Madame Guyon: Catholic, Mystic, Apostate
Fundamental Baptist Information Service
P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061,
First Published March 21, 2001 & Updated June 9, 2004
Used By Permission
The writings of Madame Guyon (1648-1717) are very popular today in
evangelical, charismatic, and ecumenical circles. Guyon was a Roman
Catholic who had visions and other mystical experiences and wrote about
them in her published works.
Guyon wanted to enter a convent when she was a girl but her parents would
not allow it and arranged her marriage to a 37-year-old man when she was
only 15. It was an unhappy marriage and she turned increasingly to her
mystical experiences and a search for "union with God."
After he husband died in 1676, she gave herself wholly to her mystical
pursuits. She joined a group of ascetic Quietist Catholics led by a
Barnabite monk named Francios La Combe. She toured parts of France,
Switzerland, and Italy for five years with La Combe, from 1681-86. La
Combe taught that meditation of God requires a passive (quiet) state of
contemplation that goes beyond the level of the conscious thinking
Guyon claimed that she went through a series of spiritual states through
her mystical experiences. The first, which she called "union of the
powers," lasted eight years. During this time, she felt drawn to God alone
and drawn away from people. The second state, which she called "mystical
death," lasted seven years, during which she had a feeling of detachment
from God and was plagued with deep mental depression and thoughts of hell
and judgment. She frequently had dark, weird dreams, which she considered
a form of revelation. In the third state, which she called "the apostolic
state," she claimed that she was absorbed into and united with God. During
this time, she preached, but she did not preach the gospel; she preached
As she fasted to the extreme and often went without sleep, her mystical
experiences increased. She experienced what she thought was union with the
essence of God. She had mental delusions or demonic visitations such as
envisioning "horrible faces in blueish light." She went into trances,
which would leave her unable to speak for days. During some trances, she
wrote things that she believed were inspired (Guyon, An Autobiography,
p. 321-324). She claimed that she and La Combe could communicate with one
another for hours without speaking verbally. She believed she could speak
in the language of angels.
In 1688, Madame Guyon was arrested on heresy charges and imprisoned in a
convent for several months. In December 1695, she was again imprisoned,
this time for seven years. Released in March 1703, she spent the final 15
years of her life on the estate of her son-in-law.
Her work on prayer, "A Short and Very Easy Method of Prayer," was first
published in 1685.
THE POPULARITY OF GUYON’S WRITINGS
After her death, Madame Guyon’s works were published by a Dutch Protestant
pastor named Poiret. In the 1700s, her books were popular among some
Lutherans, Methodists, and Moravians.
For many decades, Moody Press has published an edition of Madam Guyon’s
Autobiography. It contains no disclaimer of Guyon’s spiritual and
doctrinal errors. In fact, the introduction states, "We offer no word of
apology for publishing the autobiography of Madame Guyon, those
expressions of devotion to her church, that found vent in her writings."
At its online web site, Campus Crusade compares Madame Guyon’s Autobiography with John Bunyon’s
Pilgrim’s Progress and
recommends it without reservation.
On visits to evangelical colleges and seminaries, I have noticed that
Madame Guyon’s works are featured prominently in the bookstores and are
used in courses on spirituality.
Madame Guyon was included in the book Women Used of God by Ed
Reese. The Joyful Woman magazine ran a half-page ad for the book in
the September-October 1994 issue. The book contains brief biographies of
50 "Women Leaders of the Christian Cause" and is described as "Ideal for
young people (especially girls) looking for role models." In addition to
Guyon, these "role models" include radical Pentecostal female preachers
Kathryn Kuhlman and Aimee Semple McPherson.
THE ERRORS OF MADAME GUYON
There are some correct and helpful insights in Madame Guyon’s writings,
but taken as a whole they are unscriptural and dangerous. Following are
some of the errors:
1. SHE EMPHASIZED THE SURRENDER OF HERSELF TO THE CATHOLIC CHURCH WITHOUT
Madam Guyon spoke of her goal as "perfect obedience to the will of the
Lord, submission to the church" (Guyon, Autobiography). She was
referring, of course, to the Catholic Church.
2. SHE FOCUSED ON HAVING AN
EXPERIENCE OF GOD RATHER THAN KNOWING
HIM BY FAITH THROUGH THE BIBLE.
This is the essence of mysticism. To the contrary, though, the Lord Jesus
exalted faith over sight and experience (Jn. 20:29). Paul said "we walk by
faith not by sight" (2 Cor. 5:7). And faith only comes from the Word of
God (Rom. 10:17). It does not come from within or from experiences. Madame
Guyon was not Bible centered in her Christian walk, and that is a grave
and fatal error.
