John Ruysbroeck

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We behold that which we are, and we are that which we behold.

The Blessed John of Ruysbroeck (1293 or 12942 December 1381), "the Admirable" also known as John Ruusbroec, Jan van Ruusbroec or Jan van Ruysbroeck, was one of the Flemish mystics of the medieval Catholic Church.

Quotes[edit]

  • You are as holy as you
    Knowledge of ourselves teaches us whence we come, where we are, and whither we are going. We come from God, and we are in exile
    wish to be.
    • Quoted in A Mediæval Mystic: A Short
      The image of God is found essentially and personally in all mankind. Each possesses it whole...In this way we are all one, intimately united in our eternal image
      Account of the Life and Writings of Blessed John Ruysbroeck (1910) by Scully, p. 37
  • Our work is the love of God. Our satisfaction lies in submission to the Divine Embrace
    • Quoted in Mysticism: A Study in the Nature and Development of Man's Spiritual Consciousness (1912)
      God in the depths of us receives God who comes to us: it is God contemplating God
      by Evelyn Underhill, p. 353
  • We behold that which we are, and we are that which we behold.
    • Quoted in Mysticism: A Study in the Nature and Development of Man's Spiritual Consciousness (1912) by Evelyn Underhill, p. 506
  • God being a common good, and His boundless love being common to all, He gives His grace...to all men, Pagan and Jew, good or evil...Thus God is a common light and a common splendour, enlightening heaven and earth, and every man, each according to his need and worth.
    • Quoted in The Adornment of the Spiritual Marriage (1916) by C. A. Wynschenk Dom, p.6
  • All our ways end in superessential Being
    • Arthur Versluis, Theosophia: Hidden Dimensions of Christianity p. 42
  • Even as God is common to all, the sun shines upon all trees
    • Quoted in The Adornment of the Spiritual Marriage (1916) by C. A. Wynschenk Dom, p.6
  • In Eternity all creatures are God in God
    • Quoted in Divinity in Things : Religion Without Myth by Eric Ackroyd, p.169
  • Knowledge of ourselves teaches us whence we come, where we are, and whither we are going. We come from God, and we are in exile.
    • Quoted in Ruysbroeck the Admirable (1925) by Alfred Wautier d'Aygalliers and Fred Rothwell, p. 175
  • Unity is this: that a man feel himself to be gathered together with all his powers in the unity of his heart. Unity brings inward peace and restfulness of heart. Unity of heart is a bond which draws together body and soul, heart and senses, and all the outward and inward powers and encloses them in the union of love.
    • Quoted in Message of the East, Vol. 15 (1926) by Cohasset Vedanta Centre, p. 212
  • God in the depths of us receives God who comes to us: it is God contemplating God.
    • Quoted in An Anthology of Mysticism and Mystical Philosophy' (1927) by William Kingsland,
      God is more interior to us than we are to ourselves. His acting in us is nearer and more inward than our own actions. God works in us from inside outwards; creatures work on us from the outside
      p. 94
  • The image of God is found essentially and personally in all mankind. Each possesses it whole, entire and undivided, and all together not more than one alone. In this way we are all one, intimately united in our eternal image, which is the image of God and the source in us of all our life.
    • Quoted in Friends' Intelligencer, Vol. 107 (1950), ed. 26-52, p. 657
  • God is more interior to us than we are to ourselves.
    His acting in us is nearer and more inward than our own actions.
    God works in us from inside outwards;
    creatures work on us from the outside.
    • John of Ruysbroeck Spiritual Espousals, complete works, Mechelen 1934, vol. 1, p. 148. English version New York 1953.
  • God's transcending nature must be understood as oneness and simplicity,
    unscalable height and unfathomable depth,
    incomprehensible breadth and infinite length,
    dark silence and ferocious energy.
    • The Sparkling Gem, complete works, vol. 3, pp. 6-7

The Sparkling Stone (c. 1340)[edit]

When love has carried us above and beyond all things, into the Divine Dark, we receive in peace the Incomprehensible Light, enfolding us and penetrating us.
What is this Light, if it be not a contemplation of the Infinite, and an intuition of Eternity?
All we taste in comparison with that which remains out of our reach, is no more than a single drop of water compared with the whole sea...
We hunger for God’s Infinity, which we cannot devour, and we aspire to His Eternity, which we cannot attain.
  • If we would taste God, and feel in ourselves Eternal Life above all things, We must go forth into God with a faith that is far above our reason, And there dwell, simple, idle, without image, Lifted up by love into the Unwalled Bareness of our intelligence. For when we go out from ourselves in love, and die to all observances in ignorance and darkness, Then we are made complete, And transfigured by the Eternal Word, Image of the Father. And in this emptiness of spirit we receive the Incomprehensible Light, Which enfolds and penetrates us as air is penetrated by the light of the sun; And this Light is nought else but a fathomless gazing and seeing. What we are, that we gaze at; and what we gaze at, that we are. For our thought, our life, our being, are lifted up in simplicity, And united with the Truth, that is God. Therefore in this simple gazing we are one life and one spirit with God
    —And this I call the seeing life.
  • When we soar up above ourselves, And become, in our upward striving towards God, So simple, that the naked Love in the Heights can lay hold on us, There where Love cherishes Love, above all activity and all virtue (That is to say, in our Origin, wherefrom we are spiritually born)— Then we cease, and we and all that is our own die into God. And in this death we become hidden Sons of God, and find in ourselves a new life, And that is Eternal Life. And of these Sons, St. Paul says: ‘Ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.’ In our approach to God we must bear with us ourselves and all that we do, As a perpetual sacrifice to God; And in the Presence of God we must leave ourselves and all our works, And, dying in love, soar up above all created things into the Superessential Kingdom of God.
    And of this the Spirit of God speaks in the Book of Hidden Things, saying: ‘Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord.’
    • From Evelyn Underhill Ruysbroeck (1915), p171
  • When love has carried us above and beyond all things, Into the Divine Dark, We receive in peace the Incomprehensible Light, Enfolding us and penetrating us. What is this Light, If it be not a contemplation of the Infinite, And an intuition of Eternity?
    • Evelyn Underhill Mysticism: A Study in the Nature and Development of Man's Spiritual Consciousness (1912), p. 506
  • How great is the difference between The hidden child and the secret friend! For the friend makes only loving, Living but measured ascents toward God. But the child presses on to lose its own life upon the summits, in that simplicity which knoweth not itself.
    • Evelyn Underhill Mysticism: A Study in the Nature and Development of Man's Spiritual Consciousness (1912), p. 433
  • And we learn this truth from His sight: That all we taste, in comparison with that which remains out of our reach, Is no more than a single drop of water compared with the whole sea.... We hunger for God’s Infinity, which we cannot devour, And we aspire to His Eternity, which we cannot attain.... In this storm of love, our activity is above reason and is in no wise. Love desires that which is impossible to her; And reason teaches that love is within her rights, but can neither counsel nor persuade her.
  • The indrawing attraction drags us out of ourselves, And calls us to be melted away and naughted in the Unity. And in this indrawing attraction we feel that God wills that we should be His, And for this we must abnegate ourselves and let our beatitude be accomplished in Him. But when He attracts us by flowing out towards us, He gives us over to ourselves and makes us free, And sets us in Time.
    • From Evelyn Underhill Ruysbroeck (1915), p.182 & 183

