Light, Life, and Love
W. R. Inge

Part 4 out of 4

and believes too in her blindness, that such a life is the best of
all. Now nothing is so agreeable and pleasant to nature as a free
and careless manner of life. To this therefore she clings, and takes
enjoyment in herself and her powers, and thinks only of her own
peace and comfort. And this is especially likely to happen, when a
man has high natural gifts of reason, for reason mounts up in its
own light and by its own power, till at last it comes to think
itself the true eternal light, and gives itself out to be such; and
it is thus deceived in itself, and deceives others at the same time,
people who know no better and are prone to be so deceived.


In what does union with God consist? It means that we should be
indeed purely, simply, and wholly at one with the one eternal Will
of God, or altogether without will, so that the created will should
flow out into the eternal Will and be swallowed up and lost in it,
so that the eternal Will alone should do and leave undone in us. Now
observe what may be of use to us in attaining this object. Religious
exercises cannot do this, nor words, nor works, nor any creature or
work done by a creature. We must therefore give up and renounce all
things, suffering them to be what they are, and enter into union
with God. Yet the outward things must be; and sleeping and waking,
walking and standing still, speaking and being silent, must go on as
long as we live.

But when this union truly comes to pass and is established, the
inner man henceforth stands immoveable in this union; as for the
outer man, God allows him to be moved hither and thither, from this
to that, among things which are necessary and right. So the outer
man says sincerely, "I have no wish to be or not to be, to live or
die, to know or be ignorant, to do or leave undone; I am ready for
all that is to be or ought to be, and obedient to whatever I have to
do or suffer." Thus the outer man has no purpose except to do what
in him lies to further the eternal Will. As for the inner man, it is
truly perceived that he shall stand immoveable, though the outer
man must needs be moved. And if the inner man has any explanation of
the actions of the outer man, he says only that such things as are
ordained by the eternal Will must be and ought to be. It is thus
when God Himself dwells in a man; as we plainly see in the case of
Christ. Moreover, where there is this union, which is the outflow of
the Divine light and dwells in its beams, there is no spiritual
pride nor boldness of spirit, but unbounded humility and a lowly
broken heart; there is also an honest and blameless walk, justice,
peace, contentment, and every virtue. Where these are not, there is
no true union. For even as neither this thing nor that can bring
about or further this union, so nothing can spoil or hinder it,
except the man himself with his self-will, which does him this great
injury. Be well assured of this. xxvii., xxviii.


