John M. Watkins
21 Cecil Court, Charing Cross Road, W.C. 2
Sunshine and a garden path . . . flowers . . . the face and neck and bosom of the nurse upon whose heart I lay, and her voice telling me that she must leave me, that we must part, and immediately after anguishblotting out the sunshine, the flowers, the face, the voice. This is my first recollection of Lifethe pain of love. I was two years old.
Nothing more for two yearsand then the picture of a pond and my baby brother floating on it, whilst with agonised hands I seized his small white coat and held him fast.
And then a meadow full of long, deep grass and summer flowers, and Iindustriously picking buttercups into a tiny petticoat to take to cook, "to make the butter with," I said.
And then a table spread for tea. Our nurses, my two brothers, and myself. Angry words and screaming baby voices, a knife thrown by my little brother. Rage and hate.
And then a wedding, and I a bridesmaid, aged five yearsthe church, the altar, and great awe, and afterwards a long white table, white flowers, and a white Bride. Grown men on either side of mesmilingly delightful, tempting me with sweets and cakes and wine, and a new strange interest rising in me like a little flood of exultationthe joy of the world, and the first faint breath of the mystery of sex.
Then came winters of travel. Sunshine and mimosa, olive trees against an azure sky. Climbing winding, stony paths between green terraces, tulips and anemones and vines; white sunny walls and lizards; green frogs and deep wells fringed around with maidenhair. Mountains and a sea of lapis blue, and early in the mornings from this lapis lake a great red sun would rise upon a sky of molten gold. In the rooms so near me were my darling brothers, from whom I often had to part. Beauty and Joy, and Love and Painthese made up life.
At ten I twice narrowly escaped death. From Paris we were to take the second or later half of the train to Marseilles. Late the night before my father suddenly said, "I have changed my mind; I feel we must go by the first train." This was with some difficulty arranged.
On reaching an immense bridge across a deep ravine I suddenly became acutely aware that the bridge was about to give way. In a terrible state of alarm I called out this fearful fact to my family. I burst into tears. I suffered agonies. My mother scolded me, and when we safely reached the other side of the bridge I was severely taken to task for my behaviour. The bridge broke with the next train over itthe train in which we should have been. Some four hundred people perished. It was the most terrible railway disaster that had ever occurred in France.
A few weeks later, death came nearer still. Having escaped from our tutor, with a party of other children we ran to two great reservoirs to fish for frogs. Laughing and talking and full of childish joy, we fished there for an hour, when all at once I was impelled, under an extraordinary sense of pressure, to call out, "If anyone falls into the water, no one must jump in to save them, but must immediately run to those long sticks" (I had never noticed them until I spoke) "and draw one out and hold it to whoever has fallen in." I spoke automatically, and felt as much surprised as my companions that I should speak of such a thing.
Within five minutes I had fallen in myself. My brother remembered my words, but before he could reach me with the stick I was under the water for the third and last time. It was all that they could do to drag my weight up to the ledge, for the water was a yard below it. Had my brother jumped in, as he said he most surely would have done had I not forewarned him, we must both have been drowned, for they would have had neither the strength nor the time to pull us both out alive. I was not at all frightened or upset till I heard someone say that I was dead; then I weptit was so sad to be dead! The pressure put upon me to speak as I did had been so great that I have never forgotten the strange impression of it to this day. On both these occasions I consider that I was under immediate Divine protection.
I believed earnestly in God with the complete and peaceful faith of childhood. I thought of Him, and was afraid: but more afraid of a great Angel who stood with pen and book in hand and wrote down all my sins. This terrible Angel was a great reality to me. I prayed diligently for those I loved. Sometimes I forgot a name: then I would have to get out of bed and add it to my prayer. As I grew older, if the weather were cold I did not pray upon the floor but from my bed, because it was more comfortable. I was not always sure if this were quite right, but I could not concentrate my mind on God if my body was cold, because then I could not forget my body.
I saw God very plainly when I shut my eyes! He was a White Figure in white robes on a white throne, amongst the clouds. He heard my prayers as easily as I saw His robes. He was by no means very far away, though sometimes He was further than at others. He took the trouble to make everything very beautiful: and He could not bear sinful children. The Angel with the Book read out to Him my faults in the evenings.
When I was twelve years old my grandmother died, and for three months I was in real grief. All day I mourned for her, and at night I looked out at the stars, and the terrible mystery of death and space and loneliness struck at my childish heart.
After thirteen I could no longer be taken abroad to hotels, for my parents considered that I received too much attention, too many presents, too many chocolates from men. I was educated by a governess, and was often very lonely. My brothers would come back from school; then I overflowed with happiness and sang all day long in my heart with joy. The last night of the holidays was a time of anguish. Upstairs the clothes were packed. Downstairs I helped them pack the "play-boxes," square deal boxes at sight of which tears sprang to my eyes and a dreadful pain gripped my heart. Oh, the pain of love at parting! there never was a pain so terrible as suffering love. The last meal: the last hour: the last look. There are natures which feel this anguish more than others. We are not all alike.
I had been passionately fond of dolls. Now I was too old for such companions, and when my brothers went away I was completely alone with my governess and my lessons. I fell into the habit of dreaming. In these dreams I evolved a companion who was at the same time myselfand yet not an ordinary little girl like myself, but a marvellous creature of unlimited possibilities and virtues. She even had wings and flew with such ease from the tops of the highest buildings, and floated so delightfully over my favourite fields and brooks that I found it hard to believe that I myself did not actually fly. What glorious things we did together, what courage we had, nothing daunted us! I cared very little to read books of adventure, for our own adventures were more wonderful than anything I ever read.
Not only had I wings, but when I was my other self I was extremely good, and the Angel with the Book was then never able to make a single adverse record of me. And then how easy it was to be good: how delightful, no difficulties whatever! As we both grew older the actual wings were folded up and put away. The virtues remained, but we led an intensely interesting life, and a certain high standard of life was evolved which was afterwards useful to me.
When, later on, I grew up and my parents allowed me to have as many friends as I wanted, and when I became exceedingly gay, I still retained the habit of this double existence; it remained with me even after my marriage and kept me out of mischief. If I found myself temporarily dull or in some place I did not care for, clothed in the body of my double, like the wind, I went where I listed. I would go to balls and parties, or with equal ease visit the mountains and watch the sunset or the incomparable beauties of dawn, making delicate excursions into the strange, the wonderful, and the sublime. I gathered crystal flowers in invisible worlds, and the scent of those flowers was Romance.
All this vivid imagination sometimes made my mind over-active: I could not sleep. "Count sheep jumping over a hurdle," I was advised. But it did not answer. I found the most effective way was to think seriously of my worst sinsmy mind immediately slowed down, became a discreet blankI slept!
I grew tall and healthy. At sixteen I received my first offer of marriage and with it my first vision of the love and passion of men. I recoiled from it with great shyness and aversion. Yet I became deeply interested in men, and remained so for very many years. From that time on I never was without a lover till my marriage.
At seventeen my "lessons" came to an end. I had not learnt much, but I could speak four languages with great fluency. I learnt perhaps more from listening to the conversation of my father and his friends. He had always been a man of leisure and was acquainted with many of the interesting and celebrated people of the day, both in England and on the Continent. I was devoted to him, and whenever he guided my character he did so with the greatest judgment. He taught me above all things the need of self-control, and never to make a remark of a fellow-creature unless I had something pleasant or kind to say. There was no subject upon which he was unread; and when my brothers, who were both exceedingly clever, returned from college and the University, wonderful and brilliant were the discussions that went on. Both my parents were of Huguenot descent, belonging to the old French noblesse. I think the Latin blood had sharpened their brains, and certainly gave an extra zest to life.
My father was a great believer in heredity, and the following personal experience may show him somewhat justified in his belief. In quite early childhood I commenced to feel a preference for the left side of my body: I washed, dried, and dressed the left side first; I preserved it carefully from all harm; I kept it warm. I was, comparatively speaking, totally indifferent to my right side.
As I grew older I observed that the place of honour was upon the right-hand side: I understood that God had made the world and ruled it with His right hand! I was wrong, then, in preferring my left hand. I determined to change over. It was very difficult to do: so deep was the instinct that it took me some years to eradicate the love for my left side and transfer it to my right, and when I had at last accomplished it I was still liable to go back to my first preference. No one ever detected my peculiarity.
I was already eighteen or nineteen years old when one day I entered my father's room, ready dressed to go out. I had on both my gloves. Suddenly I remembered that I had put on my left glove first. Immediately I took off both my glovesthen I replaced the right one, and then the left. My father was watching me and asked me for an explanation. I gave it him, and he looked very grave, almost alarmed. After a moment of silence he said, "I want you to give that habit upI want you to break yourself of it immediately. I had it myself as a youth: it took me years to conquer. No one should permit himself to be the slave of any habit."
I asked him which side he had loved. "The left side," he said. At five-and-twenty he had conquered the habit, and I was not born till he was almost sixty-one! yet I had inherited it. We never referred to it again, and in two years I, also, had conquered it.
We spent the winter of the year in which I was seventeen in Italy, to which country a near relative was Ambassador, and there I went to my first ball. That nightand how often afterwards!I knew the surging exultation, the intoxication of the joy of life. How often in social life, in brilliant scenes of light and laughter, music and love, I seemed to ride on the crest of a wave, in the marvellous glamour of youth!
This love of the world and of social life was a very strong feeling for many years: at the same time and running, as it were, in double harness with it was a necessity for solitude. My mind imperatively demanded this, and indeed my heart too.
It was during this year that I first commenced a new form of mental pleasure through looking at the beautiful in Nature. Not only solitude, but total silence was necessary for this pastime, and, if possible, beauty and a distant view: failing a view I could accomplish it by means of the beauties of the sky. This form of mental pleasure was the exact opposite of my previous dreamings, for all imagination absolutely ceased, all forms, all pictures, all activities disappearedthe very scene at which I looked had to vanish before I could know the pleasure of this occupation in which, in some mysterious manner, I inhaled the very essence of the Beautiful.
At first I was only able to remain in this condition for a few moments at a time, but that satisfied meor, rather, did not satisfy me, for through it all ran a strange unaccountable anguisha pain of longingwhich, like a high, fine, tremulous nerve, ran through the joy. What induced me to pursue this habit, I never asked myself. That it was a form of the spirit's struggle towards the Eternalof the soul's great quest of Godnever occurred to me. I was worshipping the Beautiful without giving sufficient thought to Him from Whom all beauty proceeds. Half a lifetime was to go by before I realised to what this habit was leading methat it was the first step towards the acquirement of that most exquisite of all blessingsthe gift of the Contemplation of God. Ah, if anyone knows in his heart the call of the Beautiful, let him use it towards this glorious end! Love, and the Beautifulthese are the twin golden paths that lead us all to God.
Certainly we were not a religious family. One attendance at church upon Sundayif it did not rain!and occasionally the Communion, this was the extent of any outward religious feeling. But my father's daily life and acts were full of Christianity. A man of a naturally somewhat violent temper, he had so brought himself under control that towards everyone, high and low, he had become all that was sweet and patient, sympathetic and gentle.
About this time a devouring curiosity for knowledge commenced to possess me. What was the truthwhat was the truth about every single thing I saw? Astronomy, Biology, Geologyin these things I discovered a new and marvellous interest: here at last I found my natural bent. History had small attraction for me: it spoke of the doings of people mostly vain or cruel, and untruthful. I wanted truthirrefutable facts! No scientific work seemed too difficult for me; but I never, then or later, read anything upon the subject of religion, philosophy, or psychology. I had a healthy, wholesome young intelligence with a voracious appetite: it would carry me a long way, I thought. It didit landed me in Atheism.
To a woman Atheism is intolerable pain: her very nature, loving, tender, sensitive, clinging, demands belief in God. The high moral standard demanded of her is impossible of fulfilment for mere reasons of race-welfare. The personal reason, the Personal Godthese are essential to high virtue. Young as I was, I realised this. Outwardly I was frivolous; inwardly I was no butterfly, the deep things of my nature were by no means unknown to me. I not only became profoundly unrestful at heart but I was fearful for myself, and of where strong forces of which I felt the pull might lead me. I had great power over the emotions of men: moreover, interests and instincts within me corresponded to this dangerous capacity. I felt that the world held many strange fires: some holy and beautiful; some far otherwise.
Without God I knew myself incapable of overcoming the evil of the world, or even of my own petty nature and entanglements. I despaired, for I perceived that God does not reveal Himself because of an imperious demand of the human mind, and I had yet to learn that those mysteries which are under lock and key to the intelligence are open to the heart and soul. But indeed there was no God to reveal Himself. All was a fantastic make-believe! a pitiful childish invention and illusion!
My intelligence said, "Resign yourself to what is, after all, the truth: console yourself with the world and material achievements." The heart said, "Resignation is impossible, for there is no consolation to the heart without God." I listened to my heart rather than my intelligence, and for two terrible years I fought for faith. I was always reserved, and never admitted anyone into the deep things of my lifebut when I was twenty my father perceived that I was going through some inward crisis. He knew the books that I read, and probably guessed what had happened to me. At any rate he called me into his room one day and asked me, out of love and obedience to himself, to give up reading all science. This was an overwhelming blow to me: yet I loved him dearly, and had never disobeyed him in my life. Again I let my heart speak; and I sacrificed my mind and my books.
I threw myself now more than ever into social amusements, and in my solitary hours sought consolation in my "dream-life." I was afraid to turn to the love of Natureto my beautiful pastime,for the pain in it was unbearable.
Towards the end of two years my struggles for faith commenced to find a reward. Little by little a faint hope crept into my mindfragile, often imperceptible. A questioning remark made by my younger brother helped me: "If human life is entirely material and a part of Nature only, then what becomes of human thoughts and aspirations?" Science had proved to me that nothing is lostbut has a destinyin that it evolves into another form or condition of activity. Evolution! with its many seeming contradictions to Religionmight it not be merely a strong light, too strong as yet for my weak mind, blinding me into temporary darkness? What raised Man above the beasts but his thoughts and aspirations; and if even a grain of dust were imperishable, were these thoughts and aspirations of Man alone to end in nothingto be lost! It was but a reasonable inference to say No. These invisible thoughts and aspirations have also a futurea destiny in a, to us, still invisible worldin the Life of the Spirit. To this my mind was able to agree. It was a step. In the realm of Ideal Thought I might find again my Faith. I had indeed been foolish to suppose that a system which provided for the continuation of a grain of sand should overlook the Spirit of Man. This was presupposing the existence of a spirit in Man; but who could be found to truly and reasonably hold that the mysterious high and soaring thoughts of Man were one and the same thing as mere animalism? they were too obviously of another nature to the merely bovine, to the solids of the flesh: for one thing, they were free of the law of gravity which so entirely overrules the rest of Naturethey must therefore come to their destiny in another world, another condition of consciousness.
That winter we again spent in Italy, in continuous gaiety amongst a brilliant cosmopolitan world of men and women who for the most part lived in palaces, surrounded with art and luxury. Here in Rome on every side was to be found the Cult of the Beautiful. Wonderful temples, gems of classical sculpture, masterpieces of colour in oil and frescothe genius and the aspirations of men rendered permanent for us by Art; but the Temples, those silent emblems of man's worship of an Unknown God, with their surroundings of lovely nature, affected me far the most deeply: indeed, I do not pretend that sculptures and pictures affected me at all. I was interested, I greatly admiredthey were a part of education, but that was all. But in the vicinity of those Temples what strange echoes awoke in me, what mysterious sadness and longing, what a mystery of pain! Something within me sighed and moaned for God. If I could but find Himif I could even truly Believe and be at peace! But already I had commenced to Believe.
During the late winter we went to one of the great ceremonies at the Vatican: we had seats in the Sistine Chapel. It was an especial occasion, and the number of persons present was beyond all seating accommodation. To make way for someone of importance I was asked to give up my seat and go outside into the body of the great Cathedral; here I was hurriedly pushed into the second row of a huge concourse of waiting and standing people. Already in the distance the Pope was approaching. Lifted high in his chair on the shoulders of his bearers, he came slowly along in his white robes, his hand raised in a general blessing upon all this multitude. As he came nearer I saw the delicate ivory facethe great dark eyes shining with a fire I had never seen before. For the first time in my life I saw holiness. I was moved to the depths of my being. Something in my gaze arrested his attention; he had his chair stopped immediately above me, and, leaning over me, he blessed me individuallya very great concession during a large public ceremony. I ought to have gone down on my kneesbut I had no knees! I no longer had a body! There was no longer anything anywhere in the world but Holinessand my enraptured soul.
Holiness, then, was far beyond the Beautiful. I had not known this till I saw it before me.
Life hurried me on: glowing hours and months succeeded each other. In the autumn I fell in love. I came to the consciousness of this, not gradually, but all in one instant. I had no chance of drawing back, for it was already fully completed before I realised it. I came to the realisation of it through a dream (sleep-dreams were always exceedingly rare with me): on this occasion I dreamed a friend showed me the picture of a girl to whom she said this lover (he had been my lover for a year) was engaged. I awoke, sobbing with anguish. I could not disguise from myself the fact that I must be in love. When the time came to speak of it to my parents, my mother would not hear of the marriagethere was no money: I must make another choice. Two brilliant opportunities offered themselvesmoneyposition; but I could not bring myself to think of either. Love was everything: a prolonged secret engagement followed. I went into Society just as before. At this time an aptitude for "fortune-telling" showed itself: it amused my friendsI told fortunes both by palmistry, which I studied quite seriously, and by cards. With both I went largely by inspiration. I found this "inspiration" varied with the individual. There were many persons to whom I could give the most extraordinarily accurate details of past, present, and future; others moderately so; others were a total blank, in which case I either had to remain silent or "try to make up." I got such a reputation for thisI was so sought after for it by even total strangersthat in a couple of years I pushed it all far away from me as an intolerable nuisance.
The Faith that had been growing up in me was of a very different form from that which I had had before: wider, purer, infinitely more powerful, and, though I did not like to remember the pain of them, I felt that those struggling years of doubt and negation had been worth whilewithout those struggles I felt I never could have had so powerful a faith as I now had. God was at an indefinite and infinite distance, but His Existence was a thing of complete certainty for me.
Of the mode and means of Connection with Him I had no smallest knowledge or even conception. I addressed Him with words from the brain and the lips. An insuperable wall perpetually separated me from Him.
Now my father became ill with heart trouble. Doctors, nurses, all the dreaded paraphernalia of sickness pervaded the house. During two terrible years he lingered on. Heart-broken at the sight of his sufferings, I hardly left his bedside. Finally death released him. But my health, which had always been good, was now completely broken down; I became a semi-invalid, always suffering, too delicate to marry. Under pressure of this continued wretchedness I sank into a nerveless condition of mere dumb endurancea passive acceptance of the miseries of life "as willed by God," I assured myself.
I entered a stagnant state of mere resignation, whereas accompanying the resignation there should have been a forward-piercing endeavour to reach out and attain a higher spiritual level through Jesus Christ: a persistent effort to light my lamp at the Spiritual Flame to which each must bring his own lamp, for it is not lit for him by the mere outward ceremony of Baptismthat ceremony is but the Invitation to come to the Light: for each one individually, in full consciousness of desire, that lighting must be obtained from the Saviour. I had not obtained this light. I did not comprehend that it was necessary. I understood nothing; I was a spiritual savage. Vague, miserable thoughts, gloomy self-introspections, merely fatigue the vitality without assisting the soul. What is required is a persistent endeavour to establish an inwardly felt relationship first to the Man Jesus. His Personality, His Characteristics are to be drawn into the secret places of the heart by means of the natural sympathy which plays between two hearts that both know love and suffering, and hope and dejection. Sympathy establishedlove will soon follow. Later, an iron energy to overcome will be required. The supreme necessity of the soul before being filled with love is to maintain the will of the whole spiritual being in conformity with the Will of God. In the achievement of this she is under incessant assistance: in fact everything in the spiritual life is a giftas in the physical: for who can produce his own sight or his own growth? In the physical these are automaticin the spiritual they are accomplished only, as it were, "by request," and this request a deep all-pervading desire.
