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In man is a natural work, a work of grace and a godly work. In the first place—


There are three kinds of work in man, a natural work, and a work of grace, and a godlike work. The first man ought to make pure, the second worketh purely, the third is pure.


First, man hath a natural work in him in three fashions; the first is bodily, the second is sensuous, the third is spiritual.


The first natural work is the bodily, such as eating, and drinking, and sleeping; man should make all this pure, that he may not stray from God in it. And this is effected by three means. The first is that he should observe moderation and measure. And moderation consists in this, that is, neither too much nor too little. And man should thus take the necessity of the body, that he always remains 39in the middle or mean between excess and too little. And in this measure the work remaineth pure, and well regulated in God; but without this measure it is neither pure nor regulated. And if a poor man regulates all his works according to God, his works are pure. The other property that belongeth to a bodily work for it to remain pure, is that a man should take his necessity from truth and from the Holy Ghost; he should not help himself out with untruthfulness. What is this mendacious help? It is when a man asks for alms that be doth not need, and addresses himself to people and exaggerates his necessity; this is mendaciously seeking help and is unworthy; and a man must drop this if he wisheth his work to be pure. He must take his necessity from the Holy Ghost; that is, he must not be prompted by his own will, because people do not give him anything from natural charity, or for his service, or for his speeches, but the Holy Ghost alone must be the mover of the gifts that are bestowed on him, and in this fashion the work remaineth pure. Thirdly, it also belongeth to a pure bodily work, that what a man eateth or drinketh, he should consume in the Holy Ghost. For the heart of man ought to burn in the love of the Holy Ghost, and the strength which man hath taken from his meal, the Holy Ghost draweth to Himself and burneth it in the fire of charity, and maketh it altogether spiritual; and thus instead of the bodily force, man becometh a spiritual force, 40which surpasseth all bodily force. And these are genuinely spiritual men, and their eating is dearer to God than the fasting of other people, and those who eat so, eat God Himself. And that which they eat and drink, that consumeth God in them. A comparison. As with the sun, which shining hotly draweth the damp on the earth’s surface to itself, and maketh the earth dry, so is it also here; when the Divine Sun shineth in a pure heart, it draweth to itself all that is in the heart, and maketh the heart at the same time light and dry, which, thus escaping from man, exceedeth all force, yea, far more than if he had worked in a mine. And whoso strengtheneth this man, strengtheneth the work of God, in which God is well pleased, and in which God cleareth up all things in time. And if God did no longer work this work on earth, all that is in time would pass away. And this is a specially pure work, which, however, belongs quite essentially to a poor man.


The second natural work is sensuous, such as seeing, hearing, and the other five senses, which man ought also to hold in such wise that he remains always pure. He should hold them always under the restraint of modesty, and only grant them the essentially necessary. For if the senses stretch forth beyond necessity, man becomes distracted, and can scarcely remain as pure as when his senses were gathered into one; for true purity is in unity 41and not in the manifold. When man is thus distracted, he wishes to see and hear all things, which cannot consist with purity. Man ought also to curb his senses, because the forces hang on one another. And when one works, the others are hindered and hampered. Thus, if while he is seeing and hearing outwardly, his internal sight and hearing should be led astray, that is an injury. Wherefore a man should only take his mere necessity from his senses and nothing beyond it, in which case he abideth pure, and he can always use them to the honour of God, and not for the pleasure and lust of the body. For God will demand an account of our five senses, and therefore we ought to direct them usefully.


The third natural work is spiritual; such as to know, to love, and to think. And this ought a man also to use merely according to necessity; but how is this to be? Man has. doubtless, from nature the power of knowing, and this forms a distinction between him and other animals. But he ought to turn this natural knowing to God and to godlike things, and draw off from things which are not necessary. For if he turneth it to another thing that is not God or godlike, God remains unknown to him, and man goes astray. For if Lucifer had turned his natural understanding to God when he turned it on himself he would not have fallen; but, as he 42turned it to himself he must needs have fallen, for by mere force of nature he could not subsist. The case is still similar if a man turneth his reason and his understanding on himself and on other things that are not God; for in this case he must fall, even were he of as noble a nature as Lucifer. He must fall and he could not subsist; for by mere nature no one can subsist. But if he turneth his natural understanding in the light of faith to God, and to divine things, and if he liveth thus, then God changeth his natural understanding into a divine understanding, and confirms him in it so that he may not fall. This is brought to pass in the angels, who dwell with Him, whom God strengtheneth in such wise that they can no more fall. For, at the same instant that they turn their understanding from themselves to God, God begets in them His divine nature,4545   On this teaching compare St. Thomas, 1. p. qu. 62. a. 5. and this draweth them at once out of themselves into God and confirms them. The same thing occurs with man. At the same instant that a man turneth his knowledge from himself into God he also becomes strengthened in Him. And this happened to the Apostles on the day of Pentecost; for whoso rightly knoweth God, he can never take pleasure in mortal sins. If Lucifer had rightly known God he might never have fallen. And in this way a man is no more possessed of a natural but of a godlike understanding. And what he then knoweth, that is from a divine light, and never from natural light.



