TWENTIETH CHAPTER

How Almighty God will goodly answer for all those that for the excusing of themselves list not leave their business about the love of Him.

AND therefore me thinketh, that they that set them to be contemplatives should not only have active men excused of their complaining words, but also me thinketh that they should be so occupied in spirit that they should take little heed or none what men did or said about them. Thus did Mary, our example of all, when Martha her sister complained to our Lord: and if we will truly do thus our Lord will do now for us as He did then for Mary.

And how was that? Surely thus.  Our lovely Lord Jesus Christ, unto whom no privy thing is hid, although He was required of Martha as doomsman for to bid Mary rise and help her to serve Him; nevertheless yet, for He perceived that Mary was fervently occupied in spirit about the love of His Godhead, therefore courteously and as it was seemly for Him to do by the way of reason, He answered for her, that for the excusing of herself list not leave the love of Him. And how answered He? Surely not only as doomsman, as He was of Martha appealed: but as an advocate lawfully defended her that Him loved, and said, "Martha, Martha!" Twice for speed He named her name; for He would that she heard Him and took heed to His words. "Thou art full busy," He said, "and troubled about many things." For they that be actives behove always to be busied and travailed about many diverse things, the which them falleth, first for to have to their own use, and sithen in deeds of mercy to their even-christian, as charity asketh. And this He said unto Martha, for He would let her wit that her business was good and profitable to the health of her soul. But for this, that she should not think that it were the best work of all that man might do, therefore He added and said: 'But one thing is necessary.'

And what is that one thing? Surely that God be loved and praised by Himself, above all other business bodily or ghostly that man may do. And for this, that Martha should not think that she might both love God and praise Him above all other business bodily or ghostly, and also thereto to be busy about the necessaries of this life: therefore to deliver her of doubt that she might not both serve God in bodily business and ghostly together perfectly---imperfectly she may, but not perfectly--He added and said, that Mary had chosen the best part; the which should never be taken from her. For why, that perfect stirring of love that beginneth here is even in number with that that shall last without end in the bliss of heaven, for all it is but one.

ONE AND TWENTIETH CHAPTER

The true exposition of this gospel word, "Mary hath chosen the best part."

WHAT meaneth this; Mary hath chosen the best? Wheresoever the best is set or named, it asketh before it these two things--a good, and a better; so that it be the best, and the third in number. But which be these three good things, of the which Mary chose the best? Three lives be they not, for Holy Church maketh remembrance but of two, active life and contemplative life; the which two lives be privily understood in the story of this gospel by these two sisters Martha and Mary--by Martha active, by Mary contemplative. Without one of these two lives may no man be safe, and where no more be but two, may no man choose the best.

But although there be but two lives, nevertheless yet in these two lives be three parts, each one better than other. The which three, each one by itself, be specially set in their places before in this writing. For as it is said before, the first part standeth in good and honest bodily works of mercy and of charity; and this is the first degree of active life, as it is said before. The second part of these two lives lieth in good ghostly meditations of a man's own wretchedness, the Passion of Christ, and of the joys of heaven. The first part is good, and this part is the better; for this is the second degree of active life and the first of contemplative life. In this part is contemplative life and active life coupled together in ghostly kinship, and made sisters at the ensample of Martha and Mary. Thus high may an active come to contemplation; and no higher, but if it be full seldom and by a special grace. Thus low may a contemplative come towards active life; and no lower, but if it be full seldom and in great need.

The third part of these two lives hangeth in this dark cloud of unknowing, with many a privy love pressed to God by Himself. The first part is good, the second is better, but the third is best of all. This is the "best part" of Mary. And therefore it is plainly to wit, that our Lord said not, Mary hath chosen the best life; for there be no more lives but two, and of two may no man choose the best. But of these two lives Mary hath chosen, He said, the best part; the which shall never be taken from her. The first part and the second, although they be both good and holy, yet they end with this life. For in the tother life shall be no need as now to use the works of mercy, nor to weep for our wretchedness, nor for the Passion of Christ. For then shall none be able to hunger nor thirst as now, nor die for cold, nor be sick, nor houseless, nor in prison; nor yet need burial, for then shall none be able to die. But the third part that Mary chose, choose who by grace is called to choose: or, if I soothlier shall say, whoso is chosen thereto of God. Let him lustily incline thereto, for that shall never be taken away: for if it begin here, it shall last without end.

And therefore let the voice of our Lord cry on these actives, as if He said thus now for us unto them, as He did then for Mary to Martha, "Martha, Martha!"--"Actives, actives! make you as busy as ye can in the first part and in the second, now in the one and now in the tother: and, if you list right well and feel you disposed, in both two bodily. And meddle you not of contemplatives. Ye wot not what them aileth: let them sit in their rest and in their play, with the third and the best part of Mary." 

TWO AND TWENTIETH CHAPTER

Of the wonderful love that Christ had to man in person of all sinners truly turned and called to the grace of contemplation.

SWEET was that love betwixt our Lord and Mary. Much love had she to Him. Much more had He to her. For whoso would utterly behold all the behaviour that was betwixt Him and her, not as a trifler may tell, but as the story of the gospel will witness--the which on nowise may be false--he should find that she was so heartily set for to love Him, that nothing beneath Him might comfort her, nor yet hold her heart from Him. This is she, that same Mary, that when she sought Him at the sepulchre with weeping cheer would not be comforted of angels. For when they spake unto her so sweetly and so lovely and said, "Weep not, Mary; for why, our Lord whom thou seekest is risen, and thou shalt have Him, and see Him live full fair amongst His disciples in Galilee as He hight," she would not cease for them. For why? Her thought that whoso sought verily the King of Angels, them list not cease for angels.

And what more? Surely whoso will look verily in the story of the gospel, he shall find many wonderful points of perfect love written of her to our ensample, and as even according to the work of this writing, as if they had been set and written therefore; and surely so were they, take whoso take may. And if a man list for to see in the gospel written the wonderful and the special love that our Lord had to her, in person of all accustomed sinners truly turned and called to the grace of contemplation, he shall find that our Lord might not suffer any man or woman--yea, not her own sister--speak a word against her, but if He answered for her Himself. Yea, and what more? He blamed Symon Leprous in his own house, for that he thought against her. This was great love: this was passing love.

THREE AND TWENTIETH CHAPTER

How God will answer and purvey for them in spirit, that for business about His love list not answer nor purvey for themselves

AND truly an we will lustily conform our love and our living, inasmuch as in us is, by grace and by counsel, unto the love and the living of Mary, no doubt but He shall answer on the same manner now for us ghostly each day, privily in the hearts of all those that either say or think against us. I say not but that evermore some men shall say or think somewhat against us, the whiles we live in the travail of this life, as they did against Mary. But I say, an we will give no more heed to their saying nor to their thinking, nor no more cease of our ghostly privy work for their words and their thoughts, than she did--I say, then, that our Lord shall answer them in spirit, if it shall be well with them that so say and so think, that they shall within few days have shame of their words and their thoughts.

