STUDIES OF ENGLISH MYSTICS

STUDIES OF ENGLISH MYSTICS
ST

MARGARET S LECTURES
1905

BY WILLIAM RALPH INGE,
VICAR OF ALL SAINTS
,

M.A., D.D.
J

ENNISMORE GARDENS; LATE FELLOW OF KING S COLLEGE, CAMBRIDGE, AND HERTFORD COLLEGE, OXFORD AUTHOR OF "CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM."

"

Noli foras

ire,
;

in te redi. et si

In interfere homine
inveneris,

habitat veritas

animam mutabilem

transcende te

ipsum."

AUGUSTINE, De Vera

Religione^ 72.

LONDON
JOHN MURRAY, ALBEMARLE STREET, W.
i

906

67/1

LIBRARY
731571

PREFACE
THESE Lectures were
of St Margaret
s,

delivered in the Church

Westminster, on Wednesday
Lent,
1905.

afternoons during
part

They cover

of

the

same ground
1

as

my Bampton

Lectures of
are discussed

899

;

but the selected writers
fully,

more

and the Introductory

Lecture embodies the results of further study
since the

Oxford course was written.
to,

Of

the

books referred

two,

The Ancren Riwle

and The Scale of Perfection, are not very
easy to procure at present.

The
s
is

former

is

one of the

Camden
I

Society

publications,

and the
edited
print.

latter,

understand,

soon to be

again, the older

editions being out of

There

is

an excellent edition of Julian

of Norwich, by Miss

Warrack

;

and parts of

vi

PREFACE

have recently been reprinted. Canon Overton s Life of William Law should
also

William

Law

be read by those

who

are interested in

the author of

A

Serious Call and The Spirit

of Prayer.

W.

R.

INGE.

CONTENTS.
I.

ON THE PSYCHOLOGY OF MYSTICISM

....
. .
.

PAGE
I

II.

THE ANCREN RIWLE AND JULIAN OF NORWICH

38

III.

WALTER HYLTON
WILLIAM LAW

.

.

80
124
.

IV.

V. VI.

THE MYSTICISM OF WORDSWORTH

173
.

THE MYSTICISM OF ROBERT BROWNING

.

.

2O7

LECTURE

I

ON THE PSYCHOLOGY OF MYSTICISM

GOD
times

has spoken by the prophets at sundry

and
in

in

divers

manners.

He

fulfils

ways, lest one good custom should corrupt the world. the Revelation

Himself

many

unveiling of the Divine to

should not

human apprehension be regarded as a particular mode

of communicating Divine truth, differing from other modes by its immediacy or externality.

The
is

antithesis

between natural and revealed

misleading, for the religion of nature, so far
it is

as

true, is

one kind of revealed
"natural"

religion.

The
tion

antithesis of

is

not
;

"revealed,"

but non-natural or supernatural

the classifica

implies an exclusive claim on behalf of certain facts to be unique and incommensurable

with other
religion
is

facts.

But

in the truest sense, all
all

natural,

and

religion

is

revealed,

A

2

ON THE PSYCHOLOGY OF MYSTICISM
nature
;

Our
into

is

what God intended us
in

to

grow
our

and

since,

the

beautiful
for

words of

Augustine,
hearts

He

"made

us

Himself,

are unquiet

But

if

rights,

we if we say
if

they rest in Him." thus claim for our nature its royal
that our nature
is

until

to

be

like

God, to attain the stature of the fulness of
Christ
briefly
;

we

assert that the

whole law may be

comprehended in the old sayings "know and we are at once thyself" thyself,"
"be

confronted with
centred
life
is

the

paradox that

the

self-

spiritual death.
self-sufficing,

As

individuals

we
in

are

not

we

are

not

in

dependent.

Our minds
the

are no pure

mirrors
of

which

beauty

and

wisdom

the

Divine mind
for

may

shine reflected.
find

We
us.

cannot,

the

most

part,

God

unaided.

He
This

has spoken to the prophets, not to
is

why we have
revelation.

needed, and

still

need, the

word
of

Revelation
truth
for

is

the unveiling

some Divine
discovered
it

which we could
ourselves,

not

have

but

which,

when

is

shown

to us

by others to

whom

has spoken, we can recognise as Divine. There can be no revelation which is purely

God

REVELATION
external
partly
;

3

such

a

communication

would

be

unnoticed,

and

partly

misunderstood.

There must be the answering witness of the
Spirit

within

us

that

this

is

the

voice
first

of

God

;

but the voice comes to us

from

without,

God

through the mouth of those whom has honoured by making them His

spokesmen.
Testament,
is

A

"

mystery,"

in

the

New
has

always been revealed, but in
It
is

this

something which manner.
us,
sit

therefore

necessary for

who

are

neither saints nor prophets, to

at the feet

of those

who have
of God.

seen the mysteries of the
It

Kingdom

may be

that

we
are

shall

never share their higher experiences. speaking, visions of Divine truth

Strictly

not

communicable.

What
not
the

can be described and
vision
itself,

handed on
inadequate

is

but the

symbols in which the seer tries to represent what he has experienced, to pre
serve
others.
it

in his memory, and to impart it to But such experiences, which rather

possess a
in their

man

than are possessed by him, are
only a

nature as transient as the glories of

a

sunset.

Memory

preserves

pale

4

ON THE PSYCHOLOGY OF MYSTICISM
and language, which was

reflection of them,

such purposes, fails lamentably to reproduce even that pale reflection. Those only can understand the mind of the prophet
not
for

made

or
his

saint

who can
fire

supply what

is

lacking in

words from

from the

renewing within them the lustre and the

their

own

hearts,

glow which
fact that

his descriptions strive ineffectually

to render permanent.

But, nevertheless, the

such experiences have been enjoyed
their

by many, who have expressed
conviction that
is

unshaken

God

has thus spoken to them,

of the greatest value to us.

These revela

guide and encourage and comfort us throughout our lives. They may give us
tions

may

confidence to believe

in

some dim whispers
and which
to
trust.

which

have

come

to

ourselves,

otherwise

we might
lives

hardly

dare

Moreover, their

and

their counsels

may

show us under what
tions are possible.
to look,

conditions

such revela
tell

They may
saints

us where

how
of

to look,

and what
are

to look for.

The
ology

lives

the

thus

a

very

important part of religious literature.

Hagiin

has

fallen

into

discredit

because

RELIGIOUS BIOGRAPHY

5

time past it was written for edification, and not for truth. Any story that the biographer

thought honourable to the
to
faith

saint,

and conducive

and devotion, was inserted without

investigation.
"

What
more

Newman
to

called

the
riot.

"

illative

faculty

was allowed
religious

run

We

desire

no

romances of

the old sort.
for us.
If

The

strict truth is

good enough

we can

arrive at

it,

we

shall find

a reinforcement to Christian
value.
practical

faith

of enormous

For Christianity
thing.
It
is,

is

a very concrete

as

John

Smith,
life,

the

Cambridge
a
personalities

Platonist, said,
It
is

a Divine

not

Divine science.

embodied
than

in in

great

more

adequately
or

any

philosophical
It

systems

doctrinal

formulas.

found

its

complete expression
;

in the

Person

of the Incarnate Christ
it

and, after the Gospels,
disciples that

is

in the lives of

His best

we

shall

find

its

brightest

illustrations.

Those

who have
of

the privilege of knowing a living

saint in the flesh
all,

have the best opportunities of understanding what Christianity is.
saints
their

The great known by

of

the

past

can

only be

books, or by the

books of

6

ON THE PSYCHOLOGY OF MYSTICISM

others about

them

;

and those books
fully

will

be

most valuable which more

and

clearly

reveal the personality of their authors.

Since the vision of
point,

God

is

the culminating

not of any one

faculty,

even of the

moral conscience, but of

our whole nature,

transfigured into the likeness of

Him whom,
as

unless

we
;

are

like

Him, we cannot see
faculties,

He
in

is

and since the diverse
several

which

their

ways bear witness

to

God,

are

very different proportions by different individuals, we should expect to

developed

in

find that there are
hill,

many
at
in

paths up
the
top.

though

all

meet

God s holy The con

ditions laid

down

Psalm xv. are no doubt

Only he who has clean hands and a pure heart, who is humble and sincere, charitable and upright, can ascend into the
inexorable.
hill

of the Lord, or rise up in His holy place. But the intuition of eternal truth is no

monopoly

contemplative recluse, or of the philosopher, or of the poet, or of the man of action. The perfect Christian would

of

the

cultivate
ation,

and consecrate

heart, intellect, imagin
in

practical

energy,

an

harmonious

MYSTICAL STATES
manner, and would be brought near to

7

God

by all parts of his nature acting together. But non omnia possumus omnes. God gave

some

apostles,

some prophets, some

evangelists,

some pastors and teachers. All these worketh one and the self-same Spirit, dividing to every

man severally as He will. The life of devotion has its when the God whom the saint
love with
all

mystical state,

has striven to

his heart

and mind and soul and
all

strength, for

whom
all

he has renounced
ambition, and
all

dear

domestic
reveals

ties,

pleasure,

Himself

in

mysterious intercourse to

the inner consciousness, in a vision, perhaps,

of the

Redeemer, or as an unseen presence speaking words of love and comfort.
suffering

The
when

intellectual

life

has

its

mystical state,

the religious philosopher,

whose thoughts

have long been concentrated upon the deeper
problems of existence, endeavouring to find the unity which underlies all diversity, the

harmony which
seems
trance
to

reconciles

all

contradictions,

behold what he sought in a blank which imposes silence on all the

faculties,

even the

restless discursive intellect,

8

ON THE PSYCHOLOGY OF MYSTICISM
unites

and

the

thinker for a

few moments
thought, goal
the

with the
ineffable
"

primal

source of

all

One.

Such was the
"

of

the

intellect

in love

(vous

ep&v)

of Plotinus, and

the

amor

intellectualis

Dei

of Spinoza.

The poet s worship of nature has its mystical state, when in Platonic fashion the admiration of beautiful forms, either human or in God s
other handiwork, has led him up to a vision
of Divine beauty.
"The

As Spenser

sings

:

Him

meanes, therefore, which unto us is lent to behold is on his workes to looke,
in beauty excellent,

Which he hath made

And in the same, as in a brasen booke, To reade enregistred in every nooke
His goodnesse, which
For
all

his beautie

doth declare

;

faire. good Thence gathering plumes of perfect speculation, To impe the wings of thy high flying mynd, Mount up aloft through heavenly contemplation, From this darke world, whose damps the soule do blynd, And, like the native brood of eagles kynd,
s
is

that

beautifull

and

On

that bright

Sunne

of glorie

fix

thine eyes,
infirmities."

Clear d from grosse mists of

fraile

The
of

scientific

mystical state.

worship of nature has its Science is a patient conversion

insight into sight,
his

and the investigator
labours

is

lighted throughout

by the torch

SCIENCE AND MYSTICISM
of the

9
natural

imagination,

without

which

phenomena
less.

are disconnected, dull, and spirit
scientific

The

imagination

creates

a

religion

not the old religion of nature, which

peopled the woods with Dryads, and saw Proteus rising from the sea," but a "old
pure,

humble,

disinterested

reverence

and

worship for the vastness and splendour and majesty of the universe. This worship may

daunt and oppress the
fine
"

spirit,
:

as in

Tennyson s

poem

called

Vastness

Spring and summer and autumn and winter, and old revolutions of earth,

all

these

All

new-old revolutions of empire what is all of it worth ?
is
it

change of the

tide,

What

all

if

we

all

of us end but in being our
in

own
the

corpse-coffins at last,

Swallow d in vastness,

lost

silence,
"

drown d

in

depths of a meaningless past

?

a sense of sublimity and magnificence such as the cramped universe

Or
of

it

may awaken

pre-scientific

thought

and
is

imagination

could hardly inspire.
of Victor
in

Such

the inspiration

Hugo s tremendous poem, L Abime,
the

which

cosmical
its

feeling

for

nature

receives

perhaps

grandest
B

expression.

10
First,

ON THE PSYCHOLOGY OF MYSTICISM
the
:

spirit

of

Man

boasts

of

his

conquests
"

Rien sans moi.

Le monde a ma voix tremble et change La nature ebauche je termine.
.

.

.

;

Terre, je suis ton

roi."

Then
"

the Earth-spirit
la

mocks
moi

his pride
au jour

:

Tu
J
ai

t

en vas dans

cendre, et
1

je reste

;

aube, les fleurs, 1 amour; Je suis plus jeune apres des millions d annees."
toujours le printemps,

But Saturn reduces the earth

to insignificance,

and the Sun Saturn.

The glorious

stars Sirius,

Aldebaran, and Arcturus despise the sun, with
its

dim
;

light

and paltry
bird-like

cluster of attendant

planets
night,

the

comet,
stars

terror
like

of

the

speeds

past

the
;

so

many
of

grains of mustard seed

the Zodiac, the Milky
realised"

Way,

the

"

spectral

worlds not

Nebulae that whiten the darkness, a boundless

ocean of dream-worlds, utter their vaunts as
they
pass
before

the

poet
:

s

eye

:

till

the

Infinite
"

speaks one line
multiple
:

L etre

vit

dans

mon

unite

sombre,"

and God says
"

Je n aurais que

souffler, et tout serait

de

1

ombre."

SOLDIER MYSTICS

II

The immanent
its

pantheism, or
it,

"

monism"
is

as

votaries prefer to call

which

the creed
is

of most scientists
religion,

who
"

are religious,

a real

which only ignorance and prejudice can stigmatise as In so far as infidelity." it culminates in an immediate feeling of being
enveloped by the all-embracing Spirit of the
cosmos,
or, in

Huxley s words,
it

"

in the

sense

of growing oneness with the great Spirit of
abstract
truth,"

is

a mystical religion.

in

The sympathetic study of human character, much the same spirit in which Wordsworth

studied nature,

may

lead to a kind of mysticism

of a distinctive type, as
lecture devoted to

we

shall see in

a later

Robert Browning.
also
faith,
-

The
in

active

life

may
as

issue

in

a

thoroughly mystical
the
lives

may be
like

seen

of soldier

mystics
at

Colonel

Gardiner,
1745,

who was

and Charles

Prestonpans in Gordon, the knight with
slain

out

and without reproach, who fell at Khartoum. Men of this type see the hand of
fear

God

everywhere.
full

Life for
"

them
"

is

as sacra

mental, as

of

mysteries

in

the

Greek

sense of the word, as to the

Platonic philo-

12

ON THE PSYCHOLOGY OF MYSTICISM

But there sopher or the poet of nature. is a very striking difference in the kind of
sacramental symbolism which these two classes of mystics seek and find in the external world.

The

active,

practical

worker

demands

a

spiritual

world-order in which spiritual facts
time,

happen in
activities are
in

just

as

his

own

spiritual

time.

devoted to making things happen The philosopher and the poet do
to

not want

make anything happen,
Hence
of

but to

discover and understand and set a value upon

what always happens.
symbols are quite
craves
for

their religious

different.

The
some

active

man
the

for

evidences

Divine
in

intervention

supernaturalism

form

;

philosopher and poet make no such demand, and the religious man of science regards belief in miracle as a kind of blasphemy. Amiel
says that
"

miracle

is

a vision of the
;

Divine Divine
nature,

behind

nature."

Yes

but
the

of
face

the

energising and

altering

of

even as the active man would

fain leave his

mark on
upon
it.

the world, as an unique force acting

no place for a discussion upon miracles, a subject which lies quite outis

This

DEFINITION OF MYSTICISM
side

13

the

scope
are

of

these

lectures
in

;

but

for

those
versies

who
I

interested

current

contro
light
is

would suggest that much

thrown upon the attitude of the two parties by the considerations which I have just
suggested.

The man who
have

wishes to under
different

stand the world will

religious

symbols from him who wishes to leave his

mark upon it. Does this enumeration exhaust the
of mystical religion
? I

varieties

think not.

A

recent

writer on the psychology of religion gives us

the following
attitude

;

definition.

"

Mysticism
divines and

is

that

of

mind which

moves

toward the
life,

spiritual in the

common

things of

the

not a partial and occasional operation of mind under the guidance of far-fetched
1

analogies."

The

last

clause

is

directed

against that bastard type of mysticism which
flourishes luxuriantly

among
of

the Neo-Catholic
is

littrateurs in France,

and which

illustrated

by

the

later
is

novels

Huysmans.
is

The

definition

a good one, and
trivial

valuable as
the

claiming for the
1

round,
p. 41.

common

Granger, The Soul of a Christian,

14
task,

ON THE PSYCHOLOGY OF MYSTICISM
the

power

to

waft us upward
throne.
It

to the
is

very footstool of

God s

most

important that we should recognise the sacra mental value of mere right action, even of the

most commonplace kind.
because
it

Not, of course, that
;

the action itself has this value
is

it

is

valuable

the

view

of

things

and

expression events

of our habitual

and
of

men and
view
is

ourselves.
fatally
in
|

Our

habitual

point
it

incomplete unless
action.
"The

finds
intellect

expression

habitual

by

itself

moves
j

nothing,"

as

Aristotle said.

Beautiful

thoughts hardly bring us any nearer to God until they are acted upon. No one," says can have a true idea of right, until Martineau,
" "

he does
he does

it

;

it

ineffable in
alacrity."

any genuine reverence for it, till often, and with cost any peace he till does it it, always and with
;

The

religion of right conduct

is

no

doubt frequently contrasted with the mystical
type.

The
to

religious

man who

begins and

ends with obedience to his
devotion
are
or
duty,
is

conscience,

and

not a mystic.

There
little

many
no

noble

characters
to

who have
religion.

affinity

mystical

Such

INTUITION
persons
Rossetti
"

15

will
:

echo

the

words

of

Christina

We are
Who

of those

who tremble
terrors

at thy

Word,

faltering
life,

walk in darkness towards our close

Of mortal

by

curbed and spurred,
stirred,

We

are of those.

Not ours the heart thy loftiest love hath Not such as we thy lily and thy rose,
Yet,

Hope

of those

who hope
those."

with hope deferred,

We
Nevertheless
it

are of

is

the fact that the

habitual

performance of the humblest daily duties has
developed the highest spirituality of character, with a vivid consciousness of the
often

presence of

God

within
that

and

around

us,

a

profound

conviction

communion

with

Him

takes place by prayer, and

an intuitive
is

certainty of Divine truth which
mystical.

essentially

We
with

have seen that

this intuitive certainty

or conviction, this sense of immediate contact

the

supersensual
of
be,

world,

is

common

to

many
will

classes

minds.

The
?

next question

naturally

what

authority

do these

intuitions carry with

them

There are some

who

think that the whole assumption of an

1

6

ON THE PSYCHOLOGY OF MYSTICISM
is

inner light, granted to favoured persons,

a

mischievous delusion, and that the only safe guides to Divine truth are external revelation

and common-sense.

Such would seem

to

be

the opinion which underlies John Stuart Mill s
definition of mysticism, as being
"

neither

more

nor less than ascribing objective existence to the subjective creations of our own faculties,
to

ideas

and

feelings

of

the

mind

;

and

believing that by watching and contemplating

those
in

ideas of

its

own making,
place
in
Mill,

it

can read
the

them

what

takes

world

dry cannot the economic way, help appreciating to of an inexhaustible value, so speak,
fund of inward happiness which enriches A and accordingly without impoverishing B
;

without."

Even

however,

in

his

he recommends
"

poems.
learn

From
when

study of Wordsworth s I seemed to them," he says,
the
"

what would be the perennial sources of
all

happiness,
shall

the greater evils

of

life

at

myself once better and happier as I came under This experience should have their influence."

have been removed.

And

I

felt

taught Mill that

we cannot

trust

common-sense

DREAMS AND REALITIES
to

I?

draw the

line sharply
realities,

and

infallibly

between

dreams and

when

the higher spiritual

truths are in question.

No

doubt, as Leslie

Stephen
realities

says,

"all

mixture

of dreams and
of
facts."

involves
calls

distortion

But

what

he

dreams
the

are

not

necessarily

phantoms

of

imagination.

They may

be symbols inadequately representing a higher order of reality than the system which we call
matter of
fact.

It is

by no means
(for,

certain that
it is

the analogy of dreams

of course,

only

an analogy) makes against mysticism. fact of dreams makes us familiar with
conception of different grades
reality.

The
the

and orders of

world.

always in the same There are breaches of continuity, and

We

do not

live

even contradictions,

may
states

our experience, which cause us to doubt whether our normal
in

are

absolutely

trustworthy.

We

pass

from one state to another without change of place. May there not be other and higher
orders of reality into which

entered in

some persons have the same manner? Philosophers
radical

have found
the

contradictions in

some

of

conceptions

which

form

the very warp

18

ON THE PSYCHOLOGY OF MYSTICISM
time,

and woof of our thought
the
self.

space,

and
be

May

not these

contradictions

an indication that the world of common-sense/
is itself

a system,} that is, which would appear unsubstantial if viewed from the standpoint of a higher reality ?
It

a dream rather than reality

must be remembered that the application
standard
things
is

of

the

of

naive

sensationism

to

spiritual

as fatal to art and poetry

as to religion.

We

have no single weighing-

machine
in

gauging the amount of substance every kind of experience. The world as
for

projected
faculties

by

the

ethical

or

the

aesthetic

has as good a right to claim reality

as that which the natural sciences reveal to us.

No

science
(as

which deals with one aspect of

reality

molecular physics deals with the relations which atoms, if there were such
things,

would

hold to each other)
truly said about things.
1

exhausts
JVfore^

what may be
a.

^2D.JlLJ:k?--J J&ner
^especially,

spheres
it

of
is

experience;
in

man jrees^hat

him

to

JKjCjjiotjallJ:hatjs jhere^to see,.

And he

can

only describe what he sees symbolically and
inadequately.

Language, which was framed

SYMBOLS
to

IQ
ideas,

express

daily

needs
it is

and common

breaks
the

down when

called

upon
the

to describe
soul.
It

deeper

experiences
find similes

of
for

struggles to
said directly.
artist

what cannot be

If the poet,

and sometimes the
are driven
ideas,

William Blake,

for instance

to use strange

symbols to express their

personifying the forces of nature

everywhere for more must this be so with the religious genius.

and hunting metaphors and analogies, even
is

To him
(as
I

the vision

very

real,

so real that

have said) it possesses him rather than is possessed by him but it is not given in words,
;

and cannot be adequately rendered by words.

The
is

oft-repeated

complaint of the mystics,

that they cannot express

what they have seen,
Dante,

not

to

be

ridiculed.

who knew

both the psychology of the schools and the psychology of the saints, shows us that so it

must be

:

"

E
sa

vidi cose

che redire
;

Ne

ne pub qual di lassu discende Perche, appresando se al suo disire,
Nostro
intelletto si

profonda tanto,
1
ire."

Che
1

retro la

memoria non pu6

Paradiso

i.

20

ON THE PSYCHOLOGY OF MYSTICISM
again
"

And

:

Qual e colui che somniando vede, E dopo il sogno la passione impressa Rimane, e 1 altro alia mente non riede,
Cotal son
io,

che quasi tutta cessa

Mia

visione,

ed ancor mi

distilla
l
essa."

Nel cuor
If
it

lo dolce

che nacque da

is

we understand what the mystic tells us, largely because we have experienced
fill

something of the same kind ourselves, and
are able by sympathy to

up

for ourselves

what words and images only give in a blurred and dim picture. The same is true of art
also.

No
the
to

one,

I

think,

would
if

appreciate a fine sea-picture

enjoy or he had never
poetry
is is

seen

sea.

The

finest

lyric

tedious

those

whose

emotional nature

undeveloped.

The

parallel

between the
of

artistic

and the
very both are
is

religious
significant.

representation

things
in

They

are

akin

that

essentially

unselfish.

The
art
It
is

selfish

man

re

members and observes only what has served
or baffled him.

But

the wide world

s

memory
1

of things.
xxxiii.

values the

things of

Paradiso

ART AND RELIGION

21

experience according as they are good or bad
that
is,

;

according as they
not.

fulfil

their

proper
is

end or

Even

so religion,

which

the

negation of selfishness, views things sub specie aeternitatis, and not according as they cause
pleasure or pain to ourselves.
representation
of
reality
is

But the
subject

religious
to

more

in that, stringent restrictions than the artistic,

since the
is

main end of

art is enjoyment, there

an element of
productions.

play, of conscious illusion, in

its

limitations.
in religious
is

But there
symbolism.

Art accepts gladly its own is no element of play

The

religious attitude

one of the highest conceivable seriousness.
subject
It
is

Its

reality in

the final and highest
its
its

sense.
tion,

can acknowledge but not acquiesce in
its

own

imperfec
It

illusions.

reverences

symbols while admitting their

know that they are not inadequacy. creations of our fancy, like artistic symbols, but the spontaneous projections of a deeper
faculty

We

which we dare not
that

trifle

with.

Hence
religious

comes

reluctance

to

subject

symbols to

rationalistic tests,
in

which we observe
If

everywhere

human

history.

we remember

22

ON THE PSYCHOLOGY OF MYSTICISM

this peculiar attitude of the religious conscious

ness towards symbolism,

we

shall find

a ready

solution of one of the apparent inconsistencies
in mystical thought,
critic

which even a sympathetic

of mysticism such as

Royce regards as
I

a fundamental contradiction.

mean

the fact
is

that mysticism, the differentia of which

the

craving for immediacy in the knowledge or vision of God, is at the same time intimately
associated

with

symbolism.

Mysticism

has

no
"

love for

symbols that are merely symbols
all
degrees."

loose types of things through

It rests in

no

half-lights

;

it

longs to tear the
It

heart out of every experience.

longs to

dive into the hidden reality behind phenomena,
and,
in

so

far

as

it

succeeds,

it

treats

the

phenomena as symbols. But the temper which makes playthings of symbols which finds an
aesthetic or fanciful pleasure in
all

them

is

above

things alien to

it.

But we are
objection.

likely

to

hear

the following
to

Before

attributing

mystical

intuitions or visions

an even higher authority
the
reflections

than

belongs

to

of

the
poet,

philosopher or the imagination

of the

IS

MYSTICISM MORBID?

2$

should
tions
all

we

not

remember
it

that recent investiga that

have made

more than probable

such experiences are pathological, being invariably found to be associated with more
less

or

morbid

conditions

of

the

mind or
and

body?

Was

not St Paul, the mystic of the
epileptic,

Testament, probably an certainly a neurotic subject ?
records of monastic mysticism

New

Are not the
of

full

symptoms
mental

which are now known to indicate
balance
?

loss of

Nay,

is

it

not probable that the
essentially of the nature

religious experience

is

of a self-induced trance, the empirical of

wisdom
most

the nations having discovered in the pro

duction

of

this

trance

one

of

the

efficacious

means of stamping on the mind

such suggestions as shall secure the triumph of the dearest wishes of the human heart?

What

evidence can be more conclusive than

that notable mystics like Jacob
that they induced their visions

Bohme admit
by what would
gazing

now be

called

self-hypnotisation

fixedly at a point of light shining through a

keyhole, and the like?

Well, these objections are

made by

specialists,

24

ON THE PSYCHOLOGY OF MYSTICISM
be treated with respect. But question is, whether our higher
to
Is

and deserve
the
real

endowments are best interpreted from above
or from

below.

their

true

nature to be
of,

found by enquiring what they grew out

and with what physical conditions they are associated, or by enquiring what they may

grow
truth

into,

and

to

what regions of
?

spiritual
is

they

may

conduct us

The

former

the

method of pessimism.

Lucretius,

Swift,

and Schopenhauer try to make the passion of love odious and contemptible in this way. The more a thing is good, the higher it has
risen

from
it

its

the
it

more
its

consequently can be degraded by identifying
It is

first

state,

and

with

original /orms.

essentially the

pessimistic method.
all

Pessimism maintains that
is

human endeavour
;

futile,

all

progress

illusory

that the attractiveness of physical or
is

merely a bait by which Nature entices us to subserve her purposes to our own
hurt
;

moral beauty

and that the mystics are persons who,

by reason of their unstable nervous system, are more completely duped than their neighbours.
But Christianity agrees with Aristotelianism
in

SANITY OF GREAT MYSTICS
teaching that the
ultimate
tree
is

25
is

nature
of

of

a

thing

its

potentiality

to

be known

The development. by its fruits, not by its
products
of
religious
frail

roots.

Nor can

the

genius be discredited by pointing to the

and suffering

lives of their authors.

We

do not

judge poetry in this way, though eccentricity has been common enough amongst poets.

Even

if

it

were true that
in

religious

genius

appears only mental constitution,
the

an abnormal
that

physical

and

value

of what

revealed to us.

destroy genius has Nature often gives with one
the
religious

would not

hand what she takes away with
It is

the

other.

not the harmoniously developed
the world owes most.

men

to

whom
fact,

But, in point of

the

great

saints

have

been

no more

eccentric than other
I

men

of exceptional gifts

would even

say, less so.

Our English
and
sensible,

have been very sane even when most clearly belonging
saints

to the mystical type.

Those whom
in these lectures,

I

have

chosen as specimens
defied even a

whether

recluses, or philosophers, or poets,

might have

mad

doctor to do his worst.

D

26
I

ON THE PSYCHOLOGY OF MYSTICISM

holding a brief for It is a type of religion which no mysticism. one would wish to see in possession of the
not altogether

am

whole

field,

and which

versions.

It

very liable to per cannot be an accident that it has
is

been generally treated as the religion of pure feeling, and opposed to ethical theism on the
one
side,

and

to intellectual systems, such as
I

absolute idealism, on the other.
to

have tried

show

that the moral sense

and the specu

lative faculty

and

both have their mystical states, that both types have, in point of fact,

contributed to the literature and hagiology of But, in spite of this, the trend of mysticism.

mysticism in the direction of pure feeling has been so marked, that the name is not likely
to

be readily given to piety of another type. In modern times, it will be said, the typical
is

mystical divine

Schleiermacher, the founder

of romanticism in theology. He opposed the intellectual idealism of Hegel, disparaging as of subordinate knowledge very importance
to
faith,

and making
"
"

faith to

consist entirely
total of
religion,"

of devout feeling.

The sum
in

he

says,

is

to

feel that

its

highest unity

SCHLEIERMACHER
all

27
is

that
that
is

moves us
is

in

feeling

one
being

to

feel,

to

say,

that

our

and

living
God."

a being and living in and through
the

And
whole

again he says that,
"

in

religious

experience,

You

become

sense,

and

the

becomes

object.

Sense

and

object
to
is

mingle and unite, and then each returns its place, and the object rent from sense

a perception, and you rent from the object is this It are, for yourselves, a feeling.
earlier

moment
yet

I

mean,
never
life

which

you always

experience,

experience.
is is
it

The
constant

phenomena of your
departure and
at
all,

just

its

return.

It

scarcely in time

so

quickly

does
so

pass
little
I

;

it

can
it

scarcely

be

described,

does

properly exist.
fast,

Would
it

that

could hold

it

and
your

refer to

your commonest as well

as
first

highest
of
.
.

activities.

...
life

It

is

the
the

contact
.

the
It is

universal

with

individual.
all

immediate, raised above

error

and

misunderstanding.

You

lie

directly

on the bosom of the

infinite

world.

In that

moment you

are

its

soul.

Through

28

ON THE PSYCHOLOGY OF MYSTICISM

one part of your nature you feel, as your own, In this all its powers and its endless life.

way every
life
is

living original

movement
It
is

in

your

first

conceived.

the

source of

every religious emotion." This extract from Schleiermacher would,
think,

I

be

very

widely accepted

as

typical

mystical teaching.

The
this

revelation of

God
and

is

said to be given in immediate feeling,

in

no other way.
experience
all
is

account of religious one-sided and inadequate almost
;

That

would admit

does the admission condemn
?

mysticism, or not
I

do not

like the quasi-personification of
is

our

faculties

which

so

common

in

discussions

on the borderland between metaphysics and
psychology.
Will,

Men champion
Intellect,

the cause of the
Feeling, as
if

or

the

or the

they were three rival powers contending for the supremacy over our lives. The unity of

our personality
the
purposes, and

is

often
is

lost

sight

of.

