[A Fiery Love]

All that I have said is as nothing compared to what I feel within, the witnessed correspondence of love between God and the Soul; for when God sees the Soul pure as it was in its origins, He tugs at it with a glance, draws it and binds it to Himself with a fiery love that by itself could annihilate the immortal soul. In so acting, God so transforms the soul in Him that it knows nothing other than God; and He continues to draw it up into His fiery love until He restores it to that pure state from which it first issued. As it is being drawn upwards, the soul feels itself melting in the fire of that love of its sweet God, for He will not cease until He has brought the soul to its perfection.

— Catherine of Genoa

[“Valor is the conquest of one’s self.”]

“We must suppose that those who secretly wrestle with us abide in another great world which, in its nature, is akin to the natural powers of our soul. For the three princes of evil, in their fight with spiritual strugglers, attack the three powers of our soul, and if a man has failed in something or does not strive at something, they overcome him in this very thing. Thus, the dragon—the prince of the abyss—rises in arms against those who keep attention on their heart, as one whose ‘strength is in his loins, and his force is in the navel of his belly’ (Job xl. 16). He sends the lust-loving giant of forgetfulness against them with his clouds of fiery arrows, stirs up lust in them like some turbulent sea, makes it foam and burn in them and causes their confusion by flooding them with torrents of insatiable passions. The prince of this world, who is charge of warfare against the excitable part, attacks those who follow the path of active virtue. Using the giant of laziness, he encompasses them with all kinds of witchery of the passions and wrestles with those who always put up a courageous resistance. Thus he either vanquishes or is himself vanquished and so he gains them either crowns or shame before the faces of the angels. The prince of high places attacks those who exercise themselves in mental contemplation, by offering them fantasies; for, in company with the spiritual wickedness in high places, his task is to affect the thinking and rise on high, darkens and frightens it, introducing into it vague fantastic images of spirits and their metamorphoses and producing phantoms of lightning and thunder, tempests and earthquakes. Thus each of the three princes, impinging upon the corresponding powers of the soul, wages war against it, conducting his attacks against the particular part allotted to him.”

St. Gregory of Sinai

“Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” (Ephesians VI. 11, 12)

“The dragon is thy sensual soul: how is it dead? It is (only) frozen by grief and lack of means.

If it obtain the means of Pharaoh, by whose command the water of the river would flow,

Then it will begin to act like Pharaoh and will waylay a hundred (such as) Moses and Aaron.

That dragon, under stress of poverty, is a little worm, (but) a gnat is made a falcon by power and riches.

Keep the dragon in the snow of separation; beware, do not carry it into the sun of ‘Iraq.

So long as that dragon of thine remains frozen, (well and good); thou art a mouthful for it, when it gains release.

Mortify it and become safe from (spiritual) death; have no mercy; it is not one of them that deserves favours;

For (when) the heat of the sun of lust strikes upon it, that vile bat of thine flaps its wings.

Lead it manfully to the spiritual warfare and battle: God will reward thee with access (to Him)…

Dost thou hope, without using violence, to keep it bound in quiet and faithfulness?

How should this wish be fulfilled for any worthless one? It needs a Moses to kill the dragon.”

Rumi

Source: Whitall N. Perry, The Spiritual Ascent: A Compendium of the World’s Wisdoms, pp. 397, 400

[Some indications on the scope and limits of disbelief in oneself and of complete trust in God]

“Since all the strength by which our enemies are overcome is born in us from disbelief in ourselves and from trust in God, it is necessary for you, my brother, to acquire exact knowledge of this, in order always to have this strength and to preserve it with the help of God. Know then, and never forget, that neither all our capacities and good features, whether natural or acquired, nor all the gifts freely given us, nor the knowledge of all the Scriptures, nor the fact that we have for long worked for God and have acquired experience in these labours, nor all this together will enable us to do God’s will rightly, if at every good deed pleasing to God, which we are about to undertake, at every affliction we wish to avoid, at every cross we have to bear according to God’s will, if, I say, on all these and similar occasions a special divine help does not inspire our heart and does not give us strength to accomplish it, as the Lord said: ‘Without me ye can do nothing’ (John xv. 5). So for the duration of our life, every day and at every moment, we must keep unchanged in our heart the feeling, conviction and disposition, that on no occasion can we allow ourselves to think of relying on ourselves and trusting ourselves.

