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Holy Wisdom Or Directions For The Prayer Of Contemplation by Ven. F. Augustine Baker

CHAPTER VIII. Of the fourth kind of general mortifications, vizà

§§ 1, 2, 3. Of the fourth kind of general mortifications, viz. tranquillity of mind.

§§ 4, 5. It may be in the superior soul during the time that there is disquiet in the sensitive.

§§ 6, 7, 8. How peace and tranquillity of soul may be procured.

§§ 9, 10, 11. Of a state of perfect peace; which is the end of a contemplative life.

1. The fourth general mortification is a constant peacefulness and tranquillity of mind, maintaining itself against all disquieting passions of grief, fear, despair, &c.; of which I shall in this place speak briefly, and only in a general manner, being shortly in the following section to treat largely of the chief enemy thereof, which is fear and scrupulosity, where I shall take notice of the special motives or instruments of procuring such peace of mind, and of restoring it when it is lost.

2. Without a reasonable proportion of such tranquillity obtained, a soul will be quite disabled from internal prayer. Therefore she is to use all care to preserve it, and when it is disturbed or lost she must endeavour as soon, and after the best manner she can, to regain it, till she be able to say, None shall take my peace from me;' and to use the words of the Psalmist (Anima mea in manibus meis semper), My soul is always in my hands and disposition, and not captivated by the corrupt passions of nature.'

3. The subject of this peace is the soul according to all its faculties, both knowing and affecting, and both in the superior and spiritual, as also in the inferior and sensitive portion; for not only the affections of the will and passions of sensuality, but also the reason and imagination, may be disturbed; and, therefore, a composedness and calmness is to be procured through all. But yet the ways and means hereto necessary are not the same; neither does it follow that when the inferior faculties are in disorder that the same disorder should be communicated to the superior also. It does not always lie in our power wholly to suppress the instability and obstinacy of the imagination, nor the unruliness of sensuality, which ofttimes do resist our superior reason. But we are always enabled by the ordinary grace of God to keep in repose our superior soul, that is, to hinder it from attending to the suggestions of imagination (which we may reject), or to deny consent or approbation to the motions of sensuality; and this at least it must be our great care to do.

4. Neither ought a well-minded soul to be discouraged or dejected at the contradiction that she finds in sensuality; but resisting it the best she can, she must be resigned and patient with herself, as she would be at the refractory humours of another, till that, by God's blessing, a longer exercise of prayer and mortification do produce a greater subjection of sensual nature to reason and grace. In the mean time she may comfort herself with this assurance, that all merit and demerit lies in the superior will, and not at all in sensuality considered in itself, and as divided from the will.

5. During the conflict between reason and sense, or appetite, there may be a real tranquillity in the superior region of the soul, although the person be not able to discern that there is any such quietness; yea, on the contrary, to fearful natures it will seem that whensoever the sensitive part is disturbed, the spiritual portion doth also partake of its disorders; and this uncertainty, mistake, and fear that a fault has been committed is the ground of much scrupulosity, and by means thereof, of great unquietness indeed, even in the superior soul, to persons that are not well instructed in the nature and subordination of the faculties and operations of the soul.

6. However, a well-minded soul may conclude that there is a calmness in the reason and in the will a refusal to consent to the suggestions of sensuality, even in the midst of the greatest disorders thereof, whilst the combat does not cease, and as long as the outward members, directed by reason and moved by the superior will, do behave themselves otherwise than the unruly appetite would move them. For example, when a person being moved to anger, though he find an unquiet representation in the imagination and a violent heat and motions about the heart, as likewise an aversion in sensitive nature against the person that hath given the provocation, yet, if notwithstanding he refrains himself from breaking forth into words of impatience to which his passion would urge him, and withal contradicts designs of revenge suggested by passion, such an one practising internal prayer and mortification is to esteem himself not to have consented to the motions of corrupt nature, although besides the inward motion of the appetite he could not hinder marks of his passion from appearing in his eyes and the colour of his countenance.