The Spiritual Espousals (c. 1340)[edit]

God contemplates Himself and all things in an Eternal Now that has neither beginning nor end.
God is a flowing and ebbing sea which ceaselessly flows out into all his beloved.
Fervent interior spirits have chosen above all things that dark stillness in which all lovers lose their way.
  • God loves without limit and this puts a loving person most securely at peace.
  • In the deeps of his ground he knows and feels nothing, in soul or body, but a singular radiance with sensible well-being and all pervading savour.
  • This possession is a simple and abysmal tasting of all good and of eternal life; and in this tasting we are swallowed up above reason and without reason, in the deep Quiet of the Godhead, which is never moved...And therefrom follows the last point that can be put into words, that is, when the spirit beholds a Darkness into which it cannot enter with the reason. And there it feels itself dead and lost to itself, and one with God without difference and without distinction.
  • God is a flowing and ebbing sea which ceaselessly flows out into all his beloved according to their needs and merits and which flows back with all those upon whom he has bestowed his gifts in heaven and on earth, together with all they possess or are capable of.
  • This is that Wayless Being which all fervent interior spirits have chosen above all things, that dark stillness in which all lovers lose their way. If we could prepare ourselves through virtue in the ways I have shown, we would at once strip ourselves of our bodies and flow into the wild waves of the Sea, from which no creature could ever draw us back.
  • You should watch the wise bee and do as it does. It dwells in unity, in the congregation of its fellows, and goes forth, not in the storm, but in calm and still weather, in the sunshine, towards all those flowers in which sweetness may be found. It does not rest on any flower, neither on any beauty nor on any sweetness; but it draws from them honey and wax, that is to say, sweetness and light-giving matter, and brings both to the unity of the hive, that therewith it may produce fruits, and be greatly profitable. Christ, the Eternal Sun, shining into the open heart, causes that heart to grow and to bloom, and it overflows with all the inward powers with joy and sweetness.So the wise man will do like the bee, and he will fly forth with attention and with reason and with discretion, towards all those gifts and towards all that sweetness which he has ever experienced, and towards all the good which God has ever done to him. And in the light of love and with inward observation, he will taste of the multitude of consolations and good things; and will not rest upon any flower of the gifts of God, but, laden with gratitude and praise, will fly back into the unity, wherein he wishes to rest and to dwell eternally with God.
  • When summer draws near and the sun rises higher, it draws the moisture out of the earth through the roots, and through the trunks of the trees, into the twigs; and hence come foliage, flower, and fruit. So likewise, when Christ the Eternal Sun rises and ascends in our hearts, so that it is summer in the adornment of our virtues, He gives His light and His heat to our desires, and draws the heart from all the multiplicity of earthly things, and brings about unity and inwardness; and makes the heart grow and bring forth the leaves of inward love, the flowers of ardent devotion, and the fruits of thanksgiving and praise, and makes these fruits to endure eternally, in humble grief, because of our shortcomings.
  • The inward stirring and touching of God makes us hungry and yearning; for the Spirit of God hunts our spirit: and the more it touches it, the greater our hunger and our craving. And this is the life of love in its highest working, above reason and above understanding; for reason can here neither give nor take away from love, for our love is touched by the Divine love. And as I understand it, here there can never more be separation from God. God’s touch within us, for as much as we feel it, and our own loving craving, these are both created and creaturely; and therefore they may grow and increase as long as we live.
  • The grace of God is to God himself as sunlight is to the sun — a means and a way leading us to the latter. It therefore shines within us in a simple, one-fold way and makes us deiform, that is, like God. This likeness constantly sinks away, dying in God and becoming and remaining one with him, for charity makes us become one with God and causes us to remain living in union with him.
  • This brightness is so great that the loving contemplative, in his ground wherein he rests, sees and feels nothing but an incomprehensible Light; and through that Simple Nudity which enfolds all things, he finds himself and feels himself to be that same Light by which he sees and nothing else. . . . Blessed are the eyes which are thus seeing, for they possess eternal life.
  • Spiritual inebriation is this: that a man receives more sensible joy and sweetness than his heart can either contain or desire.
  • Here comes Jesus, and sees the man, and shows to him, in the light of faith, that He is according to His Godhead immeasurable and incomprehensible and inaccessible and abysmal, transcending every created light and every finite conception. And this is the highest knowledge of God which any man may have in the active life: that he should confess in this light of faith that God is incomprehensible and unknowable. And in this light Christ says to man’s desire: Make haste and come down, for to-day I must abide at thy house. This hasty descent, to which he is summoned by God, is nothing else than a descent through desire and through love into the abyss of the Godhead, which no intelligence can reach in the created light. But where intelligence remains without, desire and love go in. When the soul is thus stretched towards God, by intention and by love, above everything that it can understand, then it rests and dwells in God, and God in it. When the soul climbs with desire above the multiplicity of creatures, and above the works of the senses, and above the light of nature, then it meets Christ in the light of faith, and becomes enlightened, and confesses that God is unknowable and incomprehensible. When it stretches itself with longing towards this incomprehensible God, then it meets Christ, and is filled with His gifts. And when it loves and rests above all gifts, and above itself, and above all creatures, then it dwells in God, and God dwells in it.
    • From Evelyn Underhill, [1] Adornment of the Spiritual Marriage
  • The Spirit of God now speaks within our own spirit in its hidden immersion: ‘Go out, into a state of eternal contemplation and blissful enjoyment after God’s own manner.’ All the richness which is in God by nature is something which we lovingly possess in God –and God in us– through the infinite love which is the Holy Spirit. .. There the spirit is caught up in the embrace of the Holy Trinity and eternally abides within the superessential Unity in a state of rest and blissful enjoyment. In this same Unity, considered now as regards its fruitfulness, the Father is in the Son and the Son in the Father, while all creatures are in them both.
    • James A. Wiseman, Jan Van Ruusbroec (Classics of Western spirituality, 1985), p.148
