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Guyon's theology and spiritual writing opened new doors to people from all walks of life who yearned for spiritual joy and wisdom. These new translations include her popular A Short and Easy Method of Prayer, as well as her biblical commentary on the Song of Songs. The Complete Madame Guyon also presents examples of her passionate poetry, some of which has never before been translated into English. Nancy James's historical introduction explains the events of Guyon's life first as an aristocratic wife and mother of five, and later as a wido traveling around Europe as an author, who ended up incarcerated in the Bastille by the direct order of Louis XIV. Guyon suffered ten years of incarceration, along with accusations of heresy. Cleared of all charges at the end of her life, in all of her writing Madame Guyon testified to the goodness and holiness of God.
Thanks to Nancy James's scholarly labors, Jeanne Marie Bouvier de la Mothe, more widely known as Madame Guyon (1648-1717) will hopefully
become a household word, at least among students of mysticism. By no means an uncontroversial thinker, twice imprisoned for her allegedly
heretical ideas, and defended by one bishop (Fénelon) and attacked by another (Bossuet), Madame Guyon's ideas, especially her concept of
self-annihilation in the soul's union with God, will likely arouse challenge, even today. We owe Dr. James an enormous debt for her translation of Madame Guyon's works and popularization of her ideas. Through Dr. James's work we can gain insights into not only mystical theology but also seventeenth-century French secular and ecclesiastical politics.
- Dr. Peter C. Phan, The Ignacio Ellacuria Chair of Catholic Social Thought, Theology Department, Georgetown University