BETWEEN THE SOUL, THE BODY, SELF-LOVE, THE SPIRIT, HUMANITY, AND THE LORD GOD
DIVIDED INTO THREE PARTS
In the first part St. Catherine relates in what manner she was captivated by worldly allurements, and how, from this state, she was entirely converted to God, and devoted herself to austere works of penance.
In the second, she describes the sublime perfection of the spiritual life in which she is engaged.
In the third, she discourses of the divine love and of its wonderful effects, and how she has experienced them all in herself.
CONTAINING THE DISCOURSE OF THE SOUL WITH THE BODY AND SELF-LOVE; AND ALSO OF THE SPIRIT WITH HUMANITY
The soul and the body propose to travel in company, and to take self-love for a third party.
I saw, said the saint, a Soul and a Body conversing with one another; and first, the Soul said: My Body, God has created me to love, and to enjoy myself; I wish, therefore, to go where I can best accomplish this design, and to have you accompany me in a friendly way, since it will be to your advantage also. We will go through the world; if I find anything which pleases me, I will enjoy it; you can do the same when you find anything which pleases you; and let him do better that can.
The Body answered: Though I may be obliged to do whatever pleases you, yet I see that you cannot accomplish all that you wish without me. Therefore, if we are to set forth together let us come to a perfect understanding before we start, in order that we may not fall out by the way. For my own part, I agree to your proposal, but let each of us be satisfied with the success of the other when he meets with anything that pleases him, for such forbearance, will keep us in peace. I advise this beforehand, because I do not wish that you should deceive me, and say whenever I find something that I like: “I do not wish you to linger here, for I am going elsewhere to attend to my own concerns,” and thus I might find myself obliged to abandon my own plans in order to follow yours. In that case, I assure you I should die, and our design would be frustrated. To prevent this, I think it would be well to take with us a third companion, some just person who has no share in our partnership, and to whom all our differences could be referred.
Soul. I am well-pleased with this proposal; but who shall this third person be?
Body. Let it be Self-Love, who lives with us both; he will see that I have what belongs to me, and I shall enjoy with him. He will do the same for you, and thus, both will be satisfied, each in his own way.
Soul. What shall we do if we find food equally gratifying to both?
Body. Let him eat who may. If there is enough for both there will be no disagreement. If there is not enough, Self-Love will give to each his share. But since our tastes are so different, it will be most extraordinary if we should find food equally pleasing to both, unless one or the other should change; which is contrary to the nature of things.
Soul. By nature I am more powerful than you, and therefore I have no fear of your converting me to your tastes.
Body. But this is my home, where I have so many delightful things to enjoy, that although you may be more powerful than I, you could not possibly awaken in me the desire to be converted to yours. But I, being, as I have said, at home, might more easily convert you to my tastes, doing it from love and from a wish to please you, for you are seeking things which you neither see, taste, nor understand, - nor do you even know where your home is.
Soul. Let us try the experiment; but, in the first place, we must make some agreement by which we may secure harmony. Let us take alternate weeks. When it is my turn you must do whatever is pleasing to me; and, in like manner, when yours comes, I will do whatever you wish, always excepting, so long as I live, whatever would offend our Creator. If I die, that is, if you induce me to offend him, I shall then be your servant to do your bidding, for in that case I shall be wholly converted to your wishes, and shall take pleasure in whatever pleases you. Being thus united, no one but God can ever interrupt our union,for it will always be protected by free-will; and both in this world and the next we shall receive together the reward of all the good and evil that we do. A like fate will be yours, if I succeed in conquering you.
But here comes Self-Love. You have heard the whole. Will you be our third party, our judge, and the companion of our journey?
Self-Love. I consent, and shall find it greatly to my advantage. I shall give each of you what belongs to him, for this will not injure me; and thus I shall live on equal terms with both. But if either of you should wrong me, and deprive me of my support, I shall immediately have recourse to the other, for on no account would I be deprived of my own subsistence.
Body. I am not one who would ever abandon you.
Soul. Nor would I ever do so, especially as we all agree and understand that, above all things, we are to avoid offending God. Therefore, if either of us sins, the others will check the offender. Now, in GodŐs name, let us go, and I, being the most worthy, will take the first week.
Body. I am contented; guide me, and do with me whatever reason directs. Self-Love and I yield to you.
The Soul and the Body take their turns, in which each enjoys itself according to its wishes and tastes.
Then the Soul said within itself:
Soul. I, who am pure and without a stain of sin, will begin by considering my first creation and all the other benefits I have received from God. I know that I was created for such blessedness, and of such dignity, that I can almost soar above the choirs of angels, and I find myself in possession of a mind all but divine; for I am always drawn by my pure intelligence to the meditation and contemplation of divine things, and filled with the constant desire to eat my bread with the bread of angels. I am, in truth, invisible. I would have, then, all my food and all my delight in things invisible, for to this end was I created, and here I find my rest. I have nothing to do but to draw down from heaven the strength which I need, and to put all things else beneath my feet; I will, therefore, spend this entire week in contemplation, and take heed of naught else. Let him live thus who can do so; and he who cannot must have patience.
But I see that my companions are growing restless. I will go towards them. Well, my comrades, I have finished my week; do you, O Body! treat me in yours as you see fit. But tell me, how has it fared with you while I took my turn?
Self-Love. Not well; for into your regions neither Self-Love nor mortal Body can enter. We have had not the slightest nourishment and are nearly dead; now, however, we hope to have our revenge.
Body. Now it is my turn. Come, Soul, with me. I will show you how much God has done for me. Behold the heavens and the earth with all that adorns them; the sea with its fish, the air with its birds; and then, so many kingdoms, principalities, cities, provinces, as well spiritual as temporal: great dignities, numerous treasures; songs, sounds, and food of every kind for my support in never-failing supplies to the end of time, as well as innumerable other delights. And I can enjoy all these without offending God, for he created them all for me. You have not shown me your country as I am showing you mine. But as I cannot have my will unless you deign to indulge me in it, I venture to remind you that you are under great obligations to me, and that you must not think of going into that country of yours, and leaving me starving on the earth. You cannot do it, for I should die, and it would be your fault; you would offend God, and then we should all be your enemies. I have the advantage of being able to enjoy all these things while I live, and in the next life of enjoying your country also, saving myself, as I shall do, by your means. Remember that I am concerned in your salvation, for I shall be always with you; and do not believe that I desire anything contrary to reason, or displeasing to God. Ask your comrade, Self-Love, if I am not speaking the truth. I would not be unreasonable in my demands, and I will abide by his decision. I am sure that what I am seeking for you, is not only needful, but also agreeable to the will of God.
How Self-Love blames both the Soul and the Body, and wishes to rule them himself. - The Soul complains, and the Body, adhering to Self-Love, demands what its needs require.
Self-Love. I see your motives, which seem to me very reasonable when you do not go beyond the bounds of charity which God prescribed when he said: “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” But, in the first place, the Soul has made no account of us, so that we have been actually in peril of our lives; and, on the other hand, I have seen the Body making too great a display to the Soul, of things that are unnecessary to both. In short, O Soul, you must restrain your impulses, and condescend to the necessities of your neighbors, your Body, and myself, if we undertake to live with you in that country of yours I have found nothing for myself; it is, in good truth, the very last of all places in which I should choose to take up my abode. As for you, O Body, it is enough for you to have the necessaries of life, since superfluities are as injurious to you as they would be to the Soul, were she to yield to you. But if you give them up, each of you will be able to live moderately, and according to his taste; I shall find it possible to remain with you, and being thus united, each will enjoy, with discretion, the advantages belonging to the others. If you wish, O Soul, to avail yourself of the Body, you must give it the requisite support, or it will complain; if you nourish it, it will be quiet, and you can use it as you please. In that case, both of you will be at peace, and I shall be obliged to go away, for I could not live with you. This is my opinion.
Soul. I am greatly displeased and dissatisfied to be obliged to condescend, in so many things, to the Body; and I fear that feeding it, under this plea of necessity, will lead to my taking part in its gratifications, and thus finally losing the greater for the less. Seeing both of you so craving, makes me fear that you will give me so much to do, that you will change me from spiritual into earthly; for, after tasting earthly things, I shall lose my relish for heavenly ones. I fear, too, lest the intellect should be defiled and the will corrupted. Help me, O my God!