  • To comprehend and to understand God above all similitudes, as He is in Himself, is to be God with God, without intermediary, and without any otherness that can become a hindrance or an intermediary. Whosoever wishes to understand this must have died to himself, and must live in God, and must turn his gaze to the eternal light in the ground of his spirit, where the Hidden Truth reveals Itself without means.
  • The incomprehensible richness and loftiness of the Divine Nature, its outpouring generosity toward all in common, fills a man with wonder.
  • Compassion is a wound in the heart whence flows a common love to all mankind and which cannot be healed so long as any suffering lives in man.
  • As long as we dwell in the shadow, we cannot see the sun itself; but Now we see through a glass darkly, says St. Paul. Yet the shadow is so enlightened by the sunshine that we can perceive the distinctions between all the virtues and all the truth which is profitable to our mortal state. But if we would become one with the brightness of the Sun, we must follow love, and go out of ourselves into the Wayless, and then the Sun will draw us with our blinded eyes into Its own brightness, in which we shall possess unity with God. . . . In his outpouring, He wills to he wholly ours: and then He teaches us to live in the riches of the virtues. In His indrawing touch all our powers forsake us, and then we sit under His shadow, and His fruit is sweet to our taste, for the Fruit of God is the Son of God, Whom the Father brings forth in our spirit. This Fruit is so infinitely sweet to our taste that we can neither swallow It nor assimilate It, but It rather absorbs us into Itself and assimilates us with Itself.
    • From Evelyn Underhill, [2] Adornment of the Spiritual Marriage
  • The inner lover of God, who possesses God in enjoyable rest, and himself in devoted, working love, and his entire life in virtues with justice, this inner person then comes, by means of these three points and the hidden revelation of God, into a God contemplating life, at least the lover who is pious and just, whom God in His freedom wishes to choose and to elevate to a superessential contemplation in divine light and according to the way of God.
  • This contemplation establishes us in purity and in limpidity above all our understanding, for it is a special enrichment and a heavenly crown, and in addition, an eternal reward for all virtues and for all lives. And no one can arrive at this by means of science or subtlety, nor by any practice, but only he whom God wishes to unite with His Spirit and to illumine with Himself may contemplate God, and nobody else. The hidden divine nature is eternally active, contemplating and loving with respect to each person, and always enjoying the embrace with each person, in unity of essence.
  • In this embrace, in the essential unity of God, are all inner spirits one with God in loving transport, and they are the selfsame one that the essence itself is in itself. And in this sublime unity of the divine nature, the heavenly Father is the origin and the beginning of every work that is done in heaven and on earth
  • Now, if the spirit is to contemplate God with God, without intermediary, in this divine light, three things are necessary for a person.
  • The first is that he must be well-ordered from without in all virtues and unhindered within, just as empty of all outward works as though he were not working. For if he is busy within by any work of virtue, then he is assailed by images. As long as that is going on in him, he cannot contemplate.
  • Secondly, he must cleave to God within by devoted intention and love, just like a kindled, blazing fire that can no longer be extinguished. During the time that he feels himself to be in this state, he can contemplate.
  • Thirdly, he must have lost himself in a waylessness and in a darkness in which all contemplatives wander around in enjoyment and can no longer find themselves in a creaturely way. In the abyss of this darkness in which the loving spirit has died to itself, there begin the revelation of God and eternal life. For in this darkness there shines and is born an incomprehensible light which is the Son of God, in whom one contemplates eternal life. And in this light one becomes seeing.
  • And this divine light is granted in the simple being of the spirit, where the spirit receives the brightness –which is God Himself- above all gifts and above all creaturely activity, in the empty void of the spirit in which it has lost itself through enjoyable love and receives the brightness of God without intermediary. And without cease, it becomes the very brightness which it receives.
  • See, this hidden brightness in which one contemplates everything that one desires according to the way of emptiness of spirit, this brightness is so great that the loving contemplative neither sees nor feels anything in his ground in which he rests except an incomprehensible light. And according to the simple bareness which encompasses all things, he finds and feels himself to be that very light by which he sees, and nothing else.
  • When we have thus become seeing, then we can contemplate, in joy, the eternal coming of our Bridegroom, which is the second point about which we are going to speak. Now, what is the coming of our Bridegroom which is eternal ? It is a new birth an a new enlightenment without cease. For the ground out of which the brightness shines, and which is the brightness itself, is living and fruitful. And therefore, the revelation of the eternal light is renewed without cease in the hiddenness of the spirit.
  • See, all creaturely activity and all practice of virtues must fail here, for here what God works is nothing but Himself in the highest nobility of the spirit. And here there is nothing but an eternal contemplation and gazing at the light with the light and in the light. And the coming of the Bridegroom is so rapid that He is always coming and is indwelling with fathomless richness, and that He is coming anew personally, without crease, with such new brightness just as though He had never come before. For His coming consists in an eternal now, without time, which is always received with new lust and in new joy.
  • See, the bliss and the joy which this Bridegroom brings in His coming are fathomless and incommensurable, for He Himself is that bliss and joy. And therefore, the eyes with which the spirit contemplates and gazes upon its Bridegroom are so widely dilated that they will never again be closed. For the gazing and contemplation of the spirit remain eternally fixed on the hidden revelation of God, and the comprehension of the spirit is so widely dilated for the coming of the Bridegroom that the spirit itself has become the wideness which it apprehends. And so God is apprehended and seen with God ; in this all our blessedness resides.
    • Wim van den Dungen, The Spiritual Espousals, Book 3, The Third Life: the contemplative life (2013)
  • In this return in love in the divine ground every divine way and activity and all the attributes of the persons are swallowed up in the rich compass of the essential unity. All the divine means and all conditions, and all living images which are reflected in the mirror of truth, lapse in the onefold and ineffable waylessness beyond reason. Here there is nothing but eternal rest in the fruitive embrace of outpouring love.
    • Gnostic Society Library, From the Western Mystical tradition [3]

