The Purpose of Life is Enlightenment
Last Revised: 10 February 2005
Details of bibliographic acronyms are available here .
Subject: Meister Eckhart. (Johannes Eckhart)
Dates: c. 1260 – c. 1328
When God touches the soul with truth, its light floods the soul's agents and that man knows more than anyone could ever teach him. (ME, 105.)
It is in the stillness, in the silence that the word of God is to be heard. There is no better avenue of approach to this Word than through stillness, through silence. It is to be heard there as it is -- in that unself-consciousness, for when one is aware of nothing, that word is imparted to him and clearly revealed. (ME, 107.)
The more God is in all things, the more He is outside them. The more He is within, the more He is without. (PP, 2.)
The knower and the known are one. Simple people imagine that they should see God, as if He stood there and they here. This is not so. God and I, we are one in knowledge. (PP, 12.)
It is of the very essence of the soul that she is powerless to plumb the depths of her creator. And here one cannot speak of the soul any more, for she has lost her nature yonder in the oneness of divine essence. There she is no more called soul, but is called immeasurable being. (PP, 12.)
Though [the soul] sink in all sinking in the oneness of divinity, she never touches bottom. For it is of the very essence of the soul that she is powerless to plumb the depths of her creator. (PP, 12.)
[The soul] is free of all names and void of all forms. It is one and simple, as God is one and simple, and no man can in any wise behold it. (PP, 16. )
The Godhead gave all things up to God. The Godhead is poor, naked and empty as though it were not; it has not, wills not, wants not, works not, gets not. It is God who has the treasure and the bride in him, the Godhead is as void as though it were not. (PP, 25.)
Thou must love God as not-God, not-Spirit, not-person, not-image, but as He is, a sheer, pure absolute One, sundered from all two-ness, and in whom we must eternally sink from nothingness to nothingness. (PP, 33.)
Subject: Dante Alighieri
Tradition: Roman Catholic
My vision ... was greater than our speech, which yields to such a sight. (CC, 78.)
When Dante awoke into the Cosmic Sense, into the new Cosmos, the first thing to strike him ... was the vision of the "Eternal Wheels" -- the "Chain of Causation" -- the universal order -- a vision infinitely beyond expression by human words. His new self ... had its eyes fixed on this, the Cosmic unfolding. Gazing thereupon the Cosmic vision and the Cosmic rapture transhumanized him into a god. (Maurice Bucke in CC, 137.)
Subject: John Ruusbroec
Tradition: Augustinian monk.
If a person wishes to see in a supernatural way in the interior life, three things are necessary. The first of these is the light of God's grace in a higher way than that which can be experienced in a life of exterior works without fervent interior zeal. The second is the stripping of all strange images and solicitude from the heart, so that a person may be free and imageless, delivered from attachments and empty of all creatures.1 The third thing ... is a free turning of the will and a gathering together of all bodily and spiritual powers in such a way that the will, unencumbered by any inordinate affection, might flow into the Unity of God and of the mind.2 This allows the rational creature to attain the sublime Unity of God and to possess it in a supernatural way. (JR, 71-2.)
When the vessel is ready, the precious liquid is poured in. There is no more precious vessel than a loving soul and no more beneficial drink than the grace of God. (JR, 74.)
It is Christ, the light of truth, who says, "See," and it is through him that we are able to see, for he is the light of the Father, without which there is no light in heaven or on earth. (JR, 74.)
In the abyss of this darkness in which the loving spirit has died to itself, God's revelation and eternal life have their origin, for in this darkness an incomprehensible light is born and shines forth; this is the Son of God, in whom a person becomes able to see and to contemplate eternal life. (JR, 147.)
There follows [another] kind of experience, namely, that we feel ourselves to be one with God, for by means of our transformation in God we feel ourselves to be swallowed up in the groundless abyss of our eternal blessedness, in which we can never discover any difference between ourselves and God. This is the highest of all our experiences and can be experienced in no other way than by our being immersed in love. Accordingly, when we are raised up to and drawn into this highest of all our experiences, all our powers stand empty and idle in a state of essential enjoyment. They are not, however, annihilated, for in that case we would lose our creaturely status. As long as with open eyes and a spirit that is so inclined – but without rational reflection – we stand empty and idle, we can contemplate and enjoy. (JR, 176.)
