Lucidly and distinctly, the course of virtues shows itself so.
From works performed by compulsion, in solitude there is born a blazing and immeasurable heat, which is generated in the heart by fervent deliberations, newly born in the spirit .
Works and watchfulness polish the mind by their heat and give it sight. And sight gives birth to the fervent deliberations mentioned, because of the depth of psychic sight which is called contemplation.
Contemplation gives birth to fervour from this fervour sight given by grace is born; and then outbursts of tears begin. At first partial ones, this means that a man’s tears will flow several times every day. Then he will come to (the state of) tears without a break. Through the tears the soul receives peaceful deliberations. From peaceful deliberations it rises unto serenity of insight . And by serenity of insight a man reaches the sight of hidden things. For purity is brought about by being free from war.
And after these the mind will reach that which is denoted by the symbol of the brook in Ezekiel the prophet, a symbol which contains the type of those three psychic stages which are near to divine things and of which the third is the utmost which a man can reach.
The beginning of all these is a good will unto God and various works in solitude and that uprightness which is born from severe reclusion from the world.
It is not necessary to enumerate the distinctions between the works, for they are known to every man. But as soon as any one occupies himself with them it is not possible that he deteriorate; I know, on the contrary, that he will profit by them. They are the following: the work of hunger, of reciting, waking during the night, according to every one’s strength; frequent prostrations, several times in the day and often during the night. Some will perform thirty prostrations at one time, salute (the cross) and go away from it. Some will perform even a greater number. Others will prolong prayer during three hours and stay in concentration while prostrated, without compulsion and without distraction.
These two varying states show the great richness of grace, which works in various ways with every man according to his measure, be it that he multiplies the number (of his prayers) on account of his fervent ardour, be it that he acquires quiet in his soul so that he reduces to one the large number of his former prayers.
As to the question of the cause of that other prayer and its duration without compulsion, it seems to me that it is not becoming for us to treat such things in detail, by describing their nature in speech or writings lest the reader, being unable to understand anything of it, should judge it to be something insipid; or, if he should be acquainted with these things, should despise him who is not able to cross the border of certain things. From the one blame, from the other laughter would be the consequence; and thus I would become a barbarous writer to such ones, according to the word of the apostle concerning him that speaks in prophecies.
But he who is desirous to know these things should know that their course has been described above. He may combine works with deliberation, by the grace of our Lord. And what practically happens in these states he may experience personally.
Stay therefore in thy cell and the cell will teach thee everything.