The Little Book of Enlightenment (c. 1364)[edit]

From Bernard McGinn THE LITTLE BOOK OF ENLIGHTENMENT in The Essential Writings of Christian Mysticism
  • And there you
    In a new embrace, with a new torrent of eternal love: all the elect, angels and men, from the last to the first are embraced
    It is a living and fruitful unity, which is the source and the fount of all life
    All creatures are there without themselves as in their eternal origin, One essence and one life with God
    These enlightened people are lifted up with free mind above reason...To the summit of their spirit
    Their naked understanding is penetrated with eternal clarity as the air is penetrated by the light of the sun.
    The bare elevated will is transformed and penetrated with fathomless love, just as iron is penetrated by the fire
    [God] gives Himself in the soul’s essence...Where the soul’s powers are unified...And undergo God’s transformation in simplicity. In this place all is full and overflowing, for the spirit feels itself as one truth and one richness. And one unity with God
    All spirits thus raised up Melt away and are annihilated by reason of enjoyment in God’s essence
    They fall away from themselves and are lost in a bottomless unknowing
    With God they will ebb and flow, and will always be in repose...They are drunk with love and have passed away into God in a dark luminosity
    must accept that the Persons yield and lose themselves whirling in essential love, that is, in enjoyable unity; nevertheless, they always remain according to their personal properties In the working of the Trinity. You may thus understand that the divine nature is eternally at rest and without mode according to the simplicity of its essence. It is why all that God has chosen and enfolded with eternal personal love, he has possessed essentially, enjoyably in unity, with essential love.
  • For the divine Persons embrace mutually in eternal complacency With an infinite and active love in unity. This activity is constantly renewed in the living life of the Trinity. There is continuous new birth-giving in new knowledge, new complacency and new breathing forth of the Spirit in a new embrace with a new torrent of eternal love. All the elect, angels and men from the last to the first are embraced in this complacency. It is in this complacency that heaven and earth are suspended, existence, life activity and maintenance of all creatures.
  • And this is without time, that is to say, without before or after in an eternal present, for in the embrace in unity all things have been consummated. And in the out-flowing of love all things are being achieved. And in the living fruitful nature all things have the potentiality to occur, for in the living fruitful nature the Son is in the Father and the Father in the Son, and the Holy Spirit in them both. For it is a living and fruitful unity which is the source And the fount of all life.
  • And for this reason all creatures are there without themselves as in their eternal origin, one essence and one life with God. But in the bursting-out of the Persons with distinction, so the Son is from the Father and the Holy Spirit from them both. There God has created and ordered all creatures in their own essence.
  • There, the Father with the Son and all the beloved are enfolded and embraced in the bond of love, that is to say, in the unity of the Holy Spirit. It is this same unity, which is fruitful according to the bursting-out of the Persons and in the return, an eternal bond of love, which can nevermore be united. And all those who know themselves to be bound therein must remain eternally blissful. They are all rich in virtues and enlightened in contemplation and simple where they rest enjoyably, for in their turning-in, the love of God reveals itself as flowing out with all good and drawing in into unity and is superessential and without mode (method or system) in an eternal repose. And so they are united to God, by intermediary, without intermediary, and also without difference.
  • These same interior, enlightened persons Have the love of God before them in their inward vision Whenever they want, as drawing or calling in towards unity. For they see and feel that the Father with the Son by means of the Holy Spirit stand embraced with all the elect and are brought back with eternal love into the unity of their nature. This unity is constantly drawing or calling in all that has been born out of it naturally or by grace. And therefore these enlightened people are lifted up with free mind above reason to a bare vision devoid of images (The imageless place of spirit vision). There lives the eternal invitation of God’s unity, and with imageless naked understanding they go beyond all works and all practices and all things to the summit of their spirit. There their naked understanding is penetrated with eternal clarity as the air is penetrated by the light of the sun. The bare elevated will is transformed and penetrated with fathomless love just as iron is penetrated by the fire. And the bare elevated memory finds itself caught and established In a fathomless absence of images. Thus the created image is united threefold wise above reason to its eternal image, Which is the source of its being and of its life.
  • And though the union is without intermediary, The manifold works that God does In heaven and earth are, however, Hidden from the spirit. For though God gives Himself as He is with a clear distinction, He gives Himself in the soul’s essence, Where the soul’s powers are unified Above reason And undergo God’s transformation In simplicity. In this place all is full And overflowing, for the spirit feels itself As one truth and one richness And one unity with God.
  • Hereafter follows the “unity without difference,” For the love of God Is not only to be considered as flowing out With all good and drawing in into unity, But it is also above all distinction In essential enjoyment according to The bare essence of the Divinity. And for this reason enlightened people Have found within themselves An essential inward gazing Above reason and without reason, And an enjoyable inclination Surpassing all modes (methods or systems) And all essence, Sinking away from themselves Into a modeless abyss of fathomless beatitude, Where the Trinity of the divine Persons Possess their nature in essential unity.
  • See, here the beatitude is so simple And so without mode that therein all essential gazing, Inclination and distinction of creatures Pass away. For all spirits thus raised up melt away and are annihilated by reason of enjoyment in God’s essence which is the superessence of all essence. There they fall away from themselves and are lost in a bottomless unknowing. There all clarity is turned back to darkness, there where the three Persons give way to the essential unity and without distinction enjoy essential beatitude.
  • Christ prayed that He should be in us, and we in Him. This we find in many passages in the Gospel. And this is the union that is without intermediary, for the love of God is not only out-flowing, but it is also drawing into unity. And those who feel and experience this become interior, enlightened men. There the faculties are raised above all practices to the bareness of their very essence. There the faculties become simplified above reason in their essence and because of this they are filled and overflowing. For in this simplicity the spirit finds itself united with God without intermediary. And this union, together with the exercise, which is proper to it, will endure eternally, as I have already said.
  • Christ’s prayer is fulfilled in those united to God in this threefold manner. With God they will ebb and flow, and will always be in repose, Iin possessing and enjoying (Him). They will go out and in and find nourishment both within and without. They are drunk with love And have passed away into God in a dark luminosity.