At the very moment when we try to examine and observe what it is that we are experiencing, we slip back into the activity of reasoning, at which we become aware of distinction and difference between ourselves and God. We then find God to be outside us in all his incomprehensibility, and this constitutes [still another] way of experiencing God and ourselves. We here find ourselves standing in God’s presence. The truth which we receive from his face bears witness to the fact that God wishes to be wholly ours and that he wishes us to be entirely his. At the very moment when we feel that God wishes to be wholly ours, there arises in us an amazed and eager craving which is so ravenous, so deep, and so empty that even if God gave us everything he could give – but without giving us himself – that could not satisfy us. In feeling that he has given and delivered himself to our unfettered desire, to enjoy him in every way we could possibly wish, and in learning – through the truth that comes to us from his face – that everything we savor is but a drop in the ocean compared with all that we still lack, our spirit is buffeted as in a storm by the heat and restlessness of love. The more we savor, the greater becomes our hunger and desire, for the one is the cause of the other. We can there/fore not enter God, nor he us, for in this restlessness of love we are unable to deny ourselves. For this reason the heat is so extreme that the exercise of love between ourselves and God flashes back and forth like lightning in the sky, and yet we cannot be consumed by it. (JR, 176-7.)
Subject: Blessed Henry Suso
Tradition: Dominican monk.
He [Suso speaks of himself, whom he often called the Servant or Servitor]] continually felt something nagging at him, but he did not know how to help himself until God in his kindness freed him from this [torment] by causing a sudden conversion. … God had drawn him in a hidden but illuminating manner…. (SUSO, 64.)
As he was standing there sadly with no one around him, his soul was caught up, in the body or out of the body. There he saw and heard what tongues cannot express. It was without form or definite manner of being, yet it contained within itself the joyous, delightful wealth of all forms and manners. His heart was full of desire, yet sated. His mind was cheerful and pleased. He had no further wishes and his desires had faded away. He did nothing but stare into the bright refulgence, which made him forget himself and all else. Was it day or night? He did not know. It was a bursting forth of the delight of eternal life, present to his awareness, motionless, calm. Then he said, "If this is not heaven, I do not know what heaven is. Enduring all the suffering that one can put into words is not rightly enough to justify possessing this eternally." This overpowering transport lasted perhaps an hour, perhaps only a half hour. Whether the soul remained in the body or had been separated from the body, he did not know. When he had come to himself again, he felt in every respect like a person who has come from a different world. His body experienced such pain from this short moment that he did not believe that anyone could experience such pain in so brief a time and not die. He somehow revived with a deep sigh, and his body sank to the ground against his will as in a faint. He cried out interiorly and sighed in his depths saying, "O dear God, where was I? Where am I now?" And he continued, "Joy of my heart, this hour can never be lost to my heart." He walked along in body and no one saw or noticed by his exterior anything unusal, but his soul and mind were fuill of heavenly marvels within. Flashes from heaven came time and again deep within him and it seemed to him somehow that he was floating in air. The powers of his soul were filled with the sweet taste of heaven, just as wehn one pours fragrant balsam from a container and the container keeps the pleasant aroma. This heavenly fragrance stayed with him long afterward and gave him a heavenly longing for God. (SUSO, 66.)
It happened one morning when he was sitting as usual at table that [Wisdom, the Holy Spirit] called to him in the tones of Solomon and said, "Audi, fili mi! Listen, my son, to the worthy advice of your father. If you wish to devote yourself to sublime love, you should take gentle Wisdom as your dearly beloved, because she bestows on her lover youth and vitality, nobility and abundance, honor and advantage, great power and an everlasting name. She makes him handsome and teaches him courteous behavior, and how to win people's praise and fame in battle. She makes him dear to and esteemed by God and man. Through her the earth was fashioned; through her the heavens were put in place and the abyss hollowed out. Whoever possesses her walks with confidence, sleeps untroubled, and lives free from care." (SUSO, 67-8.)
