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Love And Will
Meditation And Recollection
The First Form Of Contemplation
The Mystical Life
The Preparation Of The Mystic
The Second Form Of Contemplation
The Third Form Of Contemplation
The World Of Reality
What Is Mysticism?
Anaximenes And The Air
Animism, Ancient And Modern
Brooks And Streams
Development And Discipline Of Intuition
Earth, Mountains, And Plains
Fire And The Sun
Heracleitus And The Cosmic Fire
Light And Darkness
Man And Nature
Mystic Intuition And Reason
Mystic Receptivity
Nature Mysticism And The Race
Nature Not Symbolic
Nature, And The Absolute
Poetry And Nature Mysticism
Rivers And Death
Rivers And Life
Seasons, Vegetation, Animals
Springs And Wells
Still Waters
The Beautiful And The Ugly
The Charge Of Anthropomorphism
The Expanse Of Heaven--colour
The Immanent Idea
The Moon--a Special Problem
The Ocean
The Waters Under The Earth
Will And Consciousness In Nature
Winds And Clouds

Love And Will

This steady effort towards the simplifying of your tangled
character, its gradual emancipation from the fetters of the unreal,
is not to dispense you from that other special training of the
attention which the diligent practice of meditation and
recollection effects. Your pursuit of the one must never involve
neglect of the other; for these are the two sides--one moral, the
other mental--of that unique process of self-conquest which
Ruysbroeck calls "the gathering of the forces of the soul into the
unity of the spirit": the welding together of all your powers, the
focussing of them upon one point. Hence they should never,
either in theory or practice, be separated. Only the act of
recollection, the constantly renewed retreat to the quiet centre of
the spirit, gives that assurance of a Reality, a calmer and more
valid life attainable by us, which supports the stress and pain of
self-simplification and permits us to hope on, even in the teeth of
the world's cruelty, indifference, degeneracy; whilst diligent
character-building alone, with its perpetual untiring efforts at
self-adjustment, its bracing, purging discipline, checks the human
tendency to relapse into and react to the obvious, and makes
possible the further development of the contemplative power.

So it is through and by these two great changes in your attitude
towards things--first, the change of attention, which enables you
to perceive a truer universe; next, the deliberate rearrangement of
your ideas, energies, and desires in harmony with that which you
have seen--that a progressive uniformity of life and experience is
secured to you, and you are defended against the dangers of an
indolent and useless mysticality. Only the real, say the mystics,
can know Reality, for "we behold that which we are," the
universe which we see is conditioned by the character of the
mind that sees it: and this realness--since that which you seek is
no mere glimpse of Eternal Life, but complete possession of it--
must apply to every aspect of your being, the rich totality of
character, all the "forces of the soul," not to some thin and
isolated "spiritual sense" alone. This is why recollection and
self-simplification--perception of, and adaptation to, the Spiritual
World in which we dwell--are the essential preparations for
the mystical life, and neither can exist in a wholesome and
well-balanced form without the other. By them the mind, the will, the
heart, which so long had dissipated their energies over a thousand
scattered notions, wants, and loves, are gradually detached from
their old exclusive preoccupation with the ephemeral interests of
the self, or of the group to which the self belongs.

You, if you practise them, will find after a time--perhaps a long
time--that the hard work which they involve has indeed brought
about a profound and definite change in you. A new suppleness
has taken the place of that rigidity which you have been
accustomed to mistake for strength of character: an easier attitude
towards the accidents of life. Your whole scale of values has
undergone a silent transformation, since you have ceased to fight
for your own hand and regard the nearest-at-hand world as the
only one that counts. You have become, as the mystics would
say, "free from inordinate attachments," the "heat of having" does
not scorch you any more; and because of this you possess great
inward liberty, a sense of spaciousness and peace. Released from
the obsessions which so long had governed them, will, heart, and
mind are now all bent to the purposes of your deepest being:
"gathered in the unity of the spirit," they have fused to become an
agent with which it can act.