Body. It seems to me that Self-Love has settled the question, and we may go on joyfully in company. As far as you are concerned, O Soul, do not forget that God would not have created the things that he has created, if they were injurious to souls. The Soul was endowed with so much power and dignity, that she cannot be held back without her own consent, for her will is so much respected by God that He never forces it. Neither I nor others, therefore, can take anything from you but by your own consent. You hold the reins; give to each what he needs, and then let him complain who will.
The Soul. What are these necessities of which you speak as indispensable? Tell me, that I may, once for all, provide for them, and never think of them again; the mere idea of them greatly disturbs me.
Body. I must have clothes, food, drink, and sleep; and be served, and amused, if you wish me to be in a condition to serve you when occasion requires; when you desire to occupy yourself with spiritual things, you must not weary me, for if I am taxed too much I shall not be able to attend to your affairs. But if you will look after my necessities, you can entertain your mind with the thought that God, who has made so many delightful things for this mortal body, has provided much greater goods for you, O immortal Soul! Thus God will ever be praised, and each of us be satisfied in his own way. If any difference occurs between us, our Self-Love, who is so wise, will adjust it, and we shall all be able to live together in most holy peace.
Soul. Come, then; I will provide for your necessities, since I cannot do otherwise; but I suspect that you have joined against me. Yet your words appear so reasonable that I am obliged to submit although I distrust you when I hear you so often refer to me, and say that you can do nothing without me. Perhaps, by the help of God, I shall one day escape your hands, and live in his service without you.
The Soul, the Body, and Self-Love pursue their journey, during which the Soul cannot complete her whole week, and the Body encroaches upon it. - The Soul allows herself to be persuaded by Self-Love under pretext of the necessities of her two companions. - The Soul laments her condition and proposes not to take her turn again.
Body. Let us go straight forward on our journey, and thus traveling through the world in harmony, each will accomplish his own business, seeking, according to his condition, support, food, and pleasure.
Soul. My turn has come again, but alas! I cannot do as I did at first. I find myself drawn to earth by the pressing necessities of others, for which I am bound to provide; and thus my time passes only half-improved, while I live with these my companions on the best terms I can. It seems to me a heavy mortification to be obliged to leave so great a thing as divine contemplation, in order to employ myself in providing food for animals; so that the difference between this week and the other is as great as between light and darkness.
Body. This is my week, and I find myself almost famished through the fastings imposed upon me by the Soul. Yet I see that she condescends to my necessities, and therefore, I must take good care of myself and gain all the strength I can. Indeed I feel better already. In this way, I need not fear what the Soul may do to harm me during her week, especially as she is not able to keep the high stand she took at first, and thus I have not only my own week, but half of hers; and my needs, which she cannot but supply, are growing greater every day.
Soul. O Self-Love! I see that I am robbed of my rights by condescending to your endless necessities, and leaving the right path by permitting myself to be led by you, who are so self-seeking; in the end, we may find ourselves all astray. Will you, then, who are the umpire, tell me candidly what you think?
Self-Love. Soul, you have, without any cause, become so estranged from us, that you think it a great matter to condescend to the needs of others, especially from the height to which you had ascended. By degrees, however, you will become more settled; and keeping company with us will not appear so great a hardship to you as it now does. Have no doubts - God will provide. You are not to enjoy perfect happiness in this life, but in the next. Now take what you can get, and do the best you can.
Soul. I see not how I can defend myself, since I live with you, and you are united against me. It does me no good to take my turn, for your wants are so incessant that you allow me not a dayŐs rest, and so engrossing that I have no time for myself.
And when your turn comes, you wish to have everything according to your own pleasure and proclaim yourselves masters. I cannot but be a loser in the end, and therefore, I think seriously that I will try this plan no longer, but will let each one provide for himself, and find food where he can. I shall try to bear myself toward each of you in the best way I am able, since I have no choice in the matter, but must, perforce, remain with you.
Body and Self-Love. In our judgment this will answer very well. We can all live peaceably without quitting our own spheres, the more easily, since you, O Soul! have at length discovered your mistake.
The Soul yields to the allurements of the Body and of Self-Love, and falls into the depths of sin. - Of the little satisfaction she takes in earthly things, and the trifles that are sufficient to content the Body. - Of the troubles of the Soul.
And thus they went traveling through the world, each seeking to gratify his own desires, and living according to his own pleasure. The Soul looked after the Body, and granted it many things that it esteemed necessary; but, day by day, its appetites increased, incited by Self-Love, which bound them closely together, that they might not become divided. Everything appeared to them reasonable and necessary. They were never willing to deny themselves anything, and if they were not permitted to obtain every day something new, some fresh nourishment, they murmured, and complained that they were injured. Thus was the Soul finally led into an unfathomable sea of earthly love and delight, which effected in her so great a transformation, that she could no longer think or speak of anything, except according to the will of the Body and Self-Love. If she wished to turn to her own concerns, overpowered by her disorderly appetites, she dared not speak; and, in her discontent, she thus reflected within herself:
“If they should lead me as far into their own country as I led them into mine, during the first week, who will rescue me from their power? Without doubt, they will, under the plea of necessity, do with me whatever they see fit.”
Now this Soul, which still craved some support for her life, in order not to fall into despondency, as she had been created for love and happiness, trimmed her sail to the wind, although it was contrary, and finding herself no longer able to live in her own region, she still sustained herself, as best she could, saying, with some show of truth: “This beauty, pleasure, goodness, grandeur, and delight, together with all that adorns created things, furnish one means of knowing and tasting those that are divine;” and when she had tasted them she exclaimed: “Oh, how beautiful must be celestial things!”
And thus, still traveling with her two companions, she daily lost something of her natural, divine instinct, and fed on the husks for swine, as bestial as the body, so that, in a short time, the three found themselves on very good terms with one another.
While they were journeying on, in such great love and harmony, without any dissension, we may imagine what became of the rights of the superior reason. Nothing more was said about it. All their attention was turned to earthly things, to temporal pleasures, delights, and loves; and spiritual things seemed so unpalatable to them that they had no desire either to speak or hear of them, lest they should interfere with their earthly satisfactions. Thus they continued for some time, until nothing remained to the soul but a little compunction, which she seldom noticed, although at times she did so when it remained her of the risk she ran of losing everything at death. This thought caused her great fear, but when it left her she returned to the same course as before. One thing alone was against her, and that was, that although her companions and herself were all agreed to satisfy their appetites as fully as possible, yet they were not able to do so; for the soul having a boundless capacity, all finite and earthly things could neither satisfy her nor give her peace; the more she sought, the more restless she became, because she wandered farther every day from God, her true rest.
Yet earthly things so far blinded her that she believed she found peace here below; she strove, therefore, to keep herself continually occupied, in order to satisfy herself, and when she could not accomplish this in the manner she proposed, she became disgusted, and, in her interior blindness, tried something else. Thus passing from one thing to another, and from one hope to another, she forgot herself; and losing her time in these pursuits, she never obtained her wish, for so it was mercifully ordained by the Lord God. And certainly if man could find rest on earth, few souls would be saved, for they would become so absorbed in earthly things that they would make no effort to free themselves from them. The Soul, by her natural instinct, seeks enjoyment; and when she is blinded by the Body, she procures her pleasures through its means. So the Body leads her on from one thing to another, as they seek their food together; and though the Soul has an infinite capacity, and cannot, by means of the Body, find aught that will content her, yet she foolishly allows herself to be led by it, without receiving any satisfaction.
But the more the Body assimilates the Soul to itself, the more ways has it to enjoy and please itself with earthly things, since all its satisfaction comes through the condescension of the Soul; so that, if the Soul did not give her consent, the Body would have neither enjoyment nor delight. But as the Body is so closely united with the Soul, which cannot be contented with the things of earth, and as it cannot further her wishes, nor yield her the enjoyment she desires, therefore she is famished. And this is because the tastes of the Body are capable of satisfaction; for when its wants, of whatever nature, are appeased, the appetite is lost, and it can enjoy no more. It is true that it does not lose the desire to seek new pleasures in accordance with its natural tastes, but it can find nothing to satisfy it entirely; not, indeed, that the Soul will not condescend, nor that the health of the Body will not permit, but only because it has gone to the limit of its capacity, and hence both Soul and Body are ill at ease.
