CHAPTER III, BOOK IV,
OF HOLY HUMILITY
No man can attain to any knowledge or understanding of God but by the virtue of holy humility; for the direct way to ascend is first to descend. All the perils and grievous falls which have happened in this world have arisen from nothing else but the uplifting of the head - that is, of the mind - by pride. This is proved by the fall of the devil, who was driven out of heaven; and by that of Adam, our first parent, who was banished from paradise by the uplifting of his head - that is, by disobedience. We see it also in the example of the Pharisee, of whom Christ speaketh in the Gospel, and in many others also.
And so also the contrary truth - namely, that all the great blessings which have ever been bestowed upon the world have proceeded from abasement of the head, that is, from the humiliation of the mind - is proved by example of the blessed and most humble Virgin Mary, the publican, the good thief on the cross and many others in Holy Scripture. And, therefore, good it were if we could find some great and heavy weight, which, being tied round our neck, would draw us down to the earth, and force us to humble ourselves.
A friar once said to Brother Giles: “Father, tell me, how can we avoid this pride?” To whom Brother Giles made this reply: “Rest assured, my brother, that thou canst never hope to be free from pride until thou hast first placed thy mouth where thou dost set thy feet; but if thou wilt well consider the gifts of God, thou wilt clearly see that thou hast reason to bow down thy head. And again, if thou wilt meditate on thy defects and thy manifold offenses against God, in all this thou wilt find reasons for humbling thyself. But woe to those who desire to be honoured in their unworthiness! He hath one degree of humility, who knoweth himself to be opposed to his own true good. He hath a second, who restoreth the goods of another to their proper owner, and doth not appropriate them to himself. For every virtue and every good thing which a man findeth in himself, instead of appropriating it to himself, he is bound to refer to God, from whom all graces and all good things do proceed. But every sinful passion of the soul, and every vice which a man findeth within himself, he should attribute to himself, considering that they all proceed from himself and his own malice, and from no other source. “Blessed is the man who knows and accounts himself to be vile in the eyes of God, and also in the sight of men.
“Blessed is he who judges himself always and condemns himself, and none but himself; for he shall not be condemned in that last and terrible eternal judgment.
“Blessed is he who shall submit himself wholly to the yoke of obedience and the judgment of others, as the holy Apostles before and after they received the Holy Spirit.”
Brother Giles said also: “Let him who would acquire and possess perfect peace and quiet of mind account every man his superior, and hold himself the inferior and subject to all.
“Blessed is the man who, in his works and in his words, desires neither to be seen nor known for anything else but for that wherewith God hath adorned him.
“Blessed is the man who knows how to keep and hide within his heart divine revelations and consolations; for there is nothing so secret but God can reveal it when it pleaseth him. If the most holy and perfect man in the world were to esteem and account himself to be the vilest and most miserable sinner in the world, this would be true humility.
“Holy humility loves not to talk, nor the holy fear of God to use many words.”
Brother Giles said again: “It seems to me that holy humility is like the thunderbolt; for, even as the thunderbolt striketh a terrible blow, crushing, breaking, and burning that whereon it lights, yet can we never find the thunderbolt itself, so does humility strike and disperse, burn up and consume every evil and vice and sin, and yet itself can nowhere be seen.
“He who possesses humility, by that humility finds grace with God, and perfect peace with his neighbour.”