Madame Guyon: Mystical experience

I possessed God after a manner so pure and so immense as nothing else could equal. In regard to thoughts or desires, all was so clean, so naked, so lost in the divinity, that the soul had no selfish movement, however praiseworthy or subtle;1 both the powers of the mind and the very senses being wonderfully purified. Sometimes I was surprised to find that there appeared not one selfish thought. The imagination, formerly so restless, now no more troubled me. I had no more perplexity or uneasy reflections. The will, being perfectly dead to all its own appetites, was become void of every human inclination, both natural and spiritual,2 and only inclined to whatever God pleased, and to whatever manner He pleased. This vastness or enlargedness, which is not bounded by anything, however plain or simple it may be, increases every day. My soul in partaking of the qualities of her Spouse seems also to partake of His immensity. My prayer was in an openness and singleness inconceivable. I was, as it were, borne up on high, out of myself. I believe God was pleased to bless me with this experience. At the beginning of the new life, He made me comprehend, for the good of other souls, the simplicity and desirableness of this passage of the soul into God.

When I went to confess, I felt such an immersion of the soul into Him that I could scarcely speak. This ascension of the spirit, wherein God draws the soul so powerfully, not into its own inmost recess but into Himself, is not operated till after the death of self. The soul actually comes out of itself to pass into its divine object. I call it death, that is to say, a passage from one thing to another. It is truly a happy passing for the soul, and its passage into the promised land. The spirit, which is created to be united to its divine Origin, has so powerful a tendency to Him that if it were not stopped by a continual miracle, its moving quality would cause the body to be drawn after it by reason of its impetuosity and noble assent; but God has given it a terrestrial body to serve for a counterpoise. This spirit then, created to be united to its Origin without any medium or intervening space, and feeling itself drawn by its divine object, tends to it with such violence that, God suspending for a time the power which the body has to hold back the spirit, it follows with ardour.

When it is not sufficiently purified to pass into God it gradually returns to itself. As the body resumes its own quality, it turns to the earth. The saints who have been the most perfect have advanced to that degree as to have nothing of all this [the worldly]. Some have lost it toward the end of their lives, becoming single and pure as the others, because they then had in reality and permanence what they had at first only as transient fruitions in the time of the prevalence or dominion of the body. It is certain then that the soul, by death to itself, passes into its divine Object. This is what I then experienced. I found that the farther I went, the more my spirit was lost in its Sovereign, who attracted it more and more to Himself. He was pleased at first that I should know this for the sake of others and not for myself. Indeed He drew my soul more and more into Himself till it lost itself entirely out of sight and could perceive itself no more. It seemed at first to pass into Him. As one sees a river pass into the ocean and lose itself in it, its water for a time distinguished from that of the sea till it gradually becomes transformed into the same sea and possesses all its qualities, so was my soul lost in God, who communicated to it His qualities, having drawn it out of all that it had of its own. Its life is an inconceivable innocence, not known or comprehended by those who are still shut up in themselves or only live for themselves.

The joy which such a soul possesses in its God is so great that it experiences the truth of those words of the royal prophet [Isaiah]: “All they who are in thee, O Lord, are like persons ravished with joy.”3 To such a soul the words of our Lord seem to be addressed: “Your joy no man shall take from you” (John 16:22). It is as it were plunged in a river of peace. Its prayer is continual. Nothing can hinder it from praying to God or from loving Him. It amply verifies these words in the Canticles: “I sleep but my heart waketh” (Song of Solomon 5:2), for it finds that even sleep itself does not hinder it from praying. Oh, unutterable happiness! Who could ever have thought that a soul that seemed to be in the utmost misery should ever find a happiness equal to this? Oh, happy poverty, happy loss, happy nothingness, which gives no less than God Himself in His own immensity, no more circumscribed to the limited manner of the creature but always drawing it out of that to plunge it wholly into His own divine essence.

Then the soul knows that all the states of self-pleasing visions, openings, ecstasies and raptures are rather obstacles; that they do not serve this state which is far above them because the state which has supports has pain to lose them, yet cannot arrive at this without such loss. In this are verified the words of an experienced saint: “When I would possess nothing through self-love, everything was given me without going after it.” Oh, happy dying of the grain of wheat, which makes it produce an hundredfold! The soul is then so passive, so equally disposed to receive from the hand of God either good or ill as is astonishing. It receives both the one and the other without any selfish emotions, letting them flow and be lost as they come. They pass away as if they did not touch.

1.The translation uses the word ‘plausible’, which originally meant ‘praiseworthy.’ I believe she is referring to seemingly selfless inclinations, such as wanting to give or to heal, which disguise a desire for approval.
2. Natural: worldly, bodily.

3. Perhaps Isaiah 61:10

I greatly rejoice in Yah-weh [“All who are in thee are ravished with joy”]
My soul will exult in my God
For He hath clothed me with garments of salvation
And wrapped me in a robe of righteousness
As a groom wears a priestly headdress
And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. (

(During a retreat with the Ursulines in Tonon during her time in Gex, approximately 34 years old)

Jeanne Marie Bouvier de La Motte Guyon. The Autobiography of Madame Guyon. Chicago: Moody Press.

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