A SHORT METHOD OF PRAYER
J. M. B. DE LA MOT GUYON.
Translated from the Paris Edition of 1790
By A. W. MARSTON.
LONDON: SAMPSON LOW, MARSTON, LOW, & SEARLE,
CROWN BUILDINGS, 188 FLEET STREET.
PRINTED BY BALLANTYNE AND COMPANY
EDINBURGH AND LONDON
PREFACE TO THE ENGLISH PROTESTANT EDITION.
Some apology is perhaps needed when a Protestant thus brings before
Protestant readers the works of a consistent Roman Catholic author. The
plea must be, that the doctrine and experience described are essentially
Protestant; and so far from their receiving the assent of the Roman
Catholic Church, their author was persecuted for holding and
Of the experience of Madame Guyon, it should be borne in mind, that
though the glorious heights of communion with God to which she attained
may be scaled by the feeblest of God's chosen ones, yet it is by no
means necessary that they should be reached by the same apparently
arduous and protracted path along which she was led.
The "Torrents" especially needs to be regarded rather as an account of
the personal experience of the author, than as the plan which God
invariably, or even usually, adopts in bringing the soul into a state of
union with Himself. It is true that, in order that we may "live unto
righteousness," we must be "dead indeed unto sin;" and that there must
be a crucifixion of self before the life of Christ can be made manifest
in us. It is only when we can say, "I am crucified with Christ," that we
are able to add, "Nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in
me." But it does not follow that this inward death must always be as
lingering as in the case of Madame Guyon. She tells us herself that the
reason was, that she was not wholly resigned to the Divine will, and
willing to be deprived of the gifts of God, that she might enjoy the
possession of the Giver. This resistance to the will of God implies
suffering on the part of the creature, and chastisement on the part of
God, in order that He may subdue to Himself what is not voluntarily
yielded to Him.
Of the joy of a complete surrender to God, it is not necessary to speak
here: thousands of God's children are realising its blessedness for
themselves, and proving that it is no hardship, but a joy unspeakable,
to present themselves a living sacrifice to God, to live no longer to
themselves, but to Him that died for them, and rose again.
A simple trust in a living, personal Saviour; a putting away by His
grace of all that is known to be in opposition to His will; and an
entire self-abandonment to Him, that His designs may be worked out in
and through us; such is the simple key to the hidden sanctuary of
A SHORT METHOD OF PRAYER.
PREFACE TO THE ENGLISH PROTESTANT EDITION. 2
Author’s Preface 4
I. PRAYER POSSIBLE AT ALL TIMES, BY THE MOST SIMPLE 7
II. FIRST DEGREE OF PRAYER 9
SECOND DEGREE OF PRAYER, CALLED HERE THE PRAYER OF
IV. SPIRITUAL DRYNESS 13
V. ABANDONMENT TO GOD 14
VI. SUFFERING 16
VII. MYSTERIES 17
VIII. VIRTUE 18
IX. PERFECT CONVERSION 19
X. HIGHER DEGREE OF PRAYER, THAT OF THE SIMPLE PRESENCE OF
REST IN THE PRESENCE OF GOD--INWARD AND OUTWARD SILENCE
XII. SELF-EXAMINATION AND CONFESSION 26
XIII. READING AND VOCAL PRAYER 28
XIV. THE FAULTS AND TEMPTATIONS OF THIS DEGREE 29
AND SACRIFICE EXPLAINED BY THE SIMILITUDE OF A
XVI. THIS STATE NOT ONE OF IDLENESS, BUT OF ACTION 33
XVII. DISTINCTION BETWEEN EXTERIOR AND INTERIOR ACTIONS 39
XVIII. EXHORTATIONS TO PREACHERS 43
XIX. PREPARATION FOR DIVINE UNION 44
Walk before me, and be you perfect."--Gen. xvii. 1.
I did not write this little work with the thought of its being given to
the public. It was prepared for the help of a few Christians who were
desirous of loving God with the whole heart. But so many have requested
copies of it, because of the benefit they have derived from its perusal,
that I have been asked to publish it.
I have left it in its natural simplicity. I do not condemn the opinions
of any: on the contrary, I esteem those which are held by others, and
submit all that I have written to the censure of persons of experience
and learning. I only ask of all that they will not be content with
examining the outside, but that they will penetrate the design of the
writer, which is only to lead others to LOVE GOD, and to serve Him with
greater happiness and success, by enabling them to do it in a simple and
easy way, fit for the little ones who are not capable of extraordinary
things, but who truly desire to _give themselves to God_.
I ask all who may read it, to read without prejudice; and they will
discover, under common expressions, a hidden unction, which will lead
them to seek for a happiness which all ought to expect to possess.
I use the word _facility_, saying that perfection is easy, because it is
easy to find God, _when we seek Him within ourselves_. The passage may
be quoted which says, "You shall seek me, and shall not find me" (John
vii. 34). Yet this need not occasion any difficulty; because the same
God, who cannot contradict Himself, has said, "He that seeketh findeth"
(Matt. vii. 8). _He who seeks God, and who yet is unwilling to forsake
sin, will not find Him, because he is seeking Him where He cannot be
found_; therefore it is added, "You shall die in your sins." _But he who
sincerely desires to forsake sin, that he may draw near to God, will
find Him infallibly_.
Many people imagine religion so frightful, and prayer so extraordinary,
that they are not willing to strive after them, never expecting to
attain to them. But as the difficulty which we see in a thing causes us
to despair of succeeding in it, and at the same time removes the desire
to undertake it; and as, when a thing appears both desirable and easy to
be attained, we give ourselves to it with pleasure, and pursue it
boldly; I have been constrained to set forth the advantage and the
_facility_ of this way.
Oh! if we were persuaded of the goodness of God toward His poor
creatures, and of the desire which He has to communicate Himself to
them, we should not imagine so many obstacles, and despair so easily of
obtaining a good which He is so infinitely desirous of imparting to us.
And if He has not spared His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all,
is there anything He can refuse us? Assuredly not. We only need a little
courage and perseverance. We have so much of both for trifling temporal
interests, and we have none for the "_one thing needful_."
As for those who find a difficulty in believing that it is easy to find
God in this way, let them not believe all that they are told, but rather
let them make trial of it, that they may judge for themselves; and they
will find that I say very little in comparison with that which is.
Dear reader, study this little work with a simple and sincere heart,
with lowliness of mind, without wishing to criticise it, and you will
find it of good to you. Receive it with the same spirit as that in which
it is given, which is no other than the longing that you may be led to
_give yourself unreservedly to God_. My desire is that it may be the
means of leading the simple ones and the children to their Father, who
loves their humble confidence, and to whom distrust is so displeasing.
Seek nothing but _the love of God_; have a sincere desire for your
salvation, and you will assuredly find it, following this little
I do not pretend to elevate my sentiments above those of others, but I
relate simply what has been my own experience as well as that of
others, and the advantage which I have found in this simple and natural
manner of going to God.
If this book treats of nothing else but the _short and easy method of
prayer_, it is because, being written only for that, it cannot speak of
other things. It is certain that, if it be read in the spirit in which
it has been written, there will be found nothing in it to shock the
mind. Those who will make the experience of it will be the most certain
of the truth which it contains.
It is to Thee, O Holy Child Jesus, who love simplicity and innocence,
and who find Your delight in the children of men, that is to say, with
those amongst men who are willing to become children;--it is to Thee, I
say, to give worth and value to this little work, impressing it on the
heart, and leading those who read it to seek Thee within themselves,
where You wilt take Your rest, receiving the tokens of their love, and
giving them proofs of You.
It is Your work, O Divine Child! O uncreated Love! O silent Word! to make
Yourself beloved, tasted, and heard. You art able to do it; and I even
dare to say that You wilt do it, by means of this little work, which is
all to Thee, all of Thee, and all for Thee.
A SHORT METHOD OF PRAYER.
ALL ARE COMMANDED TO PRAY--PRAYER THE GREAT MEANS OF SALVATION, AND
POSSIBLE AT ALL TIMES BY THE MOST SIMPLE.
Prayer is nothing else but the _application of the heart to God, and
the interior exercise of love. St Paul commands us to "pray without
ceasing" (1 Thess. v. 17). Our Lord says: "Take you heed, watch and
pray." "And what I say unto you, I say unto all" (Mark xiii. 33, 37).
All, then, are capable of prayer, and it is the duty of all to engage in
But I do not think that all are fit for meditation; and, therefore, it
is not that sort of prayer which God demands or desires of them.
My dear friends, whoever you may be, who desire to be saved, come unto
God in prayer. "I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that
you may be rich" (Rev. iii. 18). It is easily to be obtained, far
more easily than you could ever imagine.
Come, all you that are athirst, and take this water of life freely (see
Rev. xxii. 17). Do not amuse yourselves by hewing out to yourselves
"broken cisterns that can hold no water" (Jer. ii. 13). Come, hungry
souls, who find nothing that can satisfy you, and you shall be filled.
Come, poor afflicted ones, weighed down with griefs and sorrows, and you
shall be comforted. Come, sick ones, to the great Physician, and do not
fear to approach Him because you are so weak and diseased: expose all
your diseases to Him, and they shall be healed.
