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-
onquest 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.