Jesu-Maria is a well-known invocation. Here the Virgin Mary, long recognized as the pre-eminent human model, is distinctively yet indistinguishably joined to the Model of which the Universe is the Image: Jesus Christ, God and man. And so, by reciting this invocation, are not we too incited to enter into and be conformed to this world of divine and human models? But how is this possible? Since we are human, we begin with the human side, with Maria. To become fully human we must first become virgin, so as to give birth to Christ in ourselves (through the unique will of the Father).1 While, with Jesu, we reach our ‘end’, just as we took our beginning with Maria, an end that is both Parousia (Christ’s return in glory) and Pleroma (fullness of time and fulfillment of persons, the gathering together of the universe in Christ). Two steps.

Now, implied in the utterance of these names, and as if the shadow of their glory, the marks of which Christ bears in His body and Mary in her soul (Luke 2:35), is the Cross and the two steps contained in its symbolism. Once this Cross symbolism becomes ritually alive, beyond any sensible or signed cross, there is to be understood the sense or idea of a conjunction between two different orders, such as the creating Ray and the plane of existence and, implicitly, its metaphysical archetype: the reciprocal implication of absolute Transcendence and total Immanence.2 Here, we clearly sense that if Transcendence ‘in-breathes’ us with its Verticality, one still must first be centered and ‘become’ this point3 where Immanence reveals itself. Then, why not call such an In-breathing the second step of a complete Cure? The following meditation, which associates the Jesu-Maria invocation with the symbolism of the Cross, does not claim to be something new. How could it be, seeing that Father Bouyer or Cardinal de Lubac, as recent examples, have never claimed to discover anything new? A contrario, once anyone draws near this great mystery revealed by Christ born from the Virgin Mary, even if it were universally known beyond the confines of Christianity thanks to “the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world” (John 1:9), it is simply impossible not to share it again and again, and always.

First Step: Becoming Virgin or Centering Oneself in the Horizontality of Amplitude

Nichts werden ist Gott werden:
Nichts wird, was zuvor ist; wirst du nicht vor zu nicht,
So wirst du nimmermehr geborn vom ew’gen Licht.
(Becoming Nil, this is becoming God: Nil becomes what already was; if you are not Nil to start with, Never will you be born from the eternal Light.)

Angelus Silesius, The Cherubinic Wanderer Book VI, 130

This ‘centering in the horizontality of amplitude’refers to Sufi terminology, to which we will return in when touching upon this Two Step Cure in the language of other religions. However, before anything else, it is the symbolism of the Cross that can open us to this ‘becoming Virgin’, that is to say: the following of the route indicated by the Virgin Mary.

The Cross of the Spiritual Life

The Cross is, of course, not only a cosmological symbol (creating Ray and plane of existence) but also a theological one (the vertical identity of Christ-Word-Son, ascending the Vertical to the right hand of the Father and descending it to Hades where, precisely, “He descended”) as well as a metaphysical symbol (Transcendence and Immanence). Thenceforth, the Cross could not but symbolize man’s spiritual life: renouncement of world and oneself (horizontal axis), then deification (vertical axis). But the spiritual life might be even better defined by four, not exactly sequential phases: metanoia, catharsis, apatheia and theosis, in correspondence to the four branches of the Cross4:

  • Metanoia is conversion, the turnaround, the new orientation of the soul, the ‘U-turn’ back up the inferior vertical cross branch;
  • Catharsis is, negatively, purification, mortification of passions and desire. The soul, now orientated, purifies itself from all obstacles in accomplishing divine Life. This is one of the horizontal branches of the Cross (or the negative centering of renunciation);
  • Apatheia is, positively this time, appeasement, pacification, contentment. The soul, freed from ego and passions, is centered in a state of purity, virginity, perfect passivity. It is prepared to receive the Fiat Lux, the illuminating and transformating Word who wants to incarnate in it. This is the mystery of Incarnation and Transubstantiation: ‘This is my body’. Here is the other horizontal branch of the cross (or the positive centering of perfect Availability);
  • Theosis then is divinisation or deification. The soul, entirely naked, is no more itself for it is trans-formed into God (‘trans-formed’ = beyond form).

The Virgin’s Availability and the Father’s Will

Catharsis and Apatheia (purification and appeasement) characterize the spiritual work that cannot be accomplished without God’s grace. Mostly, they clearly indicate the double quality of the Virgin Mary, which we should simply try to achieve: her absolute purity as Immaculate Conception (“Que soy era Immaculada Counceptiou5) and her peace in perfect availability (“Be it done to me according to your word”, Luke 1:38).

Thus we see that purification rather relates to desires that need to be transcended and pacified, and to one’s own will which needs to be annihilated, for it opposes the Father’s will. Man’s self-will is made possible by the freedom received from God but, if wrongly oriented, it causes his fall, his original sin. This is why, when fallen man wants to conform to the Father’s will (“be it accomplished on Earth as in Heaven”), it needs to be clarified which modality of his will is involved. Drawing on the anonymous Frankfurt knight’s Theologia Germanica, Jean Borella has selected and commented upon some relevant points6:

We should not see this ‘willing to be united with God’ as an expression of willpower, but as the negative will to reject all that separates us from God. Now, what separates the creature from its creating Principle is self-will, that is to say the will that the creature has to will itself in its separativity, its autonomy, its isolation and egoity…. For man is a free creature, his free will can only separate him from God, and even God himself cannot do anything against the one who rejects him. And who rejects him if not the one who wills himself egoically?… If created being makes itself nought and totally empty of itself, uncreated Being cannot but invest it entirely.

Of course, such a human will unified with God’s is to be found in most saints—if not all—as brought out by St. John of the Cross in his Ascent of Carmel Mount:

A man makes room for God by wiping away all the smudges and smears of creatures, by uniting his will perfectly to God’s; for to love is to labor to divest and deprive oneself for God of all that is not God. When this is done the soul will be illumined by and transformed in God. And God will so communicate His supernatural being to it that it will appear to be God Himself and will possess all that God Himself has.7

In fact, this equivalence between one’s will unified with God’s and the dispossession of all what is not Him, as indicated by St. John of the Cross, is also to be found in Meister Eckhart. In this instance, it is even, and above all, a matter of emptying oneself of any knowledge, for, in such an encounter, it is God who knows Himself:

Therefore we declare that a man should be as free from his own knowledge as he was when he was not. That man should let God work as He will, and himself stand idle.8

Then, one can discover that the Blessed Virgin Mary herself offers the model of availability apt to give birth to the Word. Here, in view of a ‘dying to oneself’, Jean Borella expresses this necessary virginity in terms of materia prima:9

Dying to oneself, in the substantial context of Existence, this is, in a first step, to die to all determinations of this substance; this also is to carry out the supreme renunciation and to reduce oneself to the pure potentiality of materia prima. And this materia is considered a model of the Virgin; this is the creature in a pure state, the creature totally reduced to itself, in its virginity, a pure creation, beneath which only the nought is left.10

Father Stéphane has a good explanation for how this Virgin mystery is to be realized in ourselves. Not believing, knowing, or doing, but being are of concern here, for ‘snow is white, it does not accomplish acts of whiteness’:

To realize in oneself ‘the mystery of the Virgin’ means, then, to negate all that is not purity, beauty, goodness, poverty which are the principial qualities of the Virgin in her primordial indifferentiation or in her Immaculate Conception.

