Louis Claude de Saint-Martin
Eternal source of all which is, Thou who sendest spirits of error and of darkness to the untruthful, which cut them off from Thy love, do Thou send unto him who seeks Thee a spirit of truth, uniting him for ever with Thee. May the fire of this spirit consume me all the traces of the old man, and, having consumed them, may it produce from those ashes a new man, on whom Thy sacred hand shall not disdain to pour a holy Chrism! Be this the end of penitence and its long toils, and may Thy life, which is one everywhere, transform my whole being in the unity of Thine image, my heart in the unity of Thy love, my activity in the unity of the works of justice, and my thought in the unity of all lights.
Thou dost impose great sacrifices on man, only to compel him to seek in Thee all his riches and all his delights, and Thou dost force him to seek all these treasures in Thee only because Thou knowest that they alone can make him happy, for Thou alone dost possess them, who hast engendered and created them. Truly, O God of my life, I can find nowhere save in Thee the root and realisation of my being. Thou also bast said that in the heart of man alone canst Thou find Thy repose. Cease not, therefore, for one instant thine operations upon me, that not only may I live, but that Thy name may be known among the nations. Thy prophets have declared that the dead cannot praise Thee; let death then never come near me, for I burn to offer Thee immortal praise ; I burn with desire that the Eternal Son of Truth may never have to reproach the heart of man with the smallest clouding of Thy splendour or the least diminution of its fulness. God of my life, the utterance of whose Name accomplishes all things, restore to my nature that which Thou didst first impart to it, and I will manifest that Name among the nations, and they shall learn that Thou alone art their God, Thou alone their essential life, as Thou only art the movement and motive principle of all beings.
Do Thou sow the seed of Thy desires in the soul of man, in that field where none can contest with Thee, since it is Thou who hast brought it into existence. Sow Thy desires therein, that the soul, by the force of Thy love, may be snatched from the depths which hold it and would swallow it up for ever. Abolish for me the realm of images; scatter the fantastic barriers which place an immense interval and spread thick darkness between Thy living light and me, entombing me in their folds.
Show unto me the sacred character and the divine seal of which Thou art the custodian; pierce the centre of my soul with the fire which burns in Thee, that my soul may burn with Thee till it knows Thine ineffable life and the inexhaustible delights of Thine eternal existence. Too feeble to endure the weight of Thy Name, I leave in Thy hands the task of erecting its complete edifice and of laying Thyself its first foundations in the depths of that soul which Thou has given me for a torch, showing light to the nations, that they may no more dwell in darkness. Thanks be unto Thee, O God of peace and love ! thanks be unto Thee, because Thou hast been mindful of me, and hast not willed that my soul should want, lest Thine enemies should say that the Father forges His children or is unable to deliver them.
I will approach Thee , Thou God of my being; I will approach Thee, all unclean as I am ; I will show myself with confidence before Thee; I will come unto Thee in the name of Thine eternal existence, in the name of my life, in the name of Thy holy alliance with man. This threefold offering shall be for Thee an acceptable sacrifice, on which Thy Spirit shall send down its divine fire, to consume and transport it to Thy sacred abode, all charged and filled with the desires of a needy soul sighing only after Thee. Lord, Lord ! when shall I hear Thee utter in the abyss of my soul that consoling and living word which calls on man by his name, proclaiming his enrolment in the heavenly army, and Thy will that he should be numbered among Thy servants?
By the power of that holy word shall I find myself speedily encompassed by the eternal memorials of Thy power and love, with which I shall boldly advance against Thine enemies, and they shall flee before the dread lightnings flashing from Thy victorious word. Alas, O Lord ! shall a man of misery and darkness cherish such high aspirations, such proud hopes? In place of smiting the enemy, must he not seek only a shield from their blows? Furnished no longer with shining arms, is he not, as a despicable object, reduced to tears of shame and ignominy in the thickets of his retreat, unable to show himself before the day?
