fever excitement and unrest of this

period o f growth and change affecting a s

they do every aspect of personality show


themselves in the psycho physical phen
omena which are well known a c c o mpa ni
ments o f religious emotion in selves o f a
certain temperament This spiritual de
l i r i u m which appears t o have been a
common phase in the mystical revivals o f
the fourteenth century is viewed by
Ruysbroeck with considerable distrust and
ri g htly attributed by him t o an excitement
.

Cf The Twel ve B egu i nes ,

ca

INTE R I O R LIFE

THE

12 5

of the senses rather than o f the soul At


best it is but chil dr en s food given to
those who cannot yet digest the strong
food of temptation and the loss o f God
Its manifestations as he describes them
overpass the limits not merely of common
sense but also o f sanity ; and are clearly
related to the frenzies o f revivalists and
the wild outbreaks o f songs dance and
ecstatic speech observed in nearly all non
Christian religions of an enthusiastic type
In this state of rapture
a man seems
like a drunkard no longer master of him
self
He sings shouts laughs and cries
both at once runs and leaps in the air
claps his hands and indulges in absurdly
exaggerated gestures with many other
1
These he may
disagreeable exhibitions
not be able to help but is advised to control
them as soon as he can passing from the
merely sensuous emotion which results when
the light of Eternal Love invades the inferior
powers of the soul to the spiritual emo
tion amenable to reason which is the r e
action o f the higher powers of the self
t o that same overwhelming inux of grace
That inpour i ng grace grows swiftly in
power as the strength of the sun grows
with the passing of the year Th e Presence
o f God now stands over the soul s supreme
.

Th e S pi r i tu a l
Tr u th , c a p
1

ix

M a r r i a ge li b
,

ii

c a p.

xi x ;
.

Th e B o o k

RU Y S B R O ECK

126

summits in the zenith : the transc endent


fact o f the illuminated consciousness His
power and love shine perpetually upon
the heart giving more than we can take
demanding more than we can pay
and
inducing in the soul upon which this mighty
energy is playing a strange unrest part
angu i sh and part j o y This is the second
phase of the ecstatic period and gives rise
to that which R u ysbroeck and after him
storm o f love
Tauler have called the
a wild longing for union which stretches to
the utmost the self s p owers of response
and expresses itself in violent e fforts i m
passioned ascents towards the S pirit that
cries without cea s ing to o u r spirit :
Pay
your debt Love the Love that has loved
1
you f r om Eternity
Now the vigorous soul begins to n d
within itself the gift of S piritual S trength ;
that enthusiastic energy which is one of the
characters of all true love This is the
third o f the S even Gifts of the S pirit and
the rst to be actualised in the I l l u mi n
ated Life
From this strong and ardent
passion for the Transcendent adoration and
prayer stream forth ; and these again react
up on the self forming the fuel of the re
of love Th e interior invitati on of God
His attractive p ower His delicate yet i n
,

'

T h e S ev en D egr ees o f L ov e , c a p xi v

Th e K i ng d o m o f Go d s L o v er s , c a p
.

xx

INTE R I O R LIFE

T HE

12 7

exorable caress is to the loving heart the


most pure delight that it has ever known
It responds by passionate movements o f
adoration and gratitude O pening its petals
wide to the beams o f the Eternal S u n
This is the j oy ; and close behind it
comes the anguish sweetest and heaviest
It is the sense of unsatised
o f all pains

desire
the pain o f love
which comes
from the end u ring consciousness o f a gulf
xed between the self and That with which
i t desires to unite
Of this inward
demand and compulsion which makes the
creature to rise up and prepare itself t o
the utmost o f its power without yet being

able to reach or attain the U nity o i this


there springs a spiritual pain When the
heart s core the very source of life is
wounded by love and man cannot attain
that thing which he desires above else ;
when he must stay ever where he desires
no more to be of these feelings comes this
pain
When man cannot achieve God
and yet neither can nor will d o without
Him ; in such men there arises a furious
agitation and impatience both within and
without And whilst man is in this tumult
no creat u re in heaven o r earth can help him
1
o r give him rest
Th e sensible heat o f love is felt wi th a
greater violence now than at any other period
,

Th e S pi r i tu a l M a r r i a ge, li b i i
.

cap

xxi ii

RU YS B ROECK

128

of life ; the rays of the S piritual S u n stri k e


the soul with terric force ripening the
fruits of the virtues yet bringing danger to
the health both mental and physical of
those who are not properly prepared and
who faint under the exhaustion of this
intense fury o f Divine Love this onslaught
which
eats up the heart
These are
the dog days of the spiritual year
As
all nature languishes under their stiing
heat so too long an exp osure to their
violence may mean ruin to the physical
health of the growing self Y et those who
behave with prudence need not take perma
nent harm ; a kind of wise steadfastness
will support them throughout this t u r bu
lent period
Following through all storms
the path of love they will advance towards
1
that place whither love leadeth them
To this period of vivid illumination and
emotional unrest belongs the development
o f those
secondary automatisms familiar
to all students of mysticism the desperate
e fforts of the mind to work up into some

intelligible shape some pictured vision o r

some spoken word the overwhelming i n


tu i tions o f the Transcendent by which it
is possessed ; the abrupt s u spension of the
surface consciousness in rapture and ecstasy
when that overwhelming intuition develops
into the complete monoideism of the ecstatic
,

0p

c i t.

lib ii
.

c a p.

THE

INTE R I O R LIFE

12 9

and cuts o ff all contacts with the world o f


sense Of these phenomena Ruysbroeck
speaks with intimacy and also with much
common sense
He distinguishes visions
into those pictures or material images which
are seen in the imagination and those s o

of
called intellectual vi sions
which the
works of Angela of Foligno and S t Teresa
provide so rich a series o f examples
which are really direct and imageless mes
sages from the Transcendent ; received in
those supersensuous regions where man
has contact with the Incomprehensible
Good and
seeing and hearing are one
thing
To this conventional classication
he adds a passage which must surely be
descriptive o f his own experiences in this
kind :
S ometimes God gives to such men swift
spiritual glimpses like to the ash of light
ning in the sky It comes like a sudden
ash of strange light streaming forth from
the S imple Nudity By this is the spirit
uplifted f o r an instant above itself ; and at
once the light passes and the man again
comes to himself This is God s own work
and it is something most august ; for often
those who experience it afterwards become
illuminated men And those w h o live in
the violence and fervour of love have now
and then another manner whereby a certain
light shines i n them ; and this God works
.

RU Y SB ROECK

1 30

by means In this l ight the heart and the


desirous powers are uplifted toward the
Light ; and in this encounter the j oy and
satisfaction are such that the heart cannot
contain itself but breaks out in loud cries of
j oy And this is called j u bi lu s o r jubilation ;
and it is a j o y that cannot be expressed in
1
words
Here the parallel with Richard Rolle s
ghostly song with great voice outbreak
ing will strike every reader of that most
musical of the mystics ; and it i s prob
able that i n b oth cases the prominence
given t o this rather uncommon form of
S piritual rapture points back to personal
experience
Methinketh
says Rolle
that contemplation is this heavenly song
o f the Love of God which is called
s
u
b
i
l
u
j
taken of the sweetness of a soul by praising
This song is the end of perfect
o f God
prayer and of the highest devotion that
may be here This gladness of soul is had
of God and it breaketh out in a ghostly
2
voice well sounding
This exultant and lyrical mood then this
adoring rapture which only t h e rhythm
of music can express i s the emotional r e
action which indicates the high summer of
the soul It will be seen that each phase
.

xx

iv
Th e S pi r i tu a l M a r r i a g e , li b i i c a p
3
Ri c h a r d R o ll e , Th e M end i ng o f L i fe,

f o r d s ed i t i o n, p
1

ca

xi i

r
H
a
(

INTE RI O R LIFE

TH E

1 31

of

its seasonal progress has been marked by


a fresh inow of grace and gifts a fresh
demand upon its p ower of response Th e
tension never slackens ; the need for i n
d u s t r y is never done away
Th e gift o f
S trength by which the self presses forwa rd
has now been reinforced by the gift o f
Counsel i e by the growth and deepening
of that intuition which is its medium of
contact with the spiritual world
Th e
Counsel of the S pirit says Ruysbroeck is
like a stirring or inspiration deep within
the soul This stirring this fresh uprush
of energy is really a new birth o f the S o n
the Divine Wisdom ; lighting up the i nt el li
gence so that it perceives its destiny and
perceives too that the communion it n o w
enj oys is but an image of the Divine U nion
1
which awaits i t
God is counselling the
soul with an inward secret insistence to
rush out towards Him stimulating her
hunger for Reality o r to put it otherwise
the Divine S park is growing swiftly and
pressing hard against the walls of its home
Therefore the culminati on of this gift and
the culmination t o o o f the illuminated
consciousness brings to the soul a certitude
that she must still press on and out ; that
nothing less than God Himself can su fce
her or match the mysterious Thing which
dwells in her deeps
,

Th e K i ngd o m

Go d

Lo ver s ,

c ap

xxv

1 32

U Y S B R OECK

Now this way of love a nd ecstasy a nd


summer h eats has been attended throughout
by grave dangers f o r the adolescent spirit
ab ove all b y the primary danger which besets
the mystical life of mistaking spiritual j oy
for spiritual reality desiring consolations
and illuminations f o r their o wn sake and
resting in the gift instead of the Giver
Though he who dedicates himself to love
ever experiences great j o y he must never
seek this j oy
Al l those tendencies grouped
by S t John of the Cross under the dis
agreeab le name o f
spiritual gluttony
those further temptations t o self indulgent
quietism which are but an insidious form
o f sloth
are waiting t o entrap the self o n
the Illuminative Way
B ut there is a
way beyond this another Coming of the
Bridegroom
which Ruysbroeck describes
as eternally safe and sure
This is the way
of pain and deprivation ; when the Presence
of God seems to be withdrawn and the
fatigue and reacti on consequent on the
violent passions and energies o f the i ll u mi
n a t e d state make themselves felt as a con
dition of misery aridity and impotence
all in fact that the Christian mystics mean
by the S piritual Death o r Dark Ni ght of
the S oul and which R u ys b r o ec k s c o n
temp oraries the Friends of God called
the upper school of perfect self abandon
ment
,

