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How humanity is extolled by its own kind! How men are admired, even glorified! I am amazed, for where is the glory of any man? But rather, how wonderful and glorious is God! that He should cause to spring from one handful of dust such possibilities! Wonderful God! And blessed man, that he should have so wonderful a God!
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Some men say that man has invented for himself the thought of God, because of the great need he feels within himself for such a Being.
Yet look where we will in Nature, do we find a warrant for such a thought? Are babes inspired with the desire for milk, and is that milk withheld from the nature of all mothers? No; to the babe is given the desire because the mother has wherewith to satisfy. So with grown men: for to us is given a deep and secret desire for the milk of God's love, and to Himself He has reserved the joy of leading us to it and bestowing it upon us.
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Sometimes for a short while the soul will suffer from a sickness (I speak now for persons already very well advanced); she is parched and without sweetness. Her love has no joy in it. This is not a condition to be accepted or acquiesced in, but must be overcome at once by a remedy of prayer: prayer addressed to the Father, in the name of Jesus Christ, a prayer of praise and adoration—"I praise and bless and love and thank Thee, I praise and bless and love and worship Thee, I praise and bless and love and glorify Thee"—till the heart is fired and we return to the intimacy of love. Or the Lord's Prayer, very slow, and with an intention both outgoing and intaking. So far I have never known these remedies to fail, and joy floods the soul and sends her swinging up, up, on to the topmost heights again. It is magnificent.
How is it that we can pass so, up from the visible into the Invisible, and become so oned with it, and feel it so powerfully, that the Invisible becomes a thousand times more real to us than the visible! It is like a different manner of living altogether. And when anyone so living finds himself even for a short time unfastened from this way of living and back again to what is known to the average as normal life, this normal life seems no better to him than some horrible chaotic and uneven turmoil, and his brain ready to be turned if he had to remain in it for long. When so unfastened, the whole savour of life is completely gone, and a smallness of mind and outlook is fallen back into from which the soul recoils in horror and struggles quickly to free herself.
Is this the remnant of the unruly creature rising up and grappling with the soul again? Is this some deliberate trial of us by the Master? or some natural spiritual sickness? Whilst in this condition we must disappoint the Beloved. On the other hand, we find ourselves kept to the knowledge of our own impotence and nothingness and dependence, and the spirit is strengthened by the efforts made quickly to recover the lost beautiful estate.
Also we become more able to feel true patience and compassion for such others as do not know the way of escape. So we gain, maybe, more than we lose.
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We may wonder how it is that the Mighty Maker of the Universe should choose to condescend to the mere individual piece of clay. It is incomprehensible. It is so incomprehensible that there is but one way of looking at it. This is no favouritism to the individual, but the evidence of a Mind with a vast plan pursuing a way and using a likely individual. These individuals or willing souls He takes and, setting them apart, fashions them to His own ends and liking. Of one He will make a worker, and of another He fashions to Himself a lover. It would seem to be His will to use the human implement to help the human. As water, for usefulness to the many, must be collected and put through channels, so it would seem must the beneficence of God be collected into human vessels and channels that it may be distributed for the use of the many and the more feeble.
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The more any man will consider humanity, the more he will see that the education of the heart and will is of more importance than the education of the brain. For in the perfectly trained and educated heart and will we find the evidence of highest wisdom.
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Why mortify the body with harsh austerities? When we over-mortify the body with fastings, pains, and penances we are remembering the flesh. Let us aim at the forgetting and not the despising of the flesh. A sick body can be a great hindrance to the soul. By keeping the body in a state of perfect wholesomeness we can more easily pass away from the recollection of it. Chastise the mind rather than the body. Christ taught, not the contempt or wilful neglect of the body, but the humble submission of the body to all circumstances, the obedience of the will to God, and the glorious and immeasurable possibilities of the human spirit.
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We know that the love of the heart can be beautiful and full of zeal and fervour; but the love of the soul by comparison to it is like a furnace, and the capacities of the heart are not worthy to be named in the same breath. Yet, deplorable as is the heart of man, it is evidently desired by God, and must be given to Him before He will waken the soul. To my belief, we are quite unable to awaken our own soul, though we are able to will to love God with the heart, and through this we pass up to the border of the Veil of Separation, where He will sting the soul into life and we have Perception.
After which the soul will often be swept or plucked up into immeasurable glories and delights which are neither imagined nor contrived, nor even desired by her at first—for how can we desire that which we have never heard of and cannot even imagine? And these delights are unimaginable before the soul is caught up into them, and to my experience they constantly differ. The soul knows herself to be in the hands and the power of another, outside herself. She does not enter these joys of her own power or of her own will, but by permission and intention and will of a force outside herself though perceived and known inside herself. No lovers of arguments or guessing games can move the soul to listen when she has once been so handled. For to know is more than to guess.
