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The Adornment of the Spiritual Marriage

by John of Ruysbroeck

Jan van Ruys­broeck — three of whose most impor­tant works are here for the first time pre­sent­ed to Eng­lish read­ers — is the great­est of the Flem­ish mys­tics, and must take high rank in any list of Chris­t­ian con­tem­pla­tives and saints. He was born in 1273, at the lit­tle vil­lage of Ruys­broeck or Ruus­broeck between Brus­sels and Hal, from which he takes his name; and spent his whole life with­in his native province of Bra­bant. At eleven years old, he is said to have run away from home and found his way to Brus­sels; where he was received by his uncle Jan Hinck­aert, a canon of the Cathe­dral of St Gud­ule. Hinck­aert, who was a man of great piety, lived with anoth­er devout priest named Fran­cis van Couden­berg in the most aus­tere fash­ion; entire­ly devot­ed to prayer and good works.

The Adorn­ment of the Spir­i­tu­al Mar­riage was writ­ten some time around 1350, not long after Jan van Ruys­broeck moved to a small her­mitage out in the coun­try, where he wan­dered the woods and wrote as the Holy Ghost inspired him. Accord­ing to Jan — who was named a saint in 1908 — the devel­op­ment of the soul has three stages: Active, Inte­ri­or, Super­essen­tial. The Active life is that which men are most accus­tomed to: the life of the mate­r­i­al world. The Inte­ri­or life is the life of the spir­it that is touched by reli­gious con­tem­pla­tion. And the Super­essen­tial life is that which lies beyond descrip­tion and is man’s exis­tence in enlight­en­ment. Writ­ten for Chris­tians and spir­i­tu­al seek­ers, The Adorn­ment of the Spir­i­tu­al Mar­riage is a guide for devel­op­ing a deeply spir­i­tu­al life. 


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