We cannot of our own will climb the spiritual heights, neither can we climb them without using our will. It is Will flowing towards Will which carries us by the power of Jesus Christ to the Goal.
With recovered health, I married, and knew great happiness; but as a bride of four months I had to part from my husband, who went to the South African War. Always, always this terrible pain of love that must part. Always it was love that seemed to me the most beautiful thing in life, and always it was love that hurt me most. He was away for fifteen months. I made no spiritual advance whatever. Mystified by so much pain, I now began to regard God if not as the actual Author of all pain, at any rate as the Permitter of all pain. More and more I fell back in alarm at the discovery of the depths of my own capacities for suffering. A tremendous fear of God now commenced to grow up in me, which so increased that after a few years I listened with astonishment when I heard people say they were afraid of any person, even a burglar! I could no longer understand feeling fear for anyone or anything save God. All my actions were now governed solely by this sense of weighty, immediate fear of Him. This continued for some ten years.
When my husband at last returned from the War we took up again our happy married life, and we lived together without a cross word, in a wonderful world of our own, as lovers do. It was remarkable that we were so happy, for we had no interests in common. My husband loved all sports and all games, whereas interest in those things was frankly incomprehensible to me. In the winter, when he was out in the hunting-field, I spent much time by myself; but I was never dull, for I could walk out amongst Nature and indulge in my pastime, if the weather were fine: and if not, I could observe and admire everything that grew and lived close at hand in the hedgerows and fields, and I would work for hours with my needle, for then I could think; I worked hard in the garden.
A dreadful question now often presented itself to me: Had I really a soul at all, or was I merely a passing shadow, here momentarily for God's amusement? If I had an eternal soul, where did it livein my head with my brain as a higher part of my mind?
Men had souls, I was sure of that; and they asserted the possession of them very positivelybut women? I understood Mahomed grudgingly granted them a half-soul, and that only conditionally. Scriptures spoke harshly of women; Paul was bitter against them; all the sins and troubles of the world were laid upon their delicate and beautiful shoulders. In Revelation I found no mention whatever of Woman in the life of the Resurrection.
All this hurt me. What profound injusticeto suffer so much and to receive no recognition whatever whilst men walked off with all the joys after leading very questionable lives! Why continue to struggle to please God when His interest in me would so soon be over? I went through very real and great spiritual sufferings, and temptations to throw myself again solely into world-interests, to console myself with the here and now, for I had the means: it was all to my hand. I swayed to and fro: at one time I felt very hard towards God, terribly hurt by this love-betrayal. But when I looked at the beauties of Nature and the glories of that endless sky, ah, my heart melted with tenderness and admiration for the marvellous Maker of it all. Truly, He was worthy of any sacrifice upon my part. If my poor, tiny, suffering life afforded Him amusement, I was willing to have it so. After allfor what wretched, ugly, and miserable men women frequently sacrificed themselves without getting any other reward for it than neglect and indifference. How much better to sacrifice oneself to the All-Perfect, All-Beautiful God!
I finally resigned myself entirely and completely to this point of view, and, having done so, I thus addressed, in all reverence and earnestness, the Deity:
"Almighty God, if it is Thy Will to blot out Woman from Paradise I most humbly assure Thee of thisMan will miss her sorely; and Thou Thyself, Almighty God, when Thou dost visit Paradise, wilt miss her also!"
After this I seldom said any private prayers, for I was not of the Acceptable Sex. But I paid a public respect to God in the church, where I worshipped Him with profound reverence and great sadness. But I thought of Him in my heart constantly, with all those tender, loving, longing thoughts which are the heart's bouquet held out to God.
Happiness for me, then, must be found entirely in this world, and I found it in my love for my husband. Happiness was that which the whole world was looking for; but I could not fail to notice more and more the ridiculous picture presented by Society in its pretences of being the means of finding this happiness. None of its ardent devotees were "happy" people; they were excited, egotistical, intensely vain and selfish, often bitter and disappointed, filled with a demon of competition, jealous, and full of empty, insincere smiles. I perceived the chagrins from which they secretly sufferedthe tears behind the laughter. I was not in the least deceived or impressed by any of them, but wondered how they managed to hang together and deceive each other. More and more I looked for purely mental pleasures. Mind was everything. I now began to despise my bodyI almost hated it as an incubus! Social successes or failures grew to be a matter of complete indifference to me, and social life resolved itself into being solely the means of bringing mind into contact with mind. The question of fashionable environment ceased to exist for me, but the question of how and where to meet with thinking minds was what concerned me: it was not an easy one to solve in the usual conditions of country life, with its sports and its human-animal interests.
Finally, total mental solitude closed around me. In spite of my doubt as to the existence of a woman-soul, I still felt the same piercing desire and need for Godthe acquisition of knowledge in no way lessened this pain. What, after all, is knowledge by itself? The light of the highest human intelligence seems hardly greater than the wan lamp of a diminutive glow-worm, surrounded by the vastness of the night. In sorrow, in trouble, in pain, could knowledge or the mind do so much more for me than the despised body? No, something more than the intelligence was needed to give life any sense of adequacy: even human love was insufficient. God Himself was needed, and the ever-recurring necessity would force itself upon me of the need for a personal direct connection with God.
I continued to find it utterly impossible to achieve this. Mere faith by no means fulfilled my requirements. God, then, remained inaccessiblethe mind fell back from every attempt to reach Him. He was unknowable, yet not unthinkablethat is to say, He was not unthinkable as Being, but only in particularisation and in realisation. I could know Him to Be; but in that alone where was any consolation?I found it totally inadequate. It was some form of personal Contact that was needed; but if my mind failed to reach this, with what else should I reach it? Ah, I was infinitely too small for this terrible mystery; but, small as I was, how I could suffer! Why this suffering? Why would He not show Himself? Harsh, rebellious, criticising thoughts frequently invaded me: the whole scheme of Nature and of life at times appeared cruel, unreasonably so. All the old ever-to-be-repeated cycle of bitter human thoughts had to be gone all through again in my own individual atom. Here and there the bitterness might vary: as, for instance, the collapse and corruption of the body with its hideous finale never caused me distress. I had become too indifferent to the body; but I found that most persons clung to it with extraordinary tenacity, indeed appeared to regard it as their most valuable possession! What I did resent, and was deeply mystified by, was the capacity for suffering and pain which had no balance in any corresponding joy. It was idle to say that the joy of festivities, even of human love, equalled the anguish of grief over others, or the sufferings of physical ill-health. They did not counterbalance it; sorrow was more weighty than joy, and far more durable. Later I became convinced that there did exist a full equivalent of joy, as against pain, and that I merely had no knowledge of how to find it.
Years succeeded each other in this way, bringing greater loosening of earth-ties, more abstraction, certainly no improvement of character.
My husband's duties as a soldier took us to many parts of the world. During a visit to Africa I was struck by lightning, and for ten days my sufferings were almost unendurable; every nerve seemed electrocuted. It was long before I quite recovered. Whilst this illness lasted, though it caused him no inconvenience and he led his life exactly as usual, I yet noticed a change in my husband's love. I was deeply pained, almost horrified, by this revelation of the natural imperfection of human love: profoundly saddened, I asked myself was it nothing but lust which had inspired and dictated all the poems of the world? I thought more and more of Jesus' love; I began to know that nothing less than His perfect love could satisfy me. In this illness I was tremendously alone.
I commenced to meditate upon the life and the character and the love of Jesus Christ. I was now about thirty-six. Gradually He became for me a secret Mind-Companion. I began to rely upon this companionshipthough it appeared intensely one-sided, for at first it seemed always to be I who gave! Nevertheless I found a growing calm arising from this apparently so one-sided friendship. A subtle assistance and comfort came to me, it was impossible to say how, yet it came from this companionship as it came from nothing else.
That Jesus Christ was God I knew to be the faith of the Church, but that He actually was so I felt no conviction of whatever: indeed, it was incomprehensible to me. I thought of Him as a Perfect Man, with divine powers. He was my Jesus. I denied nothing, for I was far too small and ignorant to venture to do so: I kept a perfectly open mind and loved Him for Himself, as the Man Jesus.
This went on for some years. In all my spiritual advancement I was incredibly slow!
What had delayed me in progress was lack of using the right Procedure and the right Prayer. I sought for God with persistence and great longing; but I sought Him as the Father, and the Godhead is inaccessible to the creature. On becoming truly desirous of finding God it is necessary that with great persistence we pray the Father in the name of Jesus Christ that He will give us to Jesus Christ and nil the heart and mind with love for Christ. Only through Jesus Christ can we find the Godhead, and we cannot be satisfied with less than the Godhead. With the creature we cannot come into contact with the Godheadbut with the soul only. The soul is awakened, revived, reglorified by Grace of Jesus Christ; and the Holy Spirit effects the repentance and conversion of the heart and mind, for without this conversion towards a spiritual life the soul remains in bondage to the unconverted creature.
One day I returned from a walk, and hardly had I entered my room when I commenced thinking with great nearness and intimacy of Jesus; and suddenly, with the most intense vividness, He presented Himself before my consciousness so that I inwardly perceived Him, and at once I was overcome by a great agony of remorse for my unworthiness: it was as though my heart and mind broke in pieces and melted in the stress of this fearful pain, which continuedincreasedbecame unendurable, and lasted altogether an hour. Too ignorant to know that this was the pain of Repentance, I did not understand what had happened to me; but now indeed at least I knew beyond a doubt that I had a soul! My wonderful Lord had come to pay me a visit, and I was not fit to receive Himhence my agony. I would try with all my strength to improve myself for Him.
I was at first at a standstill to know even where to commence in this improvement, for words fail to describe what I now saw in myself! Up till now I had publicly confessed myself a sinner, and privately calmly thought of myself as a sinner, but without being disturbed by it or perceiving how I was one! I kept the commandments in the usual degree and way, and was conscientious in my dealings with others. Now all at onceby this Presentment of Himself before my soulwhich had lasted for no more than one moment of timeI suddenly, and with terrible clearness, saw the whole insufferable offensiveness of myself.
For some time, even for some weeks, I remained like a person half-stunned with astonishment. Then I determined to try to become less selfish, less irritable and impatient, to show far more consideration for everyone else, to be rigidly truthful: in fact, try to commence an alteration.
For one thingabout telling liesI had always been quite truthful in large things, but often told some social lies for my own convenience, and sometimes told them for no reason at all! This spontaneous Evil filled me with more astonishment than shame; whence did this Evil come? I could never account for this strange Intruder which seemed to have a separate life and will of its own, and which, with no conscious invitation upon my part, would suddenly visit me! and in all manner of shapes and ways! But whatever my difficulties, I had always this immense incentiveto please my Jesus, tender and wonderful, my Perfect Friend.
Two years went by, and on Easter morning, at the close of the service as I knelt in prayer in the church, He suddenly presented Himself again before my soul, and again I saw myself, and again I went down and down into those terrible abysses of spiritual pain; and I suffered more than I suffered the first time: indeed, I have never had the courage to quite fully recall the full depths of this anguish to mind.
After this my soul knew Jesus as Christ the Son of God, and my heart and mind accepted this without any further wonder or question, and entirely without knowing how this knowledge had been given, for it came as a gift.
A great repose now commenced to fill me, and the world and all its interests and ways seemed softly and gently blown out of my heart by the wings of a great new love, my love for the Risen Christ.
Though outwardly my friends might see no change, yet inwardly I was secretly changing month by month. Even the great love I had for my husband began to fade: this caused me distress; I thought I was growing heartless, and yet it was rather that my heart had grown so large that no man could fill it! I felt within me an immense, incomprehensible capacity for love, and the whole world with all its contents seemed totally, even absurdly, inadequate to satisfy this great capacity. I suffered over it without understanding it.
I had a garden full of old-fashioned flowers, surrounded by high walls with thatch. As I grew in my heart more and more away from the world, I worked more in the garden, and whilst I worked I thought mostly about GodGod so far away and hidden, and yet so near my heart.
There were many different song-birds in the garden, and one robin. I loved the robin best of all. His song was not so beautiful as the blackbird's or so mellow as the thrush's; but they hid and ran away from me, whilst the robin sought me out and stayed with me and sang me, all to myself, a little, tiny, gentle song of which I never grew tired. If I stayed quite still, he came so close he almost touched me; but if I moved towards him, he flew away in a great fright.
It seemed to me I was like that robin, and I wanted to come close, close to the feet of God. But He would not let me find Him. He would not make me any sign. He would not let me feel I knew Him. Did He in His wisdom know that if He showed Himself too openly I should go mad with fear or joy? I could not tell. But every day as the robin sang to me in the garden I sang to God a little gentle song out of my hearta song to the hidden God Who called me, and when I answered Him would not be found, and, still remaining hidden, called and called till I was dumb with the pain and wonder of this mystery.
Then suddenly came the Great War. My husband was amongst the first to have to go. All my love for him which I had thought to be fading now rose up again to its full strength: it was no mere weakly sentiment, but a powerful type of human love which had been able to carry me through fifteen years of married life without one hour of quarrelling; its roots were deep into my heart and mind: the very strength and perfection of it but made of it a greater instrument for torture. Why should this most beautiful of all human emotions carry with it so heavy a penalty, for which no remedy appeared to exist? It had not then been made clear to me that all human loves must first be offered up and ascend into the love of God: then only are they freed from this Pain-Tax. God must first be All in All to us before we can enter amongst the number who are all in all to Himconstantly consoled by Him. This condition of being all in all is demanded as a right by all men and women in mutual love, yet we deny this right to God: we are not even willing to attempt it! this failure to be willing is the grave error we make. Our attitude to God is not one of love, but of an expectancy of favours. An identical sacrifice is demanded of us in marriagefather, mother, brothers, sisters, friends: all these loves must become subservient to the new love, and with what willingness and smiles this sacrifice is usually made! Not so with our sacrifices to Godwe make them with bitter tears, hard hearts, long faces. Is He never hurt by this perpetual grudingness of love?
But I had not yet learnt any of this, and I could not accept, I could not swallow this terrible cup. I thought of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane. He understood and knew all pain; I had His companionship, but He offered me no cessation of this pain. It must be borne; had He not borne His own up to the bitter end? I shrank, appalled, from the suffering I was already in and the suffering that lay before me. Relief from this agony, relief, relief! But there was no relief. In utter darkness all must be gone through. At least I was not so foolish as to attribute all this horror that was closing in upon the world to the direct Will of God: I could perceive that, on the contrary, it was the spirit of Anti-Christ, it was the will of Man with his greeds, his cruelty, his self-sufficient pride, together with a host of other evils, which had brought all this to pass. But could notwould notGod deliver the innocent; must all alike descend into the pit?
I tried to obtain relief by casting this burden on to Christ, and was not able to accomplish it. I tried to draw the succour of God down into my heart, and I tried to throw myself out and up to HimI could do neither: the vast barrier remained; Faith could not take me through it.
A horrible kind of second sight now possessed me, so that, although I never heard one word from my husband, I became aware of much that was happening to himknew him pressed perpetually backwards, fighting for his life, knew him at times lying exhausted out in the open fields at night. At last I began to fear for my reason; I became afraid of the torture of the nights and sat up reading, forcing my mind to concentrate itself upon the bookthe near-to-hand help of the book was more effective than the spiritual help in which something altogether vital was still missing. Relief only came when after a month a letter reached me from my husband, saying that the terrible retreat was over and he safe.
Months and years dragged by. Sometimes the pain of it all was eased; sometimes it increased.
As grass mown down and withered in the fields gives out the pleasant scent of hay, so in her laceration and her anguish did the soul, I wondered, give off some Pain-Song pleasing to Almighty God.
At first I recoiled with terror from this thought; finally love overcame the terrorI was willing to have it so, if it pleased Him. My soul reached down into great and fearful depths. I envied the soldiers dying upon the battlefields; life was become far more terrible to me than death. Looking back upon my struggles, I see with profound astonishment how unaware I was of my impudence to God in attributing to Him qualities of cruelty and callousness, such as are to be found only amongst the lowest men!
Yet good was permitted to come out of this evil; for where I attributed to God a callousness and even an enjoyment of my sufferings, I learnt self-sacrifice, the effacement of all personal gain, and total submission for love's sake to His Will, cruel though I might imagine it to be. With what tears does the heart afterwards address itself in awed repentance to its Beloved and Gentle God!
A painful illness came and lasted for months. Having no home, I was obliged to endure the misery of it as best I could among strangers. At this time I touched perhaps the very lowest depths. How often I longed that I might never wake in the morning! I loathed my life.
During this illness I came exceedingly near to Christ, so much so that I am not able to describe the vividness of it. What I learnt out of this time of suffering I do not knowsave complete submission. I became like waxwax which was asked to take only one impression, and that pain. I was too dumb; I should have remembered those words, that "men ought not to faint, but to pray."
Bewildered, and mystified by my own unhappiness and that of so many others all around me, I sank in my submission too much into a state of lethargic resignation, whereas an onward-driving resolution to win through, a powerful determination to seek and obtain the immediate protection and assistance of God, a standing before God, and a claiming of His helpthese things are required of the soul: in fact that importunity is necessary of which Jesus spoke (Luke xi. 7-9): "And he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not . . . I cannot rise and give thee. I say unto you he will not rise and give him because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth. And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you."
Such times of distress are storms, fearful battles of the soul in which she must not faint but rise up and walk towards God and clamour for help; and she will receive it. In His own good time He will give her all that she asks and more even than she dreamed of. She must claim from God a continual restrengthening, and search with glowing aspiration for a more joyous love.
It was summer-time: a great battle was raging in France. A friend wrote me that my husband was up in the very foremost part of it. I heard no word from my husband; weeks passed, and still the same ominous silence. At last the day came when the shadow of these two fearful years rose up and overwhelmed me altogether. I went up on to the wild lonely hill where I so often walked, and there I contended with God for His help. For the first time in my life there was nothing between God and myselfthis had continually happened with Jesus Christ, but not with God the Father, Who remained totally inaccessible to me. Now, like a man standing in a very dark place and seeing nothing but knowing himself immediately near to anotherso I knew myself in very great nearness to God. I had no need for eyes to see outwardly, because of the immense magnetism of this inward Awareness. At one moment my heart and mind ran like water before Himpraying Him, beseeching Him for His help; at another my soul stood straight up before Him, contending and claiming because she could bear no more: and it felt as though the Spirit of God stood over against my spirit, and my spirit wrestled with God's Spirit for more than an hour. But He gave me no answer, no sign, no help. He gave me nothing but that awful silence which seems to hang for ever between God and Man. And I became exhausted, and turned away in despair from God, and from supplication, and from striving, and from contending, and, very quiet and profoundly sad, I stood looking out across the hills to the distant viewhow gentle and lovely this peace of the evening sky, whilst on earth all the nations of the world were fighting together in blood and fury and pain!