The Holy Spirit acts in a soul only if it ‘participates’ in ‘sunstantial’ qualities: purity, humility, beauty, goodness… qualities that might be designated by a single word: plasticity, analogous to the ‘submissiveness’ or ‘mobility’ of water which conforms to the shape of the vase that contains it. All these qualities serve to characterize a ‘state’, something that needs to be ontologically or existentially realized, and which surpasses—while including it—the moral point of view. In other words, the point is not to accomplish acts of charity, humility, purity, or beauty, but to be charity, humility, purity, beauty. Snow is white, it does not accomplish acts of whiteness.11

Becoming Virgin and Giving Birth to Christ

Lastly and above all, to become Virgin is the unique way to give birth to Christ, as stressed by François Chenique:

The soul must first realize the virginal perfections, which are like the dimensions of humility: purity, goodness, and beauty. There is then as if a ‘transubstantiation’ of the individual soul into the universal substance from which it was separated by the Fall, followed by a ‘transformation’ (etymologically, passing beyond form) through the realisation of the Christic virtues. Only the deifying grace of the Holy Spirit can make this happen, as He makes substance fruitful and causes it to give birth to the Son of God; then the Father recognizes in the soul the image of His Son and pronounces the words of adoption [“This is my beloved Son”, Matt. 3:17].12

To give birth to Christ, this is to do the Father’s only Will, as Father Stéphane reminds us. And this is why there is never but an only Son, as Meister Eckhart explains:

Now, the Father has no other Will than to engender the Unique Son, within Trinity, on one hand, and in Virgin Mary by the Holy Spirit operation, on the other hand. Consequently Christian soul has nothing else to do than to existentially effectuate the marial state so as the Father engenders in her his own Son”13.

And this is why there are more sons born of virgins than of wives. Virgins give birth beyond time in eternity. However many sons the soul bears in eternity, there is still no more than one Son, because it happens beyond time in the day of eternity.14

The Virgin, the Metaphysical Journey Toward the Depths of World

What remains to be asked is what does the Virgin represent metaphysically in our world, and under which title could she represent this route to Christ? Jean Borella,15 delving into this notion of materia prima, ends by associating the Virgin, a figure of the Holy Spirit, with cosmic Charity and the cosmic Matrix.

  • Materia prima is what remains when every form, all in-formation, is withdrawn; while the other principial pole of universal manifestation is the form of forms, that is to say the Logos himself, the superabundant plenitude of divine possibility facing the poverty of materia. This materia prima is pure, universal, un-informed substance. Pure and absolutely undistinguished potentiality, this universal substance is thus the only principle that can properly be called unintelligible, for there is indeed nothing to be known in it. And the relative (manifested) substances, as they participate in the potentiality of universal substance, are unintelligible in a corresponding measure.

This universal substance, from sub-stare, is literally ‘that which stays beneath’ (like sup-port or sub-stratum); and it is situated not only beneath the world but beneath any and all worlds, or all states comprised within universal manifestation. This substance receives in itself all created forms, but itself has no form whatsoever and always remains virgin with respect to all its determinations. As it indefatigably gives itself out to any form it receives, it can be envisaged as cosmic charity: ‘the charity that supports all’ (St. Paul), the cosmic receptacle, the very receptivity of creation.

Cosmic charity also because, through it, God creates the world; through it, through its inconceivable otherness that defines it, God projects the pure forms into this other than Himself. It is the very substance of cosmic love, testifying by its mysterious nature that God consents to something other than Himself.

  • Corresponding to God consenting to project possibilities into this ‘beneath’ of pure Being that is Materia Prima is the divine Word, who consents to assume a human form within the Virgin Mary. In other words, the uncreated Word, this hypostatic Synthesis of every possible creature becomes flesh in Maria.

This Work, accomplished in Mary, is even more prodigious than the Creation of the world, for, through Christ’s grace, it is the entire Creation that is renewed in its principial splendor.

If Genesis presents materia prima under the symbol of water, ‘it is because it is apt, like water, to be informed by all forms’16 and, just as in the Beginning, the Holy Spirit brooded over the primordial Waters of universal manifestation to produce creatures, so Maria (meaning ‘waters’ in Latin) is overshadowed by the Paraclet for the Word to be conceived in her.

And so we have the symbolic equivalencies between Maria, Mater, Materia and Matrix, for only a virgin creature can be the Mother of the Uncreated, only the perfect vacuum can contain total Plenitude.

The Virgin, the Metaphysical Journey to the Divine Essence

But this is not all. Still following Jean Borella,(paraphrased) the Immaculate Conception, is revealed moreover, within the divine order, as superessential All-Possibility, as hypostatic Maternity, and as more than luminous Darkness:

  • First of all, the Infinity of Possibility that is God Himself, as He knows Himself as archetype of all that is possibile, can be defined as the Conception that God has of Himself. God conceives Himself and the fruit of this Conception is the infinity of possibilities. Precisely because these possibilities are absolutely infinite, unlimited, and undetermined, this divine Conception is immaculate.

Next, a creature preserved since the origin from original sin, this is the creature in its entire purity, perfectly conforming to its archetype in divinis. And this Immaculate Conception of Mary is also the Immaculate Conception that God has of Mary.

Lastly, Mary did not say that her conception was immaculate but: “I am the Immaculate Conception” (“Que soy era Immaculada Counceptiou”). She is thus not one immaculate conception among others but the Immaculate Conception itself. If Mary is a creature, she then becomes a creature apart. If all creatures have in God an uncreated being (their archetype), the uncreated archetype of Mary is the Divine Essence as it conceives any and all archetypes.

As such, she is the human figure, the visible symbol of universal Possibility, of the All-Possibility, the infinite Fecundity of the Infinite, with which she is mysteriously identified.

  • In our Catholic tradition, the Word is the Concept, the fruit of the engendering of the Son by the Father, by the mode of knowledge (cf. St. Augustine). If the Father is the Conceptor and the Son the Concept, the Holy Spirit is the Conception itself: the unitary space through which and in which the Divine Essence as Father can engender himself as Son.

The Holy Spirit is Love and Gift (his proper names according to St. Thomas Aquinas17), the Love and hypostatic Gift in which Father and Son are one; he is the hypostatic Charity that reveals the Father to the Son and the Son to the Father; he is the passive spiration, support of the Father and Son’s active spiration of love; he is the Divine Essence as it gives itself and is loved; he does not engender but delivers (‘gives birth to’) the Son from the Father. It is in the Person of the Holy Spirit that is effected the unifying bursting forth of the Trinity.

If the Father is the active source and the monarchic origin of the self-communication of the Divine Essence, the Holy Spirit, the charitable Hypostasis, is its passive condition through which generation and spiration are co-eternally in act.

This hypostatic maternity of Holy Spirit, this hypostatic and immaculate Conception is the Immaculate Conception.

And the Theotokos, the Immaculate Conception, is the image of Holy Spirit as hypostatic Maternity, a function of Whom she is. As such, she is a manifestation of Him for she is Mother of God insofar as her divine Prototype exercises His maternal function within the divine Trinity. In the historical and truly human Incarnation ex Maria Virgine, the Holy Spirit reveals Himself in Mary who receives from Him, for He possesses her from all eternity, the Relation of divine Maternity. “Filius incarnatus est: Jesus Christus; Spiritus Sanctus quasi-incarnatus est: Immaculata” [‘the Son’s incarnation is Jesus-Christ, the manifestation of the Holy Spirit is the Virgin”], St. Maximilian Kolbe said.

  • The Trinitarian deployment of the Deity, of the Divine Essence, is the Conception by which the divine Essence reveals Itself to Itself (following the Latin perspective). This internal matrix of the Divine Essence, this unfathomable Depth of Deity, the Ocean without shore of the absolute Substance, the more than luminous Darkness of the superessential Thearchy, is the immaculate Conception of the eternal deployment of Trinitarian relations.

This is the perfectly immaculate Conception, for the real distinction of each Hypostasis does not determine or limit the Deity which remains One, Unique, and Infinite in each of Them.

The marian correspondence is thus the symbolic identification of Mary with this Immaculate Conception, that is the very depths of the Trinitarian Essence.