The Soul is disquieted because she finds herself in this vessel of the Body, so narrow and requiring so little to replenish it, although whenever it is empty, all created things seem insufficient to fill it. She is obliged to remain in it, although she is well nigh famished while urged on by her natural instinct for enjoyment. This happens by reason of the sympathy of the Soul when she wishes to procure enjoyment by means of the Body, for when she finds that the Body is satisfied with a trifle, and that it cannot further indulge itself because its desires are blunted, she is distressed by this, and also, because she cannot herself enjoy what still remains to be enjoyed. The more she gratifies her tastes, the less enjoyment she obtains from them; for it is in vain that man strives to regain his lost appetites, since he endangers his life thereby. Therefore the Soul addresses Self-Love, in the following words:
How the Soul discourses further with Self-Love, proposing a new mode of action. - Of the nature of Self-Love. - Of the little required to satisfy the desires of the Body. - How the Soul falls into misery and despair.
Soul. O Self-Love! do you not see how we molest each other, and how ill-fed we are? You have made me yield to your appetites, and now I am wretched indeed. I no longer pasture in heaven, and you starve me to death on earth: how is it with you?
Self-Love. I see that you are both dissatisfied, and thus far, not without reason. Let us go on, however, and perhaps we shall, by and by, find upon the road some good that may suit us all. I see plainly that this Body can consume but little, so that I, too, am not supplied with all the nourishment I am capable of taking. In one instant I devour what would satisfy the Body for a year, and how must it be then with you, whose capacity so far exceeds mine? This we will go: let us go in search of food better suited to us than we have hitherto found, give the Body as much of it as it requires (which is a trifle when compared to our needs), and then let it complain as much as it likes.
Soul. On what do you nourish yourself, and what can we find that will satisfy us both, and yet sustain the Body?
Self-Love. I have a great appetite; I feed both on earthly and on spiritual food; but do not take me to that place where you went the first week, but rather to any other spot. When I travel with any one and find enough to live upon, I seldom abandon my company; I collect such supplies that my followers are never in want, and I make them all rich.
Soul. I know that there is not on earth food suited to us both, from the fact that there is not enough to satisfy us. We have wandered so far from heaven (where there is food in plenty) that I know and can find no way that will lead us thither again; and I see that God closed the door of this grace at the moment when we deliberated whether we should feed according to the tastes of his world, and has left us to gratify our appetites. Now that we are perplexed and discouraged about our pasturage, we wish to return to him for our own benefit, and not through true and pure charity, which the Lord requires from us, and by which he always works in us. When I think of all I have done for you, and of all that I have justly lost, I see that I deserve to be abhorred by God, by you, by the world, and by hell. I am almost in despair through shame at finding myself led by you into the midst of earthly things, in which I believed I could find a supply for our joint necessities, while we remained together in this world. But, after trying everything, I find that not one of us could be contented or satisfied even if we had all we asked on earth. I have witnessed and proved all your appetites, and I have found that your way of quieting them greatly inflamed them; and yet, that they are so quickly satiated that after even a little gratification they were disordered, although there had been such an intense craving for that little. Yet, though blunted, they were never appeased. They were always finding themselves in the same condition. When they seemed satisfied I was famishing; and when I wished to return to my own country, to gratify my instincts, I found no cooperation as at first, for I had withdrawn from my first path, which was straight, clear, and open for all spiritual operations. Having consented to this, by reason of certain disorders of the Body, under the plea of supposed necessity, at once superfluity followed in the train of necessity, and shortly I was buried in sin; and in this snare I lost grace, became blind and dull; and from spiritual, wholly earthly. Now, alas! I am in such a condition that I can only move earthward, whereby I am drawn into every evil, like one who has wandered from his home. I leave myself to be led by you, O Body and Self-Love, wherever it pleases you, and you have carried me so far that I cannot even resist your appetites.
You have, by degrees, so changed me, or I might rather say, perverted me, that I feed on the same food as yourselves; and we are so united and agree so well, that I blindly fall in with all your desires, and have, thus, from a spiritual soul become almost an earthly body. And you, Self-Love, are so closely bound to us, and keep us so closely bound to each other, that I, poor creature, am like one chained and stifled, and, as it were, dead to spiritual things. As if deprived of interior light and taste, I go on, gazing at and tasting things earthly and corporeal, and there is no good thing remaining to me, except a certain secret remorse which leaves me but little rest. Yet I continue neglecting myself, and enjoying, as I may, these earthly things which I feed upon, and wasting my time, while daily I bring myself into greater slavery; and the farther I withdraw from God, the more dissatisfied am I with my estrangement from my natural good, which is God himself.
Thus did this unhappy Soul often bewail her wretchedness, while yet she was ignorant of its cause. This was the divine instinct which she naturally possessed; for the all-merciful God never abandons one of his creatures while it remains in this life, but often visits it with some inspiration, by which man finds himself aided when he listens to it, although, if he resists it, he often becomes worse, by reason of his ungrateful neglect of preventing grace.
This unhappy Soul soon became so burdened with sins and ingratitude, with no visible remedy, that she lost all hope of being delivered from them, and went so far as not only to take pleasure in sin, but even to boast of it. The greater were the graces she had received, so much the greater was her blindness of heart and her despair of doing right; so that it was impossible that, by any human means, she should ever obtain relief. Nothing remained but that God should rescue her by his infinite grace and goodness; for she had now fallen so low that all her desires, affections, interests, and delights, were fixed upon earthly objects. Everything else she hated and never mentioned, for she was so perverted that what once seemed sweet to her, now appeared very bitter, through the change of her taste from heavenly to earthly.
Of the light which God gave to the Soul to discover all her faults, and the state into which she had sunk. - Of her submission, confidence, and conversion.
After God in his goodness had left the Soul to wander for awhile among the things of this world until she became disgusted (for she soon found by experience that such things could never satisfy her; but that, on the contrary, they became daily more distasteful), this merciful God sent a light which penetrated her intellect, and showed her all the errors and dangers into which she had fallen, and from which God alone could deliver her. When she saw just where she was, and what path she was pursuing, and that the death of the body was on one side, and the death of the soul on the other, and found herself in the midst of so many enemies whom she allowed to lead her like a beast to the shambles, and even seemed to go joyfully on her way, terror seized upon her and with a deep and piteous sigh she turned to God, and cried to him as best she could.
Soul. O wretched creature that I am! who will deliver me from all this misery? God alone is able: Domine, fac ut videam lumen, that I may escape these snares.
No sooner had she directed her thoughts to God, and implored his help, without which she saw she had no power to move, but could only go from bad to worse, than suddenly her confidence in him became firm, and she left him to do his own will in what manner, and so far as it pleased him; and she added:
Soul. From henceforth all that befalls me I will receive as from the benign hand of God, excepting my sins, for they are all my own; committing them is always contrary to the divine will, and therefore they are our own property; nothing is ours but voluntary sin.
This firm resolution, made by the Soul before God, was secret and in her own spirit alone, without any outward demonstration. Now, when God sees that man distrusts himself, and places his whole confidence in Providence, he immediately stretches forth his holy hand to help him. He stands ever at our side, he knocks, and, if we open to him, he enters; he drives forth our enemies one after another, and restores to the Soul its baptismal robe of innocence; and all this God does in different modes and ways, operating according to the state in which he finds his creature. For the present we will speak of his dealings with Self-Love, and how he purifies the soul from it.
Of many illuminations received by the Soul, and of the pure love of God. - Of conscience, and the remorse which God awakens in it.
When God wills to purify a soul from self-love, he first sends her his divine light, that by it she may discern a spark of that pure love wherewith he loves her, and how much he has done and still does by means of this love; for he has need of us in nothing, not even the least thing. We are his enemies, not only by our nature, which is inclined to evil, but by our manifold offences, which we are ever ready to repeat.