I had stood there for perhaps ten minutes, mutely and sadly wondering at the meaning of it all, and was commencing to walk away when suddenly I was surrounded by a great whiteness which blotted out from me all my surroundings. It was like a great light or white cloud which hid all my surroundings from me, though I stood there with my eyes wide open: and the cloud pricked, so that I said to myself, "It is an electric cloud," and it pricked me from my head down to my elbows, but no further. I felt no fear whatever, but a very great wonder, and stood there all quite simple and placid, feeling very quiet. Then there began to be poured into me an indescribably great vitality, so that I said to myself, "I am being filled with some marvellous Elixir." And it filled me from the feet up, gently and slowly, so that I could notice every advance of it. As it rose higher in me, so I grew to feel freed: that is to say, I had within me the astounding sensation of having the capacity to pass where or how I wouldwhich is to say I felt freed of the law of gravity. I was like a free spiritI felt and knew within myself this glorious freedom! I tasted for some moments a new form of living! Words are unable to convey the splendour of it, the boundless joy, the liberty, the glory of it.
And the incomprehensible Power rose and rose in me until it reached the very crown of my head, and immediately it had quite filled me a marvellous thing happenedthe Wall, the dreadful Barrier between God and me, came down entirely, and immediately I loved Him. I was so filled with love that I had to cry aloud my love, so great was the force and the wonder and the delight and the might of it.
And now, slowly, the vivid whiteness melted away so that I saw everything around me once more just as before; but for a little while I continued to stand there very still and thoughtful, because I was filled with wonder and great peace.
Then I turned to walk home, but I walked as a New Creature in a New Worldmy heart felt like the heart of an angel, glowing white-hot with the love for God, and all my sorrows fled away in a vast joy! This was His answer, this was His help. After years and years of wrestling and struggling, in one moment of time He had let me find Him, He had poured His Paradise into my soul! Never was such inconceivable joynever was such gladness! My griefs and pains and woes were wiped awaytotally effaced as though they had never existed!
Oh, the magnificence of such splendid joy! The whole of space could scarcely now be large enough to hold me! I needed all of itI welcomed its immensity as once I was oppressed by it. God and my Soul, and Love, and Light, and Space!
At last my little suffering life is sheltered in the known, the felt, protection of the Ineffable and Invisible Being. The Being Who, without revealing Himself to me by sight or sound, yet communicates Himself to me in some divine manner at once all-sufficing and inexpressible. I ask no questions: I am in no haste of anxious learning. My heart and my mind and my soul stand still and drink in the glory of this happiness. All day, often half the night, I worship Him. I love Him with this new love, so different from anything known before. The greatest earthly love, by comparison to it, has become feeble, impure, almost grotesque in its inefficiencya tinsel counterfeit of this glistening mystery which must still be spoken of as love because I know no other name.
I find it difficult, almost impossible, to speak to my fellow-creatures, because I have only two words, two thoughts in my entire being: my God, and my love for Him.
I am like a thing that is magnetised, held: I am not able, day or night, to detach my mind from God.
I wake with His name upon my lips, with His glory in my soul. In all this there is no virtue on my part; there is no effort; the capacity for this boundless devotion is a free gift. Coming immediately after my anguished prayer on the hill, it appears to me to have come solely on account of that one prayerthe previous prayers, struggles, endeavours of five-and-twenty years are entirely forgotten. I comprehend nothing of the mystery, neither as yet do I feel any desire to comprehend it; but in a world where only love, beauty, happiness, and repose exist, I walk and talk and live alone with God.
Yet the war was continuing as usual, my husband was in the same danger, I became ill with influenza, my friends continued to die of wounds, my relations to be killed one by one; but in all this there was no pain: the sting, the anguish, had gone out of every single thing in life.
My consciousness feels to be composed of two extremes: I am a child of a few years of age, to whom sin, suffering, pain, evil, and temptation are not known, and yet, though knowing so little, I know the unutterably greatI know God. This cannot be expressedmerely, it can be said that two extremes have met.
This new consciousness, this new worship, this new love is for the Godhead. Christ is gone up into the Godhead, and I worship Him in, and as One with, the Godhead. For three months this continues uninterruptedly. Then Jesus Christ presents Himself to my consciousness. Jesus, Who led me to this happiness, now calls and calls to my soul. Immediately I commence to respond to Him. He is drawing me away; He is teaching me somethingat first I do not know what, but soon I know that He is leading me out of this Eden, this paradise of my childhood: I know it, because I begin to feel pain again, and to recognise evil. O my Jesus, my Jesus, must I really follow Thee out of Paradise back into pain? Yes, in less than two weeks I am fully back in the world againbut not the same world, because I know how to escape from it. The Door that I knocked at, and that all in one moment was opened to me, is never closed. I can go in and out. God never closes to me the right of way; never severs those secret wires of Divine Communication.
But my soul is not nursed, as it were, in His Hands day and nightshe must learn to grow up. Woeful education, deadly days of learning, stony paths that hurt, that hurt all the more because of the felicity that only so recently was mine.
For three months I am walking further and further out of Eden and back into the horrors of the worldfollowing Jesus.
One night I compose myself as usual for sleep, but I do not sleep, neither can I say that I am quite awake. It is neither sleep, nor is my wakefulness the usual wakefulness. I do not dream, I cannot move. My consciousness is alight with a new fiery energy of life; it feels to extend to an infinite distance beyond my body, and yet remains connected with my body. I live in a manner totally new and totally incomprehensible, a life in which none of my senses are used and which is yet a thousand, and more than a thousand, times as vivid. It is living at white heatwithout forms, without sound, without sight, without anything which I have ever been aware of in this world, and at a terrible speed. What is the meaning of all this? I do not know: my body is quite helpless and is distressed, but I am not afraid. God is teaching me something in His own way. For six weeks every night I enter this condition, and the duration and power or intensity of it increase by degrees. It feels that my soul is projected or travels for incalculable distances beyond my body(long afterwards I understand through experience that this is not the mode of it, but that the soul remaining in the body is by some de-insulation exposed to the knowledge of spirit-life as and when free of the flesh)and I learn to comprehend and to know a new manner of living, as a swimmer learns a new mode of progression by means of his swimming, which is not his natural way.
By the end of three weeks I can remain nightly for many hours in this condition, which is always accompanied by an intense and vivid consciousness of God.
As this consciousness of God becomes more and more vivid so my body suffers more and more. By day I can only eat the smallest morsels of food, which almost choke me, but I drink a great quantity of water. I am perfectly healthy, though I have hardly any sleep and very little, indeed almost no, foodthe suffering is only at night with the breathing and the heart when in this strange condition. But I have no anxiety whatever; I am glad that He shall do as He pleases with me. Nothing but love can give us this supreme confidence.
During the whole of these experiences I live in a state of very considerable abstraction. But this now suddenly increases, increases to such an extent that I hardly know whether to call it abstraction or the extremity of poverty. I now become divested of all interests outside and inside, divested of the greater part of my intelligence, divested of my will. I am of no value whatever, less than the dust on the road.
In this awful nothingness I am still I. My consciousness continues and is not confounded with or lost in any other consciousness, but is reduced to stark nakedness and worth nothing: and this worthless nothing is hung up and, as it were, suspended nowhere in particular as far from earth as from heaven, totally unknown and unwanted by both God and Man. I am naked patiencewaiting. I have a few thoughts, but very few: I think one thought where in normal times I should think ten thousand. I feel and know that I am nothing, and I feel that this has been done to me; just as before, all that I had was also done to me and was a gift. So I acknowledge that I once had and was perhaps something and that now I possess and certainly am nothingI acknowledge it, I accept it, without hesitation, without protest. One of my few thoughts is that I shall remain for the rest of my natural life in this pitiful state where, however, I shall hope to be preserved from further sinning simply because I have not a sufficiency of will, intelligence, or thought with which to sin! I am too completely nothing to be able to sin. I have another thought, which is that as I no longer have any intelligence with which to deal with the ordinary difficulties of life, such as street life and traffic, I shall shortly be run over and killed; and so I put a card with my address on it into my little handbag, for the convenience of those who shall be obliged to deal with my body afterwards.
I have just sufficient capacity left me to automatically, mechanically, go through with the necessities of life. I have not become idiotic. I live in a tremendous and profound solitude, such a solitude as would frighten many people greatly. But my beautiful pastime had accustomed me to solitude and also to something of this nothingnessa brief nothingness was a necessary part of the beautiful pastime: so I have no fears now of any kind; but I wonder. Perhaps I am just four thingswonder, patience, resignation, and nothing.
Yet through this dreadful solitude penetrates the inspiration of some unseen guide. As regards this particular time I am convinced that this guide is an outside presence. I depend in all my goings and comings upon the guidance of this guide who proves incredibly accurate in every detail, in details of even the smallest necessities. If this guide is a part of myself, it is that of me with which I have not previously come in contact; and it is not the Reason, but far beyond the Reason, for it divines. It is then either a spiritual guide, companion, or guardian angel, or it is a power possessed by the soul herselfa foretasting cognisance, a mysterious intuition of which we as yet comprehend little or nothing, and which we have not yet learnt to command: it presents itself; it absents itself; but it condescends to every need; it is always helpful, always beneficent; it sees that which it sees before the event; it hears that which it hears before the words are spoken. It guides by what would seem to be two very different modes: the greater things come by a mode altogether indescribable; but for the small things of every day I will take simple examples here and there. I am abroad. Someone in the family at home is taken dangerously ill. I am urgently needed; but the trains are overcrowded, I am unable to get my seat transferred to an earlier date, I cannot let them know at home when I shall return: all is uncertain, all is chaos. I am painfully anxious, I am ashamed to say I am greatly worried: I turn as always to my Lord, asking Him to forgive these selfish fears and to help me. A little while later a scene presents itself to meI see my own room, I hear the voice of a page-boy standing in the door and saying, "You are wanted on the telephone"; then I am at the telephone, and a voice is saying to me, "Your train accommodation is transferred to Friday the 19th." That is all, because I am rung off.
Five days pass. I am in my room, and the page is really standing at the door, and he says, "You are wanted on the telephone." I go to the telephone, and a voice says, "Your train accommodation is transferred to Friday the 19th." That is all, because I am rung off.
Again, there is a young lay-reader, closely in contact with Christ; he has a wife and young child. The weather is bitterly cold. A picture suddenly comes before me of this family, and there is a voice saying, "He was gathering together the last little pieces of fuel when your present came." Immediately I understand that I am required to send coal to these people, and to do it at once without delay. The following day the wife comes with tears to thank me, and she tells me, "We were in despair; my husband's heart is so weak he cannot bear the cold, he becomes seriously ill. He was gathering together the last little pieces of fuel when your present came."
Or, again, I very badly need a pair of walking shoes, but for weeks I have been so absorbed in contemplation that the pain of bringing myself from this holy joy to do shopping is too great, and I delay and delay; I cannot bring myself to it; but shoes are a necessity of earthly life. Having exceedingly narrow feet, I am obliged always to get my shoes from a certain maker, and now, during the war, he makes so few shoes. To-day a picture of the shop comes before me, and the words "Go to-day, go to-day," urge themselves upon my consciousness. Then a picture comes of the assistant; I show her my foot, and she says, "There is only one pair left; how fortunate you came to-day!" So I understand I must go to my shopping and, greatly against my will, I go that afternoon. The assistant comes forward, and I show her my foot, and she says, "There is only one pair left; how fortunate you came to-day!"
Always in this mode of the guiding are the little picture and the exact words: all of it of the easiest to describe; but of the other and the greater guiding I do not know how to tell. It is sheer pure knowledge, received not in parts, pictures, or words, but as a whole and in a mode so exquisitely mysterious as to be at once too intricate for description, and yet simplicity itself!
Sure, perfect, and serene mode of knowledge! Royal knowledge which knows no toil, no sweat of work, no common drudgery, art thou of the soul herself, or art thou altogether from outside the soul? This I know, that though the first mode would seem to be very small and to deal with littleness, and the last mode seems to be entirely apart from it because of the greatnesses with which it deals that they are linked and that the power is one power soaring to the highest, condescending to the smallest.
So now, in the time of this strange abstraction and poverty, when the cinematograph of my mind is closed down, and with it the delicate mechanism which takes up, uses, and connects all that we take in by the senses, and which makes the world so real and so comprehensible, is become unhitched and disconnected, so that nothing in the world seems any longer real or possesses either value or meaning, and I stand before it all defenceless, seemingly unable to deal with it, utterly indifferent to it; then and now Reason may very well say to me, "You are in very great danger"; but I am not in any danger, because I am guided whenever necessary by some condescending sagacity far more sagacious than my poor Reason, infinitely more penetrative and effectual than any sense of eye or ear. I remain fully convinced that at this time, at any rate, it was an outside sagacity which guided metruly a guardian angel.
This period of intense abstraction, this strange valley of humiliation, poverty, solitude, seemed a necessary prelude to the great, the supreme, experience of my life. As I came slowly out of this poverty and solitude, the joyousness of my spiritual experience increased: the nights were no longer at all a time of sleep or repose, but of rapturous living.
The sixth week came, and I commenced to fear the nights and this tremendous living, because the happiness and the light and the poignancy and the rapture of it were becoming more than I could bear. I began to wonder secretly if God intended to draw my soul so near to Him that I should die of the splendour of this living, My raptures were not only caused by the sense of the immediate Presence of Godthis is a distinctive rapture running through and above all raptures, but there are lesser ecstasies caused by the meeting of the soul with Thoughts or Ideas, with melodies which bear the soul in almost unendurable delight upon a thousand summits of perfection; and with an all-pervading rapturous Beauty in a great light. There is this peculiarity about the manner of these thoughts and melodies and beautiesthey are not spoken, heard, or seen, but lived. I could not pass these things to my reason and translate the Ideas into words or the melodies into sounds, or the beauty into objects, for spirit-living is not translatable to earth-living, and I found in it no words, no sounds, no objects, and I comprehended and I lived with that in me which is above Reason and of which I had, previously to these experiences, had no cognisance.
There came a night when I passed beyond Ideas, beyond melody, beyond beauty, into vast lost spaces, depths of untellable bliss, into a Light. And the Light is an ecstasy of delight, and the Light is an ocean of bliss, and the Light is Life and Love, and the Light is the too deep contact with God, and the Light is unbearable Joy; and in unendurable bliss my soul beseeches God that He will cover her from this most terrible rapture, this felicity which exceeds all measure. And she is not covered from it. And she beseeches Him again; and she is not covered; and being in the last extremity from this most terrible joy, she beseeches Him again: and immediately is covered from it.
My soul, my whole being, is terrified of God, and of joy. I dare not think of Him, I dare not pray; but, like some pitiful and wounded child, I creep to the feet of Jesus.
When on the following evening once more the day closes and I compose myself for the night, I wonder tremblingly to what He will again expose me; but for the first time in six weeks I fall into a natural sleep and know no more until the morning.
Then I understand that the lesson is over. Mighty and Terrible God, it was enough!
In the light of these measureless joys what is any earthly joy? What is the very greatest experience of earthly happiness but so much waste paper?
What are the joys of those vices for which men sell their souls, but soap-bubbles!
The whole meaning of life, together with all the graduated and accepted values of it, becomes for ever changed in the light of the knowledge of Celestial Happiness.
Wonderful, beautiful weeks went by, filled with divine, indescribable peace. The Presence of God was with me day and night, and the world was not the world as I had once known ita place where men and women fought and sinned and toiled and anguished and wondered horribly the meaning of this mystery of pain and joy, of life and death. The world was become Paradise, and in my heart I cried to all my fellow-souls, "Why fret and toil, why sweat and anguish for the things of earth when our own God has in His hand such peace and bliss and happiness to give to Every man? O come and receive it, Every man his share."
And the glamour of life in Unity with God became past all comprehension and all words.
Is life, then, a poem? is it a melody? I cannot say; but it is one long essence of delighta harmony of flowing out and back again to God. O blessed life! O blessed Man! O blessed God!
One morning in my room I began thinking and reasoning about a wonderful change that I knew had crept all through me. If God should now come at any moment of the day or night and turn over every secret page of heart and mind, He would not find one thought or glimmer of any sort or kind of lust, whether of the eye, of the heart, of the mind, or of the body; and all in one moment I realised the miracle that Christ had worked in me, and the words came over my mind, "Though thy sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow." And I stood there, gazing before me, speechless, and the tears of a joy that was an agony of gratitude poured and poured down my face like a rain. I did not sob, I could not speak, and very quietly I took my heart and my mind and my soul and laid them for ever at the feet of Christ.
One evening as I knelt to say my prayers, which were never long, because since the Visitation on the hill my natural habitwhether walking, sitting, working, travelling, or on my bedhad come to be a continual sending up from my heart and mind the tenderest and most adoring, the most worshipping and thanking little stream of thoughts to God (very much as a flower, if we could but see it, sends its scent to the sun).
And because this mode of prayer is so smooth and joyous, so easy, so unutterably sweet, in that during it the Presence of God laves us about as the sun laves the flowerso because of this it was only for short and set times that I worshipped Him as the creature in prayers upon its knees; but those few moments of prayer would always be intense, the heart and the mind with great power bent wholly and singly upon God.
So now, this evening as I knelt and dwelt in great singleness on God, He drew me so powerfully, He encompassed me so with His glamour, that this singleness and concentration of thought continued much longer than usual on account of the greatness of the love that I felt for Him, and the concentration became an intensity of penetration because of this magnetism, He turned on to me, and my mind became faint, and died, and I could no longer think of or on God, for I was one with Him. And I was still I; though I was become Ineffable Joy.
When it was over I rose from my knees, and I said to myself, for five wonderful moments I have been in contact with God in an unutterable bliss and repose: and He gave me the bliss tenderly and not as on that Night of Terror; but when I looked at my watch I saw that it had been for between two and three hours.
Then I wondered that I was not stiff, that I was not cold, for the night was chilly and I had nothing about me but a little velvet dressing-wrapper; and my neck was not stiff, though my head had been thrown back, as is a necessity in Communion with God; and I thought to myself, it is as if my body also had shared in the blessing.
And this most blessed happening happened to me every day for a short while, usually only for a few moments. In this way God Himself caused and enabled me to contemplate and know Him; and I saw that it was in some ways at one with my beautiful pastime, but with this tremendous difference in itthat whereas my mind had formerly concentrated itself upon the Beautiful, and remaining Mind had soared away above all forms into its nebulous essence in a strange seductive anguish, it now was drawn and magnetised beyond the Beautiful directly to the Maker of it: and the soaring was like a death or swooning of the mind, and immediately I was living with that which is above the mind: in this living there was no note of pain, but a marvellous joy.
Slowly I learnt to differentiate degrees of Contemplation, but to my own finding there are two principal formsPassive and Active (or High) Contemplation.
In meditation is little or no activity, but a sweet quiet thinking and talking with Jesus Christ. In Passive Contemplation is the beginning of real activity; mind and soul without effort (though in a secret state of great love-activity) raise themselves, focussing themselves upon the all-unseen Godhead: now is no longer any possible picture in the mind, of anyone nor anything, not even of the gracious figure or of the ways of Christ: here, because of love, must begin the sheer straight drive of will and heart, mind and soul, to the Godhead, and here we may be said first to commence to breathe the air of heaven.
There is no prayer, no beseeching, and no askingthere are no words and no thoughts save those that intrude and flash unwanted over the mind, but a great undivided attention and waiting upon God: God near, yet never touching. This state is no ecstasy, but smooth, silent, high living in which we learn heavenly manners. This is Passive or Quiet Contemplation.
