Francisco de Osuna has a God given gift of making plain the way towards perfect communion with Jesus. Looking at what seems to be the only photo we have of him on Google, it can't begin to depict his loving heart and depth of intimacy with Jesus.
A clear way to God is presented where communion with Him is possible in this life through cleansing one's conscience, entering one's heart, resting in loving stillness, and then rising above the heart to God alone.
These are not his biases, they are yours, potentially, and it might help you recognise them, if nothing else. One cannot maintain a state of awareness while being subjected or imprisoned in a worldview delimited by borders called childhood, tradition or past experiences.
One might think of him as redundant, too old-school, or even a closed-minded, outdated version of Christianity. This could not be further from the truth, his insight is pure, and received directly from God in the sacred act of intimate prayer.
Maybe his allegiance to some version of Catholicism without modern upgrades makes him quite limited from our perspective, however, his stern allegiance to discovering Jesus for himself, and the process of mapping the way to Him is priceless.
The Good Stuff
His book begins with a powerful statement, and is the basis of his valuable works.
''Friendship and communion with God are possible in this life of exile, and that in no small degree, but with a closer and stronger bond that has ever existed between brethren, or mother and child.'' - Francisco de Osuna
The human heart is presented as an ever turning wheel, controlled by the four main impulses that affect it: Joy and Sorrow, Hope and Fear. These four forces are chiefs as they include all other feelings and impulses, and are connected to the four winds and the four cardinal directions of the earth. The person that wishes to make spiritual progress must punish and dominate them, lest they divide his heart between them.
''This advice is the first stone in the foundation, as David said: ''The Lord build up Jerusalem: he will gather together the dispersed of Israel.'' Jerusalem is your peaceful resolution; Israel is your mind seeking strenuously, to which the vision of God is promised and seen by faith even now. To raise your will to new perfection, wandering, harmful thoughts must first be driven away, never to return. ''Advance must always be made by the whole being and mind together: unless they are, know that you have yet to lay the first stone of your spiritual building.'' -Francisco de Osuna
This is a new concept, as the author presents our mind to be Jerusalem, our spiritual building. Before we can even begin construction, we must first block wandering thoughts and learn to recollect our mind.
''I can only say of you, especially when you are at the Divine Office, or at mass, that you remind me of Satan, who intruded himself among the sons of God. When God, knowing his restlessness and turbulence, and that he was never still, nor collected his thoughts, asked him. ''Where are you coming from?'' Satan answered shamelessly: ''I have gone round about the earth, and walked through it.''
You are like him, for when you are among the sons of God, the angels and just men, if they asked you on what your mind was bent and from whence you had come, that is, what preparation you had made beforehand, you would be obliged to reply with Satan that you had been round about the whole world with your wandering thoughts, for you had rejected no vain imaginations. No one questions you regarding religion, for your material, common-place mind is occupied solely with senseless, wrong-headed subjects.'' - Francisco de Osuna
An ever wandering, restless mind is a sign of a person that is running away, it's the opposite of faith in God, who is rest for those that find Him.
''No one pours liquid into a cracked and broken vase that can hold nothing. Your heart is divided into as many pieces representing the cares you hold: each care is a broken piece; and do you think that God will pour His grace into such a useless vessel? Ask the wise man, who says: ''The heart of a fool is like a broken vessel, and no wisdom at all shall it hold.'' - Francisco de Osuna
''Be warned, brother: solder your heart and adorn it; join the pieces, which are your cares, so that with all your faculties you may draw near to God. Cover the vase of your heart lest the dust of idle thoughts should fall into it.'' - Francisco de Osuna
Recollection of thoughts and stillness are the basis of intimacy with God, and the journey begins with learning to be still before Jesus, and repressing the cares of this world, going into a numb-like (but still aware) state, so that we may be worked on.
God is the sea, and we are the rivers, if we are to keep on flowing abundantly, we must return ourselves to the source, and we do that by giving thanks.
''All the rivers run into the sea; they return, to flow again.'' - Francisco de Osuna
Being thankful is an act of remembering what we have received, to show God that we treasure it, and we complete the circle, by bringing it back, and imitating Him (in a lesser manner), who gave it away.
The importance of remembering to live a thankful life is brought up as an essential part of preparing for an encounter with the divine.
''Let us remember, brothers, that it is important for us to know what we have received; as the gifts increase, so does the debt... Let us begin in this way to repay to the giver of all our goods little by little the vast sum we owe Him. By one act of thanksgiving we shall effect two things: first, we shall pay our debt, and then we shall deserve greater gifts.'' - Francisco de Osuna
Another important aspect of his works regards the double life that many of us live quietly.
''He goes two ways on the earth who does the works of the flesh and thinks he will sanctify his spirit by fear, so does he who works for God outwardly while seeking worldly gain in his mind.'' - Francisco de Osuna
Two habits are described in this paragraph, first is the one who continues in sin but mitigates the outcome by constant repentance, not wishing to end the root of the problem, but devising a circle where sin is kept, and repentance and feeling sorry is kept as well.
It's a constant game of hot potato, but never actually willing to just place it on the ground, it's just thrown from one hand to the other, with a brief cool-down period while in the air.
