John, Ascent of Carmel 2 23
Which begins to treat of the apprehensions of the understanding that comein a purely spiritual way, and describes their nature.
1 ALTHOUGH the instruction that we have given with respect to the apprehensionsof the understanding which come by means of sense is somewhat brief, incomparison with what might be said about them, I have not desired to writeof them at greater length; I believe, indeed, that I have already been toolengthy for the fulfillment of my present intention, which is to disencumberthe understanding of them and direct the soul into the night of faith. Whereforewe shall now begin to treat of those other four apprehensions of theunderstanding, which, as we said in the tenth chapter,(424) are purely spiritual-- namely, visions, revelations, locutions and spiritual feelings. Thesewe call purely spiritual, for they do not (as do those that are corporealand imaginary) communicate themselves to the understanding by way of thecorporeal senses; but, without the intervention of any inward or outwardcorporeal sense, they present themselves to the understanding, clearly anddistinctly, by supernatural means, passively -- that is to say, without theperformance of any act or operation on the part of the soul itself, at theleast actively.
2. It must be known, then, that, speaking broadly and ingeneral terms, all these four apprehensions may be called visions of thesoul; for we term the understanding of the soul also its sight. And sinceall these apprehensions are intelligible to the understanding, they aredescribed, in a spiritual sense, as 'visible.' And thus the kinds of intelligencethat are formed in the understanding may be called intellectual visions.Now, since all the objects of the other senses, which are all that can beseen, and all that can be heard, and all that can be smelt and tasted andtouched, are objects of the understanding in so far as they fall within thelimits of truth or falsehood, it follows that, just as to the eyes of thebody all that is visible in a bodily way causes bodily vision, even so, tothe spiritual eyes of the soul -- namely, the understanding -- all that isintelligible causes spiritual vision; for, as we have said, fo r the soulto understand is for it to see. And thus, speaking generally, we may callthese four apprehensions visions. This cannot be said, however, of the othersenses, for no one of them is capable, as such, of receiving the object ofanother one.
3. But, since these apprehensions present themselves to thesoul in the same way as they do to the various senses, it follows that, speakingproperly and specifically, we shall describe that which the understandingreceives by means of sight (because it can see things spiritually, even asthe eyes can see bodily) as a vision; and that which it receives by apprehendingand understanding new things (as it were through the hearing, when it hearsthings that are not heard) we describe as revelation; and that which it receivesby means of hearing we call locution; and that which it receives throughthe other senses, such as the perception of sweet spiritual fragrance, andspiritual taste and of spiritual delight which the soul may joy supernaturally,we call spiritual feelings. From all these the soul derives spiritual visionor intelligence, without any kind of apprehension concerning form, imageor figure of natural fancy or imagination; these things are communicatedto the soul directly by supernatural means and a supernatural process.
4. Of these, likewise (even as we said of the other imaginary corporealapprehensions), it is well that we should here disencumber the understanding,leading and directing it by means of them into the spiritual night of faith,to the Divine and substantial union of God; lest, by letting such thingsencumber and stultify it, it should be hindered upon the road to solitudeand detachment from all things, which is necessary to that end. For, althoughthese apprehensions are nobler and more profitable and much more certainthan those which are corporeal and imaginary, inasmuch as they are interiorand purely spiritual, and are those which the devil is least able to counterfeit,since they are communicated to the soul more purely and subtly without anyeffort of its own or of the imagination, at least actively, yet not onlymay the understanding be encumbered by them upon this road, but it is possiblefor it, through its own imprudence, to be sorely deceived.
5. And although, in one sense, we might conclude with these four kinds of apprehension, bytreating them all together and giving advice which applies to them all, aswe have given concerning all the others -- namely, that they should neitherbe desired nor aspired to -- yet, since we shall presently throw more lightupon the way in which this is to be done, and certain things will be saidin connection with them, it will be well to treat of each one of them inparticular, and thus we shall now speak of the first apprehensions, whichare intellectual or spiritual visions.
Which treats of two kinds of spiritual vision that come supernaturally.