He also discovers to her that our sins can never excite his anger so far that he ceases to do us good while we are in this world; rather does it seem that the more our sins remove us from him, so much the more does he seek to draw us toward himself by many incentives and inspirations, in order that his continued love and his benefits may keep us still in his love. The better to effect this, he uses countless ways and means, so that every soul, beholding what he has done for her, may exclaim, full of admiration: “What am I that God seems truly to have no care for any one but me?”
And, among other things, he discovers to her that pure love with which he created us, and how he requires nothing of us but that we should love him with that same love wherewith he has loved us, and that we should remain ever with him, expecting no return except that he may unite himself to us.
And he shows her how this love was chiefly proved in the pure angelic creation, and afterwards in that of our father Adam, created in his purity and sincerity by that divine love of his, wherewith God desired to be loved and obeyed; for if he had not required submission in something from Adam and his posterity, such was the excellence in which they were created that each one could have believed himself a god, by reason of the rare gifts bestowed on both the body and the soul, and of the dominion given him over all created things; but God placed him under a slight restraint only, in order that he might ever know his Maker, and render him obedience.
God, moreover, made known to this Soul that he had created man for the highest good, namely, that with soul and body he might enter into his heavenly home.
He also showed her how great an evil is sin, into which she had herself fallen, and for which there was no remedy but another manifestation of his love, which he was obliged to make in her behalf. And he further instructed her in that ardent love for us of which our Lord Jesus Christ gave such proof on the earth, from the Incarnation even unto the Ascension, and all to save us from eternal damnation.
All this did God, by his most pure act, reveal in an instant to the Soul.
She then saw the liberty in which he had created her, not subjecting her to any creature, but to her Creator alone; for he had given her free-will, over which, while she remains in this world, nothing on earth or in heaven has any power.
He allowed her to see the great patience with which he had waited for her, and borne with so many of her sins, in which, if she had died, she would have been lost forever.
He reminded her how often she had been in danger of death; and how, through pure love alone, he had rescued her, that she might have time to know her error and escape eternal damnation.
He also reminded her of the many inspirations he had given her to save her from sin, and although she had not only disregarded, but even gone contrary to his will, yet in his goodness, he did not cease to send them, now in one way, now in another, and so allured her free-will, that he had, as it were, forced her to do that which in his goodness he required. And this, too, he did so gently and patiently, that no example of human love was ever known on earth, which could compare with it.
God also made known to this Soul that, by reason of the great love he bears him, his anger is never inflamed against man, but that he always loves him, and is ever seeking to unite him to himself in love; and that on his side this instinct never fails, so that his pure love, which ever burns yet never consumes, is always active on our behalf, and he shows himself terrible only toward sin. Moreover he hates nothing but sin, which alone prevents his love from doing its work in us; for even the devils, if it were not for the heinousness of their sins, would burn with divine love.
God made plain to her, also, how he is always waiting to inflame and penetrate the hearts of men with burning rays of love, and how he is thwarted by sin. Therefore, if sin is taken away, all things are in peace; where sin is, there is never aught but strife.
She saw, likewise, the love of God for man, which, however great a sinner he may be, is never so entirely extinguished as not to bear with him while life lasts; beyond that, all is hatred and never-ending wrath.
She saw, too, a ray of his mercy shining into hell; for the wicked deserve infinite punishment for an infinite time; but the divine mercy has made the time only infinite, but has limited the extent of the punishment, and therefore a greater one might justly have been inflicted.
This Soul also beheld a certain ray of love issuing from that divine fountain, and darting towards man with a force as if to annihilate him; and she saw that when it found impediments, then, if it were possible for God to feel pain, he would suffer the greatest of all grief. This ray aimed only to penetrate the soul, and it was her own fault if she were not penetrated by it, for the ray surrounded her on all sides, seeking entrance; but the soul, blinded by self-love, did not perceive it. And when God saw a soul self-condemned, who through her willfulness would not give entrance to the light, he seemed to say: “So great is the love which I bear to this soul, that I desire never to abandon her.”
This is because the Soul, deprived of divine love, becomes almost as malignant as the divine love is good and gracious: I say, almost, for God still grants it a little mercy. She heard these words, also: “So great is the love I bear thee, that I would never willingly see thee lost; gladly would I suffer for thee, if I could, but love and evil cannot dwell together, and therefore I must abandon thee; and as through me thou wouldst have become capable of all blessedness, so, abandoned by me, thou wilt be capable of all wickedness.” So many operations and effects of love were shown to this Soul, that words fail to narrate them.
Touched by this ray, the Soul saw and felt a certain flame of love proceeding from that divine source, which, for the moment, left her like one bereft of sense, without understanding, without speech, without feeling. In that pure and simple love, as God manifested it to her, she remained at that moment wholly absorbed, and never more did this sight depart from her memory; always she beheld that pure, divine love turned toward her.
She was then shown how she had lived without the knowledge of this great love, and how great were the faults in which she saw herself, and what she could do to correspond to this pure love; and so humbled was she in her own eyes that she would have publicly proclaimed her sins through the whole city, and could do nothing but incessantly repeat these words: “O Lord! no more world, no more sin,” with a cry of inward anguish which came from the depths of her heart.
But all that she beheld did not prevent the other vision of that first love infused by the ray from doing its work within her; so that her mind was lost in that pure love in which she saw all things, especially those imperfections which were to be removed. Yet she did not estimate her sins according to the punishment they merited, but rather as committed against the great mercy of God, for she saw his pure love for the Soul, and it remained always in her heart, continually drawing her towards God, from whom it descended. This love so melted her that all her actions were done with that purity which now dwelt in her; and she continued so united with that ray, that nothing inferior to God could come between that light and the soul, either as to the will or its effects.
The Soul speaks to Self-Love and the Body of the truth she had seen, and tells them that she should be lost if she followed them. - She warns them of her purpose to do to them what they had designed to do to her, namely, to subject them to herself. - Of the disgust they felt at this.
After the Soul had seen the many things so skillfully, purely, and carefully wrought in her by love she paused, and said to the Body and Self-Love:
Soul. My brothers, I have come to know that God is about to do a work of love on my behalf and therefore I shall take no more heed of you, your needs, or your words, for I surely know that if I heed you I shall perish, although I would never have believed it, if I had not experienced it. Under the appearance of good and necessity, you have wellnigh led me to the death of sin, and have done all you could to bring me to perdition. Now I intend to do to you what you have wished to do to me, and I shall hold you in no more respect than if you were my deadly enemies. Never expect to be on good terms with me again, - give up all hopes of it as if you were among the lost. I shall strive to return to that path which I first entered, and from which you caused me to swerve by your deceits. I hope, however, through the divine light, that you will deceive me no more, and in the meanwhile I shall do all things in such a manner, that the necessities of each will be satisfied. If you have led me to do what I ought not, in order to satisfy your appetites, I will lead you to what you do not desire, in order to satisfy the spirit. I shall not spare you, even if you are worn out, even as you spared me not when I was so enslaved by you, that you did with me according to your pleasure. I hope to bring you into such subjection to myself as to change your natures.
The Body and Self-Love were greatly displeased when they found that the Soul had received so much light that they could no longer deceive her.
Body and Self-Love. We are subject to you, O Soul! let justice be done, and be the rest according to your pleasure. If we cannot subsist in any other way, we can live by violence; that is, you will oppose us as much as you can, and we will do all we can to injure you, and in the end each will be rewarded according to his deserts.
Soul. I will say one thing for your consolation: for a time you will be greatly dissatisfied, but when I have deprived you of your superfluities (which will distress you very much), you will be satisfied with all I have said and done, and you will participate forever in my welfare; dispose yourselves, therefore, to patience, for in the end we shall all enter into the divine peace. At present I will supply your necessities only, but afterwards you will have everything you desire. I will lead you to a joy so great and so secure, that you will wish for nothing more even in this life. Hitherto you have had nothing whatever in which you could take any satisfaction, and now, having tried all things, I hope to bring you to a place of the greatest happiness, which will have no end. It will begin, and go on increasing, until at length there will be such peace in the soul that the body too will feel it, and it will be enough to mitigate the suffering not alone of one, but of a thousand hells. Before this can be attained, much remains to be done, but (with light and help from God), we shall come out safely on every side; let this suffice for your encouragement. Henceforth I shall not speak, but act.
