John - Scent Carmel 1 6
Wherein are treated two serious evils caused in the soul by the desires,the one evil being privative and the other positive.
1 IN order that what we have said may be the more clearly and fully understood,it will be well to set down here and state how these desires are the causeof two serious evils in the soul: the one is that they deprive it of theSpirit of God, and the other is that the soul wherein they dwell is wearied,tormented, darkened, defiled and weakened, according to that which is saidin Jeremias, Chapter II: Duo mala fecit Populus meus: dereliquerunt fontemaquoe vivoe, et foderunt sibi cisternas, dissipatas, quoe continere non valentaquas. Which signifies: They have forsaken Me, Who am the fountain of livingwater, and they have hewed them out broken cisterns, that can hold no water.(117)Those two evils -- namely, the privative and the positive -- may be causedby any disordered act of the desire. And, speaking first of all, of theprivative, it is clear from the very fact that the soul becomes affectionedto a thing which comes under the head of creature, that the more the desirefor that thing fills the soul,(118) the less capacity has the soul for God;inasmuch as two contraries, according to the philosophers, cannot coexistin one person; and further, since, as we said in the fourth chapter, affectionfor God and affection for creatures are contraries, there cannot be containedwithin one will affection for creatures and affection for God. For what hasthe creature to do with the Creator? What has sensual to do with spiritual?Visible with invisible? Temporal with eternal? Food that is heavenly, spiritualand pure with food that is of sense alone and is purely sensual? Christlikepoverty of spirit with attachment to aught soever?
2. Wherefore, as in naturalgeneration no form can be introduced unless the preceding, contrary formis first expelled from the subject, which form, while present, is an impedimentto the other by reason of the contrariety which the two have between eachother; even so, for as long as the soul is subjected to the sensual spirit,the spirit which is pure and spiritual cannot enter it. Wherefore our Savioursaid through Saint Matthew: Non est bonum sumere panem filiorum, et mitterecanibus.(119) That is: It is not meet to take the children's bread and tocast it to the dogs. And elsewhere, too, he says through the same Evangelist:Nolite sanctum dare canibus.(120) Which signifies: Give not that which isholy to the dogs. In these passages Our Lord compares those who renouncetheir creature-desires, and prepare themselves to receive the Spirit of Godin purity, to the children of God; and those who would have their desirefeed upon the creatures, to dogs. For it is given to children to eat withtheir father at table and from his dish, which is to feed upon His Spirit,and to dogs are given the crumbs which fall from the table.
3. From thiswe are to learn that all created things are crumbs that have fallen fromthe table of God. Wherefore he that feeds ever upon(121) the creatures isrightly called a dog, and therefore the bread is taken from the children,because they desire not to rise above feeding upon the crumbs, which arecreated things, to the Uncreated Spirit of their Father. Therefore, likedogs, they are ever hungering, and justly so, because the crumbs serve towhet their appetite rather than to satisfy their hunger. And thus David saysof them: Famem patientur ut canes, et circuibunt civitatem. Si vero non fuerintsaturati, et murmurabunt.(122) Which signifies: They shall suffer hungerlike dogs and shall go round about the city, and, if they find not enoughto fill them, they shall murmur. For this is the nature of one that has desires,that he is ever discontented and dissatisfied, like one that suffers hunger;for what has the hunger which all the creatures suffer to do with the fullnesswhich is caused by the Spirit of God? Wherefore this fullness that is uncreatedcannot enter the soul, if there be not first cast out that other createdhunger which belongs to the desire of the soul; for, as we have said twocontraries cannot dwell in one person, the which contraries in this caseare hunger and fullness.
4. From what has been said it will be seen how muchgreater is the work of God(123) in the cleansing and the purging of a soulfrom these contrarieties than in the creating of that soul from nothing.For thee contrarieties, these contrary desires and affections, are morecompletely opposed to God and offer Him greater resistance than does nothingness;for nothingness resists not at all. And let this suffice with respect tothe first of the important evils which are inflicted upon the soul by thedesires -- namely, resistance to the Spirit of God -- since much has beensaid of this above.