Now I must tell you what the False Light is, and what belongs to it.
All that is contrary to the true light belongs to the false. It
belongs of necessity to the true light that it never seeks to
deceive, nor consents that anyone should be injured or deceived; and
it cannot be deceived itself. But the false light both deceives
others, and is deceived itself. Even as God deceives no man, and
wills not that any should be deceived, so it is with His true light.
The true light is God or Divine, but the false light is nature or
natural. It belongeth to God, that He is neither this nor that, and
that He requires nothing in the man whom He has made to be partaker
in the Divine nature, except goodness as goodness and for the sake
of goodness. This is the token of the true light. But it belongs to
the creature, and to nature, to be something, this or that, and to
intend and seek something, this or that, and not simply what is good
without asking Why. And as God and the true light are without all
self-will, selfishness, and self-Seeking, so the "I, Me, and Mine"
belong to the false light, which in everything seeks itself and its
own ends, and not goodness for the sake of goodness. This is the
character of the natural or carnal man in each of us. Now observe
how it first comes to be deceived. It does not desire or choose
goodness for its own sake, but desires and chooses itself and its
own ends rather than the highest good; and this is an error and the
first deception. Secondly, it fancies itself to be God, when it is
nothing but nature. And because it feigns itself to be God, it takes
to itself what belongs to God; and not that which belongs to God
when He is made man, or when He dwells in a Godlike man; but that
which belongs to God as He is in eternity without the creature. God,
they say, and say truly, needs nothing, is free, exempt from toil,
apart by Himself, above all things: He is unchangeable, immoveable,
and whatever He does is well done. "so will I be," says the false
light. "The more like one is to God, the better one is; I therefore
will be like God and will be God, and will sit and stand at His
right hand." This is what Lucifer the Evil Spirit also said. Now God
in eternity is without contradiction, suffering, and grief, and
nothing can injure or grieve Him. But with God as He is made man it
is otherwise. The false light thinks itself to be above all works,
words, customs, laws, and order, and above the life which Christ led
in the body which He possessed in His human nature. It also claims
to be unmoved by any works of the creatures; it cares not whether
they be good or bad, for God or against Him; it keeps itself aloof
from all things, and deems it fitting that all creatures should
serve it. Further, it says that it has risen beyond the life of
Christ according to the flesh, and that outward things can no longer
touch or pain it, even as it was with Christ after the Resurrection.
Many other strange and false notions it cherishes. Moreover, this
false light says that it has risen above conscience and the sense of
sin, and that whatever it does is right. One of the so-called "Free
Spirits" even said that if he had killed ten men, he would have as
little sense of guilt as if he had killed a dog. This false light,
in so far as it fancies itself to be God, is Lucifer, the Evil
Spirit; but in so far as it makes of no account the life of Christ,
it is Antichrist. It says, indeed, that Christ was without sense of
sin, and that therefore we should be so. We may reply that Satan
also is without sense of sin, and is none the better for that. What
is a sense of sin? It is when we perceive that man has turned away
from God in his will, and that this is man's fault, not God's, for
God is guiltless of sin. Now, who knows himself to be free from sin,
save Christ only? Scarce will any other affirm this. So he who is
without sense of sin is either Christ or the Evil Spirit. But where
the true light is, there is a true and just life such as God loves.
And if a man's life is not perfect, as was that of Christ, still it
is modelled and built on His, and His life is loved, together with
modesty, order, and the other virtues, and all self-will, the "I,
Me, and Mine," is lost; nothing is devised or sought for except
goodness for its own sake. But where the false light is, men no
longer regard the life of Christ and the virtues, but they seek and
purpose what is convenient and pleasant to nature. From this arises
a false liberty, whereby men become regardless of everything. For
the true light is the seed of God, and bringeth forth the fruits of
God; but the false light is the seed of the Devil, and where it is
sown, the fruits of the Devil, nay the very Devil himself, spring
up. xl.


It may be asked, What is it like to be a partaker of the Divine
nature, or a Godlike man? The answer is, that he who is steeped in,
or illuminated by, the eternal and Divine Light, and kindled or
consumed by the eternal and Divine Love, is a Godlike man and a
partaker of the Divine nature. But this light or knowledge is of no
avail without love. You may understand this if you remember that a
man who knows very well the difference between virtue and
wickedness, but does not love virtue, is not virtuous, in that he
obeys vice. But he who loves virtue follows after it, and his love
makes him an enemy to wickedness, so that he will not perform any
wicked act and hates wickedness in others; and he loves virtue so
that he would not leave any virtue unperformed even if he had the
choice, not for the sake of reward, but from love of virtue. To such
a man virtue brings its own reward, and he is content with it, and
would part with it for no riches. Such a man is already virtuous, or
in the way to become so. And the truly virtuous man would not cease
to be so to gain the whole world. He would rather die miserably. The
case of justice is the same. Many men know well what is just and
unjust, but yet neither are nor ever will be just men. For they love
not justice, and therefore practise wickedness and injustice. If a
man loved justice, he would do no unjust deed; he would feel so
great abhorrence and anger against injustice whenever he saw it that
he would be willing to do and suffer anything in order to put an end
to injustice, and that men might be made just. He would rather die
than commit an injustice, and all for love of justice. To him,
justice brings her own reward, she rewards him with herself, and so
the just man would rather die a thousand deaths than live as an
unjust man. The same may be said of truth. A man may know very well
what is truth or a lie, but if he loves not the truth, he is not a
true man. If, however, he loves it, it is with truth as with
justice. And of justice Isaiah speaks in the fifth chapter: "Woe
unto them that call evil good, and good evil, that put darkness for
light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet
for bitter." Thus we may understand that knowledge and light avail
nothing without love. We see the truth of this in the case of the
Evil One. He perceives and knows good and evil, right and wrong: but
since he has no love for the good that he sees, he becomes not good.
It is true indeed that Love must be led and instructed by knowledge,
but if knowledge is not followed by Love, it will be of no avail. So
also with God and Divine things. Although a man know much about God
and Divine things, and even dream that he sees and understands what
God Himself is, yet if he have not Love, he will never become like
God or a partaker of the Divine nature. But if Love be added to his
knowledge, he cannot help cleaving to God, and forsaking all that is
not God or from God, and hating it and fighting with it, and finding
it a cross and burden. And this Love so unites a man to God, that he
can never again be separated from Him. xli.