Second Step: From Christ to the Father or the Center is the Trace of the Axis

For this reason the more he finds Mary his dear and inseparable spouse in a soul the more powerful and effective he becomes in producing Jesus Christ in that soul and that soul in Jesus Christ.

St. Louis-Marie Grignon de Montfort,
Treatise on True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin, § 20

If the Virgin Mary can guide us toward the center, the center of the World and of ourselves, this is because Christ is there. And the Gospel is not without indications of this coincidence of any and every center.

The Cross Shows the Center

The symbolism of the cross with its two intersecting branches teaches us about the symbolism of the center. As Jean Borella18 has observed, among symbols, there are two, which appear like the top and bottom limits of the semantic cascade through the ontological planes. One of the extremes is that ‘ultimate Reality’ beyond which there is nothing more to be symbolised; inversely, among this world’s conditions: form, life, quantified matter, time and space, space—which is minimally distinguished from nothingness—is the limit beyond which no symbol is possible. This is the point itself (the elementary spatial minimum, hardly distinguishable from nothingness, for it is only in moving out from it that we have the straight line, then the plane, and then the volume, despite the fact it is itself non-spatial), beyond which there is no more symbolizing.

Hence, such a point, as an ‘absent’ presence, represents the cause and source of the world and, insofar as it is everywhere (and the circumference nowhere), it represents at the same time the unique and universal center of the world.

The Center of the World is the Heart of Christ

Any center—represented by the point—is thus a non-spatial place. Accessing it is then a symbolic passage from the finite to the Infinite, a passage to the One. When this point marks the crossing of a plane by the vertical axis, there is then the double change of direction and dimension that indicates the jump from finite (the indefinite horizontality) to Infinite, from the manifested to the Transcendent. The fact that the Virgin Mary—herself pure already from the beginning—indicates the path is not enough to allow us to access it. It is our redemption that renders that Center accessible to us. On the one hand, the risen Christ shows us the Axis that brings us back to the immutable Center; while, on the other, only human nature restored by Christ and sanctified by Holy Spirit is able to be brought back to the Center, thanks to the loving centripetal force of the Holy Spirit. But such a reintegration will not be fully accomplished for collective humanity before the celestial Jerusalem shall descend from heaven to earth (Apocalypse 21), which will be the perfect consummation of Christianity, coinciding with the not less perfect restoration of the prelapsarian order. However, even now, reintegration may be envisaged for the individual when a way is found to that ‘spiritual habitatation’ in Christ’s heart, for, as the terrestrial Paradise, the Heart of Christ is truly the Center of the World and the Sojourn of Immortality.

The Kingdom of God is in the Human Heart

The Heart is the symbol of the Center; as residence of the Principle (metacosm), it unites macrocosm and microcosm, universe and man. Henceforth, God resides at the unique and eternal Center of World, and—at least virtually—at the center of every being, universally symbolised by its heart, triple seat of life, love and intelligence (the brain being only a mental instrument, the instrument of the reflective and discursive mode of thinking). The first Center may be called that of transcendence, the second that of immanence.

Centered in his true self, man can realize that ‘Great Peace’ or Pax profunda of the Rosicrucian tradition, or even that ‘Repose in God’ of Hesychasm (the Greek word hesychia means rest).19 This is why “the kingdom of God does not come with observation. Nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you” [Regnum Dei intra vos est]” (Luke, 17:20–21).

Once centered, having ‘given birth to Christ’, having become his brother, and his sister, and his mother (Luke 8:21), what happens to us? To clarify the meaning of this Axis whose point was the trace of this ascending (ascensional) Vertical that is Christ-Word-Son, it seems crucial to understand to what extent Jesus Christ is the Relation, every possible relation.

Christ is the Preeminent Relation

In his La charité profanée Jean Borella also shows how Christ is the preeminent Relation: God related to God (Father and Son), God related to world and world to God (Creation and Redemption), and our relationship to each other, for if “the neighbor is Christ; this is because Christ is the Neighbor”: 

Christ is the Prototype of Relation: insofar as Son, he is the Relation of God to God; insofar as Word, he is the Relation of the Uncreated to creation; insofar as Christ, he is the Relation of proximity: the preeminent Neighbor.

  • In the Trinity, the Son enables us to understand how a person can be a relation, just as Holy Spirit, the bond of Love between Father and Son, enables us to understand how a bond can be a person. In any case, the Son, insofar as he is this prototypical Relation (to the Father), is the metaphysical basis for the Relation of proximity.
  • For the Universe, the “through Him, all things were created” (Col. 1:16), does not refer to the Creator (who is the Father) but to the act of Creation (who is the Word). The Word is the One ‘through whom’ Creation is accomplished, the One who binds creation to Creator because He is the Bond from Cause to effects, the Relation in which all beings and all degrees of creation subsist, because in Him they are connected to and communicate with the Principle of being.
  • In the world, Christ is the preeminent Relation of proximity. To love one’s neighbor is to discover that a person is a relation of proximity. And it is most fitting that it is the Son who incarnates, for the Incarnation is essentially the work of mediation.

Through Christ, the mediator by essence, men enter into mutual relations of proximity, and into a relation of proximity with God. It is in Jesus Christ that we love God and also in Him that we become God’s neighbor, it is through the humanity of Christ-Word-Son that God can love all men. Again, the neighbor is Christ because Christ is the Neighbor. In the parable of the Good Samaritan, Christ is clearly the neighbor, because there is no neighbor besides Christ. He is the Relation of proximity; others are only neighbors by their anticipative sharing in the Christic Relation of proximity. Christ even directly declares that he is the Neighbor:

  • “He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me” (Matthew 10:40),
  • “Amen, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me” (Matthew 25:40).

‘You did it to Me’, and not to the Father or to the Spirit but indeed to the Son… It is the divine Neighbor, the divine Proximity, Who, so as to unfold his effects in the relative order, uses others and myself as created supports of Uncreated Proximity. Therefore, the end of the act of love is not others as such but others as neighbors, and the only neighbor is Christ. In other words, the neighbor is the matter of proximity and Christ is its eternal Form.”20

And now we are offered the chance—this is our Redemption—to ‘ascend’, in our union with Christ, this vertical of the Incarnation (Son-Word-Christ), and now we understand how the Incarnation (Christ) includes Creation (the Word) for ‘everything was made through Him’ (Son).

From Christ to the Father

The unity of the Mystical Body is the total Christ. The same Spirit who effects in God the perfect Unity of the three Persons in a single bond of Love, also effects a unity, similar but distinct, between God and humanity through the building up of this Unique Being that is called the Total Christ. “And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one as We are one: I in them, and You in Me” (John 17:22–23).

This is the scope and the whole meaning of the Body of Christ, who gathers to himself all things to present them to the Father as a living sacrifice [Host], holy, and agreeable to God (Romans 12:1), for all things were created in the Word (John 1:3). Each creature, as a vestige of his Beauty, manifests the creative All-Mightiness of God and his infinite Goodness. Man’s body, closely united to his soul, which with its deepest roots plunges into the physical, mineral, vegetal and animal worlds, will also participate, with the soul, in the mystery of the resurrection of the flesh in future glory, drawing along with it the material universe.21

And this is how these great Tidings resonate from the mouth of Christ himself (John 17:21–26):

That they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I in You; that they also may be one in Us… That they may be one just as We are one: I in them and You in Me… That the love with which You loved me may be in them, and I in them.