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How can a Contact with God be in any way described? It is not seeing, but meeting and fusion with awareness. The soul retaining her own individuality and consciousness to an intense degree, but imbued with and fused into a life of incredible intensity, which passes through the soul vitalities and emotions of a life so new, so vivid, so amazing, that she knows not whether she has been embraced by love or by fire, by joy or by anguish: for so fearful is her joy that she is almost unable to endure the might of it. And how can the heat or fire of God be described? It is very far from being like the cruelty of fire, and yet it is so tremendous that the mind knows of little else to compare it to. But it is like a vibration of great speed and heat, like a fluid and magnetic heat.
This heat is of many degrees and of several kinds. The heat of Christ is mixed with indescribable sweetness: giving marvellous pleasure and refreshment and happiness, and wonderfully adapted to the delicacy of the human creature. The heat of the Godhead is very different, and sometimes we may even feel it to be cruel and remorseless in its very terrible and swift intensity. But the soul, like all great lovers, never flinches or hangs back, but passionately lends herself. If He chose to kill her with this joy she would gladly have it so.
By these incomprehensible wonders He seems to say to the creature: "Come thou here, that I may teach thee what is Joy; come thou here, that I may teach thee what is Life. For none are permitted to teach of these things save I Myself."
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There is another manner. The Spirit comes upon the soul in waves of terrible power. Now in a rapture God descends upon the soul, catching her suddenly up in a marvellous embrace: magnetising her, ravishing her. He is come, and He is gone. In an ecstasy the soul goes out prepared to meet Him, seeking Him by praise and prayer, pouring up her love towards Him; and He, condescending to her, fills her with unspeakable delights, and at rare times He will catch her from an ecstasy into a greater rapture. At least, so it is with me: the ecstasy is prepared for, but in the quicker rapture (or catching up) it is He that seeks the soul. These two conditions, though given very intermittently, become a completely natural experience. I should say that the soul lived by this way: it is her food and her life, which she receives with all the simplicity and naturalness of the hungry man turning to his bodily food. But these waves of power were something altogether new and very hard to endure. As each wave passed I would come up out of it, as it were, gasping. It was as if something too great for the soul to contain was being forced through her. It was as if one should try to force at fearful pressure fluid through a body too solid to be percolated by it. I understood nothing of what could be intended by such happenings, neither could I give accommodation to this intensity. I tried to make myself a wholly willing receptacle and instrument, but after the third day of this I could not bear any more. I was greatly distressed. I could not understand what was required of me. I gave myself totally to Him, and it was not enough. And at last I cried to Him, saying: "I understand nothing: forgive me, my God, for my great foolishness, but Thy power is too much for me. Do what Thou wilt with me; I am altogether Thine. Drown me with Thy strength, break me in pieces—I am willing; only do it quickly, my Lord, and have done with it, for I am so small. But I love Thee with all that I have or am; yet I am overwhelmed: I am still too little to be taught in this way, it is too much for my strength. Yet do as Thou wilt; I love Thee, I love Thee." And He heard me, and He ceased: and He returned to the ways that I understood and dearly loved, and for weeks I lived in Paradise. But my body was dreadfully shaken, and I suffered with my heart and breathing.
Shortly after I began to know that another change had come into me. God had become intensely my Father, and Christ the lover was gone up again into the Godhead—as happened after my third conversion upon the hill.
So great, so tremendous was this sense of the Fatherhood of God become that I had only to think the word Father to seem to be instantly transported into His very bosom. Oh, the mighty sweetness of it! But it is not an ecstasy. The creature and soul are dead to world-life, as in a rapture or ecstasy; but the soul is not the bride, she is the child, and, full of eager and adoring intimacy, she flies into His ever-open arms, and never, never does she miss the way. Oh, the sweetness of it, the great, great glory of it, and the folly of words! If only all the world of men and women could have this joy! How to help even one soul towards it is what fills my heart and mind. How convince them, how induce them to take the first steps? It is the first steps we need to take. He does not drive, He calls. "Come to Me," He calls. It is this failure to have the will to go to Him which is the root of all human woe. Would we but take the first few steps towards Him, He will carry us all the rest of the way. These first few steps we take holding to the hand of Jesus. For the so-called Christian there is no other way (but he is no Christian until he has taken it). For the Buddhist, doubtless, Gautama is permitted to do the same. But for those who are baptized in Jesus Christ's name, He is their only Way.
Source: Project Gutenberg