The Cell of Self-Knowledge:
Part 2 out of 2
shape thee for to depart this fruit from the tree, and for to offer
it up by itself to the high King of heaven; and then shalt thou be
cleped God's own child, loving Him with a chaste love for Himself,
and not for His goods. I mean thus: though all that the
innumerable good deeds, the which almighty God of His gracious
goodness hath shewed to each soul in this life, be sufficient causes
at the full and more, to each soul to love Him for, with all his
mind, with all his wit, and with all his will; yet if it might be,
that may no wise be, that a soul were as mighty, as worthy, and as
witty as all the saints and angels that are in heaven gathered in
one, and had never taken this worthiness of God, or to whom
that God had never shewed kindness in this life; yet this soul,
seeing the loveliness of God in Himself, and the abundance thereof,
should be ravished over his might for to love God, till the heart
brast; so lovely and so liking, so good and so glorious He is in
O how wonderful a thing and how high a thing is the love of God for
to speak of, of the which no man may speak perfectly to the
understanding of the least party thereof, but by impossible
ensamples, and passing the understanding of man! And thus it is that
I mean when I say loving Him with a chaste love for Himself, and not
for His goods; not as if I said (though all I well said) much
for His goods, but without comparison more for Himself. For, if I
shall more highly speak in declaring of my meaning of the perfection
and of the meed of this reverent affection, I say that a soul
touched in affection by the sensible presence of Gods as He is in
Himself, and in a perfect soul illumined in the reason, by the clear
beam of everlasting light, the which is God, for to see and for to
feel the loveliness of God in Himself, hath for that time and
for that moment lost all the mind of any good deed or of any
kindness that ever God did to him in this life--so that cause for to
love God for feeleth he or seeth he none in that time, other than is
God Himself. So that though all it may be said in speaking of the
common perfection, that the great goodness and the great kindness
that God hath shewed to us in this life are high and worthy causes
for to love God for; yet having beholding to the point and the prick
of perfection (to the which I purpose to draw thee in my meaning,
and in the manner of this writing), a perfect lover of God, for
dread of letting of his perfection, seeketh now, that is to
say, in the point of perfection, none other cause for to love God
for, but God Himself; so that by this meaning I say, that chaste
love is to love God for Himself and not for His goods. And
therefore, following the rule of mine ensample, shape thee to depart
the fruit from the tree, and for to offer it up by itself unto the
King of heaven, that thy love be chaste; for evermore as long as
thou offrest Him this fruit green and hanging on the tree, thou
mayst well be likened to a woman that is not chaste, for she loveth
a man more for his goods than for himself. And see why that I liken
thee thus; for it seemeth that dread of thy death and shortness of
time, with hope of forgiveness of all thy recklessness, maketh thee
to be in God's service so reverent as thou art. And if it so be,
soothly then hath thy fruit a green smell of the tree; and though
all it pleaseth God in party, nevertheless, yet it pleaseth Him not
perfectly, and that is for thy love is not yet chaste.
Chaste love is that when thou askest of God neither releasing of
pain, nor increasing of meed, nor yet sweetness in His love in this
life; but if it be any certain time that thou covetest sweetness as
for a refreshing of thy ghostly mights, that they fail not in the
way; but thou askest of God nought but Himself, and neither thou
reckest nor lookest after whether thou shalt be in pain or in bliss,
so that thou have Him that thou lovest--this is chaste love, this is
perfect love. And therefore shape thee for to depart the fruit
from the tree; that is to say, this reverent affection from the
thoughts of dread and of hope coming before; so that thou mayst
offer it ripe and chaste unto God by itself, not caused of any thing
beneath Him, or medled with Him (yea, though all it be the
chief), but only of Him, by Himself; and then it is so meedful
as I say that it is. For it is plainly known without any doubt unto
all those that are expert in the science of divinity and of God's
love, that as often as a man's affection is stirred unto God without
mean (that is, without messenger of any thought in special causing
that stirring), as oft it deserveth everlasting life. And for that
that a soul that is thus disposed (that is to say, that offreth the
fruit ripe, and departed from the tree) may innumerable times in one
hour be raised in to God suddenly without mean, therefore more than
I can say it deserveth, through the grace of God, the which is the
chief worker, to be raised in to joy. And therefore shape thee for
to offer the fruit ripe and departed from the tree. Nevertheless,
the fruit upon the tree, continually offered as man's frailty will
suffer, deserveth salvation; but the fruit ripe and departed from
the tree, suddenly offered unto God without mean, that is
perfection. And here mayst thou see that the tree is good, though
all that I bid thee depart the fruit therefrom, for more perfection;
and therefore I set it in thy garden; for I would that thou should
gather the fruit thereof, and keep it to thy Lord. And for that that
I would that thou knew what manner of working it is that knitteth
man's soul to God, and that maketh it one with Him in love and
accordance of will, after the word of saint Paul saying thus:
Qui adhaeret Duo unus spiritus est cum illo;214 that is to say: "Who
so draweth near to God," as it is by such a reverent affection
touched before, "he is one spirit with God." That is, though all
that God and he be two and sere in kind, nevertheless yet in
grace they are so knit together that they are but one in
spirit; and all this is for onehead of love and accordance of
will; and in this onehead is the marriage made between God and the
soul, the which shall never be broken, though all that the heat and
the fervour of this work cease for a time, but by a deadly sin.
In the ghostly feeling of this onehead may a loving soul both say
and sing (if it list) this holy word that is written in the book of
songs in the Bible: Dilectus meus mihi et ego illi;217 that is: "My
loved unto me and I unto Him"; understanden that God shall be
knitted with the ghostly glue of grace on His party, and the lovely
consent in gladness of spirit on thy party.
And therefore climb up by this tree, as I said in the beginning; and
when thou comest to the fruit (that is, to the reverent affection,
the which ever will be in thee if thou think heartily the other two
thoughts before, and fage not thyself with no lie, as I said),
then shalt thou take good keep of that working that is made in
thy soul that time, and shape thee, in as much as thou mayst through
grace, for to meek thee under the height of thy God, so that thou
mayst use thee in that working other times by itself, without any
climbing thereto by any thought. And, sikerly, this is it the which
is so meedful as I said, and ever the longer that it is kept from
the tree (that is to say, from any thought), and ever the ofter that
it is done suddenly, lustily, and likingly, without mean, the
sweeter it smelleth, and the better it pleaseth the high King of
heaven. And ever when thou feelest sweetness and comfort in thy
doing, then He breaketh this fruit and giveth thee part of thine own
present. And that that thou feelest is so hard, and so straitly
stressing thine heart without comfort in the first beginning, that
bemeaneth that the greenness of the fruit hanging on the tree,
or else newly pulled, setteth thy teeth on edge. Nevertheless yet it
is speedful to thee. For it is no reason that thou eat the sweet
kernel, but if thou crack first the hard shell and bite of the
Nevertheless, if it so be that thy teeth be weak (that is to say,
thy ghostly mights), then it is my counsel that thou seek slights,
for better is list than lither strength.
Another skill there is why that I set this tree in thy garden, for
to climb up thereby. For though all it be so that God may do what He
will, yet, to mine understanding, it is impossible any man to attain
to the perfection of this working without these two means, or else
other two that are according to them coming before. And yet is the
perfection of this work sudden, without any mean. And, therefore, I
rede thee that these be thine, not thine in propriety, for that
is nought but sin, but thine given graciously of God, and sent
by me as a messenger though I be unworthy; for wete thou right well
that every thought that stirreth thee to the good, whether it
come from within by thine angel messenger, or from without by any
man messenger, it is but an instrument of grace given, sent and
chosen of God Himself for to work within in thy soul. And this is
the skill why that I counsel thee to take these two thoughts before
all others. For as man is a mingled thing of two substances, a
bodily and a ghostly, so it needeth for to have two sere means
to come by to perfection; sith it so is that both these
substances shall be oned in undeadliness at the uprising in the last
day; so that either substance be raised to perfection in this life,
by a mean accordant thereto. And that is dread to bodily substance,
and hope to the ghostly. And thus it is full seemly and according to
be, as me thinketh; for as there is nothing that so soon will ravish
the body from all affection of earthly things, as will a sensible
dread of the death; so there is nothing that so soon nor so
fervently will raise the affection of a sinner's soul, unto the love
of God, as will a certain hope of forgiveness of all his
recklessness. And therefore have I ordained thy climbing by these
two thoughts; but if it so be that thy good angel teach thee within
thy ghostly conceit, or any other man, any other two that are more
according to thy disposition than thee thinketh these two be, thou
mayst take them, and leave these safely without any blame.
Nevertheless to my conceit (till I wete more) me thinketh that these
should be full helply unto thee, and not much unaccording to thy
disposition, after that I feel in thee. And therefore, if thou think
that they do thee good, then thank God heartily, and for God's love
pray for me. Do then so, for I am a wretch, and thou wotest not how
it standeth with me.
No more at this time, but God's blessing have thou and mine.
Read often, and forget it not; set thee sharply to the proof; and
flee all letting and occasion of letting, in the name of our Lord
Jesu Christ. AMEN.