Still,

classification

convenient
use
it

for
if

certain

we may
it

we always
in

remember

that

involves

us

unreal

abstractions.

With

this caution,

we may say

WILL, INTELLECT,
that

AND FEELING

29

the

religious
It

consciousness

pure
of

feeling.

immediacy,

which

begins with I should

begins as a lower kind
express
it

in

religious phraseology

by saying that
lends

with

God

s

self- revealing

consciousness.

God
that
it

us

presence a portion
at length

in

begins our
of

His eternal
it

life,

we may

make

can only become our own by passing for a while quite out of the sphere of immediate perception. Feeling must
our own.

But

pass into

will.

In

so

passing

it

does not

cease to be feeling, but becomes conscious of
itself

as feeling.
itself

And
as

Will,
will,

when
be
will

it

becomes
intelli

conscious of
gence,

passes into
to
will.

without

ceasing

The
intelli

reconciling principle between

and
has

gence

been love, knowledge recently well shown by McTaggart (Studies in Hegelian Dialectic]. This corresponds with
or
is

as

the thesis of

some mystical
the
"

theologians, that
state
is

what they

higher than contemplation, being the perfect union of
contemplation and action.
lectual

call

mixed"

But

this

"

intel
it,

love of

God,"

as Spinoza called
plane,

is

a reversion, on a

much higher

to

the

3O

ON THE PSYCHOLOGY OF MYSTICISM
immediacy,
with which

pure feeling, or
has described a
into

we

said religion begins.
full

The

religious experience

circle,

and has entered

the inheritance which was

shown
its

to

it,

as

its

own, at the beginning of
Proclus the

course.
simple,"

"The

highest and lowest things are

says

Neo-Platonist

;

"the

inter

mediate are

complex."

The danger
fallen

to
is

which the mystics have often
the

victims

temptation to clutch at

the fruition of the spiritual union before they

have gone through the toilsome preparation and discipline of the will and intellect. They have
tried to live throughout in the pleasant

region of devout feeling.

The

result of this
intellect
is

impatience

is

sometimes that the

sacrificed or

remains outside the religious life. In such cases there is no check upon super

stitious beliefs,

which often take the form of
;

fantastic

theosophy or magic and no check upon such excesses of emotionalism as are revivals. frequently witnessed at religious

Sometimes
starved.

it

is

the ethical faculty which

is

history

This very serious omission has in issued in antitwo perversions

PANTHEISM
j

31

nomianism and quietism, The former teaches that he who is led by the Spirit can do no
wrong, or that the sins of the body cannot stain the soul. The latter teaches that we
can
"

say most satisfactorily if we sit concerning us with folded arms. It must be admitted that
"

hearken what the

Lord God

will

those schools
in

of philosophy which

are most

sympathy with mysticism have been on the

whole ethically weak.
mystical

The
is

classical

form of

philosophy

Oriental
all

pantheism,

which by obliterating
things
for

outlines

makes

all

equally

divine,

and

leaves

no room
wrong..

distinctions

between

right

and

Emerson has drunk deeply of
draught of self-deification
"There is
:

this intoxicating

To

no great and no small the soul that maketh all
:

Where

it

cometh,

all

things are,

And
"

it

cometh everywhere.

I

am

the owner of the sphere,

Of the seven stars and the solar year, Of Caesar s hand, and Plato s brain, Of Lord Christ s heart, and Shakespeare s

strain."

Most

mystical

philosophers

have

been

determinists.

Plotinus

cannot

be considered

32

ON THE PSYCHOLOGY OF MYSTICISM
;

an exception

and

the

systems of
unsatisfactorily

Spinoza

and Hegel are found

by

all

who lay much stress on human Hence perhaps comes the extreme
mysticism expressed by

volition.

dislike of

many ethical theists, A especially by the German Ritschlians. form of religion which tends to mix up man and God, to break down the rigid limits of individuality, and to make evil an unreal
appearance,
injurious.

must,

they
is

think,

be

morally

But there

no

real

inconsistency

between mysticism and the
the keenest speculation.
intellectualism,

strictest ethics, or

Mysticism repudiates
moralism,
not

not
insists,

intellect,

morality.
inspiration

It

no doubt, on personal
source

as

the

of

religion.

As

Emerson says
"This

communication

is

an influx of the
It is

Divine mind into our mind.

an ebb of

the individual rivulet before the flowing surges of the sea of life. The character and
.
.

.

duration

of this

enthusiasm varies with the

state of the

individual,

from an ecstasy and
in

trance and prophetic inspiration, to the faintest

glow of virtuous emotion,

which form

it

CONTEMPLATION AND ACTIVITY

33

warms, like our household fires, all the families and associations of men, and makes society
possible."

But
it

glow rapidly becomes extinct unless kindles a flame in the will and intellect.
this
its life

LAI! mysticism which seeks
[^contemplation only,
"

in inactive \

is

a
"

failure, j
is

The God
found

who worketh hitherto or known by any who
energies
all

not to be

leave their practical
desire

unused.
to
feel

Those who

above

and enjoy their power of things communion with God, are bound to remember
that
finite

our

relation

to

God must be

that

of

and

dependent beings.

On

one side
;

we have fellowship with the Father on the other we are very far removed and even
estranged from Him. Does not this throw more light on that feature in mystical literature which seems so
self- contradictory ?
I

mean,

the

claim

to

immediate contact with the Divine, combined
with a chart of spiritual progress representing a very long ladder of ascent ? Such is indeed the course of the spiritual life. It is an
infinite

progress within the sphere of Divine

34

ON THE PSYCHOLOGY OF MYSTICISM

love and knowledge.
it

And
as
I

in its
all

development
our
ask
faculties.

uses,

and

in

using hallows,
you,

In

asking

shall

you,

to

listen to

two lectures upon the older mystical
in

literature

our language,
in

I

am

not trying

dead theology. There is a great deal of dead theology most of it died at a very early age some was alive for
to

interest

you

;

;

centuries

and

is

now

dead.

But the books

of the great mystics do not die.

They may

be forgotten, as the Theologia Germanica was forgotten but so soon as they become known
;

again, they are found to be very
"A

much

alive.

book only grows
reason of
its

old,"

says Maeterlinck,

"by
"

anti-mysticism."

Those books which
or

vividly depict in
felt

some
the

fashion

other

the

presence
in

of

Divine and the Universal

human

natures

have a perennial charm, and are among the most precious of the treasures which the
world
I

will

not willingly

let

1
die."

think you will be surprised at the fresh
extracts which
I

ness and modernity of the
shall read
1

you next week and the week

after

Upton, Hibbert Lectures, 1893.

TYPES OF MYSTICISM

35

from the Ancren Riwle, Julian of Norwich,

and Walter Hylton. Human nature to be much the same everywhere
bottom.
It
is

is

said

at

the

also so at the top.
to

We

need

not trouble ourselves

ask,

and we could
whether
a

seldom

guess

without

asking,

paragraph
or
in

highest spiritual experiences was written in the Middle Ages

describing

the

modern
fourth

times,

in

the

north or south

of Europe, by a Catholic or by a Protestant.

The

lecture

I

shall

devote to the

eighteenth-century divine, William Law, who from the seclusion of a remote village issued
several treatises of a mystical type which are

unsurpassed

for

robustness of
in

thought

and

beauty of expression, of our country.

the sacred literature

In the two last lectures

I

shall

take two
as

poets
subjects.

Wordsworth and Browning

my

The

poets

have

been

our most

influential

prophets
century
;

and and
it

nineteenth

preachers in the so happens that
the
best
possible

these two furnish us with

examples of certain kinds of mystical thought

and

feeling.

36

ON THE PSYCHOLOGY OF MYSTICISM

such a variety of testimony, con verging from many sides towards one central truth, most of my hearers should be able to

Among

find

to

some message which they can take home themselves. With all of us, the range of
extremely limited.

spiritual vision is

We

are

like persons
sea.
light,

gazing at the moonlight on the Every wave and wavelet reflects the but each spectator sees only one

narrow silvery path, that which stretches to the horizon straight out from his own feet.

Only those
and
to

who

lean

entirely

on

external

authority are likely to be disappointed with,
to disapprove
I

of,

all the mystics.

And

them

will

read a few wise words from
thoughtful
philosopher,

a very eminent and

the late Professor Wallace.
"

In

the
;

Kingdom

of

God

are

many
it

mansions
were, to
believe
strength,
also

and while some are content, as live on tradition and authority,
trust,
is

to

on
it

to

repose on the

common

be from

necessary that there should time to time a few, a select

number, who resolve, or rather are compelled

by a necessity naturally

laid

upon them,

to

WALLACE ON MYSTICISM
see
for
it

37
is

themselves.
the
faith

Theirs

also

faith

;

but

is

of insight and of

ledge,

the

faith

which

is

gnosis.

know Hard

and harder things have been said of gnosis, but it cannot be too things of gnosticism
;

gnosis is the very life It is of the Church, the blood of religion.
clearly

seen

that

the

faith

which

is

not merely

hearsay

and

dependence, but which really envisages the It does not believe on a unseen for itself.

Person;
becomes,

it

believes

in

and

into

Him:

it

by an act at once voluntary and human action impelled from without (as all
is

that

really entitled to that

name) participant
of a force of
life

with

Him and
conduct."

through

Him

and
I

have troubled you with no definitions of But when you have heard what mysticism. the authorities whom I have selected have
to say for themselves,
I

hope and think that

definition you will conclude that the shortest which has ever been suggested is also one of the best. Mysticism is the love of God.

LECTURE
THE

II

THE ANCREN RIWLE AND JULIAN OF NORWICH
life

of the recluse

is

now seldom chosen

and never respected. It is difficult for us to realise that it was once a career, and not the
abdication
saint

of

all

careers.

The
from

professional

Northern disappeared Europe at or before the Reformation. In the

almost

earlier

Middle

Ages,

however,

his

was

a

recognised manner of life which, austere, did not at all condemn him

however

chosen

it

to obscurity or contempt.

who had The hermit

becomes an important figure in Church history in the half century which followed the Decian
persecution,

when many thousands
ties.

in

Northern
all

Africa alone fled to the deserts, renouncing

domestic and civic
at

In ecclesiastical

circles,

any
38

rate,

it

w as
r

the shortest road to a high

reputation.

Pilgrims

who

visited the caves

and

THE LIFE OF THE RECLUSE

39

far

huts in which the hermits found shelter, spread and wide accounts of their austerities and

their miracles.
in

They

described

how some

lived

dried-up wells,
pillars.

others

among

the tombs,

others on

The

macerations to which

their abstinence they subjected themselves from food, sleep, and ablutions made them

heroes at a time

when

mortification of the flesh
virtue.

was considered the highest
on

They were

consulted on problems of theology, and even
practical

questions.

This movement, one

of the most difficult in history for moderns to

comprehend, was on its saner side a great purity crusade, combined with a desire to cultivate to
the
else

utmost the
to
it.

spiritual life
call
is

by
for

sacrificing all
selfish
is

To
There
as

the hermits

a

mistake.

room
as

this

kind of
If the

specialisation

well
"

for

others.

hermits

"

produced

nothing, in

the economic
;

and sense, they consumed next to nothing even those who are most sceptical about the
value of intercessory prayer may admit that the true saint, who can bring his example and
influence to bear
tion, is

on the

social life of his

genera

a useful

member

of the community.

40
It is

THE ANCREN RIWLE
true that

we cannot

regard the anchorite

as the most perfect imitator of Jesus Christ.

Our Master began His
feast.

ministry at a marriage

He was
no
freely

continually
in

reproached
public,

for for

practising

austerities

and

associating

with

all

classes

and with
a

both
violent

sexes.

Monkish

ethics

involved

distortion

of the true Christian ideal.

But now that

eremitism in the Church has
history,
for

become an episode of past
admit
a
partial
it,

justification

we may those who
its

practised

highest the of vision the perfection faculty spiritual

in the desire to

bring to

contemplation of the light

invisible.

Their

experiences illustrate the advantage as well as the defects of a highly specialised training.
In
the Middle Ages, England

was

full

of

persons

who

in

one form or another had taken
Besides the larger monasteries
"

religious vows.

and convents, there were numerous anchor for solitary women, some in the open ages country, but more in the vicinity of a church.
"

The
yard,

cell

of the

anchoress,

which was often

built against

the church wall or in a church

sometimes

contained

more

than

one

THE A NCREN RIWLE

41

apartment, for the recluse usually had one, or even two, servants to attend upon her. She
herself never left the walls of her
cell,

which

had no means of

egress, except by the windows.

Even
outside

the

window which opened towards the was generally covered by a heavy
for

curtain,

and those who wished

an audience

with the recluse would kneel before the window
until

she chose to draw back the screen.
Riwle, a precious specimen of

The Ancren
early English,
esses, sisters,
for

was written

for

three

anchor

who had

retired

from the world

pious exercises,

and lived together with

their

domestic servants or lay sisters. They were not, it seems, connected with any
religious

community.

Kaines, Dorsetshire.
the

They lived at Tarrant The reputed author of
Simon de Ghent, Arch
1284,

Ancren Riwle
of Oxford

is

deacon

in

and

Bishop of
is

Salisbury
to

1297-1315.

But the

style

said

earlier, and it is more probable that it was written by Bishop Poore, who was born and buried there. The author of the Ancren Riwle was certainly a learned man he quotes
;

be

the Christian Fathers, and even

Pagan

poets,

42

THE ANCREN RIWLE
His
treatise
is

such as Horace and Ovid.

just

what

it

professes to be, a

compendium
It

of rules
is

and good advice
properly speaking,
theology,
like

for anchoresses.

not,

a

document

of

mystical
of

the

Revelations
s

of Julian

Norwich,

or

Hyl ton

Scale

which

But

it

and

presently engage a very interesting treatise in itself, throws so much light on the conditions
is

will

of Perfection, our attention.

under which
their

these
it

recluses
will

lived

and saw

not be out of place to give you some account of its contents, before proceeding to the still more attractive work
visions, that

of Julian, another anchoress.

The book
entitled
(i)

is

divided

into

eight
;

sections,
(ii)

On

Devotional Exercises
in

On
;

the

Government of the Senses
;

keeping the

Heart
(iv)

Moral Lessons and Examples Temptations and Means to avoid them
(iii)

;

(v)

On
On

Confession
;

;

(vi)

On Penance and
or

Amendment
(viii)

(vii)

On Love

Charity

;

Domestic and Social Duties.
"

The
sisters,
I

author begins by saying My dear you have asked me for a Rule. But
:

will

only give you two rules.

One

rules the

RULES FOR ANCHORESSES
heart,

43

and makes

it

even and smooth, without

any knot or scar of evil. This is chanty out of a pure heart, and love unfeigned. The
other
is

all

external.

It

is

bodily exercise or
says,

discipline,
little.

which,

the
is

apostle

profiteth

This rule
rule

only to serve the other.
is

The

of

love

as

lady,

the

rule

of
is

discipline as

handmaid.

The

rule

of love

always the same, the rule of discipline

may

be

changed and
"If

varied.

say,

you are asked to what order you belong, For it is The Order of St James.
:

St

James who wrote
before
visit

Pure

religion
is

and
this,

undefiled
to

God and

the Father

the

fatherless
to

and widows

in

their

affliction,

and
1

keep oneself unspotted from
follow directions for daily
*

the

world."
"

Then

devotions.

In the name waking say, of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy followed by the Veni Creator, kneel Ghost,
"

On

ing on your beds.

Many

offices are

enjoined

during the day, including, it must be owned, a terrible amount of vain repetition, especially
of Paternosters.

The

ancient prayer which they are ordered

44
to

THE A NCREN RIWLE

say at the able for the
doctrine
"

Holy Communion
spiritual

is

remark

and

unsuperstitious
it

of

the

Eucharist which

implies

:

we beseech thee, almighty God, that Him whom we see darkly, and under a different form, and on whom we feed sacramentally on earth, we may see face to face,
Grant,

and may be thought worthy to enjoy Him truly and really as He is in heaven, through
the same Jesus Christ our
Lord."

Guard of the Senses" chapter on the contains some amusing admonitions. The
"

The

are cautioned severely against out of the parlour window, like the looking

young

ladies

"

staring

they are not to be always chattering with visitors, "like the anchoresses (kakelinde cackling ancren).
anchoresses."
"

And

Silence

is

always to be observed at meals,
Friday,

and

throughout
It
is
"

and

during
to

Holy
say

Week.
"

permissible,
to

however,

a few words

times.

But

your maid, during silent is a snare. More talking
"

slayeth

word than

sword."

Gossip was evidently a temptation to the recluse. People say," writes our author,
"

RULES FOR ANCHORESSES
"

45

chatter to her

an anchoress has always a magpie to so that men have a proverb From miln and market, from smithy and
that
;
:

nunnery, men bring tidings. this is a sad tale."

Christ knows,

Our Lord s words,
birds of the air
cally
"The

"

Foxes have

holes,

and

have
true

nests,"

may

be allegorianchoresses.

applied
true

to

and

false

anchoresses are
fly

indeed birds of
sit

heaven, that

aloft

and

on the green
is,

boughs
meditate
of

singing

merrily.

That
the

they

heaven

enraptured upon that never fadeth
bird,

blessedness

and

is

ever

green.

A

on earth
there,

to seek food, but

however, sometimes alighteth never feels secure
about,"

and often turns herself

on her

guard against danger. Even so should the anchoress be wary when she is obliged to
busy herself with earthly things. This pretty comparison has been also made use of by a

French poet
"

:-

Soyons comme 1 oiseau, pose pour un instant Sur des rameaux trop freles ;

Qui sent ployer la branche, et qui chante pourtant, Sachant qu il a des ailes."

46

THE ANCREN RIWLE

The seven
to

deadly sins are then compared
to

the lion, envy to the and so forth. The noxious beasts serpent, all have seven, twelve, or six whelps" vices which all belong to the particular
animals,

pride

"

deadly

sin

in

question.

The

best

worth
classi

quoting of
fications
is

these

somewhat

arbitrary

the paragraph about accidie, that
:

besetting sin of the cloister
"

bear of heavy sloth hath these whelps. Torpor is the first that is, a lukewarm heart.

The

Next

is

pusillanimity,

which

is

too
to

faint

hearted and too reluctant withal
take any high thing in hope of
trust in

under

God s
is

His grace.

The

third

help and dullness of

doeth good, but with a dead and Fourth sluggish heart, he hath this whelp.
heart.
is

Who

idleness.

Whoso
he hath

stands

still,

doing
Fifth
is

no
a
is is

good

at

all,

this whelp.

Sixth grudging and grumbling heart. sorrow for anything except sin. Seventh

negligence in saying or doing or providing
or
is
all,

remembering or taking
despair,

care.

The
s

eighth

of grimmest which cheweth and wasteth God s mild

the

bear

whelp

RULES FOR ANCHORESSES
kindness
grace."

47

and

much

mercy

and

boundless

The sow

of greediness
of,

and her pigs are
"for

very briefly disposed afeard, my beloved
them."

I

am nought
ye
feed

sisters,

that

a remarkable passage about the consolations which an anchoress experiences
is

There

at

first,

but which

she must not expect to

This caution, which we find enjoy always. in almost all who have written with intimate

knowledge
interest.

about

the

life

of

devotion,
of

is

psychologically
"An

great anchoress thinks [beforehand]
practically
in
so.

and

that she

the

first

be most strongly tempted twelve months. Nay, it is not
shall

In the
"

first

years,

it

is
it

nothing but
is

ball-play."

In

the

beginning
into
love."

only

courtship,

to

draw you
expect to
but
"in

Afterwards, you must
"less

be treated with

forbearance,"

the end cometh great

joy."

The
written

exhortation

to

sisterly

affection

is

with great

delicacy,

and

a

sort

of

quaint tenderness which is very charming. My dear sisters, let your dear noses
"

48

THE AN CREN RIWLE

always be turned to each other with sweet love, fair semblance, and with sweet cheer,
that

ye

may be

ever with oneness of
will,

one

heart and of one

united together.

While
.

you are

united, the fiend cannot

harm

you.

.

.

And

if

the

fiend

blow up

any resentment

between you, which may Jesus Christ forbid, until it is appeased none ought to receive
Jesus
Christ s
flesh

and blood.

.

.

.

But

let

each send word to the other, that she hath

humbly asked her
present."

forgiveness, as

if

she were

We

obtain

little

glimpses into the minor

troubles

and arrangements of the household
"

when we read special admonitions like the Be glad in your hearts if ye following
:

suffer insolence

from Slurry the cook
shall

s

knave,
"

who washes
dear
cat."

the dishes in the

kitchen."

My

sisters,

ye

have no beast but one

Lastly, the

good man
sisters,

is

distressed to find

his spiritual daughters treating themselves too
"

hardly.

Dear
to

have seemed
it."

me

your meat and drink less than I would have
to

He

forbids

them

wear

hedgehog

AUSTERITIES FORBIDDEN
skins
as

49
haircloth,

a

discipline,

or

iron

or

and

to beat themselves with leathern thongs,

or with a leaded lash, or with holly or briars
till

the

blood comes, at least without leave

from their confessor.
be

Their clothes are to
"and

many as They you need, both for bed and back." are allowed to wash, we are glad to find,
well

warm and

made,

as

"as

often as you please." Such are the rules and exhortations drawn
for three

up
will

young

ladies

in

the

early part

(probably)

of the

thirteenth

century.
life

They
lived

help us to realise the kind of
recluses

by the numerous female to the upper and middle

belonging
in

classes,

the

For our purposes the most Middle Ages. interesting and important of these ladies is Julian of Norwich, the author of one of
the most precious
literature.

gems
life

of mediaeval

sacred
I

To

her

and revelations

now

turn.

In

Blomefield
:

s

History of Norfolk (1768)
the

we read
"In

the

east

part

the old

church of

churchyard [of St Julian in the parish

of

5<D

JULIAN OF NORWICH

of Conisford, near Norwich] stood an anchor

age

in

which an anchoress or recluse dwelt

till

the dissolution,

when

the house

was demolished,
be seen.
In

though the foundations may
strict recluse,

still

1393 Lady Julian, the ankeress here, was a

and had two servants
In

to attend

her in her old age.

1472

was recluse here;
Scott;
in

in

1481

Dame Agnes Dame Elizabeth
in

1510

Lady

Elizabeth;

1524

Dame Agnes
"The little

Edrygge."

church of St

Julian"

(says Miss

Warrack, whose beautiful edition of Julian s Revelations should be in the hands of all who
are
interested

keeps from tower of flint
traces about
built

our present subject) "still Norman times its dark round
in

rubble,

and

still

there

are

its

against

its

foundation of the anchorage south-eastern wall." The

church
the

was assigned
of

by King
a
small

Stephen

to

nuns

Carrow,

Benedictine
the fifteenth
school.

house, the inmates of which in

century conducted a fashionable girls

The Lady

Julian (the prefix

was commonly

given by courtesy to recluses of gentle birth) was probably a Benedictine nun belonging to

THE LADY JULIAN
this convent.

51

She was
the

thirty years old

when
to

in

1373 her which she afterwards recorded
form.
age,
if

May

revelation

was made

in narrative

She must have

lived to

we may
Visions.

trust

an extraordinary the title, written by a
vellum
is

contemporary on an
of the
"

old

Here

manuscript a vision showed
;

by the goodness of God to a devout woman and her name is Julian, that is recluse at
Norwich, and yet
1442."

is
is

on
else

life,

Nothing
from
to

except

the

Visions

Anno Domini known about her, themselves. The
a

attempt

identify her with

Lady

Julian
to

Lampet, of

Carrow Abbey, who appears
is

have died about 1480,
Julian

manifestly impossible.
as
"a

describes
that

herself

simple

creature

could
the

no

letter."

Whatever
Visions, she

may have been
at

state

of

her education

the

time

when she saw

the

was

far from being an she wrote them down.
this
I

illiterate

person when Phrases like after
"

saw God

in

a

point,"

show

some

acquaintance with the theological learning of the time. The style of the narrative is very
simple, but

by no means lacking

in literary skill.

52

JULIAN OF NORWICH

The
tive

description of the revelations
is

made

to

her at the age of thirty

one of the most attrac
to the

documents of mysticism, owing

com

bination of fine qualities

shown by the author. Her unaffected humility is not more pronounced

than her simple desire to
love
to
"

know

the truth.

Her

God and man is expressed in such sentences as What may make me more to
:

love

mine even Christen
in

(fellow

than to see
shall

God
it

that

He
all

Christians) loveth all that
"

be saved as
"

were
learn
I

one soul

?

and
to

by her
certain

desire

to

assuredly as
loved,
if
it

a

creature
in

that

should

continue ing
is

good

living."

Particularly pleas

her thoroughly sane estimate of the

favours
"

which

It

was not

God had bestowed upon her. showed me that God loved me
was
in

better than the least soul that
for
I

grace

;

am

certain that there be

many

that never

sight, but of the common teaching of Holy Church, that love God better than If we contrast Julian s Revelations

had any showing nor

I."

with the

Visions

of

the

Nun

Gertrude,

a

paltry record of sickly compliments
erotic

and semi-

endearments,

we

shall

realise

how

far

JULIAN
the

S

NARRATIVE
rises

53

English
nature

saint
It

above

her

more
the

honoured

sister.

does not seem that her

happy

was

much
of

assailed
cloister

by

common
and
of
sloth.
time"
"

temptation

the
"

She speaks of
as
"the

sloth
sin,

gloom and losing
as to

beginning of
to

my

sight,"

especially to the creatures

who have
Lord
"

with given inward beholding of His blessed goodness but there is no personal confession here.

themselves

serve our

;

Her own account
interesting.
for
It is

of her
it

Visions

is

very

true that

was not written
and that
to

some years
is

after

the event,

describe

time

such an experience after a lapse of as difficult as to paint a sunset from

memory.
Julian
ability.

But there can be no question that
the
truth
to

tells

the
is

best

of

her

Absolute candour
narrative
;

a feature of the

whole

and

modern

must recognise the
visions occurred.
gifts

scientific

psychology accuracy of her

description of the conditions under which the

from God.

had prayed for three The first was that she might
Julian

bear the

Passion of
that

Christ in

mind.

The

second was

she might have

a bodily

54

JULIAN OF NORWICH
at

sickness

thirty years

of age;
gift,

"the

third

was

to
to

have,
the

of

God s
she
"

three

wounds."

As

feeling,"
"

thought she had some but she desired, if possible, a bodily
first,
"
"

sight

of Christ upon the Cross, to quicken

her sympathies, that she might be His lovers and suffer with Him."
sight

one of

Other
I

nor shewing of God,
till

desired

never

none,
the

the

soul

were

disparted

from

body."

The
after

sickness

she desired to be
be,

as severe
death,

and painful as might
it

short

of

that

she

might

be

purged

by

the mercy of God, and live to

God more
petitions
if
it
"

because of that sickness.
Julian

These two
"

made
that
"

"

with a condition
I

be

Thy

will

have

it."

But

the

"three

wounds
trition,

namely, the wounds of very con of kind (i.e. natural) compassion, and
(i.e.

of wilful

purposeful,

steadfast)
for
in

longing

toward

God

knowing the

prayed request to be
for

she

absolutely,

accordance

with the will of God.

Her prayer
age of
thirty

a

severe

sickness

at

the

was

fulfilled to

the

letter.

After

a sharp attack, which lasted three days, she

HER SICKNESS
received
"

55

the

last
forth"

rites

of

the
life

church

and

languored
for

between
"

and death

Being in youth as yet, I thought it great sorrow to but she was fully resigned, she says simply and said to herself: "Good Lord, may my
;

two

days afterwards.

die,"

living

no longer be to Thy
is

worship."

What
trance

follows

so

important a document on the
her
p.

physical conditions which
that
I

will

give

it

in

may precede own words
6)
:

(from

Miss Warrack
"

s edition,
till

my body was dead from the middle downwards, as to my Then was I minded to be set upright, feeling.
I

Thus

dured

day, and by then

backward leaning, with help freedom of my heart to be
thinking on

for to

have more
will,

at

God s
would

and

God

while

my

life

last.

My

Curate was sent for to be at

my

ending, and

by that time when he came I had set my eyes, and might not speak. He set the Cross before
have brought thee the image of thy Maker and Saviour look there upon and comfort thee therewith. Methought

my

face

and said

:

I

:

I

was well

(i.e.

as

it

was), for

my

eyes were
I

set

uprightward unto Heaven, where

trusted

56
to

JULIAN OF NORWICH

come by
I

the mercy of

God

;

but neverthe

less

assented to set
if
I

my

eyes on the face
I

of the Crucifix,

might, and so

did.

For

methought
to

I

might no longer dure to look evenAfter this
all

forth than right up.
fail,

my

sight

began
in

and

it

was

dark about

me

the

chamber as
image
of

if it

had been

night, save in the
I

the
;

Cross,

whereon

beheld

a

common
if it

light

and

I

wist not how.

All that
to me, as
fiends.

was beside the Cross was of horror
After this the over part of
die,

had been greatly occupied by the

my body
I

began

to

so far forth that scarcely

had any

feeling,

with shortness of breath.
in sooth to
all

my

have passed. pain was taken from me, and

And then I weened And in this suddenly
I

was as

whole (and specially in the upper part of I marvelled at body) as ever I was afore.

my
this

sudden change, for methought it was a privy working of God, and not of nature. And yet

by the feeling of this ease I trusted never the more to live nor was the feeling of this ease any full ease unto me for methought I had
;
;

liefer

have been delivered from
to

this

world.
that
I

Then came suddenly

my mind

VISION OF

THE CRUCIFIX

57
s

should desire the second
gracious
filled

wound

of our Lord
ful

gift

;

that

my body

might be

with

mind and
For
I

feeling of His

blessed

Passion.

my

pains,

would that His pains were with compassion and afterward

But in this I desired never longing to God. nor bodily sight shewing of God, but com passion such as a kindred soul might have
with our

Lord

Jesus, that for love
;

would be
desired
to

a mortal
suffer with
"

man

and therefore

I

Him.

moment suddenly I saw the red blood trickle down from under the garland
In this

hot and freshly and right plenteously, as it were in the time of His Passion, when the

garland of thorns was pressed on His blessed I head. conceived truly and mightily that it was Himself showed it me, without any
mean."

In this very interesting and careful descrip
tion

of

the

beginning

of

her

visions,

we

should note especially the state of hypnotism induced by steadily gazing at the Crucifix,

on which also her thoughts were fixed with ardent longing. To fix the eyes steadily on

H

58

JULIAN OF NORWICH

one object seems to be almost a necessary
condition
of
this

kind

of
of

trance.

Before
it

describing

the

substance

her visions,

may be
throw

well to collect other passages

which

light

on her psychical

state.
on>

this occasion her early visions was one of a landscape a sea-shore, with

Among
and

hills

valleys,

and

moss.

This seemed to

ground covered with her so low and little

and simple, that she was some time in doubt Then more light whether it was a shewing/ was vouchsafed to her, but the pictorial image
"

seems

to

different.

have passed into something quite Another passage shows that she
in

a cataleptic state. For when she was shown a vision of Our Lord scorning the

was not

malice and setting at nought the "unmight" of the foul fiend, she "laughed mightily, and
that

made them
their
is

to

laugh

that

were about
pleasure
to

me, and
me."

laughing was a
careful
to

She

add
"by

that

she saw

Christ mocking the devil
;

leading of mine

that is to say, it was an understanding inward shewing of verity, without change of
"

look."

I

saw not Christ

laugh."

A

third

A

"HORRIBLE SHEWING"

59

passage which is worth our attention describes how she asked for a special revelation about
the spiritual condition of one
to her,

which was not granted.
to
"

which came

and behold the
as

who was dear The answer her was Take it generally, graciousness of the Lord God
:

He
any

sheweth
to

to

thee

;

for

it

is

more
than

worship
in

God

to

behold
It
is

Him

in

all

special

thing."

also remarkable

that she draws distinctions as to the

manner of

her visions.
in

"Our

courteous Lord answered

shewing mightily a wonderful example of the Lord that hath a servant which sight
full
:

was shewed doubly
in

in

the

the servant
in

;

the

one

Lord and doubly part was shewed
and the other
without

spiritually

bodily

likeness,

part

was

shewed

more

spiritually,

bodily

likeness."