What is Paradise? All things that are. For all things are good and
pleasant, and may therefore fitly be called Paradise. It is also
said, that Paradise is an outer court of heaven. In the same way,
this world is truly an outer court of the eternal, or of eternity;
and this is specially true of any temporal things or creatures which
manifest the Eternal or remind us of eternity; for the creatures are
a guide and path to God and eternity. Thus the world is an outer
court of eternity, and therefore it may well be called a Paradise,
for so indeed it is. And in this Paradise all things are lawful
except one tree and its fruit. That is to say, of all things that
exist, nothing is forbidden or contrary to God, except one thing
only. That one thing is self-will, or to will otherwise than as the
eternal Will would have it. Remember this. For God says to Adam
(that is, to every man) "Whatever thou art, or doest, or leavest
undone, or whatever happens, is lawful if it be done for the sake of
and according to My will, and not according to thy will. But all
that is done from thy will is contrary to the eternal Will." Not
that everything which is so done is in itself contrary to the
eternal Will, but in so far as it is done from a different will, or
otherwise than from the Eternal and Divine Will. l.


Some may ask: "If this tree, Self-Will, is so contrary to God and to
the eternal will, why did God create it, and place it in Paradise?"
We may answer: a man who is truly humble and enlightened does not
ask God to reveal His secrets to him, or enquire why God does this
or that, or prevents or allows this or that; he only desires to know
how he may please God, and become as nothing in himself, having no
will of his own, and that the eternal will may live in him, and
possess him wholly, unhampered by any other will, and how what is
due may be paid to the Eternal Will, by him and through him. But
there is another answer to this question. For we may say: the most
noble and gracious gift that is bestowed on any creature is the
Reason and the Will. These two are so intimately connected that the
one cannot be anywhere without the other. If it were not for these
two gifts, there would be no reasonable creatures, but only brutes
and brutality; and this would be a great loss, for God would then
never receive His due, or behold Himself and His attributes
exhibited in action; a thing which ought to be, and is, necessary to
perfection. Now Perception and Reason are conferred together with
will, in order that they may teach the will and also themselves,
that neither perception nor will is of itself, or to itself, nor
ought to seek or obey itself. Nor must they turn themselves to their
own profit, nor use themselves for their own ends; for they belong
to Him from whom they proceed, and they shall submit to Him, and
flow back to Him, and become nothing in themselves--that is, in
their selfhood.

But now you must consider more in detail something concerning the
will. There is an Eternal Will, which is a first principle and
substance in God, apart from all works and all externalisation; and
the same will is in man, or the creature, willing and bringing to
pass certain things. For it pertains to the will, to will something.
For what else does it exist? It would be a vain thing if it had no
work to do, and this it cannot have without the creature. And so
there must needs be creatures, and God will have them, in order that
by their means the will may be exercised, and may work, though in
God it must be without work. Therefore the will in the creature,
which we call the created will, is as truly God's as the eternal
will, and is not from the creature.

And since God cannot exercise His will, in working and effecting
changes, without the creature, He is pleased to do so in and with
the creature. Therefore the will is not given to be exercised by the
creature, but by God alone, who has the right to carry into effect
His own will by the will which is in man, but yet is God's will. And
in any man or creature, in whom it should be thus, purely and
simply, the will of that man or creature would be exercised not by
the man but by God, and thus it would not be self-will, and the man
would only will as God wills; for God Himself, and not man, would be
moving the will. Thus the will would be united with the Eternal
Will, and would flow into it; although the man would retain his
sense of liking and disliking, pleasure and pain. But nothing is
complained of, except what is contrary to God. And there is no
rejoicing except in God alone, and in that which belongs to Him. And
as with the will, so is it with all the other faculties of man; they
are all of God and not of man. And when the will is wholly given up
to God, the other faculties will certainly be given up too; and God
will have what is due to Him.

