Editor's note:

Wal­ter Hilton was a pio­neer of the spir­i­tu­al life. He was the first man to write a book of mys­ti­cism in the Eng­lish lan­guage. He believed every Chris­t­ian was called to over­come the sin­ful, ingrained habits of human bro­ken­ness. As he saw it, this would come through ascetic prac­tice (Spir­i­tu­al Dis­ci­plines) and con­tem­pla­tion of God. In his spir­i­tu­al clas­sic, The Scale of Per­fec­tion, he gen­tly walks a young anchoress through the stages of for­ma­tion in the image of God. The third phase of con­tem­pla­tion (excerpt­ed below) is what we all long for. Enjoy and be strength­ened by his vision of becom­ing like Christ.

—Jonathan Bailey

The third part of con­tem­pla­tion, which is as per­fect as can be here, lies both in cog­ni­tion and in affec­tion: that is to say, in the know­ing and per­fect lov­ing of God. That is when a person’s soul is cleansed from all sins and reformed in the image of Jesus by com­plete­ness of virtues, and after­ward he is vis­it­ed and tak­en up from all earth­ly and flesh­ly affec­tions, from vain thoughts and imag­i­na­tions of all bod­i­ly things, and is forcibly rav­ished out of the bod­i­ly sens­es; and then is illu­mi­nat­ed by the grace of the Holy Spir­it to see intel­lec­tu­al­ly the truth, which is God, and also spir­i­tu­al things, with a soft, sweet burn­ing love for him — so per­fect­ly that by the rap­ture of this love the soul is for the time unit­ed and con­formed to the image of the Trin­i­ty. The begin­ning of this con­tem­pla­tion may be felt in this life, but the full­ness of it is kept in bliss of heav­en. St. Paul says this of such union and con­form­ing: Qui adharete Deo, unus spir­i­tus est cum illo. That is to say, if any­one is fas­tened to God by the rap­ture of love, then God and the soul are not two, but both are one — not in flesh, but in one spir­it — and cer­tain­ly in this union that mar­riage is made between God and the soul which shall nev­er be broken.

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