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HERE BEGINNETH A BOOK OF CONTEMPLATION, THE WHICH IS CALLED THE CLOUD OF UNKNOWING, IN THE WHICH A SOUL IS ONED WITH GOD



THE PRAYER ON THE PROLOGUE



GOD, unto whom all hearts be open, and unto whom all will speaketh, and unto whom no privy thing is hid: I beseech thee so for to cleanse the intent of mine heart with the unspeakable gift of thy grace, that I may perfectly love thee and worthily praise thee. Amen.



Deus, cui omne cor patet, et omnis voluntas loquitur, et quem nullum latet secretum: purifica per infusionem Sancti Spiritus cogitationes cordis nostri; ut te perfecte diligere et digne laudare mereamur (Praeparatio ad Missam).

 

HERE BEGINNETH THE PROLOGUE

 

IN the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.

I charge thee and I beseech thee, with as much power and virtue as the bond of charity is sufficient to suffer, whatsoever thou be that this book shalt have in possession, whether by property, or by keeping, or by bearing as a messenger, or else by borrowing, that inasmuch as in thee is by will and advisement, thou neither read it, write it, nor speak it, nor yet suffer it to be read, written, or spoken, by any other or to any other, unless it be by such a one or to such a one as hath (in thy supposing) in a true will and by a whole intent purposed him to be a perfect follower of Christ. And that not only in active living, but also in the sovereignest point of contemplative living the which is possible by grace to be come to in this present life by a perfect soul yet abiding in this deadly] body. And he should be such a one as doth all that in him is, and (in thy supposing) hath done long time before, for to able him to contemplative living, by the virtuous means of active living. For else it accordeth nothing to him.

And over this I charge thee and I beseech thee, by the authority of charity, if any such shall read it, write it, or speak it, or else hear it read or spoken, that thou charge them, as I do thee, for to take them time to read it, speak it, write it, or hear it, all over. For peradventure there is some matter therein, in the beginning or in the middle, the which is hanging and not fully declared where it standeth; and if it be not there, it is soon after, or else in the end. Wherefore, if a man saw one matter and not another, peradventure he might lightly be led into error. And therefore, for eschewing of this error both in thyself and in all other, I pray thee for charity do as I tell thee.

But as for worldly praters, open praisers and blamers of themselves or of any other, gossips, whisperers, tale-bearers and. all manner of carpers: cared I never that they saw this book. For mine intent was never to write such thing unto them. And therefore I would that they meddled not therewith; neither they nor any of these curious learned or unlearned men. Yea, though they be full good men in active living, yet this matter accordeth nothing to them. But not so to those men, the which although they stand in activity by outward form of living, nevertheless yet by inward stirring under the privy spirit of God - whose dooms be hid - be full graciously disposed: not continually, as is proper to true contemplatives, but now and then, to be partakers in the highest point of this contemplative act. If such men might see it, they should by the grace of God be greatly comforted thereby.

This book is distinguished in seventy chapters and five. Of the which chapters the last chapter of all teacheth some certain tokens by the which a soul may verily prove whether he be called by God to be a worker in this work or none.



A BRIEF ADDRESS TO HIM THAT THIS BOOK WAS MADE UNTO



GHOSTLY friend in God, I pray thee and I beseech thee that thou have a busy beholding to the course and the manner of thy calling. And thank God heartily, so that thou mayest through the help of his grace stand stiffly against all the subtle assaults of thy bodily and ghostly enemies, and win to the crown of life that ever lasteth. Amen.



THE FIRST CHAPTER



OF FOUR DEGREES OF CHRISTIAN MEN'S LIVING; AND OF THE COURSE OF HIS CALLING THAT THIS BOOK WAS MADE UNTO



GHOSTLY friend in God, thou shalt well understand that I find, in my boisterous beholding, four degrees

of Christian men's living, and they be these: Common, Special, Singular, and Perfect. Three of these may be begun and ended in this life; and the fourth may by grace be begun here, but it shall ever last without end in the bliss of heaven. And right as thou seest how they be set here in order, each after other, first Common, then Special, after Singular, and last Perfect: right so me thinketh that in the same order and in the same course hath our Lord of his great mercy called thee and led thee unto him by the desire of thine heart.

For first thou knowest well, that when thou wert living in the common degree of Christian men's living in company of thy worldly friends, it seemeth to me that the everlasting love of his Godhead, through the which he made thee and wrought thee when thou wert nought, and then bought thee with the price of his precious blood when thou wert lost in Adam, might not suffer thee to be so far from him in form and degree of living. And therefore he kindled thy desire full graciously, and fastened by it a leash of a lovely longing, and led thee by it into a more special state and form of living, to be a servant of the special servants of his; where thou mightest learn to live more specially and more ghostly in his service than thou didst, or might est do, in the common degree of living before.

And what more? Yet it seemeth that he would not leave thee thus lightly, for the love of his heart, the which he hath evermore had unto thee since thou wert aught. But what did he? Seest thou not how sweetly and how graciously he hath privily pulled thee to the third degree and manner of living, the which is called singular? In the which solitary form and manner of living thou mayest learn to lift up the foot of thy love, and to step towards that state and degree of living that is perfect, and the last state of all.  



THE SECOND CHAPTER



A SHORT STIRRING TO MEEKNESS AND TO THE WORK OF THIS BOOK



LOOK up now, thou weak wretch, and see what thou art. What art thou, and how hast thou merited thus to be called by our Lord? What weary wretched heart and sleeping in sloth is that, the which is not wakened with the drawing of this love and the voice of this calling? Beware now in this while of thine enemy; and hold thyself never the holier nor the better, for the worthiness of this calling and for the singular form of living that thou art in; but the more wretched and cursed, unless thou do that in thee is goodly, by grace and by counsel, to live according to thy calling. And insomuch thou shouldst be more meek and loving to thy ghostly Spouse, in that he, that is the Almighty God, King of kings and Lord of lords, would meek himself so low unto thee, and, among all the flock of his sheep, so graciously would choose thee to be one of his specials, and then set thee in the place of pasture, where thou mayest be fed with the sweetness of his love, in earnest of thine heritage the kingdom of heaven.



Do on then fast, I pray thee. Look now forwards and let the backwards be. And see what thou lackest and not what thou hast; for that is the readiest getting and keeping of meekness. All thy life now must all ways stand in desire, if thou shalt advance in degree of perfection. This desire must all ways be wrought in thy will, by the hand of Almighty God and thy consent. But one thing I tell thee: he is a jealous lover and suffereth no fellowship, and he liketh not to work in thy will unless he be only with thee by himself.  He asketh no help but only thyself. He wills thou do but look upon him and let him alone. And keep thou the windows and the door from flies and enemies assailing. And if thou be willing to do this, thou needest but meekly to set upon him with prayer, and soon will he help thee. t Set on then: let me see how thou bearest thee. He is full ready, and doth but abide thee. But what shalt thou do, and how shalt thou set on?



THE THIRD CHAPTER

HOW THE WORK OF THIS BOOK SHALL BE WROUGHT, AND OF THE WORTHINESS OF IT BEFORE ALL OTHER WORKS



LIFT up thine heart unto God with a meek stirring of love; and mean himself and none of his goods. And thereto look that thou loathe to think on aught but himself, so that nought work in thy mind nor in thy will but only himself. And do that in thee is to forget all the creatures that ever God made and the works of them, so that thy thought or thy desire be not directed or stretched to any of them, neither in general nor in special. But let them be, with a seemly recklessness,  and take no heed of them.



This is the work of the soul that most pleaseth God. All saints and angels have joy of. this work and hasten them to help it with all their might. All fiends be mad when thou dost thus, and try for to defeat it in all that they can. All men living on earth be wonderfully helped by this work, thou knowest not how . Yea, the souls in purgatory are eased of their pains by virtue of this work. Thou thyself art cleansed and made virtuous by no work so much. And yet it is the lightest work of all, when a soul is helped with grace in sensible list; and soonest done. But else it is hard and wonderful for thee to do.

Cease not, therefore, but travail therein till thou feel list. For at the first time when thou dost it, thou findest but a darkness, and as it were a cloud of unknowing, thou knowest not what, saving that thou feelest in thy will a naked intent unto God. This darkness and this cloud, howsoever thou dost, is betwixt thee and thy God, and hindereth thee, so that thou mayest neither see him clearly by light of understanding in thy reason, nor feel him in sweetness of love in thine affection. And therefore shape thee to bide in this darkness as long as thou mayest, evermore crying after him whom thou lovest. For if ever thou shalt see him or feel him, as it may be here, it must always be in this cloud and in this darkness. And if thou wilt busily travail as I bid thee, I trust in his mercy that thou shalt come thereto.



THE FOURTH CHAPTER

OF THE SHORTNESS OF THIS WORK, AND HOW IT MAY NOT BE COME TO BY NO CURI0sITy OF WIT, NOR BY IMAGINATION



BUT for this, that thou shalt not err in this working, and ween that it be otherwise than it is, I shall tell thee a little more thereof, as me thinketh.

This work asketh no long time ere it be once truly done, as some men ween; for it is the shortest work of all that man may imagine. It is neither longer nor shorter than is an atom; the which atom, by the definition of true philosophers in the science of astronomy, is the least part of time. And it is so little that, for the littleness of it, it is indivisible and nearly incomprehensible. This is that time of the which it is written: All the time that is given to thee, it shall be asked of thee how thou hast spent it. And a right thing it is that thou shouldst give account of it. For it is neither longer nor shorter, but exactly equal to one single stirring that is within in the principal working power of thy soul, the which is thy will. For even so many willings or desirings-no more nor no fewer-may be and are in one hour in thy will, as are atoms in one hour. And if thou wert reformed by grace to the first state of man's soul, as it was before sin, then shouldst thou evermore be lord of that stirring or of those stirrings. So that none should go amiss, but all should stretch unto the sovereign desirable, and unto the highest willable thing, the which is

God.

For he is even meet to our soul by measuring of his Godhead; and our soul is even meet unto him by the worthiness of our creation to his image and likeness. And he by himself without more, and none but he, is sufficient to the full, and much more, to fulfil the will and the desire of our soul. And our soul, by virtue of this reforming grace, is made sufficient to the full to comprehend all him by love, the which is incomprehensible to all created knowing powers, as is angel or man's soul. He is incomprehensible, I mean, by their knowing and not by their loving. And therefore I call them in this case knowing powers.



But see. All reasonable creatures, angel and man, have in them, each one by himself, one principal working power, the which is called a knowing power, and another principal working power, the which is called a loving power. Of the which two powers, to the first, the which is a knowing power, God who is the maker of them is evermore incomprehensible; but to the second, the which is the loving power, he is, in every man diversely, all comprehensible to the full. Insomuch that one loving soul alone in itself, by virtue of love, may comprehend in itself him who is sufficient to the full and much more, without comparison - to fill all the souls and angels that may be. And this is the endless marvellous miracle of love, the working of which shall never have end, for ever shall he do it, and never shall he cease for to do it. See, whoso by grace see may; for the feeling of this is endless bliss, and the contrary is endless pain.

And therefore whoso were reformed by grace thus to continue in heeding all the stirrings of his will, should never be in this 15 [016] life-as he may not be without these stirrings in nature-without some taste of the endless sweetness; nor in the bliss of heaven without the full food. And therefore have no wonder that I stir thee to this work. For this is the work, as thou shalt hear afterward, in the which man should have continued if he never had sinned. And to this working was man made, and all things for man, to help him and further him thereto. And by this working shall man be repaired again. And for want of this working a man falleth evermore deeper and deeper into sin, and further and further from God. And by heeding and continual working in this work alone, without more, a man riseth evermore higher and higher from sin, and nearer and nearer unto God.

And therefore take good heed unto time, how thou spendest it; for nothing is more precious than time. In one little time, as little as it is, may heaven be won and lost. A token it is that time is precious: for God, that is giver of time, giveth never two times together, but each one after other. And this he doth because he would not reverse the order or the appointed course in the causes of his creation. For time is made for man, and not man for time. And therefore God, who is the ruler of nature, would not in his giving of time go before the stirring of nature in man's soul; the which stirring is even according to one time only. So that man shall have no excuse against God in the Doom, and at the giving account of the spending of time, saying thus: "Thou givest two times at once, and I have but one stirring at once."

But sorrowfully thou sayest now: "How shall I do? And if it be true what thou sayest, how shall I give account of each time severally; I that unto this day, being now four-and-twenty years of age, have never taken heed of time? If I would now amend it, thou knowest well, by very reason of thy words written before, how it may not be according to the course of nature or of common grace, that I should be able to heed any more times, or make satisfaction for any more, than for those that be to come. Yea, and moreover well I know by very experience, that of those that be to come I shall in no wise, for abundance of frailty and slowness of spirit, be able to heed one in a hundred. So that I am verily confounded by these reasons. Help me now, for the love of Jesu!

Right well hast thou said "for the love of Jesu. For in the love of Jesu there shall be thine help. Love is such a power that it maketh all things to be shared. Therefore love Jesu, and all thing that he hath it is thine. He by his Godhead is maker and giver of time. He by his Manhood is the true heeder of time. And he, by his Godhead and his Manhood together, is the truest judge and the asker of account of the spending of time. Knit thee therefore to him, by love and by belief; and then by virtue of that knot thou shalt be common partaker with him and with all that by love so be knitted unto him; that is to say, with our Lady Saint Mary, that full was of all grace in heeding of time, with all the angels of heaven that never may lose time, and with all the saints in heaven and on earth, that by the grace of Jesus heed time full justly in virtue of love. Lo ! here lieth comfort; understand thou wisely and pick thee some profit. But of one thing I warn thee beyond all other:



I cannot see who may truly claim fellowship thus with Jesu and his just Mother, his high angels and also with his saints, unless he be such a one as doth that in him is, with the help of grace, in heeding of time. So that he be seen to be of profit on his part, so little as it is, unto the fellowship; as each one of them is on his.

And therefore take heed to this work and to the marvellous manner of it within in thy soul. For if it be truly conceived, it is but a sudden stirring, and as it were unadvised, speedily springing unto God as a sparkle from the coal. And it is marvellous to number the stirrings that may be in one hour wrought in a soul that is disposed to this work. And 'yet, in one stirring of all these, it may have suddenly and perfectly forgotten all created things. But fast after each stirring, through the corruption of the flesh, it falleth down again to some thought, or to some done or undone deed. But what matter? For fast after, it riseth again as suddenly as it did before.



And here may men shortly conceive the manner .of this working, and clearly know that it is far from any fantasy, or any false imagination, or quaint opinion; the which be caused, not by such a devout and a meek blind stirring of love, but by a proud, curious and an imaginative wit. Such a proud, curious wit must always be borne down and stitfty trodden under foot, if this work shall truly be conceived in purity of spirit. For whoso heareth this work either read or spoken, and weeneth that it mayor should be come to by travail in their wits, and therefore sit and seek in their wits how it may be: in this curiosity they travail their imagination peradventure against the course of nature, and they feign a manner of working the which is neither bodily nor ghostly. Truly this man, whatsoever he be, is perilously deceived. Insomuch, that unless God of his great goodness show his merciful miracle, and make him soon to leave work and meek him to the counsel of proved workers, he shall fall either into frenzies, or else into other great mischiefs of ghostly sins and devils' deceits; through the which he may lightly be lost, both life and soul, without any end. And therefore for God's love beware in this work, and travail not in thy wits nor in thy imagination in nowise: for I tell thee truly, it may not be come to by travail in them; and therefore leave them and work not with them.

And ween not, because I call it a darkness or a cloud, that it is any cloud congealed of the vapours that fly in the air, or any darkness such as in thine house on nights, when thy candle is out. For such a darkness and such a cloud mayest thou imagine with curiosity of wit, for to bear before thine eyes in the lightest day of summer; and also contrariwise in the darkest night of winter thou mayest imagine a clear shining light. Let be such falsehoods; I mean not thus. For when I say darkness, I mean a lacking of knowing: as all thing that thou knowest not, or hast forgotten, is dark to thee; for thou seest it not with thy ghostly eye. And for this reason it is called, not a cloud of the air, but a cloud of unknowing; which is betwixt thee and thy God.

 

THE FIFTH CHAPTER



THAT IN THE TIME OF THIS WORK ALL THE CREATURES THAT EVER HAVE BEEN, BE NOW, OR EVER SHALL BE, AND ALL THE WORKS OF THE SAME CREATURES, SHOULD BE HID UNDER THE CLOUD OF FORGETTING



AND if ever thou shalt come to this cloud and dwell and work therein as I bid thee, thou must, as this cloud of unknowing is above thee, betwixt thee and thy God, right so put a cloud of forgetting beneath thee, betwixt thee and all the creatures that ever be made. Thou thinkest, peradventure, that thou art full far from God, because this cloud of unknowing is betwixt thee and thy God; but surely, ifit be well conceived, thou art full further from him when thou hast no cloud of forgetting betwixt thee and all the creatures that ever be made. As oft as I say "all the creatures that ever be made," so oft do I mean, not only the creatures themselves, but also all the works and the conditions of the same creatures. I except not one creature, whether they be bodily creatures or ghostly; nor yet any condition or work of any creature, whether they be good or evil. But, to speak shortly, all should be hid under the cloud of forgetting in this case. For although it be full profitable sometimes to think of certain conditions and deeds of some certain special creatures, nevertheless in this work it profiteth little or nought. Because mind or thinking of any creature that ever God made, or of any of their deeds either, is a manner of ghostly light; for the eye of thy soul is opened on it and close fixed thereupon, as the eye of a shooter is upon the prlck] that he shooteth to. And one thing I tell thee, that everything that thou thinkest upon is above thee for the time and betwixt thee and thy God. And insomuch thou art the further from God, that aught is in thy mind but only God.