Another vision she almost

recognises to have been an ordinary nightmare. In my sleep, methought the fiend set him
"

on

my throat, near my face,

putting
like

forth

a

visage

full

young man s, and it was long and wondrous lean I never saw none such. This horrible shewing was made
a
:

sleeping,

and so was none

other."

Later on

60

JULIAN OF NORWICH

she says very definitely: "All the blessed teaching of our Lord was shewed by three
parts
;

that

it

is

say,
in

by word formed

by bodily sight, and mine understanding, and

by spiritual sight. For the bodily sight, I have said as I saw, as truly as I can and
;

for the words,

I

Lord

shewed
sight,

have said them right as our and for the them to me
;

spiritual
I

I

have
tell

told
it."

some

deal,

but

may never
an

fully

The book ends
long
interval

with

explanation
the visions

of

the

and the writing of the between From the time that it was shewed book.
"

I

desired oftentimes to witten what was our
s

Lord

meaning.
I

And
:

fifteen
in

years

after,

and more,
standing,

was answered

saying thus
s

ghostly under Would st thou learn

thy
it

Lord

well.

meaning in this thing ? Love was His meaning."

Learn
Julian^
in

evidently believes that she has preserved

the substance of the visions exactly as they occurred to her fifteen years earlier

memory
is

;

it

only the

"

meaning"

that

was revealed
of

later.

Her

readers can only feel assured

the absolute

candour of her

recital.

Signs

A HAPPY SAINT

61

of rhetorical ornament and literary furbishing

are hardly traceable in these pages.

Those who wish

to

appreciate
little

Julian
for

of

Norwich must read her
selves.

book

them
to

Here

I

can only

call

attention

some prominent
Julian
is

characteristics.
saints.

one of the happy

Like the

Franciscans,

who

held

it

a point of honour
lady Poverty must

that the bridegrooms of

my

never be melancholy, she finds good every
where,

and believes that God means us
"

to

be happy.

Marvellous and

solemn

is

the

place where the Lord dwelleth, and therefore He willeth that we readily entenden to His

gracious

teaching,

more

rejoicing
in

in

His
often

whole
fallings.

love

than
it

sorrowing

our

For
and

is

the most worship to

Him
live

of anything

that

we may
for

do,

that
love,

we
in

gladly

merrily,

His

our

penance.
that

For
seeth

He

He
s

beholdeth us so tenderly all our living a penance.

Nature
the

longing

...
to

is

our natural penance
sight.

highest,

as

my

For
till

this

penance cometh
fulfilled,

never from
shall

us

we be
to

when we

have

Him

our

62

JULIAN OF NORWICH

meed.

And

therefore

He

willeth

that
is

we
to

set our hearts in

the overpassing, that
feel into

say,

from the pain that we

the bliss

that

we

trust."

It

is

the

enemy

of our souls

who maketh
are
afraid
"

us to feel false dread, so that

we

to

appear

before

"our

courteous

Lord."

and

it

is

For Jesus is our blessed Friend, His will and counsel that we hold

us with Him, and fasten us to

Him homely
we be
are
;

evermore,

in

what

state

soever

for

whether we are
in

foul or clean,

we

all

one

His

loving."

Julian does not wish us to

be

implacable
forgiveth

against

ourselves.

For
repent

"as

God
as

our sin after

we

us,

right so willeth

He

that
(

we

forgive our sin,

anent

our unskilful

= useless)
And

heaviness

and our doubtful

dreads."

in the vision
"The

of the Master and Servant, she says:

most mischief that
in,

I

saw him
;

(the

servant)

was

failing

of comfort

for

he could not

turn his face to look upon his loving Lord,

which was
comfort
;

to

him

full

near

;

in

whom
his

is

full

but as a
for

man

that

was

feeble

and

unwise
to

the

time,

he

turned
his

mind

his

feeling

and endured

woe."

The

"ALL

SHALL BE
"

WELL"

63

optimistic refrain:
shall

All shall be well,

and

all

be

well,
is

and

all

manner of thing

shall

be
It

well,"

the keynote of

much
in

of the book.

is

caught
"

paragraphs.
given,
shall

again Therefore
all

up

the

concluding

when

the

doom

is

and we be

brought up above, then

we

clearly see in

God
us.

the secret things

which be now hid to

Then
it

shall
:

none
Lord,
full
:

of us be stirred to say in any wise
if
it

had been
;

thus,
shall

then
say
all

had been

well

but

we

with one voice
for
it

Lord, blessed mote
it

is

well
is

;

Thou be, and now see we
it
made."
"

is

thus

:

verily that

all

thing
that

done as

was then ordained before

anything was
Julian.

Not
all

that

sin

is

ignored by

In

the

third

shewing,
is

when
I

I

saw that God doeth
sin
;

that

done,
all
is

saw no

and then

I

saw

that

well.

But when God

shewed

me
"

for

sin,

then said

He:

All shall be well.

The
of

attitude of a mystical writer in presence
evil

the

that

is

in

the

world

is

an

important as a trustworthy

test

how

far

we may regard him
For
of
all

guide.

the

charges that have been brought against the

64
mystics,

JULIAN OF NORWICH

perhaps none is more possible to justify than the accusation that they have an inadequate sense of the havoc wrought by
sin.

Julian
:

does

not

solve

the

problem of
it
"

evil for us

but her words about
"

are true

and

beautiful.

I

stood,"

she says,

beholding

things

general,

troublously

and
with

mourning,
full

saying dread
well,

thus
*

to

our

Lord,

great
all

:

Ah, good Lord, how might
is
I

be
sin

great hurt that And here to the creature ?
for the

come by

desired, so far

as

I

durst, to

whereby I The answer which
that the
Fall

have some more open declaring might be eased in this matter."
she

then

received

was
for

of

Man had

been atoned

by the death of Christ; "and since I have made well the most harm, it is my will that
thou
that
"

know thereby
is
less."

that

I

shall

make
all

well

all

But the

"making

things

well that

is

one of the works of our Lord
yet
to

God

are

come.

"There

is

a deed

which the blessed Trinity day, but when the deed
it

shall

do
be,

in the last

shall

and how
creatures

shall

be done,
beneath

is

unknown
Christ,

of

all

that

are

and

shall

be

till

THE PROBLEM OF

SIN

65

when

it

is

done."

Julian

thus

professes

to

have no revelation on
which
central

yet she shares the essentially optimistic conviction

this subject.

And

we

shall

find
in

to

hold
s

a

still

more
and

position

Browning
in

poetry,

which
that

may

also

be found

St Augustine,

every stumbling-block may by God s grace be turned into a stepping-stone, so that our sins, in being conquered, may bring us
nearer to God.
"

"God

shewed

me,"

that

sin

shall

be

no

shame
as
to

she says, to a man,
is

but

worship.

For

just

every sin

answering a pain by truth, right so, for every sin, to the same soul is given a bliss by love.
punished with diverse pains according as they be grievous, right so shall they be rewarded with diverse joys in
sins

As

diverse

are

heaven according as they have been painful and sorrowful to the soul on earth." When
the
soul
"

is

healed,

his

wounds

are

seen

before

God
shall

... So
more

not as wounds but as worships. shame be turned to worship and
"

joy."

failing

into

For grace worketh our dreadful and plenteous, endless solace
;

grace worketh our shameful falling into high,
I

66
worshipful

JULIAN OF NORWICH
rising
;

and

grace

worketh
life."

our

sorrowful dying into holy, blissful In one curious chapter she distinctly raises
the problem as to

how

of the Divine nature,

man who is partaker made in the image of
a
"

NatureGod, and consisting essentially of a Him Substance," which is ever kept one in

whole

and

safe

without

end,

can

ever be

worthy of blame and wrath. The truth on full mistily shewed this difficult matter was
"

"

to

her

;

but she thinks that

we ought
"

to

distinguish between

our

"

Nature-Substance,"

which
Soul,"

is

unstained by
"as

sin,

and our

Senseis

which,
Julian

Holy Church

teacheth,"

guilty.

is

not a metaphysician, and

we

need not go more deeply into the speculations with which she here shows some acquaintance.

The
Self

doctrine of the impeccability of the higher
is

Neo-Platonic, and carries with
ethics.

it

a

whole system of philosophy and

Her
notion
to

gentle soul was much troubled at the of God s wrath. Methought that
"

a soul

love,

whose meaning and desire is to the wrath of God was harder than any
pain,

other

and

therefore

I

took that the

NO WRATH

IN

GOD

6?

forgiveness of this wrath should be one of the
principal points of

that

I

see
part

this."

His mercy. But for nought might behold and desire I could not I saw no wrath but on man s
"

;

and that forgiveth
is

He
;

in

us.

For

wrath

nought

else

but a frowardness and

contrariness to peace

and love

and either
of failing

it

cometh of
wisdom,
failing
is

failing

of might, or

of

or

of

failing

not in
that

God

goodness, which but on our part." To
of
"

the
far

soul
into

of His

special grace seeth so

the high, marvellous goodness of and seeth that we are endlessly oned God, to Him in love, it is the most impossible
that

may

be, that

God

should be wroth.
contraries."

For
"In

wrath and friendship be two
sooth, as to
for
if

God might be wroth my sight, a touch, we should never have life nor
being."

place nor
Julian

says
to
her,

that
"in

God was
part,"

immediately
three

revealed
attributes,

in

of his
effect

"in

which the strength and
revelation
standeth."

of

all

the

These
"

attributes are Life, Love,

and Light.
Goodness."

These
In the

properties were

in

one

68

JULIAN OF NORWICH

Gospel and First Epistle of St John these are the three attributes under which God
is

immediately revealed, and so
forsakes
Light,

it

has been

throughout the history of mystical theology.
Julian,

however,
is

the

usual

order,

which

Life,

Love.

The Jacob s

ladder by which the mystic hopes to ascend to heaven begins, as we shall see in the next
lecture,

with external and internal discipline.
is

Light or illumination
love
is

the second stage, and

the crown and consummation.
is
:

Of this

Julian

well aware,
"

for, in

the next chapter
. .

she says

The
in

keepeth

us

leadeth us
shall

to

Chanty and Hope, and Hope And in the end all Charity.
light is Charity
.

Faith

be Charity.
this

I

had three manners of under
Charity.
is

standing
Charity

Light,
;

The

first

is

unmade
third

the second

Charity

made

;

and the

is
:

Charity given.

Charity un

made

is

God

Charity

made
is

is

our soul in

God
is

:

and Charity given
gift

virtue.
in

And
in

that

a precious

of working

which we

love God, for Himself;

and ourselves
loveth,
for

God

;

and
the

that

which

God

God."

In

previous

chapter

she desires to regard

THE VISION OF GOD

69

the whole path of the just as a shining light,

which shineth more and more unto the perfect and so she puts Light third. The con day
;

cluding words

most

of this chapter are among the beautiful in the book. And at the
"

end of woe suddenly our eyes

and
full
;

in

clearness

which

be opened, of light our sight shall be Light is God, our Maker and
shall

Holy Ghost, in Christ Jesus our Saviour. Thus I saw and understood that our faith is
our light in our night our endless day."
;

which

light

is

God,

We
of

cannot leave Julian without some notice

the

more

distinctively

mystical
It
is

teaching

which we
that

find in her book.

well

known
is

called the negative road, in
lose or

most mystics lay great stress on what which the aim is
throw away
all

to

human and

finite

know

ledge, desire,

may

order that they be found again, transmuted into some
affection, in

and

thing more Divine, in God. Julian is not a stranger to this method. needeth she says, know the littleness of the
"It
us,"

"to

creatures,

and
to

to

noughten

all

thing that

is
is

made,

for

love

and

have

God

that

?O
"

JULIAN OF NORWICH
If
I

unmade."

ask anything that

"

is

less

than
"

God,

"ever
"

me
are

wanteth."

And

yet

the

creatures
in

made and loved and
they must not be our use of them there
; ;

kept

being by

God

despised.
is

Only and must ever be something lacking
is
"

in all

true
right

bliss

can only be ours when there nought between us and our Lord.

"

Another mystical

doctrine,
is,

already touched

upon

in this

lecture,
is

that at the centre of

our soul there
life,

a pure spark of the Divine which always resists evil and remains in
fire

union with the central
light,
"

of Divine
is

life

and
lost.

unless

indeed the soul
full

utterly

I

saw and understood

surely

that

in

every soul that shall be saved is a godly will that never assented unto sin, nor ever shall

;

which
evil,

will

is

so

good

that

it

may
it

never

will

but evermore continually

willeth

good
It

and worketh good
is

in the sight

of

God."

through this godly will that we shall at last be united to God, though, she is careful
to add, the

redemption of mankind by Jesus

Christ
as

is "needful

and speedful
in

in everything,
teacheth."

Holy Church

our faith us

GOD AND OUR

"SUBSTANCE"

71

Man s
that

body, she thinks, was
is,

made

of clay

:

of

materials
his

gathered

from

bodily

things

;

but

soul

was made of nought,
affinity

and therefore

has a natural
of

to
"

the

unmade substance
understanding
that
it
is,

God s

nature.

High

inwardly to see

and know

God, which is our Maker, dwelleth in and a higher understanding it is, our soul inwardly to see and know that our soul, which
;

is

made, dwelleth

in

God s
were
all

"

substance."

I

saw

no

difference
it

between

Substance, but as

God and God and
;

our
yet

mine understanding took that our Substance
is

in

God

;

that

is

to say, that
is

God

is

God,

and our Substance
the

a creature in God.

For

almighty Truth of the Trinity is our Father, for He made us and keepeth us in

Him
is

;

and the deep Wisdom of the Trinity

our Mother, in

whom we

are

all
is

enclosed

;

the high Goodness of the Trinity
in
"

our Lord,
us."

whom we
Our
faith
is

are

enclosed, and He in a virtue that cometh of our

Nature-Substance into our Sense-Soul by the Holy Ghost in which all our virtues come
;

to

us

;

for without

that no

man may

receive

72
virtue."

JULIAN OF NORWICH
In

other place she assigns to
"

faith

Our faith cometh of the a triple origin. natural love of our soul, and of the clear
light of our reason,

and of the steadfast mind

which we have of
This
found
Faith
it

God

in

our

first

making."

is

a very remarkable sentence, a pro analysis of the foundations of belief.
:

an activity of our whole personality stands, as Julian says, on the natural love
is

of

our
of

soul,

our

affections
;

;

on

the

clear

light

our
will,

reason

and on the steadfast
Perfect
all

mind, or
faith

which we have of God.

involves the harmonious exercise of of our complex
nature.
follows,

parts

A
in

still

more

remarkable paragraph
insists
is

which she
of

that

the

indwelling presence
to

God
God
part

not confined

the

highest

part

of our

nature, which she calls our Substance.

cometh also

in

our

*

sensuality"
is

that

of our nature which

the seat of the bodily

senses;

"to

this seat
"

He
"

cometh, and shall
All the gifts that

never remove

from

it.

God may
to

give the creatures,
for

He
which

hath given
gifts

His Son Jesus
us,

us

:

He,
until

dwelling in

hath enclosed in

Him

TRINITIES
the time that
soul
soul,

73

we be waxen and grown

our

with our body and our body with our
either of them taking help of other,
stature,
till

we be brought up unto
worketh.

as

nature

And

then in the ground of nature,
of

with

working

mercy,
into

the

Holy

Ghost

graciously

inspireth

us gifts

leading to

endless

life."

"And

thus
to

was
see
is

standing

led

of God,
that

my under in Him and
-

understand,
like

our

soul

made

Trinity,

to

the

unmade

blissful

Trinity,

known

and loved from without beginning, and in the making oned to the Maker. This sight

was

full

sweet

and

marvellous

to

behold,

peaceable, restful, sure,

and

delectable."

In

this

passage,

the

"made-Trinity"

of

which our soul consists reminds us strongly of the Neo- Platonic Trinity of Soul, Intelligence,

and the Absolute One or Good, which are
according to that philosophy, represented in the nature of man. But Julian s "Trinity"
all,

are
that

the

beholdeth

Truth that seeth God, the Wisdom God, and the Love that

delighteth in God.
attributes

These correspond to the of the Father, the Son, and the K

74

JULIAN OF NORWICH

Holy Ghost respectively. The sentence about either taking help of the body and soul is especially valuable, and may surprise other
"
"

us

a

little

in

a mediaeval writer.

It

is

the

same

thought
in

which

Robert
:

Browning has

developed
"

Rabbi Ben Ezra

Let us not always say

*

Spite of this flesh to-day

I strove,

made

head, gained ground upon the whole
*

!

As the
Are

bird wings and sings Let us cry, All good things
ours, nor soul helps flesh more,

now, than

flesh helps

soul

"

!

From
figures
cloister

the morbid

emotionalism which dis

the writings of
Julian
is

many
of

mystics of the

entirely

free.

She never
as

broods

on

the

thought

Christ
soul,

the

Bridegroom of the personal love and

individual
pity
for
in

though
suffering

the

Redeemer
more
life,

are

expressed
"

touching

and

tender language.
to
all

How

might any pain be

me

than to see
bliss,

Him
all

that
joy,

is

all

my
"

my
the

and

my

suffer

?

When

thought came to her that she ought rather to look up to heaven, to God the Father, than to the Cross of Christ, she

THE SOUL AND CHRIST
"saw

75
felt,"

well,

with the faith that she

that

was nothing betwixt the Cross and heaven that might have harmed me," and
"there

she

answered inwardly, with
"

all

the

might
art

of her soul,

Nay,
"For

I
I

may

not, for
liefer

Thou
to

my
in

heaven."

would
to

have been

pain

till

doomsday than
Him."

come

heaven

otherwise than by

There are three
us,

ways

in

which,

she

tells

we ought
:

to

think about the Passion of Christ

first,

the

He suffered second, the and third, love that made Him surfer them the joy and bliss that made Him well satisfied
hard pains which
;

;

to

suffer them.

In

all

this

there

is

nothing

overstrained or

unwholesome

only the

pure

Our devotion of a healthy and loving nature. relations with Christ are thus described, with
a charming echo of the language of knightly

Our courteous Lord willeth that we should be as homely with Him as heart may think or soul may desire. But beware that we take not so recklessly this homeli
"

chivalry

:

ness

as

to
is

leave

courtesy.

For our

Lord

Himself
as

sovereign homeliness, and as homely
so courteous

He

is,

He

is

;

for

He

is

very

76
courteous.
shall

JULIAN OF NORWICH

And
in

the

blessed

creatures

that

be
will

heaven with
like
like

Him
to

without end,
in
all

He
it

have them

Himself

things.
is

We

our Lord perfectly, our very salvation and our full bliss." like to think of Julian s cell visited not
to

And

be

only by grown-up people seeking consolation or advice, but by the little children of the

neighbourhood. Master loved
higher stature she says.

She loved
them.
in
this
"

children,

as

her

I

understood
than

no

life

childhood,"

The end
and
love,

of this fragrant
all

little

book

is

in

character with
the

the

rest.

The same
the

faith

same

sunny confidence
it.

and

hope, breathe through
is

"When

doom
secret
"

given,

and we be

all

brought up above,
in

then shall
things

we

clearly see

God
to

the
us."

which

be

now
that

hid

For
in
it

charity pray

we

all."

But God worketh

us
is

;

it

is

His

will

by His grace that our good Lord be prayed

we pray we pray.
to,

for,

and

"Thus

will

as by the under

standing that I took of His own meaning, and of the sweet words where He saith

"LOVE

WAS
I

HIS

MEANING"

77

full

merrily

:

am
truly
it

the
I

beseeching.
that

For

Ground of thy saw and understood

He showed
it

for

that
it

He
is
;

willeth
in

to

have

known more than
will

which

knowing He
and cleave

give us grace to love

Him

to

Him.
to

For

He

beholdeth His

heavenly treasure with so great love on earth
that

He
in

willeth

give us more light and

heavenly joy, in drawing to Him of our hearts, for sorrow and darkness which
solace

we

are
I

in.

From
s

the

time
to

that

it

was

showed

desired oftentimes

witten what

was our Lord
after,

and more,

meaning. And fifteen years I was answered in ghostly
thus
:

understanding,
learn

saying

Wouldst
in this

thou
thing
?

thy
it

Lord s
well
it
:

Learn

meaning Love was
Love.

His

meaning.

Who
He

showed

thee?

thee?

Love.

What showed Wherefore showed it He?
therein and thou shalt
in the

For Love.
learn
shalt

Hold thee

and know more
never

same.

But thou
other

thing without end. Love was our Lord
full

know nor learn Thus was
s

therein
I

learned that

meaning.

And
us

I

saw
loved

clearly that

ere

God made

He

?8

JULIAN OF NORWICH
;

which love was never slacked, nor ever shall be. And in this love He hath done
us
all

His works
all

;

and

in

this

love
;

He
in

hath
this

made

things profitable to us
life
is

and

love our

everlasting.
;

we had beginning made us was in Him from without beginning in which love we have our beginning. And all this shall we see in God, without So Julian lived for the rest of her long life
;

our making but the love wherein He
In

end."

on the sweet memory of the one revelation which came to her during her grievous sick ness, and the meaning of which became fully
plain to her fifteen

years
in

later.

There

is

a
of

very curious parallel Erskine of Linlathen,
great sanctity and
lived

the

biography

a

Scottish

layman of

beauty of character,
last
:

who

within

in

the

century.
"

Principal

Shairp recounts of him awful silence of God,

He

how

spoke of the it sometimes

became oppressive, and the heart longed to hear, in answer to its cry, some audible
voice.

And
:

then he added

:

But
I

it

has not

always been silence to me.
revelation
it

have had one
sorry to say, a

is

now,

I

am

ERSKINE OF LINLATHEN
matter of
revelation

79

memory
I

with

me.

It

was not a

of anything that was
did

new

to me.
I

After

it,

not

know anything which
But
it

did not

know
of

before.

was a joy
I

for
felt

which

one might bear any sorrow.
love
that

the power

God

is

love,

that

He
and

loved me, that
then,
after a

He
"

had spoken

to

me,

long pause, that

He

had

broken silence to me.

LECTURE

III

WALTER HYLTON

THE

picture of

human

life

as a spiritual Jacob s

ladder,

on which angels are for ever ascending and descending, and which we all have to
climb step by step,
is

as old as the rule of

St Benedict.

The

idea of a gradual ascent,

not in time or place, but from stage to stage of reality, leaving behind us the vain shadows
of earth, and beholding ever

more

clearly the

been mysteries of Divine truth, has always Charts of spiritual progress dear to mystics.

have been drawn up in large numbers, Romanist theology a kind in the later

till

of

geography of the
constructed,

saint s

not less

journey has been fanciful than Bunyan s

Pilgrims Progress.
of

But
to

it

is

not

a
that

sign

Protestant

prejudice

assert

the

mystical

literature

of

the

pre- Reformation

WALTER HYLTON
period
is

81

more valuable

and

edifying

than

anything that the
since.

Roman Church
I

has produced

hope, a sign of insular prejudice to prefer the writings of old English
is
it,

Nor

divines to anything of the

same kind produced

on the Continent.
as
I

For

my own
of
I

part,

much
of

admire
the

the

philosophical

genius
Suso,

Eckhart,

poetical

fervour

and

the robust eloquence of Tauler,

find in the

Scale of Perfection, by Walter Hylton, Canon of Thurgarton, who died in 1396, teaching not less sound, not less not less winning,
eloquent, than the best examples of the

more
have

celebrated

German

mystics.

And
six
I

so

I

decided to devote one of

my

lectures to

a book which most of you,

never even heard
there
will

of.

I

dare say, have cannot promise that

interest as

be the same amount of personal in Julian s Revelations. We have

now

to deal with a methodical treatise
life,

on the
of a

spiritual

instead of with the record

Walter Hylton keeps his own individuality in the back ground. We can only guess that he was not
strange personal experience.

a stranger

to

some

of
L

the

Divine favours

82

WALTER HYLTON
But the book has
in

which he describes.

a

charm of

its

own

the

shrewd common-

sense and flashes of humour which distinguish

from such scholastic treatises on mysticism as were written by Richard and Hugo of
it

St

Victor,

Albertus

Magnus,

and

Gerson.

never likely to be disinterred the Scale of except by a few scholars Perfection only needs to be known, in order to take high rank among the best specimens
latter are
;

These

of devotional literature.
I

shall

give you a brief

analysis

of

the

omitting some sections, less interest than the rest.

book,

which are of

The
is

first

step on the ladder of contemplation

knowledge of the facts of religion, which, however, is only a shadow of true contempla
tion,

because

it

may be had

without

love.

It is like

the water at Cana, which must be

turned into wine by grace. The second part consists of mere feeling, without light in the understanding. man

A

"cannot

tell
it

what
a

it

is,

but he feeleth

it

is

well,

for

is

two degrees.

This part has The lower degree cometh and
gift

of

God."

THE LADDER OF PERFECTION

83

goeth as He willeth who giveth it; "whoso hath it, let him be humble, and thank God

and keep it secret." The higher part is rest and quietness, "when all the Church s prayers

and hymns and ministrations are turned, as it were, into spiritual mirth and sweet harmony."

The
in this

third part consists in a combination of
love.
It
it

knowledge with perfect
life,

may
is

begin

but in

its

fulness

reserved

for

heaven, and can only be enjoyed there. In this state is fulfilled what St Paul says to
:

the Corinthians

"He

that

is

joined unto the

Lord

is

one

Spirit,"

or as the

same

apostle
:

second epistle to the same church says Whether we are beside ourselves, it is unto
in his
"

God

;

or whether

we

are of sober mind,

it

is

unto you.
us."

For the love of Christ constraineth
this blessed state

In

we

are

made

like

to

our Lord, and are transformed into
"

His

likeness.

We

all

with unveiled face reflect

ing as a mirror the glory of the Lord, are

transformed into the same image from glory to glory, even as from the Lord the Spirit."

Hylton does not profess
this

to
:

rapturous condition

have experienced he speaks of it on

84

WALTER HYLTON
authority of others.
"

the

As
is

I

gather from
;

holy men, the

time of

it

he

soon

after

returneth
"

very short for to a sobriety of
is

bodily

feeling."

The
us

time

very
it

short";

Hylton does not
an average.

tell

how
is

long

lasts,

on

But there

a curious consensus

among
is

visionaries that the time occupied
"

by

a trance

is

about half an

hour."

St Teresa

one of those who has named
this
that,
is

this duration.
gift,

Hylton says that very common, and
it

a special

not

is

most

fully

we might enjoyed by those who
as

expect,

lead a

solitary

life,

devoted to religious exercises.
strange physical and psychical
this

As
state

for the

phenomena which sometimes accompany
sights

and sounds and odours, a sensa
"

tion of burning heat in the breast, apparitions

of various kinds

He

be Hylton bids us does not doubt that such things
but
it

wary."

really

take place,

is

by no means easy to

determine whether they are sent by God or The best test is are a snare of the devil. ask ourselves whether they tend to distract our minds from our devotions and from good
to

actions.

If they do,

they are delusions sent

MYSTICAL PHENOMENA

85

by the Evil One, and should not be attended Here we see traces of a difficulty which to.
has
greatly

exercised
in

the
later

minds of
times.

Catholic

directors

Roman Roman

Catholic books on mysticism consist largely of descriptions of "mystical phenomena," and
of cautions against being deceived by diabolical
counterfeits.

Nearly all the saints who have believed themselves to be the recipients of
special favours

have also been plagued by the wiles of the devil, who is most active and insidious in his attempts to trip up
these

the holiest characters.

The criterion recom mystics is much the same as in s advice. The vision, like other Hylton The things, must be known by its fruits.
mended by
the
"

"

mystical
are

described by Hylton phenomena much the same as those which appear in

the later history of mysticism
sights, sounds,

unaccountable

or smells,

apparitions,

and a

strange feeling of burning heat in the breast. The natural causes of these phenomena,

which cannot be due

entirely

to

and expectation, have not yet been
tained.

suggestion fully ascer

We

may

almost say that the worth

86

WALTER HYLTON
a mystical treatise varies
inversely
to

of

with
these

the

importance which

it

attaches

experiences, which, of course,

were

formerly

ascribed

Hylton supernatural agencies. indeed. small a them place very gives The psychology of the Middle Ages was not quite in accordance with modern mental
science.

to

Memory was
a

often elevated to

the

rank
will

of

primary

faculty,

and

feeling.

But
their

by the side of Hylton s scheme of

the
life

faculties

and

place in the spiritual

bears a

curious

resemblance to that of

some

recent Hegelians.
in

Mr

McTaggart,

in

his Studies

the will
factors

Hegelian Dialectic, holds that and the intellect are unharmonised
our
personality,

in

which

partially
until

contradict

and thwart each other

they

find their reconciling principle in love.
is

Love

the supreme activity of the person, which

transcends the disharmony between the ethical

and the

intellectual

parts of our nature.

So

Hylton says that a man may have virtues in reason and will, without having the love of But when, by the them in the affection.
"

grace of Jesus,

and by

spiritual

and bodily

THE PRAYER OF QUIET
exercises, reason is
into
love,

8?

turned into

light,

and

will

then hath he virtues
virtues

in

affection."

Until

these

are

thus

turned

into
calls

affection, a

man may have what Hylton

the

second degree of contemplation, but not
Prayer, he says that

the third and highest.

Of

it

is

not the cause
it

of grace, but
into the soul.

the

means by which

comes

Contemplatives should beware

of
for
far

the

temptation to abandon vocal prayer meditation. is It only those who are
in
"

advanced

the

spiritual

life

who can
occupy

safely allow the

prayer of
in

quiet"

to

the

chief

place

their

devotions.

When

we

meditate, the best subject on which to fix
is

our thoughts
Especially

the humanity of Jesus Christ.

helpful

are

meditations

on

His

Passion

and

death.

We

should remember
in

how
of

central this subject

was

the teaching
crucified,

St

Paul.

"We

preach Christ

unto

Jews
both

a

Gentiles foolishness
called,

stumbling-block, and unto but unto them that are
;

Jews and Greeks, Christ the Power of God and the Wisdom of God
Cor.
i.

"

(i

23,

24).

This passage shows the

88

WALTER HYLTON

normal and proper course of meditation on We the Second Person of the Trinity.
should
Christ,

begin

by

dwelling

on

the

human
for

and especially on His

sufferings

our redemption.

We

should

not allow the

Jewish craving for miracles,

nor the Greek

craving for philosophy, to distract our minds But our devotion from the Cross on Calvary.
is

not to end in pity and affection for the

human Sufferer. till we can see
faction

We
in

must not be content
the legitimate satis
really
is is

Him

of what both Jews and Greeks
for

desire

their

soul s

peace.

Christ

no
the

magician, no wonder-worker, Christ Power of God.

but
is

He
no

abstract

metaphysical principle, no logical but He is the Wisdom of God.
"The

category,

plain

highway

to contemplation

is

for

a

man to enter into himself, that he may know The his own soul, and the powers thereof."
result of

at

the

such introspection is to reveal to us same time the greatness and the
of

littleness

man

his

high calling and his
the

low

estate.

We

see

great nobility and

dignity of the soul, and the wretchedness and

JESUS ONLY
miseries
into

89
it

which we have brought

by

our

sins.

We
we

are fallen creatures.

We

are

not in

possession of our birthright.
to regain

How,

then, are

what of right belongs to us, and has been forfeited by us ? "In one word
Jesus

thou

hast
this

all

that

thou

hast

lost.

So
But

speaks
"by

truly

evangelical
Jesus,"

Catholic.
"I

the
that

mean

all

name of the name

he adds,

betokens."

He

does

not wish us to use the

name

as

a spell to

conjure with, but to find out what the really means to us and all the world.
piece of
lost in

name The
it

money

the groat, as he calls

is

thy house.