HERE FOLLOWETH ALSO A VERY NECESSARY EPISTLE OF DISCRETION IN
STIRRINGS OF THE SOUL
GHOSTLY friend in God, that same grace and joy that I will to
myself, will I to thee at God's will. Thou askest me counsel of
silence and of speaking, of common dieting and of singular fasting,
of dwelling in company and only woning by thyself. And thou
sayest thou art in great were what thou shalt do; for, as thou
sayest, on the one party thou art greatly tarried with speaking,
with common eating, as other folk do, and with common woning in
company. And, on the other party, thou dreadest to be straitly
still, singular in fasting, and only in woning, for deeming of
more holiness in thee than thou hast, and for many other
perils; for oft times now these days they are deemed for most holy,
and fall in to many perils, that most are in silence, in singular
fasting, and in only woning. And sooth it is that they are most
holy, if grace only be the cause of that silence, of that singular
fasting, and of that only woning, the kind but suffering and
only consenting; and if it be otherwise, then that is but peril on
all sides, for it is full perilous to strain the kind to any such
work of devotion, as is silence or speaking, common dieting or
singular fasting, woning in company or in onliness. I mean,
passing the course and the common custom of kind and degree, but if
it be led thereto by grace; and, namely, to such works the which in
themself are indifferent, that is to say, now good, and now evil,
now with thee, now against thee, now helping, and now letting. For
it might befall that, if thou followed thy singular stirring,
straitly straining thee to silence, to singular fasting, or to only
woning, that thou shouldest oft times be still when time were to
speak, oft times fast when time were to eat, oft times be only when
time were to be in company. Or if thou give thee to speaking always
when thee list, to common eating, or to companious woning, then
peradventure thou shouldest sometime speak when time were to be
still, sometime eat when time were to fast, sometime be in company
when time were to be only; and thus mightest thou lightly fall in to
error, in great confusion, not only of thine own soul but also of
others. And, therefore, in eschewing of such errors, thou askest of
me (as I have perceived by thy letters) two things: the first is my
conceit of thee, and thy stirring; and the other is my counsel in
this case, and in all such others when they come.
As to the first, I answer and I say that I dread full much in this
matter and such others to put forth my rude conceit, such as it is,
for two skills. And one is this: I dare not lean to my conceit,
affirming it for fast and true. The other is thine inward
disposition, and thine ableness that thou hast unto all these things
that thou speakest of in thy letter, which be not yet so fully known
unto me, as it were speedful that they were, if I should give full
counsel in this case. For it is said of the Apostle: Nemo novit quae
sunt hominis, nisi spiritus hominis qui in ipso est; "No man knoweth
which are the privy dispositions of man, but the spirit of the same
man, the which is in himself"; and, peradventure, thou knowest
not yet thine own inward disposition thyself, so fully as thou shalt
do hereafter, when God will let thee feel it by the proof, among
many failings and risings. For I knew never yet no sinner that might
come to the perfect knowing of himself and of his inward
disposition, but if he were learned of it before in the school of
God, by experience of many temptations, and by many failings and
risings; for right as among the waves and the floods and the storms
of the sea, on the one party, and the peaceable wind and the calms
and the soft weathers of the air on the other party, the sely
ship at the last attains to the land and the haven; right so, among
the diversity of temptations and tribulations that falleth to a soul
in this ebbing and flowing life (the which are ensampled by the
storms and the floods of the sea) on the one party, and among the
grace and the goodness of the Holy Ghost, the manyfold visitation,
sweetness and comfort of spirit (the which are ensampled by the
peaceable wind and the soft weathers of the air) on the other party,
the sely soul, at the likeness of a ship, attaineth at the last to
the land of stableness, and to the haven of health; the which is the
clear and the soothfast knowing of himself, and of all his inward
dispositions, through the which knowing he sitteth quietly in
himself, as a king crowned in his royalme, mightily, wisely, and
goodly governing himself and all his thoughts and stirrings, both in
body and in soul. Of such a man it is that the wise man saith thus:
Beatus vir qui suffert tentationem, quoniam cum probatus fuerit,
accipiet coronam vitae, quam repromisit Deus diligentibus se: "He is
a blissful man that sufferingly beareth temptation; for, from he
have been proved, he shall take the crown of life, the which God
hath hight to all those that love Him." The crown of life may
be said on two manners. One for ghostly wisdom, for full discretion,
and for perfection of virtue: these three knitted together may be
cleped a crown of life, the which by grace may be come to here
in this life. On another manner the crown of life may be said, that
it is the endless joy that each true soul shall have, after this
life, in the bliss of heaven, and, sikerly, neither of these two
crowns may a man take, but if he before have been well proved in
suffering of noye and of temptation, as this text saith:
Quoniam cum probatus fuerit, accipiet coronam vitae; that is: "From
that he have been proved, then shall he take the crown of
life"; as who saith (according to mine understanding touched
before): But if a sinner have been proved before in divers
temptations, now rising, now falling, falling by frailty, rising by
grace, he shall never else take of God in this life ghostly wisdom
in clear knowing of himself and of his inward dispositions, nor full
discretion in counselling and teaching of others, nor yet the third,
the which is the perfection of virtue in loving of his God and of
his brethren. All these three--wisdom, discretion, and perfection of
virtue-are but one, and they may be cleped the crown of life.
In a crown are three things: gold is the first; precious stones are
the second; and the turrets of the flower-de-luce, raised up above
the head, those are the third. By gold, wisdom; by the precious
stones, discretion; and by the turrets of the flower-de-luce I
understand the perfection of virtue. Gold environeth the head, and
by wisdom we govern our ghostly work on every side; precious stones
giveth light in beholding of men, and by discretion we teach and
counsel our brethren; the turrets of the flower-de-luce giveth two
side branches spreading one to the right side and another to the
left, and one even up above the head, and by perfection of virtues
(the which is charity) we give two side branches of love, the which
are spreading, one to the right side to our friends, and one to the
left side to our enemies, and one even up unto God, above man's
understanding, the which is the head of the soul. This is the crown
of life the which by grace may be gotten here in this life; and,
therefore, bear thee low in thy battle, and suffer meekly thy
temptations till thou have been proved. For then shalt thou take
either the one crown, or the other, or both, this here, and the
other there; for who so hath this here, he may be full siker of the
other there; and full many there are that are full graciously proved
here, and yet come never to this that may be had here in this life.
The which (if they meekly continue and patiently abide the will of
our Lord) shall full worthily and abundantly receive the other
there, in the high bliss of heaven. Thee thinketh this crown fair
that may be had here; yea, bear thee as meekly as thou mayst by
grace, for in comparison of the other there, it is but as one noble
to a world full of gold. All this I say to give thee comfort and
evidence of strength in thy ghostly battle, the which thou hast
taken on hand in the trust of our Lord, and all this I say to let
thee see how far thou art yet from the true knowing of thine inward
disposition, and thereafter to give thee warning, not over soon to
give stead nor to follow the singular stirrings of thy young
heart, for dread of deceit.
All this I say for to show unto thee my conceit that I have of thee
and of thy stirrings, as thou hast asked of me; for I conceive of
thee that thou art full able and full greatly disposed to such
sudden stirrings of singular doings, and full fast to cleave
unto them when they be received; and that is full perilous. I say
not that this ableness and this greedy disposition in thee, or in
any other that is disposed as thou art, though all it be perilous,
that it is therefore evil in itself; nay, so say I not, God forbid
that thou take it so; but I say that it is full good in itself, and
a full great ableness to full great perfection, yea, and to the
greatest perfection that may be in this life; I mean, if that a soul
that is so disposed will busily, night and day, meek it to God
and to good counsel, and strongly rise and martyr itself, with
casting down of the own wit and the own will in all such sudden and
singular stirrings, and say sharply that it will not follow such
stirrings, seem they never so liking, so high nor so holy, but
if it have thereto the witness and the consents of some ghostly
teachers--I mean such as have been of long time expert in singular
living. Such a soul, for ghostly continuance thus in this meekness,
may deserve, through grace and the experience of this ghostly battle
thus with itself, for to take the crown of life touched before. And
as great an ableness to good as is this manner of disposition in a
soul that is thus meeked as I say, as perilous it is in another
soul, such one that will suddenly, without advisement of counsel,
follow the stirrings of the greedy heart, by the own wit and the own
will; and therefore, for God's love, beware with this ableness and
with this manner of disposition (that I speak of), if it be in thee
as I say. And meek thee continually to prayer and to counsel. Break
down thine own wit and thy will in all such sudden and singular
stirrings, and follow them not over lightly, till thou wete whence
they come, and whether they be according for thee or not.
And as touching these stirrings of the which thou askest my conceit
and my counsel, I say to thee that I conceive of them suspiciously,
that is, that they should be conceived on the ape's manner. Men
say commonly that the ape doth as he seeth others do; forgive me if
I err in my suspicion, I pray thee. Nevertheless, the love that I
have to thy soul stirreth me by evidence that I have of a ghostly
brother of thine and of mine, touched with those same stirrings of
full great silence, of full singular fasting, and of full only
woning, on ape's manner, as he granted unto me after long communing
with me, and when he had proved himself and his stirrings. For, as
he said, he had seen a man in your country, the which man, as it is
well known, is evermore in great silence, in singular fasting, and
in only dwelling; and certes, as I suppose fully, they are full true
stirrings those that that man hath, caused all only of grace, that
he feeleth by experience within, and not of any sight or heard say
that he hath of any other man's silence without-the which cause if
it were, it should be cleped apely, as I say in my simple meaning.
