“The soul, whenever it attends to itself—withdraws itself, so to speak, from the Divine Synthesis, dwells in itself, and beholds instead of being—feels again the ‘eternal unrest of love’; the whip of the Heavenly Charioteer, driving all spirits in towards the heart of God, where they are ‘one fire with Him.’ This stirring that mediates between ourselves and God, we can never pass beyond; and what the stirring is in its essence, and what love is in itself, we can never know. But when it dwells beyond itself, and in the supreme moments of ecstasy merges its consciousness in the Universal Consciousness, it transcends succession and centers itself in the Divine Selfhood—the ‘still, glorious, and absolute Oneness.’ Then it feels not hunger, but satisfaction. … And in this savoring we are swallowed up, above reason and beyond reason, in the deep quiet of the Godhead. ~John of Ruysbroeck
The first part of the quote is confusing. I think what John is saying is that the soul that has become “withdrawn” cannot know God and His eternal love, but only see it from a distance. By “withdrawn” I think he means the dormant state that the soul is in when we are born on the physical plane of existence. Sadly, the majority of people never bother to awaken the soul and get it out of that withdraw state. That include many who are in popular churches that teach nothing of personal spiritual growth.
This is a curious allegory for Ruysbroeck to use. If you do a search on heavenly charioteer, you will find it is usually a symbol of a sun god that carries the sun across the sky. But John is giving it a very different meaning. Here, he is saying that this charioteer is that power that drives all spirits and souls back towards God. That may not be a different definition of Heavenly Charioteer. It may be that sun god that pushes (or pulls) one towards God. It may be that this Heavenly Charioteer is the Light of the spiritul sun that awakens and activates the sleeping soul which then wishes to return to God. It is possible that Ruysbroeck knew about the spiritual sun and the power of it’s Light.
One Fire with Him
Another intriguing metaphor by Ruysbroeck. Most say that when we reach that stage of spiritual development we become one with God, or we become part of the all consciousness. To say that we are part of “one fire with God” creates interesting images in our head.
For starters, we don’t generally think of this Oneness as being a very active thing. The image of a burning fire of consciousness tells a different story. Fire means movement, energy, action. Yet this “fire” is not like physical fire. It doesn’t consume anything, nor is it consumed. Yet it powers all of existence. The Godhead is the great mind that hold all the consciousness of the universe. It is also the source of the power that creates all that exists in the spiritual universe.
Supreme Moments of Ecstasy
There should be no doubt that spiritual awakening is difficult. It can be a sad and lonely path when we find that friends and relatives don’t want to join us in the quest. It can be disheartening when we don’t progress as fast as we would like. And we must never forget that dark forces and beings are fighting against us. It is only because of those supreme moments of ecstasy that we find the strength to continue. Ultimately, when we achieve complete Oneness and cosmic consciousness, that ecstasy becomes permanent. That is what the heavenly charioteer is pushing us towards. We should thank him profusely for doing so.