Falling From the Heights

Father Benson cautions: “Since every advance in spiritual life has its corresponding dangers—since every step that we rise nearer to God increases the depth of the gulf into which we may fall—a soul that has reached the stage of the Illuminative Way which we have called Ordinary Contemplation (and which is, in fact, the point at which the State of Union is reached) has an enormous increase of responsibility. The supreme danger is that of Individualism, by which the soul that has climbed up from ordinary pride reaches the zone in which genuine spiritual pride is encountered, and, with spiritual pride, every other form of pride—such as intellectual or emotional pride—which belong to the interior state.”

“For there is something extraordinarily intoxicating and elevating in the attaining of a point where the soul can say with truth, ‘Thou lightest my lamp, Lord’ (Ps 18:28). It is bound, in fact, to end in pride unless she can finish the quotation and add, ‘O my God, enlighten my darkness!'”

“Every heresy and every sect that has ever rent the unity of the Body of Christ has taken its rise primarily in the illuminated soul of this or that chosen Friend of Christ. Practically all the really great heresiarchs have enjoyed a high degree of interior knowledge, or they could have led none of Christ’s simple friends astray. What is absolutely needed, then, if illumination is not to end in disunion and destruction, is that, coupled with this increase of interior spiritual life, there should go with it an increase of devotion and submission to the exterior Voice with which God speaks in His Church: for, notoriously, nothing is so difficult to discern as the difference between the inspirations of the Holy Ghost and the aspirations or imaginations of self.”

Quotations from Robert Hugh Benson, The Friendship of Christ (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1912).

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