The thoughts of a devout Catholic, influenced by Tauler and his school, must often have taken such a direction during his solitary strolls. This time, however, the mental image of the Cross seems to have released subconscious forces which had long been gathering way. Merswin was abruptly filled with a violent hatred of the world and of his own free-will.
This act of complete surrender, releasing as it were the earthbound self, was at once followed by the onset of pure mystical perception. A brilliant light shone about him: he heard in his ears a divine voice of p. There are few cases in which one or other is not present; and in some we find all. From this time onwards, his mystical consciousness steadily developed. That it was a consciousness wholly different in kind from the sincere piety which had previously caused him to retire from business in order to devote himself to religious truth, is proved by the name of Conversion which he applies to the vision of the garden; and by the fact that he dates from this point the beginning of his real life.
Francis had been, restless, dissatisfied; vaguely conscious of something essential to his peace, as yet unfound. He was restless, and-it seemed to him that something which was as yet unknown could alone give peace to his heart.
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And he suffered greatly of this restlessness. God at last delivered him by a complete conversion.
His brothers in religion were astonished by so quick a change: for the event took them unawares. Some said of it one thing, and some another: but none could know the reason of his conversion. It was God Who, by a hidden light, had caused this return to Himself. This secret conversion was completed by a more violent uprush of the now awakened and active transcendental powers.
Suso, whom one can imagine as a great and highly nervous artist if his p. Often these visions seem to have floated up, as it were, from the subliminal region without disturbing the course of his conscious life; and to be little more than pictorial images of his ardour towards and intuition of, divine realities. The great ecstatic vision—or rather apprehension—with which the series opens, however, is of a very different kind; and represents the characteristic experience of Ecstasy in its fullest form.
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It is described with a detail and intensity which make it a particularly valuable document of the mystical life. It is doubtful whether Suso ever saw more than this: the course of his long education rather consisted in an adjustment of his nature to the Reality which he then perceived. Agnes, when the Convent had breakfasted at midday, that the Servitor went into the choir.
And he was in much suffering, for a heavy trouble weighed upon his heart. And being there alone, and devoid of all consolations—no one by his side, no one near him—of a sudden his soul was rapt in his body, or out of his body. Then did he see and hear that which no tongue can express. His heart was hungry, yet satisfied, his soul was full of contentment and joy: his prayers and hopes were all fulfilled. And the Friar could do naught but contemplate this Shining Brightness, and he altogether forgot himself and all other things.
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Was it day or night? He knew not. It was, as it were, a manifestation of the sweetness of Eternal Life in the sensations of silence and of rest. The physical accompaniments of ecstasy were also present. But when he came to his senses it seemed to him that he returned from another world. And so greatly did his body suffer in this short rapture that it seemed to him that none, even in dying, could suffer so greatly in so short a time.
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The Servitor came to himself moaning, and he fell down upon the ground like a man who swoons. None knew from his demeanour that which was taking place within. But his soul and his spirit were full of marvels; heavenly lightnings passed and repassed in the deeps of his being, and it seemed to him that he walked on air. And all the powers of his soul were full of these heavenly delights. He was like a vase from which one has taken a precious ointment, but in which the perfume long remains.
Finally, the last phrases of the chapter seem to suggest the true position of this exalted pleasure-state as a first link in the long chain of mystical development. Mystical activity, then, like all other activities of the self, opens with that sharp stimulation of the will, which can only be obtained through the emotional life. Suso was a scholar, and an embryo ecclesiastic.
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During the period which elapsed between his conversion and his description of it, he was a disciple of Meister Eckhart, a student of Dionysius and St. Thomas Aquinas. His writings show familiarity with the categories of mystical theology; and naturally enough this circumstance, and also the fact that they were written for purposes of edification, may have dictated to some extent the language in which his conversion-ecstasy is described.
As against this, I will give two first-hand descriptions of mystical conversion in which it is obvious that theological learning plays little or no part.
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Both written in France within a few years of one another, they represent the impact of Reality on two minds of very different calibre. The other is the plain, unvarnished statement of an uneducated man of the peasant class. The first is, of course, the celebrated Memorial, or Amulet, of Pascal; the second is the Relation of Brother Lawrence.
The Memorial of Pascal is a scrap of parchment on which, round a rough drawing of the Flaming Cross, there are written a few strange phrases, abrupt and broken words; all we know about one of the strangest ecstatic revelations chronicled in the history of the mystic type. He seems always to have worn it upon his person: a perpetual memorial of the supernal experience, the initiation into Reality, which it describes. Though Bremand has shown that the opening p. The rest tells us only the passion of joy and conviction which this nameless revelation—this long, blazing vision of Reality—brought in its train.
It is but a series of amazed exclamations, crude, breathless words, placed there helter-skelter, the artist in him utterly in abeyance; the names of the overpowering emotions which swept him, one after the other, as the Fire of Love disclosed its secrets, evoked an answering flame of humility and rapture in his soul. I know few things in the history of mysticism at once more convincing, more poignant than this hidden talisman; upon which the brilliant p.
Oh, let me not be separated from you for ever! Lawrence was an uneducated young man of the peasant class; who first served as a soldier, and afterwards as a footman in a great French family, where he annoyed his masters by breaking everything. That in the winter, seeing a tree stripped of its leaves, and considering that within a little time the leaves would be renewed, and after that the flowers and fruit appear, he received a high view of the Providence and Power of God, which has never since been effaced from his soul.
That this p.
Such use of visible nature as the stuff of ontological perceptions, the medium whereby the self reaches out to the Absolute, is not rare in the history of mysticism. The mysterious vitality of trees, the silent magic of the forest, the strange and steady cycle of its life, possess in a peculiar degree this power of unleashing the human soul: are curiously friendly to its cravings, minister to its inarticulate needs. Though the conclusion be not convincing, the fact remains.
The flowery garment of the world is for some mystics a medium of ineffable perception, a source of exalted joy, the veritable clothing of God. I need hardly add that such a state of things has always been found incredible by common sense. Such a perception of the Divine in Nature, of the true and holy meaning of that rich, unresting life in which we are immersed, is really a more usual feature of Illumination than of Conversion.
All the most marked examples of it must be referred to that state; and will be discussed when we come to its consideration. Sometimes, however, as in the case of Brother Lawrence, the first awakening of the self to consciousness of Reality does take this form. The Uncreated Light manifests Itself in and through created things.
This characteristically immanental discovery of the Absolute occurs chiefly in two classes: in unlettered men who have lived close to Nature, and to whom her symbols are more familiar than those of the Churches or the schools, and in temperaments of the mixed or mystical type, who are nearer to the poet than to the true contemplative, for whom as a rule the Absolute p.
My spiritual vision was so clarified that I saw beauty in every material object in the universe. The woods were vocal with heavenly music. Everything became new. My horses and hogs and everybody became changed! I well remember we reaped oats, and how every straw and head of the oats seemed, as it were, arrayed in a kind of rainbow glory, or to glow, if I may so express it, in the glory of God. Its discovery constitutes the awakening of the mystical consciousness in respect of the World of Becoming: a sharp and sudden break with the old and obvious way of seeing things.
The human cinematograph has somehow changed its rhythm, and begins to register new and more real aspects of the external world. Such participation in the deep realities of the World of Becoming, the boundless existence of a divine whole—which a modern p.