Following Ananda Coomaraswamy, this is also how we can speak about sacred marriage:

This is the basis of the interpretation of the return to God in terms of an erotic symbolism: ‘‘As one embraced by a darling bride knows naught of ‘I’ and ‘thou’, so the self embraced by the foreknowing Self knows naught of a ‘myself’ within or a ‘thyself’ without, because of ‘unity’. ‘Sacred marriage, consummated in the heart, adumbrates the most deepest of all mysteries. For this means both our death and beatific resurrection. The word to ‘marry’ (eko bhû, become one) also means to ‘die’, just as in Greek telew is to be perfected, to be married, or to die. When ‘Each is both’, no relation persists’

Hinduism and Buddhism, pp. 13-14

“From this perspective the Eucharist reappears as the Sacrament of Unity, or of the Union of Christ and the Church/Mystical Body… And so we grasp the essential identity between sacrificial Communion and sacred Marriage.”22

This is because, by assuming Christ, we become co-corporeal with him, as François Chenique points out:

The destiny of the Christian is Christon enduein, or ‘to put on Christ’: on one hand through baptismal initiation (“For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ”, Gal. 3:27), so that “buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4); on the other hand through the Eucharist: “For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread” (1 Cor. 10:17); and, of course, through the imitation of Christ’s life (Rom. 13 :14). Thus, becoming members of the Mystical Body, the Christian is rendered, for eternity, sussomos concorporalis: co-corporeal with Christ.

Sagesse chrétienne et mystique orientale (Paris : Dervy, 1996), p. 222.

Only in this way can we imagine how to ascend to heaven; and this is how the Gospel and first epistle of John, as well as the epistle to the Romans, speak of it:

For “no one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven” (John 3:13). And this analogically applies to all beings: we descend from heaven, and shall ascend back up to heaven, which our eternal archetype has never left.

“If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you” (Rom. 8:11).

“For I am persuaded because I have the assurance that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future ones, nor potencies, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus Our Lord” (Rom. 8:38–39).

“Eternal Life is that they know you, you the only true God, and his Son Jesus Christ” (John 17:3). “And we know that when He shall appear, we will be alike Him because we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2).

And so, “not everyone who says to me: ‘Lord, Lord’, shall enter in the Kingdom of God, but the one who does the will of my Father in Heaven” (the Sermon on the Mount, Matt. 7:21). “If you remain in me, and if my words remain in you, you shall ask what you want, and this shall be granted” (John 15:7); “you shall ask in my name, and I am not telling you that I will pray the Father for you. For the Father Himself loves you, because you loved me” (John 16:26–27). This can only be understood in the light of Trinity. The Father is what he is only because He engenders the Son, and the Son is what He is only because He is engendered by the Father; this is the Divinity Itself who is together engendered by the Father and received by the Son. And the Father has no other Will than to engender the unique Son, and the unique Son has no other Will than to be engendered by the Father. So the Father knows nothing but the Son, and knows other beings only in or through the Son: “No one comes to the Father except through me… I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (John 14:6); however, quasi reciprocally: “No one can come to me, unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44)

With this perspective we can now perceive in what eternal Life consists: it is to know the Father, and no one “knows the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal him” (Matthew 11:27), but it also is to do Father’s will—“Thy Will be done”—, that is to say to engender the unique Son – “on earth as it is in the heaven.”

In just this way do we discover that Union in Christ is the Trinitarian Life Itself. Indeed, to do the Father’s Will is thus to engender the Son in oneself. The Holy Spirit, who, in divinis through the passive Spiration, reveals the Son to the Father, similarly, enables the Son to be conceived in the creature. The creature, filled with the Holy Spirit, is transformed by Him into the Mother of God, and reveals to the Father his own filial reality through his state of creature. Then the creature enters into the passive Spiration, and, through it, into the Trinitarian Circumincession. Here is how St. John of the Cross and Meister Eckhart speak about it:

By his divine breath-like spiration, the Holy Spirit elevates the soul sublimely and informs her and makes her capable of breathing in God the same spiration of love that the Father breathes in the Son and the Son in the Father, which is the Holy Spirit Himself, Who in the Father and the Son breathes out to her in this transformation… And this kind of spiration of the Holy Spirit in the soul, by which God transforms her into Himself, is so sublime, delicate, and deep a delight that a mortal tongue finds it indescribable, nor can the human intellect, as such, in any way grasp it. Even that which comes to pass in the communication given in this temporal transformation is unspeakable, for the soul united and transformed in God breathes out in God to God the very divine spiration which God—she being transformed in Him—breathes out in Himself to her.

St. John of the Cross, Spiritual Canticle, 39 (Kavanaugh and Rodriguez translation, p. 558).

The Father of heaven gives you His eternal Word, and in that same Word He gives you at once His own life, His own being and His Godhead: for the Father and the Word are two Persons but one life and one being undivided. When the Father takes you into His light, that you may intellectually behold this light in this light in exactly the same way as He knows Himself and all things according to His paternal power in this Word—the same Word according to reason and truth, as I have said—then He gives you the power of begetting, with Himself, yourself and all things, and His own power which is the same as this Word. Then you too are, with the Father, and in the Father’s power, unceasingly bearing yourself and all things in the present now. In this light, as I have said, the Father knows no difference between you and Him and no precedence, any more or any less than between Him and His Word. For the Father and yourself and all things and the Word itself are one in this light.

Meister Eckhart, Sermon ‘Beatus venter qui te portavit’ (Walshe trans., vol. 2, pp. 289–290).

Accordingly, souls possess the same goods by participation as the Son possesses by nature. And so they are truly gods by participation, equals and companions of God.

St. John of the Cross, Spiritual Canticle, 39, p. 559.

Here we are led to discover that union in Christ takes us even beyond the Trinitarian Life, to the Divine Essence:

‘The last perfection of the human intellect is in its union with God, the principle of the human soul and of its illumination’ [St. Thomas Aquinas, Sum. Theol., I II, q. 3, a.7].  ‘For its per­fect beatitude, it is therefore necessary that the intellect attain to the very Essence of the First Cause; and so the intellect will have its perfection through its union with God, as with the only Object in which human beatitude consists’ [Sum. Theol., III, q. 3, a. 7 & 8]… ‘Grace makes us participate in divine nature, not such as we conceive of it… It assimilates to God, not by reason of intelligence or love, of life or of being, of esse subsistens, but by reason of Deity; it assimilates us to the divine nature, such as It is in itself, such as It subsists in its own mystery, beyond all of our limited concepts… The Divine Nature to which we are assimilated is that very one by which the Father and the Son are One’, says St. Thomas explicitly’ [In Joannem 17, lect. 5, 2]. Thus the grace that divinizes us assimilates us to the Divine Nature even in as much as divine, that is even in that which is known only by It alone… a grace opening us to Divine Nature, such as It is within itself in the bosom of the un­fathomable Trinity’(H.T. Conus, art. ‘Divinisation chez S.Thomas’, Dict. de Spiritualité). And It opens us, therefore, to the Absoluteness of God, beyond even the trinitarian Relations.

Jean Borella, La charité profanée, pp. 413–414 / Love and Truth: The Christian Path of Charity.

We have arrived now at the end of the journey. However, this end is a future only in a human and temporal perspective, because, in a certain way, everything happens in the heart of God, in timeless eternity, as Meister Eckhart would say.

The “Two Step Cure” in Other Religions

No equivalence will be sought here between Christian Revelation and other religions. Indeed, as indicated by Jean Borella,23 when it is the hypostasis of the Son who incarnates, this has nothing to do with a simple avatara (descent of God on Earth) which, in India for example, could be a rock or a wild boar.

On the other hand, why not let the formulations of other major world traditions—like Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam (Sufism in particular), Judaism or Taoism—resonate through our meditations on the Christian mysteries?24

Let us begin again with the symbolism of the cross and its central point to discover how these traditions talk about ‘centering through the horizontality of amplitude’ and about the ‘exaltation’ through the vertical at its center, leading to something similar to what we have called ‘the two step cure’.