Yea-and if it be courteous and seemly to say-in this work it profiteth little or nought to think of the kindness or the worthiness of God, nor on our Lady, nor on the saints or angels in heaven, nor yet on the joys of heaven: that is to say, with a special beholding ] to them, as though thou wouldst by that beholding feed and increase thy purpose. I trow that on nowise it should help in this case and in this work. For although it be good to think upon the kindness of God, and to love him and praise him for it: yet it is far better to think upon the naked being of him, and to love him and praise him for himself.



THE SIXTH CHAPTER

A SHORT CONCEIT OF THIS WORK, TREATED BY QUESTION



BUT now thou askest me and sayest: "How shall I think on himself, and what is he?" Unto this I cannot answer thee, except to say: "I know not."



For thou hast brought me with thy question into that same darkness, and into that same cloud of unknowing, that I would thou wert in thyself. For of all other creatures and their works-yea, and of the works of God himself-may a man through grace have fulness of knowing, and well can he think of them; but of God himself can no man think. And therefore I would leave all that thing that I can think, and choose to my love that thing that I cannot think. For why, he may well be loved, but not thought. By love may he be gotten and holden; but by thought never. And there- fore, although it be good sometime to think on the kindness and the worthiness of God in special, and although it be a light and a part of contemplation: nevertheless in this work it shall be cast down and covered with a cloud of forgetting. And thou shalt step above it stalwartly, but listily, with a devout and a pleasing stirring of love, and try to pierce that darkness above thee. And smite upon that thick cloud of unknowing with a sharp dart of longing love; and go not thence for aught that befalleth.



THE SEVENTH CHAPTER



HOW A MAN SHALL BEAR HIMSELF IN THIS WORK AGAINST ALL THOUGHTS, AND ESPECIALLY AGAINST ALL THOSE THAT ARISE FROM HIS OWN CURIOSITY, FROM LEARNING, AND FROM NATURAL WIT



AND if any thought rise and will press all ways above thee, betwixt thee and that darkness, and ask thee saying: "What seekest thou, and what wouldst thou have ?" say thou, that it is God that thou wouldst have. "Him I covet, him I seek, and nought but him."

And if he ask thee: " What is that God ?" say thou, that it is God that made thee and bought thee, and that graciously hath called thee to thy degree. "And in him," say, "thou hast no skill." And therefore say:



"Go thou down again"; and tread him fast down again with a stirring of love, although he seem to thee right holy, and seem to thee as if he would help thee to seek him. For peradventure he will bring to thy mind divers full fair and wonderful points of his kindness, and say that he is full sweet and full loving, full gracious and full merciful. ~ And if thou wilt hear him, he coveteth no better; for at the last he will thus chatter ever more and more till he bring thee lower, to the thought of his passion.



And there will he let. thee see the wonderful kindness of God; and if thou listen to him, he desireth nought better. For soon after he will let thee see thine old wretched living; and peradventure, in seeing and thinking thereof, he will bring to thy mind some place that thou hast dwelt in before this time.



So that at the last, ere ever thou knowest, thou shalt be scattered thou knowest not where. The cause of this scattering is: that first thou didst wilfully listen to that thought, and then thou didst answer him, receive him, and let him have his way.

And yet, nevertheless, the thing that he said was both good and holy. Yea, and so holy, that whatever man or woman weeneth to come to contemplation without many such sweet meditations beforehand of their own wretchedness, the passion, the kindness, the great goodness and the worthiness of God, surely he shall err and fail of his purpose. And yet, a man or woman that hath long time been practised in these meditations, must nevertheless leave them, and put them and hold them far down under the cloud of forgetting, if ever he shall pierce the cloud of unknowing betwixt him and his God.

And therefore, when thou purposest thee to this work, and feelest by grace that" thou art called by God, lift up thine heart unto God with a meek stirring of love. And mean God that made thee, and bought thee, and that graciously hath called thee to thy degree: and receive none other thought of God. And yet not all these, except thou desirest; for a naked intent directed unto God, without any other cause than himself, sufficeth wholly.

And if thou desirest to have this intent lapped and folden in one word, so that thou mayest have better hold thereupon, take thee but a little word of one syllable, for so it is better than of two; for the shorter the word, the better it accordeth with the work of the spirit. And such a word is this word GOD or this word LOVE. Choose whichever thou wilt, or another: whatever word thou likest best of one syllable. And fasten 'this word to thine heart, so that it may never go thence for anything that befalleth.  



This word shall be thy shield and thy spear, whether thou ridest on peace or on war. With this word, thou shalt beat on this cloud and this darkness above thee. With this word, thou shalt smite down all manner of thought under the cloud of forgetting. Insomuch, that if any thought press upon thee to ask thee what thou wouldst have, answer with no more words but with this one word. t And if he offer of his great learning to expound to thee that word and to tell thee the conditions of that word, say to him that thou wilt have it all whole, and not broken nor undone.  And if thou wilt hold fast to this purpose, be thou sure that that thought will no while bide. And why? Surely because thou wilt not let him feed himself on such sweet meditations of God touched before.

 

THE EIGHTH CHAPTER



A GOOD DECLARING OF CERTAIN DOUBTS THAT MAY FALL IN THIS WORK, TREATED BY QUESTION: IN DESTROYING OF A MAN'S OWN CURIOSITY, LEARNING, AND NATURAL WIT; AND IN DISTINGUISHING OF THE DEGREES AND THE PARTS OF ACTIVE AND CONTEMPLATIVE LIVING



BUT now thou askest me: "What is he that thus presseth upon me in this work? Is it a good thing or an evil? And if it be an evil thing, then have I marvel (thou sayest) why that he will increase a man's devotion so much. For sometimes methinks it is a surpassing comfort to listen to his tales. For he will sometime, methinks, make me weep full heartily for pity of the passion or Christ, sometime for my wretchedness, and for many other reasons that, methinks, be full holy and do me much good. And therefore methinks that he should in nowise be evil; and if he be good, and with his sweet tales doth me so much good, then have I great marvel why thou biddest me put him down and away so far under the cloud of forgetting."

Now surely methinks that this is a well moved question, and therefore I think to answer thereto so feebly as I can. First, when thou askest me what is he that presseth so fast on thee in this work, offering to help thee: I say that it is a sharp and a clear beholding of thy natural wit, printed in thy reason within in thy soul. And where thou askest me whether it be good or evil: I say that it must always be good in its nature; for it is a beam of the likeness of God. But the use thereof may be both good and evil. Good, when it is opened by grace so as to . see thy wretchedness, the passion, the kindness, and the wonderful works of God in his creatures, bodily ªnd ghostly. And then it is no wonder though it increase thy devotion full much, as thou sayest. But then is the use evil, when it is blown up with pride and with curiosity of much learning and letterly knowledge, as in clerks, and makeththem press up for to be holden, not meek scholars and masters of divinity or of devotion, but proud scholars of the devil and masters of vanity and of falsehood. And in other men or women, whether they be religious or seculars, the use and the working of this natural wit is then evil, when it is swollen with pride and curious skill of worldly things and fleshly conceits: in coveting of worldly dignities and having of riches and vain delights and flatterings of others.

And where that thou askest me, why thou shalt put it down under the cloud of forgetting, since it so is that it is good in its nature, and, moreover, when it is used well, doth thee so much good and increaseth thy devotion so much: to this I answer and say, that there be two manner of lives in Holy Church. The one is active life, and the other is contemplative life. Active is the lower, and contemplative is the higher. Active life hath two degrees, a higher and a lower; and also contemplative life hath two degrees, a lower and a higher. These two lives be so coupled together, that although they differ in part, yet neither of them may be had fully without some part of the other. Because that part that is the higher part of active life, that same part is the lower part of contemplative life. So that a man may not be fully active, except he be in part contemplative; nor yet fully contemplative (as it may be here), except he be in part active. The condition of active life is such,' that it is both begun and ended in this life; but not so of contemplative life. For it is begun in this life, and shall last without end. Because that part that Mary chose shall never be taken away. Active life is troubled and travailed about many things but contemplative sitteth in peace with one thing.  



The lower part of active life standeth in good and honest bodily works of mercy and of charity. The higher part of active life and the lower part of contemplative life Iieth in good ghostly meditations, and busy beholdings unto a man's own wretchedness with sorrow and contrition, unto the passion of Christ and of his servants with pity and compassion, and unto the wonderful gifts, kindness, and works of God in all his creatures, bodily and ghostly, with thanking and praising. But the higher part of contemplation (as it may be had here) hangeth all wholly in this darkness and in this cloud of unknowing, with a loving stirring and a blind beholding unto the naked being of God himself only.



In the lower part of active life a man is without himself and beneath himself. In the higher part of active life and the lower part of contemplative life, a man is within himself and even with himself. But in the higher part of contemplative life, a man is above himself and under his God.  Above himself he is: because he purposeth to win thither by grace, whither he may not come by nature. That is to say, to be knit to God in spirit, in onehead of love and accordance of will. And right as it is impossible (to man's understanding) for a man to come to the higher part of active life, except he cease for a time from the lower part; so it is impossible that a man shall come to the higher part of contemplative life, except he cease for a time from the lower part. And just as it is an unlawful thing, and would hinder a man that sat in his meditations, were he then to consider" his outward bodily works, the which he had done or else should do, although they were never so holy .works in

. themselves: surely it is as unlawful a thing, . and would as much hinder a man that should work in this darkness and in this cloud of unknowing with an affectuous stirring of love to God for himself, were he to let any thought or any meditation of God's wonderful gifts, kindness, and works in any of his creatures, bodily or ghostly, rise upon him to press betwixt him and his God; although they be never so holy thoughts, nor so pleasing, nor so comfortable.



And for this reason it is that I bid thee put down such a sharp subtle thought, and cover him with a thick cloud of forgetting, be he never so holy and promise he never so well to help thee in thy purpose. For why, love may reach to God in this life, but not knowing. And all the. while that the soul dwelleth in this deadly body, evermore is the sharpness of our understanding in beholding of all ghostly things, but most specially of God, mingled with some manner of fantasy; for the which reason our work should be unclean, and unless more wonder were, it should lead us into much error.  



THE NINTH CHAPTER



THAT IN THE TIME. OF THIS WORK, THE THOUGHT OF THE HOLIEST CREATURE THAT EVER GOD MADE HINDERETH MORE THAN IT PROFITETH



AND therefore the sharp stirring of thine understanding, that will always press upon thee when thou settest thee to this blind work, must always be borne down; and unless thou bear him down, he will bear thee down. Insomuch that when thou weenest best to abide in this darkness, and that nought is in thy mind but only God, if thou look wisely thou shalt find thy mind not occupied in this darkness, but in a clear beholding of some thing beneath God. And if it thus be, surely then is that thing above thee for the time, and betwixt thee and thy God. And therefore purpose thee to put down such clear beholdings, be they never so holy nor so liking. For one thing I tell thee: it is more profitable to the health of thy soul, more worthy in itself, and more pleasing to God and to all the saints and angels in heaven-yea! and more helpful to all thy friends, bodily and ghostly, quick and dead -such a blind stirring of love unto God for himself, and such a secret setting upon this cloud of unknowing, and thou wert better to have it and to feel it in thine affection ghostly, than to have tl e eye of thy soul opened in contemplation or beholding of all the angels or saints in heaven, or in hearing of all the mirth and melody that is among them in bliss.



And look that thou have no wonder at this; for mightest thou once see it (as clearly as thou mayest by grace), so as to grope it and feel it in this life, thou wouldst think as I say. But be thou sure that clear sight shall never man have here in this life; but the feeling may men have through grace, when God vouchsafeth. t And therefore lift up thy love to that cloud. Or rather (if I shall say thee sooth) let God draw thy love up to that cloud; . and strive thou through help of his grace to forget all other things.

For since a naked thought of anything under God, pressing against thy will and thy witting, putteth thee further from God than thou shouldst be if it were not, and hindereth thee, and maketh thee insomuch more unable to feel in experience the fruit of his love: how much, trowest thou, will a thought wittingly and wilfully drawn upon thee hinder thee in thy purpose? And since the thought of any special saint or of any clean ghostly thing will hinder thee so much, how much, trowest thou, will the thought of any man living in this wretched life, or of any bodily or worldly thing, hinder thee and let thee in this work?

I say not that such a naked sudden thought of any good and clean ghostly thing under God, pressing against thy will or thy witting, or else wilfully drawn upon thee of set purpose for increasing of thy devotion, although it be a hindrance to this manner of work -that it is therefore evil. Nay, God forbid that thou take it so. But I say, that although it be good and holy, yet in this work it hindereth more than it profiteth. I mean for the time of this work. For surely, he that seeketh God perfectly, he will not rest finally in the thought of any angel or saint that is in heaven.



THE TENTH CHAPTER



HOW A MAN SHALL KNOW WHEN HIS THOUGHT IS NO SIN; AND, IF IT BE SIN, WHEN IT IS DEADLY AND WHEN IT IS VENIAL



BUT it is not thus with the thought of any man or woman living in this life, or of any bodily or worldly thing whatsoever it be. For why, a naked sudden thought of any of them, pressing against thy will and thy witting, although it be no sin imputed unto thee-for it is the pain  of the original sin pressing against thy power, of the which sin thou art cleansed in thy baptism-nevertheless, if this sudden stirring or thought be not smitten soon down, then fast for frailty thy fleshly heart is fastened thereby with some manner of delight, if it be a thing

that pleaseth thee or hath pleased thee before, or else with some manner of grumbling, if it be a thing that thou thinkest grieveth thee or hath grieved thee before. The which fastening, although it may be deadly in fleshly living men and women that be, in deadly sin before: nevertheless, in thee, and and in all other that have in a true will forsaken the world[and are obliged unto any degree in devout living in Holy Church, whatso it be, privy or open, and thereto that will be ruled not after their own willand their own wit, but after the will andthe counsel of their sovereigns, whatso they be, religious or seculars], such a liking or a grumbling fastened in the fleshly heart is but venial sin. The cause of this is the grounding and the rooting of your intent in God, made in the beginning of your living in that state that ye stand in [by the witness and the counsel of some discreet father].  

But if it so be that this delight or grumbling fastened in thy fleshly heart be suffered so long to abide unreproved, that at the last it is fastened to thy ghostly heart (that is to say, thy will) with a full consent: then it is deadly sin. And this befalleth when thou, or any of them that I speak of, wilfully draw upon you the thought of any man or woman living in this life, or of any other bodily or worldly thing: insomuch, that if it be a thing the which ∑grieveth or hath grieved thee before, there riseth in thee a painful passion and an appetite of vengeance, the which is called Anger. Or else a fell disdain and a manner of loathing of their persons, with despiteful and condemning thoughts, the which is called Envy. Or else a weariness and an unlistiness of any good occupation, bodily or ghostly, the which is called Sloth.



And if it be a thing that pleaseth thee, or hath pleased thee before, there riseth in thee a surpassing delight for to think on that thing, whatso it be. Insomuch, that thou restest thee in that thought, and finally fastenest thine heart and thy will thereto, and feedest thy fleshly heart therewith: so thar thou thinkest for the time that thou covetest none other wealth, but to live ever in such peace and rest with that thing that thou thinkest upon. If this thought that thou drawest upon thee, or else receivest when it is put upon thee, and that thou restest thus in, be the worthiness of thy kind, or thy knowledge, or grace, or degree, or favour, or beauty: then it is' Pride. And if it be any manner of worldly good, riches or chattels, or what man may have or be lord of: then it is covetousness. If it be dainty meats and drinks, or any manner of delights that man may taste: then it is Gluttony. . And if it be love or desire,  or any manner of fleshly indulgence, favouring or flattering of any man or woman living in this life, or of thyself either: then it is Lust.



THE ELEVENTH CHAPTER



THAT A MAN SHOULD WEIGH EACH THOUGHT AND EACH STIRRING AFTER THAT IT IS, AND ALWAYS ESCHEW RECKLESSNESSt IN VENIAL SIN



I SAY not this because I trow that thou, or any other such as I speak of, be guilty and cumbered with any such sins; but because I would that thou shouldst weigh each thought and each stirring after that it is, and because I would that thou shouldst travail busily to destroy the first stirring and thought of these things that thou mayest thus sin in. For one thing I tell thee: that whoso weigheth not, or setteth ' little by, the first thought-yea, though it be no sin unto him-that he, whosoever he be, shall not eschew recklessness in venial sin. Venial sin shall no man utterly eschew in this deadly life. But recklessness in venial sin should always be eschewed by all the true disciples of perfection; and else I have no wonder though they soon sin deadly.