In place of those triumphant anthems which once followed him in his conquests, is he not doomed only to be heard amid sighs and groans ? Vouchsafe at least one boon, O Lord, that whensoever Thou searchest my heart and my reins, Thou shalt never find them void of Thy praise and love. I feel, and would feel unceasingly, that all time is enough for Thy praise, that to accomplish this holy work in a manner which is worthy of Thee, my entire being must be possessed and set in motion by Thine eternity. Grant, therefore, O God of all life and all love, that my soul may reinforce its weakness with Thy strength ; permit it to enter into a holy league with Thee, by which I shall be invincible in the sight of my enemies, which shall bind me so to Thee by the desires of my heart and of Thine, that Thou shalt ever find me as zealous for Thy service and glory as Thou, O Lord, art eager for my deliverance and beatitude.
Spouse of my soul! by whom it has conceived the desire of wisdom, aid me Thyself to give birth to this well-beloved son, whom I can never cherish sufficiently. So soon as he beholds the light, immerse him in the pure baptismal waters of Thy life-giving Spirit, and be he ever numbered among the faithful members of the Church of the Most High. Like a tender mother, do Thou take him in Thine arms till his feeble limbs have strength for his support, and shield him from all that is harmful. Spouse of my soul! unknown except by the humble, I do homage to Thy power, and I would not confide to other hands than Thine this son of love whom Thou hast given me.
Nourish him Thyself, watch over his early steps instruct him when he grows in the honour which he owes to his Father, that his days may be long on the earth; inspire him with respect and love for the might and the virtues of Him who hath given him being. Spouse of my soul! inspire me also, me first, to nourish this precious child unceasingly with spiritual milk, which Thou has formed Thyself in my breast. May I ever behold in my son the image of his Father, in his Father the likeness of my son, and of all those whom Thou mayst engender within me through the unbroken course of the eternities. Spouse of my soul!: known only to the sanctified, be Thou at once the mentor and model of this child of Thy Spirit, that in all times and places his works and example may proclaim his heavenly origin.
Place Thou also at length on his head the crown of glory, and he shall be an everlasting monument before the peoples of the majesty of Thy Name. Spouse of my soul! such are the delights which Thou preparest for those who love Thee and seek for union with Thee. Perish everlastingly him who would tempt me to break our sacred alliance! Perish everlastingly him who would persuade me to prefer another spouse! Spouse of my soul! take me Thyself for Thine own child; let me be one with him in Thine eyes, and pour on us each all graces which we cannot both receive from Thy love. I can live no more if the voices of myself and my son be forbidden to unite for the eternal celebration of Thy praises in canticles, like inexhaustible rivers ever engendered by the sense of Thy wonders and Thy power ineffable.
How should I dare , O Lord, for one instant to gaze on myself without trembling at the horror of my misery! I dwell in the midst of my own iniquities, the fruit of all manner of excesses, which have become even as a vestment; I have outraged all my laws, I have misused my soul, I have abused my body; I have turned, and do turn daily, to an ill account all the graces which Thy love showers continually on Thine ungrateful and faithless creature. To Thee should I sacrifice all, giving nothing unto time, which in Thy sight is like an idol, void of life and understanding; yet I devote all unto time and nothing unto Thee. Thus do I cast myself beforehand into the abyss of confusion, given over to idolatrous worship, where Thy name is not known. I have acted like the senseless and ignorant of this world, who expend all their efforts to annul the dread decrees of justice and to render this place of probation no longer one of toil and suffering in their eyes.
God of peace and God of truth, if the confession of my faults be insufficient for their remission, remember Him who took them on Himself, washing them in the blood of His body, His soul, and His love. Like fire, which consumes all material and impure substances, like this fire which is His image, He returns to Thee, free from all stains of earth. In Him and by Him alone can the work of my purification and rebirth be fulfilled. In Him alone can Thy sacred majesty endure to regard man, through whom also Thou willest our cure and our salvation.
Gazing with the eyes of His love, which cleanses all, Thou dost see no longer any deformity in man, but only that divine spark which is in Thine own likeness, which Thy sacred ardour draws perpetually to itself, as a property of Thy divine source. O Lord, Thou canst contemplate only that which is true and pure as Thyself; evil is beyond the reach of Thine exalted sight, and hence the evil man is like one whom Thou rememberest no more, whom Thine eyes cannot fix, since he has no longer any correspondence with Thee. In this abyss of horror I have, notwithstanding, dared to dwell; there is no other place for man who is not immersed in the abyss of Thy compassion. Yet no sooner does he turn his heart and eyes from the depths of iniquity than he finds himself in that ocean of mercy which encompasses all Thy creatures. So will I bow myself before Thee in my shame and the sense of my misery; the fire of my suffering shall dry up within me the abyss of my sinfulness, and there shall remain for me only the eternal kingdom of Thy mercy.
