What is Quietism?

Quietism is a tendency in religious devotion rather than any specific system of religion or mysticism. It consists mainly in making Christian perfection a state of uninterrupted contemplation of the divine, the soul meanwhile remaining quiet and entirely passive under the divine influence, heedless of the customary precepts of religion, and without thought of reward or punishment here or hereafter. The term was first used to designate the mystical teaching of Miguel de Molinos, a Spanish priest, who died in prison, to which he had been condemned by the Inquisition. His teachings were based on the idea that the perfect Christian life consists in passive contemplation, unaffected by hopes or desires, and that the soul thus occupied neither gains by good works or acts of piety nor suffers through the commission even of gross sins, for these affect only the lower nature of the devotee and cannot bring any stain upon the purity of a contemplative soul. Such doctrine was most strongly opposed by the Jesuits.

In France a less extreme form of quietism, known as semiquietism, was practiced by the noted prelate Frangois de Salignac de La Mothe-Fenelon , Fenelon was won over to acceptance of some of the less objectionable features of quietism by the influence of Madame Guyon , several of whose mystical writings he approved and defended when they were condemned by church authorities in France, among them Jacques Benigne Bossuet, the renowned bishop of Meaux, who declared them to be a "mass of extravagances, illusions, and puerilities." Fenelon's book, Explication des maximes des saintes (1697), in which he defended some of the doctrines of quietism, was censured by the pope, whereupon he promptly submitted to the judgment of the Holy See.

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