THE TWELFTH CHAPTER



THAT BY VIRTUE OF THIS WORK, SIN IS NOT ONLY DESTROYED, BUT ALSO VIRTUES BE GOTTEN



AND therefore, if thou wilt stand and not fall, cease never in thine intent, but beat evermore on this cloud of unknowing that is betwixt thee and thy God with a sharp dart of longing love. And loathe to think on aught under God. And go not thence for anything that befalleth. For this only by itself is that work that destroyeth - the ground and the root of sin. Fast thou never so much, watch thou never so long, rise thou never so early, wear thou never so sharp;" yea, and if it were lawful to do-as it is not -though thou put out thine eyes, cut thy tongue out of thy mouth, stop up thine ears and thy nose never so fast, shear away thy members, and do all the pain to thy body that thou mayest or canst think: all these will help thee right nought. Yet will stirring and rising of sin be in thee.



Yea, and what more ? Weep thou never so much for sorrow of thy sins, or of the passion of Christ, or have thou never so much thought of the joys of heaven, what may it do to thee? Surely much good, much help, much profit, and much grace will it get thee. But in comparison of this blind stirring of love, it is but little that it doth, or may do, without this. This by itself is the best part of Mary, without these other. They without it profit but little or nought. It destroyeth not only the ground and the root of sin, as it may be here, but also it getteth virtues. For if it be truly conceived, all virtues shall be subtly and perfectly conceived, felt, and comprehended in it, without any mingling of thine intent. And have a man never so many virtues without it, all they be mingled with some crooked intent, for the which they be imperfect.

For virtue is nought else but an 'ordered and a measured affection,  plainly directed unto God for himself. For why, he in himself is the clean cause of all virtues: insomuch, . that if any man be stirred to any virtue by any other cause mingled with him-yea, though he be the chief-yet that virtue is then imperfect. As thus, for example, may be seen in one virtue or two instead of all the other; and well may these two virtues be meekness and charity. For whoso might get these two clearly, he needeth no more: for why, he hath all.



THE THIRTEENTH CHAPTER WHAT MEEKNESS IS IN ITSELF, AND WHEN IT IS PERFECT AND WHEN IT IS IMPERFECT



Now let Us consider first the virtue of meekness: how that it is imperfect when it is caused by any other thing mingled with God, although he be the chief; and how that it is perfect when it is caused of God by himself. And first we must know what meekness is in itself, if this matter shall clearly be seen and conceived; and thereafter may it more verily be conceived in truth of spirit what is the cause thereof.



Meekness in itself is nought else but a true knowing and feeling of a man's self as he is. For surely, whoso might verily see and feel himself as he is, he should verily be meeked. Two things there be that be causes of this meekness, the which be these: One is the filth, the wretchedness, and the frailty of man, into the which he is fallen by sin, and the which he must alw-ays feel in some degree the whiles he liveth inthis life, be he never so holy. Another is the over-abundant love and the worthiness of God in himself; in beholding of which all nature quaketh, all clerks be fools, and all saints and angels be blind. Insomuch, that were it not, through the wisdom of his Godhead, that he measured their beholding according to- their ableness in nature and in grace, I cannot say what should befall them.

The second cause is perfect; for it shall last without end. And the other before is imperfect; for it shall not only fail at the end of this life, but full oft it may befall that a soul in' this deadly body-for abundance of grace in multiplying of his desire, as oft and as long as God vouchsafeth to work itshall have suddenly and perfectly lost and forgotten all knowing and feeling of his being, not considering whether he have been holy or wretched. But whether this fall oft or seldom to a soul that is thus disposed, I trow that it lasteth but a full short while. And in this time it is perfectly meeked, for it knoweth and feeleth no cause but the chief. And ever when it knoweth and feeleth the other cause associating therewith, although the second cause be the chief: then is it imperfect meekness. Nevertheless it is good and must be had; and God forbid that thou take it in any other manner than I say.



THE FOURTEENTH CHAPTER

THAT WITHOUT IMPERFECT MEEKNESS COMING BEFORE, IT IS IMPOSSIBLE FOR A SINNER TO COME TO THE PERFECT VIRTUE OF MEEKNESS IN THIS LIFE



FOR although I call it imperfect meekness, yet I had rather have a true knowing and feeling of myself as I am, and sooner I trow would it get me the perfect cause and virtue of meekness by itself, than it should if all the saints and angels in heaven, and all the men and women of Holy Church living on earth, religious or seculars in all degrees, were set at once all together to do nought else but to pray to God for me to get me perfect meekness. Yea, and it is impossible for a sinner to get-or to keep when it is gotten-the perfect virtue of meekness without it.

And therefore swink and sweat in all that thou canst, for to get thee a true knowing and a feeling of thyself as thou art; and then I trow that, soon after that, thou shalt have a true knowing and a feeling of God as he is. Not as he is in himself, for that may no man do but himself; nor yet as thou shalt do in bliss both body and soul together. But as it is possible, and as he vouchsafeth to be known and felt by a meek soul living in this deadly body.

And think not because I set two causes of meekness, one perfect and the other imperfect, that I wish therefore that thou leave the travail about imperfect meekness and set thee wholly to get the perfect. Nay, surely, I trow thou shouldst never so bring it about. But therefore I do what I do: because I think to tell thee and let thee see the worthiness of this ghostly exercise before all other exercise bodily or ghostly that man can or may do by grace; how that a privy love set in cleanness of spirit upon this dark cloud of unknowing betwixt thee and thy God, subtly and perfectly containeth in it the perfect virtue of meekness, without any special or clear beholding of anything under God. And also, because I would that thou knewest which were perfect meekness, and settest it as a mark before the love of thine heart, and did it for thee and for me. And because I would by this knowing make thee more meek.

For ofttimes it befalleth that lacking of knowing is cause of much pride, as me thinketh. For peradventure, if thou knewest not which were perfect meekness, thou shouldst ween, when thou hadst a little knowing and a feeling of this that I call imperfect meekness, that thou hadst nearly gotten perfect meekness; and so shouldst thou deceive thyself, and ween that thou wert full meek, when thou. wert all belapped in foul stinking pride.  And therefore travail busily about perfect meekness; for the condition of it is such, that whoso hath it and while he hath it, he shall not sin; nor yet much after.



THE FIFTEENTH CHAPTER



A SHORT PROOF AGAINST THEIR ERROR THAT SAY THAT THERE IS NO PERFECTER CAUSE TO BE MEEKED UNDER THAN IS THE THOUGHT OF A MAN'S OWN WRETCHEDNESS



AND trust steadfastly that there is such a perfect meekness as I speak of, and that it may be come to through grace in this life. And this I say in confusion of their error that say that there is no perfecter cause of meekness than is that which is raised by the wretchedness and our former SIns.

I grant well that to them that have been in customary sins (as I am myself and have been), it is the most needful and speedful cause: to be meeked ever under the thought of our wretchedness and our forrner sins, ever till the time be that the great rust of sin be in great part rubbed away, our conscience and our counsel'] to witness. But to others that be as it were innocents, the which never sinned deadly with an abiding will and advisement, but through frailty and unknowing, and the which set them to be contemplatives-and to us both, if our counsel and our conscience witness our lawful amendment, in contrition and in confession and in making satisfaction, after the statute of all Holy Church, and, moreover, if we feel us stirred and called by grace to be contemplatives-there is then another cause to be meeked under, as far above this cause as is the living of our Lady Saint Mary above the living of the sinfullest penitent in Holy Church; or the living of Christ above the living of any other man in this life; or else the living of an angel in heaven, the which never felt-nor shall feel-frailty, is above the life of the frailest man that is here in this world.

For if it so were that there were no perfect cause to be mceked under, except the seeing and feeling of wretchedness: then would I know of them that say so what cause they be meeked under that never see nor feelnor never shall be in 'them-wretchedness nor stirring of sin: as our Lord Jesu Christ, our Lady Saint Mary, and all the saints and angels in heaven. To this perfection, and all other, our Lord Jesu Christ calleth us himself in the Gospel: where he biddeth that we should be perfect by grace as he himself is by nature.



THE SIXTEENTH CHAPTER



THAT BY VIRTUE OF THIS WORK A SINNER TRULY TURNED AND CALLED TO CONTEMPLATION COMETH SOONER TO PERFECTION THAN BY ANY OTHER WORK; AND BY IT SOONEST MAY GET OF GOD FORGIVENESS OF SINS



LOOK that no man think it presumption that he that is the wretchedest sinner of this life dare take upon him-after the time be that he hath lawfully amended him, and after he hath felt himself stirred to that life that is called contemplative, by the assent of his counsel and of his conscience-for to proffer a meek stirring of love to his God, secretly setting upon the cloud of unknowing betwixt him and his God. For our Lord said to Mary, in person of all sinners that be called to contemplative life: Thy sins be forgiven thee.  Not for her great sorrow, nor for her thought of her sins, nor yet for her meekness that she had in the beholding of her wretchedness only. But why then? Surely because she loved much.

Lo ! here may be seen what a secret setting of love may purchase of our Lord, before all other works that man may think. And yet I grant well that she had full much sorrow, and wept full sore for her sins, and full much was she meeked in the thought of her wretchedness. And so should we toothat have been wretches and customary sinners-all our lifetime make hideous and wonderful sorrow for our sins, and full much be meeked in the thought of our wretchedness.

But how? Surely as Mary did. She, although she might not unfeel the deep hearty sorrow for her sins-for why, all her lifetime she had them with her whereso she went, as it were in a burthen bounden together and laid up full privily in the hole of her heart, in manner never to be forgotten -nevertheless it may be said and confirmed by Scripture that she had a more hearty sorrow, a more doleful desire, a more deep sighing: and more she languished-yea! almost to the death-for lacking of love, although she had full much love-and have no wonder thereat, for it is the condition of a true lover that the more he loveth, the more he longeth to love-than she had for any thought of her sins.

And yet she knew well and felt well in herself with a sober certainty that she was a wretch most foul of all other, and that her sins had made a division betwixt her and her God that she loved so much: and also that they were in great part the cause of her languishing sickness for lacking of love. But what of that? Came she therefore down from the height of desire into the depth of her sinful life, and searched in the foul stinking fen and dunghill of her sins, searching them up one by one, with all the circumstances of them, and sorrowed and wept so upon them each one by himself? Nay, surely she did not so. And why? Because God let her know by his grace within in her soul that she should never so bring it about. For so she might sooner have raised in herself an ableness to have sinned again, than have purchased by that work any plain forgiveness of all her sins.

And therefore she hung up her love and her longing desire in this cloud of unknowing, and learned to love a thing the which she might not see clearly in this life by light of understanding in her reason, nor yet verily feel in sweetness of love in her affection. Insomuch, that she had ofttimes little special thought whether she ever had been a sinner or none. Yea! and full ofttimes I think that she was so deeply disposed to the love of his Godhead that she had but right little special beholding unto the beauty of his precious and blessed body, in the which he sat full lovely , speaking and preaching before her; nor yet to anything else, bodily or ghostly. That this be truth it seemeth by the Gospel.  


THE SEVENTEENTH CHAPTER



THAT A TRUE CONTEMPLATIVE WILL NOT MEDDLE WITH ACTIVE LIFE, NOR WITH ANYTHING THAT IS DONE OR SPOKEN ABOUT HIM, NOR YET ANSWER HIS BLAMERS IN EXCUSING OF HIMSELF



IN the Gospel of Saint Luke it is written that when our Lord was in the house of Martha her sister, all the time that Martha made herself busy about the preparing of his meat, Mary her sister sat at his feet. And in hearing of his word she regarded not the business of her sister, although her business was full good and full holy, for truly it is the first part of active life; nor yet the preciousness of his blessed body, nor the sweet voice and the words of his Manhood, although it is better and holier, for it is the second part of active life and the first of contemplative life. But she regarded the sovereignest wisdom of his Godhead lapped in the dark words of his Manhood.  

Thither regarded she with all the love of her heart. For from thence she would not remove for nothing that she saw nor heard spoken or done about her; but sat full still in body, with many a sweet secret and a listy love set upon that high cloud of unknowing betwixt her and her God. F or one thing I tell thee: that there was never yet pure creature in this life, nor never yet shall be, so high ravished in contemplation and love of the Godhead, that there is not evermore a high and a wonderful cloud of unknowing betwixt him and his God. In this cloud it was that Mary was occupied with many secret stirrings of love. And why? Because it was the best and the holiest part of contemplation that may be in this life. And from this part she would not remove for nothing. Insomuch, that when her sister Martha complained on her to our Lord, and bade him bid her sister rise and help her and let her not so work and travail by herself, she sat full still and answered not with one word, nor showed as much as a grumbling manner against her sister, for any complaint that she could make. And no wonder: for why, she had another 'work to do that Martha knew not of. And therefore she had no leisure to attend to her, nor to answer her at her complaint.

Lo ! friend, all these works, these words, and this behaviour, that were showed between our Lord and these two sisters, be set in ens ample of all actives and all contemplatives that have been since in Holy Church, and shall be to the Day of Doom. For by Mary ,is understood all contemplatives; for they should conform their living to hers. And by Martha, actives, in the same manner and for the same cause.



THE EIGHTEENTH CHAPTER



HOW THAT YET UNTO THIS DAY ALL ACTIVES COMPLAIN OF CONTEMPLATIVES AS MARTHA DID OF MARY; OF THE WHICH COMPLAINING IGNORANCE IS THE CAUSE



AND right as Martha complained then on Mary her sister, right so yet unto this day all actives complain of contemplatives. For if there be a man or a woman in any company of this world-whatsoever company it be, religious or seculars, I except none-the which man or woman (whichever that it be) feeleth himself stirred through grace and by counsel to forsake all outward business, and for to set him fully to live contemplative life, according to his knowledge and conscience and with good counsel: as fast, their own brethren and their sisters, and all their nearest friends-with many others that know not their stirrings nor that manner of living that they set them to-with a great complaining spirit shall rise upon them, and sharply reprove them, and say that it is nought that they do. And as fast they will reckon up many false tales, and many true also, of the falling of men and women that have given themselves to such life before: and never a good tale of them that stand.

I grant that many fall and have fallen of them that have in seeming forsaken the world. And where they should have become God's servants and his contemplativesbecause they would not rule them by true ghostly counsel-have become the devil's servants and his contemplatives; and turned either to hypocrites or heretics, or fallen into frenzies and many other mischiefs, to the slander of Holy Church. Of the which I forbear to speak at this time, for fear of troubling our matter. But nevertheless hereafter, when God vouchsafeth and if need be, we may see some of their conditions and the cause of their fallings. And therefore no more of them at this time; but forth on our matter.



THE NINETEENTH CHAPTER



A SHORT EXCUSATION OF HIM THAT MADE THIS BOOK, TEACHING HOW ALL CONTEMPLATIVES SHOULD HOLD ALL ACTIVES FULLY EXCUSED OF THEIR COMPLAINING WORDS AND DEEDS



SOME might think that I do little honour to Martha, that special saint, because I liken her words in complaining of her sister unto these worldly men's words, or theirs unto hers: and truly I mean no dishonour to her nor to them. And God forbid that I should in this work say anything that might be taken in condemnation of any of the servants of God in any degree, and in particular of his special saint. For me thinketh that she should be full well held excused of her complaint, taking regard to the time and the manner in which she said it. For of what she said, her unknowing was the cause. And no wonder if she knew not at that time how Mary was occupied; for I trow that before she had little heard of such perfection. And also, what she said was but courteously and in few words: and therefore she should always be held excused.

And so me thinketh that these worldlyliving men and women should also full well be held excused of their complaining words touched before, although they say rudely what they say: having regard to their ignorance. Because right as Martha knew full little what Mary her sister did when she complained of her to our Lord; right so in the same- manner these folk nowadays know full little, or else nought, what these young disciples of God mean, when they set them from the business of this world, and draw them to be God's special servants in holiness and rightfulness of spirit. And if they knew, truly I dare say that they would neither do nor say as they say. And therefore me thinketh that they should always be held excused: because they know no better living than is that that they live in themselves. And also when I think on mine innumerable faults, the which I have made myself before this time in words and deeds for default of knowing, me thinketh then, if I would be held excused by God for mine ignorant faults, that I should charitably and pitifully hold other men's ignorant words and deeds always excused.  And surely else do I not to others as I would they did to me.



THE TWENTIETH CHAPTER



HOW ALMIGHTY GOD WILL GHOSTLY ANSWER FOR ALL THOSE THAT FOR THE EXCUSING OF THEMSELVES WILL NOT LEAVE THEIR BUSINESS ABOUT THE LOVE OF HIM



AND therefore me thinketh that they that set them to be contemplatives should not only hold 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, the ensample of us 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 Jesu Christ, unto whom no privy thing is hid, although he was required by Martha as judge to bid Mary rise and help her to serve him; nevertheless, because 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, who for the excusing of herself would not leave the love of him. And how answered he? Surely not only as judge, as he was by Martha appealed: but as an advocate lawfully defended her that loved him, and said: "Martha, Martha I" Twice for her good 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



must always be busied and travailed about many diverse things, the which they need, first to have to their own use, and then for deeds of mercy to their even Christian, t as charity asketh. And this he said to Martha, because he would let her know 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 mart may do. And in order that Martha should not think that she might both love God and praise him above all other business bodily and ghostly, and also be busy about the necessaries of this life: therefore to deliver her of doubt that she might serve God both 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 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 it is all one.  



THE TWENTY-FIRST CHAPTER

A 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 no mention 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 saved; and where no more be but two, may no man choose the best.