5. Let us now speak of the second effect which they causein the soul. This is of many kinds, because the desires weary the soul andtorment and darken it, and defile it and weaken it. Of these five thingswe shall speak separately, in their turn.
6. With regard to the first, itis clear that the desires weary and fatigue the soul; for they are like restlessand discontented children, who are ever demanding this or that from theirmother, and are never contented. And even as one that digs because he covetsa treasure is wearied and fatigued, even so is the soul weary and fatiguedin order to attain that which its desires demand of it; and although in theend it may attain it, it is still weary, because it is never satisfied; for,after all, the cisterns which it is digging are broken, and cannot hold waterto satisfy thirst. And thus, as Isaias says: Lassus adhuc sitit, et animaejus vacua est.(124) Which signifies: His desire is empty. And the soul thathas desires is wearied and fatigued; for it is like a man that is sick ofa fever, who finds himself no better until the fever leaves him, and whosethirst increases with every moment. For, as is said in the Book of Job: Cumsatiatus fuerit, arctabitur, oestuabit, et omnis dolor irruet super eum.(125)Which signifies: When he has satisfied his desire, he will be the more oppressedand straitened; the heat of desire hath increased in his soul and thus everysorrow will fall upon him. The soul is wearied and fatigued by its desires,because it is wounded and moved and disturbed by them as is water by thewinds; in just the same way they disturb it, allowing it not to rest in anyplace or in any thing soever. And of such a soul says Isaias: Cor impii quasimare fervens.(126) 'The heart of the wicked man is like the sea when it rages.'And he is a wicked man that conquers not his desires. The soul that wouldfain satisfy its desires grows wearied and fatigued; for it is like one that,being an hungered, opens his mouth that he may sate himself with wind, whereupon,instead of being satisfied, his craving becomes greater, for the wind isno food for him. To this purpose said Jeremias: In desiderio animoe sum attraxitventum amoris sui.(127) As though he were to say: In the desire of his willhe snuffed up the wind of his affection. And he then tries to describe thearidity wherein such a soul remains, and warns it, saying: Prohibe pedemtuum a nuditate, et guttur tuum a siti.(128) Which signifies: Keep thy foot(that is, thy thought) from being bare and thy throat from thirst (that isto say, thy will from the indulgence of the desire which causes greater dryness);and, even as the lover is wearied and fatigued upon the day of his hopes,when his attempt has proved to be vain, so the soul is wearied and fatiguedby all its desires and by indulgence in them, since they all cause it greateremptiness and hunger; for, as is often said, desire is like the fire, whichincreases as wood is thrown upon it, and which, when it has consumed thewood, must needs die.
7. And in this regard it is still worse with desire;for the fire goes down when the wood is consumed, but desire, though it increaseswhen fuel is added to it, decreases not correspondingly when the fuel isconsumed; on the contrary, instead of going down, as does the fire when itsfuel is consumed, it grows weak through weariness, for its hunger is increasedand its food diminished. And of this Isaias speaks, saying: Declinabit addexteram, et esuriet: et comedet ad sinistram, et non saturabitur.(129) Thissignifies: He shall turn to the right hand, and shall be hungry; and he shalleat on the left hand, and shall not be filled. For they that mortify nottheir desires, when they 'turn,' justly see the fullness of the sweetnessof spirit of those who are at the right hand of God, which fullness is notgranted to themselves; and justly, too, when they eat on the left hand,(130)by which is meant the satisfaction of their desire with some creature comfort,they are not filled, for, leaving aside that which alone can satisfy, theyfeed on that which causes them greater hunger. It is clear, then, that thedesires weary and fatigue the soul.
Wherein is shown how the desires torment the soul. This is proved likewiseby comp arison and quotations.
