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Monastery of Saint Clare, Toulouse. November 30, 1956.

Our Lady of Sorrows, hear my prayer. I come before you, an unworthy servant, grovelling in a world of darkness. They say that knowledge of Nature is not enriched by knowledge of God, but transformed. The knower of God does not know a different thing, but knows it in a higher way. If I am a wholly natural being in my interactions with Nature, am I not a wholly spiritual being in my interactions with God? Yet when I consider the conditions of my re-birth into this life, I am utterly confused. I took vows to support the weak members of the Body of Christ. But my devotions within these walls leave me desolate. How shall I help the weak by prayer alone? In the depths of my soul, there gleams forth the Light of the Almighty. But how shall this Light enter the world through me? However far God penetrates my soul, I remain apart and separate from other human beings. Union with God is taken by foolish men in a literal fleshly sense. A false and evil heresy. For the mystic is transformed inwardly by God into a new being. Yet even in my most intimate union with God, He always remains lofty and unreachable. How I long to pass into His divine abyss!

I know that God administers His works through the soul; as the Father begot His only Son in the soul, as truly as He begot me in eternity, neither more, nor less. But how shall God shine forth in me, whilst I shut myself in cloister? I might be more resolute in enduring this trial if God afforded me some consolation. I feel most wretched and alone. I trust that Christ knows what is best for my soul; and I am not so arrogant to advise Him on how to treat me; for He knows me better than I know myself. But I have reached an impasse: the point at which my devotions can go no further. And it makes me despair of His mercy. I stand alone with this burden. Mother Superior always doubted my capacity to receive the grace of God. And now I feel the whole universe is tottering within my heart. For I know that my inward path can no longer to be found with the Poor Clares of Assisi.

So many conflicts of duty. Should I remain faithful to my vows or to my conscience? Yet is conscience itself not the Vox Dei whispering in my breast? Guide me Blessed Lady, and be my intercessor. This is a decision upon which my whole future rests. Inspire me with your strength and confidence.

It is a very poor bride of Christ who doubts her vocation. I am childish, weak and feeble. I still suck my thumb in secret and when asleep. And each day I ask myself: the world or the cloister? My heart is in turmoil. In a sense, I have already made my choice. Yet I am still troubled by it. Part of me will always miss this cloistered life: the call to prayer, the stillness of Chapel, and sweet scent of the altar.

Holy Mother, I have tried to live the Gospel according to the ways of Saint Francis and Saint Clare. But I have failed. And I wonder what my sisters in Christ will think of me. Not to mention my worldly relatives. Although I am sure my Aunt will be glad.

My dreams are leading me away, out into the world. It is the Horned Man who guides me. Yes, the Horned Man: that same apparition I saw in Toulouse, all those years ago. I swear he holds the key to the riddles of Nature. An evil spirit? A seed of madness? Yet I feel in my heart that he is a being sent by God. And I must confess, I have entered into commune with him. Holy Mother, assure me that he is not of the Devil…

These sunlit motes hold profound secrets. The Horned Man illumes many things. Truly, I believe he is enfolded with a divine purpose. But I cannot fathom it. My soul swirls in vortices of holy flame. When I look about this world, all I see is chaos and suffering. I have the impulse to do good, but discord surrounds the whole of human development. I would prefer the inner life of a mystic, but Mother Superior is only concerned with external writ and the dogmatic confessions of faith. Is not Nature, Man and Spirit a single entity? Yet this material realm is crippled with pains and imperfections. The scriptures say that God created all things. Yet I can no longer conceive this to be possible in such an incommutable world. For how can evil and good issue from the same God?

Forgive my overboldness. I have the rashness of an imperfect and incomplete creature. And in saying these things, I fear I will be deprived of your love. I do not profess to be wise, nor understanding of your hidden ways. And in leaving the Poor Clares, I freely confess my wordly ambitions. But such ambitions are tempered by strong spiritual motives. My burning desire is to study the mind; to become a doctor of the soul; both psychological and theological. How else shall we throw light upon the dark realms of human nature? You know I have been seeking these things in private for many months. I have read much of Jung and Freud. Knowledge of the soul is the basis of all higher things. Help me to develop this higher knowledge through the science of Nature; and so bring that knowledge to a new birth in Spirit!

The evolution of Man has not kept pace with his technological development; morally and psychologically, he remains an infant. The humanists have exchanged the glory of the eternal and incorruptible God for the image of a corruptible and finite man. And now the whole world hovers over an abyss of psychic chaos. We live daily under the existential threat of thermonuclear war: the end of all Creation. Is that His will? To destroy this world by fire?

You read me like a book. And you know why I supplicate myself before you. But I entreat your mercy. Last night, the Horned Man came to my cell. He manifests of his own accord, not as a product of my fantasy, or a phantom of dreams, but as a conscious being in his own right. I know not where he is from, or what he wants. And it is strange indeed that his presence no longer frightens me. Now, more than ever, I feel compelled to follow him. I am under the spell of his magical influence. And he is calling me to England. Our Lady of Sorrows, wherever this venture leads, know that I will always remain your faithful and loving servant.

Sanguis Dómini nostri Jesu Christi custódiat ánimam meam in vitam ætérnam. Amen. [May the Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ preserve my soul to life everlasting. Amen].

Maria Torris, a Minoress of Saint Clare, Toulouse. November 30, 1956.


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Image credit: The Garden of Earthly Delights, (detail) by Hieronymus Bosch.