Included are Juan de Ávila and his “Letter to a religious, urging him to the perfect love of God”; St. Teresa of Jesus and her “An exclamation of the soul to God”; and St. John of the Cross, represented in part by his best-known work, “Dark Night of the Soul.” The text also contains “A contemplation to obtain love” by St. Ignatius of Loyola, as well as the meditations of Alonso de Orozco, Luis de Granada, Diego de Estella, Luis de León, and Pedro Malón de Chaide, among others. A list of books is provided for those who wish to make this anthology a starting point for further study.
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The Mystics of Spain
By E. Allison Peers
Dover Publications, Inc.Copyright © 2002 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
EXTRACTS FROM THE SPANISH MYSTICS
c. 1233—c. 1315
(See p. 15, above)
EDITIONS. Blanquerna. London, Jarrolds, n.d. . The Book of the Laver and the Beloved. London, S.P.C.K., 2nd ed. 1946. The Art of Contemplation. London, S.P.C.K., 1925. The Tree of Love, London, S.P.C.K., 1926. The Book of the Beasts. London, Burns Oates, 1927. All translated by E. Allison Peers.
STUDIES. E. Allison Peers: Ramon Lull, a Biography, London, S.P.C.K., 1929, and Fool of Love, London, S.C.M. Press, 1946. (The first is a critical, the second a popular biography.)
A Life of Ramon Lull. Written by an unknown hand about 1311. London, Burns Oates, 1927.
A. E. Waite: Raymond Lully. London, Rider, 1922.
THE BOOK OF THE LOVER AND THE BELOVED
The Lover asked his Beloved if there remained in Him anything still to be loved. And the Beloved answered that he had still to love that by which his own love could be increased.
Said the Lover to then Beloved: 'Thou that fillest the sun with splendour, fill my heart with love.' The Beloved answered: 'Hadst thou not fullness of love, thine eyes had not shed those tears, neither hadst thou come to this place to see Him that loves thee.'
The birds hymned the dawn, and the Lover, who is the dawn, awakened. And the birds ended their song, and the Lover died in the dawn for his Beloved.
'O bird that singest of love, ask thou of my Beloved, Who has taken me to be His servant, wherefore He tortures me with love.' The bird replied: 'If Love made thee not to bear trials, wherewith couldst thou show thy love for Him?'
The Lover wept, and sang songs of his Beloved, and said: 'Swifter is love in the heart of the lover than is the splendour of the lightning to the eye, or the thunder to the ear. The tears of love gather more swiftly than the waves of the sea; and sighing is more proper to love than is whiteness to snow.'
The Lover was all alone, in the shade of a fair tree. Men passed by that place, and asked him why he was alone. And the Lover answered: 'I am alone, now that I have seen you and heard you; until now, I was in the company of my Beloved.'
The Beloved revealed Himself to His Lover, clothed in new and scarlet robes. He stretched out His Arms to embrace him; He inclined His Head to kiss him; and He remained on high that he might ever seek Him.
They asked the Lover what sign his Beloved bore upon His banner. He answered: 'The sign of a Man that was dead.' They asked him why He bore such a sign. He answered: 'Because He became Man and died on a Cross, and because they that glory in being His lovers must follow in His steps.'
Love shone through the cloud which had come between the Lover and the Beloved, and made it to be as bright and resplendent as is the moon by night, as the daystar at dawn, as the sun at midday, and as the understanding in the will; and through that bright cloud the Lover and the Beloved held converse.
Said the Lover: 'O ye that love, if ye will have fire, come light your lanterns at my heart; if water, come to my eyes, whence flow the tears in streams; if thoughts of love, come gather them from my meditations.'
'Say, O Fool! what is solitude?' He answered: 'It is solace and companionship between Lover and Beloved.' 'And what are solace and companionship?' 'Solitude in the heart of the Lover,' he replied, 'when he remembers naught save only his Beloved.'
BOOK OF THE LOVER AND THE BELOVED, §§ 1, 6, 26, 35, 38, 47, 91, 101, 123, 173, 246.
THE ART OF CONTEMPLATION
'Divine Goodness,' said Blanquerna, 'Thou that art of infinite greatness in eternity, Thou art the Good whence springs all good beside; from Thy great Good comes all that is good both great and small, and from Thy Eternity comes all that abides. Wherefore in all wherein Thou art Goodness and Greatness, and Eternity, I adore Thee, call upon Thee, and love Thee above all that I can understand and remember. And I pray Thee to make great and abiding that good which Thou hast granted me, that I may praise and serve Thee with all that pertains to Thy honour.'
