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The Ladder of Perfection

Apr 23, 2017




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    Title: The Scale (or Ladder) of Perfection Creator(s): Hilton, Walter (d. 1396) CCEL Subjects: All; Mysticism; Proofed LC Call no: BV4831 LC Subjects:

    Practical theology

    Practical religion. The Christian life

    Works of meditation and devotion _________________________________________________________________


    Written by WALTER HILTON

    With an Essay on The Spiritual Life of Mediaeval England by the Rev. J. B. DALGAIRNS, Priest of the Oratory

    Moses plus profecit in monte adorando quam

    multitude magna bellantium

    Scanned and edited by Harry Plantinga, 1995

    This etext is in the public domain _________________________________________________________________

    Publishers Note

    OF all the old English ascetical works which were extant before the Reformation none have maintained their reputation longer than Walter Hiltons Scale of Perfection. Hilton was a canon of Thurgarton in Nottinghamshire, and died in 1395. His Scale of Perfection is found in no less than five MSS. in the British Museum alone. Wynkyn de Worde printed it at least three timesin the years 1494, 1519 and 1525. Many other editions were printed at the same period.

    After the Reformation it was a favourite book of Father Augustine Bakers, the well-known author of Sancta Sophia, and his comments on it are among his MSS. at Downside. In 1659 Father Bakers biographer and editor, Dom Serenus Cressy, O.S.B., published an edition of the Scale, the title-page of which claims that by the changing of some antiquated words [it is] rendered more intelligible. Another edition appeared in 1672, and yet another in 1679.

    Within our own times two editions have been publishedone by the late Father Ephrem Guy, O.S.B., in 1869, the other, a reprint of Cressys, in 1870, with an introduction by Father Dalgairns on the Spiritual Life of Mediaeval England. Cressys text has again been used in the present edition, and Father Dalgairnss Essay is also reprinted in this volume. _________________________________________________________________


    An Essay on the Spiritual Life of Mediaeval England


    PART I

    I. That the inward state of the Soul should be like the outward

    II. Of the Active Life, and the Exercises and the Works thereof

    III. Of the Contemplative Life, and the Exercises and Works thereof

    IV. Of three Sorts that be of Contemplation, and of the First of them

    V. Of the Second Sort of Contemplation

    VI. Of the Lower Degree of the Second Sort of Contemplation

    VII. Of the Higher Degree of the Second Sort of Contemplation

    VIII. Of the Third Sort of Contemplation

    IX. Of the Difference that is betwixt the Second and Third Sort of Contemplation

    X. How that Appearings or Shewings to the Corporal Senses or Feelings may be both good and evil

    XI. How thou shalt know whether the Showing or Apparition to the bodily Senses and Feelings be good or evil

    XII. How and in what things a Contemplative Man should be busied

    XIII. How virtue beginneth in Reason and Will and is perfected in Love and Liking, or Affection

    XIV. Of the Means that bring a Soul to Contemplation

    XV. (i) What a Man should use and refuse by the virtue of Humility

    (ii) How Hypocrites and Heretics, for want of Humility, exalt themselves in their Hearts above others

    XVI. Of a firm Faith necessary thereto, and what things we ought to believe thereby

    XVII. Of a firm and resolute Intent and Purpose necessary thereto

    XVIII. A brief Rehearsal of what hath been said, and of an Offering made of them altogether to Jesus


    I. (i) Of Prayer, and the several Sorts thereof

    (ii) How they should do that are troubled with vain Thoughts in their Prayers

    II. (i) Of Meditation

    (ii) Of divers Temptations of the Enemy, and the Remedies against them

  • III. That a Man should know the measure of his Gift, that he may desire and take a better when God giveth it


    I. Of the Knowledge of a Mans Soul, and the Powers thereof necessary to Contemplation

    II. Of the Worthiness and Excellency of the Soul and how it was lost

    III. (i) That a Man should be industrious to recover again his ancient Dignity, and reform within him the Image of the Trinity, and how it may be done

    (ii) That this Dignity and Image is restored by Jesus, and how He is to be desired, sought and found

    IV. (i) Of the Ground and Image of sin in us, which is first to be found out and laboured against, and how it is to be done