High Contemplation ends in Contact with God, in ecstasy and rapture. In it the activity of the soul (though entirely without effort on her part) is immensely increased. It is not to be sought for, and we cannot reach it for ourselves; but it is to be enjoyed when God calls, when He assists the soul, when He energises her.
And then our cry is no more, Oh, that I had wings! but, Oh, that I might fold my wings and stay!
Having come so far as this on the Soul's Great Adventure all alone as far as human guidance and companionship was concerned, and having for more than a year known the wonders of the joy of Union with Godwhich I did not know or understand to call Union, but called it to myself Finding God and coming into Contact with Him, because this is how it feels, and the unscholarly creature understands and knows it in that waywell, having come so far, I had a great longing to share this knowledge, this exquisite balm, with my fellows, and I desired immensely to speak about it, to know how they fell about it, if they had yet come to it, or how far on the way they were to it, because I was all filled with the beauty of it, as lovers are filled with the beauty of their love. But I was frightened to speak to them, something held me back: also they felt to me to be so exceedingly full of the merest triflesclothes and tea-parties and fashionable friends; and each time I tried to speak, in some mysterious way I found myself stopped. So I thought that I would speak to a friend that I had in the Church. Several times I had heard him preach very beautiful sermons, and I felt I very greatly needed the guidance of someone who knew. I wanted, I longed for, a human intermediary. I knew that I was in the hands of the God Whom for so many years I had so passionately sought; but He was so immeasurably great, and I so pitifully small, and I needed a human beingsomeone to whom I might speak about God.
Yet something warned me not to commence as though speaking of myself, but of another person. I said only a few words, of the joy of this person in finding and loving God, and immediately my friend spoke very severely of persons who imagined they had found, and loved, God. God was not to be found by our puny, shifting and uncertain love: He was to be found by duty, by obedience to Church rules, by pious attendance At Church. He explained to me various dogmas which helped me no more than the moaning of the wind; he explained the absolute necessity (for salvation) of certain beliefs and written sentences, and ceremonials in the Church. Love was not the way. Love was emotion, emotion was deceptive: the mind, and severe firm attention to the dictates of The Church was what was required; in fact, he unfolded before me the Ecclesiastical Mind. I shrank back from it, dismayed, frightened. Were all the deep needs and requirements of the soul to be satisfied in the singing of hymns and Te Deum, in the close and reverent attention to the Ceremonies before the altar, and of the actions of Priests! Did, or could, any reasoning creature truly think to Find God by merely repeating, however reverently, the same prayers and ceremonies Sunday after Sunday! Could the great mountain up which my soul had sweated, and which each soul must climbcould it be climbed by kneeling in a pew in church? No; a total change of character was needed, and Christ Himself was necessary for this changeJesus Christ gliding into the heart and mind and soul, and biding there because of that heart's, that mind's, invitation to, and love for, Him. Secretlyin one's own chamber, every hour of the day, in the streets, in the fieldsin this way it might be accomplished.
With Christ biding in the heart all the Church service would become a thing of beauty as between the Soul and God; but without this Jesus Christ dwelling in the heart, the connection was not yet made between the Soulthe serviceand the Godhead.
Perhaps amongst Romans I should find the understanding that I looked for. I had a friend, a Dominican: I approached him, and I could see that for (as he thought) my own good he longed to convert me to the Roman Church: it did not seem that he wanted, or by any means knew how, to bring me into contact with God, but his thought was to bring me to The Church. "Does anyone," I asked him, "love God with all their heart, and mind, and soul, and strength?" "No," said he, "that is hardly possiblewhat is required is"; and here he gave me once more the contents of the Ecclesiastical Mind: more authoritatively, more positively; but he spoke as I now commenced to realise all Churchmen would speakthat is to say, as persons having learnt by study, by careful rule and rote, by paper-knowledge, that which can only be learnt in the spirit direct from God. How immense is the difference to the Soul between this knowledge that comes of the spirit and the knowledge that comes of studythe knowledge which too easily becomes mechanical religion!
I thought of the beautiful and gracious simplicity of the knowledge that Christ gives to the soul: I saw the nature of the sore disease that afflicts the soul of Christ's Church, I saw also a terrible pain for Christ in all this of which I had previously been unaware.
I was thrown back and into myself by it all, and into a great loneliness as far as my fellow-beings were concerned. Yet I continued to need to share Christ with humanity, piercingly, pressingly. I would go to a library and find a bookbut, on the other hand, I did not know the name of a single religious book or writer. So I wrote my need to a friend, and she sent me the life of one, Angela of Foligno. This book was a great delight to me, because, though written in tiresome mediaeval language, it yet expressed and shared exactly what I also knew and loved, and folded in strange wrappings of the fashion of the thought of long ago lay the same exquisite jewel that I also knewthe pearl for which men gladly sell all that they have in order to keep itthe knowledge of the Secret of the Kingdom of Heaven, of the Union of the Soul with God.
A few months went by, and I wrote asking for another book, and this time came Richard Rolle to my acquaintancea little dried-up hermit, a holy man too, though I noticed how very discourteous he was to women; severe, critical, and suspicious, merely because they were women. How often I noticed this peculiarity, both in the monks of to-day with their averted eyes, as if the shadow of a woman falling on them were pollution, and long ago, Paul, and Peter also, and Moses, and many others, showed surprising weakness of intolerance and harsh judgment against Woman!
Where was Wisdom in all this? Surely it was Folly flaunting and laughing and dressing herself cunningly to deceive, for did none of these men, from Adam downwardsdid they never come to know themselves well enough to see that their danger lay not in the Woman, but in their own inclination to sin!
Oh, the righteousness of the greatest saint was, and is, but as dust and ashes before the righteousness of Jesus! and I came to wonder if there ever was or could be a saint, save oneJesus.
But this Richard Rolle, this person so discourteous to some fellow-beings, could all the same be very tender and loving towards God: he, too, held in his heart the Pearl without Price. He, too, knew that marvellous incense of the heart to Godthat song of the soul, and called it by the same name as I; but how could it be called by any other name? for every soul that knows it, it must ever be the same. Oh, how intimately I knew those two people of centuries ago, and how intimately they knew me! A strange trio we madehe, the little wizened English hermit; she, the Italian woman in her nun's habit; and I in my modern Bond Street clothes: outwardly we were indeed incongruous, we had no links, but inwardly we were bound together by bonds of the purest gold.
Of whether my friend sent me another book or not I cannot be sure; but my interest was becoming altogether removed from the past, because Christ was pressing me more and more to the present and the living.
God says to the aspiring soul: Come, taste of paradise and taste of heaven, and then return thou to the earth and wait, but not in idleness, and suffer many things till thou become perfect.
So I found that in the earlier stages, in order to show me the heights to which I might by perseverance attain, He turned His Power and Glamour on to me, and I became a creature transfixed and held by love. I had one desireGod; I had one thoughtGod; I had one consciousnessGod. There was no effort needed on my part: it was Pure Grace and the result of past efforts. Having climbed and endured and endeavoured up to a certain degree, it was necessary for further advance that there should be more knowledge, and a more complete ineffaceable assurance. He therefore exposed the soul to as much as she could enjoy of heavenly pleasures and consciousness, without death to the flesh. In these experiences the soul found and knew God to be the fulfilment of all desires and all needs. The soul stood steadied before God in an unutterable Happiness which she perceived had no limit but God's Will, and her own capacity to endure the rapture of Him.
What is it that would seem to determine this immeasurable privilege of Access to Him? It would seem to be a healthy willing will towards Him under all circumstances (to begin with).
In due time He converts this mere will into a sweet love, the natural love of the heart and mindby Gift of the Father we love Jesus Christ. This is salvation.
But beyond salvation it would feel to be this wayafter a further great endeavour and endurance on our part, a further great striving towards Him, He will awaken and prick to new life the soul and fill us with Holy Love. This is the second baptism, the baptism of the Spirit of Love. This is the entry to the Kingdom, and immediately we taste of the Godhead. What this is, what this ravishment of happiness is, cannot be known or guessed till we ourself have experienced it.
In all this we progress by the communicated Power of Christ. How is this Power to be recognised, how is it communicated? Can we stand still and receive it like the dew, without work? At first, nobut later it would almost seem to be yes; or else it is that the exact attitude of heart and mind necessary for the reception of Grace becomes so habitual, so natural, that eventually we come to live in a state in which the communication of this Power becomes nearly continuousthough at any time by negligence or by a wrong attitude of Spirit we fall away from it and lose it completely, and in all times of temptation or of testing we are cut off from sensible contact with it.
We learn then that Grace awaits every creature that attunes himself to the Will of Christ: it awaits good and bad, saint and sinner, it transforms the sinner into the saint, and but for its deliberate withdrawals we might suppose its action to be automatic, we might suppose it a fixed power like the sun, shining upon worthy and unworthy alike in degree. But Grace is far more subtle and mysterious than this. Grace is the most sublime, the most exquisite secret of all the mysteries which exist between the Soul and her Maker.
I find that He works upon my soul by two opposite ways: He draws her up to contact and sublime content; He sets her down to solitude and hides Himself: He is there, and will not speak.
And she suffers horribly: and why not? Where is the injustice of this pain?
Countless ages agowho can count them?the soul, born in a palace, has deliberately willed and chosen to become the Wanderer, the Street Walker; therefore fold up self-pity and lay it aside, because it does not live in the same house with Truth.
Cast off self-consciousness and pride, because they are ridiculous, and a man can only be great or noble in just so far as he has abandoned them.
What is it that often makes it so much harder for the soul to refind God when she is enclosed in the male body? Perhaps the greater strength of the natural lusts of the male: perhaps the pride of "Being"as lord of creation; or the pride of Intelligence which says, I rely easily upon myself, I need no religion of hymn tunes, I leave hymn tunes to women, for the ardour and capacity of my manhood rush to far different aims.
But can any sane man think that the Essential Being who has created the universe, with all its infinite wonders, and this earth with its beauty and its wonderful flesh, and so much more that is not flesh but the still more wonderful spiritcan any sane man really think that this Essential Being is stuck fast at hymn tunes (which are Man's own invention!) and knows not how to satisfy the needs and longings of that which He has Himself created!
Ardent and greatly mistaken Sinner, know and remember that to Find God is to Live Tremendously.
O belovèd Man with thy strangely vain and small pursuits and pleasuresthy pipe, thy wine, thy women, thy "busy" city life, thine immense sagacity which once in twenty times outwits a fool or knavethy vaunted living is a bubble in a hand-basin!
Find God and Live!
It would seem that lazily, reposefully, comfortably, easily, we can make no entry into the kingdom of heaven, but must enter by contest, by great endeavour. The occasions of these contests will be according to the everyday circumstances of each individual; the stress or distress of everyday life; for this is Christ's Processto take the everyday woes and happenings of life in the flesh and use them for spiritual ends. What does the Saviour Himself tell us of the means of entry into the Kingdom? He uses two parablesthat of the loaves of bread, and that of the Widow, and both speak of persistent importunity. If we would find God, we must besiege Him.
Of entry to Christ's Process first it is necessary that we try in everything to please Him: subjecting our plans, desires, thoughts, intentions, to His secret approval, asking ourselves, Will this please Him best, or that?
Then the soul commences to truly know, and to respond to, Christ.
But she is not satisfied: she requires more. Woes may assail the whole creature: Christ offers no alleviation. He leads her straight into the woes: will she follow, will she hold back? The point to remember here is this, that whether we follow Christ or no we shall have woes: if we forsake Him, we are not rid of woes; if we follow Him, we are not rid of woesnot yet, but later we become eased, and even rid, by means of Consolations, for God is able by His Consolations to entirely overbalance the woe and make it happy peace, though the cause of the woe remains. Remember this in the days of visitation, and follow Christ, no matter where He leads. Christ leads through the woe, because it is the shortest way. The unguided soul wanders beside the woe, hating and fearing it, unable to rid herself of it, gaining nothing by it, suffering in vain, and no Companion comes to ease the burden with His company.
The progress of our spiritual advance would feel to be that because we become more and more aware of the failure of earthly consolations and amusements, and more and more aware of the suffering, the sin, and the evil that there is about us, so more and more our desires go out towards the good, and more and more we turn to Christ. Then Christ may deliberately make Himself non-sufficient for the soul, and if He so does she must reach out after the Godhead; then by means of more woes the soul and the creature clamour more and more after the Godhead and will not be satisfied with less than the Godhead, and, continuing to clamour, are brought by Christ to the new birth, the Baptism of the Holy Ghost.
Immediately the soul and creature become rid of Woe; and, living a life altogether apart from the world, in a marvellous crystal joy they taste of the Godhead and of Eternal Pleasures.
This for a short time only: we have entered the Kingdom, but are still the smallest of spiritual children: tenderly, wonderfully God cares for us, but we must grow, we must learn heavenly manners. So Jesus Christ calls us again, and where does He lead us? Straight back into the world, the daily life from which we thought we had escaped! Here truly is a Woe, a Woe worse than any Woe we ever had before. Now we enter the Course of spiritual temptations, woes, and endurances, and in the midst of the pots and pans of daily life Christ teaches us heavenly manners.
Since Contemplation is so necessary for Union with God and for the soul's enjoyment of Godis it a capacity common to all persons? Yes, though, like all other capacities, in varying degrees; but few will give themselves up to the difficulties of developing the capacity; and it is easy to know why, for our "natural" state is that we work for that which brings the easiest, most immediate, and most substantially visible reward.
Those who could most easily develop their powers of contemplation are those to whom Beauty speaks, or those who are delicately sensitive to some ideal, nameless, elusive, that draws and then retreats, but in retreating still draws. The poet, the artist, the dreamer that harnesses his mindall can contemplate.
The Thinker, thinking straight through, the proficient business man with his powers of concentration, the first-rate organiser, the scientist, the inventorall these men are contemplatives who do not drive to God, but to the world or to ambition. Taking God as their goal, they could ascend to great heights of happiness; though first they must give up ("sacrifice") all that is unsavoury in thought and in living: yet such is the vast, the boundless Attraction of God that having once (if only for a few moments) retouched this lost Attraction of His, we afterwards are possessed with no other desire so powerful as the desire to retouch Him again, and "sacrifice" becomes no sacrifice.
Truly, having once known God, we find life without Him to be meaningless and as unbeautiful as a broken stem without its flower: pitiful, naked, and helpless as the body of a butterfly without the wings.
At this time I read Bergson's Creative Evolutiona masterpiece of thinking by a man who, like most others, is seeking for God. But I am unable to read the book through because of the pain it causes. The pain is partly the same pain which I knew (and which I re-enter again in sympathy with the writer) when I tried in my youth to climb to God by the intelligence and will of my mind; but there is also a new pain, wide as an ocean, the pain of Compassionfor it is so long this way to God that Bergson pursues, so long, so long; and the particular way of this book is to me not like climbing, but descending: it resembles the frenzied action of a man searching for lilies downwards, digging with painful persistence in the dark earth amongst roots. How much more joyous to find the lily where she blooms, above in the light! There is another way of the Intelligence: a way of climbing to icy heights, bare, unwarmed by any ray of love, but less painful than this descent amongst dark roots. Cold, hard Intelligence, once to slip upon thy frozen way is to be broken on thy pitiless bosom! O God, in thy tender pity incline our hearts to seek Thee by the way of Love! For the road of Love comes easily to knowledge, but the road of knowledge comes not easily to Love.
And we know that love is above learning and wisdom. Did not Solomon choose wisdom? and we think him so wise to have made this choice, but he had been far wiser to have chosen holy love. For wisdom lost herself and him in the arms of unworthy love: so we see the highest degree of the Wisdom of Man held in bondage to, and undone by, even the lowest degree of love.
Dig deeply, and what do we find is at bottom our great, our persistent need? What is it that instinctively we look for and desire? Happiness, and the Ever-new.
In and out of every day persistently, desperately, endlessly we seek. And because we seek amongst the near-to-hand, the visible, the small, we seek in vain: we discover there is nothing in this world which can wholly and permanently satisfy either of these desires.
God Himself is Happiness. God Himself is the Ever-new.
In Divine Love there is no monotony: the soul finds that each encounter with God is ever new, the Ever-new tremulous with the beauty of rapture: new and wonderful as the first dawn.
Not only is God a Mystery of Holiness, of Truth, of Love and Beauty: He is also Generosity, a mystery of Eternal Giving, and His giving is and must for ever be, the supreme necessity of the Universe: for without He gave how should we receive life, truth, beauty, love, or Himself?
And it cannot be too deeply impressed upon the soul that would come to His Presence that because of His law of like to like she must conform to this law in order to come to His Presence. By thinking it over we shall see that it is more difficult for us to be perfect holiness, perfect truth, perfect love, perfect beauty, than it is for us to be perfectly generous: it is easier for us to give God all that we have, to empty heart, mind and soul, and worldly goods at His feet, than it is to reach to any other perfection; for generosity appears to be more universal, more within our capacities, more "natural" to us than any other virtuedo we not see it continually used, exercised, spent, thrown away on the merest trifles? Let us take, for instance, the tennis player: to win the game he must give every ounce of himself to itmind, eye, heart, and body,sweating there in the glare of the sun to win the game. Would he give himself so, would he sweat so, in order to find God, or to please God? Oh no! Yet in the hour of death and afterwards, will he be helped by this victory of flying balls? If by chance we could lift a corner of the veil, we might catch a glimpse of the face of Folly, mockingly, cunningly peering at us, as all too easily she persuades us to give of our royal coins of generosity to wantons, to phantom enterprises, to balls filled with air, to dust and vanity.
Generosity is our easiest means of coming to God, because it is also the way of love: if the tennis player did not love the game, he would not give himself so to it. But we cry, "I have nothing whatever to give to God; it is to God I turn in order that He may give everything to me." Quite so: there is too much of that. We have obedience to give: obedience is a great gift to God, or, more truthfully speaking, in His magnanimity He accepts it as such; we have also love to give, and again we may cry, "But my love is puny, shifting; it is nothing at all, a mere trifle." That is true of "natural" love, of the love that we commence of our own human nature to love Him with; but it is not true of the love which we receive of the Holy Ghost when He baptizes us.
When we offer this Peculiar Love, offer it as only it can be offeredfor love's sake,immediately we are in the Presence of God, secretly, marvellously united to Him; we are in the Consolations of God, and we have no need to ask for anything whatever; indeed, we find ourselves unable to ask, because we are filled to the brim, overflowing, inexpressibly satisfied, utterly blessed.
But supposing that we do not give to God, but, earnestly seeking Him, we merely ask some favour, and sit and wait for Him to give? Then probably we shall not be sensible of receiving anything from Him whatever; we shall feel at an immense distance from Him; then we shall become uneasy, depressed, fancy ourselves neglected, imagine we have lost Himand so we have till we gloriously recover Him by means of giving.
And if at times in the stress of this giving, when He makes no response, we feel it is too much, we can give no more, we are too discouraged to continue, let us remember the strain and stress and endeavour that we and all our friends give to trifles, and quietly use our common sense to judge whether in the winning of a game of ball, or in the pleasing and finding of God, we shall be the more blessed. For God is to be found: He waits.
The truth about our endeavours is that we have one pre-eminent, pressing need above all other needs, which is to Find God. When we have accomplished this we discover without any further teaching that we no longer care to pass our time with air-balls, because they appear so paltry, so inadequate. We are grown up and are no longer puerile in our desires: at the same time we are not without desires, but, on the contrary, we glow with a new, more ardent, and larger set of desires.