Come, children, to your Father; He will receive you with open arms of
love. Come, wandering and scattered sheep, to your Shepherd. Come,
sinners, to your Saviour. Come, ignorant and foolish ones, who believe
yourselves incapable of prayer; it is you who are the most fitted for
it. Come all without exception; Jesus Christ calls you all.
Let those only refuse to come who have no heart. The invitation is not
for them; for we must have a heart in order to love. But who is indeed
without heart? Oh, come and give that heart to God, and learn in the
place of prayer how to do it! All those who long for prayer are capable
of it, who have ordinary grace and the gift of the Holy Spirit, which is
freely promised to all who ask it.
Prayer is the key of perfection and of sovereign happiness; it is the
efficacious means of getting rid of all vices and of acquiring all
virtues; for the way to become perfect is to live in the presence of
God. He tells us this Himself: "Walk before me, and be you perfect"
(Gen. xvii. 1). Prayer alone can bring you into His presence, and keep
you there continually.
What we need, then, is an attitude of prayer, in which we can
constantly abide, and out of which exterior occupations cannot draw
us; a prayer which can be offered alike by princes, kings, prelates,
magistrates, soldiers, children, artisans, labourers, women, and the
sick. This prayer is not mental, but of the heart.
It is not a prayer of thought alone, because the mind of man is so
limited, that while it is occupied with one thing it cannot be thinking
of another. But it is the PRAYER OF THE HEART, which cannot be
interrupted by the occupations of the mind. Nothing can interrupt the
prayer of the heart but unruly affections; and when once we have tasted
of the love of God, it is impossible to find our delight in anything but
Nothing is easier than to have God and to live upon Him. He is more
truly in us than we are in ourselves. He is more anxious to give Himself
to us than we are to possess Him. All that we want is to know the way to
seek Him, which is so easy and so natural, that breathing itself is not
Oh, you who imagine yourselves incapable of religious feeling, you may
live in prayer and in God as easily and as continuously as you live by
the air you breathe. Will you not, then, be inexcusable if you neglect
to do it, after you have learned the way?
FIRST DEGREE OF PRAYER--MEDITATION AND
THE LORD'S PRAYER--PASSAGE FROM THE FIRST DEGREE TO THE SECOND.
There are two means by which we may be led into the higher forms of
prayer. One is Meditation, the other is Meditative Reading. By
meditative reading I mean the taking of some truths, either doctrinal or
practical--the latter rather than the former--and reading them in this
way:--Take the truth which has presented itself to you, and read two or
three lines, seeking to enter into the full meaning of the words, and go
on no further so long as you find satisfaction in them; leave the place
only when it becomes insipid. After that, take another passage, and do
the same, not reading more than half a page at once.
It is not so much from the amount read that we derive profit, as from
the manner of reading. Those people who get through so much do not
profit from it; the bees can only draw the juice from the flowers by
resting on them, not by flying round them. Much reading is more for
scholastic than for spiritual science; but in order to derive profit
from spiritual books, we should read them in this way; and I am sure
that this manner of reading accustoms us gradually to prayer, and gives
us a deeper desire for it. The other way is Meditation, in which we
should engage at a chosen time, and not in the hour given to reading. I
think the way to enter into it is this:--After having brought ourselves
into the presence of God by a definite act of faith, we should read
something substantial, not so much to reason upon it, as to fix the
attention, observing that the principal exercise should be the presence
of God, and that the subject should rather fix the attention than
This faith in the presence of God within our hearts must lead us to
enter within ourselves, collecting our thoughts, and preventing their
wandering; this is an effectual way of getting rid of distracting
thoughts, and of losing sight of outward things, in order to draw near
to God, who can only be found in the secret place of our hearts, which
is the sancta-sanctorum in which He dwells.
He has promised that if any one keeps His commandments, He will come to
him, and make His abode with him (John xiv. 23). St Augustine
reproaches himself for the time he lost through not having sought God at
first in this way.
When, then, we are thus buried in ourselves, and deeply penetrated with
the presence of God within us--when the senses are all drawn from the
circumference to the centre, which, though it is not easily accomplished
at first, becomes quite natural afterwards--when the soul is thus
gathered up within itself, and is sweetly occupied with the truth read,
not in reasoning upon it, but in feeding upon it, and exciting the will
by the affection rather than the understanding by consideration: the
affection being thus touched, must be suffered to repose sweetly and
at peace, swallowing what it has tasted.
As a person who only masticated an excellent meat would not be nourished
by it, although he would be sensible of its taste, unless he ceased this
movement in order to swallow it; so when the affection is stirred, if we
seek continually to stir it, we extinguish its fire, and thus deprive
the soul of its nourishment. We must swallow by a loving repose (full
of respect and confidence) what we have masticated and tasted. This
method is very necessary, and would advance the soul in a short time
more than any other would do in several years.
But as I said that the direct and principal exercise should be the
sense of the presence of God, we must most faithfully recall the
senses when they wander.
This is a short and efficacious way of fighting with distractions;
because those who endeavour directly to oppose them, irritate and
increase them; but by losing ourselves in the thought of a present God,
and suffering our thoughts to be drawn to Him, we combat them
indirectly, and without thinking of them, but in an effectual manner.
And here let me warn beginners not to run from one truth to another,
from one subject to another; but to keep themselves to one so long as
they feel a taste for it: this is the way to enter deeply into truths,
to taste them, and to have them impressed upon us. I say it is difficult
at first thus to retire within ourselves, because of the habits, which
are natural to us, of being taken up with the outside; but when we are a
little accustomed to it, it becomes exceedingly easy; both because we
have formed the habit of it, and because God, who only desires to
communicate Himself to us, sends us abundant grace, and an experimental
sense of His presence, which renders it easy.
Let us apply this method to the Lord's Prayer. We say "Our Father,"
thinking that God is within us, and will indeed be our Father. After
having pronounced this word Father, we remain a few moments in
silence, waiting for this heavenly Father to make known His will to us.
Then we ask this King of Glory to reign within us, abandoning
ourselves to Him, that He may do it, and yielding to Him the right that
He has over us. If we feel here an inclination to peace and silence, we
should not continue, but remain thus so long as the condition may last;
after which we proceed to the second petition, "Your will be done on
earth, as it is in heaven." We then desire that God may accomplish, in
us and by us, all His will; we give up to God our heart and our liberty,
that He may dispose of them at His pleasure. Then, seeing that the
occupation of the will should be love, we desire to love, and we ask God
to give us His love. But all this is done quietly, peacefully; and so
on with the rest of the prayer.
At other times we hold ourselves in the position of sheep near to the
Shepherd, asking of Him our true food. O Divine Shepherd! You feed
Your sheep with Your own hand, and You are their food from day to day.
We may also bring before Him our family desires; but it must all be done
with the remembrance by faith of the presence of God within us.
We can form no imagination of what God is: a lively faith in His
presence is sufficient; for we can conceive no image of God, though we
may of Christ, regarding Him as crucified, or as a child, or in some
other condition, provided that we always seek Him within ourselves.
At other times we come to Him as to a Physician, bringing our maladies
to Him that He may heal them; but always without effort, with a short
silence from time to time, that the silence may be mingled with the
action, gradually lengthening the silence and shortening the spoken
prayer, until at length, as we yield to the operation of God, He gains
the supremacy. When the presence of God is given, and the soul begins to
taste of silence and repose, this experimental sense of the presence of
God introduces it to the second degree of prayer.
SECOND DEGREE OF PRAYER, CALLED HERE "THE PRAYER OF SIMPLICITY."
The second degree has been variously termed Contemplation, The Prayer
of Silence, and of repose; while others again have called it the
Prayer of Simplicity; and it is of this last term that I shall make
use here, being more appropriate than that of Contemplation, which
signifies a degree of prayer more advanced than that of which I speak.
After a time, as I have said, the soul becomes sensible of a facility in
recognising the presence of God; it collects itself more easily; prayer
becomes natural and pleasant; it knows that it leads to God; and it
perceives the smell of His perfumes.
Then it must change its method, and observe carefully what I am about to
say, without being astonished at its apparent implausibility.
First of all, when you bring yourself into the presence of God by faith,
remain a short time in an attitude of respectful silence. If from the
beginning, in making this act of faith, you are sensible of a little
taste of the presence of God, remain as you are without troubling
yourself on any subject, and keep that which has been given you, so long
as it may remain.
If it leaves you, excite your will by means of some tender affection,
and if you then find that your former state of peace has returned,
remain in it. The fire must be blown softly, and as soon as it is
lighted, cease to blow it, or you will put it out. It is also necessary
that you should go to God, not so much to obtain something from Him, as
to please Him, and to do His will; for a servant who only serves his
master in proportion to the recompense he receives, is unworthy of any
Go, then, to prayer, not only to enjoy God, but to be as He wills: this
will keep you equal in times of barrenness and in times of abundance;
and you will not be dismayed by the repulses of God, nor by His apparent
ON SPIRITUAL DRYNESS.