That
in

is

to say, the
soul.

Divine

treasure lies hidden
in

thy ship,
the

as

ship on
Him!"

Jesus sleeps thy once slept in the little Wake Lake of Gennesaret.

He

"

But
so,"

is

it

necessary to wake

Him?
long

"Hardly

says

Hylton.

"Thou
thee."

sleepest

oftener to

Him
is

than
not

He

to

"As

as

Jesus

findeth

thee,
thee."

He

His image refound in a stranger to thee and far from
it

Yes,

is

not that the Christ in us

is

asleep.

We

are asleep,

He

is

awake.

We

M

90
are

WALTER HYLTON
abroad,
;

He

is

at

home.

He

is

always

ready

it

is

we who

are unready.

When we
in

desire to enter into ourselves,

and search

our hearts for the hid treasure,
for

we should

cease

a time from bodily works and business, and think of nothing outside. Then, when our minds are fixed steadily on the unseen on God and our own souls what realities
shall

we

see

?

Not the gracious

figure

of

but another image, a dark and ill-favoured image, the likeness of our own
Jesus, at
first,

soul,

which hath neither

light

of knowledge
"If

nor feeling of love for God.
carefully,"

you look
"

says Hylton to his reader,

see

wrapped up and tied with black and foul bands of
it

all

you will and bound
This
of
is

sin."

what

St
vi.

Paul
6),

calls

the
"body

"

body
of

sin"

(Rom.

and the

death."

This

dark shadow, the body of sin and death, you What is it bear about with you always.
like?
It is like

no bodily thing;

for it is
last
if

no

real thing,
follow

as

you

will

find
It

at
is

you
real

my
;

admonitions.
is

not

a

thing

nought else but darkness conscience, and lack of light and love.
it

of
If

THE DARK IMAGE
your soul were
reformed,

91 to

according

the
find

image
this

of

Jesus,

you would no longer

ugly and negative shape, this nothingness made visible, but Jesus. Until this blessed

change has happened
ness.
It is

in

you, you find within

yourself only emptiness, darkness, and heavi

seems

to

no wonder, then, that introspection It you irksome and depressing.
"

seems a hundred
in

years
of

till

you are out of

some bodily delight or quest yourself, vain thought. He that cometh home and findeth nought there but dirt and smoke and
a scolding wife, will quickly run out of But do not you run out of says Hylton.
"

it."

it,"

home, and endure the pains and the Stay discomfort. For behind this nothingness,
"

at

behind this dark and formless shape of
is

evil,

Jesus hid in His

joy."

The dark
false

image, as
it

I

have

said, is nothing.
It
is

But how, then, can
inordinate love of sin

be an image?
of thyself.
self-love

a

The body

and death
it

is

or selfishness.

Out
in

come the seven deadly sins, flowing seven channels. Thus regarded, it is not
of nothing,

altogether

but

much

that

is

bad.

92

WALTER HYLTON
will
I
"

But perhaps you myself to God.

say,

I

have dedicated

have forsaken the world
I

and

its

temptations

have

no

worldly
then, can
"Alas!"

business, no carnal pleasures. this image be SQ strong in
u

How,
me?"

says Hylton,
in

thou art like a

man who had

his
;

outlets
outlets,

garden a foul cistern with many and he went and stopped up the

and thought that
from the world
is

all

was

well."

To
the

retire

only to

stop

outlets of temptation.

Beware of the spring
its
I

within thee.
force
its

If

this is foul,

pollution will
will
tell
is

way
stop

out somehow.

you
the

how

to

up

this

spring.

Pride

and praise and other favours from men be dear to thy heart, and
principal river.
If love
if

thou

turn
as

them
it

into

vain

gladness and

thy payment and thy due, thinking seriously in thy heart that men ought to praise thy life, and attend to thy
were,

make them,

words more than
if,

to those of other

men

;

and

on the contrary, when men reprove thee
set

and

thee at nought, hold thee for a fool

or a hypocrite, slander thee or speak evil of

thee falsely, or in any other

way annoy

thee

THE DARK IMAGE

93

unreasonably, thou feelest in thy heart a great malice and rising in thy heart against them,

with

unwillingness

to

suffer

any shame
;

or

if it be eyes of the world thus with thee, it is a token that there is

disgrace in the

much

pride in that dark image of thine. Now turn the dark image, the body of sin

and death, upside down, and look well into There are two limbs, of anger and envy, it. From fastened to it, which hinder charity.

them come a variety of
suspicion, unkindness,
like.

evil

things,

hatred,

evil

Among
names

the fruits
fault

speaking, and the of anger and envy

he

one
under

which

prevents

his

injunctions

this

head
to

from

being
of
"a

commonplace. harshness and bitterness
others
should,

We

are

beware

to all sinful

men, and
they

who

will

not

do

as

we
and

think

with a

great desire

eagerness,
that they

under cover of charity and
should
their

justice,

be well
sins."

punished and chastised for This touches upon a very
of

common
Most

weakness
us,

good

people,

from

which few of

probably, are entirely free.

of us have a favourite aversion

among

94

WALTER HYLTON
shame
to ourselves

the vices, and take small
for

the

glee

with which
"well

we hear

of

trans

gressors being
Aristotle
rejoice at

regards

it

punished and chastised." as a moral duty to

the misfortunes of the bad, and to

grieve over the prosperity of the wicked. sympathise whole heartedly with right
justice,

To
and

every triumph of the good cause over the bad, without loss of Christian charity, is one of the most difficult
to

and

rejoice

in

moral tasks.
be

"

Thou

shouldest love the man,

he

ever

so

sinful,"

says

Hylton,

"and

hate the sin in every man, whatever he

be."

Then

follows a sentence which reminds us of
s

contemptuous reference to the dead bones of saints, which "can neither give nor
take
in

Eckhart

no great excellence watching and fasting till thy head aches,
anything."

"There is

nor in running to bare feet, nor in
hospitals."

Rome
it

But
if

Jerusalem with building churches and a great sign is of
or

excellence

a

man

can

love

a

sinner

while

Did hating the sin. Lord show love to Judas, though
yet
his

not

our

He knew
in

of

covetousness

and

peculations

the

COVETOUSNESS
present,

95
in

and

of

his

treason

the

near

future

?

Covetousness
observe
in

is

the

next

vice

that
It

we
is

the

dark image

of

sin.

easier to forsake worldly

goods than the love

Perhaps thou hast not forsaken thy covetousness, but only changed the object of it. Formerly it was a silver dish, now it
of them.
"

a copper. foolish change, which shows thee to be no clever merchant Consider
is
"

A

!

mind losing what you have, or whether you would be angry with him who took it. St Augustine says
instead whether you would
beautifully

O

God,
he

Too little doth he who loveth anything
"

:

love

Thee,

with

Thee
(From

which

loves

not

for
x.
"

Thee."
"

Augustine,
knows,"

Confessions

29.)
I

But

God

says

far

more

that Hylton, than I practise."
is

am
This
our

teaching

humble
author,

parenthesis

characteristic
after

of

and
so

very appropriate terribly exacting a demand
"

is

he has quoted
as
that

of

in

St Augustine s words. a graceful sentence,
to

But,"

"it

he goes on would be a
I

comfort

my

heart,

if,

though

have

96

WALTER HYLTON
this

not

virtue myself,

I

should have

it

in

thee."

To

deal with the sin of Gluttony

is

difficult,

says Hylton, because it is rooted in natural Slay unreasonable delights and necessity.
"

you have given way to any indulgence which comes under this head, pray for forgiveness, and
voluntary
sensual
pleasures.
If

then

set

about

some

other
frailty,

business
for
it

;

but
not

think no further of thy

is

worth such attention, and you will not destroy This advice, indeed, may be it in this way."
applied to most kinds of temptation.
"

When

thou attackest the root of

sin, fix

thy thoughts
desirest than

more upon the God whom thou
upon the
sin

which thou

abhorrest."

In concluding
his treatise,

Book

I.

of the

first

part of

Hylton reminds us that parts of it pertain only to one in the contemplative (as opposed to the active) state of life. I have
chosen the precepts which are of most general
application
;

but in truth

there

is

not

much

of the Scale of Perfection which applies only
to

monks.
In

Book

II.

he returns

to

the

"image

of

REFORMATION
"

IN FAITH
to

AND FEELING

97

sin

which

is

disclosed

eye.

The
in

reformation of
this
life

it

our introspective must take place
in

partly
life.

and

partly

the

future

As

regards the present

life,

the reforma

tion

may

be

in

faith,

or

in

feeling.

The

former suffices for salvation, the latter earns
a surpassing great reward, and
only through great spiritual the is first, image of sin
"

may be had pains. By the
not destroyed,

"

but
is,

is

left

intact

in

point of feeling.

(That
give

the

commission

of
is

sin

would

still

pleasure,

though

it

avoided from a sense
puts out the pleasure

of duty.)
felt in

The second

sin.

The paragraphs on
follow,
is

the

sacraments, which

are

somewhat

disappointing.
non-ethical,

There
magical
the
in

more of

superstitious,
in

doctrine,

especially

dealing

with

Eucharist,

than

we should have expected
is

so enlightened and independent a thinker.

The

soul

that

"reformed

in

feeling,"

to

adopt Hylton s phrase, must remember that such a state "lasteth not always." must

We

not expect to be delivered from the

life

and
our

death

struggle

between

the

law

in

98

WALTER HYLTON
law
torn
if

members and
himself
conflict;

of

our

mind.

St Paul

was

and

tormented

by

this

and

St Paul so suffered,

how

can

The strife must any of us hope to escape? needs be for our nature is the battle-ground
;

good and soul, and foul
of
like

evil
is

forces.

"

Fair
;

is

a

man s

a

man s

soul

foul without,

a beast

;

and
in

fair within,

like

an

angel."

Like the bride
"

the Canticles,

the soul

is

black,

but

comely."

The
is

of the Divine image

pure brightness encrusted with a foul

covering of

sin.
"

Some
be good
for
it;

will
if
I

say

:

I

would
I
I

fain love

God and

could, but
I

and so
I

hope

have not the grace shall be excused."
it
is,

To
that

such

answer:

"True

as you say,

you have not grace, and that therefore But it is your own you cannot be good. Men unfit fault that you have not grace.
themselves for receiving grace, and therefore

do not receive
froward, and

it,

in various ways.

Some

are
that

think their sins

so sweet

they

will

not part with them.

They cannot
in

bring themselves to submit to penance and
mortification,

and so they remain bound

THE SECOND PART
their chains.

99

selves

for

Others begin to dispose them but their will is weak. grace,
temptation
it

They condemn
but do
not put
to
it.

when
also

it

comes,

from them, and

assenting

There are
besides

end by some who

are so blind and brutish as to say that there
is
is,

no other

life

this.

Their maxim

Let us eat and drink,

for

to-morrow we
said."

die.

Of

such no more need be
of the

Part

II.

Scale

of Perfection deals
without
to

with the higher rungs of the spiritual ladder.

Again,
industry

he

insists

that
attain

pains

and
calls

none can

what

he
faith.

reformation in feeling as well as in

A

man

can no more make a sudden ascent from

the lowest to the highest than he can climb

from the bottom to the top of a ladder at

one

step.

Why
of

do so few attain
?

to

the higher stage
satisfied
if

perfection

Many
souls,

are

they
the

can

save

their

and
It

reach
is

even

lowest degree in heaven.

dangerous to

aim
just

at

what
it
;

is

barely sufficient, as

miss
in

but

in

we may busy people who are
of
spiritual

living

the

world such want

100

WALTER HYLTON
is

ambition

excusable.

But
to

it

is

perilous for
at to

a soul which feels
the lower stage of
rest there,

itself
"

have arrived
faith"

reformation in
to climb
still

and be content
is

no

further.

For there
life
:

no standing
are

in the spiritual

if

we

not

going on,
are

we must be
"

going back.
It
is

So Augustine says
and
you
on,

:

Say
lost.

but,

sufficient,

Ever

increase,

ever
If
will

march
a

ever

advance"

(Serm. 169). out of a pit,

man

has been drawn up
to

he refuse

than the brink?
step must plunge

go any further Will he remain where one

him again into the depths ? And how can a man have enough of God s Grace is, no doubt, the free gift of grace ?
God, but
fullest
it

is

usually not given without the

co-operation on the
is

part

of the
"

soul.

True humility
saith,
I

a great help here.

Humility

nothing, I have nothing, I desire but This makes good music Jesus. nothing, in the soul. Compared with Jesus, who is

am

all,

thou art

nothing."

The
?

love

of

Jesus

is

thus the foundation of true humility.

And what
desires

are the enemies
fears.

Chiefly, carnal

and vain

But hold thou on thy

GRACE AND TEMPTATION

IOI

way, desiring nothing at all except the love of When thou art tempted, the Lord Jesus.

answer the tempter alway on this wise am nothing, I have nothing, I desire nothing,
:

"I

save the love of Jesus
thy

only."

Do
what

not ransack
is

memory

to confess again

past and

gone.

Hold on thy way, and think only of
the
spirits

Jerusalem,

goal
will

of
try

thy journey.
to

The
thee.

tempting

discourage
"Thou

They
never
thine

will
fulfil

whisper
all

in thine ear:

canst
to

these resolutions.

Return
do."

old

life

and do as others
"

Then
hope
shake

thou must answer them
to
for
it."

:

Since

I

was created
and

love
it,

God, even though
I

will
I

ever

desire

should never arrive at
failed to

When
will

discouragement has
they
it

thy resolution,

will

try

other methods.

shall

about that all thy good bring be evil-spoken of, and that whatsoever thou doest shall be taken ill. In this way

They

thy tempters will endeavour to

stir

thee up to

anger or to melancholy, or to ill-will against But do thou use this remedy. thy neighbours.

Lord Jesus into thy mind, and trouble not thyself. Think of thy lesson
the

Take

102

WALTER HYLTON

that thou art nothing, that thou hast nothing,

and

desirest

nothing,

save Jesus only.

Do

not dwell in thought on thy sins and defects,
for

fear

of thine

enemies.

These enemies,

when they have
in this

failed to achieve their
also,
will

attempt

purpose next try the effect
thee,

of flattery.

They

will

tell

and

try to

persuade thee, that all men praise and love and honour thee. They will not move thee
for

;

thou

wilt

reject

all

such

suggestions,

esteeming
the

them

to

be

mere stratagems
are,
it

of

enemy, as indeed they Refuse sweetened with honey.

venom
is

and have
to

none of

it,

and say that thy wish

be

with Jesus.
All

these
thee.
his

beset
suffers

hindrances and temptations And yet, so long as a

will

man
as
it

thoughts

to

run

at

large,

were, about the world, to wander unchecked

whithersoever they choose to roam, he perceives few of these hindrances. But as soon as he

withdraws

his

thoughts

and

desires

from

worldly things, and fixes them on one thing the love of Jesus then he will feel only

many

painful

hindrances.

It

is

not a sign

A
that
all is v/ell

"GOOD

DARKNESS"

IO3

with us

if

we

feel

no hindrances.

We

ought to feel many. This desire which fills thy heart It is He who worketh it Jesus.
is

is

verily

in

thee

;

it

in

He who giveth it thee. He He is thee, and He is desired.
all.

desireth
all,

and
in

doth

Thou
"

art

only an
out

instrument

His

hands.

O

send

Thy

light

and

Thy truth, that they may lead me, and bring me to Thy holy hill, and to Thy dwelling." The necessity of concentration, and the
danger of indulging freely in discursive thought which dissipates our energies and distracts
our attention, are topics which

we encounter

very frequently fond of using the
for

in

the

mystics.
"

They
is

are

the state in

metaphor of which the mind

darkness"

a tabula

rasa, ready for
to act
sion.

any purely
Hylton

spiritual impression

upon

it.
"

also uses this expres

The

good
that

darkness,"

he says,

is

when

the soul through grace

is

so free, so gathered

up

into

itself,

it

is is

not distracted by any

earthly thing.

"This

a rich nothing, when
not

the soul

is

at rest as to earthly thoughts, but
in

very busy

thinking of

Jesus."

"It

is

IO4
all

WALTER HYLTON

darkness or nothing, when the soul thinketh For Jesus, who is both love and thus."
"

light, is in this

darkness, whether

or

restful."

If
this

be painful thou wouldest know whether
it

thou art in

secure darkness or not, ask

whether thou
for itself alone.

covetest

anything

in

this

life

Ask
If
I
"

this question of

each of
to

thy
thee

five

senses.

they

make answer
nothing,

honestly,

would see

hear

nothing, taste and touch nothing, but would

have
then

my
thou

affections
art
"this

wholly
this

fixed

on

God,"

in

profitable

darkness.
entire,

Although
for
in

lasteth,

whole and

but

a short
this

time,"

accustom thyself to dwell
for little

profitable darkness,

by

little

the light of spiritual knowledge will arise in Then thou wilt experience the truth thee.

of those words of the prophet

Isaiah

"

:

The

people that walked

in

darkness have seen a

great light, and they who walked in darkness and in the shadow of death, upon them hath the
light
shined."

Thou

art

not
"

yet

at

but by Jerusalem, the end of thy journey some small flashes of light, which shine
;

through the chinks

of

the

city

walls,

thou

DELUSIONS
wilt

105

be able to see

it

long before thou comest

to

it."

In these paragraphs Hylton has been using the common language of the mystics. The
"

Divine

darkness

"

is

a

familiar

idea

in

Christian mysticism from Dionysius downwards.

Equally familiar
against

is

the warning which follows
light."

the

"

false

Readers of the

Theologia
earnestly

Germanica

will

remember

how

we

are warned

against the

danger
This

of mistaking

some

devil-sent ignis fatuus for

the true light of the Divine Presence.
is

how

Hylton

deals

with

"

it

:

But

now

beware of the
light

not

so."

mid-day fiend, that feigneth as if it came from Jerusalem, but does How shall we distinguish between

the true and the false light?

Sometimes we
the sun, but

see a light shining between two black rainy
clouds, a light
is

which looks
is

like

not.

So

it

in

spiritual

things.

There
go,

are

some men who,

as

far

as

externals

have forsaken the pomps and vanities of the world, and have renounced all the deadly sins, but who give no industry to examining
themselves and purging their hearts.

Then,

106

WALTER HYLTON

because they have
tion,

made

this external

renuncia
already

they

fancy

themselves begin

to to

be

holy,

and

presently
if

preach,

and

teach other men, as

they had received the

grace of understanding, to preach truth and
righteousness to their
light
will
neighbours."

But

their

comes from the mid-day
see
if

fiend,

as they

between
the

For it shines they look carefully. two black rainy clouds, of which
presumption and self-exaltation, lower undervaluing our neighbour.
is

upper
these

and the
If

feelings
itself

are

present,
"it

knowledge
fiend
if
it

be
all
it

true,

though from is

the the

comes
wit
if

of a sudden, or from a

man s own
and
all

of this kind are
their

full

comes by study." Men of pride, and see it not
to
strife

;

preaching tends
reproof
of

and
and

discord,

and
"

divers

states

persons.

there

is
iii.

But where envying and strife is, confusion and every evil work"
16).

(James

a clear sky.

The true sun only The "good darkness"
"and

shines in
is

marked
says

by humility and charity;
"

I

believe,"

darkness has gone before, the false light never comes."
Hylton,
that
after

true

THE
This,
then,
is

"NEGATIVE ROAD"

to

be our safeguard,
Spirit,

if

we
of

wish

to

be

led

by the

instead

submitting ourselves to
shall

human

guidance.
fear to

We
be

be led aright,

and need not

misled by the Evil One, if we are in humility and charity. They are also tests whether
the
light

that

is

in

us

is

in

truth

light,

or

If we are something worse than darkness. we have not the or uncharitable, proud Spirit of God, and should be far safer in leading-strings,

obeying and following external authority. But is it necessary to pass through
"good

the

darkness"

at all?

Is

it

necessary for

us to abstract our minds from external things,
as
to

the

mystics

of

the

cloister

seem always

recommend?
follies

We

are not here concerned

with the

or with the death in

of the hesychasts and quietists, life of the Indian yogi.

Such a

life

is

a mere reductio
it

ad absurdum
based.

of the philosophy on which
is

is

But

not the advice of the cloister-mystics infected

by the same fallacy that we can reach the infinite by mere negation of the finite, stripping
ourselves

bare

of

all

that

belongs

to

our

terrestrial existence in the hope of anticipating

108

WALTER HYLTON
life

the

which

will

be ours when we have

passed beyond the bourne of time and space? Is it not all part of that philosophy of dreams which teaches, with Shelley, that
"

Life, like a

dome

of many-coloured glass,
"

Stains the white radiance of eternity
I

?

have

said,

in

my

introductory
is

Lecture,

that the temptation in mysticism

to grasp at

immediate apprehension of Divine truth before
the time.

The

error

is

not in believing that

a real knowledge of and communion with God is possible to men, but in supposing that it
is

given to start with.

The
"

strength of the
the recognition

best mystical teaching
that

lies just in

we must
spiritual

"

die to live

in

every part of
affections,

our

nature.

Our
natural

earthly

our appreciation
tellectual

of

beauty,
all

our

in

speculations,

must

be

baptized

into Christ s death.

They must

pass through

a transformation, they must be lost and found There must be an apparent loss, as again.
part

of

the

real

gain.

So

mysterious law of our being where the gate of life is remembered, mystical

long as this death every

theology

is

sane and sound

;

when

it

is

for-

LIFE

THROUGH DEATH

lOQ

gotten, dangerous tendencies always manifest

themselves.
lies

This

is

the truth which

under

the doctrine of the negative road, and of

the

Divine darkness.

The

perversions of

it

are partly

due
of

to

the

strange psychological
trance,

experience

the

blank

a

kind

of

self-hypnotisation in which the

mind sometimes

receives indelible impressions.

Violent emotional fervours, says Hylton, to

whom

I

now

return after a brief digression, do
state,

not belong to a high
characteristic
littleness

but are
"

rather

of

beginners,
their

who

for

the

and weakness of

souls cannot

bear the smallest touch of
quite in accordance with
tell

God."

This

is

what other authorities

us

;

these rapturous joys are given by

though they more often suggest that God as an

encouragement to those who are just beginning to advance on the way of holiness.

A
must

soul
first

that

would know
If

spiritual

things

ourselves,

know itself. we cannot know anything above

we do not know

ourselves.

Do

not look for your soul inside
will

your body, or you
soul
is

never find

it.

The
It is

not inside or outside your body.

1

10

WALTER HYLTON

no bodily thing, with a spatial existence, but an invisible life. It would be truer to say
that
soul
life,

the
is

body

is

in

the soul,
"

than that the

Consider thy soul as a immortal and invisible, which has in itself
in the

body.

the power to

know

the sovereign truth, and

love

the sovereign

When

goodness, which is God. thou feelest this, thou wilt feel some
self.

thing of thy true other place.

Seek
fully

thyself in no

The more

and worthily thou
worthiness
of a

thinkest of the

nature and

reasonable soul, the better thou wilt see into
thyself.

Do
when

shape,

not form any image of a bodily thou thinkest about thy soul."
is

This caution
sciously

also

valuable.

Half-unconas
like

we do
of

often

think of our souls

a

kind

ghosts,

shadowy

creatures

It is worth while phantasms of living men. to remind ourselves that the soul, as soul, has

nothing to

do with the categories of space

and time.

The
soul
is

soul

must
in

first

know

itself.

But

it

must not

For the self-knowledge. but a mirror in which to behold God.
rest
is

The

soul

a mirror.

Therefore

the

first

THE HUMAN CHRIST
requisite
clean,
is

III

should be kept bright and and the second is that it should be
that
it

held well up from the earth.

Hylton then proceeds to speak of the love He says that there are three kinds, of God.
or degrees, in the love of
first
is

man

to

God.

The

for

faith

only,
spiritual

without

any devout

imagination

or

knowledge.

The

second works upon us through the imagination of Jesus in His sacred humanity. The third

comes through
in
is

spiritual sight of the

Godhead

humanity. worth quoting, because it shows that Hylton does not contemplate the possibility of the

the

sacred

This

classification

human Christ ever becoming unnecessary to us. The criticism has often been passed upon
the Platonising theologians of the third century,

Clement of Alexandria and Origen, that the
"

Gnostic,"

or perfect Christian in their system,

needs Christ only as the Logos, and no longer
as the Incarnate Son, Jesus.
Julian of Norwich in
that

But Hylton,

like

my

last

Lecture, knows

we can never get beyond the human Christ. Thou art my heaven," says Julian and Hylton will be more than content if he
"

;

112

WALTER HYLTON

can dwell with loving and clear sight upon the Godhead in the sacred humanity. Spiritual
love that comes through the understanding
better than that which
is

comes only through the
are

imagination.

All

bodily beholdings
is

but

means by which the soul words of our Lord to
"

led to this.

The

Touch me

not,"

may

Mary Magdalene, be interpreted to mean,

"

Worship me
the later

in thine understanding."

The
play
of

outward manifestations of Divine favour, which
in

Roman

Catholic mysticism

such a dominant
mystical

part

under
are
for

the

name

Hylton only tokens of inward grace, like the cloven tongues on the day of Pentecost, which were a purely
external sign.

phenomena,

Hylton begins by saying: would not by these discourses limit God s I do working by the law of my speaking.
"

In

Part

III.

I

not wish to imply that
soul
I

God worketh
No,
I

so in a
so.

and no otherwise.

meant not

hope well also that He worketh otherwise, in ways which pass my wit and feeling."

The

soul

has two kinds of feelings

:

one

external, through the five bodily senses,

and

HYLTON S PSYCHOLOGY
one
internal,

113

through the

spiritual

senses or

faculties of the soul. faculties

The

spiritual senses or

Hylton
:

considers

to

be

four

in

number
will.
"

wit,

memory,

understanding,

and

When
in

these faculties are through grace

understanding and spiritual wisdom, then the soul hath new feelings which
perfect
all

are the offspring of
bids
spirit

grace."

When
renewed
"

St
in

Paul
the

the

Ephesians
minds,"
reason."

to

"be

of your

he means
"

in the

higher
is

part of your
mistress,

Understanding
is

the

imagination

the

maid."

Under

standing is strong meat for men, imagination is milk for babes. Whatever psychologists

may
in

think
it is

of

Hylton

s

analysis
is

of

human

faculties,

mainly concerned exalting the inward as compared with the

plain that he

outward, and disparaging those sensible images which often float before the mental vision of
the contemplative, and which he
is

frequently

tempted

to overvalue.

We

speak sometimes of
soul."

the eye of the

heaven opening to This, again, is a mere
"

metaphor, which
literally.

we must beware
not
the

of taking

It

is

heaven above the

114

WALTER HYLTON
the

firmament,
heads,
"

depths
to

of

space

above our
soul.

which opens
Jesus as

the

eye of the

The
see

higher the soul soareth above the sun

to

God, the lower
imagination."
is

it

falls,

by

reason of such an
this

Nevertheless,

kind of sight

tolerable in simple souls

who have no
invisible.

better

way

of seeing

Him who

is

Benjamin temper, and then a
would

Hylton here seems to go beyond Whichcote s Heaven is first a
"

place,"

and

to

repudiate

the idea of a local heaven altogether.

But he

probably admit that for almost all simple souls" alone, it persons, and not for is helpful and almost necessary to envisage the
"

eternal world under the forms of space as well

as of time.

The
up our
to

natural impulse which bids
eyes,"

us to

"lift

as well as our hearts,

when we pray
be
resisted,

God

or praise
it

though

is

well

Him, need not to remember

sometimes that

where
prayers

else,

any and that we need not send our
a long

God

is

here as

much

as

on

journey
says

to

find

Him.
"

"Spiritual

things,"

Plotinus,

are

separated from each other only by difference and antagonism of nature, not by place,"

HEAVEN
"

IS

NOT A PLACE
to

115

What

is

heaven

a

reasonable
God."

soul

?

Verily nought else but Jesus

A

striking

sentence, which again reminds us of Hylton s contemporary Julian. God alone is above the

nature of the soul

;

whosoever seeth
is

God

seeth
;

heaven.

The

soul

no idea of
as
if

local elevation

above every bodily thing should be entertained,

we needed

to be transported to

some other
to

part of space in order to
Similarly,

come near
to

God.

we must be
is

careful

remember

that

"within"

a mere metaphor
It
is

when used
said that
all

of spiritual things.
the soul should see

commonly
"

God

within"

things,

and

"

"

within

itself.

We

may
is

use

these

expressions, but they are metaphors.

God

is

not within the soul as a kernel
or as a lesser bodily thing
is

within a nut,

within a greater.

Other expressions which we use about
are equally metaphorical,
"

God

e.g.,

God

is

Light."

God
fire,

is

Truth

;

compared to light, because He is the and He is compared to a consuming

because
let

He

cleanses

the
of

soul

like

fire.

But
in

us not think

much
that

fire

the element,
try to look

connection with God.
the

We

must

not on

things

are seen,

which are

Il6

WALTER HYLTON

temporal, but on the things that are not seen,

which are

eternal.

And

eternity

is

the

know

ledge, or rather the knowing, of

God, and of
beatific

Jesus Christ

whom He
relation

sent.

What
vision

is

the

between the
of

and

the
of

fruition

Divine
says

love

?

The
the

full

bliss

the

soul,

Hylton,
"

is

Love proceeds from sight. proceeds from knowledge, and not knowledge
love
that

from

love."

The more God
loved.

is

known, the
object

more

He

is

Here some might
to get to

that the best
to love him,

way
and
their

that those

know a person is who reserve their
s

affection
fully

till

companion

character

is

explored,

will

never either
of

love him.
felt

And

in the case

know nor love to God

by man, since our knowledge must always be so small, love must come first, and know
But our author ledge follow as its reward. is here speaking of the perfect love that casteth out fear. This can only be the result
of
the

knowledge.
final

The
a

assertion

that

love

is
is

crown,
as

higher

than knowledge,

necessary
tualism.

We

safeguard against intellecmust not turn religion into

THE HOLY GHOST
philosophy.

IS

LOVE

117

Hylton

is

here quite in agree
Platonists, including

ment with the Christian
Clement of Alexandria.

They

give knowledge

a very high place, but not the highest. "When God crowns our merits," says St
"

Augustine,

He
is

This maxim

crowns only His own gifts." thoroughly in accordance with

Hylton

s

teaching.
is

The

greatest

boon that

God

He
the

First ever gives gives us the lower love, which keeps us

the gift of Himself.

from sinning.
soul,

that

Then he opens it may see the
it

the

eye of

Divinity of

Jesus
is

Christ,

and adore His nature.

Love
soul

master of the soul when

makes the

forget herself.

God
mean?
ask of

gives

us
gift
is

Himself.

What

does this

The

of Himself, the gift of the

Holy Ghost,

the gift of love.

We

should

God
is

which
of

nothing except the gift of love, There is no gift the Holy Ghost.

God which

except this
hell,

both the giver and the gift, This alone saveth from of love.
is

and maketh the soul God s

child

and a

receiver of the heavenly heritage.

This love

slayeth

all

the strivings of pride, and

makes

Il8

WALTER HYLTON
soul
slays
lose
all

the
It

relish
all

for

worldly honours.
of wrath
"

easily"

the

stirrings

and envy.

Love alone can

do

this.

He

who

can more easily forget the wrong done to him than another man can forgive
loves
it."

The

true

lover
is

forgets rather than for

gives, for there

no pride or contempt mixed

with his

forgiveness.

Love
live
all

also

slays

the

other deadly sins.

Covetousness,
in

impurity,
soul

and gluttony cannot
love reigns.
at

the

where
things

Love

sets

perishable

one

price,

and values a precious stone no
chalk.

more than a piece of

What
receiveth

graces

are

those
!

that

the

soul

cannot speak of them, for they are more than I am able to express but Love asketh and biddeth that I
I
;

through love

try to

do
In

so,

and

I

hope that Love
of as

shall teach

me.

the
things

writings of holy

men we
the
rest,

find

various

spoken
purity of

fruit

of

heavenly love
peace,

spirit,

stillness,

burning

affection,

bright

light

and
use.

there are

many

other

words that they
in speech,

These graces are diverse
in

but one
all.

meaning.