And as He will answer for us thus in spirit, so will He stir other men in spirit to give us our needful things that belong to this life, as meat and clothes with all these other; if He see that we will not leave the work of His love for business about them. And this I say in confusion of their error, that say that it is not lawful for men to set them to serve God in contemplative life, but if they be secure before of their bodily necessaries. For they say, that God sendeth the cow, but not by the horn. And truly they say wrong of God, as they well know. For trust steadfastly, thou whatsoever that thou be, that truly turnest thee from the world unto God, that one of these two God shall send thee, without business of thyself: and that is either abundance of necessaries, or strength in body and patience in spirit to bear need. What then recketh it, which man have? for all come to one in very contemplatives. And whoso is in doubt of this, either the devil is in his breast and reeveth him of belief, or else he is not yet truly turned to God as he should be; make he it never so quaint, nor never so holy reasons shew there again, whatnot ever that he be.

And therefore thou, that settest thee to be contemplative as Mary was, choose thee rather to be meeked under the wonderful height and the worthiness of God, the which is perfect, than under thine own wretchedness, the which is imperfect: that is to say, look that thy special beholding be more to the worthiness of God than to thy wretchedness. For to them that be perfectly meeked, no thing shall defail; neither bodily thing, nor ghostly. For why? They have God, in whom is all plenty; and whoso hath Him--yea, as this book telleth--him needeth nought else in this life.

FOUR AND TWENTIETH CHAPTER

What charity is in itself, and how it is truly and perfectly contained in the work of this book.

AND as it is said of meekness, how that it is truly and perfectly comprehended in this little blind love pressed, when it is beating upon this dark cloud of unknowing, all other things put down and forgotten: so it is to be understood of all other virtues, and specially of charity.

For charity is nought else to bemean to thine understanding, but love of God for Himself above all creatures, and of man for God even as thyself. And that in this work God is loved for Himself, and above all creatures, it seemeth right well. For as it is said before, that the substance of this work is nought else but a naked intent directed unto God for Himself.

A naked intent I call it. For why, in this work a perfect Prentice asketh neither releasing of pain, nor increasing of meed, nor shortly to say, nought but Himself. Insomuch, that neither he recketh nor looketh after whether that he be in pain or in bliss, else that His will be fulfilled that he loveth. And thus it seemeth that in this work God is perfectly loved for Himself, and that above all creatures. For in this work, a perfect worker may not suffer the memory of the holiest creature that ever God made to commune with him.

And that in this work the second and the lower branch of charity unto thine even-christian is verily and perfectly fulfilled, it seemeth by the proof. For why, in this work a perfect worker hath no special beholding unto any man by himself, whether that he be kin or stranger, friend or foe. For all men him thinks equally kin unto him, and no man stranger. All men him thinks be his friends, and none his foes. Insomuch, that him thinks all those that pain him and do him disease in this life, they be his full and his special friends: and him thinketh, that he is stirred to will them as much good, as he would to the homeliest friend that he hath.

FIVE AND TWENTIETH CHAPTER

That in the time of this work a perfect soul hath no special beholding to any one man in this life.

I SAY not that in this work he shall have a special beholding to any man in this life, whether that he be friend or foe, kin or stranger; for that may not be if this work shall perfectly be done, as it is when all things under God be fully forgotten, as falleth for this work. But I say that he shall be made so virtuous and so charitable by the virtue of this work, that his will shall be afterwards, when he condescendeth to commune or to pray for his even-christian--not from all this work, for that may not be without great sin, but from the height of this work, the which is speedful and needful to do some time as charity asketh--as specially then directed to his foe as to his friend, his stranger as his kin. Yea, and some time more to his foe than to his friend.

Nevertheless, in this work he hath no leisure to look after who is his friend or his foe, his kin or his stranger. I say not but he shall feel some time--yea, full oft--his affection more homely to one, two, or three, than to all these other: for that is lawful to be, for many causes as charity asketh. For such an homely affection felt Christ to John and unto Mary, and unto Peter before many others. But I say, that in the time of this work shall all be equally homely unto him; for he shall feel then no cause, but only God. So that all shall be loved plainly and nakedly for God, and as well as himself.

For as all men were lost in Adam and all men that with work will witness their will of salvation are saved or shall be by virtue of the Passion of only Christ: not in the same manner, but as it were in the same manner, a soul that is perfectly disposed to this work, and oned thus to God in spirit as the proof of this work witnesseth, doth that in it is to make all men as perfect in this work as itself is. For right as if a limb of our body feeleth sore, all the tother limbs be pained and diseased therefore, or if a limb fare well, all the remnant be gladded therewith--right so is it ghostly of all the limbs of Holy Church. For Christ is our head, and we be the limbs if we be in charity: and whoso will be a perfect disciple of our Lord's, him behoveth strain up his spirit in this work ghostly, for the salvation of all his brethren and sisters in nature, as our Lord did His body on the Cross. And how? Not only for His friends and His kin and His homely lovers, but generally for all mankind, without any special beholding more to one than to another. For all that will leave sin and ask mercy shall be saved through the virtue of His Passion. And as it is said of meekness and charity, so it is to be understood of all other virtues. For all they be truly comprehended in this little pressing of love, touched before.

SIX AND TWENTIETH CHAPTER

That without full special grace, or long use in common grace, the work of this book is right travailous; and in this work, which is the work of the soul helped by grace, and which is the work of only God.

AND therefore travail fast awhile, and beat upon this high cloud of unknowing, and rest afterward. Nevertheless, a travail shall he have who so shall use him in this work; yea, surely! and that a full great travail, unless he have a more special grace, or else that he have of long time used him therein.

But I pray thee, wherein shall that travail be? Surely not in that devout stirring of love that is continually wrought in his will, not by himself, but by the hand of Almighty God: the which is evermore ready to work this work in each soul that is disposed thereto, and that doth that in him is, and hath done long time before, to enable him to this work.

But wherein then is this travail, I pray thee? Surely, this travail is all in treading down of the remembrance of all the creatures that ever God made, and in holding of them under the cloud of forgetting named before. In this is all the travail, for this is man's travail, with help of grace. And the tother above--that is to say, the stirring of love--that is the work of only God. And therefore do on thy work, and surely I promise thee He shall not fail in His.

Do on then fast; let see how thou bearest thee. Seest thou not how He standeth and abideth thee? For shame! Travail fast but awhile, and thou shalt soon be eased of the greatness and of the hardness of this travail.  For although it be hard and strait in the beginning, when thou hast no devotion; nevertheless yet after, when thou hast devotion, it shall be made full restful and full light unto thee that before was full hard. And thou shalt have either little travail or none, for then will God work sometimes all by Himself. But not ever, nor yet no long time together, but when Him list and as Him list; and then wilt thou think it merry to let Him alone.