1 SPEAKING now strictly of those visions which are spiritual, and are receivedwithout the intervention of any bodily sense, I say that there are two kindsof vision than can be received by the understanding: the one kind is of corporealsubstances; the other, of incorporeal or separated substances. The corporealvisions have respect to all material things that are in Heaven and on earth,which the soul is able to see, even while it is still in the body, by theaid of a certain supernatural illumination, derived from God, wherein itis able to see all things that are not present, both in Heaven and on earth,even as Saint John saw, as we read in the twenty-first chapter of the Apocalypse,where he describes and relates the excellence of the celestial Jerusalem,which he saw in Heaven. Even so, again, we read of Saint Benedict that ina spiritual vision he saw the whole world.(425) This vision, says Saint Thomasin the first of his Quodlibets, was in the light that is derived from above,as we have said.
2. The other visions, which are of incorporeal substances,cannot be seen by the aid of this derived illumination, whereof we are herespeaking, but only by another and a higher illumination which is called theillumination of glory. And thus these visions of incorporeal substances,such as angels and soul, are not of this life, neither can they be seen inthe mortal body; for, if God were pleased to communicate them to the soul,in essence as they are, the soul would at once go forth from the flesh andwould be loosed from this mortal life. For this reason God said to Moses,when he entreated Him to show him His Essence: Non videbit me homo, etvivet.(426) That is: Man shall not see Me and be able to remain alive. Wherefore,when the children of Israel thought that they were to see God, or had seenHim, or some angel, they feared death, as we read in the Book of Exodus,where, fearing these things, they said: Non loquatur nobis Dominus, ne fortemoriamur.(427) As if they had said: Let not God communicate Himself to usopenly, lest we die. And likewise in the Book of Judges, Manue, father ofSamson, thought that he and his wife had seen in essence the angel who spakewith them (and who had appeared to them in the form of a most beautiful man)and he said to his wife: Morte moriemur, quida vidimus Dominum.(428) Whichsignifies: We shall die, because we have seen the Lord.(429)
3. And thus these visions occur not in this life, save occasionally and fleetingly, when,making an exception to the conditions which govern our natural life, Godso allows it. At such times He totally withdraws the spirit from this life,and the natural functions of the body are supplied by His favour. This iswhy, at the time when it is thought that Saint Paul saw these (namely, theincorporeal substances in the third heaven), that Saint says: Sive in corpore,nescio, sive extra corpus, nescio, Deus scit.(430) That is, he was raptured,and of that which he saw he says that he knows not if it was in the bodyor out of the body, but that God knows. Herein it is clearly seen that thelimits of natural means of communication were passed, and that this was thework of God. Likewise, it is believed that God showed His Essence to Moses,for we read that God said to him that He would set him in the cleft of therock, and would protect him, by covering him with His right hand, and protectinghim so that he should not die when His glory passed; the which glory passedindeed, and was shown to him fleetingly, and the natural life of Moses wasprotected by the right hand of God.(431) But these visions that were sosubstantial -- like that of Saint Paul and Moses, and that of our fatherElias, when he covered his face at the gentle whisper of God -- althoughthey are fleeting, occur only very rarely -- indeed, hardly ever and to veryfew; for God performs such a thing in those that are very strong in the spiritof the Church and the law of God, as were the three men named above.
4. But, although these visions of spiritual substances cannot be unveiled and beclearly seen in this life by the understanding, they can nevertheless befelt in the substance of the soul, with the sweetest touches and unions,all of which belongs to spiritual feelings, whereof, with the Divine favour,we shall treat presently; for our pen is being directed and guided to these-- that is to say, to the Divine bond and union of the soul with DivineSubstance. We shall speak of this when we treat of the dark and confusedmystical understanding which remains to be described, wherein we shall showhow, by means of this dark and loving knowledge, God is united with the soulin a lofty and Divine degree;(432) for, after some manner, this dark andloving knowledge, which is faith, serves as a means to Divine union in thislife, even as, in the next life, the light of glory serves as an intermediaryto the clear vision of God.