As God's only desire is to give Himself to the loving soul who desires
to seek Him, He often hides Himself in order to arouse it, and compel it
to seek Him with love and fidelity. But how does He reward the
faithfulness of His beloved! And how are His apparent flights followed
by loving caresses!
The soul imagines that it is a proof of its fidelity and of its
increased love that it seeks God with an effort, or that at least such
seeking will soon lead to His return.
But no! This is not the way in this degree. With a loving impatience,
with deep humility and abasement, with an affection deep and yet
restful, with a respectful silence, you must await the return of your
You will thus show Him that it is Himself alone that you love, and His
good pleasure, and not the pleasure that you find in loving Him.
Therefore it is said, "Make not haste in time of trouble. Cleave unto
Him, and depart not away, that you may be increased at your last end"
(Ecclus. ii. 2, 3). Suffer the suspensions and the delays of the visible
consolations of God.
Be patient in prayer, even though you should do nothing all your life
but wait in patience, with a heart humbled, abandoned, resigned, and
content for the return of your Beloved. Oh, excellent prayer! How it
moves the heart of God, and obliges Him to return more than anything
ABANDONMENT TO GOD--ITS FRUIT AND ITS IRREVOCABILITY--IN WHAT IT CONSISTS--GOD EXHORTS US TO IT.
It is here that true abandonment and consecration to God should
commence, by our being deeply convinced that all which happens to us
moment by moment is the will of God, and therefore all that is necessary
This conviction will render us contented with everything, and will make
us see the commonest events in God, and not in the creature.
I beg of you, whoever you may be, who are desirous of giving yourselves
to God, not to take yourselves back when once you are given to Him, and
to remember that a thing once given away is no longer at your disposal.
Abandonment is the key to the inner life: he who is thoroughly
abandoned will soon be perfect.
You must, then, hold firmly to your abandonment, without listening to
reason or to reflection. A great faith makes a great abandonment; you
must trust wholly in God, against hope believing in hope (Rom. iv. 18).
Abandonment is the casting off of all care of ourselves, to leave
ourselves to be guided entirely by God.
All Christians are exhorted to abandonment, for it is said to all, "Take
no thought for the morrow; for your Heavenly Father knows that you have
need of all these things" (Matt. vi. 32, 34). "In all your ways
acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths" (Prov. iii. 6). "Commit
your works unto the Lord, and your thoughts shall be established" (Prov.
xvi. 3). "Commit your way unto the Lord; trust also in Him; and He shall
bring it to pass" (Ps. xxxvii. 5).
Abandonment, then, ought to be an utter leaving of ourselves, both
outwardly and inwardly, in the hands of God, forgetting ourselves, and
thinking only of God. By this means the heart is kept always free and
Practically it should be a continual loss of our own will in the will
of God, a renunciation of all natural inclinations, however good they
may appear, in order that we may be left free to choose only as God
chooses: we should be indifferent to all things, whether temporal or
spiritual, for the body or the soul; leaving the past in forgetfulness,
the future to providence, and giving the present to God; contented with
the present moment, which brings with it God's eternal will for us;
attributing nothing which happens to us to the creature, but seeing all
things in God, and regarding them as coming infallibly from His hand,
with the exception only of our own sin.
Leave yourselves, then, to be guided by God as He will, whether as
regards the inner or the outward life.
OF SUFFERING WHICH MUST BE ACCEPTED AS FROM GOD--ITS FRUITS.
Be content with all the suffering that God may lay upon you. If you will
love Him purely, you will be as willing to follow Him to Calvary as to
He must be loved as much on Calvary as on Tabor, since it is there that
He makes the greatest manifestation of His love.
Do not act, then, like those people who give themselves at one time, and
take themselves back at another. They give themselves to be caressed,
and take themselves back when they are crucified; or else they seek for
consolation in the creature.
You can only find consolation in the love of the cross and in complete
abandonment. He who has no love for the cross has no love for God (see
Matt. xvi. 24). It is impossible to love God without loving the cross;
and a heart which has learned to love the cross finds sweetness, joy,
and pleasure even in the bitterest things. "To the hungry soul every
bitter thing is sweet" (Prov. xxvii. 7), because it is as hungry for the
cross as it is hungry for God.
The cross gives God, and God gives the cross. Abandonment and the cross
go together. As soon as you are sensible that something is repugnant to
you which presents itself to you in the light of suffering, abandon
yourself at once to God for that very thing, and present yourself as a
sacrifice to Him: you will see that, when the cross comes, it will have
lost much of its weight, because you will desire it. This will not
prevent your being sensible of its weight. Some people imagine that it
is not suffering to feel the cross. The feeling of suffering is one of
the principal parts of suffering itself. Jesus Himself was willing to
suffer it in its intensity.
Often the cross is borne with weakness, at other times with strength:
all should be equal in the will of God.
ON MYSTERIES--GOD GIVES THEM HERE IN REALITY.
It will be objected that, by this way, mysteries will not be made known.
It is just the contrary; they are given to the soul in reality. Jesus
Christ, to whom it is abandoned, and whom it follows as the Way, whom
it hears as the Truth, and who animates it as the Life, impressing
Himself upon it, imparts to it His own condition.
To bear the conditions of Christ is something far greater than merely to
consider those conditions. Paul bore the conditions of Christ on his
body. "I bear in my body," he says, "the marks of the Lord Jesus" (Gal.
vi. 17). But he does not say that he reasoned about them.
Often Christ gives in this state of abandonment views of His conditions
in a striking manner. We must receive equally all the dispositions in
which He may be pleased to place us, choosing for ourselves to abide
near to Him, and to be annihilated before Him, but receiving equally all
that He gives us, light or darkness, facility or barrenness, strength or
weakness, sweetness or bitterness, temptations or distractions, sorrow,
care, uncertainty; none of these things ought to move us.
There are some persons to whom God is continually revealing His
mysteries: let them be faithful to them. But when God sees fit to remove
them, let them suffer them to be taken.
Others are troubled because no mysteries are made known to them: this is
needless, since a loving attention to God includes all particular
devotion, and that which is united to God alone, by its rest in Him, is
instructed in a most excellent manner in all mysteries. He who loves God
loves all that is of Him.
ON VIRTUE--ALL VIRTUES GIVEN WITH GOD IN THIS DEGREE OF THE PRAYER OF
This is the short and the sure way of acquiring virtue; because, God
being the principle of all virtue, we possess all virtue in possessing
More than this, I say that all virtue which is not given inwardly is a
mask of virtue, and like a garment that can be taken off, and will wear
out. But virtue communicated fundamentally is essential, true, and
permanent. "The King's daughter is all glorious within" (Ps. xlv. 13).
And there are none who practise virtue more constantly than those who
acquire it in this way, though virtue is not a distinct subject of their
How hungry these loving ones are after suffering! They think only of
what can please their Beloved, and they begin to neglect themselves, and
to think less of themselves. The more they love God, the more they hate
Oh, if all could learn this method, so easy that it is suited for all,
for the most ignorant as for the most learned, how easily the whole
Church would be reformed! You only need to love. St Augustine says,
"Love, and do as you please;" for when we love perfectly, we shall not
desire to do anything that could be displeasing to our Beloved.
OF PERFECT CONVERSION, WHICH IS AN EFFECT OF THIS METHOD OF PRAYER—TWO OF ITS AIDS, THE ATTRACTION OF GOD, AND THE CENTRAL INCLINATION OF THE SOUL.
"Turn you unto Him from whom the children of Israel have deeply revolted"
(Isa. xxxi. 6). Conversion is nothing else but a turning from the
creature to God. Conversion is not perfect, though it is necessary for
salvation, when it is merely a turning from sin to grace. To be
complete, it must be a turning from without to within.
The soul, being turned in the direction of God, has a great facility for
remaining converted to Him. The longer it is converted, the nearer it
approaches to God, and attaches itself to Him; and the nearer it
approaches to God, the more it becomes necessarily drawn from the
creature, which is opposed to God.
But this cannot be done by a violent effort of the creature; all that it
can do is to remain turned in the direction of God in a perpetual
God has an _attracting virtue_, which draws the soul more strongly
towards Himself; and in attracting it, He purifies it: as we see the sun
attracting a dense vapour, and gradually, without any other effort on
the part of the vapour than that of letting itself be drawn, the sun, by
bringing it near to himself, refines and purifies it.
There is, however, this difference, that the vapour is not drawn freely,
and does not follow willingly, as is the case with the soul.
This manner of turning within is very simple, and makes the soul advance
naturally and without effort; because God is its centre. The centre has
always a strong attractive power; and the larger the centre, the
stronger is its attractive force.
Besides this attraction of the centre, there is given to all natural
objects a strong tendency to become united with their centre. As soon as
anything is turned in the direction of its centre, unless it be stopped
by some invincible obstacle, it rushes towards it with extreme
velocity. A stone in the air is no sooner let loose, and turned towards
the earth, than it tends to it by its own weight as its centre. It is
the same with fire and water, which, being no longer arrested, run
incessantly towards their centre.
