In determining whether we are under the influence of idolatrous tendencies and affections, we must always remember that the true life, the living and life-giving instinct of holiness, can never deviate from its straight path, but, in the flashes of its flaming progress, points upward to God, and to God only. The holy heart has but one law. And the subjective or inward law of its life it expresses and lives out in the exterior action. The needle does not more truly turn to the pole, — the planets do not more steadily and truly turn to the solar center and revolve around it, — than the holy heart turns to God and revolves around him. If it is conscious, at any time, of any centrifugal influence, that is to say, of any influence which is calculated to make it fly off from the great Center, then there is something which is taking a position and influence as an idol. When the heart is exempt from idols, there is no such disturbing and retarding consciousness as this. On the contrary, everything is free, easy, unembarrassed in its movement. In its exemption from everything but holy love, which is its life, it is not possible for the soul to discern any tendency which is at variance with, or which perplexes, the tendency which is innate and essential in all holy beings, towards the great central Life, namely, God himself.
On the other hand, any attachment which is misplaced, or is inordinate, is a weight upon the soul. Under its influence, the mental consciousness misses that lightness and upwardness of movement which it recognized before, and feels a perplexity and heaviness of action, which is not more obvious than it is embarrassing. In the illimitable space, the planets move on, swift and unobstructed in their immense course, because God, who is their mighty Guide and Supporter, prepares the track for them. God is not more the God of nature than he is the God of the living soul. He prepares the track of the soul, not so much by displacing outward obstacles as by preparing the soul itself; and when, by his divine agency, it is dislodged of its idols, its flight is free and unembarrassed to himself.
By marking closely these contrasted states of the soul, we shall be likely to know whether we are under the influence of idols or not.
— A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 4, Chapter 9.