But, although there be but two lives, yet in these two lives there 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 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, of the passion of Christ, and of the joy of heaven. The first part is good, and the second part is the better, for this is the second degree of active life and the first of contemplative life. In this part are contemplative life and active life coupled together in ghostly kinship and made sisters, after the ensample of Martha and Mary. Thus high may an active come to contemplation, and no higher; except it be full seldom and by a special grace. Thus low may a contemplative come towards active life, and no lower; except 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 secret love set unto 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 be noted that our Lord said not to Martha that Mary haih 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 other life there 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 no man hunger nor thirst, as now, nor die for cold, nor be sick, nor houseless, nor in prison; nor yet need burial, for then shall no man die.  But the third part that Mary chose, let him choose who by grace is called to choose. Or if I trulier shall say: whoso is chosen to that part by God, let him lustily lean thereto. For that shall never be taken away; for it beginneth here, but it shall last without end.



And therefore let the voice of our Lord cry to these actives) as if he said thus now for us unto them, as he did for Mary to Martha, "Martha, Martha 1" ~'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 other: and, if you wish right well and feel you disposed, in both boldly. And meddle you not with my contemplatives. Ye know not what aileth them. Let them sit in their rest and in their play, with the third and the best part of Mary."



THE TWENTY-SECOND CHAPTER



OF THE WONDERFUL LOVE THAT CHRIST HAD TO MARY 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 that passed betwixt him and her-not as a trifler may tell, but as the story of the Gospel will witness, which in nowise may be false-he should find that she was so heartily set to love him, that nothing beneath him might comfort her, nor yet hold her heart from him. This is she, that same Mary, who, when she sought him at the sepulchre with weeping, would not be comforted by angels. For when they spake unto her so sweetly and so lovely and said: Weep not, Mary ; for 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 said,  she would not cease for them. Because she thought that whoso sought verily the king of angels, he would not cease for angels.

And what more? Surely whoso will look verily into the story of the Gospel, he shall find many wonderful points of perfect love written of her for our ensample, and as perfectly in accordance with the work of this writing, as if they had been set and written for this purpose. And surely so were they, take it whoso take may. And if a man will but see written in the Gospel the wonderful and special love that our Lord had to her, in person of all customary 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-s- to speak a word against her, but that he answered for her himself. Yea, and what more? He blamed Simon the Leper in his own house, because he thought against her. This was great love: this was surpassing love.  



THE TWENTY-THIRD CHAPTER



HOW GOD WILL ANSWER AND PROVIDE FOR THEM IN SPIRIT, THAT FOR BUSINESS ABOUT HIS LOVE WILL NOT ANSWER NOR PROVIDE FOR THEMSELVES



AND truly if we will listily 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 in 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, if we will give no more heed to their saying nor to their thinking, nor no more leave off 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) in such sort, 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 and 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 who say that it is not lawful for men to set them to serve God .in contemplative life, except they be secure beforehand of their bodily necessaries. For they say that God sendeth the cow, but not by the horn. And truly UNKNOWING they say wrong of God, as they well know. For trust steadfastly, whatsoever thou be that truly turnest thee from the world unto God, that one of these two shall God send thee, without business of thine own: and that is, either abundance of necessaries, or else strength in body and patience in spirit to bear need. What then recketh it which a man have? for all come to one in true contemplatives. And whoso is in doubt of this, either the devil of hell is in his breast and reaveth him of belief, or else he is not yet truly turned to God as he should be, be he never so clever, or show he never so holy reasons to the contrary, whatsoever 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 wretchedne~s, 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 be wanting, neither ghostly thing nor bodily. For they have God, in whom is all plenty; and whoso hath him-yea, as this book telleth-he needeth nought else in this life.

 

THE TWENTY-FOURTH CHAPTER
WHAT CHARITY IS IN ITSELF, AND HOW IT IS SUBTLY AND PERFECTLY CONTAINED IN THE WORK OF THIS BOOK



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

For charity meaneth nought else but love of God for himself above all creatures, and of men 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, the substance of this work is nought else but a naked intent directed unto God for himself.

A naked intent I call it. Because in this work a perfect prentice asketh neither releasing of pain, nor increasing of reward, nor (shortly to say) nought but himself. Insomuch, that he neither recketh nor regardcth whether .hc be in pain or in bliss, but only that his will be fulfilled whom he loveth. And thus it seemeth that in this work God is perfectly loved for himself, and above all creatures. For in this work a perfect worker may not suffer the thought of the holiest creature that ever God made to share 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 regard unto any man by himself, whether he be kin or stranger,  friend or foe. For all men seem alike kin unto him, and no man stranger. All men, he thinketh, be his friends, and none his foes. Insomuch, that he thinketh all those that pain him and do him hurt in this life, that they be his full and his special friends: and he thinketh that he is stirred to will them as much good as he would to the dearest friend that he hath,



THE TWENTY-FIFTH CHAPTER THAT IN THE TIME OF THIS WORK A PERFECT SOUL HATH NO SPECIAL REGARD TO ANY ONE MAN IN THIS LIFE



I SAY not that in 'this work he shall have a special regard to any man in this life, whether 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 must be in 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 converse with or pray for his even Christian-not that he should descend 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 sometimes, as charity askethas specially then directed to his foe as to his friend, his stranger as his kin. Yea! and sometimes more to his foe than to his friend.



Nevertheless, in this work he hath no leisure to consider who is his friend or his foe, his kin or his stranger. I say not but he shall feel sometimes-yea! full ofthis affection more familiar to one, two, or three, than to all these other; for that is lawful to be, for many causes, as charity asketh. For such a familiar affection felt Christ to John, and to Mary, and to Peter before many others. But I say, that in the time of this work shall all be equally dear to him; for he shall feel then no other 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 and shall be by virtue of the passion of only Christ, even so (as the experience of this work proveth)-not in the same manner, but as it were in the same manner-a soul that is perfectly disposed to this work, and thus one with God in spirit, doth what 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 other limbs be pained and distressed, or if a limb fare well, all the remainder be gladded therewith-right so is it ghostly with 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, he must strain up his spirit in this ghostly work, for the salvation of all his brethren and sisters in nature, as our Lord did his body on the cross. And how? N at only for his friends and his kin and his dear lovers, but generally for all mankind, without any special regard more to one than to another. For all they 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 subtly comprehended in that little setting of love touched before.



THE TWENTY-SIXTH 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 afterwards. Nevertheless a travail shall he have, whoso shall use him in this work; yea, surely! and that a full great travail, unless he have a more special grace, or else he have for long time used him therein.

But I pray thee, wherein shall that travail UNKNOWING 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, who is evermore ready to work this work in every soul that is disposed thereto, and that doth what 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 thought 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 the help of grace. And the other 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 me 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 afterwards, 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 always, nor jet a long time together, but when he liketh and as he liketh; 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 show thee some of his secrets, the which man may not and cannot speak. Then shalt thou feel thine affection inflamed with the fire of his love, far more than I can tell thee, or mayor will at this time. For of that work that pertaineth only to God dare I not take upon me to speak with my blabbering fleshly tongue: and, shortly to say, although I durst I would not. But of that work that pertaineth to man, when he feeleth himself stirred and helped by grace, I like well to tell thee: for therein is the less peril of the two.



THE TWENTY-SEVENTH 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 ask me who shall work thus, I answer thee: all that have forsaken the world in a true will, and also that give themselves 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 they be, whether they have been customary sinners or none.



THE TWENTY-EIGHTH 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 ask me when they shall work in this work, then I answer thee and say: not till they have cleansed their conscience of all their special deeds of sin done before, according to the common ordinance of Holy Church.

For in this work a soul drieth up in itself all the root and the ground of sin that will always remain in it after confession, be it never so busy. And therefore whoso will travail in this work, let him first cleanse his conscience; and afterwards, when he hath done what in him is lawfully, let _ him dispose him boldly but meekly thereto. And let him think that he hath been full long holden therefrom. For this is that work in the which a soul should travail all his lifetime, although 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 his God. And not only that, but because of the pain of the original sin, he shall evermore see and feel that some of all the creatures that ever God made, or some of their works, will evermore press in his mind betwixt him and his God.



And this is the just judgement of God, that man, who, when he had sovereignty and lordship of all other creatures, wilfuly submitted himself to the stirring of his subjects, leaving the bidding of God and his Maker, should therefore afterwards, when he would fulfil the bidding of God, see and feel all the creatures that should be beneath him, proudly pressing above him, betwixt him and his God.



THE TWENTY-NINTH 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 the cleanness that he lost through sin, and to win to that well-being where all woe is wanting, he must bidingly travail in this work, and suffer the pain thereof, whatsoever he be, whether he have been a customary

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 with great reason. Nevertheless,ofttimes it befalleth that some, that have been horrible and customary 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 think that Doomsday shall be fair,  when 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 by men as angels, and some of those, peradventure, that never yet sinned deadly, shall sit full sorry amongst hell's calves.  



Hereby mayest thou see that no man should be judged by others here in this life, for good or for evil that they do. Nevertheless deeds may lawfully be judged, but not the men, whether they be good or evil.



THE THIRTIETH CHAPTER



WHO SHOULD BLAME AND CONDEMN OTHER MEN'S FAULTS



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



Surely by 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 faults unless he feel verily that he be stirred by the Holy Ghost within in his work; for else may he full lightly err in his judgements. And therefore beware: judge thyself as thou wilt, betwixt thee and thy God or thy ghostly father, and let other men alone.  



THE THIRTY-FIRST CHAPTER
HOW A MAN SHOULD BEHAVE IN THE BEGINNING OF THIS WORK AGAINST ALL THOUGHTS AND STIRRINGS OF SIN



AND from the time that thou feelest that thou hast done what in thee is, lawfully to amend thee according to the ordinance of Holy Church, then shalt thou set thee sharply to work in this work. And then, if it so be that thy former special deeds will always press in thy mind 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 though they never had been done in this life by thee or by any other man either. And if they rise oft, put them down oft: and (shortly to say) as oft as they rise, as oft put them down. And if thou thinkest that the travail is great, thou may est seek arts and wiles and privy subtleties of ghostly devices to put them away: the which subtleties be better learned from God by experience than from any man in this life.



THE THIRTY-SECOND 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 thinketh. Prove thou and do better, if thou canst.



Do what in thee is to behave as though thou knewest not that they pressed so fast upon . thee betwixt -thee and thy God. And try to look as it were over their shoulders, seeking another thing: die 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 if this device be well and truly conceived, it is nought else but a longing desire unto God, to feel him and to see him as it may be here. And such a desire is charity; and it meriteth always to be eased.



Another device there is; prove thou if thou wilt. When thou feelest that thou mayest in nowise put them down, cower then down under them as a caitiff and a coward overcome in battle, and think that it is but folly to strive any longer with them; and therefore thou yieldest thyself to God in the hands of thine enemies. And feel then thyself as though thou wert overcome for ever. Take good heed of this device, I pray thee; for I think that in the proof of this device thou shouldst melt all to water.  And surely, I think, if 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 thing, far worse than nought: the which knowing and feeling is meekness. And this meekness meriteth to have God himself mightily descending, to venge thee of thine enemies, so as to take thee up and cherishingly dry thy ghostly eyes, as the father doth his child that is on the point to perish under the mouths of wild swine or mad biting bears.



THE THIRTY-THIRD 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 I tell thee not at this time; for if thou have grace to feel the proof of these, I trow that thou shalt know better how to teach me than I thee. For although it be thus as I have said, yet truly I 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 this pain, if thou mayest not soon win to these devices. For truly it is thy purgatory. And then when thy pain is all passed and thy devices be given by God, and graciously gotten in custom: then it is no doubt to me that thou art cleansed not only from sin, but also from the pain of sin. I mean from the pain of thy former special sins, and not from 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 trouble thee, in comparison of the pain of thy special sins; and yet shalt thou not' be, without great travail. For out of this original sin will every day spring new and fresh stirrings of sin: the which thou lUUSt every day 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 certain security, nor yet no true rest in this life.

Nevertheless, thou shalt not therefore go back, nor yet be overmuch afraid of thy failing. For if thou mayest have grace to destroy the pain of thy former special deeds -in the manner aforesaid, or better if thou better mayest- sure be thou that the pain of original sin, or else the new stirrings of sin that be to come, shall but right little be able to trouble thee.



THE THIRTY-FOURTH CHAPTER THAT GOD GIVETH THIS GRACE FREELY WITHOUT ANY MEANS, AND THAT IT MAY NOT BE COME TO WITH MEANS



AND if thou ask 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 well to let thee know that I cannot tell thee. And that is no wonder. Because it is the work of only God, specially wrought in what-ever soul he liketh, without any merit of the same soul. For without it no saint nor 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 customary sinners, than in some other that never grieved him greatly in comparison with them. And this will he do, because he would be seen all-merciful and almighty; and because he would be seen to work as he liketh, where he liketh, and when he liketh.

And yet he giveth not this grace, nor worketh this work, in a soul that is unable thereto. And yet there is no soul without this grace, which is able to have this grace: none, whether it be a sinner's soul or an innocent soul. For it is neither 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, the more wary must men be of error. My meaning is good: if thou canst not understand it, lay it beside thee till God come and teach thee. Do then so, and hurt thee not.

Beware of pride: for it blasphemeth God in his gifts, and by its blandishment em-boIdens sinners. Wert thou verily meek thou shouldst feel about 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 to have it and to feel it. And that ableness may no soul have without it. The ableness to this work is oned to the work itself, without separation; 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 or desire it. Forasmuch as thou willest it and desirest it, so- much hast thou of it, and no more and no less: and yet is it no will, nor desire, but a thing thou knowest never what, that stirreth thee to will and desire thou knowest never what. Reek thee never if thou knowest 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 wheresoever it willeth. Let it be the worker, and thou but the sufferer: do but look upon it and let it alone. Meddle thee not therewith as though thou wouldst help it, for dread lest thou spill all. Be thou but the tree, and let it be the carpenter; be thou but the house, and let it be the husband dwelling therein. Be blind in this time, and shear away desire of knowing, for it will more hinder thee than help thee. It sufficeth enough unto thee that thou feelest thyself stirred sweetly with a thing thou knowest never what, except that in this stirring thou hast no special thought of anything 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 afraid of the devil, for he may not come so near. He may never come to stir a man's will, except occasionally and by means froni afar, be he never so subtle a devil. For sufficiently and without means may no good angel stir thy will: nor, shortly to say, anything but only God.



So that thou mayest here by these words understand somewhat-but much more clearly by experience-that in this work men shall use no means, and that men may not come thereto with means. All good means hang upon it, and it on no means; nor no means may lead thereto.



THE THIRTY-FIFTH CHAPTER

OF THREE MEANS IN THE WHICH A CONTEMPLATIVE PRENTICE SHOULD BE OCCUPIED: READING, THINKING, AND PRAYING



NEVERTHELESS there be means in the which a contemplative prentice should be occupied, the which be these: Lesson, Meditation, and Orison. Or else, for thine understanding, they may be called: Reading, Thinking, and Praying.  Of tliese three thou shalt find written in another book by another man 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, as men may be here-thinking may not well be gotten, without reading or hearing coming before. All one in a manner are reading and hearing: clerks read in books, and ignorant men read in clerks, when they hear them preach the word of God. And prayer may not well 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 eye 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 eye of the same visage may not see that spot nor learn where it is, without a mirror or the teaching of another than itself: right so is it ghostly. Without reading or hearing of God's word .it is impossible to man's understanding that a soul that is blinded in a habit of sin should see the foul spot in his conscience.

And consequently, when a man seeth in a bodily or ghostly mirror, or learneth by other men's teaching, whereabouts the foul spot is on his visage, either bodily or ghostly: then first, and no sooner, 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 thereof. 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 thereof.

And thus mayest thou see that no thinking may well be gotten in beginners and profiters without reading or hearing coming before; nor praying without thinking.

 

THE THIRTY-SIXTH 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. F or their meditations be but as it 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 anything under God. These sudden conceits and these blind feelings be sooner learned from God than from man. I care not though thou hadst nowadays no other meditations of thine own wretchedness, or of the goodness of God-I mean if thou feel thyself 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 word, whichever thou wilt. Not breaking nor expounding these words with curiosity of wit, in considering the qualities of these words, as if thou wouldst by that considera ... tion increase thy devotion. I believe 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 knowest never what, none other thing but thyself. Methinketh that in this blind beholding of sin, thus congealed in a lump-none other thing than thyself-there should be no need to bind a madder thing than thou shouldst be in this time.  And yet, peradventure, whoso looked upon thee would think thee full soberly disposed in thy body, without any changing of countenance; but whether thou wert sitting or going, lying or leaning, standing or kneeling: he would think thee in a full sober restfulness.



THE THIRTY-SEVENTH CHAPTER
OF THE SPECIAL PRAYERS OF THEM THAT BE CONTINUAL WORKERS IN THE WORK 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 their special prayers, not those prayers that be ordained by Holy Church. For they that be true workers in this work, they worship no prayer so much as those of Holy Church; and therefore they do them, in the form and in the statute that they be ordained by 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 in full few words: yea, and the fewer the better . Yea, and if it be but a little word of one syllable, methinks it is better than oftwo, and more according to the work of the spirit; since a ghostly worker in this work should evermore be in the highest and the sovereignest point of the spirit. That this be truth, see by ens ample in the course of nature. A man or a woman, affrighted by any sudden chance of fire, or of a man's death, or whatever else it be, suddenly in the height of his spirit he is driven in haste and in need to cry or to pray for help. Yea, how? Surely not in many words, nor yet in one word of two syllables. And why is that? Because he 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 but one little word of one syllable: such 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 his hearers, so doth a little word of one syllable, when it is not only spoken or thought, but secretly meant in the depth of the spirit; the which is the height: for in ghostliness all is one, height and depth, length and breadth. And rather it pierceth the ears of Almighty God than doth any long psalter unmindfully mumbled in the teeth. And therefore it is written, that short prayer pierceth heaven.