What I know of the soul's actual Finding and Contact with God I keep very closely to myself. Here and there to a few, a very few souls, I may speak: to all others I am forbidden to speak. I am stopped; and I understand perfectly why this is: it is that I should do more harm than good. Anyone looking at me would say (and all the more so because I am dressed in the fashion of the day, and not in some peculiar way, or in a nun's habit, for such trifling things affect many minds), "That person is demented to think that she knows what it is to have Contact with God," and it would seem a scandal to them. But the explanation of the mystery is not so simple as this. I am not demented. I never was so sane, so capable in my life as now. I never was so perfectly poised as now. But if you say to me, "Explain what it is that you know, in order that I too may know," then I can say to you nothing more than, "Come and know for yourself, for God awaits you."
To illustrate a mere fraction of the difficulty of passing such a knowledge from one self to another self, let us take such a case as that of a man born blind. He sits beneath a tree, on the grass. You put a blade of grass in his fingers, and also a leaf from the tree, and you say to him, "This is grass, and this is the leaf of the tree which shelters you, and both are green." "And what," he asks, "is green?" And to save your life you cannot make him know what it is, or make him know the tree, or know the grass, though he touches them both with his hands. How, then, shall God, Who can be neither seen, nor heard, nor touched, how shall He be made known from one to another? He must be experienced to be known. And if you should say to me, "What does it feel like to have found God?" then I should say, "It feels that the roof is lifted off the world, and wherever we may be or stand it is a straight line from us to God and nothing between, nothing between, day or night."
To come to the contemplation of God it is not necessary to go through any lengthy toil, some process of throwing out this or that, painfully, slowly, denying the existence of everything in order to arrive at God. The way is not denying, but concentrating; and in the act of concentration, because of love, all other things whatsoever in creation fall away into nothing and are no more, because God in all His graciousness reveals Himself, and then He alone exists for the enraptured soul.
Supposing that we have found Jesus Christ, supposing that we know Him so well and have come to love Him so much that our love for Him is become stronger than any other love, very much stronger than any other love, and still, in spite of hopes and endeavours, we know that we have not found the Godhead, we have not found Union with the First and Third Person of the Holy Trinitythe heavens have not, as it were, been opened to us to let our souls slip through to God. Are we to be discouraged because of this? Are we to think ourselves less favoured, less loved? A thousand times no. We are, perhaps, in neither heart, mind, or soul quite sufficiently prepared for the great ordeals that must be gone through after Union with God, To find God is Victory. But Victory has dangers. We have perhaps not yet sufficiently developed just those exact qualities which it is essential we must have in order to maintain the connection with God in the face of all obstacles when once He is found. When God reveals Himself to a soul she is in great danger, and she knows it, because to fail Him now, to turn away now, to be unfaithful nowthis is a terrible disaster to the soul. God in His mercy exposes no soul to such dangers until she is as ready as may be, but He bides and He works in her till she is ready. So it may very well be that it is not in this life that we come to Union, but later; and the fact that we have not come to Union is a sign to increase our nearness to Christ by as much as we can: the very smallest advance that we make in this life is of the utmost value to us later.
The soul that is seeking Union with God must not, upon any pretext whatever, engage itself in spiritualism. Spiritualism may have its great uses for the heart and mind which are without, or are struggling for, beliefthe heart and mind of Thomas seeking to touch, to have a proof; but remember the words of the Saviour to Thomas: "Blessed are they," He says, "who have not seen, and yet have believed." And we do not need to wait for death to receive this blessing, but we receive it here. The soul that would find God must go to Him by means of His Holy Spirit, and no other spirit but the Spirit of God can take us to Him; and to try to hold communications with the spirits of men is not the way. The soul that has come to Union with God is perfectly aware of the existence of spiritsis intensely aware,but refuses to pay any attention if she wise. Some of these spirits are very subtle, very knowing; some are full of flattery, and very persistent; others present themselves as still in human form, and seek to terrify with their terrible faces, some diabolical, some appearing to be in a great agony and undergoing changes more astonishing and horrible than can be even imagined before experiencedand melting only to be re-formed into that which is yet more fearful. Have nothing whatever to do with spirits. Do not resist them when they come, but drop them behind by fixing heart, mind, and soul on Christ. The Spirit of Christ easily overcomes every spirit, every evil, every fear, and in order to ourselves overcome all such things, we need to unite with the Spirit of Jesus Christ by concentrating upon Him with love, and ignoring obstructions. Those who have lent themselves to spiritualism, hoping to find comfort, a lost friend, or even God Himself, when they give it up (as they must do) they may find themselves greatly plagued by the fires with which they have been playing; but these can soon be overcome by diligently uniting the heart and mind to Jesus Christ.
After coming to full Union with God, the mind becomes permanently attached to Him, and this without effort; but in order that it shall be without effort, the will must be kept in a state of loving attention to Him, and this again can only be done without effort if the heart is so full of love that it desires nothing else than God; and this is dependent again upon the grace which the soul receives from Him because of her love and responseso now we see, living and working in our own being, the reason and meaning of His commandment to love Him with all the heart, mind, soul, and strength. It is doing this after He has Himself given us the power to do it which makes us able to live in the closest, most delicious and precious nearness to God during all our waking hours. But it takes time, and it takes much pain to learn how to live this, as it were, double lifethis inward life of companionship, of wonderful and blessed inward intercourse with God, and the outward intercourse of the senses with the world, our everyday duties, and our fellow-beings. In our early stages we have profound innumerable difficulties in understanding either our own capacities or God's wishes: we are terrified of losing Him, and yet are often bewildered, and pained also, by some of the higher degrees in which He communicates Himself. We do not understand how to leave God and return to earthly duties. Supposing that we are altogether wrapped up in the company of God, and some fellow-being suddenly recalls us to the world (the human voice can recall the soul as nothing else can), the pain is so great as to be nothing less than anguish; and if done often would seriously affect the health of the body.
But in a few years we learn to accomplish it without any shock.
One pain, however, remains, and it grows. I find myself unable to carry on a conversation with anyone unless it is about God, or about some work which is for God and has to do with His pleasure (and this is rare, because people are so glued to worldly affairs), for more than an hour, and even less, without the most horrible, the most deathly, exhaustion, which is not only spiritual but bodilythe face and lips losing all colour, the eyes their vitality: so dreadful is the distress of the whole being that one is obliged, upon any kind of pretext, to withdraw from all companions, and, if it is only for five minutes, be alone with God and, where no eye but His can see, unite completely with Him once more, and immediately the whole being becomes revivified. There is nothing else in life so wonderful, so rapturous as this swift reunion of the soul with God; and the joy is not only the joy of the soul, because the heart and mind have their fill of it too, for they too have ached and thirsted and hungered and longed, and now are satisfied.
If this measureless happiness could only be imagined by us before we experience it, how many of us would be spurred to greater efforts instead of falling back amongst the dust and cobwebs of Vanity!but it cannot be imagined, and the only way to come to it is by faith and obedience; and it is easy to see why this arrangement is necessary, for if we could imagine it thoroughly, then we should probably try to get to God only on account of greed, and should find ourselves drifting away instead of towards Him; it cannot be done by greed, greed being one of those things which beguiled the soul away from Him to begin with; and He does not send the soul His favours till she is free of, and has risen above, the dangers of greed and seeks Him for Himself and not for His favours. As soon as it is safe for her He will give the soul continual favours, because Perfect Love is ever desirous to give, and is only restrained on our account to withhold favours. The soul which knows how to make all necessary preparations to receive Him becomes a source of joy to God, for now He can give and give and no harm be done to that soul; but He does not acquaint the soul too suddenly with all the joy that she is to Him, because she would not (at least certainly my soul would not) be able to bear the knowledge of the privilege that she enjoys, without some danger to herself,and so, all unaware of the singularity of the privilege that she enjoys without any analysis of her happiness, she concerns herself with sweetly obeying Him, with singing to Him, and with giving Him all that she has all the day long, and so hovers before Him as delightful simplicity and love.
This Union with God varies so much in degree that it makes an effect of endless variety. Yet it is all one same joy, it is the joy of angels reduced to such degree as makes it bearable to flesh: the soul knows that it is the joy of angels that she is receiving the first time that she has it given to her: immediately on receipt of this joy she comprehends the mode of heavenly living; she knows it is but the outer edge that she touches, but what means so much to her is that she has recaptured the knowledge of this mode of living: henceforth it is a question of progress, she bends all her attention to progress so that she may get nearer and nearer to God, so that she may do everything to please this suddenly refound, unspeakably beloved God.
She desires to get nearer and nearer to God in spite of the pain that she often experiences. Perhaps the first pains we experience are when we are in contemplation of God and are caught by God into High Contemplation. He will at times expose the soul to so much of the Divine Power that she cannot sever herself from the too great fulness of Union with God, though the body is crying to her to do it and the sufferings of the body are all felt by the soul, which is pulled two ways: all this is very painful and makes us almost in a fear of God again. Why should Perfect Love inflict this pain on us? It may be to remind us that He is not only Love, but Power, Might, Majesty, and Dominion also. Yet could this ever be forgotten? It seems incredible. But it does not do to trust to one's soul, or to count on what she will do or not do: we know that the soul has forgotten almost everything about God, so much so that we are now thankful to arrive even so far as being quite certain that He exists! What infinite kindness that He should consent and condescend to Himself be her Teacher! But He does so condescend, and the more the soul relearns of God, the more she also learns that He is never weary of working for us all: this keeps the soul in a state of intense gratitude.
When the soul arrives at Union with God, does she remain always in Union? Yes, but not at the degree of Union which is Contact. What is the difference? It can perhaps be most easily explained (though extremely imperfectly) by referring to the union of married life. In this union, though we live in one house, we are not always both in that house at the same time; but this does not dissolve our union, and we both know our way to return there, and the right to meet is always ours. When we are both in the house, although not in the same room, there is a much nearer feeling about it, and we are apt to give a momentary call one to the other, just to have the pleasure of response: yet, though we are aware the other one is in the house and that there is no part of the house where we are forbidden to meetit is not enough; love requires more: it will be necessary for one to go and seek the actual presence of the other (the soul does this by a quiet prayer with perhaps a few words, but more probably no words). The one finds the other one; but the other one is occupied, so the one waits patiently (this is passive contemplation), and suddenly the occupied one is so constrained by love for the waiting one that he must turn to her, open wide his arms, and embrace herthey meet, they touch, they are content. In spiritual life this is contact or ecstasy or rapture. Here comes in the immensity of the difference between joys physical and joys spiritualphysical joys being limited to five senses: spiritual joys being above senses and open to limitless variations; but in order that these may be known in their fulness, we must eventually (after leaving the flesh) rise to immense heights of perfection: the joys enjoyed by the Archangel would destroy a lesser angel: the degree of joy that invigorates the saint, that sends him into rhapsodies of happiness, would destroy the sinner(becoming insupportable agony to the sinner). This celestial joy is, fundamentally, a question of the enduring of some un-nameable energy. How can energy be a means of this immeasurable Divine joy? After years of experience I find I cannot go back upon the knowledge that I acquired on the very first occasion of experiencethat energy is a fundamental principle of the mystery.
But how, it may very well be asked, do sins interfere with the reception of this activity? Sins are all imperfections, thickenings of the soul from self-will: pure soul is necessary for the happy reception of this celestial activity, and because impurities are automatically dissipated by this activity, and the dissipation or dispersion of them is the most awful agony conceivable when too suddenly done, what is bliss to the saint is the extremity of torture to the sinner. Now we come very fearfully and dreadfully to understand something more of the meanings, the happenings, of the Judgment Day. Christ will inflict no direct wilful punishment on any soul; but when He presents Himself before all souls and they behold His Face, immediately they will receive the terrible might of the activity of celestial joy. The regenerated will endure and rejoice; the unrepentant sinner will agonise, and he must flee from before the Face of Christ, because the agony that he feels is the dispersal of his imperfect soul; and where shall the sinner flee, where shall he go to find happiness? for saint and sinner alike desire happiness, and there is in Spirit-life only one happinessthe Bliss of God. So then let us be careful to prepare ourselves to be able to receive and endure this happiness, even if it can at first be only in a small degree, so that we shall not be condemned by our own pain to leave the Presence of God altogether and consequently lose Celestial Pleasures; let us at least prepare ourselves to remain near enough to know something of this tremendous living.
It was this Divine Activity which on the night of the Too Great Happiness so anguished my imperfect soul. But that night, and that anguish, taught my soul what she could never have learnt by any other means, and what it was I learnt I find myself unable to pass on to anyone; but that night was for my soul the turning-point of her destiny, that night altered my soul for evermore; that night I knew God as deeply as He can be known whilst the soul is in flesh.
God uses also a peculiar drawing power. All souls feeling desire towards God are to a greater or lesser degree conscious of this, and, as we know, frequently remain conscious of it as a desire and nothing further to the end of life in flesh. By means of it He draws a soul towards Himself until, because of it, the whole being is willing to make efforts at self-improvement, and this is the essential: it is this cleaning up of the character, this purification, which alone can bring us to the point where we can receive God's communications of Himself (in other words, ecstasies and periods of reunion with Celestial-living). Ecstasies inspire and awaken the soul: they convince the mind absolutely of the existence of another form of living and of God Himself.
After ecstasy the efforts of the entire being are bent on trying to perfect itself, and extraordinary Graces may be freely and almost continually given to us in order to make improvement more rapid for us. The feeling for God which before ecstasy was a deep (and often very painful) longing for God now increases to a burning, never-ceasing desire for Him: only three thoughts can be said to truly occupy a person from this stage onwardshow to please God, how to get nearer to Him, how to show practical gratitude. He may increase the flow of His Power to a soul till she is in great distress, longing to leap out of the body owing to the immensity of God's attraction. This attraction at times has a very real and sensible effect upon the body: it feels to counteract gravity, it makes the body feel so light it is about to leave the ground; it affects walking, and unaccountably changes it to staggering. To receive this attraction can be an ecstatic condition, but is by no means ecstasy. So long as we have power to move the body by will we are not in true ecstasy. In ecstasy the body feels to be disconnected in some unaccountable manner from the will; it lies inert, though it knows itself and knows that it stills liveswhich fundamentally differentiates it from sleep, because in sleep we do not know our body, we do not know if we are alive or dead, we know nothing. In ecstasy is no such blankness: merely the body is perforce inert, it would be entirely forgotten but for its periods of distress.
Neither can ecstasy be confused with dreaming, by even the most simple person. In dreaming, objects and events of a familiar type still surround us; the total inconsequence with which they present themselves alone makes dream-living unlike actual living, for it remains fundamentally of the same typephysical and full of persons, forms, objects, and word-thoughts. We can procure sleep by willing it, but we cannot will to procure ecstasy: we find it totally independent of will.
The Attraction of God can be a penetrating pain, because the soul, terribly drawn to God, exceedingly near Him, yet remains unsatisfied even in this close proximity. Why? Because she is being subjected to one Force onlyshe longs, she remains near, and receives nothing. God is not bestowing His Activity upon her, which is the way that she "knows" Himshe is not living the celestial life.
It is the combination of the two Forces working together simultaneously on and in the soul which differentiates ecstasy and rapture from all other degrees of God-Consciousness. When these two Powers work together, we experience celestial living, full Union, the bliss of Contact. It cannot possibly be said that in ecstasy we see God: it is a question of "knowing" Him through the higher part of the soul, in lesser or in deeper degrees.
If the Divine Lover gives such joys to the soul, how does the soul give joy to the Divine Lover? Is she beautiful? She becomes so. Also the soul is a poet of the first water, though she uses no words; and the soul is a weaver of melodies, though she makes no sound; but above all, and before all, the soul is a great lover. Now we know in this earthly life that a lover desires above everything else the love of her whom he loves. Only when she whom he loves returns his love, can he truly enjoy her.
So also the Divine Lover. O incomparable Love! Love gives all when it gives itself, love receives all when it receives Love.
By love, then, the soul is the Delight of God.
The soul feels to be formless; though we become aware of a spreading which causes her to feel of the form of a cup or a disc when she receives God, and in contemplation she feels to extendflame-like until she meets God. She can wait for Godspread, but cannot maintain this form for long without God rejoices her by His touch. How can so formless a thing, still waiting for its Spiritual Body, be beautiful? She is beautiful because of the colours she is able to assume: she can glow with such colour as no flower on earth can even faintly imitate. Celestial colours are beyond all imagination. As the soul grows in purity and is able to endure an increase of the Divine Radiations and Penetration, so she changes her colours; by her colours she delights the eye of her Maker, He touches her, she becomes yet more beautiful.
Very early in the morning God walks in His Garden of Souls, and in the evening also, and in the noonday, and in the night.
The soul that knows Him knows His approach, and, preparing and adorning herself for Himwaits.
Does God come and go? The soul feels Him there, and not there. Is she mistaken in this, and God always to be possessed, but she not dressed to receive Him? If this is so, then how grievously frequent is our failure!
It is more encouraging to our own state to suppose that God lends Himself and withdraws; that He will be possessed; and He will not be. But this involves caprice. Can Perfect Love have caprice?
We find that grace can be received without intermission for weeks, even months, together. Without coming and departing (although in lesser and greater intensity) the Presence of God, Love and Comfort, envelop the soul. So then we learn by our own experience that God is willing to be present amongst us continually in His Second and Third Persons.
Yet, although He is present in His Two Persons, the soul is not filled: she is unspeakably blest and happy, but not wholly satisfied till He is present to her in His First Person also. She knows immediately when He so comes, and then the Three become One, and when They become One to her, in that moment the soul enters Bliss. It is true that if He so came to her very frequently, the soul could not endure Him; but certainly she could endure Him more frequently than she receives Him. It is not because she is worthy that she possesses Him: the soul never, under any circumstances, feels worthy: it is love alone which enables her to possess Him, and this love that she knows how to shed to Him is His own gift to her.
So the soul cries to Him, O mystery of love, was ever such sweet graciousness as lives in thee: such exquisite felicity of giving and receiving, in which the giver and receiver in mysterious rapture of generosity are oned! And this mystery of love is not in paucity of ways, but in marvellous variety of ways and of degreesthe ways of friendship, the brother and the sister, the mother and the child, the youth and the maiden, and Thyself and we.
Love makes the soul ponder on His tastes, His will, His nature. Does He prefer even in heaven to possess Himself to Himself in His First Person? or are there parts of heaven where He is ever willing to be possessed in His fulness: where He is eternally beheld in His Three Persons by such as can endure Him? The soul believes it, and this is the goal she strives for both now and hereafter.
Yet there is That of Him which is for ever Alone, which will never be known or shared by the greatest of the Angels. The soul comprehends that He will have it so because of that Solitary which sits within herself, she who is made after His likeness.
For many years before coming to Union with God, I found that it had become impossible to say more than a little prayer of some five or six words, and these were said very slowly: at times I was astonished at my inability, and ashamed that these pitiful shreds were all that I could offer, and always the same thing too; I tried to vary itI could not. When I tried to say some fine sentence, when I tried even to ask for something, I could not; it all disappeared in a feeling of such sweet love for God, and I merely said again the same old words of every day. I loved. I could do nothing more than say so, and then stay there on my knees for a little while, very near Him, fascinated, adoring. But God is not vexed with a soul when she cannot say much. Is an earthly father vexed when his child, standing there before him, forgets the words upon its lips, forgets to ask, because it loves him so? Far from it.