INTE RI O R LIFE

TH E

1 33

mirror is now to be cleansed o f all


false reections all beautiful prismatic
light ; the thoughts stripped bare o f the
consolations they have enj oyed S ummer
is over and autumn begins ; when the
owers indeed die down but the fruits
which they heralded are ripe Now is the
time when man can prove the stuff of
which he is made and the religious amorist
the false mystic is distinguished from the
heroic and long suffering servant o f God
In this season is perfected and completed
all the work that the sun has accomplished
during the year In the same manner
when Christ the glorious S u n has risen to
His z enith in the heart of man and then
begins to descend and to hide the radiance
of His Divine light and to abandon the man
then the impatience and ardour of love
grow less And this concealment of Christ
and this withdrawal of His light and
heat are the rst working and the new
coming o f this degree And now Christ
says spiritually within the man :
Go
forth in the way which I now teach you
And the man goes forth and nds himself
poor wretched and abandoned And here
the tempest the ardour the impatience o f
love grows cold ; and the hot summer
becomes autumn and its riches turn to
great poverty Then man begins to lament

in his distress where now has gone that


Th e

RU Y S B R OECK

1 34

ardent l ove that intimacy that gratitude


that all s u fc i ng adoration
And that
interior consolation that intimate j oy that
1
sensible savour how has he lost all this
Th e veil that had seemed so transparent
now thick ens again ; the certitudes that
made life lovely all depart S mall wonder
if the tortured S pirit o f the mystic fails to
recognise this awful destitution as a renewed
caress from the all demanding Lover of
the S oul an education in courage humility
and s el e s s ne s s ; a last purication of the
will Th e state to which that self is being
led is a renewed self donation on new and
higher levels : one more o f those mystical
deaths which are really mystical births ;
a giving u p not merely o f those natura l
tastes and desires which were disciplined
in the Active Life but of the higher passions
and satisfactions of the spirit too He is t o
be led t o a state o f such complete surrender
t o the Divine purposes that he is able t o
say :
Lord not my will according t o
nature but Th y will and my will according
Th e darkness sorrow
t o spirit be done
and abandonment through which this is
accomplished are far more essential t o his
development than the sunshine and happi
ness that went before It is not necessary
says Ruysbroeck that all should know the
ecstasies of illumination ; but by this dark
,

Th e S pi r i tu a l

M a r r i a ge l i b i i
,

c ap

xx

vi ii .

TH E

INTE RI O R LIFE

1 35

stairway every man who would attain to


God must go
When man has achieved this perfect
resignation and all tendency to spiritual
self seeking is dead the S eptember of the
soul is come Th e sun has entered the
sign of the Balance when days and nights
are equal ; for now the surrendered self
has achieved equilibrium and endures in
peace and steadfastness the alternations
o f the Divine Dark and Divine Light
Now
the harvest and the vintage are ripe :
That is to say all those inward and out
ward virtues which man has practised
with delight in the re of love these n o w
that he knows them and is able to aecom
l
i
them
he
shall
practise
diligently
and
s
h
p
dutifully and offer them to God And
never were they so precious in His sight
never so noble and so fair And all those
consolations which God gave him before
he will gladly give up and will empty him
self for the glory of God This is the harvest
o f the wheat and the many ripe fruits which
make us rich in God and give to us Et erna l
Life Thus are the virtues perfected ; and
the absence of consolation is turned to an
1
eternal wine
.

Th e S pi r i tu al

M a r r i a ge

li b i i
.

c a p.

xxi x

CH
TH E

AP

ER VII

I N TE RI O R L I F E : U N I O N
C O N TE M P L A T I O N

AN D

L u me e la s s u, c he v is i bile f a c e
l o Cr ea to r e a qu ell a c r ea tur a
c h e s o lo i n l u i v ed er e ha l a s ua
ace
p
PAR

xxx

I OO .

An d t h e Li g h t o w e t h f o r t h i n s i mi l i t u d e , a nd i nd r a w e t h
I t s e l f i n u ni t y ; w h i c h w e per c ei v e, b ey o n d t h e r e a s o n ,
i n t h a t h i g h po i nt o f o u r u nd e r s t a n d i n g w h i c h i s b a r e a nd
T H E TWE LV E B EG U IN E S
t u rn ed w i t h i n
.

TH E

soul which has endured with courage


and humility the anguish o f the Dark Night
actualising within its own experience the
double rhythm of love and renunciation
now enters upon a condition o f e q u i l i
b r i u m ; in which it perceives that all its
previous adventures and apprehensions were
but episodes o f growth phases in the
long preparation o f character for those
new levels of life o n which it is now to
dwell
says Ruys b roeck must
Three points
characterise the truly interior man First
,

: 36

TH E

INTE R I O R LIFE

1 37

his mind must be detached from its


natural inclination to rest in images and
appearances however lovely ; and must
depend altogether upon that naked Absence
o f Images which is God
This is the ascent
to the Nought preached by the Areo
i
e
a
t
S
econdly
by
means
of
his
S
piritual
p g
exercises his progressive e fforts to corre
s po nd with that Divine Life ever experienced
by him with greater intensity he must
have freed himself from all taint of selfhood
all personal desire ; so that in true inward
liberty he can lift himself up unhindered
towards God in a S pirit of seless devotion
Plainly the desolations of the Dark Night
are exactly adapted to the production
within the self o f these two char acters ;
which we might call purity o f intelligence
and purity o f will Directly resulting from
their actual isation S prings the third point
the consciousne s s o f inward union with
1
God
Th is consciousness of union which
we must carefully distinguish from the
Uni ty that is R u ys b r o ec k s name for the
last state o f the t r a ns gu r e d soul is the
ruling character of that state of equilibrium
to which we have now come ; and r epr e
sents the full achievement o f the Interior
Life
In many o f his works under various
images Ruysbroeck tries to tell us what he
,

Th e S pa r kl i ng S to ne,

c a p.

RU YSB R OECK

1 38

means b y this inward union with God this


mutual inhabitation as he calls it in one
passage of great beauty which is the goal
o f the
He reminds us again
S econd Life
of that remote point o f the spirit that
apex o f o u r bei ng where our life touches
the Divine Life ; where God s image lives
and reigns
With the cleansing of the
heart and mind the heightening and con
centration o f the will which the disciplines
o f the A ctive Life and Dark Ni g ht have
effected this supreme point o f the spirit is
brought at last within the conscious eld
Then man feels and knows the presence
there o f an intense and creative vitality
an Eternal Essence from which a ll that is
This
worth having in his sel fhood ows
is the Life giving Life ( Levende Leven )
where the created and U ncreated meet and
are o n e : a phrase apparently taken by
Ruysbroeck from S t Bernard which aptly
expresses an idea familiar to all the great
contemplatives It is the p oint at which
man s separate spirit as it were emerges
from the Divine S pirit the point through
which he must at last return t o his S ource
Here the Father has impressed His image the
S o n is perpetually born the S pirit wells
1
and here the Divine U nity dwells and
up
calls him to the O ne Here Eternity and
Here S prings the
Time are intertwined
,

Cp Th e S pi r i tu a l M a r r i a ge, li b ii
.

c ap

l v ii

TH E

I NTE R I O R

1 39

L I FE

fountain of Living Water


grace tran

s c e n d e nt
vitality upon which the mystic
l i fe of man depends
Now the self beca use it is at last con
formed to the demands of the spiritual
world feels new powers from this life giving
source streaming into all departments of
its being Th e last barriers o f self will
are broken ; and the result is an inrush of
fresh energy and light
Whereas in the
First Life God fed and communed with him
by means and was revealed under image s
appropriate to a consciousness still i m
mer s ed in the world o f appearance ; now
man receives these gifts and messages
makes his contacts with Reality without

means or by grace
i e in a S piritual
Those
and interior manner
lightning
ashes from the face of Divine Love
those abrupt and vivid intuitions which he
enj oyed during illumination have given way
before the s teady shining of the U ncreated
Light Though light imagery is never l ong
absent from R u ys b r o ec k s pages it is how
ever the spring o f Living Water ever
welling up the rills or brooks which ow
from it and take its substance to the
farthest recesses o f the thirsty land which
seems to him the best image of this new
inpouring o f life
He uses it in all h i s
chief works perhaps most successfully i n
Faithful to the
M a r r i age
Th e S pi r i t
,

RU YS B R OECK

1 40

medi aeva l division of per s onal ity into


Memory or Mind Intelligence or U nder

standing a nd Will i nu e n c e d too by his


deep conviction that all Divine activity is

threefold in type h e describes the Well


of
s pring as breaking into three B rooks
Grace which pour their waters into each
department o f the self Th e duct through
which these waters come
living and
foaming from the deeps o f the Divine
Riches is the Eternal Christ ; who comes
anew to the puried soul and is the i m
mediate source o f its p ower and happiness
Th e rst o f the brooks which ow from
Him is called Pure S impl i city
It is a
simple light says Ruysbroec k in another
place ; the white radiance of Eternity
which streaming into the mind penetrates
consciousness from top to bottom and
unies the powers of the self about the
new and higher centre now established
This S imple light in which we see things

as they are and therefore see that only one

thing truly i s delivers us from that slavery


to the multiplicity o f things which S plits
the attention and ma k es concentration upon
Reality impossible t o the soul Th e achieve
ment of such mental simplicity escaping
the prismatic illusion of the world is the
Thanks
rst condition of contemplation
to this simple light which lls him the
man nds himself to be unied established
,

INTE RI O R LIFE

TH E

1 41

penetrated and afrmed in the unity of his


mind or thought And thereby he is u p
lifted and established in a new c o nd i ti o n ;
and he turns inward upon himself and
stays his mind upon the Nudity above all
the pressure of sensual images above all
1
multipl i city
Th e second stream which pours out from
that Transcendent Life is a
S piritual
Clarity which illuminates the intelligence
and shows it all good This clarity is a new
and heightened form of intuition : a lucid
understanding whereby the self achieves
clear vision o f its own life and is able to
contemplate the sublime richness o f the
Divine Nature ; gazing upon the mystery
and nding everywhere the
o f the Trinity
Presence o f God Those who possess this
light do not need ecstasies and revelations

sudden uprushes towards the supernal

world for their life and being is established


in that world above the life of sense They
have come to that state which Eckhart
calls nding all creatures in God and
They see things at
G o d in all creatures
last in their native purity Th e heart of
that vision says Ruysbroeck is their per
the unmeasured loyalty o f G o d
c e pt i o n of

to His creation
one of his deepest and
most beautiful utterances
and therefrom
springs a deep inward j oy of the S pirit and
.

Th e S pi r i tu al

M a r r i a ge, li b

ca

xxx

vi.