He

that hath one hath

It

"A

MOST BUSY

REST"

119
It is

is

called rest

by many holy men.
it

called

rest,
it

not because
soul

makes us

idle,

but because
softly.
"It

makes the

work gladly and

is

a most busy

rest."

Hylton here anticipates

the beautiful and helpful definition of rest as
"unimpeded
activity."

We
do
it
;

are at rest
;

when
it

what we do

is

no exertion to us
to

when
there

makes us happy
nothing within

when

is

or

without us that pulls us

back and

tries

to stop us

from doing
of the
in
I

it.

So

the Sabbath-rest

of God, and
is

Divine
verse,

Word
"

of

God,

described

the

My

Father worketh hitherto, and

work."

But we must expect checks and disappoint
ments
in

our ascent of the ladder of perfection.
to

Sometimes the grace
a

behold Jesus
are

is

for

time withdrawn.

Then we

painfully

conscious of our

own

miserable existence, and

we are assailed by carnal hopes and fears. Not that we are left altogether to ourselves
in

these

states.

It

is

the
is

special,

and not

the

common
us.
is

grace, which

then withdrawn

from
It

grace remains to us entire. never withdrawn so long as a man s
right with

Common

heart

is

God,

120

WALTER HYLTON
prayer does not consist of long

Spiritual
petitions.
is
it

The
in

prayer of the contemplative
:

made up
is

but of one word, says Hylton
the heart, so
it

as

formed

sounds

in the

mouth.
utters
it

Both that which forms and that which
are the
;

same thing by grace made whole and one
soul
its

for the
in itself.

soul

is

The
for

then

asks

not

how

it

shall

pray,

eye

is

turned inwards

to

Jesus.

These

directions about prayer are not quite so clear

as

is

Hylton
is

s

wont.

But the most intimate

prayer

in

truth
It

description.

an experience that baffles "consists of one word," or
;

rather of no words
to

for

words were invented
to

communicate

our

ideas

others

;

but

where the barrier between persons is broken down by love and devotion, words become
as unnecessary as they are inadequate.

our souls stirred by grace, says Hylton, we need not be afraid of being deceived. Trust thy feeling fully when
feel
"

When we

it

is

spiritual

:

keep

it

tenderly,
thyself,

and
but

have
"

great

delicacy,

not toward

it

;

then grace
"

Jesus

go on sometimes shows Himself as an
itself will

teaching thee.

SPIRITUAL PRAYER

121

awful master, sometimes as a reverend teacher,

and sometimes
spiritual

as

a loving

spouse."

The

things,

shown by Jesus
all

to the soul,

may

be said to consist of
in

the truths con

tained

Holy

Scripture.

But

there

are

other truths also, which are not contained in

Holy Scripture, but which Jesus shows to some of them that love Him. Such high truths,
which are
at

times

made

clear
all

by inward
"

revelation, are the nature of

rational souls,

of the

angels,

and of the

Trinity.
soul."

Love

and

light

go
is

together in

a pure

Hylton
that

conscious that these last sections

of his book are

somewhat

inconsecutive,

and

they give
"

treatment.

I

an impression of superficial touch on these things lightly,"

he

says,

"for

the soul

may
in

see

more
him.

in

an hour
book."

than

can

be written

the

longest

With
words

these words

we

leave

They

are

which

we should always
devotional

remember

when
should

we

read

literature.

We
as
it

read

such books on our knees,

were, for otherwise
profit

we cannot understand
Unless
shall

or

by

them.

deal

ourselves,

we

we bring a great not get much from

Q

122

WALTER HYLTON
Cor ad cor
loquitur ;
the hearts
of

them.

the writer and reader must beat together, or the attempts
of

the

saint
will

to

express what

cannot be said in words

seem only dark
to

and tiresome.
I

have

given

two

lectures

these

mediaeval

doubt as to

mystics of the cloister, how far I should be able to enlist

with some

I your sympathies with their type of piety. have chosen exceptionally favourable specimens

of monkish
all

Christianity
:

;

but

perhaps after
"

you will say These were lonely men and What women, and theirs is a lonely religion.
dost thou desire to
of
himself.
"

know ? God and

"

asks St Augustine
thine

own
all."

soul.

But Nothing else ? Nothing else at we moderns desire to know some other things We desire besides God and our own souls.
to
if

know
it

the souls of other men, and the soul,
be, of the external world, the soul

may

of nature.

The

difference

between the two

views of

life

may
the

be realised by comparing a
saints

maxim which
ever
I

of the

cloister
"

are

rather fond of quoting from Seneca:

When
return

have been with other men,

I

THE MYSTICS OF THE CLOISTER
less

123

of a

man

than

I

was

before,"

with the

words of a typical nineteenth-century writer
"

(Sir

John Seeley)
all

:

Solitude

is

the

death

of

but

the

strongest

virtue."

Rudyard

Kipling thinks both are right
"

:

Down

to

Gehenna, or up to the throne,

He

travels the fastest

who

travels

alone."

as

But the cloistered mystics are best regarded breadth specialists, who have sacrificed
intensity.

for

In

my

last

three lectures
of

I

shall

mysticism with which more persons now will sympathise with that powerful and independent eighteenth:

deal

with

developments

century thinker,
moralist,

William
mystic
;

Law,
with

Non- juror,
religious
its

and

the

poetry of nature, which will always have
classical

example
love,

in

Wordsworth
of
the

;

and with
life

the

mystical

conception

human

and

human

which

is

inspiration

and

main theme of Robert Browning s poetry.

LECTURE

IV

WILLIAM LAW

PROBABLY no period of English history has been so antagonistic to all that the word
mysticism stands
4<

for,

as

the

Georgian

era.

Enthusiasm

"

was

eighteenth century.

bugbear of the The word was used as a
the
missile.

deadly
bishop
adorns,
his

controversial
is

A
the
in

praised on his
rather
for

tombstone,

Georgian which
walls

or

disfigures,

of

cathedral,

his

zeal

repressing
is

"enthusiasm."

William
this

Law, who
lived

to
in

be
the

the

subject

of

lecture,

eighteenth century, and was not ashamed to be an enthusiast. This alone would stamp

him

as

a

man

of

strong

originality,

and

therefore an interesting personality.

But he
this

was,

in

fact,

something
intellectual

more

than

a

man

of great
124

power,

of unusual

WILLIAM LAW
force

12$

of

character,

and

the

master
style.

of

a
is

striking

and

attractive

English

He

divines. perhaps the foremost of our mystical I will give you first a short account of his and will then discuss his writings and life,
their

permanent value. William Law was born

in

1686,

at

the

King s Cliffe, in Northamptonshire. His father was a tradesman of good standing, and he was brought up in a religious home.
village of

The Rules for my Future

Conduct,

which

he drew up, it when he went to Cambridge, remind us of the austere conscientiousness which characterises
the Serious Call.
"I.

would seem, about the time

They
in

are worth quoting
that I have but

:

To

fix

it

deep

my mind

one
by

business

upon my hands
will of

to seek for eternal happiness

doing the
"II.

God.
everything that relates to

To examine
it

me

in this

view, as
"

serves or obstructs this only

end

of

life.

III.

To

world thinks

think nothing great or desirable because the it so, but to form all my judgments of things

from the
ing to
"

infallible

Word
all

of God, and direct

my

life

accord

it.

IV.

To

avoid

concerns with the world, or the ways

of

it,

except where religion requires.

"V.

To remember

frequently,

and impress
this life is for

it

upon my

mind

deeply, that

no condition of

enjoyment,

126
but for
trial;

WILLIAM LAW
and
all

we

have, are
all

so

that every power, ability, or advantage many talents to be accounted for to the

Judge of
"VI.

the world.
consists in

That the greatness of human nature
all

nothing else but in imitating the divine nature.
therefore

That

the greatness of this world, which is not in good actions, is perfectly beside the point. "VII. To remember often and seriously how much of

time

is inevitably thrown away, from which I can expect nothing but the charge of guilt ; and how little there may be

to

come, on which an eternity depends.
"

VIII.
IX.

"

such
them.

To avoid all excess in eating and drinking. To spend as little time as I possibly can among persons as can receive no benefit from me nor I from To be
always fearful of letting
fruit.

"X.

my

time

slip

away

without some
"

XI.

presence of God whenever I myself under any temptation to sin, and to have immediate recourse to prayer. XIII. To think humbly of myself, and with great charity
"XII.

To avoid all idleness. To call to mind the

find

"

of

all
"

others.
all evil

"

XIV. To forbear from XV. To think often of

the

life

speaking. of Christ, and propose
a

it

as a pattern for myself.
"XVI.

To

pray privately thrice

day,

besides

my
can

morning and evening prayers. "XVII. To keep from [a blank space] as much as
without offence.

I

"XVIII. To spend some time in giving an account of the day, previous to evening prayer. How have I spent What sin have I committed ? What temptations the day ?

have

I

withstood

?

Have

I

performed

all

my

"

duty ?

RULES FOR UNIVERSITY LIFE

127

young man at Law was the outset of his university life. in a of Emmanuel made Fellow 1711, and

Not a bad

set

of rules for a

was

ordained

deacon

in

the

same

year.

Besides the ordinary studies, he had already

begun

to study mysticism, in the writings of

Malebranche, a seventeenth-century theologian,

whose cardinal doctrine
things
in
God,"

is

that

"We

see
will

all

the

opposite,

it

be

observed,
that

of

the

equally

mystical

doctrine
s

we
the

see
if

God

in all things.

Malebranche
leads

doctrine,
to

held exclusively,
of
if

logically
;

pan-nihilism

Indian

philosophy

while

the

other side,

unduly emphasised,

tends to sentimental and non-ethical pantheism.

A

man

happy as But his rather obstinate conscientiousness led

might have been a resident Fellow at Cambridge.
of
tastes

Law s

him

to

become one of the Non-jurors, on the
of

accession
intention

George

I.

He

announces his
his

of sacrificing his

fellowship to
letter

scruples in a very
his

manly

addressed to
swearers,"

brother.
"

"The

multitude of

he says,

has no influence upon
;

me

:

their

reasons are only to be considered

and every

128

WILLIAM LAW

one knows no good ones can be given for people swearing the direct contrary to what
they believe. ...
I

think
I

I

have consulted
have done
;

my
I

best interest

by what

and

hope, upon second thoughts, you will think so too. I have hitherto enjoyed a large share
of happiness
;

and

if

the time to of what

come be not
is

so pleasant, the

memory

past shall

make me
It
is

thankful."

not
did,

certain

where

Law

resided,

or

during the next ten years. The reports of his having held clerical offices are difficult to reconcile with his refusal to take

what he

the

oaths,

and are not made more probable

by the absurd gossip, emanating from the same sources, that Law was gay parson, a great beau, and very sweet on the ladies."
"a

In

1717

he wrote his Three Letters

to

the
to

Bishop

of Bangor (Hoadly),

in

answer

that prelate s very anti-Catholic views of the

an exceedingly vigorous and telling attack, which raised its author to the front
;

Church

rank
us,"

of

controversialists.

"You

have

left

he

tells

the Bishop,
;

"

neither priests, nor

sacraments, nor church

and what has your

LAW, HOADLY,

AND MANDEVILLE
the

I2Q

Lordship given us

in

room of
for

all

these
is

advantages
the
is

?

Why,

only sincerity.

This
all
;

great universal
that

atonement

this

which, us

according to
to

your

will

help

the

communion
in

Lordship, of saints

hereafter,

though we are
or

communion with
Six years later denunciation of

anybody

nobody
a

here."

Law

published
s

scathing

Fable of the Bees ; or Private Mandeville s essay Vices, Public Benefits. was a clever and cynical defence of licence
Mandeville

and

selfishness.

"

I

believe man, besides skin,

flesh,

bones,

etc.,

that are obvious to the eye,
passions, which
will or
no."

to be a

compound of various
turns,
"The

govern him by

whether he
is

Law

replies:
it

definition

too general,

because

seems

to suit a wolf or a bear as

exactly as yourself or a Grecian philosopher.
.

If you would prove yourself to be no more than a brute or an animal, how much
. .

of your
at
least

life

you need alter I cannot tell but you must forbear writing against
;

virtue,

for
is

no
not

mere animal ever hated
content

it."

Law

with

rebutting

his

opponent

s

theory of the

origin

of morality.

R

130

WILLIAM LAW
gives his own.
that
"

He
time

In one sense, virtue
there

had no origin

is,

was never
but
it

a

when

it

began

to

be
as

was as

much without beginning
ness,

truth

and good

which are

in their natures as eternal as

God.
object
first

But moral
of

virtue,

if

considered as the

man s knowledge, began
to

with the
it

man, and was as natural to him as

was natural
feel

and perceive or the difference between pleasure and pain.
to think

man

The
it

reasonableness
is

and

fitness

of

actions

themselves
is

a law to rational beings, nay, a law to which even the Divine nature
for

is

subject,

God

is

necessarily

just,

from the excellence of justice ness and it is the will of God that makes
;

good and and good

moral virtue our law, and obliges us to act Here, Sir, is the noble and reasonably.
divine origin of moral virtue.
in
It
is

founded

the immutable relations

of things, in the

perfection

and

attributes of

God, not

in

the

pride of

Away,

or the craft of cunning politicians. then, with your idle and profane fancies
!

man

about the origin of moral virtue For once, turn your eyes to heaven, and dare but own

ORIGIN OF MORAL VIRTUE

131

a just and good God, and then you have owned the true origin of religion and moral virtue." The transition from sarcasm to noble
exhortation
is

characteristic

of

all

Law s

controversial writing.

important contribution to Practical Treatise positive theology was upon Christian Perfection, which he defines
first

But

his

A

as

"the

right

performance of our necessary
but beautiful treatise

duties."

Of

this austere

I

will

say more

when

Law s
tutor

theology

is

under discussion.
In

1727

Law became
of
the
pupil
in

to

Edward
and

Gibbon,

father

great
to

historian,

accompanied
also spent

his

Cambridge.

He
s

much time

the elder

Gibbon

house at Putney, where he became a centre of an admiring circle, consisting of John Byrom, a Fellow of Trinity, Cambridge, and

John and Charles Wesley, his friendship with whom was destined to be broken by a quarrel Miss Hester Gibbon,
a sorry versifier
; ;

the

daughter of

the
for

house

;

Mr

Archibald

Hutcheson,

M.P.

death-bed advised his

Hastings, who on his wife to make Law her

132

WILLIAM LAW

guide

and

counsellor

in

religious
less

matters

;

and two or three others of Law.
it

importance.

friends

must be confessed, made and kept most easily when they were his
inferiors
:

intellectual
stiff

there

was

something

and uncompromising

about

him which

alienated

some who might have met him on As long as John Wesley was equal terms. willing to consult him and follow his advice,
went
well.
It

all

was
that
"

in

answer

to

some

question of

Wesley
:

Law

replied in the

memorable words
sophical religion
thing.
;

a philo but there can be no such
the
it

You would have
most
only,

Religion is thing in the world
;

plain,

simple

is

We

love

Him

because

He

first

loved

us."

But when Wesley

began

to

have doubts about

Law s

presentation

of Christianity, and wrote a letter setting out
his objections,

Law answered
was
Wesley,
for
It

politeness

which

with a scathing enough to terminate

any
his
till

friendship.

however,
of

retained writings
for

admiration
the
to
last.

much
with

Law s
of

would have been better

such power as Wesley, instead of with the two estimable
associate

Law

men

THE SERIOUS CALL
but rather

133

weak women who
life.

sat at his feet

in the last part of his

The
State

treatise

entitled,

A

Serious

Call

to

a Devout

and Holy Life; adapted to and Condition of All Orders
was written
at
this

the

of
is

Christians,

time.

It

a tremendous indictment of lukewarmness in
religion,
folly

a ruthless exposure of the sin and of trying to make the best of both
It
is

worlds.
leisured

especially

addressed
this

to

the
of

class,
is

among whom

type

perhaps most book well deserves its fame.
character
characters

common.
illustrate

The
his

The imaginary
with

which
are of

he draws to

teaching
profusion
delights

admirably
wit

sketched,
biting
satire

a

and
of

which
it

the
his

mind

the

reader while

makes
say,

conscience

ashamed.
s

We

may

by the way, that Gibbon about two of the characters that they are the heathen and meant for his two aunts,
the Christian
sister"

statement

cannot be

true.

Miss
copy
copied

Hester
"

Gibbon
but

may have
Miranda

tried

to

Miranda,"

was

not
sister.

from her, nor Flavia from her

The

134

WILLIAM LAW
all

most beautiful of
that of the

the

character-sketches,

model country parson, Ouranius,

represents the ideal which
to realise,
fall

Law
"

himself tried

and from
it.

all

accounts he did not

far short of

Ouranius,

when he

first

entered Holy Orders, had a great contempt for all foolish and unreasonable people but
;

he has prayed
first

this

spirit
little

away.
village,
;

When
it

he
as

came

to

his

was

and every disagreeable to day seemed too tedious to be endured in so retired a place. His parish was full of poor
as a prison

him

and mean people that were none of them
for

fit

the

conversation
at

of

a

gentleman.

He

kept

home, writ notes upon Homer and Plautus, and sometimes thought it hard to be called to pray by any poor body, when

much

he was just in the midst of one of battles. But now his days are so

Homer s
far

from

being tedious, or his parish too great a retire ment, that he wants only more time to do
that
after.

variety

of

good which

his

soul

thirsts

... He now
the

thinks the poorest creature

in the parish

good enough, and great enough,
humblest
attendances,
the

to

deserve

THE MODEL PARISH PRIEST
kindest friendships,
the

135
offices,

tenderest

he

can possibly show them. from wanting agreeable
thinks there
is

He

is

so far

now

company, that he no better conversation in the

world, than to be talking with poor and

people about the
loves

Kingdom

of

mean God. ... He

every soul in the parish as he loves himself, because he prays for them all as he
prays for
himself."

There

is

much more

of

the

same
a

kind.

Not even George Herbert has drawn

more

winning picture of what the pastoral life was meant to be and may be. The influence of
the

Serious

Call was

both

immediate and
it

lasting.

treatise

John which

Wesley
will

describes

as
if

"a

hardly

be excelled,

it

be equalled,
of

in the

English tongue, either for

beauty of expression, or for justness and depth
thought."

Samuel Johnson
of

called

it

"the

finest

piece

hortatory

theology

in

any
of

language,"
"

and says that
first

his first reading

it

was the

occasion of
it
:

my
"

thinking in

earnest."

Gibbon says of
sharp
but
it

His precepts

are rigid, but they are founded on the Gospel.

His

satire is

;

is

drawn from the

136

WILLIAM LAW
life,

knowledge of human
portraits are not
If

and many of

his

unworthy of the pen of La
finds

Bruyere.

his reader s

a spark of mind, he will soon fan

he

piety
it

in

into a

and a philosopher must allow that he exposes, with equal severity and truth, the
flame
;

strange contradiction between the faith and Gibbon practice of the Christian world."
feels,

as

none can

fail

to

do,

the extreme

severity of

Law s
is

The book
serious
call

presentment of Christianity. just what its title promises, a
is

there

not

much

of

the joy

and peace in believing to be found in its For that very reason, at the present pages.
day,

when

divines

are

offering

us

religion

without tears, salvation without

self-sacrifice,

Law s
by
all

treatise should be studied prayerfully

who

care for their soul s health.

It
first

year 1734 when Law became acquainted with the writings of

was about

the

the
"

German

mystic,

sometimes

called

the

Teutonic

philosopher,"

Jacob Bohme.
all

His
the

study of them was destined to colour
rest

his

have already mentioned his early attraction to the mystics, and
of his
life.
I

JACOB BOHME

137

The controversies in study of Malebranche. which he engaged after leaving Cambridge
from the subject, though he continued to read Tauler and other But Bohme stirred him to mystical writers.
partially diverted his attention

the very depths.
Gorlitz,

The

illuminated cobbler of
in

who was born

1575,

was indeed

His a religious genius of no ordinary kind. visions, which were sometimes induced by
self-hypnotisation,

Bohme gazing
through
in

fixedly
till

at

the
lost

light

shining

his

door,

he

consciousness of the external world, are
form,

incoherent enough
with
the
wildest

and
But
find

are

mixed

fantasies.
will

those
in

who

have patience enough
"a

them, as

fullness of fancy and depth Schlegel did, of feeling, a charm of nature, simplicity, and

lectual

unsought vigour," combined with real and speculative power, which
earned
for

intel

have
place

him

a

very

honourable

in

the

history both of
literature.

religious

philosophy
that Sir

and of German

The

fact

Isaac Newton, as well as William

Law, was
to

a student of Bohme,
preserve his
s

should be enough

name from

the contempt which

138

WILLIAM LAW
writers

some

have lavished upon him.

But

before discussing
the time
I

Law s
fell

later
this

theology, from

when he

under

new

influence,

wish to complete the story of his uneventful

life.

On
or
J

739>

the death of the elder Gibbon, in 1738 tne house at Putney was broken up,

and

at the

end of 1740
of

Law
s

returned to his

native

village

King

Cliffe,

where

his

brother George had a house.

There he was

soon joined by Mrs Hutcheson, now a widow, and Miss Hester Gibbon. The three lived
together in

a

comfortable

house

near

the

church, and endeavoured

to put into practice

the

precepts

of

the

Serious

Call.

The

ladies

were

rich,

and the united incomes of
to

the three

amounted

^3000
of
life

a year, nineto

tenths of which was deliberately devoted
charity.

Their manner
;

was

simple,

but not ascetic

Law

two rooms, and

well

furnished

himself lived mainly in with books, and

spent the greater part of each day in reading
writing.

Their

charities,

unfortunately,
It

were managed without

discretion.

was an

age of reckless giving, as the

light literature

LIFE AT KING S CLIFFE

139

of the Georgian age shows plainly and none of the three had much practical wisdom.
;

King s
for

became such a hunting-ground rector and other vagrants that the
Cliffe

parishioners were driven to protest.

A

saint

who

could never resist the impulse to liberate

imprisoned canaries from their cages, to fall a prey to the nearest cat, was not the best
financial

adviser

for

two

rich

and not very
other

clear-headed

women.
at

In

all

ways

Law s
and

life

was most exemplary.

happy residence

His peaceful King s Cliffe was

only terminated by his death, at the age of The two ladies both seventy-five, in 1761.

survived him, and reached the ages of eightyfive
It

and ninety.
is

now time
in

to

turn

to

Law s
he

later

theology,

virtue

of

which

holds

a

prominent
writers.

place
first,

among

And

mystical English a few words must be said

about the opinions of Jacob disciple he professed himself.
self-taught
Bible,

Bohme, whose Bohme was a
besides
the

philosopher,

who,

was acquainted only with the older Protestant mystics, and with the eccentric

140

WILLIAM LAW
Paracelsus
s

genius

who

is

the

subject

of

Robert Browning
characteristic

earliest great

poem.

The

feature

of the older Protestant
revolt

mysticism

was

a

against
"It

forensic

doctrines of the Atonement.

is

a note

worthy error of
Weigel,
the
law,
"that

false

Christians,"

says Valentine
to

they leave

another
die
;

obey

they without repentance, to avail themselves of imputed righteousness. Nay, truly, thou
desire,

to

suffer,

and

to

while

canst have no help from outside

!

That must
not from

come from
one who
is

the Christ within thee,
outside.
;

True

faith is the life of

being baptized with Him, suffering, dying, and rising again with Him. Christ s death and merits are imputed to no
Christ in us
it

is

one, unless he

have Christ s death
rise

in himself,

and unless he
This
deeply

with

Him

to a

new

life."

moral

and

spiritual

view

of

salvation,
lations

combined with the
Paracelsus,
is

fantastic specu

of

the

foundation

of

Bohme s

theology, which, however, also con

tains Neoplatonic elements, derived

we know
is

not whence, but presumably from the school
of

Eckhart.

God,

the

Eternal

Father,

BOHME S THEOLOGY
described
as

141

the

Abyss,
lie

as

pure

Will,

in

which
is

all

things

unexpressed.

The Son
Father dis
Himself.
of

the Eternal Good, which the

covers

and gives
is

birth

to

within

The Son

the

reality,

the

actualisation,

the Divine nature.
Spirit, within the

The
bosom
the

office

of the

Holy
is

of the Godhead,

as

a

bond between
of

Father

and

Son,
In the-

and the expression of
world
existence,
itself

their joint

life.

manifest to

nothing can become without contrariness. The

abysmal Will in the beginning divided itself, that it might have a sphere in which to
work.

This

is

the law of
things

all

existence.

"

In

Yes and No
is

all

consist."

The

"No"

a countercheck to the

"Yes,"

without which

the truth, or God, would be unknowable and
inoperative.

There

is

no heat without

cold,

no day without night, no joy without longing.
hell.

So

the Divine nature differentiates itself into

love and anger, heaven and

The

visible

world

is

a counterpart of the spiritual, which

God made
"

out of His

own

substance.
as

It

is

the living garment of God,

Goethe

says.

When

thou

lookest on

the

firmament and

142

WILLIAM LAW
earth,"

the stars and the
seest thy

says

Bohme,

"thou

God,
be
If

in

whom
If

thou also livest and

hast

thy

being.

this

whole

existence

image.
to
it,

God, thou there be anywhere a
in

not

sphere of art not God s

God

foreign

thou hast no part
condition
to
"

Him."

Evil

is

the

necessary

of

the

activity

of

good.
that
it

Love submits
itself

the

fire

of wrath

may be

a

fire

of

love."

Good

can only exist
discord.

by turning sorrow into joy, by overcoming opposition and harmonising

Thus by a
quality,

fanciful

etymology he
(Qual)
is

says

that

determination

The path inseparable from suffering (Quaal). of salvation is the conquest and renunciation
of the self-will which
will

separates us from the
to

of

God.

We
God

desire

know nothing

further about

than what
us.
is

know
work

in

and through
his

God chooses to The whole frame
contained
in
"

of

religion

the

am I following account of his experiences. but not a master of literature or the arts,
a
foolish

and

simple but

man.
from
of

I

have

never
I

desired
strove

learning,
after

early

youth
soul,

the

salvation

my

and

BOHME S ILLUMINATION
thought

143

how

I

might inherit the Kingdom of

Heaven.

Finding within myself a powerful

contrariness,

namely, the desires that belong to flesh and blood, I began to fight a hard

battle against

my

corrupted nature, and with
to over
it,

the help of

God made up my mind
will,

come the

inherited evil

to break

and

to enter wholly into the love of
I

God

in Christ.

therefore

resolved
in

henceforth
inherited

to

regard
until

myself as dead
the
Spirit of

my

form,

God
I

should be formed in me,

so that in and through

Him

I

might conduct

my
I

life.

This

could not accomplish, but

stood firmly by

my

resolution,

a

hard

battle

with

myself.
battling,

and fought While I was

thus

being aided by a wonderful arose within my soul. God, light It was a light quite unlike my unruly I nature, but recognised in it the true
wrestling

and

nature
I

of

God and
before

had

never

thing which understood or sought

man,

a

for."

Characteristic mystical sayings gleaned from his works are the following
:
"

If

you

will

behold your own

self

and the outer world,

144
you
will

WILLIAM LAW
find

that

you

yourself,

with

regard

to

your

external being, are that external world." is not I who know these things, "It

but

God knows

them

in

me."

"When

that where

thou canst throw thyself for a moment into no creature dwelleth, then thou hearest what
findeth

God

speaketh."

"He

that

love

findeth

God;

and

he

that

findeth
"

God

findeth nothing

and

all

things."
itself."

The

soul hath heaven

and
is

hell within

"The

body of a man
is

visible

world
it

a

the visible world, and the manifestation of the inner spiritual

world;

is

a copy of eternity, wherewith eternity hath

made

itself

visible."

These views place Bohme
of

in the

main

line

development

of

German thought which

culminated in Schelling and Hegel, and also, through his insistence on Will as the con
stitutive

principle of the world,

make him

a

precursor

of

Schopenhauer.

William

Law

does

not
is

He
in

adopt his system in its entirety. less of an intellectualist than Bohme,
of his

spite

much wider

reading.

The

parts

of

Bohme which

attracted

him most

were the polemic against forensic doctrines of
the

Atonement
is

;

the perpetual insistence that
is

God

love,

and that wrath

foreign

to

His nature, the doctrine of the unio mystica

LAW S OBLIGATIONS TO BOHME
brought, as
nection

145

with

St

Paul,
;

into

closest

con

with

Christology
visible

and the analogy
world, the

between the
sacramental

and

invisible

view

of

life.

These doctrines

were not borrowed from Bohme.

Law

believed

them

before.
for

But
the
his

in the
first

he found
exposition

Teutonic philosopher time an illuminating
convictions
;

of

and the

result

own deepest was a new note in

his teaching,

a note of ardent and rapturous emotion, which blends in the most striking manner with the
old
austerity

and

moralism.
of
the

Law s
noblest

later

books

contain

some

and

strongest writing in the literature of devotion,

whether

in

our

own language

or in any other.

Students of
particular

Law s
and

attention

theology to a short

should
essay

give
called

The

Grounds

Reasons
the

of
author
the

Christian

Regeneration,
referred
his

which
as

himself
of
are

to

containing

heads

teaching.

The
"What

following
is
it

extracts

characteristic:
ful,

that

any thought
for

serious

man
hellish

could

wish
a

but

to
free

have a new heart
from
the

and

new

spirit,

self-tormenting

elements

146

WILLIAM LAW
envy,
pride,

of selfishness,

and wrath

?

His

own experience has shown him that nothing human can do this for him and it is so natural for him to think that God alone
;

can do
to

it,

that

accuse

God

he has often been tempted for suffering it to be so
to
to

with him.

Therefore

have

the

Son

of

God come from heaven
to

redeem him, and

redeem him by way of regeneration, by a seed of His Divine nature sown into him
must be a way of salvation highly suited to his own sense, wants and experience, because
he finds that his
essence
fore can
evil
lies

deep

in

the

very

and forms of
only be
or

his

nature, and there

removed by the
life

arising of

a
it.

new
is

birth

in

the

first

essences of

Therefore an inward Saviour, a Saviour

that

God
the

Himself, raising His

own Divine

birth in
in
it

as

human soul, has such a fitness must make every sober man with
to receive such

open arms ready and willing
a salvation.
"

people have an idea of the Christian religion as if God was thereby declared so full of wrath against fallen man, that nothing

Some

GOD

IS

LOVE,

NOT WRATH

147

but the blood of His only-begotten
satisfy his

Son could

vengeance. Nay, some have gone such lengths of wickedness as to assert that

God

hath by immutable decrees reprobated
the
race
to

a great part of
inevitable

of

Adam

to

an

damnation,

show
justice.

forth

and

magnify the glory of His

But these

are miserable mistakers of the Divine nature,

and miserable reproachers of His great love and goodness in the Christian dispensation.

For God
that

is

love, yea, all love,

and so

all

love
;

nothing but love can come from
religion
is

Him

and the Christian
an open,
love to
full

nothing else but

manifestation of His universal

all

mankind.

There

is

no wrath that
but what
is

stands

between
in the

God and
dark
fire

us,

awakened
nature
his
;

of our

own

fallen

and

to

quench

this

wrath,

and not

own,
be

God gave

his

made man. The His Son was not poured out to pacify no nature Himself, who in Himself had toward man but love but it was poured out
to
;

only-begotten Son precious blood of

to

quench the wrath and
in
it

fire

of the fallen soul,
love."

and kindle

a birth of light and

148

WILLIAM LAW

Regeneration does not signify only a moral Tempers and change of our inclinations.
"

inclinations

are

the fruits the

of

the

new-born

nature,

and

not
first

nature

itself.