Take back my will , O Lord, take back my will; for if I can suspend it one instant before Thee, the torrents of Thy life and light, having nothing to resist them, shall pour impetuously within me. Help me to break down the woeful barriers which divide me from thee; arm me against myself; triumph within me over all Thine enemies and mine by subduing my will. O Eternal Principle of all joy and of all truth! when shall I be so renewed as no longer to be conscious of self, save in the permanent affection of Thine exclusive and vivifying will? When shall every kind of privation appear to me a profit and advantage, by preserving me from all bondage, and leaving me ample means to bind myself to the freedom of Thy spirit and wisdom?
When shall evils appear to me as favours extended by Thee, as so many opportunities of Victory, so many occasions of receiving from Thy hand the crowns of glory which Thou dost distribute to all those who fight in Thy name? When shall all advantages and joys of this life become to me as so many snares, unceasingly set by the enemy that he may establish in our heart a god of lying and seduction in place of that God of peace and truth who should reign there for ever? When, in fine, shall the holy zeal of Thy love and the ardour of my union with Thee rule me to renounce with delight my life, my happiness, with all affections foreign to this sole end of Thy creature man, so loved by Thee that Thou hast given Thyself all for him, that he might be inflamed by Thine example? I know, O Lord, that whosoever is not transported by this holy devotion is not worthy of Thee, and has not yet made the first step in Thy path. The knowledge of Thy will and the solicitude of the faithful never to depart from it for a moment, herein is the one, the true resting-place for the soul of man; he cannot enter therein without being filled immediately with rapture, as if all his being were renewed and revivified in all its faculties by the springs of Thine own life, nor can he withdraw therefrom without beholding himself given over forthwith to all the horrors of uncertainty, danger, and death.
Hasten, God of consolation, hasten, God of power, to communicate to my heart one of those pure movements of Thy holy and invincible will! One only is needed to establish the reign of Thine eternity, and for constant and universal resistance of all alien wills which combine in my soul, mind, and body to give battle thereto. Then shall I abandon myself to my God in the sweet effusion of my faith, then shall I proclaim His wonderful works. Men are not worthy of Thy wonders, or to contemplate the sweetness of Thy wisdom, the profundity of Thy counsels; and I, vile insect that I am, can I even dare to name them, who merit only visitations of justice and wrath? Lord, Lord! may the star of Jacob rest for a moment upon me; may Thy holy light be kindled in my thought, and Thy will most pure in my heart!
Hearken, my soul , hearken, and be consoled in thy distress! There is a mighty God who undertakes to heal all thy wounds. He alone has this supreme power, and He exercises it only towards those who acknowledge that He possesses it and is its zealous administrator. Come not before him in disguise like the wife of Jeroboam whom the prophet overwhelmed with reproaches; come rather with the humility and confidence which should be inspired by a sense of thy frightful evils, and of that Universal Power which willeth not the death of a sinner, since it is He who created souls. Let time fulfil its law upon thee in all the things of time; speed not thy work by disorders; delay it not by false desires and vain speculations, the heritage of the fool. Concerned alone with thine interior cure, thy spiritual deliverance, collect with care the scant forces which each temporal period develops within
thee ; make use of these secret motions of life to draw nearer daily unto Him who already would possess thee in His breast, and share with thee the sweet freedom of a being who enjoys fully the use of all his faculties without ever encountering a hindrance.
Whensoever these happy ecstasies transport thee, raise thyself on thy bed of sorrow, and cry unto this God of mercy and almightiness: Lord, wilt Thou leave to languish in bondage and shame this former image of Thyself, whom the ages may have buried under their dust but have never been able to efface? It dared to misconceive Thee in those days when it dwelt in the splendour of Thy glory.
