Simone Pacot, who references Daniel Bourguet, wrote a series of books on the theme of “Evangelizing the depths,” the title of the first in the series. (Amazon link here.)She used the title as an alternative to the idea of inner healing, seeing the application of the gospel to what she calls the “deep heart” as the best way to say the way real change comes. Translation of this first book was in a sense part of the project of translating DB, or, better, an adjunct to it. The books are precious to me as translator, hence their prominence on the DB website; part of the intention is to bring out the themes common to the two authors. SP’s four books, in their French titles, are L’évangélization des profundeurs, Reviens à la vie, Ose la vie nouvelle, and Ouvrir à l’Esprit. The following attempts to provide a glimpse of what they say, but since only the first volume is available in translation, that is where the focus is; I do hope to do translations of the others.
In her prologue, Pacot explains briefly how she found herself and her vocation. She was a lawyer (and continued with a successful career in law), but a lawyer of faith, a faith which was her priority. She describes, however, encountering an impasse in her life which her faith as it then stood was unable to overcome. She needed, she discovered, to take her own inner world, her psychological constitution more seriously, since, as we find in a biography by Luc Weizmann entitled simply Simone Pacot, there had been considerable unresolved childhood issues of identity. As she did this, there came a “great reestablishment of order and meaning,” then enabling her faith to become “more true, alive, deeply rooted and also more humble.” She seems to have subsequently worked with a number of those in the psychology field, further integrating insights that lead to more precise applications of the gospel to deep needs. I think the following, which starts with a quotation from Xavier Thevenot, is a very good take on the appropriate role of psychology:
“Spiritual laws never oppose psychological laws. We can say rather that they assume them. However, their focus is not the same, and the spiritual cannot be reduced to the psychological.” They are wider in scope and their goal is different. Spiritual law goes beyond psychological law and gives it direction, its goal, but it cannot do away with with, extinguish, ignore or deny the psychological function.
My thought is that the notion that spiritual laws assume psychological laws is very pertinent; the point being that they cannot just be left as assumed but need to be unfolded from a spiritual perspective, which is the way Pacot works. In subsequent volumes, Pacot identifies 5 laws of life, which if transgressed lead to poor function, to loss, to death; essentially, to not living as a fully accepted and loved child of God; thus, psychological wounding is best approached through the spiritual. Starting always with biblical passages, in this first volume, Pacot looks at a number of deep needs, and, as a link to DB, always with a view to the integration of the whole being, being whole, which is a theme commonly found in DB’s looks at monasticism, where one meaning of the word ‘monk’ is ‘to be one.’ To touch on another point of commonality with DB, Pacot speaks frequently about union and communion but ‘without fusion.’ Evidently, to quote Bob Ekblad on the back cover of our English translation, this is reading ‘for anyone interested in holistic personal transformation’; Pacot is a deep inward dive, always as conducted by the Holy Spirit. I’m going to quote Daniel here, from his book on Ascetism:
From the moment we are aware that God is not in us and that we are not in God, we find that we are sick. Since this concerns the core of our lives, our love for God and for others, we discover the extreme necessity there is that we be treated, the extreme necessity of coming before Christ and saying to him, “Lord, heal me!”
This is very much in line with Pacot’s approach, which is to call on her reader to open up entirely to the Holy Spirit, allowing him a free hand in all our inner difficulties. This is a constant theme that finds its fullest expression in Ouvrir à l’Esprit, but here it is as expressed in the first volume:
“The Spirit is the secret God, the interior God, deeper than our deepest depth.” Essentially it is the function of the Holy Spirit, who is given us by the Father, to help us pursue this immersion, into the shadows as well as the light, into the very heart of our being . . . The first act of setting our feet on the way, the first step, is to place total confidence in the wisdom and power of the Spirit; that is, that we abandon the form of healing we had anticipated, ceasing to be fixated on some precise outcome and give our full agreement to him working freely. (p.37)
Moving now to look specifically at the contents of Evangelizing the Depths, I will try to give a taste.
The central or framing scriptural passage is John 5: 1–18, the healing of the man at the pool of Bethesda. Here, SP is particularly interested in two facets: firstly, the question “Do you wish to be well,” and then the phrase or fact that he “took up his bed” and walked.
She begins therefore with motivation and an inward look. The first step towards healing where there is paralysis is just this, to look in. The man’s first response to Jesus had been in essence to complain and blame others, but the Lord has him question himself; what does he find within? This, then, is the starting point of SP’s methodology, if there can be said to be such a thing. Typified in a good number of individual sketches, people would come with seemingly intractable problems. Assuming that, because a therapeutic process has begun, the person has also begun to open the door to Jesus, there is some preparedness because there is less fear to go further within, and so it becomes possible to look for problem areas. SP then identifies some of these: not dealing with wounds; fusion with others and thus not forming a proper identity; confusion, with the loss of clear boundaries; and covetousness, wanting something inappropriate. Many times, harmful vows are uncovered, which, with other matters, will readily be recognized by those with some familiarity with psychotherapy as sort of standard; there is likewise a discussion of “the will of God” which leads at times into something recognizable in psychological terms as existential therapy. (I am making this point about psychology because, speaking as a qualified “counsellor” much of the material is very practical in this area in a way which helps a Christian counsellor bypass while acknowledging secular methodologies.) At all points, in contrast to psychology per se SP is carefully referring to Christ. The second step once the inner springs of the person have been touched is to ‘take up your bed and walk.’ This means that they are not simply walking away from their problem (leaving the bed of paralysis behind) but taking responsibility, recognizing that difficulties will be ongoing but now in a different form, with Jesus involved. SP does not typically refer to instant healings but to walking out a process, now undergirded by the word of God; eg “his depressions became less frequent and ceased completely after some months.”
When the Spirit enables us to understand the word in its true meaning and in his strength, we become able to choose, to renounce transgression in favor of life; then too we receive our answer. In all such processes the answer has to do with recovered freedom. We are no longer bound, and our freedom is functional.
Within this general modus operandi, SP discusses, as a further example, the parable of the prodigal son. Here we read:
We have already marveled, as we meditated on the text on the healing of the infirm man at Bethesda, at the revelation that even if we are still far, very far away, the love of God is searching for us, waiting, watching for the slightest sign of an opening. We know now that whatever our condition, in his grace, we can always rise up and make our way back towards the Father. Even if the action we take seems insignificant, it is enough to set us on the way of resurrection (John 5:7; 11:41). It is not our place to look after pigs, nor to be hired workers; through Christ we are sons and daughters of God. We are cared for, informed, forgiven, comforted. We have nothing more to do than open our heart to initiate a feast, to receive the insignia of a son, the robes of a distinguished guest, the ring — the family seal, and the sandals, the sign of the free (slaves went bare foot).
We see then, the continuity of approach, and this is closed out in this volume with a discussion of forgiveness, which proceeds in similar vein. And I will close on a little hobby horse of mine. I often hear people speak about forgiving themselves, and I object to this! We know perhaps what is meant, that a person may decide to stop beating themselves up but, says SP, if we say that we are unable to forgive ourselves, this
…is a wrong way of looking at things; only God forgives. It is not for us to forgive ourselves. It would be more correct to say that we are unable to receive the forgiveness of God for ourselves. If that is how we put it, things are already clearer.