Now I say that the soul, by the effort it has made in inward
recollection, being turned towards its centre, without any other effort,
but simply by the weight of love, falls towards its centre; and the more
it remains quiet and at rest, making no movement of its own, the more
rapidly it will advance, because it thus allows that attractive virtue
to draw it.
All the care, then, that we need have is to promote this inward
recollection as much as possible, not being astonished at the difficulty
we may find in this exercise, which will soon be recompensed with a
wonderful co-operation on the part of God, which will render it very
easy. When the passions rise, a look towards God, who is present within
us, easily deadens them. Any other resistance would irritate rather than
HIGHER DEGREE OF PRAYER, WHICH IS THAT OF THE SIMPLE PRESENCE OF GOD, OR ACTIVE CONTEMPLATION.
The soul, faithfully exercising itself in the affection and love of its
God, is astonished to find Him taking complete possession of it.
His presence becomes so natural, that it would be impossible not to have
it: it becomes habitual to the soul, which is also conscious of a great
calm spreading over it. Its prayer is all silence, and God imparts to it
an intrinsic love, which is the commencement of ineffable happiness.
Oh, if I could describe the infinite degrees which follow! But I must
stop here, since I am writing for beginners, and wait till God shall
bring to light what may be useful to those more advanced. I can only
say, that, at this point, it is most important that all natural
operation should cease, that God may act alone: "Be still, and know that
I am God," is His own word by David (Ps. xlvi. 10).
1. This subject is pursued in the treatise entitled "Spiritual
But man is so attached to his own works, that he cannot believe God is
working, unless he can feel, know, and distinguish His operation. He
does not see that it is the speed of his course which prevents his
seeing the extent of his advancement; and that the operation of God
becoming more abundant, absorbs that of the creature, as we see that the
sun, in proportion as he rises, absorbs the light of the stars, which
were easily distinguishable before he appeared. It is not the want of
light, but an excess of light, which prevents our distinguishing the
It is the same here; man can no longer distinguish his own operation,
because the strong light absorbs all his little distinct lights, and
makes them fade away entirely, because God's excess surpasses them all.
So that those who accuse this degree of prayer of being a state of
idleness, are greatly deceived; and only speak thus from want of
experience. Oh, if they would only prove it! in how short a time they
would become experimentally acquainted with this matter!
I say, then, that this failure of work does not spring from scarcity,
but from abundance.
Two classes of persons are silent: the one because they have nothing to
say, the other because they have too much. It is thus in this degree. We
are silent from excess, not from want.
Water causes death to two persons in very different ways. One dies of
thirst, another is drowned: the one dies from want, the other from
abundance. So here it is abundance which causes the cessation of natural
operation. It is therefore important in this degree to remain as much as
possible in stillness.
At the commencement of this prayer, a movement of affection is
necessary; but when grace begins to flow into us, we have nothing to do
but to remain at rest, and take all that God gives. Any other movement
would prevent our profiting by this grace, which is given in order to
draw us into the rest of love.
The soul in this peaceful attitude of prayer falls into a mystic sleep,
in which all its natural powers are silenced, until that which had been
temporary becomes its permanent condition. You see that the soul is
thus led, without effort, without study, without artifice.
The heart is not a fortified place, which must be taken by cannonading
and violence: it is a kingdom of peace, which is possessed by love.
Gently following in His train, you will soon reach the degree of
intuitive prayer. God asks nothing extraordinary and difficult: on the
contrary, He is most pleased with childlike simplicity.
The grandest part of religion is the most simple. It is the same with
natural things. Do you wish to get to the sea? Embark upon a river, and
insensibly and without effort you will be taken to it. Do you wish to
get to God? Take His way, so quiet, so easy, and in a little while you
will be taken to Him in a manner that will surprise you. Oh, if only you
would try it! How soon you would see that I am telling you only too
little, and that the experience would far surpass any description that
could be given! What do you fear? Why do you not throw yourself at once
into the arms of Love, who only stretched them out upon the cross in
order to take you in? What risk can there be in trusting God, and
abandoning yourself to Him? Oh, He will not deceive you, unless it be by
giving you far more than you ever expected: while those who expect
everything from themselves may well take to themselves the reproach
which God utters by the mouth of Isaiah: "You art wearied in the
greatness of your way; yet saidst you not, There is no hope" (Isa. lvii.
OF REST IN THE PRESENCE OF GOD--ITS FRUITS--INWARD SILENCE--GOD COMMANDS IT--OUTWARD SILENCE.
The soul, being brought to this place, needs no other preparation than
that of repose: for the presence of God during the day, which is the
great result of prayer, or rather prayer itself, begins to be
intuitive and almost continual. The soul is conscious of a deep
inward happiness, and feels that God is in it more truly than it is in
itself. It has only one thing to do in order to find God, which is to
retire within itself. As soon as the eyes are closed, it finds itself in
It is astonished at this infinite happiness; there is carried on within
it a conversation which outward things cannot interrupt. It might be
said of this method of prayer, as was said of Wisdom, "All good things
together come to me with her" (Wisdom of Solomon vii. 11), for virtue
flows naturally into the soul, and is practised so easily, that it seems
to be quite natural to it. It has within it a germ of life and
fruitfulness, which gives it a facility for all good, and an
insensibility to all evil. Let it then remain faithful, and seek no
other frame of mind than that of simple rest. It has only to suffer
itself to be filled with this divine effusion.
"The Lord is in His holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before
Him" (Hab. ii. 20). The reason why inward silence is so necessary is,
that Christ, being the eternal and essential Word, in order that He may
be received into the soul, there must be a disposition corresponding
with what He is. Now it is certain that in order to receive words we
must listen. Hearing is the sense given to enable us to receive the
words which are communicated to us. Hearing is rather a passive than an
active sense, receiving, and not communicating. Christ being the Word
which is to be communicated, the soul must be attentive to this Word
which speaks within it.
This is why we are so often exhorted to listen to God, and to be
attentive to His voice. Many passages might be quoted. I will be
content to mention a few: "Hearken unto me, O my people; and give ear
unto me, O my nation" (Isa. li. 4). "Hearken unto me, O house of Jacob,
and all the remnant of the house of Israel" (Isa. xlvi. 31). "Hearken, O
daughter, and consider, and incline your ear; forget also your own
people, and your father's house; so shall the King greatly desire your
beauty" (Ps. xlv. 10, 11).
We must listen to God, and be attentive to Him, forgetting ourselves
and all self-interest. These two actions, or rather passions--for this
condition is essentially a passive one--arouse in God a "desire" towards
the "beauty" He has Himself communicated.
Outward silence is extremely necessary for the cultivation of inward
silence, and it is impossible to acquire inward silence without having a
love for silence and solitude.
God tells us by the mouth of His prophet, "I will allure her, and bring
her into the wilderness, and speak to her heart" (marginal reading of
Hosea ii. 14).
To be inwardly occupied with God, and outwardly occupied with countless
trifles, this is impossible.
It will be a small matter to pray, and to retire within ourselves for
half an hour or an hour, if we do not retain the unction and the spirit
of prayer during the day.
SELF-EXAMINATION AND CONFESSION.
Self-examination should always precede confession. Those who arrive at
this degree should expose themselves to God, who will not fail to
enlighten them, and to make known to them the nature of their faults.
This examination must be conducted in peace and tranquility, expecting
more from God than from our own research the knowledge of our sins.
When we examine ourselves with an effort, we easily make mistakes. We
"call evil good, and good evil;" and self-esteem easily deceives us. But
when we remain exposed to the searching gaze of God, that Divine Sun
brings to light even the smallest atoms. We must then, for
self-examination, abandon ourselves utterly to God.
When we are in this degree of prayer, God is not slow to reveal to us
all the faults we commit. We have no sooner sinned than we feel a
It is God Himself who conducts an examination which nothing escapes, and
we have only to turn towards God, and suffer the pain and the correction
which He gives. As this examination by God is continual, we can no
longer examine ourselves; and if we are faithful to our abandonment to
God, we shall soon be better examined by the divine light than we could
be by all our own efforts. Experience will make this known. One thing
which often causes astonishment to the soul is, that when it is
conscious of a sin, and comes to confess it to God, instead of feeling
regret and contrition, such as it formerly felt, a sweet and gentle love
takes possession of it.
Not having experienced this before, it supposes that it ought to draw
itself out of this condition to make a definite act of contrition. But
it does not see that, by doing this, it would lose true contrition,
which is this intuitive love, infinitely greater than anything it
could create for itself. It is a higher action, which includes the
others, with greater perfection, though these are not possessed
We should not seek to do anything for ourselves when God acts more
excellently in us and for us. It is hating sin as God hates it to hate
it in this way. This love, which is the operation of God in the soul, is
the purest of all love. All we have to do then is to remain as we are.
Another remarkable thing is, that we often forget our faults, and find
it difficult to remember them; but this must not trouble us, for two
reasons: The first, that this very forgetfulness is a proof that the sin
has been atoned for, and it is better to forget all that concerns
ourselves, that we may remember God alone. The second reason is, that
God does not fail, whenever confession is needful, to show to the soul
its greatest faults, for then it is He Himself who examines it.
ON READING--VOCAL PRAYER--REQUESTS.