And therefore beware, and prove well thy stirrings, and whence they
come; for how so thou art stirred, whether from within by grace, or
from without on ape's manner, God wote, and I not. Nevertheless this
may I say thee in eschewing of perils like unto this: look that thou
be no ape, that is to say, look that thy stirrings to silence or to
speaking, to fasting or to eating, to onliness or to company,
whether they be come from within of abundance of love and of
devotion in the spirit and not from without by the windows of thy
bodily wits, as thine ears, and thine eyes. For, as Jeremiah saith
plainly, by such windows cometh in death: Mors intrat per
fenestras.249 And this sufficeth, as little as it is, for answer to
the first, where thou askest of me, what is my conceit of thee, and
of these stirrings that thou speakest of to me in thy letter.
And touching the second thing, where thou askest of me my counsel in
this case, and in such other when they fall, I beseech almighty Jesu
(as He is cleped the angel of great counsel) that He of His mercy be
thy counsellor and thy comforter in all thy noye and thy nede, and
order me with His wisdom to fulfil in party by my teaching, so
simple as it is, the trust of thine heart, the which thou hast unto
me before many others--a simple lewd wretch as I am, unworthy
to teach thee or any other, for littleness of grace and for lacking
of conning. Nevertheless, though I be lewd, yet shall I somewhat
say, answering to thy desire at my simple conning, with a trust in
God that His grace shall be learner and leader when conning of kind
and of clergy defaileth. Thou wotest right well thyself that
silence in itself nor speaking, also singular fasting nor common
dieting, onliness nor company, all these nor yet any of them be not
the true end of our desire; but to some men (and not to all) they
are means helping to the end, if they be done lawfully and with
discretion, and else are they more letting than furthering. And
therefore plainly to speak, nor plainly to be still, plainly to
eat, nor plainly to fast, plainly to be in company, or plainly to be
only, think I not to counsel thee at this time; for why, perfection
standeth not in them. But this counsel may I give thee generally, to
hold thee by in these stirrings, and in all other like unto these;
evermore where thou findest two contraries, as are these--silence
and speaking, fasting and eating, onliness and company, common
clothing of Christian religion and singular habits of divers and
devised brotherhoods, with all such other what so they be, the which
in themself are but works of kind and of men. For thou hast it
by kind and by statute of thine outer man now for to speak and now
for to be still, now for to eat and now for to fast, now for to be
in company and now to be only, now to be common in clothing and now
to be in singular habit, ever when thee list, and when thou
seest that any of them should be speedful and helply to thee in
nourishing of the heavenly grace working within in thy soul; but if
it be so (which God forbid), that thou or any other be so lewd and
so blinded in the sorrowful temptations of the midday devil, that ye
bind you by any crooked avow to any such singularities, as it were
under colour of holiness feigned under such an holy thraldom,
in full and final destroying of the freedom of Christ, the which is
the ghostly habit of the sovereign holiness that may be in this
life, or in the other, by the witness of saint Paul saying thus: Ubi
spiritus Domini, ibi libertas: "There where the spirit of God is,
there is freedom." And thereto when thou seest that all such
works in their use may be both good and evil; I pray thee leave them
both, for that is the most ease for thee for to do, if thou wilt be
meek, and leave the curious beholding and seeking in thy wits to
look whether is better. But do thou thus: set the one on the one
hand, and the other on the other, and choose thee a thing the which
is hid between them; the which thing, when it is had, giveth thee
leave in freedom of spirit to begin and to cease in holding any of
the others at thine own full list, without any blame.
But now thou askest me, what is that thing. I shall tell thee what I
mean that it is: It is God; for whom thou shouldest be still, if
thou shouldest be still; and for whom thou shouldest speak if thou
shouldest speak; and for whom thou shouldest fast, if thou shouldest
fast; and for whom thou shouldest eat, if thou shouldest eat; and
for whom thou shouldest be only, if thou shouldest be only; and for
whom thou shouldest be in company, if thou shouldest be in company.
And so forth of all the remenant, what so they be. For silence is
not God, nor speaking is not God; fasting is not God, nor eating is
not God; onliness is not God, nor company is not God; nor yet any of
all the other such two contraries. He is hid between them, and may
not be found by any work of thy soul, but all only by love of thine
heart. He may not be known by reason, He may not be gotten by
thought, nor concluded by understanding; but He may be loved and
chosen with the true lovely will of thine heart. Choose thee
Him, and thou art silently speaking, and speakingly silent,
fastingly eating, and eatingly fasting, and so forth of all the
remenant. Such a lovely choosing of God, thus wisely lesinge
and seeking Him out with the true will of a clean heart, between all
such two leaving them both, when they come and proffer them to be
the point and the prick of our ghostly beholding, is the worthiest
tracing and seeking of God that may be gotten or learned in this
life. I mean for a soul that will be contemplative; yea, though all
that a soul that thus seeketh see nothing that may be conceived with
the ghostly eye of reason; for if God be thy love and thy meaning,
the choice and the point of thine heart, it sufficeth to thee in
this life (though all thou see never more of Him with the eyes of
thy reason all thy life time). Such a blind shot with the sharp dart
of longing love may never fail of the prick, the which is God, as
Himself saith in the book of love, where He speaketh to a
languishing soul and a loving, saying thus: Vulnerasti cor meum,
soror mea, amica mea, et sponsa mea, vulnerasti cor meum, in uno
oculorum tuorum: "Thou hast wounded mine heart, my sister, my leman,
and my spouse, thou hast wounded mine heart in one of thine
eyes." Eyes of the soul they are two: Reason and Love. By
reason we may trace how mighty, how wise, and how good He is in His
creatures, but not in Himself; but ever when reason defaileth, then
list, love, live and learn, to play, for by love we may feel
Him, find Him, and hit Him, even in Himself. It is a wonderful eye,
this love, for of a loving soul it is only said of our Lord: "Thou
hast wounded mine heart in one of thine eyes"; that is to say, in
love that is blind to many things, and seeth but that one thing that
it seeketh, and therefore it findeth and feeleth, hitteth and
woundeth the point and the prick that it shooteth at, well sooner
than it should if the sight were sundry in beholding of many things,
as it is when the reason ransacketh and seeketh among all such
sere things as are these: silence and speaking, singular
fasting and common eating, onliness or company, and all such other;
to look whether is better.
Let be this manner of doing, I pray thee, and let as thou wist not
that there were any such means (I mean ordained for to get God by);
for truly no more there is, if thou wilt be very contemplative and
soon sped of thy purpose. And, therefore, I pray thee and other like
unto thee, with the Apostle saying thus: Videte vocationem vestram,
et in ea vocatione qua vocati estis state:262 "See your calling,
and, in that calling that ye be called, stand stiffly and abide in
the name of Jesu." Thy calling is to be very contemplative,
ensampled by Mary Magdalene. Do then as Mary did, set the point of
thine heart upon one thing: Porro unum est necessarium: "For one
thing is necessary," the which is God. Him wouldest thou have,
Him seekest thou, Him list thee to love, Him list thee to feel,
Him list thee hold thee by, and neither by silence nor by speaking,
by singular fasting nor by common eating, by onliness nor by
companious woning, by hard wearing nor by easy; for sometime silence
is good, but that same time speaking were better; and againward
sometime speaking is good, but that same time silence were better;
and so forth of all the remenant, as is fasting, eating, onliness,
and company; for sometime the one is good, but the other is better,
but neither of them is at any time the best. And, therefore, let be
good all that is good, and better all that is better, for both
they will defail and have an end; and choose thee the best with
Mary, thy mirror, that never will defail: Maria (inquit optimam)
optimam partem elegit, quae non auferetur ab ea.266 The best is
almighty Jesu, and He said that Mary, in ensample of all
contemplatives, had chosen the best, the which should never be taken
from her; and therefore, I pray thee, with Mary leave the good and
the better, and choose thee the best.