A comparison from the sun. As soon as be ariseth, he changeth all other lights into his light, so that there is no other light. For his light being above all other lights, and for that reason, as soon as he ariseth, all lesser lights must go down and the sun shineth alone with his light. So is it also in a pure soul; when the Divine Sun ariseth in it all other lights change into the Divine Light, so that no other light remaineth but the godlike light; for God is a Light above all lights. When He therefore shineth with His light, it is right and necessary that all other lights should set, whether they be natural or of grace; but not on that account does it follow that the natural light is destroyed. Nevertheless, though it burneth still and is not as a thing that doth not exist, it is, however, changed into a divine light and transfigured and glorified, just as when the sun ariseth, the moon’s light is changed into the sun’s light and is glorified and magnified. So is it also here. St. Augustine saith, “God is never a destroyer of nature, but He ordereth it and maketh it perfect.”4646   This is the scholastic doctrine: Deus non destruit naturam, sed perficit eam.


Several deny natural knowledge and several attribute it. And it must be both denied and attributed. It is to be denied, for though man’s knowledge can run through all knowledge and distinction, and that man has a 44true distinction of all truth in himself, yet he must leave all distinction and carry himself inward with one and into one, and in this one he ought to abide. And he ought to contemplate this one with a simple and single sight. And then all natural knowledge should depart; for natural knowledge consists in images and forms, and man can never know God through images, but he must know Him without them, so that the spirit must be unclothed of all images; for a teacher saith, “Whoso wisheth to know God, he must be unclothed of all creaturely art.”4747   Eckhart, 513. 12. says: Whoso wisheth to know God as He is, must be empty or naked (bloss) of all art (Swer Got kennen wil als er ist, der muoz bloz sin von aller kunst.) And knowledge seeketh that which is unclothed, namely, the naked truth; and it is never satisfied in no natural fashion till it cometh in complete nakedness to see God and know Him without any medium. And when it cometh into nudity then all natural marks and signs fall away, and the soul becometh unoccupied, and sitteth and resteth in pure tranquillity; and then hath the spirit come to its true origin whence it flowed. And in this manner is natural knowledge to be denied, and this is necessary, that a man become empty of his natural knowledge if he wish to have genuine poverty. And in nakedness and poverty his knowledge is glorified with divine clarity, so that nothing remaineth to him of the knowledge that belongeth to him only naturally. And thus man knows all truth when he knoweth what is good or hurtful to him, and this man can no longer be deceived by any false 45light for he is removed from all falsity, and therefore falsity can no more have place in him. Wherefore Christ saith, To you shall be given the spirit of truth, which shall lead you into all truth.4848   John xvi. 13.


But natural knowledge must also be attributed to man, that is, when a man stands in doubt, and he is yet exposed to error in distinguishing the truth, he must then seek distinctions in himself and out of himself. For man can never live to the truth unless he has known it first. Hence if knowledge is wanting to a man life is also wanting. For a true life springeth from a pure knowledge. And as a man needeth distinctions and seeketh them not, this is to live like the beasts and not like a human being. For man desireth by nature to learn much, and therefore is he a man because he comprehendeth the truth, and what fails in him that ought he to seek. And in this sense natural knowledge is not to be denied but attributed to him. For natural knowledge, if he be willing, leadeth a man into the knowledge of grace, and knowledge of grace leadeth him to divine knowledge. And in this way a man cometh to perfection.


Perhaps some one will ask. What difference is there between natural knowledge and the 46knowledge of grace? Mark this. Natural knowledge seeketh distinction in created things, whether spiritual or bodily, and man by nature desireth to know all created things, and the distinction that he perceives in them is given to him by his natural knowledge. And to know begets in him great pleasure; and he abides in the pleasure, and the pleasure driveth him on to know more and more. And if a man remains on the ground of natural knowledge so that he cometh not to the knowledge of grace or to divine knowledge, he turns his knowledge on himself, and holds it as his property, and cometh not to a true and genuine self-denial. For mere nature bends itself back on itself, and seeketh her pleasure and delight.


The question might occur, How can a natural man be recognised, whose knowledge is merely natural? Among other things he is to be recognised by three features. First, by his wishing to be always the most distinguished in speech and honours; he wishes also to have most of the talk, for he thinketh that no one can do it so well as himself. Secondly, he wishes always to have the right of a question, and holds that his words are the truest; and if people attempt o dispute his words, he becometh wroth, and grasps at any support of his own opinion, and will not listen to the opinion of any one else. Thirdly, he thinks 47right and proper all that people credit him with, for he thinks himself worthy of all things, and he considers a man to be devoid of reason and sense who finds anything more entitled to praise in another person than in himself.


And in this way natural knowledge is hurtful if it abideth in self, and doth not come to true denial of self and all things. But man, who is by nature discreet, if he cometh to a true denial of self and of all things, to him his natural understanding is no injury but useful, for he cometh more easily to Divine truth than a man who is coarse and stupid by nature. For that which the stupid man seizes with much labour, and must seek from far, the intelligent man obtains in himself without much labour. For a well-regulated nature, if it have a good will, is a great help toward God; but if it have a perverse will and keeps to itself it falleth much sooner than a stupid nature. And this happened with Lucifer, who was of the noblest by nature, but because he kept to himself he was the first to fall. And this happeneth yet; and therefore is poverty very noble and useful, for the man standeth alone in poverty and in denial of himself and of all things.

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