RU YSB ROECK
a high trust in God ; and this inward j oy
embraces and penetrates all the powers o f
the soul and the most secret part of the
1
spirit
Th e third Brook of Grace irrigates the
conative powers of the self ; strengthens
the will in all perfection and energises us
anew
Like re this brook enk indles
the will and swallows up and absorbs all
things in the unity of the spirit
and
now Christ speaks inwardly in the spirit
by means o f this burning brook saying Go
forth in exercises proper t o this gift and this
coming
By the rst brook which is a
S i mp le Li gh t the Mind is freed from the
invasions of the senses and grounded and
a frmed in spiritual unity And by the
second brook which is a S p r ea di ng Li gh t the
Reason and U nderstanding are illuminated
that they may know and distinguish all
manner of virtues and exercises and the
mysteries o f S cripture And by the third
brook which is an I nfu s ed H ea t the heights
of the Will are enk indled with quiet love
and adorned with great riches And thus
does man become S piritually illuminate for
the grace o f God dwells like a fountain
head i n the unity o f his spirit and the
brooks cause a owing forth of all virtues
from the powers of the soul
And the
fountain head of grace demands a back
,

Th e S pi r i tu al

M a r r i a ge

li b

c a p.

x xx v i i i

INTE R I O R LIFE

THE

J 43

owing into that same ground from whence


1
the ood has come
S o the Interior Life now rmly estab
l i s h e d is found to conform to those great
laws which have guided the growing spirit
from the rst Again the dual property o f
love possession and action satisfaction
and fecundity is to be manifested upon
new levels Th e pendulum motion of life
swinging between the experience of union
with God t o which the Divine U nity ever
calls us and its expression in active charity
to which the multiplicity of His creatures
and their needs ever entreat us still goes
on Th e more richly and strongly the
life giving Life wells up within the self the
greater are the demands made upon that
self s industry and love In the establish
ment o f this balance in this continual
healthy act of alternation this double
movement into God and out to men is the
proof that the soul has really centred itself

upon the spiritual world is as Ruysbroeck


puts it conrmed in love
Thus do work
and union perpetually renew themselves ;
and this renewal in work and in union thi s
2
is a spiritual life
Now the self which has achieved this
degree o f transcendence has achieved too
considerable experience in that art o f con
!

Th e S pi r i tu al M a r r i a ge , li b
Th e S pa r kl i ng S to ne, c a p
.

c a p.

ii

x xxi x

RU Y S B R OECK

1 44

t e mpl a t i o n

or introversion which is the


mode of its communion with God Through
out training and develop ment have gone
hand in hand ; and the fact that Ruys
broec k seldom troubles to distinguish b e
tween them but accepts them as two

aspects o f one thing the gradual d e i c a

tion of the soul constitutes one of the


great obstacles to an understanding of
his work s Often he describes the whole
spiritual life as consisting in introversion
an entering o f consciousness into the super
sensuous regions beyond thought ; in
deance o f his o wn principle of active
charity movement work as the essential
reaction to the universe which distinguishes
a deied man
Th e truth is that the
two processes run side by side ; and now
one now the other is in the foreground of
his thought
Therefore all that I shall
now say of the contemplative art must be
understood as describing acts and a ppr e
h e n s i o n s taking place throughout the whole
course of the I nterior Life
What then is introversion
It is one
of the two great modes under which the
Plainly any
S piritual conscio u sness works
living sense o f God s pres ence must dis
cern that Circle whose centre is every
where a s both exterior and interior to the
self I n R u ys b r o ec k s own works we nd
a violent effort to express this ineffa b le
.

TH E I

NTERI O R LIFE

of

fact

1 45

omnipresence of a truly Trans


c en d e nt
yet truly Immanent Reality ; an
e ff ort often involving a col lision of imagery
Go d he says may be discovered at the soul s
apex where He eternally lives and reigns
and the soul itself dwells i n God ebbing and
owing wandering and returning within
that Fathomless Ground
Y et none the
less He comes to that soul from without ;
pouring in upon it like sunshine inundating
it with torrents of grace seizing the separate
entity and devouring whilst He feeds it ;
flashing o u t upon it in a tempest of love
from the Empyrean Heaven the Abyss of
Being where He dwells
Present yet
absent ; near yet far 1
exclaims S t
Augustine
Thou art the sky and Thou
art the nest as well 1 says the great mystic
poet of our own day
Whilst nearly all the mystics have p os
sessed clear consciousness of this twofold
revelation of the Divine Nature and some
have experienced by turns the outward
and upward rush and the inward retreat
temperamentally they usually lean towards
one o r other form of communion with God

ecstasy or introversion For one class


contact with Him seems primarily to involve
an outgoing ight towards Transcendent
Reality ; an attitude of mind strongly
marked in all contemplatives who are near
to the Neoplatonic tradition
Plotinus
,

IO

RUY S B

1 46

R OECK

S t Basil S t Ma c a r i u s and also in Richard


Rolle and a few other medi aeval types
These would agree with Dionysius the Areo
we
must
contemplate
things
a g i t e that
p
divine by our whole selves standing o u t of
whole selves
For the other class
our
the rst necessity is a retreat of conscious
ness from the periphery where i t touches
the world o f appearance to the centre
the U nity o f S pirit or Ground of the
where human personality buds forth
S oul
from the Essential World True this i n
turning o f attention is but a preliminary
t o the self s entrance upon that same
Transcendent Region which the ecstatic
cl aims that he touches in his upward
ights Th e introversive mystic too is
destined to sail the w i l d billows of the S ea
Divine
b ut here in the deeps of his
nature he nds the door thro u gh which he
must pass O nly by thus discovering the
unity o f his o wn nature can he give himself
to that tide of light which draws all
things back to the O ne
S uch is R u ys b r o e c k s V iew of contem
l
i
n
o
his
being
so
introversion
is
for
a
t
T
p
him an essential part o f man s spirit u al
development
the S o n knows the
AS
Father so it is the destiny of all spirits
created in that Pattern to know Him ; and
the mirror which is able to reect that
Divine Light the S imple Eye which alone
.

INTE RI O R LIFE

TH E

1 47

can bear to gaze o n it lies in the deeps


of
human personality
Th e will usually
harnessed to the surface consciousness de
voted to the interests o f temporal life ; the
love so freely spent on unreal and i m
perfect obj ects o i desire the thought which
busies itself on the ceaseless analysis and

arrangement o f passing things all these


are to be swept inwards to that gathering
point o f personality that U nity of the
S pirit of which he so often speaks ; and
there fused into a S ingle state of enormously
enhanced consciousness which withdrawn
from all attention to the changeful world
of similit u des is exposed to the direct
action o f the Eternal World of spiritual

realitie s Th e pul l of Divine Love the


light that ever ows back into the O ne
is to withdraw the contemplative s con
s c i o u s n e s s from multiplicity to unity
His
progress in contemplation will be a progress
towards that complete mono i d e i s m in

which the Vision of God and here v i s i o n


is to be understood in its deepest sense as a
totality o f apprehension a ghostly sight
dominates the eld o f consciousness to the
exclusion for the time o f contemplation
o f all else
R u ys b r o ec k s
Psychologically
method
differs little from that described by S t
It begins in recollection the rst
Teresa
drawing inwards of attention from the
,

RU Y SB R OECK

1 48

worl d of s ense ; passes to meditation the


centring of attention on some intellectual
formula or my s tery of faith ; and thence
by way o f graduated states variously
divided and described in his different works
to contemp l ation proper the apprehension
of God beyond and above reason
Al l
attempts however to map o u t this process
or reduce it to a system must necessarily
have an arbitrary and symbolic character
True we are bound to adopt some system
if we describe it at all ; but the dangers
and limitations of all formulas all concrete
imagery where we are dealing with the
uid living changeful worl d of S pirit should
never be absent from o u r minds Th e
bewildering and often inconsistent series
of images and numbers arrangements and
rearrangements of degrees
states
stir
rings and gifts in which R u y s b r o e c k s
sublime teachings on contemplation are
buried makes the cho me o f some one
formul a imperative for us ; though none
will reduce his doctrines to a logical series
for he is perpetu ally passing over from the
dialectic to the lyrical mood and forgets
to be orderly as soon as he begins to be
subj ective
I choose then to base my
classication o n that great chapter ( xix )
in The S even Cl o i s ter s where he distinguishes
three stages of contemplation ; nding in
them the responses of consciousnes s to the
,

INTE R I O R LIFE

TH E

1 49

special action of the Three Persons of the


Blessed Trinity Thes e three stages in the
soul s apprehension of God are : the
Emotional the Intellectual the Intui tive
I think that most of the subtly distinguished
interior experiences of the mys tic the
comings
of the Divine Presence the
stirrings and contacts which he describes
in his various books can be ranged under
one or other of them
1 First comes that loving contemplation
of the uplifted heart which is the wor k
of the Holy S pirit the consuming re of
Divine Love This ardent love invading
the s e lf and satisfying it in that intimate
experience of personal communion so often
described in the writings of the mystics
represents the self s rst call to contempla
tion and rst natural response ; made with
so great a j oy and delight of soul and
body in his uplifted heart that the man
knoweth not what hath befallen him nor
how he may endure it
For Ruysbroeck
this purely emotional reaction to Reality
this burning ame of devotion
which
seemed to Richard Rol le the essence of the

contemplative life is but its initial phase

It corresponds with and indeed generally

accompanies
those fever heats
those
tempests of impatient love endured by the
soul at the height of the Illuminative Way
L ove it is true shall be from rst to last
.

RU YS B R O ECK

1 50

the inspiring force o f the contemp l ative s


ascents : his education is from one point
o f view simply an education in love
But
this love is a passion of many degrees ;
and the urgency felt in the heart the
restlessness and hunger of this spiritual
feeling state is only its lowest form Th e
love which burns like white re on the
apex of the soul longs for sacrice inspires
heroic action and goes forward without
fear
hol y strong and free to brave the
terrors o f the Divine Dark is of another
temper than this j oyful sentiment
2 A loving stretching o u t into God and
an intellectual gazing upon Him says Ruys
broeck in a passage which I have already
quoted are the t w o heavenly pipes in
which the wind o f the S pirit sings S o the
next phase in the contemplative s develop
ment is that enhancement of the intellect
the power o f perceiving as against desiring
and loving Reality which is the work
the Divine Wisdom As the
o f the Logos
cleansed and detached heart had been lift ed
up to feel the Transcendent ; now the
understanding stripped of sense images
purged of intellectual arrogance claried
by grace is lifted up t o app r ehend it This
degree has two phases First that enlarge
ment o f the understanding to an increased
comprehension o f truth the nding o f deeper
and diviner meanings in things already

THE

INTE R I O R LIFE

1 51

known which Richard of S t Victor called


menti s di la ta ti o Next that further uplift
of the mind to a state in which it is able
to contemplate things above itself whilst
retaining clear self consciousness which he
called menti s s u blev a ti o Ruysbroeck how
ever inverts the order given by Richard ;
for him the uplif t comes rst the dilation
of consciousness follows from it This is a
characteristic instance of the way in which
he uses the Victorine psychology ; constantly
appropriating its terms but never hesitating
t o modify enrich or misuse them as his
experience or opinions may dictate
Th e rst phase of Intellectual Contempla
tion then is a lifting of the mind to a swift
and convincing vision of Reality : one o f
those sudden incommunicable glimpses of
Truth so often experienced early in the con
Th e veil parts
and
t e mpl a t i v e s career
he sees a light and vision which give t o
the contemplating spirit a conscious certi
tude that she sees God so far as man may
1
That strange
see Him in mortal life
mystical light of which all contemplatives
and which Ruysbroeck describes in
S peak
a passage of great subtlety as the inter
mediary between the seeing thought and
God now oods his consciousness In it
the S pirit of the Father speaks in the u p
lift ed thought which is bare and stripped of
.