5. Let us, then, now treat of the visions ofcorporeal substances, received spiritually in the soul, which come afterthe manner of bodily visions. For, just as the eyes see bodily visions bymeans of natural light, even so does the soul, through the understanding,by means of supernaturally derived light, as we have said, see those samenatural things inwardly, together with others, as God wills; the differencebetween the two kinds of vision is only in the mode and manner of them. Forspiritual and intellectual visions are much clearer and subtler than thosewhich pertain to the body. For, when God is pleased to grant this favourto the soul, He communicates to it that supernatural light whereof we speak,wherein the soul sees the things that God wills it to see, easily and mostclearly, whether they be of Heaven or of earth, and the absence or presenceof them is no hindrance to the vision. And it is at times as though a doorwere opened before it into a great brightness, through which the soul seesa light, after the manner of a lightning flash, which, on a dark night, revealsthings suddenly, and causes them to be clearly and distinctly seen, and thenleaves them in darkness, although the forms and figures of them remain inthe fancy. This comes to pass much more perfectly in the soul, because thosethings that the spirit has seen in that light remain impressed upon it insuch a way that whensoever it observes them it sees them in itself as itsaw them before; even as in a mirror the forms that are in it are seen whensoevera man looks in it, and in such a way that those forms of the things thathe has seen are never wholly removed from his soul, although in course oftime they become somewhat remote.
6. The effect which these visions producein the soul is that of quiet, illumination, joy like that of glory, sweetness,purity and love, humility and inclination or elevation of the spirit in God;sometimes more so, at other times less; with sometimes more of one thing,at other times more of another, according to the spirit wherein they arereceived and according as God wills.
7. The devil likewise can produce thesevisions, by means of a certain natural light, whereby he brings things clearlybefore the mind, through spiritual suggestion, whether they be present orabsent. There is that passage in Saint Matthew, which says of the devil andChrist: Ostendit omnia regna mundi, et gloriam eorum.(433) That is so say:He showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them. Concerningthis certain doctors say that he did it by spiritual suggestion,(434) forit was not possible to make Him see so much with the bodily eyes as all thekingdoms of the world and the glory of them. But there is much differencebetween these visions that are caused by the devil and those that are ofGod. For the effects produced in the soul by the devil's visions are notlike those produced by good visions; the former produce aridity of spiritas to communion with God and an inclination to esteem oneself highly, andto receive and set store by the visions aforesaid, and in no wise do theyproduce the gentleness of humility and love of God. Neither do the formsof such visions remain impressed upon the soul with the sweetness and brightnessof the others; nor do they last, but are quickly effaced from the soul, savewhen the soul greatly esteems them, in which case this high esteem itselfcauses it to recall them naturally, but with great aridity of spirit, andwithout producing that effect of love and humility which is produced by goodvisions when the soul recalls them.
8. These visions, inasmuch as they areof creatures, wherewith God has no essential conformity or proportion, cannotserve the understanding as a proximate means to union with God. And thusthe soul must conduct itself in a purely negative way concerning them, asin the other things that we have described, in order that it may progressby the proximate means -- namely, by faith. Wherefore the soul must makeno store of treasure of the forms of such visions as remain impressed uponit, neither must it lean upon them; for to do this would be to be encumberedwith those forms, images and persons which remain inwardly within it, andthus the soul would not progress toward God by denying itself all things.For, even if these forms should be permanently set before the soul, theywill not greatly hinder this progress, if the soul has no desire to set storeby them. For, although it is true that the remembrance of them impels thesoul to a certain love of God and contemplation, yet it is impelled and exaltedmuch more by pure faith and detachment in darkness from them all, withoutits knowing how or whence it comes to it. And thus it will come to pass thatthe soul will go forward, enkindled with yearnings of purest love for God,without knowing whence they come to it, or on what they are founded. Thefact is that, while faith has become ever more deeply rooted and infusedin the soul by means of that emptiness and darkness and detachment from allthings, or spiritual poverty, all of which may be spoken of as one and thesame thing, at the same time the charity of God has become rooted and infusedin the soul ever more deeply also. Wherefore, the more the soul desires obscurityand annihilation with respect to all the outward or inward things that itis capable of receiving, the more is it infused by faith, and, consequently,by love and hope, since all these three theological virtues go together.
