Monday, June 22, 2009

Purely in the Intellect

How man's activity should be purely in the intellect and not in the senses

Happy therefore is the person who by continual removal of fantasies and
images, by turning within, and raising the mind to God, finally manages
to dispense with the products of the imagination, and by so doing works
within, nakedly and simply, and with a pure understanding and will, on
the the simplest of all objects, God. So eliminate from your mind all
fantasies, objects, images and shapes of all things other than God, so
that, with just naked understanding, intent and will, your practice
will be concerned with God himself within you. For this is the end of
all spiritual exercises - to turn the mind to the Lord God and rest in
him with a completely pure understanding and a completely devoted will,
without the entanglements and fantasies of the imagination. This sort
of exercise is not practised by fleshly organs nor by the exterior
senses, but by that by which one is indeed a man. For a man is
precisely understanding and will. For that reason, in so far as a man
is still playing with the products of the imagination and the senses,
and holds to them, it is obvious that he has not yet emerged from the
motivation and limitations of his animal nature, that is of that which
he shares in common with the animals. For these know and feel objects
by means of recognised shapes and sense impressions and no more, since
they do not possess the higher powers of the soul. But it is different
with man, who is created in the image and likeness of God with
understanding, will, and free choice, through which he should be
directly, purely and nakedly impressed and united with God, and firmly
adhere to him. For this reason the Devil tries eagerly and with all his
power to hinder this practice so far as he can, being envious of this
in man, since it is a sort of prelude and initiation of eternal life.
So he is always trying to draw man's mind away from the Lord God, now
by temptations or passions, now by superfluous worries and pointless
cares, now by restlessness and distracting conversation and senseless
curiosity, now by the study of subtle books, irrelevant discussion,
gossip and news, now by hardships, now by opposition, etc. Such matters
may seem trivial enough and hardly sinful, but they are a great
hindrance to this holy exercise and practice. Therefore, even if they
may appear useful and necessary, they should be rejected, whether great
or small, as harmful and dangerous, and put out of our minds. Above all
therefore it is necessary that things heard, seen, done and said, and
other such things, must be received without adding things from the
imagination, without mental associations and without emotional
involvement, and one should not let past or future associations,
implications or constructs of the imagination form and grow. For when
constructs of the imagination are not allowed to enter the memory and
mind, a man is not hindered, whether he be engaged in prayer,
meditation, or reciting psalms, or in any other practice or spiritual
exercise, nor will they recur again. So commit yourself confidently and
without hesitation, all that you are, and everything else, individually
and in general, to the unfailing and totally reliable providence of
God, in silence and in peace, and he will fight for you. He will
liberate you and comfort you more fully, more effectively and more
satisfactorily than if you were to dream about it all the time, day and
night, and were to cast around frantically all over the place with the
futile and confused thoughts of your mind in bondage, nor will you wear
out your mind and body, wasting your time, and stupidly and pointlessly
exhausting your strength. So accept everything, separately and in
general, wherever it comes from and whatever its origin, in silence and
peace, and with an equal mind, as coming to you from a father's hand
and his divine providence. So render your imagination bare of the
images of all physical things as is appropriate to your state and
profession, so that you can cling to him with a bare and undivided
mind, as you have so often and so completely vowed to do, without
anything whatever being able to come between your soul and him, so that
you can pass purely and unwaveringly from the wounds of his humanity
into the light of his divinity.
St. Albert
Cleaving to God, Ch 4


Ioannes said...

Hi, Linda!

This short essay is very much like what Marcus Aurelius would have written had he been a Christian instead of a Stoic. I read through the whole thing and encourage its wide dissemination.

Lynny said...

Sorry Paul,
I do not know about Marcus Aurelius, perhaps I will have to check out some info on him. But this little book by St. Albert certainly sounds so much like Carmelite spirituality and if I didn't know better, I would think St. John of the Cross wrote it. I am going to continue posting a chapter a day of the book.

Anonymous said...


Great post! It does sound like John of the Cross. I really needed this today since I am beset with many worries and distractions that are pulling me away from God. Thank you! I will be looking into this book.