Thou hadst only to close the eye of Thine eternity, and it was plunged from that instant into darkness, as into the depths of the abyss. Since that deplorable lapse it has become the daily scorn of all its enemies, who not contented to cover it with derision, have filled it with their poisons, have loaded it with chains so that it could no longer defend itself, but became an easier prey to their envenomed darts. Lord, Lord! is not this long and humiliating ordeal sufficient for man to recognise Thy justice and do homage to Thy power? Has not this infected mass of its enemy’s contempt enervated long enough the image of Thyself to open his eyes and convince him of his illusions?
Dost Thou not fear that in the end these corrosive substances may entirely efface its imprint and place it beyond recognition? The enemies of Thy light and Thy wisdom would not fail to confound this long chain of my degradations with Thine eternity itself; they would believe their reign of horror and disorder is the sole abode of truth; they would claim themselves victorious over Thee and possessed of Thy kingdom. Permit not, therefore, longer, O God of zeal and jealousy, the profanation of Thine image; the desire of Thy glory fills me more than any desire of my happiness apart from that glory of Thine Rise on Thy throne immortal, the throne of Thy wisdom, ablaze with the marvels of Thy power; enter for a moment that holy vineyard which Thou hast planted from all eternity; pluck but one of those vivifying grapes which it produces unceasingly; let the sacred and regenerating juice flow upon my lips; it will moisten my parched tongue, it will enter into my heart, it will bear to it both joy and life, it will penetrate all my members and will make them strong and healthy.
Then shall I be quick, agile, vigorous as on that first day when I came forth from Thy hands. Then shall Thine enemies, frustrated in their hopes, blush with shame and tremble with fear and rage to see their opposition against Thee made vain and the accomplishment of my sublime destiny despite their daring and persistent efforts. Hearken then, O my soul! hearken, and be consoled in thy distress! A mighty God there is who hath undertaken the healing of thy wounds.
I present myself at the gates of the temple of my God, and I will quit not this humble asylum of the indigent till I have received my daily bread from the Father of my life. Behold the mystery of this bread! I have tasted thereof, and I will proclaim its sweetness to unborn nations. The Eternal God of Beings; the sacred title taken by Him who is made flesh that He might be manifested to the visible and invisible nations; the spirit of Him at whose Name every knee shall bow, in heaven, on earth, and in hell; such are the three immortal elements which compose this daily bread. It is multiplied unceasingly, like the immensity of beings who are nourished thereby, and, whatsoever be their number, never can they diminish its abundance.
It has developed in me the eternal germs of my life, and has enabled them to circulate in my veins the sacred sap of my original and divine roots. The four elements which compose it have dispelled darkness and confusion from the chaos of my heart; they have restored to it the living and holy light; their creative force has transformed me into a new being, and I have become the custodian and administrator of their sacred characters and life- giving signs. Therefore, as His angel and minister have I shown myself in all regions, to make known the glory of Him who hath chosen man; I have reviewed all the work of His hands and have distributed to each of them those signs and characters which He has impressed on me in order that they might be transmitted to them. and to confirm the properties and powers which they have received. But my ministry has not been confined to operation on the regular works of Eternal Wisdom; I have approached whatsoever was deformed, and have set on these fruits of disorder the signs of justice and vengeance attached to the secret powers of my election; those which I could snatch from corruption I have offered as a holocaust to the supreme God, and I have composed my perfumes of the pure praises of my mind and heart, so that all which lives may confess that the homage, the glory, the honour are due unto this sole supreme God as the source of power and justice. I have exclaimed in the transports of my love:
Blessed is man, because Thou hast elected him as the seat of Thine authority and the minister of Thy glory in the universe. Blessed is man, because Thou hast permitted him to feel, even in the depths of his essence, the penetrating activity of Thy divine life. Blessed is man, because he may dare to offer Thee a sacrifice of thanksgiving founded in the ineffable sentiment of all the wishes of Thy holy infinity. Powers of the material world! powers of the physical universe! not thus hath God treated you! He has constituted you the simple agents of His laws and the forces operating for the fulfilment of His designs. Hence is there no other being in Nature which does not second Him in His work and co-operate in the execution of His plans.