The Twel ve B egu i nes ,

ca

xi ,

RU Y SB R O E CK

1 52

images saying
B ehold Me as I behol d
Then the pure and single eyes are
thee
strengthened by the inpouring o f that clear
Light of the Father and they behold His
face in a simple vision beyond reason and
1
without reason
It might be thought that in this simple
vision of S upreme Reality the spirit o f
the contemplative reached its goal It has
indeed reached a point at which many
a mystic stops short I think however
that a reference t o St Augustine whose
inuence is so strongly marked in Ruys
b r o e c k s wor k s will show what he means by
this phase o f contemplation ; and the char
a c t e r s which
distinguish it from that i n
fused o r unitive communion with God which
alone he calls Co ntemp la ti o In the seventh
book of his Co nfes s i ons Augustine describes
j ust such an experience as this By a study
o f the books of the Platonists he had learned
the art of introversion and achieved by its
aid a eeting Intellectual Contemplation
of God ; in his own words a
hurried
vis ion of That which Is
Being by these
books he says
admonished to return into
myself I entered into t h e:s ec r et closet of my
soul guided by Thee
and beheld the
Light that never changes above the eye of
2
It was
my soul above the intelligence
,

L 00 c i t
S t Au g u s ti ne , Co nfes s i o ns , li b
.

vii

ca

x
p
.

THE

INTE R I O R LIFE

1 53

the withdrawal o f thought from ex


i
e
e
its
abstraction
from
the
contra
r
e
n
c
p
d i c t o r y throng of sensuous images
that he
attained to this transitory apprehension ;
which he describes elsewhere as the v i s i o n
o f the Land o f
Peace but not the r o a d
thereto
But int e llect alone could not
bear the d i rect impact o f the terrible light
o f Reality
his wea k sight was dazzled by
its splendour
he
could not sustain his
gaze
and turned back to that humble
discovery of the Divine S ubstance by means
o f Its images and attributes which is proper
1
to the intellectual power
Now surely this is the psychological
situation described by Ruysbroeck Th e
very images used by Augustine are found
again in him Th e mind o f the contem
l
a t iv e
puried
disciplined
deliberately
p
abstracted from images is inundated by the
divine sunshine
the Light which is not
God but that whereby we see Him
and
in thi s ra d iance achieves a hurried but
convincing vision o f S upreme Reality But
even though the eagle king o f birds can
with his powerful S ight gaze steadfastly upon
the brightness of the sun ; yet do the weaker
2
eyes o f the bat fail and falter in the same
Th e intellectual vision is dazzled and dis
tressed like a man who can bear the diffused
by

S t Au g u s t i n e , Co nfes s i o ns , li b
xii
Th e Twel ve B egu i nes , c a
.

v i i . c a pp.

v ii

an d xx

RU Y SB R O ECK

1 54

radiance of sunshine b ut is blinded if he


dares to follow back its b eams to the terrible
beauty of their source
N o t for this are
my wings tted says Dante droop i ng to
earth after his supreme ecstatic i ght B e
cause i t cannot sustain its gaze then the
intelligence falls b ack upon the second phase
of
i ntellectual contemplation : S pecu la ti o
the deep still b rooding in which the soul
ma d e wise by the S pirit o f Truth contem
plates God and Creation a s He and it are
reected in the clear mirror of her i n
t ell e c t u a l p owers under
images and simili
t u des
the Mysteries o f Faith the At t r i
butes o f the Divine Nature the forms and
manners of created things As the Father
contemplates all thi ngs in the S o n Mirror
of Deity so now does the introverted soul
contemplate Him in this living mirror o f
her intelligence on which His sunshine
falls Because her swift vision o f That which
Is has taught her t o distinguish between the
ineffable Reality and the Appearance which
shadows it forth she can again discover
Him under tho s e images which once veiled
but now reveal Hi s presence Th e intellect
which has apprehended God Transcendent
if only f o r a moment has received therefrom
the p ower o f discerning God Immanent
He shows Himself to the soul in the
living mirror of her intelligence ; n o t as He
i s in Hi s nature but in ima g es and si mi li
.

INTE R I O R LIFE

THE

1 55

tudes and in the degree in which the illu


mi n a t e d reason can grasp and understand
Him An d the wise reason enlightened of
G o d sees clearly and without error in images
o f the understanding all that she has heard
of God o f faith of truth according to her
longing But that image which is God
Himself although it is held before her she
cannot comprehend ; for the eyes o f her
understanding must fail before that I nc o m
parable Light
In Th e K i ng d o m of Go d s Lo v er s Ruys
broeck pours forth a marvellous list of the
attributes under which the illuminated i n
t el l i g e n c e now contemplates and worships
That Which she can never comprehend ;
that
S imple O ne in whom all multitude
and all that multiplies nds its beginning
and its end
From this S imple Being of
the Godhead the illuminated reason a b
s t r a ct s
those images and attributes with
which it can deal as the lower reason a b
s t r a c t s from the temporal ux the materials
our normal universe S uch a loving
of
consideration of God under His attributes
is the essence of meditation : and medita
tion is in fact the way in which the i n
t el l e c t u a l faculties can best contemplate
Reality But because all things when they
are considered in their inwardness have their
beginning and their ending in the Innite
,

Lo c

c i t.

RU Y S B R OE CK

1 56

Being as in an Abyss here again the con


t e mpl a t i v e is soon led above himself and
b eyond h i mself to a point at which i ntellect

and consideration
i e for mal thought
fail him because here we touch the S imple
Nature o f Go d
When intellectual con
t e mpl a t i o n has brought the self to this
p oint it has done its work ; for it has
excited in the soul an eager desire to li f t
itself up by contemplation into the sim
i
l
c i t y o f the Light
that
thereby
its
avid
p
desire o f innite fruition may be satised
1
and fullled
i e it has performed the true
o fce of meditation induced a S hifting o f
consciousness to higher levels
We observe that the emphasis which in
the First Degree o f Contemplati on fell
wholly on feeling in the S econd Degree falls
wholly up on knowledge We are not how
ever t o supp ose from this that emotion has
been left behind As the virtues and energies
o f the Active Life continue in the Contem
l
t
i
Life
so
the
burning
love
which
a
e
v
p
disting uished the rst stage o f communion
with the Transcendent is throughout the
source o f that energy which presses the self
on t o deeper and closer correspondences
with Reality Its presence is pres u pposed
in all that is said concerning the develop
ment of the spiritual consciousness Never
t h el e s s Ru ysbroeck though he cannot be
,

The K i ngd o m of Go d

Lover s ,

ca

xxxi

TH E

INTE R I O R LIFE

accused o f intellectualism is led by his


admiration for Victorine ideas to lay great
stress upon the mental side of contempla
tion as against those emotional reactions to
the Transcendent which are emphasised

almost to excess b y so many of the saints


His aim was the lifting of the wh o le ma n to
Eternal levels : and the clarifying of the
intelligence the enhancement o f the under
standing seemed t o him a proper part of the
d ei c a t i o n o f human nature the bringing
forth in the soul s ground of that S o n who
is the Wisdom of Go d as well as the Pattern
of Ma n Though he moves amongst deep
mysteries and in regions beyond the span of
ordinary minds there is always apparent
in him an effort towards lucidity o f expres
sion sharp denition plain speech S ome
times he is wild and ecstatic pouri ng forth
his vision in a strange poetry which is at
once uncouth and sublime ; but he is never
woolly o r con f used His prose passages owe
much of their seeming di fculty to the
passion for exactitude which distinguishes
and classies the subtlest movements of the
spiritual atmosphere the delicately graded
responses of the soul
3 Now the Third Degree o f Contempla
tion lifts the whol e consciousness to a plane
o f perception which transcends the cate
i
of
the
intellect
where
it
deals
no
o
r
e
s
:
g
longer with the label but with the Thing
,

RU Y S B R O ECK

1 58

It

has passed beyond image and also beyond


thought ; to that knowledge by contact
which is the essence of int u ition and is
brought about by the higher p owers of
love S uch contemplation is regarded by
Ruysbroeck as the work of the Father
Who strips from the mind all forms and
images and lifts up the Naked Appr eh e n
sion [i e intuition ! into its O rigin that is
Himself
It is e ffected by concentra
tion of all the p owers of the self into a
single state uplifted ab ove all action in a
bare understanding and love upon that apex
o f the soul where no reason can ever attain
and where the simple eye is ever O pen
towards God There the loving soul a ppr e
hends Him not under conditions in some
wise but as a wh o l e without the discrete
analysi s o f His properties which was the
sp ecial character o f intellect u al contempla
tion ; a synthetic exp erience which is in
no wise
This is for Ruysbroeck the c o n
It is an
t e mpl a t i v e act p a r exc el l enc e
intimacy which is ignorance a simple
seeing he says again and again ;
and
the name thereof is Co ntemp la ti o ; that is
the seeing of God in simplicity
Here the reason no less than all sepa
rate acts must give way for our powers
become simple in Love ; they are silent
,

Th e S ev en Cl o i s ter s , c a p xi x

T h e Twel ve B egu i nes , c a p


.

TH E

INTE R I O R LIFE

1 59

and bowed down in the Presence o f the


Father And this revelation of the Father
lifts the soul above the reason into the
Imageless Nudity There the soul is simple
pure spotless empty of all thi ngs and it is
in this state of perfect emptiness that the
Father manifests His Divine radiance To
this radiance neither reason nor sense o b
servation nor distinction can attain All
this must stay below ; for the measureless
radiance blinds the eyes of the reason they
cannot bear the Incomprehensible Light
But above the reason in the most secret
part of the understanding the s i mp le eye
is ever open
It contemplates and gazes
at the Light with a pure S ight that is lit
by the Light itself eye to eye mirror to
mirror image to image
This threefold
act makes us like God and unites us to
Him ; for the sight o f the s i mp le eye is a
living mirror which God has made for His
image and whereon He has impressed it
Intuitive or infused contemplation is the
form o f communion with the Transcendent
proper to those who have grown up to the
state o f U nion ; and feel and know the
presence of God within the soul as a love
a life an indrawing attraction calling and
enticing all things to the still unachieved
consummation of the Divine U nity
He
who has reached this pitch o f introversion
.

Th e

M i r r o r of E ter na l S a l v a ti o n ,

c a p.

v ii .

