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Scale (or Ladder) of Perfection
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CHAPTER III: How Jesus is Heaven to the Soul, and why He is called Fire

WHAT then is Heaven to a reasonable soul? Verily nought else but Jesus God. For if that be Heaven only that is above all things, then is God only Heaven to man’s soul, for He alone is above the nature of a soul. Then if a soul can through grace have knowledge of that blessed nature of Jesus, verily he seeth Heaven, for he seeth God. Therefore there be many men that err in understanding of some words that are spoken of God, for that they understand them not spiritually.

Holy Writ saith, that a soul that will find God must lift her inward eye upward, and seek God above itself. Then some men that would do after this saying, understand this word above themselves to signify the placing or setting of a thing in place and worthiness above another, as one element or planet is above another in situation and worthiness of a bodily place. But it is not so taken spiritually; for a soul is above each bodily thing, not in place, or sight, but in purity and worthiness of nature. Right so in the same manner God is above all bodily and spiritual creatures, not in place and sight, but in purity and worthiness of His unchangeable blessed nature.

And therefore he that will wisely seek God, and find Him, he must not run out with his thoughts as if he would climb above the sun, and part the firmament, and imagine the Majesty like to a hundred suns. But he must rather draw down the sun, and all the firmament, and forget it, and cast it beneath him where he is, and set all this and all bodily things also at nought; and then, if he can, think spiritually both of himself and of God also. And if he do thus, then seeth the soul above itself, then seeth it into Heaven.

Upon this same manner shall this word within be understood. It is commonly said that a soul should see our Lord within all things and within itself. True it is, that our Lord is within all creatures, but not on that manner that a kernel is hid within the shell of a nut; or as a little bodily thing is contained within a greater. But He is within all creatures, as holding and preserving them in their being, through the subtlety and power of His own blessed nature, and purity invisible. For even as a thing that is most precious and most clean is laid innermost, right so by the same likeness it is said that the nature of God, which is most precious, most clean, most goodly, most remote from bodily substance, is hid within all things. And therefore he that will seek God within, he must first forget all bodily things, for all such things are without; and also his own body; and he must forget thinking of his own soul, and think on the uncreated nature; that is, Jesus, who made him, quickeneth him, holdeth him, and giveth him reason, memory and love, the which is within him through His power and sovereign subtlety.

Upon this manner must the soul do, when grace toucheth it, or else it will but little avail to seek Jesus, and to find Him within itself, and within all creatures as methinketh.

Also it is said in Holy Writ, that God is light. So sayeth St John: God is light.220220    1 St John 1. This light we must not take for a bodily light; but it must be understood thus: God is light; that is, God is truth and verity itself, for verity is spiritual light. He then that most graciously knoweth verity, best seeth God. And nevertheless it is likened to corporal light, for this reason: Right as the sun showeth to the bodily eye both itself and all bodily things thereby; even so verity, that is, God, showeth to the reason of the soul itself first, and by itself all other spiritual things that are needful to the knowing of a soul. Thus saith the Prophet: Domine in lumine tuo videbimus lumen.—Lord, we shall see Thy light by Thy light.221221    Ps. 35. That is, we shall see Thee, who art verity, by Thyself.

In like manner, it is said that God is fire. Our God is wasting fire.222222    Heb. 12. That is to say, God is not elementary fire, that heateth and burneth a body, but God is love and charity. For as fire wasteth all bodily things, that can be wasted, even so the love of God burneth and wasteth all sin out of the soul and maketh it clean, as fire cleanseth all manner of metals. These words and all other that are spoken of our Lord in Holy Writ by bodily similitude, must needs be understood spiritually, else there is no savour in them. And the reason why such words are said of our Lord in Holy Writ is this, for that we are so carnal, that we cannot speak of God nor understand anything of Him, unless we be first entered by such words. But when the inner eye is open through grace to have a little sight of Jesus, then will the soul easily enough turn all such words of bodily things into spiritual understanding. This spiritual opening of the inner eye into knowing of the Divinity, I call reforming in faith and feeling. For then the soul feeleth somewhat in understanding of that thing that it had before, in naked believing, and that is the beginning of Contemplation. Of the which St Paul saith thus: Non Contemplantibus nobis quae videntur, &c.—Our Contemplation is not on things that are seen, but on things unseen. For things that are seen are passing, but things unseen are everlasting. 223223    2 Cor. 4. To which sight every soul should desire to come. both here in part, and in the bliss of Heaven fully. For in that sight, and in that knowing of Jesus fully, consisteth the bliss of a reasonable soul and endless life. Thus saith our Lord: Haec est autem vita aeterna, &c.224224    St John 17. —This is eternal life, that they know Thee the true God, and Thy Son whom Thou hast sent.


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