Let them be, all such things as are these: silence and speaking,
fasting and eating, onliness and company, and all such other, and
take no keep to them; thou wotest not what they mean, and, I pray
thee, covet not to wit; and if thou shall at any time think or speak
of them, think then and say that they are so high and so worthy
things of perfection, for to conne speak, or for to conne be
still, for to conne fast, and for to conne eat, for to conne be
only, and to conne be in company, that it were but a folly and a
foul presumption to such a frail wretch as thou art, for to meddle
thee of so great perfection. For why, for to speak, and for to be
still, for to eat, and for to fast, for to be only, and for to be in
company, ever when we will, may we have by kind; but for to conne do
all these, we may not but by grace. And, without doubt, such grace
is never gotten by any mean of such strait silence, of such singular
fasting, or of such only dwelling that thou speakest of, the which
is caused from without by occasion of hearing and of seeing of any
other man's such singular doings. But if ever this grace shall be
gotten, it behoveth to be learned of God from within, unto whom thou
hast listily leaned many a day before with all the love of thine
heart, utterly voiding from thy ghostly beholding all manner of
sight of any thing beneath Him; though all that some of those things
that I bid thee thus void, should seem in the sight of some men a
full worthy mean to get God by. Yea, say what men say will, but do
thou as I say thee, and let the proof witness. For to him that will
be soon sped of his purpose ghostly, it sufficeth to him for a mean,
and him needeth no more, but the actual mind of good God only, with
a reverent stirring of lasting love; so that mean unto God gettest
thou none but God. If thou keep whole thy stirring of love that thou
mayst feel by grace in thine heart, and scatter not thy ghostly
beholding therefrom then that same that thou feelest shall well
conne tell thee when thou shalt speak and when thou shalt be
still, and it shall govern thee discreetly in all thy living without
any error, and teach thee mistily how thou shalt begin and
cease in all such doing of kind with a great and sovereign
discretion. For if thou mayst by grace keep it in custom and in
continual working, then, if it be needful or speedful to thee for to
speak, for to commonly eat, or for to bide in company, or for to do
any such other thing that longeth to the common true custom of
Christian men, and of kind, it shall first stir thee full softly to
speak or to do that other common thing of kind, what so it be. And
then, if thou do it not, it shall strike as sore as a prick on thine
heart and pain thee full sore, and let thee have no peace but
if thou do it. And, on the same manner, if thou be in speaking, or
in any such other work that is common to the course of kind, if it
be needful and speedful to thee to be still, and for to set thee to
the contrary, as is onliness to company, fasting to eating, and all
such other the which are works of singular holiness, it will stir
thee to them; so that thus, by experience of such a blind stirring
of love unto God, a contemplative soul cometh sooner to that grace
of discretion for to conne speak, and for to conne be still, for to
conne eat, and for to conne fast, for to conne be in company, and
for to conne be only, and all such other, than by any such
singularities as thou speakest of, taken by the stirrings of man's
own wit and his will within in himself, or yet by the ensample of
any other man's doing without, what so it be. For why, such strained
doings under the stirrings of kind, without touching of grace,
is a passing pain without any profit; but if it be to them that are
religious, or that have them by enjoining of penance, where profit
riseth only because of obedience, and not by any such straitness of
doing without; the which is painful to all that it proveth. But
lovely and listily to will to love God is great and passing
ease, true ghostly peace, and earnest of the endless rest. And,
therefore, speak when thee list, and leave when thee list, eat when
thee list, and fast when thee list, be in company when thee list,
and be by thyself when thee list, so that God and grace be thy
leader. Let fast who fast will, and be only who will, and let hold
silence who so will, but hold thee by God that doth beguile no man;
for silence and speaking, onliness and company, fasting and eating,
all may beguile thee. And if thou hear of any man that speaketh, or
of any that is still, of any that eateth or of any that fasteth, or
of any that is in company or else by himself, think thou, and say,
if thee list, that they conne do as they should do, but if the
contrary shew in apert. But look that thou do not as they do (I
mean for that they do so) on ape's manner; for neither thou canst,
nor peradventure thou art not disposed as they are. And, therefore,
leave to work after other men's dispositions and work after thine
own, if thou mayst know what it is. And unto the time that thou
mayst know what it is, work after those men's counsel that know
their own disposition, but not after their disposition; for
such men should give counsel in such cases, and else none. And this
sufficeth for an answer to all thy letter, as me thinketh; the grace
of God be ever more with thee, in the name of Jesu. AMEN.
HERE FOLLOWETH A DEVOUT TREATISE OF DISCERNING OF SPIRITS, VERY
NECESSARY FOR GHOSTLY LIVERS
FOR because that there be divers kinds of spirits, therefore it is
needful to us discreet knowing of them; sith it so is that we be
taught of the apostle saint John not to believe to all spirits.
For it might seem to some that are but little in conning, and namely
of ghostly things, that each thought that soundeth in man's heart
should be the speech of none other spirit but only of man's own
spirit. And that it is not so, both belief and witness of holy
scripture proveth apertly; for "I shall hear," saith the prophet
David, "not what I speak myself, but what my Lord God speaketh in
me"; and another prophet saith, that an angel spake in
him. And also we be taught in the psalm that the wicked spirits
sendeth evil thoughts in to men; and over this, that there is a
spirit of the flesh not good, the apostle Paul sheweth apertly,
where he saith, that some men are full blown or inflate with the
spirit of their flesh. And also that there is the spirit of the
world, he declareth plainly, where he maketh joy in God, not only
for himself, but also for his disciples, that they had not taken
that spirit of the world, but that that is sent of God, the which is
the Holy Ghost. And these two spirits of the flesh and also of
the world are, as it were, servants or sergeants of that cursed
spirit, the foul fiend of hell; so that the spirit of wickedness is
lord of the spirit of the flesh, and also of the spirit of the
world. And which of these three spirits that speaketh to our spirit,
we should not believe them. For why, they speak never but that anon,
by their speaking, they lead to the loss both of body and of soul.
And which spirit it is that speaketh to our spirit, the speech of
that same spirit that speaketh shall fully declare; for ever more
the spirit of the flesh speaketh soft things and easy to the body;
the spirit of the world vain things and covetise of worship;
and the spirit of malice of the fiend speaketh fell things and
Wherefore, as oft times as any thought smiteth on our hearts of
meat, of drink, and of sleep, of soft clothing, of lechery, and of
all other such things the which longeth to the business of the
flesh, and maketh our heart for to brenne as it were in a
longing desire after all such things; be we full siker that it is
the spirit of the flesh that speaketh it. And therefore put we him
away, in as much as we goodly may by grace, for he is our adversary.
As oft times as any thought smiteth on our hearts of vain joy of
this world, kindling in us a desire to be holden fair, and to be
favoured, to be holden of great kin and of great conning, to be
holden wise and worthy, or else to have great degree and high office
in this life--such thoughts and all other the which would make a man
to seem high and worshipful, not only in the sight of others, but
also in the sight of himself--no doubt but it is the spirit of the
world that speaketh all these, a far more perilous enemy than is the
spirit of the flesh, and with much more business he should be put
off. And oft times it befalleth that these two servants and
sergeants of the foul fiend, the spirit and prince of wrath and
of wickedness, are either by grace and by ghostly slight of a soul
stiffly put down and trodden down under foot; or else, by
quaintise of their malicious master, the foul fiend of hell,
they are quaintly withdrawn, for he thinketh himself for to rise
with great malice and wrath, as a lion running felly to assail the
sickness of our sely souls; and this befalleth as oft as the thought
of our heart stirreth us, not to the lust of our flesh, nor yet to
the vain joy of this world, but it stirreth us to murmuring, to
grutching, to grievance, and to bitterness of soul, to pain and
to impatience, to wrath, to melancholy, and to evil will, to hate,
to envy, and to all such sorrows. It maketh us to bear us heavily,
if ought be done or said unto us, not so lovely, nor so wisely
as we would it were; it raiseth in us all evil suspicion, if ought
be shewed in sign, in countenance, in word, or in work, that might
by any manner be turned to malice or to heaviness of heart; it
maketh us as fast to take it to us.
To these thoughts, and to all such that would put us out of peace
and restfulness of heart, we should none otherwise againstand,
but as we would the self fiend of hell, and as much we should flee
therefrom as from the loss of our soul. No doubt but both the other
two thoughts, of the spirit of the flesh and also of the spirit of
the world, work and travail in all that they can to the loss of our
soul, but most perilously the spirit of malice; for why, he is by
himself, but they not without him. For if a man's soul be never so
clean of fleshly lust, and of vain joy of this world, and if it be
defouled with this spirit of malice, of wrath, and of wickedness,
not againstanding all the other cleanness before, yet it is losable.
And if a soul be never so much defouled with the lust of the flesh,
and vain joy of the world, and it may by grace keep it in peace and
in restfulness of heart unto the even Christian, though all it
be full hard for to do (lasting the custom of the other two),
yet it is less losable, not againstanding all the other filth of the
flesh and of the world touched before. And, therefore, though all
that our lusty thoughts of our flesh be evil, for they reave
from the soul the life of devotion, and though all that the vain joy
of the world be worse, for it reaveth us from the true joy that we
should have in contemplation of heavenly things, ministered and
taught to us by the angels of heaven. For who so lustily desireth to
be worshipped, favoured, and served of men here in earth, they
deserve to forego the worship, the favour, and service of angel in
ghostly contemplation of heaven and of heavenly things, all their
lifetime; the which contemplation is better and more worthy in
itself than is the lust and the liking of devotion. And for this
bitterness I clepe the spirit of malice, of wrath, and of wickedness
the worst spirit of them all; and why? Certes, for it reaveth us the
best thing of all, and that is charity, the which is God. For who so
lacketh peace and restfulness of heart, him lacketh the lively
presence of the lovely sight of the high peace of heaven, good
gracious God His own dear self. This witnesseth David in the psalm,
where he saith, that the place of God is made in peace, and His
dwelling place in Sion. Sion is as much to say as the sight of
peace; the sight of the soul is the thought of that same soul; and,
certes, in that soul that most is occupied in thoughts of peace hath
God made His dwelling place. And thus saith Himself by the
prophet, when he saith: "Upon whom shall my spirit rest, but upon
the meek and the restful." And, therefore, who so will have God
continually dwelling in him, and live in love and in sight of the
high peace of the Godhead, the which is the highest and the best
party of contemplation that may be had in this life, be he busy
night and day to put down, when they come, the spirit of the flesh
and the spirit of the world, but most busily the spirit of malice,
of wrath, and of wickedness, for he is the foulest and the worst
filth of all. And it is full needful and speedful to know his
quaintise, and not for to unknow his doleful deceits. For sometime
he will, that wicked cursed wight, change his likeness in to an
angel of light, that he may under colour of virtue do more
dere; but yet then, if we look more redely, it is but seed
of bitterness and of discord that that he sheweth, seem it never so
holy nor never so fair at the first shewing. Full many he stirreth
unto singular holiness passing the common statute and custom of
their degree, as is fasting, sharp wearing, and many other devout
observances and outward doings, in open reproving of other men's
defaults, the which they have not of office for to do. All such and
many other he stirreth them for to do, and all under colour of
devotion and of charity; not for he is delighted in any deed of
devotion and of charity, but for he loveth dissension and slander,
the which is evermore caused by such unseemly singularities; for
where so ever that any one or two are in any devout congregation,
the which any one or two useth any such outward singularities, then
in the sight of fools all the remenant are slandered by them; but,
in the sight of the wise man, they slander themselves. But for
because that fools are more than wise men, therefore for favour of
fools such singular doers ween that they be wise, when (if it were
wisely determined) they and all their fautors should be seen
apert fools, and darts shot of the devil, to slay true simple souls
under colour of holiness and charity. And thus many deceits can the
fiend bring in on this manner.
