God draws men's spirits unto him by his sovereign beauty and incomprehensible goodness, which two excellences are however but one supreme divinity, at once most singularly beautiful and good. Every thing is done for the good and for the beautiful, all things look towards them, are moved and stayed by them. The good and beautiful are desirable, agreeable, and dear to all, for them all things do and will whatsoever they do and will. And as for the beautiful, because it draws and recalls all things to itself, the Greeks give it a name which signifies recalling.
In like manner, as to good, its true image is light, especially because light collects, reduces and turns all things towards itself, whence the sun is named amongst the Greeks from a word which shows that its influence causes all things to be drawn together and united, bringing together things dispersed; as goodness turns all things unto itself, being not only the sovereign unity, but sovereignly unitive, since all things desire it, as their principle, their preservation and their last end. So that in conclusion, the good and the beautiful is but one and the same thing, because all things desire the good and the beautiful.
This discourse, Theotimus, is almost entirely composed of the words of the divine S. Denis the Areopagite; and certainly it is true that the sun, the source of corporeal light, is the true image of the good and the beautiful; for amongst merely corporeal creatures there is neither goodness nor beauty equal to that of the sun. Now the beauty and goodness of the sun consist in his light, without which nothing would be beautiful, nothing good, in this corporeal world. As beautiful he illuminates all, as good he heats and quickens all: insomuch as he is beautiful and bright, he draws unto himself all seeing eyes in the world; insomuch as he is good and gives heat, he gains unto himself all the appetites and inclinations of the corporeal world. For he extracts and draws up the exhalations and vapours, he draws and makes rise from their originals plants and living creatures; nor is there any production to which the vital heat of this great luminary does not contribute. So God, Father of all light, sovereignly good and beautiful, draws our understanding by his beauty to contemplate him, and draws our will by his goodness to love him. As beautiful, replenishing our understanding with delight, he pours his love into our wills; as good, filling our wills with his love, he excites our understanding to contemplate him, -- love provoking us to contemplation, and contemplation to love: whence it follows that ecstasies and raptures depend wholly on love, for it is love that carries the understanding to contemplation and the will to union: so that, finally, we must conclude with the great S. Denis, that divine love is ecstatic, not permitting lovers to live to themselves, but to the thing beloved: for which cause the admirable Apostle S. Paul, being possessed of this divine love, and participating in its ecstatic power, said with divinely inspired mouth: I live, now not I, but Christ liveth in me. As a true lover gone out of himself into God, he lived now not his own life, but the life of his beloved, as being sovereignly to be loved.
Now this rapture of love happens in the will thus. God touches it with the attractions of his sweetness, and then, as the needle touched by the loadstone turns and moves towards the pole, forgetful of its insensible condition, so the will touched with heavenly love moves forward and advances itself towards God, leaving all its earthly inclinations, and by this means enters into a rapture, not of knowledge, but of fruition; not of admiration but of affection; not of science but of experience; not of sight but of taste and relish. It is true, as I have already signified, the understanding enters sometimes into admiration, seeing the sacred delight which the will takes in her ecstasy, as the will often takes pleasure to perceive the understanding in admiration, so that these two faculties interchange their ravishments; the view of beauty making us love it, and the love thereof making us view it. Rarely is a man warmed by the sunbeams without being illuminated, or illuminated without being warmed. Love easily makes us admire, and admiration easily makes us love. Still the two ecstasies, of the understanding and of the will, are not so essential to one another that the one may not very often be without the other; for as philosophers have had more knowledge than love of the Creator, so good Christians often have more love than knowledge, and consequently exceeding knowledge is not always followed by exceeding love, as I have remarked elsewhere. Now if the ecstasy of admiration be alone, we are not made better by it, according to what he said of it who had been lifted up in ecstasy into the third heaven. If I should know, said he, all mysteries, and all knowledge, -- and have not charity, I am nothing; and therefore the evil spirit can put into an ecstasy, if we may so say, and ravish the understanding by proposing unto it wonders which hold it suspended and elevated above its natural forces, and further, by such lights he can give the will some kind of vain, soft, tender and imperfect love, by way of sensible complacency, satisfaction and consolation. But to give the true ecstasy of the will, whereby it is solely and powerfully joined unto the divine goodness, appertains only to that sovereign Spirit by whom the charity of God is spread abroad in our hearts.