THE THIRTY-EIGHTH CHAPTER
HOW AND WHY 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 depth, 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 depth 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, according to the teaching of St Paul, with all the saints-not fully, but in a manner and in part, as is fitting unto this work-what is the length and the breadth, the height and the depth of Everlasting and All-lovely, Almighty and All-knowing God. The everlastingness of God is his length; his love is his breadth; his might is his height; and his wisdom is his depth. No wonder though a soul, that is thus nigh conformed by grace to the image and the likeness of God, his maker, should be soon heard by God ! Yea, though it be a full sinful soulthe which is to God as it were an enemy if he might through grace come to cry such a little syllable in the height and the depth, in the length and the breadth of his spirit, yet should he for the hideous noise of his cry be always heard and helped by God.



See by ensample. He that is thy deadly enemy, if thou hear him so affrighted that he cryeth in the height of his spirit this little word FIRE, or this word OUT: then, without any regard to him for that he is thine enemy, but for pure pity in thine heart stirred and . raised by the dolefulness of his cry, thou risest up-yea! though it be about midwinter's night-and helpest him to quench his fire, or to still and rest himself in his distress. 0 h, Lord! since a man may be made so merciful by 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 the soul, made and wrought in the height and depth, in the length and breadth of his spirit? For he hath all by nature that man hath by grace; and much more. Surely then without comparison much more mercy will he have. Since it so is, that that thing that is had by nature is nearer to each thing than that which is had by grace.



THE THIRTY-NINTH CHAPTER

 

HOW A PERFECT WORKER SHALL PRAY, AND WHAT PRAYER IS IN ITSELF; AND IF A MAN SHALL PRAY IN WORDS, WHICH WORDS ARE MOST SUITED TO THE PROPERTY OF PRAYER



AND therefore must we pray in the 'height and the depth, in 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 suited to the property of prayer. And what word is that? Let us first see what prayer is properly in itself, and thereafter we may more clearly know what word will best suit the property of

prayer.     .



Prayer in itself properly is nought else, but a devout intent directed unto God, for the getting of good and removing of evil. And therefore, since it so is that all evil is comprehended in sin (either by cause or by being), let us therefore, when we will intently pray for the removing of evil, either say, or think, or mean, nought else and no more words, but this little word SIN. And if we will intently pray for the getting of good, let us cry, either with word or with thought or with desire, nought else and no more words, but this word GOD. For in God is all good, both by cause and by being.



Have no marvel why I set these two words before all others. For if I knew any shorter words, so fully comprehending in them all good and all evil, as these two words do, or if I had been taught by God to take any other words, I would then have taken them and left these, and so I counsel that thou do. Study thou not about words, for so shouldst thou never come to thy purpose nor to this work, for it is never gotten by study, but only by grace. And therefore take thou none other words to pray in-although I set these here-s-but such as thou art stirred by God to take. Nevertheless, if God stir thee to take these, I counsel not that thou leave themI mean if thou shalt pray in words, and else not. Because they be full short words.

But although the shortness of prayer be greatly commended here, nevertheless the oftness of prayer is not therefore restrained. For as it is said before, prayer is made 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. F or we see well that they never cease crying this little word OUT, or this little word FIRE, till they have in great part gotten help in their trouble.



THE FORTIETH CHAPTER

THAT IN THE TIME OF THIS WORK A SOUL HATH NO SPECIAL REGARD TO ANY ONE VICE IN ITSELF NOR TO ANY ONE VIRTUE IN ITSELF



Do thou, in the same manner, fill thy spirit with the ghostly meaning of this word SIN, and without any special regard unto any kind of sin, whether it be venial or mortal: pride, anger, or envy, covetousness, sloth, gluttony, or lust. What reeks it in contemplatives what sin it be, or how great a sin it be? For all sins they think-I mean for the time of this work-alike great in themselves, when the least sin separateth them from God, and hindereth them from their ghostly peace.     .

And feel sin a lump, thou knowest never what, but none other thing than thyself. And cry then ghostly ever this one cry: SIN, SIN, SIN! OUT, OUT, OUT! This ghostly cry is better learned from God by experience than from any man by word. F or it is best when it is in pure spirit, without special thought or any pronouncing of word; unless it be seldom, when for abundance of spirit it bursteth up into word: and that because the body and the soul be both filled with sorrow and the cumbering of sin.

In the same manner shalt thou do with this little word GOD. Fill thy spirit with the ghostly meaning of it without any special regard to any of his works-whether they be good, better, or best, bodily or ghostlyor to any virtue that may be wrought in man's soul by any grace; not considering whether it be meekness or charity, patience or abstinence, hope, faith, or soberness, chastity or voluntary poverty. What reeks this in contemplatives? For all virtues they find and feel in God; for in him is everything, both by cause and by being. F or they think that if they had God they would have all good; and therefore they covet nothing with a special regard, but only good God. Do thou in the same manner, as far forth as thou mayest by grace: and mean God wholly, and wholly God, so that nought work in thy mind and in thy will, but only God.



And because that ever the whiles thou livest in this wretched life, thou must 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 alternately mean these two words-SIN and GOD. With this general understanding: that if thou hadst God, then shouldst thou lack sin; and mightest thou lack sin, then shouldst thou have God.


THE FORTY-FIRST 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 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 shouldst never cease from this work the whiles thou livest.



I say not that thou shalt continue ever therein alike fresh, for that may not be. For sometimes sickness and other disordered dispositions in body and soul, with many other necessities of nature, will hinder thee full much, and ofttimes draw thee down from the height of this working. But I say that thou shouldst evermore have this work either in earnest or in game; that is to say, either in act or in will. And therefore for God's love beware of sickness as much as thou well mayest, 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 a clean disposition, as well in body as in soul.



And therefore for God's love govern thyself discreetly both in body and in soul, and get thee thine health as much as thou mayest. And if sickness come against e, 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.

 

THE FORTY -SECOND CHAPTER
THAT BY INDISCRETION IN THIS WORK, 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 drink, and in sleep, and in all these other. And hereto I think to answer thee right shortly: "Get what thou canst get." Do this work evermore without ceasing and without discretion, and thou shalt know well how to begin and cease in all other works with a great discretion. F or I cannot believe that a soul continuing in this work night and day without discretion may err in any of these outward doings; and else methinketh that he should always err.

And therefore if I might get a watchful and a busy beholding to this ghostly work within in my soul, I would then have a reeklessness'] in eating and in drinking, in sleeping and in speaking, and in all mine outward doings. For surely I trow that I should rather come to discretion in them by such a recklessness than by any busy beholding to the same things, as though I would by that beholding s.et a mark and a measure in them. Truly I should never bring it so about, for aught that' I could do or say. Let men say what they 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 wouldst thou have, and sin wouldst thou lack. God is wanting to thee; and sin art thou sure of. Now good God help thee, for now hast thou need!


THE FORTY-THIRD CHAPTER

THAT ALL KNOWING AND FEELING OF A MAN'S OWN BEING MUST NEEDS BE LOST, IF THE PERFECTION OF THIS WORK SHALL VERILY BE FELT IN ANY SOUL IN THIS LIFE



LOOK that nought work in thy mind nor in thy will but only God. And try to smite down all knowing and feeling of aught under God, and tread all down full far under the cloud of forgetting. And thou shalt understand that in this work thou shalt forget not only all other creatures than thyself, or their deeds or thine, but also thou shalt in this work forget both thyself and 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 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 mind and in thy will, unless it be only God. For otherwise surely, whatsoever it be, it is betwixt thee and thy God. And no wonder if thou loathe and hate to think on thyself, when thou shalt always feel sin a foul stinking lump, thou knowest 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 separation.

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

 

THE FORTY-FOURTH CHAPTER
HOW A SOUL SHALL DISPOSE ITSELF ON ITS OWN PART, SO AS TO DESTROY ALL KNOWING AND FEELING OF ITS OWN BEING



BUT now thou askest me how thou mayest destroy this naked knowing and feeling of thine own being. For.peradventure thou thinkest that if it were destroyed, all other hindrances 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 by God, and also a full according ableness on thy part to receive this grace, this naked knowing and feeling of thy being may in nowise be destroyed. And this ableness is nought else but a strong and a deep ghostly sorrow.

But in this sorrow thou needest to have discretion, in this manner: thou shalt beware, in the time of this sorrow, that thou strain neither thy body nor thy spirit too rudely, 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 it with him that might win to this sorrow. All men have matter of sorrow: but most specially he feeleth matter of sorrow that knoweth and feeleth that he is. All other sorrows in comparison with this be but as it were game to earnest. For he may make sorrow earnestly that knoweth and feeleth not only what he is, but that he is. And whoso felt never this sorrow, let him make sorrow; for he hath never yet felt 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 also it maketh a soul able to receive that joy, the which reaveth from a man all knowing and feeling of his being.



This sorrow, if it be truly conceived, is full of holy desire: and else a man might never in this life abide it or bear it. For were it not that a soul were somewhat fed with a manner of comfort by his right working, he should not be able to bear the pain that he hath by the knowing and feeling of his being. For as oft as he would have a true knowing and a feeling of his God in purity of spirit (as it may be here), and then feeleth that he may not-for he findeth evermore his knowing and his feeling as it were occupied and filled with a foul stinking lump of himself, the which must always be hated and despised and forsaken, if he shall be God's perfect disciple, taught by himself in the mount of perfection-so oft he goeth nigh mad for Sorrow. Insomuch, that he weepeth and waileth, striveth, curseth and denounceth himself; and (shortly to say) he 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 un-be: for that were devil's madness and despite unto God. But he liketh right well to be; and he giveth full heartily thanks unto God, for the worthiness and the gift of his being, although he desire unceasingly for to lack the knowing and the feeling of his being.



This sorrow and this desire must every soul have and feel in itself (either in this manner or in another), as God vouchsafeth to teach his ghostly disciples according to his good will 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.



THE FORTY-FIFTH CHAPTER

A GOOD DECLARING OF SOME CERTAIN DECEITS

THAT MAY BEFALL IN THIS WORK



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

And in this manner may this deceit befall.



A young man or a woman, newly set to the school of devotion, heareth this sorrow and this desire read and spoken of: how that a man shall lift up his heart unto God, and unceasingly desire 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 into 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 spirit. Or else, if they fall not in this, they merit-s-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 -to have their breasts either inflamed with an unnatural heat, caused by misruling of their bodies or by this feigned working, or else they conceive a false heat wrought by the fiend, their ghostly enemy, caused by their pride and their fleshliness and curiosity of wit.



And yet, peradventure, they ween that it is the fire of love, gotten and kindled by the grace and the goodness of the Holy Ghost. Truly, from this deceit, and from the branches thereof, spring many mischiefs: much hypocrisy, much heresy, and much error. For as fast after such a false ~'eling cometh a false knowing in the nend'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, according to 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 thee to learn 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, so that thou mayest beware of them in thy working, if thou be assailed therewith.


THE FORTY-SIXTH 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 beware in this work, and strain not thy heart in thy breast over-rudely nor out of measure; but work more with a list than with any idle strength. For the more listily thou workest, the more meek and ghostly is thy work; and the more rudely, the more 'bodily and beastly. And therefore beware.

For surely the beastly heart that presumeth to touch the high mount of this work shall be beaten away with stones.  Stones be hard and dry in their nature, and they hurt full sore where they hit. And surely such rude strainings be full hard fastened in the fleshliness of bodily feeling, and full dry from any wetting of grace; and they hurt full sore the silly soul, and make it fester in fantasies feigned by fiends. And therefore beware of this beastly rudeness, and learn to love Hstily 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 over- hastily, as it were a greedy greyhound, though thou hunger never so sore. And, to speak playfully, I counsel that thou do what in thee is to refrain the rude and the great stirring of thy spirit, as though thou wouldst on nowise let him know how fain thou wouldst see him, and have him, or feel him.



This is childishly and playfully spoken, thou thinkest peradventure. But I trow that 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 clasping, that well were him so !



THE FORTY-SEVENTH CHAPTER



A SUBTLE TEACHING OF THIS WORK IN PURITY OF SPIRIT; DECLARING HOW A SOUL SHOULD SHOW HIS DESIRE ON ONE MANNER UNTO GOD, AND ON THE CONTRARY UNTO MAN



LOOK that thou have no wonder why I speak thus childishly, and as it were foolishly and lacking natural discretion; for I do it for certain reasons, and as methinketh 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 now unto thee.

And one reason why I bid thee hide from God the desire of thy heart is this: because I think it would more clearly come to his knowledge, for thy profit and in fulfilling of thy desire, by such a hiding, than it would by any other manner of showing that I trow thou couldst show. And another reason is this: because I would by such a hid showing bring thee out of the boisterousness of bodily feeling into the purity and depth of ghostly feeling; and so furthermore at the last help thee to knit the ghostly knot of burning love betwixt thee and thy God, in ghostly onehead and accordance of will.

Thou knowest well that God is a spirit; and whoso would be oned unto him, it must be in truth and depth of spirit, full far from any feigned bodily thing. True it is that all thing is known to God, and nothing may be hid from his knowledge, neither bodily thing nor ghostly. But since he is a spirit, that thing is more plainly known and showed unto him, the which is hid in depth of 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 manner 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, if it were done more devoutly and more listily . in soberness and in purity and in depth 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, to bid thee plainly do that which in nowise may be done. But I bid thee do what in thee is to hide it. And why bid I thus? Surely because I would that thou shouldst cast it into the depth of spirit, far from any rude mingling of any bodilyness, the which would make it less ghostly and insomuch farther from God; and because I know 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 by him. Not that his sight may be at any time or in anything 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 I bid thee do what in thee is to let him not know. Thou and I, and many such as we, be so liable to conceive a thing bodily the which is said ghostly, that peradventure, if I had bidden thee show unto God the stirring of thy heart, thou shouldst have made a bodily showing unto him, either in gesture, or in voice, or in word, or in some other rude bodily straining, as it is when thou shalt show a thing that is hid in thine heart to a bodily friend: and insomuch thy work should have been impure. For on one manner shall a thing be showed to man, and on another manner unto God.



THE FORTY-EIGHTH CHAPTER

HOW GOD WILL BE SERVED BOTH WITH BODY AND WITH SOUL, AND REWARD MEN IN BOTH; AND HOW MEN SHALL KNOW WHEN THOSE SOUNDS AND SWEETNESSES THAT HAPPEN TO THE BODY IN TIME OF PRAYER BE GOOD OR EVIL



I SAY not this because I will that thou desist any time, if thou be stirred to pray with thy mouth, or 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 thyself stirred: as be these, "Good Jesu! Fair Jesu! Sweet Jesu!" and all such other. Nay, God forbid thou take it thus! F or truly I mean not thus, and God forbid that I should separate what God hath coupled, the body and the spirit. For God would be served with body and with soul, both together, as seemly is, and reward man his meed in bliss both in body and in soul. And in earnest of that reward, sometimes he will inflame the body of a devout servant of his here in this life-not once or twice, but peradventure right oft and as he 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 from abundance of ghostly gladness, and from true devotion of spirit. Such a comfort and such a sweetness shall not be held suspect: and (shortly to say) I trow that he that feeleth it may not hold it suspect.



But all other comforts, sounds, and gladness, and sweetness, that come from without suddenly, and thou knowest 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. But they may in nowise be evil, if those deceits of curiosity of wit and of inordinate straining of the fleshly heart be removed, as I teach thee, or better if thou better mayest. And why is that? Surely because of the cause of this comfortthat is to say, the devout stirring of love, the which dwelleth in pure spirit. F or it is wrought by the "hand of Almighty God without means; and therefore it must always be far from any fantasy, or any false opinion that may happen to man: in this life.



And of the other comforts and sounds and sweetnesses, how thou shouldst know whether they be good or evil, I think not to tell thee at this time: and that is because methinketh that it needeth not. Because 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 find this that I set here far better than it is here.  But what of that? Therefore shall I not forbear, nor shall it weary me, to fulfil the desire and the stirring of thy heart; the which thou hast showed thyself to have unto me before this time in thy words, and now in thy deeds.



But this may I say to thee about those sounds and those sweetnesses that come in by the windows of thy wits, the which may be both good and evil. Practise thyself continually in this blind and devout and listy stirring of love that I tell thee: and then I have no doubt that it shall well be able to tell thee of them. And if thou yet be in part astonished by them at the first timeand that is because they be unusual-yet this shall it do for thee: it shall bind thy heart so fast that thou shalt in nowise give full credence to them until thou be certified of them, either within wonderfully by the Spirit of God, or else without by counsel of some discreet father.



THE FORTY-NINTH CHAPTER

THAT THE SUBSTANCE OF ALL PERFECTION IS NOUGHT ELSE BUT A GOOD WILL; AND HOW THAT ALL SOUNDS AND COMFORTS AND SWEETNESSES 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 other. 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 at 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 separation, 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 happen to that man in this life, but he is as fain and as glad to lack it at God's will as to feel it and have it.