This prayer is the commencement, the foretaste, of Contemplation. A distinguishing mark between this prayer and Contemplation is that in even the lowest degree of Contemplation God (if one may so express the inexpressible) is Localised. Hitherto His Presence has been nearbut we cannot say how near, or where, and we cannot be sure of finding it. After Union we are certain of finding God's Presence everywhere, and at any time. He may at times be far away, or pay no attention to us; but we know whereabouts He is, and we can go and wait outside that place where He has hidden Himself and which is no place (but a figure of speech): He merely disappears from our consciousness, but not so entirely but that we can partly find Him. All this cannot be explained, but after Union God is as present to the soul in Contemplation (and far more so because of the great poignancy of it) as is a fellow-creature whom we actually see and touch, much more so because between ourself and a fellow-creature, however dear, is always a barrier: try as we may there is always a dividing line between two persons. We are two: we remain two. But when we meet God there is nothing between us and God, nothing whatever divides us, and yet we are not lost in Godthat is to say, we do not disappear as a living individual consciousness, but our consciousness is increased to a prodigious degree, and we are One with God.
This Oneness, in a tiny degree, can be experienced by two persons who are in close spiritual sympathy when both are simultaneously and powerfully animated by very loving thoughts of Christ, or are working together, and giving on account of Christ: then a fluid interchange of sympathies and interests takes place in which the barriers of individuality go down.
This same fluid interchange in a still lesser degree takes place in ordinary friendship between two friends of similar tastes; but this interchange must always be with the mental and the higher part of us, it can never take place because of the merely physical, for in the physical, dependent as it is upon senses, barriers always exist: we see this in the union of loverstheir union is merely a transitory self-gratification, although it may include another self in that it is mutual; but more frequently it is not even mutual, and what is a pleasure to one is at the moment distasteful to the other, though the one can easily conceal from the other that it is so, proving how complete the duality of consciousness and of feeling remains between two individuals who depend upon contiguity of substance (or the sense of touch) for their union, and not upon spiritual similarity: in spiritual similarity alone is identity of feeling and personality and perfect union to be found, and in this identity deceit is impossible.
The more we investigate the question of satisfactions the more we find that these, in order to be permanent, must take place upon a very high level, upon a plane above materialism. However much we may with our sense of taste enjoy a dinner to-day, it will be no joy whatever even a week hence. The natural everyday facts should (and are intended to) prove to us the futility of giving so much time and thought to the pleasures of the flesh: these pleasures lead nowhere, they end abruptly, they are very limited, being confined to five senses, and consequently, owing to a necessity of continual repetition, satiety supervenes, and there remains nothing else to turn to. Yet when this happens we are really very fortunate, because it may be a cause of our searching amongst our higher faculties for our gratifications.
The soul finds it bitterly hard to rid herself of selfishness and self-will: she gets rid of one form, only to find herself falling to another. When first my soul reknew the Joy of God I said to myself, "I will hide it in my own bosom, I will keep it all to myself. I am become independent of all creatures, I want none of them, I cannot bear the sight or the sound of them, how joyfully I leave them all behind!I want only my GodI wantBut what is all this?I want, I will, I, I, I, I!" Later the days come when God hides Himself from me: I can go and wait at His threshold (because when she knows the way He never denies the soul the threshold, though He denies her Himself). I may pour out all the sweetness of my love, but he makes no response; I may sing to Him all day: He will not hear; I may give Him all that I am or have, and He will not communicate Himself to me. Then I remember all the years of my striving, I remember the stress, the sweat of all that climb to His footstoolthe sweat that at times was like drops of blood wrung out of the soul, out of the heart, out of the mind; and yet all forgotten in the instant of the rapture of Finding. Did He then beckon and draw and delight the soul only to madden with the anguish of more hiding and more striving: was He to be found only that He might again be lost? My soul sickened with fear, and I said, Love is a calamity; who can release me from the anguish of it? O God, since I may no more possess Thee, grant that I may shortly pass into the dust and for ever be no more, so that I may escape this pain of knowing Thy Perfections and my own necessity for Thee; and I mourned for Him till my health went.
Weeks passed, and three words came constantly to me: "Visit my sick." But I did not listen: I was sick myself with a deadly wound. Almost every day the same three words came; but I turned away resentfully from them, saying to myself, "What have the sick to do with me? I am weary of sick people: I have been so much with them. Must I accept the sick in place of the ecstasy of God? I mourn for the loss of God. I can cheer no sick."
The words came again, with excessive gentleness, and the gentleness was like the gentleness of Christ, and it pierced. So that day I go to the village and visit the sick again, and I look at them tenderly and lovingly, and tenderly and lovingly they look at me, and some say, "It is as if God came into the house with you"; and tears come to my eyes, and I say, "It may be so, because He sent me," and they gaze at me lovingly, and lovingly I gaze at them; and it seems to me that I can no longer tell where "they" cease and where "I" begin, and the sweetness, the peculiar sweetness, of Christ pierces me through from my head to my feetthat sweetness that I have not known for weeks. And so I comprehend that Holy Love is not alone just Thee and me, but it is also Thee and me and the others, and Thee and the others and me.
I wanted my own way. The way I wanted was to be free in order to worship and bless God in a beautiful place, in some place that I should choose. I wanted to worship Him, and to sing Him the Song of the Soul from some quiet hill among the olive trees by the Mediterranean Sea. I wanted this marvellous, this almost terrible, joy of meeting God in a beautiful place that I should choose: I wanted it so that it became spiritual greedspiritual self-indulgence.
Duty, heavy-winged duty, prevented my taking the journey; duty to an always-contrary relation, now unwell. It was only a little thingjust a journey prevented, but it crossed my self-will; and in an impatient, detestable way that I have, I wanted to push all duty, even all human relationships, anywhere upon one side, or over the edge of the world, so they might all fall together out of my sight and I be free!
Because I thought these thoughts, I came to the Place of Tribulation. And the Messenger came, and he said, "Escape, and the way is consenting." But I said, "No, I will not have that way, I will escape by some other way." So I tried every other way, but found it guarded by something which seemed to be armed with a hammer; but I persisted: then for days and nights my soul stood up to the hammers and received terrible blows, and still I persistedI would find a way to escape that should please my will. But I could not eat, I could not sleep, the flesh visibly lessened on my bones, and at last I loathed myself and my own will and my own soul, and I cried to God, "Shall I never be through with this terrible struggle with self-will?" and groaned aloud in my despair.
Then the words that were sent long ago to a saint, and that he was inspired to write down to help us all, now came and did their work for me through him: "My grace is sufficient for thee." And so I found it, and more than sufficientwhen I consented.
Who is it, what is it, that so punishes the soul? Is it God? No. Patiently, lovingly He waits. Our pain is the difficulty of consenting to perfection: every virtue has a hammer, every perfection a long two-edged sword; and the punishment we feel is the breaking and wounding of self-will under the hammers of the virtues and the sword-thrusts of the vision of perfection.
Put aside these wretched, these sometimes awful and terrible, battles and punishments, shrink from them when they come, and we may put aside salvation. Accept themstand up to the hammer and take the blows and learn: consent to the sword that pierces up to the hilt, and what do we come to?The Blisses of God.
After coming to Union with God, our prayers become entirely changed, not only in the manner of presenting them, but changed also in what is presented. Petitioning is a hard thing. I had found it easy to pray for others whether I loved them or not, with the lips and with some of the heart; but I found that I could not do it in the new way, with all my heart, mind, soul, and strength, so that everything else fled away into nothing and was no more, except that for which I petitioned God. A perfect concentration for the welfare of a stranger or of some cause was a very hard thing; yet I was made aware that I must learn to do it.
For two or three years I suffered pain and exhaustion over this petitioning; I would be so fatigued by it, found it so great a strain, that I said to myself, "I shall lose my health over this petitioning, for as I do it, it is as though I gave my life-energy for the cause or person for whom I pray." But my Good Angel whispered me not to give in, but continue to be willing, continue to be generous, no matter the cost. I am not generous, but I went on with it, and secretly had the greatest dread of it; my whole nature shrank from the effort, from the strange loss of vitality this petitioning brought.
Then at last, after more than two years, because of remaining willing, because of trying to remain generous about this, to me, most grievously hard prayer, one happy day God lifted away all the strain and difficulty, all the pain and fatigue, and turned it into the sweetest of prayers: into a new song, a new honey, new music, a new delight, in which the soul has, as it were, but to sip at the nectar of His Love and Beneficence, to bring it to a fellow-soul.
I found that God causes the soul to pray this joyous, this exquisite, prayer for total strangers, passers-by in the street, fellow-travellers by road and rail, here and there, this one and that, she knows which one it is: how surprised these persons would be if they knew that a total stranger, who never saw them before and never will see them again, was joyously, lovingly, holding them up before God for His help and His blessing! and they receive His blessing. God does not prompt such prayers for nothing. Is this favoritism? No; they are secretly seeking Him.
When the soul is united to God a great change comes over the mind, which now thinks continually, lovingly, of God. God not merely hoped for, looked for, as in the past, but God found and known, God close and near; interruptions come and go, but the mind, like a pendulum, swings back to God, nothing stops it; the soul streams to Him: she discovers Him everywhere: she knows her way to Him, and she has not far to go. Her own door is also His door. There are many degrees of intensity about this condition, which can increase to such an extent as to entirely interfere with our everyday duties. When it is increased to this degree it would appear (certainly at times) to be on purpose to teach the soul a self-abnegation which she could not otherwise learn, because, together with an intense, almost terrible, attraction and desire to be alone with God, will come the pressure of a duty which it is obvious God would wish us to attend to: this is a severe and a very continual lesson to the soulthe lesson of learning patiently to continue some sordid work in this world, after finding the joys of the spiritual life.
What are amongst the most noticeable changes in the mind? first, we notice it has become very simple in its requirements, and very restful; it no longer darts here and there gathering in this and that of fancied treasures, as a bird darts at flies; it has dropped outside objects, in order to hover around thoughts of God, which at the same time are not particularised, but, as it were, quietly, contentedly, float in a general and peaceful fragrance of beauty.
Ordinarily the mind would find it difficult to hover in this way with such a singleness of intent, but in certain other cases we see the same contentmentin the mother beside her babe: though she may not talk to it, or touch it, she is happy; she knows it near; she is secretly giving to it. We see it in the babe also: it gazes at its mother and is quiet; if the mother removes herself, the child may cry; no one has hurt itmerely, it has ceased to be happy because the object of its desire has gone too far from it, has disappeared. We see it also in two lovers; they sit near together, and the more they love the fewer words they require to speak: they are happy: they require very few words, very few thoughts. Separate them, and they spend their time uneasily in sending messages, in thinking numberless yearning thoughts which become painful, and, if continued for long, can affect the health. Put them together again, and they barely say two words: their joy at meeting occupies the whole of their attention. It is the same when we love God. The heart, and the mind, and the soul are blissfully content, they are in a love-state, they bask in His Presence; but that we should be aware of His Presencethis is His gift, this is the vast difference between our former and our present state.
When we have become experienced in this Presence of God, the Reason tries very earnestly to comprehend the manner of it. Christ says that when love is established between God and a man, "My Father and I will come to him and make our abode with him." How can such a tremendous thing as this be carried out without, as it were, burning the man up with the greatness of it? Does God, then, when experienced feel to be a Fire? Yes, and no, for we feel that we shall be consumed, and yet it is not burning but a blissful energy of the most inexpressible and unbearable intensity, which has the feeling of disintegrating or dispersing flesh. The experience is blissful to heart and mind only so long as it is given within certain limits: beyond this it is bliss-agony, beyond this it would soon be death to the body; and the soul feels that in her imperfect state it can soon easily be the dispersion of herself also: this is a very terrible feeling: this does not bear remembering or thinking about. How, then, can it be possible that God can take up His abode with us and we still live?
In all contacts with God we notice one fact pre-eminentlythey do not take place with the mind, but with that which was previously unknown to us, and which communicates the joy and the realities of meeting God to the mind. What is this? It does not live in the heart: it lives, or feels to live, in the upper cavity of the chest, above the heart, and below the throat-base. It can endure God. It is spirit, it feels to be a higher part of the soul: we might call it the Intelligence and Will of the soul, because it acts for the soul as the mind acts for the body, it is above the soul as the mind is above (more important than) and rules an arm or leg. The more we experience God, the more we are forced to comprehend that we have in us an especial organ in this spirit with which we can communicate with God and by which we can receive Him without the mind or body being destroyed. For when God takes up His abode with a man He will communicate Himself to this loving Spirit-Will or Intelligence in ecstasies. And through His Son He will communicate Himself in another manner, to the heart and mind, so graciously, with such a tender care, that without the stress of ecstasy we are kept in a delicate and most blessed Awareness of God. In these ways we can know, even in flesh, the beginnings of the true love-state, the beginnings of the angelic state, which is this same love-state brought to completion by Beholding God.
Although this blessed condition of Awareness of God is a gift, and at first the mind and soul are maintained in it without effort on their part, it being accomplished for them solely by the power of the Grace of God, yet laterand somewhat to their dismay after receiving such favoursthey discover that it must be worked for in order to be maintained. The heart must give, the mind must give, the soul must give: when they neither work nor give they may find themselves receiving nothing: God ceases to be present to them. Generosity on our part is required. It works out in experience to be always the same thing that is needed for our perfect health and happinessreciprocity. Without we maintain this reciprocity we shall experience extraordinary disappointment.
The soul is now blind: we know this by experience; but do we know that she ever had sight? If she did not, but was created imperfect, and was so created in order that only by work and merit she should arrive at completion and perfection and Behold God (instead of merely, as now in this world, being able only to apprehend Him by the retrospect of His effect upon her), then she was always below angels. If through work and obedience she becomes so raised that she merits sight and the actual Beholding of God, then she becomes equal to angels because of this Beholding; and so Christ tells us that she does as the Child of the Resurrection.
It is the inability of the soul to comprehend, after experiencing the bliss of Union with God, how she came to embark upon this wandering and separation, which so presses the Reason for an explanation of the fall of the soul.
It may be that not all souls are fallen, but that some are merely in process of progressing to sight. These are Righteous Souls. But there are more souls also created sightless, who are fallen by curiosity, by infidelity or plain self-will and forgetfulnessthese it is who need the Redeemer: "I come not to call the Righteous, but sinners to repentance." From this it would seem that there are souls who, though they are in this world, are yet fundamentally righteous: not fallen, but working to receive sight. It is inconceivable to the soul that, had she ever Beheld God, she could have left Him, but not inconceivable to her that, having never Beheld Him, she may have been unfaithful on her road to Sight. She understands this awful possibility after coming to Union with Him from this earth, because then she learns the immense difficulties of maintaining this sightless Union.
She knows the terrible solitude and testing it entails, and the innumerable temptations when low-spirited and lonely to turn to interests and consolations apart from God; for God will frequently, in the later stages of progress, withhold every consolation and comfort from the soul, leaving her solitary. Will she stay? Will she go?
We hope for much from "education"; but what education is it that will be of enduring value to us? Is it the education which teaches us the grammars of foreign languages, scientific facts, the dates when wars were won, when kings ascended their thrones, princes died, artists painted their masterpieces, that will bring us to our finest opportunities of success? To the soul there is little greater or less chance of success offered by the degree of "polish" in the education we have the money to procure: the peasant who cannot read or write may achieve the purpose of life before the savant: we know it without caring to acknowledge it to ourselves: the education that we really require is the education of daily conduct, the education of character, the education by which we say to Self-will, to Pride, and to Lusts, "Lie down!"and they do it!
When a soul knows herself, has repented and become redeemed, she knows all other souls, good or bad: there are no longer any secrets for her, no one can hide himself from her: she sees all these open and living books, reads them, and avoids judging and bitterness in spite of the selfishness, stupidity, and frailty revealed on every page: she finds the same faults in herself; selfishness, stupidity, and weakness are engraven upon herself; the redeemed and enlightened soul with tears perpetually corrects these faults: the unenlightened soul does notthis is the difference between them.
For some time after coming to Union with God we remain convinced that all now being so well with the soul all will be well with the body also, and the health does improve and become more stable; but the day comes when we learn that God is not concerned with saving flesh, and that the body must share the usual fatewe shall continue to suffer through it. But we also discover that there can be a marvellous amelioration to this suffering. By raising the consciousness to its highestthat is to say, by living with the highest part of the soul and waiting upon Godwe can experience such very great Grace that the poignancy, the distress, of pain disappears. For instance, the following is from my experience. Trouble has come, trouble of several kinds: the death of one very dear; severe illness to another; for my brother a serious operation; for myself a slight one, but a very painful onein fine, a variety of trials all coming together as they have a way of doing. I feel terribly nervous and fearful of the pain of my own operation and my brother's also: he is the brother who once saved my life, he is the being who more than anyone on earth I have most loved since early childhood. So I hang on to God. I hang to Him, not by beseeching Him to relieve or release me from any of these inevitable happenings, but by the way I have so slowly been learning, in which a creature, by means and because of love, passes out of itself and is able to hand over to God everything which it is or has or thinks or does, and in exchange receives His Peace. So I hand over my brother and my dead and my anxieties for self into His hands, and I go to my operation with the same serenity that I should go to meet a friend. I notice that I am more calm, less nervous, than anyone else.
The anaesthetic fails before the operation is completed: consciousness returns and becomes aware of atrocious pain and blood-soaked busy instruments. Yet by Grace of God the mind and soul are able immediately to raise and maintain themselves in high consciousness of God, and the operation can be finished without a cry or movement of the body: no automatic shrinking takes place. And this Grace is continued for days afterwards, so that in recalling the torturing incidents, and though the pain of wounds continues severe enough to interfere with sleep, yet my mind remains quite calm, like a quiet lake over which, without ruffling its waters, hangs a mista tranquil shroud of pain that has no sting, no fear, no fret.
After coming to Union with God I never lacked anything, and this during the most difficult times of the war, and under every and all circumstances. Being careful to try and observe how this was worked, I saw it was very naturally and simply done by everyone being given an impulse to help me, always without any request to them on my part: the porter, besieged by twenty persons, would be blind to all and, coming straight to me, would offer his service; the taxi-driver, hailed by a waiting mob, had eyes and ears for no one but myself, yet I had made him no sign except by looking at him. The same with the coal merchant and his coal, the same with all tradesmen, the same with servants. I never lacked anything for one hour: but I continually asked Christ to help me.
Since coming to Union with God, I have had innumerable trials, some of them tortures, but have been brought safely out of every one. I afterwards found that each trial was exactly what was needed for the alteration of some objectionable characteristic in myself. No trial that came was unnecessary. When its work was accomplished, the trial disappeared.
Can it be said that Union with God in this world entails upon us increased sufferings here? Yes. But these sufferings are not owing to abnormal occurrences: nothing will happen which is not the common lot of humanity; merely we are caused to feel that which we do experience, very acutely; and after Union with God all earthly consolations must be abandoned: until we abandon these we do not know how we have depended on them, how they have protected us from depression, loneliness, boredom, and discontent. Abandon all these earthly consolations and interests, and at the same time be abandoned by God (sensible Grace is withdrawn), and immediately our sufferings become very severe, though our outward circumstances may appear, and may actually remain, of the very best. If our house is a fine one, we must live in it completely detached from its attractions: the same with regard to our friends, our amusements, our wealth, and all our possessions. It is obvious that in learning to do this we shall often suffer. The soul has painfully to learn that without God's Grace there is no virtue, no righteousness, and no sanctity: she learns by going forward upon Graceperhaps to some great height: then Grace is withdrawn, the soul falls back, and feels to fall lower than she ever was before, and usually she falls over a trifle. Amazed, unspeakably surprised and humiliated, and ashamed, the soul learns to know herselfto know herself with God, to know herself without God. When she is with God, there seems no height to which she cannot rise: this gives great courage: more and more she abandons everything distasteful to God in order to unite herself more securely to Him.