1 THE second kind of positive evil which the desires cause the soul is in theirtormenting and afflicting of it, after the manner of one who is in tormentthrough being bound with cords from which he has no relief until he be freed.And of these David says: Funes peccatorum circumplexi sunt me.(131) The cordsof my sins, which are my desires, have constrained me round about. And, evenas one that lies naked upon thorns and briars is tormented and afflicted,even so is the soul tormented and afflicted when it rests upon its desires.For they take hold upon it and distress it and cause it pain, even as dothorns. Of these David says likewise: Circumdederunt me sicut apes: et exarseruntsicut ignis in spinis.(132) Which signifies: They compassed me about likebees, wounding me with their stings, and they were enkindled against me,like fire among thorns; for in the desires, which are the thorns, increasesthe fire of anguish and torment. And even as the husbandman, coveting theharvest for which he hopes, afflicts and torments the ox in the plough, evenso does concupiscence afflict a soul that is subject to its desire to attainthat for which it longs. This can be clearly seen in that desire which Dalilahad to know whence Samson derived his strength that was so great, for theScripture says that it fatigued and tormented her so much that it causedher to swoon, almost to the point of death, and she said: Defecit anima ejus,et ad mortem usque lassata est.(133)
2. The more intense is the desire, thegreater is the torment which it causes the soul. So that the torment increaseswith the desire; and the greater are the desires which possess the soul,the greater are its torments; for in such a soul is fulfilled, even in thislife, that which is said in the Apocalypse concerning Babylon, in these words:Quantum glorificavit se, et in deliciis fuit, tantum date illi tormentum,et luctum.(134) That is: As much as she has wished to exalt and fulfil herdesires, so much give ye to her torment and anguish. And even as one thatfalls into the hands of his enemies is tormented and afflicted, even so isthe soul tormented and afflicted that is led away by its desires. Of thisthere is a figure in the Book of the Judges, wherein it may be read thatthat strong man, Samson, who at one time was strong and free and a judgeof Israel, fell into the power of his enemies, and they took his strengthfrom him, and put out his eyes, and bound him in a mill, to grind corn,(135)wherein they tormented and afflicted him greatly;(136) and thus it happensto the soul in which these its enemies, the desires, live and rule; for thefirst thing that they do is to weaken the soul and blind it, as we shallsay below; and then they afflict and torment it, binding it to the mill ofconcupiscence; and the bonds with which it is bound are its own desires.
3. Wherefore God, having compassion on these that with such great labour,and at such cost to themselves, go about endeavouring to satisfy the hungerand thirst of their desire in the creatures, says to them through Isaias:Omnes sitientes, venite ad aquas; et qui non habetis argentum, properate,emite, el comedite: venite, emite absque argento vinum et lac. Quare appenditisargentum non in panibus, et laborem vestrum non in saturitate?(137) As thoughHe were to say: All ye that have thirst of desire, come to the waters, andall ye that have no silver of your own will and desires, make haste; buyfrom Me and eat; come and buy from Me wine and milk (that is, spiritual sweetnessand peace) without the silver of your own will, and without giving Me anylabour in exchange for it, as ye give for your desires. Wherefore do ye givethe silver of your will for that which is not bread -- namely, that of theDivine Spirit -- and set the labour of your desires upon that which cannotsatisfy you? Come, hearkening to Me, and ye shall eat the good that ye desireand your soul shall delight itself in fatness.
4. This attaining to fatnessis a going forth from all pleasures of the creatures; for the creatures torment,but the Spirit of God refreshes. And thus He calls us through Saint Matthew,saying: Venite ad me omnes, qui laboratis et onerati estis, et ego reficiamvos, et invenietis requiem animabus vestris.(138) As though He were to say:All ye that go about tormented, afflicted and burdened with the burden ofyour cares and desires, go forth from them, come to Me, and I will refreshyou and ye shall find for your souls the rest which your desires take fromyou, wherefore they are a heavy burden, for David says of them: Sicut onusgrave gravatoe sunt super me.(139)
Wherein is shown how the desires darken and blind the soul.
1 THE third evil that the desires cause in the soul is that they blind anddarken it. Even as vapours darken the air and allow not the bright sun toshine; or as a mirror that is clouded over cannot receive within itself aclear image; or as water defiled by mud reflects not the visage of one thatlooks therein; even so the soul that is clouded by the desires is darkenedin the understanding and allows neither(140) the sun of natural reason northat of the supernatural Wisdom of God to shine upon it and illumine it clearly.And thus David, speaking to this purpose, says: Comprehenderunt me iniquitatesmeoe, et non potui, ut viderem.(141) Which signifies: Mine iniquities havetaken hold upon me, and I could have no power to see.
