Jeanne-Marie Bouvier de la Motte-Guyon (1648-1717)

Jeanne Guyon (1648-1717)

I have been enjoying A Short Method of Prayer by Madame Guyon.  She is a 17th century French mystic and Christian contemplative.  In this book she lays out the steps for effective prayer and stresses our role as humans is to become united with God.  In doing so she down plays the benefit of outward acts of charity and the like.  This appears to be a point of contention within the church.  As a result of publishing this book she displeased the Church so much she was imprisoned for eight years.

In the contemplative tradition there is an important milestone on the path to enlightenment (or to no-self) that is called the unitive stage or the union with god.  Much like the arya state in Buddhism this milestone marks an irreversible change in the person.  The instructions to achieve this union are not unlike the instructions for progress in the Buddhist tradition.

The focus is on inner action as opposed to outer action.  Madame Guyon explains the necessary changes that are required in anticipation of unity:

God sends before him His own Wisdom; it consumes all impurity in the creature, to prepare him for divine union.

And what is so impure about us?

This impurity, so opposed to union, is appropriation and activity.

I am not exactly sure what she means by appropriation in this instance.  Appropriation is defined as the action of taking something for one’s own use, typically without the owner’s permission.  I suspect is has something to do with believing we have a self or that our actions come from ourselves as opposed to coming from the divine whole.  However, I am more interested today in what she has to say about activity:

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 rest.

It is a very restful thought.  I like the vision of the divine whole as effortlessly shifting and creating.  I further like the idea of being united to this effortless flow.  I vision, myself (or God) lying back into repose with our breath enough to propel change and life.  Quite lovely.  It speaks of some of my favorite slogans:

Easy does it.

I do without doing and it all gets done.

It also reminds me of my ordination name:  Maha Khema meaning “great tranquility”.

May we all labor in peace today.

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