We have no sufferings that are not useful to us. Looking back on my life, I see how many troubles I suffered: how often my health suffered (malaria and sun fevers, and lightning and its consequences): how I was and still am kept in a somewhat fragile state of health, though quite free of all actual disease. I see in this frailness, especially during the earlier years of my life, an immense protection: given full and vigorous health, combined with my selfish and passionate temperament, and I know very well I should have fallen in any and all kinds of dangers at all times. I was not to be trusted with robust health, and even after all the mercies and blessings God has showered upon me I do not trust myself. I still remain the sinner, fundamentally and potentially at every step the sinner. But Love and Grace surround the sinner. Love and Grace save the sinner from himself: Love and Grace can beautify and make the sinner shine.
My physical sufferings are not to be compared with the sufferings I see others endure, and endure cheerfully: this is a great shame and humiliation to me, because I have not learnt to suffer cheerfully: I am too easily undone by suffering and by the sight of suffering in any living thing; but although one may be a cowardthat is to say, one may inwardly shrink from every kind of suffering,one can be, and it is necessary to be, quite submissive; and to refrain from the slightest rebellion or selfishnessthis is what God takes note of. What a difference there is between the selfish and the unselfish sufferer: how the one makes everyone around him miserable, wears them out body and soul; and how the other calls out all that is best in others and strengthens all that is best in himself! It is not so important whether we are secretly cowards or heroes; what matters is how we deal with sufferings when they come, what reaction we permit or encourage on their account in heart and mind and soul. There is nothing but suffering that can cleanse us, nothing but pain and misfortune which can so thoroughly convince us of our own nothingness, and break self-pride: joy will not do it; joy can do nothing more than refresh us after our sufferings, and in almost all lives we see how joy is made to alternate with sorrow: it encourages, it stimulates to further endeavours (this is the reason that God, at a certain stage of progress, gives extraordinary blisses, ecstasies, and so on), but it does not disperse our blemishes: the dispersal of spiritual blemishes is, as we know, the main reason of life in the flesh; it must be done, and the sooner the better: then we can finish, once and for all, with flesh existence. Righteous and very virtuous people may be able to dispense with Divine joys and consolations: it is doubtful if many sinners canthey require the confidence, the certainty, the enthusiasm which is naturally kindled by such experiences. So then we find that the vicissitudes of life, the endless daily trials, do not go because we find God. But His Grace comes, and when His Grace is with us wet or shine is all one, love and beauty gently sparkle everywhere; and then the heart cries out to him, Every day is like a jewel, every day I see the whole world decked and garlanded with all the beauty of Thy mind: each tree, each flower, each bee or bird tremulous with the life and wonder of Thy creative ingenuity! Each day is a new jewel set upon the necklace of my thoughts of Thee.
One of the trials that we have to endure as beginners is a joyless, flat, ungracious condition; a kind of paralysis of the soul, a dreary torpor. When we would approach Godpray to HimHe is nowhere to be found: He has disappeared, and everything to do with finding Him is become hard work, such hard work that it suddenly seems to us quite unprofitable: we suddenly remember a number of outside things which we would far sooner do: we try to pray, but the prayer goes nowhere-in-particular; it has no enthusiasm, no force behind it: has prayer then suddenly re-become a duty? This is terrible; what shall we doshall we ask God to help us? When we do, we do it in so halfhearted a manner that our prayer feels to merely float around our own head like some miserable mist. We feel certain that this joyless, withered state will endure to the end of life on earth (the conviction that our unhappy condition is permanent is characteristic of all severe trials, because if we supposed the condition or difficulty only momentary it would not produce a sufficient trial, and consequent effort to overcome it on our part). This trial (though it may not always be a trial, but an actual blemish of the soul, a serious lack of unselfish love which must at once be strenuously corrected) is given for several reasonswe have become, perhaps, too greedy of enjoyment of prayer: or we have come to take this joyousness of prayer for granted: or we have come to think we are uncommonly clever at knowing how to love and to pray; that we know so well how to do it that we can do it of our own power and capacity without God's assistance.
Or the trial may be sent not for any of these reasons, but solely in order to increase the strength and perseverance of our love to God, and of our Generosity.
This is one trial, and another is that God allows us to become convinced that He has nothing more to give us, He withdraws His graciousness from our apprehension; He leaves us as a tiny, unwanted, meaningless speck, alone in a vast universe. It would be idle to say that the soul does not suffer from this change; but these sufferings are just what she requires in order to develop courage, humility, endurance, love, and generosity. These two trialsthe one when love is all dried up on our part, and the other when we think love must be all dried up on God's partare the finest possible training and exercise for the soul, but they are only such if the soul tries ardently to overcome them: it is in the effort to overcome that virtue is learnt, progress made.
There is one most splendid remedy. Is it asking of God? No, it is giving to God. We give Him thanks and we bless Him, and we tell Him that we love Him, and we do it with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, and this becomes possible even though a moment ago we were so far from Him, so tepid, seemingly so estranged: it becomes possible because we remember all the wonderful things that God has done for us and given us, and made for us, and suffered for us; and in remembering these it is impossible but that love and gratitude, like a torch of enthusiasm, will presently flare up in us.
If God never gives us another thing, we will adore Him for His kindness in the past, we will adore Him for Himself, for what He is. Desolation and tepidity vanish. Joy returns, the trial is over; but it will come again perhaps a few hours hence, or to-morrow, or every day for weeks: the remedy is ever to be reapplied, and the remedy when thoroughly applied never fails in immediate efficacy; but it has to be constantly repeated: never let the heart and mind forget this.
The heart, mind, soul, and will work together and lead together the reasonable earthly existence; but there is another part of the soul, a higher part, which has its own intelligence, which leads no earthly existence, has no direct recognition of material being; thinks no earth-thoughts, judges by no man-made standards, sins no earth-sins. Has this part of the soul, then, never sinned? It feels that it has sinned, though it cannot say how or when, but it feels that this sin was direct as between itself and God, and is the cause of its separation from God; and it feels this sin to have been an infidelity. It is with this part of the soul that we sin the unforgivable sin against the Holy Ghost, which cannot be sinned by mere natural man: (here we touch the mystery of the two orders of sinning which, to the initiated, are seen both to be covered by the same commandments). This higher part of the soul mourns and longs for God with a terrible longing, and can be consoled, satisfied, by God only; He communicates Himself to this part of the soul. Sins of heart and mind do not injure it, but retard it: it cannot be corrupted by material living, because it does not connect itself directly with earth-living, it "responds" to God alone; but earthly sins delay it, paralyse its powers, postpone indefinitely its return to God. Is it this part of the soul which we ordinarily speak of as the Will? It cannot be, since it is with our Will that we consent to earth-sins. Have we, then, two Wills? It is reasonable and it conforms with experience to say that we have two Willsa Spirit-Will conducting Spirit-living, and a Reasoning or Mind Will, conducting the affairs of earth-living: the lower part of the soul is the meeting-place and the intermediary between these two (often opposing) Wills, it is the ground upon which they work and have their fruitions.
The Spirit-Will is the Will by which we finally become united to God. Before regeneration we are unaware in any keen degree of its existence; but it may exist for us in a vague and confused manner as an incomprehensible, undefined yearning: we cannot satisfy this yearning, because we do not know what it requires for its satisfaction. It is above conscience: conscience has its seat in the lower soul, there it deals with the affairs of earthly life. This Spirit-Will is so far above conscience (which can be used, cultivated, improved, or destroyed, according to our own desire) that it is not given into the keeping or cognisance of the "natural" man, but remains unknown, inoperative until reawakened and impregnated with renewed vigour by direct Act of God in the regenerated man. This awakening, this reinvigoration, would seem to be synonymous with the Baptism of the Holy Ghost.
If it is awakened only by Act of God, in what way can we be held responsible about it? Our responsibility, our part, our opportunity is to so order the lower or earth-will that God shall see us to be prepared for the awakening of the Spirit-Will.
This Spirit-Will, once awakened, is never again shut out from direct communication with God. Even when Grace is withdrawn, this Will-Spirit can come before God and, no barrier between, know Him there; although He may deny it all consolation and leave it languishing, it yet retains the consolation of its one supreme necessitythat of knowing it has not lost Him. It waits.
Like knows like: it does not "know" its opposite, but is drawn towards its opposite before and without "knowing" it: here we have the cause of the condescension of the Good towards the imperfect, and of the aspiration of the imperfect to the perfect long before it can "know" the perfect. Without this attraction of like to opposite the imperfect could not become the perfect (we desire, are drawn to God, long before we are able to know Him). The imperfect is able to become the perfect by continually aspiring to it: it gradually becomes "like." There are no barriers in spirit-living, therefore there is nothing to prevent the soul becoming perfect, save its own will-failure. The barrier existing between material- or physical-living and spirit-living can only be overcome in and by a man's own soul: in the soul these two forms of living can meet and become known by the one individual, who can live alternately in the two modes, but it is necessary that the will and preference shall be continually given and bent towards spiritual-living, physical-living being accepted patiently and as a cross. Then flesh ceases to be a barrier to spiritual-living. This is the work of Christ and of the Holy Ghost. Because the soul has recaptured the knowledge of this rapturous living we are not to suppose that it is possible to continually enjoy it here or introduce its glories into social and worldly living: it is between the soul and God only; but earth-life can and should by this knowledge be entirely readjusted.
Are we correct in saying or supposing that this world with all that we see in it (because perishable) is not real, and that the Invisible is the only Real? We are using the wrong word: all that we see here is real after its own manner: it is intentional, it is designed, it is magnificent, it is the evidence in fixed form of the Supreme Intelligence; how can we venture to call it unreal, nothing, negligible? It is a question not of Reality or Unreality, but of greater and of lesser Activity. In this world we see the Divine Energy slowed down to its least degree: we see it so much slowed down that the Divine Ideas can become crystallised into a form and for their decreed period remain fixed. It is exactly this which the soul requires in order to recover her lost bearings. She needs the Beautiful, the Good, and the Bad made sensible to her in fixed objects, and Time in which to consider them and make her choice between them. When Spirit-living is experienced, we become aware that in spirit-life Activity is of such an order as to preclude the mode of it being in fixed forms and objects: so there is no fixed visible Beauty, no fixed visible Good or Bad, no fixed results, and the soul "sees" and "knows" only that which she herself is like to. If she is bad, she cannot become better by the privilege of looking at that which is good. If she thinks or desires wrong, she remains wrong: she must think Right in order to produce or "know" Right. She loses God because she can no longer think godly, and nothing is fixed by which she can trace Him: it is like to like, and this instantaneously without pause (or time). Here in this world Like may behold its Opposite: Bad may behold Good and, because of being able to behold it, may go over and join its will to Good: it is able to do this, because the evidence of Good remains fixed whether the beholder or thinker is good or bad.
What is our quest in this world? It is to refind the lost knowledge of Celestial-living. Our Goal is God Himself. Our salvation does not depend upon our finding Celestial-living, but our finding this living depends upon whether we have found the way of Salvation. This Celestial-living is here, at our door, but we cannot retouch it without Act of God. What is essential to obtaining this Act of God? Is it necessary to belong to this or that Denomination, to perform this or that ceremony, to stand up, kneel down, or prostrate ourselves a hundred and one times, visit shrines, handle relics, endlessly repeat fixed words and sentences? No, these will not do it. Christianity in its full meaning, a repentant and clean heart and mindthese will do it. It is a direct affair between the soul and God. It is Thee and me. This is immense condescension on the part of God. Love alone makes such a condescension possible.
As in free spirit we think a thought and become it, have a desire flash to it and are it, it is easy to see how in thinking thoughts that are not godly, desiring that which is ungodly and imperfect, we pass far from God by "becoming" imperfection; and, having "become," find no satisfaction, satisfaction resting with God only. Having ceased to think godly, the soul loses God, becomes insensitive, and falls into darkness, thinks of her own wretchedness and, thinking of it, is held fast to it. Being miserable, she thinks to Self; thinking of Self, she is bound to the solitude of Selfblank solitude without fixed objects to amuse, without fixed Beauty to lead higher, to restore, to calm. Is all this tantamount to saying that when separated from God Spirit-life is less desirable than earth-life? It is: for then we are "dead" to celestial-living, and in Spirit-life all other living is miserable living. Hence we see the dire necessity of the soul for a Saviour: the necessity of fixed forms, of time, of flesh (which is a fixed stay-point for the soul), of the Incarnation of the Saviour in flesh in order that He may guide the soul amongst these fixed forms, Himself showing her which to choose and which to cast aside: we see the necessity of time in order that, though we have an ungodly thought, we have time to repent and choose a better before, in a horrible rapidity, we are inevitably become that which we had thought. In this world, this stay-point for the soul, the most lost is enabled to enjoy and perceive Beauty and Goodness. How much more easy, then, to return to godly thoughts, to the Good, to God Himself! But though her Saviour is in this world so near to the soul, she does not always seek Him. He belongs to the Invisible. Intoxicated at finding herself amused amongst fixed objects which she enjoys lazily through fixed mediums of the five senses, she devotes herself to these objects, surrounds herself with them, forgets everything else. "It is harder for the rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven." But she must abandon object-worship: this is not to say she is to deny the existence of objects, calling them unreal; she must despise no created object, for each is there to form for her an object-lesson. She has two choices: she can see the objects, remain satisfied with them, and seek no further. Or, she can see the objects, admire them, but seek beyond them for their Instigator and Creator. Now she is on the track of God. All is well.
But all this is not that Adam may recover his perfection, for when, and for how long, was Adam "Perfect"? We behold him sinning at the very first opportunity. In the Fall of Adam we see merely the continuation in the stay-point of time and of flesh, of the history of the fallen soulsinning the same old sin, Self-will.
The way of return to God is the same way by which we came out from Himreversed. We came away by means of greeds and curiosities imagined by Self-will. The return is by casting away these greeds, casting away all prides, all selfishness; and what self-loving soul is there that could or would, left alone to herself, conceive of following such a way of cruel necessities, of such hard endurance without an Example before her? For the way is a hard way, a toiling way, at times an awful way, and as we pursue it the burden grows heavier, the pain sharper: then it grows lighter as the soul becomes renewed; and the pain is no longer the pain of loneliness, of sin and sorrow, but becomes the pain of Love, waiting in certainty for an ultimate Reunion: it becomes pain which is being forgotten in the returning happiness of God.
But first must come the abandonment of Self-will, bit by bit, to the death. So we see upon the Cross Christ stripped of everything, and at the last stripped even of Union with the Father: consenting to bear the pains of even Spiritual Death: "My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" If there could be any greater depth of pain, He would have shared that also with the wandering soul. So we are indeed one with Him in everything: and He with us.
In Spirit-life we meet the Ideas of God uncrystallised into any form. They penetrate the soulshe flashes to them, she becomes them, she reaches unimaginable heights of bliss by "becoming." This form of joy is incomprehensible until experienced: it is stupendous living, if it may be so expressed it is happiness at lightning velocity; but it is a lightning happiness which must flash to God. When it ceases to do this in a full manner, it ceases to be full happiness. When it becomes further perverted, diverted, and, finally, inverted, it ceases to be any happiness whatever. It is independent of surroundings: what it depends on is a perfect reciprocity with its own Source. That the laws which govern this Divine living will not be altered to suit wandering souls is not to be wondered at; but a new system may be called into being, and we may be able to perceive it in this world, evolved from first to last with its substance, forms, creatures, flesh, and time, in order to assist such wanderers. God spends Himself for every wandering soul.
Directly this world ceases to afford us pleasure, we wonder why we were born. The soul longs for happiness; feels certain she was created for it. So she is. Looking at the masses of drab, ugly, and unsuccessful lives around us, we may well ask what purpose and what progress is there in the lives of all these hopeless-looking people. But there is not one life that does not have brought before it, and into it, the opportunity of, and the invitation to, self-sacrifice, and in a greater or lesser degree this is accepted and responded to by all. There is far more soul-progress made by these grey-looking lives than would appear on the surface: they accept self-sacrificethey accept Dutyall is well. Very much progress may not be made during the one earth-period of life, but some is made: we drifted away slowly from God; our return is slow.
Love is not the mere pleasant sentiment of the heart we are apt to consider it: it is the animating principle of the soul, it is the reason and cause of her existence: it is a God-Force. When a soul does not love God she has ceased to respond to this Force; she is no longer a "sensitive" or living soul: when she becomes insensitive, she has become what flesh is when it is "callous."
This insensitiveness is the one great predominating disease of the soul: it is the cause of the darkness in which the soul finds herself in this world: it is this which causes our unawareness of God and of Celestial-living. How can we commence to remedy this disastrous state? We can act nobly, we can be generous, doing what we do as though it were for love, although it is merely Duty which animates us. This will be more or less joyless, because love alone can make acts joyful; but though it may be joyless it will advance the soul immensely: it will advance her to the highest degrees required by God in order that He shall Retouch her. When He Retouches her she becomes reanimated, she once again commences to live for and because of love: she becomes "sensitive" to God. This Retouching may occur only after the soul is free of the bodybut the body is the house in which our examination must be passed, in which we must prepare and qualify for this Retouching. Hence the importance of continuing to make every effort in this life. The soul which takes Christ into herself, loves Him, obeys Him, tries to copy Him, qualifies fully for this Retouching.
In early youth life may be, and often is, a joyous adventure: little by little we grow aghast at the amount of suffering which life really stands forour own sufferings and those of others, of which, owing to our own pains, we gradually take more and more note. Why all this suffering? It appals, it frightens, it makes upon many hearts and minds a sinister impression: how is this suffering of innocents to be reconciled with the Benign Will of a God Who is Perfect Love? Let us cease thinking that indiscriminate suffering to creatures is the Will of God. What is it, then? It is the inevitablethe long drawn-out sequence to the soul's departure from Godthe Source of Happiness.
To inhabit flesh is no paradise, but it is a means of regaining heaven. There is no misfortune, suffering, sorrow, disappointment, or pain, which is not consequent upon this departure of the soul from God. Are there here any truly "innocent" persons? To be here at all points to a fault of the soul, to infidelity to Godthe "Original sin" in which we are born.
The beginning of Salvation is to think. Nothing causes us to think so much as sorrow, suffering, and pain; and they melt the heart also, and they humble pride. The man who has never suffered, and never loved, is more to be pitied than the paralytic: his chance of Life is remote.
How can we reasonably expect that the road back to our long-since forsaken God is to be smooth, pleasant, velvet-covered. What divides us from God? Is it happiness, beauty, and light? Noself-indulgence, rocks of evil, ugly greeds, places of sin and selfishness. Can we climb back through all this, most of it in darkness, without tears, without pain, without every kind of anguish?
Over this part of the road is no peace; but continue, and, little by little, peace comes.
We say that we must find Christ; but where, and how, shall we find this Mighty Lord, Who comes out from the Father to meet the Prodigal? Must we study in ecclesiastical colleges, travel to distant lands, visit holy places, kneel on celebrated sacred ground, kiss stones, attend ceremonies, look at bones?
No! Stand still! Just where we are is the place where we can meet Him. Just where we stand to-day can be as sacred, as blessed, as the Holy Land. Some little wood sprinkled with flowers, our own quiet room, an unknown, nameless hillsidethese can be as holy as Mount Carmel, because He meets us there.