The proper manner of reading in this degree is, as soon as we feel
attracted to meditation, to cease reading, and remain at rest.
The soul is no sooner called to inward silence, than it should cease to
utter vocal prayers; saying but little at any time, and when it does say
them, if it finds any difficulty, or feels itself drawn to silence, it
should remain silent, and make no effort to pray, leaving itself to the
guidance of the Spirit of God.
The soul will find that it cannot, as formerly, present definite
requests to God. This need not surprise it, for it is now that "the
Spirit makes intercession for the saints, according to the will of God.
The Spirit also helps our infirmities: for we know not what we should
pray for as we ought; but the Spirit itself makes intercession for us,
with groanings which cannot be uttered" (Rom. viii. 26, 27).
We must second the designs of God, which are to strip the soul of its
own works, to substitute His in their place.
Let Him work then, and bind yourself to nothing of your own. However
good it may appear to you, it cannot be so if it comes in the way of
God's will for you. The will of God is preferable to all other good.
Seek not your own interests, but live by abandonment and by faith.
It is here that faith begins to operate wonderfully in the soul.
THE FAULTS COMMITTED IN THIS
TEMPTATIONS—THE COURSE TO BE PURSUED RESPECTING THEM.
As soon as we fall into a fault, or have wandered, we must turn again
within ourselves; because this fault having turned us from God, we
should as soon as possible turn towards Him, and suffer the penitence
which He Himself will give.
It is of great importance that we should not be anxious about these
faults, because the anxiety only springs from a secret pride and a love
of our own excellence. We are troubled at feeling what we are.
If we become discouraged, we shall grow weaker yet; and reflection upon
our faults produces a vexation which is worse than the sin itself.
A truly humble soul does not marvel at its weakness, and the more it
perceives its wretchedness, the more it abandons itself to God, and
seeks to remain near to Him, knowing how deeply it needs His help.
God's own word to us is, "I will instruct thee, and teach thee in the
way which you shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye" (Ps. xxxii.
In distractions or temptations, instead of combating them directly,
which would only serve to augment them, and to wean us from God, with
whom alone we ought to be occupied, we should simply turn away from
them, and draw nearer to God; as a little child, seeing a fierce animal
approaching it, would not stay to fight it, nor even to look at it, but
would run for shelter to its mother's arms, where it would be safe. "God
is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and
that right early" (Ps. xlvi. 5).
If we adopt any other course of action, if we attempt to attack our
enemies in our weakness, we shall be wounded, even if we are not
entirely defeated; but remaining in the simple presence of God, we find
ourselves immediately fortified.
This was what David did: he says, "I have set the Lord always before me;
because He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my
heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; my flesh also shall rest in
hope." It is also said by Moses, "The Lord shall fight for you, and you
shall hold your peace" (Exod. xiv. 14).
PRAYER AND SACRIFICE EXPLAINED BY THE
SIMILITUDE OF A
PERFUME—OUR ANNIHILATION IN THIS SACRIFICE--SOLIDITY AND
FRUITFULNESS OF THIS PRAYER AS SET FORTH IN THE GOSPEL.
Prayer ought to be both petition and sacrifice.
Prayer, according to the testimony of St John, is an incense, whose
perfume rises to God. Therefore it is said in the Revelation (chap.
viii. 3), that an angel held a censer, which contained the incense of
the prayers of saints.
Prayer is an outpouring of the heart in the presence of God. "I have
poured out my soul before the Lord," said the mother of Samuel (1 Sam.
i. 15). Thus the prayers of the Magi at the feet of the infant Jesus in
the stable of Bethlehem were signified by the incense which they
Prayer is the heat of love, which melts and dissolves the soul, and
carries it to God. In proportion as it melts, it gives out its odour,
and this odour comes from the love which burns it.
This is what the Bride meant when she said, "While the King sits at
His table, my spikenard sends forth the smell thereof" (Cant. i. 12).
The table is the heart. When God is there, and we are kept near to Him,
in His presence, this presence of God melts and dissolves the hardness
of our hearts, and as they melt, they give forth their perfume.
Therefore the Bridegroom, seeing His Bride thus melted by the speech of
her Beloved, says, "Who is this that cometh out of the wilderness,
perfumed with myrrh and frankincense?" (Cant. iii. 6).
Thus the soul rises up towards its God. But in order to this, it must
suffer itself to be destroyed and annihilated by the force of love. This
is a state of sacrifice essential to the Christian religion, by which
the soul suffers itself to be destroyed and annihilated to render homage
to the sovereignty of God; as it is written, "The power of the Lord is
great, and He is honoured of the lowly" (Ecclus. iii. 20). And the
destruction of our own being confesses the sovereign being of God.
We must cease to be, so that the Spirit of the Word may be in us. In
order that He may come to us, we must yield our life to Him, and die to
self that He may live in us, and that we being dead, our life may be
hidden with Christ in God (Col. iii. 3).
"Come unto me," says God, "all you that be desirous of me, and fill
yourselves with my fruits" (Ecclus. xxiv. 19). But how can we be filled
with God? Only by being emptied of self, and going out of ourselves in
order to be lost in Him.
Now, this can never be brought about except by our becoming nothing.
Nothingness is true prayer, which renders to God "honour, and glory, and
power, for ever and ever" (Rev. v. 13).
This prayer is the prayer of truth. It is worshipping the Father in
spirit and in truth. In spirit, because we are by it drawn out of our
human and carnal action, to enter into the purity of the Spirit, who
prays in us; and in truth, because the soul is led into the truth of
the ALL of God, and the NOTHING of the creature.
There are but these two truths, the ALL and the NOTHING. All the rest is
We can only honour the ALL of God by our NOTHINGNESS; and we have no
sooner become nothing, than God, who will not suffer us to be empty,
fills us with Himself. Oh, if all knew the blessings which come to the
soul by this prayer, they would be satisfied with no others: it is the
pearl of great price; it is the hidden treasure. He who finds it gladly
sells all that he has to buy it (Matt. xiii. 44, 46). It is the well of
living water, which springs up into everlasting life (John iv. 14). It
is the practice of the pure maxims of the gospel.
Does not Christ Himself tell us that the kingdom of God is within us?
(Luke xvii. 21). This kingdom is set up in two ways. The first is, when
God is so thoroughly master of us that nothing resists Him: then our
heart is truly His kingdom. The other way is, that by possessing God,
who is the sovereign Lord, we possess the kingdom of God, which is the
height of felicity, and the end for which we were created. As it has
been said, to serve God is to reign.
The end for which we were created is to enjoy God in this life, and men
do not believe it!
THIS STATE OF PRAYER NOT ONE OF IDLENESS, BUT
OF NOBLE ACTION,
WROUGHT BY THE SPIRIT OF GOD, AND IN DEPENDENCE UPON HIM--THE
COMMUNICATION OF HIS LIFE AND UNION.
Some people, hearing of the prayer of silence, have wrongly imagined
that the soul remains inactive, lifeless, and without movement.
But the truth is, that its action is more noble and more extensive than
it ever was before it entered this degree, since it is moved by God
Himself, and acted upon by His Spirit. St Paul desires that we should be
led by the Spirit of God (Rom. viii. 14). I do not say that there must
be no action, but that we must act in dependence upon the divine
movement. This is admirably set forth by Ezekiel. The prophet saw wheels
which had the spirit of life, and wherever this spirit was to go, they
went; they went on, or stood, or were lifted up, as they were moved,
for the spirit of life was in them: but they never went back (see Ezek.
i. 19-21). It should be the same with the soul: it should suffer itself
to be moved and guided by the living Spirit who is in it, following His
direction, and no other. Now this Spirit will never lead it to go
backwards, that is, to reflect upon the creature, or to lean upon
itself, but always to go forward, pressing continually towards the mark.
This action of the soul is a restful action. When it acts of itself, it
acts with effort; and is therefore more conscious of its action. But
when it acts in dependence upon the Spirit of grace, its action is so
free, so easy, so natural, that it does not seem to act at all. "He
brought me forth also into a large place; He delivered me, because He
delighted in me" (Ps. xviii. 19).
As soon as the soul has commenced its course towards its centre, from
that moment its action becomes vigorous--that is, its course towards the
centre which attracts it, which infinitely surpasses the velocity of any
2. See chap. ix.
It is action then, but an action so noble, so peaceful, so
tranquil, that it seems to the soul as though it were not acting at
all; because it rests, as it were, naturally. When a wheel is only
turning with a moderate speed, it can easily be distinguished; but when
it goes quickly, no part of it can be distinctly seen. So the soul which
remains at rest in God has an action infinitely noble and exalted, yet
very peaceful. The greater its peace, the greater is its velocity,
because it is abandoned to the Spirit, who moves it and makes it act.