As regards trust in God, I will add the following to what I have said in the third chapter: know that nothing is easier for God than to give you victory over your enemies, whether they be few or many, whether they be old and strong or new and weak. Yet He has His own time and order for everything. Therefore if a soul be overburdened with sins, if it be guilty of all the crimes in the world, if it be defiled beyond imagination;—if, at the same time, to the extent of its desire and strength, it uses every means and endeavour to become free of sin and turn to the path of good, but cannot get stable in anything right, however small, and, on the contrary, sinks ever deeper and deeper into evil; even if it is all that, it must not weaken in its trust of God or fall away from Him. It must not abandon its spiritual weapons and strivings but must fight and fight, struggling with itself and with its enemies with all its courage and untiring efforts. For know and under- stand, that in this unseen war all are losers except a man who never ceases to struggle and keep his trust in God; for God never abandons those who fight in His armies, although at times He/ lets them suffer wounds. So fight, everyone, and do not give ground; for the whole thing is in this unceasing struggle. /God is always ready with remedies for those struck down by the enemies and with help for overcoming them, which He sends to His warriors in due time, if they seek
Him and firmly hope in Him. At some’ hour when they least expect it they will see their proud enemies vanish, as is written: ‘ The mighty men of Babylon have forborn to fight’ (Jer. li. 30).”

Source: St. Theophan the Recluse, Unseen Warfare, Chapter 6, p. 10

[“What I am not, God is.”]

“To lose consciousness of oneself, to become conscious of God. To become conscious of the nothing that I am in order to have consciousness of everything that is God. One does not take a step toward God without this preliminary negative. What I am not, God is.

Man makes himself like God in the measure in which he is no longer man, that is, when his transparency, in the absolute sense, is such that God passes through him. This is the deification of man, not human imperfection arrogantly divinized—a haughtiness absolutely outside the place in life that leads to God—but man annulled, abolished, dissipated, so that God alone is because God alone is God and no god is god except God.”

— Guido de Giorgio

via Gornahoor

[Descent into Hell]

“Christ’s soul must needs descend into hell, before it ascended into heaven. So must also the soul of man. But mark ye what manner this cometh to pass. When a man truly perceiveth and considereth himself, who and what he is, and findeth himself utterly vile and wicked, and unworthy of all the comfort and kindness that he hath ever received from God, or from the creatures, he falleth into such a deep abasement and despising of himself, that he thinketh himself unworthy that the earth should bear him, and it seemeth to him reasonable that all creatures in heaven and earth should rise up against him and avenge their Creator on him, and should punish and torment him; and that he were unworthy even of that. And it seemeth to him that he shall be eternally lost and damned, and a footstool to all the devils in hell, and that this is right and just and all too little compared to his sins which he so often and in so many ways hath committed against God and his Creator…Whilst a man is thus in hell, none may console him, neither God nor the creature, as it is written, ‘In hell there is no redemption.’ …

Now God hath not forsaken a man in this hell, but He is laying his hand upon him, that the man may not desire nor regard anything but the Eternal Good only, and may come to know that that is so noble and passing good, that none can search out or express its bliss, consolation and joy, peace, rest and satisfaction. And then, when the man neither careth for, nor seeketh, nor desireth, anything but the Eternal Good alone, and seeketh not himself, nor his own things, but the honour of God only, he is made a partaker of all manner of joy, bliss, peace, rest and consolation, and so the man is henceforth in the Kingdom of Heaven.

This hell and this heaven are two good, safe ways for a man in this present time, and happy is he who truly findeth them.

For this hell shall pass away,

But Heaven shall endure for aye.”

— Theologia Germanica, XI

Source: Whitall N. Perry, The Spiritual Ascent: A Compendium of the World’s Wisdoms, p. 367

[“But all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”]

“We have spoken of those who are on the right, that is, the saved. What of those on the left, the damned? Hell might seem to need some explanation because on the one hand the Quranic descriptions of the sufferings of Hell are unsurpassably terrible, yielding nothing in this respect to the Hindu, Buddhist, and Christian descriptions of Hell, but on the other hand the Qur’an insists that whereas every good deed is rewarded ten-fold each sin is punished only with its equivalent (6:160). How then is it possible to deserve Hell? But before trying to answer this question we must first interrogate ourselves. We may think we are capable of assessing sinful acts such as murder or theft, and we hear not infrequently today of crimes so appalling and indicative of such a horrible state of the soul that we might say no punishment but Hell is bad enough for this, until we remember that Hell is not just for a day or a week but seemingly endless. We will come back later to this question of duration; but are we capable of assessing the gravity of sins which are states lived without respite from one year’s end to another like the sin of atheism to which we may add agnosticism? The Creator says in the Qur’an: I did not create jinn and men except that they should worship Me (51:56). What makes man human is that he should reach beyond this world. The man who fails to worship is subhuman—not merely that, as the Qur’an points out, but even lower than the animals (25:44). In short, man was created as representative of God on earth endowed with immense privileges such as no other earthly creature enjoys. In a very early Meccan revelation the Qur’an affirms: We created man in the fairest rectitude. Then cast We him down to be the lowest of the low, except for those who believe and who do the good deeds that piety demands (95:4-6).