The Twelve Beguines[edit]

From Evelyn Underhill Ruysbroeck (1915)
  • Contemplation
    The shining forth of That which is Unconditioned is as a fair mirror wherein shines the Eternal Light of God. It has no attributes, And here all the works of Reason fail. It is not God, But it is the Light whereby we see Him.
    Those who walk in the Divine Light discover in themselves the Unwalled
    Even though the eagle, king of birds, can with his powerful sight gaze steadfastly upon the brightness of the sun; yet do the weaker eyes of the bat fail and falter in the same
    It is neither thus nor thus, neither here nor there; for that which is Unconditioned hath enveloped all...Behold! such a following of the Way that is Wayless
    The Love of God is a consuming Fire, which draws us out of ourselves and swallows us up in unity with God
    This revelation of the Father lifts the soul above the reason into the Imageless Nudity. There the soul is simple, pure, spotless, Empty of all things; And it is in this state of perfect emptiness that the Father manifests His Divine radiance
    is a knowing that is unconditioned,
    For ever dwelling above the Reason.
    Never can it sink down into the Reason,
    And above it can the Reason never climb.
    The shining forth of That which is Unconditioned is as a fair mirror.
    Wherein shines the Eternal Light of God.
    It has no attributes,
    And here all the works of Reason fail.
    It is not God, But it is the Light whereby we see Him.
    Those who walk in the Divine Light of it
    Discover in themselves the Unwalled.
    That which Unconditioned,
    Is above the Reason, not without it:
    It beholds all things without amazement.
    Amazement is far beneath it:
    The contemplative life is without amazement.
    That which is Unconditioned, it knows not what;
    For it is above all, and is neither This nor That.
  • There is a distinction and differentiation,
    According to our reason,
    Between God and the Godhead,
    Between action and rest.
    The fruitful nature of the Persons (Trinity)
    Ever worketh in a living differentiation.
    But the simple Being of God,
    According to the nature thereof,
    Is an eternal Rest of God
    And of all created things
  • And the Light floweth forth in similitude,
    And indraweth Itself in unity;
    Which we perceive, beyond the reason,
    In that high point of our understanding
    Which is bare and turned within.
  • Even though the eagle,
    King of birds,
    Can with his powerful sight
    Gaze steadfastly upon
    The brightness of the sun;
    Yet do the weaker eyes of the bat
    Fail and falter in the same
    .
  • He shows Himself to the soul in the living mirror of her intelligence;
    Not as He is in His nature,
    But in images and similitudes,
    And in the degree in which the illuminated reason can grasp and understand Him.
    And the wise reason, enlightened of God, sees clearly
    And without error in images of the understanding
    All that she has heard of God,
    Of faith, of truth, according to her longing.
    But that image which is God Himself,
    Although it is held before her, she cannot comprehend;
    For the eyes of her understanding
    Must fail before that Incomparable Light.
  • And its seeing is Unconditioned,
    Being without manner,
    And it is neither thus nor thus,
    Neither here nor there;
    For that which is Unconditioned hath enveloped all,
    And the vision is made high and wide.
    It knows not itself where That is which it sees;
    and it cannot come thereto, for its seeing is in no wise,
    and passes on, beyond, for ever, and without return.
    That which it apprehends it cannot realise in full,
    Nor wholly attain, for its apprehension is wayless,
    and without manner,
    And therefore it is apprehended of God in a higher way than it can apprehend Him.
    Behold! such a following of the Way that is Wayless,
    Is intermediary between contemplation
    In images and similitudes of the intellect,
    And unveiled contemplation
    Beyond all images in the Light of God.
  • The Love of God is a consuming Fire,
    Which draws us out of ourselves
    And swallows us up in unity with God,
    Where we are satisfied and overflowing,
    And with Him, beyond ourselves,
    Eternally fulfilled.
  • As much as is iron, so much is fire;
    And as much as is fire, so much is iron;
    Yet the iron doth not become fire,
    Nor the fire iron,
    But each retains its substance and nature.
    So likewise the spirit of man doth not become God,
    But is deified,
    And knows itself breadth, length, height and depth:
    And as far as God is God,
    So far the loving spirit is made one with Him
    In love.
  • AND thus the Fourth Mode is a state of emptiness,
    made one with God in bare love and in Divine Light,
    free and empty of all the observances of love,
    above actions, and enduring a pure and simple love,
    which consumes and annihilates in itself the spirit of a man,
    so that he forgets himself, and knows neither himself nor God,
    nor any creature, nor aught else but Love alone,
    which he tastes and feels and possesses in simple emptiness.
    He feels himself one Breadth with Love, Which is measureless, comprehending all things,
    and Itself for ever remaining incomprehensible.
    He sees himself made one with the eternal Length,
    which is immovable, without beginning or ending,
    going before and following after all created things