Then will He sometimes peradventure send out a beam of ghostly light, piercing this cloud of unknowing that is betwixt thee and Him; and shew thee some of His privity, the which man may not, nor cannot speak. Then shalt thou feel thine affection inflamed with the fire of His love, far more than I can tell thee, or may or will at this time. For of that work, that falleth to only God, dare I not take upon me to speak with my blabbering fleshly tongue: and shortly to say, although I durst I would do not. But of that work that falleth to man when he feeleth him stirred and helped by grace, list me well tell thee: for therein is the less peril of the two.

SEVEN AND TWENTIETH CHAPTER

Who should work in the gracious work of this book.

FIRST and foremost, I will tell thee who should work in this work, and when, and by what means: and what discretion thou shalt have in it. If thou asketh me who shall work thus, I answer thee--all that have forsaken the world in a true will, and thereto that give them not to active life, but to that life that is called contemplative life. All those should work in this grace and in this work, whatsoever that they be; whether they have been accustomed sinners or none.

EIGHT AND TWENTIETH CHAPTER

That a man should not presume to work in this work before the time that he be lawfully cleansed in conscience of all his special deeds of sin.

BUT if thou asketh me when they should work in this work, then I answer thee and I say: that not ere they have cleansed their conscience of all their special deeds of sin done before, after the common ordinance of Holy Church.

For in this work, a soul drieth up in it all the root and the ground of sin that will always live in it after confession, be it never so busy. And, therefore, whoso will travail in this work, let him first cleanse his conscience; and afterward when he hath done that in him is lawfully, let him dispose him boldly but meekly thereto. And let him think, that he hath full long been holden therefrom. For this is that work in the which a soul should travail all his lifetime, though he had never sinned deadly. And the whiles that a soul is dwelling in this deadly flesh, it shall evermore see and feel this cumbrous cloud of unknowing betwixt him and God. And not only that, but in pain of the original sin it shall evermore see and feel that some of all the creatures that ever God made, or some of their works, will evermore press in remembrance betwixt it and God. And this is the right wisdom of God, that man, when he had sovereignty and lordship of all other creatures, because that he wilfully made him underling to the stirring of his subjects, leaving the bidding of God and his Maker; that right so after, when he would fulfil the bidding of God, he saw and felt all the creatures that should be beneath him, proudly press above him, betwixt him and his God.

NINE AND TWENTIETH CHAPTER

That a man should bidingly travail in this work, and suffer the pain thereof, and judge no man.

AND therefore, whoso coveteth to come to cleanness that he lost for sin, and to win to that well-being where all woe wanteth, him behoveth bidingly to travail in this work, and suffer the pain thereof, whatsoever that he be: whether he have been an accustomed sinner or none.

All men have travail in this work; both sinners, and innocents that never sinned greatly. But far greater travail have those that have been sinners than they that have been none; and that is great reason. Nevertheless, ofttimes it befalleth that some that have been horrible and accustomed sinners come sooner to the perfection of this work than those that have been none. And this is the merciful miracle of our Lord, that so specially giveth His grace, to the wondering of all this world. Now truly I hope that on Doomsday it shall be fair, when that God shall be seen clearly and all His gifts. Then shall some that now be despised and set at little or nought as common sinners, and peradventure some that now be horrible sinners, sit full seemly with saints in His sight: when some of those that seem now full holy and be worshipped of men as angels, and some of those yet peradventure, that never yet sinned deadly, shall sit full sorry amongst hell caves.

Hereby mayest thou see that no man should be judged of other here in this life, for good nor for evil that they do. Nevertheless deeds may lawfully be judged, but not the man, whether they be good or evil. 

THIRTIETH CHAPTER

Who should blame and condemn other men's defaults.

BUT I pray thee, of whom shall men's deeds be judged?

Surely of them that have power, and cure of their souls: either given openly by the statute and the ordinance of Holy Church, or else privily in spirit at the special stirring of the Holy Ghost in perfect charity. Each man beware, that he presume not to take upon him to blame and condemn other men's defaults, but if he feel verily that he be stirred of the Holy Ghost within in his work; for else may he full lightly err in his dooms. And therefore beware: judge thyself as thee list betwixt thee and thy God or thy ghostly father, and let other men alone.

ONE AND THIRTIETH CHAPTER

How a man should have him in beginning of this work against all thoughts and stirrings of sin.

AND from the time that thou feelest that thou hast done that in thee is, lawfully to amend thee at the doom of Holy Church, then shalt thou set thee sharply to work in this work. And then if it so be that thy foredone special deeds will always press in thy remembrance betwixt thee and thy God, or any new thought or stirring of any sin either, thou shalt stalwartly step above them with a fervent stirring of love, and tread them down under thy feet. And try to cover them with a thick cloud of forgetting, as they never had been done in this life of thee nor of other man either. And if they oft rise, oft put them down: and shortly to say, as oft as they rise, as oft put them down. And if thee think that the travail be great, thou mayest seek arts and wiles and privy subtleties of ghostly devices to put them away: the which subtleties be better learned of God by the proof than of any man in this life.

TWO AND THIRTIETH CHAPTER

Of two ghostly devices that be helpful to a ghostly beginner in the work of this book.

NEVERTHELESS, somewhat of this subtlety shall I tell thee as me think. Prove thou and do better, if thou better mayest. Do that in thee is, to let be as thou wist not that they press so fast upon thee betwixt thee and thy God. And try to look as it were over their shoulders, seeking another thing: the which thing is God, enclosed in a cloud of unknowing. And if thou do thus, I trow that within short time thou shalt be eased of thy travail. I trow that an this device be well and truly conceived, it is nought else but a longing desire unto God, to feel Him and see Him as it may be here: and such a desire is charity, and it obtaineth always to be eased.

Another device there is: prove thou if thou wilt. When thou feelest that thou mayest on nowise put them down, cower thou down under them as a caitiff and a coward overcome in battle, and think that it is but a folly to thee to strive any longer with them, and therefore thou yieldest thee to God in the hands of thine enemies. And feel then thyself as thou wert foredone for ever. Take good heed of this device I pray thee, for me think in the proof of this device thou shouldest melt all to water. And surely me think an this device be truly conceived it is nought else but a true knowing and a feeling of thyself as thou art, a wretch and a filthy, far worse than nought: the which knowing and feeling is meekness. And this meekness obtaineth to have God Himself mightily descending, to venge thee of thine enemies, for to take thee up, and cherishingly dry thine ghostly eyen; as the father doth the child that is in point to perish under the mouths of wild swine or wode biting bears.

THREE AND THIRTIETH CHAPTER

That in this work a soul is cleansed both of his special sins and of the pain of them, and yet how there is no perfect rest in this life.

MORE devices tell I thee not at this time; for an thou have grace to feel the proof of these, I trow that thou shalt know better to learn me than I thee. For although it should be thus, truly yet me think that I am full far therefrom. And therefore I pray thee help me, and do thou for thee and for me.

