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Quietism is a term with multiple meanings and definitions.

  • Quietism is a Christian philosophy that swept through France, Italy and Spain during the 17th century e.v., but it had much earlier origins. The mystics known as Quietists insist with more or less emphasis on intellectual stillness and interior passivity as essential conditions of perfection; and all have been officially proscribed as heresy in very explicit terms by the Roman Catholic Church.
  • Quietism is the term used to describe one of the phases which British Quakers went through, after their enthusiastic beginnings and as a result of the persecution on the restoration of the monarchy in 1660 e.v. and before the 19th century e.v. phase of evangelicalism.
  • Quietism is a principal trend in Iraqi Shiism, which seeks to keep politics out of religion. This contrasts sharply with the Iranian Shia government, which, after taking power in 1979 e.v., marginalized and persecuted Iranian quietists school in that country. Sh'ia traditions of non-involvement in politics create anomalies in modern Muslim culture: Grand Ayatollah Sistani of Iraq identifies himself as a follower of the quietist school of thought, despite his indirect but decisive role in most major Iraqi political decisions. [1] [2]
  • Quietism can be used in a general sense to mean peace or tranquillity of mind; calmness; indifference; apathy; dispassion; indisturbance; inaction.


Christian philosophy

Origins of Christian philosophy

The state of impeturbable serenity or ataraxia was seen as a desirable state of mind by Epicurus and the Stoic philosophers alike, and by their Roman followers, such as the emperor Marcus Aurelius. Quietism has been compared to the Buddhist doctrine of Nirvana. The possibility of achieving a sinless state and union with the Christian Godhead are denied by the Roman Catholic Church.

Among the "errors" condemned by the Council of Vienne (1311-1312 e.v.) are the propositions: that man in the present life can attain such a degree of perfection as to become utterly sinless; that the "perfect" have no need to fast or pray, but may freely grant the body whatsoever it craves (a tacit reference to the Cathars or Albigenses of southern France and Catalonia); that they are not subject to any human authority or bound by the precepts of the Church. Similar assertions of individual autonymy on the part of the Fraticelli led to their condemnation by Pope John XXI in 1317 e.v. The same pope in 1329 e.v. proscribed among the errors of Meister Eckhart the assertions that we are totally transformed into God just as in the sacrament the bread is changed into the body of Christ (see transubstantiation) and the value of internal actions, which are wrought by the Godhead abiding within us.

Quietism further developed in the mysticism of the great 16th century e.v. Spaniards, Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross. Its final orthodox Catholic defender was Miguel de Molinos, referred to by the Catholic Encyclopedia as the "founder" of Quietism. The apostle of the Quietist movement in 17th-century France was Molinos' correspondent, the prolific writer Mme Guyon, who won an influential convert at the court of Louis XIV in Madame de Maintenon and an ally within the Catholic hierarchy in Francois Fénelon|Archbishop Fénelon.

Molinos and the doctrines of Quietism were finally condemned by Pope Innocent XI in the Bull Coelestis Pastor of 1687 e.v. A commission in France found most of Madame Guyon’s works intolerable, and the government confined her, first to a convent, then in the Bastille. After Fénelon’s spirited defense in a print war with Bossuet, in 1699 e.v. Pope Innocent XII prohibited the circulation of Fénelon’s Maxims of the Saints. The inquisition's proceedings against remaining Quietists in Italy lasted until the eighteenth century.


Quietism states that man's highest perfection consists of a psychical self-annihilation and a subsequent absorption of the soul into the Divine Essence, even during the present life. In this way, the mind is withdrawn from worldly interests to passively and constantly contemplate God. Madame Guyon maintained that she could not sin, for sin was Self, and she had rid herself of Self.

Whatever its theological implications, it is undeniable that the personal autonomy implied by Quietism had an undermining effect on church unity, conformity and discipline.

See also

External links

Further reading

  • Dandelion, P., A Sociological Analysis of the Theology of Quakers: The Silent Revolution New York, Ontario & Lampeter: Edwin Mellen Press, 1996.


  • Wikipedia (2005). Quietism. Retrieved July 20, 2005 e.v.

Document Source

  • This page was originally sourced from Thelemapedia. Retrieved May 2009.