Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Wisdom from...

WALTER HILTON (ca. d. 24 March, 1396): True Lovers of God

Love opens the eyes of the soul to the vision of God, and confirms it in the joyous love that springs from that vision. It comforts a man so much that he has no anxieties and is quite indifferent to what people say or do against him. The greatest harm that could come to him would be to forgo the vision of God, and he would suffer any injury rather than that.

When a true lover of God suffers at the hands of his fellow men, he is strengthened through the grace of the Holy Spirit and is made so truly humble and patient and peaceable that, whatever wrong or injury he suffers, he always retains his humility. He does not despise his persecutors or speak ill of them, but prays for them with pity and compassion more tenderly than for those who never harmed him. And he does indeed love them more, and more fervently desires their salvation, because he sees that he will have such great spiritual gain from their evil deed, even though they never intended that he should. But this kind of love and humility, which are beyond human nature, are only brought about by the Holy Spirit in those whom he makes true lovers of God.
(The Scale of Perfection, Book 2, 38.)

Hilton was an Augustinian canon and outstanding mystic at Thurgarton, near Newark, in Nottinghamshire, and left a legacy of writings, especially The Scale of Perfection (Scala Perfectionis), first printed by Wynkyn de Worde in 1494.

ST. AUGUSTINE: Christ Our Way

Jesus said: "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life." He meant: It is by me that you come; it is to me that you come; and it is in me that you remain. How do you wish to go? I am the Way. Where do you wish to go? I am the Truth. Where do you wish to remain? I am the Life. Christ as God is the homeland where we are going. Christ as Man is the Way we must travel.
-- Christian Doctrine 1, 34

Prayer. O Lord, my God, you alone do I love; you alone do I follow; you alone do I seek. You alone am I prepared to serve.
-- Soliloquies 1, 15


[1] There are some persons to whom the inquiry seeking to demonstrate that God exists may perhaps appear superfluous. These are the persons [e.g., St. Anselm of Canterbury] who assert that the existence of God is self-evident, in such wise that its contrary cannot be entertained in the mind. It thus appears that the existence of God cannot be demonstrated, as may be seen from the following arguments.

[2] Those propositions are said to be self-evident that are known immediately upon the knowledge of their terms. Thus, as soon as you know the nature of a whole and the nature of a part, you know immediately that every whole is greater than its part. The proposition God exists is of this sort. For by the name God we understand that than which a greater cannot be thought [id quo nihil maius cogitari possit]. This notion is formed in the intellect by one who hears and understands the name God. As a result, God must exist already at least in the intellect. But He cannot exist solely in the intellect, since that which exists both in the intellect and in reality is greater than that which exists in the intellect alone. Now, as the very definition of the name points out, nothing can be greater than God. Consequently, the proposition that God exists is self-evident, as being evident from the very meaning of the name God.

[3] Again, it is possible to think that something exists whose non-existence cannot be thought. Clearly, such a being is greater than the being whose non-existence can be thought. Consequently, if God Himself could be thought not to be, then something greater than God could be thought. This, however, is contrary to the definition of the name God. Hence, the proposition that God exists is self-evident.

[4] Furthermore, those propositions ought to be the most evident in which the same thing is predicated of itself, for example, man is man, or whose predicates are included in the definition of their subjects, for example, Man is an animal. Now, in God, as will be shown in a later chapter, it is pre-eminently the case that His being is His essence, so that to the question what is He [quid est]? and to the question is He [est]? the answer is one and the same. ...

[5] What is naturally known is known through itself, for we do not come to such propositions through an effort of inquiry. But the proposition that God exists is naturally known since, as will be shown later on, the desire of man naturally tends towards God as towards the ultimate end. The proposition that God exists is, therefore, self-evident.

[6] There is also the consideration that that through which all the rest are known ought itself to be self-evident. Now, God is of this sort. For just as the light of the sun is the principle of all visible perception, so the divine light is the principle of all intelligible knowledge; since the divine light is that in which intelligible illumination is found first and in its highest degree. That God exists, therefore, must be self-evident.

[7] These, then, and others like them are the arguments by which some think that the proposition God exists is so self-evident that its contrary cannot be entertained by the mind.
(SCG, I, x)


At the beginning of each month, ask for divine inspiration and put yourself in the presence of God. Imagine yourself to be a poor servant sent by God into this world as into His own house. Indeed, it is He who put us here, and so we should approach Him with humility. He had no need of you, but He put you here to exercise His liberality and His goodness toward you, and to give you His paradise. To enable you to obtain what He has planned for you, He has given you an intellect to know Him, a memory to keep Him in mind, and will and a heart to love Him and your neighbor, an imagination to have a picture of Him and His gifts, and all your feelings to serve Him and glorify Him.
(Letters O. XXVI, pp. 170-171)


IF a modern philanthropist came to Dotheboys Hall I fear he would not employ the simple, sacred and truly Christian solution of beating Mr. Squeers with a stick. I fancy he would petition the Government to appoint a Royal Commission to inquire into Mr. Squeers. I think he would every now and then write letters to the newspapers reminding people that, in spite of all appearances to the contrary, there was a Royal Commission to inquire into Mr. Squeers. I agree that he might even go the length of calling a crowded meeting in St. James's Hall on the subject of the best policy with regard to Mr. Squeers. At this meeting some very heated and daring speakers might even go the length of alluding sternly to Mr. Squeers. Occasionally even hoarse voices from the back of the hall might ask (in vain) what was going to be done with Mr. Squeers. The Royal Commission would report about three years afterwards and would say that many things had happened which were certainly most regrettable, that Mr. Squeers was the victim of a bad system that Mrs. Squeers was also the victim of a bad system; but that the man who sold Squeers' cane had really acted with great indiscretion and ought to be spoken to kindly. Something like this would be what, after four years, the Royal Commission would have said; but it would not matter in the least what the Royal Commission had said, for by that time the philanthropists would be off on a new tack and the world would have forgotten about Dotheboys Hall and everything connected with it. By that time the philanthropists would be petitioning Parliament for another Royal Commission; perhaps a Royal Commission to inquire into whether Mr. Mantalini was extravagant with his wife's money; perhaps a commission to inquire into whether Mr. Vincent Crummles kept the Infant Phenomenon short by means of gin.
(Introduction to 'Nicholas Nickleby.')


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