Body. You appear so terrible to me, and have made so deliberate an attack on me, that I fear you will go to some excess, to the injury of us all. I wish, therefore, to recall some things to your remembrance, and discourse with you concerning them, and then I will leave you to act your own pleasure. I would remind you that after the love of God, comes the love of the neighbor, which begins with oneŐs own body and its concerns, and you are bound to preserve it not only in life but in health. If you fail to do so, you cannot succeed in your designs. I am necessary to your existence, for when I am dead, you will have no means of adding to your glory, nor time to purify yourself from all your imperfections, and purgatory must do this for you. That kind of penance you will find very different from bearing with a body in this world. As to health, when the body is sound, the powers of the soul and the bodily senses are in a better state to receive divine light and inspiration, even through the sense of taste, which, in the soulŐs esteem, passes for a superfluity. Now, if I am infirm, these things and many others that I could name would fail you, even as time fails me to enumerate them. I have said to you what seems to me most important both for your interest and mine that each may have his due, and both reach the port of salvation, without reproach in heaven or on earth.
Soul. I am made aware of all that is needful to me, interiorly by the divine light, and exteriorly by your reasons, and many more that might be thought of. But, henceforth, let me hear no more reasoning, or external persuasions, for I wish to give my attention to superior considerations, which are of such a sort that they can do injustice to no one, but will rather give to each all that he needs, so that none can complain, except of his own imperfections. Whoever complains, shows that he is not yet well-ordered, and that his appetites are not in subjection to reason. Leave all this to me, O Body, and I will make you change your opinion. You shall live in such content that you could never believe it, did you not experience it.
I was once mistress, when I first turned my thoughts to spiritual things; but afterwards I was deluded into making myself your equal, and we made with Self-Love a compact to do good, but only in such a manner that one should not take advantage of the other; by degrees, however, you so contrived that I became completely enslaved, and could do nothing but what was pleasing to you. Now, I am determined to be mistress again, with this understanding, that if you are willing to become my servant, I shall be contented, and you shall want for nothing that a servant needs. But if you will not be my servant, I shall compel you to become my slave, and so completely my slave, that you will be willing to serve me for love, and thus will all our opposition end, for in every way I will be served, and will be mistress.
Of the view which the Soul has of the goodness and providence of God. - Of her faults and imperfections. - Of her esteem of herself and hatred of her Humanity.
And thus this enlightened Soul began to see all her irregularities and the perils, both of the spirit and the flesh, which she had unawares encountered, and to which she would have fallen a victim, had not the divine Providence interposed. She was overwhelmed with astonishment at the great mercy of God towards a being so deeply plunged in sin. But when man begins to see the goodness and providence of God, then God shows him also all his defects, for which he will supply the remedy, and the soul perceives them in an instant by that divine light, the light of pure love. The Soul, having these two clear views, so definite and precise, the one of the goodness of God in his bounty, granted in virtue of love, and the other of herself, plunged in sins, and voluntarily acting in opposition to the infinite goodness of God, took thought and said:
Soul. O Lord! never more will I offend thee, nor do anything in opposition to thy goodness; for this thy great goodness has so overpowered me and drawn me so closely unto thee, that I have resolved never more to withdraw from thy disposal, even should it cost life itself.
Then this Soul looked within, and seeing all her defects and evil instincts, said:
Soul. Does it seem to you that you are prepared to present yourself before your Maker? How is it with you? Who will deliver you from all your difficulties? Now you see how wretched and vile you are, although you believed yourself so beautiful and good. And this happened because you were so blinded by Self-Love, that you believed in no other paradise than that of sensual delights. And now, behold how all these things appear in the divine presence - truly no better than the work of the devil!
Then this Soul turned with a deep and bitter hatred toward Humanity, and said:
Soul. I warn you, O Humanity! that if henceforth you speak to me of aught unseemly, you shall suffer for it. For the future, I shall treat you as if you were an evil spirit, for you have ever been, and ever will be, diabolical in your behavior, since nothing else is known to you. And as you now see as well as I what a terrible thing it is to offend God, I know not how you will ever have the courage to think or speak according to your own natural appetites, when you know that you are thereby acting contrary to his will; however, should you do so, I shall inflict a penance upon you that you will not speedily forget.
When Humanity heard the Soul utter these words, and became conscious of the greatness of her offences, she answered not a word, but stood with downcast looks, like a criminal led to justice.
How the Soul turns to God and perceives her own sinfulness, and also what she would have become had she continued her former course. - Almost in despair she bewails her offences. - Of the confidence with which our Lord inspires her, appearing to her spirit; and of the wound she receives.
The Soul then turned towards God, and in that clear light spoke thus:
Soul. O Master! what has moved thee to give such light to this Soul, so blind and so corrupt, thy enemy, who goes astray from thee, ever feeding upon sensual things, and who is so unwilling to be lifted out of that condition, that she always shuns whatever would elevate her? I am stupefied when I consider myself - a creature so entirely vile!
And while in this condition it was given her to see where she was, whither she was going, what would have been her end, and what she would have carried with her to that end had she persevered in her course. She saw at a glance all these things as they were, and as they would have been if God had not interposed. At which sight she was beside herself with fear and agitation, and could do nothing but weep, and sigh, and inwardly lament, thus bewailing her sad condition:
Soul. Oh, wretched and most miserable! had I continued in this course, how many trials and sorrows should I have brought upon myself in this world; and in the next have found myself the enemy of God, and condemned eternally to hell!
For a time this vision remained with her, and caused her such interior suffering that she could neither think of other things nor perform any cheerful action, but remained in a settled melancholy, and knew not what to do with herself, for she could find no rest; neither in heaven, which had no place for such as she, nor on earth, for she merited that it should swallow her up; nor did she feel that she had a right to appear among men, or to take heed of aught that concerned her comfort or discomfort. She saw that she alone had done all the evil, and earnestly desired that alone, and without help from any other creature, she might make satisfaction to the extent of her power; and for this reason she said:
Soul. I see that hell is my place, but I cannot reach it except through death. Alas! my God! what will become of me? I know not where to hide myself: I wander on, lamenting, and find no place of rest, for I am so stained with sin that I cannot appear where thou art, and yet I find thee everywhere. In this condition I am insupportable to myself. What, then, shall I do with this foul and tattered garment in which I find myself clothed? Tears are useless, sighs do not help me, contrition is not accepted, penances are fruitless; for nothing will satisfy for my sins if God will not be merciful and come to my assistance.
Thus the Soul remained almost in despair, powerless to make satisfaction, unable to have recourse to the mercy of God (for she found in herself nothing which could give her confidence, yet was not able wholly to despair), tormented within herself at the sight of the heavy burden which she carried, in agony of spirit at the evil she had done; she grieved interiorly, yet was unable to shed a tear, only heaving secret sighs which wellnigh consumed her life. She could neither speak, eat, sleep, smile, nor look up to heaven. She had neither spiritual nor natural feeling; nor did she know where she was, whether in heaven or on earth, but was like one stunned and senseless; gladly would she have hidden herself that she might not be found, nor be obliged to enter into the company of others.
So abstracted was she, and lost in this vision of the offended God, that she no longer seemed a rational creature, but like a frightened animal. And this happened because it was given her to see the greatness of her sins and the ruin that they caused - a sight which, had she beheld it longer, would have consumed her body had it been adamant.
But when God had left her to contemplate it until the impression could never be forgotten, he came to her assistance as we shall here relate.
One day in her dwelling our Lord Jesus Christ appeared to her interior vision, bleeding from head to foot, so that the blood seemed pouring in a stream from his body as he passed; and in secret she heard these words: “Seest thou this blood? it is shed for love of thee, and in satisfaction for they sins.” At these words she was pierced with a deep wound of love for him, our Lord Jesus Christ, and at the same time her confidence returned and banished her despair, so that she began to rejoice a little in our Lord.
How God once more manifested to the Soul the love with which he had suffered for her. - She sees the malice of man and the pure love of God. - Of the offering, which she makes of herself to God, and of the wound she receives. - Of the five fountains of Jesus. - Of his constant and jealous watchfulness.