Who so will not consent, but meeketh him truly to prayer and to
counsel, shall graciously be delivered of all these deceits.
But it is sorrow for to say, and more for to feel, that
sometime our own spirit is so overcome peradventure with each
of these three spirits, of the flesh, of the world, and of the
fiend, and so brought into danger, bounden in bondage, in thraldom
and in service of them all, that sorrow it is to wit. In great
confusion and loss of itself, it doth now the office of each one of
them itself in itself. And this befalleth when, after long use, and
customable consenting unto them when they come, at the last it is
made so fleshly, so worldly, and so malicious, so wicked, and so
froward, that now plainly of itself, without suggestion of any other
spirit, it gendereth and bringeth forth in itself, not only lusty
thoughts of the flesh, and vain thoughts of the world, but that
worst of all these, as are bitter thoughts and wicked, in backbiting
and deeming, and evil suspicion of others. And when it is thus with
our spirit, then, I trow, it may not lightly be known when it is our
own spirit that speaketh, or when it heareth any of the other three
spirits speaking in it as it is touched before. But what maketh it
matter who speaketh, when it is all one and the same thing that
is spoken? What helpeth to know the person of him that speaketh,
when it is siker and certain that all is evil and perilous that is
spoken? If it be thine enemy, consent not to him, but meek thee to
prayer and to counsel, and so mayst thou mightily withstand thine
enemy. If it be thine own spirit, reprove him bitterly, and
sighingly sorrow that ever thou fell in so great wretchedness,
bondage, and thraldom of the devil. Shrive thee of thy customed
consents, and of thine old sins, and so mayst thou come (by grace)
to recover thy freedom again; and by the gracious freedom mayst thou
soon come to, wisely for to know, and soothfastly for to feel by the
proof, when it is thine own spirit that speaketh these evils, or it
be these other evil spirits that speaketh them in thee. And so may
this knowing be a sovereign mean and help of againstanding, for
often times unknowing is cause of much error, and, againward,
knowing is cause of much truth; and to this manner of knowing mayst
thou win thus as I say to thee.
If thou be in doubt or in were of these evil thoughts when they
come, whether that they be the speech of thine own spirit, or of any
of the others of thine enemies; look then busily by the witness of
thy counsel and thy conscience, if thou have been shriven and
lawfully amended after the doom of thy confessor, of all the
consents that ever thou consented to that kind of sin, that thy
thought is aware of. And if thou have not been shriven shrive thee
then, as truly as thou mayst, by grace and by counsel; and then wete
thou right well that all the thoughts that come to thee after thy
shrift, stirring thee oft times to the same sins, they are the words
of other spirits than thine own (I mean some of the three touched
before). And thou for none such thoughts, be they never so thick, so
foul, nor so many (I mean for their first coming in), but if it be
for recklessness of againstanding, art no blame worthy. And not
only releasing of purgatory that thou hast deserved for the same
sins done before, what so they be, thou mayst deserve, if thou
stiffly againstand them, but also much grace in this life, and much
meed in the bliss of heaven. But all those evil thoughts coming in
to thee, stirring thee to any sin, after that thou hast consented to
that same sin, and before that thou hast sorrow for that consent,
and art in will to be shriven thereof, it is no peril to thee to
take them to thyself, and for to shrive thee of them, as of
thoughts of thine own spirit; but for to take to thyself all other
thoughts, the which thou hast by very proof, as it is shewed before,
by the speeches of other spirits than of thyself, therein lieth
great peril, for so mightest thou lightly misrule thy conscience,
charging a thing for sin the which is none; and this were great
error, and a mean to the greatest peril. For if it were so that each
evil thought and stirring to sin were the work and the speech of
none other spirit, but only of man's own spirit; then it would
follow by that that a man's own spirit were a very fiend, the which
is apertly false and a damnable woodness; for though all it be
so that a soul may, by frailty and custom of sinning, fall in to so
much wretchedness, that it taketh on itself by bondage of sin the
office of the devil, stirring itself to sin ever more and more,
without any suggestion of any other spirit (as it is said before),
yet it is not therefore a devil in kind, but it is a devil in
office, and may be cleped devilish, for it is in the doing like to
the devil, [that is to say, a stirrer of itself unto sin, the which
is the office of the devil]. Nevertheless yet, for all this
thraldom to sin and devilishness in office, it may by grace of
contrition, of shrift, and of amending, recover the freedom again,
and be made saveable--yea, and a full special God's saint in this
life, that before was full damnable and full cursed in the
living. And, therefore, as great a peril as it is a soul that
is fallen in sin, not for to charge his conscience therewith, nor
for to amend him thereof, as great a peril it is, and, if it may be
said, a greater, a man for to charge his conscience with each
thought and stirring of sin that will come in him; for, by such nice
charging of conscience, might he lightly run in to error of
conscience, and so be led in to despair all his life time. And the
cause of all this is lacking of knowing of discretion of spirits,
the which knowing may be gotten by very experience; who so redely
will look soon after that a soul have been truly cleansed by
confession as it is said before. For fast after confession a soul
is, as it were, a clean paper leaf, for ableness that it hath to
receive what that men will write thereupon. Both they do press
for to write on the soul, when it is clean in itself made by
confession: God and His angel on the one party, and the fiend and
his angel on the other party; but it is in the free choice of the
soul to receive which that it will. The receipt of the soul is the
consent of the same soul. A new thought and a stirring to any sin,
the which thou hast forsaken before in thy shrift, what is it else
but the speech of one of the three spirits the which are thine
enemies (touched before), proffering to write on thy soul the same
sin again? The speech of thyself, is it not; for why, there is no
such thing written in thy soul, for all it is wasted away before in
thy shrift, and thy soul left naked and bare; nothing left
thereupon, but a frail and a free consent, more inclining to the
evil, for custom therein, than it is to the good, but more able to
the good than to the evil, for cleanness of the soul and virtue of
the sacrament of shrift; but, of itself, it hath nought then, where
through it may think or stir itself to good or to evil; and,
therefore, it followeth that what thought that cometh then in it,
whether that it be good or evil, it is not of itself, but the
consent to the good or to the evil, whether that it be, that is ever
more the work of the same soul.
And all after the worthiness and the wretchedness of this consent,
thereafter it deserveth pain or bliss. If this consent be to evil,
then as fast it hath, by cumbrance of sin, the office of that same
spirit that first made him suggestion of that same sin; and if it be
to the good, then as fast it hath, by grace, the office of that same
spirit that first made him stirring to that same good. For as
oft as any healful thought cometh in our mind, as of chastity, of
soberness, of despising of the world, of wilful poverty, of
patience, of meekness, and of charity, without doubt it is the
spirit of God that speaketh, either by Himself or else by some of
His angels--that is to say, either His angels of this life, the
which are true teachers, or else His angels of His bliss, the which
are true stirrers and inspirers of good. And as it is said of the
other three evil spirits, that a soul, for long use and customable
consenting unto them, may be made so fleshly, so worldly, and so
malicious, that it taketh upon it the office of them all; right so
it is againward that a soul, for long use and custom in
goodness, may be made so ghostly by cleanness of living and devotion
of spirit against the spirit of the flesh, and so heavenly against
the spirit of the world, and so godly by peace and by charity, and
by restfulness of heart, against the spirit of malice, of wrath, and
of wickedness, that it hath them now of office all such good
thoughts to think when him list, without forgetting, in as great
perfection as the frailty of this life will suffer. And thus it may
be seen how that each thought that smiteth on our hearts, whether
that it be good or evil, it is not evermore the speech of our own
spirit, but the consent to the thought, what so ever it be, that is
ever of our own spirit. Jesu grant us His grace, to consent to the
good and againstand the evil. Amen.