The second destructive pattern is being caught up in the man made systems and rankings established by different denominations, and ending up working for recognition and getting up the ranks, and forgetting the real reason we're all doing this. The ones that grew up in church often struggle with this, because it takes the special and unique part out of it, it's a blessing and a curse in disguise. Blessing in the sense that they are lucky enough to have been presented with the truth and accepted in a community that shares and promotes the same beliefs, and a curse because it all becomes so natural, that it slips into redundant, a faded blank canvas on which they paint their real life with more vivid colours.
Francisco de Osuna summons an interesting concept in his works, namely, that riches or blessings are not a direct sign that God is favourably disposed towards someone. It could just be a debt he is settling, while they forfeited their reward.
''God sometimes gives the grace of devotion, as he gives worldly honors and riches, as a reward to those who have rendered him slight services and whom he will afterwards condemn. God thus rewarded the Romans, who, through very virtuous, did not deserve heaven because they attributed their virtues to themselves. Lest they should receive no recompense, God in return made them masters of the world for five hundred years as a temporal repayment for their labors. He acts in the same way now towards many people...'' - Francisco de Osuna
This last statement makes you question everything, as it would be easy to leave a delusional life, being lukewarm, always half-way there, never focused, but jumping from sin to grace, switching before the first one gets too hot, and the second one too boring.
Periods of hunger are always followed by a time of dryness, and that is where discipline must kick in, to bridge the journey until the next well to refresh us.
Blessings in this life are not to be trusted as a sign of God's favour, it is important to remember that God is much closer to us when he hides and doesn't reply, than when he showers us with earthly riches.
To live an abundant life is the wish of our father in heaven, to have excess of everything is a norm in heaven, but here on earth, due to so much lack and scarcity all around, having wealth may easily be mistaken for God being pleased and on good terms with us.
So the compass to which we must guide ourselves is always ONLY our daily amount of time spent ALONE with God, not working for God, but being with God, two very different matters.
Blessings or no blessings, a time of outlandish hunger that cannot be explained or a complete dryness where even a few minutes of stillness in His presence seem an insurmountable task, the constant, daily communion with God is the only reassurance we should give ourselves that we are in good standing order.
''Each day should product it's own fruit, like a slave who earns by the day for this master, and if one day is missing, it is lost forever.'' - Francisco de Osuna
The definition of recollection is presented as recalling the man to his own self, merging all wondering thoughts into one, like a magnifying glass that becomes focused, it now has tremendous power and efficacy.
''The reason for calling this exercise recollection is that as regards the exterior, it recalls the man to himself, for clearly he is divided into as many parts as the interests he is engaged in.'' - Francisco de Osuna
Preachers are most in need of this type of prayer, for they are like a man who waits at a table, and feeds others while he starves himself.
It's quite understandable how this can seem such a waste of time compared to saying a prayer, verbally communicating with God. Even believing that this type of prayer is at all effective may be a struggle for most.
However, even when David fought Goliath, he saw his armour as an impediment in battle, even though it would have helped and given courage to others in his place.
''This is the case with many who are untrained in this exercise; they think it loses time and prevents them from saying their prayers, though in fact it is a divine thing which helps and incites those who practice it to do great deeds, and is as great in reality as it is insignificant in seeming to those who are mistaken about it.'' - Francisco de Osuna
Five things are likely to disturb or prevent recollection of thoughts:
The first one is our five senses. The solution for this is a closed space, with as little noise as possible, or input from the outside world.
The second one is worldly affairs and day to day problems, of which there is no end. The very practical solution to this one is setting a timer before prayer at the beginning stages, which helps provide some control over the situation, as it's comforting to know that after 30 minutes, for example, the timer will go off and we can come back to our world. It makes it easier to disconnect, knowing that we have a clear time frame in which we must do our best. Type A personalities would greatly benefit from this, or people who have a hard time not being in control.
Under the third disturbance are the four passions of the heart: Joy, Fear, Hope and Sorrow. The four medicines prescribed against the four forces are: Justice - to control Joy; Prudence - to oppose Sadness; Temperance - to control Hope; Fortitude - to moderate Fear.
The forces (Joy, Sadness, Hope, Fear) must be repressed by these virtues (Justice, Prudence, Temperance, Fortitude) in order for the heart to no longer be dispersed and divided.
The fourth enemy on the road to recollection is our memory, that springs up thoughts and goes from one to another, right to wrong, being more active as we relax our mind and our physical state, and the fifth one is our physical state, which when ill, or in pain, make it that much harder to relax in perfect stillness.
The solution for these two is practice and willpower. With constant exercise, the mind can block anything and forget even about it's own existence in perfect recollection. It's always good to remember that God makes a perfect, custom built way to reach him for each one of us, all He requires is our will combined with constant action over time. Highs and lows come and go, coffee helps and fasts help as well, but being constant is what God wants regardless of our present state.
''A secure mind is like a continual feast.'' - Francisco de Osuna
''The worst evil is that they seem to set no value on celestial joys, since they do not try to win them. I believe they fancy, or at least they act as though they fancied that heaven will be offered them cheaply and that God will beg them to accept it, as though He were tired if it and had no one else to whom to give it.'' - Francisco de Osuna
''Strife within the mind comes from not guarding its entrance.'' - Francisco de Osuna
Not a Boring History
A Spanish mystical teacher that lived between 1527 and 1559, his life was strictly dedicated to prayer and meditation, as only a proficient master in this skill, someone who was nothing short of obsessed about intimacy with God, can relate and break down for us the way with such grace and wisdom. He is the prime example of someone who wasted his entire life in order to gain it, a very wise waste of time.