This concludes the review of Michael Molinos’s book “The Spiritual Guide”. Those of you who want to read the book and then review this book blog should go to the first post in this series.
We are looking for another book to read and comment on. If anyone has a suggestion for which book should be next, please contact us through the New Day Monk contact link.
“Why do so many believers hinder the Lord’s deeper work within their lives? It is because they wish to achieve something, because they have a desire to be great. For this reason you find many believers attaching themselves to the gifts of the Spirit so that they come out not from that central portion of their being where they themselves are nothing; thus the whole work of the Lord is spoiled. They do not seek the Lord; therefore they do not find Him. We find Him only where He is all and where we are nothing.”
“When one knows that he is nothing, then there is nothing that can disquiet him. He who knows he is nothing is incapable of receiving grievance or injury from anyone. Such a believer does not look on the faults of another, but only on his own; he frees himself from all his countless imperfections. As long as we see ourselves as nothing, the Lord can continue to work in us, depositing His image and likeness within our inward being.”
Now, obviously Molinos put forth effort and worked for God. After all, we are reading his book. But it’s true, is it not, that “we should not think of ourselves more highly than we ought”? That verse goes on to say “but according to the measure of faith we have been given”. So, yes, we are nothing. That is, outside of Christ we are nothing. On our own we are nothing. But, in Him, in Christ, within the allotted measure of faith, we are something.
The humbling of failure, the trial of closed doors, the opposition of God Himself that thwarts our efforts; these purify us from selfish ambition. As we release our “vain glory” and really reduce ourselves to “worthless servants” then we find ourselves used by God; and we rejoice in it.
The man or woman who would attain to that deeper walk with their Lord must abandon and be detached from these four things:
2 Temporal things
3. The very gifts of the Holy Spirit
Now, we need to remind ourselves, and those we are teaching, that “abandonment” and “detachement” in spiritual writing does not refer to an absence of experience. So, Molinos is not teaching that the attainment of a deeper walk with Jesus can only occur in the person who withdraws from, and does not experience, “creatures”, “temporal things”, “The gifts of the Holy Spirit” and “self”.
Abandonment and detachment refer the process in which we desire God more than creatures, temporal things, gifts of the Holy Spirit and self. We want God’s will done in our lives more than we want our will done in our lives.
This is more than intention and lip service however. It is, as he says, accomplished in the fire of inward pain.
No, we don’t look for pain. It means we accept the pain and the dissapointments that come to us. At least those that we did not completley cause.
It means that the trials we suffer, the failures and limitations we experience, the disapointments, the twists and turns in our lives, are ordained. As we trust God that “He works all things for good” in the midst of the firey pain we find God.
In this chapter Molinos contrasts “head knowledge” with “heart knowledge” and those that love mental knowledge more than God versus those that love God more than mental knowledge.
His claim is that those that only have head knowledge will have corrupted motives and will be more interested in self promotion than in God’s will. We could sum it up by saying that we must be doers of the word, not hearers only.
Well and good. But Molinos also claims that the inward person is a doer of the word, whereas an outward person is not doing God’s will. That is, to learn about God through study, even when it leads to obedience, cannot result in a person who reflects the glory of God. Only the inward path can do that.
I think that is unfair. It may be true that everyone who wants to really know God will have to hear Him internally. It may be that suffering, and gaining a personal revelation by faithfully going through trials, is also necessary. But does a person have to be dedicated to a life of contemplation to gain purity?
I’m sitting in chapter 28 of the Molinos book going “hmm.” Not a bad “hmm.” Maybe more like “hmm?”
The first part that talked about four aspects of internal love was pretty neat. It was something I aspire for, and I found it both encouraging and frustrating at the same time. I was encouraged by the fact that I could relate to some of it, like the desire to be consumed with Divine fire. I was frustrated by the parts I have yet to see (like peaceful and joyful rest).
But the heart of the chapter was what really spoke to me. Where Molinos talks about knowledge and wisdom. I have heard many variations on this in sermons. The importance and value of wisdom over knowledge is not a new concept for me. But I could see myself a little too clearly in his words: “The first–logic–desires to know what things should be attained and what should not be attained and how to avoid pain and effort. The second desire–and inner knowing of God and His ways–is characterized by not even wanting to know what it knows. Yet, there is a sense of deep understanding of so much…Most men live by their opinions and according to what they judge. They look about at things that are true and they look at the things that are false. A great many things come across their mind and imagination. They pay attention to the senses. But the man who has true wisdom judges by an internal truth which exists within him.” My walk, my “relating with God” is more characterized by logic, judgment, and paying attention to the senses. I want to turn that into inner knowing of God and His ways. What does that look like?