THE 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 pleasing 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 much of thy powers to bide any long time in such sweet feelings and weepings. And peradventure thou mayest be stirred to love God for the sake of them. And that shalt thou feel by this: if thou grumble over- . much when they be away. And ifit be thus, thy love is not yet neither chaste nor perfect. F or 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 it is not grumbling, but full well-pleased 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 comfortsbe but seldom.



And all this is according to the disposition and the ordinance of God, and all for 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 in nowise abide nor bear the diversity of temptations and tribulations that they suffer and be travailed with in this life from their bodily and ghostly enemies. And some there be that 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 other hand, 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 they need 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 knoweth and I not.



THE FIFTY-FIRST CHAPTER

THAT MEN SHOULD HAVE GREAT WARINESS SO THAT THEY UNDERSTAND NOT BODILY A THING THAT IS MEANT GHOSTLY; AND IN PARTICULAR IT IS GOOD TO BE WARY IN UNDERSTANDING OF THIS WORD "IN," AND OF THIS WORD " UP "



AND therefore lean meekly to this blind stirring of love in thine heart. I mean not in thy bodily heart, but in thy ghostly heart, the which is thy will. And beware that thou conceive not bodily that which is said ghostly. For truly I tell thee, that. the bodily and fleshly conceits of them that have curious and imaginative wits be cause of much error.



Ensample of this mayest thou see, where I bid thee hide thy desire from God so far as in thee is. For if, peradventure, I had bidden thee show thy desire unto God, thou shouldst have conceived it more bodily than thou dost now, when I bid thee hide it. For thou knowest well that all that thing that is wilfully hidden is cast into the depth of the spirit. And thus methinketh that there is great need to have much wariness in understanding of words that be spoken with ghostly intent, so that thou conceive them not bodily, but ghostly, as they be meant. And in particular it is good to beware with this word in, and with this word up. For on misconceiving of these two words hangeth much error and much deceit in them that purpose to be ghostly workers, as methinketh. Somewhat I know by experience, and somewhat by hearsay; and of these deceits I would tell thee a little, as methinketh.



A young disciple in God's school, new turned from the world, weeneth that for a little time that he hath given him to penance and to prayer, taken by counsel in confession, that he is therefore able to take upon him ghostly working, of the which he heareth men speak or read about him, or peradventure readeth himself. And therefore when they hear spoken or read of ghostly working, and in particular of this word, how a man shall draw all his wits within himself, or how he shall climb above himself-as fast for blindness in soul, and for fleshliness and curiosity of natural wit, they misunderstand these words, and ween, because they find in themselves a natural desire for hid things,  that they be therefore called to that work by grace. Insomuch, that if their counsel will not agree that they shall work in this work, as soon they feel a manner of grumbling against their counsel, and think -yea, and peradventure say to others like themselves-that they can find no man that can understand what they mean fully. And therefore at once, for boldness and presumption of their curious wit, they leave meek prayer and penance over soon; and set them (they ween) to a full ghostly work within in their soul. The which work, if it be truly conceived, is neither bodily working nor ghostly working. And (shortly to say) it is a working against nature, and the devil is the chief worker thereof. And it is the readiest way to death of body and of soul, for it is madness and no wisdom, and leadeth a man even to madness. And yet they ween not thus: for they purpose them in this work to think upon none other thing but only God.


THE FIFTY-SECOND CHAPTER HOW THESE YOUNG PRESUMPTUOUS DISCIPLES MISUNDERSTAND THIS WORD " IN "; AND OF THE DECEITS THAT FOLLOW THEREON



AND in this m~nner is this madness wrought that I speak of. They read and hear well said that they should leave outward working with their wits, and work inwards: and because they know not which is inward working, therefore they work wrong. For they turn their bodily wits inwards into their 52 body against the course of nature; and they strain them, as though they would see inwards with their bodily eyes, and hear inwards with their ears, and so forth with all their wits, smelling, tasting, and feeling inwards. And thus they reverse them against the course of nature, and with this curiosity they travail their imagination so indiscreetly that at the last they turn their brain in their heads; and then as fast the devil hath power to feign some false light or sounds, sweet smells in their noses, wonderful tastes in their mouths, and many quaint heats and burnings in their bodily breasts or in their bowels, in their backs and in their reins and in their members.

And yet in this fantasy they think that they have a restful contemplation of their God without any hindrance of vain thoughts; and surely so have they in a manner, for they be so filled with falsehoodthat vanity cannot disturb them. And why? Because he, that same fiend that would minister vain thoughts to them if they were in a good way -he, that same, is the chief worker in this work. And know thou right well that he would not hinder himself. The thought of God will he not put from them, for fear that he should be held suspect.

 

THE FIFTY-THIRD CHAPTER

OF DIVERS UNSEEMLY GESTURES THAT FOLLOW THEM THAT LACK THE WORK OF THIS BOOK



MANY wonderful gestures follow them that be deceived in this false work, ,or in any species thereof, more than in them that be God's true disciples: for these be evermore full seemly in all their gestures, bodily or ghostly. But it is not so with these others. For whoso would or might behold unto them where they sit in this time, if it so were that their eyelids were open, he should see them stare as though they were mad, and leeringly look as if they saw the devil. Surely it is good they beware; for truly the fiend is not far. Some set their eyes in their heads as though they were sturdy" sheep beaten in the head, and as though they should die anon. Some hang their heads on one side, as if a worm were in their ears. Some pipe when they should speak, as if there were no spirit in their bodies: and this is the proper condition of a hypocrite. Some cry and whine in their throats, so greedy be they and hasty to say what they think: and this is the condition of heretics, and of them that with presumption and curiosity of wit will always maintain error.

Many disordered and unseemly gestures follow on this error, whoso might perceive all. Nevertheless, some there be that be so clever that they can restrain themselves in great part when they come before men. But might these men be seen in a place where they be homely, then I trow they should not be hid. And yet I trow that whoso would straitly gainsay their opinion, that they should soon see them burst out in some point: and yet they think that all that ever they do is done for the love of God and to maintain the truth. Now truly I think that unless God show his merciful miracle and make them soon desist, they shall love God so long' in this manner that they shall go staring mad to the devil. I say not that the devil hath so perfect a servant in this life that is deceived and infected with all these fantasies that I set here. And yet it may be that one-yea, and many a onebe infected with them all. But I say that he hath no perfect hypocrite nor heretic on earth, but that he is guilty in some that I have said, or peradventure shall say, if God vouchsafeth.

For some men are so cumbered with nice curious gestures in bodily bearing, that when they shall aught hear, they writhe their  heads on one side quaintly, and up with the chin; they gape with their mouths" as though they would hear with their mouths and not with their ears. Some, when they should speak, point with their fingers, either on their fingers, or on their own breasts, or on theirs that they speak to. Some can neither sit still, stand still, nor lie still, unless they be either wagging with their feet, or else somewhat doing with their hands. Some row with their arms in the time of their speaking, as though they needed to swim over a great water. Some be evermore smiling and laughing at every other word that they speak, as they were giddy girls or silly jesting jugglers lacking behaviour. Better far were a modest countenance, with sober and demure bearing of body 'and honest mirth in manner.



I say not that all these unseemly gestures be great sins in themselves, nor yet that all those that do them be great sinners themselves. But I say that if these unseemly and disordered gestures be governors of that man that doth them, insomuch that he cannot leave them when he will: I say then that they be tokens of pride and curiosity of wit, and of disordered display and desire of knowing.

And in particular they be very tokens of unstableness of heart and unrestfulness of mind, and especially of the lacking of the work of this book. And' this is the only reason why I set so many of these deceits here in this writing: for why, that a ghostly worker shall prove his work by them.  


THE FIFTY-FOURTH CHAPTER

HOW THAT BY VIRTUE OF THIS WORK A MAN IS GOVERNED FULL WISELY AND MADE FULL SEEMLY, AS WELL IN BODY AS IN SOUL



WHOSO had this work, it should govern them full seemly, as well in body as in soul: and make them full favourable] unto each man or woman that looked upon them. Insomuch, that the worst-favoured man or woman that liveth in this life, if they might come by grace to work in this work, their favour should suddenly and graciously be changed, so that each good man that saw them should be fain and joyful to have them in company, and full much they should think that they were ª pleased in spirit and helped by grace unto God in their presence.



And therefore get this gift, whoso by grace get may: for whoso hath it verily, he shall know well how to govern himself by the virtue thereof, and all that belongeth to him. He should well discern, if need were, all natures and all dispositions. He should know well how to make himself like unto all that conversed with him, whether they were customary sinners or none, without sin in himself: to the wondering of all that saw him, and to the drawing of others by help of grace to the work of that same spirit that he worketh in himself.



His countenance and his words should be full of ghostly wisdom, full of fire and of fruit, spoken in sober certainty without any falsehood, far from any feigning or piping of hypocrites. For some there be that with all their powers, inner and outer, study in their speaking how they may stuff and underprop themselves on each side from falling, with many meek piping words and gestures of devotion: more striving to seem holy in the sight of men than to be so in the sight of God and his angels. For why, these folk will care more, and make more sorrow, for a disordered gesture, or unseemly or unfitting word spoken before men, than they will for a thousand vain thoughts and stinking stirrings of sin wilfully drawn upon them, or recklessly used in the sight of God and the saints .and the angels in heaven. Ah, Lord God ! surely there is pride within where such meek piping words be so plentiful without. I grant well that it is fitting and seemly for them that be meek within to show meek and seemly words and gestures without, according to that meekness that is within in the heart. But I say not that they shall then be showed in broken or in piping voices against the plain disposition of their nature that speak them. For if they be true, then be they spoken in sincerity, and in wholeness of their voice and of their spirit that speak them. And if he that hath a plain and an open boisterous voice by nature, speak them poorly and pipirigly-I mean except he be sick in his body, or else it be between him and his God or his confessor-then it is a very token of hypocrisy, I mean either young hypocrisy or old.

And what shall I more say of these venomous deceits? Truly, I trow, unless they have grace to leave off such piping hypocrisy, that betwixt that privy pride in their hearts within end such meek words without, the silly soul may full soon sink into sorrow.



THE FIFTY-FIFTH CHAPTER

HOW THEY BE DECEIVED THAT FOLLOW THE FERVOUR OF SPIRIT IN CONDEMNING OF SIN WITHOUT DISCRETION



SOME men the fiend will deceive in this manner full wonderfully. He will enfiame their brains to maintain God's law, and to destroy sin in all other men. He will never tempt them with a thing that is openly evil. He maketh them like busy prelates watching over all the degrees of Christian men's living, as an abbot over his monks. All men will they reprove of their faults, right as though they had cure of their souls: and yet they think that they dare not else for God  but tell them their faults that they see. And they say that they be stirred thereto by the fire of charity, and of God's love in their hearts; and truly they lie, for it is with the fire of hell, welling up in their brains and in their imagination.

That this is truth, it seemeth by this that followeth. The devil is a spirit, and of his own nature he hath no body, no more than hath an angel. But nevertheless, what time he or an angel shall take any body by leave of God, to make any ministration to any man in this life: according as the work is that he shall minister, thereafter in likeness is the quality of his body in some part. Ensample of this we have in Holy Writ. As oft as' any angel was sent in body in the Old Testament and in the New also, evermore it was showed, either by his name, or by some instrument or quality of his body, what his matter or his message was in spirit. In the same manner it fareth with the fiend. For when he appeareth in body, he figureth in some quality of his body what his servants be in spirit.



Ensample of this may be seen in one case instead of all others. For as I have understood by some disciples of necromancy, the which profess the advocation of wicked spirits, and by some unto whom the fiend hath appeared in bodily likeness: in what bodily likeness the fiend appeareth, evermore he hath but one nostril, and that is great and wide, and he will gladly cast it up so that a man may see in thereat to his brain up in his head. The which brain is nought else but the fire of hell, for the fiend may have none other brain. And if he might make a man look in thereto, he wants no better. F or at that looking he should lose his wits for ever. But a perfect prentice of necromancy knoweth this well enough, and can well ordain therefore, so that he harm him not.

Therefore it is that I say, and have said, that evermore when the devil taketh any body, he figureth in some quality of his body what his servants be in spirit. For he inflameth so the imagination of his contemplatives with the fire of hell, that suddenly without discretion they shoot out their curious conceits, and without any advisement they will take upon them to blame other men's faults over soon: and this is because they have but one nostril ghostly. For that division that is in a man's nose bodily, and the which separateth the one nostril from the other, betokeneth that a man should have discretion ghostly, and know how to dissever the good from the evil, and the evil from the worse, and the good from the better, ere that he gave any full judgement of anything that he heard or saw done or spoken about him. And by a man's brain is ghostly understood imagination; for by nature it dwelleth and worketh in the head.


THE FIFTY-SIXTH. CHAPTER

HOW THEY BE DECEIVED THAT LEAN MORE TO THE CURIOSITY OF NATURAL WIT, AND OF LEARNING GOT IN THE SCHOOL OF MEN, THAN TO THE COMMON DOCTRINE AND COUNSEL OF HOLY CHURCH



SOME there be that, although they be not deceived with this error as it is set here, yet for pride and curiosity of natural wit and letterly knowledge leave the common doctrine and counsel of Holy Church. And these with all their favourers lean over much to their own knowing. And because they were never grounded in meek blind feeling and virtuous living, therefore they merit to have a false feeling, feigned and wrought by the ghostly enemy. Insomuch that at the last they burst up and blaspheme all the saints, sacraments, statutes, and ordinances of Holy Church. Fleshly living men of the world, the which think the statutes of Holy Church over hard for them to amend their lives by, they lean to these heretics full soon and full lightly , and stalwartly maintain them, and all because they think that they lead them a softer way than is ordained by Holy Church.  

Now truly I trow that whoso will not go the strait way to heaven, they shall go the soft way to hell. Each man prove by him- self: for I trow that all such heretics, and all their favourers, if they might clearly be seen as they shall on the last day, should be seen full soon cumbered in great and horrible sins of the world in their foul flesh secretly, apart from their open presumption in maintaining of error. So that they be full properly called Antichrist's disciples. For it is said of them that for all their false fairness openly, yet shall they be full foul lechers privily.  

 

THE FIFTY-SEVENTH CHAPTER

HOW THESE YOUNG PRESUMPTUOUS DISCIPLES MISUNDERSTAND THIS OTHER WORD" UP"; AND OF THE DECEITS THAT FOLLOW THEREON



No more of these at this time now; but forth of our matter, how that these young presumptuous ghostly disciples misunderstand this other word up.

For if it so be that they either read, or hear read or spoken, how that men should lift up their hearts unto God, at once they stare in the stars as if they would be above the moon, and hearken if they shall hear any angel sing out of heaven. These men will sometimes with the curiosity of their imagination pierce the planets, and make a hole in the firmament to look in thereat. These men will make a God as they like, and clothe him full richly in clothes, and set him on a throne, far more curiously than ever was he depicted on this earth. These men will make angels in bodily likeness, and set them about, each one with diverse minstrelsy, far more curious than ever was any seen or heard in this life. Some of these men the devil will deceive full wonderfully. For he will send a manner of dew-angels' food they ween it -as it were coming out of the air, and softly and sweetly falling into their mouths; and therefore they have it in custom to sit gaping as though they would catch flies. Now truly all this is but deceit, seem it never so holy; for in this time they have souls full empty of any true devotion. Much vanity and falsehood is in their hearts, caused of their curious working. Insomuch, that ofttimes the devil feigneth quaint sounds in their ears, quaint lights and shining in their eyes, and wonderful smells in their noses: and all is but falsehood.

And yet they ween not so; for they think that they have the ensample of Saint Martin for this upward looking and working, that saw by revelation God clad in his mantle among his angels, and of Saint Stephen that saw our Lord stand in heaven, and of many other; and of Christ, that ascended bodily to heaven, seen by his disciples. And therefore they say that we should have our eyes up thitherwards. I grant well that in our bodily observance we should lift up our eyes and our hands if we be stirred in spirit. But I say that the work of our spirit shall not be directed neither upwards nor downwards, nor on one side nor on the other, nor forward nor backward, as it is with a bodily thing. Because our work should be ghostly, not bodily, nor on a bodily manner wrought.


THE FIFTY-EIGHTH CHAPTER

THAT A MAN SHALL NOT TAKE ENSAMPLE OF SAINT MARTIN AND OF SAINT STEPHEN, FOR TO STRAIN HIS IMAGINATION BODILY UPWARDS IN THE TIME OF HIS PRAYER



FOR as regards what they say of Saint Martin and of Saint Stephen, although they saw such things with their bodily eyes, yet they were showed but by miracle and to certify a thing that was ghostly. For know they right well that Saint Martin's mantle came never on Christ's own body substantially, for any need that he had of it to keep him from cold; but by miracle and in a likeness, for all us that be able to be saved, that be oned to the body of Christ ghostly. And whoso clotheth a poor man and doth any other good deed for God's love, bodily or ghostly, to any that hath need, let them be sure that they do it unto Christ ghostly: and they shall be rewarded as substantially therefor as if they had done it to Christ's own body. Thus saith he himself in the Gospel. And yet he thought it not enough, unless he confirmed it after by miracle; and for this cause he showed himself unto Saint Martin by revelation. All the revelations that ever saw any man here in bodily likeness in this life, they have ghostly meanings. And I trow that if they unto whom they were showed had been so ghostly, or could have conceived their meanings ghostly, that then they had never been showed bodily. And therefore let us pick off the rough bark, and feed us with the sweet kernel.  But how? Not as those heretics do, the which be well likened to madmen having this custom, that ever when they have drunken from a fair cup, cast it to the wall and break it. Thus should not we do, if we will well do. For we should not so feed us on the fruit that we should despise the tree; nor so drink that we should break the cup when we have drunken. The tree and the cup I call this visible. miracle, and all seemly bodily observances that agree with and hinder not the work of the spirit. The fruit and the drink I call the ghostly meaning of these visible miracles, and of these seemly bodily observances: as is the lifting up of our eyes and our hands unto heaven. If they be done by stirring of the spirit, then be they well done; and else be they hypocrisy, and then they be false. If they be true and contain in them ghostly fruit, why should they then be despised? F or men will kiss the cup, for wine is therein.