Universal Symbolism of Cross

In point of fact the symbolism of the cross, because it already marks the non-spatial Point, is universal. Being universal, it is common to all traditions and prior to them. Therefore one can say that if Christ died on a cross, this is by virtue of the metaphysical symbolism of the Cross (Father Henri Stéphane.25

Although Guénon is by no means an authority in the matter of Christianity—far from it—, at least his work in restoring sacred symbolism is unimpeachable:

  • Considering the horizontal cross, that is to say a cross marked out on a horizontal plane symbolising any state or degree of Existence, the point it marks constitutes its non-spatial center and represents principial immutability. As such, it indicates the state of indifferentiation on the one hand and the state of perfect equilibrium on the other, states (logically and ontologically) prior to any manifestation. As a principial indifferentiation, this center of the cross can be identified, for example, with the æther, the principle of the four elements, which alchemy thus calls quinta essentia (quintessence) and, as equilibrium, can symbolize synthesis, reconciliation of opposites and resolution of oppositions. In this sense, the Cross marks El-maqamul-ilahi: the ‘divine station’ of Islamic esotericism:  Al-maqamul illahi, huwa maqam ijtima ed-diddain (that which combines contrasts and antinomies) , or even, in the Chinese esotericism, the Ching-yung (Invariable Middle), the immobile center of the cosmic wheel which reflects the wei wu-wei (the non-acting Activity) of Heaven.
  • If we consider now the vertical Cross with a single transverse branch—essentially symbolising the axis of Heaven crossing the plane of the manifestation—, depending upon the tradition, the vertical and horizontal axis respectively represent: essence and substance; the ‘non-acting’ Activity of Heaven and the ‘Passivity’ of Earth (Taoism); purusha and prakriti (Samkhya); Holy Spirit and the surface of the Waters (the so-called religions of the Book); the aleph and tau of the Hebraic particle eth, Metatron and Avir, the Throne and the divine Presence, in the Hebraic Kabbalah;26 the two first letters of the Arab alphabet, the vertical alif equivalent to ‘one’ and the horizontal ba equivalent to ‘two’, where alif, the qutbaniyah (polar) letter, symbolizes by its even form, el-amr, the divine Order (or min amri’Llah, the divine Commandment: the affirmation of pure Being and the initial formulation of supreme Will), while the ba represents the feminine word Er-Rûh, the Spirit as the total Spirit of universal Existence.
  • The six-branched (six-dimensional) cross indicates in particular the totality of space while revealing the point: one, central, non-spatial but the principle of space. This spatial totality then symbolizes the totality of being and can be qualified.

To characterize this cross of being we can use the framework of the three guna of the Samkhya. These three guna, or qualities of being, are tamas (inertia and its correspondances: obscurity, cowardice, the color black, fall, etc.), rajas (dynamism, energy, activity, the color red, expansion, centrifugal dispersion), and sattva (equilibrium, serenity, luminous state, the color white, ascension…), the later even literally signifying: ‘conformity to being’. Note that these tendencies apply to the macrocosm as well as the microcosm. Now applied to the cross, tamas is the perpendicular half that descends from the center and distances itself from the Principle towards (what would be) nothingness; rajas is the horizontal expansion, the domain of having, of the quantitative (including accumulation of wealth as well as erudition, virtuosity as well as sports activity); and sattva is the vertical elevation from this center, abundance of being, the accession to superiors states of being.

Also, notice how rajas is the reversal of tamas into sattva. For example, in the order of a simple moral progress, a rajasic act shall be the antidote to some tamasic tendency (such as an heroic action accomplished by an habitual coward) and, more generally, rajasic behavior is to be recommended to tamasic persons, sattvic behavior to rajasic persons. On a spiritual plane, to deny Transcendence is tamasic and to position the Cause or the End on the horizontal axis of world development, to confuse the Above and the Onward, is rajasic.

Note: One can compare this rotation from tamas to sattva through rajas, to the passage from metanoia to theosis through catharsis and apatheia (cf. supra: The Cross of the spiritual life).

In Sufism, these three tendencies are al-’umq: the depth, al-’urd: the amplitudeand at-tul: the height. Thence, in the sourat al-fatihah (‘the one that opens’), which is the introduction to The Koran, one can read:

[…] Lead us on the right route, the route of those in whom is Your grace, not of those who undergo Your ire, nor of those who roam.

While speaking about these three tendencies, the Prophet drew a cross: as-sirat al-mustaqim, the right route, is the ascending vertical; divine ire acts in opposite direction; the dispersion of those who roam, the Ed-dallin, is in the horizontal.27

Universal Symbolism of Center and Heart

The heart, as we said, is the symbol of the Center that unites, as the residence of the Principle (metacosm), macrocosm and microcosm. Hence, in the Sufi tradition, one says: al-kawnu insanun kabirun wa-l-insanu kawnun saghir (the universe is a great man, and man a small universe), in such way that a coincidence of centers marks the unique center of ed-dairah el-awwaliyah (the primary circumference). In the Hebraic Kabbalah, the Shekhina as divine Presence dwells (shakan) at the same time in the tabernacle, for that reason called mishkan, and in the heart of the faithful:

The human being is the principal ‘point of intersection’ of the Sephirothic rays in the midst of the cosmos; through him, divine riches are revealed in all their spiritual radiance, and by the explicit symbolism of thought, word, forms and corporeal gestures. Of all beings, man alone—in his perfect state—is the one being whom God causes to participate fully in his infinite knowledge; and through man’s intermediary God brings everything back himself.

Leo Schaya, The Universal Meaning of the Kabbalah, p. 70.

It goes similarly with as-Sakinah from the Islamic esotericism: the Great Peace that Allah makes descend into the hearts of the faithful: Huwa alladhi anzala al-sakinata fi qulub al-mu’minin.

This central Sakinah resembles the Taoist ‘Peace in Emptiness’ that, writes Lieh Tzu, ‘‘is an indefinable state; it is neither taken nor given; one comes to be established therein.”28 In Chinese tradition, the center of each state is properly the Ching-yung (the Invariable Middle), the unique point where the union of celestial and terrestrial influences operates and from where, by passing through the vertical axis, a communication with other states of existence is possible. With regard to the central state, where the Emperor resided, this was called Chung Kuo (the Middle Kingdom), as is China as a whole, which preserved this designation. This progressive concentricity (empire, central state, Invariable Middle) leads to the central point of the Emperor’s residence, which occupies the place of the chen jen (the ‘true man’) and the mediator between Heaven and Earth.29

This very same idea is to be found in ancient Ireland’s Kingdom of Mide (or Middle Kingdom) or in ancient Egypt which was called Kemia and associated with the heart, making it the Heart of world.

The Hebraic Kabbalah presents a similar example of concentration by successive degrees: the Tabernacle of the Holiness of Jehovah, the dwelling-place of the Shekinah, is the Holy of Holies which is the heart of the Temple; this in turn is the center of Zion (Jerusalem), just as holy Zion is the center of the Land of Israel, the Holy Land, and as the Land of Israel is the center of the world.

In India, the Sojourn of Brahma is the æther in the heart of the human being:

This Atma  (the divine Spirit), which resides in the heart, is smaller than a rice grain, smaller than a grain of barley, smaller than a mustard seed, smaller that a grain of millet; this Atma, which resides in the heart, is larger than the earth, larger than the atmosphere, larger than the heavens, larger than all the worlds together.

Chandogya Upanishad 3, Prapathaka 14, Khanda, shruti 3; quoted by Guénon in Symbols of Sacred Science, p. 428.

And, in Christianity, we cannot help but see the connection the last quoted passage has with this one, common to Matthew, Mark and Luke, as pointed out by Guénon:

The Kingdom of Heaven alike a mustard seed that a man takes and sows in his field; this seed is the smallest of all seeds, but, when grown up, it is greater than all other vegetables, and it becomes a tree, so that the birds of the sky come and rest on its branches.