And once in the morning after a period of suffering it happened that he was surrounded by the heavenly hosts in a vision. He asked one of their shining heavenly princes to show him what the hidden dwelling place of God in his soul looked like. The angel said to him, "Look with joy into yourself and see how dear God plays his games of love with your affectionate soul." He quickly looked inside and saw that over his heart his body was as clear as crystal, and he saw in the middle of his heart eternal Wisdom sitting quietly with a pleasing appearance. Nearby the soul of the servant was sitting and longing for heaven. It was inclined in love at God's side, embraced by his arms, and pressed to his divine heart. There outside itself and immersed in love it lay in the arms of its beloved God. (SUSO, 72-3.)
Once … when it was nearly day, a young man came who acted as though he were a minstrel from heaven whom God had sent him. Along with him came I know not how many other fine young men with the same manner and bearing as the first, except that the first one had a certain preeminence, as though he were an angel prince. This same young man came up to him in a very pleasant manner and told him that they had been sent down from God to give him heavenly joys in his suffering. He should, he said, cast his sufferings out of his mind, join their company, and take part in their heavenly dancing. They took the servant by the hand for the dance and the young man began a cheerful little tune about the baby Jesus…. When the servant [Suso himself] heard the beloved name of Jesus so sweetly sung, he was so happy in heart and mind that all the sufferings he had ever endured disappeared. Now he looked on with joy as they leaped about gracefully and boldly. The lead singer knew how to make things go well. He sang first and they followed, singing and dancing with rejoicing hearts. … The dancing bore little resemblance to dancing on earth. It was somehow a heavenly flooding out from and an ebbing back into the untamed abyss of divine mystery. He experienced these and countless other kinds of heavenly consolation in the same years, especially at times when he was overwhelmed by great suffering, and these then became lighter to bear. (SUSO, 73-4.)
Because they have withdrawn from self, they are lifted up, as far as this is possible, so that their joy is whole and constant in all things. For in the divine being, where their hearts have lost themselves, there is no place for suffering or sadness, but only for peace and joy. (SUSO, 130.)
God is something above being that is more interior and present to each thing than the thing is to itself. (SUSO, 131.)
Once, … it seemed to him in a vision that the heavens were open and he saw clearly the bright forms of angels going back and forth in splendid garments,. He heard the most exquisite singing ever heard in the court of heaven by the joyous members of the court. It sounded so sweet that his soul dissolved in great pleasure. (SUSO, 142-3.)
There is no corporeality in the Godhead. (SUSO, 176.)
Subject: Julian of Norwich.
Dates: c. 1342-1417 A.D. (?)
I lay still awake, and then our Lord opened my spiritual eyes, and showed me my soul in the midst of my heart. I saw my soul as wide as if it were a kingdom, and from the state which I saw in it, it seemed to me as if it were a a fine city. In the midst of this city sits our Lord Jesus, true God and true man, a handsome person and tall, honourable, the greatest lord. And I saw him splendidly clad in honours. He sits erect there in the soul, in peace and rest, and he rules and guards heaven and earth and everything that is. (SHOW, 164.)
And from the time that [the vision] was shown, I desired often to know what our Lord's meaning was. And fifteen years and more afterward I was answered in my spiritual understanding, thus: 'Would you know your Lord's meaning in this thing? Know it well, love was his meaning. Who showed it to you? Love. What did he show you? Love. Why did he show it? For love. Keep yourself therein and you shall know and understand more in the same. But you shall never know nor understand any other thing, forever.'
Thus I was taught that love was our Lord's meaning. And I saw quite clearly in this and in all, that before God made us, he loved us, which love was never slaked nor ever shall be. And in this love he has done all his work, and in this love he has made all things profitable to us. And in this love our life is everlasting. In our creation we had a beginning. But the love wherein he made us was in him with no beginning. And all this shall be seen in God without end. (http://elvis.rowan.edu/~kilroy/JEK/05/08.html, downloaded 2 January 2005.)
The soul that would preserve its peace, when another's sin is brought to mind, must fly from it as from the pains of hell, looking to God for help against it. To consider the sins of other people will produce a thick film over the eyes of our soul, and prevent us for the time being from seeing the 'fair beauty of the Lord'-- unless, that is, we look at them contrite along with the sinner, being sorry with and for him, and yearning over him for God. Without this it can only harm, disturb, and hinder the soul who considers them. I gathered all this from the revelation about compassion...This blessed friend is Jesus; it is his will and plan that we hang on to him, and hold tight always, in whatever circumstances; for whether we are filthy or clean is all the same to his love. (http://elvis.rowan.edu/~kilroy/JEK/05/08.html, downloaded 2 January 2005.)
