Saint Catherine of Genoa: Spiritual Dialogue
Part I, Chapter XV
Humanity complains that the Spirit does not keep its promises and the Spirit defends itself against this charge. - Of the perils of spiritual delights under the semblance of good, and how they are more dangerous than bodily pleasures, which are evidently contrary to the Spirit. - Of the threats of the Spirit against its Humanity.
When Humanity found how hateful to the Spirit was that food upon which it fed and hoped always to feed, it was greatly dissatisfied and turned again to address her. It seemed to the body that there was no just cause why nourishment should be refused it, and especially now that it had become spiritual, for the Spirit had promised that the time would come when it too should be satisfied with the things that were according to the spirit; but, finding the contrary to be the case, and that the Spirit had no desire even for spiritual food and unwilling to regale the body with it, Humanity spoke as follows:
Humanity. You do not keep your promises, Spirit, and it will be impossible for me to persevere in such austerity without some nourishment, either natural or spiritual.
Spirit. You complain, and, as you think, with reason: I will, therefore, explain myself. You have misunderstood me. I did, indeed, promise that in the end you should be contented with what contents me, but you are looking for what will fatten, and not for what will satisfy; and not for what will satisfy; and because I am not pleased with this sensible delight, nay, even abhor it, I would have you abhor it also. You still have natural cravings for this pleasure, and you think I ought to gratify them; know that I wish to deaden and to regulate them that they may desire only in accordance with my pleasure: it is plain that you are unfirm, and I shall treat you as a sick person should be treated. What you desire would injure your health; and since you affirm that spiritual delights are given by God and cannot do harm, know that your intellect partakes also of sensuality and therefore you are not a good judge; my desire is to devote myself to love, pure and simple, which attaches itself to nothing which can excite either a natural or a spiritual sentiment or feeling, and I declare to you that I dread far more an attachment to a spiritual than to a natural delight.
This is because the spiritual recaptures man under the pretext of being a good, and it is impossible without great difficulty to make him understand that it is not one; thus he continues to nourish himself on that which weans him from God. But in good truth I tell you that these hinges must of necessity be shunned by him who wishes to enjoy God as simply and purely as may be, for they are like venom to the pure love of God; and spiritual pleasure must be fled from as from the devil himself; because wherever it fastens itself it produces incurable infirmities which man does not perceive; but, believing that he is well, sees not that he is hindered from perfect good, that is, God himself, pure, simple, separated from all things human.
But natural gratifications, being evidently contrary to the spirit, cannot be disguised under the appearance of good, and I do not fear them as much. The contentment and the peace that will give you are that which will satisfy me, and which, I am certain, will also satisfy you; but it is impossible that you should yet attain it, being still far too impure.
I wish first to cleanse the house and then to adorn and fill it with good things, which will satisfy us both but nourish neither. And because you say that you cannot endure this, know that I must compel you to endure it; what cannot be done in one year can be done in ten. I am not sorry to combat with you, being willing to subdue you by any means; I wish to free myself from this constant goading at my heels, for otherwise it will never be well with me. You are gall and poison in every viand that I attempt to taste, and until I have destroyed you I shall never be at peace, for you seem bent upon doing your worst. I too shall do what is possible to free myself quickly from you; yet the worst that I can do to you will but redound to your benefit and advantage. I warn you not to get angry with me, for you can never obtain your desire and purpose in that way, but rather the contrary; console yourself with patience unmixed with hope. Conform for the present to my will - hereafter I may do yours.