2. And, at this sametime, when the soul is darkened in the understanding, it is benumbed alsoin the will, and the memory becomes dull and disordered in its due operation.For, as these faculties in their operations depend upon the understanding,it is clear that, when the understanding is impeded, they will become disorderedand troubled. And thus David says: Anima mea turbata est valde.(142) Thatis: My soul is sorely troubled. Which is as much as to say, 'disordered inits faculties.' For, as we say, the understanding has no more capacity forreceiving enlightenment from the wisdom of God than has the air, when itis dark, for receiving enlightenment from the sun; neither has the will anypower to embrace God within itself in pure love, even as the mirror thatis clouded with vapour has no power to reflect clearly within itself anyvisage,(143) and even less power has the memory which is clouded by the darknessof desire to take clearly upon itself the form of the image of God, justas the muddled water cannot show forth clearly the visage of one that looksat himself therein.
3. Desire blinds and darkens the soul; for desire, assuch, is blind, since of itself it has no understanding in itself, the reasonbeing to it always, as it were, a child leading a blind man. And hence itcomes to pass that, whensoever the soul is guided by its desire, it becomesblind; for this is as if one that sees were guided by one that sees not,which is, as it were, for both to be blind. And that which follows from thisis that which Our Lord says through Saint Matthew: Si coecus coeco ducatumproestet, ambo in foveam cadunt.(144) 'If the blind lead the blind, bothfall into the pit.' Of little use are its eyes to a moth, since desire forthe beauty of the light dazzles it and leads it into the flame.(145) Andeven so we may say that one who feeds upon desire is like a fish that isdazzled, upon which the light acts rather as darkness, preventing it fromseeing the snares which the fishermen are preparing for it. This is verywell expressed by David himself, where he says of such persons: Superceciditignis, et non viderunt solem.(146) Which signifies: There came upon themthe fire, which burns with its heat and dazzles with its light. And it isthis that desire does to the soul, enkindling its concupiscence and dazzlingits understanding so that it cannot see its light. For the cause of its beingthus dazzled is that when another light of a different kind is set beforethe eye, the visual faculty is attracted by that which is interposed so thatit sees not the other; and, as the desire is set so near to the soul as tobe within the soul itself, the soul meets this first light and is attractedby it; and thus it is unable to see the light of clear understanding, neitherwill see it until the dazzling power of desire is taken away from it.
4. For this reason one must greatly lament the ignorance of certain men, whoburden themselves with extraordinary penances and with many other voluntarypractices, and think that this practice or that will suffice to bring themto the union of Divine Wisdom; but such will not be the case if they endeavournot diligently to mortify their desires. If they were careful to bestow halfof that labour on this, they would profit more in a month than they profitby all the other practices in many years. For, just as it is necessary totill the earth if it is to bear fruit, and unless it be tilled it bears naughtbut weeds, just so is mortification of the desires necessary if the soulis to profit. Without this mortification, I make bold to say, the soul nomore achieves progress on the road to perfection and to the knowledge ofGod of itself, however many efforts it may make, than the seed grows whenit is cast upon untilled ground. Wherefore the darkness and rudeness of thesoul will not be taken from it until the desires be quenched. For these desiresare like cataracts, or like motes in the eye, which obstruct the sight untilthey be taken away.
5. And thus David, realizing how blind are these souls,and how completely impeded from beholding the light of truth, and how wrothis God with them, speaks to them, saying: Priusquam intelligerent spinoevestroe rhamnum: sicut viventes, sic in ira absorber eos.(147) And this isas though He had said: Before your thorns (that is, your desires) hardenand grow, changing from tender thorns into a thick hedge and shutting outthe sight of God even as oft-times the living find their thread of life brokenin the midst of its course, even so will God swallow them up in His wrath. Forthe desires that are living in the soul, so that it cannot understand Him,(148)will be swallowed up by God by means of chastisement and correction, eitherin this life or in the next, and this will come to pass through purgation.And He says that He will swallow them up in wrath, because that which issuffered in the mortification of the desires is punishment for the ruin whichthey have wrought in the soul.