3. 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."
That is extremely dangerous and unscriptural. Everything is to be proven
by the Bible (Isaiah 8:20; Acts 17:21; 1 Thess. 5:21; 1 John 4:1). 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).
4. SHE EMPLOYED PAGAN METHODS OF EMPTYING THE MIND IN MEDITATION AND
Note the following quote from Madame Guyon:
"May I hasten to say that the kind of prayer I am speaking
of is not a prayer that comes from your mind. It is a prayer that begins
in the heart . . . . Prayer offer to the Lord from your mind simply would
not be adequate. Why? Because your mind is very limited. The mind can pay
attention to only one thing at a time. Prayer that comes out of the heart
is not interrupted by thinking" (Guyon, Experiencing the Depths of
One of the types of prayer taught by Madame Guyon was a form of
meditation whereby the soul is emptied of all self-desire and interest and
passively awaits possession by God. This is exactly like Hinduism.
Contrast 1 Peter 5:8, which says the believer is to be sober and vigilant,
continually alert for spiritual danger. The Bible does not say the mind is
not to be employed in prayer. To the contrary, the believer is to gird up
the mind (1 Pet. 1:13). We are to watch in prayer (Col. 4:2). That
describes a use of the mind. We are to love the Lord with all our hearts
AND all our minds (Lk. 10:27). The Bible does not play the heart against
the mind as Madame Guyon did. In fact, the two are often used synonymously
5. SHE LOOKED FOR GOD WITHIN HERSELF, RATHER THAN WITHOUT.
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." She was
a Roman Catholic and she did not confess to a scriptural salvation
experience. Instead, she 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.’"
Madame Guyon often misused Scripture, and she did so in this case with
Luke 17:21. Jesus was addressing the unsaved Pharisees, and He certainly
was not saying that the kingdom of God was inside of them. He was saying,
rather, that the kingdom of God was right there in the midst of them,
because He, the King, was there presenting Himself as the Messiah and
Jesus taught us to pray to God in Heaven, not to God inside of us (Matt.
6. 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" (Guyon,
To the contrary, the great 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
7. SHE BELIEVED SHE COULD ACHIEVE A COMPLETE UNION WITH GOD, AN ABSORPTION
Madame Guyon said: "So was my soul lost in God, who communicated to it His
qualities, having drawn out of it all that it had of its own." She spoke
of being plunged "wholly into God’s own divine essence" (Guyon, p. 239).
This is a pagan concept that has no basis in Scripture. The believer is a
child of God, but he is not absorbed into God and does note partake of his
divine essence. Only Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, can say
that He is one with and of the same essence with God. Christ alone dwells
in the light "which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor
can see" (1 Tim. 6:15). In Revelation 22:3, in the New Heaven and New
Earth, the Bible says that God is still God and "his servants shall serve
him." God is God, and though the believer is His child through Christ, he
is not God and never will be. When 1 Peter 1:4 speaks of being a "partaker
of the divine nature," it refers to partaking of God’s moral qualities,
which is what the Bible means when it speaks of man as made in the image
of God. Adam was made in God’s image morally, as an upright being in whom
was no sin. 1 Peter 1:4 refers to the same thing as Ephesians 4:24, "put
on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true
holiness" and Colossians 3:10, "put on the new man, which is renewed in
knowledge after the image of him that created him."
8. SHE SPENT HER LIFE LOOKING WITHIN HERSELF AND SEEKING MYSTICAL
EXPERIENCES RATHER THAN OBEYING THE GREAT COMMISSION OF JESUS CHRIST.
Madame Guyon thought she was caught up with God, but really, she was
caught up with herself. She consumed her life largely upon her own
personal religious devotions. She did not know the true Gospel of Jesus
Christ for herself nor did she carry it to others. Though she spoke of the
grace of Christ, it was intermingled with Catholic sacramental heresy.
This has been one of the great errors of Christian mysticism and
monasticism from the second century until now. God has not called the
believer to remove to a remote cave or mountain top hideout or solitary
cell, or to sit around looking inside of himself for God, or seeking to
put oneself into a mindless, passive meditative state, or to be caught up
in visions and trances. The Lord Jesus Christ and His apostles did nothing
like this. Their prayer and meditation was much more practical than that.
Christ has commanded His churches to go into all the world and preach the
gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15).
Beware of Madame Guyon and other Catholic mystics. They have truth, but it
is mixed with error. They are not the wise pattern for prayer and
spirituality that God’s people need.