No one may call that which is free his own, and he who makes it his
own, doeth injustice. Now in all the sphere of freedom nothing is so
free as the will; and he who makes it his own, and allows it not to
remain in its excellent freedom, and free nobleness, and free
exercise, does it a great injustice. This is what is done by the
devil, and Adam, and all their followers. But he who leaves the will
in its noble freedom does right; and this is what Christ, and all
who follow Him, do. And he who deprives the will of its noble
freedom, and makes it his own, must necessarily be oppressed with
cares and discontent, and disquietude, and every kind of misery, and
this will be his lot throughout time and eternity. But he who leaves
the will in its freedom has contentment and peace and rest and
blessedness, through time and eternity. Where there is a man whose
will is not enslaved, he is free indeed, and in bondage to no man.
He is one of those to whom Christ said: "The truth shall make you
free"; and He adds immediately afterwards: "If the Son shall make
you free, ye shall be free indeed."

Moreover, observe that whenever the will chooses unhindered whatever
it will, it always and in all cases chooses what is noblest and
best, and hates whatever is not noble and good, and regards it as an
offence. And the more free and unhampered the will is, the more it
is grieved by evil, by injustice, by iniquity, and all manner of
sin. We see this in Christ, whose will was the purest and freest and
the least brought into bondage of any man's who ever lived. So was
the human nature of Christ the most free and pure of all creatures;
and yet He felt the deepest distress, pain, and wrath at sin that
any creature ever felt. But when men claim freedom for themselves,
in such a way as to feel no sorrow or anger at sin, and all that is
contrary to God, and say that we must take no notice of anything,
and care for nothing, but be, in this life, what Christ was after
the resurrection, and so forth, this is not the true and Divine
freedom that springs from the true and Divine light, but a natural,
unrighteous, false, deceiving freedom, which springs from the
natural, false, deceitful light.

If there were no self-will, there would be no proprietorship. There
is no proprietorship in heaven; and this is why contentment, peace,
and blessedness are there. If anyone in heaven were so bold as to
call anything his own, he would immediately be cast out into hell,
and become an evil spirit. But in hell everyone will have self-will,
and therefore in hell is every kind of wretchedness and misery. And
so it is also on earth. But if anyone in hell could rid himself of
his self-will and call nothing his own, he would pass out of hell
into heaven. And if a man, while here on earth, could be entirely
rid of self-will and proprietorship, and stand up free and at
liberty in the true light of God, and continue therein, he would be
sure to inherit the kingdom of heaven. For he who has anything, or
who desires to have anything of his own, is a slave; and he who has
nothing of his own, nor desires to have anything, is free and at
liberty, and is in bondage to no man. li.


Observe now how the Father draws men to Christ. When something of
the perfect good is revealed and made manifest within the human
soul, as it were in a sudden flash, the soul conceives a desire to
draw near to the perfect goodness, and to unite herself with the
Father. And the more strongly she longs and desires, the more is
revealed to her; and the more is revealed to her, the more she is
drawn to the Father, and the more is her desire kindled. So the soul
is drawn and kindled into an union with the eternal goodness. And
this is the drawing of the Father; and so the soul is taught by Him
who draws her to Himself, that she cannot become united with Him
unless she can come to Him by means of the life of Christ. liii.

[1]In his Introduction to the "Imitation of Christ," in this series.

[2]e.g. she distinguishes, as Eckhart does, between God and the

[3]The "three propositions" of Amalric are--1. "Deus est omnia." 2.
Every Christian, as a con-dition of salvation, must believe that he
is a member of Christ. 3. To those who are in charity no sin is

[4]Preger is probably wrong in identifying him with a "brother
Eckhart," Prior of Frankfort, who about 1320 was delated to the head
of the Order as suspectus de malis familiaritatibus, words which can
only mean "keeping bad company" in a moral sense, not "con-sorting
with heretics," as Preger suggests. Eckhart's character, so far as
we know, was never assailed, even by his enemies, and it is
therefore probable that "brother Eckhart" was a different person.

[5]I have abridged the bull considerably, but have included all the
main accusations.

[6]See pages 13, 16.

[7]See pages 14, 15.

[8]See page 1.

[9]This is an obscure point in Eckhart's philosophy, too technical
to be discussed here; but Eckhart's doctrine of God is certainly
more orthodox and less pantheistic than those of 'Dionysius' and
Scotus Erigena.

