Some wisdom from Fénelon


François Fénelon, Archbishop of Cambrai (1651-1715), is best known as one of the classic writers of the movement known as Quietism. I find that he describes the operations of the light of God on the human soul very much the same way his contemporary George Fox does: the light shows us ourselves as we are; the light also liberates us from sin, both in the sense of showing us God’s all-forgiving character and in the more important sense of curing us of tendencies to sin.

I’m not surprised that Quakers of succeeding generations popularized him, for example in the 1813 anonymous American classic A Guide to True Peace, or, the Excellency of Inward and Spiritual Prayer, Compiled Chiefly from the Writings of Fénelon, Guyon, and Molinos (reprinted by Pendle Hill, 1979).

Contemporary Friends familiar with Rex Ambler’s An Experiment with Light should find Fénelon very congenial. Lately I’ve been reading my precious old book on the bus to and from work. I part its pages and sunlight comes pouring out, too good not to share. Here I begin letting it spill over into a dedicated Fénelon page on our group blog.

I start with his Letter XXVII, which touches on what Fox called “answering that of God in the other person.” Reader, may it answer that of God in you.


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