This Spirit is God Himself, who draws us, and in drawing makes us run to
Him, as the Bride well knew when she said, "Draw me, we will run" (Cant.
i. 4). Draw me, O my Divine Centre, by my inmost heart: my powers and my
sensibilities will run at Your attraction! This attraction alone is a
balm which heals me, and a perfume which draws. "We will run," she says,
"because of the savour of Your good ointments." This attracting virtue is
very strong but the soul follows it very gladly; and as it is
equally strong and sweet, it attracts by its strength and delights by
The Bride says, "Draw me, we will run." She speaks of herself, and to
herself: "Draw me;" there is the unity of the object which is
attracted: "We will run;" there is the correspondence of all the
powers and sensibilities which follow in the train of the centre of the
It is not then a question of remaining in idleness, but of acting in
dependence upon the Spirit of God, who animates us, since it is in Him
that "we live, and move, and have our being" (Acts xvii. 23). This calm
dependence upon the Spirit of God is absolutely necessary, and causes
the soul in a short time to attain the simplicity and unity in which it
was created. It was created one and simple, like God. In order, then, to
answer the end of our creation, we must quit the multiplicity of our own
actions, to enter into the simplicity and unity of God, in whose image
we were created (Gen. i. 27). The Spirit of God is "one only," "yet
manifold" (Wisdom of Solomon vii. 22), and its unity does not prevent
its multiplicity. We enter into God's unity when we are united to His
Spirit, because then we have the same Spirit that He has; and we are
multiplied outwardly, as regards His dispositions, without leaving the
So that, as God acts infinitely, and we are of one spirit with Him, we
act much more than we could do by our own action. We must suffer
ourselves to be guided by Wisdom. This "Wisdom" is more moving than any
motion (Wisdom of Solomon vii. 24). Let us, then, remain in dependence
upon His action, and our action will be vigorous indeed.
"All things were made by (the Word); and without Him was not anything
made that was made" (John i. 3). God, in creating us, created us in His
image, after His likeness (Gen. i. 26). He gave to us the Spirit of the
Word by the breath of life (Gen. ii. 7), which He breathed into us when
we were created in the image of God, by the participation of the life of
the Word, who is the image of His Father. Now this life is one, simple,
pure, intimate, and fruitful.
The devil having disfigured this beautiful image, it became necessary
that this same Word, whose breath had been breathed into us at our
creation, should come to restore it. It was necessary that it should be
He, because He is the image of the Father; and a defaced image cannot be
repaired by its own action, but by the action of him who seeks to
restore it. Our action then should be, to put ourselves into a
position to suffer the action of God, and to allow the Word to retrace
His image in us. An image, if it could move, would by its movement
prevent the sculptor's perfecting it. Every movement of our own hinders
the work of the Heavenly Sculptor, and produces false features.
We must then remain silent, and only move as He moves us. Jesus Christ
has life in Himself (John v. 26), and He must communicate life to all
That this action is the most noble cannot be denied. Things are only of
value as the principle in which they originate is noble, grand, and
elevated. Actions committed by a divine principle are divine actions;
whereas the actions of the creature, however good they may appear, are
human actions or at best they are virtuous actions, if they are done
with the help of grace.
Jesus says that He has life in Himself; all other beings have but a
borrowed life, but the Word has life in Himself; and as He is
communicative, He desires to communicate this life to men. We must then
give place to this life, that it may flow in us, which can only be done
by evacuation, and the loss of the life of Adam and of our own action,
as St Paul assures us: "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature:
old things are passed away; behold all things are become new" (2 Cor. v.
17). This can only be brought about by the death of ourselves and of our
own action, that the action of God may be substituted for it. We do not
profess, then, to be without action, but only to act in dependence upon
the Spirit of God, suffering His action to take the place of our own.
Jesus shows us this in the gospel. Martha did good things, but because
she did them of her own spirit, Christ reproved her for them. The spirit
of man is turbulent and boisterous; therefore it does little, though it
appears to do much. "Martha, Martha," said Jesus, "you art careful and
troubled about many things; but one thing is needful; and Mary hath
chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her" (Luke x.
What had she chosen, this Magdalene? Peace, tranquility, and repose.
She apparently ceased to act, that she might be moved by the Spirit of
God; she ceased to live, that Christ might live in her.
This is why it is so necessary to renounce ourselves and all our own
works to follow Jesus; for we cannot follow Him unless we are animated
with His Spirit. In order that the Spirit of Christ may dwell in us, our
own spirit must give place to Him. "He that is joined to the Lord," says
St Paul, "is one spirit" (1 Cor. vi. 17). "It is good for me to draw
near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord God" (Ps. lxxiii. 28). What
is this "drawing near"? It is the beginning of union.
Union has its beginning, its continuation, its completion, and its
consummation. The commencement of union is an inclination towards God.
When the soul is converted in the manner I have described, it has an
inclination to its centre, and a strong tendency to union: this tendency
is the commencement. Then it adheres, which happens when it approaches
nearer to God; then it is united to Him, and finally becomes one with
Him--that is, it becomes one spirit with Him; and it is then that this
spirit, which proceeded from God, returns to Him as its end.
It is, then, necessary that we should enter this way, which is the
divine motion, and the Spirit of Jesus Christ. St Paul says, "If any man
have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His" (Rom. viii. 9). To be
Christ's, then, we must suffer ourselves to be filled with His Spirit,
and emptied of our own: our hearts must be evacuated. St Paul, in the
same place, proves to us the necessity of this divine motion: he says,
"As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God"
(Rom. viii. 14).
The divinely-imparted Spirit is the Spirit of divine sonship; therefore,
the same apostle continues, "You have not received the spirit of bondage
again to fear; but you have received the spirit of adoption, whereby we
cry, Abba, Father" (Rom. viii. 15). This spirit is no other than the
Spirit of Christ, by whom we participate in His Sonship; and this
"Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are the sons of
As soon as the soul leaves itself to be moved by the Spirit of God, it
experiences the witness of this divine sonship; and this witness serves
the more to increase its joy, as it makes it know that it is called to
the liberty of the sons of God, and that the spirit it has received is
not a spirit of bondage, but of liberty.
The Spirit of the divine motion is so necessary for all things, that
Paul founds this necessity upon our ignorance of the things that we ask
for. "The Spirit," he says, "helps our infirmities; for we know not
what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit itself makes
intercession for us, with groanings which cannot be uttered." This is
conclusive: if we do not know what to pray for, nor how to ask as we
ought for what is necessary for us, and if it is needful that the Spirit
who is in us, to whose motion we abandon ourselves, should ask it for
us, ought we not to leave Him to do it? He does it "with groanings which
cannot be uttered."
This Spirit is the Spirit of the Word, who is always heard, as He says
Himself: "I know that You hear me always" (John xi. 42). If we leave
it to the Spirit within us to ask and to pray, we shall always be
answered. Why so? O great apostle, mystic teacher, so deeply taught in
the inner life! teach us why. "It is," he adds, "because He that
searches the hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because He
makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God;" that
is to say, this Spirit only asks that which it is God's will to give. It
is God's will that we should be saved and that we should be perfect. He
asks, then, for all that is necessary to our perfection. Why, after
this, should we be burdened with superfluous cares, and be wearied in
the greatness of our way, without ever saying, There is no hope in
ourselves, and therefore resting in God? God Himself invites us to cast
all our care upon Him, and He complains, in inconceivable goodness, that
we employ our strength, our riches, and our treasure, in countless
exterior things, although there is so little joy to be found in them
all. "Wherefore do you spend money for that which is not bread, and your
labour for that which satisfies not? Hearken diligently unto me, and
eat you that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness"
(Isa. lv. 2).
Oh, if it were known what happiness there is in thus hearkening unto
God, and how the soul is strengthened by it! All flesh must be silent
before the Lord (see Zech. ii. 13). All self-effort must cease when He
appears. In order still further to induce us to abandon ourselves to Him
without reserve, God assures us that we need fear nothing from such
abandonment, because He has a special individual care over each of us.
He says, "Can a woman forget her sucking-child, that she should not have
compassion on the son of her womb? Yet, she may forget, yet will I not
forget thee" (Isa. xlix. 15). Ah, words full of consolation! Who on
hearing them can fear to abandon himself utterly to the guidance of
DISTINCTION BETWEEN EXTERIOR AND INTERIOR
THE SOUL IN THIS CONDITION ARE INTERIOR, BUT HABITUAL, CONTINUED,
DIRECT, PROFOUND, SIMPLE, AND IMPERCEPTIBLE--BEING A CONTINUAL
SINKING IN THE OCEAN OF DIVINITY--SIMILITUDE OF A VESSEL--HOW TO
ACT IN THE ABSENCE OF SENSIBLE SUPPORTS.
The actions of men are either exterior or interior. The exterior are
those which appear outwardly, and have a sensible object, possessing
neither good nor evil qualities, excepting as they receive them from the
interior principle in which they originate. It is not of these that I
intend to speak, but only of interior actions, which are those actions
of the soul by which it applies itself inwardly to some object, or
turns away from some other.
When, being applied to God, I desire to commit an action of a different
nature from those which He would prompt, I turn away from God, and I
turn towards created things more or less according to the strength or
weakness of my action. If, being turned towards the creature, I wish to
return to God, I must commit the action of turning away from the
creature, and turning towards God; and thus the more perfect is this
action, the more complete will be the conversion.