Matthew 13:31–32, Mark 4:30–32, Luke 13:18–19; Symbols of Sacred Science, p. 428–429.

Centering on the Horizon of Amplitude

This Center being identified, what remains is to arrive there. With the Sufi tradition, which distinguishes ‘amplitude’ and ‘exaltation’, if the exaltation expresses this prospective (or possible) assumption by the vertical Axis—as a second step—, amplitude clearly characterises the indefinite expansion through human and mundane horizontality, evidence of a need to ‘localize’ its Center.

The Center is beyond any viewpoint and, in this respect, beyond ordinary man. In Buddhism, emptiness is not a particular viewpoint but the absence of any viewpoint. This is the Invariable Middle of Confucianism, the non-act of Taoism, the immobile Mover of Aristotle, in Guénon’s words “the void [the unmanifest] which unites the spokes and makes them into a wheel.”30 The Taoist sage stays quiet in the center of the cosmic wheel and even “the collapse of the universe would cause him no emotion.”31

The man who centers himself on the horizon of Amplitude corresponds then to the chen jen, the ‘true man’ of Taoism, once he has realized the integrality of the human state. This center is El-maqamul-ilahi, the divine station of Sufism, and he who centers himself in it is el-insan el-qadim, the ‘primordial man’. “From the Center, one sees everything: put yourself in the Center and you will see everything all together, what is now and will be, here and in Heaven” (Angelus Silesius, The Cherubimic Wanderer L. II, 183).

There is no other sense to the ‘know yourself’ inscribed above Apollo door in Delphi and common to Pythagoras, Socrates, Plato and Lao Tzu (“Knowing others is wisdom. Knowing the self is enlightenment,” Tao Te Ching, 33), and, as René Guénon underscores,32 its complement is formulated in the Hadith: man arafa nafsahu arafa rabbahu, whoever knows himself knows his Lord. Because then, without passing through one’s door, one knows the Universe; without looking through the window, one sees the Tao of Heaven. The more one goes out and recedes from oneself, the less one acquires the knowledge of self. “Hence the Holy Man arrives without traveling; names without looking; accomplishes without action” (Tao Te Ching, 47).

At this level of consciousness, detachment towards all manifested things is immediate. In particular, indifference toward the fruits of action begins here, through which the being escapes from the indefinite entrapment due to consequences arising from actions. Such a being goes from sakamakarman, action motivated by desire and accomplished in view of resulting benefits, to niskamakarman, action without desire (Bhagavad Gita). “He acquires independence from the one who, liberated from all contingent things, has reached the knowledge of the immutable truth” (Chuang Tzu, ch. 5).

This El-faqru (poverty) of Sufism, this state of balya (childhood) from Hinduism and this accomplished vacuity of Buddhism allows one to receive the Reign of God: “Whoever won’t receive the Reign of God like a child, won’t enter it” (Luke 18:17). This is the “Narrow Door” of Evangelic symbolism (Matthew 7:13–14), inaccessible to the rich as they are rich with the multiplicity and are chained up to it. This multiplicity is the fruit of the Tree of Science of good and evil: the dual and distinctive knowledge of the contingent, which prevents one from reaching the fruit of the Tree of Life.

This Narrow Door of the Gospels, accessed through relinquishment, corresponds to the extinction of the self: the reduction of the distinct self down to its reabsorption in the unique Point, in the central Emptiness of the cosmic Wheel. It is the El-fana (extinction) of Sufism, the nirvana (extinction) or the nivritti (return) of Hinduism: the dissolution of the individual and ephemeral self; the sopadhisesa-nirvana of Hinayana Buddhism: the state of arhat, of being liberated from the passions; or, further, the realization of sunyata (emptiness), awakening (skt. bodhi, jap. satori) in Mahayana Buddhism and Zen : the appeasement of multiplicity (Madhyamika) and cessation of all differentiation (Yogacara).

The being is then beyond multiplicity; it escapes the Flow of Forms (Taoism), the alternating states of life and death (Hinduism), the condensation and dissipation (alchemy), generation and corruption (Aristotle). It enters the state of repose (Tao Te Ching, 16), the Peace in Emptiness (Lieh Tzu, 1), Es-Sakinah (Sufism): the Great Peace; and the truth and the freedom (Christianity), ‘for you will then know the truth and the truth will liberate you’ (John 8:32).

We will come back, of course, to this centering, this necessary total abandoning of one’s own will. Total, because “if ordinary man can say he does God’s will, metaphysically such a man is not submitted (muslim): because as long as man has something toward which his will is directed—and even if his will is to fulfill God’s beloved will—such a man has not the poverty we speak of.” Therefore, Rumi’s master, Shams al-Tabrizi (13th century)—and even if fasting is one of the five fundamental obligations of Islam (cf. Koran 2, 179)—, could say:

‘People fasting’ (avamm) consists in refraining from eating and drinking, ‘elite fasting’ (khavass) is to refrain from harming by means of one’s feet, hands, etc., lastly, ‘the elite of the elite’s fasting’ is to refrain from anything that is not God.

Feridun bin Ahmed-i Sipehsalar, Mevlana ve Etrafindakiler

Then there is St. Paul and Meister Eckhart:

Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10).

An empty spirit can do everything. What is an empty spirit? An empty spirit is one that is confused by nothing, attached to nothing, has not attached its best to any fixed way of acting, and has no concern in anything for its own gain, for it is all sunk deep down into God’s dearest will and has forsaken its own.

‘Counsels on Discernment’, 2, in Meister Eckhart, The Essential Sermons, Commentaries, Treatises and Defense, trans. E. Colledge and B. McGinn (New York: Paulist Press, 1981), p. 248.

And this is why, following St. Paul and Meister Eckhart, Simone Weil could write:

The only way into truth is through one’s own annihilation… ‘I may lose at any moment, through the play of circumstances over which I have no control, anything whatsoever that I possess, including all those things that are so intimately mine that I consider them as being myself. There is nothing that I might not lose.’ … To be aware of this in the depths of one’s soul is to experience non-being. It is the state of extreme and total humiliation which is also the condition for passing over into truth. It is a death of the soul. …

Only by the supernatural working of grace can a soul pass through its own annihilation to the where alone it can get the sort of attention which can attend to truth… The name this… attention is love.

‘Human Personality’ in The Simone Weil Reader, ed. George A. Panichas (New York : David McKay Company, 1977), pp. 331–333.

Exaltation Through the Vertical Axis

The chenn jen (the ‘true man’), who is named as such because he is centered, can be elevated by grace from this point, and along the vertical Axis, toward superior states. He is then the complete sum of all his possibilities; he becomes the cheun jen, the transcendent or divine Man, or the Man-God (Taoism). Participating in Earth and Sky, through the entire amplitude which separates them, including their informal states, the cheun-jen becomes Mediator. Having attained to the full development of all superior faculties, he helps Heaven and Earth in maintaining and transforming beings, as a “Third Power along with Heaven and Earth” (Chung-yung, XXII). This mediator in Taoism is called a bodhisattva in Buddhism.

In the Hindu tradition, the universal man is the Yogi whose spiritual state realizes, through knowledge, the supreme Identity. The Yogi, whose intellect is perfect, contemplates everything as it remains within himself; he knows all contingent things are nothing other than Atma and that outside Atma there is nothing; and thus he perceives that he himself is everything; he is without quality and without action, without volition, blissful, immutable, without form, eternally free and pure; he is like the æther, incorruptible, imperishable, unalterable. As Shankara writes, in his treatise Atma-Bodha:

He is Brahma, after whose possession there is nothing to possess; after whose enjoyment of beatitude there is no felicity which could be desired, and after whose obtainment of knowledge there is no knowledge that could be obtained.