Another sight was shown her, greater than the first, so much greater that no tongue could describe, nor intellect imagine it, and it was this: God showed her the love with which he had suffered for love of her. When the Soul saw this most pure and strong love wherewith God loved her, she was pierced with a wound so deep, so keen, that it made her despise every other love and everything that could interpose between herself and God, except it were God himself. In the light of this love she saw the malignity of man the the benignity of the pure love of God. These two visions never again faded away from her memory, and the one revealed to her the other; for, beholding the infinite mercy of God performing such works of pure love towards man, the Soul would have fainted from excess of delight if any more had been manifested to her. Such a vision, moreover, made clear to her the malice of man, seeing that great love of God continually employed in her behalf, almost, as it were, in spite of herself; for God, looking not at the sins that she committed, never ceased in his mercy to do her good in many ways, being moved by none of her offences but rather with pure love repairing them, always watchful for her benefit. Hereupon the Soul, turning towards herself, saw how sinful she had been in acting in opposition to the great goodness of God. And then she began to see the nature of man, with all his malice, as bad almost as God is good. But at this sight she fell into despair of herself, for man seemed to her the demon, with all his malignity; and if God had not in part veiled the sight, both Soul and Body would have fainted with fear. Hence as at the former vision of the divine love towards man she despaired within herself, as believing it to be irremediable, and wishing to lose no more time in seeking for a remedy, she turned, as her sole confidence, to God, her Love, and said to him:
Soul. Lord! I give myself to thee. I know not what I am fitted for but to make a hell by myself alone. O Lord! I desire to make this compact with thee: I will give this sinful being of mine into thy hands, for thou alone canst hide it in thy mercy, and so dispose of me that nothing of myself can any more be seen. Occupy me wholly with thy love, which will enlighten in me every other love and keep me wholly lost in thee, holding me so engrossed by thee that I shall find neither time nor place for self.
Her most sweet Lord made answer that he was content, and from that moment all thought and memory of self was lost, so that it never more disturbed her peace. On the other hand, a ray of love so burning and penetrating was infused into her heart and wounded her so deeply that in an instant it bereft her of every attachment, appetite, delectation, and natural quality that ever did or ever could belong to her. She was shorn of everything, though not without her own consent, by virtue of her correspondence with the love revealed to her, and by this she was so powerfully drawn that it astonished, absorbed, and transformed her. She sighed and lamented far more than when she beheld what a sinful creature she was.
This ray of love passed into her soul with the impression of the five wounds of Christ, as five fountains from which were flowing forth drops of blood and burning love for man. God gave her also the power to discern readily the nature of man; and she beheld alternately the one sight and then the other, so far as she could look upon them then the other, so far as she could look upon them and live. The sight of herself caused her no suffering, for her merciful God had relieved her of all sorrow on that account, and yet she saw herself plainly, and in what manner she was upheld by God. If ever God had left her to herself, she comprehended that she would have been ready to fall into all manner of wrong doing, for she saw herself as perverse as the evil spirit himself; but, finding herself in the hands of God, it was not possible in such good hands to feel any fear.
But the sight that tortured and consumed her was of that burning, divine love towards man; she said that no human tongue could describe how inflamed she was with that glowing fire. The love that God manifested to her made her instinctively reject whatever was displeasing to him, with a jealous watchfulness against the least defect; and her eyes were opened not to her sins only, but to her slightest imperfections and unnecessary practices. She heeded not the world, the flesh, nor the devil. All the devils who opposed her were not so strong as this soul in her union with God, who is the true strength of those who fear, love, and serve him; and so much the more because she did not perceive how she could be injured by self, it being in the hands of God and upheld by his goodness.
Of the instinct which led her to cast off every superfluous thing, and even that appear necessary. - Of her instinct for prayer and her mortification.
An instinct was given her to despise herself, and to hold everything under heaven in no more esteem than if for her it did not exist. This love gave her the further instinct to deny the body not only all superfluous food but also many things that appeared needful, and the same with regard to clothing, and all society, whether good or bad. She was led into solitude of mind and body, and was reduced to herself alone. An instinct for prayer was also given her, so that she would have remained for hours together, on her bare knees, to the great discomfort of Humanity, which, although it resented and disapproved of this, did not refuse to serve the Soul, and to follow wherever she led.
All these instincts were called into action by God alone, for the Soul had no wish or aim but God, who had taken the direction, and wished to regulate all her desires and inclinations, and free her from all those that were human and worldly by giving her contrary ones. She was deprived of the use of fruits for which she had a natural inclination and an especial fondness. She ate no flesh nor anything superfluous, and when she needed food, that which she might eat appeared to be always at hand. That she might lose all relish of what she ate she was taught to carry always about her some dust of aloes, and when she found herself taking pleasure in any food or preferring one kind to another she secretly sprinkled it with a little of the bitter power before eating it. Her eyes were always cast down; she never laughed, and recognized no one who passed her, for she was so occupied with what was taking place within that her sense of exterior things was, as it were, dead.
She seemed ever discontented, yet was ever most content. She tried to rob herself of sleep by placing rough objects in her bed, but God would not permit this, for however she resisted it, sleep overcame her against her will. When Humanity saw all this spiritual ardor, and that itself was no more esteemed than if it were not, and that there was no help for it, it was greatly dissatisfied, yet, like a thief in prison who dares not utter a word in his own behalf because he knows the crime he has committed, it feared to make the matter worse, knowing that Christ, the Judge, was in anger against it. One hope it could have (and but one was possible), as when it is raining there is hope that bad weather will soon be over, and with this poor hope it waited in patience; but the Spirit in its vehemence restrained Humanity by so many bonds that it could find no relief but in sleep, and became withered, colorless, and dry like a stick; on this account the following conversation took place one day between the Spirit and Humanity:
Of the words that passed between the Spirit and Humanity. - Of the complaints made by Humanity against the fervor of the Spirit which she thought she could endure no longer.
Spirit. Tell me, Humanity, what think you of this mode of life?
Humanity. It seems to me, Spirit, that you have entered upon this course so vehemently that you will hardly be able to persevere in it; I hope that death, or at the least, infirmity, will not fail to follow, and that perhaps sooner than you think; and thus you will not be able to attain what you are seeking in this world, but will be obliged to go to purgatory, where you will suffer more in a moment than you would here in a whole lifetime. I shall be in the grave, and that will be far better for me than to live in this world. You will go into that fire where it will be worse with you than with me. Retrace your steps; I have no more to say.
Spirit. I hope that neither death nor infirmity will follow: at present, however, you are at the height of your misery. From this time forth you are purged of all bad humors; abstinence has been good for you; I see that your color and flesh are gone; the divine love will soon have consumed everything; I know that if I do not provide you with food you will wither away, but I will make such provision that everybody will be satisfied without calling on death or infirmity.
Such light was given to the Spirit that she perceived the least thing that might be injurious to her, and at once removed it. Humanity did all that was required of it without offering any resistance, for the spirit was so powerful that otherwise it would have fared all the worse. Finding itself in this situation and wholly without comfort, it said within itself:
Humanity. If I could have a little nourishment from spiritual things, and were able to content myself with what satisfies the Spirit, it would comfort me; otherwise I know not what to do, nor how to remain patient, thus tormented and imprisoned.
While occupied with these thoughts it chanced that the saint found herself in a church, and received communion, and there came upon her a ray of spiritual light with such force that both Soul and Body seemed to have entered together into life eternal (according to those words: Cor meum et caro mea exultaverunt, etc.). So great was the illumination and the feeling of divine things which they enjoyed that even Humanity feasted upon them, and said:
Now in this way I could live, but when that moment had passed, and this new vision had been seen by her in the light of pure love, she began to exclaim: Oh, Master, Master, I ask no sign from thee. I ask not for sensible delights, rather would I flee from them as from demons, for they are hindrances to pure love, which should be bare, lest man should with spirit and with body attach himself to it under the pretext of perfection. I pray thee, Lord, give not such things to me, they are not for me, nor for him who desires pure love in its simplicity.
Humanity complains that the Spirit does not keep its promises and the Spirit defends itself against this charge. - Of the perils of spiritual delights under the semblance of good, and how they are more dangerous than bodily pleasures, which are evidently contrary to the Spirit. - Of the threats of the Spirit against its Humanity.