Until I am perfectly converted, I need several actions to turn me
towards God. Some are done all at once, others gradually; but my action
ought to lead me to turn to God, employing all the strength of my soul
for Him, as it is written, "Therefore even now, saith the Lord, turn you
even to me with all your heart" (Joel ii. 12). "You shalt return unto
the Lord your God ... with all your heart and with all your soul" (Deut.
xxx. 2). God only asks for our heart: "My son, give me your heart, and
let your eyes observe my ways" (Prov. xxiii. 26). To give the heart to
God is to have its gaze, its strength, and its vigour all centred in
Him, to follow His will. We must, then, after we have applied to God,
remain always turned towards Him.
But as the mind of man is weak, and the soul, being accustomed to turn
towards earthly things, is easily turned away from God, it must, as soon
as it perceives that it is turned towards outward things, resume its
former position in God by a simple act of return to Him.
And as several repeated acts form a habit, the soul contracts a habit of
conversion, and from action it passes to a habitual condition.
The soul, then, must not seek by means of any efforts or works of its
own to come near to God; this is seeking to perform one action by means
of others, instead of by a simple action remaining attached to God
If we believe that we must commit no actions, we are mistaken, for we
are always acting; but each one must act according to his degree.
I will endeavour to make this point clear, as, for want of understanding
it, it presents a difficulty to many Christians.
There are passing and distinct actions, and continued actions;
direct acts and reflected acts. All cannot perform the first, and
all are not in a condition to perform the others. The first actions
should be committed by those who are turned away from God. They ought to
turn to Him by a distinct action, more or less strong according to their
distance from Him.
By a continued action I understand that by which the soul is
completely turned towards its God by a direct action, which it does
not renew, unless it has been interrupted, but which exists. The soul
being altogether turned in this way, is in love, and remains there: "And
he that dwells in love, dwells in God" (1 John iv. 16). Then the
soul may be said to be in a habitual act, resting even in this action.
But its rest is not idle, for it has an action always in force, viz.,
a gentle sinking in God, in which God attracts it more and more
strongly; and, following this attraction, and resting in love, it sinks
more and more in this love, and has an action infinitely stronger, more
vigorous, and more prompt, than that action which forms only the return.
Now the soul which is in this profound and strong action, being turned
towards its God, does not perceive this action, because it is direct,
and not reflex; so that persons in this condition, not knowing how
rightly to describe it, say that they have no action. But they are
mistaken; they were never more active. It would be better to say they do
not distinguish any action, than that they do not commit any.
The soul does not act of itself, I admit; but it is drawn, and it
follows the attracting power. Love is the weight which sinks it, as a
person who falls in the sea sinks, and would sink to infinity if the sea
were infinite; and without perceiving its sinking, it would sink to the
most profound depths with an incredible speed. It is, then, incorrect to
say that no actions are committed. All commit actions, but all do not
commit them in the same manner; and the abuse arises from the fact, that
those who know that action is inevitable wish it to be distinct and
sensible. But sensible action is for beginners, and the other for
those more advanced. To stop with the first would be to deprive
ourselves of the last; and to wish to commit the last before having
passed the first would be an equal abuse.
Everything must be done in its season; each state has its commencement,
its progress, and its end. There is no act which has not its beginning.
At first we must work with effort, but afterwards we enjoy the fruit
of our labour.
When a vessel is in the harbour, the sailors have a difficulty in
bringing it into the open sea; but once there, they easily turn it in
the direction in which they wish to navigate. So, when the soul is in
sin, it needs an effort to drag it out; the cords which bind it must be
loosened; then, by means of strong and vigorous action, it must be drawn
within itself, little by little leaving the harbour, and being turned
within, which is the place to which its voyage should be directed.
When the vessel is thus turned, in proportion as it advances in the sea,
it leaves the land behind it, and the further it goes from the land, the
less effort is needed to carry it along. At last it begins to sail
gently, and the vessel goes on so rapidly that the oars become useless.
What does the pilot do then? He is contented with spreading the sails
and sitting at the helm.
Spreading the sails is simply laying ourselves before God, to be
moved by His Spirit. Sitting at the helm is preventing our heart from
leaving the right way, rowing it gently, and leading it according to the
movement of the Spirit of God, who gradually takes possession of it, as
the wind gradually fills the sails, and impels the vessel forward. So
long as the vessel sails before the wind, the mariners rest from their
labour. They voyage farther in an hour, while they rest in this manner
and leave the ship to be carried along by the wind, than they would in a
much longer time by their own efforts; and if they wished to row,
besides the fatigue which would result from it, their labour would be
useless, and would only serve to retard the vessel.
This is the conduct we should pursue in our inner life, and in acting
thus we shall advance more in a short time by the Divine guidance, than
we ever could do by our own efforts. If only you will try this way, you
will find it the easiest possible.
When the wind is contrary, if the wind and the tempest are violent, the
anchor must be thrown in the sea to stop the vessel. This anchor is
trust in God and hope in His goodness, waiting in patience for the
tempest to cease, and for a favourable wind to return, as David did:
"I waited patiently for the Lord," he says, "and He inclined unto me"
(Ps. xl. 1).
THE DRYNESS OF PREACHERS, AND THE VARIOUS EVILS
FROM THEIR FAILING TO TEACH HEART-PRAYER--EXHORTATION TO
PASTORS TO LEAD PEOPLE TOWARDS THIS FORM OF PRAYER, WITHOUT
AMUSING THEM WITH STUDIED AND METHODICAL DEVOTION.
If all those who are working for the conquest of souls sought to win
them by the heart, leading them first of all to prayer and to the
inner life, they would see many and lasting conversions. But so long as
they only address themselves to the outside, and instead of drawing
people to Christ by occupying their hearts with Him, they only give them
a thousand precepts for outward observances, they will see but little
fruit, and that will not be lasting.
When once the heart is won, other defects are easily corrected. This is
why God particularly asks for the heart. By this means alone would be
prevented the drunkenness, blasphemy, lewdness, enmity, and robbery
which are prevalent in the world. Jesus Christ would reign universally,
and the Church everywhere would be revived.
Error only takes possession of the soul in the absence of faith and
prayer. If men could be taught to believe simply and to pray,
instead of disputing amongst themselves, they would be gently led to
Oh, how inestimable is the loss of those who neglect the inner life! Oh,
what an account will they have to render to God who have the charge of
souls, for not having discovered this hidden treasure to all those whom
they serve in the ministry of the Word!
The excuse given is that there is danger in this way, or that ignorant
people are incapable of spiritual things. The oracle of truth assures us
that God has hid these things from the wise and prudent, and has
revealed them to babes. And what danger can there be in walking in the
only true way, which is Jesus Christ, in giving ourselves to Him,
looking to Him continually, putting all our trust in His grace, and
tending, with all the forces of our souls, to His pure love?
Far from the simple ones being incapable of this perfection, they are
the most suitable for it, because they are more docile, more humble, and
more innocent; and as they do not reason, they are not so attached to
their own light. Having no science, they more readily suffer themselves
to be guided by the Spirit of God: while others who are blind in their
own sufficiency resist the divine inspiration.
God tells us, too, that it is to the simple He gives understanding by
the entrance of His Word (Ps. cxix. 130). "The testimony of the Lord is
sure, making wise the simple" (Ps. xix. 7). "The Lord preserves the
simple: I was brought low, and He helped me" (Ps. cxvi. 6).
O you who have the oversight of souls! see that you do not prevent the
little ones from going to Christ. His words to His disciples were,
"Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not; for of
such is the kingdom of God" (Luke xviii. 16). Jesus only said this to
His disciples, because they wished to keep the children away from Him.
Often the remedy is applied to the body, when the disease is at the
heart. The reason why we have so little success in seeking to reform
men, is that we direct our efforts to the outside, and all that we can
do there soon passes off. But if we were to give them first the key of
the interior, the outside would be reformed at once with a natural
And this is very easy. To teach them to seek God in their heart, to
think of Him, to return to Him when they find they have turned away, to
do all and suffer all for the sake of pleasing Him--this is to direct
them to the source of all grace, and to make them find there all that is
necessary for their sanctification. O you who serve souls! I conjure you
to put them first of all into this way, which is Jesus Christ; and it is
He who conjures you to do this by the blood He has shed for the souls He
confides to your care. "Speak to the heart of Jerusalem" (Isa. xl. 2,
marg.) O dispensers of His grace, preachers of His Word, ministers of
sacraments! establish His kingdom; and, in order to establish it truly,
make it reign over HEARTS. For as it is the heart alone which can oppose
His empire, it is by the subjection of the heart that His sovereignty is
most honoured. Alas! we seek to make studied prayers; and by wishing
to arrange them too much, we render them impossible. We have alienated
children from the best of Fathers, in seeking to teach them a polished
language. Go, poor children, and speak to your Heavenly Father in your
natural language: however uncultivated it may be, it is not so to Him. A
father loves best the speech which is put in disorder by love and
respect, because he sees that it comes from the heart: it is more to him
than a dry harangue, vain and unfruitful though well studied. Oh, how
certain glances of love charm and ravish Him! They express infinitely
more than all language and reason. By wishing to teach how to love Love
Himself with method, much of this love has been lost. Oh! it is not
necessary to teach the art of loving. The language of love is barbarous
to him who does not love; and we cannot learn to love God better than
by loving Him. The Spirit of God does not need our arrangements; He
takes shepherds at His pleasure to make them prophets; and, far from
closing the palace of prayer to any, as it is imagined, He leaves the
doors open to all, and Wisdom is ordered to cry in the public places,
"Whoso is simple, let him turn in hither: as for him that wants
understanding, she saith to him, Come, eat of my bread, and drink of the
wine which I have mingled" (Prov. ix. 4, 5). Did not Christ thank His
Father that He had hidden these things from the wise and prudent, and
had revealed them to babes? (Matt. xi. 25.)
