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Scale (or Ladder) of Perfection
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CHAPTER VII: How a Man shall know false Illuminations that are feigned by the Enemy, from the true Light of knowing that cometh out of Jesus, and by what tokens

BUT now beware of the midday fiend that feigneth light as if it came out of Jerusalem, and is not so; for the fiend seeth that our Lord Jesus showeth light to His lovers of truth; therefore for the deceiving of them that are unwise, he showeth a light that is not true under colour of a true light, and cozeneth them. Nevertheless, how a soul may know the true light when it shineth from God, and when it is feigned by the enemy shall I declare (as methinketh) by an example of the firmament.

Sometime the firmament showeth a light from the sun, which seemeth to be the sun and is not; and sometimes showeth the true sun truly. To know the one from the other is thus: the feigned sun showeth himself only betwixt two black rainy clouds; and then because the sun is near, there shineth out from the clouds a light as if it were a sun, but is not. But the true sun showeth itself when the firmament is clear, or much cleared from black clouds. Now to our purpose. Some men, as it seems, forsake the love of the world and would come to the love of God, and to the light of understanding Him, but they would not come through that darkness which I spake of before. They will not know themselves truly and humbly what they have been heretofore, or what they are yet through sin, nor how naught they are in their nature against God. They are not busy to enter into themselves, all other outward things being left and flee all wicked stirrings that rise in their hearts of Pride, Envy, Anger, or other sins through a lasting desire to Jesus in praying and meditating, in silence, and in weeping, and in other corporal and spiritual exercises as devout and holy men have done. But as soon as they have forsaken the world, as it were outwardly in appearance, or else soon after, they imagine that they are holy and able to have the spiritual understanding of the Gospel and of holy Writ, and, namely, if they can literally fulfil the commandments of God and keep themselves from corporal sins, then they imagine that they love God perfectly. And therefore they will presently preach and teach all other men, as if they had received grace of understanding in perfection of charity through special gift of the Holy Ghost. And also they are much more stirred, forasmuch as they feel sometimes much knowledge as it were suddenly given to them without great study before had, and also much fervour of love as it seemeth for to preach truth and righteousness to their neighbour. Therefore they hold it as a grace of God that visiteth them with His blessed light above other souls. Nevertheless, if they will look well about them, they shall find that this light of knowledge and that fervour which they feel cometh not from the true Sun, which is our Lord Jesus, but cometh from the midday fiend that feigneth light, and likeneth him to the Sun, and therefore shall he be known by the foresaid example.

Light of knowledge, that is feigned by the fiend to a dark soul, is showed betwixt two black rainy clouds. Whereof the upper cloud is presumption and exalting of himself, and the lower cloud is the down-putting and disdaining of his neighbour. Then whatsoever light of knowing or feeling of fervour it be that shineth to a soul with presumption and exalting of itself, and disdain of his neighbour felt at the same time, it is not the light of grace given of the Holy Ghost; although the knowledge in itself be true, but it is either from the fiend, if it come suddenly, or else from a man’s own wit if it come by study, and so it may easily be known that this feigned light of knowing is not the light of the true Sun.

Therefore, they that have this knowing on this manner are full of spiritual pride, and see it not; they are so blind with this feigned light that they hold the exalting of their own heart and their disobedience to the laws of holy Church as it were perfect humility to the Gospel and to the laws of God; and imagine that the following of their own will to be freedom of spirit. And thereupon they begin to rain, like black clouds, waters of errors and heresies; for the words that they utter in preaching tend all to backbiting, and to strife and discord, reproving of States and of Persons; and yet they say that all this is charity and zeal of the truth. But it is not so; for St James the Apostle saith thus: Ubi zelus est et contentio, &c.—Where envy is and contention, there is unstableness and every evil work.196196    St James 3. And therefore that knowledge that bringeth forth such sins cometh not from the Father of lights, that is God, but is earthly, beastly and devilish. And so by these tokens, namely, pride, presumption, disobedience, indignation, backbiting and other such sins (for these follow after) may the feigned light be known from the true. For the true Sun shineth not nor breaketh forth by special visitation to give light of understanding or perfect charity to a soul, unless the firmament be first made bright and clear from clouds; that is, unless the conscience be made clean through the fire of burning desire to Jesus in this darkness which wasteth and burneth up all wicked stirrings of pride, vain-glory, wrath, envy and all other sins in the soul. As the Prophet saith: Ignis ante ipsum procedet, &c.—A fire shall go before him; that is, desire of love shall go before Jesus in man’s soul, and it shall burn all his enemies; 197197    Ps. 96. that is, it shall waste all sins. For except a soul be first smitten down from the height of itself by fear and humility, and be well tried and burnt in this fire of desire, and as it were purified from all spiritual filth, through long time in devout prayers and other spiritual exercises, it is not able to bear the shinings of spiritual light nor to receive the precious liquor of perfect love of Jesus. But when it is purified and made subtle through this fire, then may it receive the gracious light of spiritual knowing and the perfection of love, which is the true Sun.

Thus saith holy Writ: Vobis qui timetis Deum, &c.—The true Sun of Righteousness, that is, our Lord Jesus, shall spring to you that fear Him;198198    Mal. 4. that is, to humble souls that humble themselves to their neighbour, through knowing of their own wretchedness, and cast themselves down under God by annihilating themselves in their own substance through reverent fear and spiritual beholding of Him lastingly, for that is perfect humility. Unto these souls the true Sun shall spring, and enlighten their reason to the knowing of Truth, and kindle their affections in the fervour of love, and then shall they both burn and shine, namely, burn in perfect love through the virtue of this heavenly Sun, and shine in the knowledge of God and spiritual things, for then be they reformed in feeling.

Therefore, he that would not be deceived, I think it is good for him to draw down himself and hide himself in this darkness. First, from intermeddling with other men, as I have said, and forget all the world if he can; and follow Jesus with constant desire offered up in prayers and meditating on Him. And then I believe the light that cometh after this darkness is secure and true, and that it shineth out of the city of Jerusalem from the true Sun to a soul that travelleth in darkness, and crieth after light for to show her the right way and comfort her in travel. For I believe that after true darkness going before feigned light never cometh. That is, if a man truly and fully set himself to forsake the love of the world, and can through grace come to the feeling and knowing of himself, and hold himself humbly in that feeling, he shall not be deceived with any errors nor heresies nor fancies; for all these come in by the gate of pride. If then pride can be stopped out, there shall no such sin rest in a soul, and though they come and proffer themselves, they shall not enter; for grace which the soul feeleth in this humble darkness shall teach the soul truth, and show it that all such proffering are from the enemy.


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