When Humanity found how hateful to the Spirit was that food upon which it fed and hoped always to feed, it was greatly dissatisfied and turned again to address her. It seemed to the body that there was no just cause why nourishment should be refused it, and especially now that it had become spiritual, for the Spirit had promised that the time would come when it too should be satisfied with the things that were according to the spirit; but, finding the contrary to be the case, and that the Spirit had no desire even for spiritual food and unwilling to regale the body with it, Humanity spoke as follows:
Humanity. You do not keep your promises, Spirit, and it will be impossible for me to persevere in such austerity without some nourishment, either natural or spiritual.
Spirit. You complain, and, as you think, with reason: I will, therefore, explain myself. You have misunderstood me. I did, indeed, promise that in the end you should be contented with what contents me, but you are looking for what will fatten, and not for what will satisfy; and not for what will satisfy; and because I am not pleased with this sensible delight, nay, even abhor it, I would have you abhor it also. You still have natural cravings for this pleasure, and you think I ought to gratify them; know that I wish to deaden and to regulate them that they may desire only in accordance with my pleasure: it is plain that you are unfirm, and I shall treat you as a sick person should be treated. What you desire would injure your health; and since you affirm that spiritual delights are given by God and cannot do harm, know that your intellect partakes also of sensuality and therefore you are not a good judge; my desire is to devote myself to love, pure and simple, which attaches itself to nothing which can excite either a natural or a spiritual sentiment or feeling, and I declare to you that I dread far more an attachment to a spiritual than to a natural delight.
This is because the spiritual recaptures man under the pretext of being a good, and it is impossible without great difficulty to make him understand that it is not one; thus he continues to nourish himself on that which weans him from God. But in good truth I tell you that these hinges must of necessity be shunned by him who wishes to enjoy God as simply and purely as may be, for they are like venom to the pure love of God; and spiritual pleasure must be fled from as from the devil himself; because wherever it fastens itself it produces incurable infirmities which man does not perceive; but, believing that he is well, sees not that he is hindered from perfect good, that is, God himself, pure, simple, separated from all things human.
But natural gratifications, being evidently contrary to the spirit, cannot be disguised under the appearance of good, and I do not fear them as much. The contentment and the peace that will give you are that which will satisfy me, and which, I am certain, will also satisfy you; but it is impossible that you should yet attain it, being still far too impure.
I wish first to cleanse the house and then to adorn and fill it with good things, which will satisfy us both but nourish neither. And because you say that you cannot endure this, know that I must compel you to endure it; what cannot be done in one year can be done in ten. I am not sorry to combat with you, being willing to subdue you by any means; I wish to free myself from this constant goading at my heels, for otherwise it will never be well with me. You are gall and poison in every viand that I attempt to taste, and until I have destroyed you I shall never be at peace, for you seem bent upon doing your worst. I too shall do what is possible to free myself quickly from you; yet the worst that I can do to you will but redound to your benefit and advantage. I warn you not to get angry with me, for you can never obtain your desire and purpose in that way, but rather the contrary; console yourself with patience unmixed with hope. Conform for the present to my will - hereafter I may do yours.
Humanity prays the Spirit to act justly and with equity, reminding her that she had been the first to sin and that the body had been merely the instrument. - The Spirit proves the contrary, and shows who has been the cause of their fall. - The Spirit demonstrates also the necessity of purification here, and that it is better to suffer for a thousand years in this world than one hour in purgatory.
Humanity. I am, as you see, very dissatisfied and unhappy; I can escape from what you wish neither by reason nor by force; yet I implore you to satisfy me in this matter, and then you may continue what you have begun and I will have what patience I can. Oh, Spirit, you who are bringing me to justice, I pray you deal justly with me. You know that I am only a body, bestial, without reason, without prayer, without will, and without memory; because all these are in the spirit, and I work as an instrument and can do nothing but what you will. Tell me; have you not been the first to sin, with the reason and with the will? Have I been more than the instrument of sin, truly conceived and resolved upon in the spirit? Who, then, deserves the punishment?
Spirit. Your reasoning seems at the first sight to be very good; yet I believe I can refute it satisfactorily, as I intend to do.
If you, Humanity, never have sinned and never can sin, as you maintain, God, who has made the body to accompany the Soul wherever she goes, to heaven as well as to hell, must be as unjust judge; for, whoever does neither good nor evil should have neither reward nor punishment; but, since it is impossible for God to be unjust, it follows that my reasoning is sound. I confess I was the first to commit sin, for, having free-will, I cannot be constrained against it, nor can either good or evil be done if I do not first consent. If I resolve upon the good, heaven and earth yield me their support, and on every side I am encouraged to perform it; it is not possible that I should be impeded, either by the devil, or by the world, or by the flesh.
If I am bent upon evil, I find also support on every side, from the devils, the world, and myself, that is, from the flesh and its malignant instincts; and since God rewards all that is good and punishes all that is evil, it follows that all who aid in doing good will be rewarded, and all who aid in doing evil will be punished. You know that in the beginning I wished to follow my spiritual inclinations, and commenced with great impetuosity; but you assailed me with so many reasons and under the plea of such pressing necessity, that we were in continual conflict with each other; then Self-Love came as a mediator, disagreed with both, and led us so far astray that to please you and supply your needs I left the right path, and for this we shall be justly punished. It is true that if that great misery, mortal sin, is found among us, which God forbid, I, as the chief and the most noble, shall be more sorely tormented than you, but we shall both wish that we had never been created. Therefore it behooves us to purify ourselves, not alone from every stain of sin, but also from every smallest imperfection which we have contracted through our evil habits. I will tell you, moreover that God has given me a light so subtle and clear that of a surety, unless I fail before I leave you, there will remain in me no single taint of imperfection either of soul or body.
Note this well: How long, think you, will this season of purification last? You know well that it can endure but a short time. In the beginning it seems terrible to you, but as it goes on you will suffer less, because your wicked habits will be destroyed; do not fear lest you should want powerful support, for know that God, by the decree of his goodness, never allows man to suffer beyond his strength. If we regarded our own proper good, it would seem better to us to suffer here for a little than to remain in torments forever; better to suffer for a thousand years every woe possible to this body in this world, than to remain one hour in purgatory. I have briefly made this little speech for your comfort.
God pours into and diffuses throughout the soul a divine sweetness, whereat she complains, not desiring any proof of love. - God, notwithstanding, leaves her plunged in a sea of divine love. - He gives her, also, a vision of pure Love, and another of Self-Love and of her own evil inclinations.
When the Spirit had thus satisfied Humanity, it left her and returned to its first simple and pure object, steadily pursuing that intimate and penetrating love which was so interiorly restrained that it left Humanity scarcely any breath for either natural or spiritual things, so that she seemed like one beside herself.
From the time that God established her in pure and simple love, he began to try this, his creature, with suitable temptations, mostly spiritual. He infused into her the great sweetness and divine tenderness of a most sweet love, and both Soul and Body were so overpowered by it that they could scarcely live. But as the eye of love sees all, suddenly the Soul beheld these great things, and she commenced to grieve and to say that she did not wish for such sweetness and delight in this present life, nor desire these proofs of love because they corrupt love itself.
I will guard myself, she said, as far as I am able, and neither approach them nor provide any quiet and solitary spot where I might feed upon these things, for they are poison to pure love. Yet God pursued her and kept her in the fountain of this divine sweetness; and however much the soul might protest against these proofs of his love, she nevertheless remained plunged in them as in a sea; not always in one vision, but in many and diverse.
One of these visions was that God showed her a ray of that purest love wherewith he himself loved the Soul; and the sight was such that if he had not tempered the amorous flame with a vision of Self-Love with which, the Soul saw herself stained, she could not have lived.
He showed her at another time a vision of herself, that is, of her evil inclinations, so contrary to pure love, and thus tempered that devouring flame; for after beholding it she would have rather died than offended his love in the least, not alone by sin but by imperfection. The Soul, thus occupied, neither thought nor even wished to think of her body any more than if she had none, and in this way was relieved from its annoyances, and habituated it to do her will.
Humanity laments and asks for something to do. - The Spirit consents and enjoins upon it that it should be obedient to all things, stopping at nothing for any pleasure or displeasure that it might feel therein. - Of the rules he wishes to observe; and of the prohibition he imposes upon it of forming no particular friendships.