'Eternal Greatness in power! Far greater art Thou than I can remember or comprehend or love. My power rises to Thee, that Thou mayest make it great and abiding, that I may remember, comprehend and love Thy power, which is infinite and eternal, from whose influence we trust there may fall upon us grace and blessing, whence we ourselves may become great and may abide even unto eternity.'
'Eternity, Thou that hast power of knowledge without end or beginning! Thou hast given me a beginning and created me that I may abide without end. Thou hast power to save or to damn me. That which Thou wilt do with me and with others Thy knowledge eternally knows and Thy power can accomplish. For in Thy eternity is no movement or change. No power have I to know how Thou wilt judge me, for my power and knowledge have a beginning. So, then, may it please Thee that, whatsoever Thou wilt do with me, my power and knowledge and abidingness in this world may be to Thy glory and to the praise of Thine honour.'
'Power, that hast all knowledge and will in thyself! Knowledge, that hast all power and will in thyself! Will, that hast all power and knowledge in thyself! Take all my knowledge and power—for already hast Thou taken all my will—that they may love and serve Thee. Thou, O Power, canst know and will, inasmuch as Thou art without increase or diminution or any change soever. Thou, O Knowledge, dost know even as Thou dost will. And Thou, O Will, dost will even as Thou dost will in will, power and knowledge. Wherefore, since thus it is, and naught can make it otherwise or different, may grace come to my power from this great influence, that I may ever have power, knowledge and will to honour Thy power—to my knowledge that I may honour Thy knowledge—and to my will that I may honour Thy love.'
'Wisdom Divine! In Thee are virtue and love. Thou knowest Thyself to be love above all other love, and virtue above all other virtue: Thou knowest Thyself to be Wisdom greater than all wisdom beside. Wherefore if my knowledge perceive that my will has small virtue in loving Thy will, Thy knowledge must needs know that Thy love is greater in loving me than is my love in loving Thee. And if Thou knewest not this, Thy knowledge could not know how much greater virtue there is in Thy love and Thy will than in mine, nor could my knowledge and will have the virtue wherewith to contemplate God in perfection.' While Blanquerna pursued this contemplation he bethought himself that, if God knew that His Will loved sin, He would have no virtue wherewith to love Himself. And thus Blanquerna comprehended that, if he ceased to love God, he would have no virtue wherewith he might cease to love sin. So Blanquerna wept abundantly, when he remembered his sin and guilt at such times as he had sinned.
'Love Divine! Thy Virtue is more real than that of any love beside, and Thy Truth is more real than all truth beside. For if the virtue of the sun can be real in giving light, and the virtue of fire in giving warmth, far more real is Thy Virtue in. loving. For between the sun and its splendour there is a difference, and between fire and its heat. But between Thy Love and Virtue and Truth there is no essential difference; and all that Thy Love disposes in truth, It does with infinite virtue in love and in truth; whereas all that is done by things beside is done with virtue finite in quantity and time. Wherefore, since this is so, to Thee, O Love, O Virtue, O Truth, I bind and submit myself all the days of my life, that I may honour Thy graces, and proclaim to unbelievers, and to Christians who have lost their devotion, the truth of Thy Virtue and Thy Truth and Thy Love.'
Virtue, Truth and Glory met in the thoughts of Blanquerna, when he contemplated his Beloved. Blanquerna considered to which of these three he would give the greatest honour in his thoughts and will; but since he could conceive in them no difference soever, he gave them equal honour in remembering, comprehending and desiring his Beloved. And he said: 'I adore Thee, O Virtue, that hast created me; I adore Thee, O Truth, that shalt judge me; I adore Thee, O Glory, wherein I hope to be glorified in Virtue and Truth, which will never cease to give glory without end.'
Blanquerna enquired of the Truth of his Beloved: 'If in Thee Glory and Perfection were not that which Thou art, what then wouldst Thou be?' And Understanding answered Blanquerna: 'What but falsehood, or a truth like to that of thine, or naught at all, or that in which there would be affliction everlasting?' And Blanquerna said: 'And if Truth were not, what then would Glory be?' And Memory answered: 'It would be naught.' 'And if Perfection were not, what would Glory be?' 'It would be that which is naught, or nothingness.'
THE ART OF CONTEMPLATION, Chapter II.
GARCÍA DE CISNEROS
(See p. 16 above)
EDITIONS. Book of Exercises for the Spiritual Life. Trans. E. Allison Peers. Montserrat, 1929.
