French quietist author
Jeanne-Marie Bouvier de la Motte-Guyon (commonly known as Madame Guyon) (13 April 1648 – 9 June 1717) was a French mystic and one of the key advocates of Quietism. Quietism was considered heretical by the Roman Catholic Church, and she was imprisoned from 1695 to 1703 after publishing a book on the topic, A Short and Easy Method of Prayer.
Jeanne Marie Bouvières de la Mothe Guyon was the leader of the Quietist movement in France. The foundation of her Quietism was laid in her study of St. Francis de Sales, Madame de Chantal, and Thomas a Kempis. At age 16, she married Jacques Guyon, a wealthy man of weak health, 22 years her senior. Until his death in 1676, her life was an unhappy one, partly due to the difference in their ages, and partly due to a tyrannical mother-in-law. Her public career as an evangelist of Quietism began soon after her widowhood.
Her first labors were spent in the diocese of Geneva, at Anecy, Gex, and Thonon, and in Grenoble. In 1686 she went to Paris, where she was at first imprisoned for her opinions, in the Convent of St. Marie in the Faubourg St. Antoine; she was released after eight months at the insistence of Madame de Maintenon. She then rose to the zenith of her fame. Her life at all times greatly fascinated those around her; the court, Madame de Maintenon, and Madame de Maintenon’s College of Ladies at Cyr, came under the spell of her enthusiasm. But the affinity of her doctrines with those of Michael Molinos, who was condemned in 1685, soon worked against her.
Her opinions were condemned by a commission, of which Bossuet was president. She then incurred Bossuet’s displeasure by breaking the promises she had made to him to maintain a quiet attitude and not return to Paris. She was imprisoned at Vincennes in December 1695, and the next year moved to Vaugirard, under a promise to avoid all receptions and correspondence, except by special permission. In 1698, she was imprisoned in the Bastille for four years. She spent the remainder of her life in retirement with her daughter, the Marquise de Bois, at Blois. She had numerous visitors of all ranks, some from foreign countries, and had a considerable correspondence. Her works fill some 40 volumes.
Works by Madam Guyon
Madam Guyon is a heretic to some, but a saint to others. Living at a time when being charged as heretic was a matter of civil law, Madam Guyon was imprisoned and persecuted for her unyielding stance against the religious authorities in France. Guyon wrote her autobiography while being held at the infamous Bastille. Often associated with the Quietist movement, Guyon advocated mystical experience as a means of growing closer to God. Many would consider her view of the church paradoxical. Guyon taught the Reformation principles of sola gracia and sola fide while she clung to the Roman Catholic Church, even as she was persecuted for her theology. Is Madam Guyon a heretic or a saint? Read her autobiography and decide for yourself.
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This little book, A Short and Easy Method or Prayer, was written for a few individuals who wanted to love God with their whole hearts by Madame Guyon, a celebrated French mystical writer of the Quietist school. This book gives simple instructions in contemplative prayer, prayer without words or distinct ideas. It also encourages readers to accept all things as from God's hand. At the time of printing, which was a rather stormy era in France religious history, the work resulted in Madame Guyon being both attacked and defended by some of the most brilliant writers of her day, even resulting in her imprisonment for a time. The work continues to attract strong defenders and critics, but many find in it a fruitful way to seek God.
Song of Songs of Solomon is Madame Guyon's commentary, of sorts, on the Songs of Solomon. Imprisoned and persecuted for her mystic views, she provides her own allegorical and somewhat mystical interpretation of Songs of Solomon. She interprets the book in terms of Christ and the Church. In particular, she focuses on the "Spiritual Marriage"--where the soul has "permanent and lasting possession" of the divine. Her Song describes the different stages that the believer goes through on the way to maturation in Christ and the possession of the divine. Although Madame Guyon's interpretation is somewhat controversial, it remains powerful and is able to move one's heart towards God.
Spiritual Progress is a collection of five powerful works intended for daily devotions and personal reflection. These five inspiring works are composed by three closely linked mystical thinkers of the 17th century--Francois Fenelon, Madame Guyon, and Pere La Combe. Fenelon, an archbishop, wrote the first two works, Christian Counsel and Spiritual Letters, which illustrate his keen sense of spiritual counsel. Madame Guyon, a close friend of Fenelon, wrote the next works, Method of Prayer and On the Way to God, which indicate the importance of constant prayer. Pere La Combe, the spiritual director of Madame Guyon, wrote the final work, Spiritual Maxims, which emphasizes the importance of desire and love for God. Each stirring work is divided into short chapters, making Spiritual Progress ideal for morning or evening devotions. It is thus a wonderful book full of guidance for one's spiritual progress.
In March of 1703, Madame Guion (or Guyon) went to live with her son in isolation after her seven years of imprisonment for charges of heresy. During these last fifteen years of her life, she spent much of her time either in prayer or writing religious poetry. William Cowper, a poet and lyricist in his own right, has brought the English-speaking world quality translations of many of Guyon’s poems. As in the original French, Guyon’s verse reflects her mystical character and passionate search for the divine. The ideas contained within her work, while condemned by some Christians, have influenced evangelical Protestants in particular. Renowned evangelist Charles Spurgeon numbers among her admirers.
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