“There are four signs by which you may know the inner man:”
1. The will is so trained that it engages in no act of love other than that which is toward God or pertaining to God and His purpose.
2. When outward tasks are completed, the thoughts and will of the believer are quickly turned towards God.
3. If the believer enters into prayer, all other things are forgotten as if they had never been seen or known.
4. Whereas the believer once feared the world, now he even fears the outward things of his own nature to the same degree he once feared the world. He shuns, therefore, not only the world, but outward things–except in those cases where charity requires outward performance.
Remember, “the inner man” is “the spiritual man”, and the “outer man” is “the carnal man”. Therefore, even extroverted, social and active Christians are living out of their inner man if their will and motives are for God.
This week Molinos summarizes the elements of inward experiences from God that are eventually found as the contemplative wages war against the self. It is good to remember that dryness and darkness have a pleasant destination.
Remember too, that as good and pleasant as these five steps are, they cannot be the goal of contemplation. Only the surrender of the will to the will of God, only a desire to love God and neighbor, are valid goals.
That seems unfair doesn’t it? We have to persist in prayer, detaching from all desire, and maybe never ever even getting any pleasant visitation from God, and yet we have to hear the testimony of advanced contemplatives that they have experienced 5 steps of glory!
Hang in there.
…and hearing from God! Love the chapter, argue with it. Burning love. Have had it, long for it, achingly miss it in the cool seasons of my heart. I’m sensing a new dimension to the indwelling Spirit. I’ve always agreed that He dwells within me, but somehow have visualized Him in the room with me, on the chair opposite, in the passenger seat, walking beside me. Now I’m startled at the thought that He is within me! How is this new? How is this news? There is a dimension never before experienced; things don’t get as far within me as before. Can this endure? Molinos says “In seasons of desolation or in seasons of temptation, I would urge you to always learn to withdraw into the inmost chamber of your spirit. There, do nothing but behold God.” This encourages me. Maybe I’ve stumbled upon that path.
Then I lose it! I see myself as a wooden pencil that must be ground into a point. When it becomes dull it must submit to new grinding, painful paring, to become useful once again. So I must endure desolation and temptation to again find the path.
Then once again that inward call of the Spirit wells up within me and burning love reassures me that all will be well.
This week Molinos touches again on the final stage of the monastic journey: union.
To get to union a person must move from an outward encounter of God to an inward communion with God. Molinos describes 3 stages in the inward journey:
1. An exchange of “worldly things” for inward silence.
2. “Inebriation” and intoxicating pleasure that is found in the inward silence.
3. The security and trust that comes with a final surrender of self will to God’s will.
Remember, other monasic writers expand on this list and show the individual variation that occurs from person to person. (See “Visitations from God are not necceary for union”, [ http://newdaymonks.com/wiki/index.php?visitations%20from%20God%20are%20not%20necessary%20for%20union]), so don’t think of this as a rigid sequence or universal formula.
Molinos this week is giving insight into advanced contemplation. For those of us who are just entering these realms we can take his insight as instruction for our intentions.
He teaches that there is an inner secret place. A center. Where the Lord sits and reigns. This “supreme region” as he calls it is “the place where God delights to abide, where He manifests Himself to the one He created. He gives Himself in a way that transcends both the senses and all human understanding.”
Assuming that the above idea is true, then it makes sense when Molinos teaches the method to get there: complete detachment, resignation and surrender.
Therefore: “As you come before the Lord there has to be a renunciation of all that is not God. You must come seeking no other interest upon this earth, neither some interest outside of you nor some personal interest within you. There is but one thing of interest with which you come before the Lord: His divine will. There must be within your prayer to God a pure, total, and absolute resignation of yourself to the hands of God–a perfect submission to His holy will. Come…busy yourself only to His pleasure. Come…interested only in His desire. Come…waiting with perfect submission, to receive whatever He has ordained.”
This detachement, resignation and surrender to His will includes both the inner gifts that He give us and the outward life that He has ordained for us.