A Mirror of Eternal Blessedness[edit]

As translated in Ruysbroeck (1915) by Evelyn Underhill
  • Here the reason
    no less than all separate acts
    Must give way,
    For our powers become simple in Love;
    They are silent
    And
    In the most secret part of the understanding, the simple eye is ever open. It contemplates and gazes at the Light with a pure sight that is lit by the Light itself: eye to eye, mirror to mirror, image to image.
    The sight of the simple eye is a living mirror
    bowed down in the Presence of the Father.
    And this revelation of the Father
    Lifts the soul above the reason
    Into the Imageless Nudity.
    There the soul is simple, pure, spotless,
    Empty of all things;
    And it is in this state of perfect emptiness
    That the Father manifests His Divine radiance.
    To this radiance neither reason nor sense,
    Observation nor distinction,
    Can attain.
    All this must stay below;
    For the measureless radiance
    Blinds the eyes of the reason,
    They cannot bear the Incomprehensible Light.
    But above the reason,
    In the most secret part of the understanding,
    The simple eye is ever open.
    It contemplates and gazes at the Light
    With a pure sight that is lit by the Light itself:
    Eye to eye,
    Mirror to mirror,
    Image to image.
    This threefold act makes us like God,
    And unites us to Him;
    For the sight of the simple eye is a living mirror,
    Which God has made for His image
    ,
    And whereon He has impressed it.

The Seven Steps of the Ladder of Spiritual Love[edit]

Love's Gradatory, translated by Mother St. Jerome (1914)
  • The Will of God, which is free - indeed freedom
    When in the inmost Being the Soul follows the Divine drawing and gives itself up freely to the Spirit of God, it tastes infinite happiness impossible to comprehend, in which the whole being dissolves
    itself - takes from us the spirit of fear and makes us free, disengaged from and emptied of self, and of every fear that might oppress us in time or eternity.
    • p. 72
  • When in the inmost
    Above all knowledge and science, we find within us a limitless ignorance when, passing beyond every name given to God or creatures, we expire and pass to an eternal Unnamable where we are lost
    Being the Soul follows the Divine drawing and gives itself up freely to the Spirit of God, it tastes infinite happiness impossible to comprehend, in which the whole being dissolves, caught and embraced between immense Love and unending Happiness, under the regard of Love Himself
    • p. 104
  • To die to sin is to live to God,
    If we would God discern, the world we must despise, his love and hate must learn, see all things with His eyes
    to be emptied of self and detached from all that pleases or displeases, leads to the Kingdom of God; heart and desire must close to things of earth to open to God and things eternal, if we desire to taste and see that the Lord is sweet
    • p. 124
  • If we would
    We must self forgo if God we would attain, his grace must in us grow and ease us from all pain
    God discern,
    The world we must despise,
    His love and hate must learn,
    See all things with His eyes.
    And we must self forgo
    If God we would attain,
    His grace must in us grow
    And ease us from all pain.
    So shall we sing His praise
    And be at one with Him,
    In peace our voices raise
    In the celestial hymn,
    That with quadruple harmony
    And all mellifluous melody,
    In Heaven resounds eternally.
    • p. 124-5
  • Finally, and beyond all else, ravished out of self into the Glory of God, without limit, incomprehensible, immense, we are to enjoy Him for ever and ever
    • p. 144
  • The interior life must be filled with grace and charity, without dissimulation, of direct intention, rich in virtue, the memory exempt from cares and solicitude, freed and detatched, entirely delivered of every image; the heart set free, open and up lifted above the Heavens; the intelligence empty and stripped of all consideration but God.
    • p. 148
  • Such is the citadel of loving Souls where all pure intellects are united, in one simple Purity. This is the habitation of God in us, where none can operate but God alone; its Purity is eternal, there is neither time nor space, past nor future, always present and ready to be revealed to those pure intelligences raised to it.
    • p. 149
  • The air is pure and serene, lit by a light Divine, and by it we shall discover, fix, and contemplate the eternal Truth, with purified and illuminated eyes. There, too, all things are transformed, are one only Truth, one only image in the mirror of the Wisdom of God; and God created us that we might find, know, and possess this image in our essence and the Purity of our intelligence. Contemplating, applying our minds to this in the Divine Light, with simple and spiritual eyes, we attain to contemplative life.
    • p. 149
  • But yet another thing is necessary, Purity of spirit; for an intelligence in repose without images, an intuition in the light of God, and a spirit elevated in Purity to the Face of God, these three qualities united constitute the true contemplative life, where none can err; for the pure spirit expands ceaselessly and follows rapidly in purified love, the enlightened intelligence towards its Cause.
    • p. 150
  • Then are we ravished out of self by purified Love, even to the Face of God, freed and emptied of every event and illusion. This is the contemplative life of highest price.
    • p. 151
  • Next follows the seventh step, the noblest and most elevated that it is possible to realize in the life of time or eternity. It is attained when, above all knowledge and science, we find within us a limitless ignorance; when, passing beyond every name given to God or creatures we expire and pass to an eternal Unnamable where we are lost; when, further than any practice of Virtue, we contemplate and discover within us everlasting Repose, or immeasurable Beatitude where none can act; when we contemplate above all blessed Spirits an essential Beatitude where all are one, melted, lost, in their Superessence in the bosom of a darkness defying all determination or knowledge.
    • p. 151-2