RU YS B R O ECK

1 60

and is ab l e in his S piritua l exercises to


withdraw himsel f thus t o the most secret

part o f his S pirit feels within the Eterna l


Light which lls his mirror and is united

with i t
this perpetual demand of the Divine
U nity entreating a n d urging him towards
a total self los s
In the fact that he
knows this demand and impul s ion as other
than himself we nd the mark which
separates this the highest contemplation
proper t o the Life o f U nion from that
fruitive contemplation o f the S pirit which
has died into God which belongs t o the
1
L ife o f U nity
When the work of trans
mutation is nished and he has received
the S parkling S tone o f Divine Humanity

this subj ect obj ect di s tinction


though
really an eternal o ne as Ruysbroec k con

will no longer b e po s
t i nu a l l y reminds u S
sible to his consciousness
Then he will
live at those l evels to which he now makes
impassioned ascents in his hours of unitive
prayer : will be immersed in the B ea t i c
Vision o n which he now l ook s and l ose
himself in the Imag el ess Nudity
This is the clue to the pu z zling distinction
made by Ruysbroec k between the con
without conditions
t e mpl a t i o n which is
and that which is beyond and ab ove c o n
and belongs to the S uperes s ential
d it i o ns
L ife alone In Intuitive Contemplation the
,

The S pa r kl i ng S to ne ,

c ap

i ii

TH E

INTE R I O R LIFE

1 61

seeing self apprehends the U nconditioned


World Onwi s e and makes loving ascents
thereto
It nds within itself the u n
walled
yet is still anchored to the con
I n S uperessential Con
d i t i o n e d sphere
t e mpl a t i o n it d i es i n to that
world which
i s in no wise
In the great chapter of
1
Th e S p a r kli ng S to ne where he struggles t o
make thi s distinction clear Ruysbroeck says
that the Friends of God ( i e the Interior
Me n )
cannot with themselves and all
their works penetrate to that Imageless
Nudity
Although they feel united with
God yet they feel in that union an other
nes s and di fference between themselves and
God ; and therefore the ascent into the
Nought is unknown to them
They feel
themselves carried up towards God in the
tide o f His a ll subduing Fire of Love ;
but they retain their selfhood and may
not be consumed and burned to nothing in
the U nity o f Love They do not yet desire
t o die into God that they may receive a
deiform life from Him but they are in the
way which leads to this fullment of their
destiny and are following back the light
to its O rigin
This following back is one continuous
process in which we for convenience of
description have made articial breaks

an d
I I

the

O f t h e D i ff e r e nc e
H i d d e n S o ns o f G o d

bet ween

the

Se c r et

RU Y S B R O E CK

1 62

It is the thrust o f consciousness deeper and


deeper into the heart o f Reality As in the
stream o f physical duration so in this
ceaseless movement of the spirit there is
a persistence o f the past in the present
a carrying through and merging o f o ne
state in the next Thus the contemplation
which is wayless the self s intuitive com
munion w ith the Innite Life and Light
growing in depth and richness bridges
the gap which separates the Interior and
the S uperessential Life
We nd in R u y s b r o ec k s works indica
tions o f a transitional state in which the
soul
is guided and lost wanders and
returns ebbs and ows within the limit
less Nudity to which it has n o t yet wholly
surrendered itself
And its seeing is in
no wise being without manner and it is
neither thus nor thus neither here nor
there ; for that which is in no wise hath
enveloped all and the vision is made high
and wide It knows not itself where That
is which it sees and it cannot come ther e
to for its seeing is in no wise and passes
on beyond for ever and without return
That which it apprehends it cannot realise
in full nor wholly attain for its a ppr e
h e n s i o n is wayless and without manner
and therefore it is apprehended of God i n
a higher way than it can apprehend Him
Behold l such a foll owing o f t h e Wa y t h at
.

TH E

INTE R I O R LIFE

1 63

is Wayless is intermediary b etween con


t e mpl a t i o n in images and similitudes o f
the intellect and unveiled contemplation
1
beyond all images in the Light of God
,

Th e Twel v e B egu i nes ,

ca

x
i
i
p
.

CHAP
TH E

SU

ER VIII

P E R E S S E N TI A L

I FE

I f , t h e r e f o r e , t h o u a r t e c o me t h e t h r o n e o f G o d a nd
t h e H e a v e n l Ch a r i o t e e r h a t h s ea t e d H i ms e lf w i t h i n t h e e ,
a nd t h
o u l i s wh o l l
i
e c o me a s pi r i t u a l e e a n d
s
s
y
y
w h o l l ma d e i n t o l i g h t ; i f , t o o , t h o u a r t n o u r i s h e d w i t h
f o o d o f t h a t S pi r i t a n d h a s t d r u nk o f t h e
t h e h ea v e n l
L i v i ng Wa t e r a n d pu t o n t h e s e c r e t v e s t u r e o f l i g h t i f
t h i n e i n w a r d ma n h a s e pe r i e n c e d a l l t h e s e t h i ng s a n d i s
e s ta l i s h e d i n a u n d a n t f a i t h , 10 ! t h o u l i v e s t i nd e e d t h e
Et e r n a l L i f e a n d t h y s o u l r e s t s e v e n i n t h i s pr e s en t t i me
wi t h t h e L o r d
S T MACA R I US o r EG P T

y b

WE have seen that Ruysbroeck in common


,

with a few other supreme mystics declares


to us as veritably known and experienced

by him a universe of three orders B e

comi ng Being G O D and further three


ways of life whereby the self can correspond
to these three orders and which he calls
the life o f nature the life of grace the
life o f glory
Glory
which has been
degraded by the usage o f popular piety
into a vague superlative and nally left
in the hands o f hymn writers and religious
revivalists is o ne o f the most a nc I e nt
,

64

T H E S U P ER ES SEN

TI AL LIFE

1 65

technical terms o f Christian mysticism O f


S criptural origin f rom the fourth century
to the fteenth it was used to denote a
denite kind o f enhanced life a nal achieve

ment o f Reality the unmediated radiance

o f Go d
which the gift of divine sonship
made possible to the soul In the life of
grace that soul transcends conditions in
virtue of a Divine vitality poured in from
the Absolute S phere and actualises its
true being ( Wes en ) ; in the life o f glory
it becomes a denizen of that sphere and
achieves an existence that is more than
being ( Ov er wes en ) Th e note of the rst
state is contemplation awareness ; the note
o f the second is fruition
possession
swi f t and loving
That power o f making
ascents to the plane o f Onwi s e t o which
man attained at the end of the Interior Life
that conscious harmony with the Divine
Will which then became the controlling
factor o f his active career cannot be the
end o f the process o f transcendence Th e
soul now hungers and thirsts for a more
intense Reality a closer contact with
Him who is measureless
a deeper and
deeper penetration into the burning heart
Though contemplation
the universe
of
seems to have reached its term love goes
Be
to lose itself upon the heights
on
yond both the conditioned and unconditioned
world beyond the Trinity Itself that love
.

RU YS B R O ECK

1 66

obj ective the

discerns its ultimate


very
Godhead the Divine U nity
where all
lines nd their end
where
we are
satised and overowing and with Him
1
beyond ourselves eternally fullled
Th e
abiding life which is there discoverable
is not o nl y without manner but above

manner
the deied life indescribable
save by the oblique methods o f music o r
poetry wherein in Maeterlinck s great
phrase
the psychology o f man mingles
with the psychology o f God
Al l Ruys
b r o e c k s most wonderful passages are con
cerned with the desperate attempt t o tell
us of this life this utter fruition o f Reality
which seems at o ne time to involve for the
contemplative consciousness a self mergence
in Deity so complete as t o give colour to
that charge of pantheism which is inevitably
ung at all mystics who try to tell what
they have known ; at others to represent
rather the perfect consummation o f that
union in separateness which is character
i s t i c of all true love
This is but one instance o f that perpetu a l
and inevitable resort to paradox which
torments all who try to follow him along
this track without shadow o f trace
fo r
the goal towards which he is now enticing
us is o ne in which all the completing opposites
of
our fragmentary experience nd their
,

Th e Twel v e B egu i n es ,

ca

i
x
v
p
.

TH E S

UPER ESS ENT I A L LIFE

1 67

bourne Hence the rapid alternation o f


spatial and personal symbols which confuses
o u r industrious intellects
is the o ne means
whereby he can suggest its actuality to our
hungry hearts
As we observed in R u ys b r o e c k s earli er
teaching on contemplation three distinct
forms in which the special work that
theology attributes to the three Divine
Persons seemed t o him to be reected ;
now in this S uperessential Contempla
tion or Fruition we nd the work o f the
Absolute Godhead Its e lf energising upon
a plane of intensity which so utterly tra n
scends our power of apprehension that it

seems to the surface consciousness


as
Dionysius the Areopagite had name d i t
a negation of all things a Divine Dark
is wild
This Fruition says Ruysbroeck
and desolate as a desert and ther e in is to
be found no way no road no track no
retreat no measure no b eginning no end
nor any other thing that can be told in
words An d this is for all of us S impl e
Blessedness the Essenc e of God and our
above reason and beyond
s u pe r e s s e n c e
r e ason To know it we must be in it
b e yond the mind and above our creat e d
being ; in that Eternal Point where all
our lines begin and end that Point wh er e
th e y lose their name and all distinct i o n
and b e come o ne with the Point itself and
.

RUY S B R OECK

1 68

that very O ne which the Point is y et


nevertheless ever remain in themselves
1
nought else but lines that come t o an end
What then is the way by which the soul
moves from that life of intense contemplation
in which the spreading light o f the S pirit
shows her the universe fullled with God
t o this new t r a n s g u r ed state o f j oy and
terror
It is a way for which her previous
adventures might have prepared us As
each new ascent new inow o f grace was
prepared by a time of destitution and stress
as the compensating b eats o f love and
renunciation have governed the evolving

mel ody o f the inner life s o here a last


death of selfhood a surrender more absolute
than all that has gone before must be the
means of her achievement of absolute life
Dying and behold I li v e l says Paul of
his own attainment of supernal life in Christ
Ruysbroeck who never strays far from the
vital and heroic mysticism of the New Testa
ment saints can nd no other language

for this last crisis of the spirit its move


ment from the state of Wes en t o that o f
Ov er wes en t h an the language o f death
Th e ever moving line though its vital char
acter of duration continues now seems t o
itself t o swoon into the Point the separate
entity which has felt the ood of grace pour
into it t o energise its active career and the
,

Th e S even Cl o i s ter s ,

ca

x
i
x
p
.