STUDIES. E. Allison Peers: 'The Dawn of the Golden Age: Garcia de Cisneros.' In Studies of the Spanish Mystics, London, Sheldon Press, Vol. 11, 1930, pp. 1-37, 401-5.
HOW OUR THOUGHT IS LIFTED UP TO GOD THROUGH QUICK AND FERVENT LOVE
We have described above how the understanding is lifted up to God by meditation upon His perfections and praises, and how through the prayer of words and that of enkindled desires it becomes enkindled in love of Him. We shall now describe how the spirit, which for some time has been exercised in the manner aforesaid, is lifted up to God without any labour of the understanding or of aught else soever, and is united with Him, the which union is called by the saints true wisdom. As St. Dionysius says, this wisdom is known as ignorance; for no kind of reasoning or understanding or human knowledge can raise the exercitant to a union after this manner, such union and such feelings being the work of God alone, Who wills to give Himself to such a spirit as this without labour of understanding on its part, but Himself aiding the affections. Wherefore it seems that our soul at this stage is receptive rather than active with regard to the understanding, and that the affection of love alone reigns within it, and neither sense nor understanding has any part therein. This is the wisdom whereof St. James says that every perfect gift descends from above—that is to say, from God. This wisdom is likewise that which is so greatly exalted in the Book of Wisdom. It is not, like knowledge of other kinds, born within us, being begotten by the understanding, but it arises from the exercising of our inward affections, whereof the prophet David speaks, saying: Renuit cansolari anima mea: memor fui Dei et delectatus sum et defecit spiritus meus. That is to say that the soul which has cast away all human and fleshly delight, and is touched by this Divine wisdom, is made to rejoice by the touch of God, and lifted up on high, so that it faints away; for it suffices not to declare after any manner that which here it feels concerning its most sovereign and beloved Lord.
This wisdom has never been understood by philosophers, nor by any such as fix their understanding on bodily or fantastic objects. It is greater than all the gifts that are infused within us, with respect to the manner wherein the loftiest part of the soul is raised to God, through love; for it finds no rest in aught that is lower than God, nor yet in God himself in that which concerns its own delight or profit, but only in the love of Him Who alone is supremely to be loved. Him it seeks and desires and loves because it feels Him to be the supreme good, and not alone supreme in goodness, but likewise far withdrawn from all defect and misery.
The blessed St. Dionysius says in the seventh Book of his De Divinis Nominibus that this wisdom attains to God, its Beloved, through love, that it wearies not itself in speculations concerning Him, or in thinking of Him in any lofty speculative way whatsoever, unless this awakens love; as, for example, speculation upon the Holy Trinity, the generation of the Son, or the creation of the world, in all of which things the power of God is displayed, but there is no incitement therein to love. The soul is moved to love only by such meditations as raise it on high and enkindle it in love for its Creator and Lord, being conscious of Him without corporal similitudes whatsoever, and understanding Him after a manner that cannot be explained, so that, against the usual course of nature, He is loved before He is known. And the manner wherein He is loved and known can be felt, but no tongue can describe it, for all this is the work of pure spirit, and naught that is corporal aids it. For our Lord God works here through Himself alone, and in this manner any person, however simple, whether a peasant or a simple old woman, may through this lofty wisdom be quickly changed into a learned disciple, if it please God to give him thereof in great quantity or in small. And this last will depend upon the preparation which a man has made, for, if he prepares not himself, nor does that which in him lies, he will never attain to this manner of wisdom.
BOOK OF EXERCISES FOR THE SPIRITUAL LIFE, Chapter XXVIII.
BERNARDINO DE LAREDO
(See p. 18, above)
EDITIONS. The only modern edition of the Ascent of Mount Sion is in Spanish: Místicos franciscanos españoles, Madrid, Biblioteca de Autores Cristianos, Vol. II, 1948, pp. 13-442.
STUDIES. P. Fidèle de Ros: Le Frère Bernardin de Laredo. Paris, J. Vrin, 1948. (The only full-length study.) E. Allison Peers: 'An exponent of "Quiet": Bernardino de Laredo.' In Studies of the Spanish Mystics, London, Sheldon Press, Vol. II, 1930, pp. 39-76, 406-7.