6. Oh, if men but knew how great is the blessingof Divine light whereof they are deprived by this blindness which proceedsfrom their affections and desires, and into what great hurts and evils thesemake them to fall day after day, for so long as they mortify them not! Fora man must not rely upon a clear understanding, or upon gifts that he hasreceived from God, and think that he may indulge his affection or desire,and will not be blinded and darkened, and fall gradually into a worse estate.For who would have said that a man so perfect in wisdom and the gifts ofGod as was Solomon would have been reduced to such blindness and torpor ofthe will as to make altars to so many idols and to worship them himself,when he was old?(149) Yet no more was needed to bring him to this than theaffection which he had for women and his neglect to deny the desires anddelights of his heart. For he himself says concerning himself, in Ecclesiastes,that he denied not his heart that which it demanded of him.(150) And thisman was capable of being so completely led away by his desires that, althoughit is true that at the beginning he was cautious, nevertheless, because hedenied them not, they gradually blinded and darkened his understanding, sothat in the end they succeeded in quenching that great light of wisdom whichGod had given him, and therefore in his old age he foresook God.
7. And ifunmortified desires could do so much in this man who knew so well the distancethat lies between good and evil, what will they not be capable of accomplishingby working upon our ignorance? For we, as God said to the prophet Jonasconcerning the Ninivites, cannot discern between(151) our right hand andour left.(152) At every step we hold evil to be good, and good, evil, andthis arises from our own nature. What, then, will come to pass if to ournatural darkness is added the hindrance of desire?(153) Naught but that whichIsaias describes thus: Palpavimus, sicut coeci parietem, et quasi absqueoculis attreetavimus: impegimus meridie, quasi in tenebris.(154) The prophetis speaking with those who love to follow these their desires. It is as ifhe had said: We have groped for the wall as though we were blind, and wehave been groping as though we had no eyes, and our blindness has attainedto such a point that we have stumbled at midday as though it were in thedarkness. For he that is blinded by desire has this property, that, whenhe is set in the midst of truth and of that which is good for him, he canno more see them than if he were in darkness.
Wherein is described how the desires defile the soul. This is proved bycomparisons and quotations from Holy Scripture.
1 THE fourth evil which the desires cause in the soul is that they stain anddefile it, as is taught in Ecclesiasticus, in these words: Qui tetigeritpicem, inquinabitur ab ea.(155) This signifies: He that toucheth pitch shallbe defiled with it. And a man touches pitch when he allows the desire ofhis will to be satisfied by any creature. Here it is to be noted that theWise Man compares the creatures to pitch; for there is more difference betweenexcellence of soul and the best of the creatures(156) than there is betweenpure diamond,(157) or fine gold, and pitch. And just as gold or diamond,if it were heated and placed upon pitch, would become foul and be stainedby it, inasmuch as the heat would have cajoled and allured the pitch, evenso the soul that is hot with desire for any creature draws forth foulnessfrom it through the heat of its desire and is stained by it. And there ismore difference between the soul and other corporeal creatures than betweena liquid that is highly clarified and mud that is most foul. Wherefore, evenas such a liquid would be defiled if it were mingled with mud, so is thesoul defiled that clings to creatures, since by doing this it becomes liketo the said creatures. And in the same way that traces of soot would defilea face that is very lovely and perfect, even in this way do disordered desiresbefoul and defile the soul that has them, the which soul is in itself a mostlovely and perfect image of God.