FINIS. DEO GRATIAS
INDEX OF NAMES & SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES
Ancren Riwle, The, xx, 28 n
Aquinas, St. Thomas, xiii, 81, 84 n, 86 n
Asher, symbolism of, 6, 16-19
Augustine, St., xii, 25
Benjamin, symbolism of, xvi, xvii, 6, 29-33
Bernard, St., xii, 81
Bilhah, symbolism of, 4-6, 13-16
Bonaventura, St., xii
Catherine of Siena, St., xi, xvii-xix, xxv-xxvii, 35-47, 52 n, 107 n
Caxton, xviii, xix
Chaucer, 17 n, 52 n, 56 n, 95 n, 120 n
Chauncy, Maurice, xxiv
Dan, symbolism of, 6, 13, 14, 18
Dante, xi, xii, xiii, xiv, 38 n, 88 n, 91 n
Dinah, symbolism of, 6, 25
Dionysius, xxiii, xxiv
Divine Cloud of Unknowing, The, Author of, xii, xvii, xxiv, xxv,
xxvii, 3, 32, 33, 77-132
Eckhart, Meister, xi
Exmew, William, xxiv
Flete, William, xvii, xviii, 52 n
Gad, symbolism of, 6, 16-19
Genesis, 8-11, 14-17, 20, 24, 32
Hawkwood, John, xvii
Hilton (Hylton), Walter, xi, xii, xxii-xxv, 61-73, 104 n, 124 n
Hugel, F. von, 84 n, 86 n
Hugh of St. Victor, xii
Imitatione Christi, De, xxiii n, 65 n
Issachar, symbolism of, 6, 20-24
Jacob, symbolism of, 3-7, 10, 27, 29
Jacopone da Todi, xi
James, Dane, xviii
James, Epistle of, 98, 99
Jeremiah, 103, 104
John, St., Epistles of, 25, 119
Joseph, symbolism of, 6, 27-30
Judah, symbolism of, 6, 10-12
Juliana of Norwich, xi, xxi, 65 n, 123 n
Kempe, Margery, xix-xxi, 49-59
Langland, Piers the Plowman, 79 n, 89 n
Layamons Brut, 28 n
Leah, symbolism of, 3-11, 14, 15-20, 24, 26, 29
Levi, symbolism of, 6, 9, 10
Luke, St., 110
Margery, see Kempe
Matthew, St., 8
Mechthild of Magdeburg, xi
Naphtali, symbolism of, 6, 13-15, 18, 19
Paul, St., Epistles, 21, 40, 41, 88, 97, 106, 109, 119, 120
Pepwell, xiv, xix
Proverbs, 28 n
Psalms, The, xiv, xvi, xxvi, 9, 10, 11, 23, 31, 33, 78, 79, 119, 124
Rachel, symbolism of, 3-6, 12-15, 18, 27, 32
Raymund of Capua, xviii, xix
Reuben, symbolism of, 6, 7-9
Richard of St. Victor, xii-xv, xxii, xxv, xxvi, 3, 4 n, 19 n
Richard Rolle of Hampole, xi, xii, xvi, xvii, xxiii n, xxv, 71 n
Robert of Brunne, Chronicle of, 124 n
Ruysbroeck, Jan, xi
Shelley, xv n
Simeon, symbolism of, 6, 8, 9
Song of Solomon, 88, 108
Suso, Heinrich, xi
Tantucci, Giovanni, xvii
Tyrrell, George, xxi n
Wyclif, 16 n, 79 n, 112 n
Wynkyn de Worde, xviii, xix, xx, xxi, xxvii
Zebulun, symbolism of, 6, 22-25
Zilpah, symbolism of, 4-6, 15-17, 20
 Dante, convivio, i. 12.
 Cf. the Letter to Can Grande (Epist. x. 28), where Dante, like
St. Thomas Aquinas before him, refers to the Benjamin Major as
"Richardus de Sancto Victore in libro De Contemplatione."
Par. x. 131, 132.
 Ps. lxviii. 27.
 Benjamin Minor, cap. 73.
 Benjamin Minor, cap. 75. Cf. Shelley, The Triumph of Life: "Their
lore taught them not this: to know themselves." This passage of
Richard is curiously misquoted and its meaning perverted in Haureau,
Histoire de la Philosophie Scolastique, i. pp. 513, 514, in the
Dictionary of National Biography, vol. xvi., and elsewhere.
 Benjamin Minor, cap. 81.
 Cf. below, pp. 32, 33.
 Richard Rolle of Hampole and his Followers, edited by C.
Horstman, vol. i. pp. 162-172.
 Sene, Senis, or Seenes, "Siena," from the Latin Senae
(Catharina de Senis).
 Cf. E. Gordon Duff, Hand-Lists of English Printers, 1501-1556,
i. p. 24.
 Bibliotheca Britannico-Hibernica p. 452.
 Quietaclacmium Margerie filie Johannis Kempe de domibus in
parochia de Northgate. Brit. Mus., Add MS. 25,109.
 She was, however, apparently less strictly enclosed than was
usual for an ancress.
 Cf. G. Tyrrell, Sixteen Revelations of Divine Love shewed to
Mother Juliana of Norwich, Preface, p. v.
 In the British Museum copy of Pepwell's volume, ff. 1-2 of the
Epistle of Prayer and f. 1 of the Song of Angels are transposed.
 Cf. C. T. Martin, in Dictionary of National Biography, vol. ix.
For Hilton's alleged authorship of the De Imitatione Christi, see J.
E. G. de Montmorency, Thomas a Kempis, his Age and Book, pp.
 Edited by G. G. Perry, under the title The Anehede of Godd with
mannis saule, as the work of Richard Rolle, in English Prose
Treatises of Richard Rolle de Hampole (Early English Text Society,
1866), pp. 14-19; and, in two texts, by C. Horstman, op. cit., vol.
i. pp. 175-182.
 In the MSS. this is called: A pystyll of discrecion in knowenge
of spirites; or: A tretis of discrescyon of spirites.
 All in Harl. MS. 674, and other MSS. The Divine Cloud of
Unknowing, and portions of the Epistle, Book, or Treatise, of Privy
Counsel have been printed, in a very unsatisfactory manner, in The
Divine Cloud with notes and a Preface by Father Augustine Baker,
O.S.B. Edited by Henry Collins. London, 1871.
 D. M. M'Intyre, The Cloud of Unknowing, in the Expositor,
series vii. vol. 4 (1907). Dr. Rufus M. Jones, Studies in Mystical
Religion, p. 336, regards these treatises as the work of "a school
of mystics gathered about the writer of the Hid Divinity." Neither
of these authors includes the translation of the Benjamin Minor,
which, however, appears to me undoubtedly from the same hand as that
of the Divine Cloud.
 Benjamin Minor, cap. 78.
 Dialogo cap. 151.
 Benjamin Minor, cap. 72.
 The MSS. have: "men clepen."
 So the MSS., which agrees with the Latin, ordinati affectus
(Benjamin Minor, cap. 3); Pepwell has "ardent feelings."
 So Pepwell, which accords with the Latin: cum tante
importunitate. The MSS. read: "unconningly," i.e. ignorantly.
 So Harl. MS. 674 and Pepwell; Harl. MS. 1022, ed. Horstman,
reads: "forthe," i.e. offer. The Latin is: "Et Zelphae quidem sitim
dominae suae copia tanta omnino extinguere non potest" (Benjamin
Minor, cap. 6).
 The Latin has simply: "vinum quod Zelpha sitit, gaudium est
 Harl. MS. 1022, ed. Horstman, reads: "in our soul."
 Pepwell gives the modern equivalent, "ordinate" and
"inordinate," for "ordained" and "unordained," throughout.
 Ps. cxi. 10 (Vulgate cx.).
 Pepwell adds: "and high Judge."
 Filius visionis.
 Gen. xxix. 32 (Vidit Dominus humilitatem meam, Vulgate).
 Gen. xxix. 33.
 Matt. v. 4.
 Ezek. xxxiii. 14.
 Made humble.
 Ps. li. 17 (Vulgate l.).
 Additus, vel Additio.
 Added. Cf. Gen. xxix. 34.
 Ps. xciv. 19 (Vulgate xciii.).
 Gen. xxix. 34.
 Gen. xxix. 35 (Vulgate): Modo confitebor Domino.
 Ps. cvi. 1, cvii. 1 (cv., cvi., Vulgate).
 Pepwell reads: "the true goodness of God."
 Pepwell reads: "conning."
 Latin Invisibilium: Pepwell has "unseasable."
 Pepwell has "feble."
 Judicium (Pepwell adds: "or judgment").
 Gen. xlix. 16: "Dan shall judge his people."
 Gen. xxx. 6.
 Gen. xxx. 8: "Comparavit me Deus cum sorore mea, et invalui"
 In the Latin, "Comparalio vel conversio."
 Gen. xlix. 21: "Naphtali is a hind let loose: he giveth goodly
words" (Nephthali cervus emissus at dams eloquia pulchritudinis,
 Harl. MS. 1022, ed. Horstman, reads: "full."
 Underloute, participle of Underluten (O.E. Underlutan), "to
stoop beneath," or "submit to." Cf. Wycliffe's Bible, Gen. xxxvii.
8: "Whether thow shalt be oure kyng, oither we shal be undirloute to
 Dixit: Feliciter. Gen. xxx. 11 (Vulgate).
 Felicitas. Harl. MS. 674 adds: "whether thou wilt."
 The MSS. have: "selyness."
 Gen. xxx. 13 (Vulgate): Hoc pro beatitudine mea.
 Murmurs, complains. Cf. Chaucer, The Persones Tale, ed. Skeat
SS 30: "After bakbyting cometh grucching or murmuracion; and somtyme
it springeth of impacience agayns God, and somtyme agayns man.
Agayns God it is, whan a man gruccheth agayn the peynes of helle, or
agayns poverte, or los of catel or agayn reyn or tempest; or elles
gruccheth that shrewes han prosperitee, or elles for that goode men
 Pepwell adds: at the least willingly.