And what if our Lord, when he ascended to heaven bodily, took his way upwards into the clouds, seen by his mother and his disciples with their bodily eyes? Shall we therefore in our ghostly work ever stare upwards with our bodily eyes, to look after him if we may see him sit bodily in heaven, or else stand, as Saint Stephen did? Nay, surely he showed himself not unto Saint Stephen bodily in heaven because he would give us ensample that we should in our ghostly work look bodily up into heaven, if we might see him as Saint Stephen did, either standing or sitting, or else lying. For howso his body is in heaven-standing, sitting, or lying-no man knoweth. And more need not be known, but that pis body is oned with the soul, without separation. The body and the soul, the which is the Manhood, is oned with the Godhead without separation also. Of his sitting, his standing, or his lying, we need not know, but that he is there as he liketh, and hath himself in body as it is most seemly for him to be. F or if he show himself lying, or standing, or sitting, by revelation bodily to any creature in this life, it is done for some ghostly meaning: and not for any manner of bodily bearing that he hath in heaven.



See by ensample. By standing is understood a readiness of helping. And therefore it is said commonly by one friend to another, when he is in bodily battle: " Bear thee well, fellow, and fight fast, and give not up the battle over lightly; for I shall stand by thee." For I meaneth not only bodily standing, for peradventure this battle is on horse and not on foot, and peradventure it is in going and not in standing. But he meaneth, when he saith that he shall stand by him, that he shall be ready to help him. For this reason it was that our Lord showed himself bodily in heaven to Saint Stephen, when he was in his martyrdom: and not to give us ens ample to look up to heaven. As if he had said thus to Saint Stephen in person of all those that suffer persecution for his love: " Lo, Stephen ! as verily as I open this bodily firmament the which is called heaven, and let thee see my bodily standing, trust fast that as verily stand I beside thee ghostly by the might of my Godhead, and ready to help thee. And therefore stand thou stiffly in the faith and suffer boldly the fell buffets of those hard stones: for I shall crown thee in bliss for thy meed; and not only thee, but all those that suffer persecution for me in any manner."

And thus mayest thou see that these bodily showings were done for ghostly meanings.



THE FIFTY-NINTH CHAPTER

THAT A MAN SHALL NOT TAKE ENSAMPLE FROM THE BODILY ASCENSION OF CHRIST, FOR TO STRAIN HIS IMAGINATION UPWARDS BODILY IN THE TIME OF PRAYER; AND THAT TIME, PLACE, AND BODY, THESE THREE, SHOULD BE FORGOTTEN IN ALL GHOSTLY WORKING



AND if thou say aught touching the ascension of our Lord, that it was done bodily and for a bodily meaning as well as for a ghostly, because he ascended both very God and very Man: to this will I answer thee, that he had been dead, and then was clad with undeadliness,  and so shall we be at the Day of Doom. And then we shall be made so subtle in body and in soul together, that we shall be then as swiftly where we list bodily as we be now in our thought ghostly; whether it be up or down, on one side or on other, behind or before: all, I think, shall then be alike good, as clerks say. But now thou mayest not come to heaven bodily, but ghostly. And yet it shall be so ghostly that it shall not be in bodily manner: neither upwards nor downwards, nor on one side nor on another, behind nor before.

And know well that all those that set them UNKNOWING to be ghostly workers, and especially in the work of this book, that although they read lift up or go in, and although the work of this book be called a stirring, nevertheless they must have a full busy beholding, that this stirring stretch neither up bodily, nor in bodily, nor yet that it be any such stirring as is from one place to another. And although it be sometimes called a rest, nevertheless they shall not think that it is any such rest as is any abiding in one place without removing therefrom. For the perfection of this work is so pure and so ghostly in itself, that if it be well and truly conceived, it shall be seen far removed from any stirring and from any place.

And it should with some reason rather be called a sudden changing, than any stirring of place. For time, place, and body, these three, should be forgotten in all ghostly working. And therefore beware in this work that thou take no ensample from the bodily ascension of Christ, for to strain thine imagination in the time of thy prayer bodily upwards, as though thou wouldst climb above the moon. For it should in nowise be so, ghostly. But if thou shouldst ascend into heaven bodily, as Christ did, then thou mightest take ensample from it; but that may none do but God, as himself witnesseth, saying: There is no man that may ascend unto heaven, but only he that descended

[rom heaven, and became man for the love of men. '' And if it were possible, as it in nowise may be, yet it should be for abundance of ghostly working, only by the power of the spirit, full far from any bodily stressing or straining of our imagination bodily, either up, or in, on one side, or on other. And therefore let be such falsehood: it shall not be so.


THE SIXTIETH CHAPTER

THAT THE HIGH AND THE NEAREST WAY TO HEAVEN IS RUN BY DESIRES, AND NOT BY PACES OF FEET



BUT now peradventure thou say est : How should it then be? F or thou thinkest that thou hast very evidence that heaven is upwards; for Christ ascended thither bodily upwards, and sent the Holy Ghost as he promised coming from above bodily, seen by all his disciples; and this is our belief. And therefore thou thinkest, since thou hast thus very evidence, why shalt thou not direct thy mind upward bodily in the time of thy prayer?

And to this will I answer thee so feebly as I can, and say: Since it so was that Christ should ascend bodily, and thereafter send the Holy Ghost bodily, therefore it was more seemly that it was upwards and from above than either downwards and from beneath, behind, or before, on one side or on other. But else than for this seemliness, he needed never the more to have gone upwards than downwards; I mean for nearness of the way. For heaven ghostly is as near down as up, and up as down, behind as before, before as behind, on one side as on other. Insomuch, that whoso had a true desire for to be at heaven, then that same time he were in heaven ghostly. For the high and the nearest way thither is run by desires, and not by paces of feet.  And therefore saith Saint Paul of himself and many others thus: Although our bodies be presently here on earth, nevertheless our living is in heaven. t He meant their love and their desire, the which ghostly is their life. And surely as verily is a soul there where it loveth, as in the body that liveth by it and to the which it giveth life. And therefore if we will go to heaven ghostly, we need not to strain our spirit neither up nor down, nor on one side nor on other.



THE SIXTY-FIRST CHAPTER

THAT, BY THE COURSE OF NATURE, ALL BODILY THING IS SUBJECT UNTO GHOSTLY THING AND RULED THEREAFTER, AND NOT CONTRARIWISE



NEVERTHELESS it is needful to lift up our eyes and our hands bodily, as it were unto yonder bodily heaven, in the which the stars be fastened. I mean if we be stirred by the work of our spirit, and else not. For all bodily thing is subject unto ghostly thing and is ruled thereafter, and not contrariwise.

Ensample thereof may be seen by the ascension of our Lord: for when the time appointed was come that he willed to wend to his Father bodily in his Manhood-who never was nor never may be absent in his Godhead-then mightily, by the virtue of the Spirit God, the Manhood with the body followed in onehead of Person. The visible appearance of this was most seemly and most according, to be upward.

This same subjection of the body to the spirit may be in a manner verily conceived in the proof of the ghostly work of this book by them that work therein. For what time that a soul disposeth him effectually to this work, then as fast suddenly-he himself that worketh perceiving it not-the body, that peradventure before he began was somewhat bent downwards, on one side or on other for ease of the flesh, by virtue of the spirit shall set itself upright: following in manner and in likeness bodily the work of the spirit that is done ghostly. And thus it is most seemly to be.

And for this seemliness it is that a man -the which is the seemliest creature in body that ever God made-is not made crooked to the earthwards, as be all other beasts, but upright to heavenwards.  Because it should figure in likeness bodily the work of the soul ghostly; the which should be upright ghostly, and not crooked ghostly. Take heed that I say upright ghostly and not bodily. For how should a soul, the which in its nature hath no manner of bodilyness, be strained upright bodily? Nay, it may not be.

And therefore beware that thou conceive not bodily that which is meant ghostly, although it be spoken in bodily words, as be these: up or down, in or out, behind or he/ore, on one side or on other. F or although a thing be never so ghostly in itself, nevertheless if it shall be spoken of-since it so is that speech is a bodily work wrought with the tongue, the which is an instrument of the body-it must always be spoken in bodily words. But what thereof? Shall it therefore be taken and conceived bodily? Nay, but ghostly.


THE SIXT-SECOND CHAPTER



HOW A MAN MAY KNOW WHEN HIS GHOSTLY WORK IS BENEATH HIM OR WITHOUT HIM., AND WHEN IT IS EVEN WITH HIM OR WITHIN HIM, AND WHEN IT IS ABOVE HIM AND UNDER HIS GOD



AND for this, that thou shalt be able better to know how they shall be conceived ghostly -these words that be spoken bodily-therefore I think to declare to thee the ghostly meaning of some words that pertain to ghostly working. So that: thou mayest know clearly without error when thy ghostly work is beneath and without thee, and when it is within thee and even with thee, and when it is above thee and under thy God.  



All manner of bodily thing is without thy soul and beneath it in nature. Yea! the sun and the moon and all the stars, although they be above thy body, nevertheless they be beneath thy soul.



All angels and all souls, although they be confirmed and adorned with grace and with virtues, for the which they be above thee in cleanness, nevertheless they be but even with thee in nature.



Within thyself in nature be the powers of thy soul: the which be these three principal:



Mind, Reason, and Will; and secondary, Imagination and Sensuality.  Above thyself in nature is no manner of thing, but only God.

Evermore where thou findest written thyself in ghostly writing, then it is understood thy soul and not thy body. And then, according to the thing on the which the powers of thy soul work, so shall the worthiness and the condition of thy work be judged: whether it be beneath thee, within thee, or above thee.


THE SIXTY-THIRD CHAPTER

OF THE POWERS OF A SOUL IN GENERAL, AND HOW MIND IN SPECIAL IS A PRINCIPAL POWER, COMPREHENDING IN ITSELF ALL THE OTHER POWERS AND ALL THOSE THINGS IN THE WHICH THEY WORK



MIND is such a power in itself, that properly to speak and in a manner it worketh not itself. But reason and will, they be two working powers, and so be imagination and sensuality also. And all these four powers and their works, mind containeth and comprehendeth in itself. And otherwise it is not said that the mind worketh, unless such a comprehension be a work.



And therefore it is that I call the powers of the soul, some principal, and some secondary. Not because a soul is divisible, for that may not be; but because all those things in the which they work be divisible, and some principal, as be all ghostly things, and some secondary, as be all bodily things. The two principal working powers, reason and will, work purely by themselves in all ghostly things, without help of the other two secondary powers. Imagination and sensuality work animally in all bodily things, whether they be present or absent; and they work in the body and with the bodily wits. But by them, without the help of reason and of will, may a soul never come to know the virtue and the conditions of bodily creatures, nor the cause of their beings and their makings.



And for this cause be reason and will called principal powers, because they work in pure spirit without any manner of bodilyness: and imagination and sensuality secondary, because they work in the body with bodily instruments, the which be our five wits. Mind is called a principal power because it containeth in itself ghostly not only all the other powers, but also all those things in the which they work. See by the proof.



THE SIXTY-FOURTH CHAPTER

OF THE OTHER TWO PRINCIPAL POWERS, REASON AND WILL; AND OF THE WORKS OF THEM BEFORE SIN AND AFTER



REASON is a power through the which we separate the evil from the good, the evil from the worse, the good from the better, the worse from the worst, the better from the best. Before man sinned, might reason have done all this by nature. But now it is so blinded with the original sin that it cannot work this work unless it be illumined by grace. And both reason itself, and the thing that it worketh in, be comprehended and contained in the mind.



Will is a power through the which we choose good, after that it be determined by reason; and through the which we love good, desire good, and rest with full liking and consent finally in good. Before man sinned, will might not be deceived in his choosing, in his loving, nor in none of his works; because it could then by nature savour each thing as it was. But now this may not be, unless it be anointed with grace. For ofttimes, because of infection of the original sin, it savoureth a thing for good that is full evil, and that hath but the likeness of good. And both the will and the thing that it willeth the mind containeth and comprehendeth in itself.



THE SIXTY-FIFTH CHAPTER



OF THE FIRST SECONDARY POWER-THAT IS TO SAY, IMAGINATION; AND OF THE WORKS AND OF THE OBEDIENCE OF IT UNTO REASON, BEFORE SIN AND AFTER



IMAGINATION is a power through the which we portray all images of all absent and present things; and both it and the thing that it worketh in be contained in the mind. Before man sinned, was imagination so obedient unto the reason-to the which it is as it were servant-that it ministered never to it any disordered image of any bodily creature, or any fantasy of any ghostly creature; but now it is not so. For unless it be restrained by the light of grace in the reason, it will never cease, sleeping or waking, to portray diverse disordered images of bodily creatures; or else some fantasy, the which is nought else but a bodily conceit of a ghostly thing, or else a ghostly conceit of a bodily thing. And this is evermore feigned and false, and next unto error.



This disobedience of the imagination may clearly be conceived in them that be newly turned from the world unto devotion in the time of their prayer. For before the time be that the imagination be in great part restrained by the light of grace in the reasonas it is in continual meditation of ghostly things, such as their own wretchedness, the passion and the kindness of our Lord God, with many such other-they may in nowise put away the wonderful and the diverse thoughts, fantasies, and images, the which be ministered and printed in their mind by the light of the curiosity of imagination. And all this disobedience is the pain of the original sin.



THE SIXTY-SIXTH CHAPTER

OF THE OTHER SECONDARY POWER-THAT IS TO SAY, SENSUALITY; AND OF THE WORKS AND OF THE OBEDIENCE OF IT UNTO WILL, BEFORE SIN AND AFTER



SENSUALITY is a power of our soul, reaching and reigning in the bodily wits, through the which we have bodily knowing and feeling of all bodily creatures, whether they be pleasing or unpleasing. And it hath two parts: one through the which it regardeth the necessities of our body, another through the which it serveth the lusts of the bodily wits. For this same power is it that grumbleth when the body lacketh the things needful unto it, and that in the taking of the need stirreth us to take more than needeth in feeding and furthering of our lusts: that grumbleth in the lacking of pleasing creatures, and lustily is delighted in their presence: that grumbleth in the presence of displeasing creatures, and is lustily pleased in their absence. Both this power and the things that it worketh in be contained in the mind.



Before man sinned was the sensuality so obedient unto the will-unto the which it is as it were servant-that it ministered never unto it any disordered delight or dislike in any bodily creature, or any ghostly feigning of delight or dislike. made by any ghostly enemy in the bodily wits. But now it is not so: for unless it be ruled by grace in the will, so as to suffer meekly and in measure the pain of the original sin-the which it feeleth in the absence of needful delights and in the presence of speedful dislikes-and to restrain itself from lust in the presence of needful delights, and from lusty pleasure in the absence of speedful dislikes: it will wretchedly and wantonly welter, as a swine in the mire, in the wealths of this world and the foul flesh so much, that all our living shall be more beastly and fleshly, than either manly or ghostly.


THE SIXTY-SEVENTH CHAPTER

THAT WHOSO KNOWETH NOT THE POWERS OF A SOUL AND THE MANNER OF HER WORKING MAY EASILY BE DECEIVED IN UNDERSTANDING OF GHOSTLY WORKING; AND HOW A SOUL IS MADE A GOD IN GRACE



Lo, ghostly friend ! to such wretchedness as thou here mayest see be we fallen through sin. And therefore what wonder is it that we be blindly and lightly deceived in understanding' of ghostly words and of ghostly working, and especially those the which know not yet the powers of their souls and the manners of their working?



For ever when the mind is occupied with any bodily thing, be it to never so good an end, yet thou art beneath thyself in this working, and without thy soul. And ever when thou feelest thy mind occupied with the subtle conditions of the powers of thy soul and their workings in ghostly things, as be vices or virtues, of thyself or of any creature that is ghostly and even with thee in nature, to that end that thou mightest by this work v learn to know thyself and further thy perfection: then thou art within thyself and even with thyself. But ever when thou feelest thy mind occupied with no manner of thing that is bodily or ghostly, but only with the very substance of God, as it is and may be in the proof of the work of this book: then thou art above thyself and beneath thy God.



Above thyself thou art: because thou attainest to come thither by grace, whither thou mayest not come by nature. That is to say, to be oned to God, in spirit and in love and in accordance of will. Beneath thy God thou art: for although it may be said in a manner that in this time God and thou be not two but one in spirit-insomuch that thou or another that feeleth the perfection of this work may, by reason of that onehead, truly be called a god, as Scripture witnesseth -nevertheless thou art beneath him. For he is God by nature without beginning; and thou sometime wert nought in . substance; and afterwards, when thou wert by his might and his love made aught, 67 thou wilfully with sin madest thyself worse than nought. And only by his mercy without thy desert art thou made a god in grace, oned with him in spirit without separation, both here and in the bliss of heaven without any end. So that, although thou be all one with him in grace, yet thou art full far beneath him in nature.

