Book 3, Chapter 43: Against Vain and Worldly Knowledge
Chapter Focus: God reveals Himself to the humble disciple. Those that seek Him find Him not through tortured reading and study, but by mortification of our weaknesses and sins. Thomas is not against learning, he wants us to focus our learning through the lens of Christ. When we do this, He will lift us up and teach us His priorities, which are often in conflict with our own or the world’s priorities.
In paragraph four, Thomas refers to a “certain person” who loved God intimately, and who likewise was accorded divine insight and wonders. To me, Thomas is referring to either Gerard Groote or Florentius Radewyns. Groote was the Founder of the Devotio Moderna and Brothers of the Common Life. Radewyns was the heir of Groote and a mentor of Thomas. Thomas wrote extensively about each man and honored them as saints. There is some warranted speculation that many of the writings of The Imitation were originally penned by these two holy men.
As remarked before, Thomas never fully claimed exclusive authorship of The Imitation. That would have been far too vain. It is my (again speculation) that Thomas compiled The Imitation from the writings of Groote, Radewyns, Thomas’ brother Jan, and others, along with Thomas’ own insights and prayerful editing and compilation.
So paragraph four is a tribute to those who Thomas found to be exceptionally holy to the point that that “certain person” worked miracles and had divine insight into devout living. Thomas casts all these divine insights at the feet of the Holy Spirit, and says that God The Holy Spirit will go where He will and reveal Himself to whom He pleases. May he do so with each of us.
Chapter 43, In Short.
1. Do not let the fair and subtle sayings of the worldly guides move you.
2. When you have learned many things, you must return to one first principle: I am He that teaches you knowledge.
3. Christ can lift up the humble spirit in an instant, to learn more Truth, than if a disciple had studied ten years.
4. One disciple, who by loving Me from the bottom of his heart, learned divine things and spoke of things that were wonderful.
Chapter 43: Against Vain and Worldly Knowledge
“My Child, do not let the fair and subtle sayings of worldly guides move you. For the kingdom of God is not in words, but in power(1 Cor 4:20). Give ear to My words, for they kindle the heart (Ps 104:30) and enlighten the mind, they bring contrition, and they supply multiplied consolations .
Never read the anything simply because you want to appear more learned or wise, but instead study so that you may seek mortification of your sins, for this will be far more profitable for you than the knowledge of many difficult questions.
2. “When you have read and learned many things, you must always return to one first principle. I am He that teaches you knowledge,(Ps 94:10) and I give to My children clearer knowledge than can be taught by human teachers. Those to whom I speak will become wise quickly and will grow in the spirit.
Woe to them who inquire into many curious questions, and take little heed concerning the way of My service. The time will come when Christ will appear, the Master of masters, the Lord of the Angels, to hear the lessons of all, that is to examine the consciences of each one. And then will He search Jerusalem with candles (Zeph 1:12), and the hidden things of darkness (1 Cor 4:5) shall be made manifest, and the arguing tongues shall be silent.
3. “I am He who in an instant lifts up the humble spirit to learn more reasonings of the Eternal Truth even more than if a disciple had studied ten years in the schools. I teach without noise of words, without confusion of opinions, without striving after honor, without clash of arguments.
I am He who teach people to despise earthly objects, to detest present possessions, to seek heavenly things, to enjoy eternal things, to flee honors, to endure offenses, to place all hope in Me, to desire nothing apart from Me, and to love Me ardently above all things.
4. “For there was one, who by loving Me from the bottom of his heart, learned divine wisdom, and spoke of things that were wonderful; he profited more by forsaking all things than by studying subtleties.
But to some I speak common things, to others more particular; to some I appear gently in signs and figures, and again to some I reveal mysteries in great light. The voice of books is one way, but it does not inform all alike; because inwardly I am the Teacher of truth, the Searcher of the heart, the Discerner of the thoughts, the Mover of actions, distributing to each disciple, as I judge fitting.”