Our
and

nature must

be made good,
before

its
it

root

stock must be
forth

new made,

can bring
. . .

good fruits of moral behaviour. The whole nature of the Christian religion
these two

stands upon

great

pillars,

namely,

the greatness of our

of our redemption.

and the greatness Every one is necessarily
fall,

more or
he

less

of a

true

penitent,

and more

or less truly converted to God, according as
is

more or
son

less

inwardly sensible of these

truths."
"

No

of

Adam

is

without a Saviour,

or can be

lost,

but by his

own
him,

turning

away

giving himself up to the suggestions and workings of the evil nature that is in him."
"A

from

this

Saviour within

and

bare

historical
soul,

and

superficial
it

faith

cannot save the
to
sin."

but leaves

a slave
to
"

Human
is

reason
is

may

assent

the
little

truth that Christ

our Saviour, while

or nothing

done

to the soul

by

it

;

the soul

HISTORICAL FAITH CANNOT SAVE US
is

149
sin

under much

the

same

power of

as

because only the notion or image or and history of the truth is taken in by it But reason of itself can take in no more.
before,
;

when
inward
faith

the

seed of the
faith

new
but

birth,

called the
in
it,

man, has
not a

awakened
a

its

strong hunger, which lays hold on Christ, puts on the divine nature, and effectually works out

is

notion,

real

our
"

salvation."

We

must

beware not
man."

to

make a

saint of the natural

Persons

of this stamp,

Law
first

truly observes, often over

look in themselves errors of moral behaviour

beginners in religion dare "There is nothing not allow themselves in.

such as the

safe in

religion,

but

in

such

a

course as
to

leaves
or live

nothing for
upon."

corrupt

nature

feed

How
way

can a

man know
?

that

he

is

in

the
that

of regeneration
fall

Not by assurance

Such from the state of grace. confidence may be given by God to those
he cannot

who need know is
not
that

it,

but normally what

we want

to

that

we

are

alive
is

and growing,
secure.

our

salvation

The

ISO

WILLIAM LAW
of saints
differ
"

characters

widely.

Every

complexion of the inward man, when sanctified by humility, and suffering itself to be turned

and struck and moved by the Holy Spirit of God, according to its particular frame and
turn, helps mightily to increase that

harmony

of Divine praise, thanksgiving, and adoration,

which must
sounds, and

arise

from different instruments,

voices."

Law
until
it

then attacks
"

assurance.

If

I

again the have not this

doctrine
gift

of

of God,

my own
me,
I

feeling

and assurance confirms
because
I

to

am
arises

self-justified,

my
and

justification

from

what

feel

declare

of

myself."

Strong impressions and
in

delightful
gifts of

sensations

the

spiritual life are

God, but they should be classed with outward as such and health blessings,
"

prosperity.
in selfishness

A

soul

may be

as

fully

fixed

through a fondness of sensible enjoyments in spiritual things, as by a fond ness for earthly satisfactions." These inward
"

delights are not holiness, they are not piety,

they are not perfection, but they are God s gracious allurements and calls to seek after

CONVERSION AND ASSURANCE
holiness

151

and

"

perfection."

They ought
of
God."

rather

to convince us that

we

are as yet but babes,

than that
soul
is

we

are really

men

"The

only so far cleansed from

its

corruption,

so far delivered from
so
far

the power

of

sin,
all

and
its

purified,

as

it

has renounced

own

have nothing, receive nothing, and be nothing, but what the one will of God chooses for it, and does to it.
will

and

desire, to

This and

this alone
in the

is

the
"

true

Kingdom
is

of

God opened
evil, or

soul."

There

nothing

the

cause of evil

to

either
is

man

or

devil,
in

but his

own

will

;

there

itself,

but the will of
is

God."

nothing good Conversion
"

to
is

God

often sudden, but this suddenness

by no means of the essence of true con version, and is neither to be demanded in
ourselves,

nor

required
is

of

others.

The

purification of our souls
in

an

instant,

but

is

a

certain

not a thing done process, a
captivity

gradual
disorder,

release

from
of

our

and

consisting

several
life,
it

stages

and

degrees,
soul

both of death and

which the
can have
Jesus

must go through,
put
off

before
old

thoroughly

the

man,

152

WILLIAM LAW
is

Christ
us,

our pattern, and what
also
to

He

did for

we

are
s

do
trials

for

ourselves."

Our

Saviour
of His

greatest
:

were near the end
not to be

life

this

should warn us

self-assured of our
:

own

salvation.

To sum

up our own will is our separation from God. All the disorder and malady of our
"

nature
will,

lies

in a certain fixedness of

imagination,
to

and
are

desires,

own wherein we
our
centre

live

ourselves,
act

our

own
from

and

circumference,

wholly

ourselves,

according to our
desires.

own
is

will,

imagination, and
smallest

There

not the

degree
to

of evil in us, but what arises from this selfish
ness,

because
.

we
.

are

thus

all

in

all

ourselves.

.

It is

enough for us to

know

we hunger and thirst after the righteous ness which is in Christ Jesus that by faith we desire and hope to be in Him new
that
;

creatures

;

to

know

that the greatest humility,

the

most absolute resignation of our whole selves to God, is our greatest and highest
to

fitness

receive

our

greatest and

highest

purification from the hands of God." I know no better summary of the theology

THE ETHICS OF MYSTICISM
and
short
ethics

153

of Christian

treatise.

mysticism than this Those persons who connect

mysticism with vague sentiment and luxurious emotions should reconsider their opinion in
the light of this last paragraph.

Those who
will

hunger
find

and

thirst in

after

righteousness
;

consolations

mysticism
for

those
the

who

think to embrace
its

mysticism

sake of

consolations will receive no encouragement
"

from the great mystics.
du,
is

Entbehren

so list

sollst

entbehren"

is

the
If

watchword that

ever

on

their

lips.

we would save
surrender

our

souls,

we

must

first

them

unconditionally.

cannot refrain from quoting a magnificent outburst of moral indignation from Law s next
I

controversial work, an answer to a discourse
"On

the

Folly,

Sin,

and Danger of being

by Dr Trapp, a typical Trapp had even eighteenth-century divine. ventured to appeal to our Blessed Lord s
Righteous
Overmuch,"

example
Jesus!"

in

support of his thesis.
exclaims,
"that

"

O

holy
life

Law
by a

should,

preacher

of

Thy Thy

Divine
Gospel,
!

be
. .

made a

plea for liberties of indulgence

.

154

WILLIAM LAW
Saviour, suitable to His gracious love, in
into the world, sought the conversation

Our

coming

of publicans and sinners, because

He came
sinners

to

save that which was

lost,

and because

He
were

knew

that

some among such
. .

more moveable than the proud
learned Pharisees.
.

sanctity of the
!

O

holy Jesus

Thou

didst nothing of Thyself,

Thou

soughtest only

Thy Father from the beginning to the end of Thy life Thou spentest whole
the glory of
;

nights
places
;

in

head

;

prayer on mountains and desert Thou hadst not where to lay Thy Thy common poor fare with Thy

disciples

was barely bread

and

dried

fish

;

miraculous power never helped Thee to any dainties of refreshment, though ever so

Thy

much
yet

fatigued and fainted with labour.
this
all

And
the

because

holy
sorts

Jesus

came

into

world to save

of sinners, therefore

He came

into all

places
. . .

and entered
It is

into

all

sorts of companies.

said that where-

ever the king

is,

there

is

the court, but with
it

much
the

more

reason

may

be

said,

that

whereever

our
or

Saviour
the

came

there

was

Temple,

Church.

As He was

"ENTHUSIASM"

155

everywhere God, so every place became holy
to
Him."

In an answer to an angry rejoinder by

Dr
the

Trapp,
a

who had

called

Law

an

"enthusiast"

favourite

term

of

vituperation

in

eighteenth

century

he
is

boldly
as

accepts

the
as

word.
universal,

"

Enthusiasm
as
essential

common,
angry

to

human
so

nature as

love

is.

No
in

people
as

are

with
the
kind.

religious

enthusiasts

those

who

are

deepest

some enthusiasm of another

He who
the

travels over high

mountains to salute

dear ground that Cicero walked upon, whose noble soul would be ready to break
if

out of his body

he could see a desk from

which Cicero had

poured forth his thunder of words, may well be unable to bear the dullness of those who go on pilgrimages only
to visit the sepulchre

whence the Saviour of

the world rose from the dead, or

who grow
. .

devout at the sight of a

crucifix,

because the
.

Son of God hung

as a sacrifice thereon.

Even the poor species of fops and beaux have a right to be placed among enthusiasts, though capable of no other flame than that

156

WILLIAM LAW
is

which

kindled by tailors and peruke-makers.
is

Enthusiasm
it

not blam cable in religion
it.

when

is

true religion that kindles

... Every

man, as such, has an open gate to God in his soul he is always in that temple, where
;

he can worship

God

in

spirit

and

in

truth.

Every
the

Christian, as such, has the firstfruits of

Spirit,

a

seed of

life,

which
in

is

his call

and

qualification to be always

a state of
intercourse

inward

prayer,

faith,

and

holy

with God.

All the ordinances of the Gospel,

the daily sacramental service of the Church,
is

to

this
faith

keep up and exercise and strengthen faith to raise us to such an habitual
;

and

dependence upon

the

light

and

Holy

Spirit of

God, that by thus seeking and
Church,

finding

God

in the institutions of the

we may be
Him,
This
Spirit in
is

habituated to seek

Him

and

find

to live in
all

His

light,

and walk by His
life.

the actions of our ordinary

the enthusiasm in which every good
die."

Christian ought to endeavour to live and

Canon
passage,

Overton,
"

in
it

commenting on
possible that this

this

asks,

Is

man
"

could have lived in the eighteenth century

?

ISOLATION OF

LAW

AS A THINKER

157

The high
for

sacramental doctrine, the contempt
critics,

grammarians and

the

unabashed

defence of enthusiasm, seem to belong to any

age rather than the generation of Warburton, Hoadly, Sherlock, and Butler. The isolation
of

Law

as a thinker both explains the partial

neglect in which he lived, and increases our

admiration for his originality and courage.

The two most charming

of

Law s

mystical

works are The Spirit of Prayer and The Spirit of Love, published between 1749 and
1752.

The

former,

however,
anti
-

is

somewhat

marred by the extreme which was part of Law s

intellectualism
It

later philosophy.

was a reaction against the rationalism of the Deists and their opponents, who combated

Deism with

its

own weapons.

One

of the

interlocutors in the dialogue (for

The Spirit

of Prayer
calls

is

cast in this form),

whom Law
to

Academicus,

describes

how when he

began
learn
that
I

to study divinity,

some advised him
;

Hebrew, others Greek others told him Church history is the main matter; "that
begin
with
the
lives

must

of

the

first

Fathers, not forgetting the lives of the

Roman

158
"

WILLIAM LAW
Another,

emperors."

who

is

wholly bent on
that
I

rational Christianity, tells

me

need go

no

higher
is

than

the
;

Reformation.

...

My

very liturgical he has some suspicion that our Sacrament of the Lord s Supper is
tutor
essentially defective, for
in the wine.
.
.

want of a
last friend

little
I

water

.

The

consulted

advised

me

to get all the histories of the rise

and progress of
in

heresies,

and

to

be well versed

the casuists and schoolmen.

This know
to

ledge,

he
to

said,

might be useful
"

me when

I

came

be a parish priest." Academicus, when he has found the true way of Divine
knowledge,"

regards
I

all

these investigations
return, at the close of

as lost labour.
this Lecture, to

must

Law s

hostile attitude

towards

human
is

reason.
in

The Spirit of Love, which

my

opinion
the

Law s

masterpiece,

deals

with

two

objections, that
for practical

Love

is

too ethereal a principle

and that the Bible represents God as a jealous and even a wrathful Being.
life,

He
in

begins by saying that God, as considered
Himself,
"

is

"only

an eternal Will

to

all

goodness."

As

certainly as

He

is

the Creator,

THE
so certainly
thing,
ness,
is

SPIRIT OF

LOVE

159

He

the Blesser, of every created

and can give nothing but blessing, good and happiness from Himself, because He

has in Himself nothing else to give." This is the ground and original of the spirit of love
in
all
is,

the creature

it

is

and must be a Will
wherever

to
it

goodness.
is
is

The

spirit of love,

its

own

blessing and happiness, because

it
4

the truth and reality of
sir,"

God
this

in the soul.

Oh,

he exclaims,
all

"would
it

you know the

blessing of

blessings,

is

God

of love

dwelling in your soul, and killing every root of bitterness, which is the pain and torment
of every earthly, selfish love.
satisfied,
all

For

all

wants are

disorders of nature are removed,

no

any longer a burden, every day is aday of peace, everything you meet becomes a help to you, because everything you see or
life
is

do

is

all

done

in the sweet, gentle

element of

love.

The
is

spirit

of love

does not want to
;

be rewarded, honoured, or esteemed
desire
to propagate
itself,

its

only

and become the
everything
that

blessing

and
It

happiness

of

wants

it."

meets

evil

as the light meets
it.

the darkness, only to overcome

160

WILLIAM LAW

Christ can never be in any creature, except as the spirit of love. Whenever, therefore,

we

willingly indulge wrath or hatred,
resisting

we

are

actively

Christ

;

we do what
"We
us."

the

Jews have

did, this

when they

said,

will

not

man

to reign over

All evil
will

and misery are the being turned from God

result of
;

man s

for

whatever

wills

this
fallen

and works with God must partake of We are all happiness and perfection.
creatures,

who

crave

and
to

strive
spirit

for

purification,

and restoration
an

the

of

love.

Then
theories

follows

exposition

of

Bohme s

body and soul, the most interesting part of which is the conclusion that "body and spirit are not two separate,
about

independent things, but are necessary to each other, and are only the inward and outward
conditions

of
like

one
this

and

the

same
the

being."

Passages
burton

explain

charge

of

"Spinozism"

brought against an accusation which

Law by WarLaw repudiated
"

with unusual heat, holding that Spinozism is nothing else but a gross confounding of

LAW AND SPINOZA

l6l

Spinozism is, of course, a great deal more than this but Law does not seem to have really studied Spinoza.
nature."
;

God and

The
life

rationalism
"

of
"

the

Deists

is

next

attacked.

Reason
soul

can no more alter the
the
to
life

of

the

than

of the

body.

He
"

only

who can say
"

the

dead body of
soul,

Lazarus,

Come
clean."

Be thou

can say to the forth," Logic cannot make a

man

a moral philosopher.

eyes to

must not put our do the work of our hands and feet.
of love
is

We

The

spirit

a

spirit

of nature and

life, not a creation or discovery of the intellect. It is as surely real as health and strength, it

is

a form or state of

life.

In this paragraph

Law approaches what is now called prag matism. As against the shallow rationalism
and common-sense philosophy of the Deists,
he
is

right,

but our distrust of reasons should

not prejudice us against reason, with which
religion has

no quarrel.
is

The
God.

doctrine of the Cross
self,
is

the necessity
to
life

of dying to

as the only

way

in

"This

the one morality that does

man any

good.

There are only two possible

1

62

WILLIAM LAW
of
is

states

life

:

the one

is

nature,

and the

other

God

manifested

in nature.

We

must

choose one or the other.
still

We
life

cannot stand

without deciding, for

is

always bringing forth its Here speaks the author way soever it goeth.
the

goes on, and realities, which

of

Serious
it

Call]
is

after

much

fantastic

Behmenism,

a relief to catch the tone

of the stern English moralist once more.

The
Love
is

"Second

Part"

of

The

Spirit

in

the form

of a dialogue

of between

All Theogenes, Eusebius, and Theophilus. nature, says Theophilus, is what it is, for
this

only end, that the hidden riches of the

unsearchable

and by it. towards His creatures
tion of
to

God may become manifest in God s unchangeable disposition
is

only the communica

His own

love, goodness,

and happiness

He according to their capacities. can no more become angry with His creatures,
them,

God than be angry with them at first. is not the beginning of a new temper
a
all

s
;

pity
it

is

new

manifestation
;

of

His eternal

will

to

but to suppose that God feels goodness wrath and fury, because the poor creature

WRATH AND
has

PITY
itself,

163

brought

misery upon

and absurd.

Wrath
;

is
is

disordered state

it

is impious a corrupt and always so in man, and could

not be otherwise in God.

can no more be in

Wrath, therefore, God Himself than hell
creature

can

be

heaven.

The

experiences

wrath and misery by losing the living presence of the Spirit of God for no intelligent creature
;

can be good and happy but by partaking of a The natural life is a life of twofold life.
appetites, hungers, and wants, and cannot be anything else it can go no higher than a bare capacity for goodness, and cannot be a good and happy life, but by the life of

various

;

God

dwelling

in,

and

in

union with

it.

Hence

the necessity for the Incarnation.
of the Divine and

human

life,

to

The union make man
is

again a partaker of the Divine nature,

the

All salvation only possible salvation for man. is, and can be nothing else, but the manifesta
tion

of

the

life

of

God
by

in

the

soul.

All

particular

dispensations,

whether by the law
the
Scriptures,

or

the

prophets,

or

ordinances of the Church, are only helps to

a holiness which they cannot give.

Perpetual

1

64

WILLIAM LAW

inspiration,

by the immediate indwelling, union,
in the life of the

and operation of the Deity
creature,
is

not fanaticism, or enthusiasm, but
life

a thing as necessary to a
to animal

of goodness as
is

the perpetual respiration of the air
life.

necessary
to confine

What

a mistake

it is

inspiration to particular times
to

and occasions,

prophets and

apostles

and extraordinary

messengers of God! We are not all called to be apostles or prophets, but all are called
to

be holy, as
holiness

He who
of

has called us
Christian
is

is

holy.

The
it

the
nor,

not

an

occasional thing,

ever his

on the other hand, is own work he must therefore be
;

continually inspired.

Law
doctrine

then makes his
of the
"If

own

the old mystical

the soul.
like

spark of heaven hidden in Christ was to raise a new life

every man, then every man must have had originally in the inmost spirit
in
life,

His own

of his

a seed of Christ, or Christ as a

seed of heaven, lying there as in a state of insensibility or death, out of which it could
not arise,
Christ.

but by

the

mediatorial
this

power of

Unless there was

seed of Christ,

THE INNER LIGHT
no

165

beginning of Christ s mediatorial office could be made. For what could begin to

deny

self,

if

there

was not

different

from self?

man something Unless all the command
in

ments had been

really

in

the

soul,

in

vain

had the

tables of stone been given to

man.
as
its
life,

And

unless

Christ

lay

in

the

soul,

unknown, hidden

treasure,

as a seed of

a power of salvation, in vain had the holy
Jesus lived and died for man.

The redeeming
smothered spark
of death, the
into a

work of Christ

is

to raise the
its

of heaven out of

state

powerful governing

life

of

whole man.
need no

And
other

you,

says

Law s
but
self.

Theophilus,

deliverance,

from
It
is

the

power

of

your
that

own

earthly

your

own Cain
Daily and

murders

your

own

Abel.
is

hourly see to

the spirit that

within you,

whether
you.

it

is

heaven or earth that guides

Do
their

not cross the seas to find a

new
is

Luther or a new Calvin, to clothe yourself
with
opinions.

No, the oracle

at

to you.

home, that always and only speaks the truth Salvation or damnation is no outward
is

thing, that

brought into you from without,

1

66
is

WILLIAM LAW
only
that

but

which

springs

up within

you, as the birth and state of your

own

life.

What you
yourself,
is

are in yourself, what
all

is

doing

in

that can be either your salva
"

tion or damnation.
consists,

Your

salvation precisely
faith,

not in

any

historic

or

know

ledge of anything absent or distant from you, not in any variety of restraints, rules, and

methods
formality

of

practising

virtues,
faith

not

of opinion

about

any and works,
in

in

repentance, forgiveness of sins, or justification

and
the

sanctification,
life

but

wholly and solely

of God, or Christ of God, quickened,

and born again in you." The atonement of the Divine wrath, and the extinguishing of sin, are but two names
for the

same

thing.

The atonement made no

change in the mind of God, but overcame and removed all the death and hell and
wrath and darkness, which had opened
in
itself

the nature,

birth,

and

life

of fallen man.

Transactional theories of the atonement,
argues, are not really scriptural.

Law
the
is

When
it

Bible

says

that

righteousness,

or justice,

satisfied

by the atonement of

Christ,

means

THE ATONEMENT NOT SUPERNATURAL
that
strict

167
its

righteousness or

justice
it

has

absolute
relax.

demands on man, which
Christ

cannot
of

takes

away

the

sins

the

world by restoring to man his lost righteous He gave Himself for the Church, that ness.

He

might

sanctify

and

cleanse

it.

Man s
his

original

righteousness

has

become

tor
is

mentor,

and

must

restored to him.
for

plague him until it God s chastisements are

all

our good.

"If

the holy Jesus had been

wanting
true
"

in severity,

He

had been wanting
is supernatural,"

in

love."

There
"in

is

nothing that

says

Law,

the whole system of our redemption.

Every part of it has its ground in the workings and powers of nature, and all our redemption
is

only nature set right, or
it

made
is

to

be that

which
is

ought to
is

be.

There

nothing that
;

supernatural,

but

God

alone

everything

beside

Him
is

subject to the state of nature.

nothing supernatural in the mystery of our redemption, but the supernatural love

There

and wisdom which brought
Christian religion
is

it

forth."

"The

the only true religion of
in
it

nature;

it

has

nothing

supernatural."

1

68

WILLIAM LAW
to

"

Nothing can be done
or
to,
is

any creature superthat
is

naturally,

in

a

way

without,

or

contrary
religion
it

the

not to

"A powers of nature." be deemed natural, because

has nothing
it
it

to

do with revelation

;

but

then

is

the

one true religion of nature,
it

has everything in state stands in need
of."

when

that our natural

I

will

conclude

my

extracts

from

The

Spirit of Love with these words, omitting an interesting discussion upon the source of sin

and misery,

in

the

last

dialogue.

It

will

not be necessary to
writings

comment upon
last

the few

which

belong to the
last

years

of

Law s
a

life.

His

written
his

words,

indited

few

days
of
his

before

death,
"

contain
that

the

kernel
was,

theology.

All the

Christ

did,

suffered,

dying

in

flesh,

and
end
:

ascending into heaven, was for
to purchase for all

this sole

His followers a new

birth,

new life, and new light, in and by the Spirit of God restored to them, and living in them, as their support, comforter, and guide into all
was His, Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world,"
truth.

And

this

LAW AND THE CAMBRIDGE PLATONISTS
William
Christian

169

Law expounds
Mysticism
in

the

principles

of

a

peculiarly

sound
it

and

attractive form.
to

The

only defects, as
writings
are

seems

me,

in

his

later

his

adoption of
of

some of the more
his

fantastic theories

Bohme, and

extreme anti-intellectualism.

ignores Plato and the Platonists, though he has very much in common with them. It
is

He

remarkable that an
so
little

Emmanuel man
with
his

should

show

sympathy

Cambridge
that

Platonism, of
the nursery.
in

which

own College was

One would have supposed
of

John Smith, Benjamin Whichcote, Henry More, and Cudworth, Law would have found a great deal to admire
writings

the

and very little to disapprove. It Law was a High Churchman, Cambridge group were already
u
"

is

true that

while

the

nicknamed
an

Latitudinarians
this

and

"rational

theologians."

But

should not have been

fatal
spirits.

to

understanding between kindred
truth

The
well
;

seems

to

be,

that

Law was
in

acquainted with

More alone
admired
his

and

though regarded him as an adversary of the

he

group character, he
"

this

inner

I/O

WILLIAM LAW

light,"

and

his

books as

"a

jumble of learned
certainly
are.

rant,"

which

some
he

of

them

In

John

Smith
in

might

have

found
to

a
his

rationalism

no

way

antagonistic

philosophy more complete and not less devout than his own, based not on the dreams of an illuminated
a religious
cobbler,
Plotinus,

own mysticism

but on

thoughts of Plato and Christianised by a saint who was
the

also

a scholar.

A

very few sentences from

the discourses of this gifted
will

show how much
"

affinity

young theologian there was between
are,

him and Law.
such
will

Such

as

men themselves
to
it
"

God Himself seem
must seek
sanctified
;

be."

He
that

that will find truth,

with a free

judgment and a
and
of
that
shall

mind.
live

He
shall

thus seeks shall find
live

he

shall

in truth,

in

him.

He

drink

the

waters

of

his

own

cistern,

and

be

satisfied.

He
himself

shall
in

find

satisfaction

within,
truth,

feeling

conjunction

with

though
him."

all
"

the world

should

dispute
of
all

against
fly

When men
still

most

from
is

God, they
not
better

seek after
to

Him."

"God

defined

us

by

our

under-

JOHN SMITH
standings,
"

S

SELECT DISCOURSES

171

than by our wills and affections." Divinity is a Divine life rather than a Divine science the fear of the Lord is the
wisdom."

beginning of
Christian
"is

The
else
soul."

true

life

of the
infant
is

nothing
in

but
"

an

Christ

formed
thing

his

Heaven

us, nor is happiness from a true conjunction of anything the mind with God." "God does not bid us

not

a

without

distinct

be warmed
necessities

and
which
"

filled,

deny us those our starving and hungry
doubt sometimes that we

and

souls call

for."

I

make

the unspotted righteousness of Christ a

covering wherein to wrap our foul deformities, and when we have done, think that we are

become Heaven
our
in
own."

s darlings as

much

as

we

are

Most of these maxims are
with
to

quite
;

accordance
is

Smith
the

superior

Law s Law

sentiments
in

but

his

claim that

"Reason"

must not be scouted as the

source of a frigid Deism, but given its rightful Smith place in the hierarchy of our faculties.
is

far too

much

of a mystic to be a rationalist too

;

but he

is

also far

good a
is

Platonist

to

think that mental cultivation

no help towards

172

WILLIAM LAW

right belief

and

right living.

These two noble
all

thinkers should both be read by
to

who wish

know

the best that Anglican theology has
It

produced.
either of our

has not

been the interest of

them

;

two militant parties to republish but they are far more worthy to live
have
been
study

than certain other books which

disinterred in the cause of faction.

A
not

of

the

Serious
s

Call,

The

Spirit

of Love,

or Smith
the

Select

Discourses,

may
or
to

make
better

reader

a

better

Catholic
fail

a

Protestant, but they cannot

make him

a better Christian and a better man.

LECTURE V
THE MYSTICISM OF WORDSWORTH
IN using a poet as a religious teacher, we must remember that the object of poetry is beauty, not truth or edification, and that to forget this
leads to bad criticism.

As William Watson

says

:

"

Forget not, brother singer, that though Prose Can never be too truthful, nor too wise,

Song

is

Upon Truth s
Still,

not Truth nor Wisdom, but the rose lips, the light in Wisdom s eyes."

our generation has chosen to go to the poets for moral teaching, even more than to its and I do not professional instructors
;

know

that

it

is
is

mistaken.
true of

What Horace
:

says of
"

Homer

most great poets

Quid sit pulcrum, quid turpe, quid utile, quid non, Rectius et melius Chrysippo et Crantore dicit."
besides, less violence
is

And,

done

to a poet

174
in

THE MYSTICISM OF WORDSWORTH

seeking in him for a mystical interpretation of life, than for a scheme of morality. For
if
it

is

the essence
in

of mysticism to believe

that

everything,

being

what

it

is,

is

symbolic of something higher and deeper than itself, mysticism is, on one side, the
poetry of
life.

For poetry
;

also

consists

in

finding resemblances
is,

to

be good at metaphors

as Aristotle says, the most important part

Poetry also universalises the particulars with which it deals it treats the particular thing as a microcosm, an image
;

of poetic diction.

in

little

of

"what

God and man
"is

is."

From
poetry,"

the matter-of-fact point of view,
like
all

"all

mysticism,

misrepresentation"

a

dictum of Jeremy Bentham.

So Shakespeare
about
is.

makes
poetry.
Is
it

Audrey
"I

talk

to

Touchstone

do not know what
in

poetical
?

honest
"

deed and word

Is
;

it

a

true thing true thing

?

;

we may answer it is a but poetry has its own canons of
Yes,

truthfulness,

which are not those of science,
matter-of-fact

nor of

the

world.

It

is

not

the primary object of the poet to give us information, nor to preach to us.

THE POET AS TEACHER

175

But though we have had quite enough essays
on
this *and that
is

poet

"as

a religious

teacher,"

no apology
in

needed

for treating

Wordsworth
in

this

way.
"

He
I

wished to be treated

this

way.
a

wish either to be considered

as

teacher,"

he

said,

"or

as

nothing."

Moreover, his worth as a moralist has been
proved.

We
is

take him

down from
in trouble

the shelf

sometimes when we are

a compli

ment which
classics.

paid to very few of the great
is

Why

this?

Because Wordsworth
life,

has a definite philosophy of

and an
a

ethical

system which
principle

is

capable

of

being made a
is

of

conduct.
If

He
take

practical

counsellor.

we

will

him

as

our
at his

guide,
least

show us a path which he the end, and reached followed
he
will

to

goal.

It

may

not suit everybody, but
suit

it

has

been proved to

some
has

people.
religion,"

The phrase
religion

"natural

or
to

"the

of

nature,"

been used
of

cover
belief.
all

many phases The recognition of a divine
phenomena was a very
But
in its earlier

different

religious

revelation in

early form of religion.
it

forms

offered an extremely

1/6

THE MYSTICISM OF WORDSWORTH

crude and summary solution of the problem of evil by denying its existence. In primitive
Oriental

pantheism
"as

all

is

equally
in

divine.

God

is

full,

as

perfect,

a

hair

as

Pope puts it. Wordsworth rises above
heart,"

as

We
in

shall

see that

this superficial view.

He
the

has also hardly anything
"

common

with

natural"

evidential

Paley

is

the best

apologetics

known on which we may
Bacon
s

theology of which exponent, a type of
surely
"it

pass

sentence in

words, that

suffices

to confute atheism, but not to inform

religion."

The weakness
police-court
its
is

of

this

school,

besides

its
is

method of weighing evidences,
anthropocentric bias
centre
;

extreme

made

the

humanity round which the whole
to be true.

universe revolves

which seems not

Nor can we

find

Wordsworth

s

true

pre

cursors in the Platonists,

beauty, including that

who regarded natural of the human form, as

the chief hierophant of the heavenly mysteries. Plato represents
perishable,

and
and

beauty not as earthly, sensuous, but as heavenly,
true
spiritual.
it

immortal,

Dwelling

in

the

nature of God,

imparts grace

by emana-

WORDSWORTH AND PLATONISM
tions
is
is

I//
all

and

gleams
in

of

loveliness

to
;

that
it

beautiful

this

lower
this

world

and

by communion with

spiritual

essence

revealing itself in forms of earthly beauty to

pure and loving hearts and chaste imaginations, that the mind of man is cleansed and sanctified

and

spiritualised,
"

and has visions of God and
ideas."

the eternal
"

world of

The

perfection of

beauty,"

says Winckel"exists

mann, a devout
in

disciple of Plato,

only
in

God, and human

beauty

is

elevated

proportion as it approaches the idea of God. This idea of beauty is a spiritual quintessence
extracted from created substances, as
it

were,

by an alchemy of
the

fire

;

and

is

produced by
to

imagination
is

endeavouring
This

conceive

what
the
as

human
of

as existing as a prototype in
is

mind
first

God."

pure Platonism,

expounded by Plato in the Pkaedrus.
it

We
in

find

again in some of our great poets

:

my

Spenser, for example, whom I quoted in first Lecture as a nature-mystic of the

Platonic school.

In Shelley the
greater

same note

is

struck, but with

impatience for the transit from

the

THE MYSTICISM OF WORDSWORTH

many

to

the

One, from the visible

to

the

invisible beauty.

We

do not catch the true Wordsworthian
It is

tone in Plato or his numerous disciples.

not the beauty of nature which Wordsworth
finds

most

elevating.

Not

the

sense
life

of

beauty,

but of eternal and ubiquitous
universe

of

an

animated
this

throughout,

and
is

obeying
in

one

law

thought,
is

which

rather Stoical than Platonic,

Wordsworth.
moral

It will

most prominent be one of the chief

subjects of this Lecture to examine what are

the

and
this

religious

conclusions

which
con

follow from

way

of regarding and

templating the natural world. The line of thought which must
us
is

now occupy
is

obviously

very
is,

near

what

called

pantheism.