In the Hebraic tradition, one distinguishes, like Leo Schaya,33 between the transcendent Man, the immanent Man and the primordial Man:

  • “Transcendent Man, adam ilaah—also called Adam kadmon (‘principial Man’)—is God in his essence and his ontological emanation’: ‘the sacred and supreme Man [who] governs everything and gives (spiritual and substantial) food and (eternal and transitory) life to all” (Zohar Terumah 144b).
  • The immanent Man, Metatron, is his spiritual manifestation: “The unique Saint, may-his-name-be-sanctified, has a Son (a Manifestation), whose Glory lights up the Universe from one extremity to the other; it is a huge and powerful tree, whose summit touches Heaven (the supreme Heaven: the  sephirotic Word, Source of all spiritual Light) and whose roots plunge into the sanctified Earth (Avir, the universal Æther, Cause of all substance)” (Zohar Mischpatim 105 a ).
  • The primordial Man, Adam harishon (First Man), is his manifestation together with his supra-formal (spirit), formal-subtle (soul) and formal-coarse (body), that is to say his cosmic Personification that identifies itself to the universal domain and – within its bosom– to the individual state.

In Christianity, of course, Christ is the Perfect Man: “the man who has realized all his human potentialities, and the supreme one: his non-duality with God…” (Dom Le Saux 2/4/1967).

Here one can appreciate the parallel between the teachings of India, of the Sufi Jalal al-Din Rumi, and of Meister Eckhart, on the Self, love, and the other, for, with a true love of the Self, the distinction between egoism and altruism loses all meaning. Charity is not charity!

This is the Self that the man who really loves, himself or others, loves in himself or in others; it is for love of the Self alone that everything is dear” (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, II, 4).

The one who loves sees the Self, the Lord, likewise in all beings, and all beings likewise in the lordly Self (Bhagavad Gita, VI, 29; XIII, 27).

What is love? You will know when you will be me (Rumi, Mathnawi, Bk., II, introduction).

If you love yourself, you love all men as yourself. As long as you love a single man less than yourself, you have never truly learnt to love yourself—unless you love all men as yourself, all men in one man, that man being God and man”.

Meister Eckhart, Sermon 57, Walshe trans., Meister Eckhart, Sermons & Treatises, vol. 2, p. 84. Ananda K. Coomaraswamy quotes from this same passage in Hinduism and Buddhism (New York: Philosophical Library, n. d.), but gives it a more Vedantic coloring: “Loving thy Self… thou lovest all men as thy Self” (p. 13).

The Two Step Cure

Man disposes of two steps to become ‘in conformity to being’: first centering in the horizontality of amplitude, then exaltating by the vertical, which corresponds to this center.

Consequently, the initial re-centering, the Islamic al-fana (extinction [of self]), corresponds now to the vertical reabsorption: fana al-fana (extinction of the extinction) or al-fana’ fi l-tawhid: extinction into unity (a formula of the Islamic theologian al-Ghazali [1058–1111]), the direct correspondence of which seems to be Consummata in Unum (consumed into One), the divine name revealed to Marie-Antoinette de Gueuser (who died in 1918 at the age of 29).

Similarly, to nirvana (extinction) or nivritti (return), now correspond the parinirvana (total extinction) or parinivritti (total return) in Hinduism, the Nirupadhisesa-Nirvana in Hinayana Buddhism and, in Mahayana Buddhism: Apratishita-Nirvana (which is the differed extinction of the bodhisattva, who promises to guide other beings on the road of liberation) and pratisthita-nirvana (the realization of the state of Buddha).34

In Judaism, these two steps are well explained by Leo Schaya35:

When God pardons, his rigor is reabsorbed into his clemency, and man passes from his state of sin, with all its dark consequences, to the state of grace which, in its entire fullness, reaches as far as spiritual illumination, the blissful and deifying vision of the One. The return of man to his pure and divine essence is marked by these two principal ‘stations’:

  • The Primordial or Edenic state which the Kabbala calls Shmittah (respite)—a state of perfect deiformity, implying the evident and permanent presence of God in man;
  • The universal or divine state called Yobel (Jubilee), the state of supreme illumination and identity, of total union with God.

The pardon of God allows man to attain the first ‘station’, and the total total influx of his Light brings man to the goal. These two principal ‘stations’ of spiritual liberation, that is. union with immanence and transcendence, are symbolically expressed, respectively, in the sacred institutions of the sabbatical year (Shmittah) and the jubilee year (Yobel).

The two Christian steps in becoming conformed to one’s divine state are to be seen in the New Man of the Redemption, the Perfect Man of the Parousia (Christ’s glorious return), and it is the same Perfect Man for both Parousia and Pleroma (the gathering of the Universe in Christ), through Christ, the celestial Man.

  • “You must put on the new man” [Eph. 4:24], be changed into another man. To achieve it, “You must often do the things you do not wish to do and forgo those you do wish.” [Imitation of our Lord Jesus Christ, Book III, chap. XLIX]; this is ‘centering within amplitude’.
  • The celestial man is the resuscitated Christ that we must become with him and in him, “until we all meet in the unity of faith and knowledge of God’s Son, in a unique Perfect Man, at the adult age of Christ’s plenitude” [1 Cor. 15]; this is the ‘exaltation by way of the eternal Axis’.

Therefore, as Gregory the Sinaite (1255–1346) says, there are essentially two types of ecstatic love in the Spirit: one a love within the heart, the other an ecstatic love taking one beyond oneself. The first belongs to those who are only illuminated, the second to those who are consumed in charity.36

Above all, as we have seen, these two Christian steps are drawn from the words and works of the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ, with the first step being undeniably the Virgin’s. If God alone Is, indeed, the union cannot be other than the ‘union of the one who is not with the One who is’, as mentioned St. Elisabeth of the Trinity.37

We can group these two steps of the Cure then as follows, visualizing these analogies among the seven traditions:


Die Selbstvernichtigung :

Nichts bringt dich über dich als die Vernichtigkeit ;

Wer mehr vernichtigt ist, der hat mehr Göttlichkeit.

(Self-naughting: Nothing raises you up as does annihilation; The more brought low you are, the more divinization.)

Angelus Silesius, The Cherubimic Wanderer, L. II, 140.

To conclude, let us repeat: the second Step of this two step Cure involves that pure hope following on Christ’s promise. We should be concerned mostly then with the first step. This is after all what Christ teaches: “Seek ye therefore first the Kingdom of God and his justice; and all these things shall be added unto you”38 (Matt. 6:33; Luke 12:31). Now, the Kingdom of God is within us (cf. Luke, 17:21): this is the necessary Centering, this is the way shown by the most holy Virgin Mary!

And so it is appropriate to (be working at) renounce(ing) oneself (Abneget semetipsum),39 to proceed to anatta: the annihilation of self or the ‘naughting of the I,40 in other words, to discover that one is no-one; or again to realize al-fana (extinction) or nirvana, as proposed by other traditions.

What is the Truth of the scriptures which declare that if one sees the Self one sees God? How can one see one’s Self? If, since one is a single being, one cannot see one’s Self, how can one see God? Only by becoming a prey to [being consumed by] Him.

Ramana Maharshi, Forty Verses, 21, in The Collected Works of Ramana Maharshi, ed. A. Osborne (New York: Samuel Weiser, 1970), p. 74.

If you wish to be the friend of God [hulla] or to be loved by him [al-hubb], renounce this world and the future one. Do not desire one or the other; empty yourself of these two worlds and turn your face to God. Then, God shall turn his face to you and delight you with His grace.

Declaration of Sufi Ibrahim b. Adham (d. 776) to one of his brothers, quoted by Al-Muhasibi, Kitab al-Mahabba. Our emphasis.