9. But at certain times the soul neither understands this love nor feelsit; for this love resides, not in sense, with its tender feelings, but inthe soul, with fortitude and with a courage and daring that are greater thanthey were before, though sometimes it overflows into sense and produces gentleand tender feelings. Wherefore, in order to attain to that love, joy anddelight which such visions produce and cause in the soul, it is well thatsoul should have fortitude and mortification and love, so that it may desireto remain in emptiness and darkness as to all things, and to build its loveand joy upon that which it neither sees nor feels, neither can see nor feelin this life, which is God, Who is incomprehensible and transcends all things.It is well, then, for us to journey to Him by denying ourselves everything.For otherwise, even if the soul be so wise, humble and strong that the devilcannot deceive it by visions or cause it to fall into some sin of presumption,as he is wont to do, he will not allow it to make progress; for he set obstaclesin the way of spiritual detachment and poverty of spirit and emptiness infaith, which is the essential condition for union of the soul with God.
10. And, as the same teaching that we gave in the nineteenth and twentieth chapters,concerning supernatural apprehensions and visions of sense, holds good forthese visions, we shall not spend more time here in describing them.
Which treats of revelations, describing their nature and making a distinctionbetween them.
1 ACCORDING to the order which we are here following, we have next to treatof the second kind of spiritual apprehension, which we have described aboveas revelations, and which properly belongs to the spirit of prophecy. Withrespect to this, it must first be known that revelation is naught else thanthe discovery of some hidden truth or the manifestation of some secret ormystery. Thus God may cause the soul to understand something by making clearto the understanding the truth concerning it, or He may reveal to the soulcertain things which He is doing or proposes to do.
2. Accordingly, we maysay that there are two kinds of revelation. The first is the disclosure tothe understanding of truths which are properly called intellectual knowledgeor intelligence; the second is the manifestation of secrets, which are calledrevelations with more propriety than the others. For the first kind cannotstrictly be called revelations, since they consist in this, that God causesthe soul to understand naked truths, not only with respect to temporal things,but likewise with respect to spiritual things, revealing them to the soulclearly and openly. These I have desired to treat under the heading ofrevelations: first, because they have close kinship and similarity with them:secondly, in order not to multiply distinctions.
3. According to this method,then, we shall now be well able to divide revelations into two kinds ofapprehension. The one kind we shall call intellectual knowledge, and theother, the manifestation of secrets and hidden mysteries of God. With thesewe shall conclude in two chapters as briefly as we may, and in this chapterfollowing we shall treat of the first.
Which treats of the intuition of naked truths in the understanding, explaininghow they are of two kinds and how the soul is to conduct itself with respectto them.
1 IN order to speak properly of this intuition of naked truths which is conveyedto the understanding, the writer would need God to take his hand and to guidehis pen; for know, dear reader, that what they are to the soul cannot beexpressed in words. But, since I speak not of them here of set purpose, butonly that through them I may instruct the soul and lead it to Divine union,I shall suffer myself to speak of them here in a brief and modified form,as is sufficient for the fulfillment of that intention.
2. This kind of vision (or, to speak more properly, of knowledge of naked truths) is very differentfrom that of which we have just spoken in the twenty-fourth chapter. Forit is not like seeing bodily things with the understanding; it consists ratherin comprehending and seeing with the understanding the truths of God, whetherof things that are, that have been or that will be, which is in close conformitywith the spirit of prophecy, as perchance we shall explain hereafter.