 Pepwell reads: "put down."
 Promises. Latin: fovet promissis.
 A curious mistranslation: "Sed Aser hosti suo facile illudit
dum partem quam tuetur, alta patientiae rupe munitam conspicit"
(Benjamin Minor, cap. 33).
 Pacified. Harl. MS. 1022, ed. Horstman, reads: "the cite of
conscience is made pesebule."
 So Harl. MS. 674; omitted in Harl, MS. 1022 and by Pepwell.
 Gen. xxx. 18.
 The MSS. read: "erles."
 Gen. xlix, 14: "Issachar asinus fortis accubans interterminos"
 Rom. vii. 24.
 Phil. i. 23.
 Ps iv. 5. Harl. MS. 674 has: "Wraththes and willeth not synne,
or thus: Beeth wrothe and synnith not."
 Human nature in our fellow-man.
 Fellow-Christian. The words in square brackets are omitted in
Harl. MS. 674.
 Ps. cxxxix. (Vulgate cxxxviii. ) 21.
 Ps. cxix. (Vulgate cxviii.) 104.
 Habitaculum fortitudinis.
 Gen. xxx. 20.
 Assuredly. Pepwell sometimes modernises this word, but not
 1 John i. 8.
 Cf. St. Augustine's various writings against the Pelagians,
e.g. Epist. clvii. (Opera, ed. Migne, tom. ii. coll. 374 et seq.),
 Deliberate intention.
 Warnes in the MSS.
 Coaxing, beguiling. Harl. MS. 674 reads: "glosing."
 In particular. Pepwell has: "surely."
 Better is art than evil strength. A proverbial expression. Cf.
Layamons Brut, 17210 (ed Madden, ii. p. 297); Ancren Riwle (ed.
Morton), p. 268 (where it is rendered: "Skilful prudence is better
than rude force"). Cf. Prov. xxi. 22.
 The MSS. have: "ilke."
 So Pepwell and Harl. MS. 674. Harl. MS. 1022, ed. Horstman,
reads: "see thiself and the candell."
 Pepwell reads: "waking."
 Ps. iv. 6-7.
 Harl. MS. 674 reads: "light."
 So Pepwell. Harl. MS. 674 reads: "each desire on desire."
Harl. MS. 1022, ed. Horstman, has: "hekand desire unto desire."
 Gen. xxxv. 18.
 Ps. xxvi. (Vulgate xxv.) 12.
 So Harl. MSS. 1022 and 2373; Pepwell and harl. MS. 674 read:
 Ps. lxviii. 27 (Vulgate lxvii. 28).
 So Harl. MS. 2373; omitted in Harl. MS. 674. Pepwell has
instead: "To the which us bring our blessed Benjamin, Christ Jesu,
Amen." Harl. MS. 1022 ends: "Jesus Jesu, Mercy, Jesu, grant Mercy,
Jesu." The whole of this concluding paragraph, which is an addition
of the translator, differs considerably in Pepwell.
So Pepwell and MS. Reg. 17 D.V.; Caxton has: "Thou art she that
art not, and I am he that am"; which is nearer to the Latin.
Caxton reads: "I escape gracyously all his snares."
Cf. Dante, Par. xxxiii. 100-105:--
" A quella luce cotal si diventa,
Che volgersi da lei per altro aspetto,
E impossibil che mai si consenta;
Pero che il ben, ch'e del volere obbietto,
Tutto s'accoglie in lei, e fuor di quella
E difettivo cio che li e perfetto."
" Such at that light does one become, that it were impossible ever
to consent to turn from it for sight of ought else, For the good,
that is the object of the will, is wholly gathered therein, and
outside it that is defective which there is perfect."
So Pepwell: Caxton has: "yf thou wilt gete the vertu of
Pepwell and the MS. add: "and temptations" (Caxton: "of
temptacyons"); which is clearly out of place. Cf. Legenda, SS 104
(Acta Sanctorum, Aprilis, tom. iii.).
2 Cor. i. 7.
Mated. Caxton has: "vertuously y-mette." Cf. Legenda, SS 101:
"Talis anima sic Deo conjuncta."
2 Cor. xii. 10.
 "And the cause and the rote" (Caxton).
Caxton has: "It happed she sayde that other whyle deuoute
feruour of a sowle leuyng oure lorde Jhesu other by somme certeyne
synne, or ellys by newe sotyll temptacyons of the fende wexyth dull
and slowe, and other whyle it is y-brought to veray coldenesse."
Pepwell and the MS. are entirely corrupt: "It happeneth (she sayth)
that otherwhyle a synner whiche is leuynge our Lord Jhesu by some
certeyn synne, or ellys by some certeyn temptacyons of the fende,"
&c. The original of the passage runs thus: "Frequenter enim (ut
inquiebat) contingit animae Deum amanti quod fervor mentalis, vel ex
divina providentia, vel ex aliquali culpa, vel ex haustis
adinventionibus inimici, tepescit, et quandoque quasi ad
frigiditatem usque deducitur" (Legenda SS 107).
So Caxton; Pepwell has: "leaving."
Caxton has: "seeth"; the Latin text: quantumcumque videat seu
So the MS.; Pepwell reads: "were feble and fayle"; and Caxton:
"wexed feble and defayled."
Caxton reads: "prayng" (praying).
So Caxton: Pepwell and MS. have: "in."
Latin, Praelatorum suorum (i.e. of her ecclesiastical
superiors), Legenda, SS 361.
Omitted in Pepwell and in MS.
Judge. Cf. above, p. 14.
 "Also she sayd that she hadde alwaye grete hope and truste in
Goddes prouydence, and to this same truste she endured her dysciples
seyng unto theym that she founde and knewe" (Caxton).
The habergeon or the hair-shirt, the former term being applied
to an instrument of penance as well as to a piece of armour. Cf.
Chaucer, The Persones Tale (ed. Skeat, SS 97): "Thanne shaltow
understonde, that bodily peyne stant in disciplyne or techinge, by
word or by wrytinge, or in ensample. Also in weringe of heyres or of
stamin, or of haubergeons on hir naked flesh, for Cristes sake, and
swiche manere penances. But war thee wel that swiche manere penances
on thy flesh ne make nat thyn herte bitter or angry or anoyed of
thy-self; for bettre is to caste awey thyn heyre, than for to caste
away the sikernesse of Jesu Crist. And therfore seith seint Paul:
'Clothe yow, as they that been chosen of God, in herte of
misericorde, debonairetee, suffraunce, and swich manere of
clothinge'; of whiche Jesu Crist is more apayed than of heyres, or
haubergeons, or hauberkes."
Wynkyn de Worde has: "sholde."
Wynkyn de Worde has: "profyte."
Cf. St. Catherine of Siena, Letter to William Flete (ed. Gigli,
124): "There are some who give themselves perfectly to chastising
their body, doing very great and bitter penance, in order that the
sensuality may not rebel against the reason. They have set all their
desire more in mortifying the body than in slaying their own will.
These are fed at the table of penance, and are good and perfect, but
unless they have great humility, and compel themselves to consider
the will of God and not that of men, they oft times mar their
perfection by making themselves judges of those who are not going by
the same way that they are going."
Perhaps, simply, "say many prayers"--without any special
reference to the rosary.
Wynkyn de Worde has: "mote."
Wynkyn de Worde has: "lownesse."
With-out-forth=outwardly. Cf. Chaucer, The Persones Tale, (ed.
Skeat, SS 10): "And with-inne the hertes of folk shal be the bytinge
conscience, and with-oute-forth shal be the world al brenninge."
According to the legend, certain "indulgences," to be gained by
all who visited the Holy Places at Jerusalem, were first granted by
Pope St. Sylvester at the petition of Constantine and St. Helena.
There seems no evidence as to the real date at which these special
indulgences were instituted. Cf. Amort, De origine, progressu,
valore, ac frauctu Indulgentiarum, Augsburg, 1735, pars i. pp. 217
All the indulgences attached to the Holy Places.
Probably Racheness in the parish of South Acre, where "there
was a leper hospital, with church or chapel dedicated to St.
Bartholomew, of early foundation" (Victoria History of the County of
Norfolk, ii. p. 450).
In true union.
So Horstman. Pepwell reads: "With this wonderful onehede ne may
none be fuifilled."
Secret nature. Cf. Mother Juliana, Revelations of Divine Love,
xiv. cap. 46: "And our kindly substance is now blessedfully in God."
Cf. De Imitatione Christi, ii. 4: "If thine heart were right,
then every creature would be a mirror of life, and a book of holy
doctrine. There is no creature so small and vile, as not to
represent the goodness of God."
Horstman reads: "a mans saule."
So Horstman: Pepwell reads: "as virtues in angels and in holy
souls and in heavenly things."
Pepwell omits the "not."
The truth of God's hidden mysteries.
According to the measure of its love.
All intervening hindrance.
Horstman reads: "matter."
Horstman reads: "wete he wele."
This passage is defective in Pepwell.
MS. Dd. v. 55, ed. Horstman, has: "purges."
Pepwell has: "in feeling of the sound."
MS. Dd. v. 55, ed. Horstman, reads: "toune" (i.e. tone).
Cools down grows cold. Also construed with "from." Cf. Richard
Rolle Psalter (ed. H. R. Bramley, p. 156): "He gars sa many kele fra
A mere abstract thought of God.