Do on then, and travail fast awhile, I pray thee, and suffer meekly the pain if thou mayest not soon win to these arts. For truly it is thy purgatory, and then when thy pain is all passed and thy devices be given of God, and graciously gotten in custom; then it is no doubt to me that thou art cleansed not only of sin, but also of the pain of sin. I mean, of the pain of thy special foredone sins, and not of the pain of the original sin. For that pain shall always last on thee to thy death day, be thou never so busy. Nevertheless, it shall but little provoke thee, in comparison of this pain of thy special sins; and yet shalt thou not be without great travail. For out of this original sin will all day spring new and fresh stirrings of sin: the which thee behoveth all day to smite down, and be busy to shear away with a sharp double-edged dreadful sword of discretion. And hereby mayest thou see and learn, that there is no soothfast security, nor yet no true rest in this life.

Nevertheless, herefore shalt thou not go back, nor yet be overfeared of thy failing. For an it so be that thou mayest have grace to destroy the pain of thine foredone special deeds, in the manner before said--or better if thou better mayest--sure be thou, that the pain of the original sin, or else the new stirrings of sin that be to come, shall but right little be able to provoke thee.

FOUR AND THIRTIETH CHAPTER

That God giveth this grace freely without any means, and that it may not be come to with means.

AND if thou askest me by what means thou shalt come to this work, I beseech Almighty God of His great grace and His great courtesy to teach thee Himself. For truly I do thee well to wit that I cannot tell thee, and that is no wonder. For why, that is the work of only God, specially wrought in what soul that Him liketh without any desert of the same soul. For without it no saint nor no angel can think to desire it. And I trow that our Lord as specially and as oft--yea! and more specially and more oft--will vouchsafe to work this work in them that have been accustomed sinners, than in some other, that never grieved Him greatly in comparison of them. And this will He do, for He will be seen all-merciful and almighty; and for He will be seen to work as Him list, where Him list, and when Him list.

And yet He giveth not this grace, nor worketh not this work, in any soul that is unable thereto. And yet, there is no soul without this grace, able to have this grace: none, whether it be a sinner's soul or an innocent soul. For neither it is given for innocence, nor withholden for sin. Take good heed, that I say withholden, and not withdrawn. Beware of error here, I pray thee; for ever, the nearer men touch the truth, more wary men behoveth to be of error. I mean but well: if thou canst not conceive it, lay it by thy side till God come and teach thee. Do then so, and hurt thee not.

Beware of pride, for it blasphemeth God in His gifts, and boldeneth sinners.  Wert thou verily meek, thou shouldest feel of this work as I say: that God giveth it freely without any desert. The condition of this work is such, that the presence thereof enableth a soul for to have it and for to feel it. And that ableness may no soul have without it. The ableness to this work is oned to the work's self without departing; so that whoso feeleth this work is able thereto, and none else. Insomuch, that without this work a soul is as it were dead, and cannot covet it nor desire it. Forasmuch as thou willest it and desirest it, so much hast thou of it, and no more nor no less: and yet is it no will, nor no desire, but a thing thou wottest never what, that stirreth thee to will and desire thou wottest never what. Reck thee never if thou wittest no more, I pray thee: but do forth ever more and more, so that thou be ever doing.

And if I shall shortlier say, let that thing do with thee and lead thee whereso it list. Let it be the worker, and you but the sufferer: do but look upon it, and let it alone. Meddle thee not therewith as thou wouldest help it, for dread lest thou spill all. Be thou but the tree, and let it be the wright: be thou but the house, and let it be the husbandman dwelling therein. Be blind in this time, and shear away covetise of knowing, for it will more let thee than help thee. It sufficeth enough unto thee, that thou feelest thee stirred likingly with a thing thou wottest never what, else that in this stirring thou hast no special thought of any thing under God; and that thine intent be nakedly directed unto God.

And if it be thus, trust then steadfastly that it is only God that stirreth thy will and thy desire plainly by Himself, without means either on His part or on thine. And be not feared, for the devil may not come so near. He may never come to stir a man's will, but occasionally and by means from afar, be he never so subtle a devil.  For sufficiently and without means may no good angel stir thy will: nor, shortly to say, nothing but only God. So that thou mayest conceive here by these words somewhat (but much more clearly by the proof), that in this work men shall use no means: nor yet men may not come thereto with means. All good means hang upon it, and it on no means; nor no means may lead thereto.

FIVE AND THIRTIETH CHAPTER

Of three means in the which a contemplative Prentice should be occupied, in reading, thinking, and praying.

NEVERTHELESS, means there be in the which a contemplative prentice should be occupied, the which be these--Lesson, Meditation, and Orison: or else to thine understanding they may be called--Reading, Thinking, and Praying. Of these three thou shalt find written in another book of another man's work, much better than I can tell thee; and therefore it needeth not here to tell thee of the qualities of them. But this may I tell thee: these three be so coupled together, that unto them that be beginners and profiters--but not to them that be perfect, yea, as it may be here--thinking may not goodly be gotten, without reading or hearing coming before. All is one in manner, reading and hearing: clerks reading on books, and lewd men reading on clerks when they hear them preach the word of God. Nor prayer may not goodly be gotten in beginners and profiters, without thinking coming before.

See by the proof. In this same course, God's word either written or spoken is likened to a mirror. Ghostly, the eyes of thy soul is thy reason; thy conscience is thy visage ghostly. And right as thou seest that if a foul spot be in thy bodily visage, the eyes of the same visage may not see that spot nor wit where it is, without a mirror or a teaching of another than itself; right so it is ghostly, without reading or hearing of God's word it is impossible to man's understanding that a soul that is blinded in custom of sin should see the foul spot in his conscience.

And so following, when a man seeth in a bodily or ghostly mirror, or wots by other men's teaching, whereabouts the foul spot is on his visage, either bodily or ghostly; then at first, and not before, he runneth to the well to wash him. If this spot be any special sin, then is this well Holy Church, and this water confession, with the circumstances. If it be but a blind root and a stirring of sin, then is this well merciful God, and this water prayer, with the circumstances. And thus mayest thou see that no thinking may goodly be gotten in beginners and profiters, without reading or hearing coming before: nor praying without thinking.

SIX AND THIRTIETH CHAPTER

Of the meditations of them that continually travail in the work of this book.

BUT it is not so with them that continually work in the work of this book. For their meditations be but as they were sudden conceits and blind feelings of their own wretchedness, or of the goodness of God; without any means of reading or hearing coming before, and without any special beholding of any thing under God. These sudden conceits and these blind feelings be sooner learned of God than of man. I care not though thou haddest nowadays none other meditations of thine own wretchedness, nor of the goodness of God (I mean if thou feel thee thus stirred by grace and by counsel), but such as thou mayest have in this word SIN, and in this word GOD: or in such other, which as thee list. Not breaking nor expounding these words with curiosity of wit, in beholding after the qualities of these words, as thou wouldest by that beholding increase thy devotion. I trow it should never be so in this case and in this work. But hold them all whole these words; and mean by sin, a lump, thou wottest never what, none other thing but thyself. Me think that in this blind beholding of sin, thus congealed in a lump, none other thing than thyself, it should be no need to bind a madder thing, than thou shouldest be in this time. And yet peradventure, whoso looked upon thee should think thee full soberly disposed in thy body, without any changing of countenance; but sitting or going or lying, or leaning or standing or kneeling, whether thou wert, in a full sober restfulness.