3. Here it is to be observed that this kind of knowledge is distinguishableaccording to two divisions: the one kind comes to the soul with respect tothe Creator; the other with respect to creatures, as we have said. And, althoughboth kinds are very delectable to the soul, yet the delight caused in itby the kind that relates to God is comparable to nothing whatsoever, andthere are no words or terms wherein it can be described. This kind of knowledgeis of God Himself, and the delight is in God Himself, whereof David says:'There is naught soever like to Him.'(435) For this kind of knowledge comesto the soul in direct relation to God, when the soul, after a most loftymanner, has a perception of some attribute of God -- of His omnipotence,of His might, of His goodness and sweetness, etc.; and, whensoever it hassuch a perception, that which is perceived cleaves to the soul. Inasmuchas this is pure contemplation, the soul clearly sees that there is no waywherein it can say aught concerning it, save to speak in certain generalterms, of the abundance of delight and blessing which it has felt, and thisis expressed by souls that experience it; but not to the end that what thesoul has experienced and perceived may be wholly apprehended.
4. And thus David, speaking for himself when something of this kind had happened to him,used only common and general terms, saying: Judicia Domini vera, justificatain semetipsa. Desiderabilia super aurum et lapidem pretiosum multum; et dulciorasuper mel et favum.(436) Which signifies: The judgments of God -- that is,the virtues and attributes which we perceive in God -- are in themselvestrue, justified, more to be desired than gold and very much more than preciousstones, and sweeter than the honeycomb and honey. And concerning Moses weread that, when God gave him a most lofty manifestation of knowledge fromHimself on an occasion when He passed before him, he said only that whichcan be expressed in the common terms above mentioned. And it was so that,when the Lord passed before him in that manifestation of knowledge, Mosesquickly prostrated himself upo n the ground, saying: Dominator Domine Deus,misericors et clemens, patiens, et multae miserationis, ac verax. Qui custodismisericordiam in millia.(437) Which signifies: Ruler,(438) Lord, God, mercifuland clement, patient, and of great compassion, and true, that keepest mercypromised unto thousands. Here it is seen that Moses could not express thatwhich he had learned from God in one single manifestation of knowledge, andtherefore he expressed and gave utterance to it in all these words. And althoughat times, when such knowledge is given to a soul, words are used, the soulis well aware that it has expressed no part of what it has felt; for it knowsthat there is no fit name by which it can name it. And thus Saint Paul, whenhe was granted that lofty knowledge of God, made no attempt to describe it,saying only that it was not lawful for man to speak of it.
5. These Divine manifestations of knowledge which have respect to God never relate to particularmatters, inasmuch as they concern the Chief Beginning, and therefore canhave no particular reference, unless it be a question of some truth concerninga thing less than God, which is involved in the perception of the whole;but these Divine manifestations themselves -- no, in no way whatsoever. Andthese lofty manifestations of knowledge can come only to the soul that attainsto union with God, for they are themselves that union; and to receive themis equivalent to a certain contact with the Divinity which the soul experiences,and thus it is God Himself Who is perceived and tasted therein. And, althoughHe cannot be experienced manifestly and clearly, as in glory, this touchof knowledge and delight is nevertheless so sublime and profound that itpenetrates the substance of the soul, and the devil cannot meddle with itor produce any manifestation like to it, for there is no such thing, neitheris there aught that compares with it, neither can he infuse pleasure or delightthat is like to it; for such kinds of knowledge savour of the Divine Essenceand of eternal life, and the devil cannot counterfeit a thing so lofty.
6. Nevertheless he might make some pretence of imitating it, by representingto the soul certain great matters and things which enchant the senses andcan readily be perceived by them, and endeavoring to persuade the soul thatthese are God; but he cannot do this in such wise that they enter into thesubstance of the soul and of a sudden renew it and enkindle it with love,as do the manifestations of God. For there are certain kinds of knowledge,and certain of these touches effected by God in the substance of the soul,which enrich it after such wise that not only does one of them suffice totake from the soul once and for all the whole of the imperfections that ithad itself been unable to throw off during its whole life, but it leavesthe soul full of virtues and blessings from God.