In all these experiences of the soul which has refound God, what is it that truly rejoices her? Is it the learning and knowledge that the pursuit of Truth may bring her to? She values Truth and knowledge because they lift her towards Him Whom she seeks and loves. Does the soul rejoice in ecstasies because they are ecstasies? No: what she values is the recaptured knowledge and certainty of heavenly livingin however small or brief a degree she is able to attain it in flesh: and because in the experience of ecstasy she knows Him to Whom she belongs.
All other affairs become nothing whatever. Life on earth is now entirely a means of relearning how to please Him Whom she has found. Her concern is that she may quickly so prepare herself that she may behold Him for ever.
It may well be asked of a soul which claims to have found God, How does she know that she has encountered Him?
We have a Critical Faculty. It is above Reason, because it sifts and judges the findings of Reason, throwing out or retaining what Reason has deduced. This is a Higher-Soul faculty: it concerns itself solely with knowing Perfection. Reason is not occupied with knowing Perfection, but in analysing and digesting all alike that is brought to it.
It is to the Critical Faculty that art, poetry, and music appeal, and make their thought-suggestions. We do not enjoy music because of the noise, but because of the thoughts suggested by itwe float upon these emotion-thoughts (we may float low, we may float high, and do not know to where; but it is somewhere where we cannot get without the music), so we say we love the music; but it is the emotion-thoughts we love. The sound and the thoughts suggested by it appeal to the Critical Faculty of the Soul, and, if it is perfect enough to be accepted by this faculty, we may pass, for the time being, into soul-living, but only very delicately, tentatively, and nothing to be compared to the soul-living, produced by the Touch of God. When God communicates Himself to the soul, she lives in a manner never previously conceived of, reaching an experience of living in which every perfection is present to her as Being there in such unlimited abundance that the soul is overwhelmed by it and must fall back to less, because of insupportable excess of Perfections. This perfection of living is given, and is withdrawn, outside of her own will. Which is the more sane and reasonablefor the soul to think, I have invented and originated a new and perfectly satisfying form of living; or for the soul to conclude that she has been admitted to the re-encounter of perfect- or Celestial-living? In this living are happenings which cannot be communicated, or even indicated to others, because they reach beyond words, beyond all or any other experience, beyond any possible previous imagination or expression of mind, beyond all particularisation; it is these occasions of experience which the Critical Faculty regards as being encounters with the Supreme Spirit, because they are complete; nothing is wanting; they afford life at its perfection pointa stupendous Felicity, and that Repose in bliss for which all souls secretly long. It is the meeting of the Wisher with the Wished, of Desire with the Desired: and yet, being that which it isunthinkable Fulfilmentit is above all, or any, Wishes, and beyond Desire; it can be known, but not named.
By these experiences the knowledge of the soul becomes enlightened two ways: she knows what bliss is; she knows the full calamity of life away from Godin flesh, in this world: not that flesh is not a wonderful Idea, not that the world is not greatly to be admired for its beauties, but the reawakened spirit desires spirit-living, cannot be pleased with earth-living, cannot be satisfied with less than God Himself. So, then, the logical consequence is that this world becomes a place we desire to take leave of as soon as may be. Life here becomes a punishment: not that Perfect Love desires to punish, but that the soul now knows that any form of life in which she is restricted from continual access to Him is a disaster, a profound grief.
If the soul looks to God to comfort her, asks for His help, and gets itand since communication with God is dependent upon some degree of like to like,it follows that the soul must maintain a readiness to "give" to fellow-souls: to fail in this is to fail in any sort of resemblance to God. Hence we see how carefully Christ enjoined upon us to "Give to them that ask": and in no niggardly way either, but wholeheartedly, for "God loveth the cheerful giver."
If we say that we apprehend God by that which is not Mind, what reason have we for saying that it is not Reason which receives Him? Because for this living which God's touch causes us to share with Himself we find that Space, Infinity, and Eternity are required and Reason stands, and remains, uncomprehending and dumbfounded before all three. It is Spirit, the flash-point of the soul, which receives and transmits and which lives this living. As we have an heredity of flesh so we have also an heredity of Spirit which of its own nature comprehends the ways of God and the mode of God's living. In High Contemplation we find that if Reason attempts activity, nothing is consummated: she must submerge herself and wait: soon Reason discovers the wherefore of thisher activity is not the activity of That Other. Only by that which is like in activity can That Other be received: this "like" is not herself: finally she comes to know this "like" as a higher part of the soulSpirit. When Spirit has received and given it to the soul, then it is afterwards the part of Reason to attack from every side that which has been received, to digest it, absorb it, and share it, in fact though not in act. According to the health and strength of Reason so we shall successfully deal with and use that with which the Spirit presents us. By comparison with the magnificent Spirit-Activity or Spirit-Intelligence the Reason is limited and frail as a new-born babe: this is no humiliation to Reason, since she should not be expected to accomplish that which is not her part.
Why do not all men apprehend God? It is very questionable if all men desire to do so, because in the recesses of each man's soul lies the consciousness that there will be some great price to pay.
But beyond this there arises the question, Is it desirable, price or no price, that all souls should come while still in flesh to immediate knowledge of, and contact with, God; and after long and close thinking the experienced soul will answer No, and Yes. No, in so far as the apprehension of the Godhead is concerned; Yes, and most vitally Yes, for Christians, in so far as Communion and Contact with Christ is concerned. Why this distinction? Because the apprehension of the Godhead is beyond the requirements of salvation and redemption, and the world and flesh were created for those purposes. Though there is no limit to the heights to which the soul may aspire, and all souls are invited eventually to behold the Face of God, if so be they shall be able to prepare themselves to endure Him, there are to a soul still in flesh the most terrible dangers in knowing the Fullness of God even so far as His Fullness may be Known to Flesh: never perhaps in all her history is the soul in such danger as she is after coming (in flesh) to the apprehension of the Godhead: and this danger may extend in an acute degree over a period of many years and can never be said to cease altogether. The Soul Knows and feels, when in its acute stage, this horrible danger without comprehending its exact cause and nature, but it has about it the feeling that a man might have standing balanced on a narrow pinnacle. Unapproachable, untouchable only so long as he remains upon the summit, the eyes of a thousand enemies watch for his smallest descent: they watch day and night. What alone can enable the Soul to maintain such a position? Hourly, often momently, Communion with Jesus Christ. What makes such perseverance likely or even possible on the soul's part? Only love can make it so.
If we say Communion with Christ is for the Christian vital to a full redemption, and therefore the Apprehension of Him is essential, to what degree should we experience this Apprehension of Him? The degree at which, perceiving in Him and His ways our Ideal, we become willing to modify and change our manner of thinking and doing in order to meet the requirements of this Ideal. Having gone so far, the soul is likely to become enamoured of Him Personally: then all is indeed well for her.
So then we find that we can apprehend God by an ever-ascending scale of degrees. We can apprehend Him with the Reason and the heart at all hours of the day. We can seek and approach Him with the holy white passion of the Mind. Yet this is not the Apprehension of Him which alone can be termed Contact, and which alone satisfies the soul or gives us the full feeling that we Know God. We cannot "Know" God as fully as He can be known by flesh without we enter ecstasy; but it is not ecstasy which produces the meeting with God, but the meeting with God which produces the ecstasy. Though we are able to enjoy a continual apprehension of Him with heart and Reason, no man could endure an unremitting ecstasy.
Can ecstasy be prepared for? Yes, if we have courage to aspire to it, it can be prepared for by a contemplation of Him in which, to commence with, the Will, Mind, and heart, in great activity of love, send forth all their powers towards God: then for love's sake being glad and willing to become nothing, and becoming, as it were, dead to themselves and all interests and desires usual to them, by Act of God their normal living is then taken over into a greater living. Then He comes.
And when He comes the Reason does not receive Him, but that certain small part, little more than a point in the soul receives Him.
Apart from the joy of it, what is the true value of ecstasy to him to whom it is granted? It raises him above Faith into Certitude. The peace and strength given by Certitude are such that Joy is neither here nor there, the soul can wait for it, because, no matter what may afterwards happen to such a one, he remembers, and remains once and for all aware, that God Is, and that He can be Known: he learns also a new knowledge, but cares nothing for this because it is knowledge or because it is power, but because it brings him nearer to his God.
Having once learnt the knowledge that comes by ecstasy alone, truth to tell, the soul would be content to receive no further ecstasy in flesh; but, intoxicated with love and worship, she best enjoys herself doing all the giving, for when He comes and gives He bursts down all her doors and, under the awful stress of Him, the soul hardly knows how to endure either Himself or herself.
Life in this world is a life for spiritual weaklings. Our eternal Self is an Intelligence, a Desire, and a Will, and the life we live with it is no idle, torpid, confined living such as we have here, but is a living in Liberty, without limit, restriction, fatigue, or satiety; in it word thoughts and thinking are superseded; by comparison to it even the highest thought-achievements of men, their noblest aspirations, appear like the sand-castles of children. Ravished at such further revelations of the Genius of God, the soul at last knows satisfaction. It requires perfection in order to be permanently operative, because only in perfection is Freedom found, and because for the living of it nothing can remain but such Essentials of the soul as cannot be dispersed. It is a measureless Generosity and an ecstasy of Receiving and Giving. To say that purity and perfection are required for this living is no mere arbitrary dictum, but a scientific fact: the impure, imperfect soul finds herself unable in perfect liberty and freedom to expand to interaction with the Divine Activity. When the process of Return is sufficiently completed and, being still in flesh, we enter for a brief time this living, Reason, Pain and Evil, Yesterday and To-morrow disappear. Reason is gathered up into, and superseded by, the spiritual and wordless Intelligence: Pain and Evil, their part and work accomplished, are dispersed and banished into the mists of darkness.
So the soul may learn even from this world something of the mystery of the Depths of God. She may enter into the happiness of Union with the Three in One: the One Whom in a state of glory yet to come she may Behold. But beyond This of Him which He will allow her to Behold, beyond This of Him in which she may repose in bliss, and beyond this Repose which He wills her to know of Him, He shows her that yet more of Him Is which He will shareheights of Felicity beyond all measure, holding the soul till she must pray Him to release her, or she will perishreeling depths of rapture in a mystery of light; bliss beyond bliss for that lover who shall ventureall Eternity unfolding in fulfilment.
And yet remains That of Him which wills no reciprocity, but shares Himself with Himself. So peace Is. And so, even in not giving, He yet does give that which is most precious, for without He Himself in His forever hidden depths were Peace, His creatures could neither know nor have peace.
Looking into herself, what does the soul perceive? Apart from sins and virtues she perceives two thingscaprice and free-will. Neither are of her own creation, but are essentials of her being. It may be that in caprice and free-will she may find an answer to those two questions which stir her to her depths: What is she that God should so love her? and how comes she to be away from Him? Clothed in the body of either man or woman, the soul is predominantly femininethe Feminine Principle beloved of, and returning to, the Eternal Masculine of God. Caprice is feminine; Caprice and Mystery are two enchanting sisters, and in Woman we see them as being irresistible to Man. Angels, though they are a glory of God's heaven, cannot alone satisfy all the needs of their Creator: they have neither sex nor caprice, nor the mystery which joins hands with it. So He creates the soul, and He gives her an heredity of Himself in the flash-point of the soul, and He gives her sex and caprice and free-will to deny herself to Him if she choose; and in her caprice she goes out and away from Him, and when she would return she cannot, because in infidelity she has dropped from perfection. Disillusioned by her unfaithful wanderings and horribly pained, the soul longs for Him, and He longs for her. He Himself must make her the way of return, which is the way of redemption, and at a terrible cost to Himself He shows her His Righteousness and the mode of her Return in the Face and the Ways of Jesus Christ; and in the Crucifixion He shows her the measure of His love, and in the Cross the necessary abandonment of all self-willtotal surrender. And all this suffering to Himself He bears in order to make good the wilful sinning and the misery of the wayward soul. So He brings home the soul, not by force but by lovethat love by which He is at once the Life of everything and everything is the life of Him.
Absence from God is Pain, and everlastingly will be Pain in varying degrees. Are there souls who have never left Him? Undoubtedly, but they know nothing of this world. Are we perhaps distressed at this multiplicity of worlds and souls? We need not be, for they are a necessity both of God and of ourselves; for God to Be Himself He must give Himself, and who can receive Him? Not even the greatest of all the Angels can alone bear to endure Him? Only into a vast multiplicity of individuals can God pour and expend Himself to the fullness of His desire, the One to the many. Each individually receives from Him, and each individually and collectivelythe many to the Onereturns Him those burning favours which are in Celestial-living.
Is it all joy to find God? How can it be? Can faults and sins be eradicated without pain? Life here for the lover of God is one long eradication of offences. How can even the daily requirements of flesh be fulfilled without pain? How without profound humiliation and patience can we descend from Contemplation to duties in the household? How without pain consider with that same mind which has so recently been rapt in Godthe various merits of breads, pastries, and portions of dead animals, in order that flesh shall eat and live! What a fall is this!a fall that must be taken daily and patiently. Is it all joy to love God? How can it be? For Love carries in itself a terrible wound of longing which can never be healed till we come before Him in possession Face to Face.
And many times a day in an unpremeditated natural anguish Love remembers the sufferings of that meek and holy Saviour; how can it be a joy to the soul that passionately loves Him to stand before a tortured Lord, tortured for her? There never was a pain as hard and sharp as this. There are no tears like the tears we shed to Christ.
We say of God that He is Love and Light, Wisdom and Truth. He is also a Gracious Consenting. So we see the Divine Light Consenting to darkness that it may return to Light, and Divine Love Consenting to infidelity that it may return to Perfect Love.
But this Gracious Consenting is not because of or since Adam, but Adam "is" because of this Consenting.
In the flesh of Adam the fallen soul is brought to a stay-point. Any that have experienced spirit-living even for one hour know that in immortal living is no stay-point but infinity of movement, in which movement the wandering soul becomes lost and finally insensitive. By means of the flesh the soul is brought to that stay-point where she more easily receives and understands the impregnation of Consenting Light, which is the Divine Begetting; and she receives the drawing power of Consenting Love: she is directly operated upon by the Divine Pity Who Himself came to show her the Way of Return: first, by the negation or sacrifice of flesh lusts; secondly, by the sacrifice of spiritual lusts (by which the soul originally fell); until finally, by death to all lusts and infidelities she is reunited to the blisses of Immortal Life. This is the kindly purpose of our life in this world. Christ being Eternal Light and Love and Life, we also are eternal who contain Christ.
So, then, we consent to abandon all lusts of the flesh whilst also consenting to endure any consequences of these lusts in ourselves and others, not in unwillingness to endure, which is resistance, but in submission. From consenting to abandon the delights of the flesh we advance to consenting to the withdrawal of all spiritual delights from us: enduring instead spiritual difficulties, standing firm in the strength of Christ whilst the assaults of self-will and infidelity batter the soul.
We consent to abandon self-absorption in the delights of God, and, returning to the world, endeavour to perform all acts of life in the world in a manner consonant with perfection; but this is impossible: this effort is insupportable without Grace. We cannot do it alone. We learn to know it and to know that we are never alone. Even if we fall into the deepest sin, we are not abandoned by the Divine Graciousness: by consenting to abandon this wickedness we are immediately reunited with the Divine Consenting, and so onwards and upwards in an ever-ascending improvement to perfection: and by consenting the soul daily sinks into the balm of Christ and loses her burden.
We see the Perfection of this divine consenting and abandonment of Self-Will in the final picture of the Cross. We see unmurmuring consent to the death of flesh, consent to the attacks of evil, consent to injustice, consent to infidelity (and straightway they all forsook Him and fled), and, finally, consent to the death of Divine Union: this not without groanings, as being the one supreme and only insupportable Agony.
How is it that Perfect Love can consent to the wandering of the soul with its consequent sorrow and sin? Divine Light, being also Perfect Freedom, consents to the wandering of the soul; but Divine Love, being also Reciprocity, may not consent to such wandering as shall for ever preclude Reciprocity. The wandering soul must be, will be, Redeemed.
If Divine Light, being also Perfect Freedom, consents to the wandering of the soul, but Divine Love, being also Reciprocity, may not consent to a perpetual wandering, how set limits in a life in which perfect freedom must continue? A limit can be fixed by Evil, Evil the outermost circle from God, the shore on which, continually breaking and being broken, the soul turns herself in longing to a long-forgotten Lord. Evil is the hedge about the vineyard of the Parable. The soul is free to touch it, free to pass through it if she will, but touching it she knows Pain. Pain causes the soul to pause and consider: now is her opportunity; now she is likely to turn about and seek the Good.
Then the purpose of Evil is fulfilled; then Evil becomes the handmaid of Good; then we can feel and say with sincerity, Evil has smitten me friendly, for it has caused me to turn about and seek Good. Good, once found, is found to be stronger than Evil. In a few years Good has so drawn us that Evil has become negligible; it lies forgotten on a now distant misty shore. The soul is Homeward bound.
"If the wicked turn from his sins that he hath committed and keep my statutes . . . all his transgressions that he hath committed, they shall not be mentioned unto him."Ezekiel xviii. 21, 22.
Who is so blessed as the Redeemed Sinner? Who can taste the sweetness of God as can the repentant sinner? Who can know His graciousness, His infinity of tenderness and courtesy, as can the sinner? Who knows the heights and depths and lengths and breadths of God's forgiving love as does the sinner? Who can share with God hereafter such close experiences as will the sinner?
Can Angels share the memories of His human days with Christ? And who but the sorely tempted sinner can be bonded to Him by the mutual knowledge of those bitter, burning, desert days? Not the Righteous, nor even Angels can know quite the full beauty of all the bonds that bind the sinner to his Saviour. O marvellous love of God! O blessed soul, O blessed Adam, blessed even in thy sins!
He desired lovers and had none: Created Angels, and, desiring to prove them as lovers, He made Him a Lure.
A third of them turned to the Lure and fell to It. They serve the Lure and take their bread from It, and the offspring of the serving is Evil.
Desiring more lovers, He fashioned souls; yet, when He proved them, they also fell to the Lure.
Being lesser than Angels, they served not the Lure, but the offspring of itEviland became subject to Evil. They were made for Love, and in Evil found no Love, and it was an anguish and it tormented them.
And He put them in flesh, that He might limit their suffering and show them His Light again; covered them about with Limits like a merciful Cloak; hedged them in with Evil as a boundary, so they should have no will to fall away further from Him than Evil because of the pain of it.
But in flesh they continued to serve Evil, and the offspring of the serving was Sin: and they were miserable in their service, because of the pain of it; yet no soul could break the bondage of service, because no soul could be found that, being subject, did not serve, and in serving lose freedom by its own offspring.
Then He sent His Spirit to walk with them in flesh, and being proven as a Lover, was not found wanting, and being subject to Evil did not serve, and remaining Sinless had no offspring to destroy His freedom, and He broke the bondage and showed them a light.
He sent, because He repented Him of the Proving and of the Evil that came of it, and His fallen lovers repented and repent of their fall.
His travail and their travailthe travail of severed Love towards Reunionis the anguish of the Ages: but the anguish will have an end, because Love is Omnipotence.
---[Transcriber's notes: The name of the author, Lilian Staveley, is not mentioned on the title page of this text, but I have added it here. I have also made the following editorial changes:
"I am of no value value whatever" to "I am of no value whatever"
"called it it by the same name as I" to "called it by the same name as I"
"God shall see us to to be prepared" to "God shall see us to be prepared"
"the full beauty of all the the bonds" to "the full beauty of all the bonds"
"(though entirely without effort on her part) is immensely increased)" to "(though entirely without effort on her part) is immensely increased"]