“When the natural fire has by its heat and power stirred water, or some other liquid, until it bubbles up; then this is its highest achievement. Then the water boils up and falls down to the bottom, and is then stirred again to the same activity by the power of the fire. …
“and so likewise works the inward fire of the Holy Ghost. It stirs and drives the heart and all the powers of the soul, until they boil. … Where the Spirit of God is burning, so that the force of love ever burns, and the mans heart ever thanks and praises God with words and with works.” ~John of Ruysbroeck
Many people expect that a spiritual awakening will be an instantaneous thing. In actuality, that almost never happens.
You might think that the awakening of St. Francis of Assisi was instantaneous, but it wasn’t. The fact that, when he was sent off to fight in a war, the sight of men killing each other made him ill and he had to return home where he was bedridden for days, tells us he was already a spiritual person. So when he was awakened while watching a sunrise from his sickbed, that was just a culmination of something that had been boiling up inside him for some time.
Similarly, when Jacob Boehme had his spiritual awakening after the sun reflecting off a metal bowl struck him in the eye, it was only because he had been growing spiritually for years before that event. Otherwise, it would not have had the same effect.
So Ruysbroeck is on point by comparing this spiritual awakening to a pot of water put on a fire to boil. The fire is hot immediately, but the water heats gradually. And the water circulates as it is being heated. This is the kind of movement that is also seen in one seeking spiritual enlightenment.
The spirit moves, in a sense, by becoming stronger and by increasing its communication with the body and mind. Since spirits exist beyond the limitations of time and space, they don’t move in the physical sense, but that can lie dormant until awakened.
Intentional Spirit Moves
Here is the thing about boiling a pot of water: it can be done intentionally or accidentally. One can make a fire and set the pot over it to boil under controlled conditions. Or one can just set the pot of water in a pile of dry brush and wait for a wildfire to reach it and heat it up.
If you are planning to make coffee, tea, or soup with that pot of water, water for nature to send a fire to heat it can prove disappointing. It is better in such cases to make your own fire that is under control and happened when you need it.
Likewise, sitting back and waiting for the Light to awaken you one morning by a fortunate accident is not a good idea. It may happen tomorrow or it may never happen. A better approach is to set that fire deliberately.
We intentionally start those spirit moves by using the Light of the Spiritual Sun. Not the physical, the spiritual. While it is necessary to look toward the physical sun (never directly at it), the emphasis need to be on the spiritual. Only the spiritual Light that comes from God through the spiritual sun can stir and awaken the spirit and soul. Don’t wait for lightning to strike. Set your spiritual “fire” intentionally.