7. And these touches are so delectable to the soul, and the delight they produce is so intimate, thatif it received only one of them it would consider itself well rewarded forall the trials that it had suffered in this life, even had they been innumerable;and it is so greatly encouraged and given such energy to suffer many thingsfor God's sake that it suffers especially in seeing that it is not sufferingmore.
8. The soul cannot attain to these lofty degrees of knowledge by meansof any comparison or imagination of its own, because they are loftier thanall these; and so God works them in the soul without making use of its owncapacities. Wherefore, at certain times, when the soul is least thinkingof it and least desiring it, God is wont to give it these Divine touches,by causing it certain remembrances of Himself. And these are sometimes suddenlycaused in the soul by its mere recollection of certain things -- sometimesof very small things. And they are so readily perceived that at times theycause not only the soul, but also the body, to tremble. But at other timesthey come to pass in the spirit when it is very tranquil, without any kindof trembling, but with a sudden sense of delight and spiritual refreshment.
9. At other times, again, they come when the soul repeats or hears some word,perhaps from Scripture or possibly from some other source; but they are notalways equally efficacious and sensible, for oftentimes they are extremelyfaint; yet, however faint they may be, one of these recollections and touchesof God is more profitable to the soul than many other kinds of knowledgeor many meditations upon the creatures and the works of God. And, since thesemanifestations of knowledge come to the soul suddenly, and independentlyof its own free will, it must neither desire to have them, nor desire notto have them; but must merely be humble and resigned concerning them, andGod will perform His work how and when He wills.
10. And I say not that the soul should behave in the same negative manner with regard to these apprehensionsas with regard to the rest, for, as we have said, they are a part of theunion towards which we are leading the soul, to which end we are teachingit to detach and strip itself of all other apprehensions. And the means bywhich God will do this must be humility and suffering for love of God withresignation as regards all reward; for these favours are not granted to thesoul which still cherishes attachments, inasmuch as they are granted througha very special love of God toward the soul which loves Him likewise withgreat detachment. It is to this that the Son of God referred, in Saint John,when He said: Qui autem diligit rag, diligetur a Patre meo, et ego diligameum, et manifestabo ei me ipsum.(439) Which signifies: He that loves Me shallbe loved by My Father, and I will love him and will manifest Myself to him.Herein are included the kinds of knowledge and touches to which we are referring,which God manifests to the soul that truly loves Him.
11. The second kind of knowledge or vision of interior truths is very different from this thatwe have described, since it is of things lower than God. And herein is includedthe perception of the truth of things in themselves, and that of the eventsand happenings which come to pass among men. And this knowledge is of sucha kind that, when the soul learns these truths, they sink into it, independentlyof any suggestion from without, to such an extent that, although it may begiven a different interpretation of them, it cannot make inward assent tothis, even though it endeavor to do so by putting forth a great effort; forwithin the spirit it is learning otherwise through the spirit that is teachingit that thing, which is equivalent to seeing it clearly. This pertains tothe spirit of prophecy and to the grace which Saint Paul calls the gift ofthe discernment of spirits.(440) Yet, although the soul holds something whichit understands to be quite certain and true, as we have said, and althoughit may be unable to cease giving it that passive interior consent, it mustnot therefore cease to believe and to give the consent of reason to thatwhich its spiritual director tells it and commands it, even though this maybe quite contrary to its own feelings, so that it may be directed in faithto Divine union, to which a soul must journey by believing rather than byunderstanding.
