chapter 1 Of the four degrees of the Christian life; of the development of his vocation for whom this book was written. My dear friend in God, I would like to pass on to you what I have roughly observed about the Christian life. Generally, it seems to progress through four ascending phases of growth, which I call theCommon, theSpecial, theSingular, and thePerfect. The first three may, indeed, be begun and completed in this mortal life, but the fourth, though begun here, shall go on without ending into the joy of eternity. Do you see that I have arranged these stages in a definite sequence? This is because I believe that our Lord in his great mercy is calling you to advance by these steps. I discern his call to you in the desire for him that burns in your heart. You know yourself that at one time you were caught up in theCommonmanner of the Christian life in a day-to-day mundane existence along with your friends. But I think that the eternal love of God, which had once created you out of nothing and then redeemed you from Adam's curse through the sacrifice of his blood,(1) could not bear to let you go on living so common a life far from him. And so, with exquisite kindness, he awakened desire within you, and binding it fast with the leash of love's longing, drew you closer to himself into what I have called the moreSpecialmanner of living. He called you to be his friend and, in the company of his friends, you learned to live the interior life more perfectly than was possible in the common way. Is there more? Yes, for from the beginning I think God's love for you was so great that his heart could not rest satisfied with this. What did he do? Do you not see how gently and how kindly he has drawn you on to the third way of life, theSingular? Yes, you live now at the deep solitary core of your being, learning to direct your loving desire toward the highest and final manner of living which I have calledPerfect.(2) chapter 2 A short exhortation to humility and to the work of contemplation. Take courage, now, and frail mortal though you are, try to understand yourself. Do you think you are someone special, or that you have deserved the Lord's favor? How can your poor heart be so leaden and spiritless that it is not continually aroused by the attraction of the Lord's love and the sound of his voice? Your enemy will suggest that you rest on your laurels. But be on your guard against this treachery of his. Do not be deceived into thinking that you are a holier or better person because of your great calling or because you have progressed to theSingularway of life. On the contrary, you will be a most pathetic and culpable wretch unless, with God's grace and proper guidance, you do all in your power to live up to your calling. Far from being conceited, you ought to be all the more humble and devoted to your heavenly Lord when you consider that he, the Almighty God, the King of kings and Lord of lords, has stooped so low as to call you. For out of all his flock he has lovingly chosen you to be one of his special friends. He has led you to sweet meadows and nourished you with his love, strengthening you to press on so as to take possession of your heritage in his kingdom. I urge you, then, pursue your course relentlessly. Attend to tomorrow and let yesterday be. Never mind what you have gained so far. Instead reach out to what lies ahead. If you do this you will remain in the truth. For now, if you wish to keep growing you must nourish in your heart the lively longing for God. Though this loving desire is certainly God's gift, it is up to you to nurture it. But mark this. God is a jealous lover. He is at work in your spirit and will tolerate no meddlers.(1) The only other one he needs is you. And all he asks of you is that you fix your love on him and let him alone. Close the doors and windows of youJohnston, William is the author of 'Cloud of Unknowing and the Book of Privy Counseling', published 1996 under ISBN 9780385030977 and ISBN 0385030975.