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The Adornment of the Spiritual Marriage, by Jan van Ruysbroeck, [1916], at





Now we find yet another kind of perverted men, who are in some points different from those already described; though they too believe themselves to be exempted from all works, and to be instruments with which God works what He wills. And therefore they say that they are in a purely passive state without activity; and that the works which God works through them are noble and meritorious beyond anything that another man, working his works himself by the grace of God, could do. And therefore they say that they are God-passive men, 69 and that they do nothing of themselves, but that God works all their works. And they say they can do no sin: for it is God Who does all their works, and in themselves they are empty of all things. And all that God wills is worked through them, and nothing else. These men have surrendered themselves to inward passivity in their emptiness; and live without preference for any one thing. And they have a resigned and humble appearance, and can very well endure and suffer with equanimity all that befalls them; for they hold themselves to be the instruments with which God works according to His will. Such men in many of their ways and works are like in their conduct to good men, but in some things they differ from them; for all things to which they are inwardly urged, whether these be virtuous or not, they believe to proceed from the Holy Ghost. And in this and in suchlike things, they are deceived; for the Spirit of God neither wills, counsels, nor works, in any man things which are contrary to the teaching of Christ and Holy Christianity.

Such folk are hard to recognise, save by the man who is enlightened, and has received the power of discerning spirits and divine truth; for many amongst them are cunning in outward things and know well how to cloak and make fair their perversity. And they are so self-willed, and hold so fast to their own peculiar ideas, that they would sooner die than abandon one point of the thing they have laid hold on; for they hold themselves the holiest and most enlightened of all men living.

These men differ from the first kind in this, that they say that they can grow and acquire merit: whereas the others hold that they cannot merit anything more, for they possess themselves in unity and emptiness, wherefrom one cannot rise higher, because here there is no more activity. These are all perverted men, and are the most wicked of the living; and they are to be abhorred as if they were the Fiend in hell. But if you have well understood that teaching which I have given you heretofore in various ways, you will perceive that these men are deceived. For they live contrary to God and righteousness and all saints; and they are all precursors of the Antichrist, preparing his way in every unbelief. For they would be free, without the commandments of God, and without virtues; and empty and united with God, without love and charity. And they would be God-seeing men without loving and steadfast contemplation, and the holiest of all men living without the works of holiness. And they say that they rest in Him Whom they do not love; and are uplifted into That which they neither will nor desire. And they say that they are stripped of every virtue, and of diligent devotion to God, lest they should hinder God in His working. They confess, indeed, that God is the Creator and Lord over all creatures, and yet they will neither thank nor praise Him. They confess that His power and His riches are without end, and yet they say that He can neither give nor take from them anything, neither can they grow nor acquire merit.

And sometimes too they uphold the opposite, and say that they merit a greater wage than other men; for God does their works, and they themselves endure passively the workings of God, without co-operation, since these are worked of Him. And in this, they say, lies the supreme merit. But this is altogether illusion and impossibility. For the activity of God is in itself eternal and unchangeable; for He is His own activity and nought else. And in this working there can be no growth, nor merit of any creature whatsoever; for here there is nothing but God, Who can neither wax nor wane. But the creatures, by virtue of God, have their own activity, in nature and in grace, and also in glory: and if their works end in grace here, they shall continue in glory for ever. Now were it possible, which it is not, that a spiritual creature could be annihilated as regards its activity, and thereby became even as empty as it was when it was not made—that is, that it could become wholly one with God, as it was then—it could acquire no merit, no more than it could before creation. Further, it would be neither holier nor more blessed than a stone or a log of wood; for without our own work and the knowledge and love of God, we cannot be blessed. Though God would indeed be blessed, as He is eternally, yet it would not avail us. And therefore that which these say of their emptiness is all deceit; for they wish to excuse all wickedness and perversity, and give these out as nobler and more sublime than all the virtues. And they would cunningly disguise the worst, so that it should seem the best. All these are contrary to God and all His saints; but they have a likeness to the damned spirits in hell, for these too are without charity and without knowledge, and are empty of thanksgivings and praise and of all loving adherence; and this is the cause, why they remain damned in eternity. And that these folk may be like to them, they lack only this, that they should fall from time into eternity, and that the justice of God be revealed in their works.

But Christ the Son of God, Who according to His manhood is the pattern and the head of all good men, showing them how to live, He was and is and everlastingly shall abide with all His members, that is, with all His saints, in love and longing, thankfulness and praise, toward His heavenly Father. Nevertheless, His soul was and is united with the Divine Essence and blessed therein. But to this bare idleness He never could, nor ever shall, come; for His glorified soul, and all who are blessed, have an eternal loving striving, even as those who have tasted of God, and are hungry and thirsty, and can nevermore be satisfied. Yet that very soul of Christ, and all saints, partake of God above all desires, where there is nothing but the One. This is the eternal bliss of God and of all His chosen. And that is why fruition and activity are the blessedness of Christ and all His saints; and this is the life of all good men, each according to the measure of his love. And this is a righteousness that shall never pass away. And that is why we should adorn ourselves, from without and from within, with virtues and with goodly behaviour, as do the saints; and should lovingly and humbly exercise ourselves before the eyes of God in all our works. Then we shall meet God by means of all His gifts. And then we shall be touched by sensible love, and shall be filled with loyalty towards all. And so we shall flow forth and flow back again in true charity, and shall be firmly established and steadfast within ourselves in simple peace and in the Divine likeness. And by means of this likeness and fruitive love and the Divine brightness, we shall be melted into the unity, and shall meet God through God, without means, in fruitive rest. And so we shall eternally remain within, and yet continually flow forth and incessantly flow back again. And herewith we shall possess a veritable inward life in all perfection, That this may come to pass in us, so help us God. AMEN.




Next: Chapter I. Showing the Three Ways by Which One Enters into the God-Seeing Life