[10]Cf. St Augustine, In Joann. Ev. Tract. xxxix. 10: praeteritum et
futurum invenio in omni motu rerum: in veritate quae manet
praeteritum et futurum non invenio, sed solum praesens.

[11]This doctrine is fully explained by St. Augustine, Epist. 237,
who follows Plotinus, Enn. vi. 4-6.

[12]This queer word occurs for the first time, I think, in Jerome's
notes to the first chapter of Ezekiel. He writes the word in Greek,
and explains it as that part of the soul which always opposes vices.
The word is common in Bonaventura and other scholastic mystics, and
is often misspelt synderesis.

[13]It must, however, be said that Preger is too ready to assume
that the logical development of Eckhart's system away from Thomist
scholasticism can be traced as a gradual process in his writings,
the order of which is very uncertain. We are not justified in saying
in a positive manner that Eckhart's philosophy passed through three
phases, in the first of which the primacy is held by the will, in
the second by the created reason, and in the third by the uncreated

[14]See pages 14, 15.

[15]C.B. Upton: "Hibbert Lectures," p. 17.

[16]A.E. Taylor: "The Problem of Conduct," PP. 464-5.

[17]See pages 71-2.

[18]See pages 12-13.

[19]See, for example, Prof. W. James' "Varieties of Religions
Experience," P. 400.

[20]Jacob Bšhme's experience is typical: "Suddenly did my spirit
break through into the innermost birth or geniture of the Deity, and
there was I embraced with love, as a bridegroom embraces his dearly
beloved bride. But the greatness of the triumphing that was in the
spirit I cannot express in speech or writing; nor can it be compared
to anything but the resurrection of the dead to life. In this light
my spirit suddenly saw through all; even in herbs and grass it knew
God, who and what He is," etc. Dr Johnson was, no doubt, right in
thinking that "Jacob" would have been wiser, and "more like St
Paul," if he had not attempted to utter the unutterable things which
he saw.

[21]The extracts from the "Theologia Germanica" will show that this
treatise represents a later and less paradoxical form of mystical
thought than Eckhart's.

[22]The maxim, however, is much older than Suso.

[23]Royce: "The World and the Individual" vol. i. p. 193.

[24]So in the "Lignum Vitae" of Laurentius Justinianus we read: "Let
self-will cease, and there will be no more hell."

[25] "The Inner Way," being thirty-six sermons by John Tauler.
Translated by A.W. Hutton, M.A.

[26]On the psychology of ecstatic mysticism see Leuba, in the Revue
Philosophique, July and November 1902.

[27] "Varieties of Religious Experience," p. 13.

[28]Maudsley: "Natural Causes and Supernatural Seemings," p. 256.

[29]See Leuba: "Tendances religieuses chez les mystiques
chrétiens" in Revue Philosophique, Nov. 1902.

[30] "Theologia Germanica," translated by Susanna Winkworth.
Macmillan & Co., 1893.

[31] "Varieties of Religious Experience," 1902.

[32] "Personal Idealism," 1902.

[33] "Varieties of Religious Experience," p. 103.

[34] "In Tune with the Infinite," by R.W. Trine (Bell & Sons, 1902).
Fifty-ninth thousand. The extract appears to be a quotation from
another writer, but no reference is given.

[35]Compare Eckhart's saying that the eye with which I see God is
the same as the eye with which He sees me.

[36] "In Tune with the Infinite," pp. 58, 119.

[37]The numbers refer to pages in Pfeiffer's edition.

[38]The numbers refer to the Sermons in Hamberger's edition of 1864.

[39]The reference is to 1 Peter iii. 8.

[40]The time would, I suppose, be about half-an-hour. Many other
ecstatics have named this as the normal duration of trance.

[41]Or, "spoke the eternal Wisdom (= the Word of God) in his heart."

[42]John i. 3, 4. This punctuation, whereby the words "that which
was made" are referred to the clause which follows, and not to that
which precedes, is adopted by most of the Greek fathers, and is
still maintained by some good commentators--e.g. Bishop Westcott.

[43]Ecclus. xxiv. 19.

[44]Ecclus. xl. 20.


Back to Full Books