The greatest of God’s gifts to man at his creation is his power to conceive the Transcendent, nor does it begin in this life. The Qur’an stresses that at the creation of Adam every human being later to be born into this world was imbued with the knowledge of the Divine Lordship. In other words every human being has in the depth of his nature a sense of the Absolute. According to the Qur’an the sin of sins is turning one’s back on the Transcendent in order to give all one’s attention to this world, not as the representative of God but as a parody of God, a would-be independent tyrant out for an unrestrained and undirected exploitation of all the resources of the earthly state. This is the great betrayal of trust, and if Hell seems to have a touch of the Absolute it is because this betrayal is in relation to the Absolute. But Hell is not Absolute and cannot be Eternal for that is the prerogative of the Hidden Treasure alone. It is true that the Qur’an speaks of the people of Hell as abiding therein forever, but this forever has to be understood in a relative sense, for there is one very explicit passage in which a double limitation is put on the everlastingness of Hell (11:103-8). Its inmates are described as abiding therein so long as the heavens and the earth endure except as God wisheth. Verily God is ever the doer of what He will. The first of the two limitations, so long as the heavens and the earth endure, can be interpreted ‘until the Creator reabsorbs the created universe back into Himself.’ As to the second limitation, it clearly refers to the possibility of Divine intervention, and this is explained in a well-known saying of the Prophet that after the Judgement, when the wretched are in Hell and the blessed are in Paradise, God will call together the Angels and the Prophets and the believers and bid them intercede for those in Hell, and in consequence a multitude of souls are released until finally He orders the release of all those in whom there is any good so that only those who have no good to their credit are left in Hell. Then He will say: ‘The Angels have interceded and the Prophets have interceded and the believers have interceded and none is left to intercede save the Most Merciful of the Merciful.’ And He will take out of Hell all who are left and will throw them into the River of Life at the entrance to the Gardens of Paradise.

The passage in the Qur’an on which this is a commentary goes on to describe the blessed in Paradise as abiding therein so long as the heavens and the earth endure except as God wisheth. Apparently there is the same double limitation on the everlastingness of Paradise as on that of Hell, but this is not so, for Paradise, unlike Hell, is as it were open to the Absolute, in virtue of the highest Paradise, that of the Essence, which is the Absolute Itself. Thus in the Qur’an immediately after what we have quoted there comes the reassuring promise in the definition of Paradise as a gift that shall not be taken away. The Prophet’s explanation of this whole Quranic passage continues: “After the last people have been taken out of Hell God will turn to the people of Paradise and say: ‘Are ye content?’ And they will say: ‘How should we not be content?’ and He will say: ‘I will give you better than this.’ And they will say: ‘What thing, O Lord, is better?’ and He will say: ‘I will enfold you in My Ridwan (God’s good pleasure).'”

This is something which the highest Saints already know as we have seen. But the lower Paradises belong to the created universe which in the end also returns to the Creator on the day when We shall roll up the heavens as at the rolling up of a written scroll (21:104). So Paradise is a gift that shall not be taken away because although in fact it is taken away it is replaced by the incomparably greater felicity of the Supreme Paradise which is no less than the Infinite Eternal Beatitude of the Hidden Treasure from which all creation proceeds and to which it all returns.

In Christianity we can recall the words of Christ when he appeared to St. Juliana of Norwich  who was greatly troubled by thoughts of the sufferings in Hell: ‘But all shall be well’ to which, when he saw that she was not altogether satisfied he added: ‘All manner of thing shall be well.’

It could not be otherwise, for it must always be remembered that man is made in the image of God, and this means that it is not legitimate to attribute to Divine Providence anything that violates the God-given human sense of values, which includes the sense of responsibility. God knows that the worst sinner in Hell are totally innocent of one thing, namely their own existence, for which He alone is responsible. Thus the Qur’an continually affirms that everything finally will be brought back to Him. In other words He is bound to reabsorb into the indescribable Felicity of His Own Essence everything which He manifested from it. God’s is the Sovereignty over the heavens and the earth; and unto God is the ultimate becoming (24:42).”

Source: Martin Lings, A Return to the Spirit: Questions and Answers, Chapter 6, pp. 74-77