“The enlightened man shall also mark and behold the attributes of the Father in the Godhead: how He is omnipotent Power and Might, Creator, Mover, Preserver, Beginning and End, the Origin and Being of all creatures. This the rill of grace shows to the enlightened reason in its radiance. It also shows the attributes of the Eternal Word: abysmal Wisdom and Truth, … Eternal and unchangeable Rule,Seeing all things and seeing Through all things, none of which is hidden from Him. … So it also shows in the enlightened reason the attributes of the Holy Ghost: incomprehensible Love and Generosity, Compassion and Mercy, infinite Faithfulness and Benevolence, … a flame of fire which burns all things together in unity. … All this is observed and beheld without differentiation or division in the simple nature of the Godhead.” ~John of Ruysbroeck
Trying to explain enlightenment to a materialistic person is like trying to explain atomic energy to a caveman who has just discovered fire. Yet the materialists will ask and then think enlightenment doesn’t exist if you can’t give a simple answer in ten words or less.
Even those of us who have been spiritual students for ears only have a vague concept of it. It is something that can be known only by those who have experienced it. Ruysbroeck may be one who did experience it and is trying his best to explain it. Because of the limitations of language designed to explain the material world, he cannot totally succeed. But he does give us a good idea of what it is.
He starts by telling us that the attributes of the Father are showed to us through the “rill of grace” in its radiance. An apparent mix of metaphors that doesn’t seem to make sense. The “rill of grace” means a river or stream of grace. Yet we don’t think of radiance coming form a river. But if he is talking about a flowing, moving, river of Light, then the metaphors do make sense.
So think of grace as a moving river of Light bringing Enlighten Reason to those who bath in it’s flow (to add a metaphor of my own). This river of Light flows from God, through the spiritual sun, to us. At least to those of us who choose to receive it.
The enlightened reason if carries to us is filled with wisdom and truth. Not truth like tomorrow’s winning lottery numbers, but eternal truth, universal truth. Not wisdom for a day, but the wisdom of the ages.
Ruysbroeck’s tale has a slightly different triad in it. Rather than Father, son, and Holy Ghost; or Father, Mother, and Child; he give it as Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost. I think Father, Mother, and Child is the best way to state the holy trinity, but Ruysbroeck’s version is fine. Ruysbroeck can be given credit for having the many positive attributes of the Godhead appropriately distributed among his version of the trinity.
Flame of Unity
Our matter-oriented minds create some strange visions when we think of Ruysbroeck saying a flame of fire burns all together in unity. You tend to see everything melting into a big puddle. But that isn’t what it means. It is a spiritual fire, not a physical one. This is very much the same as that river of Light that is grace mentioned earlier. It doesn’t melt us into one big mass. Instead it enlightens us. Part of that enlightenment is becoming aware that we are all connected, and therefore all one.
This connection always exists, we are simply not aware of it. So the sun doesn’t have to melt us together. It just has to awaken our spirits and souls. Enlightened Reason knows we are all one and are all part of the Godhead. But don’t let your ego tell you that you are God simply because you are a tiny part of the Godhead. That is like one brick claiming to be the Great Wall of China.
While Ruysbroeck writes of a Divine trinity, he finishes it off by telling us that there really is no division in the Godhead. It is all one and we break it down as a matter of convenience to help us understand. Just as a scientist will study each individual part of a newly discovered life form to get an understanding of the whole being, we look at aspects of God as if they are separate beings. But they are not different beings. There is only one God, only one Godhead. And that one God is the source of enlightened reason.