7. When we seek to retain such quietness in the midst of unquietness, we do it by exercising an act of mortification proper to the occasion. Every act whereof doth in some degree abate impetuous nature, disposing us for better and more quiet recollections, which will procure us a clearer light and more efficacious grace to resist sensuality afterwards. As, on the contrary, each act of immortification doth increase in us self-love (the cause and root of all unquietness), and causes a greater obscurity in the soul, indisposing it likewise to prayer.

8. To the end to procure an habitual peacefulness of mind, we must be careful not to do any of our actions (I mean even our actions of duty) with impetuousness and an inward hastiness, but with a composed calmness; for all acts of impetuosity and violence are so far but effects of self-love, and proceed not from the Divine Spirit, which is altogether stillness, serenity, and tranquillity. And let us not suspect that such a calm performance of our duty argues a tepidity and want of fervour. On the contrary, such actions so done are of more virtue and efficacious solidity; for the fervour that is indeed to be desired is not a hasty motion and heat in the inferior nature, but a firm and strong resolution in the will, courageously (yet without violence that is outwardly sensible) breaking through all difficulties and contradictions.

9. All the duties of mortification (and consequently the exercise of all virtues) may be reduced to custodia cordis, which is a wary guard of our heart, and it consists in not pouring forth our affections inordinately upon creatures, nor admitting into our souls any inordinate love: it is a chariness over our interior, to keep it in as much quietness as we can. In cases of suffering, it is patience; in occasions of fear and disquiet, it is the practice of resignation. It is in effect abstraction; for it requireth that we restrain ourselves from meddling with what doth not appertain unto us, and in what doth belong to us to do, it requireth a reservedness of our loves and affections for God, to whom they are only due; also, that in speaking, hearing, and seeing, &c., we be wary they carry no inordinate affections into our soul. It is in effect solitude; for, though we be in company, yet having such a guard and care over our passions and affections, we are as it were alone. It is a passing over all creatures with a farther tendence to God. It is the practice of love, obedience, humility, and resignation to God; for these virtues we exercise virtually when we reserve ourselves and our affections for God. It is a principal mean to overcome all temptations of what kind soever, for it permits not the temptation to make any entry into the soul, which is kept as the dwelling-place of God and His love. It requireth that we look not after superfluities of meat, drink, clothing, &c., and that we desire not superfluous knowledge of what belongs not to us, nor is necessary for us. It forbids all childish immortified complaints or expostulations, or anything wherein we merely satisfy the inclinations of our corrupt nature. It forbiddeth us to do anything impetuously or with inward anxiety. It is termed an interior silence or an interior peace or concord; and for the better knowledge and practice of it, regard the teaching of the little treatise of the Quiet of the Soul, written by Bonilla, of the Order of St. Francis.

10. True peace of mind, when it is in perfection, is the supreme state in an internal life, being a stability in one and the self-same tenor -- an immutability, indifference, and insensibility as to ourselves and to all creatures and events, by which the soul transcends all, living in God only, and not being concerned in any other thing besides. And the root of it is the perfection of Divine charity and the destruction of self-love; for as long as self-love is active in us it carries us to multiplicity, urging us to seek contentment in anything pleasing to nature and all her appetites, which being crossed or not fully satisfied are restless and unquiet. Whereas, Divine love alone reigning unites and concentrates all our thoughts and affections in one only object, which is God, carrying all other affections in that one stream; so that there being no diversity of designs there must necessarily follow perfect unity and peace. This is a state to which the soul aspires in a contemplative life; the gaining of which will deserve and abundantly recompense all the sufferings and tediousness that nature is likely to find in the way.

11. Yet even this state in the most perfect is not absolutely and entirely exempted from all trouble in inferior nature. But such trouble is small and scarce considerable; for notwithstanding it, the superior soul partakes nothing of it, but reigns in that upper region of light and peace, and from thence looks down upon sensuality, either as a thing divided from itself, in whose imperfections and disorders she is nothing concerned, being as it were safe locked up from them in a strong tower, or else she suppresses all such motions in their first breaking out, in virtue of that dominion which, by long practice, she hath gained over them. In such a state of perfect peace (yet without the least contradiction of sensual nature) Adam lived during his innocency. And how far any other mere man hath, or may attain thereto in this life, is not for me to determine.

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