Brother Lawrence - Contemplative Monk
1611- 1691

Brother Lawrence"[T]he 17th century [French] monk, Brother Lawrence, developed a technique--mostly through inspiration and intuition--which leads to results akin to those developed by the continued practice of either Zen or mindfulness meditation. In The Practice of the Presence of God, he wrote:

"This made me resolve to give the all for the All: so after having given myself wholly to GOD, to make all the satisfaction I could for my sins, I renounced, for the love of Him, everything that was not He; and I began to live as if there was none but He and I in the world ... I worshipped Him the oftenest that I could, keeping my mind in His holy Presence, and recalling it as often as I found it wandered from Him. I found no small pain in this exercise, and yet I continued it, notwithstanding all the difficulties that occurred, without troubling or disquieting myself when my mind had wandered involuntarily. I made this my business, as much all the day long as at the appointed times of prayer; for at all times, every hour, every minute, even in the height of my business, I drove away from my mind everything that was capable of interrupting my thought of GOD. Such has been my common practice ever since I entered into religion." From Western Mystical Traditions (Quote by Brother Lawrence from First Letter)

"Dancing Violently Like a Madman"

"The fact that Brother Lawrence was in the Carmelite order means his spiritual practices were derived from or heavily influenced by Teresa of Avila who reformed that order in the previous century.In a book titled Christian Mystics, Professor Ursula King makes the startling revelation that:

[G]iven her [Teresa of Avila] partly Jewish background, her thinking was also affected by Jewish Kabbalistic mysticism, elements of which can be detected in her writings.

Brother Lawrence is often quoted by contemplative authors for his habit of what he called "practicing the presence of God." But what was the actual nature of this presence? Was it something that would reflect the true character of God? I find the following account from a devout advocate of Brother Lawrence both questionable and disturbing:

It is said of Brother Lawrence that when something had taken his mind away from love's presence he would receive "a reminder from God" that so moved his soul that he "cried out, singing and dancing violently like a mad man." You will note that the reminders came from God and were not his own doing. (Gerald May, The Awakened Heart (New York, NY:Harper Collins, First Harper Collins Paperback Edition, 1993) p. 87, citing from The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence, translated by John Delaney, Image Books, 1977, p. 34.)

Brother Lawrence says that secret conversations with God must be "repeat[ed] often in the day," and "for the right practice of it, the heart must be empty of all other things." He speaks of the trouble of wandering thoughts and says that the habit of practicing the presence of God is the “one remedy" and the "best and easiest method" he knows to dissolve distractions. (from A Time of Departing, 2nd ed., p. 146-147)




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