SEVEN AND THIRTIETH CHAPTER

Of the special prayers of them that be continual workers in the word of this book

AND right as the meditations of them that continually work in this grace and in this work rise suddenly without any means, right so do their prayers. I mean of their special prayers, not of those prayers that be ordained of Holy Church. For they that be true workers in this work, they worship no prayer so much: and therefore they do them, in the form and in the statute that they be ordained of holy fathers before us. But their special prayers rise evermore suddenly unto God, without any means or any premeditation in special coming before, or going therewith.

And if they be in words, as they be but seldom, then be they but in full few words: yea, and in ever the fewer the better. Yea, and if it be but a little word of one syllable, me think it better than of two: and more, too, according to the work of the spirit, since it so is that a ghostly worker in this work should evermore be in the highest and the sovereignest point of the spirit. That this be sooth, see by ensample in the course of nature. A man or a woman, afraid with any sudden chance of fire or of man's death or what else that it be, suddenly in the height of his spirit, he is driven upon haste and upon need for to cry or for to pray after help. Yea, how? Surely, not in many words, nor yet in one word of two syllables. And why is that? For him thinketh it over long tarrying for to declare the need and the work of his spirit. And therefore he bursteth up hideously with a great spirit, and cryeth a little word, but of one syllable: as is this word "fire," or this word "out!"

And right as this little word "fire" stirreth rather and pierceth more hastily the ears of the hearers, so doth a little word of one syllable when it is not only spoken or thought, but privily meant in the deepness of spirit; the which is the height, for in ghostliness all is one, height and deepness, length and breadth. And rather it pierceth the ears of Almighty God than doth any long psalter unmindfully mumbled in the teeth. And herefore it is written, that short prayer pierceth heaven.

EIGHT AND THIRTIETH CHAPTER

How and why that short prayer pierceth heaven

AND why pierceth it heaven, this little short prayer of one little syllable? Surely because it is prayed with a full spirit, in the height and in the deepness, in the length and in the breadth of his spirit that prayeth it. In the height it is, for it is with all the might of the spirit. In the deepness it is, for in this little syllable be contained all the wits of the spirit. In the length it is, for might it ever feel as it feeleth, ever would it cry as it cryeth. In the breadth it is, for it willeth the same to all other that it willeth to itself.

In this time it is that a soul hath comprehended after the lesson of Saint Paul with all saints--not fully, but in manner and in part, as it is according unto this work--which is the length and the breadth, the height and the deepness of everlasting and all-lovely, almighty, and all-witting God. The everlastingness of God is His length. His love is His breadth. His might is His height. And His wisdom is His deepness. No wonder though a soul that is thus nigh conformed by grace to the image and the likeness of God his maker, be soon heard of God! Yea, though it be a full sinful soul, the which is to God as it were an enemy; an he might through grace come for to cry such a little syllable in the height and the deepness, the length and the breadth of his spirit, yet he should for the hideous noise of his cry be always heard and helped of God.

See by ensample. He that is thy deadly enemy, an thou hear him so afraid that he cry in the height of his spirit this little word "fire," or this word "out"; yet without any beholding to him for he is thine enemy, but for pure pity in thine heart stirred and raised with the dolefulness of this cry, thou risest up--yea, though it be about midwinter's night--and helpest him to slack his fire, or for to still him and rest him in his distress. Oh, Lord! since a man may be made so merciful in grace, to have so much mercy and so much pity of his enemy, notwithstanding his enmity, what pity and what mercy shall God have then of a ghostly cry in soul, made and wrought in the height and the deepness, the length and the breadth of his spirit; the which hath all by nature that man hath by grace? And much more, surely without comparison, much more mercy will He have; since it is, that that thing that is so had by nature is nearer to an eternal thing than that which is had by grace. 

NINE AND THIRTIETH CHAPTER

How a perfect worker shall pray, and what prayer is in itself; and if a man shall pray in words, which words accord them most to the property of prayer.

AND therefore it is, to pray in the height and the deepness, the length and the breadth of our spirit. And that not in many words, but in a little word of one syllable.

And what shall this word be? Surely such a word as is best according unto the property of prayer. And what word is that? Let us first see what prayer is properly in itself, and thereafter we may clearlier know what word will best accord to the property of prayer.

Prayer in itself properly is not else, but a devout intent direct unto God, for getting of good and removing of evil. And then, since it so is that all evil be comprehended in sin, either by cause or by being, let us therefore when we will intentively pray for removing of evil either say, or think, or mean, nought else nor no more words, but this little word "sin." And if we will intentively pray for getting of good, let us cry, either with word or with thought or with desire, nought else nor no more words, but this word "God." For why, in God be all good, both by cause and by being. Have no marvel why I set these words forby all other. For if I could find any shorter words, so fully comprehending in them all good and all evil, as these two words do, or if I had been learned of God to take any other words either, I would then have taken them and left these; and so I counsel that thou do.

Study thou not for no words, for so shouldest thou never come to thy purpose nor to this work, for it is never got by study, but all only by grace. And therefore take thou none other words to pray in, although I set these here, but such as thou art stirred of God for to take. Nevertheless, if God stir thee to take these, I counsel not that thou leave them; I mean if thou shalt pray in words, and else not. For why, they be full short words. But although the shortness of prayer be greatly commended here, nevertheless the oftness of prayer is never the rather refrained. For as it is said before, it is prayed in the length of the spirit; so that it should never cease, till the time were that it had fully gotten that that it longed after. Ensample of this have we in a man or a woman afraid in the manner beforesaid. For we see well, that they cease never crying on this little word "out," or this little word "fire," ere the time be that they have in great part gotten help of their grief.

FORTIETH CHAPTER

That in the time of this work a soul hath no special beholding to any vice in itself nor to any virtue in itself.

DO thou, on the same manner, fill thy spirit with the ghostly bemeaning of this word "sin," and without any special beholding unto any kind of sin, whether it be venial or deadly: Pride, Wrath, or Envy, Covetyse, Sloth, Gluttony, or Lechery. What recks it in contemplatives, what sin that it be, or how muckle a sin that it be? For all sins them thinketh--I mean for the time of this work--alike great in themselves, when the least sin departeth them from God, and letteth them of their ghostly peace.

And feel sin a lump, thou wottest never what, but none other thing than thyself. And cry then ghostly ever upon one: a Sin, sin, sin! Out, out, out!" This ghostly cry is better learned of God by the proof, than of any man by word. For it is best when it is in pure spirit, without special thought or any pronouncing of word; unless it be any seldom time, when for abundance of spirit it bursteth up into word, so that the body and the soul be both filled with sorrow and cumbering of sin.