When Humanity perceived that its path became daily narrower, it again addressed the Spirit, and said humbly and with great fear and reverence:
Humanity. I find that you have deprived me of every human, external consolation, so that I may count myself as dead to the world; and if you persevere in this strictness, I see that the time will come when I shall desire death rather than lead any longer such a life.
Spirit. I am willing to give you something external to do, but it will not be agreeable. You will even abhor it, but if you complain it will be the worse for you.
Humanity. I shall be entirely satisfied if only I can have some employment.
Spirit. I warn you in the outset that I wish to teach you what it is to be obedient, in order that you may become humble, and subject to every creature; and that you may be trained to this, you shall labor for your own support. I wish, further, that whenever and wherever you are called to perform works of mercy, you should go to the infirm and to the poor of every condition. I wish you never to refuse.
You will do, as if by instinct, all that I command you, even to nursing the most loathsomely diseased persons, and whenever you are called to this duty, even should you be conversing with God, I wish you to leave all and go quickly to your work and wherever you are led; never regard either the person who summons you or the work you are to do. I wish you to have no choice; rather let the will of every other creature be yours; let your own be always thwarted.
In these exercises, so terrible to you, it is necessary to employ you, because I wish to extinguish in you every inordinate pleasure or displeasure which it is possible to feel in this life. I will root out every imperfection, and allow you to pause for either pleasure or pain no more than if you were dead. This I will see for myself, for it is necessary to try you, and therefore I shall put you to every needful proof; when I give you something abhorrent to you to do, and see that you so feel or regard it, I shall keep you at it until you do neither. I shall do likewise in those things from which you might obtain any consolation. I will force you from them until you lose all sense of pleasure or pain that might proceed therefrom. And to try you in all possible ways, you shall always be occupied in that which is either pleasurable or painful.
Moreover, you will neither form any friendship for any one, nor retain a special regard for your own kindred; but you will love every one without partiality and without affection, the poor as well as the rich, friends as well as kindred. I would wish you not really to know one from another, to make friends with no one, no matter how religious or spiritual, or to seek intimacy with none. Let it be enough for you to do your duty, as I have told you, and in this way I wish you to conduct yourself in your conversation with creatures on the earth.
Of the poverty in which the Spirit compelled Humanity to live. - How she was obliged to visit the poor and sick. - Of the suffering she found among them. - Of the oppression and interior distress which she experienced.
After the Spirit had thus discoursed with Humanity, she found everything ordered for her in the following manner: In the first place, she was reduced to such poverty that she could not have lived, if God had not provided for her by alms.
When the Ladies of Mercy requested her, according to their custom, to visit the poor for various charitable purposes, she always went with them among these wretched beings, many of whom were intolerable from the filth and vermin with which they were covered, and some of them in their misery and want would break forth in fearful exclamations of despair, so that the entrance to their dwellings seemed like the entrance into a sepulchre, frightful to every human being. In spite of this she was eager to draw near and even touch them, that she might do something for their bodies and their souls.
There were some among the infirm who, beside their uncleanness and offensiveness, were always complaining of their attendants and loading them with abuse.
She visited, too, the poor of St Lazarus, where the greatest suffering was to be seen, as if the Spirit sent her there in search of all sorts of misery and woe. She found her task far worse than she believed, and was assailed, as it were, on both sides, namely, on the side of Humanity, which loathed these miseries, and by the Spirit, which was so lost to every external impression as to be unable to hold converse with creatures.
Humanity was so overawed by the Spirit, and thrown into such consternation by all these things, that she knew not what to do. For, on the one hand, when she was assailed by the Spirit, she would have done anything to escape its power, and when she afterwards beheld the misery of these poor creatures, she would gladly have fled from them, and yet could not. Everything was distressing to her, especially when she found that the Spirit required of her to devote herself to her work, without agitation or disgust, as she would take bread and put it into her mouth when she was hungry. And thus poor Humanity had all these difficult affairs on her hands, without a single remedy. No one could have looked upon her, in such fearful conflicts, without great compassion; but because these things were done for the attainment of liberty of spirit, everything that was required of her became easy of execution.
Humanity having tried both exterior suffering and interior distress, the Spirit allows her to choose between them.
When the Spirit had given Humanity a trial of all the misery above described, and made her to understand all that was to be done, he thus addressed her.
Spirit. Now that you have seen for yourself what before you had only heard of, what will you do? You have tried both ways, and one of these you must pursue. You may choose for yourself, however, but with the condition, that I will make you live with creatures in a state of great subjection, as long as it shall please me; in subjection so great that you will have no place in the world where you can turn for the least repose, and I shall look to it that this shall soon begin.
Humanity. I have seen and tried the two extremes, and however great and terrible are the miseries I have witnessed, heard of, and endured, yet I would choose rather to live in the midst of them than in the piercing light of that divine ray. I fear both exterior suffering and that interior divine light which terrifies me still more; and hence I am in great perplexity.
Spirit. If you choose one of these you will not have the other; but still I warn you that you will lose everything superfluous, in order that I may live, so far as possible, pure and disengaged, as I was created; to accomplish this, I shall disregard whatever opposes me.
Humanity. Since you are so determined, all further talk would be a loss of time. I submit to all you require, and give myself up into your hands, as one dead yet still alive. Would that I were dead.
The Spirit, wishing to annihilate Humanity yet further, and finding that to approach the filth and vermin of the poor, and to touch them, overcame her with disgust, said to her: “Take some of this vermin, put it in your mouth, and eat it, if you wish to free yourself from this loathing.”
When Humanity heard this, she was aghast for a moment; but she resolved at once to obey, and so doing was hence forward free.
These things were so contrary to Humanity, that no effort of nature could make them endurable; yet when she had forced herself to comply, her contentment was so great that it gave her courage for the future, and she was able to endure the outcries and complaints of impatient persons, and practice every kind of self-denial.
Thus the Spirit exercised her for about three years, all the while occupying her interior in such a manner that she performed all these acts without any interior consciousness of them, and she was made to persevere until she ceased to care for them.
The Spirit brings Humanity to consent to take up her abode in a hospital, where she served the sick in the humblest manner, doing everything that she was ordered to do. - When she became accustomed to whatever she naturally most abhorred, she was made directress of the hospital, and was gifted with the prudence necessary for this office. - How the burning flame of love ever increased within her.
The Spirit now obliged Humanity to take another step, requiring great submission of mind and body; namely, she was directed to live in the hospital, with her husband, and devote herself to the service of the sick; and here she was under the authority of these who governed, as if she had been their servant, hardly daring to speak, living quietly in one of the apartments, and obedient to all that was imposed upon her. When a charge was given her she fulfilled it with alacrity, although she was held in no esteem by the inmates. But of all this she had no interior recognition, for she was wholly lifted above herself, and hereupon said to the Spirit:
Humanity. If you wish me to perform these works, give me the power to do them. I refuse none of them, but they must of necessity be done with some little accidental love, or they will be ill done.
Accordingly some interest in her work was granted her, for which and with which she continued it, but it was only given just at the point where the work in which she was engaged required it, then it was taken from her, together with the memory of the work; and in these employments, and in great poverty, the Spirit left her for many years.
When the Spirit had disciplined Humanity, by such trials and humiliations, until she was able to look not only without disgust upon things which at first she naturally loathed, but busied herself unweariedly and willingly with whatever was most offensive, she was put to another trial, being placed as superior in charge of this hospital, that it might be seen if her humanity would anywhere discover itself, by reason of this elevation. She was tried by the Spirit, in this way, for many years, aided by him, however, with all needed hints and suggestions, without which she could not have fulfilled this charge. And with all these employments she remained recollected in that love which was secretly increasing as Humanity was destroyed, for just so far as she became rid of Self-Love, did she become possessed by pure love, which penetrated and filled her in proportion as she became dead to self. And thus this soul, burning with pure love, melted in that divine flame, and as this continually increased, the soul was always consuming with love; therefore she discharged all her duties with alacrity, never resting, that she might forget the flame that devoured her more and more. She never could speak of this to any one, but she talked of it to herself, unheard by others.
Now the Spirit having thus taken possession of her, said: “I will no longer call her a human creature, so entirely do I behold her in God, and with nothing human remaining.”