TH E S

UPERESS ENTI A L LI FE

1 69

e b b of homeward tending love draw it back


towards the O ne now feels itself pouring
into the Innite S ea Our personal activity
h e says has done all t h at it can : as the
s e parate career o f Christ o u r Pattern closed
with His voluntary death so the death o f
our selfhood o n that apex of personality
where we have stretched up so ardently
toward the Father shall close the separate
career o f the human soul and open the way
to its new God driven career its r e su r r ec
ti on life
None is sure o f Eternal Life
unless he has died with all his own a t t r i

all else falls


butes wholly into God
short of the demands of supreme generosity
It is Th e B o o k of the S p a r kli ng S to ne
which contains R u ys b r o ec k s most wond e r
ful descriptions of the consciousness peculiar
to these souls who have grown up to the
fulness of the stature o f Christ
and since
this is surely the nest and perhaps the least
known of h i s writings I offer no apology for
transcribing a long passage from its ninth
chapter
H o w we ma y become t h e Hidden
S ons of God
When we soar up ab ove ourselves and
become in our upward striving t owards
God s o simple that the naked Love l n the
Heights can lay hold on us th ere wher e
Love cherishes Love above all activity and
all virtue ( that is to say in our Or 1 g 1 n
-

Th e S pa r kl i ng S to ne,

c a p. v i

ii

R UYS B R O ECK
wherefrom we are spiritually born ) then we
cease and we and all that is o u r o wn die
into God And in this death we become
hidden S ons o f Go d and nd in ourselves
a new life and that is Eternal Life And
of these S ons S t Paul says
Y e are dead
and your life is hi d with Christ in God
I n o u r approach to God we must bear with
us ourselves and all that we do as a per
et u a l sacrice to God
and
in
the
Presence
p
o f God we must leave ourselves and all o u r
works and dying in love soar up above
all created things into the S uperessential
K ingdom o f God
And o f this the S pirit of
God speaks in the Book of Hidden Things
saying
Blessed are the dead that die in the
Lord
If we would ta s te Go d and feel
in ourselves Eternal Life ab ove all things
we must go forth into God with a faith that
is far ab ove our reason and there dwell
simple idle without image lifted up by l ove
into the U nwalled Bareness of our i nt el l i
gence F o r when we go out from ourselves
in love and die to all observances in i g n o r
ance and darkness then we are made c o m
l
e
t
e

and
s
by
the
Eternal
Word
t
r
a
n
u
r
e
d
p
g
Image of the Father And in this emptiness
of spirit we receive the Incomprehensible
Light which enfolds and penetrates u s as
air i s penetrated by the light o f the sun ;
and this Light is nought else but a fathomless
gazing and seeing Wh at we are that we
,

TH E S

UPERESSENTI A L

LIF E

1 71

gaze at ; and what we gaze at t h at we are


For o u r thought our lif e our being are
lifted up in simplicity and united with
the Tr u th that is God Th erefore in this
simple gazing we are one life and o n e

spirit with God and this I call the s eei ng


1
l if e
S uch a passage as this lies beyo n d our poor
at t empts at analysis Those only will under
stand i t who yield themselves to it ; e nter
ing into its current as we enter into the
music that we love It tells us all it can o f
this life which is more than bei ng as fel t
in the s u preme experience of love Life and
Death Dark and Light Idleness Bareness
these are but images of the feeling states
that acco mpany i t But here more than
elsewhere in R u y s b r o ec k s writings we must
remember the peril which goes with all
subj ective treatment of mystical truth
Each state which the unitive mystic eXper i
e n c e s is so intense
that it monopolises for
the time being his eld of consciousness
Writing under the pressure o f the S pirit

he writes of i t as ind e ed it seems to h i m

at the mo ment as ultimate and complete


O nly by a co mparison of different and super
c i a ll y inconsistent descriptions of this e n

hanced life which must harmonis e and


full a ll the needs of our complex p erson
ality providi n g inexhaustible obj ectives
,

Th e S pa r kl i ng S to ne ,

ca

ix

RU Y S B

R OECK

will can

for love intel ligence and


we form
any true idea concerning it
When we do this we discover that the
side o f it which s eems a stati c beatitude
still Fruiti on perfect Rest is always
balanced by the other side ; which s eems
a perpetual and progressive attainment
a seeking and nding a hungering and
feeding a giving and taking These c o
exist ; as the ever renewed coming o f the
Bridegroom the welling u p of the S pirit
the stormy eager unsatised love of the
soul do as a matter o f experience coexist
within that perfect and personal union
wherein Love and Fruition as Ruysbroeck
puts it
live between action and rest
Th e alternate consciousness of the l ine and
the Point the moving river and the S e a
the relative and the Absolute persists s o
long as c onsciousness persists at all ; it is
no
Christianised Nirvana into which he
seeks t o induct us but that mysterious
synthesis o f B eing and Becoming eternal

stillness and eternal work


a
movement
into God which is already a complete achieve

ment of Him which certain other great


mystics have discerned beyond the aming
ramparts o f the common life
Th e unbreakable unity with God which
constitutes the mark of the Third Life
exists in the essential ground of the soul
where the river ows int o the S e a the line
,

TH E S

UPERES SE NT I AL LIFE

1 73

into the Point ; where the pendulum o f self


has its attachment to Reality Ther e the
hidden child o f the Absolute is o ne with Go d
in restful fruition
there his deep intuition

o f Divine t hi ngs
that S avouring Wisdom
which is the last supreme gift of the S pirit
is able to taste and appr e hend the sweetness
of Innite Reality But at the other end
where he still participates in the time pro
cess where his love and will are a moving
river consciousness hungers for that total
Attainment still ; and attention will swing
between these two extremes now actualised
within the living soul which has put o n the
dual character of Divine Humanity and is
living E t ernal Life not in some far off
celestial region but here where Christ lived
it in the entangled world of Time Thu s
active s elf mergence incessant r e birth i nto
God perpetual eager fe eding o n Him is
implicit in all spiritual life Even for t h e
souls o f the deied quietism is n e ver
right
For love cannot be lazy but would
search through and through and tast e
through and through the fathomless kmg
d o m that lives in her ground ; and this
1
hunger shall nev er be stilled
i
soul
whenever
it
attends
to
tself
e
h
T
withdraws itself so to spe a k from the
.

1
1

T h e K i ng d o m o f Go d s L o v er s ,
Th e S pa r kl i ng S to ne , c a p

B eg u mes ,

ca

XVI .

ix

c ap
.

xxxi i i

Cp

als o

Th e Twel v e

RU Y S B R O ECK
Divine S ynthesis dwells in itself and beholds

instead o f being feels again the eternal


unrest of love
the whip of the Heavenly
Charioteer driving all S pirits in towards
the heart of God where they are one re
with Him
This stirring that mediates
between ourselves and God we can never
pass beyond ; and what that stirring is in
its essence and what love is in itself we can
1
never know
But when it dwells beyond
itself and in the supreme moments of
ecstasy merges its consciousness in the
U niversal Consciousness it transcends suc
cession and centres itself in the Divine

still glorious and absolute


S elfhood the
O ne ness Then it feels not hunger but
satisfaction not desire but fruition ; and
knows itself beyond reason one with the
abysmal depth and breadth in a S imple
fathomless savouring o f al l good and o f
Eternal Life
And in this savouring we
are swallowed up above reason and beyond
reason in the deep Quiet of the Godhead
which is never moved
S uch experiences however such perfect
fruition in which the self dies into the
overwhelming revelation of the Trans
c e n d e nt
and its rhythm is merged in the
Divine Rhythm cannot be continuous for
,

T h e T wel v e B eg u i n es , c a p xv i
1
Th e S pa r kl i ng S to ne, c a p i x ;
Tr u th , c a p xi i
1

also

Th e B o o k

THE S

UPE RES SENT I A L

LI F E

1 75

those still living in the esh There is in


Ruysbroeck no foolish insistence o n any
impossible career o f ceaseless ecstasy ;
but a robust acceptance o f the facts and
limitations o f life Ma n cannot he says
perpetually contempl ate with attention the
superessential Being of God in the Light of
God But whosoever has attained to the
gift o f Intelligence [i e the sixth of the
S ev e n Gifts of the S pirit ! attains this power
which becomes habitual to him and when
soever he will he can wholly absorb himself
in this manner o f contemplation in so far
as it is possible in this life
Th e superessential man in fact is as
Francis Thompson said of the soul a
.

i g i ng w i c k e t

sw n

Th e

s et

B e t we en
Un s e en a n d S ee n

!
.

He is to move easily and at will between


these two orders both actual both God
inhabited the complementary expressions o f
O ne Love participating both in the active
industrious creativ e outow in differentia
tion and the still indrawing attraction
which issues in the supreme experience o f
For these two moveme nts the
U nity
Active and Interior Lives have e ducated
him Th e truly charact e ristic exper i enc e o f
the Third Life is t h e fruition of that U n i ty
,

Th e K i ngd o m o f Go d

Lo v er s ,

ca

xxxi

RU YSBR OECK

1 76

or S implicity in which they are harmonised


beyond the balanced consciousness o f the
1
indrawing and outdrawing tides
Ruysbroeck discerns three moments in
this achievement First a negative move
ment the introversive sinking down o f o u r
created life into God s absolute life which
is the consummation o f self n a u g h t i ng and
surrender and the essence of dark con
t e mpl a t i o n
Next the positive ecstatic
stretching forth ab ove reason into o u r
highest life where we undergo complete
transmutation in God and feel ourselves
wholly enfolded in Him Thirdly from
these completing opposites of surrender
and love springs the perfect fruition o f
U nity so far as we may know it here ; when
we feel ourselves t o be one with God and
nd ourselves transformed of God and
immersed in the fathomless Abyss of our
Eternal Blessedness where we can nd no
1
further! separation between ourselves and
S o long as we are lifted up and
Go d
stretched forth into this height of feeling
all o u r powers remain idle in an essential
fruition ; for where o u r powers are utterly
there we lose our activity And
na u gh t ed
so long as we remain idle without observa
tion with outstretched S pirit and open eyes
so long can we see and have fruition But
i n th a t same moment in which we would
,

'

Th e B o o k

Tr u th ,

cap

xi i

TH E S

UPERES S ENT I A L LIFE

1 77

test and comprehend Wh a t that may b e


which we feel we fall back upon reason ;
and there we nd distinction and otherness
between God and ourselves and nd God
1
as an Incomprehensible O ne exterior to us
I t is clear from this passage that such
utterness of fruition is a e eting e xper i
ence though it is one to which the unitive
mystic can return again and again sinc e
it exists as a permanent state in his essential
ground ever discoverable by him when
attention is focussed upon it Fu rther it
appears that the absence of di fference
between God and the soul which t h e mystic
in these moments of ecstasy feels and enj oys
is a psychological experience not an a b s o
lute truth I t is the o nl y way in which
his surface mind is able to realise on the
o n e S ide the overwhelming apprehension of
God s Love that Y e s in which all other
syllables are merged ; o n the other the
completeness of his being s self abandon
ment to the Divine embrace
that S uper
essential Love with which we are one and
which we possess more deeply and wid e ly
than any other thing
It was for th i s
experience that Thomas a K empis prayed in
one of his most R u y s b r o e c ki a n passages :
When shall I at full gather myself in
Thee that for Th y love I feel not myself
,

1
1

T h e S pa r kl i ng S to ne ,
Op Ci t c a p
.

