on November 4, 2002
My review is definitely influenced by the other reviews that I read. You can certainly tell those folks who live in their heads from those folks who live in their hearts. If you live in your head, you live in your own will. These folks have points and counterpoints, categories and subcategories, notes of historical interest, arguments and objections. Though they are just the ones who need the message of this book, they are the ones most resistant, the ones to completely miss the point. Our wills are not easily subdued. We identify our being with "our doing," "our opinions," "our judgments." We think that "me" equals "my will," "my way," "my view." These folks line up to inform God just how His Creation should run and, no doubt, they have very good arguments. ...This is not to demean the life of the mind, although it may sound that way. ... As Jean-Pierre de Caussade says, "The use of our reason and other faculties is profitable only when it serves as an instrument of God's activity." All too often the mind wants to serve as the instrument of its own and solely its own activity. So this book is not about fatalism or passivity. It's about TRUST. It's about believing that although all appears to be lost, God is working. It's about HOPE. It's about faith in yourself, though you appear to be a pretty poor instrument of goodness, God is using you---as much as you allow yourself to live in your heart. We fight, we struggle, we lose, or so we think. There are more than enough knocks in the most humdrum life. But everyday we get up, dust our bruised bodies off, and say a small prayer under our breath, "Not my will, But Yours." ...
This 250 year old compilation of Fr Jean-Pierre de Cassade's letters and notes deserves a great deal of respect for its author's depth of devotion to a doctrine predominated by living in an abandonment only to God's will. His writing carries the marks of mystical sainthood. Every sentence and paragraph compels the reader to analyze and reanalyze, to perceive an existence so ruled by God's will that it becomes devoid of even the smallest expression of self will. With complete trust and faith we are soft clay molded by God's hands without any desire for a premeditated outcome.
Much of value can be excerpted from this book, for example, the first page from Chapter III, Section IX, Divine Love, the Principle of all Good. However, if examined carefully, de Cassade's teachings of ascetic abandonment to divine providence are so esoterically extreme they will not receive sympathetic response from most seekers in this age of rampant self-centredness, ego worship and instant solutions. If taken to heart some of his ideas could actually prove to be mentally, emotionally and spiritually tormenting for unfledged practitioners.
I do not dispute de Cassade's exceptional theistical capacity to express contemplative Jesuit detachment but this book's turgid, pompous, repetitive composition would make discernment problematic for many readers. I suspect that most of the five star ratings by reviewers here reflect complaisance in awe of a saintly genius rather than their serious practical imitation of what he teaches. For prospective mystics open to stepping outside the Christian milieu I would suggest reading the works of the Indian mystic Jiddu Krishnamurti instead.
on October 17, 2001
Jean-Pierre de Caussade, a French priest born in 1675, never knew he wrote this book. It is an edited collection taken from letters and from notes on talks he had given. This translation is very good - full of life and not dry.
This book has deeply blessed me. In the absence of opportunity for spiritual direction, I have taken this book as my main guide for many years. It always has something that speaks directly to my journey, and is full of the heart of God.
Here is a quote from the translator's introduction: "Caussade combines intense practicality with profound mysticism - as did St. Teresa of Avila. This is nothing extraordinary. True mystics are always much more practical than the ordinary run of people. They seek reality; we, the ephemeral. They want God as he is; we want God as we imagine him to be."
Aldous Huxley, in his book, "The Perennial Philosophy," compares a quote from de Caussade with a quote from The Third Patriarch of Zen. Huxley writes in chapter 4, "The seventeenth-century Frenchman's vocabulary is very different from that of the seventh-century Chinaman's. But the advice they give is fundamentally similar. Conformity to the will of God, submission, docility to the leadings of the Holy Ghost - in practice, if not verbally, these are the same as conformity to the Perfect Way, refusing to have preferences and cherish opinions, keeping the eyes open so that dreams may cease and Truth reveal itself."
This is a short book, about 120 pages. It is one of those books that help you to KNOW God, rather than to know ABOUT God. Bless you on your journey.
on March 15, 2000
There are just a few books that a person will keep on his or her shelve over the years and read again and again. It takes a special quality. I have found that unique quality in DeCaussade's "Abandonment to Divine Providence." It is the simple gospel message that Jesus lived each and every moment of his life. "My meat is to do the will of my Father in heaven." DeCaussade has a way of saying the same basic truth in so many ways but it never seems to tire the reader. I believe the reason is simply because one never gets tired of hearing the truth. In fact, for all its simplicity, it serves as a companion to the gospel itself. When the reader is open, DeCaussade's words touch the heart urge the person to take the words of Jesus to the young man...."give up everything and follow me." It is the decision that doesn't bring instant transformation; it gives the direction for the journey and the words to pray each moment. "All is your's Lord. I want what you want in all things." I would recommend this classic for anyone who has felt a growing desire to make the self offering to the Lord. DeCaussade's words are not just the theology of self-giving but they also treat the specific joys and struggles that come with that self-giving to the Lord. It is a book which will never grow stale or old.