What form, then, shall this action take? It shall take a practical
form, shall express itself in terms of movement: the pressing
outwards of the whole personality, the eager and trustful
stretching of it towards the fresh universe which awaits you. As
all scattered thinking was cut off in recollection, as all vagrant
and unworthy desires have been killed by the exercises of
detachment; so now all scattered willing, all hesitations between
the indrawing and outflowing instincts of the soul, shall be
checked and resolved. You are to push with all your power: not
to absorb ideas, but to pour forth will and love. With this
"conative act," as the psychologists would call it, the true
contemplative life begins. Contemplation, you see, has no very
close connection with dreaminess and idle musing: it is more like
the intense effort of vision, the passionate and self-forgetful act
of communion, presupposed in all creative art. It is, says one old
English mystic, "a blind intent stretching . . . a privy love
pressed" in the direction of Ultimate Beauty, athwart all the
checks, hindrances, and contradictions of the restless world: a
"loving stretching out" towards Reality, says the great
Ruysbroeck, than whom none has gone further on this path.
Tension, ardour, are of its essence: it demands the perpetual
exercise of industry and courage.

We observe in such definitions as these a strange neglect of that
glory of man, the Pure Intellect, with which the spiritual prig
enjoys to believe that he can climb up to the Empyrean itself. It
almost seems as though the mystics shared Keats' view of the
supremacy of feeling over thought; and reached out towards
some new and higher range of sensation, rather than towards new
and more accurate ideas. They are ever eager to assure us that
man's most sublime thoughts of the Transcendent are but a little
better than his worst: that loving intuition is the only certain
guide. "By love may He be gotten and holden, but by thought

Yet here you are not to fall into the clumsy error of supposing
that the things which are beyond the grasp of reason are
necessarily unreasonable things. Immediate feeling, so far as it is
true, does not oppose but transcends and completes the highest
results of thought. It contains within itself the sum of all the
processes through which thought would pass in the act of
attaining the same goal: supposing thought to have reached--as it
has not--the high pitch at which it was capable of thinking its way
all along this road.

In the preliminary act of gathering yourself together, and in those
unremitting explorations through which you came to "a knowing
and a feeling of yourself as you are," thought assuredly had its
place. There the powers of analysis, criticism, and deduction
found work that they could do. But now it is the love and will--
the feeling, the intent, the passionate desire--of the self, which
shall govern your activities and make possible your success. Few
would care to brave the horrors of a courtship conducted upon
strictly intellectual lines: and contemplation is an act of love, the
wooing, not the critical study, of Divine Reality. It is an eager
outpouring of ourselves towards a Somewhat Other for which we
feel a passion of desire; a seeking, touching, and tasting, not a
considering and analysing, of the beautiful and true wherever
found. It is, as it were, a responsive act of the organism to those
Supernal Powers without, which touch and stir it. Deep humility
as towards those Powers, a willing surrender to their control, is
the first condition of success. The mystics speak much of these
elusive contacts; felt more and more in the soul, as it becomes
increasingly sensitive to the subtle movements of its spiritual

"Sense, feeling, taste, complacency, and sight,
These are the true and real joys,
The living, flowing, inward, melting, bright
And heavenly pleasures; all the rest are toys;
All which are founded in Desire
As light in flame and heat in fire."

But this new method of correspondence with the universe is not
to be identified with "mere feeling" in its lowest and least orderly
forms. Contemplation does not mean abject surrender to every
"mystical" impression that comes in. It is no sentimental
aestheticism or emotional piety to which you are being invited:
nor shall the transcending of reason ever be achieved by way of
spiritual silliness. All the powers of the self, raised to their in
tensest form, shall be used in it; though used perhaps in a new
way. These, the three great faculties of love, thought, and will--
with which you have been accustomed to make great show on the
periphery of consciousness--you have, as it were, drawn inwards
during the course of your inward retreat: and by your education
in detachment have cured them of their tendency to fritter their
powers amongst a multiplicity of objects. Now, at the very heart
of personality, you are alone with them; you hold with you in that
"Interior Castle," and undistracted for the moment by the
demands of practical existence, the three great tools wherewith
the soul deals with life.