Let this be my prayer. But do thou, dear Timothy, in the diligent exercise of mystical contemplation, leave behind the senses and the operations of the intellect, and all things sensible and intellectual, and all things in the world of being and non-being, that thou mayest arise by unknowing towards the union, as far as is attainable, with Him Who transcends all being and all knowledge.2  For by the unceasing and absolute renunciation of thyself and of all things thou mayest be borne on high, through pure and entire self-abnegation, into the superessential Radiance of the Divine Darkness.

St. Denys the Areopagite, Mystical Theology, chap. I, § 1 (Shrine of Wisdom trans.).

To concentrate on this first step alone, this is our lot, to simply concentrate on these necessary dispossessions, abandonments, and annihilations of the I or ego, on the renunciate completion of our individuality… For true abandonment includes renouncing even the second step. Expect nothing! Because hope is not expectation, hope for something inexpressible is not the expectation of some imagined good; “Although He should kill me, still will I hope in Him,” says Job (13:15). If renunciation does not kill Hope, if abnegation is synonymous with Charity, since Christ is the only neighbor, the following paradox of Faith remains: “no one knows the things of God, but the Spirit of God” (1 Cor. 2:11), and yet the “Holy Spirit is not only the Spirit of the Father and of the Son who gave Him, but He is also called ours!” (St. Augustine, De Trinitate, V, 14).


  1. As preached by Meister Eckhart in particular.[]
  2. Jean Borella has clearly shown how this archetype (the referent or metaphysical unifier) makes of a triple sign—‘object’, meaning, particular referent—a symbol. Cf. The Crisis of Religious Symbolism, Brooklyn (NY): Angelico Press, 2016 (English translation by G. John Champoux).[]
  3. This ‘point’, an elementary spatial minimum, barely distinguished from nothingness, is described with reference to the symbol in The Secret of the Christian Way, trans. J. Champoux (Albany, NY : SUNY Press, 2001), p. 60–62.[]
  4. Per father Henri Stéphane, Introduction à l’ésotérisme Chrétien [Introcuction to Christian esotericism], Dervy-Livres, Paris, 1979, treatises gathered and commented by François Chenique, reedited by Dervy, 2006, VII. 10, p.308.[]
  5. ‘‘I am the Immaculate Conception’’, Lourdes, 1858 (18 apparitions).[]
  6. Jean Borella, Lumières de la théologie mystique [Lights of Mystic Theology], coll. Delphica, L’Âge d’Homme, Lausanne, 2002, Chap. XII, “La Theologia Teutsch et le sophisme de la liberté”, pp. 158 seq.[]
  7. Ascent of Mount Carmel, Book II, Chap.5, 7, The Collected Works, trans. K. Kavanaugh and O. Rodriguez (Washington, DC: ICS Publications, 1973), p. 117.[]
  8. From ‘Beati Pauperes Spiritu’in Meister Eckhart, Sermons and Treatises, vol. 2, trans. M. O’C. Walshe (London & Dulverton: Watkins, 1981), p. 272.[]
  9. Materia prima is pure and undifferentiated potentiality. It is opposed to materia secunda or materia signata quantitate, designated as such because quantity properly constitutes the substantial side of the world. Any materia not materia prima is thus materia secunda. The classical example is the Paros marble, which is materia secunda to the form. For the statue of Apollo, marble (in general) is materia secunda to the form ‘Paros marble’ (or ‘Carrare marble’), and stone is materia secunda to marble, and so on up to a materia deprived of any form: the materia prima.[]
  10. Jean Borella, La charité profanée, Éditions du Cèdre, 1979, chap. XVIII, § III.1. This quote is a paraphrase in part by the author of this essay. Latest US edition: Love and Truth: The Christian Path of Charity, Brooklyn: Angelico Press, 2020 (trad. G. John Champoux).[]
  11. Abbé Henri Stéphane, op.cit., treatise III. 2.[]
  12. François Chenique, Le yoga spirituel de saint François d’Assise (Dervy-Livres, Paris, 1978), chap. VI. § 3.[]
  13. Father Henri Stéphane, op.cit., treatise I.1, § 9.[]
  14. Meister Eckhart, Sermon10; Meister Eckhart, Teacher and Preacher, trans. B. McGinn (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1986). p. 263.[]
  15. cf. La charité profanée, Chap. XVIII.[]
  16. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, I, q. 66, a.1.[]
  17. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, I, q.37, q.38 a.1.[]
  18. Le mystère du signe, Maisonneuve et Larose, 1996, reedited as Histoire et théorie du symbole, L’Âge d’Homme, 2005.[]
  19. Hesychasm is this spirituality and incantatory technique of the Name of Jesus in the Eastern Church. It became known in the West thanks to the anonymous Way of a Pilgrim.[]
  20. La charité profanée, pp. 287–288.[]
  21. Father Henri Stéphane, op.cit.[]
  22. Abbé Henri Stéphane, Introduction à l’ésotérisme chrétien (Paris : Dervy, 1979), pp. 255–256.[]
  23. Cf. Guénonian Esoterism and Christian Mystery (Hillsdale, NY: Sophia Perennis, 2004), p. 451 ff.[]
  24. As Mgr Dubost stresses it in his foreword to our Introduction à une métaphysique des mystères chrétiens, L’Harmattan, 2005, imprimatur from the bishopric of Paris.[]
  25. Introduction à l’ésotérisme Chrétien, tome I (Paris: Dervy, 1979), p.127.[]
  26. Cf. Leo Schaya, The Universal Meaning of the Kabbalah, trans. N. Pearson (Baltimore, MD : Penguin Books, 1973), p. 68.[]
  27. Titus Burckhardt, An Introduction to Sufi Doctrine (Wellingborough, Northamptonshire : Thorsons Publishers Limited, 1976), pp. 47–50.[]
  28. Lieh Tzu, chap. I; quoted by René Guénon, The Symbolism of the Cross, translated by Angus Macnab, 3rd ed., Sophia Perennis, Ghent 1996, p. 43.[]
  29. Cf. René Guénon, The Great Triad, trans. P. Kingsley (Cambridge UK : Quinta Essentia, 1991), pp. 98–99, 101–102 and 111–112.[]
  30. René Guénon, The Symbolism of the Cross, pp. 42–43.[]
  31. Chuang-Tzu, chap. 5; quoted by René Guénon, The Symbolism of the Cross, p. 44.[]
  32. Miscellanea, (Hillsdale, NY: Sophia Perennis, 2004), p.45.[]
  33. In The Universal Meaning of the Kabbalah (Hillsdale, NY: Sophia Perennis, 2005), pp. 126–127.[]
  34. François Chenique remarks that if Buddha could become a Catholic saint under the name of St. Josaphat or St. Joasaf (a deformation of bodhisattva via the Arab Youasaf) [cf. Dictionary of catholic theology, paper ‘Barlaam’, II, col. 410], St. Therese of Lisieux could just as well be honored one day by Buddhists as a Bodhisattva, she who said: “Yes, I want to spend my heaven in doing good on earth. […] I can’t rest as long as there are souls to be saved” (Novissima verba, July 17th 1897) [cf. Sagesse chrétienne et mystique orientale, pp.171–172].[]
  35. The Universal Meaning of the Kabbalah,p. 135.[]
  36. Gregory of Sinai, ‘On Commandments and Doctrines’,59; The Philokalia, vol. 4, p. 222.[]
  37. Reminiscences of Sister Elizabeth of the Trinity (Westminster MD: Newman Press, 1952), p.53.[]
  38. In the context of these Gospels, it is especially ‘our daily bread’ that shall be added. This is why the Pater Noster only asks for ‘our bread of this day’ or, in another possible translation: ‘our bread until tomorrow’.[]
  39. Si quis vult post me venire, abneget semetipsum, et tollat crucem suam, et sequatur me”(‘If any man will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.’), Matthew 16:24.[]
  40. As in the formula of the Japanese philosopher Kitaro Nishida (1870–1945).[]