Mardi le 4 juillet 2017
The Glance, by Francois de Sales Pollien, 19th century Carthusian

The Glance
by Francois de Sales Pollien, 19th century Carthusian

32. Its easiness. – 33. Its object. – 34. It is the substance of self-examination. – 35. The tap.

32. Its easiness – But how am I to get at the true state of my soul? How am I to seize what I may call my heart’s expression? At any moment, if I desire to know where I am, what is the state of my soul, what tone echoes within me I merely ask: where is my heart? By this question I seek solely to know what is the dominant disposition of my heart, which inspires and directs it, and keeps it as it were in its possession. A number of impressions and yearnings and feelings throng about the heart: it is an unfathomable reservoir; but whatever the number and the nature of the dispositions, there is always one that is in an ascendancy. It is not always the same, the heart of man undergoes so many fluctuations! One feeling takes the place of another, one impression drives out another; but it is always one that holds first place, and gives direction to the heart and governs its activity. That is the one, indeed, which gives the true tone of my soul. That is the one I have to seize before all else, if I am to catch my soul’s expression.

In order to seize it, I ask myself this simple question: where is my heart? - but, at the very moment of putting this question, the answer comes within me. This question causes me to cast a rapid glance into the innermost centre of my being, and I at once see the salient point; I give ear to the tone echoed by my soul, and immediately catch the dominant note. It is an intuitive proceeding, and is quite instantaneous. There is no need for intellectual enquiries, efforts of will, and ransacking the memory; I hear and see. It is a glance, in ictu oculi. It is simple and rapid. A soul must be quite ignorant of its inner self, and quite unaccustomed to enter in to itself, if it does not experience this.

33. Its object – Sometimes I shall see that my dominant disposition is the want of approbation or praise, or the fear of reproach; sometimes, the bitterness that springs from some annoyance from some harmful project or proceeding, or else the resentment caused by some remonstrance; sometimes, the painfulness of being under suspicion, or the trouble felt through some aversion; or, it may be the slackness induced by sensualism, or the discouragement resulting from difficulties or failure; at other times, routine, the product of carelessness or frivolity, the product of idle curiosity and empty gaiety, etc. Or else, on the contrary, it may be the love of God, the desire for sacrifice, the fervour kindled by some touch of grace, full submission to God, the joy of humility, etc. Whether it be good or bad, it is the main and dominant disposition that must be ascertained; for we must look at the good as well as the evil, since it is the state of the heart that it is important to know. I must go directly to the mainspring, which sets all the wheels of the clock in motion.
Sometimes it happens that this mainspring is a persistent and continuous disposition, such as bitterness or aversion. But, at other times, it is some merely momentary impression, which, however, was strong enough to impress the heart for a considerable time with some characteristic impulse; such, for instance, as the generous acceptance of a suffering; it was the affair of a moment, yet it imparted something to the heart, which will set it in motion during one or several days.

34. It is the substance of self-examination – When I have ascertained this dominant disposition, good or bad, my examination of conscience is substantially finished; I have got what is the essential thing, the core of it. In fact, the dominant disposition, by determining finally the impulses of my heart, is like a resultant of the powers of the other feelings, which are practically concentrated and summed up therein. Hence, strictly speaking, I might be satisfied with this essential glance; and by it I might strengthen the weak, heal the sick, bind up that which was broken, bring again that which was driven away, and seek for that which was lost. [Ezech.34:4]

And in fact, if, in the course of the day, I wish to ascertain the state of my soul, i.e., make my self-examination, I am satisfied with this single glance, diving right into the centre of my heart: where do I stand? And it is done: I see. I correct and set it straight, if necessary: I humble myself and give thanks, if all is well. And this I can do at any moment, and thousands of times; it is such a simple act! - a look at the heart, a glance!...

35. The tap – And this simple glance has deep results; since it retains or restores the resultant of the powers of the heart in the one way, and directs it to the one end. As a matter of fact, nothing escapes from it, since it grasps the centre of everything. Why need I worry about other details? I need not cut the branches off a tree, when it is down; nor need I follow the course of the streams, when I am at the source.

When the water spouts forth in profusion from the host of little holes in the rose of a watering-pot, would it not be a tedious and troublesome matter to shut up each little hole one after the other in order to cut off the flow? And if there were a tap lower down, enabling one to stop the flow by a single turn, would it not be stupid to tire oneself with trying to stop all the little holes? And that all the more, because there is the risk of their coming open again. He whose examination of conscience stops at details and outward things, is passing his time in stopping up the little holes
The inward glance turns the tap
To stop at details and at what is outward, is to remain at the circumference and to manoeuvre on the surface of the soul. I go straight to the centre and take possession of my whole soul, when I cast this penetrating glance at my dominant disposition.

from 'The Interior Life simplified and reduced to its fundamental principle' - Part 3, Book 2, Chapter VII

by Francois de Sales Pollien (1853-1936)

10:14:51 PM