On the same manner shalt thou do with this little word "God." Fill thy spirit with the ghostly bemeaning of it without any special beholding to any of His works--whether they be good, better, or best of all--bodily or ghostly, or to any virtue that may be wrought in man's soul by any grace; not looking after whether it be meekness or charity, patience or abstinence, hope, faith, or soberness, chastity or wilful poverty. What recks this in contemplatives? For all virtues they find and feel in God; for in Him is all thing, both by cause and by being. For they think that an they had God they had all good, and therefore they covet nothing with special beholding, but only good God. Do thou on the same manner as far forth as thou mayest by grace: and mean God all, and all God, so that nought work in thy wit and in thy will, but only God.

And because that ever the whiles thou livest in this wretched life, thee behoveth always feel in some part this foul stinking lump of sin, as it were oned and congealed with the substance of thy being, therefore shalt thou changeably mean these two words--sin and God. With this general knowing, that an thou haddest God, then shouldest thou lack sin: and mightest thou lack sin, then shouldest thou have God.

ONE AND FORTIETH CHAPTER

That in all other works beneath this, men should keep discretion; but in this none.

AND furthermore, if thou ask me what discretion thou shalt have in this work, then I answer thee and say, right none! For in all thine other doings thou shalt have discretion, as in eating and in drinking, and in sleeping and in keeping of thy body from outrageous cold or heat, and in long praying or reading, or in communing in speech with thine even-christian. In all these shalt thou keep discretion, that they be neither too much nor too little. But in this work shalt thou hold no measure: for I would that thou shouldest never cease of this work the whiles thou livest.

I say not that thou shalt continue ever therein alike fresh, for that may not be. For sometime sickness and other unordained dispositions in body and in soul, with many other needfulness to nature, will let thee full much, and ofttimes draw thee down from the height of this working. But I say that thou shouldest evermore have it either in earnest or in game; that is to say, either in work or in will. And therefore for God's love be wary with sickness as much as thou mayest goodly, so that thou be not the cause of thy feebleness, as far as thou mayest. For I tell thee truly, that this work asketh a full great restfulness, and a full whole and clean disposition, as well in body as in soul.

And therefore for God's love govern thee discreetly in body and in soul, and get thee thine health as much as thou mayest. And if sickness come against thy power, have patience and abide meekly God's mercy: and all is then good enough. For I tell thee truly, that ofttimes patience in sickness and in other diverse tribulations pleaseth God much more than any liking devotion that thou mayest have in thy health.

TWO AND FORTIETH CHAPTER

That by indiscretion in this, men shall keep discretion in all other things; and surely else never

BUT peradventure thou askest me, how thou shalt govern thee discreetly in meat and in sleep, and in all these other. And hereto I think to answer thee right shortly: "Get that thou get mayest." Do this work evermore without ceasing and without discretion, and thou shalt well ken begin and cease in all other works with a great discretion. For I may not trow that a soul continuing in this work night and day without discretion, should err in any of these outward doings; and else, me think that he should always err.

And therefore, an I might get a waking and a busy beholding to this ghostly work within in my soul, I would then have a heedlessness in eating and in drinking, in sleeping and in speaking, and in all mine outward doings. For surely I trow I should rather come to discretion in them by such a heedlessness, than by any busy beholding to the same things, as I would by that beholding set a mark and a measure by them. Truly I should never bring it so about, for ought that I could do or say. Say what men say will, and let the proof witness. And therefore lift up thine heart with a blind stirring of love; and mean now sin, and now God. God wouldest thou have, and sin wouldest thou lack. God wanteth thee; and sin art thou sure of. Now good God help thee, for now hast thou need!

THREE AND FORTIETH CHAPTER

That all witting and feeling of a man's own being must needs be lost if the perfection of this word shall verily be felt in any soul in this life.

LOOK that nought work in thy wit nor in thy will but only God. And try for to fell all witting and feeling of ought under God, and tread all down full far under the cloud of forgetting. And thou shalt understand, that thou shalt not only in this work forget all other creatures than thyself, or their deeds or thine, but also thou shalt in this work forget both thyself and also thy deeds for God, as well as all other creatures and their deeds. For it is the condition of a perfect lover, not only to love that thing that he loveth more than himself; but also in a manner for to hate himself for that thing that he loveth.

Thus shalt thou do with thyself: thou shalt loathe and be weary with all that thing that worketh in thy wit and in thy will unless it be only God. For why, surely else, whatsoever that it be, it is betwixt thee and thy God. And no wonder though thou loathe and hate for to think on thyself, when thou shalt always feel sin, a foul stinking lump thou wottest never what, betwixt thee and thy God: the which lump is none other thing than thyself. For thou shalt think it oned and congealed with the substance of thy being: yea, as it were without departing.

And therefore break down all witting and feeling of all manner of creatures; but most busily of thyself. For on the witting and the feeling of thyself hangeth witting and feeling of all other creatures; for in regard of it, all other creatures be lightly forgotten. For, an thou wilt busily set thee to the proof, thou shalt find when thou hast forgotten all other creatures and all their works--yea, and thereto all thine own works--that there shall live yet after, betwixt thee and thy God, a naked witting and a feeling of thine own being: the which witting and feeling behoveth always be destroyed, ere the time be that thou feel soothfastly the perfection of this work.

FOUR AND FORTIETH CHAPTER

How a soul shall dispose it on its own part, for to destroy all witting and feeling of its own being.

BUT now thou askest me, how thou mayest destroy this naked witting and feeling of thine own being. For peradventure thou thinkest that an it were destroyed, all other lettings were destroyed: and if thou thinkest thus, thou thinkest right truly. But to this I answer thee and I say, that without a full special grace full freely given of God, and thereto a full according ableness to receive this grace on thy part, this naked witting and feeling of thy being may on nowise be destroyed. And this ableness is nought else but a strong and a deep ghostly sorrow.

But in this sorrow needeth thee to have discretion, on this manner: thou shalt be wary in the time of this sorrow, that thou neither too rudely strain thy body nor thy spirit, but sit full still, as it were in a sleeping device, all forsobbed and forsunken in sorrow. This is true sorrow; this is perfect sorrow; and well were him that might win to this sorrow. All men have matter of sorrow: but most specially he feeleth matter of sorrow, that wotteth and feeleth that he is. All other sorrows be unto this in comparison but as it were game to earnest. For he may make sorrow earnestly, that wotteth and feeleth not only what he is, but that he is. And whoso felt never this sorrow, he may make sorrow: for why, he felt yet never perfect sorrow. This sorrow, when it is had, cleanseth the soul, not only of sin, but also of pain that it hath deserved for sin; and thereto it maketh a soul able to receive that joy, the which reeveth from a man all witting and feeling of his being.