An Anthology of Mysticism and Philosophy[edit]

By William Kingsland (1927)
  • By
    This experience... melts the man utterly; he is no longer master of his joy. Such possession produces intoxication, the state of the spirit in which its bliss transcends the uttermost bounds
    If every earthly pleasure were melted into a single experience and bestowed upon one man, it would be as nothing when measured by the joy of which I write
    Sometimes the ecstasy pours forth in song, sometimes in tears: at one moment it finds expression in movement, at others in the intense stillness of burning, voiceless feeling
    By the way of perfect likeness and fullest union.
    Every good deed, however small, if it be directed to God by simplicity of intention, increases in us the Divine likeness,
    and deepens in us the flow of eternal life...
    Entering into and transcending itself, traversing all worlds of being,surpassing all creatures, the soul meets God in its own depths...
    The whole life of the spirit and its activity consists solely in the Divine likeness and this simplicity of intention;
    and the final peace abides on the heights in simplicity also, in simplicity
    All the divine means and all conditions, and all living images which are reflected in the mirror of truth, lapse in the onefold and ineffable waylessness beyond reason
    of essence.
  • Men possess virtues and
    We are ravished out of self by purified Love, even to the Face of God, freed and emptied of every event and illusion. This is the contemplative life of highest price.
    the Divine likeness in differing measure;
    in greater or lesser degree have they found their own essence in the depth of themselves,
    according to their dignity. But God fulfils all; and each, clearer or fainter, according to the measure of his love.
  • If every earthly pleasure were melted
    An intelligence in repose without images, an intuition in the light of God, and a spirit elevated in Purity to the Face of God, these three qualities united constitute the true contemplative life
    into a single experience and bestowed upon one man,
    it would be as nothing when measured by the joy of which I write for here it is God who passes into the depths of us in all His purity,
    and the soul is not only filled but overflowing.
    This experience is that light that makes manifest to the soul the terrible desolation of such as live divorced from love;
    it melts the man utterly; he is no longer master of his joy.
    Such possession produces intoxication, the state of the spirit in which its bliss transcends the uttermost bounds of anticipation or desire.
    Sometimes the ecstasy pours forth in song, sometimes in tears:
    at one moment it finds expression in movement, at others in the intense stillness of burning, voiceless feeling.
    Some men knowing this bliss wonder if others feel God as they do; some are assured that no living creature has ever had such experiences as theirs;
    there are those who wonder that the world is not set aflame by this joy; and there are others who marvel at its nature, asking whence it comes, and what it is.
    The body itself can know no greater pleasure upon earth than to participate in it;
    and there are moments when the soul feels that it must shiver to fragments in the poignancy of this experience.

Quotes about Ruusbroec[edit]