12. Concerning both these things we have clear testimoniesin Scripture. For, with respect to the spiritual knowledge of things thatmay be acquired, the Wise Man says these words: Ipse dedit mihi horum, quaesunt, scientiam veram, ut sciam dispositionem orbis terrarum, et virtuteselementorum, initium et consummationem temporum, viccissitudinum permutationes,et consummationes temporum, et morum mutationes, divisiones temporum, etanni cursus, et stellarum dispositiones, naturas animalium et iras bestiarum,vim ventorum, et cogitationes hominum, differentias virgultorum, et virtutesradicum, et quaecumque sunt abscondita, et improvisa didici: omnium enimartifex docuit me sapientia.(441) Which signifies: God hath given me trueknowledge of things that are: to know the disposition of the round world(442)and the virtues of the elements; the beginning, and ending, and midst ofthe times, the alterations in the changes and the consummations of the seasons,and the changes of customs, the divisions of the seasons, the courses ofthe year and the dispositions of the stars; the natures of animals, and thefuries of the beasts, the strength and virtue of the winds, and the thoughtsof men; the diversities in plants and trees and the virtues of roots andall things that are hidden, and those that are not foreseen: all these Ilearned, for Wisdom, which is the worker of all things, taught me. And althoughthis knowledge which the Wise Man here says that God gave him concerningall things was infused and general, the passage quoted furnishes sufficientevidence for all particular kinds of knowledge which God infuses into souls,by supernatural means, when He wills. And this not that He may give thema general habit of knowledge as He gave to Solomon in the matters aforementioned;but that He may reveal to them at times certain truths with respect to anyof all these things that the Wise Man here enumerates. Although it is truethat into many souls Our Lord infuses habits which relate to many things,yet these are never of so general a kind as they were in the case of Solomon.The differences between them are like to those between the gifts distributedby God which are enumerated by Saint Paul; among these he sets wisdom, knowledge,faith, prophecy, discernment or knowledge of spirits, understanding of tongues,interpretation of spoken words, etc.(443) All these kinds of knowledge areinfused habits, which God gives freely to whom He will, whether naturallyor supernaturally; naturally, as to Balaam, to other idolatrous prophetsand to many sybils, to whom He gave the spirit of prophecy; and supernaturally,as to the holy prophets and apostles and other saints.
13. But over and above these habits or graces freely bestowed,(444) what we say is that personswho are perfect or are making progress in perfection are wont very commonlyto receive enlightenment and knowledge of things present or absent; thesethey know through their spirit, which is already enlightened and purged.We can interpret that passage from the Proverbs in this sense, namely: Quomodoin aquis resplendent vultus prospicientium sic corda hominum manifesta suntproudentibus.(445) Even as there appear in the waters the faces of thosethat look therein, so the hearts of men are manifest to the prudent. Thisis understood of those that have the wisdom of saints, which the sacred Scripturecalls prudence. And in this way these spirits sometimes learn of other thingsalso, although not whensoever they will; for this belongs only to those thathave the habit, and even to these it belongs not always and with respectto all things, for it depends upon God's will to help them.
14. But it must be known that those whose spirits are purged can learn by natural means withgreat readiness, and some more readily than others, that which is in theinward spirit or heart, and the inclinations and talents of men, and thisby outward indications, albeit very slight ones, as words, movements andother signs. For, even as the devil can do this, since he is spirit, evenso likewise can the spiritual man, according to the words of the Apostle,who says: Spiritualis autem judicat omnia.(446) 'He that is spiritual judgethall things.' And again he says: Spiritus enim omnia scrutatur, etiam profundaDei.(447) 'The spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.'Wherefore, although spiritual persons cannot by nature know thoughts, orthings that are in the minds of others,(448) they may well interpret themthrough supernatural enlightenment or by signs. And, although they may oftenbe deceived in their interpretation of signs, they are more generally correct.Yet we must trust neither to the one means nor to the other, for the devilmeddles herein greatly, and with much subtlety, as we shall afterwards say,and thus we must ever renounce such kinds of knowledge.
15. And that spiritual persons may have knowledge of the deeds and happenings of men, even thoughthey be elsewhere, we have witness and example in the Fourth Book of theKings, where Giezi, the servant of our father Eliseus, desired to hide fromhim the money which he had received from Naaman the Syrian, and Eliseus said:Nonne cor meum in praesenti erat, quando reversus est homo de curru suo inoccursum tui?(449) 'Was not my heart perchance present, when Naaman turnedback from his chariot and went to meet thee? This happens spiritually; thespirit sees it as though it were happening in its presence. And the samething is proved in the same book, where we read likewise of the same Eliseus,that, knowing all that the King of Syria did with his princes in his privychamber, he told it to the King of Israel, and thus the counsels of the Kingof Syria were of no effect; so much so that, when the King of Syria saw thatall was known, he said to his people: Why do ye not tell me which of youis betraying me to the King of Israel? And then one of his servants said:Nequaquam, Domine mi Rex, sed Eliseus Propheta, qui est in Israel, indicatRegi Israel omnia verba, quaecumque locutus fueris in conclavi tuo.(450)'It is not so, my lord, O King, but Eliseus, the prophet that is in Israel,telleth the king of Israel all the words that thou speakest in thy privychamber.'