AFTER THE PRECEDING WAYS, THERE REMAINS AN
PREPARATORY TO DIVINE UNION, IN WHICH WISDOM AND JUSTICE MAKE
THE PASSIVE PURIFICATION OF THE SOUL, ALL WHICH IS TREATED IN
DETAIL IN THE FOLLOWING TREATISE, ENTITLED "SPIRITUAL TORRENTS."
It is impossible to attain divine union by the way of meditation alone,
or even by the affections, or by any luminous or understood prayer.
There are several reasons. These are the principal.
First, according to Scripture, "No man shall see God and live" (Exod.
xxxiii. 20). Now all discursive exercises of prayer, or even of active
contemplation, regarded as an end, and not as a preparation for the
passive, are exercises of life by which we cannot see God, that is,
become united to Him. All that is of man, and of his own industry,
however noble and elevated it may be, must die.
St John tells us that "there was silence in heaven." Heaven represents
the depths and centre of the soul, where all must be in silence when the
majesty of God appears. All that belongs to our own efforts, or to
ourselves in any way, must be destroyed, because nothing is opposed to
God but appropriation, and all the malignity of man is in this
appropriation, which is the source of his evil; so that the more a soul
loses its appropriation, the more it becomes pure.
Secondly, in order to unite two things so opposed as the purity of God
and the impurity of the creature, the simplicity of God and the
multiplicity of the creature, God must operate alone; for this can never
be done by the effort of the creature, since two things cannot be united
unless there is some relation or resemblance between them, as an impure
metal would never unite with one that was pure and refined.
What does God do then? He sends before Him His own Wisdom, as fire will
be sent upon the earth to consume by its activity all the impurity that
is there. Fire consumes all things, and nothing resists its activity. It
is the same with Wisdom; it consumes all impurity in the creature, to
prepare him for divine union.
This impurity, so opposed to union, is appropriation and activity.
Appropriation, because it is the source of the real impurity which can
never be united to essential purity; as the sun's rays may touch the mud
but cannot unite with it. Activity, because God being in an infinite
repose, in order that the soul may be united to Him, it must participate
in His repose, without which there can be no union, because of the
dissemblance; and to unite two things, they must be in a proportionate
It is for this reason that the soul can only attain divine union by the
rest of its will; and it can only be united to God when it is in a
central rest and in the purity of its creation.
To purify the soul God makes use of wisdom as fire is used for the
purification of gold. It is certain that gold can only be purified by
fire, which gradually consumes all that is earthly and foreign, and
separates it from the gold. It is not sufficient that the earth should
be changed into gold; it is necessary that the fire should melt and
dissolve it, to remove from it all that is earthly; and this gold is put
in the fire so many times that it loses its impurity, and all necessity
of purification. Then it is fit to be employed in the most excellent
And if this gold is impure in the end, it is because it has contracted
fresh defilement by coming in contact with other bodies. But this
impurity is only superficial, and does not prevent its being used;
whereas its former impurity was hidden within it, and, as it were,
identified with its nature.
In addition to this, you will remark that gold of an inferior degree of
purity cannot mix with that of a superior purity. The one must contract
the impurity of the other, or else impart its own purity to it. Put a
refined gold with an unrefined one, what can the goldsmith ever do with
it? He will have all the impurity taken from the second piece, that it
may be able to mix with the first. This is what St Paul tells us, that
"the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is;" he adds, that
if any man's work should be found to deserve burning, he should be saved
"so as by fire" (1 Cor. iii. 13, 15). That means, that though there are
some works which are good, and which God receives, yet, so that he who
has done them may be pure, they too must pass through the fire, in order
that all appropriation, that is, all that was his own, may be taken
from them. God will judge our righteousness, because "by the deeds of
the law there shall no flesh be justified," but by "the righteousness of
God, which is by faith" (Rom. iii. 20, 22).
This being understood, I say that, in order that man may be united to
his God, wisdom and divine justice, like a pitiless and devouring fire,
must take from him all appropriation, all that is terrestrial, carnal,
and of his own activity; and having taken all this from him, they must
unite him to God.
This is never brought about by the labours of the creature; on the
contrary, it even causes him regret, because, as I have said, man so
loves what is his own, and is so fearful of its destruction, that if God
did not accomplish it Himself, and by His own authority, man would never
consent to it.
It will be objected to this, that God never deprives man of his liberty,
and that therefore he can always resist God; for which reason I ought
not to say that God acts absolutely, without the consent of man. In
explanation I say, that it is sufficient that man should give a
passive consent, that he may have entire and full liberty; because
having at the beginning given himself to God, that He may do as He will
both with him and in him, he gave from that time an active and general
assent to all that God might do. But when God destroys, burns, and
purifies, the soul does not see that all this is for its advantage; it
rather believes the contrary: and as at first the fire seems to tarnish
the gold, so this operation seems to despoil the soul of its purity. So
that if an active and explicit consent were required, the soul would
find a difficulty in giving it, and often would not give it. All that it
does is to remain in a passive contentment, enduring this operation as
well as it can, being neither able nor willing to prevent it.
God then so purifies this soul of all natural, distinct, and perceived
operations, that at last He makes it more and more conformed to
Himself, and then uniform, raising the passive capacity of the
creature, enlarging it and ennobling it, though in a hidden and
unperceived manner, which is termed mystical. But in all these
operations the soul must concur passively, and in proportion as the
working of God becomes stronger, the soul must continually yield to Him,
until He absorbs it altogether. We do not say, then, as some assert,
that there must be no action; since, on the contrary, this is the
door; but only that we must not remain in it, seeing that man should
tend towards the perfection of his end, and that he can never reach it
without quitting the first means, which, though they were necessary to
introduce him into the way, would greatly hinder him afterwards, if he
attached himself obstinately to them. This is what Paul said, "I forget
those things which are behind, and reach forth unto those things which
are before; I press toward the mark" (Phil. iii. 13, 14).
Should we not consider a person destitute of reason who, after
undertaking a journey, stopped at the first inn, because he was assured
that several had passed it, that a few had lodged there, and that the
landlord lived there? What the soul is required to do, then, is to
advance towards its end, to take the shortest road, not to stop at the
first point, and, following the advice of St Paul, to suffer itself to
be "led by the Spirit of God" (Rom. viii. 14), who will lead it to the
end for which it was created, which is the enjoyment of God.
It is well known that the sovereign good is God; that essential
blessedness consists in union with God, and that this union cannot be
the result of our own efforts, since God only communicates Himself to
the soul according to its capacity. We cannot be united to God without
passivity and simplicity; and this union being bliss, the way which
leads to it must be the best, and there can be no risk in walking in it.
This way is not dangerous. If it were, Christ would not have
represented it as the most perfect and necessary of all ways. All can
walk in it; and as all are called to blessedness, all are called to the
enjoyment of God, both in this life and in that which is to come, since
the enjoyment of God is blessedness. I say the enjoyment of God Himself,
not of His gifts, which can never impart essential blessedness, not
being able fully to satisfy the soul, which is so constituted that even
the richest gifts of God cannot thoroughly content it. The desire of God
is to give Himself to us, according to the capacity with which He has
endowed us; and yet we fear to leave ourselves to God! We fear to
possess Him, and to be prepared for divine union!
You say, we must not bring ourselves to this condition. I agree to
that; but I say too, that no one ever could bring himself to it, since
no man could ever unite himself to God by his own efforts, and God
Himself must do the work.
You say that some pretend to have attained it. I say that this state
cannot be feigned, any more than a man dying of hunger can for any
length of time pretend to be satisfied. It will soon be known whether or
no men have attained this end.
Since, then, none can arrive at the end unless he be brought there, it
is not a question of introducing people to it, but of showing them the
way which leads to it, and begging them not to rest in those practices
which must be relinquished at God's command.
Would it not be cruelty to show a fountain to a thirsty man, and then
hold him bound, and prevent his going to it, leaving him to die of
thirst? That is what is being done now. Let us all be agreed both as to
the way and the end. The way has its commencement, its progress, and
its terminus. The more we advance towards the terminus, the farther we
go from the commencement; and it is impossible to reach the terminus but
by constantly going farther from the starting-point, being unable to go
from one place to another without passing through all that comes between
them: this is incontestable.
Oh, how blind are the majority of men, who pride themselves upon their
learning and talent!
O Lord! how true it is that You hast hidden Your secrets from the wise
and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes!