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





Through inward charity and loving inclination and the faithfulness of God, there arises the second rill from the fulness of grace within the unity of the spirit; and it is a ghostly light which flows forth and shines into the understanding, discerning diverse things. For this light shows and proves in truth the distinctions between all the virtues; but this does not lie wholly in our power. For, even if we always had this light within our souls, it is God Who makes it to be silent and to speak, and He may show it and hide it, give it and take it away, in any time and place; for this light is His. And He therefore works in this light when He wills, and where He wills, and for whom He wills, and what He wills. These men have no need of revelations, neither of being caught up above the senses; for their life, and dwelling-place, their way, and their being, are in the spirit, above the senses and above sensibility. And there God shows to such men what is His good pleasure, and what is needful for them or for other men. Nevertheless God could, were such His will, deprive such men of their outward senses, and show them from within unknown similitudes and future things in many ways.

Now Christ wills that this man go out and walk in this light, in the way of this light. Therefore this enlightened man shall go out and shall mark his state and his life from within and from without, and see whether he is perfectly like unto Christ, according to His manhood and according to His Godhead. For we have been created in the image and after the likeness of God. And he shall raise his enlightened eyes, by means of the illuminated reason, to the intelligible Truth, and mark and behold in a creaturely way the most high Nature of God and the fathomless attributes which are in God: for to a fathomless Nature belong fathomless virtues and activities.

The most high Nature of the Godhead may thus be perceived and beheld: how it is Simplicity and Onefoldness, inaccessible Height and bottomless Depth, incomprehensible Breadth and eternal Length, a dark Silence, a wild Desert, the Rest of all saints in the Unity, and a common Fruition of Himself and of all saints in Eternity. And many other marvels may be seen in the abysmal Sea of the Godhead; and though, because of the grossness of the senses to which they must be shown from without, we must use sensible images, yet, in truth, these things are perceived and beheld from within, as an abysmal and unconditioned Good. But if they must be shown from without, it must be done by means of diverse similitudes and images, according to the enlightenment of the reason of him who shapes and shows them.

The enlightened man shall also mark and behold the attributes of the Father in the Godhead: how He is omnipotent Power and Might, Creator, Mover, Preserver, Beginning and End, the Origin and Being of all creatures. This the rill of grace shows to the enlightened reason in its radiance. It also shows the attributes of the Eternal Word: abysmal Wisdom and Truth, Pattern of all creatures and all life, Eternal and unchanging Rule, Seeing all things and Seeing Through all things, none of which is hidden from Him; Transillumination and Enlightenment of all saints in heaven and on earth, according to the merits of each. And even as this rill of radiance shows the distinctions between many things, so it also shows to the enlightened reason the attributes of the Holy Ghost: incomprehensible Love and Generosity, Compassion and Mercy, infinite Faithfulness and Benevolence, inconceivable Greatness, outpouring Richness, a limitless Goodness drenching through all heavenly spirits with delight, a Flame of Fire which burns all things together in the Unity, a flowing Fountain, rich in all savours, according to the desire of each; the Preparation of all saints for their eternal bliss and their entrance therein, an Embrace and Penetration of the Father, the Son, and all saints in fruitive Unity. All this is observed and beheld without differentiation or division in the simple Nature of the Godhead. And according to our perception these attributes abide as Persons do, in manifold distinctions. For between might and goodness, between generosity and truth, there are, according to our perception great differences. Nevertheless all these are found in oneness and undifferentiation in the most high Nature of the Godhead. But the relations which make the personal attributes remain in eternal distinction. For the Father begets distinction. For the Father incessantly begets his Son, and Himself is unbegotten; and the Son is begotten, and cannot beget; and thus throughout eternity the Father has a Son, and the Son a Father. And these are the relations of the Father to the Son, and of the Son to the Father. And the Father and the Son breathe forth one Spirit, Who is Their common Will or Love. And this Spirit begets not, nor is He begotten; but must eternally pour forth, being breathed forth from both the Father and the Son. And these three Persons are one God and one Spirit. And all the attributes with the works which flow forth from them are common to all the Persons, for They work by virtue of Their Onefold Nature. 52


The incomprehensible richness and loftiness of the Divine Nature, its outpouring generosity toward all in common, fills a man with wonder. And, above all, he wonders at the universality of God and His outpouring upon all things. For he beholds the incomprehensible Essence as a common fruition of God and all saints. And he sees the Divine Persons as a common outpouring and a common activity in grace and in glory, in nature and above nature, in all places and at all times, in saints and in men, in heaven and on earth, in all creatures, rational, irrational, and material, according to the merits, the need, and the receptivity of each. And he beholds heaven and earth, sun and moon, the four elements, together with all creatures, and the course of the heavens, created for all in common. God, with all His gifts, is common to all: the angels are common: the soul is common to all its powers, to the whole body, to all its members, yet in each member is entire; for the soul cannot be divided, save by the reason. For though, according to the reason, the highest powers and the lowest, the spirit and the soul, are certainly divided; yet, in nature, they are one. So too God is whole and special to each, and yet common to all creation; for by Him all things are; within Him and upon Him, heaven and earth and all nature depend. When a man thus considers the wonderful wealth and loftiness of the Divine Nature, and all the multiplicity of gifts which He gives and offers to His creatures, then there grows up within him a wonder at such manifold richness, at such loftiness, and at the immeasurable faithfulness of God to His creatures. And thence springs a particular inward gladness of the spirit, and a high trust in God, and this inward gladness envelops and drenches all the powers of the soul and the most inward part of the spirit.

Next: Chapter XXXVIII. The Third Rill Establishes the Will to Every Perfection