Lo, ghostly friend! hereby mayest thou see somewhat in part that whoso knoweth not the powers of their own soul, and the manner of their working, may full lightly be deceived in understanding of words that be written to ghostly intent. And therefore mayest thou see somewhat the cause why I durst not plainly bid thee show thy desire unto God; but I bade thee childishly to do what in thee is to hide it and cover it. And this I do for fear lest thou shouldst conceive bodily that which is meant ghostly.



THE SIXTY-EIGHTH CHAPTER

THAT NOWHERE BODILY IS EVERYWHERE GHOSTLY; AND HOW OUR OUTER MAN CALLETH THE WORK OF THIS BOOK NOUGHT



AND in the same manner, where another man would bid thee gather thy powers and thy wits wholly within thyself, and worship God there-although he saith full well and full truly; yea! and no man trulier if he be well conceived-yet for fear of deceit and of bodily conceiving of his words, I care not to bid thee so. But thus will I bid thee. Look in nowise that thou be within thyself. And (to speak shortly), I will not that thou be without thyself, nor yet above, nor behind, nor on one side, nor on other.

" Where then," sayest thou, " shall I be ?

Nowhere, by thy tale!" Now truly thou sayest well; for there would I have thee. For why, nowhere bodily is everywhere ghostly. Look then busily that thy ghostly work be nowhere bodily; and then wheresoever that thing is, on the which thou wilfully workest in thy mind in substance, surely there art thou in spirit, as verily as thy body is in that place that thou art in bodily, And although thy bodily wits can find there nothing to feed them on, for they think it nought that thou dost, yea ! do on then this nought,  and do it for God's love. And cease not, therefore, but travail busily in that nought with a watchful desire to will to have God, whom no man may know. For I tell thee truly that I had rather be so nowhere bodily, wrestling with that blind nought, than to be so great a lord that I might when I would be everywhere bodily, merrily playing with all this aught as a lord with his own.

Let be this everywhere and this aught, in comparison of this nowhere and this nought. Reek thee never if thy wits cannot understand this nought; for surely I love it much the better. It is so worthy a thing in itself that they cannot understand it. This nought may better be felt than seen: for it is full blind and full dark to them that have but a little while looked thereupon. N evertheless (if I shall trulier say) a soul is more blinded in feeling of it for abundance of ghostly light, than for any darkness or wanting of bodily light. What is he that calleth it nought? Surely it is our outer man and not our inner. Our inner man calleth it All; for by it he is well taught to understand all things bodily or ghostly, without any special beholding to anyone thing by itself.


THE SIXTY-NINTH CHAPTER

HOW THAT A MAN'S AFFECTION IS MARVELLOUSLY CHANGED IN THE GHOSTLY FEELING OF THIS NOUGHT, WHEN IT IS NOWHERE WROUGHT



WONDERFULLY is a man's affection changed in the ghostly feeling of this nought when it is nowhere wrought. For at the first time that a soul looketh thereupon, it shall find all the special deeds of sin that ever he did since he was born, bodily or ghostly, privily and darkly painted thereupon. And howsoever he turneth it about, evermore they will appear before his eyes; until the time be that with much hard travail, many sore sighings, and many bitter weepings, he have in great part washed them away.



Sometimes in this travail he thinketh that to look thereupon is to look as on hell; for he thinketh that he despaireth to win to perfection of ghostly rest out of that pain. Thus far inwards come many; but for greatness of pain that they feel and for lacking of comfort they go back to the consideration of bodily things: seeking fleshly comforts without, for the lacking of ghostly which they have not yet deserved, as they should if they had abided.



For he that abideth feeleth sometime some comfort, and hath some hope of perfection; for he feeleth ana seeth that many of his former special sins be in great part by help of grace rubbed away. Nevertheless ever he feeleth pain; but he thinketh that it shall have an end, for it waxeth ever less and less. And therefore he calleth it nought else but purgatory. Sometimes he can find no special sin written thereupon, but he thinketh that sin is a lump, he knoweth never what, none other thing but himself; and then it may be called the root and the pain of the original sin. Sometimes he thinketh it paradise or heaven, for diverse wonderful sweetnesses and comforts, joys and blessed virtues that he findeth therein. Sometimes he thinketh it God, for peace and rest that he findeth therein.

Yea ! think what he think will; for evermore he shall find it a cloud of unknounng that is betwixt him and his God.



THE SEVENTIETH CHAPTER

THAT RIGHT AS BY THE FAILING OF OUR BODILY WITS WE BEGIN MOST READILY TO COME TO THE KNOWING OF GHOSTLY THINGS, SO BY THE FAILING OF OUR GHOSTLY WITS WE BEGIN MOST READILY TO COME TO THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD, SUCH AS IS POSSIBLE BY GRACE TO BE HAD HERE



AND therefore travail fast in this nought, and in this nowhere, and leave thine outward bodily wits and all that they work in: for I tell thee truly that this work may not be conceived by them.  

For by thine eyes thou mayest not conceive of anything, unless it be by the length and the breadth, the smallness and the greatness, the roundness and the squareness, the farness and the nearness, and the colour of h. And by thine ears, nought but noise or some manner of sound. By thy nose, nought but either stench or savour. And by thy taste, nought but either sour or sweet, salt or fresh, bitter or pleasant. And by thy feeling, nought but either hot or cold, hard or tender, soft or sharp. And truly neither hath God nor ghostly things none of these qualities nor quantities. And therefore leave thine outward wits, and work not with them, neither within nor without: for all those that set them to be ghostly workers within, and ween that they should either hear, smell, see, taste, or feel ghostly things, either within them or without, surely they be deceived and work wrong against the course of nature. "

For by nature they be ordained that with them men should have" knowing of all, outward bodily things, and in nowise by them _ come to the knowing of ghostly things. I mean by their works. By their failings we may, as thus: when we read or hear speak of some certain things, and also conceive that our outward wits cannot tell us by any quality what those things be, then we may be verily certified that those things be ghostly things, and not bodily things.

In this same manner ghostly it fareth within in our ghostly wits when we travail about the knowing of God himself. For have a man never so much ghostly understanding in knowing of all made ghostly things, yet may he never by the work of his understanding come to the knowing of an unmade ghostly thing: the which is nought but God. But by the failing he may. Because that thing that he faileth in is nothing else but only God. And therefore it was that Saint Denis said: The most godly knowing of God is that which is known by unknowing.  And truly, whoso will look in Denis' books, he shall find that his words will clearly confirm all that I have said or shall say, from the beginning of this treatise to the end. Otherwise than this I care not to cite him, nor any other doctor for me at this time. For once men thought it meekness to say nought of their own heads, unless they confirmed it by Scripture and doctors' words; and now it is turned into curiosity and display of knowledge. For thee it needeth not, t and therefore I do it not. For whoso hath ears, let him hear, and whoso is stirred to trow, let him trow; for" else shall they not.



THE SEVENTY-FIRST CHAPTER

THAT SOME MAY NOT COME TO FEEL THE PERFECTION OF THIS WORK BUT IN TIME OF RAVISHING, AND SOME MAY HAVE IT WHEN THEY WILL, IN THE COMMON STATE OF MAN'S SOUL



SOME think this matter so hard and so fearful that they say that it may not be come to without much strong travail coming before, nor conceived but seldom, and that but in the time of ravishing. And to these men will I answer as feebly as I can, and say: that it is all at the ordinance and the disposition of God, according to their ableness in soul that this grace of contemplation and of ghostly working is given to.



For some there be that without much and long ghostly exercise may not come thereto; and yet it shall be but full seldom and in special calling of our Lord that they shall feel the perfection of this work: the which calling is called ravishing. And s.ome there be that be so subtle in grace and in spirit, and so homely with God in this grace of contemplation, that they may have it when they will in the common state of man's soul: as it is in sitting, going, standing, or kneeling. And yet in this time they have full delibera-tion of all their wits bodily or ghostly, and may use them if they desire: not without some difficulty, but without great difficulty. Ensample of the first we have in Moses, and of the other in Aaron, the priest of the temple. For this grace of contemplation is figured by the Ark of the Testament in the Old Law, and the workers in this grace be figured by them that most meddled them about this ark, as the story will witness. And well is this grace and this work likened unto that ark. F or right as in that ark were contained all the jewels and the relics of the temple, right so in this little love set upon this cloud of unknowing be contained all the virtues of man's soul, the which is the ghostly temple of God.



Moses, ere he might come to see this ark and to know how it should be made, clomb with great long travail up to the top of the mountain, and dwelled there and wrought in a cloud six days: abiding unto the seventh day, that our Lord would vouchsafe to show unto him the manner of this ark-making. By Moses' long travail and his late showing be understood those that may not come to the perfection of this ghostly work without long travail coming before: and yet but full seldom, and when God will vouchsafe to show it.

But that that Moses - might not come to see but seldom, and that not without great long travail, Aaron had in his power, because of his office, to see it in the temple within the veil as oft as he liked to enter. And by this Aaron be understood all those the which I spake of above, the which by their ghostly devices, by the help of grace, may attain the perfection of this work as it pleaseth them.


THE SEVENTY-SECOND CHAPTER
THAT ONE WORKER IN THIS WORK SHOULD NOT JUDGE NOR THINK OF ANOTHER WORKER AS HE FEELETH IN HIMSELF



Lo! hereby mayest thou see that he that may not come to see and feel the perfection of this work but by long travail, and yet but seldom, may lightly be deceived if he speak, think, or judge other men as he feeleth in himself: that they may not come to it but seldom, and that not without great travail. And in the same manner may he be deceived that may have it when he will, if he judge all others accordingly: saying that they may have it when they will. Let be this: nay, surely he may not think thus. For peradventure, when it pleaseth God, those that may not have it at the first time but seldom, and that not without great travail, shall afterwards have it when they will, as often as they like. Ensample of this we have in Moses, that at first might not see the manner of the ark but seldom, and that not without great travail in the mount; but afterwards, as often as he liked, saw it in the vale.  



THE SEVENTY-THIRD CHAPTER

HOW THAT AFTER THE LIKENESS OF MOSES, BESELEEL, AND AARON, IN THEIR DEALINGS WITH THE ARK OF THE TESTAMENT, WE PROFIT ON THREE MANNERS IN THIS GRACE OF CONTEMPLATION; FOR THIS GRACE IS FIGURED IN THAT ARK



THREE men there were that most meddled them with this ark of the Old Testament:



Moses, Beseleel, and Aaron. Moses learned in the mount of our Lord how it should be made. Beseleel wrought it and made it in the vale, after the ens ample that was showed on the mountain. And Aaron had it in his keeping in the temple, to feel it and see it as oft as he liked.



At the likeness of these three, we profit on three manners in this grace of contemplation. Sometime we profit only by grace, and then we be likened unto Moses, that for all the climbing and the travail that he had into the mount, might not come to see it but seldom: and yet was that sight only by the showing of our Lord when he liked to show it, and not for any desert of his travail. Sometime we profit in this grace by our own ghostly craft, helped with grace, and then we be likened to Beseleel, the which could not see the ark before he had made it by his own travail, helped by the ensample that was showed unto Moses in the mount. And sometimes we profit in this grace by other men's teaching, and then we be likened to Aaron, the which had it in keeping and in custom to see and feel the ark when he pleased that Beseleel had wrought and made ready before to his hands.



La! ghostly friend, in this work, though it be childishly and lewdly spoken, I bear, though I be a wretch unworthy to teach any creature, the office of Beseleel: making and declaring in a manner to thy hands the manner of this ghostly ark. But far better and more worthily than I do, thou mayest work if thou wilt be Aaron: that is to say, continually working therein for thee and for me. Do then so, I pray thee, for the love of God Almighty. And since we be both called by God to work in this work, I beseech thee for God's love to fulfil on thy part what is lacking on mine.  



THE SEVENTY-FOURTH CHAPTER

HOW THAT THE MATTER OF THIS BOOK IS NEVER READ OR SPOKEN, NOR HEARD READ OR SPOKEN, BY A SOUL DISPOSED THERETO, WITHOUT THE FEELING OF A VERY ACCORDANCE TO THE EFFECT OF THE SAME WORK; AND A REHEARSING OF THE SAME CHARGE THAT IS WRITTEN IN THE PROLOGUE



AND if thou thinkest that this manner of working be not according to thy disposition in body and in soul, thou mayest leave it and take another, safely with good ghostly counsel without blame. And then I beseech thee that thou wilt hold me excused; for truly I would have profited unto thee in this writing according to my simple knowledge, and that was mine intent.

And therefore read it over twice or thrice; and ever the oftener the better, and the more shalt thou understand thereof. Insomuch, peradventure, that some sentence that was full hard to thee at the first or the second reading, soon after thou shalt think it easy.



Yea! and it seemeth Impossible to mine understanding that any soul that is disposed to this work should read it or speak it, or else hear it read or spoken, without that same soul feeling for that time a very accordance to the effect of this work. And then, if thou thinkest it doth thee good, thank God heartily, and for God's love pray for me.



Do then so. And I pray thee for God's love that thou let none see this book, unless it be such a one as thou thinkest is apt for the book; according as thou findest written in the book before, where it telleth what men and when they should work in this work. And if thou shalt let any such men see it, then I pray thee that thou bid them take them time to look it all over. For peradventure there is some matter therein, in the beginning or in the middle, the which is hanging and not fully declared where it standeth. But if it be, not there, it is soon after, or else in the end. And thus if a .man saw one part and not another, peradventure he might lightly be led into error: and therefore I pray thee to do as I tell thee. And if thou thinkest that there be any matter therein that thou wouldst have more opened than it is, let me know which it is and thy opinion thereupon; and according to my simple knowledge it shall be amended.  



But as for worldly praters, flatterers and blamers, whisperers and tale-bearers, and all manner of carpers, I desire not that they should see this book: for it was never mine intent to write such thing for them. And therefore I would not that they heard it, neither they nor none of those curious learned nor unlearned men: yea! although they be full good men in active living; for it accordeth not to them.


THE SEVENTY-FIFTH CHAPTER
OF SOME CERTAIN TOKENS BY THE WHICH A MAN MAY PROVE WHETHER HE BE CALLED BY GOD TO WORK IN THIS WORK



ALL those that read the matter of this book, or hear it read or spoken, "and in this reading or hearing think it a good and a pleasing thing, be not therefore called by God to work in this work, only for this liking stirring that they feel in the time of this reading. For peradventure this stirring cometh more from a natural curiosity of wit than from any calling of grace.     .



But if they will prove whence this stirring cometh, they may prove it thus, if they like. First let them look if they have done what in them is before, abling them thereto by cleansing their conscience, according to the law of Holy Church and the advice of their counsel. If it be thus, it is so far well. But if they would know more nearly, let them look if this stirring evermore press in their mind more habitually than any other ghostly exercise. And if they think that there is no manner of thing that they do, bodily or ghostly, that is sufficiently done with witness of their conscience, unless this Secret little love set upon the cloud of unknowing be in a ghostly manner the chief of all their work: and if they thus feel-then it is a token that they be called by God to this work; and surely else not.

I say not that this stirring shall ever last and' dwell in all their minds continually, who be called to work in this work. Nay, so is it not. For from a young ghostly prentice in this work, the actual feeling thereof is ofttimes withdrawn for divers reasons. Sometime, so that he shall not presume thereupon, and ween that it be in great part in his own power, to have it when he liketh and as he liketh. And such a weening were pride. And evermore when the feeling of grace is withdrawn, pride is the cause: that is to say, not actual pride, but pride that should be, were it not that this feeling of grace were withdrawn. And thus ween ofttimes some young fools that God is their enemy; when he is their full friend.



Sometimes it is withdrawn for their recklessness; and when it is thus, they feel soon afterwards a full bitter pain that biteth them full sore. Sometimes our Lord will delay it on purpose, because he will by such delaying make it grow and be more esteemed, when it is new found and felt again that long had been lost. And this is one of the readiest and sovereignest tokens that a soul may have, in order to learn whether he be called or not to work in this work: if he feel, after such a delaying and a long lacking of this work, that when it cometh suddenly as it doth-not purchased by any means-that he hath then a greater fervour of desire and a greater love-longing to work in this work, than ever he had any before, Insomuch, that ofttimes, I trow, he hath more joy in the finding thereof, than ever he had sorrow in the losing.



And if it be thus, surely it is a true token without error that he is called by God to work in this work, whatsoever that he be or hath been.

For not what thou art, nor what thou hast been, doth God regard with his merciful eyes; but what thou wouldst be. And Saint Gregory witnesseth that all holy desires grow by delays; and if they wane by delays, then were they never holy desires.  F or if a man feeleth ever less and less joy in new findings and sudden presentations of his old purposed desires, although they may be called natural desires of the good, nevertheless holy desires were they never. Of this holy desire speaketh Saint Austin and saith, that all the life of a good Christian man is nought else but holy desire.

Farewell, ghostly friend, in God's blessing and mine! And I beseech Almighty God that true peace, whole counsel, and ghostly comfort in God with abundance of grace, evermore be with thee and all God's lovers on earth. Amen.


HERE ENDETH THE CLOUD OF UNKNOWING