This sorrow, if it be truly conceived, is full of holy desire: and else might never man in this life abide it nor bear it. For were it not that a soul were somewhat fed with a manner of comfort of his right working, else should he not be able to bear the pain that he hath of the witting and feeling of his being. For as oft as he would have a true witting and a feeling of his God in purity of spirit, as it may be here, and sithen feeleth that he may not--for he findeth evermore his witting and his feeling as it were occupied and filled with a foul stinking lump of himself, the which behoveth always be hated and be despised and forsaken, if he shall be God's perfect disciple learned of Himself in the mount of perfection--so oft, he goeth nigh mad for sorrow. Insomuch, that he weepeth and waileth, striveth, curseth, and banneth; and shortly to say, him thinketh that he beareth so heavy a burthen of himself that he careth never what betides him, so that God were pleased. And yet in all this sorrow he desireth not to unbe: for that were devil's madness and despite unto God. But him listeth right well to be; and he intendeth full heartily thanking to God, for the worthiness and the gift of his being, for all that he desire unceasingly for to lack the witting and the feeling of his being.

This sorrow and this desire behoveth every soul have and feel in itself, either in this manner or in another; as God vouchsafeth for to learn to His ghostly disciples after His well willing and their according ableness in body and in soul, in degree and disposition, ere the time be that they may perfectly be oned unto God in perfect charity--such as may be had here--if God vouchsafeth.

FIVE AND FORTIETH CHAPTER

A good declaring of some certain deceits that may befall in this work.

BUT one thing I tell thee, that in this work may a young disciple that hath not yet been well used and proved in ghostly working, full lightly be deceived; and, but he be soon wary, and have grace to leave off and meek him to counsel, peradventure be destroyed in his bodily powers and fall into fantasy in his ghostly wits. And all this is along of pride, and of fleshliness and curiosity of wit.

And on this manner may this deceit befall. A young man or a woman new set to the school of devotion heareth this sorrow and this desire be read and spoken: how that a man shall lift up his heart unto God, and unceasingly desire for to feel the love of his God. And as fast in a curiosity of wit they conceive these words not ghostly as they be meant, but fleshly and bodily; and travail their fleshly hearts outrageously in their breasts. And what for lacking of grace and pride and curiosity in themselves, they strain their veins and their bodily powers so beastly and so rudely, that within short time they fall either into frenzies, weariness, and a manner of unlisty feebleness in body and in soul, the which maketh them to wend out of themselves and seek some false and some vain fleshly and bodily comfort without, as it were for recreation of body and of spirit: or else, if they fall not in this, else they merit for ghostly blindness, and for fleshly chafing of their nature in their bodily breasts in the time of this feigned beastly and not ghostly working, for to have their breasts either enflamed with an unkindly heat of nature caused of misruling of their bodies or of this feigned working, or else they conceive a false heat wrought by the Fiend, their ghostly enemy, caused of their pride and of their fleshliness and their curiosity of wit. And yet peradventure they ween it be the fire of love, gotten and kindled by the grace and the goodness of the Holy Ghost. Truly, of this deceit, and of the branches thereof, spring many mischiefs: much hypocrisy, much heresy, and much error. For as fast after such a false feeling cometh a false knowing in the Fiend's school, right as after a true feeling cometh a true knowing in God's school. For I tell thee truly, that the devil hath his contemplatives as God hath His.

This deceit of false feeling, and of false knowing following thereon, hath diverse and wonderful variations, after the diversity of states and the subtle conditions of them that be deceived: as hath the true feeling and knowing of them that be saved. But I set no more deceits here but those with the which I trow thou shalt be assailed if ever thou purpose thee to work in this work. For what should it profit to thee to wit how these great clerks, and men and women of other degrees than thou art, be deceived? Surely right nought; and therefore I tell thee no more but those that fall unto thee if thou travail in this work. And therefore I tell thee this, for thou shalt be wary therewith in thy working, if thou be assailed therewith.

SIX AND FORTIETH CHAPTER

A good teaching how a man shall flee these deceits, and work more with a listiness of spirit, than with any boisterousness of body

AND therefore for God's love be wary in this work, and strain not thine heart in thy breast over-rudely nor out of measure; but work more with a list than with any worthless strength. For ever the more Mistily, the more meekly and ghostly: and ever the more rudely, the more bodily and beastly. And therefore be wary, for surely what beastly heart that presumeth for to touch the high mount of this work, it shall be beaten away with stones. Stones be hard and dry in their kind, and they hurt full sore where they hit. And surely such rude strainings be full hard fastened in fleshliness of bodily feeling, and full dry from any witting of grace; and they hurt full sore the silly soul, and make it fester in fantasy feigned of fiends. And therefore be wary with this beastly rudeness, and learn thee to love listily, with a soft and a demure behaviour as well in body as in soul; and abide courteously and meekly the will of our Lord, and snatch not overhastily, as it were a greedy greyhound, hunger thee never so sore. And, gamingly be it said, I counsel that thou do that in thee is, refraining the rude and the great stirring of thy spirit, right as thou on nowise wouldest let Him wit how fain thou wouldest see Him, and have Him or feel Him.

This is childishly and playingly spoken, thee think peradventure. But I trow whoso had grace to do and feel as I say, he should feel good gamesome play with Him, as the father doth with the child, kissing and clipping, that well were him so.

SEVEN AND FORTIETH CHAPTER

A slight teaching of this work in purity of spirit; declaring how that on one manner a soul should shed his desire unto God, and on ye contrary unto man.

LOOK thou have no wonder why that I speak thus childishly, and as it were follily and lacking natural discretion; for I do it for certain reasons, and as me thinketh that I have been stirred many days, both to feel thus and think thus and say thus, as well to some other of my special friends in God, as I am now unto thee.

And one reason is this, why that I bid thee hide from God the desire of thine heart. For I hope it should more clearly come to His knowing, for thy profit and in fulfilling of thy desire, by such an hiding, than it should by any other manner of shewing that I trow thou couldest yet shew. And another reason is, for I would by such a hid shewing bring thee out of the boisterousness of bodily feeling into the purity and deepness of ghostly feeling; and so furthermore at the last to help thee to knit the ghostly knot of burning love betwixt thee and thy God, in ghostly onehead and according of will.

Thou wottest well this, that God is a Spirit; and whoso should be oned unto Him, it behoveth to be in soothfastness and deepness of spirit, full far from any feigned bodily thing. Sooth it is that all thing is known of God, and nothing may be hid from His witting, neither bodily thing nor ghostly. But more openly is that thing known and shewed unto Him, the which is hid in deepness of spirit, sith it so is that He is a Spirit, than is anything that is mingled with any manner of bodilyness. For all bodily thing is farther from God by the course of nature than any ghostly thing. By this reason it seemeth, that the whiles our desire is mingled with any matter of bodilyness, as it is when we stress and strain us in spirit and in body together, so long it is farther from God than it should be, an it were done more devoutly and more listily in soberness and in purity and in deepness of spirit.

