In the end ‘le point vierge’ is another way of speaking about an experience of God that affects us in the deepest part of our self. Getting to this experience is a gift but one that can be aided by introspection and looking beyond surface behaviour for inner grace. This is then about the mysticism of the heart and the question of how the heart can be purified. After all what does it mean to be pure in heart? It has to connect to the gradual stripping away of the outer layers of the false self and so on; tearing off the outer coverings until the hidden or true self is reached. Louis Massignon who found the expression in the work of the Sufi mystic al-Hallaj describes the psychology of le point vierge in this way:
‘…the heart is the organ prepared by God for contemplation. The function cannot be exercised without the organ.’ As each successive layer is taken away it is not that with each successive layer the heart disappears but rather what is happening is mystical union and this is the ‘sanctifying resurrection’ of the heart. ‘The final covering of the heart …is the latent personality, the implicit consciousness, the deep subconscious, the secret cell walled up [and hidden] to every creature, the “inviolate virgin”. The latent personality…remains unformed until God visits…’
The purified heart is ‘le point vierge’ the last, irreducible, secret centre of the heart; and it is essentially the point of resurrection. Massignon in a letter to his fellow contemplative and spiritual friend Mary Kahil wrote:
‘The return to our origin, to the beginning of our adoption – by re-entering our Mother’s womb, as our Lord told Nicodemus, to be born again – by finding again at the bottom of our heart, the virgin point (le point vierge) of our election to Christianity and the action of God’s will in us.’
He called this mysticism ‘the science of hearts’ and sees the gradual stripping of the layers as ridding of errors of judgment and hypocrisies and mental pretences. ‘The “heart” designates the incessant oscillation of the human will which beats like the pulse under the impulse of various passions, an impulse which must be stabilised by the Essential Desire, one single God. Introspection must guide us to tear through the concentric “veils” which ensheathe the heart, and hide from us the virginal point (le point vierge)… wherein God manifests Himself’.
This purification occurs sometimes through the hearts of other people; we are influenced and opened by our experiences of others either directly or through books – from others who have met God and can describe what has happened to them. The purification of the heart is also, of course, led through the heart of the incarnate Son of God.