Construe: "But if he hold this feeling and this mind (that is
only his own working by custom) to be a special visitation."
Pepwell adds "and in faith."
The MSS. add: "And bot if thou spede thee the rather or thou
come to the ende of thy prayer."
Pepwell reads: "find."
The MSS. read: "behetynges of lenger leuyng."
191Ps. xlvi. 8 (Vulgate), xlvii. 7 (A.V.): "Sing ye praises with
192Ps. cxi. 10 (cx. 10 Vulgate).
So Pepwell; Harl. MS. 674 reads: "Bot forthi that there is no
Pepwell adds in explanation: "or amends"; i.e. satisfaction.
Cf. Langland, Piers the Plowman, B. xvii. 237: "And if it suffice
noughte for assetz"; and Wyclif, Pistil on Cristemasse Day (Select
English Works, ed. T. Arnold, ii. p. 237): "And thus, sith aseeth
muste be maad for Adams synne."
Ps. xxxiv. 22 (Vulgate xxxiii. 23).
The MSS. read: "fro a lyf."
The MSS. read: "a lyf."
So Harl. MS. 674. Pepwell reads: "Also the steps of thy staff
Hope plainly will shew unto thee if thou do it duly, as I have told
thee before, or not."
Summa Theologica, II.-ii. Q. 82, A. I: "Devotio nihil aliud
esse videtur, quam voluntas quaedam prompte tradendi se ad ea, quae
pertinent ad Dei famulatum."
The whole passage included in square brackets is omitted in
Pepwell, but is identical in the two MSS.
So Harl. MS. 2373; Harl. MS. 674 reads: "medeful."
Pepwell inserts: "it is but churl's meat, for."
Not in Pepwell.
Pepwell reads: "and for nothing else."
Had never received it from Him.
Pure Love, or Charity, which "attains to God Himself, that it
may abide in Him, not that any advantage may accrue to us from Him"
(St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, II.-ii. Q. 23, A. 6). For the
whole doctrine of "Pure Love or Disinterested Religion," cf. F. von
Hugel, The Mystical Element of Religion, ii. pp. 152-181.
So both MSS.; Pepwell reads: "blessedness."
Hindering or marring.
Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, II.-ii. Q. 27, A. 3;
and F. von Hugel, op. cit., ii. p. 167.
In the Divine Essence.
So Harl. MS. 674, I take "it" as the beatitude of man which is
Cf. Dante, Par. xxxiii, 143-145:--
"Ma gia volgeva il mio disiro e il velle,
Si come rota ch' egualmente e mossa,
L'Amor che move il sole e l'altre stelle."
"But already my desire and will, even as a wheel that is equally
moved, were being turned by the Love that moves the sun and the
1 Cor. vi. 17.
Pepwell adds: "or sundry."
So Pepwell and Harl. MS. 2373; Harl. MS, 674 reads: "they ben
Cant. ii. 16.
Harl. MS. 674 reads: "glose." Pepwell adds: "or flatter."
Pepwell adds: "or betokeneth." Cf. Langland, Piers the Plowman,
A. i. 1: "What this mountein bemeneth."
Cf. above, p. 28 note.
Pepwell adds: "or counsel."
Of thyself thou hast nought but sin.
So the MSS.: Pepwell has: "to God."
Pepwell changes to "divers."
Cf. Dante, De Monarchia, iii. 16: "Man alone of beings holds a
mid-place between corruptible and incorruptible; wherefore he is
rightly likened by the philosophers to the horizon which is between
two hemispheres. For man, if considered after either essential part,
to wit soul and body is corruptible if considered only after the
one, to wit the body, but if after the other, to wit the soul, he is
incorruptible. . . . If man then, is a kind of mean between
corruptible and incorruptible things, since every mean savours of
the nature of the extremes, it is necessary that man should savour
of either nature. And since every nature is ordained to a certain
end, it follows that there must be a twofold end of man, so that
like as he alone amongst all beings partakes of corruptibility and
incorruptibilty, so he alone amongst all beings should be ordained
for two final goals of which the one should be his goal as a
corruptible being, and the other as an incorruptible" (P. H.
Pepwell modernises this throughout to "dwelling alone."
Pepwell substitutes "doubt." Cf. Chaucer, Legend of Good Women,
2686: "Thryes doun she fil in swiche a were."
Pepwell adds: "in keeping of silence."
Harl. MS. 674 reads: "more holiness than thou art worthy."
Pepwell has: "company."
Pepwell reads: "better."
1 Cor. ii. 11.
Jas. i. 12.
The MSS. usually read "cleped" for "called."
Pepwell modernizes to "trouble."
Jas. i. 12.
To give place to.
Such impulses to exceptional practices.
Pepwell reads: "wits."
Pepwell reads: "strait."
Jer. ix. 21: "Quia ascendit mors per fenestras nostras"
(Vulgate). Pepwell reads: "as saint Jerome saith"! Cf. Walter
Hilton, The Ladder of Perfection, I. pt. iii. cap 9: "Lift up thy
lanthorn, and thou shalt see in this image five windows, by which
sin cometh into thy soul, as the Prophet saith: Death cometh in by
our windows. These are the five senses by which thy soul goeth out
of herself, and fetcheth her delight and seeketh her feeding in
earthly things, contrary to the nobility of her own nature. As by
the eye to see curious and fair things and so of the other senses.
By the unskilful using of these senses willingly to vanities, thy
soul is much letted from the sweetness of the spiritual senses
within; and therefore it behoveth thee to stop these windows, and
shut them, but only when need requireth to open them" (ed.
Dalgairns, p. 115).
Where natural and acquired knowledge alike fall shorts.
Pepwell has: "when thou dost feel."
Pepwell inserts: "I mean except the solemn vows of holy
2 Cor. iii. 17.
Cf. St. Catherine of Siena, Letter 308 (ed. Gigli): "Love
harmonises the three powers of our soul, and binds them together.
The will moves the understanding to see, when it wishes to love;
when the understanding perceives that the will would fain love, if
it is a rational will, it places before it as object the ineffable
love of the eternal Father, who has given us the Word, His own son,
and the obedience and humility of the son, who endured torments,
inuries, mockeries, and insults with meekness and with such great
love. And thus the will, with ineffable love, follows what the eye
of the understanding has beheld; and with its strong hand, it stores
up in the memory the treasure that it draws from this love."
Cant. iv. 9.
To exercise love.
1 Cor. i. 26, vii. 20; Eph. iv. 1.
Luke x. 42.
Pepwell inserts "Him list thee to see, and."
Pepwell reads: "Let be good and all that is good, and better
with all that is better."
Luke x. 42.
To know how to speak, etc.
Banishing from thy soul's vision.
Be able to.
Pepwell reads: "privily." Cf. Wyclif (Select English Works, ed.
cit., i. p. 149): "And after seith Crist to his apostles, that thes
thingis he seide bifore to hem in proverbis and mystily."
Pepwell reads: "rest."
Pepwell modernises "conne" to "learn to" throughout this
Harl. MS. 674 reads: "stirring"; the other MS, as Pepwell.
Harl. MS. 674 reads: "have."
Pepwell reads: "else."
Manifestly, i.e. unless they clearly show that they do not know
how to act as they should. Pepwell has: "in a part."
i.e. take their advice, but do not simply imitate them. I
follow the MSS. in preference to Pepwell, who reads: "Work after no
men's counsel, but sith that know well their own disposition; for
such men should," etc.
1 John iv. 1-6.
Ps. lxxxv. 8 (Vulgate lxxxiv. 9).
Zech. i. 9-19.
Col. ii. 18.
1 Thess. i. 2-9.
Pepwell adds: "or ambition." Cf. Chaucer, The Persones Tale,
ed. Skeat, SS 18: "and coveitise of hynesse by pryde of herte."
So Harl. MS. 674; Pepwell has: "war."
Cf. above, p. 17 note.
Pepwell has: "gladly."
Pepwell reads "ever ready."
Cf. Mother Juliana, Revelations of Divine Love, i. cap. 9: "In
general I am, I hope, in onehead of charity with all my even
Christian, for in this onehead standeth the life of all mankind that
shall be saved."
If it is still guilty of the other two.
Pepwell adds: "and voluptuous."
Ps. cxxxii. (Vulgate cxxxi. ) 13.
Cf. Walter Hilton, The Ladder of Perfection, II. pt. ii. cap.
3: "Jerusalem is, as much as to say, a sight of peace, and
betokeneth contemplation in perfect love of God; for contemplation
is nothing else but a sight of God, which is very peace."
Probably Isa. lvii. 15.
Pepwell reads: "most folly."
Pepwell adds: "or harm." Cf. The Chronicle of Robert of Brunne,
8905-6: "Now may ye lyghtly bere the stones to schip wythouten
The MSS. read: "doles."
Pepwell reads: "But it is more sorrow to feel of our own
spirit's deceits. For sometime our own spirit."
The MSS. read: "Bot what thar reche"; what need to care.
Pepwell reads: "didst feel in there."
Cf. above, p. 95, note.
Pepwell adds: "and judgment."
Unless because of carelessness in resisting them when they
To regard thyself as responsible.
Not in Harl. MS. 674.
Pepwell reads: "a full damnable and a full cursed fiend in his
Pepwell adds: "and desire much."
Pepwell reads: "suggestion."
On the other hand.
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