There

however,

this

great

difference, that in pantheistic mysticism
is

God

really

everything

;

while

in

ordinary

pantheism everything is from Rothe, who
"

is

God.

This sentence
quite
truly

adds

that

pantheism of the Middle Ages was a movement of moral contemplation in opposi
the
tion to the purely religious
:

we

find in

it

a

PANTHEISM AND DIVINE IMMANENCE

179

dawning consciousness of the
nature of ordinary created
was,
in
fact,

really

Divine

existence."

There
had

at

the

Renaissance,

a revival

of the

doctrine

of pan-psychism, which
It

slumbered since the Neoplatonists.
in

appears

Bruno, and

in

Campanella, from

whom
:

I

quote a stanza in
"

Symonds

translation

Deem you
Scorned
Fool
!

that only

While heaven and
in

you have thought and sense, all its wonders, sun, and earth,

your dullness, lack intelligence ?

what produced you ? These things gave you birth So have they mind and God."

During

the

ascendency

of

the

mechanical

philosophy this doctrine passed under a cloud, from which it has now emerged. need not call it pantheism, for a useful distinction

We

has been expressed by the word "panentheism," or universal Divine immanence, in contrast
with pantheism, with
while
or
identity

of
is,

the

universe

God.
it

True pantheism
is
is

or must be
;

consistent,

non-ethical
or

for

if

equally everything as its nature permits

Divine,
it

as

Divine

to be,
is

there can be

no

distinction

to be.

and what ought Non-ethical pantheism tends on the
between what

180

THE MYSTICISM OF WORDSWORTH
to

whole

be

pessimistic,

not

because

an

unbiassed outlook on the world really leads
to pessimism, but because
it

is

an imperfect
and, as such,

and partly
fails

false

view of

reality,

to satisfy the

wants of the human heart.
such
as

It

only a few buoyant natures, Emerson, who have found the
is

thought

stimulating.
"

We

may compare
ill

his
;

They reckon
I

who leave me out When me they fly, I am the wings am the doubter and the doubt, And I the hymn the Brahmin

;

sings,"

with
"

Ne

suis-je pas

un faux accord
symphonic,

Dans

la divine la

Grace a

vorace harmonic
et qui

Qui me secoue
"

me mord ?
!

Elle est

dans
tout

C est Ou
"

ma voix, la criarde mon sang, ce poison
se regarde
!

noir

!

Je suis le sinistre miroir
la

megere

Je suis

la plaie et le

couteau

!

Je suis

le soufflet et la les

joue
"

!

Je suis

membres
le

et la roue,
l
!

Et

la

victime et

bourreau

This

kind

of

pantheism
those

has

found

many

adherents
1

among

who

think that the
p. 447.

Quoted by Bradley, Appearance and Reality,

SHELLEY S PANTHEISM
trend
of natural
It

181

science

is

towards a rigid
colour.

determinism.

may
our

take a theistic
this

The
God,

irresistible
all

Power which, on
actions,

theory,

determines
as

by the
is

Stoics,

called may and may be the

be

object of worship.

This kind of pantheistic

determinism

represented,

among our

poets,

by
says

Shelley,
"

not
live

:

We

Shelley by and move and think but
;

Wordsworth.

we

are

not the

creators

of our

own

origin

and existence.

We

are

not the arbiters of
;

every motion of our complicated nature we are not the masters of our own imagination There is a and moods of mental being.

Power by which we are surrounded, like the atmosphere in which some motionless lyre
is

suspended, which visits with

its

breath our
imperial

silent

chords at
are

will.

Our

most

qualities

the

passive

slaves

of

some

That higher and more omnipotent Power. Power is God and those who have seen
;

God
more
their

have,

in

the period
nature,

of their purer and

perfect

been

harmonised

by

own

will to so exquisite

a consentaneity
melody,

of power as

to

give

forth

divinest

1

82

THE MYSTICISM OF WORDSWORTH
the

when

breath of universal
frame."

Being sweeps

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, in an early poem, expresses the same view, and uses the same metaphor, in verse
over their
:
"

And what

if all

of animated nature
diversely framed,

Be but organic harps

That tremble into thought as o er them sweeps, Plastic and vast, one intellectual breeze At once the soul of each, and God of all ?
"

Wordsworth, as we
but in spiritual law
it
;

shall see, believes in law,

and
does
the

spiritual law,

though
but

acts

uniformly,
includes,

not
ideas

exclude,

expressly
purpose.
I

of

will

and

have said that the poet and the mystic

seek to pass from the particular to the universal in much the same manner. Tennyson, in a
familiar
if

and often quoted

stanza,

says that

could understand a tiny flower, peeping out of a cranny in a wall, we should know

we

what God and man
the aspiration
"

is.

So Blake speaks

of

:

To see And
Hold

a world in a grain of sand,

a heaven in a wild flower, infinity in the palm of your hand
eternity in

And

an

hour."

NATURE S LESSON

S

183

Wordsworth himself quotes, with fond approba tion, some beautiful lines of Wither, which are
nearer to his

own mind

than those just cited

from Blake
"

:

By the murmur of a spring, Or the least bough s rustelling By a daisy, whose leaves spread Shut when Titan goes to bed
; ;

11

Or a shady bush or tree She could more infuse in me Than all Nature s beauties can In some other wiser man."

"She,"

it

must be explained,
are the

is

Wither s muse,
which
these

not his mistress.

But

what

lessons

ambitious lines refer to as capable of being drawn from the smallest natural object or the

most transitory of nature s effects ? We can only answer that men have found them almost
Perhaps the earliest feelings inspired by nature were those of awe and fear, as of some mysterious and probably malevolent
infinitely diverse.

power.
of

Others have drawn only the lesson
impotence

man s

and

nature

s

ruthless

destructiveness.
fleet,

Lucretius describes a
in
all

Roman
pomp

sailing from harbour

the

1

84

THE MYSTICISM OF WORDSWORTH

and splendour of war, bearing on board mighty and then how a storm arises, and legions
;

how
all

the general prays for help: "in vain, for none the less are carried down into the
death."

waters of
"

Nequiquam, quoniam violento turbine saepe Correptus nilo fertur minus ad vada
leti."

At

other times

in

human

history a sort

of

passionate sympathy with the seasons with the destroying and renewing forces of nature

has determined the character of a religion. All those are far from Wordsworth s mind.

Nor does

his teaching consist of a

mere stock

It has taking of nature s picturesque effects. been said with much truth that there is no

scenery in Wordsworth.
scenery, and

His stage
only actors.

is

bare of

contains

We

had

had

picturesque
in

description

before

Words

worth,

perhaps, as
Sir

James Thomson s Seasons, and Wordsworth himself thought, in
Scott,

Walter

who observed
in his hand.
criticising
in

nature with
"

pencil

and notebook

Nature,"

said

Wordsworth,

this

method,
be made

"does

not permit an inventory
charms."

to

of

her

The

attitude

of

Words-

WORDSWORTH S ATTITUDE TOWARDS NATURE

185

worth towards nature was neither a quest of picturesque effects, nor mere admiring admira
tion,

nor a wish to find a background to the

expression of

human

love and sorrow.

All

these ways of approaching

nature had been
s inspiration

trodden before him.

Wordsworth
;

was something more original something which came direct to him a revelation of the unseen
;

through

natural

objects,

whereby
into
is

he

was
of

granted the power to
things."

"see

the
life,

life

(Observe that

it

the

not the

beauty of things, which becomes plain to him.)

His poetry
literature

is,

I

think,

the best

example

in

of a

revelation through impersonal

external nature.

Love,

in the
s

sense which the

word bears
little

in

Browning
one
fact

poetry, contributed

or nothing to his religious insight.
is

But there
inspiration

about Wordsworth

s

which cannot be emphasised too
It

strongly.

came

to him, in the sense that
it
;

he did not borrow

but

it

did not

come

It was prepared for and earned unsought. by a severe course of moral training. Let

those

who

think that nature will

yield

her
rest,

secrets to the holiday-maker
2

who

seeks

A

1

86

THE MYSTICISM OF WORDSWORTH
honest
labour but from
society,

not from
idleness of

the busy

London
with

ponder these words
"

of Novalis, another mystic,
in

common

who has something Wordsworth. Let him who
knowledge of nature train let him act and conceive in
;

would arrive
his

at the
;

moral sense

accordance with the noble essence of his soul

and as
to him.

if

of herself nature will

Moral action

is

that

become open great and only

experiment in which all riddles, of the most manifold appearances, explain themselves."

Wordsworth acted throughout on this No poet was ever less of a dreamer.

principle.

Volition

and self-government are everywhere apparent in his life. He was almost penurious in
husbanding
repressed
all

his

emotions.

He

shunned and
this,

wasteful excitement, and

as

has been truly said, was one of his most remarkable distinctions among poets, who in
spiritual things are often prodigals
thrifts.

and spend
is

The

contrast with Shelley
s

complete.

Wordsworth

own

here very account of the

self-culture, or rather self-discipline,

which he

considered necessary for the development of
character,
is

most

characteristic

and valuable.

SELF DISCIPLINE

l8/

After speaking of the sympathetic melancholy

which

is

roused
fitful

in

a

boy

s

mind

as

he

watches the

dying glow of a candle-wick whose flame he has extinguished, he goes on
"

:

accompany the same boy to the period between youth and manhood, when a solicitude may be awakened to the moral life
Let
us
of himself.

he could

call

Are there any powers by which to mind the same image, and
with

hang over

it

an

equal

interest
?

as

a

visible type of his

Oh, surely, if the being of the individual be under if if it be his first care his own care duty
perishing spirit
;

own

;

begin from the point of accountableness to our conscience, and, through that, to God and

human
of duty,

nature
all

;

if,

without such primary sense

secondary care of teacher, of friend
;

or parent, must be baseless and fruitless
lastly,

if,

the

motions of the soul transcend

in

worth those of the animal functions, nay, give
to

them

their sole value
;

then truly there are

such powers taper may be recalled
in

and the image of the dying
.
.

.

with a melancholy
into

the soul, a sinking
to thought,

inward

ourselves

from thought

a steady remonstrance,

1

88

THE MYSTICISM OF WORDSWORTH
resolve.

and a high
to solitude.
will

Let, then, the youth

go

back, as occasion will permit, to nature and

...

A

world of fresh sensations
as,

gradually open upon him,
restlessly

instead of
in
it

being propelled
admiration,
his

towards others

or

too

hasty love,
to

he makes
himself."

prime business

understand

If

any of
I

hearers have been doubting whether ought to have claimed Wordsworth as a

my

mystic,

this

description

of

his

own mental
I

methods may perhaps convince them that was right.

Wordsworth was no dreamer, but an ascetic His life was one of of an unfamiliar type.
tense

mental

discipline,

involving

continual

not only by imposing self-chosen limitations in many directions, but in forgoing a little voluntarily the recognition which
self-denial,

concession

to

popular

taste
his

would
old
age.
:

have

secured

for

him before

He
what

knew

that he should not be understood
"

else could happen

when

I

think of the pure,

which worldlings of every rank and situation must be enveloped, with respect to the thoughts, feelings, and
absolute, honest ignorance in

WORLDLINESS A DISQUALIFICATION
images

189

on

which

the

life

of
I

my poems

have taken, depends. things whether from within or without, what have
that

The

they to do with routs, dinners, morning calls ? What have they to do with endless talking

about things that nobody cares anything

for,

except as far as their own vanity is concerned, and with persons they care nothing for, but
as their vanity or selfishness are concerned
?

What have
with a
life

they to do (to say all at once) It is an awful truth without lovel
is

that there neither

enjoyment

of poetry

nor can be any genuine among nineteen out of

twenty of these persons who live, or wish to live, in the broad light of the world among
those

who

either are, or are striving to

make

themselves, people of consideration in society. This is a truth and an awful one, because to

be incapable of a feeling of poetry, in my sense of the word, is to be without love of

human
are not

nature and reverence for

God."

There

many

instances on record of such a

calm and confident setting aside of the world s standards, such an unshrinking conviction,
displayed

not in word only but in practice,

190
that a

THE MYSTICISM OF WORDSWORTH

man s

life

consisteth not in the super

abundance of the things that he possesseth, and that it is very small thing" to be
"a

judged by man

s

judgment.
life

In order to live the

that he

had chosen

under the most favourable conditions, Words worth chose a home in that lovely district which has ever since been associated with
name.
that
"

his

Of
there

that district
is

has been truly said no corner without a meaning
it

and a charm.
for loveliness,
It
is,

All

agencies have
itself

conspired
benign."

and ruin

has been

moreover, a
favourable
to

district

which has proved
character.

itself

human

The

Cumbrian peasants are not
inhabitants

isolated from each

other by almost impassable barriers, like the
of

some Swiss
of

"

valleys.

They

have given an example of substantial comfort
strenuously

won

;

home
;

affections intensified

by independent strength of isolation without of an ignorance, and of a shrewd simplicity virtue which needs no hereditary support from
;

fanaticism,
1
law."

and

to

which honour

is

more than

1

Myers, Wordsworth.

SPIRITUAL VALUE OF MOUNTAIN SCENERY
It is

191

a real spiritual privilege to

live in

such

people have echoed the will lift up mine words of the Psalmist a
country.

Many

:

"I

eyes

unto
help."

the

hills,

from

whence

cometh

my

As
are

repentance,

forgiveness,

and by

purification

brought
the

home

to

us

watching

the

sea

great

waters
task"

never
so the

resting from their

1

"priest-like

larger

life

of

enlightenment,

aspiration,

and

worship becomes ours for a time, when we stand upon a mountain-top, and cast our eyes around and below us. Our Lord Himself

was evidently

affected
:

He
out.
2

loved mountains
if

by mountain scenery. the Gospels would be

much poorer
work
has

the mountain scenes were cut
saintly

And many
been

characters,

whose

assigned

them among the

busy haunts of men, have found their best
refreshment, for soul as well as body,
the Alps or other mountainous districts.

among They
a

have found,
desolation
1

in the

awful grandeur and sublime

of

snow - peak

and

precipice,

Compare,

too, Euripides line GdXcurcra K\v^ei travra ravdpuTruv
is

KO.KO..

2

This thought

drawn out by W. M. Ramsay, The Education

of Christ.

IQ2

THE MYSTICISM OF WORDSWORTH

bracing tonic after the distracting and unrestThe English mountains ful life of the town.
are picturesque rather than grand
;

but
lost

Words
by the Three

worth maintained that nothing
small
size

is

of the
feet,

Cumberland

hills.

thought, is enough to produce the effect of magnificence. To live in a place has a different effect upon the mind

thousand

he

from that which
there.

is

produced by taking a holiday

case,

Long familiarity, in Wordsworth s only made his love more discriminating
his

and
price

admiration
to

more

fervent.

Still,

a

be paid for living alone with Nature for many hours every day. Words
has
s

worth

conception

of

exceedingly simple. a small number of unworldly friends, belonging to his own class, and a very good type of
peasant.

human character was His human material was

He

saw very

little

of the

deeper

and more complex struggles or tragedies of human life. And, for better or worse, his interest in humanity was very impersonal.
His dreamy little romance about the Highland whose traits, as he naively confesses, he girl,
afterwards
transferred
to

his

wife,

is

an

LIMITATIONS
illustration of this.

193

The

processes of his mind

are laid

bare in a

little

poem

of uncertain
life
:

date, published towards the end of his
"

Yes

!

thou

art fair, yet

be not moved

To

scorn the declaration
I in

That sometimes

thee have loved

My
"

fancy

s

own

creation.

Be

To
By

pleased that nature made thee feed my heart s devotion, laws to which all forms submit
air,

fit

In sky, earth,

and

ocean."

Taught too
feel

early,

as

he admits himself, to

the

self-sufficing
in

found

little

his

power of solitude, he manner of life to remedy

a certain hardness and rigidity of mind which were natural to him.
"There

was a hardness in his cheek, There was a hardness in his eye,
if

As

the

man had

fixed his face,

In

many

a solitary place,
sky."

Against the wind and open

There
that

is

some excuse

for

Hazlitt s

remark

"had

there been no other being in the

universe,

Mr Wordsworth s
is."

been just what it cuckoo sounds in his ear
z B

poetry would have "The note of the
like

the

voice

of

194

THE MYSTICISM OF WORDSWORTH
;

other years

the daisy spreads

its

leaves in

the rays of boyish delight that stream from
his thoughtful eyes
;

the rainbow

lifts its

arch in heaven but to
infancy to

mark

his progress
is

proud from

manhood

;

an old thorn

buried,

bowed down under the mass he has wound about it and
;

of associations
to

him, as he

himself beautifully says,
"

The meanest
that

Thoughts

do often

flower that blows can give lie too deep for tears."

This

somewhat
fails

malicious the

criticism

perhaps

mark because Dorothy only Wordsworth was by her brother s side when he wrote much of his best poetry. He owns
to
hit

his

debt to her in no stinted language, and

his obligation

seems to have been
was.

just

what

he says that
at

it

any

rate,

his

Within the family circle, affections were warm and

steadfast.

In this he differs from

many con
positively
to

templative mystics,
afraid

who have been
affection.
"

of

human

Desire

be

familiar only with
fly

God and
of
afraid
I

the angels, and

the acquaintance
"I

men,"

says
all

Thomas
where

a Kempis.

was

of

company,"

says George Fox,

"for

saw

perfectly

WORDSWORTH AND RUSKIN
they were, through the love of
let

195

God which
afraid

me

see

myself."

Wordsworth was
is

of passionate love, which

a wasteful emotion,

but he desired, a

little

too self-consciously, to

make

the most of quiet affection.
it

But enough
is

has been said to show that
revelation
find

not in the

of

human

character that

we

shall
It
is

Wordsworth s
than a

peculiar

message.

easier,
in

says a French proverb, to

know man
;

general

man

in

particular

and

Wordsworth seldom

particularised men.
left

But what a message he has
learn

us

!

In

the sphere of practical ethics our generation

might

from

him what

it

needs more

than anything else. It is the lesson which has been taught in the prose of Ruskin not less eloquently than in the poetry of Words
worth.
"

True-heartedness and graciousness,
trust

and undisturbed
the
sight

and requited
of
these,

love,

and
the

of

the

peace
;

others and

ministry of their pain

and the blue

sky above
flowers

you,

and

the

sweet waters and

of the

earth

beneath, and mysteries

and presences innumerable of
these

may

living beings be here untormentriches, yet your

196

THE MYSTICISM OF WORDSWORTH

ing and divine, serviceable for the life that now nor, it may be, without promise of that is,

need examples of people who, leaving heaven to decide whether

which

is

to

come."

"We

they are to
selves
that

rise in the world,

decide for them

have

they will be happy in it, and resolved to seek, not greater wealth

but simpler pleasure, not higher fortune but deeper felicity, making the first of possessions self-possession, and honouring themselves in
the

harmless

pride

and

calm

pursuits

of

peace."

This rational valuation of external

goods, which we call Greek because for very shame we cannot call it Christian while we
are Christians,
is

combined with a horror of
is

lawless

force

which

equally

Greek.

The

anti-Napoleonic sonnets supply many examples of this feeling. The insane wickedness of

such a career was palpably evident to one who had discovered that all the best gifts
of

God

are lavishly bestowed on
:

all

who

will

take them
"

The The

primal duties shine aloft like stars ; charities that soothe and heal and bless
at the feet of

Are scattered

men

like

flowers."

SPIRITUAL FRUGALITY
If

197

during

the

period

of

our

youth,

when

permanent associations are formed, we have been happy enough to delight in such things,
connecting them with the sublime and beautiful in nature, the sight of them afterwards will
recall
1 pure and noble sentiments.

This

is

Wordsworth
nature,

s
it

and

theory of the religious use of is confirmed by experience.
of
his

One
spiritual

other application
frugality

principle

of

must be mentioned.

Most

poets

have
;

indulged

moods

of

plaintive

melancholy
of things.

some have

railed at the injustice

Wordsworth teaches us how we
to

may
all

transmute and turn

account

nearly

our troubles.

The Happy Warrior
"

has

learned to

Which

is

our

human

Exercise a power nature s highest dower

;

Controls them and subdues, transmutes, bereaves

Of their bad
It is

influence,

and

their

good

receives."

a noble doctrine, and, once more,

it

works.

We

do take down our Wordsworth, sometimes, when the world goes hardly with us.

But we have not yet
1

justified our inclusion
vol.
ii.

L. Stephen,

Hours in a Library,

198

THE MYSTICISM OF WORDSWORTH

of

Wordsworth among the mystics. To do this, we must show that he derived from the

contemplation of natural objects a vision of the Divine behind phenomena, of the invisible
reality

which

is

hidden behind the world of
is

appearance.
that
this

There

no lack of evidence

experience

frequently.
"

Even

in

enjoyed by him early youth, he tells us

was

:

Other pleasures have been mine, and joys
;

Of subtler origin how I have felt, Not seldom even in that tempestuous
Which seem,
in their simplicity, to

time,
sense,

Those hallowed and pure motions of the

own

An
To

intellectual
if I

charm

;

that

Which,

err not, surely

calm delight must belong
fit

those first-born

affinities that

Our new

And

existence to existing things, in our dawn of being constitute

The bond
"

of union between

life

and

joy."

Those

"

first-born affinities

this is just

what

the mystic longs to seize.
"What if

earth

Be but the shadow of heaven, and things therein Each to other like, more than on earth is thought ?

"

But

often

Wordsworth
its

experienced

that

blank trance which, be

explanation what

THE MYSTICAL TRANCE
it

199
all

may,

is

a real thing to mystics of

times.

He

speaks of occasions,
"

When

the light of sense

Goes

out, but with a flash that has revealed

The

invisible

world."

Or again
"

Oft in such moments such a holy calm Would overspread my soul, that bodily Were utterly forgotten, and what I saw

eyes

Appeared

like

something in myself, a dream,

A

prospect in

my

mind."

These sacred moments reveal the underlying unity in things, and make us contemptuous of
"

That

false

secondary power

By which we

Deem

multiply distinctions, then that our puny boundaries are things
perceive,

That we

and not

that

we have
is

made."

The psychology
prehended The Prelude
"For

of mysticism
lines

briefly

com

in
:

some

from the same poem,

feeling has to him imparted power That through the growing faculties of sense Doth like an agent of the one great Mind Create, creator and receiver both,

Working but

in alliance with the

works

Which

it beholds,"

200

THE MYSTICISM OF WORDSWORTH
in the

Quite
is

Neoplatonic vein, dear to Shelley,

his

mention of
"

Incumbencies more awful,

visitings

Of the Upholder
That

of the tranquil soul, tolerates the indignities of time,

And, from the centre of Eternity
All finite motions overruling, lives

In glory

immutable."

The poet, however, is careful to tell us that his mode of enjoying nature changed as he grew
older.

This

calm

and

scrupulous

care

in

registering

his

own

emotions,

which
real

some

have
value,

called

egoistical,

has

a

scientific

and adds greatly to his usefulness as There was a time when an ethical guide.
nature was
all

in all to him,
"

when

The

tall

rock,

and gloomy wood, Their colours and their forms, were then to me An appetite a feeling and a love,
the deep
;

The mountain, and

That had no need of a remoter charm

By thought

supplied, nor any interest
eye."

Unborrowed from the

Then,

in

deeper music of

manhood, a emotion was his.
full
humanity,"

less
"

ecstatic
still,

but

The

sad

mingled with the rustling

WANING INSPIRATION

2OI

of the leaves and the roaring of the torrent

;

and sometimes
"

I

have

felt

presence that disturbs me with the joy Of elevated thoughts ; a sense sublime

A

Of something far more deeply interfused, Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,

And And

the blue sky,

the round ocean and the living air, and in the mind of man
spirit that
all

;

A

motion and a
rolls

All thinking things,

impels objects of

all

thought,

And

through

all

things."

The

time came

when he acknowledged, with
left

equal candour, that the vision had
the light
"

him

Which

Full early lost, and fruitlessly deplored at the moment on my waking sight
;

Appears

to shine,

by miracle restored

!

My soul, though yet confined to earth, Rejoices in a second birth ; Tis past, the visionary splendour fades
And
night approaches with her
shades."

;

In truth, the

poems which have

in

them the

magic of immediate inspiration were nearly
all

written in twenty years of the poet s life between 1798 and 1818. The notion that nature is animated through

out,

which, under the
2

name
c

of Pan-psychism,

202
is

THE MYSTICISM OF WORDSWORTH
an element
is

in

some of the best modern
recognised by

philosophy,
worth.

clearly

Words

"

With

bliss ineffable

I felt

the sentiment of Being spread
all

O er

that

moves and

all

that

seemeth

still."

He
form,

"gave

moral to every natural even the loose stones that cover the
life"
"

a

highway:
quickening

the great
It

mass lay bedded
follows that

in

a

soul."

some kind

of duty and consideration

may be due from

us even to trees and plants, as he hints in the fine poem called Nutting.

A

few words must be said about the famous
Immortality. idea of this

Ode upon the Intimations of Some critics have said that the
wonderful

poem

is

borrowed
but

from

Henry
gives

Vaughan, the

"Silurist";

Vaughan

only a hint of the doctrine which Wordsworth
elaborates,

and the

credit of originality
later

must

not

be withheld

from the

poet.

The

theme of the poem

the dignity and sacredis

ness of our childish instincts,

not bound up

with any theory of pre-existence or Platonic

anamnesis

theories which

Wordsworth himself

THE

"INTIMATIONS

OF
in

IMMORTALITY"

203

certainly did

not hold
is

any

definite

form.

The

subject

one

of

surpassing

interest,

because modern psychological science ascribes great importance to the racial consciousness
as

a

factor

in

individual

character,

and

is

quite at one with

Wordsworth

in treating the

child-nature with the utmost respect.

Words

worth,

it

may be
disciple

conjectured, would not have

been a been

of

Darwin

;

he would have
angels";

"on

the

side of the

but on

the main point they were agreed.
instincts

Man

has

which
in his

do not

arise

from his own

And, the poet present life. would add, those instincts, which appear to have a longer history than our individual life
experience
time,

have a peculiar sacredness, and should

be cherished with especial reverence. Further than this we shall perhaps be unwilling to
follow

him.

There seems

to

be no reason

why, as we get older, we should recede further from knowledge of Divine truth. The natural
exhilaration

of

spirits,

which

in

the child

is
is

stimulated by fresh air and fine weather,
in

most cases hardly worthy to be called a splendid vision and the light of common day
;

204
into

THE MYSTICISM OF WORDSWORTH
which
it

is

said to fade

is

after all the

light of

mature intelligence and ripe experience.

The
have
for

glories of poetic imagination, which, as

we

seen, only

shone with their

full

effulgence

about twenty years of Wordsworth s life, are an abnormal gift, and we need not suppose
that ordinary experience follows the

same
which

laws.

What,
"

then,

are

the

lessons

the

? contemplation of nature has to teach Unworldliness would not be a bad answer.

us

"

Principal

Shairp says very truly:

"You

will

never find the mere
takes his

man

of the world,

who

tone from society, really care for
poetry."
"feel

Wordsworth s
himself not to
"

Wordsworth schooled

thing

;

but
:

there

contempt for any living was one pardonable

he had the heartiest contempt for the mere man and woman of fashion; "con
exception

vinced at heart,

how

vain a correspondence

with the talking world proves to the most." we Converse with nature opens our eyes
;

cannot
real

any longer

mistake

artificialities

for
s

substance.

We
;

may

call

Wordsworth

attitude truly democratic or truly aristocratic,

whichever we please

the two ideals are not

UNWORLDLINESS
far

205

apart,

asunder.

The extremely
is

though their corruptions are poles simple diction which
both aristocratic and

he cultivated
cratic.

demo
dressy
the of

What
an
our
is

Bagehot
is

called

"a

literature,

exaggerated
times,"

literature

curse

of

age which
cratic,

product neither aristocratic nor

the

an

demo

but vulgar.

Wordsworth bids us
"bend

in reverence

To Nature, and To men as they
"

the power of human minds, are men within themselves."

Obeisance paid where

it

is

due

"

such

is

the

proud and humble attitude of

Nature

s

priest

when

men.
not,

And
like

presence of his fellowin the presence of God, he will
in scientific

the

some
the

investigators,

stop

short

at
is

revelation

of

law and

order

which

upon the visible world (the recognition of rais and Tre/oas which Plotinus rightly insisted on as a valuable though early
impressed
lesson in the spiritual course), but will under stand the true and eternal significance of the

Greek Logos-theology which
I

is

just

now

so

unhappily disparaged by Continental thinkers.
will

conclude this Lecture by a quotation from

206

THE MYSTICISM OF WORDSWORTH
which
is

Athanasius,

not

far

from Words
"

worth

s

own

theological

attitude.

The

all-

powerful, all-perfect,

and

all-holy
all

Word

of the

and every where extending His own energy, and bringing to light all things, whether visible or invisible,
Father, descending upon
things,

knits

and welds them

leaving

And
is

nothing a certain marvellous and Divine harmony thus veritably brought to pass by Him."

His own being, destitute of His operation.
into

LECTURE

VI

THE MYSTICISM OF ROBERT BROWNING

ROBERT BROWNING was once asked by a friend whether he cared much for nature. "Yes, a
great

beings a great deal more." No reader of his poems can fail to see that this is true, and also that
deal,"
:

he replied
1

"but

for

human

the poet was right in saying

"human beings,"

not

"humanity."

Browning loved and
men.

studied,

not

mankind, but
to

He
;

is,

therefore,

complementary
called the

Wordsworth
of

he might be
nature.
in

Wordsworth
call

human

We
of

may
in
all

rightly

him a mystic,

virtue

his profound belief in a perfect spiritual world,

which

all

broken fragments are made whole,
solved,

riddles

and

all

legitimate
"

hopes

1

So

in

the Dedication to Sordello he says
is

:

Little else
I,

[besides the development of a soul]

worth study

:

at least,

always thought

so."

207

208

THE MYSTICISM OF ROBERT BROWNING

satisfied.

strong hunger for eternity and perfection, combined with close and reverent a tenacious handling of the facts of life
;

A

grip

of the

concrete

finite
it

example,
illustrate,

with a

determination to

make

and

be
;

illustrated by, its ideal
this is the
in all that

and

spiritual principle

method of the

true mystic,
it

and
the

concerns

human
I

character
shall

is

method of Browning.
be afraid
of
classing
in

therefore not

him with
ways
life

a

type

of so

humanity
opposite

which
to
his

some

seems

own.

This breezy optimist,

who
them

faced the difficulties of

as a bull goes at a fence,

by charging who had so

firm a hold of the actual
certainly

and concrete, was not a mere mystic. But that there

was a mystical element in his genius and his teaching, and that this element constitutes
a very valuable part
proposition which
I

of

his

message,

is

a

think easy to
will

establish,

and which

I

hope

be acknowledged to

be true by those who follow am about to say.

me

in

what

I

My
which

present task
I

is

more

difficult

than that

attempted

in

my

last

Lecture, because

DRAMATIC CHARACTER OF HIS POEMS
while Wordsworth
s

209

poetry

is

totally destitute of
is

the dramatic element,

Browning
forgotten.

particularly

anxious that the dramatic

character

of
will

his

poems should not be
"

He
"

not

believe that Shakespeare ever

unlocked his
his

heart

for his readers,

and does not wish

own
key

readers
to

assume that they have the the heart of Robert Browning.
to
"Which

of you did I enable
to slip inside

Once

my

breast,

There to catalogue and label What I like least, what love best

"

?

Only in a few poems, such as One Word More, Prospice, and perhaps Christmas Eve and Easter Day, can we be sure that he is
speaking
in his

own

person.