As regards the life you have hitherto looked upon as "normal,"
love--understood in its widest sense, as desire, emotional
inclination--has throughout directed your activities. You did
things, sought things, learned things, even suffered things,
because at bottom you wanted to. Will has done the work to
which love spurred it: thought has assimilated the results of their
activities and made for them pictures, analyses, "explanations" of
the world with which they had to deal. But now your purified
love discerns and desires, your will is set towards, something
which thought cannot really assimilate--still less explain.
"Contemplation," says Ruysbroeck, "is a knowing that is in no
wise . . . therein all the workings of the reason fail." That
reason has been trained to deal with the stuff of temporal existence.
It will only make mincemeat of your experience of Eternity if
you give it a chance; trimming, transforming, rationalising
that ineffable vision, trying to force it into a symbolic
system with which the intellect can cope. This is why the great
contemplatives utter again and again their solemn warning against
the deceptiveness of thought when it ventures to deal with the
spiritual intuitions of man; crying with the author of The Cloud
of Unknowing, "Look that nothing live in thy working mind
but a naked intent stretching"--the voluntary tension of your
ever-growing, ever-moving personality pushing out towards the Real.
"Love, and do what you like," said the wise Augustine: so little
does mere surface activity count, against the deep motive that
begets it.

The dynamic power of love and will, the fact that the heart's
desire--if it be intense and industrious--is a better earnest of
possible fulfilment than the most elegant theories of the spiritual
world; this is the perpetual theme of all the Christian mystics. By
such love, they think, the worlds themselves were made. By an
eager outstretching towards Reality, they tell us, we tend to move
towards Reality, to enter into its rhythm: by a humble and
unquestioning surrender to it we permit its entrance into our
souls. This twofold act, in which we find the double character of
all true love--which both gives and takes, yields and demands--is
assured, if we be patient and single-hearted, of ultimate
success. At last our ignorance shall be done away; and we shall
"apprehend" the real and the eternal, as we apprehend the
sunshine when the sky is free from cloud. Therefore "Smite upon
that thick cloud of unknowing with a sharp dart of longing love"--
and suddenly it shall part, and disclose the blue.

"Smite," "press," "push," "strive"--these are strong words: yet
they are constantly upon the lips of the contemplatives when
describing the earlier stages of their art. Clearly, the abolition of
discursive thought is not to absolve you from the obligations of
industry. You are to "energise enthusiastically" upon new planes,
where you shall see more intensely, hear more intensely, touch
and taste more intensely than ever before: for the modes of
communion which these senses make possible to you are now to
operate as parts of the one single state of perfect intuition, of
loving knowledge by union, to which you are growing up. And
gradually you come to see that, if this be so, it is the ardent will
that shall be the prime agent of your undertaking: a will which
has now become the active expression of your deepest and purest
desires. About this the recollected and simplified self is to gather
itself as a centre; and thence to look out--steadily, deliberately--
with eyes of love towards the world.

To "look with the eyes of love" seems a vague and sentimental
recommendation: yet the whole art of spiritual communion is
summed in it, and exact and important results flow from this
exercise. The attitude which it involves is an attitude of complete
humility and of receptiveness; without criticism, without clever
analysis of the thing seen. When you look thus, you surrender
your I-hood; see things at last as the artist does, for their sake, not
for your own. The fundamental unity that is in you reaches out to
the unity that is in them: and you achieve the "Simple Vision" of
the poet and the mystic--that synthetic and undistorted
apprehension of things which is the antithesis of the single vision
of practical men. The doors of perception are cleansed, and
everything appears as it is. The disfiguring results of hate, rivalry,
prejudice, vanish away. Into that silent place to which
recollection has brought you, new music, new colour, new light,
are poured from the outward world. The conscious love which
achieves this vision may, indeed must, fluctuate--"As long as
thou livest thou art subject to mutability; yea, though thou wilt
not!" But the will which that love has enkindled can hold
attention in the right direction. It can refuse to relapse to unreal
and egotistic correspondences; and continue, even in darkness,
and in the suffering which such darkness brings to the awakened
spirit, its appointed task, cutting a way into new levels of Reality.

Therefore this transitional stage in the development of the
contemplative powers--in one sense the completion of their
elementary schooling, in another the beginning of their true
activities--is concerned with the toughening and further training
of that will which self-simplification has detached from its old
concentration upon the unreal wants and interests of the self.
Merged with your intuitive love, this is to become the true agent
of your encounter with Reality; for that Simple Eye of Intention,
which is so supremely your own, and in the last resort the maker
of your universe and controller of your destiny, is nothing else
but a synthesis of such energetic will and such uncorrupt desire,
turned and held in the direction of the Best.

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