I 2

ix

c ap

RU Y S B R OECK
but Thee only ab ove all feeli ng a nd al l
9
manner in a ma nner n o t kno wn to a l l
I t is t o this same paradoxical victory i n

surrender this apparent losing which is

the only real n d i ng that Francis Th o mp


son invites the soul
T f el t h y l f n d b e
Hi de
n nent i t y
,

ar

Be

se

Ca u g h t
o n d h u ma n t h o u h t
g

I n t h e t h u n d e r -s po u t
nti l t h
e i n g d i m,
y
An d b e
!
D ea d d e a t h l e s s l

of

H i m,

Now here it is in these stammered tidings


o f an adventure
far outside and beyond
our spirit in the darkness at which reason
gazes with wide eyes
that we must look
for the solution of t h at problem which all
high mystic states involve for analytic
thought : how can the human s o u l become
without intermediary b e
o n e with God
yond all separation
yet remain eternally
distinct from Him
How can the d e i c a
tion the union with God without differ
on which the great mystics insist
e nt i a t i o n
be accepted and pantheism be denied
First we notice that in all descriptions
,

Th e I mi ta ti o n o f Ch r i s t , li b i i i c a p
1
Th e T wel v e B egu i nes , c a p xi v ,
S to ne , c a p i x
3
Th e T wel v e B egu i nes , c a p xv i
1

xxiii

a nd

Th e S pa r kl i ng

TH E S

UPE RES S ENTI AL LIFE

1 79

of U nity given us by the mystics there is


a strong subj ective element Their rst
concern is always with the experience o f
t h e heart and will not with the deductions
made by the intelligence It is at our o wn
peril that we attach ontological meaning
to their convinced and vivid psychological
statements
Ruysbroeck in
part icular
makes this quite clear to us ; says again
and again that he has felt unity without
di fference and distinction yet that he
kno ws that
otherness
has always r e
mained and that this is true we can only
1
know by feeling it and in no other way
In certain great moments he says the
puried and illuminated soul which has
died into God does achieve an Essential
S tillness ; which seems to human thought
a static condition for it is that Eternal
Now of the Godhead which embraces in
its span the whole process of Time Here
we nd nothing but God : the naked and
ultimate Fact o r S uperessential Being
whence all Being has come forth stripped
o f academic trimmings and experienced in
its white hot intensity Here far beyond
the range of thought unity and otherness
like hunger and fullment activity and
rest c a n c o exist in love Th e ultimate
union is a love union says Ruysbroeck
,

cap

Th e S pa r kl i ng S to ne ,
.

xi

ca

i
x
p
.

o p.

Th e B o o k

/ Tr u th

180

R U Y S B ROEC K

Th e

Love o f God is a consuming Fire


which draws us o u t o f ourselves and swallows
us up in unity with God where we are
satised and overowing and with Him
beyond ourselves eternally fullled
This hungry and desirous love at once
a personal passion and a cosmic force
drenches t r a n s g u r es and unites with the
soul as sunlight does the air as re does
the iron ung into the furnace ; so that
the molten metal changed into another
glory is both iron and re ever distinct
yet ever united
an antique image of
the Divine U nion which he takes direct from
a celebrated passage in S t Bernard s works
A s much as is iron so much is re ; and
as much as is re s o much is iron yet the
iron doth not become re nor the re iron
but each retains its substance and nature
S o likewise the spirit o f man doth not
become God but is deied and k nows
itself breadth length height and depth
and as far as God is God so far the loving
spirit is made o ne with Him in love
Th e iron the air represent our created
essence the re the sunlight God s Essence

which is added to our own o u r s uper


es s ence
Th e two are held in a union
,

Th e Twel v e B egu i nes , c a p xv i


1
I bi d c a p xi v ; c p S t B e r n a r d , D e D i l i gen d o D eo ,
cap
T h e s a me i ma g e i s f o u n d i n S t M a c a r i u s a nd
ma ny o t h er w r i t e r s

THE S

UPERES SENT I AL LIFE

181

which when we try to see it under the


symbolism of space appears a mingling
a self mergence but when we feel it under
the symbolism of personality is a marriage
in which the lover and beloved are distinct
Then are we one being one
yet united
love and o ne beatitude with God
a j oy so great and special that we cannot
even think o f any other j oy For then o ne
is one s self a Fruition of Love and can and
1
should want nothing beyond one s own
It follows from all this that when the soul
coming to the Fourth S tate of Fruitive
Love enters into the Equilibrium which
suppor ts and penetrates the ux it does
and must reconcile the opposites which
have governed the earlier stages of its
car e er Th e communion reached is with
a Wholeness ; the life which ows from it
must be a wholeness too Full s u rrender
harmonised with full actualisation of all
not some thin
o u r desires and faculties ;
abstract vertical relation alone but an
all round expansion a full deep rich giving
and taking a complete correspondence
with the innitely rich all demanding and
all generous God whose love is measure
Thus Ruysbroeck
less for it is Hims elf
teaches that love static and love dynamic
must coexist for us as for Him ; that the
eternal hung e r and thirst of the God
,

Th e S pa r kl i ng S to ne ,

ca

xi i

RU Y SB R O ECK

182

demanding soul continues within its ecstatic


satisfaction ; because however deeply it
may love and understand the Divine Excess
will always baffle it It is destined ever
to g o forward within the Essence of God
to grow without ceasing deeper and deeper
into this life in the eternal longing to
follow a f ter and attain Him Who is measure
less
And we learn this truth from
His sight : that all we taste in comparison
with that which remains out o f our reach
is no more than a single drop of water
compared with the whole sea
We
hunger for God s Innity which we cannot
devour and we aspire to His Eternity
which we cannot attain
I n this storm
of love our activity is above reason and
is in no wise Love desires that which is
impossible to her and reason teache s that
love is within her rights but can neither
1
counsel nor persuade her
Hence an eternal desire and an eternal
satisfaction are preserved within the circle
the deied life
Th e full grown self
of
feels in its most intense degree the double
movement o f the Divine Love and Light
the ux and reux ; and in its perfect and
ever renewed responses to the indrawing
and o u t o w i ng attraction of that Tide
the complete possession of the S uperessential
L ife consists
,

Th e S pa r kl i ng S to ne ,

ca

THE S

UPERESS ENT I AL LIFE

183

Th e

indrawing attraction drags us o u t


of ourselves and calls us to be melted away
and n a u g h t e d in the U nity And in this
indrawing attraction we feel that God wills
that we should be His and for this we must
abnegate ourselves and let our beatitude
be accomplished in Him But when He
attracts us by owing out towards us He
gives us over to ourselves and makes us
1
free and sets us in Time
Thus is accomplished that pa r o d o xi c a l
synthesis o f Eternal Rest and Eternal
Work which Ruysbroeck regards as the
charact e r of God and towards
e ssential
which the whole of his system has been
educating the human soul Th e deied or
God formed soul is for him the spirit in
which this twofold ideal is actualised :
this is the Patt e rn the Likeness of God
declared in Christ o u r Archetype towards
which the Indwelling S pirit presses the
race Though there are moments in which
carried away as it seems by his almost i n
tolerable ecstasy he pushes out towards
that unwalled Fruition o f God where all
fruition begins and ends where o ne is all
and all is one and Ma n is himself a fruition
of love ; yet he never forgets to remind
us that as love is not love unless it looks
forward towards the creation of new life
,

Th e S pa r kl i ng S to ne,

0p

czt

ca

x11

cap

RU Y S B R O ECK

184

s o here
when love falls in love with love
and each is all to the other in possession and
in rest the o bj ec t of this ecstasy is not a
permanent self loss in the Divine Darkness
a slumbering in God but a new life o f
virtue such as love and its impulses de
1
mand
To be a living willing T ool o f
God wherewith God works what He will
and how He will is the goal o f transcend
ence described in the last chapter o f The
S p a r kli ng S to ne
Then is o u r life a wh o le
when contemplation and work dwell in us
S ide by side and we are perfectly in both o f
for then the separate
them at once
spirit is immersed in and part of the per

l
e
t
u
a
creative
act
of
the
Godhead
the
p
owing forth and the drawing back which
have at their base the Eternal Equilibrium
the unbroken peace wherein
God con
templates Himself and all things in an
Eternal Now that has neither beginning nor
2
end
O n that
U nbroken Peace the
s pirit hangs ; and swings like a pendulum
in wide arcs of love and service between
the U nconditioned and the Conditioned
W orlds
S o the S uperessentia l L ife is the simple
t h e synthetic life in which man actualises at
last all the resources o f his complex being
,

xi

o p al s o Th e S e v en D egr ees ,
0p c i t c a p
i i
T h e S pa r kl i n g S to ne, c a p xi v
Th e S i r i tu a l M a r r z a ge , li b i i i c a p v
.

cap

xi v

TH E S

UP ERES SENT I AL LIFE

1 85

active life of response to t h e Temporal


O rder the contemplative life o f respons e
t o the Transcendent O rder are unit e d
rmly held together by that eternal xa
tion of the spirit ; the perpetual willed
dwelling of the being of man within t h e
Incomprehensible Abyss of the B e ing of God
u i es t p er o mn i a s a ec u l a bened i c tu s
q
Th e

B I BL I O G R A P H I C A L N O T E

I FL E M I S H

TE X T

Wer ken

R u u s br o ec
Ed J D V I D
6 v o l s ( Ma et s c h a ppy d er Vl a e ms c h e B i b l i o
il
h
e
n
e
t
1
G
n
8
5
8
,
)
(
p
Th i s e d i t i o n , b a s e d o n t h e MS S pr e s e r v e d a t
B ru s s el s a n d Gh ent , a n d t h e f o u n d a t i o n o f a l l t h e
b es t t r a ns l a t i o ns , i s no w r a r e
I t ma y b e c o n
s u l t e d a t t h e B r i t i s h Mu s eu m
A r e -i s s u e o f t h e Fl e mi s h t e x t i s n o w i n pr o
t
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l
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D o m P h MULL E R ( B ru s s e l s ,
van

v an

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II

T R A N S LAT I ON S

La ti n

w er e e a r l y
u ys b r o ec k
Th e c h i e f wo r k s o f
t r a n s l a te d int o L a t i n s o me d u r i ng t h e i r a u t h o r s
l i f et i me , a n d w i d e l y c i r c u l a t e d i n t h i s f o r m
Th r e e o f t h es e e a r l y t r a n s l a t i o n s w e r e pr i nt e d i n
t h e D e Or na tu S pi r i tu a l i u m
t h e s i xt e en t h c e nt u r y
a nd t h e
N up ti a r u m o f J o r d a e n s , a t a r i s i n 1 5 1 2
D e S ep tem S ca l te D i vi ni A mo r i s Gr a di bus o f Ger a r d
,

87

B I B LI O G

188

R A PH I C AL N O TE

Gr o o t , t o g eth er w ith t h e D e P erf ec ti o ne F i li o r u m


D ei ( i e Th e S p a r kli ng S to ne) , a t B o l o g n a , i n 1 5 3 8
Th e s t a n d a r d La t i n tr a n s l a t i o n h o w ev er i n
d i s pen s a b l e t o a ll s tu d ent s o f R u ys b r o e c k i s t h e
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t
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t h e o r i g i na l th o u g h i t f a il s t o r e pr o d u c e t h e r u g g e d
s u b li mi t , t h e s u d d e n l a s e s i nt o c r u d e a n d h o me l
y
y
p
met a ph o r , s o c h a r a c t er i s t i c o f h i s s t yl e
.

