99. Meditation, and Contemplation.


The Jesuit Richeome distinguishes between Meditation and Contemplation in a manner worthy of being quoted in any book which should treat upon English synonimes, the distinction though applied in a religious sense, being general. “Contemplation, he says, is a regard of the eyes of the Soul fastened attentively upon some object, as if after having meditated of the creation, she should set the 201eye of her understanding fast affixed upon the greatness of God, upon the beauty of the Heavens; or having discoursed of the passion of our Saviour, she beholdeth him present, and seeth him crucified, and without any other discourse, persevereth constantly in this spectacle. Then the Soul doth contemplate upon her meditation: so that contemplation is more than meditation, and as it were the end thereof: and it groweth and springeth upon it many times, as the branch doth upon the body of the tree, or the flower upon the branch. For the understanding having attentively and with many reasons to and fro meditated the mystery, and gathered divers lights together, doth frame unto herself a clear knowledge, whereof, without further discourse one way or other, she enjoyeth (as I may say) a vision, which approacheth to the knowledge of Angels. Hereof we learn the difference betwixt these two actions: for meditation is less 202clear, less sweet, and more painful than Contemplation: it is as the reading of a book, which must be done sentence after sentence but Contemplation is like casting the eyes upon a picture discerning all at once. Meditation is like eating: Contemplation is like drinking,.. a work more sweet, cooling, and more delicate,.. less labour and more pleasure than eating is. For he that meditateth taketh an antecedent, doth behold, weigh, and consider it, as it were chewing the meat with some pain; and afterward doth gather conclusions one after another, as it were swallowing down of morsels, and taketh his pleasure by pieces: but he that contemplateth receiveth his object without pain, swiftly and as it were altogether, as if he took a draught of some delicate wine. Such is Meditation, and such is Contemplation.

Pilgrim of Loretto. p. 49.

Philosophical as this is, the consequences which must result from applying 203it to acts of devotion are apparent, and of this no doubt the Jesuit and the other teachers of this doctrine were well aware. Let but an enthusiast be once taught to keep the understanding passive, and the imagination awake, and dreams, apparitions, rapts, ecstasies, with all the other symptoms of hagiomania, will follow in the natural course of the disease.


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