“Now consider diligently how we can acquire and possess the most inward exercise of our spirit in the created light. The man who is well adorned with the most virtues of the outward life, and has risen into nobility and divine peace by inward practices, he possesses the unity of the spirit, enlightened by supernatural wisdom, flowing fourth in generous love toward heaven and earth and lifting itself up by its reverence and its merits, and flowing back into that very ground, the most high Unity of God, from which all things proceed. For each creature, according to whether it has received more or less from God, has more or less of ascending love and inward tendency towards its origin, for God and all His gifts invite us into Him, and through charity and the virtues and resemblance, was designed to enter into Him.
“Through this loving inclination of God, and His inward working to the unity of our spirit, and further through our glowing love and the pressing of all our powers together into the very unity in which God dwells.” ~John of Ruysbroeck
Well Adorned With Virtue
While most people will interpret “virtues” as meaning social things, I think it is spiritual virtues that are meant here. Social virtues like being polite, kind, helpful and so on are all good things. We should all have a virtuous social life. But a virtuous spiritual life is something different.
Spiritual virtue can be summarized in a few words: but the soul first. In other words, when life forces you to choose what is good for the material world, the physical body, the mind, or the soul, the soul should be priority number one. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take care of the body and mind. You should. But you should always be thinking when you do, “Is this harmful to my spirit and soul”. If the answer is yes, then you should avoid doing those things, if possible. I know that we can’t always do what we want in all circumstances. That doesn’t mean we should just forget the soul and give in to materialism.
Unity of Spirit
Ruysbroeck says that unity of spirit brings us divine peace, enlightenment, and divine wisdom. This is all true. It doesn’t happen overnight, however. And it doesn’t happen all at once. We have to be persistent and patient, and gradually the changes will happen. It is very much worth the time and effort.
Unity of spirit means we are one complete being. Our physical, mental, psychic, and spiritual parts are working together as a whole. Our left hand will know what the right hand is doing. More importantly, the body will know what is good for the soul. So will the mind. But unity of spirit goes beyond that. It also means we are united with other spirits. We are united on a spiritual level with other living people. We are also united with purely spiritual beings like angels. And we are even united with the plants and animals, for they have spirits as well. We are part of spiritual oneness. It even means that we are one with God and the spiritual universe.
Inward and Outward
One thing that so many spiritual students of today miss is made clear in the quote. I put the word “and” in bold print just to emphasize it. So many spiritual students today say that spirituality is all about turning within and totally ignoring everything without. On the other hand, many popular churches of today have become all about what is the outer world and completely ignore the inner. In the quote, Ruysbroeck makes it clear that the successful student develops both.
It is fairly obvious why dealing with the outer world only isn’t the best path. That is the way of the materialist. It is the path of modern science that can only half explain things because they ignore anything spiritual.
It is not so obvious why turning within, and only within, isn’t the solution. Let’s start with what often happens in countries where a large percent of the population starts doing this. Their governments will almost always take advantage of the situation and essentially enslave the population. The people don’t care about their rights or the rights of others, so they are taken away, or limited. They don’t care to get involved in politics, so their governments become corrupt. Or their governments also lose interest and let their enemies overrun them. They ignore international affairs and become (or remain) third-world powers. Now you might say that materialistic, outward-looking governments and nations can be like that also. That is true. Both inward and outward is the key.
Inner and Outer Energy
Another reason is energy. I see on social media group a lot of individuals asking others to send them energy when they are ill or depresses, or otherwise feel they need energy. That alone is looking outside yourself for energy, but only in a small way. The truth is that the absolute best source of energy for us on Earth is the sun. Physical energy from the physical sun, spiritual energy from the spiritual sun. We don’t need to beg others to give us energy. The sun shares it’s energy at all times. That is its job. Why turn elsewhere? But you won’t find much energy by turning within. The energy comes from without. Then it has to be channeled and directed from within. As above, so below; as within, so without. Unity of spirit also means uniting the inner with the outer, and the outer with the inner.