But He is not made known to you as the God of peace and the God of love; at the moment when He brought you into being ye were disturbed by the consequences of rebellion, since He ordained man to subdue and govern you. Still less, ye perverted and corrupt powers, has He dispensed to you those favours with which He has deigned to overwhelm man. Ye have failed to preserve those which were granted you by virtue of your origin; ye dreamed of a brighter lot and a more splendid privilege than to be the objects of His tenderness, from which moment ye have deserved only to be the victims of His justice. To man alone has He confided the treasures of His wisdom; on this being after His own heart has He centred all His affection and all His powers. Sovereign Author of my spirit, my soul, and my heart! be Thou blessed for ever and in all places, because Thou hast permitted man, Thine ungrateful and criminal creature, to recover these sublime truths. Had the memory of Thine ancient and sacred covenant bound not Thy love to restore them, they would have been lost unto man for ever.
Praise and benediction to Him who hath formed man in His image and after His own likeness, who, despite all the endeavours and all the triumphs of hell, hath reclothed him in his splendour, in the wisdom and the beatitudes of his origin. Amen.
Men of peace and men of aspirations ! let us contemplate in unison, with a holy fear, the vastness of the mercies of our God. Let us confess to Him together that all the thoughts of men, all their purest desires, all their ordered deeds, could not, when combined, approach the smallest act of His love. How should we therefore express it? for it is confined to no individual deeds or times, but manifests at once all its treasures, and that in a constant, universal, and unhindered way! God of truth and God of love! so actest Thou daily with man.
Amidst all mine infection and vileness Thy hand untiring extracts what still remains of those precious and sacred elements of which Thou didst form me at first. Like the thrifty woman in the Gospel consuming her light to recover the dime which she lost, Thy lamps are ever lighted, ever Thou stoopest to earth, ever hopest to recover from the dust that pure gold which has slipped from Thy hands. Men of peace! how should we contemplate otherwise than with holy fear the extent of the mercies of our God! We are a thousand times more guilty towards Him than, in the sight of human justice are those malefactors who are dragged through cities and public places, loaded with the insignia of infamy, and forced to confess their crimes aloud at the doors of the temples and in the presence of the powers which they have defied. Like them, and a thousand times more deservedly than they, should we be dragged ignominiously to the feet of all the powers of Nature and the Spirit; we should be paraded like criminals through all the regions of the universe, both visible and invisible, and should receive in their presence the terrible and shameful chastisements which are invoked by our appalling prevarications.
But in place of finding stern judges armed with vengeance, behold a venerable Monarch whose eyes publish His clemency, whose lips utter pardon only for all those who do not blindly hold themselves guiltless. Far from willing that we should wear henceforth the vestments of opprobrium, He commands His servants to give back to us our primeval robe, to set a ring on our finger and shoes on our feet. For all these favours it is enough, like later prodigal sons. to confess that we have not found in the house of strangers the happiness of the house of the Father. Men of peace ! say, shall we contemplate except with holy fear the infinite love and mercy of our God?
Say, shall we not make a holy resolution to remain faithful for ever to His laws and to the beneficent counsels of His wisdom? O God! incomprehensible in indulgence and past understanding in love, I can love but Thee alone; I would love none but Thee, who hast forgiven me so much. I desire no place of repose except in the heart of my God, who embraces all by His power, my support on every side, my succour and my consolation. From this divine source all blessings pour on me at once. He pours Himself into the heart of man continually and for ever.
So does He engender within us His own life; so does He establish within us the pure rays and extracts of His own essence, whereon He loves to brood, and they become in us the organs of His endless generations. From this sacred treasury, through all the faculties of our nature, He directs kindred emanations, which repeat in turn their action through all that constitutes ourselves, and thus our spiritual activity, our virtues, our lights are unceasingly multiplied. Behold, it is exceeding profitable to erect Him a temple in our hearts! O men of peace! O men of aspiration! say, shall we contemplate without a holy fear the vastness of the love and of the mercies and of the powers of our God?
How should it be possible , O Lord, to sing here below the
canticles of the Holy City? Amidst such streams of tears, can we raise the hymns of jubilation? I lift up my voice to begin them, but I utter sighs only and tones of pain. I am overwhelmed by the length of my sufferings; my sin is ever before me, threatening instant death, with the chill of its poisons freezing all my being. Even now it lays hold of my members; the moment comes when I shall lie like a corpse which is left by hirelings to putrefaction.