2. Wherefore Jeremias, lamenting the ravagesof foulness which these disordered affections cause in the soul, speaks firstof its beauty, and then of its foulness, saying: Candidiores sunt Nazaroeiejus nive, nitidiores lacte, rubicundiores ebore antiquo, sapphiro pulchriores.Denigrata est super carbones facies eorum, et non sunt cogniti in plateis.(158)Which signifies: Its hair -- that is to say, that of the soul -- is moreexcellent in whiteness than the snow, clearer(159) than milk, and ruddierthan old ivory, and lovelier than the sapphire stone. Their face has nowbecome blacker than coal and they are not known in the streets.(160) By thehair we here understand the affections and thoughts of the soul, which, orderedas God orders them -- that is, in God Himself -- are whiter than snow, andclearer(161) than milk, and ruddier than ivory, and lovelier than the sapphire.By these four things is understood every kind of beauty and excellence ofcorporeal creatures, higher than which, says the writer, are the soul andits operations, which are the Nazarites or the hair aforementioned; the whichNazarites, being unruly,(162) with their lives ordered in a way that Godordered not -- that is, being set upon the creatures -- have their face (saysJeremias) made and turned blacker than coal.
3. All this harm, and more,is done to the beauty of the soul by its unruly desires for the things ofthis world; so much so that, if we set out to speak of the foul and vileappearance that the desires can give the soul, we should find nothing, howeverfull of cobwebs and worms it might be, not even the corruption of a deadbody, nor aught else that is impure and vile, nor aught that can exist andbe imagined in this life, to which we could compare it. For, although itis true that the unruly soul, in its natural being, is as perfect as whenGod created it, yet, in its reasonable being, it is vile, abominable, foul,black and full of all the evils that are here being described, and many more.For, as we shall afterwards say, a single unruly desire, although there bein it no matter of mortal sin, suffices to bring a soul into such bondage,foulness and vileness that it can in no wise come to accord with God inunion(163) until the desire be purified. What, then, will be the vilenessof the soul that is completely unrestrained with respect to its own passionsand given up to its desires, and how far removed will it be from God andfrom His purity?
4. It is impossible to explain in words, or to cause tobe understood by the understanding, what variety of impurity is caused inthe soul by a variety of desires. For, if it could be expressed and understood,it would be a wondrous thing, and one also which would fill us with pity,to see how each desire, in accordance with its quality and degree, be itgreater or smaller, leaves in the soul its mark and deposit of impurity andvileness, and how one single disorder of the reason can be the source ofinnumerable different impurities, some greater, some less, each one afterits kind. For, even as the soul of the righteous man has in one singleperfection, which is uprightness of soul, innumerable gifts of the greatestrichness, and many virtues of the greatest loveliness, each one differentand full of grace after its kind according to the multitude and the diversityof the affections of love which it has had in God, even so the unruly soul,according to the variety of the desires which it has for the creatures, hasin itself a miserable variety of impurities and meannesses, wherewith itis endowed(164) by the said desires.
5. The variety of these desires is wellillustrated in the Book of Ezechiel, where it is written that God showedthis Prophet, in the interior of the Temple, painted around its walls, alllikenesses of creeping things which crawl on the ground, and all the abominationof unclean beasts.(165) And then God said to Ezechiel: 'Son of man, hastthou not indeed seen the abominations that these do, each one in the secrecyof his chamber?'(166) And God commanded the Prophet to go in farther andhe would see greater abominations; and he says that he there saw women seated,weeping for Adonis, the god of love.(167) And God commanded him to go infarther still, and he would see yet greater abominations, and he says thathe saw there five-and-twenty old men whose backs were turned toward theTemple.(168)
6. The diversity of creeping things and unclean beasts thatwere painted in the first chamber of the Temple are the thoughts and conceptionswhich the understanding fashions from the lowly things of earth, and fromall the creatures, which are painted, just as they are, in the temple ofthe soul, when the soul embarrasses its understanding with them, which isthe soul's first habitation. The women that were farther within, in the secondhabitation, weeping for the god Adonis, are the desires that are in the secondfaculty of the soul, which is the will; the which are, as it were, weeping,inasmuch as they covet that to which the will is affectioned, which are thecreeping things painted in the understandings. And the men that were in thethird habitation are the images and representations of the creatures, whichthe third part of the soul -- namely memory -- keeps and reflects upon(169)within itself. Of these it is said that their backs are turned toward theTemple because when the soul, according to these three faculties, completelyand perfectly embraces anything that is of the earth, it can be said to haveits back turned toward the Temple of God, which is the right reason of thesoul, which admits within itself nothing that is of creatures.