  • Ruysbroeck is certainly one of the greatest mystics, but he can be comprehended only by advanced souls.
  • John Ruusbroec, "the Admirable," has been called the "second Dionysius the Areopagite," the West's most articulate Trinitarian mystic, and even the greatest mystical writer in the Christian tradition. This spiritual titan not only reached the summit of mystical contemplation but also possessed the theological profundity and the limpid prose to express it - especially that of the unitive life.
  • John Ruusbroec (1293-1381) is one of the greatest of the Christian mystics. His masterpiece, The Spiritual Espousals (sometimes translated as The Adornment of the Spiritual Marriage) in my opinion belongs on the short list of “must read” classics of western mysticism.
  • In the history of the spiritual adventures of man, we find at intervals certain great mystics, who appear to gather up and fuse together in the crucible of the heart the diverse tendencies of those who have preceded them, and, adding to these elements the tincture of their own rich experience, give to us an intensely personal, yet universal, vision of God and man. These are constructive spirits, whose creations in the spiritual sphere sum up and represent the best achievement of a whole epoch; as in other spheres the great artist, musician, or poet—always the child of tradition as well as of inspiration—may do. John Ruysbroeck is such a mystic as this. His career, which covers the greater part of the fourteenth century—that golden age of Christian mysticism—seems to exhibit within the circle of a single personality, and carry up to a higher term than ever before, all the best attainments of the Middle Ages in the realm of Eternal Life. Rooted firmly in history, faithful to the teachings of the great Catholic mystics of the primitive and mediæval times, Ruysbroeck does not merely transmit, but transfigures, their principles: making from the salt, sulphur, and mercury of their vision, reason, and love, a new and living jewel—or, in his own words, a ‘sparkling stone’—which reflects the actual radiance of the Uncreated Light. Absorbing from the rich soil of the Middle Ages all the intellectual nourishment which he needs, dependent too, as all real greatness is, on the human environment in which he grows—that mysterious interaction and inter-penetration of personalities without which human consciousness can never develop its full powers—he towers up from the social and intellectual circumstances that conditioned him: a living, growing, unique and creative individual, yet truly a part of the earth from which he springs.
  • Kabir belongs to that small group of supreme mystics amongst whom St. Augustine, Ruysbroeck, and the Sufi poet Jalalu'ddin Rumi are perhaps the chief who have achieved that which we might call the synthetic vision of God. These have resolved the perpetual opposition between the personal and impersonal, the transcendent and immanent, static and dynamic aspects of the Divine Nature; between the Absolute of philosophy and the 'sure true Friend' of devotional religion. They have done this, not by taking these apparently incompatible concepts one after the other; but by ascending to a height of spiritual intuition at which they are, as Ruysbroeck said, 'melted and merged in the Unity,' and perceived as the completing opposites of a perfect Whole...Rusysbroeck discerned a plane of reality upon which 'we can speak no more of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but only of One Being, the very substance of the Divine Persons'
  • I regard the ninth and tenth chapters of The Sparkling Stone as the high water mark of mystical literature. Nowhere else do we find such a marvellous combination of wide and soaring vision with the most delicate and intimate psychological analysis. The old Mystic, sitting under his friendly tree, seems here to be gazing at, and reporting to us the final secrets of that Eternal World, where the “Incomprehensible Light enfolds and penetrates us,as the air is penetrated by the light of the sun".
    • Evelyn Underhill, Anglican mystical writer, quoted in Cropper, Green, The Life of Evelyn Underhill (2002), p. 57
  • The greatest of the Flemish mystics, Jan van Ruusbroec was conversant not only with the main currents of mystical theology in the medieval Low Countries and the Rhineland but also with the patristic heritage of both the East and the West. His personal appropriation of this legacy, together with a keen sensitivity to the needs of all the members of the church of his day and a rare gift for describing the highest levels of mystical experience, enabled Ruusbroec to produce treatises of unsurpassed beauty, perspicuity, and synthetic power.
    • James A. Wiemann, quoted in Light from Light: An Anthology of Christian Mysticism (2001), p. 182
  • John Ruysbroeck, 'the Admirable', is in some ways the most wonderful of the mystics. As a descriptive mystic he stands alongside of St John of the Cross in the daring and eloquence with which he ventures to utter in human language the experiences of union and knowledge to which he, was admitted. If he lacks St John's Latin clarity of thought and expression, he more than makes up for it by a certain massive mysteriousness that may be called Teutonic he was a Fleming of Brabant through which we seem ever and anon to catch glimpses of realities deeply impressive though at times bewildering. But there is a consistency and a sanity through it all, and a restraint due to his sound theological formation, which make an overwhelming impression of truth and reality. It may with all probability be said, that than him there has been no greater contemplative; and certainly there has been no greater mystical writer. His contemplation is highly intellectual, and at the same time fully mystical. Whether in the sublimity of his elevations or in the power of recording his experiences, Ruysbroeck stands as one of the very greatest of the mystics.
    • Dom Cuthbert Butler, OSB Western Mysticism (1922), p.209-10
  • [Ruysbroeck] comes very near to the doctrine of Ibn al Arabi. He expresses almost the same view in his teaching that everything in creation and everything in man exists eternally in God. Creation comes forth eternally in God as God, without any difference, and then it comes forth differentiated in time and space. Originally it is God in God. So the image of God exists eternally in God, in its archetype. Ruysbroeck says, "God utters himself in the Spirit eternally without intermediary and in this Word he utters himself and all things." In the utterance of the Word which comes forth from the Father eternally the whole creation, the whole of humanity, you and I and all created things, are present. Everything and all beings are present in that eternal Word, eternally present with God, in God and as God. We are all participating in the Infinite at that stage, beyond creation. This is what is meant by our uncreated being in the Godhead. Eckhart had the same idea but he expressed it less carefully while Ruysbroeck puts it extremely well. He speaks of "a waylessness and darkness in which we never find ourselves again in a creaturely way." We lose ourselves in that divine darkness. And he goes on to speak of God, this "God beyond", as it were, as "a simple nudity, an incomprehensible light". The one who has reached this point " finds himself and feels himself to be that light, gazing at that light, by that light, in that light. Here one has entered totally into the Godhead and one knows in the light and by the light". This is exactly how it is put in the Upanishads and in the 'Bhagavad Gita', where it is said that one knows the 'atman', through the 'atman'. The 'atman' cannot be known by any other means. God is grasped and held through God.
    • Bede Griffiths, A New Vision of Reality: Western Science, Eastern Mysticism and Christian Faith, Chapter 11, P.248-249
  • I think of the marvellous history of Rheno-Flemish mysticism of the thirteenth and especially of the fourteenth centuries
  • 'There are more answers than questions, and lots of people have found answers that were perfectly satisfactory for them. Old Ruysbroeck for one...'
    'Who was he?'
    'He was a Flemish mystic who lived in the fourteenth century'
  • [T]he counterpoint to this enormously exposed and public life is Eckhart and Jan van Ruysbroek. They really give me balance and a more necessary sense of humor.
    • Dag Hammarskjöld, quoted in A Biographical Interpretation of Markings by Henry P van Dusen (Faber and Faber. London, 1967) pp.49-50

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