Yet Thou, O Lord, who art the universal source of all that exists, art also the font of hope. If this spark of flame be not already quenched in my heart, I still cling unto Thee, I am still bound to Thy divine life by that deathless hope which springs for ever from Thy throne. From the depth of my abyss I dare therefore to implore Thee, to pray that the hand of Thy loving- kindness may heal me. How are the cures of the Lord effected? By humble submission to the wise counsel of the Divine Physician. With gratitude and ardent desire must I drink the bitter draught which His hand offers; my will must be joined with that which animates Him towards me; the length and sufferings of the treatment must not prompt me to reject the good which the Supreme Author of all goodness seeks to effect in me.
He is penetrated with the sense of my sufferings, and I have only to be enkindled myself with the sense of His loving interest; then shall the chalice of salvation profit me; then shall my tongue be strengthened to sing the canticles of the Holy City. Lord, with what hymn shall I begin? With one to His honour and glory who has restored me to health and effected my deliverance. From the rising of the sun to the going down of the same will I chant this canticle over all the earth, not only to celebrate the power and love of my Liberator, but to communicate to all desiring souls, to the entire human family, the certain and efficacious means of recovering health and life for ever. I will teach them thereby how the spirit of wisdom and truth may abide in their own hearts and direct them in all their ways. Amen.
My soul hast thou strength to consider the enormity of that debt which guilty man has contracted with Divinity ? If thou hast found strength for crime, thou hast good reason to contemplate it in all its horror. Measure, therefore, in thy thought the vineyard of the Lord; remember that man should tend it; conceive the wealth of the harvest which it should produce under his care; think how all creatures under heaven await their sustenance from its culture by thee, that the vineyard of the Lord awaits in like manner its adornment at thy hands, that the Lord Himself awaits from thy fidelity and watchfulness all the praise and glory which should accrue from the fulfilment of His plans.
But thou hast fallen; the dominion of the enemy upon thee; thou hast made barren the Lord’s ground, brought the dwellers therein to want, and filled God’s heart with sadness. Thou hast dried up the source of wisdom and of increase in this lower world, and still thou dost hinder daily the productions of the Lord. Consider the extent of thy debt, the inpossibility of its payment. The fruits of each year are owing from the moment of thine infidelity, the wages of all the hours which have passed since that fatal hour. Where is the being who shall acquit thee in the sight of that eternal justice whose dues cannot be cancelled, whose designs must attain their fulfilment?
Herein, O God supreme, are exhibited the torrents of Thy mercy and the inexhaustible abundance of Thine eternal treasures. Thy heart is opened towards Thy hapless creature: not only his debts are discharged, but a surplus remains with which he may succour the needy. Thou hast ordained Thy Word itself to cultivate the vineyard of man: that sacred Word whose soul is love has come down into this barren place; the fire of His speech has consumed all the parasitic and poisonous plants which choked it; He has sown the seed of the tree of life in their place; He has opened up health-giving springs, and it has been moistened by living waters, He has restored strength to the beasts of the earth, wings to the birds of heaven, light to the starry torches, sound and speech to every spirit which abides in the sphere of man. To the soul of man itself He has restored that love of which He alone is the source, which has inspired His holy and wonderful sacrifice.
Eternal God of all praise and grace, one only being, Thy Son Divine, could thus repair our disorders and acquit us in the sight of Thy justice. The creative being alone could make restitution of that which we squandered, for it needed a new creation. If, therefore, O universal powers! ye strive to chant His praises who has reinstated you in your rights and restored your activity, what thanks are not due from me, since He has become the hostage for my debts Himself towards you, to all my brethren, and has discharged all? It was said of the penitent woman that much was forgiven her because she had loved much.
But for man all has been remitted, not only prior to his love, but while he was steeped in the horrors of ingratitude. O men! O brethren ! let us give ourselves wholly to Him who has begun by forgiving all to us. Each one of God’s movements is universal and is manifested in every universe. Now, like unto this God supreme, be the movement of love universal in all our nature, at once embracing all the faculties which compose us. Amen.