E ngl i s h

Th e B o o k of th e Twelve B gu i nes ( t h e r s t s i xt ee n
Tr a n s l a t e d f r o m t h e Fl e mi s h ,
c h a pt e r s o n l y )
b y J O HN F R N C I S ( Lo n d o n ,

A u s e f u l t r a n s l a t i o n o f o n e o f R u ys b r o e c k s
mo s t d i fc u lt t r e a t i s e s

F r enc h

CEu v r es d e R u ys br o eck l A d mi r a ble


F l a ma nd p a r les B EN ED I CT I N S

DE

WI S Q U E S

Tr a d u cti on d a
D E S IN T P U L

Mi r o i r

S a lu t Eter nel ;
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Les S ep t Cl otu r es

S pi r i tu el
d A mo u r
l Ech el le
de
B
r
u s s e l s , 1 9 1 2 , i n pr o g r es s )
(
Th i s e d it i o n , w h en c o mpl ete d , w ill f o r m t h e
text Of u ys b r o e c k f o r th o s e u n a b l e
s t a nd a r d
t o r ea d F l e mi s h
Th e tr a ns l a t i o n i s a d mi r a b l y
VO L

Le

da

B I B LI O G

lu c i d ,

a nd

xe d

r
e

IS

R A PH I C A L N OTE

sh o rt

bu t
ea c h wo r k

to

a de

189

i nt r o d u c t i o n

u at e

L Or n ement d es N o c es S p i r i tu el les
Tr a d u i t d a
F l a ma nd p a r
U RI C E
E TE R L I N C K B r u s s e l s ,
(

MA

1 9 00)

MA

Th i s c el eb r a t e d b o o k , s t ill mo r e i t s b e a u t i f u l
t h o u gh
u n r el i a b l e
i nt r o d u c t i o n , i s c h i e y r e
s po n s i b l e f o r t h e mo d er n i nt e r e s t i n
u ys b r o e c k
Th e t r a n s l a t i o n , e x q u i s i t e a s F r e n c h pr o s e , o v e r
e mph a s i s es t h e e s o t er i c e l e ment i n h i s t e a c h i n
g
Th o s e u n a b l e t o r e a d F l e mi s h s h o u l d c h e c k i t b y

L M B E RT S G e r ma n t e x t ( s e e b el o w )

Vi e

d e R us br o ch s u i v i e d e s o n Tr a i t d es S ep t

D egr s d e l A mo u r
Tr a d u c ti o n li tter a le d a
T ea te F l a ma nd L a ti n , p a r
CH A M O N A L
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d e D i eu
D e la Vr a i e Co ntemp la ti o n ( i e Th e
CH AM O N A L
Twelv e B gu i nes )
T r a d u i t pa r
3 v o ls ( ar i s ,
Th e s e a r e t h e r s t v o l u me s o f a pr o po s e d c o mpl e t e
t r a n s l a t i o n ; wh i c h i s , h o w ev e r , f a r f r o m l i t e r a l ,
a n d r e pl a c e s t h e r o u g h v i g o u r o f t h e o r i g i n a l b y
t h e i n s i pi d l a ng u a g e o f c o nv ent i o na l F r en c h pi e t y
'

Li v r e d es XI I B gu i nes o u d e la Vr a i e Co ntemp la
Tr a d u i t
ti o n ( r s t s i x t e e n c h a pt e r s o nl y )

d u F l a ma n d , a v ec I ntr o d u cti o n , p a r L AB B E
P CU Y LI TS ( B r u s s e l s ,
Th i s a l s o c o nt a i n s a F r e n c h v e r s i o n o f t h e Vi ta
Th e t r a n s l a t o r i s s pe c i a l l y s u c c e s s f u l
o f P o me r i u s

i n r end er i ng t h e pe c u l i a r q u a l i t y o f R u ys b r o ee k s
ver s e ; b u t t h e s t a t e me nt s i n h i s i nt r o d u c t i o n mu s t
b e a c c e pt ed w i t h r es er ve
.

B I B LI O G

1 90

R A PH I CA L N O T E

D
Dr ei S c hr if ten d es

Ger ma n

Mys ti ker s

J o h a nn v a n R u ys
br o eck, a us d em V l d mi s ch en aber s etz t v o n
F R N Z A L M B E RT ( L e i pz i g
A v i g o r o u s a n d a c c u r a t e t r a n s l a t i o n o f Th e
A d or n ment of th e S p i r i tu a l M a r r i age, T h e S p a r kli ng
S to ne a n d Th e B o o k o f S u pr eme Tr u th
R u ys b r o e c k tr a n s l a t es b et t e r I nt o G er ma n t h a n
i nt o a ny o t h er l a n gu a g e ; a nd t h i s vo l u me i s
s tr o ng l y r e c o mme nd e d t o a ll wh o c a n r e a d t h a t

to ng u e

III

S E L E CTI O N S

R u s br ock l A dmi r a ble : ( Eu v r es Ch o i s i es


Tr a d u i t
E
E LL O (
a r is ,
a
r
H
p
A s e r i e s o f s h o r t pa s s a g e s pa r a ph r a s ed ( n o t
t r a n s l a t e d ) f r o m t h e La t i n o f S u r i u s
Th e r e a r e
t w o E n g l i s h v e r s i o n s o f th i s u n s a t i s f a c t o r y b o o k ,
t h e s ec o n d b e i ng t h e b e s t
R eec ti o ns f r o m th e Mi r r o r of a Mys ti c
A R LE B I LL I E ( Lo n d o n ,
Tr a n s l a t e d b y

1 9 05 )

F l o wer s o f
E S

Ill ys ti c Ga r d en
L
o
d
o
n
n
,
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a
.

Tr a n s l a t e d b y

Life, Li gh t, a nd L ove
S elec ti o ns f r o m th e Ger ma n
kI ys ti cs
B y t h e V er y R e v
IN E ,
W

D D , D ea n o f S t P a u l s ( Lo nd o n ,
o nt a i n s a n a b r i d e d ve r s i o n o f Th e A d or nment
g
o
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p
.

B I B LI O G

R A PH I C A L N O TE

B I O G RA P HY

1 91

C RIT I C I S M

AN D

A
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t he

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ci

o a nni s

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c an

G V ON
v on S t
V i c to r
u nd J
R u ys br o eck ( E r l a ng e n ,
s ef u l f o r t r a c i n
t
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y
EL

MAE TE RLIN C K
Mys ti cs
.

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MA

U RI C E
R u ys br o eck a n d the
Tr a n s l a t e d b y J A N E
S T O DD A R T

o
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An Eng l i s h v e r s i o n o f t h e I nt r o d u c t i o n t o

L Or nement d es N o c es S p i r i tu el les , a b o v e me n
t i o n e d ; w i t h ma ny ne pa s s a g e s t r a n s l a t ed f r o m

R u ys b r o ec k s o t h e r w o r ks
-

P OME R I U S ,
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D o m VIN C E NT
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A b i o g r a ph i c a l a c c o u nt , f o u n d e d o n P o mer i u s

w i t h a s h o r t a n a l ys i s o f R u ys b r o e c k s w o r k s
P o pu l a r a nd u n c r i t i c a l
.

,
.

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d c R u ys br o eck
W L DE
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An i mpo r t a nt a n d a u t h o r it a t i v e a rt i c l e W i t h
.

B I B LI O G

1 92
a n a l ys i s

ra

h
p y

of

a ll

R A PH I C A L N O TE

R u ys b r o e c k

w o r ks

a nd

f u l l b i b li o

B ij d r agen t o t d e K enni s v a n h et L ev en en d e
Wer ken v a n J a n v a n R u u s br o ec ( Gent ,

o n t a i n s G er a r d N a h e l s s k e t c h o f R u s b r o ec k s
g
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D e H a n d s ch r i ften v a n J a n v a n R u u s br o ec s
Wer ken 2 v o l s ( G ent ,
An i mpo r t a nt a n d s c h o l a r l y s t u d y o f t h e ma nu
s c r i pt s o u r c e s b y t h e g r e a t es t li v i ng a u t h o r i t y

N o t i c e s o i R u ys b r o ec k w ill b e f o u n d i n t h e
f o ll o w i ng w o r k s

E tu d e s u r l es Mys ti qu es d es P a ys B a s
AU E R , A
a u M o yen Ag e ( A c a dmi e R o ya l e d e B elg i qu e,
v o l xl v i

N
K
Mys ti ci s m i n Chr i s ti a ni ty
F LE M I
W
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S tu d i es i n Mys ti ca l R e
J O NE S , Dr R U F U S M
l i gi o n ( L o n d o n ,

Appli c a t i o n s

of

ln

h i s d o c t r i ne t o t h e

S pi r i t u a l

l if e

H o ly Wi s d o m
AU G U S TIN
th e P r a yer of Co ntemp la ti o n

b
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DE NI S T H E
RT H U S I N 0p er a Omni a ( Mo ns t r o li i ,
i n pr o g r e s s

KE

CA

B I B LI O G

R A PH I CA L N O TE

1 93

P E T E R S E N , GE R L C
Th e F i er y S o li lo qu y wi th
Go d ( Lo nd o n ,
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U N D E R H I LL , E
Mys ti ci s m, 5 t h e d ( Lo nd o n,

I N F L U E N CE S
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l i g h t i s t h r o w n o n R u y s b r o e c k s d o c tr i n e
b y a s t u d y o f t h e a u t h o r s w h o i n u en c e d h i m ;
e s pe c i a l l y :

S T AU U S TI N E ; MI NE , P L , xxv ii x l v ii ; Eng
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s e c o nc ent ra t o n o n

35

TRI N E S

BOOK

NEW

T H E N EW

A LI N EMENT

O F LI FE
P os t 8
THE

au th o r s

ma in Obj ec t

i n th

3s

6d

s new v o l u

me

n e t.

i s to

ift

o ut

th e fu nd a mental

i s t i a n i t y H p t th m f m t h m ny h lf
l y th m
wh i h n w d y
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LT D

oso

es s .

AN D

s,

us

er