Browning began to write, natural science was being preached as a complete
gospel,

When

with

a

confidence

which

has

now

abated considerably. Few had then suspected that science could be other than materialistic,

make terms with metaphysics. The spiritualistic monism which is now embraced
or could

by many

physicists

would have been scouted 2 D

2IO

THE MYSTICISM OF ROBERT BROWNING

by

their predecessors. Science at that time threatened to become what Lucretius describes

religion as being
in the
faith,

a horrible spectre standing

path of humanity, forbidding hope and
casting
its

icy

hand even upon
in

love,

and

offering no comfort save

in unconditional

submission to a mechanical order,

which

neither purpose nor goodness could be traced.

Idealism was treated as a deliberate sojourn in

dreamland; men were absorbed

in

"

mankind."

Until about the last twenty years of his

life

Browning was swimming against the stream almost as much as Wordsworth was in the
great period of his productiveness.

He

is

never tired of insisting on the relativity and

inadequacy of

scientific

knowledge, and on
of

the necessary falsehood
life

a philosophy of which ignores the affections or denies the

validity of their intuitions.

He

is

the sworn

foe of intellectualism, which he pursues with

such animosity that occasionally he seems to

have declared war even against the intellect. This polemical attitude must be judged with reference to the dominant tendencies of
thought at the time when he began to write.

THE POET OF PERSONALITY
In
his

211

old
his

age

it

cannot be denied that he
too
far,

pushed

protest

and

at

a time
to

when

the

opposite

error had ceased

be

aggressive.

Browning

is

the poet of personality.
"to

Amiel
is

considered that

depersonalise
age."

man

the

great tendency of our

This tendency
in

found an unrelenting antagonist

Browning.
aroused

Any
his

attempt to belittle

man, or rather men,
forces

by comparison with
ire.

natural

"

O O O

littleness of

man

!

deplores the bard

;

And

then, for fear the powers should punish him, grandeur of the visible universe,
littleness contrasts withal
;

Our human
sun,

O

moon, ye mountains, and thou

sea,

Thou emblem
In

of immensity, thou this That and the other what impertinence

man to eat and drink and walk about, And have his little notions of his own, The while some wave sheds foam upon the

shore.

"

We
on

recognise

here

a

revolt

against

the

assumption that the value of things depends
their

bulk,

or

universality.

Kant,

as

every one knows, bowed his head in reverence before two things the star-sown deep of

212

THE MYSTICISM OF ROBERT BROWNING
and the moral consciousness of man
Natural science seemed to threaten to

space,
kind.

leave us only the former object of worship.

Browning claimed a
latter,

truer

greatness for the
idea,

not

as

a

general

but

in

its

individual manifestations.

And

yet he

was no enemy

to

the

new

organic idea was grasped and utilised by him, as by few others of his
discoveries.

The

generation.

We
future,

are not to look for complete

ness either in the present divorced from the
past

and

or

in

the

individual
"

life

divorced from that of other individuals.
race of
in

The

man

.

.

.

receives

life

in parts to live
in

a

whole."

And
"

the

"

whole,"
"

which we
also

are
tells

to

strive
to

resolutely
is

(as

Goethe

us)

live,

a whole

which

gathers

into a unity all the partial tions of reality
in

and

faulty manifesta

which occur as successive events
all

the time-process, and

the fragmentary

souls which are born separate only that they

may may
/

feel the

need of mingling, and by mingling attain their true rights and full developas

ment

persons.
in

The

doctrine

of
to

pre-

i

existence,

some form not easy

grasp,

THE RACIAL SELF
is

213
\

a more serious part of Browning s teaching than of Wordsworth s.
"

Doubt you if, in some such moment, As she fixed me, she felt clearly,
Ages past the soul Here an age tis
existed,

resting merely

"

And hence
It stops

fleets

again for ages,
single,
is this

While the true end, sole and
here for

With some

love-way, other soul to mingle

"

?

Humanity
each

is

incarnated

in

each man,
so
far

but

man

is

only

realised

as
life

he
of

passes out of himself into the wider

humanity.
Carlyle was contemptuous of the charge of

pantheism, which was brought against him as against others who have grasped the organic

view of human
it,

life

and
"

history.

He

thought

at

any

rate,
"

a better creed than what he

But pot-theism of the Calvinist. has pantheism many developments. cannot even say whether a thorough-going
called the

We

pessimism or a

thorough-going optimism is the more legitimate outcome of its principles.
It
is

interesting

to

contrast

the

gloomy

outlook of Carlyle with the facile cheerfulness

214

THE MYSTICISM OF ROBERT BROWNING

of Emerson,

when we
are
in
is

consider

how
of

closely
reality.

akin

they
s

their

view

Emerson
Oriental
equally

pantheism the old which sees the divine philosophy
true

creed

in

everything
belief
in

;

while

Carlyle

has

very

little

any divine
of

immanence
uttering

except

as

the

voice
threats.

conscience

commands and
relation

Such a view of the
to

between God and man was sure
it

carry with
life.

a stern and dark philosophy of Browning agrees with neither of them.

His message is his own. He stakes every thing on the non-existence of absolute evil.
tendency towards good in all men a victorious striving upward which is our natural and healthy
activity,

He

holds that

there

is

a natural

and

which

can

never

be

wholly

destroyed.
faculty

We

are reminded of the supposed

of syntereszs,

about which

scholastic

mystics like the Victorines and Bonaventura the divinely implanted discourse learnedly
centre of the soul which
to
sin.

can never consent a
silvery
at

Browning
cloud.

sees

lining

to
all

the

blackest

Though

times

seems dark

BELIEF IN
"

HUMAN NATURE
same
black
s

215

All the

Of absolute and

irretrievable

And

all-subduing black

soul of black

Beyond white s power to Of that I saw no trace."

disintensify

This kindly and hopeful view of human nature
is

always given by Browning as the result of
observation.
in

his

reflection

high spirits are feeling of an experience of

His

the

men
that

which
there
evil

has
is

led

him

to

the
ill

conclusion

none that doeth

pure unmixed
love
for

no, not one.
s

Hence
soul,

his

dis

secting a knave

scoundrel
of view

is
it

and showing that the a human being, with whose point
even
possible
to
feel

is

some

sympathy.

worldly agnostic bishop, the the painter of medium," vulgar spiritualist Madonnas caught in low haunts, even the
"

The

bishop

who

orders

his

tomb
;

in

St Praxed
is

s

Church, are not odious
not wholly vile not
accept
the
in

there

something

each of them.

He

will

rough-and-ready division

of

human beings into sheep and goats. There is much in every character which the world s
coarse
is

thumb and

ringer fails to plumb.

It

not for us to stick

a label on to a man,

2l6

THE MYSTICISM OF ROBERT BROWNING
that such
is

and say
sin
is

his character.

Original
for

a defect imposed on

us

by God

our
of

final

good
"

;

it

is

not a total corruption

our nature.

A
Even

human being cannot be
badness,"

wholly bad.
"is

says Plotinus,

still

human, and
itself."

is

contrary to

If

mixed with something a man or a thing were
to pieces

wholly bad,
in

it

would

fall

and cease

mere nothingness. Giuseppe Caponsacchi sees Guido gliding down from depth to depth
of infamy,
"Till

at the doleful end,

At the

From

horizontal line, creation s verge, what just is to absolute nothingness
is it,

Whom

straining

onward

still,

he meets

"

?

By a
the

merciful decree,

God

has

made
so

dissolution

penalty

of moral

evil,

that

what

is

incurable soon passes into annihilation.

Browning
world.

is

a firm believer
all

in teleology.

A

purpose runs through
individual
"

that happens in the
is

But the purpose
lives.
"

the redemption of

In

the

worth

lies."

Progress,"

seeing soul in the sense

all

in

which the word was constantly used by the
confident scientists of

Browning s generation,

DOCTRINE OF HUMAN IMPERFECTION
appealed
life

to

him very

little.

He

regarded

as the battle-ground on which the struggle

an autonomous moral personality is to be The combatants are free will fought out.
for

and circumstance
gains what
free will
is

;

the

life

succeeds
in
its

the

man

he

lived

for

proportion as

able to assert
Difficulty,
in

circumstance.

supremacy over pain, and even sin,
victory

may

be

factors

the
its

of

will

emancipation from the But whereas man tyranny of circumstance.
partly
is,

needful elements in

and

wholly

hopes

to

be"

(his

condition of becoming being, indeed, his great
characteristic, distinguishing

him from higher

and lower
can

existences,

classification

which simply are), no of him by hard and fast names
It
is

be

true.
;

his

privilege
are,

to

be

imperfect

his

shortcomings

in

a sense,
"Our

the measure of his potential greatness.

present

life,"

says Bishop Westcott,
entirety.

1
"is

to be

taken in
is

its

The

discipline of

man

to be fulfilled, the progress of

man

is

to be

secured, under the conditions of our complex
1
"

Browning
West,
p. 257.

s

View

of

Life,"

in

Religious Thought of the

2

E

218

THE MYSTICISM OF ROBERT BROWNING
These
lets

earthly being.

and

limitations are

not to be disparaged or overborne, but accepted

and used

made
or
to

attempt must be either to retain that which has been,
in

due order.

No

anticipate
in

that

which
is

will

be.

Each

element
proper

human
its

nature

to be allowed its
its

office.

Each season brings

own
of

work and
advancing

own

means."

The
in

lessons

years

are

taught

Rabbi ben

Ezra

:

"

Grow old along with me The best is yet to be,
of
life,

!

The

last

for

which the

first

was made

:

Our times

are in His

hand
I

Who
be

saith,

A whole
half;

planned,

Youth shows but
afraid."

trust

God;

see

all,

nor

to

According to Browning, salvation is only be won by obedience to the laws of the

universe.

In this he agrees with the ethics of naturalism. But he has very distinct views
to

as

what

the

laws of

the universe are.

Most thinkers construct

their

world out

of

some one
as

constitutive principle,

which serves

an

explanation
it

of

the
;

general scheme.

With Hegel

is

reason

with Schopenhauer

LOVE AS A WORLD-PRINCIPLE
it

219

is

will

;

some
Nature

writers

have

regarded
the
end,

mechanical uniformity as the law,

and aim of
constitutive
reciprocity

all

s activities.
is

principle

Love.
the

Browning s Love and
and

of

life

are

condition

necessary

expression

of

human
our

perfection.

The comparative
which
different

poverty of
as

comprehends
emotions

under one
sexual

language, name such
love of

love,

parents,

ing to
various

and love of country, enabled Brown present his constitutive principle under
aspects.

But

it

is

distinctly
epws,

sexual
aya?/

love, not Christian charity

not
the

which he considers
life s

to

possess
is

key of

real

meaning.

He

not ashamed of

its

connection

instincts

with and growth out of the which we share with the lower
Its true

animals.

nature

is

not to be sought

in its origin, but in its

And
the

love, in its perfect state,
activity,

completed development. is a principle of
of the expansion of

moral

a

mode

self

into universal

and eternal

relations.

No
so

other poet has set himself to show, under many different aspects, the immense im

portance of love in the growth of the soul.

22O

THE MYSTICISM OF ROBERT BROWNING
essence of love
is

going out of
our
lives

oneself,

.

shifting

the

centre

of

outside

[The merely
sensuality

the

self- regard ing
lust,

sphere.

Therefore

and brutal
of
love

so far
its

from being
clothes
off,

the

reality

when

and
the

trappings

have

been

stripped
its

are

perversion of love, and even

contradictory.

For

lust is

the extreme of selfishness, which
itself.

does not hesitate to sacrifice others to

True love may begin with a
bodily appetite
;

large element of

but

it

issues in a

communion

of souls, in which each
"

makes the other see

new depths
"But

of the

divine."

who could have expected

this
first

When we
To

two drew together

Just for the obvious

human

bliss,

satisfy life s daily thirst
"

With a thing men seldom miss ?

Love
fire

is

the

"

of

fires."

We
on,

spark God gave us from His need fear nothing "while

that

burns

though
that
"

all

the

rest

grow
of
is

dark."

This favourite doctrine and metaphor
of the
"

of

mysticism,
the

fox^s nlvrpov

Plotinus,

Funkelein

of

Eckhart,

thus connected by our poet with love of the

LOVE,

THE SAVIOUR AND REDEEMER
This would have shocked
of
the
earlier

221
in

opposite sex.
expressibly

many

Christian
I

mystics

;

but Browning has no quarrel with

the flesh, as flesh.
beautiful
little

To
"The

quote Krause, whose
Ideals of

>f

Humanity, is in many ways an admirable commentary on spirit and body in man Browning s poetry,
"

book,

are

equally
;

original,

equally
to

living,

equally
in the

divine

they claim

be maintained

same purity and
loved and
reason,"

holiness,
"

and to be equally
Neither nature nor
"undertakes

developed."

says

the

same

writer,

to

give

man

form and

maintenance
the highest
in

as

an

individual being.

Hence

wisdom
and
for

and goodness has implanted
a longing for other
their
for

every breast

human

beings,

companionship and love." This desire companionship and communion shows itself
our nature, and
is

in all parts of

innocent and

right in

all.

Browning
mysteries.

is

the hierophant of these

new

He

shows us under innumerable

examples how love can guide us into all truth, and how those who refuse opportunities
of sharing this highest of our privileges are

222
in
I

THE MYSTICISM OF ROBERT BROWNING

danger of losing eternally what they lived It is a mystical philosophy, based on a for.
I

\

What makes sacramental view of experience. Browning such an original teacher is that
none
else has believed so whole-heartedly in

the advantages
to
reality,"

of

this

"

particular

path way
follow

or has described so completely the
shall traverse if

ground which we
It
is

we

it.

too

much

to

expect

that

a thinker

with so strong a bent in one direction should

do

which are antagonistic or even only complementary to his own. We have seen how he speaks with impatience,
justice to views

almost with contempt, of the aesthetic con templation of nature without reference to

human
he

interests.

We

must
and

now add
an

that

shows

an

excessive

increasing

distrust of the intellectual faculties as a

means
if
it

of bringing us

to

God.

The

error,

is

cannot be easily removed from his philosophy, because it is intimately bound up

an

error,

As long with his doctrine of imperfection. as life and development go on, our scheme
of ultimate truth cannot be rounded the
speculative
off.

In

thought

of

finite,

growing

ANTI-INTELLECTUALISM
beings,

223

there

must

always

be

a

heel

of

Achilles
fatal

to

a vulnerable point which may prove Behind our clearest the whole.

consciousness there are latent coefficients, and

a dark chaos of tendencies and dispositions, out of which our consciousness works itself.

he thinks, to attempt to construct a system out of such imperfect material. Our in intellectual faculties, our aesthetic faculties
It is useless,
fact,
all

the contents of our minds, with the are flawed.

exception of our affections

Love

only
trust

is

Divine, and a guide

whom we may
"

implicitly.
"

The

constant
in

tendency to
nature
is

God
the

which

he finds

human
will,

bound up with the heart and
intellect.

not with
is

On

this

side

Browning
that
facts

an

ultra-mystic.

He

considers

discursive

thought plays round about the
ever reaching them.

without

Such a theory of know

ledge leads logically to complete scepticism, a theory which is almost crudely avowed in

a

late

poem,
it

A

Pillar of Sebzevar.
deludes

Know
us

ledge,
false

appears,

hopes.

We

with always crown our brows with it,
is

but each garland

pushed

off

by another,

224

THE MYSTICISM OF ROBERT BROWNING
;

which proves nowise more constant to-day s gain is to-morrow s loss knowledge the golden turns out to be only lacquered
;

ignorance

;

what

seemed

ore

proves
prize of
it,

assayed to be but dross.
ledge
is

The

when know
in the

in the process of acquiring

ever-renewed assurance by defeat that victory may still be reached but love is victory, the
;

prize
"

itself.

Wholly

distrust thy

knowledge, then, and trust
"

As wholly

love allied to ignorance

!

And

again
"So

let

us say

not, Since

But

rather, Since

we

love,

we know, we love, we know enough."

The

reaction against intellectualism could
this.

go
of

no further than
contrast,
let

By way
the

of

complete

us

recall

ingredients

blessedness according to Spinoza. They are (i) knowledge of the causes of things, (2)
control of our passions, (3) sound health.
is

It

true that love, even in Spinoza,

comes

in

at the

summit of the

ascent.

But the amor
beatific

intellectualis Dei,

which constitutes the
is

vision

for

Spinoza,

far

enough from the

INTELLECTUAL PESSIMISM
"

22$

"

love allied

to

ignorance

which

Browning
intellectual

came

to consider the happiest state.

How
left
its

came a learned

poet,

whose

curiosity, assisted

by a wonderful

memory, has

impress on nearly every page of his writings, to pour scorn on the noblest of his

own endowments,
like

and

preach

what

looks
?

mere sentimentalism and emotionalism

Perhaps the problem of evil has something For to the intellect evil must to do with it.
be either real or not
real.

But

if it if
it

is
is

real,

optimism
real,

is

destroyed.
is

And

not
will

morality

destroyed.

Browning

not surrender a jot of the

claims of either

optimism or morality.
claims,

Therefore, since these

when judged
is

by
it

the

intellect,

are

manifestly
there

incompatible
for

with
but
to

each
assert

other,

no help
is

that

the

intellect

essentially

self-stultifying.

Hence
which
to
is

Browning s
for his
this

intellectual

pessimism,
is

simply the price which he

willing

pay But

moral and emotional optimism.

disparagement

of

intellect

is

suicidal.

It is

impossible to sunder the mind
3 F

from the heart so completely as to follow the

226

THE MYSTICISM OF ROBERT BROWNING
blindly,

one

while

"

wholly

distrusting"

the

other.

as rival

This personification of our claimants to our confidence,

faculties,
is

really

almost absurd.
:

we do not know perhaps we cannot truly know what we do not love. Knowledge and love
cannot love what
not
is

We

are

two

mutually

exclusive

faculties.

Love

the culminating point in a series of

which knowledge is the last stage but one, and the condition of reaching the highest.

The

fact that

we cannot round

off

our

intel

system of the universe, that our theory seems always to halt at one point, is, when
lectual

rightly considered,
distrusting"

not a reason for

"

wholly

reason,

know why
reason
is

it

but for trusting it. cannot tell us everything.

We
The

that
to

we

are

less

than that which

we

desire

comprehend.
value
of

Browning s own
the
time-process,
to

doctrine

of

the

which leads us through imperfection

our

goal, should teach us not to despise or distrust

knowledge. This is life eternal, says the Fourth Gospel, that we should know
imperfect

God and

Jesus Christ.
like
"

Not

"

knowledge,"

a

word which,

faith,"

St John studiously

KNOWLEDGE AND LOVE
avoids,

22/
life

but the process of knowing, the
life.

of learning, this is eternal
is

A

faith
side,

which

sceptical
in

on

the

intellectual

which
void

acquiesces

ignorance,

and

fills

the
is

with the products of mere emotion,
built

a house

upon the sand.
is

Browning, to do him
this,

justice,

not so far from admitting

as

the quotations
to think.
"quarrels

made

just
it

now would
not
s

lead us

"The

heart,"

has been well said,
with
reason;"

with
is

reasons,

and

this

really
is

homage

to love

His Browning position. based on reason. Knowledge
;

and love are two forms of experience and experience (he would probably have admitted)
is

the ultimate metaphysical reality.

Love

is

the purest form in which reality is presented to us, since it is not given us in shreds

and patches, but

in

its

essence.
is

As

the old

theologians said, There

no

gift,

except love,

in which the giver gives himself.

An
life
is

interesting

parallel

to

Browning s

teaching

about
the

love

as

chapter and voli reconciling principle of knowledge tion, in Mr McTaggart s Studies in Hegelian

highest law of the about love as
the

228

THE MYSTICISM OF ROBERT BROWNING
"

Dialectic.

The

concrete and material content

of a

life

of perfected knowledge and volition

means

one

thing

only

love."

And

he

continues that, since perfection alone deserves
love, love in

an imperfect world must be love of the person as he really is that is, as he
be.
is

will

Love

is

unreasonable only because
it.

reason
life

not yet worthy of

In the perfect

knowledge and
in

volition will be

swallowed

up

itself
("

a higher reality, and love will reveal as the only thing in the universe.

Whether
;

fail

be prophecies, they whether there be knowledge, it
there
away.")

shall
shall

vanish

The

distinction

between know

ledge and volition can have no place in the absolute perfection. The true and the good, which seem now so different, can only be

harmonised
volition

"

by

emotion."

Knowledge and

both postulate an ideal which they can never reach while they remain knowledge

and

volition.

The element
both,

of

Not-Self

is

essential

to

but

is

incompatible with

their perfection.

But

in the case of love this

contradiction

is

overcome.
love as

We

regard

the

person

whom we

we regard

ourselves.

COMPARISON WITH TENNYSON

22Q

The
that

chief

difference

between the scheme
s

here sketched
the
to
latter

and

Browning
and
to

teaching,

is

attributes only a
"

subordinate
knowledge."

place

the

intellect

And
not

"emotion,"

in

so

much

to

poetry, seems often reconcile knowledge and
his

volition, as to override

them

both.

other great poet of the Victorian era is at one with Browning in his revolt against In a well-known stanza of intellectualism.

The

In Memoriam Tennyson says
"

:

A

warmth within the soul would melt

The

And

freezing reason s colder part, like a man in wrath, the heart
I

Stood up and answered,

have

felt."

This

is

at

any

rate a

good description of the

methods of emotionalism, which gives us heat instead of light, and vehement assertion instead
of argument.

But the claim of the heart

to

be

heard

may be admitted
think that

without leaving reason

quite out in the cold.

Some may

Tennyson would have
in

been a better example of mysticism
temporary poetry than
agree
with
this

con

Browning.

I

cannot
the

view.

Poems

like

230

THE MYSTICISM OF ROBERT BROWNING

Ancient Sage certainly show knowledge and appreciation of mysticism, and his biography

shows that he was no stranger to the mystical trance. But Tennyson s ethics are decidedly
anti-mystical.

The moral
to

of
"

his

Arthurian
not

epic

really

seems
Grail,

be

:

Do

pursue

the

Holy
dutiful

but

obey your king,
in

and
life."

be
In

and

active

practical

of Holy Grail do with wrecking Arthur s great scheme, as Guinevere s unfaithfulness. Browning, we may be sure, would have made

Tennyson

the quest
to

the

has as

much

the Grail the centre of his story.

It

would

have been never attained even by Galahad,
but
in

the

search

for

it

the
life s

true

knights

would

have
in

done
doing
it,

their

work,
In

and
that

received,

their reward.

unattainable ideal would have lain realisation

of

all

attainable

nobleness,
it.

and success
is

for

those
finely

who pursued
expounded
in

This doctrine

very

Colombes Birthday :

"One

great aim, like a guiding-star, above
to
lift

Which tasks strength, wisdom, stateliness, His manhood to the height that takes the

prize

;

A prize

not near

lest

overlooking earth

COMPARISON WITH TENNYSON

23!

He

rashly spring to seize
rest

So that he

upon

his

nor remote, path content
it
:

But day by day, while shimmering grows

shine,

And

He
The

the faint circlet prophesies the orb, sees so much as, just evolving these,
stateliness, the

wisdom, and the strength,

To due completion, will suffice this life, And lead him at his grandest to the grave."

For

Tennyson, the

individual

is

less,

and

society more.
half of his
"

has (at least in the first poetical career) a real belief in

He

progress,"

as preached

by the science of
the

his

generation.
tiger
in

He

believed that

ape and

were being gradually eliminated. And this process, knowledge and improved
are
naturally

organisation

The unreasoning
and repressed
be
sternly
to
;

important factors. passions must be curbed
All

undisciplined aspirations must
this
is

discouraged.

quite
is

foreign
in

Browning.
not

Progress,
in

for him,
race,

the

individual,

the

and

obedience to law means very little to him. It is better to trust our deepest and strongest
instincts than
life is

any conventional code.

Earthly

we

only a means of ascent to God. are climbing spiritually, earthly

While
failures

232

THE MYSTICISM OF ROBERT BROWNING
at
all,

do not matter
matter

and even

sins

do not
is

much.
of

Browning s

teaching
as

in

danger

antinomianism,

one

or

two

poems
This
with
eyes

The Flight of Statue and the
Bust>

the Duchess
for

and The
prove.

example
is

is

chiefly apparent

when he
In

dealing
s

the
the

subject

of
is

love.

Tennyson

danger

the

gratification

of

passion in violation of law or conscience.

In

Browning, the danger is that we may sacrifice an ennobling passion to the world to con
siderations
,

of

prudence
explains
life

or
his

fear

of

public

opinion.

This

admiration for
the

the

unconventional
"

of

Bohemian
of

artist.

Under
life,

the

present
is

conditions

industrial

the artist

workman who can without
to

almost the only reserve set himself
artist

do
"

his

1

best."

Moreover, the
emotional
vision."

knows
j

that
,

richness

of

life

determines
heritage of
j

the intensity of the

Our

,/

glorious passion can not only be squandered
that
also

1$

we

all

know
till

well
it

be hoarded

enough but it can and perishes unused
;

1

Granger, The Soul of a Christian,

p. 174.

ANTINOMIAN TENDENCY
this
is

233
failure

perhaps a more complete

than

the

other.

The
;

spendthrift

of his emotions

gets something

the miser of

them may gain
lost

the
soul.

whole world, but he has

his

own
very

Browning

s

ethics

are

thus the

opposite of the meticulous counsels of mediaeval
Catholicism.
is

To have

a small matter for

avoided positive sins congratulation to have
;

missed opportunities of fulness of life is a So he dares to say great matter for blame.
:
"

Let a

man contend

to the uttermost

For

his life s set prize,

be

it

what

it

will

!

And

the sin

I

impute to each

frustrate ghost

lamp and the ungirt loin, Though the end in sight was a vice, I
Is the unlit

say."

Low
next

aims, despondency, and cowardice are

the cardinal vices for Robert Browning,
to

and

these,

intellectual

arrogance.

The
in

basis of his religion

was the conviction that

there

is

a witness to the presence of

God

the spirit of
itself

man

;

a witness which declares
glimpses,
"when

in

gleams
false

and

the

spirit s

true

endowments
ones."

stand

out

plainly

from

its

Even
2

the worldly and

G

234

THE MYSTICISM OF ROBERT BROWNING
priest,

disingenuous
to say
"

Bishop Blougram,

is

made

:

Just

when we

re safest, there

s

a sunset touch,
death,

A fancy from a flower-bell, some one s A chorus ending from Euripides,
And
As
that s

enough

for fifty

old and

new

at

hopes and fears once as Nature s self,

To

Take hands and dance

rap and knock and enter in our soul, there, a fantastic ring, Round the ancient idol, on his base again,
great
Perhaps."

The

But

religion

is

not
holds
to

for

him

"the

great

Perhaps."

He
come

that

assurance

and and
look

illumination

those

who

follow their

noblest

instincts

the

instincts

of

love
or

healthy activity
back.

and

never

doubt

This confidence, which never flagged

to the last,

an optimist

made him something better than He it made him a happy man.

was thoroughly convinced that the scheme of things means well, and that all things
must work together for good to those who love God. And, believing as he did in the for continuity of existence, he felt scorn
those
said,

who
"it

fear
this

death.

"

Death,

death,"

he
I

is

harping

on

death

that

DEATH
despise
art,

IS

NOT TERRIBLE
In
fiction,

235

so

much,

in

poetry,

in
it

in literature, the
will
us.

shadow of

death, call

what you
is

despair, negation, indifference

upon
is

But what

fools

who

talk thus
I

!

Why,
death

amico mio, you
life,

know

as well as

that

just

dying body
recruiting

is

our daily momentarily none the less alive, and ever
as

new
is

forces of existence.

Without

death, which

our church-yardy, crape-like word for change, for growth, there could be

no prolongation of that which we

call

life.

Never say of me same brave spirit

that

I

am
in

dead."

The
poem

appears

the

Prospice, which perhaps gives us as clear a glimpse of the poet s inmost soul as any other and in the Epilogue, which is printed
;

as his

word of

farewell.
;

Death means very
to dwell in to

little to a Christian

and
it,

thought
in

upon
or

it,

to gloat

over
it,

grow
harp

sentimental

maudlin

about

to

upon

it,

Browning s own phrase, is mere faithlessness or vulgarity. There is no subject," says
"

Spinoza,
the

who
will

for

once

may be quoted on

same

side as

wise

man

Browning, "on which the think so seldom as on death."

236

THE MYSTICISM OF ROBERT BROWNING
is

There

one other

point

mysticism which
I

calls for

Browning s a few words before

in

conclude.
fully

No

so

the

poet before him had realised profound significance of the

apparently

trivial.

themes
princes,

for

Other poets have chosen tragedy from the misfortunes of
the
clash

or

of

supernatural
find

and

Titanic

forces.

Browning can

a theme

as elevating in a

common

police-case.

Words

worth had often found thoughts too deep for tears in the meanest flower. Tennyson had
reflected that a tiny plant

contains implicitly

growing on a wall the secret of what God and
universal significance

man is. But to find the of human meanness is
murdering
a
villain of the

a

rarer

gift.

The
an

Ring and

the Book,

licentious

monk, a

detected swindler,
before

agnostic

priest

who

Browning
study
of
at

had
such

thought
characters

of
?

a

sympathetic
is

There

something

once

profoundly Christian and thoroughly scientific in his method. It belongs to his own
generation,

and

still

more

perhaps

to

the
;

younger generation whom he lived to teach but it was also, if we may say it reverently,

CONCLUSION
the method of Jesus Christ,

237

who despaired of a nobody except Pharisee, and counted nothing

common
discerns

or

unclean.

And
in

if

mysticism

is

correctly defined as the habit of

mind which
things,

the

spiritual

common
his

Browning may
of
the

certainly
in

be claimed as one
of

band,

virtue

manner of

regarding ordinary human nature. I think that I have now justified the state ment which I made in my opening lecture,
that the mystical type of religious thought has been well represented in our literature. I have chosen examples as widely different

from each other as could be found anywhere. No two lives could be more unlike than that
of

a mediaeval

anchoress,

and that
lived

of

the
in

nineteenth
society

century poet

who

much

and enjoyed it. But the votaries of the inner light have something in common
which
social

goes
in

deeper

than

the

accidents
habits.

of

position

and

outward

They
is

agree

looking within
in

themselves for their
belief.
It

authority

matters
the

of

this

which

makes

study

of

mysticism

and
our

mystical writers so attractive to

many

in

238

THE MYSTICISM OF ROBERT BROWNING
Thousands
belief

generation.
basis

are
shall

craving
rest,

for

a

of

which

not

on

tradition

or

authority or historical
ascertainable
facts
it

evidence,
of

but

on

the

human
been
-

experience.
truly
said,

And
are

the

mystics,

has

the

empiricists.
"

They
"

only through going us to the perennial guide
it

fresh springs

of religion, and present

to

us as a living and active force, as palpable

and undeniable as
nature,"

the

so-called
to

"

forces

of

though

less

easy

explain

and

control.

the

Whether psychology will ever reduce phenomena of mysticism to rule, it is
If
it

impossible to say.
the
It
is

does, the validity of

testimony

will

be

in

no way impaired.

to the study of religious experience that

faith
it

must look

for
its

the reinforcement which

needs

against

many
are

enemies.
to
is

The
their
still

religions
fall
;

of

authority
religion

tottering

but

the

of

the

Spirit

near the beginning of that triumphant course which Christ foretold for it on the last evening
of His
is

life:

"When

He, the

Spirit of Truth,
all

come,

He

will

guide you into
;

truth.

.

.

.

He

will glorify

Me

for

He

will

take of Mine,

CONCLUSION

239
It
is

and

will

show

it

unto

you."

to

the

that which, through Spirit, guidance of manifold diversities of operations, divides to

every
in
all

man

severally as

He

will,

yet works

harmoniously towards
of
the

one end, that
century must

the

Church

twentieth
;

commit
counsels

itself for

of

guidance not spurning the those who hold no ministerial

commission to preach or teach, but welcoming from every quarter the testimony of those

whose hearts God has touched.

PRINTED AT THE EDINBURGH PRESS
9

AND

11

YOUNG STREET

B1NDINC SECT.

JUN281977

DO NOT REMOVE CARDS OR -SLIPS FROM THIS POCKET
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Inge, William Ralph Studies of Snglish mystics

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