16. Both kinds of this knowledge of things, as well as other kindsof knowledge, come to pass in the soul passively, so that for its own partit does naught. For it will come to pass that, when a person is inattentiveto a matter and it is far from his mind, there will come to him a vividunderstanding of what he is hearing or reading, and that much more clearlythan could be conveyed by the sound of the words; and at times, though heunderstand not the words, as when they are in Latin and he knows not thattongue, the knowledge of their meaning comes to him, despite his notunderstanding them.
17. With regard to the deceptions which the devil canbring about, and does bring about, concerning this kind of knowledge andunderstanding, there is much that might be said, for the deceptions whichhe effects in this way are very great and very difficult to unmask. Inasmuchas, through suggestion, he can represent to the soul many kinds of intellectualknowledge and implant them so firmly that it appears impossible that theyshould not be true, he will certainly cause the soul to believe innumerablefalsehoods if it be not humble and cautious. For suggestion has sometimesgreat power over the soul, above all when it is to some extent aided by theweakness of sense, causing the knowledge which it conveys to sink into thesoul with such great power, persuasiveness and determination that the soulneeds to give itself earnestly to prayer and to exert great strength if itis to cast it off. For at times the devil is accustomed to represent to thesoul the sins of others, and evil consciences and evil souls, falsely butvery vividly, and all this he does to harm the soul, trusting that it mayspread abroad his revelations, and that thus more sins may be committed,for which reason he fills the soul with zeal by making it believe that theserevelations are granted it so that it may commend the persons concerned toGod. Now, though it is true that God sometimes sets before holy souls thenecessities of their neighbours, so that they may commend them to God orrelieve them, even as we read that He revealed to Jeremias the weakness ofthe prophet Baruch, that he might give him counsel concerning it,(451) yetit is more often the devil who does this, and speaks falsely about it, inorder to cause infamy, sin and discouragement, whereof we have very greatexperience. And at other times he implants other kinds of knowledge withgreat assurance, and persuades the soul to believe them. 18. Such knowledge as this, whether it be of God or no, can be of very little assistance tothe progress of the soul on its journey to God if the soul desire it andbe attached to it; on the contrary, if it were not scrupulous in rejectingit, not only would it be hindered on its road, but it would even be greatlyharmed and led far astray. For all the perils and inconveniences which, aswe have said, may be involved in the supernatural apprehensions whereof wehave treated up to this point, may occur here, and more also. I will not,therefore, treat more fully of this matter here, since sufficient instructionabout it has already been given in past chapters; I will only say that thesoul must always be very scrupulous in rejecting these things, and seek tojourney to God by the way of unknowing; and must ever relate its experiencesto its spiritual confessor, and be ever attentive to his counsel. Let theconfessor guide the soul past this, laying no stress upon it, for it is ofno kind of importance for the road to union; for when these things are grantedto the soul passively they always leave in it such effect as God wills shallremain, without necessity for the soul to exert any diligence in the matter.And thus it seems to me that there is no reason to describe here either theeffect which is produced by true knowledge, or that which comes from falseknowledge, for this would be wearisome and never-ending. For the effectsof this knowledge cannot all be described in a brief instruction, the knowledgebeing great and greatly varied, and its effects being so likewise, sincegood knowledge produces good effects, and evil knowledge, evil effects, etc.In saying that all should be rejected, we have said sufficient for the soulnot to go astray.
John, Ascent of Carmel 2 23