Her view on how we all can reach and attain God was life changing for many at the time. She believed anyone could be close to God which was not an accepted view in the Catholic Church. She wrote that God’s divine wisdom is hidden from those who think they have attained wisdom but are enveloped in their own works. In many ways, her thoughts threatened religiosity in her time. Madame Guyon strongly influenced the Moravians with her writings. I am originally from Bethlehem, PA where the Moravian movement was very strong. This is one of the reasons I chose her life to focus on.
Guyon also endured a very difficult life… Abuse & neglect from her mother, a horrible marriage, death of many close to her including two children. She said in her biography “ had she known how to make right use of this crucifying conduct, she would’ve made good progress in her relationship with God. Far from turning me out of the way, it would have turned me more wholly to God.”
This attitude to me is truly one of a surrendered, overcoming heart given to God.
1688- one part of Guyon's reflections on the Bible was published as Commentaire au Cantique des Cantiques de Salomon (Commentary on the Song of Songs of Solomon)
1689- A long letter to Fenelon circulates widely and would eventually be published as Petit abrege de la voie et de la reunion de l'ame a Dieu (Concise view of the way to God and of the union of the soul with God)
1693- Rumors resurface surrounding her friendship with Fenelon and her written works. She writes Justifications, a defense of her earlier works
1694- Archbishop of Paris condemns the works of Guyon
1695- after further interrogation, Guyon serves seven
years of imprisonment
1703- Guyon is released from Prison and paroled to her
elder son in Blois, she is ordered not to write or teach but
continues to do both
1704- her works are published in the Netherlands and
Guyon believed that we should pray all the time, whatever one was doing to be also spending time with God. "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 thou perfect" Genesis 17:1 . Prayer alone can bring you into His presence, and keep you there continually.“
As she wrote in one of her poems: "There was a period when I chose, A time and place for prayer ... But now I seek that constant prayer, In inward stillness known ..."
Here [the contemplative state] everything is God. God is everywhere and in all things." —Madam Guyon
A product of French high society, Jeanne was raised in convents from the age of two and a half. At ten years old, she found a Bible left in her room and began earnestly to study and memorize it. From then on, she pursued an exclusive devotion to God.
She married at 16 to an older man who left her a widow with three young children at the age of 28. With the wealth her husband had left her, she devoted the remaining 40 years of her life to serving God through personal evangelism, writing, and helping the poor. She founded hospitals and gave away much of her wealth anonymously.
Guyon had some strange practices, she fasted to the extreme and often went without sleep. She went into what some call trances, which would leave her unable to speak for days. She claimed that she and La Combe (a man she learned under) could communicate with one another for hours without speaking verbally. She also believed she could speak in the language of angels.
The church eventually had her arrested for heresy and sent her to prison for seven years, the last two in solitary confinement in the Bastille. She continued to write, having produced a 20-volume commentary on the Bible, an autobiography, and many short works."
Guyon traveled in her lifetime throughout France and Switzerland teaching people how to pray and challenging them to live holy lives. She mainly met with people privately and avoided "preaching." All the while, she sought an ever-deeper union with God to the point that she felt God possessed her, speaking and acting through her.
She shared a 25-year spiritual friendship with Archbishop Francois de Fenelon, the most celebrated churchman of that day. Their letters, over 100, have been called "one of the most precious documents for the study of mystic thought transmitted to us from the past.“
After King Louis XIV released her from prison, Madame Guyon lived another 15 years, suffering patiently and glorifying God in her illnesses, until she died at age 69.
Madame Guyon's most devout disciples after her death were to be found among the Protestants and especially the Quakers. Her writings became popular amoung the Methodists, Lutherans and Moravians. Evangelicals such as Spurgeon were also influenced. Her works were translated into English and German, and her ideas, forgotten in France, have been read across the world.
In our generation we take for granted the wide range of teaching and materials at our fingertips. For Guyon to have the type of revelation she did in that period time is quite amazing. I really like Guyons view on the Kingdom of God.
In her book on prayer, Madame Guyon says, "God is, indeed found with facility, when we seek Him within ourselves." In her autobiography, Guyon says that when she was 19 years old, a Catholic Franciscan monk told her, "It is, madame, because you seek without what you have within. Accustom yourself to seek God in your heart, and you will there find Him."
Guyon started from that point forward looking within herself for God and truth. She prayed, "O my Lord, Thou wast in my heart, and demanded only a simple turning of my mind inward, to make me perceive Thy presence. Oh, Infinite Goodness! how was I running hither and thither to seek Thee, my life was a burden to me, although my happiness was within myself. ... Alas! I sought Thee where Thou wert not, and did not seek Thee where thou wert. It was for want of understanding these words of Thy Gospel, ‘The kingdom of God cometh not with observation . . . The kingdom of God is within you.’"
Although most of the time I could rationalize with some of the extreme things Guyon had to say these are two things that I think could be taken to an extreme. I do not believe in sinless perfection and I believe we need to examine everything put before us.
SHE BELIEVED IN SINLESS PERFECTION. Madame Guyon believed that her mystical experiences would "devour all that was left of self" and that she would be rid of "troublesome faults.
To the contrary, the apostle Paul, who called himself "the chief of sinners," testified that in himself "dwelleth no good thing" (Rom. 7:18). We are taught in Scripture that the sin nature is not removed after salvation (1 John 1:8-10), and if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves.
SHE WARNED AGAINST "CRITICAL" EXAMINATION OF SPIRITUAL THINGS. In the introduction to her book on prayer, Madame Guyon says, "Beloved reader, read this little book with a sincere and honest spirit. Read it in lowliness of mind WITHOUT THE INCLINATION TO CRITICIZE. If you do, you will not fail to reap profit from it.“Although I think Guyon was trying to get people to think beyond their religiousity it could be taken to extreme.
If we do not test everything carefully by the Word of God, we are open to spiritual deception (2 Cor. 12:1-4). Jesus warned that we must not allow anyone to deceive us (Matt. 24:4).
Madame Guyon still divides people. Modern critics say that Jeanne-Marie used self-hypnosis to achieve her "spiritual" states and trances and point out that she used "automatic writing" which suggests spiritualist practice.
But among Christians from many different denominations in Northern Europe and in America, her writings are highly regarded and have helped people develop a deeper relationship with God. They view her experiences with God all together different than “spiritual trances”. People see her as a women who encountered a living God.