    (ii) What the said Image of sin is, properly, and what cometh out of it

    V. (i) Of the Seven Deadly sins, and first of Pride, what it is, and when it is a deadly sin and when but venial

    (ii) How Pride in Heretics and in Hypocrites is deadly sin

    (iii) A short Exhortation to Humility and Charity, with a Conclusion how a Man may know how much Pride he hath in him

    VI. (i) Of Envy and Wrath and their Branches, and how, instead of sin, the Person is often hated

    (ii) That it is a Mastery and noble Skill to love Mens Persons, and yet wisely to hate their sins, and how

    (iii) How a Man shall know how much Wrath and Envy is hid in the ground of his Heart, and how he may know whether he loves his Enemies, and the Examples we have thereof in our Saviour

    VII. Of Covetousness, and how a Man may know how much of it is hid in his Heart

    VIII. (i) Of Gluttony, and how a Man shall know when he sinneth not in Eating and Drinking, and when he sinneth venially, and when deadly

    (ii) That a Man should be busy to put away and hinder all Motions of Sin, but more busy about those of Spiritual sins than those of Bodily

    (iii) What Remedy a Man should use against the Faults in Eating and Drinking

    IX. Of the Five Windows of this dark Image, and what cometh in by them, and how they are to be ordered

    X. Of another Hole or Window that is to be stopped as well as the Windows of the Senses, viz., the Imagination

    XI. A Brief Rehearsal of what hath been said in the former Chapters, with a Portraiture of this dark Image of sin

  • XII. A comparing of this Image with the Image of Jesus, and how it is to be dealt with

    XIII. How a Man shall be shapen to the Image of Jesus, and Jesus shapen in him

    XIV. The Conclusion of this Book, and of the Cause why it was made, and how she for whom it was made was to make use of it


    PART I

    I. (i) That a Man is the Image of God after the Soul and not after the Body; and how he is restored and reformed thereto that was misshapen by sin

    (ii) That Jews and Pagans and also false Christians are not reformed effectually through the virtue of the Passion through their own Faults

    II. Of two Manners of Reforming of this Image, one in fulness, another in part

    III. That Reforming in part is in two manners, one in Faith, another in Feeling

    IV. That through the Sacrament of Baptism (which is grounded in the Passion of Christ) this Image is reformed from Original sin

    V. That through the Sacrament of Penance (that consisteth in Contrition, Confession and Satisfaction) this Image is reformed from Actual sin

    VI. That we are to believe stedfastly the reforming of this Image, if our Conscience witness to us a full forsaking of sin, and a true turning of our Will to good living

    VII. That all the Souls that live humbly in the Faith of Holy Church, and have their Faith enlivened with Love and Charity, be reformed by this Sacrament, though it be so that they cannot feel the special gift of Devotion or of spiritual feeling

    VIII. That Souls reformed need ever to fight and strive against the Motions of sin while they live here. And how a Soul may know when she assenteth to these Motions, and when not

    IX. That this Image is both fair and foul whilst it is in this Life here, though it be reformed; and of the Differences of the secret Feelings of those that be reformed and those that be not

    X. Of three sorts of Men, whereof some be not reformed, and some be reformed only in Faith, and some both in Faith and Feeling

    XI. How Men that abide and live in sin, misshape themselves into the likeness of divers Beasts, and they be called the Lovers of the World

    XII. (i) How Lovers of this World in divers ways disenable themselves from becoming reformed in their Souls

    (ii) A little Counsel how Lovers of this World should do, if they will be reformed in their Souls before their departure hence


    Of Reforming in Faith and Feeling also

    I. That this Reforming cannot be suddenly gotten, but in length of Time, by Grace, and much Spiritual and Corporal Industry

    II. (i) The Causes why so few Souls in comparison of the Multitude of others come to this Reforming that is both in Faith and Feeling

    (ii) How that without great Corporal and Spiritual Industry, and without much Grace and Humility, Souls cannot come to reforming in Feeling nor keep themselves therein after they come thereto

    III. An Entry or good Beginning of a Spiritual Journey, showing how a Soul should behave herself in intending and working that will come to this Reforming, by example of a Pilgrim going to Jerus