And here mayest thou see somewhat and in part the reason why that I bid thee so childishly cover and hide the stirring of thy desire from God. And yet I bid thee not plainly hide it; for that were the bidding of a fool, for to bid thee plainly do that which on nowise may be done. But I bid thee do that in thee is to hide it. And why bid I thus? Surely because I would that thou cast it into deepness of spirit, far from any rude mingling of any bodilyness, the which would make it less ghostly and farther from God inasmuch: and because I wot well that ever the more that thy spirit hath of ghostliness, the less it hath of bodilyness and the nearer it is to God, and the better it pleaseth Him and the more clearly it may be seen of Him. Not that His sight may be any time or in any thing more clear than in another, for it is evermore unchangeable: but because it is more like unto Him, when it is in purity of spirit, for He is a Spirit.

Another reason there is, why that I bid thee do that in thee is to let Him not wit: for thou and I and many such as we be, we be so able to conceive a thing bodily the which is said ghostly, that peradventure an I had bidden thee shew unto God the stirring of thine heart, thou shouldest have made a bodily shewing unto Him, either in gesture or in voice, or in word, or in some other rude bodily straining, as it is when thou shalt shew a thing that is hid in thine heart to a bodily man: and insomuch thy work should have been impure. For on one manner shall a thing be shewed to man, and on another manner unto God.

EIGHT AND FORTIETH CHAPTER

How God will be served both with body and with soul, and reward men in both; and how men shall know when all those sounds and sweetness that fall into the body in time of prayer be both good and evil

I SAY not this because I will that thou desist any time, if thou be stirred for to pray with thy mouth, or for to burst out for abundance of devotion in thy spirit for to speak unto God as unto man, and say some good word as thou feelest thee stirred: as be these, "Good JESU! Fair JESU! Sweet JESU!" and all such other. Nay, God forbid thou take it thus! For truly I mean not thus, and God forbid that I should depart that which God hath coupled, the body and the spirit. For God will be served with body and with soul both together, as seemly is, and will reward man his meed in bliss, both in body and in soul. And in earnest of that meed, sometimes He will enflame the body of devout servants of His here in this life: not once or twice, but peradventure right oft and as Him liketh, with full wonderful sweetness and comforts. Of the which, some be not coming from without into the body by the windows of our wits, but from within; rising and springing of abundance of ghostly gladness, and of true devotion in the spirit. Such a comfort and such a sweetness shall not be had suspect: and shortly to say, I trow that he that feeleth it may not have it suspect.

But all other comforts, sounds and gladness and sweetness, that come from without suddenly and thou wottest never whence, I pray thee have them suspect. For they may be both good and evil; wrought by a good angel if they be good, and by an evil angel if they be evil. And this may on nowise be evil, if their deceits of curiosity of wit, and of unordained straining of the fleshly heart be removed as I learn thee, or better if thou better mayest. And why is that? Surely for the cause of this comfort; that is to say, the devout stirring of love, the which dwelleth in pure spirit. It is wrought of the hand of Almighty God without means, and therefore it behoveth always be far from any fantasy, or any false opinion that may befall to man in this life.

And of the tother comforts and sounds and sweetness, how thou shouldest wit whether they be good or evil I think not to tell thee at this time: and that is because me think that it needeth not. For why, thou mayest find it written in another place of another man's work, a thousandfold better than I can say or write: and so mayest thou this that I set here, far better than it is here. But what thereof? Therefore shall I not let, nor it shall not noye me, to fulfil the desire and the stirring of thine heart; the which thou hast shewed thee to have unto me before this time in thy words, and now in thy deeds.

But this may I say thee of those sounds and of those sweetnesses, that come in by the windows of thy wits, the which may be both good and evil. Use thee continually in this blind and devout and this Misty stirring of love that I tell thee: and then I have no doubt, that it shall not well be able to tell thee of them. And if thou yet be in part astonished of them at the first time, and that is because that they be uncouth, yet this shall it do thee: it shall bind thine heart so fast, that thou shalt on nowise give full great credence to them, ere the time be that thou be either certified of them within wonderfully by the Spirit of God, or else without by counsel of some discreet father.

NINE AND FORTIETH CHAPTER

The substance of all perfection is nought else but a good will; and how that all sounds and comfort and sweetness that may befall in this life be to it but as it were accidents.

AND therefore I pray thee, lean listily to this meek stirring of love in thine heart, and follow thereafter: for it will be thy guide in this life and bring thee to bliss in the tother. It is the substance of all good living, and without it no good work may be begun nor ended. It is nought else but a good and an according will unto God, and a manner of well-pleasedness and a gladness that thou feelest in thy will of all that He doth.

Such a good will is the substance of all perfection. All sweetness and comforts, bodily or ghostly, be to this but as it were accidents, be they never so holy; and they do but hang on this good will. Accidents I call them, for they may be had and lacked without breaking asunder of it. I mean in this life, but it is not so in the bliss of heaven; for there shall they be oned with the substance without departing, as shall the body in the which they work with the soul. So that the substance of them here is but a good ghostly will. And surely I trow that he that feeleth the perfection of this will, as it may be had here, there may no sweetness nor no comfort fall to any man in this life, that he is not as fain and as glad to lack it at God's will, as to feel it and have it.

FIFTIETH CHAPTER

Which is chaste love; and how in some creatures such sensible comforts be but seldom, and in some right oft.

AND hereby mayest thou see that we should direct all our beholding unto this meek stirring of love in our will. And in all other sweetness and comforts, bodily or ghostly, be they never so liking nor so holy, if it be courteous and seemly to say, we should have a manner of recklessness. If they come, welcome them: but lean not too much on them for fear of feebleness, for it will take full much of thy powers to bide any long time in such sweet feelings and weepings. And peradventure thou mayest be stirred for to love God for them, and that shalt thou feel by this: if thou grumble overmuch when they be away. And if it be thus, thy love is not yet neither chaste nor perfect. For a love that is chaste and perfect, though it suffer that the body be fed and comforted in the presence of such sweet feelings and weepings, nevertheless yet it is not grumbling, but full well pleased for to lack them at God's will. And yet it is not commonly without such comforts in some creatures, and in some other creatures such sweetness and comforts be but seldom.

And all this is after the disposition and the ordinance of God, all after the profit and the needfulness of diverse creatures. For some creatures be so weak and so tender in spirit, that unless they were somewhat comforted by feeling of such sweetness, they might on nowise abide nor bear the diversity of temptations and tribulations that they suffer and be travailed with in this life of their bodily and ghostly enemies. And some there be that they be so weak in body that they may do no great penance to cleanse them with. And these creatures will our Lord cleanse full graciously in spirit by such sweet feelings and weepings. And also on the tother part there be some creatures so strong in spirit, that they can pick them comfort enough within in their souls, in offering up of this reverent and this meek stirring of love and accordance of will, that them needeth not much to be fed with such sweet comforts in bodily feelings. Which of these be holier or more dear with God, one than another, God wots and I not. 

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