That Our Labour Must Be with the Understanding and Not with the Senses

Blessed is he who, by continually cleansing his soul from the images and phantoms of earth, draws its powers inward, and thence lifts them up to God.

At length he in a manner forgets all images, and by a simple and direct act of pure intellect and will contemplates God, Who is absolutely simple.

Cast away, therefore, all phantoms, images, and forms, and whatsoever is not God, that all your intercourse with Him may proceed from an understanding, affection, and will, alike purified. This is, in truth, the end of all your labours, that you may draw nigh unto God and repose in Him within your soul, solely by your understanding and by a fervent love, free from entanglement or earthly image.

Not by his bodily organs or outward senses does a man attain to this, but by the intelligence and will, which constitute him man. So long as he lingers, trifling with the objects of the imagination and senses, he has not yet passed beyond the limits and instincts of his animal nature, which he possesses in common with the brute beasts. They know and feel through images and by their senses, nor can it be otherwise, for they have no higher powers. Not so is it with man, who, by his intelligence, affections, and will, is created in the image and likeness of God. Hence it is by these powers that he ought, without intermediary, purely and directly to commune with God, be united to Him, and cleave to Him.

The Devil does his very utmost to hinder us from this exercise, for he beholds in it a beginning and a foretaste of eternal life, and he is envious of man. Therefore he strives, now by one temptation or passion, now by another, to turn away our thoughts from God.

At one time he assails us by arousing in us unnecessary anxiety, foolish cares or troubles, or by drawing us to irregular conversations and vain curiosity. At another he ensnares us by subtle books, by the words of others, by rumours and novelties. Then, again, he has recourse to trials, contradictions, etc.

Although these things may sometimes seem but very trifling faults, if faults at all, yet do they greatly hinder our progress in this holy exercise. Therefore, whether great or small, they must be resisted and driven from us as evil and harmful, though they may seem useful and even necessary. It is of great importance that what we have heard, or seen, or done, or said, should not leave their traces or fill our imagination.

Neither before nor after, nor at the time, should we foster these memories or allow their images to be formed. For when the mind is free from these thoughts, we are not hindered in our prayer, in meditation, or the psalmody, or in any other of our spiritual exercises, nor do these distractions return to trouble us.

Then should you readily and trustfully commit yourself and all that concerns you to the unfailing and most sure Providence of God, in silence and peace. He Himself will fight for you, and will grant you a liberty and consolation better, nobler, and sweeter than would be possible if you gave yourself up day and night to your fancies, to vain and wandering thoughts, which hold captive the mind, as they toss it here and there, wearying soul and body, and wasting uselessly alike your time and strength.

Accept all things, whatsoever their cause, silently and with a tranquil mind, as coming to you from the fatherly hand of Divine Providence.

Free yourself, therefore, from all the impressions of earthly things, in so far as your state and profession require, so that with a purified mind and sincere affection you may cleave to Him to Whom you have so often and so entirely vowed yourself.

Let nothing remain which could come between your soul and God, that so you may be able to pass surely and directly from the wounds of the Sacred Humanity to the brightness of the Divinity.

- text taken from On Union with God, by Saint Albert the Great, translated by a Benedictine of Princethorpe Priory; it has the Imprimatur of Edmund Surmont, Vicar General, Westminster, 7 December 1911