7. And letthis now suffice for the understanding of this foul disorder of the soulwith respect to its desires. For if we had to treat in detail of the lesserfoulness which these imperfections and their variety make and cause in thesoul, and that which is caused by venial sins, which is still greater thanthat of the imperfections, and their great variety, and likewise that whichis caused by the desires for mortal sin, which is complete foulness of thesoul, and its great variety, according to the variety and multitude of allthese three things, we should never end, nor would the understanding of angelssuffice to understand it. That which I say, and that which is to the pointfor my purpose, is that any desire, although it be for but the smallestimperfection, stains and defiles the soul.
Wherein is described how the desires weaken the soul in virtue and make itlukewarm.
1 THE fifth way in which the desires harm the soul is by making it lukewarmand weak, so that it has no strength to follow after virtue and to perseveretherein. For as the strength of the desire, when it is set upon various aims,is less than if it were set wholly on one thing alone, and as, the more arethe aims whereon it is set, the less of it there is for each of them, forthis cause philosophers say that virtue in union is stronger than if it bedispersed. Wherefore it is clear that, if the desire of the will be dispersedamong other things than virtue, it must be weaker as regards virtue. Andthus the soul whose will is set upon various trifles is like water, which,having a place below wherein to empty itself, never rises; and such a soulhas no profit. For this cause the patriarch Jacob compared his son Rubento water poured out, because in a certain sin he had given rein to his desires.And he said: +Thou art poured out like water; grow thou not.'(170) As thoughhe had said: Since thou art poured out like water as to the desires, thoushalt not grow in virtue. And thus, as hot water, when uncovered, readilyloses heat, and as aromatic spices, when they are unwrapped, gradually losethe fragrance and strength of their perfume, even so the soul that is notrecollected in one single desire for God loses heat and vigour in its virtue.This was well understood by David, when he said, speaking with God: I willkeep my strength for Thee.(171) That is, concentrating the strength of mydesires upon Thee alone.
2. And the desires weaken the virtue of the soul,because they are to it like the shoots that grow about a tree, and take awayits virtue so that it cannot bring forth so much fruit. And of such soulsas these says the Lord: Voe proegnantibus, et nutrientibus in illis diebus.(172)That is: Woe to them that in those days are with child and to them that givesuck. This being with child and giving suck is understood with respect tothe desires; which, if they be not pruned, will ever be taking more virtuefrom the soul, and will grow to the harm of the soul, like the shoots uponthe tree. Wherefore Our Lord counsels us, saying: Have your loins girt about(173)-- the loins signifying here the desires. And indeed, they are also likeleeches, which are ever sucking the blood from the veins, for thus the Preacherterms them when he says: The leeches are the daughters -- that is, the desires-- saying ever: Daca, daca.(174)
3. From this it is clear that the desiresbring no good to the soul but rather take from it that which it has; and,if it mortify them not, they will not cease till they have wrought in itthat which the children of the viper are said to work in their mother; who,as they are growing within her womb, consume her and kill her, and theythemselves remain alive at her cost. Just so the desires that are not mortifiedgrow to such a point that they kill the soul with respect to God becauseit has not first killed them. And they alone live in it. Wherefore the Preachersays: Aufer a me Domine ventris concupiscentias.(175)
4. And, even thoughthey reach not this point, it is very piteous to consider how the desiresthat live in this poor soul treat it, how unhappy it is with regard to itself,how dry with respect to its neighbours, and how weary and slothful with respectto the things of God. For there is no evil humour that makes it as wearisomeand difficult for a sick man to walk, or gives him a distaste for eatingcomparable to the weariness and distaste for following virtue which is givento a soul by desire for creatures. And thus the reason why many souls haveno diligence and eagerness to gain virtue is, as a rule, that they have desiresand affections which are not pure and are not fixed upon God.(176)
John - Scent Carmel 1 6