on December 7, 1998
This book was written as a book of spiritual guidance, and an unconventional book, in that it writes about "saints", or those who have surrendered to God's will, yet outwardly do not appear to be remarkable, or seem to fall into the category of "very famous" spiritual people. He discusses things like: the traps and dangers the world imposes on such people, the fact that they are often abused and spied on diligently (and unjustly), their apparent "childishness", the face that they present to the world (often seen as laughing stocks or incompetents), versus the truth of God's workings in their lives, the nature of the world - that those who outwardly appear to be "great princes" are presenting a false face to the world, that Satan enlists regiments of scoundrels for these visible positions who wage war relentlessly against those who love God, and, in fact, that behind all this falsification stands the whole battle of human history. And, of course, that in the end the last shall be first, and God's servants shall triumph. While not in the league of some of the greatest saints' writings, it still has invaluable insights to offer, and so I recommend this book.
on November 16, 1998
I have read this book twice and will read it many times again. This book will broaden your understanding of "God's will". Here's a quote: "The thing that must be noted about this will is that, to use human expressions, it seems to be casual and haphazard in its operation. I shall call it the purely providential will of God, to distinguish it from that other aspect of his will which imposes definite obligations we must fulfill" (pg. 77). There are two sides to God's will: The providential and the prescriptive. God's providential will encompasses everything that happens, both good and evil. God does not do or prescribe evil, but he certainly permits it and uses it. The profundity of Jean-Pierre's book is his deep understanding of this fact and his understanding of the need for each Christian to abandon themselves to God in the midst of all suffering and do only what God's prescriptive will is at any moment. And what is God's prescriptive will? Jean-Pierre says it is love, but, interestingly, he assumes that you already know what the details of this love is through God's revelation of his specific obligations with the circumstances of each present moment. So, don't read this book expecting to find a detailed ethical system; there isn't one provided. - Brad Clark
on August 15, 1998
Of all the self-help books I have read over the last 20 years, this has the most simple, direct approach to the meaning of our lives on this earth. Knowing this book has been around for so many centuries, also tells me of its long-staying value. I've recommended it recently to 5 different people, most of whom have already bought the book. When you read this, you have to be VERY receptive and TOTALLY willing to focus on each sentance, even reading each line 2 or 3 times. You can't have any distractions. Once you "GET IT", you've got it and now I look through it when I need to refresh my memory or to help keepme on track. I always worried about the future, would I have enough money to cover all future bills, whether my business was going to belly-up and I was going to loose my house because of some catastrophy. Now I look at "right now". I make each minute have value. I let go of trying to control the outcome of every happening and everyone. It's the feeling of jumping off a cliff and knowing God WILL catch me, NO MATTER WHAT. I have a feeling of lightness, and freedom, and should I start to slip into my old way of thinking, I quickly pick up the book and open it up ANYWHERE, and I am brought back to reality. I have a rainbow around me now.
on November 19, 2000
November 4, 2000
God's omnipresence can be easily misunderstood because it is often applied merely to the physical and material world. If He is omnipresent in a physical sense, then He must also be omnipresent in every circumstance of our lives, no matter how small. Thus, we can experience God merely by yielding to what life brings.
De Caussade, in this beautiful book (I am in my third reading), has introduced me to this "new" way of experiencing God: I now "see" Him everywhere. This view of God brings great comfort and assurance. I find myself struggling less with life, accepting things that I would once have found distasteful, accomplishing much more, and discovering many new blessings from God. If you long for a more settled, fruitful life this little book will soon become a favorite.
on April 8, 2001
Some people are called to a life of pure faith where they will only know the darkness of God. Others are called to a life fo pure love where the will often experience God's presence. Caussade says that both paths can be equal before God. The challenge of following Christ is not to replicate another's experience but to allow the Holy Spirit to guide me. I learn to yield to God's divine will in each moment. This book should never be confused with quietism, which suggest I can do nothing but wait before God. Caussade suggests some are called to active lives and some are called to lives of stillness. We are all called to pursue the Lord by yielding to the SPirit in the present moment. I find this book an excellent companion to Martin Buber's I and Thou.
on November 16, 1998
The book has a simple message: the abandonment of your will to the will of our Lord. Jean-Pierre de Caussade eloquently explains this process, when if we just close our eyes for a moment, and love Jesus, we will be there. He says, "Come enter My rest." It is about the practical application of loving the Lord with all of your heart, body, soul and mind. Yet, de Caussade also lived in the world and had many challenges set before him , as we all do. I highly recommend this book, and especially so, considering the times in which we live. Great blessing will be had by considering prayerfully the premise put forth herein.