HOW THE PRACTICE OF QUIET TEACHES THE SOUL TO RISE ON WINGS OF LOVE
Whenever in this third book mention is made of 'infused science', or 'hidden wisdom', or 'secret or mystical theology', or the 'practice of aspiration', it is to be understood that a sudden and momentary uplifting of the mind is meant, in which the soul, by Divine instruction, is suddenly upraised so as to unite itself, through pure love, by the affective way alone, with its most loving God, without any interposition of thought, or of any working of the intellect or the understanding, or of natural reason. We said before that this operation transcends all reason and human understanding, and we can also say with absolute certainty that the mysteries of our true and spotless Catholic faith—such as the supreme mysteries of the Incarnation of the Divine Word, and of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar, and many others—are neither based upon natural reason nor admit of comprehension. We have, therefore, to understand that this Divine operation passes both reason and understanding, and that by it the soul is raised in a moment upon the wings of love and is united with its God as often as it pleases the Divine condescension, without the interposition of the thought of any created thing.
Our own part in this sovereign operation is difficult in the beginning, but if we persevere in this upraising of our affective nature with all our might, we reach that degree of facility of which high contemplatives say that the well-schooled soul can rise to it in a moment, almost as often as it will, and become united with Him through love. And concerning this St. Dionysius says (and Herp and Henry of Balma, both high contemplatives, affirm it) that in the practised soul this happens as often as it pleases, and with such facility that they cannot predict it.
And it should be observed that the soul in this state of union—in this rising to its God—gives no more than its own free-will. For it is our God that works, and, as He works again and again with this free-will which is given by the soul, and with its raising of the affective nature, inspired by the love given it by God, it reaches a state of felicity—and even in these times there are certainly some whom Our Lord permits to affirm and bear witness that this is a very great truth.
It will be realized with the deepest joy that facility in this blessed upraising of the soul comes not of the soul's own solicitude and frequent practice, but of the continual visitations which it receives from its most loving God, and for which it disposes itself with purity of intention. For the oftener it is visited by its great Reviver, so much the more impeded does it feel from asking to receive this love again. So often does our Lord and loving Physician visit the soul that is faint for His love that He brings it to a point at which it cannot, and would not, escape from the arrows of love. For it is never without the Physician Who, looking at it, heals it so completely that it has but to cry out of a sudden concerning its grievous sickness and straightway it has its remedy. And this remedy is the visit of its Beloved Physician, Who heals it of love's affliction even before it is afflicted,
And concerning this it must be realized that there cannot be, nor was there ever, a king so powerful that with the strongest force of arms and with many munitions he could vanquish another king or lord so felicitously as the enamoured soul can vanquish, capture and hold its loving Lord by means of love alone. And the reason for this is as follows. As it is His clemency that vanquishes Him, and as the conquest is followed by the combat of the loving soul and the blows are of love, it is necessary that he who does battle be taken captive, and that the captive take his opponent prisoner also. And may He be ever our protection.
ASCENT OF MOUNT SION, Part III, Chapter IX.
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Table of ContentsGENERAL INTRODUCTION
THE MYSTICS OF SPAIN
LIST OF BOOKS
EXTRACTS FROM THE SPANISH MYSTICS
RAMÓN LULL (c. 1233-c. 1315)
The Book of the Lover and the Beloved (Extracts)
The Art of Contemplation (Extract)
GARCÍA DE CISNEROS (1455-1510)
How our thought is lifted up to God through quick and fervent love
BERNARDINO DE LAREDO (1482-1540)
How the practice of Quiet teaches the soul to rise on wings of love
How the Sleep of the soul's faculties quickens for the flight of living love
ST. IGNATIUS OF LOYOLA (1491-1556)
A contemplation to obtain love
FRANCISCO DE OSUNA (c. 1497-c. 1541)
Of the nature of recollection
Of three ways of prayer
Of three ways of silence
ST. PETER OF ALCÁNTARA (1499-1562)
A Counsel to be observed in the exercise of prayer and meditation
JUAN DE ÁVILA (1500-1569)
"Letter to a religious, urging him to the perfect love of God"
ALONSO DE OROZCO (1500-1591)
"Of the last degree of contemplation, which consists in the contemplation of God in Himself"
LUIS DE GRANADA (1504-1588)
A prayer for union with God in love
ST. TERESA OF JESUS (1515-1582)
The similitude of the watered garden
The similitude of the silkworm
The Seventh Mansions
An exclamation of the soul to God
DIEGO DE ESTELLA (1524-1578)
"How love bears us to God, as to our Centre"
LUIS DE LEÓN (1528-1591)
The Heavenly Life
The Birth of Christ in the soul
Love and Unity
Christ the Prince of Peace
PEDRO MALÓN DE CHAIDE (c. 1530-1589)
One thing is needful'
JUAN DE LOS ÁNGELES (1536-1609)
Preface to the Considerations on the Song of Songs
ST. JOHN OF THE CROSS (1542-1591)
Dark Night of the soul
Night of sense and night of spirit
Break the web of this sweet encounter'