Glad and merry and sweet is the blessed and lovely demeanour of our Lord towards our souls, for he saw us always living in love-longing, and he wants our souls to be gladly disposed toward him . . . by his grace he lifts up and will draw our outer disposition to our inward, and will make us all at unity with him, and each of us with others in the true, lasting joy which is Jesus. (http://elvis.rowan.edu/~kilroy/JEK/05/08.html, downloaded 2 January 2005.)
Until I am really and truly oned [sic] and fastened to God so that there is nothing created between us, I will never have full rest or complete happiness. (MJN, 26.)
Our natural desire is to have God and the good desire of God is to have us.
We can never stop this desire or longing until we have our lover in the fulness of joy.
Then we can no more desire. (MJN, 31.)
God will appear suddenly and joyfully to all lovers of God. (MJN, 36.)
The more we busy ourselves to know God's secrets, the futher away from knowledge we shall be. (MJN, 59.)
Subject: Catherine of Siena (born Caterina Benincasa)
Dates: 1347-1380 A.D.
Tradition: Roman Catholic
Towards the end of the years spent in her cell, when nearing twenty years of age ... [came] the culimation of this period ... the experience known as her "Mystical Marriage" with Christ, which took place on the last day of the pre-Lenten Carnival in 1366. Shut within her cell, whilst the crowds outside were heedlessly merry-making, Catherine fasted and prayed in order to make reparation for their sins.
The Lord appeared to her and said, "Because thou hast forsaken all the vanities of the world, and set thy love upon Me ... behold, I here espouse thee to Me, thy Maker and Saviour." ...
Raymond of Capua, her confessor and biographer, relates how, during her states of ecstacy [thereafter], "her limbs became stiff, her eyes closed, and her body, raised in the air, often diffused a perfume of exquisite sweetness. ...
"How glorious," says the Voice of the Eternal [in Catherine's Divine Dialogue, dictated in ecstatic trance a decade later], "is that soul which has indeed been able to pass from the stormy ocean to Me, the Sea Pacific, and in that Sea, which is Myself, to fill the pitcher of her heart." (WSEW, 212-3 and 216-7.)
Dates: Mid-Fourteenth Century.
Tradition: Roman Catholic.
A word of warning: [God] is a jealous lover, and will brook no rival; he will not work in your will if he has not sole charge; he does not ask for help, he asks for you. His will is that you should look at him, and let him have his way. You must, however, guard your spiritual windows and doorways against enemy attacks. If you are willing to do this, you need only to lay hold upon God humbly in prayer, and he will soon help you. (CU, 52.)
He cannot be comprehended by our intellect. ... For we ... are created beings. But only to our intellect is he incomprehensible: not to our love. (CU, 55.)
In the twinkling of an eye heaven may be won or lost. (CU, 56.)
Pay great attention to this marvellous work of grace within your soul. It is always a sudden impulse and comes without warning, springing up to God like some spark from the fire. An incredible number of such impulses arise in one brief hour in the soul who has a will to this work! In one such flash the soul may completely forget the created world outside. Yet almost as quickly it may relapse back to thoughts and memories of things done and undone -- all because of our fallen nature. And as fast again it may rekindle. (CU, 57.)
Do not think that because I call it a 'darkness' or a 'cloud' it is the sort of cloud you see in the sky, or the kind of darkness you know at home when the light is out. That kind of darkness you can picture in your mind's eye.... I do not mean this at all. By 'darkness' I mean 'a lack of knowing' -- just as anything that you do not know or may have forgotten may be said to be 'dark' to you, for you cannot see it with your inward eye. For this reason it is called 'a cloud', not of the sky, of course, but 'of unknowing', a cloud of unknowing between you and your God. (CU, 58.)
I dare not take upon myself with my blundering, earthly tongue to speak of what belongs solely to God. If I dared, I would not. (CU, 87.)
The Purpose of Life is Enlightenment
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