The Scale of Perfection

The Scale of Perfection

The Scale of Perfection

The Scale of Perfection


The most in-depth and scholarly panorama of Western spirituality ever attempted!

In one series, the original writings of the universally acknowledged teachers of the Catholic, Protestant, Eastern Orthodox, Jewish, Islamic and Native American traditions have been critically selected, translated and introduced by internationally recognized scholars and spiritual leaders.

The texts are first-rate, and the introductions are informative and reliable. The books will be a welcome addition to the bookshelf of every literate religious persons". -- The Christian Century


Walter Hilton's Scale of Perfection is generally considered the crown of his spiritual writing. The work is in fact a diptych, consisting of two books that are intimately related, but which were written on different occasions and in some measure for different needs. In this respect—and indeed in some others—the combined work may be compared with The Ascent of Mount Carmel and The Dark Night of the Soul by St. John of the Cross.

The first book is addressed to an anchoress and describes the renewal or "reforming" of the image of God in man, defaced by sin, to the "likeness" of God in Christ. Despite its ostensibly limited readership, its eminently sane and practical counsel soon ensured that it was widely read by people living in the world as well as by vowed religious.

The second book takes up points made in Book i, but leads the reader considerably further along the road to contemplative union with God. Here Hilton deals carefully with the sacraments of baptism and confession, and then takes up at greater length the point already made in Book I, that the way to union with God entails the costly taking up of the cross—that there are no short cuts to perfection. In this second book he gives careful attention to the theology of grace. The contemplative Christian life is now no longer seen as an "extra," available to a few chosen souls in the vowed religious life, but as something that may and should be sought by all Christians, because it represents the proper development of the baptismal life, in which "those who are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God" (Romans 8.14).

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